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speaking unto, who yet believe Moses to have been the holy
servant of God, and his books the oracles of the Holy Ghost ?
Is not this house of God, not coeternal indeed with God, yet
2 Cor. 5, after its measure, eternal in the heavens, where you seek for
changes of times in vain, because you will not find them ?
Ps. 73, For that, to which it is ever good to cleave fast to God,
<Z8 ' surpasses all extension, and all revolving periods of time."
" It is," say they. " What then of all that which my heart
loudly uttered unto my God, when inwardly it heard the voice
of His praise, what part thereof do you affirm to be false ?
Is it that the matter was without form, in which because
there was no form, there was no order. But where no order
was, there could be no vicissitude of times: and yet this
' almost nothing,' inasmuch as it was not altogether nothing,
was from Him certainly, from Whom is whatsoever is, in
what degree soever it is." " This also," say they, " do we
not deny."

[XVI.] 23. With these would I now parley a little in Thy
presence, O my God, who grant all these things to be true,
which Thy Truth whispers unto my soul. For those who deny
these things, let them bark and deafen themselves as much as
they please ; I will essay to persuade them to quiet, and to open
in them a way for Thy word. But if they refuse, and repel
Ps.28,; I beseech, O my God, he not Thou silent to me. Speak
z Against the Manichees, sec Note A. §. ii. a.

S. Aug. longings to be wholly gathered unto God. 26 I

Thou truly iu my hear! ; for only Thou so speakest : and I
will let them alone blowing upon the dust without, and
raising it up into their own eyes: and myself will enter my Is. 26,
chamber, and sing there a song of loves unto Thee; groaning" 10 '
with groanings unutterable, in my wayfaring, and remember- Rom.
ing Jerusalem, with heart lifted up towards it, Jerusalem my 6 '
country, Jerusalem my mother, and Thyself that nil est over
it, the Enlightener, Father, Guardian, Husband, the pure and
strong delight, and solid joy, and all good things unspeakable,
yea all at once, because the One Sovereign and true Good-
Nor will I be turned away, until Thou gather all that I
am, from this dispersed 3 and disordered estate, into the peace
of that our most dear mother, where the Jirst-fruits of my
spirit* be already, (whence I am ascertained of these things,)
and Thou conform and confirm it for ever, O my God, my
Mercy. But those who do not affirm all these truths to be,
false, who honour Thy holy Scripture, set forth by holy Moses,
placing it, as we, on the summit of authority to be followed,
and do yet contradict me in some thing, I answer thus ; Be
Thyself Judge, O our God, between my Confessions and
these men's contradictions.

[XVII.] 24. For they say, " Though these things be true,
yet did not Moses intend those two, when, by revelation of
the Spirit, he said, In the beginning God created heaven
and earth. He did not under the name of heaven, signify
that spiritual or intellectual creature which always beholds
the face of God; nor under the name of earth, that formless
matter. " What then ?" " That man of God," say they,
" meant as we say, this declared he by those words."
" What?" " By the name of heaven and earth would he
first signify," say they, " universally and compendiously, all
this visible world; so as afterwards by the enumeration of
the several days, to arrange in detail, and, as it were, piece
by piece, all those things, which it pleased the Holy Ghost
thus to enounce. For such were that rude and carnal people
to which he spake, that he thought them fit to be entrusted
with the knowledge of such works of God only as were

a See above, b. ii. c. 1. b. ix. §. 10, b See above, b. ix. §. '24. end. below,
and nott. b. x. c. 29 and 40, and not. b. xiii. c. 13.
b. xi. c. 29.

'262 Different interpretations of" Heaven and Earth."

CON F. visible." They agree, however, that under the words earth

invisible and without form, and that darksome deep (out of
which it is subsequently shewn, that all these visible things
which we all know, were made and arranged during those
" days") may, not incongruously, be understood of this form-
less (first) matter.

25. What now if another should say, " That this same
formlessness and confusedness of matter, was for this reason
first conveyed under the name of heaven and earth, because
out of it was this visible world with all those natures which
most manifestly appear in it, which is ofttimes called by the
name of heaven and earth, created and perfected?" What
again if another say, " that invisible and visible nature is
not indeed inappropriately called heaven and earth ; and so,
that the universal creation, which God made in His Wisdom,
that is, in the Beginning, was comprehended under those
two words ? Notwithstanding, since all things be made not
of the substance of God, but out of nothing, (because they
are not the same that God is, and there is a mutable nature
in them all, whether they abide, as doth the eternal house of
God, or be changed, as the soul and body of man are:)
therefore the common matter of all things visible and in-
visible, (as yet unformed though capable of form,) out of which
was to be created both heaven and earth, (i. e. the invisible
and visible creature when formed,) was entitled by the same
names given to the earth invisible and tcithout form and the
darkness upon the deep, but with this distinction, that by the
earth invisible and without form is understood corporeal
matter, antecedent to its being qualified by any form ; and
by the darkness upon the deep, spiritual matter, before it
underwent any restraint of its unlimited fluidness, or received
any light from Wisdom ?"

26. It yet remains for a man to say, if he will, " that the
already perfected and formed natures, visible and invisible,
are not signified under the name of heaven and earth, when
we read, In the beginning God made heaven and earth, but
that the yet unformed commencement of things, the stuff apt to
receive form and making, was called by these names, because
therein were confusedly contained, not as yet distinguished by
their qualities and forms, all those things which being now

Truth to be seen in Scripture, hut not the same bu all. 2(>:{

digested into order, are called Heaven and Earth, the one
being the spiritual, the other the corporeal, creation.

[XYIII.J 27. All which things being heard and well con-
sidered, I will not shire about words: for that is profitable 2 Tim.
to nothing, but the subversion of the hearers, lint the law is,'. '

.... I J im.

good to edify, it a man use it lawfully : for that the end of it ], ;;. 5
is charity, out of a pure heart and good conscience, and faith

unfeigned. And well did our Master know, upon which twOMaiu
commandments He hung all the Laic and the Propht ts. And 22 ' 40 -
what doth it prejudice me, my God, Thou light of my
eyes in secret, zealously confessing these things, sinee divers
things may be understood under these words which yet arc
all true, — what, I say, doth it prejudice me, if 1 think other-
wise than another thinketh the writer thought ? All we
readers verily strive to trace out and to understand his mean-
ing whom we read; and seeing we believe him to speak truly,
we dare not imagine him to have said any thing, which our-
selves either know or think to be false. While every man
endeavours then to understand in the holy Scriptures, the same
as the writer understood, what hurt is it, if a man under-
stand what Thou, the light of all true-speaking minds, dost
shew him to be true, although he whom he reads, understood
not this, seeing he also understood a Truth, though not this
truth ?

[XIX.] 28. For true it is, O Lord, that Thou madest
heaven and earth ; and it is true too, that the Beginning is
Thy Wisdom, in Which Thou createdst all: and true again, Ps. 10 4,
that this visible world hath for its greater parts the heaven
and the earth, which briefly comprise all made and created
natures. And true too, that whatsoever is mutable, gives us
to understand a certain want of form, whereby it receiveth a
form, or is changed, or turned. It is true, that that is sub-
ject to no times, which so cleaveth to the unchangeable Form,
as, though subject to change, never to be changed. It is true,
that that formlessness which is almost nothing, cannot be
subject to the alteration of times. It is true, that that where-
of a thing is made, may by a certain mode of speech, be
called by the name of the thing made of it; whence thai
formlessness, whereof heaven and earth were made, might be
called heart), and earth. It is true, that of things having

264 Summary of true but different meanings

CONF. form, there is not any nearer to having no form, than the

— - — -earth and the deep. It is true, that not only every created

and formed thing, hut whatsoever is capable of being created

l Cor. 8, and formed, Thou madest, of whom are all things. It is true,

that whatsoever is formed out of that which had no form, was

unformed before it was formed.

[XX.] 29. Out of these truths, of which they doubt not
whose inward eye Thou hast enabled to see such things, and
who unshakenly believe Thy servant Moses to have spoken
in the Spirit of truth ;— of all these then, he taketh one, who
saith, In the Beginning God made the heaven and the earth,
that is, " in His word coeternal with Himself, God made the
intelligible and the sensible, or the spiritual and the corporeal
creature." He another, that saith, In the Beginning God
made heaven and earth ; that is, " in His Word coeternal with
Himself, did God make the universal bulk of this corporeal
world, together with all those apparent and known creatures,
which it containeth." He another, that saith, In the Beginning
God made heaven and earth : that is, " in His Word coeternal
with Himself, did God make the formless matter* of creatures
spiritual and corporeal." He another, that saith, In the Be-
ginning God created heaven and earth; that is, " in His
Word coeternal with Himself, did God, create the formless
matter of the creature corporeal, wherein heaven and earth
lay as yet confused, which, being now distinguished and
formed, we at this day see in the bulk of this world." He
another, who saith, In the Beginning God made heaven and
earth, that is, " in the very beginning of creating and work-
ing, did God make that formless matter, confusedly containing
in itself both heaven and earth ; out of which, being formed,

c Under the name " matter," with " a spiritual matter, if such there were,

regard to "spiritual creatures," Aug. whence the soul was formed," a " quasi-

designates whatever, although incorpo- matter." de Gen. ad Litt. 1. vii. §. 9.

real, still is not God, but the workman- 10. " As flesh had a certain matter,

ship of God; i.e. as has been said, i. e. earth, whence it was formed so as to

" The creature itself, such as it would be be flesh, so perchance also might the soul

if not penetrated by a light eternal, and — before that same nature was formed,

cleaving to God by that pure and inde- which is called soul, and whose excellence

fectible love, whereby its natural liability is virtue, its deformity vice — have a cer-

to change is restrained," (Dub. cp. §. 9. tain spiritual matter of its own peculiar

12. 15. 21. 25. and 33 end.) whence, to sort, as the earth out of which flesh was

avoid ascribing to it a corporeal cha- formed, was even then something, though

racter, Aug. calls it. elsewhere " a cor- not flesh."
tain matter of its own peculiar nature,"

of the words in Gen. 1, 1.2. 263

do they now stand out, and arc apparent, with all that is in

[XXL] 30. And witli regard to the understanding of the
words following, out of all those truths, he chooses one to
himself, who saith, But the earth was invisible, and without
form, and darkness was upon the deep ; that is, "that corpo-
real thing that God made, was as yet a formless matter of
corporeal things, without order, without light." Another he
who says, The earth was invisible and without form, and
darkness teas upon /he deep ; that is, " this all, which is called
heaven and earth, was still a formless and darksome matter,
of which the corporeal heaven and the corporeal earth were
to be made, with all things in them, which are known to our
corporeal senses." Another he who says, The earth teas
invisible and without form, and darkness was upon the deep;
that is, " this all, which is called heaven and earth, was still a
formless and a darksome matter ; out of which was to be
made, both that intelligible heaven, otherwhere called the
Heaven of heavens, and the earth, that is, the whole corporeal
nature, under which name is comprised this corporeal heaven
also ; in a word, out of which every visible and invisible
creature was to be created." Another he who says, The earth
was invisible and without form, and darkness teas upon the
deep, " the Scripture did not call that formlessness by the
name of heaven and earth ; but that formlessness, saith he,
already was, which he called the earth invisible without form,
and darkness upon the deep; of which he had before said,
that God had made heaven and earth, namely, the spiritual
and corporeal creature." Another he who says, The earth
was invisible and without form, and darkness was upon the
deep ; that is, " there already was a certain formless matter,
of which the Scripture said before, that God made heaven and
earth ; namely, the whole corporeal bulk of the world, divided
into two great parts, upper and lower, with all the common
and known creatures in them."

[XXII.] 31. For should any attempt to dispute against
these two last opinions, thus, " It" you will not allow, that
this formlessness of matter seems to be called by the name
of heaven and earth ; Ergo, there was something which
God had not made, out of which to make heaven and

266 Scripture relates not the creation of all created tilings.
CONF. earth; for neither hath Scripture told us, that God made this

r> y T T *

— -matter, unless we understand it to be signified by the name

of heaven and earth, or of earth alone, when it is said, In the
Beginning God made the heaven and earth ; that so in what
follows, and the earth teas invisible and without form,
(although it pleased Him so to call the formless matter,)
we are to understand no other matter, but that which God
made, whereof is written above, God made heaven and earth."
The maintainers of either of those two latter opinions will,
upon hearing this, return for answer, " we do not deny this
formless matter to be indeed created by God, that God of Whom
are all things, very good ; for as we affirm that to be a greater
good, which is created and formed, so we confess that to be
a lesser good which is made capable of creation and form,
yet still good. We say however that Scripture hath not set
down, that God made this formlessness, as also it hath not many

Is. 6,2. others ; as the Cherubim, and Seraphim, and those which
' the Apostle distinctly speaks of, Thrones, Dominions, Prin-

16. cipalities, Powers. All which that God made, is most
apparent. Or if in that which is said, He made heaven and
earth, all things be comprehended, what shall we say of the
waters, upon which the Spirit of God moved ? For if they
be comprised in this word earth ; how then can formless
matter be meant in that name of earth, when we see the
waters so beautiful ? Or if it be so taken ; why then is it
written, that out of the same formlessness, the firmament was
made, and called heaven ; and that the waters were made, is
not written ? For the waters remain not formless and invisible,
seeing we behold them flowing in so comely a manner. But
if they then received that beauty, when God said, Let the
water which is under the firmament be gathered together,
that so the gathering together, be itself the forming of them ;
what will be answered as to those waters which be above the
firmament ? Seeing neither if formless would they have been
worthy of so honourable a seat, nor is it written, by what
word they were formed. If then Genesis is silent as to God's
making of any thing, which yet that God did make neither
sound faith nor well-grounded understanding doubtelh, nor
again will any sober teaching dare to affirm these waters to
be coeternal with God, on the ground that we find them to

To see truth in Scripture, one thing, to nee the Truth, another. 267

be mentioned in the book of Genesis, but when they were
created, we do not find ; why (seeing truth teaches us) should
we not understand that formless matter (which this Scripture
calls the earth invisible and without form, and darksome deep)
to have been created of God out of nothing, and therefore not
to be coeternal to Him; notwithstanding this history hath
omitted to shew when it was created ? n

[XXIII.] 32. These things then being heard and perceived,
according to the weakness of my capacity, (which I confess
unto Thee, O Lord, that knowest it,) two sorts of disagreements
1 see may arise, when a thing is in words related by true
reporters ; one, concerning the truth of the things, the other,
concerning the meaning of the relator. For we enquire one
way about the making of the creature, what is true ; another
^ay, what Moses, that excellent minister of Thy Faith,
would have his reader and hearer understand by those
words. For the first sort, away with all those who imagine
themselves to know as a truth, what is false; and for this
other, away with all them too, which imagine Moses to have
written things that be false. But let me be united in Thee,
O Lord, with those, and delight myself in Thee, with them
that feed on Thy truth, in the largeness of charity, and let us
approach together unto the words of Thy book, and seek in
them for Thy meaning, through the meaning of Thy servant,
by whose pen Thou hast dispensed them.

[XXIV.] 33. But which of us shall, among those so
many truths, which occur to enquirers in those words, as they
are differently understood, so discover that one meaning, as
to affirm, " this Moses thought," and " this would he have
understood in that history ;" with the same confidence as he
would, " this is true," whether Moses thought this or that ? For
behold, O my God, I Thy servant, who have in this book
vowed a sacrifice of confession unto Thee, and pray, that by
Thy mercy I may pay my rotes unto Thee, can I, with the
same confidence wherewith I affirm, that in Thy incom-
mutable world Thou createdst all things visible and invisible,
affirm also, that Moses meant no other than this, when he wrote,
In the Beginning Cod made heaven and earth ? No. Hccausc
I see not in his mind, that he thought of this when he wrote
these things, as I do see it in Thy truth to be certain. For

268 No truth the property of individuals, but error only.

CONF.he might have his thoughts upon God's commencement of
i^iL creating, when he said In the beginning; and by heaven and
earth, in this place he might intend no formed and perfected
nature whether spiritual or corporeal, but both of them
inchoate and as yet formless. For I perceive, that whichsoever
of the two had been said, it might have been truly said ; but
which of the two he thought of in these words, I do not so
perceive. Although, whether it were either of these, or any
sense beside, (that I have not here mentioned,) which this so
great man saw in his mind, when he uttered these words,
I doubt not but that he saw it truly, and expressed it

[XXV.] 34. Let no man harass me then, by saying, Moses
thought not as you say, but as I say: for if he should ask
me, " How know you that Moses thought that which you
infer out of his words ?" I ought to take it in good part' 1 , and
would answer perchance as I have above, or something more
at large, if he were unyielding. But when he saith, " Moses
meant not what you say, but what I say," yet denieth not
that what each of us say, may both be true, O my God, life of
the poor, in Whose bosom is no contradiction, pour down a
softening dew into my heart, that I may patiently bear with
such as say this to me, not because they have a divine
Spirit, and have seen in the heart of Thy servant what they
speak, but because they be proud ; not knowing Moses' opinion,
but loving their own, not because it is truth, but because it is
theirs. Otherwise they would equally love another true opinion,
as I love what they say, when they say true : not because it
is theirs, but because it is true ; and on that very ground not
theirs because it is true. But if they therefore love it, because

d " Inquiries on these subjects, and which may, without detriment to the

conjectures according to the ability of faith implanted in us, give rise to differ-

each, furnish no unprofitable practice to ent senses, let us not hastily cast ourselves

the mind, if they be carried on with low- headlong into any one of them, so that,

liness, free from the error of opiniative- if a more diligent discussion of the truth

ness, as if men knew certainly what they should perchance shake it, our faith

know not. For to what end, either to should give way, while we contend not

affirm or deny these or the like things, for the meaning of Divine Scripture, but

or with risk to pronounce upon them, for our own, and in such wise as to wish

when without risk we may be ignorant of our meaning to be that of the Scriptures,

them ?" Aui;. Enchir. c. 59. whereas we should rather wish that of

e " On obscure subjects, far removed the Scriptures to be ours." Gen.

from our observation, if we read any ad Lit. 1. i. $. 37.
thing, even in the Divine Scriptures,

Truths, in the same Scripture, not to be opposed to each other. 269

it is true, then is it both theirs, and mine; as being in common
to all lovers of truth. But whereas they contend that Moses
did not mean what I say, but what they say, this I like not,
love not: for though it were so, yet that their rashness belongs
not to knowledge, but to overboldness, and not insight but vanity
was its parent. And therefore, O Lord, are Thy judgments
terrible ; seeing Thy truth is neither mine, nor his, nor
another's ; but belonging to us all, whom Thou callest pub-
licly to partake of it, warning us terribly, not to account it
private to ourselves, lest we be deprived of it. For whoso-
ever challenges that as proper to himself, which Thou pro-
poundest to all to enjoy, and would have that his own which
belongs to all, is driven from what is in common to his own ;
that is, from truth, to a lie. For he that speaketh a fo>,John8,


speaketh it of his own.

35. Hearken, OGod,Thoubest Judge; Truth Itself, hearken
to what I shall say to this gainsayer, hearken, for before Thee do
1 speak, and before my brethren, who employ Thy law law- 1 Tim.
fully, to the end of charity : hearken and behold, if it please 1>8 -
Thee, what I shall say to him. For this brotherly and
peaceful word do I return unto Him : " If we both see that
to be true that Thou sayest, and both see that to be true that
I say, where, T pray Thee, do we see it ? Neither I in thee,
nor thou in me ; but both in the unchangeable Truth itself,
which is above our souls. Seeing then we strive not about
the very light of the Lord our God, why strive we about the
thoughts of our neighbour which we cannot so see, as the
unchangeable Truth is seen : for that, if Moses himself had
appeared to us and said, " This I meant ;" neither so should
we see it, but should believe it. Let us not then he puffed up \ C or.
for one against another, ahove that which is written: let*' 6 -
us lore the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our
soul, and with all our mind : and our neighbour as outsell'.
With a view to which two precepts of charity, unless we
believe that Moses meant, whatsoever in those books he did
mean, we shall make God a liar, imagining otherwise of our
fellow servant's mind, than He hath taught us. Behold now,
how foolish it is, in such abundance of most true meanings, as
may be extracted out of those words, rashly to affirm, which
of them Moses principally meant ; and with pernicious con-

270 Language of Moses probably adapted to convey

CONF. tentions to offend charity itself, for whose sake he spake
B. XiI. ftVftT y thing, whose words we go about to expound.

[XXVI.] 30. And yet I, O my God, Thou lifter up of my
humility, and rest of my labour, Who hearest my confessions,
and foryivest my sins: seeing Thou commandest me to love
my neighbour as myself, I cannot believe that Thou gavest a

Online LibrarySaint AugustineThe confessions of S. Augustine → online text (page 31 of 45)