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St. Augustine from his Commentary on

 the parallel passage in the

Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:1-5)

(Chapters XVIII and XIX in Book II in Volume VI, NPNF (1st))

Chapter XVIII.


59. And inasmuch as when such things are either provided against the time to come, or reserved, if there is no cause wherefore you should expend them, it is uncertain with what intention it is done, since it may be done with a single heart, and also with a double one, He has seasonably added in this passage: "Judge not,184 that ye be not judged.185 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged,186 and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." In this passage, I am of opinion that we are taught nothing else, but that in the case of those actions respecting which it is doubtful with what intention they are done, we are to put the better construction on them. For when it is written, "By their fruits ye shall know them," the statement has reference to things which manifestly cannot be done with a good intention; such as debaucheries, or blasphemies, or thefts, or drunkenness, and all such things, of which we are permitted to judge, according to the apostle's statement: "For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? "187 But concerning the kind of food, because every kind of human food can be taken indiscriminately with a good intention and a single heart, without the vice of concupiscence, the same apostle forbids that they who ate flesh and drank wine be judged by those who abstained from such kinds of sustenance: "Let not him that eateth," says he, "despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not, judge him that eateth." There also he says: "Who art thou that judges another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth."188 For in reference to such matters as can be done with a good and single and noble intention, although they may also be done with an intention the reverse of good, those parties wished, howbeit they were [mere] men, to pronounce judgment upon the secrets of the heart, of which God alone is Judge.


60. To this category belongs also what he says in another passage: "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the thoughts189 of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God."190 There are therefore certain ambiguous actions, respecting which we are ignorant with what intention they are performed, because they may be done both with a good or with an evil one, of which it is rash to judge, especially for the purpose of condemning. Now the time will come for these to be judged, when the Lord "will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts." In another passage also the same apostle says: "Some men's aims are manifest beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after." He calls those sins manifest, with regard to which it is clear with what intention they are done; these go before to judgment, because if a judgment shall follow, it is not rash. But those which are concealed follow, because neither shall they remain hid in their own time. So we must understand with respect to good works also. For he adds to this effect: "Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid."191 Let us judge, therefore, with respect to those which are manifest; but respecting those which are concealed, let us leave the judgment to God: for they also cannot be hid, whether they be good or evil, when the time shall come for them to be manifested.


61. There are two things, moreover, in which we ought to beware of rash judgment; when it is uncertain with what intention any thing is done; or when it is uncertain what sort of a person he is going to be, who at preset is manifestly either good or bad. If, therefore, any one, for example, complaining of his stomach, would not fast, and you, not believing this, were to attribute it to the vice of gluttony, you would judge rashly. Likewise, if you were to come to know the gluttony and drunkenness as being manifest, and were so to administer reproof as if the man could never be amended and changed, you would nevertheless judge rashly. Let us not therefore reprove those things about which we do not know with what intention they are done; nor let us so reprove those things which are manifest, as that we should despair of a return to a right state of mind; and thus we shad avoid the judgment of which in the present instance it is said, "Judge not, that ye be not judged."


62. But what He says may cause perplexity: "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." Is it the case, then, that if we shall judge any thing with a rash judgment, God will also judge rashly with respect to us? or if we shall measure any thing with an unjust measure, is there with God also an unjust measure, according to which it shall be measured to us again? (for by the expression measure also, I suppose the judgment itself is meant.) By no means does God either judge rashly, or recompense to any one with an unjust measure; but it is so expressed, inasmuch as that very same rashness wherewith you punish another must necessarily punish yourself. Unless, perchance, it is to be imagined that injustice does harm in some way to him against whom it goes forth, but in no way to him from whom it goes forth; but nay, it often does no harm to him who suffers the injury, but it must necessarily do harm to him who inflicts it. For what harm did the injustice of the persecutors do to the martyrs? None; but very much to the persecutors themselves. For although some of them were turned from the error of their ways, yet at the time at which they were acting as persecutors, their wickedness was blinding them. So also a rash judgment frequently does no harm to him who is the object of the rash judgment; but to him who judges rashly, the rashness itself must necessarily do harm. According to such a rule, I judge of that saying also: "Every one that strikes192 with the sword shall perish with the sword."193 For how many take the sword, and yet do not perish with the sword, Peter himself being an instance! But lest any should think that he escaped such punishment by the pardon of his sins (although nothing could be more absurd than to think that the punishment of the sword, which did not befall Peter, could have been greater than that of the cross, which actually befell him), yet what would they say of the malefactors who were crucified with our Lord; for both he who got pardon, got it after he was crucified, and the other did not get it at all?194 Or had they perhaps crucified all whom they had slain; and did they therefore themselves too deserve to suffer the same thing? It is ridiculous to think so. For what else is meant by the statement, "For all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword," but that the soul dies by that very sin, whatever it may be, which it has committed?


Chapter XIX.


63. And inasmuch as the Lord is admonishing us in this passage with respect to rash and unjust judgment,-for He wishes that whatever we do, we should do it with a heart that is single and directed toward God alone; and inasmuch as, with respect to many things, it is uncertain with what intention they are done, regarding which it is rash to judge; inasmuch, moreover, as those parties especially judge rashly respecting things that are uncertain, and readily find fault, who love rather to censure and to condemn than to amend and to improve, which is a fault arising either from pride or from envy; therefore He has subjoined the statement: "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" So that if perchance, for example, he has transgressed in anger, you should find fault in hatred; there being, as it were, as much difference between anger and hatred as between a mote and a beam. For hatred is inveterate anger, which, as it were simply by its long duration, has acquired so great strength as to be justly called a beam. Now, it may happen that, though you are angry with a man, you wish him to be turned from his error; but if you hate a man, you cannot wish to convert him.

64. "Or how wilt195 thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye;" i.e., first cast the hatred away from thee, and then, but not before, shalt thou be able to amend him whom thou lovest.196 And He well says, "Thou hypocrite." For to make complaint against vices is the duty of good and benevolent men; and when bad men do it, they are acting a part which does not belong to them; just like hypocrites, who conceal under a mask what they are, and show themselves off in a mask what they are not. Under the designation hypocrites, therefore, you are to understand pretenders. And there is, in fact, a class of pretenders much to be guarded against, and troublesome, who, while they take up complaints against all kinds of faults from hatred and spite, also wish to appear counsellors. And therefore we must piously and cautiously watch, so that when necessity shall compel us to find fault with or rebuke any one, we may reflect first whether the fault is such as we have never had, or one from which we have now become free; and if we have never had it, let us reflect that we are men, and might have had it; but if we have had it, and are now free from it, let the common infirmity touch the memory, that not hatred but pity may go before that fault-finding or administering of rebuke: so that whether it shall serve for the conversion of him on whose account we do it, or for his perversion (for the issue is uncertain), we at least from the singleness of our eye may be free from care. If, however, on reflection, we find ourselves involved in the same fault as he is whom we were preparing to censure, let us not censure nor rebuke; but yet let us mourn deeply over the case, and let us invite him not to obey us, but to join us in a common effort.


65. For in regard also to what the apostle says,-"Unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law (not being under the law), that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ), that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might gain all,"-he did not certainly so act in the way of pretence, as some wish it to be understood, in order that their detestable pretence may be fortified by the authority of so great an example; but he did so from love, under the influence of which he thought of the infirmity of him whom he wished to help as if it were his own. For this he also lays as the foundation beforehand, when he says: "For although I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain197 the more."198 And that you may understand this as being done not in pretence, but in love, under the influence of which we have compassion for men who are weak as if we were they, he thus admonishes us in another passage, saying, "Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another."199 And this cannot be done, unless each one reckon the infirmity of another as his own, so as to bear it with equanimity, until the party for whose welfare he is solicitous is freed from it.


66. Rarely, therefore, and in a case of great necessity, are rebukes to be administered; yet in such a way that even in these very rebukes we may make it our earnest endeavour, not that we, but that God, should be served. For He, and none else, is the end: so that we are to do nothing with a double heart, removing from our own eye the beam of envy, or malice, or pretence, in order that we may see to cast the mote out of a brother's eye. For we shall see it with the dove's eyes,-such eyes as are declared to belong to the spouse of Christ,200 whom God hath chosen for Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle,201 i.e. pure and guileless.


185 Judicetur de vobis...judicabitur; Vulgate, judicemini...judicabimini.

186 Judicetur de vobis...judicabitur; Vulgate, judicemini...judicabimini.

187 1 Cor. v. 12.

188 Rom. xiv. 3, 4.

189 Cogitationes; Vulgate, consilia.

190 1 Cor. iv. 5.

191 1 Tim. v. 24, 25.

192 Omnis qui percusserit; Vulgate, omnes qui acceperint.

193 Matt. xxvi. 52.

194 Luke xxiii. 33-43.

195 The meaning is, how wilt thou have the effrontery to say, dare to say. The precept forbids all meddling, censoriousness, and captious faultfinding, and the spirit of slander, backbiting, calumny, etc.

196 "Ere you remark another's sin,

Bid your own conscience look within." -Cowper.

197 Lucrifacerem; Vulgate, facerem salvos.

198 1 Cor. ix. 19-22.

199 Gal. v. 13.

200 Cant. iv. 1.

201 Eph. v. 27.