Augustine on NT 87
87 Delivered on the Lord’s day, on that which is written in the gospel, Mt 20,1 “The kingdom of Heaven is like unto a man that was a householder, who went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.”
1). Ye have heard out of the Holy Gospel a parable well suited to the present season, concerning the labourers in the vineyard. For now is the time of the material1 vintage. Now there is also a spiritual vintage, wherein God rejoiceth in the fruit of His vineyard. For we cultivate God, and God cultivateth us.2 But we do not so cultivate God as to make Him any better thereby. For our cultivation is the labour of the heart, not of the hands.3 He cultivateth us as the husbandman doth his field. In then that He cultivateth us, He maketh us better; because so doth the husbandman make his field better by cultivating it, and the very fruit He seeketh in us is, that we may cultivate Him. The culture He exerciseth on us is, that He ceaseth not to root out by His Word the evil seeds from our hearts, to open our heart, as it were, by the plough of His Word, to plant the seed of His precepts, to wait for the fruit of piety. For when we have so received that culture into our heart, as to cultivate Him well, we are not ungrateful to our Husbandman, but render the fruit wherein He rejoiceth. And our fruit doth not make Him the richer, but us the happier.
2. See then; hear how, as I have said, “God cultivateth us.” For that we cultivate God, there is no need to be proved to you. For all men have this on their tongue, that men cultivate God, but the hearer feels a kind of awe, when he hears that God cultivates man; because it is not after the ordinary usage of men to say, that God cultivateth men, but that men cultivate God. We ought therefore to prove to you, that God also doth cultivate men; lest perchance we be thought to have spoken a word contrary to sound doctrine,4 and men dispute in their heart against us, and as not knowing our meaning, find fault with us. I have determined therefore to show you, that God doth also cultivate us; but as I have said already, as a field, that He may make us better. Thus the Lord saith in the Gospel, “I am the Vine, ye are the branches, My Father is the Husbandman.”5 What doth the Husbandman do? I ask you who are husbandmen. I suppose he cultivates his field. If then God the Father be a Husbandman, He hath a field; and His field He cultivateth, and from it He expecteth fruit.
3. Again, He “planted a vineyard,” as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself saith, “and let it out to husbandmen, who should render Him the fruit in the proper season. And He sent His servants to them to ask for the hire of the vineyard. But they treated them despitefully, and killed some,”6 and contemptuously refused to render the fruits. “He sent others also,” they suffered the like treatment. And then the Householder, the Cultivator of His field, and the Planter, and Letter out of His vineyard, said; “I will send Mine Only Son, it may be they will at least reverence Him.” And so He saith, “He sent His Own Son also. They said among themselves, This is the heir, come, let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be ours. And they killed Him, and cast Him out of the vineyard. When the Lord of the vineyard cometh, what will He do to those wicked husbandmen? They answered, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out His vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render Him the fruits in their seasons.” The vineyard was planted when the law was given in the hearts of the Jews. The Prophets were sent, seeking fruit, even their good life: the Prophets were treated despitefully by them, and were killed. Christ also was sent, the Only Son of the Householder; and they killed Him who was the Heir, and so lost the inheritance. Their evil counsel turned out contrary to their designs. They killed Him that they might possess the inheritance; and because they killed Him, they lost it.
4. Ye have just heard too the parable out of the Holy Gospel; that “the kingdom of heaven is like unto a householder, which went out to hire labourers into His vineyard. He went out in the morning,” and hired those whom he found, and agreed with them for a denarius as their hire. He “went out again at the third hour, and found others,” and brought them to the labour of the vineyard. “And the sixth and ninth hour he did likewise. He went out also at the eleventh hour,” near the end of the day, “and found some idle and standing still, and he said to them, Why stand ye here?” Why do ye not work in the vineyard? They answered, “Because no man hath hired us.” “Go ye also,” said He, “and whatsoever is right I will give you.”7 His pleasure was to fix their hire at a denarius. How could they who had only to work one hour dare hope for a denarius? Yet they congratulated themselves in the hope that they should receive something. So then these were brought in even for one hour. At the end of the day he ordered the hire to be paid to all, from the last to the first. Then he began to pay at those who had come in at the eleventh hour, and he commanded a denarius to be given them. When they who had come atthe first hour saw that the others had received adenarius, which he had agreed for with themselves “they honed that they should have received more:” and when their turn came, they also received a denarius. “They murmured against the good man of the house, saying, Behold, thou hast made us who have borne the burning and heat of the day, equal and like to those who have laboured but one hour in the vineyard.” And “the good man,” returning a most just answer to one of them, said, “Friend, I do thee no wrong;” that is, “I have not defrauded thee, I have paid thee what I agreed for with thee. “I have done thee no wrong,” for I have paid thee what I agreed for. To this other it is my will not to render a payment, but to bestow a gift. “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?” If I had taken from any one what did not belong to me, rightly I might be blamed, as fraudulent and unjust: if I had not paid any one his due, rightly might I be blamed as fraudulent, and as withholding what belonged to another; but when I pay what is due, and give besides to whom I will, neither can he to whom I owed find fault, and he to whom I gave ought to rejoice the more.” They had nothing to answer; and all were made equal; “and the last became first, and the first last;” by equality8 of treatment, not by inverting their order. For what is the meaning of, “the last were first, and the first last”? That both the first and last received the same.
5. How is it that he began to pay at the last? Are not all, as we read, to receive together? For we read in another place of the Gospel, that He will say to those whom He shall set on the right hand, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world.”9 If all then are to receive together, how do we understand in this place, that they received first who began to work at the eleventh hour, and they last who were hired at the first hour? If I shall be able so to speak, as to reach your understanding, God be thanked. For to Him ought ye to render thanks, who distributeth to you by me; for nought of my own do I distribute. If ye ask me, for example, which of the two has received first, he who has received after one hour, or he who after twelve hours; every man would answer that he who has received after one hour, has received before him who received after twelve hours. So then though they all received at the same hour, yet because some received after one hour, others after twelve hours, they who received after so short a time are said to have received first. The first righteous men, as Abel, and Noe, called as it were at the first hour, will receive together with us the blessedness of the resurrection. Other righteous men after them, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all of their age, called as it were at the third hour, will receive together with us the blessedness of the resurrection. Other righteous men, as Moses, and Aaron, and whosoever with them were called as it were at the sixth hour, will receive together with us the blessedness of the resurrection. After them the Holy Prophets, called as it were at the ninth hour, will receive together with us the same blessedness. In the end of the world all Christians, called as it were at the eleventh hour, will receive with the rest the blessedness of that resurrection. All will receive together; but consider those first men, after how long a time do they receive it? If then those first receive after a long time, we after a short time; though we all receive together, yet we seem to have received first, because our hire will not tarry long in coming.
6. In that hire then shall we be all equal, and the first as the last, and the last as the first; because that denarius is life eternal, and in the life eternal all will be equal. For although through diversity of attainments10 the saints will shine, some more, some less; yet as to this respect, the gift of eternal life, it will be equal to all. For that will not be longer to one, and shorter to another, which is alike everlasting; that which hath no end will have no end either for thee or me. After one sort in that life will be wedded chastity, after another virgin purity; in one sort there will be the fruit of good works, in another sort the crown of martyrdom.11 One in one sort, and another in another; yet in respect. to the living for ever, this man will not live more; than that, nor that than this. For alike without end will they live, though each shall live in hisown brightness: and the denarius in the parable is that life eternal. Let not him then who has received after a long time murmur against him who has received after a short time. To the first, it is a payment; to the other, a free gift;yet the same thing is given alike to both.
7. There is also something like this in this present life, and besides that solution of the parable, by which they who were called at the first hour are understood of Abel and the righteous men of his age, and they at the third, of Abraham and the righteous men of his age, and they at the sixth, of Moses and Aaron and the righteous men of their age, and they at the eleventh, as in the end of the world, of all Christians; besides this solution of the parable, the parable may be seen to have an explanation in respect even of this present life. For they are as it were called at the first hour, who begin to be Christians fresh from their mother’s womb; boys are called as it were at the third, young men at the sixth, they who are verging toward old age, at the ninth hour, and they who are called as if at the eleventh hour, are they who are altogether decrepit; yet all these are to receive the one and the same denarius of eternal life.
8. But, Brethren, hearken ye and understand, lest any put off to come into the vineyard, because he is sure, that, come when he will, he shall receive this denarius. And sure indeed he is that the denarius is promised him; but this is no injunction to put off. For did they who were hired into the vineyard, when the householder came out to them to hire whom he might find, at the third hour for instance, and did hire them, did they say to him, “Wait, we are not going thither till the sixth hour”? or they whom he found at the sixth hour, did they say, “We are not going till the ninth hour”? or they whom he found at the ninth hour, did they say, “We are not going till the eleventh? For he will give to all alike; why should we fatigue ourselves more than we need?” What He was to give, and what He was to do, was in the secret of His own counsel: do thou come when thou art called. For an equal reward is promised to all; but as to this appointed hour of working, there is an important question. For if, for instance, they who are called at the sixth hour, at that age of life that is, in which as in the full heat of noon, is felt the glow of manhood’s years; if they, called thus in manhood, were to say, “Wait, for we have heard in the Gospel that all are to receive the same reward, we will come at the eleventh hour, when we shall have grown old, and shall still receive the same. Why should we add to our labour?” it would be answered them thus, “Art not thou willing to labour now, who dost not know whether thou shalt live to old age? Thou art called at the sixth hour; come. The Householder hath it is true promised thee a denarius, if thou come at the eleventh hour, but whether thou shalt live even to the seventh, no one hath promised thee. I say not to the eleventh, but even to the seventh hour. Why then dost thou put off him that calleth thee, certain as thou art of the reward, but uncertain of the day? Take heed then lest peradventure what he is to give thee by promise, thou take from thyself by delay.” Now if this may rightly be said of infants as belonging to the first hour, if it may be rightly said of boys as belonging to the third, if it may be rightly said of men in the vigour of life, as in the full-day heat of the sixth hour; how much more rightly may it be said of the decrepit? Lo, already is it the eleventh hour, and dost thou yet stand still, and art thou yet slow to come?
9. But perhaps the Householder hath not gone out to call thee? If he hath not gone out, what mean our addresses to you? For we are servants of his household, we are sent to hire labourers. Why standest thou still then? Thou hast now ended the number of thy years; hasten after the denarius. For this is the “going out” of the Householder, the making himself known; forasmuch as he that is in the house is hidden, he is not seen by those who are without; but when he “goeth out” of the house, he is seen by those without. So Christ is in secret, as long as He is not known and acknowledged; but when He is acknowledged, He hath gone out to hire labourers. For now He hath come forth from a hidden place, to be known of men: everywhere Christ is known, Christ is preached; all places whatsoever under the heaven proclaim aloud the glory of Christ. He was in a manner the object of derision and contempt among the Jews, He appeared in low estate and was despised. For He hid His Majesty, and manifested His infirmity. That in Him which was manifested was despised, and that which was hidden was not known. “For had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”12 But is He still to be despised now that He sitteth in heaven, if He were despised when He was hanging on the tree? They who crucified Him wagged their head, and standing before His Cross, as though they had attained the fruit of their cruel rage, they said in mockery, “If He be the Son of God, let Him come down from the Cross. He saved others, Himself He cannot save.”13 He came not down, because He lay hid. For with far greater ease could He have come down from the Cross, who had power to rise again from the grave. He showed forth an example of patience for our instruction. He delayed His power, and was not acknowledged. For He had not then gone out to hire labourers He had gone out, He had not made Himself known. On the third day He rose again, He showed Himself to His disciples, ascended into heaven, and sent the Holy Ghost on the fiftieth day after the resurrection, the tenth after the ascension. The Holy Ghost who was sent filled all who were in one room, one hundred and twenty men.14 They “were filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with the tongues of all nations;”15 now was the calling manifest, now He went out to hire. For now the power of truth began to be made known to all. For then even one man having received the Holy Ghost, spake by himself with the tongues of all nations. But now in the Church oneness itself, as one man speaks in the tongues of all nations. For what tongue has not the Christian religion reached? to what limits does it not extend? Now is there no one “who hideth himself from the heat thereof;”16 and delay is still ventured by him who stands still at the eleventh hour.
10. It is plain then, my Brethren, it is plain to all, do ye hold it fast, and be sure of it, that whensoever any one turns himself to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, from a useless17 or abandoned way of life, all that is past is forgiven him, and as though all his debts were cancelled, a new account is entered into with him. All is entirely forgiven. Let no one be anxious in the thought that there remains anything which is not forgiven him. But on the other hand, let no one rest in a perverse security. For these two things are the death of souls, despair, and perverse hope. For as a good and right hope saveth, so cloth a perverse hope deceive. First, consider how despair deceiveth. There are men, who when they begin to reflect on the evils they have done, think they cannot be forgiven; and whilst they think they cannot be forgiven, forthwith they give up their souls to ruin, and perish through despair, saying in their thoughts, “Now there is no hope for us; for such great sins as we have committed cannot be remitted or pardoned us; why then should we not satisfy our lusts? Let us at least fill up the pleasure of the time present, seeing we have no reward in that which is to come; Let us do what we list,though it be not lawful; that we may at least have a temporal enjoyment, because we cannot18 attain to the receiving an eternal.” In saying such things they perish through despair, either before they believe at all, or when Christians already, they have fallen by evil living into any sins and wickednesses. The Lord of the vineyard goeth forth to them, and by the Prophet Ezekial knocketh, and calleth to them in their despair, and as they turn their backs to Him that calleth them. “In whatsoever day a man shall turn from his most wicked way, I will forget all his iniquities.”19 If they hear and believe this voice, they are recovered from despair, and rise up again from that very deep and bottomless gulf, wherein they had been sunk.
11. But these must fear, lest they fall into another gulf, and they die through a perverse hope, who could not die through despair. For they change their thoughts, which are far different indeed from what they were before, but not less pernicious, and begin again to say in their hearts, “If in whatever day I turn from my most evil way, the merciful God, as He truly promiseth by the Prophet, will forget all my iniquities, why should I turn to-day and not to-morrow? Let this day pass as yesterday, in excess of guilty pleasure, in the full flow of licentiousness, let it wallow in deadly delights; to-morrow I shall ‘turn myself,’ and there will be an end to it.” One may answer thee, An end of what? Of mine iniquities, thou wilt say. Well, rejoice indeed, that to-morrow there will be an end of thine iniquities. But what if before to-morrow thine own end shall be? So then thou dost well indeed to rejoice that God hath promised thee forgiveness for thine iniquities, if thou art converted; but no one has promised thee to-morrow. Or if perchance some astrologer hath promised it, it is a far different thing from God’s promise. Many have these astrologers deceived, in that they have promised themselves advantages, and have found only losses. Therefore for the sake of these again whose hope is wrong, doth the Householder go forth. As He went forth to those who had despaired wrongly, and were lost in their despair, and called them back to hope; so doth He go forth to these also who would perish through an evil hope; and by another book He saith to them, “Make no tarrying to turn to the Lord.”20 As He had said to the others, “In whatsoever day a man shall turn from his most wicked way, I will forget all his iniquities,” and took despair away from them, because they had now given up their soul to perdition, despairing of forgiveness by any means; so doth He go forth to these also who have a mind to perish through hope and delay; and speaketh to them, and chideth them, “Make no tarrying to turn to the Lord, and put not off from day to day; for suddenly shall the wrath of the Lord come forth, and in the day of vengeance He will destroy thee.” Therefore put not off, shut not against thyself what now is open. Lo, the Giver of forgiveness openeth the door to thee; why dost thou delay? Thou oughtest to rejoice, were He to open after ever so long a time to thy knocking; thou hast not knocked, yet doth He open, and dost thou remain outside? Put not off then. Scripture saith in a certain place, as touching works of mercy, “Say not, Go, and come again, and to-morrow I will give;21 when thou canst do the kindness at once; for thou knowest not what may happen on the morrow.” Here then is a precept of not putting off being merciful to another, and wilt thou by putting off be cruel against thine own self? Thou oughtest not to put off to give bread, and wilt thou put off to receive forgiveness? If thou dost not put off in showing pity towards another, “pity thine own soul also in pleasing God.”22 Give alms to thine own soul also. Nay I donot say, give to it, but thrust not back His Hand that would give to thee.
12. But men continually injure themselves exceedingly in their fear to offend others. For good friends have much influence for good, andevil friends for evil. Therefore it was not the Lord’s will to choose first senators, but fishermen, to teach us for our own salvation to disregard the friendship of the powerful. O signal mercy of the Creator! For He knew that had He chosen the senator, he would say, “My rank has been chosen.” If He had first made choice of the rich man, he would say, “My wealth has been chosen.” If He had first made choice of an emperor, he would say,” My power has been chosen.” If the orator he would say, “My eloquence has been chosen.” If of the philosopher, he would say, “My wisdom has been chosen.” Meanwhile He says, let these proud ones be put off awhile, they swell too much. Now there is much difference between substantial size and swelling; both indeed are large, but both are not alike sound. Let them then, He says, be put off, these proud ones, they must be cured by something solid. First give Me, He says, this fisherman. “Come, thou poor one, follow Me; thou hast nothing, thou knowest nothing, follow Me. Thou poor and ignorant23 one, follow Me. There is nothing in thee to inspire awe, but there is much in thee to be filled.” To so copious a fountain an empty vessel should be brought. So the fisherman left his nets, the fisherman received grace, and became a divine orator. See what the Lord did, of whom the Apostle says, “God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, and base things of the world hath God chosen, yea and things which are not, as if they were, that those things which are may be brought to nought.”24 And so now the fishermen’s words are read, and the necks of orators are brought down. Let all empty winds then be taken away, let the smoke be taken away which vanishes as it mounts; let them be utterly despised when the question is of this salvation.
13. If any one in a city had some bodily sickness, and there was in that place some very skilful physician who was an enemy to the sick man’s powerful friends; if any one, I say, in a city were labouring under some dangerous bodily sickness; and there was in the same city a very skilful physician, an enemy as I said, of the sick man’s powerful friends, and they were to say to their friend, “Do not call him in, he knows nothing;” and they were to say this not from any judgment of their mind, but through dislike of him; would he not for his own safety’s sake remove from him the groundless assertions25 of his powerful friends, and with whatever offenceto them, in order that he might live but a few days longer, call that physician in, whom common report had given out as most skilful to drive away the disease of his body? Well, the whole race of mankind is sick, not with diseases of the body, but with sin. There lies one great patient from East to West throughout the world. To cure this great patient came the Almighty Physician down. He humbled Himself even to mortal flesh, as it were to the sick man’s bed. Precepts of health He gives, and is despised; they who do observe them are delivered. He is despised, when powerful friends say, “He knows nothing.” If He knew nothing, His power would not fill the nations. If He knew nothing, He would not have been, before He was with us. If He knew nothing, He would not have sent the Prophets before Him. Are not those things which were foretold of old, fulfilled now? Does not this Physician prove the power of His art by the accomplishment of His promises? Are not deadly errors overturned throughout the whole world; and by the threshing of the world lusts subdued? Let no one say, “The world was better aforetime than now; ever since that Physician began to exercise His art, many dreadful things we witness here.” Marvel not at this? Before that any were in course of healing, the Physician’s residence26 seemed clean of blood; but now rather as seeing what thou dost, shake off all vain delights, and come to the Physician, it is the time of healing, not of pleasure.
14. Let us then think, Brethren, of being cured. If we do not yet know the Physician, yet let us not like frenzied men be violent against Him, or as men in a lethargy turn away from Him. For many through this violence have perished, and many have perished through sleep. The frenzied are they who are made mad for want of sleep. The lethargic are they who are weighed down by excessive sleep. Men are to be found of both these kinds. Against this Physician it is the will of some to be violent, and forasmuch as He is Himself sitting in heaven, they persecute His faithful ones on earth. Yet even such as these He cureth. Many of them having been converted from enemies have become friends, from persecutors have become preachers. Such as these were the Jews, whom, though violent as men in frenzy against Him while He was here, He healed, and prayed for them as He hung upon the Cross. For He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”27 Yet many of them when their fury was calmed, their frenzy as it were got under, came to know God, and Christ. When the Holy Ghost was sent after the Ascension, they were converted to Him whom they crucified, and as believers drunk in the Sacrament His Blood, which in their violence they shed.
15. Of this we have examples. Saul persecuted the members of Jesus Christ, who is now sitting in heaven; grievously did he persecute them in his frenzy, in the loss of his reason, in the transport of his madness. But He with one word, calling to him out of heaven, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?”28 struck down the frantic one, raised him up whole, killed the persecutor, quickened the preacher. And so again many lethargic ones are healed. For to such are they like, who are not violent against Christ, nor malicious against Christians, but who in their delay are only dull and heavy with drowsy words, are slow to open their eyes to the light, and are annoyed with those who would arouse them. “Get away from me,” says the heavy, lethargic man,” I pray thee, get away from me. Why? “I wish to sleep.” But you will die in consequence. He through love of sleep will answer, “I wish to die.” And Love from above calls out “I do not wish it.” Often does the son exhibit this loving affection to an aged father, though he must needs die in a few days; and is now in extreme old age. If he sees that he is lethargic, and knows from the physician that he is oppressed with a lethargic complaint, who tells him “Arouse your father, do not let him sleep, if you would save his life”! Then will the son come to the old man, and beat, and squeeze, or pinch, or prick him, or give him any uneasiness, and all through his dutiful affection to him; and will not allow him to die at once, die though he soon must from very age; and if his life is thus saved, the son rejoices that he has now to live some few days more with him who must soon depart to make way for him. With how much greater affection then ought we to be importunate29 with our friends, with whom we may live not a few days in this world, but in God’s presence for ever! Let them then love us, and do what they hear us say, and worship Him, whom we also worship, that they may receive what we also hope for. “Let us turn to the Lord,” etc.
2 Colit nos Deus et colimus Deum). Conf. B. 13,1.
3 Colimus enim eum adorando non arando.
5 (Jn 15,1 Jn 15,5.
6 (Mt 21,33 etc).
7 (Mt 20,1 etc.
8 Aequando non praeposterando.
9 (Mt 25,34).
12 (1Co 2,8
13 (Mt 27,40 Mt 27,42.
14 (Ac 1,15
15 (Ac 2,4
16 (Ps 19,6
19 (Ez 18,21).
20 (Si 5,7
21 (Pr 3,28
22 (Si 30,23 Vulgate.
24 (1Co 1,27-28.
27 (Lc 23,34
28 (Ac 9,4
88 On the words of the gospel, Mt 20,30 About the two blind men sitting by the way side, and crying out, “Lord, have mercy on us, thou son of David.”
1). Ye know, Holy Brethren, full well as we do, that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the Physician of our eternal health; and that to this end He took the weakness of our nature, that our weakness might not last for ever. For He assumed a mortal body, wherein to kill death. And, “though He was crucified through weakness,” as the Apostle saith, “yet He liveth by the power of God.”1 They are the words too of the same Apostle; “He dieth no more, and death shall have no more dominion over Him.”2 These things, I say, are well known to your faith. And there is also this which follows from it, that we should know that all the miracles which He did on the body, avail to our instruction, that we may from them perceive that which is not to pass away, nor to have any end. He restored to the blind those eyes which death was sure sometime to close; He raised Lazarus to life who was to die again. And whatever He did for the health of bodies, He did it not to this end that they should be for ever; whereas at the last He will give eternal health even to the body itself. But because those things which were not seen, were not believed; by means of these temporal things which were seen, He built up faith in those things which were not seen.
2. Let no one then, Brethren, say that our Lord Jesus Christ doeth not those things now, and on this account prefer the former to the present ages of the Church. In a certain place indeed the same Lord prefers those who “do not see, and yet believe,”3 to them who see and therefore believe. For even at that time so irresolute was the infirmity of His disciples, that they thought that He whom they saw to have risen again must be handled, in order that they might believe. It was not enough for their eyes that they had seen Him, unless their hands also were applied to His limbs, and the scars of His recent wounds were touched; that that disciple who was in doubt, might cry out suddenly when he had touched and recognised the scars, “My Lord and my God.”4 The scars manifested Him who had healed all wounds in others. Could not the Lord have risen again without the scars? Yes, but He knew the wounds which were in the hearts of His disciples, and to heal them He had preserved the scars on His own Body. And what said the Lord to him who now confessed and said, “My Lord and my God”? “Because thou hast seen,” He said, “thou hast believed; blessed are they who do not see, and yet believe.” Of whom spake He, Brethren, but of us? Not that He spake only of us, but of those also who shall come after us. For after a little while when He had departed from the sight of men, that faith might be established in their hearts, whosoever believed, believed, though they saw Him not, and great has been the merit of their faith; for the procuring of which faith they brought only the movement of a pious heart, and not the touching of their hands.
3. These things then the Lord did to invite us to the faith. This faith reigneth now in the Church, which is spread throughout the whole world. And now He worketh greater cures, on account of which He disdained not then to exhibit those lesser ones. For as the soul is better than the body, so is the saving health of the soul better than the health of the body. The blind body doth not now open its eyes by a miracle of the Lord, but the blinded heart openeth its eyes to the word of the Lord. The mortal corpse doth not now rise again, but the soul doth rise again which lay dead in a living body. The deaf ears of the body are not now opened; but how many have the ears of their heart closed, which yet fly open at the penetrating word of God, so that they believe who did not believe, and they live well, who did live evilly, and they obey, who did not obey; and we say, “Such a man is become a believer;” and we wonder when we hear of them whom once we had known as hardened. Why then dost thou marvel at one who now believes, who is living innocently, and serving God; but because thou dost behold him seeing, whom thou hadst known to be blind; dost behold him living, whom thou hadst knownto be dead; dost behold him heating, whom thou hadst known to be deaf? For consider that there are who are dead in another than the ordinary sense, of whom the Lord spake to a certain man who delayed to follow the Lord, because he wished to bury his father; “Let the dead,” said He, “bury their dead.”5 Surelythese dead buriers are not dead in body; for if this were so, they could not bury dead bodies. Yet doth he call them dead; where, but in the soul within? For as we may often see in a household, itself sound and well, the master of the same house lying dead; so in a sound body do many carry a dead soul within; and these the Apostle arouses thus, “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”6 It is the Same who giveth light to the blind, that awakeneth the dead. For it is with His voice that the cry is made by the Apostle to the dead, “Awake, thou that sleepest.” And the blind will be enlightened with light, when he shall have risen again. And how many deaf men did the Lord see before His eyes, when He said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”7 For who was standing before Him without his bodily ears? What other ears then did He seek for, but those of the inner man?
4. Again, what eyes did He look for when He spake to those who saw indeed, but who saw only with the eyes of the flesh? For when Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us;”8 he understood indeed that if the Father were shown him, it might well suffice him; but how would the Father suffice him whom He that was equal to the Father sufficed not? And why did He not suffice? Because He was not seen. And why was He not seen? Because the eye whereby He might be seen was not yet whole. For this, namely, that the Lord was seen in the flesh with the outward eyes, not only the disciples who honoured Him saw, but also the Jews who crucified Him. He then who wished to be seen in another way, sought for other eyes. And therefore it was that to him who said, “Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us;” He answered, “Have I been so long time with you; and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He who hath seen Me, hath seen the Father also.”9 And that He might in the mean while heal the eyes of faith, he has first of all instructions given him regarding faith, that so he might attain to sight. And lest Philip should think that he was to conceive of God under the same form in which he then saw the Lord Jesus Christ in the body, he immediately subjoined; “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?”10 He had already said, “He who hath seen Me, hath seen the Father also.” But Philip’s eye was not yet sound enough to see the Father, nor consequently to see the Son who is Himself Coequal with the Father. And so Jesus Christ took in hand to cure, and with the medicines and salve of faith to strengthen the eyes of his mind, which as yet were weak and unable to behold so great a light, and He said, “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?” Let not him then who cannot yet see what the Lord will one day show him, seek first to see what he is to believe; but let him first believe that the eye by which he is to see may be healed. For it was only the form of the servant which was exhibited to the eyes of servants; because if “He who thought it not robbery to be equal with God,”11 could have been now seen as equal with God by those whom He wished to be healed, He would not have needed to “empty Himself, and to take the form of a servant.” But because there was no way whereby God could be seen, but whereby man could be seen, there was; therefore He who was God was made man, that that which was seen might heal that whereby He was not seen. For He saith Himself in another place, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”12 Philip might of course have answered and said, “Lord, lo, I see Thee; is the Father such as I see Thee to be? forasmuch as Thou hast said, ‘He who hath seen Me, hath seen the Father also’?” But before Philip answered thus, or perhaps before he so much as thought it, when the Lord had said, “He who hath seen Me, hath seen the Father also;” He immediately added, “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?” For with that eye he could, not yet see either the Father, or the Son who isequal with the Father; but that his eye might be healed for seeing, he was to be anointed unto believing. So then before thou seest what thou canst not now see, believe what as yet thou seest not. “Walk by faith,” that thou mayest attain to sight. Sight will not gladden him in his home whom faith consoleth not by the way. For so says the Apostle, “As long as we are in the body, we are in pilgrimage from the Lord.”13 And he subjoins immediately why we are still “in pilgrimage,” though we have now believed; “For we walk by faith,” He says, “not by sight.”
5. Our whole business then, Brethren, in this life is to heal this eye of the heart whereby God may be seen. To this end are celebrated the Holy Mysteries; to this end is preached the word of God; to this end are the moral exhortations of the Church, those, that is, that relate to the correction of manners, to the amendment of carnal lusts, to the renouncing the world, not in word only, but in a change of life: to this end is directed the whole aim of the Divine and Holy Scriptures, that that inner man may be purged of that which hinders us from the sight of God. For as the eye which is formed to see this temporal light, a light though heavenly, yet corporeal, and manifest, not to men only, buteven to the meanest animals (for for this the eye is formed, to see this light); if anything be thrown or fall into it, whereby it is disordered, is shut out from this light; and though it encompass the eye with its presence, yet the eye turns itself away from, and is absent from it; and through its disordered condition is not only rendered absent from the light which is present, but the light to see which it was formed, is even painful to it. So the eye of the heart too when it is disordered and wounded turns away from the light of righteousness, and dares not and cannot contemplate it.
6. And what is it that disorders the eye of the heart? Evil desire, covetousness, injustice, worldly concupiscence, these disorder, close, blind the eye of the heart. And yet when the eye of the body is out of order, how is the physician sought out, what an absence of all delay to open and cleanse it, that that may be healed whereby this outward light is seen! There is running to and fro, no one is still, no one loiters, if even the smallest straw fall into the eye. And God it must be allowed made the sun which we desire to see with sound eyes. Much brighter assuredly is He who made it; nor is the light with which the eye of the mind is concerned of this kind at all. That light is eternal Wisdom. God made thee, O man, after His own image. Would He give thee wherewithal to see the sun which He made, and not give thee wherewithal to see Him who made thee, when He made thee after His own image? He hath given thee this also; both hath He given thee. But much thou dost love these outward eyes, and despisest much that interior eye; it thou dost carry about bruised and wounded. Yea, it would be a punishment to thee, if thy Maker should wish to manifest Himself unto thee; it would be a punishment to thine eye, before that it is cured and healed. For so Adam in paradise sinned, and hid himself from the face of God. As long then as he had the sound heart of a pure conscience, he rejoiced at the presence of God; when that eye was wounded by sin, he began to dread the Divine light, he fled back into the darkness, and the thick covert of the trees, flying from the truth, and anxious for the shade.
7. Therefore, my Brethren, since we too are born of him, and as the Apostle says, “In Adam all die;”14 for we were all at first two persons if we were loth to obey the physician, that we might not be sick; let us obey Him now, that we may be delivered from sickness. The physician gave us precepts, when we were whole; He gave us precepts that we might not need a physician. “They that are whole,” He saith, “need not a physician, but they that are sick.”15 When whole we despised these precepts, and by experience have felt how to our own destruction we despised His precepts. Now we are sick, we are in distress, we are on the bed of weakness; yet let us not despair. For because we could not come to the Physician, He hath vouchsafed to come Himself to us. Though despised by man when he was whole, He did not despise him when he was stricken. He did not leave off to give other precepts to the weak, who would not keep the first precepts, that he might not be weak; as though He would say, “Assuredly thou hast by experience felt that I spake the truth when I said, Touch not this. Be healed then now at length, and recover the life thou hast lost. Lo, I am bearing thine infirmity; drink thou the bitter cup. For thou hast of thine own self made those my so sweet precepts which were given to thee when whole, so toilsome. They were despised and so thy distress began; cured thou canst not be, except thou drink the bitter cup, the cup of temptations, wherein this life abounds, the cup of tribulation, anguish, and sufferings. Drink then,” He says, “drink, that thou mayest live.” And that the sick man may not make answer, “I cannot, I cannot bear it, I will not drink;” the Physician, all whole though he be, drinketh first, that the sick man may not hesitate to drink. For what bitterness is there in this cup, which He hath not drunk? If it be contumely; He heard it first when He drove out the devils, “He hath a devil, and by Beelzebub He casteth out devils.”16 Whereupon in order to comfort the sick, He saith, “If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of His household?”17 If pains are this bitter cup, He was bound and scourged and crucified. If death be this bitter cup, He died also. If infirmity shrink with horror from any particular kind of death, none was at that time more ignominious than the death of the cross. For it was not in vain that the Apostle, when setting forth His obedience, added, “Made obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”18
8. But because He designed to honour His faithful ones at the end of the world, He hath first honoured the cross in this world; in such wise that the princes of the earth who believe in Him have prohibited any criminal from being crucified; and that cross which the Jewish persecutors with great mockery prepared for the Lord, even kings His servants at this day bear with great confidence on their foreheads. Only the shameful nature of the death which our Lord vouchsafed to undergo for us is not now so apparent, Who, as the Apostle says, “was made a curse for us.”19 And when as He hung, the blindness of the Jews mocked Him, surely He could have come down from the Cross, who if He had not so willed, had not been on the Cross; but it was a greater thing to rise from the grave than to come down from the Cross. Our Lord then in doing these Divine, and in suffering these human things, instructs us by His Bodily miracles and Bodily patience, that we may believe, and be made whole to behold those things invisible which the eye of the body hath no knowledge of. With this intent then He cured these blind men of whom the account has just now been read in the Gospel. And consider what instruction He has by their cure conveyed to the man who is sick within.
9. Consider the issue of the thing, and the order of the circumstances. Those two blind men sitting by the way side cried out as the Lord passed by, that He would have mercy upon them. But they were restrained from crying out by the multitude which was with the Lord. Now do not suppose that this circumstance is left without a mysterious meaning. But they overcame the crowd who kept them back by the great perseverance of their cry, that their voice might reach the Lord’s ears; as though He had not already anticipated their thoughts. So then the two blind men cried out that they might be heard by the Lord, and could not be restrained by the multitudes. The Lord “was passing by,” and they cried out. The Lord “stood still,” and they were healed. For “the Lord Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? They say unto Him, That our eyes may be opened.”20 The Lord did according to their faith, He recovered their eyes. If we have now understood by the sick, the deaf, the dead, the sick, and deaf, and dead, within; let us look out in this place also for the blind within. The eyes of the heart are clossd; “Jesus passeth by” that we may cry out. What is, “Jesus passeth by”? Jesus is doing things which last but for a time. What is “Jesus passeth by”? Jesus doeth things which pass by. Marc and see how many things of His have “passed by.” He was born of the Virgin Mary; is He being born always? As an infant was He suckled; is He suckled always? He ran through the successive ages of life unto man’s full estate;doth He grow in body always? Boyhood succeeded to infancy, to boyhood youth,to youth man’s full stature in several passing successions. Even the very miracles which He did are “passed by,” they are read and believed. For because these miracles are written that so they might be read, they “passed by” when they were being done. In a word, not to dwell long on this, He was Crucified: is He hanging on theCross always? He was Buried, He Rose again, He Ascended into heaven; “now He dieth no more, death shall no more have dominion over Him.”21 And His Divinity abideth ever, yea, the Immortality of His Body now shall never fail. But nevertheless all those things which were wrought by Him in time have “passed by;” and they are written to be read, and they are preached to be believed. In all these things then, “Jesus passeth by.”
10. And what are “the two blind men by the way side,” but the two people to cure whom Jesus came? Let us show those two people in the Holy Scriptures. It is written in the Gospel, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also must I bring, that there may be one fold and One Shepherd.”22 Who then are the two people? One the people of the Jews, and the other of the Gentiles. “I am not sent,” He saith, “but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”23 To whom did He say this? To the disciples; when that woman of Canaan who confessed herself to be a dog, cried out that she might be found worthy of the crumbs from the master’s24 table. And because she was found worthy, now were the two people to whom He had come made manifest: the Jewish people, to wit, of whom He said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel;” and the people of the Gentiles, whose type this woman exhibited whom He had first rejected, saying, “It is not meet to cast the children’s bread to the dogs;” and to whom when she said, “Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table;” He answered, “O woman, great is thy faith, be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”25 For of this people also was that centurion of whom the same Lord saith, “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” Because he had said,” I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.”26 So then the Lord even before His Passion and Glorification pointed out two people, the one to whom He had come because of the promises to the Fathers; and the other whom for His mercy’s sake He did not reject; that it might be fulfilled which had been promised to Abraham, “In thy seed shall all nations be blessed.”27 Wherefore also the Apostle after the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension, when He was despised by the Jews, went to the Gentiles. Not that he was silent however towards the Churches which consisted of Jewish believers; “I was unknown,” he says, “by face unto the Churches of Judaea which were in Christ. But they heard only that he which persecuted us in times past, now preacheth the faithwhich once he destroyed, and they glorified God in me.”28 So again Christ is called the “Corner Stone who made both one.”29 For a corner joins two walls which come from different sides together. And what was so different as the circumcision and uncircumcision, having one wall from Judaea, the other from the Gentiles? But they are joined together by the corner stone. “For the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner.”30 There is no corner in a building, except when two walls coming from different directions meet together, and are joined in a kind of unity. The “two blind men” then crying out unto the Lord were these two walls according to the figure.
11. Attend now, dearly Beloved. The Lord was “passing by,” and the blind men “cried out.” What is “was passing by”? As we have already said, He was doing works which “passed by.” Now upon31 these passing works is our faith built up. For we believe on the Son of God, not only in that He is the word of God, by whom all things were made; for if He had always continued” in the form of God, equal with God,” and had not “emptied Himself in taking the form of a servant,” the blind men would not even have perceived Him, that they might be able to cry out. But when He wrought passing works, that is, “when He humbled Himself, having become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” the” two blind men cried out, Have mercy on us, thou Son of David.” For this very thing that He David’s Lord and Creator, willed also to be David’s Son, He wrought in time, He wrought “passing by.”
12. Now what is it, Brethren, “to cry out” unto Christ, but to32 correspond to the grace of Christ by good works? This I say, Brethren, test haply we cry aloud with our voices, and in our lives be dumb. Who is he that crieth out to Christ, that his inward blindness may be driven away by Christ as He is “passing by,” that is, as He is dispensing to us those temporal sacraments, whereby we are instructed to receive the things which are eternal? Who is he that crieth out unto Christ? Whoso despiseth the world, crieth out unto Christ. Whoso despiseth the pleasures of the world, crieth out unto Christ. Whoso saith not with his tongue, but with his life, “The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world,”33 crieth out unto Christ. Whoso “disperseth abroad and giveth to the poor, that his righteousness may endure for ever,”34 crieth out unto Christ. For let him that hears, and is not deaf to the sound, “sell that ye have, and give to the poor; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not;”35 let him as he hears the sound as it were of Christ’s footsteps “passing by,” cry out in response to this in his blindness, that is, let him do these things. Let his voice be in his actions. Let him begin to despise the world, to distribute to the poor his goods, to esteem as nothing worth what other men love, let him disregard injuries, not seek to be avenged, let him give his “cheek to the smiter,” let him pray for his enemies; if any “one have taken away his goods,” let “him nor ask for them again;”36 if he “have taken anything from any man, let him restore fourfold.”37
13. When he shall begin to do all this, all his kinsmen, relations, and friends will be in commotion. They who love this world, will oppose him. What madness this! you are too extreme:38 what! are not other men Christians? This is folly, this is madness. And other such like things do the multitude cry out to prevent the blind from crying out. The multitude rebuked them as they cried out; but did not overcome their. cries. Let them who wish to be healed understand what they have to do. Jesus is now also “passing by;” let them who are by the way side cry out. These are they “who know God with their lips, but their heart is far from Him.”39 These are by the way side, to whom as blinded40 in heart Jesus gives His precepts. For when those passing things which Jesus did are recounted, Jesus is always represented to us as “passing by.” For even unto the end of the world there will not be wanting “blind men sitting by the way side.” Need then there is that they who sit by the way side should cry out. The multitude that was with the Lord would repress the crying of those who were seeking for recovery. Brethren, do ye see my meaning? For I know not how to speak, but still less do I know how to be silent. I will speak then, and speak plainly. For I fear “Jesus passing by” and “Jesus standing still;” and therefore I cannot keep silence. Evil and lukewarm Christians hinder good Christians who are truly earnest,41 and wish to do the commandments of God which are written in the Gospel. This multitude which is with the Lord hinders those who are crying out, hinders those that is who are doing well, that they may not by perseverance be healed. But let them cry out, and not faint; let them not be led away as if by the authority of numbers; let them not imitate those who became Christians before them, who live evil lives themselves, and are jealous of the good deeds of others. Let them not say, “Let us live as these so many live.” Why not rather as the Gospel ordains? Why dost thou wish to live according to the remonstrances of the multitude who would hinder thee, and not after the steps of the Lord, “who passeth by”? They will mock, and abuse, and call thee back; do thou cry out till thou reach the ears of Jesus. For they who shall persevere in doing such things as Christ hath enjoined, and regard not the multitudes that hinder them, nor think much of their appearing to follow Christ, that is of their being called Christians; but who love the light which Christ is about to restore to them, more than they fear the uproar of those who are hindering them; they shall on no account be separated from Him, and Jesus will “stand still,” and make them whole.
14. For how are our eyes made whole? That as by faith we perceive Christ “passing by” in the temporal economy,42 so we may attain to the knowledge of Him as “standing still” in His unchangeable Eternity. For then is the eye made whole when the knowledge of Christ’s Divinity is attained. Let your love apprehend this; attend ye to the great mystery43 which I am to speak of. All the things which were done by our Lord Jesus Christ in time, graft faith in us. We believe on the Son of God, not on the Word only, “by which all things were made;” but on this very Word, “made flesh that He might dwell among us,” who was born of the Virgin Mary, and the rest which the Faith contains, and which are represented to us that Christ might “pass by,” and that the blind, hearing His footsteps as He “passeth by,” might by their works “cry out,” by their life exemplifying the profession of their faith. But now in order that they who cry out may be made whole, “Jesus standeth still.” For he saw Jesus now “standing still” who says, “Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.”44 For he saw Christ’s Divinity as far as in this life is possible. There is then in Christ the Divinity and the Humanity. The Divinity “standeth still,” the Humanity “passeth by.” What means, The Divinity “standeth still”? It changeth not, is not shaken, doth not depart away. For He did not so come to us, as to depart from the Father; nor did He so ascend as to change His place. When He assumed Flesh, it changed place; but God assuming Flesh, seeing He is not in place, doth not change His place. Let us then be touched by Christ “standing still,” and so our eyes be made whole. But whose eyes? The eyes of those who “cry out” when He is “passing by;” that is, who do good works through that faith, which hath been dispensed in time, to instruct us in our infancy.
15. Now what thing more precious can we have than the eye made whole? They rejoice who see this created light which shines from heaven, or even that which is given out from a lamp. And how wretched do they seem, who cannot see this light? But wherefore do I speak, and talk of all these things, but to exhort you all to “cry out,” when Jesus “passeth by.” I hold up this light which perhaps ye do not see as an object of love to you, Holy Brethren. Believe, whilst as yet ye see not; and “cry out” that ye may see. How great is thought to be the unhappiness of men, who do not see this bodily light? Does any one become blind; immediately it is said; “God is angry with him, he has committed some wicked deed.” So said Tobias’ wife to her husband. He cried out because of the kid, test it had come of theft; he did not like to hear the sound of any stolen thing in his house; and she, maintaining what she had done, reproached her husband; and when he said, “Restore it if it be stolen;” she answered insultingly, “Where are thy righteous deeds?”45 How great was her blindness who maintained the theft; and how clear a light he saw, who commanded the stolen thing to be restored: She rejoiced outwardly in the light of the sun; he inwardly in the light of Righteousness. Which of them was in the better light?
16. It is to the love of this light that I would exhort you, Beloved; that ye would cry out by your works, when the Lord “passeth by;” let the voice of faith sound out, that “Jesus standing still,” that is, the Unchangeable, Abiding Wisdom of God, and the Majesty of the Wordof God, “by which all things were made,” may open your eyes. The same Tobias in giving advice to his son, instructed him to this, to cry out; that is, he instructed him to good works. He told him to give to the poor, charged him to give alms to the needy, and taught him, saying, “My son, alms suffereth not to come into darkness.”46 The blind gave counsel for receiving and gaining light. “Alms,” saith he, “suffereth not to come into darkness.” Had his son in astonishment answered him, “What then, father, hast thou not given alms, that thou now speakest to me in blindness; art not thou in darkness, and yet thou dost say to me, “Alms suffereth not to come into darkness.” But no, he knew well what the light was, concerning which he gave his son instruction, he knew well what he saw in the inner man. The son held out his hand to his father, to enable him to walk on earth; and the father to the son, to enable him to dwell in heaven.
17. To be brief; that I may conclude this Sermon, Brethren, with a matter which touches me very nearly, and gives me much pain, see what crowds there are which “rebuke the blindas they cry out.” But let them not deter you,whosoever among this crowd desire to be healed; for there are many Christians in name, and in works ungodly; let them, not deter you from good works. Cry out amid the crowds that are restraining you, and calling you back, and insulting you, whose lives are evil. For not only by their voices, but by evil works, do wicked Christians repress the good. A good Christian has no wish to attend the public shows. In this very thing, that he bridles his desire of going to the theatre, he cries out after Christ, cries out to be healed. Others run together thither, but perhaps they are heathens or Jews? Ah! indeed, if Christians went not to the theatres, there would be so few people there, that they would go away for very shame. So then Christians run thither also, bearing the Holy Name only to their condemnation. Cry out then by abstaining from going, by repressing in thy heart this worldly47 concupiscence; hold on with a strong and persevering cry unto the ears of the Saviour, that Jesus may “stand still” and heal thee. Cry out amidst the very crowds, despair not of reaching the ears of the Lord. For the blind men in the Gospel did not cry out in that quarter, where no crowd was, that so they might be heard in that direction, where there was no impediment from persons hindering them. Amidst the very crowds they cried out; and yet the Lord heard them. And so also do ye even amidst sinners, and sensual then, amidst the lovers of the vanities of the world, there cry out that the Lord may heal you. Go not to another quarter to cry out unto the Lord, go not to heretics, and cry out unto Him there. Consider, Brethren, how in that crowd which was hindering them from crying out, even there were they who cried out made whole.
18. For observe this too, Holy Brethren, what it is to persevere in crying out. I will speak of what many as well as myself have experienced in Christ’s name; for the Church does not cease to give birth to such as these. When any Christian has begun to live well, to be fervent in good works, and to despise the world; in this newness of his life he is exposed to the animadversions and contradictions of cold Christians. But if he persevere, and get the better of them by his endurance, and faint not in good works; those very same persons who before hindered will now respect him.48 For they rebuke, and hinder, and withstand him so long as they have any hope that he will yield to them. But if they shall be overcome by their perseverance who make progress, they turn round and begin to say, “He is a great man, a holy man, happy he to whom Godhath given such grace.” Now do they honour him, they congratulate and bless and laud him; just as that multitude did which was with the Lord. They first hindered the blind men that they might not cry out; but when they continued to cry so as to attain to be heard, and to obtain the Lord’s mercy, that same multitude now says, “Jesus calleth you.” And they who a little before “rebuked them that they should hold their peace,” use now the voice of exhortation. Now he only is not called by the Lord who is not in labour in this world. But who is there in this life who is not in labour through his sins and iniquities? But if all labour, it is said to all, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour.”49 Now if this is said to all, why ascribest thou thy miscarriage50 to Him that so inviteth time? Come. His house is not too narrow for thee; the kingdom of God is possessed equally by all, and wholly by each one; it is not diminished by the increasing number of those who possess it, because it is not divided. And that which is possessed by many with one heart, is whole and entire for each one.
19. Yet in the mysterious sense of this passage, Brethren, we recognise what is expressed most plainly in other places of the sacred books, that there are within the Church both good and bad, as I often express it, wheat and chaff. Let no one leave the floor before the time, let him bear with the chaff in the time of threshing, let him bear with it in the floor. For in the barn he will have none of it to bear with. The Winnower will come, who shall divide the bad from the good. There will then be a bodily separation too, which a spiritual separation now precedes. In heart be always separated from the bad, in body be united with them for a time, only with caution. Yet be not negligent in correcting those who belong to you, who in any way appertain to your charge, by admonition, or instruction, by exhortation, or by threats. Do it, in whatsoever way ye can. And because ye find in Scripture and in the examples of Saints, whether of those who lived before or after the coming of the Lord in this life, that the bad do not defile the good in unity with them, do not on this account become slow in the correction of the bad. In two ways the bad will not defile thee; if thou consent not to him, and if thou reprove him; this is, not to communicate with him, not to consent to him. For there is a communication, when an agreement either of the will or of the approbation is joined to his deed. This the Apostle teaches us, when he says, “Have no communication with the unfruitful works of darkness.”51 And because it was a small matter not to consent, if negligence in correction accompanied it, he says, “But rather reprove them.” See how he comprehended both at once, “Have no communication, but rather reprove them.” What is, “Have no communication”? Do not consent to them, do not praise them, do not approve them. What is, “But rather reprove them”? Find fault with, rebuke, repress them.
20. But then in the correction and repressing of other men’s sins, one must take heed, that in rebuking another he do not lift up himself; and that sentence of the Apostle must be thought of, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.”52 Let the voice of chiding sound outwardly in tones of terror, let the spirit of love and gentleness be maintained within. “If a man be overtaken in a fault,” as the same Apostle says, “ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so shall ye fulfil the law of Christ.”53 And again in another place, “The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are held captive by him at his will.”54 So then be neither consenting to evil, so as to approve of it; nor negligent so as not to reprove it; nor proud so as to reprove it in a tone of insult.
21. But whoso forsaketh unity, violateth charity; and whosoever violateth charity, how great gifts soever he have, he is nothing. “If he speak with the tongues of men and of angels; if he knew all mysteries, if he have all faith, so as to remove mountains, if he distribute all his goods to the poor, if he give his body to be burned, and have not charity; it is nothing; it profiteth him nothing.”55 He possesseth all things to no useful end, who hath not that one thing by which he may use all these things well. So then let us embrace charity, “studying to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”56 Let not those seduce us who understand the Scriptures in a carnal manner, and who in making a bodily separation, are separated themselves by a spiritual sacrilege from the good corn of the Church which is spread over the whole world. For throughout the whole world hath the good seed been sown. That good Sower, the Son of Man, hath scattered the good seed not in Africa only, but everywhere. But the enemy hath sown tares upon it. Yet what saith the Householder? “Let both grow together until the harvest.”57 Grow where? In the field, of course. What is the field? Is it Africa? No! What is it then? Let us not interpret it ourselves, let the Lord speak; let us not suffer any one to make his guess at his own pleasure. For the disciples said to the Master, “Declare unto us the parable of the tares.” And the Lord declared it: “The good seed,” said He, “are the children of the Kingdom. But the tares are the children of the wicked one.” Who sowed them? “The enemy that sowed them,” said He,” is the devil.” What is the field? “The field,” said He, “is this world.” What is the harvest? “The harvest,” said He, “is the end of the world.” Who are the reapers? “The reapers,” said He, “are the Angels” Is Africa the world? Is this present time the harvest? Is Donatus the reaper? Look then for the harvest throughout the whole world, throughout the whole world “grow unto the harvest,” throughout the whole world bear with the tares even until the harvest. Let not perverse men seduce you, that chaff so light, which flies out of the floor before the coming of the Winnower; let them not seduce you. Hold them fast even to this single parable of the tares, and suffer them not to speak of anything else. This man, one will say, surrendered58 the Scriptures; no, not so: but this other man surrendered them. Whosoever it might be who has surrendered them, has their faithlessness made void the faithfulness of God? What is “the faithfulness of God”? That which He promised to Abraham, saying, “In thy seed shall all nations be blessed.”59 What is the faithfulness of God? “Let both grow together until the harvest.” Grow where? Throughout the field. What is throughout the field? Throughout the world.
22. Here they say; “It is true both kinds did once grow throughout the world, but the good wheat is diminished, and confined to this our country, and our small communion.”60 But the Lord doth not allow thee to interpret as thou wilt. He who explaineth this parable Himself, shutteth thy mouth, thy sacrilegious, profane, and ungodly mouth, that is counter to thine own interests, while thou runnest counter to the testator, even as he calleth thee to the inheritance. How doth He shut thy mouth? by saying, “Let both grow together until the harvest.”61 If the harvest hath come already, let us believe that the wheat has been diminished. Though not even then shall it be diminished, but gathered up into the barn. For so He saith, “Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into My barn.” If then they grow until the harvest, and after the harvest are gathered in, how are they diminished, thou wicked, thou ungodly one? I grant that in comparison with the tares and chaff the wheat is less in quantity; still “both grow together until the harvest.” For “when iniquity aboundeth, the love of many waxeth cold;”62 the tares and the chaff multiply. But because throughout the whole world wheat cannot be wanting, which “by enduring unto the end shall be saved, both grow together until the harvest.” And if because of the abundance of the wicked it is said, “When the Son of Man cometh, thinkest thou, shall He find faith on the earth?”63 and by this denomination are signified all those who by transgression of the law imitate him to whom it was said,” Earth thou art, and unto earth shalt thou return;”64 yet because of the abundance of the good also, and because of him to whom it was said, “Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven, and as the sand of the sea;”65 is that also written, “Many shall come from the East and West, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, in the kingdom of God.”66 “Both” then “grow together until the harvest,” and both the tares or chaff have their passages in the Scriptures, and the wheat theirs. And they who do not understand them, confound them and are themselves confounded; and in their blind desire they make such an uproar, that they will not be silenced even by the clear manifestation of the truth.
23. See, they say, the Prophet says, “Depart ye, go ye out from thence, and touch no unclean thing;”67 how then for peace sake should we bear with the wicked, from whom we are commanded to “go out and depart that we touch not the unclean thing”? We understand that “departure” spiritually, they corporally. For I also cry out with the Prophet (for however mean a vessel I am, God maketh use of me to minister to you); I also cry out and say to you, “Depart ye, go ye out from thence, and touch not the unclean thing;” but with the touch of the heart, not of the body. For what is it to “touch the unclean thing,” but to consent to sin. And what is it to “go out from thence,” but to do what appertaineth to the rebuking of the wicked, as far as can be done, according to each one’s grade and condition,68 with the maintenance of peace? Thou art displeased at a man’s sin, thou hast not “touched the unclean thing.” Thou hast reproved, rebuked, admonished him, hast administered, if the case required it, a suitable discipline, and such as doth not violate unity; then thou hast “gone out from thence.” Now consider the actions of the Saints, lest perhaps this should seem to be an interpretation of my own. As Saints have understood these words, so surely ought they to be understood. “Go ye out from them,” says the Prophet. I will first maintain this meaning of the words from their customary use, and will afterwards show that that meaning is not my own. It often happens that men are accused; and when they are accused they defend themselves, and when the accused defends himself with good reason and justice, the hearers say, “He has got out of this.” Got out; whither has he gone? He abides still in the place where he was, yet has he “got out of this.” How has he got out of it? By the good account he has rendered, and by his most satisfactory defence. This is what the holy Apostles did when they “shook off the dust from their feet”69 against those who did not receive the message of peace which was sent to them. That watchman, “got out from thence,” to whom it was I said, “I have made thee a watchman unto thehouse of Israel.”70 For it was told him “If thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from hiswickedness, nor from his way, that wicked one shall die in his iniquity, and thou shalt deliver thy soul.”71 This if he do, he “goes out from him,” not by a bodily separation, but by the defence of his own work. For he did what itwas his duty to do; though the other, whose duty it was to obey, obeyed not.This then is that, “Go ye out from thence.”
24. So cried Moses and Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Let us see then if they acted thus, if they left the people of God, and betook themselves to other nations. How many and vehement rebukes did Jeremiah utter against the sinners, and wicked ones of his people. Yet he lived amongst them, he entered into the same temple with them, celebrated the same mysteries;72 he lived in that congregation of wickedmen, but by his crying out “he went out from them.” This is “to go out from them;” this is not “to touch the unclean thing,” the not consenting to them in will, and the not sparing them in word. What shall I say of Jeremiah, of Isaiah, of Daniel, and Ezekiel, and the rest of the prophets, who did not retire from the wicked people, lest they should desert the good who were mingled with that people, among whom themselves were able to be such as they, were? When Moses himself, Brethren, was receiving the law in the mount, the people below made an idol.73 The people of God, the people who had been led through the waves of the Red Sea which gave way to them, and overwhelmed their enemies who followed after, after so many signs and miracles displayed in plagues upon the Egyptians even unto death, and for “their” protection unto deliverance, yet demanded an idol, obtained an idol by force, made an idol, adored an idol, sacrificed unto an idol. God showeth His servant what the people had done, and saith that He will destroy them from before His Face. Moses maketh intercession for them as he was about to return to this people; yet had he a good opportunity of retiring and “going out from them,” as these persons understand it, that he might “not touch the unclean thing,” might not live among them; but he did not so. And that he might not seem to have acted thus from necessity rather than from love, God offered him another people; so that He might destroy these: “I will make of thee,” He said, “a great nation.”74 But he did not accept it; he cleaveth to the sinners, he prayeth for the sinners. And how does he pray? O signal proof of love, my Brethren! How does he pray? Marc that, as it were, mother’s fondness, of which I have often spoken. When God threatened the sacrilegious people, Moses’ tender heart trembled, and on their behalf he opposed himself to the wrath of God. “Lord,” he says, “if Thou wilt forgive their sin, forgive; but if not, blot me out of Thy book which Thou hast written.”75 With what a father’s and mother’s76 fondness, yet with what assurance said he this, as he considered at once the justice and the mercy of God; that in that He is just, He would not destroy the righteous man; and that in that He is merciful, He would pardon the sinners.
25. It is now surely plain to your discernment,77 in what manner all such testimonies of the Scriptures are to be received; so that when Scripture says, that we must depart from the wicked, we are bid to understand this in no other sense, but that we depart in heart; lest by the separation from the good, we commit a greater evil than we shrink from in the union of the wicked, as these Donatists have done. But if they were truly good, and so had reproved the wicked, and not rather being themselves wicked, had defamed78 the good, they would for peace sake bear with any, be they who they might, seeing they have received the Maximianists79 as sound, whom they condemned before as lost. Undoubtedly the Prophet has said plainly,” Depart ye, go ye out from thence, and touch not the unclean thing.” But that I may understand what he said, I pay attention to what he did. By his own deeds he explains his words. He said, “Depart ye.” To whom did he say so? To the righteous of course. From whom, did he bid them depart? From sinners and wicked men of course. I ask then, did he depart from such himself? I find that he did not.So then he understood it in another sense. For surely he would be the first to do what he enjoined. He departed from them in heart, he rebuked and reproved them. By keeping himself from consenting to them, he “did not touch the unclean thing;” but by rebuking them he “went out” free in the sight of God; and to him God neither imputeth his own sins, because he sinned not; nor the sins of others, because he approved them not; nor negligence, because he kept not silence; nor pride, because he continued in unity. So then, my Brethren, how many soever ye have among you, who are still weighed down by the love of the world, covetous, or perjured persons, adulterers, spectacle hunters, consulters of astrologers, of fanatics, of soothsayers, of augurs and diviners, drunkards, sensualists, whatever there isof bad that ye know ye have among you; show your disapprobation of it all as far as ye are able,that ye may in heart “depart;” and reprove them, that ye tray “go out from them;” and consent not to them, that “ye touch not the unclean thing.”
1 (2Co 13,4
2 (Rm 6,9).
3 (Jn 20,29
4 (Jn 20,28
5 (Mt 8,22
6 (Ep 5,14
7 (Mt 11,15
8 (Jn 14,8).
9 (Jn 14,9
10 (Jn 14,10
11 (Ph 2,6
12 (Mt 5,8
13 (2Co 5,6).
14 (1Co 15,22
15 (Mt 9,12
16 (Mc 3,22
17 (Mt 10,25
18 (Ph 2,8
19 (Ga 3,13).
20 (Mt 20,32-33.
21 (Rm 6,9
22 (Jn 10,16
23 (Mt 15,24
25 (Mt 15,26-28.
26 (Mt 8,10 Mt 8,8.
27 (Gn 22,18
28 (Ga 1,22-24.
29 (Ep 2,14 Ep 2,20.
30 (Ps 118,22
33 (Ga 6,14
34 (Ps 112,9
35 (Lc 12,33
36 (Lc 6,30
37 (Lc 19,8
39 (Is 29,13 Mt 15,8
44 (2Co 5,16
45 Tb 2,14.
46 Tb 4,10.
49 (Mt 11,28
51 (Ep 5,11
52 (1Co 10,12
53 (Ga 6,1-2.
54 (2Tm 2,24 etc).
55 (1Co 13,1-3.
56 (Ep 4,3
57 (Mt 13,24 etc.
58 The occasion of the Donatist schism was a charge brought against Cecilianus, Bishop of Carthage, and Felix, Bishop of Aptunga, who had ordained him, of being traditors, that is, of having surrendered such copies of the Holy Scriptures as they had in their possession in times of persecution.
59 Gen 26,4.
61 (Mt 13,30
62 (Mt 24,12
63 (Lc 18,8 Vulgate.
64 (Gn 3,19 Sept.
65 (Gn 15,5 Gn 22,17.
66 (Mt 8,11).
67 (Is 52,11
69 (Lc 10,11
70 (Ez 3,17
71 (Ez 3,19
73 (Ex 32.
74 (Ex 32,10).
75 (Ex 32,32
78 By their false accusations against Cecilian of being a traditor, of which they were themselves convicted. Ep. 43 (162), etc. Aug. Serm. 114,(clxiv Ben).
79 See Serm. 21,(lxxi. Ben). 4 (ii)., note.
Augustine on NT 87