On marriage and concupiscence
In Two Books, addressed to the count valerius by aurelius augustin, bishop of hippo; written in 419 and 420.
Extract from Augustin's "Retractations,"
Book II. Chap. 53,
On the Following Treatise,
"De nuptiis et concupiscentia."
"I Addressed two books to the Illustrious Count Valerius, upon hearing that the Pelagians had brought sundry vague charges upon us--how, for instance, we condemned marriage by maintaining Original Sin. These books are entitled, On Marriage and Concupiscence. We maintain that marriage is good; and that it must not be supposed that the concupisence of the flesh, or "the law in our members which wars against the law of mind," 1 is a fault of marriage. Conjugal chastity makes a good use of the evil of concupiscence in the procreation of children. My first treatise contained two books. The first of them found its way into the hands of Julianus the Pelagian, who wrote four books in opposition to it. Out of these, somebody extracted sundry passages, and sent them to Count Valerius; he handed them to us, and after I had received them I wrote a second book in answer to these extracts. The first book of this work of mine opens with these words: "Our new heretics, most beloved son Valerius," while the second begins thus: "Amid the cares of your duty as a soldier."
advertisement to the reader on the following treatise.
On revising these two Books, which he addressed to the Count Valerius, Augustin placed them immediately after his reply to the discourse of the Arians, which was affixed to the Proceedings with Emeritus. 2 Now these proceedings are stated to have taken place on the 20th of September, in the year of our Lord 418. 3 There can be no doubt, then, that these subjoined books--or, at any rate, the former of them--were written either at the close of the year 418, or in the beginning of the year 419. For, concerning this first book, Augustin says himself: "This book of mine, however, which he [Julianus] says he answered in four books, I wrote after the condemnation of Pelagius and Coelestius. This," he adds, "I have deemed it right to mention, because he declares that my words had been used by the enemies of the truth to bring it into odium. Let no one, therefore, suppose that it was owing to this book of mine that condemnation had been passed on the new heretics who are enemies of the grace of Christ." 4 From these words one may see at once that this first book was published about the same time as the condemnation of the Pelagians in the year 418.
Soon after its publication it began to be assailed by the Pelagians, who observed that its perusal was producing in the minds of the catholics much odium against their heresy. One of them, Julianus, 5 influenced with a warm desire of furthering the heretical movement, attacked the first book of Augustin's treatise in four books of his own. Out of these, sundry extracts were culled by some interested person, and forwarded to Count Valerius. Valerius despatched them from Ravenna to Rome, to Alypius, 6 in order that he, on returning to Africa, might hand them to Augustin for the purpose of an early refutation, together with a letter in which Valerius thanked Augustin for the previous work which he also mentioned. Augustin saw at once that these extracts had been taken out of the work of Julianus; and, although he preferred reserving his answer to the selections till he had received the entire work from which they were culled, he still thought that he was bound to avoid all delay in satisfying the Count Valerius. Without loss of time, therefore, he drew up in answer his second book, with the same title as before, On Marriage and Concupiscence, which, as we think, must be assigned to the year 420, since the holy doctor wrote it immediately after the expression of thanks for the first book; for it is clearly improbable that Valerius should have waited two years or more to make the acknowledgment of his gratitude.
Moreover, the Valerius whom Augustin dignifies with the title of Illustrious as well as Count, was much employed in public life--not, to be sure, in the forum, but in the field; and from this circumstance we find it difficult to accede to the opinion that supposes him to have been the same person with the Valerius who was Count of the Private Estate in the year 425, Consul in 432, and lastly Master of the Offices under Theodosius the younger in the year 434. These appointments, indeed, had no connection with military service, nor had the prefects of Theodosius anything in common with those of Honorius.
Rom. vii. 23. ↩
The Donatist bishop. ↩
[This work gives an account of the meeting of the catholic bishops at Caesarea on Sept. 20, 418, at which Emeritus was present by invitation. Cf. Smith and Wace, Dict of Christ. Biog. ii. 107.--W.] ↩
Against Two Epistles of the Pelagians, ch. 9. ↩
Bishop of Eclanum in Italy. See below at beginning of Book ii. ↩
The great friend of Augustin. ↩