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St Augustine on Our Lord's Sermon on the Mount 
(Chapters XXIV and XXV  in Vol VI, NPNF (1st))
Chapter XXIV. 

78. Here, therefore, those who promise a wisdom and a knowledge of the truth which they do not possess, are especially to be guarded against; as, for instance, heretics, who frequently commend themselves on account of their fewness. And hence, when He had said that there are few who find the strait gate and the narrow way, lest they [the heretics] should falsely substitute themselves under the pretext of their fewness, He immediately added, "Beware of false prophets,220 which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." But such parties do not deceive the single eye, which knows how to distinguish a tree by its fruits. For He says: "Ye shall know them by their fruits." Then He adds the similitudes: "Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit221 is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." 

79. And in [the interpretation of] this passage we must be very much on our guard against the error of those who judge from these same two trees that there are two original natures, the one of which belongs to God, but the other neither belongs to God nor springs from Him. And this error has both been already discussed in other books [of ours]222 very copiously, and if that is still too little, will be discussed again; but at present we have merely to show that the two trees before us do not help them. In the first place, because it is so clear that He is speaking of men, that whoever reads what goes before and what follows will wonder at their blindness. Secondly, they fix their attention on what is said, "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit," and therefore think that neither can it happen that an evil soul should be changed into something better, nor a good one into something worse; as if it were said, A good tree cannot become evil, nor an evil tree good. But it is said, "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." For the tree is certainly the soul itself, i.e. the man himself, but the fruits are the works of the man; an evil man, therefore, cannot perform good works, nor a good man evil works. If an evil man, therefore, wishes to perform good works, let him first become good. So the Lord Himself says in another passage more plainly: "Either make the tree good, or make the tree bad." But if He were figuratively representing the two natures of such parties by these two trees, He would not say, "Make:" for who of the sons of men can make a nature? Then also in that passage, when He had made mention of these two trees, He added, "Ye hypocrites, how can ye, being evil, speak good things?"223 As long, therefore, as any one is evil, he cannot bring forth good fruits; for if he were to bring forth good fruits, he would no longer be evil. So it might most truly have been said, snow cannot be warm; for when it begins to be warm, we no longer call it snow, but water. It may therefore come about, that what was snow is no longer so; but it cannot happen that snow should be warm. So it may come about, that he who was evil is no longer evil; it cannot, however, happen that an evil man should do good. And although he is sometimes useful, this is not the man's own doing; but it is done through him, in virtue of the arrangements of divine providence: as, for instance, it is said of the Pharisees, "What they bid you, do; but what they do, do not consent to do." This very circumstance, that they spoke things that were good, and that the things which they spoke were usefully listened to and done, was not a matter belonging to them: for, says He, "they sit in Moses' seat."224 It was, therefore, when engaged through divine providence in preaching the law of God, that they were able to be useful to their hearers, although they were not so to themselves. Respecting such it is said in another place by the prophet, "They have sown wheat, but shall reap thorns;"225 because they teach what is good, and do what is evil. Those, therefore, who listened to them, and did what was said by them, did not gather grapes of thorns, but through the thorns gathered grapes of the vine: just as, were any one to thrust his hand through a hedge, or were at least to gather a grape from a vine which was entangled in a hedge, that would not be the fruit of the thorns, but of the vine. 

80. The question, indeed, is most rightly put, What are the fruits He would wish us to attend to, whereby we might know the tree? For many reckon among the fruits certain things which belong to the sheep's clothing, and in this way are deceived by wolves: as, for instance, either fastings, or prayers, or almsgivings; but unless all of these things could be done even by hypocrites, He would not say above, "Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them." And after prefixing this sentence, He goes on to speak of those very three things, almsgiving, prayer, fasting. For many give largely to the poor, not from compassion, but from vanity; and many pray, or rather seem to pray, while not keeping God in view, but desiring to please men; and many fast, and make a wonderful show of abstinence before those to whom such things appear difficult, and by whom they are reckoned worthy of honour: and catch them with artifices of this sort, while they hold up to, view one thing for the purpose of deceiving, and put forth another for the purpose of preying upon or killing those who cannot see the wolves under that sheep's clothing, These, therefore, are not the fruits by which He admonishes us that the tree is known. For such things, when they are done with a good intention in sincerity, are the appropriate clothing of sheep; but when they are done in wicked deception, they cover nothing else but wolves. But the sheep ought not on this account to hate their own clothing, because the wolves often conceal themselves therein. 

81. What the fruits are by the finding of which we may know an evil tree, the apostle tells us: "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adulteries, fornications, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatreds, variances, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." And what the fruits are by which we may know a good tree, the very same apostle goes on to tell us: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance."226 It must be known, indeed, that "joy" stands here in a strict and proper sense; for bad men are, strictly speaking, not said to rejoice, but to make extravagant demonstrations of joy: just as we have said above, that "will" which the wicked do not possess, stands in a strict sense where it is said, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." In accordance with that strict sense of the word, in virtue of which joy is spoken of only in the good, the prophet also speaks, saying: "Rejoicing is not for the wicked, saith the Lord."227 So also "faith" stands, not certainly as meaning any kind of it, but true faith: and the other things which find a place here have certain resemblances of their own in bad men and deceivers; so that they entirely mislead, unless one has the pure and single eye by which he may know such things. It is accordingly the best arrangement, that the cleansing of the eye is first discussed, and then mention is made of what things were to be guarded against. 

Chapter XXV. 

82. But seeing that, however pure an eye one may have, i.e. with however single and sincere a heart one may live, he yet cannot look into the heart of another: whatever things could not have become apparent in deeds or words, are disclosed by trials. Now trial is twofold; either in the hope of obtaining some temporal advantage, or in the terror of losing it. And especially must we be on our guard, lest, when striving after wisdom, which can be found in Christ alone, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;228 -we must be on our guard, I say, lest, under the very name of Christ, we be deceived by heretics, or by any parties whatever defective in intelligence, and lovers of this world. For on this account He adds a warning, saying, "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord,229 shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven:" lest we should think that the mere fact of one saying to our Lord, "Lord, Lord," belongs to those fruits; and from that he should seem to us to be a good tree. But those are the fruits, to do the will of the Father who is in heaven, in the doing of which He has condescended to exhibit Himself as an example. 

83. But the question may fairly be started, how with this sentence the statement of the apostle is to be reconciled, where he says, "No man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed; and no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost:"230 for neither can we say that any who have the Holy Spirit will not enter into the kingdom of heaven, if they persevere onwards to the end; nor can we affirm that those who say, "Lord, Lord," and yet do not enter into the kingdom of heaven, have the Holy Spirit. How then does no one say "that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost," unless it is because the apostle has used the word "say" here in a strict and proper sense, so that it implies the will and understanding of him who says? But the Lord has used the word which He employs in a general sense: "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." For he also who neither wishes nor understands what he says, seems to say it; but he properly says it, who gives expression to his will and mind by the sound of his voice: just as, a little before, what is called "joy" among the fruits of the Spirit is called so in a strict and proper sense, not in the way in which the same apostle elsewhere uses the expression, "Rejoiceth not in iniquity:"231 as if any one could rejoice in iniquity: for that transport of a mind making confused and boisterous demonstrations of joy is not joy; for this latter is possessed by the good alone. Hence those also seem to say it, who neither perceive with the understanding nor engage with the deliberate consent of the will in this which they utter, but utter it with the voice merely; and after this manner the Lord says, "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." But truly and properly those parties say it whose utterance in speech really represents their will and intention; and it is in accordance with this signification that the apostle has said, "No one can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." 

84. And besides, it belongs especially to the matter in hand, that, in striving after the contemplation of the truth, we should not only not be deceived by the name of Christ, by means of those who have the name and have not the deeds; but also not by certain deeds and miracles, for when the Lord performed of the same kind for the sake of unbelievers, He has warned us not to be deceived by such things, thinking that an invisible wisdom is present where we see a visible miracle.

220 Cavete a pseudoprophetis; Vulgate, attendite a falsis prophetis.

221 Excellency of fruitage is sanctity of life (Bonitas fructuum est sanctitas vitae (Bengel).

222 More particularly his works against the Manichaeans, Contra Faustum Manichaeum, etc. Augustin also made much use of this passage against the Pelagians, to show that the will must be aided to produce good thoughts and deeds; that the unregenerate man is incapable of restoring himself.

223 Matt. xii. 33, 34.

224 Matt. xxiii. 3,2.

225 Jer. xii. 13.

226 Gal. v. 19-23.

227 Isa. lvii. 21, according to the Septuagint.

228 Col. ii. 3.

229 Many called Him Lord, but He never called any one Lord (ipsum multi, etiam amplissimi viri,-ipse neminem ne Pilatum quidem, dominum vocavit.-Bengel).

230 1 Cor. xii. 3.

231 1 Cor. xiii. 6.