Chapter XV

The Confessions of Saint Augustine

Book 12 - Chapter XV

CHAPTER XV

18. "Will you say that these things are false which Truth tells me, with a loud voice in my inner ear, about the very eternity of the Creator: that his essence is changed in no respect by time and that his will is not distinct from his essence? Thus, he doth not will one thing now and another thing later, but he willeth once and for all everything that he willeth--not again and again; and not now this and now that. Nor does he will afterward what he did not will before, nor does he cease to will what he had willed before. Such a will would be mutable and no mutable thing is eternal. But our God is eternal.

"Again, he tells me in my inner ear that the expectation of future things is turned to sight when they have come to pass. And this same sight is turned into memory when they have passed. Moreover, all thought that varies thus is mutable, and nothing mutable is eternal. But our God is eternal." These things I sum up and put together, and I conclude that my God, the eternal God, hath not made any creature by any new will, and his knowledge does not admit anything transitory.

19. "What, then, will you say to this, you objectors? Are these things false?" "No," they say. "What then? Is it false that every entity already formed and all matter capable of receiving form is from him alone who is supremely good, because he is supreme?" "We do not deny this, either," they say. "What then? Do you deny this: that there is a certain sublime created order which cleaves with such a chaste love to the true and truly eternal God that, although it is not coeternal with him, yet it does not separate itself from him, and does not flow away into any mutation of change or process but abides in true contemplation of him alone?" If thou, O God, dost show thyself to him who loves thee as thou hast commanded--and art sufficient for him--then, such a one will neither turn himself away from thee nor turn away toward himself. This is "the house of God." It is not an earthly house and it is not made from any celestial matter; but it is a spiritual house, and it partakes in thy eternity because it is without blemish forever. For thou hast made it steadfast forever and ever; thou hast given it a law which will not be removed. Still, it is not coeternal with thee, O God, since it is not without beginning--it was created.

20. For, although we can find no time before it (for wisdom was created before all things),[473] this is certainly not that Wisdom which is absolutely coeternal and equal with thee, our God, its Father, the Wisdom through whom all things were created and in whom, in the beginning, thou didst create the heaven and earth. This is truly the created Wisdom, namely, the intelligible nature which, in its contemplation of light, is light. For this is also called wisdom, even if it is a created wisdom. But the difference between the Light that lightens and that which is enlightened is as great as is the difference between the Wisdom that creates and that which is created. So also is the difference between the Righteousness that justifies and the righteousness that is made by justification. For we also are called thy righteousness, for a certain servant of thine says, "That we might be made the righteousness of God in him."[474] Therefore, there is a certain created wisdom that was created before all things: the rational and intelligible mind of that chaste city of thine. It is our mother which is above and is free[475] and "eternal in the heavens"[476]--but in what heavens except those which praise thee, the "heaven of heavens"? This also is the "heaven of heavens" which is the Lord's--although we find no time before it, since what has been created before all things also precedes the creation of time. Still, the eternity of the Creator himself is before it, from whom it took its beginning as created, though not in time (since time as yet was not), even though time belongs to its created nature.

21. Thus it is that the intelligible heaven came to be from thee, our God, but in such a way that it is quite another being than thou art; it is not the Selfsame. Yet we find that time is not only not before it, but not even in it, thus making it able to behold thy face forever and not ever be turned aside. Thus, it is varied by no change at all. But there is still in it that mutability in virtue of which it could become dark and cold, if it did not, by cleaving to thee with a supernal love, shine and glow from thee like a perpetual noon. O house full of light and splendor! "I have loved your beauty and the place of the habitation of the glory of my Lord,"[477] your builder and possessor. In my wandering let me sigh for you; this I ask of him who made you, that he should also possess me in you, seeing that he hath also made me. "I have gone astray like a lost sheep[478]; yet upon the shoulders of my Shepherd, who is your builder, I have hoped that I may be brought back to you."[479]

22. "What will you say to me now, you objectors to whom I spoke, who still believe that Moses was the holy servant of God, and that his books were the oracles of the Holy Spirit? Is it not in this `house of God'--not coeternal with God, yet in its own mode `eternal in the heavens'--that you vainly seek for temporal change? You will not find it there. It rises above all extension and every revolving temporal period, and it rises to what is forever good and cleaves fast to God."

"It is so," they reply. "What, then, about those things which my heart cried out to my God, when it heard, within, the voice of his praise? What, then, do you contend is false in them? Is it because matter was unformed, and since there was no form there was no order? But where there was no order there could have been no temporal change. Yet even this `almost nothing,' since it was not altogether nothing, was truly from him from whom everything that exists is in whatever state it is." "This also," they say, "we do not deny."

 

Book 12 - Chapter XIV Book 12 - Chapter XVI


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