Early Church Fathers
Sermon LXXXVII. [CXXXVII. Ben]
The tenth chapter of the gospel of John. Of the shepherd, and the hireling, and the thief.
1. Your faith, dearly beloved, is not ignorant, and I know that ye have so learnt by the teaching of that Master from heaven, in whom ye have placed your hope, that our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath now suffered for us and risen again, is the Head of the Church, and the Church is His Body, and that in His Body the unity of the members and the bond of charity is, as it were, its sound health. But whosoever groweth cold in charity, is become enfeebled in the Body of Christ. But He who hath already exalted our Head, is able also to make even the feeble members whole; provided, that is, that they be not cut off by excessive impiety, but adhere to the Body until they be made whole. For whatsoever yet adhereth to the body, is not beyond hope of healing; whereas that which hath been cut off, can neither be in process of curing, nor be healed. Since then He is the Head of the Church, and the Church is His Body, Whole Christ is both the Head and the Body. He hath already risen again. We have therefore the Head in heaven. Our Head intercedeth for us. Our Head without sin and without death, now propitiateth God for our sins; that we too at the end rising again, and changed into heavenly glory, may follow our Head. For where the Head is, there are the rest of the members also. But whilst we are here, we are members; let us not despair, for we shall follow our Head.
2. For consider, Brethren, the love of this our Head. He is now in heaven, yet doth He suffer here, as long as His Church suffereth here. Here Christ is hungered, here He is athirst, is naked, is a stranger, is sick, is in prison. For whatsoever His Body suffereth here, He hath said that Himself suffereth; and at the end, severing off this His Body to the right hand, and severing the rest by whom He is now trodden under foot to the left, He will say to those on the right hand, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom which hath been prepared for you from the beginning of the world." For what deservings? "For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat;" and so He goes over the rest, as if He had Himself received; to such a degree that they, not understanding it, make answer and say, "Lord, when saw we Thee an hungred, a stranger, and in prison?" And He saith to them, "Forasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of Mine, ye have done it unto Me. "1 So also in our own body, the head is above, the feet are on the earth; yet in any crowding and throng of men, when any one treads on your foot, does not the head say, "You are treading upon me?" No one has trodden on your head, or on your tongue; it is above, in safety, no harm has happened unto it; and yet because by the bond of charity there is unity from the head even to the feet, the tongue does not separate itself therefrom, but says, "You are treading upon me;" when no one has touched it. As then the tongue, which no one has touched, says, "You are treading upon me;" so Christ, the Head, which no one treadeth on, said, "I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat." And to them who did not so, He said, "I was an hungred, and ye gave Me no meat." And how did He finish? Thus; "These shall go into everlasting burning, but the righteous into life eternal."
3. When our Lord then was speaking on this occasion, He said, that He is "the Shepherd," He said also that He is "the Door." You find them both in that place, both "I am the Door" and "I am the Shepherd."2 In the Head He is the Door, the Shepherd in the Body. For He saith to Peter, in whom singly He formeth the Church; "Peter, lovest thou Me?" He answered, "Lord, I do love Thee." "Feed My sheep." And a third time, "Peter, lovest thou Me?"3 "Peter was grieved because He asked him the third time;" as though He who saw the conscience of the dealer, saw not the confessor's faith. He had known him always, had known him even when Peter had not known himself. For he did not know himself at that time when he said," I will be with Thee even unto death;"4 and how infirm he was he knew not. Just as it constantly happens in fact to invalids, that the sick man knows not what is going on within him, but the physician knows; when yet the former is suffering from the very sickness, and the physician is not. The physician can better tell what is going on in another, than he who is sick what is going on in himself. Peter then was at that time the invalid, and the Lord the Physician. The former declared that he had strength, when he had not; but the Lord touching the pulse of his heart, declared that he should deny Him thrice. And so it came to pass, as the Physician foretold, not as the sick presumed. Therefore, after His resurrection the Lord questioned him, not as being ignorant with what a heart he would confess the love of Christ, but that he might by a threefold confession of love, efface the threefold denial of fear.
4. Therefore doth the Lord require this of Peter, "Peter, lovest thou Me?" As though, "What wilt thou give Me, what wilt thou do for Me, seeing that thou lovest Me?" What was Peter to do for his Lord risen again, and going into heaven, and sitting on the right hand of the Father? As if He had said, "This shalt thou give Me, this shalt thou do for Me, if thou lovest Me, feed My sheep; enter in by the Door, not go up by another way." Ye heard when the Gospel was being read, "He that entereth in by Door, is the shepherd; but he that goeth up another way, is a thief and a robber; and he seeketh to disperse, and to scatter, and to spoil."5 Who is he that entereth in by the Door? He that entereth in by Christ. Who is he? He who imitateth the Passion of Christ, who acknowledgeth the Humility of Christ; that whereas God was made Man for us, man may acknowledge himself to be, not God, but man. For whose wisheth to appear God, when he is man, doth not imitate Him, who, being God, was made Man. But to thee it is not said,Be anything less than thou art; but acknowledge what thou art. Acknowledge thyself feeble, acknowledge thyself man, acknowledge thyself a sinner; acknowledge that it is He That justifieth, acknowledge that thou art full of stains. Let the stain of thine heart appear in thy confession, and thou shalt belong to Christ's flock. For the confession of sins invites the physician's healing; as in sickness, he that says, "I am well," seeketh not the physician. Did not the Pharisee and the Publican go up to the temple?6 The one boasted of his sound estate, the other showed his wounds to the Physician. For the Pharisee said, "I thank Thee, O God, that I am not as this publican."7 He gloried over the other. So then if that publican had been whole, the Pharisee would have grudged it him; for that he would not have had any one over whom to extol himself. In what state then had he come, who had this envious spirit? Surely he was not whole; and whereas he called himself whole, he went not down cured. But the other casting his eyes down to the ground, and not daring to lift them up unto heaven, smote his breast, saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner."8 And what saith the Lord? "Verily I say unto you, that the publican went down from the temple justified rather than the Pharisee. For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."9 They then who exalt themselves, would go up into the sheepfold by another way; but they who humble themselves, enter in by the Door into the sheepfold. Therefore said He of the one, "he entereth in;" of the other, "he goeth up." He that goeth up, you see, who seeks exaltation, does not enter in, but falls. Whereas he that abases himself, that he may enter in by the Door, falls not, but is the shepherd.
5. But the Lord mentioned three characters,10 and our duty is to search them out in the Gospel, that of the shepherd, the hireling, and the thief. I suppose you took notice when the lesson was being read, that He marked out the shepherd, the hireling, and the thief. "The Shepherd," said He, "layeth down His life for the sheep,"11 and entereth in by the door.12 The thief and the robber, said He, go up by another way.13 "The hireling," He said, if he seeth a wolf or even a thief, "fleeth; because he careth not for the sheep;"14 for he is an hireling, not a shepherd. The one entereth in by the door, because he is the shepherd; the second goeth up another way, because he is a thief; the third seeing them who wish to spoil the sheep feareth and fleeth, because he is an hireling, because he careth not for the sheep; for he is an hireling. If we shall find these three characters, ye have found, holy brethren, both those whom ye should love, and those whom ye should tolerate, and those of whom ye must beware. The Shepherd is to be loved, the hireling is to be tolerated, of the robber must we beware. There are men in the Church of whom the Apostle speaks, who preach the Gospel by occasion, seeking of men their own advantage, whether of money, or of honour, or human praise.15 They preach the Gospel, wishing to receive rewards in whatsoever way they can, and seek not so much his salvation to whom they preach, as their own advantage. But he who heareth the word of salvation from him who hath not salvation, if he believe Him whom he preacheth, and put not his hope in him, by whom salvation is preached to him; be that preacheth shall have loss; he to whom he preacheth shall have gain.
6. You have the Lord saying of the Pharisees, "They sit in Moses' seat."16 The Lord did not mean them only; as if He would send those who should believe on Christ to the school of the Jews, that they might learn there wherein is the way to the kingdom of heaven. Did not the Lord come for this end, that He might establish a Church, and separate those Jews who had a good faith, and a good hope, and a good love, as wheat from the chaff, and might make them one wall of the circumcision, to which should be joined another wall from the uncircumcision of the Gentiles, of which two walls coming from different directions, Himself should be the Corner-Stone? Did not the same Lord therefore say of these two people who were to be one, "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold"? Now He was speaking to the Jews; "Them also," said He, "must I bring, that there may be one fold, and One Shepherd."17 Therefore there were two ships18 out of which He had called His disciples. They figured these two people, when they let down their nets, and took up so great a draught19 and so large a number of fishes, that the nets were almost broken. "And they laded," it is said, "both the ships." The two ships figured the One Church, but made out of two peoples, joined together in Christ, though coming from different parts. Of this too the two wives, who had one husband Jacob, Leah and Rachel, are a figure.20 Of these two, the two blind men also are a figure, who sat by the way side, to whom the Lord gave sight.21 And if ye pay attention to the Scriptures, ye will find the two Churches, which are not two but One, figured out in many places. For to this end the Corner-Stone serveth, for to make of two One. To this end serveth That Shepherd, for to make of two flocks One. So then the Lord who was to teach the Church, and to have a school of His Own beyond the Jews, as we see at present, would He be likely to send those who believe on Him unto the Jews, to learn? But under the name of the Scribes and Pharisees He intimated that there would be some in His Church who would say and not do; but, in the person of Moses He designated Himself. For Moses represented Him, and for this reason did he put a vail before him, when he was speaking to the people; because as long as they were in the law given up to carnal joys and pleasures, and looking for an earthly kingdom, a vail was put upon their face, that they should not see Christ in the Scriptures. For when the vail was taken away, after that the Lord had suffered, the secrets of the temple were discovered. Accordingly when He was hanging on the Cross, the vail of the temple was rent from the top even to the bottom;22 and the Apostle Paul says expressly, "But when thou shalt turn to Christ, the vail shall be taken away."23 Whereas with him who turneth not to Christ, though he read the law of Moses, the vail is laid upon his heart, as the Apostle says. When the Lord then would signify beforehand that there would be some such in His Church, what did He say? "The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. What they say, do; but do not what they do."24
7. When wicked clerics hear this which is said against them, they would pervert it. For I have heard that some do wish to pervert this sentence. Would they not, if they might, efface it from the Gospel? But because they cannot efface it, they go about to pervert it. But the grace and mercy of the Lord is present, and allows them not to do so; for He hath hedged round all His declarations25 with His truth, and in such wise balanced them; that if any one would wish to cut off anything from them, or to introduce anything by a bad reading or interpretation, any right hearted man may join to the Scripture what has been cut off from the Scripture, and read what went above or below, and he will find the sense which the other wished to interpret wrongly. What then, think ye, do they say of whom it is said, "Do what they say"? That it is (and in truth it is so) addressed to laymen. For what does the layman who wishes to live well say to himself, when he takes notice of a wicked cleric? "The Lord said, `What they say, do; what they do, do not.' Let me walk in the way of the Lord, not follow this man's conversation. Let me hear from him not his words, but God's. I will follow God, let him follow his own lust. For if I should wish to defend myself in such wise before God as to say, `Lord, I saw that thy cleric living evilly, and therefore I lived evilly;' would He not say to me, `Thou wicked servant, hadst thou not heard from Me, "What they say, do, but what they do, do not"?' But a wicked layman, an unbeliever, who belongs not to Christ's flock, who belongs not to Christ's wheat, who as chaff is only borne with in the floor, what does he say to himself when the word of God begins to reprove him? "Away; why talkest thou to me? The very Bishops and Clergy do not do it, and dost thou force me to do it?" Thus he seeks for himself not a patron for his bad cause, but a companion for punishment. For will that wicked one whosoever he be that he has chosen to imitate, will he ever defend him in the day of judgment? For as with all whom the devil seduces, he seduces them not to be partakers of a kingdom, but of his damnation; so all who follow the wicked, seek companions for themselves to hell, not protection unto the kingdom of heaven.
8. How then do they pervert this declaration when it is said to them in their wicked lives, "With good reason was it said by the Lord ,`What they say, do; what they do, do not'"? "It was well said," say they. "For it was said to you, that ye should do what we say; but that ye should not do what we do. For we offer sacrifice, you may not." See the cunning craftiness of these men; what shall I call them? hirelings. For if they were shepherds, they would not say such things. Therefore the Lord, that He might shut their mouths, went on, and said, "They sit in Moses' seat; what they say, do; but what they do, do not; for they say, and do not."26 What is it then, Brethren? If He had spoken of offering sacrifice; would He have said, "For they say, and do not"? For they do offer27 sacrifice, they do offer unto God. What is it that they say, and do not? Hear what follows; "For they bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders, and they themselves will not touch them with one of their fingers."28 So openly did He rebuke, describe, and point them out. But those men when they thus wish to pervert the passage, show plainly that they seek nothing in the Church but their own advantage; and that they have not read the Gospel; for had they known but this very page, and read the whole, they would never have dared to say this.
9. But attend to a more clear proof that the Church hath such as these. Lest any one should say to us, "He spake entirely of the Pharisees, He spake of the Scribes, He spake of the Jews; for the Church hath none such." Who then are they of whom the Lord saith, "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven"?29 And He added, "Many shall say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy Name, and in Thy Name done many mighty30 works,31 and in Thy Name have eaten and drunken?" What! do the Jews do these things in Christ's name? Assuredly it is manifest, that He speaks of them who have the Name of Christ. But what follows? "Then will I say to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, all ye that work iniquity."32 Hear the Apostle sighing concerning such as these. He says that some preach the Gospel "through charity," others "by occasion;" of whom he says, "They do not preach the Gospel rightly."33 A right thing, but themselves not right. What they preach is right; but they who preach it are not right. Why is he not right? Because he seeketh something else in the Church, seeketh not God. If he sought God, he would be chaste; for the soul hath in God her lawful husband. Whosoever seeketh from God ought besides God, doth not seek God chastely. Consider, Brethren; if a wife love her husband because he is rich, she is not chaste. For she loves not her husband, but her husband's gold. Whereas if she love her husband, she loves him both in nakedness and poverty. For if she love him because he is rich; what if (as human chances are) he be34 outlawed and all on a sudden be reduced to need? She gives him up, mayhap; because what she loved was not her husband, but his property. But if she love her husband indeed, she loves him even more when poor; for that she loves with pity too.
10. And yet, Brethren, our God never can be poor. He is rich, He made all things, heaven and earth, the sea and Angels. In the heaven, whatsoever we see, whatsoever we see not, He made it. But notwithstanding, we ought not to love these riches, but Him who made them. For He hath promised thee nothing but Himself. Find anything more precious, and He will give thee this. Beauteous is the earth, the heaven, and the Angels; but more beauteous is He who made them. They then who preach God, as loving God; who preach God, for God's sake, feed the sheep, and are no hirelings. This chastity did our Lord Jesus Christ require of the soul, when He said to Peter, "Peter, lovest thou Me"?35 What is "Lovest thou Me"? Art thou chaste? Is not thine heart adulterous? Dost thou seek not thine own things in the Church, but Mine? If then thou be such an one, and lovest Me, "feed My sheep." For thou shalt be no hireling, but thou shalt be a shepherd.
11. But they did not preach chastely, concerning whom the Apostle sighs. But what doth he say? "What then? Notwithstanding every way, whether by occasion or in truth, Christ is preached."36 He suffers then that hirelings there should be. The shepherd preacheth Christ in truth, the hireling by occasion preacheth Christ, seeking something else. Notwithstanding, both the one and the other preacheth Christ. Hear the voice of the shepherd Paul; "Whether by occasion or in truth, Christ is preached." Himself a shepherd, he was pleased to have the hireling. For they act where they, are able, they are useful as far as they are able.But when the Apostle for other uses sought for those whose ways the weak ones might imitate; he saith, "I have sent unto you Timotheus, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways."37 And what doth he say? "I have sent unto you a shepherd, to bring you into remembrance of my ways;" that is, who himself also walketh as I walk. And in sending this shepherd, what doth he say? "For have no one so likeminded, who with sincere affection is anxious for you." Were there not many with him? But what follows? "For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's;"38 that is, "I have wished to send unto you a shepherd; for there are many hirelings; but it were not meet for an hireling to be sent." An hireling is sent for the transaction of other affairs and business; but for those which Paul then desired, a shepherd was necessary. And he scarcely found one shepherd among many hirelings; for the shepherds are few, the hirelings many. But what is said of the hirelings? "Verily I say unto you, they have received their reward."39 Of the shepherd, what saith the Apostle? "But whosoever shall cleanse himself from such as these shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and useful to the Lord, prepared always unto every good work."40 Not unto certain things prepared, and unto certain not prepared, but" unto every good work prepared." So much have I said, concerning the shepherds.
12. But we will now speak of the hirelings. "The hireling when he seeth the wolf lying in wait for the sheep, fleeth." This the Lord said. Why? "Because he careth not for the sheep."41 So long then is the hireling of use, as the seeth not the wolf coming, as he seeth not the thief and the robber; but when he seeth them, he fleeth. And who is there of the hirelings, who fleeth not from the Church, when he seeth the wolf and the robber? And wolves and robbers abound. They are they who go up by another way. Who are these who go up? They who of Donatus' way42 wish to make havoc of Christ's sheep, they go up by another way. They do not enter in by Christ, because they, are not humble. Because they are proud, they go up. What is, "they go up"? They arelifted up. Whereby do they go up? By another way: whence they wish to be named from theirway. They who are not in unity are of another way, and by this way they go up, that is, are lifted up, and wish to spoil the sheep. Now mark how they go up. "It is we," they say, "who sanctify we justify we make righteous" See whither they havegot up."But he that exalteth himself, shall be abased."43 Our Lord God is able to abase them. Now the wolf is the devil, he lieth in wait to deceive, and they that follow him; for it is said that "they are clothed indeed with the skins of sleep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."44 If the hireling observe anyone indulging in wicked talking, or in sentiments to the deadly hurt of his soul, or doing ought that is abominable and unclean, and notwithstanding that he seems to bear a character of some importance in the Church (from which if he hopes for advantage he is an hireling); says nothing, and when he sees the man perishing in his sin, sees the wolf following him, sees his throat dragged by his teeth to punishment; says not to him, "Thou sinnest;" does not chide him, lest he lose his own advantage. This I say is, "When he seeth the wolf, he fleeth;" he does not say to him, "Thou art doing wickedly." This is no flight of the body, but of the soul. He whom thou seest standing still in body flies in heart, when he sees a sinner, and does not say to him, "Thou sinnest;" yea when he even is in concert with him.
13. My Brethren, does ever either Presbyter or Bishop come up here, and say anything from this higher place, but that the property of others must not be plundered, that there must be no fraud committed, no wickedness done? They cannot say ought else who sit in Moses' seat,45 and it is it that speaks by them, not they themselves. What then is, "Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" and, "Every tree is known by his fruit"?46 Can a Pharisee speak good things? A Pharisee is a thorn; how from a thorn do I gather grapes? Because Thou, Lord, hast said, "What they say, do; but what they do, do not."47 Dost Thou bid me gather grapes of thorns when Thou sayest, "Do men gather grapes of thorns"? The Lord answereth thee, "I have not bidden thee gather grapes of thorns: but look, mark well, if haply, as is often the case, the vine when it trails all along upon the ground, be not entangled in thorns." For we sometimes find this, my Brethren, a vine planted over sedge, how it has there a thorny hedge, and throws out its branches, and entangles them in the thorny hedge, and the grape hangs among the thorns; and he that sees it plucks the grape, yet not from the thorns, but from the vine which is entangled in the thorns. In like manner then the Pharisees are thorny; but by sitting in Moses' seat, the vine wraps them round, and grapes, that is, good words, good precepts, hang from them. Do thou pick the grape, the thorn will not prick thee, when thou readest, "What they say, do; but what they do, do not." But the thorn will prick thee, if thou do what they do. So then that thou mayest gather the grape, and not be caught in the thorns, "What they say, do; but what they do, do not." Their deeds are the thorns, their words are the grapes, but from the vine, that is, from Moses' seat.
14. These then flee, when they see the wolf, when they see the robber. Now this it was that I had began to say, that from this higher place they can say nothing, but, "Do well," "do not forswear yourselves," "defraud not," "cheat not any." But sometimes men's lives are so bad, that counsel is asked of a Bishop on the taking away of another man's estate, and from him is such counsel sought. It has sometimes happened to ourselves, we speak from experience: for we should not have believed it. Many men require from us evil counsels, counsels of lying, of fraud; thinking that they please us thereby. But by the Name of Christ, if what we are saying is pleasing to the Lord, no such man has tempted us, and found what he wished in us. For with the good pleasure of Him who hath called us, we are shepherds, not hirelings. But as saith the Apostle, "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's day; yea, I judge not even mine own self. For I am conscious of nothing by myself, but I am not hereby justified. But He That judgeth me is the Lord."48 My conscience is not therefore good, because ye praise it. For how praise ye what ye do not see? Let Him praise, who seeth; yea let Him correct, if He seeth ought there which offendeth His Eyes. For I too do not say that I am perfectly whole; but I beat my breast, and say to God, "Be merciful, that I sin not." Yet I do think, for I speak in His Presence, that I seek nothing from you, but your salvation; and constantly do I groan over the sins of my brethren, and I suffer distress,49 and am tormented in mind, and often do I reprove them; yea, I never cease reproving them. All who remember what I say are witnesses, how often my brethren who sin have been reproved, and earnestly reproved, by me.
15. I am now treating of my counsel with you, holy Brethren. In Christ's Name ye are the people of God, ye are a Catholic people, ye are members of Christ; ye are not divided from unity. Ye are in communion with the members of the Apostles, ye are in communion with the memories of the Holy Martyrs, who are spread over the whole world, and ye belong to my cure, that I may render a good account of you. Now my whole account, what it is ye know. "Lord, Thou knowest that I have spoken, Thou knowest that I have not kept silence, Thou knowest in what spirit I have spoken, Thou knowest that I have wept before Thee, when I spake, and was not heard." This I imagine is my whole account, For the Holy Spirit by the prophet Ezekiel hath given me sure hope. Ye know this passage concerning the watchman; "O son of man," saith He, "I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; if when I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt die the death, thou dost not speak;" that is (for I speak to thee that thou mayest speak), "if thou dost not announce it, and the sword," that is, what I have threatened on the sinner, "come, and take him away; that wicked man indeed shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand."50 Why? Because he did not speak. "But if the watchman see the sword coming, and blow the trumpet," that he may fly, and he took not to himself, that is, amend not himself, that it find him not in the punishment which God threateneth, and "the sword shall come and take any one away; that wicked man indeed shall die in his iniquity; but thou," saith He, "hast delivered thine own soul." And in that place of the Gospel, what else saith He to the servant? when he said, "Lord, I knew Thee to be a" difficult51 or "hard Man, in that Thou reapest where Thou hast not sowed, and gatherest where Thou hast not strawed; and I was afraid, and went and hid Thy talent in the earth, lo, Thou hast that is Thine." And He said, "`Thou wicked and slothful servant,' because thou knewest Me to be a difficult and hard Man, to reap where I have not sown, and to gather where I have not strawed, My very covetousness ought the more to teach thee, that I look for profit from My money. `Thou oughtest therefore to have given My money to the exchangers, and at My coming I should have required Mine own with usury.'"52 Did He say, "Thou oughtest to give, and require"? It is we then, Brethren, who give, He will come to require. Pray ye, that He may find us prepared.