Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume I/Confessions/Book X/Chapter 6
Chapter VI.—The Love of God, in His Nature Superior to All Creatures, is Acquired by the Knowledge of the Senses and the Exercise of Reason.
8. Not with uncertain, but with assured consciousness do I love Thee, O Lord. Thou hast stricken my heart with Thy word, and I loved Thee. And also the heaven, and earth, and all that is therein, behold, on every side they say that I should love Thee; nor do they cease to speak unto all, “so that they are without excuse.” But more profoundly wilt Thou have mercy on whom Thou wilt have mercy, and compassion on whom Thou wilt have compassion, otherwise do both heaven and earth tell forth Thy praises to deaf ears. But what is it that I love in loving Thee? Not corporeal beauty, nor the splendour of time, nor the radiance of the light, so pleasant to our eyes, nor the sweet melodies of songs of all kinds, nor the fragrant smell of flowers, and ointments, and spices, not manna and honey, not limbs pleasant to the embracements of flesh. I love not these things when I love my God; and yet I love a certain kind of light, and sound, and fragrance, and food, and embracement in loving my God, who is the light, sound, fragrance, food, and embracement of my inner man—where that light shineth unto my soul which no place can contain, where that soundeth which time snatcheth not away, where there is a fragrance which no breeze disperseth, where there is a food which no eating can diminish, and where that clingeth which no satiety can sunder. This is what I love, when I love my God.
9. And what is this? I asked the earth; and it answered, “I am not He;” and whatsoever are therein made the same confession. I asked the sea and the deeps, and the creeping things that lived, and they replied, “We are not thy God, seek higher than we.” I asked the breezy air, and the universal air with its inhabitants answered, “Anaximenes was deceived, I am not God.” I asked the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars: “Neither,” say they, “are we the God whom thou seekest.” And I answered unto all these things which stand about the door of my flesh, “Ye have told me concerning my God, that ye are not He; tell me something about Him.” And with a loud voice they exclaimed, “He made us.” My questioning was my observing of them; and their beauty was their reply. And I directed my thoughts to myself, and said, “Who art thou?” And I answered, “A man.” And lo, in me there appear both body and soul, the one without, the other within. By which of these should I seek my God, whom I had sought through the body from earth to heaven, as far as I was able to send messengers—the beams of mine eyes? But the better part is that which is inner; for to it, as both president and judge, did all these my corporeal messengers render the answers of heaven and earth and all things therein, who said, “We are not God, but He made us.” These things was my inner man cognizant of by the ministry of the outer; I, the inner man, knew all this—I, the soul, through the senses of my body. I asked the vast bulk of the earth of my God, and it answered me, “I am not He, but He made me.”
10. Is not this beauty visible to all whose senses are unimpaired? Why then doth it not speak the same things unto all? Animals, the very small and the great, see it, but they are unable to question it, because their senses are not endowed with reason to enable them to judge on what they report. But men can question it, so that “the invisible things of Him . . . are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made;” but by loving them, they are brought into subjection to them; and subjects are not able to judge. Neither do the creatures reply to such as question them, unless they can judge; nor will they alter their voice (that is, their beauty), if so be one man only sees, another both sees and questions, so as to appear one way to this man, and another to that; but appearing the same way to both, it is mute to this, it speaks to that—yea, verily, it speaks unto all but they only understand it who compare that voice received from without with the truth within. For the truth declareth unto me, “Neither heaven, nor earth, nor any body is thy God.” This, their nature declareth unto him that beholdeth them. “They are a mass; a mass is less in part than in the whole.” Now, O my soul, thou art my better part, unto thee I speak; for thou animatest the mass of thy body, giving it life, which no body furnishes to a body but thy God is even unto thee the Life of life.
- Rom. i. 20.
- Rom. ix. 15.
- Anaximenes of Miletus was born about 520 B.C. According to his philosophy the air was animate, and from it, as from a first principle, all things in heaven, earth, and sea sprung, first by condensation (πύκνωσις), and after that by a process of rarefaction (ἀραίωσις). See Ep. cxviii. 23; and Aristotle, Phys. iii. 4. Compare this theory and that of Epicurus (p. 100, above) with those of modern physicists; and see thereon The Unseen Universe, arts. 85, etc., and 117, etc.
- In Ps. cxliv. 13, the earth he describes as “dumb,” but as speaking to us while we meditate upon its beauty—Ipsa inquisitio interrogatio est.
- Rom. i. 20.
- See note 2 to previous section.