New Advent
 Home   Encyclopedia   Summa   Fathers   Bible   Library 
 A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 
New Advent

Home > Fathers of the Church > Tractates on the Gospel of John (Augustine) > Tractate 6

Tractate 6 (John 1:32-33)

Please help support the mission of New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more — all for only $19.99...

1. I Confess to you, holy brethren, I was afraid the cold would have made you cold in assembling yourselves together; but since you prove by this, your crowded assembly, that you are fervent in spirit, I doubt not that you have also prayed for me, that I may pay you what I owe. For I promised you in the name of Christ that, as the shortness of the time prevented us from expounding it before, I would today discuss why God was pleased to manifest the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove. That this may be explained, this day has dawned on us; and I perceive that from eagerness to hear, and pious devotion, you have come together in greater number than usual. May God, by our mouth, fulfill your expectation. For your coming together is of your love; but love of what? If of us, even that is well; for we desire to be loved by you, but not in ourselves. Because we love you in Christ, do you love us in Christ in return, and let our love mutually sigh towards God; for the note of the dove is a sighing or moaning.

2. Now if the dove's note is a moaning, as we all know it to be, and doves moan in love, hear what the apostle says, and wonder not that the Holy Ghost willed to be manifested in the form of a dove: For what we should pray for as we ought, says he, we know not; but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Romans 8:26 What then, my brethren? Shall we say this, that the Spirit groans where He has perfect and eternal blessedness with the Father and the Son? For the Holy Spirit is God, even as the Son of God is God, and the Father God. I have said God thrice, but not three Gods; for indeed it is God thrice rather than three Gods; because the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one God: this you know full well. It is not then in Himself with Himself in that Trinity, in that blessedness, in that His eternal substance, that the Holy Spirit groans; but in us He groans because He makes us to groan. Nor is it a little matter that the Holy Spirit teaches us to groan, for He gives us to know that we are sojourners in a foreign land, and He teaches us to sigh after our native country; and through that very longing do we groan. He with whom it is well in this world, or rather he who thinks it is well with him, who exults in the joy of carnal things, in the abundance of things temporal, in an empty felicity, has the cry of the raven; for the raven's cry is full of clamor, not of groaning. But he who knows that he is in the pressure of this mortal life, a pilgrim absent from the Lord, 2 Corinthians 5:6 that he does not yet possess that perpetual blessedness which is promised to us, but that he has it in hope, and will have it in reality when the Lord shall come openly in glory who came before in humility concealed; he, I say, who knows this does groan. And so long as it is for this he groans, he does well to groan; it was the Spirit that taught him to groan, he learned it from the dove. Many indeed groan by reason of earthly misery. They are shattered, it may be, by losses, or weighed down by bodily ailment, or shut up in prisons, or bound with chains, or tossed about on the waves of the sea, or hedged in by the ensnaring devices of their enemies. Therefore do they groan, but not with the moaning of the dove, not with love of God, not in the Spirit. Accordingly, when such are delivered from these same afflictions, they exult with loud voices, whereby it is made manifest that they are ravens, not doves. It was with good reason that a raven was sent forth from the ark, and returned not again; a dove was sent forth, and it returned. These two birds Noah sent forth. Genesis 8:6, 9 He had there the raven, and also the dove. That ark contained both kinds; and if the ark was a figure of the Church, you see indeed that in the present deluge of the world, the Church must of necessity contain both kinds, as well the raven as the dove. Who are the ravens? They who seek their own. Who are the doves? They who seek the things that are Christ's. Philippians 2:21

3. Therefore, when He sent the Holy Spirit He manifested Him visibly in two ways — by a dove and by fire: by a dove upon the Lord when He was baptized, by fire upon the disciples when they were gathered together. For when the Lord had ascended into heaven after His resurrection, having spent forty days with His disciples, and the day of Pentecost being fully come, He sent unto them the Holy Spirit as He had promised. Accordingly the Spirit coming at that time filled the place, and there was first a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, and there appeared unto them, it says, cloven tongues as of fire, and it sat upon each of them; and they began to speak with tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Here we have seen a dove descending upon the Lord; there, cloven tongues upon the assembled disciples: in the former, simplicity is shown; in the latter, fervency. Now there are who are said to be simple, who are only indolent; they are called simple, but they are only slow. Not such was Stephen, full of the Holy Ghost: he was simple, because he injured no one; he was fervent, because he reproved the ungodly. For he held not his peace before the Jews. His are those burning words: You stiff-necked and uncircumcised of heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Spirit. Mighty impetuosity; but it is the dove without gall raging. For that you know that he was fierce without gall, see how, upon hearing these words, they who were the ravens immediately took up stones and rushed together upon this dove. They begin to stone Stephen; and he who a little before stormed and glowed with ardor of spirit, — who had, as it were, made an onset on his enemies, and like one full of violence had attacked them in such fiery and burning words as you have heard, You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, that any one who heard those words might fancy that Stephen, if he were allowed, would have them consumed at once — but when the stones thrown from their hands reached him, with fixed knee he says, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. Acts 7:51-59 He held fast to the unity of the dove. For his Master, upon whom the dove descended, had done the same thing before him; who, while hanging on the cross, said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Luke 23:34 Wherefore by the dove it is shown that they who are sanctified by the Spirit should be without guile; and that their simplicity should not continue cold is shown us by the fire. Nor let it trouble you that the tongues were divided; for tongues are diverse, therefore the appearance was that of cloven tongues. Cloven tongues, it says, as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. There is a diversity of tongues, but the diversity of tongues does not imply schisms. Be not afraid of separation in the cloven tongues; in the dove recognize unity.

4. Hence in this manner it behooved the Holy Spirit to be manifested when coming upon the Lord, that every one might understand that if he has the Holy Spirit he ought to be simple as the dove, to have true peace with his brethren, that peace which the kisses of doves signify. Ravens have their kisses too; but in the case of the ravens it is a false peace, in that of the dove a true peace. Not every one, therefore, who says, Peace be with you, is to be listened to as if he were a dove. How then are the kisses of ravens distinguished from those of doves? Ravens kiss, but they tear; the nature of doves is innocent of tearing. Where consequently there is tearing, there is not true peace in the kisses. They have true peace who have not torn the Church. Ravens feed upon carrion, it is not so with the dove; it lives on the fruits of the earth, its food is innocent. This, brethren, is really worthy of admiration in the dove. Sparrows are very small birds, but yet they kill flies at least. The dove does nothing of this sort, for it does not feed on what is dead. They who have torn the Church feed on the dead. God is mighty; let us pray that they who are devoured by them, and perceive it not, may come to life again. Many acknowledge that they do come to life again, for at their coming we daily express joy with them in the name of Christ. Be simple, but only in such wise that you be fervent, and let your fervor be in your tongues. Hold not your peace, speak with glowing tongues, set those that are cold on fire.

5. For why, my brethren? Who does not see what they do not? And no wonder; for they who are unwilling to return from that are just like the raven that was sent forth from the ark. For who does not see what they see not? They are unthankful even to the Holy Spirit Himself. See, the dove descended upon the Lord, upon the Lord when baptized: and thereupon was manifested that holy and real Trinity, which to us is one God. For the Lord went up out of the water, as we read in the Gospel: And, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit descending like a dove, and it abode upon Him: and immediately a voice followed, You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Matthew 3:16 The Trinity most manifestly appears: the Father in the voice, the Son in the man, the Spirit in the dove. In this Trinity let us see, as we do see, whereunto the apostles were sent forth, and what it is wonderful those men do not see. Not indeed that they really do not see, but that they really shut their eyes to that which strikes them in the very face: that whereunto the disciples were sent forth in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by Him of whom it is said, This is He that baptizes: it was said, in fact, to His ministers, by Him who has retained this authority to Himself.

6. Now this it was in Him that John saw, and came to know which he did not know. Not that he did not know Him to be the Son of God, or that he did not know Him to be the Lord, or not know Him to be the Christ; or that he did not know this too, that it was He who should baptize with water and with the Holy Ghost. This he did know; but that he should do this so as to retain the authority to Himself and transfer it to none of His ministers, this is what he learned in the dove. For by this authority, which Christ has retained to Himself alone, and conferred upon none of His ministers, though He has deigned to baptize by His ministers; by this authority, I say, stands the unity of the Church, which is figured in the dove, concerning which it is said, My dove is one, the only one of her mother. Song of Songs 6:8 For if, as I have already said, my brethren, the authority were transferred by the Lord to His minister, there would be as many baptisms as ministers, and the unity of baptism would no longer exist.

7. Mark, brethren; before our Lord Jesus Christ came to His baptism (for it was after the baptism that the dove descended, whereby John recognized something that was peculiar to Him, since he was told, Upon whom you shall see the Spirit descending like a dove, and remaining on Him, the same is He that baptizes with the Holy Ghost), John knew that He it was that baptizes with the Holy Ghost; but that it should be with this peculiarity, that the authority should not pass from Him to another, notwithstanding He confers it, this is what he learned there. And whence do we prove that John did already know that the Lord was to baptize with the Holy Ghost; so that what he must be understood to have learned by the dove is, that the Lord was to baptize with the Holy Ghost in such wise that the authority should not pass from Him to any other man? Whence do we prove this? The dove descended after the Lord was baptized; but before the Lord came to be baptized by John in the Jordan, we have said that John knew Him, on the evidence of those words, in which he says, Comest Thou to me to be baptized? I have need to be baptized by You. Well, he did know Him to be the Lord, knew Him to be the Son of God; how do we prove that he knew already that the same was He who should baptize with the Holy Ghost? Before He came to the river, while many people were running together to John to be baptized, he says to them, I indeed baptize you with water; but He that comes after me is greater than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to loose; the same shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire. Matthew 3:14 Already he knew this also. What then did he learn from the dove, that he may not afterwards be found a liar (which God forbid we should think), if it be not this, that there was to be a certain peculiarity in Christ, such that, although many ministers, be they righteous or unrighteous, should baptize, the virtue of baptism would be attributed to Him alone on whom the dove descended, and of whom it was said, This is He that baptizes with the Holy Ghost? Peter may baptize, but this is He that baptizes; Paul may baptize, yet this is He that baptizes; Judas may baptize, still this is He that baptizes.

8. For if the sanctity of baptism be according to the diversity of merits in them that administer it, then as merits are diverse there will be diverse baptisms; and the recipient will imagine that what he receives is so much the better, the better he appears to be from whom he received it. The saints themselves — understand brethren, they that belong to the dove, that have their part in that city of Jerusalem, the good themselves in the Church, of whom the apostle says, The Lord knows them that are His 2 Timothy 2:19 — are endued with different graces, and do not all possess like merits. Some are more holy than others, some are better than others. Therefore if one receive baptism from him, for example, who is a righteous saint, another from another who is of inferior merit with God, of inferior degree, of inferior continence, of inferior life, how notwithstanding is that which they receive one, equal and like, if it be not because, This is He that baptizes? Just, then, as when the good and the better administer baptism, one man does not receive a good thing, another a better; but, notwithstanding that the ministers were one good the other better, they receive what is one and equal, not a better in the one case and a worse in the other; so, too, when a bad man administers baptism, through the ignorance or forbearance of the Church (for bad men either are not known as such, or are borne with; the chaff is tolerated until the floor be fully purged at the last), that which is given is one, not unlike because the ministers are unlike, but like and equal because This is He that baptizes.

9. Therefore, beloved, let us see what those men desire not to see; not what they may not see, but what they grieve to see, as though it were shut against them. Whither were the disciples sent to baptize as ministers, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost? Whither were they sent? Go, said He, baptize the nations. You have heard, brethren, how that inheritance comes, Ask of me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the utmost bounds of the earth for Your possessions. You have heard how that from Sion went forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Isaiah 2:3 For it was there the disciples were told, Go, baptize the nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Matthew 28:19 We became attentive when we heard, Go, baptize the nations. In whose name? In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. This is one God; for it says not in the names of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, but in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Where you hear one name, there is one God; just as it was said of Abraham's seed, and the Apostle Paul expounds it, In your seed shall all nations be blessed; he said not, In seeds, as in many, but as in one, and in your seed which is Christ. Wherefore, just as the apostle wished to show you that, because in that place it is not said in seeds, Christ is one; so here too, when it is said, in the name, not in the names, even as these, in seed, not in seeds, is it proved that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one God.

10. But lo, say the disciples to the Lord, we are told in what name we are to baptize; You have made us ministers, and hast said to us, Go, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Whither shall we go? Whither? Have you not heard? To Mine inheritance. You ask, Whither shall we go? To that which I bought with my blood. Whither then? To the nations, says He. I fancied that He said, Go, baptize the Africans in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Thanks be to God, the Lord has solved the question the dove has taught us. Thanks be to God, it was to the nations the apostles were sent; if to the nations, then to all tongues. The Holy Spirit signified this, being divided in the tongues, united in the dove. Here the tongues are divided, there the dove unites them. The tongues of the nations agreed, perhaps that of Africa alone disagreed. What can be more evident, my brethren? In the dove the unity, in the tongues the community of the nations. For once the tongues became discordant through pride, and then of one became many tongues. For after the flood certain proud men, as if endeavoring to fortify themselves against God, as if anything were high for God, or anything could give security to pride, raised a tower, apparently that they might not be destroyed by a flood, should there come one thereafter. For they had heard and considered that all iniquity was swept away by a flood; to abstain from iniquity they would not; they sought the height of a tower as a defense against a flood; they built a lofty tower. God saw their pride, and frustrated their purpose by causing that they should not understand one another's speech, and thus tongues became diverse through pride. Genesis 11:1-9 If pride caused diversities of tongues, Christ's humility has united these diversities in one. The Church is now bringing together what that tower had sundered. Of one tongue there were made many; marvel not: this was the doing of pride. Of many tongues there is made one; marvel not: this was the doing of charity. For although the sounds of tongues are various, in the heart one God is invoked, one peace preserved. How then should the Holy Spirit have been manifested when signifying a unity, if not by the dove, so that it might be said to the Church brought into a state of peace, My dove is one? How ought humility to have been represented but by an innocent, sorrowing bird; not by a proud, exulting bird like the raven?

11. But perhaps they will say: Well, as it is a dove, and the dove is one, baptism there cannot be apart from the one dove. Therefore if the dove is with you, or if you be yourself a dove, do you give me, when I come to you, that which I have not. You know that this is what they say; but you will presently see that it is not of the voice of the dove, but of the clamor of the raven. For attend a little, beloved, and fear their devices; nay, beware of them, and listen to the words of gainsayers only to reject them, not to swallow them and take them into your bowels. Do therein what the Lord did when they offered Him the bitter draught, He tasted, and spat it out; Matthew 27:34 so also you hear and cast away. What indeed say they? Let us see. Lo, says he, You are the dove. O Catholic Church, it is to you it is said, My dove is one, the only one of her mother, to you certainly is it said. Stop, do not question me; prove first whether to me it was said; if it was said to me, I would hear it at once. To you, says he, it was said. I answer, in the voice of the Catholic Church, To me. And this answer, brethren, sounding forth from my mouth alone, has sounded, as I believe, also from your hearts, and we all affirmed together, yea, to the Catholic Church was it said, One is my dove, the only one of her mother. Apart from this dove, says he further, there is no baptism: I was baptized apart from this dove, consequently have not baptism; if I have not baptism, why do you not give it me when I come to you?

12. I also will put questions; let us meanwhile lay aside the inquiry as to whom this was said, My dove is one, the only one of her mother;— as yet we are inquiring — it was said either to me or to you; let us postpone the question as to whom it was said. This is what I ask, if the dove is simple, innocent, without gall, peaceful in its kisses, not fierce with its talons, I ask whether the covetous, the rapacious, the crafty, the sottish, the infamous, belong to the members of this dove? Are they members of this dove? Far be the thought, says he. And who would really say this, brethren? To speak of nothing else, if I mention the rapacious alone, members of the hawk they may be, not members of the dove. Kites seize and plunder, so do hawks, so do ravens; doves do not plunder nor tear, consequently they who snatch and rob are not members of the dove. Was there not even one rapacious person among you? Why abides the baptism, which in this case the hawk, not the dove, has given? Why do you not among yourselves baptize after robbers, after adulterers, after drunkards? Why not baptize after the avaricious among yourselves? Are these all members of the dove? You so dishonor your dove that you make those that have the nature of the vulture her members. What, then, brethren, what say we? There are the bad and the good in the Catholic Church, but with them the bad only. But perhaps I say this with a hostile feeling: let this too be afterwards examined. They do say, certainly, that among them are the good and the bad; for, should they assert that they have only the good, let their own credit it, and I subscribe. With us, let them say, there are none but holy, righteous, chaste, sober men; no adulterers, no usurers, no deceivers, no false swearers, no wine-bibbers;— let them say this, for I heed not their tongues, I touch their hearts. But since they are well known to us, and to you, and to their own, just as you are known both to yourselves in the Catholic Church and to them, neither let us find fault with them, nor let them flatter themselves. We confess that in the Church there are good and bad, yet as the grain and the chaff. Sometimes he who is baptized by the grain is chaff, and he who is baptized by the chaff is grain. Otherwise, if his baptism who is baptized by the grain stands good, and his who is baptized by the chaff not, then it is not true, This is He that baptizes. But if it is true This is He that baptizes, then what is given by the chaff stands good, and he baptizes in like manner as the dove. For the bad man (who administers baptism) is not the dove, nor belongs to the members of the dove, nor can he possibly be affirmed to be so, either with us in the Catholic Church or with them, if they assert that their Church is the dove. What then are we to understand, brethren? Since it is evident, and known to all, and they must admit, though it be against their will, that when with them bad men give baptism, it is not given after those bad men; and with us, too, when the bad give baptism, it is not given after them. The dove does not baptize after the raven; why then would the raven baptize after the dove?

13. Consider, beloved, why also was there a something pointed out by means of the dove, as that the dove — namely, the Holy Spirit in the shape of a dove — came to the Lord on being baptized, and rested upon Him, while by the coming of the dove John learned this, that there dwelt in the Lord a power peculiarly His own to baptize? Because it was by this power peculiar to Himself, as I have said, the peace of the Church was made secure. And yet it may be that one may have baptism apart from the dove; but that baptism apart from the dove should do him good, is impossible. Consider, beloved, and understand what I say, for by this deception they mislead such of our brethren as are dull and cold. Let us be more simple and more fervent. See, say they, have I received, or have I not? I answer, You have received. Well, if I have received, there is nothing which you can give me; I am safe, even on your own evidence. For I affirm that I have received, and you, too, confess that I have received: I am safe by the confession of both: what then do you promise me? Why would you make me a Catholic, when you would not give me anything further, seeing you confess that I have already received that which you affirm yourself to possess? But when I say, Come to me, I say that you do not possess, who yet confessest that I do. Why do you say, Come to me?

14. The dove teaches us. From the head of the Lord she answers, and says, You have baptism, but the charity with which I groan you have not. How is this, says he, I have baptism, and have not charity? Have I the sacraments, and not charity? Do not shout: show me how can he who divides unity have charity? I, says he, have baptism. You have; but that baptism, without charity, profits you nothing; because without charity you are nothing. The baptism itself, even in him who is nothing, is not nothing. Baptism, indeed, is something, aye, something great, for His sake, of whom it is said, This is He that baptizes. But lest you should fancy that that which is great can profit you anything, if you be not in unity, it was after He was baptized that the dove descended, as if intimating, If you have baptism, be in the dove, lest what you have profit you not. Come, then, to the dove, we say; not that you may begin to have what you had not before, but that what you did have may begin to profit you. For you had baptism to destruction without; if you shall have it within, it begins to profit you to salvation.

15. For not only was baptism not profitable to you, and not also hurtful. Even holy things may be hurtful. In the good, indeed, holy things are to salvation; in the evil, to judgment. For we certainly know, brethren, what we receive, and what we receive is at any rate holy, and no one says that it is not: and what says the apostle? But he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks judgment to himself. 1 Corinthians 11:29 He does not say that the thing itself is bad, but that the evil man, by receiving it amiss, receives the good thing which he does receive to judgment. Was that morsel which the Lord delivered to Judas evil? God forbid. The physician would not give poison; it was health the physician gave; but by unworthily receiving it, he who received it not being at peace, received it unto destruction. So likewise also he who is baptized. I have (baptism), says he, for myself. You have it, I admit. Give good heed to what you have; by that very thing which you have you will be condemned. Wherefore? Because you have what belongs to the dove apart from the dove. If you have what is the dove's in the dove, you are safe. Suppose yourself a soldier: if you have your general's mark within the lines, you serve in safety; but if you have it out of bounds, not only that mark will not be of advantage to you for service, but you will even be punished as a deserter. Come, then, come, and do not say, I have already, I have enough. Come; the dove is calling you, calling you by her sighing. My brethren, to you I say, call by groaning, not by quarreling; call by praying, by invitation, by fasting; let them by your charity understand that you pity them. I doubt not, my brethren, that if they see your sorrow they will be astonished, and will come to life again. Come, then, come; be not afraid; be afraid if you do not come; nay, be not afraid, rather bewail yourself. Come, you will rejoice if you will come; you will indeed groan in the tribulations of your pilgrimage, but you will rejoice in hope. Come where the dove is, to whom it was said, My dove is one, the only one of her mother. Do you see not the one dove upon the head of Christ, do you not see the tongues throughout the whole world? It is the same Spirit by the dove and by the tongues: if by the dove the same Spirit, and by the tongues the same Spirit, then was the Holy Spirit given to the whole world, from which Spirit you have cut yourself off, that you might clamor with the raven, not that you might sigh with the dove. Come, then.

16. But you are anxious, it may be, and sayest, I was baptized without; I fear lest therefore I am guilty, in that I was baptized without. Already you begin to know what you have to bewail. You say truly that you are guilty, not because of your re ceiving, but because of your receiving without. Keep then what you have received; amend your receiving it without. You have received what is the dove's apart from the dove. Here are two things said to you: You have received, and, Apart from the dove you have received. In that you have received, I approve; that you have received without, I disapprove. Keep then what you have received, it is not changed, but recognized: it is the mark of my king, I will not profane it. I will correct the deserter, not change the mark.

17. Boast not of your baptism because I call it a real baptism. Behold, I say that it is so; the whole Catholic Church says that it is so; the dove regards it, and acknowledges it, and groans because you have it without; she sees therein what she may acknowledge, sees also what she may correct. It is a real baptism, come. Thou boastest that it is real, and yet will you not come? What then of the wicked, who do not belong to the dove? Says the dove to you, Even the wicked, among whom I groan, who belong not to my members, and it must needs be that I groan among them, have not they that which you boast of having? Have not many drunkards baptism? Have not many covetous? Have not many idolaters, and, what is worse, who are such by stealth? Do not the pagans resort, or at least did resort, publicly to idols? And now Christians secretly seek out diviners and consult astrologers. And yet these have baptism; but the dove groans among ravens. Why then do you boast in the having it? This that you have, the wicked man also has. Have humility, charity, peace; have the good thing which as yet you have not, so that the good thing which you have may profit you.

18. For what you have, even Simon Magus had: the Acts of the Apostles are witness, that canonical book which has to be read in the Church every year. You know that every year, in the season following the Lord's Passion, that book is read, wherein it is written, how the apostle was converted, and from a persecutor became a preacher; Acts ix also, how on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was sent in cloven tongues as of fire. Acts ii There we read that in Samaria many believed through the preaching of Philip: and he is understood to have been either one of the apostles or one of the deacons; for we read there that seven deacons were ordained, among whom is the name of Philip. Well, then, through the preaching of Philip the Samaritans believed; Samaria began to abound in believers. This Simon Magus was there. By his magical arts he had so befooled the people, that they fancied him to be the power of God. Impressed, however, by the signs which were done by Philip, he also believed; but in what manner he believed, the events that followed afterwards proved. And Simon also was baptized. The apostles, who were at Jerusalem, heard this. Peter and John were sent to those in Samaria; they found many baptized; and as none of them had as yet received the Holy Ghost — in like manner as He at that time descended, so as that they on whom the Holy Spirit came should speak with tongues, for a manifest token that the nations would believe — they laid their hands on them, praying for them, and they received the Holy Ghost. This Simon — who was not a dove but a raven in the Church, because he sought his own things, not the things which are Jesus Christ's; whence he loved the power which was in the Christians more than the righteousness — Simon, I say, saw that the Holy Spirit was given by the laying on of the hands of the apostles (not that it was given by them, but given in answer to their prayers), and he said to them, How much money will you that I give you, so that by the laying on of my hands also, the Holy Ghost may be given? And Peter said to him, Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God was to be bought with money. To whom said he, Your money perish with you? Undoubtedly to one that was baptized. Baptism he had already; but he did not cleave to the bowels of the dove. Understand that he did not; attend to the very words of the Apostle Peter, for he goes on, You have no part nor lot in this faith: for I see that you are in the gall of bitterness. Acts 8:5-23 The dove has no gall; Simon had, and for that reason he was separated from the bowels of the dove. What did baptism profit him? Do not therefore boast of your baptism, as if that were of itself enough for your salvation. Be not angry, put away your gall, come to the dove. Here that will profit you, which without not only did not profit you, but even was prejudicial to you.

19. Neither say, I will not come, because I was baptized without. So, begin to have charity, begin to have fruit, let there be fruit found in you, and the dove will send you within. We find this in Scripture. The ark was made of incorruptible wood. The incorruptible timbers are the saints, the faithful that belong to Christ. For as in the temple the living stones of which it is built are said to be faithful men, so likewise the incorruptible timbers are they who persevere in the faith. In that same ark, then, the timbers were incorruptible. Now the ark is the Church, it is there the dove baptizes; for the ark was borne on the water, the incorruptible timbers were baptized within. We find that certain timbers were baptized without, such as all the trees that were in the world. Nevertheless the water was the same, not another sort; all had come from heaven, or from abysses of the fountains. It was the same water in which the incorruptible timbers which were in the ark were baptized, and in which the timbers that were without were baptized. The dove was sent forth, and at first found no rest for its feet; it returned to the ark, for all was full of water, and it preferred to return rather than be rebaptized. But the raven was sent out before the water was dried up. Rebaptized, it desired not to return, and died in those waters. May God avert from us that raven's death. For why did not the raven return, unless because it was taken off by the waters? But on the other hand, the dove not finding rest for its feet, while the water was crying to it on every side, Come, come, dip yourself here; just as these heretics cry, Come, come, here you have it; the dove, finding no rest for its feet, returned to the ark. And Noah sent it out a second time, just as the ark sends you out to speak to them; and what did the dove afterwards? Because there were timbers without that were baptized, it brought back to the ark an olive branch. That branch had both leaves and fruit. Let there not be in you words only, nor leaves only; let there be fruit, and you return to the ark, not of yourself, the dove calls you back. Groan ye without, that you may call them back within.

20. Moreover, as to this fruit of the olive, if the matter be examined, you will find what it was. The fruit of the olive signifies charity. How do we prove this? Just as oil is kept down by no liquid, but bursting through all, bounds up and overtops them; so likewise charity cannot be pressed to the bottom, but must of necessity show itself at the top. Therefore the apostle says of it, Yet show I unto you a more excellent way. Since we have said of oil that it overtops other liquids, in case it should not be of charity, the apostle said, I show you a more excellent way, let us hear what follows. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I have become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. Go now, Donatus, and cry, I am eloquent; go now, and cry, I am learned. How far eloquent? How far learned? Have you spoken with the tongues of angels? Yet though you were to speak with the tongues of angels, not having charity, I should hear only sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. I want solidity; let me find fruit among the leaves; let there be not words merely, let them have the olive, let them return to the ark.

21. But I have the sacrament, you will say. You say the truth; the sacrament is divine; you have baptism, and that I confess. But what says the apostle? If I should know all mysteries, and have prophecy and all faith, so that I could remove mountains; in case you should say this, I believe; enough for me. But what says James? The devils believe and tremble. James 2:19 Faith is mighty, but without charity it profits nothing. The devils confessed Christ. Accordingly it was from believing, but not from loving, they said, What have we to do with You? Mark 1:24 They had faith, but not charity; hence they were devils. Boast not of faith; so far you are on a level with the devils. Say not to Christ, What have I to do with You? For Christ's unity speaks to you. Come, learn peace, return to the bowels of the dove. You have been baptized without; have fruit, and you return to the ark.

22. But do you say, Why do you seek us if we are bad men? That you may be good. The reason why we seek you is, because you are bad; for if you were not bad, we should have found you, and would not be seeking you. He who is good is already found; he who is bad is still sought after. Consequently, we are seeking you; return ye to the ark. But I have baptism already. Though I should know all mysteries, and have prophecy and all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not charity, I am nothing. Let me see fruit there; let me see the olive there, and you are called back to the ark.

23. But what do you say? Behold, we suffer many evils. Would that you suffered these for Christ, not for your own honor! Hear what follows: They, indeed, boast sometimes, because they do many alms, give to the poor; because they suffer afflictions: but it is for Donatus, not for Christ. Consider how you suffer, for if you suffer for Donatus, it is for a proud man: you are not in the dove if you are suffering for Donatus. Donatus was not the friend of the Bridegroom; for had he been, he would have sought the glory of the Bridegroom, not his own. See the friend of the Bridegroom saying, This is He that baptizes. He, for whom you are suffering, was not the friend of the Bridegroom. You have not the wedding garment; and if you have come to the feast, you will be put out of doors; nay, you have been cast out of doors already, and for that reason you are wretched: return at length, and do not boast. Hear what the apostle says: Though I should distribute all my goods to the poor, and give my body to be burnt, but have not charity. See what you do not have. Though, he says, I should give my body to be burnt; and that, too, for the name of Christ; but since there are many who do this boastfully, not with charity, therefore, Though I should give my body to be burnt, and have not charity, it profits me nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2-3 It was by charity those martyrs, who suffered in time of persecution, did this; but these men do it of their vanity and pride; for in the absence of a persecutor, they throw themselves headlong into destruction. Come, then, that you may have charity. But we have our martyrs. What martyrs? They are not doves; hence they attempted to fly, and fell over the rock.

24. You see then, my brethren, that all things cry against them, all the divine pages, all prophecy, the whole gospel, all the apostolic letters, every sigh of the dove, and yet they awake not, they do not yet rouse from their sleep. But if we are the dove, let us groan, let us persevere, let us hope; God's compassion will be with you, that the fire of the Holy Spirit may glow in your simplicity; and they will come. There must be no despairing; pray, preach, love; the Lord is able to the utmost. Already they begin to be sensible of their shame; many have become sensible of it, and blushed; Christ will aid, that the rest also may become sensible of it. However, my brethren, at least let the chaff alone remain there; let all the grain be gathered together; let whatever has borne fruit among them return to the ark by the dove.

25. Failing everywhere else, what do they now allege against us, not finding what to say? They have taken away our houses, they have taken away our estates. They bring forward wills. See, Gaius Seius made a grant of an estate to the church over which Faustinus presided. Of what church was Faustinus bishop? What is the church? To the church over which Faustinus presided, said he. But Faustinus presided not over a church, but over a sect. The dove, however, is the Church. Why cry out? We have not devoured houses; let the dove have them. Let inquiry be made who the dove is, and let her have them. For you know, my brethren, that those houses of theirs are not Augustine's; and if you know it not, and imagine that I delight in the possession of them, God knows, yea, knows my judgment respecting those estates, and even what I suffer in that matter; He knows my groaning, since He has deigned to impart to me somewhat of the dove. Behold, there are those estates; by what right do you assert your claim to them? By divine right, or by human? Let them answer: Divine right we have in the Scriptures, human right in the laws of kings. By what right does every man possess what he possesses? Is it not by human right? For by divine right, The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof. The poor and the rich God made of one clay; the same earth supports alike the poor and the rich. By human right, however, one says, This estate is mine, this house is mine, this servant is mine. By human right, therefore, is by right of the emperors. Why so? Because God has distributed to mankind these very human rights through the emperors and kings of this world. Do you wish us to read the laws of the emperors, and to act by the estates according to these laws? If you will have your possession by human right, let us recite the laws of the emperors; let us see whether they would have the heretics possess anything. But what is the emperor to me? You say. It is by right from him that you possess the land. Or take away rights created by emperors, and then who will dare say, That estate is mine, or that slave is mine, or this house is mine? If, however, in order to their possessing these things, men have received rights derived from kings, will you that we read the laws, that you may be glad in having even a single garden, and impute it to nothing but the clemency of the dove that you are permitted to remain in possession even there? For there are to be read well known laws, in which the emperors have directed that those who, being outside the communion of the Catholic Church, usurp to themselves the name of Christians, and are not willing in peace to worship the Author of peace, may not dare to possess anything in the name of the Church.

26. But what have we to do with the emperor? But I have already said that we are treating of human right. And yet the apostle would have us obey kings, would have us honor kings, and said, Honor the king. 1 Peter 2:17 Do not say, What have I to do with the king? as in that case, what have you to do with the possession? It is by the rights derived from kings that possessions are enjoyed. You have said, What have I to do with the king? Say not then that the possessions are yours; because it is to those same human rights, by which men enjoy their possessions, you have referred them. But it is with divine right I have to do, says he. Well, let us read the Gospel; let us see how far extends the Catholic Church of Christ, upon whom the dove came, which taught, This is He that baptizes. In what way, then, can he possess by divine right, who says, I baptize; while the dove says, This is He that baptizes; while the Scripture says, My dove is one, the only one of her mother? Why have you torn the dove? — nay, rather, have torn your own bowels, for while you are yourselves torn to pieces, the dove continues entire. Therefore, my brethren, if, driven from every point, they have nothing to say, I will tell them what to do; let them come to the Catholic Church, and together with us, they will have not only the earth, but Him also who made heaven and earth.

About this page

Source. Translated by John Gibb. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 7. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <>.

Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is feedback732 at (To help fight spam, this address might change occasionally.) Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.

Copyright © 2021 by New Advent LLC. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.