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St. Augustine

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CHAPTER I - The Occasion and Purpose of this "Manual"

1. I cannot say, my dearest son Laurence, how much your learning pleases me, and how
much I desire that you should be wise - though not one of those of whom it is said: "Where is
the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputant of this world? Hath not God made
foolish the wisdom of this world?"
1 Rather, you should be one of those of whom it is written,
"The multitude of the wise is the health of the world"
2; and also you should be the kind of man
the apostle wishes those men to be to whom he said,
3 "I would have you be wise in goodness
and simple in evil."

2. Human wisdom consists in piety. This you have in the book of the saintly Job, for there he
writes that Wisdom herself said to man, "Behold, piety is wisdom."
5 If, then, you ask what
kind of piety she was speaking of, you will find it more
distinctly designated by the Greek term qeosebeia, literally, "the service of God." The Greek has
still another word for "piety," ensebeia, which also signifies "proper service." This too refers
chiefly to the service of God. But no term is better than qeosebeia, which clearly expresses the
idea of the man's service of God as the source of human wisdom.
When you ask me to be brief, you do not expect me to speak of great issues in a few
sentences, do you? Is not this rather what you desire: a brief summary or a short treatise on the
proper mode of worshipping [serving] God?

3. If I should answer, "God should be worshipped in faith, hope, love," you would doubtless
reply that this was shorter than you wished, and might then beg for a brief explication of what
each of these three means: What should be believed, what should be hoped for, and what should
be loved? If I should answer these questions, you would then have everything you asked for in
your letter. If you have kept a copy of it, you can easily refer to it. If not, recall your questions
as I discuss them.

4. It is your desire, as you wrote, to have from me a book, a sort of enchiridion,
6 as it
might be called - something to have "at hand" - that deals with your questions. What is to be
sought after above all else? What, in view of the divers heresies, is to be avoided above all else?
How far does reason support religion; or what happens to reason when the issues involved
concern faith alone; what is the beginning and end of our endeavor? What is the most
comprehensive of all explanations? What is the certain and distinctive foundation of the catholic
faith? You would have the answers to all these questions if you really understood what a man
should believe, what he should hope for, and what he ought to love. For these are the chief
things - indeed, the only things - to seek for in religion. He who turns away from them is either
a complete stranger to the name of Christ or else he is a heretic. Things that arise in sensory
experience, or that are analyzed by the intellect, may be demonstrated by the reason. But in
matters that pass beyond the scope of the physical senses, which we have not settled by our own
understanding, and cannot - here we must believe, without hesitation, the witness of those men
by whom the Scriptures (rightly called divine) were composed, men who were divinely aided in
their senses and their minds to see and even to foresee the things about which they testify.

5. But, as this faith, which works by love,
7 begins to penetrate the soul, it tends, through
the vital power of goodness, to change into sight, so that the holy and perfect in heart catch
glimpses of that ineffable beauty whose full vision is our highest happiness. Here, then, surely, is
the answer to your question about the beginning and the end of our endeavor. We begin in faith,
we are perfected in sight.
8 This likewise is the most comprehensive of all explanations. As for
the certain and distinctive foundation of the catholic faith, it is Christ. "For other foundation,"
said the apostle, "can no man lay save that which has been laid, which is Christ Jesus."
9 Nor
should it be denied that this is the distinctive basis of the catholic faith, just because it appears
that it is common to us and to certain heretics as well. For if we think carefully about the
meaning of Christ, we shall see that among some of the heretics who wish to be called
Christians, the _name_ of Christ is held in honor, but the reality itself is not among them. To
make all this plain would take too long - because we would then have to review all the heresies
that have been, the ones that now exist, and those which could exist under the label "Christian,"
and we would have to show that what we have said of all is true of each of them. Such a
discussion would take so many volumes as to make it seem endless.

6. You have asked for an enchiridion, something you could carry around, not just baggage
for your bookshelf. Therefore we may return to these three ways in which, as we said, God
should be served: faith, hope, love. It is easy to _say_ what one ought to believe, what to hope
for, and what to love. But to defend our doctrines against the calumnies of those who think
differently is a more difficult and detailed task. If one is to have this wisdom, it is not enough
just to put an enchiridion in the hand. It is also necessary that a great zeal be kindled in the heart.

1 1 Cor. 1:20.

2 Wis. 6:26 (Vulgate).

3 Rom. 16:19.

4 A later interpolation, not found in the best MSS., adds, "As no one can exist from himself, so also no one can be wise in himself save only as he is enlightened by Him of whom it is written, 'All wisdom is from God' [Ecclus. 1:1]."

5 Job 28:28.

6 A transliteration of the Greek, literally, a handbook or manual.

7 Cf. Gal. 5:6.

8 Cf. 1 Cor. 13:10, 11.

9 1 Cor. 3:11.

10 Already, very early in his ministry (397), Augustine had written De agone Christiano, in which he had reviewed and refuted a full score of heresies threatening the orthodox faith.

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