Augustin on 1John 400
“And it is true, and lieth not. Even as it hath taught you, abide in it. And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be put to shame by Him at His coming. If ye know that He is righteous, know ye that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him. Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called and should be the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew not Him, us also the world knoweth not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it is not yet manifested what we shall be. We know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure. Whosoever committeth sin committeth also iniquity. Sin is iniquity. And ye know that He was manifested to take away sin; and in Him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him. Little children, let no man seduce you. He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested; that He might destroy the works of the devil.”
401 1. Ye remember, brethren, that yesterday’s lesson was brought to a close at this point, that “ye have no need that any man teach you, but the unction itself teacheth you concerning all things.” Now this, as I am sure ye remember, we so expounded to you, that we who from without speak to your ears, are as workmen applying culture from without to a tree, but we cannot give the increasenor form the fruits: but only He that created and redeemed and called you, He, dwelling in you by faith and the Spirit, must speak to you within, else vain is all our noise of words. Whence does this appear? From this: that while many hear, not all are persuaded of that which is said, but only they to whom God speaks within. Now they to whom He speaks within, are those who give place to Him: and those give place to God, who “give not place to the devil.”1 For the devil wishes to inhabit the hearts of men, and speak there the things which are able to seduce. But what saith the Lord Jesus? “The prince of this world is cast out.”2 Whence cast out of heaven and earth, out of the fabric of the world? Nay, but out of the hearts of the believing. The invader being cast out, let the Redeemer dwell within: because the same redeemed, who created. And the devil now assaults from without, not conquers Him that hath possession within. And he assaults from without, by casting in various temptations: but that person consents not thereto, to whom God speaks within, and the unction of which ye have heard.
1 Ep 5,27
2 Jn 12,31
402 2. “And it is true,” namely, this same unction; i.e. the very Spirit of the Lord which teacheth men, cannot lie: “and is not false.3 Even as it hath taught you, abide ye in the same. And now, little children, abide ye in Him, that when He shall be manifested, we may have boldness in His sight, that we be not put to shame by Him at His coming.”4 Ye see, brethren: we believe on Jesus whom we have not seen: they announced Him, that saw, that handled, that heard the word out of His own mouth; and that they might persuade all mankind of the truth thereof, they were sent by Him, not dared to go of themselves. And whither were they sent? Ye heard while the Gospel was read, “Go, preach the Gospel to the whole creation which is under heaven.”5 Consequently, the disciples were sent “every where:” with signs and wonders to attest that what they spake, they had seen. And we believe on Him whom we have not seen, and we look for Him to come. Whose look for Him by faith, shall rejoice when He cometh: those who are without faith, when that which nowthey see not is come, shall be ashamed. And that confusion of face shall not be for a single day and so pass away, in such sort as those are wont to be confounded, who are found out in some fault, and are scoffed at by their fellowmen. That confusion shall carry them that are confounded to the left hand, that to them it may be said, “Go into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”6 Let us abide then in His words, that we be not confounded when He cometh. For Himself saith in the Gospel to them that had believed on Him: “If ye shall abide in my word, then are ye verily my disciples.”7 And, as if they had asked, With what fruit? “And,” saith He, “ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” For as yet our salvation is in hope, not in deed: for we do not already possess that which is promised, but we hope for it to come. And “faithful is He that promised;”8 He deceiveth not thee: only do thou not faint, but wait for the promise. For He, the Truth, cannot deceive. Be not thou a liar, to profess one thing and do another; keep thou the faith, and He keeps His promise. But if thou keep not the faith, thine own self, not He that promised, hath defrauded thee).
3 Mendax. Gr). yeu`do". Vulg). Mendacium. In the following clause et om. as kai; in Cod. Alex). In ipsa, Gr). ejn aujtw`, taken as referred to crivsma, “in the unction” (Lat. two Mss. in ipso). Vulg). in eo, “in Christ.”
4 1Jn 3,27-28
5 Mc 16,15). Universae, creaturae.
6 Mt 25,31
7 Jn 8,3l-32.
8 He 10,23).
403 3. “If ye know that He is righteous, know ye9 that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him.”10 The righteousness which at present is ours is of faith. Perfect righteousness is not, save only in the angels: and scarce in angels, if they be compared with God: yet if there be any perfect righteousness of souls and spirits which God hath created, it is in the angels, holy, just, good, by no lapse turned aside, by no pride falling, but remaining ever in the contemplation of the Word of God, and having nothing else sweet unto them save Him by whom they were created; in them is perfect righteousness: but in us it has begun to be, of faith, by the Spirit. Ye heard when the Psalm was read,“Begin11 to the Lord in confession.”12 “Begin,” saith it; the beginning of our righteousness is the confession of sins. Thou hast begun not to defend thy sin; now hast thou made a beginning of righteousness: but it shall be perfected in thee when to do nothing else shall delight thee, when “death shall be swallowed up in victory,”13 when there shall be no itching of lust, when there shall be no struggling with flesh and blood, when there shall be the palm of victory, the triumph over the enemy; then shall there be perfect righteousness. At present we are still fighting: if we fight we are in the lists;14 we smite and are smitten; but who shall conquer, remains to be seen. And that man conquers, who even when he smites presumes not on his own strength, but relies upon God that cheers him on. The devil is alone when he fights against us. If we are with God, we overcome the devil: for if thou fight alone with the devil, thou wilt be overcome. He is a skillful enemy: how may palms has he won! Consider to what he has cast us down t That we are born mortal, comes of this, that he in the first place cast down from Paradise our very original. What then is to be done, seeing he is so well practised? Let the Almighty be invoked to thine aid against the devices of the devil. Let Him dwell in thee, who cannot be overcome, and thou shalt securely overcome him who is wont to overcome. But to overcome whom? Those in whom God dwelleth not. For, that ye may know it, brethren; Adam being in Paradise despised the commandment of God, and lifted up the neck, as if he desired to be his own master, and were loath to be subject to the will of God: so he fell from that immortality, from that blessedness. But there was a certain man, a man now well skilled, though a mortal born, who even as he sat on the dunghill, purifying with worms, overcame the devil: yea, Adam himself then overcame: even he, in Job; because Jb was of his race. So then, Adam, overcome in Paradise, overcame on the dunghill. Being in Paradise, he gave ear to the persuasion of the woman which the devil had put into her: but being on the dunghill he said to Eve, “Thou hast spoken as one of the foolish women.”15 There he lent an ear, here he gave an answer: when he was glad, he listened, when he was scourged, he overcame. Therefore, see what follows, my brethren, in the Epistle: because this is what it would have us lay to heart, that we may overcome the devil indeed, but not of ourselves. “If ye know that He is righteous,” saith it, “know ye that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him:” of God, of Christ. And in that he hath said, “Is born of Him,” he cheers us on. Already therefore, in that we are born of Him, we are perfect.
9 Scitote Vulg). genwvskete as imperative, “hence learn ye to know that, &c.” Were it indicative, “to know that He is righteous is to know that, &c.” probably o]date would have been repeated as in 5, 15, oi]damen—oi]damen.
10 1Jn 2,29
11 Incipite, LXX). ejxavrxate. Vulg). praecinite.
12 Ps 147,7
13 1Co 15,24
15 Jb 2,10
404 4. Hear. “Behold what manner of love the Father hath given us, that we should be called sons of God, and be16 (such).17 For whoso are called sons, and are not sons, what profiteth them the name where the thing is not? How many are called physicians, who know not how to heal! how many are called watchers, who sleep all night long! So, many are called Christians, and yet in deeds are not found such; because they are not this which they are called, that is, in life, in manners, in faith, in hope, in charity. But what have ye heard here, brethren? “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called, and should be, the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it hath not known Him, us also the world knoweth not.”18 There is a whole world Christian, and a whole world ungodly; because throughout the whole world there are ungodly, and throughout the whole world there are godly: those know not these. In what sense, think we, do they not know them? They deride them that live good lives. Mc well and see: for haply there are such also among you. Each one of you who now lives godly, who despises worldly things, who does not choose to go to spectacles, who does not choose to make himself drunken as it were by solemn custom, yea, what is worse, under countenance of holy days to make himself unclean: the man who does not choose to do these things, how is he derided by those who do them!19 Would he be scoffed at if he were known? But why is he not known? “The world knoweth Him not.” Who is “the world”? Those inhabiters of the world. Just as we say, “a house;” meaning, its inhabitants. These things have been said to you again and again, and we forbear to repeat them to your disgust. By this time, when ye hear the word “world,” in a bad signification, ye know that ye must understand it to mean only lovers of the world because through love they inhabit, and by inhabiting have become entitled to the name. Therefore the world hath not known us, because it hath not known Him. He walked here Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh; He was God, He was latent in weakness.20 And wherefore was He not known? Because He reproved all sins in men. They, through loving the delights of sins, did not acknowledge the God: through loving that which the fever prompted, they did wrong to the Physician.
16 1Jn 3,1
17 Vocemur et simus. Vulg). nominemur et simus. Cod. Alex and other authorities, klhqw`men kaij ejsme;n (received by Lachmann). Mill in 50,cites as from Augustin, but without specifying the place: Qui vocantur et non sunt, quid prodest illis nomen? [The very words of this passage.] Verum hic loquitur de nomine quod a Deo tribuitur: hic non est discrimen inter dici et esse). [Which looks rather like an expression of dissent, by Mill himself or some other.][“kaiv ejsmen,” Westcott and Hort, “and such we are,” Ap V These closing words of ch. 3,1, wanting in Auth. V.—J. H. M.]
18 Et nos non cognoscit mundus: a reading of which there are no traces in the Mss.: it seems to be an expository gloss: “therefore (because we are sons of God) the world knoweth us not. Namely, because the world knew not Him, it knows not us.”
19 Supra: add Ep. 29, ad Alypium.
20 Ed. Ben. places the colon before in carne: “in the flesh He was God, &c.” But [Aug. several times uses ambulare, without an object.—J. H. M.] ambulabat seems to require an object to complete the sense, and the antithesis between erat and latebat is more emphatic when in carne is given to the former clause. So Bodl. 150, Laud. 116.
405 5. For us then, what are we? Already we are begotten of Him; but because we are such in hope, he saith, “Beloved, now are we sons of God.” Now already? Then what is it we look for, if already we are sons of God? “And not yet,” saith he, “is it manifested what21 we shall be.” But what else shall we be than sons of God? Hear what follows: “We know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” Understand, my beloved. It is a great matter: “We know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” In the first place mark, what is called “Is.” Ye know what it is that is so called. That which is called “Is,” and not only is called but is so, is unchangeable: It ever remaineth, It cannot be changed, It is in no part corruptible: It hath neither proficiency, for It is perfect; nor hath deficiency, for It is eternal. And what is this? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”22 And what is this? “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”23 To see Christ in this sort, Christ in the form of God, Word of God, Only-Begotten of the Father, equal with the Father, is to the bad impossible. But in regard that the Word was made flesh, the bad also shall have power to see Him: because in the day of judgment the bad also will see Him; for He shall so come to judge, as He came to be judged. In the selfsame form, a man, but yet God: for “cursed is every one that putteth his trust in man.”24 A man, He came to be judged, a man, He will come to judge. And if He shall not be seen, what is this that is written, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced?”25 For ofthe ungodly it is said, that they shall see and be confounded. How shall the ungodly not see, when He shall set some on the right hand, others on the left? To those on the right hand He will say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom:”26 to those on the left He will say, “Go into everlasting fire.” They will see but the form of a servant, the form of God they will not see. Why? because they were ungodly; and the Lord Himself saith, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”27 Therefore, we areto see a certain vision, my brethren, “which neither eye hath seen, nor ear hath heard, nor hath entered into the heart of man:”28 a certain vision, a vision surpassing all earthly beautifulness, of gold, of silver, of groves and fields; the beautifulness of sea and air, the beautifulness of sun and moon, the beautifulness of the stars, the beautifulness of angels: surpassing all things: because from it are all things beautiful.
21 Quid erimus. Vulg). tiv ejsovmeqa). Enarr.in Psa. 37,2, § 8, quod erimus o] ti: so St. Jerome in Epist. Epiphan. “the thing which we shall be is not yet made manifest.”
22 Jn 1,1
23 Ph 2,6
24 Jr 17,5
25 Jn 19,37
26 Mt 25,41
27 Mt 5,8
28 1Co 2,9
406 6. What then shall “we” be, when we shall see this? What is promised to us? “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” The tongue hath done what it could, hath sounded the words: let the rest be thought by the heart. For what hath even Jn himself said in comparison of That which Is, or what can be said by us men, who are so far from being equal to his merits? Return we therefore to that unction of Him, return we to that unction which inwardly teacheth that which we cannot speak: and because ye cannot at present see, let your part and duty be in desire. The whole life of a good Christian is an holy desire.29 Now what thou longest for, thou dost not yet see: howbeit by longing, thou art made capable, so that when that is come which thou mayest see, thou shall be filled. For just as, if thou wouldest fill a bag,30 and knowest how great the thing is that shall be given, thou stretchest the opening of the sack or the skin, or whatever else it be; thou knowest how much thou wouldest put in, and seest that the bag is narrow; by stretching thou makest it capable of holding more: so God, by deferring our hope, stretches our desire; by the desiring, stretches the mind; by stretching, makes it more capacious. Let us desire therefore, my brethren, for we shall be filled. See Paul widening, as it were,31 his bosom, that it may be able to receive that which is to come. He saith, namely, “Not that I have alreadyreceived, or am already perfect: brethren,I deem not myself to have apprehended.”32 Then what art thou doing in this life, if thou have not yet apprehended? “But this one thing [I do]; forgetting the things that are behind, reaching forth to the things that are before,33 upon the strain I follow on unto the prize of the high calling.” He says he reaches forth, or stretches himself, and says that he follows “upon the strain.” He felt himself too little to take in that “which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man.”34 This is our life, that by longing we should be exercised. But holy longing exercises us just so muchas we prune off our longings from the love of the world. We have already said, “Empty out that which is to be filled.” With good thou art to be filled: pour out the bad. Suppose that God would fill thee with honey: if thou art full of vinegar, where wilt thou put the honey? That which the vessel bore in it must be poured out: the vessel itself must be cleansed; must be cleansed, albeit with labor, albeit with hard rubbing, that it may become fit for that thing, whatever it be. Let us say honey, say gold, say wine; whatever we say it is, being that which cannot be said, whatever we would fain say, It is called—God. And when we say” God,” what have we said? Is that one syllable the whole of that we look for? So then, whatever, we have had power to say is beneath Him: let us stretch ourselves unto Him, that when He shall come, He may fill us. For “we shall be like Him; because we shall see Him as He is.”
29 [“Longing.” The word of that other Church father,—before Augustin’s day,—who thanked God that from his youth up he had been a “man of longings,” vir desidiorum.—J. H. M.]
32 Ph 3,13-14
33 Secundum intentionem. Gr). kata; skopovn.
34 1Co 2,9
407 7. “And every one that hath this hope in Him.” Ye see how he hath set us our place, in “hope.” Ye see how the Apostle Paul agreeth with his fellow-apostle, “By hope we are saved. But hope that is seen, is not hope: for what. a man seeth, why doth he hope for? For if what we see not, we hope for, by patience we wait for it.”35 This very patience exerciseth desire. Continue thou, for He continueth: and persevere thou in walking, that thou mayest reach the goal: for that to which thou tendest will not remove. See: “And every one that hath this hope in Him, purifieth36 himself even as He is pure.”37 See how he has not taken away free-will, in that he saith, “purifieth himself.” Who purifieth us but God? Yea, but God doth not purify thee if thou be unwilling. Therefore, in that thou joinest thy will to God, in that thou purifiest thyself. Thou purifiest thyself, not by thyself, but by Him who cometh to inhabit thee. Still, because thou doest somewhat therein by the will, therefore is somewhat attributed to thee. But it is attributed to thee only to the end thou shouldest say, as in the Psalm, “Be thou my helper, forsake me not.”38 If thou sayest, “Be thou my helper,” thou doest somewhat: for if thou be doing nothing, how should He be said to “help” thee?
35 Rm 8,24-25
38 Ps 27,11
408 8. “Every one that doeth sin, doeth also iniquity.”39 Let no man say, Sin is one thing, iniquity another: let no man say, I am a sinful man, but not40 a doer of iniquity. For, “Every one that doeth sin, doeth also iniquity. Sin is iniquity.” Well then, what are we to do concerning sins and iniquities? Hear what He saith: “And ye know that He was manifested to take away sin; and sin in Him is not.”41 He, in Whom sin is not, the same is come to take away sin. For were there sin in Him, it must be taken away from Him, not He take it away Himself. “Whosoever abideth in Him, sinneth not.”42 In so far as he abideth in Him, in so far sinneth not. “Whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him.” A great question this: “Whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him.” No marvel. We have not seen Him, but are to see; have not known Him, but are to know: we believe on One we have not known. Or haply, by faith we have known, and by actual beholding43 have not yet known? But then in faith we have both seen and known. For if faith doth not yet see,why are we said to have been enlightened? There is an enlightening by faith, and an enlightening by sight. At present, while we are on pilgrimage, “we walk by faith, not by sight,”44 or, actually beholding. Therefore also our righteousness is “by faith, not by sight.” Our righteousness shall be perfect, when we shall see by actual beholding.45 Only, in the meanwhile, let us not leave that righteousness which is of faith, since “the just doth live by faith,”46 as saith the apostle. “Whosoever abideth in Him, sinneth not.” For, “whosoever sinneth, hath not seen Him, neither known Him.” That man who sins, believes not: but if a man believes, so far as pertains to his faith, he sinneth not.
39 1Jn 3,4
41 1Jn 3,5
42 1Jn 3,6
44 2Co 5,7).
45 Per speciem.
46 Rm 1,17
409 9. “Little children, let no man seduce you. He that doeth righteousness is righteous, as He is righteous.”47 What, on hearing that we are “righteous as He is righteous,” are we to think ourselves equal with God? Ye must know what means that “as:” thus he said a while ago, “Purifieth himself even as He is pure.” Then is our purity like and equal to the purity of God, and our righteousness to God’s righteousness? Who can say this? But the word “as,” is not always wont to be used in the sense of equality. As, for example, if, having seen this large church,48 a person should wish to build a smaller church, but with the same relative dimensions: as, for example, if this be one measure in width and two measures in length, he too should build his church one measure in width and two measures in length: in that case one sees that he has built it “as” this is built. But this church has, say, a hundred cubits in length, the other thirty: it is at once “as” this, and yet unequal. Ye see that this “as” is not always referred to parity and equality. For example, see what a difference there is between the face of a man and its image from a mirror: there is a face in the image, a face in the body: the image exists in imitation, the body in reality. And what do we say? Why, “as” there are eyes here, so also there; “as” ears here, so ears also there. The thing is different, but the “as” is said of the resemblance. Well then, we also have in us the image of God; but not that which the Son equal with the Father hath: yet except we also, according to our measure, were “as” He, we should in no respect be said to be like Him. “He purifieth us,” then, “even as He is pure:” but He is pure from eternity, we pure by faith. We are “righteous even as He is righteous;” but He is so in His immutable perpetuity, we righteous by believing on One we do not see, that so we may one day see Him. Even when our righteousness shall be perfect, when we shall be equal to the angels, not even then shall it be equalled with Him. How far thenis it from Him now, when not even then it shall be equal!
47 1Jn 3,7
410 10. “He that doeth sin, is of the devil, because the devil sinneth from the beginning.”49 “Is of the devil:” ye know what he means: by imitating the devil. For the devil made no man, begat no man, created no man: but whoso imitates the devil, that person, as if begotten of him, becomes a child of the devil; by imitating him, not literally by being begotten of him. In what sense art thou a child of Abraham, not that Abraham begat thee? In the same sense as the Jews, the children of Abraham, not imitating the faith of Abraham, are become children of the devil: of the flesh of Abraham they were begotten, and the faith of Abraham they have not imitated. If then those who were thence begotten were put out of the inheritance, because they did not imitate, thou, who art not begotten of him, art made a child, and in this way shall be a child of him by imitating him. And if thou imitate the devil, in such wise as he became proud and impious against God, thou wilt be a child of the devil: by imitating, not that he created thee or begat thee.
49 1Jn 3,8
411 11. “Unto this end was the Son of God manifested.” Now then, brethren, mark! All sinners are begotten of the devil, as sinners. Adam was made by God: but when he consented to the devil, he was begotten of the devil; and he begat all men such as he was himself. With lust itself we were born; even before we add our sins, from that condemnation we have our birth. For if we are born without any sin, wherefore this running with infants to baptism that they may be released? Then mark well, brethren, the two birth-stocks,50 Adam and Christ: two men are; but one of them, a man that is man; the other, a Man that is God. By the man that is man we are sinners; by the Man that is God we are justified. That birth hath cast down unto death; this birth hath raised up unto life: that birth brings with it sin; this birth setteth free from sin. For to this end came Christ as Man, to undo51 the sins of men. “Unto this end was the Son of God manifested, that He may undo the works of the devil.”
412 12. The rest I commend to your thoughts, my beloved, that I may not burden you. For the question we labor to solve is even this—that we call ourselves sinners: for if any man shall say that he is without sin, he is a liar. And in the Epistle of this same Jn we have found it written, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.”52 For ye should remember what went before: “Ifwe say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” And yet, on the other hand, in what follows thou art told, “He that is begotten of God sinneth not: he that doeth sin hath not seen Him, neither known Him.—Every one that doeth sin is of the devil:” sin is not of God: this affrights us again. In what sense are we begotten of God, and in what sense do we confess ourselves sinners? Shall we say, because we are not begotten of God? And what do these Sacraments in regard to infants? What hath Jn said? “He that is begotten of God, sinneth not.” And yet again the same Jn hath said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us!” A great question it is, and an embarrassing one; and may I have made you intent upon having it solved, my beloved. Tomorrow, in the name of the Lord, what He will give, we will discourse thereof.
52 1Jn 1,8
500 1Jn 3,9-18.
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever is not righteous is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of the wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate us. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. In this we know love, that He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how can the love of God dwell in him? My little children, let us not love only in word and in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”
501 1). Hear intently, I do beseech you, because it is no small matter that we have to cope withal: and I doubt not, because ye were intent upon it yesterday, that ye have with even greater intentness of purpose come together to-day. For it is no slight question, how he saith in this Epistle, “Whosoever is born of God, sinneth not,”1 and how in the same Epistle he hath said above, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”2 What shall the man do, who is pressed by both sayings out of the same Epistle? If he shall confess himself a sinner, he fears lest it be said to him, Then art thou not born of God; because it is written, “Whosoever is born of God, sinneth not.” But if he shall say that he is just and that he hath no sin, he receives on the other side a blow from the same Epistle, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Placed then as he is in the midst, what he can say and what confess, or what profess, he cannot find. To profess himself to be without sin, is full of peril; and not only full of peril, but also full of error’: “We deceive ourselves,” saith he, “and the truth is not in us, if we say that we have no sin.” But oh that thou hadst none, and saidst this! for then wouldest thou say truly, and in uttering the truth wouldest have not so much as a vestige of wrong to be afraid of. But, that thou doest ill if thou say so, is because it is a lie that thou sayest. “The truth,” saith he, “is not in us, if we say that we have no sin.” He saith not, “Have not had;” lest haply it should seem to be spoken of the past life. For the man here hath had sins: but from the time that he was born of God, he has begun not to have sins. If it were so, there would be no question to embarrass us. For we should say, We have been sinners, but now we are justified: we have had sin, but now we have none. He saith not this: but what saith he? “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” And then after a while he says on the other hand, “Whosoever is born of God sinneth not.” Was Jn himself not born of God? If Jn was not born of God, John, of whom ye have heard that he lay in the Lord’s bosom; does any man dare engage for himself that in him has taken place that regeneration which it was not granted to that man to have, to whom it was granted to lie in the bosom of the Lord? The man whom the Lord loved more than the rest,3 him alone had He not begotten of the Spirit?
1 1Jn 3,9
2 1Jn 1,8).
3 Jn 13,23
502 2. Mark now these words. As yet, I am urging it upon you, what straits we are put to that by putting your minds on the stretch, that is, by your praying for us and for yourselves, God may make enlargement, and give us an outlet: lest some man find in His word an occasion of his own perdition, that word which was preached and put in writing only for healing and salvation. “Every man,” saith he, “that doeth sin, doeth also iniquity.” Lest haply thou make a distinction, “Sin is iniquity.” Lest thou say, A sinner I am, but not a doer of iniquity, “Sin is iniquity. And ye know that to this end was He manifested, that He should take away sin; and there is no sin in Him.” And what doth it profit us, that He came without sin? “Every one that sinneth not, abideth in Him: and every one that sinneth, hath not seen Him, neither known Him. Little children, let no man seduce you. He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous.” This we have already said, that the word “as” is wont to be used of a certain resemblance, not of equality. “He that doeth sin is of the devil, because the, devil sinneth from the beginning.” This too we have already said, that the devil created no man, nor begat any, but his imitators are,as it were, born of him. “To this end wasthe Son of God manifested, that He should undo4 the works of the devil.” Consequently, to undo (or loose) sins, He that hath no sin. And then follows: “Every one that is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God:”5 he has drawn the cord tight!—Be-like, it is in regard of some one sin that he hath said, “Doth not sin,” not in regard of all sin: that in this that he saith, “Whoso is born of God, doth not sin,” thou mayest understand some one particular sin, which that man who is born of God cannot commit:6 and such is that sin that, if one commit it, it confirms the rest. What is this sin? To do contrary to the commandment. What is the commandment? “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another.”7 Mc well! This commandment of Christ is called, “love.” By this love sins are loosed. If this love be not kept, the not holding it is at once a grievous sin, and the root of all sins.
4 Solvat). [Gr). Auvsh=solvat, meaning destroy in classical Latin; so here in Auth. V. and in Ap V.—J. H. M.]
5 1Jn 3,9
6 [“Cannot sin,” &c.—Augustin maintains that the one sin which the Christian cannot commit is violation of charity; he cannot do otherwise than love, and do acts that flow from love, if he be a Christian. No doubt this indicates a great truth, for love expresses the inner essence of the believer’s life and character. But the strong language of the apostle is not met by this partial statement.
Better acknowledge the apparent contradiction between “does not commit sin,” “cannot sin,” and “if we say, we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” The apostle does not solve the problem. Meyer, who discards many explanations of the first two phrases,—as, sinning knowingly and wilfully, committing mortal sins and many others specified by him, thinks that the solution lies in the fact simply that the apostle desires to emphasize the contrast between born of God and a sinner. He does not show how emphasizing a contrast explains a contradiction (which he discovers in the passage). Jonathan Edwards and Ez Hopkins, following many others with whom Westcott coincides, judge that the alleged impossibility of sinning relates to total character, or prevailing habit; the Christian may be surprised, overtaken, beguiled by sin, but fights against sin, does not consent to sin with his whole heart; “he does not wish sin.” It has been added that as to his nature—renewed; as to the new life—life from the Spirit of God,—his divine sonship and sin are irreconcilable contraries. In part, these suggestions and definitions may meet the difficulty which the apostle, doubtless wishing to present a high ideal of the life of one born from above, leaves for practical solution by those who have passed from death unto life.—J. H. M,]
7 5 Jn 13,34).
503 3. Mc well, brethren; we have brought forward somewhat in which, to them that have good understanding, the question is solved. But do we only walk in the way with them that run more swiftly? Those that walk more slowly must not be left behind. Let us turn the matter every way, in such words as we can, in order that it may be brought within reach of all. For I suppose, brethren, that every man is concerned for his own soul, who does not come to Church without cause, who does not seek temporal things in the Church, who does not come here to transact secular business; but comes here in order that he may lay hold upon some eternal thing, promised unto him, whereunto he may attain: he must needs consider how he shall walk in the way, lest he be left behind, lest he go back, lest he go astray, lest by halting he do not attain. Whoever therefore is in earnest, let him be slow, let him be swift, yet let him not leave the way. This then I have said, that in saying, “Whosoever is born of God sinneth not,” it is probable he meant it of some particular sin: for else it will be contrary to that place: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” In this way then the question may be solved. There is a certain sin, which he that is born of God cannot commit; a sin, which not being committed, other sins are loosed, and being committed, other sins are confirmed. What is this sin? To do contrary to the commandment of Christ, contrary to the New Testament.8 What is the new commandment? “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another.”9 Whoso doeth contrary to charity and contrary to brotherly love, let him not dare to glory and say that he is born of God: but whoso is in brotherly love, there are certain sins which he cannot commit, and this above all, that he should hate his brother. And how fares it with him concerning his other sins, of which it is said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us?” Let him hear that which shall set his mind at rest from another place of Scripture; “Charity covereth a multitude of sins.”10
8 [Translator here follows Eras.; Bened. (Migne) omits “of Christ, contrary to the New Testament,” and omits “new” in next sentence.—J. H. M.]
9 Jn 13,34
10 (1P 4,8
504 4. Charity therefore we commend; charity this Epistle commendeth. The Lord, after His resurrection, what question put He to Peter, but, “Lovest thou me?”11 And it was not enough to ask it once; a second time also He put none other question, a third time also none other. Although when it came to the third time, Peter, as one who knew not what was the drift of this, was grieved because it seemed as if the Lord did not believe him; nevertheless both a first time and a second, and a third He put this question. Thrice fear denied, thrice love confessed. Behold Peter loveth the Lord. What is he to do for the Lord? For think not that he in the Psalm did not feel himself at a loss what to do: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all the benefits He hath done unto me?”12 He that said this in the Psalm, marked what great things had been done for him by God; and sought what he should render to God, and could find nothing. For whatever thou wouldest render, from Him didst thou receiveit to render. And what did he find to offer in return? That which, as we said, my brethren, he had received from Him, that only found he to offer in return. “I will receive the cup of salvation, and will call upon the name of the Lord.” For who had given him the cup of salvation, but He to whom he wished to offer in return?Now to receive the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord, is to be filled with charity; andso filled, that not only thou shall not hate thy brother, but shall be prepared to die for thy brother. This is perfect charity, that thou be prepared to die for thy brother. This the Lord exhibited in Himself, who died for all, praying for them by whom He was crucified, and saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”13 But if He alone hath done this, He was not a Master, if He had no disciples. Disciples who came after Him have done this.14 Men were stoning Stephen, and he knelt down and said, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”15 He loved them that were killing him; since for them also he was dying. Hear also the Apostle Paul: “And I myself,” saith he, “will be spent for your souls.”16 For he was among those for whom Stephen, when by their hands he was dying, besought forgiveness. This then is perfect charity. If any man shall have so great charity that he is prepared even to die for his brethren, in that man is perfect charity. But as soon as it is born, is it already quite perfect? That it may be made perfect, it is born; when born, it is nourished; when nourished, it is strengthened; when strengthened, it is perfected; when it has come to perfection, what saith it? “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. I wished to be dissolved, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is needful for you.”17 For their sakes he was willing to live, for whose sakes he was prepared to die.
11 Jn 21,15-17.
12 Ps 116,12-13
13 Lc 23,34
14 Serm. clxxxiii. 3, 4.
15 Ac 7,59
16 2Co 12,15
17 Ph 1,21-24).
505 5. And that ye may know that it is this perfect charity which that man violates not, and against which that man sins not, who is born of God; this is what the Lord saith to Peter; “Peter lovest thou me?” And he answers, “I love.” He saith not, If thou love me, shew kindness to me. For when the Lord was in mortal flesh, He hungered, He thirsted: at that time when He hungered and thirsted, He was taken in as a guest; those who had the means, ministered unto Him of their substance, as we read in the Gospel. Zacchaeus entertained Him as his guest: he was saved from his disease by entertaining the Physician. From what disease? The disease of avarice. For he was very rich, and the chief of the publicans. Mc the man made whole from the disease of avarice: “The half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man, I will restore him fourfold.”18 That he kept the other half, was not to enjoy it, but to pay his debts. Well, he at that time entertained the Physician as his guest, because there was infirmity of the flesh in the Lord, to which men might show this kindness; and this, because it was His will to grant this very thing to them that did Him kind service; for the benefit was to them that did the service, not to Him. For, could He to whom angels ministered require these men’s kindness? Not even His servant Elias, to whom He sent bread and flesh by the ravens upon a certain occasion19 had need of this; and yet that a religious widow might be blessed, the servant of God is sent, and he whom God in secret did feed, is fed by the widow. But still, although by the means of these servants of God, those who consider their need get good to themselves, in respect of that reward most manifestly set forth by the Lord in the Gospel: “He that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward: and he that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward: and whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, He shall in no wise lose his reward:”20 although, then, they that do this, do it to their own good: yet neither could this kind office be done to Him when about to ascend21 into Heaven. What could Peter, who loved Him, render unto Him? Hear what. “Feed my sheep:” i.e. do for the brethren, that which I have done for thee. I redeemed all with my blood: hesitate not to die for confession of the truth, that the rest may imitate you.
18 Lc 19,8
19 1R 17,4-9.
20 Mt 10,41-42
506 6. But this, as we have said, brethren, is perfect charity. He that is born of God hath it. Mark, my beloved, see what I say. Behold, a man has received the Sacrament of that birth, being baptized; he hath the Sacrament, and a great Sacrament, divine, holy, ineffable. Consider what a Sacrament! To make him a new man by remission of all sins! Nevertheless, let him look well to the heart, whether that be thoroughly done there, which is done in the body; let him see whether he have charity, and then say, I am born of God. If however he have it not, he has indeed the soldier’s mark upon him, but he roams as a deserter. Let him have charity; otherwise let him not say that he is born of God. But he says, I have the Sacrament. Hear the Apostle: “If I know all mysteries,22 and have all faith, so that I can remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”23
23 1Co 13,2
507 7. This, if ye remember, we gave you to understand in beginning to read this Epistle, that nothing in it is so commended as charity. Even if it seems to speak of various other things, to this it makes its way back, and whatever it says, it will needs bring all to bear upon charity. Let us see whether it does so here. Mark: “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” We ask, what sin? because if thou understand all sin, it will be contrary to that place, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Then let him say what sin; let him teach us; lest haply I may have rashly said that the sin here is the violation of charity, because he said above, “He that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because the darkness hath blinded his eyes.”24 But perhaps he has said something in what comes afterwards, and has mentioned charity by name? See that this circuit of words hath this end, hath this issue. “Whosoever is born of God, sinneth not, because His seed remaineth in him.”25 The “seed” of God, i.e. the word of God: whence the apostle saith, “I have begotten you through the Gospel. And he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”26 Let him tell us this, let us see in what we cannot sin. “In this are manifested the children of God and the children of the devil. Whosoever is not righteous is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”27 Aye, now indeed it is manifest of what he speaks: “Neither he that loveth not his brother.” Therefore, love alone puts the difference between the children of God and the children of the devil. Let them all sign themselves with the sign of the cross of Christ; let them all respond, Amen; let all sing Alleluia; let all be baptized, let all come to church, let all build the walls of churches: there is no discerning of the children of God from the children of the devil, but only by charity. They that have charity are born of God: they that have it not, are not born of God. A mighty token, a mighty distinction! Have what thou wilt; if this alone thou have not, it profiteth thee nothing: other things if thou have not, have this, and thou hast fulfilled the law. “For he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law,” saith the apostle: and, “Charity is the fulfilling of the law.”28 I take this to be the pearl which the merchant man in the Gospel is described to have been seeking, who “found one pearl, and sold all that he had, and bought it.”29 This is the pearl of price, Charity, without which whatever thou mayest have, profiteth thee nothing: which if alone thou have, it sufficeth thee. Now, with faith thou seest, then with actual beholding30 thou shalt see. For if we love when we see not, how shall we embrace it when we see! But wherein must we exercise ourselves? In brotherly love. Thou mayest say to me, I have not seen God: canst thou say to me, I have not seen man? Love thy brother. For if thou love thy brother whom thou seest, at the same time thou shall see God also; because thou shall see Charity itself, and within dwelleth God.
24 1Jn 2,11
25 1Jn 3,9
26 1Co 4,15
27 1Jn 3,10
28 Rm 13,8 Rm 13,10).
29 Mt 13,46
30 Cum specie.
508 8. “Whosoever is not righteous is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”31 “For this is the message:” mark how he confirms it: “For this is the message which we heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” He has made it manifest to us that it is of this he speaks; whoso acts against this commandment, is in that accursed sin, into which those fall who are not born of God. “Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.”32 Therefore, where envy is, brotherly love cannot be. Mark, my beloved. He that envieth, loveth not. The sin of the devil is in that man; because the devil through envy cast man down. For he fell, and envied him that stood. He did not wish to cast man down that he himself might stand, but only that he might not fall alone. Hold fast in your mind from this that he has subjoined, that envy cannot exist in charity. Thou hast it openly, when charity was praised, “Charity envieth not.”33 There was no charity in Cain; and had there been no charity in Abel, God would not have accepted his sacrifice. For when they had both offered, the one of the fruits of the earth, the other of the offspring of the flock; what think ye, brethren, that God slighted the fruits of the earth, and loved the offspring of the flock? God had not regard to the hands, but saw in the heart: and whom He saw offer with charity, to his sacrifice He had respect; whom He saw offer with envy, from his sacrifice He turned away His eyes. By the good works, then, of Abel, he means only charity: by the evil works of Cain he means only his hatred of his brother. It was not enough that he hated his brother and envied his good works; because he would not imitate, he would kill. And hence it appeared that he was a child of the devil, and hence also that the other was God’s righteous one. Hence then are men discerned, my brethren. Let no man mark the tongue, but the deeds and the heart. If any do not good for his brethren, he shews what he has in him. By temptations are men proved.
31 1Jn 3,10-11
32 1Jn 3,12
33 1Co 13,4
509 9. “Marvel not, brethren, if the world hate us.”34 Must one often be telling you what “the world” means? Not the heaven, not the earth, nor these visible works which God made; but lovers of the world. By often saying these things, to some I am burdensome: but I am so far from saying it without a cause, that some may be questioned whether I said it, and they cannot answer. Let then, even by thrusting it upon them, something stick fast in the hearts of them that hear. What is “the world”? The world, when put in a bad sense, is, lovers of the world: the world, when the word is used in praise, is heaven and earth, and the works of God that are in them; whence it is said, “And the world was made by Him.”35 Also, the world is the fullness of the earth, as Jn himself hath said, “Not only for our sins is He the propitiator, but (for the sins) of the whole world:”36 he means, “of the world,” of all the faithful scattered throughout the whole earth. But the world in a bad sense, is, lovers of the world. They that love the world, cannot love their brother.
34 1Jn 3,13 . uJma`", Vulg. vos.
35 Jn 1,10
36 1Jn 2,2
510 10. “If the world hate us: we know What do we know?—“that we have passed from death unto life”—How do we know? “Because we love the brethren.”37 Let none ask man: let each return to his own heart: if he find there brotherly love, let him set his mind at rest, because he is “passed from death unto life.” Already he is on the right hand: let him not regard that at present his glory is hidden: when the Lord shall come, then shall he appear in glory. For he has life in him, but as yet in winter; the root is alive, but the branches, so to say, are dry: within is the substance that has the life in it, within are the leaves of trees, within are the fruits: but they wait for the summer. Well then, “we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not, abideth in death.” Lest ye should think it a light matter, brethren, to hate, or, not to love, hear what follows: “Every one that hateth his brother, is a murderer.”38 How now, if any made light of hating his brother, will he also in his heart make light of murder? He does not stir his hands to kill a man; yet he is already held by God a murderer; the other lives, and yet this man is already judged as his slayer! “Every one that hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”
37 1Jn 3,14
38 1Jn 3,15).
511 11. “In this know we love:”39 he means, perfection of love, that perfection which we have bidden you lay to heart: “In this know we love, that He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” Lo here, whence that came: “Peter, lovest thou me? Feed My sheep.”40 For, that ye may know that He would have His sheep to be so fed by him, as that he should lay down his life for the sheep, straightway said He this to him: “When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, I and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake He,” saith the evangelist, “Signifying by what death he should glorify God;” so that to whom He had said, Feed my sheep,” the same He might teach to lay down his life for His sheep.
39 1Jn 3,16
40 Jn 21,15-19.
512 12. Whence beginneth charity, brethren? Attend a little: to what it is perfected, ye have heard; the very end of it, and the very measure of it is what the Lord hath put before us in the Gospel: “Greater love hath no man,” saith He, “than that one lay down his life for his friends.”41 Its perfection, therefore, He hath put before us in the Gospel, and here also it is its perfection that is put before us: but ye ask yourselves, and say to yourselves, When shall it be possible for us to have “this” charity? Do not too soon despair of thyself. Haply, it is born and is not yet perfect; nourish it, that it be not choked. But thou wilt say to me, And by what am I to know it? For to what it is perfected, we have heard; whence it begins, let us hear. He goes on to say: “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have hunger,42 and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how can the love of God dwell in him?”43 Lo, whence charity begins withal!44 If thou art not yet equal to the dying for thy brother, be thou even now equal to the giving of thy means to thy brother. Even now let charity smite thy bowels, that not of vainglory thou shouldest do it, but of the innermost45 marrow of mercy; that thou consider him, now in want. For if thy superfluities thou canst not give to thy brother, canst thou lay down thy life for thy brother? There lies thy money in thy bosom, which thieves may take from thee; and though thieves do not take it, by dying thou wilt leave it, even if it leave not thee while living: what wilt thou do with it? Thy brother hungers, he is in necessity: be-like he is in suspense, is distressed by his creditor: he is thy brother, alike ye are bought, one is the price paid for you, ye are both redeemed by the blood of Christ: see whether thou have mercy, if thou have this world’s means. Perchance thou sayest, “What concerns it me? Am I to give my may not suffer trouble?” If money, that he this be the answer thy heart makes to thee, the love of the Father abideth not in thee. If the love of the Father abide not in thee, thou art not born of God. How boastest thou to be a Christian? Thou hast the name, and hast not the deeds. But if the work shall follow the name, let any call thee pagan, show thou by deeds that thou art a Christian. For if by deeds thou dost not show thyself a Christian, all men may call thee a Christian yet; what doth the name profit thee where the thing is not forthcoming? “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need,46 and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how can the love of God dwell in him?” And then he goes on: “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue but in deed and in truth.”47
41 Jn 15,13
43 1Jn 3,17
44 [Love; beneficence.—Augustin throughout these homilies amply vindicates his own declaration that the epistle on which he is commenting relates largely to charity; and his glowing words not only exhibit love as one star in the constellation of Christian graces, but as a deep and joyous principle and centre of life, “a well of water” within, from which refreshing streams of beneficence will spontaneously gush forth.
(He controverts those in his day who taught that it was enough to have the truth, to possess right opinions, and that such need not be forward in sacrificing aught for the truth’s sake, or to help their brethren. And in kindly reproof of such indolent and ignorant self seeking, he points the earnest believer to whom comes the lofty utterance of the apostle, lay down life, if need be, for thy brother, and who shrinks from such a test, to a lower evidence of the Christ-like mind, within the reach of all, and from which all may go up higher—“help thy brother in his necessity, relieve his wants; if not ready to do this for the brother before your eyes, how can you pretend love to the unseen Father and Friend?”
As the apostle’s reprehension of errorists in his day is applicable in refutation of many false opinions rife in our times, so his and Augustin’s fervent commendation of the surpassing excellence of love, and the absolute need, for the believer, of uniformly and constantly manifesting it in act and life, can never be superfluous, can never grow old.
Indifferentism as to doctrine, and careless coldness with respect to the sufferings of others, against both of which St. Jn lifts up his voice, if not peculiar to our day and nation, are yet deplorable evils among us, demanding energetic and practical protests from those who love the truth and love man.—J. H. M.]
47 1Jn 3,18
513 13. I suppose the thing is now made manifest to you my brethren: this great and most concerning secret and mystery.48 What is the force of charity, all Scripture doth set forth; but I know not whether any where it be more largely set forth than in this Epistle. We pray you and beseech you in the Lord, that both what ye have heard ye will keep in memory, and to that which is yet to be said, until the epistle be finished, will come with earnestness, and with earnestness hear the same. But open ye your heart for the good seed: root out the thorns, that that which we are sowing in you be not choked, but rather that the harvest may grow, and that the Husbandman may rejoice and make ready the barn for you as for grain, not the fire as for the chaff
Augustin on 1John 400