3. What is to us the intent of this parable? For the beginning doth
not harmonize with what is said at the end, but intimates altogether the
contrary. For in the first part He shows all enjoying the same, and not
some cast out, and some brought in; yet He Himself both before the parable
and after the parable said the opposite thing. "That the first shall be
last, and the last first," that is, before the very first, those not continuing
first, but having become last. For in proof that this is His meaning, He
added, "Many are called, but few chosen," so as doubly both to sting the
one, and to soothe and urge on the other.
But the parable saith not this, but that they shall be equal to them
that are approved, and have labored much. "For thou hast made them equal
unto us," it is said, "that have borne the burden and heat of the day."
What then is the meaning of the parable? For it is necessary to make
this first clear, and then we shall clear up that other point. By a vineyard
He meaneth the injunctions of God and His commandments: by the time of
laboring, the present life: by laborers, them that in different ways are
called to the fulfillment of the injunctions: by early in the morning,
and about the third and ninth and eleventh hours, them who at different
ages have drawn near to God, and approved themselves.
But the question is this, whether the first having gloriously approved
themselves, and having pleased God, and having throughout the whole day
shone by their labors, are possessed by the basest feeling of vice, jealousy
and envy. For when they had seen them enjoying the same rewards, they say,
"These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto
us, that have borne the burden and heat of the day." And in these words,
when they are to receive no hurt, neither to suffer diminution as to their
own hire, they were indignant, and much displeased at the good of others,
which was proof of envy and jealousy. And what is yet more, the good man
of the house in justifying himself with respect to them, and in making
his defense to him that had said these things, convicts him of wickedness
and the basest jealousy, saying, "Didst thou not agree with me for a penny?
Take that thine is, and go thy way; I will give unto the last even as unto
thee. Is thine eye evil, because I am good?"
What then is it which is to be established by these things? For in other
parables also this self-same thing may be seen. For the son who was approved
is brought in, as having felt this self-same thing, when he saw his prodigal
brother enjoying much honor, even more than himself. For like as these
enjoyed more by receiving first, so he in a greater degree was honored
by the abundance of the things given him; and to these things he that was
approved bears witness.
What then may we say? There is no one who is thus justifying himself,
or blaming others in the kingdom of Heaven; away with the thought! for
that place is pure from envy and jealousy. For if when they are here the
saints give their very lives for sinners, much more when they see them
there in the enjoyment of these things, do they rejoice and account these
to be blessings of their own. Wherefore then did He so frame His discourse?
The saying is a parable, wherefore neither is it right to inquire curiously
into all things in parables word by word,15 but when we have learnt the
object for which it was composed, to reap this, and not to busy one's self
about anything further.
Wherefore then was this parable thus composed? what is its object to
effect? To render more earnest them that are converted and become better
men in extreme old age, and not to allow them to suppose they have a less
portion. So it is for this cause He introduces also others displeased at
their blessings, not to represent those men as pining or vexed, away with
the thought! but to teach us that these have enjoyed such honor, as could
even have begotten envy in others. Which we also often do, saying, "Such
a one blamed me, because I counted thee worthy of much honor," neither
having been blamed, nor wishing to slander that other, but hereby to show
the greatness of the gift which this one enjoyed.
But wherefore can it have been that He did not hire all at once? As
far as concerned Him, He did hire all; but if all did not hearken at once,
the difference was made by the disposition of them that were called. For
this cause, some are called early in the morning, some at the third hour,
some at the sixth, some at the ninth, some at the eleventh, when they would
This Paul also declared when he said, "When it pleased Him, who separated
me from my mother's womb."16 When did it please Him? When he was ready
to obey. For He willed it even from the beginning, but because he would
not have yielded, then it pleased Him, when Paul also was ready to obey.
Thus also did He call the thief, although He was able to have called him
even before, but he would not have obeyed. For if Paul at the beginning
would not have obeyed, much more the thief.
And if they say, "No man hath hired us," in the first place as I said
we must not be curious about all the points in the parables; but here neither
is the good man of the house represented to say this, but they; but he
cloth not convict them, that he might drive them to perplexity, but might
win them over. For that He called all, as far as lay in Him, from the first
even the parable shows, saying, that "He went out early in the morning
4. From everything then it is manifest to us, that the parable is spoken
with reference to them who from earliest youth, and those who in old age
and more tardily, lay hold on virtue; to the former, that they may not
be proud, neither reproach those called at the eleventh hour; to the latter,
that they may learn that it is possible even in a short time to recover
For since He had been speaking about earnestness, and the casting away
of riches, and contempt of all one's possessions, but this needed much
vigor of mind and youthful ardor; in order to kindle in them a fire of
love, and to give vigor to their will, He shows that it is possible even
for men coming later to receive the hire of the whole day.
But He doth not say it thus, lest again He should make them proud, but
he shows that the whole is of His love to man, and because of this they
shall not fail, but shall themselves enjoy the unspeakable blessings.
And this chiefly is what it is His will to establish by this parable.
And if He adds, that, "So the last shall be first and the first last;
for many are called, but few chosen," marvel not. For not as inferring
it from the parable doth He say this, but His meaning is this, that like
as this came to pass, so shall that come to pass. For here indeed the first
did not become last, but all received the same contrary to hope and expectation.
But as this result took place contrary to hope and contrary to expectation,
and they that came before were equalled by them that followed, so shall
that also come to pass which is more than this, and more strange, I mean,
that the last should come to be even before the first, and that the first
should be after these. So that that is one thing, and this another.
But He seems to me to say these, things, darkly hinting at the Jews,
and amongst the believers at those who at first shone forth, but afterwards
neglected virtue, and fell back; and those others again that have risen
from vice, and have shot beyond many. For we see such changes taking place
both with respect to faith and practice.
Wherefore I entreat you let us use much diligence both to stand in the
right faith, and to show forth an excellent life. For unless we add also
a life suitable to our faith, we shall suffer the extremest punishment.
And this the blessed Paul showed even from times of old, when he said,
that "They did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the
same spiritual drink: "and added, that they were not saved; "for
they were overthrown in the Wilderness."17 And Christ declared it even
in the evangelists, when He brought in some that had cast out devils and
prophesied, and are led away to punishment. And all His parables also,
as that of the virgins, that of the net, that of the thorns, that of the
tree not bringing forth fruit, demand virtue in our works. For concerning
doctrines He discourses seldom, for neither doth the subject need labor,
but of life often or rather everywhere, for the war about this is continual,
wherefore also so is the labor.
And why do I speak of the whole code. For even a part of it overlooked
brings upon one great evils; as, for instance, almsgiving overlooked casts
into hell them that have come short in it; and yet this is not the whole
of virtue, but a part thereof. But nevertheless both the virgins were punished
for not having this, and the rich man was for this cause tormented, and
they that have not fed the hungry, are for this condemned with the devil.
Again, not to revile is a very small part of it, nevertheless this too
casts out them that have not attained to it. "For he that saith to his
brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire."18 Again, even
continence itself is a part, but nevertheless, without this no one shall
see the Lord. For, "Follow peace," it is said. "and holiness19
without which no man shall see the Lord."20 And humility too in like
manner is a part of virtue; but nevertheless though any one should fulfill
other good works, but have not attained to this, he is unclean with God.
And this is manifest from the Pharisee, who though abounding with numberless
good works, by this lost all.
But I have also something more than these things to say again. I mean,
that not only one of them overlooked shuts Heaven against us, but though
it be done, yet not in due perfection and abundance, it produces the selfsame
effect again. "For except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness
of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven."21
So that though thou give alms, but not more than they, thou shalt not enter
And how much did they bestow in alms? one may ask. For this very thing,
I am minded to say now, that they who do not give may be roused to give,
and they that give may not pride themselves, but may make increase of their
gifts. What then did they give? A tenth of all their possessions, and again
another tenth, and after this a third, so that they almost gave away the
third part, for three-tenths put together make up this. And together with
these, first fruits, and first born, and other things besides, as, for
instance, the offerings for sins, those for purification, those at feasts,
those in the jubilee,22 those by the cancelling of debts, and the dismissals
of servants. and the lendings that were clear of usury. But if he who gave
the third part of his goods, or rather the half (for those being put together
with these are the half), if then he who is giving the half, achieves no
great thing, he who doth not bestow so much as the tenth, of what shall
he be worthy? With reason He said, "There are few that be saved."
5. Let us not, then, despise the care of our life. For if one portion
of it despised brings so great a destruction, when on every hand we are
subject to the sentence of condemnation, how shall we escape the punishment?
and what manner of penalty shall we not suffer? and what manner of hope
of salvation have we, one may ask, if each of the things we have numbered
threatens us with hell? I too say this; nevertheless, if we give heed we
may be saved, preparing the medicines of almsgiving, and attending to our
For oil does not so strengthen a body, as benevolence at once strengthens
a soul, and makes it invincible to all and impregnable to the devil. For
wheresoever he may seize us, his hold then slips, this oil not suffering
his grasp to fix on our back.
With this oil therefore let us anoint ourselves continually. For it.
is the cause of health, and a supply of light, and a source of cheerfulness.
"But such a one," thou wilt say, "hath talents of gold so many and so many,
and gives away nothing." And whal is that to thee? For thus shalt thou
appear more worthy of admiration, when in poverty thou an more munificent
than he. It was on this ground Paul marvelled at the Macedonians, not because
they gave, but because even though they were in poverty they gave.23
Look not then at these, but at the common Teacher of all, who "had not
where to lay His head."24 And why, you say, doth not this and that person
do so? Do not judge another, but deliver thyself from the charge against
thee. Since the punishment is greater when thou at the same time blamest
others, and thyself doest not, when judging other men, thou art again thyself
also subject to the same judgment. For if even them who do right He permits
not to judge others, much more will He not permit offenders. Let us not
therefore judge others, neither let us look to others who are taking their
ease, but unto Jesus, and from thence let us draw our examples.
Why! have I been thy benefactor? Why! did I redeem thee, that thou lookest
to me? It is another who hath bestowed these things on thee. Why dost thou
let go thy Master, and look unto thy fellow-servant? Heardest thou not
Him saying, "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart?"25 And again,
"He that would be first amongst you, let him be servant of all:" and again,
"Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister."26
And after these things again, lest taking offense at them who are remiss
amongst thy fellow-servants, thou continue in contemptuousness; to draw
thee off from that, He saith, "I have made myself an example to you, that
as I have done, ye should do also."27 But hast thou no teacher of virtue
amongst those persons that are with thee, neither such a one as to lead
thee on to these things? More abundant then will be the praise, the commendation
greater, when not even being supplied with teachers thou hast become one
to be marvelled at.
For this is possible, nay very easy, if we be willing: and this they
show, who first duly performed these things, as for instance, Noah, Abraham,
Melchizedeck, Job, and all the men like them. To them it is needful to
look every day, and not unto these, whom ye never cease emulating, and
passing about their names in your assemblies. For nothing else do I hear
you saying everywhere, but such words as these; "Such a one has bought
so many acres of land; such a one is rich, he is building." Why dost thou
stare, O man, at what is without? Why dost thou look to others? If thou
art minded to look to others, look to them that do their duty, to them
that approve themselves, to them that carefully fulfill the law, not to
those that have become offenders, and are in dishonor. For if thou look
to these, thou wilt gather hence many evil things, falling into remissness,
into pride, into condemnation of others; but if thou reckon over them that
do right, thou wilt lead thyself on unto humility, unto diligence, unto
compunction, unto the blessings that are beyond number.
Hear what the Pharisee suffered, because he let pass them that do right,
and looked to him that had offended; hear and fear.
See how David became one to be marvelled at, because he looked to his
ancestors that were noted for virtue. "For I am a stranger," saith he,
"and a sojourner, as all my fathers were."28 For this man, and all that
are like him, let pass them that had sinned, and thought of those who had
This do thou also. For thou art not set to judge of the negligences
of which others have been guilty, nor to inquire into the sins which others
are committing; thou art required to do judgment on thyself, not on others.
"For if we judged ourselves," it is said, "we should not be judged, but
when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord."29 But thou hast reversed
the order, of thyself requiring no account of offenses great or small,
but being strict and curious about the offenses of others.
Let us no more do this, but leaving off this disorderly way, let us
set up a tribunal in ourselves for the sins committed by ourselves, becoming
ourselves accusers, and judges, and executioners for our offenses.
But if it be thy will to be busy about the things of other men also,
busy thyself about their good works, not their sins, that both by the memory
of our negligences and by our emulation for the good works they have done,
and by setting before ourselves the judgment-seat from which no prayers
can deliver, wounded each day by our conscience as by a kind of goad,30
we may lead ourselves on to humility, and a greater diligence, and attain
unto the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our
Lord Jesus Christ; with whom be to the Father, together with the Holy Ghost,
glory, might, honor, now and always, and world without end. Amen.