Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 2 [II.]--Why Victor Assumed the Name of Vincentius. The Names of Evil Men Ought Never to Be Assumed by Other Persons.
The first thing which caused me some anxiety about you was the title which appeared in your books with your name; for on inquiring of those who knew you, and were probably your associates in opinion, who Vincentius Victor was, I found that you had been a Donatist, or rather a Rogatist, but had lately come into communion with the catholic Church. Now, while I was rejoicing, as one naturally does at the recovery of those whom he sees rescued from that system of error, -- and in your case my joy was all the greater because I saw that your ability, which so much delighted me in your writings, had not remained behind with the enemies of truth, -- additional information was given me by your friends which caused me sorrow amid my joy, to the effect that you wished to have the name Vincentius prefixed to your own name, inasmuch as you still held in affectionate regard the successor of Rogatus, who bore this name, as a great and holy man, and that for this reason you wished his name to become your surname. Some persons also told me that you had, moreover, boasted about his having appeared in some sort of a vision to you, and assisted you in composing those books the subject of which I have discussed with you in this small work of mine, and to such an extent as to dictate to you himself the precise topics and arguments which you were to write about. Now, if all this be true, I no longer wonder at your having been able to make those statements which, if you will only lend a patient ear to my admonition, and with the attention of a catholic duly consider and weigh those books, you will undoubtedly come to regret having ever advanced. For he who, according to the apostle's portrait, |transforms himself into an angel of light,| has transformed himself before you into a shape which you believe to have been, or still to be, an angel of light. In this way, indeed, he is less able to deceive catholics when his transformations are not into angels of light, but into heretics; now, however, that you are a catholic, I should be sorry for you to be beguiled by him. He will certainly feel torture at your having learnt the truth, and so much the more in proportion to the pleasure he formerly experienced in having persuaded you to believe error. With a view, however, to your refraining from loving a dead person, when the love can neither be serviceable to yourself nor profitable to him, I advise you to consider for a moment this one point -- that he is not, of course, a just and holy man, since you withdrew yourself from the snares of the Donatists or Rogatists on the score of their heresy; but if you do think him to be just and holy, you ruin yourself by holding communion with catholics. You are, indeed, only feigning yourself a catholic if you are in mind the same as he was on whom you bestow your love; and you are aware how terribly the Scripture has spoken on this subject: |The Holy Spirit of discipline will flee from the man who feigns.| If, however, you are sincere in communicating with us, and do not merely pretend to be a catholic, how is it that you still love a dead man to such a degree as to be willing even now to boast of the name of one in whose errors you no longer permit yourself to be held? We really do not like your having such a surname, as if you were the monument of a dead heretic. Nor do we like your book to have such a title as we should say was a false one if we read it on his tomb. For we are sure Vincentius is not Victor, the conqueror, but Victus, the conquered; -- may it be, however, with fruitful effect, even as we wish you to be conquered by the truth! And yet your thought was an astute and skilful one, when you designated the books, which you wish us to suppose were dictated to you by his inspiration, by the name of Vincentius Victor; as much as to intimate that it was rather he than you who wished to be designated by the victorious appellation, as having been himself the conqueror of error, by revealing to you what were to be the contents of your written treatise. But of what avail is all this to you, my son? Be, I pray you, a true catholic, not a feigned one, lest the Holy Spirit should flee from you, and that Vincentius be unable to profit you at all, into whom the most malignant spirit of error has transformed himself for the purpose of deceiving you; for it is from that one that all these evil opinions have proceeded, notwithstanding the artful fraud which has persuaded you to the contrary. If this admonition shall only induce you to correct these errors with the humility of a God-fearing man and the peaceful submission of a catholic, they will be regarded as the mistakes of an over-zealous young man, who is eager rather to amend them than to persevere in them. But if he shall have by his influence prevailed on you to contend for these opinions with obstinate perseverance, which God forbid, it will in such a case be necessary to condemn them and their author as heretical, as is required by the pastoral and remedial nature of the Church's charge, to check the dire contagion before it quietly spreads through the heedless masses, while wholesome correction is neglected, under the name but without the reality of love.