Action Alert!

Fathers of the Church

Letter XIX

Description

”Augustine’s correspondence, the mark and expression of the influential personality and apostolic zeal of the author, is rich in historical, philosophical, theological, exegetical, spiritual, literary, and autobiographical content” (Agostino Trapè). Here he asks his correspondent to read and comment freely on his written works, and declares that any truth in them, like all truth discovered by men, has proceeded from divine illumination and not through his own efforts.

Provenance

The correspondence of St. Augustine that has been preserved includes more than 270 letters, including well over 200 written by him. Those numbered 1-30 span the period between his conversion and his episcopal ordination.

by Augustine of Hippo in 390 | translated by J. G. Cunningham

TO GAIUS AUGUSTIN SENDS GREETING.

1. Words cannot express the pleasure with which the recollection of you filled my heart after I parted with you, and has often filled my heart since then. For I remember that, notwithstanding the amazing ardour which pervaded your inquiries after truth, the bounds of proper moderation in debate were never transgressed by you. I shall not easily find any one who is more eager in putting questions, and at the same time more patient in hearing answers, than you approved yourself. Gladly therefore would I spend much time in converse with you; for the time thus spent, however much it might be, would not seem long. But what avails it to discuss the hindrances on account of which it is difficult for us to enjoy such converse? Enough that it is exceedingly difficult. Perhaps at some future period it may be made very easy; may God grant this! Meanwhile it is otherwise. I have. given to the brother by whom I have sent this letter the charge of submitting all my writings to your eminent wisdom and charity, that they may be read by you. For nothing written by me will find in you a reluctant reader; for I know the goodwill which you cherish towards me. Let me say, however, that if, on reading these things, you approve of them, and perceive them to be true, you must not consider them to be mine otherwise than as given to me; and you are at liberty to turn to that same source whence proceeds also the power given you to appreciate their truth. For no one discerns the truth of that which he reads from anything which is in the mere manuscript, or in the writer, but rather by something within himself, if the light of truth, shining with a clearness beyond what is men's common lot, and very far removed from the darkening influence of the body, has penetrated his own mind. If, however, you discover some things which are false and deserve to be rejected, I would have you know that these things have fallen as dew from the mists of human frailty, and these you are to reckon as truly mine. I would exhort you to persevere in seeking the truth, were it not that I seem to see the mouth of your heart already opened wide to drink it in. I would also exhort you to cling with manly tenacity to the truth which you have learned, were it not that you already manifest in the clearest manner that you possess strength of mind and fixedness of purpose. For all that lives within you has, in the short time of our fellowship, revealed itself to me, almost as if the bodily veil had been rent asunder. And surely the merciful providence of our God can in no wise permit a man so good and so remarkably gifted as you are to be an alien from the flock of Christ.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (NPNF I/I, Schaff). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.