LETTER CLI. (A.D. 413 OR 414.)


1. The remonstrance which you have addressed to me in your letter is gratifying to me m proportion to the love which it manifests. If, therefore, ! attempt to clear myself from blame in regard to my silence, the thing which I must attempt is to show that you had no just cause for being displeased with me. But since nothing gives me greater pleasure than that you condescended to take offence at my silence, which I had supposed to be a matter of no moment in the midst of your many cares, I will be pleading against myself if I endeavour thus to clear myself from blame. For if you were wrong in being displeased at me for not writing to you, this must be because of your having such a poor opinion of me that you are absolutely indifferent whether I speak or remain silent. Nay, the displeasure which arises from your being distressed by my silence is not displeasure. I .therefore feel not so much grief at my withhold-rag, as joy at your desiring a communication from me. For it is an honour, not a vexation, to me, that I should have a place in the remembrance of an old friend, and a man who is (though you may not say it, yet it is our duty to acknowledge it) of such eminent worth and greatness, holding a position in a foreign country, and burdened with public responsibilities. Pardon me, then, for expressing my gratitude that you did not regard me as a person whose silence it was beneath you to resent. For now 12 am persuaded, through that benevolence which distinguishes you more even than your high rank, that in the midst of your numerous and important occupations, not of a private nature, but public, involving the interests of all, a letter from me may be esteemed by you not burdensome, but welcome.

2. For when I had received the letter of the holy father Innocentius, venerable for his eminent merits, which was sent to me by the brethren, and which was, by manifest tokens, shown to have been forwarded to me from your Excellency, I formed the opinion that the reason why no letter from you accompanied it was that, being engrossed with more important affairs, you were unwilling to be embarrassed by the trouble of correspondence. For it seemed certainly not unreasonable to expect, that when you con-descended to send me the writings of a holy man, I should receive along with them some writings of your own. I had therefore made up my mind not to trouble you with a letter from me unless it was necessary for the purpose of commending to you some one to whom I could not refuse the service of my intercession, a favour which it is our custom to grant to all, -- a custom which, though involving much trouble, is not to be altogether condemned. I accordingly did this recommending to your kindness a friend of mine, from whom I have now received a letter, expressing his thanks, to which I add my own, for your service.

3. If, however, I had formed any unfavourable impression concerning yon, especially in regard to the matter of which, though it was not expressly named, a subtle odour, so to speak, pervaded your whole letter, far would it have been from me to write to you any such note in order to ask any favour for myself or another. In that case I would either have been silent, waiting for a time when I would have an opportunity of seeing you personally; or if I considered it my duty to write on the subject, I would have given it the first place in my letter, and would have treated it in such a way as to make it almost impossible for you to show displeasure. For when, notwithstanding remonstrances which, under an anxiety shared by you with us, we addressed to him,- beseeching him vehemently, but in vain, to forbear from piercing our hearts with so great sorrow, and mortally wounding his own conscience by such grievous sin, -- he ' perpetrated his impious, savage, and perfidious crime, I left Carthage immediately and secretly, for this reason, lest the numerous and influential persons who in terror sought refuge from his sword within the church should, imagining that my presence could be of use to them, detain me by their passionate weeping and groaning, so that I would be compelled, in order to secure the preservation of their bodies, to supplicate a favour from one whom it was impossible for me to rebuke in order to the welfare of his soul, with the severity which his crime deserved. As for their personal safety, I knew that the walls of the church sufficed for their protection. But for myself [if I remained to intercede with him on their behalf], it could only be in circumstances painfully embarrassing, for he would not have tolerated my acting towards him as I was bound to do, and I would have been compelled, moreover, to act in a way which would have been unbecoming in me. At the same time, I was truly sorry for the misfortune of my venerable co-bishop, the ruler of such an important church, who was expected to regard it as his duty, even after this man had been guilty of such infamous treachery, to treat him with submissive deference, in order that the lives of others might be spared. I confess the reason of my departure: it was that I would have been unable to meet with the necessary fortitude so great a calamity.

4. The same considerations which made me then depart would have been the cause of my remaining silent to you, if I believed you to have used your influence with him to avenge such wicked injuries. This is believed in regard to you only by those who do not know how, and how frequently, and in what terms, you expressed J your mind to us, when we were with anxious solicitude doing our utmost to secure that, because i he was so intimate with you, and you were so !constantly visiting him, and so often conversing 'alone with him, he should all the more carefully guard your good name, and save you from being supposed to have used no endeavour to prevent him from inflicting that mode of death on persons said to be your enemies. This, indeed, is not believed of you by me, nor by my brethren who heard you in conversation, and who saw, both in your words and in every gesture, the evidences of your heart's good-will to those who were put to death. But, I beseech you, forgive those by whom it is believed; for they are men, and in the minds of men there are such lurking places and such depths that, although all suspicious persons deserved to be blamed, they think themselves that they even deserve praise for their prudence. There existed reasons for the conduct imputed to you: we knew that you had suffered very grievous injury from one of those whom he had suddenly ordered to be arrested. His brother, also, in whose person especially he persecuted the Church, was said to have answered you in terms implying as it were some harsh accusation. Both were thought to be looked upon by you with suspicion. When they, after being summoned, had gone away, you still remained in the place, and were engaged, it was said, in conversation of a more private kind than usual with him [Marinas], and then they were suddenly ordered to be detained. Men talked much of your friendship with him as not recent, but of long standing. The closeness of your intimacy, and the frequency of your private conversations with him, confirmed this report. His power was at that time great. The ease with which false accusations could be made against any one was notorious. It was not a difficult thing to find some person who would upon the promise of his own safety make any statements which he might order to be made. All things at that time made it easy for any man to be brought to death without any examination on the part of him who ordered the execution, if even one witness brought forward what seemed to be an odious and, at the same time, credible accusation.

5. Meanwhile, as it was rumored that the power of the Church might deliver them, we were mocked with false promises, so that not only with the consent, but, as it seemed, at the urgent desire of Marinus, a bishop was sent to the Imperial Court to intercede for them, the promise having been brought to the ear of the bishops that, until some pleading should be heard there on behalf of the prisoners, no examination of their case would be proceeded with. At last, on the day before they were put to death, your Excellency came to us; you gave us encouragement such as you had never before given, that he might grant their lives as a favour to you before your departure [for Rome], because you had solemnly and prudently said to him that all his condescension in admitting you so constantly to familiar and private conversation would bring to you disgrace rather than distinction, and would have the effect, after the death of these men had been a subject of conversation and! consultation between you, of making every one i say that there could be no doubt what was to be the issue of these conferences. When you informed us that you had said these things to him,. you stretched out your hand as you spoke i towards the place at which the sacraments of believers are celebrated, and while we listened in amazement, you confirmed the statement that you had used these words with an oath so solemn, that not only then, but even now after the dreadful and unexpected death of the prisoners, it seems to me, recalling to memory your whole demeanour, that it would be an aggravated insult if I were to believe any evil concerning you. You said, moreover, that he was so moved by these words of yours, that he purposed to give the lives of these men to you as a present, in token of friendship, before you set out on your journey.

6. Wherefore, I solemnly assure your Grace, that when on the following day (the day on which the infamous crime thus conceived was consummated) tidings were unexpectedly brought to us that they had been led forth from prison to stand before him as their judge, although we were in some alarm, nevertheless, after reflecting on what you had said to us on the preceding day, and on the fact that the day following was the anniversary of the blessed Cyprian, I supposed that he had even purposely selected a day on which he might not only grant your request, but also might aspire, by giving sudden joy to the whole Church of Christ, to emulate the virtue of so great a martyr, proving himself truly greater in using clemency in sparing life than in possessing power to inflict death. Such were my thoughts, when lo! a messenger burst into our presence, from whom, before we could ask him how their trial was being conducted, we learned that they had been beheaded. For care had been taken to arrange, as the scene of execution, a place immediately adjoining, not appointed for the punishment of criminals, but used for the recreation of the citizens, on which spot he had ordered some to be executed a few days previously, with the design (as is with good reason believed) of avoiding the odium of applying it to this purpose for the first time in the case of these men, whom he hoped to be able to snatch secretly from the Church interposing on their behalf, by thus not only ordering their immediate execution, but also ordering it to take place on the nearest available spot. He therefore made it sufficiently manifest that he did not fear to cause cruel pain to that Mother whose intervention he feared, namely, to the holy Church, among whose faithful children, baptized in her bosom, we knew that he himself was reckoned. Therefore, after the issue of so great a plot, in which so much care had been used in negotiating with us that we were made, even by you also, though unwittingly, almost free from solicitude, and almost sure of their safety on the preceding day, who, judging of the circumstances in the way in which ordinary men would judge of them, could avoid regarding it as beyond question that by you also words were given to us and life taken from them ? Pardon, then, as I have said, those who believe these things against you, although we do not believe them, O excellent man.

7. Far be it, however, from my heart and from my practice, however defective in many things, to intercede with you for any one, or ask a favour from you for any one, if I believed you to be responsible for this monstrous wrong, this villanous cruelty. But I frankly confess to you, that if you continue, even after that event, to be on the same footing of intimate friendship with him as you were formerly, you must excuse my claiming freedom to be grieved; for by this you would compel us to believe much which we would rather disbelieve. It is, however, fitting that, as I do not believe you guilty of the other things laid by some to your charge, I should not believe this either. This friend of yours has, in the unexpected triumph of sudden accession to power, done violence not less to your reputation than to these men's lives. Nor is it my design in this statement to kindle hatred in your mind; in so doing I would belie my own feelings and profession. But I exhort you to a more faithful exercise of love towards him. For the man who so deals with the wicked as to make them repent of their evil doings, is one who knows how to be angry with them, and yet consult for their good; for as bad companions hinder men's welfare by compliance, so good friends help them by opposition to their evil ways. The same weapon with which, in the proud abuse of power, he took away the lives of others, inflicted a much deeper and more serious wound on his own soul i and if he do not remedy this by repentance, using wisely the long-suffering of God, he will be compelled to find it out and feel it when this life is ended. Often, moreover, God in His wisdom permits the life of good men in this world to be taken from them by the wicked, that He may prevent men from believing that to suffer such things is in their case a calamity. For what harm can result from the death of the body to men who are destined to die some time ? Or what do those who fear death accomplish by their care but a short postponement of the time at which they die ? All the evil to which mortal men are liable comes not from death but from life; and if in dying they have the soul sustained by Christian grace, death is to them not the night of darkness in which a good life ends, but the dawn in which a better life begins.1

8. The life and conversation of the eider of the two brothers appeared indeed more conformed to this world than to Christ, although he also had after his marriage corrected to a great extent the faults of his early irreligious years. It may, nevertheless, have been not otherwise than in mercy that our merciful God appointed him to be the companion of his brother in death. But as to that younger brother, he lived religiously, and was eminent as a Christian both in heart and in practice. The report that he would approve himself such when commissioned to serve the Church2 came before him to Africa, and this good report followed him still when he had come. In his conduct, what innocence! in his friendship, what constancy! in his study of Christian truth, what zeal! in his religion, what sincerity ! in his domestic life, what purity ! in his official duties, what integrity! What patience be showed to enemies, what affability to friends, what humility to the pious, what charity to all men! How great his promptitude in granting, and his bashfulness in asking a favour! How genuine his satisfaction in the good deeds, and his sorrow over the faults of men! What spotless honour, noble grace, and scrupulous piety shone in him! In rendering assistance, how compassionate he was ! in forgiving injuries, how generous ! in prayer, how confiding ! When well informed on any subject, with what modesty he was wont to communicate useful knowledge ! when conscious of ignorance, with what diligence did he endeavour by investigation to overcome the disadvantage ! How singular was his contempt for the things of time! how ardent his hope and his desires in regard to the blessings that are eternal! He would have relinquished all secular business and girded himself with the insignia of the Christian warfare, had he not been prevented by his having entered into the married state; for he had not begun to desire better things before the time when, being already involved in these bonds, it would have been, notwithstanding their inferiority, an unlawful thing for him to rend them asunder.

9. One day when they were confined in prison together, his brother said to him: "If I suffer these things as the just punishment of my sins, what ill desert has brought you to the same fate, for we know that your life was most strictly and earnestly Christian ?" He replied: "Supposing even that your testimony as to my life were true, do you think that God is bestowing a small fa-your upon me in appointing that my sins be punished in these sufferings, even though they should end in death, instead of being reserved to meet me in the judgment which is to come?" These words might perhaps lead some to suppose that he was conscious of some secret immoralities. I shall therefore mention what it pleased the Lord God to appoint that I should hear from his lips, and know assuredly, to my own great consolation. Being anxious about this very thing, as human nature is liable to fall into such wickedness, I asked him, when I was alone with him after he was confined in prison, if there was no sin for which he ought to seek reconciliation with God 3 by some more severe and special penance. With characteristic modesty he blushed at the mere mention of my suspicion, groundless though it was, but thanked me most warmly for the warning, and with a grave, modest smile he seized with both hands my right hand, and said: "I swear by the sacraments which are dispensed to me by this hand, that I have neither before nor since my marriage been guilty of immoral self-indulgence.",

10. What evil, then, was brought to him by death ? Nay, rather, was it not the occasion of the greatest possible good to him, because, in the possession of these gifts, he departed from this life to Christ, in whom alone they are really possessed? I would not mention these things in addressing you if I believed that you would be offended by my praising him. But assuredly, as I do not believe this, neither do I believe that his being put to death was even according to your desire or wish, much less that it was done at your request. You, therefore, with a sincerity proportioned to your innocence in this matter, entertain, doubtless, along with us, the opinion that the man who put him to death inflicted more cruel wrong on his own soul than on the sufferer's body, when, in despite of us, in despite of his own promises, in despite of so many supplications and warnings from you, and finally, in despite of the Church of Christ (and in her of Christ Himself), he consummated his base machinations by putting this man to death. Is the high position of the one worthy to be compared with the lot of the other, prisoner though he was, when the man of power was maddened by anger, while the sufferer in his prison was filled with joy? There is nothing in all the dungeons of this world, nay, not even in hell itself, to surpass the dreadful doom of darkness to which a villian is consigned by remorse of conscience. Even to yourself, what evil did he do ? He did not destroy your innocence, although he grievously injured your reputation; which, nevertheless, remains uninjured, both in the estimation of those who know you better than we do, and in our estimation, in whose presence the anxiety which, like us, you felt for the prevention of such a monstrous crime, was expressed with so much visible agitation that we could almost see with our eyes the invisible workings of your heart. Whatever harm, therefore, he has done, he has: done to himself alone; he has pierced through his own soul, his own life, his own conscience ;] in fine, he has by that blind deed of cruelty destroyed even his own good name, a thing which the very worst of men are usually fain to preserve. For to all good men he is odious in proportion to his efforts to obtain, or his satisfaction in receiving, the approbation of the wicked.

11. Could anything prove more clearly that he was not under the necessity which he pretended- alleging that he did this evil action as a good man who had no alternative- than the fact that the proceeding was disapproved of by the person whose orders he dared to plead as his excuse ? The pious deacon by whose hand we send this was himself associated with the bishop whom we had sent to intercede for them; let him, therefore, relate to your Excellency how it i seemed good to the Emperor not even to give a formal pardon, lest by this the stigma of a crime should be in some degree attached to them, but a mere notice commanding them to be immediately set at liberty from all further annoyance. By a purely gratuitous act of cruelty, and under no pressure of necessity (although, perchance, there may have been other causes which we suspect, but which it is unnecessary to state in writing), he did outrageously vex the Church, -- the Church to whose sheltering bosom his brother once, in fear of death, had fled, to be requited for protecting his life by finding him active in counselling the perpetration of this crime, -- the Church in which he himself had once, when under the displeasure of an offended patron, sought an asylum which could not be denied to him. If you love this man, show your detestation of his crime; if you do not wish him to f come into everlasting punishment, shrink with horror from his society. You are bound to take measures of this kind, both for your own good name and for his life; for he who loves in this man what God hates, is, in truth, hating not only this man but also his own soul.

12. These things being so, I know your benevolence too well to believe that you were the author of this crime, or an accomplice in its commission, or that with malicious cruelty you deceived us: far be such conduct from your life and conversation ! At the same time, I would not wish your friendship to be of such a character as tends to make him, to his own destruction, glory in his crime, and to confirm the suspicions naturally cherished by men concerning you; but rather let it be such as to move him to penitence, and to penitence corresponding in quality and in measure to the remedy demanded for the healing of such dreadful wounds. For the more you are an enemy to his crimes, the more really will you be a friend to the man himself. It will be interesting to us to learn, by your Excellency's reply to this letter, where you were on the day on which the crime was committed, how you received the tidings, and what you did thereafter, and what you said to him and heard from him when you next saw him; for I have not been able to hear anything of you in connection with this affair since my sudden departure on the succeeding day.

13. As to the remark in your letter that you are now compelled to believe that I refuse to visit Carthage for fear lest you should be seen there by me, you rather compel me by these words to state explicitly the reasons of my absence. One reason is, that the labour which I am obliged to undergo in that city, and which I could not describe without adding as much again to the length of this letter, is more than I am able now to bear, since, in addition to my infirmities peculiar to myself, which are known to all my more intimate friends, I am .burdened with an infirmity common to the human family, namely, the weakness of old age. The other reason is, that, in so far as leisure is granted me from the work imperatively demanded by the Church, which my office specially binds me to serve, I have resolved to devote the time entirely, if the Lord will, to the labour of studies pertaining to ecclesiastical learning; in doing which I think that I may, if it please the mercy of God, be of some service even to future generations.

14. There is, indeed, one thing in you, since you wish to hear the truth, which causes me very great distress: it is that, although qualified by age, as well as by life and character, to do otherwise, you still prefer to be a catechumen; as if it were not possible for believers, by making progress in Christian faith and well-doing, to become so much the more faithful and useful in the administration of public business. For surely the promotion of the welfare of men is the one great end of all your great cares and labours. And, indeed, if this were not to be the issue of your public services, it would be better for you even to sleep both day and night than to sacrifice your rest in order to do work which can contribute nothing to the advantage of your fellow-men. Nor do I entertain the slightest doubt that your Excellency . . .

(Caetera desunt.)



1. I urgently beg you to send the reply due to my last letter. Indeed, I would have preferred first to learn what I then asked, and afterwards to put the questions which I now submit to you. Give me your attention while I relate an event in which you will kindly take an interest, and which has made me impatient to lose no time in acquiring, if possible in this life, the knowledge which I desired. I had a certain youth as a clerk, a son of presbyter Armenus of Melonita, whom, by my humble instrumentality, God rescued when he was becoming already immersed in secular affairs, for he was employed as a shorthand writer by the proconsul's solicitor.2 He was then, indeed, as boys usually are, prompt and somewhat restless, but as he grew older (for his death occurred in his twenty-second year) a gravity of deportment and circumspect probity of life so adorned him that it is a pleasure to dwell upon his memory. He was, moreover, a clever stenographer, 3 and indefatigable in writing: he had begun also to be earnest in reading, so that he even urged me to do more than my indolence would have chosen, in order to spend hours of the night in reading, for he read aloud to me for a time every night after all was still; and in reading, he would not pass over any sentence unless he understood it, and would ?go over it a third or even a fourth time, and not leave it until what he wished to know was made clear. I had begun to regard him not as a mere boy and clerk, but as a comparatively intimate and pleasant friend, for his conversation gave me much delight.

2. He desired also to "depart and to be with Christ,"4 a desire which has been fulfilled. For he was ill for sixteen days in his father's house, and by strength of memory he continually repeated portions of Scripture throughout almost the whole time of his illness. But when he was very near to the end of his life, he sang s so as to be heard by all, "My soul longeth for and hastens unto the courts of the Lord,''6 after which he sang again, "Thou hast anointed my head with oil, and beautiful is Thy cup, overpowering my senses with delight!"7 In these things he was wholly occupied; in the consolation yielded by them he found satisfaction. At the last, when dissolution was just coming upon him, he began to make the sign of the cross on his forehead, and in finishing this his hand was moving down to his mouth, which also he wished to mark with the same sign, but the inward man (which had been truly renewed day by day) s had, ere this was done, forsaken the tabernacle of clay. To myself there has been given so great an ecstasy of joy, that I think that after leaving his own body he has entered into my spirit, and is there imparting to me a certain fulness of light from his presence, for I am conscious of a joy beyond all measure through his deliverance and safety -- indeed it is ineffable. For I felt no small anxiety on his account, being afraid of the dangers peculiar to his years. For I was at pains to inquire of himself whether perchance he had been defiled by intercourse with woman; he solemnly assured us that he was free from this stain, by which declaration our joy was still more increased. So he died. We honored his memory by suitable obsequies, such as were due to one so excellent, for we continued during three days to praise the Lord with hymns at his grave, and on the third day we offered the sacraments of redemption.1

3. Behold, however, two days thereafter, a certain respectable widow from Figentes, an handmaid from God, who said that she had been twelve years in widowhood saw the following vision in a dream. She saw a certain deacon, who had died four years ago, preparing a palace, I with the assistance of servants and handmaids of God (virgins and widows). It was being so much adorned that the place was refulgent with splendor, and appeared to be wholly made of silver. On her inquiring eagerly for whom this palace was being prepared, the, deacon aforesaid answered, "For the young man, the son of the t presbyter, who was cut off yesterday." There appeared in the same palace an old man robed in white, who grave orders to two others, also dressed in white, to go, and having raised the body from the grave, to carry it up with them to heaven. And she added, that so soon as the body had been taken up from the grave and carried to heaven, there sprang from the same sepulchre branches of the rose, called from its folded blossoms the virgin rose.

4. I have narrated the event: listen now, if you please, to my question, and teach me what I ask, for the departure of that young man's soul forces such questions from me. While we are in the body, we have an inward faculty of perception which is alert in proportion to the activity of our attention, and' is more wakeful and eager the more earnestly attentive we become: and it see?as to us probable that even in its highest activity it is retarded by the encumbrance of the body, for who can fully describe all that the mind suffers through the body ! In the midst of the perturbation and annoyance which come from the suggestions, temptations, necessities, and varied afflictions of which the body is the cause, the mind does not surrender its strength, it resists and conquers. Sometimes J it is defeated; nevertheless, mindful of what is its own nature, it becomes, under the stimulating influence of such labours, more active and more wary, and breaks through the meshes of wickedness, and so makes its way to better! things. Your Holiness will kindly understand what I mean to say. Therefore, while we are in this life, we are hindered by such deficiencies, and are nevertheless, as it is written, "more than conquerors through Him that loved us."2 When we go forth from this body, and escape from every burden, and from sin, with its incessant activity, what are we?

5. In the first place, I ask whether there may not be some kind of body (formed, perchance, of one of the four elements, either air or ether) which does not depart from the incorporeal principle, that is, the substance properly called the soul, when it forsakes this earthly body. For as the soul is in its nature incorporeal, if it be absolutely disembodied by death there is now one soul of all that have left this world. And in that case where would the rich man, who was clothed in purple, and Lazarus, who was full of sores, now be ? How, moreover, could they be distinguished according to their respective deserts, so that the one should have suffering and the other have joy, if there were only a single soul made by the combination of all disembodied souls, unless, of course, these things are to be understood in a figurative sense ? Be that as it may, there is no question that souls which are held in definite places (as that rich man was in the flame, and that poor man was in Abraham's bosom) are held in bodies. If there are distinct places, there are bodies, and in these bodies the souls reside; and even although the punishments and rewards are experienced in the conscience, the soul which experiences them is nevertheless in a body. Whatever is the nature of that one soul made hp of many souls, it must be possible for it in its unbroken unity to be both grieved and made glad at the same moment, if it is to approve itself to be really a substance consisting of many souls gathered into one. If, however, this soul is called one only in the same way as the incorporeal mind is called one, although it has in it memory, and will, and intellect, and if it be alleged that all these are separate incorporeal causes or powers and have their several distinctive offices and work without one impeding another in any way, I think this might be in some measure answered by saying that it must be also possible for some of the souls to be under punishment and some of the sours to enjoy rewards simultaneously in this one substance consisting of many souls gathered into One.

6. Or if this be not so [that is, if there be no such body remaining still in union with the incorporeal principle after it quits this earthly body], what is there to hinder each soul from having, when separated from the solid body which it here inhabits, another body, so that the soul always I animates a body of some kind? or in what body does it pass to any region, if such there be, to which necessity compels it to go? For the angels themselves, if they were not numbered by bodies of some kind which they have, could not be called many, as they are by the Truth Himself when He said in the gospel, "I could pray the Father, and He will presently give me twelve legions of angels.", Again it is certain that Samuel was seen in the body when he was raised at the request of Saul; ' and as to Moses, whose body was buried, it is plain from the gospel narrative that he came in the body to the Lord on the mountain to which He and His disciples had retired.s In the Apocrypha, and in the Mysteries of Moses, a writing which is wholly devoid of authority, it is indeed said that, at the time when he ascended the mount to die, through the power which his body possessed, there was one body which was committed to the earth, and another which was joined to the angel who accompanied him; but I do not feel myself called upon to give to a sentence in apocryphal writings a preference over the definite statements quoted above. We must therefore give attention to this, and search out, by the help either of the authority of revelation or of the light o reason, the matter about which we are inquiring. But it is alleged that the future resurrection of the body is a proof that the soul was after death absolutely without a body. This is not, however, an unanswerable objection, for the angels, who are like our souls invisible, have at times desired to appear in bodily forms and be seen, and (whatever might be the form of body worthy to be assumed by these spirits) they have appeared, for example, to Abraham4 and to Tobias.5 Therefore it is quite possible that the resurrection of the body may, as we assuredly believe, take place, and yet that the soul may be reunited to it without its being found to have been at any moment wholly devoid of some kind of body. Now the body which the soul here occupies consists of the four elements, of which one, namely heat, seems to depart from this body at the same moment as the soul. For there remains after death that which is made of earth, moisture also is not wanting to the body, nor is the element of cold matter gone; heat alone has fled, which perhaps the soul takes along with it if it migrates from place to place. This is all that I say meanwhile concerning the body.

7. It seems to me also, that if the soul while occupying the living body is capable, as I have said, of strenuous mental application, how much more unencumbered, active, vigorous, earnest, resolute, and persevering will it be, how much enlarged in capacity and improved in character, if it has while in this body learned to relish virtue ! For after laying aside this body, or rather, after having this cloud swept away, the soul will have come to be free from all disturbing influences, enjoying tranquillity and exempt from temptation, seeing whatever it has longed for, and embracing what it has loved. Then, also, it will be capable of remembering and recognising friends, both those who went before it from this world, and those whom it left here below. Perhaps this may be true. I know not, but I desire to learn. But it would greatly distress me to think that the soul after death passes into a state of torpor, being as it were buried, just as it is during sleep while it is in the body, living only in hope, but having nothing and knowing nothing, especially if in its sleep it be not even stirred by any dreams. This notion causes me very great horror, and seems to indicate that the life of the soul is extinguished at death.

8. This also I would ask: Supposing that the soul be discovered to have such a body as we speak of, does that body lack any of the senses ? Of course, if there cannot be imposed upon it any necessity for smelling, tasting, or touching, as I suppose will be the case, these senses will be wanting; but I hesitate as to the senses of sight and hearing. For are not devils said to hear (not, indeed, in all the persons whom they harass, for in regard to these there is a question), even when they appear in bodies of their own ? And as to the faculty of sight, how can they pass from one place to another if they have a body but are void of the power of seeing, so as to guide its motions? Do you think that this is not the case with human souls when they go forth from the body,--that they have still a body of some kind, and are not deprived of some at least of the senses proper to this body? Else how can we explain the fact that very many dead persons have been observed by day, or by persons awake and walking abroad during the I night, to pass into houses just as they were wont to do in their lifetime? This I have heard not once, but often; and I have also heard it said that in places in which dead bodies are interred, and especially in churches, there are commotions and prayers which are heard for the most part at a certain time of the night. This I remember hearing from more than one: for a certain holy presbyter was an eye-witness of such an apparition, having observed a multitude of such phantoms issuing from the baptistery in bodies full of light, after which he heard their prayers in the midst of the church itself. All such things are either true, and therefore helpful to the inquiry which we are now making, or are mere fables, in which case the fact of their invention is wonderful; nevertheless I would desire to get some information from the fact that they come and visit men, and are seen otherwise than in dreams.

9. These dreams suggest another question. I do not at this moment concern myself about the mere creations of fancy, which are formed by the emotions of the uneducated. I speak of visitations in sleep, such as the apparition to Joseph: in a dream, in the manner experienced in most cases of the kind. In the same manner, therefore, our own friends also who have departed this life before us sometimes come and appear to us in dreams, and speak to us. For I myself remember that Profuturus, and Privatus, and Servilius, holy men who within my recollection were removed by death from our monastery, spoke to me, and that the events of which they spoke came to pass according to their words. Or if it be some other higher spirit that assumes their form and visits our minds, I leave this to the all-seeing eye of Him before whom everything from the highest to the lowest is uncovered.' If, therefore, the Lord be pleased to speak through reason to your Holiness on all these questions, I beg you to be so kind as make me partaker of the knowledge which you have received. There is another thing which I have resolved not to omit mentioning, for perhaps it bears upon the matter now under investigation:

10. This same youth, in connection with whom these questions are brought forward, departed tiffs life after having received what may be called a summons2 at the time when he was dying. For one who had been a companion of his as a student, and reader, and shorthand writer to my dictation, who had died eight months before, was seen by a person in a dream coming towards him. When he was asked by the person who then distinctly saw him why he had come, he said, "I have come to take this friend away;" and so it proved. For in the house itself, also, there appeared to a certain old man, who was almost awake, a man bearing in his hand a laurel branch on which something was written. Nay, more, when this one was seen, it is further reported that after the death of the young man, his father the presbyter had begun to reside along with the aged Theasius in the monastery, in order to find consolation there, but lo ! on the third day after his death, the young man is seen entering the monastery, and is asked by one of the brethren in a dream of some kind whether he knew himself to be dead. He replied that he knew he was. The other asked whether he had been welcomed by God. This also he answered with great expressions of joy. And when questioned as to the reason why he had come, he answered, "I have been sent to summon my father." The person to whom these things were shown awakes, and relates what had passed. It comes to the ear of Bishop Theasius. He, being alarmed, sharply admonished the person who told him, lest the matter should come, as it might easily do, to the ear of the presbyter himself, and he should be disturbed by such tidings. But why prolong the narration ? Within about four days from this visitation he was saying (for he had suffered from a moderate feverishness) that he was now out of danger, and that the physician had given up attending him, having assured him that there was no cause whatever for anxiety; but that very day this presbyter expired after he had lain down on his couch. Nor should I forbear mentioning, that on the same day on which the youth died, he asked his father three times to forgive him anything in which he might have offended, and every time that he kissed his father he said to him, "Let us give thanks to God, father," and insisted upon his father saying the words along with him, as if he were exhorting one who was to be his companion in going forth from this world. And in fact only seven days elapsed between the two deaths. What shall we say of things so wonderful ? Who shall be a thoroughly reliable teacher as to these mysterious dispensations? To you in the hour of perplexity my agitated heart unburdens itself. The divine appointment of the death of the young man and of his father is beyond all doubt, for two sparrows shall not fall to the ground without the will of our heavenly Father. 3

11. That the soul cannot exist in absolute separation from a body of some kind is proved in my opinion by the fact that to exist without body belongs to God alone. But I think that the laying aside of so great a burden as the body, in the act of passing from this world, proves that the soul will then be very much more wakeful than it is meanwhile; for then the soul appears, as I think, far more noble when no longer encumbered by so great a hindrance, both in action and in knowledge, and that entire spiritual rest proves it to be free from all causes of disturbance and error, but does not make it languid, and as it were slow, torpid, and embarrassed, inasmuch as it is enough for the soul to enjoy in its fulness the liberty to which it has attained in being freed from the world and the body; for, as you have wisely said, the intellect is satisfied with food, and applies the lips of the spirit to the fountain of life in that condition in which it is happy and blest in the undisputed lordship of its own faculties. For before I quitted the monastery I saw brother Servilius in a dream after his decease, and he said that we were labouring to attain by the exercise of reason to an understanding of truth, whereas he and those who were in the same state as he were always resting in the pure joy of contemplation.

12. I also beg you to explain to me in how many ways the word wisdom is used; as God is wisdom, and a wise mind is wisdom (in which way it is said to be as light); as we read also of the wisdom of Bezaleel, who made the tabernacle or the ointment, and the wisdom of Solomon, or any other wisdom, if there be such, and wherein they differ from each other; and whether the one eternal Wisdom which is with the Father is to be understood as spoken of in these different degrees, as they are called diverse gifts of the Holy Spirit, who divideth to every one severally according as He will. Or, with the exception of that Wisdom alone which was not created, were these created, and have they a distinct existence of their own ? or are they effects, and have they received their name from the definition of their work P I am asking a great many questions. May the Lord grant you grace to discover the truth sought, and wisdom sufficient to commit it to writing, and to communicate it without delay to me. I have written in much ignorance, and in a homely style; but since you think it worth while to know that about which I am inquiring, I beseech you in the name of Christ the Lord to correct me where I am mistaken, and teach me what you know that I am desirous to learn.

LETTER CLIX. (A.D. 415.)


1. Our brother Barbarus, the bearer of this letter, is a servant of God, who has now for a long time been settled at Hippo, and has been an eager and diligent hearer of the word of God. He requested from us this letter to your Holiness, whereby we commend him to you in the Lord, and convey to you through him the salutations which it is our duty to offer. To reply to those letters of your Holiness, in which you have interwoven questions of great difficulty, would be a most laborious task, even for men who are at leisure, and who are endowed with much greater ability in discussing and acuteness in apprehending any subject than we possess. One, indeed, of the two letters in which you ask many great questions has gone amissing, I know not how, and though long sought for cannot be found; the other, which has been found, contains a very pleasing account of a servant of God, a good and chaste young man, stating how he departed from this life, and by what testimonies, communicated through visions of the brethren, his merits were, as you state, made known to you. Taking occasion from this young man's case, you propose and discuss an extremely obscure question concerning the soul, --whether it is associated when it goes forth from this body with some other kind of body, by means of which it can be carried to or confined in places having material boundaries? The investigation of this question, if indeed it admits of satisfactory investigation by beings such as we are, demands the most diligent care and labour, and therefore a mind absolutely at leisure from such occupations as engross my time. My opinion, however, if you are willing to hear it, summed up in a sentence, is, that I by no means believe that the soul in departing from the body is accompanied by another body of any kind.

2. As to the question how these visions and predictions of future events are produced, let him attempt to explain them who understands by what power we are to account for the great wonders which are wrought in the mind of every man when his thoughts are busy. For we see, and we plainly perceive, that within the mind innumerable images of many objects discernible by the eye or by our other senses are produced, --whether they are produced in regular order or in confusion matters not to us at present: all that we say is, that since such images are beyond all dispute produced, the man who is found able to state by what power and in what way these phenomena of daily and perpetual experience are to be accounted for is the only man who may warrantably venture to conjecture or propound any explanation of these visions, which are of exceedingly rare occurrence. For my part, as I discover more plainly my inability to account for the ordinary facts of our experience, when awake or asleep, throughout the whole course of our lives, the more do I shrink from venturing to explain what is extraordinary. For while I have been dictating this epistle to you, I have been contemplating your person in my mind,- you being, of course, absent all the while, and knowing nothing of my thoughts, -- and I have been imagining from my knowledge of what is in you how you will be affected by my words; and I have been unable to apprehend, either by observation or by inquiry, how this process was accomplished in my mind. Of one thing, however, I am certain, that although the mental image was very like something material, it was not produced either by masses of matter or by qualities of matter. Accept this in the meantime from one writing under pressure of other duties, and in haste. In the twelfth of the books which I have written on Genesis this question is discussed with great care, and that dissertation is enriched with a forest of examples from actual experience or from trustworthy report. How far I have been competent to handle the question, and what I have accomplished in it, you will judge when you have read that work; if indeed the Lord shall be pleased m His kindness to permit me now to publish those books systematically corrected to the best of my ability, and thus to meet the expectation of many brethren, instead of deferring their hope by continuing further the discussion of a subject which has already engaged me for a long time.

3. I will narrate briefly, however, one fact which I commend to your meditation. You know our brother Gennadius, a physician, known to almost every one, and very dear to us, who now lives at Carthage, and was in other years eminent as a medical practitioner at Rome. You know him as a man of religious character and of very great benevolence, actively compassionate and promptly liberal in his care of the poor. Nevertheless, even he, when still a young man, and most zealous in these charitable acts, had sometimes, as he himself told me, doubts as to whether there was any life after death. Forasmuch, therefore, as God would in no wise forsake a man so merciful in his disposition and conduct, there appeared to him in sleep a youth of remarkable appearance and commanding presence, who said to him: "Follow me." Following him, he came to a city where he began to hear on the right hand sounds of a melody so exquisitely sweet as to surpass anything he had ever heard. When he inquired what it was, his guide said: "It is the hymn of the blessed and the holy." What he reported himself to have seen on the left hand escapes my remembrance. He awoke; the dream vanished, and he thought of it as only a dream.

4. On a second night, however, the same youth appeared to Gennadius, and asked whether he recognised him, to which he replied that he knew him well, without the slightest uncertainty. Thereupon he asked Gennadius where he had become acquainted with him. There also his memory failed him not as to the proper reply: he narrated the whole vision, and the hymns of the saints which, under his guidance, he had been taken to hear, with all the readiness natural to recollection of some very recent experience. On this the youth inquired whether it was in sleep or when awake that he had seen what he had just narrated. Gennadius answered: "In sleep." The youth then said: "You remember it well; it is true that you saw these things in sleep, but I would have you know that even now you are seeing in sleep." Hearing this, Gennadius was persuaded of its truth, and in his reply declared that he believed it. Then his teacher went on to say: "Where is your body now?" He answered: "In my bed." "Do you know," said the youth, "that the eyes in this body of yours are now bound and closed, and at rest, and e that with these eyes you are seeing nothing?" He answered: "I know it." "What, then, said the youth, "are the eyes with which you see me?" He, unable to discover what to answer to this, was silent. While he hesitated, the youth unfolded to him what he was endeavoring to teach him by these questions, and forthwith said: "' As while you are asleep and lying on your bed these eyes of your body are now unemployed and doing nothing, and yet you have eyes with which you behold me, and enjoy this vision, so, after your death, while your bodily eyes shall be wholly inactive, there shall be in you a life by which you shall still live, and a faculty of perception by which you shall still perceive. Beware, therefore, after this of harbouring doubts as to whether the life of man shall continue after death." This believer says that by this means all doubts as to this matter were removed from him. By whom was he taught this but by the merciful, providential care of God?

5. Some one may say that by this narrative I have not solved but complicated the question. Nevertheless, while it is free to every one to believe or disbelieve these statements, every man has his own consciousness at hand as a teacher by whose help he may apply himself to this most profound question. Every day man wakes, and sleeps, and thinks; let any man, therefore, answer whence proceed these things which, while not material bodies, do nevertheless resemble the forms, properties, and motions of material bodies: let him, I say, answer this if he can. But if he cannot do this, why is he in such haste to pronounce a definite opinion on things which occur very rarely, or are beyond the range of his experience, when he is unable to explain matters of daily and perpetual observation? For my part, although I am wholly unable to explain in words how those semblances of material bodies, without any real body, are produced, I may say that I wish that, with the same certainty with which I know that these things are not produced by the body, I could know by what means those things are perceived which are occasionally seen by the spirit, and are supposed to be seen by the bodily senses; or by what distinctive marks we may know the visions of men who have been misguided by delusion, or, most commonly, by impiety, since the examples of such visions closely resembling the visions of pious and holy men are so numerous, that if I wished to quote them, time, rather than abundance of examples, would fail me.

May you, through the mercy of the Lord grow m grace, most blessed lord and venerable and beloved brother!



Some time ago I sent two questions to your Holiness; the tint, which was sent, I think, by Jobinus, a servant in the nunnery,1 related to God and reason, and the second was in regard to the opinion that the body of the Saviour is capable of seeing the substance of the Deity. I now propound a third question: Does the rational soul which our Saviour assumed along with His body fall under any one of the theories' commonly advanced in discussions on the origin of souls (ff any theory indeed can be with certainty established on the subject),- or does His soul, though rational, belong not to any of the species under which the souls of living creatures are classified, but to another?

I ask also a fourth question: Who are those spirits in reference to whom the Apostle Peter testifies concerning the Lord in these words: "Being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit, in which also He went and preached to the spirits in prison ?" giving us to understand that they were in hell, and that Christ descending into hell, preached the gospel to them all, and by grace delivered them all from darkness and punishment, so that from the time of the resurrection of the Lord judgment is expected, hell having then been completely emptied.

What your Holiness believes in this matter I earnestly desire to know.



CHAP. I. 1. The question which you have proposed to me from the epistle of the Apostle Peter is one which, as I think you are aware, is wont to perplex me most seriously, namely, how the words which you have quoted are to be understood on the supposition that they were spoken concerning hell ? I therefore refer this question back to yourself, that if either you yourself be able, or can find any other person who is able to do so, you may remove and terminate my perplexities on the subject. If the Lord grant to me ability to understand the words before you do, and it be in my power to impart what I receive from Him to you, I will not withhold it from a friend so truly loved. In the meantime, I will communicate to you the things in the passage which occasion difficulty to me, that, keeping in view these remarks on the words of the apostle, you may either exercise your own thoughts on them, or consult any one whom you find competent to pronounce an opinion.

2. After having said that "Christ was put to death in the flesh, and quickened in the spirit," the apostle immediately went on to say: "in which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were unbelieving, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water;" thereafter he added the words: "which baptism also now by a like figure has saved you." 3 This, therefore, is felt by me to be difficult. If the Lord when He died preached in hell to spirits in prison, why were those who continued unbelieving while the ark was a preparing the only ones counted worthy of this favour, namely, the Lord's descending into hell? For in the ages between the time of Noah and the passion of Christ, there died many thousands of so many nations whom He might have found in hell. I do not, of course, speak here of those who in that period of time had believed in God, as, e.g. the prophets and patriarchs of Abraham's line, or, going father back, Noah himself and his house, who had been saved by water (excepting perhaps the one son, who afterwards was rejected), and, in addition to these, all others outside of the posterity of Jacob who were believers in God, such as Job, the citizens of Nineveh, and any others, whether mentioned in Scripture or existing unknown to us in the vast human family at any time. I speak only of those many thousands of men who, ignorant of God and devoted to the worship of devils or of idols, had passed out of this life from the time of Noah to the passion of Christ. How was it that Christ, finding these in hell, did not preach to them, but preached only to those who were unbelieving in the days of Noah when the ark was a preparing ? Or if he preached to all, why has Peter mentioned only these, and passed over the innumerable multitude of others?

CHAP. II. 3. -- It is established beyond question that the Lord, after He had been put to death in the flesh, "descended into hell ;" for it is impossible to gainsay either that utterance of prophecy, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell," '--an utterance which Peter himself expounds in the Acts of the Apostles, lest any one should venture to put upon it another interpretation, -- or the words of the same apostle, in which he affirms that the Lord "loosed the pains of hell, in which it was not possible for Him to be holden."2 Who, therefore, except an infidel, will deny that Christ was in hell ? As to the difficulty which is found in reconciling the statement that the pains of hell were loosed by Him, with the fact that He had never begun to be in these pains as in bonds, and did not so loose them as if He had broken off chains by which He had been bound, this is easily removed when we understand that they were loosed in the same way as the snares of huntsmen may be loosed to prevent their holding, not because they have taken hold. It may also be understood as teaching us to believe Him to have loosed those pains which could not possibly hold Him, but which were holding those to whom He had resolved to grant deliverance.

4. But who these were it is presumptuous for us to define. For if we say that all who were found there were then delivered without exception, who will not rejoice if we can prove this? Especially will men rejoice for the sake of some who are intimately known to us by their literary labours, whose eloquence and talent we admire, --not only the poets and orators who in many parts of their writings have held up to contempt and ridicule these same false gods of the nations, and have even occasionally confessed the one true God, although along with the rest they observed superstitious rites, but also those who have uttered the same, not in poetry or rhetoric, but as philosophers: and for the sake of many more of whom we have no literary remains, but in regard to whom we have learned from the writings of these others that their lives were to a certain extent praiseworthy, so that (with the exception of their service of God, in which they erred, worshipping the vanities which had been set up as objects of public worship, and serving the creature rather than the Creator) they may be justly held up as models in all the other virtues of frugality, self-denial, chastity, sobriety, braving of death in their country's defence, and faith kept inviolate not only to fellow-citizens, but also to enemies. All these things, indeed, when they are practised with a view not to the great end of right and true piety, but to the empty pride of human praise and glory, become in a sense worthless and unprofitable; nevertheless, as indications of a certain disposition of mind, they please us so much that we would desire those in whom they exist, either by special preference or along with' the others, to be freed from the pains of hell, were not the verdict of human feeling different from that of the justice of the Creator.

5. These things being so, if the Saviour delivered all from that place, and, to quote the terms of the question in your letter, "emptied hell, so that now from that time forward the last judgment was to be expected," the following things occasion not unreasonable perplexity on this subject, and are wont to present themselves to me in the meantime when I think on it. First, by what authoritative statements can this opinion be confirmed ? For the words of Scripture, that "the pains of hell were loosed" by the death of Christ, do not establish this, seeing that this statement may be understood as referring to Himself, and meaning that he so far loosed (that is, made ineffectual) the pains of hell that He Himself was not held by them, especially since it is added that it was "impossible for Him to be holden of them." Or if any one [objecting to this interpretation] ask the reason why He chose to descend into hell, where those pains were which could not possibly hold Him who was, as Scripture says, "free among the dead," 3 in whom the prince and captain of death found nothing which deserved punishment, the words that "the pains of hell were loosed" may be understood as referring not to the case of all, but only of some whom He judged worthy of that deliverance; so that neither is He supposed to have descended thither in vain, without the purpose of bringing benefit to any of those who were there held in prison, nor is it a necessary inference that what divine mercy and justice granted to some must be supposed to have been granted to all.

CHAP. III. 6. As to the first man, the father of mankind, it is agreed by almost the entire Church that the Lord loosed him from that prison; a tenet which must be believed to have been accepted not without reason,- from whatever source it was handed down to the Church,although the authority of the canonical Scriptures cannot be brought forward as speaking expressly in its support,4 though this seems to be the opinion which is more than any other borne out by these words in the book of Wisdom.s Some add to this [tradition] that the same favour was bestowed on the holy men of antiquity,on Abel, Seth, Noah and his house, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the other patriarchs and prophets, they also being loosed from those pains at the time when the Lord descended into hell. 7. But, for my part, I cannot see how Abraham, into whose bosom also the pious beggar in the parable was received, can be understood to have been in these pains; those who are able can perhaps explain this. But I suppose every one must see it to be absurd to imagine that only two, namely, Abraham and Lazarus, were in that bosom of wondrous repose before the Lord descended into hell, and that with reference to these two alone it was said to the rich man, "Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot, neither can they pass to us that would pass from thence."' Moreover, if there were more than two there, who will dare to say that the patriarchs and prophets were not there, to whose righteousness and piety so signal testimony is borne in the word of God ? What benefit was conferred in that case on them by Him who loosed the pains of hell, in which they were not held, I do not yet understand, especially as I have not been able to find anywhere in Scripture the name of hell used in a good sense. And if this use of the term is nowhere found in the divine Scriptures, assuredly the bosom of Abraham, that is, the abode of a certain secluded rest, is not' to be believed to be a part of hell. Nay, from these words themselves of the great Master in which He says that Abraham said, "Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed," it is, as I think, sufficiently evident that the bosom of that glorious felicity was not any integral part of hell. For what is that great gulf but a chasm completely separating those places between which it not only is, but is fixed? Wherefore, if sacred Scripture had said, without naming hell and its pains, that Christ when He died went to that bosom of Abraham, I wonder ff any one would have dared to say that He "descended into hell."

8. But seeing that plain scriptural testimonies make mention of hell and its pains, no reason; can be alleged for believing that He who is the i Saviour went thither, except that He might save from its pains; but whether He did save all whom He found held in them, or some whom He judged worthy of that favour, I still ask: that He was, however, in hell, and that He conferred this benefit on persons subjected to these pains, I do not doubt. Wherefore, I have not yet found what benefit He, when He descended into hell, conferred upon those righteous ones who were in Abraham's bosom, from whom I see that, so far as regarded the beatific presence of His Godhead, He never withdrew Himself; since even on that very day on which He died, He promised that the thief should be with Him in paradise at the time when He was about to descend to loose the pains of hell. Most certainly, therefore, He was, before that time, both in paradise and the bosom of Abraham in His beatific wisdom, and in hell in His condemning power; for since the Godhead is confined by no limits, where is He not present ? At the same time, however, so far as regarded the created nature, in assuming which at a certain point of time, He, while continuing to be God, became man -- that is to say, so far as regarded His soul, He was in hell: this is plainly declared in these words of Scripture, which were both sent before in prophecy and filly expounded by apostolical interpretation: "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell." 2

9. I know that some think that at the death of Christ a resurrection such as is promised to us at the end of the world was granted to the righteous, founding this on the statement in Scripture that, in the earthquake by which at the moment of His death the rocks were rent and the graves were opened, many bodies of the saints arose and were seen with Him in the Holy City after He rose. Certainly, if these did not fall asleep again, their bodies being a second time laid in the grave, it would be necessary to see in what sense Christ can be understood to 'be "the first begotten from the dead," 3 if so many preceded Him in the resurrection. And if it be said, in answer to this, that the statement is made by anticipation, so that the graves indeed are to be supposed to have been opened by that earthquake at the time when Christ was hanging on the cross, but that the bodies of the saints did not rise then, but only after Christ had risen before them, -- although on this hypothesis of anticipation in the narrative, the addition of these words would not hinder us from still believing, on the one hand, that Christ was without doubt "the first begotten from the dead," and on the other, that to these saints permission was given, when He went before them, to rise to an eternal state of incorruption and immortality,there still remains a difficulty, namely, how in that case Peter could have spoken as he did, saying what was without doubt perfectly true, when he affirmed that in the prophecy quoted above the words, that "His flesh should not see corruption," referred not to David but to Christ, and added concerning David, "He is buried, and his sepulchre is with us to this day," 4 m a statement which would have had no force as an argument unless the body of David was still undisturbed in the sepulchre; for of course the sepulchre might still have been there even had the saint's body been raised up immediately after his death, and had thus not seen corruption. But it seems hard that David should not be included in this resurrection of the saints, if eternal life was given to them, since it is so frequently, so clearly, and with such honourable mention of his name, declared that Christ was to be of David's seed. Moreover, these words in the Epistle to the Hebrews concerning the ancient believers, "God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect,"' will be endangered, if these believers have been already established in that incorruptible resurrection-state which is promised to us when we are to be made perfect at the end of the world.

CHAP. IV. -- 10. You perceive, therefore, how intricate is the question why Peter chose to mention, as persons to whom, when shut up in prison, the gospel was preached, those only who were unbelieving in the days of Noah when the ark was a preparing -- and also the difficulties which prevent me from pronouncing any definite opinion on the subject. An additional reason for my hesitation is, that after the apostle had said, "Which baptism now by a like figure saves you ( not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is on the right hand of God, having swallowed up death that we might be made heirs of eternal life; and having gone into heaven, angels, and authorities, and powers being made subject to Him," he added: "Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God;" after which he continues: "For the time: past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousess, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: wherein Z they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you; who shall give account to Him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead." After these! words he subjoins: "For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the Spirit."2

11. Who can be otherwise than perplexed by words so profound as these? He saith, "The gospel was preached to the dead;" and if by the "dead" we understand persons who have' departed from the body, I suppose he must mean those described above as "unbelieving in the days of Noah," or certainly all those whom Christ found in hell. What, then, is meant by the words, "That they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit "? For how can they be judged in the flesh, which if they be in hell they no longer have, and which if they have been loosed from the pains of hell they have not yet resumed? For even if" hell was," as you put in your question, "emptied," it is not to be believed that all who were then there have risen again in the flesh, or those who, arising, again appeared with the Lord resumed the flesh for this purpose, that they might be in it judged according to men; but how this could be taken as true in the case of those who were unbelieving in the days of Noah I do not see, for Scripture does not affirm that they were made to live in the flesh, nor can it be believed that the end for which they were loosed from the pains of hell was that they who were delivered from these might resume their flesh in order to suffer punishment. 'What, then, is meant by the words, "That they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit?" Can it mean that to those whom Christ found in hell this was granted, that by the gospel they were quickened in the spirit, although at the future resurrection they must be judged in the flesh, that they may pass, through some punishment in the flesh, into the kingdom of God ? If this be what is meant, why were only the unbelievers of the time of Noah (and not also all others whom Christ found in hell when He went thither) quickened in spirit by the preaching of the gospel, to be afterwards judged in the flesh with a punishment of limited duration ? But if we take this as applying to all, the question still remains why Peter mentioned none but those who were unbelieving in the days of Noah.

12. I find, moreover, a difficulty in the reason alleged by those who attempt to give an explanation of this matter. They say that all those who were found in hell when Christ descended thither had never heard the gospel, and that that place of punishment or imprisonment was emptied of all these, because the gospel was not published to the whole world in their lifetime, and they had sufficient excuse for not believing that which had never been proclaimed to them; but that thenceforth, men despising the gospel when it was in all nations fully published and spread abroad would be inexcusable, and therefore after the prison was then emptied there still remains a just judgment, in which those who are contumacious and unbelieving shall be punished even with eternal fire. Those who hold this opinion do not consider that the same excuse is available for all those who have, even after Christ's resurrection, departed this life before the gospel came to them. For even after the Lord came back from hell, it was not the case that no one was from that time forward permitted to go to hell without having heard the gospel, seeing that multitudes throughout the world died before the proclamation of its tidings came to them, all of whom are entitled to plead the excuse which is alleged to have been taken away from those of whom it is said, that because they had not before heard the gospel, the Lord when He descended into hell proclaimed it to them.

13. This objection may perhaps be met by saying that those also who since the Lord's resurrection have died or are now dying without the gospel having been proclaimed to them, may have heard it or may now hear it where they are, in hell, so that there they may believe what ought to be believed concerning the truth of Christ, and may also have that pardon and salvation which those to whom Christ preached obtained; for the fact that Christ ascended again from hell is no reason why the report concerning Him should have perished from recollection there, for from this earth also He has gone ascending into heaven, and yet by the publication of His gospel those who believe in Him shall be saved; moreover, He was exalted, and received a name that is above every name, for this end, I that in His name every knee should bow, not only of things in heaven and on earth, but also of things under the earth.1 But if we accept this opinion, according to which we are warranted in supposing that men who did not believe while they were in life can in hell believe in Christ, who can bear the contradictions both of reason and faith which must follow? In the first place, if this were true, we should seem to have no reason for mourning over those who have departed from the body without that grace, and there would be no ground for being solicitous and using urgent exhortation that men would accept the grace of God before they die, lest they should be punished with eternal death. If, again, it be alleged that in hell those only believe to no purpose and in vain who refused to accept here on earth the gospel preached to them, but that believing will profit those who never despised a gospel which they never had it in their power to hear another still more absurd consequence is involved, namely, that forasmuch as all men shall certainly die, and ought to come to hell wholly free from the guilt of having despised the gospel; since otherwise it can be of no use to them to believe it when they come there, the gospel ought not to be preached on earth, a sentiment not less foolish than profane.

CHAP. V. -- 14. Wherefore let us most firmly hold that which faith, resting on authority established beyond all question, maintains: "that Christ died according to the Scriptures," and that "He was buried," and that "He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures," and all other things which have been written concerning Him in records fully demonstrated to be true. Among these doctrines we include the doctrine that He was in hell, and, having loosed the pains of hell, in which it was impossible for Him to be holden, from which also He is with good ground believed to have loosed and delivered whom He would, He took again to Himself that body which He had left on the cross, land which had been laid in the tomb. These things, I say, let us firmly hold; but as to the question propounded by you from the words of the Apostle Peter, since you now perceive the difficulties which I find in it, and since other difficulties may possibly be found if the subject be more carefully studied, let us continue to investigate it, whether by applying our own thoughts to the subject, or by asking the opinion of any one whom it may be becoming and possible to consult.

15. Consider, however, I pray you, whether all that the Apostle Peter says concerning spirits shut up in prison, who were unbelieving in the days of Noah, may not after all have been written without any reference to hell, but rather to those times the typical character of which he has transferred to the present time. For that transaction had been typical of future events, so that those who do not believe the gospel in our age, when the Church is being built up in all nations, may be understood to be like those who did not believe in that age while the ark was a preparing; also, that those who have believed and are saved by baptism may be compared to those who at that time, being in the ark, were saved by water; wherefore he says, "So baptism by a like figure saves you." Let us therefore interpret the rest of the statements concerning them that believed not so as to harmonise with the analogy of the figure, and refuse to entertain the thought that the gospel was once preached, or is even to this hour being preached in hell in order to make men believe and be delivered from its pains, as if a Church had been established there as well as on earth.

16. Those who have inferred from the words, "He preached to the spirits in prison," that Peter held the opinion which perplexes you, seem to me to have been drawn to this interpretation by imagining that the term "spirits" could not be applied to designate souls which were at that time still in the bodies of men, and which, being shut up in the darkness of ignorance, were, so to speak, "in prison," -- a prison such as that from which the Psalmist sought deliverance in the prayer, "Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise Thy name;"2 which is in another place called the "shadow of death,"1 from which deliverance was granted, not certainly in hell, but in this world, to those of whom it is written, "They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined."2 But to the men of Noah's time the gospel was preached in vain, because they believed not when God's long suffering waited for them during the many years in which the ark was being built (for the building of the ark was itself in a certain sense a preaching of mercy); even as .now men similar to them are unbelieving, who, to use the same figure, are shut up in the darkness of ignorance as in a prison, beholding in vain the Church which is being built up throughout the world, while judgment is impending, as the flood was by which at that time all the unbelieving perished; for the Lord says: "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man; they did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all."3 But because that transaction was also a type of a future event, that flood was a type both of baptism to believers and of destruction to unbelievers, as in that figure in which, not by a transaction but by words, two things are predicted concerning Christ, when He is represented in Scripture as a stone which was destined to be both to unbelievers a stone of stumbling, and to believers a foundation-stone.4 Occasionally, however, also in the same figure, whether it be in the form of a typical event or of a parable, two things are used to represent one, as believers were represented both by the timbers of which the ark was built and by the eight souls saved in the ark, and as in the gospel similitude of the sheepfold Christ is both the shepherd and the door.5

CHAP. VI.-- 17. And let it not be regarded as an objection to the interpretation now given, that the Apostle Peter says that Christ Himself preached to men shut up in prison who were unbelieving in the days of Noah, as if we must consider this interpretation inconsistent with the fact that at that time Christ had not come. For although he had not. yet come in the flesh, as He came when afterwards He "showed Himself upon earth, and conversed with men,"6 nevertheless he certainly came often to this earth, from the beginning of the human race, whether to rebuke the wicked, as Cain, and before that, Adam and his wife, when they sinned, or to comfort the good, or to admonish both, so that some should to their salvation believe, others should to their condemnation refuse to believe, -- coming then not in the flesh but in the spirit, speaking by suitable manifestations of Himself to such persons and in such manner as seemed good to Him. As to this expression, "He came in the spirit," surely He, as the Son of God, is a Spirit in the essence of His Deity, for that is not corporeal; but what is at any time done by the Son without the Holy Spirit, or without the Father, seeing that all the works of the Trinity are inseparable?

18. The words of Scripture which are under consideration seem to me of themselves to make this sufficiently plain to those who carefully attend to them: "For Christ hath died once for our sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit: in which also He came and preached unto the spirits in prison, who sometime were unbelieving, when the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing." The order of the words is now, I suppose, carefully noted by you: "Christ being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit;" in which spirit He came and preached also to those spirits who had once in the days of Noah refused to believe His word; since before He came in the flesh to die for us, which He did once, He often came in the spirit, to whom He would, by visions instructing them as He would, coming to them assuredly in the same spirit in which He was quickened when He was put to death in the flesh in His passion. Now what does His being quickened in the spirit mean if not this, that the same flesh in which alone He had experienced death rose from the dead by the quickening spirit?

CHAP. VII. 19. For who will dare to say that Jesus was put to death in His soul, i.e. in the spirit which belonged to Him as man, since the only death which the soul can experience is sin, from which He was absolutely free when for us He was put to death in the flesh? For if the souls of all men are derived from that one which the breath of God gave to the first man, by whom "sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men,"7 either the soul of Christ is not derived from the same source as other souls, because He had absolutely no sin, either original or personal, on account of which death could be supposed to be merited by Him, since He paid on our behalf that which was not on His own account due by Him, in whom the prince of this world, who had the power of death, found nothing 8 -- and there is nothing unreasonable in the supposition that He who created a soul for the first man should create a soul for Himself; or if the soul of Christ be derived from Adam's soul He in assuming it to Himself, cleansed it so that when. He came into this world He was born of the Virgin perfectly free from sin either actual or transmitted. If, however, the souls of men are not derived from that one soul, and it is only by the flesh that original sin is transmitted from Adam, the Son of God created a soul for Himself, as He creates souls for all other men, but He united it not to sinful flesh, but to the "likeness of sinful flesh."1 For He took, indeed, from the Virgin the true substance of flesh; not, however, "sinful flesh," for it was neither begotten nor conceived through carnal concupiscence, but mortal, and capable of change in the successive stages of life, as being like unto sinful flesh in all points, sin excepted.

20. Therefore, whatever be the true theory concerning the origin of souls, -- and on this I feel it would be rash for me to pronounce, meanwhile, any opinion beyond utterly rejecting the theory which affirms that each soul is thrust into the body which it inhabits as into a prison, where it expiates some former actions of its own of which I know nothing, it is certain, regarding the soul of Christ, not only that it is, according to the nature of all souls, immortal, but also that it was neither put to death by sin nor punished by condemnation, the only two ways in which death can be understood as experienced by the soul; and therefore it could not be said of Christ that with reference to the soul He was "quickened in the spirit." For He was quickened in that in which He had been put to death; this, therefore, is spoken with reference to His flesh, for His flesh received life again when the soul returned to it, as it also had died when the soul departed. He was therefore said to be "put to death in the flesh," because He experienced death only in the flesh, but "quickened in the spirit," because by the operation of that Spirit in which He was wont to come and preach to whom He would, that same flesh in which He came to men was quickened and rose from the grave.

21. Wherefore, passing now to the words which we find farther on concerning unbelievers, "Who shall give account to Him who is ready to judge the quick and the dead," there is no necessity for our understanding the "dead" here to be those who have departed from the body. For it may be that the apostle intended by the word "dead" to denote unbelievers, as being spiritually dead, like those of whom it was said, "Let the dead bury their dead,"2 and by the word "living" to denote those who believe in Him, having not heard in vain the call, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light;"3 of whom also the Lord said: "The hour is corning, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall Have."4 On the same principle of interpretation, also, there is nothing compelling us to understand the immediately succeeding words of Peter -- "For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit" as describing what has been done in hell. "For for this cause has the gospel been preached" in this life "to the dead," that is, to the unbelieving wicked, "that" when they believed "they might be judged according to men in the flesh," -- that is, by means of various afflictions and by the death of the body itself; for which reason the same apostle says in another place: "The time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God,"6 -- "but live according to God in the spirit," since in that same spirit they had been dead while they were held prisoners in the death of unbelief and wickedness.

22. If this exposition of the words of Peter offend any one, or, without offending, at least fail to satisfy any one, let him attempt to interpret them on the supposition that they refer to hell: and if he succeed in solving my difficulties which I have mentioned above, so as to remove the perplexity which they occasion, let him communicate his interpretation to me; and if this were done, the words might possibly have been intended to be understood in both ways, but the view which I have propounded is not thereby shown to be false.

I wrote and sent by the deacon Asellus a letter, which I suppose you have received, giving such answers as I could to the questions which you sent before, excepting the one concerning the vision of God by the bodily senses, on which a larger treatise must be attempted. In your last note, to which this is a reply, you propounded two questions concerning certain words of the Apostle Peter, and concerning the soul of the Lord, both of which I have discussed, -- the former more fully, the latter briefly.7 I beg you not to Fudge the trouble of sending me another copy of the letter containing the question whether it is possible for the substance of the Deity to be seen in a bodily form as limited to place; for it has, I know not how, gone amissing here, and though long sought for, has not been found.

LETTER CLXV. (A.D. 410.1)


CHAP. I. -- I. At last I have received your joint letter from Africa, and I do not regret the importunity with which, though you were silent, I persevered in sending letters to you, that I might obtain a reply, and learn, not through report from others, but from your own most welcome statement, that you are in health. I have not forgotten the brief query, or rather the very important theological s question, which you propounded in regard to the origin of the soul, -- does it descend from heaven, as the philosopher Pythagoras and all the Platonists and Origen think? or is it part of the essence of the Deity, as the Stoics, Manichaeus, and the Priscillianists of Spain imagine? or are souls kept in a divine treasure house wherein they were stored of old as some ecclesiastics, foolishly misled, believe? or are they daily created by God and sent into bodies, according to what is written in the gospel, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work"?4 or are souls really produced, as Tertullian, Apollinaris, and the majority of the Western divines conjecture, by propagation, so that as the body is the offspring of body, the soul is the offspring of soul, and exists on conditions similar to those regulating the existence of the inferior animals."5 I know that I have published my opinion on this question in my brief writings against Ruffinus, in reply to a treatise addressed by him to Anastasius, of holy memory, bishop of the Roman: Church, in which, while attempting to impose upon the simplicity of his readers by a slippery and artful, yet withal foolish confession, he exposed to contempt his own faith, or, rather, his own perfidy. These books are, I think, in the possession of your holy kinsman Oceanus, for they were published long ago to meet the calumnies contained in numerous writings of Ruffinus. Be this as it may, you have in Africa that holy man and learned bishop Augustin, who will be able to teach you on this subject viva race, as the saying is, and expound to you his opinion, or, I should rather say, my own opinion stated in his words.

CHAP. II. -- 2. I have long wished to begin the I volume of Ezekiel, and fulfil a promise frequently made to studious readers; but at the time when I had just begun to dictate the proposed exposition, my mind was so much agitated by the devastation of the western provinces of the empire, and especially by the sack of Rome itself by the barbarians, that, to use a common proverbial phrase, I scarcely knew my own name; and for a long while I was silent, knowing that it was a time for tears. Moreover when I had, in the course of this year, prepared three books of the Commentary, a sudden furious invasion of the barbarous tribes mentioned by your Virgil as "the widely roaming Barcaei,"6 and by sacred Scripture in the words concerning Ishmael, "He shall dwell in the presence of his brethren," swept over the whole of Egypt, Palestine, Phenice, and Syria, carrying all before them with the vehemence of a mighty torrent, so that it was only with the greatest difficulty that we were enabled, by the mercy of Christ, to escape their hands. But if, as a famous orator has said, "Laws are silent amid the clash of arms,"8 how much more may this be said of scriptural studies, which demand a multitude of books and silence, together with uninterrupted diligence of amanuenses, and especially the enjoyment of tranquillity and leisure by those who dictate! I have accordingly sent two books to my holy daughter Fabiola, of which, if you wish copies, you may borrow them from her. Through lack of time I have been unable to transcribe others; when you have read these, and have seen the portico, as it were, you may easily conjecture what the house itself is designed to be. But I trust m the mercy of God, who has helped me in the very difficult commencement of the foresaid work, that He will help me also in the predictions concerning the wars of Gog and Magog, which occupy the last division but one of the prophecy,9 and in the concluding portion itself, describing the building, the details, and the proportions of that most holy and mysterious temple.10

CHAP. III. -- 3. Our holy brother Oceanus, to whom you desire to be mentioned, is a man of such gifts and character, and so profoundly learned in the law of the Lord, that he may probably give you instruction without any request of mine, and can impart to you on all scriptural questions the opinion which, according to the measure of our joint abilities, we have formed.

May Christ, our almighty God, keep you, my truly pious lords, in safety and prosperity to a good old age!

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