Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume I/Confessions/Book VII/Chapter 20

Chapter XX.—He Rejoices that He Proceeded from Plato to the Holy Scriptures, and Not the Reverse.

26. But having then read those books of the Platonists, and being admonished by them to search for incorporeal truth, I saw Thy invisible things, understood by those things that are made;[1] and though repulsed, I perceived what that was, which through the darkness of my mind I was not allowed to contemplate,—assured that Thou wert, and wert infinite, and yet not diffused in space finite or infinite; and that Thou truly art, who art the same ever,[2] varying neither in part nor motion; and that all other things are from Thee, on this most sure ground alone, that they are. Of these things was I indeed assured, yet too weak to enjoy Thee. I chattered as one well skilled; but had I not sought Thy way in Christ our Saviour, I would have proved not skilful, but ready to perish. For now, filled with my punishment, I had begun to desire to seem wise; yet mourned I not, but rather was puffed up with knowledge.[3] For where was that charity building upon the “foundation” of humility, “which is Jesus Christ”?[4] Or, when would these books teach me it? Upon these, therefore, I believe, it was Thy pleasure that I should fall before I studied Thy Scriptures, that it might be impressed on my memory how I was affected by them; and that afterwards when I was subdued by Thy books, and when my wounds were touched by Thy healing fingers, I might discern and distinguish what a difference there is between presumption and confession,—between those who saw whither they were to go, yet saw not the way, and the way which leadeth not only to behold but to inhabit the blessed country.[5] For had I first been moulded in Thy Holy Scriptures, and hadst Thou, in the familiar use of them, grown sweet unto me, and had I afterwards fallen upon those volumes, they might perhaps have withdrawn me from the solid ground of piety; or, had I stood firm in that wholesome disposition which I had thence imbibed, I might have thought that it could have been attained by the study of those books alone.


  1. Rom. i. 20.
  2. See sec. 17, note, above.
  3. 1 Cor. viii. 1.
  4. 1 Cor. iii. 11.
  5. We have already quoted a passage from Augustin’s Sermons (v. sec. 5, note 7, above), where Christ as God is described as the country we seek, while as man He is the way to go to it. The Fathers frequently point out in their controversies with the philosophers that it little profited that they should know of a goal to be attained unless they could learn the way to reach it. And, in accordance with the sentiment, Augustin says: “For it is as man that He is the Mediator and the Way. Since, if the way lieth between him who goes and the place whither he goes, there is hope of his reaching it; but if there be no way, or if he know not where it is, what boots it to know whither he should go?” (De Civ. Dei, xi. 2.) And again, in his De Trin. iv. 15: “But of what use is it for the proud man, who, on that account, is ashamed to embark upon the ship of wood, to behold from afar his country beyond the sea? Or how can it hurt the humble man not to behold it from so great a distance, when he is actually coming to it by that wood upon which the other disdains to be borne?”