Augustine on NT 150

150 6. “The third said, I have married a wife.” This is the pleasure of the flesh, which is a hindrance to many: and I would that it were so only without, and not within! There are men who say, “There is no happiness for a man, if he have not the pleasures of the flesh.” These are they whom the Apostle censures, saying, “‘Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die.’15 Who hath risen to this life from the other? Who hath ever told us what goes on there? We take away with us, what in the time present makes our happiness.” He that speaks thus, “has married a wife,” attaches himself to the flesh, places his delight in the pleasures of the flesh, excuses himself from the supper; let him look well to it that he die not by an inward famine. Attend to John, the holy Apostle and Evangelist; “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.”16 O ye who come to the Supper of the Lord, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” He did not say, “Have not;” but, “Love not.”Thou hast had, possessed, loved. The love of earthly things, is the bird-lime of the spirit’s wings. Lo, thou hast desired, thou hast stuck fast. “Who will give thee wings as of a dove?”17 When wilt thou fly, whither thou mayest in deed, seeing thou hast perversely wished to rest here, where thou hast to thy hurt stuck fast? “Love not the world,” is the divine trumpet. By the voice of this trumpet unceasingly is it proclaimed to the compass of the earth, and to the whole world, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. Whosoever loveth 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 ambition of life.”18 He begins at the last with which the Gospel ends. He begins at that, at which the Gospel made an end. “The lust of the flesh, I have married a wife. The lust of the eyes, I have bought five pairs of oxen. The ambition of life, I have bought a farm.”

7. Now these senses are denoted by the mention of the eyes only, the whole by a part, because the pre-eminence in the five senses belongs to the eyes. Wherefore though sight belongs peculiarly to the eyes, we are accustomed to use the word “seeing” through all the five senses. How? In the first place, in relation to the eyes themselves we say; “See how white it is, look and see how white it is:” this has relation to the eyes. Hear and see how musical it is! Could we say conversely, “Hear and see how white it is “? This expression, “see,” runs through all the senses; whereas the distinguishing expression19 of the other senses does not in its turn run through it. “Mc and see how musical; smell and see how agreeable it is; taste and see how sweet it is; touch and see how soft it is.” And yet surely since they are senses, we should rather say thus; “Hear and be sensible how musical it is; smell and be sensible how agreeable it is; taste and be sensible how sweet it is; touch and be sensible how hot it is; handle and be sensible how smooth it is; handle and be sensible how soft it is.” But we say none of these. For thus the Lord Himself after His resurrection when He appeared to His disciples, and when though they saw Him they still wavered in faith supposing that they saw a spirit, said, “Why do ye doubt, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? See My Hands and My Feet.” It is not enough to say, “See;” He saith, “Touch, and handle, and see.”20 “Look and see, handle and see; with the eyes alone see, and see by all the senses.” Because He was looking for the inner sense of faith, He offered Himself to the outward senses of the body. We have made no attainment21 in the Lord by these outward senses, we have heard with our ears, have believed with our heart; and this hearing not from His mouth, but from the mouth of His preachers, from their mouths who were already at the supper, and who by the pouring forth of what they there drunk in invited us.

8. Let us away then with vain and evil excuses, and come we to the supper by which we may be made fat within. Let not the puffing up of pride keep us back, let it not lift us up, nor unlawful curiosity scare us, and turn us away from God; let not the pleasure of the flesh hinderus from the pleasure of the heart. Let us come, and be filled. And who came but the beggars, the “maimed,” the “halt,” the “blind”? But there came not thither the rich, and the whole, who walked, as they thought, well, and saw acutely; who had great confidence in themselves, and were therefore in the more desperate case, in proportion as they were more proud. Let the beggars come, for He inviteth them, “who, though He was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we beggars through His poverty might be enriched.”22 Let the maimed come, “for they that are whole need not a physician, but they that are in evil case.”23 Let the halt come who may say to Him, “Set in order my steps in Thy paths.”24 Let the blind come who may say, “Enlighten mine eyes, that I may never sleep in death.”25 Such as these came at the hour, when those who had been first invited, had been rejected for their own excuses: they came at the hour, they entered in from the streets and lanes of the city. And the servant “who had been sent,” brought answer, “Lord, it is done as Thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.” “Go out,” saith He,” into the highways and hedges, and compel those whom thou shall find to come in.”26 Whom thou shall find wait not till they choose to come, compel them to come in. I have prepared a great supper, a great house, I cannot suffer any place to be vacant in it. The Gentiles came from the streets and lanes: let the heretics come from the hedges, here they shall find peace. For those who make hedges, their object is to make divisions. Let them be drawn away from the hedges, let them be plucked up from among the thorns. They have stuck fast in the hedges, they are unwilling to be compelled.27 Let us come in, they says of our own good will. This is not the Lord’s order, “Compel them,” saith he, “to come in.” Let compulsion be found outside, the will arise within.

1 See Serm. 40,(xc. Ben).).
2 (
Ps 80,7
3 (Lc 14,16
4 (1Tm 2,5
5 Villam, Vulgate.
6 (Lc 14,18-20).
7 (Jn 20,25
8 (Jn 20,29
9 Temporalem.
10 (Jn 12,3
11 (1Co 11,29
12 (Lc 14,15
13 (Jn 6,51
14 (Jn 20,27
15 (1Co 15,32
16 (1Jn 2,15
17 (Ps 54,7 Sept. (6, English version)).
18 (1Jn 2,15, 16, Vulgate.
19 Proprietas.
20 (Lc 24,38-39.
21 Carpsimus.
22 (2Co 8,9
23 (Mt 9,12 Vulgate.
24 (Ps 17,5
25 (Ps 13,3
26 (Lc 14,22-23.
27 This alludes to the laws made against the Donatists by the Christian Emperors. See St. Augustin’s Epis. 195, and especially § 24).


Sermon LXIII. [CXIII. Ben.]

On the words of the gospel, Lc 16,9 “Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness,” etc.

1. Our duty is to give to others the admonitions we have received ourselves. The recent lesson of the Gospel has admonished us to make friends of the mammon of iniquity, that they too may” receive “those who do so” into everlasting habitations.” But who are they that shall have everlasting habitations, but the hints of God? And who are they who are to be received by them into everlasting habitations, but they who serve their need, and minister cheerfully to their necessities? Accordingly let us remember, that in the last judgment the Lord will say to thosewho shall stand on His right hand, “I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat;” and the rest which ye know. And upon their enquiring when they had afforded these good offices to Him, He answered, “When ye did it to one of the least of Mine, ye did it unto Me.”1 These least are they who receive into everlasting habitations. This He said to them on the right hand, because they did so: and the contrary He said to them on the left, because they would not. But what have they on the right hand who did so, received, or rather, what are they to receive? “Come,” says He, “ye blessed of My Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat. When ye did it to one of the least of Mine, ye did it unto Me.”2 Who then are these least ones of Christ? They are those who have left all they had, and followed Him, and have distributed whatever they had to the poor; that unencumbered and without any worldly fetter they might serve God, and might lift their shoulders free from the burdens of the world, and winged as it were aloft. These are the least. And why the least? Because lowly, because not puffed up, not proud. Yet weigh them in the scales, these least ones, and thou wilt find them a heavy weight.

2. But what means it, that He says they are “friends of the mammon of iniquity “? What is “the mammon of iniquity “? First, what is “mammon “? For it is not a Latin word. It is a Hebrew word, and cognate to the Punic language. For these languages are allied to one another by a kind of nearness of signification.What the Punics call mammon, is called in Latin, “lucre “3 What the Hebrews call mammon, is called in Latin, “riches.” That we may express the whole then in Latin, our Lord Jesus Christ says this, “Make to yourselves friends of the riches of iniquity.” Some, by a bad understanding of this, plunder the goods of others, and bestow some of that upon the poor, and so think that they do what is enjoined them. For they say, “To plunder the goods of others, is the mammon of iniquity; to spend some of it, especially on the poor saints, this is to make friends with the mammon of iniquity. This understanding of it must be corrected, yea, must be utterly effaced from the tablets of your heart. I would not that ye should so understand it. Give alms of your righteous labours: give out of that which ye possess rightfully. For ye cannot corrupt Christ your Judge, that He should not hear you together with the poor, from whom ye take away. For if thou wert to despoil any one who was weak, thyself being stronger and of greater power, and he were to come with thee to the judge, any man you please on this earth, who had any power of judging, and he were to wish to plead his cause with thee; if thou wert to give anything of the spoil and plunder of that poor man to the judge, that he might pronounce judgment in thy favour; would that judge please even thee? True, he has pronounced judgment in thy favour, and yet so great is the force of justice, that he would displease even thee. Do not then represent God to thyself as such an one as this. Do not set up such an idol in the temple of thine heart. Thy God is not such as thou oughtest not to be thyself. If thou wouldest not judge so, but wouldest judge justly; even so thy God is better than thou: He is not inferior to thee: He is more just, He is the fountain of justice. Whatsoever good thou hast done, thou hast gotten from Him; and whatsoever good thou hast given vent to,4 thou hast drunk in from Him. Dost thou praise the vessel, because it hath something from Him, and blame the fountain? Do not give alms out of usury and increase. I am speaking to the faithful, am speaking to those to whom we distribute the body of Christ. Be in fear and amend yourselves: that I may not have hereafter to say, Thou doest so, and thou too doest so. Yet I trow, that if I should do so, ye ought not to be angry with me, but with yourselves, that ye may amend yourselves. For this is the meaning of the expression in the Psalm, “Be ye angry, and sin not.”5 I would have you be angry, but only that ye may not sin. Now in order that ye may not sin, with whom ought ye to be angry but with yourselves? For what is a penitent man, but a man who is angry with himself? That he may obtain pardon, he exacts punishment from himself; and so with good right says to God, “Turn Thine eyes from my sins, for I acknowledge my sin.”6 If thou acknowledgest it, then He will pardon it. Ye then who have done so wrongly, do so no more: it is not lawful.

3. But if ye have done so already, and have such money in your possession, and have filled your coffers thereby, and were heaping up treasure by these means: what ye have comes of evil, now then add not evil to it, and make to yourselves friends of the mammon of iniquity. Had Zacchaeus what he had from good sources?7 Read and see. He was the chief of the publicans, that is, he was one to whom the public taxes were paid in: by this he had his wealth. He had oppressed many, had taken from many, and so had heaped much together. Christ entered into his house, and salvation came upon his house; for so said the Lord Himself, “This day is salvation come to this house.”8 Now mark the method of this salvation. First he was longing to see the Lord, because he was little in stature: but when the crowd hindered him, he got up into a sycamore tree, and saw Him as He passed by. But Jesus saw him, and said, “Zacchaeus, come down, I must abide at thy house.” Thou art hanging there, but I will not keep thee in suspense. I will not, that is, put thee off. Thou didst wish to see Me as I passed by, to-day shalt thou find Me dwelling at thy house. So the Lord went in unto him, and he, filled with joy, said, “The half of my goods I give to the poor.” Lo, how swiftly he runs, who runs to make friends of the mammon of iniquity. And lest he should be held guilty on any other account, he said, “If I have taken anything from any man, I” will “restore fourfold.” He inflicted sentence of condemnation on himself, that he might not incur damnation. So then, ye who have anything from evil sources, do good therewith. Ye who have not, wish not to acquire by evil means. Be thou good thyself, who doest good with what is evilly acquired: and when with this evil thou beginnest to do any good, do not remain evil thyself. Thy money is being converted to good, and dost thou thyself continue evil?

4. There is indeed another way of understanding it; and I will not withhold it too. The mammon of iniquity is all the riches of this world, from whatever source they come. For howsoever they be heaped together, they are the mammon of iniquity, that is, the riches of iniquity. What is, “they are the riches of iniquity “? It is money which iniquity calls by the name of riches. For if we seek for the true riches, they are different from these. In these Job abounded,naked as he was, when he had a heart full to Godward, and poured out praises like most costly gems to his God, when he had lost all he had.9 And from what treasure did he this, if he had nothing? These then are the true riches. But the other sort are called riches by iniquity. Thou dost possess these riches. I blame it not: an inheritance has come to thee, thy father was rich, and he left it to thee. Or thou hast honestly acquired them: thou hast a house full of the fruit of just labour; I blame it not. Yet even thus do not call them riches. For if thou dost call them riches, thou wilt love them: and if thou love them, thou wilt perish with them. Lose, that thou be not lost: give, that thou mayest gain: sow, that thou mayest reap. Call not these riches, for “the true” they are not. They are full of poverty, and liable ever to accidents. What sort of riches are those, for whose sake thou art afraid of the robber, for whose sake thou art afraid of thine own servant, lest he should kill thee, and take them away, and fly? If they were true riches, they would give thee security.

5. So then those are the true riches, which when we have them, we cannot lose. And lest haply thou shouldest fear a thief because of them, they will be there where none can take them away. Hear thy Lord, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where no thief approacheth.”10 Then will they be riches, when thou hast removed them hence. As long as they are in the earth, they are not riches. But the world calls them riches, iniquity calls them so. God calls them therefore the mammon of iniquity, because iniquity calls them riches. Hear the Psalm, “O Lord, deliver me out of the hand of strange children, whose mouth hath spoken vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of iniquity. Whose sons are as new plants, firmly rooted from their youth. Their daughters decked out, adorned round about after the similitude of a temple. Their storehouses full, flowing out from this into that. Their oxen fat, their sheep fruitful, multiplying in their goings forth. There is no breach of wall, nor going forth, no crying out in their streets.”11 Lo, what sort of happiness the Psalmist has described: but hear what is the case with them whom he has set forth as children of iniquity. “Whose mouth hath spoken vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of iniquity.” Thus has he set them forth, and said that their happiness is only upon the earth. And what did he add? “They are happy the people that hath these things.” But who caller them so? “Strange children,” aliens from the race, and belonging not to the seed of Abraham: they “called the people happy that hath these things.” Who called them so? “They whose mouth hath spoken vanity.” It is a vain thing then to call them happy who have these things. And yet they are called so by them, “whose mouth hath spoken vanity.” By them the “mammon of iniquity” of the Gospel is called riches.

6. But what sayest thou? Seeing that these “strange children” that they “whose mouth hath spoken vanity,” have “called the people happy that hath these things,” what sayest thou? These are false riches, show me the true. Thou findest fault with these, show me what thou praisest. Thou wishest me to despise these, show me what to prefer. Let the Psalmist speak himself. For he who said, “they called the people happy that hath these things,” gives us such an answer, as if we had said to him, that is, to the Psalmist12 himself, “Lo, this thou hast taken away from us, and nothing hast thou given us: lo, these, lo, these we despise; whereby shall we live, whereby shall we be happy? For they who have spoken, they will undertake to answer13 for themselves. For they have ‘called’ men ‘who have’ riches ‘happy.’ But what sayest thou?” As if he had been thus questioned, he makes answer and says, They call the rich happy: but I say, “Happy are the people whose is the Lord their God.” Thus then thou hast heard of the true riches, make friends of the mammon of iniquity, and thou shalt be “a happy people, whose is the Lord their God.” At times we go along the way, and see very pleasant and productive estates, and we say, “Whose estate is that?” We are told, “such a man’s;” and we say, “Happy man!”We “speak vanity.” Happy he whose is that house, happy he whose that estate, happy he whose that flock, happy he whose that servant, happy he whose is that household. Take away vanity if Thou wouldest hear the truth. “Happy he whose is the Lord” his “God.” For not he who has that estate is happy: but he whose is that “God.” But in order to declare most plainly the happiness of possessions, thou sayest that thy estate has made thee happy. And why? Because thou livest by it. For when, thou dost highly praise thine estate, thou sayest thus,” It finds me food, I live by it.” Consider whereby thou dost really live. He by whom thou livest, is He to whom thou sayest, “With Thee is the fountain of life.”14 “Happy is the people: whose God is the Lord.” O Lord my God, O Lord our God, make us happy by Thee, that we may come unto Thee. We wish not to be happy from gold, or silver, or land, from these earthly, and most vain, and transitory goods of this perishable life. Let not “our mouth speak; vanity.” Make us happy by Thee, seeing that we shall never lose Thee. When we shall once have gotten Thee, we shall neither lose Thee, nor be lost ourselves. Make us happy by Thee, because “Happy is the people whose is the Lord their God.” Nor will God be angry if we shall say of Him, He is our estate. For we read that “the Lord is the portion of my inheritance.”15 Grand thing, Brethren, we are both His inheritance, and He is ours, seeing that we both cultivate His service16 and He cultivateth us.17 It is no derogation18 to His honour that He cultivateth us. Because if we cultivate Him as our God, He cultivateth us as His field. And, (that ye may know that He doth cultivate us) hear Him whom He hath sent to us: “I,” saith He, “am the vine, ye are the branches, My Father is the Husbandman.”19 Therefore He doth cultivate us. But if we yield fruit, He prepares for us His garner. But if under the attention of so great a hand we will be barren, and for good fruit20 bring forth thorns, I am loth to say what follows.21 Let us make an end with a theme of joy. “Let us turn then to the Lord,” etc.

1 (Mt 25,35 etc.
2 (Mt 25,40
3 Lucrum.
4 Eructuasti.
5 (Ps 4,4 Sept.
6 (Ps 51,9
7 (Lc 19,2 etc).
8 (Lc 19,9
9 (Jb 1,21
10 (Mt 6,20 Lc 12,33
11 (Ps 144,11 etc.), Sept).
12 Psalmo.
13 Recipient.
14 (Ps 36,9
15 (Ps 16,5
16 Colimus.
17 Colit. Quia et colimus eum, et colit nos. Vide Serm. xlvii., xxix., xxvii., ii.; Conf. B. 13,1.
18 Injuria.
19 (Jn 15,1
20 Frumento.
21 See Jn 15,2 Jn 15,6.


Sermon LXIV. [CXIV. Ben.]

On the words of the gospel, Lc 17,3 “If thy brother sin, rebuke him,” etc., Touching the remission of sins.Delivered at the Table of St. Cyprian, in the presence of Count Boniface.

1). The Holy Gospel which we heard just now as it was being read, has admonished touching the remission of sins. And on this subject must ye be admonished now by my discourse. For we are ministers of the word, not our own word, but the word of our God and Lord, whom no one serves without glory, whom no one despises without punishment. He then the Lord our God, who abiding with the Father made us, and having been made for us, re-made us, He the Lord our God Jesus Christ Himself says to us what we have heard just now in the Gospel. “If,” He saith, “thy brother shall sin against thee, rebuke him, and if he shall repent, forgive him; and if he shall sin against time seven times in a day, and shall come and say, I repent, forgive him.”1 He would not have “seven times in a day” otherwise understood than “as often as may be,” lest haply he sin eight times, and thou be unwilling to forgive. What then is “seven times “? Always, as often as he shall sin and repent. For this, “Seven times in a day will I praise thee,”2 is the same as in another Psalm, “His praise shall always be in my mouth.”3 And there is the strongest reason why seven times should be put for that which is always: for the whole course of time revolves in a circle of seven coming and returning days.

2. Whosoever then thou art that hast thy thoughts on Christ, and desirest to receive what He hath promised, be not slow to do that which He hath enjoined. Now what hath He promised? “Eternal life.” And what hath He enjoined? That pardon be given to thy brother. As if He had said to thee, “Do thou, O man, give pardon to a man, that I, who am God, may come unto thee.” But that I may pass over, or rather pass by for a while, those more exalted divine promises in which our Creator engages to make us equal with His Angels, that we may with Him, and in Him, and by Him, live without end; not to speak of this just now, dost thou not wish to receive of thy God this very thing, which thou art commanded to give thy brother? This very thing, I say, which thou art commanded to give thy brother, dost thou not wish to receive from thy Lord? Tell me if thou wishest it not; and so give it not. What is this, but that thou shouldest forgive him that asks thee, if thou require to be forgiven? But if thou have nothing to he forgiven thee, I dare to say, be unwilling to forgive. Though I ought not even to say this. Though thou have nothing to be forgiven thee, forgive.

3. Thou art just on the point of saying to me, “But I am not God, I am a man, a sinner.” God be thanked that thou dost confess thou hast sins. Forgive then, that they may be forgiven thee. Yet the Lord Himself our God exhorteth us to imitate Him. In the first place God Himself, Christ, exhorteth us, of whom the Apostle Peter said, “Christ hath suffered for us, leaving you an example that ye should follow His steps, who did no sin, neither was guile, found in His mouth.”4 He then verily had no sin, yet did He die for our sins, and shed His Blood for the remission of sins. He took upon Him for our sakes what was not His due, that He might deliver us from what was due to us. Death was not due to Him, nor life to us. Why? Because we were sinners. Death was not due to Him, nor life to us; He received what was not due to Him, He gave what was not due to us. But since we are speaking of the remission of sins, lest ye should think it too high a thing to imitate Christ, hear the Apostle saying, “Forgiving one another, even as God in Christ hath forgiven you.”5 Be ye therefore imitators of God.” They are the Apostle’s words, not mine. Is it indeed a proud thing to imitate God? Hear the Apostle, “Be ye imitators of God as dearly beloved children.”6 Thou art called a child: if thou refuse to imitate Him, why seekest thou His inheritance?

4. This would I say even if thou hadst no sin which thou mightest desire to be forgiven thee. But as it is, whosoever thou art, thou art a man; though thou be righteous, thou art a man; be thou layman, or monk, or clerk, or Bishop, or Apostle, thou art a man. Hear the Apostle’s voice, “If we shall say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.”7 He, that famous John and an Evangelist, he whom the Lord Christ loved beyond all the rest, who lay on His breast, he says, “If we shall say.” He did not say, “If ye shall say that ye have no sin,” but “if we shall say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” He joined himself in the guilt, that he might be joined in the pardon also. “If we shall say.” Consider who it is that says, “If we shall say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we shall confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity.”8 How does He cleanse? By forgiving, not as though He found nothing to punish, but as finding something to forgive. So then, Brethren, if we have sins, let us forgive them that ask us. Let us not retain enmities in our heart against another. For the retaining of enmities more than anything corrupts this heart of ours.

5. I would then that thou shouldest forgive, seeing that I find thee asking forgiveness. Thou art asked, forgive: thou art asked, and thou wilt ask thyself; thou art asked, forgive; thou wilt ask to be forgiven; for, lo, the time of prayer will come: I have thee fist in the words thou wilt have to speak. Thou wilt say, “Our Father, which art in heaven.” For thou wilt not be in the number of children, if thou shalt not say, “Our Father.” So then thou wilt say, “Our Father, which art in heaven.” Follow on; “Hallowed be Thy Name.” Say on, “Thy kingdom come.” Follow still on, “Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.” See what thou addest next, “Give us this day our daily bread.”9 Where are thy riches? So thou art a beggar. Nevertheless in the mean while (it is the point I am speaking of), say what is next after, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Say what follows this: “Forgive us our debts.” Now thou hast come to my words, “Forgive us our debts.” By what right? by what covenant? on what condition? on what express stipulation? “As we also forgive our debtors.” It is but a small thing that thou dost not forgive; yea thou dost more, thou liest unto God. The condition is laid down, the law fixed. “Forgive as I forgive.” Therefore He does not forgive, unless thou forgivest. “Forgive as I forgive.” Thou wishest to be forgiven when thou askest, forgive him that asks of thee. He that is skilled in heaven’s laws10 has dictated these prayers: He does not deceive thee; ask according to the tenor of His heavenly voice: say, “Forgive us, as we also forgive,” and do what thou sayest. He that lies in his prayers, loses the benefit he seeks: he that lies in his prayers, both loses his cause, and finds his punishment. And if any one lies to the emperor, he is convicted of his lie at his coming: but when thou liest in prayer, thou by thy very prayer art convicted. For God does not seek for witness as regards thee to convict thee. He who dictated the prayers to thee, is thine Advocate: if thou liest, He is a witness against thee: if thou dost not amend thyself, He will be thy Judge. So then both say it, and do. For if thou say it not, thou wilt not obtain making thy requests contrary to the law; but if thou say it and do it not, thou wilt be further guilty of lying. There is no means of evading that verse, save by fulfilling what we say. Can we blot this verse out of our prayer? Would ye that clause, “Forgive us our debts,” should be there, and that we should blot out what follows, “As we also forgive our debtors “? Thou shalt not blot it out, lest thou be first blotted out thyself. So then in this prayer thou sayest, “Give,” and thou sayest, “Forgive:” that thou mayest receive what thou hast not, and may be forgiven what thou hast done amiss. So then thou wishest to receive, give; thou wishest to be forgiven, forgive. It is a brief summary. Hear Christ Himself in another place, “Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” What will ye forgive? What others have sinned against you. What shall ye be forgiven? What ye have sinned yourselves. “Forgive.” “Give, and there shall be given you what ye desire,”11 eternal life. Support the temporal life of the poor man, sustain the poor man’s present life, and for this so small and earthly seed ye shall receive for harvest life eternal. Amen.

1 (Lc 17,4
2 (Ps 119,164
3 (Ps 34,1).
4 (1P 2,21-22.
5 (Col 3,13 Ep 4,32
6 (Ep 5,1
7 (1Jn 1,8
8 (1Jn 1,9
9 (Mt 6,9 etc.
10 Jurisperitus).
11 (Lc 6,37 38.


Sermon LXV. [CXV. Ben.]

On the words of the gospel, Lc 18,1 “They ought always to pray, and not to faint,” etc. And on the two who went up into the temple to pray: and of the little children who were presented unto Christ.

1). The lesson of the Holy Gospel builds us up unto the duty of praying and believing, and of not putting our trust in ourselves, but in the Lord. What greater encouragement to prayer than the parable which is proposed to us of the unjust judge? For an unjust judge, who feared not God, nor regarded man, yet gave ear to a widow who besought him, overcome by her importunity, not inclined thereto by kindness.1 If he then heard her prayer, who hated to be asked, how must He hear who exhorts us to ask? When therefore by this comparison from a contrary case theLord had taught that” men ought always to pray and not to faint,”2 He added and said, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man shall come, thinkest thou that He shall find faith on the earth?”3 If faith fail, prayer perishes. For who prays for that which he does not believe? Whence also the blessed Apostle, when he exhorted to prayer, said, “Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord, shall be saved.”4 And in order to show that faith is the fountain of prayer, he went on and said, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?”5 So then that we may pray, let us believe; and that this same faith whereby we pray fail not, let us pray. Faith pours out prayer, and the pouring out of prayer obtains the strengthening of faith. Faith, I say, pours out prayer, the pouring out of prayer obtains strengthening even for faith itself. For that faith might not fail in temptations, therefore did the Lord say,” Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.”6 “Watch,” He saith, “and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.” What is to “enter into temptation,” but to depart from faith? For so far temptation advances as faith gives way: and so far temptation gives way, as faith advances. For that you may know, Beloved, more plainly, that the Lord said, “Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation,” as touching faith lest it should fail and perish; He said in the same place of the Gospel “This night hath Satan desired to sift7 you as wheat, and I have prayed for thee, Peter, that thy faith fail not.”8 He that defendeth prayeth, and shall not he pray who is in peril? For in the words of the Lord, “when the Son of Man shall come, thinkest thou that He shall find faith on the earth?” He spoke of that faith, which is perfect. For it is scarce found on the earth. Lo! this Church of God is full: and who would come hither, if there were no faith? But who would not remove mountains, if there were full faith? Look at the very Apostles: they would not have left all they had, have trodden under foot this world’s hope, and followed the Lord, if they had not had great faith; and yet if they had full faith, they would not have said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”9 See again, that man confessing both of himself (behold faith, yet not full faith), who when he had presented to the Lord his son to be cured of an evil spirit, and was asked whether he believed, answered and said, “Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief.10 “Lord,” says he, “I believe,” I believe; therefore there was faith. But “help Thou mine unbelief,” thereforethere was not frill faith.

2. But inasmuch as faith belongs not to the proud, but to the humble, “He spake this parable unto certain who seemed to themselves to be righteous, and despised others. Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee said, God, I thank Thee that I am not as the rest of men.”11 He might at least have said, “as many men.” What does, “as the rest of men,” mean, but all except himself? “I,” he says, “am just, the rest are sinners.” “I am not as the rest of men, unjust, extortioners, adulterers.” And, lo, from thy neighbour, the publican, thou takest occasion of greater pride. “As,” he says, “this publican.” “I,” he says, “am alone, he is of the rest.” “I am not,” says he, “such as he is, through my righteous deeds, whereby I have no unrighteousness.” “I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.”12 In all his words seek out for any one thing that he asked of God, and thou wilt find nothing. He went up to pray: he had no mind to pray to God, but to laud himself. Nay, it is but a small part of it, that he prayed not to God, but lauded himself. More than this he even mocked him that did pray. “But the Publican stood afar off;”13 and yet he was in deed near to God. The consciousness of his heart kept him off, piety brought him close. “But the Publican stood afar off:” yet the Lord regarded him near. “For the Lord is high, yet hath He respect unto the lowly.”14 But “those that are high” as was this Pharisee, “He knoweth afar off. “The high” indeed “God knoweth afar off,” but He doth not pardon them. Hear still more the humility of the Publican. It is but a small matter that he stood afar off; “he did not even lift up his eyes unto heaven.” He looked not, that he might be looked upon. He did not dare to look upwards, his conscience pressed him down: but hope lifted him up. Hear again, “he smote his breast.” He punished himself: wherefore the Lord spared him for his confession. “He smote his breast, saying, Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.” See who he is that prays. Why dost thou marvel that God should pardon, when he acknowledges his own sin? Thus thou hast heard the cases of the Pharisee and Publican; now hear the sentence; thou hast heard the proud accuser, thou hast heard the humble criminal; hear nowthe Judge. “Verily I say unto you.” The Truth saith, God saith, the Judge saith it. “VerilyI say unto you, That Publican went down from the temple justified rather than that Pharisee.”15 Tell us, Lord, the cause. Lo! I see that the publican goes down from the temple justified rather than the Pharisee. I ask why? Dost thou ask why? Hear why. “Because every one that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”16 Thou hast heard the sentence, beware of its evil cause. In other words, thou hast heard the sentence, beware of pride.

Augustine on NT 150