Chapter XIX

The Confessions of Saint Augustine

Book 7 - Chapter XIX


25. But I thought otherwise. I saw in our Lord Christ only a man of eminent wisdom to whom no other man could be compared--especially because he was miraculously born of a virgin--sent to set us an example of despising worldly things for the attainment of immortality, and thus exhibiting his divine care for us. Because of this, I held that he had merited his great authority as leader. But concerning the mystery contained in "the Word was made flesh," I could not even form a notion. From what I learned from what has been handed down to us in the books about him--that he ate, drank, slept, walked, rejoiced in spirit, was sad, and discoursed with his fellows--I realized that his flesh alone was not bound unto thy Word, but also that there was a bond with the human soul and body. Everyone knows this who knows the unchangeableness of thy Word, and this I knew by now, as far as I was able, and I had no doubts at all about it. For at one time to move the limbs by an act of will, at another time not; at one time to feel some emotion, at another time not; at one time to speak intelligibly through verbal signs, at another, not--these are all properties of a soul and mind subject to change. And if these things were falsely written about him, all the rest would risk the imputation of falsehood, and there would remain in those books no saving faith for the human race.

Therefore, because they were written truthfully, I acknowledged a perfect man to be in Christ--not the body of a man only, nor, in the body, an animal soul without a rational one as well, but a true man. And this man I held to be superior to all others, not only because he was a form of the Truth, but also because of the great excellence and perfection of his human nature, due to his participation in wisdom.

Alypius, on the other hand, supposed the Catholics to believe that God was so clothed with flesh that besides God and the flesh there was no soul in Christ, and he did not think that a human mind was ascribed to him.[218] And because he was fully persuaded that the actions recorded of him could not have been performed except by a living rational creature, he moved the more slowly toward Christian faith.[219] But when he later learned that this was the error of the Apollinarian heretics, he rejoiced in the Catholic faith and accepted it. For myself, I must confess that it was even later that I learned how in the sentence, "The Word was made flesh," the Catholic truth can be distinguished from the falsehood of Photinus. For the refutation of heretics[220] makes the tenets of thy Church and sound doctrine to stand out boldly. "For there must also be heresies [factions] that those who are approved may be made manifest among the weak."[221]


Book 7 - Chapter XVIII Book 7 - Chapter XX

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