Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume I/Confessions/Book VIII/Chapter 10
Chapter X.—He Refutes the Opinion of the Manichæans as to Two Kinds of Minds,—One Good and the Other Evil.
22. Let them perish from Thy presence, O God, as “vain talkers and deceivers” of the soul do perish, who, observing that there were two wills in deliberating, affirm that there are two kinds of minds in us,—one good, the other evil. They themselves verily are evil when they hold these evil opinions; and they shall become good when they hold the truth, and shall consent unto the truth, that Thy apostle may say unto them, “Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.” But, they, desiring to be light, not “in the Lord,” but in themselves, conceiving the nature of the soul to be the same as that which God is, are made more gross darkness; for that through a shocking arrogancy they went farther from Thee, “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Take heed what you say, and blush for shame; draw near unto Him and be “lightened,” and your faces shall not be “ashamed.” I, when I was deliberating upon serving the Lord my God now, as I had long purposed,—I it was who willed, I who was unwilling. It was I, even I myself. I neither willed entirely, nor was entirely unwilling. Therefore was I at war with myself, and destroyed by myself. And this destruction overtook me against my will, and yet showed not the presence of another mind, but the punishment of mine own. “Now, then, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me,”—the punishment of a more unconfined sin, in that I was a son of Adam.
23. For if there be as many contrary natures as there are conflicting wills, there will not now be two natures only, but many. If any one deliberate whether he should go to their conventicle, or to the theatre, those men at once cry out, “Behold, here are two natures,—one good, drawing this way, another bad, drawing back that way; for whence else is this indecision between conflicting wills?” But I reply that both are bad—that which draws to them, and that which draws back to the theatre. But they believe not that will to be other than good which draws to them. Supposing, then, one of us should deliberate, and through the conflict of his two wills should waver whether he should go to the theatre or to our church, would not these also waver what to answer? For either they must confess, which they are not willing to do, that the will which leads to our church is good, as well as that of those who have received and are held by the mysteries of theirs, or they must imagine that there are two evil natures and two evil minds in one man, at war one with the other; and that will not be true which they say, that there is one good and another bad; or they must be converted to the truth, and no longer deny that where any one deliberates, there is one soul fluctuating between conflicting wills.
24. Let them no more say, then, when they perceive two wills to be antagonistic to each other in the same man, that the contest is between two opposing minds, of two opposing substances, from two opposing principles, the one good and the other bad. For Thou, O true God, dost disprove, check, and convince them; like as when both wills are bad, one deliberates whether he should kill a man by poison, or by the sword; whether he should take possession of this or that estate of another’s, when he cannot both; whether he should purchase pleasure by prodigality, or retain his money by covetousness; whether he should go to the circus or the theatre, if both are open on the same day; or, thirdly, whether he should rob another man’s house, if he have the opportunity; or, fourthly, whether he should commit adultery, if at the same time he have the means of doing so,—all these things concurring in the same point of time, and all being equally longed for, although impossible to be enacted at one time. For they rend the mind amid four, or even (among the vast variety of things men desire) more antagonistic wills, nor do they yet affirm that there are so many different substances. Thus also is it in wills which are good. For I ask them, is it a good thing to have delight in reading the apostle, or good to have delight in a sober psalm, or good to discourse on the gospel? To each of these they will answer, “It is good.” What, then, if all equally delight us, and all at the same time? Do not different wills distract the mind, when a man is deliberating which he should rather choose? Yet are they all good, and are at variance until one be fixed upon, whither the whole united will may be borne, which before was divided into many. Thus, also, when above eternity delights us, and the pleasure of temporal good holds us down below, it is the same soul which willeth not that or this with an entire will, and is therefore torn asunder with grievous perplexities, while out of truth it prefers that, but out of custom forbears not this.
- Ps. lxviii. 2.
- Titus i. 10.
- And that therefore they were not responsible for their evil deeds, it not being they that sinned, but the nature of evil in them. See iv. sec. 26, and note, above, where the Manichæan doctrines in this matter are fully treated.
- Eph. v. 8.
- See iv. sec. 26, note, above.
- John i. 9.
- Ps. xxxiv. 5.
- See v. sec. 2, note 6, above, and x. sec. 5, note, below.
- Rom. vii. 17.
- The Manichæans.