To confirm what has been said above about rewards and punishments, he adds that it is not strange if there is no reward reserved for some in the future; for they do not labour here nor struggle. He goes on to say also that for this reason temporal goods are granted to these persons, so that they may have no excuse whatever.
59. Is not he unjust who gives the reward before the end of the contest? Therefore the Lord says in the Gospel: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 101 He said not: “Blessed are the rich,” but “the poor.” By the divine judgment blessedness begins there whence human misery is supposed to spring. “Blessed are they that hunger, for they shall be filled; Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted; Blessed are the merciful, for God will have mercy on them; Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God; Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you for righteousness sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for plentiful is your reward in heaven.” 102 A reward future and not present,—in heaven, not on earth,—has He promised shall be given. What further dost thou expect? What further is due? Why dost thou demand the crown with so much haste, before thou dost conquer? Why dost thou desire to shake off the dust and to rest? Why dost thou long to sit at the feast before the course is finished? As yet the people are looking on, the athletes are in the arena, and thou—dost thou already look for ease?
60. Perhaps thou sayest: Why are the wicked joyous? why do they live in luxury? why do they not toil with me? It is because they who have not put down their names to strive for the crown are not bound to undergo the labours of the contest. They who have not gone down into the race-course do not anoint themselves with oil nor get covered with dust. For those whom glory awaits trouble is at hand. The perfumed spectators are wont to look on, not to join in the struggle, nor to endure the sun, the heat, the dust, and the showers. Let the athletes say to them: Come, strive with us. The spectators will but answer: We sit here now to decide about you, but you, if you conquer, will gain the glory of the crown and we shall not.
61. They, then, who have devoted themselves to pleasures, luxury, robbery, gain, or honours are spectators rather than combatants. They have the profit of labour, but not the fruits of virtue. They love their ease; by cunning and wickedness they heap up riches; but they will pay the penalty of their iniquity, though it be late. Their rest will be in hell, thine in heaven; their home in the grave, thine in paradise. Whence Job said beautifully that they watch in the tomb, 103 for they cannot have the calm of quiet rest which he enjoys who shall rise again.
62. Do not, therefore, understand, or speak, or think as a child; nor as a child claim those things now which belong to a future time. The crown belongs to the perfect. Wait till that which is perfect is come, when thou mayest know—not through a glass as in a riddle, but face to face 104 —the very form of truth made clear. Then will be made known why that person was rich who was wicked and a robber of other mens goods, why another was powerful, why a third had many children, and yet a fourth was loaded with honours.
63. Perhaps all this happens that the question may be asked of the robber: Thou p. 12 wast rich, wherefore didst thou seize on the goods of others? Need did not force thee, poverty did not drive thee to it. Did I not make thee rich, that thou mightest have no excuse? So, too, it may be said to a person of power: Why didst thou not aid the widow, the orphans also, when enduring wrong? Wast thou powerless? Couldst thou not help? I made thee for this purpose, not that thou mightest do wrong, but that thou mightest check it. Is it not written for thee “Save him that endureth wrong?” 105 Is it not written for thee: “Deliver the poor and needy out of the hand of the sinner”? 106 It may be said also to the man who has abundance of good things: I have blessed thee with children and honours; I have granted thee health of body; why didst thou not follow my commands? My servant, what have I done to thee, or how have I grieved thee? Was it not I that gave thee children, bestowed honours, granted health to thee? Why didst thou deny me? Why didst thou suppose that thy actions would not come to my knowledge? Why didst thou accept my gifts, yet despise my commands?
64. We can gather the same from the example of the traitor Judas. He was chosen among the Twelve Apostles, and had charge of the money bag, to lay it out upon the poor, 107 that it might not seem as though he had betrayed the Lord because he was unhonoured or in want. Wherefore the Lord granted him this office, that He might also be justified in him; he would be guilty of a greater fault, not as one driven to it by wrong done to him, but as one misusing grace.
S. Matt. v. 3.11:102
S. Matt. v. 4 ff.11:103 11:104 12:105 12:106 12:107
S. John xii. 6.
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