The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Archive for February 11th, 2017

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Matthew 5:27-37

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 11, 2017

“Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time,5 Thou shalt not commit adultery; but I say unto you, that every one who looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

Having now finished the former commandment, and having extended it unto the height of self-denial, He, advancing in course and order, proceeds accordingly unto the second, herein too obeying the law.

“And yet,” it may be said, “this is not the second, but the third; for neither is the first, “Thou shalt not kill.” but “The Lord thy God is one Lord.”6

Wherefore it is worth inquiring too, why He did not begin with that. Why was it then? Because, had He begun from thence, He must have enlarged it also, and have brought in Himself together with His Father.7 But it was not as yet time to teach any such thing about Himself.

And besides, He was for a while practising His moral doctrine only, being minded from this first, and from His miracles, to convince the hearers that He was the Son of God. Now, if He had said at once, before He had spoken or done anything, “Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, “I am the Lord thy God, and there is none other but me,” but I say unto you, Worship me even as Him; this would have made all regard Him as a madman. For if, even after His teaching, and His so great miracles, while not even yet was He saying this openly, they called Him possessed with a devil;1 had He before all these attempted to say any such thing, what would they not have said? what would they not have thought?

But by keeping back at the proper season His teaching on these subjects, He was causing that the doctrine should be acceptable to the many. Wherefore now He passed it by quickly, but when He had everywhere established it by His miracles, and by His most excellent teaching, He afterwards unveiled it in words also.

For the present, however, by the manifestation of His miracles, and by the very manner of His teaching, He unfolds it on occasion, gradually and quietly. For His enacting such laws, and such corrections of laws, with authority, would lead on the attentive and understanding hearer, by little and little, unto the word of His doctrine. For it is said, “they were astonished at Him, because He taught not as their Scribes.”2

2. For beginning from those passions, which most belong to our whole race, anger, I mean, and desire (for it is these chiefly that bear absolute sway within us, and are more natural than the rest); He with great authority, even such as became a legislator, both corrected them, and reduced them to order with all strictness. For He said not that the adulterer merely is punished; but what He had done with respect to the murderer, this He doth here also, punishing even the unchaste look: to teach thee wherein lies what He had more than the scribes. Accordingly, He saith, “He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her:” that is, he who makes it his business to be curious about bright forms, and to hunt for elegant features, and to feast his soul with the sight, and to fasten his eyes on fair countenances.

For He came to set free from all evil deeds not the body only, but the soul too before the body. Thus, because in the heart we receive the grace of the Spirit, He cleanses it out first.

“And how,” one may say, “is it possible to be freed from desire?” I answer, first, if we were willing, even this might be deadened, and remain inactive.

In the next place, He doth not here take away desire absolutely, but that desire which springs up in men from sight. For he that is curious to behold fair countenances, is himself chiefly the enkindler of the furnace of that passion, and makes his own soul a captive, and soon proceeds also to the act.

Thus we see why He said not, “whosoever shall lust to commit adultery,” but, “whosoever shall look to lust.” And in the case of anger He laid down a certain distinction, saying, “without a cause,” and “for nought;” but here not so; rather once for all He took away the desire. Yet surely both are naturally implanted, and both are set in us for our profit; both anger, and desire: the one that we may chastise the evil, and correct those who walk disorderly; the other that we may have children, and that our race may be recruited by such successions.

Why then did He not make a distinction here also? Nay, very great is the distinction which, if thou attend, thou wilt see here also included. For He said not simply, “whosoever shall desire,” since it is possible for one to desire even when sitting in the mountains; but, “Whosoever shall look to lust;” that is to say, he who gathers in lust unto himself; he who, when nothing compels him, brings in the wild beast upon his thoughts when they are calm. For this comes no longer of nature, but of self-indulgence. This even the ancient Scripture corrects from the first, saying, “Contemplate not beauty which is another’s.”3 And then, lest any one should say, “what then, if I contemplate, and be not taken captive,” He punishes the look, lest confiding in this security thou shouldest some time fall into sin. “What then,” one may say, “if I should look, and desire indeed, but do no evil?” Even so thou art set among the adulterers. For the Lawgiver hath pronounced it, and thou must not ask any more questions. For thus looking once, twice, or thrice, thou wilt perhaps have power to refrain; but if thou art continually doing this, and kindling the furnace, thou wilt assuredly be taken; for thy station is not beyond that nature which is common to men. As we then, if we see a child holding a knife, though we do not see him hurt, beat him, and forbid his ever holding it; so God likewise takes away the unchaste look even before the act, lest at any time thou shouldest fall in act also. For he who hath once kindled the flame, even when the woman whom he hath beheld is absent, is forming by himself continually images of shameful things, and from them often goes on even to the deed. For this cause Christ takes away even that embrace which is in the heart only.

What now can they say, who have those virgin inmates?1 Why, by the tenor of this law they must be guilty of ten thousand adulteries, daily beholding them with desire. For this cause the blessed Job2 also laid down this law from the beginning, blocking out from himself on all sides this kind of gazing.

For in truth greater is the struggle on beholding, and not possessing the object of fondness: nor is the pleasure so great which we reap from the sight, as the mischief we undergo from increasing this desire; thus making our opponent strong, and giving more scope to the devil, and no longer3 able to repulse him, now that we have brought him into our inmost parts, and have thrown our mind open unto him. Therefore He saith, “commit no adultery with thine eyes, and thou wilt commit none with thy mind.”

For one may indeed behold in another way, such as are the looks of the chaste; wherefore he did not altogether prohibit our seeing, but that seeing which is accompanied with desire. And if He had not meant this, He would have said simply, “He who looketh on a woman.” But now He said not thus, but, “He who looketh to lust,” “he who looketh to please his sight.”

For not at all to this end did God make thee eyes, that thou shouldest thereby introduce adultery, but that, beholding His creatures, thou shouldest admire the Artificer.

Just then as one may feel wrath at random, so may one cast looks at random; that is, when thou doest it for lust. Rather, if thou desirest to look and find pleasure, look at thine own wife, and love her continually; no law forbids that. But if thou art to be curious about the beauties that belong to another, thou art injuring both thy wife by letting thine eyes wander elsewhere, and her on whom thou hast looked, by touching her unlawfully. Since, although thou hast not touched her with the hand, yet hast thou caressed her with thine eyes; for which cause this also is accounted adultery, and before that great penalty draws after it no slight one of its own. For then all within him is filled with disquiet and turmoil, and great is the tempest, and most grievous the pain, and no captive nor person in chains can be worse off than a man in this state of mind. And oftentimes she who hath shot the dart is flown away, while the wound even so remains. Or rather, it is not she who hath shot the dart, but thou gavest thyself the fatal wound, by thine unchaste look. And this I say to free modest women from the charge: since assuredly, should one deck herself out, and invite towards herself the eyes of such as fall in her way; even though she smite not him that meets with her, she incurs the utmost penalty: for she mixed the poison, she prepared the hemlock, even though she did not offer the cup. Or rather, she did also offer the cup, though no one were found to drink it.

3. “Why then doth He not discourse with them also?” it may be said. Because the laws which He appoints are in every case common, although He seem to address Himself unto men only. For in discoursing with the head, He makes His admonition common to the whole body also. For woman and man He knows as one living creature, and nowhere distinguishes their kind.

But if thou desirest to hear also His rebuke for them in particular, listen to Isaiah,4 in many words inveighing against them, and deriding their habit, their aspect, their gait, their trailing garments, their tripping feet, their drooping necks. Hear with him the blessed Paul5 also, setting many laws for them; and both about garments, and ornaments of gold,6 and plaiting of hair, and luxurious7 living, and all other such things, vehemently rebuking this sex. And Christ too, by what follows next, obscurely intimated this very same; for when He saith, “pluck out and cut off the eye that offendeth thee,”8 He speaks as indicating His anger against them.

3. Wherefore also He subjoins,

“If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee.”1

Thus, lest thou shouldest say, “But what if she be akin to me? what if in any other way she belong to me?” therefore He hath given these injunctions; not discoursing about our limbs;—far from it,—for nowhere doth He say that our flesh is to be blamed for things, but everywhere it is the evil mind that is accused. For it is not the eye that sees, but the mind and the thought. Often, for instance, we being wholly turned elsewhere, our eye sees not those who are present. So that the matter does not entirely depend upon its working. Again, had He been speaking of members of the body, He would not have said it of one eye, nor of the right eye only, but of both. For he who is offended by his right eye, most evidently will incur the same evil by his left also. Why then did He mention the right eye, and add the hand? To show thee that not of limbs is He speaking, but of them who are near unto us. Thus, “If,” saith He, “thou so lovest any one, as though he were in stead of a right eye; if thou thinkest him so profitable to thee as to esteem him in the place of a hand, and he hurts thy soul; even these do thou cut off.” And see the emphasis; for He saith not, “Withdraw from him,” but to show the fullness of the separation, “pluck it out,” saith He, “and cast it from thee.”

Then, forasmuch as His injunction was sharp, He shows also the gain on either hand, both from the benefits and from the evils, continuing in the metaphor.

“For it is profitable for thee,” saith He, “that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”2

For while he neither saves himself, nor fails to destroy thee too, what kindness is it for both to sink, whereas if they were separated, one at least might have been preserved?

But why did Paul then, it may be said, choose to become accursed?3 Not on condition of gaining nothing, but with a view to the salvation of others. But in this case the mischief pertains to both. And therefore He said not, “pluck out” only, but also “cast from thee:” to receive him again no more, if he continue as he is. For so shalt thou both deliver him from a heavier charge, and free thyself from ruin.

But that thou mayest see yet more clearly the profit of this law; let us, if you please, try what hath been said, in the case of the body itself, by way of supposition. I mean, if choice were given, and thou must either, keeping thine eye, be cast into a pit and perish, or plucking it out, preserve the rest of thy body; wouldest thou not of course accept the latter? It is plain to everyone. For this were not to act as one hating the eye, but as one loving the rest of the body. This same reckoning do thou make with regard to men also and women: that if he who harms thee by his friendship should continue incurable, his being thus cut off will both free thee from all mischief, and he also will himself be delivered from the heavier charges, not having to answer for thy destruction along with his own evil deeds.

Seest thou how full the law is of gentleness and tender care, and that which seems to men in general to be severity, how much love towards man it discloses?

Let them hearken to these things, who hasten to the theatres, and make themselves adulterers every day. For if the law commands to cut off him, whose connexion with us tends to our hurt; what plea can they have, who, by their haunting those places, attract towards them daily those even that have not yet become known to them, and procure to themselves occasions of ruin without number?

For henceforth, He not only forbids us to look unchastely, but having signified the mischief thence ensuing, He even straitens the law as He goes on, commanding to cut off, and dissever, and cast somewhere far away. And all this He ordains, who hath uttered4 words beyond number about love, that in either way thou mightest learn His providence, and how from every source He seeks thy profit.

4. “Now it hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement.5 But I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever marrieth her that is put away, committeth adultery.”6

He goes not on to what lies before Him, until He have well cleared out the former topics. For, lo, He shows us yet another kind of adultery. And what is this? There was an ancient law made,7 that he who hated his wife, for whatever kind of cause, should not be forbidden to cast her out, and to bring home another instead of her. The law however did not command him simply to do this, but after giving the woman a writing of divorcement, that it might not be in her power to return to him again; that so at least the figure of the marriage might remain.

For if He had not enjoined this, but it were lawful first to cast her out, and take another, then afterwards to take back the former, the confusion was sure to be great, all men continually taking each others’ wives; and the matter thenceforth would have been direct adultery. With a view to this, He devised, as no small mitigation, the writing of divorcement.

But these things were done by reason of another, a far greater wickedness; I mean, had He made it necessary to keep in the house her even that was hated, the husband, hating, would have killed her. For such was the race of the Jews. For they who did not spare children, who slew prophets, and “shed blood as water,”1 much more would they have showed no mercy to women. For this cause He allowed the less, to remove the greater evil. For that this was not a primary2 law, hear Him saying, “Moses wrote these things according to the hardness of your hearts,”3 that ye might not slay them in the house, but rather put them out. But forasmuch as He had taken away all wrath, having forbidden not murder only, but even the mere feeling of anger, He with ease introduces this law likewise. With this view also He is ever bringing to mind the former words, to signify that His sayings are not contrary to them, but in agreement: that He is enforcing, not overthrowing them; perfecting, not doing them away.

And observe Him everywhere addressing His discourse to the man. Thus, “He that putteth away his wife,” saith He, “causeth her to commit adultery, and he that marrieth a woman put away, committeth adultery.” That is, the former, though he take not another wife, by that act alone hath made himself liable to blame, having made the first an adulteress; the latter again is become an adulterer by taking her who is another’s. For tell me not this, “the other hath cast her out;” nay, for when cast out she continues to be the wife of him that expelled her. Then lest He should render the wife more self-willed, by throwing it all upon him who cast her out, He hath shut against her also the doors of him who was afterwards receiving her; in that He saith, “He who marrieth her that is put away committeth adultery;” and so makes the woman chaste even though unwilling, and blocks up altogether her access to all, and suffers her not to give an occasion for jealousy.4 For she who hath been made aware that she positively must either keep the husband, who was originally allotted to her, or being cast out of that house, not have any other refuge;—she even against her will was compelled to make the best of her consort.

And if He discourse not at all unto her concerning these things, marvel not; for the woman is rather a weak creature.5 For this cause letting her go, in his threatening against the men He fully corrects her remissness. Just as if any one who had a prodigal child, leaving him, should rebuke those who make him such, and forbid them to have intercourse, or to approach him. And if that be galling, call to mind, I pray thee, His former sayings, on what terms He had blessed His hearers; and thou wilt see that it is very possible and easy. For he that is meek, and a peacemaker, and poor in spirit, and merciful, how shall he cast out his wife? He that is used to reconcile others, how shall he be at variance with her that is his own?

And not thus only, but in another way also He hath lightened the enactment: forasmuch as even for him He leaves one manner of dismissal, when He saith, “Except for the cause of fornication;” since the matter had else come round again to the same issue. For if He had commanded to keep her in the house, though defiling herself with many, He would have made the matter end again in adultery.

Seest thou how these sayings agree with what had gone before? For he who looks not with unchaste eyes upon another woman, will not commit whoredom; and not committing whoredom, he will give no occasion to the husband to cast out his wife.

Therefore, you see, after this He presses the point without reserve, and builds up this fear as a bulwark, urging on the husband the great danger, if he do cast her out, in that he makes himself accountable for her adultery. Thus, lest thou being told, “pluck out the eye,” shouldest suppose this to be said even of a wife: He added in good time this corrective, in one way only giving leave to cast her out, but no otherwise.

5. “Again, ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths. But I say unto you, swear not at all.”1

Why did He go straightway not to theft, but to false witness, passing over that commandment? Because he that steals, doth upon occasion swear also; but he that knows not either swearing or speaking falsehood, much less will he choose to steal. So that by this He hath overthrown the other sin likewise: since falsehood comes of stealing.

But what means, “Thou shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths?”2 It is this, “thou shalt be true in swearing.” “But I say unto you, swear not at all.”

Next, to lead them farther away from swearing by God, He saith, “Neither by Heaven, for it is God’s throne, nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King:”3 still speaking out of the prophetical writings, and signifying Himself not to be opposed to the ancients. This was because they had a custom of swearing by these objects, and he intimates this custom near the end of his Gospel.4

But mark, I pray thee, on what ground He magnifies the elements; not from their own nature, but from God’s relation to them, such as it had been in condescension declared. For because the tyranny of idolatry was great, that the elements might not be thought worthy of honor for their own sake, He hath assigned this cause, which we have mentioned, which again would pass on to the glory of God. For He neither said, “because Heaven is beautiful and great,” nor, “because earth is profitable;” but “because the one is God’s throne, the other His footstool;” on every side urging them on towards their Lord.

“Neither by thy head,” saith He, “because thou canst not make one hair white or black.”5

Here again, not as wondering at man, hath He withdrawn him from swearing by his head (for so man himself would be worshipped), but as referring the glory to God, and signifying that thou art not master even of thyself, and of course therefore not of the oaths made by thy head. For if no one would give up his own child to another, much more will not God give up His own work to thee. For though it be thy head, yet is it the property of another; and so far from being master thereof, thou shalt not be able to do with it, no not the least thing of all. For He said not, “Thou canst not make one hair grow;” but, “Not so much as change its quality.”

“But what,” it may be said, “if any one should require an oath, and apply constraint?” Let the fear of God be more powerful than the constraint: since, if thou art to bring forward such excuses, thou wilt keep none of the things which are enjoined.

Yea, for first with respect to thy wife thou wilt say, “what if she be contentious and extravagant;” and then as to the right eye, “what if I love it, and am quite on fire?” and of the unchaste look, “what then, if I cannot help seeing?” and of our anger against a brother, “what if I be hasty, and not able to govern my tongue?” and in general, all His sayings thou mayest on this wise trample under foot. Yet surely with regard to human laws thou darest not in any case use this allegation, nor say, “what then if this or that be the case,” but, willing or unwilling, thou receivest what is written.

And besides, thou wilt never have compulsion to undergo at all. For he that hath hearkened unto those former blessings, and hath framed himself to be such as Christ enjoined, will have no such constraint to endure from any, being held in reverence and veneration by all.

“But let your yea, be yea; and your nay, nay: for that which exceedeth these cometh of the evil one.”6

What is it then that “exceeds yea” and “nay”? it is the oath, not the perjury. For this latter is quite acknowledged, and no man needs to learn that it is of the evil one; and it is not an excess, but an opposite: whereas an excess means something more, and added over and above: which kind of thing swearing is.

“What then,” saith one, “was it of the evil one? and if it was of the evil one, how was it a law?” Well, this same thing thou wilt say concerning the wife also; how is that now accounted adultery, which was before permitted?

What now may one reply to this? That the precepts then uttered had reference to the weakness of them who were receiving the laws; since also to be worshipped with the vapor of sacrifice is very unworthy of God, just as to lisp is unworthy of a philosopher. That kind of thing accordingly was now laid down to be adultery, and swearing to be of the evil one, now that the principles of virtue have advanced. But if these things had been, from the first, laws of the devil, they would not have attained to so great goodness. Yea, for had those not been forerunners in the first place, these which we now have would not have been so easily received. Do not thou then require their excellency now, when their use is past: but then, when the time was calling for them. Or rather, if thou wilt, even now: yea, for now also is their virtue shown: and most of all for the very cause, by reason of which we find fault with them. For their appearing such now, is the greatest commendation of them. For had they not brought us up well, and made us meet for the reception of the greater precepts, they would not have appeared such.

Therefore as the breast, when it hath fulfilled all its part, and is dismissing the child to the more manly diet, after that appears useless; and the parents who before thought it necessary for the babe, now abuse it with ten thousand mockeries (and many even not content with words of abuse, anoint it also with bitter drugs; that when their words have not power to remove the child’s unseasonable propensity towards it, the real things may quench their longing): so also Christ saith, that they are of the evil one, not to indicate that the old law is of the devil, but in order that with most exceeding earnestness He might lead them away from their ancient poverty. And to them He saith these things; but with regard to the Jews, who were insensible and persevered in the same ways, He hath anointed their city all round with the terror of captivity, as with some bitter drug, and made it inaccessible. But since not even this had power to restrain them, but they desired to see it again, running to it, just as a child to the breast, He hid it from them altogether; both pulling it down, and leading away the more part of them far from it: as it is with our cattle; many, by shutting out the calves, in time induce them to forego their old familiar use of the milk.

But if the old law had belonged to the devil, it would not have led people away from idolatry, but rather would have drawn them on and cast them into it; for this did the devil desire. But now we see the opposite effect produced by the old law. And indeed this very thing, the oath, was ordained of old for this cause, that they might not swear by the idols. For “ye shall swear,” saith He, “by the true God.”1 They were then no small advantages which the law effected, but rather very great. For that they came unto the “strong meat,” was the work of its care.

“What then,” it may be said, “is not swearing of the evil one?” Yes, indeed it is altogether of the evil one; that is, now, after so high a rule of self-restraint; but then not so.

“But how,” one may say, “should the same thing become at one time good, at another time not good?” Nay, I say the very contrary: how could it help becoming good and not good, while all things are crying aloud, that they are so: the arts, the fruits of the earth, and all things else?

See it, for example, taking place first in our own kind. Thus, to be carried, in the earliest age of life, is good, but afterwards pernicious; to eat food that hath been softened in the mouth, in the first scene of our life, is good, but afterwards it is full of disgust; to be fed upon milk and to fly to the breast, is at first profitable and healthful, but tends afterwards to decay and harm. Seest thou how the same actions, by reason of the times, appear good, and again not so? Yea, and to wear the robe of a child is well as long as you are a boy, but contrariwise, when you are become a man, it is disgraceful. Wouldest thou learn of the contrary case too, how to the child again the things of the man are unsuited? Give the boy a man’s robe, and great will be the laughter; and greater the danger, he being often upset in walking after that fashion. Allow him to handle public affairs, and to traffic, and sow, and reap, and great again will be the laughter.

And why do I mention these things? when killing, which among all is acknowledged to be an invention of the evil one, killing, I say, having found its proper occasion, caused Phinehas, who committed it, to be honored with the priesthood.2 For that killing is a work of him whom I just now mentioned, hear what Christ saith; “Ye will do the works of your Father; he was a manslayer from the beginning.”3 But Phinehas became a manslayer, and “it was counted unto him” (so He speaks) “for righteousness:”4 and Abraham again on becoming not a manslayer only, but (which was far worse) the slayer of his child, won more and more approbation. And Peter too wrought a twofold slaughter, nevertheless what he did was of the Spirit.5

Let us not then examine simply the acts, but the season too, and the causes, and the mind, and the difference of persons, and whatsoever else may accompany them, these let us search out with all exactness: for there is no arriving at the truth otherwise.

And let us be diligent, if we would attain unto the kingdom, to show forth something more than the old commandments; since we cannot otherwise lay hold of the things of Heaven. For if we arrive but at the same measure, that of the ancients, we shall stand without that threshold; for “except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven.”1

6. Yet, although so heavy a threat is set down, there are some who so far from over-passing this righteousness, even come short of it; so far from shunning oaths, they even swear falsely; so far from avoiding an unchaste gaze, they even fall into the very act of wickedness. And all the rest of the things which are forbidden, they dare to do, as though past feeling: waiting for one thing only, the day of punishment, and the time when they are to pay the most extreme penalty for their misdoings. And this is the portion of those only who have ended their lives in wickedness. For these have reason to despair, and thenceforth to expect nothing else but punishment; whereas they who are yet here, may have power both to renew the fight and to conquer and be crowned with ease.

Despond not therefore, O man, neither put away thy noble earnestness; for in truth the things are not grievous, which are enjoined. What trouble is it, I pray thee, to shun an oath? What, does it cost any money? Is it sweat and hardship? It is enough to have willed only, and the whole is done.

But if you allege to me thine habit; for this very reason most of all do I say, that thy doing right is easy. For if thou bring thyself to another habit, thou hadst effected all.

Consider, for example, how among the Greeks, in many instances, persons lisping have entirely cured by much practice their halting tongue; while others, who were used to shrug up their shoulders in an unseemly way, and to be continually moving them, by putting a sword over them, have broken themselves of it.2

For since you are not persuaded out of the Scriptures, I am compelled to shame you by them that are without. This God also did unto the Jews, when He said, “Go ye forth unto the Isles of Chittim, and send unto Kedar, and know if nations will change their gods; which yet are no gods.”3 And to the brutes likewise He sends us oftentimes, saying on this wise, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard, and emulate her ways:” and “go forth to the bee.”4

This therefore I also now say unto you; consider the philosophers of the Greeks; and then ye will know of how great punishment we are worthy, who disobey the laws of God: in that they for seemliness before men have taken exceeding pains, and you bestow not the same diligence, no, not for the things of Heaven.

But if thou shouldest reply, “Habit has a wonderful power to beguile even those who are very much in earnest:” this I likewise acknowledge; however, there is another thing which I say with it; that as it is powerful to beguile, so also is it easy to be corrected. For if thou wilt set over thyself at home many to watch thee, such as thy servant, thy wife, thy friend, thou wilt easily break off from the bad habits, being hard pressed and closely restrained by all. If thou succeed in doing this for ten days only, thou wilt after that no longer need any further time, but all will be secured to thee, rooted anew in the firmness of the most excellent habit.

When therefore thou art beginning to correct this, though thou shouldest transgress thy law a first, a second, a third, a twentieth time, do not despair, but rise up again, and resume the same diligence, and thou wilt surely prevail.

For perjury surely is no trifling mischief, If to swear is of the evil one, how great the penalty which false swearing will bring! Did ye give praise to what hath been said?5 Nay, I want not applause, nor tumults, nor noise. One thing only do I wish, that quietly and intelligently listening, you should do what is said. This is the applause, this the panegyric for me. But if thou praisest what I say, but doest not what thou applaudest, greater is the punishment, more aggravated the accusation: and to us it is shame and ridicule. For the things here present are no dramatic spectacle; neither do ye now sit gazing on actors, that ye may merely applaud. This place is a spiritual school. Wherefore also there is but one thing aimed at, duly to perform the things that have been spoken, and to show forth our obedience by our works. For then only shall we have obtained all. Since as things are, to say the truth, we have fairly given up in despair. For I have not ceased giving these admonitions either to those whom I meet in private, or in discourse with you all in common. Yet I see no advantage at all gained, but you are still clinging to the former rude beginnings, which thing is enough to fill the teacher with weariness.

See, for example, Paul himself, hardly bearing it, because his scholars were delaying a long time in their earlier lessons: “For when for the time,” saith he, “ye ought to be teachers, ye have need to be taught again which be the first principles of the oracles of God.1”

Wherefore we too mourn and lament. And if I see you persisting, I will forbid you for the future to set foot on this sacred threshold, and partake of the immortal mysteries; as we do fornicators and adulterers, and persons charged with murder. Yea, for it is better to offer our accustomed prayers, with two or three, who keep the laws of God, than to sweep together2 a multitude of trangressors and corrupters of others.

Let me have no rich man, no potentate, puffing at me here, and drawing up his eyebrows; all these things are to me a fable, a shade, a dream. For no one of those who are now rich, will stand up for me there, when I am called to account and accused, as not having thoroughly vindicated the laws of God, with all due earnestness. For this, this ruined even that admirable old man,3 though in his own life giving no handle for blame; yet for all that, because he overlooked the treading under foot of God’s laws, he was chastised with his children, and paid that grievous penalty. And if, where the absolute authority of nature was so great, he who failed to treat his own children with due firmness endured so grievous a punishment; what indulgence shall we have, freed as we are from that dominion, and yet ruining all by flattery?

In order therefore that ye may not destroy both us and your own selves with us, be persuaded, I entreat you; set very many to watch over you, and call you to account, and so free yourselves from the habit of oaths; that going on orderly from thence, ye may both with all facility succeed in attaining unto all other virtue, and may enjoy the good things to come; which God grant that we may all win, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might now and always, even for ever and ever. Amen.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Matthew 5:17

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 11, 2017

“Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets.”

Why, who suspected this? or who accused Him, that He should make a defense against this charge? Since surely from what had gone before1 no such suspicion was generated. For to command men to be meek, and gentle, and merciful, and pure in heart, and to strive for righteousness, indicated no such design, but rather altogether the contrary.

Wherefore then can He have said this? Not at random, nor vainly: but inasmuch as He was proceeding to ordain commandments greater than those of old, saying, “It was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill;2 but I say unto you, Be not even angry;” and to mark out a way for a kind of divine and heavenly conversation;3 in order that the strangeness thereof might not disturb the souls of the hearers, nor dispose them quite to mutiny against what He said, He used this means of setting them right beforehand.

For although they fulfilled not the law, yet nevertheless they were possessed with much conscientious regard to it; and whilst they were annulling it every day by their deeds, the letters thereof they would have remain unmoved, and that no one should add anything more to them. Or rather, they bore with their rulers adding thereto, not however for the better, but for the worse. For so they used to set aside the honor due to our parents by additions of their own, and very many others also of the matters enjoined them, they would free themselves of4 by these unseasonable additions.

Therefore, since Christ in the first place was not of the sacredotal tribe, and next, the things which He was about to introduce were a sort of addition, not however lessening, but enhancing virtue; He knowing beforehand that both these circumstances would trouble them, before He wrote in their mind those wondrous laws, casts out that which was sure to be harboring there. And what was it that was harboring there, and making an obstacle?

2. They thought that He, thus speaking, did so with a view to the abrogation of the ancient institutions. This suspicion therefore He heals; nor here only doth He so, but elsewhere also again. Thus, since they accounted Him no less than an adversary of God, from this sort of reason, namely, His not keeping the sabbath; He, to heal such their suspicion, there also again sets forth His pleas, of which some indeed were proper to Himself; as when He saith, “My Father worketh, and I work;”5 but some had in them much condescension, as when He brings forward the sheep lost on the sabbath day,6 and points out that the law is disturbed for its preservation, and makes mention again of circumcision, as having this same effect.7

Wherefore we see also that He often speaks words somewhat beneath Him, to remove the semblance of His being an adversary of God.

For this cause He who had raised thousands of the dead with a word only, when He was calling Lazarus, added also a prayer; and then, lest this should make Him appear less than Him that begat Him, He, to correct this suspicion, added, “I said these things, because of the people which standeth by, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.”8 And neither doth He work all things as one who acted by His own power, that He might thoroughly correct their weakness; nor doth He all things with prayer, lest He should leave matter of evil suspicion to them that should follow, as though He were without strength or power: but He mingles the latter with the former, and those again with these. Neither doth He this indiscriminately, but with His own proper wisdom. For while He doeth the greater works authoritatively, in the less He looks up unto Heaven. Thus, when absolving sins, and revealing His secrets, and opening Paradise, and driving away devils, and cleansing lepers, and bridling death, and raising the dead by thousands, He did all by way of command: but when, what was much less than these, He was causing many loaves to spring forth out of few, then He looked up to Heaven: signifying that not through weakness He doth this. For He who could do the greater with authority, how in the lesser could He need prayer? But as I was saying, He doeth this to silence their shamelessness. The same reckoning, then, I bid thee make of His words also, when thou hearest Him speak lowly things. For many in truth are the causes both for words and for actions of that cast: as, for instance, that He might not be supposed alien from God; His instructing and waiting on all men; His teaching humility; His being encompassed with flesh; the Jews’ inability to hear all at once; His teaching us to utter no high word of ourselves. For this cause many times, having in His own person said much that is lowly of Himself, the great things He leaves to be said by others. Thus He Himself indeed, reasoning with the Jews, said, “Before Abraham was, i am:”1 but His disciple not thus, but, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”2

Again, that He Himself made Heaven, and earth, and sea, and all things visible and invisible, in His own person He nowhere expressly said: but His disciple, speaking plainly out, and suppressing nothing, affirms this once, twice, yea often: writing that “all things were made by Him;” and, “without Him was not one thing made;” and, He was in the world, and the world was made by Him.”3

And why marvel, if others have said greater things of Him than He of Himself; since (what is more) in many cases, what He showed forth by His deeds, by His words He uttered not openly? Thus that it was Himself who made mankind He showed clearly even by that blind man; but when He was speaking of our formation at the beginning, He said not, “I made,” but “He who made them, made them male and female.”4 Again, that He created the world and all things therein, He demonstrated by the fishes, by the wine, by the loaves, by the calm in the sea, by the sunbeam which He averted on the Cross; and by very many things besides: but in words He hath nowhere said this plainly, though His disciples are continually declaring it, both John, and Paul, and Peter.

For if they who night and day hear Him discourse, and see Him work marvels; to whom He explained many things in private, and gave so great power as even to raise the dead; whom He made so perfect, as to forsake all things for Him: if even they, after so great virtue and self-denial, had not strength to bear it all, before the supply of the Spirit; how could the people of the Jews, being both void of understanding, and far behind such excellency, and only by hazard present when He did or said anything, how could they have been persuaded but that He was alien from the God of all, unless he had practised such great condescension throughout?

For on this account we see that even when He was abrogating the sabbath, He did not as of set purpose bring in such His legislation, but He puts together many and various pleas of defense. Now if, when He was about to cause one commandment to cease, He used so much reserve in His language,5 that He might not startle the hearers; much more, when adding to the law, entire as it was, another entire code of laws, did He require much management and attention, not to alarm those who were then hearing Him.

For this same cause, neither do we find Him teaching everywhere clearly concerning His own Godhead. For if His adding to the law was sure to perplex them so greatly, much more His declaring Himself God.

3. Wherefore many things are uttered by Him, far below His proper dignity, and here when He is about to proceed upon His addition to the law, He hath used abundance for correction beforehand. For neither was it once only that He said, “I do not abrogate the law,” but He both repeated it again, and added another and a greater thing; in that, to the words, “Think not that I am come to destroy,” He subjoined, “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”

Now this not only obstructs the obstinacy of the Jews, but stops also the mouths of those heretics,6 who say that the old covenant is of the devil. For if Christ came to destroy his tyranny, how is this covenant not only not destroyed, but even fulfilled by Him? For He said not only, “I do not destroy it;” though this had been enough; but “I even fulfill it:” which are the words of one so far from opposing himself, as to be even establishing it.

And how, one may ask, did He not destroy it? in what way did He rather fulfill either the law or the prophets? The prophets He fulfilled, inasmuch as He confirmed by His actions all that had been said concerning Him; wherefore also the evangelist used to say in each case, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet.” Both when He was born,1 and when the children sung that wondrous hymn to Him, and when He sat on the ass,2 and in very many more instances He worked this same fulfillment: all which things must have been unfulfilled, if He had not come.

But the law He fulfilled, not in one way only, but in a second and third also. In one way, by transgressing none of the precepts of the law. For that He did fulfill it all, hear what He saith to John, “For thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.”3 And to the Jews also He said, “Which of you convinceth me of sin.”4 And to His disciples again, “The prince of this world cometh, and findeth nothing in me.”5 And the prophet too from the first had said that “He did no sin.”6

This then was one sense in which He fulfilled it. Another, that He did the same through us also; for this is the marvel, that He not only Himself fulfilled it, but He granted this to us likewise. Which thing Paul also declaring said, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”7 And he said also, that “He judged sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh.”8 And again, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid! yea, we establish the law.”9 For since the law was laboring at this, to make man righteous, but had not power, He came and brought in the way of righteousness by faith, and so established that which the law desired: and what the law could not by letters, this He accomplished by faith. On this account He saith, “I am not come to destroy the law.”

4. But if any one will inquire accurately, he will find also another, a third sense, in which this hath been done. Of what sort is it then? In the sense of that future code of laws, which He was about to deliver to them.

For His sayings were no repeal of the former, but a drawing out, and filling up of them. Thus, “not to kill,” is not annulled by the saying, Be not angry, but rather is filled up and put in greater security: and so of all the others.

Wherefore, you see, as He had before unsuspectedly cast the seeds of this teaching; so at the time when from His comparison of the old and new commandments, He would be more distinctly suspected of placing them in opposition, He used His corrective beforehand. For in a covert way He had indeed already scattered those seeds, by what He had said. Thus, “Blessed are the poor,” is the same as that we are not to be angry; and, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” as not to “look upon a woman for lust;” and the “not laying up treasures on earth,” harmonizes with, “Blessed are the merciful;” and “to mourn” also, “to be persecuted” and “reviled,” coincide with “entering in at the strait gate;” and, “to hunger and thirst after righteousness,” is nothing else than that which He saith afterwards, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them.” And having declared “the peace-maker blessed,” He again almost said the same, when He gave command “to leave the gift,” and hasten to reconciliation with him that was grieved, and about “agreeing with our adversary.”

But there He set down the rewards of them that do right, here rather the punishments of them who neglect practice.10 Wherefore as in that place He said, “The meek shall inherit earth;” so here, “He who calleth his brother fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire;” and there, “The pure in heart shall see God;” here, he is a complete adulterer who looks unchastely. And having there called “the peace-makers, sons of God;” here He alarms us from another quarter, saying, “Lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge.” Thus also, whereas in the former part He blesses them that mourn, and them that are persecuted; in the following, establishing the very same point, He threatens destruction to them that go not that way; for, “They that walk ‘in the broad way,’ saith He, ‘make their end there.’ ” And, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon,” seems to me the same with, “Blessed are the merciful,” and, “those that hunger after righteousness.”

But as I said, since He is going to say these things more clearly, and not only more clearly, but also to add again more than had been already said (for He no longer merely seeks a merciful man, but bids us give up even our coat; not simply a meek person, but to turn also the other cheek to him that would smite us): therefore He first takes away the apparent contradiction.

On this account, then, as I have already stated, He said this not once only, but once and again; in that to the words, “Think not that I am come to destroy,” He added, “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”

“For verily I say unto you, Till Heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all come to pass.”1

Now what He saith is like this: it cannot be that it should remain unaccomplished, but the very least thing therein must needs be fulfilled. Which thing He Himself performed, in that He completed2 it with all exactness.

And here He signifies to us obscurely that the fashion of the whole world is also being changed. Nor did He set it down without purpose, but in order to arouse the hearer, and indicate, that He was with just cause introducing another discipline; if at least the very works of the creation are all to be transformed, and mankind is to be called to another country, and to a higher way of practising how to live.3

5. “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of Heaven.”4

Thus, having rid Himself of the evil suspicion, and having stopped the mouths of them who would fain gainsay, then at length He proceeds to alarm, and sets down a heavy, denunciation in support of the enactments He was entering on.

For as to His having said this in behalf not of the ancient laws, but of those which He was proceeding to enact, listen to what follows, “For I say unto you,” saith he, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of Heaven.”5

For if He were threatening with regard to the ancient laws, how said He, “except it shall exceed?” since they who did just the same as those ancients, could not exceed them on the score of righteousness.

But of what kind was the required excess? Not to be angry, not even to look upon a woman unchastely.

For what cause then doth He call these commandments “least,” though they were so great and high? Because He Himself was about to introduce the enactment of them; for as He humbled Himself, and speaks of Himself frequently with measure, so likewise of His own enactments, hereby again teaching us to be modest in everything. And besides, since there seemed to be some suspicion of novelty, He ordered His discourse for a while with reserve.6

But when thou hearest, “least in the kingdom of Heaven,” surmise thou nothing but hell and torments. For He was used to mean by “the kingdom,” not merely the enjoyment thereof, but also the time of the resurrection, and that awful coming. And how could it be reasonable, that while he who called his brother fool, and trangressed but one commandment, falls into hell; the breaker of them all, and instigator of others to the same, should be within the kingdom. This therefore is not what He means, but that such a one will be at that time least, that is, cast out, last. And he that is last will surely then fall into hell. For, being God, He foreknew the laxity of the many, He foreknew that some would think these sayings were merely hyperbolical, and would argue about the laws, and say, What, if any one call another a fool, is he punished? If one merely look on a woman, doth he become an adulterer? For this very cause He, destroying such insolence beforehand, hath set down the strongest denunciation against either sort, as well them who transgress, as them who lead on others so to do.

Knowing then His threat as we do, let us neither ourselves transgress, nor discourage such as are disposed to keep these things.

“But whosoever shall do and teach,” saith He, “shall be called great.”

For not to ourselves alone, should we be profitable, but to others also; since neither is the reward as great for him who guides himself aright, as for one who with himself adds also another. For as teaching without doing condemns the teacher (for “thou which teachest another,” it is said, “teachest thou not thyself”7?) so doing but not guiding others, lessens our reward. One ought therefore to be chief in either work, and having first set one’s self right, thus to proceed also to the care of the rest. For on this account He Himself hath set the doing before the teaching; to intimate that so most of all may one be able to teach, but in no other way. For one will be told, “Physician, heal thyself.”8 Since he who cannot teach himself, yet attempts to set others right, will have many to ridicule him. Or rather such a one will have no power to teach at all, his actions uttering their voice against him. But if he be complete in both respects, “he shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven.”

6. “For I say unto you, Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of Heaven.”1

Here by righteousness He means the whole of virtue; even as also discoursing of Job, He said, “He was a blameless man, righteous.”2 According to the same signification of the word, Paul also called that man “righteous” for whom, as he said, no law is even set. “For,” saith he, “a law is not made for a righteous man.”3 And in many other places too one might find this name standing for virtue in general.

But observe, I pray thee, the increase of grace; in that He will have His newly-come disciples better than the teachers in the old covenant. For by “Scribes and Pharisees” here, He meant not merely the lawless, but the well-doers. For, were they not doing well, He would not have said they have a righteousness; neither would He have compared the unreal to the real.

And observe also here, how He commends the old law, by making a comparison between it and the other; which kind of thing implies it to be of the same tribe and kindred. For more and less, is in the same kind. He doth not, you see, find fault with the old law, but will have it made stricter. Whereas, had it been evil,4 He would not have required more of it; He would not have made it more perfect, but would have cast it out.

And how one may say, if it be such, doth it not bring us into the Kingdom? It doth not now bring in them who live after the coming of Christ, favored as they are with more strength, and bound to strive for greater things: since as to its own foster-children, them it doth bring in one and all. Yea, for “many shall come,” saith He, “from east and west, and shall lie down in the bosoms of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”5 And Lazarus also receiving the great prize, is shown dwelling in Abraham’s bosom. And all, as many as have shone forth with excellency in the old dispensation shone by it, every one of them. And Christ Himself, had it been in anything evil or alien from Him, would not have fulfilled it all when He came. For if only to attract the Jews He was doing this, and not in order to prove it akin to the new law, and concurrent therewith; wherefore did He not also fulfill the laws and customs of the Gentiles, that He might attract the Gentiles also?

So that from all considerations it is clear, that not from any badness in itself doth it fail to bring us in, but because it is now the season of higher precepts.

And if it be more imperfect than the new, neither doth this imply it to be evil: since upon this principle the new law itself will be in the very same case. Because in truth our knowledge of this, when compared with that which is to come, is a sort of partial and imperfect thing, and is done away on the coming of that other. “For when,” saith He, “that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away:”6 even as it befell the old law through the new. Yet we are not to blame the new law for this, though that also gives place on our attaining unto the Kingdom: for “then,” saith He, “that which is in part shall be done away:” but for all this we call it great.

Since then both the rewards thereof are greater, and the power given by the Spirit more abundant, in reason it requires our graces to be greater also. For it is no longer “a land that floweth with milk and honey,” nor a comfortable7 old age, nor many children, nor corn and wine, and flocks and herds: but Heaven, and the good things in the Heavens, and adoption and brotherhood with the Only-Begotten, and to partake of the inheritance and to be glorified and to reign with Him, and those unnumbered rewards. And as to our having received more abundant help, hear thou Paul, when he saith, “There is therefore no condemnation now to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit:8 for the law of the Spirit of life hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”9

7. And now after threatening the transgressors, and setting great rewards for them that do right, and signifying that He justly requires of us something beyond the former measures; He from this point begins to legislate, not simply, but by way of comparison with the ancient ordinances, desiring to intimate these two things: first, that not as contending with the former, but rather in great harmony with them, He is making these enactments; next, that it was meet and very seasonable for Him to add thereto these second precepts.

And that this may be made yet clearer, let us hearken to the words of the Legislator.

What then doth He Himself say?

“Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shall not kill.”10

And yet it was Himself who gave those laws also, but so far He states them impersonally. For if on the one hand He had said, “Ye have heard that I said to them of old,” the saying would have been hard to receive, and would have stood in the way of all the hearers. If again, on the other hand, after having said, “Ye have heard that it was said to them of old by my Father,” He had added, “But I say,” He would have seemed to be taking yet more on Himself.

Wherefore He hath simply stated it, making out thereby one point only; the proof that in fitting season He had come saying these things. For by the words, “It was said to them of old,” He pointed out the length of the time, since they received this commandment. And this He did to shame the hearer, shrinking from the advance to the higher class of His commandments; as though a teacher should say to a child that was indolent, “Knowest thou not how long a time thou hast consumed in learning syllables?” This then He also covertly intimates by the expression, “them of old time,” and thus for the future summons them on to the higher order of His instructions: as if He had said, “Ye are learning these lessons long enough, and you must henceforth press on to such as are higher than these.”

And it is well that He doth not disturb the order of the commandments, but begins first with that which comes earlier, with which the law also began. Yea, for this too suits with one showing the harmony between them.

“But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment.”1

Seest thou authority in perfection? Seest thou a bearing suited to a legislator? Why, which among prophets ever spake on this wise? which among righteous men? which among patriarchs? None; but, “Thus saith the Lord.” But the Son not so. Because they were publishing their Master’s commands, He His Father’s. And when I say, “His Father’s,” I mean His own. “For mine,” saith He, “are thine, and thine are mine.”2 And they had their fellow-servants to legislate for, He His own servants.

Let us now ask those who reject the law, “is, ‘Be not angry’ contrary to ‘Do no murder’? or is not the one commandment the completion and the development of the other?” Clearly the one is the fulfilling of the other, and that is greater on this very account. Since he who is not stirred up to anger, will much more refrain from murder; and he who bridles wrath will much more keep his hands to himself. For wrath is the root of murder. And you see that He who cuts up the root will much more remove the branches; or rather, will not permit them so much as to shoot out at all. Not therefore to abolish the law did He make these enactments, but for the more complete observation of it. For with what design did the law enjoin these things? Was it not, that no one might slay his neighbor? It follows, that he who was opposing the law would have to enjoin murder. For to murder, were the contrary to doing no murder. But if He doth not suffer one even to be angry, the mind of the law is established by Him more completely. For he that studies to avoid murder will not refrain from it equally with him that hath put away even anger; this latter being further removed from the crime.

8. But that we may convict them in another way also, let us bring forward all their allegations. What then do they affirm? They assert that the God who made the world, who “makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, who sends the rain on the just and on the unjust,” is in some sense an evil being.3 But the more moderate (forsooth) among them, though declining this, yet while they affirm Him to be just, they deprive Him of being good. And some other one, who is not, nor made any of the things that are, they assign for a Father to Christ. And they say that he, who is not good, abides in his own, and preserves what are his own; but that He, that is good, seeks what are another’s, and desires of a sudden to become a Saviour to them whose Creator He was not.4 Seest thou the children of the devil, how they speak out of the fountain of their father, alienating the work of creation from God: while John cries out, “He came unto His own,” and, “The world was made by Him?”1

In the next place, they criticise the law in the old covenant, which bids put out “an eye for an eye,” and “a tooth for a tooth;”2 and straightway they insult and say, “Why, how can He be good who speaks so?”

What then do we say in answer to this? That it is the highest kind of philanthropy. For He made this law, not that we might strike out one another’s eyes, but that fear of suffering by others might restrain us from doing any such thing to them. As therefore He threatened the Ninevites with overthrow, not that He might destroy them. (for had that been His will, He ought to have been silent), but that He might by fear make them better, and so quiet His wrath: so also hath He appointed a punishment for those who wantonly assail the eyes of others, that if good principle dispose them not to refrain from such cruelty, fear may restrain them from injuring their neighbors’ sight.

And if this be cruelty, it is cruelty also for the murderer to be restrained, and the adulterer checked. But these are the sayings of senseless men, and of those that are mad to the extreme of madness. For I, so far from saying that this comes of cruelty, should say, that the contrary to this would be unlawful, according to men’s reckoning. And whereas, thou sayest, “Because He commanded to pluck out “an eye for an eye,” therefore He is cruel;” I say, that if He had not given this commandment, then He would have seemed, in the judgment of most men, to be that which thou sayest He is.

For let us suppose that this law had been altogether done away, and that no one feared the punishment ensuing thereupon, but that license had been given to all the wicked to follow their own disposition in all security, to adulterers, and to murderers,3 to perjured persons, and to parricides; would not all things have been turned upside down? would not cities, market-places, and houses, sea and land, and the whole world, have been filled with unnumbered pollutions and murders? Every one sees it. For if, when there are laws, and fear, and threatening, our evil dispositions are hardly checked; were even this security taken away, what is there to prevent men’s choosing vice? and what degree of mischief would not then come revelling upon the whole of human life?

The rather, since cruelty lies not only in allowing the bad to do what they will, but in another thing too quite as much; to overlook, and leave uncared for, him who hath done no wrong, but who is without cause or reason suffering ill. For tell me; were any one to gather together wicked men from all quarters, and arm them with swords, and bid them go about the whole city, and massacre all that came in their way, could there be anything more like a wild beast than he? And what if some other should bind, and confine with the utmost strictness those whom that man had armed, and should snatch from those lawless hands them, who were on the point of being butchered; could anything be greater humanity than this?

Now then, I bid thee transfer these examples to the law likewise; for He that commands to pluck out “an eye for an eye,” hath laid the fear as a kind of strong chain upon the souls of the bad, and so resembles him, who detains those assassins in prison; whereas he who appoints no punishment for them, doth all but arm them by such security, and acts the part of that other, who was putting the swords in their hands, and letting them loose over the whole city.

Seest thou not, how the commandments, so far from coming of cruelty, come rather of abounding mercy? And if on account of these thou callest the Lawgiver grievous, and hard to bear with; tell me which sort of command is the more toilsome and grievous, “Do no murder,” or, “Be not even angry”? Which is more in extreme, he who exacts a penalty for murder, or for mere anger? He who subjects the adulterer to vengeance after the fact, or he who enjoins a penalty even for the very desire, and that penalty everlasting? See ye not how their reasoning comes round to the very contrary? how the God of the old covenant, whom they call cruel, will be found mild and meek: and He of the new, whom they acknowledged to be good, will be hard and grievous, according to their madness? Whereas we say, that there is but one and the same Legislator of either covenant, who dispensed all meetly, and adapted to the difference of the times the difference between the two systems of law. Therefore neither are the first commandments cruel, nor the second hard and grievous, but all of one and the same providential care.

For that He Himself gave the old covenant also, hear the affirmation of the prophet, or rather (so we must speak), of Him who is both the one and the other: “I will make a covenant with you, not according to the covenant which I made with your fathers.”1

But if he receive not this, who is diseased with the Manichæan doctrines,2 let him hear Paul saying the very same in another place, “For Abraham had two sons, one by the bondmaid, and another by the freewoman; and these are two covenants.”3 As therefore in that case the wives are different, the husband the same; so here too the covenants are two, the Lawgiver one.

And to prove to thee that it was of one and the same mildness; in the one He saith, “An eye for an eye,” but in this other,

“If one smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”4

For as in that case He checks him that doth the wrong with the fear of this suffering, even so also in this. “How so,” it may be said, “when He bids turn to him the other cheek also?” Nay, what of that? Since not to take away his fear did He enjoin this, but as charging yourself to allow him to take his fill entirely. Neither did He say, that the other continues unpunished, but, “do not thou punish;” at once both enhancing the fear of him that smiteth, if he persist, and comforting him who is smitten.

9. But these things we have said, as one might say them incidentally, concerning all the commandments. Now we must go on to that which is before us, and keep to the thread of what had been affirmed. “He that is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment:” so He speaks. Thus He hath not altogether taken the thing away: first, because it is not possible, being a man, to be freed from passions: we may indeed get the dominion over them, but to be altogether without them is out of the question.

Next, because this passion is even useful, if we know how to use it at the suitable time.5 See, for instance, what great good was wrought by that anger of Paul, which he felt against the Corinthians, on that well-known occasion; and how, as it delivered them from a grievous pest, so by the same means again he recovered the people of the Galatians likewise, which had fallen aside; and others too beside these.

What then is the proper time for anger? When we are not avenging ourselves, but checking others in their lawless freaks, or forcing them to attend in their negligence.

And what is the unsuitable time? When we do so as avenging ourselves: which Paul also forbidding, said “Avenge not yourselves, dearly beloved, but rather give place unto wrath.”6 When we are contending for riches: yea, for this hath he also taken away, where he saith, “Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?”7 For as this last sort is superfluous, so is the first necessary and profitable. But most men do the contrary; becoming like wild beasts when they are injured themselves, but remiss and cowardly when they see despite done to another: both which are just opposite to the laws of the Gospel.

Being angry then is not a transgression, but being so unseasonably. For this cause the prophet also said, “Be ye angry, and sin not.”8

10. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council.”

By the council in this place He means the tribunal of the Hebrews: and He hath mentioned this now, on purpose that He might not seem everywhere to play the stranger and innovator.

But this word, “Raca,” is not an expression of a great insolence, but rather of some contempt and slight on the part of the speaker. For as we, giving orders either to our servants, or to any very inferior person, say, “Away with thee; you here, tell such an one:”9 so they who make use of the Syrians’ language say, “Raca,” putting that word in stead of “thou.” But God, the lover of man, roots up even the least faults, commanding us to behave to one another in seemly manner, and with due respect; and this with a view of destroying hereby also the greater.

“But whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”10

To many this commandment hath appeared grievous and galling, if for a mere word we are really to pay so great a penalty. And some even say that it was spoken rather hyperbolically. But I fear lest, when we have deceived ourselves with words here, we may in deeds there suffer that extreme punishment.

For wherefore, tell me, doth the commandment seem overburdensome? Knowest thou not that most punishments and most sins have their beginning from words? Yea, for by words are blasphemies, and denials are by words, and revilings, and reproaches, and perjuries, and bearing false witness.1 Regard not then its being a mere word, but whether it have not much danger, this do thou inquire. Art thou ignorant that in the season of enmity, when wrath is inflamed, and the soul kindled, even the least thing appears great, and what is not very reproachful is counted intolerable? And often these little things have given birth even to murder, and overthrown whole cities. For just as where friendship is, even grievous things are light, so where enmity lies beneath, very trifles appear intolerable. And however simply a word be spoken, it is surmised to have been spoken with an evil meaning. And as in fire: if there be but a small spark, though thousands of planks lie by, it doth not easily lay hold of them; but if the flame have waxed strong and high, it readily seizes not planks only, but stones, and all materials that fall in its way; and by what things it is usually quenched, by the same it is kindled the more (for some say that at such a time not only wood and tow, and the other combustibles, but even water darted forth upon it doth but fan its power the more); so is it also with anger; whatever any one may say, becomes food in a moment for this evil conflagration. All which kind of evils Christ checking beforehand, had condemned first him that is angry without a cause to the judgment, (this being the very reason why He said, “He that is angry shall be in danger of the judgment”); then him that saith “Raca,” to the council. But as yet these are no great things; for the punishments are here. Therefore for him who calleth “fool” He hath added the fire of hell, now for the first time mentioning the name of hell. For having before discoursed much of the kingdom, not until then did He mention this; implying, that the former comes of His own love and indulgence towards man, this latter of our negligence.

11. And see how He proceeds by little and little in His punishments, all but excusing Himself unto thee, and signifying that His desire indeed is to threaten nothing of the kind, but that we drag Him on to such denunciations. For observe: “I bade thee,” saith He, “not be angry for nought, because thou art in danger of the judgment. Thou hast despised the former commandment: see what anger hath produced; it hath led thee on straightway to insult, for thou hast called thy brother ‘Raca.’ Again, I set another punishment, ‘the council.’ If thou overlook even this, and proceed to that which is more grievous, I visit thee no longer with these finite punishments, but with the undying penalty of hell, lest after this thou shouldest break forth2 even to murder.” For there is nothing, nothing in the world more intolerable than insolence; it is what hath very great power3 to sting a man’s soul. But when the word too which is spoken is in itself more wounding than the insolence, the blaze becomes twice as great. Think it not then a light thing to call another “fool.” For when of that which separates us from the brutes, and by which especially we are human beings, namely, the mind and the understanding,—when of this thou hast robbed thy brother, thou hast deprived him of all his nobleness.

Let us not then regard the words merely, but realizing the things themselves, and his feeling, let us consider how great a wound is made by this word, and unto how much evil it proceeds. For this cause Paul likewise cast out of the kingdom not only “the adulterous” and “the effeminate,” but “the revilers”4 also. And with great reason: for the insolent man mars all the beauty of charity, and casts upon his neighbor unnumbered ills, and works up lasting enmities, and tears asunder the members of Christ, and is daily driving away that peace which God so desires: giving much vantage ground unto the devil by his injurious ways, and making him the stronger. Therefore Christ Himself, cutting out the sinews of the devil’s power, brought in this law.

For indeed He makes much account of love: this being above all things the mother of every good, and the badge of His disciples, and the bond which holds together our whole condition. With reason therefore doth He remove with great earnestness the roots and the sources of that hatred which utterly spoils it.

Think not therefore that these sayings are in any wise hyperbolical, but consider the good done by them, and admire the mildness of these laws. For there is nothing for which God takes so much pains, as this; that we should be united and knit together one with another. Therefore both in His own person, and by His disciples, as well those in the Old, as in the New Testament, He makes so much account of this commandment; and is a severe avenger and punisher of those who despise the duty. For in truth nothing so effectually gives entrance and root to all wickedness, as the taking away of love. Wherefore He also said, “When iniquity abounds, the love of the many shall wax cold.”1 Thus Cain became his brother’s murderer; thus Esau; thus Joseph’s brethren; thus our unnumbered crimes have come revelling in, this bond being dissevered. You see why He Himself also roots out whatever things injure this, on every side, with great exactness.

12. Neither doth He stop at those precepts only which have been mentioned, but adds also others more than those: whereby He signifies how much account He makes thereof. Namely, having threatened by “the council,” by “the judgment,” and by “hell,” He added other sayings again in harmony with the former, saying thus:

“If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go away;2 first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”3

O goodness! O exceeding love to man! He makes no account of the honor due unto Himself, for the sake of our love towards our neighbor; implying that not at all from any enmity, nor out of any desire to punish, had He uttered those former threatenings, but out of very tender affection. For what can be milder than these sayings? “Let my service,” saith he, “be interrupted, that thy love may continue; since this also is a sacrifice, thy being reconciled to thy brother.” Yea, for this cause He said not, “after the offering,” or “before the offering;” but, while the very gift lies there, and when the sacrifice is already beginning, He sends thee to be reconciled to thy brother; and neither after removing that which lies before us,4 nor before presenting the gift, but while it lies in the midst, He bids thee hasten thither.

With what motive then doth He command so to do, and wherefore? These two ends, as it appears to me, He is hereby shadowing out and providing for. First, as I have said, His will is to point out that He highly values charity,5 and considers it to be the greatest sacrifice: and that without it He doth not receive even that other; next, He is imposing such a necessity of reconciliation; as admits of no excuse. For whoso hath been charged not to offer before he be reconciled, will hasten, if not for love of his neighbor, yet, that this may not lie unconsecrated,6 to run unto him who hath been grieved, and do away the enmity. For this cause He hath also expressed it all most significantly, to alarm and thoroughly to awaken him. Thus, when He had said, “Leave thy gift,” He stayed not at this, but added, “before the altar” (by the very place again causing him to shudder); “and go away.” And He said not merely, “Go away,” but He added, “first, and then come and offer thy gift.” By all these things making it manifest, that this table receives not them that are at enmity with each other.

Let the initiated hear this, as many as draw nigh in enmity: and let the uninitiated hear too: yea, for the saying hath some relation to them also. For they too offer a gift and a sacrifice: prayer, I mean, and alms-giving. For as to this also being a sacrifice, hear what the prophet saith: “A sacrifice of praise will glorify me;”7 and again, “Sacrifice to God a sacrifice of praise;”8 and, “The lifting up of mine hands is an evening sacrifice.”9 So that if it be but a prayer, which thou art offering in such a frame of mind, it were better to leave thy prayer, and become reconciled to thy brother, and then to offer thy prayer.

For to this end were all things done: to this end even God became man, and took order for all those works, that He might set us at one.

And whereas in this place He is sending the wrong doer to the sufferer, in His prayer He leads the sufferer to the wrong doer, and reconciles them. For as there He saith, “Forgive men their debts;” so here, “If he hath ought against thee, go thy way unto him.”

Or rather, even here too He seems to me to be sending the injured person: and for some such reason He said not, “Reconcile thyself to thy brother,” but, “Be thou reconciled.” And while the saying seems to pertain to the aggressor, the whole of it really pertains to him that is aggrieved. Thus, “If thou art reconciled to him,” saith Christ, “through thy love to him thou wilt have me also propitious, and wilt be able to offer thy sacrifice with great confidence. But if thou art still irritated, consider that even I readily command that which is mine to be lightly esteemed, that ye may become friends; and let these thoughts be soothing to thine anger.”

And He said not, “When thou hast suffered any of the greater wrongs, then be reconciled; but, “Though it be some trifle that he hath against thee.” And He added not, “Whether justly or unjustly; but merely, “If he hath ought against thee.” For though it be justly, not even in that case oughtest thou to protract the enmity; since Christ also was justly angered with us, yet nevertheless He gave Himself for us to be slain, “not imputing those trespasses.”1

For this cause Paul also, when urging us in another way to reconciliation, said, “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”2 For much as Christ by this argument of the sacrifice, so there Paul by that of the day, is urging us on to the self-same point. Because in truth he fears the night, lest it overtake him that is smitten alone, and make the wound greater. For whereas in the day there are many to distract, and draw him off; in the night, when he is alone, and is thinking it over by himself, the waves swell, and the storm becomes greater. Therefore Paul, you see, to prevent this, would fain commit him to the night already reconciled, that the devil may after that have no opportunity, from his solitude, to rekindle the furnace of his wrath, and make it fiercer. Thus also Christ permits not, though it be ever so little delay, lest, the sacrifice being accomplished, such an one become more remiss, procrastinating from day to day: for He knows that the case requires very speedy treatment. And as a skillful physician exhibits not only the preventives of our diseases, but their correctives also, even so doth He likewise. Thus, to forbid our calling “fool,” is a preventive of enmity; but to command reconciliation is a means of removing the diseases that ensue on the enmity.

And mark how both commands are set forth with earnestness. For as in the former case He threatened hell, so here He receives not the gift before the reconciliation, indicating great displeasure, and by all these methods destroying both the root and the produce.

And first of all He saith, “Be not angry;” and after that, “revile not.” For indeed both these are augmented, the one by the other: from enmity is reviling, from reviling enmity. On this account then He heals now the root, and now the fruit; hindering indeed the evil from ever springing up in the first instance: but if perchance it may have sprouted up and borne its most evil fruit, then by all means He burns it down the more.

13. Therefore, you see, having mentioned, first the judgment, then the council, then hell, and having spoken of His own sacrifice, He adds other topics again, thus speaking:

“Agree with thine adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him.”3

That is, that thou mayest not say, “What then, if I am injured;” “what if I am plundered, and dragged too before the tribunal?” even this occasion and excuse He hath taken away: for He commands us not even so to be at enmity. Then, since this injunction was great, He draws His advice from the things present, which are wont to restrain the grosser sort more than the future. “Why, what sayest thou?” saith He. “That thine adversary is stronger, and doeth thee wrong? Of course then he will wrong thee more, if thou do not make it up, but art forced to go into court. For in the former case, by giving up some money, thou wilt keep thy person free; but when thou art come under the sentence of the judge, thou wilt both be bound, and pay the utmost penalty. But if thou avoid the contest there, thou wilt reap two good results: first, not having to suffer anything painful; and secondly, that the good done will be thereafter thine own doing, and no longer the effect of compulsion on his part. But if thou wilt not be ruled by these sayings, thou wrongest not him, so much as thyself.”

And see here also how He hastens him; for having said, “Agree with thine adversary,” He added, “quickly;” and He was not satisfied with this, but even of this quickness He hath required a further increase, saying, “Whilst thou art in the way with him;” pressing and hastening him hereby with great earnestness. For nothing doth so much turn our life upside down, as delay and procrastination in the performance of our good works. Nay, this hath often caused us to lose all. Therefore, as Paul for his part saith, “Before the sun set, do away the enmity;” and as He Himself had said above, “Before the offering is completed, be reconciled;” so He saith in this place also, “Quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him,” before thou art come to the doors of the court; before thou standest at the bar, and art come to be thenceforth under the sway of him that judgeth. Since, before entering in, thou hast all in thine own control; but if thou set thy foot on that threshold, thou wilt not by ever so earnest efforts be able to arrange thy matters at thy will, having come under the constraint of another.

But what is it “to agree?” He means either, consent rather to suffer wrong?” or, “so plead the cause, as if thou wert in the place of the other;” that thou mayest not corrupt justice by self-love, but rather, deliberating on another’s cause as thine own, mayest so proceed to deliver thy vote in this matter. And if this be a great thing, marvel not; since with this view did He set forth all those His blessings, that having beforehand smoothed and prepared the hearer’s soul, he might render it apter to receive all His enactments.

Now some say that He obscurely signifies the devil himself, under the name of the adversary; and bids us have nothing of his, (for this, they say, is to “agree” with him): no compromise being possible after our departure hence, nor anything awaiting us, but that punishment, from which no prayers can deliver. But to me He seems to be speaking of the judges in this world, and of the way to the court of justice, and of this prison.

For after he had abashed men by higher things, and things future, he alarms them also by such as are in this life. Which thing Paul also doth, using both the future and the present to sway his hearer: as when, deterring from wickedness, he points out to him that is inclined to evil, the ruler armed: thus saying, “But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is a minister of God.”1 And again, enjoining us to be subject unto him, he sets forth not the fear of God only, but the threatening also of the other party, and his watchful care. “For ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.”2 Because the more irrational, as I have already said, are wont to be sooner corrected by these things, things which appear and are at hand. Wherefore Christ also made mention, not of hell only, but also of a court of justice, and of being dragged thither, and of the prison, and of all the suffering there; by all these means destroying the roots of murder. For he who neither reviles, nor goes to law, nor prolongs enmity, how will he ever commit murder? So that from hence also it is evident, that in the advantage of our neighbor stands our own advantage. For he that agrees with his adversary, will benefit himself much more; becoming free, by his own act, from courts of law, and prisons, and the wretchedness that is there.

14. Let us then be obedient to His sayings; let us not oppose ourselves, nor be contentious; for first of all, even antecedently to their rewards, these injunctions have their pleasure and profit in themselves. And if to the more part they seem to be burdensome, and the trouble which they cause, great; have it in thy mind that thou art doing it for Christ’s sake, and the pain will be pleasant. For if we maintain this way of reckoning at all times, we shall experience nothing burdensome, but great will be the pleasure we reap from every quarter; for our toil will no longer seem toil, but by how much it is enhanced, so much the sweeter and pleasanter doth it grow.

When therefore the custom of evil things, and the desire of wealth, keep on bewitching thee; do thou war against them with that mode of thinking which tells us, “Great is the reward we shall receive, for despising the pleasure which is but for a season;” and say to thy soul; “Art thou quite dejected because I defraud thee of pleasure? Nay, be of good cheer, for I am introducing thee into Heaven. Thou doest it not for man’s sake, but for God’s. Be patient therefore a little while, and thou shalt see how great is the gain. Endure for the present life, and thou shalt receive an unspeakable confidence.” For if we would thus discourse with our own soul, and not only consider that which is burdensome in virtue, but take account also of the crown that comes thereof, we shall quickly withdraw it from all wickedness.

For if the devil, holding out pleasure for a season, but pain for ever, is yet strong, and prevails; seeing our case is just the reverse in these matters, the labor temporary, the pleasure and profit immortal, what plea shall we have, if we follow not virtue after so great encouragement? Why, the object of our labors is enough to set against all, and our clear persuasion that for God’s sake we are enduring all this. For if one having the king his debtor, thinks he hath sufficient security for all his life; consider how great will he be, who hath made the Gracious and Everlasting God a debtor to himself, for good deeds both small and great. Do not then allege to me labors and sweats; for not by the hope only of the things to come, but in another way also, God hath made virtue easy, assisting us everywhere, and putting His hand to our work. And if thou wilt only contribute a little zeal, everything else follows. For to this end He will have thee too to labor a little, even that the victory may be thine also. And just as a king would have his own son present indeed in the array; he would have him shoot with the bow,1 and show himself, that the trophy may be reckoned his, while he achieves it all Himself: even so doth God in our war against the devil: He requires of thee one thing alone, that thou show forth a sincere hatred against that foe. And if thou contribute this to Him, He by Himself brings all the war to an end. Though thou burn with anger, with desire of riches, with any tyrannical passion whatever; if He see thee only stripping thyself and prepared against it, He comes quickly to thee, and makes all things easy, and sets thee above the flame, as He did those children of old in the Babylonian furnace: for they too carried in with them nought but their good will.

In order then that we also may extinguish all the furnace of disordered pleasure here, and so escape the hell that is there, let these each day be our counsels, our cares, and our practice, drawing towards us the favor of God, both by our full purpose concerning good works, and by our frequent prayers. For thus even those things which appear insupportable now, will be most easy, and light, and lovely. Because, so long as we are in our passions, we think virtue rugged and morose and arduous, vice desirable and most pleasing; but if we would stand off from these but a little, then both vice will appear abominable and unsightly, and virtue easy, mild, and much to be desired. And this you may learn plainly from those who have done well. Hear, for instance, how of those passions Paul is ashamed, even after his deliverance from them, saying, “For what fruit had ye then in those things, whereof ye are now ashamed?”2 But virtue, even after his labor, he affirms to be light, calling3 the laboriousness of our affliction momentary and “light,” and rejoicing in his sufferings, and glorying in his tribulations, and taking a pride in the marks wherewith he had been branded for Christ’s sake.

In order then that we too may establish ourselves in this habit, let us order ourselves each day by what hath been said, and “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, let us press on towards the prize of the high calling:”4 unto which God grant that we may all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

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St Augustine’s Sermon on Matthew 5:22

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 11, 2017

On the words of the gospel, Matt. 5:22, “whosoever shall say to his brother, thou fool, shall be in danger of the hell of fire.”

[I] 1. The section of the Holy Gospel which we just now heard when it was read, must have sorely alarmed us, if we have faith; but those who have not faith, it alarmed not. And because it does not alarm them, they are minded to continue in their false security, as knowing not how to divide and distinguish the proper times of security and fear. Let him then who is leading now that life which has an end, fear, that in that life which is without end, he may have security. Therefore were we alarmed. For who would not fear Him who speaketh the truth, and saith, “Whosoever shall say to his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”1 Yet “the tongue can no man tame.”2 Man tames the wild beast, yet he tames not his tongue; he tames the lion, yet he bridles not his own speech; he tames all else, yet he tames not himself; he tames what he was afraid of, and what he ought to be afraid of, in order that he may tame himself, that he does not fear. But how is this? It is a true sentence, and came forth from an oracle of truth, “But the tongue can no man tame.”

[II] 2. What shall we do then, my brethren? I see that I am speaking indeed to a large assembly, yet, seeing that we are one in Christ, let us take counsel as it were in secret. No stranger heareth us, we are all one, because we are all united in one.3 What shall we do then? “Whosoever saith to his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire: But the tongue can no man tame.” Shall all men go into hell fire? God forbid! “Lord, Thou art our refuge from generation to generation:”4 Thy wrath is just: Thou sendest no man into hell unjustly. “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit?”5 and whither shall I flee from Thee, but to Thee? Let us then understand, Dearly beloved, that if no man can tame the tongue, we must have recourse to God, that He may tame it. For if thou shouldest wish to tame it, thou canst not, because thou art a man. “The tongue can no man tame.” Observe a like instance to this in the case of those beasts which we do tame. The horse does not tame himself; the camel does not tame himself; the elephant does not tame himself; the viper does not tame himself; the lion does not tame himself; and so also man does not tame himself. But that the horse, and ox, and camel, and elephant, and lion, and viper, may be tamed, man is sought for. Therefore let God be sought to, that man may be tamed.

[III] 3. Therefore, “O Lord, art Thou become our refuge.” To Thee do we betake ourselves, and with Thy help it will be well with us. For ill is it with us by ourselves. Because we have left Thee, Thou hast left us to ourselves. Be we then found in Thee, for in ourselves were we lost. “Lord, Thou art become our refuge.” Why then, brethren, should we doubt that the Lord will make us gentle, if we give up ourselves to be tamed by him? Thou hast tamed the lion which thou madest not; shall not He tame thee, who made thee? For from whence didst thou get the power to tame such savage beasts? Art thou their equal in bodily strength? By what power then hast thou been able to tame great beasts? The very beasts of burden, as they are called, are by their nature wild. For in their untamed state they are unserviceable. But because custom has never known them except as in the hands and under the bridle and power of men, dost thou imagine that they could have been born in this tame state? But now at all events mark the beasts which are unquestionably of savage kind. “The lion roareth, who doth not fear?”6 And yet wherein is it that thou dost find thyself to be stronger than he? Not in strength of body, but in the interior reason of the mind. Thou art stronger than the lion, in that wherein thou wast made after the image of God. What! Shall the image of God tame a wild beast; and shall not God tame His own image?

[IV] 4. In Him is our hope; let us submit ourselves to Him, and entreat His mercy. In Him let us place our hope, and until we are tamed, and tamed thoroughly, that is, are perfected, let us bear our Tamer. For oftentimes does our Tamer bring forth His scourge too. For if thou dost bring forth the whip to tame thy beasts, shall not God do so to tame His beasts (which we are), who of His beasts will make us His sons? Thou tamest thine horse; and what wilt thou give thy horse, when he shall have begun to carry thee gently, to bear thy discipline, to obey thy rule, to be thy faithful, useful7 beast? How dost thou repay him, who wilt not so much as bury him when he is dead, but cast him forth to be torn by the birds of prey? Whereas when thou art tamed, God reserveth for thee an inheritance, which is God Himself, and though dead for a little time, He will raise thee to life again. He will restore to thee thy body, even to the full number of thy hairs; and will set thee with the Angels for ever, where thou wilt need no more His taming hand, but only to be possessed by His exceeding8 mercy. For God will then be “all in all;”9 neither will there be any unhappiness to exercise us, but happiness alone to feed us. Our God will be Himself our Shepherd; our God will be Himself our Cup;10 our God will be Himself our glory; our God will be Himself our wealth. What multiplicity of things soever thou seekest here, He alone will be Himself all these things to thee.

[V] 5. Unto this hope is man tamed, and shall his Tamer then be deemed intolerable? Unto this hope is man tamed, and shall he murmur against his beneficent Tamer, if He chance to use the scourge? Ye have heard the exhortation of the Apostle, “If ye are without chastening, ye are bastards, and not sons;1 for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? Furthermore,” he says, “we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live?”2 For what could thy father do for thee, that he corrected and chastised thee, brought out the scourge and beat thee? Could he make thee live for ever? What he could not do for himself, how should he do for thee? For some paltry sum of money which he had gathered together by usury and travail, did he discipline thee by the scourge, that the fruit of his labour when left to thee might not be squandered by thy evil living. Yes, he beats his son, as fearing lest his labours should be lost; forasmuch as he left to thee what he could neither retain here, nor carry away. For he did not leave thee anything here which could be his own; he went off, that so thou mightest come on. But thy God, thy Redeemer, thy Tamer, thy Chastiser, thy Father, instructeth thee. To what end? That thou mayest receive an inheritance, when thou shalt not have to carry thy father to his grave, but shall have thy Father Himself for thine inheritance. Unto this hope art thou instructed, and dost thou murmur? and if any sad chance befall thee, dost thou (it may be) blaspheme? Whither wilt thou go from His Spirit? But now He letteth thee alone, and doth not scourge thee; or He abandoneth thee in thy blaspheming; shalt thou not experience His judgment? Is it not better that He should scourge thee and receive thee, than that He should spare thee and abandon thee?

[VI] 6. Let us say then to the Lord our God, “Lord, Thou art become our refuge from generation to generation.” In the first and second generations Thou art become our refuge. Thou wast our refuge, that we might be born, who before were not. Thou wast our refuge, that we might be born anew, who were evil. Thou wast a refuge to feed those that forsake Thee. Thou art a refuge to raise up and direct Thy children. “Thou art become our refuge.” We will not go back from Thee, when Thou hast delivered us from all our evils, and filled us with Thine own good things. Thou givest good things now, Thou3 dealest softly with us, that we be not wearied in the way; Thou dost correct, and chastise, and smite, and direct us, that we may not wander from the way. Whether therefore Thou dealest softly with us, that we be not wearied in the way, or chastisest us, that we wander not from the way, “Thou art become our refuge, O Lord.”

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 11, 2017

Howbeit we speak wisdom among the perfect, yet a wisdom not of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, which are coming to naught; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God fore-ordained before the worlds unto our glory.

Darkness seems to be more suitable than light to those that are diseased in their eyesight: wherefore they betake themselves by preference to some room that is thoroughly shaded over. This also is the case with the wisdom which is spiritual. As the wisdom which is of God seemed to be foolishness unto those without: so their own wisdom, being foolishness indeed, was accounted by them wisdom. The result has been just as if a man having skill in navigation were to promise that without a ship or sails he would pass over a boundless tract of sea, and then endeavor by reasonings to prove that the thing is possible; but some other person, ignorant of it all, committing himself to a ship and a steersman and sailors, were thus to sail in safety. For the seeming ignorance of this man is wiser than the wisdom of the other. For excellent is the art of managing a ship; but when it makes too great professions it is a kind of folly. And so is every art which is not contented with its own proper limits. Just so the wisdom which is without [were wisdom indeed1] if it had had the benefit of the spirit. But since it trusted all to itself and supposed that it wanted none of that help, it became foolishness, although it seemed to be wisdom. Wherefore having first exposed it by the facts, then and not till then he calls it foolishness; and having first called the wisdom of God folly, according to their reckoning, then and not till then he shews it to be wisdom. (For after our proofs, not before, we are best able to abash the gainsayers.)

His words then are, “Howbeit we speak wisdom among the perfect:” for when I, accounted foolish and a preacher of follies, get the better of the wise, I overcome wisdom, not by foollishness but by a more perfect wisdom; a wisdom, too, so ample and so much greater, that the other appears foolishness. Wherefore having before called it by a name such as they named it at that time, and having both proved his victory from the facts, and shewn the extreme foolishness of the other side: he thenceforth bestows upon it its right name, saying, “Howbeit we speak wisdom among the perfect.” “Wisdom” is the name he gives to the Gospel, to the method of salvation, the being saved by the Cross. “The perfect,” are those who believe. For indeed they are “perfect,” who know all human things to be utterly helpless, and who overlook them from the conviction that by such they are profited nothing: such Were the true believers.

“But not a wisdom of this world.” For where is the use of the wisdom which is without, terminating here and proceeding no further, and not even here able to profit its possessors?

Now by the “rulers of the world,” here, he means not certain demons, as some suspect2, but those in authority, those in power, those who esteem the thing worth contending about, philosophers, rhetoricians and writers of speeches (λογογράφους). For these were the dominant sort and often became leaders of the people.

“Rulers of the world” he calls them, because beyond the present world their dominion extends not. Wherefore, he adds further, “which are coming to nought;” disparaging it both on its own account, and from those who wield it. For having shewn that it is false, that it is foolish, that it can discover nothing, that it is weak, he shews moreover that it is but of short duration.

[2.] “But we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery.” What mystery? For surely Christ saith, (St. Matt. 10:27. ὴκούσατε rec. text ακούετε.) “What ye have heard in the ear, proclaim upon the housetops.” How then does he call it “a mystery?” Because that neither angel nor archangel, nor any other created power knew of it before it actually took place. Wherefore he saith, (Ephes. 3:10) “That now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.” And this hath God done in honor to us, so that they not without us should hear the mysteries. For we, too, ourselves, whomsoever we make our friends, use to speak of this as a sure proof of friendship towards them, that we tell our secrets to no one in preference to them. Let those hear who expose to shame3 the secrets of the Gospel, and unto all indiscriminately display the “pearls” and the doctrine, and who cast “the holy things” unto “dogs,” and “swine,” and useless reasonings. For the Mystery wants no argumentation; but just what it is, that only is to be declared. Since it will not be a mystery, divine and whole in all its parts, when thou addest any thing to it of thyself also.

And in another sense, too, a mystery is so called; because we do not behold the things which we see, but some things we see and others we believe. For such is the nature of our Mysteries. I, for instance, feel differently upon these subjects from an unbeliever. I hear, “Christ was crucified;” and forthwith I admire His loving-kindness unto men: the other hears, and esteems it weakness. I hear, “He became a servant;” and I wonder at his care for us: the other hears, and counts it dishonor. I hear, “He died;” and am astonished at His might, that being in death He was not holden, but even broke the bands of death: the other hears, and surmises it to be helplessness. He hearing of the resurrection, saith, the thing is a legend; I, aware of the facts which demonstrate it, fall down and worship the dispensation of God. He hearing of a layer, counts it merely as water: but I behold not simply the thing which is seen, but the purification of the soul which is by the Spirit. He considers only that my body hath been washed; but I have believed that the soul also hath become both pure and holy; and I count it the sepulchre, the resurrection, the sanctification, the righteousness, the redemption, the adoption, the inheritance, the kingdom of heaven, the plenary effusion (χορηγίαν) of the Spirit. For not by the sight do I judge of the things that appear, but by the eyes of the mind. I hear of the “Body of Christ:” in one sense I understand the expression, in another sense the unbeliever.

And just as children, looking on their books, know not the meaning of the letters, neither know what they see; yea more, if even a grown man be unskilful in letters, the same thing will befall him; but the skilful will find much meaning stored up in the letters, even complete lives and histories: and an epistle in the hands of one that is unskilful will be accounted but paper and ink; but he that knows how to read will both hear a voice, and hold converse with the absent, and will reply whatsoever he chooses by means of writing: so it is also in regard of the Mystery. Unbelievers albeit they hear, seem not to hear: but the faithful, having the skill which is by the Spirit, behold the meaning of the things stored therein. For instance, it is this very thing that Paul signified, when he said that even now the word preached is hidden: for “unto them that perish,” he saith, “it is hidden.” (2 Cor. 4:3)

In another point of view, the word indicates also the Gospel’s being contrary to all expectation. By no other name is Scripture wont to call what happens beyond all hope and above all thought of men. Wherefore also in another place, “My mystery is for Me4,” and for Mine. And Paul again, (1 Cor. 15:51) “Behold, I shew you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”

[3.] And though it be everywhere preached, still is it a mystery; for as we have been commanded, “what things we have heard in the ear, to speak upon the house tops,” so have we been also charged, “not to give the holy things unto dogs nor yet to cast our pearls before swine.” (St. Matt. 7:9) For some are carnal and do not understand: others have a veil upon their hearts and do not see: wherefore that is above all things a mystery, which everywhere is preached, but is not known of those who have not a right mind; and is revealed not by wisdom but by the Holy Ghost, so far as is possible for us to receive it. And for this cause a man would not err, who in this respect also should entitle it a mystery, the utterance whereof is forbidden. (ὰπόῤῥητον) For not even unto us, the faithful, hath been committed entire certainty and exactness. Wherefore Paul also said, (ch. 13:9) “We know in part, and we prophesy in part: for now we see in a mirror darkly; but then face to face.”

[4.] For this cause he saith, “We speak wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God fore-ordained before the worlds unto our glory. Hidden:” that is, that no one of the powers above hath learnt it before us; neither do the many know it now.

“Which he fore-ordained unto our glory” and yet, elsewhere he saith, “unto his own glory,” for he considereth our salvation to be His own glory: even as also He calleth it His own riches, (vid. Ephes. 3:8) though He be Himself rich in good and need nothing in order that He may be rich.

“Fore-ordained,” he saith, pointing out the care had of us. For so those are accounted most both to honor and to love us, whosoever shall have laid themselves out to do us good from the very beginning: which indeed is what fathers do in the case of children. For although they give not their goods until afterwards, yet at first and from the beginning they had predetermined this. And this is what Paul is earnest to point out now; that God always loved us even from the beginning and when as yet we were not. For unless He had loved us, He would not have fore-ordained our riches. Consider not then the enmity which hath come between; for more ancient than that was the friendship.

As to the words, “before the worlds,” (πρὸ τῶν αὶώνων) they mean eternal. For in another place also He saith thus, “Who is before the worlds.” The Son also, if you mark it, will be found to be eternal in the same sense. For concerning Him he saith, (Heb. 1:2) “By Him He made the worlds;” which is equivalent to subsistence before the worlds; for it is plain that the maker is before the things which are made.

[5.] Ver. 8. “Which none of the rulers of this world knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.”

Now if they knew not, how said He unto them, (St. John 7:28) “Ye both know Me, and ye know whence I am?” Indeed, concerning Pilate the Scripture saith, he knew not. (vid. St. John 19:9) It is likely also that neither did Herod know. These, one might say, are called rulers of this world: but if a man were to say that this is spoken concerning the Jews also and the Priests, he would not err. For to these also He saith, (St. John 8:19) “Ye know neither Me nor My Father.” How then saith He a little before, “Ye both know Me, and ye know whence I am?” However, the manner of this way of knowledge and of that hath already been declared in the Gospel; (Hom. 49. on St. John,) and, not to be continually handling the same topic, thither do we refer our readers.

What then? was their sin in the matter of the Cross forgiven them? For He surely did say, “Forgive them.” (Luke 23:34) If they repented, it was forgiven. For even he who set countless assailants on Stephen and persecuted the Church, even Paul, became the champion of the Church. Just so then, those others also who chose to repent, had forgiveness: and this indeed Paul himself meant, when he exclaims, (Rom. 11:11, 12.). “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid.” “I say then, hath God cast away His people whom He foreknew? God forbid.” Then, to shew that their repentance was not precluded, he brought forward as a decisive proof his own conversion, saying, “For I also am an Israelite.”

As to the words, “They knew not;” they seem to me to be said here not concerning Christ’s Person, but only concerning the dispensation hidden in that event: (περὶ αὐτῆς τοῦ πράγματος τῆς οἰκονομὶας,) as if he had said, what meant “the death,” and the “Cross,” they knew not. For in that passage also He said not, “They know not Me,” but, “They know not what they do;” that is, the dispensation which is being accomplished, and the mystery, they are ignorant of. For they knew not that the Cross is to shine forth so brightly; that it is made the salvation of the world, and the reconciliation of God unto men; that their city should be taken; and that they should suffer the extreme of wretchedness.

By the name of “wisdom,” he calls both Christ, and the Cross and the Gospel. Opportunely also he called Him, “The Lord of glory.” For seeing that the Cross is counted a matter of ignominy, he signifies that the Cross was great glory: but that there was need of great wisdom in order not only to know God but also to learn this dispensation of God: and the wisdom which was without turned out an obstacle, not to the former only, but to the latter also.

[6.] Ver. 9. “But as it is written, Things which eye saw not and ear heard not, and which entered not into the heart of man, whatsoever things God prepared for them that love Him.”

Where are these words written? Why, it is said to have been “written,” then also, when it is set down, not in words, but in actual events, as in the historical books5; or when the same meaning is expressed, but not in the very same words, as in this place: for the words, “They to whom it was not told about Him shall see, and they who have not heard shall understand,” (Is. 52:15; Sept. Comp. Rom. 15:21; Is. 64:4) are the same with “the things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard.” Either then this is his meaning, or probably it was actually written in some books, and the copies have perished. For indeed many books were destroyed, and few were preserved entire even in the first captivity. And this is plain, in those which remain to us.6 For the Apostle saith (Acts 3:24) “From Samuel and the Prophets which follow after they have all spoken concerning Him:” and these their words are not entirely extant. Paul, however, as being learned in the law and speaking by the Spirit, would of course know all with accuracy. And why speak I of the captivity? Even before the captivity many books had disappeared; the Jews having rushed headlong to the last degree of impiety: and this is plain from the end of the fourth book of Kings, (2 Kings 22:8. 2 Chron. 34:14) for the book of Deuteronomy could hardly be found, having been buried somewhere in a dunghill7.

And besides, there are in many places double prophecies, easy to be apprehended by the wiser sort; from which we may find out many of the things which are obscure.

[7.] What then, hath “eye not seen what God prepared?” No. For who among men saw the things which were about to be dispensed? Neither then hath “the ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man.” How is this? For if the Prophets spoke of it, how saith he, “Ear hath not heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man?” It did not enter; for not of himself alone is he speaking, but of the whole human race. What then? The Prophets, did not they hear? Yes, they heard; but the prophetic ear was not the ear “of man:” for not as men heard they, but as Prophets. Wherefore he said, (Is. 50:4, Sept.) “He hath added unto me an ear to hear,” meaning by “addition” that which was from the Spirit. Froth whence it was plain that before hearing it had not entered into the heart of man. For after the gift of the Spirit the heart of the Prophets was not the heart of man, but a spiritual heart; as also he saith himself, “We have the mind of Christ” (v. 16) as if he would say, “Before we had the blessing of the Spirit and learnt the things which no man can speak, no one of us nor yet of the Prophets conceived them in his mind. How should we? since not even angels know them. For what need is there to speak,” saith he, “concerning ‘the rulers of this world,’ seeing that no man knew them, nor yet the powers above?”

What kind of things then are these? That by what is esteemed to be the foolishness of preaching He shall overcome the world, and the nations shall be brought in, and there shall be reconciliation of God with men, and so great blessings shall come upon us!

How then have we “known? Unto us,” he saith, “God hath revealed them by His Spirit;” not by the wisdom which is without; for this like some dishonored handmaid hath not been permitted to enter in, and stoop down and look into (see St. John 20:5) the mysteries pertaining to the Lord. Seest thou how great is the difference between this wisdom and that? The things which angels knew not, these are what she hath taught us: but she that is without, hath done the contrary. Not only hath she failed to instruct, but she hindered and obstructed, and after the event sought to obscure His doings, making the Cross of none effect. Not then simply by our receiving the knowledge, does he describe the honor vouchsafed to us, nor by our receiving it with angels, but, what is more, by His Spirit conveying it to us.

[7.] Then to show its greatness, he saith, If the Spirit which knoweth the secret things of God had not revealed them, we should not have learned them. Such an object of care was this whole subject to God, as to be among His secrets. Wherefore we needed also that Teacher who knoweth these things perfectly; for “the Spirit,” (v. 10, 11, 12) saith he, “searcheth all things, even the deep things of God.” For the word “to search” is here indicative not of ignorance, but of accurate knowledge: it is the very same mode of speaking which he used even of God, saying, “He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:27) Then having spoken with exactness concerning the knowledge of the Spirit, and having pointed out that it is as fully equal to God’s knowledge, as the knowledge of a man itself to itself; and also, that we have learned all things from it and necessarily from it; he added, “which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” Seest thou to what point he exalted us because of the Teacher’s dignity? For so much are we wiser than they as there is difference between Plato and the Holy Spirit; they having for masters the heathen rhetoricians; but we, the Holy Spirit.

[8.] But what is this, “comparing spiritual things with spiritual?” When a thing is spiritual and of dubious meaning, we adduce testimonies from the things which are spiritual. For instance, I say, Christ rose again—was born of a Virgin; I adduce testimonies and types and demonstrations; the abode of Jonah in the whale and his deliverance afterwards; the child-bearing of the barren, Sarah, Rebecca, and the rest; the springing up of the trees which took place in paradise (Gen. 2:5) when there had been no seeds sown, no rains sent down, no furrow drawn along. For the things to come were fashioned out and figured forth, as in shadow, by the former things, that these which are now might be believed when they came in. And again we shew, how of the earth was man, and how of man alone the woman; and this without any intercourse whatever; how the earth itself of nothing, the power of the Great Artificer being every where sufficient for all things. Thus “with spiritual things” do I “compare spiritual,” and in no instance have I need of the Wisdom which is without—neither its reasonings nor its embellishments. For such persons do but agitate the weak understanding and confuse it; and are not able to demonstrate clearly any one of the things which they affirm, but even have the contrary effect. They rather disturb the mind and fill it with darkness and much perplexity. Wherefore he saith, “with spiritual things comparing spiritual.”8 Seest thou how superfluous he sheweth it to be? and not only superfluous, but even hostile and injurious: for this is meant by the expressions, “lest the Cross of Christ be made of none effect,” and, “that our (‘your faith,’ rec. text) faith should not stand in the wisdom of men.” And he points out here, that it is impossible for those who confidently entrust every thing to it, to learn any useful thing: for

[9.] Ver. 14. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit.”

It is necessary then to lay it aside first. “What then,” some man will say; “is the wisdom from without stigmatized? And yet it is the work of God.” How is this clear? since He made it not, but it was an invention of thine. For in this place he calls by the term “wisdom” curious research and superfluous elegance of words. But should any one say that he means the human understanding; even in this sense the fault is thine. For thou bringest a bad name upon it, who makest a bad use of it; who to the injury and thwarting of God demandest from it things which indeed it never had. Since then thou boastest therein and fightest with God, He hath exposed its weakness. For strength of body also is an excellent thing, but when Cain used it not as he ought, God disabled him and made him tremble (Gen. 4:12, 14. Sept. “sighing and trembling,” rec. ver. “fugitive and vagabond.”) Wine also is a good thing; but because the Jews indulged in it immoderately, God prohibited the priests entirely from the use of the fruit9. And since thou also hast abused wisdom unto the rejecting of God, and hast demanded of it more than it can do of its own strength; in order to withdraw thee from human hope, he hath shewed thee its weakness.

For (to proceed) he is “a natural man, who attributes every thing to reasonings of the mind and considers not that he needs help from above; which is a mark of sheer folly. For God bestowed it that it might learn and receive help from Him, not that it should consider itself sufficient unto itself. For eyes are beautiful and useful, but should they choose to see without light, their beauty profits them nothing; nor yet their natural force, but even doth harm. So if you mark it, any soul also, if it choose to see without the Spirit, becomes even an impediment unto itself.

“How then, before this,” it will be said, “did she see all things of herself?” Never at any time did she this of herself but she had creation for a book set before her in open view. But when men having left off to walk in the way which God commanded them, and by the beauty of visible objects to know the Great Artificer, had entrusted to disputations the leading-staff of knowledge; they became weak and sank in a sea of ungodliness; for they presently brought in that which was the abyss of all evil, asserting that nothing was produced from things which were not, but from uncreated matter; and from this source they became the parents of ten thousand heresies.

Moreover, in their extreme absurdities they agreed; but in those things wherein they seemed to dream out something wholesome, though it were only as in shadows, they fell out with one another; that on both sides they might be laughed to scorn. For that out of things which are not nothing is produced, nearly all with one accord have asserted and written; and this with great zeal. In these absurdities then they were urged on by the Devil. But in their profitable sayings, wherein they seemed, though it were but darkly, (ἐν αἰνίγματι,) to find some part of what they sought, in these they waged war with one another: for instance, that the soul is immortal; that virtue needs nothing external; and that the being good or the contrary is not of necessity nor of fate.

Dost thou see the craft of the Devil? If any where he saw men speaking any thing corrupt, he made all to be of one mind; but if any where speaking any thing sound, he raised up others against them; so that the absurdities did not fail, being confirmed by the general consent, and the profitable parts died away, being variously understood. Observe how in every respect the soul is unstrung, (ἄτονος) and is not sufficient unto herself. And this fell out as one might expect. For if, being such as she is, she aspire to have need of nothing and withdraw herself from God; suppose her not fallen into that condition, and into what extreme madness would she not have insensibly sunk? If, endowed with a mortal body, she expected greater things from the false promise of the Devil—(for, “Ye shall be,” said he, “as gods” Gen. 3:4)—to What extent would she not have cast herself away, had she received her body also, from the beginning, immortal. For, even after that, she asserted herself to be unbegotten and of the essence of God, through the corrupt mouth of the Manicheans10, and it was this distemperature which gave occasion to her invention of the Grecian gods. On this account, as it seems to me, God made virtue laborious, with a view to bow down the soul and to bring it to moderation. And that thou mayest convince thyself that this is true, (as far as from trifles one may guess at any thing great,) let us learn it from the Israelites. They, it is well known, when they led not a life of toil but indulged in relaxation, not being able to bear prosperity, fell away into ungodliness. What then did God upon this? He laid upon them a multitude of laws with a view to restrain their licence. And to convince you that these laws contribute not to any virtue, but were given to them as a sort of curb, providing them with an occasion of perpetual labor; hear what saith the prophet concerning them; “I gave them statutes which were not good.” Ezek. 20:25. What means, “not good?” Such as did not much contribute towards virtue. Wherefore he adds also, “and ordinances whereby they shall not live.”

[10.] “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit.”

For as with these eyes no man could learn the things in the heavens; so neither the soul unaided the things of the Spirit. And why speak I of the things in heaven? It receives not even those in earth, all of them. For beholding afar off a square tower, we think it to be round; but such an opinion is more deception of the eyes: so also we may be sure, when a man by means of his understanding alone examines the things which are afar off much ridicule will ensue. For not only will he not see them such as indeed they are, but will even account them the contraries of what they are. Wherefore he added, “for they are foolishness unto him” But this comes not of the nature of the things, but of his infirmity, unable as he is to attain to their greatness through the eyes of his soul.

[11.] Next, pursuing his contrast, he states the cause of this, saying, “he knoweth not because they are spiritually discerned:” i.e. the things asserted require faith, and to apprehend them by reasonings is not possible, for their magnitude exceeds by a great deal the meanness of our understanding. Wherefore he saith, “but he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” For he that has sight, beholds himself all things that appertain to the man that has no sight; but no sightless person discerns what the other is about. So also in the case before us, our own matters and those of unbelievers, all of them we for our part know; but ours, they know not henceforth any more. We know what is the nature of things present, what the dignity of things to come; and what some day shall become of the world when this state of things shall be no more, and what sinners shall suffer, and the righteous shall enjoy. And that things present are nothing worth, we both know, and their meanness we expose; (for to “discern” is also to expose;) (ἀνακρίνειν, ἐλέγχειν) and that the things to come are immortal and immoveable. All these things are known to the spiritual man; and what the natural man shall suffer when he is departed into that world; and what the faithful shall enjoy when he hath fulfilled his journey from this: none of which are known to the natural man.

[12.] Wherefore also, subjoining a plain demonstration of what had been affirmed, he saith, “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” That is to say, the things which are in the mind of Christ, these we know, even the very things which He willeth and hath revealed. For since he had said, “the Spirit had revealed them;” lest any one should set aside the Son, he subjoins that Christ also shewed us these things. Not meaning this, that all the things which He knoweth, we know; but that all the things Which we know are not human so as to be open to suspicion, but of His mind and spiritual.

For the mind which we have about these things we have of Christ; that is, the knowledge which we have concerning the things of the faith is spiritual; so that with reason we are “judged of no man.” For it is not possible that a natural man should know divine things, Wherefore also he said, “For who hath known the mind of the Lord?” implying that our own mind which we have about these things, is His mind. And this, “that he may instruct Him,” he hath not added without reason, but with reference to what he had just now said, “the spiritual man no one discerneth.” For if no man is able to know the mind of God, much less can he teach and correct it. For this is the meaning of, “that he may instruct Him.”

Seest thou how from every quarter he repels the wisdom which is without, and shews that the spiritual man knoweth more things and greater? For seeing that those reasons, “That no flesh should glory;” and, “For this cause hath He chosen the foolish things, that He might confound the wise men;” and, “Lest the Cross of Christ should be made void:” seemed not to the unbelievers greatly worthy of credit, nor yet attractive, or necessary, or useful, he finishes by laying down the principal reason; because in this way we most easily see from Whom we may have the means of learning even high things, and things secret, and things which are above us. For reason was absolutely made of none effect by our inability to apprehend through Gentile wisdom the things above us.

You may observe, too, that it was more advantageous to learn in this way from the Spirit. For that is the easiest and clearest of all teaching.

“But we have the mind of Christ.” That is, spiritual, divine, that which hath nothing human. For it is not of Plato, nor of Pythagoras, but it is Christ Himself, putting His own things into our mind.

This then, if naught else, let us revere, O beloved, and let our life shine forth as most excellent; since He also Himself maketh this a sure proof of great friendship, viz. the revealing His secrets unto us: where He saith, (St. John 15:15) “Henceforth I call you not servants, for all ye are My friends; for all things which I have heard from My Father I have told unto you:” that is, I have had confidence towards you. Now if this by itself is a proof of friendship, namely, to have confidence: when it appears that He has not only confided to us the mysteries conveyed by words, (τὰ διὰ ῥημάτων μυστηρία) but also imparted to us the same conveyed by works, (διὰ τῶν ἒργων, i.e. sacramental actions) consider how vast the love of which this is the fruit. This, if nothing else, let us revere; even though we will not make any such great account of hell, yet let it be more fearful than hell to be thankless and ungrateful to such a friend and benefactor. And not as hired servants, but as sons and freemen, let us do all things for the love of our Father; and let us at last cease from adhering to the world that we may put the Greeks also to shame. For even now desiring to put out my strength against them, I shrink from so doing, lest haply, surpass them as we may by our arguments and the truth of what we teach, we bring upon ourselves much derision from the comparison of our way of life; seeing that they indeed, cleaving unto error and having no such conviction, abide by philosophy, but we do just the contrary. However, I will say it. For it may be, it may be that in practising how to contend against them, we shall long as rivals to become better than they in our mode of life also.

[14.] I was saying not long ago, that it would not have entered the Apostles’ thoughts to preach what they did preach, had they not enjoyed Divine Grace; and that so far from succeeding, they would not even have devised such a thing. Well then, let us also to-day prosecute the same subject in our discourse; and let us shew that it was a thing impossible so much as to be chosen or thought of by them, if they had not had Christ among them: not because they were arrayed, the weak against the strong, not because few against many, not because poor against rich, not because unlearned against wise, but because the strength of their prejudice, too, was great. For ye know that nothing is so strong with men as the tyranny of ancient custom. So that although they had not been twelve only, and not so contemptible, and such as they really were, but another world as large as this, and with an equivalent number arrayed on their side, or even much greater; even in this case the result would have been hard to achieve. For the other party had custom on their side, but to these their novelty was an obstacle. For nothing so much disturbs the mind, though it be done for some beneficial purpose, as to innovate and introduce strange things, and most of all when this is done in matters relating to divine worship and the glory of God. And how great force there is in this circumstance I will now make plain; first having made the following statement that there was added also another difficulty with regard to the Jews. For in the case of the Greeks, they destroyed both their gods and their doctrines altogether; but not so did they dispute with the Jews, but many of their doctrines they abolished, while the God who had enacted the same they bade them worship. And affirming that men should honor the legislator, they said, “obey not in all respects the law which is of Him;” for instance, in the keeping the Sabbath, or observing circumcision, or offering sacrifices, or doing any other like thing. So that not only was custom an impediment, but also the fact, that when they bade men worship God, they bade them break many of His laws.

[15.] But in the case of the Greeks great was the tyranny of custom. For if it had been a custom of ten years only, I say not of such a length of time, and if it had preoccupied but a few men, I say not the whole world, when these persons made their approaches; even in this case the revolution would have been hard to effect. But now sophists, and orators, and fathers, and grandfathers, and many more ancient than all these, had been preoccupied by the error: the very earth and sea, and mountains and groves, and all nations of Barbarians, and all tribes of the Greeks, and wise men and ignorant, rulers and subjects, women and men, young and old, masters and slaves, artificers and husbandmen, dwellers in cities and in the country; all of them. And those who were instructed would naturally say, “What in the world is this? Have all that dwell in the world been deceived? both sophists and orators, philosophers and historians, the present generation and they who were before this, Pythagoreans, Platonists, generals, consuls, kings, they who in all cities from the beginning were citizens and colonists, both Barbarians and Greeks? And are the twelve fishermen and tent-makers and publicans wiser than all these? Why, who could endure such a statement?” However, they spake not so, nor had it in their mind, but did endure them, and owned that they were wiser than all. Wherefore they overcame even all. And custom was no impediment to this, though accounted invincible when she hath acquired her full swing by course of time.

And that thou mayest learn how great is the strength of custom, it hath oftentimes prevailed over the commands of God. And why do I say, commands? Even over very blessings. For so the Jews when they had manna, required garlic; enjoying liberty they were mindful of their slavery; and they were continually longing for Egypt, because they were accustomed to it. Such a tyrannical thing is custom.

If thou desire to hear of it from the heathens also; it is said that Plato, although well aware that all about the gods was a sort of imposture, condescended to all the feasts and all the rest of it, as being unable to contend with custom; and as having in fact learnt this from his master. For he, too, being suspected of some such innovation, was so far from succeeding in what he desired that he even lost his life; and this, too, after making his defence. And how many men do we see now by prejudice held in idolatry, and having nothing plausible to say, when they are charged with being Greeks, but alleging the fathers, and grandfathers, and great grandfathers. For no other reason did some of the heathens call custom, second nature. But when doctrines are the subject-matter of the custom, it becomes yet more deeply rooted. For a man would change all things more easily than those pertaining to religion. The feeling of shame, too, coupled with custom, was enough to raise an obstacle; and the seeming to learn a new lesson in extreme old age, and that of those who were not so intelligent. And why wonder, should this happen in regard of the soul, seeing that even in the body custom hath great force?

[16.] In the Apostles’ case, however, there was yet another obstacle, more powerful than these; it was not merely changing custom so ancient and primitive, but there were perils also under which the change was effected. For they were not simply drawing men from one custom to another, but from a custom, wherein was no fear to an undertaking which held out threats of danger. For the believer must immediately incur confiscation, persecution, exile from his country; must suffer the worst ills, be hated of all men, be a common enemy both to his own people and to strangers. So that even if they had invited men to a customary thing out of novelty, even in this case it would have been a difficult matter. But when it was from a custom to an innovation, and with all these terrors to boot, consider how vast was the obstacle!

And again, another thing, not less than those mentioned, was added to make the change difficult. For besides the custom and the dangers, these precepts were both more burdensome, and those from which they withdrew men were easy and light. For their call was from fornication unto chastity; from love of life unto sundry kinds of death; from drunkenness unto fasting; from laughter unto tears and compunction; from covetousness unto utter indigence; from safety unto dangers: and throughout all they required the strictest circumspection. For, “Filthiness,” (Ephes. 5:4) saith he, “and foolish talking, and jesting, let it not proceed out of your mouth.” And these things they spake unto those who knew nothing else than how to be drunken and serve their bellies; who celebrated feasts made up of nothing but of “filthiness” and laughter and all manner of revellings (κωμῳδίας άπάσης.) So that not only from the matter pertaining to severity of life were the doctrines burthensome, but also from their being spoken unto men who had been brought up in careless ease, and “filthiness.” and “foolish talking,” and laughter and revellings. For who among those who had lived in these things, when he heard, (Matt. 10:38) “If a man take not up his cross and follow Me, he is not worthy of Me;” and, (Ibid. 34) “I came not to send peace but a sword, and to set a man at variance with his father, and the daughter at variance with her mother,” would not have felt himself chilled all over (ἐνάρκησε)? And who, when he heard, “If a man bid not farewell to home and country and possessions, he is not worthy of Me,” would not have hesitated, would not have refused? And yet there were men, who not only felt no chill, neither shrunk away when they heard these things, but ran to meet them and rushed upon the hardships, and eagerly caught at the precepts enjoined. Again, to be told, “For every idle word we shall give account;” (Matt. 12:36) and, “whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her as soon as seen;” (Matt. 5:28, 25) and, “whosoever is angry without cause shall fall into hell;”—which of the men of that day would not these things have frightened off? And yet all came running in, and many even leaped over the boundaries of the course. What then was their attraction? Was it not, plainly, the power of Him who was preached? For suppose that the case were not as it is, but just contrary11, that this side was the other, and the other this; would it have been easy, let me ask, to hold fast and to drag on those who resisted? We cannot say so. So that in every way that power is proved divine which wrought so excellently. Else how, tell me, did they prevail with the frivolous and the dissolute, urging them toward the severe and rough course of life?

[17.] Well; such was the nature of the precepts. But let us see whether the doctrine was attractive. Nay, in this respect also there was enough to frighten away the unbelievers. For what said the preachers? That we must worship the crucified, and count Him as God, who was born of a Jewish woman. Now who would have been persuaded by these words, unless divine power had led the way? That indeed He had been crucified and buried, all men knew; but that He had risen again and ascended, no one save the Apostles had seen.

But, you will say, they excited them by promises and deceived them by an empty sound of words. Nay, this very topic most particularly shews (even apart from all that has been said) that our doctrines are no deceit. For all its hardships took place here, but its consolations they were to promise after the resurrection. This very thing then, for I repeat it, shews that our Gospel is divine. For why did no one of the believers say, “I close not with this, neither do I endure it? Thou threatenest me with hardships here, and the good things thou promisest after the resurrection. Why, how is it plain that there will be a resurrection? Which of the departed hath returned? Which of those at rest hath risen again? Which of these hath said what shall be after our departure hence?” But none of these things entered into their minds; rather they gave up their very lives for the Crucified. So that this bare fact was more than anything a proof of great power; first, their working conviction at once, touching matters so important, in persons that had never in their lives before heard of any such thing; secondly, that they prevailed on them to take the difficulties upon trial, and to account the blessings as matter of hope. Now if they had been deceivers they would have done the contrary: their good things they would have promised as of this world (ἐντεῦθεν, so St. John 18:36); the fearful things they would not have mentioned, whether they related to the present life or the future. For so deceivers and flatterers act. Nothing harsh, nor galling, nor burdensome, do they hold out, but altogether the contrary. For this is the nature of deceit.

[18.] But “the folly,” it will be said, “of the greater part caused them to believe what they were told.” How sayest thou? When they were under Greeks, they were not foolish; but when they came over to us, did their folly then begin? And yet they were not men of another sort nor out of another world, that the Apostles took and persuaded: they were men too who simply held the opinions of the Greeks, but ours they received with the accompaniment of dangers so that if with better reason they had maintained the former, they would not have swerved from them, now that they had so long time been educated therein; and especially as not without danger was it possible to swerve. But when they came to know from the very nature of the things that all on that side was mockery and delusion, upon this, even under menaces of sundry deaths, they sprang off (ἀπεπήδησαν) from their customary ways, and came over voluntarily unto the new; inasmuch as the latter doctrine was according to nature, but the other contrary to nature.

But “the persons convinced,” it is said, “were slaves, and woman, and nurses, and midwives, and eunuchs.” Now in the first place, not of these alone doth our Church consist; and this is plain unto all. But be it of these; this is what especially makes the Gospel worthy of admiration; that such doctrines as Plato and his followers could not apprehend, the fishermen had power on a sudden to persuade the most ignorant sort of all to receive. For if they had persuaded wise men only, the result would not have been so wonderful; but in advancing slaves, and nurses, and eunuchs unto such great severity of life as to make them rivals to angels, they offered the greatest proof of their divine inspiration. Again; had they enjoined I know not what trifling matters, it were reasonable perhaps to bring forward the conviction wrought in these persons, to show the trifling nature of the things which were spoken: but if things great, and high, and almost transcending human nature, and requiring high thoughts, were the matter of their lessons of wisdom; the more foolishness thou showest in those who were convinced, by so much the more dost thou shew clearly that they who wrought the conviction were wise and filled with divine grace.

But, you will say, they prevailed on them through the excessive greatness of the promises. But tell me, is not this very thing a wonder to thee, how they persuaded men to expect prizes and recompenses after death? For this, were there nothing else, is to me matter of amazement. But this, too, it will be said, came of folly. Inform me wherein is the folly of these things: that the soul is immortal; that an impartial tribunal will receive us after the present life; that we shall render an account of our deeds and words and thoughts unto God that knoweth all secrets; that we shall see the evil undergoing punishment, and the good with crowns on their heads. Nay, these things are not of folly, but the highest instruction of wisdom. The folly is in the contrary opinions to these.

[19.] Were this then the only thing, the despising of things present, the setting much by virtue, the not seeking rewards here, but advancing far beyond in hopes, and the keeping the soul so intent and faithful as by no present terror to be hindered in respect of the hope of what shall be; tell me, to what high philosophy must this belong? But would you also learn the force of the promises and predictions in themselves, and the truth of those uttered both before and after this present state of things? Behold, I shew you a golden chain, woven cunningly from the beginning! He spake some things to them about Himself, and about the churches, and about the things to come; and as He spake, He wrought mighty works. By the fulfilment therefore of what He said, it is plain that both the wonders wrought were real, and the future and promised things also.

But that my meaning may be yet plainer, let me illustrate it from the actual case. He raised up Lazarus by a single word merely, and shewed him alive. Again, He said, “The gates of Hades shall not prevail against the Church (St. Matt. 16:18) and, “He that forsaketh father or mother, shall receive an hundred-fold in this life, and shall inherit everlasting life.” (ib. 19:29) The miracle then is one, the raising of Lazarus; but the predictions are two; made evident, the one here, the other in the world to come. Consider now, how they are all proved by one another. For if a man disbelieve the resurrection of Lazarus, from the prophecy uttered about the Church let him learn to believe the miracle. For the word spoken so many years before, came to pass then, and received accomplishment: for “the gates of Hades prevailed not against the Church.” You see that He who spake truth in the prophecy, it is clear that he also wrought the miracle: and He who both wrought the miracle and brings to accomplishment the words which He spake, it is clear that He speaks the truth also in the predictions of things yet to come, when He saith, “He who despiseth things present shall receive an hundred-fold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” For the things which have been already done and spoken, He hath given as the surest pledges of those which shall hereafter come to pass.

Of all these things then, and the like to these, collecting them together out of the Gospels, let us tell them, and so stop their mouths. But if any one say, Why then was not error completely extinguished? this may be our answer: Ye yourselves are to blame, who rebel against your own salvation. For God hath so ordered this matter (ᾠκονόμησεν,) that not even a remnant of the old impiety need be left.

[20.] Now, briefly to recount what has been said: What is the natural course of things? That the weak should be overcome by the strong, or the contrary? Those who speak things easy, or things of the harsher sort? those who attract men with dangers, or with security? innovators, or those who strengthen custom? those who lead into a rough, or into a smooth way? those who withdraw men from the institutions of their fathers, or those who lay down no strange laws? those who promise all their good things after our departure from this world, or those who flatter in the present life? the few to overcome the many, or the many the few?

But you, too, saith one, gave promises pertaining to this life. What then have we promised in this life? The forgiveness of sins and the laver of regeneration. Now in the first place, baptism itself hath its chief part in things to come; and Paul exclaims, saying, (Col. 3:4) “For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God: when your life shall be manifested, then shall ye also with Him be manifested in glory.” But if in this life also it bath advantages, as indeed it hath, this also is more than all a matter of great wonder, that they had power to persuade men who had done innumerable evil deeds, yea such as no one else had done, that they should wash themselves clean of all, and they should give account of none of their offences. So that on this very account it were most of all meet to wonder that they persuaded Barbarians to embrace such a faith as this, and to have good hopes concerning things to come; and having thrown off the former burden of their sins, to apply themselves with the greatest zeal for the time to come to those toils which virtue requires, and not to gape after any object of sense, but rising to a height above all bodily things, to receive gifts purely spiritual: yea, that the Persian, the Sarmatian, the Moor, and the Indian should be acquainted with the purification of the soul, and the power of God, and His unspeakable mercy to men, and the severe discipline of faith, and the visitation of the Holy Spirit, and the resurrection of bodies, and the doctrines of life eternal. For in all these things, and in whatever is more than these, the fishermen, initiating by Baptism divers races of Barbarians, persuaded them (φιλοσοφεῖν) to live on high principles.

Of all these things then, having observed them accurately, let us speak unto the Gentiles, and again, let us shew them the evidence of our lives: that by both means we ourselves may be saved and they drawn over by our means unto the glory of God. For unto Him be the glory for ever. Amen.

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St Augustine’s Sermon on John 5:25 and 1 Cor 3:9

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 11, 2017

On the words of the gospel, John 5:25, “verily, verily, i say unto you, the hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the son of god; and they that hear shall live,” etc.; and on the words of the apostle, “things which eye saw not,” etc., 1 Cor. 2:9.

[I] 1. Our hope, Brethren, is not of this present time, nor of this world, nor in that happiness whereby men are blinded that forget God. This ought we above all things to know, and in a Christian heart hold fast, that we were not made Christians for the good things of the present time, but for something else which God at once promiseth, and man doth not yet comprehend. For of this good it is said, “That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him.”5 Because then this good, so great, so excellent, so ineffable, fell not in with man’s understanding, it required God’s promise. For what hath been promised him, man blind of heart doth not now comprehend; nor can it be shown to him at present, what he will one day be to whom the promise is given. For so an infant child, if he could understand the words of one speaking, when himself could neither speak, nor walk, nor do anything, but feeble as we see he is, unable to stand,6 requiring the assistance of others, were able only to understand him who should speak to him and tell him, “Lo, as thou seest me walking, working, speaking, after a few years thou shall be as I am;” as he considered himself and the other, though he would see what was promised; yet considering his own feebleness, would not believe, and yet he would see what was promised. But with us infants, as it were, lying in this flesh and feebleness, that which is promised is at once great and is not seen; and so faith is aroused whereby we believe that we do not see, that we may attain7 to see what we believe. Whosoever derideth this faith, so as to think that he is not to believe in that he doth not see; when that shall come which he believed not, is put to shame: being confounded is separated, being separated, is condemned. But whoso shall have believed, is put aside at the right hand, and shall stand with great confidence and joy among those to whom it shall be said, “Come, blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom which hath been prepared for you from the beginning of the world.”8 But the Lord made an end when He spake these words, thus, “These shall go into everlasting burning, but the righteous into life eternal.”1 This is the life eternal which is promised us.

2. Because men love to live on this earth, life is promised them; and because they exceedingly fear to die, eternal life is promised them. What dost thou love? To live. This shalt thou have. What dost thou fear? To die. Thou shalt not suffer it. This seemed to be enough for human infirmity, that it should be said, “Thou shalt have eternal life.” This the mind of man can comprehend, by its present condition it can in some sort comprehend what is to be. But by the imperfection of its present condition how far can it comprehend it? Because he lives, and does not wish to die; he loves eternal life, he wishes to live always, never to die. But they who shall be tormented in punishments, have even a wish to die, and cannot. It is no great thing then to live long, or to live for ever; but to live blessedly is a great thing. [II] Let us love eternal life, and hereby may we know how greatly we ought to labour for eternal life, when we see men who love the present life, which lasts but for a time and must be brought to an end, labour so for it, that when the fear of death comes, they will do whatever they can, not to put away, but to put off death. How does a man labour, when death threatens, by flight, by concealment, by giving all he has, and redeeming himself, by toil, by endurance of torments and uneasinesses, by calling in physicians, and whatever else a man can do? See, how that after exhausting all his labour and his means, he is but able to contrive to live a little longer; to live always, he is not able. If then men strive with so great labour, with so great efforts, so great a cost, such earnestness, such watchfulness, such carefulness, that they may live a little longer; how should they strive that they may live for ever? And if they are called wise, who by all means strive to put off death, and live a few days, that they lose not a few days: how foolish are they who so live as to lose the day eternal!

3. This then only can be promised us, that this gift of God may in whatever measure be sweet to us, from this which we have at present; seeing that it is of His gift we have it, that we live, that we are in health. When then eternal life is promised, let us set before our eyes a life of such a kind, as to remove from it everything unpleasant which we suffer here. For it is easier for us to find what is not there, than what is there. Lo, here we live; we shall live there also. Here we are in health when we are not sick, and there is no pain in the body; there we shall be in health also. And when it is well with us in this life, we suffer no scourge; we shall suffer none there also. Suppose then a man here below living, in sound health, suffering no scourge; if any one were to grant him that he should be for ever so, and that this good estate should never cease, how greatly would he rejoice? how greatly be transported? how would he not contain himself in joy without pain, without torment, without end of life? If God had promised us this only, which I have mentioned, which I have just now in such words as I was able, described and set forth; at what a price ought it to be purchased if it were to be sold, how great a sum ought to be given to buy it? [III] Would all that thou hadst suffice, even though thou shouldest possess the whole world? And yet it is to be sold; buy it if thou wilt. And be not much disquieted for a thing so great, because of the largeness of the price. Its price is no more than what thou hast. Now to procure any great and precious thing, thou wouldest get ready gold, or silver, or money, or any increase of cattle, or fruits, which might be produced in thy possessions, to buy this I know not what great and excellent thing, whereby to live in this earth happily. Buy this too, if thou wilt. Do not look for what thou hast, but for what thou art. The price of this thing is thyself. Its price is what thou art thyself. Give thine own self, and thou shalt have it. Why art thou troubled? why disquieted? What? Art thou going to seek for thine own self, or to buy thyself? Lo, give thine own self as thou art, such as thou art to that thing, and thou shalt have it. But you will say, “I am wicked, and perhaps it will not accept me.” By giving thyself to it, thou wilt be good. The giving thyself to this faith and promise, this is to be good. And when thou shalt be good, thou wilt be the price of this thing; and shalt have, not only what I have mentioned, health, safety, life, and life without end; thou shalt not only have this, I will take away other things yet. There shall there be no weariness, and sleeping; there shall there be no hunger, and thirst; there shall there be no growing, and growing old; because there shall be no birth either where the numbers remain entire. The number that is there is entire; nor is there any need for it to be increased, seeing there is no chance of diminution there. Lo, how many things have I taken away, and I have not yet said what shall be there. Lo, already there is life, and safety; no scourge, no hunger, no thirst, no failing, none of these; and yet I have not said, “what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath ascended into the heart of man.” For if I have said it, it is false that is written, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it ascended into the heart of man.” For whence should it ascend into my heart, that I should say “that which hath not ascended into the heart of man”? It is believed, and not seen; not only not seen, but not even expressed. How then is it believed, if it is not expressed? Who believes what he doth not hear? But if he hear it that he may believe, it is expressed; if expressed, it is thought of; if thought of and expressed, then it entereth into the ears of men. And because it would not be expressed if it were not thought of, it hath ascended also into the heart of man. Lo, already the mere proposing of so great a thing disturbs us, that we cannot put it forth clearly in words. Who then can explain the thing itself?

[IV] 4. Let us attend to the Gospel; just now the Lord was speaking, and let us do what He said. “He that believeth in Me,” saith He, “passeth from death unto life, and cometh not into judgment. Verily I say unto you, that the hour shall come, and now is, when the dead shall hear the Voice of the Son of God, and they that bear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.”1 By begetting Him He gave it; in that He begat, He gave it. For the Son is of the Father, not the Father of the Son; but the Father is the Father of the Son, and the Son is the Son of the Father. I say the Son is begotten of the Father, not the Father of the Son; and the Son was always, always therefore begotten. Who can comprehend this “always begotten”? For when any man hears of one begotten, it occurs to him; “Therefore there was a time, when he who was begotten was not.” What say we then? Not so; there was no time before the Son, for that “all things were made by Him.”2 If all things were made by Him, times also were made by Him; how could times be before the Son, by whom times were made? Take away then all times, the Son was with the Father always. If the Son were with the Father always, and yet the Son, He was begotten always; if begotten always, He who was begotten was always with Him That begat Him.

5. You will say, “This have I never seen, one begetting, and always with him whom be begat; but he that begat came first, and he that was begotten followed in time.” You say well, “I have never seen this;” for this appertains to “that which eye hath not seen.” Do you ask how it may be expressed? It cannot be expressed; “For the ear hath not heard, neither hath it ascended unto the heart of man.” Be it believed and adored, when we believe, we adore; when we adore, we grow; when we grow, we comprehend. For as yet whilst we are in this flesh, as long as we are absent from the Lord, we are, with respect to the Holy Angels who see these things, infants to be suckled by faith, hereafter to be fed by sight. For so saith the Apostle, “As long as we are in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.”3 We shall some day come to sight, which is thus promised us by John in his Epistle; “Dearly beloved, we are the sons of God, and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be.”4 We are the sons of God now by grace, by faith, by the Sacrament, by the Blood of Christ, by the redemption of the Saviour; “We are the sons of God, and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

[V] 6. Lo, unto the comprehending of what are we being nourished up; lo, unto the embracing and the feeding on what are we being nourished up; yet so as that that which is fed on is not diminished, and he that feedeth is supported. For now food supports us by eating it; but the food which is eaten, is diminished; but when we shall begin to feed on Righteousness, to feed on Wisdom, to feed on that Food Immortal, we are at once supported, and That Food is not diminished. For if the eye knows how to feed on light, and yet doth not diminish the light; for the light will be no less because it is seen by more; it feeds the eyes of more, and yet is as great as it was before: both they are fed, and it is not diminished; if God hath granted this to the light which He hath made for the eyes of the flesh, what is He Himself, the Light for the eyes of the heart? If then any choice5 food were praised to thee, on which thou wast to dine, thou wouldest prepare the stomach; God is praised to thee, prepare the heart.

7. Behold what thy Lord saith to thee: “The hour shall come,” saith He, “and now is.” “The hour shall come,” yea, that very hour, “now is, when”—what? “when the dead shall hear the Voice of the Son of God, and they that shall hear shall live.” They then that shall not hear, shall not live. What is, “They that shall hear”? They that shall obey. What is, “They that shall hear”? They that shall believe and obey, they shall live. So then before they believed and obeyed, they lay dead; they walked, and were dead. What availed it to them, that they walked, being dead? And yet if any among them were to die a bodily death, they would run, get ready the grave, wrap him up, carry him out, bury him, the dead, the dead; of whom it is said, “Let the dead bury their dead.”6 Such dead as these are in such wise raised by the Word of God, as to live in faith. They who were dead in unbelief, are aroused by the Word. Of this hour said the Lord, “The hour shall come, and now is.” For with His Own Word did He raise them that were dead in unbelief; of whom the Apostle says, “Arise thou that sleepest, and rise up from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”1 This is the resurrection of hearts, this is the resurrection of the inner man, this is the resurrection of the soul.

[VI] 8. But this is not the only resurrection, there remains a resurrection of the body also. Whoso riseth again in soul, riseth again in body to his blessedness. For in soul all do not rise again; in body all are to rise again. In soul, I say, all do not rise again; but they that believe and obey; for, “They that shall hear shall live.” But as the Apostle says, “All men have not faith.”2 If then all men have not faith, all men do not rise again in soul. When thy hour of the resurrection of the booty shall come, all shall rise again; be they good or bad, all shall rise again. But whoso first riseth again in soul, to his blessedness riseth again in body; whoso doth not first rise again in soul, riseth again in body to his curse. Whoso riseth again in soul, riseth again in body unto life; whoso riseth not again in soul, riseth again in body unto punishment. Seeing then that the Lord hath impressed upon us this resurrection of souls, unto which we ought all to hasten, and to labour that we may live therein, and living persevere even unto the end, it remained for Him to impress upon us the resurrection of bodies also, which is to be at the end of the world. Now hear how He hath impressed this too.

9. When He had said, “Verily I say unto you, The hour shall come, and now is, when the dead,” that is, the unbelievers, “shall hear the Voice of the Son of God,” that is, the Gospel, “and they that shall hear,” that is, that shall obey, “shall live,” that is, shall be justified, and shall be unbelievers no longer; when, I say, He had said this, forasmuch as He saw that we had need to be instructed as to the resurrection of the flesh also, and were not to be left thus, He went on and said, “For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.” This refers to the resurrection of souls, to the quickening of souls. Then He added, “And hath given Him power to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” This Son of God, is Son of Man. For if the Son of God had continued the Son of God, and had not been made the Son of Man, He would not have delivered the sons of men. He who had made man, was Himself made that which He made, that what He made might not perish. But He was in such wise made the Son of Man, as to continue the Son of God. For He was made Man by assuming that which He was not, not by losing That which He was; continuing God, He was made Man. He took thee, He was not consumed in thee. As such then came He to us, the Son of God, and Son of Man, the Maker and the Made, the Creator and the Created; the Creator of His mother, Created of His mother; such came He to us. In respect of His being the Son of God, He saith, “The hour shall come, and now is, when the dead shall hear the Voice of the Son of God.” He did not say, “Of the Son of Man;” for He was impressing the truth, wherein He is equal to the Father. “And they that shall hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself;” not by participation, but “in Himself.” For we have not life in ourselves; but in our God. But He, the Father, hath life in Himself; and He begat such a Son as should have life in Himself; not be made a partaker of life, but Himself be Life, of which life we I should be partakers; that is, should have life in Himself, and Himself be Life. But that He should be made the Son of Man, He took from us. Son of God in Himself; that He should be the Son of Man, He took from us. Son of God of That which is His Own, Son of Man of ours. That which is the less, took He from us; That which is the more, gave He to us. For thus He died in that He is the Son of Man, not in that He is the Son of God. Yet the Son of God died; but He died in respect to the flesh, not in respect to “the Word which was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”3 So then in that He died, He died of that which was ours; in that we live, we live of That which is His. He could not die of That which was His own, nor could we live of that which is our own. As God then, as the Only-Begotten, as equal with Him who begat Him, did the Lord Jesus impress this upon us, that if we hear, we shall live.

[VII] 10. But, saith He, “He hath given Him power to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” So then that Form is to come to judgment. The Form of Man is to come to judgment; therefore He said, “He hath given Him power to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” The Judge here shall be the Son of Man; here shall That Form judge which was judged. Hear and understand: the Prophet had said this already, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”4 That Very Form shall they see which they smote with a spear. He shall sit as Judge, Who stood at the judge’s seat. He shall condemn the real criminals, Who was made a criminal falsely. He shall come Himself, That Form shall come. This you find in the Gospel too; when before the eyes of His disciples He was going into heaven, they stood and looked on, and the Angelic voice spake, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye,” etc. “This Jesus shall come in like manner as ye see Him going into heaven.”1 What is, “shall come in like manner”? Shall come in this Very Form. For “He hath given Him power to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.” Now see on what principle this was behoveful and right, that they who were to be judged might see the Judge. For they who were to be judged were both good and bad. “But blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”2 It remained that in the Judgment the Form of the servant should be manifested both to good and bad, the Form of God be reserved for the good alone.

11. For what is it that the good are to receive? Behold I am now expressing that which I did not express a little above; and yet in expressing I do not express it. For I said that there we shall be in sound health, shall be safe, shall be living, shall be without scourges, without hunger and thirst, without failing, without loss of our eyes. All this I said; but what we shall have more, I said not. [VIII] We shall see God. Now this will be so great, yea so great a thing will it be, that in comparison of it, all the rest is nothing. I said that we shall be living, that we shall be safe and sound, that we shall suffer no hunger and thirst, that we shall not fall into weariness, that sleep will not oppress us. All this, what is it to that happiness, whereby we shall see God? Because then God cannot be now manifested as He is, whom nevertheless we shall see; therefore, “what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,”3 this the good shall see, this shall the godly see, this the merciful shall see, this shall the faithful see, this shall they see who shall have a good lot in the resurrection of the body, for that they have had a good obedience in the resurrection of the heart.

12. Shall then the wicked man see God too? of whom Isaiah saith, “Let the ungodly be taken away, that he see not the Glory of God.”4 Both the ungodly and the godly then shall see that Form; and when the sentence, “Let the ungodly be taken away that he see not the Glory of God,” shall have been pronounced; it remains that as to the godly and the good, that be fulfilled which the Lord Himself promised, when He was here in the flesh, and seen not by the good only, but by the evil also. He spake amongst the good and evil, and was seen of all, as God, hidden, as Man, manifested; as God ruling men, as Man appearing among men: He spake, I say, among them, and said, “Whoso loveth Me, keepeth My commandments; and he that loveth Me, shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him.”5 And as if it were said to Him, And what wilt Thou give him? And “I will,” He saith, “manifest Myself to him.” When did He say this? When He was seen by men. When did He say this? When He was seen even by them, by whom He was not loved. How then was He to manifest Himself to them that loved Him, save in Such a Form, as they who loved Him then saw not? Therefore, seeing that the Form of God was being reserved, the Form of man manifested; by the Form of man, speaking to men, conspicuous and visible, He manifested Himself to all, both good and bad, He reserved Himself for them that loved Him.

[IX] 13. When is He to manifest Himself to them that love Him? After the resurrection of the body, when “the ungodly shall be taken away that he see not the Glory of God.” For then “when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.”6 This is life eternal. For all that we said before is nothing to that life. That we live, what is it? That we are in health, what is it? That we shall see God, is a great thing. This is life eternal; this Himself hath said, “But this is life eternal, that they may know Thee the Only True God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.”7 This is life eternal, that they may know, see, comprehend, acquaint themselves with what they had believed, may perceive that which they were not yet able to comprehend. Then may the mind see what “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it ascended into the heart of man;” this shall be said to them at the end, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom which hath been prepared for you from the beginning of the world.”8 Those wicked ones then shall go into everlasting burning. But the righteous, whither? Into life eternal? What is life eternal? “This is life eternal, that they may know Thee, the Only True God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.”

[X] 14. Speaking then of the future resurrection of the body, and not leaving us thus, He saith, “He hath given Him power to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Marvel not at this, for the hour shall come.” He did not add in this place, “and now is;” because this hour shall be hereafter, because this hour shall be at the end of the world, because this shall be the last hour, shall be at the last trump. “Marvel not at this,” because I have said, “He hath given Him power to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Marvel not.” For this reason have I said this, because it behoves Him as Man to be judged by men. And what men shall He judge? Those whom He finds alive? Not only those, but what? “The hour shall come, when they that are in the graves.”1 How did He express those that are dead in the flesh? “They who are in the graves,” whose corpses lie buried, whose ashes are covered up, whose bones are dispersed, whose flesh is flesh no more, and yet is entire to God. “The hour shall come, when all that are in the graves shall hear His Voice, and shall come forth.” Be they good or bad, they shall hear the Voice, and shall come forth. All the bands of the grave2 shall be burst asunder; all that was lost, yea rather was thought to be lost, shall be restored. For if God made man who was not, can He not re-fashion that which was?

[XI] 15. I suppose when it is said, “God shall raise the dead again,” no incredible thing is said; for it is of God, not of man, that it is said. It is a great thing which shall be done, yea, an incredible thing that shall be done. But let it not be incredible, for see, who It is That doeth it. He it is said shall raise thee, Who created thee. Thou wast not, and thou art; and once made, shalt thou not be? God forbid thou shouldest think so! God did something more marvellous when He made that which was not; and nevertheless He did make that which was not; and shall it be disbelieved that He is able to re-fashion that which was, by those very persons whom He made what they were not? Is this the return we make to God, we who were not, and were made? Is this the return we make Him, that we will not believe that He is able to raise again what He hath made? Is this the return which His creature renders Him? “Have I therefore,” God saith to thee, “made thee, O man, before thou wast, that thou shouldest not believe Me, that thou shall be what thou wast, who hast been able to be what thou wast not?” But you will say, “Lo, what I see in the tomb, is dust, ashes, bones; and shall this receive life again, skin, substance, flesh, and rise again? what? these ashes, these bones, which I see in the tomb?” Well. At least thou seest ashes, thou seest bones in the tomb; in thy mother’s womb there was nothing. This thou seest, ashes at least there are, and bones; before that thou wast, there was neither ashes, nor bones; and yet thou wast made, when thou wast not at all; and dost thou not believe that these bones (for in whatever state, of whatever kind they are, yet they are), shall receive the form again which they had, when thou hast received what thou hadst not? Believe; for if thou shalt believe this, then shall thy soul be raised up. And thy soul shall be raised up “now;” “The hour shall come, and now is;” then to thy blessing shall thy flesh rise again, “when the hour shall come, that all that are in the graves shall hear His Voice, and shall come forth.” For thou must not at once rejoice, because thou dost hear “and come forth;” hear what follows, “They that have done good unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation.”3 Turning to the Lord, etc.

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