The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

St Augustine on 1 John 2:18-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 3, 2016

1. “Children, it is the last hour.” In this lesson he addresses the children that they may make haste to grow, because “it is the last hour.” Age or stature3 of the body is not at one’s own will. A man does not grow in respect of the flesh when he will, any more than he is born when he will: but where the being born rests with the will, the growth also rests with the will. No man is “born of water and the Spirit, except he be willing. Consequently if he will, he grows or makes increase: if he will, he decreases. What is it to grow? To go onward by proficiency. What is it to decrease? To go backward by deficiency. Whoso knows that he is born, let him hear that he is an infant; let him eagerly cling to the breasts of his mother, and he grows apace. Now his mother is the Church; and her breasts are the two Testaments of the Divine Scriptures. Hence let him suck the milk of all the things that as signs of spiritual truths were done in time for our eternal salvation, that being nourished and strengthened, he may attain to the eating of solid meat, which is, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Our milk is Christ in His humility; our meat, the self-same Christ equal with the Father. With milk He nourisheth thee, that He may feed thee with bread: for with the heart spiritually to touch Christ is to know that He is equal with the Father.

2. Therefore it was that He forbade Mary to touch Him, and said to her, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended unto the Father.” What is this? He gave Himself to be handled by the disciples. and did He shun Mary’s touch? Is not He the same that said to the doubting disciple, “Reach hither thy fingers, and feel the scars”? Was He at that time ascended to the Father? Then why doth He forbid Mary, and saith, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to the Father?” Or are we to say, that He feared not to be touched by men, and feared to be touched by women? The touch of Him cleanseth all flesh. To whom He willed first to be manifested, by them feared He to be handled? Was not His resurrection announced by women to the men, that so the serpent should by a sort of counterplot be overcome? For because he first by the woman announced death to man, therefore to men was also life announced by a woman. Then why was He unwilling to be touched, but because He would have it to be understood of that spiritual touch? The spiritual touch takes place from a pure heart. That person does of a pure heart reach Christ with his touch who understands Him coequal with the Father. But whoso does not yet understand Christ’s Godhead, that person reaches but unto the flesh, reaches not unto the Godhead. Now what great matter is it, to reach only unto that which the persecutors reached unto, who crucified Him? But that is the great thing, to understand the Word God with God, in the beginning, by whom all things were made: such as He would have Himself to be known when He said to Philip, “Am I so long time with you, and have ye not known me, Philip? He that seeth me, seeth also the Father.”

3. But lest any be sluggish to go forward, let him hear: “Children, it is the last hour.” Go forward, run, grow; “it is the last hour.” This same last hour is long; yet it is the last. For he has put “hour” for “the last time;” because it is in the last times that our Lord Jesus Christ is to come. But some will say, How the last times? how the last hour? Certainly antichrist will first come, and then will come the day of judgment. John perceived these thoughts: test people should in a manner become secure, and think it was not the last hour because antichrist was to come, he said to them, “And as ye have heard that antichrist is to come, now are there come many antichrists.” Could it have many antichrists, except it were “the last hour”?

4. Whom has he called antichrists? He goes on and expounds. “Whereby we know that it is the last hour,” By what? Because “many antichrists are come. They went out from us;” see the antichrists! “They went out from us:” therefore we bewail the loss. Hear the consolation. “But they were not of us.” All heretics, all schismatics went out from us, that is, they go out from the Church; but they would not go out, if they were of us. Therefore, before they went out they were not of us. If before they went out they were not of us. many are within, are not gone out, but yet are antichrists. We dare to say this: and why, but that each one while he is within may not be an antichrist? For he is about to describe and mark the antichrists, and we shall see them now. And each person ought to question his own conscience, whether he be an antichrist. For antichrist in our tongue means, contrary to Christ. Not, as some take it, that antichrist is to be so called because he is to come ante Christum, before Christ, i.e. Christ to come after him: it does not mean this, neither is it thus written, but Antichristus, i.e. contrary to Christ. Now who is contrary to Christ ye already perceive from the apostle’s own exposition, and understand that none can go out but antichrists; whereas those who are not contrary to Christ, can in no wise go out. For he that is not contrary to Christ holds fast in His body, and is counted therewith as a member. The members are never contrary one to another. The entire body consists of all the members. And what saith the apostle concerning the agreement of the members? “If one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; and if one member be glorified, all the members rejoice with it.” If then in the glorifying of a member the other members rejoice with it, and in its suffering all the members suffer, the agreement of the members hath no antichrist. And there are those who inwardly are in such sort in the body of our Lord Jesus Christ—seeing His body is yet under cure, and the soundness will not be perfect save in the resurrection of the dead—are in such wise in the body of Christ, as bad humors. When these are vomited up, the body is relieved: so too when bad men go out, then the Church is relieved. And one says, when the body vomits and casts them out, These humors went out of me, but they were not of me. How were not of me? Were not cut out of my flesh, but oppressed my breast while they were in me.

5. “They went out from us; but,” be not sad, “they were not of us.” How provest thou this? If they had been of us, they would doubtless have continued with us. Hence therefore ye may see, that many who are not of us, receive with us the Sacraments, receive with us baptism. receive with us what the faithful know they receive, Benediction, the Eucharist, and whatever there is in Holy Sacraments: the communion of the very altar they receive with us, and are not of us. Temptation proves that they are not of us. When temptation comes to them as if blown by a wind they fly abroad; because they were not grain. But all of them will fly abroad, as we must often tell you, when once the fanning of the Lord’s threshing-floor shall begin in the day of judgment. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us.” For would ye know, beloved, how most certain this saying is, that they who haply have gone out and return, are not antichrists, are not contrary to Christ? Whoso are not antichrists, it cannot be that they should continue without. But of his own will is each either an antichrist or in Christ. Either we are among the members, or among the bad humors. He that changeth himself for the better, is in the body, a member: but he that continues in his badness, is a bad humor; and when he is gone out, then they who were oppressed will be relieved. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but (they went out), that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” That he has added, “that they might be made manifest,” is, because even when they are within they are not of us; yet they are not manifest, but by going out are made manifest. “And ye have an unction from the Holy One, that ye may be manifest to your own selves. The spiritual unction is the Holy Spirit Himself, of which the Sacrament is in the visible unction. Of this unction of Christ he saith, that all who have it know the bad and the good; and they need not to be taught, because the unction itself teacheth them.

6. “I write unto you not because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” Behold, we are admonished how we may know antichrist. What is Christ? Truth. Himself hath said “I am the Truth.” But “no lie is of the truth.” Consequently, all who lie are not yet of Christ. He hath not said that some lie is of the truth, and some lie not of the truth. Mark the sentence. Do not fondle yourselves, do not flatter yourselves, do not deceive yourselves, do not cheat yourselves: “No lie is of the truth.” Let us see then how antichrists lie, because there is more than one kind of lying. “Who is a liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?” One is the meaning of the word “Jesus,” another the meaning of the word “Christ:” though it be one Jesus Christ our Saviour, yet “Jesus” is His proper name. Just as Moses was so called by his proper name, as Elias, as Abraham: so as His proper name our Lord hath the name “Jesus:” but “Christ” is the name of His sacred character. As when we say, Prophet, as when we say, Priest; so by the name Christ we are given to understand the Anointed, in whom should be the redemption of the whole people. The coming of this Christ was hoped for by the people of the Jews: and because He came in lowliness, He was not acknowledged; because the stone was small, they stumbled at it and were broken. But “the stone grew, and became a great mountain;” and what saith the Scripture? “Whosoever shall stumble at this stone shall be broken; and on whomsoever this stone shall come, it will grind him to powder.” We must mark the difference of the words: it saith, he that stumbleth shall be broken; but he on whom it shall come, shall be ground to powder. At the first, because He came lowly, men stumbled at Him: because He shall come lofty to judgment, on whomsoever He shall come, He will grind him to powder. But not that man will He grind to powder at His future coming, whom He broke not when He came. He that stumbled not at the lowly, shall not dread the lofty. Briefly ye have heard it, brethren: he that stumbled not at the lowly. shall not dread the lofty. For to all bad men is Christ a stone of stumbling; whatever Christ saith is bitter to them.

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