Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume I/Confessions/Book V/Chapter 9
Chapter IX.—Being Attacked by Fever, He is in Great Danger.
16. And behold, there was I received by the scourge of bodily sickness, and I was descending into hell burdened with all the sins that I had committed, both against Thee, myself, and others, many and grievous, over and above that bond of original sin whereby we all die in Adam. For none of these things hadst Thou forgiven me in Christ, neither had He “abolished” by His cross “the enmity” which, by my sins, I had incurred with Thee. For how could He, by the crucifixion of a phantasm, which I supposed Him to be? As true, then, was the death of my soul, as that of His flesh appeared to me to be untrue; and as true the death of His flesh as the life of my soul, which believed it not, was false. The fever increasing, I was now passing away and perishing. For had I then gone hence, whither should I have gone but into the fiery torments meet for my misdeeds, in the truth of Thy ordinance? She was ignorant of this, yet, while absent, prayed for me. But Thou, everywhere present, hearkened to her where she was, and hadst pity upon me where I was, that I should regain my bodily health, although still frenzied in my sacrilegious heart. For all that peril did not make me wish to be baptized, and I was better when, as a lad, I entreated it of my mother’s piety, as I have already related and confessed. But I had grown up to my own dishonour, and all the purposes of Thy medicine I madly derided, who wouldst not suffer me, though such a one, to die a double death. Had my mother’s heart been smitten with this wound, it never could have been cured. For I cannot sufficiently express the love she had for me, nor how she now travailed for me in the spirit with a far keener anguish than when she bore me in the flesh.
17. I cannot conceive, therefore, how she could have been healed if such a death of mine had transfixed the bowels of her love. Where then would have been her so earnest, frequent, and unintermitted prayers to Thee alone? But couldst Thou, most merciful God, despise the “contrite and humble heart” of that pure and prudent widow, so constant in alms-deeds, so gracious and attentive to Thy saints, not permitting one day to pass without oblation at Thy altar, twice a day, at morning and even-tide, coming to Thy church without intermission—not for vain gossiping, nor old wives’ “fables,” but in order that she might listen to Thee in Thy sermons, and Thou to her in her prayers? Couldst Thou—Thou by whose gift she was such—despise and disregard without succouring the tears of such a one, wherewith she entreated Thee not for gold or silver, nor for any changing or fleeting good, but for the salvation of the soul of her son? By no means, Lord. Assuredly Thou wert near, and wert hearing and doing in that method in which Thou hadst predetermined that it should be done. Far be it from Thee that Thou shouldst delude her in those visions and the answers she had from Thee,—some of which I have spoken of, and others not,—which she kept in her faithful breast, and, always petitioning, pressed upon Thee as Thine autograph. For Thou, “because Thy mercy endureth for ever,” condescendest to those whose debts Thou hast pardoned, to become likewise a debtor by Thy promises.
- 1 Cor. xv. 22.
- Eph. ii. 15, and Col. i. 20, etc.
- The Manichæan belief in regard to the unreal nature of Christ’s body may be gathered from Augustin’s Reply to Faustus: “You ask,” argues Faustus (xxvi. i.), “if Jesus was not born, how did He die?…In return I ask you, how did Elias not die, though he was a man? Could a mortal encroach upon the limits of immortality, and could not Christ add to His immortality whatever experience of death was required?…Accordingly, if it is a good argument that Jesus was a man because He died, it is an equally good argument that Elias was not a man because he did not die.…As, from the outset of His taking the likeness of man, He underwent in appearance all the experiences of humanity, it was quite consistent that He should complete the system by appearing to die.” So that with him the whole life of Jesus was a “phantasm.” His birth, circumcision, crucifixion, baptism, and temptation were (ibid. xxxii. 7) the mere result of the interpolation of crafty men, or sprung from the ignorance of the apostles, when as yet they had not reached perfection in knowledge. It is noticeable that Augustin, referring to Eph. ii. 15, substitutes His cross for His flesh, he, as a Manichæan, not believing in the real humanity of the Son of God. See iii. sec. 9, note, above.
- See i. sec. 10, above.
- See also iv. sec. 8, above, where he derides his friend’s baptism.
- Ps. li. 19.
- 1 Tim. v. 10.
- Watts gives the following note here:—“Oblations were those offerings of bread, meal, or wine, for making of the Eucharist, or of alms besides for the poor, which the primitive Christians every time they communicated brought to the church, where it was received by the deacons, who presented them to the priest or bishop. Here note: (1) They communicated daily; (2) they had service morning and evening, and two sermons a day many times,” etc. An interesting trace of an old use in this matter of oblations is found in the Queen’s Coronation Service. After other oblations had been offered, the Queen knelt before the Archbishop and presented to him “oblations” of bread and wine for the Holy Communion. See also Palmer’s Origines Liturgicæ, iv. 8, who demonstrates by reference to patristic writers that the custom was universal in the primitive Church:—“But though all the churches of the East and West agreed in this respect, they differed in appointing the time and place at which the oblations of the people were received.” It would appear from the following account of early Christian worship, that in the time of Justin Martyr the oblations were collected after the reception of the Lord’s Supper. In his First Apology we read (c. lxvii.): “On the day called Sunday [τοῦ ἡλίου λεγομένῃ ἡμέρᾳ] all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits them. When the reader has ceased, the president [ὁ προεστὼς] verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray [εὐχὰς πέμπομεν], and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings according to his ability [Kaye renders (p. 89) εὐχὰς ὁμοίως καὶ εὐχαριστίας, ὅση δύναμις αὐτῷ, ἀναπέμπει, “with his utmost power”], and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks had been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well-to-do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected [τὸ συλλεγόμενον] is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows, and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds, and the stranger sojourning among us, and, in a word, takes care of all who are in need.” The whole passage is given, as portions of it will be found to have a bearing on other parts of the Confessions. Bishop Kaye’s Justin Martyr, c. iv., may be referred to for his view of the controverted points in the passage. See also Bingham’s Antiquities, ii. 2–9; and notes to vi. sec. 2, and ix. secs. 6 and 27, below.
- See above, iii. 11, 12.
- Ibid. iii. 12.
- Luke ii. 19.
- Ps. cxviii. 1.