Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 8.--The Thirst of the Rich Man in Hell Does Not Prove the Soul to Be Corporeal.
Now with regard to the point, which with perfect propriety and great soundness of view he believes, that souls after quitting the body are judged, before they come to that final judgment to which they must submit when their bodies are restored to them, and are either tormented or glorified in the very same flesh wherein they once lived here on earth; is it, let me ask you, the case that you were really ignorant of this? Who ever had his mind so obstinately set against the gospel as not to hear these truths, and after hearing to believe them, in the parable of the poor man who was carried away after death to Abraham's bosom, and of the rich man who is set forth as suffering torment in hell? But has this man taught you how it was that the soul apart from the body could crave from the beggar's finger a drop of water; when he himself confessed, that the soul did not require bodily aliment except for the purpose of protecting the perishing body which encloses it from dissolution? These are his words: |Is it,| asks he, |because the soul craves meat and drink, that we suppose material food passes into it?| Then shortly afterwards he says: |From this circumstance it is understood and proved, that the sustenance of meat and drink is not wanted for the soul, but for the body: for which clothing also, in addition to food, is provided in like manner; so that the supplying of food seems to be necessary to that nature, which is also fitted for wearing clothes.| This opinion of his he expounds clearly enough; but he adds some illustrative similes, and says: |Now what do we suppose the occupier of a house does on an inspection of his dwelling? If he observe the tenement has a shaky roof, or a nodding wall, or a weak foundation, does he not fetch girders and build up buttresses, in order that he may succeed in propping up by his care and diligence the fabric which threatened to fall, so that in the dangerous plight of the residence the peril which evidently overhung the occupier might be warded off? From this simile,| says he, |see how the soul craves for its flesh, from which it undoubtedly conceives the craving itself.| Such are the very lucid and adequate words in which this young person has explained his ideas: he asserts that it is not the soul, but the body, which requires food; out of a careful regard, no doubt, of the former for the latter, as one that occupies a dwelling-house, and by a prudent repair prevents the downfall with which the fleshly tenement was threatened. Well, now, let him go on to explain to you what probable ruin this particular soul of the rich man was so eager to prevent by propping up, seeing that it no longer possessed a mortal body, and yet suffered thirst, and begged for the drop of water from the poor man's finger. Here is a good knotty question for this astute instructor of elderly men to exercise himself on; let him inquire, and find a solution if he can: for what purpose did that soul in hell beg the aliment of ever so small a drop of water, when it had no ruinous tenement to support?