On the words of the Gospel, Matt. xx. 30, about the two blind men sitting by the way side, and crying out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Thou Son of David.”
1. Ye know, Holy Brethren, full well as we do, that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the Physician of our eternal health; and that to this end He took the weakness of our nature, that our weakness might not last for ever. For He assumed a mortal body, wherein to kill death. And, “though He was crucified through weakness,” as the Apostle saith, “yet He liveth by the power of God.” 2870 They are the words too of the same Apostle; “He dieth no more, and death shall have no more dominion over Him.” 2871 These things, I say, are well known to your faith. And there is also this which follows from it, that we should know that all the miracles which He p. 379 did on the body, avail to our instruction, that we may from them perceive that which is not to pass away, nor to have any end. He restored to the blind those eyes which death was sure sometime to close; He raised Lazarus to life who was to die again. And whatever He did for the health of bodies, He did it not to this end that they should be for ever; whereas at the last He will give eternal health even to the body itself. But because those things which were not seen, were not believed; by means of these temporal things which were seen, He built up faith in those things which were not seen.
2. Let no one then, Brethren, say that our Lord Jesus Christ doeth not those things now, and on this account prefer the former to the present ages of the Church. In a certain place indeed the same Lord prefers those who “do not see, and yet believe,” 2872 to them who see and therefore believe. For even at that time so irresolute was the infirmity of His disciples, that they thought that He whom they saw to have risen again must be handled, in order that they might believe. It was not enough for their eyes that they had seen Him, unless their hands also were applied to His limbs, and the scars of His recent wounds were touched; that that disciple who was in doubt, might cry out suddenly when he had touched and recognised the scars, “My Lord and my God.” 2873 The scars manifested Him who had healed all wounds in others. Could not the Lord have risen again without the scars? Yes, but He knew the wounds which were in the hearts of His disciples, and to heal them He had preserved the scars on His own Body. And what said the Lord to him who now confessed and said, “My Lord and my God”? “Because thou hast seen,” He said, “thou hast believed; blessed are they who do not see, and yet believe.” Of whom spake He, Brethren, but of us? Not that He spake only of us, but of those also who shall come after us. For after a little while when He had departed from the sight of men, that faith might be established in their hearts, whosoever believed, believed, though they saw Him not, and great has been the merit of their faith; for the procuring of which faith they brought only the movement of a pious heart, and not the touching of their hands.
3. These things then the Lord did to invite us to the faith. This faith reigneth now in the Church, which is spread throughout the whole world. And now He worketh greater cures, on account of which He disdained not then to exhibit those lesser ones. For as the soul is better than the body, so is the saving health of the soul better than the health of the body. The blind body doth not now open its eyes by a miracle of the Lord, but the blinded heart openeth its eyes to the word of the Lord. The mortal corpse doth not now rise again, but the soul doth rise again which lay dead in a living body. The deaf ears of the body are not now opened; but how many have the ears of their heart closed, which yet fly open at the penetrating word of God, so that they believe who did not believe, and they live well, who did live evilly, and they obey, who did not obey; and we say, “Such a man is become a believer;” and we wonder when we hear of them whom once we had known as hardened. Why then dost thou marvel at one who now believes, who is living innocently, and serving God; but because thou dost behold him seeing, whom thou hadst known to be blind; dost behold him living, whom thou hadst known to be dead; dost behold him hearing, whom thou hadst known to be deaf? For consider that there are who are dead in another than the ordinary sense, of whom the Lord spake to a certain man who delayed to follow the Lord, because he wished to bury his father; “Let the dead,” said He, “bury their dead.” 2874 Surely these dead buriers are not dead in body; for if this were so, they could not bury dead bodies. Yet doth he call them dead; where, but in the soul within? For as we may often see in a household, itself sound and well, the master of the same house lying dead; so in a sound body do many carry a dead soul within; and these the Apostle arouses thus, “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” 2875 It is the Same who giveth light to the blind, that awakeneth the dead. For it is with His voice that the cry is made by the Apostle to the dead, “Awake, thou that sleepest.” And the blind will be enlightened with light, when he shall have risen again. And how many deaf men did the Lord see before His eyes, when He said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” 2876 For who was standing before Him without his bodily ears? What other ears then did He seek for, but those of the inner man?
4. Again, what eyes did He look for when He spake to those who saw indeed, but who saw only with the eyes of the flesh? For when Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us;” 2877 he understood indeed that if the Father were shown him, it might well suffice him; but how would the Father suffice him whom He that was equal to the Father sufficed not? And why did He not suffice? Because He was not seen. And why was He not seen? Because the eye whereby He might be seen was not yet whole. For this, namely, that the Lord was seen in the flesh with the outp. 380 ward eyes, not only the disciples who honoured Him saw, but also the Jews who crucified Him. He then who wished to be seen in another way, sought for other eyes. And therefore it was that to him who said, “Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us;” He answered, “Have I been so long time with you; and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He who hath seen Me, hath seen the Father also.” 2878 And that He might in the mean while heal the eyes of faith, he has first of all instructions given him regarding faith, that so he might attain to sight. And lest Philip should think that he was to conceive of God under the same form in which he then saw the Lord Jesus Christ in the body, he immediately subjoined; “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?” 2879 He had already said, “He who hath seen Me, hath seen the Father also.” But Philips eye was not yet sound enough to see the Father, nor consequently to see the Son who is Himself Coequal with the Father. And so Jesus Christ took in hand to cure, and with the medicines and salve of faith to strengthen the eyes of his mind, which as yet were weak and unable to behold so great a light, and He said, “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?” Let not him then who cannot yet see what the Lord will one day show him, seek first to see what he is to believe; but let him first believe that the eye by which he is to see may be healed. For it was only the form of the servant which was exhibited to the eyes of servants; because if “He who thought it not robbery to be equal with God,” 2880 could have been now seen as equal with God by those whom He wished to be healed, He would not have needed to “empty Himself, and to take the form of a servant.” But because there was no way whereby God could be seen, but whereby man could be seen, there was; therefore He who was God was made man, that that which was seen might heal that whereby He was not seen. For He saith Himself in another place, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” 2881 Philip might of course have answered and said, “Lord, lo, I see Thee; is the Father such as I see Thee to be? forasmuch as Thou hast said, He who hath seen Me, hath seen the Father also?” But before Philip answered thus, or perhaps before he so much as thought it, when the Lord had said, “He who hath seen Me, hath seen the Father also;” He immediately added, “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?” For with that eye he could, not yet see either the Father, or the Son who is equal with the Father; but that his eye might be healed for seeing, he was to be anointed unto believing. So then before thou seest what thou canst not now see, believe what as yet thou seest not. “Walk by faith,” that thou mayest attain to sight. Sight will not gladden him in his home whom faith consoleth not by the way. For so says the Apostle, “As long as we are in the body, we are in pilgrimage from the Lord.” 2882 And he subjoins immediately why we are still “in pilgrimage,” though we have now believed; “For we walk by faith,” He says, “not by sight.”
5. Our whole business then, Brethren, in this life is to heal this eye of the heart whereby God may be seen. To this end are celebrated the Holy Mysteries; to this end is preached the word of God; to this end are the moral exhortations of the Church, those, that is, that relate to the correction of manners, to the amendment of carnal lusts, to the renouncing the world, not in word only, but in a change of life: to this end is directed the whole aim of the Divine and Holy Scriptures, that that inner man may be purged of that which hinders us from the sight of God. For as the eye which is formed to see this temporal light, a light though heavenly, yet corporeal, and manifest, not to men only, but even to the meanest animals (for for this the eye is formed, to see this light); if anything be thrown or fall into it, whereby it is disordered, is shut out from this light; and though it encompass the eye with its presence, yet the eye turns itself away from, and is absent from it; and through its disordered condition is not only rendered absent from the light which is present, but the light to see which it was formed, is even painful to it. So the eye of the heart too when it is disordered and wounded turns away from the light of righteousness, and dares not and cannot contemplate it.
6. And what is it that disorders the eye of the heart? Evil desire, covetousness, injustice, worldly concupiscence, these disorder, close, blind the eye of the heart. And yet when the eye of the body is out of order, how is the physician sought out, what an absence of all delay to open and cleanse it, that that may be healed whereby this outward light is seen! There is running to and fro, no one is still, no one loiters, if even the smallest straw fall into the eye. And God it must be allowed made the sun which we desire to see with sound eyes. Much brighter assuredly is He who made it; nor is the light with which the eye of the mind is concerned of this kind at all. That light is eternal Wisdom. God made thee, O man, after His own image. Would He give thee wherewithal to see the sun which He made, and not give thee wherewithal to see Him who made thee, when He made thee after His own image? He p. 381 hath given thee this also; both hath He given thee. But much thou dost love these outward eyes, and despisest much that interior eye; it thou dost carry about bruised and wounded. Yea, it would be a punishment to thee, if thy Maker should wish to manifest Himself unto thee; it would be a punishment to thine eye, before that it is cured and healed. For so Adam in paradise sinned, and hid himself from the face of God. As long then as he had the sound heart of a pure conscience, he rejoiced at the presence of God; when that eye was wounded by sin, he began to dread the Divine light, he fled back into the darkness, and the thick covert of the trees, flying from the truth, and anxious for the shade.
7. Therefore, my Brethren, since we too are born of him, and as the Apostle says, “In Adam all die;” 2883 for we were all at first two persons if we were loth to obey the physician, that we might not be sick; let us obey Him now, that we may be delivered from sickness. The physician gave us precepts, when we were whole; He gave us precepts that we might not need a physician. “They that are whole,” He saith, “need not a physician, but they that are sick.” 2884 When whole we despised these precepts, and by experience have felt how to our own destruction we despised His precepts. Now we are sick, we are in distress, we are on the bed of weakness; yet let us not despair. For because we could not come to the Physician, He hath vouchsafed to come Himself to us. Though despised by man when he was whole, He did not despise him when he was stricken. He did not leave off to give other precepts to the weak, who would not keep the first precepts, that he might not be weak; as though He would say, “Assuredly thou hast by experience felt that I spake the truth when I said, Touch not this. Be healed then now at length, and recover the life thou hast lost. Lo, I am bearing thine infirmity; drink thou the bitter cup. For thou hast of thine own self made those my so sweet precepts which were given to thee when whole, so toilsome. They were despised and so thy distress began; cured thou canst not be, except thou drink the bitter cup, the cup of temptations, wherein this life abounds, the cup of tribulation, anguish, and sufferings. Drink then,” He says, “drink, that thou mayest live.” And that the sick man may not make answer, “I cannot, I cannot bear it, I will not drink;” the Physician, all whole though he be, drinketh first, that the sick man may not hesitate to drink. For what bitterness is there in this cup, which He hath not drunk? If it be contumely; He heard it first when He drove out the devils, “He hath a devil, and by Beelzebub He casteth out devils.” 2885 Whereupon in order to comfort the sick, He saith, “If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of His household?” 2886 If pains are this bitter cup, He was bound and scourged and crucified. If death be this bitter cup, He died also. If infirmity shrink with horror from any particular kind of death, none was at that time more ignominious than the death of the cross. For it was not in vain that the Apostle, when setting forth His obedience, added, “Made obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” 2887
8. But because He designed to honour His faithful ones at the end of the world, He hath first honoured the cross in this world; in such wise that the princes of the earth who believe in Him have prohibited any criminal from being crucified; and that cross which the Jewish persecutors with great mockery prepared for the Lord, even kings His servants at this day bear with great confidence on their foreheads. Only the shameful nature of the death which our Lord vouchsafed to undergo for us is not now so apparent, Who, as the Apostle says, “was made a curse for us.” 2888 And when as He hung, the blindness of the Jews mocked Him, surely He could have come down from the Cross, who if He had not so willed, had not been on the Cross; but it was a greater thing to rise from the grave than to come down from the Cross. Our Lord then in doing these Divine, and in suffering these human things, instructs us by His Bodily miracles and Bodily patience, that we may believe, and be made whole to behold those things invisible which the eye of the body hath no knowledge of. With this intent then He cured these blind men of whom the account has just now been read in the Gospel. And consider what instruction He has by their cure conveyed to the man who is sick within.
9. Consider the issue of the thing, and the order of the circumstances. Those two blind men sitting by the way side cried out as the Lord passed by, that He would have mercy upon them. But they were restrained from crying out by the multitude which was with the Lord. Now do not suppose that this circumstance is left without a mysterious meaning. But they overcame the crowd who kept them back by the great perseverance of their cry, that their voice might reach the Lords ears; as though He had not already anticipated their thoughts. So then the two blind men cried out that they might be heard by the Lord, and could not be restrained by the multitudes. The Lord “was passing by,” and they cried out. The Lord “stood still,” and they were healed. For “the Lord Jesus p. 382 stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? They say unto Him, That our eyes may be opened.” 2889 The Lord did according to their faith, He recovered their eyes. If we have now understood by the sick, the deaf, the dead, the sick, and deaf, and dead, within; let us look out in this place also for the blind within. The eyes of the heart are clossd; “Jesus passeth by” that we may cry out. What is, “Jesus passeth by”? Jesus is doing things which last but for a time. What is “Jesus passeth by”? Jesus doeth things which pass by. Mark and see how many things of His have “passed by.” He was born of the Virgin Mary; is He being born always? As an infant was He suckled; is He suckled always? He ran through the successive ages of life unto mans full estate; doth He grow in body always? Boyhood succeeded to infancy, to boyhood youth, to youth mans full stature in several passing successions. Even the very miracles which He did are “passed by,” they are read and believed. For because these miracles are written that so they might be read, they “passed by” when they were being done. In a word, not to dwell long on this, He was Crucified: is He hanging on the Cross always? He was Buried, He Rose again, He Ascended into heaven; “now He dieth no more, death shall no more have dominion over Him.” 2890 And His Divinity abideth ever, yea, the Immortality of His Body now shall never fail. But nevertheless all those things which were wrought by Him in time have “passed by;” and they are written to be read, and they are preached to be believed. In all these things then, “Jesus passeth by.”
10. And what are “the two blind men by the way side,” but the two people to cure whom Jesus came? Let us show those two people in the Holy Scriptures. It is written in the Gospel, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also must I bring, that there may be one fold and One Shepherd.” 2891 Who then are the two people? One the people of the Jews, and the other of the Gentiles. “I am not sent,” He saith, “but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 2892 To whom did He say this? To the disciples; when that woman of Canaan who confessed herself to be a dog, cried out that she might be found worthy of the crumbs from the masters 2893 table. And because she was found worthy, now were the two people to whom He had come made manifest: the Jewish people, to wit, of whom He said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel;” and the people of the Gentiles, whose type this woman exhibited whom He had first rejected, saying, “It is not meet to cast the childrens bread to the dogs;” and to whom when she said, “Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters table;” He answered, “O woman, great is thy faith, be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” 2894 For of this people also was that centurion of whom the same Lord saith, “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” Because he had said, “I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.” 2895 So then the Lord even before His Passion and Glorification pointed out two people, the one to whom He had come because of the promises to the Fathers; and the other whom for His mercys sake He did not reject; that it might be fulfilled which had been promised to Abraham, “In thy seed shall all nations be blessed.” 2896 Wherefore also the Apostle after the Lords Resurrection and Ascension, when He was despised by the Jews, went to the Gentiles. Not that he was silent however towards the Churches which consisted of Jewish believers; “I was unknown,” he says, “by face unto the Churches of Judæa which were in Christ. But they heard only that he which persecuted us in times past, now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed, and they glorified God in me.” 2897 So again Christ is called the “Corner Stone who made both one.” 2898 For a corner joins two walls which come from different sides together. And what was so different as the circumcision and uncircumcision, having one wall from Judæa, the other from the Gentiles? But they are joined together by the corner stone. “For the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner.” 2899 There is no corner in a building, except when two walls coming from different directions meet together, and are joined in a kind of unity. The “two blind men” then crying out unto the Lord were these two walls according to the figure.
11. Attend now, dearly Beloved. The Lord was “passing by,” and the blind men “cried out.” What is “was passing by”? As we have already said, He was doing works which “passed by.” Now upon 2900 these passing works is our faith built up. For we believe on the Son of God, not only in that He is the word of God, by whom all things were made; for if He had always continued “in the form of God, equal with God,” and had not “emptied Himself in taking the form of a servant,” the blind men would not even have perceived Him, that they might be able to cry out. But when He wrought passing works, that is, “when He humbled Himself, having become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” the “two blind men cried p. 383 out, Have mercy on us, thou Son of David.” For this very thing that He Davids Lord and Creator, willed also to be Davids Son, He wrought in time, He wrought “passing by.”
12. Now what is it, Brethren, “to cry out” unto Christ, but to 2901 correspond to the grace of Christ by good works? This I say, Brethren, lest haply we cry aloud with our voices, and in our lives be dumb. Who is he that crieth out to Christ, that his inward blindness may be driven away by Christ as He is “passing by,” that is, as He is dispensing to us those temporal sacraments, whereby we are instructed to receive the things which are eternal? Who is he that crieth out unto Christ? Whoso despiseth the world, crieth out unto Christ. Whoso despiseth the pleasures of the world, crieth out unto Christ. Whoso saith not with his tongue, but with his life, “The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world,” 2902 crieth out unto Christ. Whoso “disperseth abroad and giveth to the poor, that his righteousness may endure for ever,” 2903 crieth out unto Christ. For let him that hears, and is not deaf to the sound, “sell that ye have, and give to the poor; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not;” 2904 let him as he hears the sound as it were of Christs footsteps “passing by,” cry out in response to this in his blindness, that is, let him do these things. Let his voice be in his actions. Let him begin to despise the world, to distribute to the poor his goods, to esteem as nothing worth what other men love, let him disregard injuries, not seek to be avenged, let him give his “cheek to the smiter,” let him pray for his enemies; if any “one have taken away his goods,” let “him not ask for them again;” 2905 if he “have taken anything from any man, let him restore fourfold.” 2906
13. When he shall begin to do all this, all his kinsmen, relations, and friends will be in commotion. They who love this world, will oppose him. What madness this! you are too extreme: 2907 what! are not other men Christians? This is folly, this is madness. And other such like things do the multitude cry out to prevent the blind from crying out. The multitude rebuked them as they cried out; but did not overcome their cries. Let them who wish to be healed understand what they have to do. Jesus is now also “passing by;” let them who are by the way side cry out. These are they “who know God with their lips, but their heart is far from Him.” 2908 These are by the way side, to whom as blinded 2909 in heart Jesus gives His precepts. For when those passing things which Jesus did are recounted, Jesus is always represented to us as “passing by.” For even unto the end of the world there will not be wanting “blind men sitting by the way side.” Need then there is that they who sit by the way side should cry out. The multitude that was with the Lord would repress the crying of those who were seeking for recovery. Brethren, do ye see my meaning? For I know not how to speak, but still less do I know how to be silent. I will speak then, and speak plainly. For I fear “Jesus passing by” and “Jesus standing still;” and therefore I cannot keep silence. Evil and lukewarm Christians hinder good Christians who are truly earnest, 2910 and wish to do the commandments of God which are written in the Gospel. This multitude which is with the Lord hinders those who are crying out, hinders those that is who are doing well, that they may not by perseverance be healed. But let them cry out, and not faint; let them not be led away as if by the authority of numbers; let them not imitate those who became Christians before them, who live evil lives themselves, and are jealous of the good deeds of others. Let them not say, “Let us live as these so many live.” Why not rather as the Gospel ordains? Why dost thou wish to live according to the remonstrances of the multitude who would hinder thee, and not after the steps of the Lord, “who passeth by”? They will mock, and abuse, and call thee back; do thou cry out till thou reach the ears of Jesus. For they who shall persevere in doing such things as Christ hath enjoined, and regard not the multitudes that hinder them, nor think much of their appearing to follow Christ, that is of their being called Christians; but who love the light which Christ is about to restore to them, more than they fear the uproar of those who are hindering them; they shall on no account be separated from Him, and Jesus will “stand still,” and make them whole.
14. For how are our eyes made whole? That as by faith we perceive Christ “passing by” in the temporal economy, 2911 so we may attain to the knowledge of Him as “standing still” in His unchangeable Eternity. For then is the eye made whole when the knowledge of Christs Divinity is attained. Let your love apprehend this; attend ye to the great mystery 2912 which I am to speak of. All the things which were done by our Lord Jesus Christ in time, graft faith in us. We believe on the Son of God, not on the Word only, “by which all things were made;” but on this very Word, “made flesh that He might dwell among us,” who was born of the Virgin Mary, and the rest which the Faith contains, and which are represented to us that Christ p. 384 might “pass by,” and that the blind, hearing His footsteps as He “passeth by,” might by their works “cry out,” by their life exemplifying the profession of their faith. But now in order that they who cry out may be made whole, “Jesus standeth still.” For he saw Jesus now “standing still” who says, “Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.” 2913 For he saw Christs Divinity as far as in this life is possible. There is then in Christ the Divinity and the Humanity. The Divinity “standeth still,” the Humanity “passeth by.” What means, The Divinity “standeth still”? It changeth not, is not shaken, doth not depart away. For He did not so come to us, as to depart from the Father; nor did He so ascend as to change His place. When He assumed Flesh, it changed place; but God assuming Flesh, seeing He is not in place, doth not change His place. Let us then be touched by Christ “standing still,” and so our eyes be made whole. But whose eyes? The eyes of those who “cry out” when He is “passing by;” that is, who do good works through that faith, which hath been dispensed in time, to instruct us in our infancy.
15. Now what thing more precious can we have than the eye made whole? They rejoice who see this created light which shines from heaven, or even that which is given out from a lamp. And how wretched do they seem, who cannot see this light? But wherefore do I speak, and talk of all these things, but to exhort you all to “cry out,” when Jesus “passeth by.” I hold up this light which perhaps ye do not see as an object of love to you, Holy Brethren. Believe, whilst as yet ye see not; and “cry out” that ye may see. How great is thought to be the unhappiness of men, who do not see this bodily light? Does any one become blind; immediately it is said; “God is angry with him, he has committed some wicked deed.” So said Tobias wife to her husband. He cried out because of the kid, lest it had come of theft; he did not like to hear the sound of any stolen thing in his house; and she, maintaining what she had done, reproached her husband; and when he said, “Restore it if it be stolen;” she answered insultingly, “Where are thy righteous deeds?” 2914 How great was her blindness who maintained the theft; and how clear a light he saw, who commanded the stolen thing to be restored! She rejoiced outwardly in the light of the sun; he inwardly in the light of Righteousness. Which of them was in the better light?
16. It is to the love of this light that I would exhort you, Beloved; that ye would cry out by your works, when the Lord “passeth by;” let the voice of faith sound out, that “Jesus standing still,” that is, the Unchangeable, Abiding Wisdom of God, and the Majesty of the Word of God, “by which all things were made,” may open your eyes. The same Tobias in giving advice to his son, instructed him to this, to cry out; that is, he instructed him to good works. He told him to give to the poor, charged him to give alms to the needy, and taught him, saying, “My son, alms suffereth not to come into darkness.” 2915 The blind gave counsel for receiving and gaining light. “Alms,” saith he, “suffereth not to come into darkness.” Had his son in astonishment answered him, “What then, father, hast thou not given alms, that thou now speakest to me in blindness; art not thou in darkness, and yet thou dost say to me, “Alms suffereth not to come into darkness.” But no, he knew well what the light was, concerning which he gave his son instruction, he knew well what he saw in the inner man. The son held out his hand to his father, to enable him to walk on earth; and the father to the son, to enable him to dwell in heaven.
17. To be brief; that I may conclude this Sermon, Brethren, with a matter which touches me very nearly, and gives me much pain, see what crowds there are which “rebuke the blind as they cry out.” But let them not deter you, whosoever among this crowd desire to be healed; for there are many Christians in name, and in works ungodly; let them not deter you from good works. Cry out amid the crowds that are restraining you, and calling you back, and insulting you, whose lives are evil. For not only by their voices, but by evil works, do wicked Christians repress the good. A good Christian has no wish to attend the public shows. In this very thing, that he bridles his desire of going to the theatre, he cries out after Christ, cries out to be healed. Others run together thither, but perhaps they are heathens or Jews? Ah! indeed, if Christians went not to the theatres, there would be so few people there, that they would go away for very shame. So then Christians run thither also, bearing the Holy Name only to their condemnation. Cry out then by abstaining from going, by repressing in thy heart this worldly 2916 concupiscence; hold on with a strong and persevering cry unto the ears of the Saviour, that Jesus may “stand still” and heal thee. Cry out amidst the very crowds, despair not of reaching the ears of the Lord. For the blind men in the Gospel did not cry out in that quarter, where no crowd was, that so they might be heard in that direction, where there was no impediment from persons hindering them. Amidst the very crowds they cried out; and yet the p. 385 Lord heard them. And so also do ye even amidst sinners, and sensual then, amidst the lovers of the vanities of the world, there cry out that the Lord may heal you. Go not to another quarter to cry out unto the Lord, go not to heretics, and cry out unto Him there. Consider, Brethren, how in that crowd which was hindering them from crying out, even there were they who cried out made whole.
18. For observe this too, Holy Brethren, what it is to persevere in crying out. I will speak of what many as well as myself have experienced in Christs name; for the Church does not cease to give birth to such as these. When any Christian has begun to live well, to be fervent in good works, and to despise the world; in this newness of his life he is exposed to the animadversions and contradictions of cold Christians. But if he persevere, and get the better of them by his endurance, and faint not in good works; those very same persons who before hindered will now respect him. 2917 For they rebuke, and hinder, and withstand him so long as they have any hope that he will yield to them. But if they shall be overcome by their perseverance who make progress, they turn round and begin to say, “He is a great man, a holy man, happy he to whom God hath given such grace.” Now do they honour him, they congratulate and bless and laud him; just as that multitude did which was with the Lord. They first hindered the blind men that they might not cry out; but when they continued to cry so as to attain to be heard, and to obtain the Lords mercy, that same multitude now says, “Jesus calleth you.” And they who a little before “rebuked them that they should hold their peace,” use now the voice of exhortation. Now he only is not called by the Lord who is not in labour in this world. But who is there in this life who is not in labour through his sins and iniquities? But if all labour, it is said to all, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour.” 2918 Now if this is said to all, why ascribest thou thy miscarriage 2919 to Him that so inviteth thee? Come. His house is not too narrow for thee; the kingdom of God is possessed equally by all, and wholly by each one; it is not diminished by the increasing number of those who possess it, because it is not divided. And that which is possessed by many with one heart, is whole and entire for each one.
19. Yet in the mysterious sense of this passage, Brethren, we recognise what is expressed most plainly in other places of the sacred books, that there are within the Church both good and bad, as I often express it, wheat and chaff. Let no one leave the floor before the time, let him bear with the chaff in the time of threshing, let him bear with it in the floor. For in the barn he will have none of it to bear with. The Winnower will come, who shall divide the bad from the good. There will then be a bodily separation too, which a spiritual separation now precedes. In heart be always separated from the bad, in body be united with them for a time, only with caution. Yet be not negligent in correcting those who belong to you, who in any way appertain to your charge, by admonition, or instruction, by exhortation, or by threats. Do it, in whatsoever way ye can. And because ye find in Scripture and in the examples of Saints, whether of those who lived before or after the coming of the Lord in this life, that the bad do not defile the good in unity with them, do not on this account become slow in the correction of the bad. In two ways the bad will not defile thee; if thou consent not to him, and if thou reprove him; this is, not to communicate with him, not to consent to him. For there is a communication, when an agreement either of the will or of the approbation is joined to his deed. This the Apostle teaches us, when he says, “Have no communication with the unfruitful works of darkness.” 2920 And because it was a small matter not to consent, if negligence in correction accompanied it, he says, “But rather reprove them.” See how he comprehended both at once, “Have no communication, but rather reprove them.” What is, “Have no communication”? Do not consent to them, do not praise them, do not approve them. What is, “But rather reprove them”? Find fault with, rebuke, repress them.
20. But then in the correction and repressing of other mens sins, one must take heed, that in rebuking another he do not lift up himself; and that sentence of the Apostle must be thought of, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” 2921 Let the voice of chiding sound outwardly in tones of terror, let the spirit of love and gentleness be maintained within. “If a man be overtaken in a fault,” as the same Apostle says, “ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one anothers burdens, and so shall ye fulfil the law of Christ.” 2922 And again in another place, “The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are held captive by him at his will.” 2923 So then be neither consenting to p. 386 evil, so as to approve of it; nor negligent so as not to reprove it; nor proud so as to reprove it in a tone of insult.
21. But whoso forsaketh unity, violateth charity; and whosoever violateth charity, how great gifts soever he have, he is nothing. “If he speak with the tongues of men and of angels; if he knew all mysteries, if he have all faith, so as to remove mountains, if he distribute all his goods to the poor, if he give his body to be burned, and have not charity; it is nothing; it profiteth him nothing.” 2924 He possesseth all things to no useful end, who hath not that one thing by which he may use all these things well. So then let us embrace charity, “studying to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” 2925 Let not those seduce us who understand the Scriptures in a carnal manner, and who in making a bodily separation, are separated themselves by a spiritual sacrilege from the good corn of the Church which is spread over the whole world. For throughout the whole world hath the good seed been sown. That good Sower, the Son of Man, hath scattered the good seed not in Africa only, but everywhere. But the enemy hath sown tares upon it. Yet what saith the Householder? “Let both grow together until the harvest.” 2926 Grow where? In the field, of course. What is the field? Is it Africa? No! What is it then? Let us not interpret it ourselves, let the Lord speak; let us not suffer any one to make his guess at his own pleasure. For the disciples said to the Master, “Declare unto us the parable of the tares.” And the Lord declared it: “The good seed,” said He, “are the children of the Kingdom. But the tares are the children of the wicked one.” Who sowed them? “The enemy that sowed them,” said He,” is the devil.” What is the field? “The field,” said He, “is this world.” What is the harvest? “The harvest,” said He, “is the end of the world.” Who are the reapers? “The reapers,” said He, “are the Angels.” Is Africa the world? Is this present time the harvest? Is Donatus the reaper? Look then for the harvest throughout the whole world, throughout the whole world “grow unto the harvest,” throughout the whole world bear with the tares even until the harvest. Let not perverse men seduce you, that chaff so light, which flies out of the floor before the coming of the Winnower; let them not seduce you. Hold them fast even to this single parable of the tares, and suffer them not to speak of anything else. This man, one will say, surrendered 2927 the Scriptures; no, not so: but this other man surrendered them. Whosoever it might be who has surrendered them, has their faithlessness made void the faithfulness of God? What is “the faithfulness of God”? That which He promised to Abraham, saying, “In thy seed shall all nations be blessed.” 2928 What is the faithfulness of God? “Let both grow together until the harvest.” Grow where? Throughout the field. What is throughout the field? Throughout the world.
22. Here they say; “It is true both kinds did once grow throughout the world, but the good wheat is diminished, and confined to this our country, and our small communion.” 2929 But the Lord doth not allow thee to interpret as thou wilt. He who explaineth this parable Himself, shutteth thy mouth, thy sacrilegious, profane, and ungodly mouth, that is counter to thine own interests, while thou runnest counter to the testator, even as he calleth thee to the inheritance. How doth He shut thy mouth? by saying, “Let both grow together until the harvest.” 2930 If the harvest hath come already, let us believe that the wheat has been diminished. Though not even then shall it be diminished, but gathered up into the barn. For so He saith, “Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into My barn.” If then they grow until the harvest, and after the harvest are gathered in, how are they diminished, thou wicked, thou ungodly one? I grant that in comparison with the tares and chaff the wheat is less in quantity; still “both grow together until the harvest.” For “when iniquity aboundeth, the love of many waxeth cold;” 2931 the tares and the chaff multiply. But because throughout the whole world wheat cannot be wanting, which “by enduring unto the end shall be saved, both grow together until the harvest.” And if because of the abundance of the wicked it is said, “When the Son of Man cometh, thinkest thou, shall He find faith on the earth?” 2932 and by this denomination are signified all those who by transgression of the law imitate him to whom it was said,” Earth thou art, and unto earth shalt thou return;” 2933 yet because of the abundance of the good also, and because of him to whom it was said, “Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven, and as the sand of the sea;” 2934 is that also written, “Many shall come from the East and West, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, in the kingdom of God.” 2935 “Both” then “grow together until the harvest,” and both the tares or chaff have their passages in the Scriptures, and the wheat theirs. And they who do not understand p. 387 them, confound them and are themselves confounded; and in their blind desire they make such an uproar, that they will not be silenced even by the clear manifestation of the truth.
23. See, they say, the Prophet says, “Depart ye, go ye out from thence, and touch no unclean thing;” 2936 how then for peace sake should we bear with the wicked, from whom we are commanded to “go out and depart that we touch not the unclean thing”? We understand that “departure” spiritually, they corporally. For I also cry out with the Prophet (for however mean a vessel I am, God maketh use of me to minister to you); I also cry out and say to you, “Depart ye, go ye out from thence, and touch not the unclean thing;” but with the touch of the heart, not of the body. For what is it to “touch the unclean thing,” but to consent to sin. And what is it to “go out from thence,” but to do what appertaineth to the rebuking of the wicked, as far as can be done, according to each ones grade and condition, 2937 with the maintenance of peace? Thou art displeased at a mans sin, thou hast not “touched the unclean thing.” Thou hast reproved, rebuked, admonished him, hast administered, if the case required it, a suitable discipline, and such as doth not violate unity; then thou hast “gone out from thence.” Now consider the actions of the Saints, lest perhaps this should seem to be an interpretation of my own. As Saints have understood these words, so surely ought they to be understood. “Go ye out from them,” says the Prophet. I will first maintain this meaning of the words from their customary use, and will afterwards show that that meaning is not my own. It often happens that men are accused; and when they are accused they defend themselves, and when the accused defends himself with good reason and justice, the hearers say, “He has got out of this.” Got out; whither has he gone? He abides still in the place where he was, yet has he “got out of this.” How has he got out of it? By the good account he has rendered, and by his most satisfactory defence. This is what the holy Apostles did when they “shook off the dust from their feet” 2938 against those who did not receive the message of peace which was sent to them. That watchman, “got out from thence,” to whom it was I said, “I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel.” 2939 For it was told him “If thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his way, that wicked one shall die in his iniquity, and thou shalt deliver thy soul.” 2940 This if he do, he “goes out from him,” not by a bodily separation, but by the defence of his own work. For he did what it was his duty to do; though the other, whose duty it was to obey, obeyed not. This then is that, “Go ye out from thence.”
24. So cried Moses and Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Let us see then if they acted thus, if they left the people of God, and betook themselves to other nations. How many and vehement rebukes did Jeremiah utter against the sinners, and wicked ones of his people. Yet he lived amongst them, he entered into the same temple with them, celebrated the same mysteries; 2941 he lived in that congregation of wicked men, but by his crying out “he went out from them.” This is “to go out from them;” this is not “to touch the unclean thing,” the not consenting to them in will, and the not sparing them in word. What shall I say of Jeremiah, of Isaiah, of Daniel, and Ezekiel, and the rest of the prophets, who did not retire from the wicked people, lest they should desert the good who were mingled with that people, among whom themselves were able to be such as they were? When Moses himself, Brethren, was receiving the law in the mount, the people below made an idol. 2942 The people of God, the people who had been led through the waves of the Red Sea which gave way to them, and overwhelmed their enemies who followed after, after so many signs and miracles displayed in plagues upon the Egyptians even unto death, and for “their” protection unto deliverance, yet demanded an idol, obtained an idol by force, made an idol, adored an idol, sacrificed unto an idol. God showeth His servant what the people had done, and saith that He will destroy them from before His Face. Moses maketh intercession for them as he was about to return to this people; yet had he a good opportunity of retiring and “going out from them,” as these persons understand it, that he might “not touch the unclean thing,” might not live among them; but he did not so. And that he might not seem to have acted thus from necessity rather than from love, God offered him another people; so that He might destroy these: “I will make of thee,” He said, “a great nation.” 2943 But he did not accept it; he cleaveth to the sinners, he prayeth for the sinners. And how does he pray? O signal proof of love, my Brethren! How does he pray? Mark that, as it were, mothers fondness, of which I have often spoken. When God threatened the sacrilegious people, Moses tender heart trembled, and on their behalf he opposed himself to the wrath of God. “Lord,” he says, “if Thou wilt forgive their sin, forgive; but if not, blot me out of Thy book p. 388 which Thou hast written.” 2944 With what a fathers and mothers 2945 fondness, yet with what assurance said he this, as he considered at once the justice and the mercy of God; that in that He is just, He would not destroy the righteous man; and that in that He is merciful, He would pardon the sinners.
25. It is now surely plain to your discernment, 2946 in what manner all such testimonies of the Scriptures are to be received; so that when Scripture says, that we must depart from the wicked, we are bid to understand this in no other sense, but that we depart in heart; lest by the separation from the good, we commit a greater evil than we shrink from in the union of the wicked, as these Donatists have done. But if they were truly good, and so had reproved the wicked, and not rather being themselves wicked, had defamed 2947 the good, they would for peace sake bear with any, be they who they might, seeing they have received the Maximianists 2948 as sound, whom they condemned before as lost. Undoubtedly the Prophet has said plainly, “Depart ye, go ye out from thence, and touch not the unclean thing.” But that I may understand what he said, I pay attention to what he did. By his own deeds he explains his words. He said, “Depart ye.” To whom did he say so? To the righteous of course. From whom did he bid them depart? From sinners and wicked men of course. I ask then, did he depart from such himself? I find that he did not. So then he understood it in another sense. For surely he would be the first to do what he enjoined. He departed from them in heart, he rebuked and reproved them. By keeping himself from consenting to them, he “did not touch the unclean thing;” but by rebuking them he “went out” free in the sight of God; and to him God neither imputeth his own sins, because he sinned not; nor the sins of others, because he approved them not; nor negligence, because he kept not silence; nor pride, because he continued in unity. So then, my Brethren, how many soever ye have among you, who are still weighed down by the love of the world, covetous, or perjured persons, adulterers, spectacle hunters, consulters of astrologers, of fanatics, of soothsayers, of augurs and diviners, drunkards, sensualists, whatever there is of bad that ye know ye have among you; show your disapprobation of it all as far as ye are able, that ye may in heart “depart;” and reprove them, that ye may “go out from them;” and consent not to them, that “ye touch not the unclean thing.”
2 Tim. ii. 24, etc.386:2924 386:2925 386:2926
Matt. xiii. 24, etc.386:2927
The occasion of the Donatist schism was a charge brought against Cecilianus, Bishop of Carthage, and Felix, Bishop of Aptunga, who had ordained him, of being traditors, that is, of having surrendered such copies of the Holy Scriptures as they had in their possession in times of persecution.386:2928 386:2929 386:2930 386:2931 386:2932
Luke xviii. 8, Vulgate.386:2933
Gen. iii. 19, Sept.386:2934 386:2935 387:2936 387:2937 387:2938 387:2939 387:2940 387:2941 387:2942 387:2943 388:2944 388:2945 388:2946 388:2947 388:2948