Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VI:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Our Lords Sermon on the Mount.: Chapter IV
11. Hence also the sevenfold operation of the Holy Ghost, of which Isaiah speaks, 32 seems to me to correspond to these stages and sentences. But there is a difference of order: for there the enumeration begins with the more excellent, but here with the inferior. For there it begins with wisdom, and closes with the fear of God: but “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” And therefore, if we reckon as it were in a gradually ascending series, there the fear of God is first, piety second, knowledge third, fortitude fourth, counsel fifth, understanding sixth, wisdom seventh. The fear of God corresponds to the humble, of whom it is here said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” i.e. those not puffed up, not proud: to whom the apostle says, “Be not high-minded, but fear;” 33 i.e. be not lifted up. Piety 34 corresponds to the meek: for he who inquires piously honours Holy Scripture, and does not censure what he does not yet understand, and on this account does not offer resistance; and this is to be meek: whence it is here said, “Blessed are the meek.” Knowledge corresponds to those that mourn who already have found out in the Scriptures by what evils they are held chained which they ignorantly have coveted as though they were good and useful. Fortitude corresponds to those hungering and thirsting: for they labour in earnestly desiring joy from things that are truly good, and in eagerly seeking to turn away their love from earthly and corporeal things: and of them it is here said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Counsel corresponds to the merciful: for this is the one remedy for escaping from so great evils, that we forgive, as we wish to be p. 7 ourselves forgiven; and that we assist others so far as we are able, as we ourselves desire to be assisted where we are not able: and of them it is here said, “Blessed are the merciful.” Understanding corresponds to the pure in heart, the eye being as it were purged, by which that may be beheld which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, and what hath not entered into the heart of man: 35 and of them it is here said, “Blessed are the pure in heart.” Wisdom corresponds to the peacemakers, in whom all things are now brought into order, and no passion is in a state of rebellion against reason, but all things together obey the spirit of man, while he himself also obeys God: and of them it is here said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” 36
12. Moreover, the one reward, which is the kingdom of heaven, is variously named according to these stages. In the first, just as ought to be the case, is placed the kingdom of heaven, which is the perfect and highest wisdom of the rational soul. Thus, therefore, it is said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven:” as if it were said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” To the meek an inheritance is given, as it were the testament of a father to those dutifully seeking it: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” To the mourners comfort, as to those who know what they have lost, and in what evils they are sunk: “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” To those hungering and thirsting, a full supply, as it were a refreshment to those labouring and bravely contending for salvation: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” To the merciful mercy, as to those following a true and excellent counsel, so that this same treatment is extended toward them by one who is stronger, which they extend toward the weaker: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” To the pure in heart is given the power of seeing God, as to those bearing about with them a pure eye for discerning eternal things: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” To the peacemakers the likeness of God is given, as being perfectly wise, and formed after the image of God by means of the regeneration of the renewed man: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” And those promises can indeed be fulfilled in this life, as we believe them to have been fulfilled in the case of the apostles. For that all-embracing change into the angelic form, which is promised after this life, cannot be explained in any words. “Blessed,” therefore, “are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This eighth sentence, which goes back to the starting-point, and makes manifest the perfect man, is perhaps set forth in its meaning both by the circumcision on the eighth day in the Old Testament, and by the resurrection of the Lord after the Sabbath, the day which is certainly the eighth, and at the same time the first day; and by the celebration of the eight festival days which we celebrate in the case of the regeneration of the new man; and by the very number of Pentecost. For to the number seven, seven times multiplied, by which we make forty-nine, as it were an eighth is added, so that fifty may be made up, and we, as it were, return to the starting-point: on which day the Holy Spirit was sent, by whom we are led into the kingdom of heaven, and receive the inheritance, and are comforted; and are fed, and obtain mercy, and are purified, and are made peacemakers; and being thus perfect, we bear all troubles brought upon us from without for the sake of truth and righteousness.
Isa. 11:2, 3.6:33
Rom. xi. 20.6:34
Augustin follows the Septuagint, which has “piety” instead of “the fear of the Lord” in the last clause of Isa. xi. 2.7:35
Isa. 64:4, 1 Cor. 2:9.7:36
This is guarded against misconstruction in the Retract. I. xix. 1.
Next: Chapter V
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