Fathers of the Church
by Augustine of Hippo in 426 | translated by J. G. Cunningham
TO PALATINUS, MY WELL-BELOVED LORD AND SON, MOST TENDERLY LONGED FOR, AUGUSTIN SENDS GREETING.
1. Your life of eminent fortitude and fruitfulness towards the Lord our God has brought to us great joy. For "you have made choice of instruction from your youth upwards, that you may still find wisdom even to grey hairs;" for "wisdom is the grey hair unto men, and an unspotted life is old age;" which may the Lord, who knoweth how to give good gifts unto His children, give to you asking, seeking, knocking. Although you have many counsellors and many counsels to direct you in the path which leads to eternal glory, and although, above all, you have the grace of Christ, which has so effectually spoken in saving power in your heart, nevertheless we also, as in duty bound by the love which we owe to you, offer to you, in hereby reciprocating your salutation, some words of counsel, designed not to awaken you as one hindered by sloth or sleep, but to stimulate and quicken you in the race which you are already running.
2. You require wisdom, my son, for stedfastness in this race, as it was under the influence of wisdom that you entered on it at first. Let this then be "a part of your wisdom, to know whose gift it is." "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass: and He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday." "He will make straight thy path, and guide thy steps in peace." As you despised your prospects of greatness in this world, lest you should glory in the abundance of riches which you had begun to covet after the manner of the children of this world, so now, in taking up the yoke of the Lord and His burden, let not your confidence be in your own strength; so shall "His yoke be easy, and His burden light." For in the book of Psalms those are alike censured "who trust in their strength," and "who boast themselves in the multitude of their riches." Therefore, as formerly you did not seek glory in riches, but most wisely despised that which you had begun to desire, so now be on your guard against insidious temptation to trust in your strength; for you are but man, and "cursed is every one that trusteth in man." But by all means trust in God with your whole heart, and He will Himself be your strength, wherein you may trust with piety and thankfulness, and to Him you may say with humility and boldness, "I will love thee, O Lord, my strength; because even the love of God, which, when it is perfect, "casteth out fear," is shed abroad in our hearts, not by our strength, that is, by any human power, but, as the apostle says, "by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us."
3. "Watch, therefore, and pray that you enter not into temptation." Such prayer is indeed in itself an admonition to you that you need the help of the Lord, and that you ought not to rest upon yourself your hope of living well. For now you pray, not that you may obtain the riches and honours of this present world, or any unsubstantial human possession, but that you may not enter into temptation, a thing which would not be asked in prayer if a man could accomplish it for himself by his own will. Wherefore we would not pray that we may not enter into temptation if our own will sufficed for our protection and yet if the will to avoid temptation were wanting to us, we could not so pray. It may, therefore, be present with us to will, when we have through his own gift been made wise, but we must pray that we may be able to perform that which we have so willed. In the fact that you have begun to exercise this true wisdom, you have reason to give thanks. "For what have you which you have not received? But if you have received it, beware that you boast not as if you had not received it," that is, as if you could have had it of yourself. Knowing, however, whence you have received it, ask Him by whose gift it was begun to grant that it may be perfected. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do, of His good pleasure;" for "the will is prepared by God," and "the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delighteth in his way." Holy meditation on these things will preserve you, so that your wisdom shall be piety, that is, that by God's gift you shall be good, and not ungrateful for the grace of Christ.
4. Your parents, unfeignedly rejoicing with you in the better hope which in the Lord you have begun to cherish, are longing earnestly for your presence. But whether you be absent from us or present with us in the body, we desire to have you with us in the one Spirit by whom love is shed abroad in our hearts, so that, in whatever place our bodies may sojourn, our spirits may be in no degree sundered from each other.
We have most thankfully received the cloaks of goat's-hair cloth which you sent to us, in which gift you have yourself anticipated me in admonition as to the duty of being often engaged in prayer, and of practising humility in our supplications.
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.