Beware of false
prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they
are ravening wolves. By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather
grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth
forth good fruit, and the evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good
tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring
forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall
be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits
you shall know them.
Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the
kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in
heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me
in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast
out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name? And then
will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that
work iniquity. Every one therefore that heareth these my words, and
doth them, shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a
rock, And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and
they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a
And every one that heareth these my words, and doth them not, shall be
like a foolish man that built his house upon the sand, And the rain
fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that
house, and it fell, and great was the fall thereof.
And it came to pass when Jesus had fully ended these words, the people
were in admiration at his doctrine. For he was teaching them as one
having power, and not as the scribes and Pharisees.
For there is no
good tree that bringeth forth evil fruit; nor an evil tree that
bringeth forth good fruit. For every tree is known by its fruit. For
men do not gather figs from thorns; nor from a bramble bush do they
gather the grape. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart
bringeth forth that which is good: and an evil man out of the evil
treasure bringeth forth that which is evil. For out of the abundance of
the heart the mouth speaketh.
And why call you me, Lord, Lord; and do not the things which I say?
Every one that cometh to me, and heareth my words, and doth them, I
will shew you to whom he is like. He is like to a man building a house,
who digged deep, and laid the foundation upon a rock. And when a flood
came, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and it could not
shake it; for it was founded on a rock. But he that heareth, and doth
not, is like to a man building his house upon the earth without a
foundation: against which the stream beat vehemently, and immediately
it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.
By St. John Chryostom
one," saith He, "that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them
not, shall be likened to a foolish man, which built his house upon the
And well did He call this man "foolish": for what can be more senseless
than one building a house on the sand, and while he submits to the
labor, depriving himself of the fruit and refreshment, and instead
thereof undergoing punishment? For that they too, who follow after
wickedness, do labor, is surely manifest to every one: since both the
extortioner, and the adulterer, and the false accuser, toil and weary
themselves much to bring their wickedness to effect; but so far from
reaping any profit from these their labors, they rather undergo great
loss. For Paul too intimated this when he said, "He that soweth to his
flesh, shall of his flesh reap corruption."To this man are they like
also, who build on the sand; as those that are given up to fornication,
to wantonness, to drunkenness, to anger, to all the other things.
Such an one was Ahab, but not such Elijah (since when we have put
virtue and vice along side of one another, we shall know more
accurately the difference): for the one had built upon the rock, the
other on the sand; where fore though he were a king, he feared and
trembled at the prophet, at him that had only his sheepskin. Such were
the Jews but not the apostles; and so though they were few and in
bonds, they exhibited the steadfastness of the rock; but those, many as
they were, and in armor, the weakness of the sand. For so they said,
"What shall we do to these men?"Seest thou those in perplexity, not who
are in the hands of others, and bound, but who are active in holding
down and binding? And what can be more strange than this? Hast thou
hold of the other, and art yet in utter perplexity? Yes, and very
naturally. For inasmuch as they had built all on the sand, therefore
also were they weaker than all. For this cause also they said again,
"What do ye, seeking to bring this man's blood upon us?" What saith he?
Dost thou scouge, and art thou in fear? entreatest thou despitefully,
and art in dismay? Dost thou judge, and yet tremble? So feeble is
But the Apostles not so, but how? "We cannot but speak the things which
we have seen and heard."Seest thou a noble spirit? seest thou a rock
laughing waves to scorn? seest thou a house unshaken? And what is yet
more marvellous; so far from turning cowards themselves at the plots
formed against them, they even took more courage, and cast the others
into greater anxiety. For so he that smites adamant, is himself the one
smitten; and he that kicks against the pricks, is himself the one
pricked, the one on whom the severe wounds fall: and he who is forming
plots against the virtuous, is himself the one in jeopardy. For
wickedness becomes so much the weaker, the more it sets itself in array
against virtue. And as he who wraps up fire in a garment, extinguishes
not the flame, but consumes the garment; so he that is doing despite to
virtuous men, and oppressing them, and binding them, makes them more
glorious, but destroys himself.For the more ills thou sufferest, living
righteously, the stronger art thou become; since the more we honor
self-restraint, the less we need anything; and the less we need
anything, the stronger we grow, and the more above all. Such a one was
John; wherefore him no man pained, but he caused pain to Herod; so he
that had nothing prevailed against him that ruled; and he that wore a
diadem, and purple, and endless pomp, trembles, and is in fear of him
that is stripped of all, and not even when beheaded could he without
fear see his head. For that even after his death he had the terror of
him in full strength, hear what He saith, "This is John, whom I
slew,"Now the expression, "I slew," is that of one not exulting, but
soothing his own terror, and persuading his troubled soul to call to
mind, that he himself slew him. So great is the force of virtue, that
even after death it is more powerful than the living. For this same
cause again, when he was living, they that possessed much wealth came
unto him, and said, "What shall we do?" Is so much yours, and are ye
minded to learn the way of your prosperity from him that hath nothing?
the rich from the poor? the soldiers from him that hath not even a
Such an one was Elias too: wherefore also with the same freedom did he
discourse to the people. For as the former said, "Ye generation of
vipers;"so this latter, "How long will ye halt upon both your hips?"
And the one said, "Hast thou killed, and inherited?" the other, "It is
not lawful for thee to have thy brother Philip's wife."
Seest thou the rock? Seest thou the sand; how easily it sinks down, how
it yields to calamities? how it is overthrown, though it have the
support of royalty, of number, of nobility? For them that pursue it, it
makes more senseless than all.
And it doth not merely fall, but with great calamity: for "great
indeed," He saith, "was the fall of it." The risk not being of trifles,
but of the soul, of the loss of Heaven, and those immortal blessings.
Or rather even before that loss, no life so wretched as he must live
that follows after this; dwelling with continual despondencies, alarms,
cares, anxieties; which a certain wise man also was intimating when he
said, "The wicked fleeth, when no man is pursuing."For such men tremble
at their shadows, suspect their friends, their enemies, their servants,
such as know them, such as know them not; and before their punishment,
suffer extreme punishment here. And to declare all this, Christ said,
"And great was the fall of it;" shutting up these good commandments
with that suitable ending, and persuading even by the things present
the most unbelieving to flee from vice.
For although the argument from what is to come be raster, yet is this
of more power to restrain the grosser sort, and to withdraw them from
wickedness. Wherefore also he ended with it, that the profit thereof
might make its abode in them.
Conscious therefore of all these things, both the present, and the
future, let us flee from vice, let us emulate virtue, that we may not
labor fruitlessly and at random, but may both enjoy the security here,
and partake of the glory there: unto which God grant we may all attain,
by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be
the glory and the might forever and ever. Amen.
by St. Thomas Aquinas
(15) Beware of false prophets. He teaches them to be wary of certain
ones whom they should avoid. They are described from their profession,
namely, prophets. But one might ask of which prophets, because the Law
and the prophets last until John; hence in that time there were no
prophets concerning Christ, because they ended in him. Therefore, it
must be said that prophets are teachers in the Church and prelates. But
what does he mean by false? The false prophets are those not sent. Abut
these Jeremiah (23:21): "I did not send them and they ran." Likewise,
false prophets are the ones who lie; hence, Jeremiah (2:8): "His
prophets have prophesied by Baal." So, too, there were many
pseudo-prophets among the people, just as among us there will be lying
Beware, i.e., take care to avoid, because they are concealed; and one
must beware of hidden snares. Hence their contagion hides within. He
says, therefore, who come to you in sheep's clothing. The sheep are the
faithful: "We are his sheep and the sheep of his pasture" (Ps 100:3).
Their clothing are fasts and almsgiving, with which they cover
themselves: "Having the appearance of piety, but denying its power" (2
Tim 3:5). But note that if wolves clothe themselves with the pelts of
sheep, the sheep does not lose his pelt for this purpose; similarly,
although those evil ones are covered with good works, the good make
much progress. But inwardly are ravenous wolves. This is explained
especially of heretics, and secondarily of evil prelates. Hence, a
comment on John (10:11): "I am the good shepherd," says: "It is said
that the shepherd is one who governs and rules; the wolf, who intends
harm; the mercenary, who seeks his own convenience. Hence, the shepherd
should be loved, the wolf fled from, and the mercenary tolerated."
Therefore, inwardly they are ravenous wolves is understood of those who
intend to pervert the people, and they deserve to be called wolves.
Also, mercenaries, namely, evil Christians who scatter the flock by bad
example, who lead a wicked life; although in the effect of their
conduct they imitate wolves: "because after my departure ravenous
wolves will enter among you, not sparing the flock" (Acts 20:29). And
he says, within, because they have the evil intention of killing the
(16) You will know them by their fruits, i.e., actions. But it seems to
be the opposite, because they have sheep's clothing, and clothing is
works. Therefore, they will be known from them. Chrysostom: "Fruit is
the confession of faith." Hence, if they confess the faith, they are
not heretics: "For the fruit of the light is in all goodness and
justice and truth" (Eph 5:9). But if it is taken for pretenders, then
it is explained so that by clothing is meant external works: "But the
fruit of the spirit is charity, joy and peace" (Gal 5:22). But you will
ask: How can they be recognized? The answer is that scarcely any
hypocrite can be so clever, that no evil in word or act will appear:
"As in water face answers face, so the hearts of men are reflected to
the prudent" (Pr 27:19). Seneca: "No one can long bear a fake
personality." Indeed, they are especially revealed in two ways: in
things that suddenly occur to be done, because in matters done after
deliberation one is cautious. Also in troubles: "There is a friend who
is such at his own convenience, but will not stand by you on the day of
trouble" (Sir 6:8). They are also revealed when they cannot do what
they want or when they have already obtained it. Hence dominion shows
Are grapes gathered from thorns? By grapes, from which wine is made, is
understood spiritual joy, because "wine gladdens the hear of man" (Ps
104:15); by figs, the sweetness of ecclesial peace, which is charity.
This cannot be produced from thistles, i.e., sinners, because "thorns
and thistles it shall bring forth to you" (Gen 3:18).
(17) He proves this with an example: Every sound tree bears good fruit,
but the bad tree bears evil fruit. From this the Manicheans assumed two
natures, namely, good and evil. But this is not true, because we see
good fruit formed from an evil creation, and vice versa. Hence from
this you should understand that the tree is the principle of the fruit.
But there are two principles: that of nature and that of conduct. The
principle from nature is the soul, and whatever comes from it naturally
is good. But the principle of conduct is the will. Therefore, if the
will is good, the work is good, since it has a good will with a good
intention; because if one wills to steal for almsgiving, even though
the will is good, the intention is not right.
(19) But what will happen to the bad tree? Every tree that does not
bear good fruit is cut down, because if it does not bear or if it omits
doing what it can, it will be cut down: "If anyone does not abide in
me, he will be cast out, and they will gather him up and throw him into
the fire, and he will burn" (Jn 15:6). Hence in Luke (8:7) it is said
of the fig tree which the Lord commanded to be cut down and taken away:
"Take away the wicked one, lest it see God's glory"
(20) He concludes: Thus you will know them by their fruits.
(21) Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord'... Having presented the
doctrine, he shows that it must be observed, because nothing else
suffices for salvation In regard to God's commands or doctrine four
things are required or praiseworthy: that we confess them with our
mouth, that they be confirmed by miracles, that God's word be heard and
performed in action. Concerning the first: "Man believes with his heart
and he confesses with his lips" (Rom 10:10). Concerning the second:
"The Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that
attended it" (Mk 16:20). Concerning the third: "He that is of God hears
the word of God" (Jn 8:47). Fourthly, it is required that he do: "Be
doers of the word, and not hearers only" (Jas 1:22). Hence he wishes to
show that three without the fourth do not profit; hence he says, not
everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord''.
But this seems contrary to the Apostle: "No one can say, 'Lord Jesus'
except in the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 12:3). But whoever has the Holy
Spirit enters the kingdom of heaven. Augustine answers that "to say"
has a number of meanings: general, and strict and proper. Strictly, it
is nothing less than to manifest affection and will. In this way the
Apostle says: "No one can say 'Lord Jesus' except in the Holy Spirit."
And this is no more than to believe and obey the Lord. Likewise,
commonly, i.e., to proclaim with the lips in any way whatever.
Concerning this, Is (29:13): "This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me." Or, in this way: Not everyone who says
to me 'Lord, Lord.' He says the word Lord twice to signify that
confession is twofold, namely, of the voice and of praise, neither of
which is enough.
Who then will enter? Not one who says "Lord, Lord," but he who does the
will of my Father who is in heaven. "No one ascends into heaven, except
he that came down from heaven" (Jn 3:13), Hence no one can ascend,
unless he descends like Christ, of whom John (6:38): "I have come down
from heaven not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me."
Hence it is necessary to do God's will: "This is the will of god, your
sanctification" (1 Th 4:3). Hence David said: "Teach me to do your
will" (Ps 143:10). And as the Lord taught us to pray: "Your will be
done." But it should be note that by saying, kingdom, he touches on the
eternal reward; hence he says, will enter. For that kingdom consists in
spiritual goods, not in external goods; therefore, he says, will enter.
Consequently, Song of Songs (1:4) says: "The king has brought me into
his chamber." Likewise, he says, of heaven, because although someone
here may have riches or honors, all this is for the sake of that. Hence
the reward will consist in lofty things.
(22) But someone could say that it is enough for salvation to work
miracles. He excludes that, because On that day many will say to me,
'Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name...? He says, many, to
signify those who secede from unity, because they are included under a
multitude, for "the number of fools is infinite" (Ec 1:15). Likewise,
he introduces this to stress what he had said, namely, that every tree
that does not bear fruit will be cut down. But he had not said by whom;
therefore, he said, to me, appointed as judge, because "the Father has
given all judgment to the Son" (Jn 5:22). Likewise, he says, on that
day. Day names a terminus, but not according to the quality of time,
because the day of judgment is sometimes called night. But sometimes it
is called day and sometimes night, because it is not certain when it
will come. Hence below (25:6): "At midnight there was a cry, 'Behold
the bridegroom! Come and meet him'." The Apostle calls it day in 1 Cor
(4:3); and in Ps 37 (v. 6): "He will bring forth my vindication as the
light, and my judgment as the noonday." 'Lord, Lord.' He repeats it to
signify greater confusion and fear: "They will be disturbed with a
horrible fear" (Wis 5:2). Did we not cast out demons in your name? This
is a supernatural power: "No power on earth can be compared to this,"
namely, the devil's power (Jb 41:24).
But one asks: How do those who cast out devils become rejected?
Chrysostom answers that they lie. Another answer is that at one time
they were good and worked miracles; later, they became evil. But this
cannot stand, because the Lord said, (23) I never knew you. In another
way, it must be said that they say, in your name, not in the name of
the Holy Spirit. For some act in the name of the Holy Spirit, and some
not; as it says in Jeremiah (2:8) that some prophesied in the name of
Baal. Some, too, by the arts of magic.
But it may be asked how demons work miracles. I say that they cannot;
but they do things that seem to be miracles, although they are not
miracles. Miracles are things whose effect is obvious, but the cause is
latent. Hence, something that seems marvelous to the ignorant is not so
among the wise; for example, and eclipse. Hence, since demons have a
truer understanding of natural things, they can do things that seem
miraculous to us. In another way, according to Jerome: Among the gifts
of the Holy Spirit some are graces gratuitously given, but charity
alone distinguishes between the sons of God and sons of the devil: "To
each is given the manifestation of the Holy Spirit for the common good"
(1 Cor 12:7), or for the growth of his holiness or of the Church, that
the faith they preach may be manifested. And thus, even prelates
leading a wicked life can work miracles.
[And then I will declare to them that I do not know you, that is, I do
not approve of you, even when you have worked miracles; II Timothy
2:19: The Lord knows who belong to him.]
(24) Everyone who hears these words... He shows that without works
nothing profits, not even listening to the word of God; because hearing
is ordained to faith: "Faith comes by hearing" (Rom 10:17). For hearing
is not enough. He manifests this in two ways, because he indicates the
lot of one who hears and does, and of one who hears without doing.
First, he does three things: first, he mentions the building; secondly,
the assault (v. 25); thirdly, its sturdiness (v. 25b).
He says, therefore, that hearing is not enough, although it is
necessary: "He that is of God hears the words of God" (Jn 8:49); "not
the hearers of the word, but doers, will be justified" (Rom 2:13).
Likewise, he says well, these my words; because whatever pertains to
salvation is contained there. Hence he who hears these my words and
does them will be like a wise man... He does not say that he is wise
but will be like a wise man. And this simile can be understood of a
material building, and then the text is clear; or it can be understood
spiritually, and then the man is Christ: "I have found one man in a
thousand" (Ec 7:29). Christ's building is the Church, for he knows how
it should be built. Hence, it says of him in Proverbs (9:1): "Wisdom
built itself a house"; and Proverbs (14:1): "The wise woman built her
house." Upon a rock: "The rock was Christ" (1 Cor 10:1). Hence Christ
built on himself, for he is the foundation: "No one can lay any
foundation except that which has been laid, which is Christ Jesus" (1
Cor 3:11). For this is the foundation of eternal truth, which is
absolutely unchangeable: "Those who trust in the Lord are like mount
Zion" (Ps 125:1).
(25) The assault on this house follows: And the rain came. Rain is
taken as doctrine, so that there is good rain and bad rain. Therefore,
what collapses is bad doctrine: "The Lord rained sulphur and fire on
Sodom" (Gen 19:24). Likewise, floods are good and not good: "The floods
divided their land" (Is 18:2); and by this the wise, who regard
themselves as wise, are signified. Those floods are produced by rains.
By winds are signified the devils; hence in Jude (v. 12): "Waterless
clouds, carried along by winds." They beat on that house, i.e., the
Church, and it did not fall: "Its cords will never be broken" (Is
33:21). And why? Because it had been founded upon the rock, i.e.,
Then he presents the simile indicating the outcome of one who hears and
does not do. In regard to this he mentions the construction; secondly,
the assault (v. 27); thirdly, the ruin (v. 27b).
(26) He says: and everyone who hears these my words and does not do
them, will be like a foolish man, who fell from the light of wisdom.
Hence Ec (4:13): "Better is a wise servant than a foolish king."
Likewise, the fool is the devil; the house he builds is the assembly of
unbelievers. Hence Ps 73 (v. 30): "The earth is filled with houses of
sin." The house is built on sand. By sand is meant unbelievers, who are
unfruitful. And they are numerous: "The number of fools is infinite"
(Ec 1:15). Again, sand does not cohere; similarly, they are always at
odds. He builds on sand, i.e., makes as his end, which is as a
foundation, a temporal good.
(27) The rain came, i.e., good doctrine, the floods came, i.e., sacred
teachers, the winds blew, i.e., angels: "Who makes spirits his angels"
(Ps 104:4). And they beat against that house, and it fell: "Babylon has
fallen, has fallen: (Rev 14:8), namely, through preaching. And great
was the fall thereof. If we wish to adapt the simile, we must say that
a man should build like Christ. The Apostle teaches this: "Let each man
take care how he builds upon it" (1 Cor 3:10). For someone builds a
dwelling-place for God; some do the opposite, as below and as in 1
Corinthians (3:7), some build on straw. For a foundation is that upon
which someone bases his intention. For some hear to learn, and these
build on the intellect; and this is building on straw. Hence James
(1:23): "One who hears and does not do is like a man who looks at his
natural face in a mirror." Hence they build on the changeable. But
another hears in order to do and love; and he builds on a rock, because
it is on something firm and stable: "Train up a child in the way he
should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Ec 22:6).
For that foundation is laid on charity: "Who will separate us from the
love of Christ?" (Rom 8:35).
But one might ask why a foundation on the intellect is unstable and not
solid, but that on the affections is. The reason is that the intellect
deals with universals, for it cannot know much except in a general way.
'Therefore, stability is not based on wandering about the universal.
But actions and affections deal with particulars and good habits;
consequently, if temptation comes, it clings to what it is accustomed
to, namely, good action; and so it resists.
But what is understood by rain? The answer is the devil never tempts
first in important matters, but first in lesser and then goes on to the
greater; hence by rain, evil thoughts. He tempts, therefore, to evil
thoughts; and if there is consent, he then tempts to something graver,
and thus they increase. From these come floods, and then he rushes in
with all his powers, so that the victim necessarily falls: "He who
despises small things will fail little by little" (Sir 19:1). Or, in
this way: rain, temptations of the flesh; floods, temptations of the
world; winds, temptations of the devil. Or, according to Augustine,
rain is superstitious doctrine. When one adheres to these, he falls
most gravely; and this is the great ruin. But it is not great, when he
hesitates and does not fall, because when the temptation occurs, he
fears and grieves. But some give in completely: "Raze it, raze it! Down
to its foundation" (Ps 137:7). Or it is called a great rain, because
the heart is impenitent: "They spend their days in prosperity, and in
peace they go down to Sheol" (Job 21:13).
(28) And when Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished.
There were three types of men who followed the Lord Jesus: some were
astonished and scandalized, as the Pharisees, about whom below (c. 15).
Some were astonished, but not scandalized, as the crowds. But some, as
the perfect, were not astonished. But we must inquire about his saying,
the crowds, because there were no crowds there. It can be said that the
sermon was made to the crowds and to the disciples, but in the mountain
below its summit was a plain. The disciples, therefore, were on the
summit with Christ; but the crowds in the plain. Or, it can be said
that it was given first to the apostles and then to the crowds. Or,
crowds of disciples followed him.
But what was the reason for the astonishment? Because he taught them as
one having authority. Hence in him is fulfilled Ec (8:4): "His speech
is full of power." Therefore, as having authority [power], because he
spoke as a lord or as a lawgiver. Or, as having power, i.e., with the
ability to penetrate the heart: "Lo, he sends forth his voice, his
mighty voice" (Ps 68:33). Or, with the power to work miracles, because
he confirmed what he said with miracles.
Augustine says that everything preached in this sermon should be
reduced to the seven gifts and to the beatitudes, because the first
thing said, you shall not kill, pertains to the gift of fear and to the
beatitude of piety. Then what follows, make friends with your
adversary, pertains to the gift of piety, through which meekness is
fulfilled. You shall not commit adultery... pertains to the gift of
knowledge, by which the beatitude of mourning is fulfilled. The one
concerning endurance pertains to the gift of courage, by which it is
fulfilled, and to the beatitude, blessed are those who hunger and
thirst after justice. The part which says, love your enemies, pertains
to the gift of counsel, by which the beatitude of mercy is fulfilled.
But by the part which follows in c. 6 about not being anxious, up to c.
7, enter by the narrow gate, he intends to cleanse the heart; hence it
pertains to the gift of understanding and to the beatitude which is
cleanness of heart; hence blessed are the clean of heart, for they
shall see God. The rest that follows pertains to the gift of wisdom.