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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III:
Doctrinal Treatises of St. Augustin: Chapter 11

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 11.—Of the Remedy for the Second Source of Weariness.

16. If, however, it is rather our desire to read or hear such things as are already prepared for our use and expressed in a superior style, and if the consequence is that we feel it irksome to put together, at the time and with an uncertain issue, the terms of discourse on our own side, then, provided only that our mind does not wander off from the truth of the facts themselves, it is an easy matter for the hearer, if he is offended by anything in our language, to come to see in that very circumstance how little value should be set, supposing the subject itself to be rightly understood, upon the mere fact that there may have been some imperfection or some inaccuracy in the literal expressions, which were employed indeed simply with the view of securing a correct apprehension of the subject-matter. But if the bent of human infirmity has wandered off from the truth of the facts themselves,—although in the catechetical instruction of the unlearned, where we have to keep by the most beaten track, that cannot occur very readily,—still, lest haply it should turn out that our hearer finds cause of offence even in this direction, we ought not to deem this to have come upon us in any other way than as the issue of God’s own wish to put us to the test with respect to our readiness to receive correction in calmness of mind, so as not to rush headlong, in the course of a still greater error, into the defense of our error. But if, again, no one has told us of it, and if the thing has altogether escaped our own notice, as well as the observation of our hearers, then there is nothing to grieve over, provided only the same thing does not occur a second time. For the most part, however, when we recall what we have said, we ourselves discover something to find fault with, and are ignorant of the manner in which it was received when it was uttered; and so when charity is fervent within us, we are the more vexed if the thing, while really false, has been received with unquestioning acceptance. This being the case, then, whenever an opportunity occurs, as we have been finding fault with ourselves in silence, we ought in like manner to see to it that those persons be also set right on the subject in a considerate method, who have fallen into some sort of error, not by the words of God, but plainly by those used by us. If, on the other hand, there are any who, blinded by insensate spite, rejoice that we have committed a mistake, whisperers as they are, and slanderers, and “hateful to God,” 1401 such characters should afford us matter for the exercise of patience with pity, inasmuch as also the “patience of God leadeth them to repentance.” 1402 For what is more detestable, and what more likely to “treasure up wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,” 1403 than to rejoice, after the evil likeness and pattern of the devil, in the evil of another? At times, too, even when all is correctly and truly spoken, either something which has not been understood, or something which, as being opposed to the idea and wont of an old error, seems harsh in its very novelty, offends and disturbs the hearer. But if this becomes apparent, and if the person shows himself capable of being set right, he should be set right without any delay by the use of abundance of authorities and reasons. On the other hand, if the offense is tacit and hidden, the medicine of God is the effective remedy for it. And if, again, the person starts back and declines to be cured, we should comfort ourselves with that example of our Lord, who, when men were offended at His word, and shrank from it as a hard saying, addressed Himself at the same time to those who had remained, in these terms, “Will ye also go away?” 1404 For it ought to be retained as a thoroughly “fixed and immovable” position in our heart, that p. 295 Jerusalem which is in captivity is set free from the Babylon of this world when the times have run their course, and that none belonging to her shall perish: for whoever may perish was not of her. “For the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His; and, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” 1405 If we ponder these things, and call upon the Lord to come into our heart, we shall be less apprehensive of the uncertain issues of our discourse, consequent on the uncertain feelings of our hearers; and the very endurance of vexations in the cause of a work of mercy will also be something pleasant to us, if we seek not our own glory in the same. For then is a work truly good, when the aim of the doer gets its impetus from charity, 1406 and, as if returning to its own place, rests again in charity. Moreover, the reading which delights us, or any listening to an eloquence superior to our own, the effect of which is to make us inclined to set a greater value upon it than upon the discourse which we ourselves have to deliver, and so to lead us to speak with a reluctant or tedious utterance, will come upon us in a happier spirit, and will be found to be more enjoyable after labor. Then, too, with a stronger confidence shall we pray to God to speak to us as we wish, if we cheerfully submit to let Him speak by us as we are able. Thus is it brought about that all things come together for good to them that love God. 1407



Cf. Rom. 1.30Rom. i. 30


Rom. 2.4Rom. ii. 4. [See R.V.]


Rom. 2.5Rom. ii. 5


John 6.67John vi. 67


2 Tim. 2.192 Tim. ii. 19


A caritate jaculatur


Concurrant in bonum Rom. 8.28Rom. viii. 28

Next: Chapter 12

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