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Chapter III.—He Retires to the Villa of His Friend Verecundus, Who Was Not Yet a Christian, and Refers to His Conversion and Death, as Well as that of Nebridius.

5. Verecundus was wasted with anxiety at that our happiness, since he, being most firmly held by his bonds, saw that he would lose our fellowship. For he was not yet a Christian, though his wife was one of the faithful;702702    See vi. sec. 1, note, above. and yet hereby, being more firmly enchained than by anything else, was he held back from that journey which we had commenced. Nor, he declared, did he wish to be a Christian on any other terms than those that were impossible. However, he invited us most courteously to make use of his country house so long as we should stay there. Thou, O Lord, wilt “recompense” him for this “at the resurrection of the just,”703703    Luke xiv. 14. seeing that Thou hast already given him “the lot of the righteous.”704704    Ps. cxxv. 2. For although, when we were absent at Rome, he, being overtaken with bodily sickness, and therein being made a Christian, and one of the faithful, departed this life, yet hadst Thou mercy on him, and not on him only, but on us also;705705    Phil. ii. 27. lest, thinking on the exceeding kindness of our friend to us, and unable to count him in Thy flock, we should be tortured with intolerable grief. Thanks be unto Thee, our God, we are Thine. Thy exhortations, consolations, and faithful promises assure us that Thou now repayest Verecundus for that country house at Cassiacum, where from the fever of the world we found rest in Thee, with the perpetual freshness of Thy Paradise, in that Thou hast forgiven him his earthly sins, in that mountain flowing with milk,706706    Literally, In monte incaseato, “the mountain of curds,” from the Old Ver. of Ps. lxviii. 16. The Vulgate renders coagulatus. But the Authorized Version is nearer the true meaning, when it renders גַּבְנֻנִים, hunched, as “high.” The LXX. renders it τετυρωμένος, condensed, as if from גְּבִינָה, cheese. This divergence arises from the unused root גָּבַן, to be curved, having derivatives meaning (1) “hunch-backed,” when applied to the body, and (2) “cheese” or “curds,” when applied to milk. Augustin, in his exposition of this place, makes the “mountain” to be Christ, and parallels it with Isa. ii. 2; and the “milk” he interprets of the grace that comes from Him for Christ’s little ones: Ipse est mons incaseatus, propter parvulos gratia tanquam lacte nutriendos. that fruitful mountain,—Thine own.

6. He then was at that time full of grief; but Nebridius was joyous. Although he also, not being yet a Christian, had fallen into the pit of that most pernicious error of believing Thy Son to be a phantasm,707707    See. v. 16, note, above. yet, coming out thence, he 131held the same belief that we did; not as yet initiated in any of the sacraments of Thy Church, but a most earnest inquirer after truth.708708    See vi. 17, note 6, above. Whom, not long after our conversion and regeneration by Thy baptism, he being also a faithful member of the Catholic Church, and serving Thee in perfect chastity and continency amongst his own people in Africa, when his whole household had been brought to Christianity through him, didst Thou release from the flesh; and now he lives in Abraham’s bosom. Whatever that may be which is signified by that bosom,709709    Though Augustin, in his Quæst. Evang. ii. qu. 38, makes Abraham’s bosom to represent the rest into which the Gentiles entered after the Jews had put it from them, yet he, for the most part, in common with the early Church (see Serm. xiv. 3; Con. Faust. xxxiii. 5; and Eps. clxiv. 7, and clxxxvii. Compare also Tertullian, De Anima, lviii), takes it to mean the resting-place of the souls of the righteous after death. Abraham’s bosom, indeed, is the same as the “Paradise” of Luke xxiii. 43. The souls of the faithful after they are delivered from the flesh are in “joy and felicity” (De Civ. Dei, i. 13, and xiii. 19); but they will not have “their perfect consummation and bliss both in body and soul” until the morning of the resurrection, when they shall be endowed with “spiritual bodies.” See note p. 111; and for the difference between the ᾳδης of Luke xvi. 23, that is, the place of departed spirits,—into which it is said in the Apostles’ Creed Christ descended,—and γέεννα, or Hell, see Campbell on The Gospels, i. 253. In the A.V. both Greek words are rendered “Hell.” there lives my Nebridius, my sweet friend, Thy son, O Lord, adopted of a freedman; there he liveth. For what other place could there be for such a soul? There liveth he, concerning which he used to ask me much,—me, an inexperienced, feeble one. Now he puts not his ear unto my mouth, but his spiritual mouth unto Thy fountain, and drinketh as much as he is able, wisdom according to his desire,—happy without end. Nor do I believe that he is so inebriated with it as to forget me,710710    See sec. 37, note, below. seeing Thou, O Lord, whom he drinketh, art mindful of us. Thus, then, were we comforting the sorrowing Verecundus (our friendship being untouched) concerning our conversion, and exhorting him to a faith according to his condition, I mean, his married state. And tarrying for Nebridius to follow us, which being so near, he was just about to do, when, behold, those days passed over at last; for long and many they seemed, on account of my love of easeful liberty, that I might sing unto Thee from my very marrow. My heart said unto Thee,—I have sought Thy face; “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.”711711    Ps. xxvii. 8.


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