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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III:
Moral Treatises of St. Augustin: Section 26

Early Church Fathers  Index     

26. To show then that some things in the Scriptures which are thought to be lies are not what they are thought, if they be rightly understood, let it not seem to thee to tell little against them, that it is not from Apostolic but from Prophetical books that they find as it were precedents of lying. For all those which they mention by name, in which each lied, are read in those books in which not only words but many deeds of a figurative meaning are recorded, because it was also in a figurative sense that they were done. But in figures that which is spoken as a seeming lie, being well understood, is found to be a truth. The Apostles, however, in their Epistles spoke in another sort, and in another sort are written the Acts of the Apostles, to wit, because now the New Testament was revealed, which was veiled in those prophetic figures. In short, in all those Apostolic Epistles, and in that large book in which their acts are narrated with canonical truth, we do not find any person lying, such that from him a precedent can be set forth by these men for license of lying. For that simulation of Peter and Barnabas with which they were compelling the Gentiles to Judaize, was deservedly reprehended and set right, both that it might not do harm at the time, and that it might not weigh with posterity as a thing to be imitated. For when the Apostle Paul saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel, he said to Peter in the presence of them all, “If thou, being a Jew, livest as the Gentiles; and not as do the Jews, how compellest thou the Gentiles to Judaize?” 2426 But in that which himself did, to the intent that by retaining and acting upon certain observances of the law after the Jewish custom he might show that he was no enemy to the Law and to the Prophets, far be it from us to believe that he did so as a liar. As indeed concerning this matter his sentence is sufficiently well known, whereby it was settled that neither Jews who then believed in Christ were to be prohibited from the traditions of their fathers, nor Gentiles when they became Christians to be compelled thereunto: in order that those sacred rites 2427 which were well known to have been of God enjoined, should not be shunned as sacrileges; nor yet accounted so necessary, now that the New Testament was revealed, as though without them whoso should be converted unto God, could not be saved. For there were some who thought so and preached, albeit after Christ’s Gospel received; and to these had feignedly consented both Peter and Barnabas, and so were compelling the Gentiles to Judaize. For it was a compelling, to preach them to be so necessary as if, even after the Gospel received, without them were no salvation in Christ. This the error of certain did suppose, this Peter’s fear did feign, this Paul’s liberty did beat down. What therefore he saith, “I am made all things to all, that I might gain all,” 2428 that did he, by suffering with others, not by lying. For each becomes as though he were that person whom he would fain succor, when he succoreth with the same pity wherewith he would wish himself to be succored, if himself were set in the same misery. Therefore he becomes as though he were that person, not for that he deceives him, but for that he thinks himself as him. Whence is that of the Apostle, which I have before rehearsed, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted.” 2429 For if, because he said, “To the Jews became I as a Jew, and to them which were under the law as under the law,” 2430 he is therefore to be accounted to have in a lying manner taken up the sacraments of the old law, he ought in the same manner to have taken up, in a lying way, the idolatry of the Gentiles, because he hath said that to them which were without law he became as without law; which thing in any wise he did not. For he did not any where sacrifice to idols or adore those figments and not rather freely as a martyr of Christ show that they were to be detested and eschewed. From no apostolic acts or speeches, therep. 494 fore, do these men allege things meet for imitation as examples of lying. From prophetical deeds or words, then, the reason why they seem to themselves to have what they may allege, is only for that they take figures prenunciative to be lies, because they are sometimes like unto lies. But when they are referred to those things for the signifying of which they were so done or said, they are found to be significations full of truth, and therefore in no wise to be lies. A lie, namely, is a false signification with will of deceiving. But that is no false signification, where, although one thing is signified by another, yet the thing signified is a true thing, if it be rightly understood.



Gal. 2:13, 14Gal. 2:13, 14




1 Cor. 9.221 Cor. ix. 22. [See R.V.]


Gal. 6.1Gal. vi. 1


1 Cor. 9.201 Cor. ix. 20

Next: Section 27

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