Augustin on John 43
44 (Jn 9.
1). We have just read the long lesson of the man born blind, whom the Lord Jesus restored to the light; but were we to attempt handling the whole of it, and considering, according to our ability, each passage in a way proportionate to its worth, the day would be insufficient. Wherefore I ask and warn your Charity not to require any words of ours on those passages whose meaning is manifest; for it would be too protracted to linger at each. I proceed, therefore, to set forth briefly the mystery of this blind man’s enlightenment. All, certainly, that was done by our Lord Jesus Christ, both works and words, are worthy of our astonishment and admiration: His works, because they are facts; His words, because they are signs. If we reflect, then, on what is signified by the deed here done, that blind man is the human race; for this blindness had place in the first mar, through sin, from whom we all draw our origin, not only in respect of death, but also of unrighteousness. For if unbelief is blindness, and faith enlightenment, whom did Christ find a believer at His coming? seeing that the apostle, belonging himself to the family of the prophets, says: “And we also in times past were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”1 If “children of wrath,” then children of vengeance, children of punishment, children of hell. For how is it “by nature,” save that through the first man sinning moral evil rooted itself in us as a nature? If evil has so taken root within us, every man is born mentally blind. For if he sees, he has no need of a guide. If he does need one to guide and enlighten him, then is he blind from his birth.
2. The Lord came: what did He do? He set forth a great mystery. “He spat on the ground,” He made clay of His spittle; for the Word was made flesh.2 “And He anointed the eyes of the blind man.” The anointing had taken place, and yet he saw not. He sent him to the pool which is called Siloam. But it was the evangelist’s concern to call our attention to the name of this pool; and he adds, “Which is interpreted, Sent.” You understand now who it is that was sent; for had He not been sent, none of us would have been set free from iniquity. Accordingly he washed his eyes in that pool which is interpreted, Sent-he was baptized in Christ. If, therefore, when He baptized him in a manner in Himself, He then enlightened him; when He anointed Him, perhaps He made him a catechumen.3 In many different ways indeed may the profound meaning of such a sacramental act be set forth and handled; but let this suffice your Charity. You have heard a great mystery. Ask a man, Are you a Christian? His answer to you is, I am not, if he is a pagan or a Jew. But if he says, I am; you inquire again of him, Are you a catechumen or a believer? If he reply, A catechumen; he has been anointed, but not yet washed. But how anointed? Inquire, and he will answer you. Inquire of him in whom he believes. In that very respect in which he is a catechumen he says, In Christ. See, I am speaking in a way both to the faithful and to catechumens. What have I said of the spittle and the clay? That the Word was made flesh. This even catechumens hear; but that to which they have been anointed is not all they need; let them hasten to the font if they are in search of enlightenment.
3. And now, because of certain points in the lesson before us, let us run over the words of the Lord, and of the whole lesson itself rather than make them a theme of discourse. “As He passed out, He saw a man who was blind;” blind, not from any cause whatever, but “from his birth.” “And His disciples asked Him, Rabbi.” You know that “Rabbi” is Master. They called Him Master, because they desired to learn. The question, at all events, they proposed to the Lord as a master, “Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents,” that he was born blind. What is this that He has said? If no man is sinless, were the parents of this blind man without sin? Was he himself either born without original sin, or had he committed none in the course of his lifetime? Because his eyes were closed, had his lusts lost their wakefulness? How many evils are done by the blind? From what evil does an evil mind abstain, even though the eyes are closed? He could not see, but he knew how to think, and perchance to lust after something which his blindness hindered him from attaining, and so still in his heart to be judged by the searcher of hearts. If, then, both his parents had sin, and the man himself had sin, wherefore said the Lord, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents,” but only in respect to the point on which he was questioned, “that he was born blind”? For his parents had sin; but not by reason of the sin itself did it come about that he was born blind. If, then, it was not through the parents’ sin that he was born blind, why was he born blind? Listen to the Master as He teaches. He seeks one who believes, to give him understanding. He Himself tells us the reason why that man was born blind: “Neither hath this man sinned,” He says, “nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”
4. And then, what follows? “I must work the works of Him that sent me.” See, here is that sent one [Siloam], wherein the blind man washed his face. And see what He said: “I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day.” Recall to thy mind the way in which He gives universal glory to Him of whom He is:4 for that One has the Son who is of Him; He Himself has no One of whom He is.5 But wherefore, Lord, saidst Thou, “While it is day”? Hearken why He did so. “The night cometh when no man can work.” Not even Thou, Lord. Will that night have such power that not even Thou, whose work the night is, wilt be able to work therein? For I think, Lord Jesus, nay I do not think, but believe and hold it sure, that Thou wast there when God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”6 For if He made it by the Word, He made it by Thee: and therefore it is said, “All things were made by Him; and without Him was nothing made.”7 “God divided between the light and the darkness: the light He called Day, and the darkness He called Night.”8
5. What is that night wherein, when it comes, no one shall be able to work? Hear what the day is, and then thou wilt understand what the night is. But how shall we hear what the day is? Let Himself tell us: “As long as I am in this world, I am the light of the world.” See, He Himself is the day. Let the blind man wash his eyes in the day, that he may behold the day. “As long,” He says, “as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Then will it be night of a kind unknown to me, when Christ will no longer be there; and so no one will be able to work. An inquiry remains, my brethren; patiently listen to me as I inquire. With you I inquire: With you shall I find Him to whom my inquiry is addressed. We are agreed; for it is expressly and definitely stated that the Lord proclaimed Himself in this place as the day, that is, the light of the world. “As long,” He says, “as I am in this world, I am the light of the world.” Therefore He Himself works. But how long is He in this world? Are we to think, brethren, that He was here then, and is here no longer? If we think so, then already, after the Lord’s ascension, did that fearful night begin, when no one can work. If that night began after the Lord’s ascension, how was it that the apostles wrought so much? Was that the night when the Holy Spirit came, and, filling all who were in one place, gave them the power of speaking in the tongues of every nation?9 Was it night when that lame man was made whole at the word of Peter, or rather, at the word of the Lord dwelling in Peter?10 Was it night when, as the disciples were passing by, the sick were laid in couches, that they might be touched at least by their shadow as they passed?11 Yet, when the Lord was here, there was no one made whole by His shadow as He passed; but He Himself had said to the disciples, “Greater things than these shall ye do.”12 Yes, the Lord had said, “Greater things than these shall ye do;” but let not flesh and blood exalt itself: let such hear Him also saying, “Without me ye can do nothing.”13
6. What then? What shall we say of that night? When will it be, when no one shall be able to work? It will be that night of the wicked, that night of those to whom it shall be said in the end, “Depart into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” But it is here called night, not flame, nor fire. Hearken, then, why it is also night. Of a certain servant He says, “Bind ye him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness.”14 Let man, then, work while he liveth, that he may not be overtaken by that night when no man can work. It is now that faith is working by love; and if now we are working, then this is the day-Christ is here. Hear His promise, and think Him not absent. It is Himself who hath said, ’Lo, I am with you.” How long? Let there be no anxiety in us who are alive; were it possible, with this very word we might place in perfect security the generations still to come. “Lo,” He says,” I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”15 That day, which is completed by the circuit of yonder sun, has but few hours; the day of Christ’s presence extends even to the end of the world. But after the resurrection of the living and the dead, when He shall say to those placed at His right hand, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom;” and to those at His left, “Depart into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels;”16 then shall be the night when no man can work, but only get back what he has wrought before. There is a time for working, another for receiving; for the Lord shall render to every one according to his works.17 While thou livest, be doing, if thou art to be doing at all; for then shall come that appalling night, to envelope the wicked in its folds. But even now every unbeliever, when he dies, is received within that night: there is no work to be done there. In that night was the rich man burning, and asking a drop of water from the beggar’s finger; he mourned, agonized, confessed, but no relief was vouchsafed. He even endeavored to do good; for he said to Abraham, “Father Abraham, send Lazarus to my brethren, that he may tell them what is being done here, lest they also come into this place of torment.”18 Unhappy man! when thou weft living, then was the time for working: now thou art already in the night, in which no man can work.
7. “When He had thus spoken, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and He spread the clay upon his eyes, and said unto him, Go and wash in the pool of Siloam (which is, by interpretation, Sent). He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.” As these words are clear, we may pass them over.
8. “The neighbors therefore, and those who saw him previously, for he was a beggar, said, Is not this he who sat and begged? Some said, It is he: others, No; but he is like him.” The opening of his eyes had altered his countenance. “He said, I am he.” His voice utters its gratitude, that it might not be condemned as ungrateful. “Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered, The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and saw.” See, he is become the herald of grace; see, he preaches the gospel; endowed with sight, he becomes a confessor. That blind man makes confession, and the heart of the wicked was troubled; for they had not in their heart what he had now in his countenance. “They said to him, Where is he who hath opened thine eyes? He said, I know not.” In these words the man’s own soul was like that of one only as yet anointed, but not yet seeing. Let us so put it, brethren, as if he had that anointing in his soul. He preaches, and knows not the Being whom he preaches.
9. “They brought to the Pharisees him who had been blind. And it was the Sabbath when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. Then again the Pharisees also asked how he had received his sight. And he said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. Therefore said some of the Pharisees;” not all, but some; for some were already anointed. What then said those who neither saw nor were anointed? “This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the Sabbath.” He it was rather who kept it, who was without sin. For this is the spiritual Sabbath, to have no sin. In fact, brethren, it is of this that God admonishes us, when He commends the Sabbath to our notice: “Thou shalt do no servile work”19 These are God’s words when commending the Sabbath, “Thou shalt do no servile work.” Now ask the former lessons, what is meant by servile work;20 and listen to the Lord: “Every one that committeth sin is the servant of sin.”21 But these men, neither seeing, as I said, nor anointed, kept the Sabbath carnally, and profaned it spiritually. “Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?” These were the anointed ones. “And there was a division among them.” The day had divided between the light and the darkness. “They say then unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him who hath opened thine eyes?” What is thy feeling about him? what is thine opinion? what is thy judgment? They sought how to revile the man, that he might be cast out of the synagogue, but be found by Christ. But he steadfastly expressed what he felt. For he said, “That he is a prophet.” As yet, indeed, anointed only in heart, he does not thus far confess the Son of God, and yet he speaks not untruthfully. For the Lord saith of Himself, “A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country.”22
10. “Therefore the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, till they called the parents of him that received his sight;” that is, who had been blind, and had come to the possession of sight. “And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see? His parents answered them, and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: but how he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not. And they said, Ask himself; he is of age, let him speak of himself.” He is indeed our son, and we might justly be compelled to answer for him as an infant, because then he could not speak for himself: from of old he has had power of speech, only now he sees: we have been acquainted with him as blind from his birth, we know him as having speech from of old, only now do we see him endowed with sight: ask himself, that you may be instructed; why seek to calumniate us? “These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had conspired already, that if any man did confess that He was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.” It was no longer a bad thing to be put out of the synagogue. They cast out, hut Christ received. “Therefore said his parents, He is of age, ask himself.”
11. “Then again called they the man who had been blind, and said unto him, Give God the glory.” What is that, “Give God the glory”? Deny what thou hast received. Such conduct is manifestly not to give God the glory, but rather to blaspheme Him. “Give God,” they say, “the glory: we know that this man is a sinner. Then said he, If he is a sinner, I know not: one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see. Then said they to him, What did he to thee, how opened he thine eyes?” And he, indignant now at the hardness of the Jews, and as one brought from a state of blindness to sight, unable to endure the blind, “answered them, I have told you already, and ye have heard: wherefore would ye hear it again? Will ye also become his disciples?” What means, “Will ye also,” but that I am one already? “Will ye also be so?” Now I see, but see not askance.
12. “They cursed him, and said, Thou art his disciple.” Such a malediction be upon us, and upon our children! For a malediction it is, if thou layest open their heart, not if thou ponderest the words. “But we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.” Would ye had known that “God spake to Moses!” ye would have also known that God preached by Moses. For ye have the Lord saying, “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have also believed me; for he wrote of me.”23 Is it thus ye follow the servant, and turn your back against the Lord? But not even the servant do ye follow; for by him ye would be guided to the Lord.
13. “The man answered and said unto them, Herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners; but if any man is a worshipper of God, and doeth His will, him He heareth.” He speaks still as one only anointed. For God heareth even sinners. For if God heard not sinners, in vain would the publican, casting his eyes on the ground, and smiting on his breast, have said, “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.” And that confession merited justification, as this blind man enlightenment. “Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.” With frankness, constancy, and truthfulness [he spoke]. For these things that were done by the Lord, by whom were they done but by God? Or when would such things be done by disciples, were not the Lord dwelling in them?
14. “They answered and said unto him, Thou wast wholly born in sins.” What means this “wholly”? Even to blindness of the eyes. But He who has opened his eyes, also saves him wholly: He will grant a resurrection at His right hand, who gave enlightenment to his countenance. “Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.” They had made him their master; many questions had they asked for their own instruction, and they ungratefully cast forth their teacher.
15. But, as I have already said before, brethren, when they expel, the Lord receiveth; for the rather that he was expelled, was he made a Christian. “Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” Now He washes the face of his heart. “He answered and said,” as one still only anointed, “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen Him, and it is He that talketh with thee.” The One is He that is sent; the other is one washing his face in Siloam, which is interpreted, Sent. And now at last, with the face of his heart washed, and a conscience purified, acknowledging Him not only as the son of man, which he had believed before, but now as the Son of God, who had assumed our flesh, “he said, Lord, I believe.” It is but little to say, “I believe:” wouldst thou also see what he believes Him?”He fell down and worshipped Him.”
16. “And Jesus said to him.” Now is He, the day, discerning between the light and the darkness. “For judgment am I come into this world; that they who see not might see, and they who see might be made blind.” What is this, Lord? A weighty subject of inquiry hast Thou laid on the weary; but revive our strength that we may be able to understand what Thou hast said. Thou art come “that they who see not may see:” rightly so, for Thou art the light: rightly so, for Thou art the day: rightly so, for Thou deliverest from darkness: this every soul accepts, every one understands. What is this that follows, “And those who see may be made blind?” Shall then, because Thou art come, those be made blind who saw? Hear what follows, and perhaps thou wilt understand.
17. By these words, then, were “some of the Pharisees” disturbed, “and said unto Him, Are we blind also?” Hear now what it is that moved them, “And they who see may be made blind.” “Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin;” while blindness itself is sin. “If ye were blind,” that is, if ye considered yourselves blind, if ye called yourselves blind, ye also would have recourse to the physician: “if” then in this way “ye were blind, ye should have no sin;” for I am come to take away sin. “But now ye say, We see; [therefore] your sin remaineth.” Wherefore? Because by saying, “We see:” ye seek not the physician, ye remain in your blindness. This, then, is that which a little above we did not understand, when He said, “I am come, that they who see not may see;” for what means this, “that they who see not may see”? They who acknowledge that they do not see, and seek the physician, that they may receive sight. And they who see may be made blind:” what means this, “they who see may be made blind”? That they who think they see, and seek not the physician, may abide in their blindness. Such discerning therefore of one from another He called judgment, when He said, “For judgment I am come into this world,” whereby He distinguishes the cause of those who believe and make confession from the proud, who think they see, and are therefore the more grievously blinded: just as the sinner, making confession, and seeking the physician, said to Him, “Judge me, O God, and discern my cause against the unholy nation,”24 -namely, those who say, “We see,” and their sin remaineth. But it was not that judgment He now brought into the world, whereby in the end of the world He shall judge the living and the dead. For in respect to this He had said, “I judge no man;”25 seeing that He came the first time, “not to judge the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”26
1 (Ep 2,3,
2 Chap. 1,14.
3 The name given to one who was under instruction for baptism, and for entrance into the full privileges of church membership).
4 Or, “from whom He proceeds.” The Son is of the Father, but the Father is of none.
5 Or, “from whom He proceeds.” The Son is of the Father, but the Father is of none.
6 (Gn 1,3,
7 Chap. 1,3.
8 (Gn 1,4-5.
9 (Ac 2,1 Ac 2,6.
10 (Ac 3,6-8.
11 (Ac 5,15,
12 Chap. 14,12).
13 Chap. 15,5.
14 (Mt 22,13).
15 (Mt 28,28.
16 (Mt 25,34 Mt 25,41).
17 (Mt 16,27).
18 (Lc 16,24-28).
19 (Lv 23,8).
20 Tract. 20,2.
21 Chap. 8,34).
22 (Mt 13,57,
23 Chap. 5,46).
24 (Ps 43,1,
25 Chap. 8,15.
26 Chap. 3,17.
1). Our Lord’s discourse to the Jews began in connection with the man who was born blind and was restored to sight. Your Charity therefore ought to know and be advised that today’s lesson is interwoven with that one. For when the Lord had said, “For judgment I am come into this world; that they who see not might see, and they who see might be made blind,”-which, on the occasion of its reading, we expounded according to our ability,-some of the Pharisees said, “Are we blind also?” To whom He replied. “If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; [therefore] your sin remaineth.”1 To these words He added what we have been hearing today when the lesson was read.
2. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” For they declared that they were not blind; yet could they see only by being the sheep of Christ. Whence claimed they possession of the light, who were acting as thieves against the day? Because, then, of their vain and proud and incurable arrogance, did the Lord Jesus subjoin these words, wherein He has given us also salutary lessons, if we lay them to heart. For there are many who, according to a custom of this life, are called good people,-good men, good women, innocent, and observers as it were of what is commanded in the law; paying respect to their parents, abstaining from adultery, doing no murder, committing no theft, giving no false witness against any one, and observing all else that the law requires-yet are not Christians; and for the most part ask boastfully, like these men. “Are we blind also?” But just because all these things that they do, and know not to what end they should have reference, they do to no purpose, the Lord has set forth in today’s lesson the similitude of His own flock, and of the door that leads into the sheepfold. Pagans may say, then, We live well. If they enter not by the door, what good will that do them, whereof they boast? For to this end ought good living to benefit every one, that it may be given him to live for ever: for to whomsoever eternal life is not given, of what benefit is the living well? For they ought not to be spoken of as even living well, who either from blindness know not the end of a right life, or in their pride despise it. But no one has the true and certain hope of living always, unless he know the life, that it is Christ; and enter by the gate into the sheepfold.
3. Such, accordingly, for the most part seek to persuade men to live well, and yet not to be Christians. By another way they wish to climb up, to steal and to kill, not as the shepherd, to preserve and to save. And thus there have been certain philosophers, holding many subtle discussions about the virtues and the vices, dividing, defining, drawing out to their close the most acute processes of reasoning, filling books, brandishing their wisdom with rattling jaws; who would even dare to say to people, Follow us, keep to our sect, if you would live happily. But they had not entered by the door: they wished to destroy, to slay, and to murder.
4. What shall I say of such? Look, the Pharisees themselves were in the habit of reading, and in what they read, their voices re-echoed the Christ, they hoped He would come, and recognized Him not when present; they boasted, even they, of being amongst those who saw, that is, among the wise, and they disowned the Christ, and entered not in by the door. Therefore would such also, if they chanced to seduce any, seduce them to be slaughtered and murdered, not to be brought into liberty. Let us leave these also to themselves, and look at those who glory in the name of Christ Himself, and see whether even they perchance are entering in by the door.
5. For there are countless numbers who not only boast that they see, but would have it appear that they are enlightened by Christ; yet are they heretics. Have even they somehow entered by the gate? Surely not. Sabellius says, He who is the Son is Himself the Father; but if the Son, then is there no Father. He enters not by the door, who asserts that the Son is the Father. Arius says, The Father is one thing, the Son is another thing. He would say rightly if he said, Another person; but not another thing.2 For when he says, Another thing, he contradicts Him who says in his hearing, “I and my Father are One.”3 Neither does he therefore enter by the door; for he preaches a Christ such as he fabricates for himself, not such as the truth declares Him. Thou hast the name, thou hast not the reality. Christ is the name of something; keep hold of the thing itself, if thou wouldst benefit by the name. Another, I know not from whence, says with Photinus,4 Christ is mere man; He is not God. He enters not in by the door, for Christ is both man and God. But why need I make many references, and enumerate the many vanities of heretics? Keep hold of this, that Christ’s sheepfold is the Catholic Church. Whoever would enter the sheepfold, let him enter by the door, let him preach the true Christ. Not only let him preach the true Christ, but seek Christ’s glory, not his own; for many, by seeking their own glory, have scattered Christ’s sheep, instead of gathering them. For Christ the Lord is a low gateway: he who enters by this gateway must humble himself, that he may be able to enter with head unharmed. But he that humbleth not, but exalteth himself, wishes to climb over the wall; and he that climbeth over the wall, is exalted only to fall.
6. Thus far, however, the Lord Jesus speaks in covert language; not as yet is He understood. He names the door, He names the sheepfold, He names the sheep: all this He sets forth, but does not yet explain. Let us read on then, for He is coming to those words, wherein He may think proper to give us some explanation of what He has said; from the explanation of which He will perhaps enable us to understand also what He has not explained. For He gives us what is plain, for food; what is obscure, for exercise. “He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way.” Woe to the wretch, for he is sure to fall! Let him then be humble, let him enter by the door: let him walk on the level ground, and he shall not stumble. “The same,” He says, “is a thief and a robber.” The sheep of another he desires to call his own sheep,-his own, that is, as carried off by stealth, for the purpose, not of saving, but of slaying them. Therefore is he a thief, because what is another’s he calls his own; a robber, because what he has stolen he also kills. “But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep: to him the porter openeth.” Concerning this porter we shall make inquiry, when we have heard of the Lord Himself what is the door and who is the shepherd. “And the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name.” For He has their names written in the book of life. “He calleth his own sheep by name.” Hence, says the apostle, “The Lord knoweth them that are His.”5 “And he leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger do they not follow, but do flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.” These are veiled words, full of topics of inquiry, pregnant with sacramental signs. Let us follow then, and listen to the Master as He makes some opening into these obscurities; and perhaps by the opening He makes, He will cause us to enter.
7. “This parable spake Jesus unto them; but they understood not what He spake unto them.” Nor we also, perhaps. What, then, is the difference between them and us, before even we can understand these words? This, that we on our part knock, that it may be opened unto us; while they, by disowning Christ, refused to enter for salvation, and preferred remaining outside to be destroyed. In as far, then, as we listen to these words with a pious mind, in as far as, before we understand them, we believe them to be true and divine, we stand at a great distance from these men. For when two persons are listening to the words of the gospel, the one impious, the other pious, and some of these are such as neither perhaps understands, the one says, It has said nothing; the other says, It has said the truth, and what it has said is good, but we do not understand it. This latter, because he believes, now knocks, that he may be worthy to have it opened up to him, if he continue knocking; but the other still hears the words, “If ye believe not, ye shall not understand.”6 Why do I draw your attention to this? Even for this reason, that when I have explained as I can these obscure words, or, because of their great abstruseness, I have either myself failed to arrive at an understanding of them, or wanted the faculty of explaining what I do understand, or every one has been so dull as not to follow me, even when I give the explanation, yet should henot despair of himself; but continue in faith, walk on in the way, and hear the apostle saying, “And if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless whereto we have already attained, let us walk therein.”7
8. Let us begin, then, with hearing His exposition of what we have heard Him propounding. “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.” See, He has opened the very door which was shut in His former description. He Himself is the door. We have come to know it; let us enter, or rejoice that we are already within. “All that ever came are thieves and robbers.” What is this, Lord, “All that ever came”? How so hast Thou not come? But understand; I said, “All that ever came,” meaning, of course, exclusive of myself.8 Let us recollect then. Before His coming came the prophets: were they thieves and robbers? God forbid. They did not come apart from Him, for they came with Him. When about to come, He sent heralds, but retained possession of the hearts of His messengers. Do you wish to know that they came with Him, who is Himself ever existent? Certainly He assumed human flesh at the time appointed. But what means that “ever”? “In the beginning was the Word.”9 With Him, therefore, came those who came with the word of God. “I am,” said He, “the way, and the truth, and the life.”10 If He is the truth, with Him came those who were truthful. As many, therefore, as were apart from Him, were “thieves and robbers,” that is, had come to steal and to destroy.
9. ’But the sheep did not hear them.” This is a more important point, “the sheep did not hear them.” Before the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, when He came in humility in the flesh, righteous men preceded, believing in the same way in Him who was to come, as we believe in Him who has come. Times vary, but not faith. For verbs themselves also vary with the tense, when they are variously declined. He is to come, has one sound; He has come, has another: there is a change in the sound between He is to come, and He has come:11 yet the same faith unites both,-both those who believed that He would come, and those who have believed that He is come. At different times, indeed, but by the one doorway of faith, that is, by Christ, do we see that both have entered. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin, that He came in the flesh, suffered, rose again, ascended into heaven: all this, just as you hear verbs of the past tense, we believe to be already fulfilled. In that faith a partnership is also held with us by those fathers who believed that He would be born of the Virgin, would suffer, would rise again, would ascend into heaven; for to such the apostle pointed when he said, “But we having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak.”12 The prophet said, “I believed, therefore have I spoken:”13 the apostle says, “We also believe, and therefore speak.” But to let you know that their faith is one, listen to him saying, “Having the same spirit of faith, we also believe.” So also in another place, “For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea: and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink.” The Red Sea signifies baptism; Moses, their leader through the Red Sea, signifies Christ; the people, who passed through, signify believers; the death of the Egyptians signifies the abolition of sins. Under different signs there is the same faith. It is with different signs as with different words [verbs]; for verbs change their sounds through the tenses, and verbs are indeed nothing else than signs. For they are words because of what they signify: take away the meaning from a word,14 and it becomes a senseless sound. All, therefore, have become signs. Was not the same faith theirs by whom these signs were employed, and by whom were foretold in prophecy the very things which we believe? Certainly it was: but they believed that they were yet to come, and we, that they have come. In like manner does he also say, “They all drank the same spiritual drink;” “the same spiritual,” for it was not the same material [drink]. For what was it they drank? “For they drank of the spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ.”15 See, then, how that while the faith remained, the signs were varied. There the rock was Christ; to us that is Christ which is placed on the altar of God. And they, as a great sacramental sign of the same Christ, drank the water flowing from the rock: what we drink is known to believers. If one’s thoughts turn to the visible form, the thing is different; if to the meaning that addresses the understanding, they drank the same spiritual drink. As many, then, at that time as believed, whether Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob, or Moses, or the other patriarchs or prophets who foretold of Christ, were sheep, and heard Christ. His voice, and not another’s, did they hear. The Judge was present in the person of the Crier. For even when the judge speaks through the crier, the clerks does not make it, The crier said; but thejudge said. But others there are whom the sheep did not hear, in whom Christ’s voice had no place,-wanderers, uttering falsehoods, prating inanities, fabricating vanities, misleading the miserable.
10. Why is it, then, that I have said, This is a more important point? What is there about it obscure and difficult to understand? Listen, I beseech you. See, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself came and preached. Much more surely was that the Shepherd’s voice which was uttered by the very mouth of the Shepherd. For if the Shepherd’s voice came through the prophets, how much more did the Shepherd’s own tongue give utterance to the Shepherd’s voice? Yet all did not hear Him. But what are we to think? Those who did hear, were they sheep? Lo? Judas heard, and was a wolf: he followed, but, clad in sheep-skin. he was laying snares for the Shepherd. Some, again, of those who crucified Christ did not hear, and yet were sheep; for such He saw in the crowd when He said, “When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am He.”16 Now, how is this question to be solved? They that are not sheep do hear, and they that are sheep do not hear. Some, who are wolves, follow the Shepherd’s voice; and some, that are sheep, contradict it. Last of all, the sheep slay the Shepherd. The point is solved; for some one in reply says. But when they did not hear, as yet they were not sheep, they were then wolves: the voice, when it was heard, changed them, and out of wolves transformed them into sheep; and so, when they became sheep, they heard, and found the Shepherd, and followed Him. They built their hopes on the Shepherd’s promises, because they obeyed His precepts.
11. That question has been solved in a way, and perhaps satisfies every one. But I bare still a subject of concern, and what concerns me I shall impart to you, that, in some sort inquiring together, I may through His revelation be found worthy with you to attain the solution. Hear, then, what it is that moves me. By the Prophet Ezekiel the Lord rebukes the shepherds, and among other things says of the sheep, “The wandering sheep have ye not recalled.”17 He both declares it a wanderer, and calls it a sheep. If, while wandering, it was a sheep, whose voice was it hearing to lead it astray? For doubtless it would not be straying were it hearing the shepherd’s voice: but it strayed just because it heard another’s voice; it heard the voice of the thief and the robber. Surely the sheep do not hear the voice of robbers. “Those that came,” He said,-and we are to understand, apart from me,-that is, “those that came apart from me are thieves and robbers, and the sheep did not hear them.” Lord, if the sheep did not hear them, how can the sheep wander? If the sheep hear only Thee, and Thou art the truth, whoever heareth the truth cannot certainly fall into error. But they err, and are called sheep. For if, in the very midst of their wandering, they were not called sheep, it would not be said by Ezekiel, “The wandering sheep have ye not recalled.” How is it at the same time a wanderer and a sheep? Has it heard the voice of another? Surely “the sheep did not hear them.” Accordingly many are just now being gathered into Christ’s fold, and from being heretics are becoming catholics. They are rescued from the thieves, and restored to the shepherds: and sometimes they murmur, and become wearied of Him that calls them back, and have no true knowledge of him that would murder them; nevertheless also, when, after a struggle, those have come who are sheep, they recognize the Shepherd’s voice, and are glad they have come, and are ashamed of their wandering. When, then, they were glorying in that state of error as in the truth, and were certainly not hearing the Shepherd’s voice, but were following another, were they sheep, or were they not? If they were sheep, how can it be the case that the sheep do not listen to aliens? If they were not sheep, wherefore the rebuke addressed to those to whom it is said, “The wandering sheep have ye not recalled”? In the case also of those already become catholic Christians, and believers of good promise, evils sometimes occur: they are seduced into error, and after their error are restored. When they were thus seduced, and were rebaptized, or after the companionship of the Lord’s fold were turned back again into their former error, were they sheep, or were they not? Certainly they were catholics. If they were faithful catholics, they were sheep. If they were sheep, how was it that they could listen to the voice of a stranger when the Lord saith, “The sheep did not hear them”?
12. You hear, brethren, the great importance of the question. I say then, “The Lord knoweth them that are His.”18 He knoweth those who were foreknown, He knoweth those who were predestinated; because it is said of Him, “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified. If God be for us, who can be against us?” Add to this: “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how hath He not with Him also freely given us all things?” But what “us”? Those who are foreknown, predestinated, justified, glorified; regarding whom there follows, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?”19 Therefore “the Lord knoweth them that are His;” they are the sheep. Such sometimes do not know themselves, but the Shepherd knoweth them, according to this predestination, this foreknowledge of God, according to the election of the sheep before the foundation of the world: for so saith also the apostle, “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.”20 According, then, to this divine foreknowledge and predestination, how many sheep are outside, how many wolves within! and how many sheep are inside, how many wolves without! How many are now living in wantonness who will yet be chaste! how many are blaspheming Christ who will yet believe in Him! how many are giving themselves to drunkenness who will yet be sober! how many are preying on other people property who will yet freely give of their own! Nevertheless at present they are hearing the voice of another, they are following strangers. In like manner, how many are praising within who will yet blaspheme; are chaste who will yet be fornicators; are sober who will wallow hereafter in drink; are standing who will by and by fall! These are not the sheep. (For we speak of those who were predestinated,-of those whom the Lord knoweth that they are His). And yet these, so long as they keep right, listen to the voice of Christ. Yea, these hear, the others do not; and yet, according to predestination, these are not sheep, while the others are.
13. There remains still the question, which I now think may meanwhile thus be solved. There is a voice of some kind,-there is, I say, a certain kind of voice of the Shepherd, in respect of which the sheep hear not strangers, and in respect of which those who are not sheep do not hear Christ. What a word is this! “He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.”21 No one of His own is indifferent to such a voice, a stranger does not hear it: for this reason also does He announce it to the former, that he may abideperseveringly with Himself to the end; butby one who is wanting in such persevering continuance with Him, such a word remainsunheard. One has come to Christ, and hasheard word after word of one kind and another, all of them true, all of them salutary; and among all the rest is also this utterance, “He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.” He who has heard this is one of the sheep. But there was, perhaps, some one listening to it, who treated it with dislike, with coldness, and heard it as that of a stranger. If he was predestinated, he strayed for the time, but he was not lost for ever: he returns to hear what he has neglected, to do what he has heard. For if he is one of those who are predestinated, then both his very wandering and his future conversion have been foreknown by God: if he has strayed away, he will return to hear that voice of the Shepherd, and to follow Him who saith, “He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.” A good voice, brethren, it is; true and shepherd-like, the very voice of salvation in the tabernacles of the righteous.22 For it is easy to hear Christ, easy to praise the gospel, easy to applaud the preacher: but to endure unto the end, is peculiar to the sheep who hear the Shepherd’s voice. A temptation befalls thee, endure thou to the end, for the temptation will not endure to the end. And what is that end to which thou shalt endure? Even till thou reachest the end of thy pathway. For as long as thou hearest not Christ, He is thine adversary in the pathway, that is, in this mortal life. And what doth He say? “Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art in the way with him.”23 Thou hast heard, hast believed, hast agreed. If thou hast been at enmity, agree. If thou hast got the opportunity of coming to an agreement, keep not up the quarrel longer. For thou knowest not when thy way will be ended, and it is known to Him. If thou art a sheep, and if thou endurest to the end, thou shalt be saved: and therefore it is that His own despise not that voice, and strangers hear it not. According to my ability, as He gave me the power, I have either explained to you or gone over with you a subject of great profundity. If any have failed fully to understand, let him retain his piety, and the truth will be revealed: and let not those who have understood vaunt themselves as swifter at the expense of the slower, lest in their vaunting they turn out of the track, and the slower more easily attain the goal. But let all of us be guided by Him to whom we say, “Lead me, O Lord, in Thy way, and I will walk in Thy truth.”24
14. By this, then, which the Lord hath explained, that He Himself is the door, let us find entrance to what He has set forth, but not explained. And indeed who it is that is the Shepherd, although He hath not told us in the lesson we have read to-day, yet in that which follows He very plainly tells us: “I am the good Shepherd.” And although He had not said so, whom else but Himself ought we to have understood in those words where He saith, “He that entereth in by the door is the Shepherd of the sheep. To Him the porter openeth: and the sheep hear His voice: and He calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him: for they know His voice”? For who else calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them hence unto eternal life, but He who knoweth the names of those that are fore-ordained? Hence He said to His disciples, “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven;”25 for from this it is that He calleth them by name. And who else putteth them forth, save He who putteth away their sins, that, freed from their grievous fetters, they may be able to follow Him? And who hath gone before them to the place whither they are to follow Him, but He who, rising from the dead, dieth no more; and death shall have no more dominion over Him;26 and who, when He was manifest here in the flesh, said, “Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given me be with me where I am”?27 Hence it is that He saith, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” In this He clearly shows that not only the Shepherd, but the sheep also enter in by the door.
15. But what is this, “He shall go in and out, and find pasture”? To enter indeed into the Church by Christ the door, is eminently good; but to go out of the Church, as this same Jn the evangelist saith in his epistle, “They went out from us, but they were not of us,”28 is certainly otherwise than good. Such a going out could not then be commended by the good Shepherd, when He said, “And he shall go in and out, and find pasture.” There is therefore not only some sort of entrance, but some outgoing also that is good, by the good door, which is Christ. But what is that praiseworthy and blessed outgoing? I might say, indeed, that we enter when we engage in some inward exercise of thought; and go out, when we take to some active work without: and since, as the apostle saith, Christ dwelleth in our hearts by faith,29 to enter by Christ is to give ourselves to thought in accordance with that faith; but to go out by Christ is, in accordance also with that same faith, to take to outside works, that is to say, in the presence of others. Hence, also, we read in a psalm, “Man goeth forth to his work;”30 and the Lord Himself saith, “Let your works shine before men.”31 But I am better pleased that the Truth Himself, like a good Shepherd, and therefore a good Teacher, hath in a certain measure reminded us how we ought to understand His words, “He shall go in and out, and find pasture,” when He added in the sequel, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” For He seems to me to have meant, That they may have life in coming in, and have it more abundantly at their departure. For no one can pass out by the door-that is, by Christ-to that eternal life which shall be open to the sight, unless by the same door-that is, by the same Christ-he has entered His church, which is His fold, to the temporal life, which is lived in faith. Therefore, He saith, “I am come that they may have life,” that is, faith, which worketh by love;32 by which faith they enter the fold that they may live, for the just liveth by faith:33 “and that they may have it more abundantly,” who, enduring unto the end, pass out by this same door, that is, by the faith of Christ; for as true believers they die, and will have life more abundantly when they come whither the Shepherd hath preceded them, where they shall die no more. Although, therefore, there is no want of pasture even here in the fold,-for we may understand the words “and shall find pasture” as referring to both, that is, both to their going in and their going out,-yet there only will they find the true pasture. where they shall be filled who hunger and thirst after righteousness,34 -such pasture as was found by him to whom it was said, “To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”35 But how He Himself is the door, and Himself the Shepherd, so that He also may in a certain respect be understood as going in and out by Himself, and who is the porter, it would be too long to inquire to-day, and, according to the grace given us by Himself, to unfold in the way of dissertation).
1 Chap. 9,39-41.
2 Or, “substance:” Alius, non aliud.
3 Ver. 38, unum; lit. “one thing or substance.”
4 Bishop of Sirmium, who published his heretical opinions about A.D. 343).
5 2Tm 2,19.
6 (Is 7,9, according to the Septuagint, which, however, can hardly be said here to give the meaning of the Hebrew text. Our English version gives a pretty correct translation of the latter.-Tr.
7 (Ph 3,15-16.
8 Praeter me: besides, apart from, myself. These words are an explanation suggested by Augustin himself. The words, “pro; evmou`,” “before me,” of the received text, which are undoubtedly genuine, were wanting in the version here used by Augustin, just as in the Vulgate. It is supposed that the authors of these versions had been tempted to omit them, because of the use made of them by some early heretics to throw discredit on the Old Testament Scriptures.-Tr).
9 Chap. 1,1).
10 Chap. 14,6.
11 Venturus est, et venit.
12 (2Co 4,13,
13 (Ps 116,10,
14 Augustin seems here to use verbum sometimes in its grammatical, sometimes in its general, meaning.-Tr.
15 (1Co 10,1-4.
16 Exceptor: the person employed to take down notes of the decisions, sentences, etc., in the public courts or assemblies.-Tr).
17 Chap. 8,28.
18 (Ez 34,4,
19 (2Tm 2,19).
20 (Rm 7,29-33.
21 (Ep 1,4,
22 (Mt 10,22,
23 (Ps 118,15,
24 (Mt 5,25,
25 (Ps 86,11).
26 (Lc 10,20,
27 (Rm 6,9,
28 Chap. 17,24.
29 (1Jn 2,19,
30 (Ep 3,17,
31 (Ps 104,23,
32 (Mt 5,16,
33 (Ga 5,6,
34 (Rm 1,17,
35 (Mt 5,6,
Augustin on John 43