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Home > Fathers of the Church > Contra Faustum (Augustine) > Book V

Contra Faustum, Book V

Faustus claims that the Manichæans and not the Catholics are consistent believers in the Gospel, and seeks to establish this claim by comparing Manichæan and Catholic obedience to the precepts of the Gospel. Augustine exposes the hypocrisy of the Manichæans and praises the asceticism of Catholics.

1. Faustus said: Do I believe the gospel? You ask me if I believe it, though my obedience to its commands shows that I do. I should rather ask you if you believe it, since you give no proof of your belief. I have left my father, mother, wife, and children, and all else that the gospel requires; Matthew 19:29 and do you ask if I believe the gospel? Perhaps you do not know what is called the gospel. The gospel is nothing else than the preaching and the precept of Christ. I have parted with all gold and silver, and have left off carrying money in my purse; content with daily food; without anxiety for tomorrow; and without solicitude about how I shall be fed, or where-withal I shall be clothed: and do you ask if I believe the gospel? You see in me the blessings of the gospel; Matthew 5:3-11 and do you ask if I believe the gospel? You see me poor, meek, a peacemaker, pure in heart, mourning, hungering, thirsting, bearing persecutions and enmity for righteousness' sake; and do you doubt my belief in the gospel? One can understand now how John the Baptist, after seeing Jesus, and also hearing of His works, yet asked whether He was Christ. Jesus properly and justly did not deign to reply that He was; but reminded him of the works of which he had already heard: "The blind see, the deaf hear, the dead are raised." Matthew 11:2-6 In the same way, I might very well reply to your question whether I believe the gospel, by saying, I have left all, father, mother, wife, children, gold, silver, eating, drinking, luxuries, pleasures; take this as a sufficient answer to your questions, and believe that you will be blessed if you are not offended in me.

2. But, according to you, to believe the gospel is not only to obey its commands, but also to believe in all that is written in it; and, first of all, that God was born. But neither is believing the gospel only to believe that Jesus was born, but also to do what He commands. So, if you say that I do not believe the gospel because I disbelieve the incarnation, much more do you not believe because you disregard the commandments. At any rate, we are on a par till these questions are settled. If your disregard of the precepts does not prevent you from professing faith in the gospel, why should my rejection of the genealogy prevent me? And if, as you say, to believe the gospel includes both faith in the genealogies and obedience to the precepts, why do you condemn me, since we both are imperfect? What one wants the other has. But if, as there can be no doubt, belief in the gospel consists solely in obedience to the commands of God, your sin is twofold. As the proverb says, the deserter accuses the soldier. But suppose, since you will have it so, that there are these two parts of perfect faith, one consisting in word, or the confession that Christ was born, the other in deed or the observance of the precepts; it is plain that my part is hard and painful, yours light and easy. It is natural that the multitude should flock to you and away from me, for they know not that the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. Why, then, do you blame me for taking the harder part, and leaving to you, as to a weak brother, the easy part? You have the idea that your part of faith, or confessing that Christ was born, has more power to save the soul than the other parts.

3. Let us then ask Christ Himself, and learn from His own mouth, what is the chief means of our salvation. Who shall enter, O Christ, into Your kingdom? He that does the will of my Father in heaven, Matthew 7:21 is His reply; not, "He that confesses that I was born." And again, He says to His disciples, "Go, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things which I have commanded you." Matthew 28:19-20 It is not, "teaching them that I was born," but, "to observe my commandments." Again, "You are my friends if you do what I command you;" John 15:14 not, "if you believe that I was born." Again, "If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love," John 15:10 and in many other places. Also in the sermon on the mount, when He taught, "Blessed are the poor, blessed are the meek, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are they that mourn, blessed are they that hunger, blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness' sake," Matthew 5:3-10 He nowhere says, "Blessed are they that confess that I was born." And in the separation of the sheep from the goats in the judgment, He says that He will say to them on the right hand, "I was hungry, and you gave me meat; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink," Matthew 25:35 and so on; therefore "inherit the kingdom." Not, "Because ye believe that I was born, inherit the kingdom." Again, to the rich man seeking for eternal life, He says, "Go, sell all that you have, and follow me;" Matthew 19:21 not, "Believe that I was born, that you may have eternal life." You see, the kingdom, life, happiness, are everywhere promised to the part I have chosen of what you call the two parts of faith, and nowhere to your part. Show, if you can, a place where it is written that whoso confesses that Christ was born of a woman is blessed, or shall inherit the kingdom, or have eternal life. Even supposing, then, that there are two parts of faith, your part has no blessing. But what if we prove that your part is not a part of faith at all? It will follow that you are foolish, which indeed will be proved beyond a doubt. At present, it is enough to have shown that our part is crowned with the beatitudes. Besides, we have also a beatitude for a confession in words: for we confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God; and Jesus declares with His own lips that this confession has a benediction, when He says to Peter, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood has not revealed this unto you, but my Father which is in heaven." Matthew 16:7 So that we have not one, but both these parts of faith, and in both alike are we pronounced blessed by Christ; for in one we reduce faith to practice, while in the other our confession is unmixed with blasphemy.

4. Augustine replied: I have already said that the Lord Jesus Christ repeatedly calls Himself the Son of man, and that the Manichæans have contrived a silly story about some fabulous First Man, who figures in their impious heresy, not earthly, but combined with spurious elements, in opposition to the apostle, who says, "The first man is of the earth, earthy;" 1 Corinthians 15:47 and that the apostle carefully warns us, "If any one preaches to you differently from what we have preached, let him be accursed." Galatians 1:8-9 So that we must believe Christ to be the Son of man according to apostolic truth, not according to Manichæan error. And since the evangelists assert that Christ was born of a woman, of the seed of David, and Paul writing to Timothy says, "Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead, according to my gospel," 2 Timothy 2:8 it is clear what sense we must believe Christ to be the Son of man; for being the Son of God by whom we were made, He also by His incarnation became the Son of man, that He might die for our sins, and rise again for our justification. Romans 4:25 Accordingly He calls Himself both Son of God and Son of man. To take only one instance out of many, in the Gospel of John it is written, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour comes, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has given to the Son to have life in Himself; and has given Him power to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man." John 5:25-27 He says, "They shall hear the voice of the Son of God;" and He says, "because He is the Son of man." As the Son of man, He has received power to execute judgment, because He will come to judgment in human form, that He may be seen by the good and the wicked. In this form He ascended into heaven, and that voice was heard by His disciples, "He shall so come as you have seen Him go into heaven." Acts 1:14 As the Son of God, as God equal to and one with the Father, He will not be seen by the wicked; for "blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Since, then, He promises eternal life to those that believe in Him, and since to believe in Him is to believe in the true Christ, such as He declares Himself and His apostles declare Him to be, true Son of God and true Son of man; you, Manichæans, who believe in a false and spurious son of a false and spurious man, and teach that God Himself, from fear of the assault of the hostile race, gave up His own members to be tortured, and after all not to be wholly liberated, are plainly far from that eternal life which Christ promises to those who believe in Him. It is true, He said to Peter when he confessed Him to be the Son of God, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona." But does He promise nothing to those who believe Him to be the Son of man, when the Son of God and the Son of man are the same? Besides, eternal life is expressly promised to those who believe in the Son of man. "As Moses," He says, "lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:14-15 What more do you wish? Believe then in the Son of man, that you may have eternal life; for He is also the Son of God, who can give eternal life: for He is "the true God and eternal life," as the same John says in his epistle. John also adds, that he is antichrist who denies that Christ has come in the flesh.

5. There is no need, then that you should extol so much the perfection of Christ's commands, because you obey the precepts of the gospel. For the precepts, supposing you really to fulfill them, would not profit you without true faith. Do you not know that the apostle says, "If I distribute all my goods to the poor, and give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing?" 1 Corinthians 13:3 Why do you boast of having Christian poverty, when you are destitute of Christian charity? Robbers have a kind of charity to one another, arising from a mutual consciousness of guilt and crime; but this is not the charity commended by the apostle. In another passage he distinguishes true charity from all base and vicious affections, by saying, "Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned." 1 Timothy 1:5 How then can you have true charity from a fictitious faith? You persist in a faith corrupted by falsehood: for your First Man, according to you, used deceit in the conflict by changing his form, while his enemies remained in their own nature; and, besides, you maintain that Christ, who says, "I am the truth," feigned His incarnation, His death on the cross, the wounds of His passion, the marks shown after His resurrection. If you speak the truth, and your Christ speaks falsehood, you must be better than he. But if you really follow your own Christ, your truthfulness may be doubted, and your obedience to the precepts you speak of may be only a pretence. Is it true, as Faustus says, that you have no money in your purses? He means, probably, that your money is in boxes and bags; nor would we blame you for this, if you did not profess one thing and practise another. Constantius, who is still alive, and is now our brother in Catholic Christianity, once gathered many of your sect into his house at Rome, to keep these precepts of Manichæus, which you think so much of, though they are very silly and childish. The precepts proved too much for your weakness, and the gathering was entirely broken up. Those who persevered separated from your communion, and are called Mattarians, because they sleep on mats,— a very different bed from the feathers of Faustus and his goatskin coverlets, and all the grandeur that made him despise not only the Mattarians, but also the house of his poor father in Mileum. Away, then, with this accursed hypocrisy from your writing, if not from your conduct; or else your language will conflict with your life by your deceitful words, as your First Man with the race of darkness by his deceitful elements.

6. I am, however, addressing not merely men who fail to do what they are commanded, but the members of a deluded sect. For the precepts of Manichæus are such that, if you do not keep them, you are deceivers; if you do keep them, you are deceived. Christ never taught you that you should not pluck a vegetable for fear of committing homicide; for when His disciples were hungry when passing through a field of grain, He did not forbid them to pluck the ears on the Sabbath day; which was a rebuke to the Jews of the time since the action was on Sabbath; and a rebuke in the action itself to the future Manichæans. The precept of Manichæus, however, only requires you to do nothing while others commit homicide for you; though the real homicide is that of ruining miserable souls by such doctrines of devils.

7. The language of Faustus has the typhus of heresy in it, and is the language of overweening arrogance. "You see in me" he says, "the beatitudes of the gospel; and do you ask if I believe the gospel? You see me poor, meek, a peacemaker, pure in heart, mourning, hungering, thirsting, bearing persecution and enmity for righteousness' sake; and do you doubt my belief in the gospel?" If to justify oneself were to be just, Faustus would have flown to heaven while uttering these words. I say nothing of the luxurious habits of Faustus, known to all the followers of the Manichæans, and especially to those at Rome. I shall suppose a Manichæan such as Constantius sought for, when he enforced the observance of these precepts with the sincere desire to see them observed. How can I see him to be poor in spirit, when he is so proud as to believe that his own soul is God, and is not ashamed to speak of God as in bondage? How can I see him meek, when he affronts all the authority of the evangelists rather than believe? How a peacemaker, when he holds that the divine nature itself by which God is whatever is, and is the only true existence, could not remain in lasting peace? How pure in heart, when his heart is filled with so many impious notions? How mourning, unless it is for his God captive and bound till he be freed and escape, with the loss, however, of a part which is to be united by the Father to the mass of darkness, and is not to be mourned for? How hungering and thirsting for righteousness, which Faustus omits in his writings lest, no doubt, he should be thought destitute of righteousness? But how can they hunger and thirst after righteousness, whose perfect righteousness will consist in exulting over their brethren condemned to darkness, not for any fault of their own, but for being irremediably contaminated by the pollution against which they were sent by the Father to contend?

8. How do you suffer persecution and enmity for righteousness' sake, when, according to you, it is righteous to preach and teach these impieties? The wonder is, that the gentleness of Christian times allows such perverse iniquity to pass wholly or almost unpunished. And yet, as if we were blind or silly, you tell us that your suffering reproach and persecution is a great proof of your righteousness. If people are just according to the amount of their suffering, atrocious criminals of all kinds suffer much more than you. But, at any rate, if we are to grant that suffering endured on account of any sort of profession of Christianity proves the sufferer to be in possession of true faith and righteousness, you must admit that any case of greater suffering that we can show proves the possession of truer faith and greater righteousness. Of such cases you know many among our martyrs, and chiefly Cyprian himself, whose writings also bear witness to his belief that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary. For this faith, which you abhor, he suffered and died along with many Christian believers of that day, who suffered as much, or more. Faustus, when shown to be a Manichæan by evidence, or by his own confession, on the intercession of the Christians themselves, who brought him before the proconsul, was, along with some others, only banished to an island, which can hardly be called a punishment at all, for it is what God's servants do of their own accord every day when they wish to retire from the tumult of the world. Besides, earthly sovereigns often by a public decree give release from this banishment as an act of mercy. And in this way all were afterwards released at once. Confess, then, that they were in possession of a truer faith and a more righteous life, who were accounted worthy to suffer for it much more than you ever suffered. Or else, cease boasting of the abhorrence which many feel for you, and learn to distinguish between suffering for blasphemy and suffering for righteousness. What it is you suffer for, your own books will show in a way that deserves your most particular attention.

9. Those evangelical precepts of peculiar sublimity which you make people who know no better believe that you obey, are really obeyed by multitudes in our communion. Are there not among us many of both sexes who have entirely refrained from sexual intercourse, and many formerly married who practise continence? Are there not many others who give largely of their property, or give it up altogether, and many who keep the body in subjection by fasts, either frequent or daily, or protracted beyond belief? Then there are fraternities whose members have no property of their own, but all things common, including only things necessary for food and clothing, living with one soul and one heart towards God, inflamed with a common feeling of charity. In all such professions many turn out to be deceivers and reprobates, while many who are so are never discovered; many, too, who at first walk well, fall away rapidly from willfulness. Many are found in times of trial to have adopted this kind of life with another intention than they professed; and again, many in humility and steadfastness persevere in their course to the end, and are saved. There are apparent diversities in these societies; but one charity unites all who, from some necessity, in obedience to the apostle's injunction, have their wives as if they had them not, and buy as if they bought not, and use this world as if they used it not. With these are joined, in the abundant riches of God's mercy, the inferior class of those to whom it is said, "Defraud not one another, except it be with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment." 1 Corinthians 7:5-6 To such the same apostle also says, "Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, that you go to law one with another;" while, in consideration of their infirmity, he adds, "If you have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the Church." 1 Corinthians 6:7, 4 For in the kingdom of heaven there are not only those who, that they may be perfect, sell or leave all they have and follow the Lord; but others in the partnership of charity are joined like a mercenary force to the Christian army, to whom it will be said at last, "I was hungry, and you gave me meat," and so on. Otherwise, there would be no salvation for those to whom the apostle gives so many anxious and particular directions about their families, telling the wives to be obedient to their husbands, and husbands to love their wives; children to obey their parents, and parents to bring up their children in the instruction and admonition of the Lord; servants to obey with fear their masters according to the flesh, and masters to render to their servants what is just and equal. The apostle is far from condemning such people as regardless of gospel precepts, or unworthy of eternal life. For where the Lord exhorts the strong to attain perfection, saying, "If any man take not up his cross and follow me, he cannot be my disciple," He immediately adds, for the consolation of the weak, "Whoso receives a just man in the name of a just man shall receive a just man's reward; and whoso receives a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward." So that not only he who gives Timothy a little wine for his stomach's sake, and his frequent infirmities, but he who gives to a strong man a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, shall not lose his reward. Matthew 10:38-42

10. If it is true that a man cannot receive the gospel without giving up everything, why do you delude your followers, by allowing them to keep in your service their wives, and children, and households, and houses, and fields? Indeed, you may well allow them to disregard the precepts of the gospel: for all you promise them is not a resurrection, but a change to another mortal existence, in which they shall live the silly, childish, impious life of those you call the Elect, the life you live yourself, and are so much praised for; or if they possess greater merit, they shall enter into melons or cucumbers, or some eatables which you will masticate, that they may be quickly purified by your digestion. Least of all should you who teach such doctrines profess any regard for the gospel. For if the faith of the gospel had any connection with such nonsense, the Lord should have said, not, "I was hungry, and you gave me meat;" but, "You were hungry, and you ate me," or, "I was hungry, and I ate you." For, by your absurdities, a man will not be received into the kingdom of God for the service of giving food to the saints, but, because he has eaten them and belched them out, or has himself been eaten and belched into heaven. Instead of saying, "Lord, when saw we You hungry, and fed You?" the righteous must say, "When saw we You hungry, and were eaten by You?" And He must answer, not, "When ye gave food to one of the least of these my brethren, you gave to me;" but, "When you were eaten by one of the least of these my brethren, you were eaten by me."

11. Believing and teaching such monstrosities, and living accordingly, you yet have the boldness to say that you obey the precepts of the gospel, and to decry the Catholic Church, which includes many weak as well as strong, both of whom the Lord blesses, because both according to their measure obey the precepts of the gospel and hope in its promises. The blindness of hostility makes you see only the tares in our harvest: for you might easily see wheat too, if you were willing that there should be any. But among you, those who are pretended Manichæans are wicked, and those who are really Manichæans are silly. For where the faith itself is false, he who hypocritically professes it acts deceitfully, while he who truly believes is deceived. Such a faith cannot produce a good life, for every man's life is good or bad according as his heart is engaged. If your affections were set upon spiritual and intellectual good, instead of material forms, you would not pay homage to the material sun as a divine substance, and as the light of wisdom, which every one knows you do, though I now only mention it in passing.

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Source. Translated by Richard Stothert. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 4. 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/140605.htm>.

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