The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4


St. Augustine

Aurelius Augustinus was born of a pagan father and a Christian mother on November 13th, 354 A. D., at Tagaste in Numidia. He describes his own early life in his Confessions. As a youth he studied to be a rhetorician, and became well versed in Latin literature, and probably learned some Greek. Until past his thirtieth year he led the immoral life not uncommon at the time, but was led, first by Plato to higher ideals, and then by St. Ambrose to Christianity. After three years spent in retirement as head of a small monastic society of friends, he was called to be a presbyter at Hippo, and later became Bishop of Hippo.

He opposed the Manichaeans, who believed in two great principles of Good and Evil, similar to those of Zoroaster; the Donatists, who decried the taking back into the Church of the traditores, who had surrendered their Bibles under persecution; and the Pelasgians, who believed that Adam’s sin was merely personal, and that man is therefore sinless at birth, and infant baptism not essential for salvation. In his City of God he compares the growth of the Roman Empire and of the Christian religion, analyzes the reasons for the success of each, and defends Christianity against the charges of the heathen. We give below his ideas of predetermination and free will, original sin and Divine grace, and the essentials of Christianity, faith, hope, and charity.

God’s Foreknowledge and Man’s Free Will

Since, then, it is established that the complete attainment of all we desire is that which constitutes felicity, which is no goddess, but a gift of God, and that therefore men can worship no god save Him who is able to make them happy,—and were Felicity herself a goddess, she would with reason be the only object of worship,—since, I say, this is established, let us now go on to consider why God, who is able to give with all other things those good gifts which can be possessed by men who are not good, and consequently not happy, has seen fit to grant such extended and long-continued dominion to the Roman empire; for that this was not effected by that multitude of false gods which they worshipped, we have both already adduced, and shall, as occasion offers, yet adduce considerable proof.


The cause, then, of the greatness of the Roman empire is neither fortuitous nor fatal, according to the judment or opinion of those who call those things fortuitous which either have no causes, or such causes as do not proceed from some intelligible order, and those things fatal which happen independently of the will of God and man, by the necessity of a certain order. In a word, human kingdoms are established by divine providence. And if any one attributes their existence to fate, because he calls the will or the power of God itself by the name of fate, let him keep his opinion, but correct his language. For why does he not say at first what he will say afterwards, when some one shall put the question to him, What he means by fate? For when men hear that word, according to the ordinary use of the language, they simply understand by it the virtue of that particular position of the stars which may exist at the time when any one is born or conceived, which some separate altogether from the will of God, whilst others affirm that this also is dependent on that will. But those who are of opinion that, apart from the will of God, the stars determine what we shall do, or what good things we shall possess, or what evils we shall suffer, must be refused a hearing by all, not only by those who hold the true religion, but by those who wish to be theworshippers of any gods whatsoever, even false gods. For what does this opinion really amount to but this, that no god whatever is to be worshipped or prayed to? Against these, however, our present disputation is not intended to be directed, but against those who, in defence of those whom they think to be gods, oppose the Christian religion. They, however, who make the position of the stars depend on the divine will, and in a manner decree what character each man shall have, and what good or evil shall happen to him, if they think that these same stars have that power conferred upon them by the supreme power of God, in order that they may determine these things according to their will, do a great injury to the celestial sphere, in whose most brilliant senate, and most splendid senate-house, as it were, they suppose that wicked deeds are decreed to be done,—such deeds as that, if any terrestrial state should decree them, it would be condemned to overthrow by the decree of the whole human race. What judgment, then, is left to God concerning the deeds of men, who is Lord both of the stars and of men, when to these deeds a celestial necessity is attributed? Or, if they do not say that the stars, though they have indeed received a certain power from. God, who is supreme, determine those things according to their own discretion, but simply that His commands are fulfilled by them instrumentally in the application and enforcing of such necessities, are we thus to think concerning God even what it seemed unworthy that we should think concerning the will of the stars? But, if the stars are said rather to signify these things than to effect them, so that that position of the stars is, as it were, a kind of speech predicting, not causing future things,—for this has been the opinion of men of no ordinary learning,—certainly the mathematicians are not wont so to speak, saying, for example, Mars in such or such a position signifies a homicide, but makes a homicide. But, nevertheless, though we grant that they do not speak as they ought, and that we ought to accept as the proper form of speech that employed by the philosophers in predicting those things which they think they discover in the position of the stars, how comes it that they have never been able to assign any cause why, in the life of twins, in their actions, in the events which befall them, in their professions, arts, honors, and other things pertaining to human life, also in their very death, there is often so great a difference, that, as far as these things are concerned, many entire strangers are more like them than they are like each other, though separated at birth by the smallest interval of time, but atconception generated by the same act of copulation, and at the same moment?


But as to those who call by the name of fate, not the disposition of the stars as it may exist when any creature is conceived, or born, or commences its existence, but the whole connection and train of causes which makes everything become what it does become, there is no need that I should labor and strive with them in a merely verbal controversy, since they attribute the so-called order and connection of causes to the will and power of God most high, who is most rightly and most truly believed to know all things before they come to pass, and to leave nothing unordained; from whom are all powers, although the wills of all are not from Him. Now, that it is chiefly the will of God most high, whose power extends itself irresistibly through all things which they call fate, is proved by the following verses, of which, if I mistake not, Annus Seneca is the author:—

"Father supreme, Thou ruler of the lofty heavens,
Lead me whete’er it is Thy pleasure; I will give
A prompt obedience, making no delay,
Lo! here I am. Promptly I come to do Thy sovereign will;
If Thy command shall thwart my inclination, I will still
Follow Thee groaning, and the work assigned,
With all the suffering of a mind repugnant,
Will perform, being evil; which, had I been good,
I should have undertaken and performed though hard
With virtuous cheerfulness.
The Fates do lead the man that follows willing;
But the man that is unwilling, him they drag."

Most evidently, in this last verse, he calls that "fate" which he had before called "the will of the Father supreme," whom, he says, he is ready to obey that he may be led, being willing, not dragged, being unwilling, since "the Fates do lead the man that follows willing, but the man that is unwilling, him they drag."

The following Homeric lines, which Cicero translates into Latin, also favor this opinion:—

"Such are the minds of men, as is the light
Which Father Jove himself does pour
Illustrious o’er the fruitful earth."

Not that Cicero wishes that a poetical sentiment should have any weight in a question like this; for when he says that the Stoics, when asserting the power of fate, were in the habit of using these verses from Homer, he is not treating concerning the opinion of that poet, but concerning that of those philosophers, since by these verses, which they quote in connection with the controversy which they hold about fate, is most distinctly manifested what it is which they reckon fate, since they call by the name of Jupiter him whom they reckon the supreme god, from whom, they say, hangs the whole chain of fates.


The manner in which Cicero addresses himself to the task of refuting the Stoics, shows that he did not think he could effect anything against them in the argument unless he had first demolished divination. And this he attempts to accomplish by denying that there is any knowledge of future things, and maintains with all his might that there is no such knowledge either in God or man, and that there is no prediction of events. Thus he both denies the foreknowledge of God, and attempts by vain arguments, and by opposing to himself certain oracles very easy to be refuted, to overthrow all prophecy, even such as is clearer than the light (though even these oracles are not refuted by him).

But in refuting these conjectures of the mathematicians, his argument is triumphant, because truly these are such as destroy and refute themselves. Nevertheless, they are far more tolerable who assert the fatal influence of the stars than they who deny the foreknowledge of future events. For, to confess that God exists, and at the same time to deny that He has foreknowledge of future things, is the most manifest folly. This Cicero himself saw, and therefore attempted to assert the doctrine embodied in the words of Scripture, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." That, however, he did not do in his own person, for he saw how odious and offensive such an opinion would be; and therefore, in his book on the nature of the gods, he makes Cotta dispute concerning this against the Stoics, and preferred to give his own opinion in favor of Lucilius Balbus, to whom he assigned thedefence of the Stoical position, rather than in favor of Cotta, who maintained that no divinity exists. However, in his book on divination, he in his own person most openly opposes the doctrine of the prescience of future things. But all this he seems to do in order that he may not grant the doctrine of fate, and by so doing destroy free will. For he thinks that, the knowledge of future things being once conceded, fate follows as so necessary a consequence that it cannot be denied.

But, let these perplexing debatings and disputations of the philosophers go on as they may, we, in order that we may confess the most high and true God Himself, do confess His will, supreme power, and prescience. Neither let us be afraid lest, after all, we do not do by will that which we do by will, because He, whose foreknowledge is infallible, foreknew that we would do it. It is this which Cicero was afraid of, and therefore opposed foreknowledge. The Stoics also maintained that all things do not come to pass by necessity, although they contended that all things happen according to destiny. What is it, then, that Cicero feared in the prescience of future things? Doubtless it was this,—that if all future things have been foreknown, they will happen in the order in which they have been foreknown; and if they come to pass in this order, there is a certain order of things foreknown by God; and if a certain order of things, then a certain order of causes, for nothing can happen which is not preceded by some efficient cause. But if there is a certain order of causes according to which everything happens which does happen, then by fate, says he, all things happen which do happen. But if this be so, then is there nothing in our own power, and there is no such thing as freedom of will; and if we grant that, says he, the whole economy of human life is subverted. In vain are laws enacted. In vain are reproaches, praises, chidings, exhortations had recourse to; and there is no justice whatever in the appointment of rewards for the good, and punishments for the wicked. And that consequences so disgraceful, and absurd, and pernicious to humanity may not follow, Cicero chooses to reject the foreknowledge of future things, and shuts up the religious mind to this alternative, to make choice between two things, either that something is in our own power, or that there is foreknowledge,—both of which cannot be true; but if the one is affirmed, the other is thereby denied. He therefore, like a truly great and wise man, and one who consulted very much and very skillfully for the good of humanity, of those two chose the freedom of the will, to confirm which he denied the foreknowledge offuture things; and thus, wishing to make men free, he makes them sacrilegious. But the religious mind chooses both, and maintains both by the faith of piety. But how so? says Cicero; for the knowledge of future things being granted, there follows a chain of consequences which ends in this, that there can be nothing depending on our own free wills. And further, if there is anything depending on our wills, we must go backwards by the same steps of reasoning till we arrive at the conclusion that there is no foreknowledge of future things. Forwe go backwards through all the steps in the following order:—If there is free will, all things do not happen according to fate; if all things do not happen according to fate, there is not a certain order of causes; and if there is not a certain order of causes, neither is therea certain order of things foreknown by God,—for things cannot come to pass except they are preceded by efficient causes,—but, if there is no fixed and certain order of causes foreknown by God, all things cannot be said to happen according as He foreknew that they would happen. And further, if it is not true that all things happen just as they have been foreknown by Him, there is not, says he, in God any foreknowledge of future events.

Now, against the sacrilegious and impious darings of reason, we assert both that God knows all things before they come to pass, and that we do by our free will whatsoever we know and feel to be done by us only because we will it. But that all things come to pass by fate, we do not say; nay we affirm that nothing comes to pass by fate;for we demonstrate that the name of fate, as it is wont to be used by those who speak of fate, meaning thereby the position of the stars at the time of each one’s conception or birth, is an unmeaning word, for astrology itself is a delusion. But an order of causes in which the highest efficiency is attributed to the will of God, we neither deny nordo we designate it by the name of fate, unless, perhaps, we may understand fate to mean that which is spoken, deriving it from fari, to speak;for we cannot deny that it is written in the sacred Scriptures, "Godhath spoken once; these two things have I heard, that power belongeth unto God. Also unto Thee, O God, belongeth mercy: for Thou wiltrender unto every man according to his works." Now the expression, "Once hath He spoken" is to be understood as meaning "immovably," that is, unchangeably all things which shall be, and all things which He will do. We might, then, use the word fate in the sense it bears when derived from fari, to speak, had it not already come to be understood in another sense, into which I am unwilling that the heartsof men should unconsciously slide. But it does not follow that, though there is for God a certain order of all causes, there must therefore be nothing depending on the free exercise of our own wills, for our wills themselves are included in that order of causes which is certain to God, and is embraced by His foreknowledge, for human wills are also causes of human actions and He who foreknew all the causes of things would certainly among those causes not have been ignorant of our wills. For even that very concession which Cicero himself makes is enough to refute him in this argument. For what does it help him to say that nothing takes place without a cause, but that every cause is not fatal, there being a fortuitous cause, a natural cause, and a voluntary cause? It is sufficient that he confesses that whatever happens must be preceded by a cause. For we say that those causes which are called fortuitous are not a mere name for the absence of causes, but are only latent, and we attribute them either to the will of the true God, or to that of spirits of some kind or other. And as to natural causes, we by no means separate them from the will of Him who is the author and framer of all nature. But now as to voluntary causes. They are referable either to God, or to angels, or to men, or to animals of whatever description, if indeed those instinctive movements of animals devoid of reason, by which, in accordance with their own nature, they seek or shun various things, are to be called wills. And when I speak of the wills of angels, I mean either the wills of good angels, whom we call the angels of God, or of the wicked angels, whom we call the angels of the devil, or demons. Also by the wills of men I mean the wills either of the good or of the wicked. And from this we conclude that there are no efficient causes of all things which come to pass unless voluntary causes, that is, such as belong to that nature which is the spirit of life. The spirit of life, therefore, which quickens all things, and is the creator of every body, and of every created spirit, is God Himself, the uncreated spirit. In His supreme will resides the power which acts on the wills of all created spirits, helping the good, judging the evil, controlling all, granting power to some, not granting it to others. For, as He is the creator of all natures, so also is He the bestower of all powers, not of all wills; for wicked wills are not from Him, being contrary to nature, which is from Him. As to bodies, they are more subject to wills: some to our wills, by which I mean the wills of all living mortal creatures, but more to the wills of men than of beasts. But all of them are most of all subject to the will of God,to whom all wills are subject, since they have no power except what He has bestowed upon them. The cause of things, therefore, which makes but is not made, is God; but all causes both make and are made. Such are all created spirits, and especially the rational. Material causes, therefore, which may rather be said to be made than to make, are not to be reckoned among efficient causes, because they can only do what the wills of spirits do by them. How, then, does an order of causes which is certain to the foreknowledge of God necessitate that there should be nothing which is dependent on our wills, when our wills themselves have a very important place in the order of causes? Cicero, then, contends with those who call this order of causes fatal, or rather designate this order itself by the name of fate; to which we have an abhorrence, especially on account of the word, which men have become accustomed to understand as meaning what is not true. But, whereas he denies that the order of all causes is most certain, and perfectly clear to the prescience of God, we detest his opinion more than the Stoics do. For he either denies that God exists,—which, indeed, in an assumed personage, he has labored to do, in his book De Natura Deorum,—or if he confesses that He exists, but denies that He is prescient of future things, what is that but just "the fool saying in his heart there is no God." For one who is not prescient of all future things is not God. Wherefore our wills also have just so much power as God willed and foreknew that they should have; and therefore whatever power they have, they have it within most certain limits; and whatever they are to do, they are most assuredly to do, for He whose foreknowledge is infallible foreknew that they would have the power to do it, and would do it. Wherefore, if I should choose to apply the name of fate to anything at all, I should rather say that fate belongs to the weaker of two parties, will to the stronger, who has the other in his power, than that the freedom of our will is excluded by that order of causes, which, by an unusual application of the word peculiar to themselves, the Stoics call Fate.


Wherefore, neither is that necessity to be feared, for dread of which the Stoics labored to make such distinctions among the causes of things as should enable them to rescue certain things from the dominion of necessity, and to subject others to it. Among those things which they wished not to be subject to necessity they placedour wills, knowing that they would not be free if subjected to necessity. For if that is to be called our necessity which is not in our power, but even though we be unwilling effects what it can effect,—as, for instance, the necessity of death,—it is manifest that our wills by which we live uprightly or wickedly are not under such a necessity; forwe do many things which, if we were not willing, we should certainly not do. This is primarily due to the act of willing itself,—for if we will, it is; if we will not, it is not,—for we should not will if we were unwilling. But if we define necessity to be that according to which we say that it is necessary that any thing be of such and such a nature, or be done in such and such a manner, I know not why we should have any dread of that necessity taking away the freedom of our will. For we do not put the life of God or the foreknowledge of God under necessity if we should say that it is necessary that God should live for ever, and foreknow all things; as neither is His power diminished when we say that He cannot die or fall into error,—for this is in such a way impossible to Him, that if it were possible forHim, He would be of less power. But assuredly He is rightly called omnipotent, though He can neither die nor fall into error. For Heis called omnipotent on account of His doing what He wills, not onon account of His suffering what He wills not; for if that should befall Him, He would by no means be omnipotent. Wherefore, He cannot do some things for the very reason that He is omnipotent. So also, when we say that it necessary that, when we will, we will by free choice, in so saying we both affirm what is true beyond doubt, and do not still subject our wills thereby to a necessity which destroys liberty. Our wills, therefore, exist as wills, and do themselves whatever we do by willing, and which would not be done if we were unwilling. But when any one offers anything, being unwilling, and which would not be done if we were unwilling. But when any one suffers anything, being unwilling, by the will of another, even in that case will retains its essential validity,—we do not mean the will of the party who inflicts the suffering, for we resolve it into the power of God. For if a will should simply exist, but not be able todo what it wills, it would be overborne by a more powerful will. Nor would this be the case unless there had existed will, and that not the will of the other party, but the will of him who willed, but was not able to accomplish what he willed. Therefore, whatsoever a man suffers contrary to his own will, he ought not to attribute to the will of men, or of angels, or of any created spirit, but rather toHis will who gives power to wills. It is not the case, therefore, that because God foreknew what would be in the power of our wills, there is for that reason nothing in the power of our wills. For He who foreknew this did not foreknow nothing. Moreover, if He who foreknew what would be in the power of our wills did not foreknow nothing, but something, assuredly, even though He did foreknow, there is something in the power of our wills. Therefore we are by no means compelled, either, retaining the prescience of God, to take away the freedom of the will, or, retaining the freedom of the will, to deny that He is prescient of future things, which is impious. But we embrace both. We faithfully and sincerely confess both. The former, that we may believe well; the latter, that we may live well. For he lives ill who does not believe well concerning God. Wherefore, be it far from us, in order to maintain our freedom, to deny the prescience of Him by whose help we are or shall be free. Consequently, it is not in vain that laws are enacted, and that reproaches, exhortations, praises, and vituperations are had recourse to; for these also He foreknew, and they are of great avail, even as great as He foreknew that they would be. Prayers, also, are of avail to procure those things which He foreknew that He would grant to those who offered them; and with justice have rewards been appointed for good deeds, and punishments for sins. Nay, it cannot be doubted but that it is the man himself who sins when he does sin, because He, whose foreknowledge is infallible, foreknew not that fate, or fortune, or something else would sin, who, if he wills not, sins not. But if he shall not will to sin, even this did God foreknow.


Therefore God supreme and true with His Word and Holy Spirit (which three are one), one God omnipotent, creator and maker of every soul and of every body; by whose gift all are happy through verity and not through vanity; who made man a rational animal consisting of soul and body, who, when he sinned, neither permitted him to go unpunished, nor left him without mercy; who has given to the good and to evil, being in common with stones, vegetable life in common with trees, sensuous life in common with brutes, Intellectual life in common with angels alone; from whom is every mode, every species, every order; from whom are measure, number, weight; from whom is everything which has an existence in nature, of whatever kind it be,and of whatever value; from whom are the seeds of forms and the forms of seeds, and the seeds of motion, and the motion of seeds and of forms; who gave also to flesh its origin, beauty, health, reproductive fecundity, disposition of members, and the salutary concord of its parts; who also to the irrational soul has given memory, sense, appetite, but to the rational soul, in addition to these, has given intelligence and will; who has not left, not to speak of heaven and earth, angels and men, but not even the entrails of the smallest and most contemptible animal, or the feather of a bird, or the little flower of a plant, or the leaf of a tree, without an harmony, and, as it were, a mutual peace among all its parts;—that God can never be believed to have left the kingdoms of men, their dominations and servitudes, outside of the laws of His providence.


Wherefore let us go on to consider what virtues of the Romans there were which the true God, in whose power are also the kingdoms of the earth, condescended to help in order to raise the empire, and also for what reason He did so. And, in order to discuss this question on clearer ground, we have written the former books, to show that the power of those gods, who, they thought, were to be worshipped with such trifling and silly rites, had nothing to do in this matter; and also what we have already accomplished of the present volume, to refute the doctrine of fate, lest any one who might have been already persuaded that the Roman empire was not extended and preserved by the worship of these gods, might still be attributing its extension and preservation to some kind of fate, rather than to the most powerful will of God most high. The ancient and primitive Romans, therefore, though their history shows us that, like all the other nations, with the sole exception of the Hebrews, they worshipped false gods, and sacrificed victims, not to God, but to demons, have nevertheless this commendation bestowed on them by their historian, that they were "greedy of praise, prodigal of wealth, desirous of great glory, and content with a moderate fortune." Glory they most ardently loved: for it they wished to live, for it they did not hesitate to die. Every other desire was repressed by the strength of their passion for that one thing. At length their country itself, because it seemed inglorious to serve, but glorious to rule and to command, they first earnestly desiredto be free, and then to be mistress. Hence it was that, not enduring the domination of kings, they put the government into the hands of two chiefs, holding office for a year, who were called consuls, not kings or lords. But royal pomp seemed inconsistent with the administration of a ruler (regentis), or the benevolence of one who consults (that is, for the public good) (consulentis), but rather with the haughtiness of a lord (dominantis). King Tarquin, therefore, having been banished, and the consular government having been instituted, it followed, as the same author already alluded to says in his praises of the Romans, that "the state grew with amazing rapidity after it had obtained liberty, so great a desire of glory had taken possession of it." That eagerness for praise and desire of glory, then, was that which accomplished those many wonderful things, laudable, doubtless, and glorious according to human judgment. The same Sallust praises the great men of his own time, Marcus Cato, and Caius Csar, saying that for a long time the republic had no one great in virtue, but that within his memory there had been these two men of eminent virtue, and very different pursuits. Now, among the praises which he pronounces on Csar he put this, that he wished for a great empire, an army, and a new war, that he might have a sphere where his genius and virtue might shine forth. Thus it was ever the prayer of men of heroic character that Bellona would excite miserable nations to war, and lash them into agitation with her bloody scourge, so that there might be occasion for the display of their valor. This, forsooth, is what that desire of praise and thirst for glory did. Wherefore, by the love of liberty in the first place, afterwards also by that of domination and through the desire of praise and glory, they achieved many great things; and their most eminent poet testifies to their having been prompted by all these motives:

"Porsenna there, with pride elate,
Bids Rome to Tarquin ope her gate;
With arms he hems the city in,
Æneas’s sons stand firm to win."

At that time it was their greatest ambition either to die bravely or to live free; but when liberty was obtained, so great a desire of glory took possession of them, that liberty alone was not enough unless domination also should be sought, their great ambition being that which the same poet put into the mouth of Jupiter:

"Nay, Juno’s self, whose wild alarms
Set ocean, earth, and heaven in arms,
Shall change for smiles her moody frown,
And vie with me in zeal to crown
Rome’s sons, the nation of the gown.
So stands my will. There comes a day,
While Rome’s great ages hold their way,
When old Assaracus’s sons
Shall quit them on the myrmidons,
O’er Phthia and Mycen reign,
And humble Argos to their chain."

Which things, indeed, Virgil makes Jupiter predict as future, whilst, in reality, he was only himself passing in review in his own mind, things which were already done, and which were beheld by him as present realities. But I have mentioned them with the intention of showing that, next to liberty, the Romans so highly esteemed domination, that it received a place among those things on which they bestowed the greatest praise. Hence also it is that the poet, preferring to the arts of other nations those arts which peculiarly belong to the Romans, namely, the arts of ruling and commanding, and of subjugating and vanquishing nations, says,

"Others, belike, with happier grace,
From bronze or stone shall call the face,
Plead doubtful causes, map the skies,
And tell when planets set or rise;
But Roman thou, do thou control
     The nations far and wide;
Be this thy genius, to impose
The rule of peace on vanquished foes,
Show pity to the humble soul,
     And crush the sons of pride."

These arts they exercised with the more skill the less they gave themselves up to pleasures, and to enervation of body and mind in coveting and amassing riches, and through these corrupting morals, by extorting them from the miserable citizens and lavishing them on base stage-players. Hence these men of base character, who abounded when Sallust wrote and Virgil sang these things, did not seek after honors and glory by these arts, but by treachery and deceit. Wherefore the same says, "But at first it was rather ambition than avarice that stirred the minds of men, which vice, however, is nearer to virtue. For glory,honor, and power are desired by the good man and the ignoble; but the former," he says, "strives onward to them by the true way, whilst the other, knowing nothing of the good arts, seeks them by fraud and deceit." And what is meant by seeking the attainment of glory, honor, and power by good arts, is to seek them by virtue, and not by deceitful intrigue; for the good and the ignoble man alike desire these things, but the good man strives to overtake them by the true way. The way is virtue, along which he presses as to the goal of possession—namely, to glory, honor, and power. Now that this was a sentiment engrained in the Roman mind, is indicated even by the temples of their gods; for they built in very close proximity the temples of Virtue and Honor, worshipping as gods the gifts of God. Hence we can understand what they who were good thought to be the end of of virtue, and to what they ultimately referred it, namely, to honor; for, as to the bad, they had no virtue though they desired honor, and strove to possess it by fraud and deceit. Praise of a higher kind is bestowed upon Cato, for he says of him, "The less he sought glory, the more it followed him." We say praise of a higher kind; for the glory with the desire of which the Romans burned is the judgment of men thinking well of men. And therefore virtue is better, which is content with no human judgment save that of one’s own conscience. Whence the apostle says, "For this is our glory, the testimony of our conscience." And in another place he says, "But let every one prove his own work, and then he shall have glory in himself, and not in another." That glory, honor, and power, therefore, which they desired for themselves, and to which the good sought to attain by good arts, should not be sought after by virtue, but virtue by them. For there is no true virtue except that which is directed towards the end in which is the highest and ultimate good of man. Wherefore even the honors which Cato sought he ought not to have sought, but the state ought to have conferred them on him unsolicited, on account of his virtues.

But, of the two great Romans of that time, Cato was he whose virtue was by far the nearest to the true idea of virtue. Wherefore let us refer to the opinion of Cato himself, to discover what was the judgment he had formed concerning the condition of the state both then and in former times. "I do not think," he says, "that it was by arms that our ancestors made the republic great from being small. Had that been the case, the republic of our day would have been by far more flourishing than that of their times, for the number of our allies and citizens is far greater; and, besides, we possess a far greater abundanceof armor and of horses than they did. But it was other things than these that made them great, and we have none of them: industry at home, just government without, a mind free in deliberation, addicted neither to crime nor to lust. Instead of these, we have luxury and avarice, poverty in the state, opulence among citizens; we laud riches, we follow laziness; there is no difference made between the good and the bad; all the rewards of virtue are got possession of by intrigue. And no wonder, when every individual consults only for his own good, when ye are the slaves of pleasure at home, and, in public affairs, of money and favor, no wonder that an onslaught is made upon the unprotected republic."

He who hears these words of Cato or of Sallust probably thinks that such praise bestowed on the ancient Romans was applicable to all of them, or, at least, to very many of them. It is not so; otherwise the things which Cato himself writes, and which I have quoted in the second book of this work, would not be true. In that passage he says, that even from the very beginning of the state wrongs were committed by the more powerful, which led to the separation of the people from the fathers, besides which there were other internal dissensions; and the only time at which there existed a just and moderate administration was after the banishment of the kings, and that no longer than whilst they had cause to be afraid of Tarquin, and were carrying on the grievous war which had been undertaken on his account against Etruria; but afterwards the fathers oppressed the people as slaves, flogged them as the kings had done, and drove them from their land, and to the exclusion of all others, held the government in their own hands alone. And to these discords, whilst the fathers were wishing to rule, and the people were unwilling to serve, the second Punic war put an end; for again great fear began to press upon their disquieted minds, holding them back from those distractions by another and greater anxiety, and bringing them back to the civil concord. But the great things which were then achieved were accomplished through the administration of a few men, who were good in their own way. And by the wisdom and forethought of these few good men, which first enabled the republic to endure these evils and mitigated them, it waxed greater and greater. And this the same historian affirms, when he says that, reading and hearing of the many illustrious achievements of the Roman people in peace and in war, by land and by sea, he wished to understand what it was by which these great things were specially sustained. For he knew that very often the Romans hadwith a small company contended with great legions of the enemy; and he knew also that with small resources they had carried on wars with opulent kings. And he says that, after having given the matter much consideration, it seemed evident to him that the pre-eminent virtue of a few citizens had achieved the whole, and that that explained how poverty overcame wealth, and small numbers great multitudes. But, he adds, after that the state had been corrupted by luxury and indolence, again the republic, by its own greatness, was able to bear the vices of its magistrates and generals. Wherefore even the praises of Cato are only applicable to a few; for only a few were possessed of that virtue which leads men to pursue after glory, honor, and power by the true way,—that is, by virtue itself. This industry at home, of which Cato speaks, was the consequence of a desire to enrich the public treasury, even should the result be poverty at home; and therefore, when he speaks of the evil arising out of the corruption of morals, he reverses the expression, and says, "Poverty in the state, riches at home."—City of God, V. I and 8–12.

Original Sin


Having disposed of the very difficult questions concerning the origin of our world and the beginning of the human race, the natural order requires that we now discuss the fall of the first man (we may say of the first men), and of the origin and propagation of human death. For God had not made man like the angels, in such a condition that, even though they had sinned, they could none the more die. He had so made them, that if they discharged the obligations of obedience, an angelic immortality and a blessed eternity might ensue, without the intervention of death; but if they disobeyed, death should be visited on them with just sentence—which, too, has been spoken of in the preceding book.


But I see I must speak a little more carefully of the nature of death. For although the human soul is truly affirmed to be immortal, yet it also has a certain death of its own. For it is therefore calledimmortal, because, in a sense, it does not cease to live and to feel; while the body is called mortal, because it can be forsaken of all life, and cannot by itself live at all. The death, then, of the soul takes place when God forsakes it, as the death of the body when the soul forsakes it. Therefore the death of both—that is, of the whole man—occurs when the soul, forsaken by God, forsakes the body. For, in this case, neither is God the life of the soul, nor the soul the life of the body. And this death of the whole man is followed by that which, on the authority of the divine oracles, we call the second death. This the Saviour referred to when He said, "Fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." And since this does not happen before the soul is so joined to its body that they cannot be separated at all, it may be matter of wonder how the body can be said to be killed by that death in which it is not forsaken by the soul, but, being animated and rendered sensitive by it, is tormented. For in that penal and everlasting punishment, of which in its own place we are to speak more at large, the soul is justly said to die, because it does not live in connection with God; but how can we say that the body is dead, seeing that it lives by the soul? For it could not otherwise feel the bodily torments which are to follow the resurrection. Is it because life of every kind is good, and pain an evil, that we decline to say that that body lives, in which the soul is the cause, not of life, but of pain? The soul, then, lives by God when it lives well, for it cannot live well unless by God working in it what is good; and the body lives by the soul when the soul lives in the body, whether itself be living by God or no. For the wicked man’s life in the body is a life not of the soul, but of the body, which even dead souls—that is, souls forsaken of God—can confer upon bodies, how little so ever of their own proper life, by which they are immortal, they retain. But in the last damnation, though man does not cease to feel, yet because this feeling of his is neither sweet with pleasure nor wholesome with repose, but painfully penal, it is not without reason called death rather than life. And it is called the second death because it follows the first, which sunders the two cohering essences, whether these be God and the soul, or the soul and the body. Of the first and bodily death, then, we may say that to the good it is good, and evil to the evil. But, doubtless, the second, as it happens to none of the good, so it can be good for none.


But a question not to be shirked arises: Whether in very truth death, which separates soul and body, is good to the good? For if it be, how has it come to pass that such a thing should be the punishment of sin? For the first men would not have suffered death had they not sinned. How, then, can that be good to the good, which could not have happened except to the evil? Then, again, if it could only happen to the evil, to the good it ought not to be good, but non-existent. For why should there be any punishment where there is nothing to punish? Wherefore we must say that the first men were indeed so created, that if they had not sinned, they would not have experienced any kind of death; but that, having become sinners, they were so punished with death, that whosoever springs from their stock should also be punished with the same death. For nothing else could be born of them than that which they themselves had been. Their nature was deteriorated in proportion to the greatness of the condemnation of their sin, so that what existed as punishment in those who first sinned, became a natural consequence in their children. For man is not produced by man, as he was from the dust. For dust was the material out of which man was made: man is the parent by whom man is begotten. Wherefore earth and flesh are not the same thing, though flesh be made of earth. But as man the parent is, such is man the offspring. In the first man, therefore, there existed the whole human nature, which 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 created, but when he sinned and was punished, this he propagated, so far as the origin of sin and death are concerned. For neither by sin nor its punishment was he himself reduced to that infantile and helpless infirmity of body and mind which we see in children. For God ordained that infants should begin the world as the young of beasts begin it, since their parents had fallen to the level of the beasts in the fashion of their life and of their death; as it is written, "Man when he was in honor understood not; he became like the beasts that have no understanding." Nay more, infants, we see, are even feebler in the use and movement of their limbs, and more infirm to choose and refuse, than the most tender offspring of other animals; as if the force that dwells in human nature were destined tosurpass all other living things so much the more eminently, as its energy has been longer restrained, and the time of its exercise delayed, just as an arrow flies the higher, the further back it has been drawn. To this infantine imbecility the first man did not fall by his lawless presumption and just sentence; but human nature was in his person vitiated and altered to such an extent, that he suffers in his members the warring of disobedient lust, and became subject to the necessity of dying. And what he himself had become by sin and punishment, such he generated those whom he begot; that is to say, subject to sin and death. And if infants are delivered from this bondage of sin by the Redeemer’s grace, they can suffer only this death which separates soul and body; but being redeemed from the obligation of sin, they do not pass to that second endless and penal death.


If, moreover, any one is solicitous about this point, how, if death be the very punishment of sin, they whose guilt is cancelled by grace do yet suffer death, this difficulty has already been handled and solved in our other work which we have written on the baptism of infants. There it was said that the parting of soul and body was left, though its connection with sin was removed, for this reason, that if the immortality of the body followed immediately upon the sacrament of regeneration, faith itself would be thereby enervated. For faith is then only faith when it waits in hope for what is not yet seen in substance. And by the vigor and conflict of faith, at least in times past, was the fear of death overcome. Specially was this conspicuous in the holy martyrs, who could have had no victory, no glory, to whom there could not even have been any conflict, if, after the laver of regeneration, saints could not suffer bodily death. Who would not, then, in company with the infants presented for baptism, run to the grace of Christ, that so he might not be dismissed from the body? And thus faith would not be tested with an unseen reward; and so would not even be faith, seeking and receiving an immediate recompense of its works. But now, by the greater and more admirable grace of the Saviour, the punishment of sin is turned to the Service of righteousness. For then it was proclaimed to man, "If thou sinnest, thou shalt die;" now it is said to the martyr. "Die, that thou sin not." Then it was said, "If ye transgress the commandments, ye shall die;" now it is said, "If ye decline death yetransgress the commandment." That which was formerly set as an object of terror, that men might not sin, is now to be undergone if we would not sin. Thus, by the unutterable mercy of God, even the very punishment of wickedness has become the armor of virtue, and the penalty of the sinner becomes the reward of the righteous. For then death was incurred by sinning, now righteousness is fulfilled by dying. In the case of the holy martyrs it is so; for to them the persecutor proposes the alternative, apostasy or death. For the righteous prefer by believing to suffer what the first transgressors suffered by not believing. For unless they had sinned, they would not have died; but the martyrs sin if they do not die. The one died because they sinned, the others do not sin because they die. By the guilt of the first, punishment was incurred; by the punishment of the second, guilt is prevented. Not that death, which was before an evil, has become something good, but only that God has granted to faith this grace, that death, which is the admitted opposite to life, should become the instrument by which life is reached.


The apostle, wishing to show how hurtful a thing sin is, when grace does not aid us, has not hesitated to say that the strength of sin is that very law by which sin is prohibited. "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law." Most certainly true; for prohibition increases the desire of illicit action, if righteousness is not so loved that the desire of sin is conquered by that love. But unless divine grace aid us, we cannot love or delight in true righteousness. But lest the law should be thought to be an evil, since it is called the strength of sin, the apostle, when treating a similar question in another place, says, "The law indeed is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is holy made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful." Exceeding, he says, because the transgression is more heinous when through the increasing lust of sin the law itself also is despised. Why have we thought it worth while to mention this? For this reason, because, as the law is not an evil when it increases the lust of those who sin, so neither is death a good thing when it increases the glory of those who suffer it, since either the former is abandoned wickedly, and makes transgressors, or the latter is embraced for thetruth’s sake, and makes martyrs. And thus the law is indeed good, because it is prohibition of sin, and death is evil because it is the wages of sin; but as wicked men make an evil use not only of evil, but also of good things, so the righteous make a good use not only of good, but also of evil things. Whence it comes to pass that the wicked make an ill use of the law, though the law is good; and that the good die well, though death is an evil.


Wherefore, as regards bodily death, that is, the separation of the soul from the body, it is good unto none while it is being endured by those whom we say are in the article of death. For the very violence with which body and soul are wrenched asunder, which in the living had been conjoined and closely intertwined, brings with it a harsh experience, jarring horridly on nature so long as it continues, till there comes a total loss of sensation, which arose from the very interpenetration of spirit and flesh. And all this anguish is sometimes forestalled by one stroke of the body or sudden flitting of the soul, the swiftness of which prevents it from being felt. But whatever that may be in the dying which with violently painful sensation robs of all sensation, yet when it is piously and faithfully borne, it increases the merit of patience, but does not make the name of punishment inapplicable. Death proceeding by ordinary generation from the first man, is the punishment of all who are born of him, yet, if it be endured for righteousness’ sake, it becomes the glory of those who are born again; and though death be the award of sin, it sometimes secures that nothing be awarded to sin.


For whatever unbaptized persons die confessing Christ, this confession is of the same efficacy for the remission of sins as if they were washed in the sacred font of baptism. For He who said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God," made also an exception in their favor, in that other sentence where He no less absolutely said, "Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven;" and in another place, "Whosoever will lose his life for My sake, shall find it." And this explains the verse, "Precious in thesight of the Lord is the death of His saints." For what is more precious than a death by which a man’s sins are all forgiven, and his merits increased an hundredfold? For those who have been baptized when they could no longer escape death, and have departed this life with all their sins blotted out, have not equal merit with those who did not defer death, though it was in their power to do so, but preferred to end their life by confessing Christ, rather than by denying Him to secure an opportunity of baptism. And even had they denied Him under the pressure of the fear of death, this too would have been forgiven them in that baptism, in which was remitted even the enormous wickedness of those who had slain Christ. But how abundant in these men must have been the grace of the Spirit, who breathes where He listeth, seeing that they so dearly loved Christ as to be unable to deny Him even in so sore an emergency, and with so sure a hope of pardon! Precious, therefore, is the death of the saints, to whom the grace of Christ has been applied with such gracious effects, that they do not hesitate to meet death themselves, if so by they might meet Him. And precious is it, also, because it has proved that what was originally ordained for the punishment of the sinner, has been used for the production of a richer harvest of righteousness. But not on this account should we look upon death as a good thing, for it is diverted to such useful purposes, not by any virtue of its own, by the divine interference. Death was originally proposed as an object of dread, that sin might not be committed; now it must be undergone that sin may not be committed, or, if committed, be remitted, and the award of righteousness bestowed on him whose victory has earned it.


For if we look at the matter a little more carefully, we shall see that even when a man dies faithfully and laudably for the truth’s sake, it is still death he is avoiding. For he submits to some part of death, for the very purpose of avoiding the whole, and the second and eternal death over and above. He submits to the separation of soul and body, lest the soul be separated both from God and from the body, and so the whole first death be completed, and the second death receive him everlastingly. Wherefore death is indeed, as I said, good to none while it is being actually suffered, and while it is subduing the dying to its power; but it is meritoriously endured for the sake of retaining or winning what is good. And regarding what happens after death, it isno absurdity to say that death is good to the good, and evil to the evil. For the disembodied spirits of the just are at rest; but those of the wicked suffer punishment till their bodies rise again,—those of the just to life everlasting, and of the others to death eternal, which is called the second death.—City of God, XIII. 1–8.



This is the religion which possesses the universal way for delivering the soul; for, except by this way, none can be delivered. This is a kind of royal way, which alone leads to a kingdom which does not totter like all temporal dignities, but stands firm on eternal foundations. And when Porphyry says, towards the end of the first book De Regressu Animae, that no system of doctrine which furnishes the universal way for delivering the soul has as yet been received, either from the truest philosophy, or from the ideas and practices of the Indians, or from the reasoning of the Chaldans, or from any source whatever, and that no historical reading had made him acquainted with that way, he manifestly acknowledges that there is such a way, but that as yet he was not acquainted with it. Nothing of all that he had so laboriously learned concerning the deliverance of the soul, nothing of all that he seemed to others, if not to himself, to know and believe, satisfied him. For he perceived that there was still wanting a commanding authority which it might be right to follow in a matter of such importance. And when he says that he had not learned from any truest philosophy asystem which possessed the universal way of the soul’s deliverance, he shows plainly enough, as it seems to me, either that the philosophy of which he was a disciple was not the truest, or that it did not comprehend such a way. And how can that be the truest philosophy which does not possess this way? For what else is the universal way of the soul’s deliverance than that by which all souls universally are delivered, and without which, therefore, no soul is delivered? And when he says, in addition, "or from the ideas and practices of the Indians, or from the reasoning of the Chaldans, or from any source whatever," hedeclares in the most unequivocal language that this universal way of the soul’s deliverance was not embraced in what he had learned either from the Indians or the Chaldans; and yet he could not forbear stating that it was from the Chaldans he had derived these divine oracles of which he makes such frequent mention. What, therefore, does he mean by this universal way of the soul’s deliverance, which had not yet been made known by any truest philosophy, or by the doctrinal systems of those nations which were considered to have great insight in things divine, because they indulged more freely in a curious and fanciful science and worship of angels? What is this universal way of which he acknowledges his ignorance, if not a way which does not belong to one nation as its special property, but in common to all, and divinely bestowed? Porphyry, a man of no mediocre abilities, does not question that such a way exists; for he believes that Divine Providence could not have left men destitute of this universal way of delivering the soul. For he does not say that this way does not exist, but that this great boon and assistance has not yet been discovered, and has not come to his knowledge. And no wonder; for Porphyry lived in an age when this universal way of the soul’s deliverance,—in other words, the Christian religion,—was exposed to the persecutions of idolaters and demon-worshippers, and earthly rulers, that the number of martyrs or witnesses for the truth might be completed and consecrated, and that by them proof might be given that we must endure all bodily sufferings in the cause of the holy faith, and for the commendation of the truth. Porphyry, being a witness of these persecutions, concluded that this way was destined to a speedy extinction, and that it, therefore, was not the universal way of the soul’s deliverance, and did not see that the very thing that thus moved him, and deterred him from becoming a Christian, contributed to the confirmation and more effectual commendation of our religion.

This, then, is the universal way of the soul’s deliverance, the way that is granted by the divine compassion to the nations universally. And no nation to which the knowledge of it has already come, or may hereafter come, ought to demand, Why so soon? or, Why so late,—for the design of Him who sends it is impenetrable by human capacity. This was felt by Porphyry when he confined himself to saying that this gift of God was not yet received, and had not yet come to his knowledge. For though this was so, he did not on that account pronounce that the way itself had no existence. This, I say, is the universal way for the deliverance of believers, concerning which the faithful Abrahamreceived the divine assurance, "In thy seed shall all nations be blessed." He, indeed, was by birth a Chaldan; but, that he might receive these      great promises, and that there might be propagated from him a seed "disposed by angels in the hand of a Mediator" in whom this universal way, thrown open to all nations for the deliverance of the soul, might be found, he was ordered to leave his country, and kindred, and father’s house. Then was he himself, first of all, delivered from the Chaldan superstitions, and by his obedience worshipped the one true God, whose promises he faithfully trusted. This is the universal way, of which it is said in holy prophecy, "God be merciful unto us, and cause His face to shine upon us; that Thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among all nations." And hence, when our Saviour, so long after, had taken flesh of the seed of Abraham, He says of Himself, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." This is the universal way, of which so long before it had been predicted, "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." This way, therefore, is not the property of one, but of all nations. The law and the word of the Lord did not remain in Zion and Jerusalem, but issued thence to be universally diffused. And therefore the Mediator Himself, after His resurrection, says to His alarmed disciples, "These are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me." Then opened He their understandings that they might understand the Scriptures, and said unto them,"Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." This is the universal way of the soul’s deliverance, when the holy angels and the holy prophets formerly disclosed where they could among the few men who found the grace of God, and especially in the Hebrew nation, whose commonwealth was, as it were, consecrated to prefigure and foreannounce the city of God which was to be gathered from all nations, by their tabernacle, and temple, and priesthood, and sacrifices. In some explicit statements, and in many obscureforeshadowings, this way was declared; but latterly came the Mediator Himself in the flesh, and His blessed apostles, revealing how the grace of the New Testament more openly explained what had been obscurely hinted to preceding generations, in conformity with the relation of the ages of the human race, and as it pleased God in His wisdom to appoint, who also bore them witness with signs and miracles, some ofwhich I have cited above. For not only were there visions of angels, and words heard from those heavenly ministrants, but also men of God, armed with the word of simple piety, cast out unclean spirits from the bodies and sense of men, and healed deformities and sicknesses;the wild beasts of earth and sea, the birds of air, inanimate things, the elements, the stars, obeyed their divine commands; the powers of hell gave way before them, the dead were restored to life. I say nothing of the miracles peculiar and proper to the Saviour’s person, especially the nativity and the resurrection; in the one of which He wrought only the mystery of a virgin maternity, while in the other He furnished an instance of the resurrection which all shall at last experience. This way purifies the whole man, and prepares the mortal in all his parts for immortality. For, to prevent us from seeking for one purgation for the part which Porphyry calls intellectual, and another for the part he calls spiritual, and another for the body itself, our most mighty and truthful Purifier and Saviour assumed the whole human nature. Except by this way, which had been present among men both during the period of the promises and of the proclamation of their fulfillment, no man has been delivered, no man is delivered, no manshall be delivered.

As to Porphyry’s statement that the universal way of the soul’s deliverance had not yet come to his knowledge by any acquaintance he had with history, I would ask, what more remarkable history can befound than that which has taken possession of the whole world by its authoritative voice? or what more trustworthy than that which narrates past events, and predicts the future with equal clearness, and in the unfulfilled predictions of which we are constrained to believe bythose that are already fulfilled? For neither Porphyry nor any Platonists can despise divination and prediction, even of things that pertain to this life and earthly matters, though they justly despise ordinary soothsaying and the divination that is connected with magical arts. They deny that these are the predictions of great men, or are to be considered important, and they are right; for they are founded, eitheron the foresight of subsidiary causes, as to a professional eye muchof the course of a disease is foreseen by certain premonitory symptoms, or the unclean demons predict what they have resolved to do, that they may thus work upon the thoughts and desires of the wicked with an appearance of authority, and incline human frailty to imitate their impure actions. It is not such things that the saints who walk in the universal way care to predict as important, although, for the purpose of commending the faith, they knew and often predicted even such things as could not be detected by human observation, nor be verified by experience. But there were other truly important and divine events which they predicted, in so far as it was given them to know the will of God. For the incarnation of Christ, and all those important marvels that were accomplished in Him, and done in His name; the repentance of men and the conversion of their wills to God; the remission of sins, the grace of righteousness, the faith of the pious, and the multitudes in all parts of the world who believe in the true divinity; the overthrow of idolatry and demon worship, and the testing of the faithful by trials; the purification of those who persevered, and their deliverance from all evil; the day of judgment, the resurrection of the dead, the eternal damnation of the community of the ungodly, and the eternal kingdom of the most glorious, city of God,—these things were predicted and promised in the Scriptures of this way; and of these we see so many fulfilled, that we justly and piously trust that the rest will also come to pass. As for those who do not believe, and consequently do not understand, that this is the way which leads straight to the vision of God and to eternal fellowship with Him, according to the true predictions and statements of the Holy Scriptures, they may storm at our position, but they cannot storm it.

And therefore, in these ten books, though not meeting, I dare say, the expectation of some, yet I have, as the true God and Lord has vouchsafed to aid me, satisfied the desire to certain persons, by refuting the objections of the ungodly, who prefer their own gods to the Founder of the holy city, about which we undertook to speak. Of these ten books, the first five were directed against those, who think we should worship the gods for the sake of the blessings of this life, and the second against those who think we should worship them for the sake of the life which is to be after death. And now, in fulfillment of the promise I made in the first book, I shall go on to say, as God shall aid me, what I think needs to be said regarding the origin, history, and deserved ends of the two cities, which, as already remarked,are in this world commingled and implicated with one another."—City of God, X. 32.

Faith, Hope, and Love

1. Beyond all expression am I pleased with your learning, my very dear son Laurentius, and long for you to be wise; not of the number of them concerning whom it is said, Where is the wise? where the scribe? where the discoverer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? but of them concerning whom it is written, The multitude of the wise is the soundness of the world; and such as the Apostle wishes them to become, to whom he writes, But I wish you to be wise indeed in what is good, but simple in what is evil. But as no one can of himself be, so no one can of himself be wise, but of Him, enlightening, concerning Whom it is written, All wisdom is from God. But man’s wisdom is piety. You have this in the book of holy Job: for there we read, that Wisdom herself said to man, Behold, piety is wisdom. But if you enquire, what piety she there spake of, you will find more clearly in the Greek, theosebeian, which is the worship of God. For in the Greek there is another word also for piety, that is, eusebeia, by which word is signified good worship, although this too is especially referred to the worship of God. But there is nothing more suitable than that word, by which evidently the worship of God was expressed, when it was said, what was wisdom for man. Seek you any thing to be said more briefly; you who ask of me to speak briefly of great things? Or haply you desire to have this very point briefly opened, and brought together into a short discourse, in what manner God is to be worshipped. Here if I shall answer that God is to be worshipped by Faith, Hope, and Love; you will certainly say, that this is a shorter statement than you wished; and then you will ask, that what things belong to each of these three, may be briefly explained to you; that is, what is to be believed, what to be hoped for, what to be loved. Which when I shall have done, therein will be all these things which in your letter you set down by way of enquiry, a copy of which if you have with you, you may easily turn over and read them again; if however you have not, you may remember them as I repeat them. For your wish, as you write is, "that I should write you a book, which you may have as a manual, (as it is called,) and never suffer to leave your hands; containing the things demanded, thatis, What is chiefly to be followed; what, by reason of diverse heresies, mainly to be avoided; how far reason contends for religion, or what in reason is unsuitable, when faith is alone; what is held first, what last; what is the sum of the whole prescribed form; what the certain and proper foundation of the Catholic Faith." All these things which you inquire after you will without any doubt know, by knowing carefully what ought to be BELIEVED, what to be HOPED, what to be LOVED. For these things especially, nay rather alone, are in religion to be followed. These things whatsoever contradicts, is either altogether an alien from the name of Christ, or an heretic. These things are to be defended by seasoning, either having their foundation in the senses of the body, or discovered by the power of understanding in the mind. But what things we have neither experienced by corporeal sense, nor either have been, or are, able to attain to by mental powers, these without any doubt are to be believed on their testimony, by whom was composed that Scripture which hath by this time deservedly come to be called divine; who, by divine help, whether through the body, or through the mind, were able either to see, or even to foresee these things. But when the mind hath been imbued with the beginning of faith, which worketh by love, it goes on by living well to arrive at sight also, wherein is unspeakable beauty known to holy and perfect hearts, the full vision of which is the highest happiness. This is assuredly what you are inquiring after, "what is held first, what last:" to be begun in faith, to be made perfect in sight. This also is "the sum of the whole prescribed form." But the "certain and proper foundation of the Catholic Faith" is Christ. For other foundation, says the Apostle, no one can lay, beside that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus. Nor must that therefore be denied to be the proper foundation of the Catholic Faith, because it may be thought that this is in common to us with certain heretics. For if those things which pertain to Christ be carefully thought on, as far as the name, Christ is found among certain heretics, who wish to be called Christians; but in reality He is not among them. Which to shew is too long; inasmuch as all heresies have to be noticed, which either have been, or are, or have been able to be under the Christian name, and the truth of this to be pointed out in each: which discussion is one for so many volumes that it may seem even endless. You however demand of us "a manual," that is, "what may be grasped by the hand, not what may load the bookshelves." To return therefore to those three things, by which we said that God is to be worshipped, faith, hope, love; it is easily said, what is to be believed, whatto be hoped for, what to be loved; but in what manner it may be defended against the false charges of those who think differently, is matter of more laborious and copious teaching; in order to possess which there needeth, not that the hand be filled with a short manual, but that the breast be inflamed with great zeal.

2. For see, you have the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer: what shorter to hear or read? what more easy to commit to memory? For in that by reason of sin, the human race was weighed down by heavy misery, and needed the Divine mercy; the Prophet foretelling the time of the grace of God, says, And it shall be, every one that shall call on the Name of the Lord, shall be saved: for this reason is the Prayer. But the Apostle, after for the recommending of Grace itself, he had recounted this testimony of the Prophet, immediately adds, But how shall they call on Him, in Whom they have not believed? for this reason is the Creed. In these two things view those three; faith believes, hope and love pray. Hence in fact it was said, How shall they call on Him, in Whom they have not believed? But what can be hoped for, which is not believed? Further, something also which is not hoped for, may be believed. For who of the faithful does not believe the punishments of the ungodly? yet he hopes not for them; and whosoever believes them to hang over him, and shudders at them with a shrinking feeling of mind, is more rightly said to fear than to hope for them. Which two things a certain one distinguishing between, says, ’May it be allowed one fearing to hope.’ Another poet however, although a better, hath said, not properly, ’This so great grief if I have been able to hope for.’ In short, certain ones in the art of grammar use this word as an instance to point out an improper expression, and say, he said "to hope," for "to fear." There is faith, then, both of evil things and of good; seeing that both good things are believed, and evil; and this by faith, itself good, not evil. There is also faith both of past things, and of present, and of future. For we believe that Christ was dead, which is now past: we believe that He is sitting at the right hand of the Father, which now is: we believe that He will come to judge, which is future. Also faith is both of one’s own things, and of the things of others. For each man believes both himself at some time to have begun to be, and not certainly to have been from all eternity; and other men likewise, and other things: nor concerning other men only do we believe many things which pertain to religion, but conerning angels also. But hope is not, but only of things good, and also future, and relating to him who is consideredto entertain hope of them; Which things being so, for these reasons it will be right to distinguish faith from hope, as by word, as also by reasonable difference. For as respects the not seeing, whether they be the things which are believed, or the things which are hoped for, this is common to faith and hope. In fact, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which illustrious defenders of the Catholic Rule have used as a witness, faith is said to be ’the proof of things not seen.’ Although, when one says, that he has believed, that is, hath lent his faith to, not words, not witnesses, not in short any arguments, but the evidence of the things present, he does not seem so out of place, as rightly to be censured for the Word, and to have it said to him, ’You saw, therefore you did not, believe;’ whence it may be thought not to follow, that whatsoever thing is believed is not seen. But we better call that faith, which the Divine Oracles have taught, that is, of such things as are not seen. Concerning hope also the Apostle says, Hope which is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he hope for? But if what we see not we hope for, through patience we wait for it. When therefore good things are believed to be about to happen to us, they are nothing else but hoped for. Now concerning love what shall I say, without which faith profiteth nothing? but hope without love cannot be. Finally, as says the Apostle James, The devils also believe, and tremble: yet do they not hope or love; but rather what we hope for and love, they, in believing that it will come, dread. For which reason the Apostle Paul approves of and commends faith which worketh by love, which assuredly without hope cannot be. Wherefore neither is love without hope, nor hope without love, nor both without faith.

3. When therefore it is asked, what is to be believed of matter relating to religion, we are not so to inquire into the nature of things, as is done by those whom the Greeks call naturalists nor are we to fear, lest the Christian be ignorant of anything concerning the force and number of the elements; the motion and order and eclipses of the heavenly bodies; the figure of the heavens; the kinds and natures of animals, plants, stones, springs, rivers, mountains; intervals of places and times; the signs of coming storms; and other six hundred things concerning those matters, which they either have discovered, or suppose themselves to have discovered; in that neither have they themselves found out all things, excelling (as they do) in so great ability, burning with zeal, abounding in leisure, and prosecuting their enquiries, some by human conjecture, others again by experience of fact, and in those things which they boast to have discovered, on most subjectsholding opinions rather than knowing. It is enough for the Christian to believe, that the cause of created things, whether heavenly or earthly, whether visible or invisible, is none other than the goodness of his Creator, Who is God, One and True; and that there is no nature which is not either Himself or from Himself; and that He let Himself is a Trinity; the Father, that is, and the Son begotten by the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeding from the same Father, but one and the same spirit of the Father and of the Son. By this Trinity, supremely and equally and unchangeably good, all things were created, and that neither supremely, nor equally, nor unchangeably good, but yet good even each one: but the whole together very good; in that out of all these is made an admirable beauty of the whole. In which even that which is called evil, being rightly set and put in its own place, commends more strikingly things that are good, so as that they are more pleasing and more praiseworthy through comparison with things that are evil. For neither would Almighty God, as even heathens confess, ’Ruler supreme of things,’ being, as He is, supremely good, in any way suffer any evil to be in His works, were He not Almighty and good even to this, out of any evil to work what is good. But what else is that which is called evil, but a privation of good? For like as in the bodies of animals, to be affected by diseases and wounds is nothing else than to be deprived of health, (for the object is not, when a remedial system is applied, that those evils which were in the body, that is, diseases and wounds, may depart hence and be in some other place; but that they may not be at all. For wound or disease is not any substance, but the fault of a carnal substance; the substance itself being the flesh, certainly some good thing, to which those evils are accidents, that is, the privations of that good which is called health,) so also, whatsoever are the faults of minds, are privations of natural good things; which when they are healed are not transferred to any place, but those things which were there, will be no where, seeing that in that health they will not be.

30. From this confession of Faith, which is briefly contained in the Creed, and which carnally understood is the milk of babes, but spiritually considered and handled is the meat of strong men, arises the good Hope of the faithful, which is always accompanied by holy Charity. But of all these things which are to be faithfully believed, those only appertain unto Christ which are contained in the Lord’s Prayer. For, Cursed is every one, as the divine words testify, who placeth his hope in man: and thus he also who placeth his hope inhimself, is bound by the bond of this curse. Therefore we ought to seek from no other than God, whatsoever we hope that we ourselves shall either do of good works, or obtain in return for our good works. Wherefore in the Evangelist S. Matthew the Lord’s Prayer seems to contain seven petitions; by three whereof things eternal are asked, by the other four, things temporal, which yet are necessary in order to obtain things eternal. For in that we say, Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done as in Heaven so also on earth, (by Which some have understood not ill, in spirit, and body,) the things are wholly to be retained without any end; and being begun here, how great progress so ever we make, are increased in us; but when perfected, which is to be hoped for in another life, will be kept for ever. But in that we say, Give us this day our daily bread, And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors, And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil; who but must see that they pertain to the state of want of this present life? Therefore in that eternal life, where we hope that we shall ever be, both the hallowing of the Name of God, and His Kingdom, and His Will in our spirit and body will abide perfectly and immortally. But our daily bread is therefore so called, because here is necessary so much as is to be assigned to our soul and flesh, whether it be understood spiritually or carnally, or in both ways. Here also is the remission which we ask, where is the commission of sins; here the temptations which either entice or drive us to sin; here finally that evil from which we wish to be delivered, but There is no one of those things. But the Evangelist Luke in the Lord’s Prayer has comprehended not seven petitions, but five: and yet is he not assuredly at variance with that other, but by his very brevity hath admonished us how those seven are to be understood. That is to say, the Name of God is hallowed in the spirit, but the Kingdom of God is to come in the resurrection of the flesh. S. Luke, therefore, shewing that the third petition is in a certain way a repetition of the two first, causeth it more to be understood by passing it by. Then he adds three others, concerning daily bread, concerning forgiveness of sins, concerning avoiding temptations. But that which S. Matthew set down last, But deliver us from evil; S. Luke hath not set down, that we might understand that that which was said concerning temptation pertained to what came before. For this very reason, that is, S. Matthew says, But deliver us; and says not, And deliver us, (Do not this, but this): that each may understand that he is therein delivered from evil; in that he is not led into temptation.

31. Now further Love, which the Apostle hath declared to be greater than these two, that is, than faith and hope, by how much the more it begin any one, by so much is he better in whom it is. For whenit is asked, whether any one be a good man, it is not asked, what he believes, or hopes, but what he loves. For he who loves aright, without doubt believes and hopes aright: but he who loves not believes and hopes in vain, even if those things which he hopes be taught to appertain unto true happiness: unless also he believe and hope this which it may be given to him, asking it, that he may love. For although one cannot hope without love, yet it may happen that he love not that, without which he cannot arrive at that which he hopes. As if one should hope for eternal life, (which who loves not?) and love not righteousness, without which no one arriveth at it. But this is that faith of Christ, which the Apostle commends, which worketh by love; and what in love it yet hath not, it asks, that it may receive, seeks, that it may find, knocks, that it may be opened unto it. For faith obtaineth, what the law obligeth. For without the gift of God, that is, without the Holy Ghost, through whom love is shed abroad in our hearts, the law may bid, but it cannot aid, and may moreover make a man a transgressor, in that he cannot excuse himself on the plea of ignorance. For carnallust reigneth, where the love of God is not. But when in the deepest darkness of ignorance, without any reason to resist, man lives according to the flesh, this is the first state of a man. Next when by the law hath been wrought a knowledge of sin, if the Divine Spirit as yet help not, knowingly, and is brought under and made the servant of sin, For by whom a man is overcome, unto the same also is he made over as a slave; the knowledge of the commandment bringing this to pass, that sin works in man all lust, the aggravation of transgression being added, and so that which is written be fulfilled, The law entered, that the offence might abound. This is the second state of a man. But if God shall look upon him, so that He may be believed Himself to help him to fulfil what He commands, and man shall begin to be led by the Spirit of God, he lusteth against the flesh, with stronger might of love; so that, although there still be that which proceeding from a man fighteth against the man, his whole disease not yet being healed, yet doth the just live by faith, and lives justly, in so far as he yieldeth not to evil lust, the delight in righteousness prevailing. This is the third state of good hope of a man; wherein if any one make progress by pious perseverance, there remaineth peace at last, which shall befulfilled after this life, in the rest of the spirit, and afterwards in the resurrection also of the flesh. Of these four different states, the first is before the Law, the second under the Law, the third under grace, the fourth in full and perfect peace. Thus also hath the people of God been appointed at intervals of times, according as it hath pleased God, Who appointeth all things in measure and number and weight. For it was at first before the Law; secondly under the Law, which was given by means of Moses; next under grace, which was revealed by means of the first coming of the Mediator. Which very grace was yet not wanting before, to those to whom it behooved that it should be imparted, although veiled and hidden according to the dispensation of the time. For neither could any of the elder just men find salvation otherwise than through the faith of Christ; nor yet, unless He had been known to them also, could He have been through their ministry prophesied of unto us, at one time more openly, at another time more obscurely. But in whatsoever of those four, as it were, ages, the grace of regeneration hath found any man, there are all his past sins forgiven him, and that state of condemnation which he hath contracted by his birth, is done away by his second birth. And so availing is it that the Spirit bloweth where It will, that some have never known that second servitude under the Law, but together with the command begin to possess a divine help. But before a man can be capable of the commandment, he must of necessity live according to the flesh: but if he have been already imbued in the sacrament of regeneration, it will in no way harm him, if he shall then pass out of this life. Because, Therefore hath Christ died and risen again, that He may be Lord of the living and of the dead. Nor shall the kingdom of death detain him, for whom He died Who is free among the dead.

32. All the divine commandments therefore are referred to Love, of which the Apostle says, But the end of the commandment is Charity out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned. The end therefore of every commandment is Charity; that is, every commandment is referred to Charity. But that which is so done, either from fear of punishment, or from any carnal design, as that it be not referred unto that Love which the Holy Ghost sheds abroad in our hearts, is not yet done, as it behooves it to be done, although it seem so to be done. That is to say, this Love is the love of God and of one’s neighbour, and assuredly, on these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. Add the Gospel, add the Apostles; for from no other source is that saying, The end of the commandment is charity,and God is love. Whatsoever things therefore God commands, whereof one is, Thou shall not commit adultery, and whatsoever things are not commanded; but by spiritual counsel advised, whereof is one, It is good for a man not to touch a woman, are then done aright, when they are referred to the love of God and of our neighbour for the sake of God, both in this world, and in that which is to come: now God by faith, then by sight, and our very neighbour now by faith. For we mortals know not the hearts of mortals, but then, the Lord shall bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the thoughts of the heart, and every man shall have praise of God: because that shall be praised and loved by one neighbour in another, which God Himself shall bring to light, that it be not hid. But lust decreases as charity increases, until it arrive here at such greatness, as that it cannot be greater. For greater love hath no man, than that a man lay down his life for his friends. But There who can unfold how great Charity will be, where shall be no lust for it even by restraining to overcome? since the greatest soundness shall be, when there shall be no strife of death.

But let this book at length come to an end, which you yourself will see to, whether you ought to call it, or to have it as, a Manual. But I judging your zeal in Christ not to be despised, believing and hoping good things of you with the help of our Redeemer, and loving you much in His members, have according to my ability, composed for you a book (I would it were as useful as it is long) concerning FAITH, HOPE, and CHARITY.



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Chicago: "St. Augustine," The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4 in The Library of Original Sources, ed. Oliver J. Thatcher (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: University Research Extension Co., 1907), 75–88. Original Sources, accessed December 1, 2022,

MLA: . "St. Augustine." The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4, in The Library of Original Sources, edited by Oliver J. Thatcher, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, University Research Extension Co., 1907, pp. 75–88. Original Sources. 1 Dec. 2022.

Harvard: , 'St. Augustine' in The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4. cited in 1907, The Library of Original Sources, ed. , University Research Extension Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, pp.75–88. Original Sources, retrieved 1 December 2022, from