St. Augustine of Hippo
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Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.) was a theologian, philosopher, and the bishop of Hippo Regius in Numidia, Roman North Africa. His writings influenced the development of Western philosophy and Western Christianity, and he is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers of the Latin Church in the Patristic Period. His many important works include The City of God, On Christian Doctrine, and Confessions.
According to his contemporary, Jerome, Augustine “established anew the ancient Faith”. In his youth he was drawn to the eclectic (and now extinct) Manichaean faith, and later to the Hellenistic philosophy/religion of Neoplatonism. At the age of 17, Augustine went to Carthage to continue his education in rhetoric and, in spite of the good warnings of his mother, lived a hedonistic lifestyle for a time, associating with young men who boasted of their sexual exploits. The need to gain their acceptance forced inexperienced boys like Augustine to seek or make up stories about sexual experiences. Augustine then began a relationship with a young woman in Carthage. He was warned by his mother to avoid fornication (sex outside marriage), but Augustine persisted in the relationship for over fifteen years, and the woman gave birth to his son Adeodatus (372–388).
While still at Carthage a disappointing meeting with the Manichaean Bishop, Faustus of Mileve, started Augustine’s scepticism of Manichaeanism. Because of his education, Augustine had great rhetorical prowess and was very knowledgeable of the philosophies behind many faiths. After moving to Milan, his mother urged him towards Christianity. Initially Augustine was not strongly influenced by Christianity and its ideologies, but after coming in contact with Ambrose of Milan, Augustine reevaluated himself and was forever changed. Augustine arrived in Milan and visited Ambrose, having heard of his reputation as an orator. Like Augustine, Ambrose was a master of rhetoric, but older and more experienced. Augustine was very much influenced by Ambrose, even more than by his own mother. In his Confessions, Augustine states, “That man of God received me as a father would, and welcomed my coming as a good bishop should.” Ambrose adopted Augustine as a spiritual son after the death of Augustine’s father.
Augustine’s mother had followed him to Milan and arranged a respectable marriage for him. Although Augustine acquiesced, he had to dismiss his concubine and grieved for having forsaken his lover. He wrote, “My mistress being torn from my side as an impediment to my marriage, my heart, which clave to her, was racked, and wounded, and bleeding.” Augustine confessed he had not been a lover of wedlock so much as a slave of lust, so he procured another concubine since he had to wait two years until his fiancée came of age. However, his emotional wound was not healed. It was during this period that he uttered his famously insincere prayer, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.”
Augustine eventually broke off his engagement and, in 387 A.D., he and his son, Adeodatus, were baptized by Ambrose of Milan. In 391 Augustine was ordained a priest in Hippo Regius (now Annaba), in Algeria. Believing the grace of Christ was indispensable to human freedom, he helped formulate the doctrine of original sin and made significant contributions to the development of just war theory. When the Western Roman Empire began to disintegrate, Augustine imagined the Church as a spiritual City of God, distinct from the material Earthly City. His thoughts profoundly influenced the medieval worldview. The segment of the Church that adhered to the concept of the Trinity as defined by the Council of Nicaea and the Council of Constantinople closely identified with Augustine’s On the Trinity.
Augustine is recognized as a saint in the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. He is also a preeminent Catholic Doctor of the Church and the patron of the Augustinians. Many Protestant Reformers, Martin Luther in particular, held Augustine in preeminence among early Church Fathers. Luther was, from 1505 to 1521, a member of the Order of the Augustinian Eremites. The historian Diarmaid MacCulloch has written: “Augustine’s impact on Western Christian thought can hardly be overstated; only his beloved example, Paul of Tarsus, has been more influential, and Westerners have generally seen Paul through Augustine’s eyes.”
- City of God
- Christian Doctrine
- On the Holy Trinity
- The Enchiridion
- On the Catechising of the Uninstructed
- On Faith and the Creed
- Concerning Faith of Things Not Seen
- On the Profit of Believing
- On the Creed: A Sermon to Catechumens
- On Continence
- On the Good of Marriage
- On Holy Virginity
- On Patience
- On Care to be Had For the Dead
- On the Morals of the Catholic Church
- On Baptism, Against the Donatists
- Merits and Remission of Sin, and Infant Baptism
- On the Spirit and the Letter
- On Nature and Grace
- On Man’s Perfection in Righteousness
- On the Proceedings of Pelagius
- On the Grace of Christ, and on Original Sin
- On Marriage and Concupiscence
- On the Soul and its Origin
- Against Two Letters of the Pelagians
- On Grace and Free Will
- On Rebuke and Grace
- Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount
- Letter to Proba (Letter 130)
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Quotes and Excerpts:
On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis:
There is knowledge to be had, after all, about the earth, about the sky, about the other elements of this world, about the movement and revolutions or the magnitude and distances of constellations, about the predictable eclipses of moon and sun, about the cycles of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, fruits, stones, and
everything else of this kind. And it frequently happens that even non Christians have knowledge of this sort that they can substantiate with scientific arguments or experiments. Now it is quite disgraceful and disastrous, something to be on one’s guard against
at all costs, that they should ever hear Christians spouting what they claim our Christian literature has to say on these topics, and
talking such nonsense that they can scarcely contain their laughter when they see them to be toto caelo, as the saying goes, wide of the
mark. And what is so vexing is not that misguided people should be laughed at, as that our authors should be assumed by outsiders to have held such views and, to the great detriment of those about whose salvation we are concerned, should be written off and consigned to the wastepaper basket as so many ignoramuses. . . . It
is in order to take account of this state of things that I have, to the best of my ability, drawn out and presented a great variety of
possible meanings to the words of the book of Genesis that have been darkly expressed in order to put us through our paces. I have avoided affirming anything hastily in a way that would rule out any better alternative explanation, leaving everyone free to choose whichever they can grasp most readily in their turn” –(Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19-20 (c. A.D. 408)].
“But because the trustworthiness of the Scriptures is in question, this, as I have reminded readers more than once, has to be defended from those who do not understand the style of the divine utterances, and who assume when they find anything on these matters in our books, or hear them read out from them, that seems to be contrary to explanations they have worked out, that thus they should not place any confidence in the Scriptures when they warn or tell them about other useful things. It must be stated that our authors knew about the shape of the sky whatever may be the truth of the matter. But the Spirit of God who was speaking through them did not wish to teach people about things that would contribute nothing to their salvation [Literal Interpretation of Genesis., 2:9].
“So for the sake of argument, let us suppose that these seven days
(which we experience in a modern week), which in their stead (in the stead of the days of creation) constitute the week that whirls times and seasons along by its constant recurrence, in which one
day is the whole circuit of the sun from sunrise to sunrise – that these seven [modern days] represent those first seven [days
of creation] in some fashion, though we must be in no doubt that they are not at all like them, but very, very dissimilar.” -(Literal Interpretation of Genesis 4:27).
“One could readily jump to the conclusion, after all, that a day of bodily light was meant, which goes round and round to provide
us with the alternations of daytime and nighttime. But then we recall the order in which things were fashioned, and find that all
the greenery of the field was created on the third day, before the sun was made on the fourth day, the sun that regulates by its presence this normal day we are used to. So when we hear the word, “When the day was made, God made heaven and earth and all
the greenery of the field,” we are being admonished to turn our thoughts to that special day we should be striving to track down
with our minds, which. is certainly not such as the one we are familiar with here.” (Literal Interpretation of Genesis., 5:2)
“We believe in the holy Church, that is, the Catholic Church; for heretics and schismatics call their own congregations churches. But heretics violate the faith itself by a false opinion about God; schismatics, however, withdraw from fraternal love by hostile separations, although they believe the same things we do. Consequently, neither heretics nor schismatics belong to the Catholic Church; not heretics, because the Church loves God, and not schismatics, because the Church loves neighbor” (Faith and Creed 10:21 [A.D. 393]).
“That there should be some fire even after this life is not incredible… Whether some of the faithful may be saved, some more slowly and some more quickly in
the greater or lesser degree in which they loved the good things that perish, through a certain purgatorial fire!” -Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Charity 18:69 (Written 421 A.D.)
“Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter, but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow after that judgment” (The City of God 21:13 [A.D. 419]).
“The whole Church observes this practice which was handed down by the Fathers: that it prays for those who have died in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, when they are commemorated in their own place in the sacrifice itself; and the sacrifice is offered also in memory of them, on their behalf.” -Sermons 172:2 (411 A.D.)
“In being born of a Virgin who chose to remain a Virgin even before she knew who was to be born of her, Christ wanted to approve virginity rather than to impose it. And he wanted virginity to be of free choice even in that woman in whom he took upon himself the form of a slave” -“Holy Virginity’ 4.4 (ca. 401 A.D.)
“[T]here are many other things which most properly can keep me in [the Catholic Church’s] bosom. The unanimity of peoples and nations keeps me here. Her authority, inaugurated in miracles, nourished by hope, augmented by love, and confirmed by her age, keeps me here. The succession of priests, from the very see of the apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave the charge of feeding his sheep [John 21:15–17], up to the present episcopate, keeps me here” (Against the Letter of Mani Called “The Foundation” 4:5 [A.D. 397]).
“There is an ecclesiastical discipline, as the faithful know, when the names of the martyrs are read aloud in that place at the altar of God, where prayer is not offered for them. Prayer, however, is offered for other dead who are remembered. It is wrong to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought ourselves be commended” (Sermons 159:1 [A.D. 411]).
“But by the prayers of the holy Church, and by the salvific sacrifice, and by the alms which are given for their spirits, there is no doubt that the dead are aided, that the Lord might deal more mercifully with them than their sins would deserve.” -Sermons 172:2 (411 A.D.)
“If, then, works of mercy are celebrated for the sake of those who are being remembered, who would hesitate to recommend them, on whose behalf prayers to God are not offered in vain? It is not at all to be doubted that such prayers are of profit to the dead; but for such of them as lived before their death in a way that makes it possible for these things to be useful to them after death” -Sermons 172:2 (411 A.D.)
“The time which interposes between the death of a man and the final resurrection holds souls in hidden retreats, accordingly as each is deserving of rest or of hardship, in view of what it merited when it was living in the flesh. Nor can it be denied that the souls of the dead find relief through the piety of their friends and relatives who are still alive, when the Sacrifice of the Mediator [Mass] is offered for them, or when alms are given in the Church. But these things are of profit to those who, when they were alive, merited that they might afterward be able to be helped by these things. There is a certain manner of living, neither so good that there is no need of these helps after death, nor yet so wicked that these helps are of no avail after death” (Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Charity ., 29:109). 421 A.D.
“[On this matter of the Pelagians] two councils have already been sent to the Apostolic See [the bishop of Rome], and from there rescripts too have come. The matter is at an end; would that the error too might be at an end!” (Sermons 131:10 [A.D. 411]).
“A Christian people celebrates together in religious solemnity the memorials of the martyrs, both to encourage their being imitated and so that it can share in their merits and be aided by their prayers” (Against Faustus the Manichean [A.D. 400]).
“At the Lord’s table we do not commemorate martyrs in the same way that we do others who rest in peace so as to pray for them, but rather that they may pray for us that we may follow in their footsteps” (Homilies on John 84 [A.D. 416]).
“Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ” (The City of God 20:9:2 [A.D. 419]).
“But those who do not belong to the number of the predestined.. are judged most justly according to their deserts. For either they lie under original sin which they contracted by their generation and die with that hereditary debt which was not forgiven by regeneration of baptism, or they have added others besides through free choice… Or they receive God’s grace, but they are temporal and do not persevere; they abandon it and thus are abandoned. For by free will, since they have not received the gift of perseverance, they are sent away in God’s just and hidden judgment” -Admonition and Grace 13
(Written in 426 A.D.)
“At the Lord’s table we do not commemorate martyrs in the same way that we do others who rest in peace so as to pray for them, but rather that they may pray for us that we may follow in their footsteps” (Homilies on John 84 [A.D. 416]).
“What the universal Church holds, not as instituted [invented] by councils but as something always held, is most correctly believed to have been handed down by apostolic authority. Since others respond for children, so that the celebration of the sacrament may be complete for them, it is certainly availing to them for their consecration, because they themselves are not able to respond” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4:24:31 [A.D. 400]).
“The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned, nor is it to be regarded in any way as superfluous, nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic” (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39 [A.D. 408]).
“Anyone who would say that even infants who pass from this life without participation in the sacrament [of baptism] shall be made alive in Christ truly goes counter to the preaching of the apostle and condemns the whole Church, where there is great haste in baptizing infants because it is believed without doubt that there is no other way at all in which they can be made alive in Christ” (Letter to Jerome 166:7:21 [A.D. 415]).
“Cyprian was not issuing a new decree but was keeping to the most solid belief of the Church in order to correct some who thought that infants ought not be baptized before the eighth day after their birth. . . . He agreed with certain of his fellow bishops that a child is able to be duly baptized as soon as he is born” (Letters 166:8:23 [A.D. 412]).
“If the very order of episcopal succession is to be considered, how much more surely, truly, and safely do we number them [the bishops of Rome] from Peter himself, to whom, as to one representing the whole Church, the Lord said, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not conquer it.’ Peter was succeeded by Linus, Linus by Clement. … In this order of succession a Donatist bishop is not to be found” (Letters 53:1:2 [A.D. 412]).
“Among these [apostles] Peter alone almost everywhere deserved to represent the whole Church. Because of that representation of the Church, which only he bore, he deserved to hear ‘I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven’” (Sermons 295:2 [A.D. 411]).
“Some things are said which seem to relate especially to the apostle Peter, and yet are not clear in their meaning unless referred to the Church, which he is acknowledged to have represented in a figure on account of the primacy which he bore among the disciples. Such is ‘I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,’ and other similar passages” (Commentary on Psalm 108 1 [A.D. 415]).
“Who is ignorant that the first of the apostles is the most blessed Peter?” (Commentary on John 56:1 [A.D. 416]).
“In the sacrament he is immolated for the people not only on every Easter Solemnity but on every day; and a man would not be lying if, when asked, he were to reply that Christ is being immolated. For if sacraments had not a likeness to those things of which they are sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all; and they generally take the names of those same things by reason of this likeness” (Letters 98:9 [A.D. 412]).
“For when he says in another book, which is called Ecclesiastes, ‘There is no good for a man except that he should eat and drink’ [Eccles. 2:24], what can he be more credibly understood to say [prophetically] than what belongs to the participation of this table which the Mediator of the New Testament himself, the priest after the order of Melchizedek, furnishes with his own body and blood? For that sacrifice has succeeded all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, which were slain as a shadow of what was to come. . . . Because, instead of all these sacrifices and oblations, his body is offered and is served up to the partakers of it” (The City of God 17:20 [A.D. 419]).
“We believe also in the holy Church, that is, the Catholic Church. For heretics violate the faith itself by a false opinion about God; schismatics, however, withdraw from fraternal love by hostile separations, although they believe the same things we do. Consequently, neither heretics nor schismatics belong to the Catholic Church; not heretics, because the Church loves God; and not schismatics, because the Church loves neighbor” (Faith and the Creed 10:21 [A.D. 393]).
“I do not hesitate to put the Catholic catechumen, burning with divine love, before a baptized heretic. Even within the Catholic Church herself we put the good catechumen ahead of the wicked baptized person . . . For Cornelius, even before his baptism, was filled up with the Holy Spirit [Acts 10:44–48], while Simon [Magus], even after his baptism, was puffed up with an unclean spirit [Acts 8:13–19]” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4:21).
“The apostle Paul said, ‘As for a man that is a heretic, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him’ [Titus 3:10]. But those who maintain their own opinion, however false and perverted, without obstinate ill will, especially those who have not originated the error of bold presumption, but have received it from parents who had been led astray and had lapsed . . . those who seek the truth with careful industry and are ready to be corrected when they have found it, are not to be rated among heretics” (Letters 43:1 [A.D. 412]).
“Whoever is separated from this Catholic Church, by this single sin of being separated from the unity of Christ, no matter how estimable a life he may imagine he is living, shall not have life, but the wrath of God rests upon him” (Letters 141:5).
“[N]othing could have been devised more likely to instruct and benefit the pious reader of sacred Scripture than that, besides describing praiseworthy characters as examples, and blameworthy characters as warnings, it should also narrate cases where good men have gone back and fallen into evil, whether they are restored to the right path or continue irreclaimable; and also where bad men have changed, and have attained to goodness, whether they persevere in it or relapse into evil; in order that the righteous may be not lifted up in the pride of security, nor the wicked hardened in despair of cure” (Against Faustus 22:96 [A.D. 400]).
“[A]lthough they were living well, [they] have not persevered therein; because they have of their own will been changed from a good to an evil life, and on that account are worthy of rebuke; and if rebuke should be of no avail to them, and they should persevere in their ruined life until death, they are also worthy of divine condemnation forever. Neither shall they excuse themselves, saying—as now they say, ‘Why are we rebuked?’—so then, ‘Why are we condemned, since indeed, that we might return from good to evil, we did not receive that perseverance by which we should abide in good?’ They shall by no means deliver themselves by this excuse from righteous condemnation” (Admonition and Grace 11 [A.D. 426]).
“But those who do not belong to the number of the predestined . . . are judged most justly according to their deserts. For either they lie under sin which they contracted originally by their generation and go forth [from this life] with that hereditary debt which was not forgiven by regeneration [baptism], or [if it was forgiven by regeneration] they have added others besides through free choice: choice, I say, free; but not freed. . . . Or they receive God’s grace, but they are temporal and do not persevere; they abandon it and are abandoned. For by free will, since they have not received the gift of perseverance, they are sent away in God’s just and hidden judgment”(Admonition and Grace 13 [A.D. 426]).
“Christ was carried in his own hands when, referring to his own body, he said, ‘This is my body’ [Matt. 26:26]. For he carried that body in his hands” (Explanations of the Psalms 33:1:10 [A.D. 405]).
“I promised you [new Christians], who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the sacrament of the Lord’s Table. . . . That bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ” (Sermons 227 [A.D. 411]).
“What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the body of Christ and the chalice is the blood of Christ” -Sermons 272 (Written 411 A.D.)
“There are three ways in which sins are forgiven: in baptism, in prayer, and in the greater humility of penance; yet God does not forgive sins except to the baptized” (Sermons to Catechumens on the Creed 7:15 [A.D. 395]).
“I do not hesitate to put the Catholic catechumen, burning with divine love, before a baptized heretic. Even within the Catholic Church herself we put the good catechumen ahead of the wicked baptized person” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4:21:28 [A.D. 400]).
“That the place of baptism is sometimes supplied by suffering is supported by a substantial argument which the same blessed Cyprian draws from the circumstance of the thief, to whom, although not baptized, it was said, ‘Today you shall be with me in paradise’ [Luke 23:43]. Considering this over and over again, I find that not only suffering for the name of Christ can supply for that which is lacking by way of baptism, but even faith and conversion of heart [i.e., baptism of desire] if, perhaps, because of the circumstances of the time, recourse cannot be had to the celebration of the mystery of baptism” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, 4:22:29).
“When we speak of within and without in relation to the Church, it is the position of the heart that we must consider, not that of the body. . . . All who are within [the Church] in heart are saved in the unity of the ark [by baptism of desire]” (ibid., 5:28:39).
“[According to] apostolic tradition . . . the churches of Christ hold inherently that without baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal. This is the witness of Scripture too” (Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sin, and the Baptism of Infants 1:24:34 [A.D. 412]).
“Those who, though they have not received the washing of regeneration, die for the confession of Christ—it avails them just as much for the forgiveness of their sins as if they had been washed in the sacred font of baptism. For he that said, ‘If anyone is not reborn of water and the Spirit, he will not enter the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5], made an exception for them in that other statement in which he says no less generally, ‘Whoever confesses me before men, I too will confess him before my Father, who is in heaven’ [Matt. 10:32]” (The City of God 13:7 [A.D. 419]).
“That one woman is both mother and virgin, not in spirit only but even in body. In spirit she is mother, not of our head, who is our Savior himself—of whom all, even she herself, are rightly called children of the bridegroom—but plainly she is the mother of us who are his members, because by love she has cooperated so that the faithful, who are the members of that head, might be born in the Church. In body, indeed, she is the Mother of that very head” (Holy Virginity 6:6 [A.D. 401]).
“Having excepted the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom, on account of the honor of the Lord, I wish to have absolutely no question when treating of sins—for how do we know what abundance of grace for the total overcoming of sin was conferred upon her, who merited to conceive and bear him in whom there was no sin?—so, I say, with the exception of the Virgin, if we could have gathered together all those holy men and women, when they were living here, and had asked them whether they were without sin, what do we suppose would have been their answer?” (Nature and Grace 36:42 [A.D. 415]).
“It was not the visible sun that made this day holy for us, but the sun’s invisible Creator, when the Virgin Mother brought to light, out of her fruitful womb and virginal body, the Creator made visible for us, the same invisible God who had also created the Virgin. Virgin in conceiving, virgin in giving birth, virgin with child, virgin mother, virgin forever. Why do you marvel at this, O man? God had to be born in this way, when he deigned to become man. Thus did he make her, who was made by her.” -Sermon 186:1
“Because she had made a vow of virginity and her husband did not have to be the thief of her modesty instead of its guardian (and yet her husband was not its guardian, since it was God who guarded it; her husband was only the witness of her virginal chastity, so that her pregnancy would not be considered the result of adultery) when the angel brought her the news, she said: “How can this be, since I do not know man?”
(Lk 1:34). Had she intended to know man, she would not have been amazed. Her amazement is a sign of the vow.” -Sermon 225:2
“How is it that you do not belong to the Virgin’s birth, if you are members of Christ? Mary gave birth to our Head; the Church gave birth to you. Indeed, the Church also is both virgin and mother, mother because of her womb of charity, virgin because of the integrity of her faith and piety.” -Sermon 192:2
“[T]he custom [of not rebaptizing converts] . . . may be supposed to have had its origin in apostolic tradition, just as there are many things which are observed by the whole Church, and therefore are fairly held to have been enjoined by the apostles, which yet are not mentioned in their writings” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 5:23 [A.D. 400]).
“But the admonition that he [Cyprian] gives us, ‘that we should go back to the fountain, that is, to apostolic tradition, and thence turn the channel of truth to our times,’ is most excellent, and should be followed without hesitation” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, 5:26).
“But in regard to those observances which we carefully attend and which the whole world keeps, and which derive not from Scripture but from Tradition, we are given to understand that they are recommended and ordained to be kept, either by the apostles themselves or by plenary [ecumenical] councils, the authority of which is quite vital in the Church” (Letter to Januarius [A.D. 400])
“Well, now, I should like to be told what there is in these Ten Commandments, except the observance of the Sabbath, which ought not to be kept by a Christian” (The Spirit and the Letter 24 [A.D. 412])
” ‘He was handed over for our offenses, and he rose again for our justification.’ What does this mean, ‘for our justification’? So that he might justify us, so that he might make us just. You will be a work of God, not only because you are a man, but also because you are just. For it is better that you be just than that you are a man. If God made you a man, and you made yourself just, something you were doing would be better than what God did. But God made you without any cooperation on your part. You did not lend your consent so that God could make you. How could you have consented, when you did not exist? But he who made you without your consent does not justify you without your consent. He made you without your knowledge, but he does not justify you without your willing it” (Sermons 169:13 [inter A.D. 391-430])
” ‘But we know that God does not hear sinners; but if any man is a worshiper of God and does his will, that man God will hear.’ He still speaks as one only anointed. For God does listen to sinners too. If God did not listen to sinners, it would have been all in vain for the publican to cast down his eyes to the ground and strike his breast saying: ‘Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ And that confession merited justification, just as the blind man merited enlightenment” (Homilies on the Gospel of John 44:13 [A.D. 416])
“Now human gender is either male or female. And if, in becoming a man, he had not been born of a woman, exactly as it had to happen, women would have lost the hope of being saved, recalling their first sin, when the first man was ensnared by the woman, and they would have believed themselves to be absolutely without hope in Christ. Christ, then, came into the world as a man, choosing the male sex on purpose, but, being born of a woman, he came to console the feminine sex, as if, addressing himself to them, he had said: “So that you may know that none of God’s creatures is wicked, but rather have been perverted by a guilty pleasure, when, in the beginning, he made man, he made them male and female: I do not condemn the creatures I myself have fashioned. Behold, I am born a man; I am born of a woman. Thus I do not condemn the creatures I have made but their sins, which I did not make.” Both the sexes should recognize their own dignity, and both should confess their sins and hope to be saved. Through woman, poison was poured upon man, in order to deceive him, but salvation was poured out upon man from a woman, that he might be reborn in grace. The woman, having become Mother of Christ, will repair the sin she committed in deceiving the man.” -Sermon 51:3
“For he who follows the letter takes figurative words as if they were proper, and does not carry out what is indicated by a proper word into its secondary signification…
those who clung obstinately to such signs could not endure our Lord’s neglect of them when the time for their revelation had come; and hence their leaders brought it as a charge against Him that He healed on the Sabbath, and the people, clinging to these signs as if they were realities, could not believe that one who refused to observe them in the way the Jews did was God, or came from God. But those who did believe, from among whom the first Church at Jerusalem was formed, showed clearly how great an advantage it had been to be so guided by the schoolmaster that signs, which had been for a season imposed on the obedient, fixed the thoughts of those who observed them on the worship of the One God who made heaven and earth.”
-On Christian Doctrine Book III: 5:9-6:10
“we must show the way to find out whether a phrase is literal or figurative. And the way is certainly as follows: Whatever there is in the word of God that cannot, when taken literally, be referred either to purity of life or soundness of doctrine, you may set down as figurative. Purity of life has reference to the love of God and one’s neighbor; soundness of doctrine to the knowledge of God and one’s neighbor. “
-On Christian Doctrine Book III: 10:14
“Those things, again, whether only sayings or whether actual deeds, which appear to the inexperienced to be sinful, and which are ascribed to God, or to men whose holiness is put before us as an example, are wholly figurative, and the hidden kernel of meaning they contain is to be picked out as food for the nourishment of charity.”
-On Christian Doctrine Book III: 12:18
“But these writings of the apostles, though clear, are yet profound, and are so written that one who is not content with a superficial acquaintance, but desires to know them thoroughly, must not only read and hear them, but must have an expositor. Let us, then, study these various modes of speech as they are exemplified in the writings of men who, by reading the Scriptures, have attained to the knowledge of divine and saving truth, and have ministered it to the Church.”
-On Christian Doctrine Book IV: 21:45
“For the Church is His body, as the apostle’s teaching shows us; and it is even called His spouse. His body, then, which has many members, and all performing different functions, He holds together in the bond of unity and love, which is its true health. Moreover He exercises it in the present time, and purges it with many wholesome afflictions, that when He has transplanted it from this world to the eternal world, He may take it to Himself as His bride, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.”
-On Christian Doctrine Book I: 16:15
“Whoever takes another meaning out of Scripture than the writer intended, goes astray, but not through any falsehood in Scripture. . . For if he takes up rashly a meaning which the author whom he is reading did not intend, he often falls in with other statements which he cannot harmonize with this meaning. And if he admits that these statements are true and certain, then it follows that the meaning he had put upon the former passage cannot be the true one.”
-On Christian Doctrine Book I: 36:41-37
“And thus a man who is resting upon faith, hope and love, and who keeps a firm hold upon these, does not need the Scriptures except for the purpose of instructing others. Accordingly, many live without copies of the Scriptures, even in solitude, on the strength of these three graces. . . Therefore the apostle says: Now abides faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity: 1 Corinthians 13:13.”
-On Christian Doctrine Book I: 39:43
“Now, in regard to the canonical Scriptures, he must follow the judgment of the greater number of Catholic churches; and among these, of course, a high place must be given to such as have been thought worthy to be the seat of an apostle and to receive epistles.”
-On Christian Doctrine Book II: 8:12
“Now the whole canon of Scripture on which we say this judgment is to be exercised, is contained in the following books:— Five books of Moses, that is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; one book of Joshua the Son of Nun; one of Judges; one short book called Ruth, which seems rather to belong to the beginning of Kings; next, four books of Kings, and two of Chronicles — these last not following one another, but running parallel, so to speak, and going over the same ground. The books now mentioned are history, which contains a connected narrative of the times, and follows the order of the events. There are other books which seem to follow no regular order, and are connected neither with the order of the preceding books nor with one another, such as Job, and Tobias, and Esther, and Judith, and the two books of Maccabees, and the two of Ezra, which last look more like a sequel to the continuous regular history which terminates with the books of Kings and Chronicles. Next are the Prophets, in which there is one book of the Psalms of David; and three books of Solomon, viz., Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. For two books, one called Wisdom and the other Ecclesiasticus, are ascribed to Solomon from a certain resemblance of style, but the most likely opinion is that they were written by Jesus the son of Sirach. Still they are to be reckoned among the prophetical books, since they have attained recognition as being authoritative. The remainder are the books which are strictly called the Prophets: twelve separate books of the prophets which are connected with one another, and having never been disjoined, are reckoned as one book; the names of these prophets are as follows:— Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; then there are the four greater prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel. The authority of the Old Testament is contained within the limits of these forty-four books. That of the New Testament, again, is contained within the following:— Four books of the Gospel, according to Matthew, according to Mark, according to Luke, according to John; fourteen epistles of the Apostle Paul— one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, two to the Thessalonians, one to the Colossians, two to Timothy, one to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews: two of Peter; three of John; one of Jude; and one of James; one book of the Acts of the Apostles; and one of the Revelation of John.”
-On Christian Doctrine Book II: 8:13
“Now among translations themselves the Italian (Itala) is to be preferred to the others, for it keeps closer to the words without prejudice to clearness of expression. And to correct the Latin we must use the Greek versions, among which the authority of the Septuagint is pre-eminent as far as the Old Testament is concerned”
-On Christian Doctrine Book II: 15:22
LETTER OF AUGUSTINE TO VINCENT THE ROGATIST
[93, 7, 23]
You seem to be saying something very perceptive when you derive the
name Catholic not from the communion of the whole world but from the
observance of all the divine precepts and of all the Sacraments, as if we relied
on the meaning of the name and not on the promises of God and on so
many and such clear pronouncements of truth itself to prove that the Church
is found among all nations. Yet it is a fact that the Church is called Catholic
because it truly embraces the whole of that truth, some particles of which
may be found even in various heresies.
LETTER OF AUGUSTINE TO JEROME (32). A. D. 415
[167, 2, 4]
The Stoics alone dared to argue the equality of all sins, against every experience
of the human race. In following that opinion of theirs Jovinian showed himself a Stoic
though he was an Epicurean in grasping after and defending pleasures. You
refuted him brilliantly from the Holy Scriptures (33).
LETTER OF AUGUSTINE TO VALENTINE (50). A. D. 427.
As strongly as we could we urged them, your brothers and ours, to persevere in the
sound Catholic faith, which neither denies free will, whether to pursue a wicked life
or a good one; nor attributes to it such efficacy that it can do anything at all without
God’s grace, whether to be converted from evil to good, or to persevere and
advance in good, or to attain the eternal good, where there is no longer any fear of
EXPLANATIONS OF THE PSALMS (inter A. D. 392-418]
[90, 2, 1]
Our Lord Jesus Christ. . . is the Head of the Church. The Body belonging to
this Head is the Church: not the local Church here, but both the local
Church and the Church throughout the whole world; not the Church which
belongs to the present time, but that which exists from the time of Abel himself
even to all those who will ever be born, even to the end, and who will
believe in Christ, the whole population of the saints who belong to but one city,
which city is the Body of Christ, and of which Body Christ is the Head.
(101, 2, 3]
The remission of sins is their unbinding. What good would it have done
Lazarus when he came out of the tomb, if it had not been said: “Unbind him,
and let him go (27)”? . . . Let this be in the heart of the
penitent: when you hear a man confessing his sins, he has already come to life
again; when you hear a man lay bare his conscience in confessing, he has
already come forth from the sepulchre; but he is not yet unbound. When is he
unbound? By whom is he unbound?
“Whatever you loose on earth,” He says,
“shall be loosed also in heaven (28).
” Rightly is the loosing of sins able to
be given by the Church, but the dead man cannot be raised to life again except
by the Lord’s calling him interiorly; for this latter is done by God in a more
SERMONS (inter A. D. 391-430]
If you want God to forgive, you must confess (4). Sin cannot go unpunished. It
were unseemly, improper, and unjust for sin to go unpunished. Since, therefore, sin
must not go unpunished, let it be punished by you, lest you be punished for it.
Let your sin have you for its judge, not its patron. Go up and take the bench
apainst yourself, and put your guilt before yourself. Do not put it behind you, or God
will put it in front of you.
What the soul is to man’s body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which
is the Church. The Holy Spirit does in the whole Church what the soul does in
all the members of one body. But see what you must beware of, see what you must take
note of, see what you must fear. It happens that in the human body, or rather,
off the body, -some member, whether hand, finger, or foot, may be cut away
And if a member be cut off, does the soul go with it? When the member was in the
body, it lived; and off, its life is lost. So too, a Christian man is Catholic while he lives
in the body; but cut off, he is made a heretic; thé Spirit does not follow an amputated member.”
SERMON TO CATECHUMENS, ON THE CREED (395 A.D.)
This Church is holy, the one Church, the true Church, the Catholic Church,
fighting as she does against all heresies. She can fight, but she cannot be beaten. All heresies are expelled from her, like the useless loppings pruned
from a vine. She remains fixed in her root, in her vine, in her love. The gates of
hell shall not conquer her (1).
VARIOUS QUESTIONS TO SIMPLICIAN [ca. A.D. 3961
(1, 2, 2)
h many passages (Paul) often bears witness to this, putting the grace of faith before
works -not as if he wanted to put an end to Works, but so as to show that works are the
consequences rather than the precedents of grace. Thus, no man is to suppose that he has received grace because he has done good Works but rather that he would not have been able to do those good works if he had not, through faith, received grace.
CHRISTIAN COMBAT [A. D. 396 aut 397)
Let us not listen to those who deny that the Church of God is able to forgive all sins.
They are wretched indeed, because they do not recognize in Peter the rock (3) and they
refuse to believe that the keys of the kingdom of heaven, lost from their own hands, have
been given to the Church. These are the people who condemn widows who remarry as adulteresses, and then boast that theirs is a purity superior to the teaching of the
AGAINST FAUSTUS THE MANICHEAN (ca 400 A.D.)
In the Psalms these words are sung: “A sacrifice of praise will glorify Me, and the
path is there, where I will show him My salvation” (7). Before the coming of Christ,
the Flesh and Blood of this sacrifice (8) is promised by victims offered as likenesses thereto; in the Passion of Christ it is rendered in very truth; after Christ’s Ascension it is
celebrated by sacramental memorial (9).
7. Ps. 49:23.
FAITH AND WORKS [A. D. 413]
“(In regards to those who wish to be Baptize, but who intend to persevere in sin)… They judge that unless
they be baptized, they will be lost forever; if, however, they be baptized, even
persevering in these evils, they will be saved through fire (4).
[2, 3] In answer to these persons I would say, first of all, that in reading the
testimonies of Sacred Scripture which indicate that there is presently, or foretell that
there will be in the future, a mingling of good and evil persons in the Church, anyone
who understands these testimonies in such a way that he supposes the diligence and severity of discipline ought to be relaxed altogether and be omitted is not taught by those
same writings but is deceived by his own conjecture. The fact that Moses, the servant of
God, bore most patiently that mixture of good and evil among the chosen people
(5) did not prevent him from punishing many, even with the sword.
. In our
times, when the sword has ceased to be visible in the discipline of the Church, what must
be done is pointed out by degradations and excommunications.
THE CITY OF GOD
Christ is both the Priest, offering Himself, and Himself the Victim. He willed that
the sacramental sign of this should be the daily sacrifice of the Church (5), who,
since the Church is His body and He the Head, learns to offer herself through Him.
[21, 24, 2]
The prayer either of the Church herself or of pious individuals is heard on behalf
of certain of the dead; but it is heard for those who, having been regenerated in Christ,
did not for the rest of their life in the body do such wickedness that they might be
judged unworthy of such mercy, nor who yet lived so well that it might be supposed
they have no need of such mercy (37).
HOMILIES ON JOHN
What is the sign of Christ, as everyone knows, if not the cross of Christ? For
unless that sign be applied, whether to the foreheads of believers, whether to the
very water out of which they are regenerated, whether to the oil by which they are
anointed with chrism, or whether to the sacrifice by which they are nourished,
none of these is properly administered.”
HOMILIES ON THE EPISTLE OF JOHN TO THE PARTHIANS [A. D. 416
“And you shall have anointing by the Holy One so that you may be manifest to
yourselves (5).” The spiritual anointing is the Holy Spirit Himself, the Sacrament of
whose coming is in a visible anointing (5: See 1 John 2:20.)
AGAINST JULIAN, DEFENDER OF THE PELAGIAN HERESY (ca. A. D. 421)
[2, 10, 33]
Holy and blessed priests, widely reknowned for their diligence in divine eloquence,
Irenaeus, Cyprian, Reticius, Olympius, Hilary, Ambrose, Gregory, Innocent, John,
Basil (5),-and whether you like it or not, I will add the presbyter Jerome, while omiting
those who are still alive,-have pronounced against you their opinion about original
sin in the guilty succession of all men, whence no one is exempted (6) except Him
that the Virgin conceived without the law of sin warring against the law of the mind.
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