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Chapter 23.—Scripture Precepts and Examples of Fortitude.

42.  Instead of quoting here authorities from the New Testament, where it is said, "Tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience and experience, hope;" 109 and where, in addition to these words, there is proof and confirmation of them from the example of those who spoke them; I will rather summon an example of patience from the Old Testament, against which the Manichæans make fierce assaults.  Nor will I refer to the man who, in the midst of great bodily suffering, and with a dreadful disease in his limbs, not only bore human evils, but discoursed of things divine.  Whoever gives considerate attention to the utterances of this man, will learn from every one of them what value is to be attached to those things which men try to keep in their power, and in so doing are themselves brought by passion into bondage, so that they become the slaves of mortal things, while seeking ignorantly to be their masters.  This man, in the loss of all his wealth, and on being suddenly reduced to the greatest poverty, kept his mind so unshaken and fixed upon God, as to manifest that these things were not great in his view, but that he was great in relation to them, and God to him. 110   If this mind were to be found in men in our day, we should not be so strongly cautioned in the New Testament against the possession of these things in order that we may be perfect; for to have these things without cleaving to them is much more admirable than not to have them at all. 111

43.  But since we are speaking here of bearing pain and bodily sufferings, I pass from this man, great as he was, indomitable as he was:  this is the case of a man.  But these Scriptures present to me a woman of amazing fortitude, and I must at once go on to her case.  This woman, along with seven children, allowed the tyrant and executioner to extract her vitals from her body rather than a profane word from her mouth, encouraging her sons by her exhortations, though she suffered in the tortures of their bodies, and was herself to undergo what she called on them to bear. 112   What patience could be greater than this?  And yet why should we be astonished that the love of God, implanted in her inmost heart, bore up against tyrant, and executioner, and pain, and sex, and natural affection?  Had she not heard, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints?" 113   Had she not heard, "A patient man is better than the mightiest?" 114   Had she not heard, "All that is appointed p. 54 thee receive; and in pain bear it; and in abasement keep thy patience:  for in fire are gold and silver tried?" 115   Had she not heard, "The fire tries the vessels of the potter, and for just men is the trial of tribulation?" 116   These she knew, and many other precepts of fortitude written in these books, which alone existed at that time, by the same divine Spirit who writes those in the New Testament.



Rom. 5:3, 4.


Job. i. 2.


[It is interesting to observe how remote Augustin was from attaching superior merit to voluntary poverty, or to other forms of asceticism as ends in themselves.  What he prized was the ability to use without abusing, to have without cleaving to the good things which God provides.—A.H.N.]


2 Mac. vii.


Ps. cxvi. 15.


Prov. xvi. 32.


Sir. 2:4, 5.


Ecclus. xxvii. 6.

Next: Chapter 24