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Chapter 29.—Of the Authority of the Scriptures.

59.  Attend, then, ye Manichæans, if perchance there are some of you of whom your superstition has hold so as to allow you yet to escape.  Attend, I say, without obstinacy, without the desire to oppose, otherwise your decision will be fatal to yourselves.  No one can doubt, and you are not so lost to the truth as not to understand that if it is good, as all allow, to love God and our neighbor, whatever hangs on these two precepts cannot rightly be pronounced bad.  What it is that hangs on them it would be absurd to think of learning from me.  Hear Christ Himself; hear Christ, I say; hear the Wisdom of God:  "On these two commandments," He says, "hang all the law and the prophets."133133     Matt. xxii. 40.

60.  What can the most shameless obstinacy say to this?  That these are not Christ’s words?  But they are written in the Gospel as His words.  That the writing is false?  Is not this most profane blasphemy?  Is it not most presumptuous to speak thus?  Is it not most foolhardy?  Is it not most criminal?  The worshippers of idols, who hate even the name of Christ, never dared to speak thus against these Scriptures.  For the utter overthrow of all literature will follow, and there will be an end to all books handed down from the past, if what is supported by such a strong popular belief and established by the uniform testimony of so many men and so many times, is brought into such suspicion, that it is not allowed to have the credit and the authority of common history.  In fine, what can you quote from any writings of which I may not speak in this way if it is quoted against my opinion and my purpose?134134     [The strong testimony borne by Augustin against the perverse subjective criticism of the Manichæns has an important application to the present time.—A.H.N.]

61.  And is it not intolerable that they forbid us to believe a book widely known and placed now in the hands of all, while they insist on our believing the book which they quote?  If any writing is to be suspected, what should be more so than one which has not merited notoriety, or which may be throughout a forgery, bearing a false name?  If you force such a writing on me against my will, and make a display of authority to drive me into belief, shall I, when I have a writing which I see spread far and wide for a length of time, and sanctioned by the concordant testimony of churches scattered over all the world, degrade myself by doubting, and, worse degradation, by doubting at your suggestion?  Even if you brought forward other readings, I should not receive them unless supported by general agreement; and this being the case, do you think that now, when you bring forward nothing to compare with the text except your own silly and inconsiderate statement, mankind are so unreasonable and so forsaken by divine Providence as to prefer to those Scriptures not others quoted by you in refutation, but merely your own words?  You ought to bring forward another manuscript with the same contents, but incorrupt and more correct, with only the passage wanting which you charge with being spurious.  For example, if you hold that the Epistle of Paul to the Romans is spurious, you must bring forward another incorrupt, or rather another manuscript with the same epistle of the same apostle, free from error and corruption.  You say you will not, lest you be suspected of corrupting it.  This is your usual reply, and a true one.  Were you to do this, we should assuredly have this very suspicion; and all men of any sense would have it too.  See then 58what you are to think of your own authority; and consider whether it is right to believe your words against these Scriptures, when the simple fact that a manuscript is brought forward by you makes it dangerous to put faith in it.


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