“The Knowledge of God is to be sought from God” – St. Augustine

[The following is an excerpt from St. Augustine’s systematic defense of the Scriptural doctrine of the Trinity, De Trinitate (On the Trinity). I’m maybe a quarter of the way through the book, and this passage caught my attention. You can read the whole book online, or download it here.]

The Knowledge of God is to Be Sought from God

The knowledge of things terrestrial and celestial is commonly thought much of by men. Yet
those doubtless judge better who prefer to that knowledge, the knowledge of themselves; and that
mind is more praiseworthy which knows even its own weakness, than that which, without regard
to this, searches out, and even comes to know, the ways of the stars, or which holds fast such
knowledge already acquired, while ignorant of the way by which itself to enter into its own proper
health and strength. But if any one has already become awake towards God, kindled by the warmth
of the Holy Spirit, and in the love of God has become vile in his own eyes; and through wishing,
yet not having strength to come in unto Him, and through the light He gives, has given heed to
himself, and has found himself, and has learned that his own filthiness cannot mingle with His
purity; and feels it sweet to weep and to entreat Him, that again and again He will have compassion,
until he have put off all his wretchedness; and to pray confidently, as having already received of
free gift the pledge of salvation through his only Saviour and Enlightener of man:—such an one,
so acting, and so lamenting, knowledge does not puff up, because charity edifieth; for he has
preferred knowledge to knowledge, he has preferred to know his own weakness, rather than to
know the walls of the world, the foundations of the earth, and the pinnacles of heaven.

And by obtaining this knowledge, he has obtained also sorrow; but sorrow for straying away from the
desire of reaching his own proper country, and the Creator of it, his own blessed God. And if among
men such as these, in the family of Thy Christ, O Lord my God, I groan among Thy poor, give me
out of Thy bread to answer men who do not hunger and thirst after righteousness, but are sated and
abound. But it is the vain image of those things that has sated them, not Thy truth, which they
have repelled and shrunk from, and so fall into their own vanity. I certainly know how many figments
the human heart gives birth to. And what is my own heart but a human heart?

But I pray the God of my heart, that I may not vomit forth (eructuem) into these writings any of these figments for
solid truths, but that there may pass into them only what the breath of His truth has breathed into
me; cast out though I am from the sight of His eyes, and striving from afar to return by the way
which the divinity of His only-begotten Son has made by His humanity. And this truth, changeable
though I am, I so far drink in, as far as in it I see nothing changeable: neither in place and time, as
is the case with bodies; nor in time alone, and in a certain sense place, as with the thoughts of our
own spirits; nor in time alone, and not even in any semblance of place, as with some of the reasonings
of our own minds.

For the essence of God, whereby He is, has altogether nothing changeable,
neither in eternity, nor in truth, nor in will; since there truth is eternal, love eternal; and there love
is true, eternity true; and there eternity is loved, and truth is loved.

-h.

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