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Chapter XXI.—What He Found in the Sacred Books Which are Not to Be Found in Plato.
27. Most eagerly, then, did I seize that venerable writing of Thy Spirit, but more especally the Apostle Paul;567567 Literally, “The venerable pen of Thy Spirit (Logos); words which would seem to imply a belief on Augustin’s part in a verbal inspiration of Scripture. That he gave Scripture the highest honour as God’s inspired word is clear not only from this, but other passages in his works. It is equally clear, however, that he gave full recognition to the human element in the word. See De Cons. Evang. ii. 12, where both these aspects are plainly discoverable. Compare also ibid. c. 24. and those difficulties vanished away, in which he at one time appeared to me to contradict himself, and the text of his discourse not to agree with the testimonies of the Law and the Prophets. And the face of that pure speech appeared to me one and the same; and I learned to “rejoice with trembling.”568568 Ps. ii. 11. So I commenced, and found that whatsoever truth I had there read was declared here with the recommendation of Thy grace; that he who sees may not so glory as if he had not received569569 l Cor. iv. 7. not only that which he sees, but also that he can see (for what hath he which he hath not received?); and that he may not only be admonished to see Thee, who art ever the same, but also may be healed, to hold Thee; and that he who from afar off is not able to see, may still walk on the way by which he may reach, behold, and possess Thee. For though a man “delight in the law of God after the inward man,”570570 Rom. vii. 22. what shall he do with that other law in his members which warreth against the law of his mind, and bringeth him into captivity to the law of sin, which is in his members?571571 Ibid. ver. 23. For Thou art righteous, O Lord, but we have sinned and committed iniquity, and have done wickedly,572572 Song of the Three Children, 4 sq. and Thy hand is grown heavy upon us, and we are justly delivered over unto that ancient sinner, the governor of death; for he induced our will to be like his will, whereby he remained not in Thy truth. What shall “wretched man” do? “Who shall deliver him from the body of this death,” but Thy grace only, “through Jesus ‘Christ our Lord,’”573573 Rom. vii. 24, 25. whom Thou hast begotten co-eternal, and createdst574574 Prov. viii. 22, as quoted from the old Italic version. It must not be understood to teach that the Lord is a creature. (1) Augustin, as indeed is implied in the Confessions above, understands the passage of the incarnation of Christ, and in his De Doct. Christ. i. 38, he distinctly so applies it: “For Christ…desiring to be Himself the Way to those who are just setting out, determined to take a fleshly body. Whence also that expression, ‘The Lord created me in the beginning of his Way,’—that is, that those who wish to come might begin their journey in Him.” Again, in a remarkable passage in his De Trin. i. 24, he makes a similar application of the words: “According to the form of a servant, it is said, ‘The Lord created me in the beginning of His ways.’ Because, according to the form of God, he said, ‘I am the Truth;’ and, according to the form of a servant, ‘I am the Way.’” (2) Again, creasti is from the LXX. ἔκτισε, which is that version’s rendering in this verse of the Hebrew קָנָנִי. The Vulgate, more correctly translating from the Hebrew, gives possedit, thus corresponding to our English version, “The Lord possessed me,” etc. The LXX. would appear to have made an erroneous rendering here, for κτίζω is generally in that version the equivalent for בָרָא, “to create,” while קָגָה is usually rendered by κτάομαι, “to possess,” “to acquire.” It is true that Gesenius supposes that in a few passages, and Prov. viii. 22 among them, קָנָה should be rendered “to create;” but these very passages our authorized version renders “to get,” or “to possess;” and, as Dr. Tregelles observes, referring to M’Call on the Divine Sonship, “in all passages cited for that sense, ‘to possess’ appears to be the true meaning.” in the begin115ning of Thy ways, in whom the Prince of this world found nothing worthy of death,575575 John xviii. 38. yet killed he Him, and the handwriting which was contrary to us was blotted out?576576 Col. ii. 14. This those writings contain not. Those pages contain not the expression of this piety,—the tears of confession, Thy sacrifice, a troubled spirit, “a broken and a contrite heart,”577577 Ps. li. 17. the salvation of the people, the espoused city,578578 Rev. xxi. 2. the earnest of the Holy Ghost,579579 2 Cor. v. 5. the cup of our redemption.580580 Ps. cxvi. 13. No man sings there, Shall not my soul be subject unto God? For of Him cometh my salvation, for He is my God and my salvation, my defender, I shall not be further moved.581581 Ps. lxii. 1, 2. No one there hears Him calling, “Come unto me all ye that labour.” They scorn to learn of Him, because He is meek and lowly of heart;582582 Matt. xi. 28, 29. for “Thou hast hid those things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.”583583 Matt. xi. 25. For it is one thing, from the mountain’s wooded summit to see the land of peace,584584 Deut. xxxii. 49. and not to find the way thither,—in vain to attempt impassable ways, opposed and waylaid by fugitives and deserters, under their captain the “lion”585585 1 Pet. v. 8. and the “dragon;”586586 Rev. xii. 3. and another to keep to the way that leads thither, guarded by the host of the heavenly general, where they rob not who have deserted the heavenly army, which they shun as torture. These things did in a wonderful manner sink into my bowels, when I read that “least of Thy apostles,”587587 1 Cor. xv. 9. In giving an account, remarks Pusey, of this period to his friend and patron Romanianus, St. Augustin seems to have blended together this and the history of his completed conversion, which was also wrought in connection with words in the same apostle, but the account of which he uniformly suppresses, for fear, probably, of injuring the individual to whom he was writing (see on book ix. sec. 4, note, below). “Since that vehement flame which was about to seize me as yet was not, I thought that by which I was slowly kindled was the very greatest. When lo! certain books, when they had distilled a very few drops of most precious unguent on that tiny flame, it is past belief, Romanianus, past belief, and perhaps past what even you believe of me (and what could I say more?), nay, to myself also is it past belief, what a conflagration of myself they lighted. What ambition, what human show, what empty love of fame, or, lastly, what incitement or band of this mortal life could hold me then? I turned speedily and wholly back into myself. I cast but a glance, I confess, as one passing on, upon that religion which was implanted into us as boys, and interwoven with our very inmost selves; but she drew me unknowing to herself. So then, stumbling, hurrying, hesitating, I seized the Apostle Paul; ‘for never,’ said I, ‘could they have wrought such things, or lived as it is plain they did live, if their writings and arguments were opposed to this so high good.’ I read the whole most intently and carefully. But then, never so little light having been shed thereon, such a countenance of wisdom gleamed upon me, that if I could exhibit it—I say not to you, who ever hungeredst after her, though unknown—but to your very adversary (see book vi. sec. 24, note, above), casting aside and abandoning whatever now stimulates him so keenly to whatsoever pleasures, he would, amazed, panting, enkindled, fly to her Beauty” (Con. Acad. ii. 5). and had reflected upon Thy works, and feared greatly.
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