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 XL.

[XC. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. xxii. 2, etc., about the marriage of the king's son; against the Donatists, on charity. Delivered at Carthage in the Restituta. [2985]

1. All the faithful [2986] know the marriage of the king's son, and his feast, and the spreading [2987] of the Lord's Table is open to them all [2988] who will. But it is of importance to each one to see how he approaches, even when he is not forbidden to approach It. For the Holy Scriptures teach us that there are two feasts of the Lord; one to which the good and evil come, the other to which the evil come not. So then the feast, of which we have just now heard when the Gospel was being read, has both good and evil guests. All who excused themselves from this feast are evil; but not all those who entered in are good. You therefore who are the good guests at this feast do I address, who have in your minds the words, "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself." [2989] All you who are such do I address, that ye look not for the good without, that ye bear with the evil within.

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2. I do not doubt that ye wish to hear, Beloved, who they are of whom I have spoken in my address, that they should not look for the good without, and should bear with the evil within. If all within are evil, whom do I address? If all within are good, whom did I advise them to bear with being evil? Let me first then with the Lord's assistance get out of this difficulty as best I can. If you consider good perfectly and strictly [2990] speaking, none is good but God Alone. Ye have the Lord saying most plainly, "Why callest thou Me good? there is none Good but One, that is, God." [2991] How then can that marriage feast have good and bad guests, if "none is good but God Alone"? In the first place ye ought to know, that after a certain sort we are all evil. Yes, doubtless after a certain sort are we all evil; but after no sort are we all good. For can we compare ourselves with the Apostles, to whom the Lord Himself said, "If ye then being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children?" [2992] If we consider the Scriptures, there was but one evil one among the twelve Apostles, with reference to whom the Lord said in a certain place, "And ye are clean, but not all." [2993] But yet in addressing them all together, He said, "If ye being evil." Peter heard this, John heard this, Andrew heard this, all the rest of the eleven Apostles heard it. What did they hear? "If ye being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?" When they heard that they were evil, they were in despair; but when they heard that God in heaven was their Father, they revived. "Ye being evil;" what then is due to the evil, but punishment? "How much more shall your Father which is in heaven?" What is due to children but reward. In the name of "evil" is the dread of punishment; in the name of "children" is the hope of heirs.

3. According to a certain respect then they were evil, who after another respect were good. For to them to whom it is said, "Ye being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children;" is added immediately, "How much more shall your Father which is in heaven?" He is then the Father of the evil, but not of those who are to be left so; because He is the Physician of them who are to be cured. According to a certain sort then they were evil. And yet those guests of the Householder at the King's marriage, were not I suppose of that number of whom it was said, "they invited good and bad," [2994] that they should be reckoned among the number of the bad, who we have heard were shut out in his person who was found not to have a wedding garment. According to a certain respect, I repeat they were bad, who yet were good; and according to a certain respect they were good, who yet were bad. Hear John according to what respect they were bad: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." [2995] Behold after what respect they were bad: because they had sin. According to what respect were they good? "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." [2996] If then we should say, on the principle of this interpretation which ye have now heard me bring, as I think, out of the sacred Scriptures, viz. that the same men are both after a certain manner, good, and after a certain manner bad; if we should wish to receive according to this sense the words, "they invited good and bad," the same persons, that is, at once good and bad; if we should wish so to receive them, we are not permitted so to do, by reason of that one who was found "not having a wedding garment," and who was not merely "cast forth," so as to be deprived of that feast, but so as to be condemned in the punishment of everlasting darkness.

4. But one will say, What of one man? what strange, what great matter is it, if one among the crowd "not having a wedding garment" crept in unperceived to the servants of the Householder? Could it be said because of that one, "they invited good and bad"? Attend therefore, my Brethren, and understand. That one man represented one class; for they were many. Here some diligent hearer may answer me, and say, "I have no wish for you to tell me your guesses; I wish to have it proved to me that that one represented many." [2997] By the Lord's present help, I will prove it clearly; nor will I search far, that I may be able to prove it. God will assist me in His own words in this place, and will furnish you by my ministry with a plain proof of it. "The Master of the house came in to see the guests." [2998] See, my Brethren, the servants' business was only to invite and bring in the good and bad; see that it is not said, that the servants took notice of the guests, and found among them a man which had not on a wedding garment, and spoke to him. This is not written. The Master of the house saw him, the Master of the house discovered, the Master of the house inspected, the Master of the house separated him out. It was not right to pass over this. But I have undertaken to establish another point, how that that one signifies many. "The Master of the house" then "came in to see the guests, and He found there a man which had not on a wedding garment. And He saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless." [2999] For He who questioned him was One, to whom he could give no feigned reply. The garment that was looked for is in the heart, not on the body; for had it been put on externally, it could not have been concealed even from the servants. Where that wedding garment must be put on, hear in the words, "Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness." [3000] Of that garment the Apostle speaks, [3001] "If so be that we shall be found clothed, and not naked." [3002] Therefore was he discovered by the Lord, who escaped the notice of the servants. Being questioned, he is speechless: he is bound, cast out, and condemned one by many. I have said, Lord, that Thou teachest us that in this Thou dost give warning to all. Recollect then with me, my Brethren, the words which ye have heard, and ye will at once discover, at once determine, that that one was many. True it was one man whom the Lord questioned, to one He said, "Friend, how camest thou in hither?" It was one who was speechless, and of that same one was it said, "Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." [3003] Why? "For many are called, but few chosen." [3004] How can any one gainsay this manifestation of the truth? "Cast him," He saith, "into outer darkness." "Him," that one man assuredly, of whom the Lord saith, "for many are called, but few chosen." So then it is the few who are not cast out. He was it is true but one man "who had not the wedding garment. Cast him out." But why is he cast out? "For many are called, but few chosen." Leave alone the few, cast out the many. It is true, that man was but one. Yet undoubtedly that one not only was many, but those many in numbers far surpassed the number of the good. For the good are many also; but in comparison of the bad, they are few. In the crop there is much wheat; compare it with the chaff, and the grains of corn are few. The same persons considered in themselves are many, in comparison with the bad are few. How do we prove that in themselves they are many? "Many shall come from the East and from the West." Whither shall they come? To that feast, into which both good and bad enter. But speaking of another feast, He subjoined, "and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven." [3005] That is the feast to which the bad shall not approach. Be that feast which now is, received worthily, that we may attain to the other. The same then are many, who are also few; in themselves many; in comparison with the bad few. Therefore what saith the Lord? He found one, and said, "Let the many be cast out, the few remain." For to say, "many are called, but few chosen," is nothing else than to show plainly who in this present feast are accounted to be such, as to be brought to that other feast, where no bad men shall come.

5. What is it then? I would not that ye all who approach the Lord's Table which is in this life, should be with the many who are to be shut out, but with the few who are to be reserved. And how shall ye be able to attain to this? Take "the wedding garment." Ye will say, "Explain this `wedding garment' to us." Without a doubt, that is the garment which none but the good have, who are to be left at the feast, reserved unto that other feast to which no bad man approaches, who are to be brought safely thither by the grace of the Lord; these have "the wedding garment." Let us then, my Brethren, seek for those among the faithful who have something which bad men have not, and this will be "the wedding garment." If we speak of sacraments, ye see how that these are common to the bad and good. Is it Baptism? Without Baptism it is true no one attaineth to God; but not every one that hath Baptism attaineth to Him. I cannot therefore understand Baptism, the Sacrament itself that is, to be "the wedding garment;" for this garment I see in the good, I see in the bad. Peradventure it is the Altar, or That which is received at the Altar. But no; we see that many eat, and "eat and drink judgment to themselves." What is it then? Is it fasting? The wicked fast also. Is it running together to the Church? The wicked run thither also. Lastly, is it miracles? Not only do the good and bad perform them, but sometimes the good perform them not. See, among the ancient people Pharaoh's magicians wrought miracles, the Israelites did not; among the Israelites, Moses only and Aaron wrought them; the rest did not, but saw, and feared, and believed. [3006] Were the magicians of Pharaoh who did miracles, better men than the people of Israel who could not do them, and yet that people were the people of God. In the Church itself, hear the Apostle, "Are all prophets? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues?" [3007]

6. What is that "wedding garment" then? This is the wedding garment: "Now the end of the commandment," says the Apostle, "is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned." [3008] This is "the wedding garment." Not charity of any kind whatever; for very often they who are partakers together of an evil conscience seem to love one another. They who commit robberies together, who love the hurtful arts of sorceries, and the stage together, who join together in the shout of the chariot race, or the wild beast fight; these very often love one another; but in these there is no "charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned. The wedding garment" is such charity as this. "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of Angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, and a tinkling cymbal." [3009] Tongues have come in alone, and it is said to them, "How came ye in hither not having a wedding garment?" "Though," said he, "I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." See, these are the miracles of men who very often have not "the wedding garment." "Though," he says, "I have all these, and have not Christ, I am nothing." Is then "the gift of prophecy" nothing? is then "the knowledge of mysteries" [3010] nothing? It is not that these are nothing; but "I," if I have them, "and have not charity, am nothing." How many good things profit nothing without this one good thing! If then I have not charity, though I bestow alms freely upon the poor, though I have come to the confession of Christ's Name even unto blood and fire, these things may be done even through the love of glory, and so are vain. Because then they may be done even from the love of glory, and so be vain, and not through the rich charity of a godly affection, he names them all also in express terms, and do thou give ear to them; "though I distribute all my goods for the use of the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." [3011] This then is "the wedding garment." Question yourselves; if ye have it, ye may be without fear in the Feast of the Lord. In one and the same man there exist two things, charity and desire. Let charity be born in thee, if it be yet unborn, and if it be born, be it nourished, fostered, increased. But as to that desire, though in this life it cannot be utterly extinguished; "for if we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us;" [3012] but in so far as desire is in us, so far we are not without sin: let charity increase, desire decrease; that the one, that is, charity, may one day be perfected, and desire be consumed. Put on "the wedding garment:" you I address, who as yet have it not. Ye are already within, already do ye approach to the Feast, and still have ye not yet the garment to do honour to the Bridegroom; "Ye are yet seeking your own things, not the things which are Jesus Christ's." [3013] For "the wedding garment" is taken in honour of the union, the union, that is, of the Bridegroom to the Bride. Ye know the Bridegroom; it is Christ. Ye know the Bride; it is the Church. Pay honour [3014] to the Bride, pay honour to the Bridegroom. If ye pay due honour to them both, ye will be their children. Therefore in this make progress. Love the Lord, and so learn to love yourselves; that when by loving the Lord ye shall have loved yourselves, ye may securely love your neighbour as yourselves. For when I find a man that does not love himself, how shall I commit his neighbour whom he should love as himself to him? And who is there, you will say, who does not love himself? Who is there? See, "He that loveth iniquity hateth his own soul." [3015] Does he love himself, who loves his body, and hates his soul to his own hurt, to the hurt of both his body and soul? And who loves his own soul? He that loveth God with all his heart and with all his mind. To such an one I would at once entrust his neighbour. "Love your neighbour as yourselves."

7. One may say, "Who is my neighbour?" Every man is your neighbour. Had we not all the same two parents? Animals of every species are neighbours one to the other, the dove to the dove, the leopard to the leopard, the asp to the asp, the sheep to the sheep, and is not man neighbour to man? Call to mind the ordering of the creation. God spake, the waters brought forth swimming creatures, great whales, fish, birds, and such like things. Did all the birds come of one bird? Did all vultures come of one vulture? Did all doves come of one dove? Did all snakes come of one snake? or all gilt-heads of one gilt-head? [3016] or all sheep of one sheep? No, the earth assuredly brought forth all these kinds together. But when it came to man, the earth did not bring forth man. One father was made for us; not even two, father and mother: one father, I say, was made for us, not even two, father and mother; but out of the one father came the one mother; the one father came from none, but was made by God, and the one mother came out of him. Mark then the nature of our race: we flowed out of one fountain; and because that one was turned to bitterness, we all became from a good, a wild olive tree. And so grace came also. One begat us unto sin and death, yet as one race, yet as neighbours one to another, yet as not merely like, but related to each other. There came One against one; against the one who scattered, One who gathereth. Thus against the one who slayeth, is the One who maketh alive. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." [3017] Now as whosoever is born of the first, dieth; so whosoever believeth in Christ is made alive. Provided, that is, that he have "the wedding garment," and be invited as one who is to remain, and not to be cast out.

8. So then, my Brethren, have charity. I have explained it to be this garment, this "wedding garment." Faith is praised, it is plain, it is praised: but what kind of faith this is, the Apostle distinguishes. For certain who boasted of faith, and had not a good conversation, the Apostle James rebukes and says, "Thou believest there is one God, thou doest well; the devils also believe and tremble." [3018] Call to mind with me whereupon Peter was praised, whereupon called blessed. Was it because he said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God"? [3019] He who pronounced Him blessed, regarded not the sound of the words, but the affection of the heart. For would ye know that Peter's blessedness lay not in these words? The devils also said the same. "We know Thee who Thou art, the Son of God." [3020] Peter confessed Him to be "the Son of God;" the devils confessed Him to be "the Son of God." "Distinguish, my lord, distinguish between the two." I do make a plain distinction. Peter spake in love, the devils from fear. And again Peter says, "I am with Thee, even unto death." [3021] The devils say, "What have we to do with Thee?" So then thou who art come to the feast, glory not of faith only. Distinguish well the nature of this faith; and then in thee is recognised "the wedding garment." Let the Apostle make the distinction, let him teach us; "neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith." [3022] Tell us, what faith? do not even the devils believe and tremble? I will tell thee, he says, and listen, I will now draw the distinction, "But faith which worketh by love." What faith, then, and of what kind? "That which worketh by love." "Though I have all knowledge," he says, "and all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." Have faith with love; for love without faith ye cannot have. This I warn, this I exhort, this in the name of the Lord I teach you, Beloved, that ye have faith with love; for ye may possibly have faith without love. I do not exhort you to have faith, but love. For ye cannot have love without faith; the love I mean of God and your neighbour; whence can it come without faith? How doth he love God, who doth not believe on God? How doth the fool love God, "who saith in his heart, there is no God"? [3023] Possible it is that ye may believe that Christ hath come and not love Christ. But it is not possible that ye should love Christ, and yet say that Christ hath not come.

9. So then, have faith with love. This is the "wedding garment." Ye who love Christ, love one another, love your friends, love your enemies. Let not this be hard to you. What then do ye lose thereby, when ye gain so much? What? dost thou ask of God as some great favour, that thine enemy may die? This is not "the wedding garment." Turn thy thoughts to the Bridegroom Himself hanging upon the Cross for thee, and praying to His Father for His enemies; "Father," saith He, "forgive them, for they know not what they do." [3024] Thou hast seen the Bridegroom speaking thus; see too the friend of the Bridegroom, a guest "with the wedding garment." Look at the blessed Stephen, how he rebukes the Jews as though in rage and resentment, "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye have resisted the Holy Ghost. Which of the Prophets have not your fathers killed?" [3025] Thou hast heard how severe he is with his tongue. And at [3026] once thou art prepared to speak against any one; and I would it were against him who offendeth God, and not who offendeth thee. One offendeth God, and thou dost not rebuke him; he offendeth thee, and thou criest out; where is that "wedding garment"? Ye have heard therefore how Stephen was severe; now hear how he loved. He offended those whom he was rebuking, and was stoned by them. And as he was being overwhelmed and bruised to death by the hands of his furious persecutors on every side, and the blows of the stones, he first said, "Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit." [3027] Then after he had prayed for himself standing, he bent the knee for them who were stoning him, and said, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge; let me die in my body, but let not these die in their souls. And when he had said this, he fell asleep." [3028] After these words he added no more; he spake them and departed; his last prayer was for his enemies. Learn ye hereby to have "the wedding garment." So do thou too bend the knee, and beat thy forehead against the ground, and as thou art about to approach the Table of the Lord, the Feast of the Holy Scriptures, do not say, "O that mine enemy might die! Lord, if I have deserved ought of Thee, slay mine enemy." Because if so be that thou sayest so, dost thou not fear lest He should answer thee, "If I should choose to slay thine enemy, I should first slay thee. What! dost thou glory because thou hast now come invited hither? Think only what thou wast but a little while ago. Hast thou not blasphemed Me? hast thou not derided Me? didst thou not wish to wipe out My Name from off the earth? Yet now thou dost applaud thyself because thou hast come invited hither! If I had slain thee when thou wast Mine enemy, how could I have made thee My friend? Why, by thy wicked prayers dost thou teach Me to do, what I did not in thine own case?" Yea rather God saith to thee, "Let me teach thee to imitate Me. When I was hanging on the Cross, I said, `Forgive them, for they know not what they do.' [3029] This lesson I taught My brave soldier. Be thou My recruit against the devil. In no other way wilt thou fight at all unconquerably, unless thou dost pray for thine enemies. Yet by all means ask this, yea ask this very thing, ask that thou mayest persecute thine enemy; but ask it with discernment; distinguish well what thou askest. See, a man is thine enemy; answer me, what is it in him which is at enmity with thee? Is it in this, that he is a man, that he is at enmity with thee? No. What then? That he is evil. In that he is a man, in that he is that I made him, he is not at enmity with thee." He saith to thee, "I did not make man evil; he became evil by disobedience, who obeyed the devil [3030] rather than God. What he has made himself, is at enmity with thee; in that he is evil, he is thine enemy; not in that he is a man. For I hear the word "man," and "evil;" the one is the name of nature, the other of sin; the sin I cure; and the nature I preserve." And so thy God saith to thee, "See, I do avenge thee, I do slay thine enemy; I take away that which makes him evil, I preserve that which constitutes him a man: now if I shall have made him a good man, have I not slain thine enemy, and made him thy friend?" So ask on what thou art asking, not that the men may perish, but that these their enmities may perish. For if thou pray for this, that the man may die; it is the prayer of one wicked man against another; and when thou dost say, "Slay the wicked one," God answereth thee, "Which of you?"

10. Extend your love then, and limit it not to your wives and children. Such love is found even in beasts and sparrows. Ye know the sparrows and the swallows how they love their mates, how together they hatch their eggs, and nourish their young together, by a sort of free [3031] and natural kindliness, and with no thought of a return. For the sparrow does not say, "I will nourish my young, that when I am grown old, they may feed me." He has no such thought; he loves and feeds them, for the love of them; displays the affection of a parent, and looks for no return. And so, I know, I am sure, do ye love your children. "For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children." [3032] Yea upon this plea it is that many of you excuse your covetousness, that ye are getting for your children, and are laying by for them. [3033] But I say, extend your love, let this love grow; for to love wives and children, is not yet that "wedding garment." Have faith to Godward. First love God. Extend yourselves out to God; and whomsoever ye shall be able, draw on to God. There is thine enemy: let him be drawn to God. There is a son, a wife, a servant; let them be all drawn to God. There is a stranger; let him be drawn to God. There is an enemy; let him be drawn to God. Draw, draw on thine enemy; by drawing him on he shall cease to be thine enemy. So let charity be advanced, so be it nourished, that being nourished it may be perfected; so be "the wedding garment" put on; so be the image of God, after which we were created, by this our advancing, engraven anew in us. For by sin was it bruised, and worn away. How is it bruised? how worn away? When it is rubbed against the earth? And what is, "When it is rubbed against the earth"? When it is worn by earthly lusts. For "though man [3034] walketh in this image, yet is he disquieted in vain." [3035] Truth is looked for in God's image, not vanity. By the love of the truth then be that image, after which we were created, engraven anew, and His Own tribute rendered to our Cæsar. For so ye have heard from the Lord's answer, when the Jews tempted Him, as He said, "Why tempt ye Me, ye hypocrites; show Me the tribute money," [3036] that is, the impress and superscription of the image. Show me what ye pay, what ye get ready, what is exacted of you. And "they showed Him a denarius;" and "He asked whose image and superscription it had." They answered, "Cæsar's." So Cæsar looks for his own image. It is not Cæsar's will that what he ordered to be made should be lost to him, and it is not surely God's will that what He hath made should be lost to Him. Cæsar, my Brethren, did not make the money; the masters of the mint [3037] make it; the workmen have their orders, he issues his commands to his ministers. His image was stamped upon the money; on the money was Cæsar's image. And yet he requires what others have stamped; he puts it in his treasures; he will not have it refused him. Christ's coin is man. In him is Christ's image, in him Christ's Name, Christ's gifts, Christ's rules of duty. [3038]

Footnotes

[2985] The great Church in Carthage where the bodies of the Martyr Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas lay. See Ben. ed. in Sermon xix. note. [2986] Baptized fideles. [2987] Apparatus. [2988] Voluntati omnium. [2989] 1 Cor. xi. 29. [2990] Liquido. [2991] Matt. xix. 17. [2992] Matt. vii. 11. [2993] John xiii. 10. [2994] Matt. xxii. 10. [2995] 1 John i. 8. [2996] 1 John i. 9. [2997] Serm. xlv. (xcv. Ben.) 6. [2998] Matt. xxii. 11. [2999] Matt. xxii. 12. [3000] Ps. cxxxii. 9. [3001] See note, Serm. viii. (lviii. Ben.) 13 (xi.). [3002] 2 Cor. v. 3. [3003] Matt. xxii. 13. [3004] Matt. xxii. 14. [3005] Matt. viii. 11. [3006] Exod. vii. [3007] 1 Cor. xii. 29, etc. [3008] 1 Tim. i. 5. [3009] 1 Cor. xiii. 1. [3010] Sacramentorum. [3011] 1 Cor. xiii. 3. [3012] 1 John i. 8. [3013] Phil. ii. 21. [3014] Deferte. [3015] Ps. x. 5, Sept. (xi. 5, English version). [3016] Aurata. [3017] 1 Cor. xv. 22. [3018] Jas. ii. 19. [3019] Matt. xvi. 16. [3020] Matt. viii. 29; Mark i. 24. [3021] Matt. xxvi. 35. [3022] Gal. v. 6. [3023] Ps. liii. 1. [3024] Luke xxiii. 34. [3025] Acts vii. 51, 52. [3026] Adhuc. [3027] Acts vii. 59. [3028] Acts vii. 60. [3029] Luke xxiii. 34. [3030] Zabulo; Lactant. De Mort. Pers. 16. [3031] Grata. [3032] 2 Cor. xii. 14. [3033] Vid. Serm. xxxvi. (lxxxvi. Ben.) 11 (ix., x.). [3034] Serm. x. (lx. Ben.) 2, etc. [3035] Ps. xxxviii. 7, Sept. (xxxix. 6 English version). [3036] Matt. xxii. 18, 19. [3037] Monetarii. [3038] Officia. .


Sermon XLI.

[XCI. Ben.] On the words of the Gospel, Matt. xxii. 42, where the Lord asks the Jews whose son they said David was.

1. When the Jews were asked (as we have just now heard out of the Gospel when it was being read), how our Lord Jesus Christ, whom David himself called his Lord was David's Son, they were not able to answer. For what they saw in the Lord, that they knew. For He appeared to them as the Son of man; but as the Son of God He was hidden. Hence it was, that they believed that He could be overcome, and that they derided Him as He hung upon the Tree, saying, "If He be the Son of God, let Him come down from the Cross, and we will believe on Him." [3039] They saw one part of what He was, they knew not the other, "For had they known Him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." [3040] Yet they knew that the Christ was to be the Son of David. For even now they hope that He will come. They know not that He is come already, but this their ignorance is voluntary. For even if they did not acknowledge Him on the tree, they ought not to have failed to acknowledge Him on His Throne. For in whose Name are all nations called and blessed, but in His whom they think not to have been the Christ? For this Son of David, that is, "of the seed of David according to the flesh," is the Son of Abraham. Now if it was said to Abraham, "In thy seed shall all nations be blessed;" [3041] and they see now that in our Christ are all nations blessed, why wait they for what is already come, and fear not that which is yet to come? for our Lord Jesus Christ, making use of a prophetic testimony to assert His authority, called Himself "the Stone." Yea such a stone, "that whosoever shall stumble against it shall be shaken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it shall grind him to powder." [3042] For when this stone is stumbled against, it lieth low; by lying low, it "shaketh" him that stumbleth against it; being lifted on high, by its coming down it "grindeth" the proud "to powder." Already therefore are the Jews "shaken" by that stumbling; it yet remains that by His Glorious Advent they should be "ground to powder" also, unless peradventure whilst they are yet alive, they acknowledge Him that they die not. For God is patient, and inviteth them day by day to the Faith.

2. But when the Jews could not answer the Lord proposing a question, and asking "whose Son they said Christ was;" and they answered, "the Son of David;" [3043] He goes on with the further question put to them, "How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on My right hand till I make Thine enemies My footstool. If David then," He saith, "in spirit call Him Lord, how is He his Son?" [3044] He did not say, "He is not his Son, but how is He his son?" When he saith "How," it is a word not of negation, but of enquiry; as though He should say to them, "Ye say well indeed that Christ is David's Son, but David himself doth call Him Lord; whom he then calleth Lord, how is He his Son?" Had the Jews been instructed in the Christian faith, which we hold; had they not closed their hearts against the Gospel, had they wished to have spiritual life in them, they would, as instructed in the faith of the Church, have made answer to this question and said, "Because in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God:" [3045] see how He is David's Lord. But because "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us;" [3046] see how He is David's Son. But as being ignorant, they were silent, nor when they shut their mouths did they open their ears, that what they could not answer when questioned, they might after instruction know.

3. But seeing that is a great thing to know the mystery how He is David's Son and David's Lord: how one Person is both Man and God; how in the form of Man He is less than the Father, in the form of God equal with the Father; how again He saith, on the one hand, "The Father is greater than I;" [3047] and on the other, "I and My Father are one;" [3048] seeing this is a great mystery, [3049] our conduct must be fashioned, that it may be comprehended. For to the unworthy is it closed up, it is opened to those who are meet for it. It is not with stones, or clubs, or the fist, or the heel, that we knock unto the Lord. It is the life which knocks, it is to the life that it is opened. The seeking is with the heart, the asking is with the heart, the knocking is with the heart, the opening is to the heart. Now that heart which asks rightly, and knocks and seeks rightly, must be godly. Must first love God for His Own sake (for this is godliness); and not propose to itself any reward which it looks for from Him other than God Himself. For than Him is there nothing better. And what precious thing can he ask of God, in whose sight God Himself is lightly esteemed? He giveth earth, and thou rejoicest, thou lover of the earth, who art thyself become earth. If when He giveth earthly goods, thou dost rejoice, how much more oughtest thou to rejoice when He giveth thee Himself, who made heaven and earth? So then God must be loved for His own sake. For the Devil not knowing what was passing in the heart of holy Job, brought this as a great charge against him, saying, "Doth Job worship God for His Own sake." [3050]

4. So then if the adversary brought this charge, we ought to fear lest it be brought against us. For with a very slanderous accuser have we to deal. If he seek to invent what is not, how much more will he seek to object what really is. Nevertheless let us rejoice, that ours is such a Judge, as cannot be deceived by our accuser. For if we had a man for our judge, the enemy might invent for him what he would. For none is more subtle in invention than the devil. For he it is who at this time also invents all false accusations against the saints. He knows his accusations can have no avail with God, and so He scatters them among men. Yet what does this profit him, seeing the Apostle says, "Our glorying is this, the testimony of our conscience?" [3051] Yet think ye that he does not invent these false charges with aught of subtlety? Yes, well he knows what evil he shall work thereby, if the watchfulness of faith resist him not. For for this reason scatters he his evil charges against the good, that the weak may think that there are no good, and so may give themselves up to be hurried along, and made a prey of by their lusts, whilst they say within themselves, "For who is there that keeps the commandments of God, or who is there that preserves chastity?" and whilst he thinks that no one does, he himself becomes that no one. This then is the devil's art. But such a man was Job, that he could not invent any such charge against him; for his life was too well known and manifest. But because he had great riches, he brought that against him, which if it had any existence, might lie in the heart, and not appear in the conduct. He worshipped God, he gave alms; and with what heart he did this none knew, no not the Devil himself; but God had known. God giveth His testimony to His own servant; the Devil calumniates the servant of God. He is allowed to be tried, Job is proved, the Devil is confounded. Job is found to worship God for His Own sake, to love Him for His Own sake; not because He gave him ought, but because He did not take away Himself. For he said, "The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away; as it seemed good to the Lord, so is it done, blessed be the Name of the Lord." [3052] The fire of temptation approached him; but it found him gold, not stubble; it cleared away the dross from it, but did not reduce it to ashes.

5. Because then, in order to understand the mystery [3053] of God, how Christ is both man and God, the heart must be cleansed: and it is cleansed by a good conversation, by a pure life, [3054] by chastity, and sanctity, and love, and by "faith, which worketh by love" [3055] (now all this that I am speaking of, is, as it were, the tree which hath its root in the heart; for it is only from the root of the heart that actions proceed; in which if thou plant desire, thorns spring forth; if thou plant charity, good fruit): the Lord, after that question which He had proposed to the Jews, when they were not able to answer it, immediately went on to speak of good actions, that He might show why they were unworthy to understand what He asked them. For when those proud and wretched men were not able to answer, they ought of course to have said, "we do not know; Master, tell us." But no: they were speechless at the proposing of the question, and they opened not their mouth to seek instruction. And so the Lord in reference to their pride said immediately, "Beware of the Scribes which love the chief seats in the synagogues, and the first rooms at feasts." [3056] Not because they hold them, but because they love them. For in these words he accused their heart. Now none can accuse the heart, but He who can inspect it. For meet it is that to the servant of God, who holds some post of honour in the Church, the first place should be assigned; because if it were not given him, it were evil for him who refuses to give it; but yet it is no good to him to whom it is given. It is meet and right then that in the congregation of Christians their Prelates [3057] should sit in eminent place, that by their very seat they may be distinguished, and that their office may be duly marked; yet not so that they should be puffed up for their seat; but that they should esteem it a burden, for which they are to render an account. But who knows whether they love this, or do not love it? This is a matter of the heart, it can have no other judge but God. Now the Lord Himself warned His disciples, that they should not fall into this leaven; as He calls it in another place, "Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." [3058] And when they supposed that He said this to them because they had brought no bread; He answered them, "Have ye forgotten how many thousands were filled with the five loaves? Then understood they," it is said, "that He called their doctrine leaven." [3059] For these present temporal good things they loved, but they neither feared the evil things eternal, nor loved the good things eternal. And so their hearts being closed, they could not understand what the Lord asked them.

6. But what then has the Church of God to do, that it may be able to understand what it has first obtained [3060] grace to believe? It must make the mind capacious for receiving what shall be given it. And that this may be done, that the mind, that is, may be capacious, our Lord God suspends His promises, He has not taken them away. Therefore does He suspend them, that we may stretch out ourselves; and therefore do we stretch ourselves out, that we may grow; and therefore do we grow, that we may reach them. Behold the Apostle Paul stretching himself out unto these suspended promises: "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do; forgetting those things which are behind, and stretching forth unto those things which are before, I press earnestly toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." [3061] He was running on the earth; the prize hung suspended from heaven. He ran then on the earth; but in spirit he ascended. Behold him thus stretching himself out, behold him hanging forth after the suspended prize. "I press on," he says, "for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

7. We must journey on then, yet for this no need of anointing the feet, or looking out for beasts, or providing a vessel. Run with the heart's affection, journey on with love, ascend by charity. Why seekest thou for the way? Cleave unto Christ, who by Descending and Ascending hath made Himself the Way. Dost thou wish to ascend? Hold fast to Him that ascendeth. For by thine own self thou canst not rise. "For no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven." [3062] If no one ascendeth but He that descended, that is, the Son of Man, our Lord Jesus, dost thou wish to ascend also? Be then a member of Him who Only hath ascended. For He the Head, with all the members, is but One Man. And since no one can ascend, but he who in His Body is made a member of Him; that is fulfilled, "that no man hath ascended, but He that descended." For thou canst not say, "Lo, why hath Peter, for instance, ascended, why hath Paul ascended, why have the Apostles ascended, if no one hath ascended, but He that descended?" The answer to this is, "What do Peter, and Paul, and the rest of the Apostles, and all the faithful, what do they hear from the Apostle? `Now ye are the Body of Christ, and members in particular.' [3063] If then the Body of Christ and His members belong to One, do not thou make two of them. For He left `father and mother, and clave to his wife, that two might be one flesh.' [3064] He left His Father, in that here He did not show Himself as equal with the Father; but `emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant.' [3065] He left His mother also, the synagogue of which He was born after the flesh. He clave to His Wife, that is, to His Church. Now in the place where Christ Himself brought forward this testimony, He showed that the marriage bond might not be dissolved: `Have ye not read,' said He, `that God which made them at the beginning, made them male and female; and said, They twain shall be in one flesh? What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.' [3066] And what is the meaning of `They twain shall be in one flesh'? He goes on to say; `Wherefore they are no more twain but one flesh.' Thus `no man hath ascended, but He that descended.'" [3067]

8. For that ye may know, that the Bridegroom and the Bride are One according to the Flesh of Christ, not according to His Divinity (for according to His Divinity we cannot be what He is; seeing that He is the Creator, we the creature; He the Maker, we His work; He the Framer, we framed by Him; but in order that we might be one with Him in Him, He vouchsafed to be our Head, by taking of us flesh wherein to die for us); that ye may know then that this whole is One Christ, He said by Isaiah, "He hath bound a mitre on me as a bridegroom, and clothed me with ornaments as a bride." [3068] He is then at once the Bridegroom and the Bride. That is, the Bridegroom in Himself as the Head, the Bride in the body. "For they twain," saith He, "shall be in one flesh; so now they are no more twain, but one flesh."

9. Seeing then that we are of His members, in order that we may understand this mystery as I have said, Brethren, let us live holily, let us love God for His Own sake. Now He who showeth to us while in our pilgrimage the form of a servant, reserveth for those that reach their country the form of God. With the form of a servant hath He laid down the way, with the form of God He hath prepared the home. Seeing then that it is a hard matter for us to comprehend this, but no hard matter to believe it; for Isaiah says, "Unless ye believe ye shall not understand;" [3069] let us "walk by faith as long as we are in pilgrimage from the Lord, till we come to sight where we shall see face to face." [3070] As walking by faith, let us do good works. In these good works, let there be a free love of God for His Own sake, and an active [3071] love of our neighbour. For we have nothing we can do for God; but because we have something we may do for our neighbour, we shall by our good offices to the needy, gain His favour who is the source of all abundance. [3072] Let every one then do what he can for others; let him freely bestow upon the needy of his superfluity. One has money; let him feed the poor, let him clothe the naked, let him build a church, let him do with his money all the good he can. Another has good counsel; let him guide his neighbour, let him by the light of holiness drive away the darkness of doubting. Another has learning; let him draw out of this store of the Lord, let him minister food to his fellow-servants, strengthen the faithful, recall the wandering, seek the lost, do all the good he can. Something there is, which even the poor may deal out to one another; let one lend feet to the lame, another give his own eyes to guide the blind; another visit the sick, another bury the dead. These are things which all may do, so that in a word it would be hard to find one who has not some means of doing good to others. And last of all comes that important duty which the Apostle speaks of; "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so shall ye fulfil the law of Christ." [3073]

Footnotes

[3039] Matt. xxvii. 42. [3040] 1 Cor. ii. 8. [3041] Gen. xxii. 18. [3042] Ps. cxviii. 22; Luke xx. 17, 18. [3043] Matt. xxii. 42. [3044] Matt. xxii. 43-45. [3045] John i. 1. [3046] John i. 14. [3047] John xiv. 28. [3048] John x. 30. [3049] Sacramentum. [3050] Job i. 9. Gratis. [3051] 2 Cor. i. 12. [3052] Job i. 21, Sept. [3053] Sacramentum. [3054] Vita. [3055] Gal. v. 6. [3056] Matt. xxiii. 6; Mark xii. 39. [3057] Prepositi plebis. [3058] Matt. xvi. 6. [3059] Matt. xvi. 9, 12. [3060] Meruit. [3061] Phil. iii. 12, etc. [3062] John iii. 13. [3063] 1 Cor. xii. 27. [3064] Eph. v. 31. [3065] Phil. ii. 7. [3066] Matt. xix. 4, etc. [3067] John iii. 13. [3068] Isa. lxi. 10, Sept. [3069] Isa. vii. 9, Sept. [3070] 2 Cor. v. 6, 7. [3071] Benefica. [3072] Promerebimur abundantem. [3073] Gal. vi. 2. .


Sermon XLII.

[XCII. Ben.]

On the same words of the Gospel, Matt. xxii. 42

1. The question which was proposed to the Jews, Christians ought to solve. For the Lord Jesus Christ, who proposed it to the Jews, did not solve it Himself, to the Jews, I mean, He did not, but to us He hath solved it. I will put you in remembrance, Beloved, and ye will find that He hath solved it. But first consider the knot of the question. He asked the Jews what they "thought of Christ, whose Son He was to be;" for they too look for the Christ. They read of Him in the Prophets, they expected Him to come, when He was come they killed Him; for where they read that Christ would come, there did they read that they should kill Christ. But His future coming they hoped for in the Prophets; for they did not see their future crime. He therefore so questioned them about the Christ, not as if about One who was unknown to them, or whose Name they had never heard, or whose coming they had never hoped for. For they err in that even yet they hope for Him. And we indeed hope for Him too; but we hope for Him as One who is to come as Judge, not to be judged. For the Holy Prophets prophesied both, that He should come first to be judged unrighteously, that He should come afterwards to judge with righteousness. "What think ye," then, saith he, "of Christ? whose Son is He? They answered Him, The Son of David." [3074] And this was entirely according to the Scriptures. But He said, "How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto My Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool. If David then in spirit call Him Lord, how is He his Son?" [3075]

2. Here then is need of a caution, lest Christ be thought to have denied that He was the Son of David. He did not deny that He was the Son of David, but He enquired the way. "Ye have said that Christ is the Son of David, I do not deny it; but David calls Him Lord; tell me how is He his Son, who is also his Lord; tell me how?" They did not tell Him, but were silent. Let us then tell by the explanation of Christ Himself. Where? By His Apostle. But first, whereby do we prove that Christ hath Himself explained it? The Apostle says, "Would ye receive a proof of Christ who speaketh in me?" [3076] So then in the Apostle hath He vouchsafed to solve this question. In the first place, what said Christ speaking by the Apostle to Timothy? "Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my Gospel." [3077] See, Christ is the Son of David. How is He also David's Lord? Tell us, O Apostle: "who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." Acknowledge David's Lord. If thou acknowledge David's Lord, our Lord, the Lord of heaven and earth, the Lord of the Angels, equal with God, in the form of God, how is He David's Son? Mark what follows. The Apostle shows thee David's Lord by saying, "Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." And how is He David's Son? "But He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, having become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him." [3078] Christ "of the seed of David," the Son of David, rose again because "He emptied Himself." How did He "empty Himself"? By taking that which He was not, not by losing that which He was. He "emptied Himself," He "humbled himself." Though He was God, He appeared as man. He was despised as He walked on earth, He who made the heaven. He was despised as though a mere man, as though of no power. Yea, not despised only, but slain moreover. He was that stone that lay on the ground, the Jews stumbled against it, and were shaken. And what doth He Himself say? "Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be shaken, but on whomsoever it shall fall, it shall grind him to powder." [3079] First, He lay low, and they stumbled against Him; He shall come from above, and He will "grind" them that have been shaken "to powder."

3. Thus have ye heard that Christ is both David's Son, and David's Lord: David's Lord always, David's Son in time: David's Lord, born of the substance of His Father, David's Son, born of the Virgin Mary, conceived by the Holy Ghost. Let us hold fast both. The one of them will be our eternal habitation, the other is our deliverance from our present exile. For unless our Lord Jesus Christ had vouchsafed to become man, man had perished. He was made that which He made, that what He made might not perish. Very Man, Very God; God and man whole Christ. This is the Catholic faith. Whoso denieth that Christ is God is a Photinian; [3080] whoso denieth that Christ is man is a Manichæan. [3081] Whoso confesseth that Christ is God equal with the Father and very man, that He truly suffered, truly shed His blood (for the Truth would not have set us free, if He had given a false price for us); whoso confesseth both, is a Catholic. He hath the country, he hath the way. He hath the country, "In the beginning was the Word;" [3082] He hath the country, "Being in the form of God, He thought it not robbery to be equal with God." [3083] He hath the way, "The Word was made flesh;" [3084] He hath the way, "He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant." [3085] He is the home whither we are going, He is the way whereby we go. Let us by Him go unto Him, and we shall not go astray.

Footnotes

[3074] Matt. xxii. 42. [3075] Matt. xxii. 43-45. [3076] 2 Cor. xiii. 3. [3077] 2 Tim. ii. 8. [3078] Phil. ii. 6, etc. [3079] Matt. xxi. 44. [3080] Vinc. Lirinens. Commonit. xii.; Conf. vii. 26 (xx.), Oxf. transl, and note f. [3081] Conf. v. 16 (ix.), 20 (x.), 25 (xix.), vii. 25 (xix.), Oxf. trans. and note A, p. 325. De Dono Perseverant, c. 67 (xxiv.), Serm. lxvi. (cxvi. Ben.) 1-5 (i.-iv.), Epist. 236 (al. 74) 2. [3082] John i. 1. [3083] Phil. ii. 6. [3084] John i. 14. [3085] Phil. ii. 7. .


Sermon XLIII.

[XCIII. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. xxv. 1, "then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins."

1. Ye who were present yesterday remember my promise; which with the Lord's assistance is to be made good to-day, not to you only, but to the many others also who have come together. It is no easy question, who the ten virgins are, of whom five are wise, and five foolish. Nevertheless, according to the context of this passage which I have wished should be read again to you to-day, Beloved, I do not think, as far as the Lord vouchsafes to give me understanding, that this parable or similitude relates to those women only who by a peculiar and more excellent sanctity are called Virgins in the Church, whom by a more usual term we are wont also to call, "The Religious;" [3086] but if I mistake not this parable relates to the whole Church. [3087] But though we should understand it of those only who are called "the Religious," are they but ten? God forbid that so great a company of virgins should be reduced to so small a number! But perhaps one may say, "But what if though they be so many in outward profession, yet in truth they are so few, that scarce ten can be found!" It is not so. For if he had meant that the good virgins only should be understood by the ten, He would not have represented five foolish ones among them. For if this is the number of the virgins which are called, why are the doors of the great house shut against five?

2. So then let us understand, dearly Beloved, that this parable relates to us all, that is, to the whole Church together, not to the Clergy [3088] only of whom we spoke yesterday; nor to the laity only; but generally to all. Why then are the Virgins five and five? These five and five virgins are all Christian souls together. But that I may tell you what by the Lord's inspiration I think, it is not souls of every sort, but such souls as have the Catholic faith, and seem to have good works in the Church of God; and yet even of them, "five are wise, and five are foolish." First then let us see why they are called "five," and why "virgins," and then let us consider the rest. Every soul in the body is therefore denoted [3089] by the number five, because it makes use of five senses. For there is nothing of which we have perception by the body, but by the five folded gate, either by the sight, or the hearing, or the smelling, or the tasting, or the touching. Whoso then abstaineth from unlawful seeing, unlawful hearing, unlawful smelling, unlawful tasting, and unlawful touching, by reason of his uncorruptness [3090] hath gotten the name of virgin.

3. But if it be good to abstain from the unlawful excitements of the senses, and on that account every Christian soul has gotten the name of virgin; why are five admitted and five rejected? They are both virgins, and yet are rejected. It is not enough that they are virgins; and that they have lamps. They are virgins, by reason of abstinence from unlawful indulgence of the senses; they have lamps, by reason of good works. Of which good works the Lord saith, "Let your works shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." [3091] Again He saith to His disciples, "Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning." [3092] In the "girded loins" is virginity; in the "burning lamps" good works.

4. The title of virginity is not usually applied to married persons: yet even in them there is a virginity of faith, which produces wedded chastity. For that you may know, Holy Brethren, that every one, every soul, as touching the soul, and that uncorruptness of faith by which abstinence from things unlawful is practised, and by which good works are done, is not unsuitably called "a virgin;" the whole Church which consists of virgins, and boys, and married men and married women, is by one name called a Virgin. Whence prove we this? Hear the Apostle saying, not to the religious women only but to the whole Church together; "I have espoused you to One Husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." [3093] And because the devil, the corrupter of this virginity, is to be guarded against, after the Apostle had said, "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ;" he subjoined, "But I fear, lest as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." [3094] Few have virginity in the body; in the heart all ought to have it. If then abstinence from what is unlawful be good, whereby it has received the name of virginity, and good works are praiseworthy, which are signified by the lamps; why are five admitted and five rejected? If there be a virgin, and one who carries lamps, who yet is not admitted; where shall he see himself, who neither preserveth a virginity from things unlawful, and who not wishing to have good works walketh in darkness?

5. Of these then, my Brethren, yea, of these let us the rather treat. He who will not see what is evil, he who will not hear what is evil, he that turneth away his smell from the unlawful fumes, and his taste from the unlawful food of the sacrifices, he who refuseth the embrace of another man's wife, breaketh his bread to the hungry, bringeth the stranger into his house, clotheth the naked, reconcileth the litigious, visiteth the sick, burieth the dead; he surely is a virgin, surely he hath lamps. What seek we more? Something yet I seek. What seekest thou yet, one will say? Something yet I seek; the Holy Gospel hath set me on the search. It hath said that even of these, virgins, and carrying lamps, some are wise and some foolish. By what do we see this? By what make the distinction? By the oil. Some great, some exceedingly great thing doth this oil signify. Thinkest thou that it is not charity? This we say as searching out what it is; we hazard no precipitate judgment. I will tell you why charity seems to be signified by the oil. The Apostle says, "I show unto you a way above the rest." [3095] Though I speak with the tongues of men and of Angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." [3096] This, that is "charity," is "that way above the rest," which is with good reason signified by the oil. For oil swims above all liquids. Pour in water, and pour in oil upon it, the oil will swim above. Pour in oil, pour in water upon it, the oil will swim above. If you keep the usual order, it will be uppermost; [3097] if you change the order, it will be uppermost. "Charity never falleth." [3098]

6. What is it then, Brethren? Let us treat now of the five wise and the five foolish virgins. They wished to go to meet the Bridegroom. What is the meaning of "to go and meet the Bridegroom"? To go with the heart, to be waiting for his coming. But he tarried. "While he tarries, they all slept." What is "all"? Both the foolish and the wise, "all slumbered and slept." Think we is this sleep good? What is this sleep? Is it that at the tarrying of the Bridegroom, "because iniquity aboundeth, the love of many waxeth cold"? Are we to understand this sleep so? I like it not. I will tell you why. Because among them are the wise virgins; and certainly when the Lord said, "Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold;" He went on to say, "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." [3099] Where would ye have those wise virgins be? Are they not among those that "shall endure unto the end"? They would not be admitted within at all, Brethren, for any other reason, than because they have "endured unto the end." No coldness of love then crept over them, in them love did not wax cold; but preserves its glow even unto the end. And because it glows even unto the end, therefore are the gates of the Bridegroom opened to them; therefore are they told to enter in, as that excellent servant, "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." [3100] What then is the meaning of they "all slept"? [3101] There is another sleep which no one escapes. Remember ye not the Apostle saying, "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep," [3102] that is, concerning them which are dead? For why are they called "they which are asleep," but because they are in their own day? Therefore "they all slept." Thinkest thou that because one is wise, he has not therefore to die? Be the virgin foolish, or be she wise, all suffer equally the sleep of death.

7. But men continually say to themselves, "Lo, the day of judgment is coming now, so many evils are happening, so many tribulations thicken; behold all things which the Prophets have spoken, are well-nigh fulfilled; the day of judgment is already at hand." They who speak thus, and speak in faith, go out as it were with such thoughts to "meet the Bridegroom." But, lo! war upon war, tribulation upon tribulation, earthquake upon earthquake, famine upon famine, nation against nation, and still the Bridegroom comes not yet. Whilst then He is expected to come, all they who are saying, "Lo, He is coming, and the Day of Judgment will find us here," fall asleep. Whilst they are saying this, they fall asleep. Let each one then have an eye to this his sleep, and persevere even unto his sleep in love; let sleep find him so waiting. For suppose that he has fallen asleep. "Will not He who falls asleep afterwards rise again?" [3103] Therefore "they all slept;" both of the wise and the foolish virgins in the parable, it is said, "they all slept."

8. "Lo, at midnight there was a cry made." [3104] What is, "at midnight"? When there is no expectation, no belief at all of it. Night is put for ignorance. A man makes as it were a calculation with himself: "Lo, so many years have passed since Adam, and the six thousand years are being completed, and then immediately according to the computation of certain expositors, the Day of Judgment will come;" yet these calculations come and pass away, and still the coming of the Bridegroom is delayed, and the virgins who had gone to meet him sleep. And, lo, when He is not looked for, when men are saying, "The six thousand years were waited for, and, lo, they are gone by, how then shall we know when He will come?" He will come at midnight. What is, "will come at midnight"? Will come when thou art not aware. Why will He come when thou art not aware of it? Hear the Lord Himself, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Lord hath put in His own power." [3105] "The day of the Lord," says the Apostle, "will come as a thief in the night." [3106] Therefore watch thou by night that thou be not surprised by the thief. For the sleep of death--will ye, or nill ye--it will come.

9. "But when that cry was made at midnight." What cry was this, but that of which the Apostle says, "In the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump"? "For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed"? [3107] And so when the cry was made at midnight, "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh;" what follows? "Then all those virgins arose." What is, "they" all arose? "The hour will come," said the Lord Himself, "when all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth." [3108] Therefore at the last trumpet they all arose. "Now those wise virgins had brought oil with them in their vessels; but the foolish brought no oil with them." [3109] What is the meaning of "brought no oil with them in their vessels"? What is "in their vessels"? In their hearts. Whence the Apostle says, "Our glorying is this, the testimony of our conscience." [3110] There is the oil, the precious oil; this oil is of the gift of God. Men can put oil into their vessels, but they cannot create the olive. See, I have oil; but didst thou create the oil? It is of the gift of God. Thou hast oil. Carry it with thee. What is "carry it with thee"? Have it within, there please thou God.

10. For, lo, those "foolish virgins, who brought no oil with them," wish to please men by that abstinence of theirs whereby they are called virgins, and by their good works, when they seem to carry lamps. And if they wish to please men, and on that account do all these praiseworthy works, they do not carry oil with them. Do you then carry it with thee, carry it within where God seeth; there carry the testimony of thy conscience. For he who walks to gain the testimony of another, does not carry oil with him. If thou abstain from things unlawful, and doest good works to be praised of men; there is no oil within. And so when men begin to leave off their praises, the lamps fail. Observe then, Beloved, before those virgins slept, it is not said that their lamps were extinguished. The lamps of the wise virgins burned with an inward oil, with the assurance of a good conscience, with an inner glory, with an inmost charity. Yet the lamps of the foolish virgins burned also. Why burnt they then? Because there was yet no want of the praises of men. But after that they arose, that is in the resurrection from the dead, they began to trim their lamps, that is, began to prepare to render unto God an account of their works. And because there is then no one to praise, every man is wholly employed in his own cause, there is no one then who is not thinking of himself, therefore were there none to sell them oil; so their lamps began to fail, and the foolish betook themselves to the five wise, "give us of your oil, for our lamps are going out." [3111] They sought for what they had been wont to seek for, to shine that is with others' oil, to walk after others' praises. "Give us of your oil, for our lamps are going out."

11. But they say, "Not so, lest there be not enough for us and you, but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves." [3112] This was not the answer of those who give advice, but of those who mock. And why mock they? Because they were wise, because wisdom was in them. For they were not wise by ought of their own; but that wisdom was in them, of which it is written in a certain book, she shall say to those that despised her, when they have fallen upon the evils which she threatened them; "I will laugh over your destruction." [3113] What wonder then is it, that the wise mock the foolish virgins? And what is this mocking?

12. "Go ye to them that sell, and buy for yourselves:" [3114] ye who never were wont to live well, but because men praised you, who sold you oil. What means this, "sold you oil"? "Sold praises." Who sell praises, but flatterers? How much better had it been for you not to have acquiesced in flatterers, and to have carried oil within, and for a good conscience-sake to have done all good works; then might ye say, "The righteous shall correct me in mercy, and reprove me, but the oil of the sinner shall not fatten [3115] my head." [3116] Rather, he says, let the righteous correct me, let the righteous reprove me, let the righteous buffet me, let the righteous correct me, than the "oil of the sinner fatten mine head." What is the oil of the sinner, but the blandishments of the flatterer?

13. "Go ye" then "to them that sell," this have ye been accustomed to do. But we will not give to you. Why? "Lest there be not enough for us and you." What is, "lest there be not enough"? This was not spoken in any lack of hope, but in a sober and godly humility. For though the good man have a good conscience; how knows he, how He may judge who is deceived by no one? He hath a good conscience, no sins conceived in the heart solicit [3117] him, yet, though his conscience be good, because of the daily sins of human life, he saith to God, "forgive us our debts;" seeing he hath done what comes next, "as we also forgive our debtors." [3118] He hath broken his bread to the hungry from the heart, from the heart hath clothed the naked; out of that inward oil he hath done good works, and yet in that judgment even his good conscience trembleth.

14. See then what this, "Give us oil," is. They were told "Go ye rather to them that sell." In that ye have been used to live upon the praises of men, ye do not carry oil with you; but we can give you none; "lest there be not enough for us and you." For scarcely do we judge of ourselves, how much less can we judge of you? What is "scarcely do we judge of ourselves"? Because, "When the righteous King sitteth on the throne, who will glory that his heart is pure?" [3119] It may be thou dost not discover anything in thine own conscience; but He who seeth better, whose Divine glance penetrateth into deeper things, discovereth it may be something, He seeth it may be something, He discovereth something. How much better mayest thou say to Him, "Enter not into judgment with Thy servant"? [3120] Yea, how much better, "Forgive us our debts"? Because it shall be also said to thee because of those torches, because of those lamps; "I was hungry, and ye gave Me meat." What then? did not the foolish virgins do so too? Yea, but they did it not before Him. How then did they do it? As the Lord forbiddeth, who said, "Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men to be seen of them, otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven: and when ye pray, be not as the hypocrites, for they love to pray, standing in the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have received their reward." [3121] They have bought oil, they have given the price; they have bought it, they have not been defrauded of men's praises, they have sought men's praises, and have had them. These praises of men aid them not in the judgment day. But the other virgins, how have they done? "Let your works shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." [3122] He did not say, "may glorify you." For thou hast no oil of thine own self. Boast thyself and say, I have it; but from Him, "for what hast thou that thou hast not received?" [3123] So then in this way acted the one, and in that the other.

15. Now it is no wonder, that "while they are going to buy," while they are seeking for persons by whom to be praised, and find none; while they are seeking for persons by whom to be comforted, and find none; that the door is opened, that "the Bridegroom cometh," [3124] and the Bride, the Church, glorified then with Christ, that the several members may be gathered together into their whole. "And they went in with Him into the marriage, and the door was shut." Then the foolish virgins came afterwards; but had they bought any oil, or found any from whom they might buy it? Therefore they found the doors shut; they began to knock, but too late.

16. It is said, and it is true, and no deceiving saying, "Knock, and it shall be opened unto you;" [3125] but now when it is the time of mercy, not when it is the time of judgment. For these times cannot be confounded, since the Church sings to her Lord of "mercy and judgment." [3126] It is the time of mercy; repent. Canst thou repent in the time of judgment? Thou wilt be then as those virgins, against whom the door was shut. "Lord, Lord, open to us." What! did they not repent, that they had brought no oil with them? Yes, but what profiteth them their late repentance, when the true wisdom mocked them? Therefore "the door was shut." And what was said to them? "I know you not." Did not He know them, who knoweth all things? What then is, "I know you not?" [3127] I refuse, I reject you. In my art I do not acknowledge you, my art knoweth not vice; now this is a marvellous thing, it doth not know vice, and it judgeth vice. It doth not know it in the practice of it; it judgeth by reproving it. Thus then, "I know you not."

17. The five wise virgins came, and "went in." How many are ye, my Brethren, in the profession of Christ's Name! let there be among you the five wise, but be not five such persons only. Let there be among you the five wise, belonging to this wisdom of the number five. For the hour will come, and come when we know not. It will come at midnight, Watch ye. Thus did the Gospel close; "Watch, for ye know neither the day nor the hour." [3128] But if we are all to sleep, how shall we watch? Watch with the heart, watch with faith, watch with hope, watch with charity, watch with good works; and then, when thou shalt sleep in thy body, the time will come that thou shalt rise. And when thou shalt have risen, make ready the lamps. Then shall they go out no more, then shall they be renewed [3129] with the inner oil of conscience; then shall that Bridegroom fold thee in His spiritual [3130] embrace, then shall He bring thee into His House where thou shall never sleep, where thy lamp can never be extinguished. But at present we are in labour, and our lamps flicker [3131] amid the winds and temptations of this life; but only let our flame burn strongly, that the wind of temptation may increase the fire, rather than put it out.

Footnotes

[3086] Sancti moniales. [3087] Bing. Antiq. B, vii. c. iv. sect. 8. [3088] Præpositos. [3089] Censetur. [3090] Integritatem. [3091] Matt. v. 16. [3092] Luke xii. 35. [3093] 2 Cor. xi. 2. [3094] 2 Cor. xi. 3. [3095] Supereminentiorem. 1 Cor. xii. 31. [3096] 1 Cor. xiii. 1. [3097] Vincit. [3098] 1 Cor. xiii. 8. Cadit. [3099] Matt. xxiv. 12, 13. [3100] Matt. xxv. 21. [3101] Matt. xxv. 5. [3102] 1 Thess. iv. 13. [3103] Ps. xl. 9, Sept. (xli. 8, English version). [3104] Matt. xxv. 6. [3105] Acts i. 7. [3106] 1 Thess. v. 2. [3107] 1 Cor. xv. 52. [3108] John v. 28, 29. [3109] Matt. xxv. 4, 3. [3110] 2 Cor. i. 12. [3111] Matt. xxv. 8. [3112] Matt. xxv. 9. [3113] Prov. i. 26. [3114] Matt. xxv. 9. [3115] Impinguabit. [3116] Ps. cxl. 5, Sept. (cxli. English version). [3117] Titillant. [3118] Matt. vi. 12. [3119] Prov. xx. 8, 9, Sept. [3120] Ps. cxliii. 2. [3121] Matt. vi. 1, etc. [3122] Matt. v. 16. [3123] 1 Cor. iv. 7. [3124] Matt. xxv. 10. [3125] Matt. vii. 7. [3126] Ps. ci. 1. [3127] Matt. xxv. 12. [3128] Matt. xxv. 13. [3129] Vegetentur. [3130] Incorporeis. [3131] Fluctuant. .


Sermon XLIV.

[XCIV. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Matt. xxv. 24, etc., where the slothful servant who would not put out the talent he had received, is condemned.

1. My lords, my brethren, and fellow bishops have deigned to visit us and gladden us by their presence; but I know not why they are unwilling to assist me, when wearied. I have said this to you, Beloved, in their hearing, that your hearing may in a manner intercede for me with them, that when I ask them they also may discourse unto you in their turn. Let them dispense what they have received, let them vouchsafe to work rather than excuse themselves. Be pleased, however, to hear from me, fatigued though I be and have difficulty in speaking, a few words only. For we have besides a record of God's mercies vouchsafed through a holy Martyr, which we must give willing audience to altogether. [3132] What is it then? what shall I say unto you? Ye have heard in the Gospel both the due recompense [3133] of the good servants, and the punishment of the bad. And the whole wickedness of that servant who was reprobate and severely condemned, was that he would not put out his money to use. He kept the entire sum he had received; but the Lord looked for profit from it. God is coveteous with regard to our salvation. If he who did not put out to use is so condemned, what must they look for who lose what they have received? We then are the dispensers, we put out, ye receive. We look for profit; do ye live well. For this is the profit in our dealings with you. But do not think that this office of putting out to use does not belong to you also. Ye cannot execute it indeed from this elevated seat, but ye can wherever ye chance to be. Wherever Christ is attacked, defend Him; answer murmurers, rebuke blasphemers, from their fellowship keep yourselves apart. So do ye put out to use, if ye make gain of any. Discharge our office in your own houses. A bishop is called from hence, because he superintends, because he takes care and attends to others. To every man then, if he is the head of his own house, ought the office of the Episcopate to belong, to take care how his household believe, that none of them fall into heresy, neither wife, nor son, nor daughter, nor even his slave, because he has been bought at so great a price. The Apostolic teaching has set the master over the slave, and put the slave under the master; [3134] nevertheless Christ gave the same price for both. Do not neglect then the least of those belonging to you, look after the salvation of all your household with all vigilance. This if ye do, ye put out to use; ye will not be slothful servants, ye will not have to fear so horrible a condemnation.

Footnotes

[3132] Vid. Serm. xxix. (lxxix. Ben.). [3133] Meritum. [3134] Eph. vi. 5; Tit. ii. 9. .


Sermon XLV.

[XCV. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Mark viii. 5, etc., where the miracle of the seven loaves is related.

1. In expounding to you the Holy Scriptures, I as it were break bread for you. Do ye in hunger receive it, and break [3135] forth with a fulness of phrase from the heart; and ye who are rich in your banquet, be not meagre in good works and deeds. What I deal out to you is not mine own. What ye eat, I eat; what ye live upon, I live upon. We have in heaven a common store-house; for from thence comes the Word of God.

2. The "seven loaves" [3136] signify the seven-fold operation of the Holy Spirit; the "four thousand men," the Church established on the four Gospels; "the seven baskets of fragments," the perfection of the Church. For by this number very constantly is perfection figured. For whence is that which is said, "seven times in a day will I praise thee"? [3137] Does a man sin who does not praise the Lord so often? What then is "seven times will I praise," but "I will never cease from praise"? For he who says "seven times," signifies all time. Whence in this world there are continual revolutions of seven days. What then is "seven times in a day will I praise Thee," but what is said in another place, "His praise shall always be in my mouth"? [3138] With reference to this perfection, John writes to seven Churches. The Apocalypse is a book of St. John the Evangelist; and he writes "to seven Churches." [3139] Be ye hungered; [3140] own ye these baskets. For those fragments were not lost; but seeing that ye too belong to the Church, they have surely profited you. In that I explain this to you, I minister to Christ; and when ye hear peaceably, ye "sit down." [3141] I in my body sit, but in my heart I am standing, and ministering to you in anxiety; lest peradventure, not the food, but the vessel offend any of you. Ye know the feast of God, ye have often heard it, that it is for the heart, not for the belly.

3. Of a truth four thousand men were filled by seven loaves; what is more wonderful than this! Yet even this were not enough, had not seven baskets also been filled with the fragments that remained. O great mysteries! they were works, and the works spake. If thou understand these doings, they are words. And ye too belong to the four thousand, because ye live under the fourfold Gospel. To this number the children and women did not belong. For so it is said, "And they that did eat were four thousand men, excepting women and children." [3142] As though the void of understanding, and the effeminate were without number. Yet let even these eat. Let them eat: it may be the children will grow, and will be children no more; it may be the effeminate will be amended, and become chaste. Let them eat; we dispense, we deal out to them. But who these are, God inspecteth His feast, and if they do not amend themselves, He who knew how to invite them thither, knoweth also how to separate them from the rest.

4. Ye know it, dearly Beloved; call to mind the parable of the Gospel, how that the Lord came in to inspect the guests at a certain feast of His. The Master of the house who had invited them, as it is written, "found there a man which had not on a wedding garment." [3143] For to the marriage had that Bridegroom invited them who is "fair in beauty above the children of men." That Bridegroom became deformed because of His deformed spouse, that he might make her fair. How did the Fair One become deformed? If I do not prove it, I am blaspheming. The testimony of his fair beauty the Prophet gives me, who saith, "Thou art fair in beauty above the children of men." [3144] The testimony of his deformity another Prophet gives me, who saith, "We saw Him, and He had no grace, nor beauty; but His countenance was marred, and His whole look [3145] deformed." [3146] O Prophet, who saidst, "Thou art fair in beauty above the children of men;" thou art contradicted; another Prophet cometh out against thee, and saith, "Thou speakest falsely. We have seen Him. What is this that thou sayest, `Thou art fair in beauty above the children of men? We have seen Him, and He had no grace nor beauty.'" Are then these two Prophets at disagreement in the Corner-stone of peace? Both spake of Christ, both spake of the Cornerstone. In the corner the walls unite. If they do not unite, it is not a building, but a ruin. No, the Prophets agree, let us not leave them in strife. Yea, rather let us understand their peace; for they know not how to strive. O Prophet, who saidst, "Thou art fair in beauty above the children of men;" where didst thou see Him? Answer me, answer where didst thou see Him? "Being in the form of God, He thought it not robbery to be equal with God." [3147] There I saw Him. Dost thou doubt that He who is "equal with God" is "fair in beauty above the children of men"? Thou hast answered; now let him answer who said, "We saw Him, and He had no grace, nor beauty." Thou hast said so; tell us where didst thou see Him? He begins from the other's words; where the other ended, there he begins. Where did he end? "Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." Lo, where he saw Him who was "fair in beauty above the children of men;" do thou tell us,where thou sawest that "He had no grace nor beauty. But He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and found in fashion as a man." [3148] Of His deformity he still further says; "He humbled Himself, having become obedient unto death even the death of the cross." Lo, where I saw Him. Therefore are they both in peaceful concord, both are at peace together. What is more "fair" than God? What more "deformed" than the Crucified?

5. So then this Bridegroom, "fair in beauty above the children of men," became deformed that He might make His Spouse fair to whom it is said, "O thou beauteous among women," [3149] of whom it is said, "Who is this that cometh up, whitened" [3150] with the brightness of light, not the colouring of falsehood! He then who called them to the wedding, found a man who had not a wedding garment, and He said unto him, "Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless." For he found not what to answer. And the Master of the house Who had invited him said, "Bind him hands and feet, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." [3151] For so small a fault, so great a punishment? For great it is. It is called a small fault not to have "the wedding garment;" small, but only by those who do not understand. How would He have been so incensed, how would He have so judged, to cast him, on account of the wedding garment which he had not, "bound hands and feet into outer darkness, where was weeping and gnashing of teeth," unless it had been a very grievous fault, not to have "the wedding garment"? I say this; seeing ye have been invited through me; for though He invited you, He invited you by my ministry. Ye are all at the feast, have the wedding garment. I will explain what it is, that ye may all have it, and if any one now hears me who has it not, let him, before the Master of the house comes and inspects His guests, be changed for the better, let him receive "the wedding garment," and so sit down in all assurance.

6. For in truth, dearly Beloved, he who was cast forth from the feast, does not signify one man; far from it. They are many. And the Lord Himself who put forth this parable, the Bridegroom Himself, who calleth together to the feast, and quickeneth whom He calleth, He hath Himself explained to us, that that man does not denote one man, but many, there, in that very place, in the same parable. I do not go far for this, I find the explanation there, there I break the bread, and set it before you to be eaten. For He said, when he who had not "the wedding garment was cast out thence into outer darkness," He said and added immediately, "for many are called, but few chosen." [3152] Thou hast cast forth one man from hence, and Thou sayest, "for many are called, but few chosen." Without doubt the chosen are not cast forth; and they were the few guests who remained; and the "many" were represented in that one, because that one who hath not "the wedding garment" is the body of the wicked.

7. What is "the wedding garment"? Let us search for it in the Holy Scriptures. What is "the wedding garment"? Without doubt it is something which the bad and good have not in common; let us discover this, and we shall discover "the wedding garment." Among the gifts of God, what have not the good and bad in common? [3153] That we are men and not beasts, is a gift of God; but this is common to good and bad. That the light from heaven rises upon us, that the rain descends from the cloud, the fountains flow, the fields yield their fruit; these are gifts, but common to the good and bad. Let us go to the marriage feast, let us leave the others without, who being called come not. Let us consider the guests themselves, that is, Christians. Baptism is a gift of God, the good and bad have it. The Sacraments of the Altar the good and bad receive together. Saul prophesied for all his wickedness, and in his rage against a holy and most righteous man, even while he was persecuting him, he prophesied. Are the good only said to believe? "The devils also believe and tremble." [3154] What shall I do? I have sifted all, and have not yet come to "the wedding garment." I have unfolded my envelopings, I have considered all, or almost all, and have not yet come to that garment. The Apostle Paul in a certain place has brought me a great collection [3155] of excellent things; he has laid them open before me, and I have said to him, "Show me, if so be thou hast found among them that `wedding garment.'" He begins to unfold them one by one, and to say, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of Angels, though I have all knowledge, and the gift of prophecy, and all faith, so that I could remove mountains; though I distribute all my goods to the poor, and give my body to be burned." [3156] Precious garments! nevertheless, there is not yet here that "wedding garment." Now bring out to us "the wedding garment." Why dost thou keep us in suspense, O Apostle? Peradventure prophecy is a gift of God which both good and bad have not. "If," says He, "I have not charity, nothing profiteth me." See "the wedding garment;" put it on, ye guests, that ye may sit down securely. Do not say; "we are too poor to have that garment." Clothe others, and ye are clothed yourselves. It is winter, clothe the naked. Christ is naked; and He will give you that "wedding garment" whosoever have it not. Run to Him, beseech Him; He knoweth how to sanctify His faithful ones, He knoweth how to clothe His naked ones. That ye may be able as having "the wedding garment" to be free from the fear of the outer darkness, and the binding of your members and hands and feet; let not your works fail. If they fail, with hands bound what canst thou do? with feet bound, whither wilt thou fly? Keep then that "wedding garment," put it on, and so sit down in security, when He comes to inspect. The Day of Judgment will come; He is now giving a long space, let him who erewhile was naked now be clothed.

Footnotes

[3135] Saginam laudis eructuate. [3136] Mark viii. 6. [3137] Ps. cxix. 164. [3138] Ps. xxxiv. 1. [3139] Rev. i. 4. [3140] Voraces, Edd. ant.; veraces, B from 1Ms. 2da manu. [3141] Mark viii. 6. [3142] Matt. xv. 38. [3143] Matt. xxii. 11. [3144] Ps. xliv. 3 (xlv. 2, English version). [3145] Positio. [3146] Isa. liii. 2, Sept. [3147] Phil. ii. 6. [3148] Phil. ii. 7, 8. [3149] Cant. i. 8. [3150] Cant. viii. 5, Sept. Dealbata, "not as women whiten themselves, who would appear what they are not; not as a whitened wall,--not thus whitened, but enlightened, because not of itself white.--Grace came illumining and whitening; first thou wert black, but hast been made white by His grace. For ye were darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord." St. Aug. In Ps. 103, s. 1, § 6. [3151] Matt. xxii. 12, etc. [3152] Matt. xxii. 14. [3153] Vid. Serm. xl. (xc. Ben.) 5, etc. [3154] Jas. ii. 19. [3155] Involucrum. [3156] 1 Cor. xiii. 1, etc. .


Sermon XLVI.

[XCVI. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Mark viii. 34, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself," etc. And on the words 1 John ii. 15, "if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

1. Hard and grievous does that appear which the Lord hath enjoined, that "whosoever will come after Him, must deny himself." [3157] But what He enjoineth is not hard or grievous, who aideth us that what He enjoineth may be done. For both is that true which is said to Him in the Psalm, "Because of the words of Thy lips I have kept hard ways." [3158] And that is true which He said Himself, "My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." [3159] For whatsoever is hard in what is enjoined us, charity makes easy. We know what great things love itself can do. Very often is this love even abominable and impure; but how great hardships have men suffered, what indignities and intolerable things have they endured, to attain to the object of their love? whether it be a lover of money who is called covetous; or a lover of honour, who is called ambitious; or a lover of beautiful women, who is called voluptuous. And who could enumerate all sorts of loves? Yet consider what labour all lovers undergo, and are not conscious of their labours; and then does any such one most feel labour, when he is hindered from labour. Since then the majority of men are such as their loves are, and that there ought to be no other care for the regulation of our lives, than the choice of that which we ought to love; why dost thou wonder, if he who loves Christ, and who wishes to follow Christ, for the love of Him denies himself? For if by loving himself man is lost, surely by denying himself he is found.

2. The first destruction of man, was the love of himself. For if he had not loved himself, if he had preferred God to himself, he would have been willing to be ever subject unto God; and would not have been turned to the neglect of His will, and the doing his own will. For this is to love one's self, to wish to do one's own will. Prefer to this God's will; learn to love thyself by not loving thyself. For that ye may know that it is a vice to love one's self, the Apostle speaks thus, "For men shall be lovers of their own selves." [3160] And can he who loves himself have any sure trust in himself? No; for he begins to love himself by forsaking God, and is driven away from himself to love those things which are beyond himself; to such a degree that when the aforesaid Apostle had said," Men shall be lovers of their own selves," he subjoined immediately, "lovers of money." Already thou seest that thou art without. Thou hast begun to love thyself: stand in thyself if thou canst. Why goest thou without? Hast thou, as being rich in money, become a lover of money? Thou hast begun to love what is without thee, thou hast lost thyself. When a man's love then goes even away from himself to those things which are without, he begins to share the vanity of his vain desires, and prodigal as it were to spend his strength. He is dissipated, exhausted, without resource or strength, he feeds swine; and wearied with this office of feeding swine, he at last remembers what he was, and says, "How many hired servants of my Father's are eating bread, and I here perish with hunger!" [3161] But when the son in the parable says this, what is said of him, who had squandered all he had on harlots, who wished to have in his own power what was being well kept for him with his father; he wished to have it at his own disposal, he squandered all, he was reduced to indigence: what is said of him? "And when he returned to himself." If "he returned to himself," he had gone away from himself. Because he had fallen from himself, had gone away from himself, he returns first to himself, that he may return to that state from which he had fallen away by falling from himself. For as by falling away from himself, he remained in himself; so by returning to himself, he ought not to remain in himself, lest he again go away from himself. Returning then to himself, that he might not remain in himself, what did he say? "I will arise and go to my Father." [3162] See, whence he had fallen away from himself, he had fallen away from his Father; he had fallen away from himself, he had gone away from himself to those things which are without. He returns to himself, and goes to his Father, where he may keep himself in all security. If then he had gone away from himself, let him also in returning to himself, from whom he had gone away, that he may "go to his Father," deny himself. What is "deny himself"? Let him not trust in himself, let him feel that he is a man, and have respect to the words of the prophet, "Cursed is every one that putteth his hope in man." [3163] Let him withdraw himself from himself, but not towards things below. Let him withdraw himself from himself, that he may cleave unto God. Whatever of good he has, let him commit to Him by whom he was made; whatever of evil he has, he has made it for himself. The evil that is in him God made not; let him destroy what himself has done, who has been thereby undone. "Let him deny himself," He saith, "and take up his cross, and follow Me."

3. And whither must the Lord be followed? Whither He is gone, we know; but a very few days since we celebrated the solemn memorial of it. For He has risen again, and ascended into heaven; thither must He be followed. Undoubtedly we must not despair of it, because He hath Himself promised us, not because man can do anything. Heaven was far away from us, before that our Head had gone into heaven. But now why should we despair, if we are members of that Head? Thither then must He be followed. And who would be unwilling to follow Him to such an abode? Especially seeing that we are in so great travail on earth with fears and pains. Who would be unwilling to follow Christ thither, where is supreme felicity, supreme peace, perpetual security? Good is it to follow Him thither: but we must see by what way we are to follow. For the Lord Jesus did not say the words we are engaged in, when He had now risen from the dead. He had not yet suffered, He had still to come to the Cross, had to come to His dishonouring, to the outrages, the scourging, the thorns, the wounds, the mockeries, the insults, Death. Rough as it were is the way; it makes thee to be slow; thou hast no mind to follow. But follow on. Rough is the way which man has made for himself, but what Christ hath trodden in His passage is worn smooth. For who would not wish to go to exaltation? Elevation is pleasing to all; but humility is the step to it. Why dost thou put out thy foot beyond thee? Thou hast a mind to fall, not to ascend. Begin by the step, and so thou hast ascended. This step of humility those two disciples were loth to have an eye to, who said, "Lord, bid that one of us may sit at Thy right hand, and the other at the left in Thy kingdom." [3164] They sought for exaltation, they did not see the step. But the Lord showed them the step. For what did He answer them? "Ye who seek the hill of exaltation, can ye drink the cup of humiliation?" And therefore He does not say simply, "Let him deny himself, and follow Me" howsoever: but He said more, "Let him take up his cross, and follow Me."

4. What is, "Let him take up his cross"? Let him bear whatever trouble he has; so let him follow Me. For when he shall begin to follow Me in conformity to My life and precepts, he will have many to contradict him, he will have many to hinder him, he will have many to dissuade him, and that from among those who are even as it were Christ's companions. They who hindered the blind men from crying out were walking with Christ. [3165] Whether therefore they be threats or caresses, or whatsoever hindrances there be, if thou wish to follow, turn them into thy cross, bear it, carry it, do not give way beneath it. There seems to be an exhortation to martyrdom in these words of the Lord. If there be persecution, ought not all things to be despised in consideration of Christ? The world is loved; but let Him be preferred by whom the world was made. Great is the world; but greater is He by whom the world was made. Fair is the world; but fairer is He by whom the world was made. Sweet is the world; but sweeter is He by whom the world was made. Evil is the world; and good is He by whom the world was made. How shall I be able to explain and unravel what I have said? May God help me? For what have I said? what have ye applauded? See, it is but a question, and yet ye have already applauded. How is the world evil, if He by whom the world was made is good? Did not God make all things, "and behold they were very good"? Does not Scripture at each several work of creation testify that God made it good, by saying, "And God saw that it was good," and at the end summed them all up together thus how that God had made them, "And behold they were very good"? [3166]

5. How then is the world evil, and He good by whom the world was made? How? "Since the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not." [3167] The world was made by Him, the heaven and earth and all things that are in them: "the world knew Him not," the lovers of the world; the lovers of the world and the despisers of God; this "world knew Him not." So then the world is evil, because they are evil who prefer the world to God. And He is good who made the world, the heaven, and earth, and sea, and themselves who love the world. For this only, that they love the world and do not love God, He made not in them. But themselves, all that appertains to their nature He made; what appertains to guiltiness, He made not. This is that I said a little while ago, "Let man efface what he has made, and so will he be well-pleasing to Him who made Him."

6. For there is among men themselves a good world also; but one that has been made good from being evil. For the whole world if you take the word "world" for men, putting aside (what we call the world) the heaven and earth and all things that in them are; if you take the world for men, the whole world did he who first sinned make evil. The whole mass was corrupted in the root. God made man good; so runs the Scripture, "God made man upright; and men themselves found out many cogitations." [3168] Run from these "many" to One, gather up thy scattered things into one: flow on together, fence thyself in, abide with One; go not to many things. There is blessedness. But we have flowed away, have gone on to perdition: we were all born with sin, and to that sin wherein we were born have we too added by our evil living, and the whole world has become evil. But Christ came, and He chose that which He made, not what He found; for He found all evil, and by His grace He made them good. And so was made another "world;" and the "world" now persecutes the "world."

7. What is the "world" which persecutes? That of which it is said to us, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever," [3169] even as God abideth for ever. Lo! I have spoken of two "worlds," the "world" which persecutes, and that which it persecutes. What is the "world" which persecutes? "All that is the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but of the world;" and "the world passeth away." Lo, this is the "world" which persecutes. What is the "world" which it persecutes? "He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever," even as God abideth for ever.

8. But see, that which persecutes is called the "world;" let us prove whether that also which suffers persecution is called "the world." What! Art thou deaf to the voice of Christ who speaketh, or rather to Holy Scripture which testifieth, "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself." [3170] "If the world hate you, know ye that it first hated Me." [3171] See, the "world" hates. What does it hate but the "world"? What "world"? "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself." The condemned "world" persecutes; the reconciled "world" suffers persecution. The condemned "world" is all that is without the Church; the reconciled "world" is the Church. For He says, "The Son of Man came not to judge the world, but that the world through Him may be saved." [3172]

9. Now in this world, holy, good, reconciled, saved, or rather to be saved, and now saved in hope, "for we are saved in hope;" [3173] in this world, I say, that is in the Church which wholly follows Christ, He hath said as of universal application, "Whosoever will follow Me, let him deny himself." For it is not that the virgins ought to give ear to this, and the married women ought not; or that the widows ought, and the women who still have their husbands ought not; or that monks ought, and the married men ought not; or that the clergy ought, and the laymen ought not: but let the whole Church, the whole body, all the members, distinguished and distributed throughout their several offices, follow Christ. Let the whole Church follow Him, that only Church, let the dove follow Him, let the spouse follow Him, let her who has been redeemed and endowed with the Bridegroom's blood, follow Him. There virgin purity hath its place; there widowed continence hath its place; married chastity there hath its place; but adultery hath no place of its own there; and no place there hath lasciviousness, unlawful and meet for punishment. But let these several members which have their place there, in their kind and place and measure, "follow Christ;" let them "deny themselves;" that is, let them presume nothing of themselves: let them "take up their cross," that is, let them in the world endure for Christ's sake whatever the world may bring upon them. Let them love Him, who Alone doth not deceive, who Alone is not deceived, Alone deceiveth not; let them love Him, for that is true which He doth promise. But because He doth not give at once, faith wavers. Hold on, persevere, endure, bear delay and thou hast borne the cross.

10. Let not the virgin say, "I shall alone be there." For Mary shall not be there alone but the widow Anna shall be there also. Let not the woman which hath an husband say, "The widow will be there, not I;" for it is not that Anna will be there, and Susanna not be there. But by all means let them who would be there prove themselves hereby, that they who have here a lower place envy not, but love in others the better place. For, for instance, my Brethren, that ye may understand me; one man has chosen a married life, another a life of continence; if he who has chosen the married life, has adulterous lusts, he has "looked back;" he has lusted after that which is unlawful. He too who would wish afterwards to return from continence to a married life, has "looked back;" he has chosen what is in itself lawful, yet he has "looked back." Is marriage then to be condemned? No. Marriage is not to be condemned; but see whither he had come who has chosen it. He had already got before it. When he was living as a young man in voluptuousness, marriage was before him; he was making his way towards it; but when he had chosen continence, marriage was behind him. "Remember," saith the Lord, "Lot's wife." [3174] Lot's wife, by looking behind, remained motionless. To whatever point then any one has been able to reach, let him fear to "look back" from thence; and let him walk in the way, let him "follow Christ." "Forgetting those things which are behind, and stretching forth unto those things which are before, let him by an earnest inward intention press on toward the prize of the calling of God in Christ Jesus." [3175] Let those that are married regard the unmarried as above themselves; let them acknowledge that they are better; let them in them love what themselves have not; and let them in them love Christ.

Footnotes

[3157] Mark viii. 34. [3158] Ps. xvi. 4, Sept. (xvii. English version). [3159] Matt. xi. 30. [3160] 2 Tim. iii. 2. [3161] Luke xv. 17. [3162] Luke xv. 18. [3163] Jer. xvii. 5. [3164] Mark x. 37. [3165] Vid. Serm. xxxviii. (lxxxviii. Ben.) 13 (xiv). Matt. xx. 31. [3166] Gen. i. [3167] John i. 10. [3168] Eccles. vii. 30, Sept. (vii. 29, English version). [3169] 1 John ii. 15, etc. [3170] 2 Cor. v. 19. [3171] John xv. 18. [3172] John iii. 17. [3173] Rom. viii. 24. [3174] Luke xvii. 32. [3175] Phil. iii. 13, 14. .


Sermon XLVII.

[XCVII. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Mark xiii. 32, "But of that day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father."

1. The advice, Brethren, which ye have just heard Scripture give, when it tells us to watch for the last day, every one should think of as concerning his own last day; lest haply when ye judge or think the last day of the world to be far distant, ye slumber with respect to your own last day. Ye have heard what Jesus said concerning the last day of this world, "That neither the Angels of heaven, nor the Son knew it, but the Father." [3176] Where indeed there is a great difficulty, lest understanding this in a carnal way, we think that the Father knoweth anything which the Son knoweth not. For indeed when He said, "the Father knoweth it;" He said this because in the Father the Son also knoweth it. For what is there in a day which was not made by the Word, by whom the day was made? Let no one then search out for the last Day, when it is to be; but let us watch all by our good lives, lest the last day of any one of us find us unprepared, and such as any one shall depart hence on his last day, such he be found in the last day of the world. Nothing will then assist thee which thou shalt not have done here. His own works will succour, or his own works will overwhelm every one.

2. And how have we in the Psalm sung unto the Lord, "Lord, have mercy on me, for man hath trodden me down"? [3177] He is called a man who lives after the manner of men. For it is said to them who live after God, "Ye are gods, and ye are all the children of the Most High." [3178] But to the reprobate, who were called to be the sons of God, and who wished rather to be men, that is, to live after the manner of men, he says, "But ye shall die like men, and fall as one of the princes." [3179] For that man is mortal, ought to avail for his instruction, not for boasting. Whereupon does a worm that is to die on the morrow boast himself? I speak to your love, Brethren; proud mortals ought to be made blush by the devil. For he, though proud, is yet immortal; he is a spirit, though a malignant one. The last day is kept in store for him at the end as his punishment; nevertheless he is not subject to the death to which we are subject. But man heard the sentence, "Thou shalt surely die." [3180] Let him make a good use of his punishment. What is that I have said, "Let him make a good use of his punishment"? Let him not by that from which he received his punishment fall into pride; let him acknowledge that he is mortal, and let it break down his elation. Let him hear it said to him, "Why is earth and ashes proud?" [3181] Even if the devil is proud, he is not "earth and ashes." Therefore was it said, "But ye shall die like men, and shall fall as one of the princes." [3182] Ye do not consider that ye are mortals, and ye are proud as the devil. Let man then make a good use of his punishment, Brethren; let him make a good use of his evil, that he may make advancement to his good. Who does not know, that the necessity of our dying is a punishment; and the more grievous, that we know not when? The punishment is certain, the hour uncertain; and of that punishment alone are we certain in the ordinary course of human affairs.

3. All else of ours, both good and evil, is uncertain; death alone is certain. What is this that I say? A child is conceived, perhaps it will be born, perhaps it will be an untimely birth. So it is uncertain: Perhaps he will grow up, perhaps he will not grow up; perhaps he will grow old, perhaps he will not grow old; perhaps he will be rich, perhaps poor; perhaps he will be distinguished, perhaps abased; perhaps he will have children, perhaps he will not; perhaps he will marry, perhaps not; and so on, whatever else among good things you may name. Now look too at the evils of life: Perhaps he will have sickness, perhaps he will have not; perhaps he will be stung by a serpent, perhaps not; perhap he will be devoured by a wild beast, perhaps he will not. And so look at all evils; everywhere is there a "perhaps it will be," and "perhaps it will not." But canst thou say, "Perhaps he will die," and "perhaps he will not die"? [3183] As when medical men examine an illness, and ascertain that it is fatal, they make this announcement; "He will die, he will not get over this." So from the moment of a man's birth, it may be said, "He will not get over this." When he is born he begins to be ailing. When he dies, he ends indeed this ailment: but he knows not whether he does not fall into a worse. The rich man in the Gospel had ended his voluptuous ailment, he came to a tormenting one. But the poor man ended his ailment, and arrived at perfect health. [3184] But he made choice in this life of what he was to have hereafter; and what he reaped there, he sowed here. Therefore while we live we ought to watch, and to make choice of that which we may possess in the world to come.

4. Let us not love the world. It overwhelms its lovers, it conducts them to no good. We must rather labour in it that it seduce us not, than fear lest it should fall. Lo, the world falleth; the Christian standeth firm; because Christ doth not fall. For wherefore saith the Lord, "Rejoice, for that I have overcome the world"? [3185] We might answer Him if we pleased, "`Rejoice,' yes do Thou rejoice. If Thou `hast overcome,' do thou rejoice. Why should we?" Why doth He say to us, "Rejoice;" but because it is for us that He hath overcome, for us hath fought? For wherein fought He? In that He took man's nature upon Him. Take away His birth of a virgin, take away that He emptied Himself, "taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and found in fashion as a man;" [3186] take away this, and where is the combat, where the contest? where the trial? where the victory, which no battle has preceded? "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made." [3187] Could the Jews have crucified this Word? Could those impious men have mocked this Word? Could this Word have been buffeted? Could this Word have been crowned with thorns? But that He might suffer all this, "the Word was made flesh;" [3188] and after He had suffered all this, by rising again He "overcame." So then He hath "overcome" for us, to whom He hath shown the assurance of His resurrection. Thou sayest then to God, "Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for man hath trodden me down." [3189] Do not "tread down" thyself, and man will not overcome thee. For, lo, some powerful man alarms thee. By what does he alarm thee? "I will spoil thee, will condemn, will torture, will kill thee." And thou criest, "Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for man hath trodden me down." If thou say the truth, and mark thyself well, one dead "treads thee down," because thou art afraid of the threats of a man; and man "treads thee down," because thou wouldest not be afraid, unless thou wert a man. What is the remedy then? O man, cleave to God, by whom thou wast made a man; cleave fast to Him, put thy affiance in Him, call upon Him, let Him be thy strength. Say to Him, "In Thee, O Lord, is my strength." And then thou shalt sing at the threatenings of men; and what thou shalt sing hereafter, the Lord Himself telleth thee, "I will hope in God, I will not fear what man can do unto me." [3190]

Footnotes

[3176] Mark xiii. 32. [3177] Ps. lv. 2, Sept. (lvi. 1, English version). [3178] Ps. lxxxii. 6. [3179] Ps. lxxxii. 7. [3180] Gen. ii. 17. [3181] Ecclus. x. 9. [3182] Ps. lxxxii. 7. [3183] Vid. Serm. xxvii (lxxvii. Ben.) 14 (x.). [3184] Luke xvi. 22. [3185] John xvi. 33. [3186] Phil. ii. 7. [3187] John i. 1, 3. [3188] John i. 14. [3189] Ps. lv. 2, Sept. (lvi. 1, English version). [3190] Ps. lvi. 11. .


Sermon XLVIII.

[XCVIII. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Luke vii. 2, etc.; on the three dead persons whom the Lord raised.

1. The miracles of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ make indeed an impression on all who hear of, and believe them; but on different men in different ways. For some amazed at His miracles done on the bodies of men, have no knowledge to discern the greater; whereas some admire the more ample fulfilment in the souls of men at the present time of those things which they hear of as having been wrought on their bodies. The Lord Himself saith, "For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will." [3191] Not of course that the Son "quickeneth" some, the Father others; but the Father and the Son "quicken" the same; for the Father doeth all things by the Son. Let no one then who is a Christian doubt, that even at the present time the dead are raised. Now all men have eyes, wherewith they can see the dead rise again in such sort, as the son of that widow rose, of whom we have just read out of the Gospel; [3192] but those eyes wherewith men see the dead in heart rise again, all men have not, save those who have risen already in heart themselves. It is a greater miracle to raise again one who is to live for ever, than to raise one who must die again.

2. The widowed mother rejoiced at the raising again of that young man; of men raised again in spirit day by day does Mother Church rejoice. He indeed was dead in the body but they in soul. His visible death was bewailed visibly; their death invisible was neither enquired into nor perceived. He sought them out who had known them to be dead; He Alone knew them to be dead, who was able to make them alive. For if the Lord had not come to raise the dead, the Apostle would not have said, "Rise, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." [3193] You hear of one asleep in the words, "Rise, thou that sleepest;" but understand it of one dead when you hear, "And arise from the dead." Thus they who are even dead in the body [3194] are often said to be asleep. And certainly they all are but asleep, in respect of Him who is able to awaken them. For in respect of thee, a dead man is dead indeed, seeing he will not awake, beat or prick or tear him as thou wilt. But in respect of Christ, he was but asleep to whom it was said, "Arise," [3195] and he arose forthwith. No one can as easily awaken another in bed, as Christ can in the tomb.

3. Now we find that three dead persons were raised by the Lord "visibly," thousands "invisibly." Nay, who knows even how many dead He raised visibly? For all the things that He did are not written. John tells us this, "Many other things Jesus did, the which if they should be written, I suppose that the whole world could not contain the books." [3196] So then there were without doubt many others raised: but it is not without a meaning that the three are expressly recorded. For our Lord Jesus Christ would that those things which He did on the body should be also spiritually understood. For He did not merely do miracles for the miracles' sake; but in order that the things which He did should inspire wonder in those who saw them, and convey truth to them who understand. As he who sees letters in an excellently written manuscript, and knows not how to read, praises indeed the transcriber's [3197] hand, and admires the beauty of the characters; [3198] but what those characters mean or signify he does not know; and by the sight of his eyes he is a praiser of the work, but in his mind has no comprehension of it; whereas another man both praises the work, and is capable of understanding it; such an one, I mean, who is not only able to see what is common to all, but who can read also; which he who has never learned cannot. So they who saw Christ's miracles, and understood not what they meant, and what they in a manner conveyed to those who had understanding, wondered only at the miracles themselves; whereas others both wondered at the miracles, and attained to the meaning of them. Such ought we to be in the school of Christ. For he who says that Christ only worked miracles, for the miracles' sake, may say too that He was ignorant that it was not the time for fruit, when He sought figs upon the fig-tree. [3199] For it was not the time for that fruit, as the Evangelist testifies; and yet being hungry He sought for fruit upon the tree. Did not Christ know, what any peasant knew? What the dresser of the tree knew, did not the tree's Creator know? So then when being hungry He sought fruit on the tree, He signified that He was hungry, and seeking after something else than this; and He found that tree without fruit, but full of leaves, and He cursed it, and it withered away. What had the tree done in not bearing fruit? What fault of the tree was its fruitlessness? No; but there are those who through their own will are not able to yield fruit. And barrenness is "their" fault, whose fruitfulness is their will. The Jews then who had the words of the Law, and had not the deeds, were full of leaves, and bare no fruit. This have I said to persuade you, that our Lord Jesus Christ performed miracles with this view, that by those miracles He might signify something further, that besides that they were wonderful and great, and divine in themselves, we might learn also something from them.

4. Let us then see what He would have us learn in those three dead persons whom He raised. He raised again the dead daughter of the ruler of the synagogue, for whom when she was sick petition was made to Him, that He would deliver her from her sickness. And as He is going, it is announced that she is dead; and as though He would now be only wearying Himself in vain, word was brought to her father, "Thy daughter is dead, why weariest thou the Master any further?" [3200] But He went on, and said to the father of the damsel, "Be not afraid, only believe." [3201] He comes to the house, and finds the customary funeral obsequies already prepared, and He says to them, "Weep not, for the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth." [3202] He spake the truth; she was asleep; asleep, that is, in respect of Him, by whom she could be awakened. So awakening her, He restored her alive to her parents. So again He awakened that young man, the widow's son, [3203] by whose case I have been now reminded to speak with you, Beloved, on this subject, as He Himself shall vouchsafe to give me power. Ye have just heard how he was awakened. The Lord "came nigh to the city; and behold there was a dead man being carried out" already beyond the gate. Moved with compassion, for that the mother, a widow and bereaved of her only son, was weeping, He did what ye have heard, saying, "Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. He that was dead arose, and began to speak, and He restored him to his mother." [3204] He awakened Lazarus likewise from the tomb. And in that case when the disciples with whom He was speaking knew that he was sick, He said (now "Jesus loved him"), "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth." They thinking of the sick man's healthful sleep; say, "Lord, if he sleep he is well." "Then said Jesus," speaking now more plainly, I tell you, "our friend Lazarus is dead." [3205] And in both He said the truth; "He is dead in respect of you, he is asleep in respect of Me."

5. These three kinds of dead persons, are three kinds of sinners whom even at this day Christ doth raise. For that dead daughter of the ruler of the synagogue was within in the house, she had not yet been carried out from the secresy of its walls into public view. There within was she raised, and restored alive to her parents. But the second was not now indeed in the house, but still not yet in the tomb, he had been carried out of the walls, but not committed to the ground. He who raised the dead maiden who was not yet carried out, raised this dead man who was now carried out, but not yet buried. There remained a third case, that He should raise one who was also buried; and this He did in Lazarus. There are then those who have sin inwardly in the heart, but have it not yet in overt act. A man, for instance, is disturbed by any lust. For the Lord Himself saith, "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." [3206] He has not yet in body approached her, but in heart he has consented; he has one dead within, he has not yet carried him out. And as it often happens, as we know, as men daily experience in themselves, when they hear the word of God, as it were the Lord saying, "Arise;" the consent unto sin is condemned, they breathe again unto saving health and righteousness. The dead man in the house arises, the heart revives in the secret of the thoughts. This resurrection of a dead soul takes place within, in the retirement of the conscience, as it were within the walls of the house. Others after consent proceed to overt act, carrying out the dead as it were, that that which was concealed in secret, may appear in public. Are these now, who have advanced to the outward act, past hope? Was it not said to the young man in the Gospel also, "I say unto thee, Arise"? Was he not also restored to his mother? So then he too who has committed the open act, if haply admonished and aroused by the word of truth, he rise again at the Voice of Christ, is restored alive. Go so far he could, perish for ever he could not. But they who by doing what is evil, involve themselves even in evil habit, so that this very habit of evil suffers them not to see that it is evil, become defenders of their evil deeds; are angry when they are found fault with; to such a degree, that the men of Sodom of old said to the righteous man who reproved their abominable design, "Thou art come to sojourn, not to give laws." [3207] So powerful in that place was the habit of abominable filthiness, that profligacy now passed for righteousness, and the hinderer of it was found fault with rather than the doer. Such as these pressed down by a malignant habit, are as it were buried. Yea, what shall I say, Brethren? In such sort buried, as was said of Lazarus, "By this time he stinketh." [3208] That heap placed upon the grave, is this stubborn force of habit, whereby the soul is pressed down, and is not suffered either to rise, or breathe again.

6. Now it was said, "He hath been dead four days." [3209] So in truth the soul arrives at that habit, of which I am speaking by a kind of four-fold progress. For there is first the provocation as it were of pleasure in the heart, secondly consent, thirdly the overt act, fourthly the habit. For there are those who so entirely throw off things unlawful from their thoughts, as not even to feel any pleasure in them. There are those who do feel the pleasure, and do not consent to them; death is not yet perfected, but in a certain sort begun. To the feeling of pleasure is added consent; now at once is that condemnation incurred. After the consent, progress is made unto the open act; the act changes into a habit; and a sort of desperate condition is produced, so as that it may be said, "He hath been dead four days, by this time he stinketh." Therefore, the Lord came, to whom of course all things were easy; yet He found in that case as it were a kind of difficulty. He "groaned" [3210] in the spirit, He showed that there is need of much and loud remonstrance to raise up those who have grown hard by habit. Yet at the voice of the Lord's cry, the bands of necessity were burst asunder. The powers of hell trembled, and Lazarus is restored alive. For the Lord delivers even from evil habits those who "have been dead four days;" for this man in the Gospel, "who had been dead four days," was asleep only in respect of Christ whose will it was to raise him again. But what said He? Observe the manner of his arising again. He came forth from the tomb alive, but he could not walk. And the Lord said to the disciples; "Loose him, and let him go." [3211] "He" raised him from death, "they" loosed him from his bonds. Observe how there is something which appertaineth to the special Majesty of God who raiseth up. A man involved in an evil habit is rebuked by the word of truth. How many are rebuked, and give no ear! Who is it then who deals within with him who does give ear? Who breathes life into him within? Who is it who drives away the unseen death, gives the life unseen? After rebukes, after remonstrances, are not men left alone to their own thoughts, do they not begin to turn over in their minds how evil a life they are living, with how very bad a habit they are weighed down? Then displeased with themselves, they determine to change their life. Such have risen again; they to whom what they have been is displeasing have revived: but though reviving, they are not able to walk. These are the bands of their guilt. Need then there is, that whoso has returned to life should be loosed, and let go. This office hath He given to the disciples to whom He said, "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven also." [3212]

7. Let us then, dearly Beloved, in such wise hear these things, that they who are alive may live; they who are dead may live again. Whether it be that as yet the sin has been conceived in the heart, and not come forth into open act; let the thought be repented of, and corrected, let the dead within the house of conscience arise. Or whether he has actually committed what he thought of; let not even thus his case be despaired of. The dead within has not arisen, let him arise when "he is carried out." Let him repent him of his deed, let him at once return to life; let him not go to the depth of the grave, let him not receive the load of habit upon him. But peradventure I am now speaking to one who is already pressed down by this hard stone of his own habit, who is already laden with the weight of custom, who "has been in the grave four days already, and who stinketh." Yet let not even him despair; he is dead in the depth below, but Christ is exalted on high. He knows how by His cry to burst asunder the burdens of earth, He knows how to restore life within by Himself, and to deliver him to the disciples to be loosed. Let even such as these repent. For when Lazarus had been raised again after the four days, no foul smell remained in him when he was alive. So then let them who are alive, still live; and let them who are dead, whosoever they be, in which kind soever of these three deaths they find themselves, see to it that they rise again at once with all speed.

Footnotes

[3191] John v. 21. [3192] Luke vii. 12. [3193] Eph. v. 14. [3194] Visibiliter. [3195] Luke vii. 14. [3196] John xxi. 25. [3197] Antiquarii. [3198] Apicum. [3199] Vid. Serm. xxxix. (lxxxix. Ben.). Mark xi. 13. [3200] Mark v. 35. [3201] Mark v. 36. [3202] Mark v. 39. [3203] Luke vii. 12. [3204] Luke vii. 14, 15. [3205] John xi. 11, etc. [3206] Matt. v. 28. [3207] Gen. xix. 9. [3208] John xi. 39. [3209] John xi. 39. [3210] John xi. 38. [3211] John xi. 44. [3212] Matt. xviii. 18. .


Sermon XLIX.

[XCIX. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Luke vii. 37, "And behold, a woman who was in the city, a sinner," etc. On the remission of sins, against the Donatists.

1. Since I believe that it is the will of God that I should speak to you on the subject whereof we are now reminded by the words of the Lord out of the Holy Scriptures, I will by His assistance deliver to you, Beloved, a Sermon touching the remission of sins. For when the Gospel was being read, ye gave most earnest heed, and the story was reported, and represented before the eyes of your heart. For ye saw, not with the body, but with the mind, the Lord Jesus Christ "sitting at meat in the Pharisee's house," [3213] and when invited by him, not disdaining to go. Ye saw too a "woman" famous in the city, famous indeed in ill fame, "who was a sinner," without invitation force her way into the feast, where her Physician was at meat, and with an holy shamelessness seek for health. She forced her way then, as it were unseasonably as regarded the feast, but seasonably as regarded her expected blessing; for she well knew under how severe a disease she was labouring, and she knew that He to whom she had come was able to make her whole; she approached then, not to the Head of the Lord, but to His Feet; and she who had walked long in evil, sought now the steps of Uprightness. First she shed tears, the heart's blood; and washed the Lord's Feet with the duty of confession. She wiped them with her hair, she kissed, she anointed them: she spake by her silence; she uttered not a word, but she manifested her devotion.

2. So then because she touched the Lord, in watering, kissing, washing, anointing His feet; the Pharisee who had invited the Lord Jesus Christ, seeing He was of that kind of proud men of whom the Prophet Isaiah says, "Who say, Depart far from me, touch me not, for I am clean;" [3214] thought that the Lord did not know the woman. This he was thinking with himself, and saying in his heart, "This man if He were a prophet, would have known what woman this is that" hath approached His feet. He supposed that He did not know her, because He repelled her not, because He did not forbid her to approach Him, because He suffered Himself to be touched by her, sinner as she was. For whence knew he, that He did not know her? But what if He did know, O thou Pharisee, inviter and yet derider of the Lord! Thou dost feed the Lord, yet by whom thou art to be fed thyself, thou dost not understand. Whereby knowest thou, that the Lord did not know what that woman had been, save because she was permitted to approach Him, save because by His sufferance she kissed His Feet, save because she washed, save because she anointed them? For these things a woman unclean ought not to be permitted to do with the Feet that are clean? So then had such a woman approached that Pharisee's feet, he would have been sure to say what Isaiah says of such; "Depart from me, touch me not, for I am clean." But she approached the Lord in her uncleanness, that she might return clean: she approached sick, that she might return whole: she approached Him, confessing, that she might return professing Him.

3. For the Lord heard the thoughts of the Pharisee. Let now the Pharisee understand even by this, whether He was not able to see her sins, who could hear his thoughts. So then He put forth to the man a parable concerning two men, who owed to the same creditor. For He was desirous to heal the Pharisee also, that He might not eat bread at his house for nought; He hungered after him who was feeding Him, He wished to reform him, to slay, to eat him, to pass him over into His Own Body; just as to that woman of Samaria, He said, "I thirst." What is, "I thirst"? I long for thy faith. Therefore are the words of the Lord in this parable [3215] spoken; and there is this double object in them, both that that inviter might be cured together with those who ate at the table with Him, who alike saw the Lord Jesus Christ, and were alike ignorant of Him, and that that woman might have the assurance her confession merited, and not be pricked any more with the stings of her conscience. "One," said He, "owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty; He forgave them both: which loved him most?" He to whom the parable was proposed answered, what of course common reason obliged him to answer. "I suppose, Lord, he to whom he forgave most. Then turning to the woman he said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest Me no water for My feet: she hath washed My feet with tears, and wiped them with her hairs. Thou gavest Me no kiss: this woman since the time she came in, hath not ceased to kiss My feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed My feet with ointment. Therefore I say, her many sins are forgiven her, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little." [3216]

4. Here arises a difficulty which must in real truth be resolved, and which requires your fixed attention, Beloved, lest haply my words may not be equal to the removing and clearing of the whole obscurity of it by reason of the stress of time; especially as this flesh of mine exhausted by its heat, now longs to be recruited, and demanding its due, and clogging the eagerness of the soul gives proof of that which is said, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." [3217] Cause there is for fear, yea great cause for fear, lest by these words of the Lord, there steal over the minds of those who understand them not aright, who indulge their fleshly lusts, and are loth to be brought away from them into liberty, that sentiment which, even as the Apostles preached, sprung up in the tongues of slanderous men, of whom the Apostle Paul says, "And as some affirm that we say, Let us do evil that good may come." [3218] For a man may say, "If `he to whom little is forgiven, loveth little;' and he to whom more is forgiven, loveth more; and it is better to love more, than to love less; it is right that we should sin much, and owe much which we may desire to be forgiven us, that so we may love Him the more who forgiveth us our large debts. For that woman in the Gospel who was a sinner, in the same proportion as she owed more, loved the more Him who forgave her her debts, as the Lord Himself saith, `Her many sins are forgiven her, for she loved much.' Now why did she love much, but because she owed much? And afterwards He added and subjoined, `But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.' Is it not better," he may say, "that much should be forgiven me, than less, that thereupon I may love my Lord the more"? Ye see no doubt the great depth of this difficulty; ye see it, I am sure. Ye see too my stress of time; yes, this also do ye see and feel.

5. Accept then a few words. If I shall not do justice to the magnitude of the question, lay up for a time [3219] what I shall say at present, and hold me a debtor for some future time. Suppose now two men, that by the clearer force of examples ye may think upon what I have proposed to you. One of them is full of sins, has lived most wickedly for a length of time; the other of them has committed but few sins; they come both to grace, are both baptized, they enter debtors, they go out free; more has been forgiven to one, less to the other. I ask, how much does each love? If I shall find that he loves most, to whom the most sins have been forgiven, it is to his greater advantage that he has sinned much, his much iniquity was to his greater advantage, that so his love might not be lukewarm. I ask the other how much he loves, I find less; for if I find that he too loves, as much as the other, to whom much has been forgiven, how shall I make answer to the words of the Lord, how shall that be true which the Truth hath said, "To whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little"? "See," a man says, "but little has been forgiven me, I have not sinned much; yet I love as much as he, to whom much has been forgiven." Dost thou speak truth, or Christ? Has thy lie been forgiven thee to this end, that thou shouldest fix the charge of lying on Him who forgave thee? If little has been forgiven thee, thou lovest little. For if but little has been forgiven thee, and thou lovest very much, thou contradictest Him who said, "To whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little." Therefore I give the more credit to Him, who knoweth thee better than thou dost know thyself. If thou dost suppose that but little hath been forgiven thee, it is certain that thou lovest but little. "What then," says he, "ought I to do? Ought I to commit many sins, that there may be many which He shall be able to forgive me, that I may be able to love more?" It presses me sore, but may the Lord, who hath proposed this saying of truth to us, deliver me out of this strait.

6. This was spoken on account of that Pharisee who thought that he had either no sins, or but few. Now unless he had had some love, he would not have invited the Lord. But how little was it! He gave Him no kiss, not so much as water for His Feet, much less tears; he did not honour Him with any of those offices of respect, with which that woman did, who well knew what need she had of being cured, and by whom she might be cured. O Pharisee, therefore dost thou love but little, because thou dost fondly think that but little is forgiven thee; not because little really is forgiven thee, but because thou thinkest that that which is forgiven is but little. "What then?" he says; "Am I who have never committed murder, to be reckoned a murderer? Am I who have never been guilty of adultery, to be punished for adultery? Or are these things to be forgiven me, which I have never committed?" See: once more suppose two persons, and let us speak to them. One comes with supplication, a sinner covered over with thorns as a hedgehog, and timid exceedingly as a hare. But the rock is the hedgehog's and the hare's refuge. [3220] He comes then to the Rock, he finds refuge, he receives succour. The other has not committed many sins; what shall we do for him that he may love much? what shall we persuade him? Shall we go against the words of the Lord, "To whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little"? Yes, most truly so, to whom little is really forgiven. But O thou who sayest that thou hast not committed many sins: why hast thou not? by whose guidance? God be thanked, that by your movement and voice ye have made signs that ye have understood me. Now then, as I think, the difficulty has been solved. The one has committed many sins, and so is made a debtor for many; the other through God's guidance has committed but few. To Him to whom the one ascribes what He hath forgiven, does the other also ascribe what he hath not committed. Thou hast not been an adulterer in that past life of thine, which was full of ignorance, when as yet thou wast not enlightened, as yet discerned not good and evil, as yet believed not on Him, who was guiding thee though thou didst not know Him. Thus doth thy God speak to thee: "I was guiding thee for Myself, I was keeping thee for Myself. That thou mightest not commit adultery, no enticers were near thee; that no enticers were near thee, was My doing. Place and time were wanting; that they were wanting again, was My doing. Or enticers were nigh thee, and neither place nor time was wanting; that thou mightest not consent, it was I who alarmed thee. Acknowledge then His grace, to whom thou also owest it, that thou hast not committed the sin. The other owes me what was done, and thou hast seen forgiven him; and thou owest to me what thou hast not done." For there is no sin which one man commits, which another man may not commit also, if He be wanting as a Director, by whom man was made.

7. Now then seeing I have resolved this profound difficulty, as best I could in so short a space of time (or if I have not resolved it yet, let me be held, as I have already said, a debtor for the rest); let us now rather consider briefly that question of the remission of sins. Christ was supposed to be but a man both by him who invited Him, and by them who sat as guests at the table with Him. But that woman who was a sinner had seen something more than this in the Lord. For why did she all those things, but that her sins might be forgiven her? She knew then that He was able to forgive sins; and they knew that no man was able to forgive them. And we must believe that they all, they who were at the table, that is, and that woman who approached to the Feet of the Lord, all knew that no man could forgive sins. Forasmuch then as they all knew this; she who believed that He could forgive sins, understood Him to be more than man. So when He had said to the woman, "Thy sins are forgiven thee;" they immediately said, "Who is this that forgiveth sins also?" Who is this, whom the woman who was a sinner already knew? Thou who sittest at the table as if in sound health, knowest not thy Physician; because it may be through a stronger fever thou hast even lost thy reason. For thus the frantic patient as he laughs is bewailed by those who are in health. Nevertheless, ye do well to know, and hold fast that truth; yea, hold it fast, that no man is able to forgive sins. This woman who believed that she could be forgiven by Christ, believed Christ not to be man only, but God also. "Who," say they, "is this that forgiveth sins also?" And the Lord did not tell them as they said, "Who is this?" "It is the Son of God, the Word of God;" He did not tell them this, but suffering them to abide for a while still in their former opinion, He really solved the question which had excited them. For He who saw them at the table, heard their thoughts, and turning to the woman, He said, "Thy faith hath made thee whole." Let these who say, "Who is this that forgiveth sins also?" who think me to be but a man, think me but a man. For thee "thy faith hath made thee whole."

8. The Good Physician not only cured the sick then present, but provided also for them who were to be hereafter. There were to be men in after times, who should say, "It is I [3221] who forgive sins, I who justify, I who sanctify, I who cure whomsoever I baptize." Of this number are they who say, "Touch me not." [3222] Yes, so thoroughly are they of this number, that lately, in our conference, [3223] as ye may read in the records of it, when a place was offered them by the commissary, [3224] that they should sit with us, they thought it right to answer, "It is told us in Scripture with such not to sit," lest of course by the contact of the seats, our contagion (as they think) should reach to them. See if this is not, "Touch me not, for I am clean." But on another day, when I had a better opportunity, I represented to them this most wretched vanity, when there was a question concerning the Church, how that the evil in it do not contaminate the good: I answered them, because they would not on this account sit with us, and said that they had been so advised by the Scripture of God, seeing forsooth that it is written, "I have not sat in the council of vanity;" [3225] I said, "If ye will not sit with us, because it is written, `I have not sat in the council of vanity;' why have ye entered this place with us, since it is written in the following words, `And with them that do iniquity I will not enter in'?" So then in that they say, "Touch me not, for I am clean," they are like to that Pharisee, who had invited the Lord, and who thought that He did not know the woman, simply because He did not hinder her from touching His Feet. But in another respect the Pharisee was better, because whereas he supposed Christ to be but a man, he did not believe that by a man sins could be forgiven. There was shown then a better understanding in Jews than heretics. What said the Jews? "`Who is this that forgiveth sins also?' Does any man dare to usurp this to himself?" What on the other hand says the heretic? "It is I who forgive, I cleanse, I sanctify." Let not me, but Christ, answer him: "O man, when I was thought by the Jews to be but a man, I gave forgiveness of sins to faith. (It is not I, but Christ who answereth thee.) And thou, O heretic, mere man as thou art, dost say, "Come, O woman, I will make thee whole." Whereas when I was thought to be but a man, I said, "Go, woman, thy faith hath made thee whole."

9. They answer, "knowing not," as the Apostle says, "either what they speak, or whereof they affirm:" [3226] they answer and say, "If men do not forgive sins, then that is false which Christ saith, `Whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven also.'" [3227] But thou dost not know why this is said, and in what sense this is said. The Lord was about to give to men the Holy Spirit, and He wished it to be understood that sins are forgiven to His faithful by His Holy Spirit, and not by men's deserts. For what art thou, O man, but an invalid who hast need of healing. Wouldest thou make thyself my physician? Together with me, seek the Physician. For that the Lord might show this more plainly, that sins are forgiven by the Holy Spirit, which He hath given to His faithful ones, and not by men's deserts, after He had risen from the dead, He saith in a certain place, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost;" [3228] and when He had said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost," He subjoined immediately, "Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them;" [3229] that is, the Spirit remits them, not ye. Now the Spirit is God. God therefore remits, not ye. But what are ye in regard to the Spirit? "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" [3230] And again, "Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God?" [3231] So then God dwelleth in His holy temple, that is in His holy faithful ones, in His Church; by them doth He remit sins; because they are living temples.

10. But He who remitteth by man, can also remit even without man. For He who is able to give by another, hath no less the power to give by Himself. To some He gave by the ministry of John. By whom did He give to John himself? With good reason, as God wished to show this, and to attest this truth, when certain in Samaria had had the Gospel preached to them, [3232] and had been baptized, and baptized by Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven deacons that were first chosen, they did not receive the Holy Ghost, though they had been baptized. Tidings were brought to the disciples who were at Jerusalem, and they came to Samaria, [3233] in order that they who had been baptized, might by imposition of their hands receive the Holy Ghost. And so it was; "They came and laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost." [3234] For the Holy Ghost was at that time given in such sort, that He even visibly showed Himself to have been given. For they who received Him spake with the tongues of all nations; to signify that the Church among the nations was to speak in the tongues of all. So then they received the Holy Ghost, and He appeared evidently to be in them. Which when Simon saw, supposing that this power was of men, he wished it might be his also. What he thought to be of men, he wished to buy of men. "How much money," says he, "will ye take of me, that by imposition of my hands the Holy Ghost may be given?" Then Peter says to him with execration, "Thou hast neither part nor lot in this faith. For thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thy money perish with thee; [3235] and the rest which he spake in the same place suitably to the occasion.

11. Now why I have wished to bring this subject before you, give heed, Dearly Beloved. It was meet that God should first show that He worketh by the ministry of men; but afterwards by Himself, lest men should think, as Simon thought, that it was man's gift, and not God's. Though the disciples themselves knew this well already. For there were one hundred and twenty [3236] men collected together, when without the imposition of any hand the Holy Ghost came upon them. For who had laid hands on them at that time? And yet He came, and filled them first. After that offence of Simon, what did God do? See Him teaching, not by words but by things. That same Philip, who had baptized the men, and the Holy Ghost had not come upon them, unless the Apostles had met together and laid their hands upon them, baptized the officer, that is, the eunuch of queen Candace, who had worshipped in Jerusalem, and returning thence was reading in his chariot Isaiah the Prophet, [3237] and understood it not. Philip being admonished went up to his chariot, explained the Scripture, unfolded the faith, preached Christ. [3238] The eunuch believed on Christ, and said when they came unto a certain water, "See water, who doth hinder me to be baptized? Philip said to him, Dost thou believe on Jesus Christ? He answered, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Immediately he went down with him into the water." [3239] When the mystery and sacrament of Baptism had been accomplished, that the gift of the Holy Ghost might not be thought to be of men, there was no waiting, as in the other case, for the Apostles to come, but the Holy Ghost [3240] came forthwith. Thus was Simon's thought destroyed, lest in such a thought he might have followers.

12. Again, another more wonderful example. Peter came to Cornelius the centurion, [3241] to a Gentile man, uncircumcised: he began to preach Christ Jesus both to him, and to those who were with him. "While Peter was yet speaking," [3242] I do not say, when as yet he had not laid on his hands, but when he had not even yet baptized them, and when they who were with Peter were in doubt whether the uncircumcised ought to be baptized (for there had arisen an offence between the Jews who believed, and those who had been brought to the faith from among the Gentiles, between the Jews, that is, and the Christians who were baptized though uncircumcised), that God might take away this question, "while Peter was speaking, the Holy Ghost came," filled Cornelius, filled them who were with him. And by this very attestation of so great a thing, as it were a loud voice came to Peter, "Why dost thou doubt of water? Already I am here."

13. So then let every soul which is to be delivered from her manifold wickedness by the grace of the Lord, to be cleansed as it were in the Church from her filthy prostitution, believe with all assurance, approach the Feet of the Lord, seek His Footsteps, confess in pouring out tears upon them, and wipe them with her hair. The Feet of the Lord are the preachers of the Gospel. The woman's hair is all superfluous possessions. Let her wipe the Feet with her hair, yea by all means wipe them, let her do works of mercy; and when she has wiped them, let her kiss them, let her receive peace, that she may have love. She has approached to such an one, has been baptized by such an one as the Apostle Paul: from him let her hear, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ." [3243] But she has been baptized by another, by one "who seeks his own things, not the things which are Jesus Christ's:" [3244] let her hear from the Lord, "Do what they say, but do not what they do." [3245] So let her assurance be in Him, whether she meet with a good Evangelist, or with one who acts not as he speaks. For she hears from the Lord with firm assurance, "O woman, go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole."

Footnotes

[3213] Luke vii. 36. [3214] Isa. lxv. 5, Sept. [3215] John iv. 7. [3216] Luke vii. 41, etc. [3217] Matt. xxvi. 41. [3218] Rom. iii. 8. [3219] Interim. [3220] Ps. ciii. 18, choirogrulliois, Sept. (civ. English version). [3221] The Donatists, holding the validity of Baptism to depend on the holiness of the minister, made it, in fact, man's act, man's gift. St. Augustin answers, Baptism is Christ's, not man's, and that "as His, it availeth equally to whom, however unequal they through whom, it is given." Ep. 93, ad Vinc. Don § 47. See other passages, Tract. 67, on Holy Baptism, p. 192 sqq. [3222] Isa. lxv. 5. [3223] The Collatio Carthag. of which part of the acts remain. See also St. Augustin, Brev. Coll. c. Don. and Ad Don. post Collat. In it the Donatists being entirely confuted by St. Augustin, larger numbers than before joined the Church. Poss. Vit. c. 13. [3224] Cognitore. Marcellinus, see Serm. xiii. (lxiii. Ben) 18 (xii.) note. [3225] Ps. xxvi. 4, Sept. [3226] 1 Tim. i. 7. [3227] Matt. xviii. 18. [3228] John xx. 22. [3229] John xx. 23. [3230] 1 Cor. iii. 16. [3231] 1 Cor. vi. 19. [3232] Acts viii. 5. [3233] Acts viii. 14. [3234] Acts viii. 17. [3235] Acts viii. 19-21. [3236] Acts i. 15. [3237] Acts viii. 28. [3238] Acts viii. 29. [3239] Acts viii. 36, etc. [3240] St. Augustin probably conceives of the presence of the Holy Ghost, which "caught away Philip," as sanctifying the Eunich. "He went on his way rejoicing," his Baptism being perfected. St Augustine is followed by the Gloss Ord. [3241] Acts x. 25. [3242] Acts x. 44. [3243] 1 Cor. iv. 16, xi. 1. [3244] Phil. ii. 21. [3245] Matt. xxiii. 3. .


Sermon L.

[C. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Luke ix. 57, etc., where the case of the three persons is treated of, of whom one said, "I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest," and was disallowed: another did not dare to offer himself, and was aroused; the third wished to delay, and was blamed.

1. Give ye ear to that which the Lord hath given me to speak on the lesson of the Gospel. For we have read, that the Lord Jesus acted differently, when one man offered himself to follow Him, and was disallowed; another did not dare this, and was aroused; a third put off, and was blamed. For the words, "Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest," [3246] what is so prompt, what so active, what so ready, and what so fitly disposed to so great a good, as this "following the Lord whithersoever He should go"? Thou wonderest at this, saying, "How is this, that one so ready found no favour with the Good Master and Lord Jesus Christ, though He was inviting disciples to give them the kingdom of Heaven?" But inasmuch as He was such a Master as could see beforehand things to come, we understand, Brethren, that this man, if he had followed Christ, would have been sure to "seek his own things, not the things which are Jesus Christ's." [3247] For He hath said Himself, "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." [3248] And of such was this man, nor did he know himself so well as the Physician knew him. For if he saw himself to be a dissembler now, if he had known himself at this time to be full of duplicity and guile, then he did not know with Whom he was speaking. For He it is of whom the Evangelist says, "He had no need that any one should testify to Him of man, for He Himself knew what was in man." [3249] What then did He answer? "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head." [3250] But where hath He not? In thy faith. For in thy heart foxes have holes, thou art full of guile; in thy heart birds of the air have nests; thou art lifted up. Full of guile and self-elation as thou art, thou shalt not follow Me. How can a guileful man follow Simplicity?

2. And then forthwith to another who was silent, and said nothing, and promised nothing, He saith, "Follow Me!" As much evil as He saw in the other, so much good saw He in this man. "Follow Me," [3251] Thou sayest to one who hath no wish for it. Lo, here is a man quite ready, "I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest;" and yet Thou sayest to another who hath no such wish, "Follow thou Me." "The first," saith He, "I decline, because I see in him holes, I see nests." "But then why dost Thou press this other, whom Thou dost challenge to follow Thee, and he makes excuses? Lo, Thou dost even force him, and he doth not come; Thou dost exhort him, and he doth not follow. For what doth he say? `I will go first to bury my father.'" The faith of his heart showed itself to the Lord; but his dutiful affection made him delay. But the Lord Christ when He is preparing men for the Gospel, will have no excuse from this carnal and temporal affection interfere. It is true that both the law of God prescribes these duties, and the Lord Himself reproves the Jews, because they destroyed this very commandment of God. And the Apostle Paul has in his Epistle laid it down, and said, "This is the first commandment with promise." What? "Honour thy father and thy mother." [3252] God of a surety spake it. This young man then wished to obey God, and to bury his father; but it is place, and time, and circumstance, which is in this case to give way to place, and time, and circumstance. A father must be honoured, but God must be obeyed. He that begat us must be loved, but He that created us must be preferred. "I am calling thee," saith He, "to My Gospel; I have need of thee for another work: this is a greater work than that which thou wishest to be doing. `Let the dead bury their dead.' [3253] Thy father is dead: there are other dead men to bury the dead." Who are the dead who bury the dead? Can a dead man be buried by dead men? How can they lay him out, if they are dead? How can they carry him, if they are dead? How can they bewail him, if they are dead? Yet they do lay him out, and carry, and bewail him, and they are dead; because they are unbelievers. That which is written in the Song of Songs is a lesson to us, when the Church says, "Set in order love in me." [3254] What is, "Set in order love in me"? Make the proper degrees, and render to each what is his due. Do not put what should come before, below that which should come after it. Love your parents, but prefer God to them. Mark the mother of the Maccabees, "`My sons, I know not how ye appeared in my womb.' [3255] Conceive you I could, give you birth I could; but `form you I could not:' hear Him therefore, prefer Him to me: trouble not yourselves, that I must remain here without you." Thus she commanded them, and they followed her. What this mother taught her children, did the Lord Jesus Christ teach him to whom He said, "Follow Me."

3. See now how another disciple presented himself, to whom no one said anything: he said, "Lord, I will follow Thee, but I will first go to bid them farewell which are at my house." [3256] I suppose this is his meaning, "Let me tell my friends, lest haply they seek me as usual." And the Lord said, "No man putting his hand on the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." [3257] The East calls thee, and thou art looking toward the west. In this lesson we learn this, that the Lord chooses whom He will. But He chooses them, as the Apostle says, both according to His Own grace, and according to their righteousness. For such are the words of the Apostle; "Attend," he says, "to what Elias saith: Lord, they have killed Thy Prophets, they have overthrown Thine altars, and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God to him? I have reserved to Myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee before Baal." [3258] Thou thinkest that thou art the only servant who is working faithfully: there are others too who fear Me, and they not few. For I have "seven thousand" there. And then he added, "Even so then at this present time also." For some Jews believed, though the most were reprobate; like him who carried holes for foxes in his heart. "Even so then," saith he, "at this present time also, there is a remnant saved through the election of grace:" that is, there is the same Christ even now, as then, who also then said to that Elias, "I have reserved to Myself." What is, "I have reserved to Myself"? I have chosen them, because I saw their hearts that they trusted in Me, and not in themselves, nor in Baal. They are not changed, they are as they were made by Me. And thou who art speaking, except thou hadst placed thy trust in Me, where wouldest thou be? Except thou wert replenished by My grace, wouldest not thou too be bowing the knee before Baal? But thou art replenished by My grace; because thou hast not put thy trust at all in thine own strength, but wholly in My grace. Do not therefore glory in this, as to suppose thou hast no fellow-servants in thy service; there are others whom I have chosen, as I have chosen thee, those, namely, who put their trust in Me; as the Apostle says, "Even now also a remnant is saved through the election of grace."

4. Beware, O Christian, beware of pride. For though thou art a follower of the saints, ascribe it always wholly to grace; for that there should be any "remnant" in thee, the grace of God hath brought to pass, not thine own deserts. For the Prophet Isaiah again having this remnant in view, had said already, "Except the Lord of Hosts had left us a seed, we should have become as Sodom, and should have been like unto Gomorrah." [3259] "So then," says the Apostle, "at this present time also a remnant is saved through the election of grace. But if by grace," says he, "then is it no more of works" (that is, "be now no more lifted up upon thine own deserts"); "otherwise grace is no more grace." [3260] For if thou dost build [3261] on thine own work; then is a reward rendered unto thee, not grace freely bestowed. But if it be grace, it is gratuitously given. I ask thee then, O sinner, "Dost thou believe in Christ?" Thou sayest, "I do believe." "What dost thou believe? That all thy sins may be forgiven thee freely through Him?" Then hast thou what thou hast believed. O grace gratuitously given! And thou, righteous man, what dost thou believe, that thou canst not keep thy righteousness without God? That thou art righteous then, impute it wholly to His mercy; but that thou art a sinner, ascribe it to thine own iniquity. Be thou thine own accuser, and He will be thy gracious Deliverer. For every crime, wickedness, or sin comes of our own negligence, and all virtue and holiness come of God's gracious goodness. "Let us turn to the Lord."

Footnotes

[3246] Luke ix. 57. [3247] Phil. ii. 21. [3248] Matt. vii. 21. [3249] John ii. 25. [3250] Luke ix. 58. [3251] Luke ix. 59. [3252] Eph. vi. 2. [3253] Luke ix. 60. [3254] Cant. ii. 4, Sept. [3255] 2 Macc. vii. 22. [3256] Luke ix. 61. [3257] Luke ix. 62. [3258] Rom. xi. 3, etc. [3259] Isa. i. 9. [3260] Rom. xi. 5, 6. [3261] Præsumis. .


Sermon LI.

[CI. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Luke x. 2, "The harvest truly is plenteous," etc.

1. By the lesson of the Gospel which has just been read, we are reminded to search what that harvest is of which the Lord says, "The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few. Pray ye the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into His harvest." [3262] Then to His twelve disciples, whom He also named Apostles, He added other seventy-two, and sent them all, as appears from His words, to the harvest then ready. What then was that harvest? For that harvest was not among these Gentiles, among whom there had been nothing sown. It remains therefore that we understand that this harvest was among the people of the Jews. It was to that harvest that the Lord of the harvest came, to that harvest He sent reapers; but to the Gentiles He sent not reapers, but sowers. Understand we then that it was harvest among the people of the Jews, sowing time among the peoples of the Gentiles. For out of that harvest were the Apostles chosen, where now that the harvest was, the corn was already ripe; for there had the Prophets sown. Delightful it is to take a view of God's husbandry, and to feel delight in His gifts, and the labourers in His field. For in this husbandry did he labour, who said, "I laboured more than they all." [3263] But the strength to labour was given him by the Lord of the harvest. Therefore he added, "Yet it is not I, but the grace of God which is with me." For that he was employed in this husbandry he clearly enough shows, where he says, "I have planted, Apollos watered." [3264] But this Apostle, from Saul, becoming Paul, that is, from being proud, the least of all (for the name of Saul is derived from Saul; but Paul is little; whence in a way interpreting his own name, he says, "I am the least of the Apostles" [3265] : this Paul I say, the little, and the least, sent unto the Gentiles, says that he was sent particularly to the Gentiles. He himself so writes, we read, believe, preach it. He then in his Epistle to the Galatians says, that having been now called by the Lord Jesus, he came to Jerusalem, and "communicated the Gospel" [3266] unto the Apostles, that their right hands were given to him, the sign of harmony, the sign of agreement, that what they had learnt from him differed in no respect from them. Afterwards he says that it was agreed between him and them, that he should go to the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision, he as a sower, they as reapers. So also with good reason, though they knew it not, did the Athenians give him his name. For as they heard the word from him, they said, "Who is this sower of words?" [3267]

2. Attend then and be it your delight with me to take a view of the husbandry of God and the two harvests in it, the one already past, the other yet to come; the one already past among the people of the Jews, the one yet to come among the peoples of the Gentiles. Let us prove this; and whereby, but by the Scripture of God, the Lord of the harvest? See we have it said there in this present lesson, "The harvest is great, but the labourers are few. Pray ye the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into His harvest." [3268] But because in that harvest there were to be gainsaying and persecuting Jews, He says, "Behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves." [3269] Let us show something clearer still touching this harvest in the Gospel according to John, where the Lord sat as He was wearied at the well, great mysteries [3270] indeed were transacted, but the time is too short to treat of them all. But give ye ear to that which relates to the present subject. For we have undertaken to show a harvest among the people, among whom the Prophets preached; for therefore were they sowers, that the Apostles might be reapers. A woman of Samaria talks with the Lord Jesus, and when the Lord among other things had told her how God ought to be worshipped, she says, "We know that Messias cometh who is called Christ, and He will teach us all things. And the Lord saith to her, I that speak with thee am He." [3271] Believe what thou hearest; why dost thou make search for what thou seest? "I that speak with thee am He." But as to what she had said, "We know that the Messias will come," whom Moses and the Prophets have announced, "who is called Christ." The harvest was already in the ear. When it had yet to grow it had received the Prophets as sowers, now that it was come to ripeness it waited for the Apostles as reapers. Presently as she heard this she believed and left her water-pot, and ran in haste, and began to announce the Lord. The disciples at that time had gone to buy bread; who on their return found the Lord talking with the woman, and they marvelled. Yet did they not dare to say to Him, "What or why talkest Thou with her?" [3272] They had astonishment in themselves, they repressed their boldness in their heart. To this Samaritan woman then the Name of Christ was nothing new, she was already waiting for His coming, already did she believe that He would come. Whence had she believed it, if Moses had not sown? But hear this more expressly noted. The Lord then said to His disciples, "Ye say that the summer is yet far distant, lift up your eyes, and see the fields white already to harvest" [3273] And then He adds, "Others have laboured, and ye are entered into their labours." [3274] Abraham laboured, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the Prophets laboured in sowing; at the Lord's coming the harvest was found ripe. The reapers sent with the scythe of the Gospel, carried the sheaves into the Lord's floor, where Stephen was to be threshed.

3. But here comes in that Paul, and he is sent to the Gentiles. And this he does not conceal in setting forth the grace, which he had specially and peculiarly received. For he says in his Scriptures, that he was sent to preach the Gospel where Christ had not been named. [3275] But because that first harvest was past already, and all the Jews who remained are no harvest, let us consider that harvest which we ourselves are. For it has been sown by Apostles and Prophets. The Lord Himself sowed it. For He was in the Apostles, seeing that Christ also Himself reaped it. For they are nothing without Him; He is perfect without them. For He saith Himself to them, "For without Me, ye can do nothing." [3276] What then doth Christ from henceforth sowing among the Gentiles say? "A sower went out to sow." [3277] "There" are reapers "sent out" to reap, "here" an unwearied sower "went out" to sow. For what fear did it cause him, that "some seed fell on the way side, and some on rocky places, and some among thorns"? If he had been afraid of these unmanageable [3278] grounds, he would never have got to the good ground. What is it to us, what affair of ours is it to be disputing now of the Jews, and talking of the chaff? this only concerns us, that we be not "the way side," nor "the rock," nor "the thorns," but "the good ground." Be our heart well-prepared, that from it may come the "thirty," or the "sixty fold," or the thousand, and the "hundred fold;" some more, some less; but all is wheat. Let it not be "the way side," where the enemy as a bird may take away the seed trodden down by the passers by. Let it not be "the rock," where the shallow soil makes it spring up immediately, so that it cannot bear the sun. Let it not be the "thorns," the lusts of this world, the anxieties of an ill-ordered [3279] life. For what is worse than that anxiety of life, which doth not suffer one to attain unto Life? What more miserable, than by caring for life, to lose Life? What more unhappy, than by fearing death, to fall into death? Let the thorns be rooted up, the field prepared, the seeds put in, let them grow unto the harvest, let the barn be longed for, not the fire feared.

4. My place accordingly it is, whom with all my unworthiness the Lord hath appointed to be a labourer in His field, to say these things to you, to sow, to plant, to water, yea to dig round about some trees, and to apply the basket of [3280] dung; belongeth it to me to do these things faithfully; to you to receive them faithfully; to the Lord to aid me in my labour, and you in your belief, all of us labouring, but in Him overcoming the world. What then belongs to your place I have already said; now I wish to say what belongs to ours. But peradventure it seems to some of you, that it is something superfluous which I have declared that I wish to say, and speaking within themselves they are saying in thought, "O that he would now let us go! He has said already what belongs to our place, as to that which belongs to his, what is that to us?" I think it is better that in a reciprocal and mutual love, we should belong to you. Ye are now indeed of one family, we of the same family are dispensers, it is true, but we all belong to one Lord. Nor what I give, do I give of mine own; but of His from whom I also receive. For if I should give of mine own, I shall give a lie. "For he that speaketh a lie, speaketh of his own." [3281] So then ye ought to give ear to that which belongs to the duty of the dispenser, whether it be that ye may have joy in yourselves, if ye find yourselves to be such, or whether it be that ye may be even in this very thing instructed. For how many are there among this people who shall some day be dispensers! I too was once where ye now are; and I who am seen now to be measuring out to my fellowservants their food from this higher place, a few years since in a lower place was receiving food with my fellow-servants. I am speaking now a Bishop to lay-men; but I know that in speaking to them I am speaking to many who will some day be bishops also.

5. Let us see then how we must understand what the Lord enjoined on them whom He sent to preach the Gospel, and let us consider in our mind this prepared harvest. "Carry," He saith, "neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes; and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, say, Peace be to this house. If the Son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it; if not, it shall return to you again." [3282] If it hath "rested," hath the other lost it? This be far from the mind of Saints! So then this is not to be taken in a carnal sense; and hence it may be neither are the "purse," nor "shoes," nor "scrip;" nor above all that, where if we take it simply without examination, pride seems to be enjoined us, that we "salute no man by the way."

6. Let us give heed to our Lord, our True Example and Succour. Let us prove that He is our Succour; "Without Me ye can do nothing." [3283] Let us prove that He is our Example; "Christ," says Peter, "suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps." [3284] Our Lord Himself had bags in the way, and these bags He entrusted to Judas. It is true He suffered from the thief; but I as desiring to learn of my Lord say, "O Lord, Thou didst suffer from the thief, whence hadst Thou that of which he could take away? Me, a wretched and infirm man Thou hast admonished not even to carry a purse; Thou didst carry bags, and hadst that in which Thou couldest suffer from the thief. If Thou hadst not carried them, neither could he have found anything to take away." What remains, but that he here saith to me, "Understand what that thou hearest, `Carry no purse,' means? What is a purse? Money shut up, that is, concealed wisdom. What is, `Carry no purse? Be not wise within your own selves only. [3285] Receive ye the Holy Ghost.' It should be a fountain in thee, not a purse; from whence distribution is made to others, not where it is itself shut in." And the scrip is the same as the purse.

7. What are "the shoes"? The shoes which we use, are the skins of dead beasts, the coverings of our feet. By this then are we bidden to renounce dead works. This Moses was admonished of in a figure, when the Lord speaking to him said, "Loose thy shoes from off thy feet; for the place wherein thou standest is holy ground." [3286] What ground is so holy as the Church of God? In it therefore let us stand, let us loose our shoes, let us, that is, renounce dead works. For as touching these shoes, wherewith we walk, the same my Lord again assures me. For if He had not been shod Himself, John would not have said of Him, "I am not worthy to unloose the latchet of His shoes." [3287] Be there obedience then, let not a haughty severity steal over us. "I," says one, "fulfil the Gospel, because I walk with naked feet." Well, thou canst do it, I cannot. But let us both keep that which we both receive together. How? Let us glow with charity, let us love one another; and so it shall be, that I will love your strength, and thou shall bear my weakness.

8. But what thinkest thou, who dost not choose to understand in what sense these words are used, and who art forced by thy [3288] perverse interpretation to slander even the Lord Himself as to the "bags" and "shoes;" what thinkest thou? Does it please thee then, that as we meet our friends in the way, we should neither pay them our salutations if they are our betters, nor return the salutations of our inferiors? What, dost thou fulfil the Gospel, because thou art saluted, and art silent? But thus thou wilt not be like to the traveller going on the way, but to the milestone pointing out the way. Let us then lay aside this coarse [3289] interpretation, and understand aright the words of the Lord, "and salute no man by the way." For it is not without a cause that we are enjoined this, nor would He mislike us to do what He enjoined. What then is, "Salute no man by the way"? It might indeed be even simply taken thus, that He has commanded us to do what He enjoins with all speed; and that His words "Salute no man by the way," are as though He had said, "Put all other things by, till ye accomplish what has been enjoined you;" according to that style of speaking by which expressions are wont to be exaggerated in the custom of conversation. Nor need we go far; in the same discourse a little while afterwards He says, "And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shall be thrust down to hell." [3290] What is, "exalted to heaven"? Did the walls of that city touch the clouds, or reach to the stars? But what is "exalted to heaven"? Thou seemest thyself to be surpassing happy, surpassing powerful, thou art exceeding proud. As then for the sake of exaggeration this was said, "Thou art exalted unto heaven" to that city, which was not exalted, nor rose up unto heaven; so to express haste hyperbolically was it said, "So run, so do what I have enjoined you, that travellers by the way may not in the least retard you; but disregarding all things else, hasten to the end set before you."

9. But there is another more recondite meaning in these words which it is not difficult to understand, which respects more particularly myself and all dispensers, and you too who are hearers. He that salutes, wishes salvation. [3291] For so the ancients in their letters wrote thus, "Such a one sends salvation to another." Salutation derives its name from this salvation. What then is, "Salute no man by the way"? They who "salute by the way," do so "by occasion." I see that ye have quickly understood me, yet for all that I must not finish yet. For ye have not all understood so quickly. I have seen that some understand by their voice, I see more asking for something further by their silence. But seeing that we are talking of the way, let us walk as it were in the way: ye quick ones, wait for the slow, and walk evenly. What then did I say, He "who salutes by the way," salutes only by occasion? He was not going to him whom he salutes. He was about one thing, another came in his way; he was seeking one thing, he found across his path some other thing to do. What then is it to "salute by occasion"? "By occasion" to announce salvation. Now what else is it to announce salvation, but to preach the Gospel? If then thou dost preach, do it by love, and not "by occasion." There are men then, who though "they seek their own things," yet preach no other Gospel; of whom the Apostle says with sighing, "For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's." [3292] And these "saluted," that is announced salvation, they preached the Gospel; but they sought some other thing, and therefore they saluted only "by occasion." And what is this? If thou art such an one, whosoever thou art, thou doest it; nay not all of you who do it are such, but it may be that some of you who do it are. But if thou art such, it is not that thou doest it, but it is done by thee.

10. For such as these did the Apostle suffer; yet did he not enjoin them so to be. And these do something, or something is done by them; they seek something else, yet they preach the word. Care not what the preacher seeks after; be it thy will to hold fast what he preaches; but let his intention be no concern of thine. Hear the word of salvation from his mouth, from his mouth hold fast this salvation. Be not thou the judge of his heart. If thou seest that he is seeking after other things, what is that to thee? Hear Him who is Salvation; [3293] "What they say, do." [3294] He has given thee assurance who hath said, "What they say, do." Do they evil? "Do not what they do." Do they good. They do not "salute by the way," they do not preach the Gospel by occasion; "be ye followers of them, even as they also are of Christ." [3295] A good man preaches to thee; pluck the grape from the vine. A bad man preaches to thee, pluck the grape as it hangs in the hedge. The cluster has grown on the vine-branch entangled among the thorns, but it has not grown from the thorns. By all means when thou seest any such thing as this and art hungry, be careful as thou pluckest it, lest when thou puttest forth thy hand to the grape, thou be torn by the thorns. This is what I say; in such wise hear what is good, as that thou imitate not the evil of the character. Let him preach "by occasion," salute by the way; it will injure him because he has not given ear to the precept of Christ, "Salute no man by the way;" it will not injure thee, who, whether thou dost hear of salvation [3296] from a passer by, or from one who comes direct to thee, dost hold fast that salvation. Hear the Apostle, who as I have said already gives us to understand this. "What then?" "So that in every way, whether by occasion or in truth, Christ is preached; and herein I do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer." [3297]

11. Let then such as these, the Apostles of Christ, the preachers of the Gospel, who "salute not by the way," that is, who do not seek or do any other thing, but who in genuine charity preach the Gospel, let them come into the house, and say, "Peace to this house." They speak not with the mouth only; they pour out that of which they are full; they preach peace, and they have peace. They are not as those of whom it was said, "Peace, Peace, and there is no peace." [3298] What is, "Peace, Peace, and there is no peace"? They preach it, but they have it not; they praise it and they love it not; they say, and do not. But yet do thou receive the peace, "whether by occasion or in truth Christ be preached." Whoso then is full of peace, and salutes, saying, "Peace to this house, if the son of peace be there, his peace shall rest upon him; if not," for peradventure there is no one of peace there, yet he who saluted has lost nothing, "it shall return," says he, "to you again." It shall return to thee, though it never departed from thee. For this He would mean to say, It profiteth thee that thou hast declared it, it hath not profited him at all who hath not received it; thou hast not lost thy reward, because he hath remained empty; it is rendered thee for thy good will, it is rendered thee for the charity which thou hast bestowed, He will render it to thee who hath given thee assurance of it by that Angelic voice, "Peace on earth to men of good will." [3299]

Footnotes

[3262] Luke x. 2. [3263] 1 Cor. xv. 10. [3264] 1 Cor. iii. 6. [3265] 1 Cor. xv. 9. [3266] Gal. ii. 1, etc. [3267] Acts xvii. 18. spermologos. [3268] Luke x. 2. [3269] Luke x. 3. [3270] Sacramenta. [3271] John iv. 25, 26. [3272] John iv. 27. [3273] John iv. 35. [3274] John iv. 38. [3275] Rom. xv. 20. [3276] John xv. 5. [3277] Luke viii. 5. [3278] Difficiles. [3279] Vitiosæ. [3280] i.e. to appoint the exercises of penance; see Sermon lx. (cx. Ben) (i.). [3281] John viii. 44. [3282] Luke x. 4-6. [3283] John xv. 5. [3284] 1 Pet. ii. 21. [3285] Rom. xii. 16. [3286] Exod. iii. 5. [3287] Luke iii. 16. [3288] Praviter. [3289] Stoliditatem. [3290] Luke x. 15. [3291] Salutem. [3292] Phil. ii. 21. [3293] Salutem. [3294] Matt. xxiii. 3. [3295] 1 Cor. iv. 16, xi. 1; Sermon xxiv. (lxxiv. Ben.) 4. [3296] Salutem. [3297] Phil i. 18, 19. prophasei; per occasionem, Vulgate. [3298] Jer. viii. 11. [3299] Luke ii. 14, Vulg. .


Sermon LII.

[CII. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Luke x. 16, "He that rejecteth you rejecteth me."

1. What our Lord Jesus Crist at that time spake to His disciples was put in writing, and prepared for us to hear. And so we have heard His words. For what profit would it be to us if He were seen, and were not heard? And now it is no hurt, that He is not seen, and yet is heard. He saith then, "He that despiseth you, despiseth Me." [3300] If to the Apostles only He said, "He that despiseth you, despiseth Me;" do ye despise us. But if His word reach to us, and He hath called us, and set us in their place, see that ye despise not us, lest the wrong ye shall do unto us reach to Him. For if ye fear not us, fear Him who said, "He that despiseth you, despiseth Me." But why do we, who are unwilling to be despised by you, speak to you, except that we may have joy of your good conversation? Let your good works be the solace of our perils. Live well, that ye may not die ill.

2. And in these words which I have spoken, "Live well, that ye may not die ill," do not think of those who it may be have lived evilly, and have died in their beds; and the pomp of their funeral has been displayed, and they have been laid in costly coffins, in sepulchres prepared with exceeding beauty and labour; nor because each one of you perhaps is saying, "I should wish so to die," do ye think that it is a vain thing I have chosen to say; when I said that I would that ye should live well, that ye may not die ill? On the other hand, the case of some one, it may be, occurs to you, who has both lived well, and according to the opinion of men has died ill; perhaps he has died from the fall of a house, has died by shipwreck, has died by wild beasts; and each carnal man is saying in his heart, "What good is it to live well? See this man has so lived, and in this wise has he died." "Return therefore to your heart;" and if ye are faithful ones, ye will find Christ there; He speaketh to you there. For I cry aloud, but He in silence giveth more instruction. I speak by the sound of words; He speaketh within by the fear of the thoughts. May He then engraft my word in your heart; for I have taken upon me to say, "Live well, that ye may not die ill." See, for faith is in your hearts, and Christ dwelleth there, and it is His place to teach what I desire to give utterance to.

3. Remember that rich and that poor man in the Gospel; "the rich man clothed in purple and fine linen," and crammed with daily feastings; and the poor man "lying before" the rich man's gate, hungry, and looking for "the crumbs from his table, full of sores, licked" by "dogs." [3301] Remember, I say; and whence do ye remember, but because Christ is there in your hearts? Tell me, what have ye asked Him within, and what hath He answered. For he goes on to say, "It came to pass that that poor man died, and was carried by the Angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried in hell. And being in torments he lifted up his eyes, and saw Lazarus resting in Abraham's bosom. Then he cried, saying, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip his finger in water, and drop it on my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame." [3302] Proud in the world, [3303] in hell a beggar! For that poor man did attain to his crumbs; but the other attained not to the drop of water. Of these two then, tell me, which died well, and which died ill? Do not ask the eyes, return to the heart. For if ye ask the eyes, they will answer you falsely. For vastly splendid, and disguised with much worldly show, are the honours which could be paid to that rich man in his death. What crowds of mourning slaves and handmaids might there be! what pompous train of dependants! what splendid funeral obsequies! what costliness of burial! I suppose he was overwhelmed with spices. What shall we say then, Brethren, that he died well, or died ill? If ye ask the eyes, he died very well; if ye enquire of your inner Master, he died most ill.

4. If then those haughty men who keep their own goods to themselves, and bestow none of them upon the poor, die in this way; how do they die who plunder the goods of others? Therefore have I said with true reason, "Live well, that ye die not ill," that ye die not as that rich man died. Nothing proves an evil death, but the time after death. On the other hand, look at that poor man; not with the eyes, for so ye will err; let faith look at him, let the heart see him. Set him before your eyes lying on the ground, "full of sores, and the dogs" coming and "licking his sores." Now when ye recall him before your eyes in this guise, immediately ye loathe him, ye turn your face away, and stop your nostrils: see then with the eyes of the heart. "He died, and was carried by the Angels into Abraham's bosom." The rich man's family was seen bewailing him; the Angels were not seen rejoicing. What then did Abraham answer the rich man? "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst good things." [3304] Thou thoughtest nothing good, but what thou hadst in this life. Thou hast received them; but those days are past; and thou hast lost the whole; and thou hast remained behind to be tormented in hell."

5. Opportune then was it, Brethren, that those words should be spoken to you. Have respect unto the poor, whether lying on the ground, or walking; have respect unto the poor, do good works. Ye who are wont so to do, do it still and ye who are not wont to do so, do it now. Let the number of those who do good works increase; since the number of the faithful increases also. Ye do not yet see how great is the good ye do; for so the husbandman also sees not the crop when he sows, but he trusts the ground. Wherefore dost thou not trust God? Our harvest will come. Think, that we are busy in travail now, are working in travail now, but sure to receive, as it is written, "They went on and wept as they cast their seed; but they shall surely come with exultation, bringing their sheaves with them." [3305]

Footnotes

[3300] Luke x. 16. [3301] Luke xvi. 19, etc. [3302] Luke xvi. 22-24. [3303] Temporis. [3304] Luke xvi. 25. [3305] Ps. cxxv. 6, Sept. (cxxvi. English version). .


Sermon LIII.

[CIII. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Luke x. 38, "And a certain woman named Martha received him into her house," etc.

1. The words of our Lord Jesus Christ which have just been read out of the Gospel, give us to understand, that there is some one thing for which we must be making, when we toil amid the manifold engagements of this life. Now we make for this as being yet in pilgrimage, and not in our abiding place; as yet in the way, not yet in our country; as yet in longing, not yet in enjoyment. Yet let us make for it, and that without sloth and without intermission, that we may some time be able to reach it.

2. Martha and Mary were two sisters, true kinswomen both, not only in blood, but in religion also; both clave to the Lord, both with one heart served the Lord when He was present in the flesh. Martha received Him, as strangers are usually received. Yet it was the handmaid received her Lord, the sick her Saviour, the creature her Creator. And she received Him to be fed in the body, herself to be fed in spirit. For the Lord was pleased to "take on Him the form of a servant," [3306] and "having taken the form of a servant" in it to be fed by servants, by reason of His condescension, not His condition. For this truly was condescension, to allow Himself to be fed by others. He had a body, wherein He might hunger indeed and thirst; but do ye not know that when He hungered in the wilderness Angels ministered to Him? [3307] So then, in that He was pleased to be fed, He showed favour to them that fed Him. And what marvel is this, seeing He showed this same favour to the widow as touching the Holy Elias, whom He had before fed by the ministry of a raven? [3308] Did He fail in His power of feeding him, when He sent him to the widow? By no means. He did not fail in His power of feeding him, when He sent him to the widow; but He designed to bless the religious widow, by means of her pious office paid to His servant. Thus then was the Lord received as a guest, "who came unto His own, and His own received Him not: but as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God:" [3309] adopting servants, and making them brethren; redeeming captives, and making them co-heirs. Yet let none of you, as perhaps may be the case, say, "O blessed they who obtained the grace [3310] to receive Christ into their own house!" Do not grieve, do not murmur, that thou wert born in times when thou seest the Lord no more in the flesh; He has not taken this blessedness from thee. "Forasmuch," says He, "as ye have done it unto the least of Mine, ye have done unto Me." [3311]

3. These few words, as the shortness of the time allowed me, would I speak concerning the Lord who was pleased to be fed in the flesh, while He feedeth in the spirit: let us now come to the subject which I have proposed concerning unity. Martha, who was arranging and preparing to feed the Lord, was occupied about much serving. Mary her sister chose rather to be fed by the Lord. She in a manner deserted her sister who was toiling about much serving, and she sat herself at the Lord's feet, and in stillness heard His word. Her most faithful ear had heard already; "Be still, and see that I am the Lord." [3312] Martha was troubled, Mary was feasting; the one was arranging many things, the other had her eyes upon the One. Both occupations were good; but yet as to which was the better, what shall we say? We have One whom we may ask, let us give ear together. Which was the better, we heard now when the lesson was read, and let us hear again as I repeat it. Martha appeals to her Guest, lays the request of her pious complaints before the Judge, that her sister had deserted her, and neglected to assist her when she was so busied in her serving. Without any answer from Mary, yet in her presence, the Lord gives judgment. Mary preferred as in repose to commit her cause to the Judge, and had no mind to busy herself in making answer. For if she were to be getting ready words to answer, she must remit her earnest attention to hear. Therefore the Lord answered, who was in no difficulty for words, in that He was the Word. What then did He say? "Martha, Martha." [3313] The repetition of the name is a token of love, or perhaps of exciting attention; she is named twice, that she might give the more attentive heed. "Martha, Martha," hear: "Thou art occupied about many things: but one thing is needful;" [3314] for so meaneth unum opus est, not "one work," that is, one single work, but one is needful, is expedient, is necessary, which one thing Mary had chosen. [3315]

4. Consider, Brethren, this "one thing," and see if even in multitude itself anything pleases, but "this oneness." See how great a number, through God's mercy, ye are: who could bear you, if ye did not mind "one thing"? Whence in this many is this quiet? Give oneness, and it is a people; take oneness away, and it is a crowd. For what is a crowd, but a disordered multitude? But give ear to the Apostle: "Now I beseech you, brethren." He was speaking to a multitude; but he wished to make them all "one." "Now I beseech you, brethren, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you; but that ye be perfected in the same mind, and in the same knowledge." [3316] And in another place, "That ye be of one mind, thinking one thing, doing nothing through strife or vainglory." [3317] And the Lord prays to the Father touching them that are His: "that they may be one even as We are One." [3318] And in the Acts of the Apostles; "And the multitude of them that believed were of one soul, and of one heart." [3319] Therefore, "Magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name in one together." [3320] For one thing is necessary, that celestial [3321] Oneness, the Oneness in which the Father, and the Son, and Holy Spirit are One. See how the praise of Unity is commended to us. Undoubtedly our God is Trinity. The Father is not the Son the Son is not the Father, the Holy Spirit is neither the Father, nor the Son, but the Spirit of both; and yet these Three are not Three Gods, nor Three Almighties; but One God, Almighty, the whole Trinity is one God; because One thing is necessary. To this one thing nothing brings us, except being many we have one heart.

5. Good are ministrations done to the poor, and especially the due services and the religious offices done to the saints of God. For they are a payment, not a gift, as the Apostle says, "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" [3322] Good are they, we exhort you to them, yea by the word of the Lord we build you up, "be not slow to entertain" the saints. Sometimes, they who were not aware of it, by entertaining those whom they knew not, have entertained angels. [3323] These things are good; yet better is that thing which Mary hath chosen. For the one thing hath manifold trouble from necessity; the other hath sweetness from charity. A man wishes when he is serving, to meet with something; and sometimes he is not able: that which is lacking is sought for, that which is at hand is got ready; and the mind is distracted. For if Martha had been sufficient for these things, she would not have demanded her sister's help. These things are manifold, are diverse, because they are carnal, because they are temporal; good though they be, they are transitory. But what said theLord to Martha? "Mary hath chosen that better part." Not thou a bad, but she a better. Hear, how better; "which shall not be taken away from her." [3324] Some time or other, the burden of these necessary duties shall be taken from thee: the sweetness of truth is everlasting. "That which she hath chosen shall not be taken away from her." It is not taken away, but yet it is increased. In this life, that is, is it increased, in the other life it will be perfected, never shall it be "taken away."

6. Yea, Martha, blessed in thy good serving, even thou (with thy leave would I say it) seekest this reward for all thy labour--quiet. Now thou art occupied about much serving, thou hast pleasure in feeding bodies which are mortal, though they be the bodies of Saints; but when thou shalt have got to that country, wilt thou find there any stranger whom thou mayest receive into thine house? wilt thou find the hungry, to whom thou mayest break thy bread? or the thirsty, to whom thou mayest hold out thy cup? the sick whom thou mayest visit? the litigious, whom thou mayest set at one? the dead, whom thou mayest bury? None of all these will be there, but what will be there? What Mary hath chosen; there shall we be fed, and shall not feed others. Therefore there will that be in fulness and perfection which Mary hath chosen here; from that rich table, from the word of the Lord did she gather up some crumbs. For would ye know what will be there? The Lord Himself saith of His servants: "Verily I say unto you, that He will make them to sit down to meat, and will pass by [3325] and serve them." [3326] What is "to sit down to meat," but to "be still"? What is, "to sit down to meat," but to rest? What is, "He will pass by and serve them"? First, He passeth by, and so serveth. And where? In that heavenly Banquet, of which he saith, "Verily I say unto you, Many shall come from the East and West, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven." [3327] There will the Lord feed us, but first He passeth on from hence. For (as ye should know) the Pasch is by interpretation Passing-over. The Lord came, He did divine things, He suffered human things. Is He still spit upon? Is He still struck with the palm of the hand? Is He still crowned with thorns? Is He still scourged? Is He still crucified? Is He still wounded with a spear? "He hath passed by." And so too the Gospel tells us, when He kept the Paschal feast with His disciples. What says the Gospel? "But when the hour was come that Jesus should pass out of this world unto the Father." [3328] Therefore did He pass, [3329] that He might feed us; let us follow, that we may be fed.

Footnotes

[3306] Phil. ii. 7. [3307] Matt. iv. 11. [3308] 1 Kings xvii. 6. [3309] John i. 11, 12. [3310] Meruerunt. [3311] Matt. xxv. 40. [3312] Ps. xlvi. 10. [3313] Luke x. 41. [3314] Luke x. 42. [3315] St. Augustin is explaining the words unum opus est, which in themselves might mean, "there is one work," or as in the text. [3316] 1 Cor. i. 10. [3317] Phil. ii. 2, 3. [3318] John xvii. 22. [3319] Acts iv. 32. [3320] Ps. xxxiv. 3. [3321] Supernum. [3322] 1 Cor. ix. 11. [3323] Heb. xiii. 2. [3324] Luke x. 42. [3325] parelthon; transiens, Vulgate. [3326] Luke xii. 37. [3327] Matt. viii. 11. [3328] John xiii. 1. [3329] metabe; transeat, Vulgate. .


Sermon LIV.

[CIV. Ben.]

Again, on the words of the Gospel, Luke x. 38, etc., about Martha and Mary.

1. When the holy Gospel was being read, we heard that the Lord was received by a religious woman into her house, and her name was Martha. And while she was occupied in the care of serving, her sister Mary was sitting at the Lord's Feet, and hearing His Word. The one was busy, the other was still; one was giving out, the other was being filled. Yet Martha, all busy as she was in that occupation and toil of serving, appealed to the Lord, and complained of her sister, that she did not help her in her labour. But the Lord answered Martha for Mary; and He became her Advocate, who had been appealed to as Judge. "Martha," He saith, "thou art occupied about many things, when one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the better part, which shall not be taken from her." [3330] For we have heard both the appeal of the appellant, and the sentence of the Judge. Which sentence answered the appellant, defended the other's cause. For Mary was intent on the sweetness of the Lord's word. Martha was intent, how she might feed the Lord; Mary intent how she might be fed by the Lord. By Martha a feast was being prepared for the Lord, in whose feast Mary was even now delighting herself. As Mary then was listening with sweet pleasure to His most sweet word, and was feeding with the most earnest affection, when the Lord was appealed to by her sister, how, think we, did she fear, lest the Lord should say to her, "Rise and help thy sister"? For by a wondrous sweetness was she held; a sweetness of the mind which is doubtless greater than that of the senses. [3331] She was excused, she sat in greater confidence. And how excused? Let us consider, examine, investigate it thoroughly as we can, that we may be fed also.

2. For what, do we imagine that Martha's serving was blamed, whom the cares of hospitality had engaged, who had received the Lord Himself into her house? How could she be rightly blamed, who was gladdened by so great a guest? If this be true, let men give over their ministrations to the needy; let them choose for themselves "the better part, which shall not be taken from" them; let them give themselves [3332] wholly to the word, let them long after the sweetness of doctrine; be occupied about the saving knowledge; let it be no care to them, what stranger is in the street, who there is that wants bread, or clothing, or to be visited, to be redeemed, to be buried; let works of mercy cease, earnest heed be given to knowledge only. If this be "the better part," why do not all do this, when we have the Lord Himself for our defender in this behalf? For we do not fear in this matter, lest we should offend His justice, when we have the support of His judgment.

3. And yet it is not so; but as the Lord spake so it is. It is not as thou understandest; but it is as thou oughtest to understand it. So mark; "Thou art occupied about many things, when one thing is needful. Mary hath chosen the better part." Thou hast not chosen a bad part; but she a better. And how better? Because thou art "about many things," she about "one thing." One is preferred to many. For one does not come from many, but many from one.

The things which were made, are many, He who made them is One. The heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that in them are, how many are they! Who could enumerate them? who conceive their vast number? Who made all these? God made them all. Behold, "they are very good." [3333] Very good are the things He made; how much better is He who made them! Let us consider then our "occupations about many things." Much serving is necessary for the refreshment of our bodies. Wherefore is this? Because we hunger, and thirst. Mercy is necessary for the miserable. Thou breakest bread to the hungry; because thou hast found an hungry man; take hunger away; to whom dost thou break bread? Take houseless wandering [3334] away; to whom dost thou show hospitality? Take nakedness away; to whom dost thou furnish clothes? Let there be no sickness; whom dost thou visit? No captivity; whom dost thou redeem? No quarrelling; whom dost thou reconcile? No death; whom dost thou bury? In that world to come, these evils will not be; therefore these services will not be either. Well then did Martha, as touching the bodily--what shall I call it, want, or will, of the Lord?--minister to His mortal flesh. But who was He in that mortal flesh? "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God:" [3335] see what Mary was listening to! "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us:" [3336] see to whom Martha was ministering! Therefore "hath Mary chosen the better part, which shall not be taken from her." For she chose that which shall abide for ever; "it shall not be taken from her." She wished to be occupied about "one thing." She understood already, "But it is good for me to cleave to the Lord." [3337] She sat at the feet of our Head. The more lowlily she sat, the more amply did she receive. For the water flows together to the low hollows of the valley, runs down from the risings of the hill. The Lord then did not blame Martha's work, but distinguished between their services. "Thou art occupied about many things; yet one thing is needful." Already hath Mary chosen this for herself. The labour of manifoldness passeth away, and the love of unity abideth. Therefore what she hath chosen, "shall not be taken from her." But from thee, that which thou hast chosen (of course this follows, of course this is understood) from thee, that which thou hast chosen shall be taken away. But to thy blessedness shall it be taken away, that that which is better may be given. For labour shall be taken away from thee, that rest may be given. Thou art still on the sea, she is already in port.

4. Ye see then, dearly Beloved, and, as I suppose, ye understand already, that in these two women, who were both well pleasing to the Lord, both objects of His love, both disciples; ye see, I say (and an important thing it is which whosoever understand, understand hereby, a thing which, even those of you who do not understand ought to give ear to, and to know), that in these two women the two lives are figured, the life present, and the life to come, the life of labour, and the life of quiet, the life of sorrow, and the life of blessedness, the life temporal, and the life eternal. These are the two lives: do ye think of them more fully. What this life contains, I speak not of a life of evil, or iniquity, or wickedness, or luxuriousness, or ungodliness; but of labour, and full of sorrows, by fears subdued, by temptations disquieted: even this harmless life I mean, such as was suitable for Martha: this life I say, examine as best ye can; and as I have said, think of it more fully than I speak. But a wicked life was far from that house, and was neither with Martha nor with Mary; and if it ever had been, it fled at the Lord's entrance. There remained then in that house, which had received the Lord, in the two women the two lives, both harmless, both praiseworthy; the one of labour, the other of ease; neither vicious, neither slothful. Both harmless, both, I say, praiseworthy: but one of labour, the other of ease: neither vicious, which the life of labour must beware of; neither slothful, which the life of ease must beware of. There were then in that house these two lives, and Himself, the Fountain of life. In Martha was the image of things present, in Mary of things to come. What Martha was doing, that we are now; what Mary was doing, that we hope for. Let us do the first well, that we may have the second fully. For what of it have we now? How far have we it? As long as we are here, how much of it is there that we have? For in some measure are we employed in it now, and ye too when removed from business, and laying aside domestic cares, ye meet together, stand, listen. In so far as ye do this, ye are like Mary. And with greater facility do ye do that which Mary doeth, than I who have to distribute. Yet if I say ought, it is Christ's; therefore doth it feed you, because it is Christ's. For the Bread is common to us all, of which I too live as well as you. "But now we live, if ye, Brethren, stand fast in the Lord." [3338] I would not that ye should stand fast in us, but in the Lord. "For neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase." [3339]

Footnotes

[3330] Luke x. 41, 42. [3331] Ventris. [3332] Vacent. [3333] Gen. i. 31. [3334] Peregrinationem. [3335] John i. 1. [3336] John i. 14. [3337] Ps. lxxiii. 28. [3338] 1 Thess. iii. 8. [3339] 1 Cor. iii. 7. .


Sermon LV.

[CV. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Luke xi. 5, "Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight," etc.

1. We have heard our Lord, the Heavenly Master, and most faithful Counsellor exhorting us, who at once exhorteth us to ask, and giveth when we ask. We have heard Him in the Gospel exhorting us to ask instantly, and to knock even after the likeness of intrusive importunity. For He has set before us, for the sake of example, "If any of you had a friend, and were to ask of him at night for three loaves, [3340] when a friend out of his way had come to him, and he had nothing to set before him; and he were to answer that he was now at rest, and his servants with him, and that he must not be disturbed by his entreaties; but the other were to be instant and persevering in knocking, and not being alarmed in modesty to depart, but compelled by necessity to continue on; that he would rise, though not for friendship's sake, at least for the other's importunity, and would give him as many as he wished." And how many did he wish? He wished for no more than three. To this parable then, the Lord adjoined an exhortation, and urged us earnestly to ask, seek, knock, till we receive what we ask, and seek, and knock for, making use of an example from a contrary case; as of that "judge who neither feared God, nor regarded man," [3341] and yet when a certain widow besought him day by day, overcome by her importunity, he gave her that which he could not in kindness give her, against his will. But our Lord Jesus Christ, who is in the midst of us a Petitioner, with God a Giver, would not surely exhort us so strongly to ask, if He were not willing to give. Let then the slothfulness of men be put to shame; He is more willing to give, than we to receive; He is more willing to show mercy, than we to be delivered from misery; and doubtless if we shall not be delivered, we shall abide in misery. For the exhortation He giveth us, He giveth only for our own sakes.

2. Let us awake, and believe Him who exhorteth us, obey Him who promiseth us, and rejoice in Him who giveth unto us. For peradventure, some time or other some friend out of his way has come to us too, and we have found nothing to set before him; and under the experience of this necessity, we have received both for ourselves and him. For it cannot be, but that some one of us hath fallen in with a friend who asked him something, which he could not answer; and then he has discovered that he has it not, when he is pressed to give it. A friend has come to thee "out of the way," out, that is, of the life of this world, in which all men are passing along as strangers, and no one abides here as possessor; but to every man it is said, "Thou hast been refreshed, pass on, go on thy way, give place to the next comer." [3342] Or perhaps from an evil "way," that is, from an evil life, some friend of thine wearied out, and not finding the truth, by the hearing and perceiving of which he may be made happy, but exhausted amid all the lust and poverty of the world, comes to thee, as to a Christian, and says, "Give me an account of this, make me a Christian." And he asks what it may be thou didst not know through the simplicity of thy faith; and so thou hast not whereby to recruit him in his hunger, and reminded thus thou discoverest thine own indigence; and when thou wishest to teach thou art forced to learn; and whilst thou dost blush before him who asked thee, as not finding in thyself what he was seeking for, thou art compelled to seek, that thou mayest be thought worthy [3343] to find.

3. And where shouldest thou seek. Where but in the books of the Lord? Peradventure what he has asked is contained in the book, but it is obscure. Perhaps the Apostle has declared it in some Epistle: declared it in such wise, that thou canst read, but canst not understand it: thou art not permitted to pass on. For the interrogator urges thee; Paul himself, or Peter, or any of the Prophets thou art not allowed to ask. For this family is now at rest with their Lord, and intense is the ignorance of this life, that is, it is midnight, and thy hungry friend is urgent upon thee. A simple faith haply sufficed thee, him it suffices not. Is he then to be abandoned? Is he to be cast out of thy house? Therefore unto the Lord Himself, unto Him with whom the family is at rest, knock by prayer, ask, be instant. He will not, as that friend in the parable, arise and give thee as overcome by importunity. He wisheth to give; thou for thy knocking hast not yet received; knock on; He wisheth to give. And what He wisheth to give, He deferreth, that thou mayest long the more for it when deferred, lest if given quickly it should be lightly esteemed.

4. But when thou hast gotten the three loaves, that is, to feed on and understand the Trinity, thou hast that whereby thou mayest both live thyself, and feed others. Now thou needest not fear the stranger who comes out of his way to thee, but by taking him in mayest make him a citizen of the household: nor needest thou fear lest thou come to the end of it. That Bread will not come to an end, but it will put an end to thine indigence. It is Bread, God the Father, and it is Bread, God the Son, and it is Bread, God the Holy Ghost. The Father Eternal, the Son Coeternal with Him, and the Holy Ghost Coeternal. The Father Unchangeable, the Son Unchangeable, the Holy Ghost Unchangeable. The Father Creator, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Father the Shepherd and the Giver of life, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Father the Food and Bread eternal, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Learn, and teach; live thyself, and feed others. God who giveth to thee, giveth thee nothing better than Himself. O thou greedy one, what else wast thou seeking for? Or if thou seek for aught else, what will suffice thee whom God doth suffice not?

5. But necessary it is that thou have charity, that thou have faith, that thou have hope; that that which is given may be sweet unto thee. And these same, faith, hope, charity, are three. And these too are gifts of God. For faith we have received from Him; "As God," saith he, "hath distributed to every one the measure of faith." [3344] And hope we have received from Him, to whom it is said, "Wherein Thou hast caused me to hope." [3345] And charity we have received from Him, of whom it is said, "The charity of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which hath been given to us." [3346] Now these three are likewise in some measure different; but all gifts of God. For "there abide these three, faith, hope, charity; but the greatest of these is charity." [3347] In those loaves it is not said that any one loaf was greater than the others; but simply that three loaves were asked for, and were given.

6. See other three things: "Who is there of you, whom if his son ask a loaf, will he give him a stone? Or who is there of you of whom if his son ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? or if he ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him!" [3348] Let us then again consider these three things, if haply there be not here those three, "faith, hope, charity; but the greatest of these is charity." Set down then these three things, a loaf, a fish, an egg; the greatest of these is a loaf. Therefore in these three things do we well understand charity by "the loaf." On which account He has opposed a stone to a loaf; because hardness is contrary to charity. By "a fish" we understand faith. A certain holy man has said, and we are glad to say it too; "The `good fish' is a godly faith." It lives amidst the waves, and is not broken or dissolved by the waves. Amidst the temptations and tempests of this world, liveth godly faith; the world rages, yet it is uninjured. Observe only that serpent is contrary to faith. For My faith is she betrothed to whom it is said in the Song of Songs, "Come from Lebanon, My spouse, coming and passing over to Me from the beginning of faith." [3349] Therefore betrothed too, because faith is the beginning of betrothal. For something is promised by the bridegroom, and by this plighted faith is he held bound. Now to the fish the Lord opposed the serpent, to faith the devil. Wherefore to this betrothed one does the Apostle say, "I have betrothed you to One Husband, to present you a chaste virgin to Christ." And, "I fear lest as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds also should be corrupted from the purity which is in Christ;" [3350] that is, which is in the faith of Christ. For he says, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." [3351] Therefore let not the devil corrupt our faith, let him not devour the fish.

7. There remains hope, which, as I think, is compared to an egg. For hope has not yet arrived at attainment; and an egg is something, but not yet the chicken. So then quadrupeds give birth to young ones, but birds to the hope of young. Hope therefore exhorts us to this, to despise things present, to wait for things to come; "forgetting those things which are behind," let us, with the Apostle," reach forth unto those things which are before." [3352] For so he says; "But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, reaching forth unto those things which are before, I follow on earnestly unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Nothing then is so hostile to hope, as to "look back," to place hope, that is, in those things which flit by and pass away; but in those things should we place it, which are not yet given, but which sometime will be given, and will never pass away. But when the world is deluged by trials, [3353] as it were the sulphureous rain of Sodom, the example of Lot's wife must be feared. For she "looked behind;" [3354] and in the spot where she looked behind, there did she remain. She was turned into salt, that she might season the wise by her example. Of this hope the Apostle Paul speaketh thus; "For we are saved in hope; but hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for: but if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. For what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for." [3355] It is an egg, and not as yet the chicken. And it is covered with a shell; it is not seen because it is covered; let it be with patience waited for; let it feel the warmth, that it may come to life. Press on, "reach forth unto the things which are before, forget the past. For the things which are seen, are temporal. Not looking back," says he, "at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." [3356] Unto those things which are not seen then extend thy hope, wait, endure. Look not back. Fear "the scorpion" for thine "egg." See how he wounds with the tail, which he has behind him. Let not then the "scorpion" crush thine "egg," let not this world crush thy hope (so to say) with its poison, therefore against thee, because behind. How loudly does the world talk to thee, what an uproar does it make behind thy back, that thou mayest look back! that is, that thou mayest place thy hope in present things (and yet not even present, for they cannot be called present which have no fixedness), and mayest turn thy mind away from that which Christ hath promised, and not yet given, but who, seeing He is faithful, will give it, and mayest be content to look for rest in a perishing world.

8. For this cause does God mingle bitternesses with the felicities of earth, that another felicity may be sought, in whose sweetness there is no deceit; yet by these very bitternesses does the world endeavour to turn thee away from thy longing pursuit after the things "which are before," and to turn thee back. For these bitternesses, for these tribulations dost thou murmur and say, "See, all things are perishing in Christian times." What complaint is this! God hath not promised me that these things shall not perish; Christ hath not promised me this. The Eternal hath promised things eternal: if I believe, from a mortal, I shall be made eternal. What noise is this, O world [3357] impure! what murmuring is this! Why art thou trying to turn me back? Perishing as thou art, thou wishest to detain me; what wouldest thou do, if thou hadst any permanence? Whom wouldest thou not beguile by thy sweetness, if with all thy bitternesses thou dost impose thy false nourishment [3358] upon us? For me, if I have hope, if I hold fast my hope, my "egg" has not been wounded by the "scorpion." "I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall be ever in my mouth." [3359] Be the world prosperous, or be the world turned upside down; "I will bless the Lord," who made the world. Yes, verily, I will bless Him. Be it well with me according to the flesh, or be it ill according to the flesh, "I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall be ever in my mouth." For if I bless when it is well, and blaspheme when it is ill with me; I have received the "scorpion's" sting, being pricked "I have looked back;" which be far from us. "The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away: it is done, as the Lord pleased; blessed be the name of the Lord." [3360]

9. The city which has given us birth according to the flesh still abideth, God be thanked. O that it may receive a spiritual birth, and together with us pass over unto eternity! If the city which has given us birth according to the flesh abide not, yet that which has given us birth according to the Spirit abides for ever. "The Lord doth build up Jerusalem." [3361] Has He by sleeping brought His building to ruin, or by not keeping it, let the enemy into it? "Except the Lord keep the city, he that keepeth it waketh but in vain." [3362] And what "city"? "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." [3363] What is Israel, but the seed of Abraham? What the seed of Abraham, but Christ? "And to thy seed," he says, "which is Christ." [3364] And to us what says he? "But ye are Christ's, therefore Abraham's seed, heirs according to the promise." [3365] "In thy seed," saith He, "shall all nations be blessed." [3366] The holy city, the faithful city, the city on earth a sojourner, hath its foundation in heaven. O faithful one, do not corrupt thy hope, do not lose thy charity, "gird up thy loins," light, and hold out thy lamps before thee; "wait for the Lord, when He will return from the wedding." [3367] Why art thou alarmed, because the kingdoms of the earth are perishing? Therefore hath a heavenly kingdom been promised thee, that thou mightest not perish with the kingdoms of the earth. For it was foretold, foretold distinctly, that they should perish. For we cannot deny that it was foretold. Thy Lord for whom thou art waiting, hath told thee, "Nation shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." [3368] The kingdoms of the earth have their changes; He will come of whom it is said, "and of His kingdom there shall be no end." [3369]

10. They who have promised this to earthly kingdoms have not been guided by truth, but have lied through flattery. A certain poet of theirs has introduced Jupiter speaking, and he says of the Romans;

To them no bounds of empire I assign,

Nor term of years to their immortal line. [3370]

Most certainly truth makes no such answer. This empire which thou hast given "without term of years," is it on earth, or in heaven? On earth assuredly. And even if it were in heaven, yet "heaven and earth shall pass away." [3371] Those things shall pass away which God hath Himself made; how much more rapidly shall that pass away which Romulus founded! Perhaps if we had a mind to press Virgil on this point, and tauntingly to ask him why he said it; he would take us aside privately, and say to us, "I know this as well as you, but what could I do who was selling words to the Romans, if by this kind of flattery I did not promise something which was false? And yet even in this very instance I have been cautious, when I said, `I assigned to them an empire without term of years,' I introduced their Jupiter to say it. I did not utter this falsehood in my own person, but put upon Jupiter the character of untruthfulness: as the god was false, the poet was false. For would ye know that I well knew the truth of it? In another place, when I did not introduce this stone, called Jupiter, but spoke in my own person, I said,

`Th' impending ruin of the Roman state.' [3372]

See how I spoke of the impending ruin of the state. I spoke of its impending ruin. I did not suppress it." When he spoke in truth he was not silent as to its ruin; when in flattery, he promised that it should abide for ever.

11. Let us not then faint, my Brethren: an end there will be to all earthly kingdoms. If that end be now, God knoweth. For peradventure it is not yet, and we, through some infirmity, or mercifulness, or misery, are wishing that it may not be yet; nevertheless will it not therefore some day be? Fix your hope in God, desire the things eternal, wait for the things eternal. Ye are Christians, Brethren, we are all Christians. Christ did not come down into the flesh that [3373] we might live softly; let us endure rather than love the things present; manifest is the harm of adversity, deceitful is the soft blandishment of prosperity. Fear the sea, even when it is a calm. On no account let us hear in vain, "Let us lift up our hearts." Why place we our hearts in the earth, when we see that the earth is being turned upside down? We cannot but exhort you, that ye may have something to say and answer in defence of your hope against the deriders and blasphemers of the Christian name. Let no one by his murmuring turn you back from waiting for the things to come. All who by reason of these adversities blaspheme our Christ, are the "scorpion's" tail. Let us put our egg under the wings of that Hen of the Gospel, which crieth out to that false and abandoned city, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen her chickens, and thou wouldest not!" [3374] Let it not be said to us, "How often would I, and thou wouldest not!" For that hen is the Divine Wisdom; but assumed flesh to accommodate Itself to its chickens. See the hen with feathers bristling, with wings hanging down, with voice broken, and tremulous, and faint, and languid, accommodating herself to her little ones. Our egg then, that is, our hope, let us place beneath the wings of this Hen.

12. Ye have noticed, it may be, how a hen will tear a scorpion in pieces. O then that the Hen of the Gospel would tear in pieces and devour these blasphemers, creeping out of their holes, and inflicting hurtful stings, would pass them over into Her Body, and turn them into an egg. Let them not be angry; we seem to be excited; but we do not return curses for curses. "We are cursed, and we bless, being defamed, we entreat." [3375] But "let him not speak of Rome, it is said of me: O that he would hold his tongue about Rome;" as though I were insulting it, and not rather entreating the Lord for it, and exhorting you all, unworthy as I am. Be it far from me to insult it! The Lord avert this from my heart, and from the grief of my conscience. Have we not had many brethren there? have we not still? Does not a large portion of the pilgrim city Jerusalem live there? has it not endured there temporal afflictions? but it has not lost the things eternal. What can I say then, when I speak of Rome, but that is false, which they say of our Christ, that He is Rome's destroyer, and that the gods of wood and stone were her defenders? Add what is more costly, "gods of brass." Add what is costlier still, "of silver and gold:" the "idols of the nations are silver and gold." [3376] He did not say, "stone;" he did not say, "wood;" he did not say, "clay;" but, what they value highly, "silver and gold." Yet these silver and golden idols "have eyes, and see not." [3377] The gods of gold, of wood, are as regards their costliness unequal; but as to "having eyes, and seeing not," they are equal. See to what sort of guardians learned men have entrusted Rome, to those "who have eyes, and see not." Or if they were able to preserve Rome, why did they first perish themselves? They say; "Rome perished at the same time." Nevertheless they perished. "No," they say, "they did not perish themselves, but their statues." Well, how then could they keep your houses, who were not able to keep their own statues? Alexandria once lost such gods as these. Constantinople some time since, ever since it was made a grand city, for it was made so by a Christian Emperor, lost its false gods; and yet it has increased, and still increases, and remains. And remain it will, as long as God pleases. For we do not to this city either promise an eternal duration because we say this. Carthage remains now in its possession of the Name of Christ, yet once on a time its goddess Cælestis [3378] was overthrown; because celestial she was not, but terrestrial.

13. And that which they say is not true, that immediately on losing her gods Rome has been taken [3379] and ruined. It is not true at all; their images were overthrown before; and even so were the Goths with Rhadagaisus [3380] conquered. Remember, my Brethren, remember; it is no long time since, but a few years, call it to mind. When all the images in the city of Rome had been overthrown, Rhadagaisus king of the Goths came with a large army, much more numerous than that of Alaric was. Rhadagaisus was a Pagan; he sacrificed to Jupiter every day. Everywhere it was announced, that Rhadagaisus did not cease from sacrificing. Then said they all, "Lo, we do not sacrifice, he does sacrifice, we, who are not allowed to sacrifice must be conquered by him who does sacrifice." But God making proof that not even temporal deliverance, nor the preservation of these earthly kingdoms, consist in these sacrifices, Rhadagaisus, by the Lord's help, was marvellously overcome. Afterwards came other Goths who did not sacrifice, they came, who though they were not Catholics in the Christian faith, were yet hostile and opposed to idols, and they took Rome; they conquered those who put their trust in idols, who were still seeking after the idols they had lost, and desiring still to sacrifice to the lost gods. And amongst them too were some of our brethren, and these were afflicted also: but they had learnt to say, "I will bless the Lord at all times." [3381] They were involved in the afflictions of their earthly kingdom: but they lost not the kingdom of heaven; yea, rather, they were made the better for obtaining it through the exercise of tribulations. And if they did not in their tribulations blaspheme, they came out as sound vessels from the furnace, and were filled with the blessing of the Lord. Whereas those blasphemers, who follow and long after earthly things, who place their hope in earthly things, when these they have lost, whether they will or no, what shall they retain? where shall they abide? Nothing without, nothing within; an empty coffer, an emptier conscience. Where is their rest? where their salvation? where their hope? Let them then come, let them give over blaspheming, let them learn to adore; let the scorpions with their stings be devoured by the Hen, let them be turned into His body who makes them pass over into it; let them on earth be exercised, in heaven be crowned.

Footnotes

[3340] Luke xi. 5. [3341] Luke xviii. 2. [3342] Ecclus. xxix. 27. [3343] Merearis. [3344] Rom. xii. 3. [3345] Ps. cxix. 49. [3346] Rom. v. 5. [3347] 1 Cor. xiii. 13. [3348] Luke xi. 11-13. [3349] Cant. iv. 8, Sept. See on St. Cyprian, Ep. p. 278, note n. [3350] 2 Cor. xi. 2, 3. [3351] Eph. iii. 17. [3352] Phil. iii. 13. [3353] As by the irruption of the barbarian tribes. [3354] Gen. xix. 26. [3355] Rom. viii. 24, 25. [3356] 2 Cor. iv. 18. [3357] Munde immunde. [3358] Alimenta mentiris. [3359] Ps. xxxiv. 1. [3360] Job i. 21, Sept. [3361] Ps. cxlvii. 2. [3362] Ps. cxxvii. 1. [3363] Ps. cxxi. 4. [3364] Gal. iii. 16. [3365] Gal. iii. 29. [3366] Gen. xii. 3 and xxii. 18. [3367] Luke xii. 35, 36. [3368] Mark xiii. 8. [3369] Luke i. 33. [3370] Virg. Æneid, i. 282-283 (Dryden). [3371] Luke xxi. 33. [3372] Georg. ii. 489. [3373] Ad delicias. [3374] Matt. xxiii. 37. [3375] 1 Cor. iv. 12, 13. [3376] Ps. cxv. 4. [3377] Ps. cxv. 5. [3378] Tutelary goddess of Carthage. De Civit. Dei, ii. 4 and 26; Ps. 62, § 7, 98, § 14. Tert. Apol. i. 12, 24. [3379] By Alaric, Gibbon, vol. 4, 109, etc. [3380] King of the Goths, who invaded Italy, A.D. 406, four years before the taking of Rome by Alaric, 410, Gibbon, Rom. Emp. vol. 4, 31-38. [3381] Ps. xxxiv. 1. .


Sermon LVI.

[CVI. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Luke xi. 39, "Now do ye Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and the platter," etc.

1. Ye have heard the holy Gospel, how the Lord Jesus in that which He said to the Pharisees, conveyed doubtless a lesson to His own disciples, that they should not think that righteousness consists in the cleansing of the body. For every day did the Pharisees wash themselves in water before they dined; as if a daily washing could be a cleansing of the heart. Then He showed what sort of persons they were. He told them who saw them; for He saw not their faces only but their inward parts. For that ye may know this, that Pharisee, to whom Christ made answer, thought within himself, he uttered nothing aloud, yet the Lord heard him. For within himself he blamed the Lord Christ, because He had so come to his feast without having washed. He was thinking, the Lord heard, therefore He answered. What then did He answer? "Now do ye Pharisees wash the outside of the platter; but within ye are full of guile and ravening." [3382] What! is this to come to a feast! how did He not spare the man by whom He had been invited? Yea rather by rebuking He did spare him, that being reformed He might spare him in the judgment. And what is it that He showeth to us? That Baptism also which is conferred once for all, cleanses by faith. Now faith is within, not without. Wherefore it is said and read in the Acts of the Apostles, "Cleansing their hearts by faith." [3383] And the Apostle Peter thus speaks in his Epistle; "So too hath He given you a similitude from Noah's ark, how that eight souls were saved by water." And then he added, "So also in a like figure will baptism save us, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience." [3384] "This answer of a good conscience" did the Pharisees despise, and washed "that which was without;" within they continued full of pollution.

2. And what did He say to them after this? "But rather give alms, and behold all things are clean unto you." [3385] See the praise of alms, do, and prove it. But mark awhile; this was said to the Pharisees. These Pharisees were Jews, the choice men as it were of the Jews. For those of most consideration and learning were then called Pharisees. They had not been washed by Christ's Baptism; they had not yet believed on Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God, who walked among them, yet was not acknowledged by them. How then doth He say to them, "Give alms, and behold all things are clean unto you"? If the Pharisees had paid heed to Him, and given alms, at once according to His word "all things would have been clean to them;" what need then was there for them to believe on Him? But if they could not be cleansed, except by believing on Him, who "cleanseth the heart by faith;" what means, "Give alms, and behold all things are clean unto you"? Let us carefully consider this, and peradventure He Himself explains it.

3. When He had spoken thus, doubtless they thought that they did give alms. And how did they give them? They tithed all they had, they took away a tenth of all their produce, and gave it. It is no easy matter to find a Christian who doth as much. See what the Jews did. Not wheat only, but wine, and oil; nor this only, but even the most trifling things, cummin, rue, mint, and anise, [3386] in obedience to God's precept, they tithed all; put aside, that is, a tenth part, and gave alms of it. I suppose then that they recalled this to mind, and thought that the Lord Christ was speaking to no purpose, as if to those who did not give alms; whereas they knew their own doings, how that they tithed, and gave alms of the minutest and most trifling of their produce. They mocked Him within themselves as He spake thus, as if to men who did not give alms. The Lord knowing this, immediately subjoined, "But woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, who tithe mint, and cummin, and rue, and all herbs." [3387] That ye may know, I am aware of your alms. Doubtless these tithes are your alms; yea even the minutest and most trifling of your fruits do ye tithe; "Yet ye leave the weightier matters of the law, judgment and charity." Mark. Ye have "left judgment and charity," and ye tithe herbs. This is not to do alms. "These," saith He, "ought ye to do, and not to leave the other undone." Do what? "Judgment and charity, justice and mercy;" and "not to leave the other undone." Do these; but give the preference to the others.

4. If this be so, why did He say to them, "Do alms, and behold all things are clean unto you"? What is, "Do alms"? Do mercy. What is, "Do mercy"? If thou understand, begin with thine own self. For how shouldest thou be merciful to another, if thou art cruel to thyself? "Give alms, and all things are clean unto you." Do true alms. What is alms? Mercy. Hear the Scripture; "Have mercy on thine own soul, pleasing God." [3388] Do alms, "Have mercy on thine own soul, pleasing God." Thine own soul is a beggar before thee, return to thy conscience. Whosoever thou art, who art living in wickedness or unbelief, return to thy conscience; and there thou findest thy soul in beggary, thou findest it needy, thou findest it poor, thou findest it in sorrow, nay perhaps thou dost not find it in need, but dumb through its neediness. For if it beg, it "hungereth after righteousness." Now when thou findest thy soul in such a state (all this is within, in thy heart), first do alms, give it bread. What bread? If the Pharisee had asked this question, the Lord would have said to him, "Give alms to thine own soul." For this He did say to him; but he did not understand it, when He enumerated to them the alms which they were used to do, and which they thought were unknown to Christ; and He saith to them, "I know that ye do this, `ye tithe mint and anise, cummin and rue;' but I am speaking of other alms; ye despise `judgment and charity.' In judgment and charity give alms to thine own soul." What is "in judgment"? Look back, and discover thyself; mislike thyself, pronounce a judgment against thyself. And what is charity? "Love the Lord God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; love thy neighbour as thyself:" [3389] and thou hast done alms first to thine own soul, within thy conscience. Whereas if thou neglect this alms, give what thou wilt, give how much thou wilt; reserve of thy goods not a tenth, but a half; give nine parts, and leave but one for thine own self: thou doest nothing, when thou doest not alms to thine own soul, and art poor in thyself. Let thy soul have its food, that it perish not by famine. Give her bread. What bread, thou wilt say? He speaketh with thee Himself. If thou wouldest hear, and understand, and believe the Lord, He would say to thee Himself, "I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven. [3390] Wouldest thou not first give this Bread to thine own soul, and do alms unto it? If then thou believest, thou oughtest so to do, that thou mayest first feed thine own soul. Believe in Christ, and the things which are within shall be cleansed; and what is without shall be clean also. "Let us turn to the Lord," etc.

Footnotes

[3382] Luke xi. 39. [3383] Acts xv. 9. [3384] 1 Pet. iii. 20, 21. [3385] Luke xi. 41. [3386] Matt. xxiii. 23. [3387] Luke xi. 42. [3388] Ecclus. xxx. 23, Vulgate. [3389] Matt. xxii. 37, etc. [3390] John vi. 41. .


Sermon LVII.

[CVII. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Luke xii. 15, "And he said unto them, take heed, and keep yourselves from all covetousness." [3391]

1. I doubt not but that ye who fear God, do hear His word with awe, and execute it with cheerfulness; that what He hath promised, ye may at present hope for, hereafter receive. We have just now heard the Lord Christ Jesus, the Son of God, giving us a precept. The Truth, who neither deceiveth, nor is deceived, hath given us a precept; let us hear, fear, beware. What is this precept then: "I say unto you, Beware of all covetousness"? [3392] What is, "of all covetousness"? What is, "of all"? Why did He add, "of all"? For He might have spoken thus, "Beware of covetousness." It suited Him to add, "of all;" and to say, "Beware of all covetousness."

2. Why He said this, the occasion as it were out of which these words arose, is shown to us in the holy Gospel. A certain man appealed to Him against his brother, who had taken away all his patrimony, and gave not back his proper portion to his brother. Ye see then how good a case this appellant had. For he was not seeking to take by violence another's, but was seeking only for his own which had been left him by his parents; these was he demanding back by his appeal to the judgment of the Lord. He had an unrighteous brother; but against an unrighteous brother had he found a righteous Judge. Ought he then in so good a cause to lose that opportunity? Or who would say to his brother, "Restore to thy brother his portion," if Christ would not say it? Would that judge be likely to say it, whom perhaps his richer and extortionate brother might corrupt by a bribe? Forlorn then as he was, and despoiled of his father's goods, when he had found such and so great a Judge he goes up to Him, he appeals to, he beseeches Him, he lays his cause before Him in few words. For what occasion was there to set forth his cause at length, when he was speaking to Him who could even see the heart? "Master," he says, "speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me." [3393] The Lord did not say to him, "Let thy brother come." No, He neither sent for him to be present, nor in his presence did He say to him who had appealed to Him, "Prove what thou wast saying." He asked for half an inheritance, he asked for half an inheritance on earth; the Lord offered him a whole inheritance in heaven. The Lord gave more than asked for.

3. "Speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me." Just case, short case. But let us hear Him who at once gives judgment and instruction. "Man," He saith. "O man;" for seeing thou valuest this inheritance so highly, what art thou but a man? He wished to make him something more than man. What more did He wish to make him, from whom He wished to take covetousness away? What more did He wish to make him? I will tell you, "I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High." [3394] Lo, what He wished to make him, to reckon him that hath no covetousness among the "gods." "Man, who made Me a divider among you?" [3395] So the Apostle Paul His servant, when he said, "I beseech you, brethren, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you," [3396] was unwilling to be a divider. And afterwards he thus admonished them who were running after his name, and dividing Christ: "Every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" [3397] Judge then, how wicked are those men, who would have Him to be divided, who would not be a divider. "Who," saith He, "hath made Me a divider among you?"

4. Thou hast petitioned for a kindness; hear counsel. "I say unto you, Beware of all covetousness." [3398] "Perhaps," he would say, "thou wouldest call him covetous and greedy, if he were seeking another's goods; but I say, seek not even thine own greedily or covetously." This is "Of all, beware of all covetousness." A heavy burden this! If by any chance this burden be imposed on them that are weak; let Him be sought unto, that He who imposes it, may vouchsafe to give us strength. For it is not a thing to be lightly regarded, my Brethren, when our Lord, our Redeemer, our Saviour, who died for us, who gave His Own Blood as our ransom, to redeem us, our Advocate and Judge; it is no light matter when He saith, "Beware." He knoweth well how great the evil is; we know it not, let us believe Him. "Beware," saith He. Wherefore? of what? "of all covetousness." I am but keeping what is mine own, I am not taking away another's; "Beware of all covetousness." Not only is he covetous, who plunders the goods of others; but he is covetous too, who greedily keeps his own. But if he is so blamed who greedily keeps his own; how is he condemned who plunders what is another's! "Beware," He saith, "of all covetousness: For a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." He that stores up great abundance, how much does he take therefrom to live? When he has taken it, and in a way separated in thought sufficient to live upon from it, let him consider for whom the rest remains; lest haply when thou keepest wherewith to live, thou art gathering only wherewith to die. Behold Christ, behold truth, behold severity. "Beware," saith truth: "Beware," saith severity. If thou love not the truth, fear severity. "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." Believe Him, He doth not deceive thee. On the other hand, thou sayest, "Yea, `a man's life' does `consist in the abundance of the things which he possesses.'" He doth not deceive thee; thou deceivest thyself.

5. Out of this occasion then, when that appellant was seeking his own portion, not desiring to plunder another's, arose that sentence of the Lord, wherein He said not, "Beware of covetousness;" but added, "of all covetousness." Nor was this all: He giveth another example of a certain rich man, "whose ground had turned out well." [3399] "There was," He saith, "a certain rich man, whose ground had turned [3400] out well." What is, "had turned out well"? The ground which he possessed had brought forth a great produce. How great? So that he could not find where to bestow it: suddenly, through his abundance he became straitened--this old covetous man. For how many years had already passed away, and yet those barns had been enough? So great then was the produce, that the accustomed places were not sufficient. And the wretched man sought counsel, not as to how he should lay the additional produce out, but how he should store it up; and in thinking he discovered an expedient. He seemed as it were wise in his own eyes, by the discovery of this expedient. Knowingly did he think of it, wisely hit upon it. What was this he wisely hit upon? "I will destroy," he says, "my" old "barns, and will build new ones greater, and will fill them; and I will say to my soul." What wilt thou say to thy soul? "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years, take thine ease, eat, drink, be merry." [3401] This did the wise discoverer of this expedient say to his soul.

6. "And God," who doth not disdain to speak even with fools, "said unto him." [3402] Some of you may peradventure say, And how did God speak with a fool? O, my Brethren, with how many fools does He speak here, when the Gospel is read! When it is read, are not they who hear and do not, fools? What then did the Lord say? For he, I repeat, thought himself wise by the discovery of his expedient. "Thou fool," He saith; "Thou fool," who seemest wise unto thyself; "Thou fool," who hast said to thy soul, "Thou hast much goods laid up for many years: to-day is thy soul required of thee!" Thy soul to which thou hast said, "Thou hast much goods," to-day is "required," and hath no good at all. Let it then despise these goods, and be herself good, that when she is "required," she may depart in assured hope. For what is more perverse [3403] than a man [3404] who wishes to have "much goods," and does not wish to be good himself? Unworthy art thou to have them, who dost not wish to be what thou dost wish to have. For dost thou wish to have a bad country house? No indeed, but a good one. Or a bad wife? No, but a good one. Or a bad hood? [3405] Or even a bad shoe? And why a bad soul only? He did not in this place say to this fool who was thinking on vain things, building barns, and who had no regard to the wants [3406] of the poor; He did not say to him, "To-day shall thy soul be hurried away to hell:" He said no such thing as this, but "is required of thee." "I do not tell thee whither thy soul shall go; yet hence, where thou art laying up for it such store of things, must it depart, whether thou wilt or no." Lo, "thou fool," thou hast thought to fill thy new and greater barns, as if there was nothing to be done with what thou hast.

7. But peradventure he was not yet a Christian. Let us hear then, Brethren, to whom as believers the Gospel is read, by whom He who spake these things, is worshipped, whose mark is borne by us on our forehead, and is held in the heart. For of very great concernment is it where a man hath the mark of Christ, whether in the forehead, or both in the forehead and the heart. Ye have heard to-day the words of the holy prophet Ezekiel, how that before God sent one to destroy the ungodly people, He first sent one to mark them, and said to him, "Go and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and moan for the sins of my people that are done in the midst of them." [3407] He did not say, "which [3408] are done without them;" but "in the midst of them." Yet they "sigh and moan;" and therefore are they "marked on the forehead:" in the forehead of the inner man, not the outer. For there is a forehead in the face, there is a forehead in the conscience. So it happens that when the inner forehead is stricken, the outer grows red; either red with shame, or pale with fear. So then there is a forehead of the inner man. There were they "marked" that they might not be destroyed; because though they did not correct the sins which were "done in the midst of them," yet they sorrowed for them, and by that very sorrow separated themselves; and though separated in God's sight, they were mixed with them in the eyes of men. They are "marked" secretly, are not hurt openly. Afterwards the Destroyer is sent, and to him it is said, "Go, lay waste, spare neither young nor old, male nor female, but come not near those who have the mark on their forehead." [3409] How great security is granted to you, my Brethren, who among this people are sighing, and moaning for the iniquities which are being done in the midst of you, and who do them not!

8. But that ye may not commit iniquities, "beware of all covetousness." I will tell you in its full extent, what is "of all covetousness." In matter of lust he is covetous, whom his own wife suffices not. And idolatry itself is called covetousness; because again in matter of divine worship [3410] he is covetous, whom the one and true God suffices not. What but the covetous soul makes for itself many gods? What but the covetous soul makes to itself false [3411] martyrs? "Beware of all covetousness." Lo, thou lovest thine own goods, and dost boast thyself in that thou seekest not the goods of others; see what evil thou doest in not hearing Christ, who saith, "Beware of all covetousness." See thou dost love thine own goods, thou dost not take away the goods of others; thou hast the fruits of thy labour, they are justly thine; thou hast been left an heir, some one whose good graces thou hast attained has given it to thee; thou hast been on the sea, and in its perils, hast committed no fraud, hast sworn no lie, hast acquired what it hath pleased God thou shouldest; and thou art keeping it greedily as in a good conscience, because thou dost not possess it from evil sources, and dost not seek what is another's. Yet if thou give not heed to Him who hath said, "Beware of all covetousness," hear how great evils thou wilt be ready to do for thine own goods' sake. Lo, for example, it hath chanced to thee to be made a judge. Thou wilt not be corrupted, because thou dost not seek the goods of others; no one giveth thee a bribe and says, "Give judgment against my adversary." This be far from thee, a man, who seekest not the things of others, how couldest thou be persuaded to do this? Yet see what evil thou wilt be ready to do for thine own goods' sake. Peradventure he that wishes thee to judge evilly, and pronounce sentence for him against his adversary is a powerful man, and able to bring up false accusation against thee, that thou mayest lose what thou hast. Thou dost reflect, and think upon his power, think of thine own goods thou art keeping, which thou dost love: not which thou hast possessed, but in whose power [3412] rather thou art thyself unhappily fixed. This thy bird-lime, by reason of which thou hast not the wings of virtue free, thou dost look to; and thou sayest within thine own self, "I am offending this man, he has much influence in the world; he will suggest evil accusations against me, and I shall be outlawed, [3413] and lose all I have." Thus thou wilt give unrighteous judgment, not when thou seekest another's, but when thou keepest thine own.

9. Give me a man who has given ear to Christ, give me a man who has heard with fear "Beware of all covetousness;" and let him not say to me, "I am a poor man, a plebeian of mean estate, one of the common people, how can I hope ever to be a judge? I am in no fear of this temptation, the peril of which thou hast placed before mine eyes." Yet lo, even this poor man I will tell what he ought to fear. Some rich and powerful person calls thee to give false witness for him. What wilt thou be doing now? Tell me. Thou hast a good little property of thine own; thou hast laboured for it, hast acquired, and kept it. That person requires of thee; "Give false witness for me, and I will give thee so and so much." Thou who seekest not the things of others, sayest, "That be far from me: I do not seek for what it has not pleased God to give me, I will not receive it; depart from me." "Hast thou no wish to receive what I give? I will take away what thou hast already." See now prove thyself, question now thine own self. Why dost thou look at me? Look inward on thine own self, look at thine own self within, examine thine own self within; sit down before thine own self, and summon thine own self before thee, and stretch thyself upon the rack of God's commandment, and torment thyself with His fear, and deal not softly with thyself; answer thine own self. Lo, if any one were to threaten thee with this, what wouldest thou do? "I will take away from thee what with so great labour thou hast acquired, if thou wilt not give false witness for me." Give him that; "Beware of all covetousness." "O my servant," He will say to thee, "whom I have redeemed and made free, whom from a servant I have adopted to be a brother, whom I have set as a member in My Body, give ear to Me: He may take away what thou hast acquired, Me he shall not take away from thee. Art thou keeping thine own goods, that thou mayest not perish? What, have I not said unto thee, `Beware of all covetousness'?"

10. Lo, thou art in confusion, tossed to and fro; thy heart as a ship is shaken about by tempests. Christ is asleep: awake Him, that sleepeth, and thou shalt be exposed no more to the raging of the storm. Awake Him, who was pleased to have nothing here, and thou hast all, who came even to the Cross for thee, whose "Bones" as He was naked and hanging "were numbered" by them that mocked Him; and "beware of all covetousness." Covetousness of money is not all; "beware of covetousness" of life. A dreadful covetousness, covetousness much to be feared. Sometimes a man will despise what he has, and say, "I will not give false witness; I will not. You tell me, I will take away what thou hast. Take away what I have; you do not take away what I have within. For he was not left a poor man, who said, `The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away; it is done as it pleased the Lord; blessed' therefore `be the Name of the Lord. Naked came I out of my mother's womb, naked shall I return to the earth.' [3414] Naked outwardly, well-clothed within. Naked as regards these rags, these corruptible rags outwardly, clothed within. With what? `Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness.'" [3415] But what if he say to thee, when thou hast despised the things which thou possessest, what if he say to thee, "I will kill thee"? If thou have given ear to Christ, answer him, "Wilt Thou kill me? Better that thou shouldest kill my body, than that I by a false tongue should kill my soul! What canst thou do to me? Thou wilt kill my body; my soul will depart at liberty, to receive again at the end of the world even this very body she hath despised. What canst thou do to me then? Whereas if I should give false witness for thee, with thy tongue do I kill myself; and not in my body do I kill myself; `For the mouth that lieth killeth the soul.'" [3416] But peradventure thou dost not say so. And why dost thou not say so? Thou wishest to live; thou wishest to live longer than God hath appointed for thee? Dost thou then "beware of all covetousness"? So long was it God's will that thou shouldest live, till this person came to thee. It may be that he will kill thee, to make a martyr of thee. Entertain then no undue desire of life; and so thou wilt not have an eternity of death. Ye see how that covetousness everywhere, when we wish for more than is necessary, causes us to sin. Beware we of all covetousness, if we would enjoy eternal wisdom.

Footnotes

[3391] pases, for tes, pleonexias--A. B. D. K. L. M. Q. X., etc., Verss. ap. Scholz. Griesbach regards it as the more probable reading. [Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort read pases with # and B.] [3392] Luke xii. 15. [3393] Luke xii. 13. [3394] Ps. lxxxii. 6. [3395] Luke xii. 14. [3396] 1 Cor. i. 10. [3397] 1 Cor. i. 12, 13. [3398] Luke xii. 15. [3399] Luke xii. 16. [3400] Successerat. [3401] Luke xii. 18, 19. [3402] Luke xii. 20. [3403] Iniquius. [3404] Vid. Serm. xxii. (lxxii. Ben.) 4 (iii.); xxxii. (lxxxii. Ben.) 14 (xi.); xxxv. (lxxxv. Ben). [3405] Casulam. [3406] Ventres. [3407] Ezek ix. 4. [3408] Against the Donatists. [3409] Ezek. ix. 6. [3410] Divinitate. [3411] In allusion to the Circumcelliones amongst the Donatists. See ab. p. 305, note. [3412] Quibus male inhæsisti. [3413] Proscribor. [3414] Job i. 21. [3415] Ps. cxxxii. 9. [3416] Wisd. i. 11. .


Sermon LVIII.

[CVIII. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Luke xii. 35, "Let your loins be girded about, and your lamps burning; and be ye yourselves like," etc. And on the words of the 34th Psalm, v. 12, "what man is he that desireth life," etc.

1. Our Lord Jesus Christ both came to men, and went away from men, and is to come to men. And yet He was here when He came, nor did He depart when He went away, and He is to come to them to whom He said, "Lo, I am with you, even unto the end of the world." [3417] According to the "form of a servant" then, which He took for our sakes, was He born at a certain time, and was slain, and rose again, and now "dieth no more, neither shall death have any more dominion over Him;" [3418] but according to His Divinity, wherein He was equal to the Father, was He already in this world, and "the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not." [3419] On this point ye have just heard the Gospel, what admonition it has given us, putting us on our guard, and wishing us to be unencumbered and prepared to await the end; that after these last [3420] things, which are to be feared in this world, that rest may succeed which hath no end. Blessed are they who shall be partakers of it. For then shall they be in security, who are not in security now; and again then shall they fear, who will not fear now. Unto this waiting, and for this hope's sake, have we been made Christians. Is not our hope not of this world? Let us then not love the world. From the love of this world have we been called away, that we may hope for and love another. In this world ought we to abstain from all unlawful desires, to have, that is, "our loins girded;" and to be fervent and to shine in good works, that is, to have "our lights burning." For the Lord Himself said to His disciples in another place of the Gospel, "No man lighteth a candle and putteth it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that it may give light unto all that are in the house." [3421] And to show of what He was speaking, He subjoined and said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." [3422]

2. Therefore He would that "our loins should be girded, and our lights burning." [3423] What is, "our loins girded"? "Depart from evil." [3424] What is to "burn"? What is to have our "lights burning"? It is this, "And do good." What is that which He said afterwards, "And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord, when He will return from the wedding:" [3425] except that which follows in that Psalm, "Seek after peace, and ensue it"? [3426] These three things, that is, "abstaining from evil, and doing good," and the hope of everlasting reward, are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, where it is written, that Paul taught them of "temperance and righteousness," [3427] and the hope of eternal life. To temperance belongs, "let your loins be girded." To righteousness, "and your lights burning." To the hope of eternal life, the waiting for the Lord. So then, "depart from evil," this is temperance, these are the loins girded: "and do good," this is righteousness, these are the "lights burning;" "seek peace, and ensue it," this is the waiting for the world to come: therefore, "Be ye like unto men that wait for their Lord, when He will come from the wedding."

3. Having then these precepts and promises, why seek we on earth for "good days," where we cannot find them? For I know that ye do seek them, when ye are either sick, or in any of the tribulations, which in this world abound. For when life draws towards its close, the old man is full of complaints, and with no joys. Amid all the tribulations by which mankind is worn away, men seek for nothing but "good days," and wish for a long life, which here they cannot have. For even a man's long life is narrowed within so short a span to the wide extent of all ages, as if it were but one drop to the whole sea. What then is man's life, even that which is called a long one? They call that a long life, which even in this world's course is short; and as I have said, groans abound even unto the decrepitude of old age. This at the most is but brief, and of short duration; and yet how eagerly is it sought by men, with how great diligence, with how great toil, with how great carefulness, with how great watchfulness, with how great labour do men seek to live here for a long time, and to grow old. And yet this very living long, what is it but running to the end? Thou hadst yesterday, and thou dost wish also to have to-morrow. But when this day and to-morrow are passed, thou hast them not. Therefore thou dost wish for the day to break, that that may draw near to thee whither thou hast no wish to come. Thou makest some annual festival with thy friends, and hearest it there said to thee by thy well-wishers, "Mayest thou live many years," thou dost wish that what they have said, may come to pass. What? Dost thou wish that years and years may come, and the end of these years come not? Thy wishes are contrary to one another; thou dost wish to walk on, and dost not wish to reach the end.

4. But if, as I have said, there is so great care in men, as to desire with daily, great and perpetual labours, to die somewhat later: with how great cause ought they to strive, that they may never die? Of this, no one will think. Day by day "good days" are sought for in this world, where they are not found; yet no one wishes so to live, that he may arrive there where they are found. Therefore the same Scripture admonishes us, and says, "Who is the man that wisheth for life, and loveth to see good days?" [3428] Scripture so asked the question, as that It knew well what answer would be given It; knowing that all men would "seek for life and good days." In accordance with their desire It asked the question, as if the answer would be given It from the heart of all, "I wish it;" It said thus, "Who is the man that wisheth for life, and loveth to see good days?" Just as even at this very hour in which I am speaking to you, when ye heard me say, "Who is the man that wisheth for life, and loveth to see good days?" ye all answered in your heart, "I." For so do I too, who am speaking with you, "wish for life and good days;" what ye seek, that do I seek also.

5. Just as if gold were necessary for us all, and we all, I as well as you, were wishing to get at the gold, and there was some anywhere in a field of yours, in a place subject to your power, and I were to see you searching for it, and were to say to you, "What are ye searching for?" ye were to answer me, "Gold." And I were to say to you, "Ye are searching for gold, and I am searching for gold too: what ye are searching for, I am searching for; but ye are not searching for it where we can find it. Listen to me then, where we can find it; I am not taking it away from you, I am showing you the spot;" yea, let us all follow Him, who knows where what we are seeking for, is. So now too seeing that ye desire "life and good days," we cannot say to you, "Do not desire `life and good days;'" but this we say, "Do not seek for `life and good days' here in this world, where `good days' cannot be." Is not this life itself like unto death? Now these days here hasten and pass away: for to-day has shut out yesterday; tomorrow only rises that it may shut out to-day. These days themselves have no abiding; wherefore wouldest thou abide with them? Your desire then whereby ye wish for "life and good days," I not only do not repress, but I even more strongly inflame. By all means "seek" for "life, seek for good days;" but let them be sought there, where they can be found.

6. For would ye with me hear His counsel, who knoweth where "good days" and where "life" is? Hear it not from me, but together with me. For One says to us, "Come, ye children, hearken unto Me." And let us run together, and stand, and prick up our ears, and with our hearts understand the Father, who hath said, "Come, ye children, hearken unto Me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord." [3429] And then follows what he would teach us, and to what end the fear of the Lord is useful. "Who is the man that wisheth life, and loveth to see good days?" We all answer, "We wish it." Let us listen then to what follows, "Refrain thy tongue from evil, and thy lips that they speak no guile." [3430] Now say, "I wish it." Just now when I said, "Who is the man that wisheth for life, and loveth to see good days?" we all answered, "I." Come then, let some one now answer "I." So then, "Refrain thy tongue from evil, and thy lips that they speak no guile." Now say, "I." Wouldest thou then have "good days" and "life," and wouldest thou not "refrain thy tongue from evil, and thy lips that they speak no guile"? Alert to the reward, slow to the work! And to whom if he does not work is the reward rendered? I would that in thy house thou wouldest render the reward even to him that does work! For to him that works not, I am sure thou dost not render it. And why? Because thou owest nothing to him that does not work! And God hath a reward proposed. What reward? "Life and good days," which life we all desire, and unto which days we all strive to come. The promised reward He will give us. What reward? "Life and good days." And what are "good days"? Life without end, rest without labour.

7. Great is the reward He hath set before us: in so great a reward as is set before us, let us see what He hath commanded us. For enkindled by the reward of so great a promise, and by the love of the reward, let us make ready at once our strength, our sides, our arms, to do His bidding. Is it as if He were to command us to carry heavy burdens, to dig something it may be, or to raise up some machine? No, no such laborious thing hath He enjoined thee, but hath enjoined thee only to "refrain" that member which amongst all thy members thou dost move so quickly. "Refrain thy tongue from evil." It is no labour to erect a building, and is it a labour to hold in the tongue? "Refrain thy tongue from evil." Speak no lie, speak no revilings, speak no slanders, speak no false witnesses, speak no blasphemies. "Refrain thy tongue from evil." See how angry thou art, if any one speaks evil of thee. As thou art angry with another, when he speaks evil of thee; so be thou angry with thyself, when thou speakest evil of another. "Let thy lips speak no guile." What is in thine heart within, be that spoken out. Let not thy breast conceal one thing, and thy tongue utter another. "Depart from evil, and do good." For how should I say, "Clothe the naked," to him who up to this time would strip him that is clothed? For he that oppresses his fellow-citizen, how can he take in the stranger? So then in proper order, first "depart from evil," and "do good;" first "gird up thy loins," and then "light the lamp." And when thou hast done this, wait in assured hope for "life and good days." "Seek peace, and ensue it;" and then with a good face wilt thou say unto the Lord, "I have done what Thou hast bidden, render me what Thou hast promised."

Footnotes

[3417] Matt. xxviii. 20. [3418] Rom. vi. 9. [3419] John i. 10. [3420] The troubles through the incursions of the barbarian tribes, as heralds of the end. See St. Cyprian, Ad Demetr. 2, p. 201, Oxf. tr.; De Mort. v. 2, p. 216, 7. [3421] Matt. v. 15. [3422] Matt. v. 16. [3423] Luke xii. 35. [3424] Ps. xxxiv. 14. [3425] Luke xii. 36. [3426] Ps. xxxiv. 14. [3427] Acts xxiv. 25. [3428] Ps. xxxiv. 12. [3429] Ps. xxxiv. 11. [3430] Ps. xxxiv. 13. .


Sermon LIX.

[CIX. Ben.]

On the words of the Gospel, Luke xii. 56, 58, "Ye know how to interpret the face of the Earth and the Heaven," etc.; and of the words, "for as thou art going with thine adversary before the magistrate, on the way give diligence to be quit of him," etc.

1. We have heard the Gospel, and in it the Lord reproving those who knew how to discern the face of the sky, and know not how to discover the time of faith, the kingdom of heaven which is at hand. Now this He said to the Jews; but His words reach even unto us. Now the Lord Jesus Christ Himself began the preaching of His Gospel in this way; "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." [3431] In like manner too John the Baptist and His forerunner began thus; "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." [3432] And now the Lord rebuketh those who would not repent, when "the kingdom of heaven was at hand." "The kingdom of heaven," as He saith Himself, "will not come with observation." [3433] And again He saith, "The kingdom of heaven is within you." [3434] Let every one then wisely receive the admonitions of the Master, [3435] that he may not lose the season of the mercy of the Saviour, which is now being dealt out, as long as the human race is spared. For to this end is man spared, that he may be converted, and that he may not be to be condemned. God only knoweth when the end of the world shall come: nevertheless now is the time of faith. Whether the end of the world shall find any of us here, I know not; and perhaps it will not find us. Our time is very near to each one of us, seeing we are mortal. We walk in the midst of chances. If we were made of glass, we should have to fear chances less than we have. What is more fragile than a vessel of glass? And yet it is kept, and lasts for ages. For though the chances of a fall are feared for the vessel of glass, yet there is no fear of fever or old age for it. We then are more fragile and more infirm; because all the chances which are incessant in human things, we doubtless through our frailness are in daily dread of; and if these chances come not, yet time goes on; a man avoids this stroke, can he avoid his end? he avoids accidents which happen from without, can that which is born within be driven away? Again, now the entrails engender worms, now some other disease attacks on a sudden; lastly, let a man be spared ever so long, at last when old age comes, there is no way of putting off that.

2. Wherefore let us give ear to the Lord, let us do within ourselves what He hath enjoined. Let us see who that adversary is, of whom He hath put us in fear, saying, "If thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, give diligence in the way to be delivered from him; lest haply he deliver thee to the magistrate, and the magistrate to the officer, and thou be cast into prison, from whence thou shalt not come out, till thou payest the very last farthing." [3436] Who is this "adversary"? If the devil; we have been delivered from him already. What a price was given for us that we might be redeemed from him! Of which the Apostle says, speaking of this our redemption, "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love." [3437] We have been redeemed, we have renounced the devil; how shall we "give diligence to be delivered from him," that he make us not, as sinners, his captives again? But this is not the "adversary" of whom the Lord gives us warning. For in another place another Evangelist has so expressed it, that if we join both expressions together, and compare both expressions of the two Evangelists with each other, we shall soon understand who this adversary is. For see, what did Luke say here? "When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, give diligence in the way to be delivered from him." [3438] But the other Evangelist has expressed this same thing thus: "Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him." All the rest is alike: "Lest haply the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison." [3439] Both Evangelists have explained this alike. One said, "Give diligence in the way to be delivered from him;" the other said, "Agree with him." For thou wilt not be able to "be delivered from him," unless thou "agree with him." Wouldest thou "be delivered from him? Agree with him." But what? is it the devil with whom the Christian ought to "agree"?

3. Let us then seek out this "adversary," with whom we ought to "agree, lest he deliver us to the judge, and the judge to the officer;" let us seek him out, "and agree with him." If thou sin, the word of God is thine adversary. [3440] For example, it is a delight to thee perchance to be drunken; it says to thee, "Do it not." It is a delight to thee to frequent the spectacles, and such triflings; it says to thee, "Do it not." It is a delight to thee to commit adultery; the word of God saith to thee, "Do it not." In what sins soever thou wouldest do thine own will, it saith to thee, "Do it not." It is the adversary of thy will, till it become the author of thy salvation. O how goodly, how useful an "adversary"! It does not seek our will, but our advantage. It is our "adversary," as long as we are our own adversaries. As long as thou art thine own enemy, thou hast the word of God thine enemy; be thine own friend, and thou art in agreement with it. "Thou shalt do no murder;" give ear, and thou hast "agreed" with it. "Thou shalt not steal;" give ear, and thou hast "agreed" with it. "Thou shalt not commit adultery;" give ear, and thou hast "agreed" with it. "Thou shalt not give false witness;" give ear, and thou hast "agreed" with it. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife;" give ear, and thou hast agreed with it. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's goods;" [3441] give ear, and thou hast "agreed" with it. In all these things thou hast agreed with this "thine adversary," and what hast thou lost to thyself? Not only hast thou lost nothing; but thou hast even found thyself, who hadst been lost. "The way," is this life; if we shall "agree with the adversary," if we shall come to terms with him; when "the way" is ended, we shall not fear the "judge, the officer, the prison.

4. When is "the way" ended? It is not ended at the same hour to all. Each several man hath his hour when he shall end his "way." This life is called "the way;" when thou hast ended this life, thou hast ended "the way." We are going on, and the very living is advancing. Unless peradventure ye imagine that time advances, and we stand still! It cannot be. As time advances, we too advance; and years do not come to us, but rather go away. Greatly are men mistaken when they say, "This boy has little good sense yet, but years will come on him, and he will be wise." Consider what thou sayest. "Will come on him," thou hast said; "I will show that they go away," whereas thou sayest, "they come on." And hear how easily I prove it. Let us suppose that we have known the number of his years from his birth; for instance (that we may wish him well) he has to live fourscore years, he is to arrive at old age. Write down fourscore years. One year he has lived; how many hast thou in the total? how many hast thou down? Fourscore! Deduct one. He has lived ten; seventy remain. He has lived twenty; sixty remain. Yet surely, it will be said, they did come; what can this mean? Our years come that they may depart; they come, I say that they may go. For they do not come, that they may abide with us, but as they pass through us, they wear us out, and make us less and less strong. Such is "the way" into which we have come. What then have we to do with that "adversary," that is, with the word of God? "Agree with him." For thou knowest not when "the way" may be ended. When "the way" is ended, there remain "the judge," and "the officer," and "the prison." But if thou maintain a good will to "thine adversary," and "agree with him;" instead of a "judge," shalt thou find a father, instead of a cruel "officer," an Angel taking thee away into Abraham's bosom, instead of a "prison," paradise. How rapidly hast thou changed all things "in the way," because thou hast "agreed with thine adversary"!

Footnotes

[3431] Matt. iv. 17. [3432] Matt. iii. 2. [3433] Luke xvii. 20. [3434] Luke xvii. 21. [3435] Præceptoris. [3436] Luke xii. 58, 59. [3437] Col. i. 13. [3438] Luke xii. 58. [3439] Matt. v. 25. [3440] Serm. ix. 3. De decem chordis. [3441] Exod. xx. 13, etc.


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