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NPNF1-06. St. Augustine: Sermon on the Mount; Harmony of the Gospels; Homilies on the Gospels
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Chapter XV.

49. “Therefore,” says He, “I say unto you, Have not anxiety384384     Habere sollicitudinem; Vulgate, sollicitæ sitis. for your life, what ye shall eat;385385     Edatis; Vulgate, manducetis. 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 hearts 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.”386386     John xii. 25. 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 lose387387     Detrimentum faciat; Vulgate, detrimentum patiatur. his own soul?”388388     Matt. xvi. 26.

51. “Behold,” says He, “the fowls of the air: 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,389389     Curans; Vulgate, cogitans. can add one cubit unto his stature?390390     The term ἡλικία, 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. 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 stature.

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 Solomon391391     To the Jew the highest representative of splendour and pomp. in all his glory was not arrayed392392     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. 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;393393     The argument, so called, a minore ad majus. 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 wished the 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 annoyance.394394     Luke xviii. 2–8.


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