Fathers of the Church
Homilies 17-32 on the Gospel According to St. John
by John Chrysostom in 389 | translated by The Oxford Translation Edited By Rev. Philip Schaff, D.d., Ll.d
"These things were done in Bethany beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day he seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."
[1.] A great virtue is boldness and freedom of speech, and the making all things second in importance to the confessing of Christ; so great and admirable, that the Only- begotten Son of God proclaims such an one in the presence of the Father. (Luke xii. 8.) Yet the recompense is more than just, for thou confessest upon earth, He in heaven, thou in the presence of men, He before the Father and all the angels.
Such an one was John, who regarded not the multitude, nor opinion, nor anything else belonging to men, but trod all this beneath his feet, and proclaimed to all with becoming freedom the things respecting Christ. And therefore the Evangelist marks the very place, to show the boldness of the loud-voiced herald. For it was not in a house, not in a corner, not in the wilderness, but in the midst of the multitude, after that he had occupied Jordan, when all that were baptized by him were present, (for the Jews came upon him as he was baptizing,) there it was that he proclaimed aloud that wonderful confession concerning Christ, full of those sublime and great and mysterious doctrines, and that he was not worthy to unloose the latchet of His shoe. Wherefore he saith, "These things were done in Bethany," or, as all the more correct copies have it, "in Bethabara" For Bethany was not "beyond Jordan," nor bordering on the wilderness, but somewhere nigh to Jerusalem.
He marks the places also for another reason. Since he was not about to relate matters of old date, but such as had come to pass but a little time before, he makes those who were present and had beheld, witnesses of his words, and supplies proof from the places themselves. For confident that nothing was added by himself to what was said, but that he simply and with truth described things as they were, he draws a testimony from the places, which, as I said, would be no common demonstration of his veracity.
"The next day he seeth Jesus coming to him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."
The Evangelists distributed the periods amongst them; and Matthew having cut short his notice of the time before John the Baptist was bound, hastens to that which follows, while the Evangelist John not only does not cut short this period, but dwells most on it. Matthew, after the return of Jesus from the wilderness, saying nothing of the intermediate circumstances, as what John spake, and what the Jews sent and said, and having cut short all the rest, passes immediately to the prison. "For," saith he, "Jesus having heard" that John was betrayed, "departed thence." (Matt. xiv. 13.) But John does not so. He is silent as to the journey into the wilderness, as having been described by Matthew; but he relates what followed the descent from the mountain, and after having gone through many circumstances, adds, "For John was not yet cast into prison." (c. iii. 24.)
And wherefore, says one, does Jesus now come to him? why does he come not merely once, but this second time also? For Matthew says that His coming was necessary on account of Baptism: since Jesus adds, that" thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness." (Matt. iii. 15.) But John says that He came again after Baptism, and declares it in this place, for, "I saw," saith he, "the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and It abode upon Him." Wherefore then did He come to John? for He came not casually, but went expressly to him. "John," saith the Evangelist, "seeth Jesus coming unto him." Then wherefore cometh He? In order that since John had baptized Him with many (others), no one might suppose that He had hastened to John for the same reason as the rest to confess sins, and to wash in the river unto repentance. For this He comes, to give John an opportunity of setting this opinion right again, for by saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world," he removes the whole suspicion. For very plain it is that One so pure as to be able to wash away the sins of others, does not come to confess sins, but to give opportunity to that marvelous herald to impress what he had said more definitely on those who had heard his former words, and to add others besides. The word "Behold" is used, because many had been seeking Him by reason of what had been said, and for a long time. For this cause, pointing Him out when present, he said, "Behold," this is He so long sought, this is "the Lamb." He calls Him "Lamb," to remind the Jews of the prophecy of Isaiah, and of the shadow under the law of Moses, that he may the better lead them from the type to the reality. That Lamb of Moses took not at once away the sin of any one; but this took away the sin of all the world; for when it was in danger of perishing, He quickly delivered it from the wrath of God.
Ver. 30. "This is He of whom I said, He that cometh after me is preferred before me."
[2.] Seest thou here also how he interprets the word "before"? for having called Him "Lamb," and that He "taketh away the sin of the world," then he saith that "He is preferred before me, for He was before me"; declaring that this is the "before," the taking upon Him the sins of the world, "and the baptizing with the Holy Ghost." "For my coming had no farther object than to proclaim the common Benefactor of the world, and to afford the baptism of water; but His was to cleanse all men, and to give them the power of the Comforter." "He is preferred before me," that is to say, has appeared brighter than I, because "He was before me." Let those who have admitted the madness of Paul of Samosata be ashamed when they withstand so manifest a truth.
Ver. 31. "And I knew Him not," he saith.
Here he renders his testimony free from suspicion, by showing that it was not from human friendship, but had been caused by divine revelation. "I knew Him not," he saith. How then couldest thou be a trustworthy witness? How shalt thou teach others, while thou thyself art ignorant? He did not say "I know Him not," but, "I knew Him not"; so that in this way he would be shown most trustworthy; for why should he have shown favor to one of whom he was ignorant?
"But that He should be made manifest unto Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water."
He then did not need baptism, nor had that layer any other object than to prepare for all others a way to faith on Christ. For be did not say, "that I might cleanse those who are baptized," or, "that I might deliver them from their sins," but, "that He should be made manifest unto Israel." "And why, tell me, could he not without baptism have preached and brought the multitudes to Him?" But in this way it would not have been by any means easy. For they would not so all have run together, if the preaching had been without the baptism; they would not by the comparison have learned His superiority. For the multitude came together not to hear his words, but for what? To be "baptized, confessing their sins." But when they came, they were taught the matters concerning Christ, and the difference of His baptism. Yet even this of John was of greater dignity than the Jewish, and therefore all ran to it; yet even so it was imperfect.
"How then didst thou know Him?" "By the descent of the Spirit," he saith. But again, test any one should suppose that he was in need of the Spirit as we are, hear how he removes the suspicion, by showing that the descent of the Spirit was only to declare Christ. For having said, "And I knew Him not," he adds "But He that sent me to baptize with water the Same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost." (Ver. 33.)
Seest thou that this was the work of the Spirit, to point out Christ? The testimony of John was indeed not to be suspected, but wishing to make it yet more credible, he leads it up to God and the Holy Spirit. For when John had testified to a thing so great and wonderful, so fit to astonish all his hearers, that He alone took on Him the sins of all the world, and that the greatness of the gift sufficed for so great a ransom, afterwards he proves this assertion. And the proof is that He is the Son of God, and that He needed not baptism, and that the object of the descent of the Spirit was only to make Him known. For it was not in the power of John to give the Spirit, as those who were baptized by him show when they say, "We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost." (Acts xix. 2.) In truth, Christ needed not baptism, neither his nor any other; but rather baptism needed the power of Christ. For that which was wanting was the crowning blessing of all, that he who was baptized should be deemed worthy of the Spirit this free gift then of the Spirit He added when He came.
Ver. 32-34. "And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from the heaven like a dove, and It abode upon Him. And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the Same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God."
He puts the "I knew Him not" repeatedly. On what account, and wherefore? He was His kinsman according to the flesh. "Behold," saith the angel, "thy cousin Elisabeth, she also hath received a son." (Luke i. 36.) That therefore he might not seem to favor Him because of the relationship, he repeats the "I knew Him not." And this happened with good reason; for he had passed all his time in the wilderness away from his father's house.
How then, if he knew Him not before the descent of the Spirit, and if he then for the first time recognized Him, did he forbid Him before baptism, saying, "I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?" (Matt. iii. 14), since this was a proof that he knew Him very well. Yet he knew Him not before or for a long time, and with good cause; for the marvels which took place when He was a child, as the circumstances of the Magi and others the like, had happened long before, while John himself was very young, and since much time had elapsed in the interval, He was naturally unknown to all. For had He been known, John would not have said, "That He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing."
[3.] Hence it remains clear to us, that the miracles which they say belong to Christ's childhood, are false, and the inventions of certain who bring them into notice. For if He had begun from His early age to work wonders, neither could John have been ignorant of Him, nor would the multitude have needed a teacher to make Him known. But now he says, that for this he is come, "that He might be made manifest to Israel"; and for this reason he said again, "I have need to be baptized of Thee." Afterwards, as having gained more exact knowledge of Him, he proclaimed Him to the multitude, saying, "This is He of whom I said, After me cometh a Man which is preferred before me." For "He who sent me to baptize with water," and sent me for this end, "that He should be made manifest to Israel," Himself revealed Him even before the descent of the Spirit. Wherefore even before He came, John said, "One cometh after me who is preferred before me." He knew Him not before he came to Jordan and baptized all men, but when He was about to be baptized, then he knew Him; and this from the Father revealing Him to the Prophet, and the Spirit showing Him when He was being baptized to the Jews, for whose sake indeed the descent of the Spirit took place. For that the witness of John might not be despised who said, that "He was before me," and that "He baptizeth with the Spirit," and that "He judgeth the world," the Father utters a Voice proclaiming the Son, and the Spirit descends, directing that Voice to the Head of Jesus. For since one was baptizing, the other receiving baptism, the Spirit Comes to correct the idea which some of those present might form, that the words were spoken of John. So that when he says, "I knew Him not," he speaks of former time, not that near to His baptism. Otherwise how could he have forbidden Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized of Thee"? How could he have said such words concerning Him?
"But," says one, "how then did not the Jews believe? for it was not John only that saw the Spirit in the likeness of a dove." It was, because, even if they did see, such things require not only the eyes of the body, but more than these, the vision of the understanding, to prevent men from supposing the whole to be a vain illusion. For if when they saw Him working wonders, touching with His own hands the sick and the dead, and so bringing them back to life and health, they were so drunk with malice as to declare the contrary of what they saw; how could they shake off their unbelief by the descent of the Spirit only? And some say, that they did not all see it, but only John and those of them who were better disposed. Because even though it were possible with fleshly eyes to see the Spirit descending as in the likeness of a dove, still not for this was it absolutely necessary that the circumstance should be visible to all. For Zacharias saw many things in a sensible form, as did Daniel and Ezekiel, and had none to share in what they saw; Moses also saw many things such as none other hath seen; nor did all the disciples enjoy the view of the Transfiguration on the mount, nor did they all alike behold Him at the time of the Resurrection. And this Luke plainly shows, when he says, that He showed Himself "to witnesses chosen before of God." (Acts x. 41.)
"And I saw, and bear record that this is the Son of God."
Where did he "bear record that this is the Son of God?" he called Him indeed "Lamb," and said that He should "baptize with the Spirit," but nowhere did he say of Him, "Son of God." But the other Evangelists do not write that He said anything after the baptism, but having been silent as to the time intervening, they mention the miracles of Christ which were done after John's captivity, whence we may reasonably conjecture that these and many others are omitted. And this our Evangelist himself has declared, at the end of his narrative. For they were so far from inventing anything great concerning Him, that the things which seem to bring reproach, these they have all with one voice and with all exactness set down, and you will not find one of them omitting one of such circumstances; but of the miracles, part some have left for the others to relate, part all have passed over in silence.
I say not this without cause, but to answer the shamelessness of the heathen. For this is a sufficient proof of their truth-loving disposition, and that they say nothing for favor. And thus as well as in other ways you may arm yourselves for trial of argument with them. But take heed. Strange were it that the physician, or the shoemaker, or the weaver, in short all artists, should be able each to contend correctly for his own art, but that one calling himself Christian should not be able to give a reason for his own faith; yet those things if overlooked bring only loss to men's property, these if neglected destroy our very souls. Yet such is our wretched disposition, that we give all our care to the former, and the things which are necessary, and which are the groundwork of our salvation, as though of little worth, we despise.
[4.] That it is which prevents the heathen from quickly deriding his own error. For when they, though established in a lie, use every means to conceal the shamefulness of their opinions, while we, the servants of the truth, cannot even open our mouths, how can they help condemning the great weakness of our doctrine? how can they help suspecting our religion to be fraud and folly? how shall they not blaspheme Christ as a deceiver, and a cheat, who used the folly of the many to further his fraud? And we are to blame for this blasphemy, because we will not be wakeful in arguments for godliness, but deem these things superfluous, and care only for the things of earth. He who admires a dancer or a charioteer, or one who contends with beasts, uses every exertion and contrivance not to come off worst in any disputes concerning him, and they string together long panegyrics, as they compose their defense against those who find fault with them, and cast sneers without number at their opponents: but when arguments for Christianity are proposed, they all hang their heads, and scratch themselves, and gape, and retire at length the objects of contempt.
Must not this deserve excessive wrath, when Christ is shown to be less honorable in your estimation than a dancer? since you have contrived ten thousand defenses for the things they have done, though more disgraceful than any, but of the miracles of Christ, though they have drawn to Him the world, you cannot bear even to think or care at all. We believe in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, in the Resurrection of bodies, and in Life everlasting. If now any heathen say, "What is this Father, what this Son, what this Holy Ghost? How do you who say that there are three Gods, charge us with having many Gods?" What will you say? What will you answer? How will you repel the attack of these arguments? But what if when you are silent, the unbeliever should again propose this other question, and ask, "What in a word is resurrection? Shall we rise again in this body? or in another, different from this? If in this, what need that it be dissolved?" What will you answer? And what, if he say, "Why did Christ come now and not in old time? Has it seemed good to Him now to care for men, and did He despise us during all the years that are past?" Or if he ask other questions besides, more than these? for I must not propose many questions, and be silent as to the answers to them, lest, in so doing, I harm the simpler among you. What has been already said is sufficient to shake off your slumbers. Well then, if they ask these questions, and you absolutely cannot even listen to the words, shall we, tell me, suffer trifling punishment only, when we have been the cause of such error to those who sit in darkness? I wished, if you had sufficient leisure, to bring before you all the book of a certain impure heathen philosopher written against us, and that of another of earlier date, that so at least I might have roused you, and led you away from your exceeding slothfulness. For if they were wakeful that they might say these things against us, what pardon can we deserve, if we do not even know how to repel the attacks made upon us? For what purpose have we been brought forward? Dost thou not hear the Apostle say, "Be ready to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you"? (1 Pet, iii. 15.) And Paul exhorts in like manner, saying, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." (Col. iii. 16.) What do they who are more slothful than drones reply to this? "Blessed is every simple soul," and, "he that walketh simply walketh surely." (Prov. x. 8.) For this is the cause of all sorts of evil, that the many do not know how to apply rightly even the testimony of the Scriptures. Thus in this place, the writer does not mean (by "simple") the man who is foolish, or who knows nothing, but him who is free from wickedness, who is no evil-doer, who is wise. If it were not so, it would have been useless to say, "Be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." (Matt. x. 16.) But why should I name these things, when the discourse comes in quite out of place? For besides the things already mentioned, other matters are not right with us, those, I mean, which concern our life and conversation. We are in every way wretched and ridiculous, ever ready to find fault with each other, but slow to correct in ourselves things for which we blame and accuse our neighbor. Wherefore I exhort you, that now at least we attend to ourselves, and stop not at the finding fault, (this is not enough to appease God;) but that we show forth a change in every way most excellent, in order that having lived here to the glory of God, we may enjoy the glory to come; which may it come to pass that we will all attain, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
"Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God. And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus."
[1.] The nature of man is somehow a thing slothful, and easily declining to perdition, not by reason of the constitution of the nature itself, but by reason of that sloth which is of deliberate choice. Wherefore it needs much reminding. And for this cause Paul, writing to the Philippians, said, "To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe." (Phil. iii. 1.)
The earth when it has once received the seed, straightway gives forth its fruits, and needs not a second sowing; but with our souls it is not so, and one must be content, after having sown many times, and manifested much carefulness, to be able once to receive fruit. For in the first place, what is said settles in the mind with difficulty, because the ground is very hard, and entangled with thorns innumerable, and there are many which lay plots, and carry away the seed; afterwards, when it has been fixed and has taken root, it still needs the same attention, that it may come to maturity, and having done so may remain uninjured, and take no harm from any. For in the case of seeds, when the ear is fully formed and has gained its proper strength, it easily despises rust, and drought, and every other thing; but it is not so with doctrines; in their case after all the work has been fully done, one storm and flood often comes on, and either by the attack of unpleasant circumstances, or by the plots of men skilled to deceive, or by various other temptations brought against them, brings them to ruin.
I have not said this without cause, but that when you hear John repeating the same words, yon may not condemn him for vain talking; nor deem him impertinent or wearisome. He desired to have been heard by once speaking, but because not many gave heed to what was spoken from the first, by reason of deep sleep, he again rouses them by this second call. Now observe; he had said, "He that cometh after me, is preferred before me": and that "I am not worthy to unloose the latchet of His shoe"; and that "He baptizeth with the Holy Ghost, and with fire"; and that he "saw the Spirit descending like a dove, and it abode upon Him," and he "bare record that this is the Son of God." No one gave heed, nor asked, nor said, "Why sayest thou these things? in whose behalf? for what reason?" Again he had said, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world"; yet not even so did he touch their insensibility. Therefore, after this he is compelled to repeat the same words again, as if softening by tillage some hard and stubborn soil, and by his word as by a plow, disturbing the mind which had hardened into clods, so as to put in the seed deep. For this reason he does not make his discourse a long one either; because he desired one thing only, to bring them over and join them to Christ. He knew that as soon as they had received this saying, and had been persuaded, they would not afterwards need one to bear witness unto Him. As also it came to pass. For, if the Samaritans could say to the woman after hearing Him, "Now we believe, not because of thy saying, for we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world," the disciples would be much more quickly subdued, as was the case. For when they had come and heard Him but one evening, they returned no more to John, but were so nailed to Him, that they took upon them the ministry of John, and themselves proclaimed Him. For, saith the Evangelist, "He findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ." And observe, I pray you, this, how, when he said, "He that cometh after me is preferred before me"; and that, "I am not worthy to unloose the lachet of His shoe"; he caught no one, but when he spoke of the Dispensation, and lowered his discourse to a humbler tone, then the disciples followed Him.
And we may remark this, not only in the instance of the disciples, but that the many are not so much attracted when some great and sublime thing is said concerning God, as when some act of graciousness and lovingkindness, something pertaining to the salvation of the hearers, is spoken of. They heard that "He taketh away the sin of the world," and straightway they ran to Him. For, said they, "if it is possible to wash away the charges that lie against us, why do we delay? here is One who will deliver us without labor of ours. Is it not extreme folly to put off accepting the Gift?" Let those hear who are Catechumens, and are putting off their salvation to their latest breath.
"Again," saith the Evangelist, "John stood, and saith, Behold, the Lamb of God." Christ utters no word, His messenger saith all. So it is with a bridegroom. He saith not for a while anything to the bride, but is there in silence, while some show him to the bride, and others give her into his hands; she merely appears, and he departs not having taken her himself, but when he has received her from another who gives her to him. And when he has received her thus given, he so disposes her, that she no more remembers those who betrothed her. So it was with Christ. He came to join to Himself the Church; He said nothing, but merely came. It was His friend, John, who put into His the bride's right hand, when by his discourses he gave into His hand the souls of men. He having received them, afterwards so disposed them, that they departed no more to John who had committed them to Him.
[2.] And here we may remark, not this only, but something besides. As at a marriage the maiden goes not to the bridegroom, but he hastens to her, though he be a king's son, and though he be about to espouse some poor and abject person, or even a servant, so it was here. Man's nature did not go up, but contemptible and poor as it was, He came to it, and when the marriage had taken place, He suffered it no longer to tarry here, but having taken it to Himself, transported it to the house of His Father.
"Why then doth not John take his disciples apart, and converse with them on these matters, and so deliver them over to Christ, instead of saying publicly to them in common with all the people, 'Behold the Lamb of God'?" That it may not seem to be a matter of arrangement; for had they gone away from him to Christ after having been privately admonished by him, and as though to do him a favor, they would perhaps soon have started away again; but now, having taken upon them the following Him, from teaching which had been general, they afterwards remained His firm disciples, as not having followed Him in order to gratify the teacher, but as looking purely to their own advantage.
The Prophets and Apostles then all preached Him absent; the Prophets before His coming according to the flesh, the Apostles after He was taken up; John alone proclaimed Him present.
Wherefore he calls himself the "friend of the Bridegroom" (c. iii. 29), since he alone was present at the marriage, he it was that did and accomplished all, he made a beginning of the work. And "looking upon Jesus walking, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God." Not by voice alone, but with his eyes also he bore witness to, and expressed his admiration of, Christ, rejoicing and glorying. Nor does he for awhile address any word of exhortation to his followers, but only shows wonder and astonishment at Him who was present, and declares to all the Gift which He came to give, and the manner of purification. For "the Lamb" declares both these things. And he said not, "Who shall take," or "Who hath taken"; but, "Who taketh away the sins of the world"; because this He ever doth. He took them not then only when He suffered, but from that time even to the present doth He take them away, not being repeatedly crucified, (for He offered One Sacrifice for sins,) but by that One continually purging them. As then THE WORD shows us His pre-eminence, and THE SON His superiority in comparison with others, so "The Lamb, The Christ, that Prophet, the True Light, the Good Shepherd," and whatever other names are applied to Him with the addition of the article, mark a great difference. For there were many" Lambs," and" Prophets," and "Christs," and "sons," but from all these John separates Him by a wide interval. And this he secured not by the article only, but by the addition of "Only-Begotten"; for He had nothing in common with the creation.
If it seems to any unseasonable that these things should be spoken at "the tenth hour" (that was the time of day, for he says, "It was about the tenth hour "—(v. 39), such an one seems to me to be much mistaken. In the case indeed of the many, and those who serve the flesh, the season after feasting is not very suitable for any matters of pressing moment, because their hearts are burdened with meats: but here was a man who did not even partake of common food, and who at evening was as sober as we are at morning, (or rather much more so; for often the remains of our evening food that are left within us, fill our souls with imaginations, but he loaded his vessel with none of these things;) he with good reason spake late in the evening of these matters. Besides, he was tarrying in the wilderness by Jordan, where all came to his baptism with great fear, and caring little at that time for the things of this life; as also they continued with Christ three days, and had nothing to eat. (Matt. xv. 32.) For this is the part of a zealous herald and a careful husbandman, not to desist before he see that the planted seed has got a firm hold. "Why then did he not go about all the parts of Judaea preaching Christ, rather than stand by the river waiting for Him to come, that he might point Him out when He came?" Because he wished that this should be effected by His works; his own object being in the mean time only to make Him known, and to persuade some to hear of eternal life. But to Him he leaves the greater testimony, that of works, as also He saith, "I receive not testimony of men. The works which My Father hath given Me, the same bear witness of Me." (c. v. 34, 36.) Observe how much more effectual this was; for when he had thrown in a little spark, at once the blaze rose on high. For they who before had not even given heed to his words, afterwards say, "All things which John spake were true." (c.x. 41.)
[3.] Besides, if he had gone about saying these things, what was being done would have seemed to be done from some human motive, and the preaching to be full of suspicion.
"And the two disciples heard him, and followed Jesus."
Yet John had other disciples, but they not only did not "follow Jesus," but were even jealously disposed towards him. "Rabbi," says one, "He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come unto him." (c. iii. 26.) And again they appear bringing a charge against him; "Why do we fast, but thy disciples fast not?" (Matt. ix. 14.) But those who were better than the rest had no such feeling, but heard, and at once followed; followed, not as despising their teacher, but as being most fully persuaded by him, and producing the strongest proof that they acted thus from a right judgment of his reasonings. For they did not do so by his advice, that might have appeared suspicious; but when he merely foretold what was to come to pass, that "He should baptize with the Holy Ghost, [and with fire,]" they followed. They did not then desert their teacher, but rather desired to learn what Christ brought with Him more than John. And observe zeal combined with modesty. They did not at once approach and question Jesus on necessary and most important matters, nor were they desirous to converse with Him publicly, while all were present, at once and in an off-hand manner, but privately; for they knew that the words of their teacher proceeded not from humility, but from truth.
Ver. 40. "One of the two who heard, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother."
Wherefore then has he not made known the name of the other also? Some say, because it was the writer himself that followed; others, not so, but that he was not one of the distinguished disciples; it behooved not therefore to say more than was necessary. For what would it have advantaged us to learn his name, when the writer does not mention the names even of the seventy-two? St. Paul also did the same. "We have sent," says he, "with him the brother," (who has often in many things been forward,) "whose praise is in the Gospel." (2 Cor. viii. 18.) Moreover, he mentions Andrew for another reason. What is this? It is, that when you are informed that Simon having in company with him heard, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matt. iv. 19), was not perplexed at so strange a promise, you may learn that his brother had already laid down within him the beginnings of the faith.
Ver. 38. "Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye?"
Hence we are taught, that God does not prevent our wills by His gifts, but that when we begin, when we provide the being willing, then He gives us many opportunities of salvation. "What seek ye?" How is this? He who knoweth the hearts of men, who dwelleth in our thoughts, doth He ask? He doth; not that He may be informed; how could that be? but that by the question He may make them more familiar, and impart to them greater boldness, and show them that they are worthy to hear Him; for it was probable that they would blush and be afraid, as being unknown to him, and as having heard such accounts of Him from the testimony of their teacher. Therefore to remove all this, their shame and their fear, he questions them, and would not let them come all the way to the house in silence. Yet the event would have been the same had He not questioned them; they would have remained by following Him, and walking in His steps would have reached His dwelling. Why then did He ask? To effect that which I said, to calm their minds, yet disturbed with shame and anxiety, and to give them confidence.
Nor was it by their following only that they showed their earnest desire, but by their question also: for when they had not as yet learned or even heard anything from Him, they call Him, "Master"; thrusting themselves as it were among His disciples, and declaring what was the cause of their following, that they might hear somewhat profitable. Observe their wisdom also. They did not say, "Teach us of Thy doctrines, or some other thing that we need to know"; but what? "Where dwellest Thou?" Because, as I before said, they wished in quiet to say somewhat to Him, and to hear somewhat from Him, and to learn. Therefore they did not defer the matter, nor say, "We will come to- morrow by all means, and hear thee speak in public"; but showed the great eagerness they had to hear Him, by not being turned back even by the hour, for the sun was already near its setting, ("it was," saith John, "about the tenth hour.") And therefore Christ does not tell them the marks of His abode, nor its situation, but rather induces them to follow Him by showing them that He had accepted them. For this reason He did not say anything of this kind to them, "It is an unseasonable time now for you to enter into the house, to-morrow you shall hear if you have any wish, return home now"; but converses with them as with friends, and those who had long been with Him.
How then saith He in another place, "But the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head" (Luke ix. 58), while here He saith, "Come and see" (v. 39) where I abide? Because the expression "hath not where to lay His head," signifies that He had no dwelling place of His own, not that He did not abide in a house. And this too is the meaning of the comparison. The Evangelist has mentioned that "they abode with Him that day," but has not added wherefore, because the reason was plain; for from no other motive did they follow Christ, and He draw them to Him, but only that they might have instruction; and this they enjoyed so abundantly and eagerly even in a single night, that they both proceeded straightway to the capture of others.
[4.] Let us then also learn hence to consider all things secondary to the hearing the word of God, and to deem no season unseasonable, and, though a man may even have to go into another person's house, and being a person unknown to make himself known to great men, though it be late in the day, or at any time whatever, never to neglect this traffic. Let food and baths and dinners and the other things of this life have their appointed time; but let the teaching of heavenly philosophy have no separate time, let every season belong to it. For Paul saith, "In season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort" (2 Tim. iv. 2); and the Prophet too saith, " In His law will he meditate day and night" (Ps. i. 3); and Moses commanded the Jews to do this always. For the things of this life, baths, I mean, and dinners, even if they are necessary, yet being continually repeated, render the body feeble; but the teaching of the soul the more it is prolonged, the stronger it renders the soul which receives it. But now we portion out all our time for trifles and unprofitable silly talking, and we sit together idly during the morning and afternoon, midday and evening besides, and we have appointed places for this; but hearing the divine doctrines twice or thrice in the week we become sick, and thoroughly sated. What is the reason? We are in a bad state of soul; its faculty of desiring and reaching after these things we have relaxed altogether. And therefore it is not strong enough to have an appetite for spiritual food. And this among others is a great proof of weakness, not to hunger nor thirst, but to be disinclined to both. Now if this, when it takes place in our bodies, is a sure sign of grievous disease, and productive of weakness, much more is it so in the soul.
"How then," says one, "shall we be able to renew it, thus fallen and relaxed, to strength? what doing, what saying?" By applying ourselves to the divine words of the prophets, of the Apostles, of the Gospels, and all the others; then we shall know that it is far better to feed on these than on impure food, for so we must term our unseasonable idle talking and assemblies. For which is best, tell me, to converse on things relating to the market, or things in the law courts, or in the camp, or on things in heaven, and on what shall be after our departure hence? Which is best, to talk about our neighbor and our neighbor's affairs, to busy ourselves in what belongs to other people, or to enquire into the things of angels, and into matters which concern ourselves? For a neighbor's affairs are not thine at all; but heavenly things are thine. "But," says some one, "a man may by once speaking finish these subjects altogether.' Why do you not think this in matters on which you converse uselessly and idly, why though ye waste your lives on this have ye never exhausted the subject? And I have not yet named what is far more vile than this. These are the things about which the better sort converse one with the other; but the more indifferent and careless carry about in their talk players and dancers and charioteers, defiling men's ears, corrupting their souls, and driving their nature into mad excesses by these narratives, and by means of this discourse introducing every kind of wickedness into their own imagination. For as soon as the tongue has uttered the name of the dancer, immediately the soul has figured to itself his looks, his hair, his delicate clothing, and himself more effeminate than all. Another again fans the flame in another way, by introducing some harlot into the conversation, with her words, and attitudes, and glances, her languishing looks and twisted locks, the smoothness of her cheeks, and her painted eyelids. Were you not somewhat affected when I gave this description? Yet be not ashamed, nor blush, for the very necessity of nature requires this, and so disposes the soul according as the tendency of what is said may be. But if, when it is I that speak, you, standing in the church, and at a distance from these things, were somewhat affected at the hearing, consider how it is likely that they are disposed, who sit in the theater itself, who are totally free from dread, who are absent from this venerable and awful assembly, who both see and hear those things with much shamelessness. "And why then," perhaps one of those who heed not may say, "if the necessity of nature so disposes the soul, do you let go that, and blame us?" Because, to be softened when one hears these things, is nature's work; but to hear them is not a fault of nature, but of deliberate choice. For so he who meddles with fire must needs be injured, so wills the weakness of our nature; yet nature does not therefore draw us to the fire and to the injury thence arising; this can be only from deliberate perversity. I beseech you, therefore, to remove and correct this fault, that you may not of your own accord cast yourself down the precipice, nor thrust yourselves into the pits of wickedness, nor run of yourselves to the blaze, lest we place ourselves in jeopardy of the fire prepared for the devil. May it come to pass, that we all being delivered both from this fire and from that, may go to the very bosom of Abraham, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
" He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus."
[1.] When God in the beginning made man, He did not suffer him to be alone, but gave him woman for a helpmate, and made them to dwell together, knowing that great advantage would result from this companionship. What though the woman did not rightly employ this benefit? still if any one make himself fully acquainted with the nature of the matter, he will see, that to the wise great advantage arises from this dwelling together; not in the cause of wife or husband only, but if brothers do this, they also shall enjoy the benefit. Wherefore the Prophet hath said, "What is good, what is pleasant, but that brethren should dwell together?" (Ps. cxxxiii. 1, LXX.) And Paul exhorted not to neglect the assembling of ourselves together. (Heb. x. 25.) In this it is that we differ from beasts, for this we have built cities, and markets, and houses, that we may be united one with another, not in the place of our dwelling only, but by the bond of love. For since our nature came imperfect from Him who made it, and is not self-sufficient, God, for our advantage, ordained that the want hence existing should be corrected by the assistance arising from mutual intercourse; so that what was lacking in one should be supplied by another, and the defective nature thus be rendered self- sufficient; as, for instance, that though made mortal, it should by succession for a long time maintain immortality. I might have gone into this argument at greater length, to show what advantages arise to those who come together from genuine and pure intercourse with each other: but there is another thing which presses now, that on account of which we have made these remarks.
Andrew, after having tarried with Jesus and learned what He did, kept not the treasure to himself, but hastens and runs quickly to his brother, to impart to him of the good things which he had received. But wherefore has not John said on what matters Christ conversed with them? Whence is it clear that it was for this that they "abode with Him"? It was proved by us the other day; but we may learn it from what has been read today as well. Observe what Andrew says to his brother; "We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ." You see how, as far as he had learned in a short time, he showed the wisdom of the teacher who persuaded them, and their own zeal, who cared for these things long ago, and from the beginning. For this word, "we have found," is the expression of a soul which travails for His presence, and looks for His coming from above, and is made overjoyed when the looked-for thing has happened, and hastens to impart to others the good tidings. This is the part of brotherly affection, of natural friendship, of a sincere disposition, to be eager to stretch out the hand to each other in spiritual things. Hear him besides speak with the addition of the article; for he does not say "Messias," but "the Messias"; thus they were expecting some one Christ, having nothing in common with the others. And behold, I beg of you, the mind of Peter obedient and tractable from the very beginning; he ran to Him without any delay; "He brought him," saith St. John, "to Jesus." Yet let no one blame his easy temper if he received the word without much questioning, because it is probable that his brother had told him these things more exactly and at length; but the Evangelists from their care for conciseness constantly cut many things short. Besides, it is not said absolutely that "he believed," but that "he brought him to Jesus," to give him up for the future to Him, so that from Him he might learn all; for the other disciple also was with him, and contributed to this. And if John the Baptist, when he had said that He was "the Lamb," and that He "baptized with the Spirit," gave them over to learn the clearer doctrine concerning this thing from Him, much more would Andrew have done this, not deeming him self sufficient to declare the whole, but drawing him to the very fount of light with so much zeal and joy, theft the other neither deferred nor delayed at all.
Ver. 42. "And when Jesus beheld him," saith the Evangelist, "He said, Thou art Simon, the son of Jonas; thou shalt be called Cephas, which is, by interpretation, a stone."
[2.] He begins from this time forth to reveal the things belonging to His Divinity, and to open It out little by little by predictions. So He did in the case of Nathaniel and the Samaritan woman. For prophecies bring men over not less than miracles; and are free from the appearance of boasting. Miracles may possibly be slandered among foolish men, ("He casteth out devils," said they, "by Beelzebub"—Matt. xii. 24), but nothing of the kind has ever been said of prophecy. Now in the case of Nathaniel and Simon He used this method of teaching, but with Andrew and Philip He did not so. Why was this? Because those (two) had the testimony of John, no small preparation, and Philip received a credible evidence of faith, when he saw those who had been present.
"Thou art Simon, the son of Jonas." By the present, the future is guaranteed; for it is clear that He who named Peter's father foreknew the future also. And the prediction is attended with praise; but the object was not to flatter, but to foretell something future. Hear at least in the case of the Samaritan woman, how He utters a prediction with severe reproofs; "Thou hast had," he saith, "five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband." (c. iv. 18.) So also His Father makes great account of prophecy, when He sets Himself against the honor paid to idols: "Let them declare to you," saith He, "what shall come upon you" (Isa. xlvii. 13); and again, "I have declared, and have saved, and there was no foreign God amongst you" (Isa. xliii. 12, LXX.); and He brings this forward through all prophecy. Because prophecy is especially the work of God, which devils cannot even imitate, though they strive exceedingly. For in the case of miracles there may be delusion; but exactly to foretell the future belongs to that pure Nature alone. Or if devils ever have done so, it was by deceiving the simpler sort; whence their oracles are always easily detected.
But Peter makes no reply to these words; as yet he knew nothing clearly, but still was learning. And observe, that not even the prediction is fully set forth; for Jesus did not say, "I will change thy name to Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church," but, "Thou shalt be called Cephas." The former speech would have expressed too great authority and power; for Christ does not immediately nor at first declare all His power, but speaks for a while in a humbler tone; and so, when He had given the proof of His Divinity, He puts it more authoritatively, saying, "Blessed art thou, Simon, because My Father hath revealed it to thee"; and again, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church." (Matt. xvi. 17, 18.) Him therefore He so named, and James and his brother He called "sons of thunder." (Mark iii. 17.) Why then doth He this? To show that it was He who gave the old covenant, that it was He who altered names, who called Abram "Abraham," and Sarai "Sarah," and Jacob "Israel." To many he assigned names even from their birth, as to Isaac, and Samson, and to those in Isaiah and Hosea (Isa. viii. 3; Hos. i. 4, 6, 9); but to others He gave them after they had been named by their parents, as to those we have mentioned, and to Joshua the son of Nun. It was also a custom of the Ancients to give names from things, which in fact Leah also has done; and this takes place not without cause, but in order that men may have the appellation to remind them of the goodness of God, that a perpetual memory of the prophecy conveyed by the names may sound in the ears of those who receive it. Thus too He named John early, because they whose virtue was to shine forth from their early youth, from that time received their names; while to those who were to become great at a later period, the title also was given later.
[3.] But then they received each a different name, we now have all one name, that which is greater than any, being called "Christians," and "sons of God," and (His) "friends," and (His) "Body." For the very term itself is able more than all those others to rouse us, and make us more zealous for the practice of virtue. Let us not then act unworthily of the honor belonging to the title, considering the excess of our dignity, we who are called Christ's; for so Paul hath named us. Let us bear in mind and respect the grandeur of the appellation. (1 Cor. iii. 23.) For if one who is said to be descended from some famous general, or one otherwise distinguished, is proud to be called this or that man's son, and deems the name a great honor, and strives in every way so as not to affix, by remissness of his own, reproach to him after whom he is called; shall not we who are called after the name, not of a general, nor any of the princes upon earth, nor Angel, nor Archangel, nor Seraphim, but of the King of these Himself, shall not we freely give even our very life, so as not to insult Him who has honored us? Know ye not what honor the royal bands of shield-bearers and spearmen that are about the king enjoy? So let us who have been deemed worthy to be near Him, and much closer, and as much nearer than those just named, as the body is closer to the head than they, let us, I say, use every means to be imitators of Christ.
What then saith Christ? "The foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head." (Luke ix. 58.) Now if I demand this of you, it will seem perhaps to most of you grievous and burdensome; because therefore of your infirmity I speak not of such perfection, but desire you not to be nailed to riches; and as I, because of the infirmity of the many, retire somewhat from (demanding) the excess of virtue, I desire that you do so and much more on the side of vice. I blame not those who have houses, and lands, and wealth, and servants, but wish them to possess these things in a safe and becoming way. And what is "a becoming way"? As masters, not as slaves; so that they rule them, be not ruled by them; that they use, not abuse them. This is why they are called, "things to be used," that we may employ them on necessary services, not hoard them up; this is a domestic's office, that a master's; it is for the slave to keep them, but for the lord and one who has great authority to expend. Thou didst not receive thy wealth to bury, but to distribute. Had God desired riches to be hoarded, He would not have given them to men, but would have let them remain as they were in the earth; but because He wishes them to be spent, therefore He has permitted us to have them, that we may impart them to each other. And if we keep them to ourselves, we are no longer masters of them. But if you wish to make them greater and therefore keep them shut up, even in this case the best plan of all is to scatter and distribute them in all directions; because there can be no revenue without an outlay, no wealth without expenditure. One may see that it is so even in worldly matters. So it is with the merchant, so with the husbandman, who put forth the one his wealth, the other his seed; the one sails the sea to disperse his wares, the other labors all the year putting in and tending his seed. But here there is no need of any one of these things, neither to equip a vessel, nor to yoke oxen, nor to plough land, nor to be anxious about uncertain weather, nor to dread a fall of hail; here are neither waves nor rocks; this voyage and this sowing needs one thing only, that we cast forth our possessions; all the rest will that Husbandman do, of whom Christ saith, "My Father is the Husbandman." (c. xv. 1.) Is it not then absurd to be sluggish and slothful where we may gain all without labor, and where there are many toils and many troubles and cares, and after all, an uncertain hope, there to display all eagerness? Let us not, I beseech you, let us not be to such a degree senseless about our own salvation, but let us leave the more troublesome task, and run to that which is most easy and more profitable, that We may obtain also the good things that are to come; through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy and quickening Spirit be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow Me. Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter."
[1.] "To every careful thinker there is a gain" (Prov. xiv. 23, LXX.), saith the proverb; and Christ implied more than this, when He said, "He that seeketh findeth." (Matt. vii. 8.) Wherefore it does not occur to me any more to wonder how Philip followed Christ. Andrew was persuaded when he had heard from John, and Peter the same from Andrew, but Philip not having learned anything from any but Christ who said to him only this, "Follow Me," straightway obeyed, and went not back, but even became a preacher to others. For he ran to Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets did write." Seest thou what a thoughtful mind he had, how assiduously he meditated on the writings of Moses, and expected the Advent? for the expression, "we have found," belongs always to those who are in some way seeking. "The day following Jesus went forth into Galilee." Before any had joined Him, He called no one; and He acted thus not without cause, but according to his own wisdom and intelligence. For if, when no one came to Him spontaneously, He had Himself drawn them, they might perhaps have started away; but now, having chosen this of themselves, they afterwards remained firm. He calls Philip, one who was better acquainted with Him; for he, as having been born and bred in Galilee, knew Him more than others. Having then taken the disciples, He next goes to the capture of the others, and draws to Him Philip and Nathanael. Now in the case of Nathanael this was not so wonderful, because the fame of Jesus had gone forth into all Syria. (Matt. iv. 24.) But the wonderful thing was respecting Peter and James and Philip, that they believed, not only before the miracles, but that they did so being of Galilee, out of which "ariseth no prophet," nor "can any good thing come"; for the Galilaeans were somehow of a more boorish and dull disposition than others; but even in this Christ displayed forth His power, by selecting from a land which bore no fruit His choicest disciples. It is then probable that Philip having seen Peter and Andrew, and having heard what John had said, followed; and it is probable also that the voice of Christ wrought in him somewhat; for He knew those who would be serviceable. But all these points the Evangelist cuts short. That Christ should come, he knew; that this was Christ, he knew not, and this I say that he heard either from Peter or John. But John mentions his village also, that you may learn that "God hath chosen the weak things of the world." (1 Cor. i. 27.)
Ver. 45. "Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
He says this, to make his preaching credible, which it must be if it rests on Moses and the Prophets besides, and by this to abash his hearer. For since Nathanael was an exact man, and one who viewed all things with truth, as Christ also testified and the event showed, Philip with reason refers him to Moses and the Prophets, that so he might receive Him who was preached. And he not troubled though he called Him "the son of Joseph "; for still he was supposed to be his son. "And whence, O Philip, is it plain that this is He? What proof dost thou mention to us? for it is not enough merely to assert this. What sign hast thou seen, what miracle? Not without danger is it to believe without cause in such matters. What proof then hast thou?" "The same as Andrew," he replies; for he though unable to produce the wealth which he had found, or to describe his treasure in words, when he had discovered it, led his brother to it. So too did Philip. How this is the Christ, and how the prophets proclaimed Him beforehand, he said not; but he draws him to Jesus, as knowing that he would not afterwards fall off, if he should once taste His words and teaching.
Ver. 46, 47. "And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile."
He praises and approves the man, because he had said, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" and yet he ought to have been blamed. Surely not; for the words are not those of an unbeliever, nor deserving blame, but praise. "How so, and in what way?" Because Nathanael had considered the writings of the Prophets more than Philip. For he had heard from the Scriptures, that Christ must come from Bethlehem, and from the village in which David was. This belief at least prevailed among the Jews, and the Prophet had proclaimed it of old, saying, "And thou, Bethlehem, art by no means the least among the princes of Judah, for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall feed My people Israel." (Matt. ii. 6; Mic. v. 2.) And so when he heard that He was "from Nazareth," he was confounded, and doubted, not finding the announcement of Philip to agree with the prediction of the Prophet.
But observe his wisdom and candor even in his doubting. He did not at once say, "Philip, thou deceivest me, and speakest falsely, I believe thee not, I will not come; I have learned from the prophets that Christ must come from Bethlehem, thou sayest 'from Nazareth'; therefore this is not that Christ." He said nothing like this; but what does he? He goes to Him himself; showing, by not admitting that Christ was "of Nazareth," his accuracy respecting the Scriptures, and a character not easily deceived; and by not rejecting him who brought the tidings, the great desire which he felt for the coming of Christ. For he thought within himself that Philip was probably mistaken about the place.
[2.] And observe, I pray you, his manner of declining, how gentle he has made it, and in the form of a question. For he said not, "Galilee produces no good"; but how said he? "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip also was very prudent; for he is not as one perplexed, angry, and annoyed, but perseveres, wishing to bring over the man, and manifesting to us from the first of his preaching the firmness which becomes an Apostle. Wherefore also Christ saith, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile." So that there is such a person as a false Israelite; but this is not such an one; for his judgment, Christ saith, is impartial, he speaks nothing from favor, or from ill- feeling. Yet the Jews, when they were asked where Christ should be born, replied, "In Bethlehem" (Matt. ii. 5), and produced the evidence, saying, "And thou, Bethlehem, art by no means the least among the princes of Judah." (Mic. v. 2.) Before they had seen Him they bore this witness, but when they saw Him in their malice they concealed the testimony, saying, "But as for this fellow, we know not whence He is." (c. ix. 29.) Nathanael did not so, but continued to retain the opinion which he had from the beginning, that He was not "of Nazareth."
How then do the prophets call Him a Nazarene? From His being brought up and abiding there. And He omits to say, "I am not 'of Nazareth,' as Philip hath told thee, but of Bethlehem," that He may not at once make the account seem questionable; and besides this, because, even if He had gained belief, He would not have given sufficient proof that He was the Christ.. For what hindered Him without being Christ, from being of Bethlehem, like the others who were born there? This then He omits; but He does that which has most power to bring him over, for He shows that He was present when they were conversing. For when Nathanael had said,
Ver. 48. "Whence knowest Thou me?" He replies, "Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee."
Observe a man firm and steady. When Christ had said, "Behold an Israelite indeed," he was not made vain by this approbation, he ran not after this open praise, but continues seeking and searching more exactly, and desires to learn something certain. He still enquired as of a man, but Jesus answered as God. For He said, "I have known thee from the first,' (him and the candor of his character, this He knew not as a man, from having closely followed him, but as God from the first,) "and but now I saw thee by the fig-tree "; when there was no one present there but only Philip and Nathanael who said all these things in private. It is mentioned, that having seen him afar off, He said, "Behold an Israelite indeed "; to show, that before Philip came near, Christ spoke these words, that the testimony might not be suspected. For this reason also He named the time, the place, and the tree; because if He had only said, "Before Philip came to thee, I saw thee," He might have been suspected of having sent him, and of saying nothing wonderful; but now, by mentioning both the place where he was when addressed by Philip, and the name of the tree, and the time of the conversation, He showed that His foreknowledge was unquestionable.
And He did not merely show to him His foreknowledge, but instructed him also in another way. For He brought him to a recollection of what they then had said; as, "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" And it was most especially on this account that Nathanael received Him, because when he had uttered these words, He did not condemn, but praised and approved him. Therefore he was assured that this was indeed the Christ, both from His foreknowledge, and from His having exactly searched out his sentiments, which was the act of One who would show that He knew what was in his mind; and besides, from His not having blamed, but rather praised him when he had seemed to speak against Himself. He said then, that Philip had "called" him; but what Philip had said to him or he to Philip, He omitted, leaving it to his own conscience, and not desiring farther to rebuke him.
[3.] Was it then only "before Philip called him" that He "saw" him? did He not see him before this with His sleepless eye? He saw him, and none could gainsay it; but this is what it was needful to say at the time. And what did Nathanael? When he had received an unquestionable proof of His foreknowledge, he hastened to confess Him, showing by his previous delay his caution, and his fairness by his assent afterwards. For, said the Evangelist,
Ver. 49. "He answered and saith unto Him, Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel:"
Seest thou how his soul is filled at once with exceeding joy, and embraces Jesus with words? "Thou art," saith he, "that expected, that sought-for One." Seest thou how he is amazed, how he marvels? how he leaps and dances with delight?
So ought we also to rejoice, who have been thought worthy to know the Son of God; to rejoice, not in thought alone, but to show it also by our actions. And what must they do who rejoice? Obey Him who has been made known to them; and they who obey, must do whatever He willeth. For if we are going to do what angers Him, how shall we show that we rejoice? See ye not in our houses when a man entertains one whom he loves, how gladly he exerts himself, running about in every direction, and though it be needful to spend all that he has, sparing nothing so that he please his visitor? But if one who invites should not attend to his guest, and not do such things as would procure him ease, though he should say ten thousand times that he rejoices at his coming, he could never be believed by him. And justly; for this should be shown by actions. Let us then, since Christ hath come to us, show that we rejoice, and do nothing that may anger him; let us garnish the abode to which He has come, for this they do who rejoice; let us set before Him the meal which He desires to eat, for this they do who hold festival. And what is this meal? He saith Himself; "My meat is, that I may do the will of Him that sent me." (c. iv. 34.) When He is hungry, let us feed Him; when He is thirsty, let us give Him drink: though thou give Him but a cup of cold water, He receives it; for He loves thee, and to one who loves, the offerings of the beloved, though they be small, appear great. Only be not thou slothful; though thou cast in but two farthings, He refuses them not, but receives them as great riches. For since He is without wants, and receives these offerings, not because He needs them, it is reasonable that all distinction should be not in the quantity of the gifts, but the intention of the giver. Only show that thou lovest Him who is come, that for His sake thou art giving all diligence, that thou rejoicest at His coming. See how He is disposed toward thee. He came for thee, He laid down His life for thee, and after all this He doth not refuse even to entreat thee. "We are ambassadors," saith Paul, "for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us." (2 Cor. v. 20.) "And who is so mad," saith some one, "as not to love his own Master?" I say so too, and I know that not one of us would deny this in words or intention; but one who is beloved desires love to be shown, not by words only, but by deeds also. For to say that we love, and not to act like lovers, is ridiculous, not only before God, but even in the sight of men. Since then to confess Him in word only, while in deeds we oppose Him, is not only unprofitable, but also hurtful to us; let us, I entreat you, also make confession by our works; that we also may obtain a confession from Him in that day, when before His Father He shall confess those who are worthy in Christ Jesus our Lord, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
"Nathanael answered and saith unto Him, Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel. Jesus answered, and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig-tree, believest thou? Thou shall see greater things than these."
[1.] Beloved, we need much care, much watchfulness, to be able to look into the depth of the Divine Scriptures. For it is not possible to discover their meaning in a careless way, or while we are asleep, but there needs close search, and there needs earnest prayer, that we may be enabled to see some little way into the secrets of the divine oracles. To-day, for instance, here is no trifling question proposed to us, but one which requires much zeal and enquiry. For when Nathanael said, "Thou art the Son of God," Christ replies, "Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig-tree, believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these."
Now what is the question arising from this passage? It is this. Peter, when after so many miracles and such high doctrine he confessed that, "Thou art the Son of God" (Matt. xvi. 16), is called "blessed," as having received the revelation from the Father; while Nathanael, though he said the very same thing before seeing or hearing either miracles or doctrine, had no such word addressed to him, but as though he had not said so much as he ought to have said, is brought to things greater still. What can be the reason of this? It is, that Peter and Nathanael both spoke the same words, but not both with the same intention. Peter confessed Him to be "The Son of God' but as being Very God; Nathanael, as being mere man. And whence does this appear? From what he said after these words; for after, "Thou art the Son of God," he adds, "Thou art the King of Israel." But the Son of God is not "King of Israel" only, but of all the world.
And what I say is clear, not from this only, but also from what follows. For Christ added nothing more to Peter, but as though his faith were perfect, said, that upon this confession of his He would build the Church; but in the other case He did nothing like this, but the contrary. For as though some large, and that the better, part were wanting to his confession He added what follows. For what saith He?
Ver. 51. "Verily, verily I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the Angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."
Seest thou how He leads him up by little and little from the earth, and causes him no longer to imagine Him a man merely? for One to whom Angels minister, and on whom Angels ascend and descend, how could He be man? For this reason He said, "Thou shalt see greater things than these." And in proof of this, He introduces the ministry of Angels. And what He means is something of this kind: "Doth this, O Nathanael, seem to thee a great matter, and hast thou for this confessed me to be King of Israel? What then wilt thou say, when thou seest the Angels ascending and descending upon Me?" Persuading him by these words to own Him Lord also of the Angels. For on Him as on the King's own Son, the royal ministers ascended and descended, once at the season of the Crucifixion, again at the time of the Resurrection and the Ascension, and before this also, when they "came and ministered unto Him" (Matt. iv. 11), when they proclaimed the glad tidings of His birth, and cried, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace" (Luke ii. 14), when they came to Mary, when they came to Joseph.
And He does now what He has done in many instances; He utters two predictions, gives present proof of the one, and confirms that which has to be accomplished by that which is so already. For of His sayings some had been proved, such as, "Before Philip called thee, under the fig-tree I saw thee"; others had yet to come to pass, and had partly done so, namely, the descending and ascending of the Angels, at the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension; and this He renders credible by His words even before the event. For one who had known His power by what had gone before, and heard from Him of things to come, would more readily receive this prediction too.
What then does Nathanael? To this he makes no reply. And therefore at this point Christ stopped His discourse with him, allowing him to consider in private what had been said; and not choosing to pour forth all at once, having cast seed into fertile ground, He then leaves it to shoot at leisure. And this He has shown in another place, where He saith, "The kingdom of heaven is like to a man that soweth good seed, but while he slept, his enemy cometh, and soweth tares among the wheat."
Chap. ii. ver. 1, 2. "On the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee. And Jesus was called to the marriage. And the mother of Jesus was there, and His brethren."
I said before that He was best known in Galilee; therefore they invite Him to the marriage, and He comes; for He looked not to His own honor, but to our benefit. He who disdained not to "take upon Him the form of a servant" (Phil. ii. 7), would much less disdain to be present at the marriage of servants; He who sat down "with publicans and sinners" (Matt. ix. 13), would much less refuse to sit down with those present at the marriage. Assuredly they who invited Him had not formed a proper judgment of Him, nor did they invite Him as some great one, but merely as an ordinary acquaintance; and this the Evangelist has hinted at, when he says, "The mother of Jesus was there, and His brethren." Just as they invited her and His brethren, they invited Jesus.
Ver. 3. "And when they wanted wine, His mother saith unto Him, They have no wine."
Here it is worth while to enquire whence it came into His mother's mind to imagine anything great of her Son; for He had as yet done no miracle, since the Evangelist saith, "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee." (c. ii. 11.)
[2.] Now if any say that this is not a sufficient proof that it was the "beginning of His miracles," because there is added simply "in Cana of Galilee," as allowing it to have been the first done there, but not altogether and absolutely the first, for He probably might have done others elsewhere, we will make answer to him of that which we have said before. And of what kind? The words of John (the Baptist); "And I knew Him not; but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come, baptizing with water." Now if He had wrought miracles in early age, the Israelites would not have needed another to declare Him. For He who came among men, and by His miracles was so made known, not to those only in Judaea, but also to those in Syria and beyond, and who did this in three years only, or rather who did not need even these three years to manifest Himself (Matt. iv. 24), for immediately and from the first His fame went abroad everywhere; He, I say, who in a short time so shone forth by the multitude of His miracles, that His name was well known to all, was much less likely, if while a child He had from an early age wrought miracles, to escape notice so long. For what was done would have seemed stranger as done by a boy, and there would have been time for twice or thrice as many, and much more. But in fact He did nothing while He was a child, save only that one thing to which Luke has testified (Luke ii. 46), that at the age of twelve years He sat hearing the doctors, and was thought admirable for His questioning. Besides, it was in accordance with likelihood and reason that He did not begin His signs at once from an early age; for they would have deemed the thing a delusion. For if when He was of full age many suspected this, much more, if while quite young He had wrought miracles, would they have hurried Him sooner and before the proper time to the Cross, in the venom of their malice; and the very facts of the Dispensation would have been discredited.
"How then," asks some one, "came it into the mind of His mother to imagine anything great of Him?" He was now beginning to reveal Himself, and was plainly discovered by the witness of John, and by what He had said to His disciples. And before all this, the Conception itself and all its attending circumstances had inspired her with a very great opinion of the Child; "for," said Luke, "she heard all the sayings concerning the Child, and kept them in her heart." "Why then," says one, "did not she speak this before?" Because, as I said, it was now at last that He was beginning to manifest Himself. Before this time He lived as one of the many, and therefore His mother had not confidence to say any such thing to Him; but when she heard that John had come on His account, and that he had borne such witness to Him as he did, and that He had disciples, after that she took confidence, and called Him, and said, when they wanted wine, "They have no wine." For she desired both to do them a favor, and through her Son to render herself more conspicuous; perhaps too she had some human feelings, like His brethren, when they said, "Show thyself to the world" (c. xvii. 4), desiring to gain credit from His miracles. Therefore He answered somewhat vehemently, saying,
Ver. 4. "Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come."
To prove that He greatly respected His mother, hear Luke relate how He was "subject to" His parents (Luke ii. 51), and our own Evangelist declare how He had forethought for her at the very season of the Crucifixion. For where parents cause no impediment or hindrance in things belonging to God, it is our bounden duty to give way to them, and there is great danger in not doing so; but when they require anything unseasonably, and cause hindrance in any spiritual matter, it is unsafe to obey. And therefore He answered thus in this place, and again elsewhere, "Who is My mother, and who are My brethren?" (Matt. xii. 48), because they did not yet think rightly of Him; and she, because she had borne Him, claimed, according to the custom of other mothers, to direct Him in all things, when she ought to have reverenced and worshiped Him. This then was the reason why He answered as He did on that occasion. For consider what a thing it was, that when all the people high and low were standing round Him, when the multitude was intent on hearing Him, and His doctrine had begun to be set forth, she should come into the midst and take Him away from the work of exhortation, and converse with Him apart, and not even endure to come within, but draw Him outside merely to herself. This is why He said, "Who is My mother and My brethren?" Not to insult her who had borne Him, (away with the thought!) but to procure her the greatest benefit, and not to let her think meanly of Him. For if He cared for others, and used every means to implant in them a becoming opinion of Himself, much more would He do so in the case of His mother. And since it was probable that if these words had been addressed to her by her Son, she would not readily have chosen even then to be convinced, but would in all cases have claimed the superiority as being His mother, therefore He replied as He did to them who spake to Him; otherwise He could not have led up her thoughts from His present lowliness to His future exaltation, had she expected that she should always be honored by Him as by a son, and not that He should come as her Master.
[3.] It was then from this motive that He said in this place, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" and also for another reason not less pressing. What was that? It was, that His miracles might not be suspected. The request ought to have come from those who needed, not from His mother. And why so? Because what is done at the request of one's friends, great though it be, often causes offense to the spectators; but when they make the request who have the need, the miracle is free from suspicion, the praise unmixed, the benefit great. So if some excellent physician should enter a house where there were many sick, and be spoken to by none of the patients or their relations, but be directed only by his own mother, he would be suspected and disliked by the sufferers, nor would any of the patients or their attendants deem him able to exhibit anything great or remarkable. And so this was a reason why He rebuked her on that occasion, saying, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" instructing her for the future not to do the like; because, though He was careful to honor His mother, yet He cared much more for the salvation of her soul, and for the doing good to the many, for which He took upon Him the flesh.
These then were the words, not of one speaking rudely to his mother, but belonging to a wise dispensation, which brought her into a right frame of mind, and provided that the miracles should be attended with that honor which was meet. And setting other things aside, this very appearance which these words have of having been spoken chidingly, is amply enough to show that He held her in high honor, for by His displeasure He showed that He reverenced her greatly; in what manner, we will say in the next discourse. Think of this then, and when you hear a certain woman saying, "Blessed is the womb that bare Thee, and the paps which Thou hast sucked," and Him answering, "rather blessed are they that do the will of my Father" (Luke xi. 27), suppose that those other words also were said with the same intention. For the answer was not that of one rejecting his mother, but of One who would show that her having borne Him would have nothing availed her, had she not been very good and faithful. Now if, setting aside the excellence of her soul, it profited Mary nothing that the Christ was born of her, much less will it be able to avail us to have a father or a brother, or a child of virtuous and noble disposition, if we ourselves be far removed from his virtue. "A brother," saith David, "doth not redeem shall man redeem?" (Ps xlix. 7, LXX.) We must place our hopes of salvation in nothing else, but only in our own righteous deeds (done) after a the grace of God. For if this by itself could have availed, it would have availed the Jews, (for Christ was their kinsman according to the flesh,) it would have availed the town in which He was born, it would have availed His brethren. But as long as His brethren cared not for themselves, the honor of their kindred availed them nothing, but they were condemned with the rest of the world, and then only were approved, when they shone by their own virtue; and the city fell, and was burnt, having gained nothing from this; and His kinsmen according to the flesh were slaughtered and perished very miserably, having gained nothing towards being saved from their relationship to Him, because they had not the defense of virtue. The Apostles, on the contrary, appeared greater than any, because they followed the true and excellent way of gaining relationship with Him, that by obedience. And from this we learn that we have always need of faith, and a life shining and bright, since this alone will have power to save us. For though His relations were for a long time everywhere held in honor, being called the Lord's kinsmen, yet now we do not even know their names, while the lives and names of the Apostles are everywhere celebrated.
Let us then not be proud of nobleness of birth according to the flesh, but though we have ten thousand famous ancestors, let us use diligence ourselves to go beyond their excellences, knowing that we shall gain nothing from the diligence of others to help us in the judgment that is to come; nay, this will be the more grievous condemnation, that though born of righteous parents and having an example at home, we do not, even thus, imitate our teachers. And this I say now, because I see many heathens, when we lead them to the faith and exhort them to become Christians, flying to their kinsmen and ancestors and house, and saying, "All my relations and friends and companions are faithful Christians." What is that to thee, thou wretched and miserable"? This very thing will be especially thy ruin, that thou didst not respect the number of those around thee, and run to the truth. Others again who are believers but live a careless life, when exhorted to virtue make the very same defense, and say, "my father and my grandfather and my great-grandfather were very pious and good men." But this will assuredly most condemn thee, that being descended from such men, thou hast acted unworthily of the root from whence thou art sprung. For hear what the Prophet says to the Jews, "Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept (sheep)" (Hos. xii. 12); and again Christ, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad." (c. viii. 56.) And everywhere they bring forward to them the righteous acts of their fathers, not only to praise them, but also to make the charge against their descendants more heavy. Knowing then this, let us use every means that we may be saved by our own works, lest having deceived ourselves by vain trusting on others, we learn that we have been deceived when the knowledge of it will profit us nothing. "In the grave," saith David, "who shall give thee thanks?" (Ps. vi. 5.) Let us then repent here, that we may obtain the everlasting goods, which may God grant we all do, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
"Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come."
[1.] In preaching the word there is some toil, and this Paul declares when he says, "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine." (1 Tim: v. 17.) Yet it is in your power to make this labor light or heavy; for if you reject our words, or if without actually rejecting them you do not show them forth in your works, our toil will be heavy, because we labor uselessly and in vain: while if ye heed them and give proof of it by your works, we shall not even feel the toil, because the fruit produced by our labor will not suffer the greatness of that labor to appear. So that if you would rouse our zeal, and not quench or weaken it, show us, I beseech you, your fruit, that we may behold the fields waving with corn, and being supported by hopes of an abundant crop, and reckoning up your riches, may not be slothful in carrying on this good traffic.
It is no slight question which is proposed to us also to-day. For first, when the mother of Jesus says, "They have no wine," Christ replies, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine, hour is not yet come." And then, having thus spoken, He did as His mother had said; an action which needs enquiry no less than the words. Let us then, after calling upon Him who wrought the miracle, proceed to the explanation.
The words are not used in this place only, but in others also; for the same Evangelist says, "They could not lay hands on Him, because His hour was not yet come" (c. viii. 20); and again, "No man laid hands on Him, because His hour was not yet come" (c. vii. 30); and again, "The hour is come, glorify Thy Son." (c. xvii. 1.) What then do the words mean? I have brought together more instances, that I may give one explanation of all. And what is that explanation? Christ did not say, "Mine hour is not yet come," as being subject to the necessity of seasons, or the observance of an "hour"; how can He be so, who is Maker of seasons, and Creator of the times and the ages? To what else then did He allude? He desires to show this; that He works all things at their convenient season, not doing all at once; because a kind of confusion and disorder would have ensued, if, instead of working all at their proper seasons, He had mixed all together, His Birth, His Resurrection, and His coming to Judgment. Observe this; creation was to be, yet not all at once; man and woman were to be created, yet not even these together; mankind were to be condemned to death, and there was to be a resurrection, yet the interval between the two was to be great; the law was to be given, but not grace with it, each was to be dispensed at its proper time. Now Christ was not subject to the necessity of seasons, but rather settled their order, since He is their Creator; and therefore He saith in this place, "Mine hour is not yet come." And His meaning is, that as yet He was not manifest to the many, nor had He even His whole company of disciples; Andrew followed Him, and next to him Philip, but no one else. And moreover, none of these, not even His mother nor His brethren, knew Him as they ought; for after His many miracles, the Evangelist says of His brethren, "For neither did His brethren believe in Him." (c. vii. 5.) And those at the wedding did not know Him either, for in their need they would certainly have come to and entreated Him. Therefore He saith, "Mine hour is not yet come"; that is, "I am not yet known to the company, nor are they even aware that the wine has failed; let them first be sensible of this. I ought not to have been told it from thee; thou art My mother, and renderest the miracle suspicious. They who wanted the wine should have come and besought Me, not that I need this, but that they might with an entire assent accept the miracle. For one who knows that he is in need, is very grateful when he obtains assistance; but one who has not a sense of his need, will never have a plain and clear sense of the benefit."
Why then after He had said, "Mine hour is not yet come," and given her a denial, did He what His mother desired? Chiefly it was, that they who opposed Him, and thought that He was subject to the "hour," might have sufficient proof that He was subject to no hour; for had He been so, how could He, before the proper "hour" was come, have done what He did? And in the next place, He did it to honor His mother, that He might not seem entirely to contradict and shame her that bare Him in the presence of so many; and also, that He might not be thought to want power, for she brought the servants to Him.
Besides, even while saying to the Canaanitish woman, "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to give it unto dogs" (Matt. xv. 26), He still gave the bread, as considering her perseverance; and though after his first reply, He said, "I am not sent save unto the lost sheep of the house of lsrael," yet even after saying this, He healed the woman's daughter. Hence we learn, that although we be unworthy, we often by perseverance make ourselves worthy to receive. And for this reason His mother remained by, and openly brought to Him the servants, that the request might be made by a greater number; and therefore she added,
Ver. 5. "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it."
For she knew that His refusal proceeded not from want of power, but from humility, and that He might not seem without cause to hurry to the miracle; and therefore she brought the servants.
Ver. 6, 7. "And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus said unto them, Fill the waterpots with water; and they filled them up to the brim."
It is not without a reason that the Evangelist says, "After the manner of the purifying of the Jews," but in order that none of the unbelievers might suspect that lees having been left in the vessels, and water having been poured upon and mixed with them, a very weak wine had been made. Therefore he says, "after the manner of the purifying of the Jews," to show that those vessels were never receptacles for wine. For because Palestine is a country with but little water, and brooks and fountains were not everywhere to be found, they always used to fill waterpots with water, so that they might not have to hasten to the rivers if at any time they were filed, but might have the means of purification at hand.
"And why was it, that He did not the miracle before they filled them, which would have been more marvelous by far? for it is one thing to change given matter to a different quality, and another to create matter out of nothing." The latter would indeed have been more wonderful, but would not have seemed so credible to the many. And therefore He often purposely lessens the greatness of His miracles, that it may be the more readily received.
"But why," says one, "did not He Himself produce the water which He afterwards showed to be wine, instead of bidding the servants bring it?" For the very same reason; and also, that He might have those who drew it out to witness that what had been effected was no delusion since if any had been inclined to be shameless, those who ministered might have said to them, "We drew the water, we filled the vessels." And besides what we have mentioned, He thus overthrows those doctrines which spring up against the Church. For since there are some who say that the Creator of the world is another, and that the things which are seen are not His works, but those of a certain other opposing god, to curb these men's madness He doth most of His miracles on matter found at hand. Because, had the creator of these been opposed to Him, He would not have used what was another's to set forth His own power. But now to show that it is He who transmutes water in the vine plants, and who converts the rain by its passage through the root into wine, He effected that in a moment at the wedding which in the plant is long in doing. When they had filled the waterpots, He said,
Ver. 8-10. "Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast; and they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was, (but the servants which drew the water knew,) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, and saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worst; but thou hast kept the good wine until now."
Here again some mock, saying, "this was an assembly of drunken men, the sense of the judges was spoilt, and not able to taste what was made, or to decide on what was done, so that they did not know whether what was made was water or wine: for that they were drunk," it is alleged, "the ruler himself has shown by what he said." Now this is most ridiculous, yet even this suspicion the Evangelist has removed. For he does not say that the guests gave their opinion on the matter, but "the ruler of the feast," who was sober, and had not as yet tasted anything. For of course you are aware, that those who are entrusted with the management of such banquets are the most sober, as having this one business, to dispose all things in order and regularity; and therefore the Lord called such a man's sober senses to testify to what was done. For He did not say, "Pour forth to them that sit at meat," but, "Bear unto the governor of the feast."
"And when the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was, (but the servants knew,) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom." "And why did he not call the servants? for so the miracle would have been revealed." Because Jesus had not Himself revealed what had been done, but desired that the power of His miracles should be known gently, little by little. And suppose that it had then been mentioned, the servants who related it would never have been believed, but would have been thought mad to bear such testimony to one who at that time seemed to the many a mere man; and although they knew the certainty of the thing by experience, (for they were not likely to disbelieve their own hands,) yet they were not sufficient to convince others. And so He did not reveal it to all, but to him who was best able to understand what was done, reserving the clearer knowledge of it for a future time; since after the manifestation of other miracles this also would be credible. Thus when he was about to heal the nobleman's son, the Evangelist has shown that it had already become more clearly known; for it was chiefly because the nobleman had become acquainted with the miracle that he called upon Him, as John incidentally shows when he says, "Jesus came into Cana of Galilee, where He made the water wine." (c. iv. 46.) And not wine simply, but the best.
[3.] For such are the miraculous works of Christ, they are far more perfect and better than the operations of nature. This is seen also in other instances; when He restored any infirm member of the body, He made it better than the sound.
That it was wine then, and the best of wine, that had been made, not the servants only, but the bridegroom and the ruler of the feast would testify; and that it was made by Christ, those who drew the water; so that although the miracle were not then revealed, yet it could not in the end be passed in silence, so many and constraining testimonies had He provided for the future. That He had made the water wine, He had the servants for witnesses; that the wine was good that had been made, the ruler of the feast and the bridegroom.
It might be expected that the bridegroom would reply to this, (the ruler's speech,) and say something, but the Evangelist, hastening to more pressing matters, has only touched upon this miracle, and passed on. For what we needed to learn was, that Christ made the water wine, and that good wine; but what the bridegroom said to the governor he did not think it necessary to add. And many miracles, at first somewhat obscure, have in process of time become more plain, when reported more exactly by those who knew them from the beginning.
At that time, then, Jesus made of water wine, and both then and now He ceases not to change our weak and unstable wills. For there are, yes, there are men who in nothing differ from water, so cold, and weak, and unsettled. But let us bring those of such disposition to the Lord, that He may change their will to the quality of wine, so that they be no longer washy, but have body, and be the cause of gladness in themselves and others. But who can these cold ones be? They are those who give their minds to the fleeting things of this present life, who despise not this world's luxury, who are lovers of glory and dominion: for all these things are flowing waters, never stable, but ever rushing violently down the steep. The rich to-day is poor tomorrow, he who one day appears with herald, and girdle, and chariot, and numerous attendants, is often on the next the inhabitant of a dungeon, having unwillingly quitted all that show to make room for another. Again, the gluttonous and dissipated man, when he has filled himself to bursting, cannot retain even for a single day the supply conveyed by his delicacies, but when that is dispersed, in order to renew it he is obliged to put in more, differing in nothing from a torrent. For as in the torrent when the first body of water is gone, others in turn succeed; so in gluttony, when one repast is removed, we again require another. And such is the nature and the lot of earthly things, never to be stable, but to be always pouring and hurrying by; but in the case of luxury, it is not merely the flowing and hastening by; but many other things that trouble us. By the violence of its course it wears away the strength of the body, and strips the soul of its manliness, and the strongest currents of rivers do not so easily eat away their banks and make them sink down, as do luxury and wantonness sweep away all the bulwarks of our health; and if you enter a physician's house and ask him, you will find that almost all the causes of diseases arise from this. For frugality and a plain table is the mother of health, and therefore physicians have thus named it; for they have called the not being satisfied "health," (because not to be satisfied with food is health,) and they have spoken of sparing diet as the "mother of health." Now if the condition of wants is the mother of health, it is clear that fullness is the mother of sickness and debility, and produces attacks which are beyond the skill even of physicians. For gout in the feet, apoplexy, dimness of sight, pains in the hands, tremors, paralytic attacks, jaundice, lingering and inflammatory fevers, and other diseases many more than these, (for we have not time to go over them all,) are the natural offspring, not of abstinence and moderate diet, but of gluttony and repletion. And if you will look to the diseases of the soul that arise from them, you will see that feelings of coveting, sloth, melancholy, dullness, impurity, and folly of all kinds, have their origin here. For after such banquets the souls of the luxurious become no better than asses, being torn to pieces by such wild beasts as these (passions). Shall I say also how many pains and displeasures they have who wait upon luxury? I could not enumerate them all, but by a single principal point I will make the whole clear. At a table such as I speak of, that is, a sumptuous one, men never eat with pleasure; for abstinence is the mother of pleasure as well as health, while repletion is the source and root not only of diseases, but of displeasure. For where there is satiety there desire cannot be, and where there is no desire, how can there be pleasure? And therefore we should find that the poor are not only of better understanding and healthier than the rich, but also that they enjoy a greater degree of pleasure. Let us, when we reflect on this, flee drunkenness and luxury, not that of the table alone, but all other which is found in the things of this life, and let us take in exchange for it the pleasure arising from spiritual things, and, as the Prophet says, delight ourselves in the Lord; "Delight thyself in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart" (Ps. xxxvii. 4); that so that we may enjoy the good things both here and hereafter, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory, world without end. Amen.
"This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee."
[1.] Frequent and fierce is the devil in his attacks, on all sides besieging our salvation; we therefore must watch and be sober, and everywhere fortify ourselves against his assault, for if he but gain some slight vantage ground, he goes on to make for himself a broad passage, and by degrees introduces all his forces. If then we have any care at all for our salvation, let us not allow him to make his approaches even in trifles, that thus we may check him beforehand in important matters; for it would be the extreme of folly, if, while he displays such eagerness to destroy our souls, we should not bring even an equal amount in defense of our own salvation.
I say not this without a cause, but because I fear lest that wolf be even now standing unseen by us in the midst of the fold, and some sheep become a prey to him, being led astray from the flock and from hearkening by its own carelessness and his craft. Were the wounds sensible, or did the body receive the blows, there would be no difficulty in discerning his plots; but since the soul is invisible, and since that it is which receives the wounds, we need great watchfulness that each may prove himself; for none knoweth the things of a man as the spirit of a man that is in him. (1 Cor. ii. 11.) The word is spoken indeed to all, and is offered as a general remedy to those who need it, but it is the business of every individual hearer to take what is suited to his complaint. I know not who are sick, I know not who are well. And therefore I use every sort of argument, and introduce remedies suited to all maladies, at one time condemning covetousness, after that touching on luxury, and again on impurity, then composing something in praise of and exhortation to charity, and each of the other virtues in their turn. For I fear lest when my arguments are employed on any one subject, I may without knowing it be treating you for one disease while you are ill of others. So that if this congregation were but one person, I should not have judged it so absolutely necessary to make my discourse varied; but since in such a multitude there are probably also many maladies, I not unreasonably diversify my teaching, since my discourse will be sure to attain its object when it is made to embrace you all. For this cause also Scripture is something multiform, and speaks on ten thousand matters, because it addresses itself to the nature of mankind in common, and in such a multitude all the passions of the soul must needs be; though all be not in each. Let us then cleanse ourselves of these, and so listen to the divine oracles, and with contrite heart hear what has been this day read to us.
And what is that? "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee." I told you the other day, that there are some who say that this is not the beginning. "For what," says one, "if 'Cana of Galilee' be added? This shows that this was 'the beginning' He made 'in Cana.' " But on these points I would not venture to assert anything exactly. I before have shown that He began His miracles after His Baptism, and wrought no miracle before it but whether of the miracles done after His Baptism, this or some other was the first, it seems to me unnecessary to assert positively.
"And manifested forth His glory."
"How?" asks one, "and in what way? For only the servants, the ruler of the feast, and the bridegroom, not the greater number of those present, gave heed to what was done." How then did he "manifest forth His glory"? He manifested it at least for His own part, and if all present hear not of the miracle at the time, they would hear of it afterwards, for unto the present time it is celebrated, and has not been unnoticed. That all did not know it on the same day is clear from what follows, for after having said that He "manifested forth His glory," the Evangelist adds,
"And His disciples believed on Him."
His disciples, who even before this regarded Him with wonder. Seest thou that it was especially necessary to work the miracles at times when men were present of honest minds, and who would carefully give heed to what was done? for these would more readily believe, and attend more exactly to the circumstances. "And how could He have become known without miracles?" Because His doctrine and prophetic powers were sufficient to cause wonder in the souls of His hearers, so that they took heed to what He did with a right disposition, their minds being already well affected towards Him. And therefore in many other places the Evangelists say, that He did no miracle on account of the perversity of the men who dwelt there. (Matt. xii. 38; ch. xiii. 58, &c.)
Ver. 12. "After this He went down to Capernaum, He, and His mother, and His brethren, and His disciples; and they continued there not many days."
Wherefore comes He with "His mother to Capernaum"? for He hath done no miracle there, and the inhabitants of that city were not of those who were rightminded towards Him, but of the utterly corrupt. And this Christ declared when He said, "And thou, Capernaum, which are exalted to heaven, shall be thrust down to hell." (Luke x. 15.) Wherefore then goes He? I think it was, because He intended a little after to go up to Jerusalem, that He then went to Capernaum, to avoid leading about everywhere with Him, His mother and His brethren. And so, having departed and tarried a little while to honor His mother, He again commences His miracles after restoring to her home her who had borne Him. Therefore the Evangelist says, After "not many days,"
Ver. 13. "He went up to Jerusalem."
He received baptism then a few days before the passover. But on going up to Jerusalem, what did He, a deed full of high authority; for He cast out of the Temple those dealers and money changers, and those who sold doves, and oxen, and sheep, and who passed their time there for this purpose.
[2.] Another Evangelist writes, that as He cast them out, He said, Make not my Father's house "a den of thieves," but this one,
Ver. 16. ("Make not My Father's house) an house of merchandise."
They do not in this contradict each other, but show that he did this a second time, and that both these expressions were not used on the same occasion, but that He acted thus once at the beginning of His ministry, and again when He had come to the very time of His Passion. Therefore, (on the latter occasion,) employing more strong expressions, He spoke of it as (being made) "a den of thieves," but here at the commencement of His miracles He does not so, but uses a more gentle rebuke; from which it is probable that this took place a second time.
"And wherefore," says one, "did Christ do this same, and use such severity against these men, a thing which He is nowhere else seen to do, even when insulted and reviled, and called by them 'Samaritan' and 'demoniac'? for He was not even satisfied with words only, but took a scourge, and so cast them out." Yes, but it was when others were receiving benefit, that the Jews accused and raged against Him; when it was probable that they would have been made savage by His rebukes, they showed no such disposition towards Him, for they neither accused nor reviled Him. What say they?
Ver. 18. "What sign showest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things?"
Seest thou their excessive malice, and how the benefits done to others incensed them more (than reproofs)?
At one time then He said, that the Temple was made by them "a den of thieves," showing that what they sold was gotten by theft, and rapine, and covetousness, and that they were rich through other men's calamities; at another, "a house of merchandise," pointing to their shameless traffickings. "But wherefore did He this?" Since he was about to heal on the Sabbath day, and to do many such things which were thought by them transgressions of the Law in order that He might not seem to do this as though He had come to be some rival God and opponent of His Father, He takes occasion hence to correct any such suspicion of theirs. For One who had exhibited so much zeal for the House was not likely to oppose Him who was Lord of the House, and who was worshiped in it. No doubt even the former years during which He lived according to the Law, were sufficient to show His reverence for the Legislator, and that He came not to give contrary laws; yet since it was likely that those years were forgotten through lapse of time, as not having been known to all because He was brought up in a poor and mean dwelling, He afterwards does this in the presence of all, (for many were present because the feast was nigh at hand,) and at great risk. For he did not merely "cast them out," but also "overturned the tables," and "poured out the money," giving them by this to understand, that He who threw Himself into danger for the good order of the House could never despise his Master. Had He acted as He did from hypocrisy, He should only have advised them; but to place Himself in danger was very daring. For it was no light thing to offer Himself to the anger of so many market- folk, to excite against Himself a most brutal mob of petty dealers by His reproaches and His blows, this was not the action of a pretender, but of one choosing to suffer everything for the order of the House.
And therefore not by His actions only, but by His words, He shows his agreement with the Father; for He saith not "the Holy House," but "My Father's House." See, He even calls Him, "Father," and they are not wroth; they thought He spoke in a general way: but when He went on and spoke more plainly, so as to set before them the idea of His Equality, then they become angry.
And what say they? "What sign showest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things?" Alas for their utter madness! Was there need of a sign before they could cease their evil doings, and free the house of God from such dishonor? and was it not the greatest sign of His Excellence that He had gotten such zeal for that House? In fact, the well-disposed were distinguished by this very thing, for "They," His disciples, it says,
Ver. 17. "Remembered that it is written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up."
But the Jews did not remember the Prophecy, and said, "What sign showest Thou unto us?" (Ps. lxix. 9), both grieving that their shameful traffic was cut off, and expecting by these means to stop Him, and also desiring to challenge Him to a miracle, and to find fault with what He was doing. Wherefore He will not give them a sign; and before, when they came and asked Him, He made them the same answer, "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas." (Matt. xvi. 4.) Only then the answer was clear, now it is more ambiguous. This He doth on account of their extreme insensibility; for He who prevented them without their asking, and gave them signs, would never when they asked have turned away from them, had He not seen that their minds were wicked and false, and their intention treacherous. Think how full of wickedness the question itself was at the outset. When they ought to have applauded Him for His earnestness and zeal, when they ought to have been astonished that He cared so greatly for the House, they reproach Him, saying, that it was lawful to traffic, and unlawful for any to stop their traffic, except he should show them a sign. What saith Christ?
Ver. 19. "Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up."
Many such sayings He utters which were not intelligible to His immediate hearers, but which were to be so to those that should come after. And wherefore doth He this? In order that when the accomplishment of His prediction should have come to pass, He might be seen to have foreknown from the beginning what was to follow; which indeed was the case with this prophecy. For, saith the Evangelist,
Ver. 22. "When He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said."
But at the time when this was spoken, the Jews were perplexed as to what it might mean, and cast about to discover, saying,
Ver. 20. "Forty and six years was this Temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?"
"Forty and six years," they said, referring to the latter building, for the former was finished in twenty years' time. (Ezra vi. 15.)
[3.] Wherefore then did He not resolve the difficulty and say, "I speak not of that Temple, but of My flesh"? Why does the Evangelist, writing the Gospel at a later period, interpret the saying, and Jesus keep silence at the time? Why did He so keep silence? Because they would not have received His word; for if not even the disciples were able to understand the saying, much less were the multitudes. "When," saith the Evangelist, "He was risen from the dead, then they remembered, and believed the Scripture and His word." There were two things that hindered them for the time, one the fact of the Resurrection, the other, the greater question whether He was God that dwelt within; of both which things He spake darkly when He said, "Destroy this Temple, and I will rear it up in three days." And this St. Paul declares to be no small proof of His Godhead, when he writes, "Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the Resurrection from the dead." (Rom. i. 4.).
But why doth He both there, and here, and everywhere, give this for a sign, at one time saying, "When ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then ye shall know that I Am" (c. viii. 28); at another, "There shall no sign be given you but the sign of the prophet Jonas" (Matt. xii. 39); and again in this place, "In three days I will raise it up"? Because what especially showed that He was not a mere man, was His being able to set up a trophy of victory over death, and so quickly to abolish His long enduring tyranny, and conclude that difficult war. Wherefore He saith, "Then ye shall know." "Then." When? When after My Resurrection I shall draw (all) the world to Me, then ye shall know that I did these things as God, and Very Son of God, avenging the insult offered to My Father.
"Why then, instead of saying, 'What need is there of "signs" to check evil deeds?' did He promise that He would give them a sign?" Because by so doing He would have the more exasperated them; but in this way He rather astonished them. Still they made no answer to this, for He seemed to them to say what was incredible, so that they did not stay even to question Him upon it, but passed it by as impossible. Yet had they been wise, though it seemed to them at the time incredible, still when He wrought His many miracles they would then have come and questioned Him, would then have intreated that the difficulty might be resolved to them; but because they were foolish, they gave no heed at all to part of what was said, and part they heard with evil frame of mind. And therefore Christ spoke to them in an enigmatical way.
The question still remains, "How was it that the disciples did not know that He must rise from the dead?" It was, because they had not been vouchsafed the gift of the Spirit; and therefore, though they constantly heard His discourses concerning the Resurrection, they understood them not, but reasoned with themselves what this might be. For very strange and paradoxical was the assertion that one could raise himself, and would raise himself in such wise. And so Peter was rebuked, when, knowing nothing about the Resurrection, he said, "Be it far from Thee." (Matt. xvi. 22.) And Christ did not reveal it clearly to them before the event, that they might not be offended at the very outset, being led to distrust His words on account of the great improbability of the thing, and because they did not yet clearly know Him, who He was. For no one could help believing what was proclaimed aloud by facts, while some would probably disbelieve what was told to them in words. Therefore He at first allowed the meaning of His words to be concealed; but when by their experience He had verified His sayings, He after that gave them understanding of His words, and such gifts of the Spirit that they received them all at once. "He," saith Jesus, "shall bring all things to your remembrance." (c. xiv. 26.) For they who in a single night cast off all respect for Him, and fled from and denied that they even knew Him, would scarcely have remembered what He had done and said during the whole time, unless they had enjoyed much grace of the Spirit.
"But," says one, "if they were to hear from the Spirit, why needed they to accompany Christ when they would not retain His words?" Because the Spirit taught them not, but called to their mind what Christ had said before; and it contributes not a little to the glory of Christ, that they were referred to the remembrance of the words He had spoken to them. At the first then it was of the gift of God that the grace of the Spirit lighted upon them so largely and abundantly; but after that, it was of their own virtue that they retained the Gift. For they displayed a shining life, and much wisdom, and great labors, and despised this present life, and thought nothing of earthly things, but were above them all; and like a sort of light-winged eagle, soaring high by their works; reached to heaven itself, and by these possessed the unspeakable grace of the Spirit.
Let us then imitate them, and not quench our lamps, but keep them bright by alms- doing, for so is the light of this fire preserved. Let us collect the oil into our vessels whilst we are here, for we cannot buy it when we have departed to that other place, nor can we procure it elsewhere, save only at the hands of the poor. Let us therefore collect it thence very abundantly, if, at least, we desire to enter in with the Bridegroom. But if we do not this, we must remain without the bridechamber, for it is impossible, it is impossible, though we perform ten thousand other good deeds, to enter the portals of the Kingdom without alms-doing. Let us then show forth this very abundantly, that we may enjoy those ineffable blessings; which may it come to pass that we all attain, by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
"Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast, many believed on Him."
[1.] Of the men of that time some clung to their error, others laid hold on the truth, while of these last, some having retained it for a little while again fell off from it. Alluding to these, Christ compared them to seeds not deeply sown, but having their roots upon the surface of the earth; and He said that they should quickly perish. And these the Evangelist has here pointed out to us, saying,
"When He was in Jerusalem, at the Passover, in the feast, many believed on Him, when they saw the miracles which He did."
Ver. 24. "But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them."
For they were the more perfect among His disciples, who came to Him not only because of His miracles, but through His teaching also. The grosser sort the miracles attracted, but the better reasoners His prophecies and doctrines; and so they who were taken by His teaching were more steadfast than those attracted by His miracles. And Christ also called them "blessed," saying, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." (c. xx. 29.) But that these here mentioned were not real disciples, the following passage shows, for it saith, "Jesus did not commit Himself unto them." Wherefore?
"Because He knew all things,"
Ver. 25. "And needed not that any should testify of man, for He knew what was in man."
The meaning is of this kind. "He who dwells in men's hearts, and enters into their thoughts, took no heed of outward words; and knowing well that their warmth was but for a season, He placed not confidence in them as in perfect disciples, nor committed all His doctrines to them as though they had already become firm believers." Now, to know what is in the heart of men belongs to God alone, "who hath fashioned hearts one by one" (Ps. xxxiii. 15, LXX.), for, saith Solomon, "Thou, even Thou only, knowest the hearts" (1 Kings viii. 39); He therefore needed not witnesses to learn the thoughts of His own creatures, and so He felt no confidence in them because of their mere, temporary belief. Men, who know neither the present nor the future, often tell and entrust all without any reserve to persons who approach them deceitfully and who shortly will fall off from them; but Christ did not so, for well He knew all their secret thoughts.
And many such now there are, who have indeed the name of faith, but are unstable, and easily led away; wherefore neither now doth Christ commit Himself to them, but concealeth from them many things; and just as we do not place confidence in mere acquaintances but in real friends, so also doth Christ. Hear what He saith to His disciples, "Henceforth I call you not servants, ye are My friends." (c. xv. 14, 15.) Whence is this and why? "Because all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you." And therefore He gave no signs to the Jews who asked for them, because they asked tempting Him. Indeed the asking for signs is a practice of tempters both then and now; for even now there are some that seek them and say, "Why do not miracles take place also at this present time?" If thou art faithful, as thou oughtest to be, and lovest Christ as thou oughtest to love Him, thou hast no need of signs, they are given to the unbelievers. "How then," asks one, "were they not given to the Jews?" Given they certainly were; and if there were times when though they asked they did not receive them, it was because they asked them not that they might be delivered from their unbelief, but in order the more to confirm their wickedness.
Chap. iii. 1, 2. "And there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus. The same came to Jesus by night."
This man appears also in the middle of the Gospel, making defense for Christ; for he saith, "Our law judgeth no man before it hear him" (c. vii. 51); and the Jews in anger replied to him, "Search and look, for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet." Again after the crucifixion he bestowed great care upon the burial of the Lord's body: "There came also," saith the Evangelist, "Nicodemus, which came to the Lord by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight." (c. xix. 39.) And even now he was disposed towards Christ, but not as he ought, nor with proper sentiments respecting Him, for he was as yet entangled in Jewish infirmity. Wherefore he came by night, because he feared to do so by day. Yet not for this did the merciful God reject or rebuke him, or deprive him of His instruction, but even with much kindness conversed with him and disclosed to him very exalted doctrines enigmatically indeed, but nevertheless He disclosed them. For far more deserving of pardon was he than those who acted thus through wickedness. They are entirely without excuse; but he, though he was liable to condemnation, yet was not so to an equal degree. "How then does the Evangelist say nothing of the kind concerning him?" He has said in another place, that "of the rulers also many believed on Him, but because of the Jews they did not confess (Him), lest they should be put out of the synagogue" (c. xii. 42); but here he has implied the whole by mentioning his coming "by night." What then saith Nicodemus?
"Rabbi, we know that Thou art a Teacher come from God: for no man can do the miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him."
[2.] Nicodemus yet lingers below, has yet human thoughts concerning Him, and speaks of Him as of a Prophet, imagining nothing great from His miracles. "We know," he says, "that Thou art a Teacher come from God." "Why then comest thou by night and secretly, to Him that speaketh the things of God, to Him who cometh from God? Why conversest thou not with Him openly?" But Jesus said nothing like this to him, nor did He rebuke him; for, saith the Prophet, "A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench; He shall not strive nor cry" (Isa. xlii. 2, 3; as quoted Matt. xii. 19, 20): and again He saith Himself, "I came not to condemn the world, but to save the world." (c. xii. 47.)
"No man can do these miracles, except God be with him."
Still here Nicodemus speaks like the heretics, in saying, that He hath a power working within Him, and hath need of the aid of others to do as He did. What then saith Christ? Observe His exceeding condescension. He refrained for a while from saying, "I need not the help of others, but do all things with power, for I am the Very Son of God, and have the same power as My Father," because this would have been too hard for His hearer; for I say now what I am always saying, that what Christ desired was, not so much for a while to reveal His own Dignity, as to persuade men that He did nothing contrary to His Father. And therefore in many places he appears in words confined by limits, but in His actions He doth not so. For when He worketh a miracle, He doth all with power, saying, "I will, be thou clean." (Matt. viii. 3.) "Talitha, arise." (Mark v. 41; not verbally quoted.) "Stretch forth thy hand." (Mark iii. 5.) "Thy sins be forgiven thee." (Matt. ix. 2.) "Peace, be still." (Mark iv. 39.) "Take up thy bed, and go unto thine house." (Matt. ix. 6.) "Thou foul spirit, I say unto thee, come out of him." (Mark ix. 25; not verbally quoted.) "Be it unto thee even as thou wilt." (Matt. xv. 28.) "If any one say (aught) unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of him." (Mark xi. 3.) "This day shall thou be with Me in Paradise." (Luke xxiii. 43.) "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shall not kill; but I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment." (Matt. v. 21, 22.) "Come ye after Me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Mark i. 17.) And everywhere we observe that His authority is great; for in His actions no one could find fault with what was done. How was it possible? Had His words not come to pass, nor been accomplished as He commanded, any one might have said that they were the commands of a madman; but since they did come to pass, the reality of their accomplishment stopped men's mouths even against their will. But with regard to His discourses, they might often in their insolence charge Him with madness. Wherefore now in the case of Nicodemus, He utters nothing openly, but by dark sayings leads him up from his low thoughts, teaching him, that He has sufficient power in Himself to show forth miracles; for that His Father begat Him Perfect and All-sufficient, and without any imperfection.
But let us see how He effects this. Nicodemus saith, "Rabbi, we know that Thou art a Teacher come from God, for no man can do the miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him." He thought he had said something great when he had spoken thus of Christ. What then saith Christ? To show that he had not yet set foot even on the threshold of right knowledge, nor stood in the porch, but was yet wandering somewhere without the palace, both he and whoever else should say the like, and that he had not so much as glanced towards true knowledge when he held such an opinion of the Only- Begotten, what saith He?
Ver. 3. "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God."
That is, "Unless thou art born again and receivest the right doctrines, thou art wandering somewhere without, and art far from the Kingdom of heaven." But He does not speak so plainly as this. In order to make the saying less hard to bear, He does not plainly direct it at him, but speaks indefinitely, "Except a man be born again": all but saying, "both thou and any other, who may have such opinions concerning Me, art somewhere without the Kingdom." Had He not spoken from a desire to establish this, His answer would have been suitable to what had been said. Now the Jews, if these words had been addressed to them, would have derided Him and departed; but Nicodemus shows here also his desire of instruction. And this is why in many places Christ speaks obscurely, because He wishes to rouse His hearers to ask questions, and to render them more attentive. For that which is said plainly often escapes the hearer, but what is obscure renders him more active and zealous. Now what He saith, is something like this: "If thou art not born again, if thou partakest not of the Spirit which is by the washing of Regeneration, thou canst not have a right opinion of Me, for the opinion which thou hast is not spiritual, but carnal." (Tit. iii. 5.) But He did not speak thus, as refusing to confound one who had brought such as he had, and who had spoken to the best of his ability; and He leads him unsuspectedly up to greater knowledge, saying, "Except a man be born again." The word "again," in this place, some understand to mean "from heaven," others, "from the beginning." "It is impossible," saith Christ, "for one not so born to see the Kingdom of God"; in this pointing to Himself, and declaring that there is another beside the natural sight, and that we have need of other eyes to behold Christ. Having heard this,
Ver. 4. "Nicodemus saith, How can a man be born when he is old?"
Callest thou Him "Master," sayest thou that He is "come from God," and yet receivest thou not His words, but usest to thy Teacher a manner of speaking which expresses much perplexity? For the "How," is the doubting question of those who have no strong belief, but who are yet of the earth. Therefore Sarah laughed when she had said, "How?" And many others having asked this question, have fallen from the faith.
[3.] And thus heretics continue in their heresy, because they frequently make this enquiry, saying, some of them, "How was He begotten?" others, "How was He made flesh?" and subjecting that Infinite Essence to the weakness of their own reasonings. Knowing which, we ought to avoid this unseasonable curiosity, for they who search into these matters shall, without learning the "How," fall away from the right faith. On this account Nicodemus, being in doubt, enquires the manner in which this can be, (for he understood that the words spoken referred to himself,) is confused, and dizzy, and in perplexity, having come as to a man, and hearing more than man's words, and such as no one ever yet had heard; and for a while he rouses himself at the sublimity of the sayings, but yet is in darkness, and unstable, borne about in every direction, and continually falling away from the faith. And therefore he perseveres in proving the impossibility, so as to provoke Him to clearer teaching.
"Can a man," he saith, "enter into his mother's womb, and be born?"
Seest thou how when one commits spiritual things to his own reasonings, he speaks ridiculously, seems to be trifling, or to be drunken, when he pries into what has been said beyond what seems good to God, and admits not the submission of faith? Nicodemus heard of the spiritual Birth, yet perceived it not as spiritual, but dragged down the words to the lowness of the flesh, and made a doctrine so great and high depend upon physical consequence. And so he invents frivolities, and ridiculous difficulties. Wherefore Paul said, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit." (1 Cor. ii. 14.) Yet even in this he preserved his reverence for Christ, for he did not mock at what had been said, but, deeming it impossible, held his peace. There were two difficulties; a Birth of this kind, and the Kingdom; for neither had the name of the Kingdom ever been heard among the Jews, nor of a Birth like this. But he stops for a while at the first, which most astonished his mind.
Let us then, knowing this, not enquire into things relating to God by reasoning, nor bring heavenly matters under the rule of earthly consequences, nor subject them to the necessity of nature; but let us think of all reverently, believing as the Scriptures have said; for the busy and curious person gains nothing, and besides not finding what he seeks, shall suffer extreme punishment. Thou hast heard, that (the Father) begat (the Son): believe what thou hast heard; but do ask not, "How," and so take away the Generation; to do so would be extreme folly. For if this man, because, on hearing of a Generation, not that ineffable GENERATION, but this which is by grace, he conceived nothing great concerning it, but human and earthly thoughts, was therefore darkened and in doubt, what punishment must they deserve, who are busy and curious about that most awful GENERATION, which transcends all reason and intellect? For nothing causes such dizziness as human reasoning, all whose words are of earth, and which cannot endure to be enlightened from above. Earthly reasonings are full of mud, and therefore need we streams from heaven, that when the mud has settled, the clearer portion may rise and mingle with the heavenly lessons; and this comes to pass, when we present an honest soul and an upright life. For certainly it is possible for the intellect to be darkened, not only by unseasonable curiosity, but also by corrupt manners; wherefore Paul hath said to the Corinthians, "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able, for ye are yet carnal; for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal?" (1 Cor. iii. 2.) And also in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and in many places, one may see Paul asserting that this is the cause of evil doctrines; for that the soul possessed by passions cannot behold anything great or noble, but as if darkened by a sort of film suffers most grievous dimsightedness.
Let us then cleanse ourselves, let us kindle the light of knowledge, let us not sow among thorns. What the thorns are, ye know, though we tell you not; for often ye have heard Christ call the cares of this present life, and the deceitfulness of riches, by this name. (Matt. xiii. 22.) And with reason. For as thorns are unfruitful, so are these things; as thorns tear those that handle them, so do these passions; as thorns are readily caught by the fire, and hateful by the husbandman, so too are the things of the world; as in thorns, wild beasts, and snakes, and scorpions hide themselves, so do they in the deceitfulness of riches. But let us kindle the fire of the Spirit, that we may consume the thorns, and drive away the beasts, and make the field clear for the husbandman; and after cleansing it, let us water it with the streams of the Spirit, let us plant the fruitful olive, that most kindly of trees, the evergreen, the light-giving, the nutritious, the wholesome. All these qualities hath almsgiving, which is, as it were, a seal on those that possess it. This plant not even death when it comes causes to wither, but ever it stands enlightening the mind, feeding the sinews of the soul, and rendering its strength mightier. And if we constantly possess it, we shall be able with confidence to behold the Bridegroom, and to enter into the bridal chamber; to which may we all attain, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
"Verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God."
[1.] Little children who go daily to their teachers receive their lessons, and repeat them, and never cease from this kind of acquisition, but sometimes employ nights as well as days, and this they are compelled to do for perishable and transient things. Now we do not ask of you who are come to age such toil as you require of your children; for not every day, but two days only in the week do we exhort you to hearken to our words, and only for a short portion of the day, that your task may be an easy one. For the same reason also we divide to you in small portions what is written in Scripture, that you may be able easily to receive and lay them up in the storehouses of your minds, and take such pains to remember them all, as to be able exactly to repeat them to others yourselves, unless any one be sleepy, and dull, and more idle than a little child.
Let us now attend to the sequel of what has been before said. When Nicodemus fell into error and wrested the words of Christ to the earthly birth, and said that it was not possible for an old man to be born again, observe how Christ in answer more clearly reveals the manner of the Birth, which even thus had difficulty for the carnal enquirer, yet still was able to raise the hearer from his low opinion of it. What saith He? "Verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God." What He declares is this: "Thou sayest that it is impossible, I say that it is so absolutely possible as to be necessary, and that it is not even possible otherwise to be saved." For necessary things God hath made exceedingly easy also. The earthly birth which is according to the flesh, is of the dust, and therefore heaven is walled against it, for what hath earth in common with heaven? But that other, which is of the Spirit, easily unfolds to us the arches above. Hear, ye as many as are unilluminated, shudder, groan, fearful is the threat, fearful the sentence. "It is not (possible)," He saith, "for one not born of water and the Spirit, to enter into the Kingdom of heaven"; because he wears the raiment of death, of cursing, of perdition, he hath not yet received his Lord's token, he is a stranger and an alien, he hath not the royal watchword. "Except," He saith, "a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of heaven."
Yet even thus Nicodemus did not understand. Nothing is worse than to commit spiritual things to argument; it was this that would not suffer him to suppose anything sublime and great. This is why we are called faithful, that having left the weakness of human reasonings below, we may ascend to the height of faith, and commit most of our blessings to her teaching; and if Nicodemus had done this, the thing would not have been thought by him impossible. What then doth Christ? To lead him away from his groveling imagination, and to show that He speaks not of the earthly birth, He saith, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit: he cannot enter into the Kingdom of heaven." This He spoke, willing to draw him to the faith by the terror of the threat, and to persuade him not to deem the thing impossible, and taking pains to move him from his imagination as to the carnal birth. "I mean," saith He, "another Birth, O Nicodemus. Why drawest thou down the saying to earth? Why subjectest thou the matter to the necessity of nature? This Birth is too high for such pangs as these; it hath nothing in common with you; it is indeed called 'birth,' but in name only has it aught in common, in reality it is different. Remove thyself from that which is common and familiar; a different kind of childbirth bring I into the world; in another manner will I have men to be generated: I have come to bring a new manner of Creation. I formed (man) of earth and water; but that which was formed was unprofitable, the vessel was wrenched awry; I will no more form them of earth and water, but 'of water' and 'of the Spirit.' "
And if any one asks, "How of water?" I also will ask, How of earth? How was the clay separated into different parts? How was the material uniform, (it was earth only,) and the things made from it, various and of every kind? Whence are the bones, and sinews, and arteries, and veins? Whence the membranes, and vessels of the organs, the cartilages, the tissues, the liver, spleen, and heart? whence the skin, and blood, and mucus, and bile? whence so great powers, whence such varied colors? These belong not to earth or clay. How does the earth, when it receives the seeds, cause them to shoot, while the flesh receiving them wastes them? How does the earth nourish what is put into it, while the flesh is nourished by these things, and does not nourish them? The earth, for instance, receives water, and makes it wine; the flesh often receives wine, and changes it into water. Whence then is it clear that these things are formed of earth, when the nature of the earth is, according to what has been said; contrary to that of the body? I cannot discover by reasoning, I accept it by faith only. If then things which take place daily, and which we handle, require faith, much more do those which are more mysterious and more spiritual than these. For as the earth, which is soulless and motionless, was empowered by the will of God, and such wonders were worked in it; much more when the Spirit is present with the water, do all those things so strange and transcending reason, easily take place.
[2.] Do not then disbelieve these things, because thou seest them not; thou dost not see thy soul, and yet thou believest that thou hast a soul, and that it is a something different besides the body.
But Christ led him not in by this example, but by another; the instance of the soul, though it is incorporeal, He did not adduce for that reason, because His hearer's disposition was as yet too dull. He sets before him another, which has no connection with the density of solid bodies, yet does not reach so high as to the incorporeal natures; that is, the movement of wind. He begins at first with water, which is lighter than earth, but denser than air. And as in the beginning earth was the subject material, but the whole was of Him who molded it; so also now water is the subject material, and the whole is of the grace of the Spirit: then, "man became a living soul," (Gen. ii. 7); now he becomes "a quickening Spirit." But great is the difference between the two. Soul affords not life to any other than him in whom it is; Spirit not only lives, but affords life to others also. Thus, for instance, the Apostles even raised the dead. Then, man was formed last, when the creation had been accomplished; now, on the contrary, the new man is formed before the new creation; he is born first, and then the world is fashioned anew. (1 Cor. xv. 45.) And as in the beginning He formed him entire, so He creates him entire now. Then He said, "Let us make for him a help" (Gen. ii. 18, LXX.), but here He said nothing of the kind. What other help shall he need, who has received the gift of the Spirit? What further need of assistance has he, who belongs to the Body of Christ? Then He made man in the image of God, now He hath united him with God Himself; then He bade him rule over the fishes and beasts, now He hath exalted our first-fruits above the heavens; then He gave him a garden for his abode, now He hath opened heaven to us; then man was formed on the sixth day, when the world was almost finished; but now on the first, at the very beginning, at the time when light was made before. From all which it is plain, that the things accomplished belonged to another and a better life, and to a condition having no end.
The first creation then, that of Adam, was from earth; the next, that of the woman, from his rib; the next, that of Abel, from seed; yet we cannot arrive at the comprehension of any one of these, nor prove the circumstances by argument, though they are of a most earthly nature; how then shall we be able to give account of the unseen generation by Baptism, which is far more exalted than these, or to require arguments for that strange and marvelous Birth? Since even Angels stand by while that Generation takes place, but they could not tell the manner of that marvelous working, they stand by only, not performing anything, but beholding what takes place. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, worketh all. Let us then believe the declaration of God; that is more trustworthy than actual seeing. The sight often is in error, it is impossible that God's Word should fail; let us then believe it; that which called the things that were not into existence may well be trusted when it speaks of their nature. What then says it? That what is effected is A GENERATION. If any ask, "How," stop his mouth with the declaration of God, which is the strongest and a plain proof. If any enquire, "Why is water included?" let us also in return ask, "Wherefore was earth employed at the beginning in the creation of man?" for that it was possible for God to make man without earth, is quite plain to every one. Be not then over- curious.
That the need of water is absolute and indispensable, you may learn in this way. On one occasion, when the Spirit had flown down before the water was applied, the Apostle did not stay at this point, but, as though the water were necessary and not superfluous, observe what he says; "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" (Acts x. 47.)
What then is the use of the water? This too I will tell you hereafter, when I reveal to you the hidden mystery. There are also other points of mystical teaching connected with the matter, but for the present I will mention to you one out of many. What is this one? In Baptism are fulfilled the pledges of our covenant with God; burial and death, resurrection and life; and these take place all at once. For when we immerse our heads in the water, the old man is buried as in a tomb below, and wholly sunk forever; then as we raise them again, the new man rises in its stead. As it is easy for us to dip and to lift our heads again, so it is easy for God to bury the old man, and to show forth the new. And this is done thrice, that you may learn that the power of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost fulfilleth all this. To show that what we say is no conjecture, hear Paul saying, "We are buried with Him by Baptism into death": and again, "Our old man is crucified with Him": and again, "We have been planted together in the likeness of His death." (Rom. vi. 4, 5, 6.) And not only is Baptism called a "cross," but the "cross" is called "Baptism." "With the Baptism," saith Christ, "that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized" (Mark x. 39): and, "I have a Baptism to be baptized with" (Luke xii. 50) (which ye know not); for as we easily dip and lift our heads again, so He also easily died and rose again when He willed or rather much more easily, though He tarried the three days for the dispensation of a certain mystery.
[3.] Let us then who have been deemed worthy of such mysteries show forth a life worthy of the Gift, that is, a most excellent conversation; and do ye who have not yet been deemed worthy, do all things that you may be so, that we may be one body, that we may be brethren. For as long as we are divided in this respect, though a man be father, or son, or brother, or aught else, he is no true kinsman, as being cut off from that relationship which is from above. What advantageth it to be bound by the ties of earthly family, if we are not joined by those of the spiritual? what profits nearness of kin on earth, if we are to be strangers in heaven? For the Catechumen is a stranger to the Faithful. He hath not the same Head, he hath not the same Father, he hath not the same City, nor Food, nor Raiment, nor Table, nor House, but all are different; all are on earth to the former, to the latter all are in heaven. One has Christ for his King; the other, sin and the devil; the food of one is Christ, of the other, that meat which decays and perishes; one has worms' work for his raiment, the other the Lord of angels; heaven is the city of one, earth of the other. Since then we have nothing in common, in what, tell me, shall we hold communion? Did we remove the same pangs, did we come forth from the same womb? This has nothing to do with that most perfect relationship. Let us then give diligence that we may become citizens of the city which is above. How long do we tarry over the border, when we ought to reclaim our ancient country? We risk no common danger; for if it should come to pass, (which God forbid!) that through the sudden arrival of death we depart hence uninitiated, though we have ten thousand virtues, our portion will be no other than hell, and the venomous worm, and fire unquenchable, and bonds indissoluble. But God grant that none of those who hear these words experience that punishment! And this will be, if having been deemed worthy of the sacred mysteries, we build upon that foundation gold, and silver, and precious stones; for so after our departure hence we shall be able to appear in that place rich, when we leave not our riches here, but transport them to inviolable treasuries by the hands of the poor, when we lend to Christ. Many are our debts there, not of money, but of sins; let us then lend Him our riches, that we may receive pardon for our sins; for He it is that judgeth. Let us not neglect Him here when He hungereth, that He may ever feed us there. Here let us clothe Him, that He leave us not bare of the safety which is from Him. If here we give Him drink, we shall not with the rich man say, "Send Lazarus, that with the tip of his finger he may drop water on my broiling tongue." If here we receive Him into our house, there He will prepare many mansions for us; if we go to Him in prison, He too will free us from our bonds; if we take Him in when He is a stranger, He will not suffer us to be strangers to the Kingdom of heaven, but will give us a portion in the City which is above; if we visit Him when He is sick, He also will quickly deliver us from our infirmities.
Let us then, as receiving great things though we give but little, still give the little that we may gain the great. While it is yet time, let us sow, that we may reap. When the winter overtakes us, when the sea is no longer navigable, we are no longer masters of this traffic. But when shall the winter be? When that great and manifest Day is at hand. Then we shall cease to sail this great and broad sea, for such the present life resembles. Now is the time of sowing, then of harvest and of gain. If a man puts not in his seed at seed time and sows in harvest, besides that he effects nothing, he will be ridiculous. But if the present is seed time, it follows that it is a time not for gathering together, but for scattering; let us then scatter, that we may gather in, and not seek to gather in now, lest we lose our harvest; for, as I said, this season summons us to sow, and spend, and lay out, not to collect and lay by. Let us not then give up the opportunity, but let us put in abundant seed, and spare none of our stores, that we may receive. them again with abundant recompense, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, world without end. Amen.
"That which is born of the flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
[1.] Great mysteries are they, of which the Only-begotten Son of God has counted us worthy; great, and such as we were not worthy of, but such as it was meet for Him to give. For if one reckon our desert, we were not only unworthy of the gift, but also liable to punishment and vengeance; but He, because He looked not to this, not only delivered us from punishment, but freely gave us a life much more bright than the first, introduced us into another world, made us another creature; "If any man be in Christ," saith Paul, "he is a new creature." (2 Cor. v. 17.) What kind of "new creature"? Hear Christ Himself declare; "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God." Paradise was entrusted to us, and we were shown unworthy to dwell even there, yet He hath exalted us to heaven. In the first things we were found unfaithful, and He hath committed to us greater; we could not refrain from a single tree, and He hath provided for us the delights above; we kept not our place in Paradise, and He hath opened to us the doors of heaven. Well said Paul, "O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" (Rom. xi. 33.) There is no longer a mother, or pangs, or sleep, or coming together, and embracings of bodies; henceforth all the fabric of our nature is framed above, of the Holy Ghost and water. The water is employed, being made the Birth to him who is born; what the womb is to the embryo, the water is to the believer; for in the water he is fashioned and formed. At first it was said, "Let the waters bring forth the creeping things that have life" (Gen. i. 20, LXX.); but from the time that the Lord entered the streams of Jordan, the water no longer gives forth the "creeping thing that hath life," but reasonable and Spirit-bearing souls; and what has been said of the sun, that he is "as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber" (Ps. xviii. 6), we may now rather say of the faithful, for they send forth rays far brighter than he. That which is fashioned in the womb requires time, not so that in water, but all is done in a single moment. Here our life is perishable, and takes its origin from the decay of other bodies; that which is to be born comes slowly, (for such is the nature of bodies, they acquire perfection by time,) but it is not so with spiritual things. And why? Because the things made are formed perfect from the beginning.
When Nicodemus still hearing these things was troubled, see how Christ partly opens to him the secret of this mystery, and makes that clear which was for a while obscure to him. "That which is born," saith He, "of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." He leads him away from all the things of sense and suffers him not vainly to pry into the mysteries revealed with his fleshly eyes; "We speak not," saith He, "of flesh, but of Spirit, O Nicodemus," (by this word He directs him heavenward for a while,) "seek then nothing relating to things of sense; never can the Spirit appear to those eyes, think not that the Spirit bringeth forth the flesh." "How then," perhaps one may ask, "was the Flesh of the Lord brought forth?" Not of the Spirit only, but of flesh; as Paul declares, when he says, "Made of a woman, made under the Law" (Gal iv. 4); for the Spirit fashioned Him not indeed out of nothing, (for what need was there then of a womb?) but from the flesh of a Virgin. How, I cannot explain unto you; yet it was done, that no one might suppose that what was born is alien to our nature. For if even when this has taken place there are some who disbelieve in such a birth, into what impiety would they not have fallen had He not partaken of the Virgin's flesh.
"That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Seest thou the dignity of the Spirit? It appears performing the work of God; for above he said of some, that, "they were begotten of God," (c. i. 13,) here He saith, that the Spirit begetteth them.
"That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." His meaning is of this kind; "He that is born of the Spirit is spiritual." For the Birth which He speaks of here is not that according to essence, but according to honor and grace. Now if the Son is so born also, in what shall He be superior to men so born? And how is He Only-begotten? For I too am born of God though not of His Essence, and if He also is not of His Essence, how in this respect does He differ from us? Nay, He will then be found to be inferior to the Spirit; for birth of this kind is by the grace of the Spirit. Needs He then the help of the Spirit that He may continue a Son? And in what do these differ from Jewish doctrines?
Christ then having said, "He that is born of the Spirit is spirit," when He saw him again confused, leads His discourse to an example from sense, saying,
Ver. 7, 8. "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth."
For by saying, "Marvel not," He indicates the confusion of his soul, and leads him to something lighter than body. He had already led him away from fleshly things, by saying, "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit"; but when Nicodemus knew not what "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" meant, He next carries him to another figure, not bringing him to the density of bodies, nor yet speaking of things purely incorporeal, (for had he heard he could not have received this,) but having found a something between what is and what is not body, namely, the motion of the wind, He brings him to that next. And He saith of it,
"Thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth."
Though He saith, "it bloweth where it listeth," He saith it not as if the wind had any power of choice, but declaring that its natural motion cannot be hindered, and is with power. For Scripture knoweth how to speak thus of things without life, as when it saith, "The creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly." (Rom. viii. 20.) The expression therefore, "bloweth where it listeth," is that of one who would show that it cannot be restrained, that it is spread abroad everywhere, and that none can hinder its passing hither and thither, but that it goes abroad with great might, and none is able to turn aside its violence.
[2.] "And thou hearest its voice," (that is, its rustle, its noise,) "but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit."
Here is the conclusion of the whole matter. "If," saith He, "thou knowest not how to explain the motion nor the path of this wind which thou perceivest by hearing and touch, why art thou over-anxious about the working of the Divine Spirit, when thou understandest not that of the wind, though thou hearest its voice?" The expression, "bloweth where it listeth," is. also used to establish the power of the Comforter; for if none can hold the wind, but it moveth where it listeth, much less will the laws of nature, or limits of bodily generation, or anything of the like kind, be able to restrain the operations of the Spirit.
That the expression, "thou hearest its voice," is used respecting the wind, is clear from this circumstance; He would not, when conversing: with an unbeliever and one unacquainted with the operation of the Spirit, have said, "Thou hearest its voice." As then the wind is not visible, although it utters a sound, so neither is the birth of that which is spiritual visible to our bodily eyes; yet the wind is a body, although a very subtle one; for whatever is the object of sense is body. If then you do not complain because you cannot see this body, and do not on this account disbelieve, why do you, when you hear of "the Spirit," hesitate and demand such exact accounts, although you act not so in the case of a body? What then doth Nicodemus? still he continues in his low Jewish opinion, and that too when so clear an example has been mentioned to him. Wherefore when he again says doubtingly,
Ver. 9, 10. "How can these things be?" Christ now speaks to him more chidingly; "Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things?"
Observe how He nowhere accuses the man of wickedness, but only of weakness and simplicity. "And what," one may ask, "has this birth in common with Jewish matters?" Tell me rather what has it that is not in common with them? For the first-created man, and the woman formed from his side, and the barren women, and the things accomplished by water, I mean what relates to the fountain on which Elisha made the iron tool to swim, to the Red Sea which the Jews passed over, to the pool which the Angel troubled, to Naaman the Syrian who was cleansed in Jordan, all these proclaimed beforehand, as by a figure, the Birth and the purification which were to be. And the words of the Prophet allude to the manner of this Birth, as, "It shall be announced unto the Lord a generation which cometh, and they shall announce His righteousness unto a people that shall be born, whom the Lord hath made" (Ps. xxii. 30; xxx. 31, LXX.); and, "Thy youth shall be renewed as an eagle's" (Ps. ciii. 5, LXX.); and, "Shine, O Jerusalem; behold, Thy King cometh!" (Isa. lx. 1; Zech. ix. 9); and, "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven." (Ps. xxxii. I, LXX.) Isaac also was a type of this Birth. For tell me, Nicodemus, how was he born? was it according to the law of nature? By no means; the mode of his generation was midway between this of which we speak and the natural; the natural, because he was begotten by cohabitation; the other, because he was begotten not of blood, (but by the will of God.) I shall show that these figures proclaimed beforehand not only this birth, but also that from the Virgin. For, because no one would easily have believed that a virgin could bear a child, barren women first did so, then such as were not only barren, but aged also. That a woman should be made from a rib was indeed far more wonderful than that the barren should conceive; but because that was of early and old time, another figure, new and fresh, was given, that of the barren women; to prepare the way for belief in the Virgin's travail. To remind him then of these things, Jesus said, "Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things?"
Ver. 11. "We speak that We do know, and testify that We have seen, and none receiveth Our witness."
This He added, making His words credible by another argument, and condescending in His speech to the other's infirmity.
[3.] And what is this that He saith, "We speak that We do know, and testify that We have seen"? Because with us the sight is the most trustworthy of the senses, and if we desire to gain a person's belief, we speak thus, that we saw it with our eyes, not that we know it by hearsay; Christ therefore speaks to him rather after the manner of men, gaining belief for His words by this means also. And that this is so, and that He desires to establish nothing else, and refers not to sensual vision, is clear from this; after saying, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," He adds, "We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen." Now this (of the Spirit) was not yet born; how then saith He, "what we have seen"? Is it not plain that He speaks of a knowledge not otherwise than exact?
"And none receiveth our witness." The expression "we know," He uses then either concerning Himself and His Father, or concerning Himself alone; and "no man receiveth," is the expression not of one displeased, but of one who declares a fact: for He said not, "What can be more senseless than you who receive not what is so exactly declared by us?" but displaying all gentleness, both by His works and His words, He uttered nothing like this; mildly and kindly He foretold what should come to pass, so guiding us too to all gentleness, and teaching us when we converse with any and do not persuade them, not to be annoyed or made savage; for it is impossible for one out of temper to accomplish his purpose, he must make him to whom he speaks still more incredulous. Wherefore we must abstain from anger, and make our words in every way credible by avoiding not only wrath, but also loud speaking for loud speaking is the fuel of passion.
Let us then bind the horse, that we may subdue the rider; let us clip the wings of our wrath, so the evil shall no more rise to a height. A keen passion is anger, keen, and skillful to steal our souls; therefore we must on all sides guard against its entrance. It were strange that we should be able to tame wild beasts, and yet should neglect our own savage minds. Wrath is a fierce fire, it devours all things; it harms the body, it destroys the soul, it makes a man deformed and ugly to look upon; and if it were possible for an angry person to be visible to himself at the time of his anger, he would need no other admonition, for nothing is more displeasing than an angry countenance. Anger is a kind of drunkenness, or rather it is more grievous than drunkenness, and more pitiable than (possession of) a daemon. But if we be careful not to be Bud in speech, we shall find this the best path to sobriety of conduct. And therefore Paul would take away clamor as well as anger, when he says, "Let all anger and clamor be put away from you." (Eph. iv. 31.) Let us then obey this teacher of all wisdom, and when we are wroth with our servants, let us consider our own trespasses, and be ashamed at their forbearance. For when thou art insolent, and thy servant bears thy insults in silence, when thou actest unseemly, he like a wise man, take this instead of any other warning. Though he is thy servant, he is still a man, has an immortal soul, and has been honored with the same gifts as thee by your common Lord. And if he who is our equal in more important and more spiritual things, on account of some poor and trifling human superiority so meekly bears our injuries, what pardon can we deserve, what excuse can we make, who cannot, or rather will not, be as wise through fear of God, as he is through fear of us? Considering then all these things, and calling to mind Our own transgressions, and the common nature of man, let us be careful at all times to speak gently, that being humble in hear we may find rest for our souls, both that which now is, and that which is to come; which may we all attain, by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, for ever and ever Amen.
"If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven."
[1.] What I have often said I shall now repeat, and shall not cease to say. What is that? It is that Jesus, when about to touch on sublime doctrines, often contains Himself by reason of the infirmity of His hearers, and dwells not for a continuance on subjects worthy of His greatness, but rather on those which partake of condescension. For the sublime and great, being but once uttered, is sufficient to establish that character, as far as we are able to hear it; but unless more lowly sayings, and such as are nigh to the comprehension of the hearers, were continually uttered, the more sublime would not readily take hold on a groveling listener. And therefore of the sayings of Christ more are lowly than sublime. But yet that this again may not work another mischief, by detaining the disciple here below, He does not merely set before men His inferior sayings without first telling them why He utters them; as, in fact, He has done in this place. For when He had said what He did concerning Baptism, and the Generation by grace which takes place on earth, being desirous to admit them to that His own mysterious and incomprehensible Generation, He holds it in suspense for a while, and admits them not, and then tells them His reason for not admitting them. What is that? It is, the dullness and infirmity of His hearers. And referring to this He added the words, "If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?" so that wherever He saith anything ordinary and humble, we must attribute this to the infirmity of His audience.
The expression "earthly things," some say is here used of the wind; that is, "If I have given you an example from earthly things, and ye did not even so believe, how shall ye be able to learn sublimer things?" And wonder not if He here call Baptism an "earthly" thing, for He calls it so, either from its being performed on earth, or so naming it in comparison with that His own most awful Generation. For though this Generation of ours is heavenly, yet compared with that true GENERATION which is from the Substance of the Father, it is earthly.
He does not say, "Ye have not understood," but, "Ye have not believed"; for when a man is ill disposed towards those things which it is possible to apprehend by the intellect, and will not readily receive them, he may justly be charged with want of understanding; but when he receives not things which cannot be apprehended by reasoning, but only by faith, the charge against him is no longer want of understanding, but unbelief. Leading him therefore away from enquiring by reasonings into what had been said, He touches him more severely by charging him with want of faith. If now we must receive our own Generation by faith, what do they deserve who are busy with their reasonings about that of the Only-Begotten?
But perhaps some may ask, "And if the hearers were not to believe these sayings, wherefore were they uttered?" Because though "they" believed not, those who came after would believe and profit by them. Touching him therefore very severely, Christ goes on to show that He knoweth not these things only, but others also, far more and greater than these. And this He declared by what follows, when He said, "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven."
"And what manner of sequel is this?" asks one. The very closest, and entirely in unison with what has gone before. For since Nicodemus had said, "We know that Thou art a teacher come from God," on this very point He sets him right, all but saying, "Think Me not a teacher in such manner as were the many of the prophets who were of earth, for I have come from heaven (but) now. None of the prophets hath ascended up thither, but I dwell there." Seest thou how even that which appears very exalted is utterly unworthy of his greatness? For not in heaven only is He, but everywhere, and He fills all things; but yet He speaks according to the infirmity of His hearer, desiring to lead him up little by little. And in this place He called not the flesh "Son of Man," but He now named, so to speak, His entire Self from the inferior substance; indeed this is His wont, to call His whole Person often from His Divinity, and often from His humanity.
Ver. 14. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up."
This again seems to depend upon what has gone before, and this too has a very close connection with it. For after having spoken of the very great benefaction that had come to man by Baptism, He proceeds to mention another benefaction, which was the cause of this, and not inferior to it; namely, that by the Cross. As also Paul arguing with the Corinthians sets down these benefits together, when he says, "Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized into the name of Paul?" for these two things most of all declare His unspeakable love, that He both suffered for His enemies, and that having died for His enemies, He freely gave to them by Baptism entire remission of their sins.
[2.] But wherefore did He not say plainly, "I am about to be crucified," instead of referring His hearers to the ancient type? First, that you may learn that old things are akin to new, and that the one are not alien to the other; next, that you may know that He came not unwillingly to His Passion; and again, besides these reasons, that you may learn that no harm arises to Him from the Fact, and that to many there springs from it salvation. For, that none may say, "And how is it possible that they who believe on one crucified should be saved, when he himself is holden of death?" He leads us to the ancient story. Now if the Jews, by looking to the brazen image of a serpent, escaped death, much rather will they who believe on the Crucified, with good reason enjoy a far greater benefit. For this takes place, not through the weakness of the Crucified, or because the Jews are stronger than He, but because "God loved the world," therefore is His living Temple fastened to the Cross.
Ver. 15. "That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."
Seest thou the cause of the Crucifixion, and the salvation which is by it? Seest thou the relationship of the type to the reality? there the Jews escaped death, but the temporal, here believers the eternal; there the hanging serpent healed the bites of serpents, here the Crucified Jesus cured the wounds inflicted by the spiritual dragon; there he who looked with his bodily eyes was healed, here he who beholds with the eyes of his understanding put off all his sins; there that which hung was brass fashioned into the likeness of a serpent, here it was the Lord's Body, builded by the Spirit; there a serpent bit and a serpent healed, here death destroyed and a Death saved. But the snake which destroyed had venom, that which saved was free from venom; and so again was it here, for the death which slew us had sin with it, as the serpent had venom; but the Lord's Death was free from all sin, as the brazen serpent from venom. For, saith Peter, "He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth." (1 Pet. ii. 22.) And this is what Paul also declares, "And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it." (Col. ii. 16.) For as some noble champion by lifting on high and dashing down his antagonist, renders his victory more glorious, so Christ, in the sight of all the world, cast down the adverse powers, and having healed those who were smitten in the wilderness, delivered them from all venomous beasts that vexed them, by being hung upon the Cross. Yet He did not say, "must hang," but, "must be lifted up" (Acts xxviii. 4); for He used this which seemed the milder term, on account of His hearer, and because it was proper to the type.
Ver. 16. "God," He saith, "so loved the world that He gave His Only- begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
What He saith, is of this kind: Marvel not that I am to be lifted up that ye may be saved, for this seemeth good to the Father, and He hath so loved you as to give His Son for slaves, and ungrateful slaves. Yet a man would not do this even for a friend, nor readily even for a righteous man; as Paul has declared when he said, "Scarcely for a righteous man will one die." (Rom. v. 7.) Now he spoke at greater length, as speaking to believers, but here Christ speaks concisely, because His discourse was directed to Nicodemus, but still in a more significant manner, for each word had much significance. For by the expression, "so loved," and that other, "God the world," He shows the great strength of His love. Large and infinite was the interval between the two. He, the immortal, who is without beginning, the Infinite Majesty, they but dust and ashes, full of ten thousand sins, who, ungrateful, have at all times offended Him; and these He "loved." Again, the words which He added after these are alike significant, when He saith, that "He gave His Only-begotten Son," not a servant, not an Angel, not an Archangel. And yet no one would show such anxiety for his own child, as God did for His ungrateful servants.
His Passion then He sets before him not very openly, but rather darkly; but the advantage of the Passion He adds in a clearer manner, saying, "That every one that believeth in Him. should not perish, but have everlasting life." For when He had said, "must be lifted up," and alluded to death, test the hearer should be made downcast by these words, forming some mere human opinions concerning Him, and supposing that His death was a ceasing to be, observe how He sets this right, by saying, that He that was given was "The Son of God," and the cause of life, of everlasting life. He who procured life for others by death, would not Himself be continually in death; for if they who believed on the Crucified perish not, much less doth He perish who is crucified. He who taketh away the destitution of others much more is He free from it; He who giveth life to others, much more to Himself doth He well forth life. Seest thou that everywhere there is need of faith? For He calls the Cross the fountain of life; which reason cannot easily allow, as the heathens now by their mocking testify. But faith which goes beyond the weakness of reasoning, may easily receive and retain it. And whence did God "so love the world"? From no other source but on]y from his goodness.
[3.] Let us now be abashed at His love, let us be ashamed at the excess of His lovingkindness, since He for our sakes spared not His Only-begotten Son, yet we spare our wealth to our own injury; He for us gave His Own Son, but we for Him do not so much as despise money, nor even for ourselves. And how can these things deserve pardon? If we see a man submitting to sufferings and death for us, we set him before all others, count him among our chief friends, place in his hands all that is ours, and deem it rather his than ours, and even so do not think that we give him the return that he deserves. But towards Christ we do not preserve even this degree of right feeling. He laid down His life for us, and poured forth His precious Blood for our sakes, who were neither well-disposed nor good, while we do not pour out even our money for our own sakes, and neglect Him who died for us, when He is naked and a stranger; and who shall deliver us from the punishment that is to come? For suppose that it were not God that punishes, but that we punished ourselves; should we not give our vote against ourselves? should we not sentence ourselves to the very fire of hell, for allowing Him who laid down His life for us, to pine with hunger? But why speak I of money? had we ten thousand lives, ought we not to lay them all down for Him? and yet not even so could we do what His benefits deserve. For he who confers a benefit in the first instance, gives evident proof of his kindness, but he who has received one, whatever return he makes, he repays as a debt, and does not bestow as a favor; especially when he who did the first good turn was benefiting his enemies. And he who repays both bestows his gifts on a benefactor, and himself reaps their fruit besides. But not even this induces us; more foolish are we than any, putting golden necklaces about our servants and mules and horses, and neglecting our Lord who goes about naked, and passes from door to door, and ever stands at our outlets, and stretches forth His hands to us, but often regarding Him with unpitying eye; yet these very things He undergoeth for our sake. Gladly doth He hunger that thou mayest be fed; naked doth He go that He may provide for thee the materials for a garment of incorruption, yet not even so do ye give up any of your own. Some of your garments are moth-eaten, others are a load to your coffers, and a needless trouble to their possessors, while He who gave you these and all else that you possess goeth naked.
But perhaps you do not lay them by in your coffers, but wear them and make yourself fine with them. And what gain you by this? Is it that the street people may see you? What then? They will not admire thee who wearest such apparel, but the man who supplies garments to the needy; so if you desire to be admired, by clothing others, you will the rather get infinite applause. Then too God as well as man shall praise thee; now none can praise, but all will grudge at thee, seeing thee with a body well arrayed, but having a neglected soul. So harlots have adornment, and their clothes are often more than usually expensive and splendid; but the adornment of the soul is with those only who live in virtue.
These things I say continually, and I will not cease to say them, not so much because I care for the poor, as because I care for your souls. For they will have some comfort, if not from you, yet from some other quarter; or even if they be not comforted, but perish by hunger, the harm to them will be no great matter. What did poverty and wasting by hunger injure Lazarus! But none can rescue you from hell, if you obtain not the help of the poor; we shall say to you what was said to the rich man, who was continually broiling, yet gained no comfort. God grant that none ever hear those words, but that all may go into the bosom of Abraham; by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
"For God sent not His Son to condemn the world, but to save the world."
[1.] Many of the more careless sort of persons, using the lovingkindness of God to increase the magnitude of their sins and the excess of their disregard, speak in this way, "There is no hell, there is no future punishment, God forgives us all sins." To stop whose mouths a wise man says, "Say not, His mercy is great, He will be pacified for the multitude of my sins; for mercy and wrath come from Him, and His indignation resteth upon sinners" (Ecclus. v. 6): and again, "As His mercy is great, so is His correction also." (Ecclus. xvi. 12.) "Where then," saith one, "is His lovingkindness, if we shall receive for our sins according to our deserts?" That we shall indeed receive "according to our deserts," hear both the Prophet and Paul declare; one says, "Thou shalt render to every man according to his work" (Ps. lxii. 12, LXX.); the other, "Who will render to every man according to his work." (Rom. ii. 6.) And yet we may see that even so the lovingkindness of God is great; in dividing our existence into two periods, the present life and that which is to come, and making the first to be an appointment of trial, the second a place of crowning, even in this He hath shown great lovingkindness.
"How and in what way?" Because when we had committed many and grievous sins, and had not ceased from youth to extreme old age to defile our souls with ten thousand evil deeds, for none of these sins did He demand from us a reckoning, but granted us remission of them by the washing of Regeneration, and freely gave us Righteousness and Sanctification. "What then," says one, "if a man who from his earliest age has been deemed worthy of the mysteries, after this commits ten thousand sins?" Such an one deserves a severer punishment. For we do not pay the same penalties for the same sins, if we do wrong after Initiation. And this Paul declares, saying, "He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the Covenant an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" (Heb. x. 28, 29.) Such an one then is worthy of severer punishment. Yet even for him God hath opened doors of repentance, and hath granted him many means for the washing away his transgressions, if he will. Think then what proofs of lovingkindness these are; by Grace to remit sins, and not to punish him who after grace has sinned and deserves punishment, but to give him a season and appointed space for his clearing. For all these reasons Christ said to Nicodemus, "God sent not His Son to condemn the world, but to save the world."
For there are two Advents of Christ, that which has been, and that which is to be; and the two are not for the same purpose; the first came to pass not that He might search into our actions, but that He might remit; the object of the second will be not to remit, but to enquire. Therefore of the first He saith, "I came not to condemn the world, but to save the world" (c. iii. 17); but of the second, "When the Son shall have come in the glory of His Father, He shall set the sheep on His right hand, and the goats on His left." (Matt. xxv. 31 and 46.) And they shall go, these into life; and these into eternal punishment. Yet His former coming was for judgment, according to the rule of justice. Why? Because before His coming there was a law of nature, and the prophets, and moreover a written Law, and doctrine, and ten thousand promises, and manifestations of signs, and chastisements, and vengeances, and many other things which might have set men right, and it followed that for all these things He would demand account; but, because He is merciful, He for a while pardons instead of making enquiry. For had He done so, all would at once have been hurried to perdition. For "all," it saith, "have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." (Rom. iii 23.) Seest thou the unspeakable excess of His lovingkindness?
Vet. 18. "He that believeth on the Son, is not judged; but he that believeth not, is judged already."
Yet if He "came not to judge the world," how is "he that believeth not judged already," if the time of "judgment" has not yet arrived? He either means this, that the very fact of disbelieving without repentance is a punishment, (for to be without the light, contains in itself a very severe punishment,) or he announces beforehand what shall be. For as the murderer, though he be not as yet condemned by the decision of the judge, is still condemned by the nature of the thing, so is it with the unbeliever. Since Adam also died on the day that he ate of the tree; for so ran the decree, "In the day that ye eat of the tree, ye shall die" (Gen. ii. 17, LXX.); yet he lived. How then "died" he? By the decree; by the very nature of the thing; for he who has rendered himself liable to punishment, is under its penalty, and if for a while not actually so, yet he is by the sentence.
Lest any one on hearing, "I came not to judge the world," should imagine that he might sin unpunished, and should so become more careless, Christ stops such disregard by saying, "is judged already"; and because the "judgment" was future and not yet at hand, He brings near the dread of vengeance, and describes the punishment as already come. And this is itself a mark of great lovingkindness, that He not only gives His Son, but even delays the time of judgment, that they who have sinned, and they who believe not, may have power to, wash away their transgressions. "He that believeth on the Son, is not judged." He that "believeth," not he that is over-curious: he that "believeth," not the busybody. But what if his life be unclean, and his deeds evil? It is of such as these especially that Paul declares, that they are not true believers at all: "They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him." (Tit. i. 16.) But here Christ saith, that such an one is not "judged" in this one particular; for his works indeed he shall suffer a severer punishment, but having believed once, he is not chastised for unbelief.
[2.] Seest thou how having commenced His discourse with fearful things, He has concluded it again with the very same? for at first He saith, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God": and here again, "He that believeth not on the Son, is judged already." "Think not," He saith, "that the delay advantageth at all the guilty, except he repent, for he that hath not believed, shall be in no better state than those who are already condemned and under punishment."
Ver. 19. "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light."
What He saith, is of this kind: "they are punished, because they would not leave the darkness, and hasten to the light." And hence He goes on to deprive them of all excuse for the future: "Had I come," saith He, "to punish and to exact account of their deeds, they might have been able to say, 'this is why we started away from thee,' but now I am come to free them from darkness, and to bring them to the light; who then could pity one who will not come from darkness unto light? When they have no charge to bring against us, but have received ten thousand benefits, they start away from us." And this charge He hath brought in another place, where He saith, "They hated Me without a cause" (John xv. 25): and again," If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin." (John xv. 22.) For he who in the absence of light sitteth in darkness, may perchance receive pardon; but one who after it is come abides by the darkness, produces against himself a certain proof of a perverse and contentious disposition. Next, because His assertion would seem incredible to most, (for none would prefer "darkness to light,") He adds the cause of such a feeling in them. What is that?
Ver. 19, 20. "Because," He saith, "their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved."
Yet he came not to judge or to enquire, but to pardon and remit transgressions, and to grant salvation through faith. How then fled they? Had He come and sat in His Judgment seat, what He said might have seemed reasonable; for he that is conscious to himself of evil deeds, is wont to fly his judge. But, on the contrary, they who have transgressed even run to one who is pardoning. If therefore He came to pardon, those would naturally most hasten to Him who were conscious to themselves of many transgressions; and indeed this was the case with many, for even publicans and sinners sat at meat with Jesus. What then is this which He saith? He saith this of those who choose always to remain in wickedness. He indeed came, that He might forgive men's former sins, and secure them against those to come; but since there are some so relaxed, so powerless for the toils of virtue, that they desire to abide by wickedness till their latest breath, and never cease from it, He speaks in this place reflecting upon these. "For since," He saith, "the profession of Christianity requires besides right doctrine a sound conversation also, they fear to come over to us, because they like not to show forth a righteous life. Him that lives in heathenism none would blame, because with gods such as he has, and with rites as foul and ridiculous as his gods, he shows forth actions that suit his doctrines; but those who belong to the True God, if they live a careless life, have all men to call them to account, and to accuse them. So greatly do even its enemies admire the truth." Observe, then, how exactly He layeth down what He saith. His expression is, not "He that hath done evil cometh not to the light," but "he that doeth it always, he that desireth always to roll himself in the mire of sin, he will not subject himself to My laws, but chooses to stay without, and to commit fornication without fear, and to do all other forbidden things. For if he comes to Me, he becomes manifest as a thief in the light, and therefore he avoids My dominion." For instance, even now one may hear many heathen say, "that they cannot come to our faith, because they cannot leave off drunkenness and fornication, and the like disorders."
"Well," says some one, "but are there no Christians that do evil, and heathens that live discreetly?" That there are Christians who do evil, I know; but whether there are heathens who live a righteous life, I do not yet know assuredly. For do not speak to me of those who by nature are good and orderly, (this is not virtue,) but tell me of the man who can endure the exceeding violence of his passions and (yet) be temperate. You cannot. For if the promise of a Kingdom, and the threat of hell, and so much other provision; can scarcely keep men in virtue, they will hardly go after virtue who believe in none of these things. Or, if any pretend to do so, they do it for show; and he who doth so for show, will not, when he may escape observation, refrain from indulging his evil desires. However, that we may not seem to any to be contentious, let us grant that there are right livers among the heathen; for neither doth this go against my argument, since I spoke of that which occurs in general, not of what happens rarely.
And observe how in another way He deprives them of all excuse, when He saith that, "the light came into the world." "Did they seek it themselves," He saith, "did they toil, did they labor to find it? The light itself came to them, and not even so would they hasten to it." And if there be some Christians who live wickedly, I would argue that He doth not say this of those who have been Christians from the beginning, and who have inherited true religion from their forefathers, (although even these for the most part have been shaken from right doctrine by their evil life,) yet still I think that He doth not now speak concerning these, but concerning the heathen and the Jews who ought to have come to the right faith. For He showeth that no man living in error would choose to come to the truth unless he before had planned for himself a righteous life, and that none would remain in unbelief unless he had previously chosen always to be wicked.
Do not tell me that a man is temperate, and does not rob; these things by themselves are not virtue. For what advantageth it, if a man has these things, and yet is the slave of vainglory, and remains in his error, from fear of the company of his friends? This is not right living. The slave of a reputation is no less a sinner than the fornicator; nay, he worketh more and more grievous deeds than he. But tell me of any one that is free from all passions and from all iniquity, and who remains among the heathen. Thou canst not do so; for even those among them who have boasted great things, and who have, as they say, mastered avarice or gluttony, have been, most of all men, the slaves of reputation, and this is the cause of all evils. Thus it is that the Jews also have continued Jews; for which cause Christ rebuked them and said, "How can ye believe, which receive honor from men?" (c. v. 44.)
"And why, pray, did He not speak on these matters with Nathanael, to whom He testified of the truth, nor extend His discourse to any length?" Because even he came not with such zeal as did Nicodemus. For Nicodemus made this his work, and the season which others used for rest he made a season for hearing; but Nathanael came at the instance of another. Yet not even him did Jesus entirely pass by, for to him He saith," Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." (c. i. 51.) But to Nicodemus He spake not so, but conversed with him on the Dispensation and on eternal life, addressing each differently and suitably to the condition of his will. It was sufficient for Nathanael, because he knew the writings of the prophets, and was not so timid either, to hear only thus far; but because Nicodemus was as yet possessed by fear, Christ did not indeed clearly reveal to him the whole, but shook his mind so as to cast out fear by fear, declaring that he who did not believe was being judged," and that unbelief proceeded from an evil conscience. For since he made great account of honor from men, more than he did of the punishment; ("Many," saith the Evangelist, "of the rulers believed on Him, but because of the Jews they did not confess"—c. xii. 42;) on this point Christ toucheth him, saying, "It cannot be that he who believeth not on Me disbelieveth for any other cause save that he liveth an unclean life." Farther on He saith, "I am the Light" (c. viii. 12), but here, "the Light came into the world "; for at the beginning He spoke somewhat darkly, but afterwards more clearly. Yet even so the man was kept back by regard for the opinion of the many, and therefore could not endure to speak boldly as he ought.
Fly we then vainglory, for this is a passion more tyrannical than any. Hence spring covetousness and love of wealth, hence hatred and wars and strifes; for he that desires more than he has, will never be able to stop, and he desires from no other cause, but only from his love of vainglory. For tell me, why do so many encircle themselves with multitudes of eunuchs, and herds of slaves, and much show? Not because they need it, but that they may make those who meet them witnesses of this unseasonable display. If then we cut this off, we shall slay together with the head the other members also of wickedness, and there will be nothing to hinder us from dwelling on earth as though it were heaven. Nor doth this vice merely thrust its captives into wickedness, but is even co-existent with their virtues, and when it is unable entirely to cast us out of these, it still causeth us much damage in the very exercise of them, forcing us to undergo the toil, and depriving us of the fruit. For he that with an eye to this, fasts, and prays, and shows mercy, has his reward. What can be more pitiable than a loss like this, that it should befall man to bewail himself uselessly and in vain, and to become an object of ridicule, and to lose the glory from above? Since he that aims at both cannot obtain both. It is indeed possible to obtain both, when we desire not both, but one only, that from heaven; but he cannot obtain both, who longs for both. Wherefore if we wish to attain to glory, let us flee from human glory, and desire that only which cometh from God; so shall we obtain both the one and the other; which may we all enjoy, through the grace and loving kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
"And He came and His disciples into the land of Judaea, and there He tarried with them (and baptized)."
[I.] Nothing can be clearer or mightier than the truth, just as nothing is weaker than falsehood, though it be shaded by ten thousand veils. For even so it is easily detected, it easily melts away. But truth stands forth unveiled for all that will behold her beauty; she seeks no concealment, dreads no danger, trembles at no plots, desires not glory from the many, is accountable to no mortal thing, but stands above them all, is the object of ten thousand secret plots, yet remaineth unconquerable, and guards as in a sure fortress these who fly to her by her own exceeding might, who avoids secret lurking places, and setteth what is hers before all men. And this Christ conversing with Pilate declared, when He said, "I ever taught openly, and in secret have I said nothing." (c. xviii. 20.) As He spake then, so He acted now, for, "After this," saith the Evangelist," He went forth and His disciples into the land of Judaea, and there He tarried with them and baptized." At the feasts He went up to the City to set forth in the midst of them His doctrines, and the help of His miracles; but after the feasts were over, He often went to Jordan, because many ran together there. For He ever chose the most crowded places, not from any love of show or vainglory, but because He desired to afford His help to the greatest number.
Yet the Evangelist farther on says, that "Jesus baptized not, but His disciples"; whence it is clear that this is his meaning here also. And why did Jesus not baptize? The Baptist had said before, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." Now he had not yet given the Spirit, and it was therefore with good cause that he did not baptize. But His disciples did so, because they desired to bring many to the saving doctrine.
"And why, when the disciples of Jesus were baptizing, did not John cease to do so? why did he continue to baptize, and that even until he was led to prison? for to say,
Ver. 23. 'John also was baptizing in Aenon'; and to add,
Ver. 24. 'John was not yet cast into prison,' was to declare that until that time he did not cease to baptize. But wherefore did he baptize until then? For he would have made the disciples of Jesus seem more reverend had he desisted when they began. Why then did he baptize?" It was that he might not excite his disciples to even stronger rivalry, and make them more contentious still. For if, although he ten thousand times proclaimed Christ, yielded to Him the chief place, and made himself so much inferior, he still could not persuade them to run to Him; he would, had he added this also, have made them yet more hostile. On this account it was that Christ began to preach more constantly when John was removed. And moreover, I think that the death of John was allowed, and that it happened very quickly, in order that the whole attention of the multitude might be shifted to Christ, and that they might no longer be divided in their opinions concerning the two.
Besides, even while he was baptizing, he did not cease continually to exhort them, and to show them the high and awful nature of Jesus. For He baptized them, and told them no other thing than that they must believe on Him that came after him. Now how would a man who acted thus by desisting have made the disciples of Christ seem worthy of reverence? On the contrary, he would have been thought to do so through envy and passion. But to continue preaching gave a stronger proof; for he desired not glory for himself, but sent on his hearers to Christ, and wrought with Him not less, but rather much more than Christ's own disciples, because his testimony was unsuspected and he was by all men far more highly esteemed than they. And this the Evangelist implies, when he says, "all Judaea and the country around about Jordan went out to him and were baptized." (Matt. iii. 5.) Even when the disciples were baptizing, yet many did not cease to run to him.
If any one should enquire, "And in what was the baptism of the disciples better than that of John?" we will reply, "in nothing"; both were alike without the gift of the Spirit, both parties alike had one reason for baptizing, and that was, to lead the baptized to Christ. For in order that they might not be always running about to bring together those that should believe, as in Simon's case his brother did, and Philip to Nathanael, they instituted baptism, in order by it to bring all men to them easily, and to prepare a way for the faith which was to be. But that the baptisms had no superiority one over the other, is shown by what follows. What is that?
Ver. 25. "There arose," saith the Evangelist, "a question (between some) of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying."
For the disciples of John being ever jealously disposed towards Christ's disciples and Christ Himself, when they saw them baptizing, began to reason with those who were baptized, as though their baptism was in a manner superior to that of Christ's disciples; and taking one of the baptized, they tried to persuade him of this; but persuaded him not. Hear how the Evangelist has given us to understand that it was they who attacked him, not he who set on foot the question. He doth not say, that "a certain Jew questioned with them," but that, "there arose a questioning from the disciples of John with a certain Jew, concerning purification."
[2.] And observe, I pray you, the Evangelist's inoffensiveness. He does not speak in the way of invective, but as far as he is able softens the charge, merely saying, that "a question arose"; whereas the sequel (which he has also set down in an inoffensive manner) makes it plain that what was said was said from jealousy.
Ver. 26. "They came," saith he, "unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold the same baptizeth, and all men come to Him."
That is, "He whom thou didst baptize"; for this they imply when they say, "to whom thou barest witness," as though they had said, "He whom thou didst point out as illustrious, and make remarkable, dares to do the same as thou." Yet they do not say, "He whom thou didst baptize" baptizeth; (for then they would have been obliged to make mention of the Voice that came down from heaven, and of the descent of the Spirit;) but what say they? "He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness"; that is, "He who held the rank of a disciple, who was nothing more than we, this man hath separated himself, and baptizeth." For they thought to make him jealous, not only by this, but by asserting that their own reputation was now diminishing. "All," say the)', "come to Him." Whence it is evident, that they did not get the better of the Jew with whom they disputed; but they spoke these words because they were imperfect in disposition, and were not yet clear from a feeling of rivalry. What then cloth John? He did not rebuke them severely, fearing lest they should separate themselves again from him, and work some other mischief. What are his words?
Ver. 27. "A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from above."
Marvel not, if he speak of Christ in a lowly strain; it was impossible to teach all at once, and from the very beginning, men so pre-occupied by passion. But he desires to strike them for a while with awe and terror, and to show them that they warred against none other than God Himself, when they warred against Christ. And here he secretly establishes that truth, which Gamaliel asserted, "Ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God." (Acts v. 39.) For to say, "None can receive anything, except it be given him from heaven," was nothing else than declaring that they were attempting impossibilities, and so would be found to fight against God. "Well, but did not Theudas and his followers 'receive' from themselves?" They did, but they straightway were scattered and destroyed, not so what belonged to Christ.
By this also he gently consoles them, showing them that it was not a man, but God, who surpassed them in honor; and that therefore they must not wonder if what belonged to Him was glorious, and if "all men came unto Him": for that this was the nature of divine things, and that it was God who brought them to pass, because no man ever yet had power to do such deeds. All human things are easily seen through, and rotten, and quickly melt away and perish; these were not such, therefore not human. Observe too how when they said, "to whom thou barest witness," he turned against themselves that which they thought they had put forward to lower Christ, and silences them after showing that Jesus' glory came not from his testimony; "A man cannot," he saith, "receive anything of himself, except it be given him from heaven." "If ye hold at all to my testimony, and believe it to be true, know that by that testimony ye ought to prefer not me to Him, but Him to me. For what was it that I testified? I call you yourselves to witness."
Ver. 28. "Ye yourselves bear me witness that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him."
"If then ye hold to my testimony, (and ye even now produce it when ye say, 'to whom thou barest witness,') He is not only not diminished by receiving my witness, but rather is increased by it; besides, the testimony was not mine, but God's. So that if I seem to you to be trustworthy, I said this among other things, that 'I am sent before Him.'" Seest thou how he shows little by little that this Voice was divine? For what he saith is of this kind: "I am a servant, and say the words of Him that sent me, not flattering Christ through human favor, but serving His Father who sent me. I gave not the testimony as a gift, but what I was sent to speak, I spake. Do not then because of this suppose that I am great, for it shows that He is great. He is Lord of all things." This he goes on to declare, and says,
Ver. 29. "He that hath the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice."
"But how doth he who said, 'whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose,' now call himself His 'friend'?" It is not to exalt himself, nor boastingly, that he saith this, but from desire to show that he too most forwards this, (i.e. the exaltation of Christ,) and that these things come to pass not against his will or to his grief, but that he desires and is eager for them, and that it was with a special view to them that all his actions had been performed; and this he has very wisely shown by the term "friend." For on occasions like marriages, the servants of the bridegroom are not so glad and joyful as his "friends." It was not from any desire to prove equality of honor, (away with the thought,) but only excess of pleasure, and moreover from condescension to their weakness that he calleth himself "friend." For his service he before declared by saying, "I am sent before Him." On this account, and because they thought that he was vexed at what had taken place, he called himself the" friend of the Bridegroom," to show that he was not only not vexed, but that he even greatly rejoiced. "For," saith he, "I came to effect this, and am so far from grieving at what has been done, that had it not come to pass, I should then have been greatly grieved. Had the bride not come to the Bridegroom, then I should have been grieved, but not now, since my task has been accomplished. When His servants are advancing, we are they who gain the honor for that which we desired hath come to pass, and the bride knoweth the Bridegroom, and ye are witnesses of it when ye say, 'All men come unto Him.' This I earnestly desired, I did all to this end; and now when I see that it has come to pass, I am glad, and rejoice, and leap for joy."
[3.3] But what meaneth, "He which standeth and heareth Him rejoiceth greatly, because of the Bridegroom's voice"? He transfers the expression from the parable to the subject in hand; for after mentioning the bridegroom and the bride, he shows how the bride is brought home, that is, by a "Voice" and teaching. For thus the Church is wedded to God; and therefore Paul saith, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Rom. x. 17.) "At this 'Voice,'" saith he, "I rejoice." And not without a cause doth he put" who standeth," but to show that his office had ceased, that he had given over to Him "the Bride," and must for the future stand and hear Him; that he was a servant and minister; that his good hope and his joy was now accomplished. Therefore he saith,
"This my joy therefore is fulfilled."
That is to say, "The work is finished which was to be done by me, for the future I can do nothing more." Then, to prevent increase of jealous feeling, not then only, but for the future, he tells them also of what should come to pass, confirming this too by what he had already said and done. Therefore he continues,
Ver. 30. "He must increase, but I must decrease."
That is to say, "What is mine has now come to a stand, and has henceforth ceased, but what is His increaseth; for that which ye fear shall not be now only, but much more as it advances. And it is this especially which shows what is mine the brighter for this end I came, and I rejoice that what is His hath made so great progress, and that those things have come to pass on account of which all that I did was done." Seest thou how gently and very wisely he softened down their passion, quenched their envy, showed them that they were undertaking impossibilities, a method by which wickedness is best checked? For this purpose it was ordained, that these things should take place while John was yet alive and baptizing, in order that his disciples might have him as a witness of the superiority of Christ, and that if they should not believe, they might be without excuse. For John came not to say these words of his own accord, nor in answer to other enquirers, but they asked the question themselves, and heard the answer. For if he had spoken of himself, their belief would not have been equal to the self-condemning judgment which they received when they heard him answer to their question; just as the Jews also, in that they sent to him from their homes, heard what they did, and yet would not believe, by this especially deprived themselves of excuse.
What then are we taught by this? That a mad desire of glory is the cause of all evils; this led them to jealousy, and when they had ceased for a little, this roused them to it again. Wherefore they come to Jesus, and say, "Why do thy disciples fast not?" (Matt. ix. 14.) Let us then, beloved, avoid this passion; for if we avoid this we shall escape hell. For this vice specially kindles the fire of hell, and everywhere extends its role, and tyrannically occupies every age and every rank. This hath turned churches upside down, this is mischievous in state matters, hath subverted houses, and cities, and peoples, and nations. Why marvelest thou? It hath even gone forth into the desert, and manifested even there its great power. For men who have bidden an entire farewell to riches and all the show of the world, who converse with no one, who have gained the mastery over the more imperious desires after the flesh, these very men, made captives by vainglory, have often lost all. By reason of this passion, one who had labored much went away worse off than one who had not labored at all, but on the contrary had committed ten thousand sins; the Pharisee than the Publican. However, to condemn the passion is easy enough, (all agree in doing that,) but the question is, how to get the better of it. How can we do this? By setting honor against honor. For as we despise the riches of earth when we look to the other riches, as we contemn this life when we think of that far better than this, so we shall be enabled to spit on this world's glory, when we know of another far more august than it, which is glory indeed. One is a thing vain and empty, has the name without the reality; but that other, which is from heaven, is true, and has to give its praise Angels, and Archangels, and the Lord of Archangels, or rather I should say that it has men as well. Now if thou lookest to that theater, learnest what crowns are there, transportest thyself into the applauses which come thence, never will earthly things be able to hold thee, nor when they come wilt thou deem them great, nor when they are away seek after them. For even in earthly palaces none of the guards who stand around the king, neglecting to please him that wears the diadem and sits upon the throne, troubles himself about the voices of daws, or the noise of flies and gnats flying and buzzing about him; and good report from men is no better than these. Knowing then the worthlessness of human things, let us collect our all into treasuries that cannot be spoiled, let us seek that glory which is abiding and immovable; which may we all attain, through the grace and loving- kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom, and with whom to the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
"He that cometh from above is above all; he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth."
[1.] A dreadful thing is the love of glory, dreadful and full of many evils; it is a thorn hard to be extracted, a wild beast untamable and many headed, arming itself against those that feed it; for as the worm eats through the wood from which it is born, as rust wastes the iron whence it comes forth, and moths the fleeces, so vainglory destroys the soul which nourishes it; and therefore we need great diligence to remove the passion. Observe here how long a charm John uses over the disciples affected by it, and can scarcely pacify them. For he softens them with other words besides those already mentioned. And what are these others? "He that cometh from above," he saith, "is above all; he that is of the earth, is earthly, and speaketh of the earth." Since you make much ado with my testimony, and in this way say that I am more worthy of credit than He, you needs must know this, that it is impossible for One who cometh from heaven to have His credit strengthened by one that inhabiteth earth.
And what means "above all," what is the expression intended to show to us? That Christ hath need of nothing, but is Himself sufficient for Himself, and incomparably greater than all; of himself John speaks as being "of the earth, and speaking of the earth." Not that he spake of his own mind, but as Christ said, "If I have told you of earthly things and ye believe not," so calling Baptism, not because it was an "earthly thing," but because He compared it when He spake with His own Ineffable Generation, so here John said that he spake "of earth," comparing his own with Christ's teaching. For the "speaking of earth" means nothing else than this, "My things are little and low and poor compared with His, and such as it was probable that an earthly nature would receive. In Him 'are hid all the treasures of wisdom.'" (Col. ii. 5.) That he speaks not of human reasonings is plain from this. "He that is of the earth," saith he, "is earthly." Yet not all in him was earthly, but the higher parts were heavenly, for he had a soul, and was partaker of a Spirit which was not of earth. How then saith he that he is "earthly"? Seest thou not that he means only, "I am small and of no esteem, going on the ground and born in the earth; but Christ came to us from above." Having by all these means quenched their passion, he afterwards speaks more openly of Christ; for before this it was useless to utter words which could never have gained a place in the understanding of his hearers: but when he hath pulled up the thorns, he then boldly casts in the seed, saying,
Ver. 31, 32. "He that cometh from above is above all. And what He hath heard He speaketh, and what He hath seen He testifieth; and no man receiveth His testimony."
Having uttered something great and sublime concerning Him, he again brings down his discourse to a humbler strain. For the expression, "what He hath heard and seen," is suited rather to a mere man. What He knew He knew not from having learned it by sight, or from having heard it, but He included the whole in His Nature, having come forth perfect from the Bosom of His Father, and needing none to teach Him. For, "As the Father," He saith, "knoweth Me, even so know I the Father." (c. x. 13.) What then means, "He speaketh that He hath heard, and testifieth that He hath seen"? Since by these senses we gain correct knowledge of everything, and are deemed worthy of credit when we teach on matters which our eyes have embraced and our ears have taken in, as not in such cases inventing or speaking falsehoods, John desiring here to establish this point, said, "What He hath heard and seen": that is, "nothing that cometh from Him is false, but all is true." Thus we when we are making curious enquiry into anything, often ask, "Didst thou hear it?" "Didst thou see it?" And if this be proved, the testimony is indubitable, and so when Christ Himself saith, "As I hear, I judge" (c. v. 30); and, "What I have heard from My Father, that I speak" (c. xv. 15); and, "We speak that We have seen" (c. iii. 11); and whatsoever other sayings He uttereth of the kind, are uttered not that we might imagine that He saith what He doth being taught of any, (it were extreme folly to think this,) but in order that nothing of what is said may be suspected by the shameless Jews. For because they had not yet a right opinion concerning Him, He continually betakes Himself to His Father, and hence makes His sayings credible.
[2.] And why wonderest thou if He betake Himself to the Father, when He often resorts to the Prophets and the Scriptures? as when He saith, "They are they that testify of Me." (c. v. 39.) Shall we then say that He is inferior to the Prophets, because He draws testimonies from them? Away with the thought. It is because of the infirmity of His hearers that He so orders His discourse, and saith that He spake what He spake having heard it from the Father, not because He needed a teacher, but that they might believe that nothing that He said was false. John's meaning is of this kind: "I desire to hear what He saith, for He cometh from above, bringing thence those tidings which none but life knoweth rightly; for 'what He hath seen and heard,' is the expression of one who declareth this."
"And no man receiveth His testimony." Yet He had disciples, and many besides gave heed to His words. How then saith John, "No man"? He saith "no man," instead of "few men," for had he meant "no man at all," how could he have added,
Ver. 33. "He that hath received His testimony, hath set to his seal that God is true."
Here he touches his own disciples, as not being likely for a time to be firm believers. And that they did not even after this believe in Him, is clear from what is said afterwards; for John even when dwelling in prison sent them thence to Christ, that he might the more bind them to Him. Yet even then they scarcely believed, to which Christ alluded when He said, "And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me." (Matt. xi. 6.) And therefore now he said, "And no man receiveth His testimony," to make sure his own disciples; all but saying, "Do not, because for a time few shall believe on Him, therefore deem that His words are false; for, 'He speaketh that He hath seen.' " Moreover he saith this to touch also the insensibility of the Jews. A charge which the Evangelist at commencing brought against them, saying, "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not." For this is no reproach against Him, but an accusation of those who received Him not. (c. i. 11.)
"He that hath received His testimony hath set to his seal that God is true." Here he terrifies them also by showing that he who believeth not on Him, disbelieveth not Him alone, but the Father also; wherefore he adds:
Ver. 34. "He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God."
Since then He speaketh His words, he that believeth and he that believeth not, believeth or believeth not God. "Hath set to His seal," that is, "hath declared." Then, to increase their dread, he saith, "that God is true;" thus showing, that no man could disbelieve Christ without making God who sent Him guilty of a falsehood. Because, since He saith nothing save what is from the Father, but all that He saith is His, he that heareth not Him, heareth not Him that sent Him. See how by these words again he strikes them with fear. As yet they thought it no great thing not to hearken to Christ; and therefore he held so great a danger above the heads of the unbelievers, that they might learn that they hearken not to God Himself, who hearken not to Christ. Then he proceeds with the discourse, descending to the measure of their infirmity, and saying,
"For God giveth not the Spirit by measure."
Again, as I said, he brings down his discourse to lower ground, varying it and making it suitable to be received by those who heard it then; otherwise he could not have raised them and increased their fear. For had he spoken anything great and sublime concerning Jesus Himself, they would not have believed, but might even have despised Him. Therefore he leads up all to the Father, speaking for a while of Christ as of a man. But what is it that he saith, "God giveth not the Spirit by measure"? He would show that we all have received the operation of the Spirit, by measure, (for in this place he means by "Spirit" the operation of the Spirit, for this it is that is divided,) but that Christ hath all Its operation unmeasured and entire. Now if His operations be unmeasured, much more His Essence. Seest thou too that the Spirit is Infinite? How then can He who hath received all the operation of the Spirit, who knoweth the things of God, who saith, "We speak that We have heard, and testify that We have seen" (c. iii. 11), be rightly suspected? He saith nothing which is not "of God," or which is not of "the Spirit." And for a while he uttereth nothing concerning God the Word, but maketh all his doctrine credible by (reference to) the Father and the Spirit. For that there is a God they knew, and that there is a Spirit they knew, (even though they held not a right opinion concerning Him,) but that there is a Son, they knew not. It is for this reason that he ever has recourse to the Father and the Spirit, thence confirming his words. For if any one should take no account of this reason, and examine his language by itself, it would fall very far short of the Dignity of Christ. Christ was not therefore worthy of their faith, because He had the operation of the Spirit, (for He needeth not aid from thence,) but is Himself Self-sufficient; only for a while the Baptist speaks to the understanding of the simpler sort, desiring to raise them up by degrees from their low notions.
And this I say, that we may not carelessly pass by what is contained in the Scriptures, but may fully consider the object of the speaker, and the infirmity of the hearers, and many other points in them. For teachers do not say all as they themselves would wish, but generally as the state of their weak (hearers) requires. Wherefore Paul saith, "I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal; I have fed you with milk, and not with meat." (1 Cor. iii. 12.) He means, "I desired indeed to speak unto you as unto spiritual, but could not"; not because he was unable, but because they were not able so to hear. So too John desired to teach some great things to the disciples, but they could not yet bear to receive them, and therefore he dwells for the most part on that which is lowlier.
It behooves us therefore to explore all carefully. For the words of the Scriptures are our spiritual weapons; but if we know not how to fit those weapons and to arm our scholars rightly, they keep indeed their proper power, but cannot help those who receive them. For let us suppose there to be a strong corselet, and helm, and shield, and spear; and let one take this armor and put the corselet upon his feet, the helmet over his eyes instead of on his head, let him not put the shield before his breast, but perversely tie it to his legs: will he be able to gain any advantage from the armor? will he not rather be harmed? It is plain to any one that he will. Yet not on account of the weakness of the weapons, but on account of the unskillfulness of the man who knows not how to use them well. So with the Scriptures, if we confound their order; they will even so retain their proper force, yet will do us no good. Although I am always telling you this both in private and in public, I effect nothing, but see you all your time nailed to the things of this life, and not so much as dreaming of spiritual matters. Therefore our lives are careless, and we who strive for truth have but little power, and are become a laughing stock to Greeks and Jews and Heretics. Had ye been careless in other matters, and exhibited in this place the same indifference as elsewhere, not even so could your doings have been defended; but now in matters of this life, every one of you, artisan and politician alike, is keener than a sword, while in necessary and spiritual things we are duller than any; making by-work business, and not deeming that which we ought to have esteemed more pressing than any business, to be by-work even. Know ye not that the Scriptures were written not for the first of mankind alone, but for our sakes also? Hearest thou not Paul say, that "they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come; that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope"? (1 Cor. x. 11; Rom. xv. 4.) I know that I speak in vain, yet will I not cease to speak, for thus I shall clear myself before God, though there be none to hear me. He that speaketh to them that give heed hath this at least to cheer his speech, the persuasion of his hearers; but he that speaks continually and is not listened to, and yet ceaseth not to speak, may be worthy of greater honor than the other, because he fulfills the will of God, even though none give heed unto him, to the best of his power. Still, though our reward will be greater owing to your disobedience, we rather desire that it be diminished, and that your salvation be advanced, thinking that your being well approved of is a great reward. And we now say this not to make our discourse painful and burdensome to you, but to show to you the grief which we feel by reason of your indifference. God grant that we may be all of us delivered from this, that we may cling to spiritual zeal and obtain the blessings of heaven, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
"The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."
[1.] GREAT is shown to be in all things the gain of humility. Thus it is that we have brought arts to perfection, not by learning them all at once from our teachers; it is thus that we have built cities, putting them together slowly, little by little; it is thus that we maintain our life. And marvel not if the thing has so much power in matters pertaining to this life, when in spiritual things one may find that great is the power of this wisdom. For so the Jews were enabled to be delivered from their idolatry, being led on gently and little by little, and hearing from the first nothing sublime concerning either doctrine or life. So after the coming of Christ, when it was the time for higher doctrines, the Apostles brought over all men without at first uttering anything sublime. And so Christ appears to have spoken to most at the beginning, and so John did now, speaking of Him as of some wonderful man, and darkly introducing high matter.
For instance, when commencing he spake thus: "A man cannot receive anything of himself" (c. iii. 27): then after adding a high expression, and saying, "He that cometh from heaven is above all," he again brings down his discourse to what is lowly, and besides many other things saith this, that "God giveth not the Spirit by measure." Then he proceeds to say, "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand." And after that, knowing that great is the force of punishment, and that the many are not so much led by the promise of good things as by the threat of the terrible, he concludes his discourse with these words; "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." Here again he refers the account of punishment to the Father, for he saith not "the wrath of the Son," (yet He is the Judge,) but sets over them the Father, desiring so the more to terrify them.
"Is it then enough," saith one," to believe on the Son, that one may have eternal life?" By no means. And hear Christ Himself declaring this, and saying, "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. vii. 21); and the blasphemy against the Spirit is enough of itself to cast a man into hell. But why speak I of a portion of doctrine? Though a man believe rightly on the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, yet if he lead not a right life, his faith will avail nothing towards his salvation. Therefore when He saith, "This is life eternal, that they may know Thee the only true God" (c. xvii. 3), let us not suppose that the (knowledge) spoken of is sufficient for our salvation; we need besides this a most exact life and conversation. Since though he has said here, "He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life," and in the same place something even stronger, (for he weaves his discourse not of blessings only, but of their contraries also, speaking thus: "He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him";) yet not even from this do we assert that faith alone is sufficient to salvation. And the directions for living given in many places of the Gospels show this. Therefore he did not say, "This by itself is eternal life," nor, "He that doth but believe on the Son hath eternal life," but by both expressions he declared this, that the thing doth contain life, yet that if a right conversation follow not, there will follow a heavy punishment. And he did not say, "awaiteth him," but, "abideth on him," that is, "shall never remove from him." For that thou mayest not think that the "shall not see life," is a temporary death, but mayest believe that the punishment is continual, he hath put this expression to show that it rests upon him continually. And this he has done, by these very words forcing them on to Christ. Therefore he gave not the admonition to them in particular, but made it universal, the manner which best might bring them over. For he did not say, "if ye believe," and, "if ye believe not," but made his speech general, so that his words might be free from suspicion. And this he has done yet more strongly than Christ. For Christ saith, "He that believeth not is condemned already," but John saith, "shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." With good cause; for it was a different thing for a man to speak of himself and for another to speak of him. They would have thought that Christ spake often of these things from self-love, and that he was a boaster; but John was clear from all suspicion. And if at a later time, Christ also used stronger expressions, it was when they had begun to conceive an exalted opinion of Him.
CHAP. IV. Ver. 1, 2, 3. "When therefore Jesus knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (though Jesus Himself baptized not but His disciples,) He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee."
He indeed baptized not, but they who carried the news, desiring to excite their hearers to envy, so reported. "Wherefore then 'departed' He?" Not from fear, but to take away their malice, and to soften their envy. He was indeed able to restrain them when they came against Him, but this He would not do continually, that the Dispensation of the Flesh might not be disbelieved. For had He often been seized and escaped, this would have been suspected by many; therefore for the most part, He rather orders matters after the manner of a man. And as He desired it to be believed that He was God, so also that, being God, He bore the flesh; therefore even after the Resurrection, He said to the disciple, "Handle Me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones" (Luke xxiv. 39); therefore also He rebuked Peter when he said, "Be it far from Thee, this shall not be unto thee." (Matt. xvi. 22.) So much was this matter an object of care to Him.
[2.] For this is no small part of the doctrines of the Church; it is the chief point of the salvation wrought for us; by which all has been brought to pass, and has had success, for it was thus that the bonds of death were loosed, sin taken away, and the curse abolished, and ten thousand Blessings introduced into our life. And therefore He especially desired that the Dispensation should be believed, as having been the root and fountain of innumerable goods to us.
Yet while acting thus in regard of His Humanity, He did not allow His Divinity to be overcast. And so, after His departure He again employed the same language as before. For He went not away into Galilee simply, but in order to effect certain important matters, those among the Samaritans; nor did He dispense these matters simply, but with the wisdom that belonged to Him, and so as not to leave to the Jews any pretense even of a shameless excuse for themselves. And to this the Evangelist points when he says,
Ver. 4. "And He must needs go through Samaria."
Showing that He made this the bye-work of the journey. Which also the Apostles did; for just as they, when persecuted by the Jews, came to the Gentiles; so also Christ, when the Jews drove Him out, then took the Samaritans in hand, as He did also in the case of the Syrophenician woman. And this was done that all defense might be cut away from the Jews, and that they might not be able to say, "He left us, and went to the uncircumcised." And therefore the disciples excusing themselves said, "It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken unto you; but seeing ye judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles." (Acts xiii. 46.) And He saith again Himself, "I am not come but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. xv. 24); and again, "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to give it to dogs." But when they drove Him away, they opened a door to the Gentiles. Yet not so did He come to the Gentiles expressly, but in passing. In passing then,
Ver. 5, 6. "He cometh to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there."
Why is the Evangelist exact about the place? It is, that when thou hearest the woman say, "Jacob our father gave us this well," thou mayest not think it strange. For this was the place where Levi and Simeon, being angry because of Dinah, wrought that creel slaughter. And it may be worth while to relate from what sources the Samaritans were made up; since all this country is called Samaria. Whence then did they receive their name? The mountain was called "Somor" from its owner (1 Kings xvi. 24): as also Esaias saith, "and the head of Ephraim is Somoron" (Isa. vii. 9, LXX.), but the inhabitants were termed not "Samaritans" but "Israelites." But as time went on, they offended God, and in the reign of Pekah, Tiglath-Pileser came up, and took many cities, and set upon Elah, and having slain him, gave the kingdom to Hoshea. (2 Kings xv. 29.) Against him Shalmaneser came and took other cities, and made them subject and tributary. (2 Kings xvii. 3.) At first he yielded, but afterwards he revolted from the Assyrian rule, and betook himself to the alliance of the Ethiopians. The Assyrian learnt this, and having made war upon them and destroyed their cities, he no longer allowed the nation to remain there, because he had such suspicions that they would revolt. (2 Kings xvii. 4.) But he carried them to Babylon and to the Medes, and having brought thence nations from divers places, planted them in Samaria, that his dominion for the future might be sure, his own people occupying the place. After this, God, desiring to show that He had not given up the Jews through weakness, but because of the sins of those who were given up, sent lions against the foreigners, who ravaged all their nation. These things were reported to the king, and he sent a priest to deliver to them the laws of God. Still not even so did they desist wholly from their impiety, but only by halves. But as time went on, they in turn abandoned their idols, and worshiped God. And when things were in this state, the Jews having returned, ever after entertained a jealous feeling towards them as strangers and enemies, and called them from the name of the mountain, "Samaritans." From this cause also there was no little rivalry between them. The Samaritans did not use all the Scriptures, but received the writings of Moses only, and made but little account of those of the Prophets. Yet they were eager to thrust themselves into the noble Jewish stock, and prided themselves upon Abraham, and called him their forefather, as being of Chaldaea; and Jacob also they called their father, as being his descendant. But the Jews abominated them as well as all (other nations). Wherefore they reproached Christ with this, saying, "Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil." (c. viii. 48.) And for this reason in the parable of the man that went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, Christ makes the man who showed pity upon him to have been "a Samaritan" (Luke x. 33), one who by them was deemed mean, contemptible, and abominable. And in the case of the ten lepers, He calls one a "stranger" on this account, (for "he was a Samaritan,") and He gave His charge to the disciples in these words, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not." (Matt. x. 5.)
[3.] Nor was it merely to describe the place that the Evangelist has reminded us of Jacob, but to show that the rejection of the Jews had happened long ago. For during the time of their forefathers these Jews possessed the land, and not the Samaritans; and the very possessions which not being theirs, their forefathers had gotten, they being theirs, had lost by their sloth and transgressions. So little is the advantage of excellent ancestors, if their descendants be not like them. Moreover, the foreigners when they had only made trial of the lions, straightway returned to the right worship of the Jews, while they, after enduring such inflictions, were not even so brought to a sound mind.
To this place Christ now came, ever rejecting a sedentary and soft life, and exhibiting one laborious and active. He useth no beast to carry Him, but walketh so much on a stretch, as even to be wearied with His journeying. And this He ever teacheth, that a man should work for himself, go without superfluities, and not have many wants. Nay, so desirous is He that we should be alienated from superfluities, that He abridgeth many even of necessary things. Wherefore He said, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." (Matt. viii. 20.) Therefore He spent most of His time in the mountains, and in the deserts, not by day only, but also by night. And this David declared when he said, "He shall drink of the brook in the way" (Ps. cx. 7): by this showing His frugal way of life. This too the Evangelist shows in this place.
Ver. 6, 7, 8. "Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus by the well; and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus saith unto her, Give Me to drink. For His disciples were gone away into the city to buy meat."
Hence we learn His activity in journeying, His carelessness about food, and how He treated it as a matter of minor importance. And so the disciples were taught to use the like disposition themselves; for they took with them no provisions for the road. And this another Evangelist declares, saying, that when He spake to them concerning" the leaven of the Pharisees" (Matt. xvi. 6), they thought that it was because they carried no bread; and when he introduces them plucking the ears of corn, and eating (Matt. xii. 1), and when he saith that Jesus came to the fig-tree by reason of hunger (Matt. xxi. 18), it is for nothing else but only to instruct us by all these to despise the belly, and not to deem that its service is anxiously to be attended to. Observe them, for instance, in this place neither bringing anything with them, nor because they brought not anything, caring for this at the very beginning and early part of the day, but buying food at the time when all other people were taking their meal. Not like us, who the instant we rise from our beds attend to this before anything else, calling cooks and butlers, and giving our directions with all earnestness, applying ourselves afterwards to other matters, preferring temporal things to spiritual, valuing those things as necessary which we ought to have deemed of less importance? Therefore all things are in confusion. We ought, on the contrary, making much account of all spiritual things, after having accomplished these, then to apply ourselves to the others.
And in this place it is not His laboriousness alone that is shown, but also His freedom from pride; not merely by His being tired, nor by His sitting by the way-side, but by His having been left alone, and His disciples having been separated from Him. And yet it was in His power, if He had willed it, either not to have sent them all away, or when they departed to have had other ministers. But He would not; for so He accustomed His disciples to tread all pride beneath their feet.
"And what marvel," saith one, "if they were moderate in their wishes, since they were fishermen and tentmakers?" Yes! Fishermen and tentmakers they were; but they had in a moment mounted even to the height of heaven, and had become more honorable than all earthly kings, being deemed worthy to become the companions of the Lord of the world, and to follow Him whom all beheld with awe. And ye know this too, that those men especially who are of humble origin, whenever they gain distinction, are the more easily lifted up to folly, because they are quite ignorant how to bear their sudden honor. Restraining them therefore in their present humblemindedness, He taught them always to be moderate, and never to require any to wait upon them.
"He therefore," saith the Evangelist, "being wearied with His journey, sat thus at the well."
Seest thou that His sitting was because of weariness? because of the heat? because of his waiting for His disciples? He knew, indeed, what should take place among the Samaritans, but it was not for this that He came principally; yet, though He came not for this, it behooved not to reject the woman who came to Him, when she manifested such a desire to learn. The Jews, when He was even coming to them, drove Him away; they of the Gentiles, when He was proceeding in another direction, drew Him to them. They envied, these believed on Him. They were angry with, these revered and worshiped Him. What then? Was He to overlook the salvation of so many, to send away such noble zeal? This would have been unworthy of His lovingkindness. Therefore He ordered all the matter in hand with the Wisdom which became Him. He sat resting His body and cooling It by the fountain; for it was the very middle of the day, as the Evangelist has declared, when he says,
"It was about the sixth hour."
He sat "thus." What meaneth "thus"? Not upon a throne, not upon a cushion, but simply, and as He was, upon the ground.
Ver. 7. "There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water."
[4.] Observe how he declareth that the woman came forth for another purpose, in every way silencing the shameless gainsaying of the Jews, that none might say that He acted in opposition to His own command, bidding (His disciples) not to enter into any city of the Samaritans, yet conversing with Samaritans. (Matt. x. 5.) And therefore the Evangelist has put,
Ver. 8. "For His disciples were gone away into the city to buy meat."
Bringing in many reasons for His conversation with her. What doth the woman? When she heard, "Give Me to drink," she very wisely makes the speech of Christ an occasion for a question, and saith,
Ver. 9. "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a Samaritan? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans."
And whence did she suppose Him to be a Jew? From His dress, perhaps, and from His dialect. Observe, I pray you, how considerate the woman was. If there was need of caution, Jesus needed it, not she. For she doth not say, "The Samaritans have no dealings with the Jews," but, "The Jews do not admit the Samaritans." Yet still, although free herself from blame, when she supposed that another was falling into it she would not even so hold her peace, but corrected, as she thought, what was done unlawfully. Perhaps some one may ask how it was that Jesus asked drink of her, when the law did not permit it. If it be answered that it was because He knew beforehand that she would not give it, then for this very reason He ought not to have asked. What then can we say? That the rejecting such observances as these was now a matter of indifference to Him; for He who induced others to do them away, would much more Himself pass them by. "Not that which goeth in," saith He, "defileth a man, but that which goeth out." (Matt. xv. 11.) And this conversation with the woman would be no slight charge against the Jews. For often did He draw them to Himself, both by words and deeds, but they would not attend; while observe how she is detained by a simple request. For He did not as yet enter on the prosecution of this business, nor the way, yet if any came to Him He did not prevent them. And to the disciples also He said thus, "Into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not." He did not say, "And when they come to you, reject them"; that would have been very unworthy of His lovingkindness. And therefore He answered the woman, and said,
Ver. 10. "If thou knewest the gift of God and who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water."
First, He showeth that she is worthy to hear and not to be overlooked, and then He revealeth Himself. For she, as soon as she had learnt who He was, would straightway hearken and attend to Him; which none can say of the Jews, for they, when they had learned, asked nothing of Him, nor did they desire to be informed on any profitable matter, but insulted and drove Him away. But when the woman had heard these words, observe how gently she answers:
Ver. 11. "Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from whence then hast thou that living water?"
Already He hath raised her from her low opinion of Him, and from deeming that He is a common man. For not without a reason doth she here call Him, "Lord"; but assigning to Him high honor. That she spake these words to honor Him, is plain from what is said afterwards, since she did not laugh nor mock, but doubted for a while. And wonder not if she did not at once perceive all, for neither did Nicodemus. What saith he? "How can these things be?" and again, "How can a man be born when he is old?" and again, "Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?" But this woman more reverently: "Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from whence then hast thou that living water?" Christ said one thing, and she imagined another, hearing nothing beyond the words, and as yet unable to form any lofty thought. Yet, had she spoken hastily, she might have said, "If thou hadst had that living water, thou wouldest not have asked of me, but wouldest rather have provided for thyself. Thou art but a boaster." But she said nothing like this; she answers with much gentleness, both at first and afterwards. For at first she saith, "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me?" she saith not, as though speaking to an alien and an enemy, "Far be it from me to give to thee, who art a foe and a stranger to our nation." And afterwards again, when she heard Him utter great words, a thing at which enemies are most annoyed, she did not mock nor deride; but what saith she?
Ver. 12. "Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?"
Observe how she thrusts herself into the noble stock of the Jews. For what she saith is somewhat of this kind: "Jacob used this water, and had nothing better to give us." And this she said showing that from the first answer (of Christ) she had conceived a great and sublime thought; for by the words, "he drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle," she implies nothing else, than that she had a notion of a better Water, but that she never found it, nor clearly knew it. More clearly to explain what she means to say, the sense of her words is this: "Thou canst not assert that Jacob gave us this well, and used another himself; for he and his children drank of this one, which they would not have done if they had had another and a better. Now of the water of this well it is not in thy power to give me, and thou canst not have another and a better, unless thou dost confess that thou art greater than Jacob. Whence then hast thou that water which thou promisest that thou wilt give us?" The Jews did not converse with Him thus mildly, and yet He spake to them on the same subject, making mention of the like water, but they profited nothing; and when He made mention of Abraham, they even attempted to stone Him. Not so does this woman approach Him; but with much gentleness, in the midst of the heat, at noon, she with much patience saith and hears all, and does not so much as think of what the Jews most probably would have asserted, that "This fellow is mad, and beside himself: he hath tied me to this fount and well, giving me nothing, but using big words"; no, she endures and perseveres until she has found what she seeks.
[5.] If now a woman of Samaria is so earnest to learn something profitable, if she abides by Christ though not as yet knowing Him, what pardon shall we obtain, who both knowing Him, and being not by a well, nor in a desert place, nor at noon-day, nor beneath the scorching sunbeams, but at morning-tide, and beneath a roof like this, enjoying shade and comfort, yet cannot endure to hear anything that is said, but are wearied by it. Not such was that woman; so occupied was she by Jesus' words, that she even called others to hear them. The Jews, on the contrary, not only did not call, but even hindered and impeded those who desired to come to Him, saying, "See, have any of the rulers believed on him? but this people, which knoweth not the Law, are cursed." Let us then imitate this woman of Samaria; let us commune with Christ. For even now He standeth in the midst of us, speaking to us by the Prophets and Disciples; let us hear and obey. How long shall we live uselessly and in vain? Because, not to do what is well-pleasing to God is to live uselessly, or rather not merely uselessly, but to our own hurt; for when we have spent the time which has been given us on no good purpose, we shall depart this life to suffer severest punishment for our unseasonable extravagance. For it can never be that a man who has received money to trade with, and then has eaten it up, shall have it required at his hands by the man who intrusted it to him; and that one who has spent such a life as ours to no purpose shall escape punishment. It was not for this that God brought us into this present life, and breathed into us a soul, that we should make use of the present time only, but that we should do all our business with a regard to the life which is to come. Things irrational only are useful for the present life; but we have an immortal soul, that we may use every means to prepare ourselves for that other life. For if one enquire the use of horses and asses and oxen, and other such-like animals, we shall tell him that it is nothing else but only to minister to the present life; but this cannot be said of us; our best condition is that which follows on our departure hence; and we must do all that we may shine there, that we may join the choir of Angels, and stand before the King continually, through endless ages. And therefore the soul is immortal, and the body shall be immortal too, that we may enjoy the never-ending blessings. But if, when heavenly things are proffered thee, thou remainest nailed to earth, consider what an insult is offered to thy Benefactor, when He holdeth forth to thee things above, and thou, making no great account of them choosest earth instead. And therefore, as despised by thee, He hath threatened thee with hell; that thou mayest learn hence of what great blessings thou deprivest thyself. God grant that none make trial of that punishment, but that having been well-pleasing to Christ, we may obtain everlasting blessings, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ; to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
"Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting Life."
Scripture calls the grace of the Spirit sometimes "Fire," sometimes "Water," showing that these names are not descriptive of its essence, but of its operation; for the Spirit, being Invisible and Simple, cannot be made up of different substances. Now the one John declares, speaking thus, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with Fire" (Matt. iii. 11): the other, Christ, "Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." (John vii. 38.) "But this," saith John, "spake He of the Spirit, which they should receive." So also conversing with the woman, He calleth the Spirit water; for, "Whosoever shall drink of the water which I shall give him, shall never thirst." So also He calleth the Spirit by the name of "fire," alluding to the rousing and warming property of grace, and its power of destroying transgressions; but by that of "water," to declare the cleansing wrought by it, and the great refreshment which it affordeth to those minds which receive it. And with good reason; for it makes the willing soul like some garden thick with all manner of trees fruitful and ever-flourishing, allowing it neither to feel despondency nor the plots of Satan, and quenches all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
And observe, I pray you, the wisdom of Christ, how gently He leads on the woman; for He did not say at first, "If thou knewest who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink," but when He had given her an occasion of calling Him "a Jew," and brought her beneath the charge of having done so, repelling the accusation He saith, "If thou knewest who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him"; and having compelled her by His great promises to make mention of the Patriarch, He thus alloweth the woman to look through, and then when she objects, "Art thou greater than our father Jacob?" He saith not, "Yea, I am greater," (for He would have seemed but to boast, since the proof did not as yet appear,) but by what He saith He effecteth this. For He said not simply, "I will give thee water," but having first set that given by Jacob aside, He exalteth that given by Himself, desiring to show from the nature of the things given, how great is the interval and difference between the persons of the givers, and His own superiority to the Patriarch. "If," saith He, "thou admirest Jacob because he gave thee this water, what wilt thou say if I give thee Water far better than this? Thou hast thyself been first to confess that I am greater than Jacob, by arguing against Me, and asking, 'Art thou greater than Jacob, that thou promisest to give me better water?' If thou receivest that Water, certainly thou wilt confess that I am greater." Seest thou the upright judgment of the woman, giving her decision from facts, both as to the Patriarch, and as to Christ? The Jews acted not thus; when they even saw Him casting out devils, they not only did not call Him greater than the Patriarch but even said that He had a devil. Not so the woman, she draws her opinion whence Christ would have her, from the demonstration afforded by His works. For by these He justifieth Himself, saying, "If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not; but if I do, if ye believe not Me, believe the works." (c. x. 37, 38.) And thus the woman is brought over to the faith.
Wherefore also He, having heard, "Art thou greater than our father Jacob," leaveth Jacob, and speaketh concerning the water, saying, "Whosoever shall drink of this water, shall thirst again"; and He maketh His comparison, not by depreciating one, but by showing the excellence of the other; for He saith not, that "this water is naught," nor "that it is inferior and contemptible," but what even nature testifies that He saith: "Whosoever shall drink of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever shall drink of the Water which I shall give him, shall never thirst." The woman before this had heard of "living Water" (v. 10), but had not known its meaning. Since because that water is called "living" which is perennial and bubbles up unceasingly from uninterrupted springs, she thought that this was the water meant. Wherefore He points out this more clearly by speaking thus, and establishing by a comparison the superiority (of the water which He would give). What then saith He? "Whosoever shall drink of the Water that I shall give him, shall never thirst." This and what was said next especially showed the superiority, for material water possesses none of these qualities. And what is it that follows? "It shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." For as one that hath a well within him could never be seized by thirst, so neither can he that hath this Water.
The woman straightway believed, showing herself much wiser than Nicodemus, and not only wiser, but more manly. For he when he heard ten thousand such things neither invited any others to this hearing, nor himself spake forth openly; but she exhibited the actions of an Apostle, preaching the Gospel to all, and calling them to Jesus, and drawing a whole city forth to Him. Nicodemus when he had heard said, "How can these things be?" And when Christ set before him a clear illustration, that of "the wind," he did not even so receive the Word. But the woman not so; at first she doubted, but afterwards receiving the Word not by any regular demonstration, but in the form of an assertion, she straightway hastened to embrace it. For when Christ said, "It shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting Life," immediately the woman saith,
Ver. 15. "Give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw."
Seest thou how little by little she is led up to the highest doctrines? First she thought Him some Jew who was transgressing the Law; then when He had repelled that accusation, (for it was necessary that the person who was to teach her such things should not be suspected,) having heard of "living water," she supposed that this was spoken of material water; afterwards, having learnt that the words were spiritual, she believed that the water could remove the necessity caused by thirst, but knew not yet what this could be; she still doubted, deeming it indeed to be above material things, but not being exactly informed. But here having gained a clearer insight, but not yet fully perceiving the whole, (for she saith, "Give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw,") she for the time preferreth Him to Jacob. "For" (saith she) "I need not this well if I receive from thee that water." Seest thou how she setteth Him before the Patriarch? This is the act of a fairly-judging soul. She had shown how great an opinion she had of Jacob, she saw One better than he, and was not held back by her prepossession. Thus this woman was neither of an easy temper, (she did not carelessly receive what was said, how can she have done so when she enquired with so great exactness?) nor yet disobedient, nor disputatious, and this she showed by her petition. Yet to the Jews once He said, "Whosoever shall eat of My flesh shall never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst" (c. vi. 35); but they not only did not believe, but were offended at Him. The woman had no such feeling, she remains and petitions. To the Jews He said, "He that believeth on Me shall never thirst"; not so to the woman, but more grossly, He that drinketh of this Water shall never thirst." For the promise referred to spiritual and unseen things. Wherefore having raised her mind by His promises, He still lingers among expressions relating to sense, because she could not as yet comprehend the exact expression of spiritual things. Since had He said, "If thou believest in Me thou shalt not thirst," she would not have understood His saying, not knowing who it could be that spake to her, nor concerning what kind of thirst He spake. Wherefore then did He not this in the case of the Jews? Because they had seen many signs, while she had seen no sign, but heard these words first. For which reason He afterwards reveals His power by prophecy, and does not directly introduce His reproof, but what saith He?
Ver. 16-19. "Go, call thy husband, and come thither. The woman answered and said I have no husband. Jesus saith unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. The woman saith unto Him, Sir, I perceive that Thou art a Prophet."
[2.] O how great the wisdom of the woman how meekly doth she receive the reproof! "How should she not," saith some one? Tell me, why should she? Did He not often reprove the Jews also, and with greater reproofs than these? (for it is not the same to bring forward the hidden thoughts of the heart, as to make manifest a thing that was done in secret; the first are known to God alone, and none other knoweth them but he who hath them in his heart; the second, all who were sharers in it know;) but still when reproved did not bear it patiently. When He said, "Why seek ye to kill me?" (c. vii. 19), they not only did not admire as the woman did but even mocked at and insulted Him; yet they had a demonstration from other miracles, she had only heard this speech. Still they not only did not admire, but even insulted Him, saying, "Thou hast a demon, who seeketh to kill thee?" While she not only doth not insult but admires, and is astonished at Him, and supposes Him to be a Prophet. Yet truly this rebuke touched the woman more than the other touched them; for her fault was hers alone, theirs was a general one; and we are not so much stung by what is general as by what is particular. Besides they thought they should be gaining a great object if they could slay Christ, but that which the woman had done was allowed by all to be wicked; yet was she not indignant, but was astonished and wondered. And Christ did this very same thing in the case of Nathanael. He did not at first introduce the prophecy, nor say, "I saw thee under the fig-tree," but when Nathanael said, "Whence knowest thou me?" then He introduced this. For He desired to take the beginnings of His signs and prophecies from the very persons who came near to Him, so that they might be more attached by what was done, and He might escape the suspicion of vainglory. Now this He doth here also; for to have charged her first of all that, "Thou hast no husband," would have seemed burdensome and superfluous, but to take the reason (for speaking) from herself, and then to set right all these points, was very consistent, and softened the disposition of the hearer.
"And what kind of connection," saith some one, "is there in the saying, 'Go, call thy husband'?" The discourse was concerning a gift and grace surpassing mortal nature: the woman was urgent in seeking to receive it. Christ saith, "Call thy husband," showing that he also must share in these things; but she, eager to receive (the gift), and concealing the shamefulness of the circumstances, and supposing that she was conversing with a man, said, "I have no husband." Christ having heard this, now seasonably introduces His reproof, mentioning accurately both points; for He enumerated all her former husbands, and reproved her for him whom she now would hide. What then did the woman? she was not annoyed, nor did she leave Him and fly, nor deem the thing an insult, but rather admired Him, and persevered the more. "I perceive," saith she, "that Thou art a Prophet." Observe her prudence; she did not straightway run to Him, but still considers Him, and marvels at Him. For, "I perceive," means, "Thou appearest to me to be a Prophet." Then when she suspected this, she asks Him nothing concerning this life, not concerning bodily health, or possessions, or wealth, but at once concerning doctrines. For what saith she?
Ver. 20. "Our fathers worshiped in this mountain," (meaning Abraham and his family, for thither they say that he led up his son,) "and how say ye that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship?"
[3.] Seest thou how much more elevated in mind she has become? She who was anxious that she might not be troubled for thirst, now questions concerning doctrines. What then doth Christ? He doth not resolve the question, (for to answer simply to men's words was not His care, for it was needless,) but leads the woman on to the greater height, and doth not converse with her on these matters, until she has confessed that He was a Prophet, so that afterwards she might hear His Word with abundant belief; for having been persuaded of this, she could no longer doubt concerning what should be said to her.
Let us now after this be ashamed, and blush. A woman who had had five husbands, and who was of Samaria, was so eager concerning doctrines, that neither the time of day, nor her having come for another purpose, nor anything else, led her away from enquiring on such matters but we not only do not enquire concerning doctrines, but towards them all our dispositions are careless and indifferent. Therefore everything is neglected. For which of you when in his house takes some Christian book in hand and goes over its contents, and searches the Scriptures? None can say that he does so, but with most we shall find draughts and dice, but books nowhere, except among a few. And even these few have the same dispositions as the many; for they tie up their books, and keep them always put away in cases, and all their care is for the fineness of the parchments, and the beauty of the letters, not for reading them. For they have not bought them to obtain advantage and benefit from them, but take pains about such matters to show their wealth and pride. Such is the excess of vainglory. I do not hear any one glory that he knows the contents, but that he hath a book written in letters of gold. And what gain, tell me, is this? The Scriptures were not given us for this only, that we might have them in books, but that we might engrave them on our hearts. For this kind of possession, the keeping the commandments merely in letter, belongs to Jewish ambition; but to us the Law was not so given at all, but in the fleshy tables of our hearts. And this I say, not to prevent you from procuring Bibles, on the contrary, I exhort and earnestly pray that you do this, but I desire that from those books you convey the letters and sense into your understanding, that so it may be purified when it receiveth the meaning of the writing. For if the devil will not dare to approach a house where a Gospel is lying, much less will any evil spirit, or any sinful nature, ever touch or enter a soul which bears about with it such sentiments as it contains. Sanctify then thy soul, sanctify thy body, by having these ever in thy heart, and on thy tongue. For if foul speech defiles and invites devils, it is clear that spiritual reading sanctifies and draws down the grace of the Spirit. The Scriptures are divine charms, let us then apply to ourselves and to the passions of our souls the remedies to be derived from them. For if we understand what it is that is read, we shall hear it with much readiness. I am always saying this, and will not cease to say it. Is it not strange that those who sit by the market can tell the names, and families, and cities of charioteers, and dancers, and the kinds of power possessed by each, and can give exact account of the good or bad qualities of the very horses, but that those who come hither should know nothing of what is done here, but should be ignorant of the number even of the sacred Books? If thou pursuest those worldly things for pleasure, I will show thee that here is greater pleasure. Which is sweeter, tell me, which more marvelous, to see a man wrestling with a man, or a man buffering with a devil, a body closing with an incorporeal power, and him who is of thy race victorious? These wrestlings let us look on, these, which also it is seemly and profitable to imitate, and which imitating, we may be crowned; but not those in which emulation brings shame to him who imitates them. If thou beholdest the one kind of contest, thou beholdest it with devils; the other, with Angels and Archangels, and the Lord of Archangels. Say now, if thou wert allowed to sit with governors and kings, and to see and enjoy the spectacle, wouldest thou not deem it to be a very great honor? And here when thou art a spectator in company with the King of Angels, when thou seest the devil grasped by the middle of the back, striving much to have the better, but powerless, dost thou not run and pursue after such a sight as this? "And how can this be?" saith some one. If thou keep the Bible in thy hands; for in it thou shalt see the lists, and the long races, and his grasps, and the skill of the righteous one. For by beholding these things thou shalt learn also how to wrestle so thyself, and shalt escape clear of devils; the performances of the heathen are assemblies of devils, not theaters of men. Wherefore I exhort you to abstain from these Satanic assemblies; for if it is not lawful to enter into an idol's house, much less to Satan's festival. I shall not cease to say these things and weary you, until I see some change; for to say these things, as saith Paul, "to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe." (Phil. iii. 1.) Be not then offended at my exhortation. If any one ought to be offended, it is I who often speak and am not heard, not you who are always hearing and always disobeying. God grant that you be not always liable to this charge, but that freed from this shame you be deemed worthy to enjoy the spiritual spectacle, and the glory which is to come, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (PNPF I/XIV, Schaff). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.