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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Soul and its Origin.: Chapter 2

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 2 [II.]—The Points Which Victor Thought Blameworthy in Augustin.

And they are these: The first, that I did not venture to make a definite statement touching the origin of those souls which have been given, or are being given, to human beings, since the first man—because I confess my ignorance of the subject; the second, because I said I was sure the soul was spirit, not body. Under this p. 354 second point, however, you have included two grounds of censure: one, because I refused to believe the soul to be corporeal; the other, because I affirmed it to be spirit. For to you the soul appears both to be body and not to be spirit. I must therefore request your attention to my own defence against your censure, and ask you to embrace the opportunity which my self-defence affords you of learning what points there are in yourself also which require your amendment. Recall, then, the words of your book in which you first mentioned my name. “I know,” you say, “many men of very great reputation who when consulted have kept silence, or admitted nothing clearly, but have withdrawn from their discussions everything definite when they commence their exposition. Of such character are the contents of sundry writings which I have read at your house by a very learned man and renowned bishop, called Augustin. The truth is, I suppose, they have with an overweening modesty and diffidence investigated the mysteries of this subject, and have consumed within themselves the judgment of their own treatises, and have professed themselves incapable of determining anything on this point. But, I assure you, it appears to me excessively absurd and unreasonable that a man should be a stranger to himself; or that a person who is supposed to have acquired the knowledge of all things, should regard himself as unknown to his very self. For what difference is there between a man and a brute beast, if he knows not how to discuss and determine his own quality and nature? so that there may justly be applied to him the statement of Scripture: ‘Man, although he was in honour, understood not; he is like the cattle, and is compared with them.’ 2456 For when the good and gracious God created everything with reason and wisdom, and produced man as a rational animal, capable of understanding, endowed with reason, and lively with sensation,—because by His prudent arrangement He assigns their place to all creatures which do not participate in the faculty of reason,—what more incongruous idea could be suggested, than that God had withheld from him the simple knowledge of himself? The wisdom of this world, indeed, is ever aiming with much effort to attain to the knowledge of truth; its researches, no doubt, fall short of the aim, from its inability to know through what agency it is permitted that truth should be ascertained; but yet there are some things on the nature of the soul, near (I might even say, akin) to the truth which it has attempted to discern. Under these circumstances, how unbecoming and even shameful a thing it is, that any man of religious principle should either have no intelligent views on this very subject, or prohibit himself from acquiring any!”



Ps. xlix. 12.

Next: Chapter 3