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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III:
Doctrinal Treatises of St. Augustin: Chapter 6

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 6.—Of the Way to Commence the Catechetical Instruction, and of the Narration of Facts from the History of the World’s Creation on to the Present Times of the Church.

10. But if it happens that his answer is to the effect that he has met with some divine warning, or with some divine terror, prompting him to become a Christian, this opens up the way most satisfactorily for a commencement to our discourse, by suggesting the greatness of God’s interest in us. His thoughts, p. 289 however, ought certainly to be turned away from this line of things, whether miracles or dreams, and directed to the more solid path and the surer oracles of the Scriptures; so that he may also come to understand how mercifully that warning was administered to him in advance, 1374 previous to his giving himself to the Holy Scriptures. And assuredly it ought to be pointed out to him, that the Lord Himself would neither thus have admonished him and urged him on to become a Christian, and to be incorporated into the Church, nor have taught him by such signs or revelations, had it not been His will that, for his greater safety and security, he should enter upon a pathway already prepared in the Holy Scriptures, in which he should not seek after visible miracles, but learn the habit of hoping for things invisible, and in which also he should receive monitions not in sleep but in wakefulness. At this point the narration ought now to be commenced, which should start with the fact that God made all things very good, 1375 and which should be continued, as we have said, on to the present times of the Church. This should be done in such a manner as to give, for each of the affairs and events which we relate, causes and reasons by which we may refer them severally to that end of love from which neither the eye of the man who is occupied in doing anything, nor that of the man who is engaged in speaking, ought to be turned away. For if, even in handling the fables of the poets, which are but fictitious creations and things devised for the pleasure 1376 of minds whose food is found in trifles, those grammarians who have the reputation and the name of being good do nevertheless endeavor to bring them to bear upon some kind of (assumed) use, although that use itself may be only something vain and grossly bent upon the coarse nutriment of this world: 1377 how much more careful does it become us to be, not to let those genuine verities which we narrate, in consequence of any want of a well-considered account of their causes, be accepted either with a gratification which issues in no practical good, or, still less, with a cupidity which may prove hurtful! At the same time, we are not to set forth these causes in such a manner as to leave the proper course of our narration, and let our heart and our tongue indulge in digressions into the knotty questions of more intricate discussion. But the simple truth of the explanation which we adduce 1378 ought to be like the gold which binds together a row of gems, and yet does not interfere with the choice symmetry of the ornament by any undue intrusion of itself. 1379



Prærogata sit


Gen. 1.31Gen. i. 31


Reading ad voluptatem. But many mss. give ad voluntatem = according to the inclination, etc.


Avidam saginæ sœcularis


Reading veritas adhibitœ rationis, for which we also find adhibita rationis = the applied truth, etc.; and adhibita rationi = the truth applied to our explanation.


Non tamen ornamenti seriem ulla immoderatione perturbans

Next: Chapter 7