Writings of Augustine. Sermons on the New Testament

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St. Augustin:

Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament

Translated by the Rev. R. G. Macmullen, M.A.,

Edited by Philip Schaff, D.D.

Published in 1886 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.

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Sermon XXX.

[LXXX. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. xvii. 19, "Why could not we cast it out"? etc., and on prayer.

1. Our Lord Jesus Christ reproved unbelief even in His own disciples, as we heard just now when the Gospel was being read. For when they had said, "Why could not we cast him out?" He answered, "Because of your unbelief." [2669] If the Apostles were unbelievers, who is a believer? What must the lambs do, if the rams totter? Yet the mercy of the Lord did not disdain them in their unbelief; but reproved, nourished, perfected, crowned them. For they themselves, as mindful of their own weakness, said to Him, as we read in a certain place in the Gospel, "Lord, increase our faith. [2670] Lord," say they, "increase our faith." The knowing that they had a deficiency, was the first advantage; a greater happiness still, to know who it was of whom they were asking. "Lord," say they, "increase our faith." See, if they did not bring their hearts as it were to the fountain, and knocked that that might be opened to them, out of which they might fill them. For He would that men should knock at Him, not that He might repel those that knock, but that He might exercise those who long.

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2. For do you think, Brethren, that God doth not know what is needful for you? He knoweth and preventeth our desires, who knoweth our want. And so when He taught His disciples to pray, and warned them not to use many words in prayer, He saith, "Use not many words; for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him." [2671] Now the Lord saith something different from this. What is this? Because He misliked that we should use many words in prayer, He said to us, "When ye pray, use not many words; for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him." If our "Father knoweth what things we have need of before we ask Him," why do we use even few words? What is the use of prayer at all, if "our Father knoweth" already "what things we have need of"? He saith to one, Do not make thy prayer to Me at great length; for I know what is needful for thee. If so, Lord, why should I so much as pray at all? Thou wouldest not that I should use long prayers, yea rather Thou dost even bid me to use near none at all. And then what meaneth that precept in another place? For He who saith, "Use not many words in prayer," saith in another place, "Ask, and it shall be given you." [2672] And that thou mightest not think that this first precept to ask was given cursorily, He added, "Seek, and ye shall find." And that thou mightest not think that this too was cursorily given, see what He added further, see with what He finished. "Knock, and it shall be opened unto you:" see what He added. He would have thee ask that thou mayest receive, and seek that thou mayest find, and knock that thou mayest enter in. Seeing then that our Father knoweth already what is needful for us, how and why do we ask? why seek? why knock? why weary ourselves in asking, and seeking, and knocking, to instruct Him who knoweth already? And in another place the words of the Lord are, "Men ought always to pray, and not to faint." [2673] If men "ought always to pray," how doth He say, "Use not many words"? How can I always pray, if I so quickly make an end? Here Thou biddest me to finish quickly; there "always to pray and not to faint:" what doth this mean? Now that thou mayest understand this, "ask, seek, knock." For for this cause is it closed, not to shut thee out, but to exercise thee. Therefore, brethren, ought we to exhort to prayer, both ourselves and you. For other hope have we none amid the manifold evils of this present world, than to knock in prayer, to believe and to maintain the belief firm in the heart, that thy Father only doth not give thee what He knoweth is not expedient for thee. For thou knowest what thou dost desire; He knoweth what is good for thee. Imagine thyself under a physician, and in weak health, as is the very truth; for all this life of ours is a weakness; and a long life is nothing else but a prolonged weakness. Imagine thyself then to be sick under the physician's hand. Thou hast a desire to ask thy physician leave to drink a draught of fresh wine. Thou art not prohibited from asking, for it may chance to do thee no harm, or even good to receive it. Do not then hesitate to ask; ask, hesitate not; but if thou receive not, do not take it to heart. Now if thou wouldest act thus in the hands of a man, the physician of the body, how much more in the hands of God, who is the Physician, the Creator, and Restorer, both of thy body and soul?

3. Wherefore, see how the Lord in this passage exhorted His disciples to prayer, when He said, "Ye could not cast out this devil because of your unbelief." [2674] For then exhorting them to prayer He ended thus; "this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting." If a man must pray, to cast out devils from another, how much more to cast out his own covetousness? how much more to cast out his own drunkenness? how much more to cast out his own luxuriousness? how much more to cast out his own uncleanness? How many things in a man are there, which if they are persevered in, allow of no admission into the kingdom of heaven! Consider, Brethren, how a physician is entreated for the preservation of temporal health, how, if any one is desperately ill, is he ashamed or slow to throw himself at a man's feet? to bathe in tears the footsteps of any very able chief physician? And what if the physician say to him, "Thou canst not else be cured, except I bind thee, and use the fire and knife"? He will answer," Do what thou wilt, only cure me." With what eagerness does he long for the health of a few days, fleeting as a vapour, that for it he is content to be bound, and submit to the fire, and knife, and to be watched, that he neither eat nor drink what, or when, he pleases! All this he will endure, that he may die a little later; and yet he will not endure ever so little, that he may never die. If God, who is the Heavenly Physician over us, saith to thee, "Wilt thou be cured?" what wouldest thou say but "Yes." Or it may be thou wouldest not say so, because thou fanciest thyself to be in health, that is, because thou art more grievously sick.

4. For if we suppose two sick persons, one who implores the physician with tears, the other, who in his sickness with infatuation derides him; he will hold out hope to the one that weeps, and will deplore the case of the other that laughs. Why? but because the sounder in health he thinks himself, the more dangerous his sickness is! This was the case with the Jews. Christ came to them that were sick; He found them all sick. Let no one then flatter himself on his healthful state, lest the physician give him up. [2675] He found all sick; it is the Apostle's judgment, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." [2676] Though He found them all sick, yet were there two sorts of sick folk. The one came to the Physician, clave to Christ, heard, honoured, followed Him, were converted. He received all without disdaining any, for to heal them, who healed of free favour, who cured by Almighty power. When then He received them, and joined them to Himself to be healed, they rejoiced. But there was another sort of sick, who had already become infatuated through the sickness of iniquity, and did not know themselves to be sick; they mocked Him, because He received the sick, and said to His disciples, "Lo, what manner of man is your Master, who eateth with publicans and sinners." And He who knew what and who they were answered them, "They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." And He showed them who the "whole" were, and who the "sick." "I am not come," He saith, "to call the righteous, but sinners." [2677] If sinners, He would say, do not come to Me, wherefore am I come? for whose sake am I come? If all are whole, wherefore hath so great a Physician come down from heaven? why hath He prepared for us a medicine not out of His stores, [2678] but of His own blood? That sort of sick then who had a milder sickness, who felt themselves to be sick, clave to the Physician, that they might be healed. But they whose sickness was more dangerous mocked the Physician, and abused the sick. Whither did their frenzy proceed at last? To seize the Physician, bind, scourge, crown Him with thorns, hang Him upon a Tree, kill Him on the Cross! Why dost thou marvel? The sick slew the Physician; but the Physician by being slain healed the frantic patient.

5. For first, not forgetting on the Cross His own character, [2679] and manifesting forth His patience to us, and giving us an example of love to our enemies; as He saw them raging round Him, who had known their disease, seeing He was the Physician, who had known the frenzy by which they had become infatuated, He said at once to the Father, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." [2680] Now suppose ye that those Jews were not malignant, cruel, bloody, turbulent, and enemies of the Son of God? Suppose ye that that cry, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," was ineffectual and in vain? He saw them all, but He knew amongst them those that should one day be His. In a word, He died, because it was so expedient, that by His Death He might kill death. God died, that an exchange might be effected by a kind of heavenly contract, that man might not see death. For Christ is God, but He died not in that Nature in which He is God. For the same Person is God and man; for God and man is one Christ. The human nature [2681] was assumed, that we might be changed for the better; He did not degrade the Divine [2682] Nature down to the lower. For He assumed that which He was not, He did not lose that which He was. Forasmuch then as He is both God and man, being pleased that we should live by that which was His, He died in that which was ours. For He had nothing Himself, whereby He could die; nor had we anything whereby we could live. For what was He who had nothing whereby He could die? "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." [2683] If thou seek for anything in God whereby He may die, thou wilt not find it. But we all die, who are flesh; men bearing about sinful flesh. Seek out for that whereby sin may live; it hath it not. So then neither could He have death in that which was His own, nor we life in that which was our own; but we have life from that which is His, He death from what is ours. What an exchange! What hath He given, and what received? Men who trade enter into commercial intercourse for exchange of things. For ancient commerce was only an exchange of things. A man gave what he had, and received what he had not. For example, he had wheat, but had no barley; another had barley, but no wheat; the former gave the wheat which he had, and received the barley which he had not. How [2684] simple it was that the larger quantity should make up for the cheaper sort! So then another man gives barley, to receive wheat; lastly, another gives lead, to receive silver, only he gives much lead against a little silver; another gives wool, to receive a ready-made garment. And who can enumerate all these exchanges? But no one gives life to receive death. Not in vain then was the voice of the Physician as He hung upon the tree. For in order that He might die for us because the Word could not die, "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." [2685] He hung upon the Cross, but in the flesh. There was the meanness, [2686] which the Jews despised; there the dearness, [2687] by which the Jews were delivered. For for them was it said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." [2688] And that voice was not in vain. He died, was buried, rose again, having passed forty days with His disciples, He ascended into heaven, He sent the Holy Ghost on them, who waited for the promise. They were filled with the Holy Ghost, whom they had received, and began to speak with the tongues of all nations. Then the Jews who were present, amazed that unlearned and ignorant men, whom they had known as brought up among them with one tongue, should in the Name of Christ speak in all tongues, were in astonishment, and learnt from Peter's words whence this gift came. He gave it, who hung upon the tree. He gave it, who was derided as He hung upon the tree, that from His seat in heaven He might give the Holy Spirit. They of whom He had said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," heard, believed. They believed, were baptized, and their conversion was effected. What conversion? In faith they drank the Blood of Christ, which in fury they had shed.

6. Therefore, to finish this discourse with that with which we began it, let us pray, and let us rely on God; let us live as He enjoineth; and when we totter in this life, let us call upon Him as the disciples called, saying, "Lord, increase our faith." [2689] Peter both put his trust in Him, and tottered; but notwithstanding he was not disregarded and left to sink, but was lifted up and raised. For his trust whence was it? Not from anything of his own; but from what was the Lord's. How? "Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water." For on the water was the Lord walking. "If it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water." For I know that if it be Thou, Thou biddest, and it is done. "And He saith, Come." He went down at His bidding, but in his own weakness he was afraid. Nevertheless when he was afraid, he cried out, "Lord, save me." Then the Lord took him by the hand, and said, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" [2690] He first invited him, He delivered him, as he tottered, and stumbled; that it might be fulfilled which was said in the Psalm, "If I said my foot hath slipped, Thy mercy, O Lord, aided me." [2691]

7. There are then two kinds of blessings, temporal and eternal. Temporal blessings are health, substance, honour, friends, a home, children, a wife, and the other things of this life in which we are sojourners. Put we up then in the hostelry of this life as travellers passing on, and not as owners intending to remain. But eternal blessings are, first, eternal life itself, the incorruption and immortality of body and soul, the society of Angels, the heavenly city, glory [2692] unfailing, Father and father-land, the former without death, the latter without a foe. These blessings let us desire with all eagerness, let us ask with all perseverance, not with length of words, but with the witness of groans. Longing desire prayeth always, though the tongue be silent. If thou art ever longing, thou art ever praying. When sleepeth prayer? When desire groweth cold. So then let us beg for these eternal blessings with all eager desire, let us seek for those good things with an entire earnestness, let us ask for those good things with all assurance. For those good things do profit him that hath them, they cannot harm him. But those other temporal good things sometimes profit, and sometimes harm. Poverty hath profited many, and wealth hath harmed many; a private life hath profited many, and exalted honour hath harmed many. And again, money hath profiled some, honourable distinction hath profited some; profited them who use them well; but from those who use them ill, the not withdrawing them hath harmed them more. And so, Brethren, let us ask for those temporal blessings too, but in moderation, being sure that if we do receive them, He giveth them, who knoweth what is expedient for us. Thou hast asked, and what thou hast asked, hath not been given thee? Trust thy Father, who would give it thee, were it expedient for thee. Lo! judge in this case by thine own self. For such as thy son who knows not the ways of men is in regard to thee, such in regard to the Lord art thou thyself, who knowest not the things of God. Lo, thy son cries a whole day before thee, that thou wouldest give him a knife, or a sword; thou dost refuse to give it him, thou wilt not give it, thou disregardest his tears, lest thou shouldest have to bewail his death. Let him cry, and beat himself, or throw himself upon the ground, that thou mayest set him on horseback; thou wilt not do it, because he does not know how to govern the horse, he may throw and kill him. To whom thou refusest a part, thou art reserving the whole. But that he may grow up, and possess the whole in safety, thou givest him not that little thing which is full of peril to him.

8. And so, Brethren, we say, pray as much as ye are able. Evils abound, and God hath willed that evils should abound. Would that evil men did not abound, and then evils would not abound. Bad times! troublesome times! this men are saying. Let our lives be good; and the times are good. We make our times; such as we are, such are the times. But what can we do? We cannot, it may be, convert the mass of men to a good life. But let the few who do give ear live well; let the few who live well endure the many who live ill. They are the corn, they are in the floor; in the floor they can have the chaff with them, they will not have them in the barn. Let them endure what they would not, that they may come to what they would. Wherefore are we sad, and blame we God? Evils abound in the world, in order that the world may not engage our love. Great men, faithful saints were they who have despised the world with all its attractions; [2693] we are not able to despise it even disfigured as it is. The world is evil, lo, it is evil, and yet it is loved as though it were good. But what is this evil world? For the heavens and the earth, and the waters, and the things that are therein, the fish, and birds, and trees, are not evil. All these are good: but it is evil men who make this evil world. Yet as we cannot be without evil men, let us, as I have said, whilst we live pour out our groans before the Lord our God, and endure the evils, that we may attain to the things that are good. Let us not find fault with the Master of the household; for He is loving to us. He beareth us, and not we him. He knoweth how to govern what He made; do what He hath bidden, and hope for what He hath promised.

Footnotes

[2669] Matt. xvii. 19, 20. [2670] Luke xvii. 5. [2671] Matt. vi. 7, 8. [2672] Matt. vii. 7. [2673] Luke xviii. 1. [2674] Matt. xvii. 19, 20. [2675] Renuntiet ad illum. [2676] Rom. iii. 23. [2677] Matt. ix. 11, etc. [2678] Armario suo. [2679] Personam suam. [2680] Luke xxiii. 34. [2681] Homo. [2682] Deum. [2683] John i. 1. [2684] Quanti erat. [2685] John i. 14. [2686] Vilitas. [2687] Caritas. [2688] Luke xxiii. 34. [2689] Luke xvii. 5. [2690] Matt. xiv. 28, etc. [2691] Ps. xciv. 18. [2692] Dignitas. [2693] Speciosum. .


Sermon XXXI.

[LXXXI. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. xviii. 7, where we are admonished to beware of the offences of the world.

1. The divine lessons, which we have just heard as they were being read, warn us to gather in a stock of virtues, to fortify a Christian heart, against the offences which were predicted to come, and this from the mercy of the Lord. "For what is man," saith Scripture, "saving that Thou art mindful of him?" [2694] "Woe unto the world because of offences," [2695] saith the Lord; the Truth says so; He alarmeth and warneth us, He would not have us to be off our guard; for surely He would not make us desperate. Against this "woe," against this evil, that is, which is to be feared, and dreaded, and guarded against, Scripture counsels, and exhorts, and instructs us in that place, where it is said, "Great praise have they who love Thy law, and nothing is an offence to them." [2696] He hath shown us an enemy to be guarded against, but He hath not omitted to show us also a wall of defence. Thou wast thinking, as thou heardest, "Woe unto the world because of offences," whither thou mightest go beyond the world, that thou mightest not be exposed to offences. Therefore to avoid offences, whither wilt thou go beyond the world, unless thou fly to Him who made the world? And how shall we be able to fly to Him who made the world, unless we give ear to His law which is preached everywhere? And to give ear to it is but a small matter, unless we love it. For divine Scripture in making thee secure against offences doth not say, "Great peace have they who" hear "Thy law. For not the hearers of the law are just before God. [2697] But" because "the doers of the law shall be justified," and, "faith worketh by love:" [2698] it saith, "Great peace have they who love Thy law, and nothing is an offence to them." To this sentiment also agrees the passage which we have chanted in course; "But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace." [2699] Because, "great peace have they who love Thy law." For these "meek" ones are they who "love the law of God." For, "Blessed is the man whom Thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of Thy law, that Thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the sinner." [2700] How diverse seem those words of Scripture, yet into one meaning do they so flow and meet together, that whatsoever out of that most rich fountain thou canst hear, so that thou acquiesce therein, and art in loving harmony with the truth, thou will be at once filled with peace; glowing with love, and fortified against offences.

2. It is our place then to see, or seek, or learn, how we must be "meek;" and we are guided by that which I have just brought forward out of the Scriptures, to find what we are in quest of. Be attentive then, Beloved, for a little while; it is a weighty matter that is in hand, that we may be meek; a necessary thing in the adversities of life. But it is not the adverse circumstances of this life which are called offences; but mark what "offences" are. A man, for instance, under some hard necessity is weighed down by a press of trouble. That he is weighed down with a press of trouble, is no offence. By such pressure were even Martyrs pressed, but not oppressed. Of an offence beware, but of a press of trouble not so much. The last presseth thee, an offence oppresseth thee. What then is the difference between the two? In the press of trouble thou didst make ready to maintain patience, to hold fast constancy, not to abandon faith, not to consent to sin. This if thou maintain, or shall have maintained, the trouble that presseth thee shall not be thy fall; but that press of trouble shall avail to the same end as in the oil press, not to destroy the olive, but to extract the oil. In a word, if in this trouble that presseth thee thou ascribe praise unto God, how useful will the press be to thee, whereby such oil is pressed out! Under such a press the Apostles sat in chains, and in that press they sang a hymn to God. What precious oil was this that was pressed and forced out! Beneath a heavy press did Job sit on the dunghill, without resource, without help, without substance, without children; full, but of worms only, as far, that is, as concerned the outward man, but because he too was full of God within, he praised God, and that press was no "offence" to him. Where then was the "offence"? When his wife came to him and said, "Speak a word against God, and die." [2701] When all had been taken from him by the devil, an Eve was reserved for the exercised sufferer, not to console but to tempt her husband. See then where the offence was. She exaggerated his miseries, and her miseries too with his, and began to persuade him to blaspheme. But he who was "meek," because "God had taught him out of His law, and given him rest from the days of adversity;" had "great peace" in his heart as "loving the law of God, and nothing was an offence to him." She was an offence, but not to him. In a word, behold the meek man, behold one taught in the law of God, the eternal law of God I mean. For that law on tables was not yet given to the Jews in the time of Job, but in the hearts of the godly there remained still the eternal law, from which that which was given to the people was copied. Because then by the law of God he had "rest given him from the days of adversity," and "had great peace as loving the law of God," behold how "meek" he is, and what he answers. Learn hereby what I propose to enquire; who are the meek. "Thou speakest," he says, "as one of the foolish women speaketh. If we have received good from the hand of the Lord, shall we not bear the evil?" [2702]

3. We have heard by an example who the meek are: let us, if we can, define them in words. The meek are they, to whom in all their good deeds, in all the things they do well, nothing is pleasing but God; to whom in all the evils they suffer, God is not displeasing. Now, Brethren, attend to this rule, to this pattern; let us stretch ourselves out to it, let us seek for increase, that we may fill it. For what does it profit, that we plant, and water, except God shall give the increase? "For neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase." [2703] Give ear, whosoever thou art, that wouldest be "meek," who wouldest have "rest from the days of adversity, who lovest the law of God," that there may be "no offence unto thee," and that thou mayest "have great peace," that thou mayest "possess the earth, and delight in the multitude of peace;" give ear, whosoever thou art that wouldest be "meek." Whatsoever good thou doest, be not pleased with thyself. "For God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." [2704] So then whatever good thou doest, let nought but God be pleasing to thee; whatever evil thou sufferest, let not God be displeasing to thee. What needest thou more? Do this, and thou shalt live. The days of adversity shall not overwhelm thee; thou shall escape that which is said, "Woe unto the world because of offences." For to what world is there woe because of offences, but to that of which it is said, "And the world knew Him not?" [2705] Not to that world of which it is said, "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself." [2706] There is an evil world, and there is a good world; the evil world, are all the evil men in this world; and the good world, all the good in this world. As we observe frequently with a field. This field is full: of what? Of wheat. Yet we say also, and say truly too, This field is full of chaff. So with a tree, it is full of fruit. Another says, it is full of leaves. And both he who says it is full of fruit, says true; and he who says it is full of leaves, says true. Neither has the full display of leaves taken away the room for the fruit, nor the full display of the fruit driven off the abundance of leaves. It is full of both; but the one the wind searcheth out, the other the husbandman gathereth in. So therefore when thou dost hear, "Woe unto the world because of offences," be not afraid; "love the law of God, nothing shall be an offence to thee."

4. But thy wife comes to thee advising thee to some evil thing. Thou dost love her as a wife should be loved; she is one of thy members. "But if thine eye offend thee, if thine hand offend thee, if thy foot offend thee," thou hast just heard the Gospel, "cut them off, and cast them from thee." [2707] Whosoever he be that is dear to thee, whosoever he be that is held in high estimation by thee, let him be so long of high esteem with thee, so long thy beloved member, as he shall not begin to offend thee, that is, to advise thee to any evil. Hear now how that this is the meaning of "offence." I have brought forward the example of Job and his wife; but there the word "offence" did not occur. Hear the Gospel: when the Lord prophesied of His Passion, Peter began to persuade him not to suffer. "Get thee behind Me, Satan, thou art an offence to Me." [2708] Here undoubtedly the Lord who hath given thee an example of life, hath taught thee both what an "offence" is, and how an offence is to be avoided. Him to whom He had a little while before said, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona;" [2709] He had shown to be His member. But when he begins to be an offence, He cuts off the member; only He restored the member, and put it into its place again. He then will be an "offence" to thee, who shall begin to persuade thee to any evil thing. And here, Beloved, take heed; this takes place for the most part not through any evil will, but through a mistaken good will. Thy friend who loves thee, and is loved by thee again, thy father, thy brother, thy child, thy wife, sees thee in an evil case, and would have thee do what is evil. What do I mean by "sees thee in an evil case"? Sees thee in some press of trouble. This pressure it may be thou art suffering for righteousness' sake; art suffering it because thou will not give false witness. I would speak merely by way of illustration. Examples abound; for "woe to the world, because of offences." See, for instance, some powerful person, to cover his rapine and plunder, asks of you the service of a false witness. You refuse: refuse the false oath, lest thou shouldest deny Him that is true. That I may not dwell long on this, he is angry, he is powerful, he oppresses thee: a friend comes who would not have thee in this press of trouble, in this evil case; "I pray thee, do what is told thee; what great matter is it?" And then perhaps as Satan with the Lord, "It is written of Thee, He shall give His Angels charge concerning Thee, that Thou dash not Thy foot against a stone." [2710] Perhaps too this friend of thine, because he sees thou art a Christian, wishes to persuade thee out of the Law to do what he thinks you ought to do. "Do what the other tells." "What? Do what the other wishes." "But it is a lie, it is false." "Well, have you not read, `All men are liars'?" [2711] Now is he an "offence." He is a friend, what will you do? He is an eye, he is a hand: "Cut it off, and cast it from thee." What is, "cut it off, and cast it from thee"? Consent not to him. For members in our body make up unity by consent, by consent they live, by consent are joined together one with the other. Where there is dissent, there is disease, or a sore. He is then one of thy members; thou wilt love him. But he is an offence to thee; "Cut him off, and cast him from thee." Consent not to him; drive him off from thine ears, it may be he will return amended.

5. And how wilt thou do this that I say, "Cut him off, and cast him from thee," and so, it may be, amend him? answer me, how thou art going to do it? He wished to persuade thee out of the Law to tell a lie. For he said, "speak." And perhaps he did not dare to say, "speak a lie;" but thus, "speak what the other wishes." Thou sayest, "But it is a lie." And he to excuse it, says, "All men are liars." Then do thou, my brother, say against this, "The mouth that lieth slayeth the soul." [2712] Mark, it is no light thing thou hast heard, "The mouth that lieth slayeth the soul." What can that powerful enemy, who oppresseth me, do to me, that thou pitiest me, and my condition, and wouldest not have me be in this evil case; whereas thou wouldest that I should be evil? What can that powerful man do to me, and what can he oppress? The flesh. He can oppress thy body, thou wilt say: I grant he may oppress it to destruction. [2713] Still how much more mildly does he deal with me, than I should with myself were I to lie! He kills my flesh; I kill my soul. He in his power and anger slays the body; "the mouth that lieth slayeth the soul." He slays the body; and die it must, though it should not be slain; but the soul which iniquity slayeth not, the truth receiveth for ever. Preserve then what thou canst preserve; and let that perish which must perish sometime or other. Thou hast given an answer then, but thou hast not solved the "All men are liars." Make answer to him to this too, that he may not fancy that he has said anything to persuade to lying, in bringing a testimony out of the Law; so urging thee out of the Law against the Law. For it is written in the Law, "Thou shalt not bear false witness;" [2714] and it is written in the Law, "All men are liars." Recur then to that which I just lately suggested, when I defined in words as best I could the "meek" man. He is "meek" to whom in all things that he does well, nothing but God is pleasing, and in all the evils which he suffers, God is not displeasing. Make answer then to him who says, Lie, for it is written, "All men are liars:" I will not lie, for it is written, "The mouth that lieth slayeth the soul." I will not lie, because it is written, "Thou shalt destroy them that speak lying." [2715] I will not lie, because it is written, "Thou shalt not bear false witness." Though he whom I displease by the truth harass my body with oppressions, I will give ear to my Lord, "Fear not them which kill the body." [2716]

6. "How then are all men liars? What! Thou art not a man, I suppose?" Answer quickly and truly. "And O that I may not be a man, that so I may not be a liar." For see; "God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are all together become unprofitable: there is none that doeth good, no not even one." [2717] Why? Because they wished to be sons of men. But in order that he might deliver them from these iniquities, cure, heal, change, the sons of men; "he gave them power to become the sons of God." [2718] What marvel then! Ye were men, if we were the sons of men; ye were all men, and were liars, for, "All men are liars." The grace of God came to you, and "gave you power to become the sons of God." Hear the voice of My Father saying, "I have said, Ye are gods; and ye are all the children of the Most High." [2719] Since then they are men, and the sons of men, if they are not the children of the Most High, they are liars, for, "all men are liars." If they are the sons of God, if they have been redeemed by the Saviour's grace, if purchased with His precious Blood, if born again of water and of the Spirit, if predestinated to the inheritance of heaven, then indeed are they children of God. And so thereby are gods. What then would a lie have to do with thee? For Adam was a mere man, Christ, man and God; God, the Creator of all creation. Adam a mere man, the Man Christ, the Mediator with God, the Only Son of the Father, the God-man. Lo, thou, O man, art far from God, and God is far above man; between them the God-man placed Himself. Acknowledge Christ, and by Him as Man ascend up to God.

7. Being then now reformed, and, if my words have been so blessed, "meek," let us "hold fast our profession without wavering." Let us love the law of God, that we may escape that which is written, "Woe unto the world because of offences." Now I would say a few words about "offences," of which the world is full, and how it is that offences thicken, pressing troubles abound. The world [2720] is laid waste, the winepress is trodden. Ah! Christians, heavenly shoot, ye strangers on the earth, who seek a city in heaven, who long to be associated with the holy Angels; understand that ye have come here on this condition only, that ye should soon depart. Ye are passing on through the world, endeavouring to reach Him who created it. Let not the lovers of the world, who wish to remain in the world, and yet, whether they will or no, are compelled to move from it; let them not disturb you, let them not deceive nor seduce you. These pressing troubles are not offences. Be ye righteous, and they will be only exercises. Tribulation comes; it will be as ye choose it, either an exercise, or a condemnation. Such as it shall find you to be, will it be. Tribulation is a fire; does it find thee gold? it takes away the filth: does it find thee chaff? it turns it into ashes. The pressing troubles then which abound are not "offences." But what are "offences"? Those expressions, those words in which we are thus addressed. "See what Christian times bring about;" lo, these are the true offences. For this is said to thee, to this end, that if thou love the world, thou mayest blaspheme Christ. And this he saith to thee who is thy friend, and counsellor; and so "thine eye." This he saith to thee who ministereth to thee, and shareth thy labours, and so "thine hand." This he saith to thee it may be who supporteth thee, who lifteth thee up from a low earthly state; and so "thy foot." Cast them all aside, cut them off, throw them all away from thee; consent not unto them. Answer such men, as he who was advised to give false witness answered. So do thou answer too; say to the man who saith to thee, "See, it is in Christian times that there are such pressing troubles; that the whole world is laid waste;" answer him, "And this Christ foretold me, before it came to pass."

8. For wherefore art thou disturbed? Thine heart is disturbed by the pressing troubles of the world, as that ship was, in which Christ was asleep. Lo! what is the cause, stout-hearted man, that thy heart is disturbed? That ship in which Christ is asleep, [2721] is the heart in which faith is asleep. For what new thing, what new thing, I ask, is told thee, Christian? "In Christian times is the world laid waste, the world is failing." Did not thy Lord tell thee, the world shall be laid waste? Did not thy Lord tell thee, the world shall fail? Why when the promise was made, didst thou believe, and art disturbed now, when it is being completed? So then the tempest beats furiously against thine heart; beware of shipwreck, awake up Christ. The Apostle says, "that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." [2722] Christ dwelleth in thee by faith. Present faith, is Christ present; waking faith, is Christ awake; slumbering [2723] faith, is Christ asleep. Arise and stir thyself; say, "Lord, we perish." See what the Heathen say to us; and what is worse, what evil Christians say! Awake up, O Lord, we perish. Let thy faith awake, and Christ begins to speak to thee. "`Why art thou troubled?' I told thee beforehand of all these things. I foretold them, that when evils came, thou mightest hope for good things, that thou mightest not faint in the evil." Wonderest thou that the world is failing? Wonder that the world is grown old. It is as a man who is born, and grows up, and waxes old. There are many complaints in old age; the cough, the rheum, the weakness of the eyes, fretfulness, and weariness. So then as when a man is old; he is full of complaints; so is the world old; and is full of troubles. Is it a little thing that God hath done for thee, in that in the world's old age, He hath sent Christ unto thee, that He may renew thee then, when all is failing? Dost thou not know that He notified this in the seed of Abraham? "The seed of Abraham," says the Apostle, "which is Christ. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of One, And to thy seed, which is Christ." [2724] Therefore was there a son born to Abraham in his old age, because in the old age of this world was Christ to come. He came when all things were growing old, and made them new. As a made, created, perishing thing, the world was now declining to its fall. It could not but be that it should abound in troubles; He came both to console thee in the midst of present troubles, and to promise thee everlasting rest. Choose not then to cleave to this aged world, and to be unwilling to grow young in Christ, who telleth thee, "The world is perishing, the world is waxing old, the world is failing; is distressed by the heavy breathing of old age. But do not fear, "Thy youth shall be renewed as the eagle's." [2725]

9. See, they say, in Christian times it is that Rome perishes. Perhaps Rome is not perishing; perhaps she is only scourged, not utterly destroyed; perhaps she is chastened, not brought to nought. It may be so; Rome will not perish, if the Romans do not perish. And perish they will not if they praise God; perish they will if they blaspheme Him. For what is Rome, but the Romans? For the question is not of her wood and stones, of her lofty insulated [2726] palaces, and all her spacious walls. All this was made only on this condition that it should fall some other day. When man built it, he laid stone on stone; and when man destroyed it, he removed stone from stone. Man made it, man destroyed it. Is any injury done to Rome, because it is said, "She is falling"? No, not to Rome, but to her builder perhaps. Do we then its builder any injury, because we say, Rome is falling, which Romulus built? This world itself will be burnt with fire, which God built. But neither does what man has made fall to ruin, except when God wills it; nor what God has made, except when He wills. For if the work of man fall not without God's will, how can God's work fall by the will of man? Yet God both made the world that was one day to fall for thee; and therefore made He thee as one who was one day to die. Man himself, the city's ornament, man himself, the city's inhabitant, ruler, governor, comes on this condition that he may go, is born on this condition that he may die, entered into the world on this condition that he may pass away; "Heaven and earth shall pass away:" [2727] what wonder then if some time or other there should be an end of a single city? And yet peradventure the city's end is not come now; yet some time or other come it will. But why does Rome perish amid the sacrifices of Christians? Why was her mother Troy burnt amid the sacrifices of Heathens? The gods in whom the Romans have placed all their hope, yea the Roman gods in whom the Heathen Romans placed their hope, removed from the flames of Troy to found Rome. These very gods of Rome were originally the gods of Troy. Troy was burnt, and ∆neas took the fugitive gods; yea rather himself a fugitive he took away these senseless gods. For they could be carried by the fugitive; but they could not flee away themselves. And coming with these gods into Italy, with these false gods, he founded Rome. It is too long to go through the whole story; yet would I briefly mention what their own writings contain. An author of theirs well known to all speaks thus; "As I have received the account, the Trojans who under the guidance of ∆neas were wandering about as fugitives without any settled abode, originally built and inhabited Rome." [2728] So they had their gods with them, they builded Rome in Latium, and there they placed the gods to be worshipped, which before were worshipped in Troy. Juno is introduced by their poet, incensed against ∆neas and the fugitive Trojans, saying,

"A race of wandering slaves abhorred by me,

With prosperous passage cuts the Tuscan sea,

To fruitful Italy their course they steer,

And for their vanquished gods, design new temples

there." [2729]

Now when these vanquished gods were carried into Italy, was it as a protecting deity, or [2730] as a presage [2731] of their future fall? "Love" therefore "the law of God, and nothing shall be an offence to you." We pray you, we beseech you, we exhort you; be meek, sympathize with the suffering, bear the weak; and on this occasion of the concourse of so many strangers, and needy, and suffering people, let your hospitality and your good works abound. Let but Christians do what Christ enjoineth, and so will the Heathen blaspheme only to their own hurt.

Footnotes

[2694] Ps. viii. 4. [2695] Matt. xviii. 7. [2696] Ps. cxix. 165. [2697] Rom. ii. 13. [2698] Gal. v. 6. [2699] Ps. xxxvii. 11. [2700] Ps. xciv. 12, 13. [2701] Job ii. 9, Sept. [2702] Job ii. 10, Sept. [2703] 1 Cor. iii. 7. [2704] Jas. iv. 6. [2705] John i. 10. [2706] 2 Cor. v. 19. [2707] Matt. xviii. 8, 9. [2708] Matt. xvi. 23. [2709] Matt. xvi. 17. [2710] Matt. iv. 6. [2711] Ps. cxvi. 11. [2712] Wisd. i. 11. [2713] Corpus, dicis tu, premit: dico ego, perimit. [2714] Deut. v. 20. [2715] Ps. v. 6. [2716] Matt. x. 28. [2717] Ps. xiv. 2, 3. [2718] John i. 12. [2719] Ps. lxxxii. 6. [2720] By the inundation of the Goths, Serm. lv. (cv. Ben.). [2721] Matt. viii. 24. [2722] Eph. iii. 17. [2723] Oblita. [2724] Gal. iii. 16. [2725] Ps. ciii. 5. [2726] Insulis. [2727] Matt. xxiv. 35. [2728] Sallust in Catil. 6. [2729] ∆n. i. 71, 2. [2730] De Civit. Dei, lib. i. c. 3. Immo vero victos deos tanquam præsides ac defensores colere, quid est aliud quam tenere non numina bona sed omina mala? [2731] Numen erat, an omen. .


Sermon XXXII.

[LXXXII. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. xviii. 15, "If thy brother sin against thee, go, shew him his fault between thee and him alone;" and of the words of Solomon, he that winketh with the eyes deceitfully, heapeth sorrow upon men; but he that reproveth openly, maketh peace.

1. Our Lord warns us not to neglect one another's sins, not by searching out what to find fault with, but by looking out for what to amend. For He said that his eye is sharp to cast out a mote out of his brother's eye, who has not a beam in his own eye. Now what this means, I will briefly convey to you, Beloved. A mote in the eye is anger; a beam in the eye is hatred. When therefore one who has hatred finds fault with one who is angry, he wishes to take a mote out of his brother's eye, but is hindered by the beam which he carries in his own eye. A mote is the beginning of a beam. For a beam in the course of its growth, is first a mote. By watering the mote, you bring it to a beam; by nourishing anger with evil suspicions, you bring it on to hatred.

2. Now there is a great difference between the sin of one who is angry, and the cruelty of one who holds another in hatred. For even with our children are we angry; but who is ever found to hate his children? Among the very cattle too, the cow in a sort of weariness will sometimes in anger drive away her sucking calf; but anon she embraces it with all the affection of a mother. She is in a way disgusted with it, when she butts at it; yet when she misses it, she will seek after it. Nor do we discipline our children otherwise, than with a degree of anger and indignation; yet we should not discipline them at all, but in love to them. So far then is every one who is angry from hating; that sometimes one would be rather convicted of hating, if he were not angry. For suppose a child wishes to play in some river's stream, by whose force he would be like to perish; if you see this, and patiently suffer it, this would be hating; your patient suffering him, is his death. How far better is it to be angry and correct him, than by not being angry to suffer him to perish! Above all things then is hatred to be avoided, and the beam to be cast out of the eye. Great is the difference indeed between one's exceeding due limits in some words through anger, which he afterwards wipes off by repenting of it; and the keeping an insidious purpose shut up in the heart. Great, lastly, the difference between these words of Scripture; "Mine eye is disordered because of anger." [2732] Whereas of the other it is said, "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer." [2733] Great is the difference between an eye disordered, and clean put out. A mote disorders, a beam puts clean out.

3. In order then that we may be able well to do and to fulfil what we have been admonished of to-day, let us first persuade ourselves to this, above all things to have no hate. For when there is no beam in thine own eye, thou seest rightly whatever may be in thy brother's eye; and art uneasy, till thou cast out of thy brother's eye what thou seest to hurt it. The light that is in thee, doth not allow thee to neglect thy brother's light. Whereas if thou hate, and wouldest correct him, how dost thou improve his light, when thou hast lost thine own light? For the same Scripture, where it is written, "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer," hath expressly told us this also. "He that hateth his brother is in darkness even until now." [2734] Hatred then is darkness. Now it cannot but be, that he who hateth another, should first injure himself. For him he endeavours to hurt outwardly, he lays himself waste inwardly. Now in proportion as our soul is of more value than our body, so much the more ought we to provide for it, that it be not hurt. But he that hateth another, doth hurt his own soul. And what would he do to him whom he hateth? What would he do? He takes away his money, can he take his faith away? he wounds his good fame, can he wound his conscience? Whatever injury he does, is but external; now observe what his injury to himself is? For he who hateth another is an enemy to himself within. But because he is not sensible of what harm he is doing to himself, he is violent against another, and that the more dangerously, that he is not sensible of the evil he is doing to himself; because by this very violence he has lost the power of perception. Thou art violent against thine enemy; by this violence of thine he is spoiled, and thou art wicked. Great is the difference between the two. He hath lost his money, thou thine innocence. Ask which hath suffered the heavier loss? He hath lost a thing that was sure to perish, and thou art become one who must now perish thyself.

4. Therefore ought we to rebuke in love; not with any eager desire to injure, but with an earnest care to amend. If we be so minded, most excellently do we practise that which we have been recommended to-day; "If thy brother shall sin against thee, rebuke him between thee and him alone." [2735] Why dost thou rebuke him? Because thou art grieved, that he should have sinned against thee? God forbid. If from love of thyself thou do it, thou doest nothing. If from love to him thou do it, thou doest excellently. In fact, observe in these words themselves, for the love of whom thou oughtest to do it, whether of thyself or him. "If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother." Do it for his sake then, that thou mayest "gain" him. If by so doing thou "gain" him, hadst thou not done it, he would have been lost. How is it then that most men disregard these sins, and say, "What great thing have I done? I have only sinned against man." Disregard them not. Thou hast sinned against man; but wouldest thou know that in sinning against man thou art lost. If he, against whom thou hast sinned, have "rebuked thee between thee and him alone," and thou hast listened to him, he hath "gained" thee. What can "hath gained thee," mean; but that thou hadst been lost, if he had not gained thee. For if thou wouldest not have been lost, how hath he gained thee? Let no man then disregard it, when he sins against a brother. For the Apostle saith in a certain place, "But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ;" [2736] for this reason, because we have been all made members of Christ. How dost thou not sin against Christ, who sinnest against a member of Christ?

5. Let no one therefore say, "I have not sinned against God, but against a brother. I have sinned against a man, it is a trifling sin, or no sin at all." It may be, thou sayest it is a trifling sin, because it is soon cured. Thou hast sinned against a brother; give him satisfaction, and thou art made whole. Thou didst a deadly thing quickly, but quickly too hast thou found a remedy. Who of us, my Brethren, can hope for the kingdom of heaven, when the Gospel says, "Whosoever shall say to his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire?" [2737] Exceeding terror! but behold in the same place the remedy: "If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar." [2738] God is not angry that thou deferrest to lay thy gift upon the Altar. It is thee that God seeketh more than thy gift. For if thou come with a gift to thy God, bearing an evil mind against thy brother, He will answer thee, "Thou art lost, what hast thou brought Me? Thou bringest thy gift, and thou art thyself no proper gift for God. Christ seeketh him whom He hath redeemed with His Blood, more than what thou hast found in thy barn." So then, "Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and so thou shalt come and offer thy gift." Lo that "danger of hell fire," how quickly dissolved it is! When thou wast not yet reconciled, thou wast "in danger of hell fire;" once reconciled, thou offerest thy gift before the altar in all security.

6. But men are easy and ready enough to inflict injuries, and hard to seek for reconciliation. Ask pardon, says one, of him whom thou hast offended, of him whom thou hast injured. He answers, "I will not so humble myself." But now if thou despise thy brother, at least give ear to thy God. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." [2739] Wilt thou refuse to humble thyself, who hast already fallen? Great is the difference between one who humbleth himself, and one who lieth on the ground. Already dost thou lie on the ground, and wilt thou then not humble thyself? Thou mightest well say, I will not descend; if thou hadst first been unwilling to fall.

7. This then ought one to do who hath done an injury. And he who hath suffered one, what ought he to do? What we have heard to-day, "If thy brother shall sin against thee, rebuke him between thee and him alone." [2740] If thou shall neglect this, thou art worse than he. He hath done an injury, and by doing an injury, hath stricken himself with a grievous wound; wilt thou disregard thy brother's wound? Wilt thou see him perishing, or already lost, and disregard his case? Thou art worse in keeping silence, than he in his reviling. Therefore when any one sins against us, let us take great care, not for ourselves, for it is a glorious thing to forget injuries; only forget thine own injury, not thy brother's wound. Therefore "rebuke him between thee and him alone," intent upon his amendment, but sparing his shame. For it may be that through shame-facedness he will begin to defend his sin, and so thou wilt make him whom thou desirest to amend, still worse. "Rebuke him" therefore "between him and thee alone. If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother;" because he would have been lost, hadst thou not done it. But "if he will not hear thee," that is, if he will defend his sin as if it were a just action, "take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established; and if he will not hear them, refer it to the Church; but if he will not hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." [2741] Reckon him no more amongst the number of thy brethren. But yet neither is his salvation on that account to be neglected. For the very heathen, that is, the Gentiles and Pagans, we do not reckon among the number of brethren; but yet are we ever seeking their salvation. This then have we heard the Lord so advising, and with such great carefulness enjoining, that He even added this immediately, "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven." [2742] Thou hast begun to hold thy brother for a publican; "thou bindest him on earth;" but see that thou bind him justly. For unjust bonds justice doth burst asunder. But when thou hast corrected, and been "reconciled to thy brother," thou hast "loosed him on earth." And when "thou shalt have loosed him on earth, he shall be loosed in heaven also." Thus thou doest a great thing, not for thyself, but for him; for a great injury had he done, not to thee, but to himself.

8. But since this is so, what is that which Solomon says, and which we heard first to-day out of another lesson, "He that winketh with the eyes deceitfully, heapeth sorrow upon men; but he that reproveth openly, maketh peace"? [2743] If then "he that reproveth openly, maketh peace;" how "rebuke him between him and thee alone"? We must fear, lest the divine precepts should be contrary to one another. But no: let us understand that there is the most perfect agreement in them, let us not follow the conceits of certain vain ones, [2744] who in their error think that the two Testaments in the Old and New Books are contrary to each other; that so we should think that there is any contradiction here, because one is in the book of Solomon, and the other in the Gospel. For if any one unskilful in, and a reviler of the divine Scriptures, were to say, "See where the two Testaments contradict each other. The Lord saith, `Rebuke him between him and thee alone.' Solomon saith, `He that reproveth openly maketh peace.'" Doth not the Lord then know what He hath commanded? Solomon would have the sinners' hard forehead bruised: Christ spareth his shame who blushes for his sins. For in the one place it is written, "He that reproveth openly maketh peace;" but in the other, "Rebuke him between him and thee alone;" not "openly," but apart and secretly. But wouldest thou know, whosoever thou art that thinkest such things, that the two Testaments are not opposed to each other, because the first of these passages is found in the book of Solomon, and the other in the Gospel? Hear the Apostle. And surely the Apostle is a Minister of the New Testament. Hear the Apostle Paul then, charging Timothy, and saying, "Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear." [2745] So then not the book of Solomon, but an Epistle of Paul the Apostle seems to be at issue with the Gospel. Let us then without any [2746] prejudice to his honour lay aside Solomon for a while; let us hear the Lord Christ and His servant Paul. What sayest Thou, O Lord? "If thy brother sin against thee, rebuke him between him and thee alone." What sayest thou, O Apostle? "Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear." What are we about? Are we listening to this controversy as judges? That be far from us. Yea, rather as those whose place is under the Judge, let us knock, that we may obtain, that it be opened to us; let us fly beneath the wings of our Lord God. For He did not speak in contradiction to His Apostle, seeing that He Himself spoke "in" him also, as he says, "Would ye receive a proof of Christ, who speaketh in me?" [2747] Christ in the Gospel, Christ in the Apostle: Christ therefore spake both; one by His own Mouth, the other by the mouth of His herald. For when the herald pronounces anything from the tribunal, it is not written in the records, "the herald said it;" but he is written as having said it, who commanded the herald what to say.

9. Let us then so give ear to these two precepts, Brethren, as that we may understand them, and let us settle ourselves in peace between them both. Let us but be in agreement with our own heart, and Holy Scripture will in no part disagree with itself. It is entirely true, both precepts are true; but we must make a distinction, that sometimes the one, sometimes the other must be done; that sometimes a brother must be "reproved between him and thee alone," sometimes a brother "must be reproved before all, that others also may fear." If we do sometimes the one, and sometimes the other, we shall hold fast the harmony of the Scriptures, and shall not err in fulfilling and obeying them. But a man will say to me, "When am I to do this one, and when the other? lest I `reprove between me and him alone,' when I ought to `reprove before all;' or `reprove before all,' when I ought to reprove in secret."

10. You will soon see, Beloved, what we ought to do, and when; only I would we may not be slow to practise it. Attend and see: "If thy brother sin against thee, rebuke him between him and thee alone." Why? Because it is against thee that he hath sinned. What is that, "hath sinned against thee"? Thou knowest that he hath sinned. For because it was secret when he sinned against thee, seek for secresy, when thou dost correct his sin. For if thou only know that he hath sinned against thee, and thou wouldest "rebuke him before all," thou art not a reprover, but a betrayer. Consider how that "just man" Joseph spared his wife with such exceeding kindness, in so great a crime as he had suspected her of, before he knew by whom she had conceived; because he perceived that she was with child, and he knew that he had not come in unto her. There remained then an unavoidable [2748] suspicion of adultery, and yet because he only had perceived, he only knew it, what does the Gospel say of him? "Then Joseph being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example." [2749] The husband's grief sought no revenge; he wished to profit, not to punish the sinner. "And not willing to make her a public example, he was minded to put her away privily." But while he thought on these things, "behold, the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him," [2750] in sleep; and told him how it was, that she had not defiled her husband's bed, but that she had conceived of the Holy Ghost the Lord of them both. Thy brother then hath sinned against thee; if thou alone know it, then hath he really sinned against thee alone. For if in the hearing of many he hath done thee an injury, he hath sinned against them also whom he hath made witnesses of his iniquity. For I tell you, my dearly beloved Brethren, what you can yourselves recognise in your own case. When any one does my brother an injury in my hearing, God forbid that I should think that injury unconnected with myself. Certainly he has done it to me also; yea to me the rather, to whom he thought what he did was pleasing. Therefore those sins are to be reproved before all, which are committed before all; they are to be reproved with more secresy, which are committed more secretly. Distinguish times, and Scripture is in harmony with itself.

11. So let us act; and so must we act not only when the sin is committed against ourselves, but when the sin is so committed by any one as that it is unknown by the other. In secret ought we to rebuke, in secret to reprove him; lest if we would reprove him publicly, we should betray the man. We wish to rebuke and reform him; but what if his enemy is looking out to hear something that he may punish? For example, a Bishop knows of some one who has killed another, and no one else knows of him. I wish to reprove him publicly; but thou art seeking to prosecute him. [2751] Decidedly then I will neither betray him, nor neglect him; I will reprove him in secret; I will set the judgment of God before his eyes; I will alarm his bloodstained conscience; I will persuade him to repentance. With this charity ought we to be endued. And hence men sometimes find fault with us, as if we do not reprove; or they think that we know what we do not know, or that we hush up what we know. And it may be that what thou knowest, I know also but I will not reprove in thy presence I because I wish to cure, not to act informer. There are men who commit adultery in their own houses, they sin in secret, sometimes they are discovered to us by their own wives, generally through jealousy, sometimes as seeking their husband's salvation; in such cases we do not betray them openly, but reprove them in secret. Where the evil has happened, there let the evil die. Yet do we not neglect that wound; above all things showing the man who is in such a sinful state, and bears such a wounded conscience, that that is a deadly wound which they who suffer from, sometimes by an unaccountable perverseness despise; and seek out testimonies in their favour, I know not whence, null certainly and void, saying, "God careth not for sins of the flesh." [2752] Where is that then which we have heard to-day, "Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge"? [2753] Lo! whosoever thou art that labourest under such a disease attend. Hear what God saith; not what thine own mind, in indulgence to thine own sins, may say, or what thy friend, thine enemy rather and his own too, bound in the same bond of iniquity with thee may say. Hear then what the Apostle saith; "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled. But whoremongers and adulterers God will judge."

12. Come then, Brother, be reformed. Thou art afraid lest thine enemy should prosecute thee; and art thou not afraid lest God should judge thee? Where is thy faith? Fear whilst there is the time for fear. Far off indeed is the day of judgment; but every man's last day cannot be far off; for life is short. And since this shortness is ever uncertain, thou knowest not when thy last day may be. Reform thyself today, because of to-morrow. Let the reproof in secret be of service to thee now. For I am speaking openly, yet do I reprove in secret. I knock at the ears of all; but I accost [2754] the consciences of some. If I were to say, "Thou adulterer, reform thyself;" perhaps in the first place I might say what I had no knowledge of; perhaps suspect on a rash hearsay report. I do not then say, "Thou adulterer, reform thyself;" but "whosoever thou art among this people who art an adulterer, reform thyself." So the reproof is public; the reformation secret. This I know, that whoso feareth, will reform himself.

13. Let no one say in his heart, "God careth not for sins of the flesh." "Know ye not," saith the Apostle, "that ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy." [2755] "Let no man deceive himself." But perhaps a man will say, "My soul is the temple of God, not my body," and will add this testimony also, "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass." [2756] Unhappy interpretation! conceit meet for punishment! The flesh is called grass, because it dies; but take thou heed that that which dies for a time, rise not again with guilt. Wouldest thou ascertain a plain judgment on this point also? "Know ye not," says the same Apostle, "that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God?" [2757] Do not then any longer disregard sins of the body; seeing that your "bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God." If thou didst disregard a sin of the body, wilt thou disregard a sin which thou committest against a temple? Thy very body is a temple of the Spirit of God within thee. Now take heed what thou doest with the temple of God. If thou wert to choose to commit adultery in the Church within these walls, what wickedness could be greater? But now thou art thyself the temple of God. In thy going out, in thy coming in, as thou abidest in thy house, as thou risest up, in all thou art a temple. Take heed then what thou doest, take heed that thou offend not the Indweller of the temple, lest He forsake thee, and thou fall into ruins. "Know ye not," he says, "that your bodies" (and this the Apostle spake touching fornication, that they might not think lightly of sins of the body) "are the temples of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" For "ye have been bought with a great [2758] price." If thou think so lightly of thine own body, have some consideration for thy price.

14. I know, and as I do every one knows, who has used a little more than ordinary consideration, that no man who has any fear of God omits to reform himself in obedience to His words, but he who thinks that he has longer time to live. This it is which kills so many, while they are saying, "To-morrow, To-morrow;" and suddenly the door is shut. He remains outside with the raven's croak, [2759] because he had not the moaning of the dove. "To-morrow, To-morrow;" is the raven's croak. Moan plaintively as the dove, and beat thy breast; but whilst thou art inflicting blows on thy breast, be the better for the beating; lest thou seem not to beat thy conscience, but rather with blows to harden it, and make an evil conscience more unyielding instead of better. Moan with no fruitless moaning. For it may be thou art saying to thyself, "God hath promised me forgiveness, whenever I reform myself I am secure; I read the divine Scripture, "In the day that the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness, and doeth that which is lawful and right, I will forget all his iniquities." [2760] I am secure then, whenever I reform myself, God will give me pardon for my evil deeds." What can I say to this? Shall I lift up my voice against God? Shall I say to God, Do not give him pardon? Shall I say, This is not written, God hath not promised this? If I should say ought of this, I should say falsely. Thou speakest well and truly; God hath promised pardon on thy amendment, I cannot deny it; but tell me, I pray thee; see, I consent, I grant, I acknowledge that God hath promised thee pardon, but who hath promised thee a to-morrow? Where thou dost read to me that thou shalt receive pardon, if thou reform thyself; there read to me how long thou hast to live. Thou dost confess, "I cannot read it there." Thou knowest not then how long thou hast to live. Reform thyself, and so be always ready. Be not afraid of the last day, as a thief, who will break up thy house as thou sleepest; but awake and reform thyself to-day. Why dost thou put it off till to-morrow? If thy life is to be a long one, let it be both long and good. No one puts off a good dinner, because it is to be a long one, and dost thou wish to have a long evil life? Surely if it is to be long, it will be all the better if it be good; if it is to be short, it is well that its good be as long as possible. [2761] But men neglect their life to such a degree, as that they are unwilling to have anything bad except it. You buy a farm, and you look out for a good one; you wish to marry a wife, you choose a good one; you wish for the birth of children, and you long for good ones; you bargain for shoes, and you do not wish for bad ones; and yet a bad life you [2762] do love. How hath thy life offended thee, that thou art willing to have it only bad; that amid all thy good things thou shouldest thyself alone be evil?

15. So then, my Brethren, if I should wish to reprove any of you individually in secret, perhaps he would listen to me. I reprove many of you now in public; all praise me; may some give attentive heed to me! I have no love for him who praises me with his voice, and with his heart despises me. For when thou dost praise, and not reform thyself, thou art a witness against thyself. If thou art evil, and thou art pleased with what I say, be displeased with thyself; because if thou art displeased with thyself as being evil, when thou dost reform, thou wilt be well pleased with thyself, which if I mistake not I said the day before yesterday. In all my words I set a mirror before you. Nor are they my words, but I speak at the bidding of the Lord, by whose terrors I refrain from keeping silence. For who would not rather choose to keep silence, and not to give account for you? But now I have undertaken the burden, and I cannot, and I ought not to shake it off my shoulders. When the Epistle to the Hebrews was being read, my Brethren, ye heard, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you." [2763] When do we it with joy? When we see man making progress in the words of God. When does the labourer in the field work with joy? When he looks at the tree, and sees the fruit; when he looks at the crop, and sees the prospect of abundance of corn in the floor; when he sees that he has not laboured in vain, has not bowed his back, and bruised his hands, and endured the cold and heat in vain. This is what he says, "That they may do it with joy, and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you." Did he say, "unprofitable for them"? No. He said, "unprofitable for you." For when those who are set over you are saddened at your evil deeds, it is profitable for them; their very sadness is profitable for them; but it is unprofitable for you. But we do not wish that anything should be profitable for us, which for you is unprofitable. Let us then, Brethren, do good together in the Lord's field; that at the reward we may rejoice together.

Footnotes

[2732] Ps. vi. 8, Sept. (7, English version). [2733] 1 John iii. 15. [2734] 1 John ii. 9. [2735] Matt. xviii. 15. [2736] 1 Cor. viii. 12. [2737] Matt. v. 22. [2738] Matt. v. 23, 24. [2739] Luke xiv. 11. [2740] Matt. xviii. 15. [2741] Matt. xviii. 16, 17. [2742] Matt. xviii. 18. [2743] Prov. x. 10, Sept. [2744] The Manichees. [2745] 1 Tim. v. 20. [2746] Injuria. [2747] 2 Cor. xiii. 3. [2748] Certa. [2749] Matt. i. 19. [2750] Matt. i. 20. [2751] Inscribere. [2752] Vide Serm. ccxxiv. (2). [2753] Heb. xiii. 4. [2754] Convenio. [2755] 1 Cor. iii. 16, 17. [2756] 1 Pet. i. 24. [2757] 1 Cor. vi. 19. [2758] Vulgate. [2759] Serm. ccxxiii. 4. Enarr. in Ps. cii. 16. [2760] Ezek. xviii. 21, 22. [2761] Bene factum est, ut bona produceretur. [2762] Serm. xxii. (lxxii. Ben.) 5 (iv.). [2763] Heb. xiii. 17. .


Sermon XXXIII.

[LXXXIII. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. xvii. 21, "How oft shall my brother sin against me," etc.

1. Yesterday the holy Gospel warned us not to neglect the sins of our brethren: "But if thy brother shall sin against thee, rebuke him between him and thee alone. If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he shall refuse to hear thee, take with thee two or three more; that in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them too, tell it to the Church. But if he shall neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." [2764] To-day also the section which follows, and which we heard when it was read, relates to the same subject. For when the Lord Jesus had said this to Peter, he went on to ask his Master, how often he should forgive a brother who had sinned against him; and he enquired whether seven times would be enough. "The Lord answered him, Not only seven times, but seventy times seven." [2765] Then he added a parable very full of terror: That the "kingdom of heaven is like unto an householder, which took account with his servants; among whom he found one that owed ten thousand talents. And when he commanded all that he had, and all his family, and himself to be sold, and the debt to be paid, he fell down at his lord's feet," [2766] and prayed for delay, and obtained [2767] entire remission. For as we have heard, "His lord was moved with compassion, and forgave him all the debt." Then that man free from his debt, but a bondslave of iniquity, after he had gone out from the presence of his lord, found in his turn a debtor of his own, who owed him, not ten thousand talents, the sum which had been remitted to him, but a hundred denarii; and "he began to drag him by the throat, and say, Pay me that thou owest." [2768] Then he besought his fellow-servant as he had done his lord; but he did not find his fellow-servant such a man as the other had found his lord. He not only would not forgive him the debt; but he did not even grant him a delay. He hurried him along with great violence [2769] to make him pay, he who had been but just now set free from his debt to his lord. His fellow-servants were displeased; and "went and told their lord what was done;" and the lord summoned his servant to his presence, and said to him, "O thou wicked servant, when thou didst owe me so great a debt, in pity to thee I forgave thee all. Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on thee?" [2770] And he commanded that all which he had forgiven him should be paid.

2. It is then for our instruction that He put forth this parable, and by this warning He would save us from perishing. "So," said He, "shall My heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses." [2771] Lo, Brethren, the thing is plain, useful is the admonition, and a wholesome obedience is by all means due, that what hath been bidden may be fulfilled. For every man is at once God's debtor, and hath also some brother a debtor to himself. For who is there who is not God's debtor, but he in whom there can be found no sin? And who is there who hath not a brother his debtor, but he against whom no one hath sinned? Think you that any one among mankind can be found, who is not himself bounden to his brother by some sin? So then every man is a debtor, yet having himself his own debtors too. The righteous God therefore appointeth a rule for thee toward thy debtor, which He also will observe with His. For two works of mercy are there, which deliver us, which the Lord hath Himself briefly laid down in the Gospel: "Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: give, and it shall be given unto you." [2772] "Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven," relates to pardoning. "Give, and it shall be given unto you," relates to doing kindnesses. As to what He saith of pardoning, thou both wishest thy sin to be pardoned thee, and thou hast another whom thou mayest pardon. Again, as to the doing kindnesses; a beggar asks of thee, and thou art God's beggar. For we are all when we pray God's beggars; we stand, yea rather we fall prostrate before the door of the Great Householder, we groan in supplication wishing to receive something; and this something is God Himself. What does the beggar ask of thee? Bread. And what dost thou ask of God, but Christ, who saith, "I am the living Bread which came down from heaven"? [2773] Would you be forgiven? Forgive. "Forgive, and it shall be forgiven you." Would you receive? "Give, and it shall be given unto you."

3. But now hear what in so plain a precept I may cause a difficulty. In this question of forgiveness when pardon is asked, and it is due from him who should grant it, it may be a difficulty to us as it was to Peter. "How often ought I to forgive? Is up to seven times sufficient?" "It is not sufficient," saith the Lord, "I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven." [2774] Now reckon up how often thy brother hath sinned against thee. If thou canst reach the seventy-eighth fault, so as to get beyond the seventy times seven, then set about revenge. Is this then what He really means, and is it really so, that if he shall sin "seventy times seven," thou shouldest forgive him; but if he shall sin seventy times and eight, it should then be lawful for thee not to forgive? Nay I am bold to say, that if he should even sin seventy-eight times, thou must forgive. Yea, as I have said, if he shall sin seventy-eight times, forgive. And if he sin a hundred times, forgive. And why need I say, so and so often? In one word, [2775] as often as he shall sin, forgive him. Have I then taken upon me to overpass the measure of my Lord? He fixed the limit of forgiveness in the number seventy-seven; shall I presume to overleap this limit? It is not so, I have not presumed to go at all beyond. I have heard the Lord Himself speaking in His Apostle where there is no measure or number fixed. For He says, "Forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any, as God in Christ hath forgiven you." [2776] Here you have the rule. If Christ have forgiven thee thy sins "seventy times and seven" only, if He have pardoned up to this point, and refused to pardon beyond it; then do thou also fix this limit, and be loth to forgive beyond it. But if Christ hath found thousands of sins upon sins, and hath yet forgiven all; withdraw not then thy mercy, but ask the forgiveness of that large number. For it was not without a meaning that the Lord said "seventy times seven;" forasmuch as there is no trespass whatever which thou oughtest not to forgive. See this servant in the parable, who being a debtor was found to have a debtor, owed ten thousand talents. And I suppose that ten thousand talents are at least ten thousand sins. For I will not say how but one talent will include all sins. But how much did the other servant owe him? He owed a hundred denarii. Now is not this more than "seventy and seven"? And yet the Lord was wroth, because he did not forgive him. For not only is a hundred more than "seventy-seven;" but a hundred denarii, perhaps are a thousand" asses." But what was this to ten thousand talents?

4. And so let us be ready to forgive all the trespasses which are committed against us, if we desire to be forgiven. For if we consider our sins, and reckon up what we do in deed, what by the eye, what by the ear, what by thought, what by numberless movements; I know not whether we so much as sleep without a talent. And therefore do we daily beg, daily knock at the ears of God by prayer, daily prostrate ourselves and say, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." [2777] What debts of thine? All, or a certain part? Thou wilt answer, All. So then do thou with thy debtor. This then is the rule thou layest down, this the condition thou speakest of; this the covenant and agreement thou dost mention when thou prayest, saying, "Forgive us, as we forgive our debtors."

5. What then, Brethren, is the meaning of "seventy times seven"? Hear, for it is a great mystery, a wonderful sacrament. When the Lord was baptized, the Evangelist St. Luke has in that place commemorated His generations in the regular order, series, and line in which they had come down to that generation in which Christ was born. Matthew begins at Abraham, [2778] and comes down to Joseph in a descending order; but Luke begins to reckon in an ascending order. Why does the one reckon in a descending, and the other in an ascending order? Because Matthew set forth the generation of Christ by which He came down to us; and so he began to reckon when Christ was born in a descending order. [2779] Whereas, because Luke begins to reckon when Christ was baptized; in this is the beginning of ascension, he begins to reckon in an ascending order, and in his reckoning he has completed seventy-seven generations. [2780] With whom did he begin his reckoning? Observe with whom? He began to reckon from Christ up to Adam himself, who was the first sinner, and who begat us with the bond of sin. He reckoned up to Adam, and so there are reckoned seventy-seven generations; that is, from Christ up to Adam and from Adam up to Christ are the aforesaid seventy-seven generations. So then if no generation was omitted, there is no exemption of any trespass which ought not to be forgiven. For therefore did he reckon up his seventy-seven generations, which number the Lord mentioned as to the forgiveness of sins; since he begins to reckon from the baptism, wherein all sins are remitted.

6. And, Brethren, observe in this a yet greater mystery. [2781] In the number seventy-seven is a mystery of the remission of sins. So many are the generations found to be from Christ to Adam. Now then, ask with somewhat more careful diligence for the secret meaning of this number, and enquire into its hidden meaning; with more careful diligence knock, that it may be opened unto thee. Righteousness consists in the observance of the Law of God: true. For the Law is set forth in ten precepts. Therefore it was that the servant in the parable "owed ten thousand talents." This is that memorable Decalogue written by the finger of God, and delivered to the people by Moses, the servant of God. He "owed" then "ten thousand talents;" which signifies all sins, with reference to the number of the Law. And the other "owed a hundred denarii;" derived equally from the same number. For a hundred times a hundred make ten thousand; and ten times ten make a hundred. And the one "owed ten thousand talents," and the other ten times ten denarii. For there was no departure from the number [2782] of the law, and in both numbers you will find every kind of sin included. Both are debtors, and both implore and beg for pardon; but the wicked, ungrateful servant would not repay what he had received, would not grant the mercy which had been undeservedly accorded to him.

7. Consider then, Brethren; every man begins from Baptism; he goes out free, the "ten thousand talents" are forgiven him; and when he goes out, he will soon find some fellow-servant his debtor. Let him note then, what sin itself is; [2783] for the number eleven is the transgression of the law. For the law is ten, sin eleven. For the law is denoted by ten, sin by eleven. Why is sin denoted by eleven? Because to get to eleven, there is the transgression of the ten. [2784] But the due limit is fixed in the law; and the transgression of it is sin. Now when you have passed beyond the ten, you come to eleven. This high mystery was figured out when the tabernacle was commanded to be built. There are many things mentioned there in number, which are a great mystery. [2785] Among the rest, curtains of haircloth were ordered to be made not ten, but eleven; [2786] because by haircloth is signified the confession of sins. Now what do you require more? Would you know how that all sins are contained in this number "seventy-seven"? Seven then is usually put for a whole; because in seven days the revolution of time is completed, and when the seventh is ended, it returns to the first again, that the same revolution may be continued. In such revolutions whole ages pass away: yet there is no departure from the number seven. For He spoke of all sins, when He said "seventy times seven;" for multiply that eleven seven times, and it makes seventy-seven. Therefore would He have all sins forgiven, for He marked them out by the number" seventy-seven." Let no one then retain against himself by refusing to forgive, lest it be retained against him, when he prayeth. For God saith, "Forgive, and thou shalt be forgiven." For I have forgiven thee first; do thou at least forgive after that. For if thou wilt not forgive, I will call thee back, and put upon thee again all that I had remitted to thee. For the Truth doth not speak falsely; Christ neither deceiveth, nor is deceived, and He hath said at the close of the parable, "So likewise shall your Father which is in heaven do unto you." [2787] Thou findest a Father, imitate thy Father. For if thou wilt not imitate Him, thou art devising [2788] to be disinherited. "So likewise" then "shall My heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses." Say not with the tongue, "I forgive," and put off to forgive in the heart; for by His threat of vengeance God showeth thee thy punishment. God knoweth where thou speakest. Man can hear thy voice; God looketh into thy conscience. If thou sayest, I forgive; forgive. Better is it that thou shouldest be violent in words, and forgive in the heart, than in words be soft, and in the heart relentless.

8. Now then unruly boys will beg, and take it [2789] hard to be beat taking exception against [2790] us when we wish to chastise them after this fashion. "I have sinned, but forgive me." Well, I have forgiven, and he sins again. "Forgive me," he cries, and I have forgiven him. He sins a third time. "Forgive me," he cries, and a third time I have forgiven him. Now then the fourth time let him be beat. And he will say, "What! have I tired you out to seventy-seven times?" Now if by such exceptions the severity of discipline sleep, upon the suppression of discipline wickedness will rage with impunity. What then is to be done? Let us reprove with words, and if need be with scourges; but let us withal forgive the sin, and cast away the remembrance of it from the heart. For therefore did the Lord add, "from your hearts," that though through affection discipline be exercised, gentleness might not depart out of the heart. For what is so kind and gentle as the surgeon with his knife? He that is to be cut cries, yet cut he is; he that is to be cauterized cries, but cauterized he is. This is not cruelty; on no account let that surgeon's treatment be called cruelty. Cruel he is against the wounded part that the patient may be cured; for if the wound be softly dealt with, the man is lost. Thus then would I advise, my Brethren, that we love our brethren, howsoever they may have sinned against us; that we let not affection toward them depart out of our hearts, and that when need is, we exercise discipline toward them; lest by the relaxation of discipline, wickedness increase, and we begin to be accused on God's behalf, for it has been read to us, "Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear." [2791] Certainly, if one, as is the only true way, distinguishes the times, and so solves the question, all is true. If the sin be in secret, rebuke it in secret. If the sin be public and open, rebuke it publicly that the sinner may be reformed; and "that others also may fear."

Footnotes

[2764] Matt. xviii. 15-17. [2765] Matt. xviii. 22. [2766] Matt. xviii. 23-26. [2767] Meruit. [2768] Matt. xviii. 28. [2769] Contortum. [2770] Matt. xviii. 31-33. [2771] Matt. xviii. 35. [2772] Luke vi. 37, 38. [2773] John vi. 51. [2774] Matt. xviii. 21, 22. [2775] Vid. Serm. lxiv. (cxiv. Ben.) 1. [2776] Col. iii. 13; Eph. iv. 32. [2777] Matt. vi. 12. [2778] Matt. i. 1. [2779] Vid. Serm. i. (li. Ben.) 31-5 (xxi.-iv.). [2780] Luke iii. 23, etc. [2781] Sacramentum. [2782] Legitimo numero. [2783] Observet ergo ipsum peccatum. [2784] Vid. Serm. i. (li. Ben.) 34 (xxiii.). [2785] In magno sacramento. [2786] Exod. xxvi. 7. Cilicina; trichinas, Sept. [2787] Matt. xviii. 35. [2788] Disponis. [2789] Nolunt. [2790] Præscribunt. [2791] 1 Tim. v. 20. .


Sermon XXXIV.

[LXXXIV. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. xix. 17, "If thou wouldest enter into life, keep the commandments."

1. The Lord said to a certain young man, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." [2792] He did not say, "If thou wilt enter into life eternal," but "If thou wilt enter into life;" laying down that as life, which is to be life eternal. Let us first then set forth the value of the love of this life. For even this present life, under whatever circumstances, is loved; and men fear and dread to end it of whatever kind it be; however full of trouble and misery. Hence may we see, hence consider, how the life eternal should be loved; when this life so miserable, and which must sometime come to an end, is loved so much. Consider, Brethren, how greatly should that life be loved, where thou wilt never end life. Thou dost love, it seems, this present life, where thou dost labour so much, hastest to and fro, art busy, sufferest fatigue; yea scarcely to be enumerated are the necessities of this miserable life; sowing, ploughing, clearing the ground, sailing, grinding, cooking, weaving; and after all these things thou hast to end thy life. See the evils thou dost suffer in this miserable life, which thou lovest; and dost thou think that thou shalt always live, and never die? Temples, stones, marbles, joined so strongly together with iron and lead, fall into ruin for all their strength; and does a man suppose that he shall never die? Learn then, Brethren, to seek for eternal life, where you will not endure all this, but will reign with God for ever. "For he who wisheth life," as the Prophet says, "loveth to see good days." [2793] For in evil days death is rather wished for than life. Do we not hear and see men when they are involved in some tribulations and distresses, in law-suits or sicknesses and they see that they are in travail, do we not hear them saying nothing else but, "O God, send me death, hasten my days"? Yet when sickness comes, they run about, and physicians are fetched, and money and rewards are promised. Death himself says to thee, "Lo, here I am, whom but a little while ago thou wert asking of the Lord, why wouldest thou fly from me now? I have found thee to be a self-deceiver, and a lover of this miserable life."

2. But as concerning these days which we are passing now, the Apostle says, "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." [2794] Are not these days indeed evil which we spend in this corruptible flesh, in or under so heavy a load of the corruptible body, amid so great temptations, amid so great difficulties, where there is but false pleasure, no security of joy, a tormenting fear, a greedy covetousness, a withering sadness? Lo, what evil days! yet no one is willing to end these same evil days, and hence men earnestly pray God that they may live long. Yet what is it to live long, but to be long tormented? What is it to live long, but to add evil days to evil days? When boys are growing up, it is as if days are being added to them; whereas they do not know that they are being diminished; and their very reckoning is false. For as we grow in up, the number of our days rather diminishes than increases. Appoint for any man at his birth, for instance, eighty years; every day he lives, he diminishes somewhat of that sum. Yet silly men rejoice at the oft-recurring birthdays, both of themselves and their children. O sensible man! If the wine in thy bottle is diminished, thou art sad; days art thou losing, and art thou glad? These days then are evil; and so much the more evil, in that they are loved. This world is so alluring, that no one is willing to finish a life of sorrow. For the true, the blessed life is this, when we shall rise again, and reign with Christ. For the ungodly too shall rise again but to go into the fire. Life then is there again, but that which is blessed. And blessed life there can be none but that which is eternal, where are "good days;" and those not many days, but one day. They are called "days" after the custom of this life. That day knows no rising, it knows no setting. To that day there succeeds no to-morrow; because no yesterday precedes it. This day, or these days, and this life, this true life, have we in promise. It is then the reward of a certain work. So if we love the reward, let us not fail in the work; and so shall we reign with Christ for ever.

Footnotes

[2792] Matt. xix. 17. [2793] Ps. xxxiv. 12, Vulgate. [2794] Eph. v. 16. .


Sermon XXXV.

[LXXXV. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. xix. 17, "If thou wouldest enter into life, keep the commandments."

1. The Gospel lesson which has now sounded in our ears, Brethren, requires rather an attentive hearer and a doer, than an expositor. What is more clear than this light, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments"? [2795] What then have I to say but, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments"? Who is there that does not wish for life? and yet who is there that does wish to keep the commandments? If thou dost not wish to keep the commandments, why seekest thou after life? If thou art slow to the work, why dost thou hasten to the reward? The rich young man in the Gospel said that he had kept the commandments; then he heard the greater precepts, "If thou wilt be perfect, one thing is lacking to thee, go sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor;" thou shalt not lose them, but "thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow Me." [2796] For what shall it profit thee, if thou shalt do all the rest, and yet not follow Me?" But as ye have heard, "he went away" sad and "sorrowful; for he had great riches." What he heard, have we heard also. The Gospel is Christ's voice. He sitteth in heaven; but He doth not cease to speak on earth. Let us not be deaf, for He is crying out. Let us not be dead; for He is thundering. If thou wilt not do the greater things, do at least the less. If the burden of the greater be too much for thee, at least take up the less. Why art thou slow to both? why settest thyself against both? The greater are, "Sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and follow Me." The less are, "Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shall not bear false witness. Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." [2797] These do; why do I call to thee, to sell thy possessions, from whom I cannot gain, that thou wouldest keep from plundering what is another's? Thou hast heard, "Thou shalt not steal;" yet thou dost plunder. Before the eyes of so great a Judge, I find thee not a thief only, but a plunderer. Spare thyself, have pity on thyself. This life yet allows thee respite, do not refuse correction. Yesterday thou wast a thief; be not so to-day too. Or if peradventure thou hast been so to-day already, be not so to-morrow. Put a stop sometime to thy evil doing, and so require good for a reward. Thou wouldest have good things, and wouldest not be good; thy life is a contradiction to thy desires. If to have a good country-seat, is a great good: how great an evil must it be to have an evil soul!

2. The rich man "went away sorrowful;" and the Lord said, "How hardly shall he that hath riches enter into the kingdom of heaven!" [2798] And by putting forth a comparison He showed the difficulty to be such that it was absolutely impossible. For every impossible thing is difficult; but not every difficult thing is impossible. As to how difficult it is, take heed to the comparison; "Verily I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." [2799] A camel to go through the eye of a needle! If He had said a gnat, it would be impossible. And then when His disciples heard it, they were grieved and said, "If this be so, who then can be saved?" [2800] What rich man? Give ear then to Christ, ye poor, I am speaking to the people of God. Ye are more of you poor than rich, do ye then at least receive what I say, yet give heed. Whosoever of you boast of your poverty, beware of pride, lest the humble rich surpass you; beware of impiety, lest the pious rich surpass you; beware of drunkenness, lest the sober rich surpass you. Do not glory of your poverty, if they must not glory of their riches.

3. And let the rich give ear, if indeed they are rich; let them give ear to the Apostle, "Charge the rich of this world," [2801] for there are who are the rich of another world. The poor are the rich of another world. The Apostles are the rich of another world, who said, "As having nothing, and yet possessing all things." [2802] So that ye may know of what poor he is speaking he added, "of this world." Let the "rich" then "of this world" give ear to the Apostle, "Charge," he says, "the rich of this world, that they be not proud in their conceits." The first worm of riches is pride. [2803] A consuming moth, which gnaws the whole, and reduces it even to dust. "Charge them," therefore, "not to be proud in their conceits, nor to trust in the uncertainty of riches" (they are the Apostle's words), "but in the living God." A thief may take away thy gold; who can take away thy God? What hath the rich man, if he hath not God? What hath the poor man not, if he have God? Therefore he says, "Nor to trust in riches, but in the living God, who giveth us all things richly to enjoy;" with which all things He giveth also Himself.

4. If then they ought not to "trust in riches," not to confide in them, "but in the living God;" what are they to do with their riches? Hear what: "Let them be rich in good works." [2804] What does this mean? Explain, O Apostle. For many are loth to understand what they are loth to practise. Explain, O Apostle; give none occasion to evil works by the obscurity of thy words. Tell us what thou dost mean by, "let them be rich in good works." Let them hear and understand; let them not be suffered to excuse themselves; but rather let them begin to accuse themselves, and to say what we have just heard in the Psalm, "For I acknowledge my sin." [2805] Tell us what this is, "let them be rich in good works. Let them easily distribute." And what is "let them easily distribute"? What! is this too not understood? "Let them easily distribute, let them communicate." Thou hast, another hath not: communicate, that God may communicate to thee. Communicate here, and thou shalt communicate there. Communicate thy bread here, and thou shalt receive Bread there. What bread here? That which thou dost gather with sweat and toil, according to the curse upon the first man. What Bread there? Even Him who said, "I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven." [2806] Here thou art rich, but thou art poor there. Gold thou hast, but thou hast not yet the Presence of Christ. Lay out what thou hast, that thou mayest receive what thou hast not. "Let them be rich in good works, let them easily distribute, let them communicate." [2807]

5. Must they then lose all they have? He said, "Let them communicate," not "Let them give the whole." Let them keep for themselves as much as is sufficient for them, let them keep more than is sufficient. Let us give a certain portion of it. What portion? A tenth? [2808] The Scribes and Pharisees gave tithes for whom Christ had not yet shed His Blood. The Scribes and Pharisees gave tithes; lest haply thou shouldest think thou art doing any great thing in breaking thy bread to the poor; and this is scarcely a thousandth part of thy means. And yet I am not finding fault with this; do even this. So hungry and thirsty am I, that I am glad even of these crumbs. But yet I cannot keep back what He who died for us said whilst He was alive. "Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." [2809] He does not deal softly with us; for He is a physician, He cuts to the quick. "Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." The Scribes and Pharisees gave the tenth. How is it with you? Ask yourselves. Consider what you do, and with what means you do it; how much you give, how much you leave for yourselves; what you spend on mercy, what you reserve for luxury. So then, "Let them distribute easily, let them communicate, let them lay up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may hold on eternal life."

6. I have admonished the rich; now hear, ye poor. Ye rich, lay out your money; ye poor, refrain from plundering. Ye rich, distribute your means; ye poor, bridle your desires. Hear, ye poor, this same Apostle; "Godliness with sufficiency is a great getting." [2810] Getting is the acquiring of gain. The world is yours in common with the rich; ye have not a house in common with the rich, but ye have the heaven in common, the light in common. Seek only for a sufficiency, seek for what is enough, and do not wish for more. All the rest is a weight, rather than a help; a burden, rather than an honour. "Godliness with sufficiency is great gain." First is Godliness. Godliness is the worship of God. "Godliness with sufficiency. For we brought nothing into this world." [2811] Didst thou bring anything hither? Nay, not even did ye rich bring anything. Ye found all here, ye were born naked as the poor. In both alike is the same bodily infirmity; the same infant crying, the witness of our misery. "For we brought nothing into this world" (he is speaking to the poor), "neither can we carry anything out. And having food and covering, let us be therewith content." [2812] "For they who wish to be rich." "Who wish to be," not who are. For they who are so, well and good. They have heard their lesson, that they be "rich in good works, that they distribute easily, that they communicate." They have heard already. Do ye now hear who are not yet rich. "They who wish to be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many hurtful and foolish lusts." Do ye not fear? Hear what follows; "which drown men in destruction and perdition." [2813] Dost thou not now fear? "for avarice is the root of all evil"? [2814] Avarice is the wishing to be rich, not the being rich already. This is avarice. Dost thou not fear to be "drowned in destruction and perdition"? Dost thou not fear "avarice the root of all evil"? Thou pluckest up out of thy field the root of thorns, and wilt thou not pluck up out of thy heart the root of evil desires? Thou cleansest thy field from which thy body gets its fruit, and wilt thou not cleanse thy heart where thy God indwelleth? "For avarice is the root of all evil, which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and entangled themselves in many sorrows."

7. Ye have now heard what ye must do, ye have heard what ye must fear, ye have heard how the kingdom of heaven may be purchased, ye have heard by what the kingdom of heaven may be hindered. Be ye all of one mind in obeying the word of God. God made both the rich and poor. Scripture says, "The rich and the poor meet together, the Lord is the Maker of them both." [2815] The rich and the poor meet together. In what way, except in this present life? The rich and the poor are born alike. Ye meet one another as ye walk on the way together. Do not thou oppress, nor thou defraud. The one hath need, the other hath plenty. But "the Lord is the Maker of them both." By him who hath, He helpeth him that needeth; by him who hath not, He proveth him that hath. We have heard, we have spoken; let us fear, let us take heed, let us pray, let us attain.

Footnotes

[2795] Matt. xix. 17. [2796] Matt. xix. 21. [2797] Matt. xix. 18, 19. [2798] Matt. xix. 23. [2799] Matt. xix. 24. [2800] Matt. xix. 25. [2801] 1 Tim. vi. 17. [2802] 2 Cor. vi. 10. [2803] Serm. xi. (lxi. Ben.) 10 (ix.). [2804] 1 Tim. vi. 18. [2805] Ps. li. 3. [2806] John vi. 51. [2807] Vulgate. [2808] Luke xviii. 12. [2809] Matt. v. 20. [2810] 1 Tim. vi. 6. [2811] 1 Tim. vi. 7. [2812] 1 Tim. vi. 8. [2813] 1 Tim. vi. 9. [2814] 1 Tim. vi. 10. [2815] Prov. xxii. 2. .


Sermon XXXVI.

[LXXXVI. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. xix. 21,"Go, sell that thou hast, and give to the poor," etc.

1. The Gospel by the present lesson has reminded me to speak to you, Beloved, of the heavenly treasure. For our God hath not, as unbelieving covetous men suppose, wished us to lose what we have: if what hath been enjoined us be properly understood, and piously believed, and devoutly received; He hath not enjoined us to lose, but rather shown a place where we may lay up. For no man can help thinking of his treasure, and following his riches in a kind of journeying of the heart. If then they are buried in the earth, his heart will seek the lowest earth; but if they are reserved in heaven, his heart [2816] will be above. If Christians therefore have the will to do what they know that they also make open profession of (not that all who hear know this; [2817] and I would that they who have known it, knew it not in vain); if then they have the will to "lift up the heart" above, let them lay up there, what they love; and though yet in the flesh on earth, let them dwell with Christ in heart; and as her Head went before the Church, so let the heart of the Christian go before him. As the members are to go where Christ the Head hath gone before, so shall each man at his rising again go where his heart hath now gone before. Let us go hence then by that part of us which we may; our whole man will follow whither one part of us is gone before. Our earthly house must fall to ruin; our heavenly house is eternal. Let us move our goods beforehand, whither we are ourselves getting ready to come.

2. We have just heard a certain rich man seeking counsel from the "Good Master" as to the means of obtaining eternal life. Great was the thing he loved, and of little value was that he was unwilling to renounce. And so in perverseness of heart, on hearing Him whom he had but now called "Good Master," through the overpowering love of what was valueless, he lost the possession of what was of great price. If he had not wished to obtain eternal life, he would not have asked counsel how to obtain eternal life. How is it then, Brethren, that he rejected the words of Him whom he had called "Good Master," drawn out for him as they were from the doctrine of the faith? What? Is He a Good Master before He teacheth, and when He hath taught, a bad one? Before He taught, He was called "Good." He did not hear what he wished, but he did hear what was proper for him; he had come with longing, but he went away in sadness. What if He had told him, "Lose what thou hast"? when he went away sad, because it was said, "Keep what thou hast securely." "Go," saith He, "sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor." [2818] Art thou afraid, it may be, lest thou shouldest lose it. See what follows; "And thou shall have treasure in heaven." Before now it may be thou hast set some young slave to guard thy treasures; thy God will be the guardian of thy gold. He who gave them on earth, will Himself keep them in heaven. Perhaps he would not have hesitated to commit what he had to Christ, and was only sad because it was told him, "Give to the poor;" as though he would say in his heart, "Hadst Thou said, Give it to Me, I will keep it in heaven for thee; I would not hesitate to give it to my Lord, the `Good Master;' but now thou hast said, `Give to the poor.'"

3. Let no one fear to lay out upon the poor, let no one think that he is the receiver whose hand he sees. He receives it Who bade thee give it. And this I say not out of mine own heart, or by any human conjecture; hear Him Himself, who at once exhorteth thee, and giveth thee a title of security. "I was an hungred," saith He, and ye gave Me meat." And when after the enumeration of all their kind offices, they answered, "When saw we Thee an hungred?" He answered, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these of Mine, ye have done it unto Me." [2819] It is the poor man who begs, but He that is Rich receives. Thou givest to one who will make away with it, He receiveth it Who will restore it. Nor will He restore only what He receiveth; He is pleased to borrow upon interest, He promiseth more than thou hast given. Give the rein now to thy avarice, imagine thyself an usurer. If thou wert an usurer indeed, thou wouldest be rebuked by the Church, confuted by the word of God, all thy brethren would execrate thee, as a cruel usurer, desiring to wring gain from other's tears. But now be an usurer, no one will hinder thee. Thou art willing to lend to a poor man, who whenever he may repay thee will do it with grief; but lend now to a debtor who is well able to pay, and who even exhorteth thee to receive what he promiseth.

4. Give to God, and press God for payment. [2820] Yea rather give to God, and thou wilt be pressed to receive payment. On earth indeed thou hadst to seek thy debtor; and he sought too, but only to find where he might hide himself from thy face. Thou hadst gone to the judge, and said, "Bid that my debtor be summoned;" and he on hearing this gets away, and cares not even to wish thee well, [2821] though to him perhaps in his need thou hadst given wealth by thy loan. Thou hast one then on whom thou mayest well lay out thy money. Give to Christ; He will of His own accord press thee to receive, whilst thou wilt even wonder that He hath received ought of thee. For to them who are placed on His right hand He will first say, "Come, ye blessed of My Father." "Come" whither? "Receive the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." For what? "For I was an hundred, and ye gave Me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took Me in; naked, and ye clothed Me; I was sick and in prison, and ye visited Me." And they will say, "Lord, when saw we Thee?" [2822] What doth this mean? The debtor presses to pay, [2823] and the creditors make excuses. But the trusty debtor will not let them suffer loss thereby. "Do ye hesitate to receive? I have received, and are ye ignorant of it?" and He makes answer how He has received; "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these of Mine, ye have done it unto Me." "I received it not by Myself; but by Mine. What was given to them came to Me; be secure, ye have not lost it. Ye looked to those who were little able to pay on earth; ye have One who is well able to pay in heaven. I," He saith, "have received, I will repay."

5. And what have I received, and what do I repay? "`I was an hungred,' He saith, `and ye gave Me meat;' and the rest. I received earth, I will give heaven; I received temporal things, I will restore eternal; I received bread, I will give life." Yea, we may even say thus, "I have received bread, I will give Bread; I have received drink, I will give Drink; I have received houseroom, I will give a House; I was visited in sickness, I will give Health; I was visited in prison, I will give Liberty. The bread which ye gave to My poor is consumed; the Bread which I will give both recruiteth [2824] the failing and doth not fail." May He then give us Bread, He who is the living Bread which came down from heaven. When He shall give Bread, He will give Himself. For what didst thou intend when thou didst lend on usury? To give money, and to receive money; but to give a smaller sum, and to receive a larger. "I," saith God, "will give thee an exchange for the better for all that thou hast given Me. For if thou wert to give a pound of silver, and to receive a pound of gold, with how great joy wouldest thou be possessed? Examine and question avarice. "I have given a pound of silver, I receive a pound of gold!" What proportion is there between silver and gold! Much more then, what proportion is there between earth and heaven! And thy silver and gold thou wert to leave here below; whereas thou wilt not abide thyself for ever here. "And I will give thee something else, and I will give thee something more, and I will give thee something better; I will give thee even that which will last for ever." So then, Brethren, be our avarice restrained, that another, which is holy, may be enkindled. Evil altogether is her counsel, who hinders you from doing good. Ye are willing to serve an evil mistress, not owning a Good Lord. And sometimes two mistresses occupy the heart, and tear the slave asunder who deserves to be in slavery to such a double yoke.

6. Yes, sometimes two opposing mistresses have possession of a man, avarice and luxuriousness. Avarice says, "Keep;" luxuriousness, says, "Spend." Under two mistresses bidding and exacting diverse things what canst thou do? They have both their mode of address. And when thou dost begin to be unwilling to obey them, and to take a step towards thy liberty; because they have no power to command, they use caresses. And their caresses are more to be guarded against than their commands. What says avarice? "Keep for thyself, keep for thy children. If thou shouldest be in want, no one will give to thee. Live not for the time present only; consult for the future." On the other hand is luxuriousness. Live whilst thou mayest. Do good to thine own soul. Die thou must, and thou knowest not when; thou knowest not to whom thou shalt leave what thou hast, or who shall possess it. Thou art taking the bread out of thine own mouth, and perhaps after thy death thine heir will not so much as place a cup of wine upon thy tomb; or if so be he place a cup, he will drink himself drunk with it, not a drop [2825] will come down to thee. Do well therefore to thine own soul, when and whilst thou canst." Thus avarice did enjoin one thing; "Keep for thyself, consult for the future." Luxuriousness another, "Do well to thine own soul."

7. But O free man, called unto liberty, be weary, be weary of thy servitude to such mistresses as these. Acknowledge thy Redeemer, thy Deliverer. Serve Him, He enjoineth easier things, He enjoineth not things contrary one to another. I am bold further to say; avarice and luxuriousness did enjoin upon thee contrary things, so that thou couldest not obey them both; and one said, "Keep for thyself, and consult for the future;" the other said, "Spend freely, do well to thine own soul." Now let thy Lord and thy Redeemer come forth, and He shall say the same, and yet no contrary things. If thou wilt not, His house hath no need of an unwilling servant. Consider thy Redeemer, consider thy Ransom. He came to redeem thee, He shed His Blood. Dear He held thee whom He purchased at so dear a price. Thou dost acknowledge Him who bought thee, consider from what He redeemeth thee. I say nothing of the other sins which lord it proudly over thee; for thou wast serving innumerable masters. I speak only of these two, luxuriousness and avarice, giving thee contrary injunctions, hurrying thee into different things. Deliver thyself from them, come to thy God. If thou wast the servant of iniquity, be now the servant of righteousness. The words which they spake to thee, and the contrary injunctions they gave thee, the very same thou hearest now from thy Lord, yet are His injunctions not contrary. He doth not take away their words, but he taketh away their power. What did avarice say to thee? "Keep for thyself, consult for the future." The word is not changed, but the man is changed. Now, if thou wilt, compare the counsellors. The one is avarice, the other righteousness.

8. Examine these contrary injunctions. "Keep for thyself," says avarice. Suppose thou art willing to obey her, ask her where thou art to keep? Some well-defended place she will show thee, walled chamber, or iron chest. Well, use all precautions; yet peradventure some thief in the house will burst open the secret places; and whilst thou art taking precautions for thy money, thou wilt be in fear of thy life. It may be whilst thou art keeping up thy store, he whose mind is set to plunder them, has it even in his thoughts to kill thee. Lastly, even though by various precautions thou shouldest defend thy treasure and thy clothes against thieves; defend them still against the rust and moth. What canst thou do then? Here is no enemy without to take away thy goods, but one within consuming them.

9. No good counsel then has avarice given. See she has enjoined thee to keep, yet has not found a place where thou mayest keep. Let her give also her next advice, "Consult for the future." For what future? for a few and those uncertain days. She says, "Consult for the future," to a man who, it may be, will not live even till to-morrow. But suppose him to live as long as avarice thinks he will, not as long as she can prove, or assure him, or have any confidence about, but suppose him to live as long as she thinks, that he grow old and so come to his end: when he is even now bent double with old age, and leaning on his stick for support, still is he seeking gain, and hears avarice saying still, "Consult for the future." For what future? When he is even at his last breath she speaks. She says, "for thy children's sake." Would that at least we did not find the old men who had no children avaricious. Yet to these even, to such as these even, who cannot even excuse their iniquity by any empty [2826] show of natural affection, she ceases not to say, "Consult for the future." But it may be that these will soon blush for themselves; so let us look to those who have children, whether they are certain that their children will possess what they shall leave? Let them observe in their lifetime the children of other men, some losing what they had by the unjust violence of others, others by their own wickedness consuming what they possessed; and they remain in poor estate, who were the children of rich men. Cease then to be the home-born slaves of avarice. But a man will say, "My children will possess this." It is uncertain; I do not say, it is false, but at best, it is uncertain. But now suppose it to be certain, what dost thou wish to leave them? What thou hast gotten for thyself. Assuredly what thou hast gotten was not left thee, yet thou hast it. If thou hast been able to get possession of what was not left to thee, then will they also be able to get what thou shalt not leave to them.

10. Thus have the counsels of avarice been refuted; but now let the Lord say the same words, now let righteousness speak: the words will be the same, but not the same the meaning. "Keep for thyself," saith the Lord, "consult for the future." Now ask Him, "Where shall I keep?" "Thou shalt have treasure in heaven, where no thief approacheth, nor moth corrupteth." [2827] Against what an enduring future shalt thou keep it! "Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." [2828] And of how many days this kingdom is, the end of the passage shows. For after He had said of those on the left hand, "So these shall go away into everlasting burning;" of those on the right hand He saith, "but the righteous into life eternal." [2829] This is "consulting for the future." A future which has no future beyond it. Those days without an end are called both "days," and "a day." For one when he was speaking of those days, saith, "That I may dwell in the house of the Lord for length of days." [2830] And they are called a day, "This day have I begotten thee." [2831] Now those days are one day; because there is no time, in it; that day is neither preceded by a yesterday, nor succeeded by a to-morrow. So then let us "consult for the future:" the words indeed which avarice said to thee are not different in terms from this, yet by them is avarice overthrown.

11. One thing may yet be said, "But what am I to do about my children?" Hear on this point also the counsel of thy Lord. If thy Lord should say to thee, "The thoughts of them concern Me more who did create, than thee who didst beget them," [2832] peradventure thou couldest have nothing to say. Yet thou wilt look upon that rich man who went away sorrowful, and was rebuked in the Gospel, and wilt say to thyself perhaps, "That rich man did evil in not selling all and giving to the poor, because he had no children; but I have children; I have those for whom I should be keeping something. In this weakness too the Lord is ready to advise with thee. I would be bold to speak through His mercy; I would be bold to say something, not of mine own imagining, but of His pity. Keep then for thy children too, but hear me. Suppose (such is man's condition) any one should lose one of his children; mark, Brethren, mark how that avarice has no excuse, either as respects this world or the world to come. Such, I say, is man's condition; for it is not that I wish it, but we see instances. Some Christian child has been lost: thou hast lost a Christian child; not that thou hast indeed lost him, but hast sent him before thee. For he is not gone [2833] quite away, but gone before. Ask thine own faith: surely thou too wilt go thither presently, where he hath gone before. It is but a short question I ask, which yet I suppose no one will answer. Does thy son live? Ask thy faith. If he live then, why is his portion seized upon by his brothers? But thou wilt say, What, will he return and possess it? Let it then be sent to him whither he is gone before; he cannot come to his goods, his goods can go to him. Consider only with Whom he is. If any son were serving at the Court, and became the Emperor's friend, and were to say to thee, "Sell my portion, which is there, and send it to me;" wouldest thou find what to answer him? Well, thy son is now with the Emperor of all emperors, with the King of all kings, with the Lord of all lords; send to Him. I do not say thy son is in need himself; but his Lord with whom he is, is in need upon the earth. He vouchsafes to receive here, what He gives in heaven. Do what some avaricious men are wont to do, make out a conveyance, [2834] bestow upon those who are in pilgrimage, what thou mayest receive in thine own country.

12. But now I am not speaking at all of thyself, but of thy child. Thou art hesitating to give what is thine own, yea, rather art hesitating to restore what is another's; surely thou art hereby convicted, that it was not for thy children that thou wast laying up. See, thou dost not give to thy children, seeing thou wilt even take away from thy children. From this child at all events wilt thou take away. Why is he unworthy to receive his part, because he is living with One worthier than all? There would be reason in it, if he with whom thy son is living, were unwilling to receive it. Rich shalt thou now be for thine house, but that the house of God. So far it is then from me to say to thee, "Give what thou hast;" that I am saying to thee, "Pay that thou owest." But thou wilt say, "His brothers will have it." O evil maxim, which may teach thy children to wish for their brother's death. If they shall be enriched by the property of their deceased brother, take heed how they may watch for [2835] one another in thine house. What then wilt thou do? Wilt thou divide his patrimony, and so give lessons of parricide?

13. But I am unwilling to speak of the loss of a child, lest I seem to threaten calamities, which do befall men. Let us speak in some more happy and auspicious tone. I do not say then, thou wilt have one less; reckon rather that thou hast one more. Give Christ a place with thy children, be thy Lord added to thy family; be thy Creator added to thy offspring, be thy Brother added to the number of thy children. For though there is so great a distance, yet hath He condescended to be a Brother. And though He be the Father's Only Son, He hath vouchsafed to have coheirs. Lo, how bountifully hath He given! why wilt thou give in such barren sort? Thou hast two children; reckon Him a third: thou hast three, let Him be reckoned as a fourth: thou hast five, let Him be called a sixth; thou hast ten, let Him be the eleventh. I will say no more; keep the place of one child for thy Lord. For what thou shalt give to thy Lord, will profit both thee and thy children; whereas, what thou dost keep for thy children wrongly, will hurt both thee and them. Now thou wilt give one portion, which thou hast reckoned as one child's portion. Reckon that thou hast got one child more.

14. What great demand is this, my Brethren? I give you counsel only; do I use violence? [2836] As saith the Apostle, "This I speak for your own profit, not that I may cast a snare upon you." [2837] I imagine, Brethren, that it is a light and easy thought for a father of children to suppose that he has one child more, and thereby to procure such an inheritance as thou mayest possess for ever, both thou and thy children. Avarice can say nothing against it. Ye have cried out in acclamation at these words. Turn your words rather against her; let her not overcome you; let her not have greater power in your hearts, than your Redeemer. Let her not have greater power in your hearts, than He who exhorteth us to "lift up our hearts." And so now let us dismiss her.

15. What says luxuriousness? What? "Do well to thine own soul." See also the Lord says the same, "Do well to thine own soul." What luxuriousness was saying to thee, the same saith Righteousness to thee. But consider here again in what sense the words are used. If thou wouldest do well to thine own soul, consider that rich man who wished to do well to his soul, after the counsel of luxuriousness and avarice. His "ground brought forth plentifully, and he had no room where to bestow his fruits; and he said, What shall I do?" I have no room where to bestow my fruits; I have found out what to do; "I will pull down my" old "barns, and build new," and will fill them, "and say to my soul, Thou hast much goods; take thy pleasure." Hear the counsel against luxuriousness; "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?" [2838] And whither must that soul which shall be required of him go? This night it shall be required, and shall go he knows not whither.

16. Consider that other luxurious, proud, rich man. He "feasted sumptuously every day, and was clothed in purple and fine linen;" and "the poor man laid at his gate full of sores, and desired" in vain "the crumbs from the rich man's table;" [2839] he fed the dogs with his sores, but he was not fed by the rich man. They both died; one of them was buried; of the other what is said? "He was carried by the Angels into Abraham's bosom." The rich man sees the poor man; yea rather it is now the poor man sees the rich; he longs for a drop of water on his tongue from his finger, from him who once longed for a crumb from his table. Indeed their lot was changed. The dead rich man asks for this in vain: O let not us who are alive hear it in vain. For he wished to return again to the world, [2840] and was not permitted; he wished one of the dead to be sent to his brethren, neither was this granted him. But what was said to him? "They have Moses and the Prophets;" and he said, "They will not hear except one go from the dead." Abraham said to him, "If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they believe though one go from the dead."

17. What luxuriousness then said in a perverted sense concerning the giving of alms, and procuring rest for our souls against the time to come, that so we may "do well to our souls," Moses also and the Prophets have spoken. Let us give ear while we are alive. Because there he will desire in vain to hear, who has despised these words when he heard them here. Are we expecting that one should rise even from the dead, and tell us to do well to our own souls? It has been done already: thy father hath not risen again, but thy Lord hath risen. Hear Him, and accept good counsel. Spare not thy treasures, spend as freely as thou canst. This was the voice of luxuriousness: it has become the Lord's Voice. Spend as freely as thou canst, do well to thy soul, lest this night thy soul be required. Here then ye have in Christ's Name a discourse as I think on the duty of almsgiving. This your voice now applauding, is then only well-pleasing to the Lord, if He see withal your hands active in works of mercy.

Footnotes

[2816] Sursum cor. [2817] But communicants only, as alone hearing the words in the Office. [2818] Matt. xix. 21. [2819] Matt. xxv. 40. [2820] Conveni Deum. [2821] Necsalutare te quærit, cui forte egenti salutem commodando præstiteras? [2822] Matt. xxv. 34, etc. [2823] Convenit. [2824] Et reficit et non deficit. [2825] See, on the custom of festivals at the funeral of the dead, St. Augustin, Ep. 22 (al. 64) to Aurelius Bishop of Carthage and Primate of Africa, calling for their abolition. He gives an account of his having abolished them at Hippo, where he was only a Priest, in the 29th (167) Letter, to his friend Alypius Bishop of Thagaste. See also Conf. vi. 2. [2826] Imagine. [2827] Matt. xix. 21; Luke xii. 33. [2828] Matt. xxv. 34. [2829] Matt. xxv. 46. [2830] Ps. xxiii. 6. [2831] Ps. ii. 7. [2832] Vide Serm. ix. 20, 21 (Ben.). [2833] Neque enim ille decessit sed præcessit. [2834] Fac trajectitium. [2835] Attendant. [2836] Guttur ligo. [2837] 1 Cor. vii. 35. [2838] Luke xii. 16, etc. [2839] Luke xvi. 19, etc. [2840] Superos. .


Sermon XXXVII.

[LXXXVII. Ben.]

Delivered on the Lord's Day, on that which is written in the Gospel, Matt. xx. 1, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that was a householder, who went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard."

1. Ye have heard out of the Holy Gospel a parable well suited to the present season, concerning the labourers in the vineyard. For now is the time of the material [2841] vintage. Now there is also a spiritual vintage, wherein God rejoiceth in the fruit of His vineyard. For we cultivate God, and God cultivateth us. [2842] But we do not so cultivate God as to make Him any better thereby. For our cultivation is the labour of the heart, not of the hands. [2843] He cultivateth us as the husbandman doth his field. In then that He cultivateth us, He maketh us better; because so doth the husbandman make his field better by cultivating it, and the very fruit He seeketh in us is, that we may cultivate Him. The culture He exerciseth on us is, that He ceaseth not to root out by His Word the evil seeds from our hearts, to open our heart, as it were, by the plough of His Word, to plant the seed of His precepts, to wait for the fruit of piety. For when we have so received that culture into our heart, as to cultivate Him well, we are not ungrateful to our Husbandman, but render the fruit wherein He rejoiceth. And our fruit doth not make Him the richer, but us the happier.

2. See then; hear how, as I have said, "God cultivateth us." For that we cultivate God, there is no need to be proved to you. For all men have this on their tongue, that men cultivate God, but the hearer feels a kind of awe, when he hears that God cultivates man; because it is not after the ordinary usage of men to say, that God cultivateth men, but that men cultivate God. We ought therefore to prove to you, that God also doth cultivate men; lest perchance we be thought to have spoken a word contrary to sound doctrine, [2844] and men dispute in their heart against us, and as not knowing our meaning, find fault with us. I have determined therefore to show you, that God doth also cultivate us; but as I have said already, as a field, that He may make us better. Thus the Lord saith in the Gospel, "I am the Vine, ye are the branches, My Father is the Husbandman." [2845] What doth the Husbandman do? I ask you who are husbandmen. I suppose he cultivates his field. If then God the Father be a Husbandman, He hath a field; and His field He cultivateth, and from it He expecteth fruit.

3. Again, He "planted a vineyard," as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself saith, "and let it out to husbandmen, who should render Him the fruit in the proper season. And He sent His servants to them to ask for the hire of the vineyard. But they treated them despitefully, and killed some," [2846] and contemptuously refused to render the fruits. "He sent others also," they suffered the like treatment. And then the Householder, the Cultivator of His field, and the Planter, and Letter out of His vineyard, said; "I will send Mine Only Son, it may be they will at least reverence Him." And so He saith, "He sent His Own Son also. They said among themselves, This is the heir, come, let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be ours. And they killed Him, and cast Him out of the vineyard. When the Lord of the vineyard cometh, what will He do to those wicked husbandmen? They answered, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out His vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render Him the fruits in their seasons." The vineyard was planted when the law was given in the hearts of the Jews. The Prophets were sent, seeking fruit, even their good life: the Prophets were treated despitefully by them, and were killed. Christ also was sent, the Only Son of the Householder; and they killed Him who was the Heir, and so lost the inheritance. Their evil counsel turned out contrary to their designs. They killed Him that they might possess the inheritance; and because they killed Him, they lost it.

4. Ye have just heard too the parable out of the Holy Gospel; that "the kingdom of heaven is like unto a householder, which went out to hire labourers into His vineyard. He went out in the morning," and hired those whom he found, and agreed with them for a denarius as their hire. He "went out again at the third hour, and found others," and brought them to the labour of the vineyard. "And the sixth and ninth hour he did likewise. He went out also at the eleventh hour," near the end of the day, "and found some idle and standing still, and he said to them, Why stand ye here?" Why do ye not work in the vineyard? They answered, "Because no man hath hired us." "Go ye also," said He, "and whatsoever is right I will give you." [2847] His pleasure was to fix their hire at a denarius. How could they who had only to work one hour dare hope for a denarius? Yet they congratulated themselves in the hope that they should receive something. So then these were brought in even for one hour. At the end of the day he ordered the hire to be paid to all, from the last to the first. Then he began to pay at those who had come in at the eleventh hour, and he commanded a denarius to be given them. When they who had come at the first hour saw that the others had received a denarius, which he had agreed for with themselves "they hoped that they should have received more:" and when their turn came, they also received a denarius. "They murmured against the good man of the house, saying, Behold, thou hast made us who have borne the burning and heat of the day, equal and like to those who have laboured but one hour in the vineyard." And "the good man," returning a most just answer to one of them, said, "Friend, I do thee no wrong;" that is, "I have not defrauded thee, I have paid thee what I agreed for with thee. "I have done thee no wrong," for I have paid thee what I agreed for. To this other it is my will not to render a payment, but to bestow a gift. "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?" If I had taken from any one what did not belong to me, rightly I might be blamed, as fraudulent and unjust: if I had not paid any one his due, rightly might I be blamed as fraudulent, and as withholding what belonged to another; but when I pay what is due, and give besides to whom I will, neither can he to whom I owed find fault, and he to whom I gave ought to rejoice the more." They had nothing to answer; and all were made equal; "and the last became first, and the first last;" by equality [2848] of treatment, not by inverting their order. For what is the meaning of, "the last were first, and the first last"? That both the first and last received the same.

5. How is it that he began to pay at the last? Are not all, as we read, to receive together? For we read in another place of the Gospel, that He will say to those whom He shall set on the right hand, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world." [2849] If all then are to receive together, how do we understand in this place, that they received first who began to work at the eleventh hour, and they last who were hired at the first hour? If I shall be able so to speak, as to reach your understanding, God be thanked. For to Him ought ye to render thanks, who distributeth to you by me; for nought of my own do I distribute. If ye ask me, for example, which of the two has received first, he who has received after one hour, or he who after twelve hours; every man would answer that he who has received after one hour, has received before him who received after twelve hours. So then though they all received at the same hour, yet because some received after one hour, others after twelve hours, they who received after so short a time are said to have received first. The first righteous men, as Abel, and Noe, called as it were at the first hour, will receive together with us the blessedness of the resurrection. Other righteous men after them, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all of their age, called as it were at the third hour, will receive together with us the blessedness of the resurrection. Other righteous men, as Moses, and Aaron, and whosoever with them were called as it were at the sixth hour, will receive together with us the blessedness of the resurrection. After them the Holy Prophets, called as it were at the ninth hour, will receive together with us the same blessedness. In the end of the world all Christians, called as it were at the eleventh hour, will receive with the rest the blessedness of that resurrection. All will receive together; but consider those first men, after how long a time do they receive it? If then those first receive after a long time, we after a short time; though we all receive together, yet we seem to have received first, because our hire will not tarry long in coming.

6. In that hire then shall we be all equal, and the first as the last, and the last as the first; because that denarius is life eternal, and in the life eternal all will be equal. For although through diversity of attainments [2850] the saints will shine, some more, some less; yet as to this respect, the gift of eternal life, it will be equal to all. For that will not be longer to one, and shorter to another, which is alike everlasting; that which hath no end will have no end either for thee or me. After one sort in that life will be wedded chastity, after another virgin purity; in one sort there will be the fruit of good works, in another sort the crown of martyrdom. [2851] One in one sort, and another in another; yet in respect to the living for ever, this man will not live more than that, nor that than this. For alike without end will they live, though each shall live in his own brightness: and the denarius in the parable is that life eternal. Let not him then who has received after a long time murmur against him who has received after a short time. To the first, it is a payment; to the other, a free gift; yet the same thing is given alike to both.

7. There is also something like this in this present life, and besides that solution of the parable, by which they who were called at the first hour are understood of Abel and the righteous men of his age, and they at the third, of Abraham and the righteous men of his age, and they at the sixth, of Moses and Aaron and the righteous men of their age, and they at the eleventh, as in the end of the world, of all Christians; besides this solution of the parable, the parable may be seen to have an explanation in respect even of this present life. For they are as it were called at the first hour, who begin to be Christians fresh from their mother's womb; boys are called as it were at the third, young men at the sixth, they who are verging toward old age, at the ninth hour, and they who are called as if at the eleventh hour, are they who are altogether decrepit; yet all these are to receive the one and the same denarius of eternal life.

8. But, Brethren, hearken ye and understand, lest any put off to come into the vineyard, because he is sure, that, come when he will, he shall receive this denarius. And sure indeed he is that the denarius is promised him; but this is no injunction to put off. For did they who were hired into the vineyard, when the householder came out to them to hire whom he might find, at the third hour for instance, and did hire them, did they say to him, "Wait, we are not going thither till the sixth hour"? or they whom he found at the sixth hour, did they say, "We are not going till the ninth hour"? or they whom he found at the ninth hour, did they say, "We are not going till the eleventh? For he will give to all alike; why should we fatigue ourselves more than we need?" What He was to give, and what He was to do, was in the secret of His own counsel: do thou come when thou art called. For an equal reward is promised to all; but as to this appointed hour of working, there is an important question. For if, for instance, they who are called at the sixth hour, at that age of life that is, in which as in the full heat of noon, is felt the glow of manhood's years; if they, called thus in manhood, were to say, "Wait, for we have heard in the Gospel that all are to receive the same reward, we will come at the eleventh hour, when we shall have grown old, and shall still receive the same. Why should we add to our labour?" it would be answered them thus, "Art not thou willing to labour now, who dost not know whether thou shalt live to old age? Thou art called at the sixth hour; come. The Householder hath it is true promised thee a denarius, if thou come at the eleventh hour, but whether thou shalt live even to the seventh, no one hath promised thee. I say not to the eleventh, but even to the seventh hour. Why then dost thou put off him that calleth thee, certain as thou art of the reward, but uncertain of the day? Take heed then lest peradventure what he is to give thee by promise, thou take from thyself by delay." Now if this may rightly be said of infants as belonging to the first hour, if it may be rightly said of boys as belonging to the third, if it may be rightly said of men in the vigour of life, as in the full-day heat of the sixth hour; how much more rightly may it be said of the decrepit? Lo, already is it the eleventh hour, and dost thou yet stand still, and art thou yet slow to come?

9. But perhaps the Householder hath not gone out to call thee? If he hath not gone out, what mean our addresses to you? For we are servants of his household, we are sent to hire labourers. Why standest thou still then? Thou hast now ended the number of thy years; hasten after the denarius. For this is the "going out" of the Householder, the making himself known; forasmuch as he that is in the house is hidden, he is not seen by those who are without; but when he "goeth out" of the house, he is seen by those without. So Christ is in secret, as long as He is not known and acknowledged; but when He is acknowledged, He hath gone out to hire labourers. For now He hath come forth from a hidden place, to be known of men: everywhere Christ is known, Christ is preached; all places whatsoever under the heaven proclaim aloud the glory of Christ. He was in a manner the object of derision and contempt among the Jews, He appeared in low estate and was despised. For He hid His Majesty, and manifested His infirmity. That in Him which was manifested was despised, and that which was hidden was not known. "For had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." [2852] But is He still to be despised now that He sitteth in heaven, if He were despised when He was hanging on the tree? They who crucified Him wagged their head, and standing before His Cross, as though they had attained the fruit of their cruel rage, they said in mockery, "If He be the Son of God, let Him come down from the Cross. He saved others, Himself He cannot save." [2853] He came not down, because He lay hid. For with far greater ease could He have come down from the Cross, who had power to rise again from the grave. He showed forth an example of patience for our instruction. He delayed His power, and was not acknowledged. For He had not then gone out to hire labourers, He had gone out, He had not made Himself known. On the third day He rose again, He showed Himself to His disciples, ascended into heaven, and sent the Holy Ghost on the fiftieth day after the resurrection, the tenth after the ascension. The Holy Ghost who was sent filled all who were in one room, one hundred and twenty men. [2854] They "were filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with the tongues of all nations;" [2855] now was the calling manifest, now He went out to hire. For now the power of truth began to be made known to all. For then even one man having received the Holy Ghost, spake by himself with the tongues of all nations. But now in the Church oneness itself, as one man speaks in the tongues of all nations. For what tongue has not the Christian religion reached? to what limits does it not extend? Now is there no one "who hideth himself from the heat thereof;" [2856] and delay is still ventured by him who stands still at the eleventh hour.

10. It is plain then, my Brethren, it is plain to all, do ye hold it fast, and be sure of it, that whensoever any one turns himself to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, from a useless [2857] or abandoned way of life, all that is past is forgiven him, and as though all his debts were cancelled, a new account is entered into with him. All is entirely forgiven. Let no one be anxious in the thought that there remains anything which is not forgiven him. But on the other hand, let no one rest in a perverse security. For these two things are the death of souls, despair, and perverse hope. For as a good and right hope saveth, so doth a perverse hope deceive. First, consider how despair deceiveth. There are men, who when they begin to reflect on the evils they have done, think they cannot be forgiven; and whilst they think they cannot be forgiven, forthwith they give up their souls to ruin, and perish through despair, saying in their thoughts, "Now there is no hope for us; for such great sins as we have committed cannot be remitted or pardoned us; why then should we not satisfy our lusts? Let us at least fill up the pleasure of the time present, seeing we have no reward in that which is to come. Let us do what we list, though it be not lawful; that we may at least have a temporal enjoyment, because we cannot [2858] attain to the receiving an eternal." In saying such things they perish through despair, either before they believe at all, or when Christians already, they have fallen by evil living into any sins and wickednesses. The Lord of the vineyard goeth forth to them, and by the Prophet Ezekial knocketh, and calleth to them in their despair, and as they turn their backs to Him that calleth them. "In whatsoever day a man shall turn from his most wicked way, I will forget all his iniquities." [2859] If they hear and believe this voice, they are recovered from despair, and rise up again from that very deep and bottomless gulf, wherein they had been sunk.

11. But these must fear, lest they fall into another gulf, and they die through a perverse hope, who could not die through despair. For they change their thoughts, which are far different indeed from what they were before, but not less pernicious, and begin again to say in their hearts, "If in whatever day I turn from my most evil way, the merciful God, as He truly promiseth by the Prophet, will forget all my iniquities, why should I turn to-day and not to-morrow? Let this day pass as yesterday, in excess of guilty pleasure, in the full flow of licentiousness, let it wallow in deadly delights; to-morrow I shall `turn myself,' and there will be an end to it." One may answer thee, An end of what? Of mine iniquities, thou wilt say. Well, rejoice indeed, that to-morrow there will be an end of thine iniquities. But what if before to-morrow thine own end shall be? So then thou dost well indeed to rejoice that God hath promised thee forgiveness for thine iniquities, if thou art converted; but no one has promised thee to-morrow. Or if perchance some astrologer hath promised it, it is a far different thing from God's promise. Many have these astrologers deceived, in that they have promised themselves advantages, and have found only losses. Therefore for the sake of these again whose hope is wrong, doth the Householder go forth. As He went forth to those who had despaired wrongly, and were lost in their despair, and called them back to hope; so doth He go forth to these also who would perish through an evil hope; and by another book He saith to them, "Make no tarrying to turn to the Lord." [2860] As He had said to the others, "In whatsoever day a man shall turn from his most wicked way, I will forget all his iniquities," and took despair away from them, because they had now given up their soul to perdition, despairing of forgiveness by any means; so doth He go forth to these also who have a mind to perish through hope and delay; and speaketh to them, and chideth them, "Make no tarrying to turn to the Lord, and put not off from day to day; for suddenly shall the wrath of the Lord come forth, and in the day of vengeance He will destroy thee." Therefore put not off, shut not against thyself what now is open. Lo, the Giver of forgiveness openeth the door to thee; why dost thou delay? Thou oughtest to rejoice, were He to open after ever so long a time to thy knocking; thou hast not knocked, yet doth He open, and dost thou remain outside? Put not off then. Scripture saith in a certain place, as touching works of mercy, "Say not, Go, and come again, and to-morrow I will give; [2861] when thou canst do the kindness at once; for thou knowest not what may happen on the morrow." Here then is a precept of not putting off being merciful to another, and wilt thou by putting off be cruel against thine own self? Thou oughtest not to put off to give bread, and wilt thou put off to receive forgiveness? If thou dost not put off in showing pity towards another, "pity thine own soul also in pleasing God." [2862] Give alms to thine own soul also. Nay I do not say, give to it, but thrust not back His Hand that would give to thee.

12. But men continually injure themselves exceedingly in their fear to offend others. For good friends have much influence for good, and evil friends for evil. Therefore it was not the Lord's will to choose first senators, but fishermen, to teach us for our own salvation to disregard the friendship of the powerful. O signal mercy of the Creator! For He knew that had He chosen the senator, he would say, "My rank has been chosen." If He had first made choice of the rich man, he would say, "My wealth has been chosen." If He had first made choice of an emperor, he would say, "My power has been chosen." If the orator he would say, "My eloquence has been chosen." If of the philosopher, he would say, "My wisdom has been chosen." Meanwhile He says, let these proud ones be put off awhile, they swell too much. Now there is much difference between substantial size and swelling; both indeed are large, but both are not alike sound. Let them then, He says, be put off, these proud ones, they must be cured by something solid. First give Me, He says, this fisherman. "Come, thou poor one, follow Me; thou hast nothing, thou knowest nothing, follow Me. Thou poor and ignorant [2863] one, follow Me. There is nothing in thee to inspire awe, but there is much in thee to be filled." To so copious a fountain an empty vessel should be brought. So the fisherman left his nets, the fisherman received grace, and became a divine orator. See what the Lord did, of whom the Apostle says, "God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, and base things of the world hath God chosen, yea and things which are not, as if they were, that those things which are may be brought to nought." [2864] And so now the fishermen's words are read, and the necks of orators are brought down. Let all empty winds then be taken away, let the smoke be taken away which vanishes as it mounts; let them be utterly despised when the question is of this salvation.

13. If any one in a city had some bodily sickness, and there was in that place some very skilful physician who was an enemy to the sick man's powerful friends; if any one, I say, in a city were labouring under some dangerous bodily sickness; and there was in the same city a very skilful physician, an enemy as I said, of the sick man's powerful friends, and they were to say to their friend, "Do not call him in, he knows nothing;" and they were to say this not from any judgment of their mind, but through dislike of him; would he not for his own safety's sake remove from him the groundless assertions [2865] of his powerful friends, and with whatever offence to them, in order that he might live but a few days longer, call that physician in, whom common report had given out as most skilful to drive away the disease of his body? Well, the whole race of mankind is sick, not with diseases of the body, but with sin. There lies one great patient from East to West throughout the world. To cure this great patient came the Almighty Physician down. He humbled Himself even to mortal flesh, as it were to the sick man's bed. Precepts of health He gives, and is despised; they who do observe them are delivered. He is despised, when powerful friends say, "He knows nothing." If He knew nothing, His power would not fill the nations. If He knew nothing, He would not have been, before He was with us. If He knew nothing, He would not have sent the Prophets before Him. Are not those things which were foretold of old, fulfilled now? Does not this Physician prove the power of His art by the accomplishment of His promises? Are not deadly errors overturned throughout the whole world; and by the threshing of the world lusts subdued? Let no one say, "The world was better aforetime than now; ever since that Physician began to exercise His art, many dreadful things we witness here." Marvel not at this? Before that any were in course of healing, the Physician's residence [2866] seemed clean of blood; but now rather as seeing what thou dost, shake off all vain delights, and come to the Physician, it is the time of healing, not of pleasure.

14. Let us then think, Brethren, of being cured. If we do not yet know the Physician, yet let us not like frenzied men be violent against Him, or as men in a lethargy turn away from Him. For many through this violence have perished, and many have perished through sleep. The frenzied are they who are made mad for want of sleep. The lethargic are they who are weighed down by excessive sleep. Men are to be found of both these kinds. Against this Physician it is the will of some to be violent, and forasmuch as He is Himself sitting in heaven, they persecute His faithful ones on earth. Yet even such as these He cureth. Many of them having been converted from enemies have become friends, from persecutors have become preachers. Such as these were the Jews, whom, though violent as men in frenzy against Him while He was here, He healed, and prayed for them as He hung upon the Cross. For He said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." [2867] Yet many of them when their fury was calmed, their frenzy as it were got under, came to know God, and Christ. When the Holy Ghost was sent after the Ascension, they were converted to Him whom they crucified, and as believers drunk in the Sacrament His Blood, which in their violence they shed.

15. Of this we have examples. Saul persecuted the members of Jesus Christ, who is now sitting in heaven; grievously did he persecute them in his frenzy, in the loss of his reason, in the transport of his madness. But He with one word, calling to him out of heaven, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" [2868] struck down the frantic one, raised him up whole, killed the persecutor, quickened the preacher. And so again many lethargic ones are healed. For to such are they like, who are not violent against Christ, nor malicious against Christians, but who in their delay are only dull and heavy with drowsy words, are slow to open their eyes to the light, and are annoyed with those who would arouse them. "Get away from me," says the heavy, lethargic man, "I pray thee, get away from me." Why? "I wish to sleep." But you will die in consequence. He through love of sleep will answer, "I wish to die." And Love from above calls out "I do not wish it." Often does the son exhibit this loving affection to an aged father, though he must needs die in a few days; and is now in extreme old age. If he sees that he is lethargic, and knows from the physician that he is oppressed with a lethargic complaint, who tells him "Arouse your father, do not let him sleep, if you would save his life"! Then will the son come to the old man, and beat, and squeeze, or pinch, or prick him, or give him any uneasiness, and all through his dutiful affection to him; and will not allow him to die at once, die though he soon must from very age; and if his life is thus saved, the son rejoices that he has now to live some few days more with him who must soon depart to make way for him. With how much greater affection then ought we to be importunate [2869] with our friends, with whom we may live not a few days in this world, but in God's presence for ever! Let them then love us, and do what they hear us say, and worship Him, whom we also worship, that they may receive what we also hope for. "Let us turn to the Lord," etc.

Footnotes

[2841] Corporalis. [2842] Colit nos Deus et colimus Deum. Conf. B. xiii. 1. [2843] Colimus enim eum adorando non arando. [2844] Indisciplinatum. [2845] John xv. 1, 5. [2846] Matt. xxi. 33, etc. [2847] Matt. xx. 1, etc. [2848] ∆quando non præposterando. [2849] Matt. xxv. 34. [2850] Meritorum. [2851] Passionis. [2852] 1 Cor. ii. 8. [2853] Matt. xxvii. 40, 42. [2854] Acts i. 15. [2855] Acts ii. 4. [2856] Ps. xix. 6. [2857] Superflua. [2858] Meremur. [2859] Ezek. xviii. 21. [2860] Ecclus. v. 7. [2861] Prov. iii. 28. [2862] Ecclus. xxx. 23, Vulgate. [2863] Idiota. [2864] 1 Cor. i. 27, 28. [2865] Fabulas. [2866] Statio. [2867] Luke xxiii. 34. [2868] Acts ix. 4. [2869] Molesti. .


Sermon XXXVIII.

[LXXXVIII. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. xx. 30, about the two blind men sitting by the way side, and crying out, "Lord, have mercy on us, Thou Son of David."

1. Ye know, Holy Brethren, full well as we do, that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the Physician of our eternal health; and that to this end He took the weakness of our nature, that our weakness might not last for ever. For He assumed a mortal body, wherein to kill death. And, "though He was crucified through weakness," as the Apostle saith, "yet He liveth by the power of God." [2870] They are the words too of the same Apostle; "He dieth no more, and death shall have no more dominion over Him." [2871] These things, I say, are well known to your faith. And there is also this which follows from it, that we should know that all the miracles which He did on the body, avail to our instruction, that we may from them perceive that which is not to pass away, nor to have any end. He restored to the blind those eyes which death was sure sometime to close; He raised Lazarus to life who was to die again. And whatever He did for the health of bodies, He did it not to this end that they should be for ever; whereas at the last He will give eternal health even to the body itself. But because those things which were not seen, were not believed; by means of these temporal things which were seen, He built up faith in those things which were not seen.

2. Let no one then, Brethren, say that our Lord Jesus Christ doeth not those things now, and on this account prefer the former to the present ages of the Church. In a certain place indeed the same Lord prefers those who "do not see, and yet believe," [2872] to them who see and therefore believe. For even at that time so irresolute was the infirmity of His disciples, that they thought that He whom they saw to have risen again must be handled, in order that they might believe. It was not enough for their eyes that they had seen Him, unless their hands also were applied to His limbs, and the scars of His recent wounds were touched; that that disciple who was in doubt, might cry out suddenly when he had touched and recognised the scars, "My Lord and my God." [2873] The scars manifested Him who had healed all wounds in others. Could not the Lord have risen again without the scars? Yes, but He knew the wounds which were in the hearts of His disciples, and to heal them He had preserved the scars on His own Body. And what said the Lord to him who now confessed and said, "My Lord and my God"? "Because thou hast seen," He said, "thou hast believed; blessed are they who do not see, and yet believe." Of whom spake He, Brethren, but of us? Not that He spake only of us, but of those also who shall come after us. For after a little while when He had departed from the sight of men, that faith might be established in their hearts, whosoever believed, believed, though they saw Him not, and great has been the merit of their faith; for the procuring of which faith they brought only the movement of a pious heart, and not the touching of their hands.

3. These things then the Lord did to invite us to the faith. This faith reigneth now in the Church, which is spread throughout the whole world. And now He worketh greater cures, on account of which He disdained not then to exhibit those lesser ones. For as the soul is better than the body, so is the saving health of the soul better than the health of the body. The blind body doth not now open its eyes by a miracle of the Lord, but the blinded heart openeth its eyes to the word of the Lord. The mortal corpse doth not now rise again, but the soul doth rise again which lay dead in a living body. The deaf ears of the body are not now opened; but how many have the ears of their heart closed, which yet fly open at the penetrating word of God, so that they believe who did not believe, and they live well, who did live evilly, and they obey, who did not obey; and we say, "Such a man is become a believer;" and we wonder when we hear of them whom once we had known as hardened. Why then dost thou marvel at one who now believes, who is living innocently, and serving God; but because thou dost behold him seeing, whom thou hadst known to be blind; dost behold him living, whom thou hadst known to be dead; dost behold him hearing, whom thou hadst known to be deaf? For consider that there are who are dead in another than the ordinary sense, of whom the Lord spake to a certain man who delayed to follow the Lord, because he wished to bury his father; "Let the dead," said He, "bury their dead." [2874] Surely these dead buriers are not dead in body; for if this were so, they could not bury dead bodies. Yet doth he call them dead; where, but in the soul within? For as we may often see in a household, itself sound and well, the master of the same house lying dead; so in a sound body do many carry a dead soul within; and these the Apostle arouses thus, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." [2875] It is the Same who giveth light to the blind, that awakeneth the dead. For it is with His voice that the cry is made by the Apostle to the dead, "Awake, thou that sleepest." And the blind will be enlightened with light, when he shall have risen again. And how many deaf men did the Lord see before His eyes, when He said, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." [2876] For who was standing before Him without his bodily ears? What other ears then did He seek for, but those of the inner man?

4. Again, what eyes did He look for when He spake to those who saw indeed, but who saw only with the eyes of the flesh? For when Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us;" [2877] he understood indeed that if the Father were shown him, it might well suffice him; but how would the Father suffice him whom He that was equal to the Father sufficed not? And why did He not suffice? Because He was not seen. And why was He not seen? Because the eye whereby He might be seen was not yet whole. For this, namely, that the Lord was seen in the flesh with the outward eyes, not only the disciples who honoured Him saw, but also the Jews who crucified Him. He then who wished to be seen in another way, sought for other eyes. And therefore it was that to him who said, "Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us;" He answered, "Have I been so long time with you; and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He who hath seen Me, hath seen the Father also." [2878] And that He might in the mean while heal the eyes of faith, he has first of all instructions given him regarding faith, that so he might attain to sight. And lest Philip should think that he was to conceive of God under the same form in which he then saw the Lord Jesus Christ in the body, he immediately subjoined; "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?" [2879] He had already said, "He who hath seen Me, hath seen the Father also." But Philip's eye was not yet sound enough to see the Father, nor consequently to see the Son who is Himself Coequal with the Father. And so Jesus Christ took in hand to cure, and with the medicines and salve of faith to strengthen the eyes of his mind, which as yet were weak and unable to behold so great a light, and He said, "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?" Let not him then who cannot yet see what the Lord will one day show him, seek first to see what he is to believe; but let him first believe that the eye by which he is to see may be healed. For it was only the form of the servant which was exhibited to the eyes of servants; because if "He who thought it not robbery to be equal with God," [2880] could have been now seen as equal with God by those whom He wished to be healed, He would not have needed to "empty Himself, and to take the form of a servant." But because there was no way whereby God could be seen, but whereby man could be seen, there was; therefore He who was God was made man, that that which was seen might heal that whereby He was not seen. For He saith Himself in another place, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." [2881] Philip might of course have answered and said, "Lord, lo, I see Thee; is the Father such as I see Thee to be? forasmuch as Thou hast said, `He who hath seen Me, hath seen the Father also'?" But before Philip answered thus, or perhaps before he so much as thought it, when the Lord had said, "He who hath seen Me, hath seen the Father also;" He immediately added, "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?" For with that eye he could, not yet see either the Father, or the Son who is equal with the Father; but that his eye might be healed for seeing, he was to be anointed unto believing. So then before thou seest what thou canst not now see, believe what as yet thou seest not. "Walk by faith," that thou mayest attain to sight. Sight will not gladden him in his home whom faith consoleth not by the way. For so says the Apostle, "As long as we are in the body, we are in pilgrimage from the Lord." [2882] And he subjoins immediately why we are still "in pilgrimage," though we have now believed; "For we walk by faith," He says, "not by sight."

5. Our whole business then, Brethren, in this life is to heal this eye of the heart whereby God may be seen. To this end are celebrated the Holy Mysteries; to this end is preached the word of God; to this end are the moral exhortations of the Church, those, that is, that relate to the correction of manners, to the amendment of carnal lusts, to the renouncing the world, not in word only, but in a change of life: to this end is directed the whole aim of the Divine and Holy Scriptures, that that inner man may be purged of that which hinders us from the sight of God. For as the eye which is formed to see this temporal light, a light though heavenly, yet corporeal, and manifest, not to men only, but even to the meanest animals (for for this the eye is formed, to see this light); if anything be thrown or fall into it, whereby it is disordered, is shut out from this light; and though it encompass the eye with its presence, yet the eye turns itself away from, and is absent from it; and through its disordered condition is not only rendered absent from the light which is present, but the light to see which it was formed, is even painful to it. So the eye of the heart too when it is disordered and wounded turns away from the light of righteousness, and dares not and cannot contemplate it.

6. And what is it that disorders the eye of the heart? Evil desire, covetousness, injustice, worldly concupiscence, these disorder, close, blind the eye of the heart. And yet when the eye of the body is out of order, how is the physician sought out, what an absence of all delay to open and cleanse it, that that may be healed whereby this outward light is seen! There is running to and fro, no one is still, no one loiters, if even the smallest straw fall into the eye. And God it must be allowed made the sun which we desire to see with sound eyes. Much brighter assuredly is He who made it; nor is the light with which the eye of the mind is concerned of this kind at all. That light is eternal Wisdom. God made thee, O man, after His own image. Would He give thee wherewithal to see the sun which He made, and not give thee wherewithal to see Him who made thee, when He made thee after His own image? He hath given thee this also; both hath He given thee. But much thou dost love these outward eyes, and despisest much that interior eye; it thou dost carry about bruised and wounded. Yea, it would be a punishment to thee, if thy Maker should wish to manifest Himself unto thee; it would be a punishment to thine eye, before that it is cured and healed. For so Adam in paradise sinned, and hid himself from the face of God. As long then as he had the sound heart of a pure conscience, he rejoiced at the presence of God; when that eye was wounded by sin, he began to dread the Divine light, he fled back into the darkness, and the thick covert of the trees, flying from the truth, and anxious for the shade.

7. Therefore, my Brethren, since we too are born of him, and as the Apostle says, "In Adam all die;" [2883] for we were all at first two persons if we were loth to obey the physician, that we might not be sick; let us obey Him now, that we may be delivered from sickness. The physician gave us precepts, when we were whole; He gave us precepts that we might not need a physician. "They that are whole," He saith, "need not a physician, but they that are sick." [2884] When whole we despised these precepts, and by experience have felt how to our own destruction we despised His precepts. Now we are sick, we are in distress, we are on the bed of weakness; yet let us not despair. For because we could not come to the Physician, He hath vouchsafed to come Himself to us. Though despised by man when he was whole, He did not despise him when he was stricken. He did not leave off to give other precepts to the weak, who would not keep the first precepts, that he might not be weak; as though He would say, "Assuredly thou hast by experience felt that I spake the truth when I said, Touch not this. Be healed then now at length, and recover the life thou hast lost. Lo, I am bearing thine infirmity; drink thou the bitter cup. For thou hast of thine own self made those my so sweet precepts which were given to thee when whole, so toilsome. They were despised and so thy distress began; cured thou canst not be, except thou drink the bitter cup, the cup of temptations, wherein this life abounds, the cup of tribulation, anguish, and sufferings. Drink then," He says, "drink, that thou mayest live." And that the sick man may not make answer, "I cannot, I cannot bear it, I will not drink;" the Physician, all whole though he be, drinketh first, that the sick man may not hesitate to drink. For what bitterness is there in this cup, which He hath not drunk? If it be contumely; He heard it first when He drove out the devils, "He hath a devil, and by Beelzebub He casteth out devils." [2885] Whereupon in order to comfort the sick, He saith, "If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of His household?" [2886] If pains are this bitter cup, He was bound and scourged and crucified. If death be this bitter cup, He died also. If infirmity shrink with horror from any particular kind of death, none was at that time more ignominious than the death of the cross. For it was not in vain that the Apostle, when setting forth His obedience, added, "Made obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." [2887]

8. But because He designed to honour His faithful ones at the end of the world, He hath first honoured the cross in this world; in such wise that the princes of the earth who believe in Him have prohibited any criminal from being crucified; and that cross which the Jewish persecutors with great mockery prepared for the Lord, even kings His servants at this day bear with great confidence on their foreheads. Only the shameful nature of the death which our Lord vouchsafed to undergo for us is not now so apparent, Who, as the Apostle says, "was made a curse for us." [2888] And when as He hung, the blindness of the Jews mocked Him, surely He could have come down from the Cross, who if He had not so willed, had not been on the Cross; but it was a greater thing to rise from the grave than to come down from the Cross. Our Lord then in doing these Divine, and in suffering these human things, instructs us by His Bodily miracles and Bodily patience, that we may believe, and be made whole to behold those things invisible which the eye of the body hath no knowledge of. With this intent then He cured these blind men of whom the account has just now been read in the Gospel. And consider what instruction He has by their cure conveyed to the man who is sick within.

9. Consider the issue of the thing, and the order of the circumstances. Those two blind men sitting by the way side cried out as the Lord passed by, that He would have mercy upon them. But they were restrained from crying out by the multitude which was with the Lord. Now do not suppose that this circumstance is left without a mysterious meaning. But they overcame the crowd who kept them back by the great perseverance of their cry, that their voice might reach the Lord's ears; as though He had not already anticipated their thoughts. So then the two blind men cried out that they might be heard by the Lord, and could not be restrained by the multitudes. The Lord "was passing by," and they cried out. The Lord "stood still," and they were healed. For "the Lord Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? They say unto Him, That our eyes may be opened." [2889] The Lord did according to their faith, He recovered their eyes. If we have now understood by the sick, the deaf, the dead, the sick, and deaf, and dead, within; let us look out in this place also for the blind within. The eyes of the heart are clossd; "Jesus passeth by" that we may cry out. What is, "Jesus passeth by"? Jesus is doing things which last but for a time. What is "Jesus passeth by"? Jesus doeth things which pass by. Mark and see how many things of His have "passed by." He was born of the Virgin Mary; is He being born always? As an infant was He suckled; is He suckled always? He ran through the successive ages of life unto man's full estate; doth He grow in body always? Boyhood succeeded to infancy, to boyhood youth, to youth man's full stature in several passing successions. Even the very miracles which He did are "passed by," they are read and believed. For because these miracles are written that so they might be read, they "passed by" when they were being done. In a word, not to dwell long on this, He was Crucified: is He hanging on the Cross always? He was Buried, He Rose again, He Ascended into heaven; "now He dieth no more, death shall no more have dominion over Him." [2890] And His Divinity abideth ever, yea, the Immortality of His Body now shall never fail. But nevertheless all those things which were wrought by Him in time have "passed by;" and they are written to be read, and they are preached to be believed. In all these things then, "Jesus passeth by."

10. And what are "the two blind men by the way side," but the two people to cure whom Jesus came? Let us show those two people in the Holy Scriptures. It is written in the Gospel, "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also must I bring, that there may be one fold and One Shepherd." [2891] Who then are the two people? One the people of the Jews, and the other of the Gentiles. "I am not sent," He saith, "but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." [2892] To whom did He say this? To the disciples; when that woman of Canaan who confessed herself to be a dog, cried out that she might be found worthy of the crumbs from the master's [2893] table. And because she was found worthy, now were the two people to whom He had come made manifest: the Jewish people, to wit, of whom He said, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel;" and the people of the Gentiles, whose type this woman exhibited whom He had first rejected, saying, "It is not meet to cast the children's bread to the dogs;" and to whom when she said, "Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table;" He answered, "O woman, great is thy faith, be it unto thee even as thou wilt." [2894] For of this people also was that centurion of whom the same Lord saith, "Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." Because he had said, "I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed." [2895] So then the Lord even before His Passion and Glorification pointed out two people, the one to whom He had come because of the promises to the Fathers; and the other whom for His mercy's sake He did not reject; that it might be fulfilled which had been promised to Abraham, "In thy seed shall all nations be blessed." [2896] Wherefore also the Apostle after the Lord's Resurrection and Ascension, when He was despised by the Jews, went to the Gentiles. Not that he was silent however towards the Churches which consisted of Jewish believers; "I was unknown," he says, "by face unto the Churches of Judæa which were in Christ. But they heard only that he which persecuted us in times past, now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed, and they glorified God in me." [2897] So again Christ is called the "Corner Stone who made both one." [2898] For a corner joins two walls which come from different sides together. And what was so different as the circumcision and uncircumcision, having one wall from Judæa, the other from the Gentiles? But they are joined together by the corner stone. "For the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner." [2899] There is no corner in a building, except when two walls coming from different directions meet together, and are joined in a kind of unity. The "two blind men" then crying out unto the Lord were these two walls according to the figure.

11. Attend now, dearly Beloved. The Lord was "passing by," and the blind men "cried out." What is "was passing by"? As we have already said, He was doing works which "passed by." Now upon [2900] these passing works is our faith built up. For we believe on the Son of God, not only in that He is the word of God, by whom all things were made; for if He had always continued "in the form of God, equal with God," and had not "emptied Himself in taking the form of a servant," the blind men would not even have perceived Him, that they might be able to cry out. But when He wrought passing works, that is, "when He humbled Himself, having become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross," the "two blind men cried out, Have mercy on us, thou Son of David." For this very thing that He David's Lord and Creator, willed also to be David's Son, He wrought in time, He wrought "passing by."

12. Now what is it, Brethren, "to cry out" unto Christ, but to [2901] correspond to the grace of Christ by good works? This I say, Brethren, lest haply we cry aloud with our voices, and in our lives be dumb. Who is he that crieth out to Christ, that his inward blindness may be driven away by Christ as He is "passing by," that is, as He is dispensing to us those temporal sacraments, whereby we are instructed to receive the things which are eternal? Who is he that crieth out unto Christ? Whoso despiseth the world, crieth out unto Christ. Whoso despiseth the pleasures of the world, crieth out unto Christ. Whoso saith not with his tongue, but with his life, "The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world," [2902] crieth out unto Christ. Whoso "disperseth abroad and giveth to the poor, that his righteousness may endure for ever," [2903] crieth out unto Christ. For let him that hears, and is not deaf to the sound, "sell that ye have, and give to the poor; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not;" [2904] let him as he hears the sound as it were of Christ's footsteps "passing by," cry out in response to this in his blindness, that is, let him do these things. Let his voice be in his actions. Let him begin to despise the world, to distribute to the poor his goods, to esteem as nothing worth what other men love, let him disregard injuries, not seek to be avenged, let him give his "cheek to the smiter," let him pray for his enemies; if any "one have taken away his goods," let "him not ask for them again;" [2905] if he "have taken anything from any man, let him restore fourfold." [2906]

13. When he shall begin to do all this, all his kinsmen, relations, and friends will be in commotion. They who love this world, will oppose him. What madness this! you are too extreme: [2907] what! are not other men Christians? This is folly, this is madness. And other such like things do the multitude cry out to prevent the blind from crying out. The multitude rebuked them as they cried out; but did not overcome their cries. Let them who wish to be healed understand what they have to do. Jesus is now also "passing by;" let them who are by the way side cry out. These are they "who know God with their lips, but their heart is far from Him." [2908] These are by the way side, to whom as blinded [2909] in heart Jesus gives His precepts. For when those passing things which Jesus did are recounted, Jesus is always represented to us as "passing by." For even unto the end of the world there will not be wanting "blind men sitting by the way side." Need then there is that they who sit by the way side should cry out. The multitude that was with the Lord would repress the crying of those who were seeking for recovery. Brethren, do ye see my meaning? For I know not how to speak, but still less do I know how to be silent. I will speak then, and speak plainly. For I fear "Jesus passing by" and "Jesus standing still;" and therefore I cannot keep silence. Evil and lukewarm Christians hinder good Christians who are truly earnest, [2910] and wish to do the commandments of God which are written in the Gospel. This multitude which is with the Lord hinders those who are crying out, hinders those that is who are doing well, that they may not by perseverance be healed. But let them cry out, and not faint; let them not be led away as if by the authority of numbers; let them not imitate those who became Christians before them, who live evil lives themselves, and are jealous of the good deeds of others. Let them not say, "Let us live as these so many live." Why not rather as the Gospel ordains? Why dost thou wish to live according to the remonstrances of the multitude who would hinder thee, and not after the steps of the Lord, "who passeth by"? They will mock, and abuse, and call thee back; do thou cry out till thou reach the ears of Jesus. For they who shall persevere in doing such things as Christ hath enjoined, and regard not the multitudes that hinder them, nor think much of their appearing to follow Christ, that is of their being called Christians; but who love the light which Christ is about to restore to them, more than they fear the uproar of those who are hindering them; they shall on no account be separated from Him, and Jesus will "stand still," and make them whole.

14. For how are our eyes made whole? That as by faith we perceive Christ "passing by" in the temporal economy, [2911] so we may attain to the knowledge of Him as "standing still" in His unchangeable Eternity. For then is the eye made whole when the knowledge of Christ's Divinity is attained. Let your love apprehend this; attend ye to the great mystery [2912] which I am to speak of. All the things which were done by our Lord Jesus Christ in time, graft faith in us. We believe on the Son of God, not on the Word only, "by which all things were made;" but on this very Word, "made flesh that He might dwell among us," who was born of the Virgin Mary, and the rest which the Faith contains, and which are represented to us that Christ might "pass by," and that the blind, hearing His footsteps as He "passeth by," might by their works "cry out," by their life exemplifying the profession of their faith. But now in order that they who cry out may be made whole, "Jesus standeth still." For he saw Jesus now "standing still" who says, "Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more." [2913] For he saw Christ's Divinity as far as in this life is possible. There is then in Christ the Divinity and the Humanity. The Divinity "standeth still," the Humanity "passeth by." What means, The Divinity "standeth still"? It changeth not, is not shaken, doth not depart away. For He did not so come to us, as to depart from the Father; nor did He so ascend as to change His place. When He assumed Flesh, it changed place; but God assuming Flesh, seeing He is not in place, doth not change His place. Let us then be touched by Christ "standing still," and so our eyes be made whole. But whose eyes? The eyes of those who "cry out" when He is "passing by;" that is, who do good works through that faith, which hath been dispensed in time, to instruct us in our infancy.

15. Now what thing more precious can we have than the eye made whole? They rejoice who see this created light which shines from heaven, or even that which is given out from a lamp. And how wretched do they seem, who cannot see this light? But wherefore do I speak, and talk of all these things, but to exhort you all to "cry out," when Jesus "passeth by." I hold up this light which perhaps ye do not see as an object of love to you, Holy Brethren. Believe, whilst as yet ye see not; and "cry out" that ye may see. How great is thought to be the unhappiness of men, who do not see this bodily light? Does any one become blind; immediately it is said; "God is angry with him, he has committed some wicked deed." So said Tobias' wife to her husband. He cried out because of the kid, lest it had come of theft; he did not like to hear the sound of any stolen thing in his house; and she, maintaining what she had done, reproached her husband; and when he said, "Restore it if it be stolen;" she answered insultingly, "Where are thy righteous deeds?" [2914] How great was her blindness who maintained the theft; and how clear a light he saw, who commanded the stolen thing to be restored! She rejoiced outwardly in the light of the sun; he inwardly in the light of Righteousness. Which of them was in the better light?

16. It is to the love of this light that I would exhort you, Beloved; that ye would cry out by your works, when the Lord "passeth by;" let the voice of faith sound out, that "Jesus standing still," that is, the Unchangeable, Abiding Wisdom of God, and the Majesty of the Word of God, "by which all things were made," may open your eyes. The same Tobias in giving advice to his son, instructed him to this, to cry out; that is, he instructed him to good works. He told him to give to the poor, charged him to give alms to the needy, and taught him, saying, "My son, alms suffereth not to come into darkness." [2915] The blind gave counsel for receiving and gaining light. "Alms," saith he, "suffereth not to come into darkness." Had his son in astonishment answered him, "What then, father, hast thou not given alms, that thou now speakest to me in blindness; art not thou in darkness, and yet thou dost say to me, "Alms suffereth not to come into darkness." But no, he knew well what the light was, concerning which he gave his son instruction, he knew well what he saw in the inner man. The son held out his hand to his father, to enable him to walk on earth; and the father to the son, to enable him to dwell in heaven.

17. To be brief; that I may conclude this Sermon, Brethren, with a matter which touches me very nearly, and gives me much pain, see what crowds there are which "rebuke the blind as they cry out." But let them not deter you, whosoever among this crowd desire to be healed; for there are many Christians in name, and in works ungodly; let them not deter you from good works. Cry out amid the crowds that are restraining you, and calling you back, and insulting you, whose lives are evil. For not only by their voices, but by evil works, do wicked Christians repress the good. A good Christian has no wish to attend the public shows. In this very thing, that he bridles his desire of going to the theatre, he cries out after Christ, cries out to be healed. Others run together thither, but perhaps they are heathens or Jews? Ah! indeed, if Christians went not to the theatres, there would be so few people there, that they would go away for very shame. So then Christians run thither also, bearing the Holy Name only to their condemnation. Cry out then by abstaining from going, by repressing in thy heart this worldly [2916] concupiscence; hold on with a strong and persevering cry unto the ears of the Saviour, that Jesus may "stand still" and heal thee. Cry out amidst the very crowds, despair not of reaching the ears of the Lord. For the blind men in the Gospel did not cry out in that quarter, where no crowd was, that so they might be heard in that direction, where there was no impediment from persons hindering them. Amidst the very crowds they cried out; and yet the Lord heard them. And so also do ye even amidst sinners, and sensual then, amidst the lovers of the vanities of the world, there cry out that the Lord may heal you. Go not to another quarter to cry out unto the Lord, go not to heretics, and cry out unto Him there. Consider, Brethren, how in that crowd which was hindering them from crying out, even there were they who cried out made whole.

18. For observe this too, Holy Brethren, what it is to persevere in crying out. I will speak of what many as well as myself have experienced in Christ's name; for the Church does not cease to give birth to such as these. When any Christian has begun to live well, to be fervent in good works, and to despise the world; in this newness of his life he is exposed to the animadversions and contradictions of cold Christians. But if he persevere, and get the better of them by his endurance, and faint not in good works; those very same persons who before hindered will now respect him. [2917] For they rebuke, and hinder, and withstand him so long as they have any hope that he will yield to them. But if they shall be overcome by their perseverance who make progress, they turn round and begin to say, "He is a great man, a holy man, happy he to whom God hath given such grace." Now do they honour him, they congratulate and bless and laud him; just as that multitude did which was with the Lord. They first hindered the blind men that they might not cry out; but when they continued to cry so as to attain to be heard, and to obtain the Lord's mercy, that same multitude now says, "Jesus calleth you." And they who a little before "rebuked them that they should hold their peace," use now the voice of exhortation. Now he only is not called by the Lord who is not in labour in this world. But who is there in this life who is not in labour through his sins and iniquities? But if all labour, it is said to all, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour." [2918] Now if this is said to all, why ascribest thou thy miscarriage [2919] to Him that so inviteth thee? Come. His house is not too narrow for thee; the kingdom of God is possessed equally by all, and wholly by each one; it is not diminished by the increasing number of those who possess it, because it is not divided. And that which is possessed by many with one heart, is whole and entire for each one.

19. Yet in the mysterious sense of this passage, Brethren, we recognise what is expressed most plainly in other places of the sacred books, that there are within the Church both good and bad, as I often express it, wheat and chaff. Let no one leave the floor before the time, let him bear with the chaff in the time of threshing, let him bear with it in the floor. For in the barn he will have none of it to bear with. The Winnower will come, who shall divide the bad from the good. There will then be a bodily separation too, which a spiritual separation now precedes. In heart be always separated from the bad, in body be united with them for a time, only with caution. Yet be not negligent in correcting those who belong to you, who in any way appertain to your charge, by admonition, or instruction, by exhortation, or by threats. Do it, in whatsoever way ye can. And because ye find in Scripture and in the examples of Saints, whether of those who lived before or after the coming of the Lord in this life, that the bad do not defile the good in unity with them, do not on this account become slow in the correction of the bad. In two ways the bad will not defile thee; if thou consent not to him, and if thou reprove him; this is, not to communicate with him, not to consent to him. For there is a communication, when an agreement either of the will or of the approbation is joined to his deed. This the Apostle teaches us, when he says, "Have no communication with the unfruitful works of darkness." [2920] And because it was a small matter not to consent, if negligence in correction accompanied it, he says, "But rather reprove them." See how he comprehended both at once, "Have no communication, but rather reprove them." What is, "Have no communication"? Do not consent to them, do not praise them, do not approve them. What is, "But rather reprove them"? Find fault with, rebuke, repress them.

20. But then in the correction and repressing of other men's sins, one must take heed, that in rebuking another he do not lift up himself; and that sentence of the Apostle must be thought of, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." [2921] Let the voice of chiding sound outwardly in tones of terror, let the spirit of love and gentleness be maintained within. "If a man be overtaken in a fault," as the same Apostle says, "ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so shall ye fulfil the law of Christ." [2922] And again in another place, "The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are held captive by him at his will." [2923] So then be neither consenting to evil, so as to approve of it; nor negligent so as not to reprove it; nor proud so as to reprove it in a tone of insult.

21. But whoso forsaketh unity, violateth charity; and whosoever violateth charity, how great gifts soever he have, he is nothing. "If he speak with the tongues of men and of angels; if he knew all mysteries, if he have all faith, so as to remove mountains, if he distribute all his goods to the poor, if he give his body to be burned, and have not charity; it is nothing; it profiteth him nothing." [2924] He possesseth all things to no useful end, who hath not that one thing by which he may use all these things well. So then let us embrace charity, "studying to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." [2925] Let not those seduce us who understand the Scriptures in a carnal manner, and who in making a bodily separation, are separated themselves by a spiritual sacrilege from the good corn of the Church which is spread over the whole world. For throughout the whole world hath the good seed been sown. That good Sower, the Son of Man, hath scattered the good seed not in Africa only, but everywhere. But the enemy hath sown tares upon it. Yet what saith the Householder? "Let both grow together until the harvest." [2926] Grow where? In the field, of course. What is the field? Is it Africa? No! What is it then? Let us not interpret it ourselves, let the Lord speak; let us not suffer any one to make his guess at his own pleasure. For the disciples said to the Master, "Declare unto us the parable of the tares." And the Lord declared it: "The good seed," said He, "are the children of the Kingdom. But the tares are the children of the wicked one." Who sowed them? "The enemy that sowed them," said He," is the devil." What is the field? "The field," said He, "is this world." What is the harvest? "The harvest," said He, "is the end of the world." Who are the reapers? "The reapers," said He, "are the Angels." Is Africa the world? Is this present time the harvest? Is Donatus the reaper? Look then for the harvest throughout the whole world, throughout the whole world "grow unto the harvest," throughout the whole world bear with the tares even until the harvest. Let not perverse men seduce you, that chaff so light, which flies out of the floor before the coming of the Winnower; let them not seduce you. Hold them fast even to this single parable of the tares, and suffer them not to speak of anything else. This man, one will say, surrendered [2927] the Scriptures; no, not so: but this other man surrendered them. Whosoever it might be who has surrendered them, has their faithlessness made void the faithfulness of God? What is "the faithfulness of God"? That which He promised to Abraham, saying, "In thy seed shall all nations be blessed." [2928] What is the faithfulness of God? "Let both grow together until the harvest." Grow where? Throughout the field. What is throughout the field? Throughout the world.

22. Here they say; "It is true both kinds did once grow throughout the world, but the good wheat is diminished, and confined to this our country, and our small communion." [2929] But the Lord doth not allow thee to interpret as thou wilt. He who explaineth this parable Himself, shutteth thy mouth, thy sacrilegious, profane, and ungodly mouth, that is counter to thine own interests, while thou runnest counter to the testator, even as he calleth thee to the inheritance. How doth He shut thy mouth? by saying, "Let both grow together until the harvest." [2930] If the harvest hath come already, let us believe that the wheat has been diminished. Though not even then shall it be diminished, but gathered up into the barn. For so He saith, "Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into My barn." If then they grow until the harvest, and after the harvest are gathered in, how are they diminished, thou wicked, thou ungodly one? I grant that in comparison with the tares and chaff the wheat is less in quantity; still "both grow together until the harvest." For "when iniquity aboundeth, the love of many waxeth cold;" [2931] the tares and the chaff multiply. But because throughout the whole world wheat cannot be wanting, which "by enduring unto the end shall be saved, both grow together until the harvest." And if because of the abundance of the wicked it is said, "When the Son of Man cometh, thinkest thou, shall He find faith on the earth?" [2932] and by this denomination are signified all those who by transgression of the law imitate him to whom it was said," Earth thou art, and unto earth shalt thou return;" [2933] yet because of the abundance of the good also, and because of him to whom it was said, "Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven, and as the sand of the sea;" [2934] is that also written, "Many shall come from the East and West, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, in the kingdom of God." [2935] "Both" then "grow together until the harvest," and both the tares or chaff have their passages in the Scriptures, and the wheat theirs. And they who do not understand them, confound them and are themselves confounded; and in their blind desire they make such an uproar, that they will not be silenced even by the clear manifestation of the truth.

23. See, they say, the Prophet says, "Depart ye, go ye out from thence, and touch no unclean thing;" [2936] how then for peace sake should we bear with the wicked, from whom we are commanded to "go out and depart that we touch not the unclean thing"? We understand that "departure" spiritually, they corporally. For I also cry out with the Prophet (for however mean a vessel I am, God maketh use of me to minister to you); I also cry out and say to you, "Depart ye, go ye out from thence, and touch not the unclean thing;" but with the touch of the heart, not of the body. For what is it to "touch the unclean thing," but to consent to sin. And what is it to "go out from thence," but to do what appertaineth to the rebuking of the wicked, as far as can be done, according to each one's grade and condition, [2937] with the maintenance of peace? Thou art displeased at a man's sin, thou hast not "touched the unclean thing." Thou hast reproved, rebuked, admonished him, hast administered, if the case required it, a suitable discipline, and such as doth not violate unity; then thou hast "gone out from thence." Now consider the actions of the Saints, lest perhaps this should seem to be an interpretation of my own. As Saints have understood these words, so surely ought they to be understood. "Go ye out from them," says the Prophet. I will first maintain this meaning of the words from their customary use, and will afterwards show that that meaning is not my own. It often happens that men are accused; and when they are accused they defend themselves, and when the accused defends himself with good reason and justice, the hearers say, "He has got out of this." Got out; whither has he gone? He abides still in the place where he was, yet has he "got out of this." How has he got out of it? By the good account he has rendered, and by his most satisfactory defence. This is what the holy Apostles did when they "shook off the dust from their feet" [2938] against those who did not receive the message of peace which was sent to them. That watchman, "got out from thence," to whom it was I said, "I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel." [2939] For it was told him "If thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his way, that wicked one shall die in his iniquity, and thou shalt deliver thy soul." [2940] This if he do, he "goes out from him," not by a bodily separation, but by the defence of his own work. For he did what it was his duty to do; though the other, whose duty it was to obey, obeyed not. This then is that, "Go ye out from thence."

24. So cried Moses and Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Let us see then if they acted thus, if they left the people of God, and betook themselves to other nations. How many and vehement rebukes did Jeremiah utter against the sinners, and wicked ones of his people. Yet he lived amongst them, he entered into the same temple with them, celebrated the same mysteries; [2941] he lived in that congregation of wicked men, but by his crying out "he went out from them." This is "to go out from them;" this is not "to touch the unclean thing," the not consenting to them in will, and the not sparing them in word. What shall I say of Jeremiah, of Isaiah, of Daniel, and Ezekiel, and the rest of the prophets, who did not retire from the wicked people, lest they should desert the good who were mingled with that people, among whom themselves were able to be such as they were? When Moses himself, Brethren, was receiving the law in the mount, the people below made an idol. [2942] The people of God, the people who had been led through the waves of the Red Sea which gave way to them, and overwhelmed their enemies who followed after, after so many signs and miracles displayed in plagues upon the Egyptians even unto death, and for "their" protection unto deliverance, yet demanded an idol, obtained an idol by force, made an idol, adored an idol, sacrificed unto an idol. God showeth His servant what the people had done, and saith that He will destroy them from before His Face. Moses maketh intercession for them as he was about to return to this people; yet had he a good opportunity of retiring and "going out from them," as these persons understand it, that he might "not touch the unclean thing," might not live among them; but he did not so. And that he might not seem to have acted thus from necessity rather than from love, God offered him another people; so that He might destroy these: "I will make of thee," He said, "a great nation." [2943] But he did not accept it; he cleaveth to the sinners, he prayeth for the sinners. And how does he pray? O signal proof of love, my Brethren! How does he pray? Mark that, as it were, mother's fondness, of which I have often spoken. When God threatened the sacrilegious people, Moses' tender heart trembled, and on their behalf he opposed himself to the wrath of God. "Lord," he says, "if Thou wilt forgive their sin, forgive; but if not, blot me out of Thy book which Thou hast written." [2944] With what a father's and mother's [2945] fondness, yet with what assurance said he this, as he considered at once the justice and the mercy of God; that in that He is just, He would not destroy the righteous man; and that in that He is merciful, He would pardon the sinners.

25. It is now surely plain to your discernment, [2946] in what manner all such testimonies of the Scriptures are to be received; so that when Scripture says, that we must depart from the wicked, we are bid to understand this in no other sense, but that we depart in heart; lest by the separation from the good, we commit a greater evil than we shrink from in the union of the wicked, as these Donatists have done. But if they were truly good, and so had reproved the wicked, and not rather being themselves wicked, had defamed [2947] the good, they would for peace sake bear with any, be they who they might, seeing they have received the Maximianists [2948] as sound, whom they condemned before as lost. Undoubtedly the Prophet has said plainly, "Depart ye, go ye out from thence, and touch not the unclean thing." But that I may understand what he said, I pay attention to what he did. By his own deeds he explains his words. He said, "Depart ye." To whom did he say so? To the righteous of course. From whom did he bid them depart? From sinners and wicked men of course. I ask then, did he depart from such himself? I find that he did not. So then he understood it in another sense. For surely he would be the first to do what he enjoined. He departed from them in heart, he rebuked and reproved them. By keeping himself from consenting to them, he "did not touch the unclean thing;" but by rebuking them he "went out" free in the sight of God; and to him God neither imputeth his own sins, because he sinned not; nor the sins of others, because he approved them not; nor negligence, because he kept not silence; nor pride, because he continued in unity. So then, my Brethren, how many soever ye have among you, who are still weighed down by the love of the world, covetous, or perjured persons, adulterers, spectacle hunters, consulters of astrologers, of fanatics, of soothsayers, of augurs and diviners, drunkards, sensualists, whatever there is of bad that ye know ye have among you; show your disapprobation of it all as far as ye are able, that ye may in heart "depart;" and reprove them, that ye may "go out from them;" and consent not to them, that "ye touch not the unclean thing."

Footnotes

[2870] 2 Cor. xiii. 4. [2871] Rom. vi. 9. [2872] John xx. 29. [2873] John xx. 28. [2874] Matt. viii. 22. [2875] Eph. v. 14. [2876] Matt. xi. 15. [2877] John xiv. 8. [2878] John xiv. 9. [2879] John xiv. 10. [2880] Phil. ii. 6. [2881] Matt. v. 8. [2882] 2 Cor. v. 6. [2883] 1 Cor. xv. 22. [2884] Matt. ix. 12. [2885] Mark iii. 22. [2886] Matt. x. 25. [2887] Phil. ii. 8. [2888] Gal. iii. 13. [2889] Matt. xx. 32, 33. [2890] Rom. vi. 9. [2891] John x. 16. [2892] Matt. xv. 24. [2893] Mereretur. [2894] Matt. xv. 26-28. [2895] Matt. viii. 10, 8. [2896] Gen. xxii. 18. [2897] Gal. i. 22-24. [2898] Eph. ii. 14, 20. [2899] Ps. cxviii. 22. [2900] Secundum. [2901] Congruere. [2902] Gal. vi. 14. [2903] Ps. cxii. 9. [2904] Luke xii. 33. [2905] Luke vi. 30. [2906] Luke xix. 8. [2907] Nimius. [2908] Isa. xxix. 13; Matt. xv. 8. [2909] Obtritis. [2910] Studiosos. [2911] Dispensatione. [2912] Sacramentum. [2913] 2 Cor. v. 16. [2914] Tob. ii. 14. [2915] Tob. iv. 10. [2916] Temporalem. [2917] Obsequentur. [2918] Matt. xi. 28. [2919] Culpam. [2920] Eph. v. 11. [2921] 1 Cor. x. 12. [2922] Gal. vi. 1, 2. [2923] 2 Tim. ii. 24, etc. [2924] 1 Cor. xiii. 1-3. [2925] Eph. iv. 3. [2926] Matt. xiii. 24, etc. [2927] The occasion of the Donatist schism was a charge brought against Cecilianus, Bishop of Carthage, and Felix, Bishop of Aptunga, who had ordained him, of being traditors, that is, of having surrendered such copies of the Holy Scriptures as they had in their possession in times of persecution. [2928] Gen. xxvi. 4. [2929] Paucitatem. [2930] Matt. xiii. 30. [2931] Matt. xxiv. 12. [2932] Luke xviii. 8, Vulgate. [2933] Gen. iii. 19, Sept. [2934] Gen. xv. 5 and xxii. 17. [2935] Matt. viii. 11. [2936] Isa. lii. 11. [2937] Persona. [2938] Luke x. 11. [2939] Ezek. iii. 17. [2940] Ezek. iii. 19. [2941] Sacramenta. [2942] Exod. xxxii. [2943] Exod. xxxii. 10. [2944] Exod. xxxii. 32. [2945] Visceribus. [2946] Prudentiæ. [2947] By their false accusations against Cecilian of being a traditor, of which they were themselves convicted. Ep. 43 (162), etc. Aug. Serm. cxiv. (clxiv Ben). [2948] See Serm. xxi. (lxxi. Ben.) 4 (ii.), note. .


Sermon XXXIX.

[LXXXIX. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. xxi. 19, where Jesus dried up the fig-tree; and on the words, Luke xxiv. 28, where He made a pretence as though He would go further.

1. The lesson of the Holy Gospel which has just been read, has given us an alarming warning, lest we have leaves only, and have no fruit. That is, in few words, lest words be present and deeds be wanting. Very terrible! Who does not fear when in this lesson he sees with the eyes of the heart the withered tree, withered at that word being spoken to it, "Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever"? [2949] Let the fear work amendment, and the amendment bring forth fruit. For without doubt, the Lord Christ foresaw that a certain tree would deservedly become withered, because it would have leaves, and would have no fruit. That tree is the synagogue, not that which was called, but that which was reprobate. For out of it also was called the people of God, who in sincerity and truth waited in the Prophets for the salvation of God, Jesus Christ. And forasmuch as it waited in faith, it was thought worthy [2950] to know Him when He was present. For out of it came the Apostles, out of it came the whole multitude of those who went before the ass of the Lord, and said, "Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord." [2951] There was a great company then of believing Jews, a great company of those who believed in Christ before He shed His Blood for them. For it was not in vain that the Lord Himself had come to none "but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." [2952] But in others, after He was crucified, and was now exalted into heaven, He found the fruit of repentance; and these He did not make to wither, but cultivated them in His field, and watered them with His word. Of this number were those four thousand Jews who believed, after that the disciples and those who were with them, filled with the Holy Ghost, spake with the tongues of all nations, [2953] and in that diversity of tongues announced in a way beforehand, that the Church should be throughout all nations. They believed at that time, and "they were the lost sheep of the house of Israel;" but because "the Son of Man had come to seek and to save that which was lost," [2954] He found these also. But they lay hid here and there among thorns, as though wasted and dispersed by the wolves; and because they lay hid among thorns, He did not come to find them, save when torn by the thorns of His Passion; yet come He did, He found, He redeemed them. They had slain, not Him so much, as themselves. They were saved by Him who was slain for them. For, as the Apostles spake, they were pricked; [2955] they were pricked in conscience, who had pricked Him with the spear; and being pricked they sought for counsel, received it when it was given, repented, found grace, and believing drunk that Blood which in their fury they had shed. But they who have remained in this bad and barren race, even unto this day, and shall remain unto the end, were figured in that tree. You come to them at this day, and find with them all the writings of the Prophets. But these are but leaves; Christ is an hungred, and He seeketh for fruit; but findeth no fruit among them, because He doth not find Himself among them. For He hath no fruit, who hath not Christ. And he hath not Christ, who holdeth not to Christ's unity, who hath not charity. And so by this chain he hath no fruit who hath not charity. Hear the Apostle, "Now the fruit of the Spirit is charity;" so setting forth the praise of this cluster, that is, of this fruit; "The fruit of the Spirit," he says, "is charity, [2956] joy, peace, long-suffering." Do not wonder at what follows, when charity leads the way.

2. Accordingly, when the disciples marvelled at the withering of the tree, He set forth to them the value of faith, and said to them, "If ye have faith, and doubt not;" [2957] that is, if in all things ye have trust in God; and do not say, "God can do this, this He cannot do;" but rely on the omnipotence of the Almighty; "ye shall not only do this, but also if ye shall say to this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, it shall be done. And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." [2958] Now we read that miracles were wrought by the disciples, yea rather by the Lord through the disciples; for, "without Me," He says, "ye can do nothing." [2959] The Lord could do many things without the disciples, but the disciples nothing without the Lord. He who could make [2960] even the disciples themselves, was not certainly assisted by them to make them. We read then of the Apostles' miracles, but we nowhere read of a tree being withered by them, nor of a mountain removed into the sea. Let us enquire therefore where this was done. For the words of the Lord could not be without effect. If ye are thinking of "trees" and "mountains" in their ordinary and familiar sense, it has not been done. But if ye think of that tree of which He spake, and of that mountain of the Lord of which the Prophet said, "In the last days the mountain of the Lord's house shall be manifest;" [2961] if ye think of it, and understand it thus, it has been done, and done by the Apostles. The tree is the Jewish nation, but I say again, that part of it which was reprobate, not that which was called; that tree which we have spoken of is the Jewish nation. The mountain, as the prophetic testimony hath taught us, is the Lord Himself. The withered tree is the Jewish nation reft of the honour of Christ; the sea is this world with all the nations. Now see the Apostles speaking to this tree which was about to be withered away, and casting the mountain into the sea. In the Acts of the Apostles they speak to the Jews who gainsay and resist the word of truth, that is, who have leaves and have no fruit, and they say to them, "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye have put it from you" (for ye use the words of the Prophets, yet do not acknowledge Him whom the Prophets foretold, that is, ye have leaves only), "lo, we turn to the Gentiles." For this also was foretold by the Prophets; "Behold, I have given Thee for a light of the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth." [2962] See then, the tree hath withered away; and Christ hath been removed unto the Gentiles, the mountain into the sea. For how should not the tree wither away which is planted in that vineyard, of which it was said, "I will command my clouds that they rain no rain upon it"? [2963]

3. Now that in order to convey this truth the Lord acted prophetically, I mean that, as concerning this tree, it was not His will merely to exhibit a miracle, but that by the miracle He conveyed the intimation of something to come, there are many things which teach and persuade us, yea even against our wills force us to believe. In the first place, what fault in the tree was it that it had no fruit, when even if it had no fruit at the proper season, that is, the season of its fruit, it would not assuredly be any fault in the tree; for the tree as being without sense and reason could not be to blame. But to this is added, that as we read it in the narrative of the other Evangelist who expressly mentions this, "it was not the time for that fruit." [2964] For that was the time when the fig-tree shoots forth its tender leaves, which come, we know, before the fruit; and this we prove, because the day of the Lord's Passion was at hand, and we know at what time He suffered; and if we did not know it, we ought of course to give credit to the Evangelist who says, "The time of figs was not yet." So then if it was only a miracle that was to have been set forth, and not something to be prophetically figured, it would have been much more worthy of the clemency and mercy of the Lord, to have made green again any tree He might find withered; as He healed the sick, as He cleansed the lepers, as He raised the dead. But then contrariwise, as though against the ordinary rule of His clemency, He found a green tree, not yet bearing fruit out of its proper season, but still not refusing the hope of fruit to its dresser, and He withered it away; as though He would say to us, "I have no delight in the withering away of this tree, but thus I would convey to you, that I have not designed to do this without any cause for it, but only because I desired thereby to convey to you a lesson you might the more regard. It is not this tree that I have cursed, it is not on a tree without sense that I have inflicted punishment, but I have made thee fear, whosoever thou art that dost consider the matter, that thou mightest not despise Christ when He is an hungered, that thou mightest love rather to be enriched with fruit, than to be overshadowed by leaves."

4. This one thing is that which the Lord intimates that He designed to signify by what He did. What else is there? He cometh to the tree being hungry, and seeketh fruit. Did He not know that it was not the time for it? What the cultivator of the tree knew, did not its Creator know? He seeketh on the tree then for fruit which it had not yet. Doth He really seek for it, or rather make a pretence of seeking it? For if He really sought it, He was mistaken. But this be far from Him, to be mistaken! He made then a pretence of seeking it. Fearing to allow this, that he maketh a pretence, thou dost confess that He was mistaken. Again, thou dost turn away from the idea of His being mistaken, and so run into that of His making a pretence. We are parched up between the two. If we are parched, let us beg for rain, that we may grow green, lest in saying anything unworthy of the Lord, we rather wither away. The Evangelist indeed says, "He came to the tree, and found no fruit on it." [2965] "He found none," would not be said of Him, unless He had either really sought for it, or made a pretence of seeking, though He knew that there was none there. Wherefore we do not hesitate, let us by no means say that Christ was mistaken. What then? shall we say He made a pretence? Shall we say this? How shall we get out of this difficulty? Let us say what, if the Evangelist had not said of the Lord in another place, we should not of ourselves dare to say. Let us say what the Evangelist has written, and when we have said, let us understand it. But in order that we may understand it, let us first believe. For, "unless ye believe," says the Prophet, "ye shall not understand." [2966] The Lord Christ after His Resurrection, was walking in the way with two of His disciples, by whom He was not yet recognised, and with whom He joined company as a third traveller. They came to the place whither they were going, and the Evangelist says, "But He made a pretence as though He would have gone further." [2967] But they kept Him, saying, in the spirit of a courteous kindness, [2968] that it was already drawing toward evening, and praying Him to tarry there with them; being received and entertained by them, He breaketh Bread, and is known of them in blessing and breaking of the Bread. So then, let us not now fear to say, that He made a pretence of seeking, if He made a pretence of going further. But here there arises another question. Yesterday [2969] I insisted [2970] at some length on the truth which is in the Apostles; how then do we find any "pretence" in the Lord Himself? Therefore, Brethren, I must tell you, and teach you according to my poor abilities, which the Lord giveth me for your benefit, and must convey to you what ye may hold as a rule [2971] in the interpretation of all Scripture. Everything that is said or done is to be understood either in its literal signification, or else it signifies something figuratively; or at least contains both of these at once, both its own literal interpretation, [2972] and a figurative signification also. Thus I have set forth three things, examples of them must now be given; and from whence, but from the Holy Scriptures? It is said in its literal acceptation, that the Lord suffered, that He rose again, and ascended into heaven; that we shall rise again at the end of the world, that we shall reign with Him for ever, if we do not despise Him. Take all this as spoken literally, and look not out for figures; as it is expressed, so it really is. And so also with divers actions. The Apostle went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, the Apostle actually did this, it actually took place, it was an action peculiar to himself. It is a fact which he tells you; a simple fact according to its literal meaning. "The stone which the builders refused, is become the Head of the corner," [2973] is spoken in a figure. If we take "the stone" literally, what "stone did the builders refuse, which became the Head of the corner"? If we take "the stone" literally, of what corner is this "stone" become the Head? If we admit that it was figuratively expressed, and take it figuratively, the Corner-stone is Christ: the head of the corner, is the Head of the Church. Why is the Church the Corner? Because she has called the Jews from one side, and the Gentiles from another, and these two walls as it were coming from different quarters, and meeting together in one, she has bound together by the grace of her peace. For, "He is our peace, who hath made both one." [2974]

5. Ye have heard instances of a literal expression, and a literal action, and of a figurative expression; ye are waiting for an instance of a figurative action. There are many such, but meanwhile, as is suggested by this mention of the corner-stone, when Jacob anointed the stone which he had placed at his head as he slept, and in his sleep saw a mysterious [2975] dream, ladders rising from the earth to heaven, and Angels ascending and descending, and the Lord standing upon the ladder, [2976] he understood what it was designed to figure, and took the stone for a figure of Christ, to prove to us thereby that he was no stranger to the understanding of that vision and revelation. Do not wonder then that he anointed it, for Christ received His Name from "the anointing." Now this Jacob was said in the Scripture to be "a man without guile." [2977] And this Jacob ye know was called Israel. Accordingly in the Gospel, when the Lord saw Nathanael, He said, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile." And that Israelite not yet knowing who it was that talked with him, answered, "Whence knewest Thou me?" And the Lord said to him, "When thou wast under the fig-tree I saw thee;" [2978] as though he would say, When thou wast in the shadow of sin, I predestinated thee. And Nathanael, because he remembered that he had been under the fig-tree, where the Lord was not, acknowledged His Divinity, and answered, "Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel." He who had been under the fig-tree was not made a withered fig-tree; he acknowledged Christ. And the Lord said unto him, "Because I said, When thou wast under the fig-tree I saw thee, believest thou? thou shall see greater things than these." What are these "greater things"? "Verily I say unto you" (for he "is an Israelite in whom is no guile;" remember Jacob in whom was no guile; and recollect of what he is speaking, the stone at his head, the vision in his sleep, the ladder from earth to heaven, the Angels ascending and descending; and so see what it is that the Lord would say to "the Israelite without guile"); "Verily I say unto you, Ye shall see heaven opened" (hear, thou guileless Nathanael, what guileless Jacob saw); "ye shall see heaven opened, and Angels ascending and descending" (unto whom?) "unto the Son of Man." Therefore was He, as the Son of Man, anointed on the head; for "the head of the woman is the man, and the Head of the man is Christ." [2979] Now observe, He did not say, "ascending from the Son of Man, and descending to the Son of Man," as if He were only above; but "ascending and descending unto the Son of Man." Hear the Son of Man crying out from above, "Saul, Saul." Hear the Son of Man from below, "Why persecutest thou Me?" [2980]

6. Ye have heard an instance of a literal expression, as "that we shall rise again;" of a literal action, as that, according as it is said, "Paul went up to Jerusalem to see Peter." [2981] "The stone which the builders refused," is a figurative expression; "the anointed stone" which was at Jacob's head, is a figurative action. There is now due to your expectation an example made out of both together, something which is at once a literal fact, and which also signifies something else figured by it. "We know that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a free-woman;" [2982] this was literally a fact, not only a story, but a fact; are ye looking for that which was figured in it? "These are the two Testaments." That then which is spoken figuratively, is a sort of fiction. But since it has some real event represented by it, and the very figure itself has its ground of truth, it escapes all imputation of falsehood. "The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell by the way side, some fell upon stony places, some fell among thorns, and some fell upon good ground." [2983] Who went out "to sow," or when went he out, or upon what "thorns," or "stones" or "way side" or in what field did he sow? If we receive this as a fictitious story, we understand it in a figurative sense; it is fictitious. For if any sower really went out, and did cast the seed in these different places, as we have heard, it were no fiction, and so no falsehood. But now though it be a fiction, yet it is no falsehood. Why? Because the fiction has some further signification, it deceives thee not. It requires only one to understand it, and does not lead any one into error. And thus Christ wishing to convey this lesson to us, sought for fruit, and hereby set forth to us a figurative, and no deceiving fiction; a fiction therefore worthy of praise, not of blame; not one by the examination of which we might run into what was false; but by the diligent investigation of which we might discover what is true.

7. I see that one may say, Explain to me; what did that signify, that "He made a pretence of going further"? For if it had no further meaning, it is a deceit, a lie. We must then according to our rules of exposition, and distinctions, tell you what this "pretence of going further," signified; "He made a pretence of going further," and is kept back from going further. In so far then as the Lord Christ being as they supposed absent in respect of His Bodily presence, was thought to be really absent, He will as it were "go further." But hold Him fast by faith, hold Him fast at the breaking of Bread. What shall I say more? Have ye recognised Him? If so, then have ye found Christ. I must not speak [2984] any longer on this Sacrament. They who put off the knowledge of this Sacrament, Christ goeth further from them. Let them then hold It fast, let them not let Him go; let them invite Him to their home, and so they are invited to heaven.

Footnotes

[2949] Matt. xxi. 19. [2950] Meruit. [2951] Matt. xxi. 9. [2952] Matt. xv. 24. [2953] Acts ii. 4. [2954] Luke xix. 10. [2955] Acts ii. 37. [2956] Gal. v. 22. [2957] Matt. xxi. 21. [2958] Matt. xxi. 22. [2959] John xv. 5. [2960] The meaning of "facio" as "to do," and "to make," cannot be expressed in our language. [2961] Isa. ii. 2. [2962] Acts xiii. 46, etc.; Isa. xlix. 6. [2963] Isa. v. 6. [2964] Mark xi. 13. [2965] Matt. xxi. 19. [2966] Isa. vii. 9, Sept. [2967] Luke xxiv. 28. [2968] More humanitatis. [2969] Probably in that Sermon which is marked as next before this in Posidonius' Catalogue, ch. 9, namely, "From the Epistle to the Galatians, where Paul reproved Peter." Ben ed. note. [2970] Commendavimus. [2971] Regulariter. [2972] Cognitionem. [2973] Matt. xxi. 42; Ps. cxviii. 22. [2974] Eph. ii. 14. [2975] Magnum. [2976] Gen. xxviii. 11, etc. [2977] Gen. xxv. 27. [2978] John i. 47, etc. [2979] 1 Cor. xi. 3. [2980] Acts ix. 4. [2981] Gal. i. 18. [2982] Gal. iv. 22. [2983] Matt. xiii. 3, etc. [2984] See Serm. vi. (lvi. Ben.) 10 (vi.) note.


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