I just have to repost this great summary of Augustine on Scriptural Authority, posted as a comment (#136) back in May last year on the following post:
D. T. King said,It is not hard to see how one ends up in either Geneva or Rome depending on his presuppositions. In one, scriptura(and necessarily the gospel, as in the formal principle of the Reformation leads to the material) defines the church, and in the other ecclesia leads to Rome and the church defines the gospel.
Interesting observation, to be sure. When I began my investigation of the ECFs some 15 years ago, I read everything I could beg, buy, or barter. I suppose we all have our interests, church history and patristics are mine. Most of the Augustinian corpus has been translated, and New City Press is in the process of providing new translations of all of his works. But of all the works of Augustine that have been translated, there is one work, De Unitate Ecclesiae that has never been fully translated into English; and although New City Press plans to do so, it has been postponed for some five years now due (I’m told) to the prolonged illness of the translator. May the Lord be pleased to give him the health to finish. But in his controversy with the Donatists, Augustine wrote this work to refute their schism from the Church Catholic. Notice how Augustine does not lodge his argument in an appeal to apostolic succession in this particular work, in fact he bids his adversaries not to look in the direction of human testimonies. Over and over, he argues with the Donatists that the church is to be found in and defined by the Scriptures. Obviously, Augustine did not share the skeptical pessimism of our present day opponents with respect to the testimony of Holy Scripture. Of Augustine’s writings and this one in particular, Johann Joseph Ignaz von Döllinger observed: “St. Augustine has written more on the Church, its unity and authority, than all the other Fathers put together. Yet, from all his numerous works, filling ten folios, only one sentence, in one letter, can be quoted, where he says that the principality of the Apostolic Chair has always been in Rome,—which could, of course, be said then with equal truth of Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria. Any reader of his Pastoral Letter to the separated Donatists on the Unity of the Church, must find it inexplicable, on the Jesuit theory, that in these seventy-five chapters there is not a single word on the necessity of communion with Rome as the centre of unity. He urges all sorts of arguments to show that the Donatists are bound to return to the Church, but of the Papal Chair, as one of them, he knows nothing. See Janus, The Pope and the Council, trans. from the German, 2nd ed. (London: Rivingtons, 1869), pp. 88-89.
I suppose, perhaps, that not many of my Reformed brethren have had the opportunity of reading the following list of citations from this particular work of Augustine, collated and organized in this manner, but where translations have been provided, I have arranged them in the following order in which they appear in this single work of Augustine. I think that when one can read them in this way, it gives something of a feel for the flow of this ancient African bishop’s argument. Bear in mind that this is how Augustine argued to call the Donatists back to the unity of the Church. And again, as Döllinger noted, never once does he posit that unity in the papal chair of Rome, or in its succession of bishops. There is an obvious difference in the modus operandi that Augustine employed in this work, and how our Roman disputants proceed with their contentions. Moreover, he does not ground his argument in the teaching authority of the church, but in Holy Scripture itself.
Augustine (354-430): Let us not hear, You [i.e., the Donatists] say this, I say that; but let us hear Thus saith the Lord. There are the Dominical books, whose authority we both acknowledge, we both yield to, we both obey; there let us seek the Church, there let us discuss the question between us. For trans., see William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, p 164.
Latin text: Sed, ut dicere coeperam, non audiamus, Haec dicis, haec dico; sed audiamus, Haec dicit Dominus. Sunt certe Libri dominici, quorum auctoritati utrique consentimus, utrique cedimus utrique servimus: ibi quaeramus Ecclesiam, ibi discutiamus causam nostram. De Unitate Ecclesiae, Caput III, §5, PL 43:394.
Augustine (354-430): Therefore let those testimonies which we mutually bring against each other, from any other quarter than the divine canonical books, be put out of sight. For trans., see William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 164.
Latin text: Auferantur ergo illa de medio, quae adversus nos invicem, non ex divinis canonicis Libris, sed aliunde recitamus. De Unitate Ecclesiae, Caput III, §5, PL 43:395.
Augustine (354-430): I would not have the holy Church demonstrated by human testimonies, but by divine oracles. For trans., see William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, pp. 164-165.
Latin text: Quia nolo humanis documentis, sed divinis oraculis sanctam Ecclesiam demonstrari. De Unitate Ecclesiae, Caput III, §6, PL 43:395.
Augustine (354-430): Whoever dissents from the sacred Scriptures, even if they are found in all places in which the church is designated, are not the church. For trans., See Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3 Vols., trans. George Musgrave Giger and ed. James T. Dennison (Phillipsburg: reprinted by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1992), Vol. 3, pp. 109-110.
Latin text: Quicumque de ipso capite, ab Scripturis sanctis dissentiunt, etiamsi in omnibus locis inveniantur in quibus Ecclesia designata est, non sunt in Ecclesia. De Unitate Ecclesiae, Caput IV, §7, PL 43:395-396.
Augustine (354-430): We adhere to this Church; against those divine declarations we admit no human cavils. For trans., see William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 165.
Latin text: Nos hanc Ecclesiam tenemus, contra istas divinas voces nullas humanas criminationes admittimus. De Unitate Ecclesiae, Caput XI, §28, PL 43:410.
Augustine (354-430): I have the most manifest voice of my pastor commending to me, and without any hesitation setting forth the church, I will impute it to myself, if I shall wish to be seduced by the words of men and to wander from his flock, which is the church itself, since he specially admonished me saying, “My sheep hear my voice and follow me”; listen to his voice clear and open and heard; who does not follow, how will he dare to call himself his sheep? Let no one say to me, What hath Donatus said, what hath Parmenian said, or Pontius, or any of them. For we must not allow even Catholic bishops, if at any time, perchance, they are in error, to hold any opinion contrary to the Canonical Scriptures of God. Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1992),Vol. 3, pp. 91-92 and William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 165.
Latin text: Habeo manifestissimam vocem pastoris mei, commendantis mihi et sine ullis ambagibus exprimentis Ecclesiam: mihi imputabo si ab ejus grege, quod est ipsa Ecclesia, per verba hominum seduci atque aberrare voluero; cum me praesertim admonuerit dicens, Quae sunt oves meae, vocem meam audiunt et sequuntur me. Ecce vox ejus clara et aperta: hac audita qui eum non sequitur, quomodo se ovem ejus dicere audebit? Nemo mihi dicat: O quid dixit Donatus, o quid dixit Parmenianus, aut Pontius, aut quilibet illorum! Quia nec catholicis episcopis consentiendum est, sicubi forte falluntur, ut contra canonicas Dei Scripturas aliquid sentiant. De Unitate Ecclesiae, Caput XI, §28, PL 43:410-411.
Augustine (354-430): All such matters, therefore, being put out of sight, let them show their Church, if they can; not in the discourses and reports of Africans, not in the councils of their own bishops, not in the writings of any controversialists, not in fallacious signs and miracles, for even against these we are rendered by the word of the Lord prepared and cautious, but in the ordinances of the Law, in the predictions of the Prophets, in the songs of the Psalms, in the words of the very Shepherd himself, in the preachings and labours of the Evangelists, that is, in all the canonical authorities of sacred books. Nor so as to collect together and rehearse those things that are spoken obscurely, or ambiguously, or figuratively, such as each can interpret as he likes, according to his own views. For such testimonies cannot be rightly understood and expounded, unless those things that are most clearly spoken are first held by a firm faith. For trans., see William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 165.
Latin text: Remotis ergo omnibus talibus Ecclesiam suam demonstrent, si possunt, non in sermonibus et rumoribus Afrorum, non in conciliis episcoporum suorum, non in litteris quorumlibet disputatorum, non in signis et prodigiis fallacibus, quia etiam contra ista verbo Domini praeparati et cauti redditi sumus: sed in praescripto Legis, in Prophetarum praedictis, in Psalmorum cantibus, in ipsius unius Pastoris vocibus, in Evangelistarum praedicationibus et laboribus, hoc est, in omnibus canonicis sanctorum Librorum auctoritatibus. Nec ita, ut ea colligant et commemorent, quae obscure vel ambigue vel figurate dicta sunt, quae quisque sicut voluerit, interpretetur secundum sensum suum. Talia enim recte intelligi exponique non possunt, nisi prius ea, quae apertissime dicta sunt, firma fide teneantur. De Unitate Ecclesiae, Caput XVIII, §47, PL 43:427-428.
Augustine (354-430): We ought to find the Church, as the Head of the Church, in the Holy Canonical Scriptures, not to inquire for it in the various reports, and opinions, and deeds, and words, and visions of men. For trans., see William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, p. 165.
Latin text: Ecclesia, quam sicut ipsum caput in Scripturis sanctis canonicis debemus agnoscere, non in variis hominum rumoribus, et opinionibus, et factis, et dictis, et visis inquirere. De Unitate Ecclesiae, Caput XIX, §49, PL 43:429.
Augustine (354-430): For we do not say that we ought to be believed because we are in the Church of Christ, or because that Church to which we belong, was commended to us by Optatus, Ambrose, or other innumerable Bishops of our communion; or because miracles are everywhere wrought in it. . . . These things are indeed to be approved, because they are done in the Catholic Church, but it is not thence proved to be the Catholic Church, because such things are done in it. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, when He rose from the dead, and offered His body to be touched as well as seen by His disciples, lest there should be any fallacy in it, thought it proper to convince them, rather by the testimony of the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, showing how all things were fulfilled which had been foretold; and so He commanded His Church, saying, that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name, among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. This He testified was written in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms; this we hold, as commended from His mouth. These are the documents, these the foundations, these the strong grounds of our cause. We read in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 17:11), of some believers, that they daily searched the Scriptures if these things were so. What Scriptures? but the canonical books of the Law and the Prophets; to which are added the Gospels, the Apostolical Epistles, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Revelation of St. John, Search, then, all these, and bring forth something manifest, by which you may prove the Church to have remained only in Africa, or come out of Africa in order that it might be fulfilled which the Lord said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” For translation, see Charles Hastings Collette, Saint Augustine: A Sketch of His Life and Writings, A.D. 387-430 (London: W. H. Allen & Co., 1883), pp. 48-49.
Latin text: quia nec nos propterea dicimus nobis credi oportere quod in Ecclesia Christi sumus, quia ipsam quam tenemus, commendavit Milevitanus Optatus, vel Mediolanensis Ambrosius, vel alii innumerabiles nostrae communionis episcopi; aut quia nostrorum collegarum conciliis ipsa praedicata est; aut quia per totum orbem in locis sanctis, quae frequentat nostra communio, tanta mirabilia vel exauditionum, . . . Quaecumque talia in Catholica fiunt, ideo sunt approbanda, quia in Catholica fiunt; non ideo ipsa manifestatur Catholica, quia haec in ea fiunt. Ipse Dominus Jesus cum resurrexisset a mortuis, et discipulorum oculis videndum, manibusque tangendum corpus suum offerret, ne quid tamen fallaciae se pati arbitrarentur, magis eos testimoniis Legis et Prophetarum et Psalmorum confirmandos esse judicavit, ostendens ea de se impleta, quae fuerant tanto ante praedicta. Sic et Ecclesiam suam commendavit dicens: Praedicari in nomine suo poenitentiam, et remissionem peccatorum per omnes gentes, incipientibus ab Jerusalem. Hoc in Lege, et Prophetis, et Psalmis esse scriptum ipse testatus est: hoc ejus ore commendatum tenemus. Haec sunt causae nostrae documenta, haec fundamenta, haec firmamenta. Legimus in Actibus Apostolorum dictum de quibusdam credentibus, quod quotidie scrutarentur Scripturas, an haec ita se haberent: quas utique Scripturas, nisi canonicas Legis et Prophetarum? Huc accesserunt Evangelia, apostolicae Epistolae, Actus Apostolorum, Apocalypsis Joannis. Scrutamini haec omnia, et eruite aliquid manifestum, quo demonstretis Ecclesiam vel in sola Africa remansisse, vel ex Africa futurum esse ut impleatur quod Dominus dicit: Praedicabitur hoc Evangelium regni in universo orbe in testimonium omnibus gentibus; et tunc veniet finis (Matth. XXIV, 14). De Unitate Ecclesiae, Caput XIX, §47-51, PL 43:430.