That elusive Augustine quote

The Internet is a spawning ground for bogus quotes — often attributed vaguely to figures such as Lincoln, Plato, Lao-Tzu, or Augustine. One that I have seen often of late says:

“God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but he has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.”
— Augustine

Augustine Quote

Often this sort of quote is floated in reverse text over a sunset or a landscape, because Facebook readers seem more likely to look at pictures than text.

After a conversation about such bogus quotes, I went looking for this one: Google finds it everywhere on the Internet, but never with any more citation than “Augustine.”

After searching in Augustine’s sermons and commentaries, eventually I was pleasantly surprised to find this quote, in a form not too different from its Internet incarnation, and indeed meaning essentially the same thing in context.

Here is Saint Augustine of Hippo commenting on John 8:1-11:

The Lord is gentle, the Lord is long-suffering, the Lord is merciful; but the Lord is also just, the Lord is also true.

He gives you space for correction; but you love the delay of judgment more than you love the amendment of your ways. Were you a bad man yesterday? Today be a good man. Have you gone on in your wickedness today? At any rate change tomorrow.

You are always expecting, and from the mercy of God you make exceeding great promises to yourself. As if he, who has promised you pardon through repentance, had also promised you a longer life.

How do you know what tomorrow may bring? Rightly you say in your heart: After I correct my ways, God will put all my sins away.

We cannot deny that God has promised pardon to those who have amended their ways and are converted.

For in the prophet from whom you read to me that God has promised pardon to him that repents, you do not read to me that God has promised you a long life.

Read it in context online in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers.

Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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2 Comments

  1. If you check out the Christian Quotation of the Day for Sept. 10, 1999, you will find the quotation and a different reference, one that has been posted for many years. It is true that the form I posted it in back then cannot be found in any online books, but then there are many translations of Augustine. This one came from my father’s notebook, where he collected it in the 1950’s.

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    • I tried http://cqod.blogspot.com/1999/10 but I don’t think your WordPress goes back that far :-)

      At any rate, the version now floating around the Internet seems to be a paraphrase of Augustine’s commentary on John. If he also said it elsewhere, I’d be interested in the citation. It’s always satisfying to a nitpicker like me when a clichéd, surely-fake quote turns out to be something that can actually be cited in an extant text.

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