The same day
Jesus going out of the house, sat by the sea side. And great multitudes
were gathered unto him, so that he went up into a boat and sat: and all
the multitude stood on the shore. And he spoke to them many things in
Behold the sower went forth to sow. And whilst he soweth some fell by
the way side, and the birds of the air came and ate them up.
And other some fell upon stony ground, where they had not much earth:
and they sprung up immediately, because they had no deepness of earth.
And when the sun was up they were scorched: and because they had not
root, they withered away.
And others fell among thorns: and the thorns grew up and choked them.
And others fell upon good ground: and they brought forth fruit, some an
hundredfold, some sixtyfold, and some thirtyfold. He that hath ears to
hear, let him hear.
And his disciples came and said to him: Why speakest thou to them in
Who answered and said to them: Because to you it is given to know the
mysteries of the kingdom of heaven: but to them it is not given. For he
that hath, to him shall be given, and he shall abound: but he that hath
not, from him shall be taken away that also which he hath. Therefore do
I speak to them in parables: because seeing they see not, and hearing
they hear not, neither do they understand. And the prophecy of Isaias
is fulfilled in them, who saith: By hearing you shall hear, and shall
not understand: and seeing you shall see, and shall not perceive. For
the heart of this people is grown gross, and with their ears they have
been dull of hearing, and their eyes they have shut: lest at any time
they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and
understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.
But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because
they hear. For, amen, I say to you, many prophets and just men have
desired to see the things that you see, and have not seen them, and to
hear the things that you hear and have not heard them. Hear you
therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of
the kingdom, and understandeth it not, there cometh the wicked one, and
catcheth away that which was sown in his heart: this is he that
received the seed by the way side. And he that received the seed upon
stony ground, is he that heareth the word, and immediately receiveth it
Yet hath he not root in himself, but is only for a time: and when there
ariseth tribulation and persecution because of the word, he is
presently scandalized. And he that received the seed among thorns, is
he that heareth the word, and the care of this world and the
deceitfulness of riches choketh up the word, and he becometh fruitless.
But he that received the seed upon good ground, is he that heareth the
word, and understandeth, and beareth fruit, and yieldeth the one an
hundredfold, and another sixty, and another thirty.
And again he
began to teach by the sea side; and a great multitude was gathered
together unto him, so that he went up into a ship, and sat in the sea;
and all the multitude was upon the land by the sea side. And he taught
them many things in parables, and said unto them in his doctrine:
Hear ye: Behold, the sower went out to sow. And whilst he sowed, some
fell by the way side, and the birds of the air came and ate it up.
And other some fell upon stony ground, where it had not much earth; and
it shot up immediately, because it had no depth of earth. And when the
sun was risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered
And some fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and
it yielded no fruit.
And some fell upon good ground; and brought forth fruit that grew up,
and increased and yielded, one thirty, another sixty, and another a
hundred. And he said: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
And when he was alone, the twelve that were with him asked him the
parable. And he said to them: To you it is given to know the mystery of
the kingdom of God: but to them that are without, all things are done
in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing
they may hear, and not understand: lest at any time they should be
converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. And he saith to
them: Are you ignorant of this parable? and how shall you know all
parables? He that soweth, soweth the word. And these are they by the
way side, where the word is sown, and as soon as they have heard,
immediately Satan cometh and taketh away the word that was sown in
And these likewise are they that are sown on the stony ground: who when
they have heard the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they
have no root in themselves, but are only for a time: and then when
tribulation and persecution ariseth for the word they are presently
scandalized. And others there are who are sown among thorns: these are
they that hear the word, And the cares of the world, and the
deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts after other things entering in
choke the word, and it is made fruitless. And these are they who are
sown upon the good ground, who hear the word, and receive it, and yield
fruit, the one thirty, another sixty, and another a hundred.
And he said to them: Doth a candle come in to be put under a bushel, or
under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick? For there is nothing
hid, which shall not be made manifest: neither was it made secret, but
that it may come abroad. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
And he said to them: Take heed what you hear. In what measure you shall
mete, it shall be measured to you again, and more shall be given to
you. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not,
that also which he hath shall be taken away from him.
And he said: So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed
into the earth, And should sleep, and rise, night and day, and the seed
should spring, and grow up whilst he knoweth not. For the earth of
itself bringeth forth fruit, first the blade, then the ear, afterwards
the full corn in the ear. And when the fruit is brought forth,
immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.
And when a very
great multitude was gathered together, and hastened out of the cities
unto him, he spoke by a similitude. The sower went out to sow his seed.
And as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and it was trodden down,
and the fowls of the air devoured it.
And other some fell upon a rock: and as soon as it was sprung up, it
withered away, because it had no moisture.
And other some fell among thorns, and the thorns growing up with it,
And other some fell upon good ground; and being sprung up, yielded
fruit a hundredfold. Saying these things, he cried out: He that hath
ears to hear, let him hear.
And his disciples asked him what this parable might be. To whom he
said: To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but
to the rest in parables, that seeing they may not see, and hearing may
Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. And they by the
way side are they that hear; then the devil cometh, and taketh the word
out of their heart, lest believing they should be saved. Now they upon
the rock, are they who when they hear, receive the word with joy: and
these have no roots; for they believe for a while, and in time of
temptation, they fall away. And that which fell among thorns, are they
who have heard, and going their way, are choked with the cares and
riches and pleasures of this life, and yield no fruit. But that on the
good ground, are they who in a good and perfect heart, hearing the
word, keep it, and bring forth fruit in patience.
by St. Augustine
yesterday and to-day ye have heard the parables of the sower, in the
words of our Lord Jesus Christ. Do ye who were present yesterday,
recollect to-day. Yesterday we read of that sower, who when he
scattered seed, "some fell by the way side," which the birds picked up;
"some in stony places," which dried up from the heat; "some among
thorns, which were choked," and could not bring forth fruit; and "other
some into good ground, and it brought forth fruit, a hundred, sixty,
thirty fold." But to-day the Lord hath again spoken another parable of
the sower, "who sowed good seed in his field. While men slept the enemy
came, and sowed tares upon it." As long as it was only in the blade, it
did not appear; but when the fruit of the good seed began to appear,
"then appeared the tares also." The servants of the householder were
offended, when they saw a quantity of tares among the good wheat, and
wished to root them out, but they were not suffered to do so; but it
was said to them, "Let both grow together until the harvest." Now the
Lord Jesus Christ explained this parable also; and said that He was the
sower of the good seed, and He showed how that the enemy who sowed the
tares was the devil; the time of harvest, the end of the world; His
field the whole world.
And what saith He? "In the time of harvest I will say to the reapers,
Gather ye together first the tares, to burn them, but gather the wheat
into My barn."
Why are ye so hasty, He says, ye servants full of zeal? Ye see tares
among the wheat, ye see evil Christians among the good; and ye wish to
root up the evil ones; be quiet, it is not the time of harvest. That
time will come, may it only find you wheat! Why do ye vex yourselves?
Why bear impatiently the mixture of the evil with the good? In the
field they may be with you, but they will not be so in the barn.
2. Now ye know that those three places mentioned yesterday where the
seed did not grow, "the way side," "the stony ground," and "the thorny
places," are the same as these "tares." They received only a different
name under a different similitude. For when similitudes are used, or
the literal meaning of a term is not expressed, not the truth but a
similitude of the truth is conveyed by them. I see that but few have
understood my meaning; yet it is for the benefit of all that I speak.
In things visible, a way side is a way side, stony ground is stony
ground, thorny places are thorny places; they are simply what they are,
because the names are used in their literal sense. But in parables and
similitudes one thing may be called by many names; therefore there is
nothing inconsistent in my telling you that that "way side," that
"stony ground," those "thorny places," are bad Christians, and that
they too are the "tares." Is not Christ called "the Lamb"? Is not
Christ "the Lion" too? Among wild beasts, and cattle, a lamb is simply
a lamb, and a lion, a lion: but Christ is both. The first are
respectively what they are in propriety of expression; the Latter both
together in a figurative sense. Nay much more; besides this it may
happen that under a figure, things very different from one another may
be called by one and the same name. For what is so different as Christ
and the devil? yet both Christ and the devil are called "a lion."
Christ is called "a lion:" "The Lion hath prevailed of the tribe of
Judah;" and the devil is called a lion: "Know ye not that your
adversary the Devil walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he
may devour?" Both the one and the other then is a lion; the one a lion
by reason of His strength; the other for his savageness; the one a lion
for His "prevailing;" the other for his injuring. The devil again is a
serpent, "that old serpent;" are we commanded then to imitate the
devil, when our Shepherd told us, "Be ye wise as serpents, and simple
3. Accordingly I yesterday addressed "the way side," I addressed the
"stony ground," I addressed the "thorny places;" and I said, Be ye
changed whilst ye may: turn up with the plough the hard ground, cast
the stones out of the field, pluck up the thorns out of it. Be loth to
retain that hard heart, from which the word of God may quickly pass
away and be lost. Be loth to have that lightness of soil, where the
root of charity can take no deep hold. Be loth to choke the good seed
which is sown in you by my labours, with the lusts and the cares of
this world. For it is the Lord who sows; and we are only His labourers.
But be ye the "good ground." I said yesterday, and I say again today to
all, Let one bring forth "a hundred, another sixty, another thirty
fold." In one the fruit is more, in another less; but all will have a
place in the barn. Yesterday I said all this, to-day I am addressing
the tares; but the sheep themselves are the tares. O evil Christians, O
ye, who in filling only press the Church by your evil lives; amend
yourselves before the harvest come. "Say not, I have sinned, and what
hath befallen me?" God hath not lost His power; but He is requiring
repentance from thee. I say this to the evil, who yet are Christians; I
say this to the tares. For they are in the field; and it may so be,
that they who to-day are tares, may to-morrow be wheat. And so I will
address the wheat also.
4. O ye Christians, whose lives are good, ye sigh and groan as being
few among many, few among very many. The winter will pass away, the
summer will come; lo! the harvest will soon be here. The angels will
come who can make the separation, and who cannot make mistakes. We in
this time present are like those servants of whom it was said, "Wilt
Thou that we go and gather them up?" for we were wishing, if it might
be so, that no evil ones should remain among the good. But it has been
told us, "Let both grow together until the harvest." Why? For ye are
such as may be deceived. Hear finally; "Lest while ye gather up the
tares, ye root up also the wheat with them." What good are ye doing?
Will ye by your eagerness make a waste of My harvest? The reapers will
come, and who the reapers are He hath explained, "And the reapers are
the angels." We are but men, the reapers are the angels. We too indeed,
if we finish our course, shall be equal to the angels of God; but now
when we chafe against the wicked, we are as yet but men. And we ought
now to give ear to the words, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he
standeth, take heed lest he fall." For do ye think, my Brethren, that
these tares we read of do not get up into this seat? Think ye that they
are all below, and none above up here? God grant we may not be so. "But
with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you." I
tell you of a truth, my Beloved, even in these high seats there is both
wheat, and tares, and among the laity there is wheat, and tares. Let
the good tolerate the bad; let the bad change themselves, and imitate
the good. Let us all, if it may be so, attain to God; let us all
through His mercy escape the evil of this world. Let us seek after good
days, for we are now in evil days; but in the evil days let us not
blaspheme, that so we may be able to arrive at the good days.
By St. John Chryostom
4. What then is
the parable? "Behold," saith He, "a sower went forth to sow." Whence
went He forth, who is present everywhere, who fills all things? or how
went He forth? Not in place, but in condition and dispensation to
usward, coming nearer to us by His clothing Himself with flesh. For
because we could not enter, our sins fencing us out from the entrance,
He comes forth unto us. And wherefore came He forth? to destroy the
ground teeming with thorns? to take vengeance upon the husbandmen? By
no means; but to till and tend it, and to sow the word of godliness.
For by seed here He means His doctrine, and by land, the souls of men,
and by the sower, Himself.
What then comes of this seed? Three parts perish, and one is saved.
"And when He sowed, some seeds fell," He saith, "by the way side; and
the fowls came and devoured them up."
He said not, that He cast them, but that "they fell."
"And some upon the rock, where they had not much earth; and forthwith
they sprang up, because they had no deepness of earth; and when the sun
was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered
away. And some fell among the thorns, and the thorns sprang up, and
choked them. But others fell on the good ground, and brought forth
fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath
ears to hear let him hear."
A fourth part is saved; and not this all alike, but even here great is
Now these things He said, manifesting that He discoursed to all without
grudging. For as the sower makes no distinction in the land submitted
to him, but simply and indifferently casts his seed; so He Himself too
makes no distinction of rich and poor, of wise and unwise, of slothful
or diligent, of brave or cowardly; but He discourses unto all,
fulfilling His part, although foreknowing the results; that it may be
in His power to say, "What ought I to have done, that I have not
done?"And the prophets speak of the people as of a vine; "For my
beloved," it is said, "had a vineyard;" and, "He brought a vine out of
Egypt;"but He, as of seed. What could this be to show? That obedience
now will be quick and easier, and will presently yield its fruit.
But when thou hearest, "The sower went forth to sow," think it not a
needless repetition. For the sower frequently goes forth for some other
act also, either to plough, or to cut out the evil herbs, or to pluck
up thorns, or to attend to some such matter; but He went forth to sow.
Whence then, tell me, was the greater part of the seed lost? Not
through the sower, but through the ground that received it; that is,
the soul that did not hearken.
And wherefore doth He not say, Some the careless received, and lost it;
some the rich, and choked it, and some the superficial, and betrayed
it? It is not His will to rebuke them severely, lest He should cast
them into despair, but He leaves the reproof to the conscience of His
And this was not the case with the seed only, but also with the net;
for that too produced many that were unprofitable.
5. But this parable He speaks, as anointing His disciples, and to teach
them, that even though the lost be more than such as receive the word
yet they are not to despond. For this was the ease even with their
Lord, and He who fully foreknew that these things should be, did not
desist from sowing.
And how can it be reasonable, saith one, to sow among the thorns, on
the rock, on the wayside? With regard to the seeds and the earth it
cannot be reasonable; but in the case of men's souls and their
instructions, it hath its praise, and that abundantly. For the
husbandman indeed would reasonably be blamed for doing this; it being
impossible for the rock to become earth, or the wayside not to be a
wayside, or the thorns, thorns; but in the things that have reason it
is not so. There is such a thing as the rock changing, and becoming
rich land; and the wayside being no longer trampled on, nor lying open
to all that pass by, but that it may be a fertile field; and the thorns
may be destroyed, and the seed enjoy full security. For had it been
impossible, this Sower would not have sown. And if the change did not
take place in all, this is no fault of the Sower, but of them who are
unwilling to be changed: He having done His part: and if they betrayed
what they received of Him, He is blameless, the exhibitor of such love
But do thou mark this, I pray thee; that the way of destruction is not
one only, but there are differing ones, and wide apart from one
another. For they that are like the wayside are the coarse-minded,and
indifferent, and careless; but those on the rock such as fail from
For "that which is sown upon the stony places," saith He, "the same is
he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it. Yet hath he
not root in himself, but dureth for a while; but when tribulation or
persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended! When
any one," so He saith, "heareth the word of truth and understandeth it
not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth that which was sown out
of his heart. This is he that is sown by the wayside."
Now it is not the same thing for the doctrine to wither away, when no
man is evil entreating, or disturbing its foundations, as when
temptations press upon one. But they that are likened to the thorns,
are much more inexcusable than these.
6. In order then that none of these things may befall us, let us by
zeal and continual remembrance cover up the things that are told us.
For though the devil do catch them away, yet it rests with us, whether
they be caught away; though the plants wither, yet it is not from the
heat this takes place (for He did not say, because of the heat it
withered, but, "because it had no root"); although His sayings are
choked, it is not because of the thorns, but of them who suffer them to
spring up. For there is a way, if thou wilt, to check this evil growth,
and to make the right use of our wealth. Therefore He said not, "the
world," but "the care of the world;" nor "riches," but "the
deceitfulness of riches."
Let us not then blame the things, but the corrupt mind. For it is
possible to be rich and not to be deceived; and to be in this world,
and not to be choked with its cares. For indeed riches have two
contrary disadvantages; one, care, wearing us out, and bringing a
darkness over us; the other, luxury, making us effeminate.
And well hath He said, "The deceitfulness of riches." For all that
pertains to riches is deceit; they are names only, not attached to
things. For so pleasure and glory, and splendid array, and all these
things, are a sort of vain show, not a reality.
Having therefore spoken of the ways of destruction, afterwards He
mentions the good ground, not suffering them to despair, but giving a
hope of repentance, and indicating that it is possible to change from
the things before mentioned into this.
And yet if both the land be good, and the Sower one, and the seed the
same, wherefore did one bear a hundred, one sixty, one thirty? Here
again the difference is from the nature of the ground, for even where
the ground is good, great even therein is the difference. Seest thou,
that not the husbandman is to be blamed, nor the seed, but the land
that receives it? not for its nature, but for its disposition. And
herein too, great is His mercy to man, that He doth not require one
measure of virtue, but while He receives the first, and casts not out
the second, He gives also a place to the third.
And these things He saith, least they that followed Him should suppose
that hearing is sufficient for salvation. And wherefore, one may say,
did He not put the other vices also, such as lust, vainglory? In
speaking of "the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches,"
He set down all. Yea, both vainglory and all the rest belong to this
world, and to the deceitfulness of riches; such as pleasure, and
gluttony, and envy, and vainglory, and all the like.
But He added also the "way" and the "rock," signifying that it is not
enough to be freed from riches only, but we must cultivate also the
other parts of virtue. For what if thou art free indeed from riches,
yet are soft and unmanly? and what if thou art not indeed unmanly, but
art remiss and careless about the hearing of the word? Nay, no one part
is sufficient for our salvation, but there is required first a careful
hearing, and a continual recollection; then fortitude, then contempt of
riches, and deliverance from all worldly things.
In fact, His reason for putting this before the other, is because the
one is first required (for "How shall they believe except they
hear?"just as we too, except we mind what is said, shall not be able so
much as to learn what we ought to do): after that, fortitude, and the
contempt of things present.
7. Hearing therefore these things, let us fortify ourselves on all
sides, regarding His instructions, and striking our roots deep, and
cleansing ourselves from all worldly things. But if we do the one,
neglecting the other, we shall be nothing bettered; for though we
perish not in one way, yet shall we in some other. For what signifies
our not being ruined by riches, if we are by indolence: or not by
indolence, if we are by softness. For so the husbandman, whether this
way or that way he lose his crop, equally bewails himself. Let us not
then soothe ourselves upon our not perishing in all these ways, but let
it be our grief, in whichever way we are perishing.
And let us burn up the thorns, for they choke the word. And this is
known to those rich men, who not for these matters alone, but for
others also prove unprofitable. For having become slaves and captives
of their pleasures, they are useless even for civil affairs, and if for
them, much more for those of Heaven. Yea, and in two ways hereby our
thoughts are corrupted; both by the luxury, and by the anxiety too. For
either of these by itself were enough to overwhelm the bark; but when
even both concur, imagine how high the billow swells.
And marvel not at His calling our luxury, "thorns." For thou indeed art
not aware of it, being intoxicated with thy passion, but they that are
in sound health know that it pricks sharper than any thorn, and that
luxury wastes the soul worse than care, and causes more grievous pains
both to body and soul. For one is not so sorely smitten by anxiety, as
by surfeiting. Since when watchings, and throbbings of the temples, and
heaviness in the head, and pangs of the bowels, lay hold of such a man,
you may imagine how many thorns these surpass in grievousness. And as
the thorns, on whichever side they are laid hold of, draw blood from
the hands that seize them, just so doth luxury plague both feet, and
hands, and head, and eyes, and in general all our members; and it is
withered also, and unfruitful, like the thorn, and hurts much more than
it, and in our vital parts. Yea, it brings on premature old age, and
dulls the senses, and darkens our reasoning, and blinds the
keen-sighted mind, and makes the body tumid,rendering excessive the
deposition of that which is cast away, and gathering together a great
accumulation of evils; and it makes the burden too great, and the load
overwhelming; whence our falls are many and continual, and our
For tell me, why pamper thy body? What? are we to slay thee in
sacrifice, to set thee on the table? The birds it is well for thee to
pamper: or rather, not so well even for them; for when they are
fattened, they are unprofitable for wholesome food. So great an evil is
luxury, that its mischief is shown even in irrational beings. For even
them by luxury we make unprofitable, both to themselves and to us. For
their superfluous flesh is indigestible, and the moister kind of
corruption is engendered by that kind of fatness. Whereas the creatures
that are not so fed, but live, as one may say, in abstinence, and
moderate diet, and in labor and hardship, these are most serviceable
both to themselves and to others, as well for food, as for everything
else. Those, at any rate, who live on them, are in better health; but
such as are fed on the others are like them, growing dull and sickly,
and rendering their chain more grievous. For nothing is so hostile and
hurtful to the body, as luxury; nothing so tears it in pieces, and
overloads and corrupts it, as intemperance.
Wherefore above all may this circumstance make one amazed at them for
their folly, that not even so much care as others show towards their
wine skins, are these willing to evince towards themselves. For those
the wine merchants do not allow to receive more than is fit, lest they
should burst; but to their own wretched belly these men do not
vouchsafe even so much forethought, but when they have stuffed it and
distended it, they fill all, up to the ears, up to the nostrils, to the
very throat itself, thereby pressing into half its room the spirit, and
the power that directs the living being. What? was thy throat given
thee for this end, that thou shouldest fill it up to the very mouth,
with wine turned sour, and all other corruption? Not for this, O man,
but that thou shouldest above all things sing to God, and offer up the
holy prayers, and read out the divine laws, and give to thy neighbors
profitable counsel. But thou, as if thou hadst received it for this
end, dost not suffer it to have leisure for that ministry, so much as
for a short season, but for all thy life subjectest it to this evil
slavery. And as if any man having had a lyre given him with golden
strings, and beautifully constructed, instead of awakening with it the
most harmonious music, were to cover it over with much dung and clay;
even so do these men. Now the word, dung, I use not of living, but of
luxurious living, and of that great wantonness. Because what is more
than necessary is not nourishment, but merely injurious. For in truth
the belly alone was made merely for the reception of food; but the
month, and the throat, and tongue, for other things also, far more
necessary than these: or rather, not even the belly for the reception
of food simply, but for the reception of moderate food. And this it
makes manifest by crying out loudly against us, when we tease it by
this greediness; nor doth it clamor against us only, but also avenging
that wrong exacts of us the severest penalty. And first it punishes the
feet, that bear and conduct us to those wicked revels, then the hands
that minister to it, binding them together for having brought unto it
such quantities and kinds of provisions; and many have distorted even
their very mouth, and eyes, and head. And as a servant receiving an
order beyond his power, not seldom out of desperation becomes insolent
to the giver of the order: so the belly too, together with these
members, often ruins and destroys, from being over-strained, the very
brain itself. And this God hath well ordered, that from excess so much
mischief should arise; that when of thine own will thou dost not
practise self-restraint, at least against thy will, for fear of so
great ruin, thou mayest learn to be moderate.
Knowing then these things, let us flee luxury, let us study moderation,
that we may both enjoy health of body, and having delivered our soul
from all infirmity, may attain unto the good things to come, by the
grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory
and might forever and ever. Amen.