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Letter CLXXII.

(a.d. 416.)

To Augustin, My Truly Pious Lord and Father, Worthy of My Utmost Affection and Veneration, Jerome Sends Greeting in Christ.

1. That honourable man, my brother, and your Excellency’s son, the presbyter Orosius, I have, both on his own account and in obedience to your request, made welcome. But a most trying time has come upon us,28082808    The allusion is probably to the acquittal of Pelagius in 415 by the Council of Diospolis (or Lydda, a place between Joppa and Jerusalem). Augustin viewed this Council’s decisions more favourably than Jerome, who denounces it without measure as a pitiful assembly, which allowed itself to be imposed upon by the evasions and feigned recantation of Pelagius; to this he makes reference in the concluding sentence of this paragraph. in which I have found it better for me to hold my peace than to speak, so that our studies have ceased, lest what Appius calls “the eloquence of dogs” should be provoked into exercise.28092809    We adopt here the reading found in Letter CCII. bis, sec. 3, where this sentence is quoted by Augustin in writing to Optatus, and we have “ne (instead of et) juxta Appium canina facundia exerceretur.” On the phrase “canina facundia,” see Lactantius, book vi. ch. 18. For this reason I have not been able at the present time to give to those two books dedicated to my name—books of profound erudition, and brilliant with every charm of splendid eloquence—the answer which I would otherwise have given; not that I think anything said in them demands correction, but because I am mindful of the words of the blessed apostle in regard to the variety of men’s judgments, “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”28102810    Rom. xiv. 5. Translated by Jerome: “Unusquisque in suo sensu abundet.” Certainly, whatever can be said on the topics there discussed, and whatever can be drawn by commanding genius from the fountain of sacred Scripture regarding them, has been in these letters stated in your positions, and illustrated by your arguments. But I beg your Reverence to allow me for a little to praise your genius. For in any discussion between us, the object aimed at by both of us is advancement in learning. But our rivals, and especially heretics, if they see different opinions maintained by us, will assail us with the calumny that our differences are due to mutual jealousy. For my part, however, I am resolved to love you, to look up to you, to reverence and admire you, and to defend your opinions as my own. I have also in a dialogue, which I recently published, made allusion to your Blessedness in suitable terms. Be it ours, therefore, rather to rid the Church of that most pernicious heresy which always feigns repentance, in order that it may have liberty to teach in our churches, and may not be expelled and extinguished, as it would be if it disclosed its real character in the light of day.

2. Your pious and venerable daughters, Eusto544chium and Paula, continue to walk worthy of their own birth and of your counsels, and they send special salutations to your Blessedness: in which they are joined by the whole brotherhood of those who with us labour to serve the Lord our Saviour. As for the holy presbyter Firmus, we sent him last year to go on business of Eustochium and Paula, first to Ravenna, and afterwards to Africa and Sicily, and we suppose that he is now detained somewhere in Africa. I beseech you to present my respectful salutations to the saints who are associated with you. I have also sent to your care a letter from me to the holy presbyter Firmus; if it reaches you, I beg you to take the trouble of forwarding it to him. May Christ the Lord keep you in safety, and mindful of me, my truly pious lord and most blessed father.

(As a postscript.) We suffer in this province from a grievous scarcity of clerks acquainted with the Latin language; this is the reason why we are not able to comply with your instructions, especially in regard to that version of the Septuagint which is furnished with distinctive asterisks and obelisks;28112811    Jerome probably alludes here to Augustin’s request in Letter LXXI., sec. 3, 4; Letters, pp. 326, 327. for we have lost, through some one’s dishonesty, the most of the results of our earlier labour.

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