Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 1 [I.]--The Personal Character of This Book.
I Must now, in the sequel of my treatise, request you to hear what I desire to say to you concerning myself -- as I best can; or rather as He shall enable me in whose hand are both ourselves and our words. For you blamed me on two several occasions, even going so far as to mention my name. In the beginning of your book you spoke of yourself as being perfectly conscious of your own want of skill, and as being destitute of the support of learning; and, when you mentioned me, bestowed on me the complimentary phrases of |most learned| and |most skilful.| But yet, all the while, on those subjects in which you seemed to yourself to be perfectly acquainted with what I either confess my ignorance of, or presume with no unbecoming liberty to have some knowledge of, you -- young as you are, and a layman too -- did not hesitate to censure me, an old man and a bishop, and a person withal whom in your own judgment you had pronounced most learned and most skilful. Well, for my own part, I know nothing about my great learning and skill; nay, I am very certain that I possess no such eminent qualities; moreover, I have no doubt that it is quite within the scope of possibility, that it may fall to the lot of even an unskilful and unlearned man occasionally to know what a learned and skilful person is ignorant of; and in this I plainly commend you, that you have preferred to merely personal regard a love of truth, -- for if you have not understood the truth, yet at any rate you have thought it such. This you have done no doubt with temerity, because you thought you knew what you were really ignorant of; and without restraint, because, having no respect of persons, you chose to publish abroad whatever was in your mind. You ought therefore to understand how much greater our care should be to recall the Lord's sheep from their errors; since it is evidently wrong for even the sheep to conceal from the shepherds whatever faults they have discovered in them. O that you censured me in such things as are indeed worthy of just blame! For I must not deny that both in my conduct and in my writings there are many points which may be censured by a sound judge without temerity. Now, if you would select any of these for your censure, I might be able by them to show you how I should like you to behave in those particulars which you judiciously and fairly condemned; moreover, I should have (as an elder to a younger, and as one in authority to him who has to obey) an opportunity of setting you an example under correction which should not be more humble on my part than wholesome to both of us. With respect, however, to the points on which you have actually censured me, they are not such as humility obliges me to correct, but such as truth compels me partly to acknowledge and partly to defend.