Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Writings in Connection with the Manichæan Controversy.: Chapter 30
Chapter 30.—The Church Apostrophised as Teacher of All Wisdom. Doctrine of the Catholic Church.
62. But why say more on this? For who but sees that men who dare to speak thus against the Christian Scriptures, though they may not be what they are suspected of being, are at least no Christians? For to Christians this rule of life is given, that we should love the Lord Our God with all the heart, with all the soul, and with all the mind, and our neighbor as ourselves; for on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Rightly, then, Catholic Church, most true mother of Christians, dost thou not only teach that God alone, to find whom is the happiest life, must be worshipped in perfect purity and chastity, bringing in no creature as an object of adoration whom we should be required to serve; and from that incorrupt and inviolable eternity to which alone man should be made subject, in cleaving to which alone the rational soul escapes misery, excluding everything made, everything liable to change, everything under the power of time; without confounding what eternity, and truth, and peace itself keeps separate, or separating what a common majesty unites: but thou dost also contain love and charity to our neighbor in such a way, that for all kinds of diseases with which souls are for their sins afflicted, there is found with thee a medicine of prevailing efficacy.
63. Thy training and teaching are childlike for children, forcible for youths, peaceful for the aged, taking into account the age of the mind as well as of the body. Thou subjectest women to their husbands in chaste and faithful obedience, not to gratify passion, but for the propagation of offspring, 135 and for domestic society. Thou givest to men authority over their wives, not to mock the weaker sex, but in the laws of unfeigned love. Thou dost subordinate children to their parents in a kind of free bondage, and dost set parents over their children in a godly rule. Thou bindest brothers to brothers in a religious tie stronger and closer than that of blood. Without violation of the connections of nature and of choice, thou bringest within the bond of mutual love every relationship of kindred, and every alliance of affinity. Thou teachest servants to cleave to their masters from delight in their task rather than from the necessity of their position. Thou renderest masters forbearing to their servants, from a regard to God their common Master, and more disposed to advise than to compel. Thou unitest citizen to citizen, nation to nation, yea, man to man, from the recollection of their first parents, not only in society but in fraternity. Thou teachest kings to seek the good of their peoples; thou counsellest peoples to be subject to their kings. Thou teachest carefully to whom honor is due, to whom regard, to whom reverence, to whom fear, to whom consolation, to whom admonition, to whom encouragement, to whom discipline, to whom rebuke, to whom punishment; showing both how all are not due to all, and how to all love is due, and how injury is due to none. 136
64. Then, after this human love has nourished and invigorated the mind cleaving to thy breast, and fitted it for following God, when the divine majesty has begun to disclose itself as far as suffices for man while a dweller on the earth, such fervent charity is produced, and such a flame of divine love is kindled, that by the burning out of all vices, and by the purification and sanctification of the man, it becomes plain how divine are these words, "I am a consuming fire," 137 and, "I have come to send fire on the earth." 138 These two utterances of one God stamped on both Testaments, exhibit with harmonious testimony, the sanctification of the soul, pointing forward to the accomplishment of that which p. 59 is also quoted in the New Testament from the Old: "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? Where, O death, is thy contest?" 139 Could these heretics understand this one saying, no longer proud but quite reconciled, they would worship God nowhere but with thee and in thy bosom. In thee, as is fit, divine precepts are kept by widely-scattered multitudes. In thee, as is fit, it is well understood how much more heinous sin is when the law is known than when it is unknown. For "the sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law," 140 which adds to the force with which the consciousness of disregard of the precept strikes and slays. In thee it is seen, as is fit, how vain is effort under the law, when lust lays waste the mind, and is held in check by fear of punishment, instead of being overborne by the love of virtue. Thine, as is fit, are the many hospitable, the many friendly, the many compassionate, the many learned, the many chaste, the many saints, the many so ardent in their love to God, that in perfect continence and amazing indifference to this world they find happiness even in solitude.
[This view of the marriage relation seems to have been almost universal in the ancient Church. Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria are fond of dwelling upon it. For Augustins views more fully stated see his De Bono Conjugali, 6. See also an interesting excursus on "Continence in Married Life" in Cunninghams St. Austin, p. 168. sq.—A.H.N.]58:136
[If this apostrophe had been addressed to "Christianity" rather than to the "Catholic Church," no Christian could fail to see in it one of the noblest tributes ever bestowed on the religion of Christ. Augustin identified Christianity with the organized body which was far from realizing the ideal that he here sets forth. As an apostrophe to ideal Christianity nothing could be finer.—A.H.N.]58:137
Deut. iv. 24. Retract. i. 7, § 5:—"The Pelagians may think that I have spoken of perfection as attainable in this life. But they must not think so. For the fervor of charity which is fitted for following God, and of force enough to consume all vices, can have its origin and growth in this life; but it does not follow that it can here accomplish the purpose of its origin, so that no vice shall remain in the man; although this great effect is produced by this same fervor of charity, when and where this is possible, that as the laver of regeneration purifies from the guilt of all the sins which attach to mans birth, or come from his evil conduct, so this perfection may purify him from all stain from the vices which necessarily attend human infirmity in this world. So we must understand the words of the apostle: Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it; cleansing it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing (Eph. v. 25-27). For in this world there is the washing of water by the word which purifies the Church. But as the whole Church, as long as it is here, says, Forgive us our debts, it certainly is not while here without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but from that which it here receives, it is led on to the glory which is not here, and to perfection."58:138
Luke xii. 49.59:139
Hos. 13:14, 1 Cor. 15:54, 55.59:140
1 Cor. xv. 56.
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