Augustin on John 1
2 (Jn 1,6-14.
It is fitting, brethren, that as far as possible we should treat of the text of Holy Scripture, and especially of the Holy Gospel, without omitting any portion, that both we ourselves may derive nourishment according to our capacity, and may minister to you from that source from which we have been nourished. Last Lord’s day, we remember, we treated of the first section; that is, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was nothing made. That which was made, in Him is life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” So far, I believe, had I advanced in the treatment of the passage: let all who were present recall what was then said; and those of you who were not present, believe me and those who chose to be present. Now therefore,-because we cannot always be repeating everything, out of justice to those who desire to hear what follows, and because repetition of the former thought is a burden to them and deprives them of what succeeds,-let those who were absent on the former occasion refrain from demanding repetition, but, together with those who were here, listen to the present exposition.
2. It goes on, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.” Truly, brethren beloved, those things which were said before, were said regarding the ineffable divinity of Christ, and almost ineffably. For who shall comprehend “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God “? And do not allow the name word to appear mean to you, through the habit of daily words, for it is added, “and the Word was God.” This Word is He of whom yesterday we spoke much; and I trust that God was present, and that even from only thus much speaking something reached your hearts. “In the beginning was the Word.” He is the same, and is in the same manner; as He is, so He is always; He cannot be changed; that is, He is. This His name He spoke to His servant Moses: “I am that I am; and He that is hath sent me.”1 Who then shall comprehend this when you see that all mortal things are variable; when you see that not only do bodies vary as to their qualities, by being born, by increasing, by becoming less, by dying, but that even souls themselves through the effect of divers volitions are distended and divided; when you see that men can obtain wisdom if they apply themselves to its light and heat, and also lose wisdom if they remove themselves from it through some evil influence? When, therefore, you see that all those things are variable, what is that which is, unless that which transcends all things which are so that they are not? Who then can receive this? Or who, in what manner soever he may have applied the strength of his mind to touch that which is, can reach to that which he may in any way have touched with his mind? It is as if one were to see his native land at a distance, and the sea intervening; he sees whither he would go, but he has not the means of going. So we desire to arrive at that our stability where that which is, because this alone always is as it is: the sea of this world interrupts our course, even although already we see whither we go; for many do not even see whither they go, That there might be a way by which we could go, He has come from Him to whom we wished to go. And what has He done? He has appointed a tree by which we may cross the sea. For no one is able to cross the sea of this world, unless borne by the cross of Christ. Even he who is of weak eyesight sometimes embraces this cross; and he who does not see from afar whither he goes, let him not depart from it, and it will carry him over.
3. Therefore, my brethren, I would desire to have impressed this upon your hearts: if you wish to live in a pious and Christian manner, cling to Christ according to that which He became for us, that you may arrive at Him according to that which is, and according to that which was. He approached, that for us He might become this; because He became that for us, on which the weak may be borne, and cross the sea of this world and reach their native country; where there will be no need of a ship, for no sea is crossed. It is better then not to see with the mind that which is, and yet not to depart from the cross of Christ, than to see it with the mind, and despise the cross of Christ. It is good beyond this, and best of all, if it be possible, that we both see whither we ought to go, and hold fast that which carries us as we go. This they were able to do, the great minds of the mountains, who have been called mountains, whom the light of divine justice pre-eminently illuminates; they were able to do this, and saw that which is. For Jn seeing said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” They saw this, and in order that they might arrive at that which they saw from afar, they did not depart from the cross of Christ, and did not despise Christ’s lowliness. But little ones who cannot understand this, who do not depart from the cross and passion and resurrection of Christ, are conducted in that same ship to that which they do not see, in which they also arrive who do see.
4. But truly there have been some philosophers of this world who have sought for the Creator by means of the creature; for He can be found by means of the creature, as the apostle plainly says, “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 glory; so they are without excuse.” And it follows, “Because that, when they knew God;” he did not say, Because they did not know, but “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” How darkened? It follows, when he says more plainly: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools”2 They saw whither they must come; but ungrateful to Him who afforded them what they saw, they wished to ascribe to themselves what they saw; and having become proud, they lost what they saw, and were turned from it to idols and images, and to the worship of demons, to adore the creature and to despise the Creator. But these having been blinded did those things, and became proud, that they might be blinded: when they were proud they said that they were wise. Those, therefore, concerning whom he said, “Who, when they had known God,” saw this which Jn says, that by the Word of God all things were made. For these things are also found in the books of the philosophers: and that God has an only-begotten Son, by whom are all things. They were able to see that which is, but they saw it from afar: they were unwilling to hold the lowliness of Christ, in which ship they might have arrived in safety at that which they were able to see from afar and the cross of Christ appeared vile to them. The sea has to be crossed, and dost thou despise the wood? Oh, proud wisdom! thou laughest to scorn the crucified Christ; it is He whom thou dost see from afar: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” But wherefore was He crucified? Because the wood of His humiliation was needful to thee. For thou hadst become swollen with pride, and hadst been cast out far from that fatherland; and by the waves of this world has the way been intercepted, and there is no means of passing to the fatherland unless borne by the wood Ungrateful one! thou laughest Him to scorn who has come to thee that thou mayest return: He has become the way, and that through the sea:3 thence He walked in the sea to show that there is a way in the sea. But thou who art not able in any way thyself to walk in the sea, be carried in a ship, be carried by the wood: believe in the crucified One, and thou shalt arrive thither. On account of thee He was crucified, to teach thee humility; and because if He should come as God, He would not be recognized. For if He should come as God, He would not come to those who were not able to see God. For not according to His Godhead does He either come or depart; since He is everywhere present, and is contained in no place. But, according to what did He come? He appeared as a man.
5. Therefore, because He was so man, that the God lay hid in Him, there was sent before Him a great man, by whose testimony He might be found to be more than man. And who is this? “He was a main” And how could that man speak the truth concerning God? “He was sent by God.” What was he called? “Whose name was John.” Wherefore did he come? “He came for a witness, that he might bear witness concerning the light, that all might believe through him.” What sort of man was he who was to bear witness concerning the light? Something great was that John, vast merit, great grace, great loftiness! Admire, by all means, admire; but as it were a mountain. But a mountain is in darkness unless it be clothed with light. Therefore only admire Jn that you may hear what follows, “He was not that light;” lest if, when thou thinkest the mountain to be the light, thou make shipwreck on the mountain, and find not consolation. But what oughtest thou to admire? The mountain as a mountain. But lift thyself up to Him who illuminates the mountain, which for this end was elevated that it might be the first to receive the rays, and make them known to your eyes. Therefore, “he was not that light.”
6. Wherefore then did he come? “But that he might bear witness concerning the light.” Why so? “That all might believe through him.” And concerning what light was he to bear witness? “That was the true light.” Wherefore is it added true? Because an enlightened man is also called a light; but the true light is that which enlightens. For even our eyes are called lights; and nevertheless, unless either during the night a lamp is lighted, or during the day the sungoes forth, these lights are open in vain. Thus, therefore, Jn was a light, but not the true light; because, if not enlightened, he would have been darkness; but, by enlightenment, he became a light. For unless he had been enlightened he would have been darkness, as all those once impious men, to whom, as believers, the apostle said, “Ye were sometimes darkness.” But now, because they had believed, what?-“ but now are ye light,” he says, “in the Lord.”4 Unless he had added “in the Lord,” we should not have understood. “Light,” he says, “in the Lord:” darkness you were not in the Lord. “For ye were sometimes darkness,” where he did not add in the Lord. Therefore, darkness in you, light in the Lord. And thus “he was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of the light.”
7. But where is that light? “He was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” If every man that cometh, then also John. The true light, therefore, enlightened him by whom He desired Himself to be pointed out. Understand, beloved, for He came to infirm minds, to wounded hearts, to the gaze of dim-eyed souls. For this purpose had He come. And whence was the soul able to see that which perfectly is? Even as it commonly happens, that by means of some illuminated body, the sun, which we cannot see with the eyes, is known to have arisen. Because even those who have wounded eyes are able to see a wall illuminated and enlightened by the sun, or a mountain, or a tree, or anything of that sort; and, by means of another body illuminated, that arising is shown to those who are not as yet able to gaze on it. Thus, therefore all those to whom Christ came were not fit to see Him: upon Jn He shed the beams of His light; and by means of him confessing himself to have been irradiated and enlightened, not claiming to be one who irradiates and enlightens, He is known who enlightens, He is known who illuminates, He is known who fills. And who is it? “He who lighteth every man,” he says, “who cometh into the world.” For if man had not receded from that light, he would not have required to be illuminated; but for this reason has he to be illuminated here, because he departed from that light by which man might always have been illuminated.
8. What then? If He came hither, where was He? “He was in this world.” He was both here and came hither; He was here according to His divinity, and He came hither according to the flesh; because when He was here according to His divinity, He could not be seen by the foolish, by the blind, and the wicked. These wicked men are the darkness concerning which it was said, “The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.”5 Behold, both here He is now, and here He was, and here He is always; and He never departs, departs no-whither. There is need that thou have some means whereby thou mayest see that which never departs from thee; there is need that thou depart not from Him who departs no-whither; there is need that thou desert not, and thou shalt not be deserted. Do not fall, and His sun will not set to thee. If thou fallest, His sun setteth upon thee; but if thou standest, He is present with thee. But thou hast not stood: remember how thou hast fallen, how he who fell before thee cast thee down. For he cast thee down, not by violence, not by assault, but by thine own will. For hadst thou not consented unto evil, thou wouldest have stood, thou wouldest have remained enlightened. But now, because thou hast already fallen, and hast become wounded in heart,-the organ by which that light can be seen,-He came to thee such as thou mightest see; and He in such fashion manifested Himself as man, that He sought testimony from man. From man God seeks testimony, and God has man as a witness;-God has man as a witness, but on account of man: so infirm are we. By a lamp we seek the day; because Jn himself was called a lamp, the Lord saying,” He was a burning and a shining light; and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light: but I have greater witness than John.”6
9. Therefore He showed that for the sake of men He desired to have Himself revealed by a lamp to the faith of those who believed, that by means of the same lamp His enemies might be confounded. There were enemies who tempted Him, and said, “Tell us by what authority doest thou these things?” “I also,” saith He, “will ask you one question; answer me. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they were troubled, and said among themselves, If we shall say, From heaven, he will say unto us, Why did ye not believe him?” (Because he had borne testimony to Christ, and had said, I am not the Christ, but He 7 “But if we shall say, Of men, we fear the people, lest they should stone us: for they held Jn as a prophet.” Afraid of stoning, but fearing more to confess the truth, they answered a lie to the Truth; and “wickedness imposed a lie upon itself.”8 For they said, “We know not.” And the Lord, because they shut the door against themselves, by professing ignorance of what they knew, did not open to them, because they did not knock. For it is said, Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”9 Not only did these not knock that it might be opened to them; but, by denying that they knew, they barred that door against themselves. And the Lord says to them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.”10 And they were confounded by means of John; and in them were the words fulfilled, “I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed. His enemies will I clothe with shame.”11
10. “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him.” Think not that He was in the world as the earth is in the world, as the sky is in the world, as the sun is in the world, the moon and the stars, trees, cattle, and men. He was not thus in the world. But in what manner then? As the Artificer governing what He had made. For He did not make it as a carpenter makes a chest. The chest which he makes is outside the carpenter, and so it is put in another place, while being made; and although the workman is nigh, he sits in another place, and is external to that which he fashions. But God, infused into the world, fashions it; being everywhere present He fashions, and withdraweth not Himself elsewhere, nor doth He, as it were, handle from without, the matter which He fashions. By the presence of His majesty He maketh what He maketh; His presence governs what He made. Therefore was He in the world as the Maker of the world; for, “The world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.”
11. What meaneth “the world was made by Him”? The heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things which are therein, are called the world. Again, in another signification, those who love the world are called the world “The world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.” Did not the heavens know their Creator, or did the angels not know their Creator, or did the stars not know their things from all sides gave testimony. But who did not know? Those who, for their love of the world, are called the world. By loving we dwell with the heart; but because of their loving the world they deserved to be called after the name of that in which they dwelt. In the same manner as we say, This house is bad, or this house is good, we do not in calling the one bad or the other good accuse or praise the walls; but by a bad house we mean a house with bad inhabitants, and by a good house, a house with good inhabitants. In like manner we call those the world who by loving it, inhabit the world. Who are they? Those who love the world; for they dwell with their hearts in the world. For those who do not love the world in the flesh, indeed, sojourn in the world, but in their hearts they dwell in heaven, as the apostle says, “Our conversation is in heaven.”12 Therefore “the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.”
12. “He came unto His own,”-because all these things were made by Him,-“ and His own received Him not.” Who are they? The men whom He made. The Jews whom He at the first made to be above all nations. Because other nations worshipped idols and served demons; but that people was born of the seed of Abraham, and in an eminent sense His own, because kindred through that flesh which He deigned to assume. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” Did they not receive Him at all? did no one receive Him? Was there no one saved? For no one shall be saved unless he who shall have received the coming Christ.
13. But Jn adds: “As many as received Him.” What did He afford to them? Great benevolence! Great mercy! He was born the only Son of God, and was unwilling to remain alone. Many men, when they have not sons, in advanced age adopt a son, and thus obtain by an exercise of will what nature has denied to them: this men do. But if any one have an only son, he rejoices the more in him; because he alone will possess everything, and he will not have any one to divide with him the inheritance, so that he should be poorer. Not so God: that same only Son whom He had begotten, and by whom He created all things, He sent into this world that He might not be alone, but might have adopted brethren. For we were not born of God in the manner in which the Only-begotten was born of Him, but were adopted by His grace. For He, the Only-begotten, came to loose the sins in which we were entangled, and whose burden hindered our adoption: those whom He wished to make brethren to Himself, He Himself loosed, and made joint-heirs. For so saith the apostle, “But if a son, then an heir through God.” And again, “Heirs of God, and join-heirs with Christ.” He did not fear to have joint-heirs, because His heritage does not become narrow if many are possessors. Those very persons, He being possessor, become His inheritance, and He in turn becomes their inheritance. Hear in what manner they become His inheritance: “The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of me, and I will give Thee the nations for Thine inheritance.”13 Hear in what manner He becomes their inheritance. He says in the Psalms: “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, and of my cup.”14 Let us possess Him, and let Him possess us: let Him possess us as Lord; let us possess Him as salvation, let us possess Him as light. What then did He give to them who received Him? “To them He gave power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on His name;” that they may ring to the wood and cross the sea.
14. And how are they born? Because they become sons of God and brethren of Christ, they are certainly born. For if they are not born, how can they be sons? But the sons of men are born of flesh and blood, and of the will of man, and of the embrace of wedlock. But in what manner are they born? “Who not of bloods,” as if of male and female. Bloods is not Latin; but because it is plural in Greek, the interpreter preferred so to express it, and to speak bad Latin according to the grammarian that he might make the matter plain to the understanding of the weak among his hearers. For if he had said blood in the singular number, he would not have explained what he desired; for men are born of the bloods of male and female. Let us say so, then, and not fear the ferule of grammarians, so long as we reach the solid and certain truth. He who understands it and blames it, is thankless for his having understood. “Not of bloods, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man.” The apostle puts flesh for woman; because, when she was made of his rib, Adam said, “This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.”15 And the apostle saith, “He that loveth his wife loveth himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh.”16 Flesh, then, is put for woman, in the same manner that spirit is sometimes put for husband. Wherefore? Because the one rules, the other is ruled; the one ought to command, the other to serve. For where the flesh commands and the spirit serves, the house is turned the wrong way. What can be worse than a house where the woman has the mastery over the man? But that house is rightly ordered where the man commands and the woman obeys. In like manner that man is rightly ordered where the spirit commands and the flesh serves.
15. These, then, “were born not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” But that men might be born of God, God was first born of them. For Christ is God, and Christ was born of men. It was only a mother, indeed, that He sought upon earth; because He had already a Father in heaven: He by whom we were to be created was born of God, and He by whom we were to be re-created was born of a woman. Marvel not, then, O man, that thou art made a son by grace, that thou art born of God according to His Word. The Word Himself first chose to be born of man, that thou mightest be born of God unto salvation, and say to thyself, Not without reason did God wish to be born of man, but because He counted me of some importance, that He might make me immortal, and for me be born as a mortal man. When, therefore, he had said, “born of God,” lest we should, as it were, be filled with amazement and trembling at such grace, at grace so great as to exceed belief that men are born of God, as if assuring thee, he says, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Why, then, dost thou marvel that men are born of God? Consider God Himself born of men: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”
16. But because “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” by His very nativity he made an eye-salve to cleanse the eyes of our heart, and to enable us to see His majesty by means of His humility. Therefore “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us:” He healed our eyes; and what follows? “And we beheld His glory.” His glory can no one see unless healed by the humility of His flesh. Wherefore were we not able to see? Consider, then, dearly beloved, and see what I say. There had dashed into man’s eye, as it were, dust, earth; it had wounded the eye, and it could not see the light: that wounded eye is anointed; by earth it was wounded, and earth is applied to it for healing. For all eye-salves and medicines are derived from the earth alone. By dust thou wert blinded, and by dust thou art healed: flesh, then, had wounded thee, flesh heals thee. The soul had become carnal by consenting to the affections of the flesh; thus had the eye of the heart been blinded. “The Word was made flesh:” that Physician made for thee an eye-salve. And as He thus came by flesh to extinguish the vices of the flesh, and by death to slay death; therefore did this take place in thee, that, as “the Word became flesh,” thou mayest be able to say, “And we beheld His glory What sort of glory? Such as He became as Son of man? That was His humility, not His glory. But to what is the sight of man brought when cured by means of flesh? “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Of grace and truth we shall speak more fully in another place in this same Gospel, if the Lord vouchsafe us opportunity. Let these things suffice for the present, and be ye edified in Christ: be ye comforted in faith, and watch in good works, and see that ye do not depart from the wood by which ye may cross the sea).
1 (Ex 3,14,
2 (Rm 1,20-22).
3 (Mt 14,25,
4 (Ep 5,8).
5 (Jn 1,5,
6 (Jn 5,35,
7 (Jn 1,20 Jn 1,27.
8 (Ps 27,12).
9 (Mt 7,7,
10 (Mt 21,23-27 Mc 12,28-33 Lc 20,2-8.
11 (Ps 132,17).
12 (Ph 3,20). [R.V.: “Our citizenship is in heaven.”
13 (Ps 2,7-8.
14 (Ps 15,5).
15 (Gn 2,23,
16 (Ep 5,28-29.
We undertook, in the name of the Lord, and promised to you, beloved, to treat of that grace and truth of God, full of which the only-begotten Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, appeared to the saints, and to show how, as a matter belonging to the New Testament, it is to be distinguished from the Old Testament. Give, then, your attention that what I receive in my measure from God you in your measure may receive and hear the same. For it will only remain if, when the seed is scattered in your hearts, the birds take it not away, nor thorns choke it, nor heat scorch it, and there descend upon it the rain of daily exhortations and your own good thoughts, by which that is done in the heart which in the field is done by means of harrows, so that the clod is broken, and the seed covered and enabled to germinate: that you bear fruit at which the husbandman may be glad and rejoice. But if, in return for good seed and good rain, you bring forth not fruit but thorns, the seed will not be blamed, nor will the rain be in fault; but for thorns due fire is prepared.1
2. I do not think that I need spend much time in endeavoring to persuade you that weare Christian men; and if Christians, by virtue of the name, belonging to Christ. Upon the forehead we bear His sign; and we do not blush because of it, if we also bear it in the heart. His sign is His humility. By a star the Magi knew Him;2 and this sign was given by the Lord, and it was heavenly and beautiful He did not desire that a star should be His sign on the forehead of the faithful, but His cross. By it humbled, by it also glorified; by it He raised the humble, even by that to which He, when humbled, descended. We belong, then, to the gospel, we belong to the New Testament. “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” We ask the apostle, and he says to us, since we are not under the law but under grace.3 “He sent therefore His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, that He might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”4 Behold, for this end Christ came, that He might redeem those who were under the law; that now we may not be under the law, but under grace. Who, then, gave the law? He gave the law who gave likewise grace; but the law He sent by a servant, with grace He Himself came down. And in what manner were men made under the law? By not fulfilling the law. For he who fulfills the law is not under the law, but with the law;but he who is under the law is not raised up, but pressed down by the law. All men, therefore, being placed under the law, are by the law made guilty; and for this purpose it is over their head, that it may show sins, not take them away. The law then commands, the Giver of the law showeth pity in that which the law commands. Men, endeavoring by their own strength to fulfill that which the law commands, fell by their own rash and headstrong presumption; and not with the law, but under the law, became guilty: and since by their own strength they were unable to fulfill the law, and were become guilty under the law, they implored the aid of the Deliverer; and the guilt which the law brought caused sickness to the proud. The sickness of the proud became the confession of the humble. Now the sick confess that they are sick; let the physician come to heal the sick.
3. Who is the Physician? Our Lord Jesus Christ. Who is our Lord Jesus Christ? He who was seen even by those by whom He was crucified. He who was seized, buffeted, scourged, spit upon, crowned with thorns, suspended upon the cross, died, pierced by the spear, taken down from the cross, laid in the sepulchre. That same Jesus Christ our Lord, that same Jesus exactly, He is the complete Physician of our wounds. That crucified One at whom insults were cast, and while He hung on the cross His persecutors wagging the head, and saying. “If he be the Son of God, let him come down from the cross,”5 -He, and no other, is our complete Physician. Wherefore, then, did He not show to his deriders that He was the Son of God; so that if He allowed Himself to be lifted up upon the cross, at least when they said, “If he be the Son of God, let him come down from the cross,” He should then come down, and show to them that He was the very Son of God whom they had dared to deride? He would not. Wherefore would He not? Was it because He could not? Manifestly He could. For which is greater, to descend from the cross or to rise from the sepulchre? But He bore with His insulters; for the cross was taken not as a proof of power, but as an example of patience. There He cured thy wounds, where He long bore His own; there He healed thee of death eternal, where He vouchsafed to die the temporal death. And did He die, or in Him did death die? What a death was that, which slew death!
4. Is it, however, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself-His whole self-who was seen, and held, and crucified? Is the whole very self that? It is the same, but not the whole, that which the Jews saw; this is not the whole Christ. And what is? “In the beginning was the Word.” In what beginning? “And the Word was with God.” And what word? “And the Word was God.” Was then perhaps this Word made by God? No. For “the same was in the beginning with God.” What then? Are the other things which God made not like unto the Word? No: because “all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made.” In what manner were all things made by Him? Because “that which was made in Him was life;” and before it was made there was life. That which was made is not life; but in the art, that is, in the wisdom of God, before it was made, it was life. That which was made passes away; that which is in wisdom cannot pass away. There was life, therefore, in that which was made. And what sort of life, since the soul also is the life of the body? Our body has its own life; and when it has lost it, the death of the body ensues. Was then the life such as this? No; but “the life was the light of men.” Was it the light of cattle? For this light is the light of men and of cattle. There is a certain light of men: let us see how far men differ from the cattle, and then we shall understand what is the light of men. Thou dost not differ from the cattle except in intellect; do not glory in anything besides. Dost thou presume upon thy strength? By the wild beasts thou art surpassed. Upon thy swiftness dost thou presume? By the flies thou art surpassed. Upon thy beauty dost thou presume? How great beauty is there in the feathers of a peacock! Wherein then art thou better? In the image of God. Where is the image of God? In the mind, in the intellect. If then thou art in this respect better than the cattle, that thou hast a mind by which thou mayest understand what the cattle cannot understand; and therein a man, because better than the cattle; the light of men is the light of minds. The light of minds is above minds and surpasses all minds. This was that life by which all things were made.
5. Where was it? Was it here? was it with the Father, and was it not here? or, what is more true, was it both with the Father and here also? If then it was here, wherefore was it not seen? Because “the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” Oh men, be not darkness, be not unbelieving, unjust, unrighteous, rapacious, avaricious lovers of this world: for these are the darkness. The light is not absent, but you are absent from the light. A blind man in the sunshine has the sun present to him, but is himself absent from the sun. Be ye not then darkness. For this is perhaps the grace regarding which we are about to speak, that now we be no more darkness, and that the apostle may say to us, “We were sometime darkness, but now light in the Lord.”6 Because then the light of men was not seen, that is, the light of minds, there was a necessity that a man should give testimony regarding the light, who was not in darkness, but who was already enlightened; and nevertheless,because enlightened,not the light itself, “but that He might bear witness of the light.” For “he was not that light.” And what was the light? “That was the true light which enlightened every man that cometh into the world.” And where was that light? “In this world it was.” And how was it “in this world?” As the light of the sun, of the moon, and of lamps, was that light thus in the world? No. Because “the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not;” that is to say, “the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” For the world is darkness; because the lovers of the world are the world. For did not the creature acknowledge its Creator? The heavens gave testimony by a star;7 the sea gave testimony, and bore its Lord when He walked upon it;8 the winds gave testimony, and were quiet at His bidding;9 the earth gave testimony, and trembled when He was crucified.10 If all these gave testimony, in what sense did the world not know Him, unless that the world signifies the lovers of the world, those who with their hearts dwell in the world? And the world is evil, because the inhabitants of the world are evil; just as a house is evil, not because of its walls, but because of its inhabitants.
6. “He came unto His own;” that is to say, He came to that which belonged to Himself; “and His own received Him not.” What, then, is the hope, unless that “as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God”? If they become sons, they are born; if born, how are they born? Not of flesh, “nor of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man; but of God are they born.” Let them rejoice, therefore, that they are born of God; let them believe that they are born of God; let them receive the proof that they are born of God: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” If the Word was not ashamed to be born of man, are men ashamed to be born of God? And because He did this, He cured us; and because He cured us, we see. For this, “that the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” became a medicine unto us, so that as by earth we were made blind, by earth we might be healed; and having been healed, might behold what? “And we beheld,” he says, “His glory, theglory as of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
7. “Jn beareth witness of Him, and crieth, saying, This was He of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is made before me.” He came after me, ad He preceded me. What is it, “He is made before me”? He preceded me. Not was made before I was made, but was preferred before me, this is “He was made before me.” Wherefore was He made before thee, when He came after thee? “Because He was before me.” Before thee, O John! what great thing to be before thee! It is well that thou dost bear witness to Him; let us, however, hear Himself saying, “Even before Abraham, I am.”11 But Abraham also was born in the midst of the human race: there were many before him, many after him. Listen to the voice of the Father to the Son: “Before Lucifer I have begotten Thee.”12 He who was begotten before Lucifer Himself illuminates all. A certain one was named Lucifer, who fell; for he was an angel and became a devil; and concerning him the Scripture said, “Lucifer, who did arise in the morning, fell”13 And why was he Lucifer? Because, being enlightened, he gave forth light. But for what reason did he become dark! Because he abode not in the truth.14 Therefore He was before Lucifer, before every one that is enlightened; since before every one that is enlightened, of necessity He must be by whom all are enlightened who can be enlightened.
8. Therefore this follows: “And of His fullness have all we received.” What have ye received? “And grace for grace.” For so run the words of the Gospel, as we find by a comparison of the Greek copies. He does not say, And of His fullness have all we received grace for grace; but thus He says: “And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace,”-that is, have we received; so that He would wish us to understand that we have received from His fullness something unexpressed, and something besides, grace for grace. For we received of His fullness grace in the first instance; and again we received grace, grace for grace, What grace did we, in the first instance, receive? Faith: walking in faith, we walk in grace. How have we merited this? by what previous merits of ours? Let not each one flatter himself, but let him return into his own conscience, seek out the secret places of his own thoughts, recall the series of his deeds; let him not consider what he is if now he is something, but what he was that he might be something: he will find that he was not worthy of anything save punishment. If, then, thou wast worthy of punishment, and He came not to punish sins, but to forgive sins, grace was given to thee, and not reward rendered. Wherefore is it called grace? Because it is bestowed gratuitously. For thou didst not, by previous merits, purchase that which thou didst receive. This first grace, then, the sinner received, that his sins were forgiven. What did he deserve? Let him interrogate justice, he finds punishment; let him interrogate mercy, he finds grace. But God promised this also through the prophets; therefore, when He came to give what He had promised, He not only gave grace, but also truth. How was truth exhibited? Because that was done which had been promised.
9. What, then, is “grace for grace”? By faith we render God favorable to us; and inasmuch as we were not worthy to have our sins forgiven, and because we, who were unworthy, received so great a benefit it is called grace. What is grace? That which isfreely given. What is “freely given”? Given, not paid. If it was due, wages were given, not grace bestowed; but if it was reply due, thou wast good; but if, as is true, thou wast evil, but didst believe on Him who justifieth the ungodly15 (What is, Who justifieth the ungodly? Of the ungodly maketh pious), consider what did by right hang over thee by the law, and what thou hast obtained by grace. But having obtained that grace of faith, thou shalt be just by faith (for the just lives by faith);16 and thou shalt obtain favor of God by living by faith. And having obtained favor from God by living by faith, thou shalt receive immortality as a reward, and life eternal And that is grace. For because of what merit dost thou receive life eternal? Because of grace. For if faith is grace, life eternal is, as it were, the wages of faith: God, indeed, appears to bestow eternal life as if it were due (To whom due? To the faithful, because he had merited it by faith); but because faith itself is grace, life eternal also is grace for grace.
10. Listen to the Apostle Paul acknowledging grace, and afterwards desiring the payment of a debt. What acknowledgment of grace is there in Paul? “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; but I obtained,” saith he, “mercy.”17 He said that he who obtained it was unworthy; that he had, however, obtained it, not through his own merits, but through the mercy of God. Listen to him now demanding the payment of a debt, who had first received unmerited grace: “For,” saith he, “I am now ready to be offered up, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.”18 Now he demands a debt, he exacts what is due. For consider the following words: “Which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall render unto me in that day.” That he might in the former instance receive grace, he stood in need of a merciful Father; for the reward of grace, of a just judge, Will He who did not condemn the ungodly man condemn the faithful man? And yet, if thou dost rightly consider, it was He who first gave thee faith, whereby thou didst obtain favor; for not of thine own didst thou so obtain favor that anything should be due to thee. Wherefore, then, in afterwards bestowing the reward of immortality, He crowns His own gifts, not thy merits. Therefore, brethren, “we all of His fullness have received;” of the fullness of His mercy, of the abundance of His goodness have we received. What? The remission of sins that we might be justified by faith. And what besides? “And grace for grace;” that is, for this grace by which we live by faith we shall receive another grace. What, then, is it except grace? For if I shall say that this also is due, I attribute something to myself as if to me it were due. But God crowns in us the gifts of His own mercy; but on condition that we walk with perseverance in that grace which in the first instance we received
11. “For the law was given by Moses;” which law held the guilty. For what saith the apostle? “The law entered that the offense might abound.” It was a benefit to the proud that the offense abounded, for they gave much to themselves, and, as it were, attributed much to their own strength; and they were unable to fulfill righteousness without the aid of Him who had commanded it. God, desirous to subdue their pride, gave the law, as if saying: Behold, fulfill, and do not think that there is One wanting to command. One to command is not wanting, but one to fulfill.
12. If, then, there is one wanting to fulfill, whence does he not fulfill? Because born with the heritage of sin and death. Born of Adam, he drew with him that which was there conceived. The first man felt, and all who were born of him from him derived the concupiscence of the flesh. It was needful that another man should be born who derived no concupiscence. A man and a man: a man to death and a man to life. Thus saith the apostle: “Since, indeed, by man death, by man also the resurrection of the dead.” By which man death, and by which man the resurrection of the dead? Do not make haste: he goes on to say, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”19 Who belong to Adam? All who are born of Adam. Who to Christ? All who were born through Christ. Wherefore all in sin? Because no one was born except through Adam. But that they were born of Adam was of necessity, arising from damnation; to be born through Christ is of will and grace. Men are not compelled to be born through Christ: not because they wished were they born of Adam. All, however, who are of Adam are sinners with sin: all who are through Christ are justified, and just not in themselves, but in Him. For in themselves, if thou shouldest ask, they being to Adam: in Him, if thou shouldest ask, they belong to Christ. Wherefore? Because He, the Head, our Lord Jesus Christ, did not come with the heritage of sin; but He came nevertheless with mortal flesh.
13. Death was the punishment of sins; in the Lord was the gift of mercy, not the punishment of sin. For the Lord had nothing on account of which He should justly die. He Himself says, “Behold, the prince of this world cometh, and findeth nothing in me.” Wherefore then dost Thou die? “But that all may know that I do the will of my Father, arise, let us go hence.”20 He had not in Himself any reason why He should die, and He died: thou hast such a reason, and dost thou refuse to die? Do not refuse to bear with an equal mind thy desert, when He did not refuse to suffer, to deliver thee from eternal death. A man and a man but the one nothing but man, the other God-man. The one a man of sin, the other of righteousness. Thou didst die in Adam, rise in Christ; for both are due to thee. Now thou hast believed in Christ, render nevertheless that which thou owest through Adam. But the chain of sin shall not hold thee eternally; because the temporal death of thy Lord slew thine eternal death. The same is grace, my brethren, the same is truth, because promised and manifested.
14. This grace was not in the Old Testament, because the law threatened, did not bring aid; commanded, did not heal; made manifest, but did not take away our feebleness: but it prepared the way for that Physician who was to come with grace and truth; as a physician who, about to come to any one to cure him, might first send his servant that he might find the sick man bound. He was not sound; he did not wish to be made sound and lest he should be made sound, he boasted that he was so. The law was sent, it bound him; he finds himself accused, now, he exclaims against the bandage. The Lord comes, cures with somewhat bitter and sharp medicines: for He says to the sick, Bear; He says, Endure; He says, Love not the world, have patience, let the fire of continence cure thee, let thy wounds endure the sword of persecutions. Weft thou greatly terrified although bound? He, free and unbound, drank what He gave to thee; He first suffered that He might console thee, saying, as it were, that which thou fearest to suffer for thyself, I first suffer for thee. This is grace, and great grace.Who can praise it in a worthy manner?
15. I speak, my brethren, regarding the humility of Christ. Who can speak regarding the majesty of Christ, and the divinity of Christ? In explaining and speaking of the humility of Christ, to do so in any fashion we find ourselves not sufficient, indeed wholly insufficient: we commend Him entire to your thoughts, we do not endeavor to fill Him up to your hearing. Consider the humility of Christ. But who, thou sayest, may explain it to us, unless thou declare it? Let Him declare it within. Better does He declare it who dwelleth within, than he who crieth without. Let Himself show to you the grace of His humility, who has begun to dwell in your hearts. But now, if in explaining and setting forth His humility we are deficient, who can speak of His majesty? If “the Word made flesh” disturbs us, who shall explain “In the beginning was the Word”? Keep hold then, brethren, upon the entireness of Christ.
16. “The law was given by Moses: grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” By a servant was the law given, and made men guilty: by an Emperor was pardon given, and delivered the guilty. “The law was given by Moses.” Let not the servant attribute to himself more than was done through him. Chosen to a great ministry as one faithful in his house, but yet a servant, he is able to act according to the law, but cannot release from the guilt of the law. “The law,” then, “was given by Moses: grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
17. And lest, perhaps, any one should say, And did not grace and truth come through Moses, who saw God, immediately he adds, “No one hath seen God at any time.” And how did God become known to Moses? Because the Lord revealed Himself to His servant. What Lord? The same Christ, who sent the law beforehand by His servant, that He might Himself come with grace and truth. “For no one hath seen God at any time.” And whence did He appear to that servant as far as he was able to receive Him? But “the Only-begotten,” he says, “who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” What signifieth “in the bosom of the Father?” In the secret of the Father. For God has not a bosom, as we have, in our garments, nor is He to be thought of sitting, as we do, nor is He girt with a girdle so as to have a bosom; but because our bosom is within, the secret of the Father is called the bosom of the Father. And He who knew the Father, being in the secret of the Father, He declared Him. “For no man hath seen God at any time.” He then came and narrated whatever He saw. What did Moses see? Moses saw a cloud, he saw an angel, he saw a fire. All that is the creature: it bore the type of its Lord, but did not manifest the presence of the Lord Himself. For thou hast it plainly stated in the law: “And Moses spake with the Lord face to face, as a friend with his friend.”21 Following the same scripture, thou findest Moses saying: “If I have found grace in Thy sight, show me Thyself plainly, that I may see Thee.” And it is little that he said this: he received the reply, “Thou canst not see my face.” An angel then spake with Moses, my brethren, bearing the type of the Lord; and all those things which were done by the angel promised that future grace and truth. Those who examine the law well know this; and when we have opportunity to speak somewhat of this matter also, we shall not fail to speak to you, beloved brethren, as far as the Lord may reveal to us.
18. But know this, that all those things which were seen in bodily form were not that substance of God. For we saw those things with the eyes of the flesh: how is the substance of God seen? Interrogate the Gospel: “Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.”22 There have been men who, deceived by the vanity of their hearts, have said, The Father is invisible, but the Son is visible. How visible? If on account of His flesh, because He took flesh, the matter is manifest. For of those who saw the flesh of Christ, some believed, some crucified; and those who believed doubted when He was crucified; and unless they had touched the flesh after the resurrection, their faith would not have been recalled. If, then, on account of His flesh the Son was visible, that we also grant, and it is the Catholic faith; but if before He took flesh, as they say, that is, before He became incarnate, they are greatly deluded, and grievously err. For those visible and bodily appearances took place though the creature, in which a type might be exhibited: not in any fashion was the substance itself shown and made manifest. Give heed, beloved brethren, to this easy proof. The wisdom of God cannot be beheld by the eyes. Brethren, if Christ is the Wisdom of God and the Power of God;23 if Christ is the Word of God, and if the word of man is not seen with the eyes, can the Word of God be so seen?
19. Expel, therefore, from your hearts carnal thoughts, that you may be really under grace, that you may belong to the New Testament. Therefore is life eternal promised in the New Testament. Read the Old Testament, and see that the same things were enjoined upon a people yet carnal as upon us. For to worship one God is also enjoined upon us. “Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” is also enjoined upon us, which is the second commandment. “Observe the Sabbath-day” is enjoined on us more than on them, because it is commanded to be spiritually observed. For the Jews observe the Sabbath in a servile manner, using it for luxuriousness and drunkenness. How much better would their women be employed in spinning wool than in dancing on that day in the balconies? God forbid, brethren, that we should call that an observance of the Sabbath. The Christian observes the Sabbath spiritually, abstaining from servile work. For what is it to abstain from servilework? From sin. And how do we prove it? Ask the Lord. “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.”24 Therefore is the spiritual observance of the Sabbath enjoined upon us. Now all those commandments are more enjoined on us, and are to be observed: “Thou shall not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shall not steal. Thou shall not bear false witness. Honor thy father and thy mother. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods. Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife.”25 Are not all these things enjoined upon us also? But ask what is the reward, and thou wilt find it there said: “That thine enemies may be driven forth before thy face, and that you may receive the land which God promised to your fathers.”26 Because they were not able to comprehend invisible things, they were held by the visible. Wherefore held? Lest they should perish altogether, and slip into idol-worship. For they did this, my brethren, as we read, forgetful of the great miracles which God performed before their eyes. The sea was divided; a way was made in the midst of the waves; their enemies following, were covered by the same waves through which they passed:27 and yet when Moses, the man of God, had departed from their sight, they asked for an idol, and said, “Make us gods to go before us; for this man has deserted us.” Their whole hope was placed in man, not in God. Behold, the man is dead: was God dead who had rescued them from the land of Egypt? And when they had made to themselves the image of a calf, they offered it adoration, and said, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which delivered thee out of the land of Egypt.”28 How soon forgetful of such manifest grace! By what means could such a people be held except by carnal promises?
20. The same things are commanded in the Decalogue as we are commanded to observe; but the same promises are not made as to us. What is promised to us? Life eternal. “And this is life eternal, that they know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.”29 The knowledge of God is promised: that is, grace for grace. Brethren, we now believe, we do not see; for faith the reward will be to see what we believe The prophets knew this, but it was concealed before He came. For a certain lover sighing, says in the Psalms: “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after.” And dost thou ask what he seeks? For perhaps he seeks a land flowing with milk and honey carnally, although this is to be spiritually sought and desired; or perhaps the subjection of his enemies, or the death of foes, or the power and riches of this world. For he glows with love, and sighs greatly, and burns and pants. Let us see what he desires: “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after.” What is it that he doth seek after? “That I may well,” saith he, “in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” And suppose that thou dwellest in the house of the Lord, from what source will thy joy there be derived? “That I may behold,” saith he, “the beauty of the Lord.”30
21. My brethren, wherefore do you cry out, wherefore do you exult, wherefore do you love, unless that a spark of this love is there? What do you desire? I ask you. Can it be seen with the eyes? Can it be touched? Is it some fairness which delights the eyes? Are not the martyrs vehemently beloved; and when we commemorate them do we not burn with love? What is it that we love in them, brethren? Limbs torn by wild beasts? What is more revolting if thou askest the eyes of the flesh? what more fair if thou askest the eyes of the heart? How appears in your eyes a very fair young man who is a thief? How shocked are your eyes! Are the eyes of the flesh shocked? If you interrogate them, nothing is more shapely and better formed than that body; the symmetry of the limbs and the beauty of the color attract the eyes; and yet, when thou hearest that he is a thief, your mind recoils from the man. Thou beholdest on the other hand a bent old man, leaning upon a staff, scarcely moving himself, ploughed all over with wrinkles. Thou hearest that he is just: thou lovest and embracest him. Such are the rewards promised to us, my brethren: love such, sigh after such a kingdom, desire such a country, if you wish to arrive at that with which our Lord came, that is, at grace and truth. But if you covet bodily rewards from God, thou art still under the law, and therefore thou shalt not fulfill the law. For when thou seest those temporal things granted to those who offend God, thy steps falter, and thou sayest to thyself: Behold, I worship God, daily I run to church, my knees are worn with prayers, and yet I am constantly sick: there are men who commit murders, who are guilty of robberies, and yet they exult and have abundance; it is well with them. Was it such things that thou soughtest from God? Surely thou didst belong to grace. If, therefore, God gave to thee grace, because He gave freely, love freely. Do not for the sake of reward love God; let Him be the reward. Let thy soul say, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, that I may behold the beauty of the Lord.” Do not fear that thine enjoyment will fail through satiety: such will be that enjoyment of beauty that it will ever be present to thee, and thou shalt never be satisfied; indeed thou shalt be always satisfied, and yet never satisfied. For if I shall say that thou shalt not be satisfied, it will mean famine; and if I shall say thou shalt be satisfied, I fear satiety: where neither satiety nor famine are, I know not what to say; but God has that which He can manifest to those who know not how to express it, yet believe that they shall receive.
1 (Mt 13,3-25).
2 (Mt 2,2,
3 (Rm 6,14,
4 (Ga 4,4-5.
5 (Mt 27,39-40).
6 (Ep 5,8).
7 (Mt 2,2,
8 (Mt 14,26,
9 (Mt 23,27).
10 (Mt 27,51).
11 (Jn 8,58).
12 (Ps 110,3,
13 (Is 14,27,
14 (Jn 8,44,
15 (Rm 4,5,
16 (Ha 2,4 Rm 1,17).
17 (1Tm 1,13,
18 (2Tm 4,6-8.
19 (1Co 15,21-22.
20 (Jn 14,30-31).
21 (Ex 33,11 Ex 33,13 Ex 33,20).
22 (Mt 5,8,
23 (1Co 1,24,
24 (Jn 8,34,
25 (Ex 20,3-17).
26 (Lv 26,1-13.
27 (Ex 14,21-31).
28 (Ex 32,1-4).
29 (Jn 17,3).
30 (Ps 26,4,
Augustin on John 1