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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Manichæan Controversy.: Chapter 17

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 17.—Appeal to the Manichæans, Calling on Them to Repent.

30.  What more do you wish?  Why do you resist ignorantly and obstinately?  Why do you pervert untutored minds by your mischievous teaching?  The God of both Testaments is one.  For as there is an agreement in the passages quoted from both, so is there in all the rest, if you are willing to consider them carefully and impartially.  But because many expressions are undignified, and so far adapted to minds creeping on the earth, that they may rise by human things to divine, 85 while many are figurative, that the inquiring mind may have the more profit from the exertion of finding their meaning, and the more delight when it is found, you pervert this admirable arrangement of the Holy Spirit for the purpose of deceiving and ensnaring your followers.  As to the reason why divine Providence permits you to do this, and as to the truth of the apostle’s saying, "There must needs be many heresies, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you," 86 it would take long to discuss these things, and you, with whom we have now to do, are not capable of understanding them.  I know you well.  To the consideration of divine things, which are far higher than you suppose, you bring minds quite gross and sickly, from being fed with material images.

31.  We must therefore in your case try not to make you understand divine things, which is impossible, but to make you desire to understand.  This is the work of the pure and guileless love of God, which is seen chiefly in the conduct, and of which we have already said much.  This love, inspired by the Holy Spirit, leads to the Son, that is, to the wisdom of God, by which the Father Himself is known.  For if wisdom and truth are not sought for with the whole strength of the mind, it cannot possibly be found.  But when it is sought as it deserves to be, it cannot withdraw or hide itself from its lovers.  Hence its words, which you too are in the habit of repeating, "Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:" 87   "Nothing is hid which shall not be revealed." 88   It is love that asks, love that seeks, love that knocks, love that reveals, love, too, that gives continuance in what is revealed.  From this love of wisdom, and this studious inquiry, we are not debarred by the Old Testament, as you always say most falsely, but are exhorted to this with the greatest urgency.

32.  Hear, then, at length, and consider, I pray you, what is said by the prophet:  "Wisdom is glorious, and never fadeth away; yea, she is easily seen of them that love her, and found of such as seek her.  She preventeth them that desire her, in making herself first known unto them.  Whoso seeketh her early shall have no great travail; for he shall find her sitting at his doors.  To think, therefore, upon her is perfection of wisdom; and whoso watcheth for her shall quickly be without care.  For she goeth about seeking such as are worthy of her, showeth herself favorably unto them in the ways, and meeteth them in every thought.  For the very true beginning of her is the desire of discipline; and the care of discipline is love; and love is the keeping of her laws; and the giving heed unto her laws is the assurance of incorruption; and incorruption maketh us near unto God.  Therefore the desire of wisdom bringeth to a kingdom."  89   Will you still continue in dogged hostility to these things?  Do not things thus stated, though not yet understood, make it evident to every one that they contain something deep and unutterable?  Would that you could understand the things here said!  Forthwith you would abjure all your silly legends and your unmeaning material imaginations, and with great alacrity, sincere love, and full assurance of faith, would betake yourselves bodily to the shelter of the most holy bosom of the Catholic Church.



[Here we have the key to all that is best in Augustin’s defense of the anthropomorphisms and the seemingly imperfect ethical representations of the Old Testament.  See Mozley’s essay on "The Manichæans and the Jewish Fathers," in his Ruling Ideas in Early Ages.  The entire volume represents an attempt to account for the elements in the Old Testament that offend the Christian consciousness.—A.H.N.]


1 Cor. xi. 19.


Matt. vii. 7.


Matt. x. 26.


Wisd. vi. 12-20.

Next: Chapter 18

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