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St Augustine on the Gospel 
A portion of Sermon I [LI. Benedictine Edition] 
in Sermons on Selected Lessons of the Gospels
Vol VI, NPNF (1st)
Then in order to tell us how Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, he went on and said, "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise;"26 for by the line of the generations he had showed why Christ is called the Son of David, and the Son of Abraham. But now it needed to be shown how He was born and appeared among men: and so there follows immediately that narrative, by means of which we believe that our Lord Jesus Christ was not only born of the everlasting God, coeternal with Him who begat Him before all times, before all creation, by whom all things were made; but was also now born from the Holy Ghost, of the Virgin Mary, which we confess equally with the other; for you remember and know (for I am speaking to Catholics, to my brethren), that this is our faith, that this we profess and confess; for this faith thousands of martyrs have been slain in all the world. 

9. This also which follows they like to laugh at, whose wish it is to destroy the authority of the Evangelical books, that they may show as it were that we have without any good reason believed what is said, "When as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with Child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily;"27 for because he knew that she was not with child by him, he thought that she was so to say28 necessarily an adulteress. "Being a just man," as the Scripture saith," and not willing to make her a public example," (that is, to divulge the matter, for so it is in many copies), "he was minded to put her away privily." The husband indeed was in trouble, but as being a just man he deals not severely; for so great justice is ascribed to this man, as that he neither wished to keep an adulterous wife, nor could bring himself29 to punish and expose her. "He was minded to put her away privily," because he was not only unwilling to punish, but even to betray her; and mark his genuine justice; for he did not wish to spare her, because he had a desire to keep her; for many spare their adulterous wives through a carnal love, choosing to keep them even though adulterous, that they may enjoy them through a carnal desire. But this just man has no wish to keep her, and so does not love in any carnal sort; and yet he does not wish to punish her; and so in his mercy he spares her. How truly just a man is this! He would neither keep an adulteress, lest he should seem to spare her because of an impure affection, and yet he would not punish or betray her. Deservedly indeed was he chosen for the witness of his wife's virginity: and so he who was in trouble through human infirmity, was assured by Divine authority. 

10. For the Evangelist goes on to say, "While he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in sleep, saying, Joseph, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.30 And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus." Why Jesus? "for He shall save His people from their sins."31 It is well known then, that "Jesus" in the Hebrew tongue is in Latin interpreted "Saviour," which we see from this very explanation of the name; for as if it had been asked, "Why Jesus?" he subjoined immediately as explaining the reason of the word, "for He shall save His people from their sins." This then we religiously believe, this most firmly hold fast, that Christ was born by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary. 

11. What then do our adversaries say?"If," says one, "I shall discover a lie, surely you will not then believe it all; and such I have discovered." Let us see: I will reckon up the generations; for by their slanderous cavillings they invite and bring us to this. Yes, if we live religiously, if we believe Christ, if we do not desire to fly out of the nest before the time, they only bring us to this-to the knowledge of mysteries. Mark then, holy brethren,32 the usefulness of heretics; their usefulness, that is, in respect of the designs of God, who makes a good use even of those that are bad; whereas, as regards themselves, the fruit of their own designs is rendered to them, and not that good which God brings out of them. Just as in the case of Judas; what great good did he! By the Lord's Passion all nations are saved; but that the Lord might suffer, Judas betrayed Him. God then both delivers the nations by the Passion of His Son, and punishes Judas for his own wickedness. For the mysteries which lie hid in Scripture, no one who is content with the simplicity of the faith would curiously sift them, and therefore as no one would sift them, no one would discover them but for cavillers who force us. For when heretics cavil, the little ones are disturbed; when disturbed, they make search, and their search is, so to say, a beating of the head at the mother's breasts, that they may yieldas much milk as is sufficient for these little ones. They search then, because they are troubled; but they who know and have learnt these things, because they have investigated them, and God hath opened to their knocking, they in their turn open to those who are in trouble. And so it happens that heretics serve usefully for the discovery of the truth, whilst they cavil to seduce men into error. For with less carefulness would truth be sought out, if it had not lying adversaries; "For there must be also heresies among you," and as though we should enquire the cause, he immediately subjoined, "that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."33 

12. What then is it that they say? "See; Matthew enumerates the generations, and says, that "from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations, and fromthe carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations." Now three times fourteen make forty-two; yet they number them, and find them forty-one generations, and immediately they bring up their cavilling and their insulting mockery, and say, "What means it, when in the Gospel it is said that there are three times fourteen generations, yet when they are numbered all together, they are found to be not forty-two, but forty-one?" Doubtless there is a great mystery34 here: and glad are we, and we give thanks unto the Lord, that by the occasion of cavillers we have discovered something which gives us in the discovery the more pleasure, in proportion to its obscurity when it was the object of search; for, as I have said before, we are exhibiting a spectacle to your minds. From Abraham then to David are fourteen generations: after that, the enumeration begins with Solomon, for David begat Solomon; the enumeration, I say, begins with Solomon, and reaches to Jechonias, during whose life the carrying away into Babylon took place; and so are there other fourteen generations, by reckoning in Solomon at the head of the second division, and Jechonias also, with whom that enumeration closes to fill up the number fourteen; and the third division begins with this same Jechonias. 

13. Give attention, holy brethren, to this circumstance, at once mysterious and pleasant; for I confess to you the feeling35 of my own heart, whereby I believe that when I have brought it forth, and you have got taste of it, you will give the same report of it. Attend then. In the third division, beginning from this Jechonias unto the Lord Jesus Christ, are found fourteen generations; for this Jechonias is reckoned twice, as the last of the former, and the first of the following division. "But why is Jechonias," one may say, "reckoned twice?" Nothing took place of old among the people of Israel, which was not a mysterious figure of things to come: and indeed it is not without good reason that Jechonias is reckoned twice, because if there be a boundary between two fields, be it a stone, or any dividing wall, both he who is on the one side measures up to that same wall, and he who is on the other takes the beginning of his measurement again from the same. But why this was not done in the first connecting link of the divisions, when we number from Abraham to David fourteen generations, and begin to reckon the fourteen others, not from David over again, but from Solomon, a reason must be given which contains an important mystery.36 Attend then. The carrying away into Babylon took place when Jechonias was appointed king in the room of his deceased father. The kingdom was taken from him, and another appointed in his room; stillthe carrying away unto the Gentiles took place during the lifetime of Jechonias, for no fault of Jechonias is mentioned for which he was deprived of the kingdom; but the sins rather of those who succeeded him are marked out. So then there follows the Captivity and the passing away into Babylon; and the wicked do not go alone, but the saints also go with them: for in that Captivity were the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel, and the Three Children who were cast into the flames, and so made famous. They all went according to the prophecy of the prophet Jeremiah. 

14. Remember then, that Jechonias, rejected without any fault of his, ceased to reign, and passed over unto the Gentiles, when the carrying away unto Babylon took place. Now observe the figure hereby manifested beforehand, of things to come in the Lord Jesus Christ. For the Jews would not that our Lord Jesus Christ should reign over them, yet found they no fault in Him. He was rejected in His own person, and in that of His servants also, and so they passed over unto the Gentiles as into Babylon in a figure. For this also did Jeremiah prophesy, that the Lord commanded them to go into Babylon: and whatever other prophets told the people not to go into Babylon, them he reproved as false prophets.37 Let those who read the Scriptures, remember this as we do; and let those who do not, give us credit. Jeremiah then on the part of God threatened those who would not go into Babylon, whereas to them who should go he promised rest there, and a sort of happiness in the cultivation of their vines, and planting of their gardens, and the abundance of their fruits. How then does the people of Israel, not now in figure but in verity, pass over unto Babylon? Whence came the Apostles? Were they not of the nation of the Jews? Whence came Paul himself?for he saith, "I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin."38 Many of the Jews then believed in the Lord; from them were the Apostles chosen; of them were the more than five hundred brethren, to whom it was vouchsafed39 to see the Lord after His resurrection;40 of them were the hundred and twenty in the house,41 when the Holy Ghost came down. But what saith the Apostle in the Acts of the Apostles, when the Jews refused the word of truth? "We were sent unto you, but seeing ye have rejected the word of God, lo! we turn unto the Gentiles."42 The true passing over then into Babylon, which was then prefigured in the time of Jeremiah, took place in the spiritual dispensation of the time of the Lord's Incarnation. But what saith Jeremiah of these Babylonians, to those who were passing over to them? "For in their peace shall be your peace."43 When Israel then passed over also into Babylon by Christ and the Apostles, that is, when the Gospel came unto the Gentiles, what saith the Apostle, as though by the mouth of Jeremiah of old? "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men. For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty."44 For they were not yet Christian kings, yet he prayed for them. Israel then praying in Babylon hath been heard; the prayers of the Church have been heard, and the kings have become Christian, and you see now fulfilled what was then spoken in figure; "In their peace shall be your peace," for they have received the peace of Christ, and have left off to persecute Christians, that now in the secure quiet of peace, the Churches might be built up, and peoples planted in the garden45 of God, and that all nations might bring forth fruit in faith, and hope, and love, which is in Christ. 

15. The carrying away into Babylon took place of old by Jechonias, who was not permitted to reign in the nation of the Jews, as a type of Christ, whom the Jews would not have reign over them. Israel passed over unto the Gentiles, that is, the preachers of the Gospel passed over unto the people of the Gentiles. What marvel then, that Jechonias is reckoned twice? for if he were a figure of Christ passing over from the Jews unto the Gentiles, consider only what Christ is between the Jews and Gentiles. Is He not that Corner-stone? In a corner-stone you see the end of one wall, and the beginning of another; up to that stone you measure one wall, and another from it; therefore the corner-stone which connects both walls is reckoned twice. Jechonias then as prefiguring the Lord was, as it were, a type of the corner-stone; and as Jechonias was not permitted to reign over the Jews, but they went unto Babylon, so Christ, "the stone which the builders rejected, is made the head of the corner,"46 that the Gospel might reach unto the Gentiles. Hesitate not then to reckon the head of the corner twice, and you have at once the number written: and so there are fourteen in each of the three divisions, yet altogether the generations are not forty-two, but forty-one; for as when the order of the stones runs in a straight line, they are all reckoned but once, but when there is a deviation from the straight line to make an angle, that stone at which the deviation begins must be reckoned twice, because it belongs at once to that line which is finished at it, and to that other line which begins from it; so as long as the order of the generations continued in the Jewish people, it made no angle in the regular division of fourteen; but when the line was turned that the people might pass over into Babylon, a sort of angle as it were was made at Jechonias, so that it was necessary to reckon him twice, as the type of that adorable Corner-stone. 

16. They have another cavil. "The generations of Christ," say they, "are numbered through Joseph, and not through Mar." Attend awhile, holy brethren. "It ought not to be," they say, "through Joseph." And why not? Was not joseph the husband of Mary? "No," they say. Who says so? For the Scripture saith by the authority of the Angel that he was her husband. "Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost."47 Again, he was commanded to name the Child, though He was not born of his seed; "She shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus."48 Now the Scripture is intent on showing, that He was not born of Joseph's seed, when he is told in his trouble as to her being with child," He is of the Holy Ghost;" and yet his paternal authority is not taken from him, forasmuch as he is commanded to name the Child; and again the Virgin Mary herself, who was well aware that it was not by him that she conceived Christ, yet calls him the father of Christ. 

26 Matt. i. 7-18. 
27 Matt. i. 19. 
28 Velut. 
29 Auderet.  
30 Matt. i. 20. 
31 Matt. i. 21. 
32 Sanctitas vestra. 
33 1 Cor. xi. 19. 
34 Sacramentum. 
35 Gustatum.  
36 Sacramentum. 
37 Jer. xxvii. 
38 Rom. xi. 1. 
39 Meruerunt. 
40 1 Cor. xv. 6. 
41 Acts i. 15. 
42 Acts xiii. 46. 
43 Jer. xxix. 7. 
44 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2. 
45 Agricultura.  
46 Ps. cxviii. 22. 
47 Matt. i. 20. 
48 Matt. i. 21.