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Chapter 34.—The Church is Not to Be Blamed for the Conduct of Bad Christians, Worshippers of Tombs and Pictures.

74.  Make objections against these, ye 62Manichæans, if you can.  Look at these people, and speak of them reproachfully, if you dare, without falsehood.  Compare their fasts with your fasts, their chastity with yours; compare them to yourselves in dress, food, self-restraint, and, lastly, in charity.  Compare, which is most to the point, their precepts with yours.  Then you will see the difference between show and sincerity, between the right way and the wrong, between faith and imposture, between strength and inflatedness, between happiness and wretchedness, between unity and disunion; in short, between the sirens of superstition and the harbor of religion.

75.  Do not summon against me professors of the Christian name, who neither know nor give evidence of the power of their profession.152152       [Augustin says nothing of the encouragement given to such pagan practices by men regarded in that age as possessed of almost superhuman sanctity, such as Sulpicius Severus, Paulinus of Nola, etc.  He speaks of corruptions as if they were exceptional, whereas they seem to have been the rule.  Yet there is force in his contention that Christianity be judged by its best products rather than by the worst elements associated with it.—A.H.N.]   Do not hunt up the numbers of ignorant people, who even in the true religion are superstitious, or are so given up to evil passions as to forget what they have promised to God.  I know that there are many worshippers of tombs and pictures.  I know that there are many who drink to great excess over the dead, and who, in the feasts which they make for corpses, bury themselves over the buried, and give to their gluttony and drunkenness the name of religion.  I know that there are many who in words have renounced this world, and yet desire to be burdened with all the weight of worldly things, and rejoice in such burdens.  Nor is it surprising that among so many multitudes you should find some by condemning whose life you may deceive the unwary and seduce them from Catholic safety; for in your small numbers you are at a loss when called on to show even one out of those whom you call the elect who keeps the precepts, which in your indefensible superstition you profess.  How silly those are, how impious, how mischievous, and to what extent they are neglected by most, nearly all of you, I have shown in another volume.

76.  My advice to you now is this:  that you should at least desist from slandering the Catholic Church, by declaiming against the conduct of men whom the Church herself condemns, seeking daily to correct them as wicked children.  Then, if any of them by good will and by the help of God are corrected, they regain by repentance what they had lost by sin.  Those, again, who with wicked will persist in their old vices, or even add to them others still worse, are indeed allowed to remain in the field of the Lord, and to grow along with the good seed; but the time for separating the tares will come.153153     [Augustin’s ideal representation of Christianity and his identification of the organized Catholic Church with Christianity is quite inconsistent with the practice of the Church which he here seeks to justify.  No duty is more distinctly enjoined upon believers in the New Testament than separation from unbelievers and evil doers.  But such separation is impracticable in an established Church such as that to which Augustin rejoiced to belong.—A.H.N.]   Or if, from their having at least the Christian name, they are to be placed among the chaff rather than among thistles, there will also come One to purge the floor and to separate the chaff from the wheat, and to assign to each part (according to its desert) the due reward.154154     Matt. iii. 13, and xiii. 24-43.


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