Augustin on the mounts


Volume VI

St. Aurelius Augustin


11 This volume contains the exegetical and homiletical writings of St. Augustin on the Gospels.

The seventh volume will be devoted to his Commentary on the Gospel and First Epistle of John, and the Soliloquies. It will be finished by the 1st of next April.

The eighth and last volume is reserved for his Commentary on the Psalms, and will appear in July, 1888.

These eight volumes will form the most complete edition of St. Augustin’s Works in the English language, embracing the Edinburgh and Oxford translations, and several treatises never before translated, with introductions and explanatory notes.

Arrangements have been made for the regular issue of the Works of St. Chrysostom according to the terms of the Publisher’s Prospectus, which so far has been promptly carried out. The favourable reception of the preceding volumes by the public and the press, including some leading theological journals of Europe (such as The Church Quarterly Review, and Harnack’s Theologische Literaturzeitung), will encourage the editor and publisher to carry on this Patristic Library with undiminished energy and zeal.

Philip Schaff.

New York, December, 1887).

Introductory Essay. St. Augustin as an Exegete.

By the Ap David Schley Schaff.

The exegetical writings of Augustin are commentaries on Genesis (first three chapters), the Psalms, the Gospel and First Epistle of John, the Sermon on the Mount, the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians, and a Harmony of the Gospels. Many of his commentaries, like those of Chrysostom, are expository homilies preached to his congregation at Hippo; all are practical rather than grammatical and critical. He only covered the first five verses of the first chapter of Romans, and found his comments so elaborate, that, from fear of the immense proportions a commentary on the whole Epistle would assume, he drew back from the task. Augustin’s other writings abound in quotations from Scripture, and pertinent expositions. His controversies with the Manichaeans and Donatists were particularly adapted to render him thorough in the knowledge of the Bible, and skilled in its use.

The opinions of Augustin’s ability as an exegete, and the worth of his labors in the department of connected Biblical exposition, have greatly differed. Some not only represent him at his weakest in this capacity, but disparage his exegesis as of inferior merit. Others have given him, and some at the present time still give him, a very high rank among the chief commentators of the early Church. Père Simon, as quoted by Archbishop Trench (Sermon on the Mount, p. 65), says, “One must needs read a vast deal in the exegetical writings of Augustin to light on any thing which is good.” Reuss expresses himself thus: “The fact is, that his exegesis was the weak side of the great man” (Gesch. d. heil. Schriften N. T. p. 263). Farrar, in his History of Interpretation (p. 24), declares his comments to be “sometimes painfully beside the mark,” and in general depreciates the value of Augustin’s expository writings.

On the other hand, the student is struck with the profound esteem in which Augustin was held as an interpreter of Scripture during the Middle Ages. His exposition was looked upon as the highest authority; and a saying was current, that, if one had Augustin on his side, it was sufficient (Si Augustinus. adest, sufficit ipse tibi). So powerful was his influence, that Rupert of Deutz, in the preface to his Commentary on St. John, deemed it necessary to state, in part in vindication of his own effort, that, though the eagle wings of the Bishop of Hippo overshadowed the Gospel, he did not exhaust the right of all Christians to handle the Gospel. The Reformers quote Augustin more frequently than any Father, and were greatly indebted to his writings, especially for their views on sin and grace. Among modern opinions according to him a high rank in this department may be mentioned two. The Ap H. Browne, in the preface to the translation of Augustin’s Homilies on St. John, in the Oxford Library of the Fathers (I. vi)., is somewhat extravagant in his praise, when he says, that, “as an interpreter of the Word of God, St. Augustin is acknowledged to stand at an elevation which few have reached, none surpassed.” Archbishop Trench, in the essay on Augustin as an interpreter of Scripture, prefixed to his edition of the Sermon on the Mount, accords equal praise, and speaks specifically of the “tact and skill with which he unfolded to others the riches which the Word contains” (p. 133).

The truth certainly is not with those who minimize Augustin’s services in the department of exposition. Whether we compare him with ancient or modern commentators, he will fall behind the greatest in some particulars; but in profundity of insight into the meaning of the text, in comprehensive knowledge of the whole Scriptures, in simplicity of spiritual aim, he stands in the first rank. It is as a contributor to theological and religious thought that he asserts his eminence. Exposition is something more than bald textual and lexicographical comment: it aims also at a spiritual perception of the truth as it is in Christ, and requires a capacity to extract, for the spiritual nutriment of the reader, the vital forces of the Scriptures. In this sense Augustin is eminently worthy of study. Of textual details, he gives only the barest minimum of any value. His mistakes, arising out of his slender philological apparatus and his reverence for the LXX., are numerous and glaring. He often wanders far away from the plain meaning of the text, into allegorical and typical fancies, like the other Fathers, and many of the older Protestant commentators. He was not prepared for, nor did he aim at, grammatico-historical exegesis in the modern sense of the word; but be possessed extraordinary acumen and depth, spiritual insight, an uncommon knowledge of Scripture as a whole, and a pious intention to bring the truth to the convictions of men, and to extend the kingdom of Christ.

As to Augustin’s special equipment for the work of an exegete and on his exegetical principles, the following may be added:—Exegetical Equipment.

1. Augustin had no knowledge of Hebrew (Confessions, 11,3; in this ed. vol. 1,p. 164). His knowledge of Greek was only superficial, and far inferior to that of Jerome (vol. 1,p. 9). He depended almost entirely on the imperfect old Latin version before its revision by Jerome, and was at first even prejudiced against this revision, the so-called Vulgate. But it should be remembered that only two of the great expositors of the ancient Church were familiar with Hebrew,—Origen and Jerome. Augustin knew only a few Hebrew words. In the treatise on Christian Doctrine (ii. 11, 16; this ed. vol. 2,p. 540) he adduces the words Amen and Hallelujah as being left untranslated on account of the sacredness of the original forms, and the words Racha and Hosanna as being untranslatable by any single Latin equivalents. In the Sermon on the Mount (i. 9, 23) he refers again to Racha, and defends its Hebrew origin as against those who derived it from the Greek term rJavko" (a rag).

Augustin’s linguistic attainments seem to have included familiarity with Punic (Sermon on the Mount, 2,14, 47). The Phoenician origin of the North African people, the location of his birthplace and his episcopal diocese, furnish an explanation of this.

2. For the Old Testament, Augustin used, besides the Latin version, occasionally the Septuagint, and had at hand the versions of Symmachus, Theodotion, and Aquila (Quaest. in Num. 52). He had profound reverence for the LXX., and was inclined to give credit to the Jewish tradition that each of the translators was confined in a separate cell, and on comparing their work, which they had accomplished without communication with each other, found their several versions to agree, word for word. He held that the original was given through them in Greek by the special direction of the Holy Spirit, and in such a way as to be most suitable for the Gentiles (Christian Doctrine, ii. 15, 22; this ed. p. 542). He declared that the Latin copies were to be corrected from the LXX., which was as authoritative as the Hebrew. Such a claim for the authority of the Greek translation would make a knowledge of the Hebrew almost unnecessary.

This excessive reverence for the LXX. has led Augustin to uphold, in his exegesis of the Old Testament, all its errors of translation, which a different view, coupled with a knowledge of Hebrew, would in most cases have prevented him from accepting. Even at its plain and palpable mistakes he takes no offence. He accepts the translation, “Yet three days and Nineveh shall be overthrown,” as of equal authority with the “forty days” of the original, claiming a special symbolic meaning for both.

3. For the New Testament, Augustin used some Latin translation or translations older than the Vulgate. He declares the Latin translations to be without number (Christian Doctr. 2,11, 16; this ed. vol. 2,p. 540). There was already in his day “an endless diversity” of readings in the Latin manuscripts. He vindicated for the Greek original the claim of final authority, to which the Latin copies were to yield. As there was likewise diversity of text among the Greek copies, he laid down the rule, that those manuscripts were to be chosen for comparison by the Latin student which were preserved in the churches of greater learning and research (Christian Doctr. 2,15, 22; in this ed. 2,p. 543). Not infrequently does Augustin cite the readings of the Greek. In some cases he makes references to passages where there is a conflict of text in the Latin authorities. He differs quite largely from Jerome’s Vulgate, to which he offered opposition, on the ground that a new translation might unsettle the faith of some. In these variations of construction and language he was sometimes nearer the original than Jerome. Sometimes he does not approximate so closely. As a matter of interest, and for the convenience of the reader, the differences of Augustin’s text and the Vulgate will be found, in all important cases, noted down in this edition of the Sermon on the Mount.

Examples of Augustin’s improvement upon the Vulgate are the omission of the clause, “and despitefully use you” (et calumniantibus vos
Mt 5,44), the use of quotidianum panem (“daily bread”) instead of supersubstantialem, and of inferas (“bring”) instead of inducas (“lead”), in the fourth and sixth petitions of the.Lord’s Prayer (Mt 6,11, 12). In reference to the last passage, it must be said, however, that he notes a difference in the Latin Mss., some using infero, some induco; and while he adopts the former verb, he finds the terms equivalent in meaning (Serm. on the Mt. ii. 9, 30).

4. Augustin’s textual and grammatical comments are few in number, but they cannot be said to be wanting in all value. A few instances will suffice for a judgment of their merit:—

In the Harmony of the Gospels (ii. 29, 67), writing of the daughter of Jairus (Mt 9,29), he mentions that some codices contain the reading “woman” (mulier) for “damsel.” Commenting on Mt 5,22, “Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause,” he includes the expression “without a cause” (eijkh`) without even a hint of its spuriousness (Serm. on the Mt. 1,9, 25); but in his Retractations (i. 19. 4) he makes the correction, “The Greek manuscripts do not contain sine causa.” Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, the Vulgate and the Revised English Version, in agreement with the oldest mss., omit the clause. He refers to a conflict of the Greek and Latin text of Mt 5,39 (“Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek”), and follows the authority of the Greek in omitting the adjective “right” (Serm. on the Mt. 1,19, 58). At Mt 6,4 he casts out, on the authority of the Greek, the adverb palam (“openly”), which was found in many Latin translations (as it is also found in the Textus Receptus, but not in the Vulgate, and the Sinaitic, B, D, and other mss.). Commenting on Mt 7,12, “Wherefore all things whatsoever ye would that men,” etc., he refers to the addition of “good” before “things” by the Latins, and insists upon its erasure on the basis of the Greek text (Serm. on the Mt. 2,22, 74).

13 On occasion, though very rarely, he quotes the Greek, as in the Sermon on the Mount (nh; th;n kauvchsin, 1,17, 51; iJmavtion, 1,19, 60), in confirmation of his opinions of the text.

At other times he compares Greek and Latin terms of synonymous or kindred meanings. One of the most important of these is the passage (City of God,x. 1; this ed. vol. 2,p. 181) where he draws a clear distinction between latreiva, qrhskeiva, ersevbeia, qeosevbeia. Other examples of the kind under review are given by Trench (p. 20) sqq)..

It is evident that Augustin’s equipment was defective from the stand-point of the modern critical exegete. It would be wrong, however, to say that he shows no concern about textual questions. But his exegetical power shows itself in other ways than minute textual investigation, —in comprehensive comparison of Scripture with Scripture, and penetrating spiritual vision. To these qualities he adds a purpose to be exhaustive, sparing no pains to develop the full meaning of the passage under review. More exhaustive discussions can hardly be found, to take a single example, than that on Mt 5,25, “Agree with thine adversary quickly” (Serm. on the Mt. 11,31, where, however, the view least reasonable is taken), or spiritually satisfactory ones than the discussion of the gradation of sin and its punishment (Mt 5,21, 22; Serm. on the
Mt 9,22), and “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Mt 7,i), or pungently suggestive than the handling of the words of our Lord at the marriage feast at Cana: “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” (Jn 2,4 Homily VIII)., or more indicative of great principles underlying the vindication to the evangelists of a true historical character and of independence of each other (at least in minor details) than discussions like that about the differences in the details of the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes, alone common of the miracles to the fourfold Gospel (a sort of prelude to works like Blunt’s Undesigned Coincidences), and the relation of this miracle to the miracle of the seven loaves (Harmony, xlvi).). Exegetical Principles.

Augustin has laid down in a separate treatise a code of exegetical principles. His Christian Doctrine (vol. 2,of this series) is the earliest manual of Biblical hermeneutics. In spite of irrelevant and lengthy digressions, it contains many suggestions of value, which have not been improved upon in modern treatises on the subject.

1. He emphasizes Hebrew and Greek scholarship as an important aid to the expositor, and an essential condition of the interpretation of the figurative language of Scripture (ii. 11, 16; 16, 23, this ed., pp. 539, 543).

2. He will have his interpreter acquainted with sacred geography (ii. 29, 45, p. 549), natural history (ii. 16, 24, p. 543; 29, 45, p. 549), music (ii. 16, 26, p. 544), chronology (ii. 28, 42, p. 549) and the science of numbers (ii. 16, 25, p. 543), natural science generally (ii. 29, 45 sqq., p. 549) sqq)., history (ii. 28, 43, p. 549), dialectics (ii. 31, 48, p. 550), and the writings of the ancient philosophers (ii. 40, 60, p. 554). He was the first to suggest a work which has been realized in our dictionaries of the Bible. Pertinent to the subject he says, “What some men have done in regard to all words and names found in Scripture, in the Hebrew and Syriac and Egyptian and other tongues, taking up and interpreting separately such as were left in Scripture without interpretation; and what Eusebius has done in regard to the history of the past…I think might be done in regard to other matters.…For the advantage of his brethren a competent man might arrange in their several classes, and give an account of, the unknown places, and animals and plants, and trees and stones and metals, and other species of things mentioned in Scripture” (ii. 39, 59, p. 554). It is, in view of this sage suggestion, almost incomprehensible that Augustin pays no attention to these subjects in his commentaries. Jerome, on the other hand, is quite rich in these departments.

3. He presses the view that the Scripture is designed to have more interpretations than one (Christ. Doctr. 3,27, 38 sq.; this ed. p. 567). Augustin constantly applies this canon (e.g., on the petition, “Thy will be done,” Sermon on the Mount, 2,7, 21-23). He adopted the seven rules of the Donatist Tichonius as assisting to a deep understanding of the Word. These rules relate (1) to the Lord and His body, (2) to the twofold division of the Lord’s body, (3) to the promises and the Law, (4) to species and genus, (5) to times, (6) to recapitulation, (7) to the devil and his body (Christ. Doctr.iii. 30, 42, pp. 568-573). He explains and illustrates these laws at length, but denies that they exhaust the rules for discovering the hidden truth of Scripture.

4. He commends the method of interpreting obscure passages by the light of passages that are understood, and prefers it before the interpretation by reason (Christ. Doctr. 3,29, 39, p. 567)).

5. The spirit and intent of the interpreter are of more importance than verbal accuracy and critical acumen (a qualification not always too strictly insisted upon in these modern days of commentators and critical Biblical study). One must be in sympathy with the Gospel of Christ to interpret its records.1 Even the mistakes of an exegete, properly disposed, may confirm religious faith and character; and so far forth are his labors to be commended, though he himself is to be corrected, that he err not again after the same manner. “If the mistaken interpretation,” he says, “tends to build up love, which is the end of the commandment, the interpreter goes astray in much the same way as a man who, by mistake, quits the highroad, but yet reaches, through the fields, the same place to which the road leads” (Christ. Doctr. 1,36, 41 sq.; 2,p. 533).

That Augustin followed his own canons of interpretation, his writings show. He does not hesitate to put more than one interpretation upon a text (as especially in the Psalms), and none has been more elaborate in comparing Scripture with Scripture than he. If he had possessed the familiarity with the Hebrew that he recommends so strongly to others, he would have been preserved from the misinterpretations with which his commentaries on the Old Testament abound.
Use of Allegory.

14 Augustin’s use of allegory has exposed him to much harsh criticism. What was the practice of all, ought not to be considered a mortal fault in one. None of the ancient expositors were free from it. Some of the modern expositors, except as their works are designed only as a critical arsenal for the student, are defective because of all absence of the allegorical element.

Where Scripture itself has led the way, as in the case of the allegory of Hagar and Sarah (Ga iv). and other cases, the uninspired penman will be pardoned if he follow. The use of the allegorical method, however, was carried to the most unreasonable excess, reaching its culmination in Gregory’s Commentary on Jb That writer finds that the patriarch of Uz represents Christ, his sons the clergy, his three daughters the three classes of the laity who are to worship the Trinity, his friends the heretics, the oxen and she-asses the heathen, etc. The frequent extravagance of Augustin, proceeding out of his intellectual and Scriptural exuberance, cannot be commended; but it will be found that his allegory is seldom commonplace, and mingled with it, where it is most vicious, are comments of rare aptness and common sense. In the Old Testament he looks upon almost every character and event as symbolic of Christ and Christian institutions. But, as Trench well says, “it is indeed far better to find Christ everywhere in the Old Testament than to find Him nowhere” (p. 54).

In his effort to display the unity and harmony of all Scripture (to which he was forced by the controversy with the Manichaeans) he often strains after comparisons; and this came to be so much of a habit with him, that, where he had no special purpose to gain, he is guilty of the same excess. An instance among many is furnished in the opening chapters of the Sermon on the Mount (iv. 11), where a close comparison is instituted between the Beatitudes and the seven Spiritual operations of Is 11,2, 3. The historical element is nowhere denied, but something else is constantly being superinduced upon it, especially in the Old Testament.

A single illustration of Augustin’s allegorical interpretation will suffice. Turning away from the Psalms, where his imagination is particularly fertile along this line, I extract one on the parable of the five loaves and two fishes, as found in the XXIV. Homily on John. The five loaves mean the five Books of Moses. They are not wheaten, but barley, because they belong to the Old Testament. The nature of barley is such that it is hard to be got at, as the kernel is set in a coating of husk which is tenacious and hard to be stripped off. Such is the letter of the Old Testament, enveloped in a covering of carnal sacraments. The little lad represents the people of Israel, which, in its childishness of mind, carried but did not eat. The two fishes signify the persons of the Priest and King, which therefore point to Christ. The multiplication of the loaves signifies the exposition into many volumes of the five Books of Moses. There were five thousand people fed, because they were under the Law, which is unfolded in five books. “They sat upon the grass;” that is, they were carnally minded, and rested in carnal things. The “fragments” are the truths of hidden import which the people cannot receive, and which were therefore entrusted to the twelve apostles.

The excessive taste for this style of interpretation, in which the homilists and Biblical writers of a thousand years had revelled, was sternly rebuked by the Reformers. Especially did Luther utter his protest, on the ground that the fancies into which this method was apt to lead had a tendency to shake confidence in the literal truth of the sacred volume. He remarks, “Augustin said beautifully that a figure proves nothing;” but, probably from the high regard he had for the great theologian, he did not condemn his allegorizing exegesis.2

However much the great African bishop may have laid himself open to the rebuke of a more critical and mechanical age in this regard and others, his exegesis will continue to be admired for the diligence with which the sacred text is scanned, the reverent frame of heart with which it is approached, and the rich treasures of spiritual truth which it brings forth to the willing and devout reader.

St. Aurelius Augustin

Bishop of Hippo
Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount.

Book I. Explanation of the first part of the sermon delivered by our Lord on the mount, as contained in the fifth chapter of Matthew.

Chapter I.

1001 Mt 5,1-3
1. If any one will piously and soberly consider the sermon which our Lord Jesus Christ spoke on the mount, as we read it in the Gospel according to Matthew, I think that he will find in it, so far as regards the highest morals, a perfect standard of the Christian life: and this we do not rashly venture to promise, but gather it from the very words of the Lord Himself. For the sermon itself is brought to a close in such a way, that it is clear there are in it all the precepts which go to mould the life. For thus He speaks: “Therefore, whosoever heareth these words of mine, and doeth them, I will liken1 him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat2 upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them not, I will liken3 unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” Since, therefore, He has not simply said, “Whosoever heareth my words,” but has made an addition, saying, “Whosoever heareth these words of mine,” He has sufficiently indicated, as I think, that these sayings which He uttered on the mount so perfectly guide the life of those who may be willing to live according to them, that they may justly be compared to one building upon a rock. I have said this merely that it may be clear that the sermon before us is perfect in all the precepts by which the Christian life is moulded; for as regards this particular section a more careful treatment will be given in its own place.4

2. The beginning, then, of this sermon is introduced as follows: “And when He saw the great5 multitudes, He went up into a mountain:6 and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him: and He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying.” If it is asked what the “mountain” means, it may well be understood as meaning the greater precepts of righteousness; for there were lesser ones which were given to the Jews. Yet it is one God who, through His holy prophets and servants, according to a thoroughly arranged distribution of times, gave the lesser precepts to a people who as yet required to be bound by fear; and who, through His Son, gave the greater ones to a people whom it had now become suitable to set free by love. Moreover, when the lesser are given to the lesser, and the greater to the greater, they are given by Him who alone knows how to present to the human race the medicine suited to the occasion. Nor is it surprising that the greater precepts are given for the kingdom of heaven, and the lesser for an earthly kingdom, by that one and the same God, who made heaven and earth. With respect, therefore, to that righteousness which is the greater, it is said through the prophet, “Thy righteousness is like the mountains of God:”7 and this may well mean that the one Master alone fit to teach matters of so great importance teaches on a mountain. Then He teaches sitting, as behooves the dignity of the instructor’s office; and His disciples come to Him, in order that they might be nearer in body for hearing His words, as they also approached in spirit to fulfil His precepts. “And He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying.” The circumlocution before us, which runs, “And He opened His mouth,” perhaps gracefully intimates by the mere pause that the sermon will be somewhat longer than usual, unless, perchance, it should not be without meaning, that now He is said to have opened His own mouth, whereas under the old law He was accustomed to open the mouths of the prophets.8

3. What, then, does He say? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We read in Scripture concerning the striving after temporal things, “All is vanity and presumption of spirit;”9 but presumption of spirit means audacity and pride: usually also the proud are said to have great spirits; and rightly, inasmuch as the wind also is called spirit. And hence it is written, “Fire, hail, snow, ice, spirit of tempest.”10 But, indeed, who does not know that the proud are spoken of as puffed up, as if swelled out with wind? And hence also that expression of the apostle, “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.”11 And “the poor in spirit” are rightly understood here, as meaning the humble and God-fearing, i.e. those who have not the spirit which puffeth up. Nor ought blessedness to begin at any other point whatever, if indeed it is to attain unto the highest wisdom; “but the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;”12 for, on the other hand also, “pride” is entitled “the beginning of all sin.”13 Let the proud, therefore, seek after and love the kingdoms of the earth; but “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”14

Chapter II.

1004 Mt 5,4-10
4. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall by inheritance possess15 the earth:” that earth, I suppose, of which it is said in the Psalm, “Thou art my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”16 For it signifies a certain firmness and stability of the perpetual inheritance, where the soul, by means of a good disposition, rests, as it were, in its own place, just as the body rests on the earth, and is nourished from it with its own food, as the body from the earth. This is the very rest and life of the saints. Then, the meek are those who yield to acts of wickedness, and do not resist evil, but overcome evil with good.17 Let those, then, who are not meek quarrel and fight for earthly and temporal things; but “blessed are the meek, for they shall by inheritance possess the earth,” from which they cannot be driven out.18

5. “Blessed are they that mourn:19 for they shall be comforted.” Mourning is sorrow arising from the loss of things held dear; but those who are converted to God lose those things which they were accustomed to embrace as dear in this world: for they do not rejoice in those things in which they formerly rejoiced; and until the love of eternal things be in them, they are wounded by some measure of grief. Therefore they will be comforted by the Holy Spirit, who on this account chiefly is called the Paraclete, i.e. the Comforter, in order that, while losing the temporal joy, they may enjoy to the full that which is eternal.20

6. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Now He calls those parties, lovers of a true and indestructible good. They will therefore be filled with that food of which the Lord Himself says, “My meat is to do the will of my Father,” which is righteousness; and with that water, of which whosoever “drinketh,” as he also says, it “shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life.”21

7. “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”22 He says that they are blessed who relieve the miserable, for it is paid back to them in such a way that they are freed from misery.

8. “Blessed are the pure in heart:23 for they shall see God.” How foolish, therefore, are those who seek God with these outward eyes, since He is seen with the heart! as it is written elsewhere, “And in singleness of heart seek Him.”24 For that is a pure heart which is a single heart: and just as this light cannot be seen, except with pure eyes; so neither is God seen, unless that is pure by which He can be seen.25

9. “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” It is the perfection of peace, where nothing offers opposition; and the children of God are peacemakers, because nothing resists God, and surely children ought to have the likeness of their father. Now, they are peacemakers in themselves who, by bringing in order all the motions of their soul, and subjecting them to reason—i.e. to the mind and spirit—and by having their carnal lusts thoroughly subdued, become a kingdom of God: in which all things are so arranged, that that which is chief and pre-eminent in man rules without resistance over the other elements, which are common to us with the beasts; and that very element which is pre-eminent in man, i.e. mind and reason, is brought under subjection to something better still, which is the truth itself, the only-begotten Son of God. For a man is not able to rule over things which are inferior, unless he subjects himself to what is superior. And this is the peace which is given on earth to men of goodwill;26 this the life of the fully developed and perfect wise man. From a kingdom of this sort brought to a condition of thorough peace and order, the prince of this world is cast out, who rules where there is perversity and disorder.27 When this peace has been inwardly established and confirmed, whatever persecutions he who has been cast out shall stir up from without, he only increases the glory which is according to God; being unable to shake anything in that edifice, but by the failure of his machinations making it to be known with how great strength it has been built from within outwardly. Hence there follows: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Augustin on the mounts