Augustine Epistle 120.1, 3 etc

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To Consentius, his most beloved brother who is to be honoured in the heart of Christ, Augustine sends greetings in the Lord.

1.  I asked you to come visit us precisely because I was greatly pleased with your talent revealed in your books.  Hence I wanted you to read certain small works of ours, which I thought to be very useful for you, not while you were situated far from us, but rather in our presence.  In that way you could, while present, ask without any difficulty about those ideas that you might perhaps understand less well, and from our discussion and conversation with each other you yourself would recognise and you yourself would correct, to the extent that the Lord granted me to explain and you to grasp, what needed correction in your books.  You certainly  the ability to to explain what you held; you also have the goodness and humility to merit to hold the truth.  And I am now of the same opinion, which ought not to displease you either.  For this reason I recently advised you that in these works of ours, which you are reading at home, you should make marks at those passages that trouble you and that you should come to me with them and ask about each of them.  I urge you to do what you have not yet done.You would be right to shy and hesitate to do this if you had chosen to do so even once and had found me difficult.  I had also said, when I heard from you that you were tired of very defective manuscripts, that you should read ours, which you would discover have fewer errors than others.

3. Heaven forbid, after all, that God should hate in us that by which he made us more excellent that the other animals.  Heaven forbid, I say, that we should believe in such a way that we do not accept or seek a rational account, since we could even believe if we did not have rational souls.  In certain matter, therefore, pertaining to the teaching of salvation, which we cannot yet grasp by reason, but which we will be able to at some point, faith precedes reason so that the heart may be purified in order that it may receive and sustain the light of great reason! And so, the prophet state quite reasonably,  Unless you believe, you will not understand(Is 7.9 LXX).  There he undoubtedly distinguished these two and gave the counsel that we should believe first that we may be able to understand what we believe.  Hence it was reasonable commanded that faith should precede reason. For, if this command is reasonable it is, therefore, unreasonable.  Heaven forbid!  if, then, it is reasonable that faith precede reason with respect to certain great truths that cannot yet be grasped, however slight the reason that persuades us to this, it undoubtedly also comes after faith.

4. Hence the Apostle Peter warns that we should be ready to respond to everyone who asks us for and account of our faith and hope because, if an unbeliever asks me for an account of my faith and hope and I see that, before he believes, he cannot grasp it, I give him this very argument by which he may, if possible, see how preposterous it is to demand before faith an account of those things he cannot grasp.  But of a believer asks for an account in order that he understand what he believes, we must look at his ability in order that, when an account has been give in accord with it, he may derive a greater understanding if he grasps more, a smaller understanding if he grasps less.  Yet until he comes to the fullness and perfection of knowledge,, let him not depart from the journey of faith.  This is the reason why the apostle says, And even if you have some other ideas, God will also reveal it to you; let us nonetheless, continue to walk in the path to which we have come (Phil 3:15-16).  If, then, we are already believers, we have come to the way of faith, and, if we do not give it up, we shall undoubtedly come not only to as great an understanding of incorporeal and immutable things as can be grasped in this life, though not by all, but also to the peak of our contemplation, which the apostle calls face to face (1Cor 13:12).  For certain people, even the simplist who, nonetheless, walk with great perseverance in the path of faith, come to that most blessed contemplation.  But there are those who somehow already know what the invisible, immutable, incorporeal nature is and refuse to hold onto the way that leads to so great an abode of happiness, because it seems foolish to them.  The way is Christ Crucified.  And hence they cannot arrive at the temple of that rest by the light of which their mind is not touched as it sheds its ray from afar.

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