Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume III/Moral Treatises of St. Augustin/Against Lying/Section 33
33. It remains then that we understand as concerning those women, whether in Egypt or in Jericho, that for their humanity and mercy they received a reward, in any wise temporal, which indeed itself, while they wist not of it, should by prophetical signification prefigure somewhat eternal. But whether it be ever right, even for the saving of a man’s life, to tell a lie, as it is a question in resolving which even the most learned do weary themselves, it did vastly surpass the capacity of those poor women, set in the midst of those nations, and accustomed to those manners. Therefore their ignorance in this as well as in those other things of which they were alike unknowing, but which are to be known by the children not of this world but of that which is to come, the patience of God did bear withal: Who yet, for their human kindness which they had shown to His servants, rendered unto them rewards of an earthly sort, albeit signifying somewhat of an heavenly. And Rahab, indeed, delivered out of Jericho, made transition into the people of God, where, being proficient, she might attain to eternal and immortal prizes which are not to be sought by any lie. Yet at that time when she did for the Israelite spies that good, and, for her condition of life, laudable work, she was not as yet such that it should be required of her, “In your mouth let Yea be yea, Nay nay.” But as for those midwives, albeit Hebrewesses, if they savored only after the flesh, what or how great is the good they got of their temporal reward in that they made them houses, unless by making proficiency they attained unto that house of which is sung unto God, “Blessed are they that dwell in thine house; for ever and ever they will praise thee?” It must be confessed, however, that it approacheth much unto righteousness, and though not yet in reality, even now in respect of hopefulness and disposition that mind is to be praised, which never lies except with intention and will to do good to some man, but to hurt no man. But as for us, when we ask whether it be the part of a good man sometimes to lie, we ask not concerning a person pertaining to Egypt, or to Jericho, or to Babylon, or still to Jerusalem itself, the earthly, which is in bondage with her children; but concerning a citizen of that city which is above and free, our mother, eternal in the heavens. And to our asking it is answered, “No lie is of the truth.” The sons of that city, are sons of the Truth. That city’s sons are they of whom it is written,“In their mouth was found no lie:” son of that city is he of whom is also written, “A son receiving the word shall be far from destruction: but receiving, he hath received that for himself, and nothing false proceedeth out of his mouth.” These sons of Jerusalem on high, and of the holy city eternal, if ever, as they be men, a lie of what kind soever doth worm itself into them, they ask humbly for pardon, not therefrom seek moreover glory.
- Matt. v. 37
- Ps. lxxxiv. 4
- Gal. iv. 25, 26
- 1 John ii. 21
- Rev. xiv. 5
- Prov. xxix. 27. Lat. (not in Hebrew).