Augustine of Hippo
(Sermons on New Testament Lessons, Vol VI, NPNF (1st))
SERMONS XXVIII and XXIX.
Sermon XXVIII. [LXXVIII. Ben.]
On the words of the gospel, Matt. xvii, 1, "After six days Jesus
taketh with Him Peter, and James, and John his brother," etc.
1. We must now look into and treat of that vision which the Lord showed
on the mount. For it is this of which He had said, "Verily I say unto you,
there be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the
Son of Man in His Kingdom."1
Then began the passage which has just been read. "When He had said this,
after six days He took three disciples, Peter, and James, and John, and went
up into a mountain."2
These three were those" some," of whom He had said, "There be some here
which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man in His
kingdom." There is no small difficulty here. For that mount was not the
whole extent of His kingdom.3
What is a mountain to Him who possesseth the heavens? Which we not only read
He doth, but in some sort see it with the eyes of the heart. He calleth that
His kingdom, which in many places He calleth the "kingdom of heaven." Now
the kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of the saints. "For the heavens declare
the glory of God."4
And of these heavens it is immediately said in the Psalm, "There is no
speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their sound is gone out
through all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world."5
Whose words, but of the heavens? And of the Apostles, and all faithful
preachers of the word of God. These heavens therefore shall reign together
with Him who made the heavens. Now consider what was done, that this might
be made manifest.
2. The Lord Jesus Himself shone bright as the sun; His raiment became
white as the snow; and Moses and Elias talked with Him.6
Jesus Himself indeed shone as the sun, signifying that "He is the light
which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."7
What this sun is to the eyes of the flesh, that is He to the eyes of the
heart; and what that is to the flesh of men, that is He to their hearts. Now
His raiment is His Church. For if the raiment be not held together by him
who puts it on, it will fall off. Of this raiment, Paul was as it were a
sort of last border. For he says himself, "I am the least of the Apostles."8
And in another place, "I am the last of the Apostles." Now in a garment the
border is the last and least part. Wherefore as that woman which suffered
from an issue of blood, when she had touched the Lord's border was made
so the Church which came from out of the Gentiles, was made whole by the
preaching of Paul. What wonder if the Church is signified by white raiment,
when you hear the Prophet Isaiah saying, "Though your sins be as scarlet, I
will make them white as snow"?10
Moses and Elias, that is, the Law and the Prophets, what avail they, except
they converse with the Lord? Except they give witness to the Lord, who would
read the Law or the Prophets? Mark how briefly the Apostle expresses this;
"For by the Law is the knowledge of sin; but now the righteousness of God
without the Law is manifested:" behold the sun; "being witnessed by the Law
and the Prophets,"11
behold the shining of the Sun.
3. Peter sees this, and as a man savouring the things of men says, "Lord,
it is good for us to be here."12
He had been wearied with the multitude, he had found now the mountain's
solitude; there he had Christ the Bread of the soul. What! should he depart
thence again to travail and pains, possessed of a holy love to Godward, and
thereby of a good conversation? He wished well for himself; and so he added,
"If Thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for
Moses, and one for Elias." To this the Lord made no answer; but
notwithstanding Peter was answered. "For while he yet spake, a bright cloud
came, and overshadowed them."13
He desired three tabernacles; the heavenly answer showed him that we have
One, which human judgment desired to divide. Christ, the Word of God, the
Word of God in the Law, the Word in the Prophets. Why, Peter, dost thou seek
to divide them? It were more fitting for thee to join them. Thou seekest
three; understand that they are but One.
4. As the cloud then overshadowed them, and in a way made one tabernacle
for them, "a voice also sounded out of the cloud, which said, This is My
beloved Son." Moses was there; Elias was there; yet it was not said, "These
are My beloved sons." For the Only Son is one thing; adopted sons another.
He was singled out14
in whom the Law and the prophets glorified. "This is My beloved Son, in whom
I am well pleased; hear Him!" Because ye have heard Him in the Prophets, and
ye have heard Him in the Law. And where have ye not heard Him? "When they
heard this, they fell" to the earth. See then in the Church is exhibited to
us the Kingdom of God. Here is the Lord, here the Law and the Prophets; but
the Lord as the Lord; the Law in Moses, Prophecy in Elias; only they as
servants and as ministers. They as vessels: He as the fountain: Moses and
the Prophets spake, and wrote; but when they poured out, they were filled
5. But the Lord stretched out His hand, and raised them as they lay. And
then "they saw no man, save Jesus only."15
What does this mean? When the Apostle was being read, you heard, "For now we
see through a glass darkly,but then face to face."16
And "tongues shall cease," when that which we now hope for and believe shall
come. In then that they fell to the earth, they signified that we die, for
it was said to the flesh, "Earth thou art, and unto earth shalt thou
But when the Lord raised them up, He signified the resurrection. After the
resurrection, what is the Law to thee? what Prophecy? Therefore neither
Moses nor Elias is seen. He only remaineth to thee, "Who in the beginning
was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."18
He remaineth to thee, "that God may be all in all." Moses will be there; but
now no more the Law. We shall see Elias there too; but now no more the
Prophet. For the Law and the Prophets have only given witness to Christ,
that it behoved Him to suffer, and to rise again from the dead the third
day, and to enter into His glory. And in this glory is fulfilled what He
hath promised to them that love Him, "He that loveth Me shall be loved of My
Father, and I will love him."19
And as if it were said, What wilt Thou give him, seeing Thou wilt love him?
"And I will manifest Myself unto him." Great gift! great promise! God doth
not reserve for thee as a reward anything of His own, but Himself. O thou
covetous one; why doth not what Christ promiseth suffice thee? Thou dost
seem to thyself to be rich; yet if thou have not God, what hast thou?
Another is poor, yet if he hath God, what hath he not?
6. Come down, Peter: thou wast desiring to rest on the mount; come down,
"preach the word, be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke,
exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine."20
Endure, labour hard, bear thy measure of torture; that thou mayest possess
what is meant by the white raiment of the Lord, through the brightness and
the beauty of an upright labouring in charity. For when the Apostle was
being read we heard in praise of charity, "She seeketh not her own.21
She seeketh not her own;" since she gives what she possesses. In another
place there is more danger in the expression, if you do not understand it
right. For the Apostle, charging the faithful members of Christ after this
rule of charity, says, "Let no man seek his own, but another's."22
For on hearing this, covetousness is ready with its deceits, that in a
matter of business under pretence of seeking another's, it may defraud a
man, and so, "seek not his own, but another's." But let covetousness
restrain itself, let justice come forth; so let us hear and understand. It
is to charity that it is said, "Let no man seek his own, but another's."
Now, O thou covetous one, if thou wilt still resist, and twist the precept
rather to this point, that thou shouldest covet what is another's; then lose
what is thine own. But as I know thee weIl, thou dost wish to have both
thine own and another's. Thou wilt commit fraud that thou mayest have what
is another's; submit then to robbery that thou mayest lose thine own. Thou
dost not wish to seek thine own, but then thou takest away what is
another's. Now this if thou do, thou doest not well. Hear and listen, thou
covetous one: the Apostle explains to thee in another place more clearly
this that he said, "Let no man seek his own, but another's." He says of
himself, "Not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may
This Peter understood not yet when he desired to live on the mount with
Christ. He was reserving this for thee, Peter, after death. But now He saith
Himself, "Come down, to labour in the earth; in the earth to serve, to be
despised, and crucified in the earth. The Life came down, that He might be
slain; the Bread came down, that He might hunger; the Way came down, that
life might be wearied in the way; the Fountain came down, that He might
thirst; and dost thou refuse to labour? `Seek not thine own.' Have charity,
preach the truth; so shall thou come to eternity, where thou shalt find
Matt. xvi. 28.
Matt. xvii. 1; Luke ix. 28.
Ps. xix. 1.
Ps. xix. 3, 4.
Matt. xvii. 2, 3.
John i. 9.
1 Cor. xv. 9.
Mark v. 34.
Isa. i. 18.
Rom. iii. 20, 21.
Matt. xvii. 4.
Matt. xvii. 5.
Matt. xvii. 7, 8.
1 Cor. xiii. 12.
Gen. iii. 19, Sept.
John i 1.
John xiv. 21.
2 Tim. iv. 2.
1 Cor. xiii. 5.
1 Cor. x. 24.
1 Cor. x. 33.
Sermon XXIX. [LXXIX. Ben.]
Again on the words of the gospel, Matt. xvii., Where Jesus showed
Himself on the mount to His three disciples.
1. We heard when the Holy Gospel was being read of the great vision on
the mount, in which Jesus showed Himself to the three disciples, Peter,
James, and John. "His face did shine as the sun:" this is a figure of the
shining of the Gospel. "His raiment was white as the snow:"1
this is a figure of the purity of the Church, to which it was said by the
Prophet, "Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow."2
Elias and Moses were talking with Him; because the grace of the Gospel
receives witness from the Law and the Prophets. The Law is represented in
Moses, the Prophets in Elias; to speak briefly. For there are the mercies of
God vouchsafed through a holy Martyr to be rehearsed. Let us give ear Peter
desired three tabernacles to be made, one for Moses, one for Elias, and one
for Christ. The solitude of the mountain had charms for him; he had been
wearied with the tumult of the world's business. But why sought be three
tabernacles, but because he knew not as yet the unity of the Law, and of
Prophecy, and of the Gospel? Lastly, he was corrected by the cloud, "While
he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them." Lo, the cloud hath
made one tabernacle; wherefore didst thou seek for three? "And a voice came
out of the cloud, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye
Elias speaketh; but "hear Him; "Moses speaketh; but "hear Him." The Prophets
speak, the Law speaketh; but "hear Him," who is the voice of the Law, and
the tongue of the Prophets. He spake in them, and when He vouchsafed so to
do, He appeared in His own person. "Hear ye Him:" let us then hear Him. When
the Gospel spake, think it was the cloud: from thence hath the voice sounded
out to us. Let us hear/Him; that is, let us do what He saith, let us hope
for what He hath promised.
Matt. xvii. 2.
Isa. i. 18.
Matt. xvii. 5.