Augustine on NT 126
126 On the words of the gospel, Jn 5,19 “The son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father doing.”
1). The mysteries and secrets of the kingdom of God first seek for believing men, that they may make them understanding. For faith is understanding’s step; and understanding faith’s attainment.1 This the Prophet expressly says to all who prematurely and in undue order look for understanding, and neglect faith. For he says, “Unless ye believe, ye shall not understand.”2 Faith itself then also hath a certain light of its own in the Scriptures, in Prophecy, in the Gospel, in the Lessons of the Apostles. For all these things which are read to us in this present time, are lights in a dark place, that we may be nourished up unto the day. The Apostle Peter says, “We have a more sure word of prophecy, where-unto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts.”3
2. Ye see then, Brethren, how exceedingly unregulated and disordered in their haste are they who like immature conceptions seek an untimely birth before the birth; who say to us, “Why dost thou bid me believe what I do not see? Let me see something that I may believe. Thou biddest me believe whilst yet I see not; I wish to see, and by seeing to believe, not by hearing.” Let the Prophet speak. “Unless ye believe, ye shall not understand.” Thou wishest to ascend, and dost forget the steps. Surely, out of all order. O man, if I could show thee already what thou mightest see, I should not exhort thee to believe.
3. Faith4 then, as it has been elsewhere defined, is “the firm support of those who hope5 the evidence of things which are not seen.”6 If they are not seen, how are they evidenced to be? What! Whence are these things which thou seest, but from That which thou seest not? To be sure thou dost see somewhat that thou mayest believe somewhat, and froth that thou seest, mayest believe what thou seest not. Be not ungrateful to Him who hath made thee see, whereby thou mayest be able to believe what as yet thou canst not see. God hath given thee eyes in the body, reason in the heart; arouse the reason of the heart, wake up the interior inhabitant of thine interior eyes, let it take to its windows, examine the creature of God. For there is one within who sees by the eyes. For when thy thoughts within thee are on any other subject, and the inhabitant within is turned away, the things which are before thine eyes thou seest not. For to no purpose are the windows open, when he who looks through them is away. It is not then the eyes that see, but some one sees by the eyes; awake him, arouse him. For this hath not been denied thee; God hath made thee a rational animal, set thee over the cattle, formed thee after His Own image. Oughtest thou to use them as the cattle do; only to see what to add to thy belly, not to thy soul? Stir up, I say, the eye of reason, use thine eyes as a man should, consider the heaven and earth, the ornaments of the heaven, the fruitfulness of the earth, the flight of the birds, the swimming of the fish, the virtue7 of the seeds, the order of the seasons; consider the works, and seek for the Author; take a view of what thou seest, and seek Him whom thou seest not. Believe on Him whom thou seest not, because of these things which thou seest. And lest thou think that it is with mine own words that I have exhorted thee; hear the Apostle saying, “For the invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen by those things which are made.”8
4. These things thou disregardedst, nor didst look upon them as a man, but as an irrational animal. The Prophet cried out to thee, and cried in vain. “Be ye not like to horse and mule, which have no understanding.”9 These things I say thou didst see, and disregard. God’s daily miracles were disesteemed, not for their easiness, but their constant repetition. For what is more difficult to understand than a man’s birth, that one who was in existence should by dying depart into darkness,10 and that one who was not, I by being born should come forth to light?11 What so marvellous, what so difficult to comprehend? But with God easy to be done. Marvel at these things, awake; at His unusual works, thou canst wonder, are they greater than those which thou art accustomed to see? Men wondered that our Lord God Jesus Christ filled so many thousands with five loaves;12 and they do not wonder that through a few grains the whole earth is filled with crops. When the water was made wine,13 men saw it, and were amazed; what else takes place with the rain along the root of the vine? He did the one, He does the other; the one that thou mayest be fed, the other that thou mayest wonder. But both are wonderful, for both are the works of God. Man sees unusual things, and wonders; whence is the man himself who wonders? where was he? whence came he forth? whence the fashion of his body? whence the distinction of his limbs? whence that beautiful form? from what beginnings? what contemptible beginnings? And he wonders at other things, when he the wonderer is himself a great wonder. Whence then are these things which thou seest but froth Him whom thou seest not? But as I had begun to say, because these things were disesteemed by thee, He came Himself to do unusual things, that in these usual ones too thou mightest acknowledge thy Creator.14 He came to Whom it is said, “Renew signs.”15 To Whom it is said, “Show forth Thy marvellous mercies.”16 For dispensing them He ever was; He dispensed them, and no one marvelled. Therefore came He a Little one to the little, He came a Physician to the sick, who was able to come when He would, to return when He would, to do whatsoever He would, to judge as He would. And this, His will, is very righteousness; yea what He willeth, I say, is very righteousness. For that is not unrighteous which He willeth, nor can that be right which He willeth not. He came to raise the dead, men marvelling that He restored a man to the light who was in light already, He who day by day bringeth forth to the light those who were not.
5. These things He did, yet was He despised by the many, who considered not so much what great things He did, as how small He was; as though they said within themselves, “These are divine things, but He is a man.” Two things then thou seest, divine works, and a man. If divine works cannot be wrought but by God, take heed lest in This Man God lie concealed. Attend, I say, to what thou seest, believe what thou seest not. He hath not abandoned thee, who hath called thee to believe; though He enjoin thee to believe that which thou canst not see: yet hath He not given thee up to see nothing whereby thou mayest be able to believe what thou dost not see. Is the creation itself a small sign, a small indication of the Creator? He also came, He did miracles. Thou couldest not see God, a man thou couldest; so God was made Man, that in One thou mightest have both what to see, and what to believe. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”17 Thus thou hearest, and as yet seest not. Lo, He comes, lo, He is born, lo, He comes forth of a woman, who made man and woman. He who made man and woman was not made by man and woman. For thou wouldest peradventure have been likely to despise Him for being born, the manner of His birth canst thou not despise; for He ever was before that He was born. Lo, I say, He took a Body, He was clothed in Flesh, He came forth from the womb.18 Dost thou now see? seest thou now, I say? I ask as to the Flesh, but I point out as to That Flesh; something thou seest, and something thou seest not. Lo, in this very Birth, there are at once two things, one which thou mayest see, and another thou mayest not see; but so that by this which thou seest, thou mayest believe that which thou seest not. Thou hadst begun to despise, because thou seest Him who was born; believe what thou dost not see, that He was born of a virgin. “How trifling a person,” says one, “is he who was born!” But how great is He who was of a virgin born! And He who was born of a virgin brought thee a temporal miracle; He was not born of a father, of any man, I mean, His father, yet was He born of the flesh. But let it not seem impossible to thee, that He was born by His mother only, Who made man before father and mother.
6. He brought thee then a temporal miracle, that thou mayest seek and admire Him who is Eternal. For He “who came forth as a Bridegroom out of His chamber,”19 that is, out of the virgin’s womb, where the holy nuptials were celebrated of the Word and the Flesh: He brought, I say, a temporal miracle; but He is Himself: eternal, He is coeternal with the Father, He it is, who “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”20 He did for thee whereby thou mightest be cured, that thou mightest be able to see what thou didst not see. What thou despisest in Christ, is not yet the contemplation of him that is made whole, but the medicine of the sick. Do not hasten to the vision of the whole. The Angels see, the Angels rejoice, the Angels feed Thereon and live; Whereon they feed faileth not, nor is their food minished. In the thrones of glory, in the regions of the heavens, in the parts which are above the heavens, the Word is seen by the Angels, and is their Joy; is their Food, and endureth. But in order that man might eat Angel’s Bread, the Lord of Angels became Man. This is our Salvation, the Medicine of the infirm, the Food of the whole.
7. And He spake to men, and said what ye have now heard, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do.”21 Is there now any one, think we, that understandeth this? Is there any one; think we, in whom the eye-salve of the flesh hath now its effect to the discerning in any fashion the brightness of the Divinity? He hath spoken, let us speak too; He, because the Word; we, because of the Word. And why speak we, howsoever we do it, of the Word? Because we were made by the Word after the likeness of the Word. As far then as we are capable of, as far as we can be partakers of that ineffableness, let us also speak, and let us not be contradicted. For our faith hath gone before, so that we may say, “I believed, therefore have I spoken.”22 I speak then that which I believe; whether or no I also see, or howsoever I see; He seeth rather; ye cannot see it. But when I shall have spoken, whether he who sees what I speak of, believe that I see too what I have spoken of, or whether he believe it not, what is that to me? Let him only really23 see, and let him believe what he will of me.
8. “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do.” Here rises up an error of the Arians; but it rises up that it may fall; because it is not humbled, that it may rise. What is it which hath set thee24 off? Thou wouldest say that the Son is less than the Father. For thou hast heard, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do.” From this thou wouldest have the Son called less; it is this I know, I know it is this hath set thee off; believe that He is not less, thou canst not as yet see it, believe, this is what I was saying a little while ago. “But how,” you will say, “am I to believe against His own words “? He saith Himself, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do.” Attend too to that which follows; “For what things soever the Father doeth, the same also doeth the Son likewise;” He did not say, “such things,” Beloved, consider a while, that ye cause not confusion25 to yourselves. There is need of a tranquil heart, a godly and devout faith, a religious earnest attention; attend, not to me the poor vessel, but to Him who putteth the bread in the vessel. Attend then a while. For in all that I have said above in exhorting you to faith, that the mind imbued with faith may be capable of understanding, all that has been said has had a pleasing, glad, and easy sound, has cheered your minds, ye have followed it, ye have understood what I said. But what I am now about to say I hope there are some who will understand; yet I fear that all will not understand. And seeing that God hath by the lesson of the Gospel proposed to us a subject to speak upon, and we cannot avoid that which the Master hath proposed; I fear lest haply they who will not understand, who perhaps will be the greater number, should think that I have spoken to them in vain; but yet because of those who will understand, I do not speak in vain. Let him who understandeth rejoice, let him who doth not understand bear it patiently; what he doth not understand, let him bear, and that he may understand, let him bear delay.
161 9. He doth not say then, “What things soever the Father doeth, such doeth the Son:” as if the Father doeth some things, and the Son others. For it did seem as though He had meant this when He said above, “The Son doeth nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do.” Mark; He did not there either say, “But what He heareth the Father enjoin;” but, “what He seeth the Father do.” If then we consult the carnal understanding, or sense rather, He hath set before Him as it were two workmen,26 the Father and the Son, the Father working without seeing any, the Son working from seeing the Father. This is still a carnal view. Nevertheless, in order to understand those things which are higher, let us not decline these lower and mean things. First, let us set something before our eyes in this way; let us suppose there are two workmen, father and son. The father has made a chest, which the son could not make, unless he saw the father making it: he keeps his mind on the chest which the father has made, and makes another chest like it, not the same. I put off for a while the words which follow, and now I ask the Arian; “Dost thou understand it in the sense of this supposition? Hath the Father done something, which when the Son saw Him do. He too hath done something like it? For do the words by which thou art perplexed seem to have this meaning?” Now He doth not say, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He heareth the Father enjoin.” But He saith, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do.” See, if thou understand it thus; the Father hath done something, and the Son attendeth that He may see what He Himself too hath to do; and that, some other thing like that which the Father had done. This which the Father hath done, by whom hath He done it? If, not by the Son, if not by the Word, thou hast incurred the charge of blasphemy against the Gospel. “For all things were made by Him.”27 So then what the Father had done, He had done by the Word; if by the Word He had done it, He had done it by the Son. Who then is that other who attends, that He may do some other thing which he seeth the Father do? Ye have not been wont to say that the Father hath two sons: there is One, One Only-Begotten of Him. But through His mercy, Alone as regards His Divinity and not Alone as regards the inheritance. The Father hath made coheirs with His Only Son; not begotten them like Him of His Own Substance, but adopted them by Him out of His Own family. For “we have been called,” as Holy Scripture testifieth, “into the adoption of sons.”28
10. What then sayest thou? It is the Only Son Himself That speaketh; the Only-Begotten Son speaketh in the Gospel: the Word Himself hath given us the words, we have heard Himself saying, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do.” Now then the Father doeth that the Son may see what to do; and nevertheless the Father doeth nothing but by the Son. Assuredly thou art confused, thou heretic, assuredly thou art confused; but thy confusion is as from taking hellebore, that thou mayest be cured. Even now thou canst not find thine own self, thou dost even thyself condemn thine own judgment and thy carnal view, I think. Put behind thee the eyes of the flesh, raise up what eyes thou hast in thine heart, behold things divine. They are men’s words it is true thou hearest, and by a man, by the Evangelist, by the Gospel thou hearest men’s words, as a man; but it is of the Word of God thou hearest, that thou mayest hear what is human, come to know what is Divine. The Master hath given trouble, that He might instruct; hath sown a difficulty,29 that He might excite an earnest attention. “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do.” It might follow30 that He should say,” For what things soever the Father doeth, the like doeth the Son.” This He doth not say; but, “What things soever the Father doeth, the same doeth the Son likewise.” The Father doeth not some things, the Son other things; because all things that the Father doeth, He doeth by the Son. The Son raised Lazarus; did not the Father raise him?31 The Son gave sight to the blind man; did not the Father give him sight?32 The Father by the Son in the Holy Ghost. It is the Trinity; but the operation of the Trinity is One, the Majesty One, the Eternity One, the Coeternity One, and the Works the Same. The Father doth not create some men, the Son others, the Holy Ghost others; the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost create one and the same man; and the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, One God, createth him.
11. You observe a Plurality of Persons, but acknowledge the Unity of the Divinity. For because of the Plurality of Persons it was said, “Let Us make man after Our image and likeness.” He did not say, “I will make man, and do Thou attend when I am making him, that Thou too mayest be able to make another.” “Let Us make,” He saith; I hear the Plurality; “after Our image; “33 again I hear the Plurality. Where then is the Singularity of the Divinity? Read what follows, “And God made man.”34 It is said, “Let Us make man;” and it is not said, “The Gods made man.” The Unity is understood in that it was said, “God made man.”
12. Where then is that carnal view?35 Be it confounded, hidden, brought to nought; let the Word of God speak to us. Even now as godly men, as believing already, as already imbued with faith, and having gotten some attainment36 of understanding, turn we to the Word Himself, to the Fountain of light, and let us say together, “0 Lord, the Father doeth ever the same things as Thou; for that whatsoever the Father doeth, by Thee He doeth it. We have heard that Thou art the Word in the beginning;37 we have not seen, but believed. There too have we heard what follows, that ‘all things were made by Thee.’38 All things then that the Father doeth, He doeth by Thee. Therefore Thou doest the same things as the Father. Why then didst Thou wish to say, ‘The Son can do nothing of Himself’? For I see a certain equality in Thee with the Father, in that I hear, ‘What things soever the Father doeth, the same doeth the Son;’ I recognise an equality, hereby I understand, and comprehend as far as I am able, ‘I and My Father are One.’”39 What meaneth it, that Thou canst do nothing, but what Thou seest the Father do? What meaneth this?”
13. Peradventure He would say to me, yea say to us all: “Now as to this that I have said, ‘The Son can do nothing, but what He seeth the Father do;’ My ‘Seeing’ how dost thou understand? My ‘Seeing,’ what is it? Put aside for a while the form of the servant which He took for thy sake. For in that servant’s form our Lord had eyes and ears in the Flesh, and that human form was the same figure of a Body, such as we bear, the same outlines of members. That Flesh had come from Adam: but He was not as Adam. So then the Lord walking whether on the earth or in the sea, as it pleased Him, as He would, for whatever He would, He could; looked at what He would; He fixed His eyes, He saw; He turned away His eyes, and did not see; who followed was behind Him, whoso could be seen, before Him; with the eyes of His Body, He saw only what was before Him. But from His Divinity nothing was hid. Put aside, put aside, I say, for a while the form of the servant, look at the Form of God in which He was before the world was made; in which He was equal to the Father; hereby receive and understand what He saith to thee, ‘Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.’40 There see Him if thou canst, that thou mayest be able to see what His ‘Seeing’ is.” “In the beginning was the Word.” How doth the Word see? Hath the Word eyes, or are our eyes found in Him, the eyes not of the flesh, but the eyes of godly hearts? For, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”41
14. Christ thou seest Man and God; He doth manifest to thee the Man, God He reserveth for thee. Now see how He reserveth God for thee, who doth manifest Himself to thee as Man. “Whoso loveth Me,” saith He, “keepeth My commandments; whoso loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him.”42 And as if it were asked, “What wilt Thou give to him whom Thou lovest?” “And I will manifest Myself,” saith He, “to him.” What meaneth this, Brethren? He whom they saw already, promised that He would manifest Himself to them. To whom? Those by whom He was seen, or those also by whom He was not seen? Thus speaking to a certain Apostle, who asked to see the Father, that it might suffice him, and said, “Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us”43 —Then He standing before this servant’s eyes, in the form of a servant, reserving for his eyes when44 deified45 the Form of God, saith to him, “Have I been so long time with you, and have ye not known Me? He that seeth Me, seeth the Father also.” Thou askest to see the Father; see Me, thou seest Me, and dost not see Me. Thou seest what for thee I bare assumed, thou dost not see What I have reserved for thee. Give ear to My commandments, purify thine eyes. “For whoso loveth Me, keepeth My commandments, and I will love him.” To him as keeping My commandments, and by My commandments made whole will I manifest Myself.
15. If then, Brethren, we are not able to see what the “Seeing” of the Word is, whither are we going? what Vision it may be with too great haste are we requiring? why are we wishing to have shown us what we are not able to see? These things accordingly are spoken of which we desire to see, not as what we are able already to comprehend. For if thou seest the “Seeing of the Word, peradventure in that thou seest the “Seeing of the Word, thou wilt see the Word Himself; that the Word may not be one thing, the “Seeing” of the Word another, lest there be Therein anything joined, and coupled, and double, and compacted. For It is something Simple, of a Simplicity ineffable. Not as with a man, the man is one thing, the man’s seeing another. For sometimes a man’s seeing is extinguished, and the man remains. This it is of which I said that I was about to say something which all would not be able to understand; the Lord even grant that some may have understood. My Brethren, to this end doth He exhort us, that we may see, that the “Seeing” of the Word is beyond our powers; for they are small; be they nourished, perfected. Whereby By the commandments. What commandments “He that loveth Me, keepeth My commandments. “46 What commandments? For already do we wish to increase, to be strengthened, perfected, that we may see the “Seeing” of the Word. Tell us, Lord, now what commandments? “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.”47 This charity then, Brethren, let us draw from the plentifulness of the Fountain, let us receive it; be nourished by it. Receive thou48 that whereby thou mayest be able to receive. Let charity give thee birth, let charity nourish thee; charity bring thee to perfection, charity strengthen thee; that thou mayest see this “Seeing” of the Word, that the Word is not one thing and His “Seeing” another, but that the “Seeing” of the Word is the Very Word Himself; and so perhaps thou wilt soon understand that that which is said, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do,” is as if He had said, “The Son would not be, if He had not been born of the Father.” Let this suffice, Brethren; I know that I have said that which perhaps, if meditated upon, may develop itself to many, which oftentimes when expressed in words may chance to be obscured.49
2 (Is 7,9 Sept.
3 (2P 1,19
4 Substantia; u;povstasi").
5 Sperantium, as St Augustin uniformly reads, Tract. 79 and 95, in Joh. de pecc. mer. 2,31. St, Ambrose and St. Jerome have the pass.
6 (He 11,1.
8 (Rm 1,20
9 (Ps 32,9
12 (Mt 14,21
13 (Jn 2,9
15 (Si 6,37
16 (Ps 16,7 Sept. (xvii. 7, English version)).
17 (Jn 1,1
18 The punctuation of the reprint of the Ben. has been followed, “Jamne vides jam, inquam, vides? carnem interrogo, sed carnem ostendo.” The Ben. pointed, “vides carnem,” but noted Locus mendosus. The meaning may be, “It is of His Birth in the Flesh that I enquire, but I point out the mode of that Birth, i.e. of a Virgin.”
19 (Ps 19,5
20 (Jn 1,1
21 (Jn 5,19
22 (Ps 116,10
27 (Jn 1,3
28 (Ep 1,5
31 (Jn 11
32 (Jn 9
33 (Gn 1,26
34 (Gn 1,27
37 (Jn 1,1
38 (Jn 1,3
39 (Jn 10,30
40 (Ph 2,6
41 (Mt 5,8
42 (Jn 14,21
43 (Jn 14,8
45 Vid. St. Athanasius, Treatise against Arians, Oxford edit. Nicene Def. ch. 3,12, § 14 and Disc. 1, ch. xi. § 39, p. 336, and note c). Vide St. Augustin, Ps. 49, § 2).
46 (Jn 14,21
47 (Jn 13,34
48 Cape per quod sis capax.
49 See Tract. 18 and 20 in Joh.
127 On the words of the gospel, Jn 5,25 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the son of God; and they that hear shall live,”etc.; And on the words of the apostle, “things whiche ye saw not,” etc., 1Co 2,9.
1). Our hope, Brethren, is not of this presenttime, nor of this world, nor in that happinesswhereby men are blinded that forget God. This ought we above all things to know, and in aChristian heart hold fast, that we were not made Christians for the good things of the present time, but for something else which God at once promiseth, and man doth not yet comprehend. For of this good it is said, “That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him.”1 Because then this good, so great, so excellent, so ineffable, fell not in with man’s understanding, it required God’s promise. For what hath been promised him, man blind of heart doth not now comprehend; nor can it be shown to him at present, what he will one day be to whom the promise is given. For so an infant child, if he could understand the words of one speaking, when himself could neither speak, nor walk, nor do anything, but feeble as we see be is, unable to stand,2 requiring the assistance of others, were able only to understand him who should speak to him and tell him, “Lo, as thou seest me walking, working, speaking, after a few years thou shall be as I am;” as he considered himself and the other, though he would see what was promised; yet considering his own feebleness, would not believe, and yet he would see what was promised. But with us infants, as it were, lying in this flesh and feebleness, that which is promised is at once great and is not seen; and so faith is aroused whereby we believe that we do not see that we may attain3 to see what we believe. Whosoever derideth this faith, so as to think that he is not to believe in that he doth not see; when that shall come which he believed not, is put to shame: being confounded is separated, being separated, is condemned. But whoso shall have believed, is put aside at the right hand, and shall stand with great confidence and joy among those to whom it shall be said, “Come, blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom which hath been prepared for you from the beginning of the world.”4 But the Lord made an end when He spake these words, thus, “These shall go into everlasting burning, but the righteous into life eternal.”5 This is the life eternal which is promised us.
2. Because men love to live on this earth, life is promised them; and because they exceedingly fear to die, eternal life is promised them. What dost thou love? To live. This shalt thou have. What dost thou fear? To die. Thou shalt not suffer it. This seemed to be enough for human infirmity, that it should be said, “Thou shalt have eternal life.” This the mind of man can comprehend, by its present condition it can in some sort comprehend what is to be. But by the imperfection of its present condition how far can it comprehend it? Because he lives, and does not wish to die; he loves eternal life, he wishes to live always, never to die. But they who shall be tormented in punishments, have even a wish to die, and cannot. It is no great thing then to live long, or to live for ever; but to live blessedly is a great thing. Let us love eternal life, and hereby may we know how greatly we ought to labour for eternal life, when we see men who love the present life, which lasts but for a time and must be brought to an end, labour so for it, that when the fear of death comes, they will do whatever they can, not to put away, but to put off death. How does a man labour, when death threatens, by flight, by concealment, by giving all he has, and redeeming himself, by toil, by endurance of torments and uneasinesses, by calling in physicians, and whatever else a man can do? See, how that after exhausting all his labour and his means, he is but able to contrive to live a little longer; to live always, he is not able. If then men strive with so great labour, with so great efforts, so great a cost, such earnestness, such watchfulness, such carefulness, that they may live a little longer; how should they strive that they may live for ever? And if they are called wise, who by all means strive to put off death, and live a few days, that they lose not a few days: how foolish are they who so live as to lose the day eternal!
162 3. This then only can be promised us, that this gift of God may in whatever measure be sweet to us, from this which we have at present; seeing that it is of His gift we have it, that we live, that we are in health. When then eternal life is promised, let us set before our eyes a life of such a kind, as to remove from it everything unpleasant which we suffer here. For it is easier for us to find what is not there, than what is there. Lo, here we live; we shall live there also. I Here we are in health when we are not sick, and there is no pain in the body; there we shall be in health also. And when it is well with us in this life, we suffer no scourge; we shall suffer none there also. Suppose then a man here below living, in sound health, suffering no scourge; if any one were to grant him that he should be for ever so, and that this good estate should never cease, how greatly would he rejoice? how greatly be transported? how would he not contain himself in joy without pain, without torment, without end of life? If God had promised us this only, which I have mentioned, which I have just now in such words as I was able, described and set forth; at what a price ought it to be purchased if it were to be sold, how great a sum ought to be given to buy it? Would all that thou hadst suffice, even though thou shouldest possess the whole world? And yet it is to be sold; buy it if thou wilt. And be not much disquieted for a thing so great, because of the largeness of the price. Its price is no more than what thou hast. Now to procure any great and precious thing, thou wouldest get ready gold, or silver, or money, or any increase of cattle, or fruits, which might be produced in thy possessions, to buy this I know not what great and excellent thing, whereby to live in this earth happily. Buy this too, if thou wilt. Do not look for what thou hast, but for what thou art. The price of this thing is thyself. Its price is what thou art thyself. Give thine own self, and thou shalt have it. Why art thou troubled? why disquieted? What? Art thou going to seek for thine own self, or to buy thyself? Lo, give thine own self as thou art, such as thou art to that thing, and thou shalt have it. But you will say, “I am wicked, and perhaps it will not accept me.” By giving thyself to it, thou wilt be good. The giving thyself to this faith and promise, this is to be good. And when thou shalt be good, thou wilt be the price of this thing; and shalt have, not only what I have mentioned, health, safety, life, and life without end; thou shalt not only have this, I will take away other things yet. There shall there be no weariness, and sleeping; there shall there be no hunger, and thirst; there shall there be no growing, and growing old; because there shall be no birth either where the numbers remain entire. The number that is there is entire; nor is there any need for it to be increased, seeing there is no chance of diminution there. Lo, how many things have I taken away, and I have not yet said what shall be there. Lo, already there is life, and safety; no scourge, no hunger, no thirst, no failing, none of these; and yet I have not said, “what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath ascended into the heart of man.” For if I have said it, it is false that is written, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it ascended into the heart of man.” For whence should it ascend into my heart, that I should say “that which hath not ascended into the heart of man”? It is believed, and not seen; not only not seen, but not even expressed. How then is it believed, if it is not expressed? Who believes what he doth not hear? But if he hear it that he may believe, it is expressed; if expressed, it is thought of; if thought of and expressed, then it entereth into the ears of men. And because it would not be expressed if it were not thought of, it hath ascended also into the heart of man. Lo, already the mere proposing of so great a thing disturbs us, that we cannot put it forth clearly in words. Who then can explain the thing itself?
4. Let us attend to the Gospel; just now the Lord was speaking, and let us do what He said. “He that believeth in Me,” saith He, “passeth from death unto life, and cometh not into judgment. Verily I say unto you, that the hour shall come, and now is, when the dead shall hear the Voice of the Son of God, and they that bear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.”6 By begetting Him He gave it; in that He begat, He gave it. For the Son is of the Father, not the Father of the Son; but the Father is the Father of the Son, and the Son is the Son of the Father. I say the Son is begotten of the Father, not the Father of the Son; and the Son was always, always therefore begotten. Who can comprehend this “always begotten “? For when any man hears of one begotten, it occurs to him; “Therefore there was a time, when he who was begotten was not.” What say we then? Not so; there was no time before the Son, for that “all things were made by Him.”7 If all things were made by Him,times also were made by Him; how could times be before the Son, by whom times were made? Take away then all times, the Son was with the Father always. If the Son were with the Father always, and yet the Son, He was begotten always; if begotten always, He who was begotten was always with Him That begat Him.
5. You will say, “This have I never seen, one begetting, and always with him whom be begat; but he that begat came first, and he that was begotten followed in time.” You say well, “I have never seen this;” for this appertains to “that which eye hath not seen.” Do you ask how it may be expressed? It cannot be expressed; “For the ear hath not heard, neither hath it ascended unto the heart of man.” Be it believed and adored, when we believe, we adore; when we adore, we grow; when we grow, we comprehend. For as yet whilst we are in this flesh, as long as we are absent from the Lord, we are, with respect to the Holy Angels who see these things, infants to be suckled by faith, hereafter to be fed by sight. For so saith the Apostle, “As long as we are in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.”8 We shall some day come to sight, which is thus promised us by John in his Epistle; “Dearly beloved, we are the sons of God, and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be.”9 We are the sons of God now by grace, by faith, by the Sacrament, by the Blood of Christ, by the redemption of the Saviour; “We are the sons of God, and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
6. Lo, unto the comprehending of what are we being nourished up; lo, unto the embracing and the feeding on what are we being nourished up; yet so as that that which is fed on is not diminished, and he that feedeth is supported. For now food supports us by eating it; but the food which is eaten, is diminished; but when we shall begin to feed on Righteousness, to feed on Wisdom, to feed on that Food Immortal, we are at once supported, and That Food is not diminished. For if the eye knows how to feed on light, and yet doth not diminish the light; for the light will be no less because it is seen by more; it feeds the eyes of more, and yet is as great as it was before: both they are fed, and it is not diminished; if God hath granted this to the light which He hath made for the eyes of the flesh, what is He Himself, the Light for the eyes of the heart? If then any choice10 food were praised to thee, on which thou wast to dine, thou wouldest prepare the stomach; God is praised to thee, prepare the heart.
7. Behold what thy Lord saith to thee: “The hour shall come,” saith He, “and now is.” “The hour shall come,” yea, that very hour, “now is, when “—what? “when the dead shall hear the Voice of the Son of God, and they that shall hear shall live.” They then that shall not hear, shall not live. What is, “They that shall hear”? They that shall obey. What is, “They that shall hear “? They that shall believe and obey, they shall live. So then before they believed and obeyed, they lay dead; they walked, and were dead. What availed it to them, that they walked, being dead? And yet if any among them were to die a bodily death, they would run, get ready the grave, wrap him up, carry him out, bury him, the dead, the dead; of whom it is said, “Let the dead bury their dead.”11 Such dead as these are in such wise raised by the Word of God, as to live in faith. They who were dead in unbelief, are aroused by the Word. Of this hour said the Lord, “The hour shall come, and now is.” For with His Own Word did He raise them that were dead in unbelief; of whom the Apostle says, “Arise thou that sleepest, and rise up from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”12 This is the resurrection of hearts, this is the resurrection of the inner man, this is the resurrection of the soul.
8. But this is not the only resurrection, there remains a resurrection of the body also. Whoso riseth again in soul, riseth again in body to his blessedness. For in soul all do not rise again; in body all are to rise again. In soul, I say, all do not rise again; but they that believe. and, obey; for, “They that shall hear shall live.” But as the Apostle says, All men have not faith.”13 If then all men have not faith, all men do not rise again in soul. When thy hour of the resurrection of the booty shall come, all shall rise again; be they good or bad, all shall rise again. But whoso first riseth again in soul, to his blessedness riseth again in body; whoso doth not first rise again in soul, riseth again in body to his curse. Whoso riseth again in soul, riseth again in body unto life; whoso riseth not again in soul, riseth again in body unto punishment. Seeing then that the Lord hath impressed upon us this resurrection of souls, unto which we ought all to hasten, and to labour that we may live therein, and living persevere even unto the end, it remained for Him to impress upon us the resurrection of bodies also, which is to be at the end of the world. Now hear bow He hath impressed this too.
9. When He had said, “Verily I say unto you, The hour shall come, and now is, when the dead,” that is, the unbelievers, “shall hear the Voice of the Son of God,” that is, the Gospel, “and they that shall hear,” that is, that shall obey, “shall live,” that is, shall be justified, and shall be unbelievers no longer; when, I say, He had said this, forasmuch as He saw that we had need to be instructed as to the resurrection of the flesh also, and were not to be left thus, He went on and said, “For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.” This refers to the resurrection of souls, to the quickening of souls. Then He added, “And hath given Him power to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” This Son of God, is Son of Man. For if the Son of God had continued the Son of God, and had not been made the Son of Man, He would not have delivered the sons of men. He who had made man, was Himself made that which He made, that what He made might not perish. But He was in such wise made the Son of Man, as to continue the Son of God. For He was made Man by assuming that which He was not, not by losing That which He was; continuing God, He was made Man. He took thee, He was not consumed in thee. As such then came He to us, the Son of God, and Son of Man, the Maker and the Made the Creator and the Created; the Creator of His mother, Created of His mother; such came He to us. In respect of His being the Son of God, He saith, “The hour shall come, and now is, when the dead shall hear the Voice of the Son of God.” He did not say, “Of the Son of Man;” for He was impressing the truth, wherein He is equal to the Father. “And they that shall hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself;” not by participation, but in our God. But He, the Father, hath life in Himself; and He begat such a Son as should have life in Himself; not be made a partaker of life, but Himself be Life, of which life we I should be partakers; that is, should have life in Himself, and Himself be Life. But that He should be made the Son of Man, He took from us. Son of God in Himself; that He should be the Son of Man, He took from us. Son of God of That which is His Own, Son of Man of ours. That which is the less, took He from us; That which is the more, gave He to us. For thus He died in that He is the Son of Man, not in that He is the Son of God. Yet the Son of God died; but He died in respect to the flesh, not in respect to “the Word which was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”14 So then in that He died, He died of that which was ours; in that we live, we live of That which is His. He could not die of That which was His own, nor could we live of that which is our own. As God then, as the Only-Begotten, as equal with Him who begat Him, did the Lord Jesus impress this upon us, that if we hear, we shall live.
10. But, saith He, “He hath given Him power to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” So then that Form is to come to judgment. The Form of Man is to come to judgment; therefore He said,” He hath given Him power to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” The Judge here shall be the Son of Man; here shall That Form judge which was judged. Hear and understand: the Prophet had said this already, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”15 That Very Form shall they see which they smote with a spear. He shall sit as Judge, Who stood at the judge’s seat. He shall condemn the real criminals, Who was made a criminal falsely. He shall come Himself, That Form shall come. This you find in the Gospel too; when before the eyes of His disciples He was going into heaven, they stood and looked on, and the Angelic voice spake, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye,” etc. “This Jesus shall come in like manner as ye see Him going into heaven.”16 What is, “shall come in like manner”? Shall come in this Very Form. For “He hath given Him power to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.” Now see on what principle this was behoveful and right, that they who were to be judged might see the Judge. For they who were to be judged were both good and bad. “But blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”17 It remained that in the Judgment the Form of the servant should be manifested both to good and bad, the Form of God be reserved for the good alone.
11. For what is it that the good are to receive? Behold I am now expressing that which I did not express a little above; and yet in expressing I do not express it. For I said that there we shall be in sound health, shall be safe, shall be living, shall be without scourges, without hunger and thirst, without failing, without loss of our eyes. All this I said; but what we shall have more, I said not. We shall see God. Now this will be so great, yea so great a thing will it be, that in comparison of it, all the rest is nothing. I said that we shall be living, that we shall be safe and sound, that we shall suffer no hunger and thirst, that we shall not fall into weariness, that sleep will not oppress us. All this, what is it to that happiness, whereby we shall see God? Because then God cannot be now manifested as He is, whom nevertheless we shall see; therefore, “what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,”18 this the good shall see, this shall the godly see, this the merciful shall see, this shall the faithful see. this shall they see who shall have a good lot in the resurrection of the body, for that they have had a good obedience in the resurrection of the heart.
12. Shall then the wicked man see God too? of whom Isaiah saith,” Let the ungodly be taken away, that he see not the Glory of God.”19 Both the ungodly and the godly then shall see that Form; and when the sentence, “Let the ungodly be taken away that he see not the Glory of God,” shall have been pronounced; it remains that as to the godly and the good, that be fulfilled which the Lord Himself promised, when He was here in the flesh, and seen not by the good only, but by the evil also. He spake amongst the good and evil, and was seen of all, as God, hidden, asMan, manifested; as God ruling men, as Man appearing among men: He spake, I say, among them, and said, “Whoso loveth Me, keepeth My commandments; and he that loveth Me, shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him.”20 And as if it were said to Him, And what wilt Thou give him? And” I will,” He saith,” manifest Myself to him.” When did He say this? When He was seen by men. When did He say this? When He was seen even by them, by whom He was not loved. How then was He to manifest Himself to them that loved Him, save in Such a Form, as they who loved Him then saw not? Therefore, seeing that the Form of God was being reserved, the Form of man manifested; by the Form of man, speaking to men, Conspicuous and visible, He manifested Himself to all, both good and bad, He reserved Himself for them that loved Him.
13. When is He to manifest Himself to them that love Him? After the resurrection of the body, when “the ungodly shall be taken away that he see not the Glory of God.” For then “when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.”21 This is life eternal. For all that we said before is nothing to that life. That we live, what is it? That we are in health, what is it? That we shall see God, is a great thing. This is life eternal; this Himself hath said, “But this is life eternal, that they may know Thee the Only True God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.”22 This is life eternal, that they may know, see, comprehend, acquaint themselves with what they had believed, may perceive that which they were not yet able to comprehend. Then may the mind see what “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it ascended into the heart of man;” this shall be said to them at the end, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom which hath been prepared for you from the beginning of the world.”23 Those wicked ones then shall go into everlasting burning. But the righteous, whither? Into life eternal? What is life eternal? “This is life eternal, that they may know Thee, the Only True God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.”
163 14. Speaking then of the future resurrection of the body, and not leaving us thus, He saith, “He hath given Him power to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Marvel not at this, for the hour shall come.” He did not add in this place, “and now is;” because this hour shall be hereafter, because this hour shall be at the end of the world, because this shall be the last hour, shall be at the last trump. “Marvel not at this,” because I have said, “He hath given Him power to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Marvel not.” For this reason have I said this, because it behoves Him as Man to be judged by men. And what men shall He judge? Those whom He finds alive? Not only those, but what? “The hour shall come, when they that are in the graves.”24 How did He express those that are dead in the flesh? “They who are in the graves,” whose corpses lie buried, whose ashes are covered up, whose bones are dispersed, whose flesh is flesh no more, and yet is entire to God. “The hour shall come, when all that are in the graves shall hear His Voice, and shall come forth.” Be they good or bad, they shall hear the Voice, and shall come forth. All the bands of the grave25 shall be burst asunder; all that was lost, yea rather was thought to be lost shall be restored. For if God made man who was not, can He not re-fashion that which was?
15. I suppose when it is said, “God shall raise the dead again,” no incredible thing is said for it is of God, not of man, that it is said. It is a great thing which shall be done, yea, an incredible thing that shall be done. But let it not be incredible, for see, who It is That doeth it. He it is said shall raise thee, Who created thee. Thou wast not, and thou art; and once made, shall thou not be? God forbid thou shouldest think so! God did something more marvellous when He made that which was not; and nevertheless He did make that which was not; and shall it be disbelieved that He is able to re-fashion that which was, by those very persons whom He made what they were not? Is this the return we make to God, we who were not, and were made? Is this the return we make Him, that we will not believe that He is able to raise again what He hath made? Is this the return which His creature renders Him? “Have I therefore,” God saith to thee, “made thee, O man, before thou wast, that thou shouldest not believe Me, that thou shall be what thou wast, who hast been able to be what thou wast not?” But you will say, “Lo, what I see in the tomb, is dust, ashes, bones; and shall this receive life again, skin, substance, flesh, and rise again? what? these ashes, these bones, which I see in the tomb?” Well. At least thou seest ashes, thou seest bones in the tomb; in thy mother’s womb there was nothing. This thou seest, ashes at least there are, and bones; before that thou wast, there was neither ashes, nor bones; and yet thou wast made, when thou wast not at all; and dost thou not believe that these bones (for in whatever state, of whatever kind they are, yet they are), shall receive the form again which they had, when thou hast received what thou hadst not? Believe; for if thou shalt believe this, then shall thy soul be raised up. And thy soul shall be raised up “now;” “The hour shall come, and now is;” then to thy blessing shall thy flesh rise again, “when the hour shall come, that all that are in the graves shall hear His Voice, and shall come forth.” For thou must not at once rejoice, because thou dost hear “and come forth;” hear what follows, “They that have done good unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation.”26 Turning to the Lord, etc.
1 (1Co 2,9
4 (Mt 25,34).
5 (Mt 25,46).
6 (Jn 5,24-26.
7 (Jn 1,3
8 (2Co 5,6-7.
9 (1Jn 3,2
11 (Mt 8,22).
12 (Ep 5,14
13 (2Th 3,2 2Th 3
14 (Jn 1,14
15 (Za 12,10 Jn 19,37).
16 (Ac 1,11
17 (Mt 5,8
18 (1Co 2,9
19 (Is 26,10 Sept.
20 (Jn 14,21
21 (1Jn 3,2
22 (Jn 17,3
23 (Mt 25,34).
24 (Jn 5,28
26 (Jn 5,29
Augustine on NT 126