The following post consists of St John Chrysostom’s First and Second Homilies on Philippians. One may also wish to consult his introductory discourse.
HOMILY 1 ON PHILIPPIANS 1:1-7
Philippians 1:1-2.-“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, fellow-Bishops and Deacons: Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Here, as writing to those of equal honor, he does not set down his rank of Teacher, but another, and that a great one. And what is that? He calls himself a “servant,” and not an Apostle. For great truly is this rank too, and the sum of all good things, to be a servant of Christ, and not merely to be called so. “The servant of Christ,” this is truly a free man in respect to sin, and being a genuine servant, he is not a servant to any other, since he would not be Christ’s servant, but by halves. And in again writing to the Romans also, he says, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ.” (Rom. i. 1.) But writing to the Corinthians and to Timothy he calls himself an “Apostle.” On what account then is this? Not because they were superior to Timothy. Far from it. But rather he honors them, and shows them attention, beyond all others to whom he wrote. For he also bears witness to great virtue in them, For besides, there indeed he was about to order many things, and therefore assumed his rank as an Apostle. But here he gives them no injunctions but such as they could perceive of themselves.
“To the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi.” Since it was likely that the Jews too would call themselves “saints” from the first oracle, when they were called a “holy people, a people for God’s own possession” (Ex. xix. 6; Deut. vii. 6, etc.); for this reason he added, “to the saints in Christ Jesus.” For these alone are holy, and those hence-forward profane. “To the fellow-Bishops and Deacons.” What is this? were there several Bishops of one city? Certainly not; but he called the Presbyters so. For then they still interchanged the titles, and the Bishop was called a Deacon. For this cause in writing to Timothy, he said, “Fulfil thy ministry,” when he was a Bishop. For that he was a Bishop appears by his saying to him, “Lay hands hastily on no man.” (1 Tim. v. 22.) And again, “Which was given thee with the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery.” (1 Tim. iv. 14.) Yet Presbyters would not have laid hands on a Bishop. And again, in writing to Titus, he says, “For this cause I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldest appoint elders in every city, as I gave thee charge. If any man is blameless, the husband of one wife” (Tit. i. 5, 6); which he says of the Bishop. And after saying this, he adds immediately, “For the Bishop must be blameless, as God’s steward, not self willed:” (Tit. i. 7.) So then, as I said, both the Presbyters were of old called Bishops and Deacons of Christ, and the Bishops Presbyters; and hence even now many Bishops write, “To my fellow-Presbyter,” and, “To my fellow-Deacon.” But otherwise the specific name is distinctly appropriated to each, the Bishop and the Presbyter. “To the fellow-Bishops,” he says, “and Deacons,
Ver. 2. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
How is it that though he nowhere else writes to the Clergy, not in Rome, nor in Corinth, nor in Ephesus, nor anywhere, but in general, to “all the saints, the believers, the beloved,” yet here he writes to the Clergy? Because it was they that sent, and bare fruit, and it was they that dispatched Epaphroditus to him.
Ver. 3. “I thank my God,” he says, “upon all my remembrance of you.”
He said in another of his writings, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit to them: for they watch in behalf of your souls, as they that shall give account; that they may do this with joy, and not with grief.” (Heb. xiii. 17.) If then the “grief” be due to the wickedness of the disciples, the doing it “with joy” would be due to their advancement. As often as I remember you, I glorify God. But this he does from his being conscious of many good things in them. I both glorify, he says, and pray. I do not, because ye have advanced unto virtue, cease praying for you. But “I thank my God,” he says, “upon all my remembrance of you,”
Ver. 4. “Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request also with joy.”
“Always,” not only while I am praying. “With joy.” For it is possible to do this with grief too, as when he says elsewhere, “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears.” (2 Cor. ii. 4.)
Ver. 5. “For your fellowship in furtherance of the Gospel from the first day even until now.”
Great is that he here witnesseth of them, and very great, and what one might have witnessed of Apostles and Evangelists. Ye did not, because ye were entrusted with one city, he saith, care for that only, but ye leave nothing undone to be sharers of my labors, being everywhere at hand and working with me, and taking part in my preaching. It is not once, or the second, or third time, but always, from the time ye believed until now, ye have assumed the readiness of Apostles. Behold how those indeed that were in Rome turned away from him; for hear him saying, “This thou knowest, that all that are in Asia turned away from me.” (2 Tim. i. 15.) And again, “Demas forsook me”: and “at my first defence no one took my part.” (2 Tim. iv. 10, 16.) But these, although absent, shared in his tribulations, both sending men to him, and ministering to him according to their ability, and leaving out nothing at all. And this ye do not now only, saith he, but always, in every, way assisting me. So then it is a “fellowship in furtherance of the Gospel.” For when one preacheth, and thou waitest on the preacher, thou sharest his crowns. Since even in the contests that are without, the crown is not only for him that striveth, but for the trainer, and the attendant, and all that help to prepare the athlete. For they that strengthen him, and recover him, may fairly participate in his victory. And in wars too, not only he that wins the prize of valor, but all they too that attend him, may fairly claim a share in the trophies, and partake of the glory, as having shared in his conflict by their attendance on him. For it availeth not a little to wait on saints, but very much. For it makes us sharers in the rewards that are laid up for them. Thus; suppose some one hath given up great possessions for God, continually devotes himself to God, practices great virtue, and even to words, and even to thoughts, and even in everything observes extreme strictness. It is open to thee too, even without showing such strictness, to have a share in the rewards that are laid up for him for these things. How? If thou aid him both in word and deed. If thou encourage him both by supplying his needs, and by doing him every possible service. For then the smoother of that rugged path will be thyself. So then if ye admire those in the deserts that have adopted the angelic life, those in the churches that practice the same virtues with them; if ye admire, and are grieved that ye are far behind them; ye may, in another way, share with them, by waiting on them, and aiding them. For indeed this too is of God’s lovingkindness, to bring those that are less zealous, and are not able to undertake the hard and rugged and strict life, to bring, I say, even those, by another way, into the same rank with the others. And this Paul means by “fellowship.” They give a share to us, he means, in carnal things, and we give a share to them in spiritual things. For if God for little and worthless things granteth the kingdom, His servants too, for little and material things, give a share in spiritual things: or rather it is He that giveth both the one and the other by means of them. Thou canst not fast, nor be alone, nor lie on the ground, nor watch all night? Yet mayest thou gain the reward of all these things, if thou go about the matter another way, by attending on him that laboreth in them, and refreshing and anointing him constantly, and lightening the pains of these works. He, for his part, stands fighting and taking blows. Do thou wait on him when he returns from the combat, receive him in thy arms, wipe off the sweat, and refresh him; comfort, soothe, restore his wearied soul. If we will but minister to the saints with such readiness, we shall be partakers of their rewards. This Christ also tells us. “Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness, that they may receive you into their eternal tabernacles.” (Luke xvi. 9.) Seest thou that they are become sharers? “From the first day,” he says, “even until now.” And “I rejoice” not only for what is past, but also for the future; for from the past I guess that too.
Ver. 6. “Being confident of this very thing, that He which began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
See how he also teaches them to be unassuming. For since he had witnessed a great thing of them, that they may not feel as men are apt to do, he presently teaches them to refer both the past and the future to Christ. How? By saying, not, “Being confident that as ye began ye will also finish,” but what? “He which began a good work in you will perfect it.” He did not rob them of the achievement, (for he said, “I rejoice for your fellowship,” clearly as if making it their act,) nor did he call their good deeds solely their own, but primarily of God. “For I am confident,” saith he, “that He which began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.” That is, God will. And it is not about yourselves, he implies, but about those descending from you that I feel thus. And indeed it is no small praise, that God should work in one. For if He is “no respecter of persons,” as indeed He is none, but is looking to our purpose when He aids us in good deeds, it is evident that we are agents in drawing Him to us; so that even in this view he did not rob them of their praise. Since if His in working were indiscriminate, there would have been nothing to hinder but that even Heathens and all men might have Him working in them, that is, if He moved us like logs and stones, and required not our part. So that in saying “God will perfect it,” this also again is made their praise, who have drawn to them the grace of God, so that He aids them in going beyond human nature. And in another way also a praise, as that “such are your good deeds that they cannot be of man, but require the divine impulse.” But if God will perfect, then neither shall there be much labor, but it is right to be of good courage, for that they shall easily accomplish all, as being assisted by Him.
Ver. 7. “Even as it is right for me to be thus minded on behalf of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the Gospel, ye all are partakers with me of grace.”
Greatly still does he show here his longing desire, in that he had them in his heart; and in the very prison, and though bound, he remembered the Philippians. And it is not a little to the praise of these men, since it is not of prejudice that this Saint conceived his love, but of judgment, and right reasons. So that to be loved of Paul so earnestly is a proof of one’s being something great and admirable. “And in the defense,” he says, “and confirmation of the Gospel.” And what wonder if he had them when in prison, since not even at the moment of going before the tribunal to make my defense, he says, did ye slip from my memory. For so imperial a thing is spiritual love, that it gives way to no season, but ever keeps hold of the soul of him who loves, and allows no trouble or pain to overcome that soul. For as in the case of the Babylonian furnace, when so vast a flame was raised, it was a dew to those blessed Children. So too does friendship occupying the soul of one who loves, and who pleases God, shake off every flame, and produce a marvelous dew.
“And in the confirmation of the Gospel,” he says. So then his bonds were a confirmation of the Gospel, and a defense. And most truly so. How? For if he had shunned bonds, he might have been thought a deceiver; but he that endures every thing, both bonds and affliction, shows that he suffers this for no human reason, but for God, who rewards. For no one would have been willing to die, or to incur such great risks, no one would have chosen to come into collision with such a king, I mean Nero, unless he looked to another far greater King. Truly a “confirmation of the Gospel” were his bonds. See how he more than succeeded in turning all things to their opposite. For what they supposed to be a weakness and a detraction, that he calls a confirmation; and had this not taken place, there had been a weakness. Then he shows that his love was not of prejudice, but of judgment. Why? I have you (in my heart), he says, in my bonds, and in my defense, because of your being “partakers of my grace.” What is this? Was this the “grace” of the Apostle, to be bound, to be driven about, to suffer ten thousand evils? Yes. For He says, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. xii. 9.) “Wherefore,” saith he, “I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries.” Since then I see you in your actions giving proof of your virtue, and being partakers of this grace, and that with readiness, I reasonably suppose thus much. For I that have had trial of you, and more than any have known you, and your good deeds; how that even when so distant from us, ye strive not to be wanting to as in our troubles, but to partake in our trials for the Gospel’s sake, and to take no less share than myself, who am engaged in the combat, far off as ye are; am doing but justice in witnessing to these things.
And why did he not say “partakers,” but “partakers with me” ? I myself too, he means, share with another, that I may be a partaker of the Gospel; that is, that I may share in the good things laid up for the Gospel. And the wonder indeed is. that they were all so minded; for he says that “ye all are fellow-partakers of grace.” From these beginnings, then, I am confident that such ye will be even to the end. For it cannot be that so bright a commencement should be quenched, and fail, but it points to great results.
Since then it is possible also in other ways to partake of grace, and of trials, and of tribulations, let us also, I beseech you, be partakers. How many of those who stand here, yea, rather all, would fain share with Paul in the good things to come! It is in your power if ye are willing, on behalf of those who have succeeded to his ministry, when they suffer any hardship for Christ’s sake, to take their part and succor them. Hast thou seen thy brother in trial? Hold out a hand! Hast thou seen thy teacher in conflict? Stand by him! But, says one, there is no one like Paul! now for disdain! now for criticism! So there is no one like Paul? Well, I grant it. But, “He that receiveth,” saith He, “a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet’s reward.” (Matt. x. 41.) For was it for this that these were honored, that they coöperated with Paul? Not for this, but because they coöperated with one who had undertaken the preaching. Paul was honorable for this, that he suffered these things for Christ’s sake.
There is indeed no one like Paul. No. not even but a little approaching to that blessed one. But the preaching is the same as it was then.
And not only in his bonds did they have fellowship with him, but also from the beginning. For hear him saying, “And ye yourselves also know, ye Philippians, that in the beginning of the Gospel, no Church had fellowship with me in the matter of giving and receiving, but ye only.” (Phil. iv. 15.) And even apart from trials, the teacher has much labor, watching, toiling in the word, teaching, complaints, accusations, imputations, envyings. Is this a little matter, to bear ten thousand tongues, when one might have but one’s own anxieties? Alas! what shall I do? for I am in a strait between two things. I long to urge you on and encourage you to the alliance and succor of the saints of God; but I fear lest some one should suspect another thing, that I say this not for your sakes, but for theirs. But know that it is not for their sakes I say these things, but for your own. And if ye are willing to attend, I convince you by my very words; the gain is not equal to you and to them. For ye, if ye give, will give those things from which, willing or unwilling, ye must soon after part, and give place to others; but what thou receivest is great and far more abundant. Or, are ye not so disposed, that in giving ye will receive? For if ye are not so disposed, I do not even wish you to give. So far am I from making a speech for them! Except one have first I so disposed himself, as receiving rather than giving, as gaining ten thousand fold, as benefited rather than a benefactor, let him not give. If as one granting a favor to the receiver, let him not give. For this is not so much my care, that the saints may be supported. For even if thou give not, another will give. So that what I want is this, that you may have a relief from your own sins. But he that gives not so will have no relief. For it is not giving that is doing alms, but the doing it with readiness; the rejoicing, the feeling grateful to him that receives. For, “not grudgingly,” saith he, “or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. ix. 7.) Except then one so give, let him not give: for that is loss, not alms. If then ye know that ye will gain, not they, know that your gain becomes greater. For as for them the body is fed, but your soul is approved; for them, not one of their sins is forgiven when they receive, but for you, the more part of your offenses is removed. Let us then share with them in their great prizes. When men adopt kings they do not think they give more than they receive. Adopt thou Christ, and thou shalt have great security. Wilt thou also share with Paul? Why do I say Paul when it is Christ that receiveth?
But that ye may know that all is for your sakes that I say and do, and not of care for the comfort of others, if there is any of the rulers of the church that lives in abundance and wants nothing, though he be a saint, give not, but prefer to him one that is in want, though he be not so admirable. And wherefore? Because Christ too so willeth, as when He saith, “If thou make a supper or a dinner, call not thy friends, neither thy kinsmen, but the maimed, the lame, the blind, that cannot recompense thee.” (Luke xiv. 12.) For it is not indiscriminately that one should pay such attentions, but to the hungry, but to the thirsty, but to those who need clothing, but to strangers, but to those who from riches have been reduced to poverty. For He said not simply, “I was fed,” but ‘I was an hungered,” for, “Ye saw me an hungered,” He says, “and fed me.” (Matt. xxv. 35.) Twofold is the claim, both that he is a saint and that he is hungry. For if he that is simply hungry ought to be fed, much more when he is a saint too that is hungry. If then he is a saint, but not in need, give not; for this were no gain. For neither did Christ enjoin it; or rather, neither is he a saint that is in abundance and receiveth. Seest thou that it is not for filthy lucre that these things have been said to you, but for your profit? Feed the hungry, that thou mayest not feed the fire of hell. He, eating of what is thine, sanctifies also what remains. (Luke xi. 41.) Think how the widow maintained Elias; and she did not more feed than she was fed: she did not more give than receive. This now also takes place in a much greater thing. For it is not a “barrel of meal,” nor “a cruse of oil” (1 Kings xvii. 14), but what? “An hundred fold, and eternal life” (Matt. xix. 21, 29), is the recompense for such-the mercy of God thou becomest; the spiritual food; a pure leaven. She was a widow, famine was pressing, and none of these things hindered her. Children too she had, and not even so was she withheld. (1 Kings xvii. 12.) This woman is become equal to her that cast in the two mites. She said not to herself, “What shall I receive from this man? He stands in need of me. If he had any power he had not hungered, he had broken the drought, he had not been subject to like sufferings. Perchance he too offends God.” None of these things did she think of. Seest thou how great a good it is to do well with simplicity, and not to be over curious about the person benefited? If she had chosen to be curious she would have doubted; she would not have believed. So, too, Abraham, if he had chosen to be curious, would not have received angels. For it cannot, indeed it cannot be, that one who is exceeding nice in these matters, should ever meet with them. No, such an one usually lights on impostors; and how that is, I will tell you. The pious man is not desirous to appear pious, and does not clothe himself in show, and is likely to be rejected. But the impostor, as he makes a business of it, puts on a deal of piety that is hard to see through. So that while he who does good, even to those who seem not pious, will fall in with those who are so, he who seeks out those who are thought to be pious, will often fall in with those who are not so. Wherefore, I beseech you, let us do all things in simplicity. For let us even suppose that he is an impostor that comes; you are not bidden to be curious about this. For, “Give,” saith he, “to every one that asketh thee” (Luke vi. 30); and, “Forbear not to redeem him that is to be slain.” (Prov. xxiv. 11.) Yet most of those that are slain suffer this for some evil they are convicted of; still he saith, “Forbear not.” For in this shall we be like God, thus shall we be admired, and shall obtain those immortal blessings, which may we all be thought worthy of, through the grace and lovingkindness of Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom, to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, power, honor, now and forever, and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY 2 ON PHILIPPIANS 1:8-11
Philippians i. 8-11.-“For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the tender mercies of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; that ye may approve the things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and void of offense unto the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”
He calls not God to witness as though he should be doubted, but does this from his great affection, and his exceeding persuasion and confidence; for after saying that they had fellowship with him, he adds this also, “in the tender mercies of Christ,” lest they should think that his longing for them was for this cause, and not simply for their own sake. And what mean these words, “in the tender mercies of Christ”? They stand for “according to Christ.” Because ye are believers, because ye love Christ, because of the love that is according to Christ. He does not say “love,” but uses a still warmer expression, “the tender mercies of Christ,” as though he had said, “having become as a father to you through the relationship which is in Christ.” For this imparts to us bowels warm and glowing. For He gives such bowels to His true servants. “In these bowels,” saith He, as though one should say, “I love you with no natural bowels, but with warmer ones, namely, those of Christ.” “How I long after you all.” I long after all, since ye are all of this nature; I am unable in words to represent to you my longing; it is therefore impossible to tell. For this cause I leave it to God, whose range is in the heart, to know this. Now had he been flattering them, he would not have called God to witness, for this cannot be done without peril.
Ver. 9. “And this,” saith he, “I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more.” For this is a good of which there is no satiety; for see, being so loved he wished to be loved still more, for he who loves the object of his love, is willing to stay at no point of love, for it is impossible there should be a measure of so noble a thing. Paul desires that the debt of love should always be owing; “Owe no man any thing, save to love one another.” (Rom. xiii. 8.) The measure of love is, to stop nowhere; “that your love,” says he, “may abound yet more and more.” Consider the character of the expression, “that it may abound yet more and more,” he says, “in knowledge and all discernment.” He does not extol friendship merely, nor love merely, but such as comes of knowledge; that is, Ye should not apply the same love to all: for this comes not of love, but from want of feeling. What means he by “in knowledge”? He means, with judgment, with reason, with discrimination. There are who love without reason, simply and any how, whence it comes that such friendships are weak. He says, “in knowledge and all discernment, that ye may approve the things that are excellent,” that is, the things that are profitable. This I say not for my own sake, says he, but for yours, for there is danger lest any one be spoiled by the love of the heretics; for all this he hints at, and see how he brings it in. Not for my own sake, says he, do I say this, but that ye may be sincere, that is, that ye receive no spurious doctrine under the pretence of love. How then, says he, “If it be possible, live peaceably with all men”? “Live peaceably” (Rom. xii. 18), he says, not, Love so as to be harmed by that friendship; for he says, “if thy right eye causeth thee to stumble, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; that ye may be sincere” (Matt. V. 29), that is, before God, “and without offence,” that is, before men, for many men’s friendships are often a hurt to them. Even though it hurts thee not, says he, still another may stumble thereat. “Unto the day of Christ”; i.e. that ye may then be found pure, having caused no one to stumble.
Ver. 11. “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are through Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God;” i.e. holding, together with true doctrine, an upright life.
And not merely upright, but “filled with the fruits of righteousness.” For there is indeed a righteousness not according to Christ, as, for example, a moral life. “Which are through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.” Seest thou that I speak not of mine own: glory, but the righteousness of God; and oftentimes he calls mercy itself too righteousness; let not your love, he says, indirectly injure you, by hindering your perception of things profitable, and take heed lest you fall through your love to any one. For I would indeed that your love should be increased, but not so that ye should be injured by it. And I would not that it should be simply of prejudice, but upon proof whether I speak well or no. He says not, that ye may take up my opinion, but that ye may “prove” it. He does not say outright, join not yourself to this or that man, but, I would that your love should have respect to what is profitable, not that ye should be void of understanding. For it is a foolish thing if ye work not righteousness for Christ’s sake and through Him. Mark the words, “through Him.” Does he then use God as a mere assistant? Away with the thought. Not that I may receive praise, says he, but that God may be glorified.
Ver. 12, 13. “Now I would have you know, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the Gospel, so that my bonds became manifest in Christ throughout the whole praetorian guard, and to all the rest.”
It was likely they would grieve when they heard he was in bonds, and imagine that the preaching was at a stand. What then? He straightway destroys this suspicion. And this also shows his affection, that he declares the things which had happened to him, because they were anxious. What say you? you are in bonds! you are hindered! how then does the Gospel advance? He answers, “so that my bonds in Christ became manifest in all the praetorium.” This thing not only did not silence the rest, nor affright them, but contrariwise rather encouraged them. If then they who were near the dangers were not only nothing hurt, but even received greater confidence, much more should you. Had he when in bonds taken it hardly, and held his peace, it were probable that they would be affected in like sort. But as he spoke more boldly when in bonds, he gave them more confidence than if he had not been bound. And how have his bonds “turned to the progress of the Gospel”? So God in His dispensation ordered, he means, that my bonds were not hid, my bonds which were “in” Christ, which were “for” Christ.
“In the whole praetorium.” For up to that time they so called the palace. And in the whole city, says he.
Ver. 14. “And that most of the brethren in the Lord, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word without fear.”
This shows that they were of good courage even before, and spoke with boldness, but much more now. If others then, says he, are of good courage through my bonds, much more am I; if I am the cause of confidence to others, much more to myself. “And most of the brethren in the Lord.” As it was a great thing to say, My bonds gave confidence to them, he therefore adds beforehand, “in the Lord.” Do you see how, even when he sees himself constrained to speak great things, he departs not from moderation? “Are more abundantly bold,” he says, “to speak the word without fear”; the words “more abundantly” show that they had already begun.
Ver. 15. “Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife, and some also of good will.”
And what this means is worth enquiry. Since Paul was under restraint, many of the unbelievers, willing to stir up more vehemently the persecution from the Emperor, themselves also preached Christ, in order that the Emperor’s wrath might be increased at the spread of the Gospel, and all his anger might fall on the head of Paul. From my bonds then two lines of action have sprung. One party took great courage thereat; the other, from hope to work my destruction, set themselves to preach Christ; “some of them through envy,” that is, envying my reputation and constancy, and from desire of my destruction, and the spirit of strife, work with me; or that they themselves may be esteemed, and from the expectation that they will draw to themselves somewhat of my glory. “And some also of good will,” that is, without hypocrisy, with all earnestness.
Ver. 16. “The one proclaim Christ of faction not sincerely.”
That is, not with pure motives, nor from regard to the matter itself; but why? “thinking to add affliction to my bonds.” As they think that I shall thus fill into greater peril, they add affliction to affliction. O cruelty! O devilish instigation! They saw him in bonds, and cast into prison, and still they envied him. They would increase his calamities, and render him subject to greater anger: well said he, “thinking,” for it did not so turn out. They thought indeed to grieve me by this; but I rejoiced that the Gospel was furthered.
Ver. 17. “But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the Gospel.”
What means, “that I am set for the defense of the Gospel”? It is, They are preparing for the account which I must give to God, and assisting me.
What is meant by “for the defense”? I have been appointed to preach, I must give account, and answer for the work to which I have been appointed; they assist me, that my defense may be easy; for if there be found many who have been instructed and have believed, my defense will be easy. So it is possible to do a good work, from a motive which is not good. And not only is there no reward in store for such an action, but punishment. For as they preached Christ from a desire to involve the preacher of Christ in greater perils, not only shall they receive no reward, but shall be subject to vengeance and punishment. “And some of love.” That is, they know that I must give account for the Gospel.
Ver. 18. “What then? only that every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is proclaimed.”
But see the wisdom of the Man. He did not vehemently accuse them, but mentioned the result; what difference does it make to me, says he, whether it be done in this or that way? only that every way, “whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed.” He did not say, “Let him be proclaimed,” as some suppose, stating that he opens the way for the heresies, but, “He is proclaimed.” For in the first place he did not lay down the law and say, as if laying down the law, “Let Him be proclaimed,” but he reported what was taking place; secondly, if he even spoke as laying down the law, not even thus would he be opening the way for the heresies.
For let us examine the matter. For even if he gave permission to preach as they preached, not even thus was he opening the way for the heresies. How so? In that they preached healthfully; though the aim and purpose on which they acted was corrupted, still the preaching itself was not changed, and they were forced so to preach. And why? Because, had they preached otherwise than as Paul preached, had they taught otherwise than as he taught, they would not have increased the wrath of the Emperor. But now by furthering his preaching, by teaching in the same way, and making disciples as he did, they had power to exasperate the Emperor, when he saw the multitude of the disciples numerous. But then some wicked and senseless man, taking hold of this passage, says, Verily they would have done the contrary, they would have driven off those who had already believed, instead of making believers to abound, had they wished to annoy him. What shall we answer? That they looked to this thing only, how they might involve him in present danger, and leave him no escape; and thus they thought to grieve him, and to quench the Gospel, rather than in the other way.
By that other course they would have extinguished the wrath of the Emperor, they would have let him go at large and preach again; but by this course they thought that because of him all would be ruined, could they but destroy him. The many however could not have this intention, but certain bitter men alone.
Then “and therein,” says he, “I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” What means, “yea, I will rejoice”? Even if this be done still more, he means. For they coöperate with me even against their will; and will receive punishment for their toil, whilst I, who contributed nothing thereto, shall receive reward. Is there anything beyond this villainy of the Devil, to contrive the punishment of the preaching, and vengeance for the toils? Seest thou with how many evils he pierces through his own! How else would a hater and an enemy of their salvation have arranged all this? Seest thou how he who wages war against the truth has no power, but rather wounds himself, as one who kicks against the goads?
Ver. 19. “For I know,” says he, “that this shall turn to my salvation through your supplication, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.”
Nothing is more villainous than the Devil. So does he everywhere involve his own in unprofitable toils, and rends them. Not only does he not suffer them to obtain the prizes, but he even subjects them to punishment.
For not only does he command them the preaching of the Gospel, but likewise fasting and virginity, in such sort as will not only deprive them of their reward, but will bring down heavy evil on those who pursue that course. Concerning whom he says elsewhere, also, “Branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron.” (1 Tim. iv. 2.)
Wherefore, I beseech you, let us give thanks to God for all things, since he hath both lightened our toil, and increased our reward. For such as among them live in virginity enjoy not the rewards, which they do who among us live chastely in wedlock; but they who live as virgins among the heretics are subject to the condemnation of the fornicators. All this springs from their not acting with a right aim, but as accusing God’s creatures, and His unspeakable Wisdom.
Let us not then be sluggish. God hath placed before us contests within measure, having no toil. Yet let us not despise them for this. For if the heretics put themselves to the stretch in unprofitable toils, what excuse shall we have if we will not endure those which are less, and which have a greater reward? For which of Christ’s ordinances is burdensome? which is grievous? Art thou unable to live a virgin life? Thou art permitted to marry. Art thou unable to strip thyself of all thou hast? Thou art permitted to supply the needs of others from what thou hast. Let “your abundance be a supply for their want.” (2 Cor. viii. 14.) These things indeed appear burdensome. What things? I mean to despise money, and to overcome the desires of the body. But His other commands require no cost, no violence. For tell me, what violence is there in speaking no ill, in simply abstaining from slander? What violence is there in envying not another man’s goods? What violence in not being led away by vain-glory? To be tortured, and endure it, is the part of strength. The exercise of philosophy is the part of strength. To bear poverty through life is the part of strength. It is the part of strength to wrestle with hunger and thirst. Where none of these things are, but where you may enjoy your own, as becomes a Christian, without envying others, what violence is there?
From this source springs envy; nay, rather all evils spring from no other source than this, that we cleave to things present. For did you hold money and the glory of this world to be nought, you would not cast an evil eye on its possessors. But since you gape at these things, and idolize them, and are flattered by them, for this reason envy troubles you, and vain-glory; it all springs from idolizing the things of the present life. Art thou envious because another man is rich? Nay, such an one is an object for pity and for tears. But you laugh and answer straight, I am the object for tears, not he! Thou also art an object for tears, not because thou art poor, but because thou thinkest thyself wretched. For we weep for those who have nothing the matter, and are discontented, not because they have anything the matter, but because, without having, they think they have. For example: if any one, cured of a fever, still is restless and rolls about, lying in health on his bed, is he not more to be wept for than those in fever, not that he has a fever, for he has none, but because having no sickness he still thinks he has? And thou art an object for tears just because thou thinkest thyself wretched, not for thy poverty. For thy poverty thou art to be thought happy.
Why enviest thou the rich man? Is it because he has subjected himself to many cares? to a harder slavery? because he is bound like a dog, with ten thousand chains-namely, his riches? Evening overtakes him, night overtakes him, but the season of rest is to him a time of trouble of anguish, of pain, of anxiety. There is a noise he straightway jumps up. Has his neighbor been plundered? He who has lost nothing cares more for it than the loser. For that man has lost once, but having endured the pain he lays aside his care; but the other has it always with him. Night comes on, the haven of our ills, the solace of our woes, the medicine of our wounds. For they who are weighed down by excess of grief, often give no ear to their friends, to their relations, to their intimates,-ofttimes not even to a father when he would give comfort, but take their very words amiss; but when sleep bids them rest, none has the power to look him in the face. For worse than any burning does the bitterness of grief afflict our souls. And as the body, when parched and worn down by struggling against the violence of the sunbeams, is brought to a caravansary with many fountains, and the soothing of a gentle breeze, so does night hand over our soul to sleep. Yea, rather, I should say, not night nor sleep does this, but God, who knoweth our toil-worn race, has wrought this, while we have no compassion on ourselves, but, as though at enmity with ourselves, have devised a tyranny more powerful than natural want of rest-the sleeplessness which comes of wealth. For it is said, “The anxieties of wealth drive away sleep.” (Ecclus. xxxi. 1.) See how great is the care of God. But He hath not committed rest to our will, nor our need of sleep to choice, but hath bound it up in the necessities of nature, that good may be done to us even against our wills. For to sleep is of nature. But we, as mighty haters of ourselves, like enemies and persecutors of others, have devised a tyranny greater than this necessity of nature that, namely, which comes of money. Has day dawned? Then such an one is in dread of the informers. Hath night overtaken him? He trembles at robbers. Is death at hand? The thought that he must leave his goods to others preys upon him worse than death. Hath he a son? His desires are increased; and then he fancies himself poor. Has he none? His pains are greater. Deemest thou him blessed who is unable to receive pleasure from any quarter? Can you envy him thus tempest-tossed, while you yourself are placed in the quiet haven of poverty? Of a truth this is the imperfection of human nature; that it bears not its good nobly, but casts insults on its very prosperity.
And all this on earth; but when we depart thither, listen what the rich man, who was lord of innumerable goods, as you say (since for my part I call not these things good, but indifferent), listen to what this lord of innumerable goods says, and of what he stands in need: “Father Abraham,” he exclaims, “send Lazarus, that with the tip of his finger he may drop water on my tongue, for I am scorched in this flame.” For even if that rich man had endured none of the things I have mentioned, if he had passed his whole life without dread and care-why say I his whole life? rather that one moment (for it is a moment, our whole life is but one moment, compared with that eternity which has no end)-if all things had turned out according to his desire; must he not be pitied for these words, yea, rather, for this state of things? Was not your table once deluged with wine? Now you are not master even of a drop of water, and that, too, in your greatest need. Did not you neglect that poor man full of sores? But now you ask a sight of him, and no one gives leave. He lay at your gate; but now in Abraham’s bosom. You then lay under your lofty ceiling; but now in the fire of hell.
These things let the rich men hear. Yea, rather not the rich, but the pitiless. For not in that he was rich was he punished, but because he showed no pity; for it is possible that a man who is at the same time rich and pitiful, should meet with every good. And for this cause the rich man’s eyes were fixed on no one else, but on him alone, who then begged his alms; that he might learn from memory of his former actions, that his punishment was just. Were there not ten thousand poor men who were righteous? But he, who then lay at his gate, alone is seen by him, to instruct him and us, how great a good it is to put no trust in riches. His poverty hindered not the one in obtaining the kingdom; his riches helped not the other to avoid hell. Where is the point at which a man is poor? where is the point at which he is reduced to beggary? He is not, he is not poor, who has nought, but he who desires many things! He is not rich who has large possessions, but he who stands in need of nothing. For what profit is there to possess the whole world, and yet live in greater despondency than he who has nothing? Their dispositions make men rich and poor, not the abundance or the want of money. Would you, who are a poor man, become rich? You may have your will, and no one can hinder you. Despise the world’s wealth, think it nought, as it is nought. Cast out the desire of wealth, and you are straightway rich. He is rich who does not desire to become rich; he who is unwilling to be poor, is the poor man. As he is the diseased man, who even in health bemoans his case, and not the man who bears his disease more lightly than perfect health, so also he is poor who cannot endure poverty, but in the midst of wealth thinks himself poorer than the poor; not he who bears his poverty more lightly than they their riches, for he is a richer man.
For tell me, wherefore learest thou poverty? wherefore tremblest thou? is it not by reason of hunger? is it not for thirst? is it not for cold? Is it not indeed for these things? There is not, there is not any one who is ever destitute in these things! “For look at the generations of old, and see, did ever any one trust in the Lord, and was forsaken? or did any one hope in Him, and was made ashamed?” (Ecclus. ii. 11.)
And again, “Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them.” (Matt. vi. 26.) No one can readily point us out any one who has perished by hunger and cold. Wherefore then dost thou tremble at poverty? Thou canst not say. For if thou hast necessaries enough, wherefore dost thou tremble at it? Because thou hast not a multitude of servants? This truly is to be quit of masters; this is continual happiness, this is freedom from care. Is it because your vessels, your couches, your furniture are not formed of silver? And what greater enjoyment than thine has he who possesses these things? None at all. The use is the same, whether they are of this or that material. Is it because thou art not an object of fear to the many? May you never become so! For what pleasure is it that any should stand in dread and fear of thee? Is it because thou art afraid of others? But thou canst not be alarmed. For “wouldest thou have no fear of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise from the same.” (Rom. xiii. 3.) Does any say, It is because we are subject to contempt, and apt to suffer ill? It is not poverty but wickedness which causes this; for many poor men have quietly passed through life, whilst rulers, and the rich, and powerful, have ended their days more wretchedly than all evil doers, than bandits, than grave-robbers. For what poverty brings in thy case, that doth wealth in theirs. For that which they who would ill-treat thee do through thy contemptible estate, they do to him from envy and the evil eye they cast upon him, and the latter still more than the former, for this is the stronger craving to ill-treat another. He who envies does everything with all his might and main, while the despiser ofttimes has even pity on the despised; and his very poverty, and utter want of power, has often been the cause of his deliverance.
And sometimes by saying to him, “A great deed it will be if you make away with such an one! If you slay one poor man, what vast advantage will you reap?” we may lulls soften down his anger. But envy sets itself against the rich, and ceases not until it has wrought its will, and has poured forth its venom. See you, neither poverty nor wealth is good in itself, but our own disposition. Let us bring it to a good tone, let us discipline it in true wisdom. If this be well affected, riches cannot cast us out of the kingdom, poverty will not make us come short. But we shall meekly bear our poverty, and receive no loss in respect to the enjoyment of future goods, nor even here on earth. But we shall both enjoy what is good on earth, and obtain the good things in heaven, which may we all obtain, through the grace and lovingkindness, &c. (source)