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them that are occupied with expositions of Scripture, such as the Homilies on the Gospels, which fill a volume of the Oxford Library, shed much light on the common method of interpreting Scripture, and have considerable intrinsic value in spite of their allegorizing character. His letters deal more frequently with subjects than persons, and have not much of the epistolary charm, although there are exceptions.
The editions that we have consulted are probably the most important of the many that have appeared, and their very dates and editors are interesting and suggestive, whether we consider the edition of Erasmus, (1528–29,) the earliest that aimed to be complete, that of the Louvaine theologians, among whom Jansenius received his education and undoubtedly took his direction (1577,) or that of the Benedictines (1679–1700,) which now reappears in such beauty more than a century and a half after its first publication (1836 – 9.)
What shall we say of Augustine on the whole ? Shall we dismiss his mighty name with common-place reflections on his superstitions, or vulgar sneers at his dogmas, or fulsome eulogies of his saintly holiness and infallible judgment? Not so. Let us try to view him fairly. He is not one of the men whom we have been in the habit of admiring. The more reason then for estimating him justly.
As to intellect, he evidently had great acuteness and great breadth. Had not his mind been so absorbed by his favorite doctrines of the total depravity and moral inability of man and the overwhelming power of God, and so inflamed, alike by personal experience and controversial opposition, with zeal for his peculiar creed, he might perhaps have ranked among the sages of philosophy, and the Church would have lost a theologian she could not well have spared. Bold systems of philosophy might have been constructed from some of his favorite ideas. The doctrine which Leroux, the “last word” of French philosophy, has set forth so vauntingly concerning the solidarity of the human race, and which a metaphysical neophyte of the Romish Church among us has declared to be the cause of his conversion and the basis of true divinity, is all implied in Augustine's dogma of the union of all men in Adam as the federal head. We are not sorry that he did not rest 1846.]
Character of his Mind.
in philosophic abstractions, prone to them though he was. Had he done thus, he would not have wielded the power needed in his age, for philosophical theories are very pliant, and starting from the same ideal theory, one man worships God in his own soul with dreamy reverie, whilst another adores the Eternal Spirit in rites and temples, thrones and priesthoods; and the most radical Democracy and uncompromising Popery wear the same transcendental hues, according as the mist-clouds rest upon the valley or wreath the mountain-top.
Yet we are glad that Augustine's faith was accompanied by such strong tendencies to philosophical views. Even under his devotional musings, we sometimes observe a tendency towards universal iceas and broad analogies, that remind us now of a Butler with his sober wisdom and now of a Swedenborg with his spiritual correspondencies. His intellect was eminently deductive more than inductive, more prone to trace principles to their conclusions than to observe facts with the view of bringing them within the range of principles. He was ready to carry out an idea wherever it would lead him, without due regard to collateral truths, and thus, as in his views of the doom of unbaptized children, his logic drove him to conclusions, from which his heart revolted. As a theologian of deductive intellect, he reminds us of his great disciple, Jonathan Edwards, whilst as uniting intellectual subtlety with devotional fervor, he resembles Richard Baxter, that most voluminous of writers and most disinterested of men. Yet Augustine shows much inductive power, especially in his survey of sacred science in his work on Christian doctrine, and in his view of civilization in the City of God. Reading these, one is at least reminded of the - Novum Organum” and the “ Advancement of Learning," and may perhaps hesitate to call him the Bacon of an age rude in science and wanting in true method.
He was not destitute of imagination, but he rarely shows this in its common forms, because he dwelt so much in the region of general truths, that his imagination deals almost exclusively with them, and not with objects in the world of nature or of art, whether scenes, characters, or persons. Yet when reading his Confessions, as when reading Edwards's Diary, we almost say, here is a man who would have been a great poet had he not been a great theologian.
Practically he was a man of strong sense. As a bishop he ruled with great moderation, not stretching his prerogative far, but consulting the will of the majority in his official acts and careful to follow the customs of the church. He gave judicious advice to those who consulted him. His clergy asked him to advise them what to do upon the approach of the barbarians. Remain at your posts if your people remain, even if it be to die with them; leave your posts if your people leave, and do not vainly brave the pains of martyrdom ; — was the spirit of his reply. Advocate as he was of celibacy and the retired life, he dissuaded the Roman General, Boniface, from renouncing the world and entering the monastery. Augustine advised him to serve God in his present vocation, and consecrate his military skill to the defence of Christendom against the barbarians. Perhaps this advice showed Augustine's knowledge of human nature, as well as his idea of duty. The Roman who was so agonized by the loss of his wife as to forswear the world, soon forgot his grief in another connection, and needed still sterner counsel from his adviser to keep him within the limits of morality, and afterwards to reclaim him from treason.
It is hard to estimate soberly a mind so entirely pervaded by enthusiastic feeling, a head of iron with a heart of flame. He was a man of great affections, engrossed by a prostrate reverence, tempered not a little sweetly by gentle charity. The crabbed Jerome did not provoke his anger, nor did his controversies with the Manicheans and Pelagians move him to forget the distinction between opinions and character, and to malign the men in opposing their doctrines. He was a strict moralist, and in advance of the common Jesuitism of his age, which permitted the use of falsehood for promoting the good of the Church and the glory of God.
As to force of will, he does not rank among the greatest of his order, except in reference to concentration of thought. In executive energy he falls below Ambrose, his spiritual father, and Luther and Knox, his spiritual children. He does not seem to have had great power in personal address, or great daring in professional enterprise. Thought rather than action was his domain. Hence perhaps the relative quiet of his latter years. He wrote a Treatise upon Preaching, - the last book of his work on the Christian Doctrine, 1846.)
- and gives some anecdotes of the success of his own appeals. But his sermons, though carefully worded, are generally very short, and, as before hinted, common-place, and prove either his little gift for the pulpit, or else his low sense of the capacities of his audience. Even when treating such themes as his favorite Paul, he does not enter into the depths of his subject, nor speak as from the affluence of so profound an experience. Yet he was evidently an attentive pastor, earnest in his labors, very discreet, generally mild and charitable, and equally free from tame plodding and fanatical excess. Many deep thinkers have been indifferent preachers.
His writings give us many glimpses of his personal character, and he has made a full statement of his personal failings, which he classes under the three heads of the “Just of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Under the first head, he confesses a leaning towards the pleasures of music and especially of the table, although we learn from Possidius, that he was quite abstemious and more generous to his guests than to himself; under the second, he allows that he has an over-curiosity in explaining things his own way, a tendency which few will dispute ; under the third head, he accuses himself of some intellectual pride alike in his own labors and his view of God's works,
As to his way of life, the biography by Possidius is the best light, execrable as the Latinity is. The sketch there
our latitude and incorporated into the biography of some of our grave old Puritan divines, so far as manners and habits are concerned. One fact recorded, is quite amusing. Augustine was not fond of scandal, and declared his opposition to it in two Latin verses written upon his table; a circumstance which, with the alleged difficulty of enforcing his desires upon his clerical guests, proves that ministers were then mortal, and that a little gossip was not deemed unseasonable at every bishop's table. He insisted upon leaving the room if his wishes in this respect were violated, and sometimes did so and retired to his chamber. The lines alluded to were these: –
“Quisquis anjat dictis absentum rodere vitam,
In plain English, “Whoever takes pleasure in abusing the absent, should know that this table is no place for hiin.” His style of living was moderate, free from both extremes. He used wine sparingly, and did not, like many ascetics, renounce animal food. In dress he observed the same moderation.
In regard to Augustine's scholarship, Erasmus seems to us to give the best idea of it, in his preface to the edition of Basle, and in occasional letters. Augustine was evidently not so remarkable for finished scholarship as for extensive information and bold thought. Ile was little familiar with Greek, and not at all with Hebrew, and although well versed in Latin literature, he was far below Jerome as a inaster of Latin composition ; as well he might be, born and educated as he was in a rude province, whilst Jerome received his culture in the bosom of Roman refinement. Erasmus says, that one page of Origen will tell him more of Greek philosophy than ten of Augustine. Yet Augustine was evidently acquainted with the leading productions of the Greek mind. He probably gained most of his knowledge from translations. He speaks much of Plato and with favor, less of Aristotle and with qualified praise; whilst of the great Alexandrian divines, Clement and Origen, he says, we believe, nothing of the former, and of the latter nothing that is laudatory. Still through his master Ambrose, he felt more of the force of the great Origen's Platonizing theology than he was aware of or willing to confess. When we say that he was ready at extempore speaking, and many of his published writings were taken down from viva voce addresses, we ascribe to him an important talent, and give a reason for judging charitably the harshness of some of his pages as to style.
In reference to the question at issue between the Oxford party and the Evangelicals in the present controversy regarding the Fathers, the position of Augustine is somewhat equivocal. Both claim him in the main, and both are afraid of something in his ways. The Churchman is afraid of bis Puritan doctrines of sin and conversion; the Evangelical is afraid of his superstitious formalism: whilst the one praises his faithful Churchmanship, and the other his strict Evangelism. The works referred to in our former article show this mingled feeling. Taylor lauds Augustine's essen