Theological Virtues Per St Augustine, Doctor of the Church, Bishop of Hippo (354-430AD)
The Enchiridion, or Handbook, is addressed to Laurentius, in answer to his questions. One manuscript calls him a deacon, another a notary of the city of Rome. St. Augustine wrote it sometime after the death of Jerome (September 30, 420), for he alludes in Chapter 87 to Jerome of blessed memory. St Jerome is one of four Doctors of the Church in this age.
St. Augustine speaks of this book in his Retractations, l. ii. c. 63, as follows: I also wrote a book on Faith, Hope, and Charity, at the request of the person to whom I addressed it, that he might have a work of mine which should never be out of his hands, such as the Greeks call an Enchiridion(Handbook). There I think I have pretty carefully treated of the manner in which God is to be worshiped, which knowledge Sacred Scripture defines to be the true wisdom of man. The book begins: ‘I cannot express,’ etc.
The author usually calls the book On Faith, Hope and Charity, because he treats the subject under these three heads cf. (1Cor13:13). He follows under the first head the order of the Apostles’ Creed, and refutes, without naming them, the Manichaan, Apollinarian, Arian,the and Pelagian heresies. Under the second head he gives a brief exposition of the Lord’s Prayer. The third part is a discourse on Christian Charity.
naming them, the Manichaan, Apollinarian, Arian,the and Pelagian heresies. Under the second head he gives a brief exposition of the Lord’s Prayer. The third part is a discourse on Christian Charity.
Chapter 9. What We are to Believe. – In Regard to Nature It is Not Necessary for the Christian to Know More Than that the Goodness of the Creator is the Cause of All Things.
When, then, the question is asked what we are to believe in regard to religion, it is not necessary to probe into the nature of things, as was done by those whom the Greeks call physici; nor need we be in alarm lest the Christian should be ignorant of the force and number of the elements — the motion, and order, and eclipses of the heavenly bodies; the form of the heavens; the species and the natures of animals, plants, stones, fountains, rivers, mountains; about chronology and distances; the signs of coming storms; and a thousand other things which those philosophers either have found out, or think they have found out. For even these men themselves, endowed though they are with so much genius, burning with zeal, abounding in leisure, tracking some things by the aid of human conjecture, searching into others with the aids of history and experience, have not found out all things; and even their boasted discoveries are oftener mere guesses than certain knowledge. It is enough for the Christian to believe that the only cause of all created things, whether heavenly or earthly, whether visible or invisible, is the goodness of the Creator the one true God; and that nothing exists but Himself that does not derive its existence from Him; and that He is the Trinity — to wit, the Father, and the Son begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeding from the same Father, but one and the same Spirit of Father and Son.
Chapter 10. The Supremely Good Creator Made All Things Good.
By the Trinity, thus supremely and equally and UN-changeably good, all things were created; and these are not supremely and equally and UN-changeably good, but yet they are good, even taken separately. Taken as a whole, however, they are very good, because their ensemble constitutes the universe in all its wonderful order and beauty.
Chapter 11. What is Called Evil in the Universe is But the Absence of Good.
And in the universe, even that which is called evil, when it is regulated and put in its own place, only enhances our admiration of the good; for we enjoy and value the good more when we compare it with the evil. For the Almighty God, who, as even the heathen acknowledge, has supreme power over all things, being Himself supremely good, would never permit the existence of anything evil among His works, if He were not so omnipotent and good that He can bring good even out of evil. For what is that which we call evil but the absence of good? In the bodies of animals, disease and wounds mean nothing but the absence of health; for when a cure is effected, that does not mean that the evils which were present — namely, the diseases and wounds — go away from the body and dwell elsewhere: they altogether cease to exist; for the wound or disease is not a substance, but a defect in the fleshly substance, — the flesh itself being a substance, and therefore something good, of which those evils — that is, privations of the good which we call health — are accidents. Just in the same way, what are called vices in the soul are nothing but privations of natural good. And when they are cured, they are not transferred elsewhere: when they cease to exist in the healthy soul, they cannot exist anywhere else.
Chapter 12. All Beings Were Made Good, But Not Being Made Perfectly Good, are Liable to Corruption.
All things that exist, therefore, seeing that the Creator of them all is supremely good, are themselves good. But because they are not, like their Creator, supremely and unchangeably good, their good may be diminished and increased. But for good to be diminished is an evil, although, however much it may be diminished, it is necessary, if the being is to continue, that some good should remain to constitute the being. For however small or of whatever kind the being may be, the good which makes it a being cannot be destroyed without destroying the being itself. An uncorrupted nature is justly held in esteem. But if, still further, it be incorruptible, it is undoubtedly considered of still higher value. When it is corrupted, however, its corruption is an evil, because it is deprived of some sort of good. For if it be deprived of no good, it receives no injury; but it does receive injury, therefore it is deprived of good. Therefore, so long as a being is in process of corruption, there is in it some good of which it is being deprived; and if a part of the being should remain which cannot be corrupted, this will certainly be an incorruptible being, and accordingly the process of corruption will result in the manifestation of this great good. But if it do not cease to be corrupted, neither can it cease to possess good of which corruption may deprive it. But if it should be thoroughly and completely consumed by corruption, there will then be no good left, because there will be no being. Wherefore corruption can consume the good only by consuming the being. Every being, therefore, is a good; a great good, if it can not be corrupted; a little good, if it can: but in any case, only the foolish or ignorant will deny that it is a good. And if it be wholly consumed by corruption, then the corruption itself must cease to exist, as there is no being left in which it can dwell.
Chapter 13. There Can Be No Evil Where There is No Good; And an Evil Man is an Evil Good.
Accordingly, there is nothing of what we call evil, if there be nothing good. But a good which is wholly without evil is a perfect good. A good, on the other hand, which contains evil is a faulty or imperfect good; and there can be no evil, where there is no good. From all this we arrive at the curious result: that since every being, so far as it is a being, is good, when we say that a faulty being is an evil, being, we just seem to say that what is evil, and that nothing but what is good can be evil, seeing that every being is good, and that no evil, can exist except in a being. Nothing, then, can be evil except something which is good. And although this, when stated, seems to be a contradiction, yet the strictness of reasoning leaves us no escape from the conclusion. We must, however, beware of incurring the prophetic condemnation: Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil: that put darkness for light, and light for darkness: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. And yet our Lord says: An evil, man out of the evil, treasure of his heart brings forth that which is evil. Now, what is evil, man but an evil, being? For a man is a being. Now, if a man is a good thing because he is a being, what is an evil man but an evil good? Yet, when we accurately distinguish these two things, we find that it is not because he is a man that he is an evil, or because he is wicked that he is a good; but that he is a good because he is a man and an evil because he is wicked. Whoever, then, says, To be a man is an evil, or, To be wicked is a good, falls under the prophetic denunciation: Woe unto them that call evil, good, and good evil! For he condemns the work of God, which is the man, and praises the defect of man. which is the wickedness Therefore every being, even if it be a defective one, in so far as it is a being is good, and in so far as it is defective is evil.
Chapter 14. Good and Evil are an Exception to the Rule that Contrary Attributes Cannot Be Predicated of the Same Subject. Evil Springs Up in What is Good, and Cannot Exist Except in What is Good.
Accordingly, in the case of these contraries which we call good and evil the rule of theologians, that two contraries cannot be predicated at the same time of the same thing, does not hold. No weather is at the same time dark and bright: no food or drink is at the same time sweet and bitter: no body is at the same time and in the same place black and white: none is at the same time and in the same place deformed and beautiful. And this rule is found to hold in regard to many, indeed nearly all, contraries, that they cannot exist at the same time in any one thing. But although no one can doubt that good and evil are contraries, not only can they exist at the same time, but evil cannot exist without good, or in anything that is not good. Good, however, can exist without evil. For a man or an angel can exist without being wicked; but nothing can be wicked except a man or an angel: and so far as he is a man or an angel, he is good; so far as he is wicked, he is an evil. And these two contraries are so far co-existent, that if good did not exist in what is evil, neither could evil exist; because corruption could not have either a place to dwell in, or a source to spring from, if there were nothing that could be corrupted; and nothing can be corrupted except what is good, for corruption is nothing else but the destruction of good. From what is good, then, evils arose, and except in what is good they do not exist; nor was there any other source from which any evil nature could arise. For if there were, then, in so far as this was a being, it was certainly a good: and a being which was incorruptible would be a great good; and even one which was corruptible must be to some extent a good, for only by corrupting what was good in it could corruption do it harm.
Chapter 15. The Preceding Argument is in No Wise Inconsistent with the Saying of Our Lord: A Good Tree Cannot Bring Forth Evil Fruit.
But when we say that evil springs out of good, let it not be thought that this contradicts our Lord’s saying: A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. For, as He who is the Truth says, you cannot gather grapes of thorns, because grapes do not grow on thorns. But we see that on good soil both vines and thorns may be grown. And in the same way, just as an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit, so an evil will cannot produce good works. But from the nature of man, which is good,may spring either a good or an evil will. And certainly there was at first no source from which an evil will could spring, except the nature of angel or of man, which was good. And our Lord Himself clearly shows this in the very same place where He speaks about the tree and its fruit. For He says: Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt, — clearly enough warning us that evil fruits do not grow on a good tree, nor good fruits on an evil tree; but that nevertheless the ground itself, by which He meant those whom He was then addressing, might grow either kind of trees.
Chapter 16. It is Not Essential to Man’s Happiness that He Should Know the Causes of Physical Convulsions; But It Is, that He Should Know the Causes of Good and Evil.
Now, in view of these considerations, when we are pleased with that line of Maro, Happy the man who has attained to the know of the causes of things, we should not suppose that it is necessary to happiness to know the causes of the great physical convulsions, causes which lie hidden in the most secret recesses of nature’s kingdom, whence comes the earthquake whose force makes the deep seas to swell and burst their barriers, and again to return upon themselves and settle down. But we ought to know the causes of good and evil as far as man may in this life know them, in order to avoid the mistakes and troubles of which this life is so full. For our aim must always be to reach that state of happiness in which no trouble shall distress us, and no error mislead us. If we must know the causes of physical convulsions, there are none which it concerns us more to know than those which affect our own health. But seeing that, in our ignorance of these, we are fain to resort to physicians, it would seem that we might bear with considerable patience our ignorance of the secrets that lie hidden in the earth and heavens.
CityofGod.blog This concludes day 2 on our devotion for knowledge on “Faith Hope and Charity”, Let us pray; Jesus we earnestly seek to receive an increase in grace through Mary, our Mother, Queen of Sorrows – “Hail Mary full of Grace…and ask Doctor Augustine to pray with us & for his understanding on his writings.