Remig.: To establish the truth of this saying, "There are many
first that shall be last, and last first," the Lord subjoins a similitude.
Pseudo-Chrys.: The Master of the household is Christ, whose house are
the heavens and the earth; and the creatures of the heavens, and the earth,
and beneath the earth, His family. His vineyard is righteousness, in which
are set divers sorts of righteousness as vines, as meekness, chastity,
patience, and the other virtues; all of which are called by one common
name righteousness. Men are the cultivators of this vineyard, whence it
is said, "Who went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his
vineyard." For God placed His righteousness in our senses, not for His
own but for our benefit. Know then that we are the hired labourers. But
as no man gives wages to a labourer, to the end he should do nothing save
only to eat, so likewise we were not thereto called by Christ, that we
should labour such things only as pertain to our own good, but to the glory
of God. And like as the hired labourer looks first to his task, and after
to his daily food, so ought we to mind first those things which concern
the glory of God, then those which concern our own profit. Also as the
hired labourer occupies the whole day in his Lord's work, and takes but
a [p. 680] single hour for his own meal; so ought we to occupy our whole
life in the glory of God, taking but a very small portion of it for the
uses of this world. And as the hired labourer when he has done no work
is ashamed that day to enter the house, and ask his food, how should not
you be ashamed to enter the church, and stand before the face of God, when
you have done nothing good in the sight of God?
Greg., Hom. in Ev., xix, 1: Or; The Master of the household, that is,
our Maker, has a vineyard, that is, the Church universal, which has borne
so many stocks, as many saints as it has put forth from righteous Abel
to the very last saint who shall be born in the end of the world. To instruct
this His people as for the dressing of a vineyard, the Lord has never ceased
to send out His labourers; first by the Patriarchs, next by the teachers
of the Law, then by the Prophets, and at the last by the Apostles, He has
toiled in the cultivation of His vineyard; though every man, in whatsoever
measure or degree he has joined good action with right faith, has been
a labourer in the vineyard.
Origen: For the whole of this present life may be called one day, long
to us, short compared to the existence of God.
Greg.: The morning is that age of the world which was from Adam and
Noah, and therefore it is said, "Who went out early in the morning to hire
labourers into his vineyard." The terms of their hiring He adds, "And when
he had agreed with the labourers for a denarius a day."
Origen: The denarius I suppose here to mean salvation.
Remig.: A denarius was a coin anciently equal to ten sesterces, and
bearing the king's image. Well therefore does the denarius represent the
reward of the keeping of the decalogue. And that, "Having agreed with them
for a denarius a day," is well said, to shew that every man labours in
the field of the holy Church in hope of the future reward.
Greg.: The third hour is the period from Noah to Abraham; of which it
is said, "And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing
in the market-place idle."
Origen: The market-place is all that is without the vineyard, that is,
without the Church of Christ.
Pseudo-Chrys.: For in this world men live by buying and selling, and
gain their support by defrauding each other.
Greg.: He that lives to himself, and feeds on the delights of the flesh,
is rightly accused as [p. 681] idle, forasmuch as he does not seek the
fruit of godly labour.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Or; The "idle" are not sinners, for they are called dead.
But he is idle who works not the work of God. Do you desire to be not idle?
Take not that which is another's; and give of that which is your own, and
you have laboured in the Lord's vineyard, cultivating the vine of mercy.
It follows, "And he said unto them, Go ye also into my vineyard." Observe
that it is with the first alone that He agrees upon the sum to be given,
a denarius; the others are hired on no express stipulation, but "What is
right I will give you." For the Lord knowing that Adam would fall, and
that all should hereafter perish in the deluge, made conditions for him,
that he should never say that he therefore neglected righteousness, because
he knew not what reward he should have. But with the rest He made no contract,
seeing He was prepared to give more than the labourers could hope.
Origen: Or; He did not call upon the labourers of the third hour for
a complete task, but left to their own choice, how much they should work.
For they might perform in the vineyard work equal to that of those who
had wrought since the morning, if they chose to put forth upon their task
an operative energy, such as had not yet been exerted.
Greg.: The sixth hour is that from Abraham to Moses, the ninth that
from Moses to the coming of the Lord.
Pseudo-Chrys.: These two hours are coupled together, because in the
sixth and ninth it was that He called the generation of the Jews, and multiplied
to publish His testaments among men, whereas the appointed time of salvation
now drew nigh.
Greg.: The eleventh hour is that from the coming of the Lord to the
end of the world. The labourer in the morning, at the third, sixth, and
ninth hours, denotes the ancient Hebrew people, which in its elect from
the very beginning of the world, while it zealously and with right faith
served the Lord, ceased not to labour in the husbandry of the vineyard.
But at the eleventh the Gentiles are called. For they who through so many
ages of the world had neglected to labour for their living, were they who
had stood the whole day idle. But consider their answer; "They say unto
him, Because no man hath hired us;" for neither Patriarch nor Prophet had
come to them. And what is it to say, "No man hath hired us," but to say,
None [p. 682] has preached to us the way of life.
Pseudo-Chrys.: For what is our hiring, and the wages of that hiring?
The promise of eternal life; for the Gentiles knew neither God, nor God's
Hilary: These then are sent into the vineyard, "Go ye also into my vineyard."
Raban.: But when they had rendered their day's task, at the fitting
time for payment, "When even was come," that is, when the day of this world
was drawing to its close.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Consider, He gives the reward not the next morning, but
in the evening. Thus the judgment shall take place while this world is
still standing, and each man shall receive that which is due to him. This
is on two accounts. First, because the happiness of the world to come is
to be itself the reward of righteousness; so the award is made before,
and not in that world. Secondly, that sinners may not behold the blessedness
of that day, "The Lord saith unto his steward," that is, the Son to the
Gloss., non. occ., sed vid.
Raban.: Or, if you choose, the Father saith unto the Son; for the Father
wrought by the Son, and the Son by the Holy Spirit, not that there is any
difference of substance, or majesty.
Origen: Or; "The Lord said to his steward," that is, to one of the Angels
who was set over the payment of the labourers; or to one of those many
guardians, according to what is written, that "The heir as long as he is
a child is under tutors and governors." [Gal 4:2]
Remig.: Or, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the master of the household,
and also the steward, like as He is the door, and also the keeper of the
door. For He Himself will come to judgment, to render to each man according
to that he has done. He therefore calls His labourers, and renders to them
their wages, so that when they shall be gathered together in the judgment,
each man shall receive according to his works.
Origen, Heb 11, 40: But the first labourers having the witness through
faith have not received the promise of God, the lord of the household providing
some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
And because we have obtained mercy, we hope to receive the reward first,
we, that is, who are Christ's, and after us they that wrought before us;
wherefore it is said, "Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning
from the last unto the first."
Pseudo-Chrys.: For we always give more willingly, where we give without
return, seeing it is for our [p. 683] own honour that we give. Therefore
God in giving reward to all the saints shews himself just; in giving to
us, merciful; as the Apostle speaks, "That the Gentiles might glorify God
for His mercy;" [Rom 16:9] and thence it is said, "Beginning from the last
even unto the first." Or surely that God may shew His inestimable mercy,
He first rewards the last and more unworthy, and afterwards the first;
for of His great mercy He regarded not order of merit.
Aug., de Spir. et Lit. 24: Or; The lesser are therefore taken as first,
because the lesser are to be made rich.
Greg.: They get alike a denarius who have wrought since the eleventh
hour, (for they sought it with their whole soul,) and who have wrought
since the first. They, that is, who were called from the beginning of the
world have alike received the reward of eternal happiness, with those who
come to the Lord in the end of the world.
Pseudo-Chrys.: And this not with injustice. For he who was born in the
first period of the world, lived no longer than the determined time of
his life, and what harm was it to him, though the world continued after
his leaving it? And they that shall be born towards its close will not
live less than the days that are numbered to them. And how does it cut
their labour shorter, that the world is speedily ended, when they have
accomplished their thread of life before? Moreover it is not of man to
be born sooner or later, but of the power of God. Therefore he that is
born first cannot claim to himself a higher place, nor ought he to be held
in contempt that was born later. "And when they had received it, they murmured
against the goodman of the house, saying." But if this we have said be
true, that both first and last have lived their own time, and neither more
nor less; and that each man's death is his consummation, what means this
that they say, "We have borne the burden and heat of the day?" Because
to know that the end of the world is at hand is of great force to make
us do righteousness. Wherefore Christ in His love to us said, "The kingdom
of heaven shall draw nigh." [Matt 4:2] Whereas it was a weakening of them
to know that the duration of the world was to be yet long. So that though
they did not indeed live through the whole of time, they seem in a manner
to have borne its weight. Or, by the burden of the day is meant the burdensome
precepts of the Law; and the [p. 684] heat may be that consuming temptation
to error which evil spirits contrived for them, stirring them to imitate
the Gentiles; from all which things the Gentiles were exempt, believing
on Christ, and by compendiousness of grace being saved completely.
Greg.: Or; To bear the burden and heat of the day, is to be weaned through
a life of long duration with the heats of the flesh. But it may be asked,
How can they be said to murmur, when they are called to the kingdom of
heaven? For none who murmurs shall receive the kingdom, and none who receives
that can murmur.
Chrys.: But we ought not to pursue through every particular the circumstances
of a parable; but enter into its general scope, and seek nothing further.
This then is not introduced in order to represent some as moved with envy,
but to exhibit the honour that shall be given us as so great as that it
might stir the jealousy of others.
Greg.: Or because the old fathers down to the Lord's coming, notwithstanding
their righteous lives, were not brought to the kingdom, this murmur is
theirs. But we who have come at the eleventh hour, do not murmur after
our labours, forasmuch as having come into this world after the coming
of the Mediator, we are brought to the kingdom as soon as ever we depart
out of the body.
Jerome: Or, all that were called of old envy the Gentiles, and are pained
at the grace of the Gospel.
Hilary: And this murmur of the labourers corresponds with the frowardness
of this nation, which even in the time of Moses were stiff-necked.
Remig.: By this one to whom his answer is given, may be understood all
the believing Jews, whom he calls friends because of their faith.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Their complaint was not that they were defrauded of their
rightful recompense, but that the others had received more than they deserved.
For the envious have as much pain at others' success as at their own loss.
From which it is clear, that envy flows from vain glory. A man is grieved
to be second, because he wishes to be first. He removes this feeling of
envy by saying, "Didst thou not agree with me for a denarius?"
Jerome: A denarius bears the figure of the king. You have therefore
received the reward which I promised you, that is, my image and likeness;
what desirest thou more? And yet, it is not that [p. 685] thou shouldest
have more, but that another should have less that thou seekest. "Take that
is thine, and go thy way."
Remig.: That is, take thy reward, and enter into glory. "I will give
to this last," that is, to the gentile people, according to their deserts,
as to thee.
Origen: Perhaps it is to Adam He says, "Friend, I do thee no wrong;
didst thou not agree with me for a denarius? Take that thine is, and go
thy way." Salvation is thine, that is, the denarius. "I will give unto
this last also as unto thee." A person might not improbably suppose, that
this last was the Apostle Paul, who wrought but one hour, and was made
equal with all who had been before him.
Aug., de Sanc. Virg., 26: Because that life eternal shall be equal to
all the saints, a denarius is given to all; but forasmuch as in that life
eternal the light of merits shall shine diversely, there are with the Father
many mansions; so that under this same denarius bestowed unequally one
shall not live longer than another, but in the many mansions one shall
shine with more splendour than another.
Greg.: And because the attainment of this kingdom is of the goodness
of His will, it is added, "It is not lawful for me to do what I will with
mine own?" For it is a foolish complaint of man to murmur against the goodness
of God. For complaint is not when a man gives not what he is not bound
to give, but if he gives not what he is bound to give; whence it is added,
"Is thine eye evil because I am good?"
Remig.: By the eye is understood his purpose. The Jews had an evil eye,
that is, an evil purpose, seeing they were grieved at the salvation of
the Gentiles. Whereto this parable pointed, He shews by adding, "So the
first shall be last, and the last first;" and so the Jews of the head are
become the tail, and we of the tail are become the head.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Or; He says the first shall be last, and the last first,
not that the last are to be exalted before the first, but that they should
be put on an equality, so that the difference of time should make no difference
in their station. That He says, "For many are called, but few chosen,"
is not to be taken of the elder saints, but of the Gentiles; for of the
Gentiles who were called being many, but few were chosen.
Greg.: There be very many come to the faith, yet but few arrive at the
heavenly kingdom; many follow God in words, but shun Him in their [p. 686]
lives. Whereof spring two things to be thought upon. The first, that none
should presume ought concerning himself; for though he be called to the
faith, he knows not whether he shall be chosen to the kingdom. Secondly,
that none should despair of his neighbour, even though he see him lying
in vices; because he knows not the riches of the Divine mercy. Or otherwise.
The morning is our childhood; the third hour may be understood as our youth,
the sun as it were mounting to his height is the advance of the heat of
age; the sixth hour is manhood, when the sun is steady in his meridian
height, representing as it were the maturity of strength; by the ninth
is understood old age, in which the sun descends from his vertical height,
as our age falls away from the fervour of youth; the eleventh hour is that
age which is called decrepit, and doting.
Chrys.: That He called not all of them at once, but some in the morning,
some at the third hour, and so forth, proceeded from the difference of
their minds [ed. note: ]. He then called them when they would obey; as
He also called the thief when he would obey. Whereas they say, "Because
no man hath hired us," we ought not to force a sense out of every particular
in a parable. Further, it is the labourers and not the Lord who speak thus;
for that He, as far as it pertains to Him, calls all men from their earliest
years, is shewn in this, "He went out early in the morning to hire labourers."
Greg.: They then who have neglected till extreme old age to live unto
God, have stood idle to the eleventh hour, yet even these the master of
the household calls, and oftentimes gives them their reward before other,
inasmuch as they depart out of the body into the kingdom before those that
seemed to be called in their childhood.
Origen: But this, "Why stand ye here all the day idle?" is not said
to such as having "begun, in the spirit," [Gal 3:3] have been "made perfect
by the flesh," as inviting them to return again, and to live in the Spirit.
This we speak not to dissuade prodigal sons, who have consumed their substance
of evangelic doctrine in riotous living, from returning to their father's
house; but because they are not like those who sinned in their youth, before
they had learnt the things of the faith.
Chrys.: When He says, The first [p. 687] shall be last, and the last
first," He alludes secretly to such as were at the first eminent, and afterwards
set at nought virtue; and to others who have been reclaimed from wickedness,
and have surpassed many. So that this parable was made to quicken the zeal
of those who are converted in extreme old age, that they should not suppose
that they shall have less than others.