Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume III/Doctrinal Treatises of St. Augustin/On the Holy Trinity/Book III/Chapter 3
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Chapter 2.—The Will of God is the Higher Cause of All Corporeal Change. This is Shown by an Example.
7. But there is one kind of natural order in the conversion and changeableness of bodies, which, although itself also serves the bidding of God, yet by reason of its unbroken continuity has ceased to cause wonder; as is the case, for instance, with those things which are changed either in very short, or at any rate not long, intervals of time, in heaven, or earth, or sea; whether it be in rising, or in setting, or in change of appearance from time to time; while there are other things, which, although arising from that same order, yet are less familiar on account of longer intervals of time. And these things, although the many stupidly wonder at them, yet are understood by those who inquire into this present world, and in the progress of generations become so much the less wonderful, as they are the more often repeated and known by more people. Such are the eclipses of the sun and moon, and some kinds of stars, appearing seldom, and earthquakes, and unnatural births of living creatures, and other similar things; of which not one takes place without the will of God; yet, that it is so, is to most people not apparent. And so the vanity of philosophers has found license to assign these things also to other causes, true causes perhaps, but proximate ones, while they are not able to see at all the cause that is higher than all others, that is, the will of God; or again to false causes, and to such as are not even put forward out of any diligent investigation of corporeal things and motions, but from their own guess and error.
8. I will bring forward an example, if I can, that this may be plainer. There is, we know, in the human body, a certain bulk of flesh and an outward form, and an arrangement and distraction of limbs, and a temperament of health; and a soul breathed into it governs this body, and that soul a rational one; which, therefore, although changeable, yet can be partaker of that unchangeable wisdom, so that “it may partake of that which is in and of itself;” as it is written in the Psalm concerning all saints, of whom as of living stones is built that Jerusalem which is the mother of us all, eternal in the heavens. For so it is sung, “Jerusalem is builded as a city, that is partaker of that which is in and of itself.” For “in and of itself,” in that place, is understood of that chiefest and unchangeable good, which is God, and of His own wisdom and will. To whom is sung in another place, “Thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed; but Thou art the same.”
- [The original is: “ut sit participatio ejus in idipsum.” The English translator renders: “So that it may partake thereof in itself.” The thought of Augustin is, that the believing soul though mutable partakes of the immutable; and he designates the immutable as the in idipsum: the self-existent. In that striking passage in the Confessions, in which he describes the spiritual and extatic meditations of himself and his mother, as they looked out upon the Mediterranean from the windows at Ostia—a scene well known from Ary Schefer’s painting—he denominates God the idipsum: the “self same” (Confessions IX. x). Augustin refers to the same absolute immutability of God, in this place. By faith, man is “a partaker of a divine nature,” (2 Pet. i. 4.)—W.G.T.S.]
- Ps. cxxii. 3. Vulg.
- Ps. cii. 26, 27