38. You have heard that it has been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth;
39. But I say to you, That you resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40. And if any man will sue you at the law, and take away your coat, let him have your cloak also.
41. And whosoever shall compel you to go a mile, go with him twain.
42. Give to him that asks you, and from him that would borrow of you turn not away.
GLOSS. The Lord having taught that we are not to offer injury to our neighbor or irreverence to the Lord, now proceeds to show the Christian should demean himself to those that injure him.
AUG. This law, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, was enacted to repress the flames of mutual hate, and to be a check on their undisciplined spirits. For who when he would take revenge, was ever content to return just so much harm as he had received? Do we not see men who have suffered some trifling hurt, straightway plot murder, thirst for blood, and hardly find evil enough that they can do to their enemies for the satisfying of their rage? To this immeasured and cruel fury the Law puts bounds when it enacts a lex talionis; that is, that whatever wrong or hurt any man has done to another, he should suffer just the same in return. This is not to encourage but to check rage; for it does not rekindle what was extinguished, but hinders the flames already kindled from further spread. It enacts a just retaliation, properly due to him who has suffered the wrong. But that mercy forgives any debt, does not make it unjust that payment had been sought. Since then he sins who seeks an unmeasured vengeance, but he does not sin who desires only a just one; he is therefore further from sin who seeks no retribution at all. I might state it yet thus: It was said to them of old time, You shall not take unequal retaliation; But I say to you, You shall not retaliate; this is a completion of the Law, if in these words something is added to the Law which was wanting to it; yea, rather that which the Law sought to do, namely, to put an end to unequal revenge, is more safely secured when there is no revenge at all.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. For without this command, the commands of the Law could not stand. For if according to the Law we begin all of us to render evil for evil, we shall all become evil, since they do hurt abound. But if according to Christ we resist not evil, though they that are evil be not amended, yet they that are good remain good.
JEROME; Thus our Lord by doing away all retaliation, cuts off the beginnings of sin. So the Law corrects faults, the Gospel removes their occasions.
GLOSS. Or it may be said that the Lord said this, adding somewhat to the righteousness of the old Law.
AUG. For the righteousness of the Pharisees is a less righteousness, not to transgress the measure of equal retribution; and this is the beginning of peace; but perfect peace is to refuse all such retribution. Between that first manner then, which was not according to the Law, to wit, that a greater evil should be returned for a less, and this which the Lord enjoins to make His disciples perfect, to wit, that no evil should be returned for evil, a middle place is held by this, that an equal evil should be returned, which was thus the passage from extremist discord to extremist peace. Whoso then first does evil to another departs furthest from righteousness; and who does not first do any wrong, but when wronged repays with a heavier wrong, has departed somewhat from extreme injustice; he who repays only what he has received, gives up yet something more, for it were but strict right that he whom is the first aggressor should receive a greater hurt than he inflicted. This righteousness thus partly begun, He perfects, who is come to fulfill the Law. The two steps that intervene He leaves to be understood; for there is who does not repay so much, but less; and there is yet above him, he who repays not at all; yet this seems too little to the Lord, if you be not also ready to suffer wrong. Therefore He says not, Render not evil for evil, but, Resist not against evil, not only repay not what is offered to you, but do not resist that it should not be done to you. For thus accordingly He explains that saying, If any man smite you on your right cheek, offer to him the left also. Which as being a high part of mercy is known to those who serve such as they love much; from whom, being morose, or insane, they endure many things, and if it be for their health they offer themselves to endure more. The Lord then, the Physician of souls, teaches His disciples to endure with patience the sicknesses of those for whose spiritual health they should provide. For all wickedness comes of a sickness of the mind; nothing is more innocent than he who is sound and of perfect health in virtue.
ID. The things which are done by the Saints in the New Testament profit for examples of understanding those Scriptures which are modeled into the form of precepts. Thus we read in Luke; Whoso smites you on the one cheek, turn to him the other also (Luke 6:29). Now there is no example of patience more perfect than that of the Lord; yet He, when he was smitten, said not, 'Behold the other cheek,' but, If I have spoken amiss, accuse me wherein it is amiss; but if well, why do you smite me (John 18:23)? hereby showing us that that turning of the other cheek should be in the heart.
ID. For the Lord was ready not only to be smitten on the other cheek for the salvation of men, but to be crucified with His whole body. It may be asked, What does the right cheek expressly signify? As the face is that whereby any man is known, to be smitten on the face is according to the Apostle to be condemned and despised. But as But as we cannot say, 'right face,' and 'left face,' and yet we have a name twofold, one before God, and one before the world, it is distributed as it were into the right cheek, and left cheek, that whoever of Christ's disciples is despised for that he is a Christian, may be ready to be yet more despised for any of this world's honors that he may have. All things wherein we suffer any wrong are divided into two kinds, of which one is what cannot be restored, the other what may be restored. In that kind which cannot be restored, we are wont to seek the solace of revenge. For what does it boot if when smitten you smite again, is the hurt done to your body thereby repaid to you? But the mind swollen with rage seeks such assuagements.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. Or has your return blow at all restrained him from striking you again? It has rather roused him to another blow. For anger is not checked by meeting anger, but is only more irritated.
AUG. Whence the Lord judges that others' weakness should rather be born with compassion, than that our own should be soothed by others' pain. For that retribution which tends to correction is not here forbidden, for such is indeed a part of mercy; nor does such intention hinder that he, who seeks to correct another, is not at the same time ready himself to take more at his hands. But it is required that he should inflict the punishment to whom the power is given by the course of things, and with such a mind as the father has to a child in correcting him whom it is impossible he should hate. And holy men have punished some sins with death, in order that a wholesome fear might be struck into the living, and so that not his death, but the likelihood of increase of his sin had he lived, was the hurt of the criminal. Thus Elias punished many with death, and when the disciples would take example from him, they were rebuked by the Lord, who did not censure this example of the Prophet, but their ignorant use of it, seeing them to desire the punishment not for correction's sake, but angry hate. But after He had inculcated love of their neighbor and had given them the Holy Spirit, there wanted not instances of such vengeance, as Ananias and his wife who fell down dead at the words of Peter, and the Apostle Paul delivered some to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Yet do some, with a kind of blind opposition, rage against the temporal punishments of the Old Testament, not knowing with what mind they were inflicted.
ID. But who that is of sober mind would say to kings, "It is nothing of your concern who will live religiously, or who profanely"? It cannot even be said to them, that it is not their concern who will live chastely, or who unchastely. It is indeed better that men should be led to serve God by right teaching than by penalties; yet has it benefited many, as experience has approved to us, to be first coerced by pain and fear, that they might be taught after, or to be made to conform in deed to what they had learned in words. The better men indeed are led of love, but the more part of men are wrought on by fear. Let them learn in the case of the Apostle Paul, how Christ first constrained, and after taught him.
ID.Therefore in this kind of injuries which are wont to rouse vengeance Christians will observe such a mean, that hate shall not be caused by the injuries they may receive, and yet wholesome correction be not foregone by Him who has right of either counsel or power.
JEROME; Mystically interpreted, when we are smitten on the right cheek, He said not, offer to him the left, but the other; for the righteous has not a left. That is, if a heretic has smitten us in disputation, and would wound us in a right hand doctrine, let him be met with another testimony from Scripture.
AUG. The other kind of injuries are those in which full restitution can be made, of which there are two kinds: one relates to money, the other to work; of the first of these it is He speaks when He continues, Whoever will sue you for your coat, let him have your cloak likewise. As by the cheek are denoted such injuries of the wicked as admit of no restitution but revenge, so by this similitude of the garments is denoted such injury as admits restitution. And this, as the former, is rightly taken of preparation of the heart, not of the show of the outward action. And what is commanded respecting our garments, is to be observed in all things that by any right we call our own in worldly property. For if the command be expressed in these necessary articles of life, how much more does it hold in the case of superfluities and luxuries? And when He says, He who will sue you, He clearly intends to include everything for which it is possible that we should be sued. It may be made a question whether it is to be understood of slaves, for a Christian ought not to possess his slave on the same footing as his horse; though it might be that the horse was worth the more money. And if your slave have a milder master in you than he would have in him who seeks to take him from you, I do not know that he ought to be given up as lightly as your coat.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. For it were an unworthy thing that a believer should stand in his cause before an unbelieving judge. Or if one who is a believer, though (as he must be) a worldly man, though he should have reverenced you for the worthiness of the faith, sues you because the cause is a necessary one, you will lose the worthiness of Christ for the business of the world. Further, every lawsuit irritates the heart and excites bad thoughts; for when you see dishonesty or bribery employed against you, you hasten to support your own cause by like means, though originally, you might have intended nothing of the sort.
AUG. The Lord here forbids his disciples to have lawsuits with others for worldly property. Yet as the Apostle allows such kind of causes to be decided between brethren, and before arbiters who are brethren, but utterly disallows them without the Church, it is manifest what is conceded to infirmity as pardonable.
GREG. There are, who are so far to be endured, as they rob us of our worldly goods; but there are whom we ought to hinder, and that without breaking the law of charity, not only that we may not be robbed of what is ours, but lest they by robbing others destroy themselves. We ought to fear much more for the men who rob us, than to be eager to save the inanimate things they take from us. When peace with our neighbor is banished the heart on the matter of worldly possessions, it is plain that our estate is more loved than our neighbor.
AUG. The third kind of wrongs, which is in the matter of labor, consists of both such as admit restitution, and such as do not - or with or without revenge - for he who forcibly presses a man's service, and makes him give his aid against his will, can either be punished for his crime, or return the labor. In this kind of wrongs then, the Lord teaches that the Christian mind is most patient, and prepared to endure yet more than is offered; If a man constrain you to go with him a mile, go with him yet another two. This likewise is meant not so much of actual service with your feet , as of readiness of mind.
CHRYS.The word here used signifies to drag unjustly, without cause, and with insult.
AUG. Let us suppose it therefore said, Go with him other two, that the number three might be completed; by which number perfection is signified; that whoever does this might remember that he is fulfilling perfect righteousness. For which reason he conveys this precept under three examples, and in this third example, he adds a twofold measure to the one single measure, that the threefold number may be complete. Or we may so consider as though in enforcing this duty, He had begun with what was easiest to bear, and had advanced gradually. For finest He commanded that when the right cheek was smitten we should turn the other also; therein showing ourselves ready to endure another wrong less than that you have already received. Secondly, to him that would take your coat, He bids you part with your cloak (or garment, as some copies read), which is either just as great a loss, or perhaps a little greater). In the third, He doubles the additional wrong which He would have us ready to endure. And seeing it is a small thing not to hurt unless you further show kindness, He adds, To him that asks of you, give.
PSEUDO-CHRYS.Because wealth is not ours but God's, God would have us stewards of His wealth. and not lords.
JEROME; If we understand this only of alms, it cannot stand with the estate of the most part of men who are poor; even the rich if they have been always giving, will not be able to continue always to give.
AUG. Therefore, He says not, 'Give all things to him that asks, but, Give to every one that asks; that you should only give what you can give honestly and rightly. For what if one ask for money to employ in oppressing the innocent man? What if he ask your consent to unclean sin? We must give then only what will hurt neither ourselves or others, as far as man can judge; and when you have refused an inadmissible request, that you may not send away empty him that asked, show the righteousness of your refusal; and such correction of the unlawful petitioner will often be a better gift than the granting of his suit.
ID. For with more benefit is food taken from the hunger, if certainty of provision causes him to neglect righteousness, than that food should be supplied to him that he may consent to a deed of violence and wrong.
JEROME; But it may be understood of the wealth of doctrine: wealth which never fails but the more of it is given away, the more it abounds.
AUG. That He commands, And from him that would borrow of you, turn not away, must be referred to the mind; for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7). And everyone that receives indeed borrows, though it is not he that shall pay, but God who restores to the merciful many fold. Or, if you like to understand by borrowing, only taking with promise to repay, we must understand the Lord's command as embracing both these kinds of affording aid; whether we give outright, or lend to receive again. And of this last kind of showing mercy it is well-said, Turn not away, that is, do not be therefore backward to lend, as though, because man shall repay you, therefore God shall not; for what you do by God's command cannot be without fruit.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. Christ bids us lend but not on usury; for he who gives on such terms does not bestow his own, but takes of another; he looses from one chain to bind with many, and gives not for God's righteousness sake, but for his own gain. For money taken on usury is like the bite of an asp; as the asp's poison secretly consumes the limbs, so usury turns all our possessions into debt.
AUG. Some object that this command of Christ is altogether inconsistent with civil life in Commonwealths; who, say they, would suffer, when he could hinder it, the pillage of his estate by an enemy; or would not repay the evil suffered by a plundered province of Rome on the plunderers according to the rights of war? But these precepts of patience are to be observed in readiness of the heart, and that mercy, not to return evil for evil, must be always fulfilled by the will. Yet must we often use a merciful sharpness in dealing with the headstrong. And in this way, if the earthly commonwealth will keep the Christian commandments, even war will not be waged without good charities, to the establishing among the vanquished peaceful harmony of godliness and righteousness. For that victory is beneficial to him from whom it snatches license to sin; since nothing is more unfortunate for sinners, than the good fortune of their sins, which nourishes an impunity that brings punishment after it, and an evil will is strengthened, as it were some internal enemy.
43. You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.
44. But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you;
45. That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
46. For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? Do not even the Publicans do the same?
47. And if you salute your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Publicans do so?
48. Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.
GLOSS. The Lord has taught above that we must not resist one who offers any injury, but must be ready even to suffer more; He now further requires us to show to them that do us wrong both love and its effects. And as the things that have gone before pertain to the completion of the righteousness of the Law, in like manner this last precept is to be referred to the completion of the law of love, which, according to the Apostle, is the fulfilling of the Law.
AUG. That by the command, You shall love your neighbor, all mankind were intended, the Lord showed in the parable of the man who was left half dead, which teaches us that our neighbor is every one who may happen at any time to stand in need of our offices of mercy; and this who does not see must be denied to none, when the Lord says, Do good to them that hate you.
ID. That there were degrees in the righteousness of the Pharisees which was under the old Law is seen herein, that many hated even those by whom they were loved. He therefore who loves his neighbor, has ascended one degree, though as yet he hates his enemy; which is expressed in that, and shall hate your enemy, which is not to be understood as a command to the justified, but a concession to the weak.
ID. I ask the Manichaeans why they would have this peculiar to the Mosaic Law, that was said by them of old time, you shall hate your enemy? Has not Paul said of certain men that they were hateful to God? We must inquire then how we may understand that, after the example of God, to whom the Apostle here affirms some men to be hateful, our enemies are to be hated; and again after the same pattern of Him who makes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, our enemies are to be loved. Here then is the rule by which we may at once hate our enemy for the evil's sake that is in him, that is, his iniquity, and love him for the good's sake that is in him, that is, his rational part. This then, thus uttered by them of old, being heard, but not understood, hurried men on to the hatred of man, when they should have hated nothing but vice. Such the Lord corrects as He proceeds, saying, I say to you, Love your enemies. He who had just declared that He came not to subvert the Law, but to fulfill it, by bidding us love our enemies, brought us to the understanding of how we may at once hate the same man for his sins whom we love for his human nature.
GLOSS. But it should be known that in the whole body of the Law it is nowhere written, You shall hate your enemy. But it is to be referred to the tradition of the Scribes, who thought good to add this to the Law, because the Lord bade the children of Israel pursue their enemies, and destroy Amalek from under Heaven.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. As that, You shall not lust, was not spoken to the flesh, but to the spirit, so in this the flesh indeed is not able to love its enemy, but the spirit is able; for the love and hate of the flesh is in the sense, but of the spirit is in the understanding. If then we feel hate to one who has wronged us, and yet will not to act upon that feeling, know that our flesh hates our enemy, but our soul loves him.
GREG. Love to an enemy is then observed when we are not sorrowful at his success, or rejoice in his fall. We hate him whom we wish not to he bettered, and pursue with ill wishes the prosperity of the man in whose fall we rejoice. Yet it may often happen that without any sacrifice of charity, the fall of an enemy may gladden us, and again his exaltation make us sorrowful without any suspicion of envy; when, namely, by his fall any deserving man is raised up, or by his success any undeservedly depressed. But herein a strict measure of discernment must be observed, lest in following out our own hates, we hide it from ourselves under the specious pretense of another's benefit. We should balance how much we owe to the fall of the sinner, how much to the justice of the Judge. For when the Almighty has struck any hardened sinner, we must at once magnify His justice as Judge, and feel with the other's suffering who perishes.
GLOSS. They who stand against the Church oppose her in three ways: with hate, with words, and with bodily tortures. The Church on the other hand loves them, as it is here, Love your enemies; does good to them, as it is, Do good to them that hate you; and prays for them, as it is, Pray for them that persecute you and accuse you falsely.
JEROME; Many measuring the commandments of God by their own weakness, not by the strength of the saints, hold these commands for impossible, and say that it is virtue enough not to hate our enemies; but to love them is a command beyond human nature to obey. But it must be understood that Christ enjoins not impossibilities but perfection. Such was the temper of David towards Saul and Absalom; the Martyr Stephen also prayed for his enemies while they stoned him, and Paul wished himself anathema for the sake of his persecutors. Jesus both taught and did the same, saying, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
AUG. These indeed are examples of the perfect sons of God; yet to this should every believer aim, and seek by prayer to God, and struggles with himself to raise his human spirit to this temper. Yet this so great blessing is not given to all those multitudes which we believe are heard when they pray, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
ID. Here arises a question, that this commandment of the Lord, by which He bids us pray for our enemies, seems opposed by many other parts of Scripture. In the Prophets are found many imprecations upon enemies; such as that in the 109th Psalm, Let his children be orphans (Ps 109:9). But it should be known, that the Prophets are wont to foretell things to come in the form of prayer or wish. This has more weight as a difficulty that John says, There is a sin to death, I say not that he shall pray for it (1 John 5:16); plainly showing that there are some brethren for whom he does not bid us pray; for what went before was, If any know his brother sin a sin, &c. Yet the Lord bids us pray for our persecutors. This question can only be resolved, if we admit that there are some sins in brethren more grievous than the sin of persecution in our enemies. For thus Stephen prays for those that stoned him, because they had not yet believed on Christ; but the Apostle Paul does not pray for Alexander though he was a brother, but had sinned by attacking the brotherhood through jealousy. But for whom you pray not, you do not therein pray against him. What must we say then of those against whom we know that the saints have prayed, and that not that they should be corrected (for that would be rather to have prayed for them), but for their eternal damnation; not as that prayer of the Prophet against the Lord's betrayer, for that is a prophecy of the future, not an imprecation of punishment; but as when we read in the Apocalypse the Martyrs' prayer that they may be avenged. But we ought not to let this affect us. For who may dare to affirm that they prayed against those persons themselves, and not against the kingdom of sin? For that would be both a just and a merciful avenging of the Martyrs, to overthrow that kingdom of sin, under the continuance of which they endured all those evils. And it is overthrown by correction of some, and damnation of such as abide in sin. Does not Paul seem to you to have avenged Stephen on his on his own body, as he speaks, I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection.
PSEUDO-AUG. And the souls of them that are slain cry out to be avenged; as the blood of Abel cried out of the ground not with a voice, but in spirit. As the work is said to laud tine workman, when he delights himself in the view thereof; for the saints are not so impatient as to urge what they know will come to pass at the appointed time.
CHRYS. Note through what steps we have now ascended here, and how he has set us on the very pinnacle of virtue. The first step is not to begin to do wrong to any; the second, that in avenging a wrong done to us we be content with retaliating equal; the third, to return nothing of what we have suffered; the fourth, to offer one's self to the endurance of evil; the fifth, to be ready to suffer even more evil than the oppressor desires to inflict; the sixth, not to hate him of whom we suffer such things; the seventh, to love him; the eighth, to do him good; the ninth, to pray for him. And because the command is great, the reward proposed is also great, namely, to be made like to God, You shall be the sons of your Father which is in heaven.
JEROME; For whoever keeps the commandments of God is thereby made the son of God; he then of whom he here speaks is not by nature his son, but by his own will.
AUG. After that rule we must here understand of which John speaks, He gave them power to be made the sons of God. One is His Son by nature; we are made sons by the power which we have received; that is, so far as we fulfill those things that we are commanded. So He says not, Do these things because you are sons, but, do these things that you may become sons. In calling us to this then, He calls us to His likeness, for He says, He makes His sun to rise on the righteous and the unrighteous. By the sun we may understand not this visible, but that of which it is said, To you that fear the name of the Lord, the Sun of righteousness shall arise (Mal 4:2); and by the rain, the water of the doctrine of truth; for Christ was seen, and was preached to good as well as bad.
HILARY; Or, the sun and rain have reference to the baptism with water and Spirit.
AUG. Or we may take it of this visible sun, and of the rain by which the fruits are nourished, as the wicked mourn in the book of Wisdom, The Sun has not risen for us (Wisdom 5:6). And of the rain it is said, I will command the clouds that they rain not on it (Is 5:6). But whether it be this or that, it is of the great goodness of God, which is set forth for our imitation. He says not, 'the sun,' but His sun, that is, the sun which Himself has made, that hence we may be admonished with how great liberality we ought to supply those things that we have not created, but received as a boon from Him.
ID.But as we laud Him for his gifts, let us also consider how He chastises those whom He loves. For not everyone who spares is a friend, nor everyone who chastises an enemy; it is better to love with severity than to use lenity wherewith to deceive.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. He was careful to say, On the righteous and the unrighteous, and not 'on the unrighteous as on the righteous'; for God gives all good gifts not for men's sake, but for the saints' sake, as likewise chastisements for the sake of sinners. In bestowing His good gifts, He does not separate the sinners from the righteous that they should not despair; so in His infliction not the righteous from sinners that they should be made proud; and that the more, since the wicket are not profited by the good things they receive, but turn them to their hurt by their evil lives; nor are the good hurt by evil things, but rather profit to increase of righteousness.
AUG. For the good man is not puffed up by worldly goods, nor broken by worldly calamity. But the bad man is punished in temporal losses, because he is corrupted by temporal gains. Or for another reason he would have good and evil common to both sorts of men, that good things might not be sought with vehement desire, when they were enjoyed even by the wicked; nor the evil things shamefully avoided, when even the righteous are afflicted by them.
GLOSS.To love one that loves us is of nature, but to love our enemy of charity. If you love them who love you, what reward have you? to wit, in heaven. None truly, for of each it is said, You have received your reward. But these things we ought to do, and not leave the other undone.
RABAN.If then sinners be led by nature to show kindness to those that love them, with how much greater show of affection ought you not to embrace those that do not love you? For it follows, Do not even the publicans do so? The publicans are those who collect the public imposts; or perhaps those who pursue the public business or the gain of this world.
GLOSS. But if you only pray for them that are your kinsfolk, what more has your benevolence than that of the unbelieving? Salutation is a kind of prayer.
RABAN. Ethnici, that is, the Gentiles, for the Greek word is translated 'gens' in Latin; those, that is, who abide such as they were born, to wit, under sin.
REMIG. Because the utmost perfection of love cannot go beyond the love of enemies, therefore as soon as the Lord has bid us love our enemies, He proceeds, Be you then perfect, as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. He indeed is perfect, as being omnipotent - man, as being aided by the Omnipotent. For the word ' as' is used in Scripture, sometimes for identity, and equality, as in that, As I was with Moses, so will I be with you (Joshua 1:5); sometimes to express likeness only as here.
PSEUDO-CHRYS.For as our sons after the flesh resemble their fathers in some part of their bodily shape, so do spiritual sons resemble their father God, in holiness.
Catena Aurea Matthew 5