Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/On the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, and on the Baptism of Infants/Book I/Chapter 1
Chapter 1 [I.]—Introductory, in the Shape of an Inscription to His Friend Marcellinus.
Howeverabsorbing and intense the anxieties and annoyances in the whirl and warmth of which we are engaged with sinful men who forsake the law of God,—even though we may well ascribe these very evils to the fault of our own sins,—I am unwilling, and, to say the truth, unable, any longer to remain a debtor, my dearest Marcellinus, to that zealous affection of yours, which only enhances my own grateful and pleasant estimate of yourself. I am under the impulse [of a twofold emotion]: on the one hand, there is that very love which makes us unchangeably one in the one hope of a change for the better; on the other hand, there is the fear of offending God in yourself, who has given you so earnest a desire; in gratifying which I shall be only serving Him who has given it to you. And so strongly has this impulse led and attracted me to solve, to the best of my humble ability, the questions which you have submitted to me in writing, that my mind has gradually admitted this inquiry to an importance transcending that of all others; [and it will now give me no rest] until I accomplish something which shall make it manifest that I have yielded, if not a sufficient, yet at any rate an obedient, compliance with your own kind wish and the desire of those to whom these questions are a source of anxiety.
- This is probably an allusion to the Donatists, who were then fiercely assailing the Catholics; [and over the conference between whom and the Catholics, Marcellinus had presided the previous year (411).—W.]
- [Flavius Marcellinus, a “tribune and notary,” a Christian man of high character and devout mind, who was much interested in theological discussions. He was appointed by Honorius to preside over the commission of inquiry into the disputes between the Catholics and Donatists in 411, and held the famous conference between the parties, that met in Carthage on the 1st, 3d, and 8th of June, 411. He discharged this whole business with singular patience, moderation, and good judgment; which appears to have cemented the intimate friendship between him and Augustin. Augustin’s treatise on The Spirit and Letter is also addressed to him, and he undertook the City of God on his suggestion. See below, p. 80.—W.]