The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.



them all for the composition of many of his ablest and most interesting works. His history, from the time of his elevation to the see of Hippo, is so closely implicated with the Donatistic and Pela­gian controversies, that it would be impracticable to pursue its details within our prescribed limits. For a full and accurate account of the part which he took in these memorable contentions, the reader is referred to the life of Augustin contained in the eleventh volume of the Benedictine edition of his works, and to the thirteenth volume of Tillemont's " Memoires pour servir a THistoire Ecclesiastique," •—a quarto of 1075 pages devoted entirely to the life and writings of this eminent father. Of those of his numerous works which we have not already noticed, we mention the three following, as especi­ally interesting and important: His Confessions, in thirteen books, were written in the year 397. They are addressed to the Almighty, and contain an account of Augustin's life down to the time when he was deprived of his mother by death. The last three books are occupied with an allego­rical explanation of the Mosaic account of the crea­tion. His autobiography is written with great genius and feeling; and though the interspersed addresses to the Deity break the order of the nar­rative, and extend over a large portion of the work, they are too fine in themselves, and too character­istic of the author, to allow us to complain of their length and frequency. The celebrated treatise, de Civitate Dei^ commenced about the year 413, was not finished before a. d. 426. Its object and struc­ture cannot be better exhibited than in the author's own words, taken from the 47th chapter of the se­cond book of his Retractationes: " Interea Roma Gothorum irruptione, agentium sub rege Alarico, atque impetu magnae cladis eversa est: cujus ever-sionem deorum falsorum multorumque cultores, quos usitato nomine Paganos vocamus, in Christia-nam religionem referre conantes, solito acerbius et amarius Deum verum blasphemare coeperunt. Unde ego exardescens zelo domus Dei, adversus eorum blasphemias vel errores, libros de Civitate Dei scribere institui. Quod opus per aliquot annos me tenuit, eo quod alia multa intercurrebant, quae differre non oporteret, et me prius ad solvendum occupabant. Hoc autem de Civitate Dei grande opus tandem viginti duobus libris est terminatum. Quorum quinque primi eos refellunt, qui res hu-manas ita prosperari volunt, ut ad hoc multorum deorum cultum, quos Pagani colere consuerunt, ne-cessarium esse arbitrentur; et quia prohibetur, mala ista exoriri atque abundare contendunt. Sequentes autem quinque adversus eos loquuntur, qui fatentur haec mala, nee defuisse imquam, nee defutura mor-talibus; et ea nunc magna, mine parva, locis, tem-poribus, personisque, variari: sed deorum multomm cultum, quo eis sacrificatur, propter vitam post mortem futuram, esse utilem disputant. His ergo decem libris duae istae vanae opiniones Christianae religionis adversariae refelluntur. Sed ne quisquam nos aliena tantum redarguisse, non autem nostra asseruisse, reprehenderet, id agit pars altera operis hujus, quae duodecim libris continetur. Quamquam, ubi opus est, et in prioribus decem quae nostra sunt asseramus, et in duodecim posterioribus redargua-mus adversa. Duodecim ergo librorum sequentium, primi quatuor continent exortum duarum Civitatum, quarum est una Dei, altera hujus mundi. Secundi quatuor excursmn earum sive procursum. Tertii vero, qui et postremi, debitos fines. Ita oinnes


viginti et duo libri cum sint de utraque Civitate conscripti, titulum tameii a meliore acceperunt, ut de Civitate Dei potius vocarentur." The learning displayed in this remarkable work is extensive ra­ther than profound; its contents are too miscella­neous and desultory, and its reasonings are often more ingenious than satisfactory. Yet, after every due abatement has been made, it will maintain its reputation as one of the most extraordinary pro­ductions of human intellect and industry. The Retractationes of Augustin, written in the year

428. deserve notice as evincing the singular can­dour of the author. It consists of a review of all his own productions; and besides explanations and qualifications of much that he had written, it not unfrequently presents acknowledgments of down­right errors and mistakes. It is one of the noblest sacrifices ever laid upon the altar of truth by a majestic intellect acting in obedience to the purest conscientiousness.

The life of Augustin closed amidst scenes of violence and blood. The Vandals under the fero­cious Genseric invaded the north of Africa, a. d.

429. and in the following year laid siege to Hippo. Full of grief for the sufferings which he witnessed and the dangers he foreboded, the aged bishop prayed that God would grant his people a deliver­ance from these dreadful calamities, or else supply them with the fortitude to endure their woes : foi himself he besought a speed}^ liberation from the flesh. His prayer was granted; and in the third month of the siege, on the 28tli of August, 430, Augustin breathed his last, in the seventy-sixth year of his age. The character of this eminent man is admitted on all hands to have been marked by conspicuous excellence after his profession of the Christian faith. The only faults of which he can be accused are an occasional excess of severity in his controversial writings, and a ready acquies­cence in the persecution of the Donatists. His in­tellect was in a very high degree vigorous, acute, and comprehensive ; and he possessed to the last a fund of ingenuous sensibility, which gives an inde­scribable charm to most of his compositions. His style is full of life and force, but deficient both in purity and in elegance. His learning seems to have been principally confined to the Latin authors; of Greek he knew but little, and of Hebrew no­thing. His theological opinions varied considerably even after he became a Christian; and it was during the later period of his life that he adopted those peculiar tenets with regard to grace, predes­tination, and free-will, which in modern times have been called Augustinian. His influence in his own and in every succeeding age has been im­mense. Even in the Roman Catholic Church his authority is professedly held in high esteem; al­though his later theological system has in reality been proscribed by every party in that communion, except the learned, philosophic, and devout frater­nity of the Jansenists. The early Reformers drank deeply into the spirit of his speculative theology; and many even of those who recoil most shrink-ingly from his doctrine of predestination, have done ample justice to his surpassing energy of in­tellect, and to the warmth and purity of his reli­gious feelings.

The earliest edition of the collected works of Augustin is that of the celebrated Amerbach, which appeared in nine volumes folio, at Basle, 1506, and was reprinted at Paris in 1515. This edition did

About | First



page #  
Search this site
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of