Augustin on 1John 200
“I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven through His name. I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, children, because ye have known the Father. I write1 unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever (even as God also abideth for ever).
201 1. All things that are read from the Holy Scriptures in order to our instruction and salvation, it behoves us to hear with earnest heed. Yet most of all must those things be commended to our memory, which are of most force against heretics; whose insidious designs cease not to circumvent all that are weaker and more negligent. Remember that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ both died for us, and rose again; died, to wit, for our offenses, rose again for our justification.2 Even as ye have just heard concerning the two disciples whom He met with in the way, how “their eyes were holden that they should not know Him:”3 and He found them despairing of the redemption that was in Christ, and deeming that now He had suffered and was dead as a man, not accounting that as Son of God He ever liveth; and deeming too that He was so dead in the flesh as not to come to life again, but just as one of the prophets: as those of you who were attentive have just now heard their own words. Then“He opened to them the Scriptures, beginning at Moses,” and going through all the prophets, showing them that all He had suffered had been foretold, lest they should be more staggered if the Lord should rise again, and the more fail to believe Him, if these things had not been told before concerning Him. For the firmness of faith is in this, that all things which came to pass in Christ were foretold. The disciples, then, knew Him not, save “in the breaking of bread.” And truly he that eateth and drinketh not judgment to himself in the breaking of bread doth know Christ.4 Afterward also those eleven “thought they saw a spirit.” He gave Himself to be handled by them, who also gave Himself to be crucified; to be crucified by enemies, to be handled by friends: yet the Physician of all, both of the ungodliness of those, and of the unbelief of these. For ye heard when the Ac of the Apostles were read, how many thousands of Christ’s slayers believed.5 If those believed afterwards who had killed, should not those believe who for a little while doubted? And yet even in regard of them, (a thing which ye ought especially to observe, and to commit to your memory, because that which shall make us strong against insidious errors, God has been pleased to put in the Scriptures, against which no man dares to speak, who in any sort wishes to seem a Christian), when He had given Himself to be handled by them, that did not suffice Him, but He would also confirm by means of the Scriptures the heart of them that believe: for He looked forward to us who should be afterwards; seeing that in Him we have nothing that we can handle, but have that which we may read. For if those believed only because they held and handled, what shall we do? Now, Christ is ascended into heaven; He is not to come save at the end, to judge the quick and the dead. Whereby shall we believe, but by that whereby it was His will that even those who handled Him should be confirmed? For He opened to them the Scriptures and showed them that it behoved Christ to suffer, and that all things should be fulfilled which were written of Him in the Law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms. He embraced in His discourse the whole ancient text of the Scriptures. All that there is of those former Scriptures tells of Christ; but only if it find ears. He also“opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures.” Whence we also must pray for this, that He would open our understanding.
1 [Have written, A. V.]
2 Rm 4,25).
3 Lc 24,13-28
4 1Co 11,29
5 Ac 2,41
202 2. But what did the Lord show written of Him in the Law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms? What did He show? Let Himself say. The evangelist has put this briefly, that we might know what in all that great compass of the Scriptures we ought to believe and to understand. Certainly there are many pages, and many books; the contents of them all is this which the Lord briefly spake to His disciples. What is this? That “it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise again the third day.” Thou hast it now concerning the Bridegroom, that “it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise again:” the Bridegroom has been set forth to us. Concerning the Bride, let us see what He saith; that thou, when thou knowest the Bridegroom and the Bride, mayest not without reason come to the marriage. For every celebration is a celebration of marriage: the Church’s nuptials are celebrated. The King’s Son is about to marry a wife, and that King’s Son is Himself a King: and the guests frequenting the marriage are themselves the Bride. Not, as in a carnal marriage, some are guests, and another is she that is married; in the Church they that come as guests, if they come to good purpose, become the Bride. For all the Church is Christ’s Bride, of which the beginning and first fruits is the flesh of Christ: there was the Bride joined to the Bridegroom in the flesh. With good reason when He would betoken that same flesh, He brake bread, and with good reason “in the breaking of bread,” the eyes “of the disciples were opened, and they knew Him.” Well then, what did the Lord say was written of Him in the Law and Prophets and Psalms? That “it behoved Christ to suffer.” Had He not added, “and to rise again,” well might those mourn whose eyes were holden; but “to rise again” is also foretold. And wherefore this? Why did it behove Christ to suffer and to rise again? Because of that Psalm which we especially commended to your attention on the fourth day, the first station, of last week.6 Why did it behove Christ to suffer and to rise again? For this reason: “All the ends of the earth shall be reminded and converted unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Him.”7 For that ye may know that it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise again; in this place also what hath He added, that after setting forth the Bridegroom He might also set forth the Bride? “And that there be preached,” saith He, “in His name, repentance and remission of sins throughout all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Ye have heard, brethren; hold it fast. Let no man doubt concerning the Church, that it is “throughout all nations:” let no man doubt that it began at Jerusalem, and hath filled all nations. We know the field where the Vine is planted: but when it is grown we know it not, because it has taken up the whole. Whence did it begin? “At Jerusalem.” Whither has it come? To “all nations.” A few remain: it shall possess all. In the mean time, while it is taking possession of all, it has seemed good to the Husbandman to cut off some unprofitable branches, and they have made heresies and schisms. Let not the branches that are cut off induce you to be cut off: rather exhort ye them that are cut off that they be grafted in again. It is manifest that Christ hath suffered, is risen again, andis ascended into heaven: made manifest alsois the Church, because there is “preached in His name repentance and remission of sins throughout all nations.” Whence did it begin? “Beginning at Jerusalem.” The man hears this; foolish and vain, and (how, shall I express it?) worse than blind! so great a mountain, and he does not see it; a candle set upon a candlestick, and he shuts his eyes against it!
6 Tertull). de Jejun., sec. 14; de Orat. sec. 14).
7 Ps 22,27
203 3. When we say to them, If ye be Catholic Christians, communicate with that Church from which the Gospel is spread abroad over the whole earth: communicate with that Jerusalem:8 when this we say to them, they make answer to us, we do not communicate with that city where our King was slain, where our Lord was slain: as though they hate the city where our Lord was slain. The Jews slew Him whom they found on earth, these scorn9 Him that sitteth in heaven! Which are the worse; those who despised Him because they thought Him man, or those who scorn the sacraments of Him whom now they confess to be God? But they hate, forsooth, the city in which their Lord was slain ious men, and merciful! they much grieve that Christ was slain, and in men they slay Christ! But He loved that city, and pitied it: from it He bade the preaching of Him begin, “beginning at Jerusalem.” He made there the beginning of the preaching of His name: and thou shrinkest back with horror from having communion with that city!10 No marvel that being cut off thou hatest the root. What said He to His disciples? “Sit ye still in the city, because I send my promise11 upon you.” Behold what the city is that they hate! Haply they would love it, if Christ’s murderers dwelt in it. For it is manifest that all Christ’s murderers, i.e., the Jews, are expelled from that city.12 That which had in it them that were fierce against Christ, hath now them that adore Christ. Therefore do these men hate it, because Christians are in it. There was it His will that His disciples should tarry, and there that He should send to them the Holy Ghost. Where had the Church its commencement, but where the Holy Ghost came from heaven, and filled the hundred and twenty sitting in one place? That number twelve was made tenfold. They sat, an hundred and twenty persons, and the Holy Ghost came, “and filled the whole place, and there came a sound, as it were the rushing of a mighty wind, and there were cloven tongues like as of fire.” Ye have heard the Ac of the Apostles: this was the lesson read today:13 “They began to speak with tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” And all who were on the spot, Jews who were come from divers nations, recognised each his own tongue, and marvelled that those unlearned and ignorant men had on the sudden learned not one or two tongues, but the tongues of all nations whatsoever. There, then, where all tongues sounded, there was it betokened that all tongues should believe. But these men, who much love Christ, and therefore refuse to communicate with the city which i killed Christ, so honor Christ as to affirm that He is left to two tongues, the Latin and the Punic, i.e. African. Christ possess only two tongues! For there are but these two tongues on the side of Donatus, more they have not. Let us awake, my brethren, let us rather see the gift of the Spirit of God, and let us believe the things spoken before concerning Him, and let us see fulfilled the things spoken before in the Psalm: “There are neither speeches nor discourses,14 but their voices are heard among them.15 And lest haply the case be so that the tongues themselves came to one place, and not rather that the gift of Christ came to all tongues, hear what follows: “Into all the earth is their sound gone out, and unto the ends of the world their words.” Wherefore this? Because “in the sun hath He set His tabernacle,” i.e., in the open light. His tabernacle, His flesh: His tabernacle, His Church: “in the sun” it is set; not in the night, but in the day. But why do those not acknowledge it? Return to the lesson at the place where it ended yesterday, and see why they do not acknowledge it: “He that hateth his brother, walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because the darkness hath blinded his eyes.” For us then, let us see what follows, and not be in darkness. How shall we not be in darkness? If we love the brethren. How is it proved that we love the brotherhood? By this, that we do not rend unity, that we hold fast charity.
8 S. Aug). Ep. c. Donat. de Unit. Eccl. sec. 26.
9 Supra, Hom. in Ev. 11,sec. 13.
10 [The words. “Jerusalem, the city,” the preacher appears, in this passage, to use interchangeably and sometimes confusedly for the Church—e.g., “all Christ’s murderers are expelled from that city,” meaning that such are not in the Church.—J. H. M.]
11 Ac 1,15 Ac 2,1-12.
12 Enarr. in Ps 62,sec. 18; lxiv. sec. 1.
13 The Ac of the Apostles were read in the seven weeks from Easter to Pentecost). Supra, Hom. in Ev. 6,sec. 18.
14 Loquelae nec sermones.
15 Ps 19,3-4).
204 4. “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you through His name.”16 Therefore, “little children,”17 because in forgiveness of sins ye have your birth. But through whose name are sins forgiven? Through Augustin’s? No, therefore neither through the name of Donatus. Be it thy concern to see who is Augustin, or who Donatus: no, not through the name of Paul, not through the name of Peter. For to them that divided unto themselves the Church, and out of unity essayed to make parties, the mother charity in the apostle travailing in birth with her little ones, exposeth her own bowels, with words doth as it were rend her breasts, bewaileth her children whom she seeth borne out dead, recalleth unto the one Name them that would needs make them many names, repelleth them from the love of her that Christ may be loved, and saith, “Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”18 What saith he? “I would not that ye be mine, that so ye may be with me: be ye with me; all we are His who died for us, who was crucified for us”: whence here also it is said, “Your sins are forgiven you through His name,” not through the name of any man.
16 1Jn 2,12
17 Filioli, tekniva.
18 1Co 1,13
205 5. “I write unto you, fathers.”19 Why first sons? “Because your sins are forgiven you through His name,” and ye are regenerated into a new life, therefore sons. Why fathers? “Because ye have known Him that is from the beginning:” for the beginning hath relation unto fatherhood. Christ new in flesh, but ancient in Godhead. How ancient think we? how many years old? Think we, of greater age20 than His mother? Assuredly of greater age than His mother, for “all things were made by Him.”21 If all things, then did the Ancient make the very mother of whom the New should be born. Was He, think we, before His mother only? Yea, and before His mother’s ancestors is His antiquity. The ancestor of His mother was Abraham; and the Lord saith, “Before Abraham I am.”22 Before Abraham, say we? The heaven and earth, ere man was, were made. Before these was the Lord, nay rather also is. For right well He saith, not, Before Abraham I was, but, “Before Abraham I Am.” For that of which one says, “was,” is not; and that of which one says, “will be,” is not yet: He knoweth not other than to be. As God, He knoweth “to be:” “was,” and “will be,” He knoweth not. It is one day there, but a day that is for ever and ever. That day yesterday and tomorrow do not set in the midst between them: for when the ’yesterday’ is ended, the ’to-day’ begins, to be finished by the coming ’tomorrow.’ That one day there is a day without darkness, without night, without spaces, without measure, without hours. Call it what thou wilt: if thou wilt, it is a day; if thou wilt, a year; if thou wilt, years. For it is said of this same, “And thy years shall not fail.”23 But when is it called a day? When it is said to the Lord, “To-day have I begotten Thee.”24 From the eternal Father begotten, from eternity begotten, in eternity begotten: with no beginning, no bound, no space of breadth; because He is what is, because Himself is “He that Is.” This His name He told to Moses: “Thou shalt say unto them, (He that is hath sent me unto you.”25 Why speak then of “before Abraham”? why, before Noe? why, before Adam? Hear the Scripture: “Before the day-star have I begotten Thee.”26 In fine, before heaven and earth. Wherefore? Because “all things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made.”27 By this know ye the “fathers:” for they become fathers by acknowledging “That which is from the beginning.”
19 1Jn 2,13
21 Jn 1,3
22 Jn 8,58
23 Ps 102,27
24 Ps 2,7
25 Ex 3,14
26 Ps 110,3
27 Jn 1,3).
206 6. “I write unto you, young men.” There are sons, are fathers, are young men: sons, because begotten; fathers, because they acknowledge the Beginning; why young men? “Because ye have overcome the wicked one.” In the sons, birth: in the fathers, antiquity: in the young men, strength. If the wicked one is “overcome” by the young men, he fights with us. Fights, but not conquers.28 Wherefore? Because we are strong, or because He is strong in us who in the hands of the persecutors was found weak? He hath made us strong, who resisted not His persecutors. “For He was crucified of weakness, but He liveth by the power of God.”29
28 Pugnat, non expugnat.
29 2Co 13,4
207 7. “I write30 unto you,31 children.”32 Whence children? “Because ye have known the Father. I write unto you fathers:” he enforceth this, and repeateth,33 “Because ye have known Him that is from the beginning.” Remember that ye are fathers: if ye forget “Him that is from the beginning,” ye have lost your fatherhood. “I write unto you, young men.” Again and again consider that ye are young men: fight, that ye may overcome: overcome, that ye may be crowned: be lowly, that ye fall not in the fight. “I write unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.”
30 Vulg). scribo throughout, but some copies scripsi, representing the true reading in the Greek, evgraya`, in the last clause of 5,13, and in both clauses of 5,14.
31 Pueri, paidia.
32 1Jn 2,13
33 The Benedictine editors remark that the Vulgate does not repeat this clause, Scribo vobis, patres—a principio est, and that it is absent from the Greek. This remark applies to the Complutensian Greek text, and the edited Latin Vulgate. Of extant Gr). Mss., only Mill’s Cod. Basil, 3 (Wetstein, 4), of the 15th century, omits the clause: and this, as Wetstein reports, not in 5,14, but in the preceding verse, cravfw uJmi`n, patevre"—avrch`".
208 8. All these things, my brethren,—“because we have known That which is from the beginning, because we are strong, because we have known the Father,”—do all these, while they in a manner commend34 knowledge, not commend charity? If we have known, let us love: for knowledge without charity saveth not. “Knowledge35 puffeth up, charity edifieth.”36 If ye have a mind to confess and not love, ye begin to be like the demons. The demons confessed the Son of God, and said, “What have we to do with Thee?”37 and were repulsed. Confess and embrace, For those feared for their iniquities; love ye Him that forgiveth your iniquities. But how can we love God, if we love the world? He prepareth us therefore to be inhabited by charity.38 There are two loves: of the world, and of God: if the love of the world inhabit, there is no way for the love of God to enter in: let the love of the world make way, and the love of God inhabit; let the better have place. Thou lovedst the world: love not the world: when thou hast emptied thine heart of earthly love, thou shall drink in love Divine: and thenceforth beginneth charity to inhabit thee, from which can nothing of evil proceed. Hear ye therefore his words, how he goes to work in the manner of one that makes a clearance. He comes upon the hearts of men as a field that he would occupy: but in what state does he find it? If he finds a wood, he roots it up; if he finds the field cleared, he plants it. He would plant a tree there, charity· And what is the wood he would root up? Love of the world. Hear him, the rooter up of the wood! “Love not the world,” (for this comes next,) “neither the things that are in the world; if any man love the world, the39 love of the Father is not in him.”40
36 1Co 8,1
37 Mt 8,29
38 Sed quomodo poterimus amare Deum, si amanus mundum? Parat nos ergo inhabitari charitate, and so Bodl. 813. The ed. of Erasmus has,—separat nos a charitate Dei: “—if we love the world? It separates us from the charity of God.” And so 3 Oxf). Mss. Ed. Lugdun., si amamus mundum? Si amamus mundum, separat nos a charitate Dei. Parat nos ergo inhabitare charitatem: “—if we love the world? If we love the world, it separates, &c. He prepares us therefore to inhabit charity.”—Ed. Par.
40 1Jn 2,15
209 9. Ye have heard that “if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Let not any say in his heart that this is false, brethren: God saith it; by the Apostle the Holy Ghost hath spoken; nothing more true: “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Wouldest thou have the Father’s love, that thou mayest be joint-heir with the Son? Love not the world. Shut out the evil love of the world, that thou mayest be filled with41 the love of God. Thou art a vessel; but as yet thou art full. Pour out what thou hast, that thou mayest receive what thou hast not. Certainly,42 our brethren are now born again of water and of the Spirit: we also some years ago were born again of water and of the Spirit. Good is it for us that we love not the world, lest the sacraments remain in us unto damnation, not as means of strengthening43 unto salvation. That which strengthens unto salvation is, to have the root of charity, to have the “power of godliness,” not “the form” only.44 Good is the form, holy the form: but what avails the form, if it hold notthe root? The branch that is cut off, is itnot east into the fire? Have the form, but in the root. But in what way are ye rooted so that ye be not rooted up? By holding charity, as saith the Apostle Paul, “rooted and grounded in charity.”45 How shall charity be rooted there, amid the overgrown wilderness of the love of the world? Make clear riddance of the woods. A mighty seed ye are about to put in: let there not be that in the field which shall choke the seed. These are the uprooting words which he hath said: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”46
41 Amore Dei.
42 The newly baptized.
44 2Tm 3,5
45 Ep 3,17).
46 1Jn 2,15
210 10. “For all that is in the world, is47 the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride48 of life,”49 three things he hath said, which50 are not of the Father, but are of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever, even as He abideth for ever.”51 Why am I not to love what God made? What wilt thou? Whether wilt thou love the things of time, and pass away with time; or not love the world, and live to eternity with God? The river of temporal things hurries one along: but like a tree sprung up beside the river is our Lord Jesus Christ.52 He assumed flesh, died, rose again, ascended into heaven. It was His will to plant Himself, in a manner, beside the river of the things of time. Art thou rushing down the stream to the headlong deep? Hold fast the tree. Is love of the world whirling thee on? Hold fast Christ. For thee He became temporal, that thou mightest become eternal; because He also in such sort became temporal, that He remained still eternal. Something was added to Him from time, not anything went from His eternity. But thou wast born temporal, and by sin wast made temporal: thou wast made temporal by sin, He was made temporal by mercy in remitting sins. How great the difference, when two are in a prison, between the criminal and him that visits him! For upon a time a person comes to his friend and enters in to visit him, and both seem to be in prison; but they differ by a wide distinction. The one, his cause presses down: the other, humanity has brought thither. So in this our mortal state, we were held fast by our guiltiness, He in mercy came down: He entered in unto the captive, a Redeemer not an oppressor. The Lord for us shed His blood, redeemed us, changed our hope. As yet we bear the mortality of the flesh, and take the future immortality upon trust: and on the sea we are tossed by the waves, but we have the anchor of hope already fixed upon the land.
47 [“Is,” better omitted; also “which.”]
48 Ambitio saeculi.
49 1Jn 2,16-17
50 [“Is,” better omitted; also “which.”]
51 The last clause, sicut et Deus manet in aeternum, is peculiar to the Latin authorities, S. Cyprian ad Quir. 3, 11, quomodo et, &c. and others in Griesbach. It is not received by the Vulgate.
52 Ps 1,3
211 11. But let us “not love the world, neither, the things that are in the world. For the things that are in the world, are the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” These three are they: lest haply any man say, “The things that are in the world, God made: i.e. heaven and earth, the sea: the sun, the moon, the stars, all the garniture of the heavens. What is the garniture of the sea all creeping things. What of the earth, animals, trees, flying creatures. These are ‘in the world,’ God made them. Why then am I not to love what God hath made?” Let the Spirit of God be in thee, that thou mayest see that all these things are good: but woe to thee if thou love the things made, and forsake the Maker of them! Fair are they to thee: but how much fairer He that formed them! Mc well, beloved. For by similitudes ye may be instructed: lest Satan steal upon you, saying what he is wont to say, Take your enjoyment in the creature of God; wherefore made He those things but for your enjoyment? And men drink themselves drunken, and perish, and forget their own Creator: while not temperately but lustfully they use the things created, the Creator is despised. Of such saith the apostle: “They worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, Who is blessed for ever.”53 God doth not forbid thee to love54 these things, howbeit, not to55 set thine affections upon them for blessedness, but to approve and praise them to this end, that thou mayest love thy Creator. In the same manner, my brethren, as if a bridegroom should make a ring for his bride, and she having received the ring, should love it more than she loves the bridegroom who made the ring for her: would not her soul be found guilty of adultery in the very gift of the bridegroom, albeit she did but love what the bridegroom gave her? By all means let her love what the bridegroom gave: yet should she say, “This ring is enough for me, I do not wish to see his face now:” what sort of woman would she be? Who would not detest such folly? who not pronounce her guilty of an adulterous mind? Thou lovest gold in place of the man, lovest a ring in place of the bridegroom: if this be in thee, that thou lovest a ring in place of thy bridegroom, and hast no wish to see thy bridegroom; that he has given time an earnest, serves not to pledge thee to him, but to turn away thy heart from him! For this the bridegroom gives earnest, that in his earnest he may himself be loved. Well then, God gave thee all these things: love Him that made them. There is more that He would fain give thee, that is, His very Self that made these things. But if thou love these—what though God made them—andneglect the Creator and love the world; shall not thy love be accounted adulterous?56
53 Rm 1,25
56 Et amaveris mundum; nonne tuus amor adulterinus aeputabitur?—Mss. et amaveris mundum, delinquis (“and love the world, thou art delinquent”), (and so four in the Bodl. Library). Edd. Am. Bad. Er). et amaveris mundum, amittis Creatorem qui fecit mundum (“and love the world, thou lettest go the Creator who made the world.”)—Ben.
212 12. For “the world” is the appellation given not only to this fabric which God made heaven and earth, the sea, things visible and invisible: but the inhabitants of the world are called the world, just as we call a “house” both the walls and them that inhabit therein. And sometimes we praise a house, and find fault with the inhabitants. For we say, A good house; because it is marbled and beautifully57 ceiled: and in another sense we say, A good house: no man there suffers wrong, no acts of plunder, no acts of oppression, are done there. Now we praise not the building, but those who dwell within the building: yet we call it “house,” both this and that. For all lovers of the world, because by love they inhabit the world, just as those inhabit heaven, whose heart is on high while in the flesh they walk on earth: I say then, all lovers of the world are called the world. The same have only these three things, “lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, vain glory of life.” For they lust to eat, drink, cohabit: to use these pleasures. Not surely, that there is no allowed measure in these things, or that when it is said, Love not these things, it means that ye are not to eat, or not to drink, or not to beget children? This is not the thing said. Only, let there be measure, because of the Creator, that these things may not bind you by your loving of them: lest ye love that for enjoyment, which ye ought to have for use. But ye are not put to the proof except when two things are propounded to you, this or that: Will thou righteousness or gains? I have not wherewithal to live, have not wherewithal to eat, have not wherewithal to drink. But what if thou canst not have these but by iniquity? Isit not better to love that which thou losest not, than to lose thyself by iniquity? Thou seest the gain of gold, the loss of faith thou seest not. This then, saith he to us, is “the lust ofthe flesh,” i.e. the lusting after those things which pertain to the flesh, such as food, and carnal cohabitation, and all other such like.
213 13 .”And the lust of the eyes:” by “the lust of the eyes,” he means all curiosity. Now how wide is the scope of curiosity! This it is that works in spectacles, in theatres, in sacraments of the devil, in magical arts, in dealings58 with darkness: none other than curiosity. Sometimes it tempts even the servants of God, so that they wish as it were to work a miracle, to tempt God whether He will hear their prayers in working of miracles; it is curiosity: this is “lust of the eyes;” it “is not of the Father.” If God hath given the power, do the miracle, for He hath put it in thy way to do it: for think not that those who have not done miracles shall not pertain to the kingdom of God. When the apostles were rejoicing that the demons were subject to them, what said the Lord to them? “Rejoice not in this, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”59 In that would He have the apostles to rejoice, wherein thou also rejoicest. Woe to thee truly if thy name be not written in heaven! Is it woe to thee if thou raise not the dead? is it woe to thee if thou walk not on the sea? is it woe to thee if thou cast not out demons? If thou hast received power to do them, use it humbly, not proudly. For even of certain false prophets the Lord hath said that “they shall do signs and prodigies.”60 Therefore let there be no “ambition of the world:” Ambitio saeculi, is Pride. The man wishes to make much of himself in his honors: he thinks himself great, whether because of riches, or because of some power.
59 Lc 10,20
214 14. These three there are, and thou canst find nothing whereby human cupidity can be tempted, but either by the lust of the flesh, or the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life. By these three was the Lord tempted of the devil.61 By the lust of the flesh He was tempted when it was said to Him, “If thou be the Son of God, speak to these stones that they become bread,” when He hungered after His fast. But in what way repelled He the tempter, and taught his soldier how to fight? Mark what He said to him: “Not by bread alone doth man live, but by every word of God.” He was tempted also by the lust of the eyes concerning a miracle, when he said to Him, “Cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.” He resisted the tempter, for to do the miracle, would only have been to seem either to have yielded, or to have done it from curiosity; for He wrought when He would, as God, howbeit as healing the weak. For if He had done it then, He might have been thought to wish only to do a miracle. But lest men should think this, mark what He answered; and when the like temptation shall happen to thee, say thou also the same: “Get thee behind me, Satan; for it is written, Thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God:” that is, if I do this I shall tempt God. He said what He would have thee to say. When the enemy suggests to thee, “What sort of man, what sort of Christian, art thou? As yet hast thou done one miracle, or by thy prayers have the dead been raised, or hast thou healed the fevered? if thou wert truly of any moment, thou wouldest do some miracle:” answer and say: “It is written, Thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God:” therefore I will not tempt God, as if I should belong to God if I do a miracle, and not belong if I do none: and what becomes then of His words, “Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven”? By “pride of life” how was the Lord tempted? When he carried Him up to an high place, and said to Him, “All these will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” By the loftiness of an earthly kingdom he wished to tempt the King of all worlds: but the Lord who made heaven and earth trod the devil under foot. What great matter for the devil to be conquered by the Lord? Then what did He in the answer He made to the devil but teach thee the answer He would have thee to make? “It is, written, Thou shall worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shall thou serve.” Holding these things fast, ye shall not have the concupiscence of the world: by not having concupiscence of the world, neither shall the lust of the flesh, nor the lust of the eyes, nor the pride of life, subjugate you: and ye shall make place for Charity when she cometh, that ye may love God. Because if love of the world be there, love of God will not be there. Hold fast rather the love of God, that as God is for ever and ever, so ye also may remain for ever and ever: because such is each one as is his love. Lovest thou earth, thou shall be earth. Lovest thou God, what shall I say? thou shall be a god? I darenot say it of myself, let us hear the Scriptures: “I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you sons of the Most High.”62 If then ye would be gods and sons of the Most High, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all the things that are in the world, is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world:”63 i.e. of men, lovers of the world. “And the world passeth away, and the lusts thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever, even as God also abideth for ever.”
60 Mt 24,24
61 Mt 4,1-10).
62 Ps 82,6
63 1Jn 2,15-17.
Augustin on 1John 200