Writings of Augustine. Sermons on the New Testament

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St. Augustin:

Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament

Translated by the Rev. R. G. Macmullen, M.A.,

Edited by Philip Schaff, D.D.

Published in 1886 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.

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Sermon VII.

[LVII. Ben.]

Again, on Matt. vi. on the Lord's Prayer. To the Competentes.

1. The order established for your edification requires that ye learn first what to believe, and afterwards what to ask. For so saith the Apostle, "Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord, shall be saved." [2004] This testimony blessed Paul cited out of the Prophet; for by the Prophet were those times foretold, when all men should call upon God; "Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord, shall be saved." And he added, "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? Or how shall they hear without a preacher? Or how shall they preach except they be sent?" [2005] Therefore were preachers sent. They preached Christ. As they preached, the people heard, by hearing they believed, and by believing called upon Him. Because then it was most rightly and most truly said, "How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?" therefore have ye first learned what to believe: and to-day have learnt to call on Him in whom ye have believed.

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2. The Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, hath taught us a Prayer; and though He be the Lord Himself, as ye have heard and repeated in the Creed, the Only Son of God, yet He would not be alone. He is the Only Son, and yet would not be alone; He hath vouchsafed to have brethren. For to whom doth He say, "Say, Our Father, which art in heaven?" [2006] Whom did He wish us to call our Father, save His own Father? Did He grudge us this? Parents sometimes when they have gotten one, or two, or three children, fear to give birth to any more, lest they reduce the rest to beggary. But because the inheritance which He promiseth us is such as many may possess, and no one be straitened; therefore hath He called into His brotherhood the peoples of the nations; and the Only Son hath numberless brethren; who say, "Our Father, which art in heaven." So said they who have been before us; and so shall say those who will come after us. See how many brethren the Only Son hath in His grace, sharing His inheritance with those for whom He suffered death. We had a father and mother on earth, that we might be born to labours and to death: but we have found other parents, God our Father, and the Church our Mother, by whom we are born unto life eternal. Let us then consider, beloved, whose children we have begun to be; and let us live so as becomes those who have such a Father. See, how that our Creator hath condescended to be our Father!

3. We have heard whom we ought to call upon, and with what hope of an eternal inheritance we have begun to have a Father in heaven; let us now hear what we must ask of Him. Of such a Father what shall we ask? Do we not ask rain of Him, to-day, and yesterday, and the day before? This is no great thing to have asked of such a Father, and yet ye see with what sighings, and with what great desire we ask for rain, when death is feared, when that is feared which none can escape. For sooner or later every man must die, and we groan, and pray, and travail in pain, and cry to God, that we may die a little later. How much more ought we to cry to Him, that we may come to that place where we shall never die!

4. Therefore is it said, "Hallowed be Thy Name." This we also ask of Him that his Name may be hallowed in us; for Holy is it always. And how is His Name hallowed in us, except while it makes us holy. For once we were not holy, and we are made holy by His Name; but He is always Holy, and His Name always Holy. It is for ourselves, not for God, that we pray. For we do not wish well to God, to whom no ill can ever happen. But we wish what is good for ourselves, that His Holy Name may be hallowed, that that which is always Holy, may be hallowed in us.

5. "Thy kingdom come." [2007] Come it surely will, whether we ask or no. Indeed, God hath an eternal kingdom. For when did He not reign? When did He begin to reign? For His kingdom hath no beginning, neither shall it have any end. But that we may know that in this prayer also we pray for ourselves, and not for God (for we do not say, "Thy kingdom come," as though we were asking that God may reign); we shall be ourselves His kingdom, if believing in Him we make progress in this faith. All the faithful, redeemed by the Blood of His Only Son, will be His kingdom. And this His kingdom will come, when the resurrection of the dead shall have taken place; for then He will come Himself. And when the dead are risen, He will divide them, as He Himself saith, "and He shall set some on the right hand, and some on the left." [2008] To those who shall be on the right hand He will say, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom." This is what we wish and pray for when we say, "Thy kingdom come;" that it may come to us. For if we shall be reprobates, that kingdom will come to others, but not to us. But if we shall be of that number, who belong to the members of His Only-begotten Son, His kingdom will come to us, and will not tarry. For are there as many ages yet remaining, as have already passed away? The Apostle John hath said, "My little children, it is the last hour." [2009] But it is a long hour proportioned to this long day; and see how many years this last hour lasteth. But nevertheless, be ye as those who watch, and so sleep, and rise again, and reign. Let us watch now, let us sleep in death; at the end we shall rise again, and shall reign without end.

6. "Thy will be done as in heaven, so in earth." [2010] The third thing we pray for is, that His will may be done as in heaven so in earth. And in this too we wish well for ourselves. For the will of God must necessarily be done. It is the will of God that the good should reign, and the wicked be damned. Is it possible that this will should not be done? But what good do we wish for ourselves, when we say, "Thy will be done as in heaven, so in earth"? Give ear. For this petition may be understood in many ways, and many things are to be in our thoughts in this petition, when we pray God, "Thy will be done as in heaven, so in earth." As Thy Angels offend Thee not, so may we also not offend Thee. Again, how is "Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth," understood? All the holy Patriarchs, all the Prophets, all the Apostles, all the spiritual are as it were God's heaven; and we in comparison of them are earth. "Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth;" as in them, so in us also. Again, "Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth;" the Church of God is heaven, His enemies are earth. So we wish well for our enemies, that they too may believe and become Christians, and so the will of God be done, as in heaven, so also in earth. Again, "Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth." Our spirit is heaven, and the flesh earth. As our spirit is renewed by believing, so may our flesh be renewed by rising again; and "the will of God be done, as in heaven, so in earth." Again, our mind whereby we see truth, and delight in this truth, is heaven; as, "I delight in the law of God, after the inward man." What is the earth? "I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind?" [2011] When this strife shall have passed away, and a full concord brought about of the flesh and spirit, the will of God will be done as in heaven, so also in earth. When we repeat this petition, let us think of all these things, and ask them all of the Father. Now all these things which we have mentioned, these three petitions, beloved, have respect to the life eternal. For if the Name of our God is sanctified in us, it will be for eternity. If His kingdom come, where we shall live for ever, it will be for eternity. If His will be done as in heaven, so in earth, in all the ways which I have explained, it will be for eternity.

7. There remain now the petitions for this life of our pilgrimage; therefore follows, "Give us this day our daily bread." [2012] Give us eternal things, give us things temporal. Thou hast promised a kingdom, deny us not the means of subsistence. Thou wilt give everlasting glory with Thyself hereafter, give us in this earth temporal support. Therefore is it "day by day," and "to-day," that is, in this present time. For when this life shall have passed away, shall we ask for daily bread then? For then it will not be called, "day by day," but "to-day." Now it is called, "day by day," when one day passes away, and another day succeeds. Will it be called "day by day," when there will be one eternal day? This petition for daily bread is doubtless to be understood in two ways, both for the necessary supply of our bodily food, and for the necessities of our spiritual support. There is a necessary supply of bodily food, for the preservation of our daily life, without which we cannot live. This is food and clothing, but the whole is understood in a part. When we ask for bread, we thereby understand all things. There is a spiritual [2013] food also which the faithful know, which ye too will know, when ye shall receive it at the altar of God. This also is "daily Bread," necessary only for this life. For shall we receive the Eucharist when we shall have come to Christ Himself, and begun to reign with Him for ever? So then the Eucharist is our daily bread; but let us in such wise receive it, that we be not refreshed in our bodies only, but in our souls. For the virtue which is apprehended there, is unity, that gathered together into His body, and made His members, we may be what we receive. Then will it be indeed our daily bread. Again, what I am handling before you now is "daily bread;" and the daily lessons which ye hear in church, are daily bread, and the hymns ye hear and repeat are daily bread. For all these are necessary in our state of pilgrimage. But when we shall have got to heaven, shall we hear the word, [2014] we who shall see the Word Himself, and hear the Word Himself, and eat and drink Him as the angels do now? Do the angels need books, and interpreters, and readers? Surely not. They read in seeing, for the Truth Itself they see, and are abundantly satisfied from that fountain, from which we obtain some few [2015] drops. Therefore has it been said touching our daily bread, that this petition is necessary for us in this life.

8. "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." [2016] Is this necessary except in this life? For in the other we shall have no debts. For what are debts, but sins? See, ye are on the point of being baptized, then all your sins will be blotted out, none whatever will remain. Whatever evil ye have ever done, in deed, or word, or desire, or thought, all will be blotted out. And yet if in the life which is after Baptism there were security from sin, we should not learn such a prayer as this, "Forgive us our debts." Only let us by all means do what comes next, "As we forgive our debtors." Do ye then who are about to enter in to receive a plenary and entire remission of your debts, do ye above all things see that ye have nothing in your hearts against any other, so as to come forth from Baptism secure, as it were free and discharged of all debts, and then begin to purpose to avenge yourselves on your enemies, who in time past have done you wrong. Forgive, as ye are forgiven. God can do no one wrong, and yet He forgiveth who oweth nothing. How then ought he to forgive, who is himself forgiven, when He forgiveth all, who oweth nothing that can be forgiven Him?

9. "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." [2017] Will this again be necessary in the life to come? "Lead us not into temptation," will not be said, except where there can be temptation. We read in the book of holy Job, "Is not the life of man upon earth a temptation?" [2018] What then do we pray for? Hear what. The Apostle James saith, "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God." [2019] He spoke of those evil temptations, whereby men are deceived, and brought under the yoke of the devil. This is the kind of temptation he spoke of. For there is another sort of temptation which is called a proving; of this kind of temptation it is written, "The Lord your God tempteth (proveth) you to know whether ye love Him." [2020] What means "to know"? "To make you know," for He knoweth already. With that kind of temptation, whereby we are deceived and seduced, God tempteth no man. But undoubtedly in His deep and hidden judgment He abandons some. And when He hath abandoned them, the tempter finds his opportunity. For he finds in him no resistance against his power, but forthwith presents himself to him as his possessor, if God abandon him. Therefore that He may not abandon us, do we say, "Lead us not into temptation." "For every one is tempted," says the same Apostle James, "when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then lust, when it hath conceived, bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." [2021] What then has he hereby taught us? To fight against our lusts. For ye are about to put away your sins in Holy Baptism; but lusts will still remain, wherewith ye must fight after that ye are regenerate. For a conflict with your own selves still remains. Let no enemy from without be feared: conquer thine own self, and the whole world is conquered. What can any tempter from without, whether the devil or the devil's minister, do against thee? Whosoever sets the hope of gain before thee to seduce thee, let him only find no covetousness in thee; and what can he who would tempt thee by gain effect? Whereas if covetousness be found in thee, thou takest fire at the sight of gain, and art taken by the bait of this corrupt food. [2022] But if he find no covetousness in thee, the trap remains spread in vain. Or should the tempter set before thee some woman of surpassing beauty; if chastity be within, iniquity from without is overcome. Therefore that he may not take thee with the bait of a strange woman's beauty, fight with thine own lust within; thou hast no sensible perception of thine enemy, but of thine own concupiscence thou hast. Thou dost not see the devil, but the object that engageth thee thou dost see. Get the mastery then over that of which thou art sensible within. Fight valiantly, for He who hath regenerated thee is thy Judge; He hath arranged the lists, He is making ready the crown. But because thou wilt without doubt be conquered, if thou have not Him to aid thee, if He abandon thee: therefore dost thou say in the prayer, "Lead us not into temptation." The Judge's wrath hath given over some to their own lusts; and the Apostle says, "God gave them over to the lusts of their hearts." [2023] How did He give them up? Not by forcing, but by forsaking them.

10. "Deliver us from evil," may belong to the same sentence. Therefore, that thou mayest understand it to be all one sentence, it runs thus, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Therefore he added "but," to show that all this belongs to one sentence, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." How is this? I will propose them singly. "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." By delivering us from evil, He leadeth us not into temptation; by not leading us into temptation, He delivereth us from evil.

11. And truly it is a great temptation, dearly beloved, it is a great temptation in this life, when that in us is the subject of temptation, whereby we attain [2024] pardon, if in any of our temptations we have fallen. It is a frightful temptation, when that is taken from us, whereby we may be healed from the wounds of other temptations. I know that ye have not yet understood me. Give me your attention, that ye may understand. Suppose avarice tempts a man, and he is conquered in any single temptation (for sometimes even a good wrestler and fighter may get roughly handled [2025] ): avarice then has got the better of a man, good wrestler though he be, and he has done some avaricious act. Or there has been a passing lust; it has not brought the man to fornication, nor reached unto adultery, for when this does take place, the man must at all events be kept back from the criminal act. But he "hath seen a woman to lust after her;" [2026] he has let his thoughts dwell on her with more pleasure than was right; he has admitted the attack; excellent combatant though he be, he has been wounded, but he has not consented to it; he has beaten back the motion of his lust, has chastised it with the bitterness of grief, he has beaten it back; and has prevailed. Still in the very fact that he had slipped, has he ground for saying, "Forgive us our debts." And so of all other temptations, it is a hard matter that in them all there should not be occasion for saying, "Forgive us our debts." What then is that frightful temptation which I have mentioned, that grievous, that tremendous temptation, which must be avoided with all our strength, with all our resolution; what is it? When we go about to avenge ourselves. Anger is kindled, and the man burns to be avenged. O frightful temptation! Thou art losing that, whereby thou hadst to attain pardon for other faults. If thou hadst committed any sin as to other senses, and other lusts, hence mightest thou have had thy cure, in that thou mightest say, "Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors." But whoso instigateth thee to take vengeance, will lose for thee the power thou hadst to say, "As we also forgive our debtors." When that power is lost, all sins will be retained; nothing at all is remitted.

12. Our Lord and Master, and Saviour, knowing this dangerous temptation in this life, when He taught us six or seven petitions in this Prayer, took none of them for Himself to treat of, and to commend to us with greater earnestness, than this one. Have we not said, "Our Father, which art in heaven;" and the rest which follows? Why after the conclusion of the Prayer, did He not enlarge upon it to us, either as to what He had laid down in the beginning, or concluded with at the end, or placed in the middle? For why said He not, if the Name of God be not hallowed in you, or if ye have no part in the kingdom of God, or if the will of God be not done in you, as in heaven, or if God guard you not, that ye enter not into temptation; why none of all these? but what saith He? "Verily I say unto you, that if ye forgive men their trespasses;" [2027] in reference to that petition, "Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors." Having passed over all the other petitions which He taught us, this He taught us with an especial force. There was no need of insisting [2028] so much upon those sins in which if a man offend, he may know the means whereby he may be cured: need of it there was, with regard to that sin in which if thou sin, there is no means whereby the rest can be cured. For this thou oughtest to be ever saying, "Forgive us our debts." What debts? There is no lack of them; for we are but men; I have talked somewhat more than I ought, have said something I ought not, have laughed more than I ought, have eaten more than I ought, have listened with pleasure to what I ought not, have drunk more than I ought, have seen with pleasure what I ought not, have thought with pleasure on what I ought not; "Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors." This if thou hast lost, thou art lost thyself.

13. Take heed, my brethren, my sons, sons of God, take heed, I beseech you, in that I am saying to you. Fight to the uttermost of your powers with your own hearts. And if ye shall see your anger making a stand against you, pray to God against it, that God may make thee conqueror of thyself, that God may make thee conqueror, I say, not of thine enemy without, but of thine own soul within. For He will give thee His present help, and will do it. He would rather that we ask this of Him, than rain. For ye see, beloved, how many petitions the Lord Christ hath taught us; and there is scarce found among them one which speaks of daily bread, that all our thoughts may be moulded after the life to come? For what can we fear that He will not give us, who hath promised and said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you; for your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things before ye ask Him. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." [2029] For many have been tried even with hunger, and have been found gold, and have not been forsaken by God. They would have perished with hunger, if the daily inward bread were to leave their heart. After this let us chiefly hunger. For, "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." [2030] But He can in mercy look upon our infirmity, and see us, as it is said, "Remember that we are dust." [2031] He who from the dust made and quickened man, for that His work of clay's sake, gave His Only Son to death. Who can explain, who can worthily so much as conceive, how much He loveth us?

Footnotes

[2004] Joel ii. 32; Rom. x. 13. [2005] Rom. x. 14, 15. [2006] Matt. vi. 9. [2007] Matt. vi. 10. [2008] Matt. xxv. 33. [2009] 1 John ii. 18, Vulgate. [2010] Matt. vi. 10. [2011] Rom. vii. 22, 23. [2012] Matt. vi. 11. [2013] See Sermon vi. (lvi. Bened.) 10 and note. [2014] Codex. [2015] Irroramur. [2016] Matt. vi. 12. [2017] Matt. vi. 13. [2018] Job vii. 1, Sept.; peiraterion. [2019] Jas. i. 13. [2020] Deut. xiii. 3. [2021] Jas. i. 14, 15. [2022] Vitiosæ escæ laqueo. [2023] Rom. i. 24, Vulgate. [2024] Meremur. [2025] Vulneratur. [2026] Matt. v. 28. [2027] Matt. vi. 14. [2028] Commendanda. [2029] Matt. vi. 53. [2030] Matt. v. 6. [2031] Ps. cii. 14, Sept. (ciii. English version). .


Sermon VIII.

[LVIII. Ben.]

Again on the Lord's Prayer, Matt. vi. To the Competentes.

1. You have just repeated the Creed, where in brief summary is contained the Faith. I have already before now told you what the Apostle Paul says, "How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?" [2032] Because then you have both heard, and learnt, and repeated how you must believe in God; hear to-day how He must be called upon. The Son Himself, as you heard when the Gospel was read, taught His disciples and His faithful ones this Prayer. Good hope have we of obtaining our cause, when such an Advocate [2033] hath dictated our suit. The Assessor of the Father, as you have confessed, who sitteth on the right hand of the Father; He is our Advocate who is to be our Judge. For from thence will He come to judge the quick and dead. Learn then, this Prayer also which you will have to repeat in eight days time. But whosoever of you have not repeated the Creed well, have yet time enough, let them learn it; because on the Sabbath day [2034] in the hearing of all who shall be present, you will have to repeat it: on the last [2035] Sabbath day, when you will be here to be baptized. But in eight days from to-day will you have to repeat this Prayer, which you have heard to-day.

2. Of which the first clause is, "Our Father, which art in heaven." [2036] We have found then a Father in heaven; let us take good heed how we live on earth. For he who hath found such a Father, ought so to live that he may be worthy to come to his inheritance. But we say all in common, "Our Father." How great a condescension! This the emperor says, and this says the beggar: this says the slave, and this his lord. They say all together, "Our Father, which art in heaven." Therefore do they understand that they are brethren, seeing they have one Father. Now let not the lord disdain to have his slave for a brother, seeing the Lord Christ has vouch-safed to have him for a brother.

3. "Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come." [2037] This hallowing of God's Name is that whereby we are made holy. For His Name is always Holy. We wish also for His kingdom to come; come it will, though we wish it not; but to wish and pray that His kingdom may come, is nothing else than to wish of Him, that He would make us worthy of His kingdom, lest haply, which God forbid, it should come, and not come to us. For to many that will never come, which nevertheless must come. For to them will it come, to whom it shall be said, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." [2038] But it will not come to them to whom it shall be said, "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." [2039] Therefore when we say, "Thy kingdom come," we pray that it may come to us. What is, "may come to us"? May find us good. This we pray for then, that He would make us good; for then to us will His kingdom come.

4. We go on, "Thy will be done as in heaven so in earth." [2040] The Angels serve Thee in heaven, may we serve Thee in earth! The Angels do not offend Thee in heaven, may we not offend Thee in earth! As they do Thy will, so may we do it also! And here what do we pray for, but that we may be good? For when we do God's will (for He without doubt doeth His own will), then is His will done in us. And we may understand in another and a right sense these words, "Thy will be done as in heaven, so in earth." We receive the commandment of God, and it is well-pleasing to us, well-pleasing to our mind. "For we delight in the law of God after the inward man." [2041] Then is His will done in heaven. For our spirit is compared to heaven, but to the earth our flesh. What then is "Thy will be done as in heaven, so in earth"? That as Thy command is well-pleasing to our mind, so may our flesh consent thereto; and so that strife be ended which is described by the Apostle, "for the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh." [2042] When the Spirit lusteth against the flesh, His will is even now done in heaven; when the flesh lusteth not against the Spirit, His will is now done in earth. There will be harmony complete when He will; be then the contest now, that there may be victory hereafter. Thus again, "Thy will be done as in heaven, so in earth," may be well understood, by making "heaven" to be the Church, because it is the throne [2043] of God; and "earth" the unbelievers, to whom it is said, "Earth thou art, and unto earth shalt thou go." [2044] When therefore we pray for our enemies, for the enemies of the Church, the enemies of the Christian name, we pray that His will may be done "as in heaven, so in earth," that is, as in Thy faithful ones, so in Thy blasphemers also, that they all may become "heaven."

5. There follows next, "Give us this day our daily bread." [2045] It may be understood simply that we pour forth this prayer for daily sustenance, that we may have abundance: or if not that, that we may have no want. Now he said "daily," for as long as it is called "to-day." [2046] Daily we live, and daily rise, and are daily fed, and daily hunger. May He then give us daily bread. Why did He not say "covering" too, for the support of our life is in meat and drink, our covering in raiment and lodging. Man should desire nothing more than these. Forasmuch as the Apostle saith, "We brought nothing into this world, neither can we carry anything out: having food and covering, [2047] let us be therewith content." [2048] Perish covetousness, and nature is rich. Therefore if this prayer have reference to our daily sustenance, since this is a good understanding of the words, "Give us this day our daily bread;" let us not marvel, if under the name of bread other necessary things are also understood. As when Joseph invited his brethren, "These men," saith he, "will eat bread with me to-day." [2049] Why, were they to eat bread only? No, but in the mention of bread only, all the rest was understood. So when we pray for daily bread, we ask for whatever is necessary for us in earth for our bodies' sake. But what saith the Lord Jesus? "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." [2050] Again, this is a very good sense of, "Give us this day our daily bread," thy Eucharist, our daily food. For the faithful know what they receive, and good for them it is to receive that daily bread which is necessary for this time present. They pray then for themselves, that they may become good, that they may persevere in goodness, and faith, and a holy life. This do they wish, this they pray for; for if they persevere not in this good life, they will be separated from that Bread. Therefore, "Give us this day our daily bread." What is this? Let us live so,that we be not separated from Thy altar. Again, the Word of God which is laid open to us, and in a manner broken day by day, is "daily bread." And as our bodies hunger after that other, so do our souls after this bread. And so we both ask for this bread simply, and whatsoever is in this life needful both for our souls and bodies, is included in "daily bread."

6. "Forgive us our debts," [2051] we say, and we may well say so; for we say the truth. For who is he that lives here in the flesh, and hath no debts? What man is there that lives so, that this prayer is not necessary for him? He may puff himself up, justify himself he cannot. It were well for him to imitate the Publican, and not swell as the Pharisee, "who went up into the temple," [2052] and boasted of his deserts, and covered up his wounds. Whereas he who said, "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner," [2053] knew wherefore he went up. This prayer the Lord Jesus, consider, my brethren, this prayer the Lord Jesus taught His disciples to offer, those great first Apostles of His, the leaders of our flock. [2054] If the leaders of the flock then pray for the remission of their sins, what ought the lambs to do, of whom it is said, "Bring young rams unto the Lord"? [2055] You knew then that you have repeated this in the Creed, because amongst the rest you have mentioned there "the remission of sins." There is one remission of sins which is given once for all; another which is given day by day. There is one remission of sins which is given once for all in Holy Baptism; another which is given as long as we live here in the Lord's Prayer. Wherefore we say, "Forgive us our debts."

7. And God has brought us into a covenant, and agreement, and a firm bond [2056] with Him, in that we say, "as we also forgive our debtors." He who would say it effectually, "Forgive us our debts," must say truly, "as we also forgive our debtors." [2057] If this which is last he either say not, or say deceitfully, the other which is first he says in vain. We say to you then especially who are approaching to Holy Baptism, from your hearts forgive everything. And ye faithful, who taking advantage of this occasion are listening to this prayer, and our exposition of it, do ye wholly and from your hearts forgive whatsoever ye have against any. Forgive it there where God seeth. For sometimes a man remitteth with the mouth, and in the heart retaineth; he remitteth with the mouth for men's sake, and retaineth in the heart, as not fearing the eyes of God. But do ye remit entirely. Whatever ye have retained up to these holy days, [2058] in these holy days at least remit. "The sun ought not to go down upon your wrath," [2059] yet many suns have passed. Let then your wrath at length pass away also, now that we are celebrating the days of the great Sun, of that Sun of which Scripture saith, "Unto you shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings." [2060] What is, "in His wings"? In His protection. Whence it is said in the Psalms, "Keep me under the shadow of Thy wings." [2061] But as to others who in the day of judgment shall repent, but all too late, and who shall mourn, yet unavailingly, it hath been foretold by Wisdom what they shall then say as they repent and groan for anguish of spirit, "What hath pride profited us, or what good hath riches with our vaunting brought us? All these things are passed away like a shadow." And, "Therefore have we erred from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness hath not shined unto us, and the Sun of righteousness rose not upon us." [2062] That Sun riseth upon the righteous only; but this sun which we see, God "maketh," daily "to rise upon the good and evil." [2063] The righteous attain to the seeing of that Sun; and that Sun dwelleth now in our hearts by faith. If then thou art angry, let not this sun go down in thine heart upon thy wrath; "Let not the sun go down upon thy wrath;" lest haply thou be angry, and so the Sun of righteousness go down upon thee, and thou abide in darkness.

8. Now do not think that anger is nothing. "Mine eye was disordered because of anger," [2064] saith the Prophet. Surely he whose eye is disordered cannot see the sun; and if he should try to see it, it were pain, and no pleasure to him. And what is anger? The lust of vengeance. A man lusteth to be avenged, and Christ is not yet avenged, the holy martyrs are not yet avenged. Still doth the patience of God wait, that the enemies of Christ, the enemies of the martyrs, may be converted. And who are we, that we should seek for vengeance? If God should seek it at our hands, where should we abide? He who hath never in any matter done us harm, doth not wish to avenge Himself of us; and do we seek to be avenged, who are almost daily offending God? Forgive therefore; from the heart forgive. If thou art angry, yet sin not. "Be ye angry, and sin not." [2065] Be ye angry as being but men, if so be ye are overcome by it; yet sin not, so as to retain anger in your heart (for if ye do retain it, ye retain it against yourselves), lest ye enter not into that Light. Therefore forgive. What then is anger? The lust of vengeance. And what is hatred? Inveterate anger. If anger become inveterate, it is then called hatred. And this he seems to acknowledge, who when he had said, "Mine eye is disordered because of anger;" added, "I have become inveterate among all mine enemies." [2066] What was anger when it was new, became hatred when it was turned into long continuance. [2067] Anger is a "mote," hatred, a "beam." We sometimes find fault with one who is angry, yet we retain hatred in our own hearts; and so Christ saith to us, "Thou seest the mote in thy brother's eye, and seest not the beam in thine own eye." [2068] How grew the mote into a beam? Because it was not at once plucked out. Because thou didst suffer the sun to rise and go down so often upon thy wrath, and madest it inveterate, because thou contractedst evil suspicions, and wateredst the mote, and by watering hast nourished it, and by nourishing it, hast made it a beam. Tremble then at least when it is said, "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer." [2069] Thou hast not drawn the sword, nor inflicted any bodily wound, nor by any blow killed another; the thought only of hatred is in thy heart, and hereby art thou held to be a murderer, guilty art thou before the eyes of God. The other man is alive, and yet thou hast killed him. As far as thou art concerned, thou hast killed the man whom thou hatest. Reform then, and amend thyself. If scorpions or adders were in your houses, how would ye toil to purify them, that ye might be able to dwell in safety? Yet are ye angry, yea inveterate anger is in your hearts, and there grow so many hatreds, so many beams, so many scorpions, so many vipers, and will ye not then purify the house of God, your heart? Do then what is said, "As we also forgive our debtors;" and so say securely, "Forgive us our debts." For without debts in this earth ye cannot live; but those great crimes which it is your blessing to have been forgiven in Baptism, and from which we ought to be ever free, are of one sort, and of another are those daily sins, without which a man cannot live in this world, by reason of which this daily prayer with its covenant and agreement is necessary; that as we say with all cheerfulness, "Forgive us our debts;" so we may say with all truth, "As we also forgive our debtors." So much then have we said as touching past sins; what now for the future?

9. "Lead us not into temptation:" [2070] forgive what we have done already, and grant that we may not commit any more sins. For whosoever is overcome by temptation, committeth sin. Thus the Apostle James saith, "Let no man say when he is tempted, he is tempted of God, for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then lust, when it hath conceived, bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." [2071] Therefore that thou be not drawn away by thy lust; consent not to it. It hath no means of conceiving, but by thee. Thou hast consented, hast as it were in thine heart admitted [2072] her embrace. Lust has risen up, deny thyself to her, follow her not. It is a lust unlawful, impure, and shameful, it will alienate thee from God. Give it not then the embrace of thy consent, lest thou have to bewail the birth; for if thou consent, that is, when thou hast embraced her, she conceives, "and when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin." Dost thou not yet fear? "Sin bringeth forth death;" at least, fear death. If thou fear not sin, yet fear that whereunto it leads. Sin is sweet; but death is bitter. This is the infelicity of men; that for which they sin, they leave here when they die, and the sin themselves they carry with them. Thou dost sin for money, it must be left here: or for a country seat; it must be left here: or for some woman's sake; she must be left here; and whatsoever it be for which thou dost sin, when thou shalt have closed thine eyes in death, thou must leave it here; yet the sin itself which thou committest, thou carriest with thee.

10. May sins then be forgiven; the past forgiven, and the future cease. But without them here below thou canst not live; be they either lesser sins, or small, or trivial. Yet let not even these small and trivial sins be despised. With little drops is the river filled. Let not even the lesser sins be despised. Through narrow chinks in the ship the water oozes in, [2073] the hold keeps filling, and if it be disregarded the ship is sunk. But the sailors are not idle; their hands are active, [2074] --active that the water may be drained off from day to day. So be thy hands active, that thou mayest pump from day to day. What is the meaning of "be thy hands active"? Let them give, do good works, so be thy hands engaged. "Break thy bread to the hungry, and bring the poor and houseless into thine house; if thou seest the naked, clothe him." [2075] Do all thou canst, do it with the means thou canst command, do it cheerfully, and so put up thy prayer with confidence. It will have two wings, a double alms. What is "a double alms"? "Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Give, and it shall be given unto you." [2076] The one alms is that which is done from the heart, when thou forgivest thy brother his sin. The other alms is that which is done out of thy substance, when thou dealest bread to the poor. Offer both, lest without either wing thy prayer remain motionless.

11. Therefore when we have said, "Lead us not into temptation," there follows, "But deliver us from evil." Now whoso wishes to be delivered from evil, bears witness that he is in evil. And thus saith the Apostle, "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." [2077] But who is there "that wisheth for life, and loveth to see good days"? [2078] Seeing that all men in this flesh have only evil days; who doth not wish it? Do thou what follows, "Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips that they speak no guile: depart from evil, and do good, seek peace, and ensue it;" [2079] and then thou hast got rid of evil days, and thy prayer, "deliver us from evil," is fulfilled.

12. Therefore the three first petitions, "Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done as in heaven, so in earth," are for eternity. But the four following relate to this life, "Give us this day our daily bread." Shall we ask day by day for daily bread, when we shall have come to that fulness of blessing? "Forgive us our debts." Shall we say this in that kingdom, when we shall have no debts? "Lead us not into temptation." Shall we be able to say this then, when there will be no temptation? "Deliver us from evil." Shall we say this, when there shall be nothing from which to be delivered? Therefore these four are necessary, because of our daily life, but the three first in reference to the life eternal. But all things let us ask, with a view of attaining to that life, and let us pray here, that we be not separated from it. Every day must this prayer be said by you, when you are baptized. For the Lord's Prayer is said daily in the Church before the Altar of God, and the faithful hear it. We have no fear therefore as to your not learning it carefully, because even if any of you should be unable to get it perfectly, he will learn it by hearing it day by day.

13. Therefore on the Saturday [2080] when by the grace of God you will keep the Vigil, you will have to repeat not the Prayer, but the Creed. For if you do not know the Creed now, you will not hear that every day in the Church, and among the people. But when you have learnt it, that you may not forget it, say it every day when you rise; when you are preparing for sleep, rehearse your Creed, to the Lord rehearse it, remind yourselves of it, and be not weary of repeating it. For repetition is useful, lest forgetfulness steal over you. Do not say, "I said it yesterday, I have said it today, I say it every day, I know it perfectly well." Call thy faith to mind, look into thyself, let thy Creed be as it were a mirror to thee. Therein see thyself, whether thou dost believe all which thou professest to believe, and so rejoice day by day in thy faith. Let it be thy wealth, let it be in a sort the daily clothing of thy soul. Dost thou not always dress thyself when thou risest? So by the daily repetition of thy Creed dress thy soul, lest haply forgetfulness make it bare, and thou remain naked, and that take place which the Apostle saith, (may it be far from thee!) "If so be that being unclothed, [2081] we shall not be found naked." [2082] For we shall be clothed by our faith: and this faith is at once a garment and a breastplate; a garment against shame, a breastplate against adversity. But when we shall have arrived at that place where we shall reign, no need will there be to say the Creed. We shall see God; God Himself will be our vision; the vision of God will be the reward of our present faith.

Footnotes

[2032] Rom. x. 14. [2033] Jurisperitus. [2034] Easter Eve. [2035] i.e. in Lent. [2036] Matt. vi. 9. [2037] Matt. vi. 9, 10. [2038] Matt. xxv. 34. [2039] Matt. xxv. 41. [2040] Matt. vi. 10. [2041] Rom. vii. 22. [2042] Gal. v. 17. [2043] Portat. [2044] Gen. iii. 19, Sept. [2045] Matt. vi. 11. [2046] Heb. iii. 13. [2047] Tegumentum; skepasmata. [2048] 1 Tim. vi. 7, 8. [2049] Gen. xliii. 16, Sept. [2050] Matt. vi. 33. [2051] Matt. vi. 12. [2052] Luke xviii. 10, 11. [2053] Luke xviii. 13. [2054] Arietes nostros. [2055] Ps. xxviii. 1, Sept. (xxix. English version). [2056] Chirographum. [2057] Matt. vi. 12. [2058] The Feast of Easter, the great season for baptizing. See Bingham, xi. 6, 7. [2059] Eph. iv. 26. [2060] Mal. iv. 2. [2061] Ps. xvii. 8. [2062] Wisd. v. 8, 9, 6. [2063] Matt. v. 45. [2064] Ps. vi. 8, Sept. (vi. 7, English version). [2065] Ps. iv. 5, Sept. (iv. 4, English version). [2066] Ps. vi. 8, Sept. (vi. 7, English version). [2067] Vetustatem. [2068] Matt. vii. 3. [2069] 1 John iii. 15. [2070] Matt. vi. 13. [2071] Jas. i. 13, etc. [2072] Concubuisti. [2073] Insudat aqua. [2074] Ambulant. [2075] Isa. lviii. 7, Sept. [2076] Luke vi. 37, 38. [2077] Eph. v. 16. [2078] Ps. xxxiv. 12. [2079] Ps. xxxiv. 13, 14. [2080] Easter Eve. See Bingham, xxi. 1, 32. [2081] The reading of D. F. G., some mss. ap. Chrys. and Ambr. Ar.Pol. Vet. Lat. Tert. Paulin, Macar, ap. Mill. Auct. quæstt. V. T. St. Augustin's present text has elsewhere "induti" (see Sabat.); but the text of the Fathers is often involuntarily conformed to the Vulgate. [2082] 2 Cor. v. 3. .


Sermon IX.

[LIX. Ben.]

Again, on the Lord's Prayer, Matt. vi. To the Competentes.

1. You have rehearsed what you believe, hear now what you are to pray for. Forasmuch as you would not be able to call on Him, in whom you should not first have believed; as saith the Apostle, "How shall they call on Him, in whom they have not believed?" [2083] Therefore have you first learned the Creed, where is a brief and sublime rule of your faith; brief in the number of its words, sublime in the weight of its contents. [2084] But the prayer which you receive to-day to be learned by heart, and to be repeated eight days hence, was dictated (as you heard when the Gospel was being read) by the Lord Himself to His disciples, and came from them unto us, since "their sound went into all the earth." [2085]

2. Ye then who have found a Father in heaven, be loth to cleave to the things of earth. For ye are about to say, "Our Father, which art in heaven." [2086] You have begun to belong to a great family. Under this Father the lord and the slave are brethren; under this Father the general and the common soldier are brethren; under this Father the rich man and the poor are brethren. All Christian believers have divers fathers in earth, some noble, some obscure; but they all call upon one Father which is in heaven. If our Father be there, there is the inheritance prepared for us. But He is such a Father, that we can possess with Him what He giveth. For He giveth an inheritance; but He doth not leave it to us by dying. For He doth not depart Himself, but He abideth ever, that we may come to Him. Seeing then we have heard of Whom we are to ask, let us know also what to ask for, lest haply we offend such a Father by asking amiss.

3. What then hath the Lord Jesus Christ taught us to ask of the Father which is in heaven? "Hallowed be Thy Name." [2087] What kind of blessing is this that we ask of God, that His Name may be hallowed? The Name of God is always Holy; why then do we pray that it may be hallowed, except that we may be hallowed by it? We pray then that that which is Holy always, may be hallowed in us. The Name of God is hallowed in you when ye are baptized. Why will ye offer this prayer after ye have been baptized, but that that which ye shall then receive may abide ever in you?

4. Another petition follows, "Thy kingdom come." [2088] God's kingdom will come, whether we ask it or not. Why then do we ask it, but that that which will come to all saints may also come to us; that God may count us also in the number of His saints, to whom His kingdom is to come?

5. We say in the third petition, "Thy will be done as in heaven, so in earth." [2089] What is this? That as the Angels serve Thee in heaven, so we may serve Thee in earth. For His holy Angels obey Him; they do not offend Him; they do His commands through the love of Him. This we pray for then, that we too may do the commands of God in love. Again, these words are understood in another way, "Thy will be done as in heaven, so in earth." Heaven in us is the soul, earth in us is the body. What then is, "Thy will be done as in heaven, so in earth"? As we hear Thy precepts, so may our flesh consent unto us; lest, whilst flesh and spirit strive together, we be not able to fulfil the commands of God.

6. "Give us this day our daily bread," [2090] comes next in the Prayer. Whether we ask here of the Father support [2091] necessary for the body, by "bread" signifying whatever is needful for us; or whether we understand that daily Bread, which ye are soon to receive from the Altar; well it is that we pray that He would give it us. For what is it we pray for, but that we may commit no evil, for which we should be separated from that holy Bread. And the word of God which is preached daily is daily bread. For because it is not bread for the body, it is not on that account not bread for the soul. But when this life shall have passed away, we shall neither seek that bread which hunger seeks; nor shall we have to receive the Sacrament of the Altar, because we shall be there with Christ, whose Body we do now receive; nor will those words which we are now speaking, need to be said to you, nor the sacred volume to be read, when we shall see Him who is Himself the Word of God, by whom all things were made, by whom the Angels are fed, by whom the Angels are enlightened, by whom the Angels become wise; not requiring words of circuitous discourse; but drinking in the Only Word, filled with whom they burst forth [2092] and never fail in praise. For, "Blessed," saith the Psalm, "are they who dwell in Thy house; they will be always praising Thee." [2093]

7. Therefore in this present life, do we ask what comes next, "Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors." [2094] In Baptism, all debts, that is, all sins, are entirely forgiven us. But because no one can live without sin here below, and if without any great crime which entails separation from the Altar, yet altogether without sins can no one live on this earth, and we can only receive the one Baptism once for all; in this Prayer we hear how we may day by day be washed, that our sins may day by day be forgiven us; but only if we do what follows, "As we also forgive our debtors." Accordingly, my Brethren, I advise you, who are in the grace of God my sons, yet my Brethren under that heavenly Father; I advise you, whenever any one offends and sins against you, and comes, and confesses, and asks your pardon, that ye do pardon him, and forthwith from the heart forgive him; lest ye keep off from your own selves that pardon, which comes from God. For if ye forgive not, neither will He forgive you. Therefore it is in this life that we make this petition, for that it is in this life that sins can be forgiven, where they can be done. But in the life to come they are not forgiven, because they are not done.

8. Next after this we pray, saying, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." [2095] This also, that we be not led into temptation, it is necessary for us to ask in this life, because in this life there are temptations; and that "we may be delivered from evil," because there is evil here. And thus of all these seven petitions, three have respect to the life eternal, and four to the present life. "Hallowed be Thy name." This will be for ever. "Thy kingdom come." This kingdom will be for ever. "Thy will be done as in heaven, so in earth." This will be for ever. "Give us this day our daily bread." This will not be for ever. "Forgive us our debts." This will not be for ever. "Lead us not into temptation." This will not be for ever. "But deliver us from evil." This will not be for ever: but where there is temptation, and where there is evil, there is it necessary that we make this petition.

Footnotes

[2083] Rom. x. 14. [2084] Sententiarum. [2085] Ps. xviii. 5, Sept. (xix. 4, English version). [2086] Matt. vi. 9. [2087] Matt. vi. 9. [2088] Matt. vi. 10. [2089] Matt. vi. 10. [2090] Matt. vi. 11. [2091] Exhibitionem. [2092] Ructuant. [2093] Ps. lxxxiv. 4. [2094] Matt. vi. 12. [2095] Matt. vi. 13. .


Sermon X.

[LX. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. vi. 19, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth," etc. An exhortation to alms-deeds.

1. Every man who is in any trouble, and his own resources fail him, looks out for some prudent person from whom he may take counsel, and so know what to do. Let us suppose then the whole world to be as it were one single man. He seeks to escape evil, yet is slow in doing good; and as in this way tribulations thicken, and his own resources fail, whom can he find more prudent to receive counsel from than Christ? By all means, at least, let him find a better, and do what he will. But if he cannot find a better, let him come to Him whom he may find everywhere: let him consult, and take advice from Him, keep the good commandment, escape the great evil. For present temporal ills of which men are so sore afraid, under which they murmur exceedingly, and by their murmuring offend Him who is correcting them, so that they find not His saving Help; [2096] present ills I say without a doubt are but passing; either they pass through us, or we pass through them; either they pass away whilst we live, or they are left behind us when we die. Now that is not in the matter of tribulation great, which in duration is short. Whosoever thou art that art thinking of to-morrow, thou dost not recall the remembrance of yesterday. When the day after to-morrow comes, this to-morrow also will be yesterday. But now if men are so disquieted with anxiety to escape temporal tribulations which pass, or rather fly over, what thought ought they to take that they may escape those which abide and endure without end?

2. A hard condition is the life of man. What else is it to be born, but to enter on a life of toil? Of our toil that is to be, the infant's very cry is witness. From this cup [2097] of sorrow no one may be excused. The cup that Adam hath pledged, must be drunk. We were made, it is true, by the hands of Truth, but because of sin we were cast forth upon days of vanity. "We were made after the image of God," [2098] but we [2099] disfigured it by sinful transgression. Therefore does the Psalm remind us how we were made, and to what a state we have come. For it says, "Though a man walk in the image [2100] of God." See, what he was made. Whither hath he come? Hearken to what follows, "Yet will he be disquieted in vain." [2101] He walks in the image of truth, and will be disquieted in the counsel of vanity. Finally, see his disquiet, see it, and as it were in a glass, be displeased with thyself. "Though," he says, "man walk in the image of God," and therefore be something great, "yet will he be disquieted in vain;" and as though we might ask, How I pray thee, how is man disquieted in vain? "He heapeth up treasure," saith he, "and knoweth not for whom he doth gather it." See then, this man, that is the whole human race represented as one man, who is without resource in his own case, and hath lost counsel and wandered out of the way of a sound mind; "Heapeth up treasure, and knoweth not for whom he doth gather it." What is more mad, what more unhappy? But surely he is doing it for himself? Not so. Why not for himself? Because he must die, because the life of man is short, because the treasure lasts, but he who gathereth it, quickly passeth away. As pitying therefore the man who "walketh in the image of God," who confesseth things that are true, yet followeth after vain things, he saith, "He will be disquieted in vain." I grieve for him; "he heapeth up treasure, and knoweth not for whom he doth gather it." Doth he gather it for himself? No. Because the man dies whilst the treasure endures. For whom then? If thou hast any good counsel, give it to me. But counsel hast thou none to give me, and so thou hast none for thyself. Wherefore if we are both without it, let us both seek it, let us both receive it, and both consider the matter together. He is disquieted, he heapeth up treasure, he thinks, and toils, and is kept awake by anxiety. All day long art thou harassed by labour, all night agitated by fear. That thy coffer may be filled with money, thy soul is in a fever of anxiety.

3. I see it, I am grieved for thee; thou art disquieted, and as He who cannot deceive, assures us, "Thou art disquieted in vain." For thou art heaping up treasures: supposing that all thy undertakings succeed, to say nothing of losses, of so great perils and deaths in the prosecution of every several kind of gain (I speak not of deaths of the body, but of evil thoughts, for that gold may come in, uprightness [2102] goeth out; that thou mayest be clothed outwardly, thou art made naked within), but to pass over these, and other such things in silence, to pass by all the things that are against thee, let us think only of the favourable circumstances. See, thou art laying up treasures, gains flow into thee from every quarter, and thy money runs like fountains; everywhere where want presseth, there doth abundance flow. Hast thou not heard, "If riches increase, set not your heart upon them?" [2103] Lo, thou art getting, thou art disquieted, not fruitlessly indeed, still in vain. "How," thou wilt ask "am I disquieted in vain? I am filling my coffers, my walls will scarce hold what I get, how then am I disquieted in vain?" "Thou art heaping up treasure, and dost not know for whom thou gatherest it." Or if thou dost know, I pray thee tell me. I will listen to thee. For whom is it? If thou art not disquieted in vain, tell me for whom thou art heaping up thy treasure? "For myself," thou sayest. Dost thou dare say so, who must so soon die? "For my children." Dost thou dare say this of them who must so soon die? It is a great duty of natural affection [2104] (it will be said) for a father to lay up for his sons; rather it is a great vanity, one who must soon die is laying up for those who must soon die also. If it is for thyself, why dost thou gather, seeing thou leavest all when thou diest. This is the case also with thy children; they will succeed thee, but not to abide long. I say nothing about what sort of children they may be, whether haply debauchery may not waste what covetousness hath amassed. So another by dissoluteness [2105] squanders what thou by much toil hast gathered together. But I pass over this. It may be they will be good children, they will not be dissolute, they will keep what thou hast left, will increase what thou hast kept, and will not dissipate what thou hast heaped together. Then will thy children be equally vain with thyself, if they do so, if in this they imitate thee their father. I would say to them what I said just now to thee. I would say to thy son, to him for whom thou art saving I would say, "Thou art heaping up treasure, and knowest not for whom thou dost gather it." For as thou knewest not, so neither doth he know. If the vanity hath continued in him, hath the truth lost its power with respect to him?

4. I forbear to urge, that it may be even during thy life thou art but laying up for thieves. In one night may they come and find all ready the gathering of so many days and nights. It may be thou art laying up for a robber, or a highwayman. I will say no more on this, lest I call to mind and re-open the wound of past sufferings. How many things which an empty vanity hath heaped together, hath the cruelty of an enemy found ready to its hand. It is not my place to wish for this: but it is the concern of all to fear it. May God avert it! May His own scourges be sufficient. May He to whom we pray, spare us! But if He ask thee for whom are we laying by, what shall we answer? How then, O man, whosoever thou art, that are heaping up treasure in vain, how wilt thou answer me, as I handle this matter with thee, and with thee seek counsel in a common cause? For thou didst speak and make answer, "I am laying up for myself, for my children, for my posterity." I have said already how many grounds of fear there are, even as to those children themselves. But I pass over the consideration, that thy children may so live as to be a curse [2106] to thee, and as thine enemy would wish them; grant that they live as the father himself would have them. Yet how many have fallen into those mischances, I have declared, and reminded you of already. Thou didst shudder at them, though thou didst not amend thyself. For what hast thou to answer but this, "Perhaps it may not be so"? Well, I said so too; perhaps I say thou art but laying up for the thief, or robber, or highwayman. I did not say certainly, but perhaps. Where there is a perhaps, there is a perhaps-not; so then thou knowest not what will be, and therefore thou "art disquieted in vain." Thou seest now how truly spake the Truth, how vainly vanity is disquieted. Thou hast heard and at length learnt wisdom, because when thou sayest, "Perhaps it is for my children," but dost not dare to say, "I am sure that it is for my children," thou dost not in fact know for whom thou art gathering riches. So then, as I see, and have said already, thou art thyself without resource; thou findest nothing wherewith to answer me, nor can I to answer thee.

5. Let us both therefore seek and ask for counsel. We have opportunity of consulting not any wise man, but Wisdom Herself. Let us then both give ear to Jesus Christ, "to the Jews a stumbling stone, and to the Gentiles foolishness, but to them who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the Power of God and the Wisdom of God." [2107] Why art thou preparing a strong defence for thy riches? Hear the Power of God, nothing is more strong than He. Why art thou preparing wise counsel [2108] to protect thy riches? Hear the Wisdom of God, nothing is more Wise than He. Peradventure when I say what I have to say, thou wilt be offended, and so thou wilt be a Jew, "because to the Jews is Christ an offence." Or peradventure, when I have spoken, it will appear foolish to thee, and so wilt thou be a Gentile, "for to the Gentiles is Christ foolishness." Yet thou art a Christian, thou hast been called. "But to them who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the Power of God and the Wisdom of God." Be not sad then when I have said what I have to say; be not offended; mock not my folly, as you deem it, with an air of disdain. [2109] Let us give ear. For what I am about to say, Christ hath said. If thou despise the herald, yet fear the Judge. What shall I say then? The reader of the Gospel has but just now relieved me from this embarrassment. I will not read anything fresh, but will recall only to your recollection what has just been read. Thou wast seeking counsel, as failing in thine own resources; see then what the Fountain of right counsel saith, the Fountain from whose streams is no fear of poison, fill from It what thou mayest.

6. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust doth destroy, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where no thief approacheth, nor moth corrupteth: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." [2110] What more dost thou wait for? The thing is plain. The counsel is open, but evil desire lies hid; nay, not so, but what is worse, it too lies open. For plunder does not cease its ravages; avarice does not cease to defraud; maliciousness does not cease to swear falsely. And all for what? that treasure may be heaped together. To be laid up where? In the earth, and rightly indeed, by earth for earth. For to the man who sinned and who pledged us, as I have said, our cup of toil, was it said, "Earth thou art, and to earth shalt thou return." [2111] With good reason is the treasure in earth, because the heart is there. Where then is that, "we lift them up unto the Lord?" Sorrow for your case, ye who have understood me; and if ye sorrow truly, amend yourselves. How long will ye be applauding and not doing? What ye have heard is true, nothing truer. Let that then which is true be done. One God we praise, yet we change not, that we may not in this very praise be disquieted in vain.

7. Therefore, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth;" whether ye have found by experience how what is laid up in the earth is lost, or whether ye have not so experienced it, yet do ye too fear lest ye should do so. Let experience reform him whom words will not reform. One cannot rise up now, one cannot go out, but all together with one voice are crying, "Woe to us, the world is falling." [2112] If it be falling, why dost thou not remove? If an architect were to tell thee, that thy house would soon fall, wouldest thou not remove before thou didst indulge in thy vain lamentations? The Builder of the world telleth thee the world will soon fall, and wilt thou not believe it? Hear the voice of Him who foretelleth it, hear the counsel of Him who giveth thee warning. The voice of prediction is, "Heaven and earth shall pass away." [2113] The voice of warning is, "Lay not up for yourselves treasure on earth." [2114] If then thou dost believe God in His prediction; if thou despise not His warning, let what He says be done. He who has given thee such counsel doth not deceive thee. Thou shalt not lose what thou hast given away, but shalt follow what thou hast only sent before thee. Therefore my counsel is, "Give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven." [2115] Thou shalt not remain without treasure; but what thou hast on earth with anxiety, thou shalt possess in heaven free from care. Transport thy goods then. I am giving thee counsel for keeping, not for losing. "Thou shalt have," saith He, "treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me," that I may bring thee to thy treasure. This is not a wasting, but a saving. Why do men keep silence? Let them hear, and having at last by experience found what to fear, let them do that which will give them no cause of fear, let them transport their goods to heaven. Thou puttest wheat in the low ground; [2116] and thy friend comes, who knows the nature of the corn and the land, and instructs thy unskilfulness, and says to thee, "What hast thou done?" Thou hast put the corn in the flat soil, in the lower land; the soil is moist; it will all rot, and thou wilt lose thy labour. Thou answerest, What then must I do? Remove it, he says, into the higher ground. Dost thou then give ear to a friend who gives thee counsel about thy corn, and despisest thou God who gives thee counsel about thine heart? Thou fearest to put thy corn in the low earth, and wilt thou lose thy heart in the earth? Behold the Lord thy God when He giveth thee counsel touching thine heart, saith, "Where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also." [2117] Lift up, saith He, thine heart to heaven, that it rot not in the earth. It is His counsel, who wisheth to preserve thy heart, not to destroy it.

8. If then this be so, what must be their repentance who have not done thereafter? How must they now reproach themselves! We might have had in heaven what we have now lost in earth. The enemy has broken up our house; but could he break heaven open? He has killed the servant who was set to guard; but could he kill the Lord who would have kept them, "where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth." How many now are saying, "There we might have had, and hid our treasures safe, where after a little while we might have followed them securely. Why have we not hearkened to our Lord? Why have we despised the admonitions of the Father, and so have experienced the invasion of the enemy?" If then this be good counsel, let us not be slow in taking heed to it; and if what we have must be transported, let us transfer it into that place, from whence we cannot lose it. What are the poor to whom we give, but our [2118] carriers, [2119] by whom we convey our goods from earth to heaven? Give then: thou art but giving to thy carrier, he carrieth what thou givest to heaven. How, sayest thou, does he carry it to heaven? For I see that he makes an end of it by eating. No doubt, he carries it, not by keeping it, but by making it his food. What? Hast thou forgotten, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom; for I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat:" and," Inasmuch as ye did it to one of the least of Mine, ye did it to Me." [2120] If thou hast not despised the beggar that standeth before thee, consider to Whom what thou gavest him hath come. "Inasmuch," saith he, "as ye did it to one of the least of Mine, ye did it to Me." He hath received it, who gave thee wherewith to give. He hath received it, who in the end will give His Own Self to thee.

9. For this have I at divers times called to your remembrance, Beloved, and I confess to you it astonishes me much in the Scriptures of God, and I ought repeatedly to call your attention to it. I pray you to think of what our Lord Jesus Christ Himself saith, that at the end of the world, when He shall come to judgment, He will gather together all nations before Him, and will divide men into two parts; that He will place some at His right hand, and others on His left; and will say to those on the right hand, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." But to those on the left, "Depart ye into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Search out the reasons either for so great a reward, or so great a punishment. "Receive the kingdom," and "Go into everlasting fire." Why shall the first receive the kingdom? "For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat." Why shall the other depart into everlasting fire? "For I was hungry, and ye gave Me no meat." What meaneth this, I ask? I see touching those who are to receive the kingdom, that they gave as good and faithful Christians, not despising the words of the Lord, and with sure trust hoping for the promises they did accordingly; because had they not done so, this very barrenness would not surely have accorded with their good life. For it may be they were chaste, no cheats, nor drunkards, and kept themselves from evil works. Yet if they had not added good works, they would have remained barren. For they would have kept, "Depart from evil," but they would not have kept, "and do good." [2121] Notwithstanding, even to them He doth not say, "Come, receive the kingdom," for ye have lived in chastity; ye have defrauded no man, ye have not oppressed any poor man, ye have invaded no one's landmark, ye have deceived no one by oath. He said not this, but, "Receive the kingdom, because I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat." How excellent is this above all, when the Lord made no mention of the rest, but named this only! And again to the others, "Depart ye into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. How many things could He urge against the ungodly, were they to ask, "Why are we going into everlasting fire!" Why? Do ye ask, ye adulterers, menslayers, cheats, sacrilegious blasphemers, unbelievers. Yet none of these did He name, but, "Because I was hungry, and ye gave Me no meat."

10. I see that you are surprised as I am. And indeed it is a marvellous thing. But I gather as best I can the reason of this thing so strange, and I will not conceal it from you. It is written, "As water quencheth fire, so alms quencheth sin." [2122] Again it is written, "Shut up alms in the heart of a poor man, and it shall make supplication for thee before the Lord." [2123] Again it is written, "Hear, O king, my counsel, and redeem thy sins by alms." [2124] And many other testimonies of the Divine oracles are there, whereby it is shown that alms avail much to the quenching and effacing of sins. Wherefore to those whom He is about to condemn, yea, rather to those whom He is about to crown, He will impute alms only, as though He would say, "It were a hard matter for me not to find occasion to condemn you, were I to examine and weigh you accurately and with much exactness to scrutinize your deeds; but, "Go into the kingdom, for I was hungry, and ye gave Me meat." Ye shall therefore go into the kingdom, not because ye have not sinned, but because ye have redeemed your sins by alms. And again to the others, "Go ye into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." They too, guilty as they are, old in their sins, late in their fear for them, in what respect, when they turn their sins over in their mind, could they dare to say that they are undeservedly condemned, that this sentence is pronounced against them undeservedly by so righteous a Judge? In considering their consciences, and all the wounds of their souls, in what respect could they dare to say, We are unjustly condemned. Of whom it was said before in Wisdom, "Their own iniquities shall convince them to their face." [2125] Without doubt they will see that they are justly condemned for their sins and wickednesses; yet it will be as though He said to them, "It is not in consequence of this that ye think, but `because I was hungry, and ye gave Me no meat.'" For if turning away from all these your deeds, and turning to Me, ye had redeemed all those crimes and sins by alms, those alms would now deliver you, and absolve you from the guilt of so great offences; for, "Blessed are the merciful, for to them shall be shown mercy." [2126] But now go away into everlasting fire. "He shall have judgment without mercy, who hath showed no mercy." [2127]

11. O that I may have induced you, my brethren, to give away your earthly bread, and to knock for the heavenly! The Lord is that Bread. He saith, "I am the Bread of life." [2128] But how shall He give to thee, who givest not to him that is in need? One is in need before thee, and thou art in need before Another, and since thou art in need before Another, and another is in need before thee, that other is in need before him who is in need himself. For He before whom thou art in need, needeth nothing. Do then to others as thou wouldest have done to thee. For it is not in this case as with those friends who are wont to upbraid in a way one another with their kindnesses; as, "I did this for thee," and the other answers, "and I this for thee," that He wishes us to do Him some good office, because He has first done such an office for us. He is in want of nothing, and therefore is He the very Lord. I said unto the Lord, "Thou art my God, for Thou needest not my goods." [2129] Notwithstanding though He be the Lord, and the Very Lord, and needeth not our goods, yet that we might do something even for Him, hath He vouchsafed to be hungry in His poor. "I was hungry," saith He, "and ye gave Me meat. Lord, when saw we Thee hungry? Forasmuch as ye did it to one of the least of Mine, ye did it to Me." [2130] To be brief then, let men hear, and consider as they ought, how great a merit it is to have fed Christ when He hungereth, and how great a crime it is to have despised Christ when He hungereth.

12. Repentance for sins changes men, it is true, for the better; but it does not appear as if even it would profit ought, if it should be barren of works of mercy. This the Truth testifieth by the mouth of John, who said to them that came to him, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance; And say not we have Abraham to our father; for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. For now is the axe laid unto the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down, and cast into the fire." [2131] Touching this fruit he said above, "Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance." Whoso then bringeth not forth these fruits, hath no cause to think that he shall attain [2132] pardon for his sins by a barren repentance. Now what these fruits are, he showeth afterwards himself. For after these his words the multitude asked him, saying, "What shall we do then?" That is, what are these fruits, which thou exhortest us with such alarming force to bring forth? "But he answering said unto them, he that hath two coats, let him give to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise." My brethren, what is more plain, what more certain, or express than this? What other meaning then can that have which he said above, "Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and cast into the fire;" but that same which they on the left shall hear, "Go ye into everlasting fire, for I was hungry, and ye gave Me no meat." So then it is but a small matter to depart from sins, if thou shalt neglect to cure what is past, as it is written, "Son, thou hast sinned, do so no more." And that he might not think to be secure by this only, he saith, "And for thy former sins pray that they may be forgiven thee." [2133] But what will it profit thee to pray for forgiveness, if thou shalt not make thyself meet to be heard, by not bringing forth fruits meet for repentance, that thou shouldest be cut down as a barren tree, and be cast into the fire? If then ye will be heard when ye pray for pardon of your sins, "Forgive, and it shall be forgiven you; Give, and it shall be given you." [2134]

Footnotes

[2096] Salvatorem. [2097] Convivio. [2098] Gen. i. 27. [2099] Detrivimus. [2100] St. Ambrose, ad loc., observes that Dei is not in the Greek but explains "in imagine" in the same sense, as does St. Augustin, ad loc., where he had not "Dei." It seems a sort of gloss. It occurs in Cassiod. Anon. de Trin. ap. St. Ambrose. [2101] Ps. xxxviii. 7, Sept. (xxxix. 6, English version). [2102] Fides. [2103] Ps. lxii. 10. [2104] Pietas. [2105] Fluendo. [2106] Poenaliter. [2107] 1 Cor. i. 23, 24. [2108] Argumenta. [2109] Ore torto. [2110] Matt. vi. 19-21. [2111] Gen. iii. 19, Sept. [2112] From this and the preceding sections it would appear as if this Sermon was written at a time of some great public trouble, probably when the barbarians were ravaging Africa. [2113] Matt. xxiv. 35. [2114] Matt. vi. 19. [2115] Matt. xix. 21. [2116] In terra. [2117] Matt. vi. 21. [2118] Vide Sermon 18. 4, and Sermon 38. 9. [2119] Laturarii. [2120] Matt. xxv. 34, etc. [2121] Ps. xxxiv. 14. [2122] Ecclus. iii. 30. [2123] Ecclus. xxix. 12, Vulgate. [2124] Dan. iv. 24, Sept. (iv. 27, English version). [2125] Wisd. iv. 20. [2126] Matt. v. 7. [2127] Jas. ii. 13. [2128] John vi. 35. [2129] Ps. xv. 2, Sept. (xvi. 2, English version). [2130] Matt. xxv. 35, etc. [2131] Luke iii. 7, etc. [2132] Mereri. [2133] Ecclus. xxi. 1. [2134] Luke vi. 37, 38. .


Sermon XI.

[LXI. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. vii. 7, "Ask, and it shall be given you;" etc. An exhortation to alms-deeds.

1. In the lesson of the Holy Gospel the Lord hath exhorted us to prayer. "Ask," saith He, "and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? [2135] Or if he ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? [2136] If ye then," saith He, "though ye be evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him? [2137] Though ye be evil," He saith, "ye know how to give good gifts unto your children." A marvellous thing, Brethren! we are evil: yet have we a good Father. What is more evident? We have heard our proper name: "Though ye be evil, ye know how to give good gifts unto your children." And now see what kind of Father He showeth them, whom he called evil. "How much more shall your Father?" Father of whom? undoubtedly of the evil. And what kind of Father? "None is good but God only." [2138]

2. For this cause have we who are evil a good Father, that we may not always continue evil. No evil man can make another man good. If no evil man can make another good, how can an evil man make himself good? He only can make of an evil man a good man, who is good eternally. "Heal me, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved." [2139] Why then do those vain ones [2140] say to me in words vain as themselves, "Thou canst save thyself if thou wilt"? "Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed." We were created good by The Good; for "God made man upright," [2141] but by our own free will, we became evil. We had power from being good to become evil, and we shall have power from being evil to become good. But it is He who is ever Good, who maketh the good out of the evil; for man by his own will had no power to heal himself. Thou dost not look out for a physician to wound thyself; but when thou hast wounded thyself, thou lookest out for one to cure thee. Good things then after the time present, temporal good things, such as are concerned with the body and flesh, we do know how to give to our children, even though we are evil. For even these are good things, who would doubt it? A fish, an egg, bread, fruit, wheat, the light we see, the air we breathe, all these are good; the very riches by which men are lifted up, and which make them loth to acknowledge other men to be their equals; by which, I say, men are lifted up rather in love of their dazzling clothing, than with any thought of their common nature, even these riches, I repeat, are good; but all these goods which I have now mentioned may be possessed by good and bad alike; and though they be good themselves, yet cannot they make their owners good.

3. A good then there is which maketh good, and a good there is whereby thou mayest do good. The Good which maketh good is God. For none can make man good, save He who is Good eternally. Therefore that thou mayest be good, call upon God. But there is another good whereby thou mayest do good, and that is, whatever thou mayest possess. There is gold, there is silver; they are good, not such as can make thee good, but whereby thou mayest do good. Thou hast gold and silver, and thou desirest more gold and silver. Thou both hast, and desirest to have; thou art at once full, and thirsty. This is a disease, not opulence. When men are in the dropsy, [2142] they are full of water, and yet are always thirsty. They are full of water, and yet they thirst for water. How then canst thou take pleasure in opulence, who hast thereby this dropsical desire? Gold then thou hast, it is good; yet thou hast not whereby thou canst be made good, but whereby thou canst do good. Dost thou ask, What good can I do with gold? Hast thou not heard in the Psalm, "He hath dispersed abroad, he hath given to the poor, his righteousness remaineth for ever." [2143] This is good, this is the good whereby thou art made good; righteousness. If thou have the good whereby thou art made good, do good with that good which cannot make thee good. Thou hast money, deal it out freely. By dealing it out freely, thou increasest righteousness. "For he hath dispersed abroad, hath distributed, hath given to the poor; his righteousness remaineth for ever." See what is diminished and what increased. Thy money is diminished, thy righteousness increased. That is diminished which thou must soon have lost, that diminished which thou must soon have left behind thee; that increased which thou shalt possess for ever.

4. It is then a secret of gainful dealing I am giving; learn so to trade. For thou dost commend the merchant who selleth lead and getteth gold, and wilt thou not commend the merchant, who layeth out money, and getteth righteousness? But thou wilt say, I do not lay out my money, because I have not righteousness. Let him who has righteousness lay his money out; I have not righteousness, so at least let me have my money. Dost thou not then wish to lay out thy money, because thou hast not righteousness? Yea, lay it out then rather that thou mayest have righteousness. For from whence shalt thou have righteousness but from God, the Fountain of righteousness? Therefore, if thou wilt have righteousness, be God's beggar, who just now out of the Gospel urged thee to ask, and seek, and knock. He knew His beggar, and lo the Householder, the mighty rich One, rich, to wit, in riches spiritual and eternal, exhorteth thee and saith, "Ask, seek, knock; he that asketh receiveth, he that seeketh findeth, to him that knocketh it shall be opened." [2144] He exhorteth thee to ask, and will he refuse thee what thou askest?

5. Consider a similitude or comparison drawn from a contrary case (as of that unjust judge), which is an encouragement to us to prayer. "There was," saith the Lord, "in a city a certain judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man." [2145] A certain widow importuned him daily, and said, "Avenge me." He would not for a long time; but she ceased not to petition, and he did through her importunity what he would not of his own good will. [2146] For thus by a contrary case hath He recommended us to pray.

6. Again, He saith, "A certain man to whom some guest had come, went to his friend, and began to knock and say, A guest is come to me, lend me three loaves." He answered, "I am already in bed, and my servants with me." The other does not leave off, but stands and presses his case, and knocks and begs as one friend of another. And what saith He? "I say unto you that he riseth, and not because of his friendship," but "because of the other's importunity he giveth him as many as he wanted. Not because of his friendship," though he is his friend, but "because of his importunity." [2147] What is the meaning of "because of his importunity?" Because he did not leave off knocking; because even when his request was refused, he did not turn away. He who was not willing to give, gave what was asked, because the other fainted not in asking. How much more then shall that Good One give who exhorteth us to ask, who is displeased if we ask not? But when at times He giveth somewhat slowly, it is that He is showing us the value of His good [2148] things; not that He refuses them. Things which have been long desired, are obtained with the greater pleasure, whereas those which are given quickly, are held cheap. Ask then, seek, be instant. By the very asking and seeking thou dost grow so as to contain the more. God is keeping in reserve for thee, what it is not His will to give thee quickly, that thou mayest learn for great things to long with great desire. Therefore "ought we always to pray, and not to faint." [2149]

7. If then God hath made us His beggars by admonishing, and exhorting, and commanding us to ask, and seek, and knock, let us for our part pay regard to those who ask from us. We ask, and from whom do we ask? Who are we that ask? What do we ask? From whom, or who are we, or what is it that we ask? We ask of the Good God; and we that ask are evil men; but we ask for righteousness, whereby we may be good. We ask then for that which we may have for ever, wherewith when we shall be filled, we shall want no more. But in order that we may be filled, let us hunger and thirst; hungering and thirsting, let us ask, and seek, and knock. "For blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness." [2150] Wherefore are they blessed? They do hunger and thirst, and are they blessed? Is want ever a blessing? They are not blessed in that they hunger and thirst, but in that they will be filled. There will there be blessedness, in the fulness, not in the hunger. But hunger must go before the fulness, that no loathing attach to the bread.

8. We have said then, from whom it is that we ask, and who we are that ask, and what we ask. But we also are asked ourselves. For we are God's mendicants; that He may acknowledge His mendicants, let us on our part acknowledge ours. But let us think in this case again, when anything is asked of us, who they are that ask, from whom they ask, and what they ask? Who then are they that ask? Men. From whom do they ask? From men. Who are they that ask? Mortals. From whom? From mortals. Who are they that ask? Frail beings. From whom? From frail beings. Who are they that ask? Wretches. And from whom? From wretches. Excepting in the matter of wealth, they that ask are as they of whom they ask. With what face canst thou ask before thy lord, who dost not acknowledge thine own equal? "I am not," he will say, "as he is," far be it from me to be such as he. It is thus that one clad in silk, and puffed up with pride, speaks of one who is wrapped in rags. But I ask you when you both are stripped. I ask you not as you are now when clothed, but as you were when you were first born. Both were naked, both weak, beginning a life of misery, and therefore beginning it with cries.

9. See then, recall, O rich man, to mind thy first beginnings; see whether thou broughtest anything into the world. Now thou hast come indeed, and hast found so great abundance. But tell me, I pray thee, what didst thou bring hither? Tell me, or if thou art ashamed to say, hear the Apostle. "We brought nothing into this world." [2151] He saith, "We brought nothing into this world." But perhaps because thou broughtest in nothing, but yet hast found much here, thou wilt take away something hence? This too, peradventure through love of riches, thou art afraid to confess. Hear this also, and let the Apostle who will not flatter, tell thee. "We brought nothing into this world," to wit when we were born; "neither can we carry anything out," to wit when we shall depart out of the world. Thou broughtest in nothing, and thou shalt carry nothing away. Why then dost thou puff up thyself against the poor man? When infants first are born, let only the parents, servants, dependants, and the crowds of obsequious attendants, get out of the way; and then let the wealthy children with their cries be recognised. Let the rich woman and the poor give birth together; let them take no notice of their children, let them go away for a little while; then let them return, and recognise them if they can. See then, O rich man, "thou broughtest nothing into this world; neither canst thou carry anything out." What I have said of them at their birth, I may say of them in death. If it be not so, when by any chance old sepulchres are broken up, let the bones of the rich be recognised if they can. Therefore, thou rich man, give ear to the Apostle, "We brought nothing into this world." Acknowledge it, true it is. "Neither can we carry anything out." Acknowledge it, this is true also.

10. What follows then? "Having food and covering, let us be therewith content; for they who wish to be rich fall into temptation, and many and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For avarice is the root of all evil, which some following after, have erred from the faith." [2152] Now consider what they have abandoned. Grieved thou art that they have abandoned this, but see now in what they have entangled themselves. Hear; "They have erred from the faith, and entangled themselves in many sorrows." But who? "They who wish to be rich." It is one thing to be rich, another to wish to become rich. He is rich, who is born of rich parents, and he is rich not because he wished it, but because many left him their inheritances. His [2153] wealth I see, I make no question as to the pleasure he takes in it. In this Scripture it is covetousness that is condemned, not gold, or silver, or riches, but covetousness. For they who do not wish to become rich, or do not care about it, who do not burn with covetous desires, nor are inflamed by the fires of avarice, but who yet are rich, let them hear the Apostle (it has been read to-day), "Charge them that are rich in this world." [2154] Charge them what? Charge them before all things, not to be proud in their conceits, for there is nothing which riches do so much generate as pride. Each several fruit, each several grain of corn, each several tree, has its peculiar worm, and the worm of the apple is of one kind, and of the pear another, and of the bean another, and of the wheat another. The worm of riches is [2155] pride.

11. "Charge therefore the rich of this world that they be not proud in their conceits." He hath shut out the abuse, [2156] let him teach now the proper use. "That they be not proud in their conceits." But whence cometh the defence against pride? From that which follows: "Nor trust in the uncertainty of riches." They who trust not in the uncertainty of riches, are not proud in their conceits. If they be not proud in their conceits, let them fear. If they fear, they are not proud in their conceits. How many are they who were rich yesterday, and are poor to-day? How many go to sleep rich, and through robbers coming and taking all away, wake up poor? Therefore "charge them not to trust in the uncertainty of riches, but in the Living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy," things temporal, and things eternal. But things eternal more for enjoyment, the things temporal for use. Things temporal as for travellers, things eternal as for inhabitants. Things temporal, whereby we may do good; things eternal, whereby we may be made good. Therefore let the rich do this, "Let them not be proud in their conceits, nor trust in the uncertainty of riches, but in the Living God, who giveth us all things richly to enjoy." Let them do this. But what can they do with what they have? Hear what. "Let them be rich in good works, let them easily distribute." [2157] For they have wherewithal. Why then do they not do it? Poverty is a hard estate. But they may give easily, for they have the means. "Let them communicate," that is, let them acknowledge their fellow-mortals as their equals. "Let them communicate, let them lay up for themselves a good foundation against the time to come." [2158] For, saith he, when I say, "Let them distribute easily, let them communicate," I have no wish to spoil, or strip them, or leave them empty. It is a painful lesson I teach; I show them a place to put their goods, "let them lay up in store for themselves." For I have no wish that they should remain in poverty. "Let them lay up for themselves in store." I do not bid them lose their goods, but I show them whither to remove them. "Let them lay up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may hold on the true [2159] life." The present then is a false life; let them lay hold on the true life. "For it is vanity of vanities, and all is vanity. What so great abundance hath man in all his labour, wherewith he laboureth under the sun?" [2160] Therefore the true life must be laid hold upon, our riches must be removed to the place of the true life, that we may find there what we give here. He maketh this exchange of our goods who also changeth ourselves.

12. Give then, my brethren, to the poor, "Having food and covering, let us be therewith content." The rich man has nothing from his riches, but what the poor man begs of him, food and covering. What more hast thou from all that thou possessest? Thou hast got food and necessary covering. Necessary I say, not useless, not superfluous. What more dost thou get from thy riches? Tell me. Assuredly all thou hast more will be superfluous. Let thy superfluities then be the poor man's necessaries. But thou wilt say, I get costly banquets, I feed on costly meats. But the poor man, what does he feed on? On cheap food; the poor man feeds on cheap, and I, says he, on costly meats. Well, I ask you, when you both are filled, the costly enters into thee, but when it is once entered, what does it become? If we had but looking-glasses within us, should we not be put to shame for all the costly meat whereby thou hast been filled? The poor man hungers, and so does the rich; the poor man seeks to be filled, so does the rich. The poor man is filled with inexpensive, the rich with costly meats. Both are filled alike, the object [2161] whither both wish to attain is one and the same, only the one reaches it by a short, the other by a circuitous way. But thou wilt say, I relish better my costly food. True, and it is hard for thee to be satisfied, dainty as thou art. Thou knowest not the relish of that which hunger seasons. [2162] Not that I have said this to force the rich to feed on the meat and drink of the poor. Let the rich use what their infirmity has accustomed them to; but let them be sorry, that they are not able to do otherwise. For it would be better for them if they could. If then the poor man be not puffed up for his poverty, why shouldest thou for thine infirmity? Use then choice, and costly meats, because thou art so accustomed, because thou canst not do otherwise, because if thou dost change thy custom, thou art made ill. I grant thee this, make use of superfluities, but give to the poor necessaries; make use of costly meats, but give to the poor inexpensive food. He is looking to receive from thee, and thou art looking to receive from God; he is looking to the hand which was made as he was, and thou art looking to the hand that made thee, and made not thee only, but the poor man with thee. He set you both one and the same journey, this present life: you have found yourselves companions in it, you are walking one way: he is carrying nothing, thou art loaded excessively: he is carrying nothing with him, thou art carrying with thee more than thou dost need. Thou art loaded: give him of that thou hast; so shalt thou at once feed him, and lessen thine own burden.

13. Give then to the poor; I beg, I advise, I charge, I command you. Give to the poor whatever ye will. For I will not conceal from you, Beloved, why it is that I have deemed it necessary to deliver this discourse to you. As I am going to and from the Church, the poor importune me, and beg me to speak to you, that they may receive something of you. They have urged me to speak to you; and when they see that they receive nothing from you, they suppose that all my labour among you is in vain. Something also they expect from me. I give them all I can; but have I the means sufficient to supply all their necessities? Forasmuch then as I have not means sufficient to supply all their necessity, I am at least their ambassador to you. You have heard and applauded; God be thanked. You have received the seed, you have returned an answer. But these your commendations weigh me down rather, and expose me to danger. I bear them, and tremble whilst I bear them. Nevertheless, my brethren, these your commendations are but the tree's leaves; it is the fruit I am in quest of.

Footnotes

[2135] Matt. vii. 7-10. [2136] Luke xi. 12. [2137] Matt. vii. 11. [2138] Luke xviii. 19. [2139] Jer. xvii. 14. [2140] Pelagians. [2141] Eccles. vii. 29. [2142] Morbo. [2143] Ps. cxii. 9. [2144] Matt. vii. 8. [2145] Luke xviii. 2. [2146] Beneficio. [2147] Luke xi. 5, etc. [2148] Commendat. [2149] Luke xviii. 1. [2150] Matt. v. 6. [2151] 1 Tim. vi. 7. [2152] 1 Tim. vi. 8-10. [2153] Video facultates non interrogo voluptates. [2154] 1 Tim. vi. 17. [2155] Sermon 35 (85, Bened.) 3. [2156] Vitium. [2157] 1 Tim. vi. 18, Vulgate. [2158] 1 Tim. vi. 19. [2159] Veram, Vulgate. [2160] Eccles. i. 2, 3, Sept. [2161] Possessio. [2162] Accendit. .


Sermon XII.

[LXII. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. viii. 8, "I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof," etc., and of the words of the apostle, 1 Cor. viii. 10, "For if a man see thee who hast knowledge sitting at meat in an idol's temple," etc.

1. We have heard, as the Gospel was being read, the praise of our faith as manifested in humility. For when the Lord Jesus promised that He would go to the Centurion's house to heal His servant, He answered, "I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and he shall be healed." [2163] By calling himself unworthy, he showed himself worthy for Christ to come not into his house, but into his heart. Nor would he have said this with so great faith and humility, had he not borne Him in his heart, of whose coming into his house he was afraid. For it were no great happiness for the Lord Jesus to enter into his house, and yet not to be in his heart. For this Master of humility both by word and example, sat down even in the house of a certain proud Pharisee, by name Simon; [2164] and though He sat down in his house, there was no place in this heart, "where the Son of Man could lay His Head." [2165]

2. For so, as we may understand from the words of the Lord Himself, did He call back from His discipleship a certain proud man, who of his own accord was desirous to go with Him. "Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest." [2166] And the Lord seeing in his heart what was invisible, said, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head." [2167] That is, in thee, guile like the fox doth dwell, and pride as the birds of heaven. But the Son of Man simple as opposed to guile, lowly as opposed to pride, hath not where to lay His Head; and this very laying, not the raising up of the head, teaches humility. Therefore doth He call back this one who was desirous to go, and another who refused He draweth onward. For in the same place He saith to a certain man, "Follow Me." And he said, "I will follow Thee, Lord, but let me first go and bury my father." [2168] His excuse was indeed a dutiful one: and therefore was he the more worthy to have his excuse removed, and his calling confirmed. What he wished to do was an act of dutifulness; but the Master taught him what he ought to prefer. For He wished him to be a preacher of the living word, to make others live. But there were others by whom that first necessary office might be fulfilled. "Let the dead," He saith, "bury their dead." When unbelievers bury a dead body, the dead bury the dead. The body of the one hath lost its soul, the soul of the others hath lost God. For as the soul is the life of the body; so is God the life of the soul. As the body expires when it loses the soul, so doth the soul expire when it loses God. The loss of God is the death of the soul: the loss of the soul the death of the body. The death of the body is necessary; the death of the soul voluntary.

3. The Lord then sat down in the house of a certain proud Pharisee. He was in his house, as I have said, and was not in his heart. But into this centurion's house He entered not, yet He possessed his heart. Zacchæus again received the Lord both in house and heart. [2169] Yet the centurion's faith is praised for its humility. For he said, "I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof;" [2170] and the Lord said, "Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel;" [2171] according to the flesh, that is. For he too was an Israelite undoubtedly according to the spirit. The Lord had come to fleshly Israel, that is, to the Jews, there to seek first for the lost sheep, among this people, and of this people also He had assumed His Body. "I have not found there so great faith," He saith. We can but measure the faith of men, as men can judge of it; but He who saw the inward parts, He whom no man can deceive, gave His testimony to this man's heart, hearing words of lowliness, and pronouncing a sentence of healing.

4. But whence did he get such confidence? "I also," saith he, "am a man set under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh: and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it." [2172] I am an authority to certain who are placed under me, being myself placed under a certain authority above me. If then I a man under authority have the power of commanding, what power must Thou have, whom all powers serve? Now this man was of the Gentiles, for he was a centurion. At that time the Jewish nation had soldiers of the Roman empire among them. There he was engaged in a military life, according to the extent of a centurion's authority, both under authority himself, and having authority over others; as a subject obedient, ruling others who were under him. But the Lord (and mark this especially, Beloved, as need there is you should), though He was among the Jewish people only, even now announced beforehand that the Church should be in the whole world, for the establishment of which He would send Apostles; Himself not seen, yet believed on by the Gentiles: by the Jews seen, and put to death. For as the Lord did not in body enter into this man's house, and still, though in body absent, yet present in majesty, healed his faith, and his house; so the same Lord also was in body among the Jewish people only: among the other nations He was neither born of a Virgin, nor suffered, nor walked, nor endured His human sufferings, nor wrought His divine miracles. None of all this took place in the rest of the nations, and yet was that fulfilled which was spoken of Him, "A people whom I have not known, hath served Me." And how if it did not know Him? "Hath obeyed Me by the hearing of the ear." [2173] The Jewish nation knew, and crucified Him; the whole world besides heard and believed.

5. This absence, so to say, of His body, and presence of His power among all nations, He signified also in the instance of that woman who had touched the edge of His garment, when He asketh, saying, "Who touched Me?" [2174] He asketh, as though He were absent; as though present, He healeth. "The multitude," say the disciples, "press Thee, and sayest Thou, Who touched Me?" For as if He were so walking as not to be touched by anybody at all, He said, "Who touched Me?" And they answer, "The multitude press Thee." And the Lord would seem to say, I am asking for one who touched, not for one who pressed Me. In this case also is His Body now, that is, His Church. The faith of the few "touches" it, the throng of the many "press" it. For ye have heard, as being her children, that Christ's Body is the Church, and if ye will, ye yourselves are so. This the Apostle says in many places, "For His body's sake, which is the Church;" [2175] and again, "But ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." [2176] If then we are His body, what His body then suffered in the crowd, that doth His Church suffer now. It is pressed by many, touched by few. The flesh presses it, faith touches it. Lift up therefore your eyes, I beseech you, ye who have wherewithal to see. For ye have before you something to see. Lift up the eyes of faith, touch but the extreme border of His garment, it will be sufficient for saving health.

6. See ye how that which ye have heard out of the Gospel was at that time to come is now present. Therefore, said He, on occasion of the commendation of the Centurion's faith, as in the flesh an alien, but of the household in heart, "Therefore I say unto you, Many shall come from the east and west." [2177] Not all, but "many;" yet they shall "come from the East and West;" the whole world is denoted by these two parts. "Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness." "But the children of the kingdom," the Jews, namely. And how "the children of the kingdom"? Because they received the Law; to them the Prophets were sent, with them was the temple and the Priesthood; they celebrated the figures of all the things to come. Yet of what things they celebrated the figures, they acknowledged not the presence. And, "Therefore the children of the kingdom," He saith, shall go into outer darkness, there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." And so we see the Jews reprobate, and Christians called from the East and West, to the heavenly banquet, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, where the bread is righteousness, and the [2178] cup wisdom.

7. Consider then, brethren, for of these are ye; ye are of this people, even then foretold, and now exhibited. [2179] Yes, verily, ye are of those who have been called from the East and West, to sit down in the kingdom of heaven, not in the temple of idols. Be ye then the Body of Christ, not the pressure of His Body. Ye have the border of His garment to touch, that ye may be healed of the issue of blood, that is, of carnal pleasures. Ye have, I say, the border of the garment to touch. Look upon the Apostles as the garment, by the texture of unity clinging closely to the sides of Christ. Among these Apostles was Paul, as it were the border, the least and last; as he saith himself, "I am the least of the Apostles." [2180] In a garment the last and least thing is the border. The border is in appearance contemptible, yet is it touched with saving efficacy. [2181] "Even to this hour we both hunger and thirst, and are naked and buffeted." [2182] What state so low, so contemptible as this! Touch then, if thou art suffering from a bloody flux. There will go power out of Him whose garment it is, and it will heal thee. The border was proposed to you just now to be touched, when out of the same Apostle there was read, "For if any one see him which hath knowledge sit at meat in an idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him who is weak, be emboldened to eat things offered to idols? And through thy knowledge shall thy weak brother perish, for whom Christ died!" [2183] How think ye may men be deceived by idols, which they suppose are honoured by Christians? A man may say, "God knows my heart." Yes, but thy brother did not know thy heart. If thou art weak, beware of a still greater weakness; if thou art strong, have a care of thy brother's weakness. They who see what you do, are emboldened to do more, so as to desire not only to eat, but also to sacrifice there. And lo, "Through thy knowledge the weak brother perisheth." Hear then, my brother; if thou didst disregard the weak, wouldest thou disregard a brother also? Awake. What if so thou sin against Christ Himself? For attend to what thou canst not by any means disregard. "But," saith he, "when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ." [2184] Let them who disregard these words, go now, and sit at meat in the idol's temple; will they not be of those who press, and do not touch? And when they have been at meat in the idol's temple, let them come and fill the Church; not to receive saving health, but to make a pressure there.

8. But thou wilt say, I am afraid lest I offend those above me. By all means be afraid of offending them, and so thou wilt not offend God. For thou who art afraid lest thou offend those above thee, see whether there be not One above him whom thou art afraid of offending. By all means then be loth to offend those above thee. This is an established rule with thee. But then is it not plain, that he must on no account be offended, who is above all others? Run over now the list of those above thee. First are thy father and mother, if they are educating thee aright; if they are bringing thee up for Christ; they are to be heard in all things, they must be obeyed in every command; let them enjoin nothing against one above themselves, and so let them be obeyed. And who, thou wilt say, is above him who begat me? He who created thee. For man begets, but God creates. How it is that man begets, he does not know; and what he shall beget, he does not know. But He who saw thee that He might make thee, before that he whom He made existed, is surely above thy father. Thy country again should be above thy very parents; so that whereinsoever thy parents enjoin aught against thy country, they are not to be listened to. And whatsoever thy country enjoin against God, it is not to be listened to. For if thou wilt be healed, if after the issue of blood, if after twelve years' continuance in that disease, if after having spent thine all upon physicians, and not having received health, thou dost wish at length to be made whole; O woman, whom I am addressing as a figure of the Church, thy father enjoineth thee this, and thy people that. But thy Lord saith to thee, "Forget thine own people, and thy father's house." [2185] For what good? for what advantage? with what useful result? "Because the King hath desired thy beauty." He hath desired what He made, since when deformed He loved thee, that He might make thee beautiful. For thee unbelieving, and deformed, He shed His Blood, and He made thee faithful and beauteous, He hath loved His own gifts in thee. For what didst thou bring to thy spouse? What didst thou receive for dowry from thy former father, and former people? Was it not the excesses [2186] and the rags of sins? Thy rags He cast away, thy robe impure [2187] He tore asunder. He pitied thee that He might adorn thee. He adorned thee, that He might love thee.

9. What need of more, Brethren. Ye are Christians, and have heard, that "If ye sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ." Do not disregard it, if ye would not be wiped out of the book of life. How long shall I go about to speak in bright and pleasing terms to you, what my grief forceth me to speak in some sort, and will not suffer me to keep secret? Whosoever they are who are minded to disregard these things, and sin against Christ, let them only consider what they are doing. We wish the rest of the Heathen to be gathered in; and ye are stones in their way: they have a wish to come; they stumble, and so return. For they say in their hearts, Why should we leave the gods whom the very Christians worship as we do? God forbid, thou wilt say, that I should worship the gods of the Gentiles. I know, I understand, I believe thee. But what account art thou making of the consciences of the weak which thou art wounding? What account art thou making of their price, if thou disregard the purchase? Consider for how great a price was the purchase made. "Through thy knowledge," saith the Apostle, "shall the weak brother perish;" that knowledge which thou professest to have, in that thou knowest that an idol is nothing, and that in thy mind thou art thinking only of God, and so sittest down in the idol's temple. In this knowledge the weak brother perisheth. And lest thou shouldest pay no regard to the weak brother, he added, "for whom Christ died." If thou wouldest disregard him, yet consider his Price, and weigh the whole world in the balance with the Blood of Christ. And lest thou shouldest still think that thou art sinning against a weak brother, and so esteem it after that he had heard that he was "Peter," a trivial fault, and of small account, he saith, "Ye sin against Christ." For men are in the habit of saying, I sin against man; am I sinning against God?" Deny then that Christ is God. Dost thou dare deny that Christ is God? Hast thou learned this other doctrine, when thou didst sit at meat in the idol's temple? The school of Christ doth not admit that doctrine. I ask; Where learnedst thou that Christ is not God? The Pagans are wont to say so. Seest thou what bad associations [2188] do? Seest thou, "that evil communications corrupt good manners?" [2189] There thou canst not speak of the Gospel, and thou dost hear others talking of idols. There thou losest the truth that Christ is God; and what thou dost drink in there, thou vomitest out in the Church. It may be thou art bold enough to speak here; bold enough to mutter among the crowds; "Was not then Christ a man? Was He not crucified?" This hast thou learned of the Pagans. Thou hast lost thy soul's health, thou hast not touched the border. On this point then touch again the border, and receive health. As I taught thee to touch it in this that is written, "Whoso seeth a brother sit at meat in the idol's temple;" [2190] touch it also concerning the Divinity of Christ. The same border said of the Jews, "Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever." [2191] Behold, against Whom, even the Very God, thou dost sin, when thou sittest down with false gods.

10. It is no god, you will say; because it is the tutelary genius of Carthage. As though if it were Mars or Mercury, it would be a god. But consider in what light it is esteemed by them; not what it is in itself. For I know also as well as thou, that it is but a stone. If this "genius" be any ornament, let the citizens of Carthage live well; and they themselves will be this "genius" of Carthage. But if the "genius" be a devil, ye have heard in that same Scripture, "The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God; and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils." [2192] We know well that it is no God; would that they knew it too! but because of those weak ones who do not know it, their conscience ought not to be wounded. It is this that the Apostle warns us of. For that they regard that statue as something divine, and take it for a god, the altar is witness. What does the altar there, if it be not accounted a god? Let no one tell me; it is no deity, it is no God. I have said already, "Would that they only knew this, as we all do." But how they regard it, for what they take it, and what they do about it, that altar is witness. It is convincing against the intentions of all who worship there, grant that it may not be convincing also against those who sit at meat with them!

11. Yes, let not Christians press the Church, if the Pagans do. She is the Body of Christ. Were we not saying, that the Body of Christ was pressed, and not touched. He endured those who pressed Him; and was looking out for those who "touched" Him. And, Brethren, I would that if the Body of Christ be pressed by Pagans, by whom it is wont to be pressed; that at least Christians would not press the Body of Christ. Brethren, it is my business to speak to you, my business it is to speak to Christians; "For what have I to do to judge them that are without?" [2193] the Apostle himself saith. Them we address in another way, as being weak. With them we must [2194] deal softly, that they may hear the truth; in you the corruption must be cut out. If ye ask whereby the Pagans are to be gained over, whereby they are to be illuminated, and called to salvation; forsake their solemnities, forsake their trifling shows; and then if they do not consent to our truth, let them blush at their own scantiness.

12. If he who is over thee be a good man, he is thy nourisher; if a bad man, he is thy tempter. Receive the nourishment in the one case with gladness, and in the temptation show thyself approved. Be thou gold. Regard this world as the furnace of the goldsmith; in one narrow place are there things, gold, chaff, fire. To the two former the fire is applied, the chaff is burned, and the gold purified. A man has yielded to threats, and been led away to the idol's temple: Alas! I bewail the chaff; I see the ashes. Another has not yet yielded to threats nor terrors; has been brought before the judge, and stood firm in his confession, and has not bent down to the idol image: what does the flame with him? Does it not purify the gold? Stand, fast then, Brethren, in the Lord; greater in power, is He who hath called you. Be not afraid of the threats of the ungodly. Bear with your enemies; in them ye have those for whom ye may pray; let them by no means terrify you. This is saving health, draw out in this feast here from this source; here drink that wherewith ye may be satisfied, and not in those other feasts, that only whereby ye may be maddened. Stand fast in the Lord. Ye are silver, ye shall be gold. This similitude is not our own, it is out of Holy Scripture. Ye have read and heard, "As gold in the furnace hath He tried them, and received them as a burnt-offering." [2195] See what ye shall be among the treasures of God. Be ye rich as touching God, not as if to make Him rich, but as to become rich from Him. Let Him replenish you; admit nought else into your heart.

13. Do we lift up ourselves unto pride, or tell you to be despisers against the powers ordained? Not so. Do ye again who are sick on this point, touch also that border of the garment? The Apostle himself saith, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers, for there is no power but of God, the powers that be are ordained of God. He then who resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God." [2196] But what if it enjoin what thou oughtest not to do? In this case by all means disregard the power through fear of Power. Consider these several grades of human powers. If the magistrate [2197] enjoin anything, must it not be done? Yet if his order be in opposition to the Proconsul, thou dost not surely despise the power, but choosest to obey a greater power. Nor in this case ought the less to be angry, if the greater be preferred. Again, if the Proconsul himself enjoin anything, and the Emperor another thing, is there any doubt, that disregarding the former, we ought to obey the latter? So then if the Emperor enjoin one thing, and God another, what judge ye? Pay me tribute, submit thyself to my allegiance. Right, but not in an idol's temple. In an idol's temple He forbids it. Who forbids it? A greater Power. Pardon me then: thou threatenest a prison, He threateneth hell. Here must thou at once take to thee thy "faith as a shield, whereby thou mayest be able to quench all the fiery darts of the enemy." [2198]

14. But one of these powers is plotting, and contriving evil designs against thee. Well: he is but sharpening the razor wherewith to shave the hair, but not to cut the head. Ye have but just now heard this that I have said in the Psalm, "Thou hast worked deceit like a sharp razor." [2199] Why did He compare the deceit of a wicked man in power to a razor? Because it does not reach, save to our superfluous parts. As hairs on our body seem as it were superfluous, and are shaven off without any loss of the flesh; so whatsoever an angry man in power can take from thee, count only among thy superfluities. He takes away thy poverty; can he take away thy wealth? Thy poverty is thy wealth in thy heart. Thy superfluous things only hath he power to take away, these only hath he power to injure, even though he had license given him so far as to hurt the body. Yea even this life itself to those whose thoughts are of another life, this present life, I say, may be reckoned among the things superfluous. For so the Martyrs have despised it. They did not lose life, but they gained Life.

15. Be sure, Brethren, that enemies have no power against the faithful, except so far as it profiteth them to be tempted and proved. Of this be sure, Brethren, let no one say ought against it. Cast all your care upon the Lord, throw yourselves wholly and entirely upon Him. He will not withdraw Himself that ye should fall. He who created us, hath given us security touching our very hairs. "Verily I say unto you, even the hairs of your head are all numbered." [2200] Our hairs are numbered by God; how much more is our conduct known to Him to whom our hairs are thus known? See then, how that God doth not disregard our least things. For if He disregarded them, He would not create them. For He verily both created our hairs, and still taketh count of them. But thou wilt say, though they are preserved at present, perhaps they will perish. On this point also hear His word, "Verily I say unto you, there shall not an hair of your head perish." [2201] Why art thou afraid of man, O man, whose place is in the Bosom of God? Fall not out of His Bosom; whatsoever thou shall suffer there, will avail to thy salvation, not to thy destruction. Martyrs have endured the tearing of their limbs, and shall Christians fear the injuries of Christian times? He who would do thee an injury now, can only do it in fear. He does not say openly, come to the idol-feast; he does not say openly, come to my altars, and banquet there. And if he should say so, and thou wast to refuse, let him make a complaint of it, let him bring it as an accusation and charge against thee: "He would not come to my altars, he would not come to my temple, where I worship." Let him say this. He does not dare; but in his guile he contrives another attack. Make ready thy hair; he is sharpening the razor; he is about to take off thy superfluous things, to shave what thou must soon leave behind thee. Let him take off what shall endure, if he can. This powerful enemy, what has he taken away? what great thing has he taken away? That which a thief or housebreaker could take: in his utmost rage, he can but take what a robber can. Even if he should have license given him to the slaying of the very body, what does he take away, but what the robber can take? I did him too much honour, when I said, "a robber." For be the robber who and what he may, he is a man. He takes from thee what a fever, or an adder, or a poisonous mushroom can take. Here lies the whole power of the rage of men, to do what a mushroom can! Men eat a poisonous mushroom, and they die. Lo! in what frail estate is the life of man; which sooner or later thou must abandon; do not struggle then in such wise for it, as that thou shouldest be abandoned thyself.

16. Christ is our Life; think then of Christ. He came to suffer, but also to be glorified; to be despised, but to be exalted also; to die; but also to rise again. If the labour alarm thee, see its reward. Why dost thou wish to arrive by softness at that to which nothing but hard labour can lead? Now thou art afraid, lest thou shouldest lose thy money; because thou earnest thy money with great labour. If thou didst not attain to thy money, which thou must some time or other lose, at all events when thou diest, without labour, wouldest thou desire without labour to attain to the Life eternal? Let that be of higher value in thine eyes, to which after all thy labours thou shalt in such sort attain as never more to lose it. If this money, to which thou hast attained after all thy labours on such condition as that thou must some time lose it, be of high value with thee; how much more ought we to long after those things which are everlasting!

17. Give no credit to their words, neither be afraid of them. They say that we are enemies of their idols. May God so grant, and give all into our power, as He hath already given us that which we have broken down. For this I say, Beloved, that ye may not attempt to do it, when it is not lawfully in your power to do it; for it is the way of ill-regulated men, and the mad Circumcelliones, [2202] both to be violent when they have no power, and to be ever eager in their wishes to die without a cause. Ye heard what we read to you, all of you who were present in the Mappalia. [2203] "When the land shall have been given into your power" (he saith first, "into your power," and so enjoined what was to be done); "then," saith he, "ye shall destroy their altars, and break in pieces their groves, and hew down all their images." [2204] When we shall have got the power, do this. When the power has not been given us, we do not do it; when it is given, we do not neglect it. Many Pagans have these abominations on their own estates; do we go and break them in pieces? No, for our first efforts are that the idols in their hearts should be broken down. When they too are made Christians themselves, they either invite us to so good a work, or anticipate us. At present we must pray for them, not be angry with them. If very painful feelings excite us, it is rather against Christians, it is against our brethren, who will enter into the Church in such a mind, as to have their body there, and their heart anywhere else. The whole ought to be within. If that which man seeth is within, why is that which God seeth without?

18. Now ye may know, Dearly Beloved, that these unite their murmurings with Heretics and with Jews. Heretics, Jews, and Heathens have made a unity against Unity. Because it has happened, that in some places the Jews have received chastisement because of their wickednesses; they charge and suspect us, or pretend, that we are always seeking the like treatment for them. Again, because it has happened that the heretics [2205] in some places have suffered the penalty of the laws for the impiety and fury of their deeds of violence; they say immediately that we are seeking by every means some harm for their destruction. Again, because it has been resolved that laws should be passed against the Heathen, yea for them rather, if they were only wise. (For as when silly boys are playing with the mud, and dirtying their hands, the strict master comes, shakes the mud out of their hands, and holds out their book; so has it pleased God by the hands of princes His subjects to alarm their childish, foolish hearts, that they may throw away the dirt from their hands, and set about something useful. And what is this something useful with the hands, but, "Break thy bread to the hungry, and bring the houseless poor into thy house"? [2206] But nevertheless these children escape from their master's sight, and return stealthily to their mud, and when they are discovered they hide their hands that they may not be seen.) Because then it has so pleased God, they think that we are looking out for the idols everywhere, and that we break them down in all places where we have discovered them. How so? Are there not places before our very eyes in which they are? Or are we indeed ignorant where they are? And yet we do not break them down, because God has not given them into our power. When does God give them into our power? When the masters of these things shall become Christians. The master of a certain place has just lately wished this to be done. If he had not been minded to give the place itself to the Church, and only had given orders that there should be no idols on his property; I think that it ought to have been executed with the greatest devotion, that the soul of the absent Christian brother, who wishes on his land to return thanks to God, and would not that there should be anything there to God's dishonour, might be assisted by his fellow-Christians. Added to this, that in this case he gave the place itself to the Church. And shall there be idols in the Church's estate? Brethren, see then what it is that displeases the Heathens. It is but a little matter with them that we do not take them away from their estates, that we do not break them down: they would have them kept up even in our own places. We preach against idols, we take them away from the hearts of men; we are persecutors of idols; we openly profess it. Are we then to be the preservers of them? I do not touch them when I have not the power; I do not touch them when the lord of the property complains of it; but when he wishes it to be done, and gives thanks for it, I should incur guilt if I did it not.

Footnotes

[2163] Matt. viii. 8. [2164] Luke vii. 36. [2165] Luke ix. 58. [2166] Luke ix. 57. [2167] Matt. viii. 20. [2168] Luke ix. 59. [2169] Luke xix. 6. [2170] Matt. viii. 8. [2171] Matt. viii. 10. [2172] Matt. viii. 9. [2173] Ps. xvii. 44, 45, Sept. (xviii. 43, 44, English version). [2174] Luke viii. 45. [2175] Col. i. 24. [2176] 1 Cor. xii. 27. [2177] Matt. viii. 11. [2178] Potus. [2179] Præsentato. [2180] 1 Cor. xv. 9. [2181] Salute. [2182] 1 Cor. iv. 11. [2183] 1 Cor. viii. 10, 11. [2184] 1 Cor. viii. 12. [2185] Ps. xlv. 10. [2186] Luxurias. [2187] Cilicium. [2188] Mensæ. [2189] 1 Cor. xv. 33. [2190] 1 Cor. viii. 10. [2191] Rom. ix. 5. [2192] 1 Cor. x. 20. [2193] 1 Cor. v. 12. [2194] Blandiendum. [2195] Wisd. iii. 6. [2196] Rom. xiii. 1, 2. [2197] Curator. [2198] Eph. vi. 16. [2199] Ps. li. 4, Sept. (lii. 2, English version). [2200] Matt. x. 30. [2201] Luke xxi. 18. [2202] By the Donatists called Agonistici (St. Augustin, In Ps. 133. 6), and by the Catholics Circilliones, or Circumcelliones, that is, Vagrants. Circumcelliones dicti sunt, quia circum cellas vagantur, solent enim ire hac illac nusquam habentes pedes (In Ps. 132. 3). They were of a very licentious and abandoned character, and in their fanaticism they would often commit suicide, to which the text may suppose to refer (Lib. de Hæres. c. 69; Brev. Coll. cum Donat. viii. [14]). They exercised extreme cruelty against the Catholics (Cont. Cresc. Don. lib. 3, xliii. [47], xlvi. [50]). Their form of salutation was Deo laudes (Cont. lit. Petil. lib. 2, lxv. [146]), which St. Augustin (In Ps. 133, 6) says was more feared than the roaring of a lion. For the time of their origin see Opt. lib. 3. [2203] A place where St. Cyprian's body was buried outside the walls of Carthage. Macrius in his Hierolexicon (ad verb) thinks it ought to be written Mapalia, i.e. domus rurales. [2204] Deut. vii. 1 and xii. 3. [2205] This refers doubtless to the laws against the Donatists. The Emperor Honorius issued an edict against them A.D. 405, and another A.D. 410, and A.D. 412, and again A.D 414, on occasion of the death of Marcellinus, and to prevent any advantage which the Donatists might derive from his death. For he had been judge in the conference between the Catholics and Donatists, granted by the Emperor at the request of the deputies of the council of Carthage, four years before (Fleury, H. E. B. xxii., cxxvi.): and to him had been entrusted the execution of the laws issued against the Donatists for the maintenance of the Catholic religion. [2206] Isa. lviii. 7. .


Sermon XIII.

[LXIII. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. viii. 23, "And when he was entered into a boat," etc.

1. By the Lord's blessing, I will address you upon the lesson of the Holy Gospel which has just been read, and take occasion thereby to exhort you, that against the tempest and waves of this world, faith sleep not in your hearts. "For the Lord Christ had not indeed death nor sleep in His power, and peradventure sleep overcame the Almighty One as He was sailing against His will?" If ye believe this, He is asleep in you; but if Christ be awake in you, your faith is awake. The Apostle saith, "that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." [2207] This sleep then of Christ is a sign of a high mystery. [2208] The sailors are the souls passing over the world in wood. That ship also was a figure of the Church. And all, individually indeed are temples of God, and his own heart is the vessel in which each sails; nor can he suffer shipwreck, if his thoughts are only good.

2. Thou hast heard an insult, it is the wind; thou art angry, it is a wave. When therefore the wind blows, and the wave swells, the ship is endangered, the heart is in jeopardy, the heart is tossed to and fro. When thou hast heard an insult, thou longest to be avenged; and, lo, avenged thou hast been, and so rejoicing in another's harm thou hast suffered shipwreck. And why is this? Because Christ is asleep in thee. What does this mean, Christ is asleep in thee? Thou hast forgotten Christ. Rouse Him up then, call Christ to mind, let Christ awake in thee, give heed to Him. What didst thou wish? To be avenged. Hast thou forgotten, that when He was being crucified, He said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do?" [2209] He who was asleep in thy heart did not wish to be avenged. Awake Him up then, call Him to remembrance. The remembrance of Him is His word; the remembrance of Him is His command. And then wilt thou say if Christ, awake in thee, What manner of man am I, who wish to be avenged! Who am I, who deal out threatenings against another man? I may die perhaps before I am avenged. And when at my last breath, inflamed with rage, and thirsting for vengeance, I shall depart out of this body, He will not receive me, who did not wish to be avenged; He will not receive me, who said, "Give, and it shall be given unto you; forgive, and it shall be forgiven you." [2210] Therefore will I refrain myself from my wrath, and return to the repose of my heart. Christ hath commanded the sea, tranquillity is restored.

3. Now what I have said as to anger, hold fast as a rule in all your temptations. A temptation has sprung up; it is the wind; thou art disturbed; it is a wave. Awake up Christ then, let Him speak with thee. "Who is this, since the winds and the sea obey Him?" [2211] Who is this, whom the sea obeyeth? "The sea is His, and He made it." [2212] "All things were made by Him." [2213] Imitate the winds then, and the sea rather; obey the Creator. At Christ's command the sea giveth ear; and art thou deaf? The sea heareth, and the wind ceaseth: and dost thou still blow on? What! I say, I do, I devise; what is all this, but to be blowing on, and to be unwilling to stop in obedience to the word of Christ? Let not the wave master you in this troubled state of your heart. Yet since we are but men, if the wind should drive us on, and stir up the affections of our souls, let us not despair; let us awake Christ, that we may sail on a tranquil sea, and so come to our country. "Let us [2214] turn to the Lord," etc.

Footnotes

[2207] Eph. iii. 17. [2208] Sacramenti. [2209] Luke xxiii. 34. [2210] Luke vi. 37, 38. [2211] Matt. viii. 27. [2212] Ps. xcv. 5. [2213] John i. 3. [2214] For the the full form, see end of Sermon xvii. (lxvii. Bened.). .


Sermon XIV.

[LXIV. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. x. 16, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves," etc. Delivered on a Festival of Martyrs.

1. When the Holy Gospel was read, Brethren, ye heard how our Lord Jesus Christ strengthened His Martyrs by His teaching, saying, "Behold, I send you forth as lambs in the midst of wolves." [2215] Now consider, my Brethren, what he does. If but one wolf come among many sheep, be they ever so many thousands, they will all be put to confusion by one wolf in the midst of them: and though all may not be torn, yet all are frightened. What manner of design is this then, what manner of counsel, what manner of power, not to let in a wolf amongst the sheep, but to send the sheep against the wolves! "I send you," saith He, "as sheep in the midst of wolves;" not to the neighbourhood of wolves, but "in the midst of wolves." There was then at that time a herd of wolves, and but few sheep. For when the many wolves killed the few sheep, the wolves were changed and became sheep.

2. Let us hear then what advice He hath given, who hath promised the crown, but hath first appointed the combat; who is a spectator of the combatants, and assisteth them in their toil. What manner of conflict hath He prescribed? "Be ye," saith He, "wise as serpents, and simple as doves." [2216] Whoso understandeth, and holdeth to this, may die in assurance [2217] that he will not really die. For no one ought to die in this assurance, but he who knows that he shall in such sort die, as that death only shall die in him, and life be crowned.

3. Wherefore, Beloved, I must explain to you, though I have often spoken already on this subject, what it is to be "simple as doves, and wise as serpents." Now if the simplicity of doves be enjoined us, what hath the wisdom of the serpent to do in the simplicity of the dove? This in the dove I love, that she has no gall; this I fear in the serpent, that he has poison. But now do not fear the serpent altogether; something he has for thee to hate, and something for thee to imitate. For when the serpent is weighed down with age, and he feels the burden of his many years, he contracts and forces himself into a hole, and lays aside his old coat [2218] of skin, that he may spring forth into new life. Imitate him in this, thou Christian, who dost hear Christ saying, "Enter ye in at the strait gate." [2219] And the Apostle Paul saith to thee, "Put ye off the old man with his deeds, and put ye on the new man." [2220] Thou hast then something to imitate in the serpent. Die not for the "old man," but for the truth. Whoso dies for any temporal good dies "for the old man." But when thou hast stripped thyself of all "that old man," thou hast imitated the wisdom of the serpent. Imitate him in this again; "keep thy head safe." And what does this mean, keep thy head safe? Keep Christ with thee. Have not some of you, it may be, observed, on occasions when you have wished to kill an adder, how to save his head, he will expose his whole body to the strokes of his assailant? He would not that that part of him should be struck, where he knows that his life resides. And our Life is Christ, for He hath said Himself, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life." [2221] Here the Apostle also; "The Head of the man is Christ." [2222] Whoso then keepeth Christ in him, keepeth his head for his protection.

4. Now what need is there to commend to you in many words the simplicity of the dove? For the serpent's poison had need to be guarded against: there, there was a danger in imitation; there, there was something to be feared; but the dove may you imitate securely. Mark how the doves rejoice in society; everywhere do they fly and feed together; they do not love to be alone, they delight in communion, they preserve affection; their cooings are the plaintive cries [2223] of love, with kissings they beget their young. Yea even when doves, as we have often noticed, dispute about their holes, it is as it were but a peaceful strife. Do they separate, because of their contentions? Nay, still do they fly and feed together, and their very strife is peaceful. See this strife of doves, in what the Apostle saith, "If any man obey not our word by this epistle, mark that man, and have no company with him." Behold the strife; but observe now how it is the strife of doves, not of wolves. He subjoined immediately, "Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." [2224] The dove loves even when she is in strife; and the wolf even when he caresses, hates. Therefore having the simplicity of doves, and the wisdom of serpents, celebrate the solemnities of the Martyrs in sobriety of mind, [2225] not [2226] in bodily excess, sing lauds to God. For He who is the Martyrs' God, is our Lord God also, He it is who will crown us. If we shall have wrestled well, we shall be crowned by Him, who hath crowned already those whom we desire to imitate.

Footnotes

[2215] Matt. x. 16. [2216] Matt. x. 16. [2217] Securus. [2218] Tunicam. [2219] Matt. vii. 13. [2220] Col. iii. 9; Eph. iv. 22-24. [2221] John xiv. 6. [2222] 1 Cor. xi. 3. [2223] Gemitibus amoris murmurant. [2224] 2 Thess. iii. 14, 15. [2225] See, as to the excesses which prevailed at the festivals of the Martyrs, a letter of St. Augustin to Aurelius Bishop of Carthage and Primate of Africa (Ep. 22, al. 64), urging him to use his authority to suppress them. St Ambrose had prohibited these feasts in the Church of Milan (Augustin, Conf. lib. 6. 2 [Am. edition i. 90, note]). Aurelius succeeded in getting a canon (xxx.) made in the third Council of Carthage (A.D. 397), obliging the clergy to abstain from all such feasts in the Church, and as far as in them lay to restrain the people from the same practice (Conc. Labbe, t. 2, p. 1171; Bingham, B. xx. vii. 10). [2226] Ebrietate ventris. .


Sermon XV.

[LXV. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. x. 28, "Be not afraid of them that kill the body." Delivered on a Festival of Martyrs.

1. The Divine oracles which have just been read teach us in fearing not to fear, and in not fearing to fear. Ye observed when the Holy Gospel was being read, that our Lord God before He died for us, would have us to be firm; and this by admonishing us "not" to fear, and withal to fear. For he said, "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul." See where He advised us not to fear. See now where He advised us to fear. "But," saith he, "fear Him who hath power to destroy both body and soul in hell." [2227] Let us fear therefore, that we may not fear. Fear seems to be allied to cowardice: seems to be the character of the weak, not the strong. But see what saith the Scripture, "The fear of the Lord is the hope of strength." [2228] Let us then fear, that we may not fear; that is, let us fear prudently, that we may not fear vainly. The holy Martyrs on the occasion of whose solemnity this lesson was read out of the Gospel, in fearing, feared not; because in fearing God, they did not regard men.

2. For what need a man fear from man? And what is that whereby one man should cause another fear, since both of them are men? One threatens and says, "I will kill thee;" and does not fear, lest after his threat he die before he have fulfilled it. "I will kill thee," he says. Who says it, and to whom? I hear two men, the one threatening, and the other alarmed: of whom the one is powerful, and the other weak, yet both are mortal. Why then does he so stretch out himself, he, in honour, a somewhat more inflated power, in body, equal weakness? Let him securely threaten death who does not fear death. But if he fear that whereby he causes fear; let him think of himself, and compare himself with him whom he is threatening. Let him see in him whom he threateneth a likeness of condition, and so together with him let him seek like pity from the Lord. For he is but a man, and he threatens another man, a creature, another creature; only the one puffed up under his Creator's eye, and the other fleeing for refuge to the same Creator.

3. Let the stout Martyr then, as he stands a man before another man, say; "I do not fear, because I fear." Thou canst not do what thou art threatening, unless He will; but what He threateneth, none can hinder Him from doing. And then again, what dost thou threaten, and what canst thou do, if thou art permitted? Thy violence extends but to the flesh, the soul is safe from thee. Thou canst not kill what thou dost not see: visible thyself, thou threatenest that which is visible in me. But we have both an invisible Creator, whom we ought both to fear; who of that which was both visible and invisible created man. He made Him visible out of the earth, and with His Breath He breathed into Him an invisible Spirit. Therefore the invisible substance, that is, the soul, which has raised from the earth the earth as it lay, does not fear, when thou assaultest the earth. Thou canst strike the habitation, but canst thou strike him who dwells there? When the chain is broken, he escapes who before was bound, and he will now be crowned in secret. Why then dost thou threaten me, who canst do nothing to my soul? Through the desert of that to which thou canst do nothing, will that to which thy power extends rise again. For through the soul's desert, will the flesh also rise again; and will be restored to its inhabitant, now no more to fail, but to endure for ever. Behold (I am using the words of a Martyr), behold, I say, not even on account of my body do I fear thy threats. My body indeed is subject to thy power; but even the hairs of my head are numbered by my Creator. Why should I fear lest I lose my body, who cannot even lose a hair? How shall he not have a care of my body, to whom my meanest things are so well known? This body which may be wounded and slain will for a time be ashes, but it will be for ever immortal. But to whom shall this be? To whom shall the body be restored for life eternal, even though it have been slain, destroyed, and scattered to the winds? to whom shall it be so restored? To him who has not been afraid to lay down his own life, since he does not fear, lest his body should be slain.

4. For, Brethren, the soul is said to be immortal, and immortal it is according to a certain manner of its own: for it is a kind of life which is able to give life to the body by its presence. For by the soul doth the body live. This life cannot die, and therefore is the soul immortal. Why then said I according to a certain manner of its own? Hear why. Because there is a true immortality, an immortality which is an entire unchangeableness; of which the Apostle saith, speaking of God, "Who only hath immortality, dwelling in that light which no man may approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see, to whom be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen." [2229] If then God only hath immortality, the soul must needs be mortal. See then why it was that I said that the soul is immortal after a certain manner of its own. For in fact it may also die. Understand this, Beloved, and there will remain no difficulty. I venture to say then that the soul can die, can be slain also. Yet it is undoubtedly immortal. See, I venture to say, it is at once immortal, and it may be slain; and therefore I said that there is a kind of immortality, an entire unchangeableness, that is, which God Only hath, of whom it is said, "Who Only hath immortality;" for if the soul cannot be slain, how did the Lord Himself say, when He would make us fear, "Fear Him who hath power to slay both body and soul in hell"?

5. Hitherto I have confirmed, not solved, the difficulty. I have proved that the soul can be slain. The Gospel cannot be gainsaid but by the ungodly soul. Lo, something occurs to me here, and comes into my mind to speak. Life cannot be gainsaid, but by a dead soul. The Gospel is life, impiety and infidelity are the death of the soul. See then, it can die, and yet it is immortal. How then is it immortal? Because there is always a sort of life which is never extinguished in it. And how does it die? Not in ceasing to be life, but by losing its life. For the soul is both life to something else, and it has its own proper life. Consider the order of the creatures. The soul is the life of the body: God is the life of the soul. As the life, that is the soul, is present with the body, that the body die not; so ought the life of the soul, that is God, to be with it that the soul die not. How does the body die? By the soul's leaving it. I say, by the soul's leaving it the body dies; and it lies along a mere carcass, what was a little before a desirable, now a contemptible, object. There are in it still its several members, the eyes, and ears; but these are but the windows of the house, its inhabitant is gone. They who bewail the dead, cry in vain at the windows of the house; there is none within to hear. How many things does the fond affection of the mourner give utterance to, how many enumerate and call to mind; and with what a madness of sorrow, so to say, does he speak, as with one who was sensible of what was doing, when he is really speaking with one who is no longer there? He recounts his good qualities, and the tokens of his goodness towards himself. It was thou that didst give me this; and did this and that for me; it was thou who didst thus and thus dearly love me. But if thou wouldest only consider and understand, and restrain the madness of thy grief, he who once loved thee, is gone; in vain does the house receive thy knockings, in which thou canst not find a dweller.

6. Let us return to the subject I was speaking of a little while since. The body is dead. Why? Because its life, that is the soul, is gone. Again, the body is alive, and the man is impious, unbelieving, hard of belief, incorrigible; in this case whilst the body is alive, the soul by which the body lives is dead. For the soul is so excellent a thing, that it has power even though dead to give life to the body. So excellent a thing, I say, is the soul, so excellent a creature, that even though dead itself, it has power to quicken the body. For the soul of the impious, unbelieving, unregulated man is dead, and yet by it though dead the body lives. And therefore is it in the body; it sets on the hands to work, and the feet to walk; it directs the eye to see, it disposes the ears to hear, it discriminates tastes, avoids pains, seeks after pleasures. All these are tokens of the life of the body; but they are from the presence of the soul. If I were to ask a body whether it were alive; it would answer me, You see me walking, you see me working, you hear me talking, you perceive that I have certain aims and aversions, and do you not understand that the body is alive? By these works then of the soul which is placed within, I understand that the body is alive. I ask the soul also whether it is alive? It also has its proper works, by which it manifests its life. The feet walk. I understand by this that the body lives, but by the presence of the soul. I ask now, does the soul live? These feet walk. (To speak only of this one movement.) I am questioning both body and soul, as touching their life. The feet walk, I understand that the body lives. But whither do they walk? To adultery, it is said. Then is the soul dead. For so hath unerring Scripture said, "The widow who liveth in pleasure is dead." [2230] Now since the difference is great between "pleasure" and adultery, how can the soul which is said to be dead in pleasure, live in adultery? It is surely dead. But it is dead even though it be not in this case. I hear a man speaking; the body then lives. For the tongue could not move itself in the mouth, and by its several motions give utterance to articulate sounds, were there not an inhabitant within; and a musician as it were to this instrument, to make use of his tongue. I understand it perfectly. Thus the body speaks; the body then lives. But I ask, is the soul alive also? Lo, the body speaks, and so is alive. But what does it speak? As I said concerning the feet; they walk, and so the body is alive, and I then asked, whither do they walk? that I might understand whether the soul was alive also. So also when I hear a man speak, I understand that the body is alive; I ask what does he speak, that I may know whether the soul is alive also. He speaks a lie. If so, then is the soul dead. How do we prove this? Let us ask the truth itself, which saith, "The mouth that lieth, slayeth the soul." [2231] I ask, why is the soul dead? I ask as I did just now, why is the body dead? Because the soul, its life, was gone. Why is the soul dead? Because God, its life, hath forsaken it.

7. After this brief examination then, know and hold for certain that the body is dead without the soul, and that the soul is dead without God. Every man without God hath a dead soul. Thou dost bewail the dead: bewail the sinner rather, bewail rather the ungodly man, bewail the unbeliever. It is written, "The mourning for the dead is seven days; for a fool and an ungodly man all the days of his life." [2232] What! are there no bowels of Christian compassion in thee; that thou mournest for a body from which the soul is gone, and mournest not for the soul, from which God is departed? Let the Martyr remembering this make answer to him that threatens him, "Why dost thou force me to deny Christ?" Wouldest thou then force me to deny the truth? And if I will not, what wilt thou do? Thou wilt assault my body, that my soul shall depart from it; but this same soul of mine has its body only for the soul's sake. It is not so foolish or unwise. Thou wouldest wound my body; but wouldest thou, that through fear lest thou shouldest wound my body, and my soul should depart from it, I should wound mine own soul, and my God should depart from it? Fear not then, O Martyr, the sword of thy executioner; fear only thine own tongue, lest thou do execution upon thine own self, and slay, not thy body, but thy soul. Fear for thy soul, lest it die in hell-fire.

8. Therefore said the Lord, "Who hath power to slay both body and soul in hell-fire." How? when the ungodly shall be cast into hell-fire, will his body and his soul burn there? Everlasting punishment will be the death of the body; the absence of God will be the death of the soul. Wouldest thou know what the death of the soul is? Understand the Prophet who saith, "Let the ungodly be taken away, that he may not see the glory of the Lord." [2233] Let the soul then fear its proper death, and not fear the death of its body. Because if it fear its own death, and so live in its God, by not offending and thrusting Him away from him, it will be found worthy [2234] to receive its body again at the end; not unto everlasting punishment, as the ungodly, but unto life eternal, as the righteous. By fearing this death, and loving that life, did the Martyrs, in hope of the promises of God, and in contempt of the threats of persecutors, attain [2235] themselves to be crowned with God, and have left to us the celebration of these solemnities.

Footnotes

[2227] Matt. x. 28. [2228] Prov. xiv. 26, Sept. [2229] 1 Tim. vi. 16. [2230] 1 Tim. v. 6. [2231] Wisd. i. 11. [2232] Ecclus. xxii. 12. [2233] Isa. xxvi. 10, Sept. [2234] Merebitur. [2235] Meruerunt. .


Sermon XVI.

[LXVI. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. xi. 2, "Now when John heard in the prison the works of the Christ, he sent by his disciples, and said unto him, art thou He that cometh, or look we for another?" etc.

1. The lesson of the Holy Gospel has set before us a question touching John the Baptist. May the Lord assist me to resolve it to you, as He hath resolved it to us. John was commended, as ye have heard, by the testimony of Christ, and in such terms commended, as that there had not risen a greater among those who were born of women. But a greater than he had been born of a Virgin. How much greater? Let the herald himself declare, how great the difference is between himself and his Judge, whose herald he is. For John went before Christ both in his birth and preaching; but it was in obedience that he went before Him; not in preferring himself before Him. For so the whole train [2236] of attendants walks before the judge; yet they who walk before, are really after him. How signal a testimony then did John give to Christ? Even to saying that he "was not worthy to loose the latchet of His shoes." [2237] And what more? "Of His fulness," saith he, "have all we received." [2238] He confessed that he was but a lamp lighted at His Light, and so he took refuge at His feet, lest venturing on high, he should be extinguished by the wind of pride. So great indeed was he, that he was taken for Christ; and if he had not himself testified that he was not He, the mistake would have continued, and he would have been reputed to be the Christ. What striking humility! Honour was proffered him by the people, and he himself refused it. Men were at fault in his greatness, and he humbled himself. He had no wish to increase by the words of men, seeing he had comprehended the Word of God.

2. This then did John say concerning Christ. And what said Christ of John? We have just now heard. "He began to say to the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?" [2239] Surely not; for John was not "blown about by every wind of doctrine." [2240] "But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment?" [2241] No, for John was clothed in rough apparel; he had his raiment of camel's hair, not of down. "But what went ye out for to see? A Prophet? yea, and more than a Prophet." [2242] Why "more than a Prophet"? The Prophets foretold that the Lord would come, whom they desired to see, and saw not; but to him was vouchsafed what they sought. John saw the Lord; he saw Him, pointed his finger toward Him, and said, "Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world;" [2243] behold, here He is. Now had He come and was not acknowledged; and so a mistake was made also as to John himself. Behold then here is He whom the Patriarchs desired to see, whom the Prophets foretold, whom the Law prefigured. "Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world." And he gave a goodly testimony to the Lord, and the Lord to him. "Among them that are born of women," saith the Lord, "there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding, he that is less in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he;" [2244] less in time, but greater in majesty. This He said, meaning Himself to be understood. Now exceedingly great among men is John the Baptist, than whom among men Christ alone is greater. It may also [2245] be thus stated and explained, "Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding, he that is the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." Not in the sense that I have before explained it. "Notwithstanding, he that is the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he;" the kingdom of heaven he meant where the Angels are; he then that is the least among the Angels, is greater than John. Thus He set forth to us the excellence [2246] of that kingdom which we should long for; set before us a city, of which we should desire to be citizens. What sort of citizens are there? how great are they! Whoso is the least there, is greater than John. Than what John? "Than whom there hath not risen a greater among them that are born of women."

3. Thus have we heard the true and good record both of John concerning Christ, and of Christ concerning John. What then is the meaning of this; that John sent his disciples to Him when He was shut up in prison, on the eve of being put to death, and said to them, "Go, say to Him, Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?" [2247] Is this then all that praise? That praise is it turned to doubting? What sayest thou, John. To Whom art thou speaking? What sayest thou? Thou speakest to thy Judge, thyself the herald. Thou stretchedst out the finger, and pointedst Him out; thou saidst, "Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who taketh away the sins of the world." Thou saidst, "Of His fulness have we all received." Thou saidst, "I am not worthy to unloose the latchet of His shoes." And dost thou now say, "Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?" Is not this the same Christ? And who art thou? Art thou not His forerunner? Art thou not he of whom it was foretold, "Behold, I send my messenger before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way before thee?" [2248] How dost thou prepare the way, and thou art thyself straying from the way? So then the disciples of John came; and the Lord said to them, "Go, tell John, the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the poor have the Gospel preached to them; and blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me." [2249] Do not suspect that John was offended in Christ. And yet his words do sound so; "Art Thou He that should come?" Ask my works; "The blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised, the poor have the Gospel preached to them;" and dost thou ask whether I am He? My works, saith He, are My words. "Go, show him again. And as they departed." Lest haply any one should say, John was good at first, and the Spirit of God forsook him; therefore after their departure, he spake these words; after their departure whom John had sent, Christ commended John. [2250]

4. What is the meaning then of this obscure question? May that Sun shine upon us, from which that lamp derived its flame. And so the resolution of it is altogether plain. John had separate disciples of his own; not as in separation from Christ, but prepared as a witness to him. For meet it was that such an one should give his testimony to Christ, who was himself also gathering disciples, and who might have been envious of Him, for that he could not see Him. Therefore because John's disciples highly esteemed their master, they heard from John his record concerning Christ, and marvelled; and as he was about to die, it was his wish that they should be confirmed by him. For no doubt they were saying among themselves; Such great things doth he say of Him, but none such of himself. "Go then, ask Him;" not because I doubt, but that ye may be instructed. "Go, ask Him," hear from Himself what I am in the habit of telling you; ye have heard the herald, be confirmed by the Judge. "Go, ask Him, Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?" They went accordingly and asked; not for John's sake, but for their own. And for their sakes did Christ say, "The blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised, the poor have the Gospel preached to them." Ye see Me, acknowledge Me then; ye see the works, acknowledge the Doer. "And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me." But it is of you I speak, not of John. For that we might know that He spake not this of John, as they departed, "He began to speak to the multitudes concerning John;" the True, the Truth Himself, proclaimed his true praises.

5. I think this question has been sufficiently explained. Let it suffice then to have prolonged my address thus far. Now keep the poor in mind. Give, ye who have not given hitherto; believe me, ye will not lose it. Yes, truly, that only it seems ye lose, which ye do not carry to the circus. [2251] Now must we render unto the poor the offerings of such of you as have offered anything, and the amount which we have is much less than your usual offerings. Shake off this sloth. I am become a beggar for beggars; what is that to me? I would be a beggar for beggars, that ye may be reckoned among the number of children.

Footnotes

[2236] Officium. [2237] John i. 27. [2238] John i. 16. [2239] Matt. xi. 7. [2240] Eph. iv. 14. [2241] Matt. xi. 8. [2242] Matt. xi. 9. [2243] John i. 29. [2244] Matt. xi. 11. [2245] He gives these two interpretations of this passage; again Cont. adv. leg. and Prop. ii. 5 (20). [2246] Commendavit. [2247] Matt. xi. 3. [2248] Matt. xi. 10. [2249] Matt. xi. 4-7. [2250] Matt. xi. 4-7. [2251] Quadrigam. .


Sermon XVII.

[LXVII. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. xi. 25, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and understanding," etc.

1. When the Holy Gospel was being read, we heard that the Lord Jesus exulted in Spirit, and said, "I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." [2252] Thus much to begin [2253] with, we find before we pass on further, if we consider the words of the Lord with due attention, with diligence, and above all with piety, that we ought not invariably to understand when we read of "confession" in the Scriptures, the confession [2254] of a sinner. Now especial need there was of saying this, and of reminding you, Beloved, of this, because as soon as this word was uttered by the reader's voice, there followed upon it the sound of the beating of your breasts, when ye had heard, I mean, what the Lord said, "I confess to Thee, O Father." At the uttering of these words, "I confess," ye beat your breasts. Now what means this beating of the breast, but to show that which lies hid within the breast, and to chastise by the visible beating the secret sin? And why did ye this, but because ye heard, "I confess to Thee, O Father." Ye heard the words "I confess," but ye did not consider, who it is that confesses. But consider now. If Christ, from whom all sin is far removed, said, "I confess:" confession does not belong to the sinner only, but sometimes to him also that praiseth God. We confess then, whether in praising God, or accusing ourselves. In either case it is a godly confession, either when thou blamest thyself, who art not without sin, or when thou praisest Him who can have no sin.

2. But if we consider it well: thine own blame is His praise. For why is it that thou dost now confess in accusing thyself for thy sin? in accusing thyself why dost thou confess? but because thou art become alive from the dead? for the Scripture saith, "Confession perisheth from the dead, as from one that is not." [2255] If confession perisheth from the dead, he who confesseth must be alive; and if he confesseth sin he hath undoubtedly risen again from death. Now if he that confesseth sin hath risen again from the dead, who hath raised him? No dead man can raise himself. He only was able to raise Himself, who though His Body was dead, was not dead. For He raised up that which was dead. He raised up Himself, who in Himself was alive, but in His Body that was to be raised was dead. For not the Father only, of whom it was said by the Apostle, "Wherefore God also hath exalted Him," [2256] raised the Son, but the Lord also raised Himself, that is, His Body. Whence He said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it again." [2257] But the sinner is dead, especially he whom the load of sinful habit presseth down, who is buried as it were like Lazarus. For he was not merely dead, he was buried also. [2258] Whosoever then is oppressed by the load of evil habit, of a wicked life, of earthly lusts, I mean, so that that in his case is true which is piteously described in a certain Psalm, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God," [2259] he is such an one, of whom it is said, "Confession perisheth from the dead, as from one that is not." And who shall raise him up, but He who when the stone was removed, cried out, and said, "Lazarus, Come forth?" [2260] Now what is to "come forth," but to bring forth what was hidden? He then who confesseth "cometh forth." "Come forth" he could not were he not alive; he could not be alive, had he not been raised again. And therefore in confession the accusing of one's self, is the praise of God.

3. Now one may say, what profit then is the Church, if he that confesseth comes forth, at once raised to life again by the voice of the Lord? What profit to Him that confesseth, is the Church, to which the Lord said, "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven." [2261] Consider this very case of Lazarus: he comes forth, but with his bands. He was alive already through confession, but he did not yet walk free, entangled as he was in his bands. What then doth the Church to which it was said, "Whatsoever ye shall loose, shall be loosed;" but what [2262] the Lord said forthwith to His disciples, "Loose him, and let him go"? [2263]

4. Whether then we accuse ourselves, or directly praise God, in both ways do we praise God. If with a pious intention we accuse ourselves, by so doing we praise God. When we praise God directly, we do as it were celebrate His Holiness, who is without sin: but when we accuse ourselves, we give Him glory, by whom we have risen again. This if thou shalt do, the enemy will find none occasion whereby to [2264] overreach thee before the judge. For when thou shall be thine own accuser, and the Lord thy Deliverer, what shall he be but a mere calumniator? With good reason hath the Christian hereby provided protection for himself against his enemies, not those that may be seen, flesh and blood, to be pitied, rather than to be feared, but against those against whom the Apostle exhorts us to arm ourselves: "We wrestle not against flesh and blood;" [2265] that is, against men whom ye see raging against you. They are but vessels, which another uses, they are but instruments which another handles. "The devil," saith the Scripture, "entered into the heart of Judas, that he should betray the Lord." [2266] One may say then, what have I done? Hear the Apostle, "Give not place to the devil." [2267] Thou hast given him place by an evil will: he entered, and possessed, and now uses thee. He had not possessed thee, hadst thou not given him place.

5. Therefore doth he warn and say, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers." Any one might suppose this meant against the kings of the earth, against the powers of this world. How so? are they not flesh and blood? And once for all it is said, "not against flesh and blood." Turn thy attention from all men. What enemies then remain? "Against principalities and powers of spiritual wickedness, the rulers of the world." [2268] It might seem as though he gave the devil and his angels more than they have. It is so, he has called them the "rulers of the world." But to prevent misunderstanding, he explains what this world is, of which they are the rulers. "The rulers of the world, of this darkness." What is, "of the world, of this darkness?" The world is full of those who love it, and of unbelievers, over whom he is ruler. This the Apostle calls darkness. This darkness the devil and his angels are the rulers of. This is not the natural, and unchangeable darkness: this darkness changes, and becomes light; it believes, and by believing is enlightened. When this takes place in it, it will hear the words, "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord." [2269] For when ye were darkness, ye were not in the Lord: again, when ye are light, ye are light not in yourselves, but in the Lord. "For what hast thou which thou hast not received?" [2270] Inasmuch then as they are invisible enemies, by invisible means must they be subdued. A visible enemy indeed thou mayest overcome by blows; thy invisible enemy thou conquerest by belief. A man is a visible enemy; to strike a blow is visible also. The devil is an invisible enemy; to believe is invisible also. Against invisible enemies then there is an invisible fight.

6. From these enemies how can any man say that he is safe? For this I had begun to speak of, but I thought it necessary to treat of these enemies at some little length. But now that we know our enemies, let us see to our defence against them. "In praising I will call upon the Lord, so shall I be safe from mine enemies." [2271] Thou seest what thou hast to do. "In praising call;" that is, "in praising the Lord, call." For thou wilt not be safe from thine enemies, if thou praise thyself. "In praising call upon the Lord, and thou shalt be safe from thine enemies." For what doth the Lord Himself say? "The sacrifice of praise shall glorify Me, and there is the way, in which I will show him My salvation." [2272] Where is the way? In the sacrifice of praise. Let not your foot then wander out of this way. Keep in the way; depart not from it; from the praise of the Lord depart not a foot, nay, not a nail's breadth. For if thou wilt deviate from this way, and praise thyself instead of the Lord, thou wilt not be safe from thine enemies; for it is said of them, "They have laid stumbling-blocks for me by the way." [2273] Therefore in whatever measure thou thinkest that thou hast good of thine own self, thou hast deviated from the praise of God. Why dost thou marvel then, if thine enemy seduce thee, when thou art thine own seducer? Hear the Apostle, "For if a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he seduceth himself." [2274]

7. Give heed then to the Lord confessing; "I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth." I confess to Thee, that is, I praise Thee. I praise Thee, not I accuse myself. Now as far as the taking of very [2275] man is concerned, all is grace, singular and perfect grace. What merit had that man [2276] who is Christ, if thou take away the grace, even that so pre-eminent grace, whereby it behoved that there should be One Christ, and that He whom we acknowledge should be He? Take away this grace, and what is Christ but a mere man? what but the same as thou art thyself? He took a Soul, He took a Body, He took a perfect Man; He uniteth him to Himself, the Lord maketh one Person with the servant. What pre-eminent grace is this! Christ in heaven, Christ on earth; Christ at once both in heaven and earth; not two Christs, but the same Christ, both in heaven and earth. Christ with the Father, Christ in the Virgin's womb; Christ on the Cross, Christ succouring some souls in hell; and on the self-same day Christ in paradise with the robber who confessed. And how did the robber attain [2277] to this blessedness, but because he held on that way, in which "He showeth His salvation"? That way, from which let not thy foot wander. For in that he accused himself, he praised God, and made his own life blessed. He looked in hope [2278] for this from the Lord, and said to Him, "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." [2279] For he considered his own wicked deeds, and thought it much, if mercy should be shown him even at the last. But the Lord immediately after He had said, "Remember me"--when? "when Thou comest into Thy kingdom," saith, "Verily I say unto thee, Today shall thou be with Me in paradise." Mercy offered at once, what misery deferred.

8. Hear then the Lord confessing; "I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth." [2280] What do I confess? Wherein do I praise thee? For this confession, as I have said before, signifieth praise. "Because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." What is this, Brethren? Understand by that which is opposed to them. "Thou hast hid these things," saith he, "from the wise and prudent;" and he did not say, thou hast revealed them to the foolish and imprudent, but "Thou hast hid these things" indeed "from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." To these wise and prudent, who are really objects of derision, to the arrogant who in false pretence are great, yet in truth are only swollen up, he opposed not the foolish, nor the imprudent, but babes. Who are babes? The humble. Therefore "Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent." Under the name of the wise and prudent, He hath Himself explained that the proud are understood, when He said, "Thou hast revealed them unto babes." Therefore from those who are not babes Thou hast hidden them. What is from those who are not babes? From those who are not humble. And who are they but the proud? O way of the Lord! Either there was none, or it lay hid, that it might be revealed to us. Why did the Lord exult? "Because it was revealed unto babes." We must be little babes; for if we would wish to be great, "wise and prudent" as it were, it is not revealed unto us. Who are these great ones? The wise and prudent. "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." [2281] Here then thou hast a remedy suggested from its opposite. For if by "professing thyself wise, thou art become a fool; profess thyself a fool, and thou wilt be wise." But profess it in truth, profess it from the heart, for it is really so as thou professest. If thou profess it, do not profess it before men, and forbear to profess it before God. As to thyself, and all that is thine, thou art altogether dark. For what else is it to be a fool, but to be dark in heart? He saith of them at last, "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." Before they professed this, what do we find? "And their foolish heart was darkened." [2282] Acknowledge then that thou art not to thyself a light. At best thou art but an eye, thou art not the light. And what good is even an open and a sound eye, if the light be wanting? Acknowledge therefore that of thine own self thou art no light to thyself; and cry out as it is written, "Thou, Lord, wilt light my candle: Thou wilt enlighten, O Lord, my darkness with Thy Light." [2283] For myself I was all darkness; but Thou art the Light that scattereth the darkness, and enlighteneth me; of myself I am no light to myself, yea I have no portion of light but in Thee.

9. So John also, the friend of the Bridegroom, was thought to be the Christ, was thought to be the Light. "He was not that Light, but that he might bear witness of the Light." [2284] But what was the Light? It was the true Light. What is the true Light? "That which lighteneth every man." If that be the true Light which lighteneth every man, then it lightened John also, who professed and confessed rightly, "Of His fulness have all we received." [2285] See if he said ought else, but "Thou, O Lord, shalt lighten my candle." Finally, being now enlightened, He gave His testimony. For the benefit of the blind the lamp gave witness to the Day. See how that He is a lamp; "Ye sent," He said, "unto John, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light; he was a burning and a shining lamp." [2286] He, the lamp, that is, a thing enlightened, was lighted that it might shine. That which can be lighted can be extinguished also. Now that it may not be extinguished, let it not expose itself to the wind of pride. Therefore, "I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent," from those who thought themselves to be light, and were darkness; and who because they were darkness, and thought themselves to be light, could not even be enlightened. But they who were darkness, and confessed that they were darkness, were little babes, not great; were humble, not proud. Rightly therefore did they say, "O Lord, Thou wilt lighten my candle." They knew themselves, they praised the Lord. They did not stray from the way of salvation; "They in praise called upon the Lord, and they were saved from their enemies." [2287]

10. Turning then to the Lord our God, the Father Almighty, in purity of heart, let us render unto Him, as our frailty best can, our highest and abundant thanks, with our whole mind praying His singular goodness, that in His good pleasure He would vouchsafe to hear our prayers, that by His Power He would drive out the enemy from our deeds and thoughts, would enlarge our faith, direct our minds, grant us spiritual thoughts, and bring us safe to His endless blessedness, through His Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

Footnotes

[2252] Matt. xi. 25. [2253] Interim. [2254] Vocem. [2255] Ecclus. xvii. 28, Sept. [2256] Phil. ii. 9. [2257] John ii. 19. [2258] John xi. 17. [2259] Ps. xiv. 1. [2260] John xi. 43. [2261] Matt. xvi. 19 and xviii. 18. [2262] Vid. Serm. 48 (98, Bened.) 6. [2263] John xi. 44. [2264] Circumveniat. [2265] Eph. vi. 12. [2266] John xiii. 2. [2267] Eph. iv. 27. [2268] Vulgate. [2269] Eph. v. 8. [2270] 1 Cor. iv. 7. [2271] Ps. xvii. 4, Sept. (xviii. 3, English version). [2272] Ps. xlix. 23, Sept. (l. English version). [2273] Ps. cxxxix. 6, Sept. (cxl. 5, English version). [2274] Gal. vi. 3, Vulg. [2275] Ipsius. [2276] It was the doctrine of Paul of Samosata, that the man Christ was exalted to be the Son of God (prokope, from Luke ii. 52), as if by merit. Origen seems to hold the same, at least as regards the (supposed) pre-existent soul of Christ (vid. Huet. Origen, ii. 3, 6; vid. however De la Rue's note); and the Arians, at least implicitly (Socr. Hist. i. 6, Athan. Orat. contr. Arian, i. 35, iii. 51; and Leporius, Cassian. Incarn. i. 3, 4). The same heresy was imputed to the Nestorians (but falsely according to Garner, in Mar. Merc. pt. i. p. 431), and thereby connected them with the Pelagians, as if unassisted human nature could merit grace. The Church on the other hand, proceeding from Rom. i. 4, taught that the human nature which became the manhood of the Word was predestined to be such by grace before its creation, and became such in the moment of creation. St. Athanasius touches on this subject against the Arians (Orat. i. 46); St. Augustin enlarges on it against the Pelagians (De Prædest. Sanct. 23, 30; De Corrept. et Grat. 30); St. Cyril, against the Nestorians (Contra Nest. iii. p. 83); Vigilius, against the Monophysites (Contra Eutych. v. B. P. t. 4, p. 528, ed. 1624). When St. Augustin says "that man," he is speaking of our Lord's human nature as abstracted from that Divine Person in whom it actually existed, and not as if it ever existed as a separate hypostasis. This use of "homo" and anthropos is very frequent with the Fathers; what is more startling is the expression "homo ille," yet vid. also Augustin, De Præd. Sanct. 30; Alcuin, De Trin. iii. 1; Agobard, Cont. Felic. B. P. t. 9, p. 1194. However, this point is a subject of debate among theologians (vid. Petav. De Incarn. xi. fin.). [2277] Meruit. [2278] Præsumpsit. [2279] Luke xxiii. 42. [2280] Matt. xi. 25. [2281] Rom. i. 22. [2282] Rom. i. 21. [2283] Ps. xviii. 28. [2284] John i. 8. [2285] John i. 16. [2286] John v. 33, etc. [2287] Ps. xviii. 3. .


Sermon XVIII.

[LXVIII. Ben.]

Again on the words of the Gospel, Matt. xi. 25, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth," etc.

1. We have heard the Son of God saying, "I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth." What doth he confess to Him? Wherein doth he praise Him? "Because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." [2288] Who are the "wise and prudent"? Who the "babes"? What hath He hid from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes? By the "wise and prudent," He signifieth those of whom St. Paul speaks; "Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" [2289] Yet perhaps thou still askest who they are. They are they peradventure who in their much disputation concerning God, have spoken falsely of Him; who, puffed up by their own doctrines, could in no wise find out and know God, and who for the God whose substance is incomprehensible and invisible, have thought the air and sky to be God, or the sun to be God, or anything which holds high place [2290] among the creatures to be God. For observing the grandeur and beauty and powers of the creatures, they rested in them, and found not the Creator.

2. These men does the Book of wisdom reprove, where it is said, "For if they were able to know so much as to aim at the world, how did they not sooner find out the Lord thereof?" [2291] They are accused as wasting their time and their busy disputes in investigating and measuring as it were the creature; they sought out the courses of the stars, the intervals of the planets, the movements [2292] of the heavenly bodies, so as to arrive by certain [2293] calculations to that degree of knowledge as to foretell the eclipses of the sun and moon; and that as they had foretold, so should the event be according to the day and hour, and to the portion of the bodies which should be eclipsed. Great industry, great activity of mind. But in these things they sought after the Creator, who was not far off from them, and they found Him not. Whom if they could have found, they might have had within them. With the best reason then, and very rightly were they accused, who could investigate the numbers of the stars, and their varied movements, and know and foretell the eclipses of the luminaries: rightly accused, I say, in that they found not Him by whom these had been created and ordained, because they neglected to seek Him. But be not thou much disquieted, if thou art ignorant of the courses of the stars, and the proportions [2294] of the celestial and terrestrial bodies. Behold the fair beauty of the world, and praise its Creator's counsel. Behold what He has made, and love Him who made it: be this thy greatest care. Love Him who made it; for He made thee also after His own image, that thou mightest love Him.

3. If then it is strange that those things of which Christ said, "Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent," were hidden from such wise men as these, who, occupied wholly about the creatures, chose to seek the Creator carelessly, and could not find Him; still more strange is it that there should even be found some "wise and prudent" men who were able to know Him. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness." [2295] Perhaps thou dost ask, what truth do they hold in unrighteousness? "Because that which may be known of God is manifest among them." How is it manifest? He goes on to say, "For God hath manifested it to them." [2296] Dost thou still enquire how He manifested it to them to whom He gave not the law? How? "For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made." [2297] There were then some such, not as Moses the servant of God, not as many Prophets who had an insight into and knowledge of these things, and were aided by the Spirit of God, which they drew in by faith, and drank with the throat [2298] of godliness, and poured [2299] forth again by the mouth of the interior man. Not such as these were they; but far unlike them, who by means of this visible creation were able to attain to the understanding of the Creator, and to say of these things which God hath made; [2300] Behold what things He hath made, He governeth and containeth also. He who hath made them, Himself filleth what He hath made with His own presence. Thus much they were enabled to say. For these Paul also made mention of in the Acts of the Apostles, where, when he had said of God, "For in Him we live and move and have our being" [2301] (forasmuch as he was speaking to the Athenians among whom those learned men had existed); he subjoined immediately; "As certain also of your own have said." Now it was no trivial thing they said; "That in Him we live and move and have our being."

4. In what then were they unlike the others? why were they blamed? why rightly accused? Hear the words of the Apostle which I had begun to quote; "The wrath of God," saith he, "is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness" (even of those, namely, who had not received the law); "against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." What truth? "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them." By whose manifestation of it? "For God hath manifested it to them." How? "For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His Eternal Power and Godhead." Why did He manifest it? "That they might be without excuse." Wherein then are they to be blamed? "Because that when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God."

5. What mean these words, "Glorified Him not as God?" They did not give Him thanks. Is this then to glorify God; to give God thanks? Yes, verily. For what can be worse, if having been created after the image of God, and having come to know God, thou shalt not be thankful to Him? This surely, this is to glorify God, to give God thanks. The faithful know where and when it is said, "Let us give thanks unto our Lord God." But who gives thanks to God, save he who "lifts up his heart unto the Lord?" Therefore are they blameable and without excuse, "Because when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, nor gave Him thanks. But"--what? "But they became vain in their imaginations." Whence did they become vain, but because they were proud? Thus smoke vanishes away by rising up aloft, and a flame burns the more brightly and strongly in proportion as it is kept [2302] low; "They became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." So smoke, though it rise higher than the flame, is dark.

6. Finally, mark what follows, and see the point on which the whole matter depends. "For professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." For arrogating to themselves what God had given, God took away what He had given. Therefore from the proud He hid Himself, who conveyed the knowledge of Himself only to those who through the creature sought diligently after the Creator. Well then did our Lord say, "Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent;" whether from those who in their manifold disputations, and most busy search, have reached to the full investigation of the creature, but knew nothing of the Creator, or from them who when they knew God, glorified Him not as God, nor gave Him thanks, and who could not see perfectly or healthfully because they were proud. "Therefore Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." What babes? To the lowly. Say on whom doth My Spirit rest? "Upon him that is lowly and quiet, and who trembleth at My words." [2303] At these words Peter trembled; Plato trembled not. Let the fisherman hold fast what that most famous philosopher has lost. "Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." Thou hast hid them from the proud, and revealed them to the humble. What things are these? For when He said this, He did not intend the heaven and earth, or point them out as it were with His hand as He spake. For these who does not see? The good see them, the bad see them; for He "maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good." [2304] What then are these things? "All things are delivered unto Me of My Father." [2305]

Footnotes

[2288] Matt. xi. 25. [2289] 1 Cor. i. 20. [2290] Sublimiter eminet. [2291] Wisd. xiii. 9. [2292] Itinera. [2293] Vid. Conf. v. 3 (4). [2294] Numeros. [2295] Rom. i. 18. [2296] Rom. i. 19. [2297] Rom. i. 20. [2298] Faucibus. [2299] Ructuaverunt. [2300] Vid. Conf. vii. 9 (13-15). [2301] Acts xvii. 28. [2302] Humilius apprehendendo. [2303] Isa. lxvi. 2. [2304] Matt. v. 45. [2305] Matt. xi. 27. .


Sermon XIX.

[LXIX. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. xix. 28, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden," etc.

1. We heard in the Gospel that the Lord, rejoicing greatly in Spirit, said unto God the Father, "I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in Thy sight. All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him." [2306] I have labour in talking, you in hearing: let us then both give ear to Him who goes on to say, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour." [2307] For why do we labour all, except that we are mortal men, frail creatures and infirm, bearing about vessels of clay which crowd and straiten one another. But if these vessels of flesh are straitened, let the open [2308] expanse of charity be enlarged. What then does He mean by, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour," but that ye may labour no more? In a word, His promise is clear enough; forasmuch as He called those who were in labour, they might perchance enquire, for what profit they were called: "and," saith He, "I will refresh you."

2. "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me;" [2309] not to raise the fabric of the world, not to create all things visible and invisible, not in the world so created to work miracles and raise the dead; but, "that I am meek and lowly in heart." Thou wishest to be great, begin from the least. Thou art thinking to construct some mighty fabric in height; first think of the foundation of humility. And how great soever a mass of building one may wish and design to place above it, the greater the building is to be, the deeper does he dig his foundation. The building in the course of its erection, rises up on high, but he who digs its foundation, must first go down very low. So then you see even a building is low before it is high, and the top is raised only after humiliation.

3. What is the top in the erection of that building which we are constructing? Whither will the highest point of this building reach? I say at once, even to the Vision of God. Ye see how high, how great a thing it is to see God. Whoso longeth after it, understands both what I say and what he hears. The Vision of God is promised to us, of the very God, the Supreme God. For this is good, to see Him who seeth. For they who worship false gods, see them easily; but they see them "who have eyes and see not." But to us is promised the Vision of the Living and the Seeing God, that we may desire eagerly to see that God of whom Scripture saith, "He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, doth he not consider?" [2310] Doth He then not hear, who hath made for thee that whereby thou hearest? and doth not He see, who hath created that whereby thou seest? Well therefore in the foregoing words of this very Psalm doth He say, "Understand therefore ye unwise among the people, and ye fools at length be wise." [2311] For many men commit evil deeds whilst they think they are not seen by God. And it is difficult indeed for them to believe that He cannot see them; but they think that He will not. Few are found of such great impiety, that that should be fulfilled in them which is written, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." [2312] This is but the madness of a few. For as great piety belongs but to the few, no less also does great impiety. But the multitude of men speak thus: What! is God thinking now upon this, that He should know what I am doing in my house, and does God care for what I may choose to do upon my bed? Who says this? "Understand, ye unwise among the people, and ye fools at length be wise." Because as being a man, it is a labour for thee to know all that takes place in thy house, and for all the doings and words of thy servants to reach thee; thinkest thou that it is a like labour for God to observe thee, who did not labour to create thee? Doth not He fix His eye upon thee, who made thine eye? Thou wast not, and He created thee and gave thee being; and doth not He care for thee now that thou art, who "calleth those things which be not as though they were"? [2313] Do not then promise thyself this. Whether thou wilt or no, He seeth thee, and there is no place whither thou canst hide thyself from His eyes. "For if thou goest up into heaven, He is there; if thou goest down into hell, He is there also." [2314] Great is thy labour, whilst unwilling to depart from evil deeds: yet wishest not to be seen by God. Hard labour truly! Daily art thou wishing to do evil, and dost thou suspect that thou art not seen? Hear the Scripture which saith, "He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? He that formed the eye, doth not He consider?" Where canst thou hide thy evil deeds from the eyes of God? If thou wilt not depart from them, thy labour is great indeed.

4. Hear Him then who saith, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour." Thou canst not end thy labour by flying. Dost thou choose to fly from Him, and not rather to Him? Find out then whither thou canst escape, and so fly. But if thou canst not fly from Him, for that He is everywhere present; fly (it is quite nigh [2315] ) to God, who is present where thou art standing. Fly. Lo in thy flight thou hast passed the heavens, He is there; thou hast descended into hell, He is there; whatever deserts of the earth thou shalt choose, there is He, who hath said, "I fill heaven and earth." [2316] If then He fills heaven and earth, and there is no place whither thou canst fly from Him; cease this thy labour, and fly to His presence, lest thou feel His coming. Take courage from the [2317] hope that thou shalt by well-living see Him, by whom even in thy evil living thou art seen. For in evil living thou canst be seen, thou canst not see; but by well-living thou art both seen and seest. For with how much more tender nearness [2318] will He who crowneth the worthy look on thee, who in His pity saw thee that He might call thee when unworthy? Nathanael said to the Lord whom as yet he did not know, "Whence knewest thou me?" The Lord said unto him, "When thou wast under the fig-tree I saw thee." [2319] Christ saw thee in thine own shade; and will He not see thee in His Light? For what is, "When thou wast under the fig-tree I saw thee"? What does it mean? Call to mind the original sin of Adam, in whom we all die. When he first sinned, he made himself aprons of fig-leaves, [2320] signifying by these leaves the irritations of lust to which he had been reduced by sinning. Hence are we born; in this condition are we born; born in sinful flesh, which "the likeness of sinful flesh" alone can cure. Therefore "God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh." [2321] He came of this flesh, but He came not as other men. For the Virgin conceived Him not by lust, but by faith. He came into the Virgin, who was before the Virgin. He made choice of her whom He created, He created her whom He designed to choose. He brought to the Virgin fruitfulness: He took not away her unimpaired purity. He then who came to thee without the irritation of the leaves of the fig-tree, "when thou wast under the fig-tree," saw thee. Make ready then to see Him in His height of glory, [2322] by whom in His pity thou wast seen. But because the top is high, think of the foundation. What foundation? dost thou say? "Learn of Him, for He is meek and lowly in heart." Dig this foundation of lowliness deep in thee, and so wilt thou attain to the crowning top of charity. "Turning to the Lord," etc.

Footnotes

[2306] Matt. xi. 25-27. [2307] Matt. xi. 28. [2308] Spatia. [2309] Matt. xi. 29. [2310] Ps. xciii. 9, Sept. (xciv. English version). [2311] Ps. xciii. 8, Sept. (xciv. English version). [2312] Ps. xiv. 1. [2313] Rom. iv. 17. [2314] Ps. cxxxix. 8. [2315] De proximo. [2316] Jer. xxiii. 24. [2317] Præsume. [2318] Familiarius. [2319] John i. 48. [2320] Gen. iii. 7. [2321] Rom. viii. 3. [2322] Sublimiter.


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