Quotations by Augustine of Hippo


You can force a man to enter a church , to approach the altar, to receive the sacrament, but you cannot force him to believe.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
(Attributed)
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Habit, if not resisted, soon becomes necessity.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
(Attributed)
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God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
(Attributed)
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The world is like a book, and those that never leave home read but one page.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
(Attributed)

Variants:
  • "The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page."
  • "The world is a great book, of which they that never stir from home read only a page."
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We need not despair of any man, so long as he lives. For God deemed it better to bring good out of evil than not to permit evil at all.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
(Attributed)

Variant: "God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to suffer no evil to exist. "
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Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
(Attributed)

Quoted in William Sloane Coffin, The Heart Is a Little to the Left.
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He who sings, prays twice.

[Qui cantat, bis orat.]

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
(Attributed)

Sometimes cited to Sermon 336, but this text is not found  there. Often given as "Qui bene cantat bis orat" (properly, "He who sings well prays twice.")

The closest found in Augustine's work (CCL 39, per here) is:

"For he who sings praise, does not only praise, but also praises joyfully; he who sings praise, not only sings, but also loves Him whom he is singing about/to/for. There is a praise-filled public proclamation  in the praise of someone who is confessing/acknowledging God, in the song of the lover there is love." [Qui enim cantat laudem, non solum laudat, sed etiam hilariter laudat; qui cantat laudem, non solum cantat, sed et amat eum quem cantat. In laude confitentis est praedicatio, in cantico amantis affectio...]

Alternate: "The one who sings praise, not only praises, but also praises joyfully; the one who sings praise, not only sings, but also loves Him for whom he sings. In the praise by one who confesses the Divine Being, praise actually is a public profession; and in the song of the lover is affection for the Beloved."

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Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
(Attributed)
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God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
(Attributed)
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Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
(Attributed)

Also attributed to St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Benedict, and Brigham Young.  Attributed to Francis Cardnial Spellman (though it predates him).

Variant: "Work as if everything depends on you, and pray as if everything depends on God."

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What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
(Attributed)
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Singing is loving.

[Cantare Amantis est]

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
(Attributed)

Alt. trans.:

  • "Singing is characteristic of a loving person."
  • "Singing is what the lover does."
  • "Singing belongs to one who loves."
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You aspire to great things? Begin with little ones.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
(Attributed)
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Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues; hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
(Attributed)
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Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. Let us seek it together as something which is known to neither of us. For then only may we seek it, lovingly and tranquilly, if there be no bold presumption that it is already discovered and possessed.

[Ut autem facilius mitescatis, et non inimico animo vobisque pernicioso mihi adversemini, illud quovis iudice impetrare me a vobis oportet, ut ex utraque parte omnis arrogantia deponatur. Nemo nostrum dicat iam se invenisse veritatem: sic eam quaeramus, quasi ab utrisque nesciatur. Ita enim diligenter et concorditer quaeri poterit, si nulla temeraria praesumptione inventa et cognita esse credatur.]

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
Against the Epistle of Manichaeus [Contra epistolam Manichaei], ch. 3, para. 4 (AD 397)

Alt. trans: "On the other hand, all must allow that you owe it to me, in return, to lay aside all arrogance on your part too, that so you may be the more disposed to gentleness, and may not oppose me in a hostile spirit, to your own hurt. Let neither of us assert that he has found truth; let us seek it as if it were unknown to us both. For truth can be sought with zeal and unanimity if by no rash presumption it is believed to have been already found and ascertained."
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The good man, though a slave, is free; the wicked, though he reigns, is a slave, and not the slave of a single man, but – what is worse – the slave of as many masters as he has vices.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
City of God, Bk. IV, ch. 3
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The will of God is the very nature of things.  A portent, therefore, happens not contrary to nature, but contrary to what we know as nature.

[Dei voluntas rerum natura est. Portentum ergo fit non contra naturam, sed contra quam est nota natura.]

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
City of God, Bk. XXI, ch. 8

Commonly: "Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature."
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People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
Confessions (AD 398)

Variant: "Men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty billows of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, and pass themselves by."
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What, then, is time? I know well enough what it is, provided that nobody asks me; but if I am asked what it is and try to explain, I am baffled.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
Confessions (AD 398)
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When large numbers of people share their joy in common, the happiness of each is greater because each adds fuel to the other’s flame.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
Confessions, 8.4 [tr. Pine-Coffin (1961)]
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My will was perverse and lust had grown from it, and when I gave in to lust habit was born, and when I did not resist the habit it became anecessity. These were the links which together formed what I have called my chain, and it held me fast in the duress of servitude.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
Confessions, 8.5 (AD 400?) [tr. Pine-Coffin (1961)]
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No doubt, then, that a free curiosity has more force in our learning these things, than a frightful enforcement.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
Confessions, Bk. 1, para. 23 (AD 398) [tr. Harvard Classics (1909)

Commonly: "Free curiosity is of more value than harsh discipline."

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Already I had learned from thee that because a thing is eloquently expressed it should not be taken to be as necessarily true; nor because it is uttered with stammering lips should it be supposed false. Nor, again, is it necessarily true because rudely uttered, nor untrue because the language is brilliant. Wisdom and folly both are like meats that are wholesome and unwholesome, and courtly or simple words are like town-made or rustic vessels — both kinds of food may be served in either kind of dish.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
Confessions, Bk. V, ch. 6 (AD 398)

Vars. on middle sentence: ""A thing is not necessarily true because badly uttered, nor false because spoken magnificently." "A thing is not necessarily false because it is badly expressed, nor true because it is expressed magnificently."
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Take up and read, take up and read.

[Tolle lege, tolle lege.]

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
Confessions, Bk. VIII, ch. 12 (AD 398)
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As a youth I prayed, “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.”

[At ego adulescens miser ualde, miser in exordio ipsius adulescentiae, etiam petieram a te castitatem et dixeram, ‘Da mihi castitatem et continentiam, sed noli modo.’]

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
Confessions, Bk. VIII, ch. 7 (AD 398)

Variant: "Give me chastity and continence, but do not give it yet."

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One does not read in the Gospel that the Lord said: ‘I will send you the Paraclete who will teach you about the course of the sun and moon.’ For He willed to make them Christians, not mathematicians.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
De actis contra Felicem manichaeum [Answer to Felix, a Manichean], 1.10 (AD 404)

Alt. trans.:

  • We do not read in the Gospel that the Lord said, ‘I will send the Paraclete to teach you the course of the sun and the moon’, in fact He wanted to create Christians not mathematicians.
  • In the Gospel we do not read that the Lord said: I am sending you the Holy Spirit so that he can teach you about the course of the sun and the moon. He wanted to make Christians, not mathematicians.
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Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.

[Quid enim molestiae tristitiaeque ingerant prudentibus fratribus temerarii praesumptores, satis dici non potest, cum si quando de prava et falsa opinatione sua reprehendi, et convinci coeperint ab eis qui nostrorum Librorum auctoritate non tenentur, ad defendendum id quod levissima temeritate et apertissima falsitate dixerunt, eosdem Libros sanctos, unde id probent, proferre conantur, vel etiam memoriter, quae ad testimonium valere arbitrantur, multa inde verba pronuntiant, non intellegentes neque quae loquuntur, neque de quibus affirmant.]

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
De Genesi ad Litteram, Bk. 1, ch. 19 [tr. Taylor (1982)]
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Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. […] If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?

[Plerumque enim accidit ut aliquid de terra, de coelo, de caeteris mundi huius elementis, de motu et conversione vel etiam magnitudine et intervallis siderum, de certis defectibus solis ac lunae, de circuitibus annorum et temporum, de naturis animalium, fruticum, lapidum, atque huiusmodi caeteris, etiam non christianus ita noverit, ut certissima ratione vel experientia teneat. Turpe est autem nimis et perniciosum ac maxime cavendum, ut christianum de his rebus quasi secundum christianas Litteras loquentem, ita delirare audiat, ut, quemadmodum dicitur, toto coelo errare conspiciens, risum tenere vix possit. […] Cum enim quemquam de numero Christianorum in ea re quam optime norunt, errare comprehenderint, et vanam sententiam suam de nostris Libris asserere; quo pacto illis Libris credituri sunt, de resurrectione mortuorum, et de spe vitae aeternae, regnoque coelorum, quando de his rebus quas iam experiri, vel indubitatis numeris percipere potuerunt, fallaciter putaverint esse conscriptos?]

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
De Genesi ad Litteram, Bk. 1, ch. 19 [tr. Taylor (1982)]
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In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search for truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
De Genesi ad Litteram, Bk. I, ch. 41 (AD 401) [tr. Taylor]
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Suppress prostitution, and capricious lusts will overthrow society.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
De Ordine, 2.4.12

Variant: "If you do away with harlots, the world will be convulsed with lust."

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Once for all, then, a short precept is given thee: Love, and do what thou wilt: whether thou hold thy peace, through love hold thy peace; whether thou cry out, through love cry out; whether thou correct, through love correct; whether thou spare, through love do thou spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
Homily 7 on the 1st Epistle of John [In epistulam Ioannis ad Parthos]


"Love, and do what thou wilt" - Latin "dilige et quod vis fac." sometimes incorrectly given as "ama et fac quod vis." Var. by J. Fletcher as "Love and then what you will, do."
Sermon on 1 John IV. 4 -12. Full text.

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Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
On Christian Doctrine, 1.28
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An unjust law is no law at all.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
On Free Choice of the Will, Book I, sec. 5
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To many, total abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.

[Multi quidem facilius se abstinent ut non utantur, quam temperent ut bene utantur.]

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
On the Good of Marriage, ch. 21 (AD 401)

Variant: "Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation."

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Love the sinner and hate the sin.

[Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum.]

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
Opera Omnia, Vol. II, col. 962, letter 211.
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Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.

[Est autem fides credere quod nondum vides; cuius fidei merces est videre quod credis.]

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
Sermons, 43.1.1

Variant: "For what is faith unless it is to believe what you do not see?"
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Remove justice, and what are kingdoms but gangs of criminals on a large scale?

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
The City of God, 4.4 (AD 413-426) [tr. Bettenson (1972)]
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When I am here, I do not fast on Saturday; when at Rome, I do fast on Saturday.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
Epistle 36, to Casulanus
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Be always displeased at what thou art, if thou desirest to attain to what thou art not.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
Sermon 169

Alt. trans.: "Ever let that displease thee which thou art, if thou wouldest attain to what thou art not."
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For you I am a bishop, but with you I am a Christian. The first is an office accepted; the second is a gift received. One is danger; the other is safety. If I am happier to be redeemed with you than to be placed over you, then I shall, as the Lord commanded, be more fully your servant.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
Sermon 340

via Rev. Bonnie Spencer (favorite quote)

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So give to the poor; I’m begging you, I’m warning you, I’m commanding you, I’m ordering you.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Christian church father, philosopher, saint [b. Aurelius Augustinus]
Sermon 61, para. 13

In some sources / arrangements, cited as Sermon 11. Full text.

Alt trans.:

  • "Give then to the poor; I beg, I advise, I charge, I command you. "
  • "Therefore, give to the poor. I beg you, I admonish you, I charge you, I command you to give."  [tr. Schopp, Deferrari (1951)]
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