Fathers of the Church
Homilies 24-34 on the Epistle to the Hebrewspublished After His Falling Asleep, from Notes By Constantine, Presbyter of antioch
by John Chrysostom in Unknown (between 389-404) | translated by The Oxford Translation Revised By Rev. Frederic Gardiner, D.d.late Professor in the Berkeley Divinity School, Middletown, Conn
"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, hut having seen them afar off, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things, declare plainly that they seek a county. And Italy if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He hath prepared for them a city."
[1.] THE first virtue, yea the whole of virtue, is to be a stranger to this world, and a sojourner, and to have nothing in common with things here, but to hang loose from them, as from firings strange to us; As those blessed disciples did, of whom he says, "They wandered about in sheepskins, and in goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented: of whom the world was not worthy." (c. xi. 37, 38.)
They called themselves therefore "strangers"; but Paul said somewhat much beyond this: for not merely did he call himself a stranger, but said that he was dead to the world, and that the world was dead to him. "For the world" (he says) "has been crucified to me and I to the world." (Gal. vi. 14.) But we, both citizens and quite alive, busy ourselves about everything here as citizens. And what righteous men were to the world, "strangers" and "dead," that we are to Heaven. And what they were to Heaven, alive and acting as citizens, that we are to the world. Wherefore we are dead, because we have refused that which is truly life, and have chosen this which is but for a time. Wherefore we have provoked God to wrath, because when the enjoyments of Heaven have been set before us, we are not willing to be separated from things on earth, but, like worms, we turn about from the earth to the earth, and again from this to that; and in short are not willing to look up even for a little while, nor to withdraw ourselves from human affairs, but as if drowned in torpor and sleep and drunkenness, we are stupefied with imaginations.
[2.] And as those who are under the power of sweet sleep lie on their bed not only during the night, but even when the morning has over-taken them, and bright day has come, and are not ashamed to indulge in pleasure, and to make the season of business and activity a time of slumber and indolence, so truly we also, when the day is drawing near, when the night is far spent, or rather the day; for "work" (it is said) "while it is day" (John ix. 4); when it is day we practice all that belongs to the night, sleeping, dreaming, indulging in luxurious fancies; and the eyes of our understanding are closed as well as those of our body; we speak amiss, we talk absurdly; even if a person inflict a deep wound upon us, if he carry off all our substance, if he set the very house on fire, we are not so much as conscious of it.
Or rather, we do not even wait for others to do this, but we do it ourselves, piercing and wounding ourselves every day, lying in unseemly fashion, and stripped bare of all credit, all honor, neither ourselves concealing our shameful deeds, nor permitting others to do so, but lying exposed to public shame, to the ridicule, the numberless jests of spectators and passers-by.
[3.] Do ye not suppose that the wicked themselves laugh at those who are of like characters to themselves, and condemn them? For since God has placed within us a tribunal which cannot be bribed nor ever utterly destroyed, even though we come to the very lowest depth of vice; therefore even the wicked themselves give sentence against themselves, and if one call them that which they are, they are ashamed, they are angry, they say that it is an insult. Thus they condemn what they do, even if not by their deeds, yet by their words, by their conscience, nay rather even by their deeds. For when they carry on their practices out of sight and secretly, they give the strongest proof of the opinion they hold concerning the thing itself. For wickedness is so manifest, that all men are its accusers, even those who follow after it, while such is the quality of virtue, that it is admired even by those who do not emulate it. For even the fornicator will praise chastity, and the covetous will condemn injustice, and the passionate will admire patience, and blame quarrelsomeness, and the wanton [will blame] wantonness.
How then (you say) does he pursue these things? From excessive indolence, not because he judges it good; otherwise he would not have been ashamed of the thing itself, nor would he have denied it when another accused him. Nay many when caught, not enduring the shame, have even hanged themselves. So strong is the witness within us in behalf of what is good and becoming. Thus what is good is brighter than the sun, and the contrary more unsightly than anything.
[4.] The saints were "strangers and sojourners." How and in what way? And where does Abraham confess himself "a stranger and a sojourner"? Probably indeed he even himself confessed it: but David both confessed "I am a stranger" and what? "As all my fathers were." (Ps. xxxix. 12.) For they who dwell in tents, they who purchase even burial places for money, evidently were in some sense strangers, as they had not even where to bury their dead.
What then? Did they mean that they were "strangers" from the land that is in Palestine? By no means: but in respect of the whole world: and with reason; for they saw therein none of the things which they wished for, but everything foreign and strange. They indeed wished to practice virtue: but here there was much wickedness, and things were quite foreign to them. They had no friend, no familiar acquaintance, save only some few.
But how were they "strangers"? They had no care for things here. And this they showed not by words, but by their deeds. In what way?
He said to Abraham, "Leave that which seems thy country and come to one that is foreign": And he did not cleave to his kindred, but gave it up as unconcernedly as if he were about to leave a foreign land. He said to him, "Offer up thy son," and he offered him up as if he had no son; as if he had divested himself of his nature, so he offered him up. The wealth which he had acquired was common to all passers-by, and this he accounted as nothing. He yielded the first places to others: he threw himself into dangers; he suffered troubles innumerable. He built no splendid houses, he enjoyed no luxuries, he had no care about dress, which all are things of this world; but lived in all respects as belonging to the City yonder; he showed hospitality, brotherly love, mercifulness, forbearance, contempt for wealth and for present glory, and for all else.
And his son too was such as himself: when he was driven away, when war was made on him, he yielded and gave way, as being in a foreign land. For foreigners, whatever they suffer, endure it, as not being in their own country. Even when his wife was taken from him, he endured this also as being in a strange land: and lived in all respects as one whose home was above, showing sobermindedness and a well-ordered life. For after he had begotten a son, he had no more commerce with his wife, and it was when the flower of his youth had passed that he married her, showing that he did it not from passion, but in subservience to the promise of God.
And what did Jacob? Did he not seek bread only and raiment, which are asked for by those who are truly strangers; by those that have come to great poverty? When he was driven out, did he not as a stranger give place? Did he not serve for hire? Did he not suffer afflictions innumerable, everywhere, as a stranger?
[5.] And these things (he says) they said, "seeking" their "own country." Ah! how great is the difference! They indeed were in travail- pains each day, wishing to be released from this world, and to return to their country. But we, on the contrary, if a fever attack us neglecting everything, weeping like little children, are frightened at death.
Not without reason we are thus affected. For since we do not live here like strangers, nor as if hastening to our country, but are like persons that are going away to punishment, therefore we grieve, because we have not used circumstances as we ought, but have turned order upside down. Hence we grieve when we ought to rejoice: hence we shudder, like murderers or robber chiefs, when they are going to be brought before the judgment-seat, and are thinking over all the things they have done, and therefore are fearful and trembling.
They, however, were not such, but pressed on. And Paul even groaned; "And we" (he says) "that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened." (2 Cor. v. 4.) Such were they who were with Abraham; "strangers," he says, they were in respect of the whole world, and "they sought a country."
What sort of "country" was this? Was it that which they had left? By no means. For what hindered them if they wished, from returning again, and becoming citizens? but they sought that which is in Heaven? Thus they desired their departure hence, and so they pleased God; for "God was not ashamed to be called their God."
[6.] Ah! how great a dignity! He vouchsafed "to be called their God." What dost thou say? He is called the God of the earth, and the God of Heaven, and hast thou set it down as a great thing that "He is not ashamed to be called their God"? Great and truly great this is, and a proof of exceeding blessedness. How? Because He is called God of earth and of heaven as also of the Gentiles: in that He created and formed them: but [God] of those holy men, not in this sense, but as some true friend.
And I will make it plain to you by an example; as in the case of [slaves] in large households, when any of those placed over the household are very highly esteemed, and manage everything themselves, and can use great freedom towards their masters, the Master is called after them, and one may find many so called. But what do I say? As we might say the God, not of the Gentiles but of the world, so we might say "the God of Abraham." But you do not know how great a dignity this is, because we do not attain to it. For as now He is called the Lord of all Christians, and yet the name goes beyond our deserts: consider the greatness if He were called the God of one [person]! He who is called the God of the whole world is "not ashamed to be called" the God of three men: and with good reason: for the saints would turn the scale, I do not say against the world but against ten thousand such. "For one man who doeth the will of the Lord, is better than ten thousand transgressors." (Ecclus. xvi. 3.)
Now that they called themselves "strangers" in this sense is manifest. But supposing that they said they were "strangers" on account of the strange land, why did David also [call himself a stranger]? Was not he a king? Was not he a prophet? Did he not spend his life in his own country? Why then does he say, "I am a stranger and a sojourner"? (Ps. xxxix. 12.) How art thou a stranger? "As" (he says) "all my fathers were." Seest thou that they too were strangers? We have a country, he means, but not really our country. But how art thou thyself a stranger? As to the earth. Therefore they also [were strangers] in respect of the earth: For "as they were," he says, so also am I; and as he, so they too.
[7.] Let us even now become strangers; that God may "not be ashamed of us to be called. our God." For it is a shame to Him, when He is called the God of the wicked, and He also is ashamed of them; as He is glorified when He is [called the God] of the good and the kind, and of them that cultivate virtue. For if "we" decline to be called the masters of our wicked slaves, and give them up; and should any one come to us and say, 'such a one does innumerable bad things, he is your slave, is he not?' We immediately say," by no means," to get rid of the disgrace: for a slave has a close relation to his master, and the discredit passes from the One to the other.— But they were so illustrious, so full of confidence, that not only was He "not ashamed to be called" from them, but He even Himself says, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. (Ex. iii. 6.)
Let us also, my beloved, become "strangers"; that God may "not be ashamed of us" that He may not be ashamed, and deliver us up to Hell. Such were they who said, "Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy Name, and in Thy Name have done many wonderful works!" (Matt. vii. 22.) But see what Christ says to them: "I know you not:" the very thing which masters would do, when wicked slaves run to them, wishing to be rid of the disgrace. "I know you not," He says. How then dost Thou punish those whom Thou knowest not? I said, "I know not," in a different sense: that is, "I deny you, and renounce you." But God forbid that we should hear this fatal and terrible utterance. For if they who east out demons and prophesied, were denied, because their life was not suitable thereto; how much more we !
[8.] And how (you ask) is it possible that they should be denied, who have shown prophetic powers, and wrought miracles, and cast out demons? Is it probable they were afterwards changed, and became wicked; and therefore were nothing benefited, even by their former virtue. For not only ought we to have our beginnings splendid, but the end also more splendid still.
For tell me, does not the Orator take pains to make the end of his speech splendid, that he may retire with applause? Does not the public officer make the most splendid display at the close of his administration? The wrestler, if he do not make a more splendid display and conquer unto the end, and if after vanquishing all he be vanquished by the last, is not all unprofitable to him? Should the pilot have crossed the whole ocean, yet if he wreck his vessel at the port, has he not lost all his former labor? And what [of] the Physician? If, after he has freed the sick man from his disease, when he is on the point of discharging him cured, he should then destroy him, has he not destroyed everything? So too in respect of Virtue, as many as have not added an end suitable to the beginning, and in unison and harmony with it, are ruined, and undone. Such are they who have sprung forth from the starting place bright and exulting, and afterwards have become faint and feeble. Therefore they are both deprived of the prize, and are not acknowledged by their master.
Let us listen to these things, those of us who are in love of wealth: for this is the greatest iniquity. "For the love of money is the root of all evil." (1 Tim. vi. 10.) Let us listen, those of us who wish to make our present possessions greater, let us listen and sometime cease from our covetousness, that we may not hear the same things as they [will hear]. Let us listen to them now, and be on our guard, that we may not hear them then. Let us listen now with fear, that we may not then listen with vengeance: "Depart from Me" (He says); "I never knew you" (Matt. vii. 23), no not even then (He means) when ye made a display of prophesyings, and were casting out demons.
It is probable that He also here hints at something else, that even then they were wicked; and from the beginning, grace wrought even by the unworthy. For if it wrought through Balaam, much more through the unworthy, for the sake of those who shall profit [by it].
But if even signs and wonders did not avail to deliver from punishment; much more, if a man happen to be in the priestly dignity : even if he reach the highest honor, even if grace Work in him to ordination, even if unto all the other things, for the sake of those who need his leadership, he also shall hear, "I never knew thee," no, not even then when grace wrought in thee.
[9.] O! how strict shall the search be there as to purity of life !How does that, of itself, suffice to introduce us into the kingdom? While the absence of it gives up the man [to destruction], though he have ten thousand miracles and signs to show. For nothing is so pleasing to God as an excellent course of life. "If ye love Me" (John xiv. 15), He declares; He did not say, "work miracles," but what? "Keep My commandments." And again, "I call you friends" (John xv. 14), not when ye cast out demons, but "if ye keep My words." For those things come of the gift of God: but these after the gift of God, of our own diligence also. Let us strive to become friends of God, and not remain enemies to Him.
These things we are ever saying, these exhortations we are ever giving, both to ourselves and to yon: but nothing more is gained. Wherefore also I am afraid. And I would have wished indeed to be silent, so as not to increase your danger. For when a person often hears, and even so does not act, this is to provoke the Lord to anger. But I fear also myself that other danger, that of silence, if when I am appointed to the ministering of the word, I should hold my peace.
What shall we then do that we may be saved? Let us begin [the practice of] virtue, as we have opportunity: let us portion out the virtues to ourselves, as laborers do their husbandry; in this month let us master evil-speaking, injuriousness, unjust anger; and let us lay down a law for ourselves, and say, To-day let us set this right. Again, in this month let us school ourselves in forbearance, and in another, in some other virtue: And when we have got into the habit of this virtue let us go to another, just as in the things we learn at school, guarding what is already gained, and acquiring others.
After this let us proceed to contempt for riches. First let us restrain our hands from grasping, and then let us give alms. Let us not simply confound everything, with the same hands both slaying and showing mercy forsooth. After this, let us go to some other virtue, and from that, to another. "Filthiness and foolish talking and jesting, let it not be even named among you." (Eph. v. 4, 3.) Let us be thus far in the right way.
There is no need of spending money, there is no need of labor, none of sweat, it is enough to have only the will, and all is done. There is no need to travel a long way, nor to cross a boundless ocean, but to be in earnest and of ready mind, and to put a bridle on the tongue. Unseasonable reproaches, anger, disorderly lusts, luxuriousness, expensiveness, let us cast off; and the desire of wealth also from our soul, perjury and habitual oaths.
If we thus cultivate ourselves, plucking out the former thorns, and casting in the heavenly seed, we shall be able to attain the good things promised. For the Husbandman will come and will lay us up in His Garner, and we shall attain to all good things, which may we all attain, by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen.
"By faith [Abraham], when he was tried, offered up Isaac; and he that had received the promises offered up his only-begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure,"
[1.] GREAT indeed was the faith of Abraham. For while in the case of Abel, and of Noah, and of Enoch, there was an opposition of reasonings only, and it was necessary to go beyond human reasonings; in this case it was necessary not only to go beyond human reasonings, but to manifest also something more. For what was of God seemed to be opposed to what was of God; and faith opposed faith, and command promise.
I mean this: He had said, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and I will give thee this land." (Gen. xii. 1, 7.) "He gave him none inheritance in it, no not so much as to set his foot on." (Acts vii. 5.) Seest thou how what was done was opposed to the promise? Again He said, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called" (Gen. xxi. 12 ), and he believed: and again He says, Sacrifice to Me this one, who was to fill all the world from his seed. Thou seest the opposition between the commands and the promise? He enjoined things that were in contradiction to the promises, and yet not even so did the righteous man stagger, nor say he had been deceived.
For you indeed, he means, could not say this, that He promised ease and gave tribulation. For in our case, the things which He promised, these also He performs. How so? "In the world" (He says), "ye shall have tribulation." (John xvi. 33.) " He that taketh not his cross and followeth Me, is not worthy of Me." (Matt. x. 38.) "He that hateth not his life shall not find it." (John xii. 25.) And, "He that forsaketh not all that he hath, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me." (Luke xiv. 27, 33.) And again, "Ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for My sake." (Matt. x, 18.) And again, "A man's foes shall be they of his own household." (Matt. x. 36.) But the things which pertain to rest are yonder.
But with regard to Abraham, it was different. He was enjoined to do what was opposed to the promises; and yet not even so was he troubled, nor did he stagger, nor think he had been deceived. But yon endure nothing except what was promised, yet you are troubled.
[2.] He heard the opposite of the promises from Him who had made them; and yet he was not disturbed, but did them as if they had been in harmony [therewith]. For they were in harmony; being opposed indeed according to human calculations, but in harmony [when viewed] by Faith. And how this was, the Apostle himself has taught us, by saying, "accounting that God was able to raise Him up, even from the dead." By the same faith (he means) by which he believed that God gave what was not, and raised up the dead, by the same was he persuaded that He would also raise him up after he had been slain in sacrifice. For it was alike impossible (to human calculation, I mean) from a womb which was dead and grown old and already become useless for child-bearing to give a child, and to raise again one who had been slain. But his previous faith prepared the way for things to come.
And see; the good things came first, and the hard things afterwards, in his old age. But for you, on the contrary, (he says) the sad things are first, and the good things last. This for those who dare to say, 'He has promised us the good things after death; perhaps He has deceived us.' He shows that "God is able to raise up even from the dead," and if God be able to raise from the dead, without all doubt He will pay all [that He has promised].
But if Abraham so many years before, believed "that God is able to raise from the dead," much more ought we to believe it. Thou seest (what I at first said) that death had not yet entered in and yet He drew them at once to the hope of the resurrection, and led them to such full assurance, that when bidden, they even slay their own sons, and readily offer up those from whom they expected to people the world.
And he shows another thing too, by saying, that "God tempted Abraham." (Gen. xxii. 1.) What then? Did not God know that the man was noble and approved? Why then did He tempt him? Not that He might Himself learn, but that He might show to others, and make his fortitude manifest to all. And here also he shows the cause of trials, that they may not suppose they suffer these things as being forsaken [of God]. For in their case indeed, it was necessary that they should he tried, because there were many who persecuted or plotted against them: but in Abraham's case, what need was there to devise trials for him which did not exist? Now this trial, it is evident, was by His command. The others indeed happened by His allowance, but this even by His command. If then temptations make men approved in such wise that, even where there is no occasion, God exercises His own athletes; much more ought we to bear all things nobly.
And here he said emphatically, "By faith, when he was tried, he offered up Isaac," for there was no other cause for his bringing the offering but that.
[3.] After this he pursues the same thought. No one (he says) could allege, that he had another son, and expected the promise to be fulfilled from him, and therefore confidently offered up this one. "And" (his words are) "he offered up his only-begotten, who had received the promises." Why sayest thou "only-begotten"? What then? Of whom was Ishmael sprung? I mean "only-begotten" (he would say) so far as relates to the word of the promise. Therefore after saying, "Only-begotten," showing that he says it for this reason, he added, "of whom it was said, In Isaac shall thy seed be called," that is, "from" him. Seest thou how he admires what was done by the Patriarch? "In Isaac shall thy seed be called," and that son he brought to be sacrificed.
Afterwards, that no one may suppose he does this in despair, and in consequence of this command had cast away that Faith, but may understand that this also was truly of faith, he says that he retained that faith also, although it seem to be at variance with this. But it was not at variance. For he did not measure the power of God by human reasonings, but committed all to faith. And hence he was not afraid to say, that God was "able to raise him up, even from the dead."
"From whence also he received him in a figure," that is in idea, by the ram, he means. How? The ram having been slain, he was saved: so that by means of the ram he received him again, having slain it in his stead. But these things were types: for here it is the Son of God who is slain.
And observe, I beseech you, how great is His lovingkindness. For inasmuch as a great favor was to be given to men, He, wishing to do this, not by favor, but as a debtor, arranges that a man should first give up his own son on account of God's command, in order that He Himself might seem to be doing nothing great in giving up His own Son, since a man had done this before Him; that He might be supposed to do it not of grace, but of debt. For we wish to do this kindness also to those whom we love, others, to appear first to have received some little thing from them, and so give them all: and we boast more of the receiving than of the giving; and we do not say, We gave him this, but, We received this from him.
"From whence also" (are his words) "he received him in a figure," i.e. as in a riddle (for the ram was as it were a figure of Isaac) or, as in a type. For since the sacrifice had been completed, and Isaac slain in purpose, therefore He gave him to the Patriarch.
[4.] Thou seest, that what I am constantly saying, is shown in this case also? When we have proved that our mind is made perfect, and have shown that we disregard earthly things, then earthly things also are given to us; but not before; lest being bound to them already, receiving them we should be bound still. Loose thyself from thy slavery first (He says), and then receive, that thou mayest receive no longer as a slave, but as a master. Despise riches, and thou shalt be rich. Despise glory, and thou shalt be glorious. Despise the avenging thyself on thine enemies, and then shalt thou attain it. Despise repose, and then thou shalt receive it that in receiving thou mayest receive not as a prisoner, nor as a slave, but as a freeman.
For as in the case of little children, when the child eagerly desires childish playthings, we hide them from him with much care, as a ball, for instance, and such like things, that he may not be hindered from necessary things; but when he thinks little of them, and no longer longs for them, we give them fearlessly, knowing that henceforth no harm can come to him from them, the desire no longer having strength enough to draw him away from things necessary; so God also, when He sees that we no longer eagerly desire the things of this world, thenceforward permits us to use them. For we possess them as fleemen and men, not as children.
For [in proof] that if thou despise the avenging thyself on thine enemies, thou wilt then attain it, hear what he says, "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink," and he added, "for in so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." (Rom. xii. 20.) And again, that if thou despise riches, thou shalt then obtain them, hear Christ saying, "There is no man which hath left father, or mother, or house, or brethren, who shall not receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life." (Matt. xix. 29.) And that if thou despise glory, thou shall then attain it, again hear Christ Himself saying, "He that will be first among you, let him be your minister." (Matt. xx. 26.) And
again, "For whosoever shall humble himself, he shall be exalted." (Matt. xxiii. 12.) What sayest thou? If I give drink to mine enemy, do I then punish him? If I give up my goods, do I then possess them? If I humble myself, shall I then be exalted? Yea, He says, for such is My power, to give contraries by means of contraries. I abound in resources and in contrivances: be not afraid. The 'Nature of things' follows My will: not I attend upon Nature. I do all things: I am not controlled by them: wherefore also I am able to change their form and order.
[5.] And why dost thou wonder if [it is so] in these instances? For thou wilt find the same also in all others. If thou injure, thou art injured; if thou art injured, then thou art uninjured; if thou punish, then thou hast not punished another, but hast punished thyself. For "he that loveth iniquity," it is said, "hateth his own soul." (Ps. xi. 5, LXX.) Seest thou that thou dost not injure, but art injured? Therefore also Paul says, "Why do ye not rather take wrong?" (1 Cor. vi. 7.)Dost thou see that this is not to be wronged?
When thou insultest, then art thou insulted. And most persons partly know this: as when they say one to another, "Let us go away, do not disgrace yourself." Why? Because the difference is great between thee and him: for however much thou insultest him, he accounts it a credit. Let us consider this in all cases, and be above insults. I will tell you how.
Should we have a contest with him who wears the purple, let us consider that in insulting him, we insult ourselves, for we become worthy to be disgraced. Tell me, what dost thou mean? When thou art a citizen of Heaven, and hast the Philosophy that is above, dost thou disgrace thyself with him "that mindeth earthly things"? (Phil. iii. 19.) For though he be in possession of countless riches, though he be in power, he does not as yet know the good that is therein. Do not in insulting him, insult thyself. Spare thyself, not him. Honor thyself, not him. Is there not some Proverb such as this, He that honoreth; honoreth himself? With good reason: for he honors not the other, but himself. Hear what a certain wise man says, "Do honor to thy soul according to the dignity thereof." (Ecclus. x. 28.) "According to the dignity thereof," what is this? if he have defrauded (it means), do not thou defraud; if he has insulted, do not thou insult.
[6.] Tell me, I pray thee, if some poor man has taken away clay thrown out of thy yard, wouldst thou for this have summoned a court of justice? Surely not. Why? Lest thou shouldst disgrace thyself; lest all men should condemn thee. The same also happens in this case. For the rich man is poor, and the more rich he is, the poorer is he in that which is indeed poverty. Gold is clay, cast out in the yard, not lying in thy house, for thy house is Heaven. For this, then, wilt thou summon a Court of Justice, and will not the citizens on high condemn thee? Will they not cast thee out from their country, who art so mean, who art so shabby, as to choose to fight for a little clay? For if the world were thine, and then some one had taken it, oughtest thou to pay any attention to it?
Knowest thou not, that if thou wert to take the world ten times or an hundred times, or ten thousand times, and twice that, it is not to be compared with the least of the good things in Heaven? He then who admires the things here slights those yonder, since he judges these worthy of exertion, though so far inferior to the other. Nay, rather indeed he will not be able to admire those other. For how [can he], whilst he is passionately excited towards these earthly things? Let us cut through the cords and entanglements: for this is what earthly things are.
How long shall we be stooping down? How long shall we plot one against another, like wild beasts; like fishes? Nay rather, the wild beasts do not plot against each other, but [against] animals of a different tribe. A bear for instance does not readily kill a bear, nor a serpent kill a serpent, having respect for the sameness of race. But thou, with one of the same race, and having innumerable claims, as common origin, rational faculties, the knowledge of God, ten thousand other things, the force of nature, him who is thy kinsman, and partaker of the same nature—him thou killest, and involvest in evils innumerable. For what, if thou dost not thrust thy sword, nor plunge thy right hand into his neck, other things more grievous than this thou doest, when thou involvest him in innumerable evils. For if thou hadst done the other, thou wouldst have freed him from anxiety, but now thou encompassest him with hunger, with slavery, with feelings of discouragement, with many sins. These things I say, and shall not cease to say, not [as] preparing you to commit murder: nor as urging you to some crime short of that; but that you may not be confident, as if you were not to give account. "For" (it says) "he that taketh away a livelihood" (Ecclus. xxxiv. 22) and asketh bread, it says.
[7.] Let us at length keep our hands to ourselves, or rather, let us not keep them, but stretch them out honorably, not for grasping, but for alms-giving. Let us not have our hand unfruitful nor withered; for the hand which doeth not alms is withered; and that which is also grasping, is polluted and unclean.
Let no one eat with such hands; for this is an insult to those invited. For, tell me, if a man when he had made us lie down on tapestry and a soft couch and linen interwoven with gold, in a great and splendid house, and had set by us a great multitude of attendants, and had prepared a tray of silver and gold, and filled it with many dainties of great cost and of all sorts, then urged us to eat, provided we would only endure his besmearing his hands with mire or with human ordure, and so sitting down to meat with us—would any man endure this infliction? Would he not rather have considered it an insult? Indeed I think he would, and would have gone straightway off. But now in fact, thou seest not hands filled with what is indeed filth, but even the very food, and yet thou dost not go off, nor flee, nor find fault. Nay, if he be a person in authority, thou even accountest it a grand affair, and destroyest thine own soul, in eating such things. For covetousness is worse than any mire; for it pollutes, not the body but the soul, and makes it hard to be washed. Thou therefore, though thou seest him that sitteth at meat defiled with this filth both on his hands and his face, and his house filled with it, nay and his table also full of it (for dung, or if there be anything more unclean than that, it is not so unclean and polluted as those viands), dost thou feel as if forsooth thou wert highly honored, and as if thou wert going to enjoy thyself?
And dost thou not fear Paul who allows us to go without restraint to the Tables of the heathen if we wish, but not even if we wish to those of the covetous? For, "if any man who is called a Brother" (1 Cor. v. 11), he says, meaning here by Brother every one who is a believer simply, not him who leads a solitary life. For what is it which makes brotherhood? The Washing of regeneration; the being enabled to call God our Father. So that he that is a Monk, if he be a Catechumen, is not a Brother,' but the believer though he be in the world, is a Brother. "If any man," saith he, "that is called a Brother." (1 Cor. v. 11.) For at that time there was not even a trace of any one leading a Monastic life, but this blessed [Apostle] addressed all his discourse to persons in the world. "If any man," he says, "that is called a Brother, be a fornicator, or covetous or a drunkard, with such an one, no not to eat." But not so with respect to the heathen: but "If any of them that believe not," meaning the heathen, "bid you and ye be disposed to go, whatsoever is set before you eat." (1 Cor. x. 27.)
[8.] "If any man that is called Brother be" (he says) "a drunkard." Oh !what strictness Yet we not only do not avoid drunkards, but even go to their houses, partaking of what they set before us.
Therefore all things are upside down, all things are in confusion, and overthrown, and ruined. For tell me, if any such person should invite thee to a banquet, thee who art accounted poor and mean, and then should hear thee say, "Inasmuch as the things set before me are [the fruit] of overreaching, I will not endure to defile my own soul," would he not be mortified? Would he not be confounded? Would he not be ashamed? This alone were sufficient to correct him, and to make him call himself wretched for his wealth, and admire thee for thy poverty, if he saw himself with so great earnestness despised by thee.
But we "are become" (I know not why) "servants of men" (1 Cor. vii. 23), though Paul cries aloud throughout, "Be not ye the servants of men." Whence then have we become "servants of men"? Because we first became servants of the belly, and of money, and of glory, and of all the rest; we gave up the liberty which Christ bestowed on us.
What then awaiteth him who is become a servant (tell me)? Hear Christ saying, "The servant abideth not in the house for ever." (John viii. 35.) Thou hast a declaration complete in itself, that he never entereth into the Kingdom; for this is what "the House" means. For, He says, "in My Father's House are many mansions." (John xiv. 2.) "The servant" then "abideth not in the House for ever." By a servant He means him who is "the servant of sin." But he that "abideth not in the House for ever," abideth in Hell for ever, having no consolation from any quarter.
Nay, to this point of wickedness are matters come, that they even give alms out of these [ill-gotten gains], and many receive [them]. Therefore our boldness has broken down, and we are not able to rebuke any one. But however, henceforward at least, let us flee the mischief arising from this; and ye who have rolled yourselves in this mire, cease from such defilement, and restrain your rage for such banquets, if even now we may by any means be able to have God propitious to us, and to attain to the good things which have been promised: which may we all obtain in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen.
"By faith, Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. By faith, Jacob when he was a dying blessed both the sons of Joseph, and worshiped leaning on the top of his staff. By faith, Joseph when he died made mention of the departing of the children of Israel, and gave commandment concerning his bones."
[1.] "MANY prophets and righteous men" (it is said) "have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear and have not heard them." (Matt. xiii. 17.) Did then those righteous men know all the things to come? Yea, most certainly. For if because of the weakness of those who were not able to receive Him, the Son was not revealed,—He was with good reason revealed to those conspicuous in virtue. This Paul also says, that they knew "the things to come," that is the resurrection of Christ.
Or he does not mean this: but that "By faith, concerning things to come" [means] not [concerning] the world to come, but "concerning things to come" in this world. For how [except by faith] could a man sojourning in a strange land, give such blessings?
But on the other hand he obtained the blessing, and yet did not receive it. Thou seest that what I said with regard to Abraham, may be said also of Jacob, that they did not enjoy the blessing, but the blessings went to his posterity, while he himself obtained the "things to come." For we find that his brother rather enjoyed the blessing. For [Jacob] spent all his time in servitude and working as a hireling, and [amid] dangers, and plots, and deceits, and fears; and when he was asked by Pharaoh, he says, "Few and evil have my days been" (Gen. xlvii. 9); while the other lived in independence and great security, and afterwards was an object of terror to [Jacob]. Where then did the blessings come to their accomplishment, save in the [world] to come?
Seest thou that from the beginning the wicked have enjoyed things here, but the righteous the contrary? Not however all. For behold, Abraham was a righteous man, and he enjoyed things here as well, though with affliction and trials. For indeed wealth was all he had, seeing all else relating to him was full of affliction. For it is impossible that the righteous man should not be afflicted, though he be rich: for when he is willing to be overreached, to be wronged, to suffer all other things, he must be afflicted. So that although he enjoy wealth, [yet is it] not without grief. Why? you ask. Because he is in affliction and distress. But if at that time the righteous were in affliction, much more now and
"By Faith," he says," Isaac blessed Jacob Esau concerning things to come" (and yet Esau was the elder; but he puts Jacob first for his excellence). Seest thou how great was his Faith? Whence did he promise to his sons so great blessings? Entirely from his having faith in God.
[2.] "By Faith, Jacob when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph."' Here we ought to set down the blessings entire, in order that both his faith and his prophesying may be made manifest. "And worshiped leaning," he says, "upon the top of his staff." Here, he means, he not only spoke, but was even so confident about the future things, as to show it also by his act. For inasmuch as another King was about to arise from Ephraim, therefore it is said, "And he bowed himself upon the top of his staff." That is, even though he was now an old man, "he bowed himself" to Joseph, showing the obeisance of the whole people which was to be [directed] to him. And this indeed had already taken place, when his brethren "bowed down" to him: but it was afterwards to come to pass through the ten tribes. Seest thou how he foretold the things which were to be afterwards? Seest thou how great faith they had? How they believed "concerning the things to come"?
For some of the things here, the things present, are examples of patience only, and of enduring ill-treatment, add of receiving nothing good; for instance, what is mentioned in the case of Abraham, in the case of Abel. But others are [examples] of Faith, as in the case of Noah, that there is a God, that there is a recompense. (For Faith in this place is manifold, both of there being a recompense, and of awaiting it, not under the same conditions, and of wrestling before the prizes.) And the things also which concern Joseph are of Faith only. Joseph heard that [God] had made a promise to Abraham, that He had engaged His word "to thee and to thy seed will I give this land;" and though in a strange land, and not yet seeing the engagement fulfilled, but never faltered even so, but so believed as even to "speak of the Exodus, and to give commandment concerning his bones." He then not only believed himself, but led on the rest also to Faith: that having the Exodus always in mind (for he would not have "given commandment concerning his bones," unless he had been fully assured [of this]), they might look for their return [to Canaan].
Wherefore, when some men say, 'See !Even righteous men had care about their sepulchers,' let us reply to them, that it was for his reason: for he knew that "the earth is the Lord's and all that therein is." (Ps. xxiv. 1.) He could not indeed have been ignorant of this, who lived in so great philosophy, who spent his whole life in Egypt. And yet if he had wished, it was possible for him to return, and not to mourn or vex himself. But when he had taken up his father thither, why, did he enjoin them to carry up thence his own bones also? Evidently for this reason.
But what? Tell me, are not the bones of Moses himself laid in a strange land? And those of Aaron, of Daniel, of Jeremiah? And as to those of the Apostles we do not know where those of most of them are laid. For of Peter indeed, and Paul, and John, and Thomas, the sepulchers are well known; but those of the rest, being so many, have nowhere become known. Let us not therefore lament at all about this, nor be so little- minded. For where- ever we may be buried, "the earth is the Lord's and all that therein is." (Ps. xxiv. 1.) Certainly what must take place, does take place: to mourn however, and lament, and bewail the departed, arises from littleness of mind.
[3.] (Ver. 23) "By faith, Moses when he was born, was hid three months of his parents." Dost thou see that in this case they hoped for things on the earth after their death? And many things were fulfilled after their death. This is for some who say, 'After death those things were done for them, which they did not obtain while alive; nor did they believe [would be] after their death.'
Moreover Joseph did not say, He gave not the land to me in my life- time, nor to my father, nor to my grandfather, whose excellence too ought to have been reverenced; and will He vouchsafe to these wretched people what He did not vouchsafe to them? He said nothing of all this, but by Faith he both conquered and went beyond all these things.
He has named Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, all illustrious and admirable men. Again he makes the encouragement greater, by bringing down the matter to ordinary persons. For that the admirable should feel thus, is nothing wonderful, and to appear inferior to them, is not so dreadful: but to show oneself inferior even to people without names, this is the dreadful thing. And he begins with the parents of Moses, obscure persons, who had nothing so great as their son [had]. Therefore also he goes on to increase the strangeness of what he says by enumerating even women that were harlots, and widows. For "by Faith" (he says) "the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace." And he mentions the rewards not only of belief but also of unbelief; as in [the case of] Noah.
But at present we must speak of the parents of Moses. Pharaoh gave orders that all the male children should be destroyed, and none had escaped the danger. Whence did these expect to save their child? From faith. What sort of Faith? "They saw" (he says) "that he was a proper child." The very sight drew them on to Faith: thus from the beginning, yea from the very swaddling-clothes, great was the Grace that was poured out on that righteous man, this being not the work of nature. For observe, the child immediately on its birth appears fair and not disagreeable to the sight. Whose [work] was this? Not that of nature, but of the Grace of God, which also stirred up and strengthened that barbarian woman, the Egyptian, and took and drew her on.
And yet in truth Faith had not a sufficient foundation in their case. For what was it to believe from sight? But you (he would say) believe from facts and have many pledges of Faith. For "the receiving with joyfulness the spoiling of their goods" (c. x. 34), and other such [things], were [evidences] of Faith and of Patience. But inasmuch as these [Hebrews] also had believed, and yet afterwards had become faint-hearted, he shows that the Faith of those [saints of old] also was long continued, as, for instance, that of Abraham, although the circumstances seemed to contend against it.
"And" (he says) "they were not afraid of the king's commandment," although that was in operation, but this [their hope respecting their child] was simply a kind of bare expectation. And this indeed was [the act] of his parents; but Moses himself what did he contribute?
[4.] Next again an example appropriate to them, or rather greater than that. For, saith he, (ver. 24-26) "by faith Moses when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward." As though he had said to them, ' No one of you has left a palace, yea a splendid palace, nor such treasures; nor, when he might have been a king's son, has he despised this, as Moses did.' And that he did not simply leave [these things], he expressed by saying, "he refused," that is, he hated, he turned away. For when Heaven was set before him, it was superfluous to admire an Egyptian Palace.
And see how admirably Paul has put it. He did not say, 'Esteeming heaven, and the things in heaven,' 'greater riches than the treasures of Egypt,' but what? "The reproach of Christ." For the being reproached for the sake of Christ he accounted better than being thus at ease; and this itself by itself was reward.
"Choosing rather" (be says) "to suffer affliction with the people of God." For ye indeed suffer on your own account, but he "chose" [to suffer] for others; and voluntarily threw himself into so many dangers, when it was in his power both to live religiously, and to enjoy good things.
"Than" (he says) "to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." He called unwillingness "to suffer affliction with the" rest "sin ": this, he says, [Moses] accounted to be "sin." If then he accounted it "sin" not to be ready to "suffer affliction with" the rest, it follows that the suffering affliction must be a great good since he threw himself into it from the royal palace.
But this he did, seeing some great things before him. "Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt." What is, "the reproach of Christ"? It is being reproached in such ways as ye are, the reproach which Christ endured; Or that he endured for Christ's sake: for "that rock was Christ" (1 Cor. x. 4); the being reproached as you are.
But what is "the reproach of Christ"? That [because] we repudiate the [ways] of our fathers we are reproached; that we are evil-entreated when we have run to God. It was likely that he also was reproached, when it was said to him, "Wilt thou kill me as thou killedst the Egyptian yesterday?" (Ex. ii. 14.) This is "the reproach of Christ," to be ill- treated to the end, and to the last breath: as He Himself was reproached and heard, "If Thou be the Son of God" (Matt. xxvii. 40), from those for whom He was crucified, from those who were of the same race. This is "the reproach of Christ" when a man is reproached by those of his own family, or by those whom he is benefiting. For [Moses] also suffered these things from the man who had been benefited [by him].
In these words he encouraged them, by showing that even Christ suffered these things, and Moses also, two illustrious persons. So that this is rather "the reproach of Christ" than of Moses inasmuch as He suffered these things from "His own." (John i. 11.) But neither did the one send forth lightnings, nor the Other feel any [anger], but He was reviled and endured all things, whilst they "wagged their heads." (Matt. xxvii. 39.) Since therefore it was probable that they [the readers] also would hear such things, and would long for the Recompense, he says that even Christ and Moses had suffered the like. So then ease is [the portion] of sin; but to be reproached, of Christ. For what then dost thou wish? "The reproach of Christ," or ease?
[5.] (Ver. 27) "By faith he forsook Egypt not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is Invisible." What dost thou say? That he did not fear? And yet the Scripture says, that when he heard, he "was afraid " (Ex. ii. 14), and for this cause provided for safety by flight, and stole away, and secretly withdrew himself; and afterwards he was exceedingly afraid. Observe the expressions with care: he said, "not fearing the wrath of the king," with reference to his even presenting himself again. For it would have been [the part] of one who was afraid, not to undertake again his championship, nor to have any hand in the matter. That he did however again undertake it, was [the part] of one who committed all to God: for he did not say, 'He is seeking me, and is busy [in the search], and I cannot bear again to engage in this matter.'
So that even flight was [an act of] faith. Why then did he not remain (you say)? That he might not cast himself into a foreseen danger. For this finally would have been tempting [God]: to leap into the midst of dangers, and say, 'Let us see whether God will save me.' And this the devil said to Christ, "Cast Thyself down." (Matt. iv. 6.) Seest thou that it is a diabolical thing, to throw ourselves into danger without cause and for no purpose, and to try whether God will save us? For he [Moses] could no longer be their champion when they who were receiving benefits were so ungrateful. It would therefore have been a foolish and senseless thing to remain there. But all these things were done, because, "he endured as seeing Him who is Invisible."
[6.] If then we too always see God with our mind, if we always think in remembrance of Him, all things will appear endurable to us, all things tolerable; we shall bear them all easily, we shall be above them all. For if a person seeing one whom he loves, or rather, remembering him is roused in spirit, and elevated in thought, and bears all things easily, while he delights in the remembrance; one who has in mind Him who has vouchsafed to love us in deed, and remembers Him, when will he either feel anything painful, or dread anything fearful or dangerous? When will he be of cowardly spirit? Never.
For all things appear to us difficult, because we do not have the remembrance of God as we ought; because we do not carry Him about alway in our thoughts. For surely He might justly say to us, "Thou hast forgotten Me, I also will forget thee." And so the evil becomes twofold, both that we forget Him and He us. For these two things are involved in each other, yet are two. For great is the effect of God's remembrance, and great also of His being remembered by us. The result of the one is that we choose good things; of the other that we accomplish them, and bring them to their end. Therefore the prophet says, "I will remember Thee from the land of Jordan, and from the little hill of Hermon." (Ps. xlii. 6.) The people which were in Babylon say this: being there, I will remember Thee.
[7.] Therefore let us also, as being in Babylon, [do the same]. For although we are not sitting among warlike foes, yet we are among enemies. For some [of them] indeed were sitting as captives, but others did not even feel their captivity, as Daniel, as the three children (cf. Ps. cxxxvii. 1); who even while they were in captivity became in that very country more glorious even than the king who had carried them captive. And he who had taken them captive does obeisance to the captives.
Dost thou see how great virtue is? When they were in actual captivity he waited on them as masters. He therefore was the captive, rather than they. It would not have been so marvelous if when they were in their native country, he had come and done them reverence in their own land, or if they had been rulers there. But the marvelous thing is, that after he had bound them, and taken them captive, and had them in his own country, he was not ashamed to do them reverence in the sight of all, and to "offer an oblation." (Dan. ii. 46.)
Do you see that the really splendid things are those which relate to God, whereas human things are a shadow? He knew not, it seems, that he was leading away masters for himself, and that he cast into the furnace those whom he was about to worship. But to them, these things were as a dream.
Let us fear God, beloved, let us fear [Him]: even should we be in captivity, we are more glorious than all men. Let the fear of God be present with us, and nothing will be grievous, even though thou speak of poverty, or of disease, or of captivity, or of slavery, or of any other grievous thing: Nay even these very things will themselves work together for us the other way. These men were captives, and the king worshiped them: Paul was a tent-maker, and they sacrificed to him as a God.
[8.] Here a question arises: Why, you ask, did the Apostles prevent the sacrifices, and rend their clothes, and divert them from their attempt, and say with earnest lamentation, "What are ye doing? we also are men of like passions with you" (Acts xiv. 15); whereas Daniel did nothing of this kind.
For that he also was humble, and referred [the] glory to God no less than they, is evident from many places. Especially indeed is it evident, from the very fact of his being beloved by God. For if he had appropriated to himself the honor belonging to God, He would not have suffered him to live, much less to be in honor. Secondly, because even with great openness he said, "And as to me, O King, this secret hath not been revealed to me through any wisdom that is in me." (Dan. ii. 30.) And again; he was in the den for God's sake, and when the prophet brought him food, he saith, "For God hath remembered me." (Bel and the Dragon, yet. 38.) Thus humble and contrite was he.
He was in the den for God's sake, and yet he counted himself unworthy of His remembrance, and of being heard. Yet we though daring [to commit] innumerable pollutions, and being of all men most polluted, if we be not heard at our first prayer, draw back. Truly, great is the distance between them and us, as great as between heaven and earth, or if there be any greater.
What sayest thou? After so many achievements, after the miracle which had been wrought in the den, dost thou account thyself so humble? Yea, he says; for what things soever we have done, "we are unprofitable servants." (Luke xvii. 10.) Thus by anticipation did he fulfill the evangelical precept, and accounted himself nothing. For "God hath remembered me," he said. His prayer again, of how great lowliness of mind it is full. And again the three children said thus, "We have sinned, we have committed iniquity." (Song of the Three Children, ver. 6.) And everywhere they show their humility.
And yet Daniel had occasions innumerable for being puffed up; but he knew that these also came to him on account of his not being puffed up, and he did not destroy his treasure. For among all men, and in the whole world he was celebrated, not only because the king cast himself on his face and offered sacrifice to him, and accounted him to be a God, who was himself honored as God in all parts of the world: for he ruled over the whole [earth]; (and this is evident from Jeremiah. "Who putteth on the earth," saith he, "as a garment." (See Jer. xliii. 12 and Ps. civ. 2.) And again, "I have given it to Nebuchadnezzar My servant" (Jer. xxvii. 6), and again from what he [the King] says in his letter). And because he was held in admiration not only in the place where he was, but everywhere, and was greater than if the rest of the nations had been present and seen him; when even by letters [the King] confessed his submission and the miracle. But yet again for his wisdom he was also held in admiration, for it is said, "Art thou wiser than Daniel?" (Ezek. xxviii. 3.) And after all these things he was thus humble, dying ten thousand times for the Lord's sake.
Why then, you ask, being so humble did he not repel either the adoration which was paid him by the king, or the offerings?
[9.] This I will not say, for it is sufficient for me simply to mention the question, and the rest I leave to you, that at least in this way I may stir up your thoughts. (This however I conjure you, to choose all things for the fear of God, having such examples; and because in truth we shall obtain the things here also, if we sincerely lay hold on the things which are to come.) For that he did not do this out of arrogance, is evident from his saying, "Thy gifts be to thyself." (Dan. v. 17.)
For besides this also again is another question, how while in words he rejected it, in deed he received the honor, and wore the chain [of gold]. (Dan. v. 29.)
Moreover while Herod on hearing the cry "It is the voice of a god and not of a man," inasmuch as "he gave not God the glory, burst in sunder, and all his bowels gushed out" (Acts xii. 22, 23; see i. 18), this man received to himself even the honor belonging to God, not words only.
However it is necessary to say what this is. In that case [at Lystra] the men were falling into greater idolatry, but in this [of Daniel] not so. How? For his being thus accounted of, was an honor to God. Therefore he said in anticipation, "And as to me, not through any wisdom that is in me." (Dan. ii. 30.) And besides he does not even appear to have accepted the offerings. For he [the king] said (as it is written) that they should offer sacrifice, but it did not appear that the act followed. But there [at Lystra] they carried it even to sacrificing the bulls, and "they called" the one "Jupiter and" the other "Mercurius." (Acts xiv. 12.)
The chain [of gold] then he accepted, that he might make himself known; the offering however why does it not appear that he rejected it? For in the other case too they did not do it, but they attempted it, and the Apostles hindered them; wherefore here also he ought at once to have rejected [the adoration]. And there it was the entire people: here the King. Why he did not divert him [Daniel] expressed by anticipation, [viz.] that [the king] was not making an offering [to him] as to a God, to the overthrow of religious worship, but for the greater wonder. How so? It was on God's account that [Nebuchadnezzar] made the decree; wherefore [Daniel] did not mutilate the honor [offered]. But those others [at Lystra] did not act thus, but supposed them to be indeed gods. On this account they were repelled.
And here, after having done him reverence, he does these things: for he did not reverence him as a God, but as a wise man.
But it is not clear that he made the offering: and even if he did make it, yet not that it was with Daniel's acceptance.
And what [of this], that he called him" Belteshazzar, the name of" his own "god "? Thus [it seems] they accounted their gods to be nothing wonderful, when he called even the captive thus; he who commands all men to worship the image, manifold and of various colors, and who adores the dragon.
Moreover the Babylonians were much more foolish than those at Lystra. Wherefore it was not possible at once to lead them on to this. And many [more] things one might say: but thus far these suffice.
If therefore we wish to obtain all good things, let us seek the things of God. For as they who seek the things of this world fail both of them and of the others, so they who prefer the things of God, obtain both. Let us then not seek these but those, that we may attain also to the good things promised in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.
"Through faith, he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the first-born should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea, as by dry land; which the Egyptians assaying to do, were drowned. By faith, the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been compassed about seven days. By faith, the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace."
[1.] PAUL is wont to establish many things incidently, and is very full of thoughts. For such is the grace of The Spirit. He does not comprehend a few ideas in a multitude of words, but includes great and manifold thought in brevity of expressions. Observe at least how, in the midst of exhortation, and when discoursing about faith, of what a type and mystery he reminds us, whereof we have the reality. "Through faith" (he says) "he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the first-born should touch them."
But what is "the sprinkling of blood"? A lamb was slain in every household, and the blood was smeared on the door-posts, and this was a means of warding off the Egyptian destruction If then the blood of a lamb preserved the Jews unhurt in the midst of the Egyptians, and under so great a destruction, much more will the blood of Christ save us, who have had it sprinkled not on the door-posts, but in our souls. For even now also the Destroyer is going about in this depth of night: but let us be armed with that Sacrifice. (He calls the "sprinkling" anointing.) For God has brought us out from Egypt, from darkness, from idolatry.
Although what was done, was nothing, what was achieved was great. For what was done was blood; but was achieved, was salvation, and the stopping, and preventing of destruction The angel feared the blood; for he knew of what it was a Type; he shuddered, thinking on the Lord's death; therefore he did not touch the door-posts.
Moses said, Smear, and they smeared, and were confident. And you, having the Blood of the Lamb Himself, are ye not confident?
[2.] "By faith, they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land." Again he compares one whole people with another, lest they should say, we cannot be as the saints.
"By faith" (he says) "they passed through the Red Sea, as by dry land, which the Egyptians assaying to do, were drowned." Here he leads them also to a recollection of the sufferings in Egypt.
How, "by faith "? Because they had hoped to pass through the sea, and therefore they prayed: or rather it was Moses who prayed. Seest thou that everywhere Faith goes beyond human reasonings, and weakness and lowliness? Seest thou that at the same time they both believed, and feared punishment, both in the blood on the doors, and in the Red Sea?
And he made it clear that it was [really] water, through those that fell into it, and were choked; that it was not a mere appearance: but as in the case of the lions those who were devoured proved the reality of the facts, and in the case of the fiery furnace, those who were burnt; so here also thou seest that the same things become to the one a cause of salvation and glory, and to the other of destruction.
So great a good is Faith. And when we fall into perplexity, then are we delivered, even though we come to death itself, even though our condition be desperate. For what else was left [for them]? They were unarmed, compassed about by the Egyptians and the sea; and they must either be drowned if they fled, or fall into the hands of the Egyptians. But nevertheless [He] saved them from impossibilities. That which was spread under the one as land, overwhelmed the others as sea. In the former case it forgot its nature: in the latter it even armed itself against them. (Cf. Wisd. xix. 20.)
[3.] "By faith, the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been compassed about for seven days." For assuredly the sound of trumpets is not able to throw down stones, though one blow for ten thousand years; but Faith can do all things.
Seest thou that in all cases it is not by natural sequence, nor yet by any law of nature that it was changed, but all is done contrary to expectation? Accordingly in this case also all is done contrary to expectation. For inasmuch as he had said again and again, that we ought to trust to the future hopes, he introduced all this argument with reason, showing that not now [only], but even from the beginning all the miracles have been accomplished and achieved by means of it.
"By faith, the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, having received the spies with peace." It would then be disgraceful, if you should appear more faithless even than a harlot. Yet she [merely] heard what the men related, and forthwith believed. Whereupon the end also followed; for when all perished, she alone was preserved. She did not say to herself, I shall be with my many friends. She did not say, Can I possibly be wiser than these judicious men who do not believe,—and shall I believe? She said no such thing, but believed what had taken place, which it was likely that they would suffer.
[4.] (Ver. 32) "And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell." After this he no longer puts down the names: but having ended with an harlot, and put them to shame by the quality of the person, he no longer enlarges on the histories, lest he should be thought tedious. However he does not set them aside, but runs over them, [doing] both very judiciously, avoiding satiety, and not spoiling the closeness of arrangement; he was neither altogether silent, nor did he speak so as to annoy; for he effects both points. For when a man is contending vehemently [in argument], if he persist in contending, he wearies out the hearer, annoying him when he is already persuaded, and gaining the reputation of vain ambitiousness. For he ought to accommodate himself to what is expedient.
"And what do I more say" (he says)? "For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah, of David also and Samuel, and of the prophets."
Some find fault with Paul, because he puts Barak, and Samson, and Jephthah in these places. What sayest thou? After having introduced the harlot, shall he not introduce these? For do not tell me of the rest of their life, but only whether they did not believe and shine in Faith.
"And the prophets," he says, (ver. 33) "who through faith subdued kingdoms." Thou seest that he does not here testify to their life as being illustrious; for this was not the point in question: but the enquiry thus far was about their faith. For tell me whether they did not accomplish all by faith?
"'By faith," he says, "they subdued kingdoms;" those with Gideon. "Wrought righteousness;" who? The same. Plainly he means here, kindness.
I think it is of David that he says "they obtained promises." But of what sort were these? Those in which He said that his "seed should sit upon" his "throne." (Ps. cxxxii. 12.)
"Stopped the months of lions," (ver. 34) "quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword." See how they were in death itself, Daniel encompassed by the lions, the three children abiding in the furnace, the Israelites, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, in divers temptations; and yet not even so did they despair. For this is Faith; when things are turning out adversely, then we ought to believe that nothing adverse is done, but all things in due order.
"Escaped the edge of the sword.": I think hat he is again speaking of the three children.
"Out of weakness were made strong." Here be alludes to what took place at their return from Babylon. For "out of weakness," is out of captivity. When the condition of the Jews had now become desperate, when they were no better than dead bones, who could have expected that they would return from Babylon, and not return only; but also "wax valiant" and "turn to flight armies of aliens "? ' But to us,' some one says, ' no such thing has happened.'But these are figures of "the things to come." (Ver. 35) "Women received their dead raised to life again." He here speaks of what occurred in regard to the prophets, Elisha, [and] Elijah; for they raised the dead.
[5.] (Ver. 35) "And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection." But we have not obtained a Resurrection. I am able however, he means, to show that they also were cut off, and did "not accept [deliverance], that they might obtain a better resurrection." For why, tell me, when it was open to them to live, did they not choose it? Were they not evidently looking for a better life? And they who had raised up others, themselves chose to die; in order "to obtain a better resurrection," not such as the children of those women. Here I think he alludes both to John and to James. For beheading is called "torturing."
It was in their power still to behold the sun. It was in their power to abstain from reproving [sinners], and yet they chose to die; even they who had raised others chose to die themselves, "that they might obtain a better resurrection."
(Ver. 36) "And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea moreover of bonds and imprisonment." He ends with these; with things that come nearer home. For these [examples] especially bring consolation, when the distress is from the same cause, since even if you mention something more extreme, yet unless it arise from the same cause, you have effected nothing. Therefore he concluded his discourse with this, mentioning "bonds, imprisonments, scourges, stonings," alluding to the case of Stephen, also to that of Zacharias.
Wherefore he added, "They were slain with the sword." What sayest thou? Some "escaped the edge of the sword," and some "were slain by the sword." (Ver. 34.) What is this? Which dost thou praise? Which dost thou admire? The latter or the former? Nay, he says: the former indeed, is appropriate to you, and the latter, because Faith was strong even unto death itself, and it is a type of things to come. For the wonderful qualities of Faith are two, that it both accomplishes great things, and suffers great things, and counts itself to suffer nothing.
And thou canst not say (he says) that these were sinners and worthless. For even if you put the whole world against them, I find that they weigh down the beam and are of greater value. What then were they to receive in this life? Here he raises up their thoughts, teaching them not to be riveted to things present, but to mind things greater than all that are in this present life, since the "world is not worthy" of them. What then dost thou wish to receive here? For it were an insult to thee, shouldst thou receive thy reward here.
[6.] Let us not then mind worldly things, nor seek our recompense here, nor be so beggarly. For if "the" whole "world is not worthy of" them, why dost thou seek after a part of it? And with good reason; for they are friends of God.
Now by "the world" does he mean here the people, or the creation itself? Both: for the Scripture is wont to use the word of both. If the whole creation, he would say, with the human beings that belong to it, were put in the balance, they yet would not be of equal value with these; and with reason. For as ten thousand measures of chaff and hay would not be of equal value to ten pearls, so neither they; for "better is one that doeth the will of the Lord, than ten thousand transgressors" (Ecclus. xvi. 3); meaning by "ten thousand" not [merely] many, but an infinite multitude.
Consider of how great value is the righteous man. Joshua the son of Nun said, "Let the sun stand still at Gibeon, the moon at the valley of Elom" (Josh. x. 12), and it was so. Let then the whole world come, or rather two or three, or four, or ten, or twenty worlds, and let them say and do this; yet shall they not be able. But the friend of God commanded the creatures of his Friend, or rather he besought his Friend, and the servants yielded, and he below gave command to those above. Seest thou that these things are for service fulfilling their appointed course?
This was greater than the [miracles] of Moses. Why (I ask)? Because it is not a like thing to command the sea and the heavenly [bodies]. For that indeed was also a great thing, yea very great, nevertheless it was not at all equal [to the other].
Why was this? The name of Joshua [JESUS], was a type. For this reason then, and because of the very name, the creation reverenced him. What then! Was no other person called Jesus? [Yes]; but this man was on this account so called in type; for he used to be called Hoshea. Therefore the name was changed: for it was a prediction and a prophecy. He brought in the people into the promised land, as JESUS [does] into heaven; not the Law; since neither did Moses [bring them in], but remained without. The Law has not power to bring in, but grace. Seest thou the types which have been before sketched out from the beginning? He laid his commands on the creation, or rather, on the chief part of the creation, on the very head itself as he stood below; that so when thou seest JESUS in the form of Man saying the same, thou mayest not be disturbed, nor think it strange. He, even while Moses was living, turned back wars. Thus, even while the Law is living, He directs all things; but not openly.
[7.] But let us consider how great is the virtue of the saints. If here they work such things, if here they do such things, as the angels do, what then above? How great is the splendor they have?
Perhaps each of you might wish to be such as to be able to command the sun and moon. (At this point what would they say who assert that the heaven is a sphere? For why did he not [merely] say, "Let the sun stand still," but added "Let the sun stand still at the valley of Elom," that is, he will make the day longer? This was done also in the time of Hezekiah. The sun went back. This again is more wonderful than the other, to go the contrary way, not having yet gone round his course.)
We shall attain to greater things than these if we will. For what has Christ promised us? Not that we shall make the sun stand still, or the moon, nor that the sun shall retrace his steps, but what? "I and the Father will come unto him," He says, "and We will make our abode with him." (John xiv. 23.) What need have I of the sun and the moon, and of these wonders, when the Lord of all Himself comes down and abides with me? I need these not. For what need I any of these things? He Himself shall be to me for Sun and for Light. For, tell me, if thou hadst entered into a palace, which wouldst thou choose, to be able to rearrange some of the things which have been fixed there, or so to make the king a familiar friend, as to persuade him to take up his abode with thee? Much rather the latter than the former.
[8.] But what wonder is it, says some one, that what a man commands, Christ should also? But Christ (you say) needs not the Father, but acts of His own authority, you say. Well. Therefore first confess and say, that he needs not the Father, and acts of His own authority: and then I will ask thee, whether His prayer is not in the way of condescension and arrangement (for surely Christ was not inferior to Joshua the son of Nun), and that He might teach us? For as when thou hearest a teacher lisping, and saying over the alphabet, thou dost not say that he is ignorant; and when he asks, Where is such a letter? thou knowest that he does not ask in ignorance, but because he wishes to lead on the scholar; in like manner Christ also did not make His prayer as needing prayer, but desiring to lead thee on, that thou mayest continually apply thyself to prayer, that thou mayest do it without ceasing, soberly, and with great watchfulness.
And by watching, I do not mean, merely the rising at night, but also the being sober in our prayers during the day. For such an one is called watchful. Since it is possible both in praying by night to be asleep, and in praying by day to be awake, when the soul is stretched out towards God, when it considers with whom it holds converse, to whom its words are addressed, when it has in mind that angels stand by with fear and trembling, while he approaches gaping and scratching himself.
[9.] Prayer is a mighty weapon if it be made with suitable mind. And that thou mayest learn its strength, continued entreaty has overcome shamelessness, and injustice, and savage cruelty, and overbearing rashness. For He says," Hear what the unjust judge saith." (Luke xviii. 6.) Again it has overcome sloth also, and what friendship did not effect, this continued entreaty did: and "although he will not give him because he is his friend" (He says), "yet because of his importunity he will rise and give to him." (Luke xi. 8) And continued assiduity made her worthy who was unworthy. "It is not meet" (He says) "to take the children's bread and to cast it to the dogs. Yea! Lord!" she says, "for even the dogs eat [the crumbs] from their master's table." (Matt. xv. 26, 27.) Let us apply ourselves to Prayer. It is a mighty weapon if it be offered with earnestness, if without vainglory, if with a sincere mind. It has turned back wars, it has benefited an entire nation though undeserving. "I have heard their groaning" (He says) "and am come down to deliver them." (Acts vii. 34.) It is itself a saving medicine, and has power to prevent sins, and to heal misdeeds. In this the desolate widow was assiduous. (1 Tim. v. 5.)
If then we pray with humility, smiting our breast as the publican, if we utter what he did, if we say, "Be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke xviii. 13), we shall obtain all. For though we be not publicans, yet have we other sins not less than his.
For do not tell me, that thou hast gone wrong in some small matter [only], since the thing has the same nature. For as a man is equally called a homicide whether he has killed a child or a man, so also is he called overreaching whether he be overreaching in much or in little. Yea and to remember injuries too, is no small matter, but even a great sin. For it is said, "the ways of those who remember injuries [tend] to death." (Prov. xii. 28, LXX.) And "He that is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of hell," and he that "calleth his brother a fool" (Matt. v. 22), and senseless, and numberless such things.
But we partake even of the tremendous mysteries unworthily, and we envy, and we revile. And some of us have even oftentimes been drunk. But each one of these things, even itself by itself, is enough to cast us out of the kingdom, and when they even come all together, what comfort shall we have? We need much penitence, beloved, much prayer, much endurance, much perseverance, that we may be enabled to attain the good things which have been promised to us.
[10.] Let us then say, even we, "Be merciful to me a sinner," nay rather, let us not say it only, but let us also be thus minded; and should another call us so, let us not be angry. He heard the words, "I am not as this Publican" (Luke xviii. 11), and was not provoked thereby, but filled with compunction. He accepted the reproach, and he put away the reproach. The other spoke of the wound, and he sought the medicine. Let us say then, "Be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke xviii. 13); but even if another should so call us, let us not be indignant.
But if we say ten thousand evil things of ourselves, and are vexed when we hear them from others, then there is no longer humility, nor confession, but ostentation and vainglory. Is it ostentation (you say) to call one's self a sinner? Yes; for we obtain the credit of humility, we are admired, we are commended; whereas if we say the contrary of ourselves, we are despised. So that we do this too for the sake of credit. But what is humility? It is when another reviles us, to bear it, to acknowledge our fault, to endure evil speakings. And yet even this would not be [a mark] of humility but of candor. But now we call ourselves sinners, unworthy, and ten thousand other such names, but if another apply one of them to us, we are vexed, we become savage. Seest thou that this is not confession, nor even candor? Thou saidst of thyself that thou art such an one: be not indignant if thou hearest it also said by others, and art reproved.
In this way thy sins are made lighter for thee, when others reproach thee: for they lay a burden on themselves indeed, but thee they lead onwards into philosophy. Hear what the blessed David says, when Shimei cursed him, "Let him alone" (he says) "the Lord hath bidden him, that He might look on my humiliation" (he says):"And the Lord will requite me good for his cursing on this day." (2 Sam. xvi. 11, 12.)
But thou while saying evil things of thyself, even in excess, if thou hearest not from others the commendations that are due to the most righteous, art enraged. Seest thou that thou art trifling with things that are no subjects for trifling? For we even repudiate praises in our desire for other praises, that we may obtain yet higher panegyrics, that we may be more admired. So that when we decline to accept commendations, we do it that we may augment them. And all things are done by us for credit, not for truth. Therefore all things are hollow, all impracticable. Wherefore I beseech you now at any rate to withdraw from this mother of evils, vainglory, and to live according to what is roved by God, that so you may attain to the good things. to come, in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father be glory, together with His Holy and good Spirit, now and ever and world without end. Amen.
"They wandered about in sheep-skins, and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented (of whom this world was not worthy); wandering in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens, and caves of the earth."
[1.] AT all times indeed, but especially then when I reflect upon the achievements of the saints, it comes over me to feel despondency concerning my own condition, because we have not even in dreams experienced the things among which those men spent their whole lives, not paying the penalty of sins, but always doing rightly and yet always afflicted.
For consider, I beseech you, Elijah, to whom our discourse has come round to-day, for he speaks of him in this passage, and in him his examples end: which [example] was appropriate to their case. And having spoken of what befell the Apostles, that "they were slain with the sword, were stoned," he goes back again to Elijah, who suffered the same things with them. (See 2 Kings i. 8.) For since it was probable that they would not as yet hold the Apostles in so great estimation, he brings his exhortation and consolation from him who had been taken up [into Heaven] and who was held in special admiration.
For "they wandered about" (he says) "in sheep-skins, and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented, of whom this world was not worthy."
They had not even raiment, he says, through the excess of affliction, no city, no house, no lodging-place; the same which Christ said, "but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." (Matt. viii. 20.) Why do I say "no lodging-place"? No standing- place: for not even when they had gained the wilderness, were they at rest. For he said not, They sat down in the wilderness, but even when they were there, they fled, and were driven thence, not out of the inhabited world only, but even out of that which was uninhabitable. And he reminds them of the places where they were set, and of things which there befell [them].
Then next, he says, they bring accusations against you for Christ's sake. What accusation had they against Elijah, when they drove him out, and persecuted him, and compelled him to struggle with famine? Which these [Hebrews] were then suffering. At least, the brethren, it is said, decided to send [relief] to those of the disciples who were afflicted. "Every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren that dwelt in Judea" (Acts xi. 29), which was [the case] of these also.
"Tormented" [or "ill-treated "], he says that is, suffering distress, in journeyings, in dangers.
But "They wandered about," what is this? "Wandering," he says, "in deserts and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth," like exiles and outcasts, as persons taken in the basest [of crimes], as those not worthy to see the sun, they found no refuge from the wilderness, but must always be flying, must be seeking hiding-places, must bury themselves alive in the earth, always be in terror.
[2.] What then is the reward of so great a change? What is the recompense?
They have not yet received it, but are still waiting; and after thus dying in so great tribulation, they have not yet received it. They gained their victory so many ages ago, and have not yet received [their reward]. And you who are yet in the conflict, are you vexed?
Do you also consider what a thing it is, and how great, that Abraham should be sitting, and the Apostle Paul, waiting till thou hast been perfected, that then they may be able to receive their reward. For the Saviour has told them before that unless we also are present, He will not give it them. As an affectionate father might say to sons who were well approved, and had accomplished their work, that he would not give them to eat, unless their brethren came. And art thou vexed, that thou hast not yet received the reward? What then shall Abel do, who was victor before all, and is sitting uncrowned? And what Noah? And what, they who lived in those [early] times: seeing that they wait for thee and those after thee?
Dost thou see that we have the advantage of them? For "God" (he says) "has provided some better thing for us." In order that they might not seem to have the advantage of us from being crowned before us, He appointed one time of crowning for all; and he that gained the victory so many years before, receives his crown with thee. Seest thou His tender carefulness?
And he did not say, "that they without us might not be crowned," but "that they without us might not be made perfect"; so that at that time they appear perfect also. They were before us as regards the conflicts, but are not before us as regards the crowns. He wronged not them, but He honored us. For they also wait for the brethren. For if we are "all one body," the pleasure becomes greater to this body, when it is crowned altogether, and not part by part. For the righteous are also worthy of admiration in this, that they rejoice in the welfare of their brethren, as in their own. So that for themselves also, this is according to their wish, to be crowned along with their own members. To be glorified all together, is a great delight.
[3.] (C. xii. 1) "Wherefore" (he says) "we also being compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses." In many places the Scripture derives its consolation in evils from corresponding things. As when the prophet says, "From burning heat, and from storm, and rain." (Isa. iv. 6.) This at least he says here also, that the memory of those holy men, reestablishes and recovers the soul which had been weighed down by woes, as a cloud does him who is burnt by the too hot rays [of the sun.]
And he did not say, "lifted on high above us," but, "compassing us about," which was more than the other; so that we are in greater security.
What sort of "cloud"? "A load of witnesses.' With good reason he calls not those in the New [Testament] only, but those in the Old also, "witnesses" [or "martyrs"]. For they also were witnesses to the greatness of God, as for instance, the Three Children, those with Elijah, all the prophets.
"Laying aside all things." "All": what? That is, slumber, indifference, mean reasonings, all human things.
"And the sin which doth [so] easily beset us"; euperi'staton, that is either "which easily circumvents us," or "what can easily be circumvented," but rather this latter. For it is easy, if we will, to overcome sin.
"Let us run with patience" (he says) "the race that is set before us." He did not say, Let us contend as boxers, nor, Let us wrestle, nor, Let us do battle: but, what was lightest of all, the [contest] of the foot-race, this has he brought forward. Nor yet did he say, Let us add to the length of the course; but, Let us continue patiently in this, let us not faint. "Let us run" (he says) "the race that is set before us."
[4.] In the next place as the sum and substance of his exhortation, which he puts both first and last, even Christ. (Ver. 2) "Looking" (he says) "unto JESUS the Author and Finisher of our Faith "; The very thing which Christ Himself also continually said to His disciples, "If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of His household?" (Matt. x. 25.) And again, "The disciple is not above his Master, nor the servant above his Lord." (Matt. x. 24.)
"Looking" (he says), that is, that we may learn to run. For as in all arts and games, we impress the art upon our mind by looking to our masters, receiving certain rules through our sight, so here also, if we wish to run, and to learn to run well, let us look to Christ, even to Jesus "the author and finisher of our faith." What is this? He has put the Faith within us. For He said to His disciples, "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you" (John xv. 16); and Paul too says, "But then shall I know, even as also I have been known." (1 Cor. xiii. 12.) He put the Beginning into us, He will also put on the End.
"Who," he days, "for the joy that was set before Him, endured the Cross, despising the shame." That is, it was in His power not to suffer at all, if He so willed. For "He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth" (1 Pet. ii. 22); as He also says in the Gospels, "The Prince of the world cometh and haft nothing in Me." (John xiv. 30.) It lay then in His power, if so He willed, not to come to the Cross. For, "I have power," He says, "to lay down My life; and I have power to take it again." (John x. 18.) If then He who was under no necessity of being crucified, was crucified for our sake, how much more is it right that we should endure all things nobly!
"Who for the joy that was set before Him" (he says) "endured the cross, despising the shame." But what is, "Despising the shame"? He chose, he means, that ignominious death. For suppose that He died. Why [should He] also [die] ignominiously? For no other reason, but to teach us to make no account of glory from men. Therefore though under no obligation He chose it, teaching us to be bold against it, and to set it at nought. Why did he say not "pain," but "shame"? Because it was not with pain that He bore these things.
What then is the end? "He is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Seest thou the prize which Paul also says in an epistle, "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus Christ every knee should bow." (Phil. ii. 9, 10.) He speaks in respect to the flesh. Well then, even if there were no prize, the example would suffice to persuade us to accept all [such] things. But now prizes also are set before us, and these no common ones, but great and unspeakable.
[5.] Wherefore let us also, whenever we suffer anything of this kind, before the Apostles consider Christ. Why? His whole life was full of insults. For He continually heard Himself called mad, and a deceiver, and a sorcerer; and at one time the Jews said," Nay," (it says) "but He deceiveth the people." (John vii. 12.) And again, "That deceiver said while He was yet alive, after three days I will rise again." (Matt. xxvii. 63.) As to sorcery too they calumniated Him, saying, "He casteth out the devils by Beelzebub." (Matt. xii. 24.) And that "He is mad and hath a devil." (John x. 20.) "Said we not well" (it says) "that He hath a devil and is mad?" (John viii. 48.)
And these things He heard from them, when doing them good, performing miracles, showing forth the works of God. For indeed, if He had been so spoken of, when He did nothing, it would not have been so wonderful: But [it is wonderful] that when He was teaching what pertained to Truth He was called "a deceiver," and when He cast out devils, was said to "have a devil," and when He was overthrowing all that was opposed [to God], was called a sorcerer. For these things they were continually alleging against Him.
And if thou wouldst know both the scoffs and the ironical jeerings, which they made against Him (what particularly wounds our souls), hear first those from His kindred. "Is not this" (it says) "the carpenter's son, whose father and mother we know? Are not his brethren sit with us?" (Matt. xiii. 55; Mark vi. 3; John vi. 42.) Also scoffing at Him from His country, they said He was "of Nazareth." And again, "search," it says, "and see, for out of Galilee hath no prophet arisen." (John vii. 52.) And He endured being so greatly calumniated. And again they said, "Doth not the Scripture say, that Christ cometh from the town of Bethlehem?" (John vii. 42.)
Wouldst thou see also the ironical jeerings they made? Coming, it says, to the very cross they worshiped Him; and they struck Him and buffeted Him, and said, "Tell us who it is that smote Thee" (Matt. xxvi. 68); and they brought vinegar to Him, and said, "If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the Cross." (Matt. xxvii. 40.) And again, the servant of the High Priest struck Him with the palm of his hand; and He says, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smiteth thou Me?" (John xviii. 23.) And in derision they put a robe about Him; and they spat in His face; and they were continually applying their tests, tempting Him.
Wouldest thou see also the accusations, some secret, some open, some from disciples? "Will ye also go away?" (John vi. 67) He says. And that saying, "Thou hast a devil" (John viii. 48, vii. 20), was uttered by those who already believed. Was He not continually a fugitive, sometimes in Galilee, and sometimes in Judea? Was not His trial great, even from the swaddling clothes? When He was yet a young child, did not His mother take Him and go down into Egypt? For all these reasons he says, "Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our Faith who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
To Him then let us look, also to the [sufferings] of His disciples, reading the [writings] of Paul, and hearing him say," In much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments." (2 Cor. vi. 4, 5.) And again, "Even to this present hour, we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place, and labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we entreat." (1 Cor. iv. 11-13.) Has any one [of us] suffered the smallest part of these things? For, he says, [we are] "As deceivers, as dishonored, as having nothing." (2 Cor. vi. 8, 10.) And again, "Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one; thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, a night and a day have I been in the deep; in journeyings often, in tribulations, in distress, in hunger." (2 Cor. xi. 24-26.) And that these things seem good to God, hear him saying, "For this I besought the Lord thrice, and He said to me, My Grace is sufficient for thee; for My strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor. xii. 8-10.) "Wherefore," he says, "l take pleasure in infirmities, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." Moreover, hear Christ Himself saying, "In the world ye shall have tribulation." (John xvi. 33.)
[6.] Ver. 3. "For consider," saith he, "Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds." For if the sufferings of those near us arouse us, what earnestness will not those of our Master give us! What will they not work in us!
And passing by all [else], he expressed the whole by the [word] "Contradiction"; and by adding "such." For the blows upon the cheek, the laughter, the insults, the reproaches, the mockeries, all these he indicated by "contradiction." And not these only, but also the things which befell Him during His whole life, of teaching.
For a great, a truly great consolation are both the sufferings of Christ, and those of the Apostles. For He so well knew that this is the better way of virtue, as even to go that way Himself, not having need thereof: He knew so well that tribulation is expedient for us, and that it becomes rather a foundation for repose. For hear Him saying, "If a man take not his cross, and follow after Me, he is not worthy of Me." (Matt. x. 38.) If thou art a disciple, He means, imitate the Master; for this is [to be] a disciple. But if while He went by [the path of] affliction, thou [goest] by that of ease, thou no longer treadest the same path, which He trod, but another. How then dost thou follow, when thou followest not? How shall thou be a disciple, not going after the Master? This Paul also says, "We are weak, but ye are strong; we are despised, but ye are honored." (1 Cor. iv. 10.) How is it reasonable, he means, that we should be striving after opposite things, and yet that you should be disciples and we teachers?
[7.] Affliction then is a great thing, beloved, for it accomplishes two great things; It wipes out sins, and it makes men strong.
What then, you say, if it overthrow and destroy? Affliction does not do this, but our own slothfulness. How (you say)? If we are sober and watchful, if we beseech God that He would not "suffer us to be tempted above that we are able" (1 Cor. x. 13), if we always hold fast to Him, we shall stand nobly, and set ourselves against our enemy. So long as we have Him for our helper, though temptations blow more violently than all the winds, they will be to us as chaff and a leaf borne lightly along. Hear Paul saying, "In all these things" (are his words) "we are more than conquerors." (Rom. viii. 37.) And again, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." (Rom. viii. 18.) And again, "For the light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." (2 Cor. iv. 17.)
Consider what great dangers, shipwrecks, afflictions one upon another, and other such things, he calls "light "; and emulate this inflexible one, who wore this body simply and heedlessly. Thou art in poverty? But not in such as Paul, who was tried by hunger, and thirst, and nakedness. For he suffered this not for one day, but endured it continually. Whence does this appear? Hear himself saying, "Even unto this present hour we both hunger and thirst and are naked." (1 Cor. iv. 11.) Oh! How great glory did he already have in preaching, when he was undergoing so great [afflictions]! Having now [reached] the twentieth year [thereof], at the time when he wrote this. For he says, "I knew a man fourteen years ago, whether in the body, or out of the body, I know not." (2 Cor. xii. 2.) And again, "After three years" (he says) "I went up to Jerusalem." (Gal. i. 18.) And again hear him saying, "It were better for me-to die, than that any man should make my glorying void." (1 Cor. ix. 15.) And not only this, but again also in writing he said, "We are become as the filth of the world." (1 Cor. iv. 13.) What is more difficult to endure than hunger? What than freezing cold? What than plottings made by brethren whom he afterwards calls "false brethren"? (2 Cor. xi. 26.) Was he not called the pest of the world? An Impostor? A subverter? Was he not cut with scourging?
[8.] These things let us take into our mind, beloved, let us consider them, let us hold them in remembrance, and then we shall never faint, though we be wronged, though we be plundered, though we suffer innumerable evils. Let it be granted us to be approved in Heaven, and all things [are] endurable. Let it be granted us to fare well there, and things here are of no account. These things are a shadow, and a dream; whatever they may be, they are nothing either in nature or in duration, while those are hoped for and expected.
For what wouldst thou that we should compare with those fearful things? What with the unquenchable fire? With the never-dying worm? Which of the things here canst thou name in comparison with the "gnashing of teeth," with the "chains," and the "outer darkness," with the "wrath," the "tribulation," the "anguish"? But as to duration? Why, what are ten thousand years to ages boundless and without end? Not so much as a little drop to the boundless ocean.
But what about the good things? There, the superiority is still greater. "Eye hath not seen," (it is said,) "ear hath not heard, neither have, entered into the heart of man" (1 Cor. ii. 9), and these things again shall be during boundless ages. For the sake of these then were it not well to be cut [by scourging] times out of number, to be slain, to be burned, to undergo ten thousand deaths, to endure everything whatsoever that is dreadful both in word and deed? For even if it were possible for one to live when burning in the fire, ought one not to endure all for the sake of attaining to those good things promised?
[9.] But Why do I trifle in saying these things to men who do not even choose to disregard riches, but hold fist to them as though they were immortal? And if they give a little out of much, think they have done all? This is not Almsgiving. For Almsgiving is that of the Widow who emptied out "all her living." (Mark xii. 44.) But if thou dost not go on to contribute so much as the widow, yet at least contribute the whole of thy superfluity: keep what is sufficient, not what is superfluous.
But there is no one who contributes even his superabundance. For so long as thou hast many servants, and garments of silk, these things are all superfluities. Nothing is indispensable or necessary, without which we are able to live; these things are superfluous, and are simply superadded. Let us then see, if you please, what we cannot live without. If we have only two servants, we can live. For whereas some live without servants, what excuse have we, if we are not content with two? We can also have a house built of brick of three rooms; and this were sufficient for us. For are there not some with children and wife who have but one room? Let there be also, if you will, two serving boys.
[10.] And how is it not a shame (you say) that a gentlewoman should walk out with [only] two servants? It is no shame, that a gentlewoman should walk abroad with two servants, but it is a shame that she should go forth with many. Perhaps you laugh when you hear this. Believe me it is a shame. Do you think it a great matter to go out with many servants, like dealers in sheep, or dealers in slaves? This is pride and vainglory, the other is philosophy and respectability. For a gentlewoman ought not to be known from the multitude of her attendants. For what virtue is it to have many slaves? This belongs not to the soul, and whatever is not of the soul does not show gentility. When she is content with a few things, then is she a gentlewoman indeed; but when she needs many, she is a servant and inferior to slaves. Tell me, do not the angels go to and fro about the world alone, and need not any one to follow them? Are they then on this account inferior to us? They who need no [attendants] to us who need them? If then not needing an attendant at all, is angelic, who comes nearer to the angelic life, she who needs many [attendants], or she who [needs] few? Is not this a shame? For a shame it is to do anything out of place.
Tell me who attracts the attention of those who are in the public places, she who brings many in her train, or she who [brings but] few? And is not she who is alone, less conspicuous even than she who is attended by few? Seest thou that this [first-named conduct] is a shame? Who attracts the attention of those in the public places, she who wears beautiful garments, or she who is dressed simply and artlessly? Again who attracts those in the public places, she who is borne on mules, and with trappings ornamented with gold, or she who walks out simply, and as it may be, with propriety? Or we do not even look at this latter, if we even see her; but the multitudes not only force their way to see the other, but also ask, Who is she, and Where from? And I do not say how great envy is hereby produced. What then (tell me), is it disgraceful to be looked at or not to be looked at? When is the shame greater, when all stare at her, or when no one [does]? When they inform themselves about her, or when they do not even care? Seest thou that we do everything, not for modesty's sake but for vainglory?
However, since it is impossible to draw you away from that, I am content for the present that you should learn that this [conduct] is no disgrace. Sin alone is a disgrace, which no one thinks to be a disgrace, Sin alone is a disgrace, which no one thinks to be a disgrace, but everything rather than this.
Let your dress be such as is needful, not superfluous. However, that we may not shut you up too narrowly, this I assure you, that we have no need of ornaments of gold, or of lace And it is not I who say this. For that the words are not mine, hear the blessed Paul saying, and solemnly charging women "to adorn themselves, not with plaitings [of the hair], or gold, or pearls, or costly apparel." (1 Tim. ii. 9.) But with what kind, O Paul, wouldest thou tell us? For perhaps they will say, that only golden things are costly; and that silks are not costly. Tell us with what kind thou wouldest? "But having food and raiment, let us therewith" (he says) "be content." (1 Tim. vi. 8.) Let our garment be such as merely to cover us. For God hath given them to us for this reason, that we may cover our nakedness; and this any sort of garment can do, though but of trifling cost. Perhaps ye laugh, who wear dresses of silk; for in truth one may well laugh, considering what Paul enjoined and what we practice!
But my discourse is not addressed to women only, but also to men. For the rest of the things. which we have are all superfluous; only the poor possess no superfluities; and perhaps they too from necessity: since, if it had been in their power, even they would not have abstained [from them]. Nevertheless, "whether in pretense or in truth" (Phil. i. 18), so far they have no superfluities.
[12.] Let us then wear such clothes as are sufficient for our need. For what does much gold mean? To those on the stage these things are fitting, this apparel belongs to them, to harlots, to those who do everything to be looked at. Let her beautify herself, who is on the stage or the dancing platform. For she wishes to attract all to her. But a woman who professes godliness, let her not beautify herself thus, but in a different way. Thou hast a means of beautifying thyself far better than that. Thou also hast a theater: for that theater make thyself beautiful: clothe thyself with those ornaments. What is thy theater? Heaven, the company of Angels. I speak not of Virgins only, but also of those in the world. All as many as believe in Christ have that theater. Let us speak such things that we may please those spectators. Put on such garments that thou mayest gratify them.
For tell me, if a harlot putting aside her golden ornaments, and her robes, and her laughter, and her witty and unchaste talk, clothe herself with a cheap garment, and having dressed herself simply come [on the stage], and utter religious words, and discourse of chastity, and say nothing indelicate, will not all rise up? Will not this theater be dispersed? Will they not cast her out, as one who does not know how to suit herself to the crowd, and speaks things foreign to that Satanic theater? So thou also, if thou enter into the Theater of Heaven clad with her garments, the spectators will cast thee out. For there, there is no need of these garments of gold, but of different ones. Of what kind? Of such as the prophet names, "clothed in fringed work of gold, and in varied colors" (Ps. xlv. 13), not so as to make the body white and glistering, but so as to beautify the soul. For the soul it is, which is contending and wrestling in that Theater. "All the glory of the King's daughter is from within" (Ps. xlv. 13), it says. With these do thou clothe thyself; for [so] thou both deliverest thyself from other evils innumerable, and thy husband from anxiety and thyself from care.
For so thou wilt be respected by thy husband, when thou needest not many things. For every man is wont to be shy towards those who make requests of him; but when he sees that they have no need of him, then he lets down his pride, and converses with them as equals. When thy husband sees that thou hast no need of him in anything, that thou thinkest lightly of the presents which come from him, then, even though he be very arrogant, he will respect thee more, than if thou weft clad in golden ornaments; and thou wilt no longer be his slave. For those of whom we stand in need, we are compelled to stoop to. But if we restrain ourselves we shall no longer be regarded as criminals, but he knows that we pay him obedience from the fear of God, not for what is given by him. For now, when that he confers great favors on us, whatever honor he receives, he thinks he has not received all [that is due to him]: but then, though he obtain but a little, he will account it a favor he does not reproach, nor will he be himself compelled to overreach on thy account.
[13.] For what is more unreasonable, than to provide golden ornaments, to be worn in baths, and in market places? However, in baths and in market places it is perhaps no wonder, but that a woman should come into Church so decked out is very ridiculous. For, for what possible reason does she come in here wearing golden ornaments, she who ought to come in that she may hear [the precept] "that they adorn not themselves with gold, nor pearls, nor costly array"? (1 Tim. ii. 9.) With what object then, O woman, dost thou come? Is it indeed to fight with Paul, and show that even if he repeat these things ten thousand times thou regardest them not? Or is it as wishing to put us your teachers to shame as discoursing on these subjects in vain? For tell me; if any heathen and unbeliever, after he has heard the passage read where the blessed Paul says these things, having a believing wife, sees that she makes much account of beautifying herself, and puts on ornaments of gold, that she may come into Church and hear Paul charging [the women] that they adorn themselves, neither with "gold" (1 Tim. ii. 9), nor with "pearls," nor with "costly array," will he not indeed say to himself, when he sees her in her little room, putting on these things, and arranging them beautifully, "Why is my wife staying within in her little room? Why is she so slow? Why is she putting on her golden ornaments? Where has she to go to? Into the Church? For what purpose? To hear? 'not with costly array';" will he not smile, will he not burst out into laughter? will he not think our religion a mockery and a deceit? Wherefore, I beseech [you], let us leave golden ornaments to processions, to theaters, to signs on the shops. But let not the image of God be decked out with these things: let the gentlewoman be adorned with gentility, and gentility is the absence of pride, and of boastful display.
Nay even if thou wish to obtain glory from men, thou wilt obtain it thus. For we shall not wonder so much that the wife of a rich man wears gold and silk (for this is the common practice of them all), as when she is dressed in a plain and simple garment made merely of wool. This all will admire, this they will applaud. For in that adorning indeed of ornaments of gold and of costly apparel, she has many to share with her. And if she surpass one, she is surpassed by another. Yea, even if she surpass all, she must yield the palm to the Empress herself. But in the other case, she outdoes all, even the Emperor's wife herself. For she alone in wealth, has chosen the [dress] of the poor. So that even if we desire glory, here too the glory is greater.
[14.] I say this not only to widows, and to the rich; for here the necessity of widowhood seems to cause this: but to those also who have a husband.
But, you say, I do not please my husband Elf I dress plainly]. It is not thy husband thou wishest to please, but the multitude of poor women; or rather not to please them, but to make them pine [with envy], and to give them pain, and make their poverty greater. How many blasphemies are uttered because of thee! 'Let there be no poverty' (say they). 'God hates the poor.' 'God loves not those in poverty.' For that it is not thy husband whom thou wishest to please, and for this reason thou deckest thyself out, thou makest plain to all by what thou thyself doest. For as soon as thou hast passed over the threshold of thy chamber, thou immediately puttest off all, both the robes, and the golden ornaments, and the pearls; and at home of all places thou dost not wear them.
But if thou really wishest to please thy husband, there are ways of pleasing him, by gentleness, by meekness, by propriety. For believe me, O woman, even if thy husband be infinitely debased, these are the things which will more effectually win him, gentleness, propriety, freedom from pride and expensiveness and extravagance. For even if thou devise ten thousand such things, thou wilt not restrain the profligate. And this they know who have had such husbands. For however thou mayest beautify thyself, he being a profligate will go off to a courtesan; while [the husband] that is chaste and regular thou wilt gain not by these means, but by the opposite: yea by these thou even causest him pain, clothing thyself with the reputation of a lover of the world. For what if thy husband out of respect, and that as a sober-minded man, does not speak, yet inwardly he will condemn thee, and will not conceal ill-will and jealousy. Wilt thou not drive away all pleasure for the future, by exciting ill-will against thyself?
[15.] Possibly you are annoyed at hearing what is said, and are indignant, saying, 'He irritates husbands still more against their wives.' I say this, not to irritate your husbands, but I wish that these things should be done by you willingly, for your own sakes, not for theirs; not to free them from envy but to free you from the parade of this life.
Dost thou wish to appear beautiful? I also wish it, but with beauty which God seeks, which "the King desires." (Ps. xlv. 11.) Whom wouldst thou have as a Lover? God or men? Shouldest thou be beautiful with that beauty, God will "desire thy beauty"; but if with the other apart from this, He will abominate thee, and thy lovers will be profligates. For no man who loves a married woman is good. Consider this even in regard to the adorning that is external. For the other adorning, I mean that of the soul, attracts God; but this again, profligates. Seest thou that I care for you, that I am anxious for you, that ye may be beautiful, really beautiful, splendid, really splendid, that instead of profligate men, ye may have for your Lover God the Lord of all? And she who has Him for her Lover, to whom will she be like? She has her place among the choirs of Angels. For if one who is beloved of a king is accounted happy above all, what will her dignity be who is beloved of God with much love? Though thou put the whole world [in the balance against it], there is nothing equivalent to that beauty.
This beauty then let us cultivate; with these embellishments let us adorn ourselves, that we may pass into the Heavens, into the spiritual chambers, into the nuptial chamber that is undefiled. For this beauty is liable to be destroyed by anything; and when it lasts well, and neither disease nor anxiety impair it (which is impossible), it does not last twenty years. But the other is ever blooming, ever in its prime. There, there is no change to fear; no old age coming brings a wrinkle, no undermining disease withers it; no desponding anxiety disfigures it; but it is far above all these things. But this [earthly beauty] takes flight before it appears, and if it appears it has not many admirers. For those of well-ordered minds do not admire it; and those who do admire it, admire with wantonness.
[16.] Let us not therefore cultivate this [beauty], but the other: let us have that, so that with bright torches we may pass into the bridal chamber. For not to virgins only has this been promised, but to virgin souls. For had it belonged merely to virgins, those five would not have been shut out. This then belongs to all who are virgins in soul, who are freed from worldly imaginations: for these imaginations corrupt our souls. If therefore we remain unpolluted, we shall depart thither, and shall be accepted. "For I have espoused you," he says, "to one husband, to present you a chaste virgin unto Christ." (2 Cor. xi. 2.) These things he said, not with reference to Virgins, but to the whole body of the entire Church. For the uncorrupt soul is a virgin, though she have a husband: she is a virgin as to that which is Virginity indeed, that which is worthy of admiration. For this of the body is but the accompaniment and shadow of the other: while that is the True Virginity. This let us cultivate, and so shall we be able with cheerful countenance to behold the Bridegroom, to enter in with bright torches, if the oil do not fail us, if by melting down our golden ornaments we procure such oil as makes our lamps bright. And this oil is lovingkindness.
If we impart what we have to others, if we make oil therefrom, then it will protect us, and we shall not say at that time, "Give us oil, for our lamps are going out" (Matt. xxv. 8), nor shall we beg of others, nor shall we be shut out when we are gone to them that sell, nor shall we hear that fearful and terrible voice, while we are knocking at the doors, "I know you not." (Matt. xxv. 12.) But He will acknowledge us, and we shall go in with the Bridegroom, and having entered into the spiritual Bride-chamber we shall enjoy good things innumerable.
For if here the bride-chamber is so bright, the rooms so splendid, that none is weary of observing them, much more there. Heaven is the chamber, and the bride- chamber better than Heaven; then we shall enter. But if the Bride-chamber is so beautiful, what will the Bridegroom be?
And why do I say, 'Let us put away our golden ornaments, and give to the needy'? For if ye ought even to sell yourselves, if ye ought to become slaves instead of free women, that so ye might be able to be with that Bridegroom, to enjoy that Beauty, [nay] merely to look on that Countenance, ought you not with ready mind to welcome all things? We look at and admire a king upon the earth, but when [we see] a king and a bridegroom both, much more ought we to welcome him with readiness. Truly these things are a shadow, while those are a reality. And a King and a Bridegroom in Heaven! To be counted worthy also to go before Him with torches, and to be near Him, and to be ever with Him, what ought we not to do? What should we not perform? What should we not endure? I entreat you, let us conceive some desire for those blessings, let us long for that Bridegroom, let us be virgins as to the true Virginity. For the Lord seeks after the virginity of the soul. With this let us enter into Heaven, "not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Eph. v. 27); that we may attain also to the good things promised, of which may we all be partakers through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
"Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him. For whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth: and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth."
[1.] There are two kinds of consolation, apparently opposed to one another, but yet contributing great strength each to the other; both of which he has here put forward. The one is when we say that persons have suffered much: for the soul is refreshed, when it has many witnesses of its own sufferings, and this he introduced above, saying, "Call to mind the former days, in which after ye had been illuminated ye endured a great fight of afflictions." (c. x. 32.) The other is when we say, "Thou hast suffered no great thing." The former, when [the soul] has been exhausted refreshes it, and makes it recover breath: the latter, when it has become indolent and supine, turns it again and pulls down pride. Thus that no pride may spring up in them from that testimony [to their sufferings], see what he does. "Ye have not yet" (he says) "resisted unto blood, [striving] against sin." And he did not at once go on with what follows, but after having shown them all those who had stood "unto blood," and then brought in the glory of Christ, His sufferings, he afterwards easily pursued his discourse. This he says also in writing to the Corinthians, "There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man" (1 Cor. x. 13), that is, small. For this is enough to arouse and set right the soul, when it considers that it has not risen to the whole [trial], and encourages itself from what has already befallen it.
What he means is this: Ye have not yet submitted to death; your loss has extended to money, to reputation, to being driven from place to place. Christ however shed His blood for you, while you have not [done it] for yourselves. He contended for the Truth even unto death fighting for you; while ye have not yet entered upon dangers that threaten death.
"And ye have forgotten the exhortation." That is, And ye have slackened your hands, ye have become faint. "Ye have not yet," he said, "resisted unto blood, striving against sin."
Here he indicates that sin is both very vigorous, and is itself armed. For the [expression] "Ye have resisted [stood firm against]," is used with reference to those who stand firm.
[2.] "Which" (he says) "speaketh unto you as unto sons, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor hint when thou art rebuked of Him." He has drawn his encouragement from the facts themselves; over and above he adds also that which is drawn from arguments, from this testimony.
"Faint not" (he says) "when thou art rebuked of Him." It follows that these things are of God. For this too is no small matter of consolation, when we learn that it is God's work that such things have power, He allowing [them]; even as also Paul says; "He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor. xii. 9.) He it is who allows [them'].
"For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth." Thou canst not say that any righteous man is without affliction: even if he appear to be so, yet we know not his other afflictions. So that of necessity every righteous man must pass through affliction. For it is a declaration of Christ, that the wide and broad way leads to destruction, but the strait and narrow one to life. (Matt. vii. 13, 14.) If then it is possible to enter into life by that means, and is not by any other, then all have entered in by the narrow [way], as many as have departed unto life.
Ver. 7. "Ye endure chastisement" (he says); not for punishment, nor for vengeance, nor for suffering. See, from that from which they supposed they had been deserted [of God], from these he says they may be confident, that they have not been deserted. It is as if he had said, Because ye have suffered so many evils, do you suppose that God has left you and hates you? If ye did not suffer, then it were right to suppose this. For if "He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth," he who is not scourged, perhaps is not a son. What then, you say, do not bad men suffer distress? They suffer indeed; how then? He did not say, Every one who is scourged is a son, but every son is scourged. For in all cases He scourges His son: what is wanted then is to show, whether any son is not scourged. But thou wouldest not be able to say: there are many wicked men also who are scourged, such as murderers, robbers, sorcerers, plunderers of tombs. These however are paying the penalty of their own wickedness, and are not scourged as sons, but punished as wicked: but ye as sons.
[3.] Then again [he argues] from the general custom. Seest thou how he brings up arguments from all quarters, from facts in the Scripture, from its words, from our own notions, from examples in ordinary life? (Ver. 8.) "But if ye be without chastisement" [&c.]. Seest thou that he said what I just mentioned, that it is not possible to be a son without being chastened? For as in families, fathers care not for bastards, though they learn nothing, though they be not distinguished, but fear for their legitimate sons lest they should be indolent, [so here.]. If then not to be chastised is [a mark] of bastards, we ought to rejoice at chastisement, if this be [a sign] of legitimacy. "God dealeth with you as with sons"; for this very cause.
Ver. 9. "Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence." Again, [he reasons] from their own experiences, from what they themselves suffered. For as he says above, "Call to mind the former days" (c. x. 32), so here also "God" (he saith) "dealeth with you as with sons," and ye could not say, We cannot bear it: yea, "as with sons" tenderly beloved. For if they reverence their "fathers of the flesh," how shall not you reverence your heavenly Father?
However the difference arises not from this alone, nor from the persons, but also from the cause itself, and from the fact. For it is not on the same grounds that He and they inflict chastisement: but they [did it] with a view to "what seemed good to them," that is, fulfilling [their own] pleasure oftentimes, and not always looking to what was expedient. But here, that cannot be said. For He does this not for any interest of His own but for you, and for your benefit alone. They [did it] that ye might be useful to themselves also, oftentimes without reason; but here there is nothing of this kind. Seest thou that this also brings consolation? For we are most closely attached to those [earthly parents], when we see that not for any interests of their own they either command or advise us: but their earnestness is, wholly and solely, on our account. For this is genuine love, and love in reality, when we are beloved though we be of no use to him who loves us,—not that he may receive, but that he may impart. He chastens, He does everything, He uses all diligence, that we may become capable of receiving His benefits. (Ver. 10.) "For they verily" (he says) "for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure, but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness."
What is "of his holiness"? It is, of His purity, so as to become worthy of Him, according to our power. He earnestly desires that ye may receive, and He does all that He may give you: do ye not earnestly endeavor that ye may receive? "I said unto the Lord" (one says) "Thou art my Lord, for of my good things Thou hast no need." (Ps. xvi. 2.)
"Furthermore," he saith," we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live?" ("To the Father of spirits," whether of spiritual gifts, or of prayers, or of the incorporeal powers.) If we die thus, then "we shall live. For they indeed for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure," for what seems [so] is not always profitable, but "He for our profit."
[4.] Therefore chastisement is "profitable"; therefore chastisement is a "participation of holiness." Yea and this greatly: for when it casts out sloth, and evil desire, and love of the things of this life, when it helps the soul, when it causes a light esteem of all things here (for affliction [does] this), is it not holy? Does it not draw down the grace of the Spirit?
Let us consider the righteous, from what cause they all shone brightly forth. Was it not from affliction? And, if you will, let us enumerate them from the first and from the very beginning: Abel, Noah himself; for it is not possible that he, being the only one in that so great multitude of the wicked, should not have been afflicted; for it is said, "Noah being" alone "perfect in his generation, pleased God." (Gen. vi. 9.) For consider, I beseech you, if now, when we have innumerable persons whose virtue we may emulate, fathers, and children, and teachers, we are thus distressed, what must we suppose he suffered, alone among so many? But should I speak of the circumstances of that strange and wonderful rain? Or should I speak of Abraham, his wanderings one upon another, the carrying away of his wife, the dangers, the wars, the famines? Should I speak of Isaac, what fearful things he underwent, driven from every place, and laboring in vain, and toiling for others? Or of Jacob? for indeed to enumerate all his [afflictions] is not necessary, but it is reasonable to bring forward the testimony, which he himself (gave] when speaking with Pharaoh; "Few and evil are my days, and they have not attained to the days of my fathers." (Gen. xlvii. 9.) Or should I speak of Joseph himself? Or of Moses? Or of Joshua? Or of David? Or of Elijah? Or of Samuel? Or wouldest thou [that I speak] of all the prophets? Wilt thou not find that all these were made illustrious from their afflictions? Tell me then, dost thou desire to become illustrious from ease and luxury? But thou canst not.
Or should I speak of the Apostles? Nay but they went beyond all. And Christ said this, "In the world ye shall have tribulation." (John xvi. 33.) And again, "Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice." (John xvi. 20.) And, that "Strait and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life." (Matt. vii. 14.) The Lord of the way said, that it is "narrow and strait"; and dost thou seek the "broad" [way]? How is this not unreasonable? In consequence thou wilt not arrive at life, going another [way], but at destruction, for thou hast chosen the [path] which leads thither.
Wouldst thou that I bring before you those [that live] in luxury? Let us ascend from the last to the first. The rich man who is burning in the furnace; the Jews who live for the belly, "whose god is their belly" (Phil. iii. 19), who were ever seeking ease in the wilderness, were destroyed; as also those in Sodore, on account of their gluttony; and those in the time of Noah, was it not because they chose this soft and dissolute life? For "they luxuriated," it says, "in fullness of bread." (Ezek. xvi. 49.) It speaks of those in Sodom. But if "fullness of bread" wrought so great evil, what should we say of other delicacies? Esau, was not he in ease? And what of those who being of "the sons of God" (Gen. vi. 2), looked on women, and were borne down the precipice? And what of those who were maddened by inordinate lust? and all the kings of the nations, of the Babylonians, of the Egyptians, did they not perish miserably? Are they not in torment?
[5.] And as to things now, tell me, are they not the same? Hear Christ saying, "They that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses" (Matt. xi. 8), but they who do not [wear] such things, are in Heaven. For the soft garment relaxes even the austere soul, breaks it and enervates it: yea, even if it meet with a body rough and hard, it speedily by such delicate treatment makes it soft and weak.
For, tell me, for what other reason do you suppose women are so weak? Is it from their sex only? By no means: but from their way of living, and their bringing up. For their avoiding exposure, their inactivity, their baths, their unguents, their multitude of perfumes, the delicate softness of their couches, makes them in the end such as they are.
And that thou mayest understand, attend to what I say. Tell me; take from a garden a tree from those standing in the uncultivated part and beaten by the winds, and plant it in a moist and shady place, and thou wilt find it very unworthy of that from which thou didst originally take it. And that this is true, [appears from the fact that] women brought up in the country are stronger than citizens of towns: and they would overcome many such in wrestling. For when the body becomes more effeminate, of necessity the soul also shares the mischief, since, for the most part, its energies are affected in accordance with the [body]. For in illness we are different persons owing to weakness, and when we become well, we are different again. For as in the case of a string when the tones are weak and relaxed, and not well arranged, the excellence of the art is also destroyed, being obliged to serve the ill condition of the strings: so in the case of the body also, the soul receives from it many hurts, many necessities. For when it needs much nursing, the other endures a bitter servitude.
[6.] Wherefore, I beseech you, let us make it strong by work, and not nurse it as an invalid. My discourse is not to men only but to women also. For why dost thou, O woman, continually enfeeble [thy body] with luxury and exhaust it? Why dost thou ruin thy strength with fat? This fat is flabbiness, not strength. Whereas, if thou break off from these things, and manage thyself differently, then will thy personal beauty also improve according to thy wish, when strength and a good habit of body are there. If however thou beset it with ten thousand diseases, there will neither be bloom of complexion, nor good health; for thou wilt always be in low spirits. And you know that as when the air is smiling it makes a beautiful house look splendid, so also cheerfulness of mind when added to a fair countenance, makes it better: but if [a woman] is in low spirits and in pain she becomes more ill-looking. But diseases and pains produce low spirits; and diseases are produced from the body too delicate through great luxury. So that even for this you will flee luxury, if you take my advice.
'But, you will say, luxury gives pleasure.' Yes, but not so great as the annoyances. And besides, the pleasure goes no further than the palate and the tongue. For when the table has been removed, and the food swallowed, thou wilt be like one that has not partaken, or rather much worse, in that thou bearest thence oppression, and distension, and headache, and a sleep like death, and often too, sleeplessness from repletion, and obstruction of the breathing, and eructation. And thou wouldest curse bitterly thy belly, when thou oughtest to curse thy immoderate eating.
[7.] Let us not then fatten the body, but listen to Paul saying, "Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof," (Rom. xiii. 14.) As if one should take food and throw it into a drain, so is he who throws it into the belly: or rather it is not so, but much worse. For in the one case he uses the drain without harm to himself: but in the other he generates innumerable diseases. For what nourishes is a sufficiency which also can be digested: but what is over and above our need, not only does not nourish, but even spoils the other. But no man sees these things, owing to some prejudice and unseasonable pleasure.
Dost thou wish to nourish the body? Take away What is superfluous; give what is sufficient, and as much as can be digested, Do not load it, lest thou overwhelm it. A sufficiency is both nourishment and pleasure. For nothing is so productive of pleasure, as food well digested: nothing so [productive of] health: nothing [so productive of] acuteness of the faculties, nothing tends so much to keep away disease. For a sufficiency is both nourishment, and pleasure, and health; but excess is injury, and unpleasantness and disease. For what famine does, that also satiety does; or rather more grievous evils. For the former indeed within a few days carries a man off and sets him free; but the other eating into and putrefying the body, gives it over to long disease, and then to a most painful death. But we, while we account famine a thing greatly to be dreaded, yet run after satiety, which is more distressing than that.
Whence is this disease? Whence this madness? I do not say that we should waste ourselves away, but that we should eat as much food as also gives us pleasure, that is really pleasure, and can nourish the body, and furnish it to us well ordered and adapted for the energies of the soul, well joined and fitted together. But when it comes to be water-logged by luxury, it cannot in the flood-wave, keep fast the bolts themselves, as one may say, and joints which hold the frame together. For the flood- wave coming in, the whole breaks up and scatters.
"Make not provision for the flesh" (he says) "to fulfill the lusts thereof." (Rom. xiii. 14.) He said well. For luxury is fuel for unreasonable lusts; though the luxurious should be the most philosophical of all men, of necessity he must be somewhat affected by wine, by eating, he must needs be relaxed, he must needs endure the greater flame. Hence [come] fornications, hence adulteries. For a hungry belly cannot generate lust, or rather not one which has used just enough. But that which generates unseemly lusts, is that which is relaxed by luxury. And as land which is very moist and a dung-hill which is wet through and retains much dampness, generates worms, while that which has been freed from such moistness bears abundant fruits, when it has nothing immoderate: even if it be not cultivated, it yields grass, and if it be cultivated, fruits: [so also do we].
Let us not then make our flesh useless, or unprofitable, or hurtful, but let us plant in it useful fruits, and fruit-bearing trees; let us not enfeeble them by luxury, for they too put forth worms instead of fruit when they are become rotten. So also implanted desire, if thou moisten it above measure, generates unreasonable pleasures, yea the most exceedingly unreasonable. Let us then remove this pernicious evil, that we may be able to attain the good things promised us, in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory now and ever and world without end. Amen.
"No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous, nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which area exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees: and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way, but let it rather be healed."
[1.] They who drink bitter medicines, first submit to some unpleasantness, and afterwards feel the benefit. For such is virtue, such is vice. In the latter there is first the pleasure, then the despondency: in the former first the despondency, and then the pleasure. But there is no equality; for it is not the same, to be first grieved and afterwards pleased, and to be first pleased and afterwards grieved. How so? because in the latter case the expectation of coming despondency makes the present pleasure less: hut in the former the expectation of coming pleasure cuts away the violence of present despondency; so that the result is that in the one instance we never have pleasure, in the latter we never have grief. And the difference does not lie in this only, but also in other ways. As how? That the duration is not equal, but far greater and more ample. And here too, it is still more so in things spiritual.
From this [consideration] then Paul undertakes to console them; and again takes up the common judgment of men, which no one is able to stand against, nor to contend with the common decision, when one says what is acknowledged by all.
Ye are suffering, he says. For such is chastisement; such is its beginning. For "no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous but grievous." Well said he, "seemeth not," Chastisement he means is not grievous but "seemeth" so. "All chastisement": not this and that, but "all," both human and spiritual. Seest thou that he argues from our commonnotions? "Seemeth" (he says) "to be grievous," so that it is not [really so]. For what sort of grief brings forth joy? So neither does pleasure bring forth despondency.
"Nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them which have been exercised thereby." Not "fruit" but "fruits," a great abundance.
"To them" (he says) "which have been exercised thereby." What is "to them which have been exercised thereby"? To them that have endured for a long while, and been patient. And he uses an auspicious expression. So then, chastisement is exercise, making the athlete strong, and invincible in combats, irresistible in wars.
If then "all chastisement" be such, this also will be such: so that we ought to look for good things, and for a sweet and peaceful end. And do not wonder if, being itself hard, it has sweet fruits; since in trees also the bark is almost destitute of all quality, and rough; but the fruits are sweet. But he took it from the common notion. If therefore we ought to look for such things, why do ye vex yourselves? Why, after ye have endured the painful, do ye despond as to the good? The distasteful things which ye had to endure, ye endured: do not then despond as to the recompense.
He speaks as to runners, and boxers, and warriors. Seest thou how he arms them, how he encourages them? "Walk straight," he says. Here he speaks with reference to their thoughts; that is to say, not doubting. For if the chastisement be of love, if it begin from loving care, if it end with a good result (and this he proves both by facts and by words, and by all considerations), why are ye dispirited? For such are they who despair, who are not strengthened by the hope of the future. "Walk straight," he says, that your lameness may not be increased, but brought back to its former condition. For he that runs when he is lame, galls the sore place. Seest thou that it is in our power to be thoroughly healed?
[2.] Ver. 14. "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." What he also said above, "Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together" (c. x. 25), he hints at in this place also. For nothing so especially makes persons easily vanquished and subdued in temptations, as isolation. For, tell me, scatter a phalanx in war, and the enemy will need no trouble, but will take them prisoners, coming on them separately, and thereby the more helpless.
"Follow peace with all men, and holiness" (he says). Therefore with the evil-doers as well? "If it be possible," he says, "as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." (Rom. xii. 18.) For thy part (he means) "live peaceably," doing no harm to religion: but in whatever thou art ill- treated, bear it nobly. For the bearing with evil is a great weapon in trials. Thus Christ also made His disciples strong by saying, "Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves," (Matt. x. 16.) What dost Thou say? Are we "among wolves," and dost Thou bid us to be "as sheep," and "as doves"? Yea, He says. For nothing so shames him that is doing us evil, as bearing nobly the things which are brought upon us: and not avenging ourselves either by word or by deed. This both makes us more philosophical ourselves and procures a greater reward, and also benefits them. But has such an one been insolent? Do thou bless [him]. See how much thou wilt gain from this: thou hast quenched the evil, thou hast procured to thyself a reward, thou hast made him ashamed, and thou hast suffered nothing serious.
[3.] "Follow peace with all men, and holiness." What does he mean by "holiness"? Chaste, and orderly living in marriage. If any person is unmarried (he says) let him remain pure, let him marry: or if he be married, let him not commit fornication, but let him live with his own wife: for this also is "holiness." How? Marriage is not "holiness," but marriage preserves the holiness which [proceeds] from Faith, not permitting union with a harlot. For "marriage is honorable" (c. xiii. 4), not holy. Marriage is pure: it does not however also give holiness, except by forbidding the defilement of that [holiness] which has been given by our Faith.
"Without which" (he says) "no man shall see the Lord." Which he also says in the [Epistle] to the Corinthians. "Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor idolaters, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor covetous persons, nor thieves, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. vi. 9, 10.) For how shall he who has become the body of a harlot, how shall he be able to be the body of Christ?
[4.] Ver. 15. "Looking diligently test any man come short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled: lest there be any fornicator or profane person." Dost thou see how everywhere he puts the common salvation into the hands of each individual? "Exhorting one another daily" (he says) "while it is called To-day." (c. iii. 13.) Do not then cast all [the burden] on your teachers; do not [cast] all upon them who have the rule over you: ye also (he means) are able to edify one another. Which also he said in writing to the Thessalonians, "Edify one another, even as also ye do." (1 Thess. v. 11.) And again, "Comfort one another with these words." (1 Thess. iv. 18.) This we also now exhort you.
[5.] If ye be willing, ye will have more success with each other than we can have. For ye both are with one another for a longer time, and ye know more than we of each other's affairs, and ye are not ignorant of each other's failings, and ye have more freedom of speech, and love, and intimacy; and these are no small [advantages] for teaching, but great and opportune introductions for it: ye will be more able than we both to reprove and to exhort. And not this only, but because I am but one, whereas ye are many; and ye will be able, however many, to be teachers. Wherefore I entreat you, do not "neglect this gift." (1 Tim. iv. 14.) Each one of you has a wife, has a friend, has a servant, has a neighbor; let him reprove him, let him exhort him.
For how is it not absurd, with regard to [bodily] nourishment, to make associations for messing together, and for drinking together, and to have a set day whereon to club with one another, as they say, and to make up by the association what each person being alone by himself fails short of—as for instance, if it be necessary to go to a funeral, or to a dinner, or to assist a neighbor in any matter—and not to do this for the purpose of instruction in virtue? Yea, I entreat you, let no man neglect it. For great is the reward he receives from God. And that thou mayest understand, he who was entrusted with the five talents is the teacher: and he with the one is the learner. If the learner should say, I am a learner, I run no risk, and should hide the reason, which he received of God, that common and simple [reason], and give no advice, should not speak plainly, should not rebuke, should not admonish, if he is able, but should bury [his talents] in the earth (for truly that heart is earth and ashes, which hides the gift of God): if then he hides it either from indolence, or from wickedness, it will be no defense to him to say, 'I had but one talent.' Thou hadst one talent. Thou oughtest then to have brought one besides, and to have doubled the talent. If thou hadst brought one in addition, thou wouldst not have been blamed. For neither did He say to him who brought the two, Wherefore hast thou not brought five? But He accounted him of the same worth with him who brought the five. Why? Because he gained as much as he had. And, because he had received fewer than the one entrusted with the five, he was not on this account negligent, nor did he use the smallness [of his trust, as an excuse] for idleness. And thou oughtest not to have looked to him who had the two; or rather, thou oughtest to have looked to him, and as he having two imitated him who had five, so oughtest thou to have emulated him who had two. For if for him who has means and does not give, there is punishment, how shall there not be the greatest punishment for him who is able to exhort in any way, and does it not? In the former case the body is nourished, in the latter the soul; there thou preventest temporal death, here eternal.
[6.] But I have no [skill of] speech, you say. But there is no need of [skill of] speech nor of eloquence. If thou see a friend going into fornication, say to him, Thou art going after an evil thing; art thou not ashamed? Dost thou not blush? This is wrong. 'Why, does he not know' (you say) 'that it is wrong?' Yes, but he is dragged on by lust. They that are sick also know that it is bad to drink cold water, nevertheless they need persons who shall hinder [them from it]. For he who is suffering, will not easily be able to help himself in his sickness. There is need therefore of thee who art in health, for his cure. And if he be not persuaded by thy words, watch for him as he goes away and hold him fist; peradventure he will be ashamed.
'And what advantage is it' (you say), 'when he does this for my sake, and because he has been held back by me?' Do not be too minute in thy calculations. For a while, by whatever means, withdraw him from his evil practice; let him be accustomed not to go off to that pit, whether through thee, or through any means whatever. When thou hast accustomed him not to go, then by taking him after he has gained breath a little thou wilt be able to teach him that he ought to do this for God's sake, and not for man's. Do not wish to make all right at once, since you cannot: but do it gently and by degrees.
If thou see him going off to drinking, or to parties where there is nothing but drunkenness, then also do the same; and again on the other hand intreat him, if he observe that thou hast any failing, to help thee and set thee right. For in this way, he will even of himself, bear reproof, when he sees both that thou needest reproofs as well, and that thou helpest him, not as one that had done everything right, nor as a teacher, but as a friend and a brother. Say to him, I have done thee a service, in reminding thee of things expedient: do thou also, whatever failing thou seest me have, hold me back, set me right. If thou see me irritable, if avaricious, restrain me, bind me by exhortation.
This is friendship; thus "brother aided by brother becomes a fortified city." (Prov. xviii. 19.) For not eating and drinking makes friendship: such friendship even robbers have and murderers. But if we are friends, if we truly care for one another, let us in these respects help one another. This leads us to a profitable friendship: let us hinder those things which lead away to hell.
[7.] Therefore let not him that is reproved be indignant: for we are men and we have failings; neither let him who reproves do it as exulting over him and making a display, but privately, with gentleness. He that reproves has need of greater gentleness, that thus he may persuade [them] to bear the cutting. Do you not see surgeons, when they burn, when they cut, with how great gentleness they apply their treatment? Much more ought those who reprove others to act thus. For reproof is sharper even than fire and knife, and makes [men] start. On this account surgeons take great pains to make them bear the cutting quietly, and apply it as tenderly as possible, even giving in a little, then giving time to take breath.
So ought we also to offer reproofs, that the reproved may not start away. Even if therefore, it be necessary to be insulted, yea even to be struck, let us not decline it. For those also who are cut [by the surgeons] utter numberless cries against those who are cutting them; they however heed none of these things, but only the health of the patients. So indeed in this case also we ought to do all things that our reproof may be effectual, to bear all things, looking to the reward which is in store.
"Bear ye one another's burdens," saith he, "and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Gal. vi. 2.) So then, both reproving and bearing with one another, shall we be able to fulfill edification. And thus will ye make the labor light for us, in all things taking a part with us, and stretching out a hand, and becoming sharers and partakers, both in one another's salvation, and each one in his own. Let us then endure patiently, both bearing "one another's burdens," and reproving: that we may attain to the good things promised in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, might, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.
"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord."
[1.] There are many things characteristic of Christianity: but more than all, and better than all, Love towards one another, and Peace. Therefore Christ also saith, "My peace I give unto you." (John xiv. 27.) And again, "By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye love one another." (John xiii. 35.) Therefore Paul too says, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness," that is, purity, "without which no man shall see the Lord."
"Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God." As if they were traveling together on some long journey, in a large company, he says, Take heed that no man be left behind: I do not seek this only, that ye should arrive yourselves, but also that ye should look diligently after the others.
"Lest any man" (he says) "fail of the grace of God." (He means the good things to come, the faith of the gospel, the best course of life: for they all are of" the Grace of God.") Do not tell me, It is [but] one that perisheth. Even for one Christ died. Hast thou no care for him "for whom Christ died"? (1 Cor. viii. 11.)
"Looking diligently," he saith, that is, searching carefully, considering, thoroughly ascertaining, as is done in the case of sick persons, and in all ways examining, thoroughly ascertaining. "Lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you." (Deut. xxix. 18.) This is found in Deuteronomy; and he derived it from the metaphor of plants. "Lest any root of bitterness," he says; which he said also in another place when he writes, "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." (1 Cor. v. 6.) Not for his sake alone do I wish this, he means, but also on account of the harm arising therefrom. That is to say, even if there be a root of this kind, do not suffer any shoot to come up, but let it be cut off, that it may not bear its proper fruits, that so it may not defile and pollute the others also. For, he saith, "Lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you; and by it many be defiled."
And with good reason did he call sin "bitter": for truly nothing is more bitter than sin, and they know it, who after they have committed it pine away under their conscience, who endure much bitterness. For being exceedingly bitter, it perverts the reasoning faculty itself. Such is the nature of what is bitter: it is unprofitable.
And well said he, "root of bitterness." He said not, "bitter," but "of bitterness." For it is possible that a bitter root might bear sweet fruits; but it is not possible that a root and fountain and foundation of bitterness, should ever bear sweet fruit; for all is bitter, it has nothing sweet, all are bitter, all unpleasant, all full of hatred and abomination.
"And by this" (he says) "many be defiled." That is, Cut off the lascivious persons.
[2.] Ver. 16. "Lest there be any fornicator: or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright."
And wherein was Esau a "fornicator"? He does not say that Esau was a fornicator. "Lest there be any fornicator," he says, then, "follow after holiness: lest there be any, as Esau, profane": that is, gluttonous, without self-control, worldly, selling away things spiritual.
"Who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright," who through his own slothfulness sold this honor which he had from God, and for a little pleasure, lost the greatest honor and glory. This was suitable to them. This [was the conduct] of an abominable, of an unclean person. So that not only is the fornicator unclean, but also the glutton, the slave of his belly. For he also is a slave of a different pleasure. He is forced to be overreaching, he is forced to be rapacious, to behave himself unseemly in ten thousand ways, being the slave of that passion, and oftentimes he blasphemes. So he accounted "his birthright" to be nothing worth. That is, providing for temporary refreshment, he went even to the [sacrifice of his] "birthright." So henceforth "the birthright" belongs to us, not to the Jews. And at the same time also this is added to their calamity, that the first is become last, and the second, first: the one, for courageous endurance; the other last for indolence.
[3.] Ver. 17. "For ye know" (he says) "how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected. For he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears." What now is this? Doth he indeed exclude repentance? By no means. 'But how, you say, was it that "he found no place of repentance"?' For if he condemned himself, if he made a great wailing, why did he "find no place of repentance"? Because it was not really a case of repentance. For as the grief of Cain was not of repentance, and the murder proved it; so also in this case, his words were not those of repentance, and the murder afterwards proved it. For even he also in intention slew Jacob. For "The days of mourning for my father," he said, "are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob." (Gen. xxvii. 41.) "Tears" had not power to give him "repentance." And [the Apostle] did not say "by repentance" simply, but even "with tears, he found no place of repentance." Why now? Because he did not repent as he ought, for this is repentance he repented not as it behoved him.
For how is it that he [the Apostle] said this? How did he exhort them again after they had become "sluggish" (c. vi. 12)? How, when they were become "lame"? How, when they were "paralyzed" (ver. 13)? How, when they were "relaxed" (ver. 12)? For this is the beginning of a fall. He seems to me to hint at some fornicators amongst them, but not to wish at that time to correct them: but feigns ignorance that they might correct themselves. For it is right at first indeed to pretend ignorance: but afterwards, when they continue [in sin], then to add reproof also, that so they may not become shameless. Which Moses also did in the case of Zimri and the daughter of Cosbi.
"For he found" (he says) "no place of repentance," he found not repentance; or that he sinned beyond repentance. There are then sins beyond repentance. His meaning is, Let us not fall by an incurable fall. So long as it is a matter of lameness, it is easy to become upright: but if we turn out of the way, what will be left? For it is to those who have not yet fallen that he thus discourses, striking them with terror, and says that it is not possible for him who is fallen to obtain consolation; but to those who have fallen, that they may not fall into despair, he says the contrary, speaking thus, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ he formed in you." (Gal. iv. 19.) And again, "Whosoever of you are justified by the Law, are fallen from Grace." (Gal. v. 4.) Lo! he testifies that they had fallen away. For he that standeth, hearing that it is not possible to obtain pardon after having fallen, will be more zealous, and more cautious about his standing: if however thou use the same violence towards one also who is fallen, he will never rise again. For by what hope will he show forth the change?
But he not only wept (you say), but also sought earnestly." He does not then exclude repentance; but makes them careful not to fall.
[4.] As many then as do not believe in Hell, let them call these things to mind: as many as think to sin without being punished, let them take account of these things. Why did Esau not obtain pardon? Because he repented not as he ought. Wouldest thou see perfect repentance? Hear of the repentance of Peter after his denial. For the Evangelist in relating to us the things concerning him, says, "And he went out and wept bitterly." (Matt. xxvi. 75.) Therefore even such a sin was forgiven him, because he repented as he ought. Although the Victim had not yet been offered, nor had The Sacrifice as yet been made, nor was sin as yet-taken away, it still had the rule and sovereignty.
And that thou mayest learn, that this denial [arose] not so much from sloth, as from His being forsaken of God, who was teaching him to know the measures of man and not to contradict the sayings of the Master, nor to be more high-minded than the rest, but to know that nothing can be done without God, and that "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it" (Ps. cxxvii. 1): therefore also Christ said to him alone, "Satan desired to sift thee as wheat," and I allowed it not, "that thy faith may not fail." (Luke xxii. 31, 32.) For since it was likely that he would be high-minded, being conscious to himself that he loved Christ more than they all, therefore "he wept bitterly"; and he did other things after his weeping, of the same character. For what did he do? After this he exposed himself to dangers innumerable, and by many means showed his manliness and courage.
Judas also repented, but in an evil way: for he hanged himself. Esau too repented; as I said; or rather, he did not even repent; for his tears were not [tears] of repentance, but rather of pride and wrath. And what followed proved this. The blessed David repented, thus saying, "Every night will I wash my bed: I will water my conch with my tears." (Ps. vi. 6.) And the sin which had been committed long ago, after so many years, after so many generations he bewailed, as if it had recently occurred.
[5.] For he who repents ought not to be angry, nor to be fierce, but to be contrite, as one condemned, as not having boldness, as one on whom sentence has been passed, as one who ought to be saved by mercy alone, as one who has shown himself ungrateful toward his Benefactor, as unthankful, as reprobate, as worthy of punishments innumerable. If he considers these things, he will not be angry, he will not be indignant, but will mourn, will weep, will groan, and lament night and day.
He that is penitent ought never to forget his sin, but on the one hand, to beseech God not to remember it; while on the other, he himself never forgets it. If we remember it, God will forget it. Let us exact punishment from ourselves; let us accuse ourselves; thus shall we propitiate the Judge. For sin confessed becomes less, but not confessed worse. For if sin add to itself shamelessness and ingratitude, how will he who does not know that he sinned before be at all able to guard himself from falling again into the same [evils]?
Let us then not deny [our sins], I beseech you, nor be shameless, that we may not unwillingly pay the penalty. Cain heard God say, "Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not; am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen. iv. 9.) Seest thou how this made his sin more grievous? But his father did not act thus. What then? When he heard," Adam, where art thou?" (Gen. iii. 9), he said, "I heard Thy voice, and I was afraid, because I am naked, and I hid myself." (Gen. iii. 10.) It is a great good to acknowledge our sins, and to bear them in mind continually. Nothing so effectually cures a fault, as a continual remembrance of it. Nothing makes a man so slow to wickedness.
[6.] I know that conscience starts back, and endures not to be scourged by the remembrance of evil deeds; but hold tight thy soul and place a muzzle on it. For like an ill-broken horse, so it bears impatiently [what is put upon it], and is unwilling to persuade itself that it has sinned: but all this is the work of Satan. But let us persuade it that it has sinned; let us persuade it that it has sinned, that it may also repent, in order that having repented it may escape torment. How dost thou think to obtain pardon for thy sins, tell me, when thou hast not yet confessed them? Assuredly he is worthy of compassion and kindness who has sinned. But thou who hast not yet persuaded thyself [that thou hast sinned], how dost thou think to be pitied, when thou art thus without shame for some things?
Let us persuade ourselves that we have sinned. Let us say it not with the tongue only, but also with the mind. Let us not call ourselves sinners, but also count over our sins, going over them each specifically. I do not say to thee, Make a parade of thyself, nor accuse thyself before others: but be persuaded by the prophet when he saith, "Reveal thy way unto the Lord." (Ps. xxxvii. 5.) Confess these things before God. Confess before the Judge thy sins with prayer; if not with tongue, yet in memory, and be worthy of mercy.
If thou keep thy sins continually in remembrance, thou wilt never bear in mind the wrongs of thy neighbor. I do not say, if thou art persuaded that thou art thyself a sinner; this does not avail so to humble the soul, as sins themselves [taken] by themselves, and examined specifically. Thou wilt have no remembrance of wrongs [done thee], if thou hast these things continually in remembrance; thou wilt feel no anger, thou wilt not revile, thou wilt have no high thoughts, thou wilt not fall again into the same [sins], thou wilt be more earnest towards good things.
[7.] Seest thou how many excellent [effects] are produced from the remembrance of our sins? Let us then write them in our minds. I know that the soul does not endure a recollection which is so bitter: but let us constrain and force it. It is better that it should be gnawed with the remembrance now, than at that time with vengeance.
Now, if thou remember them, and continually present them before God (see p. 448), and pray for them, thou wilt speedily blot them out; but if thou forget them now, thou wilt then be reminded of them even against thy will, when they are brought out publicly before the whole world, displayed before all, both friends and enemies, and Angels. For surely He did not say to David only, "What thou didst secretly, I will make manifest to" (2 Sam. xii. 12) all, but even to us all. Thou wert afraid of men (he said) and respected them more than God; and God seeing thee, thou caredst not, but wert ashamed before men. For it says, "the eyes of men, this is their fear." Therefore thou shalt suffer punishment in that very point; for I will reprove thee, setting thy sins before the eyes of all. For that this is true, and that in that day the sins of us all are [to be] publicly displayed, unless we now do them away by continual remembrance, hear how cruelty and inhumanity are publicly exposed, "I was an hungered" (He says) "gave Me no meat." and ye (Matt. xxv. 42.) When are these things said? Is it in a corner? Is it in a secret place? By no means. When then? "When the Son of Man shall come in His glory" (Matt. xxv. 31, 32), and "all the nations" are gathered together, when He has separated the one from the other, then will He speak in the audience of all, and will "set" them "on His right hand" and "on" His "left" (Matt. xxv. 33): "I was an hungered and ye gave Me no meat."
See again the five virgins also, hearing before all, "I know you not." (Matt. xxv. 12.) For the five and five do not set forth the number of five only, but those virgins who are wicked and cruel and inhuman, and those who are not such.
So also he that buried his one talent, heard before all, even of those who had brought the five and the two, "Thou wicked and slothful servant." (Matt. xxv. 26.) But not by words alone, but by deeds also does He then convict them: even as the Evangelist also says, "They shall look on Him whom they pierced." (John xix. 37.) For the resurrection shall be of all at the same time, of sinners and of the righteous. At the same time shall He be present to all in the judgment.
[8.] Consider therefore who they are who shall then be in dismay, who in grief, who dragged away to the fire, while the others are crowned. "Come" (He says), "ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom which hath been prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (Matt. xxv. 34.) And again, "Depart from Me into the fire which hath been prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matt. xxv. 41.)
Let us not merely hear the words but writes them also before our sight, and let us imagine Him to be now present and saying these things, and that we are led away to that fire. What heart shall we have? What consolation? And what, when we are cut asunder? And what when we are accused of rapacity? What excuse shall we have to utter? What specious argument? None: but of necessity bound, bending down, we must be dragged to the mouths of the furnace, to the river of fire, to the darkness, to the never-dying punishments, and entreat no one. For it is not, it is not possible, He says, to pass across from this side to that: for "there is a great gulf betwixt us and you" (Luke xvi. 26), and it is not possible even for those who wish it to go across, and stretch out a helping hand: but we must needs burn continually, no one aiding us, even should it be father or mother, or any whosoever, yea though he have much boldness toward God. For, it says, "A brother doth not redeem; shall man redeem?" (Ps. xlix. 8.)
Since then it is not possible to have one's hopes of salvation in another, but [it must be] in one's self after the lovingkindness of God, let us do all things, I entreat you, so that our conduct may be pure, and our course of life the best, and that it may not receive any stain even from the beginning. But if not, at all events, let us not sleep after the stain, but continue always washing away the pollution by repentance, by tears, by prayers, by works of mercy.
What then, you say, if I cannot do works of mercy? But thou hast "a cup of cold water" (Matt. x. 42), however poor thou art. But thou hast "two mites" (Mark xii. 42), in whatever poverty thou art; but thou hast feet, so as to visit the sick, so as to enter into a prison; but thou hast a roof, so as to receive strangers. For there is no pardon, no, none for him who does not do works of mercy.
These things we say to you continually, that we may effect if it be but a little by the continued repetition: these things we say, not caring so much for those who receive the benefits, as for yourselves. For ye give to them indeed things here, but in return you receive heavenly things: which may we all obtain, in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father be glory, together with the Holy Ghost, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
"For ye are not come unto a fire that might be touched and that burned, and unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words, which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more. (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned. And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake.) But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem; and to an innumerable company of Angels, to the general assembly, and Church of the first-born which are written in Heaven; and to God the Judge of all; and to the spirits of just men made perfect: and to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant: and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than that of Abel."
[1.] Wonderful indeed were the things in the Temple, the Holy of Holies; and again awful were those things also that were done at Mount Sins, "the fire, the darkness, the blackness, the tempest." (Cf. Deut. xxxiii. 2.) For, it says, "God appeared in Sins," and long ago were these things celebrated. The New Covenant, however, was not given with any of these things, but has been given in simple discourse by God.
See then how he makes the comparison in these points also. And with good reason has he put them afterwards. For when he had persuaded them by innumerable [arguments], when he had also shown the difference between each covenant, then afterwards, the one having been already condemned, he easily enters on these points also.
And what says he? "For ye are not come unto a fire that might be touched, and that burned, and unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more."
These things, he means, are terrible; and so terrible that they could not even bear to hear them, that not even "a beast" dared to go up. (But things that come hereafter are not such. For what is Sins to Heaven? And what the "fire which might be touched" to God who cannot be touched? For "God is a consuming fire."—c. v. 29.) For it is said, "Let not God speak, but let Moses speak unto us. And so fearful was that which was commanded, Though even a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned; Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake." (Ex. xx. 19.) What wonder as respects the people? He himself who entered into "the darkness where God was," saith, "I exceedingly fear and quake." (Ex. xx. 21.)
[2.] "But ye are come unto Mount Sion and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem: and to an innumerable company of angels and to the general assembly and Church of the first-born which are written in Heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better [things] hun that of Abel."
Instead of "Moses," Jesus. Instead of the people, "myriads of angels."
Of what "first-born" does he speak? Of the faithful.
"And to the spirits of just men made perfect." With these shall ye be, he says.
"And to Jesus the mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better [things] than that of Abel." Did then the [blood] "of Abel" speak? "Yea," he saith, "and by it he being dead yet speaketh." (c. xi. 4.) And again God says, "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto Me." (Gen. iv. 10.) Either this [meaning] or that; because it is still even now celebrated: but not in such way as that of Christ. For this has cleansed all men, and sends forth a voice more clear and more distinct, in proportion as it has greater testimony, namely that by facts.
Ver. 25-29. "See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh. For if they escaped not, who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven. Whose voice then shook the earth: but now hath He promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire."
[3.] Fearful were those things, but these are far more admirable and glorious. For here there is not "darkness," nor "blackness," nor "tempest." It seems to me that by these words he hints at the obscurity of the Old [Testament], and the overshadowed and veiled character of the Law. And besides the Giver of the Law appears in fire terrible, and apt to punish those who transgress.
But what are "the sounds of the trumpet"? Probably it is as though some King were coming. This at all events will also be at the second coming. "At the last trump" (1 Cor. xv. 52) all must be raised. But it is the trumpet of His voice which effects this. At that time then all things were objects of sense, and sights, and sounds; now all are objects of understanding, and invisible.
And, it says, "there was much smoke." (See Ex. xix. 18.) For since God is said to be fire, and appeared thus in the bush, He indicates the fire even by the smoke. And what is "the blackness and the darkness"? He again expresses its fearfulness. Thus Isaiah also says; "And the house was filled with smoke." (Isa. vi. 4.) And what is the object of "the tempest"? The human race was careless. It was therefore needful that they should be aroused by these things. For no one was so dull as not to have had his thoughts raised up, when these things were done, and the Law ordained.
"Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice" (Ex. xix. 19): for it was necessary that the voice of God should be uttered. Inasmuch as He was about to promulgate His Law through Moses, therefore He makes him worthy of confidence. They saw him not, because of the thick darkness: they heard him not, because of the weakness of his voice. What then? "God answered by a voice," addressing the multitude: yea and his name shall be called.
"They entreated" (he says) "that the word should not be spoken to them any more."
From the first therefore they were themselves the cause of God's being manifested through the Flesh. Let Moses speak with us, and "Let not God speak with us." (Ex. xx. 9.) They who make comparisons elevate the one side the more, that they may show the other to be far greater. In this respect also our [privileges] are more gentle and more admirable. For they are great in a twofold respect: because while they are glorious and greater, they are more accessible. This he says also in the Epistle to the Corinthians: "with unveiled countenance" (2 Cor. iii. 18), and, "not as Moses put a veil over his face." (2 Cor. iii. 13.) They, he means, were not counted worthy of what we [are]. For of what were they thought worthy? They saw "darkness, blackness"; they heard "a voice." Put thou also hast heard a voice, not through darkness, but through flesh. Thou hast not been disturbed, neither troubled, but thou hast stood and held discourse with the Mediator.
And in another way, by the "darkness" he shows the invisibleness. "And darkness" (it says) "was under His feet." (Ps. xviii. 9.)
Then even Moses feared, but now no one.
As the people then stood below, so also do we. They were not below, but below Heaven. The Son is near to God, but not as Moses,
There was a wilderness, here a city.
[4.] "And to an innumerable company of angels." Here he shows the joy, the delight, in place of the "blackness" and "darkness" and "tempest."
"And to the general assembly and church of the first-born which are written in Heaven, and to God the Judge of all." They did not draw near, but stood afar off, even Moses: but "ye are come near."
Here he makes them fear, by saying, "And to God the Judge of all"; not of the Jews alone, and the faithful, but even of the whole world.
"And to the spirits of just men made perfect." He means the souls of those who are approved.
"And to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant: and to the blood of sprinkling," that is, of purification, "which speaketh better things than that of Abel." And if the blood speaks, much more does He who, having been slain, lives. But what does it speak? "The Spirit also" (he says) "speaketh with groanings which cannot be uttered." (Rom. viii. 26.) How does He speak? Whenever He falls into a sincere mind, He raises it up and makes it speak.
[5.] "See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh"; that is, that ye reject [Him] not. "For if they escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth." Whom does he mean? Moses, I suppose. But what he says is this: if they, having "refused Him "when He gave laws "on earth, did not escape," how shall we refuse Him, when He gives laws from Heaven? He declares here not that He is another; far from it. He does not set forth One and Another, but He appears terrible, when uttering His Voice "from Heaven." It is He Himself then, both the one and the other: but the One is terrible. For he expresses not a difference of Persons but of the gift. Whence does this appear? "For if they escaped not," he says, "who refused Him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven." What then? Is this one different from the other? How then does he say, "whose voice then shook the earth"? For it was the "voice" of Him who "then" gave the Law, which "shook the earth. But now hath He promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things which are shaken, as of things that are made." All things therefore will be taken away, and will be compacted anew for the better. For this is what he suggests here. Why then dost thou grieve when thou sufferest in a world that abideth not; when thou art afflicted in a world which will very shortly have passed away? If our rest were [to be] in the latter period of the world, then one ought to be afflicted in looking to the end.
"That" (he says) "those which cannot be shaken may remain." But of what sort are "those things which cannot be shaken"? The things to come. [6.] Let us then do all for this, that we may attain that [rest], that we may enjoy those good things. Yea, I pray and beseech you, let us be earnest for this. No one builds in a city which is going to fall down. Tell me, I pray you, if any one said that after a year, this city would fall, but such a city not at all, wouldest thou have built in that which was about to fall? So I also now say this, Let us not build in this world; it will fall after a little, and all will be destroyed. But why do I say, It will fall? Before its fall we shall be destroyed, and suffer what is fearful; we shall be removed from them.
Why build we upon the sand? Let us build upon the rock: for whatsoever may happen, that building remains impregnable, nothing will be able to destroy it. With good reason. For to all such attacks that region is inaccessible, just as this is accessible. For earthquakes, and fires, and inroad of enemies, take it away from us even while we are alive: and oftentimes destroy us with it.
And even in case it remains, disease speedily removes us, or if we stay, suffers us not to enjoy it fairly. For what pleasure [is there], where there are sicknesses, and false accusations, and envy, and intrigues? Or should there be none of these things, yet oftentimes if we have no children, we are disquieted, we are impatient, not having any to whom we may leave houses and all other things; and thenceforward we pine away as laboring for others. Yea oftentimes too the inheritance passes away to our enemies, not only after we are gone, but even while we live. What is more miserable then than to toil for enemies, and ourselves to be gathering sins together in order that they may have rest? And many are the instances of this that are seen in our cities. And yet [I say no more] lest I should grieve those who have been despoiled. For I could have mentioned some of them even by name, and have had many histories to tell, and many houses to show you, which have received for masters the enemies of those who labored for them: nay not houses only, but slaves also and the whole inheritance have oftentimes come round to enemies. For such are things human.
But in Heaven there is nothing of this to fear,—lest after a man is dead, his enemy should come, and succeed to his inheritance. For there there is neither death nor enmity; the tabernacles of the saints are permanent abodes; and among those saints is exultation, joy, gladness. For "the voice of rejoicing" (it is said) is "in the tabernacles of the righteous." (Ps. cxviii. 15.) They are eternal, having no end. They do not fall down through age, they do not change their owners, but stand continually in their best estate. With good reason. For there is nothing corruptible, nor perishable there, but all is immortal, and undefiled. On this building let us exhaust all our wealth. We have no need of carpenters nor of laborers. The hands of the poor build such houses; the lame, the blind, the maimed, they build those houses. And wonder not, since they procure even a kingdom for us, and give us confidence towards God.
[7.] For mercifulness is as it were a most excellent art, and a protector of those who labor at it. For it is dear to God, and ever stands near Him readily asking favor for whomsoever it will, if only it be not wronged by us; And it is wronged, when we do it by extortion. (See p. 481.) So, if it be pure, it gives great confidence to those who offer it up. It intercedes even for those who have offended, so great is its power, even for those who have sinned. It breaks the chains, disperses the darkness, quenches the fire, kills the worm, drives away the gnashing of teeth. The gates of heaven open to it with great security: And as when a Queen is entering, no one of the guards stationed at the doors dares to inquire who she is, and whence, but all straightway receive her; so also indeed with mercifulness. For she is truly a queen indeed, making men like God. For, he says, "ye shall be merciful, as your Heavenly Father is merciful." (Luke vi. 36 .)
She is winged and buoyant, having golden pinions, with a flight which greatly delights the angels. There, it is said, are "the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her back with the yellowness of gold." (Ps. lxviii. 13.) As some dove golden and living, she flies, with gentle look, and mild eye. Nothing is better than that eye. The peacock is beautiful, but in comparison of her, is a jackdaw. So beautiful and worthy of admiration is this bird. She continually looks upwards; she is surrounded abundantly with God's glory: she is a virgin with golden wings, decked out, with a fair and mild countenance. She is winged, and buoyant, standing by the royal throne. When we are judged, she suddenly flies in, and shows herself, and rescues us from punishment, sheltering us with her own wings.
God would have her rather than sacrifices. Much does He discourse concerning her: so He loves her. "He will relieve" (it is said) "the widow" and "the fatherless" (Ps. cxlvi. 9) and the poor. God wishes to be called from her. "The Lord is pitiful and merciful, long-suffering, and of great mercy" (Ps. cxlv. 8), and true. The mercy of God is over all the earth. She hath saved the race of mankind (see Ps. cxlv. 9): For unless she had pitied us, all things would have perished. "When we were enemies" (see Rom. v. 10), she "reconciled" us, she wrought innumerable blessings; she persuaded the Son of God to become a slave, and to empty Himself [of His glory]. (Phil. ii. 7.)
Let us earnestly emulate her by whom we have been saved; let us love her, let us prize her before wealth, and apart from wealth, let us have a merciful soul. Nothing is so characteristic of a Christian, as mercy. There is nothing which both unbelievers and all men so admire, as when we are merciful. For oftentimes we are ourselves also in need of this mercy, and say to God "Have mercy upon us, after Thy great goodness." (Ps. li. 1.) Let us begin first ourselves: or rather it is not we that begin first. For He has Himself already shown His mercy towards us: yet at least let us follow second. For if men have mercy on a merciful man, even if he has done innumerable wrongs, much more does God.
[8.] Hear the prophet saying, "But I" (his words are) "am like a fruitful olive tree in the house of God." (Ps. lii. 8.) Let us become such: let us become "as an olive tree": let us be laden on every side with the commandments. For it is not enough to be as an olive tree, but also to be fruitful. For there are persons who in doing alms give little, [only once] in the course of the whole year, or in each week, or who give away a mere chance matter. These are indeed olive trees, but not fruitful ones, but even withered. For because they show compassion they are olive trees, but because they do it not liberally, they are not fruitful olive trees. But let us be fruitful.
I have often said and I say now also: the greatness of the charity is not shown by the measure of what is given, but by the disposition of the giver. You know the case of the widow. It is well continually to bring this example [forward], that not even the poor man may despair of himself, when he looks on her who threw in the two mites. Some contributed even hair in the fitting up of the temple, and not even these were rejected. (Ex. xxxv. 23.) But if when they had gold, they had brought hair, they [would have been] accursed: but if, having this only, they brought it, they were accepted. For this cause Cain also was blamed, not because he offered worthless things, but because they were the most worthless he had. "Accursed" (it is said) "is he which hath a male, and sacrificeth unto God a corrupt thing." (Mal. i. 14.) He did not speak absolutey, but, "he that hath" (he says) and spareth [it]. If then a man have nothing, he is freed from blame, or rather he has a reward. For what is of less value than two farthings, or more worthless than hair? What than a pint of meal? But nevertheless these were approved equally with the calves and the gold. For "a man is accepted according to that he hath, not according to that he hath not." (2 Cor. viii. 12.) And, it says, "according as thy hand hath, do good." (Prov. iii. 27.)
Wherefore, I entreat you, let us readily empty out what we have for the poor. Even if it be little we shall receive the same reward with them who have cast the most; or rather, more than those who cast in ten thousand talents. If we do these things we shall obtain the unspeakable treasures of God; if we not only hear, but practice also, if we do not praise [charity], but also show [it] by our deeds. Which may we all attain, in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, might, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.
"Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace [or gratitude,] whereby we serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire."
[1.] In another place he says the same, "for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2. Cor. iv. 18); and from this makes an exhortation with regard to the evils which we endure in this present life; and here he does this, and says, let us continue steadfast; "let us have thankfulness," i.e., let us give thanks unto God. For not only we ought not to be discouraged at present things, but even to show the greatest gratitude to Him, for those to come.
"Whereby we serve God acceptably," that is to say, 'for thus is it possible to serve God acceptably,' by giving him thanks in all things. "Do all things" (he says) "without murmurings and disputings." (Phil. ii. 14.) For whatever work a man does with murmuring, he cuts away and loses his reward; as the Israelites—how great a penalty they paid for their murmurings. Wherefore he says, "Neither murmur ye." (1 Cor. x. 10.) It is not therefore possible to "serve" Him "acceptably" without a sense of gratitude to Him for all things, both for our trials, and the alleviations of them. That is, let us utter nothing hasty, nothing disrespectful, but let us humble ourselves that we may be reverential. For this is "with reverence and godly fear."
C. xiii. 1, 2. "Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful of hospitality, for hereby some have entertained angels unawares." See how he enjoins them to preserve what they had: he does not add other things. He did not say, "Be loving as brethren," but, "Let brotherly love continue." And again, he did not say, "Be hospitable," as if they were not, but, "Be not forgetful of hospitality," for this was likely to happen owing to their afflictions.
Therefore (he says) "some have entertained angels unawares." Seest thou how great was the honor, how great the gain!
What is "unawares"? They entertained them without knowing it. Therefore the reward also was great, because he entertained them, not knowing that they were Angels. For if he had known it, it would have been nothing wonderful. Some say that he here alludes to Lot also.
[2.] Ver. 3—5. "Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them, them which suffer adversity as being yourselves also in the body. Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. Let your conversation be without covetousness: being content with such things as ye have."
See how large is his discourse concerning chastity. "Follow peace," he said, "and holiness; Lest there be any fornicator or profane person" (c. xii. 14); and again, "Fornicators and adulterers God will judge." (c. xii. 16.) In every case, the prohibition is with a penalty. "Follow peace with all men," he says, "and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: But fornicators and adulterers God will judge."
And having first set down "Marriage is honorable in all men, and the bed undefiled," he shows that he rightly added what follows. For if marriage has been conceded, justly is the fornicator punished, justly does the adulterer suffer vengeance.
Here he strips for the heretics. He did not say again, Let no one be a fornicator; but having said it once for all, he then went on as with a general exhortation, and not as directing himself against them.
"Let your conversation be without covetousness," he says. He did not say, Possess nothing, but, "Let your conversation be without covetousness": that is, let it show forth the philosophical character of your mind. [And it will show it, if we do not seek superfluities, if we keep only to what is necessary.] For he says above also, "And ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods." (c. x. 34.) He gives these exhortations, that they might not be covetous.
"Being content" (he says) "with such things as ye have." Then here also the consolation; (ver. 5) "For He" (he says) "hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee"; (ver. 6) "so that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me." Again consolation in their trials.
[3.] Ver. 7. "Remember them which have the rule over you." This he was laboring to say above: therefore "Follow peace with all men." (c. xii. 14.) He gave this exhortation also to the Thessalonians, to "hold them in honor exceedingly." (1 Thess. v. 13.)
"Remember" (he says) "them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God, whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation." What kind of following is this? Truly the best: for he says, beholding their life, "follow their faith." For from a pure life [cometh] faith.
Or else by "faith," he means steadfastness. How so? Because they believe in the things to come. For they would not have shown forth a pure life, if they had questioned about the things to come, if they had doubted. So that here also he is applying a remedy to the same [evil].
Ver. 8, 9. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday and to-day and for ever. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established with grace, not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein."
In these words, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday and to-day and for ever," "yesterday" means all the time that is past: "to-day," the present: "for ever," the endless which is to come. That is to say: Ye have heard of an High Priest, but not an High Priest who fails. He is always the same. As though there were some who said, 'He is not, another will come,' he says this, that He who was "yesterday and to-day," is "the same also for ever." For even now the Jews say, that another will come; and having deprived themselves of Him that is will fall into the hands of Antichrist.
"Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines." Not "with strange doctrines" only, but neither with "divers ones."
"For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace, not with meats which have not profited them that have been occupied therein." Here he gently hints at those who introduce the observance of "meats." For by Faith all things are pure. There is need then of Faith, not of "meats."
For (ver. 10) "we have an altar whereof they have no right to eat which serve the Tabernacle." Not as the Jewish [ordinances], are those among us, as it is not lawful even for the High Priest to partake of them. So that since he had said, "Do not observe," and this seemed to be [the language] of one who is throwing down his own building, he again turns it round. What, have not we then observances as well (he says)? [Yea we have], and we observe them very earnestly too, not sharing them even with the priests themselves.
[4.] Ver. 11, 12. "For the bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the High Priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered" (he says) "without the gate." Seest thou the type shining forth? "For sin," he says, and "suffered without the gate." (Ver. 13) "Let us go forth therefore to Him without the camp, bearing His reproach," that is, suffering the same things; having communion with Him in His sufferings. He was crucified without as a condemned person: neither let us then be ashamed to "go forth out" [of the world].
Ver. 14, 15. "For we have here no continuing city" (he says) "but we seek one to come. By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His Name."
"By Him," as by an High Priest, according to the flesh. "Giving thanks" (be says) "to His Name." (See p. 514.) Let us utter nothing blasphemous, nothing hasty, nothing bold, nothing presumptuous, nothing desperate. This is "with reverence and godly fear." (c. xii. 28.) For a soul in tribulations becomes desponding, and reckless. But let not us [be so]. See here he again says the same thing which he said before, "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together," for so shall we be able to do all things with reverence. For oftentimes even out of respect for men, we refrain from doing many evil things.
Ver. 16. "But to do good and to communicate forget not." I speak not [merely] with reference to the brethren present, but to those absent also. But if others have plundered your property, display your hospitality out of such things as ye have. What excuse then shall we have henceforward, when they, even after the spoiling of their goods, were thus admonished?
[5.] And he did not say, "Be not forgetful" of the entertaining of strangers, but "of hospitality": that is, do not merely entertain strangers, but [do it] with love for the strangers. Moreover he did not speak of the recompense that is future, and in store for us, lest he should make them more supine, but of that already given. For "thereby some" (he says) "have entertained angels unawares."
But let us see in what sense "Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled." Because (he means) it preserves the believer in chastity. Here he also alludes to the Jews, because they accounted the woman after childbirth polluted: and "whosoever comes from the bed," it is said, "is not clean." Those things are not polluted which arise from nature O ungrateful and senseless Jew, but those which arise from choice. For if "marriage is honorable" and pure, why forsooth dost thou think that one is even polluted by it?
"Let your conversation" (he says) "be without covetousness": since many after having exhausted their property, afterwards wish to recover it again under the guise of alms, therefore he says, "Let your conversation be without covetousness"; that is, that we should be [desirous only] of what is necessary and indispensable. What then (you say) if we should not have a supply even of these? This is not possible; indeed it is not. "For He hath said," and He doth not lie, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we boldly say, The Lord is my Helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me." Thou hast the promise from Himself: do not doubt henceforward. He has promised; make no question. But this, "I will never leave thee," he says not concerning money only, but concerning all other things also. "The Lord is my Helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me"; with good reason.
This then also let us say in all temptations; let us laugh at human things, so long as we have God favorable to us. For as, when He is our enemy, it is no gain, though all men should be our friends, so when He is our friend, though all men together war against us, there is no harm. "I will not fear what man shall do unto me."
[6.] "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God." In this place I think that he is speaking about assistance also. For this is [implied in the words] "who have spoken unto you the word of God."
"Whose faith follow considering the end of their conversation." What is, "considering"? Continually revolving, examining it by yourselves, reasoning, investigating accurately, testing it as you choose. "The end of their conversation," that is, their conversation to the end: for "their conversation" had a good end.
"Jesus Christ the same yesterday and to-day and for ever." Do not think that then indeed He wrought wonders, but now works no wonders. He is the same. This is, "remember them that have the rule over you."
"Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines." "Strange," that is, different from those ye heard from us; ["Divers"] that is, of all sorts: for they have no stability, but are different [one from another]. For especially manifold is the doctrine of meats.
"For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats." These are the" divers," these the "strange" [doctrines]: especially as Christ has said, "not that which entereth into the mouth defileth the man, but that which cometh out." (Matt. xv. 11.) And observe that he does not make bold to say this openly, but as it were by a hint. "For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace, not with meats."
Faith is all. If that establishes [it], the heart stands in security. It follows that Faith establishes: consequently reasonings shake. For Faith is contrary to reasoning.
"Which" (he says) "have not profited them that have been occupied therein." For what is the gain from the observance [of them], tell me. Does it not rather destroy? Does it not make such an one to be under sin? If it be necessary to observe [them], we must guard ourselves.
"Which" (he says) "have not profiled them that have been occupied therein." That is, who have always diligently kept them.
There is one observance, abstaining from sin. For what profit is it, when some are so polluted, as not to be able to partake of the sacrifices? So that it did not save them at all; although they were zealous about the observances. But because they had not faith, even thus they profiled nothing.
[7.] In the next place he takes away the sacrifice from the type, and directs his discourse to the prototype, saying, "The bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the High Priest, are burned without the camp." Then those things were a type of these and thus Christ, suffering "without," fulfilled all.
Here he makes it plain too that He suffered voluntarily, showing that those things were not accidental, but even the [Divine] arrangement itself was of a suffering "without." [He suffered] without, but His Blood was borne up into Heaven. Thou seest then that we partake of Blood which has been carried into the Holy Place, the True Holy Place; of the Sacrifice of which the Priest alone had the privilege. We therefore partake of the Truth [the Reality]. If then we partake not of "reproach" [only] but of sanctification, the "reproach" is the cause of the sanctification. For as He was reproached, so also are we. If we go forth "without" therefore, we have fellowship with Him.
But what is, "Let us go forth to Him"? Let us have fellowship with Him in His sufferings; let us bear His reproach. For He did not simply bid us dwell "outside the gate," but as He was reproached as a condemned person, so also we.
And "by Him let us offer a sacrifice to God." Of what kind of sacrifice does he speak? "The fruit of lips giving thanks to His Name." They [the Jews] brought sheep, and calves, and gave them to the Priest: let "us" bring none of these things, but thanksgiving. This "fruit" let "our lips" put forth.
"For with such sacrifices God is well pleased." Let us give such a sacrifice to Him, that He may offer [it] to The Father. For in no other way it is offered except through the Son, or rather also through a contrite mind. All these things [are said] for the weak. For that the thanks belong to the Son is evident: since otherwise, how is the honor equal? "That all men" (He says) "should honor the Son even as they honor the Father." (John v. 23.) Wherein is the honor equal? "The fruit of our lips giving thanks to His Name."
[8.] Let us bear all things thankfully, be it poverty, be it disease, be it anything else whatever: for He alone knows the things expedient for us. "For we know not what we should pray for as we ought." (Rom. viii. 26.) We then who do not know even how to ask for what is fitting, unless we have received of the Spirit, let us take care to offer up thanksgiving for all things, and let us bear all things nobly. Are we in poverty? Let us give thanks. Are we in sickness? Let us give thanks. Are we falsely accused? Let us give thanks: when we suffer affliction, let us give thanks.
This brings us near to God: then we even have God for our debtor. But when we are in prosperity, it is we who are debtors and liable to be called to account. For when we are in prosperity, we are debtors to God: and oftentimes these things bring a judgment upon us, while those are for a payment of sins. Those [afflictions] draw down mercy, they draw down kindness: while these on the other hand lift up even to an insane pride, and lead also to slothfulness, and dispose a man to fancy great things concerning himself; they puff up. Therefore the prophet also said, "It is good for me, Lord, that Thou hast afflicted me; that I may learn Thy statutes." (Ps. cxix. 71.) When Hezekiah had received blessings and been freed from calamities, his heart was lifted up on high; when he fell sick, then was he humbled, then he became near to God. "When He slew them," it says, "then they sought Him diligently, and turned, and were early in coming to God." (Ps. lxxviii. 34.) And again, "When the beloved waxed gross and fat, then he kicked." (Deut. xxxii. 15.) For "the Lord is known when He executeth judgments." (Ps. ix. 16.)
[9.] Affliction is a great good. "Narrow is the way" (Matt. vii. 14), so that affliction thrusts us into the narrow [way]. He who is not pressed by affliction cannot enter. For he who afflicts himself in the narrow [way], is he who also enjoys ease; but he that spreads himself out, does not enter in, and suffers from being so to say wedged in. See how Paul enters into this narrow way. He "keeps under" his "body" (1 Cor. ix. 27), so as to be able to enter. Therefore, in all his afflictions, he continued giving thanks unto God. Hast thou lost thy property? This hath lightened thee of the most of thy wideness. Hast thou fallen from glory? This is another sort of wideness. Hast thou been falsely: accused? Have the things said against thee, of which thou art nowise conscious to thyself been believed? "Rejoice and leap for joy." For "blessed are ye" (He says) "when men reproach you, and say all manner of evil against you, falsely, for My sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in Heaven." (Matt. v. 11, 12.)
Why dost thou marvel, if thou art grieved, and wish to be set free from temptations? Paul wished to be set free, and oftentimes entreated God, and did not obtain. For the "thrice for this I besought the Lord," is oftentimes; "and He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor. xii. 8, 9.) By "weakness," he here means "afflictions." What then? When he heard this he received it thankfully, and says, "Wherefore I take pleasure in infirmities" (2 Cor. xii. 10); that is, I am pleased, I rest in my afflictions. For all things then let us give thanks, both for comfort, and for affliction. Let us not murmur: let us not be unthankful. "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, naked also shall I depart." (Job i. 21.) Thou didst not come forth glorious, do not seek glory. Thou wast brought into life naked, not of money alone, but also of glory, and of honorable name.
Consider how great evils have oftentimes arisen from wealth. For "It is easier" (it is said) "for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of Heaven." (Matt. xix. 24.) Seest thou to how many good things wealth is a hindrance, and dost thou seek to be rich? Dost thou not rejoice that the hindrance has been overthrown? So narrow is the way which leadeth into the Kingdom. So broad is wealth, and full of bulk and swelling out. Therefore He says, "Sell that thou hast" (Matt. xix. 21), that that way may receive thee. Why dost thou yearn after wealth? For this cause He took it away from thee, that He might free thee from slavery. For true fathers also, when a son is corrupted by some mistress, and having given him much exhortation they do not persuade him to part from her, send the mistress into banishment. Such also is abundance of wealth. Because the Lord cares for us, and delivers us from the harm [which arises] therefrom, He takes away wealth from us.
Let us not then think poverty an evil: sin is the only evil. For neither is wealth a good thing by itself: to be well-pleasing to God is the only good, Poverty then let us seek, this let us pursue: so shall we lay hold on heaven, so shall we attain to the other good things, Which may we all attain by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost be glory, power, honor, now and ever and world without end, Amen,
"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves. For they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief, a for this is unprofitable for you."
[1.] Anarchy is an evil, and the occasion of many calamities, and the source of disorder and confusion. For as, if thou take away the leader from a chorus, the chorus will not be in tune and in order; and if from a phalanx of an army thou remove the commander, the evolutions will no longer be made in time and order, and if from a ship thou take away the helmsman, thou wilt sink the vessel; so too if from a flock thou remove the shepherd, thou hast overthrown and destroyed all.
Anarchy then is an evil, and a cause of ruin. But no less an evil also is the disobedience to rulers. For it comes again to the same. For a people not obeying a ruler, is like one which has none; and perhaps even worse. For in the former case they have at least an excuse for disorder, but no longer in the latter, but are punished.
But perhaps some one will say, there is also a third evil, when the ruler is bad. I myself too know it, and no small evil it is, but even a far worse evil than anarchy. For it is better to be led by no one, than to be led by one who is evil. For the former indeed are oftentimes saved, and oftentimes are in peril, but the latter will be altogether in peril, being led into the pit [of destruction].
How then does Paul say, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves"? Having said above, "whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation" (c. ver. 7), he then said, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves."
What then (you say), when he is wicked should we obey?
Wicked? In what sense? If indeed in regard to Faith, flee and avoid him; not only if he be a man, but even if he be an angel come down from Heaven; but if in regard to life, be not over-curious. And this instance I do not allege from my own mind, but from the Divine Scripture. For hear Christ saying, "The Scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat." (Matt. xxiii. 2.) Having previously spoken many fearful things concerning them, He then says, "They sit on Moses' seat: all therefore whatsoever they tell you observe, do; but do not ye after their works." (Matt. xxiii. 2, 3.) They have (He means) the dignity of office, but are of unclean life. Do thou however attend, not to their life, but to their words. For as regards their characters, no one would be harmed [thereby]. How is this? Both because their characters are manifest to all, and also because though he were ten thousand times as wicked he will never teach what is wicked. But as respects Faith, [the evil] is not manifest to all, and the wicked [ruler] will not shrink from teaching it.
Moreover, "Judge not that ye be not judged" (Matt. vii. 1) concerns life, not faith: surely what follows makes this plain. For "why" (He says) "beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" (Matt. vii. 3.)
"All things therefore" (He says) "which they bid you observe, do ye" (now to "do" belongs to works not to Faith) "but do not ye after their works." Seest thou that [the discourse] is not concerning doctrines, but concerning life and works?
[2.] Paul however previously commended them, and then says, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves, for they watch for your souls, as they that shall give account."
Let those who rule also hear, and not only those who are under their rule; that as the subjects ought to be obedient, so also the rulers ought to be watchful and sober. What sayest thou? He watches; he imperils his own head; he is subject to the punishments of thy sins, and for thy sake is amenable to what is so fearful, and art thou slothful, and affectedly indifferent, and at ease? Therefore he says, "That they may do this with joy, and not with grief: for this is unprofitable for you."
Seest thou that the despised ruler ought not to avenge himself, but his great revenge is to weep and lament? For neither is it possible for the physician, despised by his patient, to avenge himself, but to weep and lament. But if [the ruler] lament (he means), God inflicts vengeance on thee. For if when we lament for our own sins we draw God to us, shall we not much rather [do this], when we lament for the arrogance and scornfulness of others? Seest thou that he does not suffer him to be led on to reproaches? Seest thou how great is his philosophy? He ought to lament who is despised, is trodden under foot, is spit upon.
Be not confident because he does not avenge himself on thee, for lamenting is worse than any revenge. For when of himself he profits nothing by lamenting, he calls on the Lord: and as in the case of a teacher and nurse, when the child does not listen to him, one is called in who will treat him more severely, so also in this case.
[3.] Oh! how great the danger! What should one say to those wretched men, who throw themselves upon so great an abyss of punishments? Thou hast to give account of all over whom thou rulest, women and children and men; into so great a fire dost thou put thy head. I marvel if any of the rulers can be saved, when in the face of such a threat, and of the present indifference, I see some still even running on, and casting themselves upon so great a burden of authority.
For if they who are dragged by force have no refuge or defense, if they discharge duty ill and are negligent; since even Aaron was dragged by force, and yet was imperiled; and Moses again was imperiled, although he had oftentimes declined; and Saul having been entrusted with another kind of rule, after he had declined it, was in peril, because he managed it amiss; how much more they who take so great pains to obtain it, and cast themselves upon it? Such an one much more deprives himself of all excuse. For men ought to fear and to tremble, both because of conscience, and because of the burden of the office; and neither when dragged to it should they once for all decline, nor, when not dragged cast themselves upon it, but should even flee, foreseeing the greatness of the dignity; and when they have been seized, they ought again to show their godly fear. Let there be nothing out of measure. If thou hast perceived it beforehand, retire; convince thyself that thou art unworthy of the office. Again, if thou hast been seized, in like manner be thou reverential, always showing rightmindedness.
[4.] Ver. 18. "Pray for us" (he says); "for we trust we have a good conscience among all, willing to live honestly."
Thou seest that he used these apologies, as writing to persons grieved with him, as to those who turned away, who were disposed as towards a transgressor, not enduring even to hear his name? Inasmuch then as he asked from those who hated him what all others ask from those who love them [their prayers for him], therefore he here introduces this; saying, "We trust that we have a good conscience." For do not tell me of accusations; our conscience, he says, in nothing hurts us; nor are we conscious to ourselves that we have plotted against you. "For we trust," he says, "that we have a good conscience among all," not among the Gentiles only, but also among you. We have done nothing with deceitfulness, nothing with hypocrisy: for it was probable that these [calumnies] were reported respecting him. "For they have been informed concerning thee" (it is said) "that thou teachest apostasy." (Acts xxi. 21.) Not as an enemy, he means, nor as an adversary I write these things, but as a friend. And this he shows also by what follows.
Ver. 19. "But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner." His thus praying was [the act] of one who loved them greatly, and that not simply, but with all earnestness, that so, he says, I may come to you speedily. The earnest desire to come to them is [the mark] of one conscious to himself of nothing [wrong], also the entreating them to pray for him.
Therefore having first asked their prayers, he then himself also prays for all good things on them. (Ver. 20) "Now the God of peace," he says (be ye not therefore at variance one with another), "that brought again from the earth the Shepherd of the sheep" (this is said concerning the resurrection) "the Great [Shepherd]" (another addition: here again he confirms to them even to the end, his discourse concerning the Resurrection) "through the blood of the everlasting covenant, our Lord Jesus Christ," (ver. 21) "make you perfect in every good work, to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight."
Again he bears high testimony to them. For that is made "perfect" which having a beginning is afterwards completed. And he prays for them which is the act of one who yearns for them. And while in the other Epistles, he prays in the prefaces, here he does it at the end. "Working in you," he says, "that which is well-pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
[5.] Ver. 22. "And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation, for indeed I have written a letter unto you in few words." Seest thou that what he wrote to no one[else], he writes to them? For (he means) I do not even trouble you with long discourse.
I suppose that they were not at all unfavorably disposed towards Timothy: wherefore he also put him forward. For (ver. 23) "know ye," he says, "that our brother Timothy is set at liberty, with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you." "Set at liberty," he says; from whence? I suppose he had been cast into prison: or if not this, that he was sent away from Athens. For this also is mentioned in the Acts.
Ver. 24, 25. "Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you. Grace be with you all. Amen."
[6.] Seest thou how he shows that virtue is born neither wholly from God, nor yet from ourselves alone? First by saying, "make you perfect in every good work"; Ye have virtue indeed, he means, but need to be made complete. What is "good work and word"? So as to have both life and doctrines right. "According to His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight."
"In His sight," he says. For this is the highest virtue, to do that which is well-pleasing in the sight of God, as the Prophet also says, "And according to the cleanness of my hands in His eye-sight." (Ps. xviii. 24.)
And having written thus much, he said this was little, in comparison with what he was going to say. As he says also in another place, "As I wrote to you in few words: whereby when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ." (Eph. iii. 3, 4.)
And observe his wisdom. He says not, "I beseech you, suffer the word of" admonition, but "the word of exhortation," that is, of consolation, of encouragement. No one, he means, can be wearied at the length of what has been said (Did this then make them turn away from him? By no means: he does not indeed wish to express this): that is, even if ye be of little spirit, for it is the peculiarity of such persons not to endure a long discourse.
"Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty, with whom if he come shortly I will see you." This is enough to persuade them to submit themselves, if he is ready to come with his disciple.
"Salute them that have the rule over you, and all the saints." See how he honored them, since he wrote to them instead of to those [their rulers].
"They of Italy salute you. Grace be with you all. Amen." Which was for them all in common.
But how does "Grace" come to be "with" us? If we do not do despite to the benefit, if we do not become indolent in regard to the Gift. And what is "the grace"? Remission of sins, Cleansing: this is "with" us. For who (he means) can keep the Grace despitefully, and not destroy it? For instance; He freely forgave thee thy sins. How then shall the "Grace be with" thee, whether it be the good favor or the effectual working of the Spirit? If thou draw it to thee by good deeds. For the cause of all good things is this, the continual abiding with us of the "grace" of the Spirit. For this guides us to all [good things], just as when it flies away from us, it ruins us, and leaves us desolate.
[7.] Let us not then drive it from us. For on ourselves depends, both its remaining, and its departing. For the one results, when we mind heavenly things; the other, when [we mind] the things of this life. "Which the world" (He says) "cannot receive because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him." (John xiv. 17.) Seest thou that a worldly soul cannot have Him? We need great earnestness that so there He may be held fast by us, so as to direct all our affairs, and do them in security, and in much peace.
For as a ship sailing with favorable winds is neither to be hindered nor sunk, so long as it enjoys a prosperous and steady breeze, but also causes great admiration according to the march of its progress both to the mariners, and to the passengers, giving rest to the one, and not forcing them to toil on at their oars, and setting the others free from all fear, and giving them the most delightful view of her course; so too a soul strengthened by the Divine Spirit, is far above all the billows of this life, and more strongly than the ship, cuts the way bearing on to Heaven, since it is not sent along by wind, but has all the pure sails filled by the Paraclete Himself: and He casts out of our minds all that is slackened and relaxed.
For as the wind if it fall upon a slackened sail, would have no effect; so neither does the Spirit endure to continue in a slack soul; but there is need of much tension, of much vehemence, so that our mind may be on fire, and our conduct under all circumstances on the stretch, and braced up. For instance when we pray, we ought to do it with much intentness, stretching forth the soul toward Heaven, not with cords, but with great earnestness. Again when we do works of mercy, we have need of intentness, lest by any means, thought for our household, and care for children, and anxiety about wife, and fear of poverty entering in, should slacken our sail. For if we put it on the stretch on all sides by the hope of the things to come, it receives well the energy of the Spirit; and none of those perishable and wretched things will fall upon it, yea, and if any of them should fall, it does it no harm, but is quickly thrown back by the tightness, and is shaken off and fails down.
Therefore we have need of much intentness. For we too are sailing over a great and wide sea, full of many monsters, and of many rocks, and bringing forth for us many storms, and from the midst of serene weather raising up a most violent tempest. It is necessary then if we would sail with ease, and without danger, to stretch the sails, that is, our determination: for this is sufficient for us. For Abraham also, when he had stretched forth his affections towards God and set before Him his fixed resolution, what else had he need of? Nothing: but "he believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." (Gen. xv. 6.) But Faith [comes] of a sincere will. He offered up his son, and though he did not slay him, he received a recompense as if he had slain him, and though the work was not done the reward was given.
Let our sails then be in good order, not grown old (for everything "that is decayed and waxen old is nigh to vanishing away") (c. viii. 13), not worn into holes, that so they may bear the energy of the Spirit. "For the natural man," it is said, "receiveth not the things of the Spirit." (1 Cor. ii. 14.) For as the webs of spiders could not receive a blast of wind, so neither will the soul devoted to this life, nor the natural man ever be able to receive the grace of the Spirit: for our reasonings differ nothing from them, preserving a connection in appearance only but destitute of all power.
[8.] Our condition, however, is not such, if we are watchful: but whatever may fall upon [the Christian], he bears all, and is above all, stronger than any whirlpool. For suppose there be a spiritual man, and that innumerable calamities befall him, yet is he overcome by none of them. And what do I say? Let poverty come upon him, disease, insults, revilings, mockings, stripes, every sort of infliction, every sort of mocking, and slanders, and insults: yet, as though he were outside the world, and set free from the feelings of the body, so will he laugh all to scorn.
And that my words are not mere boasting, I think many [such] exist even now; for instance, of those who have embraced the life of the desert. This however, you say, is nothing wonderful. But I say that of those also who live in cities, there are such men unsuspected. If thou wish however, I shall be able to exhibit some among those of old. And that thou mayest learn, consider Paul, I pray thee. What is there fearful that he did not suffer, and that he did not submit to? But he bore all nobly. Let us imitate him, for so shall we be able to land in the tranquil havens with much merchandise.
Let us then stretch our mind towards Heaven, let us be held fast by that desire, let us clothe ourselves with spiritual fire, let us gird ourselves with its flame. No man who bears flame fears those who meet him; be it wild beast, be it man, be it snares innumerable, so long as he is armed with fire, all things stand out of his way, all things retire. The flame is intolerable, the fire cannot be endured, it consumes all.
With this fire let us clothe ourselves, offering up glory to our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, might, honor, now and ever and world without end. Amen.
Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (PNPF I/XIV, Schaff). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.