Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament 51-60

Author: Augustine

(NOTE: The electronic text obtained from The Electronic Bible Society was not completely corrected. EWTN has corrected all discovered errors.)



[Translated by Rev. R. G. MacMullen. Edited by Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D.]




1. By the lesson of the Gospel which has just been read, we are reminded to search what that harvest is of which the Lord says, "The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few. Pray ye the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into His harvest."(1) Then to His twelve disciples, whom He also named Apostles, He added other seventy-two, and sent them all, as appears from His words, to the harvest then ready. What then was that harvest? For that harvest was not among these Gentiles, among whom there had been nothing sown. It remains therefore that we understand that this harvest was among the people of the Jews. It was to that harvest that the Lord of the harvest came, to that harvest He sent reapers; but to the Gentiles He sent not reapers, but sowers. Understand we then that it was harvest among the people of the Jews, sowing time among the peoples of the Gentiles. For out of that harvest were the Apostles chosen, where now that the harvest was, the corn was already ripe; for there had the Prophets sown. Delightful it is to take a view of God's husbandry, and to feel delight in His gifts, and the labourers in His field. For in this husbandry did he labour, who said, "I laboured more than they all."(2) But the strength to labour was given him by the Lord of the harvest. Therefore he added, "Yet it is not I, but the grace of God which is with me." For that he was employed in this husbandry he clearly enough shows, where he says, "I have planted, Apollos watered."(3) But this Apostle, from Saul, becoming Paul, that is, from being proud, the least of all (for the name of Saul is derived from Saul; but Paul is little; whence in a way interpreting his own name, he says, "I am the least of the Apostles"(4): this Paul I say, the little, and the least, sent unto the Gentiles, says that he was sent particularly to the Gentiles. He himself so writes, we read, believe, preach it. He then in his Epistle to the Galatians says, that having been now called by the Lord Jesus, he came to Jerusalem, and "communicated the Gospel"(5) unto the Apostles, that their right hands were given to him, the sign of harmony, the sign of agreement, that what they had learnt from him differed in no respect from them. Afterwards he says that it was agreed between him and them, that he should go to the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision, he as a sower, they as reapers. So also with good reason, though they knew it not, did the Athenians give him his name. For as they heard the word from him, they said, "Who is this sower of words?"(6)

2. Attend then and be it your delight with me to take a view of the husbandry of God and the two harvests in it, the one already past, the other yet to come; the one already past among the people of the Jews, the one yet to come among the peoples of the Gentiles. Let us prove this; and whereby, but by the Scripture of God, the Lord of the harvest? See we have it said there in this present lesson, "The harvest is great, but the labourers are few. Pray ye the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into His harvest."(1) But because in that harvest there were to be gainsaying and persecuting Jews, He says, "Behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves."(7) Let us show something clearer still touching this harvest in the Gospel according to John, where the Lord sat as He was wearied at the well, great mysteries s indeed were transacted, but the time is too short to treat of them all. But give ye ear to that which relates to the present subject. For we have undertaken to show a harvest among the people, among whom the Prophets preached; for therefore were they sowers, that the Apostles might be reapers. A woman of Samaria talks with the Lord Jesus, and when the Lord among other things had told her how God ought to be worshipped, she says, "We know that Messias cometh who is called Christ, and He will teach us all things. And the Lord saith to her, I that speak with thee am He."(9) Believe what thou hearest; why dost thou make search for what thou seest? "I that speak with thee am He." But as to what she had said, "We know that the Messias will come," whom Moses and the Prophets have announced, "who is called Christ." The harvest was already in the ear. When it had yet to grow it had received the Prophets as sowers, now that it was come to ripeness it waited for the Apostles as reapers. Presently as she heard this she believed and left her water-pot, and ran in haste, and began to announce the Lord. The disciples at that time had gone to buy bread; who on their return found the Lord talking with the woman, and they marvelled. Yet did they not dare to say to Him, "What or why talkest Thou with her?"(1) They had astonishment in themselves, they repressed their boldness in their heart. To this Samaritan woman then the Name. of Christ was nothing new, she was already waiting for His coming, already did she believe that He would come. Whence had she believed it, if Moses had not sown? But hear this more expressly noted. The Lord then said to His disciples, "Ye say that the summer is yet far distant, lift up your eyes, and see the fields white already to harvest"(2) And then He adds, "Others have laboured, and ye are entered into their labours."(3) Abraham laboured, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the Prophets laboured in sowing; at the Lord's coming the harvest was found ripe. The reapers sent with the scythe of the Gospel, carried the sheaves into the Lord's floor, where Stephen was to be threshed.

3. But here comes in that Paul, and he is sent to the Gentiles. And this he does not conceal in setting forth the grace, which he had specially and peculiarly received. For he says in his Scriptures, that he was sent to preach the Gospel where Christ had not been named.(4) But because that first harvest was past already, and all the Jews who remained are no harvest, let us consider that harvest which we ourselves are. For it has been sown by Apostles and Prophets. The Lord Himself sowed it. For He was in the Apostles, seeing that Christ also Himself reaped it. For they are nothing without Him; He is perfect without them. For He saith Himself to them, "For without Me, ye can do nothing."(5) What then doth Christ from henceforth sowing among the Gentiles say? "A sower went out to sow."(6) "There" are reapers "sent out "to reap," here "an unwearied sower "went out" to sow. For what fear did it cause him, that "some seed fell on the way side, and some on rocky places, and some among thorns"? If he had been afraid of these unmanageable(7) grounds, he would never have got to the good ground. What is it to us, what affair of ours is it to be disputing now of the Jews, and talking of the chaff? this only concerns us, that we be not "the way side," nor "the rock," nor "the thorns," but "the good ground." Be our heart well-prepared, that from it may come the "thirty," or the "sixty fold," or the thousand, and the "hundred fold;" some more, some less; but all is wheat. Let it not be "the way side," where the enemy as a bird may take away the seed trodden down by the passers by. Let it not be "the rock," where the shallow soil makes it spring up immediately, so that it cannot bear the sun. Let it not be the "thorns," the lusts of this world, the anxieties of an ill-ordered(8) life. For what is worse than that anxiety of life, which doth not suffer one to attain unto Life? What more miserable, than by caring for life, to lose Life? What more unhappy, than by fearing death, to fall into death? Let the thorns be rooted up, the field prepared, the seeds put in, let them grow unto the harvest, let the barn be longed for, not the fire feared.

4. My place accordingly it is, whom with all my unworthiness the Lord hath appointed to be a labourer in His field, to say these things to you, to sow, to plant, to water, yea to dig round about some trees, and to apply the basket of(9) dung; belongeth it to me to do these things faithfully; to you to receive them faithfully; to the Lord to aid me in my labour, and you in your belief, all of us labouring, but in Him overcoming the world. What then belongs to your place I have already said; now I wish to say what belongs to ours. But peradventure it seems to some of you, that it is something superfluous which I have declared that I wish to say, and speaking within themselves they are saying in thought, "O that he would now let us go! He has said already what belongs to our place, as to that which belongs to his, what is that to us?" I think it is better that in a reciprocal and mutual love, we should belong to you. Ye are now indeed of one family, we of the same family are dispensers, it is true, but we all belong to one Lord. Nor what I give, do I give of mine own; but of His from whom I also receive. For if I should give of mine own, I shall give a lie. "For he that speaketh a lie, speaketh of his own."(10) So then ye ought to give ear to that which belongs to the duty of the dispenser, whether it be that ye may have joy in yourselves, if ye find yourselves to be such, or whether it be that ye may be even in this very thing instructed. For how many are there among this people who shall some day be dispensers! I too was once where ye now are; and I who am seen now to be measuring out to my fellowservants their food from this higher place, a few years since in a lower place was receiving food with my fellow-servants. I am speaking now a Bishop to lay-men; but I know that in speaking to them I am speaking to many who will some day be bishops also.

5. Let us see then how we must understand what the Lord enjoined on them whom He sent to preach the Gospel, and let us consider in our mind this prepared harvest. "Carry," He saith, "neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes; and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, say, Peace be to this house. If the Son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it; if not, it shall return to you again."(1) If it hath "rested," hath the other lost it? This be far from the mind of Saints! So then this is not to be taken in a carnal sense; and hence it may be neither are the "purse," nor "shoes," nor "scrip;" nor above all that, where if we take it simply without examination, pride seems to be enjoined us, that we "salute no man by the way."

6. Let us give heed to our Lord, our True Example and Succour. Let us prove that He is our Succour; "Without Me ye can do nothing."(2) Let us prove that He is our Example; "Christ," says Peter, "suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps."(3) Our Lord Himself had bags in the way, and these bags He entrusted to Judas. It is true He suffered from the thief; but I as desiring to learn of my Lord say, "O Lord, Thou didst suffer from the thief, whence hadst Thou that of which he could take away? Me, a wretched and infirm man Thou hast admonished not even to carry a purse; Thou didst carry bags, and hadst that in which Thou couldest suffer from the thief. If Thou hadst not carried them, neither could he have found anything to take away." What remains, but that he here saith to me, "Understand what that thou hearest, 'Carry no purse,' means? What is a purse? Money shut up, that is, concealed wisdom. What is, 'Carry no purse? Be not wise within your own selves only.(4) Receive ye the Holy Ghost.' It should be a fountain in thee, not a purse; from whence distribution is made to others, not where it is itself shut in." And the scrip is the same as the purse.

7. What are "the shoes"? The shoes which we use, are the skins of dead beasts, the coverings of our feet. By this then are we bidden to renounce dead works. This Moses was admonished of in a figure, when the Lord speaking to him said, "Loose thy shoes from off thy feet; for the place wherein thou standest is holy ground."(5) What ground is so holy as the Church of God? In it therefore let us stand, let us loose our shoes, let us, that is, renounce dead works. For as touching these shoes, wherewith we walk, the same my Lord again assures me. For if He had not been shod Himself, John would not have said of Him, "I am not worthy to unloose the latchet of His shoes."(6) Be there obedience then, let not a haughty severity steal over us. "I," says one, "fulfil the Gospel, because I walk with naked feet." Well, thou canst do it, I cannot. But let us both keep that which we both receive together. How? Let us glow with charity, let us love one another; and so it shall be, that I will love your strength, and thou shall bear my weakness.

8. But what thinkest thou, who dost not choose to understand in what sense these words are used, and who art forced by thy(7) perverse interpretation to slander even the Lord Himself as to the "bags" and "shoes;" what thinkest thou? Does it please thee then, that as we meet our friends in the way, we should neither pay them our salutations if they are our betters, nor return the salutations of our inferiors? What, dost thou fulfil the Gospel, because thou art saluted, and art silent? But thus thou wilt not be like to the traveller going on the way, but to the milestone pointing out the way. Let us then lay aside this coarse s interpretation, and understand aright the words of the Lord, "and salute no man by the way." For it is not without a cause that we are enjoined this, nor would He mislike us to do what He enjoined. What then is, "Salute no man by the way"? It might indeed be even simply taken thus, that He has commanded us to do what He enjoins with all speed; and that His words "Salute no man by the way," are as though He bad said, "Put all other things by, till ye accomplish what has been enjoined you;" according to that style of speaking by which expressions are wont to be exaggerated in the custom of conversation. Nor need we go far; in the same discourse a little while afterwards He says, "And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shall be thrust down to hell."(9) What is, "exalted to heaven"? Did the walls of that city touch the clouds, or reach to the stars? But what is " exalted to heaven"? Thou seemest thyself to be surpassing happy, surpassing powerful, thou art exceeding proud. As then for the sake of exaggeration this was said, "Thou art exalted unto heaven" to that city, which was not exalted, nor rose up unto heaven; so to express haste hyperbolically was it said, "So run, so do what I have enjoined you, that travellers by the way may not n the least retard you; but disregarding all things else, hasten to the end set before you."

9. But there is another more recondite meaning in these words which it is not difficult to understand, which respects more particularly myself and all dispensers, and you too who are hearers. He that salutes, wishes salvation.(10) For so the ancients in their letters wrote thus, "Such a one sends salvation to another." Salutation derives its name from this salvation. What then is, "Salute no man by the way"? They who "salute by the way," do so "by occasion." I see that ye have quickly understood me, yet for all that I must not finish yet. For ye have not all understood so quickly. I have seen that some understand by their voice, I see more asking for something further by their silence. But seeing that we are talking of the way, let us walk as it were in the way: ye quick ones, wait for the slow, and walk evenly. What then did I say, He "who salutes by the way," salutes only by occasion? He was not going to him whom he salutes. He was about one thing, another came in his way; he was seeking one thing, he found across his path some other thing to do. What then is it to "salute by occasion"? "By occasion" to announce salvation. Now what else is it to announce salvation, but to preach the Gospel? If then thou dost preach, do it by love, and not "by occasion." There are men then, who though "they seek their own things," yet preach no other Gospel; of whom the Apostle says with sighing, "For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's."(1) And these "saluted," that is announced salvation, they preached the Gospel; but they sought some other thing, and therefore they saluted only "by occasion." And what is this? If thou art such an one, whosoever thou art, thou doest it; nay not all of you who do it are such, but it may be that some of you who do it are. But if thou art such, it is not that thou doest it, but it is done by thee.

10. For such as these did the Apostle suffer; yet did he not enjoin them so to be. And these do something, or something is done by them; they seek something else, yet they preach the word. Care not what the preacher seeks after; be it thy will to hold fast what he preaches; but let his intention be no concern of thine. Hear the word of salvation from his mouth, from his mouth hold fast this salvation. Be not thou the judge of his heart. If thou seest that he is seeking after other things, what is that to thee? Hear Him who is Salvation;(2) "What they say, do." (3) He has given thee assurance who hath said, "What they say, do." Do they evil? "Do not what they do." Do they good. They do not "salute by the way," they do not preach the Gospel by occasion; "be ye followers of them, even as they also are of Christ."(4) A good man preaches to thee; pluck the grape from the vine. A bad man preaches to thee, pluck the grape as it hangs in the hedge. The cluster has grown on the vine-branch entangled among the thorns, but it has not grown from the thorns. By all means when thou seest any such thing as this and art hungry, be careful as thou pluckest it, lest when thou puttest forth thy hand to the grape, thou be torn by the thorns. This is what I say; in such wise hear what is good, as that thou imitate not the evil of the character. Let him preach "by occasion," salute by the way; it will injure him because he has not given ear to the precept of Christ, "Salute no than by the way;" it will not injure thee, who, whether thou dost hear of salvation(2) from a passer by, or from one who comes direct to thee, dost hold fast that salvation. Hear the Apostle, who as I have said already gives us to understand this. "What then?" "So that in every way, whether by occasion or in truth, Christ is preached; and herein I do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer."(5)

11. Let then such as these, the Apostles of Christ, the preachers of the Gospel, who "salute not by the way," that is, who do not seek or do any other thing, but who in genuine charity preach the Gospel, let them come into the house, and say, "Peace to this house." They speak not with the mouth only; they pour out that of which they are full; they preach peace, and they have peace. They are not as those of whom it was said, "Peace, Peace, and there is no peace."(6) What is, "Peace, Peace, and there is no peace"? They preach it, but they have it not; they praise it and they love it not; they say, and do not. But yet do thou receive the peace, "whether by occasion or in truth Christ be preached." Whoso then is full of peace, and salutes, saying, "Peace to this house, if the son of peace be there, his peace shall rest upon him; if not," for peradventure there is no one of peace there, yet he who saluted has lost nothing, "it shall return," says he, "to you again." It shall return to thee, though it never departed from thee. For this He would mean to say, It profiteth thee that thou hast declared it, it hath not profited him at all who hath not received it; thou hast not lost thy reward, because he hath remained empty; it is rendered thee for thy good will, it is rendered thee for the charity which thou hast bestowed, He will render it to thee who hath given thee assurance of it by that Angelic voice, "Peace on earth to then of good will."(7)




1. WHAT our Lord Jesus Crist at that that time spake to His disciples was put in writing, and prepared for us to hear. And so we have heard His words. For what profit would it be to us if He were seen, and were not heard? And now it is no hurt, that He is not seen, and yet is heard. He saith then, "He that despiseth you, despiseth Me." (1) If to the Apostles only He said, "He that despiseth you, despiseth Me;" do ye despise us. But if His word reach to us, and He hath called us, and set us in their place, see that ye despise not us, lest the wrong ye shall do unto us reach to Him. For if ye fear not us, fear Him who said, "He that despiseth you, despiseth Me." But why do we, who are unwilling to be despised by you, speak to you, except that we may have joy of your good conversation? Let your good works be the solace of our perils. Live well, that ye may not die ill.

2. And in these words which I have spoken, "Live well, that ye may not die ill," do not think of those who it may be have lived evilly, and have died in their beds; and the pomp of their funeral has been displayed, and they have been laid in costly coffins, in sepulchres prepared with exceeding beauty and labour; nor because each one of you perhaps is saying, "I should wish so to die," do ye think that it is a vain thing I have chosen to say; when I said that I would that ye should live well, that ye may not die ill? On the other hand, the case of some one, it may be, occurs to you, who has both lived well, and according to the opinion of men has died ill; perhaps he has died from the fall of a house, has died by shipwreck, has died by wild beasts; and each carnal man is saying in his heart, "What good is it to live well? See this man has so lived, and in this wise has he died." "Return therefore to your heart;" and if ye are faithful ones, ye will find Christ there; He speaketh to you there. For I cry aloud, but He in silence giveth more instruction. I speak by the sound of words; He speaketh within by the fear of the thoughts. May He then engraft my word in your heart; for I have taken upon me to say, "Live well, that ye may not die ill." See, for faith is in your hearts, and Christ dwelleth there, and it is His place to teach what I desire to give utterance to.

3. Remember that rich and that poor man in the Gospel; "the rich man clothed in purple and fine linen," and crammed with daily feastings; and the poor man "lying before" the rich man's gate, hungry, and looking for "the crumbs from his table, full of sores, licked" by "dogs."(2) Remember, I say; and whence do ye remember, but because Christ is there in your hearts? Tell me, what have ye asked Him within, and what hath He answered. For he goes on to say, "It came to pass that that poor man died, and was t carried by the Angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried in hell. And being in torments he lifted up his eyes, and saw Lazarus resting m Abraham's bosom. Then he cried, saying, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip his finger in water, and drop it on my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame."(3) Proud in the world,(4) in hell a beggar! For that poor man did attain to his crumbs; but the other attained not to the drop of water. Of these two then, tell me, which died well, and which died ill? Do not ask the eyes, return to the heart. For if ye ask the eyes, they will answer you falsely. For vastly splendid, and disguised with much worldly show, are the honours which could be paid to that rich man in his death. What crowds of mourning slaves and handmaids might there be! what pompous train of dependants! what splendid funeral obsequies! what costliness of burial! I suppose he was overwhelmed with spices. What shall we say then, Brethren, that he died well, or died ill? If ye ask the eyes, he died very well; if ye enquire of your inner Master, he died most ill.

4. If then those haughty men who keep their own goods to themselves, and bestow none of them upon the poor, die in this way; how do they die who plunder the goods of others? Therefore have I said with true reason, "Live well, that ye die not ill," that ye die not as that rich man died. Nothing proves an evil death, but the time after death. On the other hand, look at that poor man; not with the eyes, for so ye will err; let faith look at him, let the heart see him. Set him before your eyes lying on the ground, "full of sores, and the dogs" coming and "licking his sores." Now when ye recall him before your eyes in this guise, immediately ye loathe him, ye turn your face away, and stop your nostrils: see then with the eyes of the heart. "He died, and was carried by the Angels into Abraham's bosom." The rich man's family was seen bewailing him; the Angels were not seen rejoicing. What then did Abraham answer the rich man? "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst good things."(5) Thou thoughtest nothing good, but what thou hadst in this life. Thou hast received them; but those days are past; and thou hast lost the whole; and thou hast remained behind to be tormented in hell."

5. Opportune then was it, Brethren, that those words should be spoken to you. Have respect unto the poor, whether lying on the ground, or walking; have respect unto the poor, do good works. Ye who are wont so to do, do it still and ye who are not wont to do so, do it now. Let the number of those who do good works increase; since the number of the faithful increases also. Ye do not yet see how great is the good ye do; for so the husbandman also sees not the crop when he sows, but he trusts the ground. Wherefore dost thou not trust God? Our harvest will come. Think, that we are busy in travail now, are working in travail now, but sure to receive, as it is written, "They went on and wept as they cast their seed; but they shall surely come with exultation, bringing their sheaves with them."(1)




1. The words of our Lord Jesus Christ which have just been read out of the Gospel, give us to understand, that there is some one thing for which we must be making, when we toil amid the manifold engagements of this life. Now we make for this as being yet in pilgrimage, and not in our abiding place; as yet in the way, not yet in our country; as yet in longing, not yet in enjoyment. Yet let us make for it, and that without sloth and without intermission, that we may some time be able to reach it.

2. Martha and Mary were two sisters, true kinswomen both, not only in blood, but in religion also; both clave to the Lord, both with one heart served the Lord when He was present in the flesh. Martha received Him, as strangers are usually received. Yet it was the handmaid received her Lord, the sick her Saviour, the creature her Creator. And she received Him to be fed in the body, herself to be fed in spirit. For the Lord was pleased to "take on Him the form of a servant,"(2) and "having taken the form of a servant" in it to be fed by servants, by reason of His condescension, not His condition. For this truly was condescension, to allow Himself to be fed by others. He had a body, wherein He might hunger indeed and thirst; but do ye not know that when He hungered in the wilderness Angels ministered to Him?(3) So then, in that He was pleased to be fed, He showed favour to them that fed Him. And what marvel is this, seeing He showed this same favour to the widow as touching the Holy Elias, whom He had before fed by the ministry of a raven?(4) Did He fail in His power of feeding him, when He sent him to the widow? By no means. He did not fail in His power of feeding him, when He sent him to the widow; but He designed to bless the religious widow, by means of her pious office paid to His servant. Thus then was the Lord received as a guest, "who came unto His own, and His own received Him not: but as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God:"(5) adopting servants, and making them brethren; redeeming captives, and making them co-heirs. Yet let none of you, as perhaps may be the case, say, "O blessed they who obtained the grace(6) to receive Christ into their own house!" Do not grieve, do not murmur, that thou wert born in times when thou seest the Lord no more in the flesh; He has not taken this blessedness from thee. "Forasmuch," says He, "as ye have done it unto the least of Mine, ye have done unto Me." (7)

3. These few words, as the shortness of the time allowed me, would I speak concerning the Lord who was pleased to be fed in the flesh, while He feedeth in the spirit: let us now come to the subject which I have proposed concerning unity. Martha, who was arranging and preparing to feed the Lord, was occupied about much serving. Mary her sister chose rather to be fed by the Lord. She in a manner deserted her sister who was toiling about much serving, and she sat herself at the Lord's feet, and in stillness heard His word. Her most faithful ear had heard already; "Be still, and see that I am the Lord."(8) Martha was troubled, Mary was feasting; the one was arranging many things, the other had her eyes upon the One. Both occupations were good; but yet as to which was the better, what shall we say? We have One whom we may ask, let us give ear together. Which was the better, we heard now when the lesson was read, and let us hear again as I repeat it. Martha appeals to her Guest, lays the request of her pious complaints before the Judge, that her sister had deserted her, and neglected to assist her when she was so busied in her serving. Without any answer from Mary, yet in her presence, the Lord gives judgment. Mary preferred as in repose to commit her cause to the Judge, and had no mind to busy herself in making answer. For if she were to be getting ready words to answer, she must remit her earnest attention to hear. Therefore the Lord answered, who was in no difficulty for words, in that He was the Word. What then did He say? "Martha, Martha."(9) The repetition of the name is a token of love, or perhaps of exciting attention; she is named twice, that she might give the more attentive heed. "Martha, Martha," hear: "Thou art occupied about many things: but one thing is needful;"(10) for so meaneth unum opus est, not "one work," that is, one single work, but one is needful, is expedient, is necessary, which one thing Mary had chosen.(1)

4. Consider, Brethren, this "one thing," and see if even in multitude itself anything pleases, but "this oneness." See how great a number, through God's mercy, ye are: who could bear you, if ye did not mind "one thing"? Whence in this many is this quiet? Give oneness, and it is a people; take oneness away, and it is a crowd. For what is a crowd, but a disordered multitude? But give ear to the Apostle: "Now I beseech you, brethren." He was speaking to a multitude; but be wished to make them all "one." "Now I beseech you, brethren, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you; but that ye be perfected in the same mind, and in the same knowledge."(2) And in another place, "That ye be of one mind, thinking one thing, doing nothing through strife or vainglory."(3) And the Lord prays to the Father touching them that are His: "that they may be one even as We are One."(4) And in the Acts of the Apostles; "And the multitude of them that believed were of one soul, and of one heart."(5) Therefore, "Magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name in one together."(6) For one thing is necessary, that celestial(7) Oneness, the Oneness in which the Father, and the Son, and Holy Spirit are One. See how the praise of Unity is commended to us. Undoubtedly our God is Trinity. The Father is not the Son the Son is not the Father, the Holy Spirit is neither the Father, nor the Son, but the Spirit of both; and yet these Three are not Three Gods, nor Three Almighties; but One God, Almighty, the whole Trinity is one God; because One thing is necessary. To this one thing nothing brings us, except being many we have one heart.

5. Good are ministrations done to the poor, and especially the due services and the religious offices done to the saints of God. For they are a payment, not a gift, as the Apostle says, "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?"(8) Good are they, we exhort you to them, yea by the word of the Lord we build you up, "be not slow to entertain" the saints. Sometimes, they who were not aware of it, by entertaining those whom they knew not, have entertained angels.(9) These things are good; yet better is that thing which Mary hath chosen. For the one thing hath manifold trouble from necessity; the other hath sweetness from charity. A man wishes when he is serving, to meet with something; and sometimes he is not able: that which is lacking is sought for, that which is at hand is got ready; and the mind is distracted. For if Martha had been sufficient for these things, she would not have demanded her sister's help. These things are manifold, are diverse, because they are carnal, because they are temporal; good though they be, they are transitory. But what said the Lord to Martha? "Mary hath chosen that better part." Not thou a bad, but she a better. Hear, how better; "which shall not be taken away from her."(10) Some time or other, the burden of these necessary duties shall be taken from thee: the sweetness of truth is everlasting. "That which she hath chosen shall not be taken away from her." It is not taken away, but yet it is increased. In this life, that is, is it increased, in the other life it will be perfected, never shall it be "taken away."

6. Yea, Martha, blessed in thy good serving, even thou (with thy leave would I say it) seekest this reward for all thy labour--quiet. Now thou art occupied about much serving, thou hast pleasure in feeding bodies which are mortal, though they be the bodies of Saints; but when thou shalt have got to that country, wilt thou find there any stranger whom thou mayest receive into thine house? wilt thou find the hungry, to whom thou mayest break thy bread? or the thirsty, to whom thou mayest hold out thy cup? the sick whom thou mayest visit? the litigious, whom thou mayest set at one? the dead, whom thou mayest bury? None of all these will be there, but what will be there? What Mary hath chosen; there shall we be fed, and shall not feed others. Therefore there will that be in fulness and perfection which Mary hath chosen here; from that rich table, from the word of the Lord did she gather up some crumbs. For would ye know what will be there? The Lord Himself saith of His servants: "Verily I say unto you, that He will make them to sit down to meat, and will pass by" and serve them."(12) What is "to sit down to meat," but to "be still"? What is, "to sit down to meat," but to rest? What is, "He will pass by and serve them"? First, He passeth by, and so serveth. And where? In that heavenly Banquet, of which he saith, "Verily I say unto you, Many shall come from the East and West, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.'(13) There will the Lord feed us, but first He passeth on from hence. For (as ye should know) the Pasch is by interpretation Passing-over. The Lord came, He did divine things, He suffered human things. Is He still spit upon? Is He still struck with the palm of the hand? Is He still crowned with thorns? Is He still scourged? Is He still crucified? Is He still wounded with a spear? "He hath passed by." And so too the Gospel tells us, when He kept the Paschal feast with His disciples. What says the Gospel? "But when the hour was come that Jesus should pass out of this world unto the Father."(1) Therefore did He pass,(2) that He might feed us; let us follow, that we may be fed.




1. When the holy Gospel was being read, we heard that the Lord was received by a religious woman into her house, and her name was Martha. And while she was occupied in the care of serving, her sister Mary was sitting at the Lord's Feet, and hearing His Word. The one was busy, the other was still; one was giving out, the other was being filled. Yet Martha, all busy as she was in that occupation and toil of serving, appealed to the Lord, and complained of her sister, that she did not help her in her labour. But the Lord answered Martha for Mary; and He became her Advocate, who had been appealed to as Judge. "Martha," He saith, "thou art occupied about many things, when one thing is necessary. Mary bath chosen the better part, which shall not be taken from her."(3) For we have heard both the appeal of the appellant, and the sentence of the Judge. Which sentence answered the appellant, defended the other's cause. For Mary was intent on the sweetness of the Lord's word. Martha was intent, how she might feed the Lord; Mary intent how she might be fed by the Lord. By Martha a feast was being prepared for the Lord, in whose feast Mary was even now delighting herself. As Mary then was listening with sweet pleasure to His most sweet word, and was feeding with the most earnest affection, when the Lord was appealed to by her sister, how, think we, did she fear, lest the Lord should say to her, "Rise and help thy sister"? For by a wondrous sweetness was she held; a sweetness of the mind which is doubtless greater than that of the senses.(4) She was excused, she sat in greater confidence. And how excused? Let us consider, examine, investigate it thoroughly as we can, that we may be fed also.

2. For what, do we imagine that Martha's serving was blamed, whom the cares of hospitality had engaged, who had received the Lord Himself into her house? How could she be rightly blamed, who was gladdened by so great a guest? If this be true, let men give over their ministrations to the needy; let them choose for themselves "the better part, which shall not be taken from" them; let them give themselves(5) wholly to the word, let them long after the sweetness of doctrine; be occupied about the saving knowledge; let it be no care to them, what stranger is in the street, who there is that wants bread, or clothing, or to be visited, to be redeemed, to be buried; let works of mercy cease, earnest heed be given to knowledge only. If this be "the better part," why do not all do this, when we have the Lord Himself for our defender in this behalf? For we do not fear in this matter, lest we should offend His justice, when we have the support of His judgment.

3. And yet it is not so; but as the Lord spake so it is. It is not as thou understandest; but it is as thou oughtest to understand it. So mark; "Thou art occupied about many things, when one thing is needful. Mary hath chosen the better part." Thou hast not chosen a bad part; but she a better. And how better? Because thou art "about many things," she about "one thing." One is preferred to many. For one does not come from many, but many from one.

The things which were made, are many, He who made them is One. The heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that in them are, how many are they! Who could enumerate them? who conceive their vast number? Who made all these? God made them all. Behold, "they are very good."(6) Very good are the things He made; how much better is He who made them! Let us consider then our "occupations about many things." Much serving is necessary for the refreshment of our bodies. Wherefore is this? Because we hunger, and thirst. Mercy is necessary for the miserable. Thou breakest bread to the hungry; because thou hast found an hungry man; take hunger away; to whom dost thou break bread? Take houseless wandering(7) away; to whom dost thou show hospitality? Take nakedness away; to whom dost thou furnish clothes? Let there be no sickness; whom dost thou visit? No captivity; whom dost thou redeem? No quarrelling; whom dost thou reconcile? No death; whom dost thou bury? In that world to come, these evils will not be; therefore these services will not be either. Well then did Martha, as touching the bodily--what shall I call it, want, or will, of the Lord?-- minister to His mortal flesh. But who was He in that mortal flesh? "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God:"(8) see what Mary was listening to! "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us:"(1) see to whom Martha was ministering! Therefore "hath Mary chosen the better part, which shall not be taken from her." For she chose that which shall abide for ever; "it shall not be taken from her." She wished to be occupied about "one thing." She understood already, "But it is good for me to cleave to the Lord."(2) She sat at the feet of our Head. The more lowlily she sat, the more amply did she receive. For the water flows together to the low hollows of the valley, runs down from the risings of the hill. The Lord then did not blame Martha's work, but distinguished between their services. "Thou art occupied about many things; yet one thing is needful." Already hath Mary chosen this for herself. The labour of manifoldness passeth away, and the love of unity abideth. Therefore what she hath chosen, "shall not be taken from her." But from thee, that which thou hast chosen (of course this follows, of course this is understood) from thee, that which thou hast chosen shall be taken away. But to thy blessedness shall it be taken away, that that which is better may be given. For labour shall be taken away from thee, that rest may be given. Thou art still on the sea, she is already in port.

4. Ye see then, dearly Beloved, and, as I suppose, ye understand already, that in these two women, who were both well pleasing to the Lord, both objects of His love, both disciples; ye see, I say (and an important thing it is which whosoever understand, understand hereby, a thing which, even those of you who do not understand ought to give ear to, and to know), that in these two women the two lives are figured, the life present, and the life to come, the life of labour, and the life of quiet, the life of sorrow, and the life of blessedness, the life temporal, and the life eternal. These are the two lives: do ye think of them more fully. What this life contains, I speak not of a life of evil, or iniquity, or wickedness, or luxuriousness, or ungodliness; but of labour, and full of sorrows, by fears subdued, by temptations disquieted: even this harmless life I mean, such as was suitable for Martha: this life I say, examine as best ye can; and as I have said, think of it more fully than I speak. But a wicked life was far from that house, and was neither with Martha nor with Mary; and if it ever had been, it fled at the Lord's entrance. There remained then in that house, which had received the Lord, in the two women the two lives, both harmless, both praiseworthy; the one of labour, the other of ease; neither vicious, neither slothful. Both harmless, both, I say, praiseworthy: but one of labour, the other of ease: neither vicious, which the life of labour must beware of; neither slothful, which the life of ease must beware of. There were then in that house these two lives, and Himself, the Fountain of life. In Martha was the image of things present, in Mary of things to come. What Martha was doing, that we are now; what Mary was doing, that we hope for. Let us do the first well, that we may have the second fully. For what of it have we now? How far have we it? As long as we are here, how much of it is there that we have? For in some measure are we employed in it now, and ye too when removed from business, and laying aside domestic cares, ye meet together, stand, listen. In so far as ye do this, ye are like Mary. And with greater facility do ye do that which Mary doeth, than I who have to distribute. Yet if I say ought, it is Christ's; therefore doth it feed you, because it is Christ's. For the Bread is common to us all, of which I too live as well as you. "But now we live, if ye, Brethren, stand fast in the Lord."(3) I would not that ye should stand fast in us, but in the Lord. "For neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase."(4)


[CV. BEN.]


1. We have heard our Lord, the Heavenly Master, and most faithful Counsellor exhorting us, who at once exhorteth us to ask, and giveth when we ask. We have heard Him in the Gospel exhorting us to ask instantly, and to knock even after the likeness of intrusive importunity. For He has set before us, for the sake of example, "If any of you had a friend, and were to ask of him at night for three loaves,(5) when a friend out of his way had come to him, and he had nothing to set before him; and he were to answer that he was now at rest, and his servants with him, and that he must not be disturbed by his entreaties; but the other were to be instant and persevering in knocking, and not being alarmed in modesty to depart, but compelled by necessity to continue on; that he would rise, though not for friendship's sake, at least for the other's importunity, and would give him as many as he wished." And how many did he wish? He wished for no more than three. To this parable then, the Lord adjoined an exhortation, and urged us earnestly to ask, seek, knock, till we receive what we ask, and seek, and knock for, making use of an example from a contrary case; as of that "judge who neither feared God, nor regarded man,"(1) and yet when a certain widow besought him day by day, overcome by her importunity, he gave her that which he could not in kindness give her, against his will. But our Lord Jesus Christ, who is in the midst of us a Petitioner, with God a Giver, would not surely exhort us so strongly to ask, if He were not willing to give. Let then the slothfulness of men be put to shame; He is more willing to give, than we to receive; He is more willing to show mercy, than we to be delivered from misery; and doubtless if we shall not be delivered, we shall abide in misery. For the exhortation He giveth us, He giveth only for our own sakes.

2. Let us awake, and believe Him who exhorteth us, obey Him who promiseth us, and rejoice in Him who giveth unto us. For peradventure, some time or other some friend out of his way has come to us too, and we have found nothing to set before him; and under the experience of this necessity, we have received both for ourselves and him. For it cannot be, but that some one of us hath fallen in with a friend who asked him something, which he could not answer; and then he has discovered that he has it not, when he is pressed to give it. A friend has come to thee "out of the way," out, that is, of the life of this world, in which all men are passing along as strangers, and no one abides here as possessor; but to every man it is said, "Thou hast been refreshed, pass on, go on thy way, give place to the next comer."(2) Or perhaps from an evil "way," that is, from an evil life, some friend of thine wearied out, and not finding the truth, by the hearing and perceiving of which he may be made happy, but exhausted amid all the lust and poverty of the world, comes to thee, as to a Christian, and says, "Give me an account of this, make me a Christian." And he asks what it may be thou didst not know through the simplicity of thy faith; and so thou hast not whereby to recruit him in his hunger, and reminded thus thou discoverest thine own indigence; and when thou wishest to teach thou art forced to learn; and whilst thou dost blush before him who asked thee, as not finding in thyself what he was seeking for, thou art compelled to seek, that thou mayest be thought worthy(3) to find.

3. And where shouldest thou seek. Where but in the books of the Lord? Peradventure what he has asked is contained in the book, but it is obscure. Perhaps the Apostle has declared it in some Epistle: declared it in such wise, that thou canst read, but canst not understand it: thou art not permitted to pass on. For the interrogator urges thee; Paul himself, or Peter, or any of the Prophets thou art not allowed to ask. For this family is now at rest with their Lord, and intense is the ignorance of this life, that is, it is midnight, and thy hungry friend is urgent upon thee. A simple faith haply sufficed thee, him it suffices not. Is he then to be abandoned? Is he to be cast out of thy house? Therefore unto the Lord Himself, unto Him with whom the family is at rest, knock by prayer, ask, be instant. He will not, as that friend in the parable, arise and give thee as overcome by importunity. He wisheth to give; thou for thy knocking hast not yet received; knock on; He wisheth to give. And what He wisheth to give, He deferreth, that thou mayest long the more for it when deferred, lest if given quickly it should be lightly esteemed.

4. But when thou hast gotten the three loaves, that is, to feed on and understand the Trinity, thou hast that whereby thou mayest both live thyself, and feed others. Now thou needest not fear the stranger who comes out of his way to thee, but by taking him in mayest make him a citizen of the household: nor needest thou fear lest thou come to the end of it. That Bread will not come to an end, but it will put an end to thine indigence. It is Bread, God the Father, and it is Bread, God the Son, and it is Bread, God the Holy Ghost. The Father Eternal, the Son Coeternal with Him, and the Holy Ghost Coeternal. The Father Unchangeable, the Son Unchangeable, the Holy Ghost Unchangeable. The Father Creator, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Father the Shepherd and the Giver of life, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Father the Food and Bread eternal, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Learn, and teach; live thyself, and feed others. God who giveth to thee, giveth thee nothing better than Himself. O thou greedy one, what else wast thou seeking for? Or if thou seek for aught else, what will suffice thee whom God doth suffice not?

5. But necessary it is that thou have charity, that thou have faith, that thou have hope; that which is given may be sweet unto thee. And these same, faith, hope, charity, are three. And these too are gifts of God. For faith we have received from Him; "As God," saith he, "hath distributed to every one the measure of faith."(4) And hope we have received from Him, to whom it is said, "Wherein Thou hast caused me to hope."(5) And charity we have received from Him, of whom it is said, "The charity of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which hath been given to us."(6) Now these three are likewise in some measure different; but all gifts of God. For "there abide these three, faith, hope, charity; but the greatest of these is charity."(1) In those loaves it is not said that any one loaf was greater than the others; but simply that three loaves were asked for, and were given.

6. See other three things: "Who is there of you, whom if his son ask a loaf, will he give him a stone? Or who is there of you of whom if his son ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? or if he ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 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!"(2) Let us then again consider these three things, if haply there be not here those three, "faith, hope, charity; but the greatest of these is charity." Set down then these three things, a loaf, a fish, an egg; the greatest of these is a loaf. Therefore in these three things do we well understand charity by "the loaf." On which account He has opposed a stone to a loaf; because hardness is contrary to charity. By "a fish" we understand faith. A certain holy man has said, and we are glad to say it too; "The 'good fish' is a godly faith." It lives amidst the waves, and is not broken or dissolved by the waves. Amidst the temptations and tempests of this world, liveth godly faith; the world rages, yet it is uninjured. Observe only that serpent is contrary to faith. For My faith is she betrothed to whom it is said in the Song of Songs, "Come from Lebanon, My spouse, coming and passing over to Me from the beginning of faith."(3) Therefore betrothed too, because faith is the beginning of betrothal. For something is promised by the bridegroom, and by this plighted faith is he held bound. Now to the fish the Lord opposed the serpent, to faith the devil. Wherefore to this betrothed one does the Apostle say, "I have betrothed you to One Husband, to present you a chaste virgin to Christ." And, "I fear lest as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds also should be corrupted from the purity which is in Christ;"(4) that is, which is in the faith of Christ. For he says, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith."(5) Therefore let not the devil corrupt our faith, let him not devour the fish.

7. There remains hope, which, as I think, is compared to an egg. For hope has not yet arrived at attainment; and an egg is something, but not yet the chicken. So then quadrupeds give birth to young ones, but birds to the hope of young. Hope therefore exhorts us to this, to despise things present, to wait for things to come; "forgetting those things which are behind," let us, with the Apostle," reach forth unto those things which are before."(6) For so he says; "But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, reaching forth unto those things which are before, I follow on earnestly unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Nothing then is so hostile to hope, as to "look back," to place hope, that is, in those things which flit by and pass away; but in those things should we place it, which are not yet given, but which sometime will be given, and will never pass away. But when the world is deluged by trials,(7) as it were the sulphureous rain of Sodom, the example of Lot's wife must be feared. For she "looked behind;"(8) and in the spot where she looked behind, there did she remain. She was turned into salt, that she might season the wise by her example. Of this hope the Apostle Paul speaketh thus; "For we are saved in hope; but hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for: but if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. For what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for."(9) It is an egg, and not as yet the chicken. And it is covered with a shell; it is not seen because it is covered; let it be with patience waited for; let it feel the warmth, that it may come to life. Press on, "reach forth unto the things which are before, forget the past. For the things which are seen, are temporal. Not looking back," says he, "at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."(10) Unto those things which are not seen then extend thy hope, wait, endure. Look not back. Fear "the scorpion" for thine "egg." See how he wounds with the tail, which he has behind him. Let not then the "scorpion" crush thine "egg," let not this world crush thy hope (so to say) with its poison, therefore against thee, because behind. How loudly does the world talk to thee, what an uproar does it make behind thy back, that thou mayest look back! that is, that thou mayest place thy hope m present things (and yet not even present, for they cannot be called present which have no fixedness), and mayest turn thy mind away from that which Christ hath promised, and not yet given, but who, seeing He is faithful, will give it, and mayest be content to look for rest in a perishing world.

8. For this cause does God mingle bitternesses with the felicities of earth, that another felicity may be sought, in whose sweetness there is no deceit; yet by these very bitternesses does the world endeavour to turn thee away from thy longing pursuit after the things "which are before," and to turn thee back. For these bitternesses, for these tribulations dost thou murmur and say, "See, all things are perishing in Christian times." What complaint is this! God hath not promised me that these things shall not perish; Christ hath not promised me this. The Eternal hath promised things eternal: if I believe, from a mortal, I shall be made eternal. What noise is this, O world(1) impure! what murmuring is this! Why art thou trying to turn me back? Perishing as thou art, thou wishest to detain me; what wouldest thou do, if thou hadst any permanence? Whom wouldest thou not beguile by thy sweetness, if with all thy bitternesses thou dost impose thy false nourishment(2) upon us? For me, if I have hope, if I hold fast my hope, my "egg" has not been wounded by the "scorpion." "I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall be ever in my mouth."(3) Be the world prosperous, or be the world turned upside down; "I will bless the Lord," who made the world. Yes, verily, I will bless Him. Be it well with me according to the flesh, or be it ill according to the flesh, "I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall be ever in my mouth." For if I bless when it is well, and blaspheme when it is ill with me; I have received the "scorpion's" sting, being pricked "I have looked back;" which be far from us. "The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away: it is done, as the Lord pleased; blessed be the name of the Lord."(4)

9. The city which has given us birth according to the flesh still abideth, God be thanked. O that it may receive a spiritual birth, and together with us pass over unto eternity! If the city which has given us birth according to the flesh abide not, yet that which has given us birth according to the Spirit abides for ever. "The Lord doth build up Jerusalem."(5) Has He by sleeping brought His building to ruin, or by not keeping it, let the enemy into it? "Except the Lord keep the city, he that keepeth it waketh but in vain."(6) And what "city"? "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep."(7) What is Israel, but the seed of Abraham? What the seed of Abraham, but Christ? "And to thy seed," he says, "which is Christ."(8) And to us what says he? "But ye are Christ's, therefore Abraham's seed, heirs according to the promise."(9) "In thy seed," saith He, "shall all nations be blessed."(10) The holy city, the faithful city, the city on earth a sojourner, hath its foundation in heaven. O faithful one, do not corrupt thy hope, do not lose thy charity, "gird up thy loins," light, and hold out thy lamps before thee; "wait for the Lord, when He will return from the wedding."(11) Why art thou alarmed, because the kingdoms of the earth are perishing? Therefore hath a heavenly kingdom been promised thee, that thou mightest not perish with the kingdoms of the earth. For it was foretold, foretold distinctly, that they should perish. For we cannot deny that it was foretold. Thy Lord for whom thou art waiting, hath told thee, "Nation shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom."(12) The kingdoms of the earth have their changes; He will come of whom it is said, "and of His kingdom there shall be no end."(13)

10. They who have promised this to earthly kingdoms have not been guided by truth, but have lied through flattery. A certain poet of theirs has introduced Jupiter speaking, and he says of the Romans;

To them no bounds of empire I assign, Nor term of years to their immortal line.(14)

Most certainly truth makes no such answer. This empire which thou hast given "without term of years," is it on earth, or in heaven? On earth assuredly. And even if it were in heaven, yet "heaven and earth shall pass away."(15) Those things shall pass away which God hath Himself made; how much more rapidly shall that pass away which Romulus founded! Perhaps if we had a mind to press Virgil on this point, and tauntingly to ask him why he said it; he would take us aside privately, and say to us, "I know this as well as you, but what could I do who was selling words to the Romans, if by this kind of flattery I did not promise something which was false? And yet even in this very instance I have been cautious, when I said, 'I assigned to them an empire without term of years,' I introduced their Jupiter to say it. I did not utter this falsehood in my own person, but put upon Jupiter the character of untruthfulness: as the god was false, the poet was false. For would ye know that I well knew the truth of it? In another place, when I did not introduce this stone, called Jupiter, but spoke in my own person, I said,

'Th' impending ruin of the Roman state.'(16)

See how I spoke of the impending ruin of the state. I spoke of its impending ruin. I did not suppress it." When he spoke in truth he was not silent as to its ruin; when in flattery, he promised that it should abide for ever.

11. Let us not then faint, my Brethren: an end there will be to all earthly kingdoms. If that end be now, God knoweth. For peradventure it is not yet, and we, through some infirmity, or mercifulness, or misery, are wishing that it may not be yet; nevertheless will it not therefore some day be? Fix your hope in God, desire the things eternal, wait for the things eternal. Ye are Christians, Brethren, we are all Christians. Christ did not come down into the flesh that 'we might live softly; let us endure rather than love the things present; manifest is the harm of adversity, deceitful is the soft blandishment of prosperity. Fear the sea, even when it is a calm. On no account let us hear in vain, "Let us lift up our hearts." Why place we our hearts in the earth, when we see that the earth is being turned upside down? We cannot but exhort you, that ye may have something to say and answer in defence of your hope against the deriders and blasphemers of the Christian name. Let no one by his murmuring turn you back from waiting for the things to come. All who by reason of these adversities blaspheme our Christ, are the "scorpion's" tail. Let us put our egg under the wings of that Hen of the Gospel, which crieth out to that false and abandoned city, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen her chickens, and thou wouldest not!"(2) Let it not be said to us, "How often would I, and thou wouldest not!" For that hen is the Divine Wisdom; but I assumed flesh to accommodate Itself to its chickens. See the hen with feathers bristling, with wings hanging down, with voice broken, and tremulous, and faint, and languid, accommodating herself to her little ones. Our egg then, that is, our hope, let us place beneath the wings of this Hen.

12. Ye have noticed, it may be, how a hen will tear a scorpion in pieces. O then that the Hen of the Gospel would tear in pieces and devour these blasphemers, creeping out of their holes, and inflicting hurtful stings, would pass them over into Her Body, and turn them into an egg. Let them not be angry; we seem to be excited; but we do not return curses for curses. "We are cursed, and we bless, being defamed, we entreat."(3) But "let him not speak of Rome, it is said of me: O that he would hold his tongue about Rome;" as though I were insulting it, and not rather entreating the Lord for it, and exhorting you all, unworthy as I am. Be it far from me to insult it! The Lord avert this from my heart, and from the grief of my conscience. Have we not had many brethren there? have we not still? Does not a large portion of the pilgrim city Jerusalem live there? has it not' endured there temporal afflictions? but it has not lost the things eternal. What can I say then, when I speak of Rome, but that is false, which they say of our Christ, that He is Rome's destroyer, and that the gods of wood and stone were her defenders? Add what is more costly, "gods of brass." Add what is costlier still, "of silver and gold:" the "idols of the nations are silver and gold."(4) He did not say, "stone;" he did not say, "wood;" he did not say, "clay;" but, what they value highly, "silver and gold." Yet these silver and golden idols "have eyes, and see not."(5) The gods of gold, of wood, are as regards their costliness unequal; but as to "having eyes, and seeing not," they are equal. See to what sort of guardians learned men have entrusted Rome, to those "who have eyes, and see not." Or if the were able to preserve Rome, why did they first perish them- selves? The say; "Rome perished at the same time. "Nevertheless they perished. "No," they say, "they did not perish themselves, but their statues." Well, how then could they keep your houses, who were not able to keep their own statues? Alexandria once lost such gods as these. Constantinople some time since, ever since it was made a grand city, for it was made so by a Christian Emperor, lost its false gods; and yet it has increased, and still increases, and remains. And remain it will, as long as God pleases. For we do not to this city either promise an eternal duration because we say this. Carthage remains now in its possession of the Name of Christ, yet once on a time its goddess Caelestis(6) was overthrown; because celestial she was not, but terrestrial.

13. And that which they say is not true, that immediately on losing her gods Rome has been taken(7) and ruined. It is not true at all; their images were overthrown before; and even so were the Goths with Rhadagaisus(8) conquered. Remember, my Brethren, remember; it is no long time since, but a few years, call it to mind. When all the images in the city of Rome had been overthrown, Rhadagaisus king of the Goths came with a large army, much more numerous than that of Alaric was. Rhadagaisus was a Pagan; he sacrificed to Jupiter every day. Everywhere it was announced, that Rhadagaisus did not cease from sacrificing. Then said they all, "Lo, we do not sacrifice, he does sacrifice, we, who are not allowed to sacrifice must be conquered by him who does sacrifice." But God making proof that not even temporal deliverance, nor the preservation of these earthly kingdoms, consist in these sacrifices, Rhadagaisus, by the Lord's help, was marvellously overcome. Afterwards came other Goths who did not sacrifice, they came, who though they were not Catholics in the Christian faith, were yet hostile and opposed to idols, and they took Rome; they conquered those who put their trust in idols, who were still seeking after the idols they had lost, and desiring still to sacrifice to the lost gods. And amongst them too were some of our brethren, and these were afflicted also: but they had learnt to say, "I will bless the Lord at all times."(1) They were involved in the afflictions of their earthly kingdom: but they lost not the kingdom of heaven; yea, I rather, they were made the better for obtaining it through the exercise of tribulations. And if they did not in their tribulations blaspheme, they came out as sound vessels from the furnace, and were filled with the blessing of the Lord. Whereas those blasphemers, who follow and long after earthly things, who place their hope in earthly things, when these they have lost, whether they will or no, what shall they retain? where shall they abide? Nothing without, nothing within; an empty coffer, an emptier conscience. Where is their rest? where their salvation? where their hope? Let them then come, let them give over blaspheming, let them learn to adore; let the scorpions with their stings be devoured by the Hen, let them be turned into His body who makes them pass over into it; let them on earth be exercised, in heaven be crowned.




1. Ye have heard the holy Gospel, how the Lord Jesus in that which He said to the Pharisees, conveyed doubtless a lesson to His own disciples, that they should not think that righteousness consists in the cleansing of the body. For every day did the Pharisees wash themselves in water before they dined; as if a daily washing could be a cleansing of the heart. Then He showed what sort of persons they were. He told them who saw them; for He saw not their faces only but their inward parts. For that ye may know this, that Pharisee, to whom Christ made answer, thought within himself, he uttered nothing aloud, yet the Lord heard him. For within himself he blamed the Lord Christ, because He had so come to his feast without having washed. He was thinking, the Lord heard, therefore He answered. What then did He answer? "Now do ye Pharisees wash the outside of the platter; but within ye are full of guile and ravening."(2) What! is this to come to a feast! how did He not spare the man by whom He had been invited? Yea rather by rebuking He did spare him, that being reformed He might spare him in the judgment. And what is it that He showeth to us? That Baptism also which is conferred once for all, cleanses by faith. Now faith is within, not without. Wherefore it is said and read in the Acts of the Apostles, "Cleansing their hearts by faith."(3) And the Apostle Peter thus speaks in his Epistle; "So too hath He given yon a similitude from Noah's ark, how that eight souls were saved by water." And then he added, "So also in a like figure will baptism save us, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience.(4) "This answer of a good conscience" did the Pharisees despise, and washed "that which was without;" within they continued full of pollution.

2. And what did He say to them after this? "But rather give alms, and behold all things are clean unto you."(5) See the praise of alms, do, and prove it. But mark awhile; this was said to the Pharisees. These Pharisees were Jews, the choice men as it were of the Jews. For those of most consideration and learning were then called Pharisees. They had not been washed by Christ's Baptism; they had not yet believed on Christ, the Only- begotten Son of God, who walked among them, yet was not acknowledged by them. How then doth He say to them, "Give alms, and behold all things are clean unto you"? If the Pharisees had paid heed to Him, and given alms, at once according to His word "all things would have been clean to them;" what need then was there for them to believe on Him? But if they could not be cleansed, except by believing on Him, who "cleanseth the heart by faith;" what means, "Give alms, and behold all things are clean I unto you"? Let us carefully consider this, and peradventure He Himself explains it.

3. When He had spoken thus, doubtless they thought that they did give alms. And how did they give them? They tithed all they had, they took away a tenth of all their produce, and gave it. It is no easy matter to find a Christian who doth as much. See what the Jews did. Not wheat only, but wine, and oil; nor this only, but even the most trifling things, cummin, rue, mint, and anise,(6) in obdience to God's precept, they tithed all; put aside, that is, a tenth part, and gave alms of it. I suppose then that they recalled this to mind, and thought that the Lord Christ was speaking to no purpose, as if to those who did not give alms; whereas they knew their own doings, how that they tithed, and gave alms of the minutest and most trifling of their produce. They mocked Him within themselves as He spake thus, as if to men who did not give alms. The Lord knowing this, immediately subjoined, "But woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, who tithe mint, and cummin, and rue, and all herbs."(1) That ye may know, I am aware of your alms. Doubtless these tithes are your alms; yea even the minutest and most trifling of your fruits do ye tithe; "Yet ye leave the weightier matters of the law, judgment and charity." Mark. Ye have "left judgment and charity," and ye tithe herbs. This is not to do alms. "These," saith He, "ought ye to do, and not to leave the other undone." Do what? "Judgment and charity, justice and mercy;" and "not to leave the other undone." Do these; but give the preference to the others.

4. If this be so, why did He say to them," Do alms, and behold all things are clean unto you"? What is, "Do alms"? Do mercy. What is, "Do mercy"? If thou understand, begin with thine own self. For how shouldest thou be merciful to another, if thou art cruel to thyself? "Give alms, and all things are clean unto you." Do true alms. What is alms? Mercy. Hear the Scripture; "Have mercy on thine own soul, pleasing God."(2) Do alms, "Have mercy on thine own soul, pleasing God." Thine own soul is a beggar before thee, return to thy conscience. Whosoever thou art, who art living in wickedness or unbelief, return to thy conscience; and there thou findest thy soul in beggary, thou findest it needy, thou findest it poor, thou findest it in sorrow, nay perhaps thou dost not find it in need, but dumb through its neediness. For if it beg, it "hungereth after righteousness." Now when thou findest thy soul in such a state (all this is within, in thy heart), first do alms, give it bread. What bread? If the Pharisee had asked this question, the Lord would have said to him, "Give alms to thine own soul." For this He did say to him; but he did not understand it, when He enumerated to them the alms which they were used to do, and which they thought were unknown to Christ; and He saith to them, "I know that ye do this, 'ye tithe mint and anise, cummin and rue;' but I am speaking of other alms; ye despise 'judgment and charity.' In judgment and charity give alms to thine own soul." What is "in judgment"? Look back, and discover thyself; mislike thyself, pronounce a judgment against thyself. And what is charity? "Love the Lord God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; love thy neighbour as thyself:"(3) and thou hast done alms first to thine own soul, within thy conscience. Whereas if thou neglect this alms, give what thou wilt, give how much thou wilt; reserve of thy t goods not a tenth, but a half; give nine parts, and leave but one for thine own self: thou doest nothing, when thou doest not alms to thine own soul, and art poor in thyself. Let thy soul have its food, that it perish not by famine. Give her bread. What bread, thou wilt say? He speaketh with thee Himself. If thou wouldest hear, and understand, and believe the Lord, He would say to thee Himself, "I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven.(4)

Wouldest thou not first give this Bread to thine own soul, and do alms unto it? If then thou believest, thou oughtest so to do, that thou mayest first feed thine own soul. Believe in Christ, and the things which are within shall be cleansed; and what is without shall be clean also. "Let us turn to the Lord," etc.




1. I Doubt not but that ye who fear God, do hear His word with awe, and execute it with cheerfulness; that what He hath promised, ye may at present hope for, hereafter receive. We have just now heard the Lord Christ Jesus, the Son of God, giving us a precept. The Truth, who neither deceiveth, nor is deceived, hath given us a precept; let us hear, fear, beware. What is this precept then: "I say unto you, Beware of all covetousness"?(6) What is, "of all covetousness"? What is, "of all"? Why did He add, "of all"? For He might have spoken thus "Beware of covetousness" It suited Him to add, "of all; and to say, "Beware of all covetousness."

2. Why He said this, the occasion as it were out of which these words arose, is shown to us in the holy Gospel. A certain man appealed to Him against his brother, who had taken away all his patrimony, and gave not back his proper portion to his brother. Ye see then how good a case this appellant had. For he was not seeking to take by violence another's, but was seeking only for his own which had been left him by his parents; these was he demanding back by his appeal to the judgment of the Lord. He had an unrighteous brother; but against an unrighteous brother had he found a righteous Judge. Ought he then in so good a cause to lose that opportunity? Or who would say to his brother, "Restore to thy brother his portion," if Christ would not say it? Would that judge be likely to say it, whom perhaps his richer and extortionate brother might corrupt by a bribe? Forlorn then as he was, and despoiled of his father's goods, when he had found such and so great a Judge he goes up to Him, he appeals to, he beseeches Him, he lays his cause before Him in few words. For what occasion was there to set forth his cause at length, when he was speaking to Him who could even see the heart? "Master," he says, "speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me."(1) The Lord did not say to him, "Let thy brother come." No, He neither sent for him to be present, nor in his presence did He say to him who had appealed to Him, "Prove what thou wast saying." He asked for half an inheritance, he asked for half an inheritance on earth; the Lord offered him a whole inheritance in heaven. The Lord gave more than asked for.

3. "Speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me." Just case, short case. But let us hear Him who at once gives judgment and instruction. "Man," He saith. "O man;" for seeing thou valuest this inheritance so highly, what art thou but a man? He wished to make him something more than man. What more did He wish to make him, from whom He wished to take covetousness away? What more did He wish to make him? I will tell you, "I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High."(2) Lo, what He wished to make him, to reckon him that hath no covetousness among the "gods." "Man, who made Me a divider among you?"(3) So the Apostle Paul His servant, when he said, "I beseech you, brethren, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you,"(4) was unwilling to be a divider. And afterwards he thus admonished them who were running after his name, and dividing Christ: "Every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?"(5) Judge then, how wicked are those men, who would have Him to be divided, who would not be a divider. "Who," saith He, "hath made Me a divider among you?"

4. Thou hast petitioned for a kindness; hear counsel. "I say unto you, Beware of all covetousness."(6) "Perhaps," he would say, "thou wouldest call him covetous and greedy, if he were seeking another's goods; but I say, seek not even thine own greedily or covetously." This is "Of all, beware of all covetousness." A heavy burden this! If by any chance this burden be imposed on them that are weak; let Him be sought unto, that He who imposes it, may vouchsafe to give us strength. For it is not a thing to be lightly regarded, my Brethren, when our Lord, our Redeemer, our Saviour, who died for us, who gave His Own Blood as our ransom, to redeem us, our Advocate and Judge; it is no light matter when He saith, "Beware." He knoweth well how great the evil is; we know it not, let us believe Him. "Beware," saith He. Wherefore? of what? "of all covetousness." I am but keeping what is mine own, I am not taking away another's; "Beware of all covetousness." Not only is he covetous, who plunders the goods of others; but he is covetous too, who greedily keeps his own. But if he is so blamed who greedily keeps his own; how is he condemned who plunders what is another's! "Beware," He saith, "of all covetousness: For a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." He that stores up great abundance, how much does he take therefrom to live? When he has taken it, and m a way separated in thought sufficient to live upon from it, let him consider for whom the rest remains; test haply when thou keepest wherewith to live, thou art gathering only wherewith to die. Behold Christ, behold truth, behold severity. "Beware," saith truth: "Beware," saith severity. If thou love not the truth, fear severity. "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." Believe Him, He doth not deceive thee. On the other hand, thou sayest, "Yea, 'a man's life' does 'consist in the abundance of the things which he possesses.'" He doth not deceive thee; thou deceivest thyself.

5. Out of this occasion then, when that appellant was seeking his own portion, not desiring to plunder another's, arose that sentence of the Lord, wherein He said not, "Beware of covetousness;" but added, "of all covetousness." Nor was this all: He giveth another example of a certain rich man, "whose ground had turned out well."(7) "There was," He saith, "a certain rich man, whose round had turned s out well." What is, "had turned out well"? The ground which he possessed had brought forth a great produce. How great? So that he could not find where to bestow it: suddenly, through his abundance he became straitened--this old covetous man. For how many years had already passed away, and yet those barns had been enough? So great then was the produce, that the accustomed places were not sufficient. And the wretched man sought counsel, not as to how he should lay the additional produce out, but how he should store it up; and in thinking he discovered an expedient. He seemed as it were wise in his own eyes, by the discovery of this expedient. Knowingly did he think of it, wisely hit upon it. What was this he wisely hit upon? "I will destroy," he says, "my" old "barns, and will build new ones greater, and will fill them; and I will say to my soul." What wilt thou say to thy soul? "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years, take thine ease, eat, drink, be merry."(1) This did the wise discoverer of this expedient say to his soul.

6. "And God," who doth not disdain to speak even with fools, "said unto him."(2) Some of you may peradventure say, And how did God speak with a fool? O, my Brethren, with how many fools does He speak here, when the Gospel is read! When it is read, are not they who hear and do not, fools? What then did the Lord say? For he, I repeat, thought himself wise by the discovery of his expedient. "Thou fool," He saith; "Thou fool," who seemest wise unto thyself; "Thou fool," who hast said to thy soul, "Thou hast much goods laid up for many years: to-day is thy soul required of thee!" Thy soul to which thou hast said, "Thou hast much goods," to-day is "required," and hath no good at all. Let it then despise these goods, and be herself good, that when she is "required," she may depart in assured hope. For what is more perverse(3) than a man(4) who wishes to have "much goods," and does not wish to be good himself? Unworthy art thou to have them, who dost not wish to be what thou dost wish to have. For dost thou wish to have a bad country house? No indeed, but a good one. Or a bad wife? No, but a good one. Or a bad hood?(5) Or even a bad shoe? And Why a bad soul only? He did not in this place say to this fool who was thinking on vain things, building barns, and who had no regard to the wants(6) of the poor; He did not say to him, "To-day shall thy soul be hurried away to hell:" He said no such thing as this, but "is required of thee." "I do not tell thee whither thy soul shall go; yet hence, where thou art laying up for it such store of things, must it depart, whether thou wilt or no." Lo, "thou fool," thou hast thought to fill thy new and greater barns, as if there was nothing to be done with what thou hast.

7. But peradventure he was not yet a Christian. Let us hear then, Brethren, to whom as believers the Gospel is read, by whom He who spake these things, is worshipped, whose mark is borne by us on our forehead, and is held in the heart. For of very great concernment is it where a man hath the mark of Christ, whether in the forehead, or both in the forehead and the heart. Ye have heard to-day the words of the holy prophet Ezekiel, how that before God sent one to destroy the ungodly people, He first sent one to mark them, and said to him, "Go and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and moan for the sins of my people that are done in the midst of them."(7) He did not say, "which(8) are done without them;" but "in the midst of them." Yet they "sigh and moan;" and therefore are they "marked on the forehead:" in the forehead of the inner man, not the outer. For there is a forehead in the face, there is a forehead in the conscience. So it happens that when the inner forehead is stricken, the outer grows red; either red with shame, or pale with fear. So then there is a forehead of the inner man. There were they "marked" that they might not be destroyed; because though they did not correct the sins which were "done in the midst of them," yet they sorrowed for them, and by that very sorrow separated themselves; and though separated in God's sight, they were mixed with them in the eyes of men. They are "marked" secretly, are not hurt openly. Afterwards the Destroyer is sent, and to him it is said, "Go, lay waste, spare neither young nor old, male nor female, but come not near those who have the mark on their forehead."(9) How great security is granted to you, my Brethren, who among this people are sighing, and moaning for the iniquities which are being done in the midst of you, and who do them not!

8. But that ye may not commit iniquities, "beware of all covetousness." I will tell you in its full extent, what is "of all covetousness." In matter of lust he is covetous, whom his own wife suffices not. And idolatry itself is called covetousness; because again in matter of divine worship(10) he is covetous, whom the one and true God suffices not. What but the covetous soul makes for itself many gods? What but the covetous soul makes to itself false(11) martyrs? "Beware of all covetousness." Lo, thou lovest thine own goods, and dost boast thyself in that thou seekest not the goods of others; see what evil thou doest in not hearing Christ, who saith, "Beware of all covetousness." See thou dost love thine own goods, thou dost not take away the goods of others; thou hast the fruits of thy labour, they are justly thine; thou hast been left an heir, some one whose good graces thou hast attained has given it to thee; thou hast been on the sea, and in its perils, hast committed no fraud, hast sworn no lie, hast acquired what it hath pleased God thou shouldest; and thou art keeping it greedily as in a good conscience, because thou dost not possess it from evil sources, and dost not seek what is another's. Yet if thou give not heed to Him who hath said, "Beware of all covetousness," hear how great evils thou wilt be ready to do for thine own goods' sake. Lo, for example, it hath chanced to thee to be made a judge. Thou wilt not be corrupted, because thou dost not seek the goods of others; no one giveth thee a bribe and says, "Give judgment against my adversary." This be far from thee, a man, who seekest not the things of others, how couldest thou be persuaded to do this? Yet see what evil thou wilt be ready to do for thine own goods' sake. Peradventure he that wishes thee to judge evilly, and pronounce sentence for him against his adversary is a powerful man, and able to bring up false accusation against thee, that thou mayest lose what thou hast. Thou dost reflect, and think upon his power, think of thine own goods thou art keeping, which thou dost love: not which thou hast possessed, but in whose power(1) rather thou art thyself unhappily fixed. This thy bird-lime, by reason of which thou hast not the wings of virtue free, thou dost look to; and thou sayest within thine own self, "I am offending this man, he has much influence in the world; he will suggest evil accusations against me, and I shall be outlawed,(2) and lose all I have." Thus thou wilt give unrighteous judgment, not when thou seekest another's, but when thou keepest thine own.

9. Give me a man who has given ear to Christ, give me a man who has heard with fear "Beware of all covetousness;" and let him not say to me, "I am a poor man, a plebeian of mean estate, one of the common people, how can I hope ever to be a judge? I am in no fear of this temptation, the peril of which thou hast placed before mine eyes." Yet lo, even this poor man I will tell what he ought to fear. Some rich and powerful person calls thee to give false witness for him. What wilt thou be doing now? Tell me. Thou hast a good little property of thine own; thou hast laboured for it, hast acquired, and kept it. That person requires of thee; "Give false witness for me, and I will give thee so and so much." Thou who seekest not the things of others, sayest, "That be far from me: I do not seek for what it has not pleased God to give me, I will not receive it; depart from me." "Hast thou no wish to receive what I give? I will take away what thou hast already." See now prove thyself, question now thine own self. Why dost thou look at me? Look inward on thine own self, look at thine own self within, examine thine own self within; sit down before thine own self, and summon thine own self before thee, and stretch thyself upon the rack of God's commandment, and torment thyself with His fear, and deal not softly with thyself; answer thine own self. Lo, if any one were to threaten thee with this, what wouldest thou do? "I will take away from thee what with so great labour thou hast acquired, if thou wilt not give false witness for me." Give him that; "Beware of all covetousness." "O my servant," He will say to thee, "whom I have redeemed and made free, whom from a servant I have adopted to be a brother, whom I have set as a member in My Body, give ear to Me: He may take away what thou hast acquired, Me he shall not take away from thee. Art thou keeping thine own goods, that thou mayest not perish? What, have I not said unto thee, 'Beware of all covetousness'?"

10. Lo, thou art in confusion, tossed to and fro; thy heart as a ship is shaken about by tempests. Christ is asleep: awake Him, that sleepeth, and thou shalt be exposed no more to the raging of the storm. Awake Him, who was pleased to have nothing here, and thou hast all, who came even to the Cross for thee, whose "Bones" as He was naked and hanging "were numbered" by them that mocked Him; and "beware of all covetousness." Covetousness of money is not all; "beware of covetousness" of life. A dreadful covetousness, covetousness much to be feared. Sometimes a man will despise what he has, and say, "I will not give false witness; I will not. You tell me, I will take away what thou hast. Take away what I have; you do not take away what I have within. For he was not left a poor man, who said, 'The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away; it is done as it pleased the Lord; blessed' therefore 'be the Name of the Lord. Naked came I out of my mother's womb, naked shall I return to the earth.'(3) Naked outwardly, well-clothed within. Naked as regards these rags, these corruptible rags outwardly, clothed within. With what? 'Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness.'"(4) But what if he say to thee, when thou hast despised the things which thou possessest, what if he say to thee, "I will kill thee"? If thou have given ear to Christ, answer him, "Wilt Thou kill me? Better that thou shouldest kill my body, than that I by a false tongue should kill my soul! What canst thou do to me? Thou wilt kill my body; my soul will depart at liberty, to receive again at the end of the world even this very body she hath despised. What canst thou do to me then? Whereas if I should give false witness for thee, with thy tongue do I kill myself; and not in my body do I kill myself; 'For the mouth that lieth killeth the soul.'"(5) But peradventure thou dost not say so. And why dost thou not say so? Thou wishest to live; thou wishest to live longer than God hath appointed for thee? Dost thou then "beware of all covetousness"? So long was it God's will that thou shouldest live, till this person came to thee. It may he that he will kill thee, to make a martyr of thee. Entertain then no undue desire of life; and so thou wilt not have an eternity of death. Ye see how that covetousness everywhere, when we wish for more than is necessary, causes us to sin. Beware we of all covetousness, if we would enjoy eternal wisdom.




1. OUR Lord Jesus Christ both came to men, and went away from men, and is to come to men. And yet He was here when He came, nor did He depart when He went away, and He is to come to them to whom He said, "Lo, I am with you, even unto the end of the world."(1) According to the "form of a servant" then, which He took for our sakes, was He born at a certain time, and was slain, and rose again, and now "dieth no more, neither shall death have any more dominion over Him;"(2) but according to His Divinity, wherein He was equal to the Father, was He already in this world, and "the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not."(3) On this point ye have just heard the Gospel, what admonition it has given us, putting us on our guard, and wishing us to be unencumbered and prepared to await the end; that after these last(4) things, which are to be feared in this world, that rest may succeed which hath no end. Blessed are they who shall be partakers of it. For then shall they be in security, who are not in security now; and again then shall they fear, who will not fear now. Unto this waiting, and for this hope's sake, have we been made Christians. Is not our hope not of this world? Let us then not love the world. From the love of this world have we been called away, that we may hope for and love another. In this world ought we to abstain from all unlawful desires, to have, that is, "our loins girded;" and to be fervent and to shine in good works, that is, to have "our lights burning." For the Lord Himself said to His disciples in another place of the Gospel, "No man lighteth a candle and putteth it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that it may give light unto all that are in the house."(5) And to show of what He was speaking, He subjoined and said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."(6)

2. Therefore He would that "our loins should be girded, and our lights burning."(7) What is, "our loins girded"? "Depart from evil."(8) What is to "burn"? What is to have our "lights burning"? It is this, "And do good." What is that which He said afterwards, "And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord, when He will return from the wedding:"(9) except that which follows in that Psalm, "Seek after peace, and ensue it"?(8) These three things, that is, "abstaining from evil, and doing good," and the hope of everlasting reward, are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, where it is written, that Paul taught them of "temperance and righteousness,"(10) and the hope of eternal life. To temperance belongs, "let your loins be girded." To righteousness, "and your lights burning." To the hope of eternal life, the waiting for the Lord. So then, "depart from evil," this is temperance, these are the loins girded: "and do good," this is righteousness, these are the "lights burning;" "seek peace, and ensue it," this is the waiting for the world to come: therefore, "Be ye like unto men that wait for their Lord, when He will come from the wedding."

3. Having then these precepts and promises, why seek we on earth for "good days," where we cannot find them? For I know that ye do seek them, when ye are either sick, or in any of the tribulations, which in this world abound. For when life draws towards its close, the old man is full of complaints, and with no joys. Amid all the tribulations by which mankind is worn away, men seek for nothing but "good days," and wish for a long life, which here they cannot have. For even a man's long life is narrowed within so short a span to the wide extent of all ages, as if it were but one drop to the whole sea. What then is man's life, even that which is called a long one? They call that a long life, which even in this world's course is short; and as I have said, groans abound even unto the decrepitude of old age. This at the most is but brief, and of short duration; and yet how eagerly is it sought by men, with how great diligence, with how great toil, with how great carefulness, with how great watchfulness, with how great labour do men seek to live here for a long time, and to grow old. And yet this very living long, what is it but running to the end? Thou hadst yesterday, and thou dost wish also to have to- morrow. But when this day and to-morrow are passed, thou hast them not. Therefore thou dost wish for the day to break, that may draw near to thee whither thou hast no wish to come. Thou makest some annual festival with thy friends, and hearest it there said to thee by thy well-wishers, "Mayest thou live many years," thou dost wish that what they have said, may come to pass. What? Dost thou wish that years and years may come, and the end of these years come not? Thy wishes are contrary to one another; thou dost wish to walk on, and dost not wish to reach the end.

4. But if, as I have said, there is so great care in men, as to desire with daily, great and perpetual labours, to die somewhat later: with how great cause ought they to strive, that they may never die? Of this, no one will think. Day by day "good days" are sought for in this world, where they are not found; yet no one wishes so to live, that he may arrive there where they are found. Therefore the same Scripture admonishes us, and says, "Who is the man that wisheth for life, and loveth to see good days?"(1) Scripture so asked the question, as that It knew well what answer would be given It; knowing that all men would "seek for life and good days." In accordance with their desire It asked the question, as if the answer would be given It from the heart of all, "I wish it;" It said thus, "Who is the man that wisheth for life, and loveth to see good days?" Just as even at this very hour in which I am speaking to you, when ye heard me say, "Who is the man that wisheth for life, and loveth to see good days?" ye all answered in your heart, "I." For so do I too, who am speaking with you, "wish for life and good days;" what ye seek, that do I seek also.

5. Just as if gold were necessary for us all, and we all, I as well as you, were wishing to get at the gold, and there was some anywhere in a field of yours, in a place subject to your power, and I were to see you searching for it, and were to say to you, "What are ye searching for?" ye were to answer me, "Gold." And I were to say to you, "Ye are searching for gold, and I am searching for gold too: what ye are searching for, I am searching for; but ye are not searching for it where we can find it. Listen to me then, where we can find it; I am not taking it away from you, I am showing you the spot;" yea, let us all follow Him, who knows where what we are seeking for, is. So now too seeing that ye desire "life and good days," we cannot say to you, "Do not desire 'life and good days;'" but this we say, "Do not seek for 'life and good days' here in this world, where 'good days' cannot be." Is not this life itself like unto death? Now these days here hasten and pass away: for to-day has shut out yesterday; tomorrow only rises that it may shut out to-day. These days themselves have no abiding; wherefore wouldest thou abide with them? Your desire then whereby ye wish for "life and good days," I not only do not repress, but I even more strongly inflame. By all means "seek" for" life, seek for good days;" but let them be sought there, where they can be found.

6. For would ye with me hear His counsel, who knoweth where "good days" and where "life" is? Hear it not from me, but together with me. For One says to us, "Come, ye children, hearken unto Me." And let us run together, and stand, and prick up our ears, and with our hearts understand the Father, who hath said, "Come, ye children, hearken unto Me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord."(2) And then follows what he would teach us, and to what end the fear of the Lord is useful. "Who is the man that wisheth life, and loveth to see good days?" We all answer, "We wish it." Let us listen then to what follows, "Refrain thy tongue from evil, and thy lips that they speak no guile."(3) Now say, "I wish it." Just now when I said, "Who is the man that wisheth for life, and loveth to see good days?" we all answered, "I." Come then, let some one now answer "I." So then, "Refrain thy tongue from evil, and thy lips that they speak no guile." Now say, "I." Wouldest thou then have "good days" and "life," and wouldest thou not "refrain thy tongue from evil, and thy lips that they speak no guile"? Alert to the reward, slow to the work! And to whom if he does not work is the reward rendered? I would that in thy house thou wouldest render the reward even to him that does work! For to him that works not, I am sure thou dost not render it. And why? Because thou owest nothing to him that does not work! And God hath a reward proposed. What reward? "Life and good days," which life we all desire, and unto which days we all strive to come. The promised reward He will give us. What reward? "Life and good days." And what are "good days"? Life without end, rest without labour.

7. Great is the reward He hath set before us: in so great a reward as is set before us, let us see what He hath commanded us. For enkindled by the reward of so great a promise, and by the love of the reward, let us make ready at once our strength, our sides, our arms, to do His bidding. Is it as if He were to command us to carry heavy burdens, to dig something it may be, or to raise up some machine? No, no such laborious thing hath He enjoined thee, but hath enjoined thee only to "refrain" that member which amongst all thy members thou dost move so quickly. "Refrain thy tongue from evil." It is no labour to erect a building, and is it a labour to hold in the tongue? "Refrain thy tongue from evil." Speak no lie, speak no revilings, speak no slanders, speak no false witnesses, speak no blasphemies. "Refrain thy tongue from evil." See how angry thou art, if any one speaks evil of thee. As thou art angry with another, when he speaks evil of thee; so be thou angry with thyself, when thou speakest evil of another. "Let thy lips speak no guile." What is in thine heart within, be that spoken out. Let not thy breast conceal one thing, and thy tongue utter another. "Depart from evil, and do good." For how should I say, "Clothe the naked," to him who up to this time would strip him that is clothed? For he that oppresses his fellow-citizen, how can he take in the stranger? So then in proper order, first "depart from evil," and "do good;" first "gird up thy loins," and then "light the lamp." And when thou hast done this, wait in assured hope for "life and good days." "Seek peace, and ensue it;" and then with a good face wilt thou say unto the Lord, "I have done what Thou hast bidden, render me what Thou hast promised."




1. WE have heard the Gospel, and in it the Lord reproving those who knew how to discern the face of the sky, and know not how to discover the time of faith, the kingdom of heaven which is at hand. Now this He said to the Jews; but His words reach even unto us. Now the Lord Jesus Christ Himself began the preaching of His Gospel in this way; "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."(1) In like manner too John the Baptist and His forerunner began thus; "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."(2) And now the Lord rebuketh those who would not repent, when "the kingdom of heaven was at hand." "The kingdom of heaven," as He saith Himself, "will not come with observation."(3) And again He saith, "The kingdom of heaven is within you."(4) Let every one then wisely receive the admonitions of the Master,(5) that he may not lose the season of the mercy of the Saviour, which is now being dealt out, as long as the human race is spared. For to this end is man spared, that he may be converted, and that he may not be to be condemned. God only knoweth when the end of the world shall come: nevertheless now is the time of faith. Whether the end of the world shall find any of us here, I know not; and perhaps it will not find us. Our time is very near to each one of us, seeing we are mortal. We walk in the midst of chances. If we were made of glass, we should have to fear chances less than we have. What is more fragile than a vessel of glass? And vet it is kept, and lasts for ages. For though the chances of a fall are feared for the vessel of glass, yet there is no fear of fever or old age for it. We then are more fragile and more infirm; because all the chances which are incessant in human things, we doubtless through our frailness are in daily dread of; and if these chances come not, yet time goes on; a man avoids this stroke, can he avoid his end? he avoids accidents which happen from without, can that which is born within be driven away? Again, now the entrails engender worms, now some other disease attacks on a sudden; lastly, let a man be spared ever so long, at last when old age comes, there is no way of putting off that.

2. Wherefore let us give ear to the Lord, let us do within ourselves what He hath enjoined. Let us see who that adversary is, of whom He hath put us in fear, saying, "If thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, give diligence in the way to be delivered from him; lest haply he deliver thee to the magistrate, and the magistrate to the officer, and thou be cast into prison, from whence thou shalt not come out, till thou payest the very last farthing."(6) Who is this "adversary"? If the devil; we have been delivered from him already. What a price was given for us that we might be redeemed from him! Of which the Apostle says, speaking of this our redemption, "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love."(7) We have been redeemed, we have renounced the devil; how shall we "give diligence to be delivered from him," that he make us not, as sinners, his captives again? But this is not the "adversary" of whom the Lord gives us warning. For in another place another Evangelist has so expressed it, that if we join both expressions together, and compare both expressions of the two Evangelists with each other, we shall soon understand who this adversary is. For see, what did Luke say here? "When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, give diligence in the way to be delivered from him."(8) But the other Evangelist has expressed this same thing thus: "Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him." All the rest is alike: "Lest haply the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison."(1) Both Evangelists have explained this alike. One said, "Give diligence in the way to be delivered from him;" the other said, "Agree with him." For thou wilt not be able to "be delivered from him," unless thou "agree with him." Wouldest thou "be delivered from him? Agree with him." But what? is it the devil with whom the Christian ought to "agree"?

3. Let us then seek out this "adversary," with whom we ought to "agree, lest he deliver us to the judge, and the judge to the officer;" let us seek him out, "and agree with him." If thou sin, the word of God is thine adversary.(2) For example, it is a delight to thee perchance to be drunken; it says to thee, "Do it not." It is a delight to thee to frequent the spectacles, and such triflings; it says to thee, "Do it not." It is a delight to thee to commit adultery; the word of God saith to thee, "Do it not." In what sins soever thou wouldest do thine own will, it saith to thee, "Do it not." It is the adversary of thy will, till it become the author of thy salvation. O how goodly, how useful an "adversary"! It does not seek our will, but our advantage. It is our "adversary," as long as we are our own adversaries. As long as thou art thine own enemy, thou hast the word of God thine enemy; be thine own friend, and thou art in agreement with it. "Thou shalt do no murder;" give ear, and thou hast "agreed" with it. "Thou shalt not steal;" give ear, and thou hast "agreed" with it. "Thou shalt not commit adultery;" give ear, and thou hast "agreed" with it. "Thou shall not give false witness;" give ear, and thou hast "agreed" with it. "Thou shall not covet thy neighbour's wife;" give ear, and thou hast agreed with it. "Thou shall not covet thy neighbour's goods;"(3) give ear, and thou hast "agreed" with it. In all these things thou hast agreed with this "thine adversary," and what hast thou lost to thyself? Not only hast thou lost nothing; but thou hast even found thyself, who hadst been lost. "The way," is this life; if we shall "agree with the adversary," if we shall come to terms with him; when "the way" is ended, we shall not fear the "judge, the officer, the prison.

4. When is "the way" ended? It is not ended at the same hour to all. Each several man hath his hour when he shall end his "way." This life is called "the way;" when thou hast ended this life, thou hast ended "the way." We are going on, and the very living is advancing. Unless peradventure ye imagine that time advances, and we stand still! It cannot be. As time advances, we too advance; and years do not come to us, but rather go away. Greatly are men mistaken when they say, "This boy has little good sense yet, but years will come on him, and he will be wise." Consider what thou sayest. "Will come on him," thou hast said; "I will show that they go away," whereas thou sayest, "they come on." And hear how easily I prove it. Let us suppose that we have known the number of his years from his birth; for instance (that we may wish him well) he has to live fourscore years, he is to arrive at old age. Write down fourscore years. One year he has lived; how many hast thou in the total? how many hast thou down? Fourscore! Deduct one. He has lived ten; seventy remain. He has lived twenty; sixty remain. Yet surely, it will be said, they did come; what can this mean? Our years come that they may depart; they come, I say that they may go. For they do not come, that they may abide with us, but as they pass through us, they wear us out, and make us less and less strong. Such is "the way" into which we have come. What then have we to do with that "adversary," that is, with the word of God? "Agree with him." For thou knowest not when "the way" may be ended. When "the way" is ended, there remain "the judge," and "the officer," and "the prison." But if thou maintain a good will to "thine adversary," and "agree with him;" instead of a "judge," shalt thou find a father, instead of a cruel "officer," an Angel taking thee away into Abraham's bosom, instead of a "prison," paradise. How rapidly hast thou changed all things "in the way," because thou hast "agreed with thine adversary"!


[CX. BEN.]


1. Touching "the fig-tree" which had its three years' trial, and bare no fruit, and "the woman which was in an infirmity eighteen years," hearken to what the Lord may grant me to say. The fig-tree is the human race. And the three years are the three times; one before the Law, the second under the Law, the third under grace. Now there is nothing unsuitable in understanding by "the fig-tree" the human race. For when the first man sinned, he covered his nakedness with fig-leaves;(1) covered those members, from which we derive our birth. For what before his sin should have been his glory, after sin became his shame. So before that, "they were naked, and were not ashamed."(2) For they had no reason to blush, when no sin had gone before; nor could they blush for their Creator's works, because they had not yet mingled any evil work of their own with the good works of their Creator. For they had not yet eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, of which they had been forbidden to eat. After then that they had eaten and sinned, the human race sprang from them; that is, man from man, debtor from debtor, mortal from mortal, sinner from sinner. In this "tree" then he entitles those, who through the whole range of time would not bear fruit; and for this cause the axe was hanging over the unfruitful tree. The gardener intercedes for it, punishment is deferred, that help may be administered. Now the gardener who intercedes, is every saint who within the Church prays for those who are without the Church. And what does he pray? "Lord, let it alone this year also;" that is, in this time of grace, spare the sinners, spare the unbelievers, spare the barren, spare the unfruitful. "I will dig about it, and put a basket of dung about it; if it bear fruit, well; but if not, thou shall come and cut it down."(3) "Thou shall come:" When? Thou shalt come in judgment, when Thou shall come to judge the quick and dead. Meanwhile they are spared. But what is the "digging "? What is the "digging about it," but the teaching lowliness and repentance? For a ditch is low ground. The basket of dung understand in its good effects. It is filthy, but it produces fruit. The gardener's filth is the sinner's sorrows. They who repent, repent in filthy robes; if, that is, they understand aright, and repent in truth. To this tree then is it said, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."(4)

2. What is that "woman who was in an infirmity eighteen years"? In six days God finished His works. Three times six are eighteen. What the "three years" then in "the tree" signified, that do the "eighteen years" in this woman. She was bent down, she could not look up; because in vain did she hear, "Up with your hearts." But the Lord made her straight. There is hope then, for the children, that is, even until the day of judgment come. Man ascribes much to himself. Yet what is man? A righteous man is something great. But yet a righteous man is righteous only by the grace of God. "For what is man, save that thou art mindful of him ?"(5) Wouldest thou see what man is? "All men are liars."(6) We have chanted, "Arise, Lord; let not man prevail."(7) What is, "let not man prevail"? Were not the Apostles men? Were not Martyrs men? The Lord Jesus Himself, without ceasing to be God, vouchsafed to be Man. What then is, "Arise, Lord; let not man prevail"? If "all men are liars; arise," Truth, "let not" falsehood "prevail." If man then would be anything good, it must not be of anything of his own. For if he should wish to be anything of his own he will be "a liar." If he would wish to be true, he must be so of that which is from God, not of anything of his own.

3.Therefore, "Arise, Lord; let not man prevail." So much did lying prevail before the flood, that after the flood only eight men remained.(8) By them the earth was again replenished with lying men, and out of them was elected the people of God. Many miracles were wrought, divine benefits imparted. They were brought right through to the land of promise, delivered from Egyptian bondage: Prophets were raised up among them, they received the temple, they received the priesthood, they received the anointing, they received the Law. Yet of this very people was it said afterwards, "The strange children have lied unto me."(9) At last He was sent who had been promised afore by the Prophets. "Let not man prevail," even the more, because that God was made Man. But even He, though He did divine works, was despised, though He showed forth so many acts of mercy, He was apprehended, He was scourged, He was hanged. Thus far "did man prevail," to apprehend the Son of God, to scourge the Son of God, to crown the Son of God with thorns, to hang the Son of God upon the tree. So far "did man prevail:" how far, but up to the time that having been taken down from the tree, He was laid in the sepulchre? If He had remained there, man would have "prevailed" indeed. But this prophecy addresses the very Lord Jesus Himself, saying, "Arise, Lord, let not man prevail." O Lord, Thou hast vouchsafed to come in the flesh, the Word made Flesh. The Word above us, the Flesh among us, the Word-flesh(10) between God and Man: Thou didst choose a virgin to be born from according to the flesh, when Thou wast to be conceived, Thou didst find a Virgin; when Thou wast born, Thou didst leave a Virgin. But Thou wast not acknowledged; Thou wast Seen, and yet wast hidden. Infirmity was seen, Power was hidden. All this was done, that Thou mightest shed that Blood, which is our Price.

Thou didst so great miracles, didst give health to the weaknesses of the sick, didst show forth many acts of mercy, and receivedst evil for good. They mocked Thee, Thou didst hang upon the tree; the ungodly wagged their heads before Thee, and said, "If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross."(1) Hadst Thou then lost Thy power, or rather wast Thou showing forth Thy Patience? and yet they mocked Thee, and yet they derided Thee, yet, when Thou wast slain, they went away as if victorious. Lo, Thou art laid in the sepulchre: "Arise, Lord, let not man prevail." "Let not" the ungodly enemy "prevail, let not" the blind Jew "prevail." For when Thou wert crucified, the Jew in his blindness seemed to himself to have "prevailed." "Arise, Lord, let not man prevail." It is done, yea, it is done. And now what remains, but that "the nations be judged in thy sight"? For He hath risen again, as ye know, and ascended into heaven; and from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

4. Ah! unfruitful tree, mock not, because thou art yet spared; the axe is delayed, be not(2) thou secure; He will come and thou shalt be cut down. Believe that He will come. All these things which now ye see, once were not. Once the Christian people were not over the whole world. It was read of in prophecy, not seen in the earth; now it is both read and seen. Thus was the Church herself completed. It was not said to her, "See, O daughter, and hear;" but, "Hear and see."(3) Hear the predictions, see the completions. As then, my beloved Brethren, Christ had once not been born of a Virgin, but His birth was promised, and He was born; He had once not done His miracles, they were promised, and He did them: He had not yet suffered, it was promised, and so it came to pass: He had not risen again, it was foretold, and so fulfilled: His Name was not throughout the world, it was foretold, and so fulfilled: the idols were not destroyed and broken down, it was foretold, and so fulfilled: heretics had not assailed the Church, it was foretold, and so fulfilled. So also the Day of Judgment is not yet, but seeing it hath been foretold, it shall be fulfilled. Can it be that He who in so many things hath shown Himself true, should be false touching the Day of Judgment? He hath given us a bond(4) of His promises. For God hath made Himself a debtor, not by owing ought, that is, not by borrowing; but by promising. We cannot therefore say to Him, "Give back what Thou hast received." Since "who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?"(5) We cannot say to Him, "Give what Thou hast received;" but we say without(6) scruple, "Give what Thou hast promised."

5. For hence it is that we are bold to say, day by day, "Thy kingdom come;"(7) that when His kingdom comes, we too may reign with Him. Which hath been promised to us in these words; "Then will I say unto them, Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world."(8) But assuredly only if we shall have done what follows in that place. "For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat," etc. He made these promises to our fathers; but He hath given us a security,(9) for us too to read. If He who hath vouchsafed to give us this security, were to make a reckoning with us and say," Read my debts, the debts, that is, of my promises, and reckon up what I have already paid, and reckon also what I still owe; see how many I have paid already; and what I owe is but little; will ye for that little that remains, think Me an untrustworthy promiser?" What should we have to answer against this most evident truth? Let him then who is barren repent, and bear "fruit worthy of repentance." He that is bent down, who looks only on the earth, rejoices in earthly happiness, who thinks this the only happy life, where he may be happy, and who believes no other can be; whosoever he be that is so bent down, let him be made straight; if he cannot by himself, let him call upon God. For was that woman made straight by herself? Woe had it been for her, if He had not stretched out His Hand.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (LNPF I/VI, Schaff). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.