Fathers of the Church
Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles: Homilies 11-20
by John Chrysostom in Unknown (between 398-404) | translated by Translated By Rev. J. Walker, M.A., of Brasenose College, Rev. J. sheppard, M.A., of Oriel College, Oxford, and Rev. H. Browne, M.A., of corpus Christi College, Cambridge; Revised By George B. Stevens, Ph.d., d.d., Professor in Yale University
"And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them."
Not for their own glory did they tell the tale—how should such be their motive?—but what they displayed was the proofs therein exhibited of the grace of Christ. All that their adversaries had said, this they told; their own part, it is likely, they omitted: this made the hearers all the more courageous. What then? These again flee to the true Succor, to the Alliance invincible, and again, "with one accord. And when they heard that," it is said, "with one accord they lifted up their voice to God, and said:" (v. 24) and with great earnestness, for it is no prayer made at random. Observe with what exquisite propriety their prayers are framed: thus, when they besought to be shown who was meet for the Apostleship, they said, "Thou, Lord, which knowest the heart of all men, show:" (ch. i. 24) for it was a subject for Prescience there: but here, where the thing needed was that the mouths of their adversaries should be stopped, they speak of lordship; wherefore they begin thus: Lord, "(De'spota) the God that madest heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who, by the Holy Ghost through the mouth of Thy servant, David our father, didst say, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ." (v. 24-26.) It is to sue God, as one may say upon His own covenants, that they thus produce this prophecy: and at the same time to comfort themselves with the thought, that in vain are all the imaginations of their foes. This then is what they say: Bring those words into accomplishment, and show that they "imagine vain things.—For of a truth," they proceed, "there were gathered together in this city, against Thy holy Child Jesus, (Pai^da) Whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings." (v. 27-29.) Observe their largeness of mind (philosophi'an). These are not words of imprecation. In saying, "their threatenings, they do not mean this or that thing specifically threatened, but only in general, the fact of their threatening, perhaps, as being formidable. In fact, the writer is concise in his narrative. And observe, they do not say, "Crush them, cast them down;" but what? "And grant unto Thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy word." Let us also learn thus to pray. And yet how full of wrath one would be, when fallen among men intent upon killing him, and making threats to that effect? how full of animosity? But not so these saints. "By stretching forth Thine hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done by the Name of Thy holy Child Jesus." (v. 30.) If in that Name the mighty deeds are wrought, great will be the boldness.
"And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together." (v. 31.) This was the proof that they were heard, and of His visitation. "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost." What means, "They were filled?" It means, They were inflamed; and the Gift burned up within them. "And they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul." (v. 32.) Do you see that together with the grace of God they also contributed their part? For everywhere it ought to be well observed, that together with the grace of God they do their part likewise. Just as Peter said above, "Silver and gold have I none"; and again, that "they were all together." (ch. iii. 6.) But in this place, having mentioned that they were heard, the sacred writer proceeds to speak also of them, what virtue they showed. Moreover, he is just about to enter upon the narrative of Sapphira and Ananias, and with a view to show the detestable conduct of that pair, he first discourses of the noble behavior of the rest. Now say, did their love beget their poverty, or the poverty the love? In my opinion, the love begat the poverty, and then the poverty drew tight the cords of love. For observe what he says: "They were all of one heart and of one soul." Behold, heart and soul are what make the "together." "Neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power the Apostles rendered their testimony (apedi'doun) of the resurrection." (v. 33.) The phrase betokens them to be as persons put in trust with a deposit: he speaks of it as a debt or obligation: that is, their testimony they with boldness did render, or pay off, to all. "And great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked." (v. 34.) Their feeling was just as if they were under the paternal roof, all for awhile sharing alike. It is not to be said, that though indeed they maintained the rest, yet they did it with the feeling that the means whereof they maintained them were still their own. No, the admirable circumstance is this, that they first alienated their property, and so maintained the rest, on purpose that the maintenance might not come as of their own private means, but as of the common property. "For as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the price of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the Apostles' feet; and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need." (v. 35.) A great mark of honor this, that "they laid them at the Apostles' feet. And Joses, who by the Apostles was surnamed Barnabas, ('which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation.')" (v. 36.) I do not think that this is the same with the companion of Matthias; for that person was also called Justus and [Barsabas, but this, Joses and] "Barnabas" ["son of consolation "]. I suppose he also received the name from his virtue, as being qualified and suited for this duty. "A Levite, and of the country of Cyprus by birth." Observe on all occasions how the writer indicates the breaking up of the Law. But how was he also a "Cyprian by birth?" Because they then even removed to other countries, and still were called Levites. "Having land, sold it, and brought the price, and laid it at the Apostles' feet."
Let us now look over again what has been said. ["And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them."] (Recapitulation, v. 23.) See the unostentatious conduct of the Apostles, and their largeness of mind. They did not go about boasting, and say, "How we served (apechrhsa'metha) the priests!" nor were they ambitious of honor: but, we read, "they came unto their own company. Observe how they do not cast themselves upon temptations, but when the temptations present themselves, with courage endure them. Had it been some other of the disciples, perhaps, emboldened by the countenance of the multitude, he might have insulted, might have vented ever so many harsh expressions. But not so these true philosophers; they do all with mildness and with gentleness. "And when they heard that, we read, with one accord they lifted up their voice to God. (v. 24.) That shout proceeded from delight and great emotion. Such indeed are the prayers which do their work, prayers replete with true philosophy, prayers offered up for such objects, by such persons, on such occasions, in such a manner; whereas all others are abominable and profane. "Lord, Thou the God that madest heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is." Observe how they say nothing idle, no old wives' talk and fables, but speak of His power. Just as Christ Himself said to the Jews, "If I by the Spirit of God do cast out devils: behold the Father also speaks by the Spirit. For what saith it? "Lord, the God Who, by the Holy Ghost, through the mouth of our father Thy servant David didst say, Why did the nations rage?" (v. 25.) Scripture is wont thus to speak of one as of many. "For of a truth, Lord, against Thy Holy Child Jesus, Whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, etc. (v. 27.) Observe how, even in prayer, they circumstantially describe the Passion, and refer all to God.—That is, Not they had power to do this: but Thou didst it all, Thou that didst permit, that dost call to account, and yet didst bring to accomplishment, Thou the All-skilful and Wise, that didst serve Thee of Thine enemies for Thine own pleasure. (v. 28.) "For to do whatever Thy hand," etc. Here they discourse of His exceeding Skill and Wisdom and Power. So then, as enemies they came together, and with murderous purpose, and as opposing themselves, but they did what things Thou wouldest: 'For to do," as it is said, "whatsoever Thy hand and Thy purpose determined before to be done." What means, "Thy hand?" Here he seems to me to denote one and the same thing by power and purpose, meaning that for Thee it is enough but to will: for it is not by power that one determines. "Whatsoever Thy hand," etc. i.e. Whatsoever Thou didst ordain: either this is the meaning, or, that by His hand He did effect. "And now, Lord, regard their threatenings." (v. 29.) As at that time, it is said, they "imagined vain things," so "now," grant that their imaginations may be in vain: i.e. let not their threatenings come into accomplishment. And this they said not because they would themselves deprecate any hardship, but for the preaching's sake. For they do not say, "and deliver us out of dangers;" but what? "And grant unto Thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy word." Thou Who didst bring to pass the former designs, bring these also to accomplishment. Observe, how they affirm God to be the Author of their confidence; and how they ask all for God's sake, nothing for their own glory or ambition. They promise for their own part, that they will not be dismayed; but they pray that signs may be wrought "by stretching forth Thy hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done :" (v. 30) for without these, however great the zeal they showed, they would be striving to no purpose. God assented to their prayer, and manifested this, by shaking the place. For "when they had prayed," it is said, "the place was shaken. (v. 31.) And wherefore this was done, hear from the prophet, when he says, "He looketh on the earth, and maketh it to tremble. (Ps. civ. 32.) For by this He made it manifest that He is present to their prayers. And again, another prophet saith, "The earth was shaken, and did tremble at the presence of the Lord." (Ps. xviii. 7; lxviii, 8.) And God did this, both to make it more awful, and to lead them on to a courageous trust. "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness." They gained increased boldness. As it was the beginning (of their work), and they had besought a sensible sign for their persuasion (pro`s to` peisthh^nai autous)—but after this we nowhere find the like happening—therefore great was the encouragement they received. In fact, they had no means of proving that He was risen, save by miraculous signs. So that it was not only their own assurance (asphalei'an) that they sought: but that they might not be put to shame, but that they might speak with boldness. "The place was shaken," and that made them all the more unshaken. For this is sometimes a token of wrath, sometimes of favor and providence, but on the present occasion, of wrath. For in those times it took place in an unusual manner. Thus, at the Crucifixion, the earth was shaken: and the Lord Himself says, "Then there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. (Matt. xxiv. 7.) But then the wrath of which it was a sign was against the adversaries: as for the disciples, it filled them with the Spirit. Observe, even the Apostles, after the prayer, are "filled with the Holy Ghost." "And the multitudes of them that believed," etc. (v. 32.) Great, you perceive, is the virtue of this thing, seeing their was need of this (grace) even in that Company. For this is the foundation of all that is good, this of which he now for the second time makes mention, exhorting all men to the. contempt of riches: "Neither said any of them that aught of the things he possessed was his own," "but they had. all things common." For that this was in consequence not merely of the miraculous signs, but of their own purpose, is manifest by the case of Sapphira and Ananias. "And with great power gave the Apostles witness," etc. (v. 33.) Not in word, but with power the Apostles exhibited their testimony of the Resurrection: just as Paul saith, "And my preaching was not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but with manifestation of the Spirit and of power." And it is not merely, With power, but, "With great power." (1 Cor. ii. 4.) "And great grace," it says, "was upon them all; for neither was there any among them that lacked. (v. 34.) This is why the grace (was upon them all,) for that "there was none that lacked:" that is, from the exceeding ardor of the givers, none was in want. For they did not give in part, and in part reserve: nor yet in giving all, give it as their own. And they lived moreover in great abundance: they removed all inequality from among them, and made a goodly order. "For as many as were possessors," etc. And with great respect they did this: for they did not presume to give into their hands, nor did they ostentatiously present, but brought to the Apostles' feet. To them they left it to be the dispensers, made them the owners, that thenceforth all should be defrayed as from common, not from private, property.(*) This was also a help to them against vain-glory. If this were done now, we should ire more pleasant lives, both rich and poor, nor would it be more pleasant to the poor than to the rich themselves. And if you please, let us now for awhile depict it in words, and derive at least this pleasure from it, since you have no mind for it in your actions. For at any rate this is evident, even from the facts which took place then, that by selling their possessions they did not come to be in need, but made them rich that were in need. However, let us now depict this state of things in words, and let all sell their possessions, and bring them into the common stock—in words, I mean: let none be excited, rich or poor. How much gold think you would be collected? For my part, I conjecture—for of course it is not possible to speak exactly—that supposing all here, men and women, to empty out their whole property, lands, possessions, houses,—for I will not speak of slaves, since at that time there was no such thing, but doubtless such as were slaves they sat at liberty,—perhaps ten hundred thousand pounds weight of gold would be the amount collected: nay, twice or thrice as much. For consider; at what number of "juga" (yokes) is our city rated? How many (of the population) shall we say are Christians? shall we say an hundred thousand, and the rest Greeks and Jews? Then what thousands (of pounds)of gold would be collected! And what is the number of poor? I do not think more than fifty thousand. Then to feed that number daily, what abundance there would bet And yet if the food were received in common, all taking their meals together, it would require no such great outlay after all. But, you will ask, what should we do after the money was spent? And do you think it ever could be spent? Would not the grace of God be ten thousand fold greater? Would not the grace of God be indeed richly poured out? Nay, should we not make it a heaven upon earth? If, where the numbers were three thousand and five thousand, the doing of this thing had such splendid success, and none of them complained of poverty, how much more glorious would this be in so vast a multitude? And even of those that are without, who would not contribute?- -But, to show that it is the living separately that is expensive and causes poverty, let there be a house in which are ten children: and the wife and the man, let the one work at her wool, the other bring his earnings from his outdoor occupation: now tell me, in which way would these spend most? by taking their meals together and occupying one house, or by living separately? Of course, by living separately. For if the ten children must live apart, they would need ten several rooms, ten tables, ten attendants, and the income otherwise in proportion. Is it not for this very reason, that where there is a great number of servants, they have all one table, that the expense may not be so great? For so it is, division always makes diminution, concord and agreement make increase. The dwellers in the monasteries live just as the faithful did then: now did ever any of these die of hunger? was ever any of them not provided for with plenty of everything? Now, it seems, people are more afraid of this than of falling into a boundless and bottomless deep. But if we had made actual trial of this, then indeed we should boldly venture upon this plan (tou^ pra'gmatos). What grace too, think you, would there not be! For if at that time, when there was no believer but only the three thousand and the five thousand: when all, throughout the world, were enemies, when they could nowhere look for comfort, they yet boldly entered upon this plan with such success; how much more would this be the case now, when by the grace of God there are believers everywhere throughout the world? What Gentile would be left? For my part, I think there would not be one: we should so attract all, and draw them to us? But yet if we do but make fair progress, I trust in God that even this shall be realized. Only do as I say, and let us successfully achieve things in their regular order; if God grant life, I trust that we shall soon bring you over to this way of life.
In the first place, as regards that law about swearing: accomplish that; establish it firmly: and let him that has kept it make known him that has not, and call him to account withal and rebuke him sternly. For the supra, Hom. viii.) appointed time (hh prothesmi'a), is at hand and I am holding inquisition in the matter, and him that is found guilty I will banish and exclude. But God forbid that any such should be found among us; rather may it appear, that all have strictly kept this spiritual watchword. And as in war it is by the watchword that friends and strangers are shown, so let it be now; for indeed now also we are engaged in a war; that we may know our brethren that are properly such. For what a good thing it is that we should have this to be our cognizance both here and in a foreign land! What a weapon this, against the very head of the devil! A mouth that cannot swear will soon both engage God in prayers, and smite the devil a deadly blow. A mouth that cannot swear will also be incapable of using insulting language. Cast out this fire from your tongue, as you would from a house: this fire, drag it out. Give your tongue a little rest: make the sore less virulent. Yea, I beseech you, do this, that I may go on to set you another lesson: for as long as this is not rightly done, I dare not pass on to any other. Let this lesson be got perfectly, and you shall have a consciousness of the achievement, and then I will introduce you to other laws, or rather not I, but Christ. Implant in your soul this good thing, and by little and little ye shall be a paradise of God, far better than that paradise of old. No serpent among you, no deadly tree, nor any such thing. Fix this habit deep. If this be done, not ye only that are present shall be benefitted, but all that are in all the world; and not they alone, but those that are to succeed hereafter. For a good habit having once entered, and being kept by all, will be handed on to long ages, and no circumstances shall be able to erase it. If he that gathered sticks on the sabbath was stoned,—the man that is doing a far more heinous work than that gathering, the man that is amassing a lead of sins, for such is the multitude of oaths, what shall he undergo? what shall he not have to endure? You will receive great assistance from God, if this be well achieved by you. If I were to say, Be not abusive, immediately you will plead to me your indignation; should I say, Be not envious, you will urge some other excuse. But in this case you have nothing of the kind to say. On which account I began with the easy precepts, which indeed is also the uniform practice in all arts. And thus one comes to the higher duties, by learning first those which are easier far. How easy it is you will see, when by the grace of God having succeeded in this, you shall receive another precept.
Put it in my power to speak out boldly, in the presence both of Gentiles and of Jews, and, above all, of God. Yea, I entreat you by the love, by the pangs wherewith I have travailed for your birth, "my little children." I will not add what follows, "of whom I travail in birth again;" nor will I say, "until Christ be formed in you." (Gal. iv. 19). For I am persuaded, that Christ has been formed in you. Other language I will use towards you; "My brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and my crown." (Phil. iv. 1.) Believe me that I shall use no other language. If at this moment there were placed upon my head ten thousand richly-jewelled royal crowns, they could not give me the joy which I feel at your growth in holiness; or rather, I do not think the monarch himself has such a joy, as that wherewith I joy over you. Let him have come home, victorious over all the nations at war with him, let him have won many other crowns besides the crown of his right; and receive other diadems as tokens of his victory: I do not think he would joy over his trophies, as I joy over your soul's progress. For I exult, as if I had a thousand crowns on my head; and well may I rejoice. For if by the grace of God you achieve this good habit, you will have gained a thousand battles far more difficult than his; by wrestling and fighting with malicious demons, and fiendish spirits, with the tongue, not with sword, but by the will. For consider how much is gained, if so be that you do succeed! You have eradicated, first, a heinous habit; secondly, an evil conceit, the source of all evil, namely, the opinion that the thing is indifferent and can do no hurt; thirdly, wrath; fourthly, covetousness; for all these are the offspring of swearing. Nay, hence you will acquire a sure footing in the way to all other virtues. For as when children learn their letters, they learn not them alone, but by means of them are gradually taught to read; so shall it be With you. That evil conceit will no longer deceive you, you will not say, This is indifferent; you will no longer speak by mere habit, but will manfully stand against all, so that having perfected in all parts that virtue which is after God, you may reap eternal blessings, through the grace and loving- kindness of His Only-Begotten Son, to Whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, power and honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen.
And Joses, who by the Apostles was surnamed Barnabas (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation), a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the Apostles' feet."
The writer is now about to relate the affair of Ananias and Sapphira, and in order to show that the man's sin was of the worst description, he first mentions him who performed the virtuous deed; that, there being so great a multitude all doing the same, so great grace, so great miracles, he, taught by none of these, but blinded by covetousness, brought destruction upon his own head. "Having land,—meaning that this was all he possessed,—sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the Apostles' feet. But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the Apostles' feet." (ch. v. 1, 2.) The aggravating circumstance was, that the sin was concerted, and none other saw what was done. How came it into the mind of this hapless wretch to commit this crime? "But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?" (v. 3.) Observe even in this, a great miracle performed, greater far than the former. "Whiles it remained," say she, "was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?" (v. 4.) That is, "Was there any obligation and force? do we constrain you against your will?" "Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost." (v. 5.) This miracle is greater than that of the lame man, in respect of the death inflicted, and the knowing what was in the thought of the heart, even what was done in secret.(*) "And great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, and wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much?" (v. 6-8.) The woman he would fain save, for the man had been the author of the sin: therefore he gives her time to clear herself, and opportunity for repentance, saying, "Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Holy Ghost? Behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then she fell down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost; and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the Church, and upon as many as heard these things." (v. 9-11.)
After this fear had come upon them, he wrought more miracles; both Peter and the rest; "And by the hands of the Apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch. And of the rest durst no man join himself to them," i.e. to the Apostles; "but the people magnified them," i.e. the Jewish people. If "no man durst join himself unto them," the Apostles, "there were," however, "the more added unto the Lord, believers, multitudes both of men and of women, insomuch that they brought out into the streets their impotent folk, and laid them upon couches and beds, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them." (v. 12-15.) For Peter was the wonderful one, and he to whom they more gave heed both because of his public harangue, the first and the second and the third, and because of the miracle; for he it was that wrought the miracle, the first, the second, the third: for the present miracle was twofold: first, the convicting the thoughts of the heart, and next the inflicting of death at his word of command. "That at the least the shadow of Peter passing by," etc. This had not occurred in the history of Christ; but see here what He had told them actually coming to pass, that "they which believe on Me, the works that I do shall they do also; and greater works than these shall they do." (John xiv. 12.) "There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them that were vexed with unclean spirits; and they were healed every one." (v. 16.)
And now I would have you observe the way in which their whole life is interwoven. First there was despondency on account of Christ taken from them, and then came joy because of the Spirit descending upon them; again, dejection because of the scoffers, and then joy in the result of their own apology. And here again we find both dejection and gladness. In that they were become conspicuous, and that God made revelations to them, there was gladness: in that they had cut off some of their own company, there was sadness. Once more: again there is gladness upon their success, and again sadness by reason of the High Priest. And so it will be seen to be the case throughout. And the same will be found to hold in the case of the ancient saints likewise.—But let us look over again what has been said.
"They sold them," it is written, "and brought the prices, and laid them down at the Apostles' feet." (Recapitulation. iv, 34-37.) See, my beloved brethren, how instead of leaving the Apostles to sell, they themselves sold, and presented the prices to them. "But a certain man named Ananias," etc. (v. 1.) This history touches Bishops too, and very forcibly. And the wife of Ananias was privy to the thing done: therefore he examines her. But perhaps some one will say that he dealt very harshly with her. What do you mean? What harshness? If for gathering sticks a man is to be stoned, much rather ought he for sacrilege; for this money was become sacred. He that has chosen to sell his goods and distribute them, and then withdraws them, is guilty of sacrilege. But if he is sacrilegious, who resumes from his own, much more he who takes from what is not his own. And do not think that because the consequence is not now the same, the crime will go unpunished. Do you see that this is the charge brought against Ananias, that having made the money sacred, he afterwards secreted it? Couldest thou not, said Peter, after selling thy land, use the proceeds as thine own? Wast thou forbidden? Wherefore after thou hadst promised it? See how at the very beginning, the devil made his attack; in the very midst of such signs and wonders, how this man was hardened! Something of the same kind had happened upon a time in the Old Testament. The son of Charmi coveted the devoted thing: for observe there also what vengeance ensues upon the sin. Sacrilege, beloved, is a most grievous crime, insulting, and full of contempt. We neither obliged thee to sell, the Apostle says, nor to give thy money when thou hadst sold; of thine own free choice thou didst it; why hast thou then stolen from the sacred treasury? "Why," he says, "hath Satan filled thine heart?" (v. 3.) Well, if Satan did the thing, why is the man made guilty of it? For admitting the influence of the devil, and being filled with it. You will say, they ought to have corrected him. But he would not have received correction; for he that has seen such things as he had seen, and is none the better, would certainly be none the better for anything else that could be done; the matter was not one to be simply passed over: like a gangrene, it must be cut out, that it might not infect the rest of the body. As it is, both the man himself is benefitted in regard that he is not left to advance further in wickedness, and the rest, in that they are made more earnest; otherwise the contrary would have ensued. In the next place, Peter proves him guilty, and shows that the deed was not hidden from him, and then pronounces the sentence. But wherefore, upon what purpose hast thou done this? Didst thou wish to keep it? Thou oughtest to have kept it all along, and never to have professed to give it. The sacrilege, beloved, is a grievous one. For another, it may be, coveted what was not his own: but it was at thy discretion to keep what was thine own. Why then didst thou first make it sacred, and then take it? Out of excessive contempt hast thou done this. The deed does not admit of pardon, it is past pleading for.—Therefore let it be no stumbling-block to any, if at present also there are sacrilegious persons. If there were such persons then, much more now, when evils are many. But let us "rebuke them before all, that others also may fear." (1 Tim. v. 20.) Judas was sacrilegious, but it was no stumbling-block to the disciples. Do you see how many evils spring from love of money? "And great fear, it is said, came on all them that heard these things." (v. 5.) That man was punished, and others profited thereby. Not without cause. And yet, signs had been wrought before: true, but there was not such a sense of fear. So true is that saying, "The Lord is known by executing judgments." (Ps. ix. 16.) The same thing had occurred in the case of the Ark: Uzzah was punished and fear came upon the rest. (2 Sam. vi. 7.) But in that instance the king through fear removed from him the Ark; but here the disciples became more earnestly heedful. ["And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in," etc.] (v.7.) But observe how Peter, instead of sending for her, waited till she entered; and how none of the others durst carry out the intelligence. Such the teacher's awfulness, such the disciples' reverence, such the obedience! "An interval of three hours,"—and yet the woman did not hear of it, and none of those present reported it, although there was time enough for it to be noised abroad; but they were afraid. This circumstance the Evangelist relates with wonder even, when he says, "Not knowing what was done, came in." "And Peter answered unto her," etc. (v. 8.) And yet she might have perceived even from this that Peter knew the secret. For why, having questioned none other, does he question you? Was it not clear that he asked because he knew? But so great was her hardness, it would not let her attempt to evade the guilt; and with great confidence she replied; for she thought she was speaking only to a man. The aggravation of the sin was, that they committed it as with one soul, just as upon a settled compact between them. "How is it that ye have agreed together," he said, "to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door." (v. 9.) First he makes her learn the sin, and then shows that she will justly suffer the same punishment with her husband, since she has committed the same wickedness: "And they shall carry thee out. And she fell down straightway at his feet," for she was standing near him, and yielded up the ghost." (v. 10.) So entirely by their own act had they invited upon themselves the vengeance! Who after that would not be struck with awe? who would not fear the Apostle? who would not marvel? who not be afraid? "And they were with one accord, all of them in Solomon's porch," (v. 12) no longer in a house, but having occupied the very Temple, they there passed their time! No longer they guarded themselves against touching the unclean; nay, without scruple they handled the dead. And observe how, while to their own people they are severe, against the aliens they do not exercise their power. "But the people," he says, "magnified them." (v. 13.) And as he had mentioned their being "in Solomon's porch," that you may not wonder how the multitude allowed this, he tells us that they did not dare even to approach them: for "no man," he says, "durst join himself unto them." "But believers were the more added unto the Lord, multitudes both of men and women: insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them." (v. 14, 15.) Great faith, surpassing what had been shown in the case of Christ. How comes this? Because Christ declared: "And greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto My Father." (John xiv. 12.) And these things the people do, while the Apostles remain there, and are not moving about from place to place: also from other places they were all bringing [their sick] on beds and couches: and from all quarters accrued to them fresh tribute of wonder; from them that believed, from them that were healed, from him that was punished; from their boldness of speech towards those (their adversaries), from the virtuous behavior of the believers: for certainly the effect produced was not owing to the miracles only. For though the Apostles themselves modestly ascribe it all to this cause, declaring that they did these things in the name of Christ, yet at the same time the life and noble conduct of the men helped to produce this effect. "And believers were more added unto the Lord, multitudes both of men and women." Observe, how he now no longer tells the number of them that believe; at such a rate was the faith making way even to an immense multitude, and so widely was the Resurrection proclaimed. So then "the people magnified them:" but they were now no longer lightly to be despised as once they were: for in a little moment, at a single turn of the scale, such have been the effects produced by the fisherman and by the publican! Earth was become a heaven, for manner of life, for boldness of speech, for wonders, for all besides; like Angels were they looked upon with wonder: all unconcerned for ridicule, for threats, for perils: compassionate were they, and beneficent; some of them they succoured with money, and some with words, and some with healing of their bodies and of their souls; no kind of healing (pa^n ei^dos iatrei'as) but they accomplished.
Peter all but pleads for himself, when at the point to inflict the punishment, and at the same time gives a lesson to the rest. For because the act would seem exceeding stern, therefore it is that he does so much in the case.(*) In respect of the woman also the process of judgment was terrible. But see how many evils grow out of the sacrilege covetousness, contempt of God, impiety; and upon these too he pleaded for himself before the assembly, in that he did not immediately proceed to punishment, but first exposed the sin. None groaned, none lamented, all were terrified. For as their faith increased, the signs also were multiplied, and great was the fear among their own company: for the things which are from without do not so militate (polemei) against our peace, as do the acts of our own people. If we be firmly joined together, no warfare will be hard: but the mischief would be the being divided and broken up. Now they went about in the public place: with boldness they attacked even the market, and in the midst of enemies they prevailed, and that saying was fulfilled, "Be Thou Ruler in the midst among Thine enemies." (Ps. cx. 2.) This was a greater miracle, that they, arrested, cast into prison, should do such acts as these!
If those for lying suffered such things, what shall not the perjured suffer? Because she simply affirmed, "Yea, for so much," ye see what she suffered. Bethink you then; they that swear and forswear themselves, of what should they be worthy? It comes in opportunely to-day even from the Old Testament to show you the heinousness of perjury. "There was," it says, "a flying sickle, ten cubits in breadth." (Zech. v. 2.) The "flying" betokens the swift advent of the vengeance which pursues oaths; that it is many cubits in length and breadth, signifies the force and magnitude of the woes; that it comes flying "from heaven," is to show that the vengeance comes from the judgment-seat on high: that it is in the form of a sickle," denotes the inevitableness Of the doom: for just as the sickle, where it comes and has hooked the neck, is not drawn back with nothing but itself, but with the head reaped off, even so the vengeance which comes upon the sweaters is severe, and will not desist until it have completed its work. But if we swear and escape, let us not be confident; this is but to our woe. For what think ye? How many, since Ananias and Sapphira, have dared the same with them? How is it then, say you, that they have not met with the same fate? Not because it was allowed in them, but because they are reserved. for a greater punishment. For those who often sin and are not punished, have greater reason to fear and dread than if they were punished. For the vengeance is increased for them by their present impunity and the long-suffering of God. Then let us not look to this, that we are not punished; but let us consider whether we have not sinned: if sinning we are not punished, we have the more reason to tremble. Say, if you have a slave, and you only threaten him, and do not beat him; when is he most in fear, when most inclined to run away? Is it not when you only threaten him? And hence we advise each other not to be continually using threats, thereby choosing rather to agitate the mind by the terror, and lacerating it worse than with blows. For in the one instance the punishment is momentary, but in the other it is perpetual. If then no one feels the stroke of the sickle, do not look to this, but rather let each consider whether he commits such sins. Many like things are done now as were done before the Flood, yet no flood has been sent: because there is a hell threatened, and vengeance. Many sin as the people did in Sodom, yet no rain of fire has been poured down; because a river of fire is prepared. Many go the lengths of Pharaoh; yet they have not fared like Pharaoh, they have not been drowned in a Red Sea: for the sea that awaits them, is the sea of the bottomless pit, where the punishment is not accompanied with insensibility, where there is no suffocation to end all, but in ever lengthened torture, in burning, in strangling, they are consumed there. Many have offended like the Israelites, but no serpents have devoured them: there awaits them the worm that never dieth. Many have been like Gehazi, yet they have not been struck with leprosy: for instead of leprosy, it remains for them to be cut asunder, and numbered among the hypocrites. Many have both sworn and forsworn; but if they have indeed escaped, let us not be confident: the gnashing of teeth awaits them. Yea, here too they will suffer many grievous woes, though, it may be, not immediately, but after further transgressions, that the vengeance may be the greater; for even we often set out at first with small sins, and then through great offences lose all. Therefore when you see anything happening to you, call to mind that particular sin of yours. The sons of Jacob are an example of this. Remember Joseph's brothers; they had sold their brother, they had even attempted to slay him; nay, they had slain him, as far as inclination went; they had deceived and grieved the old man; they suffered nothing. After many years they are brought into extreme peril, and now they are put in remembrance of this their sin. Exceeding wisely is this circumstance brought in. Hear what they say: "We are verily guilty concerning our brother." (Gen. xlii. 21.) In this manner then do thou also, when anything happens, say, We are verily guilty, because we have not obeyed Christ; because we have sworn; my much swearing, and my false swearing, has fallen upon my own head. Confess thou; since they also confessed, and were saved. For what though the punishment follow not immediately? Since Ahab also did not immediately after his sin in the matter of Naboth suffer that vengeance which he yet at last suffered. (1 Kings xxi. 19.) And what is the reason of this? God sets thee a time, in which to wash thyself clean; but if thou persist, at last He will send down the vengeance. You have seen the fate of liars. Consider what is the fate of false swearers, consider, and desist. It is impossible a swearer should not forswear himself, whether he will or not; and no perjurer can be saved. One false oath sufficeth to finish all, to draw down upon us the whole measure of vengeance. Let us then take heed to ourselves, that we may escape the punishment due to this offence, and be deemed worthy of the loving kindness of God, through the grace and mercies of His only- begotten Son, with Whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, power, and honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
"Then having risen up, the high-priest and they that were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees) were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the Apostles, and put them in the common prison."
"Having risen up," that is, being roused, being excited at the things taking place, the high-priest and they which were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees) were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the Apostles:" they now assault them more vigorously: "and put them in the common prison;" but did not forthwith bring them to trial, because they expected them again to be softened down. "But the Angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life." "And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught." (v. 19-21.) This was done both for the encouragement of the disciples, and for the benefit and instruction of the others. And observe how the proceeding in the present instance is just the same as in what Christ Himself did. Namely, in His miracles though He does not let men see them in the act of being wrought, He furnishes the means whereby they may be apprised of the things wrought: thus, in His Resurrection, He did not let them see how He rose in the water made wine, the guests do not see it done, for they have been drinking much, and the discernment He loaves to others. Just so in the present case, they do not see them in the act of being brought forth, but the proofs from which they might gather what had been done, they do see. And it was by night that the Angel put them forth. Why was this? Because in this way they were more believed than they would have been in the other: so, people would not even have had occasion to put the question: they would not in some other way have believed. So it was in the old times, in the case of Nebuchadnezzar: he saw them praising God in the furnace, and then indeed he was put in amazement. (Dan. iii. 24.) Whereas then these priests ought as their first question to have asked, How came ye out? instead of this, as if nothing had happened, they ask, "Did we not straitly charge you not to speak?" (v. 28.) And observe, by report of others they are apprised of all the circumstances: they see the prison remaining closed with safety, and the guards standing before the doors. A twofold security this; as was the case at the sepulchre, where was both the seal, and the men to watch. See how they fought against God! Say, was this of man's doing, that happened to them? Who led them forth, when the doors were shut? How came they out, with the keepers standing before the door? Verily they must be mad or drunken to talk so. Here are men, whom neither prison, nor bonds, nor closed doors, had been able to keep in; and yet they expect to overpower them: such is their childish folly! Their officers come and confess what has taken place, as if on purpose to debar them from all show of reason. Do you mark how there is miracle upon miracle, differing in kind, some wrought by them, others on them, and these more illustrious than the others? "And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high-priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told, saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within. Now when the high-priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow." (v. 21-25.) It is well ordered that the information was not brought to them at once, but they are first utterly at a loss what to think, that when they have considered it well and seen that there is a Divine Power in the case, then they may learn the whole state of the case. "Then came one, and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. Then went the captain with the other officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the multitude, lest they should have been stoned." (v. 25, 26.) O the folly of the men! "They feared," saith he, "the multitude." Why, how had the multitude helped the Apostles? When they ought to have feared that God Who was continually delivering them like winged creatures out of their power, instead of that, "they feared the multitude! "And the high-priest," shameless, reckless, senseless, "asked them, saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." (v. 27, 28.) What then (say the Apostles)? Again with mildness they address them; and yet they might have said, "Who are ye, that ye countermand God?" But what do they say? Again in the way of exhortation and advice, and with much mildness, they make answer. "Then Peter and the other Apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men." (v. 29.) High magnanimity! He shows them too that they are fighting against God. For, he says, Whom ye killed, Him hath God raised up. "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, Whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." (v. 30, 31.) And again they refer the whole to the Father, that He should not seem to be alien to the Father. "And hath exalted," saith He, "with his right hand." He affirms not merely the Resurrection, but the Exaltation also. "For to give repentance to Israel." Observe here as before the gain (to them): observe the perfection of doctrine conveyed in the form of apology. "And we are witnesses of these things." (v. 32.) Great boldness of speech! And the ground of their credibility: "And so is also the Holy Ghost, Whom God hath given to them that obey Him." Do you observe that they allege not only the Spirits testimony? And they said not, "Whom He hath given" to us, but, "to them that obey Him: therein alike showing their own unassuming: temper, and intimating the greatness of the gift, and showing the hearers that it was possible for them also to receive the Spirit. See, how these people were instructed both by deeds and by words, and yet they paid no heed, that their condemnation might be just. For to this end did God suffer the Apostles to be brought to trial, that both their adversaries might be instructed, and all might learn, and that the Apostles might be invigorated to boldness of speech. "And they hearing that, were cut to the heart." (v. 33.) The others (on a former occasion) "when they heard these things were pricked;" here they were cut (as with a saw) (diepri'onto) "and desired to slay them." (ch. ii. 37.)
But it is necessary now to look over again what we have read. "But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. Brought them forth." (Recapitulation, v. 19, 20.) He did not bring them away to benefit themselves thereby, but, "Stand," he says, "and speak in the temple to the people." But if the guards had put them out, as those thought, they would have fled, that is, supposing they had been induced to come out: and if those had put them forth, they would not have stood in the temple, but would have absconded. No one is so void of sense, as not at once to see this. "Did we not straitly charge you?" (v. 28.) Well, if they undertook to obey you, ye do well to call them to account: but if even at the very time they told you they would not obey, what account have you to call them to, what defence is there for them to make? "And behold ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us."(*) Mark the inconsistency of the accusations and the exceeding folly. They want to make it appear now, that the dispositions of the Jews are sanguinary, as if they were doing these things not for the truth's sake, but in the wish to be revenged. And for this reason too the Apostles do not answer them with defiance (thrase'ws): for they were teachers. And yet where is the man, who, with a whole city to back him, and endowed with so great grace, would not have spoken and uttered something big? But not so did these: for they were not angered; no, they pitied these men, and wept over them, and marked in what way they might free them from their error and wrath. And they no longer say to them, "Judge ye:" (ch. iv. 19) but they simply affirm, saying, "Whom God raised up, Him do we preach: it is by the will of God that these things are done." They said not, Did not we tell you even then, that "we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard?" (ib. 20.) for they are not contentious for glory; but they repeat again the same story,—the Cross, the Resurrection. And they tell not, wherefore He was crucified—that it was for our sakes: but they hint at this indeed, but not openly as yet, wishing to terrify them awhile. And yet what sort Of rhetoric is here? None at all, but everywhere it is still the Passion, and the Resurrection and the Ascension, and the end wherefore: "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus," etc. (v. 30, 31.) And yet what improbable assertions are these! Very improbable, no doubt; but for all that, not rulers, not people, had a word to say against them: but those had their mouths stopped, and these received the teaching. "And we," saith he, "are witnesses of these things." (v. 32.) Of what things? Of His having promised forgiveness and repentance: for the Resurrection indeed was acknowledged, now. But that He giveth forgiveness, both we are witnesses, and "so is the Holy Ghost," Who would not have come down, unless sins had been first remitted: so that this is an indisputable proof. "When they heard that, they, were cut" (to the heart), "and took counsel to slay them." (v. 33.) Hearest thou of the forgiveness of sins, O wretched man, and that God doth not demand punishment, and dost thou wish to slay them? What wickedness was this! And yet, either they ought to have convicted them of lying, or if they could not do that, to have believed: but if they did not choose to believe, yet they ought not to slay them. For what was there deserving of death? Such was their intoxication, they did not even see what had taken place. Observe, how everywhere the Apostles, when they have made mention of the crime, add the mention of forgiveness; showing, that while what had been done was worthy of death, that which was given was proffered to them as to benefactors! In what other way could any one have persuaded them?
"Then stood up the high-priest," etc. As men in high repute, these(the Apostles) were about to take their place near to the Prophets. The Sadducees were they that were most sore on the subject of the Resurrection. But perchance some one will say: Why, what man, endowed with such gifts as the Apostles were, would not have been great? But consider, I pray you, how, before that they were endowed with the grace, "they were continuing steadfastly with one accord in prayer" (ch. i. 14), and depending on the aid from above. And dost thou, my beloved, hope for the kingdom of heaven, yet endurest naught? And hast thou received the Spirit, yet sufferest not such things, nor encounterest perils? But they, before they had breathing-time froth their former dangers, were again led into others. And even this too, that there is no arrogance, no conceit, how great a good it is! To converse with mildness, what a gain it is! For not all that they did was the immediate work of grace, but there are many marks of their own zeal as well. That the gifts of grace shine forth in them, this was from their own diligence. See, for instance, from the very beginning, how careful Peter is; how sober and vigilant: how they that believed east away their riches, had no private property, continued in prayer, showed that they were of one mind, passed their time in fastings. What grace, I ask (alone), did all this? Therefore it is that He brings the evidence home to them through their own officers. Just as in the case of Christ, it was their officers who said, "Never man spake as this Man speaketh." (John vii. 46.) These (proofs) are more apt to be believed than the Resurrection.—Observe also the moderation shown by (the rulers) themselves, and how they give way. "The high-priest asked them, saying," etc. (v. 27): here he reasons with them, forsooth, in a moderate tone; for he was frightened: indeed to hinder was what he desired rather than to kill, since that he cannot do: and with the view to rouse them all, and show them the extreme danger they are in, "And intend," says he (to the Apostles)," to bring this man's blood upon us." Dost thou still take Him to be but man? He wants to make it appear that the injunction was necessary for their own safety. But mark what (Peter) says: "Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." (v. 31.) Here he forbears to mention the Gentiles, not to give them a handle against him. "And they desired," it says, "to slay them." (v. 33.) See again these in perplexity, these in pain: but those in quiet and cheerfulness and delight. It is not merely, They were grieved, but "They were cut" (to the heart). Truly this makes good that proverb, "Evil do, evil fare:" as we may see in this case. Here were these men in bonds, set at the bar of judgment, and the men that sit in judgment upon them were in distress and helpless perplexity. For as he who strikes a blow upon the adamant, gets the shock of the blow himself, so it was with these men. But they saw that not only was their boldness of speech not stopped, but rather their preaching increased the more, and that they discoursed without a thought of fear, and afforded them no handles against them.
Let us imitate these, my beloved: let us be undaunted in all our dangers. There is nothing dreadful to him that fears God; but all that is dreadful is for others. For when a man is delivered from his passions, and regards all present things as a shadow, say, from whom shall he suffer anything dreadful? whom shall he have to fear? whom shall he need plead to? Let us flee to this Rock which cannot be shaken. If any one were to build for us a city, and throw up a wall around it, and remove us to a land uninhabited, where there were none to disturb us, and there supply us with abundance of everything, and not suffer us to have aught to trouble us with anybody, he would not set us in such perfect safety, as Christ hath done now. Be it a city made of brass, if you will, surrounded on all sides with a wall, lofty and impregnable, let there be no enemy near it; let it have land plentiful and rich, let there be added abundance of other things, let the citizens too be mild and gentle, and no evil-doer there, neither robber, nor thief,' no informer, no court of justice, but merely agreements (sunalla'lmata); and let us dwell in this city: not even thus would it be possible to live in security. Wherefore? Because there could not but be differences with servants, with wives, with children, to be a groundwork of much discomfort. But here was nothing of the kind; for here was nothing at all to pain them or cause any discomfort. Nay, what is more wonderful to say, the very things which are thought to cause discomfort, became matter of all joy and gladness. For tell me, what was there for them to be annoyed at? what to take amiss? Shall we cite a particular case for comparison with them? Well, let there be one of consular dignity, let him be possessed of much wealth, let him dwell in the imperial city, let him have no troublesome business with anybody, but only live in delight, and have nothing else but this to do, seated at the very summit of wealth and honor and power: and let us set against him a Peter, in bonds if you will, in evils without number: and we shall find that he is the man that lives the most delightfully. For when there is such excess of joy, as to be delighted when in bonds, think what must be the greatness of that joy! For like as those who are high in office, whatsoever evils may happen, are not sensible of them, but continue in enjoyment: so did these the more rejoice on account of these very evils. For it is impossible, impossible in words to express how great pleasure falls to their lot, who suffer for Christ's sake: for they rejoice in their sufferings, rather than in their good things. Whoso loves Christ, knows what I say.—But what as regards safety? And who, I ask, if he were ever so rich, could have escaped so many perils, going about among so many different nations, for the sole purpose of bringing about a reformation in their manner of life? For it was just as if by royal mandate that they carried all before them, nay, far more easily, for never mandate could have been so effectual, as their words were. For the royal edict compels by necessity, but these drew men willingly and spontaneously, yea, and with hearts above measure thankful. What royal edict, I ask, would ever have persuaded men to part with all their property and their lives; to despise home, country, kindred, yea, even serf- preservation? Yet the voices of fishermen and tent-makers availed for this. So that they were both happy, and more powerful and strong than all others. "Yes," say you, "those of course were, for they wrought miracles." (supra, p. 83, note 4.) But I ask what miracles did those who believed work. the three thousand, and the five thousand; and yet these, we read, passed their time in gladness? And well they might: for that which is the groundwork of all discomforts, the possession of riches, was done away with. For that, that, I say, was ever the cause both of wars and fighting, and grief, and discomfort, and all evils: the thing which makes life full of labor and troubles, it is that. And indeed it would be found that many more rich than poor have reason to be sad. If any think this is not true, their notion is derived not from the nature of the things, but from their own fancy. And if the rich do enjoy some sort of pleasure, this is not to be wondered at: for even those who are covered all over with the itch, have a good deal of pleasure. For that the rich are for all the world like these, and their mind affected in the same sort, is plain from this circumstance. Their cares annoy them, and they choose to be engrossed with them for the sake of the momentary pleasure: while those who are free from these affections, are in health and without discomfort. Whether is more pleasant, I ask, whether of the two more safe? To have to take thought only for a single loaf of bread and suit of clothes, or for an immense family, both slaves and freemen, not having care about himself (only)? For as this man has his fears for himself, so have you for those who depend on your own person. Why, I pray you, does poverty seem a thing to be shunned? Just in the same way as other good things are, in the judgment of many, things to be deprecated. "Yes," say you, "but it is not that those good things are subjects for deprecation, but that they are hard of attainment." Well, so is poverty, not a thing to be deprecated, but hard of attainment: so that if one could bear it, there would be no reason to deprecate it. For how is it that the Apostles did not deprecate it? how is it that many even choose it, and so far from deprecating, even run to it? For that which is really a thing to be deprecated, cannot be an object of choice save to madmen. But if it be the men of philosophic and elevated minds that betake themselves to this, as to a safe and salubrious retreat, no wonder if to the rest it wears a different appearance. For, in truth, the rich man seems to me to be just like a city, unwalled, situated in a plain, inviting assailants from all sides: but poverty, a secure fortress, strong as brass can make it, and the way up to it difficult. "And yet," say you, "the fact is just the reverse: for these are they, who are often dragged into courts of law, these are they who are overborne and ill-treated." No: not the poor, as poor, but those who being poor want to be rich. But I am not speaking of them, but of such as make it their study to live in poverty. For say, how comes it that nobody ever drags the brethren of the hills into courts of law? and yet if to be poor is to be a mark for oppression, those ought most of all to be dragged thither, since they are poorer than all others. How comes it that nobody drags the common mendicants into the law-courts? Because they are come to the extreme of poverty. How is it that none does violence to them, none lays vexatious informations against them? Because they abide in a stronghold too safe for that. How many think it a condition hard to struggle against, poverty, I mean, and begging! What then, I ask, is it a good thing to beg? "It is good, if there be comfort," say you; "if there be one to give: it is a life so free from trouble and reverses, as every one knows." But I do not mean to commend this; God forbid! what I advise is the not aiming at riches.
For say, whom would you rather call blessed? those who find themselves at home with virtue, (epithdei'ous pro`s areth'n) or those who stand aloof? Of course, those who are near. Say then, which of the two is the man to learn anything that is profitable, and to shine in the true wisdom? the former, or the latter? The first, all must see. If you doubt it, Satisfy yourself in this way. Fetch hither from the market-place any of the poor wretches there; let him be a cripple, lame, maimed: and then produce some other person, comely of aspect, strong in body, full of life and vigor in every part, overflowing with riches: let him be of illustrious birth, and possessed of great power. Then let us bring both these into the school of philosophy: which of them, I ask, is more likely to receive the things taught? The first precept, at the outset, "Be lowly and moderate" (for this is Christ's command): which will be most able to fulfil it, this one or the other? "Blessed are they that mourn" (Matt. v. 4): which will most receive this saying? "Blessed are the lowly:" which will most listen to this? "Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake" (ib. 8, 6, 10). Which will with ease receive these sayings? And, if you will, let us apply to all of them these rules, and see how they will fit. Is not the one inflamed and swollen all over, while the other is ever lowly minded and subdued in his whole bearing? It is quite plain. Yes, and there is a saying to that effect among those that are without: "(I was) a slave, Epictetus by name, a cripple in body, for poverty a very Irus, and a friend of the Immortals." For how, I would ask, can it be otherwise, but that the soul of the rich must teem with evils; folly, vainglory, numberless lusts, anger and passion, covetousness, iniquity, and what not? So that even for philosophy, the former is more congenially (epithdei'a) disposed than the latter. By all means seek to ascertain which is the more pleasant: for this I see is the point everywhere discussed, whether such an one has the more enjoyable way of life. And yet even as regards this, we need not be in doubt; for to be near to health, is also to have much enjoyment. But whether of the two, I would ask, is best disposed (epith'deios) to the matter now in hand, that which we will needs carry into accomplishment—our law, I mean—the poor man or the rich? Whether of them will be apt to swear? The man who has children to be provoked with, the man who has his covenants with innumerable parties, or the man who is concerned to apply for just a loaf of bread or a garment? This man has not even need of oaths, should he wish, but always lives free from cares of business; nay, more, it is often seen that he who is disciplined to swear not at all, will also despise riches; and one shall see in his whole behavior his ways all branching off from this one good habit, and leading to meekness, to contempt of riches, to piety, to subduedness of soul, to compunction of heart. Then let us not be indolent, my beloved, but let us again show great earnestness: they who have succeeded, that they may keep the success achieved, that they be not easily caught by the receding wave, nor the refluent tide carry them back again [they too who are yet behindhand, that they may be raised up again, and strive to make up that which is wanting. And meanwhile let those who have succeeded, help those who have not been able to do the same]: and by reaching out their hands, as they would to men struggling in the deep water, receive them into the haven of no-swearing (anwmosi'as). For it is indeed a haven of safety, to swear not at all: whatever storms burst upon us, to be in no danger of sinking there: be it anger, be it insult, be it passion, be it what it may, the soul is stayed securely; yea, though one have vented some chance word or other that ought not, and had been better not, to be spoken, yet be has laid himself under no necessity, no law. (Supra, Hom. ix. #5. ad. Pop. Ant. viii. #3.) See what Herod did for his oath's sake: he cut off the head of the Fore-runner. "But because of his oaths," it says, "and because of them which sat at meat with him" (Mark vi. 26), he cut off the head of the Prophet. Think what the tribes had to suffer for their oath in the matter of the tribe of Benjamin (Judges xxi. 5-10): what Saul had to suffer for his oath (1 Sam. xiv. 24, etc.). For Saul indeed perjured himself, but Herod did what was even worse than perjury, he committed murder. Joshua again—you know how it fared with him, for his oath in the matter of the Gibeonites. (Joshua, ch. ix.) For it is indeed a snare of Satan, this swearing. Let us burst the cords; let us bring ourselves into a condition in which it will be easy (not to swear); let us break loose from every entanglement, and from this snare of Satan. Let us fear the command of the Lord: let us settle ourselves in the. best of habits: that, making progress, and having achieved this and the rest of the commandments, we may obtain those good things which are promised to them that love Him, through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost together be glory, power, and honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
"Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded the men to be put forth a little space."
This Gamaliel was Paul's teacher. And one may well wonder, how, being so right-minded in his judgment, and withal learned in the law, he did not yet believe. But it cannot be that he should have continued in unbelief to the end. Indeed it appears plainly from the words he here speaks. He "commanded," it says, "to put the men forth a little space [and said unto them.]" Observe how judiciously he frames his speech, and how he immediately at the very outset puts them in fear. And that he may not be suspected of taking their part, he addresses them as if he and they were of the same opinion, and does not use much vehemence, but as speaking to men intoxicated through passion, he thus expresses himself: "Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men." (v. 35.) Do not, he would say, go to work rashly and in a hurry. "For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody: to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to naught." (v. 36.) By examples he teaches them prudence; and, by way of encouragement, mentions last the man who seduced the greatest number. Now before he gives the examples, he says, "Take heed to yourselves;" but when he has cited them, then he declares his opinion, and says, "Refrain from these men." For, says he, "there rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this council or this work be of men, it will come to naught. But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow them." (al. it) (v. 37-39.) Then what is there, he would say, to hinder you to be overthrown? For, says he (take heed), "lest haply ye be found even to fight against God." He would dissuade them both by the consideration that the thing is impossible, and because it is not for their good. And he does not say by whom these people were destroyed, but that there they "were scattered," and their confederacy fell away to nothing. For if, says he, it be of man, what needs any ado on your part? but if it be of God, for all your ado you will not be able to overcome it. The argument is unanswerable. "And they were persuaded by him." (v. 40.) How were they persuaded? So as not to slay them, but merely to scourge, For, it says, "And when they had called the Apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go." See after what great works they are scourged! And again their teaching became more extended: for they taught at home and in the temple, "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. (v. 41, 42.) And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Hellenists against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration." (ch. vi. 1.) Not absolutely in those immediate days; for it is the custom of Scripture to speak of things next about to happen, as taking place in immediate succession. But by "Hellenists" I suppose he means those who spoke Greek ["against the Hebrews"]: for they did not use the Greek language. Behold another trial! observe how from within and from without there are warrings, from the very first! "Then," it says, "the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables." (v. 2.) Well said: for the needful must give precedence to the more needful. But see, how straightway they both take thought for these (inferior matters), and yet do not neglect the preaching. "Because their widows were overlooked:" for those (the Hebrews) were treated as the persons of greater consequence (aidesimw'eroi). "Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we Will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost (v. 3-5.) so were the others also full of faith; not to have the same things happening as in the case of Judas, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira—" and Philip, and Prochoras, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: whom they set before the Apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith."(v. 5-7.)
But let us look over again what has been spoken. "Ye men of Israel take heed to yourselves." (Recapitulation, v. 35.) See here, I pray you, how mildly Gamaliel reasons, and how he says but a few words to them, and does not recount ancient histories, although he might have done so, but more recent instances, which are most powerful to produce belief. With this view he throws out a hint himself, saying, "For before. these days" (v. 36): meaning, not many days before. Now had he at once said, "Let these men go," both himself would have fallen into suspicion, and his speech would not have been so effective: but after the examples, it acquired its own proper force. And he mentions not one instance, but a second also: "for," saith the Scripture, "in the mouth of two witnesses" (Matt. xviii. 16): and yet he had it in his power to mention even three. "Refrain from these men." (v. 38.) See how mild his manner is, and his speech not long, but concise, and his mention even of those (impostors) how free from passion: "And all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered." And for all this he does not blaspheme Christ. They heard him, all these unbelievers, heard him, these Jews. ["For if this council or this work be of men, it will come to naught."] Well then, since it did not come to nought, it is not of men. ["But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it."] (v. 39.) Once more he checks them by the impossibility and the inexpediency of the thing, saying, "Lest haply ye be found even to fight against God."(*) And he does not say, If Christ be God; but the work (itself) declares (this). He does not pronounce upon it, either that, it is "of men," or that it is "of God ;" but he leaves the proof to the future. "They were persuaded [by him]." (v. 40.) Then why, it may be asked, do ye scourge them? Such was the incontrovertible justness of his speech, they could not look it in the face; nevertheless, they sated their own animosity; and again they expected to terrify them in this way. By the fact also of his saying these things not in the presence of the Apostles, he gained a hearing more than he would otherwise have done; and then the suavity of his discourse and the justness of what was said, helped to persuade them. in fact, this man all but preached the Gospel. " Ye were persuaded," one may say, "that ye had not. strength to overthrow it. Wherefore did ye not believe?" Such is the witness borne even by enemies. There it is four hundred, there, four thousand: and here the first movers were twelve. Let not the number which added itself affright you. (ch. ii. 41; iv. 4.) He might also have mentioned another instance, that of the Egyptian, but what he has spoken is fully sufficient. And he closes his speech with an alarming topic: "Lest haply," etc. And he does not pronounce upon it, lest he should seem to be pleading their cause; but he reasons by way of syllogism froth the issue of the matter. And he does not venture to pronounce that it is not of men, nor yet that it is of God; for bad he said that it was of God. they would have gainsaid him: but had he said that it was of men, they would again have taken prompt measures. Therefore he bids them wait for the end, saying, "Refrain," But they once more threaten knowing indeed that they avail nothing, but doing after their manner. Such is the nature of wickedness: it attempts even impossibilities.—"And after this man rose up Judas," etc. These things Josephus relates in detail. (Ant. xx. 8; ib. v. 2; xviii. 1. B. J. ii. 8. 1.) But what a great thing it was that he ventured to affirm: that it was of God, when in the sequel it received its proof from the events! Great boldness of speech, great freedom from all respect of persons! And he does not say, "But if ye do not overthrow it, it is of God;" but, "If it be of God, it will not be overthrown." "And to him they agreed." (v. 40.) They reverenced the high character of the man. "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ." (v. 41.) What miracles so wonderful as this? Nowhere is the like of this recorded of the old saints: for Jeremiah indeed was scourged for the word of God, and they threatened Elijah, and the rest: but in this case, even by this very thing, and not only by their miracles, these showed forth the power of God. He does not say, that they were not pained, but that though pained they rejoiced. How does this appear? From their boldness afterwards: they were so instant still, even after their beatings, in preaching the word. "But in the temple," it says, "and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ." (v. 42.) "And in those days "—when these things were done, when there were scourgings, when there were threatenings, when the disciples were multiplying—also, it says, "there arose a murmuring." (ch. vi. 1.) And this comes of the multitude: for it is impossible to have strict order in a multitude. "There arose a murmuring," etc. to,—"And a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.—There arose murmuring against the Hebrews "—for that description of people seemed to be more honorable—" because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration." (*) (v. 1-7.) So then there was a daily ministration for the widows. And observe how he calls it a "ministration" (diakoni'a), and not directly alms: extolling by this at once the doers, and those to whom it was done. "Were neglected." This did not arise from malice, but perhaps from the carelessness of the multitude. And therefore he brought it forward openly, for this was no small evil. Observe, how even in the beginning the evils came not only from without, but also from within. For you must not look to this only, that it was set to rights, but observe that it was a great evil that it existed.(t) "Then the twelve," etc. (v. 2.) Do you observe how outward concerns succeed to inward? They do not act at their own discretion, but plead for themselves to the congregation. So ought it to be done now. "It is not reason," says he, "that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables." First he puts to them the unreasonableness of the thing; that it is not possible for both things to be done with the same attention: just as when they were about to ordain Matthias, they first show the necessity of the thing, that one was deficient, and there must needs be twelve. And so here they showed the necessity; and they did it not sooner, but waited till the murmuring arose; nor, on the other hand, did they suffer this to spread far. And, lo! they leave the decision to them: those who pleased all, those who of all were honestly reputed, them they present: not now twelve, but "seven, full of the Spirit and of wisdom: well reported of" for their conversation. (v. 3.) Now when Matthias was to be presented, it was said, "Therefore must one of these men which have companied with us all the time" (ch. i. 21): but not so here: for the case was not alike. And they do not now put it to the lot; they might indeed themselves have made the election, as moved by the Spirit: but nevertheless, they desire the testimony of the people. The fixing the number, and the ordaining them, and for this kind of business, rested with them: but the choice of the men they make over to the people, that they might not seem to act from favor: just as God also leaves it to Moses to choose as elders those whom he knew. (Num. xi. 16.) "And of wisdom." For indeed there needs much wisdom in such ministrations. For think not, because he hath not the word committed unto him, that such an one has no need of wisdom: he does need it, and much too. "But we," saith he, "will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." (v. 4.) Again they plead for themselves, beginning and ending with this. "Will give ourselves continually," he saith. For so it behooved, not just to do the mere acts, or in any chance way, but to be continually doing them. "And the saying," we are told, "pleased the whole multitude." (v. 5, 6.) This too was worthy of their wisdom. All approved of what was said so sensible was it. "And they chose," it says (again it is the people (autoi) that choose,) "Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: whom they set before the Apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them." They separated them from the multitude, and it is the people (autoi') that draw them, not the Apostles that lead them. Observe how he avoids all that is superfluous: he does not tell in what way it was done, but that they were ordained (echeirotonh'thhsan) with prayer: for this is the meaning of cheirotoni'a, (i.e. "putting forth the hand,") or ordination: the hand of the man is laid upon (the person,) but the whole work is of God, and it is His hand which toucheth the head of the one ordained, if he be duly ordained. "And the word of God," it says, "increased: and the number of the disciples multiplied." (v. 7.) It is not for nothing that he says this: it shows how great is the virtue of alms and good order. And as he is about in the sequel to enlarge (au'xein) upon the affair of Stephen, he puts first the causes which led to it. "And many," he says, "of the priests were obedient to the faith." For since they perceived such to be the mind of their ruler and teacher, they put the matter to the test of facts.—It is also a subject for wonder, how it was that the multitude was not divided in its choice of the men, and how it was that the Apostles were not rejected by them. But what sort of rank these bore, and what sort of office they received, this is what we need to learn. Was it that of Deacons? And yet this is not the case in the Churches. But is it to the Presbyters that the management belongs? And yet at present there was no Bishop, but the Apostles only. Whence I think it clearly and manifestily follows, that neither Deacons nor Presbyters is their designation: but it was for this particular purpose that they were ordained.(*) And this business was not simply handed over to them without further ceremony, but the Apostles prayed over them, that power might be given to them. But observe, I pray you, if there were need of seven men for this, great in proportion must have been the sums of money that flowed in, great in proportion also the number of widows. So then the prayers were not made in an off-hand way, but with much deliberate attention: and this office, as well as preaching, was thus brought to good effect; for what they did, they effected mostly by the means of these (their prayers.) Thus they were enabled to give their attention to things spiritual; thus were these also free to undertake long journeys; thus were these put in trust with the word. But the writer does not say this, nor extol them, but that it was "not reason" that they should leave the work given to them. Thus they had been taught by Moses's example not to undertake the management of everything by themselves. (Num. xi. 14.) "Only," it is said, "that we should remember the poor." (Gal. ii. 10.) And how did they bring these forward? They fasted. "Look you out seven men," etc. (v. 3.) It is not simply, spiritual men, but, "full of the Spirit and of wisdom, "for it needed very great superiority of mind (philosophi'as) to bear the complainings of widows. For what profits it, that the dispenser of alms steal not, if nevertheless he waste all, or be harsh and easily provoked? "And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost." (v. 5.) And in this regard Philip also was admirable: for it is of him that the writer says: "And we entered into the house of Philip the Evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him."— (ch. xxi. 8.) Dost thou mark how matters are ordered quite otherwise than after the matter of men? "And the number of disciples was multiplied in Jerusalem." (v. 7.) In Jerusalem the multitude increased. Wonderful, where Christ was slain, there the preaching increased! And not only was it not the case that some were offended then in the manner of Ananias, but the awe became even greater: while these are scourged, those threatening, those tempting the Spirit, those murmuring. But I would have thee remark under what circumstances the multitude increased: after these trials, then it was that the multitude increased, and not before. Mark also how great the mercy of God. Of those chief-priests, of the very men who had indignation and sore displeasure and so cried out and said, "He saved others, Himself He cannot save;" of these same," Many," it says, "were obedient unto the faith." (Matt. xxvii. 42.)
Him therefore let us also imitate. He received them, and did not cast them out. So let us requite those our enemies, who have wrought us even numberless ills. Whatever good thing we may have, let us impart to them: let us not pass them by, in our acts of beneficence. For if we ought, by suffering ill, to sate their rage, much more, by doing them good: for this is a less thing than the other. For it is not all alike, to do good to an enemy, and to be willing to suffer greater wrongs than he wishes (to inflict): from the one we shall come on to the other. This is the dignity of Christ's disciples. Those crucified Him, when He had come for the very purpose of doing them good; His disciples they scourged; and after all this, He admits them to the same honor with His disciples, making them equally partakers of His gifts. I beseech you, let us be imitators of Christ: in this regard it is possible to imitate Him: this makes a man like unto God: this is more than human. Let us hold fast to Mercy: she is the schoolmistress and teacher of that higher Wisdom. He that has learnt to show mercy to the distressed, will learn also not to resent injuries; he that has learnt this, will be able to do good even to his enemies. Let us learn to feel for the ills our neighbors suffer, and we shall learn to endure the ills they inflict. Let us ask the person himself who ill-treats us, whether he does not condemn himself? would he not be glad to show a nobler spirit (philosophei^n)? must he not own that his behavior is nothing but passion, that it is little-minded, pitiful? would he not like to be of those who are wronged and are silent, and not of those who do wrong, and are beside themselves with passion? can he go away not admiring the patient sufferer? Do not imagine that this makes men despicable. Nothing makes men so despicable, as insolent and injurious behavior: nothing makes men so respectable, as endurance under insolence and injury. For the one is a ruffian, the other a philosopher; the one is less than man, the other is equal to angels. For though he be inferior to the wrong-doer, yet, for all that, he has the power, if he had the mind, to be revenged. And besides, the one is pitied by all, the other hated. What then? The former will be much the better of the two: for everybody will treat the one as a madman, the other as a man of sense. He cannot speak of him in evil sort: yea, thou fearest, says one, lest perchance he be not such (as thou wouldest represent). Best that thou speak not evil in thy thought even; next, that thou speak it not to another. Pray not then to God against this man: if thou hear him evil-spoken of, take his part: say, It was passion that spoke such words, not the man; say, It was anger not my friend: his madness, not his heart. Thus let us account of each offence. Wait not for the fire to be kindled, but check it before it comes to that: do not exasperate the savage beast, rather do not suffer it to become exasperated: for thou wilt no longer be able to check it, if once the flame be kindled. For what has the man called thee? "Thou feel and simpleton." And which then is liable to the name? the called, or the caller? For the one, be he ever so wise, gets the character of being a feel: but the other, even if he be a simpleton, gets credit for being wise, and of philosophic temper. Say, which is the simpleton? he who alleges against another what is untrue, or he who even under such treatment is unmoved? For if it be the mark of true philosophy to be unmoved however moved; to fall into a passion when none moves to anger—what folly is it! I say not yet, how sore a manner of punishment is in store for those who utter such reproaches and revilings against their neighbor. But how? has he called thee "a low fellow and low-born, a sorry creature and of sorry extraction?" Again he has turned the taunt against himself. For the other will appear worthy and respectable, but he a sorry creature indeed: for to cast up such things, that is to say, meanness of birth, as a disgrace. is little-minded indeed: while the other will be thought a great and admirable character, because he thinks nothing of such a taunt, and is no more affected by it than if he were told that he had about him any other ordinary and quite indifferent circumstance. But does he call thee "adulterer," and such like? At this thou mayest even laugh: for, when the conscience is not smitten, there can be no occasion for wrath. * * For when one has considered what bad and disgraceful disclosures he makes, still for all that, there is no need to grieve. He has but laid bare now, what everybody must be apprised of by and bye: meanwhile, as regards himself he has shown all men that he is not to be trusted, for that he knows not how to screen his neighbor's faults: he has disgraced himself more than he has the other; has stopped up against himself every harbor: has made terrible to himself the bar at which he must hereafter be tried. For not the person (whose secrets are betrayed) will be the object of everybody's aversion, but he, who where he ought not to have raised the veil, has stripped off the clothes. But speak thou nothing of the secrets thou knowest: hold thou thy peace if thou wouldest bear off the good fame. For not only wilt thou overthrow what has been spoken, and hide it: but thou wilt also bring about another capital result: thou wilt stop sentence being given against thyself. Does somebody speak evil of thee? Say thou "Had he known all, he would not have spoken only thus much."—So you admire what has been said, and are delighted with it? Aye, but you must follow it. For when we tell you all these maxims of the heathen moralists, it is not because Scripture does not contain hundreds of such sayings, but because these are of more force to put you to the blush. As in fact Scripture itself is wont to use this appeal to our sense of shame; for, instance, when it says, "Do ye even as the heathen." (Jer. xxxv. 3.) And the prophet Jeremiah brought forward into public view the children of Rechab, how they would not consent to violate the command of their father.- -Miriam and her company spake evil of Moses, and he immediately begged them off from their punishment; nay, would not so much as let it be known that his cause was avenged. (Num. ch. xii.) But not so we: on the contrary, this is what we most desire; to have all men know that they have not passed unpunished. How long shall we breathe of the earth?—One party cannot make a fight. Pluck the madmen from both sides, you will exasperate them the more: but pluck from right or from left, and you have quenched the passion. The striker, if he has to do with one who will not put up with blows, is the more set on: but if with one who yields, he is the sooner unnerved, and his blow is spent upon himself. For no practised pugilist so unnerves the strength of his antagonist, as does a man who being injuriously treated makes no return. For the other only goes off ashamed, and condemned, first by his own conscience, and secondly by all the lookers on. And there is a proverb too, which says, that "to honor another, is to honor one's self": therefore also to abuse another is to abuse one's self. None, I repeat, will be able to harm us, unless we harm ourselves; nor will any make me poor, unless I make myself such. For come, let us look at it in this way. Suppose that I have a beggarly soul, and let all lavish all their substance upon me, what of that? So long as the soul is not changed, it is all in vain. Suppose I have a noble soul, and let all men take from me my substance: what of that? So long as you do not make the soul beggarly, no harm is done. Suppose my life be impure, and let all men say just the contrary of me: what of that? For though they say it, yet they do not judge thus of me in their heart. Again, suppose my life be pure, and let all say of me just the reverse: and what of that? For in their own conscience they will condemn themselves: since they are not persuaded of what they say. Just as we ought not to admit the praise, so neither the criminations. And why say I these things? None will ever be able to plot against us, nor lay us under any evil charge, if we choose (that they shall not). For how now, I ask you? Let him drag me into a court of justice, let him lay vexatious informations, let him, if you will, have the very soul out of me: and what of that? for a little while, undeservedly to suffer these things, what does it signify? "Well, but this," say you, "is of itself an evil." Well, but of itself this is a good, to suffer undeservedly. What? would you have the suffering to be deserved? Let me mention again a piece of philosophy, from one of the sages. A certain person, says the story, had been put to death. And one of the sage's disciples said to him, "Woe is me, that he should have suffered unjustly!" The other turned upon him, "Why, how now?" said he, "would you have had him justly suffer?" (Socrates ap. Diog. Laert. and Xen. Mem. Socr.) John also, was not he unjustly put to death? Which then do you rather pity: them that justly suffer death, or [him? Do you not count them miserable, while] him you even admire? Then what is a man injured, when from death itself he has got great gain, not merely no hurt? If indeed the man had been immortal, and this made him mortal, no doubt it would be a hurt: but if he be mortal, and in the course of nature must expect death a little later, and his enemy has but expedited his death, and glory with it, what is the harm? Let us but have our soul in good order, and there will be no harm from without. But thou art not in a condition of glory? And what of that? That which is true of wealth, the same holds for glory: if I be magnanimous (megalopreph's), I shall need none; if vainglorious, the more I get, the more I shall want. In this way shall I most become illustrious, and obtain greater glory; namely, if I despise glory. Knowing these things, let us be thankful to Him Who hath freely given us such a life, and let us ensue it unto His glory; for to Him belongs the glory, forever. Amen.
"And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people."
See how even among the seven one was preeminent, and won the first prize. For though the ordination was common to him and them, yet he drew upon himself greater grace. And observe, how he wrought no (signs and wonders) before this time, but only when he became publicly known; to show that grace alone is not sufficient, but there must be ordination also; so that there was a further access of the Spirit. For if they were full of the Spirit, it was of that which is from the Laver of Baptism. "Then there arose certain of them of the synagogue." (v. 9.) Again he uses the phrase of "rising up" (ana'stasin, Hom. xiii. p. 81), to denote their exasperation and wrath. Here we have a great multitude. And observe the difference in the form of accusation: for since Gamaliel had stopped them from finding fault on the former plea, they bring in another charge. "And there rose up, it says, certain of them of the synagogue of those who are called (tw^n lego'menwn. Edd. th^s legome'nhs) Libertines, and of the Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God." (v. 9-12.) That they may establish the charge, the phrase is, "he speaks against God, and against Moses." And with this object too they disputed, that they might force him to say somewhat. But he now discoursed more openly, and perhaps spoke of the cessation of the Divine Law: or, spoke it not, but hinted as much: since had he spoken plainly, there had been no need of suborned men, nor yet of false witnesses.(*) The synagogues were diverse: [to wit, "Of the Libertines"]: "of the Cyrenians, i. e. those in the parts beyond Alexandria ["of the Alexandrians," etc.]. There also they seem to have had synagogues according to their different nations; for many stayed behind there, that they might not be obliged to be continually travelling. The Libertines perhaps were freedmen of the Romans. As there were many foreigners dwelling there, so they had their synagogues, where the Law was to be read. "Disputing with Stephen." Observe him, not taking upon him to teach, but forced to do so. The miracles once more brought him into ill-will; but when he overcame m argument, it was false-witness! For they did not wish to kill intolerable to them. "They could not resist, etc.: then they suborned men." Everywhere out of hand, but by means of a sentence, that they might hurt their reputation also: and leaving those (the Apostles), they attack these (the disciples), thinking in this way to terrify those also. They say not, "he speaketh," but, "he ceaseth not to speak. And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, and set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law." (v. 12, 13.) "Ceaseth not," say they, as if he made this his business. "For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us." (v. 14.) "Jesus," they say, "the Nazarene," as a term of reproach, "shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs." This is also what they said about Christ. "Thou that destroyest this Temple." (Matt. xxvii. 40.) For great was their veneration for the Temple (as indeed they had chosen to leave their own country (metoikei^n) in order to be near it) and for the name of Moses. The charge is twofold. If He "shall change the customs," He will also introduce others instead: observe how the charge is a bitter one, and fraught with perils. "And all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel." (v. 15.) So possible is it even for one in a lower degree to shine. For what, I ask, had this man less than the Apostles? He lacked not miracles, and great was the boldness he exhibited.—"They saw Iris face," it is said, "as it had been the face of an angel." (Ex. xxxiv. 30.) For this was his grace, this was the glory of Moses. God made him thus gracious (epi'karin) of visage, now that he was about to say somewhat, thus at once by his very look to awe them. For there are, yes, there are faces full-fraught with spiritual grace, lovely to them that love, awful to haters and enemies. It mentions also the reason, why they suffered his oration.—"Then," it proceeds, "said the high-priest, Are these things so?" (ch. vii. 1.) Observe, the question is put with mildness, that he may, effect some great mischief. For this reason Stephen too begins his speech in a tone of gentleness, and says, "Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran." (v. 2.) Immediately at the outset he overthrows their conceit, and makes it appear by what he says, that the temple is nothing, that the customs are nothing either, without their suspecting his drift: also that they shall not overcome the preaching; and that from powerless (amhcha'nwn) things God evermore contrives Him powerful (eumh'kana) instruments. Mark then how these threads make the texture of the whole speech: and moreover that having evermore enjoyed exceeding goodness, they still requited their Benefactor with the opposite conduct, and that they are now attempting impossibilities. "The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he came into Charran." Both the temple was not, and sacrifice was not, and yet a vision of God was vouchsafed to Abraham, and yet had he Persians for his ancestors, and was in a strange land. And he does well at the beginning of his speech to call Him, "the God of glory:" seeing that He hath made them that are without honor to be glorious. "Because" (says he) "it was He that made them glorious, He will make us also." Observe how he leads them away from things of the body, from the place, in the first instance, as the place was in question. "The God of glory," says he: implying again, that He needs not the glory which comes from us, which comes by the Temple: for Himself is the Fountain thereof. Think not, he would say, in this way to glorify Him. "And from thy kindred." How then saith the Scripture, that Abraham's father was willing to go out? Hence we learn, that it was in consequence of Abraham's vision, that his father was moved to join in the migration. (Gen. xi. 31.) "And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into a land which I shall show thee." (v. 3.) It shows how far these men are from being children of Abraham, how obedient he was. "And from thy kindred." Uncomfortable (phortika`) reflections, both, that he endured the labors, while ye reap the fruits, and that all your ancestors were in evil case. "Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, He removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell. And He gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on." (v. 4, 5.) See how he raises their thoughts away from (their possession of) the land. For if He said (that, He will give: clearly fall came from him], and nothing from themselves. For he came, having left both kindred and country. Wherefore then did He not give it to him? Truly it was a figure of another land. "And He promised to give it to him." Do you perceive, that he does not merely resume the thread of his discourse? "He gave him not," says he; "and He promised; and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child." Again, what God can do: that out of impossibilities, He doeth all; For here is a man in Persia, so far away, and this man God saith He will make lord of Palestine. But let us look back to what was said before.
Whence, I pray you, did that grace bloom upon the countenance of Stephen? (Recapitulation.) The writer gives him this report above, that he was "full of faith." (ch. vi. 8). For it is possible to have a grace that does not consist in works of healing: "For to one is given the grace of the Spirit (1 Cor. xii. 8, 9) in such and such wise (toiw^sde). But here, it seems to me, it says that he was also gracious to look at: "They saw his face as it had been the face of an angel." "Full of faith and of power": (v. 15) which is also the character given of Barnabas "he was a good man, full of faith and of the Holy Ghost." (ch. xi. 24.) Whence we learn that the sincere and innocent are, above all others, the men to be saved, and that these same are also more gracious. "Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words." (v. 11.) In the case of the Apostles they were annoyed that they preached the Resurrection, and that much people flowed unto them: but in this case, that they were getting their diseases healed. (ch. iv. 2.) The things for which they ought to give thanks, they made matter of blame: O the madness! The men who overcame them by works, they expected to overcome by words! It is just what they did in the case of Christ, and always they forced them to words. For they were ashamed to seize them without more ado, having nothing to charge them with. And observe, not the persons themselves who bring them to judgment bear witness against them; for they would have been refuted: but they simply hire others, that it may not seem to be an act of mere violence. It is all of a piece with their proceeding in the case of Christ. And observe the power of the preaching, that, though they are not only scourged but stoned, it still prevails: not only, private individuals as they are, dragged to the bar, but assailed from all quarters: and, their enemies themselves being witnesses, not only were these worsted, but "they were not able" even "to resist" (v. 10), though they were exceeding shameless: so mightily did it overthrow them, for all that they could do with their preposterous figments (as the saying that He had a devil—He that cast out devils!). For the battle was not man's, but God's against men. And there were many combined together; not only they in Jerusalem, but others as well. (v. 9.) For "we have heard him," say they, "speaking blasphemous words against Moses and against God." (v. 11.) O ye shameless ones! Ye work blasphemous deeds, and think nothing of it. This is why Moses is added—because the things of God were no great concern to them: and it is ever and always Moses that they make mention of: "This Moses, which brought us out." (ch. vii. 40.) "And they stirred up the people." (v. 12.) Fickleness of the multitude! And yet how could a man who was a blasphemer have so succeeded? How could a blasphemer work such miracles among the people? But the undisciplined multitude made them strong who had the worst of it (in argument).—This was what most annoyed them. "We have heard him," they say, "speaking blasphemous words against Moses and against God" (v. 13): and again, "This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law," and with an addition, "the customs" "which Moses delivered to us" (v. 14); Moses, not God. Upon the supposition of a design to overturn their manner of life (politei'as), they accused him of impiety also. But to show that it was not in the nature of such a man to speak such things, and harshly ["Then all," it says, "which were in the council, looking steadfastly upon him, saw his face, as it had been the face of an angel"] (v. 15): so mild was he even in countenance. For, in cases where persons were not falsely accused, Scripture mentions nothing of this kind: but as in this case it was all false accusation, with reason does God rectify it by the very look of the man. For the Apostles indeed were not falsely accused, but were forbidden: but this man is falsely accused: and therefore before all else his countenance pleads for him. This abashed even the priest. "And he said," etc. (ch. vii. 1.) He shows here, that the promise was made before the Place, before Circumcision, before Sacrifice, before the Temple, and that it was not of their merit that these received either Circumcision or Law, but that the land was the reward of obedience alone. Moreover, that neither on the giving of circumcision does the promise receive its fulfillment. Also, that these were figures, and (so was) both the leaving his country at God's command—not against the law (for home and country is where God shall lead): "Then came he out," it says, "of the land of the Chaldeans" (v. 4): —and that if one look closely into the matter, the Jews are of Persian origin: and that, without miracles, one must do as God bids, whatever hardships be the consequence; since the Patriarch left both the grave of his father and all that he had, in obedience to God's command. But if Abraham's father was not allowed to take part with him in the privilege of migrating to Palestine, because he was unworthy: much more shall the children (be excluded at last), for all that they may have gone a good distance on the way. "And He promised," it says, "to give it to him, and to his seed after him." (v. 5.) Herein is shown the greatness both of God's goodness and of Abraham's faith. For the expression, "when as yet he had no child," does show his obedience and faith. "Promised to give it to him and to his seed." And yet the events showed the contrary: namely, after he came, he had not "so much as to set his foot on," had not a child; which very things were contrary to his faith.
These things having seen, let us likewise, whatever God shall promise, receive the same, however contrary may be the events. And yet in our case, they are not contrary, but very suitable. For where the promises are, there, when the contraries turn out, they are really contrary ;but in our case it is just the reverse: for He has told us that we should have tribulation here, but our rest there. Why do we confound the times? Why do we turn things upside down? Say, art thou afflicted, and livest in poverty, and in dejection? Be not troubled: for it were worth being troubled at, wert thou destined to be afflicted in that world: as for this present affliction, it is the cause of rest. "This sickness," saith He, "is not unto death." (John xi. 4.) That affliction is punishment: this, schooling and correction. It is a contest, this life present: if so, to fight is our business now: it is war and battle. In war one does not seek to have rest, in war one does not seek to have dainty living, one is not anxious about riches, one's care is not about a wife then: one thing only he looks at, how he may overcome his foes. Be this our care likewise: if we overcome, and return with the victory, God will give us all things. Be this alone our study, how we may overcome the devil: though after all it is not our own study that does it, but God's grace does the whole business. Be it our one study, how we may attract His grace, how we may draw to ourselves that assistance. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. viii. 31.) Let us make one thing our study; that He be not our enemy, that He turn not away from us.
Not the being afflicted is an evil; the evil is, to sin. This is the sore affliction, however we may pass our days in luxury:—not to speak of the life to come, it is so even in this life present. Think how our conscience is stung with remorse, and whether this is not worse than any kind of torture! I should like to put the question searchingly to those who live in evil ways (en kakoi^s), whether they never come to reflect upon their own sins, whether they do not tremble, and are in fear and anguish, whether they do not think those blessed who live in abstinence, them of the mountains, them of the strict rule? (tou`s en pollh(i)^ philosophi'a(i)) Dost thou wish to find rest in the life to come? Suffer affliction in this life for Christ's sake: there is nothing equal to this rest. The Apostles rejoiced when scourged. Paul gives this exhortation, saying, "Rejoice in the Lord." (Philip. iv. 4.) And how can there be rejoicing, where there are bonds, where there are tortures; where there are courts of justice? There, most of all, is rejoicing. But say, how can there be rejoicing, where these are not? For he who is conscious of no evil, will have a sort of exceeding delight, insomuch that in what degree you speak of tribulation, in the same you tell of his delight. The soldier who has received numberless wounds and is come home again, will he not return with exceeding delight, with his wounds as his title for speaking up boldly, and as evidence of his glory and renown? And thou, if thou be able to exclaim as Paul does, "I bear the marks of Jesus" (Gal. vi. 17), wilt be able to become great and glorious and renowned. "But there is no persecution." Make thy stand against glory: and should any one speak anything against thee, fear not to be evil-spoken of for Christ's sake: make thy stand against the tyranny of pride, against the fighting of anger, against the torment of concupiscence. These also are "marks," these also are torments. For, I ask, what is the worst in tortures? Is it not, that the soul is pained, and is on fire? For in the other case, the body too has its share: but in this, the whole belongs to the soul. On the soul alone comes all the smart, when one is angry, when one is envious, whatever else of this kind one does, or rather suffers. For, in fact, it is not action, but passion, not a doing, but a suffering—to be angered, to feel envy: therefore indeed they are called passions (or sufferings) (pa'thh, perturbationes) of the soul, yea wounds, and bruises. For it is indeed a suffering, and worse than suffering. Bethink you, ye that are angry, that ye do such things in "passion," in a state of suffering. Therefore he who is not angry suffers not. Do you mark that not he who is abused is the sufferer, but he that abuses, as I said above? For that he is a sufferer, is plain in the first place from the very fact, that such a thing is called by this name of passion: and it is also plain from the (effects on the) body: for these are the affections (pa'thh) for "sufferings," as we call them] engendered by anger, viz. dimness of vision, insanity, and numberless others. "But he insulted my boy," say you; "but [he called him] clown." Deem it not weakness thy not doing the same thing thyself. For, I ask you, was it well done? You will not say that: then leave that undone which being done were not well done. I know what passions are engendered in such cases. "But," say you, "how if he despise me, how if he say it again?" Show him that he is in the wrong: rebuke him, entreat him: by meekness anger is put down: go and expostulate with him. For though in cases of wrong done to ourselves it is right not to do even this, yet it is quite necessary to do it in behalf of others. Do not look on it as an insult to yourself that your boy has been insulted: annoyed you may be for his sake, yet not as if you were insulted: for it does not follow because your boy has been ill-treated, that you are disgraced, but he is disgraced that did the ill. Quench (thine anger) that sharp sword: let it lie in its scabbard. If we have it unsheathed, we shall be apt to use it even when the time is not proper, being drawn on by it: but if it be hidden, though a necessity should arise, yet, while we seek it in order to draw it, the anger will be quenched. Christ would not have us be angry on his account: (hear what He saith to Peter: "Put tip again thy sword into the sheath:") (Matt. xxvi. 52) and art thou angry on account of a boy? Teach thy boy also to be philosophical: tell him thy own sufferings: imitate (herein) thy Teacher. (Matt. xxvi. 52.) When they too (His disciples) were about to be treated with dishonor, He said not, "I will avenge you:" but, "to Me also," saith He, "they have done the same: bear it nobly, for ye are not better than I." These words too do thou speak to thy son and thy boy: "Thou art not better than thy master." But these words of philosophy are counted as the talk of a widow woman. Alas! that it is not in the power of words to bring it home to people in the way that it is possible to be taught it by actual experience! And that you may learn this; stand between two combatants, take part with the wronged, not with the wrong-doers [that you may learn] whether you shall not see the victory on your side, whether you shall not get splendid crowns.—See, how God is insulted, and how He answers; how gently, "Where," saith He, "is Abel thy brother?" and what saith the other: "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen. vi. 9.) What could be more contumacious than this? Would any one have heard it (patiently) even from a son? and if from a brother, would he not have thought such conduct an insult? What then? See how again God gently answers, "The voice of thy brother's blood," saith He "crieth unto Me." "But God," it will be said, "is superior to wrath." Yes, but for this reason the Son of God came down, that He might make thee a God as far as human power can go. "But I cannot," says one, "seeing I am man." Well then, let us give you men for instances. And do not suppose I speak of Paul or of Peter: no, but of some of inferior sort, yea, very much lower down. Eli's menial insulted Hannah, saying, "Put away thy wine from thee." (1 Sam. i. 14.) What could be more insulting than this? What then said she? "I am a woman of a hard lot." Indeed, there is nothing equal to affliction: she is the mother of true philosophy. But this same woman, though she has her rival, insulted her not: but what does she? She takes refuge with God, and in her prayer does not even make mention of her, nor say, "Avenge me, for such an one reproaches me:" so magnanimous was that woman (let us men be ashamed):—and yet ye know, that there is nothing like jealousy. The publican, when insulted by the Pharisee, insulted not in return, though, had he wished it, he might have done so: but he bore it like a philosopher, saying, "Be merciful to me a sinner." (Luke xviii. 13.) Mephibosheth, having been accused and calumniated by his servant, neither said, nor did, any evil to him, not even in the presence of the king himself. (2 Sam. xix. 26.) Shall I tell you even of a harlot, what philosophic magnanimity she showed? Hear Christ saying, as she was wiping His feet with her hair, "The publicans and harlots go into the kingdom before you." (Matt. xxi. 31.) Do you see her standing, and taking courage, and washing away her own sins? Observe, how she was not angry even with the Pharisee, when reproached by him: "for had He known," says he, "that this woman is a sinner, He would not have suffered her (Luke vii. 39): and how she said not to him, "What then? Say, art thou pure from sins?" but felt more, wept more, and let fall hotter tears. But if women and publicans and harlots play the philosopher, and that before grace (i.e. of Baptism), what pardon can they deserve, who, after so great grace, fight, and worry, and kick one another, worse than beasts? Nothing is more base than passion, nothing more disgraceful, nothing more frightful, nothing more odious, nothing more hurtful. These things I say, not only in order that towards men we may be gentle, but also if a wife be a talker, that thou mayest bear it: let thy wife be to thee a school for training and exercise (palai'stra kai` gumna'sion) For how can it but be absurd, to submit to exercises which yield no profit, where we afflict the body, but not to practise exercises at home, which, even before the contest, present to us a crown? Does thy wife abuse thee? Do not thou become a woman: to be abusive is womanly: it is a disease of the soul, an inferiority. Think not that it is unworthy of thee, when thy wife abuses thee. Unworthy it is, when thou art abusive, but she bears patiently (philosophh(i)^): then dost thou act unseemly, then art thou disgraced: but if, having been abused, thou bear it, great is the proof of thy strength. I do not say this, to induce wives to be abusive: God forbid: but only in case it should so happen at the instance of Satan. It is the part of men that are strong, to bear the weak. And if thy servant contradict thee, bear it philosophically: not what he deserves to have said to him, do thou say or do, but that which it behooves thee both to do and to say. Never insult a girl by uttering some foul word against her: never call thy servant, scoundrel (miaro`n): not he is disgraced, but thou. It is not possible to be master of one's self, being in a passion. Like a sea rolling mountains high, it is all hurly-burly: or even as a pure fountain, when mire is cast into it, becomes muddied, and all is in turmoil. Yon may beat him, you may rend his coat to rags, but it is you that sustain the greater damage: for to him the blow is on the body and the garment, but to you on the soul. It is your own soul that you have cut open; it is there that you have inflicted a wound: you have flung your own charioteer from his horses. you have got him dragging along the ground upon his back. And it is all one, as if one driver being in a passion with another, should choose to be thus dragged along. You may rebuke, you may chide, you may do whatever if be, only let it be without wrath and passion. For if he who rebukes is physician to him who offends, how can he heal another, when he has first hurt himself, when he does not heal himself? Say, if a physician should go to heal another person, does he first wound his own hand, first blind his own eyes, and so set about healing that other? God forbid. So also, however thou rebuke, however thou chide, let thine eyes see clearly. Do not make thy mind muddy, else how shall the cure be wrought? It is not possible to be in the same tranquillity, being in a passion, and being free from passion. Why dost thou first overturn thy master from his seat, and then discourse with him as he lies sprawling on the ground? Seest thou not the judges, how, when about to hold the assize, they seat themselves upon the bench, in their becoming attire? Thus do thou likewise dress thy soul with the judicial robe (which is gentleness). "But he will not be afraid of me," say you. He will be the more afraid. In the other case, though you speak justly, your servant will impute it to passion: but if you do it with gentleness, he will condemn himself: and, what is of the first importance, God will accept thee, and thus thou wilt be able to attain unto the eternal blessings, through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father together with the Holy Spirit be glory, dominion, and honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
"And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years. And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve Me in this place."
See, what a number of years the Promise has been given, and the manner of the Promise, and nowhere sacrifice, nowhere circumcision! He here shows, how God Himself suffered them to be afflicted, not that He had anything to lay to their charge. "And they shall bring them into bondage," etc. But nevertheless, they did not these things with impunity. "And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage I will judge, said God." For, to show that they are not to go by this, in estimating who are pious (by reason of their saying, "He trusted in God, let Him deliver Him,") (Matt. xxvii. 43).—He, the Same that promised, He that gave the land, first permits the evils. So also now, though He has promised a Kingdom, yet He suffers us to be exercised in temptations. If here the freedom was not to be till after four hundred years, what wonder, with regard to the Kingdom? Yet he performed it, and lapse of time availed not to falsify His word. Moreover, it was no ordinary bondage they underwent.[*] And the matter does not terminate solely in the punishment of those (their oppressors); but they themselves also, He saith, shall enjoy a mighty salvation. Here he reminds them too of the benefit which they enjoyed. "And he gave him the covenant of circumcision .' and so he begat Isaac." Here he lets himself down to lower matters. "And circumcised him on the eighth day: and Isaac (begat) Jacob, and Jacob the twelve patriarchs." (v. 8).—Here[*] he seems to hint now at the type. "And the patriarchs moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt." (v. 9.) Here again, the type of Christ.[t] Though they had no fault to find with him, and though he came on purpose to bring them their food, they thus ill-treated him. Still here again the promise, though it is a long while first, receives its fulfillment. "And God was with him "—this also is for them—"and delivered him out of all his afflictions." (v. 10). He shows that unknowingly they helped to fulfil the prophecy, and that they were themselves the cause, and that the evils recoiled on their own selves. "And gave him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt, Gave him favor," in the eyes of a barbarian, to him, the slave, the captive: his brethren sold him, this (barbarian) honored him. "Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance. But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first. And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren." (v. 11-13). They came down to buy, and had to depend upon him for everything. What then did he? [" He made himself known to his brethren:"] not to this point only did he carry his friendliness; he also made them known to Pharaoh, and brought them down into the land. "And Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh. Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls. So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers, and were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem. But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, till another king arose, which knew not Joseph. (v. 13-18). Then again, fresh disappointment (anelpisti'a): first, famine, but they came through that: secondly, the falling into the hands of their enemy: thirdly, the being destroyed by the king. Then (to show) God's fulness of ways and means (eumh'chanon), "In which time," it says, "Moses was born, and was exceeding fair." (v. 20.) If the former circumstance was wonderful, that Joseph was sold by his brethren, here again is another circumstance more wonderful still, that the king "nourished" the very person who was to overthrow his dominion, being himself the person that was to perish. Do you observe all along a figurative enacting, so to say, of the resurrection of the dead? But it is not the same thing for God himself to do a thing, and for a thing to come to pass in connection with man's purpose (proai'resis). For these things indeed were in connection with man's purpose [ but the Resurrection by itself, independently.]— "And he was mighty;," it says, "in word and in deed" (v. 22): he that was to have died. Then again he shows how ungrateful they were to their benefactor. For, just as in the former instance, they were saved by the injured Joseph, so here again they were saved by another injured person, I mean, Moses. "And when he was full forty years old," etc. For what though they killed him not actually? In intention they did kill, as did the others in the former case. There, they sold out of their own into a strange land: here, they drive from one strange land into another strange land: in the former case, one in the act of bringing them food; in this, one in the act of giving them good counsel; one to whom, under God, the man was indebted for his life! Mark how it shows (the truth of) that saying of Gamaliel's, "If it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it." (ch. v. 39.) See the plotted-against eventually becoming the authors of salvation to those plotting against them: the people, plotting against itself, and itself plotted against by others; and for all this, saved! A famine, and it did not consume them: nor was this all: but they were saved by means of the very person, whom they had expected to be destroyed (by their means). A royal edict, and it did not consume them: nay then most did their number increase, when he was dead "who knew" them. Their own Saviour they wished to kill, but for all that, they had not power to do it. Do you observe, that by the means whereby the devil tried to bring to naught the promise of God, by those very means 'it was advanced?
"And God spake on this wise," etc. (Recapitulation, v. 6, 7.) This is suitable to be said here also: that God is rich in ways and means to bring us up from hence. For this above all showed the riches of God's resources, that in its very reverses (apostrophh(i)^) the nation increased, while enslaved, while evil-entreated, and sought to be exterminated. And this is the greatness of the Promise. For had it increased in its own land, it had not been so wonderful. And besides, it was not for a short time, either, that they were in the strange land: but for four hundred years. Hence we learn a (great lesson)of philosophic endurance (philosophi'an):—they did not treat them as masters use slaves, but as enemies and tyrants—and he foretold that they should be set in great liberty: for this is the meaning of that expression, "They shall serve (Me): and they shall come up hither again" (entau^tha epaneleu'sontai); and with impunity.—And observe, how, while he seems to concede something to circumcision, he in fact allows it nothing (v. 8); since the Promise was before it, and it followed after.—"And the patriarchs," he says, "moved with envy. (v. 9.) Where it does no harm, he humors (chari'zetai) them: for they prided themselves much on these also.— And he shows, that the saints were not exempt from tribulation, but that in their very tribulations they obtained help. And that these persons did themselves help to bring about the results, who wished to cut short these same (afflictions): just as these made Joseph the more glorious: lust as the king did Moses, by ordering the children to be killed: since had he not ordered, this would not have been: just as also that (Hebrew) drives Moses into exile, that there he may have the Vision, having become worthy. Thus also him who was sold for a slave, makes He to reign as king there, where he was thought to be a slave. Thus also does Christ in His death give proof of His power: thus also does He there reign as king where they sold Him. "And gave him favor and wisdom," etc. (v. 10.) This was not only by way of honor, but that he should have confidence in his own power. "And he made him governor over Egypt and all his house." "Now there came a dearth," etc. On account of famine—such preparations is he making—"with threescore and fifteen souls," he says, "Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he and our fathers, and were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money from the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.[*] (v. 11-16). It shows, that they were not masters even to the extent of a burying-place. "But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, till another king arose, which knew not Joseph" (v. 17, 18). Observe, that it is not during the four hundred years that He multiplies them, but (only)when the end was about to draw nigh. And yet already four hundred years were passed, nay more, in Egypt. But this is the wonder of it. "The same dealt subtly with our kindred, and evil-entreated our fathers, that they should cast out their young children, to the end they might not live." (v. 19.) "Dealt subtly:" he hints at their not liking to exterminate them openly: "that they should cast out their young children," it says. "In which time Moses was born and was exceeding fair." (v. 20.) This is the wonder, that he who is to be their champion, is born, neither after nor before, these things, but in the very midst of the storm (thumw(i)^). "And was nourished up in his father's house three months." But when man's help was despaired of, and they cast him forth, then did God's benefit shine forth conspicuous. "And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son." (v. 21.) Not a word of Temple, not a word of Sacrifice, while all these Providences are taking place. And he was nourished in a barbarian house. "And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and m deeds." (v. 22.) "Was trained," both in discipline and in letters. "And when he was full forty years old." (v. 23.) Forty years he was there, and was not found out from his being circumcised. Observe, how, being in safety, they overlook their own interests, both he and Joseph, in order that they may save others: "And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: for he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not." (v. 23-25.)—See how up to this point he is not yet offensive to them; how they listened to him while he said all this. And "his face," we read, "was as the face of an angel" (ch. vi. 15).—"For he supposed," etc. And yet it was by deeds that his championship was shown; what intelligence was there need of here? but still for all this "they understood not. And the next day he showed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?" (v. 26-28.) Do you mark with what mildness he addresses them? He who had shown his wrath in the case of the other, shows his gentleness in his own case. "But he that did his neighbor wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? Wilt thou kill me, as thou didst the Egyptian yesterday?" Mark; the very words which they said to Christ: "Who made Thee ruler and judge over us?" So habitual a thing was it for Jews to wrong (their benefactors) when in the act of receiving benefits! And again, mark the atrocious baseness: (miari'an al. mochthhri'an, Sav. marg.) "As thou didst the Egyptian yesterday! Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Midian, where he begat two sons." (v. 29.) But neither did flight extinguish the plan of Providence, as neither did death (i.e. the death of Christ).
"And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sinai an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush." (v. 30.) Do you mark that it is not hindered by lapse of time? For when he was an exile, when a stranger, when he had now passed much time in a foreign land, so as to have two sons, when he no longer expected to return, then does the Angel appear to him. The Son of God he calls an Angel, as also he calls Him man. (Appears) in the desert, not in a temple. See how many miracles are taking place, and no word of Temple, no word of Sacrifice. And here also not simply in the desert, but in the bush. "When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him." (v. 31.) Lo! he was deemed worthy of the Voice also. "I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." (v. 32, 33.) Lo! how He shows that He is none other than "the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob"—He, "the Angel of the Great Counsel." (Is. ix. 6. LXX. "Wonderful, Counsellor," E. V.) Here he shows what great loving-kindness God herein exhibits. "Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold. Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet; for the place where thou standest is holy ground." Not a word of Temple, and the place is holy through the appearance and operation of Christ. Far more wonderful this than the place which is in the Holy of Holies: for there God is nowhere said to have appeared in this manner, nor Moses to have thus trembled. And then the greatness of His tender care. "I have seen, I have seen the affliction of My people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt." (v. 34.) See, how he shows, that both by kindnesses, and by chastisements, and by miracles, God was drawing them to Him: but they were still the same. That God is everywhere present, they learned.
Hearing these things, let us in our afflictions flee to Him. "And their groaning," saith He, "I have heard:" not simply, "because of their calamities." But if any should ask, Why then did He suffer them to be evil entreated there? Why, in the first place, to every just man his sufferings are the causes of his rewards. And in the next place, as to why He afflicted them: it was to show His power, that He can (do all), and not only so, but that He may also train them. Observe in fact; when they were in the desert, then they "waxed fat, they grew thick, they spread out in breadth, they kicked" (Deut. xxxii. 15): and ever and always ease was an evil. Therefore also from the beginning He said to Adam: "In the sweat of thy face thou shall eat thy bread." (Gen. iii. 19.) Also (it was) in order that having come out of much suffering into rest, they might give thanks to God. For affliction is a great good. For hear the Prophet saying, "It is good for me, that Thou hast humbled me." (Ps. cxix. 71.) But if to great and wonderful men affliction be a great (good), much more to us. And, if you will, let us examine into the nature of affliction as it is in itself. Let there be some person rejoicing exceedingly, and gay, and giving a loose to jollity: what more unseemly, what more senseless than this? Let there be one sorrowing and dejected: what more truly philosophic than this? For, "It is better," we read, "to go into the house of mourning, than into the house of laughter." (Eccles. vii. 2.) But, likely enough, you do not like the saying, and want to evade it. Let us however see, what sort of man Adam was in Paradise, and what he was afterwards: what sort of man Cain was before, and what he was afterwards. The soul does not stand fast in its proper place, but, like as by a running tide, (reu'matos, Edd. pneu'matos, "wind ") is raised and buoyed up by pleasure, having no steadfastness; facile in making professions, prompt at promising; the thoughts all in restless commotion: laughter ill-timed, causeless hilarity, idle clatter of unmeaning talk. And why speak of others? Let us take in hand some one of the saints, and let us see what he was while in pleasure, what again, when in distress. Shall we look at David himself? When he was in pleasure and rejoicing, from his many trophies, from his victory, from his crowns, from his luxurious living, froth his confidence, see what sort of things he said and did: "But I said in my prosperity," says he, "I shall never be moved." (Ps. xxx. 6.) But when he has come to be in affliction, hear what he says: "And if He say to me, I have no mind for thee; lo! here am I, let Him do that which is pleasing in His sight." (2 Sam. xv. 26.) What can be more truly philosophic than these words? "Whatsoever may be pleasing to God," saith he, "so let it be." And again he said to Saul: "If the Lord stirreth thee up against me, may thy sacrifice be acceptable." (1 Sam. xxvi. 19.) And then too, being in affliction, he spared even his enemies: but afterwards, not friends even, nor those who had done him no injury. Again, Jacob when he was in affliction, said: "If the Lord will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on." (Gen. xxviii. 20.) As also the son of Noah did nothing of the kind erewhile; but when he was no longer afraid for his safety, you hear how wanton he became. (ib. ix. 22.) Hezekiah too, when he was in affliction, see what things he did in order to his deliverance; he put on sackcloth, and such like; but when he was in pleasure, he fell through the haughtiness of his heart. (2 Kings ch. xix. 20.) For, saith the Scripture, "When thou hast eaten, and drunk, and art filled, take heed to thyself." (Deut. vi. 11, 12.) For perilous, as on a precipice's brink, is the post of affluence. "Take heed," saith he, "to thyself." When the Israelites were afflicted, they became all the more increased in number: but when He left them to themselves, then they all went to ruin. And why speak of examples from the ancients? In our own times, let us see, if you please, is it not the case, that when the most are in good case, they become puffed up, hostile to everybody, passionate, while the power is with them: but if it be taken away, they are gentle, lowly (and as) human beings, are brought to a consciousness of their own natural condition. Therefore the Scripture saith, "Pride hath holden them unto the end: their iniquity shall go forth as from fatness." (Ps. lxxiii. 6. LXX.)
Now these things I have spoken, that we should not make enjoyment every way our object. How then does Paul say, "Rejoice alway?" He does not say simply, "Rejoice," but he adds, "in the Lord." (Phil. iv. 4.) This is the greatest joy, such as the Apostles rejoiced withal; the joy of which prisons, and scourges, and persecutions, and evil report, and all painful things, are the source, and the root, and the occasion; whence also it comes to a happy issue. But that of the world, on the contrary, begins with sweets and ends in bitters. Neither do I forbid to rejoice in the Lord, nay, I earnestly exhort to this. The Apostles were scourged, and they rejoiced: were bound, and they gave thanks: were stoned, and they preached. This is the joy I also would have: from nothing bodily has it its origin, but from spiritual things. It is not possible for him who joys after the fashion of the world, to rejoice also after a godly sort: for every one who joys after the world's fashion, has his joy in riches, in luxury, in honor, in power, in arrogance: but he who rejoices after the mind of God, has his joy in dishonor for God's sake, in poverty, in want, in fasting, in humbleness of mind. Seest thou, how opposite are the grounds (of joy)? To go without joy here, is to be without grief also: and to be without grief here, is to go without pleasure too. And in truth these are the things which produce real joy, since the others have the name only of joy, but they altogether consist of pain. What misery the arrogant man. endures! How is he cut short (diako'ptetai) in the midst of his arrogance, bespeaking for himself numberless insults, much hatred, great enmity, exceeding spite, and many an evil eye! Whether it be that he is insulted by greater men, he grieves: or that he cannot make his stand against everybody, he is mortified. Whereas the humble man lives in much enjoyment: expecting honor from none, if he receive honor, he is pleased, but if not, he is not grieved. He takes it contentedly that he is honored; but above all, none dishonors him. Now not to seek honor, and yet to be honored—great must be the enjoyment of this. But in the other, it is just the reverse: he seeks honor, and is not honored. And the pleasure that the honor gives is not the same to him who seeks it, as it is to him who seeks it not. The one, however much he receives, thinks he has received nothing: the other, though you give him ever so little, takes it as though he had received all. Then again, he who lives in affluence and luxury has numberless affairs of business, and let his revenues flow in to him ever so easily, and, as it were, from full fountains, yet he fears the evils arising from luxurious living, and the uncertainty of the future: but the other is always in a state of security and enjoyment, having accustomed himself to scantiness of diet. For he does not so bemoan himself at not partaking of a sumptuous board, as he luxuriates in not fearing the uncertainty of the future. But the evils arising from luxurious living, how many and great they are, none can be ignorant: it is necessary, however, to mention them now. Twofold the war, in the body, and in the soul: twofold the storm: twofold the diseases; not only in this respect, but because they are both incurable, and bring with them great calamities. Not so, frugality: but here is twofold health, twofold the benefits. "Sleep of health," we read, "is in moderate eating." (Ecclus. xxxi. 20.) For everywhere, that which keeps measure is pleasant, that which is beyond measure, ceases to please. For say now: on a little spark put a great pile of fagots, and you will no longer see the fire shining, but much disagreeable smoke. On a very strong and large man lay a burden which exceeds his strength, and you will see him with his burden lying prostrate on the ground. Embark too large a freight in your vessel, and you have ensured a grievous shipwreck. Just so it is here. For just as in overladen ships, great is the tumult of the sailors, the pilot, the man at the prow, and the passengers, while they cast into the sea the things above deck, and things below; so here too, with their vomitings upwards, and their purgings downwards, they mar their constitutions, and destroy themselves. And what is the most shameful of all, the mouth is made to do the office of the nether parts, and that becomes the more shameful member. But if to the mouth the disgrace be such, think what must it be in the soul! For indeed there it is all mist, all storm, all darkness, great the uproar of the thoughts, at being so thronged and crushed, the soul itself crying out at the abuse done to it: all (the parts and faculties) complaining of one another, beseeching, entreating, that the filth may be discharged somewhere. And after it is flung out, still the turmoil is not at an end; but then comes fever and diseases. "And how comes it," say you, "that one may see these luxurious livers, in goodly plight, riding on horseback? What idle talk is this," say you, "to tell us of diseases? It is I that am diseased, I that am racked, I that am disgusting, while I have nothing to eat." Ah me! for one may well lament at such words. But the sufferers with the gout, the men that are carried on litters, the men that are swathed with bandages, from what class of people, I ask you, shall we see these? And indeed, were it not that they would deem it an insult, and think my words opprobrious, I would before now have addressed them even by name. "But there are some of them, who are in good health as well." Because they give themselves not merely to luxurious living, but also to labors. Else show me a man, who does nothing whatever but fatten himself, free from pain as he lies there, without an anxious thought. For though a host of physicians without number came together, they would not be able to rescue him from his diseases. It is not in the nature of things. For I will hold you a medical discourse. Of the matters sent down into the belly, not all becomes nourishment; since even in the food itself, not all is nutritive, but part of it in the process of digestion passes into stool, part is turned into nourishment. If then in the process of digestion the operation is perfect, this is the result, and each finds its proper place; the wholesome and useful part betakes itself to its appropriate place, while that which is superfluous and useless, withdraws itself, and passes off. But if it be in too great quantity, then even the nutritive part of it becomes hurtful. And, to speak by way of example, in order that my meaning may be clearer to you: in wheat part is fine flour, part meal, part bran: now if the mill be able to grind (what is put in), it separates all these: but if you put in too much, all becomes mixed up together. Wine again, if it go through its proper process of formation, and under due influence of the seasons, then, whereas at first all is mixed together, anon part settles into lees, part rises into scum, part remains for enjoyment to those that use it, and this is the good part, and will not. readily undergo any change. But what they call "nourishment," is neither wine, nor lees, while all are mixed up together.—The same may be seen in the river, when its waters make a whirling flood. As at such time we see the fishes floating at top, dead, their eves first blinded by the muddy slime: so is it with us. For when gormandizing, like a flood of rain, has drenched the inward parts, it puts all in a whirl, and makes that the faculties (logismoi`), healthy till then and living in a pure element, drift lifeless on the surface. Since then by all these examples we have shown how great the mischief is, let us cease to count these men happy for that, for which we ought to think them wretched, and to bemoan ourselves for that, for which we ought to count ourselves happy, and let us welcome sufficiency with a contented mind. Or do you not hear even what physicians tell you, that "want is the mother of health?" But what I say is, that want is mother, not of bodily health, but also of that of the soul. These things Paul also, that physician indeed, cries aloud; when he says, "Having food and raiment, let us therewith be content." (1 Tim. vi. 8.) Let us therefore do as he bids us, that so, being in sound health, we may perform the work that we ought to do, in Christ Jesus our Lord, with Whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost together be glory, dominion, honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen.
"This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the Angel which appeared to him in the bush."
This is very suitable to the matter in hand. "This Moses," he says. "This," the man who had been in danger of losing his life; the man who had been set at naught by them; "this" the man whom they had declined: "this" same, God having raised up, sent unto them. "Whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler?" just as they themselves (the hearers) said, "We have no king, but Cæsar." (John xix. 15.) He here shows also, that what was then done, was done by Christ. "The same did God send by the hand of the Angel," who said unto him, "I am the God of Abraham." "This" same Moses, he says,— and observe how he points to his renown—"this" same Moses, he says, "brought them out, after that he had showed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years. This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me" (v. 36, 37): set at naught like me. Him, likewise, Herod wished to kill, and in Egypt He found preservation just as it was with the former, even when He was a babe, He was aimed at for destruction. "This is he, that was in the Church in the wilderness with the Angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us." (v. 38.) Again no mention of temple, none of sacrifice. "With the Angel," it says, "he received the lively oracles to give unto the fathers." It shows, that he not only wrought miracles, but also gave a law, as Christ did. Just as Christ first works miracles, and then legislates: so did Moses. But they did not hear him, keeping their disobedience, even after the miracles: "To whom," he says, "our fathers would not obey:" (v. 39) after the wonders done in those forty years. And not only so, but just the contrary: "but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt. Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us; for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the Prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness? Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Kemphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon." (v. 40, 43.) The expression, "gave them up," means, He suffered. "Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion he had seen." (v. 44.) Even when there was a Tabernacle, yet there were no sacrifices. "Did ye offer unto Me slain beasts and sacrifices?" (Amos v. 25.) There was "the tabernacle of witness," and yet it profited them nothing, but they were consumed. But neither before, nor afterwards, did the miracles profit them aught. "Which also, our fathers that came after brought in." Seest thou, how the holy place is there wherever God may be? For to this end also he says, "in the wilderness," to compare place with place. Then the benefit (conferred upon them): And our fathers that came after brought it in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David; who found favor before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. (v. 45, 46.) David "desired to find favor:" and he builded not, he, the wonderful, the great; but the castaway, Solomon. "But Solomon," it says, "built Him an house. Howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in (places) made with hands. (v. 47-50.) This was shown indeed already by what had been before said: but it is shown also by the voice of a prophet; "What house will ye build for Me? saith the Lord God. As saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build for me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?" (Is. lxvi. 1, 2.)
Marvel not, he says, if they on whom Christ confers His benefits refuse His kingdom, seeing in the case of Moses it was just the same. (Recapitulation). "He brought them out;" and rescued them not in a general way, but also while they were in the wilderness. "Wonders and signs," etc. (v. 35-50.) Do you mark that they themselves (Stephen's hearers) are concerned in those old miracles also? "This is that Moses:" (v. 37) he, that conversed with God; he, that had been saved out of situations so strange and wonderful; he, that wrought so great works, and had so great power. [" Which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet," etc.] He shows, that the prophecy must by all means be fulfilled, and that Moses is not opposed to Him. "This is he that was in the Church in the wilderness, and, that said unto the children of Israel." (v. 38.) Do you mark that thence comes the root, and that "salvation is from the Jews?" (John iv. 22.) "With the Angel," it says, "which spake unto him." (Rom. xi. 16.) Lo, again he affirms that it was He (Christ) that gave the Law, seeing Moses was with "Him" in the Church in the wilderness.[*] And here he puts them in mind of a great marvel, of the things done in the Mount: "Who received living oracles to give unto us." On all occasions Moses is wonderful, and (so) when need was to legislate. What means the expression, "Living oracles" (lo'gia)? Those, whereof the end was shown by words (dia` lo'gwn): in other words, he means the prophecies.[t] Then follows the charge, in the first instance, against the patriarchs [after], the "signs and wonders," after the receiving of the "lively oracles: To whom," he says, "our fathers would not obey." (v. 39.) But concerning those, Ezekiel says that they are not "living;" as when he says, "And I gave you statutes that are not good." (Ezek. xx. 25.) It is with reference to those that he says, "Living. But thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back to Egypt"—the place where they groaned, where they cried, whence they called upon God. "And said unto Aaron, Make us gods which shall go before us." (v. 40.) O the folly! "Make," say they; "that they may go before us." Whither? "Into Egypt."[*] See how hard they were to tear away from the customs of Egypt! What sayest thou? What, not wait for him that brought thee out, but flee the benefit, and deny the Benefactor? And mark how insulting they are: "For as for this Moses," they say:—"which brought us out of the land of Egypt" nowhere the name of God: instead of that, they ascribed all to Moses. Where they ought to give thanks (to God), they bring Moses forward: where it was, to do as the Law bade them, they no longer make account of Moses. "We know not what is become of him." And yet he told them that he was going up to receive the Law: and they had not patience to wait forty days. "Make us gods"—they did not say, "a God."—And yet one may well wonder at this, that they do not even know.—"And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifices unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands" (v. 41): for which they ought to have hid their faces. What wonder that ye know not Christ, seeing ye knew not Moses, and God Who was manifested by such wonders? But they not only knew Him not: they also insulted in another way, by their idol making. "Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven" (v. 42.) Hence these same "customs" date their origin, hence the sacrifices: they were themselves the first that made sacrifices to their idols! For that is why it is marked, "They made a calf in Horeb, and offered sacrifices to the idol:" seeing that, before this the name of sacrifice is nowhere mentioned, but only lively ordinances, and "lively oracles. And rejoiced"—that is the reason for the feasts. Exod. xxxii. 5, 6.) "As it is written in the Book of the Prophets"- -and observe, he does not cite the text without a purpose, but shows by it that there is no need of sacrifices; saying: "Did ye offer slain beasts and sacrifice to Me?"—He lays an emphasis on this word (to Me?). "Ye cannot say that it was from sacrificing to Me, that ye proceeded to sacrifice to them:—"by the space of forty years:" and this too, "in the wilderness," where He had most signally shown Himself their Protector. "Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan: images which ye made to worship them. The cause of sacrifices! "And I will carry you away beyond Babylon." (v. 43.) Even the captivity, an impeachment of their wickedness! "But a Tabernacle," say you, "there was (the Tabernacle) 'of Witness.'" (v. 44.) (Yes,) this is why it was: that they should have God for Witness: this was all. "According to the fashion," it says, "that was shown thee on the mount:" so that on the mount was the Original. And this Tabernacle, moreover, "in the wilderness," was carried about, and not locally fixed. And he calls it, "Tabernacle of witness:" i.e. (for witness) of the miracles, of the statutes.[*] This is the reason why both it and those (the fathers) had no Temple. "As He had appointed, that spake unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen." Again, it was none other than He (Christ) that gave the fashion itself. "Until the days of David" (v. 45): and there was no temple! And yet the Gentiles also had been driven out: for that is why he mentions this: "Whom God drave out," he says, "before the face of our fathers. Whom He drave out," he says: and even then, no Temple! And so many wonders, and no mention of a Temple! So that, although first there is a Tabernacle, yet nowhere a Temple. "Until the days of David," he says: even David, and no Temple! "And he sought to find favor before God" (v. 46): and built not:— so far was the Temple from being a great matter! "But Solomon built Him an house." (v. 47.) They thought Solomon was great: but that he was not better than his father, nay not even equal to him, is manifest. "Howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool." (v. 48, 49.) Nay, not even these are worthy of God, forasmuch as they are made, seeing they are creatures, the works of His hand. See how he leads them on by little and little (showing) that not even these are to be mentioned. And again the prophecy says openly, "What house will ye build Me?" etc. (v. 50.)
What is the reason that at this point he speaks in the tone of invective (kataphorikw^s)? Great was his boldness of speech, when at the point to die: for in fact I think he knew that this was the case. "Ye stiffnecked," he says, "and uncircumcised in heart and ears." This also is from the prophets: nothing is of himself. "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye." (v. 51.) When it was not His will that sacrifices should be, ye sacrifice: when it is His will, then again ye do not sacrifice: when He would not give you commandments, ye drew them to you: when ye got them, ye neglected them. Again, when the Temple stood, ye worshipped idols: when it is His will to be worshipped without a Temple, ye do the opposite. Observe, he says not, "Ye resist God," but, "the Spirit:" so far was he from knowing any difference between Them. And, what is greater: "As your fathers did," he says, "so do ye." Thus also did Christ (reproach them), forasmuch as they were always boasting much of their fathers. "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One:" he still says, "the Just One," wishing to check them: "of Whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers"—two charges he lays against them—"who have received the Law by the disposition of Angels, and have not kept it." (v. 52.) How, "By the disposition of Angels?" Some say (The Law), disposed by Angels; or, put into his hand by the Angel Who appeared to him in the bush; for was He man? No wonder that He who wrought those works, should also have wrought these. "Ye slew them who preached of Him." much more Himself. He shows them disobedient both to God, and to Angels, and the Prophets, and the Spirit, and to all: as also Scripture saith elsewhere: "Lord, they have slain Thy Prophets, and thrown down Thine altars." (1 Kings xix. 10.) They, then, stand up for the Law, and say, "He blasphemeth against Moses:" he shows, therefore, that it is the), who blaspheme, and that (their blasphemy is not only against Moses, but) against God; shows that "they" from the very beginning have been doing this: that "they" have themselves destroyed their "customs," that there is no need of these: that while accusing him, and saying that he opposed Moses, they themselves were opposing the Spirit: and not merely opposing, but with murder added to it: and that they had their enmity all along from the very beginning. Seest thou, that he shows them to be acting in opposition both to Moses and to all others, and not keeping the Law? And vet Moses had said, "A Prophet shall the Lord raise up unto you: and the rest also told of this (Christ) that He would come: and the prophet again said, "What house will ye build Me?" and again, "Did ye offer to Me slain beasts and sacrifices" those "forty years?" (Deut. xviii. 18.)
Such is the boldness of speech of a man bearing the Cross. Let us then also imitate this: though it be not a time of war, yet it is always the time for boldness of speech. For, "I spake," says one, "in Thy testimonies before kings, and was not ashamed." (Ps. cxix. 46.) if we chance to be among heathens, let us thus stop their mouths. without wrath, without harshness. (Comp. Hom. in 1 Cor. iv. # 6; xxxiii. # 4, 5; Col. xi. # 2.) For if we do it with wrath, it no longer seems to be the boldness (of one who is confident of his cause,) but passion: but if with gentleness, this is boldness indeed. For in one and the same thing success and failure cannot possibly go together. The boldness is a success: the anger is a failure. Therefore, if we are to have boldness, we must be clean from wrath that none may impute our words to that. No matter how just your words may be, when you speak with anger, you ruin all: no matter how boldly you speak, how fairly reprove, or what not. See this man, how free from passion as he discourses to them! For he did not abuse them: he did but remind them of the words of the Prophets. For, to show you that it was not anger, at the very moment he was suffering evil at their hands, he prayed, saying, "Lay not to their charge this sin." So far was he from speaking these words in anger; no, he spake in grief and sorrow for their sakes. As indeed this is why it speaks of his appearance, that "they saw his face as it had been the face of an angel," on purpose that they might believe. Let us then be clean from wrath. The Holy Spirit dwelleth not where wrath is: cursed is the wrathful. It cannot be that aught wholesome should approach, where wrath goes forth. For as in a storm at sea, great is the tumult, loud the clamor, and then would be no time for lessons of wisdom (philosophein): So neither in wrath. If the soul is to be in a condition either to say, or to be disciplined to, aught of philosophy, it must first be in the haven. Seest thou not how, when we wish to converse on matters of serious import, we look out for places free from noise, where all is stillness, all calm, that we may not be put out and discomposed? But if noise from without discomposes, much more disturbance from within. Whether one pray, to no purpose does he pray "with wrath and disputings :" (1 Tim. ii. 8) whether he speak, he will only make himself ridiculous: whether he hold his peace, so again it will be even then: whether he eat, he is hurt even then: whether he drink, or whether he drink not; whether he sit, or stand, or walk; whether he sleep: for even in their dreams such fancies haunt them. For what is there in such men that is not disagreeable? Eyes unsightly, mouth distorted, limbs agitated and swollen, tongue foul and sparing no man, mind distraught, gestures uncomely: much to disgust. Mark the eyes of demoniacs, and those of drunkards and madmen; in what do they differ from each other? Is not the whole madness? For what though it be but for the moment? The madman too is possessed for the moment: but what is worse than this? And they are not ashamed at that excuse; "I knew not (saith one) what I said." And how came it that thou didst not know this, thou the rational man, thou that hast the gift of reason, on purpose that thou mayest not act the part of the creatures without reason, just like a wild horse, hurried away by rage and passion? In truth, the very excuse is criminal. For thou oughtest to have known what thou saidst. "It was the passion," say you, "that spoke the words, not I." How should it be that? For passion has no power, except it get it from you. You might as well say, "It was my hand that inflicted the wounds, not I." What occasion, think you, most needs wrath? would you not say, war and battle? But even then, if anything is done with wrath, the whole is spoiled and undone. For of all men, those who fight had best not be enraged: of all men, those had best not be enraged, who want to hurt (tous hubri'zontas). And how is it possible to fight then? you will ask. With reason, with self-command (epieikei'a(i)): since fighting is, to stand in opposition. Seest thou not that even these (common) wars are regulated by, definite law, and order, and times? For wrath is nothing but an irrational impulse: and an irrational creature cannot possibly perform aught rational. For instance, the man here spoke such words, and did it without passion. And Elias said," How long will ye halt on both your knees?" (1 Kings xviii. 21) and spake it not in passion. And Phinees slew, and did it without passion. For passion suffers not a man to see, but, just as in a night-battle, it leads him, with eyes blindfolded and ears stopped up, where it will. Then let us rid ourselves of this demon, at its first beginning let us quell it, let us put the sign of the Cross on our breast, as it were a curb. Wrath is a shameless dog: but let it learn to hear the law. If there be in a sheep-fold a dog so savage as not to obey the command of the shepherd, nor to know his voice all is lost and ruined. He is kept along with the sheep: but if he makes a meal on the sheep, he is useless, and is put to death. If he has learnt to obey thee, feed thy dog: he is useful when it is against the wolves, against robbers, and against the captain of the robbers that he barks, not against the sheep, not against friends. If he does not obey he ruins all: if he learns not to mind thee, he destroys all. The mildness in thee let not wrath consume, but let it guard it, and feed it up. And it will guard it, that it may feed in much security, if it destroy wicked and evil thoughts, if it chase away the devil from every side. So is gentleness preserved, when evil works are nowhere admitted: so we become worthy of respect, when we learn not to be shameless. For nothing renders a man so shameless, as an evil conscience. Why are harlots without shame? Why are virgins shamefaced? Is it not from their sin that the former, from their chastity that the latter, are such? For nothing makes a person so shameless, as sin. "And yet on the contrary," say you, "it puts to shame." Yes; him who condemns himself but him that is past blushing, it renders even more reckless: for desperation makes daring. For "the wicked," saith the Scripture, "when he is come into the depths of evils, despiseth." (Prov. xviii. 3.) But he that is shameless, will also be reckless, and he that is reckless, will be daring. See in what way gentleness is destroyed, when evil thoughts gnaw at it. This is why there is such a dog, barking mightily: we have also sling and stone (ye know what I mean): we have also spear and enclosure and cattle- fold: let us guard our thoughts unhurt. If the dog be gentle (sai'nh(i)) with the sheep, but savage against those without, and keep vigilant watch, this is the excellence of a dog: and, be he ever so famished, not to devour the sheep; be he ever so full, not to spare the wolves. Such too is anger meant to be: however provoked, not to forsake gentleness; however at quiet, to be on the alert against evil thoughts: to acknowledge the friend, and not for any beating forsake him, and for all his caressing, to fly at the intruder. The devil uses caressing full oft: let the dog know at sight that he is an intruder. So also let us caress (sai'nwmen) Virtue, though she put us to pain, and show our aversion to Vice, though she give us pleasure. Let us not be worse than the dogs, which, even when whipped and throttled, do not desert their master: but if the stranger also feed them, even so they do hurt. There are times when anger is useful; but this is when it barks against strangers. What means it, "Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause?" (Matt. V. 22.) It means, Stand not up in thine own quarrel, neither avenge thyself: if thou see another suffering deadly wrong, stretch out thy hand to help him. This is no longer passion, when thou art clear of all feeling for thyself alone. David had gotten Saul into his power, and was not moved by passion, did not thrust the spear into him, the enemy he had in his power; but took his revenge upon the Devil. (1 Sam. xxvi. 7.) Moses, when he saw a stranger doing an injury, even slew him (Exod. ii. 22): but when one of his own people, he did not so: them that were brethren he would have reconciled; the others not so. That "most meek" (Num. xii. 3) Moses, as Scripture witnesseth of him, see how he was roused! But not so, we: on the contrary, where we ought to show meekness, no wild beast so fierce as we: but where we ought to be roused, none so dull and sluggish. (Hom. vi. de laud. Pauli, ad fin.) On no occasion do we use our faculties to the purpose they were meant for: and therefore it is that our life is spent to no purpose. For even in the case of implements; if one use them, one instead of other, all is spoilt: if one take his sword, and then, where he should use it and cut with it, uses only his hand, he does no good: again, where he should use his hand, by taking the sword in hand he spoils all. In like manner also the physician, if where he ought to cut, he cuts not, and where he ought not, he does cut, mars all. Wherefore, I beseech you, let us use the thing (tw(i)^ pra'gmati) at its proper time. The proper time for anger is never, where we move in our own quarrel: but if it is our duty to correct others, then is the time to use it, that we may by force deliver others. (Hom. in Matt. xvi. # 7.) So shall we both be like unto God, always keeping a spirit free from wrath, and shall attain unto the good things that are to come, through the grace and loving- kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost together, be glory, dominion, and honor, now and evermore, world without end. Amen.
"When they heard these things, they were cut to "the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth."
See, once more, the wrong-doers in trouble. Just as the Jews are perplexed, saying," What are we to do with these men?" so these also are "cut to the heart." (ch. iv. 16.) And yet it was he that had good right to be incensed, who, having done no wrong, was treated like a criminal, and was spitefully calumniated. But the calumniators had the worst of it in the end. So true is that saying, which I am ever repeating, "Ill to do, is ill to fare." And yet he (in his charges against them) resorted to no calumny, but proved (what he said). So sure are we, when we are shamefully borne down in a matter wherein we have a clear conscience, to be none the worse for it.—"If they desired," say you, "to kill him, how was it that they did not take occasion, out of what he said, that they might kill him?" They would fain have a fair-seeming plea to put upon their outrage. "Well then, was not the insulting them a fair plea?" It was not his doing, if they were insulted: it was the Prophet's accusation of them. And besides, they did not wish it to look as if they killed him because of what he had said against them —just as they acted in the case of Christ; no, but for impiety: now this word of his was the expression of piety. Wherefore, as they attempted, besides killing him, to hurt his reputation also, "they were cut to the heart." For they were afraid lest he should on the contrary become an object of even greater reverence. Therefore, just what they did in Christ's case, the same they do here also. For as He said, "Ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of God" (Matt. xxvi. 64), and they, calling it blasphemy, "ran upon Him;" just so was it here. There, they "rent their garments;" here, they "stopped their ears. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him." (v. 55-58.) And yet, if he lied, they ought to have thought him beside himself, and to have let him go.—But he wished to bring them over, "and said, Behold," etc., for, since he had spoken of Christ's death, and had said nothing of His resurrection, he would fain add this doctrine also. "Standing at the right hand of God." And in this manner He appeared to him: that, were it but so, the Jews might receive Him: for since the (idea of His) sitting (at the right hand of God) was offensive to them, for the present he brings forward only what relates to His Resurrection. This is the reason also why his face was glorified. For God, being merciful, desired to make their machinations the means of recalling them unto Himself. And see, how many signs are wrought! "And cast him out of the city, and stoned him." Here again, "without the city," and even in death, Confession and Preaching. (Heb. xiii. 21.) "And the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." (v. 59.) This is meant to show them that he is not perishing, and to teach them. "And he knelt down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." (v. 60.) To clear himself, and show that neither were his former words prompted by passion, he says, "Lord" "lay not this sin to their charge": wishing also even in this way to win them over. For to show that he forgave their wrath and rage in murdering him, and that his own soul was free from all passion, was the way to make his saying to be favorably received.
"And Saul was consenting unto his death." Hereupon arises a persecution, and it becomes a great one. "And at that time there was a great persecution against the Church which was at Jerusalem. And they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the Apostles." (ch. viii. 1.) Mark how once more God permits temptations to arise; mark, and well observe, how the events are ordered by Divine Providence. They were admired because of the signs: being scourged, they were none the worse for it: (some) were ordained in the matter of the widows: the word increased: once more, God permits a great hindrance to arise. And a persecution of no ordinary kind ["and they were all scattered," etc.]; for they feared their enemies, now become more daring: and at the same time it is shown that they were but men, these that were afraid, that fled. For, that thou mayest not say after these things that a by grace alone they effected (what they did), they were also persecuted, and themselves became more timorous, while their adversaries were more daring. "And were all scattered abroad," it says, "except the Apostles." But this was divinely ordered, so that they should no longer all sit there in Jerusalem. "And devout men," it says, "carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him." (v. 2.) If they were "devout," why did they "make great lamentation over him?" They were not yet perfect. The man was gracious and amiable: this also shows that they were men—not their fear alone, but their grief and lamentation. Who would not have wept to see that mild, that lamb-like person stoned, and lying dead?[*] Fit eulogy to be spoken over his grave has the Evangelist recorded, in this one speech, "Lay not this sin to their charge."—"And made," he says, "great lamentation over him."—But let us look over again what has been said.
He mentions the cause of his (angelic) appearance (Recapitulation, vii 54; viii. 2.); "But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God." And when he said, "I see the heavens opened, they stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord." (v. 56, 57.) And vet in what respect are these things deserving of accusation? "Upon him," the man who has wrought such miracles, the man who has prevailed over all in speech, the man who can hold such discourse! As if they had got the very thing they wanted, they straightway give full scope to their rage. "And the witnesses," he says, "laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man, whose name was Saul. (v. 58.) Observe how particularly he relates what concerns Paul, to show thee that the Power which wrought in him was of God. But after all these things, not only did he not believe, but also aimed at Him with a thousand hands: for this is why it says, "And Saul was consenting unto his death."—And this blessed man does not simply pray, but does it with earnestness: "having kneeled down." Mark his divine death! So long only the Lord permitted the soul to remain in him. "And having said this, he fell asleep." (v. 60.)—"And they were all scattered abroad throughout the region of Judea and Samaria. (ch. viii. 1.) And now without scruple they had intercourse with Samaria, whereas it had been said to them, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles" "and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not." (Matt. x. 5.) "Except the Apostles," it says: they, in this way also, wishing to win the Jews,—but not to leave the city,—and to be the means of inspiring others with boldness.
"As for Saul, he made havoc of the Church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison." (v. 3.) Great was his frenzy: that he was alone, that he even entered into houses: for indeed he was ready to give his life for the Law. "Haling," it says, "men and women:" mark both the confidence, and the violence, and the frenzy. All that fell into his hands, he put to all manner of ill-treatment: for in consequence of the recent murder, he was become more daring. "Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city. But there was a certain man, called Simon, which before time in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria." (v. 4-9.) Observe another trial, this affair of Simon. "Giving out," it says, "that he was himself some great one. To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the Apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost." (v. 10-15.) And (yet) great signs had been done: how then had they not received the Spirit? They had received the Spirit, namely, of remission of sins: but the Spirit of miracles they had not received. "For as yet He was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost." (v. 16, 17.) For, to show that this was the case, and that it was the Spirit of miracles they had not received, observe how, having seen the result, Simon came and asked for this. "And when Simon saw that through laying on of the Apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying. Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost." (v. 18, 19.)
"The persecution," say you, "gained strength." True, but at that very time to men possessed before (by a hostile power) it brought deliverance. For it planted the miracles like a stronghold, in the heart of the enemy's' country.—Not even the death of Stephen quenched their rage, nay, increased it rather: it scattered wide the teachers, so that the greater became the discipleship.—"And there was joy." And yet there had been "great lamentation:" true; but mark again the good—"Of a long time" was the malady, but this man brought them deliverance.—And how came he to baptize Simon also? Just as Christ chose Judas.—And "beholding the signs" which he did, forasmuch as the others did not receive the (power of working) signs he durst not ask for it.—How was it then that they did not strike him dead, as they did Ananias and Sapphira? Because even in the old times, he that gathered sticks (on the sabbath-day) was put to death as a warning to others (Num. xv. 32) and in no other instance did any suffer the same fate. So too on the present occasion, "Peter said to him, Thy money perish, because thou hast imagined that the gift of God is to be purchased with money."—(v. 20.) Why had not these received the Holy Ghost, when baptized? Either because Philip kept this honor for the Apostles; or, because he had not this gift (to impart); or, he was one of the Seven: which is rather to be said. Whence, I take it, this Philip was one of the Apostle. But observe; those went not forth: it was Providentially ordered that these should go forth and those be lacking, because of the Holy Ghost: for they had received power to work miracles, but not also to impart the Spirit to others: this was the prerogative of the Apostles. And observe (how they sent) the chief ones: not any others, but Peter [and John]. "And when Simon," it says, "saw that through laying on of the Apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given." He would "Then laid they their hands on them," etc. Just as Paul also did, when they spake with tongues. (ch. xix. 6) Observe the execrable conduct of Simon. "He offered money," with what object? And yet he did not see Peter doing this for money. And it was not of ignorance that he acted thus; it was because he would tempt them, because he wished to get matter of accusation against them. And therefore also Peter says, "Thou hast no part nor lot in this matter, for thine heart is not right before God "because thou hast thought," etc. (v. 21.) Once more he brings to light what was in the thoughts, because Simon thought to escape detection. "Repent therefore of this thy wickedness and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive the bond of inquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me." (v. 22-24.) Even this he did only formally, as words of course, when he ought to have wept and mourned as a penitent. "If perchance it may be forgiven thee." Not as though it would not have been pardoned, had he wept, but this is the manner of the Prophet also, to denounce absolutely, (apagoreu'ein) and not to say, "Howbeit, if thou do this, thy sin shall be forgiven," but that in any wise the punishment shall take effect.
(a) "Therefore they that were scattered abroad, went everywhere, preaching the word." But I would have thee admire how even in a season of calamity they neglected not the preaching. "Hearing and seeing the miracles which he did." (Recapitulation, v. 4-6.) Just as in the case of Moses by contrast (with the magicians) the miracles were evident miracles, so here also. There was magic, and so these signs were manifest. (b) "For unclean spirits came out of many that were possessed with them "(v. 7); for this was a manifest miracle:—not as the magicians did: for the other (Simon), it is likely, bound (men with spells);—"and many," it says, "that were palsied and lame were healed." There was no deceit here: for it needed but that they should walk and work. "And to him they all gave heed, saying, This (man) is the Power of God." (v. 10.) And that was fulfilled which was spoken by Christ, "There shall come false Christs and false Prophets in My name."—(Matt. xxiv. 24.) "And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries." (v. 11.) (a) And yet there ought to have been not one demoniac there, seeing that of a long time he had been bewitching them with sorceries: but if there were many demoniacs, many palsied, these pretences were not truth. But Philip here by his word also won them over, discoursing concerning the kingdom of Christ. (v. 12.) "And Simon," it says, "being baptized, continued with Philip (v. 13): not for faith's sake, but in order that he might become such (as he). (b) But why did they not correct him instantly? They were content with his condemning himself. For this too belonged to their work of teaching (th^s didaskali'as) But when he had not power to resist, he plays the hypocrite, just as did the magicians, who said, "This is the finger of God." And indeed that he might not be driven away again, therefore he "continued with Philip," and did not part from him. "And when the Apostles which were at Jerusalem," etc. (v. 13, 14.) See how many things are brought about by God's Providence through the death of Stephen! (a) "But they," it says, "having come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost: for as yet He was fallen upon none of them. Then laid they their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost." (v. 15-17.) Seest thou that it was not to be done in any ordinary manner, but it needed great power to give the Holy Ghost? For it is not all one, to obtain remission of sins, and to receive such a power. (b) By degrees it is, that those receive the gift. It was a twofold sign: both the giving to those, and the not giving to this man. Whereas then this man ought, on the contrary, to have asked to receive the Holy Ghost, he, because he cared not for this, asks power to give It to others. And yet those received not this power to give: but this man wished to be more illustrious than Philip, he being among the disciples! (a) "He offered them money." (v. 18, 19.) What? had he seen the others doing this? had he seen Philip? Did he imagine they did not know with what mind he came to them? (b) "Thy money with thee to perdition" (v. 20): since thou hast not used it as it ought to be used. These are not words of imprecation, but of chastisement. "To thee," he says, be it (to thee): being such. As if one should say, Let it perish along with thy purpose. Hast thou so mean conceptions of the gift of God, that thou hast imagined it to be altogether a thing of man? It is not this. (a) Wherefore also Peter well calls the affair a gift: "Thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money." Dost thou observe how on all occasions they are clean from money? "For thine heart is not right in the sight of God." (v. 21.) Dost thou see how he does all of malice? To be simple, however, was the thing needed. (b) For had it been done with simplicity, he would have even welcomed his willing mind. Seest thou that to have mean conceptions of great things is to sin doubly? Accordingly, two things he bids him: "Repent and pray, if haply the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee." (v. 22.) Seest thou it was a wicked thought he had entertained? Therefore he says, "If haply it may be forgiven thee:" because he knew him to be incorrigible. (a) "For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity." (v. 23.) Words of exceeding wrath! But otherwise he did not punish him: that faith may not thereafter be of compulsion; that the matter may not seem to be carried ruthlessly; that he may introduce the subject of repentance: or also, because it suffices for correction to have convicted him, to have told him what was in his heart, to have brought him to confess himself overcome (ho'ti hea'lw). For that he says, "Pray ye for me," is a confession that he has done wrong. Observe him, what a miscreant he is; when he was convicted, then he believed: when again he was convicted, then he became humble.(*) "Seeing his miracles," ["he was amazed," and came over.] He thought to be able to escape detection: he thought the thing was an art: but when he had not power to defeat (helei^n) the Apostles, *** (b) Again, he fears the multitude, and is afraid to deny it; and yet he might have said, "I did not know: I did it in simplicity: but he was struck with dismay first by the former circumstance, that he was overcome (ho'ti hea'lw), by the miracles and secondly by this, that his thoughts are made manifest. Therefore he now takes himself a long way off, to Rome, thinking the Apostle would not soon come there.
"And they, when they had terrified, and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem. (v. 25.) "Testified," probably because of him (Simon), that they may not be deceived; that thenceforth they may be safe. "Hating preached," it says, "the word of the Lord, the), returned to Jerusalem." Why do they go thither again where was the tyranny of the bad, where were those most bent upon killing them? Just as generals do in wars, they occupy that part of the scene of war which is most distressed. "And preached the Gospel in many villages of the Samaritans." Observe them again, how they do not (prohgoume'nws) of set purpose come to Samaria, but driven by stress of persecution, just as it was in the case of Christ; and how when the Apostles go thither, it is to men now believers, no longer Samaritans. "But when the Apostles," it says, "which were at Jerusalem heard this, they sent unto them Peter and John. Sent" them, again, to rid them of magic. And besides, (the Lord) had given them a pattern at the time when the Samaritans believed. "And in many villages," it says, "of the Samaritans, they preached the Gospel." (John iv. 39.) Observe how actively employed even their journeys were, how they do nothing without a purpose.
Such travels should we also make. And why do I speak of travels? Many possess villages and lands, and give themselves no concern, nor make any account of this. That baths may be provided, their revenues increased, courts and buildings erected, for this they take plenty of pains: but for the husbandry of souls, not so. When you see thorns—answer me—you cut them up, you burn, you utterly destroy them, to rid your land of the hurt thence arising. And seest thou the laborers themselves overrun with thorns, and dost not cut them up, and art thou not afraid of the Owner Who shall call thee to account? For ought not each individual believer to build a Church, to get a Teacher, to cooperate (sunai'resthai) (with him), to make this above all his object, that all may be Christians? Say, how is it likely thy laborer should be a Christian, when he sees thee so regardless of his salvation? Thou canst not work miracles, and so convert (pei^sai) him. By the means which are in thy power, convert him; by kindness, by good offices, by gentleness, by courting (kolakei'a(i)) indeed, and baths, the most do provide; but him, by all other means. Market—places, indeed, and baths, the most do provide; but no Churches: nay, sooner everything than this! Wherefore I beseech and implore, as a favor I entreat, yea as a law I lay it down, that there be no estate to be seen destitute of a Church. Tell not me, There is one hard by; there is one in the neighboring properties; the expense is great, the income not great. If thou have anything to expend upon the poor, expend it there: better there than here. Maintain a Teacher, maintain a Deacon, and a sacerdotal body complete. As by a bride, whether a wife whom thou takest, or a daughter whom thou givest in marriage, so act by the Church: give her a dowry. So shall thy estate be filled with blessing. For what shall not be there of all that is good? Is it a small thing, tell me, that thy wine-press should be blessed; a small thing, tell me, that of thy fruits God is the first to taste, and that the first fruits are there (with Him)? And then even for the peace of the laboring people this is profitable. Then as one whom they must respect, there will be the presbyter among them and this will contribute to the security of the estate. There will be constant prayers there through thee (infra, note, p. 119) hymns and Communions through thee; the Oblation on each Lord's Day. For only consider what a praise it will be, that, whereas others have built splendid tombs, to have it said hereafter: "Such a one built this," thou hast reared Churches! Bethink thee that even until the coming of Christ thou shalt have thy reward, who hast reared up the altars of God.
Suppose an Emperor had ordered thee to build an house that he might lodge there, wouldest thou not have done everything to please him? And here now it is palace of Christ, the Church, the Church which thou buildest. Look not at the cost, but calculate the profit. Thy people yonder cultivate thy field: cultivate thou their souls: they bring to thee thy fruits, raise thou them to heaven. He that makes the beginning is the cause of all the rest: and thou wilt be the cause that the people are brought under Christian teaching (kathchoume'nwn) both there, and in the neighboring estates. Your baths do but make the peasants less hardy, your taverns give them a taste for luxury, and yet you provide these for credit's sake. Your markets and fairs, (panhgu'reis) on the other hand, promote covetousness. But think now what a thing it would be to see a presbyter, the moving picture of Abraham, gray-headed, girded up, digging and working with his own hands? What more pleasant than such a field! Their virtue thrives. No intemperance there, nay, it is driven away: no drunkenness and wantonness, nay, it is cast out: no vanity, nay, it is extinguished. All benevolent tempers shine out the brighter through the simplicity of manners. How pleasant to go forth and enter into the House of God, and to know that one built it himself: to fling himself on his back in his litter, and after the bodily benefit of his pleasant airing, be present both at the evening and the morning hymns, have the priest as a guest at his table, in associating with him enjoy his benediction, see others also coming thither! This is a wall for his field, this in security. This is the field of which it is said," The smell of a full field which the Lord hath blessed." (Gen. xxvii. 27.) If, even without this, the country is pleasant, because it is so quiet, so free from distraction of business, what will it not be when this is added to it? The country with a Church is like the Paradise of God. No clamor there, no turmoil, no enemies at variance, no heresies: there you shall see all friends, holding the same doctrines in common. The very quiet shall lead thee to higher views, and receiving thee thus prepared by philosophy, the presbyter shall give thee an excellent cure. For here, whatever we may speak, the noise of the market drives it all out: but there, what thou shalt hear, thou wilt keep fixed in thy mind. Thou wilt be quite another man in the country through him: and moreover to the people there he will be director, he will watch over them both by his presence and by his influence in forming their manners. And what, I ask, would be the cost? Make for a beginning a small house(en ta'xei naou^) to serve as temple. Thy successor will build a porch, his successor will make other additions, and the whole shall be put to thy account. Thou givest little, and receivest the reward for the whole. At any rate, make a beginning: lay a foundation. Exhort one another, vie one with another in this matter. But now, where there is straw and grain and such like to be stored, you make no difficulty of building: but for a place where the fruits of souls may be gathered in, we below not a thought; and the people are forced to go miles and miles, and to make long journeys, that they may get to Church! Think, how good it is, when with all quietness the priest presents himself in the Church, that he may draw near unto God, and say prayers for the village, day by day, and for its owner! Say, is it a small matter, that even in the Holy Oblations evermore thy name is included in the prayers, and that for the village day by day prayers are made unto God?—How greatly this profits thee for all else! It chances that certain (great) persons dwell in the neighborhood, and have overseers: now to thee, being poor, one of them will not deign even to pay a visit: but the presbyter, it is likely, he will invite, and make him sit at his table. How much good results from this! The village will in the first place be free from all evil suspicion. None will charge it with murder, with theft: none will suspect anything of the kind.—They have also another comfort, if sickness befall, if death.—Then again the friendships formed there by people as they go side by side (to and from the Church) are not struck up at random and promiscuously: and the meetings there are far more pleasant than those which take place in marts and fairs. The people themselves also will be more respectable, because of their presbyter. How is it you hear that Jerusalem was had in honor in the old times above all other cities? Why was this? Because of the then prevailing religion. Therefore it is that where God is honored, there is nothing evil: as, on the contrary, where He is not honored, there is nothing good. It will be great security both with God and with men. Only, I beseech you, that ye be not remiss: only may you put your hand to this work. For if he who brings out "the precious from the vile," shall be "as the mouth of God" (Jer. xv. 19); he who benefits and recovers so many souls, both that now are and that shall be even until the coming of Christ, what favor shall not that person reap from God! Raise thou a garrison against the devil: for that is what the Church is. Thence as from headquarters let the hands go forth to work: first let the people hold them up for prayers, and then go their way to work. So shall there be vigor of body; so shall the tillage be abundant; so shall all evil be kept aloof. It is not possible to represent in words the pleasure thence arising, until it be realized. Look not to this, that it brings in no revenue: if thou do it at all in this spirit, then do it not at all; if thou account not the revenue thou gettest thence greater than from the whole estate beside; if thou be not thus affected, then let it alone; if thou do not account this work to stand thee more in stead than any work beside. What can be greater than this revenue, the gathering in of souls into the threshing-floor which is in heaven! Alas, that ye know not how much it is, to gain souls! Hear what Christ says to Peter, "Feed My sheep." (John xxi. 15-17.) If, seeing the emperors sheep, or herd of horses, by reason of having no fold or stable, exposed to depredation, thou wert to take them in hand, and build a fold or stables, or also provide a shepherd or herdsman to take charge of them, what would not the emperor do for thee in return? Now, thou gatherest the flock of Christ, and puttest a shepherd over them, and thinkest thou it is no great gain thou art earning? But, if for offending even one, a man shall incur so great a punishment, how can he that saves so many, ever be punished? What sin will he have thenceforth? for, though he have it, does not this blot it out? From the punishment threatened to him that offends, learn the reward of him that saves. Were not the salvation of even one soul a matter of great importance, to offend would not move God to so great angel Knowing these things, let us apply ourselves forthwith to this spiritual work. And let each invite me, and we will together help to the best of our ability. If there be three joint-owners, let them do it by each beating his part: if but one, he will induce the others also that are near. Only be earnest to effect this, I beseech you, that in every way being well-pleasing unto God, we may attain unto the eternal blessings, by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ with Whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost together be glory, dominion, and honor, now and ever world without end. Amen.
And the Angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, arise and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went."
It seems to me, this (Philip) was one of the seven; for from Jerusalem he would not have gone southwards, but to the north; but from Samaria it was "towards the south. The same is desert:" so that there is no fear of an attack from the Jews. And he did not ask, Wherefore? but "arose and went. And, behold," it says, "a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet." (v. 27, 28.) High encomiums for the man, that he, residing in Ethiopia and beset with so much business, and when there was no festival going on, and living in that superstitious city, came "to Jerusalem for to worship." Great also is his studiousness, that even "sitting in his chariot he read. And," it says, "the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him reading the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me?" (v. 29-31.) Observe again his piety; that though he did not understand, he read, and then after reading, examines. "And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the Scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened He not His mouth: in His humiliation His judgment was taken away: and who shall declare His generation? for His life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus." (v. 32-35.) Observe how it is Providentially ordered. First he reads and does not understand; then he reads the very text in which was the Passion and the Resurrection and the Gift. "And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" (v. 36.) Mark the eager desire, mark the exact knowledge. "And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing." (v. 38, 39.) But why did the Spirit of the Lord bear him away? (Hereby) the occurrence was shown to be more wonderful. Even then, the eunuch did not know him. Consequently this was, done, that Philip might afterwards be a subject of wonder to him. "For," it says, "he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea." (v. 40.) This (Philip, therefore) was one of the seven; for there in fact he is afterwards found at Caesarea. It was well and expedient therefore that the Spirit caught Philip away; else the eunuch would have desired to go with him, and Philip would have grieved him by declining to comply with his request, the time being not yet come. (a) But at the same tithe here was an encouraging assurance for them that they shall also prevail over the heathen: for indeed the high character (to` axio'piston) of the (first) believers was enough to move them. If however the eunuch had stayed there, what fault could have been found? [But he knew him not]: for this is why it says, "he went on his way rejoicing:" so that had he known him, he would not have been (so) delighted.
"And the Angel of the Lord," etc. (Recapitulation, v. 26.) (b) See Angels assisting the preaching, and not themselves preaching, but calling these (to the work), But the wonderful nature of the occurrence is shown also by this: that what of old was rare, and hardly done, here takes place with ease, and see with what frequency! (c) "An eunuch," it says, "a man of great authority, under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians."[*] (v. 27.) For there women bore rule of old, and this was the law among them. Philip did not yet know for whose sake he had come into the desert: (d) but what was there to hinder his learning all (these particulars) accurately, while in the chariot? "Was reading the prophet Esaias." (v. 28.) For the road was desert, and there was no display in the matter. Observe also at what time: in the most violent heat (of the day). (e) "And the Spirit said unto him." (v. 29.) Not now the Angel but the Spirit urges him. Why is this? "Then," the vision took place, in grosser form, through the Angel, for this is for them that are more of the body, but the Spirit is for the more spiritual. And how did He speak to him? Of course, suggested it to him. Why does not the Angel appear to the other, and bring him to Philip? Because it is likely he would not have been persuaded, but rather terrified Observe the wisdom of Philip: he did not accuse him, not say, "I know these things exactly:" did not pay court to him, and say, "Blessed art thou that readest." But mark his speech, how far it is from harshness alike and from adulation; the speech rather of a kind and friendly man. "Understandest thou what thou readest?" (v. 30.) For it was needful that he should himself ask, himself have a longing desire. He plainly intimates, that he knows that the other knew nothing: and says, "Understandest thou what thou readest?" at the same time he shows him that great was the treasure that lay therein. It tells well also, that the eunuch looked not to the outward appearance (schh^ma) (of the man), said not, "Who art thou?" did not chide, not give himself airs, not say that he did know. On the contrary, he confesses his ignorance: wherefore also he learns. He shows his hurt to the physician: sees at a glance, that he both knows the matter, and is willing to teach. Look how free he is from haughtiness; the outward appearance announced nothing splendid. So desirous was he of learning, and gave heed to his words; and that saying, "He that seeketh, findeth," (Matt. vii. 8.) was fulfilled in him. "And," it says, "he besought Philip, that he would come up and sit with him." (v. 31.) Do you mark the eagerness, the longing desire? But should any say he ought to have waited for Philip (to speak), (the answer is), he does not know what is the matter: he could not in the least tell what the other was going to say to him, but supposed merely that he was about to receive some (lesson of) prophecy. And moreover, this was more respectful, that he did not draw him into his chariot, but besought him. "And Philip," we have read, "ran to him, and heard him reading;" even the fact of his running, showed that he wished to say (something). "And the place," it says, "of the Scripture which he read was this: As a sheep He was led to the slaughter."[*] (v. 32.) And this circumstance, also, is a token of his elevated mind, (philosophi'as) that he had in hand this prophet, who is more sublime than all others. Philip does not relate matters to him just as it might happen, but quietly: nay, does not say anything until he is questioned. Both in the former instance he prayed him, and so he does now, saying, "I pray thee of whom speaketh the prophet this?" That he should at all know either that the Prophets speak in different ways about different persons, or that they speak of themselves in another person—the question betokens a very thoughtful mind. Let us be put to shame, both poor and rich, by this eunuch. Then, it says, "they came to a certain water, and he said, Lo, here is water." (v. 36.) Again, of his own accord he requests, saying, "What doth hinder me to be baptized?" And see again his modesty: he does not say, Baptize me, neither does he hold his peace; but he utters somewhat midway betwixt strong desire and reverent fear, saying, "What doth hinder me?". Do you observe that he has the doctrines (of faith) perfect? For indeed the Prophet had the whole, Incarnation, Passion, Resurrection, Ascension, Judgment to come. And if he shows exceeding earnestness of desire, do not marvel. Be ashamed, all ye as many as are unbaptized. "And," it says, "he commanded the chariot to stand still." (v. 38.) He spoke, and gave the order at the same moment, before hearing (Philip's answer). "And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip;" (v. 39) in order that the occurrence might be shown to be of God; that he might not consider it to be merely man. "And he went," it says, "on his way rejoicing." (P. 121, note,) This hints, that he would have been grieved had he known: for the greatness of his joy, having had the Spirit also vouchsafed to him, he did not even see things present—" But Philip was found at Azotus." (v. 40.) Great was the gain to Philip also :—that which he heard concerning the Prophets, concerning Habakkuk. concerning Ezekiel, and the rest, he saw done in his own person. (Bel. & Dr. v. 36; Ez. iii. 12.) Thence it appears that he went a long distance, seeing he "was found at Azotus." (The Spirit) set him there, where he was thenceforth to preach: "And passing through, he preached in all the cities, until he came to Caesarea."
"And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem." (ch. ix. 1, 2.) He fiftly mentions Paul's zeal, and shows that in the very midst of his zeal he is drawn. "Yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter," and not yet sated with the murder of Stephen, he was not yet glutted with the persecution of the Church, and the dispersion. Lo, this was fulfilled which was spoken by Christ, that "they which kill you shall think they offer worship to God." (John xvi. 2.) He then in this wise did it, not as the Jews: God forbid! For that he did it through zeal, is manifest from his going abroad even to strange cities: whereas they would not have cared even for those in Jerusalem; they were for one thing only, to enjoy honor. But why went he to Damascus? It was a great city, a royal city: he was afraid lest that should be preoccupied. And observe his strong desire and ardor (and), how strictly according to the Law he went to work: he goes not to the governor, but "to the priest. That if he found any of this way:" for so the believers were called, probably because of their taking the direct way that leads to heaven. And why did he not receive authority to have them punished there, but brings them to Jerusalem! He did these things here with more authority. And mark on what a peril he casts himself. He was not afraid lest he should take any harm, but (yet) he took others also with him, "that if," it says, "he found any of this way, whether they were men or women"—Oh, the ruthlessness!—" he might bring them bound." By this journey of his, he wished to show them all (how he would act): so far were they from being earnest in this matter. Observe him also casting (people) into prison before this. The others therefore did not prevail: but this man did prevail, by reason of his ardent mind. "And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" (v. 3, 4.) Why not in Jerusalem? why not in Damascus? That there might be no opening for different persons to relate the occurrence in different ways, but that he alone should be the authentic narrator (axio'pistos), he that went for this purpose. In fact, he says this [both in his oration on the stairs], and when pleading before Agrippa. "Fell to the earth": (ch. xxii, 6: xxvi. 12) for excess of light is wont to shock, because the eyes have their measure: it is said also that excess of sound makes people deaf and stunned (as in a fit) (apoplh^gas). But him it only blinded, and extinguished his passion by fear, so that he should hear what was spoken. "Saul, Saul," saith He, "why persecutest thou me?" And He tells him nothing: does not say, Believe, nor anything whatever of the kind: but expostulates with him, all but saying, What wrong, great or small, hast thou suffered from Me, that thou doest these things? "And he said, Who art Thou Lord?" (v. 5)thus in the first place confessing himself His servant. "And the Lord said, I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest:" think not thy warring is with men. And they which were with him heard the voice of Paul, but saw no person to whom he answered—for (the Lord) suffered them to be hearers of what was less important. Had they heard the other Voice, they would not have believed; but perceiving Paul answering (some person), they marvelled. "But arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." (v. 6.) Observe, how He does not immediately add all, but first softens his mind. In the same way He called the disciples also a second time. "It shall be told thee," etc.: He gives him good hopes, and (intimates) that he shall recover his sight also. "And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus" (v. 7, 8):—the spoils of the devil (ta` skeu'h autou^), "his goods" (Matt. xiii. 29), as from some city, yea, some metropolis which has been taken. And the wonder of it is, the enemies and foes themselves brought him in, in the sight of all! "And for three days he neither did eat nor drink, being blinded." (v. 9.) What could equal this? To compensate the discouragement in the matter of Stephen, here is encouragement, in the bringing in of Paul: though that sadness had its consolation in the fact of Stephen's making such an end, yet it also received this further consolation: moreover, the bringing in of the villages of the Samaritans afforded very great comfort.—But why did this take place not at the very first, but after these things? That it might be shown that Christ was indeed risen. This furious assailant of Christ, the man who would not believe in His death and resurrection, the persecutor of His disciples, how should this man have become a believer, had not the power of His resurrection been great indeed? Be it so, that the other Apostles favored (His pretensions): what say you to this man? Why then not immediately after His resurrection? That his hostility might be more clearly shown as open war. The man who is so frantic as even to shed blood and cast men into prisons, all at once believes! It was not enough that he had never been in Christ's company: the believers must be warred upon by him with vehement hostility: he left to none the possibility of going beyond him in fury: none of them all could be so violent. But when he was blinded, then he saw the proofs of His sovereignty and loving kindness: then he answers, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" that none may say that he played the hypocrite, he that was even eager for blood, and went to the priests, and flung himself upon such dangers, in persecuting and bringing to punishment even them that were in foreign parts—under these circumstances he now acknowledges His sovereignty. And why was he shone upon by that light not within the city, but before it? The many would not have believed, since even there (at Jerusalem when the people heard the voice which came from above, they said that "it thundered" (John xii. 29, supra, note, p. 123); but this man was authority enough in reporting what was his own affair. And bound he was brought in, though not with bonds upon him: and they drew him, who had expected to draw the others. "And he eat not, neither drank:" he condemned himself for the past, he confessed, prayed, besought God. But should any say, This was the effect of compulsion: (we answer) The same thing happened to Elymas: then how came it that he was not changed? (ch. xiii. de Laud. Pauli Hom. iv. # 1, t. ii. p. 491.) What (evidence) could be more compulsory than the earthquake at the Resurrection, the report of the soldiers, the other miracles, the seeing Himself risen? But these things do not compel (belief) they are calculated to teach (it) (ouk anagkastika` alla` didaktika'). Why did not the Jews believe when they were told of these things? That he spoke truth was manifest: for he would not have been changed, had this not happened; so that all were bound to believe. He was not inferior to them that preached the Resurrection, and was more credible, by being all at once converted. He had no intercourse with any of the believers; it was at Damascus that he was converted, or rather before he came to Damascus that this happened to him. I ask the Jew: Say, by what was Paul converted? He saw so many signs, and was not converted: his teacher (Gamaliel, supra, p. 87, note) was converted, and he remained unconverted. Who convinced him—and not only convinced, but all at once inspired him with such ardent zeal? Wherefore was it, that he wished even to go into hell itself for Christ's sake? The truth of the facts is manifest.
But, as I said, for the present let us take: shame to ourselves (when we think of)the eunuch, both in his baptism and his reading. Do ye mark how he was in a station of great authority, how he was in possession of wealth, and even on his journey allowed himself no rest? What must he have been at home, in his leisure hours, this man who rested not even on his travels? What must he have been at night? Ye that are in stations of dignity, hear: imitate his freedom from pride, (de Lazaro, Conc. iii. # 3, t. i. p. 748. c) his piety. Though about to return home, he did not say to himself: "I am going back to my country, there let me receive baptism;" those cold words which most men use! No need had he of signs, no need of miracles: from the Prophet merely, he believed. (b) But why is it (so ordered) that he sees (Philip) not before he goes to Jerusalem, but after he has been there? It was not meet that he should see the Apostles under persecution. Because he was yet weak, the Prophet was not easy; (but yet the Prophet) catechized him. For even now, if any of you would apply himself to the study of the Prophets, he would need no miracles. And, if you please, let us take in hand the prophecy itself. "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened He not His mouth: in His humiliation His judgment was taken away: and who shall declare His generation? for His life is taken from the earth.[*] (v. 22, 23.) It is likely he had heard that He was crucified, [and now he learns], that "His life is taken away from the earth," and the rest that "He did no sin, nor deceit in His mouth:" that He prevailed to save others also: [and] who He is, Whose generation is unutterable. It is likely he had seen the riven rocks there (on the spot), and (had heard) how the veil was rent, and how there was darkness, and so forth: and all these things Philip mentioned, merely taking his text from the Prophet. It is a great thing, this reading of the Scriptures! That was fulfilled which was spoken by Moses, "Sitting, lying down, rising up, and walking, remember the Lord thy God." (Deut. vi. 7.) For the roads, especially when they are lonely, give us opportunity for reflection, there being none to disturb us. Both this man is on the road and Paul on the road: howbeit the latter no than draws, but Christ alone. This was too great a work for the Apostles: and, greater still, in that, the Apostles being at Jerusalem, and no person of authority at Damascus, he nevertheless returned thence converted: yet those at Damascus knew that he did not come from Jerusalem converted, for he brought letters, that he might put the believers in bonds. Like a consummate Physician, when the fever was at its height, Christ brought help to him: for it was needful that he should be quelled in the midst of his frenzy. For then most of all would he be brought down, and condemn himself as one guilty of dreadful audacity. (a) For these things Paul deplores himself, saying, "Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all His long suffering. (1 Tim. i. 13-16.) Verily one has reason to admire this eunuch. He did not see Christ, he saw no miracle: he beheld Jerusalem standing yet entire (sunestw^ta): he believed Philip. How came he to behave thus? His soul was earnest (memerimnhme'nh). Yet the thief (on the cross)had seen miracles: the wise men had seen a star; but this man, nothing of the kind. So great a thing is the careful reading of the Scriptures! What of Paul then! did he not study the law? But he, it seems to me, was specially reserved, for the purpose which I have already mentioned by anticipation, because Christ would fain draw to Himself the Jews by inducements from every quarter. For had they been in their right mind, nothing was so likely to do them good as this; for this, more than miracles and all else, was calculated to attract them: as, on the other hand, nothing is so apt to prove a stumbling block to men of duller minds. See then how, after the Apostle, we have God also doing miracles. They accused the Apostles after these [miracles of theirs]; they cast them into prison: see thereupon God doing the miracles. For instance, the bringing them out of prison, was His miracle: the bringing Philip, His miracle: the bringing Paul over, was His-Observe in what way Paul is honored, in what way the eunuch. There, Christ appears, probably because of his hardness, and because Ananias would not (else) have been persuaded. Conversant with these wonders, let us show ourselves worthy. But many in these times, even when they come to church, do not know what is read; whereas the eunuch, even in public (ep' agora^s) and riding in his chariot, applied himself to the reading of the Scriptures. Not so you: none takes the Bible in hand: nay, everything rather than the Bible.
Say, what are the Scriptures for? For as much as in you lies, it is all undone. What is the Church for? Tie up the Bibles: perhaps the judgment would not be such, not such the punishment: if one were to bury them in dung, that he might not hear them, he would not so insult them as you do now. For say, what is the insult there? That the man has buried them. And what here? That we do not hear them. Say, when is a person most insulted— when he is silent, and one makes no answer, or, when he does speak (and is unheeded)? So that the, insult is greater in the present case, when He does speak and thou wilt not hear: greater the contempt. "Speak not to us" (Is. xxx. 10), we read, they said of old to the Prophets: but ye do worse, saying, Speak: we will not do. For there they turned them away that they should not even speak, as feeling that from the voice itself they got some sort of awe and obligation; whereas you, in the excess of your contempt, do not even this. Believe me, if you stopped our mouths by putting your hands over them, the insult would not be so great as it is now. For say, whether shows greater contempt, he that hears, even when hindering by this action, or, he that will not even hear? Say—if we shall look at it as a case of an insult offered—suppose one person to check the party insulting him, and to stop his mouth, as being hurt by the insults, and another person to show no concern, but pretend not even to hear them: whether will show most contempt? Would you not say the latter? For the former shows that he feels himself hit: the latter all but stops the mouth of God. Did ye shudder at what was said? Why, the mouth by which God speaks, is the mouth of God. Just as our mouth is the mouth of our soul, though the soul has no mouth, so the mouth of the Prophets is the mouth of God. Hear, and shudder. There, common (to the whole congregation) stands the deacon crying aloud, and saying, "Let us attend to the reading." It is the common voice of the whole Church, the voice which he utters, and yet none does attend. After him begins the Reader, "The Prophecy of Esaias," and still none attends, although Prophecy has nothing of man in it. Then after this, he says, "Thus saith the Lord, and still none attends. Then after this punishments and vengeances, and still even then none attends. But what is the common excuse? "It is always the same things over again." This it is most of all, that ruins you. Suppose you knew the things, even so you certainly ought not to turn away: since in the theatres also, is it not always the same things acted over again, and still you take no disgust? How dare you talk about "the same things," you who know not so much as the names of the Prophets? Are you not ashamed to say, that this is why you do not listen, because it is "the same things over again," while you do not know the names of those who are read, and this, though always hearing the same things? You have yourself confessed that the same things are said. Were I to say this as a reason for finding fault with you, you would need to have recourse to quite a different excuse, instead of this which is the very thing you find fault with.—Do not you exhort your son? Now if he should say, "Always the same things!" would not you count it an insult? It would be time enough to talk of "the same things," when we both knew the things, and exhibited them in our practice. Or rather, even then, the reading of them would not be superfluous. What equal to Timothy? tell me that: and yet to him says Paul, "Give attention to reading, to exhortation. (Tim. iv. 13.) For it is not possible, I say not possible, ever to exhaust the mind of the Scriptures. It is a well which has no bottom. "I said," saith the Preacher, "I am become wise: and then it departed from me."— (Eccles. vii. 24.) Shall I show you that the things are not "the same?" How many persons, do you suppose, have spoken upon the Gospels? And yet all have spoken in a way which was new and fresh. For the more one dwells on them, the more insight does he get, the more does he behold the pure light. Look, what a number of things I am going to speak of:—say, what is narrative? what is prophecy? what is parable? what is type? what is allegory? what is symbol? what are Gospels? Answer me only to this one point, which is plain: why are they called Gospels, "good tidings?" And yet ye have often heard that good news ought to have nothing sad in it: yet this "good news" has abundance of sadness in it. "Their fire," it saith, "shall never be quenched: their worm shall not die:" (Mark ix. 44.) "Shall appoint his portion," it saith, "with the hypocrites," with them that are "cut asunder: then shall He say, I know you not: Depart from Me, ye that work iniquity." (Matt. xxiv. 51; vii. 23.) Surely, we do not deceive ourselves, when we imagine that we tell you in your own mother-tongue (Hellhnisti') these good tidings? You look downcast; you are stunned; you are struck all of a heap, unable to hold up your heads. "Good news" should have nothing in it of a duty to be done, but rather should counsel what is good: whereas these "Gospels" have endless duties to be done. And again, to mention other things, as for instance, Except a man hate father and mother, he is not worthy of Me" (Luke xiv, 26): and "I am not come to bring peace upon earth, but a sword" (Matt. x. 34; Luke xii. 51): and "In the world ye shall have tribulation—John xvi. 33.) excellent a good tidings these, are they not! For good news is such as this—"You shall have this and that good thing:" as in common life men say one to another, "What shall I have for my good news? Your father is coming, or, your mother:" he does not say, "You must do this or that."—Again, tell me, how do the Gospels differ from the Prophets? Why are not the Prophecies also called Gospels, good tidings? For they tell the same things: for instance, "The lame shall leap as an hart." (Is. xxxv. 6.) "The Lord shall give the word to them that preach the Gospel" (Ps. lxviii. 11): and, "A new heaven and a new earth." (Is. lxv. 17.) Why are not those also called Gospels? But if, while you do not so much as know what "Gospels" mean, you so despise the reading of the Scriptures, what shall I say to you?—Let me speak of something else. Why four Gospels? why not, ten? why not twenty? If "many have taken in hand to set forth a narrative" (Luke i. 1), why not one person? Why they that were disciples (i.e. Apostles)? why they that were not disciples? But why any Scriptures at all? And yet, on the contrary, the Old Testament says, "I will give you a New Testament." (Jer. xxxi. 31.) Where are they that say, "Always the same things?" If ye knew these, that, though a man should live thousands of years, they are not "the same things," ye would not say this. Believe me, I will not tell you the answers to any of these questions; not in private, not in public: only, if any find them out, I will nod assent. For this is the way we have made you good-for- nothing, by always telling you the things ready to your hands, and not refusing when we ought. Look, you have questions enough: consider them, tell me the reasons. Why Gospels? Why not Prophecies? Why duties, to be done, in the Gospels? If one is at a loss, let another seek the answer, and contribute each to the others from what he has: but now we will hold our peace. For if what has been spoken has done you no good, much less would it, should we add more. We only pour water into a vessel full of holes. And the punishment too is all the greater for you. Therefore, we will hold our peace. Which that we may not have to do, it rests with yourselves. For if we shall see your diligence, perhaps we will again speak, that both ye may be more approved, and we may rejoice over you, in all things giving glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: to Him be glory and dominion now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
"And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, and hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight."
What may be the reason that He neither drew any one of high authority and importance, nor caused such to be forthcoming for the purpose of instructing Paul? It was, because it was not meet that he should be induced by men, but only by Christ Himself as in fact this man taught him nothing, but merely baptized him; for, as soon as baptized (phwtisthei's), he was to draw upon himself the grace of the Spirit, by his zeal and exceeding earnestness. And that Ananias was no very distinguished person, is plain. For, "the Lord," it says, "spake unto him in a vision, and Ananias answered and said, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to Thy saints at Jerusalem." (v. 13.) For if he spoke in objection to Him, much more would he have done so, had He sent an Angel. And this is why, in the former instance, neither is Philip told what the matter is; but he sees the Angel, and then the Spirit bids him go near to the chariot. But observe here how the Lord. relieves him of his fear: "He is blind," saith He, "and prayeth, and art thou afraid?" In the same way Moses also is afraid: so that the words betokened that he was afraid, and shrunk from the task not that he did not believe. He said," have heard from many concerning this man." What sayest thou? God speaketh, and thou hesitatest? They, did not yet well know the power of Christ. "And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on Thy name." (v. 14.) How was that known? It is likely that they, being in fear, made minute enquiries. He does not say this, as thinking that Christ does not know the fact, but, "such being the case, how," says he, "can these things be?" As in fact those (in the Gospel) say, "Who can be saved?"—(Mark x. 26.) This is done, in order that Paul may believe him that shall come to him: "he hath seen in a vision:" it hath showed him beforehand: "he prayeth," saith (the Lord): fear not. And observe, He speaks not to him of the success achieved: teaching us not to speak of our achievements. And, though He saw him afraid, for all this He said it not. "Thou shall not be disbelieved:" "he hath seen," saith He, "in a vision a man (named) Ananias:" for this is why it was "in a vision," namely, because he was blind. And not even the exceeding wonderfulness of the thing took possession of the disciple's mind, so greatly was he afraid But observe: Paul being blind, in this way He restored to. sight. "But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will show him bow great things he must suffer for My name's sake." (v. 15, 16.) "Not only," saith He, "shall he be a believer, but even a teacher, and great boldness shall he show: before Gentiles and kings'—such shall be the spread of the doctrine!—that just as He astonished (him) by the former, so He may (startle him even more) by the latter. "And Ananias went, and entered into the house, and laid his hands upon him, and said, Brother Saul"—-he straightway addresses him as a friend by that name—"Jesus, Who appeared unto thee in the way in which thou camest"—and yet Christ had not told him this, but he learnt it from the Spirit—" hath sent me unto thee, that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost." (v. 17.) As he said this, he laid his hands upon him. "And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales." (v. 18.) Some say this was a sign of his blindness. Why did he not blind his eyes (entirely)? This was more wonderful, that, with his eyes open, he did not see: (v. 8) which was just his case in respect of the Law, until the Name of Jesus was put on him. "And he received sight forthwith, and. arose, and was baptized. And having taken food, he recovered strength." (v. 19.) He was faint, therefore, both from his journey and from his fear; both from hunger, and from dejection of mind. Wishing therefore to deepen his dejection, He made the man blind until the coming of Ananias: and, that he might not imagine the blindness to be (only) fancy, this is the reason of the scales. He needed no other teaching: that which had befallen was made teaching (to him). "And he was with the disciples which were at Damascus certain days. And straightway in the synagogues he preached Jesus, that He is the Son of God." (v. 20.) See, straightway he was: a teacher in the synagogues. He was not a ashamed of the change, was not afraid while the very things in which he was glorious aforetime, the same he destroyed. Even from his first appearance on the stage here was a man, death-dealing, ready for deeds of blood: seest thou what a manifest sign (was here)? And with this very thing, he put all in fear: for, said they, Hither also is he come for this very thing. "But all that heard him were amazed, and said: Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ." (v. 21, 22.) As one learned in the Law, he stopped their mouths, and suffered them not to speak. They thought they were rid of disputation in such matters, in getting rid of Stephen, and they found another, more vehement than Stephen.[*]
(Recapitulation.) But let us look at what relates to Ananias. The Lord said not to him, Converse with him, and catechize him. For if, when He said, "He prayeth, and hath seen a man laying his hands upon him." (v. 11, 12.) He did not persuade him, much less had He said this. So that he shall not disbelieve thee, "he hath seen in a vision." Observe how in the former instance neither is Philip told all immediately. Fear not, He saith: "for this man is a chosen vessel for Me. (v. 15.) He more than sufficiently released him of his fear, if the case be so that this man shall be so zealous in our cause, as even to suffer many things. And justly he is called "a vessel" (or, instrument)—for reason shows that evil is not a physical quality: "a vessel of election" (or, chosen instrument), He saith; for we choose that which is approved. And let not any imagine, that (Ananias) speaks in unbelief of what was told him, as imagining that Christ was deceived: far from it! but affrighted and trembling, he did not even attend to what was said, at hearing the name of Paul. Moreover, the Lord does not tell that He has blinded him: at the mention of his name fear had prepossessed his soul: "see," he says, "to whom Thou art betraying me: 'and hither for this very purpose is he come, to bind all that call upon Thy Name.' I fear, test he take me to Jerusalem: why dost Thou cast me into the mouth of the lion?" He is terrified, even while he speaks these words; that from every quarter we may learn the energetic character (areth'n) of the man. For that these things should be spoken by Jews, were nothing wonderful: but that these (the believers) are so terrified, it is a most mighty proof of the power of God. Both the fear is shown, and the obedience greater after the fear. For there was indeed need of strength. Since He says, "'a vessel of election," that thou mayest not imagine that God is to do all, He adds, "to bear My Name before Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel. Ananias has heard what he most desired—that against the Jews also he will take his stand: this above all gave him courage. "For I," saith He, "will show him how great things he must suffer for My Name's sake." At the same time also this is said by way of putting Ananias to the blush: If he, that was so frantic, shall suffer all things, and thou not willing even to baptize him! "It is well," saith he: "let him continue blind" (this is why he says these words): "he is blind: why dost Thou at all bid me open his eyes, that he may bind (men) again?" Fear not the future: for that opening of his eyes he will use not against you, but for you (with reference to that saying, "That he may receive his sight" (v. 12), these words are spoken): for not only will he do you no harm, but he "will suffer many things." And what is wonderful indeed is, that he shall first know "how great things he shall suffer," and then shall take the field against the perils.—" Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus"—he saith not," Who made thee blind," but, "Who appeared with thee in the way, hath sent me unto thee that thou mayest receive thy sight" (v. 17): observe this man also, how he utters nothing boastful, but just as Peter said in the case of the lame man, "Why look ye on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made him to walk," (ch. iii. 12) so here also he saith, "Jesus, Who appeared unto thee." (b) Or, (he saith it) that the other may believe: and he saith not, He that was crucified, the Son of God, He that doeth wonders: but what? "He that appeared unto thee:" (speaking) from what the other knew: as Christ also added no more, neither said, I am Jesus, the Crucified, the Risen: but what? "Whom thou persecutest." Ananias said not, "The persecuted," that he may not seem as it were to rave over him (epenthousi'a(i)n), to deride him, "Who appeared unto thee in the way:" and yet He did not (visibly) appear, but was seen by the things done. And immediately he added, wishing to draw a veil over the accusation: "That thou mayest receive thy sight." I came not to reprove the past, but to bestow the gift: "that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost." (a) With hands laid on, he spake these words. "And immediately there fell from his eyes," etc. (v. 18: a double blindness is removed.—And why saith it, "Having taken food, he was strengthened?" (v. 19.) Because they that are in such case become relaxed: he had no heart to partake of food before, until he obtained the mighty gifts. (c) It seems to me, that both Paul and Cornelius, at the very instant when the words were spoken, received the Spirit. And yet (in this case) the giver was no great one. So true is it, that there was naught of man's in the things done, nor aught was done by man, but God was present, the Doer of these things. And at the same time (the Lord) both teaches him to think modestly of himself, in that He does not bring him to the Apostles who were so admired, and shows that there is nothing of man here. He was not filled, however, with the Spirit which works signs: that in this way also his faith might be shown; for he wrought no miracles. "And straightway," it says, "in the synagogues he preached Jesus"—(v. 20) not that He is risen—not this: no, nor that He liveth: but what? immediately he strictly expounded the doctrine—"that this is the Son of God. And all that heard him were amazed," etc. (v. 21.) They were reduced to utter incredulity. And yet they ought not to have wondered only, but to worship and reverence. "Is not this he," etc. He had not merely been a persecutor, but "destroyed them which called on this Name"—they did not say, "on Jesus;" for hatred, they could not bear even to hear His name—and what is more marvellous still, "and came hither for this purpose," etc. "We cannot say, that he associated with the Apostles before." See by how many (witnesses) he is confessed to have been of the number of the enemies! But Paul not only was not confounded by these things, nor hid his face for shame, but "increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews" (v. 22), i.e. put them to silence, left them nothing to say for themselves, "proving, that this is very Christ." "Teaching," it says: for this man was a teacher.
"And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him."[*] (v. 23.) The Jews again resort to that valid argument (ischuro`n sullogismo'n) of theirs, not now seeking false-accusers and false- witnesses; they cannot wait for these now: but what do they? They set about it by themselves. For as they see the affair on the increase, they do not even use the form of a trial. "But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him." (v. 24.) For this was more intolerable to them than the miracles which had taken place—than the five thousand, the three thousand, than everything, in short. And observe him, how he is delivered, not by (miraculous) grace, but by man's wisdom—not as the apostles were—(ekei^noi ch. v. 19) that thou mayest learn the energetic (areth`n) character of the man, how he shines even without miracles. "Then the disciples took him by night," that the affair might not be suspected, "and let him down by the wall in a basket."[t] (v. 25.) What then? having escaped such a danger, does he flee? By no means, but goes where he kindled them to greater rage.
(Recapitulation, v. 20, 21.) "And straightway in the synagogues he preached Jesus" —for he was accurate in the faith—" that this is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed," etc., for indeed it was incredible. "But Saul increased," etc. Therefore " after many days" this happens: viz. the Jews "took counsel to kill him. And their laying await was known of Saul." (v. 22-24.) What does this mean? It is likely that for awhile he did not choose to depart thence, though many, perhaps, besought him; but when he learnt it, then he permitted his disciples: for he bad disciples immediately.
"Then the disciples," etc. (v. 25.) Of this occurrence he says: "The ethnarch of Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to apprehend me." (2. Cor. xi. 32.) But observe the Writer here, that he does not tell the story ambitiously, and so as to show what an important person Paul was, saying, "For they stirred up the king," and so forth: but only, "Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall—in a basket:" for they sent him out alone, and none with him. And it was well they did this: the consequence being, that he showed himself to the Apostles in Jerusalem. Now they sent him out, as bound to provide for his safety by flight: but he did just the contrary— he leaped into the midst of those who were mad against him. This it is to be on fire, this to be fervent indeed! From that day forth he knew all the commands which the Apostles had heard: "Except a man take up his cross, and follow Me." (Matt. x. 38.) The very fact that he had been slower to come than the rest made him more zealous: for "to whom much is forgiven" (Luke vii. 47) the same will love more, so that the later he came, the more he loved: * * * and having done ten thousand wrongs, be thought he could never do enough to cast the former deeds into the shade. "Proving" (v. 22), it says: i.e. with mildness teaching. And observe, they did not say to him, Thou art he that destroyed: why art thou changed? for they were ashamed: but they said it to themselves. For he would have said to them, This very thing ought to teach you, as in fact he does thus plead in his speech before Agrippa. Let us imitate this, man: let us bear our souls in our hands ready to confront all dangers.—(That he fled from Damascus) this was no cowardice: he preserved himself for the preaching. Had he been a coward, he would not have gone to Jerusalem, would not immediately have commenced teaching: he would have abated somewhat of his vehemence: for he bad been taught by the fate of Stephen. He was no coward, but he was also prudent (oikonomiko's) (in husbanding himself). Wherefore he thought it no great thing to die for the Gospel's sake, unless he should do this to great advantage: willing not even to see Christ, Whom most of all he longed to see, while the work of his stewardship among men was not yet complete. (Phil. i. 23, 24). Such ought to be the soul of a Christian. From his first appearance from the very outset, the character of Paul declared itself: nay even before this, even in the things which he did "not according to knowledge" (Rom. x. 2), it was not by man's reasoning that he was moved to act as he did. For if, so long afterwards, he was content not to depart, much more at the beginning of his trading voyage, when he had but just left the harbor! Many things Christ leaves to be done by (ordinary) human wisdom, that we may learn that (his disciples) were men, that it was not all everywhere to be done by grace: for otherwise they would have been mere motionless logs: but in many things they managed matters themselves. This is not less than martyrdom,—to shrink from no suffering for the sake of the salvation of the many. Nothing so delights God. Again will I repeat what I have often said: and I repeat it, because I do exceedingly desire it: as Christ also did the same, when discoursing concerning forgiveness: "When ye pray, forgive if ye have aught against any man :"(Mark xi. 25.) and again to Peter He said, "I say not unto thee, Forgive until seven times, but until seventy-times seven." (Matt. xviii. 22.) And Himself in fact forgives the transgressions against Him. So do we also, because we know that this is the very goal of Christianity, continually discourse thereof. Nothing is more frigid than a Christian, who cares not for the salvation of others. Thou canst not here plead poverty: for she that cast down the two mites, shall be thine accuser. (Luke xxi. 1.) And Peter said, "Silver and gold have I none." (Acts iii. 6.) And Paul was so poor, that he was often hungered, and wanted necessary food. Thou canst not plead lowness of birth: for they too were ignoble men, and of ignoble parents. Thou canst not allege want of education: for they too were "unlearned men." (Acts iv. 13.) Even if thou be a slave therefore and a runaway slave, thou canst perform thy part: for such was Onesimus: yet see to what Paul calls him, and to how great honor he advances him: "that he may communicate with me," he says, "in my bonds." (Philem. v. 13.) Thou canst not plead infirmity: for such was Timothy, having often infirmities; for, says the apostle, "Use a little wine for thy stomach's sake, and thine often infirmities." (1 Tim. v. 23.) Every one can profit his neighbor, if he will fulfil his part. See ye not the unfruitful trees, how strong they are, how fair, how large also, and smooth, and of great height? But if we had a garden; we should much rather have pomegranates, or fruitful olive trees: for the others are for delight to the eye, not for profit, which in them is but small. Such are those men who only consider their own interest: nay, not such even since these persons are fit only for burning: whereas those trees are useful both for building and for the safety of those within. Such too were those Virgins, chaste indeed, and decent, and modest, but profitable to none (Matt. xxv.: 1) wherefore they are burned. Such are they who have not nourished Christ. For observe that none of those are charged with particular sins of their own, with fornication, for instance, or with perjury; in short, with no sin but the having been of no use to another. Such was he who buried his talent, showing indeed a blameless life, but not being useful to another. (ib. 25.) How can such an one be a Christian? Say, if the leaven being mixed up with the flour did not change the whole into its own nature, would such a thing be leaven? Again, if a perfume shed no sweet odor on those who approach it, could we call it a perfume? Say not, "It is impossible for me to induce others (to become Christians)"—for if thou art a Christian, it is impossible but that it should be so. For as the natural properties of things cannot be gainsaid, so it is here: the thing is part of the very nature of the Christian. Do not insult God. To say, that the sun cannot shine, would be to insult Him: to say that a Christian cannot do good, is to insult God, and call Him a liar. For it is easier for the sun not to give heat, nor to shine, than for the Christian not to send forth light: it is easier for the light to be darkness, than for this to be so. Tell me not that it is impossible: the contrary is the impossible. Do not insult God. If we once get our own affairs in a right state, the other will certainly follow as a natural and necessary consequence. It is not possible for the light of a Christian to be hid; not possible for a lamp so conspicuous as that to be concealed. Let us not be careless. For, as the profit from virtue reaches both to ourselves, and to those who are benefited by it: so from vice there is a twofold loss, reaching both to ourselves, and to I those who are injured by it. Let there be (if you will) some private man, who has suffered numberless ills from some one, and let no one take his part, yet let that man still return good offices; what teaching so mighty as this? What words, or what exhortations could equal it? What wrath were it not enough to extinguish and soften? Knowing therefore these things, let us hold fast to virtue, as knowing that it is not possible to be saved otherwise, than by passing through this present life in doing these good works, that we may also obtain the good things which are to come, through the grace and mercy of our Lord JeSus Christ, with Whom to the Father together with the Holy Spirit be glory, might, honor, now and ever, 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/XI, Schaff). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.