Augustine on NT 109
109 On the words of the gospel, Lc 12,56-58 “Ye know how to interpret the face of the Earth and the Heaven,” etc.; And of the words, “for as thou art going with thine adversary before the magistrate, on the way give diligence to be quit of him,” etc.
1). We have heard the Gospel, and in it the Lord reproving those who knew how to discern the face of the sky, and know not how to discover the time of faith, the kingdom of heaven which is at hand. Now this He said to the Jews; but His words reach even unto us. Now the Lord Jesus Christ Himself began the preaching of His Gospel in this way; “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”1 In like manner too John the Baptist and His forerunner began thus; “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”2 And now the Lord rebuketh those who would not repent, when “the kingdom of heaven was at hand.” “The kingdom of heaven,” as He saith Himself, “will not come with observation.”3 And again He saith, “The kingdom of heaven is within you.”4 Let every one then wisely receive the admonitions of the Master,5 that he may not lose the season of the mercy of the Saviour, which is now being dealt out, as long as the human race is spared. For to this end is man spared, that he may be converted, and that he may not be to be condemned. God only knoweth when the end of the world shall come: nevertheless now is the time of faith. Whether the end of the world shall find any of us here, I know not; and perhaps it will not find us. Our time is very near to each one of us, seeing we are mortal. We walk in the midst of chances. If we were made of glass, we should have to fear chances less than we have. What is more fragile than a vessel of glass? And vet it is kept, and lasts for ages. For though the chances of a fall are feared for the vessel of glass, yet there is no fear of fever or old age for it. We then are more fragile and more infirm; because all the chances which are incessant in human things, we doubtless through our frailness are in dailydread of; and if these chances come not, yet time goes on; a man avoids this stroke, can he avoid his end? he avoids accidents which happen from without, can that which is born within be driven away? Again, now the entrails engender worms, now some other disease attacks on a sudden; lastly, let a man be spared ever so long, at last when old age comes, there is no way of putting off that.
148 2. Wherefore let us give ear to the Lord, let us do within ourselves what He hath enjoined. Let us see who that adversary is, of whom He hath put us in fear, saying, “If thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, give diligence in the way to be delivered from him; lest haply he deliver thee to the magistrate, and the magistrate to the officer, and thou be cast into prison, from whence thou shalt not come out, till thou payest the very last farthing.”6 Who is this “adversary”? If the devil; we have been delivered from him already. What a price was given for us that we might be redeemed from him! Of which the Apostle says, speaking of this our redemption, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love.”7 We have been redeemed, we have renounced the devil; how shall we “give diligence to be delivered from him,” that he make us not, as sinners, his captives again? But this is not the “adversary” of whom the Lord gives us warning. For in another place another Evangelist has so expressed it, that if we join both expressions together, and compare both expressions of the two Evangelists with each other, we shall soon understand who this adversary is. For see, what did Luc say here? “When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, give diligence in the way to be delivered from him.”8 But the other Evangelist has expressed this same thing thus: “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him.” All the rest is alike: “Lest haply the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.”9 Both Evangelists have explained this alike. One said, “Give diligence in the way to be delivered from him;” the other said, “Agree with him.” For thou wilt not be able to “be delivered from him,” unless thou “agree with him.” Wouldest thou “be delivered from him? Agree with him.” But what? is it the devil with whom the Christian ought to “agree”?
3. Let us then seek out this “adversary,” with whom we ought to “agree, lest he deliver us to the judge, and the judge to the officer;” let us seek him out, “and agree with him.” If thou sin, the word of God is thine adversary.10 For example, it is a delight to thee perchance to be drunken; it says to thee, “Do it not.” It is a delight to thee to frequent the spectacles, and such triflings; it says to thee, “Do it not.” It is a delight to thee to commit adultery; the word of God saith to thee, “Do it not.” In what sins soever thou wouldest do thine own will, it saith to thee, “Do it not.” It is the adversary of thy will, till it become the author of thy salvation. O how goodly, how useful an “adversary”! It does not seek our will, but our advantage. It is our “adversary,” as long as we are our own adversaries. As long as thou art thine own enemy, thou hast the word of God thine enemy; be thine own friend, and thou art in agreement with it. “Thou shalt do no murder;” give ear, and thou hast “agreed” with it. “Thou shalt not steal;” give ear, and thou hast “agreed” with it. “Thou shalt not commit adultery;” give ear, and thou hast “agreed” with it. “Thou shall not give false witness;” give ear, and thou hast “agreed” with it. “Thou shall not covet thy neighbour’s wife;” give ear, and thou hast agreed with it. “Thou shall not covet thy neighbour’s goods;”11 give ear, and thou hast “agreed” with it. In all these things thou hast agreed with this “thine adversary,” and what hast thou lost to thyself? Not only hast thou lost nothing; but thou hast even found thyself, who hadst been lost. “The way,” is this life; if we shall “agree with the adversary,” if we shall come to terms with him; when “the way” is ended, we shall not fear the “judge, the officer, the prison.
1 (Mt 4,17
2 (Mt 3,2
3 (Lc 17,20
4 (Lc 17,21
6 (Lc 12,58-59.
7 (Col 1,13
8 (Lc 12,58).
9 (Mt 5,25
10 Serm. 9,3). De decem chordis.
11 (Ex 20,13 etc).
4. When is “the way” ended? It is not ended at the same hour to all. Each several man hath his hour when he shall end his “way.”This life is called “the way;” when thou hast ended this life, thou hast ended “the way.” We are going on, and the very living is advancing. Unless peradventure ye imagine that time advances, and we stand still! It cannot be. As time advances, we too advance; and years do not come to us, but rather go away. Greatly are men mistaken when they say, “This boy has little good sense yet, but years will come on him, and he will be wise.” Consider what thou sayest. “Will come on him,” thou hast said; “I will show that they go away,” whereas thou sayest, “they come on.” And hear how easily I prove it. Let us suppose that we have known the number of his years from his birth; for instance (that we may wish him well) he has to live fourscore years, he is to arrive at old age. Write down fourscore years. One year he has lived; how many hast thou in the total? how manyhast thou down? Fourscore! Deduct one. He has lived ten; seventy remain. He has lived twenty; sixty remain. Yet surely, it will be said, they did come; what can this mean? Our years come that they may depart; they come, I say that they may go. For they do not come, that they may abide with us, but as they pass through us, they wear us out, and make us less and less strong. Such is “the way” into which we have come. What then have we to do with that “adversary,” that is, with the word of God? “Agree with him.” For thou knowest not when “the way” may be ended. When “the way” is ended, there remain “the judge,” and “the officer,” and “the prison.” But if thou maintain a good will to “thine adversary,” and “agree with him;” instead of a “judge,” shalt thou find a father, instead of a cruel “officer,” an Angel taking thee away into Abraham’s bosom, instead of a “prison,” paradise. How rapidly hast thou changed all things “in the way,” because thou hast “agreed with thine adversary”!
110 On the words of the gospel, Lc 13,6 Where we are told of the fig-tree, which bare no fruit for three years; and of the woman which was in an infirmity eighteen years; and on the words of the ninth Ps 9,19 “arise, o Lord; let not man prevail: let the nations be judged in thy sight.”
1). Touching “the fig-tree” which had its three years’ trial, and bare no fruit, and “the woman which was in an infirmity eighteen years,” hearken to what the Lord may grant me to say. The fig-tree is the human race. And the three years are the three times; one before the Law, the second under the Law, the third under grace. Now there is nothing unsuitable in understanding by “the fig-tree” the human race. For when the first man sinned, he covered his nakedness with fig-leaves;1 covered those members, from which we derive our birth. For what before his sin should have been his glory, after sin became his shame. So before that, “they were naked, and were not ashamed.”2 For they had no reason to blush, when no sin had gone before; nor could they blush for their Creator’s works, because they had not yet mingled any evil work of their own with the good works of their Creator. For they had not yet eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, of which they had been forbidden to eat. After then that they had eaten and sinned, the human race sprang from them; that is, man from man, debtor from debtor, mortal from mortal, sinner from sinner. In this “tree” then he entitles those, who through the whole range of time would not bear fruit; and for this cause the axe was hanging over the unfruitful tree. The gardener intercedes for it, punishment is deferred, that help may be administered. Now the gardener who intercedes, is every saint who within the Church prays for those who are without the Church. And what does he pray? “Lord, let it alone this year also;” that is, in this time of grace, spare the sinners, spare the unbelievers, spare the barren, spare the unfruitful. “I will dig about it, and put a basket of dung about it; if it bear fruit, well; but if not, thou shall come and cut it down.”3 “Thou shall come:” When? Thou shalt come in judgment, when Thou shall come to judge the quick and dead. Meanwhile they are spared. But what is the “digging “? What is the “digging about it,” but the teaching lowliness and repentance? For a ditch is low ground. The basket of dung understand in its good effects. It is filthy, but it produces fruit. The gardener’s filth is the sinner’s sorrows. They who repent, repent in filthy robes; if, that is, they understand aright, and repent in truth. To this tree then is it said, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”4
2. What is that “woman who was in an infirmity eighteen years”? In six days God finished His works. Three times six are eighteen. What the “three years” then in “the tree” signified, that do the “eighteen years” in this woman. She was bent down, she could not look up; because in vain did she hear, “Up with your hearts.” But the Lord made her straight. There is hope then, for the children, that is, even until the day of judgment come. Man ascribes much to himself. Yet what is man? A righteous man is something great. But yet a righteous man is righteous only by the grace of God. “For what is man, save that thou art mindful of him?”5 Wouldest thou see what man is? “All men are liars.”6 We have chanted, “Arise, Lord; let not man prevail.”7 What is, “let not man prevail”? Were not the Apostles men? Were not Martyrs men? The Lord Jesus Himself, without ceasing to be God, vouchsafed to be Man. What then is, “Arise, Lord; let not man prevail”? If “all men are liars; arise,” Truth, “let not” falsehood “prevail.” If man then would be anything good, it must not be of anything of his own. For if he should wish to be anything of his own he will be “a liar.” If he would wish to be true, he must be so of that which is from God, not of anything of his own.
3.Therefore, “Arise, Lord; let not man prevail.” So much did lying prevail before the flood, that after the flood only eight men remained.8 By them the earth was again replenished with lying men, and out of them was elected the people of God. Many miracles were wrought, divine benefits imparted. They were brought right through to the land of promise, delivered from Egyptian bondage: Prophets were raised up among them, they received the temple, they received the priesthood, they received the anointing, they received the Law. Yet of this very people was it said afterwards, “The strange children have lied unto me.”9 At last He was sent who had been promised afore by the Prophets. “Let not man prevail,” even the more, because that God was made Man. But even He, though He did divine works, was despised, though He showed forth so many acts of mercy, He was apprehended, He was scourged, He was hanged. Thus far “did man prevail,” to apprehend the Son of God, to scourge the Son of God, to crown the Son of God with thorns, to hang the Son of God upon the tree. So far “did man prevail:” how far, but up to the time that having been taken down from the tree, He was laid in the sepulchre? If He had remained there, man would have “prevailed” indeed. But this prophecy addresses the very Lord Jesus Himself, saying, “Arise, Lord, let not man prevail.” O Lord, Thou hast vouchsafed to come in the flesh, the Word made Flesh. The Word above us, the Flesh among us, the Word-flesh10 between God and Man: Thou didst choose a virgin to be born from according to the flesh, when Thou wast to be conceived, Thou didst find a Virgin; when Thou wast born, Thou didst leave a Virgin. But Thou wast not acknowledged; Thou wast Seen, and yet wast hidden. Infirmity was seen, Power was hidden. All this was done, that Thou mightest shed that Blood, which is our Price. Thou didst so great miracles, didst give health to the weaknesses of the sick, didst show forth many acts of mercy, and receivedst evil for good. They mocked Thee, Thou didst hang upon the tree; the ungodly wagged their heads before Thee, and said, “If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.”11 Hadst Thou then lost Thy power, or rather wast Thou showing forth Thy Patience? and yet they mocked Thee, and yet they derided Thee, yet, when Thou wast slain, they went away as if victorious. Lo, Thou art laid in the sepulchre: “Arise, Lord, let not man prevail.” “Let not” the ungodly enemy “prevail, let not” the blind Jew “prevail.” For when Thou wert crucified, the Jew in his blindness seemed to himself to have “prevailed.” “Arise, Lord, let not man prevail.” It is done, yea, it is done. And now what remains, but that “the nations be judged in thy sight”? For He hath risen again, as ye know, and ascended into heaven; and from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
4. Ah! unfruitful tree, mock not, because thou art yet spared; the axe is delayed, be not12 thou secure; He will come and thou shalt be cut down. Believe that He will come. All these things which now ye see, once were not. Once the Christian people were not over the whole world. It was read of in prophecy, not seen in the earth; now it is both read and seen. Thus was the Church herself completed. It was not said to her, “See, O daughter, and hear;” but, “Hear and see.”13 Hear the predictions, see the completions. As then, my beloved Brethren, Christ had once not been born of a Virgin, but His birth was promised, and He was born; He had once not done His miracles, they were promised, and He did them: He had not yet suffered, it was promised, and so it came to pass: He had not risen again, it was foretold, and so fulfilled: His Name was not throughout the world, it was foretold, and so fulfilled: the idols were not destroyed and broken down, it was foretold, and so fulfilled: heretics had not assailed the Church, it was foretold, and so fulfilled. So also the Day of Judgment is not yet, but seeing it hath been foretold, it shall be fulfilled. Can it be that He who in so many things hath shown Himself true, should be false touching the Day of Judgment? He hath given us a bond14 of His promises. For God hath made Himself a debtor, not by owing ought, that is, not by borrowing; but by promising. We cannot therefore say to Him, “Give back what Thou hast received.” Since “who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?”15 We cannot say to Him, “Give what Thou hast received;” but we say without16 scruple, “Give what Thou hast promised.”
5. For hence it is that we are bold to say, day by day, “Thy kingdom come;”17 that when His kingdom comes, we too may reign with Him. Which hath been promised to us in these words; “Then will I say unto them, Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world.”18 But assuredly only if we shall have done what follows in that place. “For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat,” etc. He made these promises to our fathers; but He hath given us a security,19 for us too to read. If He who hath vouchsafed to give us this security, were to make a reckoning with us and say,” Read my debts, the debts, that is, of my promises, and reckon up what I have already paid, and reckon also what I still owe; see how many I have paid already; and what I owe is but little; will ye for that little that remains, think Me an untrustworthy promiser?” What should we have to answer against this most evident truth? Let him then who is barren repent, and bear “fruit worthy of repentance.” He that is bent down, who looks only on the earth, rejoices in earthly happiness, who thinks this the only happy life, where he may be happy, and who believes no other can be; whosoever he be that is so bent down, let him be made straight; if he cannot by himself, let him call upon God. For was that woman made straight by herself? Woe had it been for her, if He had not stretched out His Hand.
1 (Gn 3,7
2 (Gn 2,25
3 (Lc 13,8-9.
4 (Mt 3,2
5 (Ps 8,4
6 (Ps 116,11
7 (Ps 9,19
8 (1P 3,20
9 (Ps 17,45 Sept. (cxliv. 11).
10 Conf.B. 10,67-70 (42, 43)).
11 (Mt 27,40
12 A paranomasia not to be preserved in the original, dilata est securis, noli esse secura.
13 (Ps 44,11 Sept. (xlv. 10, English version).
15 (Rm 11,35
17 (Mt 6,10
18 (Mt 25,34
111 On the words of the gospel, Lc 13,21 and Lc 13,23 where the kingdom of God is said to be “like unto leaven, which a womantook and hid in three measures of meal;” and of that which is written in the same chapter, “Lord, are they few that are saved?”
1. “The three measures of meal”1 of which the Lord spake, is the human race. Recollect the deluge; three only remained, from whom the rest were to be re-peopled. Noe had three sons, by them was repaired the human race. That holy “woman who hid the leaven,” is Wisdom. Lo, the whole world crieth out in the Church of God, “I know that the Lord is great.”2 Yet doubtless there are but few who are saved. Ye remember a question which was lately set before us out of the Gospel, “Lord,” it was said, “are there few that be saved?”3 What said the Lord to this? He did not say, “Not few, but many are they who are saved.” He did not say this. But what said He, when He had heard, “Are there few that be saved? Strive to enter by the strait gate.”4 When thou hearest then, “Are there few that be saved?” the Lord confirmed what He heard. Through the “strait gate” but “few” can “enter.” In another place He saith Himself, “Strait and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that go thereby: but broad and spacious is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which walk thereby.”5 Why rejoice we in great numbers? Give ear to me, ye “few.” I know that ye are “many,” who hear me, yet but “few” of you hear to obey. I see the floor, I look for the corn. And hardly is the corn seen, when the floor is being threshed; but the time is coming, that it shall be winnowed. But few then are saved in comparison of the many that shall perish. For these same “few” will constitute in themselves a great mass. When the Winnower shall come with His fan in His Hand, “He will cleanse His floor, and lay up the wheat into the garner; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”6 Let not the chaff scoff at the wheat; in this He speaketh truth, and deceiveth no one. Be ye then in yourselves among many a many, few though ye be in comparison of a certain many. So large a mass is to come out of this floor, as to fill the garner of heaven. For the Lord Christ would not contradict Himself, who hath said, “Many there are who enter in by the narrow gate, many who go to ruin through the wide gate;” contradict Himself, who hath in another place said, “Many shall come from the East and West.”7 “Many” then are the “few;” both “few” and “many.” Are the “few” one sort, and the “many” another? No. But the “few” are themselves the “many;” “few” in comparison of the lost, “many in the society of the Angels. Hearken, dearly Beloved. The Apocalypse hath this written; “After this I beheld of all languages, and nations, and tribes, a great multitude, which no man can number, coming with white robes and palms.”8 This is the mass of the saints. With how much clearer voice will the floor say, when it has been fanned,separated from the crowd of ungodly, and evil, and false Christians, when those who “press” and do not “touch” (for a certain woman in the Gospel “touched,” the crowd “pressed” Christ), shall have been severed unto everlasting fire; when all they then, who are to be damned shall have been separated off, with how great assurance will the purified mass, standing at the Right Hand, fearing now for itself the admixture of no evil men, nor the loss of any of the good, now about to reign with Christ, say, “I know that the Lord is great”!9
2. If then, my Brethren (I am speaking to the corn), if they acknowledge what I say, predestined unto life eternal, let them speak by their works, not by their voices. I am constrained to speak to you, what I ought not. For I ought to find in you matter of praise, not to seek subjects for admonition. Yet see I will say but a few words, I will not dwell upon it. Acknowledge the duty of hospitality, thereby some have attained unto God. Thou takest in some stranger, whose companion in the way thou thyself also art; for strangers are we all. He is a Christian who, even in his own house and in his own country, acknowledges himself to be a stranger. For our country is above, there we shall not be strangers. For every one here below, even in his own house, is a stranger. If he be not a stranger, let him not pass on from hence. If pass on he must, he is a stranger. Let him not deceive himself, a stranger he is; whether he will or not, he is a stranger. And he leaves that house to his children, one stranger to other strangers. Why? If thou wert at an inn, wouldest thou not depart when another comes? The same thou doest even in thine own house. Thy father left a place to thee, thou wilt some day leave it to thy children. Neither dost thou abide here, as one who is to abide always, nor to those who are so to abide, wilt thou leave it. If we are all passing away, let us do something which cannot pass away, that when we shall have passed away, and have come thither whence we may not pass away, we may find our good works there. Christ is the keeper, why dost thou fear lest thou shouldest lose what thou spendest on the poor? “Let us turn to the Lord,” etc.And after the Sermon.
I suggest to you, Beloved, what ye know already. To-morrow breaks the anniversary day of the venerable10 lord Aurelius’ ordination; he asks and admonishes you, dear Brethren, by my humble ministry, that ye would be so good11 as to meet together with all devotion at the basilica of Faustus. Thanks be to God.
1 (Lc 13,21
2 (Ps 135,5.
3 Lc 13,23.
4 (Lc 13,24
5 (Mt 7,13-14.
6 (Lc 3,17
7 (Mt 8,11
8 (Ap 7,9 Ap 7
9 (Ps 135,5.
112 On the words of the gospel, Lc 14,16 “A certain man made a great supper,” etc.Delivered in the basilica Restituta.1
1. Holy lessons have been set forth before us, to which we should both give ear, and upon which by the Lord’s help I would deliver some observations. In the Apostolic lesson thanks are rendered unto the Lord for the faith of the Gentiles, of course, because it was His work. In the Psalm we have said, “O God of hosts, turn us, and show us Thy Face, and we shall be saved.”2 In the Gospel we have been called to a supper; yea, rather others have been called, we not called, but led; not only led, but even forced. For so have we heard, that “a certain Man made a great supper.”3 Who is this Man, but “the Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus”?4 He sent that those who had been invited might come, for the hour was now come, that they should come. Who are they who had been invited, but those who had been called by the Prophets who were sent before? When? Of old, ever since the Prophets were sent, they invited to Christ’s supper. They were sent then to the people of Israel. Often were they sent, often did they call men, to come at the hour of supper. But they received those who invited them, refused the supper. What means “they received those who invited them, refused the supper”? They read the Prophets and killed Christ. But when they killed Him, then though they knew it not, they prepared a Supper for us. When the Supper was now prepared, when Christ had been offered up, when the Supper of the Lord, which the faithful know, had been set forth after the resurrection of Christ, and established by His Hands and Mouth, were the Apostles sent to them, to whom the Prophets had been sent before. “Come ye to the supper.”
2. They who would not come made excuses. And how did they excuse themselves? There were three excuses: “One said, I have bought a farm,5 and I go to see it; have me excused. Another said, I have bought five pairs of oxen, and I go to prove them; I pray thee have me excused. A third said, I have married a wife, have me excused; I cannot come.”6 Do we suppose that these are not the excuses, which hinder all men, who decline to come to this supper? Let us look into them, discuss, find them out; but only that we may beware. In the purchase of the farm, the spirit of domination is marked out; therefore pride is rebuked. For men are delighted to have a farm, to hold, to possess it, to have men in it under them, to have dominion. An evil vice, the first vice. For the first man wished to have dominion, in that he would not that any should have dominion over him. What is to have dominion, but to take pleasure in one’s own power? There is a greater power, let us submit ourselves to it, that we may be able to be safe. “I have bought a farm, have me excused.” Having discovered pride, he would not come.
3. “Another said, I have bought five pairs of oxen.” Would it not have been enough, have bought oxen”? Something beyond doubt there is, which by its very obscurity challenges us to seek out, and understand; and in that it is shut, He exhorteth us to knock. The five pairs of oxen are the senses of this body. There are numbered five senses of this body, as is known to all; and they who, it may be, do not consider it, will doubtless perceive it on being reminded of it. There are then found to be five senses of this body. In the eyes is the sight, the hearing in the ears, the smell in the nose, the taste in the mouth, the touch in all the members. We have perception of white and black, and things coloured in whatever way, light and dark, by the sight. Harsh and musical sounds, we have perception of by the hearing. Of sweet and offensive smells, we have perception by the smell. Of things sweet and bitter by the taste. Of things hard and soft, smooth and rough, warm and cold, heavy and light, by the touch. They are five, and they are pairs. Now that they are pairs, is seen most easily in the case of the three first senses. There are two eyes, two ears, two nostrils; see three pairs. In the mouth, that is in the sense of taste, a certain doubling is found, because nothing affects the taste, unless it is touched by the tongue and the palate. The pleasure of the flesh which pertains to the touch, has this doubling in a less obvious way. For there is both an outer and an inner touch. And so it too is double. Why are they called pairs of oxen? Because by these senses of the body, earthly things are sought for. For oxen turn up the earth. So there are men far off from faith, given up to earthly things, occupied in the things of the flesh; who will not believe anything but what they attain to by the five senses of their body. In those five senses do they lay down for themselves the rules of their whole will. “I will not believe,” says one, “anything but what I see. See, here is what I know, and am sure of Such a thing is white, or black, or round, or square, or coloured so and so; this I know, am sensible of, have a hold of; nature itself teaches it me. I am not forced to believe what you cannot show me. Or it is a voice: I perceive that it is a voice; it sings well, it sings ill, it is sweet, it is harsh. I know, I know this, it has come to me. There is a good or a bad smell: I know, I perceive it. This is sweet, this is bitter; this is salt, this insipid. I know not what you would tell me more. By the touch I know what is hard, what is soft; what is smooth, what is rough; what is warm, and what cold. What more would you show me?”
4. By such an impediment was our ApostleThomas held back, who as to the Lord Christ, the resurrection that is of Christ, would not believe even his own eyes only. “Unless,” says he, “I put my fingers into the places of the nails and wounds, and unless I put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”7 And the Lord who could have risen again without any vestige of a wound, kept the scars, that they might be touched by the doubting Apostle, and the wounds of his heart be healed. And yet as designing to call to His supper others, against the excuse of “the five pairs of oxen,” He said, “Blessed they who do not see, and believe.”8 We, my Brethren, who have been called to this supper, have not been kept back by “these five pairs.” For we have not in this age desired to see the Face of the Lord’s Body, nor have we longed to hear the Voice proceeding oat of the mouth of that Body; we have not sought in Him for any passing9 odour. A certain “woman anointed Him with most costly ointment,” that “house was filled with the odour;”10 but we were not there; lo, we did not smell, yet we believe. He gave to the disciples the Supper consecrated by His Own Hands; but we did not sit clown at that Feast, and yet we daily eat this same Supper by faith. And do not think it strange that in that supper which He gave with His Own Hand, one was present without faith: the faith that appeared, afterwards was more than a compensation for that faithlessness then. Paul was not there who believed, Judas was there who betrayed. How many now too in this same Supper, though they saw not then that table, nor beheld with their eyes, nor tasted with their mouths, the bread which the Lord took in His Hands, yet because it is the same as is now prepared, how many now also in this same Supper, “eat and drink judgment to themselves “?11
5. But whence arose an occasion, so to say, to the Lord, to speak of this supper? One of them that sat at meat with Him (for He was at a feast, whither He had been invited), had said, “Blessed are they who eat bread in the kingdom of God.”12 He sighed as though after distant things, and the Bread Himself was sitting down before him. Who is the Bread of the kingdom of God, but He who saith, “I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven “?13 Do not get thy mouth ready, but thine heart. On this occasion it was that the parable of this supper was set forth. Lo, we believe in Christ,we receive Him with faith. In receiving Him weknow what to think of. We receive but little,and we are nourished in heart. It is not then what is seen, but what is believed, that feeds us.Therefore we too have not sought for that outward sense; nor have we said, “Let them believe who have seen with their eyes, and handled with their hands the Lord Himself after His resurrection, if what is said be true; we do not touch Him, why should we believe?” If we were to entertain such thoughts, we should be kept back from the supper by those “five pairs of oxen.” That ye may know, Brethren, that not the gratification of these five senses, which softens and ministers pleasure, but a kind of curiosity was denoted, He did not say, “‘I have bought five pairs of oxen,’ and I go to feed them;” but, “I go to prove them.” He who wishes to “prove “by “the pairs of oxen,” does not wish to be in doubt, just as St. Thomas by these “pairs” did not wish to be in doubt. “Let me see, let me touch, let me put in my fingers.” “‘Behold,’ saith the Lord, ‘put in thy fingers along My Side, and be not unbelieving.’14 For thy sake have I been slain; at the place which thou wishest to touch, have I shed My Blood, that I might redeem thee; and dost thou still doubt of Me, unless thou touch Me? Behold, this too I grant; behold, this too I show thee; touch, and believe; find out the place of My wound, heal the wound of thy doubting.”
Augustine on NT 109