Reading: Unit 12 Lecture Transcripts & Illustrations
Unit 12 Lecture 1
This week, I am going to be reading for you some of the works of St. Augustine who is considered the greatest theologian the church had seen in the first thousand years of its existence. In this first lecture, I am going to be reading just one short chapter from book 1 of a work entitled the city of God which stretched all the way to 22 books. It was a huge undertaking that took nearly 15 years to write and it continues to have significant influence in our understanding of and philosophy of history. The entire work can be found in the Christian classics ethereal library. I would point you there for a great deal of inspiration in understanding the history of mankind.
Chapter 10.—That the Saints Lose Nothing in Losing Temporal Goods.
These are the considerations which one must keep in view, that he may answer the question whether any evil happens to the faithful and godly which cannot be turned to profit. Or shall we say that the question is needless, and that the apostle is vaporing when he says, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God?”
They lost all they had. Their faith? Their godliness? The possessions of the hidden man of the heart, which in the sight of God are of great price? Did they lose these? For these are the wealth of Christians, to whom the wealthy apostle said, “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil; which, while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
They, then, who lost their worldly all in the sack of Rome, if they owned their possessions as they had been taught by the apostle, who himself was poor without, but rich within,—that is to say, if they used the world as not using it,—could say in the words of Job, heavily tried, but not overcome: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; as it pleased the Lord, so has it come to pass: blessed be the name of the Lord.” Like a good servant, Job counted the will of his Lord his great possession, by obedience to which his soul was enriched; nor did it grieve him to lose, while yet living, those goods which he must shortly leave at his death. But as to those feebler spirits who, though they cannot be said to prefer earthly possessions to Christ, do yet cleave to them with a somewhat immoderate attachment, they have discovered by the pain of losing these things how much they were sinning in loving them. For their grief is of their own making; in the words of the apostle quoted above, “they have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” For it was well that they who had so long despised these verbal admonitions should receive the teaching of experience. For when the apostle says, “They that will be rich fall into temptation,” and so on, what he blames in riches is not the possession of them, but the desire of them. For elsewhere he says, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” They who were making such a use of their property have been consoled for light losses by great gains, and have had more pleasure in those possessions which they have securely laid past, by freely giving them away, than grief in those which they entirely lost by an anxious and selfish hoarding of them. For nothing could perish on earth save what they would be ashamed to carry away from earth. Our Lord’s injunction runs, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” And they who have listened to this injunction have proved in the time of tribulation how well they were advised in not despising this most trustworthy teacher, and most faithful and mighty guardian of their treasure. For if many were glad that their treasure was stored in places which the enemy chanced not to light upon, how much better founded was the joy of those who, by the counsel of their God, had fled with their treasure to a citadel which no enemy can possibly reach! Thus our Paulinus, bishop of Nola, who voluntarily abandoned vast wealth and became quite poor, though abundantly rich in holiness, when the barbarians sacked Nola, and took him prisoner, used silently to pray, as he afterwards told me, “O Lord, let me not be troubled for gold and silver, for where all my treasure is you know.” For all his treasure was where he had been taught to hide and store it by Him who had also foretold that these calamities would happen in the world. Consequently those persons who obeyed their Lord when He warned them where and how to lay up treasure, did not lose even their earthly possessions in the invasion of the barbarians; while those who are now repenting that they did not obey Him have learnt the right use of earthly goods, if not by the wisdom which would have prevented their loss, at least by the experience which follows it.
But some good and Christian men have been put to the torture, that they might be forced to deliver up their goods to the enemy. They could indeed neither deliver nor lose that good which made themselves good. If, however, they preferred torture to the surrender of the mammon of iniquity, then I say they were not good men. Rather they should have been reminded that, if they suffered so severely for the sake of money, they should endure all torment, if need be, for Christ’s sake; that they might be taught to love Him rather who enriches with eternal felicity all who suffer for Him, and not silver and gold, for which it was pitiable to suffer, whether they preserved it by telling a lie or lost it by telling the truth. For under these tortures no one lost Christ by confessing Him, no one preserved wealth save by denying its existence. So that possibly the torture which taught them that they should set their affections on a possession they could not lose, was more useful than those possessions which, without any useful fruit at all, disquieted and tormented their anxious owners. But then we are reminded that some were tortured who had no wealth to surrender, but who were not believed when they said so. These too, however, had perhaps some craving for wealth, and were not willingly poor with a holy resignation; and to such it had to be made plain, that not the actual possession alone, but also the desire of wealth, deserved such excruciating pains. And even if they were destitute of any hidden stores of gold and silver, because they were living in hopes of a better life,—I know not indeed if any such person was tortured on the supposition that he had wealth; but if so, then certainly in confessing, when put to the question, a holy poverty, he confessed Christ. And though it was scarcely to be expected that the barbarians should believe him, yet no confessor of a holy poverty could be tortured without receiving a heavenly reward.
Again, they say that the long famine laid many a Christian low. But this, too, the faithful turned to good uses by a pious endurance of it. For those whom famine killed outright it rescued from the ills of this life, as a kindly disease would have done; and those who were only hunger-bitten were taught to live more sparingly, and inured to longer fasts.
That is chapter 10 of book one. The work gives us a sense of the manner in which Augustine approached the problem of evil in the world. He contrasted its temporary presence and power with the eternal presence and power of the kingdom of God. His advice is sourced in the Scriptures and is careful in its presentation. You and I do well to be aware of the work of this guy from Hippo in North Africa.
Unit 12 Lecture 2
St Augustine wrote the first autobiography when he published his book entitled Confessions. First published in 398, the confessions of st Augustine some 1600 years later are still available for purchase in book form. You and I can benefit greatly from reading his confessions which help us to see our own sin and the struggles of the human heart in response to the call of God.
Here I share with you some of his thoughts on the way sin tempts us and how we give in and for what reasons. It is the story and his reflections on that story which we have before us now.
Theft is punished by your law, O Lord, and by the law written in men’s hearts, which iniquity itself cannot blot out. For what thief will put up with a thief? Even a rich thief will not be patient with him who is driven to thievery by want. Yet I had a desire to commit robbery, and did so, compelled neither by hunger, nor poverty. Instead it was through a distaste for well-doing, and a lusting for iniquity. For I pilfered something I had already in sufficient, and much better, amounts. Neither did I desire to enjoy what I pilfered, instead I enjoyed the theft and sin itself.
There was a pear-tree close to our vineyard, heavily laden with fruit, which was tempting neither for its color nor its flavor. To shake and rob this some of us wanton young fellows went, late one night (having, according to our disgraceful habit, prolonged our games in the streets until then), and carried away great loads, not to eat ourselves, but to fling to the very swine, having only eaten some of them; and to do this pleased us all the more because it was not permitted. Behold my heart, O my God; behold my heart, which you had pity upon when in the bottomless pit. Behold, now, let my heart tell you what it was seeking there, that I should be gratuitously wanton, having no incentive to do evil but the evil itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved to perish. I loved my own error—not that for which I erred, but the error itself. Base soul, falling from your firmament to utter destruction—not seeking anything through the shame but the shame itself!
There is a desirableness in all beautiful bodies, and in gold, and silver, and all things; and in bodily contact sympathy is powerful, and each other sense has his proper adaptation of body. Worldly honor has also its glory, and the power of command, and of overcoming; whence proceeds also the desire for revenge. And yet to acquire all these, we must not depart from you, O Lord, nor deviate from your law. The life which we live here has also its peculiar attractiveness, through a certain measure of comeliness of its own, and harmony with all things here below. The friendships of men also are endeared by a sweet bond, in the oneness of many souls. On account of all these, and such as these, is sin committed; while through an inordinate preference for these goods of a lower kind, the better and higher are neglected,—even you, our Lord God, your truth, and your law. For these lesser things have their delights, but not like unto my God, who has created all things; for in Him the righteous delight, and He is the sweetness of the upright in heart.
When, therefore, we inquire why a crime was committed, we do not believe it, unless it appear that there might have been the wish to obtain some of those which we designated the lesser things, or else a fear of losing them. For truly they are beautiful and comely, although in comparison with those higher and celestial goods they be abject and contemptible. A man has murdered another; what was his motive? He desired his wife or his estate; or would steal to support himself; or he was afraid of losing something of the kind by him; or, being injured, he was burning to have revenge. Would he commit murder without a motive, taking delight simply in the act of murder? Who would believe it?
For as for that savage and brutal man, of whom it is declared that he was gratuitously wicked and cruel, there is yet a motive assigned. “Lest through idleness,” he says, “hand or heart should grow inactive.” And to what purpose? Why, even that, having once got possession of the city through that practice of wickedness, he might attain unto honors, empire, and wealth, and be exempt from the fear of the laws, and his difficult circumstances from the needs of his family, and the consciousness of his own wickedness. So it seems that even the Roman senator Catiline himself loved not his own villainies, but something else, which gave him the motive for committing them.
What was it, then, that I, miserable one, so doted on in you, you theft of mine, you deed of darkness, in that sixteenth year of my age? Beautiful you were not, since you were theft. But are you anything, that so I may argue the case with you? Those pears that we stole were fair to the sight, because they were your creation, O fairest of all, Creator of all, you my good God—God, the highest good, and my true good. Those pears truly were pleasant to the sight; but it was not for them that my miserable soul lusted, for I had abundance of better, but those I plucked simply that I might steal. For, having plucked them, I threw them away, my sole gratification in them being my own sin, which I was pleased to enjoy. For if any of these pears entered my mouth, the sweetener of it was my sin in eating it. And now, O Lord my God, I ask what it was in that theft of mine that caused me such delight; and behold it has no beauty in it—not such, I mean, as exists in justice and wisdom; nor such as is in the mind, memory, senses, and animal life of man; nor yet such as is the glory and beauty of the stars in their courses; or the earth, or the sea, teeming with incipient life, to replace, as it is born, that which decays; nor, indeed, that false and shadowy beauty which pertains to deceptive vices.
For thus does pride imitate high estate, whereas you alone are God, high above all. And what does ambition seek but honors and renown, whereas you alone are to be honored above all, and renowned for evermore? The cruelty of the powerful wishes to be feared; but who is to be feared but God only, out of whose power what can be forced away or withdrawn—when, or where, or whither, or by whom? The enticements of the wanton desire to be deemed love; and yet is no more enticing than your love, nor is anything loved more healthfully than that, your truth, bright and beautiful above all. Curiosity affects a desire for knowledge, whereas it is you who supremely knows all things. Yes, ignorance and foolishness themselves are concealed under the names of simplicity and harmlessness, because nothing can be found more innocent than you; and what is more harmless, since it is a sinner’s own works by which he is harmed? And sloth seems to long for rest; but what sure rest is there besides the Lord? Luxury would love to be called plenty and abundance; but you are the fullness and unfailing plenteousness of unfading joys. Wastefulness presents a shadow of liberality; but you art the most lavish giver of all good. Covetousness desires to possess much; and you are the Possessor of all things. Envy contends for excellence; but what is so excellent as you? Anger seeks revenge; who avenges more justly than you? Fear starts at unexpected and sudden hazards which threaten things beloved, and is wary for their security; but what can happen that is unexpected or sudden to you? or who can deprive you of what Thou love? or where is there unshaken security save with you? Grief languishes for things lost in which desire had delighted itself, even because it desires to have nothing taken from it, as nothing can be taken from you.
Thus doth the soul commit fornication when she turns away from you, and seeks without you what she cannot find pure and untainted until she returns to you. Thus all pervertedly imitate you who separate themselves far from you and raise themselves up against you. But even by thus imitating you they acknowledge you to be the Creator of all nature, and so that there is no place whither they can altogether retire from you. What, then, was it that I loved in that theft? And wherein did I, even though corruptly and pervertedly, imitate my Lord? Did I wish, if only by deception, to act contrary to your law, because by power I could not, so that, being a captive, I might imitate an imperfect liberty by doing with impunity things which I was not allowed to do, in obscured likeness of your omnipotence? Behold this servant of yours, fleeing from his Lord, and following a shadow! O rottenness! O monstrosity of life and profundity of death!
Could I like that which was unlawful only because it was unlawful?
So St Augustine as he reflects on the purpose of his sin. In so doing, he helps all of us to gain an insight into our own lust for evil. May his solution – to fall into the loving arms of God be our solution as well!
Unit 12 Lecture 3
In his book entitled On Christian Doctrine, St Augustine included what we know today as book 4. Book 4 of On Christian Doctrine was a treatise on the how and why of preaching the gospel. In it St Augustine laid out a hermeneutical method for preaching. I encourage you to read the whole of book 4 in this week’s readings. Book 4 became the textbook on preaching for literally a thousand years after it was written in 426. His teaching still resonates with many preachers today. You will be richly blessed if you take the time to read and meditate on this solid text book on preaching.
Today I am reading for you a couple of sections taken from book 4.
In chapters 5 and 6 we find the following:
Now it is especially necessary for the man who is bound to speak wisely, even though he cannot speak eloquently, to retain in memory the words of Scripture. For the more he discerns the poverty of his own speech, the more he ought to draw on the riches of Scripture, so that what he says in his own words he may prove by the words of Scripture; and he himself, though small and weak in his own words, may gain strength and power from the confirming testimony of great men. For his proof gives pleasure when he cannot please by his mode of speech. But if a man desire to speak not only with wisdom, but with eloquence also (and assuredly he will prove of greater service if he can do both), I would rather send him to read, and listen to, and exercise himself in imitating, eloquent men, than advise him to spend time with the teachers of rhetoric; especially if the men he reads and listens to are justly praised as having spoken, or as being accustomed to speak, not only with eloquence, but with wisdom also. For eloquent speakers are heard with pleasure; wise speakers with profit. And, therefore, Scripture does not say that the multitude of the eloquent, but "the multitude of the wise is the welfare of the world." And as we must often swallow wholesome bitters, so we must always avoid unwholesome sweets. But what is better than wholesome sweetness or sweet wholesomeness? For the sweeter we try to make such things, the easier it is to make their wholesomeness serviceable. And so there are writers of the Church who have expounded the Holy Scriptures, not only with wisdom, but with eloquence as well; and there is not more time for the reading of these than is sufficient for those who are studious and at leisure to exhaust them.
Here, perhaps, someone inquires whether the authors whose divinely-inspired writings constitute the canon, which carries with it a most wholesome authority, are to be considered wise only, or eloquent as well. A question which to me, and to those who think with me, is very easily settled. For where I understand these writers, it seems to me not only that nothing can be wiser, but also that nothing can be more eloquent. And I venture to affirm that all who truly understand what these writers say, perceive at the same time that it could not have been properly said in any other way. For as there is a kind of eloquence that is more attractive in youth, and a kind that is more attractive in old age, and nothing can be called eloquence if it be not suitable to the person of the speaker, so there is a kind of eloquence that is attractive in men who justly claim the highest authority, and who are evidently inspired of God. With this eloquence they spoke; no other would have been suitable for them; and this itself would be unsuitable in any other, for it is in keeping with their character, while it mounts as far above that of others (not from empty inflation, but from solid merit) as it seems to fall below them. Where, however, I do not understand these writers, though their eloquence is then less apparent, I have no doubt but that it is of the same kind as that I do understand. The very obscurity, too, of these divine and wholesome words was a necessary element in eloquence of a kind that was designed to profit our understandings, not only by the discovery of truth. but also by the exercise of their powers.
In chapter 12 he has this:
Accordingly a great orator has truly said that "an eloquent man must speak so as to teach, to delight, and to persuade." Then he adds: "To teach is a necessity, to delight is a beauty, to persuade is a triumph." Now of these three, the one first mentioned, the teaching, which is a matter of necessity, depends on what we say; the other two on the way we say it. He, then, who speaks with the purpose of teaching should not suppose that he has said what he has to say as long as he is not understood; for although what he has said be intelligible to himself, it is not said at all to the man who does not understand it. If, however, he is understood, he has said his say, whatever may have been his manner of saying it. But if he wishes to delight or persuade his hearer as well, he will not accomplish that end by putting his thought in any shape no matter what, but for that purpose the style of speaking is a matter of importance. And as the hearer must be pleased in order to secure his attention, so he must be persuaded in order to move him to action. And as he is pleased if you speak with sweetness and elegance, so he is persuaded if he be drawn by your promises, and awed by your threats; If he reject what you condemn, and embrace what you commend; if he grieve when you heap up objects for grief, and rejoice when you point out an object for joy; if he pity those whom you present to him as objects of pity, and shrink from those whom you set before him as men to be feared and shunned. I need not go over all the other things that can be done by powerful eloquence to move the minds of the hearers, not telling them what they ought to do, but urging them to do what they already know ought to be done.
If however, they do not yet know this, they must of course be instructed before they can be moved. And perhaps the mere knowledge of their duty will have such an effect that there will be no need to move them with greater strength of eloquence. Yet when this is needful, it ought to be done. And it is needful when people, knowing what they ought to do, do it not. Therefore, to teach is a necessity. For what men know, it is in their own hands either to do or not to do. But who would say that it is their duty to do what they do not know? On the same principle, to persuade is not a necessity: for it is not always called for; as, for example, when the hearer yields his assent to one who simply teaches or gives pleasure. For this reason also to persuade is a triumph, because it is possible that a man may be taught and delighted, and yet not give his consent. And what will be the use of gaining the first two ends if we fail in the third? Neither is it a necessity to give pleasure; for when, in the course of an address, the truth is clearly pointed out (and this is the true function of teaching), it is not the fact, nor is it the intention, that the style of speech should make the truth pleasing, or that the style should of itself give pleasure; but the truth itself, when exhibited in its naked simplicity, gives pleasure, because it is the truth. And hence even falsities are frequently a source of pleasure when they are brought to light and exposed. It is not, of course, their falsity that gives pleasure; but as it is true that they are false, the speech which shows this to be true gives pleasure.
Now in chapter 13, I think he has a profound idea of what is important for preachers of the word of God.
But for the sake at those who are so fastidious that they do not care for truth unless it is put in the form of a pleasing discourse, no small place has been assigned in eloquence to the art of pleasing. And yet even this is not enough for those stubborn minded men who both understand and are pleased with the teacher's discourse, without deriving any profit from it. For what does it profit a man that he both confesses the truth and praises the eloquence, if he does not yield his consent, when it is only for the sake of securing his consent that the speaker in urging the truth gives careful attention to what he says? If the truths taught are such that to believe or to know them is enough, to give one's assent implies nothing more than to confess that they are true. When, however, the truth taught is one that must be carried into practice, and that is taught for the very purpose of being practiced, it is useless to be persuaded of the truth of what is said, it is useless to be pleased with the manner in which it is said, if it be not so learnt as to be practiced. The eloquent divine, then, when he is urging a practical truth, must not only teach so as to give instruction, and please so as to keep up the attention, but he must also sway the mind so as to subdue the will. For if a man be not moved by the force of truth, though it is demonstrated to his own confession, and clothed in beauty of style, nothing remains but to subdue him by the power of eloquence.
Here is the final thought I am going to share with you today from Book 4 of On Christian doctrine, chapter 14.
And so much labor has been spent by men on the beauty of expression here spoken of, that not only is it not our duty to do, but it is our duty to shun and abhor, many and heinous deeds of wickedness and baseness which wicked and base men have with great eloquence recommended, not with a view to gaining assent, but merely for the sake of being read with pleasure. But may God avert from His Church what the prophet Jeremiah says of the synagogue of the Jews: "A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests applaud them with their hands; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?" O eloquence, which is the more terrible from its purity, and the more crushing from its solidity! Assuredly it is "a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces." For to this God Himself has by the same prophet compared His own word spoken through His holy prophets. God forbid, then, God forbid that with us the priest should applaud the false prophet, and that God's people should love to have it so. God forbid, I say, that with us there should be such terrible madness! For what shall we do in the end thereof? And assuredly it is preferable, even though what is said should be less intelligible, less pleasing, and less persuasive, that truth be spoken, and that what is just, not what is iniquitous, be listened to with pleasure. But this, of course, cannot be, unless what is true and just be expressed with elegance.
May your ministry be filled with the grace of God as you eloquently proclaim the good news of Jesus in your church and your community!
Thank you for joining me in this journey of faith. It is my hope and prayer that what you have learned here will help you to discern the calling of God in your situation and in your life. May the things we have learned help you to walk in the way of the orthodox church which has struggled so mightily centuries ago to come to a sure understanding of God’s holy Word.