Early Church Fathers
1 John 5:1-3.
"Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth Him that begat Him, loveth Him also that is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, because we love God, and do His commandments. For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments."
1. I Suppose ye remember, those of you who were present yesterday, to what place in the course of this epistle our exposition has reached: namely, "He that loveth not his brother whom he seeth, how can he love God whom he seeth not? And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God, love his brother also."1 Thus far we discoursed. Let us see then what comes next in order. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God."2 Who is he that believeth not that Jesus is the Christ? He that does not so live as Christ commanded. For many say, "I believe:" but faith without works saveth not. Now the work of faith is Love, as Paul the apostle saith, "And faith which worketh by love."3 Thy past works indeed, before thou didst believe, were either none, or if they seemed good, were nothing worth. For if they were none, thou wast as a man without feet, or with sore feet unableto walk: but if they seemed good, before thou didst believe, thou didst run indeed, but by running aside from the way thou wentest astray instead of coming to the goal. It is for us, then, both to run, and to run in the way. He that runs aside from the way, runs to no purpose, or rather runs but to toil. He goes the more astray, the more he runs aside from the way. What is the way by which we run? Christ hath told us, "I am the Way."4 What the home to which we run? "I am the Truth." By Him thou runnest, to Him thou runnest, in Him thou restest. But, that we might run by Him, He reached even unto us: for we were afar off, foreigners in a far country. Not enough that we were in a far country, we were feeble also that we could not stir. A Physician, He came to the sick: a Way, He extended Himself to them that were in a far country. Let us be saved by Him, let us walk in Him. This it is to "believe that Jesus is the Christ," as Christians believe, who are not Christians only in name, but in deeds and in life, not as the devils believe. For "the devils also believe and tremble,"5 as the Scripture tells us. What more could the devils believe, than that they should say, "We know who thou art, the Son of God?"6 What the devils said, the same said Peter also. When the Lord asked them who He was, and whom did men say that He was, the disciples made answer to Him, "Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God."7 And this he heard from the Lord: "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." See what praises follow this faith. "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church." What meaneth, "Upon this rock I will build my Church"? Upon this faith; upon this that has been said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Upon this rock," saith He, "I will build my Church." Mighty praise! So then, Peter saith, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God:" the devils also say, "We know who thou art, the Son of God, the Holy One of God." This Peter said, this also the devils: the words the same, the mind not the same. And how is it clear that Peter said this with love? Because a Christian's faith is with love, but a devil's without love. How without love? Peter said this, that he might embrace Christ; the devils said it, that Christ might depart from them. For before they said, "We know who thou art, the Son of God, they said, "What have we to do with thee? Why art thou come to destroy us before the time?" It is one thing then to confess Christ that thou mayest hold Christ, another thing to confess Christ that thou mayest drive Christ from thee. So then ye see, that in the sense in which he here saith, "Whoso believeth," it is a faith of one's own, not as one has a faith in common with many. Therefore, brethren, let none of the heretics say to you, "We also believe." For to this end have I given you an instance from the case of devils, that ye may not rejoice in the words of believing, but search well the deeds of the life.
2. Let us see then what it is to believe in Christ; what to believe that Jesus, He is the Christ. He proceeds: "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God." But what is it to believe that? "And every one that loveth Him that begat Him, loveth Him also that is begotten of Him." To faith he hath straightway joined love, because faith without love is nothing worth. With love, the faith of a Christian; without love, the faith of a devil: but those who believe not, are worse than devils, more stupid than devils. Some man will not believe in Christ: so far, he is not even upon a par with devils. A person does now believe in Christ, but hates Christ: he hath the confession of faith in the fear of punishment, not in love of the crown: thus the devils also feared to be punished. Add to this faith love, that it may become a faith such as the Apostle Paul speaks of, a "faith which worketh by love:"8 thou hast found a Christian, found a citizen of Jerusalem, found a fellow-citizen of the angels, found a pilgrim sighing in the way: join thyself to him, he is thy fellow-traveller, run with him, if indeed thou also art this. "Every one that loveth Him that begat Him, loveth Him also that is begotten of Him." Who "begat"? The Father. Who "is begotten"? The Son. What saith he then? "Every one that loveth the Father, loveth the Son."
3. "In this we know that we love the sons of God."9 What is this, brethren? Just now he was speaking of the Son of God, not of sons of God: lo, here one Christ was set before us to contemplate, and we were told, "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth Him that begat," i, e. the Father, "loveth Him also that is begotten of Him," i.e. the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. And he goes on: "In this we know that we love the sons of God;" as if he bad been about to say, "In this we know that we love the Son of God." He has said, "the sons of God," whereas he was speaking just before of the Son of God-because the sons of God are the Body of the Only Son of God, and when He is the Head, we the members, it is one Son of God. Therefore, he that loves the sons of God, loves the Son of God, and he that loves the Son of God, loves the Father; nor can any love the Father except he love the Son, and he that loves the sons, loves also the Son of God. What sons of God? The members of the Son of God. And by loving he becomes himself a member, and comes through love to be in the frame of the body of Christ, so there shall be one Christ, loving Himself. For when the members love one another, the body loves itself. "And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it."10 And then he goes on to say, "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members." John was speaking just before of brotherly love, and said, "He that loveth not his brother whom he seeth, how can he love God whom he seeth not?"11 But if thou lovest thy brother, haply thou lovest thy brother and lovest not Christ? How should that be, when thou lovest members of Christ? When therefore thou lovest members of Christ, thou lovest Christ; when thou lovest Christ, thou lovest the Son of God; when thou lovest the Son of God, thou lovest also the Father. The love therefore cannot be separated into parts. Choose what thou wilt love; the rest follow thee. Suppose thou say, I love God alone, God the Father. Thou liest: if thou lovest, thou lovest Him not alone; but if thou lovest the Father, thou lovest also the Son. Behold, sayest thou, I love the Father, and I love the Son: but this only, the Father God and the Son God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father, that Word by which all things were made, and "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt in us:" this alone I love. Thou liest; for if thou lovest the Head, thou lovest also the members; but if thou lovest not the members, neither lovest thou the Head. Dost thou not quake at the voice uttered by the Head from Heaven on behalf of His members, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou ME?"12 The persecutor of His members He called His persecutor: His lover, the lover of His members. Now what are His members, ye know, brethren: none other than the Church of God. "In this we know that we love the sons of God, in that we love God." And how? Are not the sons of God one thing, God Himself another? But he that loves God, loves His precepts. And what are the precepts of God? "A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another."13 Let none excuse himself by another love, for another love; so and so only is it with this love: as the love itself is compacted in one, so all that hang by it doth it make one, and as fire melts them down into one. It is gold: the lump is molten and becomes some one thing. But unless the fervor of charity be applied, of many there can be no melting down into one. "That we love God," by this "know we that we love the sons of God."
4. And by what do we know that we love the sons of God? By this, "that we love God, and do His commandments." We sigh here, by reason of the hardness of doing the commandments of God. Hear what follows. O man, at what toilest thou in loving? In loving avarice. With toil is that loved which thou lovest: there is no toil in loving God. Avarice will enjoin thee labors, perils, sore hardships and tribulations; and thou wilt do its bidding. To what end? That thou mayest have that with which thou shalt fill thy chest, and lose thy peace of mind. Thou didst feel thyself haply more secure before thou hadst it, than since thou didst begin to have. See what avarice has enjoined thee. Thou hast filled thine house, and art in dread of robbers; hast gotten gold, lost thy sleep. See what avarice has enjoined thee. Do, and thou didst. What does God enjoin thee! Love me. Thou lovest gold, thou wilt seek gold, and perchance not find it: whoso seeks me, I am with him. Thou wilt love honor, and perchance not attain unto it: who ever loved me, and did not attain? God saith to thee, thou wouldest make thee a patron, or a powerful friend: thou seekest a way to his favor by means of another inferior. Love me, saith God to thee: favor with me is not had by making interest with some other: thy love itself makes me present to thee. What sweeter than this love, brethren? It is not without reason that ye heard just now in the Psalm, "The unrighteous told me of delights,14 but not as is Thy law, O Lord."15 What is the Law of God? The commandment of God. What is the commandment of God? That "new commandment," which is called new because it maketh new: "A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another."16 Hear because this is the law of God. The apostle saith, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so shall ye fulfill the law of Christ."17 This, even this, is the consummation of all our works; Love. In it is the end: for this we run: to it we run; when we are come to it, we shall rest.
5. Ye have heard in the Psalm, "I have seen the end of all perfection.18 He hath said, I have seen the end of all perfection: what had he seen? Think we, had he ascended to the peak of some very high and pointed mountain, and looked out thence and seen the compass of the earth, and the circles of the round world, and therefore said, "I have seen the end of all perfection"? If this be a thing to be praised, let us ask of the Lord eyes of the flesh so sharp-sighted, that we shall but require some exceeding high mountain on earth, that from its summit we may see the end of all perfection. Go not far: lo, I say to thee, it is here; ascend the mountain, and see the end. Christ is the Mountain; come to Christ: thou seest thence the end of all perfection. What is this end? Ask Paul: "But the end of the, commandment is charity, from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned:"19 and in another place, "Charity is the fullness," or fulfillment, "of the law." What so finished and terminated as "fullness"? For, brethren, the apostle here uses end in a way of praise. Think not of consumption, but of consummation. For it is in one sense that one says, I have finished my bread, in another, I have finished my coat. I have finished the bread, by eating it: the coat, by making it. In both places the word is "end," "finish:" but the bread is finished by its being consumed, the coat is finished by being made: the bread, so as to be no more; the coat, so as to be complete. Therefore in this sense take ye also this word, end, when the Psalm is read and ye hear it said, "On the end, a Psalm of David."20 Ye are for ever hearing this in the Psalms, and ye should know what ye hear. What meaneth, "Onthe end"?-"For Christ is the end of the law unto every one that believeth."21 And what meaneth, "Christ is the end"? Because Christ is God, and "the end of the commandment is charity," and "Charity is God:" because Father and Son and Holy Ghost are One. There is He the End to thee; elsewhere He is the Way. Do not stick fast in the way, and so never come to the end. Whatever else thou come to, pass beyond it, until thou come to the end. What is the end? It is good for me to "hold me fast in God."22 Hast thou laid fast hold on God? thou hast finished the way: thou shall abide in thine own country. Mark well! Some man seeks money: let not it be the end to thee: pass on, as a traveller in a strange land. But if thou love it, thou art entangled by avarice; avarice will be shackles to thy feet: thou canst make no more progress. Pass therefore this also: seek the end. Thou seekest health of the body: still do not stop there. For what is it, this health of the body, which death makes an end of, which sickness debilitates, a feeble, mortal, fleeting thing? Seek that, indeed, lest haply ill-health hinder thy good works: but for that very reason, the end is not there, for it is sought in order to something else. Whatever is sought in order to something else, the end is not there: whatever is loved for its own sake, and freely, the end is there. Thou seekest honors; perchance seekest them in order to do something, that thou mayest accomplish something, and so please God: love not the honor itself, lest thou stop there. Seekest thou praise? If thou seek God's, thou doest well; if thou seek thine own, thou doest ill; thou stoppest short in the way. But behold, thou art loved, art praised: think it not joy when in thyself thou art praised; be thou praised in the Lord, that thou mayest sing, "In the Lord shall my soul be praised."23 Thou deliverest some good discourse, and thy discourse is praised. Let it not be praised as thine, the end is not there. If thou set the end there, there is an end of thee: but an end, not that thou be perfected, but that thou be consumed. Then let not thy discourse be praised as coming from thee, as being thine. But how praised? As the Psalm saith, "In God will I praise the discourse, in God will I praise the word."24 Hereby shall that which there follows come to pass in thee: "In God have I hoped, I will not fear what man can do unto me."25 For when all things that are thine are praised in God, no fear lest thy praise be lost, since God faileth not. Pass therefore this also.
6. See, brethren, how many things we pass, in which is not the end. These we use as by the way; we take as it were our refreshment at the halting places on our journey, and pass on.26 Where then is the end? "Beloved, we are sons of God, and it hath not yet up, peared what we shall be;"27 here is this said, in this epistle. As yet then, we are on the way; as yet, wherever we come, we must pass on, until we attain unto some end. "We know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. That is the end; there perpetual praising, there Alleluia28 always without fail. This, then is the end he has spoken of in the Psalm: "I have seen the end of all perfection:"29 and as though it were said to him, What is the end thou hast seen? "Thy commandment, exceeding broad." This is the end: the breadth of the commandment. The breadth of the commandment is charity, because where charity is, there are no straits. In this breadth. this wide room, was the apostle when he said, "Our mouth is open to you, O ye Corinthians, our heart is enlarged: ye are not straitened in us."30 In this, then, is "Thy commandment exceeding broad." What is the broad commandment? "A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another." Charity, then, is not straitened. Wouldest thou not be straitened here on earth? Dwell in the broad room. For whatever man may do to thee, he shall not straiten thee; because thou lovest that which man cannot hurt: lovest God, lovest the brotherhood, lovest the law of God, lovest the Church Of God: it shall be for ever. Thou laborest here on earth, but thou shall come to the promised enjoyment. Who can take from thee that which thou lovest? If no man can take from thee that which thou lovest, secure thou sleepest: or rather secure thou warchest, lest by sleeping thou lose that which thou lovest. For not without reason is it said, "Enlighten mine eyes, lest at any time I sleep in death."31 They that shut their eyes against charity, fall asleep in the lusts of carnal delights. Be wakeful, therefore. For then are the delights, to eat, to drink, to wanton in luxury, to play, to hunt; these vain pomps all evils follow. Are we ignorant that they are delights? who can deny that they delight? But more beloved is the law of God. Cry against such. persuaders: "The unrighteous have told me of delights: but not so as is thy law, O Lord."32 This delight remaineth. Not only remaineth as the goal to which thou mayest come, but also calleth thee back when thou fleest.
7. "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments."33 Already ye have heard, "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." See how He would not have thee divide thyself over a multitude of pages: "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." On what two commandments? "Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. And, thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."34 See here of what commandments this whole epistle talks. Therefore hold fast love, and set your minds at rest. Why fearest thou lest thou do evil to some man? Who does evil to the man he loves? Love35 thou: it is impossible to do this without doing good. But it may be, thou rebukest? Kindness36 does it, not fierceness. But it may be thou beatest? For discipline thou dost this; because thy kindness of love37 will not let thee leave him undisciplined. And indeed there come somehow these different and contrary results, that sometimes hatred uses winning ways, and charity shows itself fierce. A person hates his enemy, and feigns friendship for him: he sees him doing some evil, he praises him: he wishes him to go headlong, wishes him to go blind over the precipice of his lusts, haply never to return; he praises him, "For the sinner is praised in the desires of his soul;"38 he applies to him the unction of adulation; behold, he hates, and praises. Another sees his friend doing something of the same sort; he calls him back; if he will not hear, he uses words even of castigation, he scolds, he quarrels:39 there are times when it comes to this, that one must even quarrel! Behold, hatred shows itself winningly gentle, and charity quarrels! Stay not thy regard upon the words of seeming kindness, or the seeming cruelty of the rebuke; look into the vein40 they come from; seek the root whence they proceed. The one is gentle and bland that he may deceive, the other quarrels that he may correct. Well then, it is not for us, brethren, to enlarge your heart: obtain from God the gift to love one another. Love all men, even your enemies, not because they are your brethren, but that they may be your brethren; that ye may be at all times on fire with brotherly love, whether toward him that is become thy brother, or towards thine enemy, so that, by being beloved, he may become thy brother. Wheresoever ye love a brother, ye love a friend. Now is he with thee, now is he knit to thee in unity, yea catholic unity. If thou art living aright, thou lovest a brother made out of an enemy. But thou lovest some man who has not yet believed Christ, or, if he have believed, believes as do the devils: thou rebukest his vanity. Do thou love, and that with a brotherly love: he is not yet a brother, but thou lovest to the end he may be a brother. Well then, all our love is a brotherly love, towards Christians, towards all His members. The discipline of charity, my brethren, its strength, flowers, fruit, beauty, pleasantness, food, drink, meat, embracing, hath in it no satiety. If it so delight us while in a strange land, in our own country how shall we rejoice!
8. Let us run then, my brethren, let us run, and love Christ. What Christ? Jesus Christ. Who is He? The Word of God. And how came He to the sick? "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt in us."41 It is complete then, which the Scripture foretold, "Christ must suffer, and rise again the third day from the dead."42 His body, where is it? His members, where toil they? Where must thou be, that thou mayest be under thine Head? "And that repentance and remission of sins be preached in His name through all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."43 There let thy charity be spread abroad. Christ saith, and the Psalm, i.e. the Spirit of God, "Thy commandment is exceeding broad:" and for-sooth some man will have charity to be confined to Africa! Extend thy charity over the whole earth if thou wilt love Christ, for Christ's members are over all the earth. If thou lovest but a part, thou art divided: if thou art divided, thou art not in the body; if thou art not in the body, thou art not under the Head. What profiteth it thee that thou believest44 and blasphemest? Thou adorest Him in the Head, blasphemest Him in the Body. He loves His Body. If thou hast cut thyself off from His Body, the Head hath not cut itself off from its Body. To no purpose dost thou honor me, cries thine Head to thee from on high, to no purpose dost thou honor me. It is all one as if a man would kiss thine head and tread upon thy feet: perchance with nailed boots he would crush thy feet, while he will clasp thy head and kiss it: wouldest thou not cry out in the midst of the words with which he honors thee, and say, What art thou doing, man? thou treadest on me. Thou wouldest not mean, Thou treadest on my head; for the head he honored; but more would the head cry out for the members trodden upon, than for itself because it was honored. Does not the head itself cry out, I will none of thine honor; do not tread on me? Now say if thou canst, How have I trodden upon thee say that to the head: I wanted to kiss thee, I wanted to embrace thee. But seest thou not, O fool, that what thou wouldest embrace does in virtue of a certain unity, which knits the whole frame together, reach to that which thou treadest upon? Above45 thou honorest me, heneath46 thou treadest upon me. That on which thou treadest pains more than that which thou honorest rejoiceth. In what sort does the tongue cry out? "It hurts me." It saith not, "It hurts my foot," but, "It hurts me," saith it. O tongue, who has touched thee? who has struck? who has goaded? who has pricked? No man, but I am knit together with the parts that are trodden upon. How wouldest thou have me not be pained, when I am not separate?
9. Our Lord Jesus Christ, then, ascending into heaven on the fortieth day, did for this reason commend to us His Body where it would continue to lie, because He saw that many would honor Him for that He is ascended into heaven: and saw that their honoring Him is useless if they trample upon His members here on earth. And lest any one should err, and, while he adored the Head in heaven should trample upon the feet on earth, He told us where would be His members. For being about to ascend, He spake His last words on earth: after those same words He spake no more on earth. The Head about to ascend into heaven commended to us His members on earth and departed. Thenceforth thou findest not Christ speaking on earth; thou findest Him speaking, but from heaven. And even from heaven, why? Because His members on earth were trodden upon. For to the persecutor Saul He said from on high, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?"47 I am ascended into heaven, but still I lie on earth: here I sit at the right hand of the Father, but there I yet hunger, thirst, and am a stranger. In what manner then did He commend to us His Body, when about to ascend into heaven? When the disciples asked Him, saying, "Lord, wilt thou at this time present48 thyself, and when shall be the kingdom of Israel?"49 He made answer, now at the point to depart, "It is not for you to know the time which the Father hath put in His own power: but ye shall receive strength of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and ye shall be witnesses to me." See where His Body is spread abroad, see where He will not be trodden upon: "Ye shall be witnesses to me, unto Jerusalem, and unto Judea, and even unto all the earth." Lo, where I lie that am ascending! For I ascend, because I am the Head: my Body lies yet beneath. Where lies? Throughout the whole earth. Beware thou strike not, beware thou hurt not, beware thou trample not: these be the last words of Christ about to go into heaven. Look at a sick man languishing on his bed, lying in his house, and worn out with sickness, at death's door, his soul as it were even now between his teeth: who, anxious, it may be, about something that is dear to him, which he greatly loves, and it comes into his mind, calls his heirs, and says to them, I pray you, do this. He, as it were, detains his soul by a violent effort, that it may not depart ere those words be made sure. When he has dictated those last words, he breathes out his soul, he is borne a corpse to the sepulchre. His heirs, how do they remember the last words of the dying man? How, if one should stand up and say to them, Do it not: what would they say? "What shall I not do that which my father, in the act of breathing out his soul, commanded me with his last breath, the last word of his that sounded in my ears when my father was departing this life? Whatever other words of his I may not regard, his last have a stronger hold upon me: since which I never saw him more, never more heard speech of his. Brethren, think with Christian hearts; if to the heirs of a man, his words spoken when about to go to the tomb are so sweet, so grateful, so weighty, what must we account of the last words of Christ, spoken not when about to go back to the tomb, but to ascend into heaven! As for the man who lived and is dead, his soul is hurried off to other places, his body is laid in the earth, and whether these words of his be done or not, makes no difference to him: he has now something else to do, or something else to suffer: either in Abraham's bosom he rejoices, or in eternal fire he longs for a drop of water, while his corpse lies there senseless in the sepulchre; and yet the last words of the dying man are kept. What have those to look for, who keep not the last words of Him that sitteth in heaven, who seeth from on high whether they be despised or not despised? The words of Him, who said, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" who keeps account, unto the judgment, of all that He seeth His members suffer?
10. And what have we done, say they? We are the persecuted, not the persecutors. Ye are the persecutors, O wretched men. In the first place, in that ye have divided the Church. Mightier the sword of the tongue than the sword of steel. Agar, Sarah's maid, was proud, and she was afflicted by her mistress for her pride. That was discipline, not punishment.50 Accordingly, when she had gone away from her mistress, what said the angel to her? "Return to thy mistress."51 Then, O carnal soul, like a proud bond-woman, suppose thou have suffered any trouble for discipline' sake, why rarest thou? "Return to thy mistress," hold fast the peace of the Church.52 Lo, the gospels are produced, we read where the Church is spread abroad: men dispute against us, and say to us, "Betrayers!"53 Betrayers of what? Christ commendeth to us His Church, and thou believest not: shall I believe thee, when thou revilest my parents? Wouldest thou that I should believe thee about the "betrayers"? Do thou first believe Christ. What is worth believing? Christ is God, thou art man: which ought to be believed first? Christ has spread His Church abroad over all the earth: I say it-despise me: the gospel speaks-beware. What saith the gospel? "It behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name."54 Where remission of sins, there the Church is. How the Church? Why, to her it was said, "To thee I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven, and whatsoever thou shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven." 4 Where is this remission of sins spread abroad? "Through all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Lo, believe Christ! But, because thou art well aware that if thou shall believe Christ, thou wilt not have anything to say about "betrayers," thou wilt needs have me to believe thee when thou speakest evil against my parents, rather than thyself believe what Christ foretold!
[The remainder of the Homily is wanting in all the manuscripts. It seems also that St. Augustin was hindered from completing the exposition of the entire epistle, as he had undertaken to do: at least Possidius specifies this work under the title, "In Epist. Joannis ad Parthos Tractatus decem," and it is scarcely likely that the whole of the fifth chapter was expounded in this tenth Homily. -Of the "Sermons," there are none upon the remaining part of this epistle: the following extracts from other works of St. Augustin will supply what will be most desiderated: namely, his exposition of the text on "the Three Witnesses," of "the sin unto death," and of the twentieth verse].
Contra Maximinum, Lib. II. C. 22 §3.
1 John 5:7-8.-Tres sunt testes; spiritus, et aqua, et sanguis; et tres unum sunt.55
I would not have thee mistake that place in the epistle of John the apostle where he saith, "There are three witnesses: the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three are one." Lest haply thou say that the Spirit and the water and the blood are diverse substances, and yet it is said, "the three are one:" for this cause I have admonished thee, that thou mistake not the matter. For these are mystical expressions,56 in which the point always to be considered is, not what the actual things are, but what they denote as signs: since they are signs of things, and what they are in their essence is one thing, what they are in their signification another. If then we understand the things signified, we do find these things to be of one substance. Thus, if we should say, the rock and the water are one, meaning by the Rock, Christ; by the water, the Holy Ghost: who doubts that rock and water are two different substances? yet because Christ and the Holy Spirit are of one and the same nature, therefore when one says, the rock and the water are one, this can be rightly taken in this behalf, that these two things of which the nature is diverse, are signs of other things of which the nature is one. Three things then we know to have issued from the Body of the Lord when He hung upon the tree: first, the spirit: of which it is written, "And He bowed the head and gave up the spirit:"57 then, as His side was pierced by the spear, "blood and water." Which three things if we look at as they are in themselves, they are in substance several land distinct, and therefore they are not one. But if we will inquire into the things signified I by these, there not unreasonably comes into our thoughts the Trinity itself, which is the One, Only, True, Supreme God, Father and Son and Holy Ghost, of whom it could most truly be said, "There are Three Witnesses, and the Three are One:" so that by the term Spirit we should understand God the Father to be signified; as indeed it was concerning the worshipping of Him that the Lord was speaking, when He said, "God is a Spirit:"58 by the term, blood, the Son; because "the Word was made flesh:"59 and by the term water, the Holy Ghost; as, when Jesus spake of the water which He would give to them that thirst, the evangelist saith, "But this said He of the Spirit which they that believed on Him were to receive."60 Moreover, that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are "Witnesses," who that believes the Gospel can doubt, when the Son saith, "I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me, He beareth witness of me."61 Where, though the Holy Ghost is not mentioned, yet He is not to be thought separated from them. Howbeit neither concerning the Spirit hath He kept silence elsewhere, and that He too is a witness hath been sufficiently and openly shown. For in promising Him He said, "He shall bear witness of me."62 These are the "Three Witnesses, and the Three are One, because of one substance. But whereas, the signs by which they were signified came forth from the Body of the Lord, herein they figured the Church preaching the Trinity, that it hath one and the same nature: since these Three in threefold manner signified are One, and the Church that preacheth them is the Body of Christ. In this manner then the three things by which they are signified came out from the Body: of the Lord: like as from the Body of the Lord sounded forth the command to "baptize the nations in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost."63 "In the name:" not, In the names: for "these Three are One," and One God is these Three. And if in any other way this depth of mystery which we read in John's epistle can be expounded and understood agreeably with the Catholic faith, which neither confounds nor divides the Trinity, neither believes the substances diverse nor denies that the persons are three, it is on no account to be rejected. For whenever in Holy Scriptures in order to exercise the minds of the faithful any thing is put darkly, it is to be joyfully welcomed if it can be in many ways but not unwisely expounded.
1 John 5:16.-Si quis scit peccare fratrem suum peccatum non ad mortem, postulabit, et dabit illi Dominus vitam qui peccat non ad mortem; est autem peccatum ad mortem; non pro illo dico ut roget.
But what presses harder upon the present question fin the Lord's command of praying for enemies and persecutors] is that saying of the apostle John, "If any man know that his brother sinneth a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and the Lord will give life to that man who sinneth not unto death: but there is a sin unto death: not for that do I say that he should ask." For it manifestly shows that there are some "brethren" whom we are not commanded to pray for, whereas the Lord bids us pray even for our persecutors. Nor can this question be solved except we acknowledge, that there are some sins in brethren that are worse than the sin of enemies in persecuting. That "brethren" mean Christians, may be proved by many texts of Holy Writ; the plainest, however, is that of the apostle which he puts thus: "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the brother."64 For he has not added our; but thought it plain enough, when by the term brother he spake of the Christian that should have an unbelieving wife. And accordingly he says just afterwards, "But if the unbelieving depart, let her depart: but a brother or sister is not put under servitude in a matter of this sort." The "sin," therefore, of a brother, "unto death," I suppose to be when, after the acknowledging of God through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, one fights against the brotherhood, and is set on by the fire-brands of hatred65 against the very grace through which he was reconciled to God.66 But "a sin not unto death" is when a person, not having alienated his love from his brother. yet through some infirmity of mind may have failed to exhibit the due offices of brotherhood. Wherefore, on the one hand, the Lord on the cross said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,"67 since they had not yet, by being made partakers of the grace of the Holy Spirit, entered into the fellowship of holy brotherhood; and blessed Stephen in the Acts of the Apostles prays for them who are stoning him;68 because they had not yet believed Christ, and were not fighting against that grace of communion. On the other hand, the apostle Paul does not pray for Alexander, and the reason I suppose, is, that this man was a brother, and had sinned "unto death," i.e. by opposing the brotherhood in a spirit of hatred.69 Whereas for such as had not broken off the bonds of love, but had given way through fear, he prays that they may be forgiven. For so he says: "Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words."70 Then he subjoins for whom he prays, saying, "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge." This difference of sins it is that distinguishes Judas with his treason from Peter with his denial. Not that to him who repenteth there is to be no forgiveness: lest we go against that sentence of the Lord, in which He commands always to forgive the brother who asks his brother's forgiveness:71 but that the mischief of that sin is, that the man cannot submit to the humiliation of begging for pardon, even when he is forced by his evil conscience both to acknowledge and to publish his sin. For when Judas had said, "I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood,"72 he went and hanged himself in desperation, rather than pray for forgiveness in humiliation. Wherefore it makes a great difference, what sort of repentance God forgives. For many are much quicker than others to confess that they have sinned, and are angry with themselves in such sort that they vehemently wish they had not sinned, while yet they cannot lay down their pride, and submit to have the heart humbled and broken so as to implore pardon: a state of mind which one may well believe to be, for the greatness of their sin, a part of their already begun damnation.
And this, perhaps, it is "to sin against the Holy Ghost:"73 i.e. through malice and envy to fight against brotherly charity after receiving the grace of the Holy Spirit: that sin which the Lord saith hath no forgiveness, either here or in the world to come. . . . For the Lord in saying to the Pharisees, "Whosoever shall speak an evil word against the Son of Man,"74 &c., may have meant to warn them to come to the grace of God, and having received it, not to sin as they have now sinned. For now they have spoken an evil word against the Son of Man, and it may be forgiven them, if they be converted and believe and receive the Holy Spirit: which when they have received, if they will then have ill-will against the brotherhood and oppose the grace they have received, there is no forgiveness for them, either in this world or in the world to come.
By this grace such is the liberty they receive, that although as long as they live here they have to fight against the lusts of sins, and are overtaken by some sins for which they must daily pray, "Forgive us our debts," yet they no longer serve the sin which is unto death, of which the apostle John saith, "There is a sin unto death, I do not say that he shall ask for that." Concerning which sin (since it is not expressed) many different opinions may be formed: but I affirm that sin to be the forsaking until death75 the "faith which worketh by love.
1 John 5:20.-"Ut simus in vero Filio ejus Jesu Christo; ipse est verus Deus et vita aeterna."76
When ye read, "That we may be in His true Son Jesus Christ," think of the "true Son" of God. But this Son ye in no wise think to be the true Son of God, if ye deny Him to be begotten of the substance of the Father. For was He already Son of Man and by gift of God became Son of God, begotten indeed of God, but by grace, not by nature? Or, though not Son of Man, yet was He some sort of creature which, by God's changing it, was converted into Son of God? If you mean nothing of this sort, then was He either begotten of nothing, or of some substance. But thou hast relieved us from all fear of having to suppose that you affirm the Son of God to be of nothing, for thou hast declared that this is not your meaning. Therefore, He is of some substance. If not of the substance of the Father, then of what? Tell me. But ye cannot find any other . . . Consequently, the Father and the Son are of one and the same substance. This is the Homousion . . . In the Scriptures both you and We read, "That we may be in His true Son Jesus Christ; He is the true God and Eternal Life." Let both parties yield to such weighty evidence. Tell us then, whether this "true Son" of God, discriminated as He is by the property of this name from those who are sons by grace,77 be of no substance or of some substance. Thou sayest, "I do not say that He is of no substance, lest I should say that He is of nothing." He is therefore of some substance: I ask, of what? If not of the substance of the Father, seek another. If thou findest not another, as indeed thou canst find none at all, then acknowledge it to be the Father's, and confess the Son Homousios, "of one substance with the Father." Flesh is begotten of flesh, the Son of flesh is begotten of the substance of the flesh. Set: aside corruption, reject from the eye of the mind all carnal passions, and behold "the invisible things of God understood by the means of the things that are made."78 Believe that the Creator who hath given flesh power to beget flesh, who hath given parents power of the substance of the flesh to generate "true sons" of flesh, much more had power to beget a "true Son" of His own substance, and to have one substance with the true Son, the spiritual incorruption remaining and carnal corruption being altogether alien therefrom.79
If He is begotten, He is Son: if He is Son, He is the "true Son," because Only-Begotten. For we also are called sons: He Son by nature, we sons by grace . . . To say that because He is begotten, He is of another nature, is to deny that He is the "true Son." Now we have the Scripture: "That we may be in His true Son Jesus Christ; He is the true God and Eternal Life."80 Why "true God"? because "true Son" of God. For if He has given to animals this property, that what they beget shall be none other than what they themselves are: man begets man, dog begets dog, and should God not beget God? If then He is of the same substance, why tallest thou Him less? Is it because when a human father begets a son, though human beget human, yet greater begets less? If so, then let us wait for Christ to grow as human beings grow whom human beings beget!81 But if Christ, ever since He was begotten (and this was not in time but from eternity), is what He is, and yet is less than the Father, at that rate the human condition is the better of the two: for a human being at any rate can grow, and has the property of sooner or later attaining to the age, to the strength of the father; but He never: then how is He a "true Son"?
And if the Son be not of the same substance as the Father, then is He a made substance: if a made substance, then not "all things were made by Him:" but, "all things were made by Him;"82 therefore, He is of one and the same substance with the Father. And therefore, not only God, but True (or, Very) God. Which the same John doth most openly affirm in his epistle: Scimus quod Filius Dei venerit et dederit nobis intellectum ut cognoscamus verum Deum, et simus in vero Filio ejus Jesu Christo. Hic est verus Deus et vita aeterna." "We know that the Son of God is come; and hath given us an understanding that we may (learn to) know the True God,83 and may be in His true Son Jesus Christ. This is the True God and Eternal Life."
10. Hence also by consequence we understand, that what the apostle Paul saith, "Who only hath immortality,"84 he saith not merely of the Father, but of the One and Only God, which the Trinity itself is. For neither is the "Eternal Life" itself mortal in respect of any mutability: and consequently, since the Son of God "is Eternal Life," He also is to be understood together with the Father, where it is said, "Who only hath immortality.