William Greenough Thayer Shedd Saint Augustine (Bishop of Hippo.).

The confessions of Augustine online

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In the Beginning He made^ than if it were said, At
first He made^ can only properly understand heaven
and earth of the matter of heaven and earthy that is,
of the universal intelligible and corporeal creation.
For if he would understand thereby the universe as
already formed, it may be rightly demanded of him :
«* If Qod made this first, what made He afterwards ?**

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JRelcUiofi ofmaUer to form. 867

and after the universe, he will find nothing. Where-
upon, must he against his will hear another question :
"How did God make this^r«^, if nothing after?'*
But when he says, God made matter first formless,
then formed, there is no absurdity, if he be but able
to discern what precedes by eternity, what by time,
what by choice, and what by origin, — by eternity,
as God is before all things ; by time, as the flower
before the fniit; by choice, as the fruit before the
flower; by origin, as the sound before the tune.
Of these four, the first and last mentioned are with
extreme difficulty understood ; the two middle, easily.
For a rare and too lofty vision is it to behold
Thy Etcniity, Lord, unchangeably making things
changeable, and thereby before them. And who,
again, is of so sharpsighted understanding, as to be
able, without groat pains, to discern liow tlie sound
is before the tune? Because a tune is a formed
sound ; and a thing not formed, may exist ; whereas,
that which existeth not cannot be foimed. Thus is
the matter before the thing made; not because it
maketh it, seeing itself is rather made ; nor is it be-
fore by interval of time ; for we do not first in time
utter formless sounds without singing, and subse-
quently adapt or fashion them into the form of a chant,
as wood or silver, whereof a chest or vessel is fash-
ioned. For such materials do by time also precede
the forms of the things made of them ; but in singing,
it is not so : for when it is sung, its sound is heard ;
for there is not first a formless sound, which is after-
wards formed into a chant For each sound, as soon

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868 lielatian of matter to form.

as made, passr ]| away, nor canst thou find aught to
recall and by'^rt to compose. So then the chant is
concentrated in its sound, which sound is its matter.
And this indeed is formed, that it may be a tune;
and therefore, as I said, the matter of the sound is
before the form of the tune; not before, through any
power it hath to make it a tune ; for a sound is no
way the work-master of the tune, but it is some-
thing corporeal, subjected to the soul which singeth,
whereof to make a tune. Nor is it first in time, for
it b given forth together with the tune ; nor first in
choice, for a sound is not better than a tune, a tune
being not only a sound, but a beautiful sound. But
it is first in origin or order of nature, bot*aH80 a tuno
receives not form to become a sound, but a sound re-
ceives a form to become a tune. By this example, let
him that b able understand how the matter of things
was first made, and called ?ieaven and eart/iy because
?ieaven and earth were made out of it. Yet was it
not made first in time, because the forms of things
give rise to time. It was withcut form; but now is
in time, an object of sense, together with its form*
And yet nothing can be related of that chaotic mat-
ter, without considering it prior in time, whereas in
value it is last (because things formed are superior
to things without form), and is preceded by the Eter-
nity of the Creator ; that so there might be some-
thing out of nothing, whereof something might bo

XXX. 41. In this diversity of true opinions, let
Truth herself produce concord, and our Qod have

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Chanty the end of BiMiccd studies. 869

mercy upon us, that we may ttse the law lawfuUy^ t/te
end of t/ie commandment^ pure charity. By this, if
a man dcinands of me : *' Which of these was the
meaning of Tliy servant Moses?'' it wore not the
language of my Confessions, should I not confess
unto Thco, "I know not;" and yet I know that
those senses are true, those carnal ones excepted, of
which I have spoken what seemed necessary. And
the words of Tliy Book, delivering high things low-
lily, and with few words a copious meaning, affright
not thy hopeful little ones, nor those who see and ex-
press the truth, delivered in the words Let us love
one another^ and equally love Thee our God, the foun-
tain of truth, if we are athirst for it and not for vani-
ties. Yea, let us so honor Thy servant Moses, the
dispenser of this Scripture, full of Thy Spirit, as to
believe that, when by Thy revelation he wrote these
things, he intended that sense wliich among them all
chiefly excels, both for light of truth, and fruitfulness
of profit.

XXXI. 42. So when one says, '' Moses meant as
I do," and another, " Nay, but as I do," I suppose
that I speak more reverently : " Why not rather as
both, if both be true? " And if there be a third, or
a fourth, yea, if any other seeth any other truth in
those words, why may not he be believed to have
seen all these, through whom the One God hath tem-
pered the holy Scriptures to the senses of many, who
should see therein things true but divers ? For cer-
tainly (and fearlessly I speak itvfrom my heart),
were I to indite anything to have supreme author-

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870 Moses meant aUthat can

ity, I should prefer bo to write, that whatever truth
any could apprehend on those matters, miglit be in-
eluded in my words, rather than set down my own
meaning so clearly as to exclude the rest, which not
being fiJse could not offend me. I will not, therefore,
my Ood, bo so rash as not to believe that Thou
vouchsafedst as much to that great man. He, with-
out doubt, when he wrote those words, perceived and
thought on what truth soever we have been able to
find, yea, and whatsoever we have not been able, nor
yet are, but which may be found in them.

XXX. 48. liastly, O Lord, who art Qod and not
flesh and blood, if man did see less, could anything
be concealed from Hiy good Spirit (Who Hhall lead
me into the land of uprightness)^ which Thou Thy-
self, by those words, wert about to reveal to readers
in time to come, even though he through whom they
were spoken, perhaps, among many true meanings,
thought on only one ? Which, if so it be, let that
which he thought on be of all the highest. But to us,
O Lord, do Thou either reveal that same, or any
other true thing which Thou pleasest; that so,
whether Thou discoverest the same truth to us, as to
that servant of Thine, or some other by occasion of
those words, yet Thou mayest feed us, not error de-
ceive us. Behold, O Lord my God, how much I have
•written upon a few words, how much I besooch Thee I
What strength of ours, yea, what ages would suffice
for all Thy books in this manner? Permit me, then,
more briefly to confess unto Thee, and to choose some
one true, certain, and good sense which Thou shalt

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logiccUfy be/ound in his words. 371

inspire, although many should oocur, where many may
occur ; this being the law of my confession, that if I
should say that which Thy servant Moses intended,
that is right and best. For this should I endeavor,
and if I should not attain it, yet I should say what
Thy Truth willed by words to tell m^ which revealed
also unto him what It willed.

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oovmruATiov of tbv sxroernov of Gnmis i.— rr oonrAnn thb


I. 1. I call upon Thee, O my God, my Meroy,
Who didst create me, and forgat not me who forgat
Thee. I call Thee into my soul, which, by the long-
ing Thyself inspirest into it. Thou prcparest for Thee.
Forsake me not now, as I call unto Thee, whom Thou
didst prevent before I called, and urged me with
much variety of repeated calls, that I would hear
Thee from afar, and be converted, and call upon
Thee, who didst call after me. For Thou, Lord,
didst blot out all my evil deservings, so as not to rec-
ompense into my hands wherewith I fell from Tlioe;
and Thou hast prevented all my well deservings, so
as to recompense the work of Thy hands wherewith
Thou madest me. Because, before I was. Thou weit ;
nor was I anything, to which Thou mightest grant to
be. And yet behold, I am, out of Thy goodness pre-
venting all this which Thou hast made me, and
whereof Thou hast made me. For neither hadst
Thou need of me, nor am I any such good as to be
helpful unto Thee, my Lord and God : not in serving

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AU crecUures subsist dy Divine goodness. 878

Thee, as though Thoa wouldest tire in working, or lest
Thy power might be less, if lacking ray service, nor
cultivating as a land, Thy service, which must remain
uncultivated, unless I cultivate Thee ;^ but serving and
worshipping Thee, that I might receive well-being
from Thee from whom it comes that I have a being
capable of well-being.

n. 2. For of the fulness of Thy goodness doth
Thy creature subfdst, that so a good, which could no
ways profit Thee, nor was of Thy substance (lest so
it should be equal to Thee), might yet exist, since it
could bo made by Thy power. For what did heaven
and earthj which TTiou madest in the Beginning^
deserve of Thee ? Let those spiritual and corporeal
natures, which Thou madest in Thy Wisdom, say
wherein they deserved of Thee to depend upon Thy
Word, in their inchoate and formless state, whether
spiritual or corporeal, and liable to fiUl away into an
immoderate liberty and far-distant unlikeness to Thee
(the spiritual, though without form^ superior to the
corporeal though formed, and the corporeal without
form, better than were it altogether nothing), unless
by the same Word they were brought back to Thy
Unity, indued with form, and from Thee the One
Sovereign Good were made all very good. How did
they deserve of Thee, to be even without /orm^ since
they had not been even this but from Thee ?

8. How did corporeal matter deserve of Thee to be
even invisible and without form t It had not been

1 **Neqno ut ale te eolun, qatal terram, vt sia Incultns, b1 non to

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874 InterpretcUian of Oeru I 3.

even this, bnt that Thou modost it ; and, therefore, not
being, it could not deserve of Thee to be made. Or
how could the inchoate spiritual creature deserve of
Thee even to ebb and flow darksomelj like the
deep, unlike Thee, unless it had been bj the same
Word turned to Him by Whom it was created, and
by Him so enlightened, become light; thtnigh not
equally, yet conformably to that Form which is equal
unto Thee ? For as in a body, to be, is not one with
bemg beautiful, else could a body not be deformed ;
so likewise to a created spirit to live, is not one wit£
living wisely, else should it be wise unchangeably.
But it is good for it always to hold fast to Thu;
lest what light it hath obtained by turning to Thee,
it lose by turning from Thee, and relapse into a life
resembling the darksome deep. For I, myself, who as
to the sonl am a spiritual creature, but turned away
from Thee, the Lights was in that life sometimes dark-
ness; and still I labor amidst the relics of darkness,
until, m Thy Only One, I become Hky righteousness^
like the mountains of Ood; even as I have been I7iy
Judgments^ which are like tJie great deep}

in. 4. That which Thou saidst in the beginning of
the creation. Let there he lighty and there ioas lighty I
understand of the spiritual creature ; because there
was ahready a sort of life, which Thou mightest illn-
minate. But as it had no claim on Thee for a life
which could bo enlightened, so neither now, that it
was alone, had it any claim to be enlightened. For
its formless estate could not be pleasing unto Thee,

1 Fft. zzzT. 7, Septiiagliit Tar.

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77ie creator does not need the crecUure* 875.

unless it beoame light ; and that not by existing sim-
ply, but by beholding the illuminating light, and cleav-
ing to it, so that its living and living happily it owes
to nothing but Thy grace; being by a better change
turned unto Tliat which cannot be changed into worse
or better ; which Thou alone art, because Thou alone
simply art : unto Thee it being not one thing to live,
another to live blessedly, seeing Thyself art Thine
own Blessedness.

IV. 5. What would be wanting unto Thy good,
which Thou Tliyself art, even had tliese things never
been at all, or had they remained ioithout form f
Thou madest them, not out of any want, but out of
the fulness of Thy goodness, restnuning and convert-
ing them to form, as though Thy joy were fulfilled
by them. For to Thee, being perfect, their imperfeo-
tiouH wore displeasing, and hence wore they perfected
by Thee, and pleased Thee. Not that Thou wert im-
perfect, tad by their perfecting wert to be perfected.
For Thy good Spirit, indeed, tods borne over the too-
tersy not borne up by them, as if He rested upon them.
For those on whom Tht/ good Spirit is said to rest^
He causes to rest in Himself. But Thy incorruptible
and unchangeable will, in itself all-sufficient for itself
toas borne upon that life which Thou hadst created ;
to which, living is not one with happy living, seeing
it livcth, ebbing and flowing in its own darkness ;
wherefore it remaineth to be converted unto Him by
Whom it was made, and to live more and more at
the fountain of /(/%, and in JBie light to see lights
and to be perfected, and enlightened, and beautified. •

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876 The doctrine of the IHnitt/

Y. 6. Lo, now the Trinity appears unto mo in a
gkus darkly^ which is Thou, my God ; because Thou,
OMttheTi didst create heaven and earth in Him Who
is the Beginning of our wisdom, Which is Thy Wis-
dom, of Thyself, equal unto Thee and co^temal, that
is. Thy Son. Much now have we said of the heaven
of heavensy and of the eaith invisible and without
form^ and of the darksome deep^ in reference to the
wandering instability of its spiritual deformity; which,
converted unto Him from Whom it had its firat de-
gree of life, and enlightened by Him, became a beau-
teous life, and the Jieaven set betv>een water and water.
And under the name of God, I now held the Father,
Who made these things, and under the name of Be-
ginnuig,^ the Son, in whom He made these things;
and believing, as I did, my God as the Trinity, I
searched further in His holy words, and lo, Thy
Spirit moved upon the waters. Behold the Trinity,
my God, Father and Son and Holy Ghost, Creator of
all creation.

YI. 7. But what was the cause, O true-speaking
Light (unto Thee I lift up my heart, let it not teach
me vanities, dbpel its darkness, and tell me), I be-
seech Thee by our mother charity, tell me the reason,
I beseech Thee, why after the mention of heaven, and
of the earth invisible and without form^ and darkness
upon the deepj Thy Scripture should then at length

I ** Under Um name The Beglnnlnpf. we nndentand the Son, who is a
Beginning not to the Father, bat to the ereatare, created by nimaelf.'*
AngutHne, De Qened ad llteiam I. tL Opera, Tom. III. p. 606. Bd.

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taug/U in Genesis I.


mention Thj Spirit? Was it because it was meet
that the knowledge of Him should be conveyed, as
being ''borne above ;'^ and thb could not be said,
unkss that were first mentioned, over which Tliy
Spirit may be understood to have been borne f For
neither was He borne above the Father, nor the Son,
nor could He rightly be said to be borne above^ if Ho
were borne over nothing. First, then, was that to be
spoken of, over which He might be borne ; and then
He, whom it was meet not otherwise to be spoken of
than ns being borne. But wherefore was it not meet
that the knowledge of Him should be conveyed other-
wise, than as being borne above f

YII. 8. Hence let him that is able, follow with his
understanding Thy Apostle, where he thus speaks,
Because Ihy love is shed abroad in our hearts by the
Hohf Ohost which is ffiveti unto us;^ and where,
concerning spiritual gifts^ he toachcth, and showeth
unto tfs a more excellent way of charity ;' and whore
he botes his knee unto ITieefor w«, that we may know
the supereminent knowledge of the love of Christ?
And therefore from the beginning, was He borne su-
pereminent above the waters. To whom shall I speak
this ? how speak of the weight of evil desires, down-
wards to the steep abyss, and how charity rises up
again by Thy Spirit which was bortie above t/ie waters f
To whom shall I speak it? How shall I speak it?
Are we submerged, and do we emerge ? Certainly, it
is not in space that we are submerged and emerge.
What can be more like, and yet what less like ? They

1 nom. T. 6.



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878 27ie elect angels kept from, apostasy.

are affootions, they are loves; the uncleanness of oar
spirit flowing downwards with the love of cares, and
the holiness of Thy Spirit raising us upward by love
of nnanxions repose, that we may lift oar hearts unto
Thee, where Thy Spirit is home above the uxUerSy and
come to that supereminent repose, when our soul shall
have passed thro4igh the waters which yield no support.
Vn. 9. Angels fell away, man's soul fell away, and
thereby pointed out the abyss in that dark depth,
ready for the whole spiritual creation, hadst not Thou
said from the beginning, Let there be lights and there
had been lights and every obedient intelligence of
Thy heavenly city had cleaved to Thee, and rested in
Thy Spirit, Wliich is borne unchangeably over every
thing changeable. Otherwise, even the Iieatwn of
lieavens had been in itself a darksome deep ; but now
it is light in the ZfOrd. For even in that miserable
restlessness of the spirits who fell away, and discov-
ered their own darkness when bared of the clothing
of Thy light, dost thou sufficiently reveal how noble
Thou madest the reasonable creature ; to which noth-
ing will suffice to yield a happy rest, less than Thee,
and so not even herself For Thou O our Oody s/uxU
lighten our darkness; from Thee cometh our gar-
ment of lights and our darkness shall be as the noon-
day. Give Thyself unto me, my God, restore
Thyself unto me; behold I love, and if it be too
little, I would love more strongly. T cannot mc-isure
so as to know, how much love there yet lacketh to
me, ere my life may run into Thy embracements, nor
turn away until it be hidden in the hidden place of

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Ood^ the souPs reat


Thy presence. This only I know, that woe is me,
except in Thee, not only withont bat within myself
also; and all abundance which is not my Qod, is
emptiness to me.

IX. 10. But was not either the Father or the Son
borne above the tocUere t If this means, in space, like
a body, then neither was the Holy Spirit; but if it
means the unchangeable supereminence of Divinity
above all things changeable, then were both Father,
and Son, and Holy Ghost, borne upon the waters.
Why thcif is this said of Thy Spuit only? Why is
it said only of Him, as if He had been in space, who
is not in space ; of whom only it is written, that He
is Thy Gift? In Thy Gift we rest; there we eiyoy
Thee. Our rest is our space. Love lifts us up
thither, and Thy Good Spirit l^fts up our lowliness
from th^ gates of death. In Thy good pleasure is
our peace. The body by its own weight strives
towards its own place. Weight tends not down-
ward only, but to its own proper place. Fire tends
upward, a stone downward. They are urged by
their own weight, they seek their own places. Oil
poured below water, is raised above the^water;
water poured upon oil, sinks below the oil. They
are urged by their own weights to seek their own
places. When out of their order, they are restless ;
restored to order, they are at rest. My weight is my
love; thereby am I borne whithersoever I am borne.
We are inflamed by Thy Gift, Thy Spirit, and are
carried upwards; we glow inwardly, and go for-
wards. We ascend llvy ascenis that be in our hearty

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•880 Mdstence^ cognition^ and ioiU are

and sing a sang of degrees. We glow inwardly with
Thy fire, with Thy good fire, and we go, because we
go upwards to t?ie peace of Jerusalem; for glad*
dened was I in those who said unto me, We wiU go
up to the house of the Lord} There hath Thy good
pleasure placed us, that we may desire nothing else,
but to abide there forever.

X. 11. Blessed creature, which, being itself other
than Thou, has known no other condition, than that,
so soon as it was made, it was, without any interval,
by Thy Gift, Which is home above enrery thing
changeable, borne aloft by that calling whereby Thou
saidst, Let there be lights and t/iere was light/
Whereas, in us men, this took place at difierent times,
in that we were darkness^ and are made light. But of
that unfallen creature, is only said what it would have
been, had it not been enlightened ; and it is so said, as
if it had been unsettled and darksome before ; that so
the cause whereby it was made otherwise, might ap-
pear, namely, that, being turned to the Light unfail-
ing, it became light. Whoso can, let him understand
this ; and whoso cannot, let him ask of Thee. Why
should he trouble me, as if I could enlighten any
man that cometh into this world?

'XI. 12. Who of us comprehends the Almighty
Trinity? And yet who of us speaks not of it, if in-
deed it be an t7/ . Rare is the soul, which, while it
speaks of it, knows what it speaks of. Men contend
and strive, yet, without peace; no man sees that vis-
ion. I would that men would consider these three

1 Ftoalm ezxil. L

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inscrutable syn^foU of the IHnit^. 881

things, that are in theraselveB. These three are in«
deed far other than the Trinity; I do but tell, where
men may search themselves, and prove, and feel how
far they are from it. Now the throe things I spake
of, arc, To Be, to Enow, and to Will. For I Am,
and Know, and Will ; I Am Knowing and Willing;
and I Know myself to Be, and to Will ; and I Will
to Be, and to Know. In these three, then, let him
discern how inseparable a life there is, yea, one life,
one mind, and one essence ; yea, lastly, how insepar-
able a distinction there is, and yet a distinction.
Snrely a man hath it before him ; let him look into
himself, and see, and tell me. But when he discov-
ers and can say anything of these, let him not there-
fore think that he has found that which is above
these Unchangeable; which Is unchangeably, and
Knows unchangeably, and Wills unchangeably.
And whether, because of these three, there is in
Gk)d also a Tiinity, or whether all three be in Each,
so that the three belong to Each; or whether (both
ways at once) wondrously, simply, and yet man-
ifoldly, the Essence itself is a bound unto itself
within itself, yet unbounded, whereby it Is, and is
Known unto itself, and sufficeth to itself, unchange-
ably the Self-same by the abundant greatness of its
Unity, — who can readily conceive this? Who could,
any ways express it? Who would, any way, pro-
nounce thereon rashly?

XII. 13. Proceed in thy confession ; say, O my
fidth, to the Lord thy God, JBidy^ Solyy JBbh/y
Lord my Oody in Thy Name have we been baptized,

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382 AUegorical interpretcUions of

IhtfieTy Sofiy and Holy Ohoat; in T\\j Name do wo
baptize, Father^ Son^ and Holy Ghost; because
among ns, also, in His Christ did Gk>d make heaven
and earthy namely, the spiritual and carnal people of
His Church. Yea, and our earthy before it received
the form of doctrine^ was invisible and toithotU
form; and wo M'cre covered with the darkness of ig-
norance. For Thou chastenedst man for iniquity^
and Thy judgments toere like the great deep unto him.
But because Thy Spirit was borne above the waters^
Thy mercy forsook not our misery, and Thou saidst,
Let there be light. Repent ye^for the kingdom of
heaven is at Iiand. Repent ye, let there be light. And
because our soid ioas troubled within us, we remem-
bered Tliee^ Lordyfrom tfie land of Jordan^ and
that mountain equal unto Thyself, but little for our
sakes; and our darkness displeased us, we turned
unto Thee, and there was light. And, behold, we
were sometimes darkness^ but now light in the Lord.
Xni. 14. But, as yet we are such by faith and
not by sight; for by hope we are savedy but hope that
is seeny is not hope. As yet doth deq) caU unto deepj
but now in the voice of Thy wcUer-spouts, As yet
doth he that saith, I could not speak unto you as

Online LibraryWilliam Greenough Thayer Shedd Saint Augustine (Bishop of Hippo.)The confessions of Augustine → online text (page 27 of 31)