Augustine on NT 6702
6702 2. But if we consider it well: thine own blame is His praise. For why is it that thou dost now confess in accusing thyself for thy sin? in accusing thyself why dost thou confess? but because thou art become alive from the dead? for the Scripture saith, “Confession perisheth from the dead, as from one that is not.”4 If confession perisheth from the dead, he who confesseth must be alive; and if he confesseth sin he hath undoubtedly risen again from death. Now if he that confesseth sin hath risen again from the dead, who hath raised him? No dead man can raise himself. He only was able to raise Himself, who though His Body was dead, was not dead. For He raised up that which was dead. He raised up Himself, who in Himself was alive, but in His Body that was to be raised was dead. For not the Father only, of whom it was said by the Apostle, “Wherefore God also hath exalted Him,”5 raised the Son, but the Lord also raised Himself, that is, His Body. Whence He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it again.”6 But the sinner is dead, especially he whom the load of sinful habit presseth down, who is buried as it were like Lazarus. For he was not merely dead, he was buried also.7 Whosoever then is oppressed by the load of evil habit, of a wicked life, of earthly lusts, I mean, so that that in his case is true which is piteously described in a certain Psalm, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God,”8 he is such an one, of whom it is said, “Confession perisheth from the dead, as from one that is not.” And who shall raise him up, but He who when the stone was removed, cried out, and said, “Lazarus, Come forth?”9 Now what is to “come forth,” but to bring forth what was hidden? He then who confesseth “cometh forth.” “Come forth” he could not were he not alive; he could not be alive, had he not been raised again. And therefore in confession the accusing of one’s self, is the praise of God.
4 (Si 17,28 Sept.
5 (Ph 2,9
6 (Jn 2,19
7 (Jn 11,17
8 (Ps 14,1
9 (Jn 11,43
6703 3. Now one may say, what profit then is the Church, if he that confesseth comes forth, at once raised to life again by the voice of the Lord? What profit to Him that confesseth, is the Church, to which the Lord said, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven.”10 Consider this very case of Lazarus: he comes forth, but with his bands. He was alive already through confession, but he did not yet walk free, entangled as he was in his bands. What then doth the Church to which it was said, “Whatsoever ye shall loose, shall be loosed;” but what11 the Lord said forthwith to His disciples, “Loose him, and let him go”?12
10 (Mt 16,19 Mt 18,18.
11 Vid.Serm. 48 (98, Bened). 6.
12 (Jn 11,44
6704 4. Whether then we accuse ourselves, or directly praise God, in both ways do we praise God. If with a pious intention we accuse ourselves, by so doing we praise God. When we praise God directly, we do as it were celebrate His Holiness, who is without sin: but when we accuse ourselves, we give Him glory, by whom we have risen again. This if thou shall do, the enemy will find none occasion whereby to13 overreach thee before the judge. For when thou shall be thine own accuser, and the Lord thy Deliverer, what shall he be but a mere calumniator? With good reason hath the Christian hereby provided protection for himself against his enemies, not those that may be seen, flesh and blood, to be pitied, rather than to be feared, but against those against whom the Apostle exhorts us to arm ourselves: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood;”14 that is, against men whom ye see raging against you. They are but vessels, which another uses, they are but instruments which another handles. “The devil,” saith the Scripture,” entered into the heart of Judas, that he should betray the Lord.”15 One may say then, what have I done? Hear the Apostle, “Give not place to the devil.”16 Thou hast given him place by an evil will: he entered, and possessed, and now uses thee. He had not possessed thee, hadst thou not given him place.
14 (Ep 6,12
15 (Jn 13,2
16 (Ep 4,27
6705 5. Therefore doth he warn and say, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers.” Any one might suppose this meant against the kings of the earth, against the powers of this world. How so? are they not flesh and blood? And once for all it is said, “not against flesh and blood.” Turn thy attention from all men. What enemies then remain? “Against principalities and powers of spiritual wickedness, the rulers of the world.”17 It might seem as though he gave the devil and his angels more than they have. It is so, he has called them the “rulers of the world.” But to prevent misunderstanding, he explains what this world is, of which they are the rulers. “The rulers of the world, of this darkness.” What is, “of the world, of this darkness?” The world is full of those who love it, and of unbelievers, over whom he is ruler. This the Apostle calls darkness. This darkness the devil and his angels are the rulers of. This is not the natural, and unchangeable darkness: this darkness changes, and becomes light; it believes, and by believing is enlightened. When this takes place in it, it will hear the words, “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.”18 For when ye were darkness, ye were not in the Lord: again, when ye are light, ye are light not in yourselves, but in the Lord. “For what hast thou which thou hast not received?”19 Inasmuch then as they are invisible enemies, by invisible means must they be subdued. A visible enemy indeed thou mayest overcome by blows; thy invisible enemy thou conquerest by belief. A man is a visible enemy; to strike a blow is visible also. The devil is an invisible enemy; to believe is invisible also. Against invisible enemies then there is an invisible fight.
18 (Ep 5,8
19 (1Co 4,7
6706 6. From these enemies how can any man say that he is safe? For this I had begun to speak of, but I thought it necessary to treat of these enemies at some little length. But now that we know our enemies, let us see to our defence against them. “In praising I will call upon the Lord, so shall I be safe from mine enemies.”20 Thou seest what thou hast to do. “In praising call;” that is, “in praising the Lord, call.” For thou wilt not be safe from thine enemies, if thou praise thyself. “In praising call upon the Lord, and thou shalt be safe from thine enemies.” For what doth the Lord Himself say? “The sacrifice of praise shall glorify Me, and there is the way, in which I will show him My salvation.”21 Where is the way? In the sacrifice of praise. Let not your foot then wander out of this way. Keep in the way; depart not from it; from the praise of the Lord depart not a foot, nay, not a nail’s breadth. For if thou wilt deviate from this way, and praise thyself insteadof the Lord, thou wilt not be safe from thine enemies; for it is said of them, “They have laid stumbling-blocks for me by the way.”22 Therefore in whatever,measure thou thinkest that thou hast good of thine own self, thou hast deviated from the praise of God. Why dost thou marvel then, if thine enemy seduce thee, when thou art thine own seducer? Hear the Apostle, “For if a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he seduceth himself.”23
20 (Ps 17,4 Sept. (xviii. 3, English version).
21 (Ps 49,23 Sept. (l. English version).
22 (Ps 139,6 Sept. (cxl. 5, English version).
23 (Ga 6,3 Vulg.
6707 7. Give heed then to the Lord confessing; “I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth.” I confess to Thee, that is, I praiseThee. I praise Thee, not I accuse myself. Nowas far as the taking of very24 man is concerned, all, is grace, singular and perfect grace. What merit had that man25 who is Christ, if thou take away the grace, even that so pre-eminent grace, whereby it behoved that there should be One Christ, and that He whom we acknowledge should be He? Take away this grace, and what is Christ but a mere man? what but the same as thou art thyself? He took a Soul, He took a Body, He took a perfect Man; He uniteth him to Himself, the Lord maketh one Person with the servant. What pre-eminent grace is this! Christ in heaven, Christ on earth; Christ at once both in heaven and earth; not two Christs, but the same Christ, both in heaven and earth. Christ with the Father, Christ in the Virgin’s womb; Christ on the Cross, Christ succouring some souls in hell; and on the self-same day Christ in paradise with the robber who confessed. And how did the robber attain26 to this blessedness, but because he held on that I way, in which “He showeth His salvation”? That way, from which let not thy foot wander. For in that he accused himself, he praised God, and made his own life blessed. He looked in hope27 for this from the Lord, and said to Him, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.”28 For he considered his own wicked deeds, and thought it much, if mercy should be shown him even at the last. But the Lord immediately after He had said, “Remember me”—when? “when Thou comest into Thy kingdom,” saith, “Verily I say unto thee, Today shall thou be with Me in paradise.”Mercy offered at once, what misery deferred.
25 It was the doctrine of Paul of Samosata, that the man Christ was exalted to be the Son of God (prokoph,from Luke ii. 52), as if by merit. Origen seems to hold the same, at least as regards the (supposed) pre-existent soul of Christ (vid. Huet). Origen, 2,3. § 6; vid. however De la Rue’s note); and the Arians, at least implicitly (Socr). Hist. 1,6, Athan). Orat. contr. Arian, 1,35, 3,51; and Leporius, Cassian. Incarn. 1,3, 4). The same heresy was imputed to the Nestorians (but falsely according to Garner, in Mar. Merc. pt. 1,p. 431), and thereby connected them with the Pelagians, as if unassisted human nature could merit grace. The Church on the other hand, proceeding from Rm 1,4 taught that the human nature which became the manhood of the Word was predestined to be such by grace before its creation, and became such in the moment of creation. St. Athanasius touches on this subject against the Arians (Orat.i. 46); St. Augustin enlarges on it against the Pelagians (De Praedest. Sanct. 23, 30; De Corrept. et Grat. 30): St. Cyril, against the Nestorians (Contra Nest. 3,p. 83); Vigilius, against the Monophysites (Contra Eutych. 5,B. P. t. 4, p. 528, ed. 1624). When St. Augustin says “that man,” he is speaking of our Lord’s human nature as abstracted from that Divine Person in whom it actually existed, and not as if it ever existed as a separate hypostasis, This use of “homo” and aŸnqrwpo" is very frequent with the Fathers; what is more startling is the expression “homo ille,” yet vid. also Augustin, De Praed. Sanct. 30; Alcuim, De Trin.iii. i; Agobard, Cont. Felic. B. P. t. 9, p. 1194. However, this point is a subject of debate among theologians (vid. Petav). De Incarn.xi. fin)..
28 (Lc 23,42
6708 8. Hear then the Lord confessing; “I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth.”29 What do I confess? Wherein do I praise thee? For this confession, as I have said before, signifieth praise. “Because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” What is this, Brethren? Understand by that which is opposed to them. “Thou hast hid these things,” saith he, “from the wise and prudent;” and he did not say, thou hast revealed them to the foolish and imprudent, but “Thou hast hid these things” indeed “from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” To these wise and prudent, who are really objects of derision, to the arrogant who in false pretence are great, yet in truth are only swollen up, he opposed not the foolish, nor the imprudent, but babes. Who are babes? The humble. Therefore “Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent.” Under the name of the wise and prudent, He hath Himself explained that the proud are understood, when He said, “Thou hast revealed them unto babes.” Therefore from those who are not babes Thou hast hidden them. What is from those who are not babes? From those who are not humble. And who are they but the proud? O way of the Lord! Either there was none, or it lay hid, that it might be revealed to us. Why did the Lord exult? “Because it was revealed unto babes.” We must be little babes; for if we would wish to be great, “wise and prudent as it were, it is not revealed unto us. Who are these great ones? The wise and prudent. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”30 Here then thou hast a remedy suggested from its opposite. For if by “professing thyself wise, thou art become a fool; profess thyself a fool, and thou wilt be wise.” But profess it in truth, profess it from the heart, for it is really so as thou professest. If thou profess it, do not profess it before men, and forbear to profess it before God. As to thyself, and all that is thine, thou art altogether dark. For what else is it to be a fool, but to be dark in heart? He saith of them at last, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” Before they professed this, what do we find? “And their foolish heart was darkened.”31 Acknowledge then that thou art not to thyself a light. At best thou art but an eye, thou art not the light. And what good is even an open and a sound eye, if the light be wanting? Acknowledge therefore that of thine own self thou art no light to thyself; and cry out as it is written, “Thou, Lord, wilt light my candle: Thou wilt enlighten, O Lord, my darkness with Thy Light.”32 For myself I was all darkness; but Thou art the Light that scattereth the darkness, and enlighteneth me; of myself I am no light to myself, yea I have no portion of light but in Thee.
29 (Mt 11,25).
30 (Rm 1,22
31 (Rm 1,21
32 (Ps 18,28
6709 9. So John also, the friend of the Bridegroom, was thought to be the Christ, was thought to be the Light. “He was not that Light, but that he might bear witness of the Light.”33 But what was the Light? It was the true Light. What is the true Light? “That which lighteneth every man.” If that be the true Light which lighteneth every man, then it lightened John also, who professed and confessed rightly, “Of His fulness have all we received.”34 See if he said ought else, but “Thou, O Lord, shalt lighten my candle.” Finally, being now enlightened, He gave His testimony. For the benefit of the blind the lamp gave witness to the Day. See how that He is a lamp; “Ye sent,” He said, “unto John, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light; he was a burning and a shining lamp.”35 He, the lamp, that is, a thing enlightened, was lighted that it might shine. That which can be lighted can be extinguished also. Now that it may not be extinguished, let it not expose itself to the wind of pride. Therefore, “I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent,” from those who thought themselves to be light, and were darkness; and who because they were darkness, and thought themselves to be light, could not even be enlightened. But they who were darkness, and confessed that they were darkness, were little babes, not great; were humble, not proud. Rightly therefore did they say, “O Lord, Thou wilt lighten my candle.” They knew themselves, they praised the Lord. They did not stray from the way of salvation; “They in praise called upon the Lord, and they were saved from their enemies.”36
6710 10. Turning then to the Lord our God, the Father Almighty, in purity of heart, let us render unto Him, as our frailty best can, our highest and abundant thanks, with our whole mind praying His singular goodness, that in His good pleasure He would vouchsafe to hear our prayers, that by His Power He would drive out the enemy from our deeds and thoughts, would enlarge our faith, direct our minds, grant us spiritual thoughts, and bring us safe to His endless blessedness, through His Son Jesus Christ. Amen.
33 (Jn 1,8
34 (Jn 1,16
35 (Jn 5,33 etc.
36 (Ps 18,3
68 Again on the words of the gospel, Mt 11,25 “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth,” etc.
1). We have heard the Son of God saying, “I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth.” What doth he confess to Him? Wherein doth he praise Him? “Because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.”1 Who are the “wise and prudent”? Who the“babes”? What hath He hid from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes? By the “wise and prudent,” He signifieth those of whom St. Paul speaks; “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?”2 Yet perhaps thou still askest who they are. They are they peradventure who in their much disputation concerning God, have spoken falsely of Him; who, puffed up by their own doctrines, could in no wise find out and know God, and who for the God whose substance is incomprehensible and invisible, have thought the air and sky to be God, or the sun to be God, or anything which holds high place3 among the creatures to be God. For observing the grandeur and beauty and powers of the creatures, they rested in them, and found not the Creator.
2. These men does the Book of wisdom reprove, where it is said, “For if they were able to know so much as to aim at the world, how did they not sooner find out the Lord thereof?”4 They are accused as wasting their time and their busy disputes in investigating and measuring as it were the creature; they sought out the courses of the stars, the intervals of the planets, the movements5 of the heavenly bodies, so as to arrive by certain6 calculations to that degree of knowledge as to foretell the eclipses of the sun and moon; and that as they had foretold,so should the event be according to the day and hour, and to the portion of the bodies which should be eclipsed. Great industry, great activity of mind. But in these things they sought after the Creator, who was not far off from them, and they found Him not. Whom if they could have found, they might have had within them. With the best reason then, and very rightly were they accused, who could investigate the numbers of the stars, and their varied movements, and know and foretell the eclipses of the luminaries: rightly accused, I say, in that they found not Him by whom these had been created and ordained, because they neglected to seek Him. But be not thou much disquieted, if thou art ignorant of the courses of the stars, and the proportions7 of the celestial and terrestrial bodies. Behold the fair beauty of the world, and praise its Creator’s counsel. Behold what He has made, and love Him who made it: be this thy greatest care. Love Him who made it; for He made thee also after His own image, that thou mightest love Him.
3. If then it is strange that those things of which Christ said, “Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent,” were hidden from such wise men as these, who, occupied wholly about the creatures, chose to seek the Creator carelessly, and could not find Him; still more strange is it that there should even be found some “wise and prudent” men who were able to know Him. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”8 Perhaps thou dost ask, what truth do they hold in unrighteousness? “Because that which may be known of God is manifest among them.” How is it manifest? He goes on to say, “For God hath manifested it to them.”9 Dost thou still enquire how He manifested it to them to whom He gave not the law? How? “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.”10 There were then some such, not as Moses the servant of God, not as many Prophets who had an insight into and knowledge of these things, and were aided by the Spirit of God, which they drew in by faith, and drank with the throat11 of godliness, and poured12 forth again by the mouth of the interior man. Not such as these were they; but far unlike them, who by means of this visible creation were able to attain to the understanding of the Creator, and to say of these things which God hath made;13 Behold what things He hath made, He governeth and containeth also. He who hath made them, Himself filleth what He hath made with His own presence. Thus much they were enabled to say. For these Paul also made mention of in the Acts of the Apostles, where, when he had said of God, “For in Him we live and move and have our being”14 (forasmuch as he was speaking to the Athenians among whom those learned men had existed); he subjoined immediately; “As certain also of your own have said.” Now it was no trivial thing they said; “That in Him we live and move and have our being.”
4. In what then were they unlike the others? why were they blamed? why rightly accused? Hear the words of the Apostle which I had begun to quote; “The wrath of God,” saith he, “is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness” (even of those, namely, who had not received the law); “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” What truth? “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them.” By whose manifestation of it? “For God hath manifested it to them.” How? “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His Eternal Power and Godhead.” Why did He manifest it? “That they might be without excuse.” Wherein then are they to be blamed? “Because that when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God.”
5. What mean these words, “Glorified Him not as God?” They did not give Him thanks. Is this then to glorify God; to give God thanks? Yes, verily. For what can be worse, if having been created after the image of God, and having come to know God, thou shalt not be thankful to Him? This surely, this is to glorify God, to give God thanks. The faithful know where and when it is said, “Let us give thanks unto our Lord God.” But who gives thanks to God, save he who “lifts up his heart unto the Lord?” Therefore are they blameable and without excuse, “Because when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, nor gave Him thanks. But”—what? “But they became vain in their imaginations.” Whence did they become vain, but because they were proud? Thus smoke vanishes away by rising up aloft, and a flame burns the more brightly and strongly in proportion as it is kept15 low; “They became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” So smoke, though it rise higher than the flame, is dark.
6. Finally, mark what follows, and see the point on which the whole matter depends. “For professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” For arrogating to themselves what God had given, God took away what He had given. Therefore from the proud He hid Himself, who conveyed the knowledge of Himself only to those who through the creature sought diligently after the Creator. Well then did our Lord say, “Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent;” whether from those who in their manifold disputations, and most busy search, have reached to the full investigation of the creature, but knew nothing of the Creator, or from them who when they knew God, glorified Him not as God, nor gave Him thanks, and who could not see perfectly or healthfully because they were proud. “Therefore Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” What babes? To the lowly. Say on whom doth My Spirit rest? “Upon him that is lowly and quiet, and who trembleth at My words.”16 At these words Peter trembled; Plato trembled not. Let the fisherman hold fast what that most famous philosopher has lost. “Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” Thou hast hid them from the proud, and revealed them to the humble. What things are these? For when He said this, He did not intend the heaven and earth, or point them out as it were with His hand as He spake. For these who does not see? The good see them, the bad see them; for He “maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good.”17 What then are these things? “All things are delivered unto Me of My Father.”18
1 (Mt 11,25).
2 (1Co 1,20
3 Sublimiter eminet.
4 (Sg 13,9
6 Vid). Conf. 5,3 (4).
8 (Rm 1,18
9 (Rm 1,19
10 (Rm 1,20
13 Vid). Conf. 7,9 (13-15).
14 (Ac 17,28).
15 Humilius apprehendendo.
16 (Is 66,2
17 (Mt 5,45
18 (Mt 11,27
69 On the words of the gospel, Mt 11,28 “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,” etc.
1). We heard in the Gospel that the Lord, rejoicing greatly in Spirit, said unto God the Father, “I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in Thy sight. All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.”1 I have labour in talking, you in hearing: let us then both give ear to Him who goes on to say, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour.”2 For why do we labour all, except that we are mortal men, frail creatures and infirm, bearing about vessels of clay which crowd and straiten one another. But if these vessels of flesh are straitened, let the open3 expanse of charity be enlarged. What then does He mean by, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour,” but that ye may labour no more? In a word, His promise is clear enough; forasmuch as He called those who were in labour, they might perchance enquire, for what profit they were called: “and,” saith He, “I will refresh you.”
2. “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me;”4 not to raise the fabric of the world, not to create all things visible and invisible, not in the world so created to work miracles and raise the dead; but,” that I am meek and lowly in heart.” Thou wishest to be great, begin from the least. Thou art thinking to construct some mighty fabric in height; first think of the foundation of humility. And how great soever a mass of building one may wish and design to place above it, the greater the building is to be, the deeper does he dig his foundation. The building in the course of its erection, rises up on high, but he who digs its foundation, must first go down very low. So then you see even a building is low before it is high, and the top is raised only after humiliation.
3. What is the top in the erection of that building which we are constructing? Whither will the highest point of this building reach? I say at once, even to the Vision of God. Ye see how high, how great a thing it is to see God. Whoso longeth after it, understands both what I say and what he hears. The Vision of God is promised to us, of the very God, the Supreme God. For this is good, to see Him who seeth. For they who worship false gods, see them easily; but they see them “who have eyes andsee not.” But to us is promised the Vision of the Living and the Seeing God, that we may desire eagerly to see that God of whom Scripture saith, “He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, doth he not consider?”5 Doth He then not hear, who hath made for thee that whereby thou hearest? and doth not He see, who hath created that whereby thou seest? Well therefore in the foregoing words of this very Psalm doth He say, “Understand therefore ye unwise among the people, and ye fools at length be wise.”6 For many men commit evil deeds whilst they think they are not seen by God. And it is difficult indeed for them to believe that He cannot see them; but they think that He will not. Few are found of such great impiety, that that should be fulfilled in them which is written, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.”7 This is but the madness of a few. For as great piety belongs but to the few, no less also does great impiety. But the multitude of men speak thus: What! is God thinking now upon this, that He should know what I am doing in my house, and does God care for what I may choose to do upon my bed? Who says this? “Understand, ye unwise among the people, and ye fools at length be wise.” Because as being a man, it is a labour for thee to know all that takes place in thy house, and for all the doings and words of thy servants to reach thee; thinkest thou that it is a like labour for God to observe thee, who did not labour to create thee? Doth not He fix His eye upon thee, who made thine eye? Thou wast not, and He created thee and gave thee being; and doth not He care for thee now that thou art, who “calleth those things which be not as though they were”?8 Do not then promise thyself this. Whether thou wilt or no, He seeth thee, and there is no place whither thou canst hide thyself from His eyes. “For if thou goest up into heaven, He is there; if thou goest down into hell, He is there also.”9 Great is thy labour, whilst unwilling to depart from evil deeds: yet wishest not to be seen by God. Hard labour truly! Daily art thou wishing to do evil, and dost thou suspect that thou art not seen? Hear the Scripture which saith, “He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? He that formed the eye, doth not He consider?” Where canst thou hide thy evil deeds from the eyes of God? If thou wilt not depart from them, thy labour is great indeed.
4. Hear Him then who saith, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour.” Thou canst not end thy labour by flying. Dost thou choose to fly from Him, and not rather to Him? Find out then whither thou canst escape, and so fly. But if thou canst not fly from Him, for that He is everywhere present; fly (it is quite nigh10 ) to God, who is present where thou art standing. Fly. Lo in thy flight thou hast passed the heavens, He is there; thou hast descended into hell, He is there; whatever deserts of the earth thou shalt choose, there is He, who hath said, “I fill heaven and earth.”11 If then He fills heaven and earth, and there is no place whither thou canst fly from Him; cease this thy labour, and fly to His presence, lest thou feel His coming. Take courage from the12 hope that thou shalt by well-living see Him, by whom even in thy evil living thou art seen. For in evil living thou canst be seen, thou canst not see; but by well-living thou art both seen and seest. For with how much more tender nearness13 will He who crowneth the worthy look on thee, who in His pity saw thee that He might call thee when unworthy? Nathanael said to the Lord whom as yet he did not know, “Whence knewest thou me?” The Lord said unto him, “When thou wast under the fig-tree I saw thee.”14 Christ saw thee in thine own shade; and will He not see thee in His Light? For what is, “When thou wast under the fig-tree I saw thee”? What doesit mean? Call to mind the original sin of Adam, in whom we all die. When he first sinned, he made himself aprons of fig-leaves,15 signifying by these leaves the irritations of lust to which he had been reduced by sinning. Hence are we born; in this condition are we born; born in sinful flesh, which “the likeness of sinful flesh” alone can cure. Therefore “God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.”16 He came of this flesh, but He came not as other men. For the Virgin conceived Him not by lust, but by faith. He came into the Virgin, who was before the Virgin. He made choice of her whom He created, He created her whom He designed to choose. He brought to the Virgin fruitfulness: He took not away her unimpaired purity. He then who came to thee without the irritation of the leaves of the fig-tree, “when thou wast under the fig-tree,” saw thee. Make ready then to see Him in His height of glory,17 by whom in His pity thou wast seen. But because the top is high, think of the foundation. What foundation? dost thou say? “Learn of Him, for He is meek and lowly in heart.” Dig this foundation of lowliness deep in thee, and so wilt thou attain to the crowning top of charity. “Turning to the Lord,” etc.
1 (Mt 11,25-27.
2 (Mt 11,28
4 (Mt 11,29).
5 (Ps 93,9 Sept. (xciv. English version).
6 (Ps 93,8 Sept. (xciv. English version).
7 (Ps 14,1
8 (Rm 4,17
9 (Ps 139,8
10 De proximo.
11 (Jr 23,24
14 (Jn 1,48
15 (Gn 3,7
16 (Rm 8,3
Augustine on NT 6702