Letters, Volume 3 (131-164) (The Fathers of the Church, Volume 20)

Letters, Volume 3 (131-164) (The Fathers of the Church, Volume 20)

Translated by SISTER WILFRID PARSONS
Copyright Date: 1953
Pages: 412
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt32b3ch
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  • Book Info
    Letters, Volume 3 (131-164) (The Fathers of the Church, Volume 20)
    Book Description:

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    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1120-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. ix-2)

    The Letters included in this Volume (131-164) cover the short period from 412 to 414. This was a time of intense activity for Augustine and his correspondence shows him straining every fiber in defense of the Church. His overriding preoccupation was with the newly rising Pelagian heresy, which he instantly recognized as more dangerous to the faith than any that had hitherto challenged him. Letter 140, which he called ‘The Book of Grace according to the New Testament’, is his first polemical letter in this campaign, and it is appropriately addressed to a catechumen, Honoratus, who had submitted five questions...

  4. 131 To Proba
    (pp. 3-4)

    It is true, as you say, that the soul, housed in a corruptible body, is affected by a certain earthly contagion, and is, in a sense, bowed down and bent under such a burden that it more readily covets and thinks of the many things in the depths than of the one thing on high. ‘For the corruptible body is a load upon the soul, and the earthly habitation presseth down the mind that museth upon many things.’² With one saving word, our Saviour raised up that woman in the Gospel³ who had been bowed down for eighteen years—perhaps...

  5. 132 To Volusian
    (pp. 5-5)

    I trust I do not fall short of the prayer of your holy mother² in wishing your welfare both in this world and in Christ. Therefore, as you deserve, I return the courtesy of your greeting and, as strongly as I can, I urge you not to shrink from applying yourself to the study of the truly and surely Sacred Letters. This is a sound and substantial study; it does not allure the mind with fanciful language, nor strike a flat or wavering note by means of any deceit of the tongue.³ It appeals strongly to him who is more...

  6. 133 To Marcellinus
    (pp. 6-8)

    I have been informed by your Excellency that those Circumcellions and clerics of the Donatist sect, whom the law-enforcement authority had removed from Hippo for trial of their misdeeds, have had a hearing, and that several of them have confessed to having murdered Restitutus,² a Catholic priest, and having beaten Innocentius, another Catholic priest, after putting out his eye and cutting off his finger. As a result, I have been a prey to the deepest anxiety for fear your Highness might perhaps decree that they be sentenced to the utmost penalty of the law, by suffering a punishment in proportion...

  7. 134 To Apringius
    (pp. 9-12)

    In exercising the power which God has given you, a man over men, I am sure you call to mind the divine judgment at which judges, too, will have to give an account of their judgments. I know, of course, that you are steeped in the Christian faith, and this gives me greater confidence in addressing your Excellency not only with a request, but even with a warning, because of the Lord, in whose heavenly household you are enrolled along with us, in whom we have the same hope of eternal life, and to whom we pray for you during...

  8. 135 Volusian to Augustine
    (pp. 12-15)

    You ask me, upright man that you are and model of righteousness, to list for you some doubtful points, met in my learned reading, about which I need to be instructed. I embrace as a favor the duty enjoined on me, and I enroll myself with eagerness in your school, following the authority of the old saying that no age has a monopoly on learning. Not without reason did the wise man refuse to set limits or bounds to the study of prudence, since virtue, a long way from its beginnings, would never be so open to those who approach...

  9. 136 Marcellinus to Augustine
    (pp. 15-17)

    The noble Volusian has read me a letter from your Beatitude—in fact, he read it to several people at my suggestion—and I was in great admiration of it, although I find admirable everything that you say. The grace of your divine speech, rising from your humility, easily wins the prize in the matter of giving pleasure. And it was especially pleasing because you hasten to support and strengthen a man’s somewhat wavering footsteps by encouraging him to have a strong purpose for good. I have a daily discussion with him, as far as my strength and my poor...

  10. 137 To Volusian
    (pp. 18-36)

    I have read your letter in which I saw a sort of sample of a lengthy dialogue compressed into a praiseworthy conciseness, so I ought to answer it without offering any excuses by way of delay. Fortunately, I happen to have a little respite from external affairs, so I have decided to spend my leisure in dictating your answer, and I have delayed as little as possible in the belief that it is not fair to put off someone who appeals to me when I had personally invited him to appeal. But who of us who dispense the grace of...

  11. 138 To Marcellinus
    (pp. 36-53)

    In my answer to Volusian,² that distinguished and eloquent man, most dear to us, I felt the need of dealing with the matter at as great length as he had thought fit to do in his question. But, in those points in your letter which you sent me for analysis and solution, whether they were raised or repeated by him or by others, I thought it would be better to analyze and solve them according to my abliity and then send them to you, as far as they can be thus handled in a conversation by letter, without having to...

  12. 139 To Marcellinus
    (pp. 53-57)

    I am eagerly awaiting the records² which your Excellency promised, and I am more and more anxious to have them read in the church at Hippo, and also in all the churches established in the diocese, that men may hear them and fully recognize the confessors of iniquity. It was not the fear of God that drove them to repentance, but the alertness of the court that revealed the hardness of the cruel hearts of those who admitted³ the murder, as well as the blinding and maiming of a priest; and of those who dared not deny that they could...

  13. 140 To Honoratus [The Book of Grace]
    (pp. 58-136)

    You proposed to me, dear brother Honoratus, five questions² to discuss and to solve, picked out at random, as they either impressed you in your reading or came to your mind in thought, and you presented them to me in a certain order. It seems to me it would be a hard task to weave them and join them together into a single coherent whole, if I tried to arrange the solution by discussing them singly and piecemeal as they are proposed. Yet, I think they will be more easily answered if I do join them, because they will help...

  14. 141 To the Donatists
    (pp. 136-146)

    As the rumor has been coming to our ears, with increasing frequency, of your bishops telling you that the judge³ was bribed to pronounce sentence against you, that you are ready to believe it, and therefore many of you are refusing to submit to the truth, we have decided, under the compulsion of the charity of the Lord, to bring to your attention this written account of our council, in order to warn you that your fellow sectaries, defeated and proved wrong, are spreading these lies among you. In their own formal acceptance, which they drew up before the Conference,...

  15. 142 To Saturninus and Eufrata
    (pp. 147-149)

    Your coming has given us joy, but do not let our absence cause you sadness. For we are in that Church, which, by the favor of God, although spread abroad everywhere, and extending throughout the whole world, is nevertheless one great body of one great head, and this Head is its very Saviour, as the Apostle says.² Of the glorification of this Head, which was to take place after His resurrection, the Prophet had spoken long before: ‘Be thou exalted, O God, above the heaven,’³ and because by His exaltation above the heavens His Church was destined to fill the...

  16. 143 To Marcellinus
    (pp. 150-159)

    I received your letter through the kindness of my holy brother and fellow bishop, Boniface,² but, when I went to look for it to answer it, I could not find it. However, I remembered that you asked in it how, when all the water of Egypt was turned into blood, the magicians of Pharao found any with which they could do in like manner.³ This difficulty is usually solved in two ways. They did it either because some sea water could be brought, or, what is more likely, because in that part of the country where the children of Israel...

  17. 144 To the Citizens of Cirta
    (pp. 159-162)

    It is God’s work, not ours, that the cause of our deep grief in your city has been removed, the hardness of the human heart, resistant to the most evident, and, so to speak, most widely published truth, has been overcome by the power of the same truth; that the sweetness of peace is relished, and the love of unity no longer dazzles aching eyes, but enlightens and strengthens eyes made strong. I would not in any way attribute this to human effort, even if the conversion of so great a number of people had taken place while I was...

  18. 145 To Anastasius
    (pp. 162-169)

    A safe opportunity has arisen of sending greetings to your Sincerity, through the reverend servants of God, our brothers, Lupicinus and Concordialis,² who could give your Charity news of what goes on here, even if I did not write. But I know how much you love us in Christ, because you also know how much you, in turn, are loved by us in Him, so I do not doubt that you might feel sad if you saw them without a letter from me, especially as you could not fail to know that they had come from here, and were on...

  19. 146 To Pelagius
    (pp. 169-169)

    I am most grateful to you for being so kind as to gladden me with a letter giving me news of your welfare. May the Lord reward you with good things, my beloved lord and much-desired brother; may you be always blessed in them, and may you live forever with the eternal God. Although I do not recognize myself in the eulogies of me which the letter of your Benignity contains, I cannot be ungrateful for your good will toward my insignificance, but I urge you, at the same time, rather to pray for me that I may become such,...

  20. 147 To Paulina [The Book of the Vision of God]
    (pp. 170-238)

    Conscious of the debt which I have incurred through your request and my promise, devout servant of God, Paulina, I ought not to have been so slow in discharging it. For, when you asked me to write you something lengthy and detailed about the invisible God, and whether He can be seen by bodily eyes, I could not refuse lest I affront your holy zeal, but I put off the fulfillment of my promise, either because of other tasks or because I needed somewhat more time to think over what you asked me. But, since it is such a deep...

  21. 149 To Paulinus
    (pp. 239-266)

    The Lord has suddenly gladdened us by your letter with its tidings of the safe arrival of our brother and fellow priest, Quintus, and those who sailed with him, so, with thanks to Him ‘who lifteth up them that are cast down, and consoleth the lowly,’² as well as to the sincerity of your heart, I am taking advantage of the imminent departure of my son, our fellow deacon, Rufinus, who is sailing from the port of Hippo, to answer you and thus pay my debt. I approve the kindly plan which the Lord has inspired in you, and which...

  22. 150 To Proba and Juliana
    (pp. 266-268)

    You have filled our heart with joy, adding to our pleasure by your affection and to our gratification by your promptness. You have given us the news that a member of your family has become a consecrated virgin; you have thereby forestalled the swiftest flight of ever-busy rumor, which has the first word everywhere, and by the surer and more trustworthy message of your letter you have given us cause to exult in the certainty of this best of blessings before we had time to doubt of it on hearsay. Who can express in words, who can describe with adequate...

  23. 151 To Caecilian
    (pp. 268-279)

    The complaint you make in your letter of my attitude toward you is the more gratifying to me as a sign of your love. If, then, I should try to excuse my silence, what else shall I try to do but to show that you had no valid reason to be angry with me? And as I love most in you that you were so good as to be hurt by my reticence—something I had thought of no importance in the midst of your anxieties—I shall be false to my own case if I hasten to excuse myself....

  24. 152 Macedonius to Augustine
    (pp. 279-280)

    I received the long-awaited letter of your Holiness through Boniface,² bishop of the holy law, whom I was the more delighted to welcome as he brought me my heart’s desire—word of your Holiness and of your well-being, deservedly esteemed lord and uniquely cherished father. Therefore, he secured what he asked without delay. But, as the opportunity has arisen, I do not wish to remain without my pay for this same slight service in which I accommodated him at your request. The pay I crave to receive is one which will be a gain to me without loss to the...

  25. 153 To Macedonius
    (pp. 281-303)

    When a man is as much burdened with public duties and as devoted to the interest of others and to the public welfare rather than his own, as you are—and I congratulate you—it is not right for us to deprive you of our conversation nor to delay you with a foreword. Here, then, is what you wanted to learn from me, or to discover whether I knew the answer. If you judged that it was a trifling or superfluous matter, you would see that there was no place for it among such great and such exigent cares. You...

  26. 154 Macedonius to Augustine
    (pp. 303-304)

    I am deeply impressed by your wisdom, both in the writings which you have published and in those which you did not refuse to send,¹ taking pity on my anxiety. The former have a superlative degree of penetration, knowledge, and holiness, and the latter are so full of moderation that, if I do not do what you advise, I should have to account the fault in myself, not in my office, justly revered lord and estimable father. For you do not insist, as most men in your circle do, on extorting from me whatever any anxious client happens to want,...

  27. 155 To Macedonius
    (pp. 305-318)

    Although I do not recognize in myself the wisdom with which you endow me, I do owe and return the most lively thanks to your great and sincere kindness toward me, and I am delighted that the result of my studies has given pleasure to a man of such character and influence as you are. My joy is the greater because I discern the yearning of your mind, with its love for eternal life and truth and charity itself, directed toward that divine and heavenly country whose king is Christ, and in which alone we find eternal happiness if we...

  28. 156 Hilarius to Augustine
    (pp. 318-319)

    The kindness of your Holiness, known to all, has induced my Insignificance, as some of ours are traveling from Syracuse to Hippo, to entrust them with this letter to your Reverence, object of my praise, begging the supreme Trinity to keep you safe and sound, by the favor of our God, that you may receive and review this writing of mine, holy lord, rightly and deservedly revered, and ever worthy of my affection. Therefore, I ask you to be so kind as to remember me in your holy prayers, and to enlighten my ignorance on some points which certain Christians...

  29. 157 To Hilarius
    (pp. 319-354)

    From your letter I have learned not only of your good health but also of your religious zeal for the Word of God and your devout care for your salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Giving thanks to God, therefore, I have not put off paying the debt of my answer.

    Now if you ask whether anyone attains to such perfection of goodness in this life as to live here entirely without sin, note what was said by the Apostle John, whom the Lord loved especially among the disciples. He said: ‘If we say that we have no...

  30. 158 Evodius to Augustine
    (pp. 354-363)

    I insist on the letter you owe me in answer to the one I sent, and, first of all, I want to be instructed about the matter I submitted to you, and, next, to ask you about this one. I am in a hurry to know about this if it is possible to know it in this life. I had a certain youth as secretary, a son of the priest² Armenius of Melonita. As he was just beginning to mingle with the world—he was taking notes for a lecturer of the governor—God rescued him through my lowly agency....

  31. 159 To Evodius
    (pp. 363-367)

    The bearer of this is a brother named Barbarus, a servant of God, who has been settled at Hippo for some time, an ardent and diligent hearer of the word of God. He asked for this letter to your Holiness in which we commend him to you in the Lord, and send you through him the greetings due to you. But, to answer the letter of your Holiness in which you have worked out some weighty questions would be a laborious task even for persons of leisure and endowed with a greater gift of argument and a keener understanding than...

  32. 160 Evodius to Augustine
    (pp. 367-370)

    Perfect reason is that which exhibits the knowledge of all things and especially of the things of eternity, which are comprehended by the intellect. This reason is eternal, it must be eternal, and reason itself teaches that the eternal is that which has neither beginning nor end nor change nor variation. Reason must be eternal, then, not only because it teaches and demonstrates what is eternal, but much more because eternity itself could not exist without reason; it would not be eternity, I think, if reason itself were not eternal. Secondly, reason itself demonstrates that God exists, or must necessarily...

  33. 161 Evodius to Augustine
    (pp. 371-373)

    Some time ago I asked you a question about reason and God, and I sent it in a letter by Jobinus who was on an errand to the Marcian estate, but I have not yet deserved a reply. However, I have had in my possession two letters of your Holiness, one addressed to the noble Volusian,¹ the other to Italica,² a noble lady in Christ, and on reading them I happened on what you wrote in the letter about the virginal conception of our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh, and of His birth: ‘If a reason for this is...

  34. 162 To Evodius
    (pp. 374-381)

    You ask many questions of a very busy man, and what is worse, you think I ought to rush right into dictation of matters so difficult that only with the greatest care in dictating or writing could they be treated so as to adapt them to such an intellect as yours. Besides, what we write is not going to be read by you only and by those who might be considered your equals, but also by others, endowed with less keen and less trained minds, whose great eagerness, whether friendly or hostile, leads them to study my writings, and then...

  35. 163 Evodius to Augustine
    (pp. 381-381)

    I sent to your Holiness: first, a question about reason and God—I think it went by Jobinus who serves the handmaids of God;¹ second, a question about the Saviour’s body, with an opinion that it sees the substance of God. I now add a third: whether the rational soul which the Saviour took with His body was the only one of its kind, according to the opinions which are set forth when the origin of the soul is in question—if there is any support of truth for them—or whether, although it is a rational soul, it will...

  36. 164 To Evodius
    (pp. 382-398)

    The question on the Epistle of the Apostle Peter which you propounded to me is one, as I think you know, which disturbs me profoundly. Therefore, I turn this same question back to you in the hope that you yourself or anyone else you might find who can do it may remove and put an end to my doubt. If I am able to solve it first, when the Lord grants me to do it, and I am able to impart it to you, I will not cheat your Charity of it, but for the present I will confide my...