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Enchiridion On Faith, Hope and Love
by Saint Augustine


CHAPTER XXXI

LOVE

117. And now regarding love, which the apostle says is greater than the other

two--that is, faith and hope--for the more richly it dwells in a man, the better the

man in whom it dwells. For when we ask whether someone is a good man, we are

not asking what he believes, or hopes, but what he loves. Now, beyond all doubt, he

who loves aright believes and hopes rightly. Likewise, he who does not love believes

in vain, even if what he believes is true; he hopes in vain, even if what he hopes for

is generally agreed to pertain to true happiness, unless he believes and hopes for

this: that he may through prayer obtain the gift of love. For, although it is true that

he cannot hope without love, it may be that there is something without which, if he

does not love it, he cannot realize the object of his hopes. An example of this would

242Jer. 17:5.

243Matt. 6:9, 10.

244Matt. 6:11-13.

245Luke 11:2-4.


be if a man hopes for life eternal--and who is there who does not love that?--and yet

does not love righteousness, without which no one comes to it.

Now this is the true faith of Christ which the apostle commends: faith that

works through love. And what it yet lacks in love it asks that it may receive, it seeks

that it may find, and knocks that it may be opened unto it.246 For faith achieves

what the law commands [fides namque impetrat quod lex imperat]. And, without the

gift of God--that is, without the Holy Spirit, through whom love is shed abroad in

our hearts--the law may bid but it cannot aid [jubere lex poterit, non juvare].

Moreover, it can make of man a transgressor, who cannot then excuse himself by

pleading ignorance. For appetite reigns where the love of God does not.247

118. When, in the deepest shadows of ignorance, he lives according to the

flesh with no restraint of reason--this is the primal state of man.248 Afterward,

when "through the law the knowledge of sin"249 has come to man, and the Holy

Spirit has not yet come to his aid--so that even if he wishes to live according to the

law, he is vanquished--man sins knowingly and is brought under the spell and made

the slave of sin, "for by whatever a man is vanquished, of this master he is the

slave"250. The effect of the knowledge of the law is that sin works in man the whole

round of concupiscence, which adds to the guilt of the first transgression. And thus

it is that what was written is fulfilled: "The law entered in, that the offense might

abound."251 This is the second state of man.252

But if God regards a man with solicitude so that he then believes in God's

help in fulfilling His commands, and if a man begins to be led by the Spirit of God,

then the mightier power of love struggles against the power of the flesh.253 And

although there is still in man a power that fights against him--his infirmity being

not yet fully healed--yet he [the righteous man] lives by faith and lives righteously

in so far as he does not yield to evil desires, conquering them by his love of

righteousness. This is the third stage of the man of good hope.

A final peace is in store for him who continues to go forward in this course

toward perfection through steadfast piety. This will be perfected beyond this life in

the repose of the spirit, and, at the last, in the resurrection of the body.

Of these four different stages of man, the first is before the law, the second is

under the law, the third is under grace, and the fourth is in full and perfect peace.

Thus, also, the history of God's people has been ordered by successive temporal

epochs, as it pleased God, who "ordered all things in measure and number and

weight."254 The first period was before the law; the second under the law, which was

given through Moses; the next, under grace which was revealed through the first

Advent of the Mediator."255 This grace was not previously absent from those to

whom it was to be imparted, although, in conformity to the temporal dispensations,

it was veiled and hidden. For none of the righteous men of antiquity could find

salvation apart from the faith of Christ. And, unless Christ had also been known to

them, he could not have been prophesied to us--sometimes openly and sometimes

obscurely--through their ministry.

119. Now, in whichever of these four "ages"--if one can call them that--the

246Matt. 7:7.

247Another wordplay on cupiditas and caritas.

248An interesting resemblance here to Freud's description of the Id, the primal core of our

unconscious life.

249Rom. 3:20.

250II Peter 2:19.

251Rom. 5:20.

252Compare the psychological notion of the effect of external moral pressures and their power to

arouse guilt feelings, as in Freud's notion of "superego."

253Gal. 5:17.

254Wis. 11:21 (Vulgate).

255Cf. John 1:17.


grace of regeneration finds a man, then and there all his past sins are forgiven him

and the guilt he contracted in being born is removed by his being reborn. And so

true is it that "the Spirit breatheth where he willeth"256 that some men have never

known the second "age" of slavery under the law, but begin to have divine aid

directly under the new commandment.

120. Yet, before a man can receive the commandment, he must, of course, live

according to the flesh. But, once he has been imbued with the sacrament of rebirth,

no harm will come to him even if he then immediately depart this life--"Wherefore

on this account Christ died and rose again, that he might be the Lord of both the

living and the dead."'257 Nor will the kingdom of death have dominion over him for

whom He, who was "free among the dead,"258 died.









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