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

Contra Faustum, Book XV

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Faustus rejects the Old Testament because it leaves no room for Christ. Christ the one Bridegroom suffices for His Bride the Church. Augustine answers as well as he can, and reproves the Manichæans with presumption in claiming to be the Bride of Christ.

1. Faustus said: Why do we not receive the Old Testament? Because when a vessel is full, what is poured on it is not received, but allowed to run over; and a full stomach rejects what it cannot hold. So the Jews, satisfied with the Old Testament, reject the New; and we who have received the New Testament from Christ, reject the Old. You receive both because you are only half filled with each, and the one is not completed, but corrupted by the other. For vessels half filled should not be filled up with anything of a different nature from what they already contain. If it contains wine, it should be filled up with wine, honey with honey, vinegar with vinegar. For to pour gall on honey, or water on wine, or alkalies on vinegar, is not addition, but adulteration. This is why we do not receive the Old Testament. Our Church, the bride of Christ, the poor bride of a rich bridegroom, is content with the possession of her husband, and scorns the wealth of inferior lovers, and despises the gifts of the Old Testament and of its author, and from regard to her own character, receives only the letters of her husband. We leave the Old Testament to your Church, that, like a bride faithless to her spouse, delights in the letters and gifts of another. This lover who corrupts your chastity, the God of the Hebrews in his stone tablets promises you gold and silver, and abundance of food, and the land of Canaan. Such low rewards have tempted you to be unfaithful to Christ, after all the rich dowry bestowed by him. By such attractions the God of the Hebrews gains over the bride of Christ. You must know that you are cheated, and that these promises are false. This God is in poverty and beggary, and cannot do what he promises. For if he cannot give these things to the synagogue, his proper wife, who obeys him in all things like a servant, how can he bestow them on you who are strangers, and who proudly throw off his yoke from your necks? Go on, then, as you have begun, join the new cloth to the old garment, put the new wine in old bottles, serve two masters without pleasing either, make Christianity a monster, half horse and half man; but allow us to serve only Christ, content with his immortal dower, and imitating the apostle who says, "Our sufficiency is of God, who has made us able ministers of the New Testament." 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 In the God of the Hebrews we have no interest whatever; for neither can he perform his promises, nor do we desire that he should. The liberality of Christ has made us indifferent to the flatteries of this stranger. This figure of the relation of the wife to her husband is sanctioned by Paul, who says: "The woman that has a husband is bound to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband die, she is freed from the law of her husband. So, then, if while her husband lives she be joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband be dead, she is not an adulteress, though she be married to another man." Romans 7:2-3 Here he shows that there is a spiritual adultery in being united to Christ before repudiating the author of the law, and counting him, as it were, as dead. This applies chiefly to the Jews who believe in Christ, and who ought to forget their former superstition. We who have been converted to Christ from heathenism, look upon the God of the Hebrews not merely as dead, but as never having existed, and do not need to be told to forget him. A Jew, when he believes, should regard Adonai as dead; a Gentile should regard his idol as dead; and so with everything that has been held sacred before conversion. One who, after giving up idolatry, worships both the God of the Hebrews and Christ, is like an abandoned woman, who after the death of one husband marries two others.

2. Augustine replied: Let all who have given their hearts to Christ say whether they can listen patiently to these things, unless Christ Himself enable them. Faustus, full of the new honey, rejects the old vinegar; and Paul, full of the old vinegar, has poured out half that the new honey may be poured in, not to be kept, but to be corrupted. When the apostle calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, this is the new honey. But when he adds, "which He promised before by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures of His Son, who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh," Romans 1:1-3 this is the old vinegar. Who could bear to hear this, unless the apostle himself consoled us by saying: "There must be heresies, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you?" 1 Corinthians 11:19 Why should we repeat what we said already? — that the new cloth and the old garment, the new wine and the old bottles, mean not two Testaments, but two lives and two hopes, — that the relation of the two Testaments is figuratively described by the Lord when He says: "Therefore every scribe instructed in the kingdom of God is like an householder bringing out of his treasure things new and old." Matthew 13:52 The reader may remember this as said before, or he may find it on looking back. For if any one tries to serve God with two hopes, one of earthly felicity, and the other of the kingdom of heaven, the two hopes cannot agree; and when the latter is shaken by some affliction, the former will be lost too. Thus it is said, No man can serve two masters; which Christ explains thus: "You cannot serve God and Mammon." Matthew 6:24 But to those who rightly understand it, the Old Testament is a prophecy of the New. Even in that ancient people, the holy patriarchs and prophets, who understood the part they performed, or which they were instrumental in performing, had this hope of eternal life in the New Testament. They belonged to the New Testament, because they understood and loved it, though revealed only in figure. Those belonging to the Old Testament were the people who cared for nothing else but the temporal promises, without understanding them as significant of eternal things. But all this has already been more than enough insisted on.

3. It is amazingly bold in the impious and impure sect of the Manichæans to boast of being the chaste bride of Christ. All the effect of such a boast on the really chaste members of the holy Church is to remind them of the apostle's warning against deceivers: "I have joined you to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear lest, as the serpent deceived Eve by his guile, so your minds also should be corrupted from the purity which is in Christ." 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 What else do those preachers of another gospel than that which we have received try to do, but to corrupt us from the purity which we preserve for Christ, when they stigmatize the law of God as old, and praise their own falsehoods as new, as if all that is new must be good, and all that is old bad? The Apostle John, however, praises the old commandment, and the Apostle Paul bids us avoid novelties in doctrine. As an unworthy son and servant of the Catholic Church, the true bride of the true Christ, I too, as appointed to give out food to my fellow-servants, would speak to her a word of counsel. Continue ever to shun the profane errors of the Manichæans, which have been tried by the experience of your own children, and condemned by their recovery. By that heresy I was once separated from your fellowship, and after running into danger which ought to have been avoided, I escaped. Restored to your service, my experience may perhaps be profitable to you. Unless your true and truthful Bridegroom, from whose side you were made, had obtained the remission of sins through His own real blood, the gulf of error would have swallowed me up; I should have become dust, and been devoured by the serpent. Be not misled by the name of truth. The truth is in your own milk, and in your own bread. They have the name only, and not the thing. Your full-grown children, indeed, are secure; but I speak to your babes, my brothers, and sons, and masters, whom you, the virgin mother, fertile as pure, cherishes into life under your anxious wings, or nourishes with the milk of infancy. I call upon these, your tender offspring, not to be seduced by noisy vanities, but rather to pronounce accursed any one that preaches to them another gospel than that which they have received in you. I call upon these not to leave the true and truthful Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; not to forsake the abundance of His goodness which He has laid up for them that fear Him, and has wrought for them that trust in Him. How can they expect to find truthful words in one who preaches an untruthful Christ? Scorn the reproaches cast on you, for you know well that the gift which you desire from your Bridegroom is eternal life, for He Himself is eternal life.

4. It is a silly falsehood that you have been seduced to another God, who promises abundance of food and the land of Canaan. For you can perceive how the saints of old, who were also your children, were enlightened by these figures which were prophecies of you. Thou needest not regard the poor jest against the stone tablets, for the stony heart of which they were in old times a figure is not in you. For you are an epistle of the apostles, "written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not on tables of stone, but on the fleshy tables of the heart." 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 Our opponents ignorantly think that these words are in their favor, and that the apostle finds fault with the dispensation of the Old Testament, whereas they are the words of the prophet. This utterance of the apostles was a fulfillment of the long anterior utterances of the prophet whom the Manichæans reject, for they believe the apostles without understanding them. The prophet says: "I will take away from them the stony heart, and I will give them a heart of flesh." Ezekiel 11:19 What is this but "Not on tables of stones but on the fleshy tables of the heart"? For by the heart of flesh and the fleshy tables is not meant a carnal understanding: but as flesh feels, whereas a stone cannot, the insensibility of stone signifies an unintelligent heart, and the sensibility of flesh signifies an intelligent heart. Instead, then, of scoffing at you, they deserve to be ridiculed who say that earth, and wood, and stones have sense, and that their life is more intelligent than animal life. So, not to speak of the truth, even their own fiction obliges them to confess that the law written on tables of stone was purer than their sacred parchments. Or perhaps they prefer sheepskin to stone, because their legends make stones the bones of princes. In any case, the ark of the Old Testament was a cleaner covering for the tables of stone than the goatskin of their manuscripts. Laugh at these things, while pitying them, to show their falsehood and absurdity. With a heart no longer stony, you can see in these stone tablets a suitableness to that hard-hearted people; and at the same time you can find even there the stone, your Bridegroom, described by Peter as "a living stone, rejected by men, but chosen of God, and precious." To them He was "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense;" but to you, "the stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner." 1 Peter 2:4-8 This is all explained by Peter, and is quoted from the prophets, with whom these heretics have nothing to do. Fear not, then, to read these tablets — they are from your Husband; to others the stone was a sign of insensibility, but to you of strength and stability. With the finger of God these tablets were written; with the finger of God your Lord cast out devils; with the finger of God drive away the doctrines of lying devils which sear the conscience. With these tablets you can confound the seducer who calls himself the Paraclete, that he may impose upon you by a sacred name. For on the fiftieth day after the passover the tables were given; and on the fiftieth day after the passion of your Bride-groom — of whom the passover was a type — the finger of God, the Holy Spirit, the promised Paraclete, was given. Fear not the tablets which convey to you ancient writings now made plain. Only be not under the law, lest fear prevent your fulfilling it; but be under grace, that love, which is the fulfilling of the law, may be in you. For it was in a review of these very tablets that the friend of your Bridegroom said: "For you shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not covet, and if there be any other commandment, it is contained in this word, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love works no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." Romans 13:9-10 One table contains the precept of love to God, and the other of love to man. And He who first sent these tablets Himself came to enjoin those precepts on which hang the law and the prophets. Matthew 22:37-40 In the first precept is the chastity of your espousals; in the second is the unity of your members. In the one you are united to divinity; in the other you gather a society. And these two precepts are identical with the ten, of which three relate to God, and seven to our neighbor. Such is the chaste tablet in which your Lover and your Beloved of old prefigured to you the new song on a psaltery of ten strings; Himself to be extended on the cross for you, that by sin He might condemn sin in the flesh, and that the righteouness of the law might be fulfilled in you. Such is the conjugal tablet, which may well be hated by the unfaithful wife.

5. I turn now to you, you deluded and deluding congregation of Manichæus, — wedded to so many elements, or rather prostituted to so many devils, and impregnated with blasphemous falsehoods — do you dare to slander as unchaste the marriage of the Catholic Church with your Lord? Behold your lovers, one balancing creation, and the other bearing it up like Atlas. For one, by your account, holds the sources of the elements, and hangs the world in space; while the other keeps him up by kneeling down and carrying the weight on his shoulders. Where are those beings? And if they are so occupied, how can they come to visit you, to spend an idle hour in getting their shoulders or their fingers relieved by your soft, soothing touch? But you are deceived by evil spirits which commit adultery with you, that you may conceive falsehoods and bring forth vanities. Well may you reject the message of the true God, as opposed to your parchments, where in the vain imaginations of a wanton mind you have gone after so many false gods. The fictions of the poets are more respectable than yours, in this at least, that they deceive no one; while the fables in your books, by assuming an appearance of truth, mislead the childish, both young and old, and pervert their minds. As the apostle says, they have itching ears, and turn away from hearing the truth to listen to fables. 2 Timothy 4:4 How should you bear the sound doctrine of these tables, where the first commandment is, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one Lord," Deuteronomy 6:4 when your corrupt affections find shameful delight in so many false deities? Do you not remember your love-song, where you describe the chief ruler in perennial majesty, crowned with flowers, and of fiery countenance? To have even one such lover is shameful; for a chaste wife seeks not a husband crowned with flowers. And you can not say that this description or representation has a typical meaning, for you are wont to praise Manichæus for nothing more than for speaking to you the simple naked truth without the disguise of figures. So the God of your song is a real king, bearing a sceptre and crowned with flowers. When he wears a crown of flowers, he ought to put aside his sceptre; for effeminacy and majesty are incongruous. And then he is not your only lover; for the song goes on to tell of twelve seasons clothed in flowers, and filled with song, throwing their flowers at their father's face. These are twelve great gods of yours, three in each of the four regions surrounding the first deity. How this deity can be infinite, when he is thus circumscribed, no one can say. Besides, there are countless principalities, and hosts of gods, and troops of angels, which you say were not created by God, but produced from His substance.

6. You are thus convicted of worshipping gods without number; for you can not bear the sound doctrine which teaches that there is one Son of one God, and one Spirit of both. And these, instead of being without number, are not three Gods; for not only is their substance one and the same, but their operation by means of this substance is also one and the same, while they have a separate manifestation in the material creation. These things you do not understand, and cannot receive. You are full, as you say, for you are steeped in blasphemous absurdities. Will you continue burying yourself under such crudities? Sing on, then, and open your eyes, if you can, to your own shame. In this doctrine of lying devils you are invited to fabulous dwellings of angels in a happy clime, and to fragrant fields where nectar flows for ever from trees and hills, in seas and rivers. These are the fictions of your foolish heart, which revels in such idle fancies. Such expressions are sometimes used as figurative descriptions of the abundance of spiritual enjoyments; and they lead the mind of the student to inquire into their hidden meaning. Sometimes there is a material representation to the bodily senses, as the fire in the bush, the rod becoming a serpent, and the serpent a rod, the garment of the Lord not divided by His persecutors, the anointing of His feet or of His head by a devout woman, the branches of the multitude preceding and following Him when riding on the ass. Sometimes, either in sleep or in a trance, the spirit is informed by means of figures taken from material things, as Jacob's ladder, and the stone in Daniel cut out without hands and growing into a mountain, and Peter's vessel, and all that John saw. Sometimes the figures are only in the language; as in the Song of Songs, and in the parable of a householder making a marriage for his son, or that of the prodigal son, or that of the man who planted a vineyard and let it out to husbandmen. Thou boastest of Manichæus as having come last, not to use figures, but to explain them. His expositions throw light on ancient types, and leave no problem unsolved. This idea is supported by the assertion that the ancient types, in vision or in action or in words, had in view the coming of Manichæus, by whom they were all to be explained; while he, knowing that no one is to follow him, makes use of a style free from all figurative expressions. What, then, are those fields, and shady hills, and crowns of flowers, and fragrant odors, in which the desires of your fleshly mind take pleasure? If they are not significant figures, they are either idle fancies or delirious dreams. If they are figures, away with the impostor who seduces you with the promise of naked truth, and then mocks you with idle tales. His ministers and his wretched deluded followers are wont to bait their hook with that saying of the apostle, "Now we see through a glass in a figure, but then face to face." 1 Corinthians 13:9 As if, forsooth, the Apostle Paul knew in part, and prophesied in part, and saw through a glass in a figure; whereas all this is removed at the coming of Manichæus, who brings that which is perfect, and reveals the truth face to face. O fallen and shameless! still to continue uttering such folly, still feeding on the wind, still embracing the idols of your own heart. Have you, then, seen face to face the king with the sceptre, and the crown of flowers, and the hosts of gods, and the great worldholder with six faces and radiant with light, and that other exalted ruler surrounded with troops of angels, and the invincible warrior with a spear in his right hand and a shield in his left, and the famous sovereign who moves the three wheels of fire, water, and wind, and Atlas, chief of all, bearing the world on his shoulders, and supporting himself on his arms? These, and a thousand other marvels, have you seen face to face, or are your songs doctrines learned from lying devils, though you know it not? Alas! Miserable prostitute to these dreams, such are the vanities which you drink up instead of the truth; and, drunk with this deadly poison, you dare with this jest of the tablets to affront the matronly purity of the spouse of the only Son of God; because no longer under the tutorship of the law, but under the control of grace, neither proud in activity nor crouching in fear, she lives by faith, and hope, and love, the Israel in whom there is no guile, who hears what is written: "The Lord your God is one God." This you hear not, and art gone a whoring after a multitude of false gods.

7. Of necessity these tables are against you, for the second commandment is, "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain;" whereas you attribute the vanity of falsehood to Christ Himself, who, to remove the vanity of the fleshly mind, rose in a true body, visible to the bodily eye. So also the third commandment about the rest of the Sabbath is against you, for you are tossed about by a multitude of restless fancies. How these three commandments relate to the love of God, you have neither the power nor the will to understand. Shamefully headstrong and turbulent, you have reached the height of folly, vanity, and worthlessness; your beauty is spoiled, and your order perished. I know you, for I was once the same. How shall I now teach you that these three precepts relate to the love of God, of whom, and by whom, and in whom are all things? How can you understand this, when your pernicious doctrines prevent you from understanding and from obeying the seven precepts relating to the love of our neighbor, which is the bond of human society? The first of these precepts is, "Honor your father and mother;" which Paul quotes as the first commandment with promise, and himself repeats the injunction. But you are taught by your doctrine of devils to regard your parents as your enemies, because their union brought you into the bonds of flesh, and laid impure fetters even on your god. The doctrine that the production of children is an evil, directly opposes the next precept, "You shall not commit adultery;" for those who believe this doctrine, in order that their wives may not conceive, are led to commit adultery even in marriage. They take wives, as the law declares, for the procreation of children; but from this erroneous fear of polluting the substance of the deity, their intercourse with their wives is not of a lawful character; and the production of children, which is the proper end of marriage, they seek to avoid. As the apostle long ago predicted of you, you indeed forbid to marry, for you seek to destroy the purpose of marriage. Your doctrine turns marriage into an adulterous connection, and the bed-chamber into a brothel. This false doctrine leads in a similar way to the transgression of the commandment, "You shall not kill." For you do not give bread to the hungry, from fear of imprisoning in flesh the member of your God. From fear of fancied murder, you actually commit murder. For if you were to meet a beggar starving for want of food, by the law of God to refuse him food would be murder; while to give food would be murder by the law of Manichæus. Not one commandment in the decalogue do you observe. If you were to abstain from theft, you would be guilty of allowing bread or food, whatever it might be, to undergo the misery of being devoured by a man of no merit, instead of running off with it to the laboratory of the stomach of your elect; and so by theft saving your god from the imprisonment with which he is threatened, and also from that from which he already suffers. Then, if you are caught in the theft, will you not swear by this god that you are not guilty? For what will he do to you when you say to him, I swore by you falsely, but it was for your benefit; a regard for your honor would have been fatal to you? So the precept, You shall not bear false witness, will be broken, not only in your testimony, but in your oath, for the sake of the liberation of the members of your god. The commandment, "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife," is the only one which your false doctrine does not oblige you to break. But if it is unlawful to covet our neighbor's wife, what must it be to excite covetousness in others? Remember your beautiful gods and goddesses presenting themselves with the purpose of exciting desire in the male and female leaders of darkness, in order that the gratification of this passion might effect the liberation of this god, who is in confinement everywhere, and who requires the assistance of such self-degradation. The last commandment, "You shall not covet the possessions of your neighbor," it is wholly impossible for you to obey. Does not this god of yours delude you with the promise of making new worlds in a region belonging to another, to be the scene of your imaginary triumph after your imaginary conquest? In the desire for the accomplishment of these wild fancies, while at the same time you believe that this land of darkness is in the closest neighborhood with your own substance, you certainly covet the possessions of your neighbor. Well indeed may you dislike the tables which contain such good precepts in opposition to your false doctrine. The three relating to the love of God you entirely set aside. The seven by which human society is preserved you keep only from a regard to the opinion of men, or from fear of human laws; or good customs make you averse to some crimes; or you are restrained by the natural principle of not doing to another what you would not have done to yourself. But whether you do what you would not have done to yourself, or refrainest from doing what you would not have done to yourself, you see the opposition of the heresy to the law, whether you act according to it or not.

8. The true bride of Christ, whom you have the audacity to taunt with the stone tablets, knows the difference between the letter and the spirit, or in other words, between law and grace; and serving God no longer in the oldness of the letter, but in newness of spirit, she is not under the law, but under grace. She is not blinded by a spirit of controversy, but learns meekly from the apostle what is this law which we are not to be under; for "it was given," he says, "on account of transgression, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made." Galatians 3:19 And again: "It entered, that the offense might abound; but where sin abounded, grace has much more abounded." Romans 5:20 Not that the law is sin, though it cannot give life without grace, but rather increases the guilt; for "where there is no law, there is no transgression." Romans 4:15 The letter without the spirit, the law without grace, can only condemn. So the apostle explains his meaning, in case any should not understand: "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. For I had not known sin but by the law. For I had not known lust unless the law had said, You shall not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, wrought death in me by that which is good." Romans 7:7-13 She at whom you scoff knows what this means; for she asks earnestly, and seeks humbly, and knocks meekly. She sees that no fault is found with the law, when it is said, "The letter kills, but the spirit gives life," any more than with knowledge, when it is said, "Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies." 1 Corinthians 8:1 The passage runs thus: "We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies." The apostle certainly had no desire to be puffed up; but he had knowledge, because knowledge joined with love not only does not puff up, but strengthens. So the letter when joined with the spirit, and the law when joined with grace, is no longer the letter and the law in the same sense as when by itself it kills by abounding sin. In this sense the law is even called the strength of sin, because its strict prohibitions increase the fatal pleasure of sin. Even thus, however, the law is not evil; but "sin, that it may appear sin, works death by that which is good." So things that are not evil may often be hurtful to certain people. The Manichæans, when they have sore eyes, will shut out their god the sun. The bride of Christ, then, is dead to the law, that is, to sin, which abounds more from the prohibition of the law; for the law apart from grace commands, but does not enable. Being dead to the law in this sense, that she may be married to another who rose from the dead, she makes this distinction without any reproach to the law, which would be blasphemy against its author. This is your crime; for though the apostle tells you that the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good, you do not acknowledge it as the production of a good being. Its author you make to be one of the princes of darkness. Here the truth confronts you. They are the words of the Apostle Paul: "The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." Such is the law given by Him who appointed for a great symbolic use the tablets which you foolishly deride. The same law which was given by Moses becomes through Jesus Christ grace and truth; for the spirit is joined to the letter, that the righteousness of the law might begin to be fulfilled, which when unfulfilled only added the guilt of transgression. The law which is holy, and just, and good, is the same law by which sin works death, and to which we must die, that we may be married to another who rose from the dead. Hear what the apostle adds: "But sin, that it might appear sin, wrought death in me by that which is good, that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful." Deaf and blind, do you not now hear and see? "Sin wrought death in me," he says, "by that which is good." The law is always good: whether it hurts those who are destitute of grace, or benefits those who are filled with grace, itself is always good; as the sun is always good, for every creature of God is good, whether it hurts weak eyes or gladdens the sight of the healthy. Grace fits the mind for keeping the law, as health fits the eyes for seeing the sun. And as healthy eyes die not to the pleasure of seeing the sun, but to that painful effect of the rays which beat upon the eye so as to increase the darkness; so the mind, healed by the love of the spirit, dies not to the justice of the law, but to the guilt and transgression which followed on the law in the absence of grace. So it is said "The law is good, if used lawfully;" and immediately after of the same law, "Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man." The man who delights in righteousness itself, does not require the restraint of the letter.

9. The bride of Christ rejoices in the hope of full salvation, and desires for you a happy conversion from fables to truth. She desires that the fear of Adoneus, as if he were a strange lover, may not prevent your escape from the seductions of the wily serpent. Adonai is a Hebrew word, meaning Lord, as applied only to God. In the same way the Greek word latria means service, in the sense of the service of God; and Amen means true, in a special sacred sense. This is to be learned only from the Hebrew Scriptures, or from a translation. The Church of Christ understands and loves these names, without regarding the evils of those who scoff because they are ignorant. What she does not yet understand, she believes may be explained, as similar things have already been explained to her. If she is charged with loving Emmanuel, she laughs at the ignorance of the accuser, and holds fast by the truth of this name. If she is charged with loving Messiah, she scorns her powerless adversary, and clings to her anointed Master. Her prayer for you is, that you also may be cured of your errors, and be built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. The monstrosity with which you ignorantly charge the true doctrine, is really to be found in the world which, according to your fanciful stories, is made partly of your god and partly of the world of darkness. This world, half savage and half divine, is worse than monstrous. The view of such follies should make you humble and penitent, and should lead you to shun the serpent, who seduces you into such errors. If you do not believe what Moses says of the guile of the serpent, you may be warned by Paul, who, when speaking of presenting the Church as a chaste virgin to Christ, says, "I fear lest, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his craftiness, your minds also should be corrupted from the simplicity and purity which is in Christ." 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 In spite of this warning, you have been so misled, so infatuated by the serpent's fatal enchantments, that while he has persuaded other heretics to believe various falsehoods, he has persuaded you to believe that he is Christ. Others, though fallen into the maze of manifold error, still admit the truth of the apostle's warning. But you are so far gone in corruption, and so lost to shame, that you hold as Christ the very being by whom the apostle declares that Eve was beguiled, and against whom he thus seeks to put the virgin bride of Christ on her guard. Your heart is darkened by the deceiver, who intoxicates you with dreams of glittering groves. What are these promises but dreams? What reason is there to believe them true? O drunken, but not with wine!

10. You have the impious audacity to accuse the God of the prophets of not fulfilling His promises even to His servants the Jews. Thou dost not mention, however, any promise that is unfulfilled; otherwise it might be shown, either that the promise has been fulfilled, and so that you do not understand it, or that it is yet to be fulfilled, and so that you do not believe it. What promise has been fulfilled to you, to make it probable that you will obtain new worlds gained from the region of darkness? If there are prophets who predict the Manichæans with praise, and if it is said that the existence of the sect is a fulfillment of this prediction, it must first be proved that these predictions were not forged by Manichæus in order to gain followers. He does not consider falsehood sinful. If he declares in praise of Christ that He showed false marks of wounds in His body, he can have no scruple about showing false predictions in his sheepskin volumes. Assuredly there are predictions of the Manichæans, less clear in the prophets, and most explicit in the apostle. For example: "The Spirit," he says, "speaks expressly, that in the last times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and to doctrines of devils, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared, forbidding to marry, abstaining from meats, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving by believers, and those who know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving." 1 Timothy 4:1-4 The fulfillment of this in the Manichæans is as clear as day to all that know them, and has already been proved as fully as time permits.

11. She whom the apostle warns against the guile of the serpent by which you have been corrupted, that he may present her as a chaste virgin to Christ, her only husband, acknowledges the God of the prophets as the true God, and her own God. So many of His promises have already been fulfilled to her, that she looks confidently for the fulfillment of the rest. Nor can any one say that these prophecies have been forged to suit the present time, for they are found in the books of the Jews. What could be more unlikely than that all nations should be blessed in Abraham's seed, as it was promised? And yet how plainly is this promise now fulfilled! The last promise is made in the following short prophecy: "Blessed are they that dwell in Your house: they shall ever praise You." When trial is past, and death, the last enemy, is destroyed, there will be rest in the constant occupation of praising God, where there shall be no arrivals and no departures. So the prophet says elsewhere: "Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem; celebrate your God, O Zion: for He has strengthened the bars of your gates; He has blessed your children within you." The gates are shut, so that none can go in or out. The Bridegroom Himself says in the Gospel, that He will not open to the foolish virgins though they knock. This Jerusalem, the holy Church, the bride of Christ, is described fully in the Revelation of John. And that which commends the promises of future bliss to the belief of this chaste virgin is, that now she is in possession of what was foretold of her by the same prophets. For she is thus described: "Hearken, O daughter, and regard, and incline your ear; forget also your own people, and your father's house. For the King has greatly desired your beauty; and He is your God. The daughters of Tyre shall worship Him with gifts; the rich among the people shall entreat your favor. The daughter of the King is all glorious within; her clothing is of wrought gold. The virgins following her shall be brought unto the King: her companions shall be brought unto you; with gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought into the temple of the King. Instead of your fathers, children shall be born to you, whom you shall make princes over all the earth. Your name shall be remembered to all generations: therefore shall the people praise you for ever and ever." Unhappy victim of the serpent's guile, the inward beauty of the daughter of the King is not for you even to think of. For this purity of mind is that which you have lost in opening your eyes to love and worship the sun and moon. And so by the just judgment of God you are estranged from the tree of life, which is eternal and internal wisdom; and with you nothing is called or accounted truth or wisdom but that light which enters the eyes opened to evil, and which in your impure mind expands and shapes itself into fanciful images. These are your abominable whoredoms. Still the truth calls on you to reflect and return. Return to me, and you shall be cleansed and restored, if your shame leads you to repentance. Hear these words of the true Truth, who neither with feigned shapes fought against the race of darkness, nor with feigned blood redeemed you.

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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. <>.

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