Chrysostom hom. on Mt 46
46 Mt 13,24-30
“Another parable put He forth unto them, saying, The Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field. But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay, lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both therefore grow together until the harvest.”1
What is the difference between this, and the parable before it? There He speaks of them that have not at all holden with Him, but have started aside, and have thrown away the seed; but here He means the societies of the heretics. For in order that not even this might disturb His disciples, He foretells it also, after having taught them why He speaks in parables. The former parable then means their not receiving Him; this, their receiving corrupters. For indeed this also is a part of the devil’s craft, by the side of the truth always to bring in error, painting thereon many resemblances, so as easily to cheat the deceivable. Therefore He calls it not any other seed, but tares; which in appearance are somewhat like wheat.
Then He mentions also the manner of his device. For “while men slept,” saith He. It is no small danger, which He hereby suspends over our rulers, to whom especially is entrusted the keeping of the field; and not the rulers only, but the subjects too.
And He signifies also that the error comes after the truth, which the actual event testifies. For so after the prophets, were the false prophets; and after the apostles, the false apostles; and after Christ, Antichrist For unless the devil see what to imitate, or against whom to plot, he neither attempts, nor knows how. Now then also, having seen that “one brought forth a hundred, another sixty, another thirty,” he proceeds after that another way. That is, not having been able to carry away what had taken root, nor to choke, nor to scorch it up, he conspires against it by another craft, privily casting in his own inventions.
And what difference is there, one may say, between them that sleep, and them that resemble the wayside? That in the latter case he immediately caught it away; yea, he suffered it not even to take root; but here more of his craft was needed.
And these things Christ saith, instructing us to be always wakeful. For, saith He, though thou quite escape those harms, there is yet another harm. For as in those instances “the wayside,” and “the rock,” and “the thorns,” so here again sleep occasions our ruin; so that there is need of continual watchfulness. Wherefore He also said, “He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.”2
Something like this took place even at the beginning. Many of the prelates, I mean, bringing into the churches wicked men, disguised heresiarchs, gave great facility to the laying that kind of snare. For the devil needs not even to take any trouble, when he hath once planted them among us.
And how is it possible not to sleep? one may say. Indeed, as to natural sleep, it is not possible; but as to that of our moral faculty, it is possible. Wherefore Paul also said, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith.”3
After this He points out the thing to be superfluous too, not hurtful only; in that, after the land hath been tilled, and these is no need of anything, then this enemy sows again; as the heretics also do, who for no other cause than vainglory inject their proper venom.
And not by this only, but by what follows likewise, He depicts exactly all their acting. For, “When the blade was sprung up, saith He, “and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also;” which kind of thing these men also do. For at the beginning they disguise themselves; but when they have gained much confidence, and some one imparts to them the teaching of the word, then they pour out their poison.
But wherefore doth He bring in the servants, telling what hath been done? That He may pronounce it wrong to slay them.
And He calls him “an enemy,” because of his harm done to men. For although the despite is against us, in its origin it sprang from his enmity, not to us, but to God. Whence it is manifest, that God loves us more than we love ourselves.
And see from another thing also, the malicious craft of the devil. For he did not sow before this, because he had nothing to destroy, but when all had been fulfilled, that he might defeat the diligence of the Husbandman; in such enmity against Him did he constantly act.
And mark also the affection of the servants. I mean, what haste they are in at once to root up the tares, even though they do it indiscreetly; which shows their anxiety for the crop, and that they are looking to one thing only, not to the punishment of that enemy, but to the preservation of the seed sown. For of course this other is not the urgent consideration.
Wherefore how they may for the present extirpate the mischief, this is their object. And not even this do they seek absolutely, for they trust not themselves with it, but await the Master’s decision, saying, “Wilt Thou?”
What then doth the Master? He forbids them, saying, “Lest haply ye root up the wheat with them.” And this He said, to hinder wars from arising, and blood and slaughter. For it is not right to put a heretic to death, since an implacable war would be brought into the world. By these two reasons then He restrains them; one, that the wheat be not hurt; another, that punishment will surely overtake them, if incurably diseased. Wherefore, if thou wouldest have them punished, yet without harm to the wheat, I bid thee wait for the proper season.
But what means, “Lest ye root up the wheat with them?” Either He means this, If ye are to take up arms, and to kill the heretics, many of the saints also must needs be overthrown with them; or that of the very tares it is likely that many may change and become wheat. If therefore ye root them up beforehand, ye injure that which is to become wheat, slaying some, in whom there is yet room for change and improvement. He doth not therefore forbid our checking heretics, and stopping their mouths, and taking away their freedom of speech, and breaking up their assemblies and confederacies, but our killing and slaying them.
But mark thou His gentleness, how He not only gives sentence and forbids, but sets down reasons.
What then, if the tares should remain until the end? “Then I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them.”4 He again reminds them of John’s words,5 introducing Him as judge; and He saith, So long as they stand by the wheat, we must spare them, for it is possible for them even to become wheat but when they have departed, having profiled nothing, then of necessity the inexorable punishment will overtake them. “For I will say to the reapers,” saith He, “Gather ye together first the tares.” Why, “first?” That these may not be alarmed, as though the wheat were carried off with them. “And bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”6
2. “Another parable put He forth unto them, saying, The Kingdom of Heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed.”7
That is, since He had said, that of the crop three parts are lost, and but one saved, and in the very part again which is saved so great damage ensues; lest they should say, “And who, and how many will be the faithful?” this fear again He removes, by the parable of the mustard seed leading them on to belief, and signifying that in any case the gospel8 shall be spread abroad.
Therefore He brought forward the similitude of this herb, which has a very strong resemblance to the subject in hand; “Which indeed is the least,” He saith, “of all seeds, but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.”9
Thus He meant to set forth the most decisive sign of its greatness. “Even so then shall it be with respect to the gospel too,” saith He. Yea, for His disciples were weakest of all, and least of all; but nevertheless, because of the great power that was in them, It hath been unfolded10 in every part of the world.
After this He adds the leaven to this similitude, saying,
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures ofmeal, until the whole was leavened.”11
For as this converts the large quantity of meal into its own quality,12 even so shall ye convert the whole world.
1 [The citation agrees exactly with the Received text; ou`n is however inserted in verse 30, against nearly all our New Testament authorities. In several minor variations the text differs from that of Tischendorf and other recent editors.—R.]
2 Mt 10,22.
3 1Co 16,13.
4 Mt 13,30.
5 Mt 3,12.
6 [mou is omitted from the text of the Homily.—R.]
7 Mt 13,31. [R. V., “set he before them,” etc.]
9 Mt 13,31-32. [R V., “is less than all,” “is greaterthan.”]
11 Mt 13,33. [e[kruyen (see (Luke xiii. 21) is the reading here, and in the comment. Our best New Testament Mss. read ejnevkruyen.—R.]
And see His wisdom, in that He brings in things natural, implying that as the one cannot fail to take place, so neither the other. For say not this to me: “What shall we be able to do, twelve men, throwing ourselves upon so vast a multitude?” Nay, for this very thing most of all makes your might conspicuous, that ye mix with the multitude and are not put to flight. As therefore the leaven then leavens the lump when it comes close to the meal, and not simply close, but so as to be actually mixed with it (for He said not, “put,” simply, but “hid”); so also ye, when ye cleave to your enemies, and are made one with them, then shall ye get the better of them. And as the leaven, though it be buried, yet is not destroyed, but by little and little transmutes all into its own condition; of like sort will the event be here also, with respect to the gospel. Fear ye not then, because I said there would be much injurious dealing: for even so shall ye shine forth, and get the better of all.
But by “three measures,” here, He meant many. for He is wont to take this number for a multitude.
And marvel not, if discoursing about the kingdom, He made mention of a little seed and of leaven; for He was discoursing with men inexperienced and ignorant, and such as needed to be led on by those means. For so simple were they, that even after all this, they required a good deal of explanation.
Where now are the children of the Greeks? Let them learn Christ’s power, seeing the verity of His deeds, and on either ground let them adore Him, that He both foretold so great a thing, and fulfilled it. Yea, for it is He that put the power into the leaven. With this intent He mingled also with the multitude those who believe on Him, that we might impart unto the rest of our wisdom. Let no one therefore reprove us for being few. For great is the power of the gospel, and that which hath been once leavened, becomes leaven again for what remains. And as a spark, when it hath caught in timber, makes what hath been burnt up already increase the flame, and so proceeds to the rest; even so the gospel likewise. But He said not fire, but “leaven.” Why might this be? Because in that case the whole effect is not of the fire, but partly of the timber too that is kindled, but in this the leaven doth the whole work by itself.
3. Now if twelve men leavened the whole world, imagine how great our baseness, in that when we being so many are not able to amend them that remain; we, who ought to be enough for ten thousand worlds, and to become leaven to them. “But they,” one may say, “were apostles.” And what then? Were they not partakers with thee? Were they not brought up in cities? Did they not enjoy the same benefits? Did they not practise trades? What, were they angels? What, came they down from Heaven.?
“But they had signs,” it will be said. It was not the signs that made them admirable. How long shall we use those miracles as cloaks for our own remissness? Behold the choir of the Saints, that they shone not by those miracles.13 Why, many who had actually cast out devils, because they wrought iniquity, instead of being admired, did even incur punishment.
And what can it be then, he will say, that showed them great? Their contempt of wealth, their despising glory, their freedom from worldly things. Since surely, had they wanted these qualities, and been slaves of their passions, though they had raised ten thousand dead, so far from doing any good, they would even have been accounted deceivers. Thus it is their life, so bright on all sides, which also draws down the grace of the Spirit.
What manner of miracle did John work, that he fixed on himself the attention14 of so many cities? For as to the fact that he did no wondrous works, hear the evangelist, saying, “John did no miracle.”15 And whence did Elias become admirable? Was it not from his boldness towards the king? from his zeal towards God? from his voluntary poverty? from his garment of sheep’s skin, and his cave, and his mountains? For his miracles He did after all these. And as to Job, what manner of miracle did he work in sight of the devil, that he was amazed at him? No miracle indeed, but a life that shone and displayed an endurance firmer than any adamant. What manner of miracle did David, yet being young, that God should say, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart?”16 And Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, what dead body did they raise? what leper did they cleanse? Knowest thou not that the miracles, except we be sober, do even harm in many cases? Thus many of the Corinthians were severed one from another; thus many of the Romans were carried away with pride; thus was Simon cast out. Thus he, who at a certain time had a desire to follow Christ, was rejected, when he had been told, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests.”17 For each of these, one aiming at the wealth, another at the glory, which the miracles bring, fell away and perished. But care of practice, and love of virtue, so far from generating such a desire, doth even take it away when it exists.
13 This sentence is printed in italics, as not appearing in many of the Mss.. It is evidently a marginal note by some copyist). [It in not found in any of the Mss. collated by Field, and was bracketed as doubtful by earlier editors.—R.]
And Himself too, when He was making laws for His own disciples, what said He? “Do miracles, that men may see you”? By no means. But what? “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.”18 And to Peter again He said not, “If thou lovest me,” “do miracles,” but “feed my sheep.”19 And whereas He everywhere distinguishes him with James and John above all the rest, for what, I pray thee, did He distinguish them? For their miracles? Nay, all alike cleansed the lepers, and raised the dead; and to all alike He gave that authority.
Whence then had these the advantage? From the virtue in their soul. Seest thou how everywhere practice is required, and the proof by works? “For by their fruits,” saith He, “ye shall know them.”20 And what commends our own life? Is it indeed a display of miracles, or the perfection of an excellent conversation? Very evidently it is the second; but as to the miracles, they both have their origin from hence, and terminate herein. For both He that shows forth an excellent life, draws to Himself this gift, and he that receives the gift, receives it for this end, that he may amend other men’s lives. Since even Christ for this end wrought those miracles, that having made Himself thereby credible, and drawn men unto Him, He might bring virtue into our life. Wherefore also He lays more stress of the two on this. For He is not at all satisfied with the signs only, but He also threatens hell, and promises a kingdom, and lays down those startling laws, and all things He orders to this end, that He may make us equal to the angels.
And why say I, that Christ doth all for this object? Why, even thou, should one give thee thy choice, to raise dead men by His name, or to die for His name; which I pray thee, of the two wouldest thou rather accept? Is it not quite plain, the latter? and yet the one is a miracle, the other but a work. And what, if one offered thee to make grass gold, or to be able to despise all wealth as grass, wouldest thou not rather accept this latter? and very reasonably. For mankind would be attracted by this more than any way. For if they saw the grass changed into gold, they would covet themselves also to acquire that power, as Simon did, and the love of money would be increased in them; but if they saw us all contemning and neglecting gold, as though it were grass, they would long ago have been delivered from this disease.
4. Seest thou that our practice has more power to do good? By practice I mean, not thy fasting, nor yet thy strewing sackcloth and ashes under thee, but if thou despise wealth, as it ought to be despised; if thou be kindly affectioned, if thou give thy bread to the hungry, if thou control anger, if thou cast out vainglory, if thou put away envy. So He Himself used to teach: for, “Learn of me,” saith He, “for I am meek and lowly in heart.”21 He did not say, “for I fasted,” although surely He might have spoken of the forty days, yet He saith not this; but, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” And again, when sending them out, He said not, “Fast,” but, “Eat of all that is set before you.”22 With regard to wealth, however, He required of them great strictness, saying, “Provide not gold, or silver, or brass, in your purses.”23
And all this I say, not to depreciate fasting, God forbid, but rather highly to commend it. But I grieve when other duties being neglected, ye think it enough for salvation, having but the last place in the choir of virtue. For the greatest thing is charity, and moderation, and almsgiving; which hits a higher mark even than virginity.
Wherefore, if thou desire to become equal to the apostles, there is nothing to hinder thee. For to have arrived at this virtue only suffices for thy not at all falling short of them. Let no one therefore wait for miracles.24 For though the evil spirit is grieved, when he is driven out of a body, yet much more so, when he sees a soul delivered from sin. For indeed this is his great power.25 This power caused Christ to die, that He might put an end to it. Yea, for this brought in death; by reason of this all things have been turned upside down. If then thou remove this, thou hast cut out the nerves of the devil, thou hast “bruised his head,” thou hast put an end to all his might, thou hast scattered his host, thou hast exhibited a sign greater than all signs.
The saying is not mine, but the blessed Paul’s. For when he had said, “Covet earnestly the best gifts, and yet show I unto you a more excellent way;”26 he did not speak next of a sign, but of charity, the root of all our good things. If then we practise this, and all the self-denial that flows from it. we shall have no need of signs; even as on the other hand, if we do not practise it, we shall gain nothing by the signs.
Bearing in mind then all this, let us imitate those things whereby the apostles became great. And whereby did they become great? Hear Peter, saying, “Behold we have forsaken all. and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?”27 Hear also Christ saying to them, Ye shall sit upon twelve thrones,” and, “every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or father, or mother, shall receive an hundredfold in this world, and shall inherit everlasting life.”28 From all worldly things, therefore, let us withdraw ourselves, and dedicate ourselves to Christ, that we may both be made equal to the apostles according to His declaration, and may enjoy eternal life; unto which may we all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.
15 Jn 10,41. [R. V., “sign,” and so elsewhere in this edition of the Homilies. The same term (shmei`on) occurs frequently in the present context, and is uniformly rendered “miracle.”—R.]
16 Ac 13,22 Ac 13,
17 Mt 8,20.
18 Mt 5,16.
19 Jn 21,16.
20 Mt 7,16.
21 Mt 11,29.
22 Lc 10,7-8; compare 1Co 10,27. [The two passages are combined.—R.]
23 Mt 10,9.
24 ajnabakllevsqw eif" shmei`a).
25 Ac 8,10.
26 1Co 12,31.
27 Mt 19,27.
28 Mt 5,29 compare Mc 10,30 Lc 8,30.
47 Mt 13,34-35
“All these things spake Jesus unto the multitudes in parables, and without a parable spake He not1 unto them; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things that have been kept secret2 from the foundation of the world.” (Comp. Ps 78,2)
But Mark saith, “As they were able to hear it, He spake the word unto them in parables.” Mc 4,33
Then pointing out that He is not making a new thing, He brings in the Prophet also, proclaiming beforehand this His manner of teaching. And to teach us the purpose of Christ, how He discoursed in this manner, not that they might be ignorant, but that He might lead them to inquiry, he added, “And without a parable spake He nothing unto them.” Yet surely He did say many things without a parable; but then nothing. And for all this no man asked Him questions, whereas the Prophets, we know, they were often questioning: as Ezekiel (Ez 12,9 Ez 24,19 Ez 37,18), for instance; as many others: but these did no such thing. Yet surely His sayings were enough to cast them into perplexity, and to stir them up to the inquiry; for indeed a very sore punishment was threatened by those parables: however, not even so were they moved.
Wherefore also He left them and went away. For,
“Then,” saith he, “Jesus sent the multitudes away,6 and went into His house.” Mt 13,367
1 [R. V., “nothing,” following a reading accepted by Chrysostom, both here and in the comments. The received text has “not.”—R. ]
2 [R. V., “things hidden.”]
6 [R. V., “he left the multitudes.” Compare the previous sentence. But Chrysostom, with the rec. text. inserts “Jesus.”—R.]
7 the house (rec. text)).
And not one of the Scribes follows Him; whence it is clear that for no other purpose did they follow, than to take hold of Him.8 But when they marked not His sayings, thenceforth He let them be.
“And His disciples come unto Him, asking Him concerning the parable of the tares;” [Mt 13,36 freely cited.] although at times wishing to learn, and afraid Mc 9,32 to ask. Whence then arose their confidence in this instance? They had been told, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven;” and they were emboldened. Wherefore also they ask in private; not as grudging the multitude, but observing their Master’s law. For, “To these,” saith He, “it is not given.”
And why may it be that they let pass the parable of the leaven, and of the mustard seed, and inquire concerning this? They let those pass, as being plainer; but about this, as having an affinity to that before spoken, and as setting forth something more than it, they are desirous to learn (since He would not have spoken the same to them a second time); for indeed they saw how severe was the threatening therein uttered.11 Wherefore neither doth He blame them, but rather completes His previous statements.
And, as I am always saying, the parables must not be explained throughout word for word, since many absurdities will follow; this even He Himself is teaching us here in thus interpreting this parable. Thus He saith not at all who the servants are that came to Him, but, implying that He brought them in, for the sake of some order, and to make up the picture, He omits that part, and interprets those that are most urgent and essential, and for the sake of which the parable was spoken; signifying Himself to be Judge and Lord of all.
“And He answered,” so it is said, “and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, the good seed, these are the children of the kingdom, but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that soweth them is the devil; and the harvest is the end of the world, and the reapers are angels. As there fore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of Man shall send His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;12 and shall cast them into the furnace of fire, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” 13
For whereas He Himself is the sower, and that of His own field, and out of His own kingdom He gathers, it is quite clear that the present world also is His.
But mark His unspeakable love to man, and His leaning to bounty, and His disinclination to punishment; in that, when He sows, He sows in His own person, but when He punishes, it is by others, that is, by the angels.
“Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Not because it will be just so much only, but because this star is surpassed in brightness by none that we know. He uses the comparisons that are known to us.
And yet surely elsewhere He saith, the harvest is already come; as when He saith of the Samaritans, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” Jn 4,35 And again, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.” Mt 9,37 Lc 10,2 How then saith He there, that the harvest is already come, while here He said, it is yet to be? According to another signification.
And how having elsewhere said, “One soweth, and another reapeth,” Jn 4,37 doth He here say, it is Himself that soweth? Because there again, He was speaking, to distinguish the apostles, not from Himself, but from the prophets, and that in the case of the Jews and Samaritans. Since certainly it was He who sowed through the prophets also.
11 This passage is translated according to a conjectural emendation of Mr. Field). [The Greek text seems to be corrupt here. The Mss. readings yield no intelligible sense that can be considered coerect.—R.]
12 Or, “produce lawlessness,” tou;" poiou`nta" th;n ajnomivan ,in which sense it seems more directly applicable to heretics, who may not he vicious in their own lives, but produce a contempt of God’s law by their false doctrines). Transl).
13 [The long citation presents few textual variations of any kind, none that affect the sense.—R.]
And at times He calls this self-same thing both harvest and sowing, naming it with relation, now to one thing, now to another. Thus when He is speaking of the conviction and obedience of His converts,17 He calls the thing “a harvest,” as though He had accomplished all; but when He is seeking after the fruit of their hearing, He calls it seed, and the end, harvest.
And how saith He elsewhere, that “the righteous are caught up first?”18 Because they are indeed caught up first, but Christ being come, those others are given over to punishment, and then the former depart into, the kingdom of heaven. For because they must be in heaven, but He Himself is to come and judge all men here; having passed sentence upon these, like some king He rises with His friends, leading them to that blessed portion. Seest thou that the punishment is twofold, first to be burnt up, and then to fall from that glory?
2. But wherefore cloth He still go on, when the others have withdrawn, to speak to these also in parables? They had become wiser by His sayings, so as even to understand. At any rate, to them He saith afterwards,
“Have ye understood all these things? They say unto Him, Yea, Lord.”19 So completely, together with its other objects, did the parable effect this too, that it made them more clear sighted. What then saith He again?
18 1Th 4,17.
19 Mt 13,51, V., omits“ Lord,” so the oldest Mss. and the Vulgate.—R.]
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field, the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a merchant man seeking goodly pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”20
Much as in the other place, the mustard seed and the leaven have but some little difference from each other, so here also these two parables, that of the treasure and that of the pearl. This being of course signified by both, that we ought to value the gospel above all things. And the former indeed, of the leaven and of the mustard seed, was spoken with a view to the power of the gospel, and to its surely prevailing over the world; but these declare its value, and great price. For as it extends itself like mustard seed, and prevails like leaven, so it is precious like a pearl, and affords full abundance like a treasure. We are then to learn not this only, that we ought to strip ourselves of everything else, and cling to the gospel, but also that we are to do so with joy; and when a man is dispossessing himself of his goods, he is to know that the transaction is gain, and not loss.
Seest thou how both the gospel is hid in the world, and the good things in the gospel?
Except thou sell all, thou buyest not; except thou have such a soul, anxious and inquiring, thou findest not. Two things therefore are requisite, abstinence from worldly matters, and watchfulness. For He saith “One seeking goodly pearls, who when he had found one of great price, sold all and bought it.” For the truth is one, and not in many divisions.
And much as he that hath the pearl knows indeed himself that he is rich, but others know not, many times, that he is holding it in his hand (for there is no corporeal bulk); just so also with the gospel, they that have hold of it know that they are rich, but the unbelievers, not knowing of this treasure, are in ignorance also of our wealth.
3. After this, that we may not be confident in the gospel merely preached, nor think that faith only suffices us for salvation, He utters also another, an awful parable. Which then is this? That of the net.
“For the kingdom of Heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind; which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.”21
And wherein doth this differ from the parable of the tares? For there too the one are saved the other perish; but there, for choosing of wicked doctrines; and those Before this again, for not giving heed to His sayings, but these for wickedness of life; who are the most wretched of all, having attained to His knowledge, and being caught, but not even so capable of being saved.
Yet surely He saith elsewhere, that the shepherd Himself separates them, but here He saith the angels do this;22 and so with respect to the tares. How then is it? At one time He discourses to them in a way more suited to their dullness,23 at another time in a higher strain.
And this parable He interprets without so much as being asked, but of His own motion He explained it by one part of it, and increased their awe. For lest, on being told, “They east the bad away,” thou shouldest suppose that ruin to be without danger; by His interpretation He signified the punishment, saying, “They will cast them into the furnace.”24 And He declared the gnashing of teeth, and the anguish, that it is unspeakable.
Seest thou how many are the ways of destruction? By the rock, by the thorns, by the wayside, by the tares, by the net. Not without reason therefore did He say, “Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go away25 by it.”26
4. Having then uttered all this, and concluded His discourse in a tone to cause fear, and signified that these are the majority of cases (for He dwelt more on them). He saith,
“Have ye understood al! these things? They say unto Him, Yea, Lord.”27
20 . [Here also the Greek text presents few peculiarities; tw`/ is omitted before ajgrw`/ in verse 44, as in a few Mss. of the New Testament.—R.]
21 Mt 13,47-48. [R. V., “which, when it was filled, they drew upon the beach,” etc.]
22 Mt 25,32.
24 Mt 13,50.
25 ajpercovmenoi, rec. text, eijsercovmenoi).
26 Mt 7,13.
27 Mt 13,51. [See note 7, p. 293.—R.]
Then because they understood, He again praises them, saying,
“Therefore every Scribe, which is instructed in the Kingdom of Heaven,28 is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.”29
28 [R. V., “hath been made a disciple to the Kingdom of Heaven.” Chrysostom reads ejn, the received text has eij" with the accusative.—R]
Wherefore elsewhere also He saith, “I will send you wise men and scribes.”30 Seest thou how so far from excluding the Old Testament, He even commends it, and speaks publicly in favor of it, calling it “a treasure”?
29 Mt 13,52.
30 Mt 23,34.
So that as many as are ignorant of the divine Scriptures cannot be “householders;” such as neither have of themselves, nor receive of others, but neglect their own case, perishing with famine. And not these only, but the heretics too,31 are excluded from this blessing. For they bring not forth things new and old. For they have not the old things, wherefore neither have they the new; even as they who have not the new, neither have they the old, but are deprived of both. For these are bound up and interwoven one with another.
Let us then hear, as many of us as neglect the reading of the Scriptures, to what harm we are subjecting ourselves, to what poverty. For when are we to apply ourselves to the real practice of virtue, who do not so much as know the very laws according to which our practice should be guided? But while the rich, those who are mad about wealth, are constantly shaking out, their garments, that they may not become moth-eaten; dost thou, seeing forgetfulness worse than any moth wasting thy soul, neglect conversing with books? dost thou not thrust away from thee the pest, adorn thy soul, look continually upon the image of virtue, and acquaint thyself with her members and her head? For she too hath a head and members more seemly than any graceful and beautiful body.
What then, saith one, is the head of virtue? Humility. Wherefore Christ also begins with it, saying, “Blessed are the poor.”32 This head hath not locks and ringlets, but beauty, such as to gain God’s favor. For, “Unto whom shall I look,” saith He, “but unto him that is meek and humble, and trembleth at my words?”33 And, “Mine eyes are upon the meek of the earth.”34 And, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart.”35 This head, instead of locks, and flowing hair, bears sacrifices acceptable to God. It is a golden altar, and a spiritual place of sacrifice;36 “For a contrite spirit is a sacrifice to God.”37 This is the mother of wisdom. If a man have this, he will have the rest also.
Hast thou seen a head such as thou hadst never seen? Wilt thou see the face too, or rather mark it? Mark then for the present its color, how ruddy, and blooming, and very engaging; and observe what are its ingredients. “Well, and what are they?” Shame-facedness and blushing. Wherefore also some one saith, “Before a shamefaced man shall go favor.”38 This sheds much beauty over the other members also. Though thou mix ten thousand colors, thou wilt not produce such a bloom.
And if thou wilt see the eyes also, behold them exactly delineated with decency and temperance. Wherefore they become also so beautiful and sharpsighted, as to behold even the Lord Himself. For, “Blessed,” saith He, “are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”39
And her mouth is wisdom and understanding, and the knowledge of spiritual hymns. And her heart, acquaintance with Scripture, and maintenance of sound doctrines, and benevolence, and kindness. And as without this last there is no living, so without that other is never any salvation. Yea, for from that all her excellencies have birth. She hath also for feet and hands the manifestations of her good works. She hath a soul too, godliness. She hath likewise a bosom of gold, and firmer than adamant, even fortitude; and all may be taken captive more easily than that bosom may be riven asunder. And the spirit that is in the brain and heart, is charity40
5. Wilt thou that in her actual deeds also I show thee her image? Consider, I pray thee, this very evangelist: although we have not his whole life in writing, nevertheless even from a few facts one may see his image shine forth.
First, as to his having been lowly and contrite, hear him, after his gospel, calling himself a publican; for his being also merciful, see him stripping himself of all and following Jesus; and as to his piety, it is evident from his doctrines. And his wisdom again it is easy to see from the gospel which he composed, and his charity41 (for he cared for the whole world); and the manifestation of his good works, from the throne on which he is to sit;42 and his courage too, “by his departing with joy from the presence of the council.”43
Let us imitate then this virtue, and most of all his humility and almsgiving, without which one cannot be saved. And this is shown by the five virgins, and together with them by the Pharisee. For without virginity indeed it is possible to see the kingdom, but without almsgiving it cannot be. For this is among the things that are essential, and hold all together. Not unnaturally then have we called it the heart of virtue. But this heart, unless it supply breath to all, is soon extinguished. In the same way then as the fountain also, if it confine its streams to itself, grows putrid; so it is with the rich also, when they keep their possessions to themselves. Wherefore even in our common conversation we say, “great is the consumption44 of wealth with such a man;” instead of saying, “great is the abundance, great the treasure.” For in truth there is a consumption, not of the possessors only, but of the riches themselves. Since both garments laid by spoil, and gold is cankered, and corn is eaten up, and the soul too of their owner is more than they all cankered and corrupted by the cares of them.
And if thou be willing to produce in the midst a miser’s soul; like a garment eaten by innumerable worms, and not having any sound part, even so wilt thou find it, perforated on all sides by cares; rotted, cankered by sins.
But not such the poor man’s soul, the soul of him, I mean, that is voluntarily poor; but it is resplendent as gold, it shines like a pearl, and it blooms like a rose. For no moth is there, no thief is there, no worldly care, but as angels converse, so do they.
Wouldest thou see the beauty of this soul? Wouldest thou acquaint thyself with the riches of poverty? He commands not men, but he commands evil spirits. He stands not at a king’s side, but he hath taken his stand near to God. He is the comrade, not of men, but of angels. He hath not chests, two, or three, or twenty, but such an abundance as to account the whole world as nothing. He hath not a treasure, but heaven. He needs not slaves, or rather hath his passions for slaves, hath for slaves the motives45 that rule over kings. For that which commands him who wears the purple, that motive shrinks before him.46 And royalty, and gold, and all such things, he laughs at, as at children’s toys; and like hoops, and dice, and heads, and balls, so doth he count all these to be contemptible. For he hath an adorning, which they who play with these things cannot even see.
What then can be superior to this poor man? He hath at least heaven for his pavement; but if the pavement be like this, imagine the roof! But hath he not horses and chariots? Why, what need hath he of these, who is to be borne upon the clouds, and to be with Christ?
Having these things then impressed on our minds, let us, both men and women, seek after that wealth, and the plenty that cannot be rifled; that we may attain also unto the kingdom of heaven, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.
31 i. e., in particular the Manich’ans, and other sects which deny the divinity of the Old Testament).
32 Mt 5,3 Mt 6,20.
33 Is 66,2.
34 Ps 101,6, comp. Ps 76,9.
35 Ps 34,18.
36 bw`mo", qusiasthvrion. These two words are commonly used, the former in a bad, the other in a good sense, of Heathen, and Christian, or Jewish, altars respectively. This seems to be an invariable rule, as to the word bw`mo" in the Greek Bible except that it is used of the Jewish altar in the following places of the Apocrypha Si 1.12, 14 2M 2,19 13,8, which may suffice to show that it was occasionally employed, as by St. Chrysostom here with no unholy association).
37 Ps 51,17.
38 Si 32,10.
39 Mt 5,8.
42 Lc 22,30.
43 Ac 5,41.
44 sh`yi", q. d. “the wear and tear.”
46 [The translator has omitted a clause: “and dares not face him,” kai; ajntiblevyai ouj tolma`.]
Chrysostom hom. on Mt 46