Augustin on John 41
42 (Jn 8,37-47.
1). Our Lord, in the form of a servant, yet not a servant, but even in servant-form the Lord (for that form of flesh was indeed servant-like; but though He was “in the likeness of sinful flesh,”1 yet was He not sinful flesh) promised freedom to those who believed in Him. But the Jews, as if proudly glorying in their own freedom, refused with indignation to be made free, when they were the servants of sin. And therefore they said that they were free, because Abraham’s seed. What answer, then, the Lord gave them to this, we have heard in the reading of this day’s lesson. “I know,” He said, “that ye are Abraham’s children; but ye seek to kill me, because my word taketh no hold in you.” I recognize you, He says; “Ye are the children of Abraham, but ye seek to kill me.” I recognize the fleshly origin, not the believing heart. “Ye are the children of Abraham,” but after the flesh. Therefore He says, “Ye seek to kill me, because my word taketh no hold in you.” If my word were taken, it would take hold: if ye were taken, ye would be enclosed like fishes within the meshes of faith. What then means that-“taketh no hold in you”? It taketh not hold of your heart, because not received by your heart. For so is the word of God, and so it ought to be to believers, as a hook to the fish: it takes when it is taken. No injury is done to those who are taken; since they are taken for salvation, and not for destruction. Hence the Lord says to His disciples: “Come after me, and I shall make you fishers of men.”2 But such were not these; and yet they were the children of Abraham,-children of a man of God, unrighteous themselves. For they inherited the fleshly genus, but were become degenerate, by not imitating the faith of him whose children they were.
2. You have heard, indeed, the Lord saying, “I know that ye are Abraham’s children.” Hear what He says afterwards: “I speak that which I have seen with my Father; and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.” He had already said, “I know that ye are Abraham’s children.” What is it, then, that they do? What He told them: “Ye seek to kill me.” This they never saw with Abraham. But the Lord wishes God the Father to be understood when He says, “I speak that which I have seen with my Father.” I have seen the truth: I speak the truth, because I am the Truth. For if the Lord speaks the truth which He has seen with the Father, He has seen Himself-He speaks Himself; because He Himself is the Truth of the Father, which He saw with the Father. For He is the Word-the Word which was with God. The evil, then, which these men do, and which the Lord chides and reprehends, where have they seen it? With their father. When we come to hear in what follows the still clearer statement who is their father, then shall we understand what kind of things they saw with such a father; for as yet He names not their father. A little above He referred to Abraham, but in regard to their fleshly origin, not their similarity of life. He is about to speak of that other father of theirs, who neither begat them nor created them to be men. But still they were his children in as far as they were evil, not in as far as they were men; in what they imitated him, and not as created by him.
3. “They answered and said unto Him, Abraham is our father;” as if, What hast thou to say against Abraham? or, If thou canst, dare to find fault with Abraham. Not that the Lord dared not find fault with Abraham; but Abraham was not one to be found fault with by the Lord, but rather approved. But these men seemed to challenge Him to say some evil of Abraham, and so to have some occasion for doing what they purposed. “Abraham is our father.”
4. Let us hear how the Lord answered them, praising Abraham to their condemnation. “Jesus saith unto them, If ye are Abraham’s children, do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.” See, he was praised, they were condemned. Abraham was no manslayer. I say not, He implies, I am Abraham’s Lord; though did I say it, I would say the truth. For He said in another place, “Before Abraham was, I am” (ver. 58); and then they sought to stone Him. He said not so. But meanwhile, as you see me, as you look upon me, as alone you think of me, I am a man. Wherefore, then, wish you to kill a man who is telling you what he has heard of God, but because you are not the children of Abraham? And yet He said above, “I know that ye are Abraham’s children.” He does not deny their origin, but condemns their deeds. Their flesh was from him, but not their life.
5. But we, dearly beloved, do we come of Abraham’s race, or was Abraham in any sense our father according to the flesh? The flesh of the Jews draws its origin from his flesh, not so the flesh of Christians. We have come of other nations, and yet, by imitating him, we have become the children of Abraham. Listen to the apostle: “To Abraham and to his seed were the promises made. He saith not,” he adds, “And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”3 We then have become Abraham’s seed by the grace of God. It was not of Abraham’s flesh that God made any co-heirs with him. He disinherited the former, He adopted the latter; and from that olive tree whose root is in the patriarchs, He cut off the proud natural branches, and engrafted the lowly wild olive.4 And so, when the Jews came to Jn to be baptized, he broke out upon them, and addressed them, “O generation of vipers.” Very greatly indeed did they boast of the loftiness of their origin, but he called them a generation of vipers,-not even of human beings, but of vipers. He saw the form of men, but detected the poison. Yetthey had come to be changed,5 because at all events to be baptized; and he said to them, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance. And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father; for God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”6 If ye bring not forth fruits meet for repentance, flatter not yourselves about such a lineage. God is able to condemn you, without defrauding Abraham of children. For He has a way to raise up children to Abraham. Those who imitate his faith shall be made his children. “God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” Such are we. In our parents we were stones, when we worshipped stones for our god. Of such stones God has created a family to Abraham.
6. Why, then, does this empty and vain bragging exalt itself? Let them cease boasting that they are the children of Abraham. They have heard what they ought to have heard: “If ye are the children of Abraham,” prove it by your deeds, not by words. “Ye seek to kill me, a man;”-I say not, meanwhile, the Son of God; I say not God; I say not the Word, for the Word dies not I say merely this that you see; for only what you see can you kill, and whom you see not can you offend. “This,” then, “did not Abraham.” “Ye do the works of your father.” And as yet He says not who is that father of theirs.
7. And now what answer did they give Him? For they began somewhat to realize that the Lord was not speaking of carnal generation, but of their manner of life. And because it is the custom of the Scriptures, which they read, to call it, in a spiritual sense, fornication, when the soul is, as it were, prostituted by subjection to many false gods, they made this reply:” Then said they to Him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.” Abraham has now lost his importance. For they were repulsed as they ought to have been by the truthspeaking mouth; because such was Abraham, whose deeds they failed to imitate, and yet gloried in his lineage. And they altered their reply, saying, I believe, with themselves, As often as we name Abraham, he goes on to say to us, Why do ye not imitate him in whose lineage ye glory? Such a man, so holy, just, and guileless, we cannot imitate. Let us call God our Father, and see what he will say to us.
8. Has falsehood indeed found something to say, and should not truth find its fitting reply? Let us hear what they say: let us hear what they hear. “We have one Father,” they say, “even God. Then said Jesus unto them, If God were your Father, ye would [doubtless] love me; for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but He sent me.” Ye call God Father; recognize me, then, as at least a brother. At the same time He gave a stimulus to the hearts of the intelligent, by touching on that which He has a habit of saying, “I came not of myself: He sent me. I proceeded forth and came from God.” Remember what we are wont to say: From Him He came; and from whom He came, with Him He came. The sending of Christ, therefore, is His incarnation. But as respects the proceeding. forth of the Word from God, it is an eternal procession. Time holds not Him by whom time was created. Let no one be saying in his heart, Before the Word was, how did God exist? Never say, Before the Word of God was. God was never without the Word, because the Word is abiding, not transient; God, not a sound; by whom the heaven and earth were made, and which passed not away with those things that were made upon the earth. From Him, then, He proceeded forth as God, the equal, the only Son, the Word of the Father; and came to us. for the Word was made flesh that He might dwell among us. His coming indicates His humanity; His abiding, His divinity. It is His Godhead towards which, His humanity whereby, we make progress. Had He not become that whereby we might advance, we should never attain to Him who abideth ever.
9. “Why,” He says, “do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word.” And so they could not understand, because they could not hear. And whence could they not hear, but just because they refused to be set right by believing? And why so? “Ye are of your father the devil.” How long do ye keep speaking of a father? How often will ye change your fathers, - at one time Abraham, at another God? Hear from the Son of God whose children ye be: “Ye are of your father the devil.”
10. Here, now, we must beware of the heresy of the Manicheans, which affirms that there is a certain principle of evil, and a certain family of darkness with its princes, which had the presumption to fight against God; but that God, not to let His kingdom be subdued by the hostile family, despatched against them, as it were, His own offspring, princes of His own [kingdom of] light; and so subdued that race from which the devil derives his origin. From thence, also, they say our flesh derives its origin, and accordingly think the Lord said, “Ye are of your father the devil,” because they were evil, as it were, by nature, deriving their origin from the opposing family of darkness. So they err, so their eyes are blinded, so they make themselves the family of darkness, by believing a falsehood against Him who created them. For every nature is good; but man’s nature has been corrupted by an evil will. What God made cannot be evil, if man were not [a cause of] evil to himself. But surely the Creator is Creator, and the creature a creature [a thing created]. The creature cannot be put on a level with the Creator. Distinguish between Him who made, and that which He made. The bench cannot be put on a level with the mechanic, nor the pillar with its builder; and yet the mechanic, though he made the bench, did not himself create the wood. But the Lord our God, in His omnipotence and by the Word, made what He made. He had no materials out of which to make all that He made, and yet He made it. For they were made because He willed it, they were made because He said it; but the things made cannot be compared with the Maker. If thou seekest a proper subject of comparison, turn thy mind to the only-begotten Son. How, then, were the Jews the children of the devil? By imitation, not by birth. Listen to the usual language of the Holy Scriptures. The prophet says to those very Jews, “Thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite.”7 The Amorites were not a nation that gave origin to the Jews. The Hittites also were themselves of a nation altogether different from the race of the Jews. But because the Amorites and Hittites were impious, and the Jews imitated their impieties, they found parents for themselves, not of whom they were born, but in whose damnation they should share, because following their customs. But perhaps you inquire, Whence is the devil himself? From the same source certainly as the other angels. But the other angels continued in their obedience . He, by disobedience and pride, fell as an angel, and became a devil.
11. But listen now to what the Lord says: “Ye,” said He, “are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.” This is how ye are his children, because such are your lusts, not because ye are born of him. What are his lusts? “He was a murderer from the beginning.” This it is that explains, “the lusts of your father ye will do.” “Ye seek to kill me, a man that telleth you the truth.” He, too, had ill-will to man, and slew man. For the devil, in his ill-will to man, assuming the guise of a serpent, spoke to the woman, and from the woman instilled his poison into the man. They died by listening to the devil,8 whom they would not have listened to had they but listened to the Lord; for man, having his place between Him who created and him who was fallen, ought to have obeyed the Creator, not the deceiver. Therefore “he was a murderer from the beginning.” Look at the kind of murder brethren. The devil is called a murderer not as armed with a sword, or girded with steel. He came to man, sowed his evil suggestions, and slew him. Think not, then, that thou art not a murderer when thou persuadest thy brother to evil. If thou persuadest thy brother to evil, thou slayest him. And to let thee know that thou slayest him, listen to the psalm: “The sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.”9 Ye, then, “will do the lusts of your father;” and so ye go madly after the flesh, because ye cannot go after the spirit. “He was a murderer from the beginning;” at least in the case of the first of mankind. From the very time that murder [manslaughter] could possibly be committed, he was a murderer [manslayer]. Only from the time that man was made could manslaughter be committed. For man could not be slain unless man was previously made. Therefore, “he was a murderer from the beginning.” And whence a murderer? “And he stood [abode] not in the truth.” Therefore he was in the truth, and fell by not standing in it. And why “stood he not in the truth”? “Because the truth is not in him;” not as in Christ. In such a way is the truth [in Him], that Christ Himself is the Truth. If, then, he had stood in the truth, he would have stood in Christ; but “he abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.”
12. “When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”10 What is this? You have heard the words of the Gospel: you have received them with attention. Here now, I repeat them, that you may clearly understand the subject of your thoughts. The Lord said those things of the devil which ought to have been said of the devil by the Lord. That “he was a murderer from the beginning” is true, for he slew the first man; “and he abode not in the truth,” for he lapsed from the truth. “When he speaketh a lie,” to wit, the devil himself, “he speaketh of his own;” for he is a liar, and its [his] father.” From these words some have thought that the devil has a father, and have inquired who was the father of the devil. Indeed this detestable error of the Manicheans has found means down to this present time wherewith to deceive the simple. For they are wont to say, Suppose that the devil was an angel, and fell; and with him sin began as you say; but, Who was his father? We, on the contrary, reply, Who of us ever said that the devil had a father? And they, on the other hand, rejoin, The Lord saith, and the Gospel declares, speaking of the devil, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and his father.”
13. Hear and understand. I shall not send thee far away [for the meaning]; understand it from the words themselves. The Lord called the devil the father of falsehood. What is this? Hear what it is, only revolve the words themselves, and understand. It is not every one who tells a lie that is the father of his lie. For if thou hast got a lie from another, and uttered it, thou indeed hast lied in giving utterance to the lie; but thou art not the father of that lie, because thou hast got it from another. But the devil was a liar of himself. He begat his own falsehood; he heard it from no one. As God the Father begat as His Son the Truth, so the devil, having fallen, begat falsehood as his son. Hearing this, recall now and reflect upon the words of the Lord. Ye catholic minds, consider what ye have heard; attend to what He says. “He”-who? The devil-“was a murderer from the beginning.” We admit it,-he slew Adam. “And he abode not in the truth.” We admit it, for he lapsed from the truth. “Because there is no truth in him.” True: by falling away from the truth he has lost its possession. “When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” He is both a liar, and the father of lies. For thou, it may be, art a liar, because thou utterest a lie; but thou art not its father. For if thou hast got what thou sayest from the devil, and hast believed the devil, thou art a liar, but not the father of the lie. But he, because he got not elsewhere the lie wherewith in serpent-form he slew man as if by poison, is the father of lies just as God is Father of truth. Withdraw, then, from the father of lies: make haste to the Father of truth; embrace the truth, that you may enter into liberty.
14. Those Jews, then, spake what they saw with their father. And what was that but falsehood? But the Lord saw with His Father what He should speak; and what was that, but Himself? What, but the Word of the Father? What, but the truth of the Father, eternal itself, and co-eternal with the Father? He, then, “was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him; when he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar,”-and not only a liar, but also “the father of it;” that is, of the very lie that he speaks he is the father, for he himself begat his lie. “And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convicteth me of sin,” as I convict both you and your father? “If I say the truth, why do ye not believe me,” but just because ye are the children of the devil?
15. “He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” Here, again, it is not of their nature as men, but of their depravity, that you are to think. In this way they are of God, and yet not of God. By nature they are of God, in depravity they are not of God. Give heed, I pray you. In the gospel you have the remedy against the poisonous and impious errors of the heretics. For of these words also the Manicheans are accustomed to say, See, here there are two natures,11 -the one good and the other bad; the Lord says it. What says the Lord? “Ye therefore hear me not, because ye are not of God.” This is what the Lord says. What then, he rejoins, dost thou say to that? Hear what I say. They are both of God, and not of God. By nature they are of God: by depravity they are not of God; for the good nature which is of God sinned voluntarily by believing the persuasive words of the devil, and was corrupted; and so it is seeking a physician, because no longer in health. That is what I say. But thou thinkest it impossible that they should be of God, and yet not of God. Hear why it is not impossible. They are of God, and yet not of God, in the same way as they are the children of Abraham, and yet not the children of Abraham. Here you have it. It is not as you say. Hearken to the Lord Himself; it is He that said to them, “I know that ye are the children of Abraham.” Could there be any lie with the Lord? Surely not. Then is it true what the Lord said? It is true. Then it is true that they were the children of Abraham? It is true. But listen to Himself denying it. He who said, “Ye are the children of Abraham,” Himself denied that they were the children of Abraham. “If ye are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that telleth you the truth, which I have heard from God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the works of your father,” that is, of the devil. How, then, were they both Abraham’s children, and yet not his children? Both states He showed in them. They were both Abraham’s children in their carnal origin, and not his children in the sin of following the persuasion of the devil. So, also, apply it to our Lord and God, that they were both of Him, and not of Him. How were they of Him? Because He it was that created the man of whom they were born. How were they of Him? Because He is the Architect of nature,-Himself the Creator of flesh and spirit. How, then, were they not of Him? Because they had made themselves depraved. They were no longer of Him, because, imitating the devil, they had become the children of the devil.
16. Therefore came the Lord God to man as a sinner, Thou hast heard the two names, both man and sinner. As man, he is of God; as a sinner, he is not of God. Let the moral evil12 in man be distinguished from his nature. Let that nature be owned, to the praise of the Creator; let the evil be acknowledged, that the physician may be called in to its cure. When the Lord then said, “He that is of God heareth the words of God: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” He did not distinguish the value of different natures, or find, beyond their own soul and body, any nature in men which had not been vitiated by sin; but foreknowing those who should yet believe, them He called of God, because yet to be born again of God by the adoption of regeneration. To these apply the words “He that is of God heareth the words of God.” But that which follows, “Ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God,” was said to those who were not only corrupted by sin (for this evil was common to all), but also foreknown as those who would not believe with the faith that alone could deliver them from the bondage of sin. On this account He foreknew that those to whom He so spake would continue in that which they derived from the devil, that is, in their sins, and would die in the impiety in which they resembled him; and would not come to the regeneration wherein they would be the children of God, that is, be born of the God by whom they were created as men. In accordance with this predestinating purpose did the Lord speak; and not that He had found any man amongst them who either by regeneration was already of God, or by nature was no longer of God.
1 (Rm 8,3,
2 (Mt 4,19).
3 (Ga 3,16 Ga 3,29.
4 (Rm 11,17,
5 In some editions. “to be cleansed.”
6 (Mt 3,7-9).
7 (Ez 16,3).
8 (Gn 3,1,
9 (Ps 57,4,
10 In this and the following paragraph, Augustin deals with the rendering given to these words by the Manichaeans in support of their heresy, stated in section 10. The words “pater ejus” (oj path;r aujtou`), taken by themselves, might of course mean either “his father” or “the father of it” [i.e. of falsehood]. Both the Greek idiom and the context require the latter, but the Manichaeans adopted the former, and made the passage run, “for he [i.e. the devil] is a liar, and [so is] his father.” Hence the question they are made to put afterwards, “Who was his [the devil’s] father?” and our author’s exposition of the passage.-Tr).
11 That is, in man. Compare section.-Tr.
1). In that lesson of the holy Gospel which has been read to-day, from power we learn patience. For what are we as servants to the Lord, as sinners to the Just One, as creatures to the Creator? Howbeit, just as in what we are evil, we are so of ourselves; so in whatever respects we are good, we are so of Him, and through Him. And nothing does man so seek as he does power. He has great power in the Lord Christ; but let him first imitate His patience, that he may attain to power. Who of us would listen with patience if it were said to him, “Thou hast a devil”? as was said to Him, who was not only bringing men to salvation, but also subjecting devils to His authority.
2. For when the Jews had said, “Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” of these two charges cast at Him, He denied the one, but not the other. For He answered and said, “I have not a devil” He did not say, I am not a Samaritan; and yet the two charges had been made. Although He returned not cursing with cursing, although He met not slander with slander, yet was it proper for Him to deny the one charge and not to deny the other. And not without a purpose, brethren. For Samaritan means keeper.1 He knew that He was our keeper. For “He that keepeth Israel neither slumbereth nor sleepeth;”2 and, “Except the Lord keep the city, they wake in vain who keep it.”3 He then is our Keeper who is our Creator. For did it belong to Him to redeem us, and would it not be His to preserve us? Finally, that you may know more fully the hidden reason4 why He ought not to have denied that He was a Samaritan, call to mind that well-known parable, where a certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who wounded him severely, and left him half dead on the road. A priest came along and took no notice of him. A Levite came up, and he also passed on his way. A certain Samaritan came up - He who is our Keeper). He went up to the wounded man). He exercised mercy, and did a neighbor’s part to one whom He did not account an alien.5 To this, then, He only replied that He had not a devil, but not that He was not a Samaritan.
3. And then after such an insult, this was all that He said of His own glory: “But I honor,” said He, “my Father, and ye dishonor me.” That is, I honor not myself, that ye may not think me arrogant. I have One to honor; and did ye recognize me, just as I honor the Father, so would ye also honor me. I do what I ought; ye do not what ye ought.
4. “And I,” said He, “seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.” Whom does He wish to be understood but the Father? How, then, does He say in another place, “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son,”6 while here He says, “I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth”? If, then, the Father judgeth, how is it that He judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son?
5. In order to solve this point, attend. It may be solved by [quoting] a similar mode of speaking. Thou hast it written, “God tempt not any man;”7 and again thou hast it written, “The Lord your God tempt you, to know whether you love Him.”8 Just the point in dispute, you see. For how does God tempt not any man, and how does the Lord your God tempt you, to know whether ye love Him? It is also written, “There is no fear in love but perfect love casteth out fear;”9 and in another place it is written, “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever.”10 Here also is the point in dispute. For how does perfect love cast out fear, if the fear of the Lord, which is clean, endureth for ever?
6. We are to understand, then, that there are two kinds of temptation: one, that deceives; the other, that proves. As regards that which deceives, God tempteth not any man; as regards that which proves, the Lord your God tempteth you, that He may know whether ye love Him. But here again, also, there arises another question, how (He tempteth that He may know, from whom, prior to the temptation, nothing can be hid. It is not that God is ignorant; but it is said, that (He may know, that is, that He may make you to know. Such modes of speaking are found both in our ordinary conversation, and in writers of eloquence. Let me say a word on our style of conversation. We speak of a blind ditch, not because it has lost its eyes, but because by lying hid it makes us blind to its existence. One speaks of “bitter lupins.” that is, “sour;” not that they themselves are bitter, but because they occasion bitterness to those who taste them.11 And so there are also expressions of this sort in Scripture. Those who take the trouble to attain a knowledge of such points have no trouble in solving them. And so “the Lord your God tempts you, that He may know.” What is this, “that He may know”? That He may make you to know “if you love Him.” Job was unknown to himself, but he was not unknown to God. He led the tempter into [Job], and brought him to a knowledge of himself.
7. What then of the two fears? There is a servile fear, and there is a clean [chaste] fear: there is the fear of suffering punishment, there is another fear of losing righteousness. That fear of suffering punishment is slavish. What great thing is it to fear punishment? The vilest slave and the cruelest robber do so. It is no great thing to fear punishment, but great it is to love righteousness. Has he, then, who loves righteousness no fear? Certainly he has; not of incurring of punishment, but of losing righteousness. My brethren, assure yourselves of it, and draw your inference from that which you love. Some one of you is fond of money. Can I find any one, think you, who is not so? Yet from this very thing which he loves he may understand my meaning. He is afraid of loss: why is he so? Because he loves money. In the same measure that he loves money, is he afraid of losing it. So, then, some one is found to be a lover of righteousness, who at heart is much more afraid of its loss, who dreads more being stripped of his righteousness, than thou of thy money. This is the fear that is clean-this [the fear] that endureth for ever, It is not this that love makes away with, or casteth out, but rather embraces it, and keeps it with it, and possesses it as a companion. For we come to the Lord that we may see Him face to face. And there it is this pure fear that preserves us; for such a fear as that does not disturb, but reassure. The adulterous woman fears the coming of her husband, and the chaste one fears her husband’s departure.
8. Therefore, as, according to one kind of temptation, “God tempteth not any man;” but according to another, “The Lord your God tempteth you;” and according to one kind of fear, “there is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear;” but according to another, “the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever;”-so also, in this passage, according to one kind of judgment, “the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son;” and according to another, “I,” said He, “seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.”
9. This point may also be solved from the word itself. Thou hast penal judgment spoken of in the Gospel: “He that believeth not is judged12 already;” and in another place, “The hour is coming, when those who are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.”13 You see how He has put judgment for condemnation and punishment. And yet if judgment were always to be taken for condemnation, should we ever have heard in the psalm, “Judge me, O God”? In the former place, judgment is used in the sense of inflicting pain; here, it is used in the sense of discernment.14 How so? Just because so expounded by him who says, “Judge me, O God.” For read, and see what follows. What is this “Judge me, O God,” but just what he adds, “and discern15 my cause against an unholy nation”?16 Because then it was said, “Judge me, O God, and discern [the true merits of] my cause against an unholy nation;” similarly now said the Lord Christ, “I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.” How is there “one that seeketh and judgeth”? There is the Father, who discerns and distinguishes l between my glory and yours. For ye glory in the spirit of this present world. Not so do I who say to the Father, “Father, glorify Thou me with that glory which I had with Thee before the world was.”17 What is “that glory”? One altogether different from human inflation. Thus doth the Father judge. And so to “judge” is to “discern.”18 And what does He discern? The glory of His Son from the glory of mere men; for to that end is it said, “God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows.”19 For not because He became man is He now to be compared with us. We, as men, are sinful, He is sinless; we, as men, inherit from Adam both death and delinquency, He received from the Virgin mortal flesh, but no iniquity. In fine, neither because we wish it are we born, nor as long as we wish it do we live, nor in the way that we wish it do we die: but He, before He was born, chose of whom He should be born; at His birth He brought about the adoration of the Magi; He grew as an infant, and showed Himself God by His miracles, and surpassed man in His weakness. Lastly, He chose also the manner of His death, that is, to be hung on the cross, and to fasten the cross itself on the foreheads of believers, so that the Christian may say, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”20 On the very cross, when He pleased, He made His body be taken down, and departed; in the very sepulchre, as long as it pleased Him, He lay; and, when He pleased, He arose as from a bed. So, then, brethren, in respect to His very form as a servant (for who can speak of that other form as it ought to be spoken of, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”?)-in respect, I say, to His very form as a servant, the difference is great between the glory of Christ and the glory of other men. Of that glory He spoke, when the devil-possessed heard Him say, “I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.”
10. But what sayest Thou, O Lord, of Thyself? “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” Ye say, “Thou hast a devil.” I call you to life: keep my word and ye shall not die. They heard, “He shall never see death who keepeth my word,” and were angry, because already dead in that death from which they might have escaped. “Then said the Jews, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death.” See how Scripture speaks: “He shall not see,” that is, “taste of death.” “He shall see death-he shall taste of death.” Who seeth? Who tasteth? What eyes has a man to see with when he dies? When death at its coming shuts up those very eyes from seeing aught, how is it said, “he shall not see death”? With what palate, also, and with what jaws can death be tasted, that its savor may be discovered? When it taketh every sense away, what will remain in the palate? But here, “he will see,” and “he will taste,” are used for that which is really the case, he will know by experience.
11. Thus spake the Lord (it is scarcely sufficient to say), as one dying to dying men; for “to the Lord also belong the issues from death,”21 as saith the psalm. Seeing, then, He was both speaking to those destined to die, and speaking as one appointed to death Himself, what mean His words, “He who keepeth my saying shall never see death;” save that the Lord saw another death, from which He was come to deliver us-the second death, death eternal, the death of hell,22 the death of damnation with the devil and his angels? This is real death; for that other is only a removal. What is that other death? The leaving of the body-the laying down of a heavy burden; provided another burden be not carried away, to drag the man headlong to hell. Of that real death then did the Lord say, “He who keepeth my saying shall never see death.”
12. Let us not be frightened at that other death, but let us fear this one. But, what is very grievous, many, through a perverse fear of that other, have fallen into this. It has been said to some, Adore idols; for if you do it not, you shall be put to death: or, as Nebuchadnezzar said, If you do not, you shall be thrown into the furnace of flaming fire. Many feared and adored. Shrinking from death, they died. Through fear of the death which cannot be escaped, they fell into that which they might happily have escaped, had they not, unhappily, been afraid of that which is inevitable. As a man, thou art born-art destined to die. Whither wilt thou go to escape death? What wilt thou do to escape it? That thy Lord might comfort thee in thy necessary subjection to death, of His own good pleasure He condescended to die. When thou seest the Christ lying dead, art thou reluctant to die? Die then thou must; thou hast no means of escape. Be it today, be it tomorrow; it is to be-the debt must be paid. What, then, does a man gain by fearing, fleeing, hiding himself from discovery by his enemy? Does he get exemption from death? No, but that he may die a little later. He gets not security against his debt, but asks a respite. Put it off as long as you please, the thing so delayed will come at last. Let us fear that death which the three men feared when they said to the king, “God is able to deliver us even from that flame; and if not,” etc.23 There was there the fear of that death which the Lord now threatens, when they said, But also if He be not willing openly to deliver us, He can crown us with victory in secret. Whence also the Lord, when on the eve of appointing martyrs and becoming the head-martyr Himself, said, “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.”How “have they no more that they can do”? What if, after having slain one, they threw his body to be mangled by wild beasts, and torn to pieces by birds? Cruelty seems still to have something it can do. But to whom is it done? He has departed. The body is there, but without feeling. The tenement lies on the ground, the tenant is gone. And so “after that they have no more that they can do;” for they can do nothing to that which is without sensation. “But fear Him who hath power to destroy both body and soul, in hell fire.”24 Here is the death that He spake of when He said, “He that keepeth my saying shall never see death.” Let us keep then, A brethren, His own word in faith, as those who are yet to attain to sight, when the liberty we receive has reached its fullness.
13. But those men, indignant, yet dead, andpredestinated to death eternal, answered with insults, and said, “Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets.” But not in that death which the Lord meant to be understood was either Abraham dead or the prophets. For these were dead, and yet they live: those others were alive, and yet they had died. For, replying in a certain place to the Sadducees, when they stirred the question of the resurrection, the Lord Himself speaks thus: “But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read how the Lord said to Moses from the bush, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”25 If, then, they live, let us labor so to live, that after death we may be able to live with them. “Whom makest thou thyself,” they add, that thou sayest, “he shall never see death who keepeth my saying,” when thou knowest that both Abraham is dead and the prophets?
14. “Jesus answered, If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing: it is my Father that glorifieth me.” He said this on account of their saying, “Whom makest thou thyself?” For He refers His glory to the Father, of whom it is that He is God. From this expression also the Arians sometimes revile our faith, and say, See, the Father is greater; for at all events He glorifies the Son. Heretic, hast thou not read of the Son Himself also saying that He glorifies His Father?26 If both He glorifieth the Son, and the Son glorifieth the Father, lay aside thy stubbornness, acknowledge the equality, correct thy perversity.
15. “It is.” then, said He, “my Father that glorifieth me; of whom ye say, that He is your God: and ye have not known Him.” See, my brethren, how He shows that God Himself is the Father of the Christ, who was announced also to the Jews. I say so for his reason, that now again there are certain heretics who say that the God revealed in the Old Testament is not the Father of Christ. but some prince or other, I know not what, of evil angels. There are Manicheans who say so; there are Marcionites who say so. There are also, perhaps, other heretics, whom t is either unnecessary to mention, or all of whom I cannot at present recall; yet there have not been wanting those who said this. Attend, then, that you may have something also to affirm against such. Christ the Lord calleth Him His Father whom they called their God, and did not know; for had they known [that God] Himself they would have received His Son. “But I,” said He, “know Him.” To those judging after the flesh He might have seemed from such words to be self-assuming, because He said, “I know Him.” But see what follows: “If I should say that I know Him not, I shall be a liar like unto you.” Let not, then, self-assumption be so guarded against as to cause the relinquishment of truth. “But I know Him, and keep His saying.” The saying of the Father He was speaking as Son; and He Himself was the Word of the Father, that was speaking to men.
16. “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw, and was glad.” Abraham’s seed, Abraham’s Creator, bears a great testimony to Abraham. “Abraham rejoiced,” He says, “to see my day.” He did not fear, but “rejoiced to see it.” For in him there was the love that casteth out fear.27 He says not, rejoiced because he saw; but “rejoiced that he might see.” Believing, at all events, he rejoiced in hope to see with the understanding. “And he saw.” And what more could the Lord Jesus Christ say, or what more ought He to have said? “And he saw,” He says, “and was glad.” Who can unfold this joy, my brethren? If those rejoiced whose bodily eyes were opened by the Lord, what joy was his who saw with the eyes of his soul the light ineffable, the abiding Word, the brilliance that dazzles the minds of the pious, the unfailing Wisdom, God abiding with the Father, and at some time come in the flesh and yet not to withdraw from the bosom of the Father? All this did Abraham see. For in saying “my day,” it may be uncertain of what He spake; whether the day of the Lord in time, when He should come the flesh, or that day of the Lord which knows not a dawn, and knows no decline. But for my part I doubt not that father Abraham knew it all. And where shall I find it out? Ought the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ to satisfy us? Let us suppose that we cannot find it out, for perhaps it is difficult to say in what sense it is clear that Abraham “rejoiced to see the day” of Christ, “and saw it, and was glad.” And though we find it not, can the Truth have lied? Let us believe the Truth, and cherish no doubt of Abraham’s merited rewards.28 Yet listen to one passage that occurs to me meanwhile. When father Abraham sent his servant to seek a wife for his son Isaac, he bound him by this oath, to fulfill faithfully what he was commanded, and know also for himself what to do. For it was a great matter that was in hand when marriage was sought for Abraham’s seed. But that the servant might apprehend what Abraham knew, that it was not offspring after the flesh he desired, nor anything of a carnal kind concerning his race that was referred to, he said to the servant whom he sent, “Put thy hand under my thigh, and swear by the God of heaven.29 What connection has the God of heaven with Abraham’s thigh? Already you understand the mystery:30 by thigh is meant race. And what was that swearing, but the signifying that of Abraham’s race would the God of heaven come in the flesh? Fools find fault with Abraham because he said, Put thy hand under my thigh. Those who find fault with Christ’s flesh find fault with Abraham’s conduct. But let us, brethren, if we acknowledge the flesh of Christ as worthy of veneration, despise not that thigh, but receive it as spoken of prophetically. For a prophet also was Abraham. Whose prophet? Of his own seed, and of his Lord. To his own seed he pointed in saying, “Put thy hand under my thigh.” To his Lord he pointed in adding, “and swear by the God of heaven.”
17. The angry Jews replied, “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?” And the Lord: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was made, I am.”31 Weigh the words, and get a knowledge of the mystery. “Before Abraham was made.” Understand, that “was made” refers to human formation; but “am” to the Divine essence. “He was made,” because Abraham was a Creature. He did not say, Before Abraham was, I was; but, “Before Abraham was made,” who was not made save by me, “I am.” Nor did He say this, Before Abraham was made I was made; for “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth;”32 and “in the beginning was the Word.”33 “Before Abraham was made, I am.” Recognize the Creator-distinguish the creature. He who spake was made the seed of Abraham; and that Abraham might be made, He Himself was before Abraham.
18. Hence, as if by the most open of all insults thrown at Abraham, they were now excited to greater bitterness. Of a certainty it seemed to them that Christ the Lord had uttered blasphemy in saying, “Before Abraham was made, I am.” “Therefore took they up stones to cast at Him.” To what could so great hardness have recourse, save to its like? “But Jesus” [acts] as man, as one in the form of a servant, as lowly, as about to suffer, about to die, about to redeem us with His blood; not as He who is-not as the Word in the beginning, and the Word with God. For when they took up stones to cast at Him, what great thing were it had they been instantly swallowed up in the gaping earth, and found the inhabitants of hell inplace of stones? It were not a great thingto God; but better was it that patience should be commended than power exerted. Therefore “He hid Himself” from them, that He might not be stoned. As man, He fled from the stones; but woe to those from whose stony hearts God has fled?
1 Samaria, Hebrew ÷wdm]c¿
, literally, “a keep,” from ygIdµ]v
to keep, to guard; hence, according to Augustin, “Samaritan,” ynIlm]c¿
, a keeper, a guardian.-Tr).
2 (Ps 121,4,
3 (Ps 127,1,
5 (Lc 10,30-37).
6 Chap. 5,22).
7 (Jc 1,13,
8 (Dt 13,3,
9 (1Jn 4,18,
10 (Ps 19,9,
11 Virg). Georg. lib. 1,75: Tristes lupinos non quia ipse sunt tristes, sed quia gustati contristant, hoc est, tristes faciunt.
12 Judicatus. Jn 3,18.
13 Judicium. Jn 5,28-29).
14 Discretionem, discerne,-legal terms, implying the judicial expiscation and discriminating of the real facts and merits of a case, by sifting the evidence and separating the true from the false).
15 See previous note).
16 (Ps 43,1,
17 (Jn 17,5).
18 Discretionem, discerne,-legal terms, implying the judicial expiscation and discriminating of the real facts and merits of a case, by sifting the evidence and separating the true from the false).
19 (Ps 45,7).
20 (Ga 6,14,
21 (Ps 68,20,
23 (Da 3,16-18.
24 “In the gehenna of fire.” Mt 10,28, and Lc 12,4-5.
25 (Mt 22,31-32 Ex 3,6).
26 Chap. 17,4).
27 (1Jn 4,18,
29 (Gn 24,2-4).
31 Antequam Abraham fieret ego sum. Greek, “pri;n Abraa;m genevsuai, ejgwv ejmi.”
32 (Gn 1,1,
33 Chap. 1,1.
Augustin on John 41