On the Catechising of the Uninstructed - Introductory Notice.
Rev. S. D. F. Salmond, D.D.,
Professor of Systematic Theology, Free Church College, Aberdeen.
In the fourteenth chapter of the second book of his Retractations, Augustin makes the following statement: "There is also a book of ours on the subject of the Catechising of the Uninstructed, [or, for Instructing the Unlearned, De Catechizandis Rudibus], that being, indeed, the express title by which it is designated. In this book, where I have said, Neither did the angel, who, in company with other spirits who were his satellites, forsook in pride the obedience of God, and became the devil, do any hurt to God, but to himself; for God knoweth how to dispose of souls that leave Him:' it would be more appropriate to say, spirits that leave Him,' inasmuch as the question dealt with angels. This book commences in these terms: You have requested me, brother Deogratias.' "
The composition so described in the passage cited is reviewed by Augustin in connection with other works which he had in hand about the year 400 A.D., and may therefore be taken to belong to that date. It has been conjectured that the person to whom it is addressed may perhaps be the same with the presbyter Deogratias, to whom, as we read in the epistle which now ranks as the hundred and second, Augustin wrote about the year 406, in reply to some questions of the pagans which were forwarded to him from Carthage.
The Benedictine editors introduce the treatise in the following terms: "At the request of a deacon of Carthage, Augustin undertakes the task of teaching the art of catechising; and in the first place, he gives certain injunctions, to the effect that this kind of duty may be discharged not only in a settled method and an apt order, but also without tediousness, and in a spirit of cheerfulness. Thereafter reducing his injunctions to practical use, he gives an example of what he means by delivering two set discourses, presenting parallels to each other, the one being somewhat lengthened and the other very brief, but both suitable for the instruction of any individual whose desire is to be a Christian."
[This treatise shows what was thought in the age of Saint Augustin to be the most needful instruction in religion. The Latin text: De Cactechizandis Rudibus, is in the sixth vol. of the Benedictine edition, and in the handy ed. of C. Marriott: S. Augustini Opuscula quaedam, Oxford and London (Parker & Co.) 4th ed. 1885. An earlier and closer English Version by Rev. C. L. Cornish, M. A., of Exeter College, Oxford, appeared in the Oxford "Library of the Fathers" (1847, pp. 187 sqq.,) under the title On Instructing the Unlearned. H. De Romestin reproduces the Oxford translation in the English version of Marriott's ed. of five treatises of St. Augustin, Oxford and London, 1885, pp. 1-71.--P.S.]