At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and be trodden on by men. You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, Who is in heaven. Do not think that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled. He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and so shall teach men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but he that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Verse 13. The former instructions Jesus Christ gave to the multitude. Now he addresses his apostles, styling them the salt of the earth, meant to preserve men from the corruption of sin, and to make them relish the truths of salvation. He tells them not to suffer their faith or their charity to slacken, in which all their power consists, lest they come to be rejected by God, and despised by man. C. — I send you, says Jesus Christ, not to two, ten, or twenty cities, not to one single nation, as the prophets were sent, but to the whole world, a world oppressed with numberless iniquities. It is not the property of salt to restore what is already corrupted, but to preserve from corruption. Therefore the virtue of the merits of Christ delivers us from the corruption of sin; but the care and labour of the apostles preserves us from again returning to it. Chry. hom. xv. — It appears from Luke xiv. 34, that this comparison is taken from agriculture. We observe these properties of salt in the different manures that fertilize the soil, but suffer the salts to evaporate, and all their virtue is lost. A.
Verse 15. This light of the world, city on a mountain, and candle upon a candlestick, signify the Catholic Church, so built upon Christ, the mountain, that it must be visible, and cannot be hidden or unknown. S. Aug. cont. Fulg. Therefore the Church being a candle not under a bushel, but shining to all in the house, i.e. in the world, what shall I say more, saith S. Aug. than that all are blind, who shut their eyes against the candle which is set on the candlestick? Tract ii. in ep. Jo.
Verse 17. Not to destroy the law, &c. It is true, by Christ’s coming, a multitude of ceremonies and sacrifices, and circumcision, were to cease; but the moral precepts were to continue, and to be complied with, even with greater perfection. Wi. — To fulfil. By accomplishing all the figures and prophecies, and perfecting all that was imperfect. Ch. — Our Saviour speaks in this manner, to prepare the minds of the Jews for his new instructions. For although they were not very solicitous about fulfilling the law, still they were extremely jealous of any change being made in the letter of the law; more particularly, if the proposed change exacted a more perfect morality. Our Lord fulfilled the law three several ways: 1. By his obedience to the prescribed rites; therefore he says, it behoveth us to fulfil all justice: and who shall accuse me of sin? 2. He observes the law, not only by his own observance of it, but likewise by enabling us to fulfil it. It was the wish of the law to make man just, but found itself too weak; Christ therefore came justifying man, and accomplished the will of the law. 3. He fulfilled the law, by reducing all the precepts of the old law to a more strict and powerful morality. Chry. hom. xvi.
Verse 18. Amen. That is, assuredly, of a truth. This Hebrew word Amen, is here retained by the example and authority of all the four evangelists, who have retained it. It is used by our Lord as a strong asseveration, and affirmation of the truth. Ch. — Not one jot (or not one jota), nor one tittle, i.e. not the least letter, nor stroke of a letter; that is, not the least moral precept. Besides every type and figure of the former law, now by my coming shall be fulfilled. Wi. — Amhn, is retained in the Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, and Armenian languages, as well as in all vulgar idioms. It is a term of asseveration, and equivalent to an oath; and in many places, to make the asseveration still stronger, it is repeated. S. Luke very accurately translates it into nai. S. Paul and S. John unite them nai and amhn. A.
Verse 19. He shall be called; i.e. (by a frequent Hebrew idiom) he shall be the least in the kingdom of heaven; that is, according to S. Aug. he shall not be there at all; for none but the great in sanctity and virtue shall find admittance into heaven. Wi. — Do not then imitate the Scribes and Pharisees, who content themselves with instructing other in the precepts of the law, without practising them themselves, or if they observe the letter, neglect the spirit of the law, performing what it ordains, not to please God, but to satisfy their vanity. C.
89: The Celibacy of the Clergy
ST. SIRICIUS 384-398 From the epistle "Directa ad decessorem" to Himerius
Let us come now to the most sacred orders of the clergy, which we find so abused and so disorderly throughout your provinces to the injury of venerable religion, that we ought to say in the words of Jeremias:Who will water to my head, or a fountain of tears to my eyes? and I will weep for this people day and night (Jer. 9:1)…. For we have learned that very many priests and levites of Christ, after long periods of their consecration, have begotten offspring from their wives as well as by shameful intercourse, and that they defend their crime by this excuse, that in the Old Testament it is read that the faculty of procreating was given to the priests and the ministers.
Whoever that follower of sensual desires is let him tell me now:… Why does [the Lord] forewarn those to whom the holies of holies were to be entrusted saying: Be ye holy, because I your Lord God am holy [Lev. 20:7; 1 Pet. 1:16]? Why also were the priests ordered to dwell in the temple at a distance from their homes in the year of their turn? Evidently for this reason that they might not be able to practise carnal intercourse with their wives, so that shining with purity of conscience they might offer an acceptable gift to God….
Therefore also the Lord Jesus, when He had enlightened us by His coming, testifies in the Gospel, that he came to fulfill the Law, not to destroy it [Matt. 5:17]. And so He has wished the beauty of the Church, whose spouse He is, to radiate with the splendor of chastity, so that on the day of judgment, when He will have come again, He may be able to find her without spot or wrinkle [Eph. 5:27] as He instituted her through His Apostle. All priests and levites are bound by the indissoluble law of these sanctions, so that from the day of our ordination, we give up both our hearts and our bodies to continence and chastity, provided only that through all things we may please our God in these sacrifices which we daily offer. “But those who are in the flesh,” as the vessel of election says, “cannot please God” [Rom. 8:8].
But those, who contend with an excuse for the forbidden privilege, so as to assert that this has been granted to them by the Old Law, should know that by the authority of the Apostolic See they have been cast out of every ecclesiastical office, which they have used unworthily, nor can they ever touch the sacred mysteries, of which they themselves have deprived themselves so long as they give heed to impure desires. And because existing examples warn us to be on our guard for the future should any bishop, priest, or deacon be found such, which henceforth we do not want) let him now understand that every approach to indulgence is barred through us, because it is necessary that the wounds which are not susceptible to the healing of warm lotions be cut out with a knife.
194: Nature and Grace
ST. FELIX III 526-530 COUNCIL OF ORANGE II 529 Confirmed by Boniface II (against the Semipelagians)
Can. 21.“Nature and grace. Just as the Apostle most truly says to those, who, wishing to be justified in the law, have fallen even from grace: if justice is from the law, then Christ died in vain [Gal. 2:21 ]; so it is most truly said to those who think that grace, which the faith of Christ commends and obtains, is nature: If justice is through nature, then Christ died in vain. For the law was already here, and it did not justify; nature, too, was already present, and it did not justify. Therefore, Christ did not die in vain, that the law also might be fulfilled through Him, who said: I came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill (it) [Matt. 5:17], and in order that nature ruined by Adam, might be repaired by Him, who said: He came to seek and to save that which had been lost [Luke 19:10]” [St. Prosper].
13. Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
CHRYSOSTOM. When He had delivered to His Apostles such sublime precepts, so much greater than the precepts of the Law, that they might not be dismayed and say, How shall we be able to fulfil these things? He sooths their fears by mingling praises with His instructions, saying, Ye are the salt of the earth. This shews them how necessary were these precepts for them. Not for your own salvation merely, or for a single nation, but for the whole world is this doctrine committed to you. It is not for you then to flatter and deal smoothly with men, but, on the contrary, to be rough and biting as salt is. When for thus offending men by reproving them ye are reviled, rejoice; for this is the proper effect of salt to be harsh and grating to the depraved palate. Thus the evil-speaking of others will bring you no inconvenience, but will rather be a testimony of your firmness.
HILARY. There may be here seen a propriety in our Lord’s language which may be gathered by considering the Apostles’ office, and the nature of salt. This, used as it is by men for almost every purpose, preserves from decay those bodies which are sprinkled with it; and in this, as well as in every sense of its flavour as a condiment, the parallel is most exact. The Apostles are preachers of heavenly things, and thus, as it were, salters with eternity; rightly called the salt of the earth, as by the virtue of their teaching, they, as it were, salt and preserve bodies for eternity.
REMIGIUS. Moreover, salt is changed into another kind of substance by three means, water, the heat of the sun, and the breath of the wind. Thus Apostolical men also were changed into spiritual regeneration by the water of baptism, the heat of love, and the breath of the Holy Spirit. That heavenly wisdom also, which the Apostles preached, dries up the humours of carnal works, removes the foulness and putrefaction of evil conversation, kills the work of lustful thoughts, and also that worm of which it is said their worm dieth not. (Is. 66:24.)
REMIGIUS. The Apostles are the salt of the earth, that is, of worldly men who are called the earth, because they love this earth.
JEROME. Or, because by the Apostles the whole human race is seasoned.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. A doctor when he is adorned with all the preceding virtues, then is like good salt, and his whole people are salted by seeing and hearing him.
REMIGIUS. It should be known, that in the Old Testament no sacrifice was offered to God unless it were first sprinkled with salt, for none can present an acceptable sacrifice to God without the flavour of heavenly wisdom.
HILARY. And because man is ever liable to change, He therefore warns the Apostles, who have been entitled the salt of the earth, to continue stedfast in the might of the power committed to them, when He adds, If the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?
JEROME. That is, if the doctor have erred, by what other doctor shall he be corrected?
AUGUSTINE. (Serm. in Mont. i. 6.) If you by whom the nations are to be salted shall lose the kingdom of heaven through fear of temporal persecution, who are they by whom your error shall be corrected. Another copy has, If the salt have lost all sense, shewing that they must be esteemed to have lost their sense, who cither pursuing abundance, or fearing lack of temporal goods, lose those which are eternal, and which men can neither give nor take away.
HILARY. But if the doctors having become senseless, and having lost all the savour they once enjoyed, are unable to restore soundness to things corrupt, they are become useless; and are thenceforth fit only to be cast out and trodden by men.
JEROME. The illustration is taken from husbandry. Salt, though it be necessary for seasoning of meats and preserving flesh, has no further use. Indeed we read in Scripture of vanquished cities sown with salt by the victors, that nothing should thenceforth grow there.
GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) When then they who are the heads have fallen away, they are fit for no use but to be cast out from the office of teacher.
HILARY. Or even cast out from the Church’s store rooms to be trodden under foot by those that walk.
AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Not he that suffers persecution is trodden under foot of men, but he who through fear of persecution falls away. For we can tread only on what is below us; but he is no way below us, who however much he may suffer in the body, yet has his heart fixed in heaven.
14. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
GLOSS. As the doctors by their good conversation are the salt with which the people is salted; so by their word of doctrine they are the light by which the ignorant are enlightened.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. But to live well must go before to teach well; hence after He had called the Apostles the salt, He goes on to call them the light of the world. Or, for that salt preserves a thing in its present state that it should not change for the worse, but that light brings it into a better state by enlightening it; therefore the Apostles were first called salt with respect to the Jews and that Christian body which had the knowledge of God, and which they keep in that knowledge; and now light with respect to the Gentiles whom they bring to the light of that knowledge.
AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) By the world here we must not understand heaven and earth, but the men who are in the world; or those who love the world for whose enlightenment the Apostles were sent.
HILARY. It is the nature of a light to emit its rays whithersoever it is carried about, and when brought into a house to dispel the darkness of that house. Thus the world, placed beyond the pale of the knowledge of God, was held in the darkness of ignorance, till the light of knowledge was brought to it by the Apostles, and thenceforward the knowledge of God shone bright, and from their small bodies, whithersoever they went about, light is ministered to the darkness.
REMIGIUS. For as the sun sends forth his beams, so the Lord, the Sun of righteousness, sent forth his Apostles to dispel the night of the human race.
CHRYSOSTOM. Mark how great His promise to them, men who were scarce known in their own country that the fame of them should reach to the ends of the earth. The persecutions which He had foretold, were not able to dim their light, yea they made it but more conspicuous.
JEROME. He instructs them what should be the boldness of their preaching, that as Apostles they should not be hidden through fear, like lamps under a corn-measure, but should stand forth with all confidence, and what they have heard in the secret chambers, that declare upon the house tops.
CHRYSOSTOM. Thus shewing them that they ought to be careful of their own walk and conversation, seeing they were set in the eyes of all, like a city on a hill, or a lamp on a stand.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. This city is the Church of which it is said, Glorious things are spoken of thee, thou city of God. (Ps. 87:3.) Its citizens are all the faithful, of whom the Apostle speaks, Ye are fellow-citizens of the saints. (Eph. 2:19.) It is built upon Christ the hill, of whom Daniel thus, A stone hewed without hands (Dan. 2:34.) became a great mountain.
AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Or, the mountain is the great righteousness, which is signified by the mountain from which the Lord is now teaching.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden though it would; the mountain which bears makes it to be seen of all men; so the Apostles and Priests who are founded on Christ cannot be hidden even though they would, because Christ makes them manifest.
HILARY. Or, the city signifies the flesh which He had taken on Him; because that in Him by this assumption of human nature, there was as it were a collection of the human race, and we by partaking in His flesh become inhabitants of that city. He cannot therefore be hid, because being set in the height of God’s power, He is offered to be contemplated of all men in admiration of his works.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. How Christ manifests His saints, suffering them not to be hid, He shews by another comparison, adding, Neither do men light a lamp to put it under a corn-measure, but on a stand.
CHRYSOSTOM. Or, in the illustration of the city, He signified His own power, by the lamp He exhorts the Apostles to preach with boldness; as though He said, ‘I indeed have lighted the lamp, but that it continue to burn will be your care, not for your own sakes only, but both for others who shall receive its light and for God’s glory.’
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. The lamp is the Divine word, of which it is said, Thy word is a lamp unto my feet. (Ps. 119:105.) They who light this lamp are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) With what meaning do we suppose the words, to put it under a corn-measure, were said? To express concealment simply, or that the corn-measure has a special signification? The putting the lamp under the corn-measure means the preferring bodily ease and enjoyment to the duty of preaching the Gospel, and hiding the light of good teaching under temporal gratification. The corn-measure aptly denotes the things of the body, whether because our reward shall be measured out to us, as each one shall receive the things done in the body; (2 Cor. 5:10.) or because worldly goods which pertain to the body come and go within a certain measure of time, which is signified by the corn-measure, whereas things eternal and spiritual are contained within no such limit. He places his lamp upon a stand, who subdues his body to the ministry of the word, setting the preaching of the truth highest, and subjecting the body beneath it. For the body itself serves to make doctrine shine more clear, while the voice and other motions of the body in good works serve to recommend it to them that learn.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. Or, men of the world may be figured in the corn-measure as these are empty above, but full beneath, so worldly men are foolish in spiritual things, but wise in earthly things, and therefore like a corn-measure they keep the word of God hid, whenever for any worldly cause he had not dared to proclaim the word openly, and the truth of the faith. The stand for the lamp is the Church which bears the word of life, and all ecclesiastical persons. (vid. Phil. 2:15.)
HILARY. Or, the Lord likened the Synagogue to a corn-measure, which only receiving within itself such fruit as was raised, contained a certain measure of limited obedience.
AMBROSE. (non occ.) And therefore let none shut up his faith within the measure of the Law, but have recourse to the Church in which the grace of the sevenfold Spirit shines forth.
BEDE. (in loc. quoad sens.) Or, Christ Himself has lighted this lamp, when He filled the earthen vessel of human nature with the fire of His Divinity, which He would not either hide from them that believe, nor put under a bushel that is shut up under the measure of the Law, or confine within the limits of any one oration. The lampstand is the Church, on which He set the lamp, when He affixed to our foreheads the faith of His incarnation.
HILARY. Or, the lamp, i. e. Christ Himself, is set on its stand when He was suspended on the Cross in His passion, to give light for ever to those that dwell in the Church; to give light, He says, to all that are in the house.
AUGUSTINE. For it is not absurd if any one will understand the house to be the Church. Or, the house may be the world itself, according to what He said above, Ye are the light of the world.
HILARY. He instructs the Apostles to shine with such a light, that in the admiration of their work God may be praised, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. That is, teaching with so pure a light, that men may not only hear your words, but see your works, that those whom as lamps ye have enlightened by the word, as salt ye may season by your example. For by those teachers who do as well as teach, God is magnified; for the discipline of the master is seen in the behaviour of the family. And therefore it follows, and they shall glorify your Father which is in heaven.
AUGUSTINE. (Serm. in Mont. i. 7.) Had He only said, That they may see your good works, He would have seemed to have set up as an end to be sought the praises of men, which the hypocrites desire; but by adding, and glorify your Father, he teaches that we should not seek as an end to please men with our good works, but referring all to the glory of God, therefore seek to please men, that in that God may be glorified.
HILARY. He means not that we should seek glory of men, but that though we conceal it, our work may shine forth in honour of God to those among whom we live.
17. Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
GLOSS. (ord.) Having now exhorted His hearers to undergo all things for righteousness’ sake, and also not to hide what they should receive, but to learn more for others’ sake, that they may teach others, He now goes on to tell them what they should teach, as though He had been asked, ‘What is this which you would not have hid, and for which you would have all things endured? Are you about to speak any thing beyond what is written in the Law and the Prophets;’ hence it is He says, Think not that I am come to subvert the Law or the Prophets.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. And that for two reasons. First, that by these words He might admonish His disciples, that as He fulfilled the Law, so they should strive to fulfil it. Secondly, because the Jews would falsely accuse them as subverting the Law, therefore he answers the calumny beforehand, but in such a manner as that He should not be thought to come simply to preach the Law as the Prophets had done.
REMIGIUS. He here asserts two things; He denies that He was come to subvert the Law, and affirms that He was come to fulfil it.
AUGUSTINE. (Serm. in Mont. i. 8.) In this last sentence again there is a double sense; to fulfil the Law, either by adding something which it had not, or by doing what it commands.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xvi.) Christ then fulfilled the Prophets by accomplishing what was therein foretold concerning Himself—and the Law, first, by transgressing none of its precepts; secondly, by justifying by faith, which the Law could not do by the letter.
AUGUSTINE. (cont. Faust. xix. 7. et seq.) And lastly, because even for them who were under grace, it was hard in this mortal life to fulfil that of the Law, Thou shalt not lust, He being made a Priest by the sacrifice of His flesh, obtained for us this indulgence, even in this fulfilling the Law, that where through our infirmity we could not, we should be strengthened through His perfection, of whom as our head we all are members. For so I think must be taken these words, to fulfil the Law, by adding to it, that is, such things as either contribute to the explanation of the old glosses, or to enable to keep them. For the Lord has shewed us that even a wicked motion of the thoughts to the wrong of a brother is to be accounted a kind of murder. The Lord also teaches us, that it is better to keep near to the truth without swearing, than with a true oath to come near to blasphemy.
AUGUSTINE. But how, ye Manichæans, do you not receive the Law and the Prophets, seeing Christ here says, that He is come not to subvert but to fulfil them? To this the heretic Faustusa replies, Whose testimony is there that Christ spoke this? That of Matthew. How was it then that John does not give this saying, who was with Him in the mount, but only Matthew, who did not follow Jesus till after He had come down from the mount? To this Augustine replies, If none can speak truth concerning Christ, but who saw and heard Him, there is no one at this day who speaks truth concerning Him. Why then could not Matthew hear from John’s mouth the truth as Christ had spoken, as well as we who are born so long after can speak the truth out of John’s book? In the same manner also it is, that not Matthew’s Gospel, but also these of Luke and Mark are received by us, and on no inferior authority. Add, that the Lord Himself might have told Matthew the things He had done before He called him. But speak out and say that you do not believe the Gospel, for they who believe nothing in the Gospel but what they wish to believe, believe themselves rather than the Gospel. To this Faustus rejoins, We will prove that this was not written by Matthew, but by some other hand, unknown, in his name. For below he says, Jesus saw a man sitting at the toll-office, Matthew by name. (Mat. 9:9.) Who writing of himself says, ‘saw a man,’ and not rather ‘saw me?’ Augustine; Matthew does no more than John does, when he says, Peter turning round saw that other disciple whom Jesus loved; and it is well known that this is the common manner of Scripture writers, when writing their own actions. Faustus again, But what say you to this, that the very assurance that He was not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets, was the direct way to rouse their suspicions that He was? For He had yet done nothing that could lead the Jews to think that this was His object. Augustine; This is a very weak objection, for we do not deny that to the Jews who had no understanding, Christ might have appeared as threatening the destruction of the Law and the Prophets. Faustus; But what if the Law and the Prophets do not accept this fulfilment, according to that in Deuteronomy, These commandments that I give unto thee, thou shalt keep, thou shalt not add any thing to them, nor take away. Augustine; Here Faustus does not understand what it is to fulfil the Law, when he supposes that it must be taken of adding words to it. The fulfilment of the Law is love, which the Lord hath given in sending His Holy Spirit. The Law is fulfilled either when the things there commanded are done, or when the things there prophesied come to pass. Faustus; But in that we confess that Jesus was author of a New Testament, what else is it than to confess that He has done away with the Old? Augustine; In the Old Testament were figures of things to come, which, when the things themselves were brought in by Christ, ought to have been taken away, that in that very taking away the Law and the Prophets might be fulfilled wherein it was written that God gave a New Testament. Faustus; Therefore if Christ did say this thing, He either said it with some other meaning, or He spoke falsely, (which God forbid,) or we must take the other alternative, He did not speak it at all. But that Jesus spoke falsely none will aver, therefore He either spoke it with another meaning, or He spake it not at all. For myself I am rescued from the necessity of this alternative by the Manichæan belief, which from the first taught me not to believe all those things which are read in Jesus’ name as having been spoken by Him; for that there be many tares which to corrupt the good seed some nightly sower has scattered up and down through nearly the whole of Scripture. Augustine; Manichæus taught an impious error, that you should receive only so much of the Gospel as does not conflict with your heresy, and not receive whatever does conflict with it. We have learned of the Apostle that religious caution, Whoever preaches unto you another Gospel than that we have preached, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:8.) The Lord also has explained what the tares signify, not things false mixed with the true Scriptures, as you interpret, but men who are children of the wicked one. Faustus; Should a Jew then enquire of you why you do not keep the precepts of the Law and the Prophets which Christ here declares He came not to destroy but to fulfil, you will be driven either to accept an empty superstition, or to repudiate this chapter as false, or to deny that you are Christ’s disciple. Augustine; The Catholics are not in any difficulty on account of this chapter as though they did not observe the Law and the Prophets; for they do cherish love to God and their neighbour, on which hang all the Law and the Prophets. And whatever in the Law and the Prophets was foreshown, whether in things done, in the celebration of sacramental rites, or in forms of speech, all these they know to be fulfilled in Christ and the Church. Wherefore we neither submit to a false superstition, nor reject the chapter, nor deny ourselves to be Christ’s disciples. He then who says, that unless Christ had destroyed the Law and the Prophets, the Mosaic rites would have continued along with the Christian ordinances, may further affirm, that unless Christ had destroyed the Law and the Prophets, He would yet be only promised as to be born, to suffer, to rise again. But inasmuch as He did not destroy, but rather fulfil them, His birth, passion, and resurrection, are now no more promised as things future, which were signified by the Sacraments of the Law; but He is preached as already born, crucified, and risen, which are signified by the Sacraments now celebrated by Christians. It is clear then how great is the error of those who suppose, that when the signs or sacraments are changed, the things themselves are different, whereas the same things which the Prophetic ordinance had held forth as promises, the Evangelic ordinance points to as completed. Faustus; Supposing these to be Christ’s genuine words, we should enquire what was His motive for speaking thus, whether to soften the blind hostility of the Jews, who when they saw their holy things trodden under foot by Him, would not have so much as given Him a hearing; or whether He really said them to instruct us, who of the Gentiles should believe, to submit to the yoke of the Law. If this last were not His design, then the first must have been; nor was there any deceit or fraud in such purpose. For of laws there be three sorts. The first that of the Hebrews, called the law of sin and death, (Rom. 8:2.) by Paul; the second that of the Gentiles, which he calls the law of nature, saying, By nature the Gentiles do the deeds of the law; (Rom. 2:14.) the third, the law of truth, which he names, The law of the Spirit of life. Also there are Prophets some of the Jews, such as are well known; others of the Gentiles as Paul speaks, A prophet of their own hath said; (Tit. 1:12.) and others of the truth, of whom Jesus speaks, I send unto you wise men and prophets. (Mat. 23:34.) Now had Jesus in the following part of this Sermon brought forward any of the Hebrew observances to shew how he had fulfilled them, no one would have doubted that it was of the Jewish Law and Prophets that He was now speaking; but when He brings forward in this way only those more ancient precepts, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, which were promulged of old to Enoch, Seth, and the other righteous men, who does not see that He is here speaking of the Law and Prophets of truth? Wherever He has occasion to speak of any thing merely Jewish, He plucks it up by the very roots, giving precepts directly the contrary; for example, in the case of that precept, An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Augustine; Which was the Law and which the Prophets, that Christ came not to subvert but to fulfil, is manifest, to wit, the Law given by Moses. And the distinction which Faustus draws between the precepts of the righteous men before Moses, and the Mosaic Law, affirming that Christ fulfilled the one but annulled the other, is not so. We affirm that the Law of Moses was both well suited to its temporary purpose, and was now not subverted, but fulfilled by Christ, as will be seen in each particular. This was not understood by those who continued in such obstinate error, that they compelled the Gentiles to Judaize—those heretics, I mean, who were called Nazarenes.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. But since all things which should befal from the very beginning of the world to the end of it, were in type and figure foreshewn in the Law, that God may not be thought to be ignorant of any of those things that take place, He therefore here declares, that heaven and earth should not pass till all things thus foreshewn in the Law should have their actual accomplishment.
REMIGIUS. Amen is a Hebrew word, and may be rendered in Latin, ‘vere,’ ‘fidenter,’ or ‘fiat;’ that is, ‘truly,’ ‘faithfully,’ or ‘so be it.’ The Lord uses it either because of the hardness of heart of those who were slow to believe, or to attract more particularly the attention of those that did believe.
HILARY. From the expression here used pass, we may suppose that the constituting elements of heaven and earth shall not be annihilatedb.
REMIGIUS. But shall abide in their essence, but pass through renewal.
AUGUSTINE. (Serm. in Mont. i. 8.) By the words, one iota or one point shall not pass from the Law, we must understand only a strong metaphor of completeness, drawn from the letters of writing, iota being the least of the letters, made with one stroke of the pen, and a point being a slight dot at the end of the same letter. The words there shew that the Law shall be completed to the very least matter.
RABANUS. He fitly mentions the Greek iota, and not the Hebrew jod, because the iota stands in Greek for the number ten, and so there is an allusion to the Decalogue of which the Gospel is the point and perfection.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. If even an honourable man blushes to be found in a falsehood, and a wise man lets not fall empty any word he has once spoken, how could it be that the words of heaven should fall to the ground empty? Hence He concludes, Whoso shall break the least of these commandments, &c. And, I suppose, the Lord goes on to reply Himself to the question, Which are the least commandments? Namely, these which I am now about to speak.
CHRYSOSTOM. He speaks not this of the old laws, but of those which He was now going to enact, of which he says, the least, though they were all great. For as He so oft spoke humbly of Himself, so does He now speak humbly of His precepts.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. Otherwise; the precepts of Moses are easy to obey; Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not commit adultery. The very greatness of the crime is a check upon the desire of committing it; therefore the reward of observance is small, the sin of transgression great. But Christ’s precepts, Thou shalt not be angry, Thou shalt not lust, are hard to obey, and therefore in their reward they are great, in their transgression, ‘least.’ It is thus He speaks of these precepts of Christ, such as Thou shall not be angry, Thou shalt not lust, as ‘the least;’ and they who commit these lesser sins, are the least in the kingdom of God; that is, he who has been angry and not sinned grievously is secure from the punishment of eternal damnation; yet he does not attain that glory which they attain who fulfil even these least.
AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Or, the precepts of the Law are called ‘the least,’ as opposed to Christ’s precepts which are great. The least commandments are signified by the iota and the point. He, therefore, who breaks them, and teaches men so, that is, to do as he does, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Hence we may perhaps conclude, that it is not true that there shall none be there except they be great.
GLOSS. (ord.) By ‘break,’ is meant, the not doing what one understands rightly, or the not understanding what one has corrupted, or the destroying the perfectness of Christ’s additions.
CHRYSOSTOM. Or, when you hear the words, least in the kingdom of heaven, imagine nothing less than the punishment of hell. For He oft uses the word ‘kingdom,’ not only of the joys of heaven, but of the time of the resurrection, and of the terrible coming of Christ.
GREGORY. (Hom. in Ev. xii. 1.) Or, by the kingdom of heaven is to be understood the Church, in which that teacher who breaks a commandment is called least, because he whose life is despised, it remains that his preaching be also despised.
HILARY. Or, He calls the passion, and the cross, the least, which if one shall not confess openly, but be ashamed of them, he shall be least, that is, last, and as it were no man; but to him that confesses it He promises the great glory of a heavenly calling.
JEROME. This head is closely connected with the preceding. It is directed against the Pharisees, who, despising the commandments of God, set up traditions of their own, and means that their teaching the people would not avail themselves, if they destroyed the very least commandment in the Law. We may take it in another sense. The learning of the master if joined with sin however small, loses him the highest place, nor does it avail any to teach righteousness, if he destroys it in his life. Perfect bliss is for him who fulfils in deed what he teaches in word.
AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Otherwise; he who breaks the least of these commandments, that is, of Moses’ Law, and teaches men so, shall be called the least; but he who shall do (these least), and so teach, shall not indeed be esteemed great, yet not so little as he who breaks them. That he should be great, he ought to do and to teach the things which Christ now teaches.