04 December 2007

advent: augustine

From a sermon by Augustine of Hippo (354-430), concerning the final advent of Jesus Christ to judge the living and the dead:
The first coming of Christ the Lord, God's Son and our God, was in obscurity; the second will be in sight of the whole world. When he came in obscurity no one recognized him but his own servants; when he comes openly he will be known by both good people and bad. When he came in obscurity it was to be judged; when he comes openly it will be to judge. He was silent at his trial, as the prophet foretold: "He was like a sheep led to the slaughter, like a lamb before his shearers. He did not open his mouth." But, "Our God will come openly; our God will come and not keep silence." Silent when accused, he will not be silent as judge. And he is not silent now. By no means; when people of today recognize his voice and despise him, Scripture assures us he will not be silent...

But if he always gave sentence now, there would be nothing left for the Day of Judgment. That is why much is kept for that day; but in order to put fear of God into those whose cases are deferred, that they might be converted, some judgments are made here and now. Yet it is clear that God takes no pleasure in condemning. His desire is to save, and he bears patiently with evil people in order to make them good. Still, we have the Apostle's warning, "The wrath of God will be revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and God will reward each one according to his deeds"...Do you despise him and think his judgment a matter of no account because he is good to you, because he is long-suffering and bears with you patiently, because he delays the day of reckoning and does not destroy you out of hand? "Do you not know that the patience of God is meant to lead you to repentance?"