This post is compiled from two sermons. Paragraphs 8-13 of his 5th Homily are on 1 Jn 3:11-18. Paragraphs 1-4 of his 6th homily deal with 1 Jn 3:19-21.
8. “Whosoever is not righteous is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” “For this is the message:” mark how he confirms it: “For this is the message which we heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” He has made it manifest to us that it is of this he speaks; whoso acts against this commandment, is in that accursed sin, into which those fall who are not born of God. “Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” Therefore, where envy is, brotherly love cannot be. Mark, my beloved. He that envieth, loveth not. The sin of the devil is in that man; because the devil through envy cast man down. For he fell, and envied him that stood. He did not wish to cast man down that he himself might stand, but only that he might not fall alone. Hold fast in your mind from this that he has subjoined, that envy cannot exist in charity. Thou hast it openly, when charity was praised, “Charity envieth not.” There was no charity in Cain; and had there been no charity in Abel, God would not have accepted his sacrifice. For when they had both offered, the one of the fruits of the earth, the other of the offspring of the flock; what think ye, brethren, that God slighted the fruits of the earth, and loved the offspring of the flock? God had not regard to the hands, but saw in the heart: and whom He saw offer with charity, to his sacrifice He had respect; whom He saw offer with envy, from his sacrifice He turned away His eyes. By the good works, then, of Abel, he means only charity: by the evil works of Cain he means only his hatred of his brother. It was not enough that he hated his brother and envied his good works; because he would not imitate, he would kill. And hence it appeared that he was a child of the devil, and hence also that the other was God’s righteous one. Hence then are men discerned, my brethren. Let no man mark the tongue, but the deeds and the heart. If any do not good for his brethren, he shews what he has in him. By temptations are men proved.
9. “Marvel not, brethren, if the world hate us.” Must one often be telling you what “the world” means? Not the heaven, not the earth, nor these visible works which God made; but lovers of the world. By often saying these things, to some I am burdensome: but I am so far from saying it without a cause, that some may be questioned whether I said it, and they cannot answer. Let then, even by thrusting it upon them, something stick fast in the hearts of them that hear. What is “the world”? The world, when put in a bad sense, is, lovers of the world: the world, when the word is used in praise, is heaven and earth, and the works of God that are in them; whence it is said, “And the world was made by Him.” Also, the world is the fullness of the earth, as John himself hath said, “Not only for our sins is He the propitiator, but (for the sins) of the whole world:” he means, “of the world,” of all the faithful scattered throughout the whole earth. But the world in a bad sense, is, lovers of the world. They that love the world, cannot love their brother.
10. “If the world hate us: we know”—What do we know?—“that we have passed from death unto life”—How do we know? “Because we love the brethren.” Let none ask man: let each return to his own heart: if he find there brotherly love, let him set his mind at rest, because he is “passed from death unto life.” Already he is on the right hand: let him not regard that at present his glory is hidden: when the Lord shall come, then shall he appear in glory. For he has life in him, but as yet in winter; the root is alive, but the branches, so to say, are dry: within is the substance that has the life in it, within are the leaves of trees, within are the fruits: but they wait for the summer. Well then, “we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not, abideth in death.” Lest ye should think it a light matter, brethren, to hate, or, not to love, hear what follows: “Every one that hateth his brother, is a murderer.” How now, if any made light of hating his brother, will he also in his heart make light of murder? He does not stir his hands to kill a man; yet he is already held by God a murderer; the other lives, and yet this man is already judged as his slayer! “Every one that hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”
11. “In this know we love:” he means, perfection of love, that perfection which we have bidden you lay to heart: “In this know we love, that He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” Lo here, whence that came: “Peter, lovest thou me? Feed My sheep.” For, that ye may know that He would have His sheep to be so fed by him, as that he should lay down his life for the sheep, straightway said He this to him: “When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake He,” saith the evangelist, “signifying by what death he should glorify God;” so that to whom He had said, “Feed my sheep,” the same He might teach to lay down his life for His sheep.
12. Whence beginneth charity, brethren? Attend a little: to what it is perfected, ye have heard; the very end of it, and the very measure of it is what the Lord hath put before us in the Gospel: “Greater love hath no man,” saith He, “than that one lay down his life for his friends.” Its perfection, therefore, He hath put before us in the Gospel, and here also it is its perfection that is put before us: but ye ask yourselves, and say to yourselves, When shall it be possible for us to have “this” charity? Do not too soon despair of thyself. Haply, it is born and is not yet perfect; nourish it, that it be not choked. But thou wilt say to me, And by what am I to know it? For to what it is perfected, we have heard; whence it begins, let us hear. He goes on to say: “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have hunger, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how can the love of God dwell in him?” Lo, whence charity begins withal! If thou art not yet equal to the dying for thy brother, be thou even now equal to the giving of thy means to thy brother. Even now let charity smite thy bowels, that not of vainglory thou shouldest do it, but of the innermost marrow of mercy; that thou consider him, now in want. For if thy superfluities thou canst not give to thy brother, canst thou lay down thy life for thy brother? There lies thy money in thy bosom, which thieves may take from thee; and though thieves do not take it, by dying thou wilt leave it, even if it leave not thee while living: what wilt thou do with it? Thy brother hungers, he is in necessity: be-like he is in suspense, is distressed by his creditor: he is thy brother, alike ye are bought, one is the price paid for you, ye are both redeemed by the blood of Christ: see whether thou have mercy, if thou have this world’s means. Perchance thou sayest, “What concerns it me? Am I to give my money, that he may not suffer trouble?” If this to be the answer thy heart makes to thee, the love of the Father abideth not in thee. If the love of the Father abide not in thee, thou art not born of God. How boastest thou to be a Christian? Thou hast the name, and hast not the deeds. But if the work shall follow the name, let any call thee pagan, show thou by deeds that thou art a Christian. For if by deeds thou dost not show thyself a Christian, all men may call thee a Christian yet; what doth the name profit thee where the thing is not forthcoming? “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how can the love of God dwell in him?” And then he goes on: “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue but in deed and in truth.”
13. I suppose the thing is now made manifest to you my brethren: this great and most concerning secret and mystery. What is the force of charity, all Scripture doth set forth; but I know not whether any where it be more largely set forth than in this Epistle. We pray you and beseech you in the Lord, that both what ye have heard ye will keep in memory, and to that which is yet to be said, until the epistle be finished, will come with earnestness, and with earnestness hear the same. But open ye your heart for the good seed: root out the thorns, that that which we are sowing in you be not choked, but rather that the harvest may grow, and that the Husbandman may rejoice and make ready the barn for you as for grain, not the fire as for the chaff. Here ends the 5th homily. St Augustine’s treatment of today’s reading continues below.
1. If ye remember, brethren, yesterday we closed our sermon at this sentence, which without doubt behooved and does behoove to abide in your heart, seeing it was the last ye heard. “My little children, let us not love only in word and in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” Then he goes on: “And herein we know that we are of the truth, and assure our hearts before Him.” “For if our heart think ill of us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.” He had said, “Let us not love only in word and in tongue, but in work and in truth:” we are asked, In what work, or in what truth, is he known that loveth God, or loveth his brother? Above he had said up to what point charity is perfected: what the Lord saith in the Gospel, “Greater love than this hath no man, that one lay down his life for his friends,” this same had the apostle also said: “As He laid down His life for us, we ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren.” This is the perfection of charity, and greater can not at all be found. But because it is not perfect in all, and that man ought not to despair in whom it is not perfect, if that be already born which may be perfected: and of course if born, it must be nourished, and by certain nourishments of its own must be brought unto its proper perfection: therefore, we have asked concerning the commencement of charity, where it begins, and there have straightway found: “But whoso hath this world’s goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of the Father in him?” Here then hath this charity, my brethren, its beginning: to give of one’s superfluities to him that hath need to him that is in any distress; of one’s temporal abundance to deliver his brother from temporal tribulation. Here is the first rise of charity. This, being thus begun, if thou shalt nourish with the word of God and hope of the life to come, thou wilt come at last unto that perfection, that thou shalt be ready to lay down thy life for thy brethren.
2. But, because many such things are done by men who seek other objects, and who love not the brethren; let us come back to the testimony of conscience. How do we prove that many such things are done by men who love not the brethren? How many in heresies and schisms call themselves martyrs! They seem to themselves to lay down their lives for their brethren. If for the brethren they laid down their lives, they would not separate themselves from the whole brotherhood. Again, how many there are who for the sake of vainglory bestow much, give much, and seek therein but the praise of men and popular glory, which is full of windiness, and possesses no stability! Seeing, then, there are such, where shall be the proof of brotherly charity? Seeing he wished it to be proved, and hath said by way of admonition, “My little children, let us not love only in word and in tongue; but in deed and in truth;” we ask, in what work, in what truth? Can there be a more manifest work than to give to the poor? Many do this of vainglory, not of love. Can there be a greater work than to die for the brethren? This also, many would fain be thought to do, who do it of vainglory to get a name, not from bowels of love. It remains, that that man loves his brother, who before God, where God alone seeth, assures his own heart, and questions his. heart whether he does this indeed for love of the brethren; and his witness is that eye which penetrates the heart, where man cannot look. Therefore Paul the Apostle, because he was ready to die for the brethren, and said, “I will myself be spent for your souls,” yet, because God only saw this in his heart, not the mortal men to whom he spake, he saith to them, “But to me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you or at man’s bar.” And the same apostle shows also in a certain place, that these things are oft done of empty vainglory, not upon the solid ground of love: for speaking of the praises of charity he saith, “If I distribute all my goods to the poor. and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” Is it possible for a man to do this without charity? It is. For they that have divided unity, are persons that have not charity. Seek there, and ye shall see many giving much to the poor; shall see others prepared to welcome death, insomuch that where there is no persecutor they cast themselves headlong: these doubtless without charity do this. Let us come back then to conscience, of which the apostle saith: “For our glorying is this, the testimony of our conscience.” Let us come back to conscience, of which the same saith, “But let each prove his own work, and then he shall have glorying in himself and not in another.” Therefore, let each one of us “prove his own work,” whether it flow forth from the vein of charity, whether it be from charity as the root that his good works sprout forth as branches. “But let each prove his own work, and then he shall have glorying in himself and not in another,” not when another’s tongue bears witness to him, but when his own conscience bears it.
3. This it is then that he enforces here. “In this we know that we are of the truth, when in deed and in truth” we love, “not only in words and in tongue: and assure our heart before Him.” What meaneth, “before Him?” Where He seeth. Whence the Lord Himself in the Gospel saith: “Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward with your Father which is in heaven.” And what meaneth, “Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:” except that the right hand means a pure conscience, the left hand the lust of the world? Many through lust of the world do many wonderful things: the left hand worketh, not the right. The right hand ought to work, and without knowledge of the left hand, so that lust of the world may not even mix itself therewith when by love we work aught that is good. And where do we get to know this? Thou art before God: question thine heart, see what thou hast done, and what therein was thine aim; thy salvation, or the windy praise of men. Look within, for man cannot judge whom he cannot see. If “we assure our heart,” let it be “before Him.” Because “if our heart think ill of us,” i.e. accuse us within, that we do not the thing with that mind it ought to be done withal, “greater is God than our heart, and knoweth all things.” Thou hidest thine heart from man: hide it from God if thou canst! How shalt thou hide it from Him, to whom it is said by a sinner, fearing and confessing, “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? and from Thy face whither shall I flee?” He sought a way to flee, to escape the judgment of God, and found none. For where is God not? “If I shall ascend,” saith he, “into heaven, Thou art there: if I shall descend into hell, Thou art there.” Whither wilt thou go? whither wilt thou flee? Wilt thou hear counsel? If thou wouldest flee from Him, flee to Him. Flee to Him by confessing, not from Him by hiding: hide thou canst not, but confess thou canst. Say unto Him, “Thou art my place to flee unto;” and let love be nourished in thee, which alone leadeth unto life. Let thy conscience bear thee witness that thy love is of God. If it be of God, do not wish to display it before men; because neither men’s praises lift thee unto heaven, nor their censures put thee down from thence. Let Him see, who crowneth thee: be He thy witness, by whom as judge thou art crowned. “Greater is God than our heart, and knoweth all things.”
4. “Beloved, if our heart think not ill of us, we have confidence towards God:”—What meaneth, “If our heart think not ill”? If it make true answer to us, that we love and that there is genuine love in us: not feigned but sincere; seeking a brother’s salvation, expecting no emolument from a brother, but only his salvation—“we have confidence toward God: and whatsoever we ask, we shall receive of Him, because we keep His commandments.”—Therefore, not in the sight of men, but where God Himself seeth, in the heart—“we have confidence,” then, “towards God: and whatsoever we ask, we shall receive of Him:” howbeit, because we keep His commandments. What are “His commandments”? Must we be always repeating? “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another.” It is charity itself that he speaks of, it is this that he enforces. Whoso then shall have brotherly charity, and have it before God, where God seeth, and his heart being interrogated under righteous examination make him none other answer than that the genuine root of charity is there for good fruits to come from; that man hath confidence with God, and whatsoever he shall ask, he shall receive of Him, because he keepeth His commandments.
This post is compiled from two sermons. Paragraphs 9-12 of the first homily deal with 1 John 3:7-8. Paragraphs 1-7 of the second homily deal with 1 Jn 3:9-10.
9. “Little children, let no man seduce you. He that doeth righteousness is righteous, as He is righteous.” What, on hearing that we are “righteous as He is righteous,” are we to think ourselves equal with God? Ye must know what means that “as:” thus he said a while ago, “Purifieth himself even as He is pure.” Then is our purity like and equal to the purity of God, and our righteousness to God’s righteousness? Who can say this? But the word “as,” is not always wont to be used in the sense of equality. As, for example, if, having seen this large church, a person should wish to build a smaller church, but with the same relative dimensions: as, for example, if this be one measure in width and two measures in length, he too should build his church one measure in width and two measures in length: in that case one sees that he has built it “as” this is built. But this church has, say, a hundred cubits in length, the other thirty: it is at once “as” this, and yet unequal. Ye see that this “as” is not always referred to parity and equality. For example, see what a difference there is between the face of a man and its image from a mirror: there is a face in the image, a face in the body: the image exists in imitation, the body in reality. And what do we say? Why, “as” there are eyes here, so also there; “as” ears here, so ears also there. The thing is different, but the “as” is said of the resemblance. Well then, we also have in us the image of God; but not that which the Son equal with the Father hath: yet except we also, according to our measure, were “as” He, we should in no respect be said to be like Him. “He purifieth us,” then, “even as He is pure:” but He is pure from eternity, we pure by faith. We are “righteous even as He is righteous;” but He is so in His immutable perpetuity, we righteous by believing on One we do not see, that so we may one day see Him. Even when our righteousness shall be perfect, when we shall be equal to the angels, not even then shall it be equalled with Him. How far then is it from Him now, when not even then it shall be equal!
10. “He that doeth sin, is of the devil, because the devil sinneth from the beginning.” “Is of the devil:” ye know what he means: by imitating the devil. For the devil made no man, begat no man, created no man: but whoso imitates the devil, that person, as if begotten of him, becomes a child of the devil; by imitating him, not literally by being begotten of him. In what sense art thou a child of Abraham? not that Abraham begat thee? In the same sense as the Jews, the children of Abraham? not imitating the faith of Abraham, are become children of the devil: of the flesh of Abraham they were begotten, and the faith of Abraham they have not imitated. If then those who were thence begotten were put out of the inheritance, because they did not imitate, thou, who art not begotten of him, art made a child, and in this way shall be a child of him by imitating him. And if thou imitate the devil, in such wise as he became proud and impious against God, thou wilt be a child of the devil: by imitating, not that he created thee or begat thee.
11. “Unto this end was the Son of God manifested.” Now then, brethren, mark! All sinners are begotten of the devil, as sinners. Adam was made by God: but when he consented to the devil, he was begotten of the devil; and he begat all men such as he was himself. With lust itself we were born; even before we add our sins, from that condemnation we have our birth. For if we are born without any sin, wherefore this running with infants to baptism that they may be released? Then mark well, brethren, the two birth-stocks, Adam and Christ: two men are; but one of them, a man that is man; the other, a Man that is God. By the man that is man we are sinners; by the Man that is God we are justified. That birth hath cast down unto death; this birth hath raised up unto life: that birth brings with it sin; this birth setteth free from sin. For to this end came Christ as Man, to undo the sins of men. “Unto this end was the Son of God manifested, that He may undo the works of the devil.”
12. The rest I commend to your thoughts, my beloved, that I may not burden you. For the question we labor to solve is even this—that we call ourselves sinners: for if any man shall say that he is without sin, he is a liar. And in the Epistle of this same John we have found it written, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.”1 For ye should remember what went before: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” And yet, on the other hand, in what follows thou art told, “He that is begotten of God sinneth not: he that doeth sin hath not seen Him, neither known Him.—Every one that doeth sin is of the devil:” sin is not of God: this affrights us again. In what sense are we begotten of God, and in what sense do we confess ourselves sinners? Shall we say, because we are not begotten of God? And what do these Sacraments in regard to infants? What hath John said? “He that is begotten of God, sinneth not.” And yet again the same John hath said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us!” A great question it is, and an embarrassing one; and may I have made you intent upon having it solved, my beloved. Tomorrow, in the name of the Lord, what He will give, we will discourse thereof. Here ends the first sermon.
1. Hear intently, I do beseech you, because it is no small matter that we have to cope withal: and I doubt not, because ye were intent upon it yesterday, that ye have with even greater intentness of purpose come together to-day. For it is no slight question, how he saith in this Epistle, “Whosoever is born of God, sinneth not,” and how in the same Epistle he hath said above, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” What shall the man do, who is pressed by both sayings out of the same Epistle? If he shall confess himself a sinner, he fears lest it be said to him, Then art thou not born of God; because it is written, “Whosoever is born of God, sinneth not.” But if he shall say that he is just and that he hath no sin, he receives on the other side a blow from the same Epistle, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Placed then as he is in the midst, what he can say and what confess, or what profess, he cannot find. To profess himself to be without sin, is full of peril; and not only full of peril, but also full of error: “We deceive ourselves,” saith he, “and the truth is not in us, if we say that we have no sin.” But oh that thou hadst none, and saidst this! for then wouldest thou say truly, and in uttering the truth wouldest have not so much as a vestige of wrong to be afraid of. But, that thou doest ill if thou say so, is because it is a lie that thou sayest. “The truth,” saith he, “is not in us, if we say that we have no sin.” He saith not, “Have not had;” lest haply it should seem to be spoken of the past life. For the man here hath had sins: but from the time that he was born of God, he has begun not to have sins. If it were so, there would be no question to embarrass us. For we should say, We have been sinners, but now we are justified: we have had sin, but now we have none. He saith not this: but what saith he? “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” And then after a while he says on the other hand, “Whosoever is born of God sinneth not.” Was John himself not born of God? If John was not born of God, John, of whom ye have heard that he lay in the Lord’s bosom; does any man dare engage for himself that in him has taken place that regeneration which it was not granted to that man to have, to whom it was granted to lie in the bosom of the Lord? The man whom the Lord loved more than the rest, him alone had He not begotten of the Spirit?
2. Mark now these words. As yet, I am urging it upon you, what straits we are put to, that by putting your minds on the stretch, that is, by your praying for us and for yourselves, God may make enlargement, and give us an outlet: lest some man find in His word an occasion of his own perdition, that word which was preached and put in writing only for healing and salvation. “Every man,” saith he, “that doeth sin, doeth also iniquity.” Lest haply thou make a distinction, “Sin is iniquity.” Lest thou say, A sinner I am, but not a doer of iniquity, “Sin is iniquity. And ye know that to this end was He manifested, that He should take away sin; and there is no sin in Him.” And what doth it profit us, that He came without sin? “Every one that sinneth not, abideth in Him: and every one that sinneth, hath not seen Him, neither known Him. Little children, let no man seduce you. He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous.” This we have already said, that the word “as” is wont to be used of a certain resemblance, not of equality. “He that doeth sin is of the devil, because the devil sinneth from the beginning.” This too we have already said, that the devil created no man, nor begat any, but his imitators are, as it were, born of him. “To this end was the Son of God manifested, that He should undo the works of the devil.” Consequently, to undo (or loose) sins, He that hath no sin. And then follows: “Every one that is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God:” he has drawn the cord tight!—Belike, it is in regard of some one sin that he hath said, “Doth not sin,” not in regard of all sin: that in this that he saith, “Whoso is born of God, doth not sin,” thou mayest understand some one particular sin, which that man who is born of God cannot commit: and such is that sin that, if one commit it, it confirms the rest. What is this sin? To do contrary to the commandment. What is the commandment? “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another.” Mark well! This commandment of Christ is called, “love.” By this love sins are loosed. If this love be not kept, the not holding it is at once a grievous sin, and the root of all sins.
3. Mark well, brethren; we have brought forward somewhat in which, to them that have good understanding, the question is solved. But do we only walk in the way with them that run more swiftly? Those that walk more slowly must not be left behind. Let us turn the matter every way, in such words as we can, in order that it may be brought within reach of all. For I suppose, brethren, that every man is concerned for his own soul, who does not come to Church without cause, who does not seek temporal things in the Church, who does not come here to transact secular business; but comes here in order that he may lay hold upon some eternal thing, promised unto him, whereunto he may attain: he must needs consider how he shall walk in the way, lest he be left behind, lest he go back, lest he go astray, lest by halting he do not attain. Whoever therefore is in earnest, let him be slow, let him be swift, yet let him not leave the way. This then I have said, that in saying, “Whosoever is born of God sinneth not,” it is probable he meant it of some particular sin: for else it will be contrary to that place: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” In this way then the question may be solved. There is a certain sin, which he that is born of God cannot commit; a sin, which not being committed, other sins are loosed, and being committed, other sins are confirmed. What is this sin? To do contrary to the commandment of Christ, contrary to the New Testament. What is the new commandment? “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another.” Whoso doeth contrary to charity and contrary to brotherly love, let him not dare to glory and say that he is born of God: but whoso is in brotherly love, there are certain sins which he cannot commit, and this above all, that he should hate his brother. And how fares it with him concerning his other sins, of which it is said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us?” Let him hear that which shall set his mind at rest from another place of Scripture; “Charity covereth a multitude of sins.”
4. Charity therefore we commend; charity this Epistle commendeth. The Lord, after His resurrection, what question put He to Peter, but, “Lovest thou me?” And it was not enough to ask it once; a second time also He put none other question, a third time also none other. Although when it came to the third time, Peter, as one who knew not what was the drift of this, was grieved because it seemed as if the Lord did not believe him; nevertheless both a first time and a second, and a third He put this question. Thrice fear denied, thrice love confessed. Behold Peter loveth the Lord. What is he to do for the Lord? For think not that he in the Psalm did not feel himself at a loss what to do: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all the benefits He hath done unto me?” He that said this in the Psalm, marked what great things had been done for him by God; and sought what he should render to God, and could find nothing. For whatever thou wouldest render, from Him didst thou receive it to render. And what did he find to offer in return? That which, as we said, my brethren, he had received from Him, that only found he to offer in return. “I will receive the cup of salvation, and will call upon the name of the Lord.” For who had given him the cup of salvation, but He to whom he wished to offer in return? Now to receive the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord, is to be filled with charity; and so filled, that not only thou shalt not hate thy brother, but shalt be prepared to die for thy brother. This is perfect charity, that thou be prepared to die for thy brother. This the Lord exhibited in Himself, who died for all, praying for them by whom He was crucified, and saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” But if He alone hath done this, He was not a Master, if He had no disciples. Disciples who came after Him have done this. Men were stoning Stephen, and he knelt down and said, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” He loved them that were killing him; since for them also he was dying. Hear also the Apostle Paul: “And I myself,” saith he, “will be spent for your souls.” For he was among those for whom Stephen, when by their hands he was dying, besought forgiveness. This then is perfect charity. If any man shall have so great charity that he is prepared even to die for his brethren, in that man is perfect charity. But as soon as it is born, is it already quite perfect? That it may be made perfect, it is born; when born, it is nourished; when nourished, it is strengthened; when strengthened, it is perfected; when it has come to perfection, what saith it? “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. I wished to be dissolved, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is needful for you.” For their sakes he was willing to live, for whose sakes he was prepared to die.
5. And that ye may know that it is this perfect charity which that man violates not, and against which that man sins not, who is born of God; this is what the Lord saith to Peter; “Peter lovest thou me?” And he answers, “I love.” He saith not, If thou love me, shew kindness to me. For when the Lord was in mortal flesh, He hungered, He thirsted: at that time when He hungered and thirsted, He was taken in as a guest; those who had the means, ministered unto Him of their substance, as we read in the Gospel. Zacchæus entertained Him as his guest: he was saved from his disease by entertaining the Physician. From what disease? The disease of avarice. For he was very rich, and the chief of the publicans. Mark the man made whole from the disease of avarice: “The half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man, I will restore him fourfold.” That he kept the other half, was not to enjoy it, but to pay his debts. Well, he at that time entertained the Physician as his guest, because there was infirmity of the flesh in the Lord, to which men might show this kindness; and this, because it was His will to grant this very thing to them that did Him kind service; for the benefit was to them that did the service, not to Him. For, could He to whom angels ministered require these men’s kindness? Not even His servant Elias, to whom He sent bread and flesh by the ravens upon a certain occasion, had need of this; and yet that a religious widow might be blessed, the servant of God is sent, and he whom God in secret did feed, is fed by the widow. But still, although by the means of these servants of God, those who consider their need get good to themselves, in respect of that reward most manifestly set forth by the Lord in the Gospel: “He that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward: and he that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward: and whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, He shall in no wise lose his reward:” although, then, they that do this, do it to their own good: yet neither could this kind office be done to Him when about to ascend into Heaven. What could Peter, who loved Him, render unto Him? Hear what. “Feed my sheep:” i.e. do for the brethren, that which I have done for thee. I redeemed all with my blood: hesitate not to die for confession of the truth, that the rest may imitate you.
6. But this, as we have said, brethren, is perfect charity. He that is born of God hath it. Mark, my beloved, see what I say. Behold, a man has received the Sacrament of that birth, being baptized; he hath the Sacrament, and a great Sacrament, divine, holy, ineffable. Consider what a Sacrament! To make him a new man by remission of all sins! Nevertheless, let him look well to the heart, whether that be thoroughly done there, which is done in the body; let him see whether he have charity, and then say, I am born of God. If however he have it not, he has indeed the soldier’s mark upon him, but he roams as a deserter. Let him have charity; otherwise let him not say that he is born of God. But he says, I have the Sacrament. Hear the Apostle: “If I know all mysteries, and have all faith, so that I can remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”
7. This, if ye remember, we gave you to understand in beginning to read this Epistle, that nothing in it is so commended as charity. Even if it seems to speak of various other things, to this it makes its way back, and whatever it says, it will needs bring all to bear upon charity. Let us see whether it does so here. Mark: “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” We ask, what sin? because if thou understand all sin, it will be contrary to that place, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Then let him say what sin; let him teach us; lest haply I may have rashly said that the sin here is the violation of charity, because he said above, “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.” But perhaps he has said something in what comes afterwards, and has mentioned charity by name? See that this circuit of words hath this end, hath this issue. “Whosoever is born of God, sinneth not, because His seed remaineth in him.” The “seed” of God, i.e. the word of God: whence the apostle saith, “I have begotten you through the Gospel. And he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” Let him tell us this, let us see in what we cannot sin. “In this are manifested the children of God and the children of the devil. Whosoever is not righteous is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” Aye, now indeed it is manifest of what he speaks: “Neither he that loveth not his brother.” Therefore, love alone puts the difference between the children of God and the children of the devil. Let them all sign themselves with the sign of the cross of Christ; let them all respond, Amen; let all sing Alleluia; let all be baptized, let all come to church, let all build the walls of churches: there is no discerning of the children of God from the children of the devil, but only by charity. They that have charity are born of God: they that have it not, are not born of God. A mighty token, a mighty distinction! Have what thou wilt; if this alone thou have not, it profiteth thee nothing: other things if thou have not, have this, and thou hast fulfilled the law. “For he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law,” saith the apostle: and, “Charity is the fulfilling of the law.” I take this to be the pearl which the merchant man in the Gospel is described to have been seeking, who “found one pearl, and sold all that he had, and bought it.” This is the pearl of price, Charity, without which whatever thou mayest have, profiteth thee nothing: which if alone thou have, it sufficeth thee. Now, with faith thou seest, then with actual beholding thou shalt see. For if we love when we see not, how shall we embrace it when we see! But wherein must we exercise ourselves? In brotherly love. Thou mayest say to me, I have not seen God: canst thou say to me, I have not seen man? Love thy brother. For if thou love thy brother whom thou seest, at the same time thou shalt see God also; because thou shalt see Charity itself, and within dwelleth God.
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.
Please note: the following post was excerpted from two different sermons by St Augustine. Paragraphs 7-13 are on 1 Jn 2:22-27 and were taken from his 3rd Homily on First John. This is followed by paragraphs 1-2 of his 4th homily which reference the previous talks and comments on 1 Jn 2:28.
7. For hear and see. Certainly all who go out from the Church, and are cut off from the unity of the Church, are antichrists; let no man doubt it: for the apostle himself hath marked them, “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.” Therefore, whoso continue not with us, but go out from us, it is manifest that they are antichrists. And how are they proved to be antichrists? By lying. “And who is a liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?” Let us ask the heretics: where do you find a heretic that denies that Jesus is the Christ? See now, my beloved, a great mystery. Mark what the Lord God may have inspired us withal, and what I would fain work into your minds. Behold, they went out from us, and turned Donatists: we ask them whether Jesus be the Christ; they instantly confess that Jesus is the Christ. If then that person is an antichrist, who denies that Jesus is the Christ, neither can they call us antichrists, nor we them; therefore, neither they went out from us, nor we from them. If then we have not gone out one from another, we are in unity: if we be in unity, what means it that there are two altars in this city? what, that there are divided houses, divided marriages? that there is a common bed, and a divided Christ? He admonishes us, he would have us confess what is the truth:—either they went out from us, or we from them. But let it not be imagined that we have gone out from them. For we have the testament of the Lord’s inheritance, we recite it, and there we find, “I will give Thee the nations for Thine inheritance, and for Thy possessions the ends of the earth.” We hold fast Christ’s inheritance; they hold it not, for they do not communicate with the whole earth, do not communicate with the universal body redeemed by the blood of the Lord. We have the Lord Himself rising from the dead, who presented Himself to be felt by the hands of the doubting disciples: and while they yet doubted, He said to them, “It behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name”—Where? which way? to what persons?—“through all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Our minds are set at rest concerning the unity of the inheritance! Whoso does not communicate with this inheritance, is gone out.
8. But let us not be made sad: “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.” If then they went out from us, they are antichrists; if they are antichrists, they are liars; if they are liars, they deny that Jesus is the Christ. Once more we come back to the difficulty of the question. Ask them one by one; they confess that Jesus is the Christ. The difficulty that hampers us comes of our taking what is said in the Epistle in too narrow a sense. At any rate ye see the question; this question puts both us and them to a stand, if it be not understood. Either we are antichrists, or they are antichrists; they call us antichrists, and say that we went out from them; we say the like of them. But now this epistle has marked out the antichrists by this cognizance: “Whosoever denies that Jesus is the Christ,” that same “is an antichrist.” Now therefore let us enquire who denies; and let us mark not the tongue, but the deeds. For if all be asked, all with one mouth confess that Jesus is the Christ. Let the tongue keep still for a little while, ask the life. If we shall find this, if the Scripture itself shall tell us that denial is a thing done not only with the tongue, but also with the deeds, then assuredly we find many antichrists, who with the mouth profess Christ, and in their manners dissent from Christ. Where find we this in Scripture? Hear Paul the Apostle; speaking of such, he saith, “For they confess that they know God, but in their deeds deny Him.” We find these also to be antichrists: whosoever in his deeds denies Christ, is an antichrist. I listen not to what he says, but I look what life he leads. Works speak, and do we require words? For where is the bad man that does not wish to talk well? But what saith the Lord to such? “Ye hypocrites, how can ye speak good things, while ye are evil?” Your voices ye bring into mine ears: I look into your thoughts. I see an evil will there, and ye make a show of false fruits. I know what I must gather, and whence; I do not “gather figs of thistles,” I do not gather “grapes of thorns;” for “every tree is known by its fruit.” A more lying antichrist is he who with his mouth professes that Jesus is the Christ, and with his deeds denies Him. A liar in this, that he speaks one thing, and does another.
9. Now therefore, brethren, if deeds are to be questioned, not only do we find many antichrists gone out; but many not yet manifest, who have not gone out at all. For as many as the Church hath within it that are perjured, defrauders, addicted to black arts, consulters of fortune-tellers, adulterers, drunkards, usurers, boy-stealers, and all the other vices that we are not able to enumerate; these things are contrary to the doctrine of Christ, are contrary to the word of God. Now the Word of God is Christ: whatever is contrary to the Word of God is in Antichrist. For Antichrist means, “contrary to Christ.” And would ye know how openly these resist Christ? Sometimes it happens that they do some evil, and one begins to reprove them; because they dare not blaspheme Christ, they blaspheme His ministers by whom they are reproved: but if thou show them that thou speakest Christ’s words, not thine own, they endeavor all they can to convict thee of speaking thine own words, not Christ’s: if however it is manifest that thou speakest Christ’s words, they go even against Christ, they begin to find fault with Christ: “How,” say they, “and why did He make us such as we are?” Do not persons say this every day, when they are convicted of their deeds? Perverted by a depraved will, they accuse their Maker. Their Maker cries to them from heaven, (for the same made us, who new-made us:) What made I thee? I made man, not avarice; I made man, not robbery; I made man, not adultery. Thou hast heard that my works praise me. Out of the mouth of the Three Children, it was the hymn itself that kept them from the fires.” The works of the Lord praise the Lord, the heaven, the earth, the sea, praise Him; praise Him all things that are in the heaven, praise Him angels, praise Him stars, praise Him lights, praise Him whatever swims, whatever flies, whatever walks, whatever creeps; all these praise the Lord. Hast thou heard there that avarice praises the Lord? Hast thou heard that drunkenness praises the Lord? That luxury praises, that frivolity praises Him? Whatever thou hearest not in that hymn give praise to the Lord, the Lord made not that thing. Correct what thou hast made, that what God made in thee may be saved. But if thou wilt not, and lovest and embracest thy sins, thou art contrary to Christ. Be thou within, be thou without, thou art an antichrist; be thou within, be thou without, thou art chaff. But why art thou not without? Because thou hast not fallen in with a wind to carry thee away.
10. These things are now manifest, my brethren. Let no man say, I do not worship Christ, but I worship God His Father. “Every one that denieth the Son, hath neither the Son nor the Father; and he that confesseth the Son, hath both the Son and the Father.” He speaks to you that are grain: and let those who were chaff, hear, and become grain. Let each one, looking well to his own conscience, if he be a lover of the world, be changed; let him become a lover of Christ, that he be not an antichrist. If one shall tell him that he is an antichrist, he is wroth, he thinks it a wrong done to him; perchance, if he is told by him that strives with him that he is an antichrist, he threatens an action at law. Christ saith to him, Be patient; if thou hast been falsely spoken of, rejoice with me, because I also am falsely spoken of by the antichrists: but if thou art truly spoken of, come to an understanding with thine own conscience; and if thou fear to be called this, fear more to be it.
11. “Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall abide in you, ye also shall abide in the Son, and in the Father. And this is the promise that He hath promised us.” For haply thou mightest ask about the wages, and say, Behold, “that which I have heard from the beginning I keep safe in me, I comply therewith; perils, labors, temptations, for the sake of this continuance, I bear up against them all: with what fruit? what wages? what will He hereafter give me, since in this world I see that I labor among temptations? I see not here that there is any rest: mere mortality weigheth down the soul, and the corruptible body presseth it down to lower things: but I bear all things, that “that which I have heard from the beginning” may “remain” in me; and that I may say to my God, “Because of the words of Thy lips have I kept hard ways.” Unto what wages then? Hear, and faint not. If thou wast fainting in the labors, upon the promised wages be strong. Where is the man that shall work in a vineyard, and shall let slip out of his heart the reward he is to receive? Suppose him to have forgotten, his hands fail. The remembrance of the promised wages makes him persevering in the work: and yet he that promised it is a man who can deceive thine expectation. How much more strong oughtest thou to be in God’s field, when He that promised is the Truth, Who can neither have any successor, nor die, nor deceive him to whom the promise was made! And what is the promise? Let us see what He hath promised. Is it gold which men here love much, or silver? Or possessions, for which men lavish gold, however much they love gold? Or pleasant lands, spacious houses, many slaves, numerous beasts? Not these are the wages, so to say, for which he exhorts us to endure in labor. What are these wages called? “eternal life.” Ye have heard, and in your joy ye have cried out: love that which ye have heard, and ye are delivered from your labors into the rest of eternal life. Lo, this is what God promises; “eternal life.” Lo, this what God threatens; eternal fire. What to those set on the right hand? “Come, ye blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world.” To those on the left, what? “Go into eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Thou dost not yet love that: at least fear this.
12. Remember then, my brethren, that Christ hath promised us eternal life: “This,” saith he, “is the promise which He hath promised us, even eternal life. These things have I written to you concerning them which seduce you.” Let none seduce you unto death: desire the promise of eternal life. What can the world promise? Let it promise what you will, it makes the promise perchance to one that to-morrow shall die. And with what face wilt thou go hence to Him that abideth for ever? “But a powerful man threatens me, so that I must do some evil.” What does he threaten? Prisons, chains, fires, torments, wild beasts: aye, but not eternal fire? Dread that which One Almighty threatens; love that which One Almighty promises; and all the world becomes vile in our regard, whether it promise or terrify. “These things have I written unto you concerning them which seduce you; that ye may know that ye have an unction, and the unction which we have received from Him may abide in you.” In the unction we have the sacramental sign [of a thing unseen], the virtue itself is invisible; the invisible unction is the Holy Ghost; the invisible unction is that charity, which, in whomsoever it be, shall be as a root to him: however burning the sun, he cannot wither. All that is rooted is nourished by the sun’s warmth, not withered.
13. “And ye have no need that any man teach you, because His unction teacheth you concerning all things.” Then to what purpose is it that “we,” my brethren, teach you? If “His unction teacheth you concerning all things,” it seems we labor without a cause. And what mean we, to cry out as we do? Let us leave you to His unction, and let His unction teach you. But this is putting the question only to myself: I put it also to that same apostle: let him deign to hear a babe that asks of him: to John himself I say, Had those the unction to whom thou wast speaking? Thou hast said, “His unction teacheth you concerning all things.” To what purpose hast thou written an Epistle like this? what teaching didst “thou “give them? what instruction? what edification? See here now, brethren, see a mighty mystery. The sound of our words strikes the ears, the Master is within. Do not suppose that any man learns ought from man. We can admonish by the sound of our voice; if there be not One within that shall teach, vain is the noise we make. Aye, brethren, have ye a mind to know it? Have ye not all heard this present discourse? and yet how many will go from this place untaught! I, for my part, have spoken to all; but they to whom that Unction within speaketh not, they whom the Holy Ghost within teacheth not, those go back untaught. The teachings of the master from without are a sort of aids and admonitions. He that teacheth the hearts, hath His chair in heaven. Therefore saith He also Himself in the Gospel: “Call no man your master upon earth; One is your Master, even Christ.” Let Him therefore Himself speak to you within, when not one of mankind is there: for though there be some one at thy side, there is none in thine heart. Yet let there not be none in thine heart: let Christ be in thine heart: let His unction be in the heart, lest it be a heart thirsting in the wilderness, and having no fountains to be watered withal. There is then, I say, a Master within that teacheth: Christ teacheth; His inspiration teacheth. Where His inspiration and His unction is not, in vain do words make a noise from without. So are the words, brethren, which we speak from without, as is the husbandman to the tree: from without he worketh, applieth water and diligence of culture; let him from without apply what he will, does he form the apples? does he clothe the nakedness of the wood with a shady covering of leaves? does he do any thing like this from within? But whose doing is this? Hear the husbandman, the apostle: both see what we are, and hear the Master within: “I have planted, Apollos hath watered; but God gave the increase: neither he that planteth is any thing, neither he that watereth, but He that giveth the increase, even God.” This then we say to you: whether we plant, or whether we water, by speaking we are not any thing; but He that giveth the increase, even God: that is, “His unction which teacheth you concerning all things.” What follows below is a new homily continuing the theme of this homily.
1. Ye remember, brethren, that yesterday’s lesson was brought to a close at this point, that “ye have no need that any man teach you, but the unction itself teacheth you concerning all things.” Now this, as I am sure ye remember, we so expounded to you, that we who from without speak to your ears, are as workmen applying culture from without to a tree, but we cannot give the increase nor form the fruits: but only He that created and redeemed and called you, He, dwelling in you by faith and the Spirit, must speak to you within, else vain is all our noise of words. Whence does this appear? From this: that while many hear, not all are persuaded of that which is said, but only they to whom God speaks within. Now they to whom He speaks within, are those who give place to Him: and those give place to God, who “give not place to the devil.” For the devil wishes to inhabit the hearts of men, and speak there the things which are able to seduce. But what saith the Lord Jesus? “The prince of this world is cast out.” Whence cast? out of heaven and earth? out of the fabric of the world? Nay, but out of the hearts of the believing. The invader being cast out, let the Redeemer dwell within: because the same redeemed, who created. And the devil now assaults from without, not conquers Him that hath possession within. And he assaults from without, by casting in various temptations: but that person consents not thereto, to whom God speaks within, and the unction of which ye have heard.
2. “And it is true,” namely, this same unction; i. e. the very Spirit of the Lord which teacheth men, cannot lie: “and is not false. Even as it hath taught you, abide ye in the same. And now, little children, abide ye in Him, that when He shall be manifested, we may have boldness in His sight, that we be not put to shame by Him at His coming.” Ye see, brethren: we believe on Jesus whom we have not seen: they announced Him, that saw, that handled, that heard the word out of His own mouth; and that they might persuade all mankind of the truth thereof, they were sent by Him, not dared to go of themselves. And whither were they sent? Ye heard while the Gospel was read, “Go, preach the Gospel to the whole creation which is under heaven.” Consequently, the disciples were sent “every where:” with signs and wonders to attest that what they spake, they had seen. And we believe on Him whom we have not seen, and we look for Him to come. Whose look for Him by faith, shall rejoice when He cometh: those who are without faith, when that which now they see not is come, shall be ashamed. And that confusion of face shall not be for a single day and so pass away, in such sort as those are wont to be confounded, who are found out in some fault, and are scoffed at by their fellow-men. That confusion shall carry them that are confounded to the left hand, that to them it may be said, “Go into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Let us abide then in His words, that we be not confounded when He cometh. For Himself saith in the Gospel to them that had believed on Him: “If ye shall abide in my word, then are ye verily my disciples.” And, as if they had asked, With what fruit? “And,” saith He, “ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” For as yet our salvation is in hope, not in deed: for we do not already possess that which is promised, but we hope for it to come. And “faithful is He that promised;” He deceiveth not thee: only do thou not faint, but wait for the promise. For He, the Truth, cannot deceive. Be not thou a liar, to profess one thing and do another; keep thou the faith, and He keeps His promise. But if thou keep not the faith, thine own self, not He that promised, hath defrauded thee.
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.
Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.
1 Jn5:5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
And what faith is it that overcomes the world, but Christian faith, of which the belief in the Divinity of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, is the foundation?
“Who is he that overcometh the world,” &c.—In other words, no one can have the faith whereby the world is overcome except he who believes “that Jesus is the Son of God.” The Apostle shows, in this verse, what the faith is, to which he refers, it is the faith of which the belief in Christ’s Divinity is the foundation. Of course, he supposes this Christian, victorious faith, to be an operative faith, a faith enlivened by charity, and he refers to the article regarding the Divinity of Christ in a special manner, both here and in other parts of this Epistle, in consequence of the leading errors of the day being specially levelled against this—the foundation of the Christian religion.
1 Jn 5:6 This is he that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ: not by water only but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit which testifieth that Christ is the truth.
This is he, who has come into the world, Jesus Christ, God and man, to save us according to the prediction of the Prophets, by the water of baptism and the blood of his passion, and not by water only, as came the Baptist, whose baptism had only the effect of preparing men for penance, but by water and blood. And we have also the testimony of the Holy Ghost, bearing witness to the truth of Christ’s Divinity and Humanity.
The Apostle here proves, that Christ is the long expected Messiah, the Son of God. “Jesus Christ,” God and man, the Saviour of the world, who, as the prophets predicted, was about to redeem mankind by his blood, and expiate their sins in the waters of Baptism (Ezechiel, 36:25, &c., 47; Zach. 12:13). “This is he that came” (or, as the Greek, ὅ ἐλθων implies, this is the man long expected to come), “by water and blood,” to redeem the world, and spiritually regenerate mankind “by water” of baptism “and blood” of his passion, of which the baptism in water, and purifications by the shedding of blood, among the Jews, were so many significant types and figures. “Not by water only,” in which allusion is evidently made to the Baptist, of whom it is everywhere pointedly asserted by the Evangelist—and the same is repeatedly asserted by himself—that he came to baptize in water only, and that he was sent by God for this purpose, and his baptism did not of itself remit sin, as it most probably, was a mere preparation for penance, and for the true baptism instituted by Christ. “But by water and blood.” He came “by water,” because he instituted baptism of water, whereof that which issued from his side while hanging on the cross was a sign; and “by blood,” poured forth on the cross, from which baptism, and all the other channels of divine grace, derive their efficacy. “And it is the Spirit that testifieth, that Christ is the truth”; to the testimony of the water and blood, the Apostle adds that of the Holy Ghost, who testified to the Divinity of Christ, during his sacred life, working wonders in proof thereof; and after his death and resurrection, when descending on the Apostles, in the form of fiery tongues, he filled them with his graces, he also bore testimony to the same, in the many gifts which he bestowed on the faithful. In the Greek reading the words run thus: καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα ἐστιν τὸ μαρτυροῦν, ὅτι τὸ πνεῦμαεστιν, η ἀληθεια “and it is the Spirit that testifieth, because the Spirit is truth,” according to which the meaning is: the Holy Ghost also bears testimony, that Christ is the expected Messiah and Saviour of the world, and this testimony is of the greatest weight, because the Holy Ghost is essential truth. The Vulgate reading is, however, preferable, since the question regards the truth of Christ’s Divinity and Humanity; both of which are necessary to constitute him the true Saviour of the world.
1 Jn 5:7 And there are Three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one.
For, there are three divine and uncreated witnesses, who, in heaven and from heaven, bear testimony both to angels and men, that Christ is true God and true man, and the Saviour of the world, viz.; the Father, the Word (or Son), and the Holy Ghost, and these, although three in Person, are one in Nature.
The Apostle now adduces the most incontrovertible evidence of the truth of his assertion made in the foregoing verse, viz., that Jesus Christ was the long-expected Messiah, true God and true man, who was to come and redeem mankind. The witnesses here adduced are divine witnesses. (Such is the meaning of “in heaven,” as contradistinguished from “on earth,” next verse), viz., the three Adorable Persons of the Trinity, “the Father,” who bore testimony to Christ (Matthew, 1:21; 3:17; 17:5; John, 12:28);—“the Word,” that is, the Son. He bore testimony that he was himself the Messiah promised by the Father, and proved it by repeated miracles (John. chap. 5, verses 17, 36; 8:14, 25; 10:25);—and finally, he testified that he was the Son of God in presence of the High Priest, during his sacred Passion. “And the Holy Ghost.” The Holy Ghost testified, that Christ was the only begotten Son of God, and in his assumed nature, the Saviour of the world, viz., at his baptism by John, on the day of Pentecost; and in the abundant effusion of his heavenly gifts, on many occasions.
“And these three are one.” These three witnesses, who “in heaven,” and from heaven, give a testimony certain beyond all doubt, regarding Christ’s Divinity and Humanity, His Mediatorial and Redemptory qualities, as man-God, although distinct in Person, are one and indivisible in the same divine nature and essence. The word “one” is taken in the same sense in which it is taken in chap. 10 of John, where our Redeemer says, “I and the Father are One,” that is, we possess the same power and the same divine essence. Hence, the evidence which St. John here adduces is that of the Godhead, three in Person and one in nature.
1 Jn 5:8 And there are three that give testimony on earth: the spirit and the water and the blood. And these three are one.
And there are three earthly and created witnesses that bear testimony on earth to the reality of the same Divinity and Humanity in Jesus Christ, viz., the water, and blood, that issued from his side on the cross, and his soul which he breathed forth, when expiring; and these three witnesses concur in one and the same testimony.
And there are three earthly and created witnesses (such is the meaning of “on earth,” as contrasted with “in heaven,” in the preceding verse), viz., “the Spirit,” that is, the created soul of Christ, which he breathed forth with a loud cry upon the cross; from the mode in which this happened, the Centurion cried out, “truly this man was the Son of God,” (Mark, 15:39), “and the water and the blood.” The “water”—the first and chiefest of material elements—which flowed from his side extended on the cross, and the “blood”—the first of the four humours whereby animated creatures live—which likewise flowed there from, and which he abundantly shed during his entire Passion, proved him to have a true body. He had, then, a true body and a soul (“spirit.”) These three witnesses, therefore, prove him to be a real man. They also prove him to be truly God also; since the very mode in which he expired convinced the Centurion at the foot of the cross of this; and his laying down his life freely, and reuniting, by an astonishing effort of his own power, his soul and body in his Resurrection, the circumstances, and mode; and time of which he predicted beforehand, also proves the same. “And these three are one,” that is (as is more clearly expressed in the Greek, εἰς τὸ ἔν εἰσιν, unto one); they conspire together and concur in one and the same testimony, viz., that Jesus Christ is both God and man.
The authenticity of this passage, from the words of verse 7, “in heaven,” to the words of verse 8, “on earth,” inclusively, has been disputed, and has given rise to several learned critical dissertations, for and against.
1 Jn 5:9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater. For this is the testimony of God, which is greater, because he hath testified of his Son.
But, if we admit the testimony of two or three men, as conclusive on any subject, how much more weight should we not attach to the undoubted testimony of God the Father. Now, the testimony of God has been pledged in favour of the divinity of his Son (Matthew, 3:17; 17:25, &c.)
By an argument, a minori ad magus, he sets forth, in a still clearer light the weight of the Divine testimony, which he adduces in verse 7. If the testimony of two or three witnesses, taken from among men, be regarded as final and decisive on any subject, “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall stand,” (Deut. 19:15), how much more authoritative must not the testimony of God the Father be, when joined to the concordant testimony of the two other Persons of the Adorable Trinity. Now, “this is the testimony of God, which is greater,” viz., that which “he has borne concerning his Son,” (which is greater, is not in the Greek). The ordinary Greek copies, in place of, “because he hath testified,” have, ην μεμαρτυρηκε, which he hath testified, as if he said the testimony of the Father, to which I refer, is that which regards the Son. When it was, that the Father had borne this testimony, has been already shown (verse 7). The Alexandrian and Vatican MSS. support the Vulgate, and have ὅτι μεμαρτυρηκεν.
1 Jn 5:10 He that believeth in the Son of God hath the testimony of God in himself. He that believeth not the Son maketh him a liar: because he believeth not in the testimony which God hath testified of his Son.
He that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God and the Word Incarnate, has within himself, and firmly assents to, the testimony of God the Father regarding him, and thus honours the Father; whereas, he that does not believe him to be the Son of God, insults and outrages the veracity of God, by making him a liar, since he does not believe the testimony which he has borne regarding his son, but rather rejects it, as if it were false.
In this verse is contained a tacit exhortation to embrace and retain the faith regarding Jesus Christ, which the Apostle has been proposing throughout this chapter, in refutation of the errors of the day, viz., that he is true God and true man, the Saviour and Mediator given by God to mankind—“he that believeth in the Son of God,” in the sense now explained, “hath the testimony of God in himself,” that is, firmly assents to what God testified, and thereby honours him by doing homage to his veracity. The words “of God,” are omitted in the Greek, they are, however, found in the Alexandrian MS. On the other hand, “he that believeth not the Son,” (in Greek, “he that believeth not God,” ὁ μὴ πιστευων τῳ Θεῷ the Alexandrian MS. favours the Vulgate); he that refuses to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, “maketh him a liar,” proclaims by this unbelief that God is a liar, having borne testimony to what is false, “because he believeth not in the testimony which God had testified.” He believes not what God has testified “of his Son,” viz., that Jesus is his Son, and the Saviour of the world; but rejects it as false, as if God were a liar.
1 Jn 5:11 And this is the testimony that God hath given to us eternal life. And this life is in his Son.
And a portion of the testimony of the Father regarding Jesus, is this, that he has given us, who believe in him, and obey his law, the life of grace here, which is a certain pledge of glory, and he will surely give us eternal life hereafter, and this life of grace and of glory is attributable to the saving merits of his Son.
“And this is the testimony,” that is, the following is a part of the testimony which the Father “hath testified of his Son,” (verse 10), or the result of our faith in this testimony is, “that God had given to us eternal life,” in its certain seed, viz., sanctifying grace, in hope here, and in the actual possession of it hereafter. “And this life is in his Son,” that is, his Son is the meritorious cause of the graces which God imparts to us here, and of our glory hereafter. The practical advantage, resulting to us from God’s testimony, concerning his Son, and from our faith in it, is life eternal, which is to be obtained through his merits; he, therefore, is justly entitled to be termed our Saviour.
1 Jn 5:12 He that hath the Son hath life. He that hath not the Son hath not life.
He that has the Son residing in him, owing to his lively operative faith, has within himself the fountain of all grace, and the source of eternal life. On the other hand, he that has not this lively operative faith in the Son of God, has no claim or title to eternal life.
The Apostle, here, again exhorts them to have faith in Jesus Christ, on the grounds both of its great utility, “hath life,” and of its necessity, “he that hath not,” &c., “hath not life.”
“He that hath the Son,” means, he that believes in the Son of God, and, of course, it is understood, obeys his law, thus having a faith that worketh by charity, hath life, has within himself the source, and a sure pledge of eternal life. Whereas, “he that hath not the Son of God,” either by not believing in him, or who, although he believes, still, obeys not his law, whose faith, therefore, is dead and inoperative, such a man “hath not life.” There is no other name under heaven, given to men, wherein they may be saved (Acts, 4:12), “no one comes to the Father but by me,” (John, 14). The Apostle thus particularly insists on the necessity of faith in Christ, owing to the errors of the time, which were specially directed against this fundamental point of belief.
1 Jn 5:13 These things I write to you that you may know that you have eternal life: you who believe in the name of the Son of God.
These things I have written to you, regarding the utility and necessity of faith in Christ, in order that you who believe in the Son of God, may know that you have here a sure claim to eternal life, and may thus be stimulated to perseverance in the same faith.
“These things,” which have been mentioned in the preceding verse, “I write to you,” (in Greek, ἔγραψα, I have written to you), “that you may know, that you have eternal life,” that is, a claim to eternal life, and a sure earnest here, which, however, is not inamissible; “you who believe in the name of his Son,” or, in his Son himself. Name, is used for the person named. In some Greek copies, these words, and that you may believe in the name of the Son of God, are added, and must mean, unless we fall into a useless tautology, that you may persevere in the same belief, which you hold at present. The same is, however, sufficiently implied in our version, since it was to encourage them to persevere in the faith, notwithstanding the allurements of pleasure and the pressure of persecution, that he writes these things. The words are wanting in the Alexandrian and Vatican MSS., which support the Vulgate reading. Similar are the words of the gospel: “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in his name.”—(John. 20:31).
Note: to help provide context I have included Fr. MacEvilly’s summaries of chapters 4 and 5. The notes then follow. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.
SUMMARY OF 1 JOHN 4~In this chapter, the Apostle cautions the faithful against embracing, too readily, any doctrine proposed to them, or against attaching themselves, without due consideration, to every teacher that may pretend to a divine inspiration; because, many false teachers even in his day, went forth to deceive the people (verse 1). He gives a special mark for distinguishing true doctrine or true teachers from the false, derived from the doctrine of Christ’s Incarnation (2, 3).
He attributes the stability of the faithful, and their resistance to the false teachers, to the grace and power of God dwelling in them (4). He next accounts why these false teachers have followers in the world, on the ground, that they please the world in their preaching (5). He assigns a general note, accommodated to all times, for distinguishing true and false teachers, viz., their rejecting or receiving the doctrine of the Church, and submitting to the authority of her chief Pastors (6).
The Apostle resumes the subject of brotherly love, from which he digressed (3:2, 3), and while exhorting them to love one another, shows the advantages of loving our neighbour (7), and the evils of not loving him; and how incompatible the hatred of our brother is with the love of God (8). He extols the charity of God for us, on account of the great sacrifice it involved (9), and on account of its utter gratuitousness, being wholly unmerited on our part (10); from this he draws a conclusion containing an exhortation to us, after the example of the great love of God for us (11). He says that, although no one ever saw God; and hence, no one could either love him as he deserves, or make him a return of love; still, God dwells in us intimately, if we love our brethren (12). God has given another proof of his love, and of his abiding in us, in the spiritual gifts bestowed on the Church (13).
From the testimony of the senses, he demonstrates the certainty of God having sent his Son to redeem us: this point, and the necessity of believing it, he dwells on particularly, owing to its great importance (14, 15). The Apostle again refers to the great charity of God in sending his Son to redeem us, and asserts that God is himself the increated charity, from which all created charity flows (16). He shows the effect of charity, viz., to give us confidence in the day of judgment (17). He shows how this charity excludes all servile or perplexing fear (18).
He next exhorts us to love God, and assigns the reason of this (19), and proves that no one can love God and hate his neighbour—first, because the thing is impossible (20); and, secondly, because the man who hates his neighbour, violates God’s precepts, and, therefore, cannot love God (21).
SUMMARY OD 1 JOHN 5~In this chapter, the Apostle continues his exhortation to brotherly love; he considers our brethren as sons of God, and under this respect, he exhorts us to love them, since our love of the Father involves the love of his sons (verse 1). He gives a mark for knowing that we love our neighbour, viz., if we love God himself and observe his commandments (2). The surest test of our loving God himself is to keep his commandments, and this duty is not too grievous to the sons of God, aided by his actual graces (3). He shows that His commandments are not grievous to the sons of God, since, every description of persons born of Him have conquered the world, and thus observed his precepts, and the instrumental cause of this victory is faith (4), viz., the faith in Christ, as God and man (5).
The Apostle next proves Christ to be Saviour of the world, of whom the Prophets predicted, that he would redeem mankind by water and blood,—and the Holy Ghost also, on divers occasions, testified that he was true God and true man (6). He next adduces three undoubted witnesses in heaven (7), and three witnesses on earth, to prove the Divinity and Humanity of Jesus Christ (8). He contrasts the superior excellence of the Divine testimony with the testimony of men, which is considered, in some cases, as final and decisive (9).
He tacitly exhorts and stimulates them to persevere in the faith of Christ, by pointing out the advantage of this faith, and the spiritual and eternal ruin which its rejection entails on us (10). One of the fruits of this true faith is, eternal life (11, 12). Another result of this faith is, a firm confidence of obtaining from God the objects of our lawful petitions (14, 15).
He takes occasion, from the mention of the confidence with which all true Christians should approach the throne of God, to recommend the exercise of charity in behalf of their sinning brethren. He tells them to pray confidently for such persons; for, in certain cases, their prayers will be attended to. He does not hold out the same encouragement in case our brethren may fall into sins of a certain description which he calls “sins unto death” (16). He points out the blessings exclusively enjoyed by the children of God—they are preserved from sin and the tyranny of the devil, and they only are thus favoured (18, 19). He shows the source of these blessings—Christ our Saviour (20). He cautions them against idol worship (21).
1 Jn 4:19 Let us therefore love God: because God first hath loved us.
Let us, then, love God, since he first loved us, even when we were his enemies, having sent his Son to redeem us.
“Let us, therefore, love God.” The Greek has not “therefore,” nor “God,” it runs thus: “let us love him, because he first loved us.” The Alexandrian MS. supports the Vulgate. According to our reading, the Apostle now addresses to us the same exhortation to love God, which, in verse 11, he addresses to us, regarding the love of our neighbour, grounded on the same reason, viz., the pure and gratuitous love of God for us, manifested, in a special manner, in the Incarnation of his Son—“Because he first loved us,” which shows the inseparable connexion that exists between the love of God and of our neighbour The Greek for, “let us love,” αγαπῶμεν, may be also rendered, we love.
1 Jn 4:20 If any man say: I love God, and hateth his brother; he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother whom he seeth, how can he love God whom he seeth not?
The best proof that we love God, is the love of our neighbour. If any person say, or even think in his mind, that he has the prescribed love for God, and at the same time hate his brother and exclude him from his affection; such a man is a liar and grossly deceives himself; for, he that loveth not the visible image of God, viz., his brother, whom he sees—whose wants he knows—with whom he shares the same common nature—on whom he depends for mutual aid and assistance—how can he love God whom he seeth not, who lies far beyond the reach of the senses? The thing is impossible.
In this verse, the Apostle points out the test which God requires of our love for himself, and he shows by an argument, a minore ad majus, that no one can love God and hate his brother.
“If any man say, I love God, and hateth his brother,” if he say it, either in word, or conceive it in his mind, such a man “is a liar,” he both says and conceives what is perfectly untrue; he imagines two things to co-exist, which are perfectly incompatible, “for he that loveth not his brother whom he sees,” (the Apostle puts loving not—when and where it is a matter of duty to manifest our love for our neighbour—and hating him, on the same footing), if a man cannot love the visible image of God, viz., “his brother whom he sees,” whom the knowledge of his wants, together with a sense of mutual dependence, as well as the participation of the same common nature, should induce him to love and relieve in his necessities; if, in one word, he cannot comply with the more easy, and to him, the more natural branch of the precept of charity, how can he discharge the more difficult, in loving “God whom he sees not,” who is placed far beyond the reach of the senses? And, although the supernatural love of our neighbour be not more easy than the love of God, since it is on account of God we love our neighbour, and hence, the supernatural love of him involves the love of God; still, as natural affection would appear to precede in the mind the love of charity, the man who has not natural affection proves that he is wholly indisposed for the love of charity.
1 Jn 4:21 And this commandment we have from God, that he who loveth God love also his brother.
Moreover, no one can love God and violate his commandments; now, it is a commandment of God, that we should love our brother. Hence, no one can hate his brother and love God.
Another reason why a man cannot love God and hate his neighbour, is that the best proof we can give of our love of God is, the observance of his commandments. “If you love me,” says our blessed Lord, “keep my commandments.” Now, it is one of God’s commandments, that we should love our brethren, as we love ourselves. The man, therefore, who hates his brother, or does not love him as he ought, that is to say, “in deed and truth,” or relieve him in his necessities, such a man violates the commandments; and, therefore, cannot love God.
1 Jn 5:1.Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God. And every one that loveth him who begot, loveth him also who is born of him.
Every one who believes that Jesus is the long expected Messiah promised by the prophets, is spiritually born of God by sanctifying grace, and every one who loves the Father, loves also his Son, whether natural or adopted.
The Apostle here inculcates brotherly love, on the ground, that our brethren are sons of God, but this does not exclude from our love such of them as are not sons of God; for, these are to be loved so as to be made sons of God and true brethren in Christ. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ,” that is, the long-expected Messiah, and of course reduces this faith to practice; “is born of God,” has received of him the new spiritual birth through sanctifying grace which imparts to him a new essence, and makes him “partaker of the divine nature,” (2 Peter, 1). Under the faith that “Jesus is the Christ,” is most probably contained the belief in all the other points of revealed doctrine; and the truths of Christ’s divine mission is prominently put forward, because called in question by the heretics of the day. “Is born of God;” this being an affirmative proposition, of course, only implies, that he is such, all other conditions being observed; “and every one that loveth him who begot,” that is, the Father, “loveth him also who is born of him,” viz., the Son, be he natural or adopted. Some persons restrict the words, “him who is born of him,” to Christ, the natural Son of God. It is better, however, to give it a general signification of an adage or maxim, in use among men, referring to fathers and sons generally.
1 Jn 5:2 In this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep his commandments.
And by this we can know that we love the children of God, viz., by our loving God himself and observing his commandments.
The Apostle, in this verse, applies to a particular case, viz., as regards the children of God, the adage employed in a general sense, as regarding all fathers and sons in the preceding. In the foregoing part of this Epistle, he gave it as a sign and argument of our loving God, if we loved our neighbour. Now, by an argument, e converso, he shows, that if we love God, we love our neighbour, the love of both being inseparable; for, the motive of both is the very same, as has been shown (4:12). It may often happen, that the love of God may be better known at one time, and the love of our neighbour at another, according to the nature of our immediate occupation; according as we may be engaged in acts immediately affecting the divine honour, or, in relieving human misery. “And keep his commandments;” this he adds to the words, “we love God,” lest any person should deceive himself by imagining that he can love God, without fulfilling his precepts.
1 Jn 5:3 For this is the charity of God: That we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not heavy.
And the surest test we can have that we love God is, the observance of his commandments, and these commandments, whether viewed in contrast with the heavy yoke of the ceremonial law of the Jews, or considered in themselves, are not onerous to the sons of God, aided by actual grace.
The best proof we can afford that we love God is to keep his commandments; for, whosoever sincerely loves God, will, influenced by that love, observe all his other precepts. And lest any one should be disheartened by the test of God’s love required by the Apostle, he says, “his commandments are not heavy,” which words are understood by some, in a relative sense, as compared with the heavy yoke of the Ceremonial Law of the Jews, “which neither they nor their fathers could bear,” and was abrogated by Christ; the precepts of the New Law are not heavy. Or, although many precepts in the New Law be repugnant to the feelings of corrupt nature (v.g.)—taking up our cross, renouncing ourselves, losing our lives, &c.; still, they are rendered light by God’s grace, and the stimulating examples of Christ and his saints. Moreover, it is likely, as appears from the entire context, that the Apostle refers to such as are sons of God, and in sanctifying grace, and love him; and to such, persons nothing is “heavy,” or burdensome. Hence, St. Paul calls all present tribulations, as compared with eternal bliss, “light and momentary” (2 Cor. 4:17). If the commandments of God are not “heavy,” none of them, therefore, is impossible, as has been taught by Jansenius.
1 Jn 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world. And this is the victory which overcameth the world: Our faith.
For, every description of persons, spiritually born of God, be they young or old, male or female, Jew or Gentile, have overcome the world, and renounced all its false maxims—to such, therefore, the commandments of God are not heavy—and the instrumental cause by which this victory over the world is obtained, is our faith.
“For whatsoever is born of God.” “Whatsoever,” that is, every description of persons born of God—and this favours the interpretation of the preceding verse, which understands it of all the sons of God—“overcometh the world,” with all its temptations, seductive maxims, and ruling principles, “the concupiscence of the flesh,” &c. (2:16). To such, therefore, the commandments of God are not heavy. He next points out the source of victory, viz., “our faith,” since faith alone is the foundation of all those graces which enable us to overcome the world; it alone obtains for us those necessary graces; without it no one can ever have the means necessary for overcoming the world.
Note: This post contains Homily numbers 6 and 7 and covers the first Mass readings for the Monday and Tuesday after Epiphany.
1 John 3:19–4:3..“And herein we know that we are of the truth, and assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart think ill of us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart think not ill of us, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we shall receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do in His sight those things that please Him. And this is His commandment, That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment. And he that keepeth His commandments shall dwell in Him, and He in him. And herein we know that He abideth in us, by the Holy Spirit which He hath given us. Dearly beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into this world. In this is known the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is the antichrist, of whom ye have heard that he should come; and even now already is he in this world.”
1. If ye remember, brethren, yesterday we closed our sermon at this sentence,1 John 3:18–20.
“>1 which without doubt behooved and does behoove to abide in your heart, seeing it was the last ye heard. “My little children, let us not love only in word and in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” Then he goes on: “And herein we know that we are of the truth, and assure our hearts before Him.”[Better, “judge ill,” i.e., condemn.—J. H. M.]
“>3 think ill of us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.” He had said, “Let us not love only in word and in tongue, but in work and in truth:” we are asked, In what work, or in what truth, is he known that loveth God, or loveth his brother? Above he had said up to what point charity is perfected: what the Lord saith in the Gospel, “Greater love than this hath no man, that one lay down his life for his friends,”John 15:13.
“>4 this same had the apostle also said: “As He laid down His life for us, we ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren.”1 John 3:16.
“>5 This is the perfection of charity, and greater can not at all be found. But because it is not perfect in all, and that man ought not to despair in whom it is not perfect, if that be already born which may be perfected: and of course if born, it must be nourished, and by certain nourishments of its own must be brought unto its proper perfection: therefore, we have asked concerning the commencement of charity, where it begins, and there have straightway found: “But whoso hath this world’s goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of the Father in him?”1 John 3:17.
“>6 Here then hath this charity, my brethren, its beginning: to give of one’s superfluities to him that hath need to him that is in any distress; of one’s temporal abundance to deliver his brother from temporal tribulation. Here is the first rise of charity. This, being thus begun, if thou shalt nourish with the word of God and hope of the life to come, thou wilt come at last unto that perfection, that thou shalt be ready to lay down thy life for thy brethren.
2. But, because many such things are done by men who seek other objects, and who love not the brethren; let us come back to the testimony of conscience. How do we prove that many such things are done by men who love not the brethren? How many in heresies and schisms call themselves martyrs! They seem to themselves to lay down their lives for their brethren. If for the brethren they laid down their lives, they would not separate themselves from the whole brotherhood. Again, how many there are who for the sake of vainglory bestow much, give much, and seek therein but the praise of men and popular glory, which is full of windiness, and possesses no stability! Seeing, then, there are such, where shall be the proof of brotherly charity? Seeing he wished it to be proved, and hath said by way of admonition, “My little children, let us not love only in word and in tongue; but in deed and in truth;” we ask, in what work, in what truth? Can there be a more manifest work than to give to the poor? Many do this of vainglory, not of love. Can there be a greater work than to die for the brethren? This also, many would fain be thought to do, who do it of vainglory to get a name, not from bowels of love. It remains, that that man loves his brother, who before God, where God alone seeth, assures his own heart, and questions his. heart whether he does this indeed for love of the brethren; and his witness is that eye which penetrates the heart, where man cannot look. Therefore Paul the Apostle, because he was ready to die for the brethren, and said, “I will myself be spent for your souls,”2 Cor. 12:15.
“>1 yet, because God only saw this in his heart, not the mortal men to whom he spake, he saith to them, “But to me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you or at man’s bar.”1 Cor. 4:3.
“>2 And the same apostle shows also in a certain place, that these things are oft done of empty vainglory, not upon the solid ground of love: for speaking of the praises of charity he saith, “If I distribute all my goods to the poor. and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”1 Cor. 13:3.
Is it possible for a man to do this without charity? It is. For they that have divided unity, are persons that have not charity. Seek there, and ye shall see many giving much to the poor; shall see others prepared to welcome death, insomuch that where there is no persecutor they cast themselves headlong: these doubtless without charity do this. Let us come back then to conscience, of which the apostle saith: “For our glorying is this, the testimony of our conscience.”2 Cor. 1:12.
Let us come back to conscience, of which the same saith, “But let each prove his own work, and then he shall have glorying in himself and not in another.”Gal. 6:4.
Therefore, let each one of us “prove his own work,” whether it flow forth from the vein of charity, whether it be from charity as the root that his good works sprout forth as branches. “But let each prove his own work, and then he shall have glorying in himself and not in another,” not when another’s tongue bears witness to him, but when his own conscience bears it.
3. This it is then that he enforces here. “In this we know that we are of the truth, when in deed and in truth” we love, “not only in words and in tongue: andPersuademus.
“>7 What meaneth, “before Him?” Where He seeth. Whence the Lord Himself in the Gospel saith: “Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward with your Father which is in heaven.”Matt. 6:1–3. Infra, Hom. viii. 19, Serm. cxlix. 10–13.
And what meaneth, “Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:” except that the right hand means a pure conscience, the left hand the lust of the world?Comp. de Serm. Dom. in Monte, ii. 6–9, where having discussed and rejected several other explanations, St. Augustin rests in the interpretation, that “the left hand” denotes the carnal will looking aside to earthly rewards and the praise of men: “the right hand,” the singleness of heart which looks straight forward to the will and commandment of God. Serm. cxlix. 15; Enarr. in Psa. 65, sec. 2.
Many through lust of the world do many wonderful things: the left hand worketh, not the right. The right hand ought to work, and without knowledge of the left hand, so that lust of the world may not even mix itself therewith when by love we work aught that is good. And where do we get to know this? Thou art before God: question thine heart, see what thou hast done, and what therein was thine aim; thy salvation, or the windy praise of men. Look within, for man cannot judge whom he cannot see. If “we assure our heart,” let it be “before Him.” Because “if our heart think ill of us,” i.e. accuse us within, that we do not the thing with that mind it ought to be done withal, “greater is God than our heart, and knoweth all things.” Thou hidest thine heart from man: hide it from God if thou canst! How shalt thou hide it from Him, to whom it is said by a sinner, fearing and confessing, “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? and from Thy face whither shall I flee?”Ps. 139:7, 8.
He sought a way to flee, to escape the judgment of God, and found none. For where is God not? “If I shall ascend,” saith he, “into heaven, Thou art there: if I shall descend into hell, Thou art there.” Whither wilt thou go? whither wilt thou flee? Wilt thou hear counsel? If thou wouldest flee from Him, flee to Him. Flee to Him by confessing, not from Him by hiding: hide thou canst not, but confess thou canst. Say unto Him, “Thou art my place to flee unto;”Ps. 32:7.
and let love be nourished in thee, which alone leadeth unto life. Let thy conscience bear thee witness that thy love is of God. If it be of God, do not wish to display it before men; because neither men’s praises lift thee unto heaven, nor their censures put thee down from thence. Let Him see, who crowneth thee: be He thy witness, by whom as judge thou art crowned. “Greater is God than our heart, and knoweth all things.”
4. “Beloved, if our heart think not ill of us, we have confidence towards God:”1 John 3:21.
“>2—What meaneth, “If our heart think not ill”? If it make true answer to us, that we love and that there isGermana.
“>3 genuine love in us: not feigned but sincere; seeking a brother’s salvation, expecting no emolument from a brother, but only his salvation—“we have confidence toward God: and whatsoever we ask, we shall receive of Him, because we keep His commandments.”1 John 3:21, 22.
—Therefore, not in the sight of men, but where God Himself seeth, in the heart—“we have confidence,” then, “towards God: and whatsoever we ask, we shall receive of Him:” howbeit, because we keep His commandments. What are “His commandments”? Must we be always repeating? “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another.”John 13:34.
It is charity itself that he speaks of, it is this that he enforces. Whoso then shall have brotherly charity, and have it before God, where God seeth, and his heart being interrogated under righteous examination make him none other answer than that the genuine root of charity is there for good fruits to come from; that man hath confidence with God, and whatsoever he shall ask, he shall receive of Him, because he keepeth His commandments.
5. Here a question meets us: for it is not this or that man, or thou or I that come in question,—for if I have asked any thing of God and receive it not, any person may easily say of me, “He hath not charity:” and of any man soever of this present time, this may easily be said; and let any think what he will, a man of man:—not we, but those come more in question, those men of whom it is on all hands known that they were saints when they wrote, and that they are now with God. Where is the man that hath charity, if Paul had it not, who said, “Our mouth is open unto you, O ye Corinthians, our heart is enlarged; ye are not straitened in us:”2 Cor. 6:11, 12; id.12:15.
“>6 who said, “I will myself be spent for your souls:” and so great grace was in him, that it was manifested that he had charity. And yet we find that he asked and did not receive. What say we, brethren? It is a question: look attentively to God: it is a great question, this also. Just as, where it was said of sin, “He that is born of God sinneth not:” we found this sin to be the violating of charity, and that this was the thing strictly intended in that place: so too we ask now what it is that he would say. For if thou look but to the words, it seems plain: if thou take the examples into the account, it is obscure. Than the words here nothing can be plainer. “And whatsoever we ask, we shall receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” “Whatsoever we ask,” saith he, “we shall receive of Him.” He hath put us sorely to straits. In the other place also he would put us to straits, if he meant all sin: but then we found room to expound it in this, that he meant it of a certain sin, not of all sin; howbeit o[ a sin which “whosoever is born of God committeth not:” and we found that this same sin is none other than the violation of charity. We have also a manifest example from the Gospel, when the Lord saith, “If I had not come, they had not had sin.”John 15:22.
“>7 How? Were the Jews innocent when He came to them, because He so speaks? Then if He had not come, would they have had no sin? Then did the Physician’s presence make one sick, not take away the fever? What madman even would say this? He came not but to cure and heal the sick. Therefore when He said, “If I had not come, they had not had sin,” what would He have to be understood, but a certain sin in particular? For there was a sin which the Jews would not have had. What sin? That they believed not on Him, that when he had come they despised Him. As then He there said “sin,” and it does not follow that we are to understand all sin, but a certain sin: so here also not all sin, lest it be contrary to that place where he saith, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us:”1 John 1:8.
but a certain sin in particular, that is, the violation of charity. But in this place he hath bound us more tightly: “If we shall ask,” he hath said, “if our heart accuse us not, and tell us in answer, in the sight of God, that true love is in us;” “Whatsoever we ask, we shall receive of Him.”
6. Well now: I have already told you, my beloved brethren, let no man turn toward us. For what are we? or what are ye? What, but the Church of God which is known to all? And, if it please Him, in that Church are we; and those of us who by love abide in it, there let us persevere, if we would show the love we have. But then the apostle Paul, what evil are we to think of him? He not love the brethren! He not have within himself the testimony of his conscience in the sight of God! Paul not have within him that root of charity whence all good fruits proceeded! What madman would say this? Well then: where find we that the apostle asked and did not receive? He saith himself: “Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to buffet me. For which thing I besought the Lord thrice, that He would take it from me. And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for strength is made perfect in weakness.”2 Cor. 12:7–9.
“>1 Lo, he was not heard in his prayer that the “angel of Satan” should be taken from him. But wherefore? Because it was not good for him. He was heard, then, for salvation, when he was not heard according to his wish. Know, my beloved, a greatSacramentum.
“>2 mystery: which we urge upon your consideration on purpose that it may not slip from you in your temptations. The saints are in all things heard unto salvation: they are always heard in that which respects their eternal salvation; it is this that they desire: because in regard of this, their prayers are always heard.
7. But let us distinguish God’s different ways of hearing prayer. For we find some not heard for their wish, heard for salvation: and again some we find heard for their wish, not heard for salvation. Mark this difference, hold fast this example of a man not heard for his wish but heard for salvation. Hear the apostle Paul; for what is the hearing of prayer unto salvation, God Himself showed him: “Sufficient for thee,” saith He, “is my grace; for strength is perfected in weakness.” Thou hast besought, hast cried, hast thrice cried: the very cry thou didst raise once for all I heard, I turned not away mine ears from thee; I know what I should do: thou wouldest have it taken away, the healing thing by which thou art burned; I know the infirmity by which thou art burdened. Well then: here is a man who was heard for salvation, while as to his will he was not heard. Where find we persons heard for their will, not heard for salvation? Do we find, think we, some wicked, some impious man, heard of God for his will, not heard for salvation? If I put to you the instance of some man, perchance thou wilt say to me, “It is thou that callest him wicked, for he was righteous; had he not been righteous, his prayer would not have been heard by God.” The instance I am about to allege is of one, of whose iniquity and impiety none can doubt. The devil himself: he asked for Job, and received.Job. 1:11, 12.
“>3 Have ye not here also heard concerning the devil, that “he that committeth sin is of the devil”?1 John 3:3, 8.
“>4 Not that the devil created, but that the sinner imitates. Is it not said of him, “He stood not in the truth”?John 8:44.
Is not even he “that old serpent,” who, through the woman pledged the first man in the drink of poison?Gen. 3:1–6.
Who even in the case of Job, kept for him his wife, that by her the husband might be, not comforted, but tempted? The devil asked for a holy man, to tempt him; and he received: the apostle asked that the thorn in the flesh might be taken from him, and he received not. But the apostle was more heard than the devil. For the apostle was heard for salvation, though not for his wish: the devil was heard for his wish, but for damnation. For that Job was yielded up to him to be tempted, was in order that by his standing the proof the devil should be tormented. But this, my brethren, we find not only in the Old Testament books, but also in the Gospel. The demons besought the Lord, when He expelled them from the man, that they might be permitted to go into the swine. Should the Lord not have power to tell them not to approach even those creatures? For, had it not been His will to permit this, they were not about to rebel against the King of heaven and earth. But with a view to a certain mystery, with a certainCerta dispensatione.
ulterior meaning, He let the demons go into the swine: to show that the devil hath dominion in them that lead the life of swine.Luke 8:32. Dimisit, not misit: so, Expulsa et in porcos permissa dæmonia: “the demons cast out from the man and allowed to go into the swine.” Quæst. Evang. ii. 13. Quod in porcos in montibus pascentes ire permissa sunt, &c. “That they were allowed to go into the swine feeding upon the mountains, betokens unclean and proud men over whom through the worship of idols the demons have dominion.”
Demons then were heard in their request; was the apostle not heard? Or rather (what is truer) shall we say, The apostle was heard, the demons not heard? Their will was effected; his weal was perfected.
8. Agreeably with this, we ought to understand that God, though He give not to our will, doth give for our salvation. For suppose the thing thou have asked be to thine hurt, and the Physician knows that it is to thine hurt; what then? It is not to be said that the physician does not give ear to thee, when, perhaps, thou askest for cold water, and if it is good for thee, he gives it immediately, if not good, he gives it not. Had he no ears for thy request, or rather, did he give ear for thy weal, even when he gainsaid thy will? Then let there be in you charity, my brethren; let it be in you, and then set your minds at rest: even when the thing ye ask for is not given you, your prayer is granted, only, ye know it not. Many have been given into their own hands, to their own hurt: of whom the apostle saith, “God gave them up to their own hearts’ lusts.”Rom. 1:24.
“>1 Some man hath asked for a great sum of money; he hath received, to his hurt. When he had it not, he had little to fear; no sooner did he come to have it, than he became a prey to the more powerful. Was not that man’s request granted to his own hurt, who would needs have that for which he should be sought after by the robber, whereas, being poor, none sought after him? Learn to beseech God that ye may commit it to the Physician to do what He knows best. Do thou confess the disease, let Him apply the means of healing. Do thou only hold fast charity. For He will needs cut, will needs burn; what if thou criest out, and art not spared for thy crying under the cutting, under the burning and the tribulation, yet He knows how far the rottenness reaches.Enarr. in Ps. 130. sec. 1; Serm. cccliv. 7.
“>2 Thou wouldest have Him even now take off His hands, and He considers only the deepness of the sore; He knows how far to go. He does not attend to thee for thy will, but he does attend to thee for thy healing. Be ye sure, then, my brethren, that what the apostle saith is true: “For we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered: for He maketh intercession for the saints.”Rom. 8:26, 27.
How is it said, “The Spirit itself intercedeth for the saints,” but as meaning the charity which is wrought in thee by the Spirit? For therefore saith the same apostle: “The charity of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.”Rom. 5:5.
It is charity that groans, it is charity that prays: against it He who gave it cannot shut His ears. Set your minds at rest: let charity; ask, and the ears of God are there. Not that which thou wishest is done, but that is done which is advantageous. Therefore, “whatever we ask,” saith he, “we shall receive of Him,” I have already said, If thou understand it to mean, “for salvation,” there is no question: if not for salvation, there is a question, and a great one, a question that makes thee an accuser of the apostle Paul. “Whatever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do these things that are pleasing in His sight:” within, where He seeth.
9. And what are those commandments? “This,” saith he, “is His commandment, That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another.”1 John 3:23.
“>5 Ye see that this is the commandment: ye see that whoso doeth aught against this commandment, doeth the sin from which “every one that is born of God” is free. “As He gave us commandment:” that we love one another. “And he that keepeth His commandment”1 John 3:24.
“>6—ye see that none other thing is bidden us than that we love one another—“And he that keepeth His commandment shall abideManebit.
in Him, and He in him. “And in this we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us. Is it not manifest that this is what the Holy Ghost works in man, that there should be in him love and charity? Is it not manifest, as the Apostle Paul saith, that “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given us”?Rom. 5:5.
For [our apostle] was speaking of charity, and was saying that we ought in the sight of God to interrogate our own heart. “But if our heart think not ill of us:” i.e. if it confess that from the love of our brother is done in us whatever is done in any good work. And then besides, in speaking of the commandment, he says this: “This is His commandment, That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” “And he that doeth His commandment abideth[Abideth. R. V.—J. H. M.]
If in truth thou find that thou hast charity, thou hast the Spirit of God in order to understand: for a very necessary thing it is.
10. In the earliest times, “the Holy Ghost fell upon them that believed: and they spake with tongues,” which they had not learned, “as the Spirit gave them utterance.”Acts 2:4.
“>11 These were signs adapted to the time. For there behooved to be that betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues, to shew that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That thing was done for a betokening, and it passed away. In the laying on of hands now, that persons may receive the Holy Ghost, do we look that they should speak with tongues? Or when we laid the hand on these infants,The neophytes.
“>1 did each one of you look to see whether they would speak with tongues, and, when he saw that they did not speak with tongues, was any of you so wrong-minded as to say, These have not received the Holy Ghost; for, had they received, they would speak with tongues as was the case in those times? If then the witness of the presence of the Holy Ghost be not now given through these miracles, by what is it given, by what does one get to know that he has received the Holy Ghost? Let him question his own heart. If he love his brother, the Spirit of God dwelleth in him. Let him see, let him prove himself before the eyes of God, let him see whether there he in him the love of peace and unity, the love of the Church that is spread over the whole earth. Let him not rest only in his loving the brother whom he has before his eyes, for we have many brethren whom we do not see, and in the unity of the Spirit we are joined to them. What marvel that they are not with us? We are in one body, we have one Head, in heaven. Brethren, our two eyes do not see each other; as one may say, they do not know each other. But in the charity of the bodily frame do they not know each other? For, to shew you that in the charity which knits them together they do know each other; when both eyes are open, the right may not rest on some object, on which the left shall not rest likewise. Direct the glance of the right eye without the other, if thou canst. Together they meet in one object, together they are directed to one object: their aim is one, their places diverse. If then all who with thee love God have one aim with thee, heed not that in the body thou are separated in place; the eyesight of the heart ye have alike fixed on the light of truth. Then if thou wouldest know that thou hast received the Spirit, question thine heart: lest haply thou have the sacrament, and have not the virtue of the sacrament. Question thine heart. If love of thy brethren be there, set thy mind at rest. There cannot be love without the Spirit of God: since Paul cries, “The love of God is shed abroad in your hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.”Rom. 5:5.
11. “Beloved, believe not every spirit.”1 John 4:1.
“>3 Because he had said, “In this we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us.” But how this same Spirit is known, mark this: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits whether they be from God.” And who is he that proves the spirits? A hard matter has he put to us, my brethren! It is well for us that he should tell us himself how we are to discern them. He is about to tell us: fear not: but first see; mark: see that hereby is expressed the very thing that vain hereticsDonatists.
“>4 taunt us withal. Mark, see what he says, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits whether they be from God.” The Holy Spirit is spoken of in the Gospel by the name of water; where the Lord “cried and said, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”John 7:37–39.
But the evangelist has expounded of what He said this: for he goes on to say, “But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believed on Him should receive.” Wherefore did not the Lord baptize many. But what saith he? “For the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” Then seeing those had baptism, and had not yet received the Holy Ghost, whom on the day of Pentecost the Lord sent from heaven, the glorifying of the Lord was first waited for, so that the Spirit might be given. Even before He was glorified, and before He sent the Spirit, He yet invited men to prepare themselves for the receiving of the water of which He said, “Whoso thirsteth, let him come and drink;” and, “He that believeth on me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” What meaneth, “Rivers of living water”? What is that water? Let no man ask me; ask the Gospel. “But this,” saith it, “He said of the Spirit, which they should receive that should believe on Him.” Consequently, the water of the sacrament is one thing: another, the water which betokens the Spirit of God. The water of the sacrament is visible: the water of the Spirit invisible. That washes the body, and betokens that which is done in the soul. By this Spirit the soul itself is cleansed and fed. This is the Spirit of God, which heretics and all that cut themselves off from the Church, cannot have. And whosoever do not openly cut themselves off, but by iniquity are cut off, and being within, whirl about as chaff and are not grain; these have not this Spirit. This Spirit is denoted by the Lord under the name of water: and we have heard from this epistle, “Believe not every spirit;” and those words of Solomon bear witness, “From strange water keep thee far.”Prov. 9:18; LXX.
What meaneth, “water”? Spirit. Does water always signify spirit? Not always: but in some places it signifies the Spirit, in some places it signifies baptism, in some places signifies peoples,Rev. 17:15.
in some places signifies counsel: thus thou findest it said in a certain place, “Counsel is a fountain of life to them that possess it.”Prov. 16:22.
So then, in divers places of the Scriptures, the term “water” signifies divers things. Now however by the term water ye have heard the Holy Spirit spoken of, not by an interpretation of ours but by witness of the Gospel, where it saith, “But this said He of the Spirit, which they should receive that should believe on Him.” If then by the name of water is signified the Holy Spirit, and this epistle saith to us, “Believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they be of God;” let us understand that of this it is said, “From strange water keep thee far, and from a strange fountain drink thou not.”Prov. 9:18; LXX.
What meaneth, “From a strange fountain drink thou not”? A strange spirit believe thou not.
12. There remains then the test by which it is to be proved to be the Spirit of God. He has indeed set down a sign, and this, belike, difficult: let us see, however. We are to recur to that charity; it is that which teacheth us, because it is the unction. However, what saith he here? “Prove the spirits, whether they be from God: because many false prophets have gone out into this world.” Now there are all heretics and all schismatics. How then am I to prove the spirit? He goes on: “In this is knownCognoscitur, so Vulg. representing the reading of some mss.γινώσκεται. But the best authorities have γινώσκετε.
“>5 the Spirit of God.” Wake up the ears of your heart. We were at a loss; we were saying, Who knows? who discerns? Behold, he is about to tell the sign. “Hereby is known the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is the antichrist, of whom ye have heard that he should come; and even now already is he in this world.”1 John 4:2, 3.
“>6 Our ears, so to say, are on the alert for discerning of the spirits; and we have been told something, such that thereby we discern not a whit the more. For what saith he? “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, is of God.” Then is the spirit that is among the heretics, of God, seeing they “confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh”? Aye, here perchance they lift themselves up against us, and say: Ye have not the Spirit from God; but we confess “that Jesus Christ came in the flesh:” but the apostle here hath said that those have not the Spirit of God, who confess not “that Jesus Christ came in the flesh.” Ask the Arians: they confess “that Jesus Christ came in the flesh:” ask the Eunomians; they confess “that Jesus Christ came in the flesh:” ask the Macedonians; they confess “that Jesus Christ came in the flesh:” put the question to the Cataphryges; they confess “that Jesus Christ came in the flesh:” put it to the Novatians; they confess “that Jesus Christ came in the flesh.” Then have all these heresies the Spirit of God? Are they then no false prophets? Is there then no deception there, no seduction there? Assuredly they are antichrists; for “they went out from us, but were not of us.”
13. What are we to do then? By what to discern them? Be very attentive; let us go together in heart, and knock. Charity herself keeps watch; for it is none other than she that shall knock, she also that shall open: anon ye shall understand in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Already ye have heard that it was said above, “Whoso denieth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, the same is an antichrist.” There also we asked, Who denies? because neither do we deny, nor do those deny. And we found that some do in their deeds deny;Supra, Hom. iii. 7–9.
“>7 and we brought testimony from the apostle, who saith, “For they confess that they know God, but in their deeds deny Him.”Tit. 1:16.
“>8 Thus then let us now also make the enquiry in the deeds not in the tongue. What is the spirit that is not from God? That “which denieth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” And what is the spirit that is from God? That “which confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” Who is he that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh? Now, brethren, to the mark! let us look to the works, not stop at the noise of the tongue. Let us ask why Christ came in the flesh, so we get at the persons who deny that He is come in the flesh. If thou stop at tongues, why, thou shalt hear many a heresy confessing that Christ is come in the flesh: but the truth convicteth those men. Wherefore came Christ in the flesh? Was He not God? Is it not written of Him, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God?”John 1:1.
Was it not He that did feed angels, is it not He that doth feed angels? Did He not in such sort come hither, that He departed not thence? Did He not in such sort ascend, that He forsook not us? Wherefore then came He in the flesh? Because it behooved us to have the hope of resurrection shown unto us. God He was, and in flesh He came; for God could not die, flesh could die; He came then in the flesh, that He might die for us. But how died He for us? “Greater charity than this hath no man, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”John 15:13.
Charity therefore brought Him to the flesh. Whoever therefore has not charity denies that Christ is come in the flesh. Here then do thou now question all heretics. Did Christ come in the flesh? “He did come; this I believe, this I confess.” Nay, this thou deniest. “How do I deny? Thou hearest that I say it!” Nay, I convict thee of denying it. Thou sayest with the voice, deniest with the heart; sayest in words, deniest in deeds. “How,” sayest thou, “do I deny in deeds?” Because the end for which Christ came in the flesh, was, that He might die for us. He died for us, because therein He taught much charity. “Greater charity than this hath no man, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Thou hast not charity, seeing thou for thine own honor dividest unity. Therefore by this understand ye the spirit that is from God. Give the earthen vessels a tap, put them to the proof, whether haply they be cracked and give a dull sound: see whether they ring full and clear, see whether charity be there. Thou takest thyself away from the unity of the whole earth, thou dividest the Church by schisms, thou rendest the Body of Christ. He came in the flesh, to gather in one, thou makest an outcry to scatter abroad. This then is the Spirit, of God, which saith that Jesus is come in the flesh, which saith, not in tongue but in deeds, which saith, not by making a noise but by loving. And that spirit is not of God, which denies that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh; denies, here also, not in tongue but in life; not in words but in deeds. It is manifest therefore by what we may know the brethren. Many within are in a sort within; but none without except he be indeed without.
14. Nay, and that ye may know that he has referred the matter to deeds, he saith, “And every spirit, qui solvit Christum, which does away with Christ that He came in the flesh,Qui solvit Christum in carne venisse. Edd. Erasm. Lugd. and Ven. omit in carne venisse, but the Louvain editors attest that they are found in the mss. of Augustin. Ed. Par. (Bodl. mss. ext. Laud. 116, a late one, have them). Infra, Hom. vii. 2. Omnis qui solvit J.C., et negat eum in carne venisse. The printed Vulg. has, Omnis spiritus qui solvit Christum ex Deo non est. In Serm. 182 and 183, preached some time later on this text, Aug. reads it, Omnis sp. qui non confitetur (and, qui negat) Jesum Christum in carne venisse. S. Cypr. Test. adv. Jud. ii. 18, qui autem negat in carne venisse, de Deo non est. S. Iren. iii. 18, in the ancient Latin version, Et omnis sp. qui solvit Jesum Christum, non est ex Deo. Tertull. adv. Marcion. v. 16, praecursores antichristi spiritus, negantes Christum in carne venisse et solventes Jesum, sc. in Deo creatore. De jejun. adv. Psych. 1, non quod alium Deum prædicent.…,nec quod Jesum Christum solvant. De carne Christi, 24. Qui negat Christum in carne venisse, hic antichristus est: where he says, the apostle “by clearly marking one Christ, shakes those who argue for a Christ multiform, making Christ one, Jesus another, &c.” Leo Ep. x. 5. ad Flavian, seems to have read in the Gr. διαιροῦν. Other Latin authorities for the reading qui solvit are cited by Mill. in loc. Socrates H. E. vii. 32, affirms, that in the old mss. the reading was πᾶν πνεῦμα ὃ λύχει τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἀπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ οὐκ ἒστι: adding, that the expression was expunged from the old copies by those who would fain separate the Godhead from the Man of the Incarnation, οἰ χωρίζειν ἀπὸ τῆς οἰκονομίας ἀνθρώπου βουλόμενοι τὴν θεότητα. (Valesius in loc. suggests that Socrates may have read in his mss.ὃ λύει τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἀπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ οὐκ ἔστι: Matthäi, that he wrote, ό μὴ ὁμολογει̂, τούτεστιν, ὂ λύει.) But no extant mss. acknowledge the reading: and the Greek Fathers headed by S. Polycarp ad Philipp. sec. 7 (πᾶς ὃς ἂν μὴ ὁμολογῇ Ἰ.Χ. ἐν σαρκἱ ἐληλυθέαι,) bear witness to the received text: only Cyril. de recta Fide ad Reginas being cited by Mill for the reading λύει. This reading may (as Mill has suggested, comp. Grot. in loc.) have originated in a marginal gloss, directed against the Gnostics. Thus in a scholion edited by Matthäi it is said: “For the precursors of Antichrist were the heresies, whose characteristic mark it is by the means of false prophets and spirits λύειν τὸν Ιησου̂ν, to unmake Jesus, by not confessing that He is come in the flesh.”
“>2 is not of God.” A doing away in deeds is meant. What has he shown thee? “That denieth:” in that he saith, “doeth away” (or, “unmaketh”). He came to gather in one, thou comest to unmake. Thou wouldest pull Christ’s members asunder. How can it be said that thou deniest not that Christ is come in the flesh, who rendest as under the Church of God which He hath gathered together? Therefore thou goest against Christ; thou art an antichrist. Be thou within, or be thou without, thou art an antichrist: only, when thou art within, thou art hidden; when thou art without, thou art made manifest. Thou unmakest Jesus and deniest that He came in the flesh; thou art not of God. Therefore He saith in the Gospel: “Whoso shall breakSolverit.
“>3 one of these least commandments, and shall teach so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.”Matt. 5:19.
What is this breaking? What this teaching? A breaking in the deeds and a teaching as it were in words.S. Aug. de Serm. Dom. in Monte, i. 21. Qui ergo solverit et docuerit homines … i.e., secundum id quod solvit, non secundum id quod invenit et legit … Qui autem fecerit et docuerit sic (οὒτως for οὒτος) h. e. secundum id quod non solvit. Here he takes docuerit sic in the sense of teaching men by and agreeably with the practice of the teacher, which is that of breaking the commandments: “whosoever shall break one of these least commandments and in that way shall teach men,” solverit et secundum suam solutionem docuerit. But supra, Hom. in Ev. cxxii. 9, he seems to make it parallel with Matt. 23:3, “they say and do not:” qui docent bona loquendo quæ solvunt male vivendo. Comp. Serm. cclii. 3. His full meaning appears to be, that together with the good teaching in words, there goes a sort of teaching (quasi docet) not in words but in the deeds.
“Thou that preachest men should not steal, dost thou steal?”Rom. 2:21.
Therefore he that steals breaks or undoes the commandment in his deed, and as it were teaches so: “he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven,” i.e. in the Church of this present time.So in Serm. cclii. 3: de Civ. D. xx. 9; but otherwise explained above, Tract. cxxii. 9.
Of him it is said, “What they say do ye; but what they do, that do not ye.Matt. 23:3.
But he that shall do, and shall teach so, shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” From this, that He has here said, fecerit, “shall do,” while in opposition to this He has there said solverit, meaning non fecerit, “shall not do, and shall teach so”—to break, then, is, not to do—what doth He teach us, but that we should interrogate men’s deeds, not take their words upon trust? The obscurity of the things compels us to speak much at length, chiefly that that which the Lord deigns to reveal may be brought within reach even of the brethren of slower understanding, because all were bought by the blood of Christ. And I am afraid the epistle itself will not be finished during these days as I promised: but as the Lord will, it is better to reserve the remainder, than to overload your hearts with too much food.
1 John 4:4–12. “Now are ye of God, little children, and have overcome him: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in this world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. From this know we the spirit of truth, and [the spirit] of error. Dearly, beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God in us, that God sent His only-begotten Son into this world, that we may live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the AtonerLitatorem.
“>3 for our sins. Dearly beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time.”
“>4 For where they went about during forty years, the journey itself is made up of a very few stations, and is known to all. They were retarded because they were in training, not because they were forsaken. That therefore which God promiseth us is ineffable sweetness and a good,Isa. 64:4.
“>5 as the Scripture saith, and as ye have often heard by us rehearsed, which “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man.”1 Cor. 2:9.
But by temporal labors we are exercised, and by temptations of this present life are trained. Howbeit, if ye would not die of thirst in this wilderness, drink charity. It is the fountain which God has been pleased to place here that we faint not in the way: and we shall more abundantly drink thereof, when we are come to our own land. The Gospel has just been read; now to speak of the very words with which the lesson ended, what other thing heard ye but concerning charity? For we have made an agreement with our God in prayer, that if we would that He should forgive us our sins, we also should forgive the sins which may have been committed against us.Matt. 6:12.
Now that which forgiveth is none other than charity. Take away charity from the heart; hatred possesseth it, it knows not how to forgive. Let charity be there, and she fearlessly forgiveth, not being straitened. And this whole epistle which we have undertaken to expound to you, see whether it commendeth aught else than this one thing, charity. Nor need we fear lest by much speaking thereof it come to be hateful. For what is there to love, if charity come to be hateful? It is by charity that other things come to be rightly loved; then how must itself be loved! Let not that then which ought never to depart from the heart, depart from the tongue.
2. “Now,” saith he, “are ye of God little children, and have overcome him:”1 John 4:4.
“>1 whom but Antichrist? For above he had said, “Whosoever unmakethSolvit.
“>2 Jesus Christ and denieth that He is come in the flesh is not of God.” Now we expounded, if ye remember, that all those who violate charity deny Jesus Christ to have come in the flesh. For Jesus had no need to come but because of charity: as indeed the charity we are commending is that which the Lord Himself commendeth in the Gospel, “Greater love than this can no man have, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”John 15:13.
How was it possible for the Son of God to lay down his life for us without putting on flesh in which He might die? Whosoever therefore violates charity, let him say what he will with his tongue, his life denies that Christ is come in the flesh; and this is an antichrist, wherever he may be, whithersoever he have come in. But what saith the apostle to them who are citizens of that country for which we sigh? “Ye have overcome him.” And whereby have they overcome? “Because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in this world.” Lest they should attribute the victory to their own strength, and by arrogance of pride should be overcome, (for whomsoever the devil makes proud, he overcomes,) wishing them to keep humility, what saith he? “Ye have overcome him.” Every man now, at hearing this saying, “Ye have overcome,” lifts up the head, lifts up the neck, wishes himself to be praised. Do not extol thyself; see who it is that in thee hath overcome. Why hast thou overcome? “Because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” Be humble, bear thy Lord; be thou the beast for Him to sit on. Good is it for thee that He should rule, and He guide. For if thou have not Him to sit on thee, thou mayest lift up the neck, mayest strike out the heels: but woe to thee without a ruler, for this liberty sendeth thee among the wild beasts to be devoured!
“>4 Who? The antichrists. Ye have already heard who they be. And if ye be not such, ye know them, but whosoever is such, knows not. “These are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.” Who are they that “speak of the world”? Mark who are against charity. Behold, ye have heard the Lord saying, “If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your trespasses. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”Matt. 6:14, 15.
“>5 It is the sentence of Truth: or if it be not Truth that speaks, gainsay it. If thou art a Christian and believest Christ, He hath said, “I am the truth.” This sentence is true, is firm. Now hear men that “speak of the world.” “And wilt thou not avenge thyself? And wilt thou let him say that he has done this to thee? Nay: let him feel that he has to do with a man.” Every day are such things said. They that say such things, “of the world speak they, and the world heareth them.” None say such things but those that love the world, and by none are such things heard but by those who love the world. And ye have heard that to love the world and neglect charity is to deny that Jesus came in the flesh. Or say if the Lord Himself in the flesh did that? if, being buffeted, He willed to be avenged? if, hanging on the cross, He did not say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”?Luke 23:34.
But if He threatened not, who had power; why dost thou threaten, why art thou inflated with anger, who art under power of another? He died because it was His will to die, yet He threatened not; thou knowest not when thou shalt die, and dost thou threaten?
“>7 Let us see why; see whether it be for any other thing than charity. “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and of error:” namely by this, that he that heareth us hath the spirit of truth; he that heareth not us, hath the spirit of error. Let us see what he adviseth, and let us choose rather to hear him advising in the spirit of truth, and not antichrists, not lovers of the world, not the world. If we are born of God, “beloved,”1 John 4:7.
“>8 he goes on—see above from what: “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and of error:” aye, now, he makes us eagerly attentive: to be told that he who knows God, hears; but he who knows not, hears not; and that this is the discerning between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error: well then, let us see what he is about to advise; in what we must hear him—“Beloved, let us love one another.”1 John 4:7.
Why? because a man adviseth? “Because love is of God.” Much hath he commended love, in that he hath said, “Is of God:” but he is going to say more; let us eagerly hear. At present he hath said, “Love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God.”1 John 4:7, 8.
What more could be said, brethren? If nothing were said in praise of love throughout the pages of this epistle, if nothing whatever throughout the other pages of the Scriptures, and this one only thing were all we were told by the voice of the Spirit of God, “For Love is God;” nothing more ought we to require.
5. Now see that to act against love is to act against God. Let no man say, “I sin against man when I do not love my brother, (mark it!) and sin against man is a thing to be taken easily; only let me not sin against God. How sinnest thou not against God, when thou sinnest against love? “Love is God.” Do “we” say this? If we said, “Love is God,” haply some one of you might be offended and say, What hath he said? What meant he to say, that “Love is God”? God “gave” love, as a gift God bestowed love. “Love is of God: Love IS God.” Look, here have ye, brethren, the Scriptures of God: this epistle is canonical; throughout all nations it is recited, it is held by the authority of the whole earth, it hath edified the whole earth. Thou art here told by the Spirit of God, “Love is God.” Now if thou dare, go against God, and refuse to love thy brother!
6. In what sense then was it said a while ago, “Love is of God;” and now, “Love Is God?” For God is Father and Son and Holy Ghost: the Son, God of God, the Holy Ghost, God of God; and these three, one God, not three Gods. If the Son be God, and the Holy Ghost God, and that person loveth in whom dwelleth the Holy Ghost: therefore “Love is God;” but “IS God,” because “Of God.” For thou hast both in the epistle; both, “Love is of God,” and, “Love is God.” Of the Father alone the Scripture hath it not to say, that He is “of God:” but when thou hearest that expression, “Of God,” either the Son is meant, or the Holy Ghost. Because while the apostle saith, “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us:”Rom. 5:5.
“>3 let us understand that He who subsisteth in love is the Holy Ghost. For it is even this Holy Spirit, whom the bad cannot receive, even He is that Fountain of which the Scripture saith, “Let the fountain of thy water be thine own, and let no stranger partake with thee.”Prov. 5:16, 17.
“>4 For all who love not God, are strangers, are antichrists. And though they come to the churches, they cannot be numbered among the children of God; not to them belongeth that Fountain of life. To have baptism is possible even for a bad man; to have prophecy is possible even for a bad man. We find that king Saul had prophecy: he was persecuting holy David, yet was he filled with the spirit of prophecy, and began to prophesy.1 Sam. 19.
To receive the sacrament of the body and blood of the Lord is possible even for a bad man: for of such it is said, “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself.”1 Cor. 11:29.
To have the name of Christ is possible even for a bad man; i.e. even a bad man can be called a Christian: as they of whom it is said, “They polluted the name of their God.”Ezek. 36:20.
I say, to have all these sacraments is possible even for a bad man; but to have charity, and to be a bad man, is not possible. This then is the peculiar gift, this the “Fountain” that is singly one’s “own.” To drink of this the Spirit of God exhorteth you, to drink of Himself the Spirit of God exhorteth you.
7. “In this was manifested the love of God in us.”1 John 4:9.
“>8 Behold, in order that we may love God, we have exhortation. Could we love Him, unless He first loved us? If we were slow to love, let us not be slow to love in return. He first loved us; not even so do we love. He loved the unrighteous, but He did away the unrighteousness: He loved the unrighteous, but not unto unrighteousness did He gather them together: He loved the sick, but He visited them to make them whole. “Love,” then, “is God.” “In this was manifested the love of God in us, because that God sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we may live through Him.” As the Lord Himself saith: “Greater love than this can no man have, that a man lay down his life for his friends:”John 15:13.
“>9 and there was proved the love of Christ towards us, in that He died for us: how is the love of the Father towards us proved? In that He “sent His only Son” to die for us: so also the apostle Paul saith: “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how hath He not with Him also freely given us all things?”Rom. 8:32.
Behold the Father delivered up Christ; Judas delivered Him up; does it not seem as if the thing done were of the same sort? Judas is “traditor,” one that delivered up, [or, a traitor]: is God the Father that? God forbid! sayest thou. I do not say it, but the apostle saith, “He that spared not His own Son, but “tradidit Eum” delivered Him up for us all.” Both the Father delivered Him up, and He delivered up Himself. The same apostle saith: “Who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.”Gal. 2:20.
If the Father delivered up the Son, and the Son delivered up Himself, what has Judas done? There was a “traditio” (delivering up) by the Father; there was a “traditio” by the Son; there was a “traditio” by Judas: the thing done is the same,but what is it that distinguishes the Father delivering up the Son, the Son delivering up Himself, and Judas the disciple delivering up his Master? This: that the Father and the Son did it in love, but Judas did thisIn proditione.
in treacherous betrayal. Ye see that not what the man does is the thing to be considered; but with what mind and will he does it. We find God the Father in the same deed in which we find Judas; the Father we bless, Judas we detest. Why do we bless the Father, and detest Judas? We bless charity, detest iniquity. How great a good was conferred upon mankind by the delivering up of Christ! Had Judas this in his thoughts, that therefore he delivered Him up? God had in His thoughts our salvation by which we were redeemed; Judas had in his thoughts the price for which he sold the Lord. The Son Himself had in His thoughts the price He gave for us, Judas in his the price he received to sell Him. The diverse intention therefore makes the things done diverse. Though the thing be one, yet if we measure it by the diverse intentions, we find the one a thing to be loved, the other to be condemned; the one we find a thing to be glorified, the other to be detested. Such is the force of charity. See that it alone discriminates, it alone distinguishes the doings of men.
8. This we have said in the case where the things done are similar. In the case where they are diverse, we find a man by charity made fierce;Særvientem.
“>4 and by iniquity made winningly gentle. A father beats a boy, and a boy-stealer caresses. If thou name the two things, blows and caresses, who would not choose the caresses, and decline the blows? If thou mark the persons, it is charity that beats, iniquity that caresses. See what we are insisting upon; that the deeds of men are only discerned by the root of charity. For many things may be done that have a good appearance, and yet proceed not from the root of charity. For thorns also have flowers: some actions truly seem rough, seem savage; howbeit they are done for discipline at the bidding of charity. Once for all, then, a short precept is given thee: Love, and do what thou wilt: whether thou hold thy peace, through love hold thy peace; whether thou cry out, through love cry out; whether thou correct, through love correct; whether thou spare, through love do thou spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good.
9. “In this is love—in this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God senthis only-begotten Son into this world, that we may live through Him.—In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us:”1 John 4:9, 10.
“>5 we did not love Him first: for to this end loved He us, that we may love Him: “And sent His Son to be the Atoner for our sins: “litatorem,” i.e. one that sacrifices. He sacrificed for our sins. Where did He find the sacrifice? Where did He find the victim which he would offer pure? Other He found none; His own self He offered. “Beloved, if God so loved us we ought also to love one another.1 John 4:11.
“>6 Peter,” saith He, “lovest thou me?” And he said, “I love.” “Feed my sheep.”
“>7 He is a thing invisible; not with the eye but with the heart must He be sought. But just as if we wished to see the sun, we should purge the eye of the body; wishing to see God, let us purge the eye by which God can be seen. Where is this eye? Hear the Gospel: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”Matt. 5:8.
“>8 But let no man imagine God to himself according to the lust of his eyes. For so he makes unto himself either a huge form, or a certain incalculable magnitude which, like the light which he sees with the bodily eyes, he makes extend through all directions; field after field of space he gives it all the bigness he can; or, he represents to himself like as it were an old man of venerable form. None of these things do thou imagine. There is something thou mayest imagine, if thou wouldest see God; “God is love.” What sort of face hath love? what form hath it? what stature? what feet? what hands hath it? no man can say. And yet it hath feet, for these carry men to church: it hath hands; for these reach forth to the poor: it hath eyes; for thereby we consider the needy: “Blessed is the man,” it is said, “who considereth the needy and the poor.”Ps. 41:1.
It hath ears, of which the Lord saith, “He that hath ears to hear let him hear.”Luke 8:8.
These are not members distinct by place, but with the understanding he that hath charity sees the whole at once. Inhabit, and thou shalt be inhabited; dwell, and thou shalt be dwelt in. For how say you, my brethren? who loves what he does not see? Now why, when charity is praised, do ye lift up your hands, make acclaim, praise? What have I shown you? What I produced, was it a gleam of colors? What I propounded, was it gold and silver? Have I dug out jewels from hid treasures? What of this sort have I shown to your eyes? Is my face changed while I speak? I am in the flesh; I am in the same form in which I came forth to you; ye are in the same form in which ye came hither: charity is praised, and ye shout applause. Certainly ye see nothing. But as it pleases you when ye praise, so let it please you that ye may keep it in your heart. For mark well what I say brethren; I exhort you all, as God enables me, unto a great treasure. If there were shown you a beautiful little vase, embossed,Anaglyphum.
inlaid with gold, curiously wrought, and it charmed your eyes, and drew towards it the eager desire of your heart, and you were pleased with the hand of the artificer, and the weight of the silver, and the splendor of the metal; would not each one of you say, “O, if I had that vase!” And to no purpose ye would say it, for it would not rest with you to have it. Or if one should wish to have it, he might think of stealing it from another’s house. Charity is praised to you; if it please you, have it, possess it: no need that ye should rob any man, no need that ye should think of buying it; it is to be had freely, without cost. Take it, clasp it; there is nothing sweeter. If such it be when it is but spoken of, what must it be when one has it?
11. If any of you perchance wish to keep charity, brethren, above all things do not imagine it to be an abject and sluggish thing; nor that charity is to be preserved by a sort of gentleness, nay not gentleness, but tameness and listlessness.Ep. cliii. 17, c. litt.; Petil. ii. 67: Serm. clxxi. 5.
“>4 Not so is it preserved. Do not imagine that thou then lovest thy servant when thou dost not beat him, or that thou then lovest thy son when thou givest him not discipline, or that thou then lovest thy neighbor when thou dost not rebuke him: this is not charity, but mere feebleness. Let charity be fervent to correct, to amend: but if there be good manners, let them delight thee; if bad, let them be amended, let them be corrected. Love not in the man his error, but the man: for the man God made, the error the man himself made. Love that which God made, love not that which the man himself made. When thou lovest that, thou takest away this: when thou esteemest that, thou amendest this. But even if thou be severeSævis.
“>5 at any time, let it be because of love, for correction. For this cause was charity betokened by the Dove which descended upon the Lord.Hom. in Ev. vi. p. 82; Matt. 3:16.
That likeness of a dove, the likeness in which came the Holy Ghost, by whom charity should be shed forth into us: wherefore was this? The dove hath no gall: yet with beak and wings she fights for her young; hers is a fierceness without bitterness. And so does also a father; when he chastises his son, for discipline he chastises him. As I said, the kidnapper, in order that he may sell, inveigles the child with bitter endearments; a father, that he may correct, does without gall chastise. Such be ye to all men. See here, brethren, a great lesson, a great rule: each one of you has children, or wishes to have; or if he has altogether determined to have no children after the flesh, at least spiritually he desires to have children:—what father does not correct his son? what son does not his father discipline? And yet he seems to be fierceSævire.
with him. It is the fierceness of love, the fierceness of charity: a sort of fierceness without gall after the manner of the dove, not of the raven. Whence it came into my mind, my brethren, to tell you, that those violaters of charity are they that have made the schism: as they hate charity itself, so they hate also the dove. But the dove convicts them: it comes forth from heaven, the heavens open, and it abideth on the head of the Lord. Wherefore this? That John may hear, “This is He that baptizeth.”John 1:33.
Away, ye robbers; away, ye invaders of the possession of Christ! On your own possessions, where ye will needs be lords, ye have dared to fix the titles of the great Owner. He recognizes His own titles; He vindicates to Himself His own possession. He does not cancel the titles, but enters in and takes possession. So in one that comes to the Catholic Church, his baptism is not cancelled, that the title of the commander[“Captain (αςχήζος) of their salvation.” Heb. 2:10.—J. H. M.]
be not cancelled: but what is done in the Catholic Church? The title is acknowledged; the Owner enters in under His own titles, where the robber was entering in under titles not his own.
Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrasing of the verse he is commenting on.
1 Jn 2: 12 I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.
I write unto you, my spiritual children of every age and degree of advancement in Christian virtue, because your sins are remitted on account of the merits of Christ, which is a subject of the deepest congratulation.
“Little children,” τεχνια (teknia). It is disputed what class of Christians is designated by the words, “little children.” By some they are understood of those who have not yet left their childhood, and have received the remission of sin in baptism. These also understand the words, “fathers,” “young men,” and “babes,” in the following verses, of the different ages of men and their advancement in years. This opinion derives probability from the circumstance of the Apostle attributing to the different ages, what forms the peculiar matter for glorying, pertaining to each; old men, or “fathers,” glory in their knowledge (verse 13)—“young men,” in their bodily vigour and strength, and in their active feats; and “babes” or children in fawning on, and lisping the names of their fathers.
It is, however, more probable, that the Apostle refers to the different periods or stages of advancement in the spiritual life (as St. Augustine understands the passage), and to Christians placed in each of these, he ascribes perfections, and congratulates them on qualities, in the spiritual order, analogous to the natural perfections, in which men, during the several stages of physical existence, are prone to glory. Even following the opinion of St. Augustine, interpreters are divided about the meaning of “little children,” in this verse. Some understand the word to mean the same as “babes,” as in verse 14, where, according to them, the idea is repeated; and refer it to a state of spiritual childhood. Others, more probably, understand the word of Christians generally, as in verse 1, and verse 28, which is again subdivided into “fathers,” “young men,” and “babes,” in the following verses.
The Apostle, then, writes to all Christians in general, congratulating them on having received the remission of their sins, and all graces through the merits of Christ, “for his name’s sake.” The heart of the Apostle was so full of Christ, that he does not express his name. Who else could it be but Christ that thus occupied all his thoughts?
1 Jn 2:13 I write unto you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one.
I write to you, who are perfect in the Christian faith, able to instruct and bring forth others spiritually in the gospel; because, you have known and loved him, who was from eternity. I write to you also, and congratulate you, who have arrived at the stage of spiritual youth and manly vigour; because, in your spiritual strength, you have been proof against the temptations of the wicked one, viz., the devil, and have overthrown both him and his leagued auxiliaries, the flesh and the world.
He now divides “little children,” or Christians in general, into “fathers,” or, such as are for a long time professing the faith, and able to instruct and spiritually beget others; and “young men,” or Christians advanced in virtue and spiritual knowledge, who though not so far advanced, as the class termed “fathers,” still need not the milk of babes to support them. He congratulates this class, on their spiritual strength.
1 Jn 2:14 I write unto you, babes, because you have known the Father. I write unto you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.
I write to you who have lately received the faith, and require still to be fed with the milk of babes and to be assisted in your Christian progress; and congratulate you, on having known your heavenly Father, and lisped forth his sacred and endearing name. I once more, as I have done already (5:13) congratulate you, who have attained a state of spiritual youth, on the strength which God has imparted to you, on becoming armed with his word and your having conquered the devil.
The next class of Christians are those whom he terms “babes,” or persons in their spiritual infancy, who require to be fed with the milk of babes, and to be supported and propped up in their spiritual progress. These he congratulates on having known the father. Their lisping accents in the spiritual life show that they acknowledge God by faith to be a Father in their regard; and as it is the glory of infants, in the order of nature, to lisp and know the name of father; so, it is likewise in the spiritual order of grace … Some, say these words. “I write unto you, babes,” &c., are only a repetition of the words (verse 12), “I write unto you, little children,” with an additional reason for addressing them. The interpretation now given is the more probable, and accords better with the order observed by the Apostle in marking out the different ages. (In the Greek, we find inserted here, a repetition of the words of verse 13, I have written to you, fathers, because you have known that which was from the beginning).
“I write” (in Greek, ἔγραψα = graphia, I have written), “unto you, young men,” or such as have arrived at the stage of spiritual youth—it is a repetition of the words (verse 13), with a fuller reason, “because you are strong,” and I congratulate you on being valiant in grace; “and the word of God abideth in you.” You have taken the shield of faith and the sword of the spirit to resist your enemies (Ephes. chap. 5)—“and you have overcome the wicked one,” the devil and his leagued auxiliaries, the flesh and the world.
It is, then, most likely, as St. Augustine maintains, that the Apostle is referring to the different stages of spiritual life; and to those constituted in each, he attributes the perfections, in the spiritual order, analogous to those of which men in the different stages of life are apt to boast, in the natural order. The old men, or those advanced in spiritual life, have acquired an exalted knowledge of him who existed from eternity. Those who had attained the state of spiritual youth, he congratulates on their active feats; they overcame their enemy, the devil; and the “babes,” or those lately converted, he congratulates on having known and lisped the name of their common Father, whom they are taught by faith to address as such.
1 Jn 2:15 Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him.
What I write to you, and exhort you to, Christians of every age and degree, is this—love not this world, as your fixed, permanent dwelling-place, as your final end, nor the riches, pleasures, honours, &c., that are found therein. If any one love the world in the prohibited sense now explained, the love of the Father, who cannot endure a divided heart, or partial service, is not in him.
The Apostle now explains what it is he writes to the different classes of Christians, whom he congratulates on the good qualities suited to each, and furnishing an earnest, that they will attend to the injunction he is now about giving them, viz., to avoid the greatest obstacle to their advancement in Christian virtue, and to the perfect fulfilment of the precept of fraternal charity. “Love not the world.” This is understood by some to refer to men of worldly habits and principles, who are not to be loved as such; although, as creatures of God, capable of eternal beatitude, they are to be loved by us. Others understand it (as in Paraphrase), of making this world our final resting-place; making it, instead of God, our last end. The following words, “nor the things that are in the world,” render this interpretation very probable. “If any man love the world,” fixing his heart and affections on it, as his last end; “the charity of the Father is not in him;” because, God cannot endure a divided heart. The world and God are two rivals, that cannot be served at the same time.
1 Jn 2:16 For all that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh and the concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life, which is not of the Father but is of the world.
(Neither love the things that are in the world); for, all that is in the world are, the corrupt pleasures and inordinate gratification of sense; the greedy acquisition of wealth, and other goods of this life; and the inordinate desire of procuring honours, dignities, and elevated stations—this triple concupiscence in its present sinful state has not God for author; but, has its origin in the corruption of the world.
The Apostle having already, in the preceding verse, given a reason why they should not “love the world,” now in this, shows why they should not love “the things that are in the world,” by describing what these things are, and their utter worthlessness and opposition to the things of God. “For all that is in the world,” or all the things that corrupt and worldly men set their heart upon, all the things that they prize or value, “is the concupiscence of the flesh,” the inordinate gratification of their carnal and impure passions. In this member of the sentence, as well as in the following, the act of passion or concupiscence is employed, for the objects of concupiscence.
“The concupiscence of the eyes,” commonly understood of avarice or the inordinate affection for the sensible goods of this life, viz., the riches and worldly substance of any kind, which fall beneath the sense of seeing; in Eccles. 4:8, the eyes of the covetous man are said to be insatiable. Others, with St. Augustine, understand the words to refer to curiosity of every kind, of which the eyes are the principal inlets, not even excluding knowledge, when pursued from a mere spirit of curiosity, and from a desire of acquiring the reputation of learning. The former is, however, the more common interpretation of the words.
“And the pride of life,” understood commonly of the inordinate desire of honours, dignities, elevated stations, &c. From the words of St. John, then, it is clear, that these great ruling maxims of the world, which are the sources of all other sins, and the bane of fraternal charity, are, the inordinate desire of sensual gratification, avarice, and ambition. Hence it is, that those who renounce the world, and serve God in a religious state, having their conversation and all their cares centered in another and a better world, take care to renounce altogether, and at once, all connexion with these corrupt maxims of the world. By vows of chastity, they renounce all carnal pleasures; by vows of poverty, they renounce avarice; and by vows of humble obedience, they renounce ambition; and our Redeemer has proposed to all the faithful in general a triple remedy against these three corrupt principles, viz., fasting, almsdeeds, and prayer (Matthew, 6).
“Which,” triple concupiscence (as appears from the Greek, ὅτι πᾶν τὸ ἐν τῷ κοσμῷ, η επιθυμία της σαρκος … ουκ εστιν εκ του πατρος, because everything in the world, the concupiscence of the flesh, &c., is not of the Father), “is not of the Father,” in its present corrupt state, as the fomes peccati impelling us to the violation of God’s holy law; “but is of the world,” it is the effect of fallen human nature corrupted by sin; for, “God created man right” (Eccles. 7:30). This concupiscence, to which the Apostle refers, is evil; and hence, our Redeemer, who assumed our common infirmities, was not subject to it.
In the Greek, the verb “is” is wanting in the words, “all that is in the world,” as appears from the foregoing. The Syriac supports the Vulgate.
1 Jn 2:17 And the world passeth away and the concupiscence thereof: but he that doth the will of God abideth for ever.
And, moreover, the world passes, and is daily becoming more and more subject to decay; so will all the darling objects of worldly esteem, viz., pleasures, riches, and honours, also pass away; but, the man who does the will of God, and observes his commandments, will remain for ever, and his works will entitle him to an everlasting reward.
Another reason why they should not love the world nor the things of the world is derived from the fleeting, transitory nature of their existence and enjoyment. “The world passeth.” The “world” may refer either to the present creation, daily approaching decay and dissolution; or, to worldly men, who daily die and relinquish all their present enjoyments. This latter meaning is rendered probable by the contrast between the world and the man “who doth the will of God.” “The concupiscence,” the darling objects, prized by the world, such as pleasures, riches, honours. “But he that doth the will of God,” that observes God’s commandments, and renounces all inordinate attachment to the objects of this threefold concupiscence, “abideth for ever,” will enjoy for ever eternal life, as the reward of his good works, and of his resistance to his corrupt passions.
“I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven through His name. I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, children, because ye have known the Father. I write5 unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever (even as God also abideth for ever).
1. ALL things that are read from the Holy Scriptures in order to our instruction and salvation, it behoves us to hear with earnest heed. Yet most of all must those things be commended to our memory, which are of most force against heretics; whose insidious designs cease not to circumvent all that are weaker and more negligent. Remember that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ both died for us, and rose again; died, to wit, for our offenses, rose again for our justification.6 Even as ye have just heard concerning the two disciples whom He met with in the way, how “their eyes were holden that they should not know Him:”1 and He found them despairing of the redemption that was in Christ, and deeming that now He had suffered and was dead as a man, not accounting that as Son of God He ever liveth; and deeming too that He was so dead in the flesh as not to come to life again, but just as one of the prophets: as those of you who were attentive have just now heard their own words. Then “He opened to them the Scriptures, beginning at Moses,” and going through all the prophets, showing them that all He had suffered had been foretold, lest they should be more staggered if the Lord should rise again, and the more fail to believe Him, if these things had not been told before concerning Him. For the firmness of faith is in this, that all things which came to pass in Christ were foretold. The disciples, then, knew Him not, save “in the breaking of bread.” And truly he that eateth and drinketh not judgment to himself in the breaking of bread doth know Christ.2 Afterward also those eleven “thought they saw a spirit.” He gave Himself to be handled by them, who also gave Himself to be crucified; to be crucified by enemies, to be handled by friends: yet the Physician of all, both of the ungodliness of those, and of the unbelief of these. For ye heard when the Acts of the Apostles were read, how many thousands of Christ’s slayers believed.3 If those believed afterwards who had killed, should not those believe who for a little while doubted? And yet even in regard of them, (a thing which ye ought especially to observe, and to commit to your memory, because that which shall make us strong against insidious errors, God has been pleased to put in the Scriptures, against which no man dares to speak, who in any sort wishes to seem a Christian), when He had given Himself to be handled by them, that did not suffice Him, but He would also confirm by means of the Scriptures the heart of them that believe: for He looked forward to us who should be afterwards; seeing that in Him we have nothing that we can handle, but have that which we may read. For if those believed only because they held and handled, what shall we do? Now, Christ is ascended into heaven; He is not to come save at the end, to judge the quick and the dead. Whereby shall we believe, but by that whereby it was His will that even those who handled Him should be confirmed? For He opened to them the Scriptures and showed them that it behoved Christ to suffer, and that all things should be fulfilled which were written of Him in the Law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms. He embraced in His discourse the whole ancient text of the Scriptures. All that there is of those former Scriptures tells of Christ; but only if it find ears. He also “opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures.” Whence we also must pray for this, that He would open our understanding.
2. But what did the Lord show written of Him in the Law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms? What did He show? Let Himself say. The evangelist has put this briefly, that we might know what in all that great compass of the Scriptures we ought to believe and to understand. Certainly there are many pages, and many books; the contents of them all is this which the Lord briefly spake to His disciples. What is this? That “it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise again the third day.” Thou hast it now concerning the Bridegroom, that “it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise again:” the Bridegroom has been set forth to us. Concerning the Bride, let us see what He saith; that thou, when thou knowest the Bridegroom and the Bride, mayest not without reason come to the marriage. For every celebration is a celebration of marriage: the Church’s nuptials are celebrated. The King’s Son is about to marry a wife, and that King’s Son is Himself a King: and the guests frequenting the marriage are themselves the Bride. Not, as in a carnal marriage, some are guests, and another is she that is married; in the Church they that come as guests, if they come to good purpose, become the Bride. For all the Church is Christ’s Bride, of which the beginning and first fruits is the flesh of Christ: there was the Bride joined to the Bridegroom in the flesh. With good reason when He would betoken that same flesh, He brake bread, and with good reason “in the breaking of bread,” the eyes “of the disciples were opened, and they knew Him.” Well then, what did the Lord say was written of Him in the Law and Prophets and Psalms? That “it behoved Christ to suffer.” Had He not added, “and to rise again,” well might those mourn whose eyes were holden; but “to rise again” is also foretold. And wherefore this? Why did it behove Christ to suffer and to rise again? Because of that Psalm which we especially commended to your attention on the fourth day, the first station, of last week.4 Why did it behove Christ to suffer and to rise again? For this reason: “All the ends of the earth shall be reminded and converted unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Him.”1 For that ye may know that it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise again; in this place also what hath He added, that after setting forth the Bridegroom He might also set forth the Bride? “And that there be preached,” saith He, “in His name, repentance and remission of sins throughout all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Ye have heard, brethren; hold it fast. Let no man doubt concerning the Church, that it is “throughout all nations:” let no man doubt that it began at Jerusalem, and hath filled all nations. We know the field where the Vine is planted: but when it is grown we know it not, because it has taken up the whole. Whence did it begin? “At Jerusalem.” Whither has it come? To “all nations.” A few remain: it shall possess all. In the mean time, while it is taking possession of all, it has seemed good to the Husbandman to cut off some unprofitable branches, and they have made heresies and schisms. Let not the branches that are cut off induce you to be cut off: rather exhort ye them that are cut off that they be graffed in again. It is manifest that Christ hath suffered, is risen again, and is ascended into heaven: made manifest also is the Church, because there is “preached in His name repentance and remission of sins throughout all nations.” Whence did it begin? “Beginning at Jerusalem.” The man hears this; foolish and vain, and (how, shall I express it?) worse than blind! so great a mountain, and he does not see it; a candle set upon a candlestick, and he shuts his eyes against it!
3. When we say to them, If ye be Catholic Christians, communicate with that Church from which the Gospel is spread abroad over the whole earth: communicate with that Jerusalem:2 when this we say to them, they make answer to us, we do not communicate with that city where our King was slain, where our Lord was slain: as though they hate the city where our Lord was slain. The Jews slew Him whom they found on earth, these scorn3 Him that sitteth in heaven! Which are the worse; those who despised Him because they thought Him man, or those who scorn the sacraments of Him whom now they confess to be God? But they hate, forsooth, the city in which their Lord was slain! Pious men, and merciful! they much grieve that Christ was slain, and in men they slay Christ! But He loved that city, and pitied it: from it He bade the preaching of Him begin, “beginning at Jerusalem.” He made there the beginning of the preaching of His name: and thou shrinkest back with horror from having communion with that city!4 No marvel that being cut off thou hatest the root. What said He to His disciples? “Sit ye still in the city, because I send my promise5 upon you.” Behold what the city is that they hate! Haply they would love it, if Christ’s murderers dwelt in it. For it is manifest that all Christ’s murderers, i.e., the Jews, are expelled from that city.6 That which had in it them that were fierce against Christ, hath now them that adore Christ. Therefore do these men hate it, because Christians are in it. There was it His will that His disciples should tarry, and there that He should send to them the Holy Ghost. Where had the Church its commencement, but where the Holy Ghost came from heaven, and filled the hundred and twenty sitting in one place? That number twelve was made tenfold. They sat, an hundred and twenty persons, and the Holy Ghost came, “and filled the whole place, and there came a sound, as it were the rushing of a mighty wind, and there were cloven tongues like as of fire.” Ye have heard the Acts of the Apostles: this was the lesson read today:7 “They began to speak with tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” And all who were on the spot. Jews who were come from divers nations, recognised each his own tongue, and marvelled that those unlearned and ignorant men had on the sudden learned not one or two tongues, but the tongues of all nations whatsoever. There, then, where all tongues sounded, there was it betokened that all tongues should believe. But these men, who much love Christ, and therefore refuse to communicate with the city which killed Christ, so honor Christ as to affirm that He is left to two tongues, the Latin and the Punic, i.e. African. Christ possess only two tongues! For there are but these two tongues on the side of Donatus, more they have not. Let us awake, my brethren, let us rather see the gift of the Spirit of God, and let us believe the things spoken before concerning Him, and let us see fulfilled the things spoken before in the Psalm: “There are neither speeches nor discourses,8 but their voices are heard among them.9 And lest haply the case be so that the tongues themselves came to one place, and not rather that the gift of Christ came to all tongues, hear what follows: “Into all the earth is their sound gone out, and unto the ends of the world their words.” Wherefore this? Because “in the sun hath He set His tabernacle,” i.e., in the open light. His tabernacle, His flesh: His tabernacle, His Church: “in the sun” it is set; not in the night, but in the day. But why do those not acknowledge it? Return to the lesson at the place where it ended yesterday, and see why they do not acknowledge it: “He that hateth his brother, walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because the darkness hath blinded his eyes.” For us then, let us see what follows, and not be in darkness. How shall we not be in darkness? If we love the brethren. How is it proved that we love the brotherhood? By this, that we do not rend unity, that we hold fast charity.
4. “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you through His name.”1 Therefore, “little children,”2 because in forgiveness of sins ye have your birth. But through whose name are sins forgiven? Through Augustin’s? No, therefore neither through the name of Donatus. Be it thy concern to see who is Augustin, or who Donatus: no, not through the name of Paul, not through the name of Peter. For to them that divided unto themselves the Church, and out of unity essayed to make parties, the mother charity in the apostle travailing in birth with her little ones, exposeth her own bowels, with words doth as it were rend her breasts, bewaileth her children whom she seeth borne out dead, recalleth unto the one Name them that would needs make them many names, repelleth them from the love of her that Christ may be loved, and saith, “Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”3 What saith he? “I would not that ye be mine, that so ye may be with me: be ye with me; all we are His who died for us, who was crucified for us”: whence here also it is said, “Your sins are forgiven you through His name,” not through the name of any man.
5. “I write unto you, fathers.”4 Why first sons? “Because your sins are forgiven you through His name,” and ye are regenerated into a new life, therefore sons. Why fathers? “Because ye have known Him that is from the beginning:” for the beginning hath relation unto fatherhood. Christ new in flesh, but ancient in Godhead. How ancient think we? how many years old? Think we, of greater age5 than His mother? Assuredly of greater age than His mother, for “all things were made by Him.”6 If all things, then did the Ancient make the very mother of whom the New should be born. Was He, think we, before His mother only? Yea, and before His mother’s ancestors is His antiquity. The ancestor of His mother was Abraham; and the Lord saith, “Before Abraham I am.”7 Before Abraham, say we? The heaven and earth, ere man was, were made. Before these was the Lord, nay rather also is. For right well He saith, not, Before Abraham I was, but, “Before Abraham I AM.” For that of which one says, “was,” is not; and that of which one says, “will be,” is not yet: He knoweth not other than to be. As God, He knoweth “to be:” “was,” and “will be,” He knoweth not. It is one day there, but a day that is for ever and ever. That day yesterday and to-morrow do not set in the midst between them: for when the ‘yesterday’ is ended, the ‘to-day’ begins, to be finished by the coming ‘to-morrow.’ That one day there is a day without darkness, without night, without spaces, without measure, without hours. Call it what thou wilt: if thou wilt, it is a day; if thou wilt, a year; if thou wilt, years. For it is said of this same, “And thy years shall not fail.”8 But when is it called a day? When it is said to the Lord, “To-day have I begotten Thee.”9 From the eternal Father begotten, from eternity begotten, in eternity begotten: with no beginning, no bound, no space of breadth; because He is what is, because Himself is “He that Is.” This His name He told to Moses: “Thou shalt say unto them, HE THAT IS hath sent me unto you.”10 Why speak then of “before Abraham”? why, before Noe? why, before Adam? Hear the Scripture: “Before the day-star have I begotten Thee.”11 In fine, before heaven and earth. Wherefore? Because “all things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made.”12 By this know ye the “fathers:” for they become fathers by acknowledging “That which is from the beginning.”
6. “I write unto you, young men.” There are sons, are fathers, are young men: sons, because begotten; fathers, because they acknowledge the Beginning; why young men? “Because ye have overcome the wicked one.” In the sons, birth: in the fathers, antiquity: in the young men, strength. If the wicked one is “overcome” by the young men, he fights with us. Fights, but not conquers.1 Wherefore? Because we are strong, or because He is strong in us who in the hands of the persecutors was found weak? He hath made us strong, who resisted not His persecutors. “For He was crucified of weakness, but He liveth by the power of God.”2
7. “I write3 unto you,4 children.”5 Whence children? “Because ye have known the Father. I write unto you fathers:” he enforceth this, and repeateth,6 “Because ye have known Him that is from the beginning.” Remember that ye are fathers: if ye forget “Him that is from the beginning,” ye have lost your fatherhood. “I write unto you, young men.” Again and again consider that ye are young men: fight, that ye may overcome: overcome, that ye may be crowned: be lowly, that ye fall not in the fight. “I write unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.”
8. All these things, my brethren,—“because we have known That which is from the beginning, because we are strong, because we have known the Father,”—do all these, while they in a manner commend7 knowledge, not commend charity? If we have known, let us love: for knowledge without charity saveth not. “Knowledge8 puffeth up, charity edifieth.”9 If ye have a mind to confess and not love, ye begin to be like the demons. The demons confessed the Son of God, and said, “What have we to do with Thee?”10 and were repulsed. Confess and embrace. For those feared for their iniquities; love ye Him that forgiveth your iniquities. But how can we love God, if we love the world? He prepareth us therefore to be inhabited by charity.11 There are two loves: of the world, and of God: if the love of the world inhabit, there is no way for the love of God to enter in: let the love of the world make way, and the love of God inhabit; let the better have place. Thou lovedst the world: love not the world: when thou hast emptied thine heart of earthly love, thou shall drink in love Divine: and thenceforth beginneth charity to inhabit thee, from which can nothing of evil proceed. Hear ye therefore his words, how he goes to work in the manner of one that makes a clearance. He comes upon the hearts of men as a field that he would occupy: but in what state does he find it? If he finds a wood, he roots it up; if he finds the field cleared, he plants it. He would plant a tree there, charity∙ And what is the wood he would root up? Love of the world. Hear him, the rooter up of the wood! “Love not the world,” (for this comes next,) “neither the things that are in the world; if any man love the world, the12 love of the Father is not in him.”13
9. Ye have heard that “if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Let not any say in his heart that this is false, brethren: God saith it; by the Apostle the Holy Ghost hath spoken; nothing more true: “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Wouldest thou have the Father’s love, that thou mayest be joint-heir with the Son? Love not the world. Shut out the evil love of the world, that thou mayest be filled with14 the love of God. Thou art a vessel; but as yet thou art full. Pour out what thou hast, that thou mayest receive what thou hast not. Certainly,15 our brethren are now born again of water and of the Spirit: we also some years ago were born again of water and of the Spirit. Good is it for us that we love not the world, lest the sacraments remain in us unto damnation, not as means of strengthening16 unto salvation. That which strengthens unto salvation is, to have the root of charity, to have the “power of godliness,” not “the form” only.17 Good is the form, holy the form: but what avails the form, if it hold not the root? The branch that is cut off, is it not cast into the fire? Have the form, but in the root. But in what way are ye rooted so that ye be not rooted up? By holding charity, as saith the Apostle Paul, “rooted and grounded in charity.”18 How shall charity be rooted there, amid the overgrown wilderness of the love of the world? Make clear riddance of the woods. A mighty seed ye are about to put in: let there not be that in the field which shall choke the seed. These are the uprooting words which he hath said: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”1
10. “For all that is in the world, is2 the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride3 of life,”4 three things he hath said, which5 are not of the Father, but are of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever, even as He abideth for ever.”6 Why am I not to love what God made? What wilt thou? Whether wilt thou love the things of time, and pass away with time; or not love the world, and live to eternity with God? The river of temporal things hurries one along: but like a tree sprung up beside the river is our Lord Jesus Christ.7 He assumed flesh, died, rose again, ascended into heaven. It was His will to plant Himself, in a manner, beside the river of the things of time. Art thou rushing down the stream to the headlong deep? Hold fast the tree. Is love of the world whirling thee on? Hold fast Christ. For thee He became temporal, that thou mightest become eternal; because He also in such sort became temporal, that He remained still eternal. Something was added to Him from time, not anything went from His eternity. But thou wast born temporal, and by sin wast made temporal: thou wast made temporal by sin, He was made temporal by mercy in remitting sins. How great the difference, when two are in a prison, between the criminal and him that visits him! For upon a time a person comes to his friend and enters in to visit him, and both seem to be in prison; but they differ by a wide distinction. The one, his cause presses down: the other, humanity has brought thither. So in this our mortal state, we were held fast by our guiltiness, He in mercy came down: He entered in unto the captive, a Redeemer not an oppressor. The Lord for us shed His blood, redeemed us, changed our hope. As yet we bear the mortality of the flesh, and take the future immortality upon trust: and on the sea we are tossed by the waves, but we have the anchor of hope already fixed upon the land.
11. But let us “not love the world, neither the things that are in the world. For the things that are in the world, are the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” These three are they: lest haply any man say, “The things that are in the world, God made: i.e. heaven and earth, the sea: the sun, the moon, the stars, all the garniture of the heavens. What is the garniture of the sea? all creeping things. What of the earth? animals, trees, flying creatures. These are ‘in the world,’ God made them. Why then am I not to love what God hath made?” Let the Spirit of God be in thee, that thou mayest see that all these things are good: but woe to thee if thou love the things made, and forsake the Maker of them! Fair are they to thee: but how much fairer He that formed them! Mark well, beloved. For by similitudes ye may be instructed: lest Satan steal upon you, saying what he is wont to say, Take your enjoyment in the creature of God; wherefore made He those things but for your enjoyment? And men drink themselves drunken, and perish, and forget their own Creator: while not temperately but lustfully they use the things created, the Creator is despised. Of such saith the apostle: “They worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, Who is blessed for ever.”8 God doth not forbid thee to love9 these things, howbeit, not to10 set thine affections upon them for blessedness, but to approve and praise them to this end, that thou mayest love thy Creator. In the same manner, my brethren, as if a bridegroom should make a ring for his bride, and she having received the ring, should love it more than she loves the bridegroom who made the ring for her: would not her soul be found guilty of adultery in the very gift of the bridegroom, albeit she did but love what the bridegroom gave her? By all means let her love what the bridegroom gave: yet should she say, “This ring is enough for me, I do not wish to see his face now:” what sort of woman would she be? Who would not detest such folly? who not pronounce her guilty of an adulterous mind? Thou lovest gold in place of the man, lovest a ring in place of the bridegroom: if this be in thee, that thou lovest a ring in place of thy bridegroom, and hast no wish to see thy bridegroom; that he has given time an earnest, serves not to pledge thee to him, but to turn away thy heart from him! For this the bridegroom gives earnest, that in his earnest he may himself be loved. Well then, God gave thee all these things: love Him that made them. There is more that He would fain give thee, that is, His very Self that made these things. But if thou love these—what though God made them—and neglect the Creator and love the world; shall not thy love be accounted adulterous?11
12. For “the world” is the appellation given not only to this fabric which God made, heaven and earth, the sea, things visible and invisible: but the inhabitants of the world are called the world, just as we call a “house” both the walls and them that inhabit therein. And sometimes we praise a house, and find fault with the inhabitants. For we say, A good house; because it is marbled and beautifully1 ceiled: and in another sense we say, A good house: no man there suffers wrong, no acts of plunder, no acts of oppression, are done there. Now we praise not the building, but those who dwell within the building: yet we call it “house,” both this and that. For all lovers of the world, because by love they inhabit the world, just as those inhabit heaven, whose heart is on high while in the flesh they walk on earth: I say then, all lovers of the world are called the world. The same have only these three things, “lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, vain glory of life.” For they lust to eat, drink, cohabit: to use these pleasures. Not surely, that there is no allowed measure in these things? or that when it is said, Love not these things, it means that ye are not to eat, or not to drink, or not to beget children? This is not the thing said. Only, let there be measure, because of the Creator, that these things may not bind you by your loving of them: lest ye love that for enjoyment, which ye ought to have for use. But ye are not put to the proof except when two things are propounded to you, this or that: Wilt thou righteousness or gains? I have not wherewithal to live, have not wherewithal to eat, have not wherewithal to drink. But what if thou canst not have these but by iniquity? Is it not better to love that which thou losest not, than to lose thyself by iniquity? Thou seest the gain of gold, the loss of faith thou seest not. This then, saith he to us, is “the lust of the flesh,” i.e. the lusting after those things which pertain to the flesh, such as food, and carnal cohabitation, and all other such like.
13. “And the lust of the eyes:” by “the lust of the eyes,” he means all curiosity. Now how wide is the scope of curiosity! This it is that works in spectacles, in theatres, in sacraments of the devil, in magical arts, in dealings2 with darkness: none other than curiosity. Sometimes it tempts even the servants of God, so that they wish as it were to work a miracle, to tempt God whether He will hear their prayers in working of miracles; it is curiosity: this is “lust of the eyes;” it “is not of the Father.” If God hath given the power, do the miracle, for He hath put it in thy way to do it: for think not that those who have not done miracles shall not pertain to the kingdom of God. When the apostles were rejoicing that the demons were subject to them, what said the Lord to them? “Rejoice not in this, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”3 In that would He have the apostles to rejoice, wherein thou also rejoicest. Woe to thee truly if thy name be not written in heaven! Is it woe to thee if thou raise not the dead? is it woe to thee if thou walk not on the sea? is it woe to thee if thou cast not out demons? If thou hast received power to do them, use it humbly, not proudly. For even of certain false prophets the Lord hath said that “they shall do signs and prodigies.”4 Therefore let there be no “ambition of the world:” Ambitio sæculi, is Pride. The man wishes to make much of himself in his honors: he thinks himself great, whether because of riches, or because of some power.
14. These three there are, and thou canst find nothing whereby human cupidity can be tempted, but either by the lust of the flesh, or the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life. By these three was the Lord tempted of the devil.5 By the lust of the flesh He was tempted when it was said to Him, “If thou be the Son of God, speak to these stones that they become bread,” when He hungered after His fast. But in what way repelled He the tempter, and taught his soldier how to fight? Mark what He said to him: “Not by bread alone doth man live, but by every word of God.” He was tempted also by the lust of the eyes concerning a miracle, when he said to Him, “Cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.” He resisted the tempter, for to do the miracle, would only have been to seem either to have yielded, or to have done it from curiosity; for He wrought when He would, as God, howbeit as healing the weak. For if He had done it then, He might have been thought to wish only to do a miracle. But lest men should think this, mark what He answered; and when the like temptation shall happen to thee, say thou also the same: “Get thee behind me, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God:” that is, if I do this I shall tempt God. He said what He would have thee to say. When the enemy suggests to thee, “What sort of man, what sort of Christian, art thou? As yet hast thou done one miracle, or by thy prayers have the dead been raised, or hast thou healed the fevered? if thou wert truly of any moment, thou wouldest do some miracle:” answer and say: “It is written, Thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God:” therefore I will not tempt God, as if I should belong to God if I do a miracle, and not belong if I do none: and what becomes then of His words, “Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven”? By “pride of life” how was the Lord tempted? When he carried Him up to an high place, and said to Him, “All these will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” By the loftiness of an earthly kingdom he wished to tempt the King of all worlds: but the Lord who made heaven and earth trod the devil under foot. What great matter for the devil to be conquered by the Lord? Then what did He in the answer He made to the devil but teach thee the answer He would have thee to make? “It is, written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.” Holding these things fast, ye shall not have the concupiscence of the world: by not having concupiscence of the world, neither shall the lust of the flesh, nor the lust of the eyes, nor the pride of life, subjugate you: and ye shall make place for Charity when she cometh, that ye may love God. Because if love of the world be there, love of God will not be there. Hold fast rather the love of God, that as God is for ever and ever, so ye also may remain for ever and ever: because such is each one as is his love. Lovest thou earth? thou shalt be earth. Lovest thou God? what shall I say? thou shalt be a god? I dare not say it of myself, let us hear the Scriptures: “I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you sons of the Most High.”1 If then ye would be gods and sons of the Most High, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all the things that are in the world, is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world:”2 i.e. of men, lovers of the world. “And the world passeth away, and the lusts thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever, even as God also abideth for ever.”