Augustine on NT 94
94 On the words of the gospel, Mt 25,24 etc., Where the slothful servant who would not put out the talent he had received, is condemned.
1. My lords, my brethren, and fellow bishops have deigned to visit us and gladden us by their presence; but I know not why they are unwilling to assist me, when wearied. I have said this to you, Beloved, in their hearing, that your hearing may in a manner intercede for me with them, that when I ask them they also may discourse unto you in their turn. Let them dispense what they have received, let them vouchsafe to work rather than excuse themselves. Be pleased, however, to hear from me, fatigued though I be and have difficulty in speaking, a few words only. For we have besides a record of God’s mercies vouchsafed through a holy Martyr, which we must give willing audience to altogether.1 What is it then? what shall I say unto you? Ye have heard in the Gospel both the due recompense2 of the good servants, and the punishment of the bad. And the whole wickedness of that servant who was reprobate and severely condemned, was that he would not put out his money to use. He kept the entire sum he had received; but the Lord looked for profit from it. God is coveteous with regard to our salvation. If he who did not put out to use is so condemned, what must they look for who lose what they have received? We then are the dispensers, we put out, ye receive. We look for profit; do ye live well. For this is the profit in our dealings with you. But do not think that this office of putting out to use does not belong to you also. Ye cannot execute it indeed from this elevated seat, but ye can wherever ye chance to be. Wherever Christ is attacked, defend Him; answer murmurers, rebuke blasphemers, from their fellowship keep yourselves apart. So do ye put out to use, if ye make gain of any. Discharge our office in your own houses. A bishop is called from hence, because he super-intends, because he takes care and attends to others. To every man then, if he is the head of his own house, ought the office of the Episcopate to belong, to take care how his household believe, that none of them fall into heresy, neither wife, nor son, nor daughter, nor even his slave, because he has been bought at so great a price. The Apostolic teaching has set the master over the slave, and put the slave under the master;3 nevertheless Christ gave the same price for both. Do not neglect then the least of those belonging to you, look after the salvation of all your household with all vigilance. This if ye do, ye put out to use; ye will not be slothful servants, ye will not have to fear so horrible a condemnation.
1 Vid. Serm. 29,(lxxix. Ben)..
3 (Ep 6,5 Tt 2,9 Tt 2
95 On the words of the gospel, Mc 8,5 etc., Where the miracle of the seven loaves is related.
1). In expounding to you the Holy Scriptures, I as it were break bread for you. Do ye in hunger receive it, and break1 forth with a fulness of phrase from the heart; and ye who are rich in your banquet, be not meagre in good works and deeds. What I deal out to you is not mine own. What ye eat, I eat; what ye live upon, I live upon. We have in heaven a common store-house; for from thence comes, the Word of God.
2. The “seven loaves”2 signify the seven-fold operation of the Holy Spirit; the “four thousand men,” the Church established on thefour Gospels; “the seven baskets of fragments,” the perfection of the Church. For by this number very constantly is perfection figured. For whence is that which is said, “seven times in a day will I praise thee”?3 Does a man sin who does not praise the Lord so often? What then is “seven times will I praise,” but “I will never cease from praise”? For he who says “seven times,” signifies all time. Whence inthis world there are continual revolutions of seven days. What then is “seven times in a day will I praise Thee,” but what is said in another place, “His praise shall always be in my mouth”?4 With reference to this perfection, John writes to seven Churches. The Apocalypse is a book of St. John the Evangelist; and he writes“to seven Churches.”5 Be ye hungered;6 own ye these baskets. For those fragments were not lost; but seeing that ye too belong to the Church, they have surely profited you. In that I explain this to you, I minister to Christ; and when ye hear peaceably, ye “sit down.”7 I in my body sit, but in my heart I am standing, and ministering to you in anxiety; lest peradventure, not the food, but the vessel offend any of you. Ye know the feast of God, ye have often heard it, that it is for the heart, not for the belly.
3. Of a truth four thousand men were filled by seven loaves; what is more wonderful than this! Yet even this were not enough, had not seven baskets also been filled with the fragments that remained. O great mysteries! they were works, and the works spake. If thou understand these doings, they are words. And ye too belong to the four thousand, because ye live under the fourfold Gospel. To this number the children and women did not belong. For so it is said, “And they that did eat were four thousand men, excepting women and children.”8 As though the void of understanding, and the effeminate were without number. Yet let even these eat. Let them eat: it may be the children will grow, and will be children no more; it may be the effeminate will be amended, and become chaste. Let them eat; we dispense, we deal out to them. But who these are, God inspecteth His feast, and if they do not amend themselves, He who knew how to invite them thither, knoweth also how to separate them from the rest.
4. Ye know it, dearly Beloved; call to mind the parable of the Gospel, how that the Lord came in to inspect the guests at a certain feast of His. The Master of the house who had invited them, as it is written, “found there a man which had not on a wedding garment.”9 For to the marriage had that Bridegroom invited them who is “fair in beauty above the children of men.” That Bridegroom became deformed because of His deformed spouse, that he might make her fair. How did the Fair One become deformed? If I do not prove it, I am blaspheming. The testimony of his fair beauty the Prophet gives me, who saith, “Thou art fair in beauty above the children of men.”10 The testimony of his deformity another Prophet gives me, who saith, “We saw Him, and He had no grace, nor beauty; but His countenance was marred, and His whole look11 deformed.”12 O Prophet, who saidst, “Thou art fair in beauty above the children of men;” thou art contradicted; another Prophet cometh out against thee, and saith, “Thou speakest falsely. We have seen Him. What is this that thou sayest, ‘Thou art fair in beauty above the children of men? We have seen Him, and He had no grace nor beauty.’“ Are then these two Prophets at disagreement in the Corner-stone of peace? Both spake of Christ, both spake of the Cornerstone. In the corner the wails unite. If they do not unite, it is not a building, but a ruin. No, the Prophets agree, let us not leave them in strife. Yea, rather let us understand their peace; for they know not how to strive. O Prophet, who saidst, “Thou art fair in beauty above the children of men;” where didst thou see Him? Answer me, answer where didst thou see Him? “Being in the form of God, He thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”13 There I saw Him. Dost thou doubt that He who is “equal with God” is “fair in beauty above the children of men”? Thou hast answered; now let him answer who said, “We saw Him, and He had no grace, nor beauty.” Thou hast said so; tell us where didst thou see Him? He begins from the other’s words; where the other ended, there he begins. Where did he end? “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” Lo, where he saw Him who was “fair in beauty above the children of men;” do thou tell us,where thou sawest that “He had no grace norbeauty. But He emptied Himself, taking theform of a servant, being made in the likeness ofmen, and found in fashion as a man.”14 Of His deformity he still further says; “He humbledHimself, having become obedient unto death even the death of the cross.” Lo, where I saw Him. Therefore are they both in peacefulconcord, both are at peace together. What ismore “fair” than God? What more “deformed” than the Crucified?
5. So then this Bridegroom, “fair in beauty above the children of men,” became deformed that He might make His Spouse fair to whom it is said, “O thou beauteous among women,”15 ofwhom it is said, “Who is this that cometh up, whitened”16 with the brightness of light, not the colouring of falsehood! He then who called them to the wedding, found a man who had not a wedding garment, and He said unto him, “Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.” For he found not what to answer. And the Master of the house Who had invited him said, “Bind him hands and feet, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”17 For so small a fault, so great a punishment? For great it is. It is called a small fault not to have “the wedding garment;” small, but only by those who do not understand. How would He have been so incensed, how would He have so judged, to cast him, on account of the wedding garment which he had not, “bound hands and feet into outer darkness, where was weeping and gnashing of teeth,” unless it had been a very grievous fault, not to have “the wedding garment”? I say this; seeing ye have been invited through me; for though He invited you, He invited you by my ministry. Ye are all at the feast, have the wedding garment. I will explain what it is, that ye may all have it, and if any one now hears me who has it not, let him, before the Master of the house comes and inspects His guests, be changed for the better, let him receive “the wedding garment,” and so sit down in all assurance.
6. For in truth, dearly Beloved, he who was cast forth from the feast, does not signify one man; far from it. They are many. And the Lord Himself who put forth this parable, the Bridegroom Himself, who calleth together to the feast, and quickeneth whom He calleth, He hath Himself explained to us, that that man does not denote one man, but many, there, in that very place, in the same parable. I do not go far for this, I find the explanation there, there I break the bread, and set it before you to be eaten. For He said, when he who had not “the wedding garment was cast out thence into outer darkness,” He said and added immediately, “for many are called, but few chosen.”18 Thou hast cast forth one man from hence, and Thou sayest, “for many are called, but few chosen.” Without doubt the chosen are not cast forth; and they were the few guests who remained; and the “many” were represented in that one, because that one who hath not “the wedding garment” is the body of the wicked.
7. What is “the wedding garment”? Let us search for it in the Holy Scriptures. What is “the wedding garment “? Without doubt it is something which the bad and good have not in common; let us discover this, and we shall discover “the wedding garment.” Among the gifts of God, what have not the good and bad in common?19 That we are men and not beasts, is a gift of God; but this is common to good and bad. That the light from heaven rises upon us, that the rain descends from the cloud, the fountains flow, the fields yield their fruit; these are gifts, but common to the good and bad. Let us go to the marriage feast, let us leave the others without, who being called come not. Let us consider the guests themselves, that is, Christians. Baptism is a gift of God, the good and bad have it. The Sacraments of the Altar the good and bad receive together. Saul prophesied for all his wickedness, and in his rage against a holy and most righteous man, even while he was persecuting him, he prophesied. Are the good only said to believe? “The devils also believe and tremble.”20 What shall I do? I have sifted all, and have not yet come to “the wedding garment.” I have unfolded my envelopings, I have considered all, or almost all, and have not yet come to that garment. The Apostle Paul in a certain place has brought me a great collection21 of excellent things; he has laid them open before me, and I have said to him, “Show me, if so be thou hast found among them that ‘wedding garment.’“ He begins to unfold them one by one, and to say, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of Angels, though I have all knowledge, and the gift of prophecy, and all faith, so that I could remove mountains; though I distribute all my goods to the poor, and give my body to be burned.”22 Precious garments! nevertheless, there is not yet here that “wedding garment.” Now bring out to us “the wedding garment.” Why dost thou keep us in suspense, O Apostle? Peradventure prophecy is a gift of God which both good and bad have not. “If,” says He, “I have not charity, nothing profiteth me.” See “the wedding garment;” put it on, ye guests, that ye may sit down securely. Do not say; “we are too poor to have that garment.” Clothe others, and ye are clothed yourselves. It is winter, clothe the naked. Christ is naked; and He will give you that “wedding garment” whosoever have it not. Run to Him, beseech Him; He knoweth how to sanctify His faithful ones, He knoweth how to clothe His naked ones. That ye may be able as having “the wedding garment” to be free from. the fear of the outer darkness, and the binding of your members and hands and feet; let not your works fail. If they fail, with hands bound what canst thou do? with feet bound, whither wilt thou fly? Keep then that “wedding garment,” put it on, and so sit down in security, when He comes to inspect. The Day of Judgment will come; He is now giving a long space, let himwho erewhile was naked now be clothed.
1 Saginam laudis eructuate.
2 (Mc 8,6
3 (Ps 119,164
4 (Ps 34,1
5 (Ap 1,4
6 Voraces, Edd. ant.; veraces, B from 1 Ms. 2da manu.
7 (Mc 8,6
8 (Mt 15,38
9 (Mt 22,11
10 (Ps 44,3).
12 (Is 53,2 Sept.
13 (Ph 2,6
14 (Ph 2,7-8.
15 (Ct 1,8
16 (Ct 8,5), Sept). Dealbata, “not as women whiten themselves, who would appear what they are not; not as a whitened wall,—not thus whitened, but enlightened, because not of itself white.—Grace came illumining and whitening; first thou wert black, but hast been made white by His grace. For ye were darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.” St. Aug). In Ps. 103, s. 1, § 6.
17 (Mt 22,12 etc.
18 (Mt 22,14
19 Vid.Serm. 40,(xc. Ben). 5, etc).
20 (Jc 2,19
22 (1Co 13,1 etc.
96 On the words of the gospel, Mc 8,34 “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself,” etc. And on the words 1 John chapter ii, verse 15, “if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
1). Hard and grievous does that appear which the Lord hath enjoined, that “whosoever will come after Him, must deny himself.”1 But what He enjoineth is not hard or grievous, who aideth us that what He enjoineth may be done. For both is that true which is said to Him in the Psalm, “Because of the words of Thy lips I have kept hard ways.”2 And that is true which He said Himself, “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”3 For whatsoever is hard in what is enjoined us, charity makes easy. We know what great things love itself can do. Very often is this love even abominable and impure; but how great hardships have men suffered, what indignities and intolerable things have they endured, to attain to the object of their love? whether it be a lover of money who is called covetous; or a lover of honour, who is called ambitious; or a lover of beautiful women, who is called voluptuous. And who could enumerate all sorts of loves? Yet consider what labour all lovers undergo, and are not conscious of their labours; and then does any such one most feel labour, when he is hindered from labour. Since then the majority of men are such as their loves are, and that there ought to be no other care for the regulation of our lives, than the choice of that which we ought to love; why dost thou wonder, if he who loves Christ, and who wishes to follow Christ, for the love of Him denies himself? For if by loving himself man is lost, surely by denying himself be is found.
2. The first destruction of man, was the love of himself. For if he had not loved himself, if he had preferred God to himself, he would have been willing to be ever subject unto God; and would not have been turned to the neglect of His will, and the doing his own will. For this is to love one’s self, to wish to do one’s own will. Prefer to this God’s will; learn to love thyself by not loving thyself. For that ye may know that it is a vice to love one’s self, the Apostle speaks thus, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves.”4 And can he who loves himself have any sure trust in himself? No; for he begins to love himself by forsaking God, and is driven away from himself to love those things which are beyond himself; to such a degree that when the aforesaid Apostle had said,” Men shall be lovers of their own selves,” he subjoined immediately, “lovers of money.” Already thou seest that thou art without. Thou hast begun to love thyself: stand in thyself if thou canst. Why goest thou without? Hast thou, as being rich in money, become a lover of money? Thou hast begun to love what is without thee, thou hast lost thyself. When a man’s love then goes even away froth himself to those things which are without, he begins to share thevanity of his vain desires, and prodigal as it were to spend his strength. He is dissipated, exhausted, without resource or strength, he feeds swine; and wearied with this office of feeding swine, he at last remembers what he was, and says, “How many hired servants of my Father’s are eating bread, and I here perish with hunger!”5 But when the son in the parable says this, what is said of him, who had squandered all he had on harlots, who wished to have in his own power what was being well kept for him with his father; he wished to have it at his own disposal, he squandered all, he was reduced to indigence: what is said of him? “And when he returned to himself.” If“he returned to himself,” he had gone away from himself. Because he had fallen from himself, had gone away from himself, he returns first to himself, that he may return to that state from which he had fallen away by falling from himself. For as by falling away from himself, he remained in himself; so by returning to himself, he ought not to remain in himself, lest he again go away from himself. Returning then to himself, that he might not remain in himself, what did he say? “I will arise and go to my Father.”6 See, whence he had fallen away from himself, he had fallen away from his Father; he had fallen away from himself, he had gone away from himself to those things which are without. He returns to himself, and goes to his Father, where he may keep himself in all security. If then he had gone awayfrom himself, let him also in returning to himself,from whom he had gone away, that he may “go to his Father,” deny himself. What is “deny himself”? Let him not trust in himself, let him feel that he is a man, and have respect to the words of the prophet, “Cursed is every one that putteth his hope in than.”7 Let him withdraw himself from himself, but not towards things below. Let him withdraw himself from himself, that he may cleave unto God. Whatever of good he has, let him commit to Him by whom he was made; whatever of evil he has, he has made it for himself.The evil that is in him God made not; let himdestroy what himself has done, who has beenthereby undone. “Let him deny himself,” He saith, “and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
3. And whither must the Lord be followed? Whither He is gone, we know; but a very few days since we celebrated the solemn memorial of it. For He has risen again, and ascended into heaven; thither must He be followed. Undoubtedly we must not despair of it, because He hath Himself promised us, not because man can do anything. Heaven was far away from us, before that our Head had gone into heaven. But now why should we despair, if we are members of that Head? Thither then must He be followed. And who would be unwilling to follow Him to such an abode? Especially seeing that we are in so great travail on earth with fears and pains. Who would be unwilling to follow Christ thither, where is supreme felicity, supreme peace, perpetual security? Good is it to follow Him thither: but we must see by what way we are to follow. For the Lord Jesus did not say the words we are engaged in, when He had now risen from the dead. He had not yet suffered, He had still to come to the Cross, had to come to His dishonouring, to the outrages, the scourging, the thorns, the wounds, the mockeries, the insults, Death. Rough as it were is the way; it makes thee to be slow; thou hast no mind to follow. But follow on. Rough is the way which man has made for himself, but what Christ hath trodden in His passage is worn smooth. For who would not wish to go to exaltation? Elevation is pleasing to all; but humility is the step to it. Why dost thou put out thy foot beyond thee? Thou hast a mind to fall, not to ascend. Begin by the step, and so thou hast ascended. This step of humility those two disciples were loth to have an eye to, who said, “Lord, bid that one of us may sit at Thy right hand, and the other at the left in Thy kingdom.”8 They sought for exaltation, they did not see the step. But the Lord showed them the step. For what did He answer them? “Ye who seek the hill of exaltation, can ye drink the cup of humiliation?” And therefore He does not say simply, “Let him deny himself, and follow Me” howsoever: but He said more, “Let him take up his cross, and follow Me.”
4. What is, “Let him take up his cross “? Let him bear whatever trouble he has; so let him follow Me. For when he shall begin to follow Me in conformity to My life and precepts, he will have many to contradict him, he will have many to hinder him, he will have many to dissuade him, and that from among those who are even as it were Christ’s companions. They who hindered the blind men from crying out were walking with Christ.9 Whether therefore they be threats or caresses, or whatsoever hindrances there be, if thou wish to follow, turn them into thy cross, bear it, carry it, do not give waybeneath it. There seems to be an exhortation to martyrdom in these words of the Lord. If there be persecution, ought not all things to be despised in consideration of Christ? The world is loved; but let Him be preferred by whom the world was made. Great is the world; but greater is He by whom the world was made. Fair is the world; but fairer is He by whom the world was made. Sweet is the world; but sweeter is He by whom the world was made. Evil is the world; and good is He by whom the world was made. How shall I be able to explain and unravel what I have said? May God help me? For what have I said? what have ye applauded? See, it is but a question, and yet ye have already applauded. How is the world evil, if He by whom the world was made is good? Did not God make all things, “and behold they were very good “? Does not Scripture at each severalwork of creation testify that God made it good, by saying, “And God saw that it was good,”and at the end summed them all up togetherthus how that God had made them, “And behold they were very good”?10
5. How then is the world evil, and He good by whom the world was made? How? “Since the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.”11 The world was made by Him, the heaven and earth and all things that are in them: “the world knew Him not,” the lovers of the world; the lovers of the world and the despisers of God; this “world knew Him not.” So then the world is evil, because they are evil who prefer the world to God. And He is good who made the world, the heaven, and earth, and sea, and themselves who love the world. For this only, that they love the world and do not loveGod, He made not in them. But themselves, all that appertains to their nature He made; what appertains to guiltiness, He made not. This is that I said a little while ago, “Let man efface what he has made, and so will he be well-pleasing to Him who made Him.”
6. For there is among men themselves a good world also; but one that has been made good from being evil. For the whole world if you take the word “world” for men, putting aside (what we call the world) the heaven and earth and all things that in them are; if you take the world for men, the whole world did he who first sinned make evil. The whole mass was corrupted in the root. God made man good; so runs the Scripture, “God made man upright; and men themselves found out many cogitations.”12 Run from these “many” to One, gather up thyscattered things into one: flow on together, fence thyself in, abide with One; go not to many things. There is blessedness. But we have flowed away, have gone on to perdition: we were all born with sin, and to that sin wherein we were born have we too added by our evil living, and the whole world has become evil. But Christ came, and He chose that which He made, not what He found; for He found all evil, and by His grace He made them good. And so was made another “world;” and the “world” now persecutes the “world.”
7. What is the “world” which persecutes? That of which it is said to us, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever,”13 even as God abideth for ever. Lo! have spoken of two “worlds,” the “world” which persecutes, and that which it persecutes. What is the “world” which persecutes? “All that is the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but of the world;” and “the world passeth away.” Lo, this is the “world” which persecutes. What is the “world” which it persecutes? “He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever,” even as God abideth for ever.
8. But see, that which persecutes is called the “world;” let us prove whether that also which suffers persecution is called “the world.” What! Art thou deaf to the voice of Christ who speaketh, or rather to Holy Scripture which testifieth, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.”14 “If the world hate you, know ye that it first hated Me.”15 See, the “world” hates. What does it hate but the “world”? What “world”? “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.” The condemned “world” persecutes; the reconciled “world” suffers persecution. The condemned “world” is all that is without the Church; the reconciled “world” is the Church. For He says, “The Son of Man came not to judge the world, but that the world through Him may be saved.”16
9. Now in this world, holy, good, reconciled, saved, or rather to be saved, and now saved in hope, “for we are saved in hope;”17 in this world, I say, that is in the Church which wholly follows Christ, He hath said as of universal application, “Whosoever will follow Me, let him deny himself.” For it is not that the virgins ought to give ear to this, and the married women ought not; or that the widows ought, and the women who still have their husbands ought not; or that monks ought, and the married men ought not; or that the clergy ought, and the laymen ought not: but let the whole Church, the whole body, all the members, distinguished and distributed throughout their several offices, follow Christ. Let the whole Church follow Him, that only Church, let the dove follow Him, let the spouse follow Him, let her who has been redeemed and endowed with the Bridegroom’s blood, follow Him. There virgin purity hath its place; there widowed continence hath its place; married chastity there hath its place; but adultery hath no place of its own there; and no place there hath lasciviousness, unlawful and meet for punishment. But let these several members which have their place there, in their kind and place and measure, “follow Christ;” let them “deny themselves;” that is, let them presume nothing of themselves: let them “take up their cross,” that is, let them in the world endure for Christ’s sake whatever the world may bring upon them. Let them love Him, who Alone doth not deceive, who Alone is not deceived, Alone deceiveth not; let them love Him, for that is true which He doth promise. But because He doth not give at once, faith wavers. Hold on, persevere, endure, bear delay and thou hast borne the cross.
10. Let not the virgin say, “I shall alone be there.” For Mary shall not be there alone but the widow Anna shall be there also. Let notthe woman which hath an husband say, “The widow will be there, not I;” for it is not that Anna will be there, and Susanna not be there. But by all means let them who would be there prove themselves hereby, that they who have here a lower place envy not, but love in others the better place. For, for instance, my Brethren, that ye may understand me; one man has chosen a married life, another a life of continence; if he who has chosen the married life, has adulterous lusts, he has “looked back;” he has lusted after that which is unlawful. He too who would wish afterwards to return from continence to a married life, has “looked back;” he has chosen what is in itself lawful, yet he has “looked back.” Is marriage then to be condemned? No. Marriage is not to be condemned; but see whither he had come who has chosen it. He had already got before it. When he was living as a young man in voluptuousness, marriage was before him; he was making hisway towards it; but when he had chosen continence, marriage was behind him. “Remember,” saith the Lord, “Lot’s wife.”18 Lot’s wife, by looking behind, remained motionless. To whatever point then any one has been able to reach, let him fear to “look back” from thence; and let him walk in the way, let him “follow Christ.” “Forgetting those things which are behind, and stretching forth unto those things which are before, let him by an earnest inward intention press on toward the prize of the calling of God in Christ Jesus.”19 Let those that are married regard the unmarried as above themselves; let them acknowledge that they are better; let them in them love what themselves have not; and let them in them love Christ.
1 (Mc 8,34
2 (Ps 16,4 Sept. (xvii. English version).
3 (Mt 11,30
4 2Tm 3,2).
5 (Lc 15,17
6 (Lc 15,18
7 (Jr 17,5
8 (Mc 10,37
9 Vid. Serm. 38,(lxxxviii. Ben). 13 (xiv). Mt 20,31).
10 (Gn 1
11 (Jn 1,10
12 (Qo 7,30 Sept. (vii. 29, English version).
13 (1Jn 2,15 etc.
14 (2Co 5,19
15 (Jn 15,18
16 (Jn 3,17
17 (Rm 8,24).
18 (Lc 17,32
19 (Ph 3,13-14.
97 On the words of the gospel, Mc 13,32 “But of that day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in Heaven, neither the son, but the Father.
1). The advice, Brethren, which ye have just heard Scripture give, when it tells us to watch for the last day, every one should think of as concerning his own last day; lest haply when ye judge or think the last day of the world to be far distant, ye slumber with respect to your own last day. Ye have heard what Jesus said concerning the last day of this world, “That neither the Angels of heaven, nor the Son knew it, but the Father.”1 Where indeed there is a great difficulty, lest understanding this in a carnal way, we think that the Father knoweth anything which the Son knoweth not. For indeed when He said, “the Father knoweth it;” He said this because in the Father the Son also knoweth it. For what is there in a day which was not made by the Word, by whom the day was made? Let no one then search out for the last Day, when it is to be; but let us watch all by our goodlives, lest the last day of any one of us find us unprepared, and such as any one shall depart hence on his last day, such he be found in the last day of the world. Nothing will then assist thee which thou shalt not have done here. His own works will succour, or his own works will overwhelm every one.
2. And how have we in the Psalm sung unto the Lord, “Lord, have mercy on me, for man hath trodden me down”?2 He is called a man who lives after the manner of men. For it is said to them who live after God, “Ye are gods, and ye are all the children of the Most High.”3 But to the reprobate, who were called to be the sons of God, and who wished rather to be men, that is, to live after the manner of men, he says, “But ye shall die like men, and fall as one of the princes.”4 For that man is mortal, ought to avail for his instruction, not for boasting. Whereupon does a worm that is to die on the morrow boast himself? I speak to your love, Brethren; proud mortals ought to be made blush by the devil. For he, though proud, is yet immortal; he is a spirit, though a malignant one. The last day is kept in store for him at the end as his punishment; nevertheless he is not subject to the death to which we are subject. But man heard the sentence, “Thou shalt surely die.”5 Let him make a good use of his punishment. What is that I have said, “Let him make a good use of his punishment”? Let him not by that from which he received his punishment fall into pride; let him acknowledge that he is mortal, and let it break down his elation. Let him hear it said to him, “Why is earth and ashes proud?”6 Even if the devil is proud, he is not “earth and ashes.” Therefore was it said, “But ye shall die like men, and shall fall as one of the princes.”7 Ye do not consider that ye are mortals, and ye are proud as the devil. Let man then make a good use of his punishment, Brethren; let him make a good use of his evil, that he may make advancement to his good. Who does not know, that the necessity of our dying is a punishment; and the more grievous, that we know not when? The punishment is certain, the hour uncertain; and of that punishment alone are we certain in the ordinary course of human affairs.
3. All else of ours, both good and evil, is uncertain; death alone is certain. What is this that I say? A child is conceived, perhaps it will be born, perhaps it will be an untimely birth. So it is uncertain: Perhaps he will grow up, perhaps he will not grow up; perhaps he will grow old, perhaps he will not grow old; perhaps he will be rich, perhaps poor; perhaps he will be distinguished, perhaps abased; perhaps he will have children, perhaps he will not; perhaps he will marry, perhaps not; and so on, whatever else among good things you may name. Now look too at the evils of life: Perhaps he will have sickness, perhaps he will have not; perhaps he will be stung by a serpent, perhaps not; perhap she will be devoured by a wild beast, perhaps he will not. And so look at all evils; everywhere is there a “perhaps it will be,” and “perhaps itwill not.” But canst thou say, “Perhaps he will die,” and “perhaps he will not die”?8 As when medical men examine an illness, and ascertain that it is fatal, they make this announcement; “He will die, he will not get over this.” So from the moment of a man’s birth, it may be said, “He will not get over this.” When he is born he begins to be ailing. When he dies, he ends indeed this ailment: but he knows not whether he does not fall into a worse. The rich man in the Gospel had ended his voluptuous ailment, he came to a tormenting one. But the poor man ended his ailment, and arrived at perfect health.9 But he made choice in this life of what he was to have hereafter; and what he reaped there, he sowed here. Therefore while we live we ought to watch, and to make choice of that which we may possess in the world to come.
4. Let us not love the world. It overwhelms its lovers, it conducts them to no good. We must rather labour in it that it seduce us not, than fear lest it should fall. Lo, the world falleth; the Christian standeth firm; because Christ doth not fall. For wherefore saith the Lord, “Rejoice, for that I have overcome the world”?10 We might answer Him if we pleased, “‘Rejoice,’ yes do Thou rejoice. If Thou ‘hast overcome,’ do thou rejoice. Why should we?” Why doth He say to us, “Rejoice;” but because it is for us that He hath overcome, for us hath fought?For wherein fought He? In that He took man’s nature upon Him. Take away His birth of a virgin, take away that He emptied Himself,“taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and found in fashion as a man;”11 take away this, and where is the combat, where the contest? where the trial? where the victory, which no battle has preceded? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made.”12 Could the Jews have crucified this Word? Could those impious men have mocked this Word? Could this Word have been buffeted? Could this Word have been crowned with thorns? But that He might suffer all this, “the Word was made flesh;”13 and after He had suffered all this, by rising again He “overcame.” So then He hath “overcome” for us, to whom He hath shown the assurance of His resurrection. Thou sayest then to God, “Have mercy upon the, O Lord, for man hath trodden me down.”14 Do not “tread down” thyself, and man will not overcome thee. For, lo, some powerful man alarms thee. By what does he alarm thee? “I will spoil thee, will condemn, will torture, will kill thee.” And thou criest, “Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for man hath trodden me down.” If thou say the truth, and mark thyself well, one dead “treads thee down,” because thou art afraid of the threats of a man; and man “treads thee down,” because thou wouldest not be afraid, unless thou wert a man. What is the remedy then? O man, cleave to God, by whom thou wast made a man; cleave fast to Him, put thy affiance in Him, call upon Him, let Him be thy strength. Say to Him, “In Thee, O Lord, is my strength.” And then thou shalt sing at the threatenings of men; and what thou shalt sing hereafter, the Lord Himself telleth thee, “I will hope in God, I will not fear what man can do unto me.”15
1 (Mc 13,32
2 (Ps 55,2 Sept. (lvi. 1, English version).
3 (Ps 82,6).
4 (Ps 82,7
5 (Gn 2,17
6 (Si 10,9
7 (Ps 82,7
8 Vid. Serm. xxvii (lxxvii. Ben). 14 (x)..
9 (Lc 16,22
10 (Jn 16,33
11 (Ph 2,7
12 (Jn 1,1 Jn 1,3
13 (Jn 1,14
14 (Ps 55,2 Sept. (lvi. 1, English version)).
15 (Ps 56,11
Augustine on NT 94