Saturday, August 31, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 2 Chronicles 5 and Augustine's Treatise on the Profit of Believing 13

2 Chronicles 5 – The work is finished. Solomon brings in the things his father had dedicated—the stores of silver and gold, etc. The elders, and heads of the tribes, ancestral houses come to bring up the Ark out of the city of David to the new Temple. The number of sheep and oxen sacrifices cannot be numbered. The Ark is placed “underneath the wings of the cherubim” (5:7).

“There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets that Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel after they came out of Egypt” (5:10). The levitical singers with one hundred priests who were trumpeters stand east of the altar to make themselves heard praising the Lord. The house of the Lord was “filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (5:13-14).

Augustine (354-439)
On the Profit or Benefit of Believing
13 - I call to witness, Honoratus, my conscience, and God Who has His dwelling in pure souls, that I account nothing more prudent, chaste, and religious, than are all those Scriptures, which under the name of the Old Testament the Catholic Church retains. You wonder at this, I am aware. For I cannot hide that we were far otherwise persuaded. But there is indeed nothing more full of rashness, (which at that time, being boys, we had in us,) than in the case of each several book, to desert expounders, who profess that they hold them, and that they can deliver them to their scholars, and to seek their meaning from those, who, I know not from what cause compelling, have proclaimed a most bitter war against the framers and authors of them. He cannot understand why the Manichees are so opposed to the Old Testament writings or why two people out to try to understand them would look to those who are hostile to them. First at least hear them defended and explained by those who see them as a benefit to mankind.

For who ever thought that the hidden and dark books of Aristotle were to be expounded to him by one who was the enemy of Aristotle; to speak of these systems of teaching, wherein a reader may perhaps err without sacrilege?

Who, in fine, willed to read or learn the geometrical writings of Archimedes, under Epicurus as a master; against which Epicurus used to argue with great obstinacy, so far as I judge, understanding them not at all?

What are those Scriptures of the law most plain, against which, as though set forth in public, these men make their attack in vain and to no purpose? And they seem to me to be like that weak woman, whom these same men are wont to mock at, who enraged at the sun being extolled to her, and recommended as an object of worship by a certain female Manichee, being as she was simple-minded and of a religions spirit, leaped up in haste, and often striking with her foot that spot on which the sun through the window cast light, began to cry out, Lo, I trample on the sun and your God: altogether after a foolish and womanish manner; Who denies it? He’s giving in to the discriminatory thinking of his time here – linking impulsive foolishness with women, kind of silly considering that the errors and foolishness he’s fundamentally criticizing here are the work of men mostly.

But do not those men seem to you to be such, who, in matters which they understand not, either wherefore, or altogether of what kind they are, although like to matters cast in the way, yet to such as understand them exact and divine, rending them with great onset of speech and reproaches, think that they are effecting something, because the unlearned applaud them? Just because some people who know nothing of the Old Testament writings are persuaded impulsively to reject them doesn’t mean they should be rejected. Believe me, whatever there is in these Scriptures, it is lofty and divine: there is in them altogether truth, and a system of teaching most suited to refresh and renew minds: and clearly so ordered in measure, as that there is no one but may draw thence, what is enough for himself, if only he approach to draw with devotion and piety, as true religion demands.

To prove this to you, needs many reasons and a longer discourse. For first I must so treat with you as that you may not hate the authors themselves; next, so as that you may love them: and this I must treat in any other way, rather than by expounding their meanings and words. For this reason, because in case we hated Virgil, nay, rather in case we loved him not, before understanding him, by the commendation of our forefathers, we should never be satisfied on those questions about him without number, by which grammarians are wont to be disquieted and troubled; nor should we listen willingly to one who solved these at the same time praising him; but should favor that one who by means of these essayed to show that he had erred and doated. But now, whereas many essay to open these, and each (in a different way according to his capacity, we applaud these in preference, through whose exposition the poet is found better, who is believed, even by those who do not understand him, not only in nothing to have offended, but also to have sung nothing but what was worthy of praise.

So that in some minute question, we are rather angry with the master who fails, and has not what to answer, than think him silent through any fault in Maro. And now, if, in order to defend himself, he should wish to assert a fault in so great an author, hardly will his scholars remain with him, even after they have paid his fee. How great matter were it, that we should show like good will towards them, of whom it has been confirmed by so long time of old that the Holy Spirit spoke by them? But, forsooth, we youths of the greatest understanding, and marvellous searchers out of reasons, without having at least unrolled these writings, without having sought teachers, without having somewhat chided our own dullness, lastly, without having yielded our heart even in a measure to those who have willed that writings of this kind be so long read, kept, and handled through the whole world; have thought that nothing in them is to be believed, moved by the speech of those who are unfriendly and hostile to them, with whom, under a false promise of reason, we should be compelled to believe and cherish thousands of fables.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 2 Chronicles 3-4 and Augustine's Treatise on the Profit of Believing 12

2 Chronicles 3 – The building is located at the place David designated, “on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite” (3:1) on Mt. Moriah. It is started on the 2nd day of the 2nd month [mid-spring] of the 4th year of his reign. The measurements are all given in “cubits of the old standard”—60 by 20 [90 feet long and 30 feet wide]. The vestibule 20 cubits long and 120 cubits high.

It is overlaid with pure gold. The nave [main room] is lined with cypress and covered with fine gold.  The house is adorned with precious stones. Cherubim are carved on the walls. “The total wingspan of the two cherubim standing side by side was 30 feet. One wing of the first figure was 7 and ½ feet long, and it touched the Temple wall” (3:10-11).

The curtains are made of blue and purple and crimson fabric and fine linen with cherubim worked (embroidered) in (3:14).  In front of the Temple there are two pillars 27 feet high with a capital of 7.5 feet on top. Chains are set on top of the pillars and pomegranates are on the chains.  The pillars—one to the right and one to the left of the temple are named Jakin and Boaz.

2 Chronicles 4 – The altar is made of bronze—30 feet long, 30 feet wide and 15 feet high (4:1).  “Then he cast a great round basin, 15 feet across from rim to rim, called the Sea. It was 7 ½ feet deep and about 45 feet in circumference. It was encircled just below its rim by two rows of figures that resembled oxen”(4:2-3). It is encircled with panels and stands on 12 oxen, three facing north, three south, etc. Their faces face outward. There are ten basins to wash in, five on each side and ten tables.  The doors to the court of the priests are overlaid with bronze. The Sea is at the southeast corner of the house.

Huram-abi also makes pots, shovels and basins. Solomon makes all the things that were in the temple—the golden altar, tables for the bread of the Presence (4:19) lampstands, lamps of gold, flowers, lamps, tongs, snuffers, basins, ladles, and firepans. The doors to the holy of holies and the doors of the nave of the temple were also of gold.

Augustine (354-439)
On the Profit or Benefit of Believing
12 - Wherefore I would that they would tell me, in what kind they place the, supposed, error of the Catholic Church. If in the first [some falsity that the reader is supposed to believe is true even though the writer knew it was not true], it is altogether a grave charge; but it needs not a far-fetched defense: for it is enough to deny that we so understand, as the persons, who inveigh against us, suppose [it is enough or an adequate defense if we say we do not accept the falsity as truth]. If in the second [when both writer and reader accept something as truth that is not true], the charge is not less grave but they shall be refuted by the same saying [that the interpretation put forward is simply not true and can be shown to be not true]. If in the third, it is no charge at all [because no harm comes from the falsity – it is interpreted in a way that makes the end of it all not a problem].

Proceed, and next consider the Scriptures themselves. For what objection do they raise against the books of (what is called) the Old Testament? Is it that they are good, but are understood by us in an ill [incorrect] sense? But they themselves do not receive them. Or is it that they are neither good, nor are well understood? But our defense above is enough to drive them from this position. Or is it this that they will say, although they are understood by you in a good sense, yet they are evil? What is this other than to acquit living adversaries, with whom they have to do, and to accuse men long ago dead, with whom they have no strife?

I indeed believe that both those men profitably delivered to memory all things, and that they were great and divine. And that that Law was published, and framed by the command and will of God: and of this, although I have but very slight knowledge of books of that kind, yet I can easily persuade any, if there apply to me a mind fair and no way obstinate: and this I will do, when you shall grant to me your ears and mind well disposed: this however when it shall be in my power: but now is it not enough for me, however that matter may stand, not to have been deceived?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 2 Chronicles 1-2 and Augustine's Treatise on the Profit of Believing 11

So yesterday, we finished with the July readings I added to the last month of posts so that we could catch up to the readings we are on for the rest of the year. We are back on the scheduled readings.

2 Chronicles 1 – Solomon summons the people or at least the leaders—commanders, judges, heads of families (1:2), and takes them to the “high place” at Gibeon. On the bronze altar that Bezalel had made there for it, Solomon offers a thousand burnt offerings. It is following this, at night that God appears to Solomon and tells him to ask for a gift God can give him.  Solomon says, “Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can rule this great people of yours?” (1:10)

And God responds “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked for long life, . . .wisdom and knowledge are granted to you” (1:12).

But Solomon also has great power—1,400 chariots (each worth 600 shekels of silver), 12,000 horses at 150 shekels each from Egypt and Kue); silver and gold was made “as common in Jerusalem as stone” (1:15) and cedar was plentiful as well.
2 Chronicles 2 - Here in Chronicles, it is Solomon who “decides” to build a temple along with a royal palace for himself (2:1). He conscripts 70,000 laborers and 80,000 stonecutters with 3,600 overseers. King Huram [Hiram in the New Living Translation] of Tyre helps Solomon as he previously helped David. There is an echo of the reservation David had to deal with in the following passage: “But who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him” Who am I to build a house for him, except as a place to make offerings before him?” (2:6) He asks Huram for an artisan who can work in gold, silver, bronze, and iron, in purple, crimson, and blue fabrics and in engraving.  He also asks for cedar, cypress and algum timber from Lebanon.  He, Solomon, will provide them with food and wine and oil (2:10).
In response Huram sends Huram-abi, son of a Danite woman and a Tyrian father. The timber will be sent by raft to Joppa, from whence it will be carted to Jerusalem (2:16).
Solomon takes a census of the aliens in Israel:153,600 - 70,000 laborers, 80,000 stonecutters, and 3,600 overseers. It seems as if these are men sent, not just men already there who are made to do this work.  But it isn’t clear.

Augustine (354-439)
On the Profit or Benefit of Believing
11 - And, this being so, hear also just so many conditions and differences of the same Scriptures. For it must be that just so many meet us. For either any one [someone] has written profitably accurately/wisely], and is not profitably understood by someone [another]: or both take place unprofitably: or the reader understands profitably, whereas he, who is read, has written contrariwise. When Augustine uses this word in Latin, and it is translated “profitably” or “unprofitably” it is confusing. He seems to be combining TWO meanings in the word: one, that it is accurate or correct or truth as God wants us to know it AND it also carries the meaning “for our benefit” or “not to our benefit.”

Of these the first I blame not [when the reader simply doesn’t understand what the author meant], the last I regard not [where the reader extracts something good from the writing but the writer didn’t actually mean what the reader thinks he did]. For neither can I blame the man [author], who without any fault of his own has been ill understood; nor can I be distressed at any one being read, who has failed to see the truth, when I see that the readers are no way injured.

There is then one kind most approved, and as it were most cleansed, when both the things written are well [good/accurate], and are taken in a good sense by the readers. And yet that also is still further divided into two: for it does not altogether shut out error. For it generally comes to pass, that, when a writer has held a good sense, the reader also holds a good sense; still other than he, and often better, often worse, yet profitably.

But when both we hold the same sense as he whom we read, and that is every way suited to right conduct of life, there is the fullest possible measure of truth, and there is no place opened for error from any other quarter. And this kind is altogether very rare, when what we read is matter of extreme obscurity: nor can it, in my opinion, be clearly known, but only believed. For by what proofs shall I so gather the will of a man who is absent or dead, as that I can swear to it: when, even if he were questioned being present, there might be many things, which, if he were no ill man, he would most carefully hide? But I think that it has nothing to do towards learning the matter of fact, of what character the writer was; yet is he most fairly believed good, whose writings have benefited the human race and posterity.

This has nothing to do with the content of what Augustine is saying here, but I read yesterday a good piece that explains the “common core” approach to evaluating student’s readiness for college. They are hoping to push schools to revving up students’ grasp of complex readings: readings with multiple layers of meaning, readings with more complex vocabulary and sentence structure. I feel challenged in these areas with Augustine every day – maybe he should be in the curriculum!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 1 Chronicles 27-29, Ecclesiastes 10-12 and Augustine's Treatise on the Profit of Believing 10

1 Chronicles 27 – A list of the people, heads of families, commanders of thousands, hundreds and officers—divisions numbered 24,000. Each one is assigned a month. Names that pop out are Banaiah, son of priest Jehoiada, commander of the third month’s division. He was commander of the Thirty. Asahel, Joab’s brother was in charge of the 4th.

Leaders of the tribes are named: Eliezer—Reubenites; Shephatiah—Simeonites; Hashabiah—Levites; Zadok for Aaron; Elihu (a brother of David)—Judah; Omri—Issachar; Ishmaiah—Zebulun; Jerimoth—Naphtali; Hoshea—Ephraimites; Joel—Half-tribe of Manasseh; Iddo—Half-tribe in Gilead; Jaasiel—Benjamin; Azarel—Dan. They are not fully counted because Joab refused (27:23).

Those in charge of the king’s treasuries in the country, in the cities, in the villages and in the towers; those in charge of the farming, the vineyard, the care of the grapes and wine cellars, olive and sycamore trees, over the stores of oil and the herds, over the camels and flocks—all these stewards are named.

Other big names in his administration: Jonathan (his uncle)—counselor; Jehiel—attended king’s sons; Ahithophel, then Jehoiada and Abiathar—counselors; Haushai—king’s friend; Joab—commander of the army.

1 Chronicles 28 David assembles everyone and talks about the planned Temple: The reason David cannot build it is because God told him, “You shall not build a house for my name, for you are a warrior and have shed blood” (28:3). Solomon shall build it. His charge to Solomon is as follows: “know the God of you father, and serve him with single mind and willing heart for the Lord searches every mind, and understands every plan and thought.  If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will abandon you forever” (28:9). He gives Solomon the detailed plan and all the supplies.

1 Chronicles 29 – All the provision, which David had made for the coming reign of his son is reviewed. The leaders and people make their own offerings. Then David says the following: “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to make this freewill offering? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.  For we are aliens and transients before you, as were all our ancestors; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope. O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from you hand and is all your own.  I know, my God, that you search the heart, and take pleasure in uprightness; in the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people , . . keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you” (29:14-18).

The next day they offer sacrifices – huge sacrifices: 1,000 bulls, 1,000 rams, and 1,000 lambs “and they ate and drank before the Lord on that day with great joy” (29:22). David’s son Solomon is re-consecrated. Zadok is made priest.  These acts of David come from the written records of Samuel, the seer; Nathan, the prophet and Gad, the seer.

Ecclesiastes 10 – A lot of unrelated sayings – not very meaningful

Ecclesiastes 11 – “[D]ivied your investments among many places, for you do not know what risks might lie ahead” (11:2). This sounds like pretty modern thinking!

“Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things” (11:5).

“Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning. When people live to be very old, let them rejoice in every day of life. But let them also remember there will be many dark days. Everything still to come is meaningless” (11:7-8).

“Rejoice in your youth, you who are young; let your heart give you joy in your young days” (11:9).

Ecclesiastes 12 – Remember your creator in the days of your youth. “To sum up the whole matter: fear God, and keep his commandments, since this is the whole duty of man. For God will call all hidden deeds, good or bad, to judgment” (12:13-14).

Augustine (354-439)
On the Profit or Benefit of Believing
10 - But, passing over in the meanwhile the depth of knowledge, to deal with you as I think I ought to deal with my intimate friend; that is, as I have myself power, not as I have wondered at the power of very learned men; there are three kinds of error, whereby men err, when they read anything. I will speak of them one by one.

The first kind is, wherein that which is false is thought true, whereas the writer thought otherwise.

A second kind, although not so extensive, yet not less hurtful, when that, which is false is thought true, yet the thought is the same as that of the writer.

A third kind, when from the writing of another some truth is understood, whereas the writer understood it not. In which kind there is no little profit, rather, if you consider carefully, the whole entire fruit of reading.

An instance of the first kind is, as if any one, for example, should say and believe that Rhadamanthus hears and judges the causes of the dead in the realms below, because he has so read in the strain of Maro. For this one errs in two ways: both in that he believes a thing not to be believed, and also in that he, whom he reads, is not to be thought to have believed it. I think he’s referring to stories created by authors but not “believed in” by them like the story of Rhadamanthus, judge of the underworld.

The second kind may be thus noticed: if one, because Lucretius writes that the soul is formed of atoms, and that after death it is dissolved into the same atoms and perishes, were to think this to be true and what he ought to believe. For this one also is not less wretched, if, in a matter of so great moment, he has persuaded himself of that which is false, as certain; although Lucretius, by whose books he has been deceived, held this opinion. For what does it profit this one to be assured of the meaning of the author, whereas he has chosen him to himself not so as through him to escape error, but so as with him to err. Here he is saying that while Lucretius believed that everything – man included – was made of material atoms and would eventually return to that in a simpler state. Augustine believes that this is false though the author definitely believed it to be true. Many moderns would say that Augustine has done just this, persuaded himself erroneously to believe that the soul of man is eternal and will never die.

An instance suited to the third kind is, if one, after having read in the books of Epicurus some place wherein he praises continence, were to assert that he had made the chief good to consist in virtue, and that therefore he is not to be blamed. For how is this man injured by the error of Epicurus, what though Epicurus believe that bodily pleasure is the chief good of man: whereas he has not surrendered up himself to so base and hurtful an opinion, and is pleased with Epicurus for no other reason, than that he thinks him not to have held sentiments which ought not to be held. This error is not only natural to man, but often also most worthy of a man. The person “interpreting” Epicurus here, and telling others of him, is clearly mistaken in Augustine’s eyes; Epicurus did not teach that virtue was the chief good but rather that man should live according to his pleasures. But Augustine is trying to find an example of people using literature or philosophy that they really didn’t understand as the author meant it to be understood, but who did this in a sincere way that actually brought some good to them.

For what, if word were brought to me, concerning some one whom I loved, that, when now he was of bearded age, he had said, in the hearing of many, that he was so pleased with boyhood and childhood, as even to swear that he wished to live after the same fashion, and that that was so proved to me, as that I should be shameless to deny it: I should not, should I, seem worthy of blame, if I thought that, in saying this, he wished to show, that he was pleased with the innocence, and with the temper of mind alien from those desires in which the race of man is wrapped up, and from this circumstance should love him yet more and more, than I used to love him before; although perhaps he had been foolish enough to love in the age of children a certain freedom in play and food, and an idle ease?

For suppose that he had died after this report had reached me, and that I had been unable to make any inquiry of him, so as for him to open his meaning; would there be any one so shameless as to be angry with me, for praising the man's purpose and wish, through those very words which I had heard? What, that even a just judge of matters would not hesitate perhaps to praise my sentiment and wish, in that both I was pleased with innocence, and, as man of man, in a matter of doubt, preferred to think well, when it was in my power also to think ill?

So, if you read the Old Testament, and get good from it even though you do not know exactly how to interpret it, it is harmless, provided it does not lead you into sin.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 1 Chronicles 23-26, Ecclesiastes 8-9 and Augustine's Treatise on the Profit of Believing 9

1 Chronicles 23 – David makes Solomon king over Israel. He assembles all the leaders, priests and Levites.  There were 38,000 Levites over 30 years old of whom 24,000 are given charge over the work in the house of the Lord, 6,000 are made officers and judges, 4,000 gatekeepers and 4,000 musicians to offer praise to God with instruments.  They are organized by division corresponding to the sons of Levi—Gershon, Kohath and Merari.  They are named. Moses and Aaron are descendent from Kohath through his son Amram.

1 Chronicles 24 – The divisions of Aaron’s descendants are reviewed. Of Aaron’s four sons, two—Nadab and Abihu—die without children. Eleazar and Ithamar live. Zadok is Eleazar’s son. Ahimelech is Ithamar’s son. They are organized by lots.

The story of Aaron shows him to be a man not of the spirit but of a “pandering” kind of religiosity. There is little respect for him.

1 Chronicles 25 – David’s organization of those who are set apart for the service of prophesying with lyres, harps and cymbals (sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun).  Familiar names are Uzziel, Hananiah, Hanani, sons of Heman, the king’s seer.

1 Chronicles 26 – Divisions of the gatekeepers. The man Obed-edom is among them, the man in whose house the ark rested for three months on its way back to Jerusalem.  They are divided according to which gate they will be keepers of—north, south, east or west. They are also in charge of the treasuries of the house of the Lord, treasuries that arise out of dedicated gifts and booty dedicated by army generals.  The gifts of Samuel, Saul, Abner and Joab are mentioned.

Ecclesiastes 8 – “How wonderful to be wise, to analyze and interpret things” (8:1). Seems a little pride-full, but it is a temptation to feel this. 

“I have thought deeply about all that goes on here under the sun, where people have the power to hurt each other. I have seen wicked people buried with honor . . . This, too, is meaningless. When a crime is not punished quickly, people feel it is safe to do wrong” (8:10-11).

“I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun” (8:15).

“In my search for wisdom and in my observation of people’s burdens here on earth, I discovered that there is ceaseless activity, day and night. I realized that no one can discover everything God is doing under the sun. Not even the wisest people discover everything, no matter what they claim” (8:16-17).

Ecclesiastes 9 – “It seems so tragic that everyone under the sun suffers the same fate. That is why people are not more careful to be good. Instead, they choose their own mad course, for they have no hope. There is nothing ahead but death anyway” (9:3).

Accept the lot you have been given. And whatever work you think you want to do, get it done before you die because nothing is accomplished in Sheol. The “race does not go to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; there is no bread for the wise, wealth for the intelligent, nor favor for the learned; all are subject to time and mischance” (9:11).

The wise and powerless sometimes accomplish more than strength can.

Augustine (354-439)
On the Profit or Benefit of Believing
9 - Here therefore these men too evil, while they essay [try] to make void the Law, force us to approve these Scriptures. He is speaking of the “Christian” Manichaeans here. For they mark what is said, that they who are under the Law are in bondage, and they keep flying above the rest that last saying, "You are made empty of Christ, as many of you as are justified in the Law; you have fallen from Grace."

We grant that all these things are true, and we say that the Law is not necessary, save for them unto whom bondage is yet profitable: and that the Law was on this account profitably enacted, in that men, who could not be recalled from sins by reason, needed to be restrained by such a Law, that is to say, by the threats and terrors of those punishments which can be seen by fools: from which when the Grace of Christ sets us free, it condemns not that Law, but invites us at length to yield obedience to its love, not to be slaves to the fear of the Law. Itself is Grace, that is free gift, which they understand not to have come to them from God, who still desire to be under the bonds of the Law. Whom Paul deservedly rebukes as unbelievers, because they do not believe that now through our Lord Jesus they have been set free from that bondage, under which they were placed for a certain time by the most just appointment of God.

Hence is that saying of the same Apostle, "For the Law was our schoolmaster in Christ." He therefore gave to men a schoolmaster to fear, Who after gave a Master to love. And yet in these precepts and commands of the Law, which now it is not allowed Christians to use, such as either the Sabbath, or Circumcision, or Sacrifices, and if there be any thing of this kind, so great mysteries are contained, as that every pious person may understand, there is nothing more deadly than that whatever is there be understood to the letter, that is, to the word: and nothing more healthful than that it be unveiled in the Spirit. Hence it is: "The letter kills, but the Spirit quickens."

Hence it is, "That same veil remains in the reading of the Old Testament, which veil is not taken away; since it is made void in Christ." For there is made void in Christ, not the Old Testament, but its veil: that so through Christ that may be understood, and, as it were, laid bare, which without Christ is obscure and covered. Forasmuch as the same Apostle straightway adds, "But when you shall have passed over to Christ, the veil shall be taken away." For he says not, the Law shall be taken away, or, the Old Testament. Not therefore through the Grace of the Lord, as though useless things were there hidden, have they been taken away; but rather the covering whereby useful things were covered.

In this manner all they are dealt with, who earnestly and piously, not disorderly and shamelessly, seek the sense of those Scriptures, and they are carefully shown both the order of events, and the causes of deeds and words, and so great agreement of the Old Testament with the New, that there is left no jot that agrees not; and so great secrets of figures, that all the things that are drawn forth by interpretation force them to confess that they are wretched, who will to condemn these before they learn them.

The Old Testament is not to be condemned; it is to interpreted and understood through the grace offered in Christ. To understand the road we came and the “figures” of the narrative help to deepen our understanding of Christ. The Law is fulfilled not made void.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 1 Chronicles 21-22, Ecclesiastes 6-7 and Augustine's Treatise on the Profit of Believing 8

1 Chronicles 21 – Satan, it says, inspires David to take a census. Joab tries to warn him that it will bring guilt on Israel, but the king insists. Joab comes back with a number of 1,100,000 of military age and readiness in Israel and 470,000 in Judah. Even in David’s reign they were conceived of as separate segments; either this or the writing of Chronicles comes after the division of the two kingdoms. But Joab does not complete the count in Levi and Benjamin’s territories “for the king’s command was abhorrent to Joab” (21:6). Sure enough, the Lord strikes Israel. 

David repents and the Lord gives him a choice of three punishments: three years of famine, three months of military devastation, or three months of devastation by pestilence. David says, “I am in great distress; let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is very great; but let me not fall into human hands” (21:13). So the Lord sends pestilence and 70,000 die.

The Lord contemplates the destruction of Jerusalem but then recalls his angel.  In the moment of his relenting, the angel is by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. “David looked up and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell on their faces, And David said to God, ‘Was it not I who gave the command to count the people? It is I who have sinned and done very wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? Let your hand, I pray, O Lord my God; be against me and against my father’s house; but do not let your people be plagued!’” (21:15-17)
The angel commands that David set up an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor. David offers to buy the site. Ornan offers everything to David, but David pays full price and then presents the oxen for burnt offerings, the threshing sledges for wood and the wheat for a grain offering. The Lord commands the angel to put the sword back into its sheath.  Art the time the Lord’s tabernacle was in the high place at Gibeon, but David feared to go before it “for he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the Lord” (21:30). So he establishes a new house for the Lord and his altar.

1 Chronicles 22 – David intends to have the temple built at this spot.  All the preparations are made—materials are gathered: stones, iron for nails, bronze, cedar logs. He worries that his son will not have the experience to carry out the task as it should be done. He charges Solomon with the task and tells him he himself could not do it because the Lords word revealed to him that he had “shed much blood and . . .waged great wars” (22:8), so he cannot build the house. The Lord’s word says, “See, a son shall be born to you; he shall be a man of peace.  I will give him peace from all his enemies on every side; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days.  He shall build a house for my name.  He shall be a son to me, and I will be a father to him, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever” (22:9-10).

The words here are very messianic in flavor. They exceed the mere wish of a father for the success of his son. It is David who wishes wisdom for Solomon in this text. It seems that all the achievements of Solomon are to be attributed to David—he has decided on the building of the Temple; he has assembled the materials; he has prayed that his son will have wisdom. He orders all the leaders of Israel to help his son.

The great work God gives us too is the building up of His Kingdom – that Temple on earth were man lives the life God intended for him from the beginning and for it we need tons of wisdom, tons of human experience from which to draw the mortar, and many, many tons of faith. It will not be the work of one generation, but the total offering of all who have ever strived for it with God’s help.

Ecclesiastes 6 – “There is another serious tragedy I have seen under the sun, and it weighs heavily on humanity. God gives some people great wealth and honor and everything they could ever wants, but then he doesn’t give them the chance to enjoy these things. They die, and someone else, even a stranger, ends up enjoying their wealth. This is meaningless—a sickening tragedy” (6:1-3).

Often the “good things” we have in life are undercut in some way. Leaving us without contentment or a sense of meaning. No one ever seems to have “enough.”

And he says that everything is just destiny. “in the few days of our meaningless lives, who knows how our days can best be spent? Our lives are like a shadow. Who can tell what will happen on this earth after we are gone?” (6:12)

Ecclesiastes 7 – “A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume. And the day you die is better than the day you are born” (7:1).

“Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time” (7:3-4).

“Don’t long for ‘the good old days.’ This is not wise. Wisdom is even better when you have money. Both are a benefit as you go through life. Wisdom and money can get you almost anything, but only wisdom can save your life” (7:10-11).

“Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life” (7:14).

“Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” (7:20).

Wisdom is good because it gives us protection. Still, in many ways, wisdom is “beyond [our] reach. Reality lies beyond [our] grasp; and deep, so deep, who can discover it?” (Jerusalem Bible 7:24-25).

Augustine (354-439)
On the Profit or Benefit of Believing
8 - For that both history of the Old Testament, and ætiology, and analogy are found in the New Testament, has been, as I think, sufficiently proved: it remains to show this of allegory.

Our Redeemer Himself in the Gospel uses allegory out of the Old Testament. "This generation," says He, "seeks a sign, and there shall not be given it save the sign of Jonas the prophet. For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so also shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

For why should I speak of the Apostle Paul, who in his first Epistle to the Corinthians shows that even the very history of the Exodus was an allegory of the future Christian People. "But I would not that you should be ignorant, brethren, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and were all baptized into Moses, in the cloud, and in the sea, and did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of the spiritual Rock that followed with them; and that Rock was Christ. But in the more part of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. But these things were figures of us, that we be not lustful of evil things, as they also lusted. Neither let us worship idols, as certain of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as certain of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand men. Neither let us tempt Christ, as certain of them tempted, and perished of serpents. Neither murmur we, as certain of them murmured, and perished of the destroyer. But all these things happened unto them in a figure. But they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world have come.

Now, it is interesting that that “end of the world” that the earliest Christians talked about – because Christ talked about it in Mark 13 – now has to be seen somewhat figuratively as well. Augustine is living more than three hundred years after Christ walked. Maybe when he says that “we” are the ones “upon whom the ends of the world have come” he is still seeing the words as applying to his generation, but I think he may be saying that “the ends of the world” is a spiritual time, a conclusion of the “narrative” begun in the Old Testament and that narrative is mostly one to be received/interpreted spiritually.

There is also in the Apostle [Paul] a certain allegory, which indeed greatly relates to the cause in hand, for this reason that they themselves are wont to bring it forward, and make a display of it in disputing. For the same Paul says to the Galatians, "For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, one of a bond-maid, and one of a free woman. But he who was of the bond-maid was born after the flesh: but he who was of the free woman, by promise: which things were spoken by way of allegory. For these are the two Testaments, one of Mount Sinai gendering unto bondage, which is Agar: for Sinai is a mount in Arabia, which borders upon that Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But that Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all."

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 1 Chronicles 15-20, Ecclesiastes 3-5 and Augustine's Treatise on the Profit of Believing 6-7

1 Chronicles 15 – David builds a palace in the city, and a place for the ark, “a special tent” (15:1). He commands that only the Levites shall carry the ark in the future. He thinks this is why they had trouble the first time. Then he assembles the people to bring the ark up to Jerusalem. All the descendants of Aaron and the Levites are assembled. David also gets the Levite chiefs to appoint musicians to accompany the Ark. Kenaniah is the Levite leader of musicians “for he understood it” (15:22).

They bring the Ark up from the home of Obed-edom with rejoicing. Then they sacrifice seven bulls and seven rams. 

The Chronicler ends with the same allusion as in Samuel—“As the ark of the covenant of the Lord came to the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing; and she despised him in her heart” (15:29).

1 Chronicles 16 – David concludes the festivities by sending to each man and woman in Israel a loaf of bread, a portion of meat and a cake of raisins. Certain Levites are put in charge of the Ark.

“On that day David gave to Asaph and his fellow Levites this song of thanksgiving to the Lord: Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done” (16:7-8).

“He is the Lord our God. His justice is seen throughout the land. Remember his covenant forever – the commitment he made to a thousand generations. This is the covenant he made with Abraham and the oath he swore to Isaac He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, and to the people of Israel as a never-ending covenant: ‘I will give you the land of Canaan as your special possession.’ He said this when you were few in number, a tiny group of strangers in Canaan. They wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another. Yet he did not let anyone oppress them. He warned kings on their behalf: ‘Do not touch my chosen people, and do not hurt my prophets.’ Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!” (16:14-23). The hymn of praise goes on for another ten verses or so. And all the people said, “Amen!” (16:36)

Then they all departed to their homes.

1 Chronicles 17 – David frets to the prophet Nathan that he is living in a beautiful house of cedar, but that the Lord’s Ark is housed in a tent. Nathan encourages him at first, but that night “the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: You shall not build me a house to live in.  For I have not lived in a house since the day I brought out Israel to this very day, but I have lived in a tent and a tabernacle” (17:5)


The Lord never asked the judges to build him a house. “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people Israel; and I have been with you and I have destroyed all your enemies before your eyes. Now I will make your name as famous as anyone who has ever lived on the earth! And I will provide a homeland for my people Israel, planting them in a secure place where they will never be disturbed . . . Furthermore, I declare that the Lord will build a house for you—a dynasty of kings! For when you die and join your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, one of your sons, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for me. And I will secure his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my favor from him as I took it from the one who ruled before you. I will confirm him as king over my house and my kingdom for all time, and his throne will be secure forever.’” (17:7-14).

1 Chronicles 18 – David battles the Philistines again and takes Gath.  He defeats Moab. He strikes down King Hadadezer of Zobah on his way to set up a monument on the Euphrates, taking from him a thousand chariots, 7000 cavalry and 20,000 foot soldiers. He “cripples all the chariot horses except enough for 100 chariots” (18:4).

The Arameans of Damascus come to help Hadadezer, but David kills 22,000 of them. They are made subject to David. From this king’s cities, he took bronze with which Solomon would make the bronze sea and pillars and vessels of bronze for the Temple. King Tou of Hamath sends his son Hadoram to David to congratulate him for his victory and sends gold. This too David dedicates to the Lord along with silver and gold from Edom, Moab, Ammon, Philistia and Amalek.

1 Chronicles 19 – When king Nahash of the Ammonites dies, David wants to deal in a friendly way with his son Hanun. He sends messengers to console him for his father’s death, but Hanun’s men convince Hanun that David is up to no good. So Hanun seizes the messengers and disgraces them (shaving them, cutting off part of their clothes and sends them back.

David is furious. The Ammonites gather a large army (also of Arameans) and David sends Joab against them. Joab is sent against the Arameans. His brother Abishai stands to meet the Ammonites. When the Ammonites see the Arameans flee before Joab, they also flee. The go and get reinforced and return. The Arameans get fellow Arameans from beyond the Euphrates to come to their aid, but David defeats them. They all end up paying tribute to David.

1 Chronicles 20 – In spring when kings go out to battle, Joab goes out and ravages the country of the Ammonites, then comes and besieges Rabbah. David remains in Jerusalem. It tells of David’s defeat of Milcom and his taking the gold crown and about his taking the men of the city to do work for him. Then there is war with the Philistines at Gezer. A number of the Philistine men are said to be descended from a race of giants.  A man named Goliath the Gittite is mentioned as one. They are defeated by David and his brother Jonathan son of Shimea.

Ecclesiastes 3 – These most famous words:
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:
         A time to be born,
         A time to die,
         A time to plant,
         A time to reap,
         A time to kill,
         A time to heal,
         A time to destroy,
         A time to build,
         A time for tears,
         A time for laughter,
         A time to mourn,
         A time to dance,
         A time for throwing stones away,
         A time for gathering them up,
         A time for embracing,
         A time to refrain from embracing,
         A time for searching,
         A time for losing,
         A time for keeping,
         A time for throwing away,
         A time for tearing,
         A time for sewing,
         A time for keeping silent,
         A time for speaking,
         A time for loving,
         A time for hating,
         A time for war,
         A time for peace (3:2-8).

The writer spends a good deal of time thinking about the value of our labor. The things we work for have purpose in a limited span of time, but in the grand scheme, “though He [God] has permitted man to consider time in its wholeness, man cannot comprehend the work of God from beginning to end” (3:11).

When we find happiness in the small things that give us pleasure, “this is a gift from God” (3:13). God is “consistent” – we see this in the eternal recurrence of things, in their repetition. God does care for the persecuted. The fate of man and beast is identical. We have no advantage over other animals. Both “originate from the dust and to the dust both return” (3:20). We don’t “know” the end of the spirit. There “is no happiness for man but to be happy in his work, for this is the lot assigned him” (3:22).

Ecclesiastes 4 – Contemplating all the oppression that has taken place, he salutes those who have gone before or those who have not yet been born. He also observes that people do better when they are paired, when they have another or two others to work with.

Ecclesiastes 5 – Do not be too bold to speak. But if you declare yourself for God, then discharge your obligations to Him. You need to make sure your words do not bring you guilt.

When the poor are oppressed, officials will always talk of how they are not in charge. Everyone points to the one above him to avoid responsibility. Happiness for man is to eat, drink and be merry with the life he has. If God grants you riches, be thankful.

Augustine (354-439)
On the Profit or Benefit of Believing
6 - All these ways our Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles used. For when it had been objected that His disciples had plucked the ears of grain on the sabbath-day, the instance was taken from history; "Have ye not read," says He, "what David did when he was an hungered, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them that were with him, but only for the priests?" But the instance pertains to ætiology, that, when Christ had forbidden a wife to be put away, save for the cause of fornication, and they, who asked Him, had alleged that Moses had granted permission after a writing of divorcement had been given, This, says He, "Moses did because of the hardness of your heart." Aetiology examines the reason or cause for things that happen. This looks to the cause or reason for the allowance Moses gave on the matter of divorce. Apparently, he would explain that divorce is now out of bounds because our hearts have less excuse for being hardened. For here a reason was given, why that had been well allowed by Moses for a time; that this command of Christ might seem to show that now the times were other. But it were long to explain the changes of these times, and their order arranged and settled by a certain marvellous appointment of Divine Providence.

7 - And further, analogy, whereby the agreement of both Testaments is plainly seen, why shall I say that all have made use of, to whose authority they yield; whereas it is in their power to consider with themselves, how many things they are wont to say have been inserted in the divine Scriptures by certain, I know not who, corrupters of truth? Which speech of theirs I always thought to be most weak, even at the time that I was their hearer: nor I alone, but you also, (for I well remember,) and all of us, who essayed to exercise a little more care in forming a judgment than the crowd of hearers. He seems to be saying here that Horatus and he both never gave much credence to the idea that the Old Testament was corrupted in some mysterious way.

But now, after that many things have been expounded and made clear to me, which used chiefly to move me: those I mean, wherein their discourse for the most part boasts itself, and expatiates the more freely, the more safely it can do so as having no opponent; it seems to me that there is no assertion of theirs more shameless, or (to use a milder phrase) more careless and weak than that the divine Scriptures have been corrupted; whereas there are no copies in existence, in a matter of so recent date, whereby they can prove it. For were they to assert, that they thought not that they ought thoroughly to receive them, because they had been written by persons, who they thought had not written the truth; any how their refusal would be more right, or their error more natural. For this is what they have done in the case of the Book which is inscribed the Acts of the Apostles. And this device of theirs, when I consider with myself, I cannot enough wonder at. For it is not the want of wisdom in the men that I complain of in this matter, but the want of ordinary understanding. For that book has so great matters, which are like what they receive, that it seems to me great folly to refuse to receive this book also, and if any thing offend them there to call it false and inserted. Or, if such language is shameless, as it is why in the Epistles of Paul, why in the four books of the Gospel, do they think that they are of any avail, in which I am not sure but that there are in proportion many more things, than could be in that book, which they will have believed to have been interpolated by falsifiers. But forsooth this is what I believe to be the case, and I ask of you to consider it with me with as calm and serene a judgment as possible. For you know that, essaying to bring the person of their founder Manichæus into the number of the Apostles, they say that the Holy Spirit, Whom the Lord promised His disciples that He would send, has come to us through him. Therefore, were they to receive those Acts of the Apostles, in which the coming of the Holy Spirit is plainly set forth, they could not find how to say that it was interpolated. For they will have it that there were some, I know not who, falsifiers of the divine Books before the times of Manichæus himself; and that they were falsified by persons who wished to combine the Law of the Jews with the Gospel. But this they cannot say concerning the Holy Spirit, unless haply they assert that those persons divined, and set in their books what should be brought forward against Manichæus, who should at some future time arise, and say that the Holy Spirit had been sent through him. But concerning the Holy Spirit we will speak somewhat more plainly in another place. Now let us return to my purpose.

I do find some of this last section very difficult to comprehend. I would say he seems to say that the Book of Acts can be trusted in what it says about the “coming of the Holy Spirit” to the disciples in the Upper Room and that Mani had nothing to do with it, unlike what the Manichaeans teach.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 1 Chronicles 11-12, Song of Songs 6-8 and Augustine's Treatise on the Profit of Believing 4

1 Chronicles 11 –David becomes the king of all of Israel. The elders come to Hebron and David makes a covenant with them. They march to Jerusalem (Jebus), but are told they will not be permitted to come there (11:5). 

David tells his men the one who attacks the Jebusites first will be commander, so Joab, son of David’s sister, Zeruiah, does it. David establishes himself in the city.
David’s warriors include Jashobeam, leader of “the Three—the mightiest warriors among David’s men” (11:11). Eleazar and Shammah [not mentioned here] are the other two. The Three are the ones who take Bethlehem for David and permit him to drink from the well there.  They get him the water, but he pours it out “to the Lord” saying he cannot drink it because these brave warriors got it at the risk of their lives (11:18).
Abishai, Joab’s brother becomes chief of the Thirty. The braves deeds of some of the Thirty are recounted—Benaiah “killed a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen” (11:22), along with a “an Egyptian warrior who was 7 ½ feet tall and whose spear was as thick as a weaver’s beam” (11:23). Benaiah is put in charge of David’s bodyguard. Asahel, another brother of Joab, Elhanan, Shammoth, Helez, Ira, and others are named.

1 Chronicles 12 – Those who came to David at Ziglag to help him in his struggle against Saul were archers and men from Saul’s clan who could “sling stones with their left hand as well as their right” (12:2).

Gadites also join David. “They were expert with both shield and spear, as fierce as lions and as swift as deer on the mountains” (12:8).

Another man is named as chief of the Thirty -- Amasai, not Abisha as in 11:20. Some “men from Manasseh defected from the Israelite army and joined David when he set out with the Philistines to fight against Saul” (12:19). “Day after day more men joined David until he had a great army, like the army of God” (12:22).

The number of divisions from each clan is given: Judah—6,800 troops; Simeonites—7,100; Levites—4,600 (Jehoida, leader of the house of Aaron with 3,700 and Zadok, a young warrior); Benjaminites—3,000 most of whom had remained loyal to Saul up to this time (12:29); Ephramites—20,800; Manassites—18,000; Issacharites, 200 of them “who had understanding of the times, and knew what Israel ought to do” (12:32); Zebulun—50,000; Naphtali—1,000 commanders plus 37,000; Danites—28,600; Asher—40,000; Reubenites, Gadites and half-tribe from Gilead—120,000.

All these came to Hebron to see David crowned king. “They feasted and drank with David for three days” (12:39).

Song of Songs 6 – So where did He go, the Chorus asks again. And the Bride responds that He has gone “down to his garden” (6:2). And she repeats, “I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine. He pastures his flock among the lilies” (6:3). He praises her every feature.

Song of Songs 7 - Again, the Bridegroom compares his Beloved to many lovely things. It is clear that the Beloved in this poem is not just a spouse for there are many wives and concubines permitted to this King. But the Bride here is unique – the love the Bridegroom has for her is special.

I often think about the image of the believer as “Bride” of our Creator/Sustainer/Savior. Certainly there are billions of believers throughout history and so there is a way in which the relationship between God and his Lovers is like a polygamous marriage, but every Bride (male or female) is also so uniquely special to God, that the relationship we have with Him is the very model of what we seek in Monogamy – it is a mystery.

“I am my Beloved’s, and his desire is for me” (7:10).

Song of Songs 8 – “Ah, why are you not my brother, nursed at my mother’s breast!” (8:1) The note seems to say that the disappointment is that the Beloved Bridegroom is still not the Egyptian-style lover, the brother. Is this some kind of yearning for a human-faced God?

Set me like a seal on your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is strong as Death, jealousy relentless as Sheol” (8:5-6).

Augustine (354-439)
On the Profit or Benefit of Believing
4 - For you well know that the Manichees move the unlearned by finding fault with the Catholic Faith, and chiefly by rending in pieces and tearing the Old Testament: and they are utterly ignorant, how far these things are to be taken, and how drawn out they descend with profit into the veins and marrows of souls as yet as it were but able to cry.

Those professing Mani’s teachings take advantage of people who are unschooled by criticizing the Catholic faith by attacking the Old Testament. They do not understand how deep these readings go or understand how they can help those souls who are struggling to find their way to a better place.

And because there are in them certain things which are some slight offense to minds ignorant and careless of themselves, (and there are very many such,) they admit of being accused in a popular way: but defended in a popular way they cannot be, by any great number of persons, by reason of the mysteries that are contained in them.

Just because the OT contains certain things which can be offensive to some who are not well-schooled, they contain mysteries.

But the few, who know how to do this – understand how to interpret the stories -, do not love public and much talked of controversies and disputes: and on this account are very little known, save to such as are most earnest in seeking them out. Concerning then this rashness of the Manichees, whereby they find fault with the Old Testament and the Catholic Faith, listen, I entreat you, to the considerations which move me. But I desire and hope that you will receive them in the same spirit in which I say them. For God, unto Whom are known the secrets of my conscience knows, that in this discourse I am doing nothing of evil craft; but, as I think it should be received, for the sake of proving the truth, for which one thing we have now long ago determined to live; and with incredible anxiety, lest it may have been most easy for me to err with you, but most difficult, to use no harder term, to hold the right way with you.

But I venture to anticipate that, in this hope, wherein I hope that you will hold with us the way of wisdom, He will not fail me, unto Whom I have been consecrated; Whom day and night I endeavor to gaze upon: and since, by reason of my sins, and by reason of past habit, having the eye of the mind wounded by strokes of feeble opinions, I know that I am without strength, I often entreat with tears, and as, after long blindness and darkness the eyes being hardly opened, and as yet, by frequent throbbing and turning away, refusing the light which yet they long after; specially if one endeavor to show to them the very sun; so it has now befallen me, who do not deny that there is a certain unspeakable and singular good of the soul, which the mind sees; and who with tears and groaning confess that I am not yet worthy of it. He will not then fail me, if I feign nothing, if I am led by duty, if I love truth, if I esteem friendship, if I fear much lest you be deceived.

He is just hoping that his friend will receive the reasoning he has come to with respect to these things and understand that he is a man who has consecrated his life to God, and he is hoping his friend will listen.