Theological Virtues Per St Augustine, Doctor of the Church, Bishop of Hippo (354-430AD)
Source. Translated by J.F. Shaw. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1302.htm>. editorials and art by CityofGod.blog.The author usually calls the book On Faith, Hope and Love, 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.
Faith cont. (chapters 68-77)
Chapter 68. The True Sense of the Passage (1 Corinthians 3:11-15) About Those Who are Saved, Yet So as by Fire.
But as these most plain and unmistakable declarations of the apostles cannot be false,
that obscure saying about those who build upon the foundation, Christ, not gold, silver, and precious stones, but wood, hay, and stubble (for it is these who, it is said, shall be saved, yet so as by fire, the merit of the foundation saving them ), must be so interpreted as not to conflict with the plain statements quoted above. Now wood, hay, and stubble may, without incongruity, be understood to signify such an attachment to worldly things, however lawful these may be in themselves, that they cannot be lost without grief of mind. And though this grief burns, yet if Christ hold the place of foundation in the heart — that is, if nothing be preferred to Him, and if the man, though burning with grief, is yet more willing to lose the things he loves so much than to lose Christ, — he is saved by fire. If, however, in time of temptation, he prefer to hold by temporal and earthly things rather than by Christ, he has not Christ as his foundation; for he puts earthly things in the first place, and in a building nothing comes before the foundation. Again, the fire of which the apostle speaks in this place must be such a fire as both men are made to pass through, that is, both the man who builds upon the foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, and the man who builds wood, hay, stubble. For he immediately adds: The fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. The fire then shall prove, not the work of one of them only, but of both. Now the trial of adversity is a kind of fire which is plainly spoken of in another place: The furnace proves the potter’s vessels: and the furnace of adversity just men. And this fire does in the course of this life act exactly in the way the apostle says. If it come into contact with two believers, one caring for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord, that is, building upon Christ the foundation, gold, silver, precious stones; the other caring for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife, that is, building upon the same foundation wood, hay, stubble — the work of the former is not burned, because he has not given his love to things whose loss can cause him grief; but the work of the latter is burned, because things that are enjoyed with desire cannot be lost without pain. But since, by our supposition, even the latter prefers to lose these things rather than to lose Christ, and since he does not desert Christ out of fear of losing them, though he is grieved when he does lose them, he is saved, but it is so as by fire; because the grief for what he loved and has lost burns him. But it does not subvert nor consume him; for he is protected by his immovable and incorruptible foundation.
Chapter 69. It is Not Impossible that Some Believers May Pass Through a Purgatorial Fire in the Future Life.
And it is not impossible that something of the same kind may take place even after this life. It is a matter that may be inquired into, and either ascertained or left doubtful, whether some believers shall pass through a kind of purgatorial fire, and in proportion as they have loved with more or less devotion the goods that perish, be less or more quickly delivered from it. This cannot, however, be the case of any of those of whom it is said, that they shall not inherit the kingdom of God, unless after suitable repentance their sins be forgiven them. When I say suitable, I mean that they are not to be unfruitful in almsgiving; for Holy Scripture lays so much stress on this virtue, that our Lord tells us beforehand, that He will ascribe no merit to those on His right hand but that they abound in it, and no defect to those on His left hand but their want of it, when He shall say to the former, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom, and to the latter, Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire. (Mt25:41)
Chapter 70. Almsgiving Will Not Atone for Sin Unless the Life Be Changed.
We must beware, however, lest any one should suppose that gross sins, such as are committed by those who shall not inherit the kingdom of God, may be daily perpetrated, and daily atoned for by almsgiving. The life must be changed for the better; and almsgiving must be used to propitiate God for past sins, not to purchase impunity for the commission of such sins in the future. For He has given no man license to sin, although in His mercy He may blot out sins that are already committed, if we do not neglect to make proper satisfaction.
Chapter 71. The Daily Prayer of the Believer Makes Satisfaction for the Trivial Sins that Daily Stain His Life.
Now the daily prayer of the believer makes satisfaction for those daily sins of a momentary and trivial kind which are necessary incidents of this life. For he can say, Our Father which art in heaven, seeing that to such a Father he is now born again of water and of the Spirit. And this prayer certainly takes away the very small sins of daily life. It takes away also those which at one time made the life of the believer very wicked, but which, now that he is changed for the better by repentance, he has given up, provided that as truly as he says, Forgive us our debts (for there is no want of debts to be forgiven), so truly does he say, as we forgive our debtors; that is, provided he does what he says he does: for to forgive a man who asks for pardon, is really to give alms.
Chapter 72. There are Many Kinds of Alms, the Giving of Which Assists to Procure Pardon for Our Sins.
And on this principle of interpretation, our Lord’s saying, Give alms of such things as you have, and, behold, all things are clean unto you, (Lk11:41), applies to every useful act that a man does in mercy. Not only, then, the man who gives food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, hospitality to the stranger, shelter to the fugitive, who visits the sick and the imprisoned, ransoms the captive, assists the weak, leads the blind, comforts the sorrowful, heals the sick, puts the wanderer on the right path, gives advice to the perplexed, and supplies the wants of the needy, — not this man only, but the man who pardons the sinner also gives alms; and the man who corrects with blows, or restrains by any kind of discipline one over whom he has power, and who at the same time forgives from the heart the sin by which he was injured, or prays that it may be forgiven, is also a giver of alms not only in that he forgives, or prays for forgiveness for the sin, but also in that he rebukes and corrects the sinner: for in this, too, he shows mercy. Now much good is bestowed upon unwilling recipients, when their advantage and not their pleasure is consulted; and they themselves frequently prove to be their own enemies, while their friends are those whom they take for their enemies, and to whom in their blindness they return evil for good. (A Christian, indeed, is not permitted to return evil even for evil.) And thus there are many kinds of alms, by giving of which we assist to procure the pardon of our sins.
Chapter 73. The Greatest of All Alms is to Forgive Our Debtors and to Love Our Enemies.
But none of those is greater than to forgive from the heart a sin that has been committed against us. For it is a comparatively small thing to wish well to, or even to do good to, a man who has done no evil to you. It is a much higher thing, and is the result of the most exalted goodness, to love your enemy, and always to wish well to, and when you have the opportunity, to do good to, the man who wishes you ill, and, when he can, does you harm. This is to obey the command of God: Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which persecute you. (Mt5:44). But seeing that this is a frame of mind only reached by the perfect sons of God, and that though every believer ought to strive after it, and by prayer to God and earnest struggling with himself endeavor to bring his soul up to this standard, yet a degree of goodness so high can hardly belong to so great a multitude as we believe are heard when they use this petition, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; (Mt6:12) in view of all this, it cannot be doubted that the implied undertaking is fulfilled if a man, though he has not yet attained to loving his enemy, yet, when asked by one who has sinned against him to forgive him his sin, does forgive him from his heart. For he certainly desires to be himself forgiven when he prays, as we forgive our debtors, (Mt6:12) that is,
” Forgive us our debts when we beg forgiveness, as we forgive our debtors when they beg forgiveness from us.” Augustine.
Chapter 74. God Does Not Pardon the Sins of Those Who Do Not from the Heart Forgive Others.
Now, he who asks forgiveness of the man against whom he has sinned, being moved by his sin to ask forgiveness, cannot be counted an enemy in such a sense that it should be as difficult to love him now as it was when he was engaged in active hostility. And the man who does not from his heart forgive him who repents of his sin, and asks forgiveness, need not suppose that his own sins are forgiven of God. For the Truth cannot lie. And what reader or hearer of the Gospel can have failed to notice, that the same person who said, I am the Truth, taught us also this form of prayer; and in order to impress this particular petition deeply upon our minds, said, For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; (Mt6:14); but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses? (Mt6:15); (mk11:26) The man whom the thunder of this warning does not awaken is not asleep, but dead; and yet so powerful is that voice, that it can awaken even the dead.
Chapter 75. The Wicked and the Unbelieving are Not Made Clean by the Giving of Alms, Except They Be Born Again.
Assuredly, then, those who live in gross wickedness, and take no care to reform their lives and manners, and yet amid all their crimes and vices do not cease to give frequent alms, in vain take comfort to themselves from the saying of our Lord: Give alms of such things as you have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. For they do not understand how far this saying reaches. But that they may understand this, let them hear what He says. For we read in the Gospel as follows: And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee besought Him to dine with him; and He went in, and sat down to meat. And when the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner. And the Lord said to him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness You fools, did not he that made that which is without, make that which is within also? But rather give alms of such things as you have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. (Lk11:40-41). Are we to understand this as meaning that to the Pharisee who have not the faith of Christ all things are clean, if only they give alms in the way these men count almsgiving, even though they have never believed, in Christ, nor been born again of water and of the Spirit? But the fact is, that all are unclean who are not made clean by the faith of Christ, according to the expression, purifying their hearts by faith; and that the apostle says, Unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. How, then, could all things be clean to the Pharisees, even though they gave alms, if they were not believers? And how could they be believers if they were not willing to have faith in Christ, and to be born again of His grace? And yet what they heard is true: Give alms of such things as you have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you.
Chapter 76. To Give Alms Aright, We Should Begin with Ourselves, and Have Pity Upon Our Own Souls.
For the man who wishes to give aims as he ought, should begin with himself, and give to himself first. For almsgiving is a work of mercy; and most truly is it said, To have mercy on your soul is pleasing to God. And for this end are we born again, that we should be pleasing to God, who is justly displeased with that which we brought with us when we were born. This is our first alms, which we give to ourselves when, through the mercy of a pitying God, we find that we are ourselves wretched, and confess the justice of His judgment by which we are made wretched, of which the apostle says, The judgment was by one to condemnation; and praise the greatness of His love, of which the same preacher of grace says, “God commends His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”( Rom5:8): and thus judging truly of our own misery, and loving God with the love which He has Himself bestowed, we lead a holy and virtuous life. But the Pharisees, while they gave as alms the tithe of all their fruits, even the most insignificant, passed over judgment and the love of God, and so did not commence their almsgiving at home, and extend their pity to themselves in the first instance. And it is in reference to this order of love that it is said, Love your neighbor as yourself. When, then, our Lord had rebuked them because they made themselves clean on the outside, but within were full of ravening and wickedness, He advised them, in the exercise of that charity which each man owes to himself in the first instance, to make clean the inward parts. But rather, He says, “give alms of such things as you have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you.”(Lk11:41). Then, to show what it was that He advised, and what they took no pains to do, and to show that He did not overlook or forget their almsgiving, But woe unto you, Pharisees! He says; as if He meant to say: I indeed advise you to give alms which shall make all things clean unto you; but woe unto you! For you tithe mint, and rue, and all manner of herbs; as if He meant to say: I know these alms of yours, and you need not think that I am now admonishing you in respect of such things; and pass over judgment and the love of God, an alms by which you might have been made clean from all inward impurity, so that even the bodies which you are now washing would have been clean to you. For this is the import of all things, both inward and outward things, as we read in another place: “Cleanse first that which is within, that the outside may be clean also.” (Mt23:26). But lest He might appear to despise the alms which they were giving out of the fruits of the earth, He says: These ought ye to have done, referring to judgment and the love of God, and not to leave the other undone, referring to the giving of the tithes.
Chapter 77. If We Would Give Alms to Ourselves, We Must Flee Iniquity; For He Who Loves Iniquity Hates His Soul.
Those, then, who think that they can by giving alms, however profuse, whether in money or in kind, purchase for themselves the privilege of persisting with impunity in their monstrous crimes and hideous vices, need not thus deceive themselves. For not only do they commit these sins, but they love them so much that they would like to go on forever committing them, if only they could do so with impunity.
Now, he who loves iniquity hates his own soul; and he who hates his own soul is not merciful but cruel towards it. For in loving it according to the world, he hates it according to God.
But if he desired to give alms to it which should make all things clean unto him, he would hates it according to the world, and love it according to God. Now no one gives alms unless he receive what he gives from one who is not in want of it. Therefore it is said, His mercy shall meet me. (Ps59:10)
CityofGod.blog This concludes Day 10. Faith Hope & Charity