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

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:8-5:10

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 27, 2018

The following post consists of St John Chrysostom’s 9th and 10th homilies on 2 Corinthians.

HOMILY IX

2 Cor. 4:8-18

We are pressed on every side, yet not straitened; perplexed, yet not unto despair; pursued, yet not forsaken.

He still dwells upon proving that the whole work is to be ascribed to the power of God, repressing the high-mindedness of those that glory in themselves. ‘For not this only,’ saith he, ‘is marvelous, that we keep this treasure in earthen vessels, but that even when enduring ten thousand hardships, and battered1 on every side, we [still] preserve and lose it not. Yet though there were a vessel of adamant, it would neither have been strong enough to carry so vast a treasure, nor have sufficed against so many machinations; yet, as it is, it both bears it and suffers no harm, through God’s grace.’ For, “we are pressed on every side,” saith he, “but not straitened.” What is, “on every side?”

‘In respect of our foes, in respect of our friends, in respect of necessaries, in respect of other needs, by them which be hostile, by them of our own household.’ “Yet not straitened.” And see how he speaks contrarieties, that thence also he may show the strength of God. For, “we are pressed on every side, yet not straitened,” saith he; “perplexed, yet not unto despair;” that is, ‘we do not quite fall off. For we are often, indeed, wrong in our calculations2, and miss our aim, yet not so as to fall away from what is set before us: for these things are permitted by God for our discipline, not for our defeat.’

Ver. 9. “Pursued, yet not forsaken; smitten down, yet not destroyed.”

For these trials do indeed befal, but not the consequences of the trials. And this indeed through the power and Grace of God. In other places indeed he says that these things were permitted in order both to their own3 humble-mindedness, and to the safety of others: for “that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn,” (2 Cor. 12:7; ib. 6) he says: and again, “Lest any man should account of me above that which he seeth me to be, or heareth from me;” and in another place again, “that we should not trust in ourselves:” (2 Cor. 1:9) here, however, that the power of God might be manifested. Seest thou how great the gain of his trials? For it both showed the power of God, and more disclosed His grace. For, saith He, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” (2 Cor. 12:9) It also anointed them unto lowliness of mind, and prepared them for keeping down the rest, and made them to be more hardy. “For patience,” saith he, “worketh probation, and probation hope.” (Rom. 5:4) For they who had fallen into ten thousand dangers and through the hope they had in God had been recovered4, were taught to hold by it more and more in all things.

Ver. 10. “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body.”

And what is the “dying of the Lord Jesus,” which they bare about? Their daily deaths by which also the resurrection was showed. ‘For if any believe not,’ he says, ‘that Jesus died and rose again, beholding us every day die and rise again, let him believe henceforward in the resurrection.’ Seest thou how he has discovered yet another reason for the trials? What then is this reason? “That his life also may be manifested in our body.” He says, ‘by snatching us out of the perils. So that this which seems a mark of weakness and destititution, this, [I say,] proclaims His resurrection. For His power had not so appeared in our suffering no unpleasantness, as it is now shown in our suffering indeed, but without being overcome.’

Ver. 11. “For we which live are also5 delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in us in our mortal flesh.”

For every where when he has said any thing obscure, he interprets himself again. So he has done here also, giving a clear interpretation of this which I have cited. ‘For therefore, “we are delivered,” ’ he says, ‘in other words, we bear about His dying that the power of His life may be made manifest, who permitteth not mortal flesh, though undergoing so great sufferings, to be overcome by the snowstorm of these calamities.’ And it may be taken too in another way. How? As he says in another place, “If we die with him, we shall also live with Him.” (2 Tim. 2:11) ‘For as we endure His dying now, and choose whilst living to die for His sake: so also will he choose, when we are dead, to beget us then unto life. For if we from life come into death, He also will from death lead us by the hand into life.’

Ver. 12. “So then death worketh in us, but life in you.”

Speaking no more of death in the strict sense6, but of trials and of rest. ‘For we indeed,’ he says, ‘are in perils and trials, but ye in rest; reaping the life which is the fruit of these perils. And we indeed endure the dangerous, but ye enjoy the good things; for ye undergo not so great trials.’

[2.] Ver. 13. “But having the same spirit of faith, according to that which is written, I believed, and therefore did I speak; we also believe, and therefore also we speak; that7 He which raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise up us also by Jesus.” (Ps. 116:10)

He has reminded us of a Psalm which abounds in heavenly wisdom8, and is especially fitted to encourage9 in dangers. For this saying that just man uttered when he was in great dangers, and from which there was no other possibility of recovery than by the aid of God. Since then kindred circumstances are most effective in comforting, therefore he says, “having the same Spirit;” that is, ‘by the same succor by which he was saved, we also are saved; by the Spirit through which he spake, we also speak.’ Whence he shows, that between the New and Old Covenants great harmony exists, and that the same Spirit wrought in either; and that not we alone are in dangers, but all those of old were so too; and that we must find a remedy10 through faith and hope, and not seek at once to be released from what is laid upon us. For having showed by arguments the resurrection and the life, and that the danger was not a mark of helplessness or destitution; he thenceforward brings in faith also, and to it commits the whole. But still of this also, he furnishes a proof, the resurrection, namely, of Christ, saying, “we also believe, and therefore also we speak.” What do we believe? tell me.

Ver. 14, 15. “That He which raised up Jesus, shall raise up also11, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the grace, being multiplied through the many, may cause the thanksgiving to abound unto the glory of God.”

Again, he fills them with lofty thoughts12, that they may not hold themselves indebted to men, I mean to the false Apostles. For the whole is of God Who willeth to bestow upon many, so that the grace may appear the greater. For your sakes, therefore, was the resurrection and all the other things. For He did not these things for the sake of one only, but of all.

Ver. 16. “Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.”

How does it decay? Being scourged, being persecuted, suffering ten thousand extremities. “Yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” How is it renewed? By faith, by hope, by a forward will, finally, by braving those extremities. For in proportion as the body suffers ten thousand things, in the like proportion hath the soul goodlier hopes and becometh brighter, like gold refined in the fire more and more. And see how he brings to nothing the sorrows of this present life.

Ver. 17, 18. “For the13 light affliction,” he saith, “which is for the moment, worketh14 more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.”

Having closed the question by a reference to hope, (and, as he said in his Epistle to the Romans, “We are saved by hope, but hope that is seen is not hope;” (Rom. 8:24) establishing the same point here also,) he sets side by side the things present with the things to come, the momentary with the eternal, the light with the weighty, the affliction with the glory. And neither is he content with this, but he addeth another expression, doubling it and saying, “more and more exceedingly15.” Next he also shows the mode how so great afflictions are light. How then light? “While we look not at the things that are seen, but at the things that are not seen.” So will both this present be light and that future great, if we withdraw ourselves from the things that are seen. “For the things that are seen are temporal.” (v. 18) Therefore the afflictions are so too. “But the things that are not seen are eternal.” Therefore the crowns are so also. And he said not the afflictions are so, but “the things that are seen;” all of them, whether punishment or rest, so that we should be neither puffed up by the one nor overborne16 by the other. And therefore when speaking of the things to come, he said not the kingdom is eternal; but, “the things which are not seen are eternal,” whether they be a kingdom, or again punishment; so as both to alarm by the one and to encourage by the other.

[3.] Since then “the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal,” let us look to them. For what excuse even can we have, if we choose the temporal instead of the eternal? For even if the present be pleasurable, yet it is not abiding; whilst the woe it entails is abiding and irremissible. For what excuse will they have who have been counted worthy of the Spirit and have enjoyed so great a gift, if they become of grovelling mind and fall down to the earth. For I hear many saying these words worthy of all scorn, ‘Give me to-day and take tomorrow.’ ‘For,’ saith one, ‘if indeed there be such things there as ye affirm, then it is one for one; but if there be no such thing at all, then it is two for nothing.’ What can be more lawless than these words? or what more idle prating17? We are discoursing about Heaven and those unspeakable good things; and thou bringest forth unto us the terms of the race-course18, yet art not ashamed nor hidest thy face, whilst uttering such things as befit maniacs? Blushest thou not that art so rivetted to the present things? Wilt thou not cease from being distraught and beside thyself, and in youth a dotard? Were Greeks indeed to talk in this way, it were no marvel: but that believers should vent such dotage, of what forgiveness doth it admit? For dost thou hold those immortal hopes in utter suspicion? Dost thou think these things to be utterly doubtful? And in what are these things deserving of pardon? ‘And who hath come,’ saith one, ‘and brought back word what is there?’ Of men indeed not any one, but God, more trustworthy than all, hath declared these things. But thou beholdest not what is there. Neither dost thou see God. Wilt thou then deny that there is a God, because thou seest Him not? ‘Yes,’ he replies, ‘I firmly believe there is a God.’ If then an infidel should ask thee, ‘And who came from Heaven and brought back word of this?’ what wilt thou answer? Whence dost thou know that there is a God? ‘From the things that are seen,’ he answers, ‘from the fair order existing through the whole creation, from its being manifest to all.’ Therefore receive also in the same way the doctrine of the judgment. ‘How?’ he asks. I will question thee, and do thou answer me. Is this God just, and will He render to each according to his deserving? or, on the contrary, doth He will the wicked should live happily and in luxury, and the good in the contrary things? ‘By no means,’ he answers, ‘for man even would not feel thus.’ Where then shall they who have done virtuously here, enjoy the things that be good? and where the wicked the opposites, except there is to be a life and retribution hereafter? Seest thou that at present it is one for one, and not two for one. But I will show thee, as I proceed, that it is not even one against one, but it shall be for the righteous two for nothing; and for the sinners and those that live here riotously, quite the contrary. For they that have lived riotously here have received not even one for one; but those who pass their life in virtue two for nothing19. For who are at in rest, they that have abused this present life, or they that followed heavenly wisdom? Perhaps thou wilt say the former, but I prove it of the latter, summoning for my witnesses those very men that have enjoyed these present things; and they will not be so shameless as to deny what I am going to say. For oftentimes have they imprecated curses upon matchmakers20 and upon the day that their bridal chamber21 was wreathed, and have proclaimed them happy who have not married. Many too of the young, even when they might have married, have refused for no other reason than the troublesomeness of the thing. And this I say, not as accusing marriage; for it is “honorable;” (Heb. 13:4) but those who have used it amiss. Now if they who have lived a married life, often considered their life not worth the living; what shall we say of those who have been swept down into whores’ deep pits, and are more slavishly and wretchedly treated than any captive? what of those who have grown rotten in luxury and have enveloped their bodies with a thousand diseases? ‘But it is a pleasure to be had in honor.’ Yea, rather, nothing is bitterer than this slavery. For he that seeketh vain honor is more servile than any slave, and desirous of pleasing any body; but he that treads it under foot is superior to all, who careth not for the glory that cometh from others. ‘But the possession of wealth is desirable.’ Yet we have often shown that they who are loose from it and have nothing, enjoy greater riches and repose. ‘But to be drunken is pleasant.’ But who will say this? Surely then if to be without riches is pleasanter than to have them, and not to marry than to marry, and not to seek vainglory than to seek it, and not to live luxuriously than to live so; even in this world they who are not riveted to those present things have the advantage. And as yet I say not how that the former, even though he be racked with ten thousand tortures, hath that good hope to carry him through: whilst the latter, even though he is in the enjoyment of a thousand delights, hath the fear of the future disquieting and confounding his pleasure. For this, too, is no light sort of punishment; nor therefore the contrary, of enjoyment and repose. And besides these there is a third sort. And what is this? In that the things of worldly delight do not even whilst they are present appear such, being refuted22 both by nature and time; but the others not only are, but also abide immovable. Seest thou that we shall be able to put not two for nothing only, but three even, and five, and ten, and twenty, and ten thousand for nothing? But that thou mayest learn this same truth by an example also,—the rich man and Lazarus,—the one enjoyed the things present, the other those to come. (Luke 16:19. &c.) Seems it then to thee to be one and one, to be punished throughout all time, and to be an hungered for a little season? to be diseased in thy corruptible body, and to scorch23 miserably in an undying one? to be crowned and live in undying delights after that little sickness, and to be endlessly tormented after that short enjoyment of his goods. And who will say this? For what wilt thou we should compare? the quantity? the quality? the rank? the decision of God24 concerning each? How long will ye utter the words of beetles that are for ever wallowing in dung! For these are not the words of reasoning men, to throw away a soul which is so precious for nothing, when there needeth little labor to receive heaven. Wilt thou that I teach thee also in another way that there is an awful tribunal there? Open the doors of thy conscience, and behold the judge that sitteth in thine heart. Now if thou condemnest thyself, although a lover of thyself, and canst not refrain from passing a righteous verdict, will not God much rather make great provision for that which is just, and pass that impartial judgment upon all; or will He permit everything to go on loosely and at random? And who will say this? No one; but both Greeks and barbarians, both poets and philosophers, yea the whole race of men in this agree with us, though differing in particulars25, and affirm that there are tribunals of some sort in Hades; so manifest and uncontroverted is the thing.

[4.] ‘And wherefore,’ saith one, ‘doth he not punish here?’ That He may display that longsuffering of His, and may offer to us the salvation that cometh by repentance, and not make our race to be swept away, nor pluck away those who by an excellent change are able to be saved, before that salvation. For if he instantly punished upon the commission of sins, and destroyed, how should Paul have been saved, how should Peter, the chief teachers of the world? How should David have reaped the salvation that came by his repentance? How the Galatians? How many others? For this reason then He neither exacts the penalty from all here, (but only from some out of all,) nor yet there from all, but from one here, and from another there; that He may both rouse those who are exceedingly insensible by means of those whom He punishes, and may cause them to expect the future things by those whom He punishes not. Or seest thou not many punished here, as those, for instance, who were buried under the ruins of that tower; (Luke 13:4, 7) as those whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices; as those who perished by an untimely death amongst the Corinthians, because they partook unworthily of the mysteries (1 Cor. 11:30); as Pharaoh; as those of the Jews who were slain by the barbarians; as many others, both then, and now, and continually? And yet others too, having sinned in many things, departed without suffering the penalty here; as the rich man in the story of Lazarus; as many others. (Luke 16) Now these things He does, both to arouse those who quite disbelieves26 in the things to come, and to make those who do believe and are careless more diligent. “For God is a righteous Judge, and strong, and longsuffering, and visits not with wrath every day.” (Ps. 7:11. LXX.) But if we abuse His longsuffering, there will come a time when He will no more be longsuffering even for a little, but will straightway inflict the penalty.

Let us not then, in order that for a single moment (for such is this present life) we may live luxuriously, draw on ourselves punishment through endless ages: but let us toil for a moment, that we may be crowned for ever. See ye not that even in worldly things most men act in this manner: and choose a brief toil in order to a long rest, even though the opposite falls out unto them? For in this life indeed there is an equal portion of toils and reward; yea, often, on the contrary, the toil is endless whilst the fruit is little, or not even a little; but in the case of the kingdom conversely, the labor is little whilst the pleasure is great and boundless. For consider: the husbandman wearieth himself the whole year through, and at the very end of his hope ofttimes misses of the fruit27 of those many toils. The shipmaster again and the soldier, until extreme old age, are occupied with wars and labors; and oftentimes hath each of them departed, the one with the loss of his wealthy cargoes, the other, along with victory, of life itself. What excuse then shall we have, tell me, if in worldly matters indeed we prefer what is laborious in order that we may rest for a little, or not a little even; (for the hope of this is uncertain;) but in spiritual things do the converse of this and draw upon ourselves unutterable punishment for a little sloth? Wherefore I beseech you all, though late, yet still at length to recover from this frenzy. For none shall deliver us in that day; neither brother, nor father, nor child, nor friend, nor neighbor, nor any other: but if our works play us false, all will be over and we must needs28 perish. How many lamentations did that rich man make, and besought the Patriarch and begged that Lazarus might be sent! But hear what Abraham said unto him: “There is a gulf29 betwixt us and you, so that they who wish to go forth cannot pass thither.” (Luke 16:26) How many petitions did those virgins make to their fellows for a little oil! But hear what they also say; “Peradventure there will not be enough for you and for us;” (Mat. 25:9) and none was able to bring them in to the bridal chamber.

Thinking then on these things let us also be careful of that which is our life. For mention what toils soever and bring forward besides what punishment soever; all these combined will be nothing in comparison of the good things to come. Instance therefore, if thou wilt, fire and steel and wild beasts, and if there be aught sorer than these; but yet these are not even a shadow compared with those torments. For these things when applied in excess become then especially light, making the release speedy30; since the body sufficeth not unto intensity at once and long continuance of suffering; but both meet together, both prolongation and excess, alike in the good and the grievous. Whilst we have time then, “let us come before His presence with confession,” (Ps. 95:2, LXX.) that in that day we may behold Him gentle and serene, that we may escape altogether those threat-bearing Powers. Seest thou not how this world’s soldiers who perform the bidding of those in authority drag men about; how they chain, how they scourge them, how they pierce their sides, how they apply torches to their torments, how they dismember them? Yet all these things are but plays and joke unto those punishments. For these punishments are temporal; but there neither the worm dieth nor is the fire quenched: for that body of all is incorruptible, which is then to be raised up. But God grant that we may never learn these things by experience; but that these fearful things may never be nearer unto us than in the mention of them31; and that we be not delivered over to those tormentors, but may be hence made wise32. How many things shall we then say in accusation of ourselves! How many lamentations shall we utter! How many groans! But it will thenceforth be of no avail. For neither can sailors, when the ship hath gone to pieces and hath sunk, thereafter be of any service; nor physicians when the patient is departed; but they will often say indeed that so and so ought to have been done; but all is fruitless and in vain. For as long indeed as hopes remain from amendment, one ought both to say and do every thing: but when we have no longer any thing in our power, all being quite ruined, it is to no purpose that all is said and done. For even then Jews will then say, “Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord:” (Mat. 23:39) but they will be able to reap none advantage of this cry towards escaping their punishment; for when they ought to have said it, they said it not. That then this be not the case with us in respect to our life, let us now and from this time reform that we may stand at the tribunal of Christ with all boldness; whereunto may all of us attain through the grace and love toward men of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father, with the Holy Spirit, be glory and might for ever and ever. Amen.

HOMILY X

2 Cor. 5:1

For we know, that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens.

Again he arouses their zeal because many trials drew on1. For it was likely that they, in consequence of his absence, were weaker in respect to this [need]. What then saith he? One ought not to wonder that we suffer affliction; nor to be confounded, for we even reap many gains thereby. And some of these he mentioned before; for instance, that we “bear about the dying of Jesus,” and present the greatest proof of His power: for he says, “that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God:” and we exhibit a clear proof of the Resurrection, for, says he, “that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” But since along with these things he said that our inward man is thus made better also; for “though our outward man is decaying,” saith he, “yet the inward man is renewed day by day;” showing again that this being scourged and persecuted is proportionately useful, he adds, that when this is done thoroughly, then the countless good things will spring up for those who have endured these things. For lest when thou hearest that thy outward man perishes, thou shouldest grieve; he says, that when this is completely effected, then most of all shalt thou rejoice and shalt come unto a better inheritance2. So that not only ought not one to grieve at its perishing now in part, but even earnestly to seek for the completion of that destruction, for this most conducts thee to immortality. Wherefore also he added, “For we know, that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved: we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” For since he is urging3 again the doctrine of the Resurrection in respect to which they were particularly unsound; he calls in aid the judgment of his hearers also, and so establishes it; not however in the same way as before, but, as it were, arriving at it out of another subject: (for they had been already corrected:) and says, “We know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Some indeed say that the ‘earthly house’ is this world; But I should maintain that he alludes rather to the body.4 But observe, I pray, how by the terms [he uses,] he shows the superiority of the future things to the present. For having said “earthly” he hath opposed to it “the heavenly;” having said, “house of tabernacle,” thereby declaring both that it is easily taken to pieces and is temporary, he hath opposed to it the “eternal,” for the name “tabernacle” oftentimes denotes temporariness. Wherefore He saith, “In My Father’s house are many abiding places.” (John 14:2) But if He anywhere also calls the resting places of the saints tabernacles; He calls them not tabernacles simply, but adds an epithet; for he said not, that “they may receive you” into their tabernacles, but “into the eternal tabernacles.” (Luke 16:9) Moreover also in that he said, “not made with hands,” he alluded to that which was made with hands. What then? Is the body made with hands? By no means; but he either alludes to the houses here that are made with hands, or if not this, then he called the body which is not made with hands, ‘a house of tabernacle.’ For he has not used the term in antithesis and contradistinction5 to this, but to heighten those eulogies and swell those commendations.

[2.] Ver. 2 “For verily in this we groan, longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven.”

What habitation? tell me. The incorruptible body. And why do we groan now? Because that is far better. And “from heaven” he calls it because of its incorruptibleness. For it is not surely that a body will come down to us from above: but by this expression he signifies the grace which is sent from thence. So far then ought we to be from grieving at these trials which are in part that we ought to seek even for their fulness,6 as if he had said: Groanest thou, that thou art persecuted, that this thy man is decaying? Groan that this is not done unto excess and that it perishes not entirely. Seest thou how he hath turned round what was said unto the contrary; having proved that they ought to groan that those things were not done fully; for which because they were done partially; they groaned. Therefore he henceforth calls it not a tabernacle, but a house, and with great reason. For a tabernacle indeed is easily taken to pieces; but a house abideth continually.

Ver. 3. “If so be that being unclothed7 we shall not be found naked.”

That is, even if we have put off the body, we shall not be presented there without a body, but even with the same one made incorruptible. But some read, and it deserves very much to be adopted, “If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.” For lest all should be confident because of the Resurrection, he says, “If so be that being clothed,” that is, having obtained incorruption and an incorruptible body, “we shall not be found naked” of glory and safety. As he also said in the former Epistle; “We shall all be raised; but each in his own order.” And, “There are celestial bodies, and bodies terrestial.” (1 Cor. 15:22, 23) (ib. 40) For the Resurrection indeed is common to all, but the glory is not common; but some shall rise in honor and others in dishonor, and some to a kingdom but others to punishment. This surely he signified here also, when he said; “If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.”

[3.] Ver. 4. “For indeed we that are in this tabernacle do groan8, not for that we would be unclothed, but that we would be clothed upon.”

Here again he hath utterly and manifestly stopped the mouths of the heretics, showing that he is not speaking absolutely of a body differing in identity9, but of corruption and incorruption. ‘For we do not therefore groan,’ saith he, ‘that we may be delivered from the body: for of this we do not wish to be unclothed; but we hasten to be delivered from the corruption that is in it. Wherefore he saith, ‘we wish not to be unclothed of the body, but that it should be clothed upon with incorruption.’ Then he also interprets it [thus,] “That what is mortal may be swallowed up of life.” For since putting off the body appeared to many a grievous thing; and he was contradicting the judgments of all, when he said, “we groan,” not wishing to be set free from it; (‘for if,’ says one, ‘the soul in being separated from it so suffers and laments, how sayest thou that we groan because we are not separated from it?’) lest then this should be urged against him, he says, ‘Neither do I assert that we therefore groan, that we may put it off; (for no one putteth it off without pain, seeing that Christ says even of Peter, ‘They shall “carry thee,” and lead thee “whither thou wouldest not;”—John 21:18) but that we may have it clothed upon with incorruption.’ For it is in this respect that we are burdened by the body; not because it is a body, but because we are encompassed with a corruptible body and liable to suffering10, for it is this that also causes us pain. But the life when it arriveth destroyeth and useth up the corruption; the corruption, I say, not the body. ‘And how cometh this to pass?’ saith one. Inquire not; God doeth it; be not too curious. Wherefore also he added,

Ver. 5. “Now he that hath wrought us for this very thing is God.”

Hereby he shows that these things were prefigured from the first. For not now was this decreed: but when at the first He fashioned us from earth and created Adam; for not for this created He him, that he should die, but that He might make him even immortal. Then as showing the credibility of this and furnishing the proof of it, he added,

“Who also gave the earnest of the Spirit.”

For even then He fashioned us for this; and now He hath wrought unto this by baptism, and hath furnished us with no light security thereof, the Holy Spirit. And he continually calls It an earnest, wishing to prove God to be a debtor of the11 whole, and thereby also to make what he says more credible unto the grosser sort12.

[4.] Ver. 6. “Being therefore always of good courage, and knowing.”

The word “of good courage” is used with reference to the persecutions, the plottings, and the continual deaths: as if he had said, ‘Doth any vex and persecute and slay thee? Be not cast down, for thy good all is done. Be not afraid: but of good courage. For that which thou groanest and grievest for, that thou art in bondage to corruption, he removes from henceforward out of the way, and frees thee the sooner from this bondage.’ Wherefore also he saith, “Being therefore always of good courage,” not in the seasons of rest only, but also in those of tribulation; “and knowing,”

Ver. 7, 8. “That whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord (for we walk by faith, not by sight); we are of good courage, I say, and are willing to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord.”

That which is greater than all he has put last, for to be with Christ is better, than receiving an incorruptible [body.] But what he means is this: ‘He quencheth not our life that warreth against and killeth us; be not afraid; be of good courage even when hewn in pieces. For not only doth he set thee free from corruption and a burden, but he also sendeth thee quickly to the Lord.’ Wherefore neither did he say, “whilst we ‘are’ in the body:” as of those who are in a foreign and strange land. “Knowing therefore that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: we are of good courage, I say, and willing to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord.” Seest thou how keeping back what was painful, the names of death and the end, he has employed instead of them such as excite great longing13, calling them presence with God; and passing over those things which are accounted to be sweet, the things of life, he hath expressed them by painful names, calling the life here an absence from the Lord? Now this he did, both that no one might fondly linger amongst present things, but rather be aweary of them; and that none when about to die might be disquieted14, but might even rejoice as departing unto greater goods. Then that none might say on hearing that we are absent from the Lord, ‘Why speakest thou thus? Are we then estranged from Him whilst we are here?’ he in anticipation corrected15 such a thought, saying, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Even here indeed we know Him, but not so clearly. As he says also elsewhere, (1 Cor. 13:12) “in a mirror,” and “darkly.”

“We are of good courage, I say, and willing.” Wonderful! to what hath he brought round the discourse? To an extreme desire of death, having shown the grievous to be pleasurable, and the pleasurable grievous. For by the term, “we are willing” he means, ‘we are desirous.’ Of what are we desirous? Of being “absent from the body, and at home with the Lord.” And thus he does perpetually, (as I showed also before) turning round the objection of his opponents unto the very contrary.

Ver. 9. “Wherefore also we make it our aim whether at home or absent, to be well pleasing unto him.”

‘For what we seek for is this,’ saith he, ‘whether we be there or here, to live according to His will; for this is the principal thing. So that by this thou hast the kingdom already in possession without a probation.’ For lest when they had arrived at so great a desire of being there, they should again be disquieted at its being so long first, in this he gives them already the chief16 of those good things. And what is this? To be well “pleasing.” For as to depart is not absolutely good, but to do so in [God’s] favor, which is what makes departing also become a good; so to remain here is not absolutely grievous, but to remain offending Him. Deem not then that departure from the body is enough; for virtue is always necessary. For as when he spoke of a Resurrection, he allowed [them] not by it alone to be of good courage, saying, “If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked;” so also having showed a departure, lest thou shouldest think that this is enough to save thee, he added that it is needful that we be well pleasing.

[5.] Seeing then he has persuaded them by many good things, henceforth he alarms them also by those of gloomier aspect17. For our interest consists both in the attainment of the good things and the avoidance of the evil things, in other words, hell and the kingdom. But since this, the avoiding of punishment, is the more forcible motive; for where penalty reaches only to the not receiving good things, the most will bear this contentedly; but if it also extend to the suffering of evil, do so no longer: (for they ought, indeed, to consider the former intolerable, but from the weakness and grovelling nature of the many, the latter appears to them more hard to bear:) since then (I say) the giving of the good things doth not so arouse the general hearer as the threat of the punishments, he is obliged to conclude with this, saying,

Ver. 10. “For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat.”

Then having alarmed and shaken18 the hearer by the mention of that judgment-seat, he hath not even here set down the woful without the good things, but hath mingled something of pleasure, saying,

“That each one may receive the things done in the body,” as many19 as “he hath done, whether” it be “good or bad.”

By saying these words, he both reviveth20 those who have done virtuously and are persecuted with those hopes, and maketh those who have fallen back more earnest by that fear. And he thus confirmed his words touching the resurrection of the body. ‘For surely,’ sayeth he, ‘that which hath ministered to the one and to the other shall not stand excluded from the recompenses: but along with the soul shall in the one case be punished, in the other crowned.’ But some of the heretics say, that it is another body that is raised. How so? tell me. Did one sin, and is another punished? Did one do virtuously, and is another crowned? And what will ye answer to Paul, saying, “We would not be unclothed, but clothed upon?” And how is that which is mortal “swallowed up of life?” For he said not, that the mortal or corruptible body should be swallowed up of the incorruptible body; but that corruption [should be swallowed up] “of life.” For then this happeneth when the same body is raised; but if, giving up that body, He should prepare another, no longer is corruption swallowed up but continueth dominant. Therefore this is not so; but “this corruptible,” that is to say the body, “must put on incorruption.” For the body is in a middle state21, being at present in this and hereafter to be in that; and for this reason in this first, because it is impossible for the incorruption to be dissolved. “For neither doth corruption inherit incorruption,” saith he, (for, how is it [then] incorruption?) but on the contrary, “corruption is swallowed up of life:” for this indeed survives the other, but not the other this. For as wax is melted by fire but itself doth not melt the fire: so also doth corruption melt and vanish away under incorruption, but is never able itself to get the better of incorruption.

[6.] Let us then hear the voice of Paul, saying, that “we must stand at the judgment-seat of Christ;” and let us picture to ourselves that court of justice, and imagine it to be present now and the reckoning to be required22. For I will speak of it more at large. For Paul, seeing that he was discoursing on affliction, and he had no mind to afflict them again, did not dwell on the subject; but having in brief expressed its austerity23, “Each one shall receive according to what he hath done,” he quickly passed on. Let us then imagine it to be present now, and reckon each one of us with his own conscience, and account the Judge to be already present, and everything to be revealed and brought forth. For we must not merely stand, but also be manifested. Do ye not blush? Are ye not astonied? But if now, when the reality is not yet present, but is granted in supposition merely and imaged in thought; if now [I say] we perish conscience-struck; what shall we do when [it] shall arrive, when the whole world shall be present, when angels and archangels, when ranks upon ranks, and all hurrying at once, and some caught up24 on the clouds, and an array full of trembling; when there shall be the trumpets, one upon another, [when] those unceasing voices?

For suppose there were no hell, yet in the midst of so great brightness to be rejected and to go away dishonored;—how great the punishment! For if even now, when the Emperor rideth in and his train with him, we contemplating each one of us our own poverty, derive not so much pleasure from the spectacle, as we endure dejection at having no share in what is going on about the Emperor, nor being near the Sovereign; what will it be then? Or thinkest thou it is a light punishment, not to be ranked in that company, not to be counted worthy of that unutterable glory, from that assemblage and those untold good things, to be cast forth somewither far and distant? But when there is also darkness, and gnashing of teeth, and chains indissoluble, and an undying worm, and fire unquenchable, and affliction, and straitness, and tongues scorching like the rich man’s; and we wail, and none heareth; and we groan and gnash our teeth for anguish, and none regardeth; and we look all round, and no where is there any to comfort us; where shall we rank those that are in this condition? what is there more miserable than are those souls? what more pitiable? For if, when we enter a prison and see its inmates, some squalid, some chained and famishing, some again shut up in darkness, we are moved with compassion, we shudder, we use all diligence that we may never be cast into that place; how will it be with us, when we are led and dragged away into the the torture-dungeons25 themselves of hell? For not of iron are those chains, but of fire that is never quenched; nor are they that are set over us our fellows whom it is often possible even to mollify; but angels whom one may not so much as look in the face, exceedingly enraged at our insults to their Master. Nor is it given, as here, to see some bringing in money, some food, some words of comfort, and to meet with consolation; but all is irremissible there: and though it should be Noah, or Job, or Daniel, and he should see his own kindred punished, he dares not succor. For even natural sympathy too comes then to be done away. For since it happeneth that there are righteous fathers of wicked children, and [righteous] children of [wicked] fathers; that so their pleasure may be unalloyed, and those who enjoy the good things may not be moved with sorrow through the constraining force of sympathy, even this sympathy, I affirm, is extinguished, and themselves are indignant together with the Master against their own bowels. For if the common run of men, when they see their own children vicious, disown26 and cut them off from that relationship; much rather will the righteous then. Therefore let no one hope for good things, if he have not wrought any good thing, even though he have ten thousand righteous ancestors. “For each one shall receive the things done in the body according to what he hath done.” Here he seems to me to be alluding also to them that commit fornication: and to raise up as a wall27 unto them the fear of that world, not however to them alone; but also to all that in any wise transgress.

[7.] Let us hear then, us also. And if thou have the fire of lust, set against it that other fire, and this will presently be quenched and gone. And if thou purposest to utter some harsh sounding28 [speech], think of the gnashing of teeth, and the fear will be a bridle to thee. And if thou purposest to plunder, hear the Judge commanding, and saying, “Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness,” (Matt. 22:13) and thou wilt cast out this lust also. And if thou art drunken, and surfeitest continually, hear the rich man saying, ‘Send Lazarus, that with the tip of his finger he may cool this scorching tongue;’ (Luke 16:24) yet not obtaining this; and thou wilt hold thyself aloof from that distemper29. But if thou lovest luxury, think of the affliction and the straitness there, and thou wilt not think at all of this. If again thou art harsh and cruel, bethink thee of those virgins who when their lamps had gone out missed so of the bridal chamber, and thou wilt quickly become humane. Or sluggish art thou, and remiss? Consider him that hid the talent, and thou wilt be more vehement than fire. Or doth desire of thy neighbor’s substance devour thee? Think of the worm that dieth not, and thou wilt easily both put away from thee this disease, and in all other things wilt do virtuously. For He hath enjoined nothing irksome or oppressive. Whence then do His injunctions appear irksome to us? From our own slothfulness. For as if we labor diligently, even what appears intolerable will be light and easy; so if we are slothful, even things tolerable will seem to us difficult30.

Considering then all these things, let us think not of the luxurious, but what is their end; here indeed filth and obesity, there the worm and fire: not of the rapacious, but what is their end; cares here, and fears, and anxieties; there chains indissoluble: not of the lovers of glory, but what these things bring forth; here slavery and dissemblings, and there both loss intolerable and perpetual burnings. For if we thus discourse with ourselves, and if with these and such like things we charm perpetually our evil lusts, quickly shall we both cast out the love of the present things, and kindle that of the things to come. Let us therefore kindle it and make it blaze. For if the conception of them, although a faint sort of one, affords so great pleasure; think how great the gladness, the manifest experience itself shall bring us. Blessed, and thrice blessed, yea, thrice blessed many times, are they who enjoy those good things; just as, consequently, pitiable and thrice wretched are they who endure the opposite of these. That then we may be not of these but those, let us choose virtue. For so shall we attain unto the good things to come as well; which may all we attain, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ; by Whom, and with Whom, to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, might, and honor, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen.

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