Editor's note:

Since a theme of know­ing the right times to speak, to serve, and to be silent emerged this week, today we are offer­ing a bit of Augus­tine to ush­er in our week­end. Here he writes about sub­mit­ting our tongues (and our­selves) to the train­ing of the great Tamer until the day we need no more His tam­ing hand, but only to be pos­sessed by His exceed­ing mercy.”

—Renovaré Team

Who would not fear Him who speaks the truth, and says, Whoso­ev­er shall say to his broth­er, You fool,’ shall be in dan­ger of hell fire? Yet the tongue can no man tame. Man tames the wild beast, yet he tames not his tongue; he tames the lion, yet he bri­dles not his own speech; he tames all else, yet he tames not him­self; he tames what he was afraid of, and what he ought to be afraid of, in order that he may tame him­self, that he does not fear. But how is this? It is a true sen­tence, and came forth from an ora­cle of truth, But the tongue can no man tame.

What shall we do then, my brethren? … What shall we do then? Whoso­ev­er says to his broth­er, You fool,’ shall be in dan­ger of hell fire: But the tongue can no man tame. Shall all men go into hell fire? God for­bid! Lord, You are our refuge from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion: Your wrath is just: You send no man into hell unjust­ly. Whith­er shall I go from Your Spir­it? and whith­er shall I flee from You, but to You? Let us then under­stand, dear­ly beloved, that if no man can tame the tongue, we must have recourse to God, that He may tame it. For if you should wish to tame it, you can not, because you are a man. The tongue can no man tame. Observe a like instance to this in the case of those beasts which we do tame. The horse does not tame him­self; the camel does not tame him­self; the ele­phant does not tame him­self; the viper does not tame him­self; the lion does not tame him­self; and so also man does not tame him­self. But that the horse, and ox, and camel, and ele­phant, and lion, and viper, may be tamed, man is sought for. There­fore let God be sought to, that man may be tamed.

There­fore, O Lord, are You become our refuge. To You do we betake our­selves, and with Your help it will be well with us. For ill is it with us by our­selves. Because we have left You, You have left us to our­selves. Be we then found in You, for in our­selves were we lost. Lord, You have become our refuge. 

Why then, brethren, should we doubt that the Lord will make us gen­tle, if we give up our­selves to be tamed by him? You have tamed the lion which you made not; shall not He tame you, who made you? For from whence did you get the pow­er to tame such sav­age beasts? Are you their equal in bod­i­ly strength? By what pow­er then have you been able to tame great beasts? The very beasts of bur­den, as they are called, are by their nature wild. For in their untamed state they are unser­vice­able. But because cus­tom has nev­er known them except as in the hands and under the bri­dle and pow­er of men, do you imag­ine that they could have been born in this tame state? But now at all events mark the beasts which are unques­tion­ably of sav­age kind. The lion roars, who does not fear? And yet where­in is it that you find your­self to be stronger than he? Not in strength of body, but in the inte­ri­or rea­son of the mind. You are stronger than the lion, in that where­in you were made after the image of God. What! Shall the image of God tame a wild beast; and shall not God tame His own image?

In Him is our hope; let us sub­mit our­selves to Him, and entreat His mer­cy. In Him let us place our hope, and until we are tamed, and tamed thor­ough­ly, that is, are per­fect­ed, let us bear our Tamer. For often­times does our Tamer bring forth His scourge too. For if you bring forth the whip to tame your beasts, shall not God do so to tame His beasts (which we are), who of His beasts will make us His sons? Thou tame your horse; and what will you give your horse, when he shall have begun to car­ry you gen­tly, to bear your dis­ci­pline, to obey your rule, to be your faith­ful, use­ful beast? How do you repay him, who will not so much as bury him when he is dead, but cast him forth to be torn by the birds of prey? Where­as when you are tamed, God reserves for you an inher­i­tance, which is God Him­self, and though dead for a lit­tle time, He will raise you to life again. He will restore to you your body, even to the full num­ber of your hairs; and will set you with the Angels for ever, where you will need no more His tam­ing hand, but only to be pos­sessed by His exceed­ing mer­cy. For God will then be all in all; nei­ther will there be any unhap­pi­ness to exer­cise us, but hap­pi­ness alone to feed us. Our God will be Him­self our Shep­herd; our God will be Him­self our Cup; our God will be Him­self our glo­ry; our God will be Him­self our wealth. What mul­ti­plic­i­ty of things soev­er you seek here, He alone will be Him­self all these things to you.

Augustine’s Ser­mon Five on the New Tes­ta­ment,” pub­lic domain via New Advent.

Join the 2020-21 Renovaré Book Club

An inten­tion­al way to read for trans­for­ma­tion. Cur­rent­ly under­way and runs through May 2021.

Learn More >