Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/On the Spirit and the Letter/Chapter 18
Chapter 18 [XI.]—Piety is Wisdom; That is Called the Righteousness of God, Which He Produces.
Now, this meditation makes a man godly, and this godliness is true wisdom. By godliness I mean that which the Greeks designate θεοσέβεια,—that very virtue which is commended to man in the passage of Job, where it is said to him, “Behold, godliness is wisdom.” Now if the word θεοσέβεια be interpreted according to its derivation, it might be called “the worship of God;” and in this worship the essential point is, that the soul be not ungrateful to Him. Whence it is that in the most true and excellent sacrifice we are admonished to “give thanks unto our Lord God.” Ungrateful however, our soul would be, were it to attribute to itself that which it received from God, especially the righteousness, with the works of which (the especial property, as it were, of itself, and produced, so to speak, by the soul itself for itself) it is not puffed up in a vulgar pride, as it might be with riches, or beauty of limb, or eloquence, or those other accomplishments, external or internal, bodily or mental, which wicked men too are in the habit of possessing, but, if I may say so, in a wise complacency, as of things which constitute in an especial manner the good works of the good. It is owing to this sin of vulgar pride that even some great men have drifted from the sure anchorage of the divine nature, and have floated down into the shame of idolatry. Whence the apostle again in the same epistle, wherein he so firmly maintains the principle of grace, after saying that he was a debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise, and professing himself ready, so far as to him pertained, to preach the gospel even to those who lived in Rome, adds: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” This is the righteousness of God, which was veiled in the Old Testament, and is revealed in the New; and it is called the righteousness of God, because by His bestowal of it He makes us righteous, just as we read that “salvation is the Lord’s,” because He makes us safe. And this is the faith “from which” and “to which” it is revealed,—from the faith of them who preach it, to the faith of those who obey it. By this faith of Jesus Christ—that is, the faith which Christ has given to us—we believe it is from God that we now have, and shall have more and more, the ability of living righteously; wherefore we give Him thanks with that dutiful worship with which He only is to be worshipped.
- Job xxviii. 28.
- Cultus Dei is Augustin’s Latin expression for the synonym.
- One of the suffrages of the Sursum Corda in the Communion Service [preserved also in the English service, which reads as follows: “Priest. Lift up your hearts. Answer. We lift them up to the Lord. Priest. Let us give thanks unto our Lord God. Answer. It is meet and right so to do.”—W.]
- Rom. i. 14–17.
- Ps. iii. 8.