Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 4 [IV.]--Victor's Simile to Show that God Can Create by Breathing Without Impartation of His Substance.
|But,| you say, |when we inflate a bag, no portion of our nature or quality is poured into the bag, while the very breath, by the current of which the filled bag is extended, is emitted from us without the least diminution of ourselves.| Now, you enlarge and dwell upon these words of yours, and inculcate the simile as necessary for our understanding how it is that God, without any injury to His own nature, makes the soul out of His own self, and how, when it is thus made out of Himself, it is not what Himself is. For you ask: |Is this inflation of the bag a portion of our own soul? Or do we create human beings when we inflate bags? Or do we suffer any injury in anything at all when we impart our breath by inflation on diverse things? But we suffer no injury when we transfer breath from ourselves to anything, nor do we ever remember experiencing any damage to ourselves from inflating a bag, the full quality and entire quantity of our breath remaining in us notwithstanding the process.| Now, however elegant and applicable this simile seems to you, I beg you to consider how greatly it misleads you. For you affirm that the incorporeal God breathes out a corporeal soul, -- not made out of nothing, but out of Himself, -- whereas the breath which we ourselves emit is corporeal, although of a more subtle nature than our bodies; nor do we exhale it out of our soul, but out of the air through internal functions in our bodily structure. Our lungs, like a pair of bellows, are moved by the soul (at the command of which also the other members of the body are moved), for the purpose of inhaling and exhaling the atmospheric air. For, besides the aliments, solid or fluid, which constitute our meat and drink, God has surrounded us with this third aliment of the atmosphere which we breathe; and that with so good effect, that we can live for some time without meat and drink, but we could not possibly subsist for a moment without this third aliment, which the air, surrounding us on all sides, supplies us with as we breathe and respire. And as our meat and drink have to be not only introduced into the body, but also to be expelled by passages formed for the purpose, to prevent injury accruing either way (from either not entering or not quitting the body); so this third airy aliment (not being permitted to remain within us, and thus not becoming corrupt by delay, but being expelled as soon as it is introduced) has been furnished, not with different, but with the self-same channels both for its entrance and for its exit, even the mouth, or the nostrils, or both together.