Rebuke Wholesomely Applied

From On Rebuke and Grace 7, (426 or 427).

“Whoever you are that do not obey the commandments of God which are already known to you, and do not wish to be rebuked, you must be rebuked for that very reason that you do not wish to be rebuked.  For you do not wish that your faults should be pointed out to you; you do not wish that they should be touched, and that such a useful pain should be caused you that you may seek the Physician; you do not desire to see yourself, that, when you see yourself to be deformed, you may wish for the Reformer, and may plead to Him that you may not continue in that repulsiveness.  

For it is your fault that you are evil, but it is a greater fault to be unwilling to be rebuked because you are evil, as if faults should either be praised, or regarded with indifference so as neither to be praised nor blamed; or as if, indeed, the dread, or the shame, or the mortification of the rebuked man were of no benefit… When rebuked, such a person feels the sting of rebuke.  It stirs him up to a desire for more earnest prayer, that, by God’s mercy, he may be aided by the increase of love, and cease to do things which are shameful and mortifying and do things praiseworthy and gladdening. This is the benefit of rebuke that is wholesomely applied, sometimes with greater, sometimes with less severity, in accordance with the diversity of sins; and it is then wholesome when the supreme Physician looks. For it is of no profit unless it makes a man repent of his sin. ”

St. Augustine (354-430) was a theologian and philosopher who served as Bishop of Hippo Regius in North Africa. He was a voluminous author, whose writings about God’s grace, the Sacraments, and the Church have been profoundly influential in the development of Western Christianity. His short treatise On Rebuke and Grace was written in response to questions about community life posed by Valentine, the abbot of a monastery at Adrumetum, a nearby North African city. St. Augustine is commemorated on August 28 on the Kalendar of the Episcopal Church.


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