Chapter XXXII.—First, the Sense of the Writer is to Be Discovered, Then that is to Be Brought Out Which Divine Truth Intended.
43. Finally, O Lord, who art God, and not flesh and blood, if man doth see anything less, p. 189 can anything lie hid from “Thy good Spirit,” who shall “lead me into the land of uprightness,” 1166 which Thou Thyself, by those words, wert about to reveal to future readers, although he through whom they were spoken, amid the many interpretations that might have been found, fixed on but one? Which, if it be so, let that which he thought on be more exalted than the rest. But to us, O Lord, either point out the same, or any other true one which may be pleasing unto Thee; so that whether Thou makest known to us that which Thou didst to that man of Thine, or some other by occasion of the same words, yet Thou mayest feed us, not error deceive us. 1167 Behold, O Lord my God, how many things we have written concerning a few words,—how many, I beseech Thee! What strength of ours, what ages would suffice for all Thy books after this manner? Permit me, therefore, in these more briefly to confess unto Thee, and to select some one true, certain, and good sense, that Thou shall inspire, although many senses offer themselves, where many, indeed, I may; this being the faith of my confession, that if I should say that which Thy minister felt, rightly and profitably, this I should strive for; the which if I shall not attain, yet I may say that which Thy Truth willed through Its words to say unto me, which said also unto him what It willed.
Augustin, as we have seen (see notes, pp. 65 and 92), was frequently addicted to allegorical interpretation, but he, none the less, laid stress on the necessity of avoiding obscure and allegorical passages when it was necessary to convince the opponent of Christianity (De Unit. Eccl. ch. 5). It should also be noted that, however varied the meaning deduced from a doubtful Scripture, he ever maintained that such meaning must be sacræ fidei congruam. Compare De Gen. ad Lit. end of book i.; and ibid. viii. 4 and 7. See also notes, pp. 164 and 178, above.