Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume III/Doctrinal Treatises of St. Augustin/A Treatise on Faith and the Creed/Chapter 10
Chapter 10.—Of the Catholic Church, the Remission of Sins, and the Resurrection of the Flesh.
—Inasmuch, I repeat, as this is the case, we believe also in The Holy Church, [intending thereby] assuredly the Catholic. For both heretics and schismatics style their congregations churches. But heretics, in holding false opinions regarding God, do injury to the faith itself; while schismatics, on the other hand, in wicked separations break off from brotherly charity, although they may believe just what we believe. Wherefore neither do the heretics belong to the Church catholic, which loves God; nor do the schismatics form a part of the same, inasmuch as it loves the neighbor, and consequently readily forgives the neighbor’s sins, because it prays that forgiveness may be extended to itself by Him who has reconciled us to Himself, doing away with all past things, and calling us to a new life. And until we reach the perfection of this new life, we cannot be without sins. Nevertheless it is a matter of consequence of what sort those sins may be.
22. Neither ought we only to treat of the difference between sins, but we ought most thoroughly to believe that those things in which we sin are in no way forgiven us, if we show ourselves severely unyielding in the matter of forgiving the sins of others. Thus, then, we believe also in The Remission of Sins.
23. And inasmuch as there are three things of which man consists,—namely, spirit, soul, and body,—which again are spoken of as two, because frequently the soul is named along with the spirit; for a certain rational portion of the same, of which beasts are devoid, is called spirit: the principal part in us is the spirit; next, the life whereby we are united with the body is called the soul; finally, the body itself, as it is visible, is the last part in us. This “whole creation” (creatura), however, “groaneth and travaileth until now.” Nevertheless, He has given it the first-fruits of the Spirit, in that it has believed God, and is now of a good will. This spirit is also called the mind, regarding which an apostle speaks thus: “With the mind I serve the law of God.” Which apostle likewise expresses himself thus in another passage: “For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit.” Moreover, the soul, when as yet it lusts after carnal good things, is called the flesh. For a certain part thereof resists the Spirit, not in virtue of nature, but in virtue of the custom of sins; whence it is said, “With the mind I serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” And this custom has been turned into a nature, according to mortal generation, by the sin of the first man. Consequently it is also written in this wise, “And we were sometime by nature the children of wrath,” that is, of vengeance, through which it has come to pass that we serve the law of sin. The nature of the soul, however, is perfect when it is made subject to its own spirit, and when it follows that spirit as the same follows God. Therefore “the animal man receiveth not the things which are of the Spirit of God.” But the soul is not so speedily subdued to the spirit unto good action, as is the spirit to God unto true faith and goodwill; but sometimes its impetus, whereby it moves downwards into things carnal and temporal, is more tardily bridled. But inasmuch as this same soul is also made pure, and receives the stability of its own nature, under the dominance of the spirit, which is the head for it, which head of the said soul has again its own head in Christ, we ought not to despair of the restoration of the body also to its own proper nature. But this certainly will not be effected so speedily as is the case with the soul; just as the soul too, is not restored so speedily as the spirit. Yet it will take place in the appropriate season, at the last trump, when “the dead shall rise uncorrupted, and we shall be changed.” And accordingly we believe also in The Resurrection of the Flesh, to wit, not merely that that soul, which at present by reason of carnal affections is called the flesh, is restored; but that it shall be so likewise with this visible flesh, which is the flesh according to nature, the name of which has been received by the soul, not in virtue of nature, but in reference to carnal affections: this visible flesh, then, I say, which is the flesh properly so called, must without doubt be believed to be destined to rise again. For the Apostle Paul appears to point to this, as it were, with his finger, when he says, “This corruptible must put on incorruption.” For when he says this, he, as it were, directs his finger toward it. Now it is that which is visible that admits of being pointed out with the finger; since the soul might also have been called corruptible, for it is itself corrupted by vices of manners. And when it is read, “and this mortal [must] put on immortality,” the same visible flesh is signified, inasmuch as at it ever and anon the finger is thus as it were pointed. For the soul also may thus in like manner be called mortal, even as it is designated corruptible in reference to vices of manners. For assuredly it is “the death of the soul to apostatize from God;” which is its first sin in Paradise, as it is contained in the sacred writings.
24. Rise again, therefore, the body will, according to the Christian faith, which is incapable of deceiving. And if this appears incredible to any one, [it is because] he looks simply to what the flesh is at present, while he fails to consider of what nature it shall be hereafter. For at that time of angelic change it will no more be flesh and blood, but only body. For when the apostle speaks of the flesh, he says, “There is one flesh of cattle, another of birds, another of fishes, another of creeping things: there are also both celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies.” Now what he has said here is not “celestial flesh,” but “both celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies.” For all flesh is also body; but every body is not also flesh. In the first instance, [for example, this holds good] in the case of those terrestrial bodies, inasmuch as wood is body, but not flesh. In the case of man, again, or in that of cattle, we have both body and flesh. In the case of celestial bodies, on the other hand, there is no flesh, but only those simple and lucent bodies which the apostle designates spiritual, while some call them ethereal. And consequently, when he says, “Flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” that does not contradict the resurrection of the flesh; but the sentence predicates what will be the nature of that hereafter which at present is flesh and blood. And if any one refuses to believe that the flesh is capable of being changed into the sort of nature thus indicated, he must be led on, step by step, to this faith. For if you require of him whether earth is capable of being changed into water, the nearness of the thing will make it not seem incredible to him. Again, if you inquire whether water is capable of being changed into air, he replies that this also is not absurd, for the elements are near each other. And if, on the subject of the air, it is asked whether that can be changed into an ethereal, that is, a celestial body, the simple fact of the nearness at once convinces him of the possibility of the thing. But if, then, he concedes that through such gradations it is quite a possible thing that earth should be changed into an ethereal body, why does he refuse to believe, when that will of God, too, enters in addition, whereby a human body had power to walk upon the waters, that the same change is capable of being effected with the utmost rapidity, precisely in accordance with the saying, “in the twinkling of an eye,” and without any such gradations, even as, according to common wont, smoke is changed into flame with marvellous quickness? For our flesh assuredly is of earth. But philosophers, on the ground of whose arguments opposition is for the most part offered to the resurrection of the flesh, so far as in these they assert that no terrene body can possibly exist in heaven, yet concede that any kind of body may be converted and changed into every [other] sort of body. And when this resurrection of the body has taken place, being set free then from the condition of time, we shall fully enjoy Eternal Life in ineffable love and steadfastness, without corruption. For “then shall be brought to pass the saying which is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. Where is, O death, thy sting? Where is, O death, thy contention?”
25. This is the faith which in few words is given in the Creed to Christian novices, to be held by them. And these few words are known to the faithful, to the end that in believing they may be made subject to God; that being made subject, they may rightly live; that in rightly living, they may make the heart pure; that with the heart made pure, they may understand that which they believe.
- Matt. vi. 15
- Rom. viii. 22
- Reading spiritus. Taking spiritus, the sense might be = Nevertheless, the spirit hath imparted the first-fruits, in that it has believed God, and is now of a good will.
- Rom. vii. 25
- Rom. i. 9
- Instead of caro nominatur. Pars enim ejus quœdam resistit, etc., some good mss. read caro nominatur et resistit, etc. = is called the flesh, and resists, etc.
- Eph. ii. 3
- Animalis homo, literally = "the" soulish man.
- 1 Cor. ii. 14
- 1 Cor. xv. 52
- 1 Cor. xv. 53
- The text gives, Mors quippe animæ est apostatare a Deo. The reference, perhaps, is to Ecclus. x. 12, where the Vulgate has, initium superbiœ hominis, apostatare a Deo.
- Augustin refers to this statement in the passage quoted from the Retractations in the Introductory Notice above.
- 1 Cor. xv. 39, 40
- 1 Cor. xv. 50
- 1 Cor. xv. 52
- Instead of a temporis conditione liberati, æterna vita ineffabili caritate atque stabilitate sine corruptione per fruemur, several mss. read, corpus a temporis conditione liberatum æterna vita ineffabili caritate per fruetur = the body, set free from the condition of time, shall fully enjoy eternal life in ineffable love.
- 1 Cor. xv. 54, 55