Augustin on 1John
Translated by Ap H. Browne, M.a., Canon of Waltham and Principal of the Chichester Diocesan College, Revised, with Additional Notes, by Ap Joseph H. Myers, D.D.
This volume contains:
II. The Homilies on the First Epistle of John (In Epistolam Joannis ad Parthos2 Tractatus decem)were preached about the same time as those on the Gospel, or shortly afterwards. They are also included in the third volume of the Benedictine edition (Migne, T. III. P. II. 1977-2062). The translation by Ap H. Browne is taken from the Oxford Library of the Fathers (Clark’s edition has none), and was slightly revised and edited with additional notes and an introduction by the Ap Dr. Myers, of Washington.
2 This first Epistle of John, probably written at Ephesus near the close of the first century, the last utterance of the Spirit of inspiration, breathes the calmness of an assured hope, and that fullness of joy of which the Apostle would have his readers to be made partakers. While strongly refuting error, it is not so much an argument as an intuition, an open vision of the divine truths announced.
It was evidently written in a time of external quiet for the Church, but of special exposure to errors and perils from within. The nature of the principal error is plain,—the denial that Jesus is the Christ (1Jn 2,22). Precisely this heresy was taught at Ephesus by Cerinthus in the old age of the Apostle; he alleged that Jesus was a man eminent for wisdom and holiness; that after his baptism Christ descended into him, and before the crucifixion left Jesus and returned to heaven. Over against this cardinal error, the Apostle announces the manifestation of the Son of God in the flesh,—the Incarnation of that Eternal Life which was with God from the beginning. This divine fact is shown in its own self-evidencing light, and is so presented as to render the epistle a “possession forever,” of incalculable value to the Church. In our day, also, by separating Jesus the Son of Man from Christ the Son of God, the one Divine-Human Lord and Saviour of man is denied and rejected. The great words, fellowship, light, life, love, so often recurring in the Epistle, are filled with new meanings as vehicles of the message of God, as conveying the thoughts of God.
As regards the plan of the Epistle, it has been often asserted till lately that it was supposed to be but fragmentary, a series of aphorisms. Augustin, however, without formally announcing a plan as discovered by him in the Epistle, not only frequently affirms in his exposition that charity or love is the Apostle’s main theme, but so conducts the discussion, gathering his arguments and illustrations around this central thought, as to render it evident that in his view the purpose and plan of the Apostle is to set forth love in its essence and its scope, and that he intends to make this thought dominant in every part. Westcott, in his admirable commentary (2nd edition, 1886), does not draw out a plan, but gives striking and comprehensive views of the object and scope of the Epistle.
Braune, in Lange’s commentary, makes two main divisions, besides the introduction and conclusion: chief topic for the first division: 1,5-ii. 28, God is Light; for the second part: Whosoever is born of God doeth righteousness.
Huther (4th edition, 1880) suggests a three-fold division, first: i. 5-ii. 12-28, against indifference to truth and love of the world; second: 2,29-iii. 22, a life of brotherly love alone is in agreement with the nature of the child of God; third: 3,23-v. 17, pointing to faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as the foundation of the Christian Life.As thus distributed (by Huther) “the conclusion of each part points to the joy of which the Christian partakes in fellowship with God.”
Objections have been urged to any division proposed, as being inadequate; but the great divine facts of fellowship with God, fullness of joy in Him, and an Eternal Life of love through the Son of God, are leading topics. This is obvious; they are often recurred to, are frequently conjoined, and in their grandeur surpass our range and reach of thought, while satisfying the aspirations of the soul.
In these discourses of Augustin, on the first Epistle of John, we have a nearly complete text of the Epistle,—the exposition of the last 18 verses not being extant. He followed the old Itala, one of the most ancient (Latin) versions of the New Testament. Variations between the text on which he comments and the best Greek text (as given by Westcott and Hort), when of importance, are indicated in this revised edition of the translation of his homilies. In comparing the Oxford translation, word by word, with the original,—Benedictine (Migne’s) edition,—several omissions, twelve at least, have been discovered; and though brief, some of them are of considerable importance: these are supplied in the present edition.
The translator copied, only too faithfully, the very form of the Latin sentences: to change them throughout and to remove all the archaisms in his English, might have seemed an undue reflection on a work executed for the most part with extraordinary fidelity.
After many alterations in phraseology, probably enough still remains in the translation of the original antique flavor to satisfy the taste of those who are ever disposed to say: “the old is better.”
As regards any allegorizing tendency here and there manifested in the exposition, it may suffice to say that it is small in Augustin, as compared with very many of great fame.
If now and then he seems to mistake in interpretation (as in Homily VII)., not considering that in the Greek such propositions as “God is love,” are not convertible, the subject ov qeov" being marked by the article, and the predicate indicated by not having the article, let it be remembered that some exegetical canons of the kind were unknown in his time.
These expository discourses by the most illustrious of the Fathers of the Western Church, while often exhibiting great critical acumen, were not intended to be models in exegesis. They are familiar, homiletical talks, racy and vivid in style, couched in the plainest and most pointed language, and all aglow with the most fervent love.
Whatever St. Jn was in this respect, Augustin was clearly a polemic; but where can be found a more ardent lover of the brethren, nay of all men, even the worst? Not the least striking and touching of his utterances are those in which he discloses the breadth and depth of his charity toward enemies, and affirms such principles and such conduct to be necessarily and invariably found in all those who are Christians indeed.-J. H. M).
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, and which we have seen with our eyes, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life: and the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us: the things which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and that our fellowship may be1 with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son shall cleanse2 us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins: not for our’s only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And in this we do know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith he knoweth Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected. In this we know that we are in Him, if in Him we be perfect. He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked. Beloved, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in Him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. For he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because the darkness hath blinded his eyes.”
101 1. “That which was from the beginning. which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes,3 and our hands have handled, of the word of life.” Who is he that with hands doth handle the Word. except because “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt in us “? Now this Word which was made flesh that it might be handled, began to be flesh, of the Virgin Mary: but not then began the Word, for the Apostle saith, “That which was from the beginning.” See whether his epistle does not bear witness to his gospel, where ye lately heard, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.4 Perchance, “Concerning the word of life” on may take as a sort of expression concerning Christ, not the very body of Christ which was handled with hands. See what follows: “And the Life was manifested.” Christ therefore is “the word of life.” And whereby manifested? For it was “from the beginning,” only not manifested to men: but it was manifested to angels, who saw it and fed on it as their bread. But what saith the Scripture “Man did eat angels’ bread.”5 Well then “the Life was manifested” in the flesh; because it exhibited in manifestation, that that which can be seen by the heart only, should be seen by the eyes also, that it might heal the hearts. For only by the heart is the Word seen: but the flesh is seen by the bodily eyes also. We had wherewith to see the flesh, but had not wherewith to see the Word: “the Word was made flesh,” which we might see, that so that in us might be healed wherewith we might see the Word.
1 [“Our fellowship is.”— J. H. M.]
2 [Gr). kaqarizei, cleanses.— J. H. M.]
3 O ejqeasavmeqa. “Which we have looked upon.” Vulg ). quod perspeximus. Aug, om).
4 Jn 1,1
5 Ps 78,25
102 2. “And we have seen and are witnesses.”6 Perhaps some of the brethren who are not acquainted with the Greek do not know what the word “witnesses” is in Greek: and yet it is a term much used by all, and had in religious reverence; for what in our tongue we call “witnesses,” in Greek are “martyrs.” Now where is the man that has not heard of martyrs, or where the Christian in whose mouth the name of martyrs dwelleth not every day and would that it so dwelt in the heart also, that we should imitate the sufferings of the martyrs, not persecute them with our cups!7 Well then, “We have seen and are witnesses,” is as much as to say, We have seen and are martyrs. For it was for bearing witness of that which they had seen, and bearing witness of that which they had heard from them who had seen, that, while their testimony itself displeased the men against whom it was delivered, the martyrs suffered all that they did suffer. The martyrs are God’s witnesses. It pleased God to have men for His witnesses, that men also may have God to be their witness. “We have seen,” saith he, “and are witnesses.” Where have they seen? In the manifestation. What meaneth, in the manifestation? In the sun, that is, in this light of day. And how should He be seen in the sun who made the sun, except as “in the sun He hath set His tabernacle; and Himself t as a bridegroom going forth out of his chamber, exulted as a giant to run His course?”8 He before the sun,9 who made the sun, Hebefore the day-star, before all the stars, beforeall angels, the true Creator, (“for all thingswere made by Him, and without Him was nothing made,”) that He might be seen by eyes of flesh which see the sun, set His very tabernacle in the sun, that is, showed His flesh in manifestation of this light of day: and that Bridegroom’s chamber was the Virgin’s womb, because in that virginal womb were joined the two, the Bridegroom and the bride, the Bridegroom the Word, and the bride the flesh; because it is the andsaithLordwritten, “And they twain shall be one twain onebutflesh;”10 in the Gospel, “Therefore they are no more flesh.11 And Esaias remembers right well that they are two: for speaking in the person of Christ he saith, “He hath set a mitre upon me as upon a bridegroom, and adorned me with an ornament as a bride.”12 One seems to speak, yet makes Himself at once Bridegroom and Bride; because “not two, but one flesh:” because “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt in us.” To that flesh the Church is joined, and so there is made the whole Christ, Head and body.
6 1Jn 1,2
7 Edd). Non calcibus persequamur: “not virtually trample upon, or kick at them, persecuting the martyrs afresh by turning their festivals into luxurious orgies;” or “not merely walk after them.” Morel). Elem. Crit. p. 208, cited by Ed. Par, proposes calicibus persequamur: Complaining of these excuses. S. Aug. says, Enarr. in Psa. 69, sec. 2: Adhuc illi inimici martyrum quia voce et ferro non possunt, eos sua luxuria persequuntur. Atque utinam Paganos tantum doleremus!…Videmus etiam portantes in fronte signum Ejus, simul in ipsa fronte portare impudentiam luxuriarum, diebusque et solemnitatibus martyrum non exultare, sed insultare. On Ps 59 (al. 60) sec 15, he has, modò eos ebriosi calicibus persequuntur, and one Oxford Ms. reads so here. Compare infra, Hom. 4,4.
8 Ps 19,4-5.
9 Ante luciferum. Ps 110,3.
10 Gn 2,24
11 Mt 19,6
12 Is 61,10). Enarr. in Ps. ci. sec. 2.
103 3. “And we are witnesses, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us:” i.e., manifested among us: which might be more plainly expressed, manifested to us. “The things,” therefore, “which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you.”13 Those saw the Lord Himself present in the flesh, and heard words from the mouth of the Lord, and told them to us. Consequently we also have heard, but have not seen. Are we then less happy than those who saw and heard? And how does he add, “That ye also may have fellowship with us”? Those saw, we have not seen, and yet we are fellows; because we hold the faith in common. For there was one who did not believe even upon seeing, and would needs handle, and so believe, and said, “I will not believe except I thrust my fingers into the place of the nails, and touch His scars.”14 And He did give Himself for a time to be handled by the hands of men, who always giveth Himself to be seen by the sight of the angels; and that disciple did handle, and exclaimed, “My Lord, and my God!” Because he touched the Man, he confessed the God. And the Lord, to console us who, now that He sitteth in heaven, cannot touch Him with the hand, but only reach Him with faith, said to him, “Because thou hast seen, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet believe. We are here described, we designated. Then let the blessedness take place in us, of which the Lord predicted that it should take place; let us firmly hold that which we see not; because those tell us who have seen. “That ye also,” saith he, “may have fellowship with us.” And what great matter is it to have fellowship with men? Do not despise it; see what he adds: “and our fellowship may be15 with God the Father, and Jesus Christ His Son. And these things, “saith he, “we write unto you, that your joy may be full.”16 Full joy he means in that fellowship, in that charity, in that unity.
13 1Jn 1,3
14 Jn 20,25-29).
15 Et societas nostra sit. So Vulg. Mill cites one Ms. h| meta; tou` patrov".
16 1Jn 1,4
104 4. “And this is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you.”17 What is this? Those same have seen, have handled with their hands, the Word of life: He “was from the beginning,” and for a time was made visible and palpable, the Only-begotten Son of God. For what thing did He come, or what new thing did He tell us? What was it His will to teach? Wherefore did He this which He did, that the Word should be made flesh, that “God over all things”18 should suffer indignities from men, that He should endure to be smitten upon the face by the hands which Himself had made? What would He teach? What would He show? What would He declare? Let us hear: for without the fruit of the precept the hearing of the story, how Christ was born, and how Christ suffered, is a mere pastime of the mind, not a strengthening of it. What great thing hearest thou? With what fruit thou hearest, see to that. What would He teach? What declare? Hear. That “God is light,” saith he, “and there is no darkness in Him at all.”19 Hitherto, he hath named indeed the light, but the words are dark: good is it for us that the very light which he hath named should enlighten our hearts, and we should see what he hath said. This it is that we declare, that “God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all.” Who would dare to say that there is darkness in God? Or what is the light? Or what darkness? Lest haply he speaks of such things as pertain to these eyes of ours. “God is light.” Saith some man, “The sun also is light, and the moon also is light, and a candle is light.” It ought to be something far greater than these, far more excellent, and far more surpassing. How much God is distant from the creature, how much the Maker from the making, how much Wisdom from that which is made by Wisdom, far beyond all things must this light needs be. And haply we shall be near to it, if we get to know what this light is, and apply ourselves unto it, that by it we may be enlightened; because in ourselves we are darkness, and only when enlightened by it can we become light, and not be put to confusion by it, being put to confusion by ourselves. Who is he that is put to confusion by himself? He that knows himself to be a sinner. Who is he that by it is not put to confusion? He who by it is enlightened. What is it to be enlightened by it? He that now sees himself to be darkened by sins, and desires to be enlightened by it, draws near to it: whence the Psalm saith, “Draw near unto Him, and be ye enlightened; and your faces shall not be ashamed.”20 But thou shall not be shamed by it, if, when it shall Show thee to thyself that thou art foul, thine own foulness shall displease thee, that thou mayest perceive its beauty. This it is that He would teach.
17 1Jn 1,5
18 Rm 9,5). Deus super omnia: so de Trin. 2,23, c. Faust. 3,3, 6, Propos. ex Ep. ad Rm Exp. 59, super omnes Deus. S. Aug. constantly refers this clause to Christ. So S. Iren. 3,18 (D. super omnes), Tertull. adv. Prax. 13, 15; Origen (Lat)). Comm. in Ep. ad Rom. 7,13; St. Cypr). adv. Jud. 2,6; St. Hilar). de Trin. 8,37; St. Ambros de Sp Sa.i. 3, sec. 39; In all these it is De super omnia or super omnia Deus.
19 1Jn 1,5). [God is Light; God is Love.—The Apostle gives in these two great words indications of the Divine essence, so far as it can be conveyed or suggested in human language. He had before said (Jn 4,24), narrating the words of the Lord Jesus, “God is spirit” (not, a spirit). In this epistle he declares to us that God is light, and God is love.
God is light, not “a light” (Luther) or even “the light,” but “light” in the most absolute sense. In the text, Augustin forcibly employs this language in reference to sins; they, he says, are “our darkness.” In the phrase of the apostle we may recognize a declaration altogether unrestricted and absolute with respect to the essence of God. Surely, He cannot be fully or adequately apprehended by man. Yet, He communicates Himself. He is revealed in His works; in them “the invisible things” of Him are clearly seen. His pure and glorious light shines; darkness confines; light is diffusive, without limit: by the light emanating from Him, alone, is God seen (Philo).
But God, adds the apostle, is love. Love has its source in God. It belongs to His essence, to His very nature. Like light it is diffusive; in its self-communication it begets love. Love discloses to us the personality of God. His love meets with returns from personal beings to whom it comes and whom it enters; he that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. Apart from creation God is love, and before creation He had in Himself the perfect object of love; in the unity of the One God, in the communion of the Father and the Son, And the perfect response of love in and by the Holy Spirit (the activity of love is affirmed in Scripture of each person of the Holy Trinity), uniting both in the society and fellowship of love.
Such love, manifested in the Gospel, encourages us to draw nigh in confidence to Him who is Love, and who may be loved.—J. H. M.]
20 Ps 34,5).
105 5. And may it be that we say this over-hastily? Let the apostle himself make this plain in what follows. Remember what was said at the outset of our discourse, that the present epistle commendeth charity: “God is light,” saith he, “and in Him is no darkness at all.” And what said he above? “That ye may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship may be with God the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” But moreover, if “God be light, and in Him is no darkness at all, and we must have fellowship with Him,” then from us also must the darkness be driven away, that there may be light created in us, for darkness cannot have fellowship with light. To this end, see what follows: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie.”21 hast also the Apostle Paul saying, “Or what fellowship hath light with darkness?”22 Thou sayest thou hast fellowship with God, and thou walkest in darkness; “and God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all:” then how should there be fellowship between light and darkness? At this point therefore a man may say to himself, What shall I do? how shall I be light? I live in sins and iniquities. There steals upon him, as it were, a desperation and sadness. There is no salvation save in the fellowship of God. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” But sins are darkness, as the Apostle saith of the devil and his angels, that they are “rulers of this darkness.”23 He would not call them of darkness, save as rulers of sins, having lordship over the wicked. Then what are we to do, my brethren? Fellowship24 with God must be had, other hope of life eternal is none; now “God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all:” now iniquities are darkness; by iniquities we are pressed down, that we cannot have fellowship with God: what hope have we then? Did I not promise to speak something during these days, that shall cause gladness? Which if I make not good, this is sadness. “God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all;” sins are darkness: what shall become of us? Let us hear, whether peradventure He will console, lift up, give hope, that we faint not by the way. For we are running, and running to our own country; and if we despair of attaining, by that very despair we fail. But He whose will it is that we attain, that He may keep us safe in our own land, feedeth us in the way. Hear we then: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” Let us not say that we have fellowship with Him, if we walk in darkness. “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another.”25 Let us walk in the light, as He is in the light, that we may be able to have fellowship with Him. And what are we to do about our sins? Hear what follows, “And the blood of Jesus Christ His Son shall purge26 us from all sin.”27 Great assurance hath God given! Well may we celebrate the Passover, wherein was shed the blood of the Lord, by which we are cleansed “from all sin!” Let us be assured: the “handwriting which was against us,”28 the bond of our slavery, the devil held, but by the blood of Christ it is blotted out. “The blood,” saith he, “of His Son shall purge us from all sin.” What meaneth, “from all sin”? Mark: loeven now, in the name of Christ whom these29 here have now confessed, who are called infants,30 have all their sins been cleansed. They came in old, they went out new. How, came in old, went out new? Old men they came in, infants they went out. For the old life is old age with all its dotage, but the new life is the infancy of regeneration. But what are we to do? The past sins are pardoned, not only to these but to us; and after the pardon and abolition of all sins, by living in this world in the midst of temptations, some haply have been contracted. Therefore what he can, let man do; let him confess himself to be what he is, that he may be cured by Him who always is what He is: for He always was and is; we were not and are.
21 1Jn 1,6
22 2Co 6,14
23 Ep 6,12
24 [Fellowship.—The primary object of the apostle’s communication in this epistle (1Jn 1,3), is that his readers may have fellowship with the apostolic body, and, in connection with them, fellowship with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.
St. John’s message contemplates both a human and a Divine fellowship. The union among believers is described and emphasized, and he points also to the manifold blessings that flow from the Divine fellowship. The fruits of this revelation—of the disclosures of the love of God,—the apostle intimates are not for that age only, but for all who should afterwards believe; a thought which Augustin brings out in the text by adducing the history of Thomas (Jn 20,24-29),and the consolation administered to him by the Lord, with the wider comfort for all His disciples: “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet believe.”
The life, “even the life eternal,” is manifested in this joyous fellowship, which is set forth by St. Jn in different forms of expression; it is reciprocal. “Hereby we know that we abide in Him and He in us” (1Jn 4,13). Again, it is presented as the abiding of man in God: “By this we know that we are in Him” (ii. 5). “We know that the Son of God hath come, and we are in Him is true”(v.20). Again, the twofold fellowship (human and Divine), is represented as the abiding of God (or Christ) in man. “If we love one another, God abideth in us” (iv. 12). Among the results of this Divine-human fellowship, the apostle names, confidence, growing purity and love (ii. 28; 3,3, 10).—J. H. M.]
25 1Jn 1,7
26 [Gr. present, ksqarixei, cleanseth.]
28 Col 2,14
29 The newly baptized.
106 6. For see what He saith; “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”31 Consequently, if thou hast confessed thyself a sinner, the truth is in thee: for the Truth itself is light. Thy life hath not yet shone in perfect brightness, because there are sins in thee; but yet thou hast already begun to be enlightened, because there is in thee the confession of sins. For see what follows: “If we confess our sins,32 He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to purge us from all iniquity.”33 Not only the past, but haply if we have contracted any from this life; because a man, so long as he bears the flesh, cannot but have some at any rate light sins. But these which we call light, do not thou make light of. If thou make light of them when thou weighest them, be afraid when thou countest them. Many light make one huge sin: many drops fill the river; many grains make the lump. And what hope is there? Before all, confession: lest any think himself righteous, and, before the eyes of God who seeth that which is, man, that was not and is, lift up the neck. Before all, then, confession; then, love: for of charity what is said? “Charity covereth a multitude of sins.”34 Now let us see whether he commendeth charity in regard of the sins which subsequently overtake us: because charity alone extinguisheth sins. Pride extinguisheth charity: therefore humility strengtheneth charity; charity extinguisheth sins Humility goes along with confession, the humility by which we confess ourselves sinners: this is humility, not to say it with the tongue, as if only to avoid arrogancy, lest we should displease men if we should say that we are righteous. This do the ungodly and insane: “I know indeed that I am righteous, but what shall I say before men? If I shall call myself righteous, who will bear it, who tolerate? let my righteousness be known unto God: I however will say that I am a sinner, but only that I may not be found odious for arrogancy.” Tell men what thou art, tell God what thou art. Because if thou tell not God what thou art, God condemneth what He shall find in thee. Wouldest thou not that He condemn thee? Condemn thou. Wouldest thou that He forgive do thou acknowledge, that thou mayest be able to say unto God, “Turn Thy face from my sins.”35 Say also to Him those words in the same Psalm “For I acknowledge mine iniquity.” “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to purge us from all iniquity. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”36 If thou shalt say, I have not sinned, thou makest Him a liar, while thou wishest to make thyself true. How is it possible that God should be a liar, and man true, when the Scripture saith the contrary, “Every man a liar, God alone true”?37 Consequently, God true through Himself, thou true through God; because through thyself, a liar.
31 1Jn 1,8
33 1Jn 1,9)
34 1P 4,8
35 Ps 51,9 Ps 51,3.
36 1Jn 1,9-10
37 Rm 3,4
107 7. And lest haply he should seem to have given impunity for sins, in that he said, “He is faithful and just to cleanse us from all iniquity;” and men henceforth should say to themselves, Let us sin, let us do securely what we will, Christ purgeth us, is faithful and just, purgeth us from all iniquity: He taketh from thee an evil security, and putteth in an useful fear. To thine own hurt thou wouldest be secure; thou must be solicitous. For “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,” provided thou always displease thyself, and be changing until thou be perfected. Accordingly, what follows? “My little children, these things I write unto you, that ye sin not.”38 But perchance sin overtakes us from our mortal life: what shall be done then? What shall there be now despair? Hear: “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiator for our sins.”39 He then is the advocate; do thou thine endeavor not to sin: if from the infirmity of this life sin shall overtake thee, see to it straightway, straightway be displeased, straightway condemn it; and when thou hast condemned, thou shall come assured unto the Judge. There hast thou the advocate: fear not to lose thy cause in thy confession. For if oft-times in this life a man commits his cause to an eloquent tongue, and is not lost; thou committest thyself to the Word, and shall thou be lost? Cry, “We have an advocate with the Father.”
38 1Jn 2,1
39 1Jn 2,1-2
108 8. See Jn himself observing humility. Assuredly he was a righteous and a great man, who from the Lord’s bosom drank in the secrets of His mysteries; he, the man who by drinking from the Lord’s bosom indited40 of His Godhead, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God:” he, being such a man as this, saith not, Ye have an advocate with the Father; but, “If any man sin, an advocate,” saith he, “have we.” He saith not, ye have; nor saith, ye have me; nor saith, ye have Christ Himself: but he puts Christ, not himself, and saith, also, “We have,” not, ye have. He chose rather to put himself in the number of sinners that he might have Christ for his advocate, than to put himself in Christ’s stead as advocate, and to be found among the proudthat shall be condemned. Brethren, Jesus Christ the righteous, even Him have we for our advocate with the Father; “He,” even He, “is the propitiation for our sins.” This whoso hath held fast, hath made no heresy; this whoso hath held fast, hath made no schism. For whence came schisms? When men say, “we” are righteous, when men say, “we” sanctify the unclean, “we” justify the ungodly; “we” ask, “we” obtain. But what saith John? “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” But some man will say: then do the saints not ask for us? Then do bishops and rulers not ask for the people? Yea, but mark the Scriptures, and see that rulers also commend themselves to the prayers of the people. Thus the apostle saith to the congregation, “Praying withal for us also.”41 The apostle prayeth for the people, the people prayeth for the apostle. We pray for you, brethren: but do ye also pray for us. Let all the members pray one for another let the Head intercede for all, Therefore it is no marvel that he here goes on and shuts the mouths of them that divide the Church. of God. For he that has said, “We have Jesus Christ the righteous, and He is the propitiation for our sins:” having an eye to those who would divide themselves, and would say, “Lo, here is Christ, lo, there;”42 and would show Him in a part who bought the whole and possesses the whole, he forthwith goes on to say, “Not our sins only, but also the sins of the whole world.” What is this, brethren? Certainly “we have found it in the fields of the woods,”43 we have found theChurch in all nations. Behold, Christ “is the propitiation for our sins; not ours only, but also the sins of the whole world.” Behold, thou hast the Church throughout the whole world; do not follow false justifiers who in truth are cutters off. Be thou in that mountain which hath filled the whole earth: because “Christ is the propitiation for our sins; not only ours, but also the sins of the whole world,” which He hath bought with His blood.
41 Col 4,3
42 Mt 24,23
43 Ps 132,6
109 9. “And in this,” saith he, “we do know Him,44 if we keep His commandments.”45 “What commandments? “He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” But still thou askest, What commandments? “But whoso,” saith he, “keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected.”46 Let us see whether this same commandment be not called love. For we were asking, what commandments, and he saith, “But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected.” Mc the Gospel, whether this be not the commandment: “A new commandment,” saith the Lord, “give I unto you, that ye love one another.47 —In this we know that we are in Him, if in Him we be perfected.”48 Perfected in love, he calls them: what is perfection of love? To love even enemies, and love them for this end, that they may be brethren. For not a carnal love ought ours to be. To wish a man temporal weal, is good; but though that fail, let the soul be safe. Dost thou wish life to any that is thy friend? Thou doest well. Dost thou rejoice at the death of thine enemy? Thou doest ill. But haply both to thy friend the life thou wishest him is not for his good, and to thine enemy the death thou rejoicest at hath been for his good. It is uncertain whether this present life be profitable to any man or unprofitable: but the life which is with God without doubt is profitable. So love thine enemies as to wish them to become thy brethren; so love thine enemies as that they may be called into thy fellowship. For so loved He who, hanging on the cross, said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”49 For he did not say, Father let them live long, me indeed they kill, but let them live. He was casting out from them the death which is for ever and ever, by His most merciful prayer, and by His most surpassing might. Many of them believed, and the shedding of the blood of Christ was forgiven them. At first they shed it while they raged; now they drank it while they believed. “In this we know that we are in Him, if in Him we be made perfect.” Touching the very perfection of love of enemies, the Lord admonishing, saith, “Be yetherefore perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.50 He,” therefore, “that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.”51 How, brethren what cloth he advise us? “He that saith he abideth in Him,” i.e., in Christ, “ought himself also so to walk even as He walked.” Haply the advice is this, that we should walk on the sea? That be far from us! It is this then, that we walk in the way of righteousness. In what way? I have already mentioned it. He was fixed upon the cross, and yet was He walking in this very way: this way is the way of charity, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” If, therefore, thou have learned to pray for thine enemy, thou walkest in the way of the Lord.
44 In hoc cognoscimus eum; si: but all the Greek copies, ejn touvtw genwvskomen o]ti ejgnwvkamen aujtovn, ejavn. Vulg). In hoc scimus quoniam cognovimus eum, si.
45 1Jn 2,3-4
46 1Jn 2,5
47 Jn 13,34
48 1Jn 2,5 (Si in ipso perfecti fuerimus. Augustin and two or three Latin Mss.: an addition unknown to the Greek and to the other copies of the Latin.
49 Lc 23,34
50 Mt 5,48
51 1Jn 2,6
110 10. “Dearly beloved, I write unto you no new commandment, but the old commandment which ye had from the beginning.”52 What commandment calls he “old? Which ye had,” saith he, “from the beginning. Old” then, in this regard, that ye have already heard it: otherwise he will contradict the Lord, where He saith, “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another.”53 But why an “old” commandment? Not as pertaining to the old man. But why? “Which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard.” Old then, in this regard, that ye have already heard it. And the selfsame he showeth to be new, saying, “Again, a new commandment write I unto you.”54 Not another, but the selfsame which he hath called old, the same is also new. Why? “Which thing is true in Him and in you.” Why old,ye have already heard: i.e., because ye knew it already. But why new? “Because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.” Lo, whence it is new: because the darkness pertains to the old man, but the light to the new man. What saith the Apostle Paul? “Put ye off the old man, and put ye on the new.”55 And again what saith he “Ye were sometime darkness, but now light in the Lord.”56
52 1Jn 2,7).
53 Jn 13,34
54 1Jn 2,8
55 Col 3,9-10
56 Ep 5,8
111 11. “He that saith he is in the light”—now he is making all clear that he has been saying—“he that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.”57 What! my brethren, how long shall we say to you, “Love your enemies”?58 See whether, what is worse, ye do not hate your brethren. If ye loved only your brethren, ye would be not yet perfect: but if ye hate59 your brethren, what are ye, where are ye? Let each look to his own heart: let him not keep hatred against his brother for any hard word; on account of earthly contention let him not become earth. For whoso hates his brother, let him not say that he walks in the light. “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.” Thus, some man who was a pagan has become a Christian; mark well: behold he was in darkness, while he was a pagan: now is he made henceforth a Christian; thanks be to God, say all joyfully; the apostle is read, where he saith joyfully, “For ye were sometime darkness, but now light in the Lord.”60 Once he worshipped idols, now he worships God; once he worshipped the things he made, now he worships Him that made him. He is changed: thanks be to God, say all Christians with joyful greeting. Why? Because henceforth he is one that adores the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost; one that detests demons and idols. Yet still is Jn solicitous about our convert: while many greet him with joy, by him he is still looked upon with apprehension. Brethren, let us gladly welcome a mother’s solicitude. Not without cause is the mother solicitous about us when others rejoice: by the mother, I mean charity: for she dwelt in the heart of John, when he spake these words. Wherefore, but because there is something he fears in us, even when men now hail us with joy? What is it that he fears? “He that saith he is in the light”—What is this? He that saith now he is a Christian,—“and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.” Which there is no need to expound: but to be glad of it, if it be not so, or to bewail it, if it be.
57 1Jn 2,9
58 Mt 5,44
59 (Si autem oditis So ed and four Mss. cited in which however has in the text oderitis.One Ms. cited ibid. has, Si autem odistis. Edd. Lugd. and Ven. have si autem auditis, “if ye are called brethren.” Four Oxf). Mss. oditis.
60 Ep 5,8
112 12. “He that loveth his brother abideth (manet) in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.”61 —I beseech you by Christ: God is feeding us, we are about to refresh our bodies in the name of Christ; they both are in some good measure refreshed, and are to be refreshed: let the mind be fed. Not that I am going to speak for a long time, do I say this; for behold, the lesson is now coming to an end: but lest haply of weariness we should hear Jess attentively than we ought that which is most necessary.—“He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is no scandal,” or “none occasion of stumbling, in him.” Who are they that take scandal or make scandal? They that are offended in Christ, and in the Church. They that are offended in Christ, are as if burnt by the sun, those in the Church as by the moon. But the Psalm saith, “The sun shall not burn thee by day, neither the moon by night:62 i.e., if thou hold fast charity, neither in Christ shall thou have occasion of falling, nor in the Church; neither Christ shall thou forsake, nor the Church. For he that forsakes the Church, how is he in Christ who is not in the members of Christ? How is he in Christ who is not in the body of Christ? Those therefore take scandal, or, occasion of failing, who forsake Christ or the Church. Whence do we understand that the Psalm in saying, “By day shall the sun not burn thee, nor the moon by night,” saith it of this, that the burning means scandal, or occasion of stumbling? In the first place mark the similitude itself. Just as the person whom something is burning saith, I cannot bear it, I cannot away with it, and draws back; so those persons who cannot bear some things in the Church, and withdraw themselves either from the name of Christ or from the Church, are taking scandal. For see how those took scandal as from the sun, those carnal ones to whom Christ preached of His flesh, saying, “He that eateth not the flesh of the Son of Man and drinketh His blood, shall have no life in him.”63 Some seventy persons64 said, “Thisis an hard saying,” and went back from Him, and there remained the twelve. All those the sun burnt, and they went back, not being able to bear the force of the Word. There remained therefore the twelve. And lest haply men should imagine that they confer a benefit upon Christ by believing on Christ, and not that the benefit is conferred by Him upon them; when the twelve were left, the Lord said to them, “Will ye also go?” That ye may know that I am necessary to you, not ye to me. But those whom the sun had not burnt, answered by the voice of Peter: “Lord, Thou hast the word65 of eternal life; whither shall we go?” But who are they that the Church as the moon burneth by night? They that have made schisms. Hear the very word used in the apostle: “Who is offended, and I burn not?”66 In what sense then is it, that there is no scandal or occasion of stumbling in him that loveth his brother? Because he that loveth his brother, beareth all things for unity’s sake; because it is in the unity of charity that brotherly love exists. Some one, I know not who, offendeth thee: whether it be a bad man, or as thou supposest a bad man, or as thou pretendest a bad man: and dost thou desert so many good men? What sort of brotherly love is that which hath appeared in these67 persons? While they accuse the Africans, they have deserted the whole world! What, were there no saints in the whole world? Or was it possible they should be condemned by you unheard? But oh! if ye loved your brethren, there would be none occasion of stumbling in you. Hear thou the Psalm, what it saith: “Great peace have they that love Thy law, and there is to them none occasion of stumbling.”68 Great peace it saith there is for them that love the law of God, and that is why there is to them none occasion of stumbling. Those then who take scandal, or, occasion of stumbling, destroy peace. And of whom saith he that they take not and make not occasion of stumbling? They that love God’s law. Consequently they are in charity. But some man will say, “He said it of them that love God’s law, not of the brethren.” Hear thou what the Lord saith: “A new commandment give I unto you that ye love one another.”69 What is the Law but commandment? Moreover, how is it they do not take occasion of stumbling, but because they forbear one another? As Paul saith, “Forbearing one another in love, studying to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”70 And to show that this is the law of Christ, hear the same apostle commending this very law. “Bear ye one another’s burdens,” saith he, “and so shall ye fulfill the law of Christ.”71
61 1Jn 2,10
62 Ps 121,6).
63 Jn 6,54-69.
64 So in Epist. 173, sec. 30, Augustin writes, Attendis enim et saepe repetis, sicut audio, quod in Evangelio scriptum est recessisse a Domino septuaginta discipules.…caeterisque duodecim qui remanserant fuisse responsum, Numquid et vos vultis abire? The notion entertained by some of the Ancients and, as it seems, by St. Augustin, that the disciples who took offense at our Lord’s discourse in the synagogue of Capernaum were the Seventy, may have been derived from the Hypotyposes of St. Clem. Alex. (comp. Euseb. H. E. 1,12) or one of the Clementines. (Thus S. Epiphanius Haer. 51, p. 186, 188, relates from some such authority, that the Evangelists Mc and Lc were of the number of the Seventy, and of those who were offended; and that they were reclaimed to the faith, the one by St. Peter, the other by St. Paul). But the notion, from whatever quarter it came, seems to have no foundation in Scripture, since it is sufficiently evident that the mission of the Seventy, Lc 10,1 was subsequent to the first miracle of feeding, Jn 6 Lc 9,12.
66 2Co 11,29
68 Ps 119,165
69 Jn 13,34
70 Ep 4,2-3
71 Ga 6,2
113 13. “For he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth.”72 A great thing, my brethren: mark it, we beseech you. “He that hateth his brother walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because the darkness hath blinded his eyes.” What so blind as these who hate their brethren? For that ye may know that they are blind, they have stumbled at a Mountain. I say the same things often, that they may not slip out of your memory. The Stone which was “cut out of the Mountain without hands,” is it not Christ, who came of the kingdom of the Jews, without the work of man?73 Has not that Stone broken in pieces all the kingdoms of the earth, that is, all the dominations of idols and demons? Has not that Stone grown, and become a great mountain, and filled the whole earth? Do we point with the finger to this Mountain in like manner as the moon on its third day74 is pointed out to men? For example, when they wish people to see the new moon, they say, Lo, the moon! lo, where it is! and if there be some there who are not sharp-sighted, and say, Where then the finger is put forth that they may see it. Sometimes when they are ashamed to be thought blind, they say they have seen what they have not seen. Do we in this way point out the Church, my brethren? Is it not open? Is it not manifest? Has it not possessed all nations? Is not that fulfilled which so many .years before was promised to Abraham, that in his seed should all nations be blessed?75 It was promised to one believer, and the world is filled with thousands of believers. Behold here the mountain filling the whole face of the earth! Behold the city of which it is said, “A city set upon a mountain cannot be hid!”76 But those stumble at the mountain, and when it is said to them, Go up; “There is no mountain,” say they, and dash their heads against it sooner than seek a habitation there. Esaias was read yesterday; whosoever of you was awake not with his eyes only but with his ear, and not the ear of the body but the ear of the heart, noted this; “In the last days shall the mountain of the house of the Lord be manifest, prepared upon the top of the mountains.”77 What so manifest as a mountain? But there are even mountains unknown, because they are situated in one part of the earth. Which of you knows Mount Olympus? Just as the people who dwell there do not know our Giddaba. These mountains are in different parts of the earth. But not so that Mountain, for it hath filled the whole face of the earth, and of it is said, “Prepared upon the top of the mountains.” It is a Mountain above the tops of all mountains. “And,” saith he, “to it shall be gathered all nations.” Who can fail to be aware of this Mountain? Who breaks his head by stumbling against it? Who is ignorant of the city set upon a mountain? But marvel not that it is unknown by these who hate the brethren, because they walk in darkness and know not whither they go, because the darkness hath blinded their eyes. They do not see the Mountain: I would not have thee marvel; they have no eyes. How is it they have no eyes? Because the darkness hath blinded them. How do we prove this? Because they hate the brethren, in that, while they are offended at Africans, they separate themselves from the whole earth: in that they do not tolerate for the peace of Christ those whom they defame, and do tolerate for the sake of Donatus78 those whom they condemn.
72 1Jn 2,11
73 Supra, Hom. in Ev. 4,4; Da 2,34-35.
74 Luna tertia; i.e. the moon at its first appearance: for the first phasis in Africa as in Egypt usually took place on the third day after conjunction. See the passages cited from Geminus in the Uranolog. 7,39, B. Horapoll, Hieroglyph. 1,66, in Mr. Greswell’s Dissertations on the Harmony of the Gospels, vol. 1,p. 323, note).
75 Gn 22,18
76 Mt 5,14
77 Is 2,2
78 See on Ps 37,Ser. 2.
Augustin on 1John