Sacred Texts  Christianity  Early Church Fathers  Index  Previous  Next 

Chapter 99.—225.  Petilianus said:  "On you, yes you, you wretched men, I call, who, being dismayed with the fear of persecution, whilst you seek to save your riches, not your souls, love not so much the faithless faith of the traitors, as the wickedness of the very men whose protection you have won unto yourselves,—just in the same way as sailors, shipwrecked in the waves, plunge into the waves by which they must be overwhelmed, and in the great danger of their lives seek unmistakeably the very object of their dread; just as the madness of a tyrant, that he may be free from apprehension of any person whatsoever, desires to be feared, though this is fraught with peril to himself:  so, so you fly for refuge to the citadel of wickedness, being willing to look on the loss or punishment of the innocent if you may escape fear for yourselves.  If you consider that you escape danger when you plunge into ruin, truly also it is a faith that merits condemnation to observe the faith of a robber.  Lastly, it is trafficking in a madman’s gains to lose your own souls in order not to lose your wealth.  For the Lord Christ says, ‘If a man shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul, what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’" 2267

226.  Augustin answered:  That exhortation of yours would be useful, I cannot but acknowledge, if any one were to employ it in a good cause.  It is undoubtedly well that you have tried to deter men from preferring their riches to their souls.  But I would have you, who have heard these words, listen also for a time to us; for we also say this, but listen in what sense.  If kings threaten to take away your riches, because you are not Jews according to the flesh, or because you do not worship idols or devils, or because you are not carried about into any heresies, but abide in Catholic unity, then choose rather that your riches should perish, that you perish not yourselves; but be careful to prefer neither anything else, nor the life of this world itself, to eternal salvation, which is in Christ.  But if kings threaten you with loss or condemnation, simply on the ground that you are heretics, such things are terrifying you not in cruelty, but in mercy; and your determination not to fear is a sign not of bravery, but of obstinacy.  Hear then the words of Peter, where he says, "What glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye take it patiently?" 2268 so that herein you have neither p. 588 consolation upon earth, nor in the world to come life everlasting; but you have here the miseries of the unfortunate, and there the hell of heretics.  Do you see, therefore, my brother, with whom I am now arguing, that you ought first to show whether you hold the truth, and then to exhort men that in upholding it they should be ready to give up all the blessings which they possess in this present world?  And so, when you do not show this, because you cannot,—not that the talent is wanting, but because the cause is bad,—why do you hasten by your exhortations to make men both beggars and ignorant, both in want and wandering from the truth, in rags and contentions, household drudges and heretics, both losing their temporal goods in this world, and finding eternal evils in the judgment of Christ?  But the cautious son, who, while he stands in dread of his father’s rod, keeps away from the lair of the serpent, escapes both blows and destruction; whereas he who despises the pains of discipline, when set in rivalry with his own pernicious will, is both beaten and destroyed.  Do you not now understand, O learned man, that he who has resigned all earthly goods in order to maintain the peace of Christ, possesses God; whereas he who has lost even a very few coins in behalf of the party of Donatus is devoid of heart?



Matt. xvi. 26.


1 Pet. ii. 20.

Next: Chapter 100