Golden Chain 4225
4225 (Mt 12,25-26)
Jerome: The Pharisees ascribed the works of God to the Prince of the daemons; and the Lord makes answer not to (p. 448) what they said, but to what they thought, that even thus they might be compelled to believe His power, Who saw the secrets of the heart; "Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said unto them."
Chrys., Hom. xli: Above they had accused Christ of having cast out daemons by Beelzebub; but then He did not reprove them, suffering them, if they would, to acknowledge Him from further miracles, and to learn His greatness from His doctrine. But because they continued to maintain the same things, He now rebukes them, although their accusation had been very unreasonable.
But jealousy reeks not what it says, so that only it say somewhat. Yet does not Christ contemn them, but answers with a gracious mildness, teaching us to be gentle to our enemies, and not to be troubled, even though they should speak such things against us, as we neither acknowledge in us, nor have any reasonableness in themselves.
Therein also He proves that the things which they had said against Him were false, for it is not of one having a daemon to shew such mercy, and to know the thoughts. Moreover, because this their accusation was very unreasonable, and they feared the multitude, they did not dare to proclaim it openly, but kept it in their thoughts; wherefore he says, "Knowing their thoughts."
He does not repeat their thoughts in His answer, not to divulge their wickedness; but He brings forward an answer; it was His object to do good to the sinners, not to proclaim their sin. He does not answer them out of the Scriptures, because they would not hearken to Him as they explained them differently, but He refutes them from common opinions. For assaults from without are not so destructive as quarrels within; and this is so in bodies and in all other things. But in the mean while He draws instances from matters more known, saying, "Every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation;" for there is nothing on earth more powerful than a kingdom, and yet that is destroyed by contention.
What then must we say concerning a city or a family; that whether it be great or small, it is destroyed when it is at discord within itself.
Hilary: For a city or family is analogous to a kingdom; as it follows, "And every city or house divided against itself shall not stand."
Jerome: For as small things grow by concord, (p. 449) so the greatest fall to pieces through dissensions.
Hilary: But the word of God is rich, and whether taken simply, or examined inwardly, it is needful for our advancement.
Leaving therefore what belongs to the plain understanding thereof, let us dwell on some of the more secret reasons. The Lord is about to make answer to that which they had said concerning Beelzebub, and He casts upon those to whom He made answer a condition of their answering. Thus; The Law was from God and the promise of the kingdom to Israel was by the Law; but if the kingdom of the Law be divided in itself, it must needs be destroyed; and thus Israel lost the Law, when the nation whose was the Law, rejected the fulfilment of the Law in Christ.
The city here spoken of is Jerusalem, which when it raged with the madness of its people against the Lord, and drove out His Apostles with the multitude of them that believed, after this division shall not stand; and thus (which soon happened in consequence of this division) the destruction of that city is declared.
Again He puts another case, "And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then shall hie kingdom stand?
Jerome: As much as to say, If Satan fight against himself, and, daemon be an enemy to daemon, then must the end of the world be at hand, that these hostile powers should have no place there, whose mutual war is peace for men.
Gloss. ord.: He holds them therefore in this dilemma. For Christ casts out daemons either by the power of God, or by the Prince of the daemons. If by the power of God, their accusations are malicious; if by the Prince of the daemons, his kingdom is divided, and will not stand, and therefore let them depart out of his kingdom. And this alternative He intimates that they had chosen for themselves, when they refused to believe in Him.
Chrys.: Or thus; If he is divided, he is made weak, and perishes; but if he perishes, how can he cast out another?
Hilary: Otherwise; If the daemon was driven to this division to the end that he should thus afflict the daemons, even thus must we attribute higher power to Him who made the division than to those who are thus divided; thus the kingdom of the Devil, after this division made, is destroyed by Christ.
Jerome: But if ye think, ye Scribes and Pharisees, that the (p. 450) daemons depart out of the possessed in obedience to their Prince, that men may be imposed upon by a concerted fraud, what can ye say to the healing of diseases which the Lord also wrought? It is something more if ye assign to the daemons even bodily infirmities, and the signs of spiritual virtues.
4227 (Mt 12,27-28)
Chrys.: After the first answer, He comes to a second more plain than the first, saying, "And if I by Beelzebub cast out daemons, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore shall they be your judges."
Jerome: He alludes, as is His manner, under the name children of the Jews, either to the exorcists of that race, or to the Apostles who are by race of that nation. If He means the exorcists who by the invocation of God cast out daemons, He thus constrains the Pharisees by a wise enquiry to confess that their work was of the Holy Spirit. If, He would say, the casting out of the daemons by your children is imputed to God, and not to daemons, why should the same work wrought by Me not have the same cause? "Therefore shall they be your judges," not by authority but by comparison; they ascribe the casting out of the daemons to God, you to the Prince of the daemons. But if it is of the Apostles also that this is said, (and so we should rather take it,) then they shall be their judges, for they shall sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Hilary: And they are worthily appointed judges over them, to whom Christ is found to have given that power over the daemons, which it was denied that He had.
Raban.: Or, because the Apostles well knew within their own conscience that they had learnt no evil art from Him.
Chrys.: Yet He said not, My disciples, or Apostles, but "your children;" that if they chose to return again to their own privileges, they might take occasion hence; but if they should (p. 451) be ungrateful, they might not have even an impudent excuse, And the Apostles cast out daemons by virtue of power which they had from Him, and yet the Pharisees made no such charge against them; for it was not the actions themselves, but the person of Christ to which they were opposed.
Desiring then to shew that the things which were said against Him were only jealous suspicions, He brings forward the Apostles. And also He leads them to a knowledge of Himself, shewing how they stood in the way of their own good, and resisted their own salvation; whereas they ought to be joyful because He had come to bestow great goods upon them; "If I by the Spirit of God cast out daemons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you." This also shews that it is a matter of great power to cast out daemons, and not an ordinary grace.
And thus it is He reasons, "Therefore is the kingdom of God come upon you," as much as to say, If this indeed be so, then is the Son of God come upon you. But this He hints darkly, that it may not seem hard to them.
Also to draw their attention, He said not merely, "The kingdom hath come," but, "upon you;" that is to say, These good things are coming for you; why do you oppose your own salvation; for this is the very sign given by the Prophets of the presence of the Son of God, that such works as these should be wrought by Divine power.
Jerome: For the kingdom of God denotes Himself, of whom it is written in another place, "The kingdom of God is among you; (Lc 17,21) and, "There standeth one in the midst of you whom ye know not." (Jn 1,26). Or surely that kingdom which both John and the Lord Himself had preached above, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Mt 3,2)
There is also a third kingdom of the Holy Scripture which shall be taken from the Jews, and be given to a nation that brings forth the fruit thereof.
Hilary: If then the disciples work by Christ, and Christ by the Spirit of God, already is the kingdom of God transferred to the Apostles through the office of the Mediator.
Gloss., ap. Anselm: For the weakening of the kingdom of the Devil is the increase of the kingdom of God.
Aug., Quaest. Ev., i. 5: Whence the sense might be this, "If I by Beelzebub cast out daemons," then, according to your own opinion, "the kingdom of God is come upon you," for the kingdom of the Devil, being (p. 452) thus divided against itself, cannot stand. Thus calling that the kingdom of God, in which the wicked are condemned, and are separated from the faithful, who are now doing penitence for their sins.
4229 (Mt 12,29)
Chrys.: Having concluded the second answer, He brings forward yet a third, saying, "Or how can any enter into a strong man's house? For that Satan cannot cast out Satan is clear from what has been said; and that no other can cast him out, till he have first overcome him, is plain to all.
Thus the same as before is established yet more abundantly; for He says, So far am I from having the Devil for my ally, that I rather am at war with him, and bind him; and in that I cast out after this sort, I therein spoil his goods. Thus He proves the very contrary of that they strove to establish. They would shew that He did not cast out demons of His own power; He proves that not only daemons, yea but the prince, also of the daemons He hath bound, as is shewn by that which He hath wrought. For if their Prince were not overcome, how were the daemons who are His subjects thus spoiled.
This speech seems also to me to be a prophecy; inasmuch as He not only casts out daemons, but will take away all error out of the world, and dissolve the craft of the Devil; and He says not rob, but spoil, shewing that He will do it with power.
Jerome: His "house" is this world, which is set in evil, not by the majesty of the Creator, but by the greatness of the sinner. The strong man is bound and chained in tartarus, bruised by the Lord's foot. Yet ought we not therefore to be careless; for here the conqueror Himself pronounces our adversary to be strong.
Chrys.: He calls him "strong," shewing therein his old reign, which arose out of our sloth.
Aug.: For he held us, that we should not by our own strength be able to free ourselves from him, but by the grace of God. By his goods, he means all the unbelievers. He has bound the strong man, in that He has (p. 453) taken away from him all power of hindering the faithful from following Christ, and gaining the kingdom of heaven.
Raban.: Therefore He has spoiled his house, in that them, whom He foresaw should be His own, He set free from the snares of the Devil, and has joined to the Church. Or in that He has divided the whole world among His Apostles and their successors to be converted. By this plain parable therefore He shews that He does not join in a deceitful working with the daemons as they falsely accused Him, but by the might of His divinity He frees men from the daemons.
4230 (Mt 12,30)
Chrys.: After that third reply, here follows a fourth, "He that is not with me is against me."
Hilary: Wherein He shews how far He is from having borrowed any power from the Devil; teaching us how great the danger to think amiss of Him, not to be with Whom, is the same as to be against Him.
Jerome: But let none think that this is said of heretics and schismatics; though we may apply it besides to such; but it is shewn by the context to refer to the Devil; in that the works of the Saviour cannot be compared with the works of Beelzebub. He seeks to hold men's souls in captivity, the Lord to set them free; he preaches idols, the Lord the knowledge of the true God; he draws men to sin, the Lord calls them back to virtues. How then can these have agreement together, whose works are so opposite?
Chrys.: Therefore whoso gathereth not with me, nor is with me, may not be compared together with me, that with me he should cast out daemons, but rather seeks to scatter what is mine. But tell me; If you were to have fought together with some one, and he should not be willing to come to your aid, is he not therefore against you?
The Lord also Himself said in another place, "He that is not against you is for you." (Lc 9,50) To which that which is here said is not contrary. For here He is speaking of the Devil who is our adversary -- there of some man who was on their side, of whom it is, said, "We saw one casting out daemons in thy name."
Here He seems to allude to the Jews, classing them with the (p. 454) Devil; for they were against Him, and scattered what He would gather. But it is fair to allow that He spoke this of Himself; for He was against the Devil, and scattered abroad the things of the Devil.
4231 (Mt 12,31-32)
Chrys.: The Lord had refuted the Pharisees by explaining His own actions, and He now proceeds to terrify them. For this is no small part of correction, to threaten punishment, as well as to set right false accusation.
Hilary: He condemns by a most rigorous sentence this opinion of the Pharisees, and of such as thought with them, promising pardon for all sins, but releasing it to blasphemy against the Spirit; "Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men."
Remig.: But it should be known that they are not forgiven to all men universally, but to such only as have performed due penitence for their guiltinesses. So by these words is overthrown the error of Novatian, who said that the faithful could not rise by penitence after a fall, nor merit pardon of their sins, especially they who in persecution denied.
(ed. note: Novatian, a presbyter of Rome, separated from the Church in the middle of the third century, and formed a sect, on the ground of the Church's restoring the lapsed in persecution upon their repentance. In consequence they considered the Church in a state of corruption, and they were led to maintain that none were in God's favour who had sinned grievously after Baptism)
Aug., Serm., 71, 13: For what difference does it make to the purpose, whether it be said, "The spirit of blasphemy shall not be forgiven," or, "Whoso shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit it shall not be forgiven him," as Luke speaks (Lc 12,10); except that the same sense (p. 455) is expressed more clearly in the one place than in the other, the one Evangelist not overthrowing but explaining the other? "The spirit of blasphemy" it is said shortly, not expressing what spirit; to make which clear it is added, "And whoso shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him." After having said the same of all manner of blasphemy, He would in a more particular way speak of that blasphemy which is against the Son of Man, and which in the Gospel according to John He shews to be very heavy, where He says concerning the Holy Ghost, "He shall convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; of sin, because they believe not on me." That then which here follows, "He who shall speak a word against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in that which is to come," is not said because the Holy Spirit is in the Trinity greater than the Son, which no heretic ever affirmed.
Hilary: And what is so beyond all pardon as to deny that in Christ which is of God, and to take away the substance of the Father's Spirit which is in Him, seeing that He performs every work in the Spirit of God, and in Him God is reconciling the world unto Himself.
Jerome: Or the passage may be thus understood; Whoso speaks a word against the Son of Man, as stumbling at My flesh, and thinking of Me as no more than man, such opinion and blasphemy though it is not free from the sin of heresy, yet finds pardon because of the little worth of the body. But whoso plainly perceiving the works of God, and being unable to deny the power of God, speaks falsely against them prompted by jealousy, and calls Christ who is the Word of God, and the works of the Holy Ghost, Beelzebub, to him it shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, nor in the world to come.
Aug.: But if this were said in such manner, then every other kind of blasphemy is omitted, and that only which is spoken against the Son of Man, as when He is pronounced to be mere man, is to be forgiven. That then that is said, "All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men," without doubt blasphemy spoken against the Father is included in its largeness; though here again that alone is declared irremissible which is spoken against the Holy Ghost. What (p. 456) then, hath the Father also taken upon Him the form of a servant, that the Holy Ghost is thus as it were spoken of as greater?
For who could not be convicted of having spoken a word against the Holy Spirit, before He become a Christian or a Catholic? First, the Pagans themselves when they say that Christ wrought miracles by magic arts, are they not like those who said that He cast out daemons by the Prince of the demons? Likewise the Jews and all such heretics as confess the Holy Spirit, but deny that He is in the body of Christ, which is the Church Catholic, are like the Pharisees, who denied that the Holy Spirit was in Christ.
Some heretics even contend that the Holy Spirit Himself is either a creature, as the Arians, Eunomians, and Macedonians, or deny Him at least in such sort that they may deny the Trinity in the Godhead; others assert that the Father alone is God, and the same is sometimes spoken of as the Son, sometimes as the Holy Spirit, as the Sabellians. The Photinians also say, that the Father only is God, and that the Son is nothing more than a man, and deny altogether that there is any third Person, the Holy Spirit.
It is clear then that the Holy Spirit is blasphemed, both by Pagans, Jews, and heretics. Are all such then to be left out, and looked upon as having no hope? For if the word they have spoken against the Holy Spirit is not forgiven them, then in vain is the promise made to them, that in Baptism or in the Church they should receive the forgiveness of their sins.
For it is not said, 'It shall not be forgiven him in Baptism;' but, "Neither in this world, nor in the world to come;" and so they alone are to be supposed clear of the guilt of this most heavy sin who have been Catholics from their infancy.
Some again think that they only sin against the Holy Ghost, who having been washed in the laver of regeneration in the Church, do afterwards, as though ungrateful for such a gift of the Saviour, plunge themselves into some deadly sin, such as adultery, murder, or quitting the Christian name, or the Church Catholic.
But whence this meaning can be proved, I know not; since place for penitence of sins however great was never denied in the Church, and even heretics are exhorted to embrace it by the Apostle.
"If God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth." (2Tm 2,25) (p. 457)
Lastly, the Lord says not, 'If any Catholic believer,' but, "Whoso shall speak a word," that is, whosoever, "it shall not be forgiven him neither in this world, nor in the world to come."
Aug., Serm. in Mount, 1, 22: Otherwise; The Apostle John says, "There is a sin unto death; I do not say that he shall pray for it." (1Jn 5,16) This sin of the brother unto death I judge to be, when any one having come to the knowledge of God, through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, opposes Himself against the brotherhood, or is roused by the fury of jealousy against that grace by which he was reconciled to God.
The stain of this sin is so great, that it may not submit to the humility of prayer, even when the sinful conscience is driven to acknowledge and proclaim its own sin. Which state of mind because of the greatness of their sin we must suppose some may be brought to; and this perhaps may be to sin against the Holy Ghost, that is through malice and jealousy to assail brotherly charity after having received the grace of the Holy Spirit; and this sin the Lord declares shall be forgiven neither in this world, nor in that to come.
Whence it may be enquired whether the Jews sinned this sin against the Holy Ghost when they said that the Lord cast out daemons by Beelzebub the Prince of the daemons. Are we to suppose this spoken of our Lord Himself, because He said in another place, "If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more they of his household?" (Mt 10,24)
Seeing they thus spoke out of jealousy, ungrateful for so great present benefits, are they, though not Christians, to be supposed by the very greatness of that jealousy to have sinned the sin against the Holy Spirit? This cannot be gathered from the Lord's words. Yet He may seem to have warned them that they should come to grace, and that after that grace received they should not sin as they now sinned.
For now their evil word had been spoken against the Son of Man, but it might be forgiven them, if they should be converted, and believe on Him. But if after they had received the Holy Spirit, they should be jealous against the brotherhood, and should fight against that grace which they had received, it should not be forgiven them neither in this world, nor in the world to come.
For if He had there condemned them in such sort that no hope remained for them, He would not have added an admonition, (p. 458) "Either make the tree good, &c."
Aug., Retract., i, 19: But I do not say this for certain, by saying that I think thus; yet thus much might have been added; If he should close this life in this impious hardness of heart, yet since we may not utterly despair of any however evil, so long as he is in this life, so neither is it unreasonable to pray for him of whom we do not despair.
Aug., Serm., 71, 8: Yet is this enquiry very mysterious. Let us then seek the light of exposition from the Lord. I say unto you, beloved, that in all Holy Scripture there is not perhaps so great or so difficult a question as this.
First then I request you to note that the Lord said not, Every blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven, nor, Whoso shall speak any word against -- but, "Whoso shall speak the word."
Wherefore it is not necessary to think that every blasphemy and every word spoken against the Holy Spirit shall be without pardon; it is only necessary that there be some word which if spoken against the Holy Spirit shall be without pardon. For such is the manner of Scripture, that when any thing is so declared in it as that it is not declared whether it is said of the whole, or a part, it is not necessary that because it can apply to the whole, it therefore is not to be understood of the part. As when the Lord said to the Jews, "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin," (Jn 15,22) this does not mean that the Jews would have been altogether without sin, but that there was a sin they would not have had, if Christ had not come.
What then is this manner of speaking against the Holy Ghost, comes now to be explained. Now in the Father is represented to us the Author of all things, in the Son birth, in the Holy Spirit community of the Father and the Son. What then is common to the Father and the Son, through that they would have us have communion among ourselves and with them; "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which he hath given us," (Rm 5,5) and because by our sins we were alienated from the possession of true goods, "Charity shall cover the multitude of sins." (1P 4,8) And for that Christ forgives sins through the Holy Spirit, hence may be understood how, when He said to his disciples, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit," (Jon 20,22) He subjoined straight, "Whosoever sins ye forgive, they shall be forgiven them."
The first benefit therefore of them that believe (p. 459) is forgiveness of sins in the Holy Spirit. Against this gift of free grace the impenitent heart speaks; impenitence itself therefore is the blasphemy against the Spirit which shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, nor in that to come.
For indeed he speaks the evil word against the Holy Spirit either in his thought, or with his tongue, who by his hard and impenitent heart treasures up for himself wrath against the day of wrath. Such impenitence truly has no forgiveness, neither in this world nor in the world to come, for penitence obtains forgiveness in this world which shall hold in the world to come.
But that impenitence as long as any lives in the flesh may not be judged, for we must despair of none so long as the patience of God leads to repentance. For what if those whom you discover in any manner of sin, and condemn as most desperate, should before they close this life betake themselves to penitence, and find true life in the world to come?
But this kind of blasphemy though it be long, and comprised in many words, yet the Scripture is wont to speak of many words as one word. It was more than a single word which the Lord spoke with the prophet, and yet we read, The word which came unto this or that prophet.
Here perhaps some may enquire whether the Holy Spirit only forgives sins, or the Father and the Son likewise. We answer the Father and the Son likewise; for the Son Himself saith of the Father, "Your Father shall forgive you your sins," (Mt 6,14) and He saith of Himself, "The Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins." (Mt 9,6)
Why then is that impenitence which is never forgiven, spoken of as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit only? Forasmuch as he who falls under this sin of impenitence seems to resist the gift of the Holy Spirit, because in that gift is conveyed remission of sin. But sins, because they are not remitted out of the Church, must be remitted in that Spirit by which the Church is gathered into one. Thus this remission of sins which is given by the whole Trinity is said to be the proper office of the Holy Spirit alone, for it is He, "The Spirit of adoption, in which we cry, Abba Father," (Rm 8,15) so that to Him we may pray, "Forgive us our sins; And hereby we know:" speaks John, "that Christ abideth in us, by the Holy Spirit which He hath given unto us." (1Jn 4,13)
For to (p. 460) Him belongs that bond by which we are made one body of the only-begotten Son of God; for the Holy Spirit Himself is in a manner the bond of the Father and the Son. Whosoever then shall be found guilty of impenitence against the Holy Spirit, in whom the Church is gathered together in unity and one bond of communion, it is never remitted to him.
Chrys.: Otherwise according to the first exposition. The Jews were indeed ignorant of Christ, but of the Holy Ghost they had had a sufficient communication, for the Prophets spake by Him. What He here saith then is this; Be it that ye have stumbled at Me because of the flesh which is around Me; but can ye in the same manner say of the Holy Spirit, We know Him not? Wherefore this blasphemy cannot be forgiven you, and ye shall be punished both here and hereafter, for since to cast out daemons and to heal diseases are of the Holy Spirit, you do not speak evil against Me only, but also against Him; and so your condemnation is inevitable both here and hereafter.
For there are who are punished in this life only; as they who among the Corinthians were unworthy partakers of the mysteries; others who are punished only in the life to come, as the rich man in hell; but those here spoken of are to be punished both in this world, and in the world to come, as were the Jews, who suffered horrible things in the taking of Jerusalem, and shall there undergo most heavy punishment.
Gloss., ap. Anselm, vid. infra in cap. 25: This passage destroys that heresy of Origen, who asserted that after many ages all sinners should obtain pardon; for it is here said, this shall not be forgiven either in this world, or in the world to come.
Greg., Dial., iv, 39: Hence we may gather that there are some sins that are remitted in this world, and some in the world to come; for what is denied of one sin, must be supposed to be admitted of others. And this may be believed in the case of trifling faults; such as much idle discourse, immoderate laughter, or the sin of carefulness in our worldly affairs, which indeed can hardly be managed without sin even by one who knows how he ought to avoid sin; or sins through ignorance (if they be lesser sins) which burden us even after death, if they have not been remitted to us while yet in this life. But it should be known that none will there obtain any purgation even of the least (p. 461) sin, but he who by good actions has merited the same in this life.
4233 (Mt 12,33-35)
Chrys., Hom. xlii: After his former answers He here again refutes them in another manner. This He does not in order to do away their charges against Himself, but desiring to amend them, saying, "Either make the tree good and his fruit good, or make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt."
As much as to say, None of you has said that it is an evil thing for a man to be delivered from daemons. But because they did not speak evil of the works, but said that it was the Devil that wrought them, He shews that this charge is contrary to the common sense of things, and human conceptions. And to invent such charges can only proceed from unbounded impudence.
Jerome: Thus He holds them in a syllogism which the Greeks call 'Aphycton,' the unavoidable; which shuts in the person questioned on both sides, and presses him with either horn. If, He saith, the Devil be evil, he cannot do good works; so that if the works you see be good, it follows that the Devil was not the agent thereof. For it cannot be that good should come of evil, or evil of good.
Chrys.: For the discerning of a tree is done by its fruits, not the fruits by the tree. "A tree is known by its fruits." For though the tree is the cause of the fruit, yet the fruit is the evidence of the tree. But ye do the very contrary, having no fault to allege against the works, ye pass a sentence of evil against the tree, saying that I have a daemon.
Hilary: Thus did He at that present refute the (p. 462) Jews, who seeing Christ's works to be of power more than human, would notwithstanding not allow the hand of God. And at the same time He convicts all future errors of the faith, such as that of those who taking away from the Lord His divinity, and communion of the Father's substance, have fallen into divers heresies; having their habitation neither uncover the plea of ignorance as the Gentiles, nor yet within the knowledge of the truth. He figures Himself as a tree set in the body, seeing that through the inward fruitfulness of His power sprung forth abundant richness of fruit.
Therefore either must be made a good tree with good fruits, or an evil tree with evil fruits; not that a good tree is to be made a bad tree, or the reverse; but that in this metaphor we may understand that Christ is either to be left in fruitlessness, or to be retained in the fruitfulness of good works.
But to hold one's self neuter, to attribute some things to Christ, but to deny Him those things that are highest, to worship Him as God, and yet to deny Him a common substance with the Father, is blasphemy against the Spirit. In admiration of His so great works you dare not take away the name of God, yet through malevolence of soul you debase His high nature by denying His participation of the Father's substance.
Aug., Serm., 72, 1: Or this is an admonition to ourselves that we should be good trees that we may be able to bring forth good fruit; "Make the tree good, and its fruit good," is a precept of health to which obedience is necessary. But what He says, "Make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt," is not a command to do, but a warning to take heed, spoken against those who being evil thought that they could speak good things, or have good works; this the Lord declares is impossible. The man must be changed first, that his works may be changed; for if the man remains in that wherein he is evil, he cannot have good works; if he remains in that wherein he is good, he cannot have evil works. Christ found us all corrupt trees, but gave power to become sons of God to them that believe on His name.
Chrys.: But as speaking not for Himself but for the Holy Spirit, He accordingly rebukes them, saying, "Generation of vipers, how can ye being evil, speak good things?" This is both a rebuke of them, and a proof in their own characters of those things which had been said. As though (p. 463) He had said, So ye being corrupt trees cannot bring forth good fruit. I do not wonder then that you thus speak, for you are ill nourished of ill parentage, and have an evil mind.
And observe He said not, How can ye speak good things, seeing ye are a generation of vipers? for these two are not connected together; but He said, "How can ye being evil speak good things? He calls them "generation of vipers," because they made boast of their forefathers; in order therefore to cut off this their pride, He shuts them out of the race of Abraham, assigning them a parentage corresponding to their characters.
Raban.: Or the words, "Generation of vipers," may be taken as signifying children, or imitators of the Devil, because they had wilfully spoken against good works, which is of the Devil, and thence follows, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." That man speaks out of the abundance of the heart who is not ignorant with what intention his words are uttered; and to declare his meaning more openly He adds, "A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things." The treasure of the heart is the intention of the thoughts, by which the Judge judges that work which is produced, so that sometimes though the outward work that is shewn seem great, yet because of the carelessness of a cold heart, they receive a little reward from the Lord.
Chrys.: Herein also He shews His Godhead as knowing the hidden things of the heart; for not for words only, yea but for evil thoughts also they shall receive punishment. For it is the order of nature that the store of the wickedness which abounds within should be poured forth in words through the mouth. Thus when you shall hear any speaking evil, you must infer that his wickedness is more than what his words express; for what is uttered without is but the overflowing of that within; which was a sharp rebuke to them.
For if that which was spoken by them were so evil, consider how evil must be the root from whence it sprung. And this happens naturally; for oftentimes the hesitating tongue does not suddenly pour forth all its evil, while the heart, to which none other is privy, begets whatsoever evil it will, without fear; for it has little fear of God. But when the multitude of the evils which are within (p. 464) is increased, the things which had been hidden then burst forth through the mouth. This is that He says, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."
Jerome: What He says, "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart, &c." is either pointed against the Jews, that seeing they blasphemed God, what treasure in their heart must that be out of which such blasphemy proceeded; or it is connected with what had gone before, that like as a good man cannot bring forth evil things, nor an evil man good things, so Christ cannot do evil works, nor the Devil good works.
Golden Chain 4225