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1. “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
2. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
3. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
4. But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
5. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
6. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
7. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
8. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
9. But the wise answered saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
10. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
11. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
12. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
13. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.”
Chrys., Hom. lxxviii, In the foregoing parable the Lord set forth the punishment of the man who beat, and was drunk, and wasted844 his Lord’s goods; in this He declares his punishment who profits not, and does not prepare for himself abundantly the things of which he has need; for the foolish virgins had oil, but not enough.
Hilary: “Then,” because all this discourse is concerning the great day of the Lord, concerning which He had been speaking before.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., xii, 1: By “the kingdom of heaven” is meant the present Church, as in that, “The Son of Man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend.” [Matt 13:41]
Jerome: This parable of the ten foolish and the ten wise virgins, some interpret literally of virgins, of whom there are according to the Apostle [marg. note: 1 Cor 7] some who are virgins both in body and in thought, others who have preserved indeed their bodies virgin, but have not the other deeds of virgins, or have only been preserved by the guardianship of parents, but have wedded in their hearts. But from what has gone before, I think the meaning to be different, and that the parable has reference not to virgins only, but to the whole human race.
Greg.: For in each of the five senses of the body there is a double instrument, and the number five doubled makes ten. And because the company of the faithful is gathered out of both sexes, the Holy Church is described as being like to ten virgins, where as bad are mixed with good, and reprobate with elect, it is like a mixture of wise and foolish virgins.
Chrys.: And He employs the character virgins in this parable to shew, that though virginity be a great thing, yet if it be not accompanied by works of mercy, it shall be cast out with the adulterers.
Origen: Or, The understandings of all who have received the word of God are virgins. For such is the word of God, that of its purity it imparts to all, who by its teaching have departed from the worship of idols, and have through Christ drawn near to the worship of God; “Which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom and the bride.” [ed. note: ‘Et sponsae’ Vulg. and so a few Greek MSS.]
They take “their lamps,” i.e. their natural faculties, and go forth out of the world and its errors, and go to meet the Saviour, who is ever ready to come to enter with them that are worthy to His blessed bride the Church.
Hilary: Or, “The bridegroom and the bride” represent our Lord God in the body, for the flesh is the bride of the spirit. “The lamps” are the light of bright souls which shine forth in the sacrament of845 baptism. [ed. note: Alluding to the terms φωτισμὸς and illuminatia, by which Baptism was designated. S. Cyr. Cat. Oxf. Tr. p. 1.]
Aug., Lib. 83 Quaest, Q59: Or, “The lamps” which they carry in their hands are their works, of which it was said above, “Let your works shine before men.” [Matt 5:16]
Origen: They that believe rightly, and live righteously, are likened to the five wise ; they that profess the faith of Jesus, but prepare themselves not by good works to salvation, are likened to the five foolish.
Jerome: For there are five senses which hasten towards heavenly things, and seek after things above. Of sight, hearing, and touch, it is specially said, “That which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, and our hands have handled.” [1 John 1:1] Of taste, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” [Ps 34:8] Of smell, “Because of the savour of thy good ointments.” [Song of Songs 1:3] There are also other five senses which gape after earthly husks.
Aug.: Or, by the five virgins, is denoted a five-fold continence from the allurements of the flesh; for our appetite must be held from gratification of the eyes, ears, smell, taste, and touch. And as this continence may be done before God, to please Him in inward joy of the conscience, or before men only to gain applause of men, five are called wise, and five foolish. Both are virgins, because both these men exercise continence, though from different motives.
Origen: And because the virtues are so linked together, that he who has one has all, so all the senses so follow one another, that all must be wise, or all foolish.
Hilary: Or, The five wise and five foolish are an absolute distinction between believers and unbelievers.
Greg.: It is to be observed, that all have lamps, but all have not oil.
Hilary: The “oil” is the fruit of good works, the “vessels” are the human bodies in whose inward parts the treasure of a good conscience is to be laid up.
Jerome: The virgins that have oil are they who, besides their faith, have the ornament of good works - they that have not oil, are they that seem to confess with like faith, but neglect the works of virtue.
Aug.: Or, The “oil” denotes joy, according to that, “God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness.” [Ps 45:7] He then whose joy springs not from this that he is inwardly pleasing to God, has no oil with him; for they have no gladness in their continent lives,846 save in the praises of men. “But the wise took oil with their lamps,” that is, the gladness of good works, “in their vessels,” that is, they stored it in their heart and conscience, as the Apostle speaks, “Let every man prove himself, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself, and not in another.” [Gal 6:4]
Chrys.: Or, The “oil” denotes charity, alms, and every aid rendered to the needy; the lamps denote the gifts of virginity; and He calls them “foolish,” because after having gone through the greater toil, they lost all for the sake of a less; for it is greater labour to overcome the desires of the flesh than of money.
Origen: Or, The “oil” is the word of teaching, with which the vessels of souls are filled ; for what gives so great content as moral discourse, which is called the oil of light. The “wise” took with them of this oil, as much as would suffice, though the Word should tarry long, and be slack to come to their consummation.
The, “foolish” took lamps, alight indeed at the first, but not supplied with so much oil as should suffice even to the end, being careless respecting the provision of doctrine which comforts faith, and enlightens the lamp of good deeds.
Aug.: For there die of both kinds of men in this interval of time before the resurrection of the dead, and the Lord’s coming shall be.
Greg.: To sleep is to die, to slumber before sleep is to faint from salvation before death, because, by the burden of sickness we come to the sleep of death.
Jerome: Or, “They slumbered,” i.e. they were dead. And then follows, “And slept,” because they were to be afterwards wakened. “While the bridegroom tarried,” shews that no little time intervened between the Lord’s first and second coming.
Origen: Or, Whilst the bridegroom “tarried,” and the Word comes not speedily to the consummation of this life, the senses suffer, slumbering and moving in the night of the world; and sleep, as energizing feebly, and with no quick sense. Yet did those wise virgins not quit their lamps, nor despair of hoarding their oil.
Jerome: The Jews have a tradition that Christ will come at midnight, in like manner as in that visitation of Egypt, when the Paschal feast is celebrated, and the destroyer comes, and the Lord passes over our dwellings, and the door posts of each man’s countenance are hallowed by the blood of the Lamb.
Hence, I suppose, has continued among us that apostolic tradition,847 that on the vigil of Easter the people should not be dismissed before midnight, in expectation of Christ’s coming; but when that hour has past over, they may celebrate the feast in security; whence also the Psalmist says, “At midnight did I rise to praise thee.” [Ps 119:62]
[ed note, Easter vigil: This day was kept an universal fast over the whole Church. And they continued it not only till evening, but till cockcrowing in the morning. The night was spent in a Vigil, or Pernoctation, when they assembled together to perform all parts of Divine service. There is frequent mention made of this in ancient writers, Chrysostom, (Hom. 30. in Gen,) Epiphanius, (Exp. fid. n. 22.) and many others. Particularly Lactantius and S. Jerome tell us observed it on a double account. Lactantius, (vii. 19.) says, ‘This is the night which we observe, with a per noctation for the Advent of our King and God; of which there is a twofold reason to be given; because in this night our Lord was raised to life again after His Passion; and in the same He is expected to return to receive the kingdom of the world.’ “ Bingham’s Antiquities, xxi. 1. 32.]
Aug.: Or, “At midnight,” that is, when none knew or looked for it.
Jerome: Suddenly thus, as on a stormy night, and when all think themselves secure, at the hour when sleep is the deepest, the coming of Christ shall be proclaimed by the shout of Angels, and the trumpets of the Powers that go before Him. This is meant when it says, “Lo, the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him.”
Hilary: At the trumpet signal they go forth to meet the bridegroom alone, for then shall the two be one, that is, the flesh and God, when the lowliness of the flesh shall be transformed into spiritual glory.
Aug.: Or, that the virgins go forth to meet the bridegroom alone, I think is to be understood that the virgins themselves constitute her who is called the bride - as we speak of the Christians flocking to the Church as children running to their mother, and yet this same mother consists only of the children who are gathered together. For now the Church is betrothed, and is to be led forth as a virgin to the marriage, which takes place then when all her mortal part having past away, she maybe held in an eternal union.
Origen: Or, “At midnight,” that is, at the time of their most abandoned carelessness, “there was a great cry,” of the Angels, I suppose, desiring to arouse all men, those ministering spirits crying within in the senses of all that sleep, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him.” All heard this summons, and arose, but all were not able to trim their lamps fitly. The lamps of the senses are trimmed by evangelical and right use of them; and they that use their senses amiss have their lamps untrimmed.
Greg.: Or, “All the virgins arose,”848 that is, both elect and reprobate are roused from the sleep of death; they “trimmed their lamps,” that is, they reckon up to themselves their works for which they look to receive eternal blessedness.
Aug.: They “trimmed their lamps,” that is, prepared to give an account of their deeds.
Hilary: Or, the trimming their lamps is the return of their souls into their bodies, and their light is the consciousness of good works that shines forth, which is contained in the vessels of the body.
Greg.: The lamps of the foolish virgins go out, because the works which appeared outwardly to men to be bright, are dimmed within at the coming of the Judge. That they then beg oil of the wise virgins, what is it but that at the coming of the Judge, when they find themselves empty within, they seek for witness from without? As though deceived by their own self-confidence, they say to their neighbours, “Whereas ye see us rejected as living without works, do ye witness to our works that ye have seen.
Aug.: From habit, the mind seeks that which uses to give it pleasure. And these now seek from men, who see not the heart, witness to God, who sees the heart. But their lamps go out, because those, whose good works rest upon the testimony of others, when that is withdrawn, sink into nothing.
Jerome: Or, These virgins who complain that their lamps are gone out, shew that they are partially alight, yet have they not an unfailing light, nor enduring works. Whoso then has a virgin soul, and is a lover of chastity, ought not to rest content with such virtues as quickly fade, and are withered away when the heat comes upon them, but should follow after perfect virtues, that he may have an enduring light.
Chrys.: Or otherwise ; These virgins were foolish, not only because they departed hence, lacking store of mercy, but because they deemed to receive it from those of whom they importunately begged it. For though nothing could be more merciful than those wise virgins, who for this very mercifulness were approved, yet would they not grant the prayer of the foolish virgins. But the wise answered, saying, “Not so, lest there be not enough for us and you;” hence we learn that none of us shall be able in that day to stand forth as patron [marg. note: προστηναὶ] of those who are betrayed by their own works, not because he will not, but because he cannot.
Jerome: For these wise virgins do not answer thus out of covetousness, 849 but out of fear. Wherefore, each man shall receive the recompense of his own works, and the virtues of one cannot atone for the vices of another in the day of judgment. The wise admonish them not to go to meet the bridegroom without oil, “Go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.”
Hilary: They that sell are the poor, who, needing the alms of the faithful, made them that recompense which they desire, selling in return for the relief afforded to their wants, a consciousness of good works. This is the abundant fuel of an undying light which may be bought and stored up for the fruits of mercy.
Chrys.: You see then how great merchants the poor are to us; but the poor are not there, but here, and therefore we must store up oil here, that we may have it to use there when occasion shall require.
Jerome: And this oil is sold, and at a high cost, nor is it to be got without much toil; so that we understand it not of alms only, but of all virtues and counsels of the teachers.
Origen: Otherwise; Notwithstanding they were foolish, they yet understood that they must have light to go and meet the bridegroom, that all the lights of their senses might be burning. This also they discerned, that because they had little of the spiritual oil, their lamps would burn dim as darkness drew on. But the wise send the foolish to those that sell, seeing that they had not stored up so much oil, that is, word of doctrine, as would suffice both for themselves to live by, and to teach others, “Go ye rather to them that sell,” i.e. to the doctors, “and buy,” i.e. take of them; the price is perseverance, the love of learning, industry, and toil of all who are willing to learn.
Aug.: Or we may suppose it not meant as advice what they should do, but as an indirect allusion to their fault. For flatterers sell oil, who by praising things false, and things unknown, lead souls astray, recommending to them, as foolish, empty joys, and receiving in return some temporal benefit.
“Go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves,” i.e. Let us now see what they can profit you who have used to sell you their praise. “Lest there be not enough for us and you,” because no man is profited in God’s sight by the testimony of others, because God sees the heart, and each man is scarce able to give testimony concerning his own conscience.
Jerome: But because the850 season for buying was now past, and the day of judgment was coming on, so that there was no room for penitence, they must not now lay up new works, but give an account of the old.
Hilary: “The marriage” is the putting on of immortality, and the joining together corruption and incorruption in a new union.
Chrys.; That, “While they went to buy,” shews that even, if we should become merciful after death, it will avail us nothing to escape punishment, as it was no profit to the rich man, that he became merciful and careful about those who belonged to him.
Origen: Or, He says, “While they went to buy,” because there are men to be found who have neglected to learn any thing useful, till when, in the very end of their life, when they set themselves to learn, they are overtaken by death.
Aug.: Or otherwise; “While they went to buy,” that is, while they turned themselves to things without, and sought to find pleasure in things they had been accustomed to, because they knew not inward joys, came He that judges; and they “that were ready,” i.e. they whose conscience bore witness to them before God, “went in with him to the wedding,” i.e. to where the pure soul is united prolific to the pure and perfect word of God.
Jerome: After the day of judgment, there is no more opportunity for good works, or for righteousness, and therefore it follows, “And the door was shut.”
Aug.: When they have been taken in who have been changed into angelic being, all entrance into the kingdom of heaven is closed; after the judgment, there is no more place for prayers or merit. [marg. note: 1 Cor 15:51]
Hilary: Yet though the season of repentance is now past, the foolish virgins come and beg that entrance may be granted to them.
Jerome: Their worthy confession calling Him, “Lord, Lord,” is a mark of faith. But what avails it to confess with the mouth Him whom you deny with your works?
Gloss, ap. Anselm: Grief at their exclusion extorts from them a repetition of this title of, “Lord;” they call not Him Father, whose mercy they despised in their lifetime.
Aug.: It is not said that they bought any oil, and therefore we must suppose that all their delight in the praise of men being gone, they return in distress and affliction to implore God. But His severity, after judgment, is as great as His mercy was unspeakable before. “But He answered851 and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not;” by that rule, namely, that the art of God, that is, His wisdom, does not admit that those should enter into His joy who have sought to do in any thing according to His commandments, not as before God, but that they may please men.
Jerome: For “the Lord knoweth them that are his,” [2 Tim 2:19] and he that knoweth not shall not be known, and though they be virgins in purity of body, or in confession of the true faith, yet forasmuch as they have no oil, they are unknown by the bridegroom. When He adds, “Watch therefore, because ye know not the day nor the hour,” He means that all that has been said points to this, namely, that seeing we know not the day of judgment, we should be careful in providing the light of good works.
Aug.: For indeed we know the day and the hour neither of that future time when the Bridegroom will come, nor of our own falling asleep each of us; if then we be prepared for this latter, we shall also be prepared when that voice shall sound, which shall arouse us all.
Aug., Ep. 199, 45: There have not been wanting those who would refer these ten virgins to that coming of Christ, which takes place now in the Church; but this is not to be hastily held out, lest any thing should occur contradictory of it.
14. “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
15. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
16. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
17. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
18. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
19. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.852
20. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
21. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
22. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
23. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
24. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
25. And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
26. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
27. Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received my own with usury.
28. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
29. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
30. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Gloss.: In the foregoing parable is set forth the condemnation of such as have not prepared sufficient oil for themselves, whether by oil is meant the brightness of good works, or inward joy of conscience, or alms paid in money.
Chrys.: This parable is delivered against those who will not assist their neighbours either with money, or words, or in any other way, but hide all that they have.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., ix, i: The man in travelling into a far country is our Redeemer, who ascended into heaven in that flesh which He had taken upon Him. For the proper home of the flesh is the earth, and it, as it were, travels into a foreign country, when it is placed by the Redeemer in heaven.
Origen: He travels, not according to His divine nature, but according to the dispensation of the flesh which He took upon Him. For He who says to His disciples, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” [Matt 28:20] is the Only-Begotten God, who is not circumscribed by bodily form. By saying this, we do not disunite Jesus, but attribute its proper qualities to each constituent substance.
We may also explain thus, that the Lord travels in a far country with all those who walk by faith and not by sight. And when we are absent from the body with the Lord, then will He also he with us. Observe that the turn of expression is not thus, I am like, or The Son of Man is like, “a man travelling into a far country,” because He is represented in the parable as travelling, not as the Son of God, but as man.
Jerome: Calling together the Apostles, He gave them the Gospel doctrine, to one more, to another less, not as of His own bounty or scanting, but as meeting the capacity of the receivers, as the Apostle says [marg. note 1 Cor 3:2], that he fed with milk those that were unable to take solid food. In the five, two, and one talent, we recognise the diversity of gifts wherewith we have been entrusted.
Origen: Whenever you see of those who have received from Christ a dispensation of the oracles of God that some have more and some less; that some have not in comparison of the better sort half an understanding of things; that others have still less; you will perceive the difference of those who have all of them received from Christ oracles of God. They to whom five talents were given, and they to whom two, and they to whom one, have divers degrees of capacity, and one could not hold the measure of another; he who received but one854 having received no mean endowment, for one talent of such a master is a great thing.
His proper servants are three, as there are three sorts of those that bear fruit. He that received five talents, is he that is able to raise all the meanings of the Scriptures to their more divine significations; he that has two is he that has been taught carnal doctrine, (for two seems to be a carnal number,) and to the less strong the Master of the household has given one talent.
Greg.: Otherwise; The five talents denote the gift of the five senses, that is, the knowledge of things without; the two signify understanding and action, the one talent understanding only.
Gloss., ord.: “And straightway took his journey,” not changing his place, but leaving them to their own freewill and choice of action.
Jerome: “He that had received five talents,” that is, having received his bodily senses, he doubled his knowledge of heavenly things, from the creature understanding the Creator, from earthly unearthly, from temporal the eternal.
Greg.: There are also some who though they cannot pierce to things inward and mystical, yet for their measure of view of their heavenly country they teach rightly such things as they can, what they have gathered from things without, and while they keep themselves from wantonness of the flesh, and from ambition of earthly things, and from the delights of the things that are seen, they restrain others also from the same by their admonitions.
Origen: Or, They that have their senses exercised by healthy conversation, both raising themselves to higher knowledge and zealous in teaching others, these have gained other five; because no one can easily have increase of any virtues that are not his own, and without he teaches others what he himself knows, and no more.
Hilary: Or, That servant who received five talents is the people of believers under the Law, who beginning with that, doubled their merit by the right obedience of an evangelic faith.
Greg.: Again, there are some who by their understanding and their actions preach to others, and thence gain as it were a twofold profit in such merchandize. This their preaching bestowed upon both sexes is thus a talent doubled.
Origen: Or, “gained other two,” that is, carnal instruction, and another yet a little higher.
Hilary: Or, the servant to whom two talents were committed is the people of the Gentiles justified by the faith and confession of the Son and of the Father, confessing 855 our Lord Jesus Christ, to be both God and Man, both Spirit and Flesh. These are the two talents committed to this servant. But as the Jewish people doubled by its belief in the Gospel every Sacrament which it had learned in the Law, (i.e. its five talents,) so this people by its use of its two talents merited understanding and working.
Greg.: To hide one’s talent in the earth is to devote the ability we have received to worldly business.
Origen: Or otherwise; When you see one who has the power of teaching, and of benefitting souls, hiding this power, though he may have a certain religiousness of life, doubt not of such an one that he has received one talent and hides it in the earth.
Hilary: Or, This servant who has received one talent and hid it in the earth is the people that continue in the Law, who through jealousy of the salvation of the Gentiles hide the talent they have received in the earth. For to hide a talent in the earth is to hide the glory of the new preaching through offence at the Passion of His Body. His coming to reckon with them is the assize of the day of judgment.
Origen: And note here that the servants do not come to the Lord to be judged, but the Lord shall come to them when the time shall be accomplished. “After a long time,” that is, when He has sent forth such as are fitted to bring about the salvation of souls, and perhaps for this reason it is not easy to find one who is quite fit to pass forthwith out of this life, as is manifest from this, that even the Apostles lived to old age; for example, it was said to Peter, “When thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hand;” [John 21:18] and Paul says to Philemon, “Now as Paul the aged.”
Chrys.: Observe also that the Lord does not require the reckoning immediately, that you may learn His long suffering. To me He seems to say this covertly, alluding to the resurrection.
Jerome: “After a long time,” because there is a long interval between the Saviour’s ascension and His second coming.
Greg.: This lesson from this Gospel warns us to consider whether those who seem to have received more in this world than others shall not be more severely judged by the Author of the world; the greater the gifts, the greater the reckoning for them. Therefore should every one be humble concerning his talents in proportion as he sees himself tied up with a greater responsibility.
Origen: He who had received five talents comes856 first with boldness before his Lord.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., ix, 2: And bringing his talents doubled, he is commended by his Lord, and is sent into eternal happiness.
Raban.: “Well done” is an interjection of joy; the Lord shewing us therein the joy with which He invites the servant who labours well to eternal bliss; of which the Prophet speaks, “In thy presence is fulness of joy.” [Ps 16:11]
Chrys.: “Thou good servant,” this he means of that goodness which is shewn towards our neighbour.
Gloss., non occ.: “Faithful,” because he appropriated to himself none of those things which were his lord’s.
Jerome: He says, “Thou wast faithful in a few things,” because all that we have at present though they seem great and many, yet in comparison of the things to come are little and few.
Greg.: The faithful servant is set over many things, when having overcome the afflictions of corruption, he joys with eternal joy in that heavenly seat. He is then fully admitted to the joy of his Lord, when taken in to that abiding country, and numbered among the companies of Angels, he has such inward joy for this gift, that there is no room for outward sorrow at his corruption.
Jerome: What greater thing can be given to a faithful servant than to be with his Lord, and to see his Lord’s joy?
Chrys.: By this word “joy” He expresses complete blessedness.
Aug., de Trin., i, 8: This will be our perfect joy, than which is none greater, to have fruition of that Divine Trinity in whose image we were made.
Jerome: The servant who of five talents had made ten, and he who of two had made four, are received with equal favour by the Master of the household, who looks not to the largeness of their profit, but to the disposition of their will.
Origen: That He says of both these servants that they “came,” we must understand of their passing out of this world to Him. And observe that the same was said to them both; he that had less capacity, but that which he had, he exercised after such manner as he ought, shall have no whit less with God than he who has a greater capacity; for all that is required is that whatever a man has from God, he should use it all to the glory of God.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., ix: The servant who would not trade with his talent returns to his Lord with words of excuse.
Jerome: For truly that which is written, “To offer excuses excusing sins” [Ps. 141:4] happened to this servant, so that to slothfulness and idleness was added also the sin of pride. For he who ought to have857 honestly acknowledged his fault, and to have entreated the Master of the household, on the contrary cavils against him, and avers that he did it with provident design, lest while he sought to make profit he should hazard the capital.
Origen: This servant seems to me to have been one of those who believe, but do not act honestly, concealing their faith, and doing every thing that they may not be known to be Christians. They who are such seem to me to have a fear of God, and to regard Him as austere and implacable. We indeed understand how the Lord reaps where He sowed not, because the righteous man sows in the Spirit, whereof he shall reap life eternal. Also He reaps where He sowed not, and gathers where he scattered not, because He counts as bestowed upon Himself all that is sown among the poor.
Jerome: Also, by this which this servant dared to say, “Thou reapest where thou sowedst not,” we understand that the Lord accepts the good life of the Gentiles and of the Philosophers.
Greg.: But there are many within the Church of whom this servant is a type, who fear to set out on the path of a better life, and yet are not afraid to continue in carnal indolence; they esteem themselves sinners, and therefore tremble to take up the paths of holiness, but fearlessly remain in their own iniquities.
Hilary: Or, By this servant is understood the Jewish people which continues in the Law, and says, I was “afraid of thee,” as through fear of the old commandments abstaining from the exercise of evangelical liberty; and it says, “Lo, there is that is thine,” as though it had continued in those things which the Lord commanded, when yet it knew that the fruits of righteousness should be reaped there, where the Law had not been sown, and that there should be gathered from among the Gentiles some who were not scattered of the seed of Abraham.
Jerome: But what he thought would be his excuse is turned into his condemnation. He calls him “wicked servant,” because he cavilled against his Lord; and “slothful,” because he would not double his talent; condemning his pride in the one, and his idleness in the other. If you knew me to be hard and austere, and to seek after other men’s goods, you should also have known that I exact with the more rigour that is mine own, and should have given my money to the bankers; for the Greek word here (ἀργύριον)858 means money.
“The words of the Lord are pure words, silver tried in the fire.” [Ps 12:6] The money, or silver, then are the preaching of the Gospel and the heavenly word; which ought to be given to the bankers, that is, either to the other doctors, which the Apostles did when they ordained Priests and Bishops throughout the cities; or to all the believers, who can double the sum and restore it with usury by fulfilling in act what they have learned in word.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., ix, 4: So then we see as well the peril of the teachers if they withhold the Lord’s money, as that of the hearers from whom is exacted with usury that they have heard, namely, that from what they have heard they should strive to understand that they have not heard.
Origen: The Lord did not allow that He was “a hard man” as the servant supposed, but He assented to all his other words. But He is indeed hard to those who abuse the mercy of God to suffer themselves to become remiss, and use it not to be converted.
Greg.: Let us hear now the sentence by which the Lord condemns the slothful servant, “Take away from him the talent, and give it to him that hath ten talents.”
Origen: The Lord is able by the might of His divinity to take away his ability from the man who is slack to use it, and to give it to him who has improved his own.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., ix, 5: It might seem more seasonable to have given it rather to him who had two, than to him who had five. But as the five talents denote the knowledge of things without, the two understanding and action, he who had the two had more than he who had the five talents; this man with his five talents merited the administration of things without, but was yet without any understanding of things eternal. The one talent therefore, which we say signifies the intellect, ought to be given to him who had administered well the things without which he had received; the same we see happen every day in the Holy Church, that they who administer faithfully things without, are also mighty in the inward understanding.
Jerome: Or, it is given to him who had gained five talents, that we may understand that though the Lord’s joy over the labour of each be equal, of him who doubled the five as of him who doubled the two, yet is a greater reward due to him who laboured more in the Lord’s money.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., ix, 6: Then follows a general sentence, “For to every one that hath shall be given,859 and he shall have abundance, but from him that hath not, even that which he seemeth to have shall be taken away.” For whosoever has charity receives the other gifts also; but whosoever has not charity loses even the gifts which he seemed to have had.
Chrys.: Also he who has the graces of eloquence and of teaching to profit withal, and uses it not, loses that grace; but he who does his endeavour in putting it to use acquires a larger share.
Jerome: Many also who are naturally clever and have sharp wit, if they become neglectful, and by disuse spoil that good they have by nature, these do, in comparison of him who being somewhat dull by nature compensates by industry and painstaking his backwardness, lose their natural gift, and see the reward promised them pass away to others.
But it may also be understood thus; To him who has faith, and a right will in the Lord, even if he come in aught short in deed as being man, shall be given by the merciful Judge; but he who has not faith, shall lose even the other virtues which he seems to have naturally. And He says carefully, “From him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have,” for whatsoever is without faith in Christ ought not to be imputed to him who uses it amiss, but to Him who gives the goods of nature even to a wicked servant.
Greg.: Or, Whoso has not charity, loses even those things which he seems to have received.
Hilary: And on those who have the privilege of the Gospels, the honour of the Law is also conferred, but from him who has not the faith of Christ is taken away even that honour which seemed to be his through the Law.
Chrys.: The wicked servant is punished not only by loss of his talent, but by intolerable infliction, and a denunciation in accusation joined therewith.
Origen: “Into outer darkness,” where is no light, perhaps not even physical light; and where God is not seen, but those who are condemned thereto are condemned as unworthy the contemplation of God. We have also read some one before us expounding this of the darkness of that abyss which is outside the world, as though unworthy of the world, they were cast out into that abyss, where is darkness with none to lighten it.
Greg.: And thus for punishment he shall be cast into outer darkness who has of his own free will fallen into inward darkness.
Jerome: What is weeping and860 gnashing of teeth we have said above.
Chrys.: Observe that not only he who robs others, or who works evil, is punished with extreme punishment, but he also who does not good works.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., lx, 7: Let him then who has understanding look that he hold not his peace; let him who has affluence not be dead to mercy; let him who has the art of guiding life communicate its use with his neighbour; and him who has the faculty of eloquence intercede with the rich for the poor. For the very least endowment will be reckoned as a talent entrusted for use.
Origen: If you are offended at this we have said, namely that a man shall be judged if he does not teach others, call to mind the Apostle’s words, “Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel.” [1 Cor 9:16]
31. “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32. And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33. And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35. For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36. Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38. When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?861
39. Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40. And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42. For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43. I was a stranger, and ye took me not in naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45. Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.”
Raban.: After the parables concerning the end of the world the Lord proceeds to describe the manner of the judgment to come.
Chrys., Hom. lxxix: To this most sweet section of Scripture which we cease not continually to ponder, let us now listen with all attention and compunction of spirit, for Christ does indeed clothe this discourse with more terrors and vividness. He does not accordingly say of this as of the others, “The kingdom of heaven is like,” but shews of Himself by direct revelation, saying, “When the Son of man shall come in his majesty.”
Jerome: He who was within two days to celebrate the passover, to be delivered to the cross, and mocked by men, fitly now holds out the glory of His triumph, that He may overbalance the offences that were to follow by the promise of reward. And it is to be noted, that He who shall be seen in majesty is the Son of Man.
Aug., in Joan Tr., 21: The wicked and they also who shall be862 set on His right hand shall see Him in human shape, for He shall appear in the judgment in that form which He took on Him from us; but it shall be afterwards that He shall be seen in the form of God, for which all the believers long.
Remig.: These words overthrow the error of those who said that the Lord should not continue in the same form of a servant. By “his majesty,” He means His divinity, in which He is equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Origen: Or, He shall come again with glory, that His body may be such as when He was transfigured on the mount. “His throne” is either certain of the more perfect of the Saints, of whom it is written, “For there are set thrones in judgment;” [Ps 122:5] or certain Angelic Powers of whom it is said, “Thrones or dominions.” [Col 1:16]
Aug., City of God, book xx, ch. 24: He shall come down with the Angels whom He shall call from heavenly places to hold judgment.
Chrys.: “For all his Angels shall be with him” to bear witness to the things wherein they have administered to men’s salvation at His bidding.
Aug., Serm. 351, 8: Or, by Angels here He means men who shall judge with Christ; for Angels are messengers, and such we rightly understand all who have brought tidings of heavenly salvation to men.
Remig.: “And all nations shall be gathered before Him.” These words prove that the resurrection of men shall be real.
Aug., City of God, book xx, ch 24: This gathering shall be executed by the ministry of Angels, as it is said in the Psalm, “Gather to him his saints.” [Ps 50:5]
Origen: Or, we need not understand this of a local gathering together, but that the nations shall be no more dispersed in divers and false dogmas concerning Him. For Christ’s divinity shall be manifested so that not even sinners shall any longer be ignorant of Him. He shall not then shew Himself as Son of God in one place and not in another; as He sought to express to us by the comparison of the lightning. So as long as the wicked know neither themselves nor Christ, or the righteous “see through a glass darkly,” [1 Cor. 13:12] so long the good are not severed from the evil, but when by the manifestation of the Son of God all shall come to the knowledge of Him, then shall the Saviour sever the good from the evil; for then shall sinners see their sins, and the righteous shall see clearly to what end the seeds of righteousness in them have led.
They that are saved are called sheep by reason of that mildness which they have learnt of Him who said, “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly,” [Matt 11:29] and 863 because they are ready to go even to death in imitation of Christ, who “was led as a sheep to the slaughter.” [Isa 53:7]
The wicked are called goats, because they climb rough and rugged rocks, and walk in dangerous places.
Chrys.: Or, He calls the one sheep and the other goats, to denote the unprofitableness of the one, and the fruitfulness of the other, for sheep are greatly productive in fleece, milk, and lambs.
Gloss., non occ.: Under the figure of a sheep in Scripture is signified simplicity and innocence. Beautifully then in this place are the elect denoted by sheep.
Jerome: Also the goat is a salacious animal, and was the offering for sins in the Law; and He says not ‘she goats’ which can produce young, and “come up shorn from the washing. [Song of Solomon 4:2]
Chrys.: Then He separates them in place.
Origen: For the Saints who have wrought right works, shall receive in recompense of their right works the King’s right hand, at which is rest and glory; but the wicked for their evil and sinister deeds have fallen to the left hand, that is, into the misery of torments. Then shall the King say to those who are on “his right hand, Come,” that in whatsoever they are behind they may make it up when they are more perfectly united to Christ. He adds, “ye blessed of my Father,” to shew how eminently blessed they were, being of old “blessed of the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” [Ps 115:15]
Raban.: Or, they are called “blessed,” to whom an eternal blessing is due for their good deserts. He calls it the kingdom of His Father, ascribing the dominion of the kingdom to Him by whom Himself the King was begotten. For by His royal power, with which He shall be exalted alone in that day, He shall pronounce the sentence of judgment, “Then shall the King say.”
Chrys.: Observe that He says not ‘Receive,’ but “possess,” or “inherit,” as due to you from of old.
Jerome: This “prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” is to be understood as of the foreknowledge of God, with whom things to come are as already done.
Aug., City of God, book xx, ch. 9: Besides that kingdom of which He will say in the end, “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you,” though in a very inferior manner, the present Church is also called His kingdom, in the which we are yet in conflict with the enemy until we come to that kingdom of peace, where we shall reign without an enemy.
Aug., Serm. 351, 8: But one will say, I desire not to reign, it is enough for me that I be saved. Wherein they are deceived,864 first, because there is no salvation for those whose iniquity abounds; and, secondly, because if there be any difference between those that reign, and those that do not reign, yet must all be within the same kingdom, lest they be esteemed for foes or aliens, and perish while the others reign. Thus all the Romans inherit the kingdom of Rome, though all do not reign in it.
Chrys.: For what the Saints obtain the boon of this heavenly kingdom He shews when He adds, “I was an hungred, and ye gave me to eat.”
Remig.: And it is to be noted, that the Lord here enumerates six works of mercy which whoso shall study to accomplish shall be entitled to the kingdom prepared for the chosen from the foundation of the world.
Raban.: Mystically, He who with the bread of the word and the drink of wisdom refreshes the soul hungering and thirsting after righteousness, or admits into the home of our mother the Church him who is wandering in heresy or sin, or who strengthens the weak in faith, such an one discharges the obligations of true love.
Greg., Mor. xxvi, 27: These, to whom as they stand on His right hand the Judge at His coming shall say, “I was an hungred &c.” are they who are judged on the side of the elect, and who reign; who wash away the stains of their life with tears; who redeem former sins by good deeds following; who, whatever unlawful thing they have at any time done, have covered it from the Judge’s eyes by a cloak of alms. Others indeed there are who are not judged, yet reign, who have gone even beyond the precepts of the Law in the perfection of their virtue.
Origen: It is from humility that they declare themselves unworthy of any praise for their good deeds, not that they are forgetful of what they have done. But He shews them His close sympathy with His own.
Raban.: “Lord, when saw we thee &c.” This they say not because they distrust the Lord’s words, but they are in amaze at so great exaltation, and at the greatness of their own glory; or because the good which they have done will seem to them to be so small according to that of the Apostle, “For the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us.” [Rom 8:18]
Jerome: It were indeed free to us to understand that it is Christ in every poor man whom we feed when he is hungry, or give drink to when he is thirsty, and so of other things;865 but when He says, “In that ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren,” He seems to me not to speak of the poor generally, but of the poor in spirit, those to whom He pointed and said, “Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother.” [Matt 12:50]
Chrys.: But if they are His brethren, why does He call them “the least?” Because they are lowly, poor, and outcast. By these He means not only the monks who have retired to the mountains, but every believer though he should be secular, though an hungred, or the like, yet He would have him obtain merciful succours, for baptism and communication of the Divine mysteries makes him a brother.
Origen: As He had said to the righteous, “Come ye,” so He says to the wicked, “Depart ye,” for they who keep God’s commandment are near to the Word, and are called that they may be made more near; but they are far from it, though they may seem to stand hard by, who do not His commands; therefore it is said to them, “Depart ye,” that those who seemed to be living before Him, might be no more seen.
It should be remarked, that though He had said to the Saints, “Ye blessed of my Father,” He says not now, “Ye cursed of my Father,” because of all blessing the Father is the author, but each man is the origin of his own curse when he does the things that deserve the curse. They who depart from Jesus fall into eternal fire, which is of a very different kind from that fire which we use. For no fire which we have is eternal, nor even of any long continuance.
And note, that He does not say, ‘the kingdom prepared for the Angels,’ as He does say “everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his Angels;” because He did not, as far as in Him lay, create men to perdition, but sinners yoke themselves to the Devil, so that as they that are saved are made equal to the holy Angels, they that perish are made equal with the Devil’s Angels.
Aug., City of God, xxi, 10: It is hence clear, that the same fire will be appropriated to the punishment of men and of daemons. If then it inflicts pain by corporeal touch, so as to produce bodily torment, how will there be in it any punishment for the evil spirits, unless the daemons have, as some have thought, bodies composed of gross and fluid air. But if any man asserts that the daemons have no bodies, we would not pugnaciously contend the point. For why may we not say, that truly, though wonderfully, even incorporeal spirit866 can feel pain of corporeal fire? If the spirits of men, though themselves incorporeal, can be now inclosed in bodily limbs, they can then be inseparably attached to the bonds of body. The daemons then will be united to a body of material fire, though themselves immaterial, drawing punishment from their body, not giving life to it. And that fire being material will torture such bodies as ours with their spirits; but the daemons are spirits without bodies.
Origen: Or it may be that fire is of such nature that it can burn invisible substances, being itself invisible, as the Apostle speaks, “The things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” [2 Cor 4:18] Wonder not when you hear that there is afire which though unseen has power to torture, when you see that there is an internal fever which comes upon men, and pains them grievously.
It follows, “I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat.” It is written to the believers, “Ye are the body of Christ.” [1 Cor 12:27] As then the soul dwelling in the body, though it hungers not in respect of its spiritual substance, yet hungers for the food of the body, because it is yoked to the body; so the Saviour suffers whatever His body the Church suffers, though He Himself be impassible.
And observe how in speaking to the righteous He reckons up their good deeds under their several kinds, but to the unrighteous He cuts short the description under the one head, “I was sick and in prison, and ye visited me not,” because it was the part of a merciful Judge to enlarge and dwell upon men’s good deeds, but to pass lightly and cursorily over their evil deeds.
Chrys.: Observe how they had failed in mercifulness, not in one or two respects only, but in all; not only did they not feed Him when He was hungry, but they did not even visit Him when He was sick, which was easier. And look how light things He enjoins; He said not, “I was in prison,” and ye did not set me free, but, and “ye visited me not.” Also His hunger required no costly dainties, but necessary food.
Each of these counts then is enough for their punishment. First, the slightness of His prayer, viz. for bread; secondly, the destitution of Him who sought it, for He was poor; thirdly, the natural feelings of compassion, for He was a man; fourthly, the expectation of His promise, for He promised a kingdom; fifthly, the greatness of Him who received, for it is God who receives in the867 poor man; sixthly, the preeminent honour, in that He condescended to take of men; and, seventhly, the righteousness of so bestowing it, for what He takes from us is our own. But avarice blinds men to all these considerations.
Greg.: They to whom this is said are the wicked believers, who are judged and perish; others, being unbelievers, are not judged and perish; for there is no examination of the condition of such as appear before the face of an impartial Judge already condemned by their unbelief; but those who hold the profession of the faith, but have not the works of their profession, are convicted that they may be condemned. These at least bear the words of their Judge, because they have at least kept the words of His faith. The others hear no words of their Judge pronouncing sentence of condemnation, because they have not paid Him honour even in word. For a prince who governs an earthly kingdom punishes after a different manner the rebellion of a subject and the hostile attempts of an enemy; in the former case, he recurs to his prerogative; against an enemy he takes arms, and does not ask what penalty the law attaches to his crime.
Chrys.: Thus convicted by the words of the Judge, they make answer submissively, “Lord, when saw we thee &c.”
Origen: Mark how the righteous dwell upon each word, while the unrighteous answer summarily, and not going through the particular instances; for so it becomes the righteous out of humility to disclaim each individual generous action, when imputed to them publicly; whereas bad men excuse their sins, and endeavour to prove them few and venial.
And Christ’s answer conveys this. And to the righteous He says, “In that ye did it to my brethren,” to shew the greatness of their good deeds; to the sinners He says only, “to one of the least of these,” not aggravating their sin. For they are truly His brethren who are perfect; and a deed of mercy shewn to the more holy is more acceptable to God than one shewn to the less holy; and the sin of overlooking the less holy is less than of overlooking the more holy.
Aug., City of God, book xx, ch. 1: He is now treating of the last judgment, when Christ shall come from heaven to judge the quick and dead. This day of the Divine judgment we call the Last Day, that is, the end of time; for we cannot tell through how many days that judgment will be prolonged; but day, as is the use of868 holy Scripture, is put for time. And we therefore call it the last or latest judgment, because He both now judges and has judged from the beginning of the human race, when He thrust forth the first man from the tree of life, and spared not the Angels that sinned. But in that final judgment both men and Angels shall be judged together, when the Divine power shall bring each man’s good and evil deeds in review before his memory, and one intuitive glance shall present them to the perception, so that at once we shall be condemned or acquitted in our consciences.
46. “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”
Aug., de Fid. et Op. 15: Some deceive themselves, saying, that the fire indeed is called everlasting, but not the punishment. This the Lord foreseeing, sums up His sentence in these words.
Origen: Observe that whereas He put first the invitation, “Come, ye blessed,” and after that, “Depart, ye cursed,” because it is the property of a merciful God to record the good deeds of the good, before the bad deeds of the bad; He now reverses the order, describing first the punishment of the wicked, and then the life of the good, that the terrors of the one may deter us from evil, and the honour of the other incite us to good.
Greg., Mor. xv, 19: If he who has not given to others is visited with so heavy a punishment, what shall he get who is convicted of having robbed others of their own.
Aug., City of God, book xix, ch. 11: Eternal life is our chief good, and the end of the city of God, of which the Apostle speaks, “And the end everlasting life.” [Rom 6:22] But because eternal life might be understood by those who are not well versed in Holy Scripture, to mean also the life of the wicked, because of the immortality of their souls, or because of the endless torments of the wicked; therefore we must call the end of this City in which the chief good shall be attained, either peace in life eternal, or life eternal in peace, that it may be intelligible to all.
Aug., de Trin. i, 8: That which the Lord spoke to His servant Moses, “I am that I am,” [Ex 3:14] this we shall contemplate when we shall live in eternity. For thus the Lord speaks, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true 869 God. [John 17:3] This contemplation is promised to us as the end of all action, and the eternal perfection of our joys, of which John speaks, “We shall see him as he is.” [1 John 3:2]
Jerome: Let the thoughtful reader observe that punishments are eternal, and that that continuing life has thenceforward no fear of fall.
Greg., Mor xxxiv, 19: They say that He held out empty terrors to deter them from sin. We answer, if He threatened falsely to check unrighteousness, then He promised falsely to promote good conduct. Thus while they go out of the way to prove God merciful, they are not afraid to charge Him with fraud. But, they urge, finite sin ought not to be visited with infinite punishment; we answer, that this argument would be just, if the righteous Judge considered men’s actions, and not their hearts. Therefore it belongs to the righteousness of an impartial Judge, that those whose heart would never be without sin in this life, should never be without punishment.
Aug., City of God, book xxi, ch. 11: And the justice of no law is concerned to provide that the duration of each man’s punishment should be the same with the sin which drew that punishment upon him. There never was any man, who held that the torment of him, who committed a murder or adultery, should be compressed within the same space of time as the commission of the act. And when for any enormous crime a man is punished with death, does the law estimate his punishment by the delay that takes place in putting him to death, and not rather by this, that they remove him for ever from the society of the living? And fines, disgrace, exile, slavery, when they, are inflicted without any hopes of mercy, do they not seem like eternal punishments in proportion to the length of this life? They are only therefore not eternal, because the life which suffers them is not itself eternal.
But they say, How then is that true which Christ says, “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again,” [Matt 7:2] if temporal sin is punished with eternal pain? They do not observe that this is said with a view, not to the equality of the period of time, but of the retribution of evil, i.e. that he that has done evil should suffer evil. Man was made worthy of everlasting evil, because he destroyed in himself that good which might have eternal.
Greg.: But they Say, no just man takes pleasure in cruelties, and the guilty servant870 was scourged to correct his fault. But when the wicked are given over to hell fire, to what purpose shall they burn there for ever? We reply, that Almighty God, seeing He is good, does not delight in the torments of the wretched; but forasmuch as He is righteous, He ceases not from taking vengeance on the wicked; yet do the wicked burn not without some purpose, namely, that the righteous may acknowledge how they are debtors for eternity to Divine grace, when they see the wicked suffering for eternity misery, which themselves have escaped only by the assistance of that Divine grace.
Aug., City of God, book xxi, ch. 3: But, they assert, nobody can be at once capable of suffering pain, and incapable of death. It must be that one live in pain, but it need not be that pain kill him; for not even these mortal bodies die from every pain; but the reason that some pain causes their death is, that the connection between the soul and our present body is such that it gives way to extreme pain. But then the soul shall be united to such a body, and in such a way, that no pain shall be able to overcome the connection. There will not then be no death, but an everlasting death, the soul being unable to live, as being without God, and equally unable to rid itself of the pains of body by dying. Among these impugners of the eternity of punishment, Origen is the most merciful, who believed that the Devil himself and his Angels, after sufferings proportioned to their deserts, and a long endurance, should be delivered from those torments, and associated with the holy Angels.
But for these and other things he was not undeservedly rebuked by the Church, because even his seeming mercy was thrown away, making for the saints real pains in which their sins were to be expiated, and fictitious blessedness, if the joys of the good were not to be secure and endless.
In quite another way does the mercy of others err through their humane sympathies, who think that the sufferings of those men who are condemned by this sentence will be temporal, but that the happiness of those who are set free sooner or later will be eternal. Why does their charity extend to the whole race of man, but dries up when they come to the angelic race?
Greg.: But they say, How can they be called Saints, if they shall not pray for their enemies whom they see then burning? They do indeed871 pray for their enemies so long as there is any possibility of converting their hearts to a profitable penitence, but how shall they pray for them when any change from their wickedness is no longer possible?
Aug., City of God, book xxi, ch. 19, 20, &c.: So some there are who hold out liberation from punishment not to all men, but to those only who have been washed in Christ’s Baptism, and have been partakers of His Body, let them have lived as they will; because of that which the Lord speaks, “If any man eat of this bread, he shall not die eternally.” [John 6:51] Again, others promise this not to all who have Christ’s sacrament, but to Catholics only, however ill their lives, who have eaten Christ’s Body, not in sacrament only, but in verity, (inasmuch as they are set in the Church, which is His Body,) even though they should afterwards have fallen into heresy or idolatry of the Gentiles.
And others again, because of what is written above, “He that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved,” [Matt 24:!3] promise this only to those who persevere in the Catholic Church, that by the worthiness of their foundation, that is, of their faith, they shall be saved by fire. All these the Apostle opposes when he says, “The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, uncleanness, fornication, and the like; of which I tell you before, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Whoever in his heart prefers temporal things to Christ, Christ is not his foundation, though he seem to have the faith of Christ. How much more then is he, who has committed things unlawful, convicted of not preferring Christ, but preferring other things to Him? I have also met with some who thought that only those would burn in eternal torments who neglected to give alms proportioned to their sins; and for this reason they think that the Judge Himself here mentions nothing else that He shall make enquiry of, but of the giving or not giving alms. But whoso gives alms worthily for his sins, first begins with himself; for it were unmeet that he should not do that to himself which be does to others when be has heard the words of God, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” [Matt 22:39] and hears likewise, “Be merciful to thy soul in pleasing God?” [Eccl 30:24]
He then who does not to his own soul this alms of pleasing God, how can he be said to give alms meet for his sins? Why we are to give alms then872 is only that when we pray for mercy for sins past, we may be heard; not that we may purchase thereby license for continuing in sin.
And the Lord forewarns us that He will put alms done on the right hand, and on the left alms not done, to shew us how mighty are alms to do away former sins, not to give impunity to a continuance in sin.
Origen: Or, It is not one kind of righteousness only that is rewarded, as many think. In whatsoever matters any one does Christ’s commands, be gives Christ meat and drink, Who feeds ever upon the truth and righteousness of His faithful people. So do we weave raiment for Christ when cold, when taking wisdom’s web, we inculcate upon others, and put upon them bowels of mercy. Also when we make ready with divers virtues our heart for receiving Him, or those who are His, we take Him in a stranger into the home of our bosom. Also when we visit a brother sick either in faith or in good works, with doctrine, reproof, or comfort, we visit Christ Himself. Moreover, all that is here, is the prison of Christ, and of them that are His, who live in this world, as though chained in the prison of natural necessity. When we do a good work to these, we visit them in prison, and Christ in them.
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