Chapter XXI

The Confessions of Saint Augustine

Book 13 - Chapter XXI

CHAPTER XXI

29. And thus, in thy Word, it was not the depth of the sea but "the earth,"[611] separated from the brackishness of the water, that brought forth, not "the creeping and the flying creature that has life," but "the living soul" itself![612]

And now this soul no longer has need of baptism, as the heathen had, or as it did when it was covered with the waters--and there can be no other entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, since thou hast appointed that baptism should be the entrance. Nor does it seek great, miraculous works by which to buttress faith. For such a soul does not refuse to believe unless it sees signs and marvels, now that "the faithful earth" is separated from "the waters" of the sea, which have been made bitter by infidelity. Thus, for them, "tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to those who do not believe."[613]

And the earth which thou hast founded above the waters does not stand in need of those flying creatures which the waters brought forth at thy word. Send forth thy word into it by the agency of thy messengers. For we only tell of their works, but it is thou who dost the works in them, so that they may bring forth "a living soul" in the earth.

The earth brings forth "the living soul" because "the earth" is the cause of such things being done by thy messengers, just as the sea was the cause of the production of the creeping creatures having life and the flying fowl under the firmament of heaven. "The earth" no longer needs them, although it feeds on the Fish which was taken out of the deep,[614] set out on that table which thou preparest in the presence of those who believe. To this end he was raised from the deep: that he might feed "the dry land." And "the fowl," even though they were bred in the sea, will yet be multiplied on the earth. The preaching of the first evangelists was called forth by reason of man's infidelity, but the faithful also are exhorted and blessed by them in manifold ways, day by day. "The living soul" has its origin from "the earth," because only to the faithful is there any profit in restraining themselves from the love of this world, so that their soul may live to thee. This soul was dead while it was living in pleasures--in pleasures that bear death in them--whereas thou, O Lord, art the living delight of the pure heart.

30. Now, therefore, let thy ministers do their work on "the earth"--not as they did formerly in "the waters" of infidelity, when they had to preach and speak by miracles and mysteries and mystical expressions, in which ignorance--the mother of wonder--gives them an attentive ear because of its fear of occult and strange things. For this is the entry into faith for the sons of Adam who are forgetful of thee, who hide themselves from thy face, and who have become a darkened abyss. Instead, let thy ministers work even as on "the dry land," safe from the whirlpools of the abyss. Let them be an example unto the faithful by living before them and stirring them up to imitation.

For in such a setting, men will heed, not with the mere intent to hear, but also to act. Seek the Lord and your soul shall live[615] and "the earth" may bring forth "the living soul." Be not conformed to this world;[616] separate yourselves from it. The soul lives by avoiding those things which bring death if they are loved. Restrain yourselves from the unbridled wildness of pride, from the indolent passions of luxury, and from what is falsely called knowledge.[617] Thus may the wild beast be tamed, the cattle subdued, and the serpent made harmless. For, in allegory, these figures are the motions of our mind: that is to say, the haughtiness of pride, the delight of lust, and the poison of curiosity are motions of the dead soul--not so dead that it has lost all motion, but dead because it has deserted the fountain of life, and so has been taken up by this transitory world and conformed to it.

31. But thy Word, O God, is a fountain of life eternal, and it does not pass away. Therefore, this desertion is restrained by thy Word when it says to us, "Be not conformed to this world," to the end that "the earth" may bring forth a "living soul" in the fountain of life--a soul disciplined by thy Word, by thy evangelists, by the following of the followers of thy Christ. For this is the meaning of "after his kind." A man tends to follow the example of his friend. Thus, he [Paul] says, "Become as I am, because I have become as you are."[618]

Thus, in this "living soul" there shall be good beasts, acting meekly. For thou hast commanded this, saying: "Do your work in meekness and you shall be loved by all men."[619] And the cattle will be good, for if they eat much they shall not suffer from satiety; and if they do not eat at all they will suffer no lack. And the serpents will be good, not poisonous to do harm, but only cunning in their watchfulness--exploring only as much of this temporal nature as is necessary in order that the eternal nature may "be clearly seen, understood through the things that have been made."[620] For all these animals will obey reason when, having been restrained from their death-dealing ways, they live and become good.

 

Book 13 - Chapter XX Book 13 - Chapter XXII


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