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Cran£ilateir bv t]^e




While the last sheet of this volume was passing through the press, the labours
of the accomplished translator were terminated by death. Mr. Haddan is
mourned by all who knew him as an accurate and careful scholar, and an able
and earnest man.

A \J XJ. J>. \JJ<\



THE history of St. Augustine's treatise on the Trinity, as
gathered by Tillemont and others from his own allusions
to it, may be briefly given. It is placed by him in his Retrac-
tations among the works written (which in the present case, it
appears, must mean begun) in a.d. 400. In letters of a.d. 410,
414, and the end of a.d. 415 {Ad Consentium, Ep. 120, and
two Ad Evodium, Epp. 162, 169), it is referred to as still
unfinished and unpublished. But a letter of A.D. 412 {Ad
Marcellinum, Ep. 143) intimates that friends were at that
time importuning him, although without success, to complete
and publish it. And the letter to Aurelius, which w^as sent to
that bishop with the treatise itself when actually completed,
informs us that a portion of it, while it was still unrevised and
incomplete, was in fact surreptitiously made public, — a pro-
ceeding which the letters above cited postpone apparently
until at least after a.d. 415. It was certainly still in hand
in A.D. 416, inasmuch as in Book XIII. a quotation occurs
from the 12th Book of the Dg Civitate Dei; and another
quotation in Book XV., from the 90th lecture on St. John,
indicates most probably a date of at least a year later, viz.
A.D. 417. The Retractations, which refer to it, are usually
dated not later than k.t>. 428. The letter to Bishop Aurelius
also informs us that the work was many years in progress, and
was begun in St. Augustine's early manhood, and finished in
his old age. We may infer from this evidence that it was
written by him between a.d. 400, when he was forty-sLx years
old, and had been Bishop of Hippo about four years, and a.d.
428 at the latest ; but probably it was published ten or twelve
years before this date. He writes of it, indeed, himself, as if the
" nonum prematur in annum " very inadequately represented


the amount of deliberate and patient thought which a subject
so profound and so sacred demanded, and which he had striven
to give to it ; and as if, even at the very last, he shrank from
publishing his work, and was only driven to do so in order to
remedy the mischief of its partial and unauthorized publication. /^

His motive for writing on the subject may be learned from
the treatise itself It was not directed against any individual
antagonist, or occasioned by any particular controversial emer-
gency. In fact, his labours upon it were, he says, continually
interrupted by the distraction of such controversies. Certain
ingenious and subtle theories respecting types or resemblances
of the Holy Trinity, traceable in human nature as being the
image of God, seemed to him to supply, not indeed a logical
proof, but a strong rational presumption, of the truth of the
doctrine itself; and thus to make it incumbent upon him
to expound and unfold them in order to meet rationalizing
objectors upon (so to say) their own ground. He is careful
not to deal with these analogies or images as if they either
constituted a purely argumentative proof or exhausted the full
meaning of the doctrine, upon both which assumptions such
speculations have at all times been the fruitful parent both of
presumptuous theorizing and of grievous heresy. But he
nevertheless employs them more affirmatively than would
perhaps have been the case. While modern theologians
would argue negatively, from the triplicity of independent
faculties, — united, nevertheless, in the unity of a single human
person, — that any presumption of reason against the Trinity of
persons in the Godhead is thereby, if not removed, at least
materially and enormously lessened, St. Augustine seems to
argue positively from analogous grounds, as though they con-
stituted a direct intimation of the doctrine itself But he takes
especial pains, at the same time, to dwell upon the incapacity
of human thought to fathom the depths of the nature of God ;
and he carefully prefaces his reasonings by a statement of the
Scripture evidence of the catholic doctrine as a matter of faith
and not of reason, and by an explanation of difficult texts upon
the subject. One of the most valuable portions, indeed, of the
treatise is the eloquent and profound exposition given in this
part of it of the rule of interpretation to be applied to Scripture


language respecting the person of our Lord. It should be
noticed, however, that a large proportion of St. Augustine's
scriptural exegesis is founded upon a close verbal exposition
of the old Latin version, and is frequently not borne out by
the original text. And the rule followed in rendering Scrip-
ture texts in the present translation has been, accordingly, wher-
ever the argument in the context rests upon the variations of
the old Latin, there to translate the words as St. Augustine gives
them, while adliering otherwise to the language of the autho-
rized English version. The reader's attention may allowably be
drawn to the language of Book V. c. 1 0, and to its close resem-
blance to some of the most remarkable phrases of the Atha-
nasian Creed, and again to the striking passage respecting
miracles in Book III. c. 5, and to that upon the nature of God
at the beginning of Book V. ; the last named of which seems
to have suggested one of the profoundest passages in the pro-
foundest of Dr. ISTewman's University Sermons (p. 353, ed.
1843). It may be added, that the writings of the Greek
Fathers on the subject were, if not wholly unknown, yet un-
familiar to Augustine, who quotes directly only the Latin work
of Hilary of Poictiers.

It remains to say, that the translation here printed was
made about four years since by a friend of the writer of this
preface, and that the latter's share in the work has been that
of thoroughly revising and correcting it, and of seeing it
through the press. He is therefore answerable for the work
as now published.

A. W. H.
Nov. 5, 1872.

In the Retractations (ii. 15) Augustine speaks of this work
in the following terms : —

" I spent some years in writing fifteen books concerning the
Trinity, which is God. Wlien, however, I had not yet finished
the thirteenth Book, and some who were exceedingly anxious to
have the work were kept waiting longer than they could bear,
it was stolen from me in a less correct state than it either


could or would have been liad it appeared wlien I intended.
And as soon as I discovered this, having other copies of it, I
had determined at first not to publish it myself, but to mention
what had happened in the matter in some other work ; but at
the urgent request of brethren, whom I could not refuse, I
corrected it as much as I thought fit, and finished and pub-
lished it, "with the addition, at the beginning, of a letter that I
had written to the venerable Aurelius, Bishop of Carthage, in
which I set forth, in the way of prologue, what had happened,
what I had intended to do of myself, and what love of my
brethren had forced me to do."

The letter to which he here alludes is the following : —
"To the most blessed Lord, whom he reveres with most
sincere love, to his holy brother and fellow - priest, Pope
Aurelius, Augustine sends health in the Lord.

" I began as a very young man, and have published in my
old age, some books concerning the Trinity, who is the supreme
and true God. I had in truth laid the work aside, upon dis-
covering that it had been prematurely, or rather surreptitiously,
stolen from me before I had completed it, and before I had
revised and put the finishing touches to it, as had been my
intention. For I had not designed to publish the Books one
by one, but all together, inasmuch as the progress of the in-
quiry led me to add the later ones to those which precede
them. When, therefore, these people had hindered the fulfil-
ment of my purpose (in that some of them had obtained access
to the work before I intended), I had given over dictating it,
with the idea of making my complaint public in some other
work that I might write, in order that whoso could might
know that the Books had not been published by myself, but
had been taken away from my possession before they Avere in
my own judgment fit for publication. Compelled, however,
by the eager demands of many of my brethren, and above all
by your command, I have taken the pains, by God's help, to
complete the work, laborious as it is ; and as now corrected
(not as I wished, but as I could, lest the Books should differ
very widely from those which had surreptitiously got into
people's hands), I have sent them to your Eeverence by my
very dear son and fellow - deacon, and have allow^ed them

translator's preface. ix

to be heard, co23ied, and read by every one that pleases.
Doubtless, if I could have fulfilled my original intention,
although they would have contained the same sentiments,
they would ha^^e been worked out much more thoroughly
and clearly, so far as the difficulty of unfolding so profound a
subject, and so far, too, as my own powers, might have allowed.
There are some persons, however, who have the first four, or
rather five. Books, without the prefaces, and the twelfth with
no small part of its later chapters omitted. But these, if they
please and can, will amend the whole, if they become acquainted
with the present edition. At any rate, I have to request that
you will order this letter to be prefixed separately, but at the
beginning of the Books. Farewell. Pray for me.^'




The unity and equality of the Trinity are demonstrated out of the Scrip-
tures ; and the true interpretation is given of those texts which are
wrongly alleged against the equality of the Son, 1


The equality of the Trinity maintained against objections drawn from those

texts which speak of the sending of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, , 42

The appearances of God to the Old Testament saints are discussed, . .79


Augustine explains for what the Son of God was sent ; but, however, that
the Son of God, although made less by being sent, is not therefore less
because the Father sent Him ; nor yet the Holy Spirit less because
both the Father sent Him and the Son, 107


He proceeds to refute those arguments which the heretics put forward, not
out of the Scriptures, but from their own conceptions. And first he
refutes the objection, that to beget and to be begotten, or that to be
begotten and not-begotten, being different, are therefore different sub-
stances, and shows that these things are spoken of God relatively, and
not according to substance, 145


In reply to the argument alleged against the equality of the Son from the
apostle's words, saying that Christ is the "power of God and the wis-
dom of God, " he propounds the question whether the Father Himself
is not wisdom. But deferring for a while the answer to this, he adduces


further proof of tlie unity and equality of tlie Father, the Son, and the
Holy Spirit ; and that God ought to be said and believed to be a
Trinity, not threefold. And he adds an explanation of the saying of
Hilary — Eternity in the Father, Appearance in the Image, and Use in
the Gift, 165


He resolves the question he had deferred, and teaches us that the Father,
the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one power and one wisdom, no other-
wise than one God and one essence. And he then inquires how it is
that, in speaking of God, the Latins say. One essence, three persons ;
but the Greeks, One essence, three substances or hypostases, . . 179


He advances reasons to shoW not only that the Father is not greater than
the Son, but that neither are both together anything greater than the
Holy Spirit, nor any two together in the same Trinity anything greater
than one, nor all three together anything greater than each singly.
He also intimates that the nature of God may be understood from our
understanding of truth, from our knowledge of the supreme good, and
from our implanted love of righteousness ; but above all, that our
knowledge of God is to be sought through love, in which he notices
a trio of things which contains a trace of the Trinity, .... 201


^ He instructs us that there is a kind of trinity discernible in man, who is
the image of God, viz. the mind, and the knowledge by which the mind
knows itself, and the love wherewith it loves both itself and its own
knowledge ; these three being mutually equal and of one essence, . 222


' That there is yet another and a more manifest trinity to be found in the

mind of man, viz. in his memory, understanding, and will, . . 241


?- That even in the outer man some traces of a trinity may be detected, as
e.g. in the bodily sight, and in the recollection of objects seen with the
bodily sight, 261


\ , After premising the difference between wisdom and knowledge, he points
out a kind of trinity in that which is properly called knowledge ; but
one which, although we have reached in it the inner man, is not yet to
be called the image of God, 284




He expounds this trinity that he has found in knowledge by commending

Christian faith, .307


He speaks of the true wisdom of man, viz. that by which he remembers,
understands, and loves God ; and shows that it is in this very thing
that the mind of man is the image of God, although his mind, which
is here renewed in the knowledge of God, will only then be made the
perfect likeness of God in that image when there shall be a perfect
sight of God, 344


He embraces in a brief compendium the contents of the prcAdous books ;
and finally shows that the Trinity, in the perfect sight of which con-
sists the blessed life that is promised us, is here seen by us as in a
glass and in an. enigma, so long as it is seen through that image of God
which we ourselves are, . . .• 377






Chap. i. — This work is icritten against those ivho sophistkally assail the faith
of the Trinity, through misuse of reason. They who di^mte concerning God
err from a threefold cause. Holy Scripture, removing what is false, leads
us on by degrees to things divine. What true immortality is. We are
nourished hy faith, that we may he enabled to apprehend things divine.

1. fTlHE foUowing dissertation concerning the Trinity, as the
JL reader ought to be informed, has been written in order
to guard against the sophistries of those who disdain to begin
with faith, and are deceived by a crude and perverse love of
reason. Now one class of such men endeavour to transfer to
Vrhings incorporeal and spiritual the ideas they have formed,
whether through experience of the bodily senses, or by natural
human wit and diligent quickness, or by the aid of art, from
things corporeal ; so as to seek to measure and conceive of
the former by the latter. Others, again, frame whatever senti-
ments they may have concerning God according to the nature
or affections of the human mind ; and through this error they
govern their discourse, in disputing concerning God, by dis-
torted and fallacious rules. While yet a third class strive
indeed to transcend the whole creation, which doubtless is



changeable, in order to raise tlieir thonglit to tlie imcliange-
able substance, which is God ; but being weighed down by the
burden of mortality, whilst they both would seem to know
what they do not, and cannot know what they would, preclude
themselves from entering the very path of understanding, by
an over-bold affirmation of their own presumptuous judgments;
choosing rather not to correct their own opinion when it is
perverse, than to change that which they have once defended.
And, indeed, this is the common disease of all the three classes
which I have mentioned, — ^viz., both of those who frame their
thoughts of God according to things corporeal, and of those
who do so according to the spiritual creature, such as is the
soul ; and of those who neither regard the body nor the spiri-
tual creature, and yet think falsely about God ; and are indeed
so much the further from the truth, that nothing can be found
answering to their conceptions, either in the body, or in the
made or created spirit, or in the Creator Himself. For he who
thinks, for instance, that God is white or red, is in error ; and
yet these things are found in the body. Again, he who thinks
of God as now forgetting and now remembering, or anything
of the same kind, is none the less in error; and yet these
things are found in the mind. But he who thinks that God
is of such power as to have generated Himself, is so much the
more in error, 1)ecause not only does God not so exist, but
neither does the spiritual nor the bodily creature ; for there is
nothing whatever that generates its own existence. -4_^

2. In order, therefore, that the human mind might be
purged from falsities of this kind. Holy Scripture, which suits
itself to babes, has not avoided words drawn from any class of
things really existing, through which, as by nourishment, our
understanding might rise gradually to things divine and
transcendent. For, in speaking of God, it has both used words
taken from things corx3oreal, as when it says, '' Hide me under
the shadow of Thy wings ; " ^ and it has borrowed many
things from the spiritual creature, whereby to signify that
which indeed is not so, but must needs so be said : as, for
instance, "I the Lord thy God am a jealous God;"^ and, "It
repenteth me that I have made man." ^ But it has drawn
1 Ps. xvii. 8. 2 Ex. XX. 5. « Gen. vi. 7.


no words whatever, whereby to frame either figures of speech
or enigmatic sayings, from things which do not exist at all.
And hence it is that they who are shut out from the truth by
that third kind of error are more mischievously and emptily
vain than their fellows ; in that they surmise respecting God,
what can neither be found in Himself nor in any creature.
For divine Scripture is wont to frame, as it were, allurements
for children, from the things which are found in the creature ;
whereby, according to their measure, and as it were by steps,
the affections of the weak may be moved to seek those things
that are above, and to leave those things that are below. Eut
the same Scripture rarely employs those things which are
spoken properly of God, and are not found in any creature ;
as, for instance, that which was said to Moses, " I am that I
am ; " and, " I Am hath sent me to you." -^ For since both
body and soul also are said in some sense to he, Holy Scrip-
ture certainly would not so express itself unless it meant to
be understood in some special sense of the term. So, too,
that which the apostle says, " Who only hath immortality." ^
Since the soul also both is said to be, and is, in a certain
manner immortal. Scripture would not say '' only hath," unices
because true immortality is unchangeableness ; which no
creature can possess, since it belongs to the Creator alone.
So also James says, " Every good gift and every perfect gift is
from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights, with
whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" ^ So
also David, " Thou shalt change them, and they shall be
changed ; but Thou art the same." *

3. Further, it is difi&cult to contemplate and fully know the
substance of God ; who fashions things changeable, yet without
any change in Himself, and creates things temporal, yet with-
out any temporal movement in Himself And it is necessary,
therefore, to purge our minds, in order to be able to see inef-
fably that which is ineffable ; whereto not having yet attained,
we are to be nourished by faith, and led by such ways as are
more suited to our capacity, that we may be rendered apt and
able to comprehend it. And hence the apostle says, that " in
Christ indeed are hid all the treasures of wisdom and know-

1 Ex. iii. 14. 2 1 T-jj^^ vi^ 16^ 3 jas. i. 17. * Ps. cii. 26, 27.


leclge ; " ^ and yet lias commeuded Him to us, as to baloes in
Christ, who, although already born again by His grace, yet are
still carnal and psychical, not by that divine virtue wherein
He is equal to the Father, but by that human infirmity
whereby He was crucified. For he says, " I determined not
to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him
crucified ; " ^ and then he continues, " And I was with you in
weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling." And a little
after he says to them, " And I, brethren, could not speak unto
you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes
in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat :
for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are
ye able." ^ There are some who are angry at language of this
kind, and think it is used in slight to themselves, and for the
most part prefer rather to believe that they who so speak to
them have nothing to say, than that they themselves cannot
understand what they have said. And sometimes, indeed, we
do allege to them, not certainly that account of the case
which they seek in their inquiries about God, — because neither
can they themselves receive it, nor can we perhaps either ap-
prehend or express it, — but such an account of it as to demon-
strate to them how incapable and utterly unfit they are to
understand that which they require of us. But they, on their
parts, because they do not hear what they desire, think that
we are either playing them false in order to conceal our own
ignorance, or speaking in malice because we grudge them
knowledge ; and so go away indignant and perturbed.

Chap, ii, — In what manner tJiis worh proposes to discourse concerning
the Trinity.

4. Wherefore, our Lord God helping, we will undertake to
render, as far as we are able, that very account which they so
importunately demand : viz., that the Trinity is the one and
only and true God, and also how the Father, the Son, and the
Holy Spirit are rightly said, believed, understood, to be of one
and the same substance or essence ; in such wise that they
may not fancy themselves mocked by excuses on our part, but
may find by actual trial, both that the highest good is that
which is discerned by the most purified minds, and that for
1 Col. ii. 3. 2 X Cor. ii. 2, 3. « 1 Cor. iii. 1, 2.


this reason it cannot be discerned or understood by themselves,
because the eye of the human mind, being weak, is dazzled
in that so transcendent light, unless it be invigorated by the
nourishment of the righteousness of faith. First, however, we
must demonstrate, according to the authority of the Holy Scrip-
tures, w^hether the faith be so. Then, if God be willing and
aid us, we may perhaps at least so far serve these talkative
arguers — more puffed up than capable, and therefore labouring
under the more dangerous disease — as to enable them to find
something which they are not able to doubt, that so, in that
case where they cannot find the like, they may be led to lay
the fault to their own minds, rather than to the truth itself or
to our reasonings ; and thus, if there be anything in them of
either love or fear towards God, they may return and begin
from faith in due order : perceiving at length how healthful
a medicine has been provided for the faithful in the holy

Online LibrarySaint AugustineThe works of Aurelius Augustine : a new translation (Volume 7) → online text (page 1 of 44)