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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 7

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 7.—That the Words Love and Regard (Amor and Dilectio) are in Scripture Used Indifferently of Good and Evil Affection.

He who resolves to love God, and to love his neighbor as himself, not according to man but according to God, is on account of this love said to be of a good will; and this is in Scripture more commonly called charity, but it is also, even in the same books, called love.  For the apostle says that the man to be elected as a ruler of the people must be a lover of good. 662   And when the Lord Himself had asked Peter, “Hast thou a regard for me (diligis) more than these?” Peter replied, “Lord, Thou knowest that I love (amo) Thee.”  And again a second time the Lord asked not whether Peter loved (amaret) Him, but whether he had a regard (diligeret)for Him, and, he again answered, “Lord, Thou knowest that I love (amo) Thee.”  But on the third interrogation the Lord Himself no longer says, “Hast thou a regard (diligis) for me,”but “Lovest thou (amas) me?”  And then the evangelist adds, “Peter was grieved because He said unto him the third time, “Lovest thou (amas) me?” though the Lord had not said three times but only once, “Lovest thou (amas) me?” and twice “Diligis me ?” from which we gather that, even when the Lord said “diligis,” He used an equivalent for “amas.”  Peter, too, throughout used one word for the one thing, and the third time also replied, “Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love (amo) Thee.” 663

I have judged it right to mention this, because some are of opinion that charity or regard (dilectio) is one thing, love (amor) another.  They say that dilectio is used of a good affection, amor of an evil love.  But it is very certain that even secular literature knows no such distinction.  However, it is for the philosophers to determine whether and how they differ, though their own writings sufficiently testify that they make great account of love (amor) placed on good objects, and even on God Himself.  But we wished to show that the Scriptures of our religion, whose authority we prefer to all writings whatsoever, make no distinction between amor, dilectio, and caritas; and we have already shown that amor is used in a good connection.  And if any one fancy that amor is no doubt used both of good and bad loves, but that dilectio is reserved for the good only, let him remember what the psalm says, “He that loveth (diligit) iniquity hateth his own soul;” 664 and the words of the Apostle John, “If any man love (diligere) the world, the love (dilectio) of the Father is not in him.” 665   Here you have in one passage dilectio used both in a good and a bad sense.  And if any one demands an instance of amor being used in a bad sense (for we have already shown its use in a good sense), let him read the words, “For men shall be lovers (amantes) of their own selves, lovers (amatores) of money.” 666

p. 267

The right will is, therefore, well-directed love, and the wrong will is ill-directed love.  Love, then, yearning to have what is loved, is desire; and having and enjoying it, is joy; fleeing what is opposed to it, it is fear; and feeling what is opposed to it, when it has befallen it, it is sadness.  Now these motions are evil if the love is evil; good if the love is good.  What we assert let us prove from Scripture.  The apostle “desires to depart, and to be with Christ.” 667   And, “My soul desired to long for Thy judgments;” 668 or if it is more appropriate to say, “My soul longed to desire Thy judgments.”  And, “The desire of wisdom bringeth to a kingdom.” 669   Yet there has always obtained the usage of understanding desire and concupiscence in a bad sense if the object be not defined.  But joy is used in a good sense:  “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous.” 670   And, “Thou hast put gladness in my heart.” 671   And, “Thou wilt fill me with joy with Thy countenance.” 672   Fear is used in a good sense by the apostle when he says, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” 673   And, “Be not high-minded, but fear.” 674   And, “I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” 675   But with respect to sadness, which Cicero prefer to calls sickness (œgritudo), and Virgil pain (dolor) (as he says, “Dolent gaudentque” 676 ), but which I prefer to call sorrow, because sickness and pain are more commonly used to express bodily suffering,—with respect to this emotion, I say, the question whether it can be used in a good sense is more difficult.



Tit. 1.8, according to Greek and Vulgate.


John 21.15-17.  On these synonyms see the commentaries in loc.


Ps. 11.5.


1 John 2.15.


2 Tim. 3.2.


Phil. 1.23.


Ps. 119.20.


Wisd. 6.20.


Ps. 32.11.


Ps. 4.7.


Ps. 16.11.


Phil. 2.12.


Rom. 11.20.


2 Cor. 11.3.


Æneid, vi. 733.

Next: Chapter 8

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