Page images

had been carried to a monstrous pitch of cruelty. At a particular season of the year, citizens, neighbors, brothers, parents and children, having formed themselves into a kind of battalion divided into two parties, engaged together for some days in battle with stones, each one killing whom he could. Augustine's object was to draw off the people from a spectacle in which they took very great delight. He has not given us his discourse on this occasion. He tells us, however, that he availed himself, as far as he was able, of the grand in eloquence, nor without some success. After he had addressed the people for some time, they spake aloud, and applauded him. He was too well acquainted, however, with the human heart, to suppose that he had effected any thing substantial, so long as they amused themselves with giving him applause. He therefore proceeded until he perceived them melting into tears; and then he concluded that a change had, in reality, taken place in their views and feelings, and was induced to believe that that horrid custom which had long been handed down from father to son, and had become wrought into the very natures of the people, would be abolished. “Nor was I disappointed,” he adds; “ for it is now eight years since; and no attempt has as yet been made to renew it ;” and in conclusion heremarks:“ I could adduce many other instances to show that deep feeling does not burst forth in clamor (for he was speaking of the effect of the grand in eloquence), but exhibits itself by sighs, tears, and a radical change of heart and life."*

As to the second instance, it seems that the African church had long been accustomed to celebrate the birth-days of certain saints, and, in the end, had so perverted them, that they were made occasions of feasting and drunkenness. These celebrations the African Christians were in the habit of conducting in their houses of public worship. Augustine's design was to persuade his people to abolish these celebrations altogether. He gives the following account of the matter, in a letter to his friend Alympius, bishop of Tagaste.t

We must not fail to inform your charity of what was done, that with us you may give thanks to God, for the favor received, in be. half of which, your prayers were united with ours. Soon after your

Admiratio, cum maxima est,” says Ferrarius, De Ritu, etc., c. xxiv., "silentium gignit; cum mediocris, verba parere et laudes in audientium ore."

† Augustini Opp., Tom. II. p. 37, sq. SECOND SERIES, VOL. VII. NO. II.


departure, it was announced, that the men were tumultuous, and said they could not suffer that feast to be abolished, from which, by calling it Lætitia, they vainly attempt, as you were informed when present, to remove the idea of drunkenness. By the secret counsel of Almighty God, it happened very opportunely for us, that on Wednesday that portion of the gospel was to be treated of in course which says: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine." I spake, therefore, concerning dogs and swine in such a way, that those who, by their wiltul barking, opposed the precepts of God, and gave themselves up to the sordid pleasures of sense, might be compelled to blush; and concluded so that they might see how wicked it was for them to do that, in the name of religion, within the walls of the sanctuary, which is they should habitually practise at home, must exclude them from that which is holy, and from the pearls of the church.

Although this was well received, yet as few had convened, it was not sufficient for so great a matter. Indeed on the divulging abroad of the discourse, by those who had heard it, according to the extent of their wishes and ability, it found many opposers. When, asterwards, Lent had arrived, and a great multitude were assembled 10gether at the hour of lecture, that portion of the gospel was read, where our Lord speaks of expelling the venders of animals from the temple, and of overturning the tables of the money-changers, and says, that “his Father's house, a house of prayer, has been converted into a den of thieves."

Having then fixed their attention, by proposing an inquiry concerning drunkenness, I myself also repeated the same passage, and added an argumentation, in which I endeavored to show how much more earnestly and vehemently our Lord would have expelled drunken feasts, which are everywhere base, from that temple whence he expelled customary traffick, since the things exposed for sale there were at that time necessary for legal sacrifices; and asked them by whom they supposed the temple would be made the most to resemble a den of ihieves, by those who sold such things as were necessary, or by those who were in the habit of drinking to excess.

As I had portions of Scripture prepared ready for the occasion, I then added, that the Jews, who hitherto had been a carnal people, in that temple where neither the body nor the blood of Christ had as yet been presented, had never celebrated drunken, nor even sober feasts; nor do we learn from history that any of them were ever publicly drunk as an act of religious worship, except on an occasion in which, having made an idol, they honored it with festivals. Having said this, I took the book, and read the whole passage.* I also added, with as much sorrow as I was able, that, since the apostle, in order to distinguish Christians from the hardened Jews, says that his “epistle is not written in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart," as Moses the servant of God. on account of the conduct of the leaders of the people, brake the two tables of stone, ought we not much more to break our hearts, when, living as we do under the New Testament, we are willing solemnly

* Exodus, 32: 6 sq.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

to exhibit those things in the celebration of days instituted in commemoration of saints, which those who lived under the Old Testament, in like manner, exhibited in an idolatrous celebration !

Having then returned the book of Exodus, I enlarged upon the crime of drunkenness, as far as time would permit, and took up the apostle Paul and showed among what crimes it should be ranked, reading the passage: "If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, with such an one do not even eat,"*—and admonishing them, with sighs and groans, of the danger we are in, from feasting with drunkards, even at home. I also alluded to that passage which follows soon aster: “Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But ye are washed, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God;"f which having read, I observed that they ought to consider, how it was possible for them, as those who had been faithful, to hear the words, “But ye are washed,” they have ing hitherto allowed to remain in their hearts, that is, in the interior temple of God, that very filthiness of concupiscence, against which the kingdom of heaven is closed.

Thence I proceeded to those words: “ When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper; for in eating, every one taketh before other his own supper; and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What! have ye not houses to eat and drink in? or despise ye the church of God ?" Having read this passage, I carefully laid it open, and showed how that not even sober and honorable feasts should be celebrated in the church of God, seeing the apostle does not say, “ Have ye not houses to be drunken in," as if only drunkenness in the church were a thing unlawful; but " Have

ye not houses to eat and drink in,” this being an act which may be done with propriety and honesty, only not in the church of God, by those who have houses in which they can refresh themselves,

We, however, have come upon such corrupt times and licentious morals, that it is impossible for us to satisfy ourselves with mere temperate feasting, but we must also have a domesLic kingdom of drunkenness.

I also repeated the portion of the gospel which I had handled the day before, where it is said of false prophets : "By their fruits ye shall know them.”\ I then reminded them that by fruits, in this place, are meant works; and asked them, with what fruits drunkenness would be classed ; and read that passage, addressed to the Galatians: "Now the works of the flesh are manitest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft

, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, mur

whenever necessary.

* 1 Cor. 5:11.

† 1 Cor. 6: 9 sq.

11 Cor. 11:20 sq.

ders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."*

Alter having read these words, I asked them, how they supposed it to be possible for us, as Christians, (who, according to the command of their Lord, are to be discovered by their fruits,)

to be recognized from the fruit of drunkenness. Moreover, I also read what follows: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance ;* and urged them to consider how shameful, how much to be lamented it was, that they should not only live upon these fruits of the flesh in private; but that they should also desire to bring disgrace upon the church itself; and, if power were given, would go so far as to fill the whole sacred temple, however large, with crowds of rioters and drunkards; while, on ihe other hand, they refused to bring God the gifts of spiritual fruits, notwithstanding they were invited to do so, both by the authority of the sacred Scriptures and by our own groans, and thus appropiately to celebrate the festivals of the saints.

These things having been done, I returned the book; and, having nothing prepared for the occasion, I laid before them, according to my ability, the pressure of the occasion, and the strength with which the Lord graciously deigned to supply me, the common danger,theirs, who had been intrusted to our charge, and ours, who were soon to give an account respecting them, to the Prince of shepherds; and entreated them by his humility and the wonderful indignities which he suffered, in that he was scourged, spit upon, struck with the palms of the hand, and crowned with thorns, by his cross and his blood, that if they had offended him in any thing, they would even pity us, and reflect upon the ineffable love to me of the venerable Valerius, who, on their account, had not hesitated to impose upon me the dangerous task of handling the words of truth; and who had often told them that his prayers for my coming had been answered, in which answer he rejoiced, surely not because we were to die a common death, or to become the witnesses of theirs, but because that with them, we were to strive after eternal life.

Finally, I also told them I was certain, and indeed to this effect felt a perfect confidence in him who cannot lie, who, through the mouth of his prophets, promised respecting our Lord Jesus Christ, saying: “If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; ir they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments, then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes ;"† that, if they should contemn the great things which had been read and spoken to them, God would visit them with the rod and with stripes, and not permit them to be condemned with this world.

While I addressed them and made my complaints, God, our De fender and Guide, seemed to impart to me courage and strength, according to the magnitude of the danger and the enterprise. I did not move their tears by mine; but when I had ended speaking, I confess, that, anticipated by their weeping, I was unable to abstain. Having then wept together for a while, with a strong expectation of their amendment, I brought my address to a close.

* Gal. 5: 19-21 sq.

† Ps. 89: 30 sq.

On the following day,—the day on which they were accustomed to prepare themselves for eating and surfeiting, -1 was informed, that some, even of those who had been present at my address on the day before, had not yet ceased to murmur; and so powerful was the influence of this wicked custom over them, that they were constantly saying: “Why now? Those who lived before us, without prohibiting these things, were certainly Christians.” On hearing of this I felt altogether at a loss what more powerful devices to employ for moving them. I proposed, however, if they should think of persever ing, afier having read that passage, "The watchman is absolved if he have given timely warning of the danger, even though the persons warned refuse to take heed,'* to shake out my robes and depart.

Then indeed the Lord showed that he does not forsake us; but that, on the other hand, he would encourage us, whatever our circumstances, to anticipate his assistance; for, before the time had arrived for us to ascend into the pulpit, those very persons entered, of whose complaints I had heard concerning my opposition to their ancient custom, whom I received with kindness, and with a few words brought over to sane views; and when the time for discoursing had arrived, omitting the portion of Scripture which I had selected,--as now it seemed to be uncalled for, I observed concerning the affair itself, that, in opposition to those who say: "Why now?" we could bring nothing more comprehensive or more to the purpose, than the reply: “ Even now.'

Lest our ancestors, however, of preceding generations, who had either indulged the ignorant multitude in such plain and obvious crimes, or else had not dared to lay prohibitory injunctions upon them, in this respect, should seem to have, in some measure, been treated with contumely, I went on to explain to the assembly, by what necessity these things seem to have first originated in the church. Afier the endurance of many and vehement persecutions,-peace being at length established among them.--crowds of Gentiles, desirous of coming under the Christian name, were prevented solely by the consideration that they had been accustomed to spend many days with their idols, in excessive feasting and drunkenness, and could not easily restrain themselves from these very ancient as well as these most pernicious pleasures. It was deemed well, by our fathers, in the mean time, to spare, in part, this infirmity; and that instead of those festivities which they had left behind, they should celebrate others, not with similar sacrilege indeed, but yet with similar luxury, in honor of the martyrs. Being, in this case, bound together by the name of Christ, and brought under the yoke of his authority, they would be taught those salutary precepts of sobriety, which, under

* Ez. 33: 9.

« PreviousContinue »