(John Henry Parker, v. I, J.G.F. and J. Rivington:London, 1842)
24. Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, "The
kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
25. But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the
wheat, and went his way.
26. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then
appeared the tares also.
27. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir,
didst not thou sow good seed in thy field; from whence then hath it tares?
28. He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said
unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
29. But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root
up also the wheat with them.
30. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of
harvest I will say to the reapers, [p. 495] Gather ye together first the
tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into
Chrys., Hom., xlvi: In the foregoing parable the Lord spoke to such
as do not receive the word of God; here of those who receive a corrupting
seed. This is the contrivance of the Devil, ever to mix error with truth.
Jerome: He set forth also this other parable, as it were a rich householder
refreshing his guests with various meats, that each one according to the
nature of his stomach might find some food adapted to him. He said not
'a second parable,' but "another;" for had He said 'a second,' we could
not have looked for a third; but another prepares us for many more.
Remig.: Here He calls the Son of God Himself the kingdom of heaven;
for He saith, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that sowed good
seed in his field."
Chrys.: He then points out the manner of the Devil's snares, saying,
"While men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares in the midst of he wheat,
and departed." He here shews that error arose after truth, as indeed the
course of events testifies; for the false prophets came after the Prophets,
the false apostles after the Apostles, and Antichrist after Christ. For
unless the Devil sees somewhat to imitate, and some to lay in wait against,
he does not attempt any thing. Therefore because he saw that this man bears
fruit an hundred, this sixty, and this thirtyfold, and that he was not
able to carry off or to choke that which had taken root, he turns to other
insidious practices, mixing up his own seed, which is a counterfeit of
the true, and thereby imposes upon such as are prone to be deceived.
So the parable speaks, not of another seed, but of tares which bear
a great likeness to wheat corn. Further, the malignity of the Devil is
shewn in this, that he sowed when all else was completed, that he might
do the greater hurt to the husbandman.
Aug., Quaest in Matt., q. 11: He says, "While men slept," for while
the heads of the Church were abiding in supineness, and after the Apostles
had received the sleep of death, then came the Devil and sowed upon the
rest those whom the Lord in His interpretation calls evil children. But
we do well to enquire whether by such are meant heretics, or [p. 496] Catholics
who lead evil lives. That He says, that they were sown among the wheat,
seems to point out that they were all of one communion.
But forasmuch as He interprets the field to mean not the Church, but
the world, we may well understand it of the heretics, who in this world
are mingled with the good; for they who live amiss in the same faith may
better be taken of the chaff than of the tares, for the chaff has a stem
and a root in common with the grain. While schismatics again may move fitly
be likened to ears that have rotted, or to straws that are broken, crushed
down, and cast forth of the field.
Indeed it is not necessary that every heretic or schismatic should be
corporally severed from the Church; for the Church bears many who do not
so publicly defend their false opinions as to attract the attention of
the multitude, which when they do, then are they expelled. When then the
Devil had sown upon the true Church divers evil errors and false opinions;
that is to say, where Christ's name had gone before, there he scattered
errors, himself was the rather hidden and unknown; for He says, "And went
his way." Though indeed in this parable, as we learn from His own interpretation,
the Lord may be understood to have signified under the name of tares all
stumbling-blocks and such as work iniquity.
Chrys.: In what follows He more particularly draws the picture of an
heretic, in the words, "When the blade grew, and put forth fruit, then
appeared the tares also." For heretics at first keep themselves in the
shade; but when they have had long license, and when men have held communication
with them in discourse, then they pour forth their venom.
Aug., Quaest in Matt., q. 12: Or otherwise; When a man begins to be
spiritual, discerning between things, then he begins to see errors; for
he judges concerning whatsoever he hears or reads, whether it departs from
the rule of truth; but until he is perfected in the same spiritual things,
he might be disturbed at so many false heresies having existed under the
Christian name, whence it follows, "And the servants of the householder
coming to him said unto him, Didst thou not sow good seed in thy field?
whence then hath it tares?
Are these servants then the same as those whom He afterwards calls reapers?
Because in His exposition of the parable, He [p. 497] expounds the reapers
to be the Angels, and none would dare to say that the Angels were ignorant
who had sowed tares, we should the rather understand that the faithful
are here intended by the servants.
And no wonder if they are also signified by the good seed; for the same
thing admits of different likenesses according to its different significations;
as speaking of Himself He says that He is the door, He is the shepherd.
Remig.: They came to the Lord not with the body, but with the heart
and desire of the soul; and from Him they gather that this was done by
the craft of the Devil, whence it follows, "And he saith unto them, An
enemy hath done this."
Jerome: The Devil is called a man that is an enemy because he has ceased
to be God; and in the ninth Psalm it is written of him, "Up, Lord, and
Let not man have the upper hand." [Ps 9:19] Wherefore let not him sleep
that is set over the Church, lest through his carelessness the enemy should
sow therein tares, that is, the dogmas of the heretics.
Chrys.: He is called the enemy on account of the losses he inflicts
on men; for the assaults of the Devil are made upon us, though their origin
is not in his enmity towards us, but in his enmity towards God.
Aug.: And when the servants of God knew that it was the Devil who had
contrived this fraud, whereby when he found that he had no power in open
warfare against a Master of such great name, he had introduced his fallacies
under cover of that name itself, the desire might readily arise in them
to remove such men from out of human affairs if opportunity should be given
them; but they first appeal to God's justice whether they should so do;
"The servants said, Wilt thou we go and gather them out?"
Chrys.: Wherein observe the thoughtfulness and affection of the servants;
they hasten to root up the tares, thus shewing their anxiety about the
good seed; for this is all to which they look, not that any should be punished,
but that which is sown should not perish. The Lord's answer follows, "And
he saith unto them, Nay."
Jerome: For room for repentance is left, and we are warned that we should
not hastily cut off a brother, since one who is today corrupted with an
erroneous dogma, may grow wiser tomorrow, and begin to defend the truth;
wherefore it is added, "Lest in gathering together the tares ye root out
the [p. 498] wheat also.
Aug., Quaest. in Matt., q. 12: Wherein He renders them more patient
and tranquil. For this He says, because good while yet weak, have need
in some things of being mixed up with bad, either that they may be proved
by their means, or that by comparison with them they may be greatly stimulated
and drawn to a better course. Or perhaps the wheat is declared to be rooted
up if the tares should be gathered out of it, on account of many who though
at first tares would after become wheat; yet they would never attain to
this commendable change were they not patiently endured while they were
evil. Thus were they rooted up, that wheat which they would become in time
if spared, would be rooted up in them.
It is then therefore He forbids that such should be taken away out of
this life, lest in the endeavour to destroy the wicked, those of them should
be destroyed among the rest who would turn out good; and lest also that
benefit should be lost to the good which would accrue to them even against
their will from mixing with the wicked. But this may be done seasonably
when, in the end of all, there remains no more time for a change of life,
or of advancing to the truth by taking opportunity and comparison of others'
faults; therefore He adds, "Let both grow together until the harvest,"
that is, until the judgment.
Jerome: But this seems to contradict that command, "Put away the evil
from among you." [1 Cor 5:13] For if the rooting up be forbidden, and we
are to abide in patience till the harvest-time, how are we to cast forth
any from among us? But between wheat and tares (which in Latin we call,
'lolium') so long as it is only in blade, before the stalk has put forth
an ear, there is very great resemblance, and none or little difference
to distinguish them by.
The Lord then warns us not to pass a hasty sentence on an ambiguous
word, but to reserve it for His judgment, that when the day of judgment
shall come, He may cast forth from the assembly of the saints no longer
on suspicion but on manifest guilt.
Aug., Cont. Ep. Parm., iii. 2: For when any one of the number of Christians
included in the Church is found in such sin as to incur an anathema, this
is done, where danger of schism is not apprehended, with tenderness, not
for his rooting out, but for his correction. But if he be not conscious
of his sin, nor correct it by penitence, he will of his [p. 499] own choice
go forth of the Church and be separated from her communion; whence when
the Lord commanded, "Suffer both to grow together till the harvest," He
added the reason, saying, "Lest when ye would gather out the tares ye root
up the wheat also." This sufficiently shews, that when that fear has ceased,
and when the safety of the crop is certain, that is, when the crime is
known to all, and is acknowledged as so execrable as to have no defenders,
or not such as might cause any fear of a schism, then severity of discipline
does not sleep, and its correction of error is so much the more efficacious
as the observance of love had been more careful.
But when the same infection has spread to a large number at once, nothing
remains but sorrow and groans. Therefore let a man gently reprove whatever
is in his power; what is not in let him bear with patience, and mourn over
with affection, until He from above shall correct and heal, and let him
defer till harvest-time to root out the tares and winnow the chaff. But
the multitude of the unrighteous is to be struck at with a general reproof,
whenever there is opportunity of saying aught among the people; and above
all when any scourge of the Lord from above gives opportunity, when they
feel that they are scourged for their deserts; for then the calamity of
the hearers opens their ears submissively to the words of their reprover,
seeing the heart in affliction is ever more prone to the groans of confession
than to the murmurs of resistance.
And even when no tribulation lays upon them, should occasion serve,
a word of reproof is usefully spent upon the multitude; for when separated
it is wont to be fierce, when in a body it is wont to mourn.
Chrys.: This the Lord spake to forbid any putting to death. For we ought
not to kill an heretic, seeing that so a neverending war would be introduced
into the world; and therefore He says, "Lest ye root out with them the
wheat also;" that is, if you draw the sword and put the heretic to death,
it must needs be that many of the saints will fall with them.
Hereby He does not indeed forbid all restraint upon heretics, that their
freedom of speech should be cut off, that their synods and their confessions
should be broken up -- but only forbids that they should be put to death.
Aug., Ep. 93, 17: This indeed was at first my own [p. 500] opinion,
that no man was to be driven by force into the unity of Christ; but he
was to be led by discourse, contended with in controversy, and overcome
by argument, that we might not have men feigning themselves to be Catholics
whom we knew to be declared heretics.
But this opinion of mine was overcome not by the authority of those
who contradicted me, but by the examples of those that shewed it in fact;
for the tenor of those laws in enacting which Princes serve the Lord in
fear, has had such good effect, that already some say, This we desired
long ago; but now thanks be to God who has made the occasion for us, and
has cut off our pleas of delay.
Others say, This we have long known to be the truth; but we were held
by a kind of old habit, thanks be to God who has broken our chains.
Others again; We knew not that this was true, and had no desire to learn
it, but fear has driven us to give our attention to it, thanks be to the
Lord who has banished our carelessness by the spur of terror.
Others, We were deterred from entering in by false rumours, which we
should not have known to be false had we not entered in, and we should
not have entered in had we not been compelled; thanks be to God who has
broken up our preaching by the scourge of persecution, and has taught us
by experience how empty and false things lying fame had reported concerning
Others say, We thought indeed that it was of no importance in what place
we held the faith of Christ; but thanks be to the Lord who has gathered
us together out of our division, and has shewn us that it is consonant
to the unity of God that He should be worshipped in unity.
Let then the Kings of the earth shew themselves the servants of Christ
by publishing laws in Christ's behalf.
Aug., Ep. 185, 32 et 22: But who is there Of you who has any wish that
a heretic should perish, nay, that he should so much as lose aught? Yet
could the house of David have had peace in no other way, but by the death
of Absalom in that war which he waged against his father; notwithstanding
his father gave strict commands to his servants that they should save him
alive and unhurt, that on his repentance there might be room for fatherly
affection to pardon; what then remained for him but to mourn over him when
lost, and to console his domestic [p. 501] affliction by the peace which
it had brought to his kingdom.
Thus our Catholic mother the Church, when by the loss of a few she gains
many, soothes the sorrow of her motherly heart, healing it by the deliverance
of so many people. Where then is that which those are accustomed to cry
out, That it is free to all to believe? Whom hath Christ done violence
to? Whom hath He compelled? Let them take the Apostle Paul; let them acknowledge
in him Christ first compelling and afterwards teaching; first smiting and
afterwards comforting. And it is wonderful to see him who entered into
the Gospel by the force of a bodily infliction labouring therein more than
all those who are called by word only. [margin note: 1 Cor 15:10]
Why then should not the Church constrain her lost sons to return to
her, when her lost sons constrained others to perish?
Remig.: It follows, "And in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers,
Gather together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them."
The harvest is the season of reaping which here designates the day of judgment,
in which the good are to be separated from the bad.
Chrys.: But why does He say, Gather first the tares? That the good should
have no fears lest the wheat should be rooted up with them.
Jerome: In that He says that the bundles of tares are to be cast into
the fire, and the wheat gathered into barns, it is clear that heretics
also and hypocrites are to be consumed in the fires of hell, while the
saints who are here represented by the wheat are received into the barns,
that is into heavenly mansions.
Aug., Quaest in Matt., q. 12: It may be asked why He commands more than
one bundle or heap of tares to be formed? Perhaps because of the variety
of heretics differing not only from the wheat, but also among themselves,
each several heresy, separated from communion with all the others, is designated
as a bundle; and perhaps they may even then begin to be bound together
for burning, when they first sever themselves from the Catholic communion,
and begin to have their independent church; so that it is the burning and
not the binding into bundles that will take place at the end of the world.
But were this so, there would not be so many who would become wise again,
and return from error into the [p. 502] Catholic Church. Wherefore we must
understand the binding into bundles to be what shall come to pass in the
end, that punishment should fall on them not promiscuously, but in due
proportion to the obstinacy and wilfulness of each separate error.
Raban.: And it should be noted that, when He says, "Sowed good seed,"
He intends that good will which is in the elect; when He adds, "An enemy
came," He intimates that watch should be kept against him; when as the
tares grow up, He suffers it patiently, saying, "An enemy hath done" this,
He recommends to us patience; when He says, "Lest haply in gathering the
tares, &c." He sets us an example of discretion; when He says, "Suffer
both to grow together till the harvest," He teaches us long-suffering;
and, lastly, He inculcates justice, when He says, "Bind them into bundles