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Home > Fathers of the Church > Sermons on the New Testament (Augustine) > Sermon 68

Sermon 68 on the New Testament

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[CXVIII. Ben.]

On the same words of the Gospel, John 1 , In the beginning was the word, etc.

1. All you who are looking for a man's many words, understand the One Word of God, In the beginning was the Word. Now, In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth. But, The Word was, since we have heard, In the beginning God made. Acknowledge we in Him the Creator; for Creator is He who made; and the creature what He made. For no creature which was made was, as God the Word was, by whom it was made, always. Now when we heard The Word was, with whom was It? We understand the Father who did not make nor create the Same Word, but begot Him. For, In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth. Whereby made He them? The Word was, and the Word was with God; but what kind of Word? Did it sound and so pass away? Was it a mere thought, and motion of the mind? No. Was it suggested by memory, and uttered? No. What kind of Word then? Why do you look for many words from me? The Word was God. When we hear, The Word was God, we do not make a second God; but we understand the Son. For the Word is the Son of God. Lo, the Son, and What but God? For The Word was God. What the Father? God of course. If the Father is God and the Son God, do we make two Gods? God forbid. The Father is God, the Son God; but the Father and the Son One God. For the Only Son of God was not made, but born. In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth; but the Word was of the Father. Was the Word therefore made by the Father? No. All things were made by Him. If by Him all things were made, was He too made by Himself? Do not imagine that He by whom you hear all things were made was Himself made among all things. For if He were made Himself, all things were not made by Him, but Himself was made among the rest. You say, He was made; what, by Himself? Who can make himself? If then He was made, how by Him were all things made? See, Himself too was made, as you say, not I, for that He was begotten, I do not deny. If then you say that He was made, I ask by what, by whom? By Himself? Then He was, before He was made, that He might make Himself. But if all things were made by Him, understand that He was not Himself made. If you are not able to understand, believe, that you may understand. Faith goes before; understanding follows after; since the Prophet says, Unless ye believe, you shall not understand. The Word was. Look not for time in Him, by whom times were made. The Word was. But you say, There was a time that the Word was not. You say falsely; nowhere do you read this. But I do read for you, In the beginning was the Word. What look you for before the beginning? But if you should be able to find anything before the beginning, this will be the beginning. He is mad who looks for anything before the beginning. What then does he say was before the beginning? In the beginning was the Word.

2. But you will say, The Father both 'was,' and was before the Word. What are you looking for? In the beginning was the Word. What you find, understand; seek not for what you are not able to find. Nothing is before the beginning. In the beginning was the Word. The Son is the Brightness of the Father. Of the Wisdom of the Father, which is the Son, it is said, For He is the brightness of the Everlasting Light. Are you seeking for a Son without a Father? Give me a light without brightness. If there was a time when the Son was not, the Father was a light obscure. For how was He not an obscure Light, if It had no brightness? So then the Father always, the Son always. If the Father always, the Son always. Do you ask of me, whether the Son were born? I answer, born. For He would not be a Son if not born. So when I say, the Son always was, I say in fact was always born. And who understands, Was always born? Give me an eternal fire, and I will give you an eternal brightness. We bless God who has given to us the holy Scriptures. Be not blind in the brightness of the light. Brightness is engendered of the Light, and yet the Brightness is Coeternal with the Light that engenders It. The Light always, its Brightness always. It begot Its Own Brightness; but was it ever without Its Brightness? Let God be allowed to beget an eternal Son. I pray you hear of whom we are speaking; hear, mark, believe, understand. Of God are we speaking. We confess and believe the Son coeternal with the Father. But you will say, When a man begets a Son, he that begets is the elder, and he that is begotten the younger. It is true; in the case of men, he that begets is the elder, and he that is begotten, the younger, and he arrives in time to his father's strength. But why, save that while the one grows, the other grows old? Let the father stand still a while, and in his growing the son will follow on him, and you will see him equal. But see, I give you whereby to understand this. Fire engenders a coeval brightness. Among men you only find sons younger, fathers older; you do not find them coeval: but as I have said, I show you brightness coeval with its parent fire. For fire begets brightness, yet is it never without brightness. Since then you see that the brightness is coeval with its fire, suffer God to beget a Coeternal Son. Whoever understands, let him rejoice: but whoever understands not, let him believe. For the word of the Prophet cannot be disannulled; Unless ye believe, you shall not understand.

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Source. Translated by R.G. MacMullen. 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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