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Enchiridion On Faith, Hope and Love
by Saint Augustine


CHAPTER XVIII141

FAITH AND WORKS

67. There are some, indeed, who believe that those who do not abandon the

name of Christ, and who are baptized in his laver in the Church, who are not cut off

from it by schism or heresy, who may then live in sins however great, not washing

them away by repentance, nor redeeming them by alms--and who obstinately

persevere in them to life's last day--even these will still be saved, "though as by

fire." They believe that such people will be punished by fire, prolonged in proportion

to their sins, but still not eternal.

But those who believe thus, and still are Catholics, are deceived, as it seems

to me, by a kind of merely human benevolence. For the divine Scripture, when

consulted, answers differently. Moreover, I have written a book about this question,

entitled Faith and Works,142 in which, with God's help, I have shown as best I could

that, according to Holy Scripture, the faith that saves is the faith that the apostle

Paul adequately describes when he says, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision

avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but the faith which works through love."143

But if faith works evil and not good, then without doubt, according to the apostle

James "it is dead in itself."144 He then goes on to say, "If a man says he has faith,

yet has not works, can his faith be enough to save him?"145

Now, if the wicked man were to be saved by fire on account of his faith only,

and if this is the way the statement of the blessed Paul should be understood--"But

he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire"146--then faith without works would be

sufficient to salvation. But then what the apostle James said would be false. And

also false would be another statement of the same Paul himself: "Do not err," he

says; "neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the unmanly, nor

homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor

extortioners, shall inherit the Kingdom of God."147 Now, if those who persist in such

crimes as these are nevertheless saved by their faith in Christ, would they not then

be in the Kingdom of God?

68. But, since these fully plain and most pertinent apostolic testimonies

cannot be false, that one obscure saying about those who build on "the foundation,

which is Christ, not gold, silver, and precious stones, but wood, hay, and stubble"148-

-for it is about these it is said that they will be saved as by fire, not perishing on

account of the saving worth of their foundation--such a statement must be

141This chapter supplies an important clue to the date of the Enchiridion and an interesting side

light on Augustine's inclination to re-use "good material." In his treatise on The Eight Questions of

Dulcitius (De octo Dulcitii quaestionibus), 1: 10-13, Augustine quotes this entire chapter as a part of

his answer to the question whether those who sin after baptism are ever delivered from hell. The

date of the De octo is 422 or, possibly, 423; thus we have a terminus ad quem for the date of the

Enchiridion. Still the best text of De octo is Migne, PL, 40, c. 147-170, and the best English

translation is in Deferrari, St. Augustine: Treatises on Various Subjects (The Fathers of the Church,

New York, 1952), pp. 427-466.

142A short treatise, written in 413, in which Augustine seeks to combine the Pauline and Jacobite

emphases by analyzing what kind of faith and what kind of works are both essential to salvation.

The best text is that of Joseph Zycha in CSEL, Vol. 41, pp. 35-97; but see also Migne, PL, 40, c. 197-

230. There is an English translation by C.L. Cornish in A Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic

Church; Seventeen Short Treatises, pp. 37-84.

143Gal. 5:6.

144James 2:17.

145James 2:14.

146I Cor. 3:15.

147I Cor. 6:9, 10.

148I Cor. 3:11, 12.


interpreted so that it does not contradict these fully plain testimonies.

In fact, wood and hay and stubble may be understood, without absurdity, to

signify such an attachment to those worldly things--albeit legitimate in themselves--

that one cannot suffer their loss without anguish in the soul. Now, when such

anguish "burns," and Christ still holds his place as foundation in the heart--that is,

if nothing is preferred to him and if the man whose anguish "burns" would still

prefer to suffer loss of the things he greatly loves than to lose Christ--then one is

saved, "by fire." But if, in time of testing, he should prefer to hold onto these

temporal and worldly goods rather than to Christ, he does not have him as

foundation--because he has put "things" in the first place--whereas in a building

nothing comes before the foundations.

Now, this fire, of which the apostle speaks, should be understood as one

through which both kinds of men must pass: that is, the man who builds with gold,

silver, and precious stones on this foundation and also the man who builds with

wood, hay, and stubble. For, when he had spoken of this, he added: "The fire shall

try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abides which he has built

thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work burns up, he shall suffer

loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire."149 Therefore the fire will test

the work, not only of the one, but of both.

The fire is a sort of trial of affliction, concerning which it is clearly written

elsewhere: "The furnace tries the potter's vessels and the trial of affliction tests

righteous men."150 This kind of fire works in the span of this life, just as the apostle

said, as it affects the two different kinds of faithful men. There is, for example, the

man who "thinks of the things of God, how he may please God." Such a man builds

on Christ the foundation, with gold, silver, and precious stones. The other man

"thinks about the things of the world, how he may please his wife"151; that is, he

builds upon the same foundation with wood, hay, and stubble. The work of the

former is not burned up, since he has not loved those things whose loss brings

anguish. But the work of the latter is burned up, since things are not lost without

anguish when they have been loved with a possessive love. But because, in this

second situation, he prefers to suffer the loss of these things rather than losing

Christ, and does not desert Christ from fear of losing such things--even though he

may grieve over his loss--"he is saved," indeed, "yet so as by fire." He "burns" with

grief, for the things he has loved and lost, but this does not subvert nor consume

him, secured as he is by the stability and the indestructibility of his foundation.

69. It is not incredible that something like this should occur after this life,

whether or not it is a matter for fruitful inquiry. It may be discovered or remain

hidden whether some of the faithful are sooner or later to be saved by a sort of

purgatorial fire, in proportion as they have loved the goods that perish, and in

proportion to their attachment to them. However, this does not apply to those of

whom it was said, "They shall not possess the Kingdom of God,"152 unless their

crimes are remitted through due repentance. I say "due repentance" to signify that

they must not be barren of almsgiving, on which divine Scripture lays so much

stress that our Lord tells us in advance that, on the bare basis of fruitfulness in

alms, he will impute merit to those on his right hand; and, on the same basis of

unfruitfulness, demerit to those on his left--when he shall say to the former, "Come,

blessed of my Father, receive the Kingdom," but to the latter, "Depart into

everlasting fire."153

149I Cor. 3:11-15.

150Ecclus. 27:5.

151Cf. I Cor. 7:32, 33

152See above, XVIII, 67.

153Matt. 25:34, 41.









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