47. Then, further, the statement which follows, “No man can serve two masters,” is to be referred to this very intent, as He goes on to explain, saying: “For either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will 374 submit to the one, and despise the other.” And these words are to be carefully considered; for who the two masters are he forthwith shows, when He says, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Riches are said to be called mammon among the Hebrews. The Punic name also corresponds: for gain is called mammon in Punic. 375 But he who serves mammon certainly serves him who, as being set over those earthly things in virtue of his perversity, is called by our Lord the prince of this world. 376 A man will therefore “either hate” this one, “and love the other,” i.e. God; “or he will submit to the one, and despise the other.” For whoever serves mammon submits to a hard and ruinous master: for, being entangled by his own lust, he becomes a subject of the devil, and he does not love him; for who is there who loves the devil? But yet he submits to him; as in any large house he who is connected with another mans maid servant submits to hard bondage on account of his passion. even though he does not love him whose maid-servant he loves.
48. But “he will despise the other,” He has said; not, he will hate. For almost no ones conscience can hate God; but he despises, i.e. he does not fear Him, as if feeling himself secure in consideration of His goodness. From this carelessness and ruinous security the Holy Spirit recalls us, when He says by the prophet, “My son, do not add sin upon sin, and say, The mercy of God is great ;” 377 and, “Knowest thou not that the patience 378 of God inviteth 379 thee to repentance?” 380 For whose mercy can be mentioned as being so great as His, who pardons all the sins of those who return, and makes the wild olive a partaker of the fatness of the olive? and whose severity as being so great as His, who spared not the natural branches, but broke them off because of unbelief? 381 But let not any one who wishes to love God, and to beware of offending Him, suppose that he can serve two masters; 382 and let him disentangle the upright intention of his heart from all doubleness: for thus he will think of the Lord with a good heart, and in simplicity of heart will seek Him. 383
Augustin is the only one to give this derivation. His residence in North Africa is the explanation of his knowledge of the Punic. The word probably comes from the Chaldee and through the Hebrew word aman, “what is trusted in.” (See Thayer, Lexicon.)49:376 49:377 49:378 49:379 49:380 49:381 49:382
Luther says the world can do it in a masterly way, and carry the tree (or “water” according to the English figure) on both shoulders. This verse is a rebuke to those who think they can combine a supreme affection for heavenly and for earthly things at the same time, and pursue both with equal zeal.49:383
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