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Home > Fathers of the Church > Tractates on the Gospel of John (Augustine) > Tractate 13

Tractate 13 (John 3:22-29)

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1. The course of reading from the Gospel of John, as those of you who are concerned for your own progress may remember, so proceeds in regular order, that the passage which has now been read comes before us for exposition today. You remember that we have expounded it, in the preceding discourses, from the very beginning of the Gospel, as far as the lesson of today. And though perhaps you have forgotten much of it, at least it remains in your memory that we have done our part in it. What you have heard from it about the baptism of John, even though you retain not all, yet I believe you have heard that which you may retain. Also, what was said as to why the Holy Spirit appeared in the shape of a dove; and how that most knotty question was solved, namely, what was that something in the Lord which John did not know, and which he learned by means of the dove, while already John knew Him, since, as Jesus came to be baptized, he said to Him, I ought to be baptized by You, and You come to me? when the Lord answered him, Suffer it now, that all righteousness may be fulfilled. Matthew 3:14

2. Now, therefore, the order of our reading obliges us to return to that same John. The same is he who was prophesied of by Isaiah, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare a way for the Lord, make His paths straight. Isaiah 40:3 Such testimony gave he to his Lord and (for the Lord deemed him worthy) his friend. And the Lord, even his friend, did also Himself bear witness to John. For concerning John He said, Among them that are born of women, there has not arisen a greater than John the Baptist. But as He put Himself before John, in that wherein He was greater, He was God. But he that is less, says He, in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Matthew 11:11 Less in age; greater in power, in deity, in majesty, in brightness: even as in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In the preceding passages, however, John had given testimony to the Lord, in such wise that he did indeed call Him Son of God, but said not that He was God, nor yet denied it: he was silent as to His being God, not denied that He was God; but yet he was not altogether silent as to His being God, for perhaps we find this in the lesson of today. He had called Him Son of God; but men, too, have been called sons of God. He had declared Him to be of such excellence, that he was not himself worthy to loose the latchet of His shoe. Now this greatness gives us much to understand: whose shoe-latchet he was not worthy to loose, he than whom none greater had arisen among them that are born of women. He was more, indeed, than all men and angels. For we find an angel forbidding a man to fall at his feet. For example, when in the Apocalypse an angel was showing certain things to John, the writer of this Gospel, John, terrified at the greatness of the vision, fell down at the angel's feet. But said the angel, Rise; see that you do it not: worship God, for I am your fellow-servant, and the brethren's. Revelation 22:8-9 An angel, then, forbade a man to fall down at his feet. Is it not manifest that He must be above all angels, for whom a man, such that a greater than he has not risen among them that are born of women, declares himself to be not worthy to loose the latchet of His shoe?

3. John, however, may say something more evidently, that our Lord Jesus Christ is God. We may find this in the present passage, that it is perhaps of Him we have been singing, The Lord reigned over all the earth; against which they are deaf who imagine that He reigns only in Africa. But let them not suppose that it is not of Christ it is spoken when it is said, God reigned over all the earth. For who else is our King, but our Lord Jesus Christ? It is He that is our King. And what have you heard in the same psalm, in the verse just sung? Sing praises to our God, sing praises: sing praises to our King, sing praises. Whom he called God, the same he called our King: Sing praises to our God, sing praises: sing praises to our King, sing praises with understanding. And that you should not understand Him to whom you sing praises to reign in one part, he says, For God is King of all the earth. And how is He King of all the earth, who appeared in one part of the earth, in Jerusalem, in Judea,walking among men, born, sucking the breast, growing, eating, drinking, waking, sleeping, sitting at a well, wearied; laid hold of, scourged, spat upon,crowned with thorns, hanged on a tree, wounded with a spear, dead, buried? How then King of all the earth? What was seen locally was flesh, to carnal eyes only flesh was visible; the immortal majesty was concealed in mortal flesh. And with what eyes shall we be able to behold the immortal majesty, after penetrating through the structure of the flesh? There is another eye, there is an inner eye. Tobias, for example, was not without eyes, when, blind in his bodily eyes, he was giving precepts of life to his son. Tobit iv The son was holding the father's hand, that the father might walk with his feet, while the father was giving the son counsel to walk in the way of righteousness. Here I see eyes, and there I understand eyes. And better are the eyes of him that gives counsel of life, than his who holds the hand. Such eyes Jesus also required when He said to Philip, Am I so long time with you, and you have not known me? Such eyes He required when He said, Philip, he that sees me, sees the Father. These are the eyes of the understanding, these are the eyes of the mind. It is for that reason that the psalm, when it had said, For God is King of all the earth, immediately added, Sing praises with understanding. For in that I say, Sing praises to our God, I say that God is our King. But yet our King you have seen among men, as man; you have seen Him suffering, crucified, dead: there was in that flesh something concealed, which you might have seen with eyes of flesh. What was there concealed? Sing praises with understanding. Do not seek to see with the eyes what is beheld by the mind. Sing praises with the tongue, for He is among you as flesh; but because the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, render the sound to the flesh, render to God the gaze of the mind. Sing praises with understanding, and you see that the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

4. Now let John also declare his witness: After these things came Jesus and His disciples into the land of Judea; and there He tarried with them, and baptized. Being baptized, He baptized. Not with that baptism with which He was baptized did He baptize. The Lord, being baptized by a servant, gives baptism, showing the path of humility and leading to the baptism of the Lord, that is, His own baptism, by giving an example of humility, in not Himself refusing baptism from a servant. And in the baptism by a servant, a way was prepared for the Lord; the Lord also being baptized, made Himself a way for them that come to Him. Let us hear Himself: I am the way, the truth, and the life. If you seek truth, keep the way, for the way and the truth are the same. The way that you are going is the same as the whither you are going: you are not going by a way as one thing, to an object as another thing; not coming to Christ by something else as a way, you come to Christ by Christ. How by Christ to Christ? By Christ the man, to Christ God; by the Word made flesh, to the Word which in the beginning was God with God; from that which man ate, to that which angels daily eat. For so it is written, He gave them bread of heaven: man ate the bread of angels. What is the bread of angels? In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. How has man eaten the bread of angels? And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

5. But though we have said that angels eat, do not fancy, brethren, that this is done with teeth. For if you think so, God, of whom the angels eat, is as it were torn in pieces. Who tears righteousness in pieces? But still, some one asks me, And who is it that can eat righteousness? Well, how is it said, Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled? The food which you eat carnally perishes, in order to refresh you; to repair your waste it is consumed: eat righteousness; and while you are refreshed, it continues entire. Just as by seeing this corporeal light, these eyes of ours are refreshed, and yet it is a corporeal thing that is seen by corporeal eyes. Many there have been, when too long in darkness, whose eyesight is weakened by fasting, as it were, from light. The eyes, deprived of their food (for they feed on light), become wearied by fasting, and weakened, so that they cannot bear to see the light by which they are refreshed; and if the light is too long absent, they are quenched, and the very sense of sight dies as it were in them. What then? Does the light become less, because so many eyes are daily fed by it? Your eyes are refreshed, and the light remains entire. As God was able to show this in the case of corporeal light to corporeal eyes, does He not show that other light to clean hearts as unwearied, continuing entire, and in no respect failing? What light? In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. Let us see if this is light. For with You is the fountain of light, and in Your light shall we see light. On earth, fountain is one thing, light another. When thirsting, you seek a fountain, and to get to the fountain you seek light; and if it is not day, you light a lamp to get to the fountain. That fountain is the very light: to the thirsting a fountain, to the blind a light. Let the eyes be opened to see the light, let the lips of the heart be opened to drink of the fountain; that which you drink, you see, you hear, God becomes all to you; for He is to you the whole of these things which you love. If you regard things visible, neither is God bread, nor is God water, nor is God this light, nor is He garment nor house. For all these are things visible, and single separate things. What bread is, water is not; and what a garment is, a house is not; and what these things are, God is not, for they are visible things. God is all this to you: if you hunger He is bread to you; if you thirst He is water to you; if you are in darkness, He is light to you: for He remains incorruptible. If you are naked, He is a garment of immortality to you, when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality. All things can be said of God, and nothing is worthily said of God. Nothing is wider than this poverty of expression. You seek a fitting name for Him, you can not find it; you seek to speak of Him in any way soever, you find that He is all. What likeness have the lamb and the lion? Both is said of Christ. Behold the Lamb of God! How a lion? The Lion of the tribe of Judah has prevailed. Revelation 5:5

6. Let us hear John: Jesus baptized. We said that Jesus baptized. How Jesus? How the Lord? How the Son of God? How the Word? Well, but the Word was made flesh. And John also was baptizing in Ænon, near to Salim. A certain lake, Ænon. How do we know it was a lake? Because there was much water there, and they came and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison. If you remember (see, I say it again), I told you why John baptized: because the Lord must needs be baptized. And why must the Lord be baptized? Because many there would be to despise baptism, that they might appear to be endowed with greater grace than they saw other believers endowed with. For example, a catechumen, now living continently, might despise a married person, and say of himself that he was better than the other believer. That catechumen might possibly say in his heart, What need have I to receive baptism, to have just what that other man has, than whom I am already better? Therefore, lest that neck of pride should hurl to destruction certain men much elated with the merits of their own righteousness, the Lord was willing to be baptized by a servant, as if addressing His chief sons: Why do you extol yourselves? Why lift yourselves up because you have, one prudence, another learning, another chastity, another the courage of patience? Can you possibly have as much as I who gave you these? And yet I was baptized by a servant, you disdain to be baptized by the Lord. This is the sense of to fulfill all righteousness.

7. But some one will say, It were enough, then, that John baptized only the Lord; what need was there for others to be baptized by John? Now we have said this too, that if John had baptized only the Lord, men would not be without this thought, that John had a better baptism than the Lord had. They would say, in fact, So great was the baptism of John, that Christ alone was worthy to be baptized therewith. Therefore, to show that the baptism which the Lord was to give was better than that of John, — that the one might be understood as that of a servant, the other as that of the Lord, — the Lord was baptized to give an example of humility; but He was not the only one baptized by John, lest John's baptism should appear to be better than the baptism of the Lord. To this end, however, our Lord Jesus Christ showed the way, as you have heard, brethren, lest any man, arrogating to himself that he has abundance of some particular grace, should disdain to be baptized with the baptism of the Lord. For whatever the catechumen's proficiency, he still carries the load of his iniquity: it is not forgiven him until he shall have come to baptism. Just as the people Israel were not rid of the Egyptians until they had come to the Red Sea, so no man is rid of the pressure of sins until he has come to the font of baptism.

8. Then there arose a question on the part of John's disciples with the Jews about purifying. John baptized, Christ baptized. John's disciples were moved; there was a running after Christ, people were coming to John. Those who came to John, he sent to Jesus to be baptized; but they who were baptized by Christ were not sent to John. John's disciples were alarmed, and began to dispute with the Jews, as usually happens. Understand the Jews to have declared that Christ was greater, and that to His baptism people ought to have recourse. John's disciples, not yet understanding this, defended John's baptism. They came to John himself, that he might solve the question. Understand, beloved. And here we are given to see the use of humility, and, when people were erring in the subject of dispute, are shown whether John desired to glory in himself. Now probably he said, You say the truth, you contend rightly; mine is the better baptism, I baptized Christ Himself. John could say this after Christ was baptized. If he wished to exalt himself, what an opportunity he had to do so! But he knew better before whom to humble himself: to Him whom he knew to have come after himself by birth, he willingly yielded precedence by confessing Him. He understood his own salvation to be in Christ. He had already said above, We all have received out of His fullness; and this is to confess Him to be God. For how can all men receive of His fullness, if He be not God? For if He is man in such wise that He is not God, then Himself also receives of the fullness of God, and so is not God. But if all men receive of His fullness, He is the fountain, they are drinkers. They that drink of a fountain, both thirst and drink. The fountain never thirsts; it has never need of itself. Men need a fountain. With thirsty stomachs and parched lips they run to the fountain to be refreshed. The fountain flows to refresh, so does the Lord Jesus.

9. Let us see, then, what answer John gives: They came unto John, and said to him, Rabbi, he that was with you beyond Jordan, to whom you bore witness, behold the same baptizes, and all men come to him: that is, What do you say? Ought they not to be hindered, that they may rather come to you? He answered and said, A man cannot receive anything, unless it be given him from heaven. Of whom, think you, had John said this? Of himself. As a man, I received, says he, from heaven. Note, my beloved: A man cannot receive anything, unless it be given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness that I said, I am not the Christ. As much as to say, Why do you deceive yourselves? See how you have put this question before me. What have you said to me? 'Rabbi, he that was with you beyond Jordan, to whom you bore witness.' Then you know what sort of witness I bare to Him. Am I now to say that He is not the same whom I declared Him to be? And because I received somewhat from heaven, in order to be something, do you wish me to be empty of it, so as to speak against the truth? 'A man cannot receive anything, unless it be given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness that I said I am not the Christ.' You are not the Christ; but what if you are greater than He since you baptized Him? I am sent: I am the herald, He is the Judge.

10. But hear a far stronger, a far more expressive testimony. See ye what it is we are treating of; see ye that to love any person in place of Christ is adultery. Why do I say this? Let us attend to the voice of John. People could be mistaken in him, could think him to be the person he was not. He rejects the false honor, in order to hold the truth complete. See what he declares Christ to be; what does he say himself is? He that has the bride is the bridegroom. Be chaste, love the bridegroom. But what are you, who sayest to us, He that has the bride is the bridegroom? But the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. The Lord our God will help me in proportion to the tumult of my heart, for it is full of sadness, to utter the grief I feel; but I beseech you by Christ Himself to imagine in thought what it will not be possible for me to utter; for I know that my grief cannot be expressed with befitting impressiveness. Now I see many adulterers who desire to get possession of the bride, purchased at so great a price, loved while deformed that she might be made fair, having been purchased and delivered and adorned by such an one; and those adulterers strive with their words to be loved instead of the bridegroom. Of that One it is said, This is He that baptizes. John 1:33 Who is he that goes forth from us and says, I am he that baptizes? Who is he that goes forth from us and says, That is holy which I give? Who is he that goes hence and says, It is good for you to be born of me? Let us hear the friend of the bridegroom, not the adulterers against the bridegroom; let us hear one jealous, but not for himself.

11. Brethen, return in thought to your own homes. I speak of carnal, I speak of earthly things; I speak after the manner of men, for the infirmity of your flesh. Many of you have, many of you wish to have, many, though you wish not to have, still have had wives; many who do not at all wish to have wives, are born of the wives of your fathers. This is a feeling that touches every heart. There is no man so alien from mankind in human affairs as not to feel what I say. Suppose that a man, having set out on a journey, had commended his bride to the care of his friend: See, I pray you, you are my dear friend; see to it, lest in my absence some other may perchance be loved in my stead. Then what sort of a person must he be, who, while the guardian of the bride or wife of his friend, does indeed endeavor that none other be loved, but if he wishes himself to be loved instead of his friend, and desires to enjoy her who was committed to his care, how detestable must he appear to all mankind! Let him see her gazing out of the window, or joking with some one somewhat too heedlessly, he forbids her as one who is jealous. I see him jealous, but let me see for whom he is jealous; whether for his absent friend or for his present self. Think that our Lord Jesus Christ has done this. He has committed His bride to the care of His friend; He has set out on a journey to a far country to receive a kingdom, as He says Himself in the Gospel, Luke 19:12 but yet is present in His majesty. Let the friend who has gone beyond the sea be deceived; and if he is deceived, woe to him who deceives! Why do men attempt to deceive God — God who looks at the hearts of all, and searches the secrets of all? But some heretic shows himself, and says, 'Tis I that give, 'tis I that sanctify, 'tis I that justify; go not to that other sect. He does well indeed to be jealous, but see for whom. Go not to idols, says he — he is rightly jealous; nor to diviners,— still rightly jealous. Let us see for whom he is jealous: What I give is holy, because it is I that give it; he is baptized whom I baptize; he whom I baptize not is not baptized. Hear the friend of the bridegroom, learn to be jealous for your friend; hear His voice who is He that baptizes. Why desire to arrogate to yourself what is not yours? Is he so very absent who has left here his bride? Do you not know, that He who rose from the dead is sitting at the right hand of the Father? If the Jews despised Him hanging on the tree, do you despise Him sitting in heaven? Be assured, beloved, that I suffer great grief of this matter; but, as I have said, I leave the rest to your thoughts. I cannot utter it if I speak the whole day. If I bewail it the whole day, I do not enough. I cannot utter it, if I should have, as the prophet says, a fountain of tears; and were I changed into tears, and to become all tears, were I turned into tongues, and to become all tongues, it were not enough.

12. Let us return and see what this John says: He that has the bride is the bridegroom; she is not my bride. And do you not rejoice in the marriage? Yea, says he, I do rejoice: But the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the voice of the bridegroom. Not because of my own voice, says he, do I rejoice, but because of the Bridegroom's voice. I am in the place of hearer; He, of speaker: I am as one that must be enlightened, He is the light; I am as the ear, He is the word. Therefore the friend of the Bridegroom stands and hears Him. Why stands? Because he falls not. How falls not? Because he is humble. See him standing on solid ground; I am not worthy to loose the latchet of His shoe. You do well to be humble; deservedly you do not fall; deservedly you stand, and hear Him, and rejoicest greatly for the Bridegroom's voice. So also the apostle is the Bridegroom's friend; he too is jealous, not for himself, but for the Bridegroom. Hear his voice when he is jealous: I am jealous over you, said he, with the jealousy of God: not with my own, nor for myself, but with the jealousy of God. Why? How? Over whom are you jealous, and for whom? For I have espoused you to one husband, to present a chaste virgin to Christ. Why do you fear, then? Why are you jealous? I fear, says he, lest, as the serpent beguiled Eve by his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the chastity which is in Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 The whole Church is called a virgin. You see that the members of the Church are various, that they are endowed with and do rejoice in various gifts: some men wedded, some women wedded; some are widowers who seek no more to have wives, some are widows who seek no more to have husbands; some men preserve continence from their youth, some women have vowed their virginity to God: various are the gifts, but all these are one virgin. Where is this virginity, for it is not in the body. It belongs to few women; and if virginity can be said of men, to few men in the Church belongs a holy integrity even of body; yet one such is a more honorable member. Other members, however, preserve virginity, not in body, but all in mind. What is the virginity of the mind? Entire faith, firm hope, sincere charity. This is the virginity which he, who, was jealous for the Bridegroom, feared might be corrupted by the serpent. For, just as the bodily member is marred in a certain part, so the seduction of the tongue defiles the virginity of the heart. Let her who does not desire without cause to keep virginity of body, see to it that she be not corrupted in mind.

13. What shall I say, then, brethren? Even the heretics have virgins, and there are many virgins among heretics. Let us see whether they love the Bridegroom, so that this virginity may be guarded. For whom is it guarded? For Christ. Let us see if it be for Christ, and not for Donatus: let us see for whom this virginity is preserved: you can easily prove. Behold, I show you the Bridegroom, for He shows Himself. John bears witness to Him: This is He that baptizes. O you virgin, if for this Bridegroom you preserve your virginity, why do you run to him who says, I am he that baptizes, while the friend of the Bridegroom tells you, This is He that baptizes? Again, your Bridegroom possesses the whole world; why, then, should you be defiled with a part of it? Who is the Bridegroom? For God is King of all the earth. This your Bridegroom possesses the whole, because He purchased the whole. See at what price He purchased it, that you may understand what He has purchased. What price has He given? He gave His blood. Where gave He, where shed He, His blood? In His passion. Is it not to your Bridegroom you sing, or feignest to sing, when the whole world was purchased: They pierced my hands and my feet, they counted all my bones: but they themselves considered me, they looked upon me, they divided my garments among them, and upon my vesture they cast lots? You are the bride, acknowledge your Bridegroom's vesture. Upon what vesture was the lot cast? Ask the Gospel; see to whom you are espoused, see from whom you receive pledges. Ask the Gospel; see what it tells you in the suffering of the Lord. There was a coat there: let us see what kind; woven from the top throughout. What does the coat woven from the top signify, but charity? What does this coat signify, but unity? Consider this coat, which not even the persecutors of Christ divided. For it says, They said among themselves, Let us not divide it, but let us cast lots upon it. Behold that of which the psalm spoke! Christ's persecutors did not rend His garment; Christians divide the Church.

14. But what shall I say, brethren? Let us see plainly what He purchased. For there He bought, where He paid the price. Paid it for how much? If He paid it only for Africa, let us be Donatists, and not be called Donatists, but Christians; since Christ bought only Africa: although even here are other than Donatists. But He has not been silent of what He bought in this transaction. He has made up the account: thanks be to God, He has not tricked us. Need there is for that bride to hear, and then to understand to whom she has vowed her virginity. There, in that psalm where it says, They pierced my hands and my feet, they counted all my bones; wherein the Lord's passion is most openly declared — the psalm which is read every year on the last week, in the hearing of the whole people, at the approach of Christ's passion; and this psalm is read both among them and us — there, I say, note, brethren, what He has bought: let the bill of merchandise be read: hear ye what He bought: All the ends of the earth shall remember, and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship in His sight: for the kingdom is His, and He shall rule the nations. Behold what it is He has bought! Behold! For God, the King of all the earth, is your Bridegroom. Why, then, would you have one so rich reduced to rags? Acknowledge Him: He bought the whole; yet you say, You have a part of it here. Oh, would that you were well-pleasing to your Spouse; would that you who speaks were not defiled, and, what is worse, defiled in heart, not in body! You love a man instead of Christ; love one that says, 'Tis I that baptize; not hearing the friend of the Bridegroom when he says, This is He that baptizes; not hearing him when he says, He that has the bride is the Bridegroom. I have not the bride, said he; but what am I? But the friend of the Bridegroom, who stands and hears Him, rejoices greatly, because of the Bridegroom's voice.

15. Evidently, then, my brethren, it profits those men nothing to keep virginity, to have continence, to give alms. All those doings which are praised in the Church profit them nothing; because they rend unity, namely, that coat of charity. What do they? Many among them are eloquent; great tongues, streams of tongues. Do they speak like angels? Let them hear the friend of the Bridegroom, jealous for the Bridegroom, not for himself: 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. 1 Corinthians 13:1

16. But what say they? We have baptism. You have, but not yours. It is one thing to have, another to own. Baptism you have, for you have received to be baptized, received as one enlightened, provided you be not darkened of yourself; and when you give, you give as a minister, not as owner; as a herald proclaiming, not as a judge. The judge speaks through the herald, and nevertheless it is not written in the registers, The herald said, but, The judge said. Therefore see if what you give is yours by authority. But if you have received, confess with the friend of the Bridegroom, A man cannot receive anything, unless it be given him from heaven. Confess with the friend of the Bridegroom, He that has the bride is the Bridegroom; but the friend of the Bridegroom stands and hears Him. But O, would you stood and hear Him, and not fall, to hear yourself! For by hearing Him, you would stand and hear; for you will speak, and your head is puffed with pride. I, says the Church, if I am the bride, if I have received pledges, if I have been redeemed at the price of that blood, do hear the voice of the Bridegroom; and I do hear the voice of the Bridegroom's friend too, if he give glory to my Bridegroom, not to himself. Let the friend speak: He that has the bride is the Bridegroom; but the friend of the Bridegroom stands and hears Him, and rejoices greatly because of the voice of the Bridegroom. Behold, you have sacraments; and I grant that you have. You have the form, but you are a branch cut off from the vine; you have a form, I want the root. There is no fruit of the form, except where there is a root; but where is the root but in charity? Hear the form of the cut-off branches; let Paul speak: Though I know all mysteries, says he, and have all prophecy, and all faith (and how great a faith!), so as to remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

17. Let no man tell you fables, then. Pontius wrought a miracle; and Donatus prayed, and God answered him from heaven. In the first place, either they are deceived, or they deceive. In the last place, grant that he removes mountains: And have not charity, says the apostle, I am nothing. Let us see whether he has charity. I would believe that he had, if he had not divided unity. For against those whom I may call marvel-workers, my God has put me on my guard, saying, In the last times there shall arise false prophets, doing signs and wonders, to lead into error, if it were possible, even the elect: Lo, I have foretold it to you. Mark 13:22-23 Therefore the Bridegroom has cautioned us, that we ought not to be deceived even by miracles. Sometimes, indeed, a deserter frightens a plain countryman; but whether he is of the camp, and whether he is the better of that character with which he is marked, is what he who would not be frightened or seduced attends to. Let us then, my brethren, hold unity: without unity, even he who works miracles is nothing. The people Israel was in unity, and yet wrought no miracles: Pharaoh's magicians were out of unity, and yet they wrought the like works as Moses. Exodus 7:12 The people Israel, as I have said, wrought no miracles. Who were saved with God — they who did, or they who did not, work miracles? The Apostle Peter raised a dead person: Simon Magus did many things: there were there certain Christians who were not able to do either what Peter did or what Simon did; and wherein did they rejoice? In this, that their names were written in heaven. For this is what our Lord Jesus Christ said to the disciples on their return, because of the faith of the Gentiles. The disciples, in truth, themselves said, boasting, Behold, Lord, in Your name even the devils are subject to us. Rightly indeed they confessed, they brought the honor to the name of Christ; and yet what does He say to them? Do not ye glory in this, that the devils are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:17 Peter cast out devils. Some old widow, some lay person or other, having charity, and holding the integrity of faith, forsooth does not do this. Peter is the eye in the body, that man is the finger, yet is he in the same body in which Peter is; and if the finger has less power than the eye, yet it is not cut off from the body. Better is it to be a finger and to be in the body, than to be an eye and to be plucked out of the body.

18. Therefore, my brethren, let no man deceive you, let no man seduce you: love the peace of Christ, who was crucified for you, while He was God. Paul says, Neither he that plants is anything, neither he that waters, but God who gives the increase. 1 Corinthians 3:7 And does any of us say that he is something? If we say that we are something, and give not the glory to Him, we are adulterers; we desire ourselves to be loved, not the Bridegroom. Love ye Christ, and us in Him, in whom also you are beloved by us. Let the members love one another, but live all under the Head. With grief indeed, my brethren, I have been obliged to speak much, and yet I have said little: I have not been able to finish the passage; God will help us to finish it in due season. I did not wish to burden your hearts further; I wish them to be free for sighs and prayers in behalf of those who are still deaf and do not understand.

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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. <>.

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