St Augustine of Hippo: Are You Overcoming the Devil?

Feast of St Theodore the Sanctified

Augustine_Square_2.jpgINASMUCH AS God is almighty and good and just and merciful, He made all things good, both great and small, both highest and lowest, both visible things, such as are the heavens and the earth and the sea, and in the heavens the sun and moon and the other heavenly bodies, and in the earth and sea, trees and plants and animals each after its kind, and all bodies celestial or terrestrial, and invisible things such as are the spirits by which bodies are animated and quickened. He made man too in His own image, in order that, as He Himself by His omnipotence holds sway over the whole of creation, so man by his understanding, by which also he comes to know and worships his Creator, might hold sway over all living things of the earth. He also made woman to be his helpmate, not for carnal concupiscence—since at that time before mortality, the penalty of sin, came upon them, they did not have perishable bodies—but that the man also might have glory of the woman when he went before her to God and might offer himself to her as an example for her to follow in holiness and godliness; even as he himself should be the glory of God, in following His wisdom.

And so He placed them in a certain place of perpetual bliss, which Scripture calls Paradise; and gave them a commandment, which if they did not transgress they should ever abide in that bliss of immortality; but if they transgressed it, they should pay the penalties of mortality. Now God foreknew that they would transgress it; but nevertheless, because He is the creator and maker of everything good, He made them more especially (since He made the beasts also) that He might fill the earth with the good things of the earth. And assuredly man, even as a sinner, is better than a beast. And the commandment, which they were not to keep, He gave them especially that they might be without excuse when He should begin to take vengeance upon them. For whatever man does, he finds God worthy of praise in His deeds; if he acts rightly, he finds God worthy of praise in His deeds; if he acts rightly, he finds Him worthy of praise for the justice of His rewards; if he sins, he finds Him worthy of praise for the justice of His punishments; if he confesses his sins and returns to an upright manner of life, he finds Him worthy of praise for the mercy of His forgiveness. Why, then, should God not have made man, even though He foreknew that he would sin, seeing that He was to crown him if he stood firm, make him conform to the divine order if he sinned, and help him if he repented, being Himself at all times and in all places glorious in goodness, justice, and mercy? Especially since He foreknew that also, that from this mortal stock should spring saints who should not seek their own glory, but should give it to their Creator, and who being freed from all corruption, by worshipping Him, should merit an everlasting life, and a blessed life with the holy angels. For He who gave free will to men in order that they might worship God, not of necessity as slaves, but of their own good will as free men, gave it also to the angels; and therefore not even did the angel who with other spirits, his henchmen, forsook his obedience to God through pride and became the devil, do any hurt to God, but only to himself. For God knows how to make souls that forsake Him conform to the divine order, and by their justly deserved misery to furnish the lower parts of His creation with the most meet and suitable laws of His wondrous dispensation. And so neither did the devil harm God at all either by his own fall or by leading man astray unto death, nor did man himself diminish one whit the truth or power or blessedness of his Creator, because when his spouse was led astray by the devil into that which God had forbidden, he of his own will consented unto her. For by the most just laws of God were all condemned, to the glory of God through the justice of His vengeance, and to their own ignominy by the shame and disgrace of their punishment; namely, that man, who had turned away from his Creator should be vanquished and subjected to the devil; and the devil, when man should turn to his Creator, should be set before him as a foe to be  vanquished; so that all who consented to the devil unto the end should go with him into eternal punishment; but that all who humbled themselves before God, and by His grace overcame the devil, should win eternal rewards.

—St Augustine, First Catechetical Instruction

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