For a just man falls seven times, and rises up again: but the wicked shall fall by calamity.
Read Chapter 24
Augustine of Hippo
“The just falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked shall be weakened in evils.” When evils befall the wicked, they are weakened by them. When evils befall the righteous, “the Lord strengthens all that are falling” … “and lifts up all those that have been cast down”: all, that is, who belong to him, for “God resists the proud.”
The words “falls seven times” are employed to express every kind of tribulation, whereby one is cast down in the sight of people; and the words “rises up again” signify that one profits from all these tribulations.
The text, “For a just man shall fall seven times and shall rise again,” means that he will not perish, however often he falls. There is here no question of falling into sins but of afflictions leading to a lower life.
Let no one, therefore, believe, as Pelagius teaches, that he can live without sins and debts, when he sees the apostles praying earnestly for their own transgressions, as the Lord teaches. And there is also written elsewhere, “The righteous falls seven times and rises again.” For it is impossible even for the saints to live without occasionally incurring guilt in very small sins which are committed through talk, thought, ignorance, forgetfulness, necessity, will, surprise. But still they do not cease being righteous, because with the Lord’s assistance they rise again more quickly from their guilty act.
Although the righteous may offend perhaps through the frailty of the flesh or through ignorance, nevertheless he does not cease to be righteous, because just as there is daily and unavoidable offense of this kind, so also there is the daily remedy of prayers and good works that quickly raises up the righteous offender, so that he may not tumble to the ground and befoul with the dust of vices the marriage dress of charity and faith.
With God’s help we both can and should be without serious offenses, but no just person ever was or ever will be able to live without small sins. We are continuously troubled and tormented by these as by flies buzzing around.… Very often sins creep up on us through thoughts or desires or speech or action, as the result of necessity, through weakness or out of forgetfulness. If a person thinks only of serious sins and strives to resist only these but has little or no care about small sins, he incurs no less danger than if he committed more serious offenses. Therefore let us not think little of our sins because they are slight, but let us fear them because they are many. Drops of rain are small, but because they are very many, they fill rivers and submerge houses, and sometimes by their force they even carry off mountains.
A Christian is said to rise again in two senses; first, when in this world he is freed by grace from the death of vices, and he continues being justified by God; in the words of the most wise Solomon, “A just man falls seven times and rises again.” Second, there is the general resurrection, at which the just will attain their eternal rewards.
There will be no end of penance for those little offenses by which “the righteous person falls seven times,” as it is written, “and gets up again.” For we commit these frequently every day, unwillingly or willingly, whether through ignorance or forgetfulness or thought or word or surprise or necessity or weakness of the flesh or pollution during a dream. On account of these David asks the Lord in prayer for purification and forgiveness, saying, “Who understands his sins? From my hidden sins cleanse me, and from those of others spare your servant.” And the apostle says, “The good that I want, I do not do, but the evil that I do not want, this I do.” –.