Augustin on John 37
38 (Jn 8,21-25.
1. The lesson of the holy Gospel which preceded to-day’s had concluded thus: that “the Lord spake, teaching in the treasury,” what it pleased Him, and what you have heard; “and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour was not yet come.”1 Accordingly, on the Lord’s day we made our subject of discourse what He Himself thought fit to give us. We indicated to your Charity why it was said, “His hour was not yet come,” lest any in their impiety should have the effrontery to suspect Christ as laid under some fatal necessity. For the hour was not yet come when by His own appointment, in accordance with what was predicted regarding Him, He should not be forced to die unwillingly, but be ready to be slain.
2. But of His own passion itself, which lay not in any necessity He was under, but in His own power, all that He said in His discourse to the Jews was, “I go away.” For to Christ the Lord’s death was His proceeding. to the place whence He had come, and from which He had never departed. “I go away,” said He, “and ye shall seek me,” not from any longing for me, but in hatred. For after His removal from human sight, He was sought for both by those who hated Him and those who loved Him; by the former in a spirit of persecution, by the latter with the desire of having Him. In the Psalms the Lord Himself says by the prophet, “A place of refuge hath failed me, and there is none that seeketh after my life;”2 and again He says in another place in the Psalms, “Let them be confounded and ashamed who seek after my life.”3 He blamed the former for not seeking, He condemned the latter because they did. For it is wrong not to seek the life of Christ, that is, in the way the disciples sought it; and it is wrong to seek the life of Christ, that is, in the way the Jews sought it: for the former sought to possess it, these latter to destroy it. Accordingly, because these men sought it thus in a wrong way, with a perverted heart, what next did He add? “Ye shall seek me, and “-not to let you suppose that ye will seek me for good-“ ye shall die in your sin.” This comes of seeking Christ wrongly, to die in one’s sin; this of hating Him, through whom alone salvation could be found. For, while men whose hope is in God ought not to render evil even for evil, these men were rendering evil for good. The Lord therefore announced to them beforehand, and in His foreknowledge uttered the sentence, that they should die in their sin. And then He adds, “Whither I go, ye cannot come.” He said the same to the disciples also in another place; and yet He said not to them, “Ye shall die in your sin.” But what did He say? The same as to these men: “Whither I go, ye cannot come.”4 He did not take away hope, but foretold delay. For at the time when the Lord spake this to the disciples, they were not able to come whither He was going, yet were they to come afterwards; but these men never, to whom in His foreknowledge He said, “Ye shall die in yoursin.”
3. But on hearing these words, as is usual with those whose thoughts are carnal, who judge after the flesh, and hear and apprehend everything in a carnal way, they said, “Will he kill himself because he said, Whither I go ye cannot come.” Foolish words, and overflowing with stupidity! For why could they not go whither He would have proceeded had He killed Himself? Were not they themselves to die? What, then, means, “Will he kill himself because he said, Whither I go ye cannot come?” If He spake of man’s death, what man is there that does not die? Therefore, by “whither I go” He meant, not the going to death, but whither He was going Himself after death. Such, then, was their answer, because they did not understand.
4. And what said the Lord to those who savored of the earth? “And He said unto them, Ye are from beneath.” For this cause ye savor of the earth, because ye lick dust like serpents. Ye eat earth! What does it mean? Ye feed on earthly things, ye delight in earthly things, ye gape after earthly things, ye have no heart for what is above. “Ye are from beneath: I am from above. Ye are of this world: I am not of this world.” For how could He be of the world, by whom the world was made? All that are of the world come after the world, because the world preceded; and so man is of the world. But, Christ was first, and then the world; and since Christ was before the world, before Christ there was nothing: because “In the beginning was the Word; all things were made by, Him.”5 He, therefore, was of that which is above. But of what that is above? Of the air? Perish the thought! there the birds wing their flight. Of the sky that we see? Again I say, Perish the thought! it is there that the stars and sun and moon revolve. Of the angels? Neither is this to be understood: by Him who made all things were the angels also made. Of what, then, above is Christ? Of the Father Himself. Nothing is above that God who begat the Word equal with Himself, co-eternal with Himself, only-begotten, timeless, that by Him time’s own foundations should be laid. Understand, then, Christ as from above, so as in thy thought to get beyond everything that is made,-the whole creation together, every material body, every created spirit, everything in any way subject to change: rise above all, as Jn rose, in order to reach this: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
5. Therefore said He, “I am from above. Ye are of this world: I am not of this world. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins.” He bas explained to us, brethren, what He wished to be understood by “ye are of this world.” He said therefore in fact, “Ye are of this world,” because they were sinners, because they were unrighteous, because they were unbelieving, because they savored of the earthly. For what is your opinion as regards the holy apostles? What difference was there between the Jews and the apostles? As great as between darkness and light, as between faith and unbelief, as between piety and impiety, as between hope and despair, as between love and avarice: surely the difference was great. What then, because there was such a difference, were the apostles not of the world? If thy thoughts turn to the manner of their birth, and whence they came, inasmuch as all of them had come from Adam, they were of this world. But what said the Lord Himself to them? “I have chosen you out of the world.”6 a Those, then, who were of the world, became not of the world, and began to belong to Him by whom the world was made. But these men continued to be of the world, to whom it was said, “Ye shall die in your sins.”
6. Let none then, brethren, say, I am not of this world. Whoever thou art as a man, thou art of this world; but He who made the world came to thee, and delivered thee from this world. If the world delights thee, thou wishest always to be unclean (immundus); but if this world no longer delight thee, thou art already clean (mundus). And yet, if through some infirmity the world still delight thee, let Him who cleanseth (mundat)dwell in thee, and thou too shalt be clean.7 But if thou art once clean, thou wilt not continue in the world; neither wilt thou hear what was heard by the Jews, “Ye shall die in your sins.” For we are all born with sin; we have all in living added to that wherein we were born, and have since become more of the world than when we were born of our parents. And where should we be, had He not come, who was wholly free from sin, to expiate all sin? And so, because in Him the Jews believed not, they deservedly heard [the sentence], “Ye shall die in your sins;” for in no way could ye, who were born with sin, be without sin; and yet, said He, if ye believe in me, although it is still true that ye were born with sin, yet in your sin ye shall not die. The whole misery, then, of the Jews was just this, not to have sin, but to die in their sins. From this it is that every Christian ought to seek to escape; because of this we have recourse to baptism; on this account do those whose lives are in danger from sickness or any other cause become anxious for help; for this also is the sucking child carried by his mother with pious hands to the church, that he may not go out into the world without baptism, and die in the sin wherein he was born. Most wretched surely the condition and miserable the lot of these men, who heard from those truth-speaking lips,” Ye shall die in your sins!”
7. But He explains whence this should befall them: “For if ye believe not that I am [He], ye shall die in your sins.” I believe, brethren, that among the multitude who listened to the Lord, there were those also who should yet believe. But against all, as it were, had that most severe sentence gone forth, “Ye shall die in your sin;” and thereby even from those who should yet believe had hope been withdrawn: the others were roused to fury, they to fear; yea, to more than fear, they were brought now to despair. But He revived their hope; for He added, “If ye believe not that I am, ye shall die in your sins.” Therefore if ye do believe that I am, ye shall not die in your sins. Hope was restored to the desponding, the sleeping were: aroused, their hearts got a fresh awakening; and thereafter very many believed, as the Gospel itself attests in the sequel. For members of Christ were there, who had not yet become attached to the body of Christ; and among that people by whom He was crucified, by whom He was hanged on a tree, by whom when hanging He was mocked, by whom He was wounded with the spear, by whom gall and vinegar were given Him to drink, were the members of Christ, for whose sake He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And what will a convert not be forgiven, if the shedding of Christ’s blood is forgiven? What murderer need despair, if he was restored to hope by whom even Christ was slain? After this many believed; they were presented with Christ’s blood as a gift, that they might drink it for their salvation, rather than be held guilty of shedding it. Who can despair? And if the thief was saved on the cross,-a murderer shortly before, a little afterwards accused, convicted, condemned, hanged, delivered,-wonder not. The place of his conviction was that of his condemnation; while that of his conversion was the place also of his deliverance.8 Among this people, then, to whom the Lord was speaking, were those who should yet die in their sin: there were those also who should yet believe on Him who spake, and find deliverance from all their sin.
8. But look at this which is said by Christ the Lord: “If ye believe not that I am, ye shall die in your sins.” What is this, “If ye believe not that I am?” “I am” what? There is nothing added; and because He added nothing, He left much to be inferred. For He was expected to say what He was, and yet He said it not. What was He expected to say? Perhaps, “If ye believe not that I am” Christ; “if ye believe not that I am” the Son of God; “if ye believe not that I am” the Word of the Father: “if ye believe not that I am” the founder of the world; “if ye believe not that I am” the former and re-former, the creator and re-creator, the maker and re-maker of man;-“ if ye believe not that I am” this, “ye shall die in your sins.” There is much implied in His only saying “I am;” for so also had God said to Moses, “I am who am.” Who can adequately express what that AM means? God by His angel sent His servant Moses to deliver His people out of Egypt (you have read and know what you now hear; but I recall it to your minds); He sent him trembling, self-excusing, but obedient. And while thus excusing himself, he said to God, whom he understood to be speaking in the person of the angel: If the people say to me, And who is the God that hath sent thee? what shall I say to them? And the Lord answered him, “I am who am;” and added, “Thou shalt say to the children of Israel, He who is hath sent me to you.” There also He says not, I am God; or, I am the framer of the world; or, I am the creator of all things; or, I am the multiplier of the very people to be delivered: but only this, “I am who am;” and, “Thou shall say to the children of Israel, He who is.” He added not, Who is your God, who is the God of your fathers; but said only this: “He who is hath sent me to you.” Perhaps it was too much even for Moses himself, as it is too much for us also, and much more so for us, to understand the meaning of such words, “I am who am;” and, “He who is hath sent me to you.” And supposing that Moses comprehended it, when would those to whom he was sent comprehend it? The Lord therefore put aside what man could not comprehend, and added what he could; for He said also besides, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”9 This thou canst comprehend; for “I am who am,” what mind can comprehend?
9. What then of us? Shall we venture to say anything on such words, “I am who am;” or rather on this, that you have heard the Lord saying, “If ye believe not that I am, ye shall die in your sins”? Shall I venture with these feeble and scarcely existing powers of mine to discuss the meaning of that which Christ the Lord hath said, “If ye believe not that I am”? I shall venture to ask the Lord Himself. Listen to me as one asking rather than discussing, inquiring rather than assuming, learning rather than teaching, and fail not yourselves also to be asking with me or through me. The Lord Himself, who is everywhere, is also at hand. Let Him hear the feeling that prompts to ask, and grant the fruit of understanding. For in what words, even were it so that I comprehend something, can i convey to your hearts what I comprehend? What voice is adequate? what eloquence sufficient? what powers of intelligence? what faculty of utterance?
10. I shall speak, then, to our Lord Jesus Christ; I shall speak and may He be pleased to hear me. I believe He is present, I am fully assured of it; for He Himself has said, “Lo, I am with you even to the end of the world.”10 O Lord our God, what is that which Thou saidst, “If ye believe not that I am”? For what is there that belongs not to the things Thou hast made? Does not heaven so belong? Does not the earth? Does not everything in earth and heaven? Does not man himself to whom Thou speakest? Does not the angel whom Thou sendest? If all these are things made by Thee, what is that existence11 Thou hast retained as something exclusively Thine own, which Thou hast given to none besides, that Thou mightest be such Thyself alone? For how do I hear “I am who am,” as if there were none besides? and how do I hear “If ye believe not that I am”? For had they no existence who heard Him? Yea, though they were sinners, they were men. What then can I do? What that existence is, let Him tell my heart, let Him tell, let Him declare it within; let the inner man hear, the mind apprehend this true existence; for such existence is always unvarying in character.12 For a thing, anything whatever (I have begun as it were to dispute, and have left off inquiring. Perhaps I wish to speak what I have heard. May He grant enlargement to my hearing, and to yours, while I speak);-for anything, whatever in short be its excellence, if it is changeable, does not truly exist; for there is no true existence wherever non-existence has also a place. For whatever can be changed, so far as changed, it is not that which was: if it is no longer what it was, a kind of death has therein taken place; something that was there has been eliminated, and exists no more. Blackness has died out in the silvery locks of the patriarch, comeliness in the body of the careworn and crooked old man, strength in the body of the languishing, the [previous] standing posture in the body of one walking, walking in the body of one standing, walking and standing in the body of one reclining, speech in the tongue of the silent;-whatever changes, and is what it was not, I see there a kind of life in that which is, and death in that which was. In fine, when we say of one deceased, Where is that person? we are answered, He was O Truth, it is thou [alone] that truly art! For in all actions and movements of ours, yea, in every activity of the creature, I find two times, the past and the future. I seek for the present, nothing stands still: what I have said is no longer present; what I am going to say is not yet come: what I have done is no longer present; what I am going to do is not yet come: the life I have lived is no longer present; the life I have still to live is not yet come. Past and future I find in every creature-movement: in truth, which is abiding, past and future I find not, but the present alone, and that unchangeably, which has no place in the creature. Sift the mutations of things, thou wilt find was and Will BE: think on God, thou wilt find the is, where was and Will BE cannot exist. To be so then thyself, rise beyond the boundaries of time. But who can transcend the powers of his being? May He raise us thither who said to the Father, “I will that they also be with me where I am.” And so, in making this promise, that we should not die in our sins, the Lord Jesus Christ, I think, said nothing else by these words, “If ye believe not that I am;” yea, by these words I think He meant nothing else than this, “If ye believe not that I am” God, “ye shall die in your sins.” Well, God be thanked that He said, “If ye believe not,” and did not say, If ye comprehend not. For who can comprehend this? Or is it so, since I have ventured to speakand you have seemed to understand, that you have indeed comprehended somewhat of a subject so unspeakable? If then thou comprehendest not, faith sets thee free. Therefore also the Lord said not, If ye comprehend not that I am; but said what they were capable of attaining, “If ye believe not that I am, ye shall die in your sins.”
11. And savoring as these men always did of the earth, and ever hearing and answering according to the flesh, what did they say to Him? “Who art thou?” For when thou saidst, “If ye believe not that I am,” thou didst not tell us what thou wert. Who art thou, that we may believe? He answered “The Beginning.” Here is the existence that [always] is. The beginning cannot be changed: the beginning is self-abiding and all-originating; that is, the beginning, to which it has been said, “But thou Thyself art the same, and Thy years shall not fail.”13 “The beginning,” He said, “for so I also speak to you.” Believe me [to be] the beginning, that ye may not die in your sins. For just as if by saying, “Who art thou?” they had said nothing else than this, What shall we believe thee to be? He replied, “The beginning;” that is, Believe me [to be] the “beginning.” For in the Greek expression we discern what we cannot in the Latin. For in Greek the word “beginning” (principium, arkh), is of the feminine gender, just as with us “law” (lex) is of the feminine gender, while it is of the masculine (nomo") with them; or as “wisdom” (sapientia, sofia) is of the feminine gender with both. It is the custom of speech, therefore, in different languages to vary the gender of words, because in things themselves there is no place for the distinction of sex. For wisdom is not really female, since Christ is the Wisdom of God,14 and Christ is termed of the masculine gender, wisdom of the feminine. When then the Jews said, “Who art thou?” He, who knew that there were some there who should yet believe, and therefore had said, Who art thou that so they might come to know what they ought to believe regarding Him, replied, “The beginning:” not as if He said, I am the beginning; but as if He said, Believe me [to he] the beginning. Which, as I said, is quite evident in the Greek language, where beginning (arkh) is of the feminine gender.15 Just as if He had wished to say that He was the Truth, and to their question, “Who art thou?” had answered, Veritatem16 [the Truth]; when to the words, “Who art thou?” He evidently ought to have replied, Veritas17 [the Truth]; that is, I am the Truth. But His answer had a deeper meaning, when He saw that they had put the question, “Who art thou?” in such a way as to mean, Having heard from thee, “If ye believe not that I am, what shall we believe thee to be? To this He replied, “The beginning:” as if He said, Believe me to be the beginning. And He added “for [as such] I also speak to you;” that is, having humbled myself on your account, I have condescended to such words. For if the beginning as it is in itself had remained so with the Father, as not to receive the form of a servant and speak as man with men; how could they have believed in Him, since their weak hearts could not have heard the Word intelligently without some voice that would appeal to their senses? Therefore, said He, believe me to be the beginning; for, that you may believe, I not only am, but also speak to you.18 But on this subject I have still much to say to you; may it therefore please your Charity that we reserve what remains, and by His gracious aid deliver it tomorrow).
1 Chap. 8,20.
2 (Ps 142,4.
3 (Ps 40,14).
4 Chap. 13,33.
5 Chap. 1,1, 3).
6 Chap. 15,19).
7 There is a play here on the words mundus, the world, and mundus, clean, with its compound immundus, and its cognate verb mundare. Such plays are frequent in St. Augustin.-Tr.
8 (Lc 18,34-43).
9 (Ex 3,13-15.
10 (Mt 28,20 Mt 28,
12 Eodem modo).
13 (Ps 102,27,
14 (1Co 1,24,
15 The Greek is th;n ajrchvn, which to some has here the sound of an adverb, like the Latin principio and primum. So at least it sounded to Chrysostom. But Augustin’s interpretation is favored by Ambrose, Bernard, etc.
16 In the accusative case).
17 In the nominative case.
18 Augustin here makes Christ’s speaking-His use of human language-the means whereby they should be able to know and believe Him to be the beginning, the Eternal Alpha. Had He not become man and spoken to them, but remained always hidden with the Father, and silent, they could never have had the means of knowing that He personally was the beginning, or believing Him such.-Tr.
39 (Jn 8,26-27.
1. The words of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He had addressed to the Jews, so regulating His discourse that the blind saw not, and believers’ eyes were opened, are these, which have been read to-day from the holy Gospel: “Then said the Jews, Who art thou?” Because the Lord had said before, “If ye believe not that I am, ye shall die in your sins.”1 To this accordingly they rejoined, “Who art thou?” as if seeking to know on whom they ought to believe, so as not to die in their sin. He replied to those who asked Him: “Who art thou?” by saying, “The beginning, for [so] also I speak to you.” If the Lord has called Himself the beginning, it may be inquired whether the Father also is the beginning. For if the Son who has a Father is the beginning, how much more easily must God the Father be understood as the beginning, who has indeed the Son whose Father He is, but has no one from whom He Himself proceedeth? For the Son is the Son of the Father, and the Father certainly is the Father of the Son; but the Son is called God of God,-the Son is called Light of Light; the Father is called Light, but not, of Light,-the Father is called God, but not, of God. If, then, God of God, Light of Light, is the beginning, how much more easily may we understand as such that Light, from whom the Light [cometh], and God, of whom is God? It seems, therefore, absurd, dearly beloved, to call the Son the beginning, and not to call the Father the beginning also.
2. But what shall we do? Are there, then, two beginnings? Let us beware of saying so. What then, if both the Father is the beginning and the Son the beginning, how are there not two beginnings? In the same way that we call the Father God, and the Son God, and yet say not that there are two Gods; and yet He who is the Father is not the Son, He who is the Son is not the Father; and the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, is neither the Father nor the Son. Although, then, as Catholic ears have been taught in the bosom of mother Church, neither He who is the Father is the Son, nor He who is the Son is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit, of the Father and of the Son, either the Son or the Father, yet we say not that there are three Gods; although, if we are asked of each apart, we must, of whichever we are questioned, confess that He is God.
3. But all this seems absurd to those who drag up familiar things to a level with things little known, visible things with invisible, and compare the creature to the Creator. For unbelievers sometimes question us and say: Whom you call the Father, do you call him God? We answer, God. Whom you call the Son, do you call him God? We answer, God. Whom you call the Holy Spirit, do you call him God? We answer, God. Then, say they, are the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit three Gods? We answer, No. They are confounded, because they are not enlightened; they have their heart shut up, because they want the key of faith. Let us then, brethren, by an antecedent faith that heals the eye of our heart, receive without obscurity what we understand,-and what we understand not, believe without hesitation; let us not quit the foundation of faith in order to reach the summit of perfection. The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God: and yet He is not the Father who is the Son, nor He the Son who is the Father, and the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and the Son, is neither the Father nor the Son. The Trinity is one God. The Trinity is one eternity, one power, one majesty;-three, [but not three] Gods. Let not the reviler answer me: “Three what, then? For,” he adds, “if there are three, you must say, three what?” I reply: The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. “See,” he says, “you have named three; but express what the three are?” Nay, count them yourself; for I make out three when I say, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For the Father is God as respects Himself, but [He is] the Father as respects the Son; the Son is God as respects Himself, but He is the Son as regards the Father.
4. What I say you may gather from daily analogies. So it is with one man and another, if the one be a father, the other his son. He is man as regards himself, but a father as regards his son; and the son man as respects himself, but a son as respects his father. For father is a name given relatively, and so with son; but these are two men. And certainly God the Father is Father in a relative sense, that is, in relation to the Son; and God the Son is Son relatively, that is, in relation to the Father; but not as the former are two men are these two Gods. Why is it not so here? Because that belongs to one sphere and this to another; for this is divine. There is here something ineffable which cannot be explained in words, that there should both be, and not be, number. For see if there appear not a kind of number, Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost-the Trinity. If three, three what? Here number fails. And so God neither keeps apart from number, nor is comprehended by number. Because there are three, there is a kind of number. If you ask three what, number ceases. Hence it is said, “Great is our Lord, and great His power; and of His understanding there is no number.”2 When you have begun to reflect, you begin to number; when you have numbered, you cannot tell what you have numbered. The Father is Father, the Son is Son, the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit. What are these three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? Are They not three Gods? No. Are They not three Almighties? No. Not three Creators of the world? No. Is the Father then almighty? Manifestly almighty. And is the Son then not almighty? Clearly the Son. is also almighty. And is the Holy Spirit then not almighty? He, too, is almighty. Are there then three Almighties? No; only one Almighty. Only in Their relation to each other do They suggest number, not in Their essential existence. For though God the Father is, as respects Himself, God along with the Son and the Holy Spirit, there are not three Gods; and, though as respects Himself He is omnipotent, as well as the Son and the Holy Spirit, there are not three omnipotents; for in truth He is the Father not in respect to Himself, but to the Son; nor is the Son so in respect to Himself, but to the Father; nor is the Spirit so as regards Himself, in as far as He is called the Spirit of the Father and of the Son. I have no name to give the three, save the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, one Almighty. And so one beginning.
5. Take an illustration from the Holy Scriptures, whereby you may in some measure comprehend what I am saying. After our Lord Jesus Christ rose again, and was pleased to ascend into heaven, at the end of ten days He sent from thence the Holy Spirit, by whom those who were present in that one chamber were filled, and began to speak in the languages of all nations. The Lord’s murderers, terrified by the miracle, were pricked to the heart and sorrowed; sorrowing, were changed; and being changed, believed. There were added to the Lord’s body, that is, to the number of believers, three thousand people. And so also by the working of another miracle there were added other five thousand. A considerable community was created, in which all, receiving the Holy Spirit, by whom spiritual love was kindled, were by their very love and fervor of spirit welded into one, and began in the very unity of fellowship to sell all that they had, and to lay the price at the apostles’ feet, that distribution might be made to every one as each had need. And the Scripture says this of them, that “they were of one soul and one heart toward God.”3 Give heed then, brethren, and from this acknowledge the mystery of the Trinity, how it is we say, There is both the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and yet there is one God. See! there were so many thousands of these, and yet there was one heart; there were so many thousands, and one soul. But where? In God. How much more so God Himself? Do I err at all in word when I call two men two souls, or three men three souls, or many men many souls? Surely I speak correctly. Let them approach God, and one soul belongs to all. If by approaching God many souls by love become one soul, and many hearts one heart, what of the very fountain of love in the Father and Son? Is it not still more so here that the Trinity is one God? For thence, of that Holy Spirit, does love come to us, as the apostle says: “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us.”4 If then the love of God, shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us, makes many souls one soul, and many hearts one heart, how much rather are the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, one God, one light, and one beginning?
6. Let us hear, then, the Beginning who speaks to us: “I have,” said He, “many things to say of you and to judge.” You remember that He said, “I do not judge any one.”5 See, now He says, “I have many things to say of you and to judge.” But, “I do not judge” is one thing: “I have to judge” is another; for He had come to save the world, not to judge the world.6 In saying, “I have many things to say of you and to judge,” He speaks of the future judgment. For therefore did He ascend, that He may come to judge the living and the dead. No one will judge more justly than He who was unjustly judged. “Many things,” said He, “have I to say of you and to judge; but He that sent me is true.” See how the Son, His equal, gives glory to the Father. For He sets us an example, and says as it were in our hearts: O believer, if thou hearest my gospel, the Lord thy God saith to thee, when I, in the beginning God the Word with God, equal with the Father, coeternal with Him that begat, give glory to Him whose Son I am, how canst thou be proud before Him, whose servant thou art?
7. “I have many things,” He said, “to say of you and to judge: but He that sent me is true;” as if He had said, Therefore I judge the truth, because, as the Son of the True One, I am the truth. The Father true, the Son the truth,-which do we account the greater? Let us reflect, if we can, which is the greater, the True One or the Truth.7 Take some other instances. Is a pious man, or piety, the more comprehensive? Surely piety itself; for the pious is derived from piety, not piety from the pious. For piety may still exist, though he who was pious became impious. He has lost his piety, but has taken nothing from piety itself. What also of comely and comeliness? Comeliness is more than comely; for comeliness gives existence to the comely, not the comely to comeliness. And so of chaste and chastity. Chastity is clearly something more than chaste. For if chastity had no existence, one would have no ground to be chaste; but though one may refuse to be chaste, chastity remains entire. If then the term piety implies more than the term pious, comeliness more than comely, chastity than chaste, shall we say that the Truth is more than the True One? If we say so, we shall begin to say that the Son is greater than the Father. For the Lord Himself says most distinctly, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”8 Therefore, if the Son is the truth, what is the Father but what the Truth Himself says, “He that sent me is true”? The Son is the truth, the Father true. I inquire which is the greater, but find equality. For the true Father is true not because He contained a part of that truth, but because He begat it entire.
8. I see I must speak more plainly. And, not to detain you long, let me treat only of this point to-day. When I have finished what, with God’s help, I wish to say, my discourse shall close. I have said this, then, to enlist your attention. Every soul, as being a thing, is mutable; and although a great creature, yet a creature; though superior to the body, yet made. Every soul, then, since it is changeable-that is, sometimes believes, sometimes disbelieves; at one time wishes, at another time refuses; at one time is adulterous, at another chaste; now good, and again wicked, -is changeable. But God is that which is, and so has retained as His own peculiar name, “I am who am.”9 Such also is the Son, when He says, “If ye believe not that I am;” and thereto pertains also, “Who art thou? The Beginning” (ver. 25). God therefore is unchangeable, the soul changeable. When the soul receives from God the elements of its goodness it becomes good by participation, just as by participation thine eye seeth. For it sees not when the light is withdrawn, while so long as it shares in the light it sees. Since then by participation the soul is made good, if it changes and becomes bad, the goodness remains that made it good. For there is a goodness of which it partook when good; and when it has turned to evil, that goodness continues entire. If the soul fall away and become evil, there is no lessening of goodness; if it return and become good, that goodness is not enlarged. Thine eye participates in this light, and thou seest. Is it shut? Then thou hast not diminished the light. Is it open? Thou hast not increased the light. By this illustration, brethren understand that if the soul is pious, there is piety with God, of which the soul is partaker; if the soul is chaste, there is chastity with God, of which it partakes; if it is good, there is goodness with God, of which it partakes; if it is true, there is truth with God, of which the soul is partaker. Whereof if the soul is no partaker, every man is false;10 and if every man may be false, no man is true of himself.11 But the true Father is true of Himself,12 for He begat the Truth. It is one thing to say, That man is true, for he has taken in the truth: it is another, God is true, for He begat the Truth. See then how God is true,-not by participating in, but by generating the Truth. I see you have understood me, and am glad. Let this suffice you to-day. The rest, according as He gives it, we shall expound when the Lord pleases).
1 Chap. 8,25, 24).
2 (Ps 147,5,
3 (Ac 2 Ac 4,32, etc).
4 (Rm 5,5,
5 (Rm 5,15).
6 Chap. 12,47).
7 Verax an veritas.
8 (Jn 14,6,
9 (Ex 3,14,
10 (Ps 116,11,
11 De suo.
12 De suo.
Augustin on John 37