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1. “Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
Aug.: Since when these temporal things are provided beforehand against the future, it is uncertain with what purpose it is done, as it may be with a single or double mind, He opportunely subjoins, “Judge not.”
Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise; He has drawn out thus far the consequences of his injunctions of almsgiving; He now takes up those respecting prayer. And this doctrine is in a sort of continuation of that of the prayer; as though it should run, “Forgive us our debts,” and then should follow, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
Jerome: But if He forbids us to judge, how then does Paul judge the Corinthian who had committed uncleanness? Or Peter convict Ananias and Sapphira of falsehood?
Pseudo-Chrys.: But some explain this place after a sense, as though the Lord did not herein forbid Christians to reprove others out of good will, but only intended that Christians should not despise Christians by making a show of their own righteousness, hating others often on suspicion alone, condemning them, and pursuing private grudges under the show of piety.
Chrys.: Wherefore He does not say, ‘Do not cause a sinner to cease,’ but do not judge; that is, be not a bitter judge; correct him indeed, but not as an enemy seeking revenge, but as a physician applying a remedy.
Pseudo-Chrys.: But that not even thus should Christians correct Christians is shewn by that expression, “Judge not.”265
But if they do not thus correct, shall they therefore obtain forgiveness of their sins, because it is said, “and ye shall not be judged?” For who obtains forgiveness of a former sin, by not adding another thereto? This we have said, desiring to shew that this is not here spoken concerning not judging our neighbour who shall sin against God, but who may sin against ourselves. For whoso does not judge his neighbour who has sinned against him, him shall not God judge for his sin, but will forgive him his debt even as he forgave.
Chrys.: Otherwise; He does not forbid us to judge all sin absolutely, but lays this prohibition on such as are themselves full of great evils, and judge others for very small evils. In like manner Paul does not absolutely forbid to judge those that sin, but finds fault with disciples that judged their teacher, and instructs us not to judge those that are above us.
Hilary: Otherwise; He forbids us to judge God touching His promises; for as judgements among men are founded on things uncertain, so this judgment against God is drawn from somewhat that is doubtful. And He therefore would have us put away the custom from us altogether; for it is not here as in other cases where it is sin to have given a false judgment; but here we have begun to sin if we have pronounced any judgment at all.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 18: I suppose the command here to be no other than that we should always put the best interpretation on such actions as seem doubtful with what mind they were done. But concerning such as cannot be done with good purpose, as adulteries, blasphemies, and the like, He permits us to judge; but of indifferent actions which admit of being done with either good or bad purpose, it is rash to judge, but especially so to condemn.
There are two cases in which we should be particularly on our guard against hasty judgments, when it does not appear with what mind the action was done; and when it does not yet appear, what sort of man any one may turn out, who now seems either good or bad. Wherefore he should neither blame those things of which we know with what mind they are done, nor so blame those things which are manifest, as though we despaired of recovery.
Here one may think there is difficulty is what follows, “With what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged.”266 If we judge a hasty judgment, will God also judge us with the like? Or if we have measured with a false measure, is there with God a false measure whence it may be measured to us again? For by measure I suppose is here meant judgment. Surely this is only said, that the haste in which you punish another shall be itself your punishment. For injustice often does no harm to him who suffers the wrong; but must always hurt him who does the wrong.
Aug., City of God, xxi, 11: Some say, How is it true that Christ says, “And with what measure ye shall mete it shall be measured to you again,” if temporal sin is to be punished by eternal suffering? They do not observe that it is not said “the same measure,” because of the equal space of time, but because of the equal retribution - namely, that he who has done evil should suffer evil, though even in that sense it might be said of that of which the Lord spoke here, namely of judgments and condemnations. Accordingly, he that judges and condemns unjustly, if he is judged and condemned, justly receives in the same measure though not the same thing that he gave; by judgment he did what was unjust, by judgment he suffers what is just.
3. “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4. Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5. Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 18: The Lord having admonished us concerning hasty and unjust judgment; and because that they are most given to rash judgment, who judge concerning things uncertain; and they most readily find fault, who love rather to speak evil and to condemn than to cure and to correct; a fault that spring either from pride or jealousy - therefore He267 subjoins, “Why seest thou the mote in thy brother’s eye, and seest not the beam in thy own eye?”
Jerome: He speaks of such as though themselves guilty of mortal sin, do not forgive a trivial fault in their brother.
Aug.: As if he perhaps have sinned in anger, and you correct him with settled hate. For as great as is the difference between a beam and a mote, so great is the difference between anger and hatred. For hatred is anger become inveterate. It may be if you are angry with a man that you would have him amend, not so if you hate him.
Chrys.: Many do this, if they see a Monk having a superfluous garment, or a plentiful meal, they break out into bitter accusation, though themselves daily seize and devour, and suffer from excess of drinking.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise; This is spoken to the doctors. For every sin is either a great or a small sin according to the character of the sinner. If he is a laic, it is small and a mote in comparison of the sin of a priest, which is the beam.
Hilary: Otherwise; The sin against the Holy Spirit is to take from God power which has influences, and from Christ substance which is of eternity, through whom as God came to man, so shall man likewise come to God. As much greater then as is the beam than the mote, so much greater is the sin against the Holy Spirit than all other sins. As when unbelievers object to others carnal sins, and secrete in themselves the burden of that sin, to wit, that they trust not the promises of God, their minds being blinded as their eye might be by a beam.
Pseudo-Chrys.: That is, with what face can you charge your brother with sin, when yourself are living in the same or a yet greater sin?
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 19: When then we are brought under the necessity of finding fault with any, let us first consider whether the sin be such as we have never had; secondly that we are yet men, and may fall into it; then, whether it be one that we have had, and are now without, and then let our common frailty come into our mind, that pity and not hate may go before correction. Should we find ourselves in the same fault, let us not reprove, but groan with the offender, and invite him to struggle with us. Seldom indeed and in cases of great necessity is reproof to be employed; and then only that the Lord may be served268 and not ourselves.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise; “How sayest thou to thy brother;” that is, with what purpose? From charity, that you may save your neighbour? Surely not, for you would first save yourself. You desire therefore not to heal others, but by good doctrine to cover bad life, and to gain praise of learning from men, not the reward of edifying from God, and you are a hypocrite; as it follows, “Thou hypocrite, cast first the beam out of thine own eye.”
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 19: For to reprove sin is the duty of the good, which when the bad do, they act a part, dissembling their own character, and assuming one that does not belong to them.
Chrys.: And it is to be noted, that whenever He intends to denounce any great sin, He begins with an epithet of reproach, as below, “Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt;” [Matt 18:32] and so here, “Thou hypocrite, cast out first.” For each one knows better the things of himself than the things of others, and sees more the things that be great, then the things that be lesser, and loves himself more than his neighbour.
Therefore He bids him who is chargeable with many sins, not to be a harsh judge of another’s faults, especially if they be small. Herein not forbidding to arraign and correct; but forbidding to make light of our own sins, and magnify those of others. For it behoves you first diligently to examine how great may be your own sins, and then try those of your neighbour; whence it follows, “and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
Aug.: For having removed from our own eye the beam of envy, of malice, or hypocrisy, we shall see clearly to cast the beam out of our brother’s eye.
6. “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”
Aug.: Because the simplicity to which He had been directing in the foregoing precepts might lead some wrongly to conclude that it was equally wrong to hide the truth as to utter what was false, He well adds, “Give not that which is269 holy to the dogs, and cast not your pearls before swine.”
Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise; The Lord had commanded us to love our enemies, and to do good to those that sin against us. That from this Priests might not think themselves obliged to communicate also the things of God to such, He checked any such thought saying, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs;” as much as to say, I have bid you love your enemies, and do them good out of your temporal goods, but not out of My spiritual goods, without distinction. For they are your brethren by nature but not by faith, and God gives the good things of this life equally to the worthy and the unworthy, but not so spiritual graces.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 20: Let us see now what is the holy thing, what are the dogs, what the pearls, what the swine? The holy thing is all that it were impiety to corrupt; a sin which may be committed by the will, though the thing itself be undone. The pearls are all spiritual things that are to be highly esteemed. Thus though one and the same thing may be called both the holy thing and a pearl, yet it is called holy because it is not to be corrupted; and called a pearl because it is not be contemned.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise; “That which is holy” denotes baptism, the grace of Christ’s body, and the like; but the mysteries of the truth are intended by the pearls. For as pearls are inclosed in shells, and such in the deeps of the sea, so the divine mysteries inclosed in words are lodged in the deep meaning of Holy Scripture.
Chrys.: And to those that are right-minded and have understanding, when revealed they appear good; but to those without understanding, they seem to be more deserving reverence because they are not understood.
Aug.: The dogs are those that assault the truth; the swine we may not unsuitably take for those that despise the truth. Therefore because dogs leap forth to rend in pieces, and what they rend, suffer not to continue whole, He said, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs;” because they strive to the utmost of their power to destroy the truth. The swine though they do not assault by biting as dogs, yet do they defile by trampling upon, and therefore He said, “Cast not your pearls before swine.”
Rabanus: Or; The dogs are returned to their vomit; the swine not yet returned, but wallowing in the mire of vices.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise;270 The dog and the swine are unclean animals; the dog indeed in every respect, as he neither chews the cud, nor divides the hoof; but swine in one respect only, seeing they divide the hoof, though they do not chew the cud. Hence I think that we are to understand by the dog, the Gentiles who are altogether unclean, both in their life, and in their faith; but by the swine are to be understood heretics, because they seem to call upon the name of the Lord.
“Give not therefore that which is holy to the dogs,” for that baptism and the other sacraments are not to be given but to them that have the faith. In like manner the mysteries of the truth, that is, the pearls, are not to be given but to such as desire the truth and live with human reason. If then you cast them to the swine, that is, to such as are grovelling in impurity of life, they do not understand their preciousness, but value them like to other worldly fables, and tread them under foot with their carnal life.
Aug.: That which is despised is said to be trodden under foot: hence it is said, “Lest perchance they tread them under foot.”
Gloss. interlin.: He says, “Lest perchance,” because it may be that they will wisely turn from their uncleanness. [ed. note: the gloss. has ‘guia non possunt.’]
Aug.: That which follows, “Turn again and rend you,” He means not the pearls themselves, for these they tread under foot, and when they turn again that they may hear something further, then they rend him by whom the pearls on which they had trode had been cast. For you will not easily find what will please him who has despised things god by great toil. Whoever then undertake to teach such, I see not how they shall not be trode upon and rent by those they teach.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Or; The swine not only trample upon the pearls by their carnal life, but after a little they turn, and by disobedience rend those who offend them. Yea often when offended they bring false accusation against them as sowers of new dogmas. The dogs also having trode upon holy things by their impure actions, by their disputings rend the preacher of truth.
Chrys.: Well is that said, “Lest they turn;” for they feign meekness that they may learn; and when they have learned, they attack.
Pseudo-Chrys.: With good reason He forbade pearls to be given to swine. For if they are not to be set before swine that are the less unclean, how much more are 271 they to be withhold from dogs that are so much more unclean. But respecting the giving that which is holy, we cannot hold the same opinion; seeing we often give the benediction to Christians who live as the brutes; and that not because they deserve to receive it, but lest perchance being more grievously offended they should perish utterly.
Aug.: We must be careful therefore not to explain ought to him who does not receive it; for men the rather seek that which is hidden than that which is opened. He either attacks from ferocity as a dog, or overlooks from stupidity as swine.
But it does not follow that if the truth be kept hid, falsehood is uttered. The Lord Himself who never spoke falsely, yet sometimes concealed the truth, as in that, “I have yet many things to say unto you, the which ye are not now able to bear.” [John 16:12] But if any is unable to receive these things because of his filthiness, we must first cleanse him as far as lays in our power either by word or deed.
But in that the Lord is found to have said some things which many who heard Him did not receive, but either rejected or contemned them, we are not to think that therein He gave the holy thing to the dogs, or cast His pearls before swine. He gave to those who were able to receive, and who were in the company, whom it was not fit should be neglected for the uncleanness of the rest. And though those who tempted Him might perish in those answers which He gave to them, yet those who could receive them by occasion of these inquiries heard many useful things.
He therefore who knows what should be answered ought to make answer, for their sakes at least who might fall into despair should they think that the question proposed is one that cannot be answered. But this only in the case of such matters as pertain to instruction of salvation; of things superfluous or harmful nothing should be said; but it should then be explained for what reason we ought not to make answer in such points to the enquirer.
7. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Jerome: Having before forbidden us to pray for things of the flesh, He now shews what we ought to ask, saying, “Ask, and it shall be given you.”
Aug.: Otherwise; when He commanded not to give the holy thing to dogs, and not to cast pearls before swine, the hearer conscious of his own ignorance might say, Why do you thus bid me not give the holy thing to dogs, when as yet I see not that I have any holy thing
He therefore adds in good season, “Ask, and ye shall receive.”
Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise; Having given them some commands for the sanctification of prayer, saying, “Judge not,” He adds accordingly, “Ask, and it shall be given unto you,” as though He were to say, If ye observe this mercy towards your enemies, whatever seems to your shut, “knock, and it shall be opened to you.”
Ask therefore in prayer, praying day and night; seek with care and toil; for neither by toiling only in the Scriptures do we gain knowledge without God’s grace, nor do we attain to grace without study, lest the gift of God should be bestowed on the careless. But knock with prayer, and fasting, and alms. For as one who knocks at a door, not only cries out with his voice, but strikes with his hand, so he who does good works, knocks with his works.
But you will say, this is what I pray that I may know and do, how then can I do it, before I receive? Do what you can that you may become able to do more, and keep what you know that you may come to know more.
Or otherwise; having above commanded all men to love their enemies, and after enjoined that we should not under pretext of love give holy things to dogs; He here gives good counsel, that they should pray God for them, and it shall be granted them; let them seek out those that are lost in sins, and they shall find them; let them knock at those who are shut up in errors, and God shall open to them that their word may have access to their souls.
Or otherwise; Since the precepts given above were beyond the reach of human virtue, He sends them to God to whose grace nothing is impossible, saying, “Ask, and it shall be given you,” that what cannot be performed by men may be fulfilled through the grace of God. For when God furnished the other animals with swift foot, or swift wing, with claws, teeth, or horns, He so made man that He Himself should be man’s only strength [margin note: virtus, see Ps. 18:1] that forced by reason of his own weakness273 he might always have need of his Lord.
Gloss. ord.: We ask with faith, we seek with hope, we knock with love. You must first ask that you may have; after that seek that you may find; and lastly, observe what you have found that you may enter in.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 21: Asking, is that we may get healthiness of soul that we may be able to fulfil the things commanded us; seeking, pertains to the discovery of the truth. But when any has found the true way, he will then come into actual possession, which however is only opened to him that knocks.
Aug., Retract., i, 19: How these three differ from one another, I have thought good to unfold with this travail; but it were better to refer them all to instant prayer; wherefore He afterwards concludes, saying, “He will give good things to them that ask him.”
Chrys.: And in that He adds “seek,” and “knock,” HE bids us ask with much importunateness and strength. For one who seeks, casts forth all other things from his mind, and is turned to that thing singly which he seeks; and he that knocks comes with vehemence and warm soul.
Pseudo-Chrys.: He had said, “Ask, and ye shall receive;” which sinners hearing might perchance say, The Lord herein exhorts them that are worthy, but we are unworthy. Therefore He repeats it that He may commend the mercy of God to the righteous as well as to sinners; and therefore declares that “every one that asketh receiveth;” that is, whether he be righteous or a sinner, let him not hesitate to ask; that it may be fully seen that none is neglected but he who hesitates to ask of God. For it is not credible that God should enjoin on men that work of piety which is displayed is doing good to our enemies, and should not Himself (being good) act so.
Aug., Tract. in Joan. 44, 13: Wherefore God hears sinners; for if He do not hear sinners, the Publican said in vain, “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner;” [Luke 18:13] and by that confession merited justification.
Aug., Prosper, Sent. 212: He who in faith offers supplication to God for the necessities of this life is heard mercifully, and not heard mercifully. For the physician knows better than the sick man what is good for his sickness. But if he asks that which God both promises and commands, his prayer shall be granted, for love shall receive what truth provides.
Aug., Ep. 31, 1: But the Lord is good, who often gives us not what we would, that He may give us what we should rather prefer.274
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 21: There is need moreover of perseverance, that we may receive what we ask for.
Aug., Serm. 61. 5: In that God sometimes delays His gifts, He but recommends, and does not deny them. For that which is long looked for is sweeter when obtained; but that is held cheap, which comes at once. Ask then and seek things righteous. For by asking and seeking grows the appetite of taking. God reserves for you those things which He is not willing to give you at once, that you may learn greatly to desire great things. Therefore we ought always to pray and not to fail.
9. “Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
10. Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 21: As above He had cited the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, that our hopes may rise from the less to the greater; so also does He in this place, when He says, “Or what man among you?”
Pseudo-Chrys.: Lest perchance any one considering how great is the difference between God and man, and weighing his own sins should despair of obtaining, and so never take in hand to ask; therefore He proposes a comparison of the relation between father and son; that should we despair because of our sins, we may hope because of God’s fatherly goodness.
Chrys.: There are two things behoveful for one that prays; that he ask earnestly; and that he ask such things as he ought to ask. And those are spiritual things; as Solomon, because he asked such things as were right, received speedily.
Pseudo-Chrys.: And what are the things that we ought to ask, he shews under the likeness of a loaf, and a fish. The loaf is the word concerning the knowledge of God the Father. The stone is all falsehood that has a stumbling-block of offence to the soul.
Remig.: By the fish we may understand the word concerning Christ, by the serpent the Devil275 himself.
Or by the loaf may be understood spiritual doctrine; by the stone ignorance; by the fish the water of Holy Baptism; by the serpent the wiles of the Devil, or unbelief.
Rabanus: Or; bread which is the common food signifies charity, without which the other virtues are of no avail. The fish signifies faith, which is born of the water of baptism, is tossed in the midst of the waves of this life and yet lives. Luke adds a third thing, “an egg,” [Luke 11:12] which signifies hope; for an egg is the hope of the animal. To charity, He opposes “a stone,” that is, the hardness of hatred; to faith, “a serpent,” that is, the venom of treachery; to hope, “a scorpion,” that is, despair, which stings backward, as the scorpion.
Remig.: The sense therefore is: we need not fear that should we ask of God our Father bread, that is doctrine or love, He will give us a stone; that is, that He will suffer our heart to be contracted either by the frost of hatred or by hardness of soul; or that when we ask for faith, He will suffer us to die of the poison of unbelief.
Thence it follows, “If then ye being evil.”
Chrys.: This He said not detracting from human nature, nor confessing the whole human race to be evil; but He calls paternal love “evil” when compared with His own goodness. Such is the superabundance of His love towards men.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Because in comparison of God who is preeminently good, all men seem to be evil, as all light shews dark when compared with the sun.
Jerome: Or perhaps he called the Apostles evil, in their person condemning the whole human race, whose heart is set to evil from his infancy, as we read in Genesis. Nor is it any wonder that He should call this generation, “evil,” as the Apostle also speaks, “Seeing the days are evil.”
Aug.: Or He calls “evil” those who are lovers of this age; [margin note: Eph 5:16] whence also the good things which they give are to be called good according to their sense who esteem them as good; nay, even in the nature of things they are goods, that is, temporal goods, and such as pertain to this weak life.
Aug., Serm., 61, 3: For that good thing which makes men good is God. Gold and silver are good things not as making you good, but as with them you may do good. If then we be evil, yet as having a Father who is good let us not remain ever evil.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 21: If then we being evil, know how to give that which is asked276 of us, how much more is it to be hoped that God will give us good things when we ask Him?
Pseudo-Chrys.: He says “good things,” because God does not give all things to them that ask Him, but only good things.
Gloss. ord.: For from God we receive only such things as are good, of what kind soever they may seem to us when we receive them; for all things work together for good to His beloved.
Remig.: And be it known that where Matthew says, “He shall give good things,” Luke has, “shall give his Holy Spirit.” [Luke 11:13] But this ought not to seem contrary, because all the good things which man receives from God, are given by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
12. “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Aug.: Firmness and strength of walking by the way of wisdom in good habits is thus set before us, by which men are brought to purity and simplicity of heart; concerning which having spoken a long time, He thus concludes, “All things whatsoever ye would, &c.” For there is no man who would that another should act towards him with a double heart.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise; He had above commanded us in order to sanctify our prayers that men should not judge those who sin against them. Then breaking the thread of his discourse He had introduced various other matters, wherefore now when He returns to the command with which He had begun, He says, “All things whatsoever ye would, &c.” That is; I not only command that ye judge not, but “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye unto them;” and then you will be able to pray so as to obtain.
Gloss. ord.: Otherwise; The Holy Spirit is the distributor of all spiritual goods, that the deeds of charity may be fulfilled; whence He adds, “All things therefore, &c.”
Chrys.: Otherwise; The Lord desires to teach that men ought to seek aid from above, but at the same time to contribute what lays in their power; wherefore when He had said, “Ask, seek, and knock,” He proceeds to teach openly277 that men should be at pains for themselves, adding, “Whatsoever ye would &c.”
Aug., Serm., 61. 7: Otherwise; The Lord had promised that He would give good things to them that ask Him. But that He may own his petitioners, let us also own ours. For they that beg are in every thing, save having of substance, equal to those of whom they beg. What face can you have of making request to your God, when you do not acknowledge your equal? This is said in Proverbs, “Whoso stoppeth his ear to the cry of the poor, he shall cry and shall not be heard.” [Prov 21:13] What we ought to bestow on our neighbour when he asks of us, that we ourselves may be heard of God, we may judge by what we would have others bestow upon us; therefore He says, “All things whatsoever ye would.”
Chrys.: He says not, “All things whatsoever,” simply, but “All things therefore,” as though He should say, If ye will be heard, besides those things which I have now said to you, do this also. And He said not, Whatsoever you would have done for you by God, do that for your neighbour; lest you should say, But how can I? but He says, Whatsoever you would have done to you by your fellow-servant, do that also to your neighbour.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 22: Some Latin copies add here, “good things,” [ed. note: So also S. Cyprian de Orat. (Tr. vii. 18. fin.) and the Latin MSS.] which I suppose was inserted to make the sense more plain. For it occurred that one might desire some crime to be committed for his advantage, and should so construe this place, that he ought first to do the like to him by whom he would have it done to him. It were absurd to think that this man had fulfilled this command. Yet the thought is perfect, even though this be not added.
For the words, “All things whatsoever ye would,” are not to be taken in their ordinary and loose signification, but in their exact and proper sense. For there is no will but only in the good [margin note: but see Retract. i. 9. n. 4]; in the wicked it is rather named desire, and not will. Not that the Scriptures always observe this propriety; but where need is, there they retain the proper word so that none other need be understood.
Cyprian, Tr. vii: Since the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ came to all men, He summed up all his commands in one precept, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them;” and adds, “for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Pseudo-Chrys.: For whosoever278 the Law and the Prophets contain up and down through the whole Scriptures, is embraced in this one compendious precept, as the innumerable branches of a tree spring from one root.
Greg., Mor., x, 6: He that thinks he ought to do to another as he expects that others will do to him, considers verily how he may return good things for bad, and better things for good.
Chrys.: Whence what we ought to do is clear, as in our own cases we all know what is proper, and so we cannot take refuge in our ignorance.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 22: This precept seems to refer to the love of our neighbour, not of God, as in another place He says, there are two commandments on which hang the Law and the Prophets. But as He says not here, The whole Law, as He speaks there, He reserves a place for the other commandment respecting the love of God.
Aug., De Trin., viii, 7: Otherwise; Scripture does not mention the love of God, where it says, “All things whatsoever ye would;” because he who loves his neighbour must consequently love Love itself above all things; but God is Love; therefore he loves God above all things.
13. “Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
14. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 22: The Lord had warned us above to have a heart single and pure with which to seek God; but as this belongs to but few, He begins to speak of finding out wisdom. For the searching out and contemplation whereof there has been formed through all the foregoing such an eye as may discern the narrow way and strait gate; whence He adds, “Enter ye in at the strait gate.”
Gloss. ord.: Though it be hard to do to another what you would have done to yourself; yet so must we do, that we may enter the strait gate.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise; This third precept again is connected with the right method of fasting, and the order of discourse will be this; “But thou279 when thou fastest anoint thy head;” and after comes, “Enter ye in at the strait gate.”
For there are three chief passions in our nature, that are most adhering to the flesh; the desire of food and drink; the love of the man towards the woman; and thirdly, sleep. These it is harder to cut off from the fleshly nature than the other passions. And therefore abstinence from no other passion so sanctifies the body as that a man should be chaste, abstinent, and continuing in watchings.
On account, therefore, of all these righteousnesses, but above all on account of the most toilsome fasting, it is that He says, “Enter ye in at the strait gate.” The gate of perdition is the Devil, through whom we enter into hell; the gate of life is Christ, through whom we enter into the kingdom of Heaven. The Devil is said to be a wide gate, not extended by the mightiness of his power, but made broad by the license of his unbridled pride. Christ is said to be a strait gate not with respect to smallness of power, but to His humility; for He whom the whole world contains not, shut Himself within the limits of the Virgin’s womb. The way of perdition is sin of any kind. It is said to be broad, because it is not contained within the rule of any discipline, but they that walk therein follow whatever pleases them. The way of life is all righteousness, and is called narrow for the contrary reasons. It must be considered that unless one walk in the way, he cannot arrive at the gate; so they that walk not in the way of righteousness, it is impossible that they should truly know Christ. Likewise neither does he run into the hands of the Devil, unless he walks in the way of sinners.
Gloss. ord.: Though love be wide, yet it leads men from the earth through difficult and steep ways. It is sufficiently difficult to cast aside all other things, and to love One only, not to aim at prosperity, not to fear adversity.
Chrys.: But seeing He declares below, “My yoke is pleasant, and my burden light,” how is it that He says here that the way is strait and narrow? Even here He teaches that it is light and pleasant; for here is a way and a gate as that other, which is called the wide and broad, has also a way and a gate.
Of these nothing is to remain; but all pass away. But to pass through toil and sweat, and to arrive at a good end, namely life, is sufficient solace to those who undergo280 these struggles. For if sailors can make light of storms and soldiers of wounds in hope of perishable rewards, much more when Heaven lies before, and rewards immortal, will none look to the impending dangers. Moreover the very circumstance that He calls it strait contributes to make it easy; by this He warned them to be always watching; this the Lord speaks to rouse our desires. He who strives in a combat, if he sees the prince admiring the efforts of the combatants, gets greater heart.
Let us not therefore be sad when many sorrows befall us here, for the way is strait, but not the city; therefore neither need we look for rest here, nor expect any thing of sorrow there. When He says, “Few there be that find it,” He points to the sluggishness of the many, and instructs His hearers not to look to the prosperity of the many, but to the toils of the few.
Jerome: Attend to the words, for they have an especial force, “many walk” in the broad way - “few find” the narrow way. For the broad way needs no search, and is not found, but presents itself readily; it is the way of all who go astray. Whereas the narrow way neither do all find, nor when they have found, do they straightway walk therein. Many, after they have found the way of truth, caught by the pleasures of the world, desert midway.
15. “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17. Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
Pseudo-Chrys.: The Lord had before commanded His Apostles, that they should not do their alms, prayers, and281 fastings before men, as the hypocrites; and that they might know that all these things may be done in hypocrisy, He speaks saying, “Take heed of false prophets.”
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 23: When the Lord had said that there were few that find the strait gate and narrow way, that heretics, who often commend themselves because of the smallness of their numbers, might not here intrude themselves, He straightway subjoins, “Take heed of false prophets.”
Chrys.: Having taught that the gate is strait, because there are many that pervert the way that leads to it, He proceeds, “Take heed of false prophets.” In the which that they might be the more careful, He reminds them of the things that were done among their fathers, calling them “false prophets;” for even in that day the like things fell out.
Pseudo-Chrys.: What is written below that “the Law and the Prophets were until John,” [Matt 11:13] is said, because there should be no prophecy concerning Christ after He was come. Prophets indeed there have been and are, but not prophesying of Christ, rather interpreting the things which had been prophesied of Christ by the ancients, that is by the doctors of the Churches. For no man can unfold prophetic meaning, but the Spirit of prophecy. The Lord then knowing that there should be false teachers, warns them of divers heresies, saying, “Take heed of false prophets.”
And forasmuch as they would not be manifest Gentiles, but lurk under the Christian name, He said not ‘See ye,’ but, “Take heed.” For a thing that is certain is simply seen, or looked upon; but when it is uncertain it is watched or narrowly considered. Also He says “Take heed,” because it is a sure precaution of security to know him whom you avoid. But his form of warning, “Take heed,” does not imply that the Devil will introduce heresies against God’s will, but by His permission only; but because He would not choose servants without trial, therefore He sends them temptation; and because He would not have them perish through ignorance, He therefore warns them before hand.
Also that no heretical teacher might maintain that He spoke here of Gentile and Jewish teachers and not of them, He adds, “who come to you in sheep’s clothing.” Christians are called sheep, and the sheep’s clothing is a form of Christianity and of feigned religion. And nothing so casts out282 all good as hypocrisy; for evil that puts on the semblance of good, cannot be provided against, because it is unknown. Again, that the heretic might not allege that He here speaks of the true teachers which were yet sinners, He adds, “But inwardly they are ravening wolves.” But Catholic teachers should they indeed have been sinners, are spoken of as servants of the flesh, yet not as ravening wolves, because it is not their purpose to destroy Christians.
Clearly then it is of heretical teachers that He speaks; for they put on the guise of Christians, to the end they may tear in pieces the Christian with the wicked fangs of seduction. Concerning such the Apostle speaks, “I know that after my departure there will enter among you grievous wolves, not sparing the flock.” [Acts 20:29]
Chrys.: Yet He may seem here to have aimed under the title of “false prophets,” not so much at the heretic, as at those who, while their life is corrupt, yet wear an outward face of virtuousness; whence it is said, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” For among heretics it is possible many times to find a good life, but among those I have named never.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 24: Wherefore it is justly asked, what fruits then He would have us look to? For many esteem among fruits some things which pertain to the sheep’s clothing, and in this manner are deceived concerning wolves. For they practise fasting, almsgiving, or praying, which they display before men, seeking to please those to whom these things seem difficult.
These then are not the fruits by which He teaches us to discern them. Those deeds which are done with good intention, are the proper fleece of the sheep itself, such as are done with bad intention, or in error, are nothing else than a clothing of wolves; but the sheep ought not to hate their own clothing because it is often used to hide wolves.
What then are the fruits by which we may know an evil tree? The Apostle says, “The works of the flesh are manifest, which are, fornication, uncleanness, &c.” [Gal 5:19] And which are they by which we may know a good tree? The same Apostle teaches, saying, “The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace.”
Pseudo-Chrys.: The fruits of a man are the confession of his faith and the works of his life; for he who utter according to God the words of humility and a true confession, is the sheep; but he who against the truth howls forth blasphemies against 283 God is the wolf.
Jerome: What is here spoken of false prophets we may apply to all whose dress and speech promise one thing, and their actions exhibit another. But it is specially to be understood of heretics, who by observing temperance, chastity, and fasting, surround themselves as it were with a garment of sanctity, but inasmuch as their hearts within them are poisoned, they deceive the souls of the more simple brethren.
Aug., non occ.: But from their actions we may conjecture whether this their outward appearance is put on for display. For when by any temptations those things are withdrawn or denied them which they had either attained or sought to attain by this evil, then needs must that it appear whether they be the wolf in sheep’s clothing, or the sheep in his own.
Greg., Mor., xxxi, 14: Also the hypocrite is restrained by peaceful times of Holy Church, and therefore appears clothed with godliness; but let any trial of faith ensue, straight the wolf ravenous at heart strips himself of his sheep’s skin, and shews by persecuting how great his rage against the good.
Chrys.: And the hypocrite is easily discerned; for the way they are commanded to walk is a hard way, and the hypocrite is loth to toil. And that you may not say that you are unable to find out them that are such, He again enforces what He had said by example from men, saying, “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”
Pseudo-Chrys.: The grape had in it a mystery of Christ. As the bunch sustains many grapes held together by the woody stem, so likewise Christ holds many believers joined to Him by the wood of the Cross. The fig again is the Church which binds many faithful by a sweet embrace of charity, as the fig contains many seeds inclosed in one skin. The fig then has these significations, namely, love in its sweetness, unity in the close adhesion of its seeds. In the grape is shewn patience, in that it is cast into the wine-press - joy, because wine maketh glad the heart of man - purity, because it is not mixed with water - and sweetness, in that it delighteth. The thorns and thistles are the heretics. And as a thorn or a thistle has sharp pricks on every part, so the Devil’s servants, on whatsoever side you look at them, are full of wickedness. Thorns and thistles then of this sort cannot bear the fruits of the Church. And having instanced in particular tress, as284 the fig, the vine, the thorn, and the thistle, He proceeds to shew that this is universally true, saying, “Thus every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but an evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit.”
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 25: In this place we must guard against the error of such [margin note: Manichees] as imagine that the two trees refer to two different natures; the one of God, the other not. But we affirm that they derive no countenance from these two tree; as it will be evident to any who will read the context that He is speaking here of men.
Aug., City of God, book 12, ch. 4: These men of whom we have spoken are offended with these two natures, not considering them according to their true usefulness; whereas it is not by our advantage or disadvantage, but in itself considered, that nature gives glory to her Framer. All natures then that are, because they are, have their own manner, their own appearance, and as it were their own harmony [margin note: pacem], and are altogether good.
Chrys.: But that none should say, An evil tree brings forth indeed evil fruit, but it brings forth also good, and so it becomes hard to discern, as it has a two-fold produce; on this account He adds, “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit.”
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 25: From this speech the Manichees suppose that neither can a soul that is evil be possibly changed for better, nor one that is good into worse. As though it had been, A good tree cannot become bad, nor a bad tree become good; whereas it is thus said, “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit,” nor the reverse. The tree is the soul, that is, the man himself; the fruit is the man’s works. An evil man therefore cannot work good works, nor a good man evil works. Therefore if an evil man would work good things, let him first become good. But as long as he continues evil, he cannot bring forth good fruits. Like as it is indeed possible that what was once snow, should cease to be so; but it cannot be that snow should be warm; so it is possible that he who has been evil should be so no longer; but it is impossible that an evil man should do good. For though he may sometimes be useful, it is not he that does it, but it comes of Divine Providence super-intending.
Rabanus: And man is denominated a good tree, or a bad, after his will, as it is good or bad. His fruit is his works, which can neither be good when the will is evil,285 nor evil when it is good.
Aug., see Op. Imp. in Jul. v. 40: But as it is manifest that all evil works proceed from an evil will, as its fruits from an evil tree; so of this evil will itself whence will you say that it has sprung, except that the evil will of an angel sprung from an angel, of man from man? And what were these two before those evils arose in them, but the good work of God, a good and praiseworthy nature.
See then out of good arises evil; nor was there any thing at all out of which it might arise but what was good. I mean the evil will itself, since there was no evil before it, no evil works, which could not come but from evil will as fruit from an evil tree. Nor can it be said that it sprung out of good in this way, because it was made good by a good God; for it was made of nothing, and not of God.
Jerome: We would ask those heretics who affirm that there are two natures directly opposed to each other, if they admit that a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, how it was possible for Moses, a good tree, to sin as he did at the water of contradiction? Or for Peter to deny his Lord in the Passion, saying, “I know not the man?” Or how, on the other hand, could Moses’ father-in-law, an evil tree, inasmuch as he believed not in the God of Israel, give good counsel?
Chrys.: He had not enjoined them to punish the false prophets, and therefore shews them the terrors of that punishment that is of God, saying, “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down, and cast into the fire.”
In these words He seems to aim also at the Jews, and thus calls to mind the word of John the Baptist, denouncing punishment against them in the very same words. For he had thus spoken to the Jews, warning them of the axe impending, the tree that should be cut down, and the fire that could not be extinguished.
But if one will examine somewhat closely, here are two punishments, to be cut down, and to be burned; and he that is burned is also altogether cut out of the kingdom; which is the harder punishment. Many indeed fear no more than hell; but I say that the fall of that glory is a far more bitter punishment, than the pains of hell itself. For what evil great or small would not a father undergo, that he might see and enjoy a most dear son? Let us then think the same of that glory; for there is no son so dear to his father as is the rest of the286 good, to be deceased and to be with Christ. The pain of hell is indeed intolerable, yet are ten thousand hells nothing to falling from that blessed glory, and being held in hate by Christ.
Gloss., non occ.: From the foregoing similitude He draws the conclusion to what He had said before, as being now manifest, saying, “Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
21. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23. And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
Jerome: As He had said above that those who have the robe of a good life are yet not to be received because of the impiety of their doctrines; so now on the other hand, He forbids us to participate the faith with those who while they are strong in sound doctrine, destroy it with evil works. For it behoves the servants of God that both their work should be approved by their teaching and their teaching by their works.
And therefore He says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, enters into the kingdom of heaven.”
Chrys., Hom., xxiv. Rom. 2, 17: Wherein He seems to touch the Jews chiefly who placed every thing in dogmas; as Paul accuses them, “If thou art called a Jew, and restest in the Law.”
Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise; Having taught that the false prophets and the true are to be discerned by their fruits, He now goes on to teach more plainly what are the fruits by which we are to discern the godly from the ungodly teachers.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 24: For even in the very name of Christ we must be on our guard against heretics, and all that understand amiss and love this world, that we may not be deceived, and therefore He says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord.”
But it may287 fairly create a difficulty how this is to be reconciled with that of the Apostle, “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” [1 Cor 12:3] For we cannot say that those who are not to enter into the kingdom of heaven have the Holy Spirit. But the Apostle uses the word ‘say,’ to express the will and understanding of him that says it. He only properly says a thing, who by the sound of his voice expresses his will and purpose. But the Lord uses the word in its ordinary sense, for he seems to say who neither wishes nor understands what he says.
Jerome: For Scripture uses to take words for deeds; according to which the Apostle declares, “They make confession that they know God, but in works deny him.” [Titus 1:16]
Ambrosiaster Comm. in 1 Cor 12, 3: For all truth by whomsoever uttered is from the Holy Spirit.
Aug., non occ.: Let us not therefore think that this belongs to those fruits of which He had spoken above, when one says to our Lord, “Lord, Lord;” and thence seems to us to be a good tree; the true fruit spoken of is to do the will of God; whence it follows, “But who doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Hilary: For obeying God’s will and not calling on His name, shall find the way to the heavenly kingdom.
Pseudo-Chrys.: And what the will of God is the Lord Himself teaches, “This is,” He says, “the will of him that sent me, that every man that seeth the Son and believeth on him should have eternal life.” [John 6:40] The word believe has reference both to confession and conduct. He then who does not confess Christ, or does not walk according to His word, shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Chrys.: He said not “he that doth” My “will,” but “the will of my Father,” for it was fit so to adapt it in the mean while to their weakness. But the one secretly implied the other, seeing the will of the Son is no other than the will of the Father.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 25: Here it also pertains that we be not deceived by the name of Christ not only in such as bear the name and do not the deeds, but yet more by certain works and miracles, such as the Lord wrought because of the unbelieving, but yet warned us that we should not be deceived by such to suppose that there was invisible wisdom where was a visible miracle; wherefore He adds, saying, “Many shall say to me in that day.”
Chrys.: See how He thus secretly bring288 in Himself. Here in the end of His Sermon He shews Himself as the Judge. The punishment that awaits sinners He had shewn before, but now only reveals who He is that shall punish, saying, “Many shall say to me in that day.”
Pseudo-Chrys.: When, namely, He shall come in the majesty of His Father; when none shall any more dare with strife of many words either to defend a lie, or to speak against the truth, when each man’s work shall speak, and his mouth be silent, when none shall come forward for another, but each shall fear for himself. For in that judgment the witnesses shall not be flattering men, but Angles speaking the truth, and the Judge is the righteous Lord; whence He closely images the cry of men fearful, and in straits, saying, “Lord, Lord.” For to call once is not enough for him who is under the necessity of terror.
Hilary: They even assure themselves of glory for their prophesying in teaching, for their casting our daemons, for their mighty works; and hence promise themselves the kingdom of heaven, saying, “Have we not prophesied in thy name?”
Chrys.: But there are that say that they spoke this falsely, and therefore were not saved. But they would not have dared to say this to the Judge in His presence. But the very answer and question prove that it was in His presence that they spoke thus. For having been here wondered at by all for the miracles which they wrought, and there seeing themselves punished, they say in wonderment, “Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?” Others again say, that they did sinful deeds not while they thus were working miracles, but at a time later. But if this be so, that very thing which the Lord desired to prove would not be established, namely, that neither faith nor miracles avail ought where there is not a good life; as Paul also declares, “If I have faith that I may remove mountains, but have not charity, I am nothing.” [1 Cor 13:2]
Pseudo-Chrys.: But not that He says, “in my name,” not in My Spirit; for they prophesy in the name of Christ, but with the spirit of the Devil; such are the diviners. But they may be known by this, that the Devil sometimes speaks falsely, the Holy Spirit never. Howbeit it is permitted to the Devil sometimes to speak the truth, that he may commend his lying by this his rare truth. Yet they cast out daemons in the name289 of Christ, though they have the spirit of his enemy; or rather, they do not cast them out, but seem only to cast them out, the daemons acting in concert with them. Also they do mighty works, that is, miracles, not such as are useful and necessary, but useless and fruitless.
Aug.: Read also what things the Magi did in Egypt in withstanding Moses.
Jerome: Otherwise; To prophesy, to work wonders, to cast out daemons by divine power, is often not of his deserts who performs the works, but either the invocation of Christ’s name has this force; or it is suffered for the condemnation of those that invoke, or for the benefit of those that see and hear, that however they despise the men who work the wonders, they may give honour to God. So Saul and Balaam and Caiaphas prophesied; the sons of Scaeva in the Acts of the Apostles were seen to cast out daemons; and Judas with the soul of a traitor is related to have wrought many signs among the other Apostles.
Chrys.: For all are not alike fit for all things; these are of pure life, but have not so great faith; those again have the reverse. Therefore God converted these by the means of those to the shewing forth much faith; and those that had faith He called by this unspeakable gift of miracles to a better life; and to that end gave them this grace in great richness. And they say, “We have done many mighty works.” But because they were ungrateful towards those who thus honoured them, it follows rightly, “Then will I confess unto you, I never knew you.”
Pseudo-Chrys.: For great wrath ought to be preceded by great forbearance, that the sentence of God may be made more just, and the death of the sinners more merited. God does not know sinners because they are not worthy that they should be known of God; not that He altogether is ignorant concerning them, but because He knows them not for His own. For God knows all men according to nature, but He seems not to know them for that He loves them not, as they seem not to know God who do not serve Him worthily.
Chrys.: He says to them, “I never knew you,” as it were, not at the day of judgment only, but not even then when ye were working miracles. For there are many whom He has now290 in abhorrence, and yet turns away His wrath before their punishment.
Jerome: Note that He says, “I never knew you,” as being against some that say that all men have always been among rational creatures.” [ed. note: Origen was accused of saying that all men were from their birth inwardly partakers of the Divine Word or Reason. vid. Jerome, Ep. ad Avit.]
Greg., Mor., xx, 7: By this sentence it is given to us to learn, that among men charity and humility, and not mighty works, are to be esteemed. Whence also now the Holy Church, if there be any miracles of heretics, despises them, because she knows that they have not the mark of holiness. And the proof of holiness is not to work miracles, but to love our neighbour as ourselves, to think truly of God, and of our neighbour better than of ourselves.
Aug., Cont. Adv. Leg. ii. 4: But never let it be said as the Manichees say, that the Lord spoke these things concerning the holy Prophets; He spoke of those who after the preaching of His Gospel seem to themselves to speak in His name not knowing what they speak.
Hilary: But thus the hypocrites boasted, as though they spoke somewhat of themselves, and as though the power of God did not work all these things, being invoked; but reading has brought them the knowledge of His doctrine, and the name of Christ casts out the daemons. Out of our own selves then is that blessed eternity to be earned, and out of ourselves must be put forth something that we may will that which is good, that we may avoid all evil, and may rather do what He would have us do, than boast of that to which He enables us. These then He disowns and banishes for their evil works, saying, “Depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
Jerome: He says not, Who have worked, but “who work iniquity,” that He should not seem to take away repentance. “Ye,” that is, who up to the present hour when the judgment is come, though ye have not the opportunity, yet retain the desire of sinning.
Pseudo-Chrys.: For death separates the soul from the body, but changes not the purpose of the heart.
24. “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 291 25. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
26. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
27. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”
Chrys.: Because there would be some who would admire the things that were said by the Lord, but would not add that shewing forth of them which is in action, He threatens them before, saying, “Every man that hears these words of mine, and does them, shall be likened to a wise man.”
Pseudo-Chrys.: He said not, I will account him that hears and does, as wise; but, “He shall be likened to a wise man.” He then that is likened is a man; but to whom is he likened? To Christ; but Christ is the wise man who had built His house, that is, the Church, upon a rock, that is, upon the strength of the faith.
The foolish man is the Devil, who has built his house, that is, all the ungodly, upon the sand, that is, the insecurity of unbelief, or upon the carnal, who are called the sand on account of their barrenness; both because they do not cleave together, but are scattered through the diversity of their opinions, and because they are innumerable.
The rain is the doctrine that waters a man, the clouds are those from which the rain falls. Some are raised by the Holy Spirit, as the Apostles and Prophets, and some by the spirit of the Devil, as are the heretics.
The good winds are the spirits of the different virtues, or the Angels who work invisibly in the senses of men, and lead them to good. The bad winds are the unclean spirits.
The good floods are the Evangelists and teachers of the people; the evil floods are men full of an unclean spirit, and overflowing with many words; such are philosophers and the other professors of worldly wisdom, out of whose belly come rivers of dead water.
The Church then which Christ has founded,292 neither the rain of false doctrine shall sap, nor the blast of the Devil overturn, nor the rush of mighty floods remove. Nor does it contradict this, that certain of the Church do fall; for not all that are called Christians, are Christ’s, but, “The Lord knows them that are his.” [2 Tim 2:19]
But against that house that the Devil has built comes down the rain of true doctrine, the winds, that is, the graces of the Spirit, or the Angels; the floods, that is, the four Evangelists and the rest of the wise; and so the house falls, that is, the Gentile world, that Christ may rise; and the ruin of that house was great, its errors broken up, its falsehoods laid open, its idols throughout the whole world broken down. He then is like unto Christ who hears Christ’s words and does them; for he builds on a rock, that is, upon Christ, who is all good, so that on whatsoever kind of good any one shall build, he may seem to have built upon Christ. But as the Church built by Christ cannot be thrown down, so any such Christian who has built himself upon Christ, no adversity can overthrow, according to that, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” [Rom 8:35]
Like to the Devil is he that hears the words of Christ, and does them not. For words that are heard, and are not done, are likened to sand, they are dispersed and shed abroad. For the sand signifies all evil, or even worldly goods. For as the Devil’s house is overthrown, so such as are built upon the sand are destroyed and fall. And great is that ruin if he have suffered any thing to fail of the foundation of faith; but not if he have committed fornication, or homicide, because he has whence he may arise through penitence, as David.
Rabanus: Or the great ruin is to be understood that with which the Lord will say to them that hear and do not, “Go ye into everlasting fire.” [Matt 25:41]
Jerome: Or otherwise; On sand which is loose and cannot be bound into one mass, all the doctrine of heretics is built so as to fall.
Hilary: Otherwise; By the showers He signifies the allurements of smooth and gently invading pleasures, with which the faith is at first watered as with spreading rills, afterwards comes down the rush of torrent floods, that is, the motions of fiercer desire, and lastly, the whole force of the driving tempests rages against it, that is, the universal spirits of the Devil’s reign attack it.293
Aug., Serm. in Mont. in fin.: Otherwise; Rain, when it is put to denote any evil, is understood as the darkness of superstition; rumours of men are compared to winds; the flood signifies the lust of the flesh, as it were flowing over the land, and because what is brought on by prosperity is broken off by adversity. None of these things does he fear who has his house founded upon a rock, that is, who not only hears the command of the Lord, but who also does it. And in all these he submits himself to danger, who hears and does not. For no man confirms in himself what the Lord commands, or himself hears, but by doing it.
But it should be noted, that when he said, “He that heareth these words of mine,” He shews plainly enough that this sermon is made complete by all those precepts by which the Christian life is formed, so that with good reason they that desire to live according to them, may be compared to one that builds on a rock.
28. And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:
29. For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the Scribes.
Gloss, non occ.: Having related Christ’s teaching, he shews its effects on the multitude, saying, “And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these words, the multitude wondered at his doctrine.”
Rabanus: This ending pertains both to the finishing the words, and the completeness of the doctrines. That it is said that “the multitude wondered,” either signifies the unbelieving in the crowd, who were astonished because they did not believe the Saviour’s words; or is said of them all, in that they reverenced in Him the excellence of so great wisdom.
Pseudo-Chrys.: The mind of man when satisfied reasonably brings forth praise, but when overcome, wonder. For whatever we are not able to praise worthily, we admire. Yet their admiration pertained rather to Christ’s glory than to their faith, for had they believed on Christ, they would not have wondered. For wonder is raised by whatever surpasses the appearance of the speaker or actor; and thence294 we do not wonder at what is done or said by God, because all things are less than God’s power. But it was the multitude that wondered, that is the common people, not the chief among the people, who are not wont to hear with the desire of learning; but the simple folk heard in simplicity; had others been present they would have broken up their silence by contradicting, for where the greater knowledge is, there is the stronger malice. For he that is in haste to be first, is not content to be second.
Aug., de Cons. Evan., ii, 19: From that which is here said, He seems to have left the crowd of disciples - those out of whom He chose twelve, whom He called Apostles - but Matthew omits to mention it. For to His disciples only, Jesus seems to have held this Sermon, which Matthew recounts, Luke omits. That after descending into a plain He held another like discourse, which Luke records, and Matthew omits. Still it may be supposed, that, as was said above, He delivered on and the same Sermon to the Apostles, and the rest of the multitude present, which has been recorded by Matthew and Luke, in different words, but with the same truth of substance; and this explains what is here said of the multitude wondering.
Chrys., Hom. xxv: He adds the cause of their wonderment, saying, “He taught them as one having authority, and not as the Scribes and Pharisees.” But if the Scribes drove Him from them, seeing His power shewn in works, how would they not have been offended when words only manifested His power? But this was not so with the multitude; for being of benevolent temper, it is easily persuaded by the word of truth. Such however was the power wherewith He taught them, that it drew many of them to Him, and caused them to wonder; and for their delight in those things which were spoken they did not leave Him even when He had done speaking; but followed Him as He came down from the mount. They were mostly astonished at His power, in that He spoke not referring to any other as the Prophets and Moses had spoken, but every where shewing that He Himself had authority; for in delivering each law, He prefaced it with, “But I say unto you.”
Jerome: For as the God and Lord of Moses himself, He of His own free will either added such things as seemed omitted in the Law, or even changed some; as above295 we read, “It was said by them of old . . . . But I say unto you.” But the Scribes only taught the people what was written in Moses and the Prophets.
Greg., Mor., xxiii, 13: Or, Christ spoke with especial power, because He did no evil from weakness, but we who are weak, in our weakness consider by what method in teaching we may best consult for our weak brethren.
Hilary: Or; They measure the efficacy of His power, by the might of His words.
Aug., Serm. in Mont. ii, 40. i. 10. et. seq.: This is what is signified in the eleventh Psalm, “I will deal mightily with him; the words of the Lord are pure words, silver tried in the fire, purified of earth, purged seven times.” [Ps 12: 5-6]
The mention of this number admonishes me here to refer all these precepts to those seven sentences that He placed in the beginning of this Sermon; those, I mean, concerning the beatitudes. For one to be angry with his brother, without cause, or to say to him, Racha, or call him fool, is a sin of extreme pride, against which is one remedy, that with a suppliant spirit he should seek pardon, and not be puffed up with a spirit of boasting.
“Blessed,” then, “are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” He is consenting to his adversary, that is, in shewing reverence to the word of God, who goes to the opening His Father’s will, not with contentiousness of law, but with meekness of religion, therefore, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Also, whosoever feels carnal delight rebel against his right will, will cry out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” [Rom 7:24] And in thus mourning he will implore the aid of the counsoler, whence, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
What is there that can be thought of more toilsome than in overcoming an evil practice to cut off those members within us that hinder the kingdom of heaven, and not be broken down with the pain of so doing? To endure in faithful wedlock all things even the most grievous, and yet to avoid all accusation of fornication. To speak the truth, and approve it not by frequent oaths, but in probity of life.
But who would be bold to endure such toils, unless he burned with the love of righteousness as with a hunger and thirst? “Blessed,” therefore, “are they that hunger and thirst, for they shall be filled.” Who can be ready to take wrong from the weak, to offer296 himself to any that asks him, to love his enemies, to do good to them that hate him, to pray for them that persecute him, except he that is perfectly merciful?
Therefore, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall find mercy.” He keeps the eye of his heart pure, who places the end of his good actions not in pleasing men, nor in getting those things that are necessary to this life, and who does not rashly condemn any man’s heart, and whatever he gives to another gives with that intention with which he would have others give to him. “Blessed,” therefore, “are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” It must needs be moreover, that by a pure heart should be found out the narrow way of wisdom, to which the guile of corrupt men is an obstacle; “Blessed are the peaceful, for they shall be called the sons of God.” But whether we take this arrangement, or any other, those things which we have heard from the Lord must be done, if we would build upon the rock.
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