Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and tear you.
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Augustine of Hippo
Now in this precept we are forbidden to give a holy thing to dogs or to cast pearls before swine. We must diligently seek to determine the gravity of these words: holy, pearls, dogs and swine. A holy thing is whatever it would be impious to profane or tear apart. Even a fruitless attempt to do so makes one already guilty of such impiety, though the holy thing may by its very nature remain inviolable and indestructible. Pearls signify all spiritual things that are worthy of being highly prized. Because these things lie hidden in secret, it is as though they were being drawn up from the deep. Because they are found in the wrappings of allegories, it is as though they were contained within shells that have been opened. It is clear therefore that one and the same thing can be called both a holy thing and a pearl. It can be called a holy thing because it ought not to be destroyed and a pearl because it ought not to be despised. One tries to destroy what one does not wish to leave intact. On...
Because the simplicity to which He had been directing in the foregoing precepts might lead some wrongly to conclude that it was equally wrong to hide the truthas to utter what was false, He well adds, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs, and cast not your pearls before swine.”.
Serm. in Mont., ii, 20: Let us see now what is the holy thing, what are the dogs, what the pearls, what the swine? The holy thing is all that it were impiety to corrupt; a sin which may be committed by the will, though the thing itself be undone. The pearls are all spiritual things that are to be highly esteemed. Thus though one and the same thing may be called both the holy thing and a pearl, yet it is called holy because it is not to be corrupted; and called a pearl because it is not be contemned.
The dogs are those that assault the truth; the swine we may not unsuitably take for those that despise the truth. Therefore because dogs leap forth to rend in pieces, and what they rend, suffer not to continue w...
But inasmuch as the word guileless may mislead some who are desirous of obeying God's precepts, so that they may think it wrong, at times, to conceal the truth, just as it is wrong at times to speak a falsehood, and inasmuch as in this way—by disclosing things which the parties to whom they are disclosed are unable to bear—they may do more harm than if they were to conceal them altogether and always, He very rightly adds: Give not that which is holy to the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. For the Lord Himself, although He never told a lie, yet showed that He was concealing certain truths, when He said, I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now. And the Apostle Paul, too, says: And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto you were not able to bear it, nei...
Give not that which is holy, or holy things, (as in the Greek) to dogs; i.e. to scandalous libertines, or infidels, who are not worthy to partake of divine mysteries and sacraments, who sacrilegiously abuse them, and trample them under their feet, as hogs do pearls. (Witham)
The sacred mysteries should not be given to those that are not properly instructed in the sublime nature of them; nor should we hold any communication of religion with those that are enemies to the truths of Christ, which they tread under their feet and treat contemptuously, and will be so far from having any more friendship for you on account of such a criminal complaisance, that it is more probable they will betray you and turn against you. (Haydock)
Yet surely further on, it will be said, He commanded, What you have heard in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. Matthew 10:27 But this is in no wise contrary to the former. For neither in that place did He simply command to tell all men, but to whom it should be spoken, to them He bade speak with freedom. And by dogs here He figuratively described them that are living in incurable ungodliness, and affording no hope of change for the better; and by swine, them that abide continually in an unchaste life, all of whom He has pronounced unworthy of hearing such things. Paul also, it may be observed, declared this when He said, But a natural man receives not the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness unto him. And in many other places too He says that corruption of life is the cause of men's not receiving the more perfect doctrines. Wherefore He commands not to open the doors to them; for indeed they become more insolent after learning. For as to the well-disposed and intell...
Otherwise; The Lord had commanded us to love our enemies, and to do good to those that sin against us. That from this Priests might not think themselves obliged to communicate also the things of God to such, He checked any such thought saying, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs;” as much as to say, I have bid you love your enemies, and do them good out of your temporal goods, but not out of My spiritual goods, without distinction. For they are your brethren by nature but not by faith, and God gives the good things of this life equally to the worthy and the unworthy, but not so spiritual graces.
Otherwise; “That which is holy” denotes baptism, the grace of Christ’s body, and the like; but the mysteries of the truth are intended by the pearls. For as pearls are inclosed in shells, and such in the deeps of the sea, so the divine mysteries inclosed in words are lodged in the deep meaning of Holy Scripture.
And to those that are right-minded and have understanding, when revealed they ...
Or; The dogs are returned to their vomit; the swine not yet returned, but wallowing in the mire of vices. "Give not therefore that which is holy to the dogs,” for that baptism and the other sacraments are not to be given but to the m that have the faith. In like manner the mysteries of the truth, that is, the pearls, are not to be given but to such as desire the truth and live with human reason. If then you cast them to the swine, that is, to such as are grovelling in impurity of life, they do not understand their preciousness, but value them like to other worldly fables, and tread them under foot with their carnal life.
The dogs are the unbelievers and the swine are believers who lead a filthy and shameful way of life. One ought not therefore to speak of the mysteries to the unbelievers, nor speak brilliant and lustrous words of theology to those who are unclean. For the swine trample them underfoot, that is, despise what is said, while the dogs turn on us and tear us limb from limb. This is what those so-called philosophers do; when they hear that God was crucified, they stab us with their syllogisms, reasoning with their sophistry that this is impossible.