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Home > Fathers of the Church > The Harmony of the Gospels (Augustine) > Book II, Chapter 61

The Harmony of the Gospels, Book II

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Chapter 61. Of the Little Child Whom He Set Before Them for Their Imitation, and of the Offences of the World; Of the Members of the Body Causing Offences; Of the Angels of the Little Ones, Who Behold the Face of the Father; Of the One Sheep Out of the Hundred Sheep; Of the Reproving of a Brother in Private; Of the Loosing and the Binding of Sins; Of The Agreement of Two, and the Gathering Together of Three; Of the Forgiving of Sins Even Unto Seventy Times Seven; Of the Servant Who Had His Own Large Debt Remitted, and Yet Refused to Remit the Small Debt Which His Fellow-Servant Owed to Him; And of the Question as to Matthew's Harmony with the Other Evangelists on All These Subjects.

119. The same Matthew then proceeds with his narrative in the following terms: In that hour came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who, do You think, is the greater in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Unless you are converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven; and so on, down to the words, So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. Of this somewhat lengthened discourse which was spoken by the Lord, Mark, instead of giving the whole, has presented only certain portions, in dealing with which he follows meantime the same order. He has also introduced some matters which Matthew does not mention. Moreover, in this complete discourse, so far as we have taken it under consideration, the only interruption is that which is made by Peter, when he inquires how often a brother ought to be forgiven. The Lord, however, was speaking in a strain which makes it quite clear that even the question which Peter thus proposed, and the answer which was returned to him, belong really to the same address. Luke, again, records none of these things in the order here observed, with the exception of the incident with the little child whom He set before His disciples, for their imitation when they were thinking of their own greatness. For if he has also narrated some other matters of a tenor resembling those which are inserted in this discourse, these are sayings which he has recalled for notice in other connections, and on occasions different from the present: just as John introduces the Lord's words on the subject of the forgiveness of sins — namely, those to the effect that they should be remitted to him to whom the apostles remitted them, and that they should be retained to him to whom they retained them, as spoken by the Lord after His resurrection; while Matthew mentions that in the discourse now under notice the Lord made this declaration, which, however, the self-same evangelist at the same time affirms to have been given on a previous occasion to Peter. Therefore, to preclude the necessity of having always to inculcate the same rule, we ought to bear in mind the fact that Jesus uttered the same word repeatedly, and in a number of different places — a principle which we have pressed so often upon your attention already; and this consideration should save us from feeling any perplexity, even although the order of the sayings may be thought to create some difficulty.

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Source. Translated by S.D.F. Salmond. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 6. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <>.

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