Augustines Life And Place In Th

Aurelius Augustinus, the greatest of the Latin fathers, was born 354, at

Tagaste, in Numidia. He was educated to be a teacher of rhetoric, and

practised his profession at Carthage, Rome, and Milan. From 374 to 383, he

was a Manichaean catechumen, for although his mother, Monnica, was a

Christian, his religious education had been very meagre, and he was

repelled by the literary character of the Scriptures as commonly

erpreted. In 387, after a long struggle, and passing through various

schools of thought, he, with his son Adeodatus, were baptized at Milan by

Ambrose. In 391 he became a presbyter, and in 394 bishop of Hippo Regius,

a small town in North Africa. He died 430, during the Vandal invasion. Of

his works, the Confessions are the most widely known, as they have

become a Christian classic of edification of the first rank. They give an

account of his early life and conversion, but are more useful as showing

his type of piety than as a biography. From them is learned the secret of

his influence upon the Western world. The literary activity of Augustine

was especially developed in connection with the prolonged controversies,

in which he was engaged throughout his episcopate (see §§ 83, 84), but he

wrote much in addition to controversial treatises. The group of

characteristic doctrines known as "Augustinianism," viz.: Original Sin,

Predestination, and Grace and the doctrines connected with them, were, to

a large extent, the outcome of his own religious experience. He had known

the power and depth of sin. He had discovered the hand of God leading him

in spite of himself. He knew that his conversion was due, not to his own

effort or merit, but to God's grace.

The works of Augustine have been translated in part in PNF, ser. I, vols.

I-VIII. There are many translations of the Confessions; among others,

one by E. B. Pusey, in "Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic

Church," reprinted in "Everyman's Library."

(a) Augustine, Confessiones, VIII, 12. (MSL, 32:761.)

The conversion of Augustine.

This is, perhaps, the most famous passage in the Confessions. It

came at the end of a long series of attempts to find peace in

various forms of philosophy and religion. Augustine regarded it as

miraculous, the crown and proof of the work of grace in him. The

scene was in Milan, 387, in the garden of the villa he occupied

with his friend Alypius. The principal obstacle to his embracing

Christianity was his reluctance to abandon his licentious life. To

this the reference is made in the passage from Scripture which he

read, i.e., Rom. 13:13, 14.

When a profound reflection had, from the depths of my soul, drawn together

and heaped up all my misery before the sight of my heart, there arose a

mighty storm, accompanied by as mighty a shower of tears. That I might

pour it all forth in its own words I arose from beside Alypius; for

solitude suggested itself to me as fitter for the business of weeping. So

I retired to such a distance that even his presence could not be

oppressive to me. Thus it was with me at that time, and he perceived it;

for something, I believe, I had spoken, wherein the sound of my voice

appeared choked with weeping, and thus I had risen up. He then remained

where we had been sitting, very greatly astonished. I flung myself down, I

know not how, under a certain fig-tree, giving free course to my tears,

and the streams of my eyes gushed out, an acceptable sacrifice unto Thee.

And not indeed in these words, yet to this effect, spake I much unto

Thee--"But Thou, O Lord, how long?" [Psalm 13:1]. "How long, Lord? Wilt

Thou be angry forever? Oh, remember not against us former iniquities"

[Psalm 79:5, 8]; for I felt that I was held fast by them. I sent up these

sorrowful cries: "How long, how long? To-morrow, and to-morrow? Why not

now? Why is there not this hour an end to my uncleanness?"

I was saying these things and was weeping in the most bitter contrition of

my heart, when, lo, I hear the voice as of a boy or girl, I know not

which, coming from a neighboring house, chanting and oft repeating: "Take

up and read; take up and read." Immediately my countenance was changed,

and I began most earnestly to consider whether it was usual for children

in any kind of game to sing such words; nor could I remember ever to have

heard the like anywhere. So, restraining the torrent of my tears, I rose

up, interpreting it in no other way than as a command to me from Heaven to

open the book and read the first chapter I should light upon. For I had

heard of Anthony [see also § 77, e], that accidentally coming in whilst

the Gospel was being read, he received the admonition as if what was read

was addressed to him: "Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor,

and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me" [Matt.

19:21]. And by such oracle was he forthwith converted unto Thee. So

quickly I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there had I

put down the volume of the Apostles, when I rose thence. I seized, I

opened, and in silence I read that paragraph on which my eye first fell:

"Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in

strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not

provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof" [Rom. 13:13, 14]. No

further would I read; there was no need; for instantly, as the sentence

ended, by a light, as it were, of security infused into my heart, all the

gloom of doubt vanished away.

Closing the book, then, and putting either my finger between, or some

other mark, I now with a tranquil countenance made it known to Alypius.

And he thus disclosed to me what was wrong in him, which I knew not. He

asked to look at what I had read. I showed him; and he looked even further

than I had read, and I knew not what followed. This, in fact, followed:

"Him that is weak in the faith, receive ye" [Rom. 14:1]; which he applied

to himself, and discovered to me. By this admonition was he strengthened;

and by a good resolution and purpose, very much in accord with his

character (wherein, for the better, he was always far different from me),

without any restless delay he joined me. Thence we go to my mother. We

tell her--she rejoices. We relate how it came to pass--she exults and

triumphs, and she blesses Thee, who art "able to do exceeding abundantly

above all that we ask or think" [Eph. 3:20]; for she perceived Thee to

have given her more for me than she used to ask by her pitiful and most

doleful groanings. For Thou didst so convert me unto Thyself, that I

sought neither a wife, nor any other hope of this world--standing in that

rule of faith in which Thou, so many years before, had showed me unto her.

And thou didst turn her grief unto gladness [Psalm 30:11], much more

plentiful than she had desired, and much dearer and chaster than she used

to crave, by having grandchildren of my flesh.

(b) Augustine, Confessiones, X, 27, 29, 43. (MSL, 32:795, 796, 808.)

The following passages from the Confessions are intended to

illustrate Augustine's type of piety.

Ch. 29. My whole hope is only in Thy exceeding great mercy. Give what Thou

commandest and command what Thou wilt.(167) Thou imposest continency upon

us. "And when I perceived," saith one, "that no one could be continent

except God gave it; and this was a point of wisdom also to know whose this

gift was" [Wis. 8:21]. For by continency are we bound up and brought into

one, whence we were scattered abroad into many. For he loves Thee too

little, who besides Thee loves aught which he loves not for Thee. O love,

who ever burnest and art never quenched! O charity, my God, kindle me!

Thou commandest continency; give what Thou commandest, and command what

Thou wilt.

Ch. 27. Too late have I loved Thee, O fairness, so ancient, yet so new!

Too late have I loved Thee. For behold Thou wast within and I was without,

and I was seeking Thee there; I, without love, rushed heedlessly among the

things of beauty Thou madest. Thou wast with me, but I was not with Thee.

Those things kept me far from Thee, which, unless they were in Thee, were

not. Thou didst call and cry aloud, and Thou broke through my deafness.

Thou didst gleam and shine and chase away my blindness. Thou didst exhale

fragrance and I drew in my breath and I panted for Thee. I tasted, and did

hunger and thirst. Thou didst touch me, and I burned for Thy peace.

Ch. 43. O how Thou hast loved us, O good Father, who sparedst not thine

only Son, but didst deliver Him up for us wicked ones! [Rom. 8:32.] O how

Thou hast loved us, for whom He, who thought it not robbery to be equal

with Thee, "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross"

[Phil. 2:8]. He alone, "free among the dead" [Psalm 88:5], that had power

to lay down His life, and power to take it again [John 10:18]; for us was

He unto Thee both victor and the victim, and the victor became the victim;

for He was unto Thee both priest and sacrifice, and priest because

sacrifice; making us from being slaves to become Thy sons, by being born

of Thee, and by serving us. Rightly, then, is my strong hope in Him,

because Thou didst cure all my diseases by Him who sitteth at Thy right

hand and maketh intercession for us [Rom. 8:34]; else should I utterly

despair. For numerous and great are my infirmities, yea numerous and great

are they; but Thy medicine is greater. We might think that Thy word was

removed from union with man and despair of ourselves had not He been "made

flesh and dwelt among us" [John 1:14].

(c) Augustine, De Civitate Dei, XIII, 3, 14. (MSL, 41:378; 86.)

The Fall of Man and Original Sin.

The City of God is Augustine's great theodicy, apology, and

philosophy of universal history. It was begun shortly after the

capture of Rome, and the author was engaged upon it from 413 to

426. It was the source whence the mediaeval ecclesiastics drew

their theoretical justification for the curialistic principles of

the relation of State and Church, and at the same time the one

work of St. Augustine that Gibbon the historian regarded highly.

For an analysis see Presensee, art. "Augustine" in DCB.

Compare the position of Augustine with the following passage from

St. Ambrose, On the Death of Satyrus, II, 6, "Death is alike to

all, without difference for the poor, without exception for the

rich. And so although through the sin of one alone, yet it passed

upon all; In Adam I fell, in Adam I was cast out of paradise. In

Adam I died; how shall the Lord call me back, except He find me in

Adam; guilty as I was in him, so now justified in Christ." [MSL,


The first men would not have suffered death if they had not sinned. But

having become sinners they were so punished with death, that whatsoever

sprang from their stock should also be punished with the same death. For

nothing else could be born of them than what they themselves had been. The

condemnation changed their nature for the worse in proportion to the

greatness of their sin, so that what was before as punishment in the man

who had first sinned, followed as of nature in others who were born. In

the first man, therefore, the whole human nature was to be transmitted by

the woman to posterity when that conjugal union received the divine

sentence of its own condemnation; and what man was made, not when he was

created but when he sinned, and was punished, this he propagated, so far

as the origin of sin and death are concerned.

Ch. 14. For God, the author of natures, not of vices, created man upright;

but man, being by his own will corrupt and justly condemned, begot

corrupted and condemned children. For we were all in that one man when we

were all that one man, who fell into sin by the woman who had been made

from him before the sin. For not yet was the particular form created and

distributed to us, in which we as individuals were to live; but already

the seminal nature was there from which we were to be propagated; and this

being vitiated by sin, and bound by the chain of death, and justly

condemned, man could not be born of man in any other state. And thus from

the bad use of free will, there originated a whole series of evils, which

with its train of miseries conducts the human race from its depraved

origin, as from a corrupt root, on to the destruction of the second death,

which has no end, those only being excepted who are freed by the grace of


(d) Augustine, De Correptione et Gratia, 2. (MSL, 44:917.)

Grace and Free Will.

Now the Lord not only shows us what evil we should shun, and what good we

should do, which is all the letter of the law can do; but moreover He

helps us that we may shun evil and do good [Psalm 37:27], which none can

do without the spirit of grace; and if this be wanting, the law is present

merely to make us guilty and to slay us. It is on this account that the

Apostle says: "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life" [II Cor.

3:6]. He, then, who lawfully uses the law, learns therein evil and good,

and not trusting in his own strength, flees to grace, by the help of which

he may shun evil and do good. But who flees to grace except when "the

steps of a man are ordered by the Lord, and He wills his ways"? [Psalm

37:23.] And thus also to desire the help of grace is the beginning of

grace. It is to be confessed, therefore, that we have free choice to do

both evil and good; but in doing evil every one is free from righteousness

and is a servant of sin, while in doing good no one can be free, unless he

have been made free by Him who said: "If the Son shall make you free, then

you shall be free indeed" [John 8:36]. Neither is it thus, that when any

one shall have been made free from the dominion of sin, he no longer needs

the help of his Deliverer; but rather thus, that hearing from Him,

"Without me ye can do nothing" [John 15:5], he himself also says to Him:

"Be Thou my helper! Forsake me not!"

(e) Augustine, De Civitate Dei, XV, 1. (MSL, 41:437.)


Inasmuch as all men are born condemned, and of themselves have not

the power to turn to grace, which alone can save them, it follows

that the bestowal of grace whereby they may turn is not dependent

upon the man but upon God's sovereign good pleasure. This is

expressed in the doctrine of Predestination. For a discussion of

the position of Augustine respecting Predestination and his other

doctrines as connected with it, see J. B. Mozley, A Treatise on

the Augustinian Doctrine of Predestination, 1873, a book of great

ability. Cf. also Tixeront, History of Dogmas, vol. II.

I trust that we have already done justice to these great and difficult

questions regarding the beginning of the world, of the soul, and of the

human race itself. This race we have distributed into two parts: the one

consisting of those who live according to man, the other of those who live

according to God. And these we have also mystically called the two cities,

or the two communities of men, of which one is predestined to reign

eternally with God, and the other to suffer eternal punishment with the


Each man, because born of condemned stock, is first of all born from Adam,

evil and carnal, and when he has been grafted into Christ by regeneration

he afterward becomes good and spiritual. So in the human race, as a whole,

when these two cities began to run their course by a series of births and

deaths, the citizen of this world was born first, and after him the

stranger of this world, and belonging to the City of God,(168) predestined

by grace, elected by grace, by grace a stranger here below, and by grace a

citizen above. For so far as regards himself he is sprung from the same

mass, all of which is condemned in its origin; but God like a potter (for

this comparison is introduced by the Apostle judiciously and not without

thought) of the same lump made one vessel to honor and another to dishonor

[Rom. 9:21].

(f) Augustine, De Correptione et Gratia, chs. 23 (9), 39 (13). (MSL,

44:930, 940.)

Ch. 23 (9). Whosoever, therefore, in God's most providential ordering are

foreknown [praesciti] and predestinated, called justified, glorified--I

say not, even though not yet born again, but even though not yet born at

all--are already children of God, and absolutely cannot perish. From Him,

therefore, is given also perseverance in good even to the end; for it is

not given except to those who will not perish, since they who do not

persevere will perish.(169)

Ch. 39 (13). I speak of those who are predestinated to the kingdom of God,

whose number is so certain that no one can either be added to them or

taken from them; not of those who when He had announced and spoken, were

multiplied beyond number [Psalm 40:6]. For these may be said to be called

[vocati] but not chosen [electi], because they are not called

according to purpose.(170)

(g) Augustine, Enchiridion, 100. (MSL, 40:279.)

Twofold Predestination.

Augustine does not commonly speak of predestination of the wicked,

i.e., those who are not among the elect and consequently

predestinated to grace and salvation. As a rule he speaks of

predestination in connection with the saints, those who are saved.

But that he, with perfect consistency, regarded the wicked as also

predestinated is shown by the following, as also other passages in

his works, e.g., City of God, XV, 1 (v. supra), XXII, ch.

24:5. This point has a bearing in connection with the controversy

on predestination in the ninth century, in which Gottschalk

reasserted the theory of a double predestination.

These are the great works of the Lord, sought out according to all His

good pleasure [Psalm 111:2], and wisely sought out, that when the angelic

and the human creature sinned, that is, did not do what He willed but what

the creature itself willed, so by the will of the creature, by which was

done what the Creator did not will, He carried out what He himself willed;

the supremely Good thus turning to account even what is evil; to the

condemnation of those whom He has justly predestinated to punishment and

to the salvation of those whom He has mercifully predestinated to grace.

(h) Augustine, De Civitate Dei, XVI, 2. (MSL, 41:479.)

Augustine's theory of allegorical interpretation.

Augustine had been repelled by the literal interpretation of the

Scriptures and turned to the Manichaeans who rejected the Old

Testament. Confessions, III, 5. From Ambrose he learned the

"mystical" or allegorical method of interpreting the Old

Testament, cf. Confessions, VI, 4. With Augustine's theory,

treated at length, especially in his De Doctrina Christiana, Bk.

3, should be compared Origen's in De Principiis, IV, 9-15. See

above, § 43, b.

These secrets of the divine Scriptures we investigate as we can;(171) some

in more, some in less agreement, but all faithfully holding it as certain

that these things were neither done nor recorded without some

foreshadowing of future events, and that they are to be referred only to

Christ and His Church, which is the City of God, the proclamation of which

has not ceased since the beginning of the human race; and we now see it

everywhere accomplished. From the blessing of the two sons of Noah and

from the cursing of the middle son, down to Abraham, for more than a

thousand years, there is no mention of any righteous person who worshipped

God. I would not, therefore, believe that there were none, but to mention

every one would have been very long, and there would have been historical

accuracy rather than prophetic foresight. The writer of these sacred

books, or rather the Spirit of God through him, sought for those things by

which not only the past might be narrated, but the future foretold, which

pertained to the City of God; for whatever is said of these men who are

not its citizens is given either that it may profit or be made glorious by

a comparison with what is different. Yet it is not to be supposed that all

that is recorded has some signification; but those things which have no

signification of their own are interwoven for the sake of the things which

are significant. Only by the ploughshare is the earth cut in furrows; but

that this may be, other parts of the plough are necessary. Only the

strings of the harp and other musical instruments are fitted to give forth

a melody; but that they may do so, there are other parts of the instrument

which are not, indeed, struck by those who sing, but with them are

connected the strings which are struck and produce musical notes. So in

prophetic history some things are narrated which have no significance, but

are, as it were, the framework to which the significant things are


(i) Augustine, Enchiridion, 109, 110. (MSL, 40:283.)

Augustine in his teaching combined a number of different

theological tendencies, without working them into a consistent

system. His doctrines of Original Sin, Predestination, Grace are

by no means harmonized with his position regarding the Church and

the sacraments in which he builds upon the foundation laid in the

West, especially by Optatus. See below, § 83. There is also a no

small remnant of what might be called pre-Augustinian Western

piety, which comes down from Tertullian and of which the following

is an illustration, a passage which is of significance in the

development of the doctrine of purgatory. Cf. Tertullian, De

Monogamia, ch. 10. See above, § 39.

§ 109. The time, moreover, which intervenes between a man's death and the

final resurrection, keeps the soul in a hidden retreat, as each is

deserving of rest or affliction, according to what its lot was when it

lived in the flesh.

§ 110. Nor can it be denied that the souls of the dead are benefited by

the piety of their living friends, when the sacrifice of the Mediator is

offered, or alms given in the Church in their behalf. But these services

are of advantage only to those who during their lives merited that

services of this kind could help them. For there is a manner of life which

is neither so good as not to require these services after death, nor so

bad that these services are of no avail after death. There is, on the

other hand, a kind of life so good as not to require them; and again one

so bad that when they depart this life they render no help. Therefore it

is here that all the merit and demerit is acquired, by which one can

either be relieved or oppressed after death. No one, then, need hope that

after he is dead he shall obtain the merit with God which he had neglected

here. And, accordingly, those services which the Church celebrates for the

commendation of the dead are not opposed to the Apostle's words: "For we

must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may

receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done,

whether it be good or bad" [Rom. 14:10; II Cor. 5:10]. For that merit that

renders services profitable to a man, each one has acquired while he lives

in the body. For it is not to every one that these services are

profitable. And why are they not profitable to all, except it be because

of the different kinds of lives that men lead in the body? When,

therefore, sacrifices either of the altar or of alms of any sort are

offered on behalf of the dead who have been baptized, they are

thanksgivings for the very good; they are propitiations [propitiationes]

for the not very bad; and for the case of the very bad, even though they

do not assist the dead, they are a species of consolation to the living.

And to those to whom they are profitable, their benefit consists either in

full remission of sins, or at least in making the condemnation more