The world was, indeed, in ruins, and the Christian church, within itself, was also painfully divided. The Arian heresy, which denied the truth of the Holy Trinity in an effort to conform to the most sophisticated thought of the age was still widely influential. New controversies about the humanity and divinity of Christ were in the making, and the Pelagian and Donatist controversies, which raised extremely difficult questions about the Christian moral life and the efficacy of divine grace, were in full spate in St. Augustine’s own North African church. But although the saintly bishop was capable of trading hot polemical phrases with the best of them, in the Enchiridion he adopted and promoted what St. Paul, at the end of I Cor., 12, calls the ‘still more excellent way’ — the way of the essential Christian virtues of faith and hope and charity. And, inasmuch as these virtues are not just a matter of hearing,’ but also a matter of living, St. Augustine reminded Laurentius that “it will not suffice to place a small manual in one’s hands; rather, it will be necessary to enkindle a great zeal in one’s heart.”
I have begun with this little historical digression, not because I wish to belabour the thought of parallels between the ruin of St. Augustine’s time and the ruin of our own although I do think that there is scope for interesting and instructive comparisons in matters both intellectual and moral, and every current newspaper, perhaps especially every church newspaper seems designed to elicit mental shudders. But what I want to suggest, rather, is the importance, especially in such times of chaos and confusion, of concentrating our attention and focusing our energies positively upon the essential principles of Christian spiritual life, which that great doctor and apologist of the Elizabethan Settlement, Richard Hooker sketches so admirably when he speaks:
…concerning Faith, the principal object whereof is that eternal Verity which hath discovered the treasures of hidden wisdom in Christ; concerning Hope, the highest object whereof is that everlasting Goodness which in Christ doth quicken the dead; concerning Charity, the final object whereof is that incomprehensible Beauty which shineth in the countenance of Christ the Son of the Living God….’
Read it all (the emphasis above is mine).