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 2:29-3:6

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 3, 2016

3. “If ye know that He is righteous, know ye that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him.” The righteousness which at present is ours is of faith. Perfect righteousness is not, save only in the angels: and scarce in angels, if they be compared with God: yet if there be any perfect righteousness of souls and spirits which God hath created, it is in the angels, holy, just, good, by no lapse turned aside, by no pride falling, but remaining ever in the contemplation of the Word of God, and having nothing else sweet unto them save Him by whom they were created; in them is perfect righteousness: but in us it has begun to be, of faith, by the Spirit. Ye heard when the Psalm was read, “Begin ye to the Lord in confession.” “Begin,” saith it; the beginning of our righteousness is the confession of sins. Thou hast begun not to defend thy sin; now hast thou made a beginning of righteousness: but it shall be perfected in thee when to do nothing else shall delight thee, when “death shall be swallowed up in victory,” when there shall be no itching of lust, when there shall be no struggling with flesh and blood, when there shall be the palm of victory, the triumph over the enemy; then shall there be perfect righteousness. At present we are still fighting: if we fight we are in the lists; we smite and are smitten; but who shall conquer, remains to be seen. And that man conquers, who even when he smites presumes not on his own strength, but relies upon God that cheers him on. The devil is alone when he fights against us. If we are with God, we overcome the devil: for if thou fight alone with the devil, thou wilt be overcome. He is a skillful enemy: how may palms has he won! Consider to what he has cast us down! That we are born mortal, comes of this, that he in the first place cast down from Paradise our very original. What then is to be done, seeing he is so well practised? Let the Almighty be invoked to thine aid against the devices of the devil. Let Him dwell in thee, who cannot be overcome, and thou shalt securely overcome him who is wont to overcome. But to overcome whom? Those in whom God dwelleth not. For, that ye may know it, brethren; Adam being in Paradise despised the commandment of God, and lifted up the neck, as if he desired to be his own master, and were loath to be subject to the will of God: so he fell from that immortality, from that blessedness. But there was a certain man, a man now well skilled, though a mortal born, who even as he sat on the dunghill, putrifying with worms, overcame the devil: yea, Adam himself then overcame: even he, in Job; because Job was of his race. So then, Adam, overcome in Paradise, overcame on the dunghill. Being in Paradise, he gave ear to the persuasion of the woman which the devil had put into her: but being on the dunghill he said to Eve, “Thou hast spoken as one of the foolish women.” There he lent an ear, here he gave an answer: when he was glad, he listened, when he was scourged, he overcame. Therefore, see what follows, my brethren, in the Epistle: because this is what it would have us lay to heart, that we may overcome the devil indeed, but not of ourselves. “If ye know that He is righteous,” saith it, “know ye that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him:” of God, of Christ. And in that he hath said, “Is born of Him,” he cheers us on. Already therefore, in that we are born of Him, we are perfect.

4. Hear. “Behold what manner of love the Father hath given us, that we should be called sons of God, and be (such). For whoso are called sons, and are not sons, what profiteth them the name where the thing is not? How many are called physicians, who know not how to heal! how many are called watchers, who sleep all night long! So, many are called Christians, and yet in deeds are not found such; because they are not this which they are called, that is, in life, in manners, in faith, in hope, in charity. But what have ye heard here, brethren? “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called, and should be, the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it hath not known Him, us also the world knoweth not.” There is a whole world Christian, and a whole world ungodly; because throughout the whole world there are ungodly, and throughout the whole world there are godly: those know not these. In what sense, think we, do they not know them? They deride them that live good lives. Mark well and see: for haply there are such also among you. Each one of you who now lives godly, who despises worldly things, who does not choose to go to spectacles, who does not choose to make himself drunken as it were by solemn custom, yea, what is worse, under countenance of holy days to make himself unclean: the man who does not choose to do these things, how is he derided by those who do them! Would he be scoffed at if he were known? But why is he not known? “The world knoweth Him not.” Who is “the world”? Those inhabiters of the world. Just as we say, “a house;” meaning, its inhabitants. These things have been said to you again and again, and we forbear to repeat them to your disgust. By this time, when ye hear the word “world,” in a bad signification, ye know that ye must understand it to mean only lovers of the world; because through love they inhabit, and by inhabiting have become entitled to the name. Therefore the world hath not known us, because it hath not known Him. He walked here Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh; He was God, He was latent in weakness. And wherefore was He not known? Because He reproved all sins in men. They, through loving the delights of sins, did not acknowledge the God: through loving that which the fever prompted, they did wrong to the Physician.

5. For us then, what are we? Already we are begotten of Him; but because we are such in hope, he saith, “Beloved, now are we sons of God.” Now already? Then what is it we look for, if already we are sons of God? “And not yet,” saith he, “is it manifested what we shall be.” But what else shall we be than sons of God? Hear what follows: “We know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” Understand, my beloved. It is a great matter: “We know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” In the first place mark, what is called “Is.” Ye know what it is that is so called. That which is called “Is,” and not only is called but is so, is unchangeable: It ever remaineth, It cannot be changed, It is in no part corruptible: It hath neither proficiency, for It is perfect; nor hath deficiency, for It is eternal. And what is this? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And what is this? “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” To see Christ in this sort, Christ in the form of God, Word of God, Only-Begotten of the Father, equal with the Father, is to the bad impossible. But in regard that the Word was made flesh, the bad also shall have power to see Him: because in the day of judgment the bad also will see Him; for He shall so come to judge, as He came to be judged. In the selfsame form, a man, but yet God: for “cursed is every one that putteth his trust in man.” A man, He came to be judged, a man, He will come to judge. And if He shall not be seen, what is this that is written, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced?” For of the ungodly it is said, that they shall see and be confounded. How shall the ungodly not see, when He shall set some on the right hand, others on the left? To those on the right hand He will say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom:” to those on the left He will say, “Go into everlasting fire.” They will see but the form of a servant, the form of God they will not see. Why? because they were ungodly; and the Lord Himself saith, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Therefore, we are to see a certain vision, my brethren, “which neither eye hath seen, nor ear hath heard, nor hath entered into the heart of man:” a certain vision, a vision surpassing all earthly beautifulness, of gold, of silver, of groves and fields; the beautifulness of sea and air, the beautifulness of sun and moon, the beautifulness of the stars, the beautifulness of angels: surpassing all things: because from it are all things beautiful.

6. What then shall “we” be, when we shall see this? What is promised to us? “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” The tongue hath done what it could, hath sounded the words: let the rest be thought by the heart. For what hath even John himself said in comparison of That which Is, or what can be said by us men, who are so far from being equal to his merits? Return we therefore to that unction of Him, return we to that unction which inwardly teacheth that which we cannot speak: and because ye cannot at present see, let your part and duty be in desire. The whole life of a good Christian is an holy desire. Now what thou longest for, thou dost not yet see: howbeit by longing, thou art made capable, so that when that is come which thou mayest see, thou shalt be filled. For just as, if thou wouldest fill a bag, and knowest how great the thing is that shall be given, thou stretchest the opening of the sack or the skin, or whatever else it be; thou knowest how much thou wouldest put in, and seest that the bag is narrow; by stretching thou makest it capable of holding more: so God, by deferring our hope, stretches our desire; by the desiring, stretches the mind; by stretching, makes it more capacious. Let us desire therefore, my brethren, for we shall be filled. See Paul widening, as it were, his bosom, that it may be able to receive that which is to come. He saith, namely, “Not that I have already received, or am already perfect: brethren, I deem not myself to have apprehended.” Then what art thou doing in this life, if thou have not yet apprehended? “But this one thing [I do]; forgetting the things that are behind, reaching forth to the things that are before, upon the strain I follow on unto the prize of the high calling.” He says he reaches forth, or stretches himself, and says that he follows “upon the strain.” He felt himself too little to take in that “which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man.” This is our life, that by longing we should be exercised. But holy longing exercises us just so much as we prune off our longings from the love of the world. We have already said, “Empty out that which is to be filled.” With good thou art to be filled: pour out the bad. Suppose that God would fill thee with honey: if thou art full of vinegar, where wilt thou put the honey? That which the vessel bore in it must be poured out: the vessel itself must be cleansed; must be cleansed, albeit with labor, albeit with hard rubbing, that it may become fit for that thing, whatever it be. Let us say honey, say gold, say wine; whatever we say it is, being that which cannot be said, whatever we would fain say, It is called—God. And when we say “God,” what have we said? Is that one syllable the whole of that we look for? So then, whatever we have had power to say is beneath Him: let us stretch ourselves unto Him, that when He shall come, He may fill us. For “we shall be like Him; because we shall see Him as He is.”

7. “And every one that hath this hope in Him.” Ye see how he hath set us our place, in “hope.” Ye see how the Apostle Paul agreeth with his fellow-apostle, “By hope we are saved. But hope that is seen, is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he hope for? For if what we see not, we hope for, by patience we wait for it.” This very patience exerciseth desire. Continue thou, for He continueth: and persevere thou in walking, that thou mayest reach the goal: for that to which thou tendest will not remove. See: “And every one that hath this hope in Him, purifieth himself even as He is pure.”  See how he has not taken away free-will, in that he saith, “purifieth himself.” Who purifieth us but God? Yea, but God doth not purify thee if thou be unwilling. Therefore, in that thou joinest thy will to God, in that thou purifiest thyself. Thou purifiest thyself, not by thyself, but by Him who cometh to inhabit thee. Still, because thou doest somewhat therein by the will, therefore is somewhat attributed to thee. But it is attributed to thee only to the end thou shouldest say, as in the Psalm, “Be thou my helper, forsake me not.” If thou sayest, “Be thou my helper,” thou doest somewhat: for if thou be doing nothing, how should He be said to “help” thee?

8. “Every one that doeth sin, doeth also iniquity.” Let no man say, Sin is one thing, iniquity another: let no man say, I am a sinful man, but not a doer of iniquity. For, “Every one that doeth sin, doeth also iniquity. Sin is iniquity.” Well then, what are we to do concerning sins and iniquities? Hear what He saith: “And ye know that He was manifested to take away sin; and sin in Him is not.” He, in Whom sin is not, the same is come to take away sin. For were there sin in Him, it must be taken away from Him, not He take it away Himself. “Whosoever abideth in Him, sinneth not.” In so far as he abideth in Him, in so far sinneth not. “Whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him.” A great question this: “Whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him.” No marvel. We have not seen Him, but are to see; have not known Him, but are to know: we believe on One we have not known. Or haply, by faith we have known, and by actual beholding have not yet known? But then in faith we have both seen and known. For if faith doth not yet see, why are we said to have been enlightened? There is an enlightening by faith, and an enlightening by sight. At present, while we are on pilgrimage, “we walk by faith, not by sight,” or, actually beholding. Therefore also our righteousness is “by faith, not by sight.” Our righteousness shall be perfect, when we shall see by actual beholding. Only, in the meanwhile, let us not leave that righteousness which is of faith, since “the just doth live by faith,” as saith the apostle. “Whosoever abideth in Him, sinneth not.” For, “whosoever sinneth, hath not seen Him, neither known Him.” That man who sins, believes not: but if a man believes, so far as pertains to his faith, he sinneth not.

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