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The Confessions And Letters Of St by St. Augustine

Chapter XXI.--Concerning the Living Soul, Birds, and Fishes (Ver. 24)--The Sacrament of the Eucharist Being Regarded.

29. And hereby, in Thy Word, not the depth of the sea, but the earth parted from the bitterness of the waters, bringeth forth not the creeping and flying creature that hath life, but the living soul itself. For now hath it no longer need of baptism, as the heathen have, and as itself had when it was covered with the waters, -- for no other entrance is there into the kingdom of heaven, since Thou hast appointed that this should be the entrance, -- nor does it seek great works of miracles by which to cause faith; for it is not such that, unless it shall have seen signs and wonders, it will not believe, when now the faithful earth is separated from the waters of the sea, rendered bitter by infidelity; and |tongues are for a sign, not to those that believe, but to those that believe not.| Nor then doth the earth, which Thou hast founded above the waters, stand in need of that flying kind which at Thy word the waters brought forth. Send Thy word forth into it by Thy messengers. For we relate their works, but it is Thou who workest in them, that in it they may work out a living soul. The earth bringeth it forth, because the earth is the cause that they work these things in the soul; as the sea has been the cause that they wrought upon the moving creatures that have life, and the fowls that fly under the firmament of heaven, of which the earth hath now no need; although it feeds on the fish which was taken out of the deep, upon that table which Thou hast prepared in the presence of those that believe. For therefore He was raised from the deep, that He might feed the dry land; and the fowl, though bred in the sea, is yet multiplied upon the earth. For of the first preachings of the Evangelists, the infidelity of men was the prominent cause; but the faithful also are exhorted, and are manifoldly blessed by them day by day. But the living soul takes its origin from the earth, for it is not profitable, unless to those already among the faithful, to restrain themselves from the love of this world, that so their soul may live unto Thee, which was dead while living in pleasures, -- in death-bearing pleasures, O Lord, for Thou art the vital delight of the pure heart.

30. Now, therefore, let Thy ministers work upon the earth, -- not as in the waters of infidelity, by announcing and speaking by miracles, and sacraments, and mystic words; in which ignorance, the mother of admiration, may be intent upon them, in fear of those hidden signs. For such is the entrance unto the faith for the sons of Adam forgetful of Thee, while they hide themselves from Thy face, and become a darksome deep. But let Thy ministers work even as on the dry land, separated from the whirlpools of the great deep; and let them be an example unto the faithful, by living before them, and by stimulating them to imitation. For thus do men hear not with an intent to hear merely, but to act also. Seek the Lord, and your soul shall live, that the earth may bring forth the living soul. |Be not conformed to this world.| Restrain yourselves from it; the soul lives by avoiding those things which it dies by affecting. Restrain yourselves from the unbridled wildness of pride, from the indolent voluptuousness of luxury, and from the false name of knowledge; so that wild beasts may be tamed, the cattle subdued, and serpents harmless. For these are the motions of the mind in allegory; that is to say, the haughtiness of pride, the delight of lust, and the poison of curiosity are the motions of the dead soul; for the soul dies not so as to lose all motion, because it dies by forsaking the fountain of life, and so is received by this transitory world, and is conformed unto it.

31. But Thy Word, O God, is the fountain of eternal life, and passeth not away; therefore this departure is kept in check by Thy word when it is said unto us, |Be not conformed unto this world,| so that the earth may bring forth a living soul in the fountain of life, -- a soul restrained in Thy Word, by Thy Evangelists, by imitating the followers of Thy Christ. For this is after his kind; because a man is stimulated to emulation by his friend. |Be ye,| saith he, |as I am, for I am as you are.| Thus in the living soul shall there be good beasts, in gentleness of action. For Thou hast commanded, saying, Go on with thy business in meekness, and thou shalt be beloved by all men; and good cattle, which neither if they eat, shall they over-abound, nor if they do not eat, have they any want; and good serpents, not destructive to do hurt, but |wise| to take heed; and exploring only so much of this temporal nature as is sufficient that eternity may be |clearly seen, being understood by the things that are.| For these animals are subservient to reason, when, being kept in check from a deadly advance, they live, and are good.

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