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, and baptized St Augustine into “the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Chapter 117. Love, Which is Greater Than Faith and Hope, is Shed Abroad in Our Hearts by the Holy Ghost.
And now as to love, which the apostle declares to be greater than the other two graces, that is, than faith and hope, the greater the measure in which it dwells in a man, the better is the man in whom it dwells. For when there is a question as to whether a man is good, one does not ask what he believes, or what he hopes, but what he loves. For the man who loves aright no doubt believes and hopes aright; whereas the man who has not love believes in vain, even though his beliefs are true; and hopes in vain, even though the objects of his hope are a real part of true happiness; unless, indeed, he believes and hopes for this, that he may obtain by prayer the blessing of love. For, although it is not possible to hope without love, it may yet happen that a man does not love that which is necessary to the attainment of his hope; as, for example, if he hopes for eternal life (and who is there that does not desire this?) and yet does not love righteousness, without which no one can attain to eternal life. Now this is the true faith of Christ which the apostle speaks of, which works by love; and if there is anything that it does not yet embrace in its love, asks that it may receive, seeks that it may find, and knocks that it may be opened unto it. For faith obtains through prayer that which the law commands. For without the gift of God, that is, without the Holy Ghost, through whom love is shed abroad in our hearts, the law can command, but it cannot assist; and, moreover, it makes a man a transgressor, for he can no longer excuse himself on the plea of ignorance. Now carnal lust reigns where there is not the love of God.
Chapter 118. The Four Stages of the Christian’s Life, and the Four Corresponding Stages of the Church’s History.
When, sunk in the darkest depths of ignorance, man lives according to the flesh undisturbed by any struggle of reason or conscience, this is his first state. Afterwards, when through the law has come the knowledge of sin, and the Spirit of God has not yet interposed His aid, man, striving to live according to the law, is thwarted in his efforts and falls into conscious sin, and so, being overcome of sin, becomes its slave (for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage); and thus the effect produced by the knowledge of the commandment is this, that sin works in man all manner of concupiscence, and he is involved in the additional guilt of willful transgression, and that is fulfilled which is written: The, law entered that the offense might abound. This is man’s second state. But if God has regard to him, and inspires him with faith in God’s help, and the Spirit of God begins to work in him, then the mightier power of love strives against the power of the flesh; and although there is still in the man’s own nature a power that fights against him (for his disease is not completely cured), yet he lives the life of the just by faith, and lives in righteousness so far as he does not yield to evil lust, but conquers it by the love of holiness. This is the third state of a man of good hope; and he who by steadfast piety advances in this course, shall attain at last to peace, that peace which, after this life is over, shall be perfected in the repose of the spirit, and finally in the resurrection of the body. Of these four different stages the first is before the law, the second is under the law, the third is under grace, and the fourth is in full and perfect peace. Thus, too, has the history of God’s people been ordered according to His pleasure who disposes all things in number, and measure, and weight. For the church existed eat first before the law; then under the law, which was given by Moses; then under grace, which was first made manifest in the coming of the Mediator. Not, indeed, that this grace was absent previously, but, in harmony with the arrangements of the time, it was veiled and hidden. For none, even of the just men of old, could find salvation apart from the faith of Christ; nor unless He had been known to them could their ministry have been used to convey prophecies concerning Him to us, some more plain, and some more obscure.
Chapter 119. The Grace of Regeneration Washes Away All Past Sin and All Original Guilt.
Now in whichever of these four stages (as we may call them) the grace of regeneration finds any particular man, all his past sins are there and then pardoned, and the guilt which he contracted in his birth is removed in his new birth; and so true is it that the wind blows where it lists, that some have never known the second stage, that of slavery under the law, but have received the divine assistance as soon as they received the commandment.
Chapter 120. Death Cannot Injure Those Who Have Received the Grace of Regeneration.
But before a man can receive the commandment, it is necessary that he should live according to the flesh. But if once he has received the grace of regeneration, death shall not injure him, even if he should immediately depart from this life; for to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and the living; nor shall death retain dominion over him for whom Christ freely died.
Chapter 121. Love is the End of All the Commandments, and God Himself is Love.
All the commandments of God, then, are embraced in love, of which the apostle says: “Now the end of the commandment is charity, out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” (1Tim1:5). Thus the end of every commandment is charity, that is, every commandment has love for its aim. But whatever is done either through fear of punishment or from some other carnal motive, and has not for its principle that love which the Spirit of God sheds abroad in the heart, is not done as it ought to be done, however it may appear to men. For this love embraces both the love of God and the love of our neighbor, and on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets, we may add the Gospel and the apostles For it is from these that we hear this voice: The end of the commandment is CHARITY, and God is Love. Wherefore, all God’s commandments, one of which is, You shall not commit adultery, and all those precepts which are not commandments but special counsels, one of which is, It is good for a man not to touch a woman, are rightly carried out only when the motive principle of action is the love of God, and the love of our neighbor in God. And this applies both to the present and the future life. We love God now by faith, then we shall love Him through sight. Now we love even our neighbor by faith; for we who are ourselves mortal know not the hearts of mortal men. But in the future life, the Lord both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then shall every man have praise of God; for every man shall love and praise in his neighbor the virtue which, that it may not be hid, the Lord Himself shall bring to light. Moreover, lust diminishes as love grows, till the latter grows to such a height that it can grow no higher here. “For greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn15:13) Who then can tell how great love shall be in the future world, when there shall be no lust for it to restrain and conquer? For that will be the perfection of health when there shall be no struggle with death.
Chapter 122. Conclusion.
But now there must be an end at last to this volume. And it is for yourself to judge whether you should call it a hand-book, or should use it as such. I, however, thinking that your zeal in Christ ought not to be despised, and believing and hoping all good of you in dependence on our Redeemer’s help, and loving you very much as one of the members of His body, have, to the best of my ability, written this book for you on Faith, Hope, and Love. May its value be equal to its length.