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Chapter 7.—The Knowledge of God to Be Obtained from the Scripture.  The Plan and Principal Mysteries of the Divine Scheme of Redemption.

11.  But how can we follow after Him whom we do not see? or how can we see Him, we who are not only men, but also men of weak understanding?  For though God is seen not with the eyes but with the mind, where can such a mind be found as shall, while obscured by foolishness, succeed or even attempt to drink in that light?  We must therefore have recourse to the instructions of those whom we have reason to think wise.  Thus far argument brings us.  For in human things reasoning is employed, not as of greater certainty, but as easier from use.  But when we come to divine things, this faculty turns away; it cannot behold; it pants, and gasps, and burns with desire; it falls back from the light of truth, and turns again to its wonted obscurity, not from choice, but from exhaustion.  What a dreadful catastrophe is this, that the soul should be reduced to greater helplessness when it is seeking rest from its toil!  So, when we are hasting to retire into darkness, it will be well that by the appointment of adorable Wisdom we should be met by the friendly shade of authority, and should be attracted by the wonderful character of its contents, and by the utterances of its pages, which, like shadows, typify and attemper the truth.

12.  What more could have been done for our salvation?  What can be more gracious and bountiful than divine providence, which, when man had fallen from its laws, and, in just retribution for his coveting mortal things, had brought forth a mortal offspring, still did not wholly abandon him?  For in this most righteous government, whose ways are strange and inscrutable, there is, by means of unknown connections established in the creatures subject to it, both a severity of punishment and a mercifulness of salvation.  How beautiful this is, how great, how worthy of God, in fine, how true, which is all we are seeking for, we shall never be able to perceive, unless, beginning with things human and at hand, and holding by the faith and the precepts of true religion, we continue without turning from it in the way which God has secured for us by the separation of the patriarchs, by the bond of the law, by the foresight of the prophets, by the witness of the apostles, by the blood of the martyrs, and by the subjugation of the Gentiles.  From this point, then, let no one ask me for my opinion, but let us rather hear the oracles, and submit our weak inferences to the announcements of Heaven.4848     [Augustin’s transition from his fine Platonizing discussion of virtue, the chief good, etc., to the patriarchs, the law, and the prophets is very fine rhetorically and apologetically.—A.H.N.]


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