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“Augustine on The Relation between the Old and the New Testaments”
from De Utilitate Credendi (On The Profit of Believing), 3. 9. Latin text with English translation
Click here to read at earlychurchtexts.com in the original Latin (with dictionary lookup links). The English translation below is from the NPNF series.earlychurchtexts.com
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9. Here therefore these men too evil, while they essay to make void
the Law, force us to approve these Scriptures. 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, “Ye are made empty of Christ, as many of you as are justified
in the Law; ye 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 killeth, but the Spirit quickeneth.” Hence it
is, “That same veil remaineth 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 thou shalt
have passed over to Christ, the veil shall be taken away.” For he saith 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.
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original Latin text
from De Utilitate Credendi, 3.9
Augustine's views about the relation between the Old and the New Testaments.
In Christ the veil of understanding of the Old Testament is removed
Old Testament must be read in the light of the New Testament and in the light of Christ
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