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Home > Fathers of the Church > Letters of St. Augustine > Letter 79

Letter 79 (A.D. 404)

A short and stern challenge to some Manichæan teacher who had succeeded Fortunatus (supposed to be Felix).

Your attempts at evasion are to no purpose: your real character is patent even a long way off. My brethren have reported to me their conversation with you. You say that you do not fear death; it is well: but you ought to fear that death which you are bringing upon yourself by your blasphemous assertions concerning God. As to your understanding that the visible death which all men know is a separation between soul and body, this is a truth which demands no great grasp of intellect. But as to the statement which you annex to this, that death is a separation between good and evil, do you not see that, if the soul be good and the body be evil, he who joined them together, is not good? But you affirm that the good God has joined them together; from which it follows that He is either evil, or swayed by fear of one who is evil. Yet you boast of your having no fear of man, when at the same time you conceive God to be such that, through fear of Darkness, He would join together good and evil. Be not uplifted, as your writing shows you to be, by supposing that I magnify you, by my resolving to check the out-flowing of your poison, lest its insidious and pestilential power should do harm: for the apostle does not magnify those whom he calls dogs, saying to the Philippians, Beware of dogs; Philippians 3:2 nor does he magnify those of whom he says that their word does eat as a canker. 2 Timothy 2:17 Therefore, in the name of Christ, I demand of you to answer, if you are able, the question which baffled your predecessor Fortunatus. For he went from the scene of our discussion declaring that he would not return, unless, after conferring with his party, he found something by which he could answer the arguments used by our brethren. And if you are not prepared to do this, begone from this place, and do not pervert the right ways of the Lord, ensnaring and infecting with your poison the minds of the weak, lest, by the Lord's right hand helping me, you be put to confusion in a way which you did not expect.

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Source. Translated by J.G. Cunningham. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 1. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1102079.htm>.

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