Electronic Prayer Book

9. Quoting and Understanding Scripture

A MAN speaks more or less wisely in proportion as he has made more or less progress in the Holy Scriptures. I do not mean in the extensive wading and memorizing of them but in a thorough understanding and careful searching into their meanings. Some men there are who read them, but pay no attention to them; they read in order to remember, but they are indifferent about understanding. Undoubtedly, we must greatly prefer to these men those who have less grasp of the words, but see with the eyes of their heart the soul of Scripture. But, better than either of these is the man, who, when he wishes, both cites Scripture and understands it as he should.

Therefore, it is particularly essential for the man who would say with wisdom even what he cannot say eloquently to remember the words of the Scriptures. For, the poorer he sees himself to be in his own speech, the more he should enrich himself with that of the Scriptures, so that he may prove from them what he says in his own words and, although inferior in his own words, he may rise in distinction, as it were, by the testimony of the great. His proofs give pleasure where his manner of speaking does not.

ST. AUGUSTINE (397)