Chapter XXV

The Confessions of Saint Augustine

Book 12 - Chapter XXV

CHAPTER XXV

34. Let no man fret me now by saying, "Moses did not mean what you say, but what Isay." Now if he asks me, "How do you know that Moses meant what you deduce from his words?", I ought to respond calmly and reply as I have already done, or even more fully if he happens to be untrained. But when he says, "Moses did not mean what you say, but what I say," and then does not deny what either of us says but allows that both are true--then, O my God, life of the poor, in whose breast there is no contradiction, pour thy soothing balm into my heart that I may patiently bear with people who talk like this! It is not because they are godly men and have seen in the heart of thy servant what they say, but rather they are proud men and have not considered Moses' meaning, but only love their own--not because it is true but because it is their own. Otherwise they could equally love another true opinion, as I love what they say when what they speak is true--not because it is theirs but because it is true, and therefore not theirs but true. And if they love an opinion because it is true, it becomes both theirs and mine, since it is the common property of all lovers of the truth.[493] But I neither accept nor approve of it when they contend that Moses did not mean what I say but what they say--and this because, even if it were so, such rashness is born not of knowledge, but of impudence. It comes not from vision but from vanity.

And therefore, O Lord, thy judgments should be held in awe, because thy truth is neither mine nor his nor anyone else's; but it belongs to all of us whom thou hast openly called to have it in common; and thou hast warned us not to hold on to it as our own special property, for if we do we lose it. For if anyone arrogates to himself what thou hast bestowed on all to enjoy, and if he desires something for his own that belongs to all, he is forced away from what is common to all to what is, indeed, his very own--that is, from truth to falsehood. For he who tells a lie speaks of his own thought.[494]

35. Hear, O God, best judge of all! O Truth itself, hear what I say to this disputant. Hear it, because I say it in thy presence and before my brethren who use the law rightly to the end of love. Hear and give heed to what I shall say to him, if it pleases thee.

For I would return this brotherly and peaceful word to him: "If we both see that what you say is true, and if we both say that what I say is true, where is it, I ask you, that we see this? Certainly, I do not see it in you, and you do not see it in me, but both of us see it in the unchangeable truth itself, which is above our minds."[495] If, then, we do not disagree about the true light of the Lord our God, why do we disagree about the thoughts of our neighbor, which we cannot see as clearly as the immutable Truth is seen? If Moses himself had appeared to us and said, "This is what I meant," it would not be in order that we should see it but that we should believe him. Let us not, then, "go beyond what is written and be puffed up for the one against the other."[496] Let us, instead, "love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind, and our neighbor as ourself."[497] Unless we believe that whatever Moses meant in these books he meant to be ordered by these two precepts of love, we shall make God a liar, if we judge of the soul of his servant in any other way than as he has taught us. See now, how foolish it is, in the face of so great an abundance of true opinions which can be elicited from these words, rashly to affirm that Moses especially intended only one of these interpretations; and then, with destructive contention, to violate love itself, on behalf of which he had said all the things we are endeavoring to explain!

 

Book 12 - Chapter XXIV Book 12 - Chapter XXVI


In practicing our Traditions, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. has neither endorsed nor are they affiliated with Silkworth.net. Alcoholics Anonymous®, AA®, and the Big Book® are registered trademarks of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.