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  St Augustine on the Gospel 
(From Book II in Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount in Vol VI, NPNF (1st))
Chapter XIV. 

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 will132 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.133 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.134 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 man's 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 one's 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 ;"135 and, "Knowest thou not that the patience136 of God inviteth137 thee to repentance?"138 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?139 But let not any one who wishes to love God, and to beware of offending Him, suppose that he can serve two masters;140 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.141 

Chapter XV. 

49. "Therefore," says He, "I say unto you, Have not anxiety142 for your life, what ye shall eat;143 nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on." Lest perchance, although it is not now superfluities that are sought after, the heart should be made double by reason of necessaries themselves, and the aim should be wrenched aside to seek after those things of our own, when we are doing something as it were from compassion; i.e. so that when we wish to appear to be consulting for some one's good, we are in that matter looking after our own profit rather than his advantage: and we do not seem to ourselves to be sinning for this reason, that it is not superfluities, but necessaries, which we wish to obtain. But the Lord admonishes us that we should remember that God, when He made and compounded us of body and soul, gave us much more than food and clothing, through care for which He would not have us make our heart, double. "Is not," says He, "the soul more than the meat?" So that you are to understand that He who gave the soul will much more easily give meat. "And the body than the raiment," i.e. is more than raiment: so that similarly you are to understand, that He who gave the body will much more easily give raiment. 

50. And in this passage the question is wont to be raised, whether the food spoken of has reference to the soul, since the soul is incorporeal, and the food in question is corporeal food. But let us admit that the soul in this passage stands for the present life, whose support is that corporeal nourishment. In accordance with this signification we have also that statement: "He that loveth his soul shall lose it."144 And here, unless we understand the expression of this present life, which we ought to lose for the kingdom of God, as it is clear the martyrs were able to do, this precept will be in contradiction to that sentence where it is said: "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose145 his own soul?"146 

51. "Behold," says He, "the fowls of theair: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them: are ye not much better than they?" i.e. ye are of more value. For surely a rational being such as man has a higher rank in the nature of things than irrational ones, such as birds. "Which of you, by taking thought,147 can add one cubit unto his stature?148 And why take ye thought for raiment?" That is to say, the providence of Him by whose power and sovereignty it has come about that your body was brought up to its present stature, can also clothe you; but that it is not by your care that it has come about that your body should arrive at this stature, may be understood from this circumstance, that if you should take thought, and should wish to add one cubit to this stature, you cannot. Leave, therefore, the care of protecting the body to Him by whose care you see it has come about that you have a body of such a statute. 

52. But an example was to be given for the clothing too, just as one is given for the food. Hence He goes on to say, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon149 in all his glory was not arrayed150 like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven; shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" But these examples are not to be treated as allegories, so that we should inquire what the fowls of heaven or the lilies of the field mean: for they stand here, in order that from smaller matters we may be persuaded respecting greater ones;151 just as is the case in regard to the judge who neither feared God nor regarded man, and yet yielded to the widow who often importuned him to consider her case, not from piety or humanity, but that he might be saved annoyance.For that unjust judge does not in any way allegorically represent the person of God; but yet as to how far God, who is good and just, cares for those who supplicate Him, our Lord wishedthe inference to be drawn from this circumstance, that not even an unjust man can despise those who assail him with unceasing petitions, even were his motive merely to avoid annoyance152 

Chapter XVI. 

53. "Therefore be not anxious," says He," saying, What shall we eat?153 or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?154 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your Father knoweth thatye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added155 unto you." Here He shows most manifestly that these things are not to be sought as if they were our blessings in such sort, that on account of them we ought to do well in all our actings, but yet that they are necessary. For what the difference is between a blessing which is to be sought, and a necessary which is to be taken for use, He has made plain by this sentence, when He says, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."156 The kingdom and the righteousness of God therefore are our good; and this is to be sought, and there the end is to be set up, on account of which we are to do everything which we do. But because we serve as soldiers in this life, in order that we may be able to reach that kingdom, and because our life cannot be spent without these necessaries, "These things shall be added unto you," says He; "but seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness." For in using that word "first," He has indicated that this is to be sought later, not in point of time, but in point of importance: the one as being our good, the other as being something necessary for us; but the necessary on account of that good. 

54. For neither ought we, for example, to preach the gospel with this object, that we may eat; but to eat with this object, that we may preach the gospel: for if we preach the gospel for this cause, that we may eat, we reckon the gospel of less value than food; and in that case our good will be in eating, but that which is necessary for us in preaching the gospel. And this the apostle also forbids, when he says it is lawful for himself even, and permitted by the Lord, that they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel, i.e. should have from the gospel the necessaries of this life; but yet that he has not made use of this power. For there were many who were desirous of having an occasion for getting and selling the gospel, from whom the apostle wished to cut off this occasion, and therefore he submitted to a way of living by his own hands.157 For concerning these parties he says in another passage, "That I may cut off occasion from them which seek158 occasion."159 Although even if, like the rest of the good apostles, by the permission of the Lord he should live of tim gospel, he would not on that account place the end of preaching the gospel in that living, but would rather make the gospel the end of his living; i.e., as I have said above, he would not preach the gospel with this object, that he might get his food and all other necessaries; but he would take such things for this purpose, in order that he might carry out that other object, viz. that willingly, and not of necessity, he should preach the gospel. For this he disapproves of when he says, "Do ye not know, that they which minister in the temple160 eat the things which are of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. But I have used none of these things." Hence he shows that it was permitted, not commanded; otherwise he will be held to have acted contrary to the precept of the Lord. Then he goes on to say: "Neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void."161 This he said, as he had already resolved, because of some who were seeking occasion, to gain a living by his own hands. "For if I preach the gospel," says he, "I have nothing to glory of:" i.e., if I preach the gospel in order that such things may be done in my case, or, if I preach with this object, in order that I may obtain those things, and if I thus place the end of the gospel in meat and drink and clothing. But wherefore has he nothing to glory of? "Necessity," says he," is laid upon me;" i.e. so that I should preach the gospel for this reason, because I have not the means of living, or so that I should acquire temporal fruit from the preaching of eternal things; for thus, consequently, the preaching of the gospel will be a matter of necessity, not of free choice "For woe is unto me" says he, "if I preach not the gospel!" But how ought he to preach the gospel? Evidently in such a way as to place the reward in the gospel itself, and in the kingdom of God: for thus he can preach the gospel, not of constraint, but willingly. "For if I do this thing willingly," says he, "I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me; "162 if, constrained by the want of those things which are necessary for temporal life, I preach the gospel, others will have through me the reward of the gospel, who love the gospel itself when I preach it; but I shall not have it, because it is not the gospel itself I love, but its price lying in those temporal things. And this is something sinful, that any one should minister the gospel not as a son, but as a servant to whom a stewardship of it has been committed; that he should, as it were, pay out what belongs to another, but should himself receive nothing from it except victuals, which are given not in consideration of his sharing in the kingdom, but from without, for the support of a miserable bondage. Although in another passage he calls himself also a steward. For a servant also, when adopted into the number of the children, is able faithfully to dispense to those who share with him that property in which he has acquired the lot of a fellow-heir. But in the present case, where he says, "But if against my will, a dispensation (stewardship) is committed unto me," he wished such a steward to be understood as dispenses what belongs to another, and from it gets nothing himself. 

55. Hence anything whatever that is sought for the sake of something else, is doubtless inferior to that for the sake of which it is sought; and therefore that is first for the sake of which you seek such a thing, not the thing which you seek for the sake of that other. And for this reason, if we seek the gospel and the kingdom of God for the sake of food, we place food first, and the kingdom of God last; so that if food were not to fail us, we would not seek the kingdom of God: this is to seek food first, and then the kingdom of God. But if we seek food for this end, that we may gain the kingdom of God, we do what is said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."163 

Chapter XVII. 

56. For in the case of those who are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, i.e. who are preferring this to all other things, so that for its sake they are seeking the other things, there ought not to remain behind the anxiety lest those things should fail which are necessary to this life for the sake of the kingdom of God. For He has said above, I "Your Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things." And therefore, when He had said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," He did not say, Then seek such things (although they are necessary), but He affirms "all these things shall be added unto you,"164 i.e. will follow, if ye seek the former, without any hindrance on your part: lest while ye seek such things, ye should be turned away from the other; or lest ye should set up two things to be aimed at, so as to seek both the kingdom of God for its own sake, and such necessaries: but these rather for the sake of that other; so shall they not be wanting to you. For ye cannot serve two masters. But the man is attempting to serve two masters, who seeks both the kingdom of God as a great good, and these temporal things. He will not, however, be able to have a single eye, and to serve the Lord God alone, unless he take all other things, so far as they are necessary, for the sake of this one thing, i.e. for the sake of the kingdom of God. But as all who serve as soldiers receive provisions and pay, so all who preach the gospel receive food and clothing. But all do not serve as soldiers for the welfare of the republic, but some do so for what they get: so also all do not minister to God for the welfare of the Church, but some do so for the sake of these temporal things, which they are to obtain in the shape as it were of provisions and pay; or both for the one thing and for the other. But it has been already said above, "Ye cannot serve two masters." Hence it is with a single heart and only for the sake of the kingdom of God that we ought to do good to all; and we ought not in doing so to think either of the temporal reward alone, or of that along with the kingdom of God: all which temporal things He has placed under the category of to-morrow, saying, "Take no thought for to-morrow."165 For to-morrow is not spoken of except in time, where the future succeeds the past. Therefore, when we do anything good, let us not think of what is temporal, but of what is eternal; then will that be a good and perfect work. "For the morrow," says He, "will be anxious for the things of itself; "166 i.e., so that, when you ought, you will take food, or drink, or clothing, that is to say, when necessity itself begins to urge you. For these things will be within reach, because our Father knoweth that we have need of all these things. For "sufficient unto the day," says He, "is the evil thereof; "167 i.e. it is sufficient that necessity itself will urge us to take such things. And for this reason, I suppose, it is called evil, because for us it is penal: for it belongs to this frailty and mortality which we have earned by sinning. Do not add, therefore, to this punishment of temporal necessity anything more burdensome, so that you should not only suffer the what of such things, but should also for the purpose of satisfying this want enlist as a soldier for God. 

57. In the use of this passage, however, we must be very specially on our guard, lest perchance, when we see any servant of God making provision that such necessaries shall not be wanting either to himself or to those with whose care he has been entrusted, we should decide that he is acting contrary to the Lord's precept, and is anxious for the morrow.168 For the Lord Himself also, although angels ministered to Him,169 yet for the sake of example, that no one might afterwards be scandalized when he observed any of His servants procuring such necessaries, condescended to have money bags, out of which whatever might be required for necessary uses might be provided; of which bags, as it is written, Judas, who betrayed Him, was the keeper and the thief.170 In like manner, the Apostle Paul also may seem to have taken thought for the morrow, when he said: "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the saints of Galatia, even so do ye: upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store171 what shall seem good unto him, that there be no gatherings when I conic. And when I come172 whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me. Now I will come unto you when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I shall pass through Macedonia. And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go. For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit. But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost."173 In the Acts of the Apostles also it is written, that such things as are necessary for food were provided for the future, on account of an impending famine. For we thus read: "And in these days came prophets down from Jerusalem to Antioch,174 and there was great rejoicing. And when we were gathered together,175 there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, every one according to his ability, determined to send relief to the elders for the brethren which dwelt in Judaea, which also they did by the hands of Barnabas and Saul."176 And in the case of the necessaries presented to him, wherewith the same Apostle Paul when setting sail was laden,177 food seems to have been furnished for more than a single day. And when the same apostle writes, "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working178 with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth;"179 to those who misunderstand him he does not seem to keep the Lord's precept, which runs, "Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns;" and, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin;" while he enjoins the parties in question to labour, working with their hands, that they may have something which they may be able to give to others also. And in what he often says of himself, that he wrought with his hands that he might not be burdensome;180 and in what is written of him, that he joined himself to Aquila on account of the similarity of their occupation, in order that they might work together at that from which they might make a living;181 he does not seem to have imitated the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. From these and such like passages of Scripture, it is sufficiently apparent that our Lord does not disapprove of it, when one looks after such things in the ordinary way that men do; but only when one enlists as a soldier of God for the sake of such things, so that in what he does he fixes his eye not on the kingdom of God, but on the acquisition of such things. 

58. Hence this whole precept is reduced to the following rule, that even in looking after such things we should think of the kingdom of God, but in the service of the kingdom of God we should not think of such things. For in this way, although they should sometimes be wanting (a thing which God often permits for the purpose of exercising us), they not only do not weaken our proposition, but even strengthen it, when it is examined and tested. For, says He, "we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope: And hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."182 Now, in the mention of his tribulations and labours, the same apostle mentions that he has had to endure not only prisons and shipwrecks and many such like annoyances, but also hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness.183 But when we read this, let us not imagine that the promises of God have wavered, so that the apostle suffered hunger and thirst and nakedness while seeking the kingdom and righteousness of God, although it is said to us, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you :" since that Physician to whom we have once for all entrusted ourselves wholly, and from whom we have the promise of life present and future, knows such things just as helps, when He sets them before us, when He takes them away, just as He judges it expedient for us; whom He rules and directs as parties who require both to be comforted and exercised in this life, and after this life to be established and confirmed in perpetual rest. For man also, when he frequently takes away the fodder from his beast of burden, is not depriving it of his care, but rather does what he is doing in the exercise of care. 

132 Alterum patietur; Vulgate, unum sustinebit. 

133 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.) 

134 John xii. 31 and xiv. 30. 

135 Ecclus v. 5, 6. 

136 Patientia...invitat; Vulgate, benignitas...adducit. 

137 Patientia...invitat; Vulgate, benignitas...adducit. 

138 Rom. ii. 4. 

139 Rom. xi. 17-24. 

140 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. 

141 Wisd. i. 1. 

142 Habere sollicitudinem; Vulgate, sollicitae sitis. 

143 Edatis; Vulgate, manducetis.  

144 John xii. 25. 

145 Detrimentum faciat; Vulgate, detrimentum patiatur. 

146 Matt xvi. 26. 

147 Curans; Vulgate, cogitans. 

148 The term h0liki/a, translated by Augustin and the Vulgate statura, and by the English version stature, more probably means the measure of life, or age (American notes to Revised Version, Tholuck, De Wette, Trench, Alford, Meyer, Schaff, Plumptre, Weiss, etc.) A cubit was equal to the length of the forearm. The force of the Lord's words would be greatly diminished if such a measure was conceived of as possible to be added to the stature. The idea is, that human ingenuity and labor cannot add the least measure. 

149 To the Jew the highest representative of splendour and pomp.  

150 Vestitutus; Vulgate, coopertus. "As the beauties of the flower are unfolded by the divine Creator Spirit from within, from the laws and capacities of its own individual life, so must all true adornment of man be unfolded from within by the same Spirit. This hidden meaning must not be overlooked" (Alford). The law of spiritual growth is mysterious and spontaneous. 

151 The argument, so called, a minore ad majus.  

152 Luke xviii. 2-8. 

153 Edemus...vestiemur; Vulgate, manducabimus...operiemur. 

154 Edemus...vestiemur; Vulgate, manducabimus...operiemur. 

155 Apponentur; Vulgate, adjicientur. 

156 Matt. vi. 33.  

157 Acts xx. 34. 

158 Quoerunt; Vulgate, volunt. 

159 2 Cor. xi. 12. 

160 Templo; Vulgate, sacrario. 

161 Inanem faciat; Vulgate, evacuet. 

162 1 Cor. ix. 13-17.  

163 Nor is it said, "Seek...in order that all these things may be added:" simply, "and all," etc., yet largely inclusive,-sanctity and comfort. The comfort follows naturally. The passage is a rebuke to those who condemn the amenities of life and art, and a caution to those who place these things before themselves as a chief end. The passage justifies the statement that religion (or godliness) is profitable for the life that now is. The Psalmist never saw the righteous forsaken. A traditional saying of Jesus, quoted by Clement, Origen, and Eusebius, runs. "Ask great things, and little things shall be added; ask heavenly things, and earthly things shall be added." 

164 Nor is it said, "Seek...in order that all these things may be added:" simply, "and all," etc., yet largely inclusive,-sanctity and comfort. The comfort follows naturally. The passage is a rebuke to those who condemn the amenities of life and art, and a caution to those who place these things before themselves as a chief end. The passage justifies the statement that religion (or godliness) is profitable for the life that now is. The Psalmist never saw the righteous forsaken. A traditional saying of Jesus, quoted by Clement, Origen, and Eusebius, runs. "Ask great things, and little things shall be added; ask heavenly things, and earthly things shall be added." 

165 Cogitare in crastino; Vulgate, solliciti esse in crastinum. There is no uniformity in Augustin's or the Vulgate's translation of the Greek merimna/w ("take anxious thought") in this passage. 

166 The morrow will bring its own vexations and anxieties. The English version entirely misleads as to the meaning of the special clause, "will take care of itself." The Revised Version is a literal translation, and at least gives the true sense by implication. But with each day's temptations and troubles, it is implied, special enablement and deliverance will be provided.  

167 Wiclif, following the Vulgate, translates malice; Tyndale, trouble; the Genevan Bible, grief.  

168 Our Lord's precept is not against provident forethought,-of which Augustin goes on to give examples,-but against anxious thought which implies distrust of God's providence. Anxious, fretful, distrustful care for the future, unreliant upon God's bounty, wisdom, and love (as implied in the address, your heavenly Father) is declared to be unnecessary (25, 26), foolish (27-30), and heathenish (32, "After these things do the Gentiles seek"). The passages teach trust in God, who is more interested in His children than in the fowls of the air, and will certainly take care of them. 

169 Matt. iv. 11. 

170 John xii. 6.  

171 Thesaurizans; Vulgate, recondens. 

172 Advenero; Vulgate, praesens fuero. 

173 1 Cor. xvi. 1-8. 

174 Not in the original Greek or Vulgate, but implied in the preceding context.  

175 Not in the original Greek or Vulgate, but implied in the preceding context.  

176 Acts xi. 27-30. The clause shows much divergence from the Vulgate in construction. 

177 Acts xxviii. 10. 

178 Operans; Vulgate, operando.  

179 Eph. iv. 28. Unde tribuere cui opus est; Vulgate, unde tribuat necessitatem patienti.  

180 1 Thess. ii. 9; 2 Thess. iii. 8. 

181 Acts xviii. 2, 3. 

182 Rom. v. 3-5. 

183 2 Cor. xi. 23-27.