Augustin - Trinity 229

229 29. But in the flesh itself, the faith in His resurrection saves and justifies us. For, “If thou shalt believe,” he says, “in thine heart, that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved;”119 and again, “Who was delivered,” he says, “for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.”120 So that the reward of our faith is the resurrection of the body of our Lord.121 For even His enemies believe that that flesh died on the cross of His passion, but they do not believe it to have risen again. Which we believing most firmly, gaze upon it as from the solidity of a rock: whence we wait with certain hope for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body;122 because we hope for that in the members of Christ, that is, in ourselves, which by a sound faith we acknowledge to be perfect in Him as in our Head. Thence it is that He would not have His back parts seen, unless as He passed by, that His resurrection may be believed. For that which is Pascha in Hebrew, is translated Passover.123 Whence Jn the Evangelist also says, “Before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come, that He should pass out of this world unto the Father.”124

230 30. But they who believe this, but believe it not in the Catholic Church, but in some schism or in heresy, do not see the back parts of the Lord from “the place that is by Him.” For what does that mean which the Lord says, “Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock?” What earthly place is “by” the Lord, unless that is “by Him” which touches Him spiritually? For what place is not “by” the Lord, who “reacheth from one end to another mightily, and sweetly doth order all things,”125 and of whom it is said, “Heaven is His throne, and earth is His footstool;” and who said, “Where is the house that ye build unto me, and where is the place of my rest? For has not my hand made all those things?”126 But manifestly the Catholic Church itself is understood to be “the place by Him,” wherein one stands upon a rock, where he healthfully sees the “Pascha Domini,” that is, the “Passing by”127 of the Lord, and His back parts, that is, His body, who believes in His resurrection. “And thou shalt stand,” He says, “upon a rock while my glory passeth by.” For in reality, immediately after the majesty of the Lord had passed by in the glorification of the Lord, in which He rose again and ascended to the Father, we stood firm upon the rock. And Peter himself then stood firm, so that he preached Him with confidence, whom, before he stood firm, he had thrice from fear denied;128 although, indeed, already before placed in predestination upon the watch-tower of the rock, but with the hand of the Lord still held over him that he might not see. For he was to see His back parts, and the Lord had not yet “passed by,” namely, from death to life; He had not yet been glorified by the resurrection.

231 31. For as to that, too, which follows in Exodus, “I will cover thee with mine hand while I pass by, and I will take away my hand and thou shalt see my back parts;” many Israelites, of whom Moses was then a figure, believed in the Lord after His resurrection, as if His hand had been taken off from their eyes, and they now saw His back parts. And hence the evangelist also mentions that prophesy of Isaiah, “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes.”129 Lastly, in the Psalm, that is not unreasonably understood to be said in their person, “For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me.” “By day,” perhaps, when He performed manifest miracles, yet was not acknowledged by them; but “by night,” when He died in suffering, when they thought still more certainly that, like any one among men, He was cut off and brought to an end. But since, when He had already passed by, so that His back parts were seen, upon the preaching to them by the Apostle Peter that it behoved Christ to suffer and rise again, they were pricked in their hearts with the grief of repentance,130 that that might come to pass among the baptized which is said in the beginning of that Psalm, “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;” therefore, after it had been said, “Thy hand is heavy upon me,” the Lord, as it were, passing by, so that now He removed His hand, and His back parts were seen, there follows the voice of one who grieves and confesses and receives remission of sins by faith in the resurrection of the Lord: “My moisture,” he says, “is turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.”131 For we ought not to be so wrapped up in the darkness of the flesh, as to think the face indeed of God to be invisible, but His back visible, since both appeared visibly in the form of a servant; but far be it from us to think anything of the kind in the form of God; far be it from us to think that the Word of God and the Wisdom of God has a face on one side, and on the other a back, as a human body has, or is at all changed either in place or time by any appearance or motion.132

232 32. Wherefore, if in those words which were spoken in Exodus, and in all those corporeal appearances, the Lord Jesus Christ was manifested; or if in some cases Christ was manifested, as the consideration of this passage persuades us, in others the Holy Spirit, as that which we have said above admonishes us; at any rate no such result follows, as that God the Father never appeared in any such form to the Fathers. For many such appearances happened in those times, without either the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit being expressly named and designated in them; but yet with some intimations given through certain very probable interpretations, so that it would be too rash to say that God the Father never appeared by any visible forms to the fathers or the prophets. For they gave birth to this opinion who were not able to understand in respect to the unity of the Trinity such texts as, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God;”133 and, “Whom no man hath seen, nor can see.”134 Which texts are understood by a sound faith in that substance itself, the highest, and in the highest degree divine and unchangeable, whereby both the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is the one and only God. But those visions were wrought through the changeable creature, made subject to the unchangeable God, and did not manifest God properly as He is, but by intimations such as suited the causes and times of the several circumstances.

Chapter 18.—The Vision of Daniel.

33.135 I do not know in what manner these men understand that the Ancient of Days appeared to Daniel, from whom the Son of man, which He deigned to be for our sakes, is understood to have received the kingdom; namely, from Him who says to Him in the Psalms, “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten Thee; ask of me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance;”136 and who has “put all things under His feet.”137 If, however, both the Father giving the kingdom, and the Son receiving it, appeared to Daniel in bodily form, how can those men say that the Father never appeared to the prophets, and, therefore, that He only ought to be understood to be invisible whom no man has seen, nor can see? For Daniel has told us thus: “I beheld,” he says, “till the thrones were set,138 and the Ancient of Days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him: thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened,” etc. And a little after, “I saw,” he says, “in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”139 Behold the Father giving, and the Son receiving, an eternal kingdom; and both are in the sight of him who prophesies, in a visible form. It is not, therefore, unsuitably believed that God the Father also was wont to appear in that manner to mortals.

234 34. Unless, perhaps, some one shall say, that the Father is therefore not visible, because He appeared within the sight of one who was dreaming; but that therefore the Son and the Holy Spirit are visible, because Moses saw all those things being awake; as if, forsooth, Moses saw the Word and the Wisdom of God with fleshly eyes, or that even the human spirit which quickens that flesh can be seen, or even that corporeal thing which is called wind;—how much less can that Spirit of God be seen, who transcends the minds of all men, and of angels, by the ineffable excellence of the divine substance? Or can any one fall headlong into such an error as to dare to say, that the Son and the Holy Spirit are visible also to men who are awake, but that the Father is not visible except to those who dream? How, then, do they understand that of the Father alone, “Whom no man hath seen, nor can see.”? When men sleep, are they then not men? Or cannot He, who can fashion the likeness of a body to signify Himself through the visions of dreamers, also fashion that same bodily creature to signify Himself to the eyes of those who are awake? Whereas His own very substance, whereby He Himself is that which He is, cannot be shown by any bodily likeness to one who sleeps, or by any bodily appearance to one who is awake; but this not of the Father only, but also of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And certainly, as to those who are moved by the visions of waking men to believe that not the Father, but only the Son, or the Holy Spirit, appeared to the corporeal sight of men,—to omit the great extent of the sacred pages, and their manifold interpretation, such that no one of sound reason ought to affirm that the person of the Father was nowhere shown to the eyes of waking men by any corporeal appearance;—but, as I said, to omit this, what do they say of our father Abraham, who was certainly awake and ministering, when, after Scripture had premised, “The Lord appeared unto Abraham,” not one, or two, but three men appeared to him; no one of whom is said to have stood prominently above the others, no one more than the others to have shone with greater glory, or to have acted more authoritatively?140

235 35. Wherefore, since in that our threefold division we determined to inquire,141 first, whether the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit; or whether sometimes the Father, sometimes the Son, sometimes the Holy Spirit; or whether, without any distinction of persons, as it is said, the one and only God, that is, the Trinity itself, appeared to the fathers through those forms of the creature: now that we have examined, so far as appeared to be sufficient what places of the Holy Scriptures we could, a modest and cautious consideration of divine mysteries leads, as far as I can judge, to no other conclusion, unless that we may not rashly affirm which person of the Trinity appeared to this or that of the fathers or the prophets in some body or likeness of body, unless when the context attaches to the narrative some probable intimations on the subject. For the nature itself, or substance, or essence, or by whatever other name that very thing, which is God, whatever it be, is to be called, cannot be seen corporeally: but we must believe that by means of the creature made subject to Him, not only the Son, or the Holy Spirit, but also the Father, may have given intimations of Himself to mortal senses by a corporeal form or likeness. And since the case stands thus, that this second book may not extend to an immoderate length, let us consider what remains in those which follow).

1 (
Ps 5,12 Ps 5,
2 (Ps 141,5).
3 (Ph 2,6 Ph 2,7 Ph 2,
4 [Augustin here brings to view both the trinitarian and the theanthropic or mediatorial subordination. The former is the status of Sonship. God the Son is God of God. Sonship as a relation is subordinate to paternity. But a son must be of the same grade of being, and of the same nature with his father. A human son and a human father are alike and equally human.And a Divine Son and a Divine father are alike and equally divine. The theanthropic or mediatorial subordination is the status of humiliation, by reason of the incarnation. In the words of Augustin, it is “that by which we understand the Son as less, in that he has taken upon Him the creature.” The subordination in this case is that of voluntary condescension, for the purpose of redeeming sinful man.—W.G.T.S.]
5 (Jn 10,30 Jn 10,
166 6 (Ph 2,6 Ph 2,
7 (Jn 14,28 Jn 14,
8 (Jn 5,22, 27, 26, 19.
9 (Mt 14,26, and Jn 9,6, 7.
10 (Jn 5,19).
11 (Jn 7,16 Jn 7,
12 See above, Book I. c. 12.
13 (Jn 16,13-15.
14 (Jn 15,26 Jn 15,
15 Below, Bk. XV. c. 25.).
16 (Jn 17,1, 4.
167 17 (Jn 14,26 Jn 14,
18 (Jn 16,7, 28.
19 (Jn 1,10, 11.
20 (Jr 23,24 Jr 23,
21 (Sg 8,1 Sg 8,
22 (Ps 139,8, 7.
23 (Ga 4,4, 5.
24 Mulier.).
25 (Lc 1,34, 35.
26 (Mt 1,18 Mt 1,
27 (Is 48,16 Is 48,
168 28 (Jn 10,36 Jn 10,
29 (Jn 17,19 Jn 17,
30 (Rm 8,32 Rm 8,
31 (Ga 2,20 Ga 2,
32 (Jn 1,1, 2, 14.
33 (Ga 4,4 Ga 4,
34 10 Jn 8,42, 15).
35 (Mt 3,16).
36 2 Ac 2,2-4.
37 (He 1,9 He 1,
38 (Jn 1,14 Jn 1,
169 39 (Lc 3,6 Lc 3,
40 [The reference is to schma, in Phil. ii. 8—the term chosen by St. Paul to describe the “likeness of men,” which the second trinitarian person assumed. The variety in the terms by which St. Paul describes the incarnation is very striking. The person incarnated subsists first in a “form of God;” he then takes along with this (still retaining this) a “form of a servant;” which form of a servant is a “likeness of men;” which likeness of men is a “scheme” (A.V. “fashion”) or external form of a man.—W.G.T.S.]
41 (Mt 3,16 Mt 3,
42 (Ac 2,3, 4.
43  Jn 1,29.
44 Apoc. 5,6.
45 1Co 10,4).
46 (Gn 28,18).
47 (Gn 22,6 Gn 22,
48 (Ex 3,2).
49 (Ex 13,21, 22.
170 50 (Ex 19,16 Ex 19,
51 [A theophany, though a harbinger of the incarnation, differs from it, by not effecting a hypostatical or personal union between God and the creature. When the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove, he did not unite himself with it. The dove did not constitute an integral part of the divine person who employed it. Nor did the illuminated vapor in the theophany of the Shekinah. But when the Logos appeared in the form of a man, he united himself with it, so that it became a constituent part of his person. A theophany, as Augustin notices, is temporary and transient. The incarnation is perpetual.—W.G.T.S.]
52 (Ga 4,4 Ga 4,
53 (Sg 7,27).
54 (Jn 1,3).
55 (1Tm 1,17).
56 (1Tm 6,15, 16.
57 4 (For an example of the manner in which the patristic writers present the doctrine of the divine invisibility, see Irenaeus, Adv. Haereses, IV. xx.—W.G.T.S.]
58 (Mt 10,28).
59 (Gn 3,8-10.
60 (Gn 3,7 Gn 3,
61 (Gn 4,14).
62  Mt 17,5
63 (Mt iii 17.
171 64 (Jn 12,28 Jn 12,
65 (Mt 3,17 Mt 3,
66 (Gn 12,1, 7.
67 1 Cor 8,5, 6.
68 (Ps 2,7 Ps 2,
69 (Ps 110,1 Ps 110,
70 (2Co 3,17 2Co 3,
71 (Dt 6,13 Dt 6,
72 (Gn 18,
73 (1Tm 1,17).
74 (Ph 2,6, 7.
172 75 [The theophanies of the Pentateuch are trinitarian in their implication. They involve distinctions in God—God sending, and God sent; God speaking of God, and God speaking to God. The trinitarianism of the Old Testament has been lost sight of to some extent in the modern construction of the doctrine. The patristic, mediaeval, and reformation theologies worked this vein with thoroughness, and the analysis of Augustin in this reference is worthy of careful study.—W.G.T.S.]
76 (
Gn 18,33 Gn 18,
77 This clause is not in the Hebrew.
78 (Gn 19,1-19).
79 [It is difficult to determine the details of this theophany, beyond all doubt: namely, whether the“Jehovah” who “went his way as soon as he had left communing with Abraham.” (Gn 18,33) joins the “ two angels” that “came to Sodom at even” (Gn 19,1); or whether one of these “two angels” is Jehovah himself. One or the other supposition must be made; because a person is addressed by Lot as God (Gn 19,18-20), and speaks to Lot as God (Gn 19,21, 22), and acts as God (Gn 19,24). The Masorite marking of the word “lords” in Gn 19,2, as “profane,” i.e., to be taken in the human sense, would favor the first supposition. The interchange of the singular and plural, in the whole narrative is very striking. “It came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, escape for thy life. And Lot said unto them. Oh not so, my Lord: behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thysight. And hesaid unto him, see I have accepted thee; I will not overthrow the city of which thou hast spoken.” (Gn 19,17-21).—W.G.T.S.]
80 (Ex 3,1-6.
81 (Rm 9,5 Rm 9,
82 (1Co 6,20, 19.
83 Annuntiabit..
84 (Jn 16,13 Jn 16,
85 Nuntius.).
173 86 (Is 9,6 Is 9,
87 (Ex 3,21, 22.
88 (Ex 16,10-12.
89 (Ex 19,18, 19.
90 Nebulam..
91 (Ex 20,18, 21
92 (Ex 24,10 Ex 24,
93 (Sg 8,1 Sg 8,
94 (Jn 1,3 Jn 1,
95 10 Rm 11,36.
96 (Rm 1,20).
174 97 (Ex 21,18 Ex 21,
98 (Lc 11,20 Lc 11,
99 Acts. 2,1-4.
100 (Ex 24,17 Ex 24,
101 (Jn 1,1, 3.
102 Clift—A.V). Spelunca is one reading in S. Aug., but the Benedictines read specula = watch-tower, which the context proves to be certainly right.
103 (Ex 33,11-23).
104 Posteriora.).
105 Posterius..
106 (Ph 2,6 Ph 2,
107 (2Co 5,6 2Co 5,
175 108 (Sg 9,15 Sg 9,
109 (1Co 13,12 1Co 13,
110 (Ps 39,5 Ps 39,
111 (Ps 143,2 Ps 143,
112 (1Jn 3,2 1Jn 3,
113 (Ga 6,14 Ga 6,
114 (Col 2,20). Viventes de hoc mundo decernitis.
115 (Mt 22,37-40.
116 (2Co 5,6, 7.
117 [Augustin here gives the Protestant interpretation of the word “rock,” in the passage, “on this rock I will build my church.”—W.G.T.S.]
118 (Mt 16,18 Mt 16,
176 119 (Rm 10,9 Rm 10,
120 17 Rm 4,25.
121 [The meaning seems to be, that the vivid realization that Christ’s body rose from the dead is the reward of a Christian’s faith. The unbeliever has no such reward.—W.G.T.S.]
122 (Rm 8,23,
123 Transitus = passing by.
124 (Jn 13,1).
125 (Sg 8,1,
126 (Is 66,1-2.
127 Transitus.
128 (Mt 26,70-74.
129 (Is 6,10 Mt 13,15,
177 130 (Ac 2,37 Ac 2,41.
131 (Ps 32,4-5.
132 [This explanation of the “back parts” of Christ to mean his resurrection, and of “the place that is by him,” to mean the church, is an example of the fanciful exegesis into which Augustin, with the fathers generally, sometimes falls. The reasoning, here, unlike that in the preceding chapter, is not from the immediate context, and hence extraneous matter is read into the text.—W.G.T.S.]
133 (1Tm 1,17).
134 (1Tm 6,16,
135 [The original has an awkward anacoluthon in the opening sentence of this chapter, which has been removed by omitting “quamquam,” and substituting “autem” for “ergo.”—W.G.T.S.]
136 (Ps 2,7-8.
137 (Ps 8,8).
138 Cast down—A.V.
139 (Da 7,9-14.
140 (Gn 18,1,
178 141 See above, chap. 7,

Book III. The question is discussed with respect to the appearances of God

300 spoken of in the previous book, which were made under bodily forms, whether only a creature was formed, for the purpose of manifesting God to human sight in such way as he at each time judged fitting; or whether angels, already existing, were so sent as to speak in the person of god; and this, either by assuming a bodily appearance from the bodily creature, or by changing their own bodies into whatever forms they would, suitable to the particular action, according to the power given to them by the creator; while the essence itself of god was never seen in itself.

Preface.—Why Augustin Writes of the Trinity. What He Claims from Readers, What Has Been Said in the Previous Book.

1. I Would have them believe, who are willing to do so, that I had rather bestow labor in reading, than in dictating what others may read. But let those who will not believe this, but are both able and willing to make the trial, grant me whatever answers may be gathered from reading, either to my own inquiries, or to those interrogations of others, which for the character I bear in the service of Christ, and for the zeal with which I burn that our faith may be fortified against the error of carnal and natural men,1 I must needs bear with; and then let them see how easily I would refrain from this labor, and with how much even of joy I would give my pen a holiday. But if what we have read upon these subjects is either not sufficiently set forth, or is not to be found at all, or at any rate cannot easily be found by us, in the Latin tongue, while we are not so familiar with the Greek tongue as to be found in any way competent to read and understand therein the books that treat of such topics, in which class of writings, to judge by the little which has been translated for us, I do not doubt that everything is contained that we can profitably seek;2 while yet I cannot resist my brethren when they exact of me, by that law by which I am made their servant, that I should minister above all to their praiseworthy studies in Christ by my tongue and by my pen, of which two yoked together in me, Love is the charioteer; and while I myself confess that I have by writing learned many things which I did not know: if this be so, then this my labor ought not to seem superfluous to any idle, or to any very learned reader; while it is needful in no small part, to many who are busy, and to many who are unlearned,and among these last to myself. Supported, then, very greatly, and aided by the writings we have already read of others on this subject, I have undertaken to inquire into and to discuss, whatever it seems to my judgment can be reverently inquired into and discussed, concerning the Trinity, the one supreme and supremely good God; He himself exhorting me to the inquiry, and helping me in the discussion of it; in order that, if there are no other writings of the kind, there may be something for those to have and read who are willing and capable; but if any exist already, then it may be so much the easier to find some such writings, the more there are of the kind in existence.

302 2. Assuredly, as in all my writings I desire not only a pious reader, but also a free corrector, so I especially desire this in the present inquiry, which is so important that I would there were as many inquirers as there are objectors. But as I do not wish my reader to be bound down to me, so I do not wish my corrector to be bound down to himself. Let not the former love me more than the catholic faith, let not the latter love himself more than the catholic verity. As I say to the former, Do not be willing to yield to my writings as to the canonical Scriptures; but in these, when thou hast discovered even what thou didst not previously believe, believe it unhesitatingly; while in those, unless thou hast understood with certainty what thou didst not before hold as certain, be unwilling to hold it fast: so I say to the latter, Do not be willing to amend my writings by thine own opinion or disputation, but from the divine text, or by unanswerable reason. If thou apprehendest anything of truth in them, its being there does not make it mine, but by understanding and loving it, let it be both thine and mine; but if thou convictest anything of falsehood, though it have once been mine, in that I was guilty of the error, yet now by avoiding it let it be neither thine nor mine.

303 3. Let this third book, then, take its beginning at the point to which the second had reached. For after we had arrived at this, I that we desired to show that the Son was not l therefore less than the Father, because the Father sent and the Son was sent; nor the Holy Spirit therefore less than both, because we read in the Gospel that He was sent both by the one and by the other; we undertook then to inquire, since the Son was sent thither, where He already was, for He came into the world, and “was in the world;”3 since also the Holy Spirit was sent thither, where Healready was, for “the Spirit of the Lord filleth the world, and that which containeth all things hath knowledge of the voice;”4 whether the Lord was therefore “sent” because He was born in the flesh so as to be no longer hidden, and, as it were, came forth from the bosom of the Father, and appeared to the eyes of men in the form of a servant; and the Holy Spirit also was therefore “sent,” because He too was seen as a dove in a corporeal form,5 and in cloven tongues, like as of fire;6 so that, to be sent, when spoken of them, means to go forth to the sight of mortals in some corporeal form from a spiritual hiding-place; which, because the Father did not, He is said only to have sent, not also to be sent. Our next inquiry was, Why the Father also is not sometimes said to be sent, if He Himself was manifested through those corporeal forms which appeared to the eyes of the ancients. But if the Son was manifested at these times, why should He be said to be “sent” so long after, when the fullness of time was come that He should be born of a woman;7 since, indeed, He was sent before also, viz., when He appeared corporeally in those forms? Or if He were not rightly said to be “sent,” except when the Word was made flesh;8 why should the Holy Spirit be read of as “sent,” of whom such an incarnation never took place? But if neither the Father, nor the Son, but the Holy Spirit was manifested through these ancient appearances; why should He too be said to be “sent” now, when He was also sent before in these various manners? Next we subdivided the subject, that it might be handled most carefully, and we made the question threefold, of which one part was explained in the second book, and two remain, which I shall next proceed to discuss. For we have already inquired and determined, that not only the Father, nor only the Son, nor only the Holy Spirit appeared in those ancient corporeal forms and visions. but either indifferently the Lord God, who is understood to be the Trinity itself, or some one person of the Trinity, whichever the text of the narrative might signify, through intimations supplied by the context.

Chapter 1.—What is to Be Said Thereupon.

4. Let us, then, continue our inquiry now in order. For under the second head in that division the question occurred, whether the creature was formed for that work only, wherein God, in such way as He then judged it to be fitting, might be manifested to human sight; or whether angels, who already existed, were so sent as to speak in the person of God, assuming a corporeal appearance from the corporeal creature for the purpose of their ministry; or else changing and turning their own body itself, to which they are not subject, but govern it as subject to themselves, into whatever forms they would, that were appropriate and fit for their actions, according to the power given to them by the Creator. And when this part of the question shall have been investigated, so far as God permit, then, lastly, we shall have to see to that question with which we started, viz., whether the Son and the Holy Spirit were also “sent” before; and if it be so, then what difference there is between that sending and the one of which we read in the Gospel; or whether neither of them were sent, except when either the Son was made of the Virgin Mary, or when the Holy Spirit appeared in a visible form, whether as a dove or in tongues of fire.9

305 5. I confess, however, that it reaches further than my purpose can carry me to inquire whether the angels. secretly working by the spiritual quality of their body abiding still in them, assume somewhat from the inferior and more bodily elements, which, being fitted to themselves, they may change and turn like a garment into any corporeal appearances they will, and those appearances themselves also real, as real water was changed by our Lord into real wine;10 or whether they transform their own bodies themselves into that which they would, suitably to the particular act. But it does not signify to the present question which of these it is. And although I be not able to understand these things by actual experience, seeing that I am a man, as the angels do who do these things, and know them better than I know them, viz., how far my body is changeable by the operation of my will; whether it be by my own experience of myself, or by that which I have gathered from others; yet it is not necessary here to say which of these alternatives I am to believe upon the authority of the divine Scriptures, lest I be compelled to prove it, and so my discourse become too long upon a subject which does not concern the present question.

306 6. Our present inquiry then is, whether the angels were then the agents both in showing those bodily appearances to the eyes of men and in sounding those words in their ears when the sensible creature itself, serving the Creator at His beck, was turned for the time into whatever was needful; as it is written in the book of Wisdom, “For the creature serveth Thee, who art the Maker, increaseth his strength against the unrighteous for their punishment, and abateth his strength for the benefit of such as put their trust in Thee. Therefore, even then was it altered into all fashions, and was obedient to Thy grace, that nourisheth all things according to the of them that longed for Thee.”11 For the power of the will of God reaches through the spiritual creature even to visible and sensible effects of the corporeal creature. For wheredoes not the wisdom of the omnipotent God work that which He wills, which “reacheth from one end to another mightily, and sweetly doth order all things”?12

Chapter 2.—The Will of God is the Higher Cause of All Corporeal Change. This is Shown by an Example.

7. But there is one kind of natural order in the conversion and changeableness of bodies, which, although itself also serves the bidding of God, yet by reason of its unbroken continuity has ceased to cause wonder; as is the case, for instance, with those things which are changed either in very short, or at any rate not long, intervals of time, in heaven, or earth, or sea; whether it be in rising, or in setting, or in change of appearance from time to time; while there are other things, which, although arising from that same order, yet are less familiar on account of longer intervals of time. And these things, although the many stupidly wonder at them, yet are understood by those who inquire into this present world, and in the progress of generations become so much the less wonderful, as they are the more often repeated and known by more people. Such are the eclipses of the sun and moon, and some kinds of stars, appearing seldom, and earthquakes, and unnatural births of living creatures, and other similar things; of which not one takes place without the will of God; yet, that it is so, is to most people not apparent. And so the vanity of philosophers has found license to assign these things also to other causes, true causes perhaps, but proximate ones, while they are not able to see at all the cause that is higher than all others, that is, the will of God; or again to false causes, and to such as are not even put forward out of any diligent investigation of corporeal things and motions, but from their own guess and error.

308 8. I will bring forward an example, if I can, that this may be plainer. There is, we know, in the human body, a certain bulk of flesh and an outward form, and an arrangement and distraction of limbs, and a temperament of health; and a soul breathed into it governs this body, and that soul a rational one; which, therefore, although changeable, yet can be partaker of that unchangeable wisdom, so that “it may partake of that which is in and of itself;”13 as it is written in the Psalm concerning all saints, of whom as of living stones is built that Jerusalem which is the mother of us all, eternal in the heavens. For so it is sung, “Jerusalem is builded as a city, that is partaker of that which is in and of itself.”14 For “in and of itself,” in that place, is understood of that chiefest and unchangeable good, which is God, and of His own wisdom and will. To whom is sung in another place, “Thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed; but Thou art the same.”15

Augustin - Trinity 229