On the words of the gospel, Matt. xxii. 2, etc., About the
marriage of the king's son; against the donatists, on charity. Delivered
at Carthage in the Restituta.1
1. All the faithful2 know the marriage of the king's son, and his feast,
and the spreading3 of the Lord's Table is open to them all4 who will. But
it is of importance to each one to see how he approaches, even when he
is not forbidden to approach It. For the Holy Scriptures teach us that
there are two feasts of the Lord; one to which the good and evil come,
the other to which the evil come not. So then the feast, of which we have
just now heard when the Gospel was being read, has both good and evil guests.
All who excused themselves from this feast are evil; but not all those
who entered in are good. You therefore who are the good guests at this
feast do I address, who have in your minds the words, "He that eateth and
drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself."5 All you
who are such do I address, that ye look not for the good without, that
ye bear with the evil within.
2. I do not doubt that ye wish to hear, Beloved, who they are of whom
I have spoken in my address, that they should not look for the good without,
and should bear with the evil within. If all within are evil, whom do I
address? If all within are good, whom did I advise them to bear with being
evil? Let me first then with the Lord's assistance get out of this difficulty
as best I can. If you consider good perfectly and strictly6 speaking, none
is good but God Alone. Ye have the Lord saying most plainly, "Why callest
thou Me good? there is none Good but One, that is, God."7 How then can
that marriage feast have good and bad guests, if "none is good but God
Alone"? In the first place ye ought to know, that after a certain sort
we are all evil. Yes, doubtless after a certain sort are we all evil; but
after no sort are we all good. For can we compare ourselves with the Apostles,
to whom the Lord Himself said, "If ye then being evil know how to give
good gifts unto your children?"8 If we consider the Scriptures, there was
but one evil one among the twelve Apostles, with reference to whom the
Lord said in a certain place, "And ye are clean, but not all."9 But yet
in addressing them all together, He said, "If ye being evil." Peter heard
this, John heard this, Andrew heard this, all the rest of the eleven Apostles
heard it. What did they hear? "If ye 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?" When they heard that they were
evil, they were in despair; but when they heard that God in heaven was
their Father, they revived. "Ye being evil;" what then is due to the evil,
but punishment? "How much more shall your Father which is in heaven?" What
is due to children but reward. In the name of "evil" is the dread of punishment;
in the name of "children" is the hope of heirs.
3. According to a certain respect then they were evil, who after another
respect were good. For to them to whom it is said, "Ye being evil know
how to give good gifts unto your children;" is added immediately, "How
much more shall your Father which is in heaven?" He is then the Father
of the evil, but not of those who are to be left so; because He is the
Physician of them who are to be cured. According to a certain sort then
they were evil. And yet those guests of the Householder at the King's marriage,
were not I suppose of that number of whom it was said," they invited good
and bad,"10 that they should be reckoned among the number of the bad, who
we have heard were shut out in his person who was found not to have a wedding
garment. According to a certain respect, I repeat they were bad, who yet
were good; and according to a certain respect they were good, who yet were
bad. Hear John according to what respect they were bad: "If we say that
we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."11 Behold
after what respect they were bad: because they had sin. According to what
respect were they good? "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just
to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."12
If then we should say, on the principle of this interpretation which ye
have now heard me bring, as I think, out of the sacred Scriptures, viz.
that the same men are both after a certain manner, good, and after a certain
manner bad; if we should wish to receive according to this sense the words,
"they invited good and bad," the same persons, that is, at once good and
bad; if we should wish so to receive them, we are not permitted so to do,
by reason of that one who was found "not having a wedding garment," and
who was not merely "cast forth," so as to be deprived of that feast, but
so as to be condemned in the punishment of everlasting darkness.
4. But one will say, What of one man? what strange, what great matter
is it, if one among the crowd "not having a wedding garment" crept in unperceived
to the servants of the Householder? Could it be said because of that one,
"they invited good and bad"? Attend therefore, my Brethren, and understand.
That one man represented one class; for they were many. Here some diligent
hearer may answer me, and say, "I have no wish for you to tell me your
guesses; I wish to have it proved to me that that one represented many."13
By the Lord's present help, I will prove it clearly; nor will I search
far, that I may be able to prove it. God will assist me in His own words
in in this place, and will furnish you by my ministry with a plain proof
of it. "The Master of the house came in to see the guests."14 See, my Brethren,
the servants' business was only to invite and bring in the good and bad;
see that it is not said, that the servants took notice of the guests, and
found among them a man which had not on a wedding garment, and spoke to
him. This is not written. The Master of the house saw him, the Master of
the house discovered, the Master of the house inspected, the Master of
the house separated him out. It was not right to pass over this. But I
have undertaken to establish another point, how that that one signifies
many. "The Master of the house" then "came in to see the guests, and He
found there a man which had not on a wedding garment. And He saith unto
him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And
he was speechless."15 For He who questioned him was One, to whom he could
give no feigned reply. The garment that was looked for is in the heart,
not on the body; for had it been put on externally, it could not have been
concealed even from the servants. Where that wedding garment must be put
on, hear in the words, "Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness."16
Of that garment the Apostle speaks,17 "If so be that we shall be found
clothed, and not naked."18 Therefore was he discovered by the Lord, who
escaped the notice of the servants. Being questioned, he is speechless:
he is bound, cast out, and condemned one by many. I have said, Lord, that
Thou teachest us that in this Thou dost give warning to all. Recollect
then with me, my Brethren, the words which ye have heard, and ye will at
once discover, at once determine, that that one was many. True it was one
man whom the Lord questioned, to one He said, "Friend, how camest thou
in hither?" It was one who was speechless, and of that same one was it
said, "Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness; there
shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."19 Why? "For many are called, but
few chosen."20 How can any one gainsay this manifestation of the truth?
"Cast him," He saith, "into outer darkness." "Him," that one man assuredly,
of whom the Lord saith, "for many are called, but few chosen." So then
it is the few who are not cast out. He was it is true but one man "who
had not the wedding garment. Cast him out." But why is he cast out? "For
many are called, but few chosen." Leave alone the few, cast out the many.
It is true, that man was but one. Yet undoubtedly that one not only was
many, but those many in numbers far surpassed the number of the good. For
the good are many also; but in comparison of the bad, they are few. In
the crop there is much wheat; compare it with the chaff, and the grains
of corn are few. The same persons considered in themselves are many, in
comparison with the bad are few. How do we prove that in themselves they
are many? "Many shall come from the East and from the West." Whither shall
they come? To that feast, into which both good and bad enter. But speaking
of another feast, He subjoined, "and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac,
and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven."21 That is the feast to which the bad
shall not approach. Be that feast which now is, received worthily, that
we may attain to the other. The same then are many, who are also few; in
themselves many; in comparison with the bad few. Therefore what saith the
Lord? He found one, and said, "Let the many be cast out, the few remain."
For to say, "many are called, but few chosen," is nothing else than to
show plainly who in this present feast are accounted to be such, as to
be brought to that other feast, where no bad men shall come.
5. What is it then? I would not that ye all who approach the Lord's
Table which is in this life, should be with the many who are to be shut
out, but with the few who are to be reserved. And how shall ye be able
to attain to this? Take "the wedding garment." Ye will say, "Explain this
`wedding garment' to us." Without a doubt, that is the garment which none
but the good have, who are to be left at the feast, reserved unto that
other feast to which no bad man approaches, who are to be brought safely
thither by the grace of the Lord; these have "the wedding garment." Let
us then, my Brethren, seek for those among the faithful who have something
which bad men have not, and this will be "the wedding garment." If we speak
of sacraments, ye see how that these are common to the bad and good. Is
it Baptism? Without Baptism it is true no one attaineth to God; but not
every one that hath Baptism attaineth to Him. I cannot therefore understand
Baptism, the Sacrament itself that is, to be "the wedding garment;" for
this garment I see in the good, I see in the bad. Peradventure it is the
Altar, or That which is received at the Altar. But no; we see that many
eat, and "eat and drink judgment to themselves." What is it then? Is it
fasting? The wicked fast also. Is it running together to the Church? The
wicked run thither also. Lastly, is it miracles? Not only do the good and
bad perform them, but sometimes the good perform them not. See, among the
ancient people Pharaoh's magicians wrought miracles, the Israelites did
not; among the Israelites, Moses only and Aaron wrought them; the rest
did not, but saw, and feared, and believed.22 Were the magicians of Pharaoh
who did miracles, better men than the people of Israel who could not do
them, and yet that people were the people of God. In the Church itself,
hear the Apostle, "Are all prophets? Have all the gifts of healing? Do
all speak with tongues?"23
6. What is that "wedding garment" then? This is the wedding garment:
"Now the end of the commandment," says the Apostle, "is charity out of
a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned."24 This
is "the wedding garment." Not charity of any kind whatever; for very often
they who are partakers together of an evil conscience seem to love one
another. They who commit robberies together, who love the hurtful arts
of sorceries, and the stage together, who join together in the shout of
the chariot race, or the wild beast fight; these very often love one another;
but in these there is no "charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience,
and of faith unfeigned. The wedding garment" is such charity as this. "Though
I speak with the tongues of men and of Angels, and have not charity, I
am become as sounding brass, and a tinkling cymbal."25 Tongues have come
in alone, and it is said to them, "How came ye in hither not having a wedding
garment?" "Though," said he, "I have the gift of prophecy, and understand
all mysteries, and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that
I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." See, these
are the miracles of men who very often have not "the wedding garment."
"Though," he says," I have all these, and have not Christ, I am nothing."
Is then "the gift of prophecy" nothing? is then "the knowledge of mysteries"26
nothing? It is not that these are nothing; but" I," if I have them, "and
have not charity, am nothing. "How many good things profit nothing without
this one good thing! If then I have not charity, though I bestow alms freely
upon the poor, though I have come to the confession of Christ's Name even
unto blood and fire, these things may be done even through the love of
glory, and so are vain. Because then they may be done even from the love
of glory, and so be vain, and not through the rich charity of a godly affection,
he names them all also in express terms, and do thou give ear to them;
"though I distribute all my goods for the use of the poor, and though I
give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."27
This then is "the wedding garment." Question yourselves; if ye have it,
ye may be without fear in the Feast of the Lord. In one and the same man
there exist two things, charity and desire. Let charity be born in thee,
if it be yet unborn, and if it be born, be it nourished, fostered, increased.
But as to that desire, though in this life it cannot be utterly extinguished;
"for if we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth
is not in us;"28 but in so far as desire is in us, so far we are not without
sin: let charity increase, desire decrease; that the one, that is, charity,
may one day be perfected, and desire be consumed. Put on "the wedding garment:"
you I address, who as yet have it not. Ye are already within, already do
ye approach to the Feast, and I still have ye not yet the garment to do
honour to the Bridegroom; "Ye are yet seeking your own things, not the
things which are Jesus Christ's."29 For "the wedding garment" is taken
in honour of the union, the union, that is, of the Bridegroom to the Bride.
Ye know the Bridegroom; it is Christ. Ye know the Bride; it is the Church.
Pay honour30 to the Bride, pay honour to the Bridegroom. If ye pay due
honour to them both, ye will be their children. Therefore in this make
progress. Love the Lord, and so learn to love yourselves; that when by
loving the Lord ye shall have loved yourselves, ye may securely love your
neighbour as yourselves. For when I find a man that does not love himself,
how shall I commit his neighbour whom he should love as himself to him?
And who is there, you will say, who does not love himself? Who is there?
See, "He that loveth iniquity hateth his own soul."31 Does he love himself,
who loves his body, and hates his soul to his own hurt, to the hurt of
both his body and soul? And who loves his own soul? He that loveth God
with all his heart and with all his mind. To such an one I would at once
entrust his neighbour. "Love your neighbour as yourselves."
7. One may say, "Who is my neighbour?" Every man is your neighbour.
Had we not all the same two parents? Animals of every species are neighbours
one to the other, the dove to the dove, the leopard to the leopard, the
asp to the asp, the sheep to the sheep, and is not man neighbour to man?
Call to mind the ordering of the creation. God spake, the waters brought
forth swimming creatures, great whales, fish, birds, and such like things.
Did all the birds come of one bird? Did all vultures come of one vulture?
Did all doves come of one dove? Did all snakes come of one snake? or all
gilt-heads of one gilt-head?32 or all sheep of one sheep? No, the earth
assuredly brought forth all these kinds together. But when it came to man,
the earth did not bring forth man. One father was made for us; not even
two, father and mother: one father, I say, was made for us, not even two,
father and mother; but out of the one father came the one mother; the one
father came from none, but was made by God, and the one mother came out
of him. Mark then the nature of our race: we flowed out of one fountain;
and because that one was turned to bitterness, we all became from a good,
a wild olive tree. And so grace came also. One begat us unto sin and death,
yet as one race, yet as neighbours one to another, yet as not merely like,
but related to each other. There came One against one; against the one
who scattered, One who gathereth. Thus against the one who slayeth, is
the One who maketh alive. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall
all be made alive."33 Now as whosoever is born of the first, dieth; so
whosoever believeth in Christ is made alive. Provided, that is, that he
have "the wedding garment," and be invited as one who is to remain, and
not to be cast out.
8. So then, my Brethren, have charity. I have explained it to be this
garment, this "wedding garment." Faith is praised, it is plain, it is praised:
but what kind of faith this is, the Apostle distinguishes. For certain
who boasted of faith, and had not a good conversation, the Apostle James
rebukes and says, "Thou believest there is one God, thou doest well; the
devils also believe and tremble."34 Call to mind with me whereupon Peter
was praised, whereupon called blessed. Was it because he said, "Thou art
the Christ, the Son of the living God"?35 He who pronounced Him blessed,
regarded not the sound of the words, but the affection of the heart. For
would ye know that Peter's blessedness lay not in these words? The devils
also said the same. "We know Thee who Thou art, the Son of God."36 Peter
confessed Him to be "the Son of God;" the devils confessed Him to be "the
Son of God." "Distinguish, my lord, distinguish between the two." I do
make a plain distinction. Peter spake in love, the devils from fear. And
again Peter says, "I am with Thee, even unto death."37 The devils say,
"What have we to do with Thee?" So then thou who art come to the feast,
glory not of faith only. Distinguish well the nature of this faith; and
then in thee is recognised "the wedding garment." Let the Apostle make
the distinction, let him teach us; "neither circumcision availeth anything,
nor uncircumcision, but faith."38 Tell us, what faith? do not even the
devils believe and tremble? I will tell thee, he says, and listen, I will
now draw the distinction," But faith which worketh by love." What faith,
then, and of what kind? "That which worketh by love." "Though I haveall
knowledge," he says, "and all faith, so that I could remove mountains,
and have not charity, I am nothing." Have faith with love; for love without
faith ye cannot have. This I warn, this I exhort, this in the name of the
Lord I teach you, Beloved, that ye have faith with love; for ye may possibly
have faith without love. I do not exhort you to have faith, but love. For
ye cannot have love without faith; the love I mean of God and your neighbour;
whence can it come without faith? How doth he love God, who doth not believe
on God? How doth the fool love God, "who saith in his heart, there is no
God"?39 Possible it is that ye may believe that Christ hath come and not
love Christ. But it is not possible that ye should love Christ, and yet
say that Christ hath not come.
9. So then, have faith with love. This is the "wedding garment." Ye
who love Christ, love one another, love your friends, love your enemies.
Let not this be hard to you. What then do ye lose thereby, when ye gain
so much? What? dost thou ask of God as some great favour, that thine enemy
may die? This is not "the wedding garment." Turn thy thoughts to the Bridegroom
Himself hanging upon the Cross for thee, and praying to His Father for
His enemies; "Father," saith He, "forgive them, for they know not what
they do."40 Thou hast seen the Bridegroom speaking thus; see too the friend
of the Bridegroom, a guest "with the wedding garment." Look at the blessed
Stephen, how he rebukes the Jews as though in rage and resentment, "Ye
stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye have resisted the Holy
Ghost. Which of the Prophets have not your fathers killed?"41 Thou hast
heard how severe he is with his tongue. And at42 once thou art prepared
to speak against any one; and I would it were against him who offendeth
God, and not who offendeth thee. One offendeth God, and thou dost not rebuke
him; he offendeth thee, and thou criest out; where is that "wedding garment"?
Ye have heard therefore how Stephen was severe; now hear how he loved.
He offended those whom he was rebuking, and was stoned by them. And as
he was being overwhelmed and bruised to death by the hands of his furious
persecutors on every side, and the blows of the stones, he first said, "Lord
Jesus Christ, receive my spirit."43 Then after he had prayed for himself
standing, he bent the knee for them who were stoning him, and said, "Lord,
lay not this sin to their charge; let me die in my body, but let not these
die in their souls. And when he had said this, he fell asleep."44 After
these words he added no more; he spake them and departed; his last prayer
was for his enemies. Learn ye hereby to have "the wedding garment." So
do thou too bend the knee, and beat thy forehead against the ground, and
as thou art about to approach the Table of the Lord, the Feast of the Holy
Scriptures, do not say, "O that mine enemy might die! Lord, if I have deserved
ought of Thee, slay mine enemy." Because if so be that thou sayest so,
dost thou not fear lest He should answer thee, "If I should choose to slay
thine enemy, I should first slay thee. What! dost thou glory because thou
hast now come invited hither? Think only what thou wast but a little while
ago. Hast thou not blasphemed Me? hast thou not derided Me? didst thou
not wish to wipe out My Name from off the earth? Yet now thou dost applaud
thyself because thou hast come invited hither! If I had slain thee when
thou wast Mine enemy, how could I have made thee My friend? Why, by thy
wicked prayers dost thou teach Me to do, what I did not in thine own case?"
Yea rather God saith to thee, "Let me teach thee to imitate Me. When I
was hanging on the Cross, I said, `Forgive them, for they know not what
they do.'45 This lesson I taught My brave soldier. Be thou My recruit against
the devil. In no other way wilt thou fight at all unconquerably, unless
thou dost pray for thine enemies. Yet by all means ask this, yea ask this
very thing, ask that thou mayest persecute thine enemy; but ask it with
discernment; distinguish well what thou askest. See, a man is thine enemy;
answer me, what is it in him which is at enmity with thee? Is it in this,
that he is a man, that he is at enmity with thee? No. What then? That he
is evil. In that he is a man, in that he is that I made him, he is not
at enmity with thee." He saith to thee, "I did not make man evil; he became
evil by disobedience, who obeyed the devil46 rather than God. What he has
made himself, is at enmity with thee; in that he is evil, he is thine enemy;
not in that he is a man. For I hear the word "man," and "evil;" the one
is the name of nature the other of sin; the sin I cure; and the nature
I preserve." And so thy God saith to thee," See, I do avenge thee, I do
slay thine enemy; I take away that which makes him evil, I preserve that
which constitutes him a man: now if I shall have made him a good man, have
I not slain thine enemy, and made him thy friend?" So ask on what thou
art asking, not that the men may perish, but that these their enmities
may perish. For if thou pray for this, that the man may die; it is the
prayer of one wicked man against another; and when thou dost say, "Slay
the wicked one," God answereth thee, "Which of you?"
10. Extend your love then, and limit it not to your wives and children.
Such love is found even in beasts and sparrows. Ye know the sparrows and
the swallows how they love their mates, how together they hatch their eggs,
and nourish their young together, by a sort of free47 and natural kindliness,
and with no thought of a return. For the sparrow does not say, "I will
nourish my young, that when I am grown old, they may feed me." He has no
such thought; he loves and feeds them, for the love of them; displays the
affection of a parent, and looks for no return. And so, I know, I am sure,
do ye love your children. "For the children ought not to lay up for the
parents, but the parents for the children."48 Yea upon this plea it is
that many of you excuse your covetousness, that ye are getting for your
children, and are laying by for them.49 But I say, extend your love, let
this love grow; for to love wives and children, is not yet that "wedding
garment." Have faith to Godward. First love God. Extend yourselves out
to God; and whomsoever ye shall be able, draw on to God. There is thine
enemy: let him be drawn to God. There is a son, a wife, a servant; let
them be all drawn to God. There is a stranger; let him be drawn to God.
There is an enemy; let him be drawn to God. Draw, draw on thine enemy;
by drawing him on he shall cease to be thine enemy. So let charity be advanced,
so be it nourished, that being nourished it may be perfected; so be "the
wedding garment" put on; so be the image of God, after which we were created,
by this our advancing, engraven anew in us. For by sin was it bruised,
and worn away. How is it bruised? how worn away? When it is rubbed against
the earth? And what is, "When it is rubbed against the earth "? When it
is worn by earthly lusts. For "though man50 walketh in this image, yet
is he disquieted in vain."51 Truth is looked for in God's image, not vanity. By
the love of the truth then be that image, after which we were created, engraven
anew, and His Own tribute rendered to our Caesar. For so ye have heard
from the Lord's answer, when the Jews tempted Him, as He said, "Why tempt
ye Me, ye hypocrites; show Me the tribute money,"52 that is, the impress
and superscription of the image. Show me what ye pay, what ye get ready,
what is exacted of you. And "they showed Him a denarius;" and "He asked
whose image and superscription it had." They answered, "Caesar's." So Caesar
looks for his own image. It is not Caesar's will that what he ordered to
be made should be lost to him, and it is not surely God's will that what
He hath made should be lost to Him. Caesar, my Brethren, did not make the
money; the masters of the mint53 make it; the workmen have their orders,
he issues his commands to his ministers. His image was stamped upon the
money; on the money was Caesar's image. And yet he requires what others
have stamped; he puts it in his treasures; he will not have it refused
him. Christ's coin is man. In him is Christ's image, in him Christ's Name,
Christ's gifts, Christ's rules of duty.54
1 The great Church in Carthage where the bodies of the
Martyr Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas lay. See Ben. ed. in Sermon xix. note.
2 Baptized fideles.
4 Voluntati omnium.
5 1 Cor. xi. 29.
7 Matt. xix. 17.
8 Matt. vii. 11.
9 John xiii. 10.
10 Matt. xxii. 10.
11 1 John i. 8.
12 1 John i. 9.
13 Serm. xlv. (xcv. Ben.) 6.
14 Matt. xxii. 11.
15 Matt. xxii. 12.
16 Ps. cxxxii. 9.
17 See note, Serm. viii. (lviii. Ben.) 13 (xi.).
18 2 Cor. v. 3.
19 Matt. xxii. 13.
20 Matt. xxii. 14.
21 Matt. viii. 11.
22 Exod. vii.
23 1 Cor. xii. 29, etc.
24 1 Tim. i. 5.
25 1 Cor. xiii. 1.
27 1 Cor. xiii. 3.
28 1 John i. 8.
29 Phil. ii. 21.
31 Ps. x. 5, Sept. (xi. 5, English version).
33 1 Cor. xv. 22.
34 Jas. ii. 19.
35 Matt. xvi. 16.
36 Matt. viii. 29; Mark i. 24.
37 Matt. xxvi. 35.
38 Gal. v. 6.
39 Ps. liii. 1.
40 Luke xxiii. 34.
41 Acts vii. 51, 52.
43 Acts vii. 59.
44 Acts vii. 60.
45 Luke xxiii. 34.
46 Zabulo; Lactant. De Mort. Pers. 16.
48 2 Cor. xii. 14.
49 Vid. Serm. xxxvi. (lxxxvi. Ben.) 11 (ix., x.).
50 Serm. x. (lx. Ben.) 2, etc.
51 Ps. xxxviii. 7, Sept. (xxxix. 6 English version).
52 Matt. xxii. 18, 19.