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33

The Opinion of St. Augustin

Concerning His

Confessions, as Embodied in His Retractations, II. 6

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1. “The Thirteen Books of my Confessions whether they refer to my evil or good, praise the just and good God, and stimulate the heart and mind of man to approach unto Him. And, as far as pertaineth unto me, they wrought this in me when they were written, and this they work when they are read. What some think of them they may have seen, but that they have given much pleasure, and do give pleasure, to many brethren I know. From the First to the Tenth they have been written of myself; in the remaining three, of the Sacred Scriptures, from the text, ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,’ even to the rest of the Sabbath (Gen. i. 1, ii. 2).”

2. “In the Fourth Book, when I acknowledged the distress of my mind at the death of a friend, saying, that our soul, though one, had been in some manner made out of two; and therefore, I say, perchance was I afraid to die lest he should die wholly whom I had so much loved (chap. vi.);—this seems to me as if it were a light declamation rather than a grave confession, although this folly may in some sort be tempered by that ‘perchance’ which follows. And in the Thirteenth Book (chap. xxxii.) what I said, viz.: that the ‘firmament was made between the spiritual upper waters, and the corporeal lower waters,’ was said without due consideration; but the thing is very obscure.”

[In Ep. ad Darium, Ep. ccxxxi. c. 6, written a.d. 429, Augustin says: “Accept, my son, the books containing my Confessions which you desired to have. In these behold me that you may not praise me more than I deserve; there believe what is said of me, not by others, but by myself; there mark me, and see what I have been in myself, by myself; and if anything in me please you, join me in praising Him to whom, and not to myself, I desired praise to be given. For ‘He hath made us, and not we ourselves’ (Ps. l. 3). Indeed, we had destroyed ourselves, but He who made us has made us anew (qui fecit, refecit). When, however, you find me in these books, pray for me that I may not fail, but be perfected (ne deficiam, sed perficiar). Pray, my son, pray. I feel what I say; I know what I ask.”—P. S.]

[De Dono Perseverantiæ, c. 20 (53): “Which of my smaller works could be more widely known or give greater pleasure than my Confessions? And although I published them before the Pelagian heresy had come into existence, certainly in them I said to my God, and said it frequently, ‘Give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou willest’ (Conf. x. 29, 31, 37). Which words of mine, Pelagius at Rome, when they were mentioned in his presence by a certain brother and fellow-bishop of mine, could not bear.…Moreover in those same books…I showed that I was granted to the faithful and daily tears of my mother, that I should not perish. There certainly I declared that God by His grace converted the will of men to the true faith, not only when they had been turned away from it, but even when they were opposed to it.”—P. S.]

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