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

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St Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel Chapter 9

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 16, 2019

Verses 1, 2. “In the first year of the Darius who was the son of Ahasuerus of the race of the Medes and who reigned over (678) the kingdom of the Chaldeans, in the first year of his reign. ...This is the Darius who in cooperation with Cyrus conquered the Chaldeans and Babylonians. We are not to think of that other Darius in the second year of whose reign the Temple was built (as Porphyry supposes in making out a late date for Daniel); nor are we to think of the Darius who was vanquished by Alexander, the king of the Macedonians. He therefore adds the name of his father and also refers to his victory, inasmuch as he was the first of the race of the Medes to overthrow the kingdom of the Chaldeans. He does this to avoid any mistake in the reading which might arise from the similarity of the name.

Verse 2. “I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years concerning which the word of the Lord had come to the prophet Jeremiah, that seventy years would be accomplished for the desolation of Jerusalem.” Jeremiah had predicted seventy years for the desolation of the Temple (Jer. 52:29), at the end of which the people would again return to Judaea and build the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. But this fact did not render Daniel careless, but rather encouraged him to pray that God might through his supplications fulfil that which He had graciously promised. Thus he avoided the danger that carelessness might result in pride, and pride cause offense to the Lord. Accordingly we read in Genesis (chap. 9) [sic!] that prior to the Deluge one hundred and twenty years were appointed for men to come to repentance; and inasmuch as they refused to repent even within so long an interval of time as a hundred years, God did not wait for the remaining twenty years to be fulfilled, but brought on the punishment earlier which He had threatened for a later time. [This deduction seems to have been based upon the fact that Gen. 5:32 mentions that Noah was five hundred years old when he had begotten Ham, Shem, and Japheth, and therefore |91 was still the same age when God appointed the one hundred twenty years in Gen. 6:3. Since the Flood dried up in the six hundred and first year of Noah (8:13), therefore the waiting period could not have been more than a hundred years. Yet it could also have been that the age given in Gen. 5:32 was the age when, within the one hundred twenty year period, Noah’s family was complete, the youngest son being born within that period, and being old enough to be married by the time the Flood itself actually occurred.] So also Jeremiah is told, on account of the hardness of the heart of the Jewish people: “Pray not for this people, for I will not hearken unto thee” (Jer. 7:16). Samuel also was told: “How long wilt thou mourn over Saul? I also have rejected him” (I Sam. 16:1). (p. 540) And so it was with sackcloth and ashes that Daniel besought the Lord to fulfil what He had promised, not that Daniel lacked faith concerning the future, but rather he would avoid the danger that a feeling of security might produce carelessness, and carelessness produce an offense to God.

Verse 4. “‘I beseech Thee, O Lord God, who art mighty and terrible….'” That is, Thou art terrible towards those who despise Thine injunctions.

“‘…Who keepest covenant and mercy towards those who love Thee and keep Thy commandments.’ ” It is not therefore the case that what God promises will come to pass without further ado, but rather, He fulfils His promises towards those who keep His commandments.

Verse 5. ” ‘We have sinned, we have behaved wickedly (A) and impiously, and we have departed….'” He reviews the sins of the people as if he were personally guilty, on the ground of his being (679) one of the people, just as we read the Apostle does also in his Epistle to the Romans.

Verse 7. ” ‘Justice belongeth unto Thee, O Lord, but for us there is only confusion of face. .. .'” It is of course just that we suffer what we deserve.

Verse 8. ” ‘Unto Thee belongeth mercy, O Lord our God, and also propitiation. . . .’ ” Concerning the same God of Whom he had previously said, “To Thee, O Lord, belongeth justice,” he now says (since the Lord is not only just but also merciful): “To Thee belongeth mercy.” He says this in order |92 that he might call upon the Judge to show mercy, after His sentence has been imposed.

Verse 11. “‘And (the curse) has come upon us drop by drop.'” That is, Thou hast not poured out upon us all of Thy wrath, for we should not have been able to bear it, but Thou hast poured forth a mere droplet of Thy fury, in order that we might return unto Thee once we have been immeshed in Thy snare.

‘The malediction and the curse which were written in the book of Moses, the servant of God. .. .’ ” In Deuteronomy we read the curses and blessings of the Lord (Deut. 27), which were afterwards uttered in Mount Gerizim and Ebal upon the righteous and upon the sinners.

Verse 13. “‘All this evil has come upon us, and we have not entreated Thy face, O Lord our God, that we might turn back from our iniquities and consider Thy truth.'” Their obduracy was so great that even in the midst of their toils they would not entreat God, and even if they had entreated Him, it would not have been a genuine entreaty, because they had not turned back from their iniquities. Yet to consider the truth of God is equivalent to turning back from iniquity.

Verse 14. ” ‘And the Lord hath kept watch over the evil and hath brought it upon us. .. .'” Whenever we are rebuked because of our sins, God is keeping watch over us and visiting us with chastenment. But whenever we are left alone by God and we do not suffer judgment but are unworthy of the Lord’s rebuke, then He is said to slumber. And so we read in the Psalms as well: “The Lord has risen up as one (B) who was slumbering or as a man out of a drunken sleep” (Ps. 77=78). For our wickedness and iniquity inflames God with wine, and whenever it is rebuked in our case, God is said to be keeping careful watch and to be rising up out of His drunken sleep, in order that we who are drunken with sin may be made to pay careful heed unto righteousness.

Verse 15. “‘And now, O Lord our God….'” Daniel remembers God’s ancient kindness in order that he may appeal to Him for a similar act of clemency.

Verse 17. “‘And show Thy face upon Thy |93 sanctuary, which lies desolate.'” By deed fulfil that which Thou (p. 541) hast promised in word, for the approximate period of desolation has elapsed.

Verse 18. “For Thine own sake, O my God, incline Thine ear and hear; open Thine eyes and behold our desolation ….” This appeal is couched (680) in anthropomorphic language (anthropopathos), with the implication that whenever our prayers are heard, God seems to incline His ear; and whenever God deigns to have regard to us, He appears to open His eyes; but whenever He turns His face away, we appear to be unworthy of attention either from His eyes or His ears.

Verse 20. “Now while I was yet speaking and praying and confessing my sins and the sins of my people, Israel, so as to present (Vulg.: and was presenting) my petitions in the presence of my God on behalf of the holy mountain of my God. …” And so, as we have pointed out above, he not only thought upon the sins of the people but also upon his own sins, as being one of the people. Or else it was by way of humility, although he had not personally committed sin; his purpose being to obtain pardon by reason of his humility. Observe what he said here: “I was confessing my sins.” For there are many passages in Scripture where confession does not imply an expression of repentance so much as an expression of praise to God.

Verse 21. “While I was still speaking in my prayer, behold the man Gabriel, whom I had seen (A) at the beginning of the vision.” He calls the previous vision preceding this one the beginning. The effect of his prayer was considerable, and the promise of God was fulfilled which says, “While thou art yet speaking, lo, I am at hand” (Isa. 58:9). And Gabriel appears not as an angel or archangel, but as a man (vir), a term used to indicate the quality of virtue rather than specifying his sex.

“. . .he quickly flew to me and touched me at the time of the evening sacrifice.” It is stated that he flew, because he had made his appearance as a man. It is said that it was at the time of the evening sacrifice, in order to show that the prophet’s prayer had persisted from the morning sacrifice even unto the evening sacrifice, and that God for that reason directed His mercy towards him.

Verse 22. “And He instructed me and spoke to me, |94 saying. …” The vision was so obscure that the prophet needed the angel’s teaching.

” ‘.. .Now, 0 Daniel, I have come forth that I may instruct thee and that thou mayest understand.'” That is, I have been sent to thee and have come (B) forth, not from the presence of God in the sense of departing from Him, but only in the sense of coming unto thee.

Verse 23. ” ‘From the very beginning of thy prayers the word went forth and I myself have come to show it to thee, because thou art a man of desires.'” That is, at the time when thou didst begin to ask God, thou didst straightway obtain His mercy, and His decision was put forth. I have therefore been sent to explain to thee the things of which thou art ignorant, inasmuch as thou art a man of desires, that is to say a lovable man, worthy of God’s love —- even as Solomon was called Idida (var: Jedida) or “man of desires.” I have been sent because thou art worthy, in recompense for thine affection for God, to be told the secret counsels of God and to have a knowledge of things to come (681).

‘Thou therefore pay heed to the word and understand the vision.’ ” Thus [reading sic instead of si] Daniel is told, “Pay diligent heed, in order that thou mayest hear and understand what thou seest.” We too should do (p. 542) this, for our eyes have been blinded by the shadows of ignorance and the darkness of sins.

Verses 24—-27. ” ‘Seventy weeks are shortened upon thy people and upon thy holy city, (C) that transgression may be finished, and sin may have an end, and iniquity may be abolished, and everlasting justice may be brought to bear, and that the vision and prophecy may be fulfilled that the Holy One of the saints may be anointed. Know therefore and take note that from the going forth of the word to build up Jerusalem again, unto Christ the prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks, and the street shall be built again, and the walls, in distressing times. And after sixty-two weeks Christ shall be slain, and ((D) the people that shall deny Him) shall not be His. And a people, with their leader that shall come, shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. And the end thereof shall be devastation, and after the end of the war there shall be the appointed desolation. And he shall confirm the covenant with many in one xveek; and in the middle of the week |95 both victim and sacrifice shall fail. And there shall be in the Temple the abomination of desolation, and the desolation shall continue even unto the consummation and the end.’ ” Because the prophet had said, “Thou didst lead forth Thy people, and Thy name was pronounced upon Thy city and upon Thy people,” Gabriel therefore, as the mouthpiece of God, says by implication: “By no means are they God’s people, but only thy people; nor is Jerusalem the holy city of God, but it is only a holy city unto thee, as thou sayest.” This is similar to what we read in Exodus also, when God says to Moses, “Descend, for thy people have committed sin” (Ex. 32:7). That is to say, they are not My people, for they have forsaken Me. And so, because thou dost supplicate for Jerusalem and prayest for the people of the Jews, hearken unto that which shall befall thy people in seventy weeks of years, and those things which will happen to thy city.

I realize that this question has been argued over in various ways by men of greatest learning, and that each of them has expressed his views according to the capacity of his own genius. And so, because it is unsafe to pass judgment upon the opinions of the great teachers of the Church and to set one above another, I shall simply repeat the view of each, and leave it to the reader’s judgment as to whose explanation ought to be followed. In the fifth volume of his Tempora [“Chronology”], Africanus has this to say concerning the seventy weeks (682) (and I quote him verbatim): “The chapter (E) which we read in Daniel concerning the seventy weeks contains many remarkable details, which require too lengthy a discussion at this point; and so we must discuss only what pertains to our present task, namely that which concerns chronology. There is no doubt but what it constitutes a prediction of Christ’s advent, for He appeared to the world at the end of seventy weeks. After Him the crimes were consummated and sin reached its end and iniquity was destroyed. An eternal righteousness also was proclaimed which overcame the mere righteousness of the law; and the vision and the prophecy were fulfilled, inasmuch as the Law and the Prophets endured until the time of (F) John the Baptist (Luke 16), and then the Saint of saints was anointed. And all these things were the objects of hope, prior to Christ’s incarnation, rather (p. 543) than the objects of actual possession. Now the angel himself specified |96 seventy weeks of years, that is to say, four hundred and ninety years from the issuing of the word that the petition be granted and that Jerusalem be rebuilt. The specified interval began in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, King of the Persians; for it was his cupbearer, Nehemiah (Neh. 1), who, as we read in the book of Ezra [the Vulgate reckons Nehemiah as II Esdras], petitioned the king and obtained his request that Jerusalem be rebuilt. And this was the word, or decree, which granted permission for the construction of the city and its encompassment with walls; for up until that time it had lain open to the incursions of the surrounding nations. But if one points to the command of King Cyrus, who granted to all who desired it permission to return to Jerusalem, the fact of the matter is that the high priest Jesus [Jeshua] and Zerubbabel, and later on the priest Ezra, together with the others who had been willing to set forth from Babylon with them, only made an abortive attempt to construct the Temple and the city with its walls, but were prevented by the surrounding nations from completing the task, on the pretext that the king had not so ordered. And thus the work remained incomplete until Nehemiah’s time and the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes. Hence the captivity lasted for seventy years prior to the Persian rule. [This last sentence is bracketed by the editor.] At this period in the Persian Empire a hundred and fifteen years had elapsed since its inception, but it was the one hundred and eighty-fifth year from the captivity of Jerusalem when Artaxerxes first gave orders for the walls of Jerusalem to be built. [Actually only 141 years, the interval between 587 B.C. and 446 B.C.] Nehemiah was in charge of this undertaking, and the street was built and the surrounding walls were erected. Now if you compute (683) seventy weeks of years from that date, you can come out to the time of Christ. But if we wish to take any other date (A) as the starting point for these weeks, then the dates will show a discrepancy and we shall encounter many difficulties. For if the seventy weeks are computed from the time of Cyrus and his decree of indulgence which effectuated the release of the Jewish captives, then we shall encounter a deficit of a hundred years and more short of the stated number of seventy weeks [only seventy-eight years, by more recent computation, for Cyrus’s decree was given in 538 B.C.]. If we reckon from the day when the angel spoke |97 to Daniel, the deficit would be much greater [actually not more than a few months or a year]. An even greater number of years is added, if you wish to put the beginning of the weeks at the commencement of the captivity. For the kingdom of the Persians endured for two hundred and thirty years until the rise of the Macedonian kingdom; then the Macedonians themselves reigned for three hundred years. From that date until the sixteenth (i.e., the fifteenth) year of Tiberius Caesar, when Christ suffered death, is an interval of sixty [sic!] years [reckoning from the death of Cleopatra, the last of the Macedonian Ptolemies]. All of these years added together come to the number of five hundred and ninety, with the result that a hundred years remain to be accounted for. On the other hand, the interval from the twentieth year of Artaxerxes to the time of Christ completes the figure of seventy weeks, if we reckon according to the lunar computation of the Hebrews, who did not number their months according to the movement of the sun, but rather according to the moon. For the interval from the one hundred fiftieth year of the Persian Empire, when Artaxerxes, as king thereof, attained the twentieth year of his reign (and this was the fourth year of the eighty-third Olympiad), up until the two hundred and second Olympiad (for it was the second year of that Olympiad which was the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar) comes out to be the grand total of four hundred seventy-five years. This would result in four hundred ninety Hebrew years, reckoning according to the lunar months as we have suggested. For according to their (p. 544) computation, these years can be made up of months of twenty-nine (variant: twenty-eight) and a half days each. This means that the sun, during a period of four hundred ninety years, completes its revolution in three hundred sixty-five days and a quarter, and this amounts to twelve lunar months for each individual year, with eleven and a fourth days left over to spare. Consequently the Greeks and Jews over a period of eight years insert three intercalary months (embolimoi). (684) For if you will multiply eleven and a quarter days by eight, you will come out to ninety days, which equal three months. Now if you divide the eight-year periods into four hundred seventy-five years, your quotient will be fifty-nine plus three months. These fifty-nine plus eight-year periods produce enough intercalary months to make up fifteen |98 years, more or less; and if you will add these fifteen years to the four hundred seventy-five years, you will come out to seventy weeks of years, that is, a total of four hundred and ninety years.”

Africanus has expressed his views in these very words which we have copied out. Let us pass on to Eusebius Pamphili [the famous church historian, who assumed the cognomen Pamphili in honor of his beloved mentor, Bishop Pamphilus], who in the eighth book of his Euangelike Apodeixis [the full title was Euangelikes Apodeixeos Proparaskeue or “Preparation for the Demonstration of the Gospel”; the Latin title is Praeparatio Evangelica] ventures some such conjecture as this: “It does not seem to me that the seventy weeks have been divided up without purpose, in that seven is mentioned first, and then sixty-two, and then a last week is added, which in turn is itself divided into two parts. For it is written: ‘Thou shalt know and understand that from the issuing of the word (command) that the petition be granted and Jerusalem be built until Christ the Prince there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.’ And after the rest which he relates in the intervening section, he states at the end: ‘He shall confirm a testimony (covenant) with many during one week.’ It is clear that the angel did not detail these things in his reply to no purpose or apart from the inspiration of God. This observation seems to require some cautious and careful reasoning, so that the reader may pay diligent attention and inquire into the cause for this division (variant: vision). But if we must express our own opinion, in conformity with the rest of the interpretation which concerns this present context, in the angel’s statement: ‘From the issuing of the word that the petition be granted and that Jerusalem be built, until the time of Christ the Prince,’ we are only to think of other princes who had charge of the Jewish people subsequent to this prophecy and subsequent to the return from Babylon. That is to say, we are to think of the arkhiereis [high priests] and pontiffs to whom the Scripture attaches the title of christs, by reason of the fact that they have been anointed. The first of these was Jesus [Jeshua] the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and then the rest who had that office up until the time of the advent of our Lord and Savior. And it is these who are intended by the prophet’s prediction when it states: ‘From the issuing of the word that the petition be granted and Jerusalem be built even unto |99 Christ the Prince there shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks.’ (685) That is to say, the purpose is that seven weeks be counted off, and then afterward sixty-two weeks, which come to a total of four hundred and eighty-three years after the time of Cyrus. And lest we appear to be putting forth a mere conjecture too rashly and without testing the truth of our statements, let us reckon up those who bore office as christs over the people from the time of Jeshua, the son of Jehozadak, until the advent of the Lord; that is to say, those who were anointed for the high priesthood. First, then, as we have already stated, subsequent to Daniel’s prophecy, which occurred in the reign of Cyrus, and subsequent to the return of (p. 545) the people from Babylon, Jeshua the son of Jehozadak was the high priest, and together with Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, they laid the foundations of the temple. And because the undertaking was hindered by the Samaritans and the other surrounding nations, seven weeks of years elapsed (that is to say, forty-nine years), during which the work on the temple remained unfinished. These weeks are separated by the prophecy from the remaining sixty-two weeks. And lastly, the Jews also followed this view when they said to the Lord in the Gospel-narrative: ‘This temple was built over a period of forty-six years, and shalt thou raise it up in three days’ (John 2:20). For this was the number of years which elapsed between the first year of Cyrus, who granted to those Jews who so desired the permission to return to their fatherland, and the sixth year of King Darius, in whose reign the entire work upon the temple was finished. [Actually the two dates involved are 538 B.C. and 516 B.C., an interval of only twenty-two years.] Furthermore Josephus added on three more years, during which the periboloi (precincts) and certain other construction left undone were brought to completion; and when these are added to the forty-six years, they come out to forty-nine years, or seven weeks of years. And the remaining sixty-two weeks are computed from the seventh year of Darius. At that time Jeshua the son of Jehozadak, and Zerubbabel (who had already reached his majority) were in charge of the people, and it was in their time that Haggai and Zechariah prophesied. After them came Ezra and Nehemiah from Babylon and constructed the walls of the city during the high priesthood of Joiakim, son of Jeshua, who had the surname of Jehozadak. After him Eliashib succeeded |100 to the priesthood, then Joiada and Johanan after him. Following him there was Jaddua, in whose lifetime Alexander, the king of the Macedonians, founded Alexandria, (686) as (A) Josephus relates in his books of the Antiquities, and actually came to Jerusalem and offered blood-sacrifices in the Temple. Now Alexander died in the one hundred and thirteenth Olympiad, in the two hundred thirty-sixth year of the Persian Empire, which in turn had begun in the first year of the fifty-fifth Olympiad. That was the date when Cyrus, King of the Persians, conquered the Babylonians and Chaldeans. After the death of the priest Jaddua, who had been in charge of the temple in Alexander’s reign, Onias received the high priesthood. It was at this period that Seleucus, after the conquest of Babylon, placed upon his own head the crown of all Syria and Asia, in the twelfth year after Alexander’s death. Up to that time the years which had elapsed since the rule of Cyrus, when computed together, were two hundred and forty-eight. From that date the Scripture of the Maccabees computes the kingdom of the Greeks. Following Onias, the high priest Eleazar became head of the Jews. That was the period when the Seventy translators (Septuaginta interpretes) are said to have translated the Holy Scriptures into Greek at Alexandria. After him came Onias II, who was followed by Simon, who ruled over the people when Jesus the son of Sirach wrote the book which bears the Greek title of Panaretos (“A Completely Virtuous Man”), and which is by most people falsely attributed to Solomon. Another Onias followed him in the high priesthood, and that was the period when Antiochus was trying to force the Jews to sacrifice to the gods of the Gentiles. After the death of Onias, Judas Maccabaeus cleansed the Temple and smashed to bits the statues of the idols. His brother Jonathan followed him, (p. 546) and after Jonathan their brother Simon governed the people. By his death the two hundred and seventy-seventh year of the Syrian kingdom had elapsed, and the First Book of Maccabees contains a record of events up to that time. And so the total number of years from the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia, until the end of the First Book of Maccabees and the death of the high priest Simon is four hundred twenty-five. After him John [Hyrcanus] occupied the high priesthood for twenty-nine years, and upon his death Aristobulus became head of the people for a year and was the first |101 man after the return from Babylon to associate with the dignity of high priesthood the authority of kingship. His successor was Alexander, who likewise was high priest and king, and who governed the people for twenty-seven years. Up to this point, the number of years from the first year of Cyrus and the return of the captives who desired to come back to Judaea is to be computed at four hundred and eighty-three. This total is made up of the seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks, or sixty-nine weeks altogether. And during this whole period high priests ruled over the Jewish people, and I now believe that they are those referred to as christ-princes. And when the last of them, Alexander, had died, the Jewish nation was rent in this direction and that into various factions, and was harrassed by internal seditions in its leaderless condition; and that too to such an extent that Alexandra, who was also called Salina, and who was the wife of the same Alexander, seized power and kept the high priesthood for her son, Hyrcanus. But she passed on the royal power to her other son, Aristobulus, and he exercised it for ten years. But when the brothers fought with each other in civil war and the Jewish nation was drawn into various factions, then Gnaeus Pompey, the general of the Roman army, came upon the scene. Having captured Jerusalem, he penetrated even to the shrine in the temple which was called the Holy of holies. He sent Aristobulus back to Rome in chains, keeping him for his triumphal procession, and then he gave the high priesthood to his brother, Hyrcanus. Then for the first time the Jewish nation became tributary to the Romans. Succeeding him, Herod, the son of Antipater, received the royal authority over the Jews by senatorial decree, after Hyrcanus had been killed; and so he was the first foreigner to become governor of the Jews. Moreover when his parents had died, he handed over the high priesthood to his children, even though they were non-Jews, utterly contrary to the law of Moses. Nor did he entrust the office to them for long, (B) except upon their granting him favors and bribes, for he despised the commands of God’s law.”

The same Eusebius offered another explanation also, and if we wanted to translate it into Latin, we should greatly expand the size of this book. And so the sense of his interpretation is this, that the number of years from the sixth year of Darius, who |102 reigned after Cyrus and his son, Cambyses, —- and this was the date when the work on the temple was completed —- until the time of Herod and Caesar Augustus is reckoned to be seven weeks plus sixty-two weeks, which make a total of four hundred eighty-three years. (688) That was the date when the christ, that is to say, Hyrcanus, being the last high priest of the Maccabaean line, was murdered by Herod, and the succession of high priests came to an end, so far as the law of God was concerned. It was then also that a Roman army (p. 547) under the leadership of a Roman general devastated both the city and the sanctuary itself. Or else it was Herod himself who committed the devastation, after he had through the Romans appropriated to himself a governmental authority to which he had no right. And as for the angel’s statement, “For he shall establish a compact with many for one week (variant: “a compact for many weeks”), and in the midst of the week the sacrifice and offering shall cease,” it is to be understood in this way, that Christ was born while Herod was reigning in Judaea and Augustus in Rome, and He preached the Gospel for three years and six months, according to John the Evangelist. And he established the worship of the true God with many people, undoubtedly meaning the Apostles and believers generally. And then, after our Lord’s passion, the sacrifice and offering ceased in the middle of the week. For whatever took place in the Temple after that date was not a valid sacrifice to God but a mere worship of the devil, while they all cried out together, “His blood be upon us and upon our children” (Matt. 27:25); and again, “We have no king but Caesar.” Any reader who is interested may look up this passage in the Chronicle of this same Eusebius, for I translated it into Latin many years ago. But as for his statement that the number of years to be reckoned from the completion of the temple to the tenth year of the Emperor Augustus, that is, when Hyrcanus was slain and Herod obtained Judaea, amounts to a total of seven plus sixty-two weeks, or four hundred eighty-three years, we may check it in the following fashion. The building of the temple was finished in the seventy-sixth (here and in the other place read: “sixty-seventh” —- Migne) Olympiad, which was the sixth year of Darius. In the third year of the one hundred and eighty-sixth Olympiad, that is, the tenth year of Augustus, Herod seized the rule over the Jews. This makes the interval four hundred and |103 eighty-three years, reckoning up by the individual Olympiads and computing them at four years each. This same Eusebius reports another view as well, which I do not entirely reject (A), that most authorities extend the one [last] week of years to the sum of seventy years, reckoning each year as a ten-year period [reading the corrupt upputatio as supputatio]. They also claim that thirty-five years intervened between the passion of the Lord and the reign of Nero, and that it was at this latter date when the weapons of Rome were first (689) lifted up against the Jews, this being the half-way point of the week of seventy years. After that, indeed, from the time of Vespasian and Titus (and it was right after their accession to power that Jerusalem and the temple were burned) up to the reign of Trajan another thirty-five years elapsed. And this, they assert, was the week of which the angel said to Daniel: “And he shall establish a compact with many for one week.” For the Gospel was preached by the Apostles all over the world, since they survived even unto that late date. According to the tradition of the church historians, John the Evangelist lived up to the time of Trajan. Yet I am at a loss to know how we can understand the earlier seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks to involve seven years each, and just this last one to involve ten years for each unit of the seven, or seventy years in all.

So much for Eusebius. But Hippolytus has expressed the following opinion concerning these same weeks (B): he reckons the seven weeks as prior to the return of the people from Babylon, and the sixty-two weeks as subsequent to their return and extending to the birth of Christ. But the dates do not (p. 548) agree at all. If indeed the duration of the Persian Empire be reckoned at two hundred and thirty years, and the Macedonian Empire at three hundred, and the period thereafter up to the birth of the Lord be thirty years, then the total from the beginning of the reign of Cyrus, King of the Persians, until the advent of the Savior will be five hundred and sixty years. Moreover Hippolytus places the final week at the end of the world and divides it into the period of Elias and the period of Antichrist, so that during the [first] three and a half years of the last week the knowledge of God is established. And as for the statement, “He shall establish a compact with many for a week” (Dan. 9:27), during the other three years under the Antichrist the sacrifice and offering shall |104 cease. But when Christ shall come and shall slay the wicked one by the breath of His mouth, desolation shall hold sway till the end.

On the other hand Apollinarius of Laodicea in his investigation of the problem breaks away from the stream of the past and directs his longing desires towards the future, very unsafely venturing an opinion concerning matters so obscure. And if by any chance those of future generations should not see these predictions of his fulfilled at the time he set, then they will be forced to seek for some other solution and to convict the teacher himself of erroneous interpretation. And so, in order to avoid the appearance of slandering a man as having made a statement he never made, he makes the following assertion —- and I translate him word for word: “To the period of four hundred and ninety years the wicked deeds are to be confined (690) as well as all the crimes which shall ensue from those deeds. After these shall come the times of blessing, and the world is to be reconciled unto God at the advent of Christ, His Son. For from the coming forth of the Word, when Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, to the forty-ninth year, that is, the end of the seven weeks, [God] waited for Israel to repent. Thereafter, indeed, from the eighth year of Claudius Caesar [i.e., 48 A.D.] onward, the Romans took up arms against the Jews. For it was in His thirtieth year, according to the Evangelist Luke, that the Lord incarnate began His preaching of the Gospel (Luke 1) [sic!]. According to the Evangelist John (John 2 and 11), Christ completed two years over a period of three passovers. The years of Tiberius’ reign from that point onward are to be reckoned at six; then there were the four years of the reign of Gaius Caesar, surnamed Caligula, and eight more years in the reign of Claudius. This makes a total of forty-nine years, or the equivalent of seven weeks of years. But when four hundred thirty-four years shall have elapsed after that date, that is to say, the sixty-two weeks, then [i.e. in 482 A.D.] Jerusalem and the Temple shall be rebuilt during three and a half years within the final week, beginning with the advent of Elias, who according to the dictum of our Lord and Savior (Luke 1) [sic!] is going to come and turn back the hearts of the fathers towards their children. And then the Antichrist shall come, and according to the Apostle [reading apostolum for apostolorum] he is going to sit in the |105 temple of God (II Thess. 2) and be slain by the breath of our Lord and Savior after he has waged war against the saints. And thus it shall come to pass that the middle of the week shall mark the confirmation of God’s covenant with the saints, and the middle of the week in turn shall mark the issuing of the decree under the authority of Antichrist that no more sacrifices be offered. For the Antichrist shall set up the abomination of desolation, that is, an idol or statue of his own god, within the Temple. Then shall ensue the final devastation and the condemnation of the Jewish people, who after their rejection of Christ’s truth shall embrace the lie of the Antichrist. Moreover this same Apollinarius asserts that he conceived this idea about the proper dating from the fact that Africanus, (p. 549) the author of the Tempora [Chronology], whose explanation I have inserted above, affirms that the final week will occur at the end of the world. Yet, says Apollinarius, it is impossible that periods so linked together be wrenched apart, but rather the time-segments must all be joined together in conformity with Daniel’s prophecy.

The learned scholar Clement, presbyter of the church at Alexandria, regards the number of years as a matter of slight consequence, (691) asserting that the seventy weeks of years were completed by the span of time from the reign of Cyrus, King of the Persians, to the reign of the Roman emperors, Vespasian and Titus; that is to say, the interval of four hundred and ninety years, with the addition in that same figure of the two thousand three hundred days of which we made earlier mention. He attempts to reckon in these seventy weeks the ages of the Persians, Macedonians, and Caesars, even though according to the most careful computation, the number of years from the first year of Cyrus, King of the Persians and Medes, when Darius also bore rule, up to the reign of Vespasian and the destruction of the Temple amounts to six hundred and thirty.

When Origen came to deal with [reading praefuisset instead of profuisset] this chapter, he urged us to seek out what information we do not possess; and because he had no leeway for allegorical interpretation, in which one may argue without constraint, but rather was restricted to matters of historical fact, he made this brief observation in the tenth volume of the Stromata: “We must quite carefully ascertain the amount of time between |106 the first year of Darius, the son of Ahasuerus, and the advent of Christ, and discover how many years were involved, and what events are said to have occurred during them. Then we must see whether we can fit these data in with the time of the Lord’s coming.”

We may learn what Tertullian had to say on the subject by consulting the book which he wrote against the Jews (Contra Judaeos), and his remarks may be set forth in brief: “How, then, are we to show that Christ came within the sixty-two (A) weeks? This calculation begins with the first year of Darius, since that was the time when the vision itself was revealed to Daniel. For he was told: ‘Understand and conclude from (B) the prophesying (692) of the command for me to give thee this reply. …’ Hence we are to commence our computation with the first year of Darius, when Daniel beheld this vision. Let us see, then, how the years are fulfilled up to the advent of Christ. Darius reigned nineteen (p. 550) years; Artaxerxes forty years; the Ochus who was surnamed Cyrus twenty-four years; (C) Argus, one year. Then Darius II, who was called Melas, twenty-one (D) years. Alexander the Macedonian reigned twelve years. And then after Alexander (who had ruled over both the Medes and the Persians, after he had conquered them, and had established his rule in Alexandria, calling it after his own name), Soter reigned (E) there in Alexandria for thirty-five years, and was succeeded by Philadelphus, who reigned for thirty-eight years (F). After him Euergetes reigned for twenty-five years, and then Philopator for seventeen years, followed by Epiphanes for twenty-four years. Furthermore the second Euergetes ruled for twenty (G) and nine years, and Soter for thirty-eight years. Ptolemy [sic!] for thirty-seven (H) years, and Cleopatra for twenty years and five months (I). Furthermore Cleopatra shared the rule with Augustus for thirteen years. After Cleopatra Augustus reigned forty-three years more. For all of the years of the reign of Augustus were fifty-six in number. And let us see (variant: we see) that in the forty-first year of the reign of Augustus, who ruled after the death of Cleopatra (J), (693) Christ was born. And this same Augustus lived on for fifteen years after the time when Christ was born. And so the resultant periods of years up to the day of Christ’s birth and the forty-first year of Augustus, after the death of Cleopatra [actually only twenty-nine |107 years after Cleopatra’s death —- the language here is confusing], come to the total figure of four hundred and thirty-seven years and five months. This means that sixty-two and a half weeks were used up, or the equivalent of four hundred and thirty-seven years and six months, by the day when Christ was born. Then eternal righteousness was revealed, and the Saint of saints was anointed, namely Christ, and the vision and prophecy were sealed, and those sins were remitted which are allowed through faith in Christ’s name to all who believe in Him.” But what is the meaning of the statement that the “vision and prophecy are confirmed by a seal”? It means that all the prophets made proclamation concerning [Christ] Himself, saying that He was going to come and that He would have to suffer. Hence we read shortly thereafter in this Tertullian passage, “The years were fifty-six in number; furthermore, Cleopatra continued to reign jointly under Augustus….” (p. 551) It was because the prophecy was fulfilled by His advent that the vision was confirmed by a seal; and it was called a prophecy because Christ Himself is the seal of all the prophets, fulfilling as He did all that the prophets had previously declared concerning Him. Of course after His advent and His passion (variant; the passion of Christ), there is no longer any vision or prophecy (variant: or prophet) which declares that Christ will come [?]. And then a little later Tertullian says, “Let us see what is the meaning of (A) the seven and a half weeks, which in turn are divided up into a subsection of earlier weeks; by what transaction were they fulfilled? Well, after Augustus, (B) who lived on after Christ’s birth, fifteen years elapsed. He was succeeded by Tiberius Caesar, and he held sway for twenty-two years, seven months and twenty-eight (C) days. In the fifteenth year of his reign (D) Christ suffered, being about (694) thirty-three when He suffered. Then there was Gaius Caesar, also named Caligula, who reigned for three years, eight months and thirteen days. [Note that Claudius’ reign of 13 years is here omitted.] Nero reigned for nine years, nine months and thirteen days. Galba ruled for seven months and twenty-eight (E) days; Otho for three months and five days; and Vitellius for eight months and twenty-eight (F) days. Vespasian vanquished the Jews in the first year of his reign, bringing the number of years to a total of fifty-two, plus six months. For he ruled for eleven years, and so by the date of his |108 storming Jerusalem, the Jews had completed the seventy weeks foretold by Daniel.”

As for the view which the Hebrews hold concerning this passage, I shall set it forth summarily and within a brief compass, leaving the credibility of their assertions to those who asserted them. And so let me put it in the form of a paraphrase (paraphrastikds) in order to bring out the sense more clearly. “O Daniel, know that from this day on which I now speak to thee (and that was the first year of the Darius who slew Belshazzar and transferred the Chaldean Empire to the Medes and Persians) unto the seventieth week of years (that is, four hundred and ninety years) the following events shall befall thy people in stages [literally: part by part]. First of all, God shall be appeased by thee in view of the earnest intercession thou hast just offered Him, and sin shall be canceled out and the transgression shall come to an end. For although the city at present lies deserted and the Temple lies destroyed to its very foundations [reading fundamenta for the non-existent frudamenta], so that the nation is plunged into mourning, yet within a fairly short time it shall be restored. And not only shall it come to pass within these seventy weeks that the city shall be rebuilt and the Temple restored, but also the Christ, who is the eternal righteousness, shall be born. (p. 552) And so shall the vision and the prophecy be sealed, with the result that there shall be no more any prophet to be found in Israel, and the Saint of saints shall be anointed. We read concerning Him in the Psalter: ‘Because God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness (695) above thy fellows’ (Ps. 44:8 =45:7). And in another passage He says of Himself: ‘Be ye holy, for I also am holy’ (Lev. 19:2). Know therefore that from this day on which I speak to thee and make thee the promise by the word of the Lord that the nation shall return and Jerusalem shall be restored, there shall be sixty-two weeks numbered unto the time of Christ the Prince and of the perpetual desolation of the Temple; and that there shall also be seven weeks in which the two events shall take place which I have already mentioned, namely that the nation shall return and the street shall be rebuilt by Nehemiah and Ezra. And so at the end of the weeks the decree of God shall be accomplished in distressing times, when the Temple shall again be destroyed, and the city taken captive. For |109 after the sixty-two weeks the Christ shall be slain, and the nation who shall reject Him shall go out of existence” —- or, as the Jews themselves put it, the kingdom of Christ which they imagined they would retain (G) shall not even be. And why do I speak of the slaying of Christ, and of the nation’s utter forfeiture of God’s help, since the Roman people were going to demolish the city and sanctuary under Vespasian, the leader who was to come? Upon his death the seven weeks or forty-nine years were complete, and after the city of Aelia was established upon the ruins of Jerusalem, Aelius Hadrian vanquished (H) the revolting Jews in their conflict with the general, Timus Rufus. It was at that time that the sacrifice and offering (ceased and) will continue to cease even unto the completion of the age, and the desolation is going to endure until the very end. We are not, say the Jews, greatly impressed by the fact that the seven weeks are mentioned first, and afterwards the sixty-two, and again a single week divided into two parts. For it is simply the idiomatic usage of the Hebrew language, as well as of antique Latin, that in quoting a figure, the small number is given first and then the larger. For example, we do not, according to good usage say in our language, “Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years”; on the contrary the Hebrews say, “Abraham lived five and seventy and one hundred years” (I). And so the fulfilment is not to follow the literal order of the words, but it shall be accomplished in terms of the whole sum, taken together. I am also well aware that some of the Jews assert that as for the statement about the single week, (696) “He shall establish a covenant with many (p. 553) for one week,” the division is between the reigns of Vespasian and Hadrian. According to the history of Josephus, Vespasian and Titus concluded peace with the Jews for three years and six month. And the [other] three years and six months are accounted for in Hadrian’s reign, when Jerusalem was completely destroyed and the Jewish nation was massacred in large groups at a time, with the result that they were even expelled from the borders of Judaea. This is what the Hebrews have to say on the subject, paying little attention to the fact that from the first year of Darius, King of the Persians, until the final overthrow of Jerusalem, which befell them under Hadrian, the period involved is a hundred and seventy-four Olympiads or six hundred ninety-six years, which total up to |110 ninety-nine Hebrew weeks plus three years —- that being the time when Barcochebas, the leader of the Jews, was crushed and Jerusalem was demolished to the very ground.  |111 (source)

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Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 86

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 3, 2019

Argument

Arg. Thomas. That Christ, good and gracious, may hear the desires of them that beseech Him. The Voice of Christ to the Father. During the Fast. A Prophecy concerning Christ, and counsel always to pour forth prayer to God. Concerning laudable prayer.

Ven. Bede. David, signifies the Lord the Saviour: either because the interpretation thereof is held to be, strong of hand and desirable, or because He Who is God over all, blessed for ever, derived from David’s stem.

Throughout the whole Psalm the Lord Jesus Christ makes His prayer: in the first portion uttering words which can clearly be applied to Him only, Bow down Thine ear, O Lord, &c. In the second part, He prays yet more humbly for His members, whose Head He is: Teach Me Thy way, O Lord. In the third portion, He utters again in His own person what specially belongs to Himself: O God, the proud are risen against Me.

Syriac Psalter. Of David, when he built a house unto the Lord, and a prophecy of the calling of the Gentiles. Further, a special prayer of a righteous man.

Eusebius of Cæsarea. A Prayer of David, and a prophecy of the calling of the Gentiles.

S. Athanasius. A Psalm of address, of prayer, and supplication.

Commentary

1 Bow down thine ear, O Lord, and hear me: for I am poor, and in misery.

This Psalm, though bearing the name of David in the superscription, is held by the Greek Fathers, (Z.) S. Basil and Theodoret, to be of a much later day, and to be probably the composition of Hezekiah. There are two circumstances on the face of the matter which lend weight to this adjudication of it away from David. First, the Psalm, if Davidic, stands alone in this third book of the Psalter, with no companion. Secondly, it is in a considerable degree a cento from earlier Psalms, or at any rate borrows many of its thoughts and phrases from them, and at least three passages are derived from the Pentateuch, and thus it is structurally unlike the original Psalms of the Prophet King. Yet it is a King of Israel who speaks throughout, whether as author of the Psalm, or as having it put in his mouth by one of the Korhite poets, and therefore we may truly say with S. Augustine, (A.) that it is our Lord Jesus Christ Who prays for us, Who prays in us, and is to be prayed to by us. He prays for us, as our High Priest; He prays in us, as our Head; He is prayed to by us, as our God. Let us then recognize our own words in Him, and His words in us. He saith, then, in the form of a servant, and thou, O servant, in the form of thy Lord, sayest, Bow down Thine ear, O Lord. He boweth down the ear, if thou lift not up thy neck. For He draweth nigh to the holy, but departeth far from the uplifted, save those humble, whom He hath Himself lifted up. It is not to the rich, but to the poor and needy, (Vulg.) to the humble penitent, confessing his sin, and needing mercy, not to him who is full and haughty, who boasteth, as in want of nothing, and saith, “I thank Thee, that I am not as this publican.”* Bow down Thine ear, then, as a kind physician stoops over the couch of a sick man, too feeble to raise himself or to speak aloud,* and hear me, pouring my griefs out. It is spoken in the Person of Christ, Who asks to be heard,* first because of His voluntary humility,* so that His Father needs to bow down to Him; and next, because of His voluntary poverty, poor, in having no help from friends; needy, as lacking all earthly riches.

2 Preserve thou my soul, for I am holy: my God, save thy servant, that putteth his trust in thee.

Taking these words as the prayer of Christ on behalf of His human soul and life, (L.) that He might not be slain untimely by His enemies, before He had fulfilled His work; there is no difficulty in the words I am holy,* for in Him, the Holy One of God, was no sin at all. But how can guilty man take these words upon his lips, and make such a plea to God? Because Christ, (A.) our Head, is not only Holy in Himself, but is the cause of holiness in others. He hath given us the grace of Baptism and remission of sins, so that, as the Apostle saith, when after speaking of many kinds of sinners, he adds, “Such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”* Each of the faithful may therefore say, I am holy. It is not the pride of conceit, but the confession of gratitude, (Z.) and the acknowledgment that we have been solemnly dedicated to God’s service, and are therefore holy in at least the same sense that the utensils of Divine worship are so. (Cd.) And then, so far from expressing self-confidence, it is an acknowledgment of the increased peril of the Saint, of his greater need of a Saviour, because his very holiness exposes him to more malignant attacks from his spiritual foes. “The enemy,”* observes one of the most eloquent of early preachers, “aims at the general rather than at the soldier; nor does he beset the dead, but the living; so too the devil seeks not to ensnare sinners, whom he holds already as his subjects, but toils to ensnare the righteous.”* Save Thy servant. He asks for salvation, as he had just before asked for preservation and safe-keeping, lest he should lose the gift when bestowed, and then he adds the reason, by saying, that putteth his trust in Thee, because when God saves His servant, He is saving His own property; and when He saves a servant that trusteth in Him,* He proves Himself faithful and just in that He fulfils His promises. And observe how precisely, in this sense, the words agree with Hezekiah’s prayer in his sickness: “Remember me, O Lord, I beseech Thee, how I have walked before Thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in Thy sight.”* And this reference further points the fitness of the Psalm for its use in the Visitation of the Sick,* as prescribed by the Latin Church.

3 Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I will call daily upon thee.

It is one and the same God and Man Jesus Christ, (C.) Who asks mercy, and Who bestows it; teaching us that God’s loving-kindness must be earnestly intreated by perseverance in prayer; as He saith Himself in the Gospel, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”* Daily, (Symmachus) or with LXX., Vulgate, and margin of A. V., All the day. That is, for each of us, prayer at all periods of our lives, in the dawn of youth, in the noon of maturity, in the evening of old age; (C.) and again, as all the day embraces darkness and light, so our prayer should ascend in adversity and prosperity alike. (Ay.) We may pray with the whole day in yet another sense, with clear and enlightened minds, which have cast away the works of darkness. (R.) And though each of us cries to God in his own time, and passes away to be succeeded by another, (A.) yet each of us, as a member of Christ, does but swell the petition that goes up unceasingly from Christ’s Body, which is, as it were, but one man on earth, crying through all the day of this world till the night of the doom cometh, while our Head is, yet more unceasingly, pleading for us in the eternal day of heaven to the Father.

4 Comfort the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

It is He Who was forced to say, (D. C.) “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death,”* that utters this petition, that His Father may rejoice (A. V., LXX., Vulg.) His soul by the deliverance of the Patriarchs from Hades, by His own Resurrection, and by the justification of His people through that means. For us, the first and last clause have a close, yet contrasted connection. (R.) Rejoice the soul which Thou didst first sadden, by leaving it to its own miserable liberty, free to descend into the depths of sin and sorrow, abandoning Thy glorious and happy service; (A.) rejoice it, because I have lifted it up from the earth, where is nought but grief and bitterness, to Thee, where there is pleasure for evermore. Lift up your heart, then, from the earth, as you would your wheat, storing it high up, lest it should rot on the ground. How can I? asks a sinner. What cords, what engines, what ladders do I need? The steps are thine affections, the path is thy will. Thou ascendest by loving, thou descendest by neglect. Standing on earth, thou art in heaven, if thou love God.* Note, too, the going-up in these verses, how the ascent is made by prayer. The petitioner is first described as poor, then holy, next trusting, after that calling, finally, lifted up to God.* And each epithet has its fitting verb; bow down to the poor, preserve the holy, save the trusting, be merciful to the caller, rejoice the lifted-up. It is the whole gamut of love from the Incarnation to the Ascension, it tells us that Christ’s humiliation will be our glory and joy.

5 For thou, Lord, art good and gracious: and of great mercy unto all them that call upon thee.

This is what gave him courage to lift up his soul to receive consolation, for as S. John saith, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all,”* so we may say, God is sweet, (Vulg.) and in Him is no bitterness at all; while on the other hand, there is little sweetness and much bitterness in fleshly consolations.* And God is not only sweet, but gentle (Vulg.) so that He does not repel those who approach Him, but endures their imperfection. (A.) For He listens to our prayers, however unskilfully worded, and broken by wandering thoughts; nay, receives them graciously, and hearkens to them; whereas a human friend, if he saw his acquaintance, after accosting him, turn away without awaiting reply to his questions, and address some one else; and still more a judge, who found the very man who had appealed to him, turning to gossip with others in court,* would never tolerate such discourtesy. Again, God is good, in that He deals lovingly with His servants, laying few and easy commands upon them, and helping them by His grace to obey these commands; while He is gracious, in that He does not exact the full rigour of just penalty from repentant sinners, but receives them readily back into grace and favour, which is the force of the A. V. ready to forgive. And these same attributes are those of which the Apostle makes mention, beseeching his Corinthian disciples “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.”* Of great mercy. His mercy is great and plenteous,* (A. V. Vulg.) because it is sufficient for all sin and all sinners. But copious though it be, He will not waste it, for He reserves it for all them that call upon Him. Hence we gather, first the advantage of perseverance in prayer, for we shall be continually heard, and receive mercy if we enrol ourselves in that number, (C.) as there is no respect of persons, nor any stinting, with God; and next, what it is we ought to call for. (A.) Upon Thee, the Psalmist says, and this shows us the meaning of that other saying, “Then shall they call upon Me, but I will not answer,”* that there may be a calling in prayer which is no true calling upon God. For you call on the thing you love, for which you are inwardly crying out, which you wish to come to you; it may be money, rank, the death of an enemy; but in that case you are calling on them, not on God, and are making of Him merely an instrument for your appetites, not a hearkener to your better longings. Call on God, then, as loving Him, and as desiring Himself, and He will be of great mercy unto you.

6 Give ear, Lord, unto my prayer: and ponder the voice of my humble desires.

7 In the time of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou hearest me.

The Psalmist asks that God may not only give ear, (R.) that is, mercifully permit the supplicant to approach Him in prayer, and listen to him, but that He will ponder or attend, that His wisdom may come into operation as well as His mercy,* and the two may jointly fulfil the petition to the uttermost. (D. C.) In the time of my trouble, as respects Christ, is spoken of His suffering life, (A.) and especially of His Passion; and as regards Christians it means the whole time of their sorrowful exile and pilgrimage here on earth, far from their Country, for the more they love and long for that country, the sorer is the daily trouble of the pilgrimage. It is also true of any special persecution,* distress, or even of inward temptation, according to that saying of a Saint, Prosperity closes the mouth, adversity opens it. For Thou hearest me. (Ay.) The Carmelite reminds us in this place of the prevenient grace of God, which hears our prayers before we utter them, nay, which has heard them from all eternity, foreseeing that they would be offered, and has inspired us with the will and desire of uttering them. Observe, finally, that all the Psalm, down to this point, (P.) may be taken as the prayer of Christ in His Passion on behalf of His whole Church, for He saith Himself, (L.) “I knew that Thou hearest Me always;”* but especially “when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save him from death, and was heard for His piety.”*

8 Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord: there is not one that can do as thou doest.

If we take this Psalm as the utterance of Hezekiah,* these words will form the fitting reply to the insulting message of Rab-shakeh: “Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, by destroying them utterly, and shalt thou be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed?”* The verse, if applied to the Father, refutes the Semi-Arians,* who asserted that the Son was not Consubstantial with Him, but only a Being of similar substance and nature to God, that is, like Him;* whereas confession of the co-equality of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in the Undivided Trinity removes this difficulty at once. We have here, moreover, the reason for taking refuge with God,* and for calling upon Him only, because there is none like unto Him, in essence, in power, in wisdom, in goodness;* whether amongst men of exalted rank and power, as kings or judges, or amongst the purest saints and loftiest angels. Yet, we are told, “Ye are Gods;”* and again, that “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” There is no contradiction, for though we shall reflect His glory, (Ay.) as a pool reflects the sun, we shall not be like Him in essence,* for He is eternally and self-existently Almighty, all-wise, all-good, whereas we are but His creatures, deriving our faculties and graces from Him as their source. Even the Son, as speaker in this Psalm, fitly addresses these words to the Everlasting Father, because He utters them in the nature of His Manhood, whereby He is inferior to the Father, albeit co-equal with Him in Godhead.

There is not one that can do as Thou doest. (Z.) It is the voice of the Church concerning Christ. For His created works are not intended only, nor His providence over all His creatures, visible and invisible, but His restoration of His creation, His destruction of the tyrant, His slaying of death, which He effected by His own death, and that successful fishing of the whole world which He wrought by a few mean fishers, not to cite His deeds of miraculous power. (L.) Not one. And yet He promised His disciples, “He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.”* But He clears up the difficulty later, saying, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” He wrought miracles of His own inherent power, they by derived and commissioned authority. Accordingly, the Prince of the Apostles saith, “Why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus; and His Name, through faith in His Name, hath made this man strong.”*

9 All nations whom thou hast made, shall come and worship thee, O Lord: and shall glorify thy Name.

This, in its literal sense,* seems to be looking forward to the effect on the nations around of Sennacherib’s overthrow, fulfilled when “many brought gifts unto the Lord to Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah, king of Judah: so that he was magnified in the sight of all nations from thenceforth.”* But it has a deeper significance in foretelling the ingathering of the Gentiles, whence it is used as the Epiphany antiphon to the whole Psalm.* The words were uttered, remarks S. Augustine, (A.) when but a few, in the one Hebrew nation, worshipped God, and were believed in defiance of sight, and yet now that they are in process of fulfilment, men doubt them. He applies the verse himself to refutation of the Donatists, who held that the true faith of the Catholic Church was limited to one corner of Africa. (L.) All nations, not only as typified by the Wise Men from the East, but further, by the converts of many peoples and languages, made on the Day of Pentecost;* the first fruits of the commission, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” Whom Thou hast made. That is, not merely some out of every nation under heaven, but men once more appearing as God made them, in His own image and likeness,* now restored and renewed by Christ’s redeeming grace, (L.) not as defaced by the devil and by their own free-will abused to sin. So it is written in another Psalm, “The people which shall be created, shall praise the Lord,”* created, that is, anew by the supernatural and regenerating grace of Christ, for “of His own will begat He us with the word of truth.”* Shall come and worship Thee.* Not necessarily by bodily motion from one place to another, but by believing, in whatsoever places they are, as is spoken by the Prophet: “Men shall worship Him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen.”* And glorify Thy Name. It is true of the Saints now, who obey the Apostle’s precept, “Glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”* It will be true of all nations at the last day,* when,* willing or unwilling, they must adore Christ sitting on His throne, worshipping Him, some in love and some in fear, but all glorifying His Name, according to the prophecy in the Song of Moses and of the Lamb chanted by the Saints on the sea of glass, saying, “Great and marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of Saints. Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy Name? for Thou only art holy; for all nations shall come and worship before Thee, for Thy judgments are made manifest.”*

10 For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.

This is the reason why the worship of false gods must cease,* and why all nations shall come and glorify the Lord, especially in the Day of Judgment, when His marvellous power shall be fully displayed, so that the Apostle dwells particularly on the word great, as betokening His manifestation then, saying,* “Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” There is, (L.) besides, a confession of the Trinity in Unity in the verse. Thou art great, applies peculiarly to the Everlasting Father, the Lord and Source of all; and doest wondrous things, tells us of the Son, by Whom the worlds were created, the mystery of redemption effected, the miracles of the Gospel wrought; Thou art God, teaches us that the Holy Ghost is a Divine Person, not a mere influence or manifestation, (C.) while alone joins the Three together in One indivisible Godhead.

11 Teach me thy way, O Lord, and I will walk in thy truth: O knit my heart unto thee, that I may fear thy Name.

The LXX. and Vulgate translate, (L.) Lead me in Thy way, but as Lorinus truly observes, with no variation of meaning from the original, which does not signify the communication of a bare speculative knowledge, but practical instruction, and actual guidance in the paths of God’s commandments. (A.) Thy way, Thy truth, is Christ. Therefore the Body goes to Him, and comes from Him. He saith, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.”* It is one thing for God to lead us to the way, and another to lead us in the way. They who are out of the way are not Christians, or at any rate not Catholics, but are being led towards the way. But when that is done, and they have become Catholics in Christ, they are led by Himself in the way itself, that they fall not. And I will walk in Thy truth. Some,* especially of the Greek Fathers, take these words as contrasted to some extent with the preceding ones, and interpret the way as denoting action, and truth as signifying contemplation. (Z.) But it is better to take it as denoting progress in holiness, or as covering the entire ground of a devout life. The prayer is like that of the penitent sinner,* asking God to put out His hand to guide him, as a blind and sickly child asks for the help of a wayfarer to put him in the straight road. It is asked, How can words such as these be put into the mouth of Christ? They answer, (L.) for the most part, that the Head is speaking here for His members, not for Himself, just as He spoke to Saul in the vision near Damascus. (D. C.) But the Carthusian will have it that this is the prayer of the Saviour that His human soul might be led in that way of God which brought it down to the Patriarchs in Hades, thence into Paradise, next to be reunited with His Body in the Resurrection, and finally to be exalted together with it to heaven at the Ascension. O knit my heart unto Thee. This version, albeit giving a very deep and beautiful meaning, does not exactly express the original, in which the words unto Thee are not found. It is true that the heart may be so knit to God as to be interpenetrated with His fear, as an old poet tells us:

No,* self-deceiving heart, lest thou shouldst cast
Thy cords away, and burst the bands at last
Of Thy Redeemer’s tender love, I’ll try
What further fastness in His fear doth lie.
The cords of love soakéd in lust may rot,
And bands of bounty are too oft forgot:
But holy filial fear, like to a nail
Fastened in a sure place, will never fail.
This, driven home, will take
Fast hold, and make
Thee that thou darest not thy God forsake.

But the A. V., with S. Jerome and Symmachus, gives the correct rendering: Unite my heart, make it so whole and undivided that it may entirely love and fear Thee,* not partly fear Thee and partly fear the world; nor divide its worship between Thee and other gods;* and further, that whereas it is now disturbed and broken up with the waves and storms of passion, trouble, and sin, God may still it, (L.) and bring it to a perfect quiet, presenting an unruffled and tranquil surface, like the Sea in a great calm. He unites the heart of the whole Church too,* by granting it unity of faith towards God and of love towards brethren. But the LXX. and Vulgate read, Let my heart rejoice, that it may fear Thy Name. It is lest we should be ensnared by over-confidence, the Doctor of Grace warns us, (A.) that this is written, lest the excitement of unrestrained joy, even in spiritual things, should cause us to stray from the road.* Or, as another great Western Doctor comments, although the Saints are certain, even here, of their hope, yet they have reason to dread temptation, so that joy and fear are mingled in their spiritual experience. (L.) So we are to take heed that we do not find written in this place, Let my heart rejoice that it may feel secure, but that it may fear, in order that between the rejoicing of hope, and the fear of temptation we may be tried and chastened, and feel gladness in God’s pardon, yet so as never to forget that we may fall again. We need,* as has been well said, to be glad in our victory, but to fear because of the conflict.* Yet the Greek Fathers take it in a deeper and more spiritual sense, alleging that the fear of God is itself a source of true and pure delight to His Saints. (Z.) And thus one of themselves has truly said,* “The fear of the Lord is a paradise of delights, but where the fear of the Lord is not, there will the foxes dwell.” Only it must not be a servile fear lest God should punish us, which is an impure feeling;* but a loving fear, lest He should leave us, which is pure. And with this latter fear even the Lord Jesus, in His Manhood, was filled, so that we may take the words of Him, (D. C.) and explain them in the light of His bitterest cry upon the Cross.

12 I will thank thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and will praise thy Name for evermore.

The Vulgate word here for give thanks is, as usual, confess, that is, make grateful acknowledgment of bounties. But the Latin commentators constantly take it of confession of sin, and therefore one of them,* dwelling here upon that duty, tells us to lay particular stress on the words with my whole heart. (Ay.) For the heart, that is, the intellectual part of man’s being, is made up of four things, thought or imagination, memory, understanding, and will. Each of these should play its part in a good confession. There ought to be thought, in careful preparation for the Sacrament of penance; memory, in duly recalling former offences; understanding, in a full recognition of the enormity of sin, and the grievousness of one’s own faults; will, in the firm resolution to amend. But, taking the words in their more literal signification, we may note that the whole heart here is the result of the prayer in the verse before, that God may unite the heart. Henceforth it gives thanks to Him under all circumstances, in adversity as well as in prosperity, and puts its entire trust in Him, not confiding partly in temporal successes, and yielding Him but a divided confidence. And as Christ, in His human nature, gave us the most perfect example of entire devotion to God the Father; (D. C.) these words apply to Him as well as to His Saints, who plead for blessings to come in the best of all ways,* by showing themselves mindful and grateful in respect of past favours. And will praise Thy Name for evermore. This evermore is threefold. It is the whole life of the pardoned sinner,* thenceforth devoted to God’s glory and service; it is the continuous life of the Church Militant on earth, wherein, throughout succeeding ages, the praise of God never ceases, so that our Head can speak of this act of His Body as His own; it is, finally, the everlasting Alleluia of heaven, which awaits the Saints who have conquered.

13 For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the nethermost hell.

Here is the special cause for gratitude. And taking it of the Head, (A.) as so many do, we see in it a prophetic thanksgiving for the Resurrection. S. Augustine, dwelling on the word nethermost, and arguing fairly that the word implies the existence of at least two hells, urges, that when we take the whole verse of Christ, we must interpret the first hell to be this earth, so called from lying so far beneath heaven, and from being so defiled with sin, and harassed with trouble. Into this first hell the Lord came by His Nativity; into the second or nethermost, the grave and place of departed spirits, He came by His death, and was delivered thence by the Resurrection. But if the words are to be put in the mouth of one of His members, then it is a thanksgiving for being rescued from that part of Hades where the rich man lay in torments, parted by a great gulf from that happier place where Abraham carried Lazarus in his bosom.* In that nethermost hell no one gives thanks to God, nor can any come forth thence, wherefore deliverance from it is truly great mercy, seeing that it confers everlasting blessings. (Z.) And Euthymius, who ascribes the Psalm to David, in taking the nethermost hell to mean the double guilt of adultery and murder into which the king fell, so that deliverance from it means pardon of mortal sin, and may be thus applied to every penitent similarly rescued,* has warrant from the Proverbs on his side, wherein the sin of lust is more than once so described. For the Wise Man saith of a strange woman that “her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death; and again, “her guests are in the depths of hell.”*

14 O God, (C.) the proud are risen against me: and the congregations of naughty men have sought after my soul, and have not set thee before their eyes.

Here is the anticipation of the Passion, of the secret council of the Chief Priests and Pharisees, followed by the cries of the multitude for the Crucifixion of the Lord. And then, spoken of His Body the Church, it is a cry for protection against heathen persecutors, seeking the lives of Christians, and still more against heretics and false brethren,* plotting against that faith which is the very soul of the Church’s being. (A.) And the individual believer prays in these words to be delivered from the principalities and powers of evil,* those ghostly enemies which wage unceasing war against the soul.

15 But thou, O Lord God, art full of compassion and mercy: long-suffering, plenteous in goodness and truth.

Here he showeth the cause of this suffering, (Ay.) why God permitted them so to rise against Christ, and to deliver Him over to death. And he saith that this was of God’s great mercy, Who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, so that the Passion of Christ was a work of great compassion and mercy. And the Son also is here referred to, as voluntarily giving Himself as a sacrifice for us, according to His most true promise; He Who was longsuffering, in that He bore so much for ourselves, plenteous in goodness, because He came to save, plenteous in truth, because He ever taught the truth, (A.) as even His enemies acknowledged, saying, “Master, we know that Thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth.”* And therefore He is styled in the Apocalypse, “Faithful and True.”*

Note, further, that there are seven names of God set down here,* answering to seven of His energies, and as many classes of men with whom He is in certain relations. He is Lord to them who serve Him, and He demands service from all; as it is written, “The nation and kingdom that will not serve Thee shall perish.”* He is God, to them that worship Him, for “the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation.”* He is full of compassion, for “His mercies are over all His works;”* He is full of mercy, in that He helpeth the unhappy. He is longsuffering with sinners: “Therefore will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious unto you.”* Plenteous in goodness, in bestowing His eternal rewards, for “eye hath not seen, O God, what He hath prepared for him that waiteth for Him.”* And truth, in punishing the guilty, for “let God be true, but every man a liar.”*

16 O turn thee then unto me, and have mercy upon me: give thy strength unto thy servant, and help the son of thine handmaid.

Because of all the attributes of God enumerated in the previous verse, He is now called on to show His saving power. And the commentators, with almost one voice, agree in explaining this passage of the prayer of Christ for His Resurrection. In saying, Turn Thee unto Me, or as LXX.* and Vulgate have it, Look again upon Me, He asks for His Father’s protection, for “the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers.” In saying, Have mercy upon Me, He asks for deliverance from misery; in adding, Give Thy strength (or with Vulg. empire) unto Thy servant, He asks for judicial power over the world, and that because of His perfect obedience. This He foretold, earlier than His Passion, saying, “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son;”* and He confirmed it after His rising again,* when He said to His disciples, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and earth.”* In saying, Help the Son of Thine handmaid, He asks for the Resurrection, and that in His character as the offspring of that pure Virgin who answered the Angel’s message with the words, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word.”* Several of the Latins dwell on the ambiguous word puero, meaning child as well as servant, here found in the Vulgate, (C.) and remind us that it is spoken of Him touching Whom, by reason of His innocence, the Prophet saith: “Unto us a child is born,”* Who was like a child in His poverty, His holiness, His placability, and His obedience.

Each of His members,* too, can utter this prayer, who is God’s servant and child because of adoption and obedience, who is the son of His handmaid, the Church, who may look for a share in that empire of which the Lord said to His Apostles, (R.) “In the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”* For the promise is not limited to them, inasmuch as He saith in another place, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne.”* And although all Christian men are proud to bear the title of servant of God, (L.) as all Christian women, like S. Agatha before the prefect, rejoice to call themselves by the name of handmaid,* yet none is so exactly the son of a handmaid as a convert from the bondage of Paganism, who has entered into the glorious liberty of the children of God, and acquired in Baptism the strength of the Holy Ghost, (A.) strength sufficient to overcome all the spiritual enemies of the soul.* Note, moreover, the deep humility of the double expression, servant, and son of Thine handmaid. They are no mere repetition,* for a man may be reduced into a state of servitude from one of freedom, as a captive in war, albeit sprung of noble ancestry; but if he be the son of a handmaid, he is born a slave, and has had no time of liberty to look back upon. And in this sense the children born of the Church, God’s faithful handmaid, are His from the first moment of their spiritual creation.

17 Show some token upon me for good: that they who hate me may see it, and be ashamed: because thou, Lord, hast holpen me, and comforted me.

Hitherto he has asked for internal consolation,* for secret bestowal of help; but now he asks for an external sign of favour, to the dismay of his enemies. And, still applying the Psalm literally to Hezekiah, we may bear in mind two such proofs of Divine favour towards him; the destruction of Sennacherib’s army, and the going back of the shadow on the sun-dial of Ahaz. The Chaldee,* ascribing the Psalm to David, represents this as a prayer for a miracle, that of the spontaneous opening of the gates of Solomon’s temple, to be vouchsafed him for David’s sake, when bringing up the ark into its new sanctuary. Applied to Christ,* the Greek Fathers prefer to take the sign here of the Virgin-birth of the Lord, according to that saying in Isaiah, “The Lord Himself shall give you a sign. Behold, a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His Name Immanuel;”* a sign which was truly for good, (A.) and made the spiritual foes of man ashamed. But the Latins take it of the Resurrection, looking to that other saying, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall be no sign given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas; for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”* That they who hate Me may see it, and be ashamed,* with that wholesome confusion which leadeth to repentance, (D. C.) that they may be converted and live; or, if they resist obstinately, with the final shame which awaits them at the doom, when the sign of the Son of Man shall appear in heaven, for the good of His servants, (A.) and the destruction of His foes. Applying the verse to the Christian soul,* they remind us,* on the one hand,* of that sign of the Cross which fortifies us against evil,* and affrays our enemies; and on the other, yet more deeply, that we have been “sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.”* And both these meanings appear in that victory of the Church through the sign which Constantine is said to have beheld in heaven, on the eve of his decisive triumph over his Pagan opponent. (C.) Thou, Lord, hast holpen Me, and comforted Me. Thou hast holpen Me in the battle, comforted Me amidst the sorrows of the Passion; (R.) holpen Me when I was in the grave, comforted Me in the joy of the Resurrection. And in like manner,* the Lord shows a sign upon us for good, whenever He converts sinners by the example of Saints, or works any great deliverance for His people,* whom He helps in their life-long struggle here, and comforts with the everlasting blessedness of heaven.

Wherefore:

Glory be to the Father, Who is great, and God alone; glory be to the Son, Who is full of compassion and mercy; glory be to the Holy Ghost, Who giveth His strength unto His servants.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

Various Uses

Gregorian. Friday: Matins. [Epiphany: II. Nocturn. Sacred Heart: III. Nocturn.]

Monastic. Friday: I. Nocturn. [Epiphany: II. Nocturn.]

Parisian. Saturday: Compline. [Epiphany: II. Nocturn.]

Lyons. Thursday: Sext. [Epiphany: II. Nocturn.]

Ambrosian. Wednesday of Second Week: II. Nocturn.

Quignon. Friday: Compline.

Eastern Church. Third Psalm at Nones.

Antiphons

Gregorian. As preceding Psalm. [Epiphany: All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship Thee, O Lord. So in all the other uses. Sacred Heart: Thou art good and gracious. O Lord* and of great mercy unto all them that call upon Thee.]

Monastic. Bow down * Thine ear, O Lord, and hear me.

Parisian. Be merciful unto me * O Lord, for I have called to Thee all the day long.

Ambrosian. Preserve Thou my soul, O Lord* for I am holy.

Mozarabic. For Thou, Lord, art good and gracious * and of great mercy unto all them that call upon Thee.

Collects

Make glad,* O Lord, the countenance of Thine household; and deliver our souls from the nethermost hell, that protected by looking upon Thy countenance, we may with spiritual power tread fleshly desires under foot. Through. (1.)

Lead us,* O Lord, in the way of Thy truth: that we may rejoice in fearing Thee, and give thanks to Thy holy Name, that we may be sealed with good works, and our enemies may be ashamed. Through. (1.)

O good and gracious God,* of great mercy to them that call upon Thee, bow down Thine ears to our prayer, and of the abundance of Thy mercy do away our transgressions, and that we creep not prostrate on the ground, set us upright to look on Thee. (11.)

Have mercy on us,* O Lord, who cry to Thee all the day long; and be gracious to them that call on Thee in trouble, that when we praise and worship Thy majesty, Thou mayest favourably accept us, and when we fear Thee because of our doings, Thou mayest graciously pardon. Make glad, then, our hearts with obedient fear of Thee, and comfort our doubting minds with the sweetness of Thy consolation. But as Thou art sweet and gracious, let us drink in sweetness from Thine indulgence; and find Thee loving and gracious in bestowing reward. (11.)

O Saviour and Lord,* Whom the unrighteous wickedness of them that rose against Thee smote; Whom the congregation of the ungodly, raging with its tongues, crucified; Grant that we may ever follow Thee in the deep mystery of Thy loving-kindness, that, as Thou didst for us bear the Cross and grave, we triumphing therein over a conquered world, may go our way into heaven. (11.)

O Lord our God,* save Thy servants, who put their trust in Thee, for Thou art good and gracious, and of great mercy; look upon us, and have mercy on us, that our heart may rejoice in the greatness of Thy Name, may fear Thee so as to be glad; lead us in Thy way, and as we walk in Thy truth, comfort us with Thy help, and help us with Thy consolation. (11.)

We pray Thee, O Lord,* that guarded by the sign of Thy Cross, and kept safe under its guard, we may be delivered from all the snares of the devil. For Thine.

O Lord, (D. C.) lead us Thy servants in Thy way, that we may walk in Thy truth, so that Thy great mercy may bedew us, and Thou mayest deliver our soul from the nethermost hell, and make us to share in everlasting glory. (1.)

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Matthew 5:17-24

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 23, 2019

HOMILY XVI
“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 23, 2019

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 Hebrews 6:10-20

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 21, 2019

This post contains an excerpt from St Chrysostom’s 10th homily on Hebrews, followed by his 11th homily.

HOMILY X
(excerpt)

Ver. 10. “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work, and1 the love, which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have ministered unto the saints and do minister.” O how did he here restore their spirit, and give them fresh strength, by reminding them of former things, and bringing them to the necessity of not supposing that God had forgotten. (For he cannot but sin who is not fully assured concerning his hope, and says that God is unrighteous. Accordingly he obliged them by all means to look forward to those future things. For one who despairs of present things, and has given up exerting himself, may be restored by [the prospect of] things future.) As he himself also said in writing to the Galatians, “Ye did run well” (Gal. 5:7): and again, “Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.” (Gal. 3:4.)

And as in this place he puts the praise with the reproof, saying, “When for the time ye ought to be teachers” (c. 5:12), so also there, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed.” (Gal. 1:6.) With the reproof is the praise. For respecting great things we marvel, when they fail. Thou seest that praise is concealed under the accusation and the blame. Nor does he say this concerning himself only, but also concerning all. For he said not, I am persuaded, but “we are persuaded better things of you,” even good things (he means). He says this either in regard to matters of conduct, or to the recompense.

In the next place, having said above, that it is “rejected and nigh unto a curse,” and that it “shall be for burning,” he says, we do not by any means speak this of you. “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work, and love.” (Ver. 10.)

[5.] Why then did we say these things? (Ver. 11, 12) “But we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end; that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

“We desire,” he says, and we do not therefore merely labor for, or even so far as words go, wish this. But what? “We desire” that ye should hold fast to virtue, not as condemning your former conduct (he means), but fearing for the future. And he did not say, ‘not as condemning your former conduct, but your present; for ye have fainted, ye are become too indolent’; but see how gently he indicated it, and did not wound them.

For what does he say? “But we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence unto the end.” For this is the admirable part of Paul’s wisdom, that he does not expressly show that they “had” given in, that they “had” become negligent. For when he says, “We desire that every one of you”—it is as if one should say, I wish thee to be always in earnest; and such as thou wert before, such to be now also, and for the time to come. For this made his reproof more gentle and easy to be received.

And he did not say, “I will,” which would have been expressive of the authority of a teacher, but what is expressive of the affection of a father, and what is more than “willing,” “we desire.” All but saying, Pardon us, even if we say what is distasteful.

“We desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of your hope unto the end.” Hope (he means) carries us through: it recovers us again. Be not wearied out, do not despair, lest your hope be in vain. For he that worketh good hopeth also good, and never despairs of himself.

“That ye may not become dull.”2 Still3 “become”; and yet he said above, “seeing ye are become dull4 of hearing.” (c. 5:11.) Observe however how he limited the dullness to the hearing. And here he hints the very same thing; instead of ‘that ye may not continue in it,’ he says [this]. But again he leads on to that future time for which they were not yet responsible; saying in effect “that ye may not become too slothful”: since for that which is not yet come we could not be responsible. For he who in regard to the present time is exhorted to be in earnest, as being remiss, will perhaps become even more slothful, but he who is exhorted with reference to the future, not so.

“We desire” (he says) “that every one of you.” Great is his affection for them: he cares equally for great and small; moreover he knows all, and overlooks no one, but shows the same tender care for each, and equal value for all: from which cause also he the rather persuaded them to receive what was distasteful in his words.

“That ye be not slothful,” he says. For as inactivity hurts the body, so also inactivity as to what is good renders the soul more supine and feeble.

[6.] “But followers” (he says) “of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” And who they are, he tells afterwards. He said before, “Imitate your own former well-doings.” Then, lest they should say, What? He leads them back to the Patriarch: bringing before them examples of well-doing indeed from their own history,1 but of the thought of being forsaken, from the Patriarch; that they might not suppose that they were disregarded and forsaken as worthy of no account, but might know that it is [the portion] of the very noblest men to make the journey of life through trials; and that God has thus dealt with great and admirable men.

Now we ought (he says) to bear all things with patience: for this also is believing: whereas if He say that He gives and thou immediately receivest, how hast thou also believed? Since in that case this is no longer of thy faith, but of Me, the Giver. But if I say that I give, and give after an hundred years, and thou hast not despaired; then hast thou accounted Me worthy to be believed, then thou hast the right opinion concerning Me. Thou seest that oftentimes unbelief arises not from want of hope only, but also from faintheartedness, and want of patience, not from condemning him who made the promise.

“For God” (he says) “is not unrighteous to forget your love” and the zeal “which ye have showed toward His Name, in that ye have ministered unto the saints, and do minister.” He testifies great things of them, not deeds only, but deeds done with alacrity, which he says also in another place, “and not only so, but they gave themselves also to the Lord and to us.” (2 Cor. 8:5.)

“Which” (he says) “ye have showed toward His Name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” See how again he soothes them, by adding “and do minister.” Still even at this time (he says) ye are ministering, and he raises them up by showing that they had done [what they did] not to them [the saints], but to God. “Which ye have showed” (he says); and he said not “unto the saints,” but “towards God,” for this is “toward His Name.” It is for His Name’s sake (he means) that ye have done all. He therefore who has the enjoyment from you of2 so great zeal and love, will never despise you nor forget you.

[7.] Hearing these things, let us, I beseech you, “minister to the saints.” For every believer is a saint in that he is a believer. Though he be a person living in the world, he is a saint. “For” (he says) “the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife by the husband.” (1 Cor. 7:14.) See how the faith makes the saintship. If then we see even a secular person in misfortune, let us stretch out a hand [to him]. Let us not be zealous for those only who dwell in the mountains; they are indeed saints both in manner of life and in faith; these others however are saints by their faith, and many of them also in manner of life. Let us not, if we see a monk [cast] into prison, in that case go in; but if it be a secular person, refuse to go in. He also is a saint and a brother.

What then (you say) if he be unclean and polluted? Listen to Christ saying, “Judge not that ye be not judged.” (Matt. 7:1.) Do thou act for God’s sake. Nay, what am I saying? Even if we see a heathen in misfortune, we ought to show kindness to him, and to every man without exception who is in misfortunes, and much more to a believer who is in the world. Listen to Paul, saying, “Do good unto all men, but especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Gal. 6:10.)

But I know not whence this [notion] has been introduced, or whence this custom hath prevailed. For he that only seeks after the solitaries, and is willing to do good to them alone, and with regard to others on the contrary is over-curious in his enquiries, and says, ‘unless he be worthy,3 unless he be righteous, unless he work miracles, I stretch out no hand’; [such an one] has taken away the greater part of charity,4 yea and in time he will in turn destroy the very thing itself. And yet that is charity,5 [which is shown] towards sinners, towards the guilty. For this is charity,1 not the pitying those who have done well, but those who have done wrong.

[8.] And that thou mayest understand this, listen to the Parable: “A certain man” (it is said) “went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves” (Luke 10:30, &c.); and when they had beaten him, they left him by the way-side, having badly bruised him. A certain Levite came, and when he saw him, he passed by; A priest came, and when he saw him, he hastened past; a certain Samaritan came, and bestowed great care upon him. For he “bound up his wounds” (Luke 10:34), dropped oil on them, set him upon his ass, “brought him to the inn, said to the host, Take care of him” (Luke 10:35); and (observe his great liberality), “and I,” he says, “will give thee whatsoever thou shalt expend.” Who then is his neighbor? “He,” it is said, “that showed mercy on him. Go thou then also,” He says, “and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37.) And see what a parable He spake. He said not that a Jew did [so and so] to a Samaritan, but that a Samaritan showed all that liberality. Having then heard these things, let us not care only for “those that are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10), and neglect others. So then also thou, if thou see any one in affliction, be not curious to enquire further. His being in affliction involves a just claim on thy aid.2 For if when thou seest an ass choking thou raisest him up, and dost not curiously enquire whose he is, much more about a man one ought not to be over-curious in enquiring whose he is. He is God’s, be he heathen or be he Jew; since even if he is an unbeliever, still he needs help. For if indeed it had been committed to thee to enquire and to judge, thou wouldst have well said thus, but, as it is, his misfortune does not suffer thee to search out these things. For if even about men in good health it is not right to be over-curious, nor to be a busybody in other men’s matters, much less about those that are in affliction.

[9.] But on another view what [shall we say]? Didst thou see him in prosperity, in high esteem, that thou shouldst say that he is wicked and worthless? But if thou seest him in affliction, do not say that he is wicked. For when a man is in high credit, we fairly say these things; but when he is in calamity, and needs help, it is not right to say that he is wicked. For this is cruelty, inhumanity, and arrogance. Tell me what was ever more iniquitous than the Jews. But nevertheless while God punished them, and that justly, yea, very justly, yet He approved of those who had compassion on them, and those who rejoiced over them He punished. (Amos 5:6.) For “they were not grieved,” it is said, “at the affliction of Joseph.”

And again it is said “Redeem [Ransom] those who are ready to be slain: spare not.” (Prov. 24:11.) (He said not, enquire curiously, and learn who he is; and yet, for the most part, they who are led away to execution are wicked,) for this especially is charity. For he that doeth good to a friend, doeth it not altogether for God’s sake: but he that [doeth good] to one unknown, this man acts purely for God’s sake. “Do not spare” thy money, even if it be necessary to spend all, yet give.

But we, when we see persons in extreme distress,3 bewailing themselves, suffering things more grievous than ten thousand deaths, and oftentimes unjustly, we[I say] are sparing of our money, and unsparing of our brethren; we are careful of lifeless things, but neglect the living soul. And yet Paul says, “in meekness instruct those that oppose themselves, if peradventure God should give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil who are taken captive by him, at His will.” (2 Tim. 2:25, 26.) “If peradventure,” he says; thou seest of how great long-suffering the word is full.

Let us also imitate Him, and despair of no one. For the fishermen too, when they have cast many times [suppose it], have not succeeded; but afterwards having cast again, have gained all. So we also expect that ye will all at once show to us ripe fruit. For the husbandman too, after he has sown, waits one day or two days, and is a long while in expectation: and all at once he sees the fruits springing up on every side. This we expect will take place in your case also by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and also to the Holy Ghost be glory, might, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.

HOMILY XI

[1.] Having boldly reflected on the faults of the Hebrews, and sufficiently alarmed them, he consoles them, first, by praises, and secondly (which also is the stronger ground), by the [thought] that they would certainly attain the object of their hope. Moreover he draws his consolation, not from things future, but again from the past, which indeed would the rather persuade them. For as in the case of punishment, he alarms them rather by those [viz. things future], so also in the case of the prizes [set before them], he encourages them by these [viz. by things past], showing [herein] God’s way of dealing. And that is, not to bring in what has been promised immediately, but after a long time. And this He does, both to present the greatest proof of His power, and also to lead us to Faith, that they who are living in tribulation without having received the promises, or the rewards, may not faint under their troubles.

And omitting all [the rest], though he had many whom he might have mentioned, he brought forward Abraham both on account of the dignity of his person, and because this had occurred in a special way in his case.

And yet at the end of the Epistle he says, that “all these, having seen the promises afar off, and having embraced them, received them not, that they without us should not be made perfect.” (c. 11:13.) “For when God made promise to Abraham” (he says) “because He could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” (c. 11:39, 40.) How then does he say at the end [of the Epistle] that “he received not the promises,” and here, that “after he had patiently endured he obtained the promise”? How did he not receive? How did he obtain? He is not speaking of the same things in this place and in the other, but makes the consolation twofold. God made promises to Abraham, and after a long space of time He gave the things [spoken of] in this place, but those others not yet.

“And so after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” Seest thou that the promise alone did not effect the whole, but the patient waiting as well? Here he alarms them, showing that oftentimes a promise is thwarted through faintheartedness.1 And this he had indeed shown through [the instance of] the [Jewish] people: for since they were faint-hearted, therefore they obtained not the promise. But now he shows the contrary by means of Abraham. Afterwards near the end [of the Epistle] he proves something more also: [viz.] that even though they had patiently endured, they did not obtain; and yet not even so are they grieved.

[2.] “For men verily swear by the greater, and an Oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. But God because He could swear by no greater, sware by Himself.” Well, who then is He that sware unto Abraham? Is it not the Son? No, one says. Certainly indeed it was He: however, I shall not dispute [thereon]. So when He [the Son] sweareth the same oath, “Verily, verily, I say unto you,” is it not plain that it was because He could not swear by any greater? For as the Father sware, so also the Son sweareth by Himself, saying, “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” He here reminds them also of the oaths of Christ, which He was constantly uttering. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, he that believeth on Me shall never die.” (John 11:26.)

What is, “And an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife”? it is instead of, “by this every doubtful question is solved”: not this, or this, but every one.

God, however, ought to have been believed even without an oath: (ver. 17) “wherein” (he says) “God willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it [lit. “mediated”2 ] by an oath.” In these words he comprehends also the believers, and therefore mentions this “promise” which was made to us in common [with them]. “He mediated” (he says) “by an oath.” Here again he says that the Son was mediator between men and God.

Ver. 18. “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible that God should lie.” What are these two? The speaking and promising; and the adding an oath to the promise. For since among men that which is [confirmed] by an oath is thought more worthy of credit, on this account He added that also.

Seest thou that He regardeth not His own dignity, but how He may persuade men, and endures to have unworthy things said concerning Himself. That is He wishes to impart full assurance. And in the case of Abraham indeed [the Apostle] shows that the whole was of God, not of his patient endurance, since He was even willing to add an oath, for He by whom men swear, by Him also God “sware,” that is “by Himself.” They indeed as by one greater, but He not as by one greater. And yet He did it. For it is not the same thing for man to swear by himself, as for God. For man has no power over himself. Thou seest then that this is said not more for Abraham than for ourselves: “that we” (he says) “might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us.” Here too again,1 “after he had patiently endured he obtained the promise.”

“Now” he means, and he did not say “when2 He swore.” But what the oath is, he showed, by speaking of swearing by a greater. But since the race of men is hard of belief, He condescends to the same [things] with ourselves. As then for our sake He swears, although it be unworthy of Him that He should not be believed, so also did [the Apostle] make that other statement: “He learned from the things which He suffered” (c. 5:8), because men think the going through experience more worthy of reliance.

What is “the hope set before us”? From these [past events] (he says) we conjecture the future. For if these came to pass after so long a time, so certainly the others will. So that the things which happened in regard to Abraham give us confidence also concerning the things to come.

[3.] (Ver. 19, 20) “Which [hope] we have as an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil: whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made High Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.” He shows, that while we are still in the world, and not yet departed from [this] life, we are already among the promises. For through hope we are already in heaven. He said, “Wait; for it shall surely be.” Afterwards giving them full assurance, he says, “nay rather by hope.”3 And he said not, “We are within,” but ‘It hath entered within,’ which was more true and more persuasive. For as the anchor, dropped from the vessel, does not allow it to be carried about, even if ten thousand winds agitate it, but being depended upon makes it steady, so also does hope.

And see how very suitable an image he has discovered: For he said not, Foundation; which was not suitable; but, “Anchor.” For that which is on the tossing sea, and seems not to be very firmly fixed, stands on the water as upon land, and is shaken and yet is not shaken. For in regard to those who are very firm, and philosophic, Christ with good reason made that statement, saying, “Whosoever hath built his house on a rock.” (Matt. 7:24.) But in respect of those who are giving way, and who ought to be carried through by hope, Paul hath suitably set down this. For the surge and the great storm toss the boat; but hope suffers it not to be carried hither and thither, although winds innumerable agitate it: so that, unless we had this [hope] we should long ago have been sunk. Nor is it only in things spiritual, but also in the affairs of this life, that one may find the power of hope great. Whatever it may be, in merchandise, in husbandry, in a military expedition, unless one sets this before him, he would not even touch the work. But he said not simply “Anchor,” but “sure and steadfast” [i.e.] not shaken. “Which entereth into that within the veil”; instead of ‘which reacheth through even to heaven.’

[4.] Then after this he led on to Faith also, that there might not only be hope, but a very true [hope]. For after the oath he lays down another thing too, even proof by facts, because “the forerunner is for us entered in, even Jesus.” But a forerunner is a forerunner of some one, as John was of Christ.

Now he did not simply say, “He is entered in,” but “where He is entered in a forerunner for us,” as though we also ought to attain. For there is no great interval between the forerunner and those who follow: otherwise he would not be a forerunner; for the forerunner and those who follow ought to be in the same road, and to arrive after [each other].

“Being made an High Priest forever after the order,” he says, “of Melchisedec.” Here is also another consolation, if our High Priest is on high, and far better than those among the Jews, not in the kind [of Priesthood] only, but also in the place, and the tabernacle, and the covenant, and the person. And this also is spoken according to the flesh.

[5.] Those then, whose High Priest He is, ought to be greatly superior. And as great as the difference is between Aaron and Christ, so great should it be between us and the Jews. For see, we have our victim4 on high, our priest on high, our sacrifice1 on high: let us bring such sacrifices as can be offered on that altar, no longer sheep and oxen, no longer blood and fat. All these things have been done away; and there has been brought in in their stead “the reasonable service.” (Rom. 12:1.) But what is “the reasonable service”? The [offerings made] through the soul; those made through the spirit. (“God,” it is said, “is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth”—John 4:24); things which have no need of a body, no need of instruments, nor of special places, whereof each one is himself the Priest, such as, moderation, temperance, mercifulness, enduring ill-treatment, long-suffering, humbleness of mind.

These sacrifices one may see in the Old [Testament] also, shadowed out beforehand. “Offer to God,” it is said, “a sacrifice of righteousness” (Ps. 4:5); “Offer a sacrifice of praise” (Ps. 50:14); and, “a sacrifice of praise shall glorify Me” (Ps. 50:23), and, “the sacrifice of God is a broken spirit” (Ps. 51:17); and “what doth the Lord require of thee but” to hearken to Him? (Mic. 6:8.) “Burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure in: then I said, Lo I come to do Thy will, O God!” (Ps. 40:6, 7), and again, “To what purpose do ye bring the incense from Sheba?” (Jer. 6:20.) “Take thou away from Me the noise of thy songs, for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.” (Amos 5:23.) But instead of these “I will have mercy and not sacrifice.” (Hosea 6:6.) Thou seest with what kind of “sacrifices God is well pleased.” (c. 13:16.) Thou seest also that already from the first the one class have given place, and these have come in their stead.

These therefore let us bring, for the other indeed are [the offerings] of wealth and of persons who have [possessions], but these of virtue: those from without, these from within: those any chance person even might perform; these only a few. And as much as a man is superior to a sheep, so much is this sacrifice superior to that; for here thou offerest thy soul as a victim.

[6.] And other sacrifices also there are, which are indeed whole burnt-offerings, the bodies of the martyrs: there both soul and body [are offered]. These have a great savor of a sweet smell. Thou also art able, if thou wilt, to bring such a sacrifice.

For what, if thou dost not burn thy body in the fire? Yet in a different fire thou canst; for instance, in that of voluntary poverty, in that of affliction. For to have it in one’s power to spend one’s days in luxury and expense, and yet to take up a life of toil and bitterness, and to mortify the body, is not this a whole burnt-offering? Mortify thy body, and crucify it, and thou shalt thyself also receive the crown of this martyrdom. For what in the other case the sword accomplishes, that in this case let a willing mind effect. Let not the love of wealth burn, or possess you, but let this unreasonable appetite itself be consumed and quenched by the fire of the Spirit; let it be cut in pieces by the sword of the Spirit.

This is an excellent sacrifice, needing no priest but him who brings it. This is an excellent sacrifice, performed indeed below but forthwith taken up on high. Do we not wonder that of old time fire came down and consumed all? It is possible now also that fire may come down far more wonderful than that, and consume all the presented offerings:2 nay rather, not consume, but bear them up to heaven. For it does not reduce them to ashes, but offers them as gifts to God.

[7.] Such were the offerings of Cornelius. For (it is said) “thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.” (Acts 10:4.) Thou seest a most excellent union. Then are we heard, when we ourselves also hear the poor who come to us. “He” (it is said) “that stoppeth his ears that he may not hear the poor” (Prov. 21:13), his prayer God will not hearken to. “Blessed is he that considereth the poor and needy: the Lord will deliver him in the evil day.” (Ps. 40:1.) But what day is evil except that one which is evil to sinners?

What is meant by “he that considereth”? He that understandeth what it is to be a poor man, that has thoroughly learned his affliction. For he that has learned his affliction, will certainly and immediately have compassion on him. When thou seest a poor man, do not hurry by, but immediately reflect what thou wouldest have been, hadst thou been he. What wouldest thou not have wished that all should do for thee? “He that considereth” (he says). Reflect that he is a free-man like thyself, and shares the same noble birth with thee, and possesses all things in common with thee; and yet oftentimes he is not on a level even with thy dogs. On the contrary, while they are satiated, he oftentimes lies, sleeps, hungry, and the free-man is become less honorable than thy slaves.

But they perform needful services for thee. What are these? Do they serve thee well? Suppose then I show that this [poor man] too performs needful services for thee far greater than they do. For he will stand by thee in the Day of judgment, and will deliver thee from the fire. What do all thy slaves do like this? When Tabitha died, who raised her up? The slaves who stood around or the poor? But thou art not even willing to put the free-man on an equality with thy slaves. The frost is hard, and the poor man is cast out in rags, well-nigh dead, with his teeth chattering, both by his looks and his air fitted to move thee: and thou passeth by, warm and full of drink; and how dost thou expect that God should deliver thee when in misfortune?

And oftentimes thou sayest this too: ‘If it had been myself, and I had found one that had done many wrong things, I would have forgiven him; and does not God forgive?’ Say not this. Him that has done thee no wrong, whom thou art able to deliver, him thou neglectest. How shall He forgive thee, who art sinning against Him? Is not this deserving of hell?

And how amazing! Oftentimes thou adornest with vestments innumerable, of varied colors and wrought with gold, a dead body, insensible, no longer perceiving the honor; whilst that which is in pain, and lamenting, and tormented, and racked by hunger and frost, thou neglectest; and givest more to vainglory, than to the fear of God.

[8.] And would that it stopped here; but immediately accusations are brought against the applicant. For why does he not work (you say)? And why is he to be maintained in idleness? But (tell me) is it by working that thou hast what thou hast, didst thou not receive it as an inheritance from thy fathers? And even if thou dost work, is this a reason why thou shouldest reproach another? Hearest thou not what Paul saith? For after saying, “He that worketh not, neither let him eat” (2 Thess. 3:10), he says, “But ye be not weary in well doing.” (2 Thess. 3:13.)

But what say they? He is an impostor.1 What sayest thou, O man? Callest thou him an impostor, for the sake of a single loaf or of a garment? But (you say) he will sell it immediately. And dost thou manage all thy affairs well? But what? Are all poor through idleness? Is no one so from shipwreck? None from lawsuits? None from being robbed? None from dangers? None from illness? None from any other difficulties? If however we hear any one bewailing such evils, and crying out aloud, and looking up naked toward heaven, and with long hair, and clad in rags, at once we call him, The impostor! The deceiver! The swindler! Art thou not ashamed? Whom dost thou call impostor? Give nothing, and do not accuse the man.

But (you say) he has means, and pretends. This is a charge against thyself, not against him. He knows that he has to deal with the cruel, with wild beasts rather than with men, and that, even if he utter a pitiable story, he attracts no one’s attention: and on this account he is forced to assume also a more miserable guise, that he may melt thy soul. If we see a person coming to beg in a respectable dress, This is an impostor (you say), and he comes in this way that he may be supposed to be of good birth. If we see one in the contrary guise, him too we reproach. What then are they to do? O the cruelty, O the inhumanity!

And why (you say) do they expose their maimed limbs? Because of thee. If we were compassionate, they would have no need of these artifices: if they persuaded us at the first application, they would not have contrived these devices. Who is there so wretched, as to be willing to cry out so much, as to be willing to behave in an unseemly way, as to be willing to make public lamentations, with his wife destitute of clothing, with his children, to sprinkle ashes on [himself]. How much worse than poverty are these things? Yet on account of them not only are they not pitied, but are even accused by us.

[9.] Shall we then still be indignant, because when we pray to God, we are not heard? Shall we then still be vexed, because when we entreat we do not persuade? Do we not tremble for fear, my beloved?

But (you say) I have often given. But dost thou not always eat? And dost thou drive away thy children often begging of thee? O the shamelessness! Dost thou call a poor man shameless? And thou indeed art not shameless when plundering, but he is shameless when begging for bread! Considerest thou not how great are the necessities of the belly? Dost not thou do all things for this? Dost thou not for this neglect things spiritual? Is not heaven set before thee and the kingdom of heaven? And thou fearing the tyranny of that [appetite] endurest all things, and thinkest lightly of that [kingdom]. This is shamelessness.

Seest thou not old men maimed? But O what trifling! ‘Such an one’ (you say) ‘lends out so many pieces of gold, and such an one so many, and yet begs.’ You repeat the stories and trifles of children; for they too are always hearing such stories from their nurses. I am not persuaded of it. I do not believe this. Far from it. Does a man lend money, and beg when he has abundance? For what purpose, tell me? And what is more disgraceful than begging? It were better to die than to beg. Where does our in inhumanity stop? What then? Do all lend money? Are all impostors? Is there no one really poor? “Yea” (you say) “and many.” Why then dost thou not assist those persons, seeing thou art a strict enquirer into their lives? This is an excuse and a pretense.

“Give to every one2 that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” (Matt. 5:42.) Stretch out thy hand, let it not be closed up. We have not been constituted examiners into men’s lives, since so we should have compassion on no one. When thou callest upon God why dost thou say, Remember not my sins? So then, if that person even be a great sinner, make this allowance in his case also, and do not remember his sins. It is the season of kindness, not of strict enquiry; of mercy, not of account. He wishes to be maintained: if thou art willing, give; but if not willing, send him away without raising doubts.1 Why art thou wretched and miserable? Why dost thou not even thyself pity him, and also turnest away those who would? For when such an one hears from thee, This [fellow] is a cheat; that a hypocrite; and the other lends out money; he neither gives to the one nor to the other; for he suspects all to be such. For you know that we easily suspect evil, but good, not [so easily].

[10.] Let us “be merciful,” not simply so, but “as our heavenly Father is.” (Luke 6:36.) He feeds even adulterers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and what shall I say? Those having every kind of wickedness. For in so large a world there must needs be many such. But nevertheless He feeds all; He clothes all. No one ever perished of hunger, unless one did so of his own choice. So let us be merciful. If one be in want and in necessity, help him.

But now we are come to such a degree of unreasonableness, as to act thus not only in regard to the poor who walk up and down the alleys, but even in the case of men that live in [religious] solitude.2 Such an one is an impostor, you say. Did I not say this at first, that if we give to all indiscriminately, we shall always be compassionate; but if we begin to make over-curious enquiries, we shall never be compassionate? What dost thou mean? Is a man an impostor in order to get a loaf? If indeed he asks for talents of gold and silver, or costly clothes, or slaves, or anything else of this sort, one might with good reason call him a swindler. But if he ask none of these things, but only food and shelter, things which are suited to a philosophic life,3 tell me, is this the part of a swindler? Cease we from this unseasonable fondness for meddling, which is Satanic, which is destructive.

For indeed, if a man say that he is on the list of the Clergy, or calls himself a priest, then busy thyself [to enquire], make much ado: since in that case the communicating4 without enquiry is not without danger. For the danger is about matters of importance, for thou dost not give but receivest. But if he want food, make no enquiry.

Enquire, if thou wilt, how Abraham showed hospitality towards all who came to him. If he had been over-curious about those who fled to him for refuge, he would not have “entertained angels.” (c. 13:2.) For perhaps not thinking them to be angels, he would have thrust them too away with the rest. But since he used to receive all, he received even angels.

What? Is it from the life of those that receive [thy bounty] that God grants thee thy reward? Nay [it is] from thine own purpose, from thy abundant liberality; from thy loving kindness; from thy goodness. Let this be [found], and thou shalt attain all good things, which may we all attain, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.

 

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Hebrews 5:1-14

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 21, 2019

[1.] The blessed Paul wishes to show in the next place that this covenant is far better than the old. This then he does by first laying down remote considerations. For inasmuch as there was nothing bodily or that made a show,2 no temple for instance, nor Holy of Holies, nor Priest with so great apparel, no legal observances, but all things higher and more perfect, and there was nothing of bodily things, but all was in things spiritual, and things spiritual did not attract the weak, as things bodily; he thoroughly sifts this whole matter.

And observe his wisdom: he makes his beginning from the priest first, and continually calls Him an High Priest, and from this first [point] shows the difference [of the two Dispensations]. On this account he first of all defines what a Priest is, and shows whether He has any things proper to a Priest, and whether there are any signs of priesthood. It was however an objection in his way that He [Christ] was not even well-born, nor was He of the sacerdotal tribe, nor a priest on earth. How then was He a Priest? some one may say.

And just as in the Epistle to the Romans, having taken up an argument of which they were not easily persuaded, that Faith effects that which the labor of the Law could not, nor the sweat of the daily life, he betook himself to the Patriarch and referred the whole to that time: so now here also he opens out the other path of the Priesthood, showing its superiority from the things which happened before. And as, in [the matter of] punishment, he brings before them not Hell alone, but also what happened to their fathers,3 so now here also, he first establishes this position from things present. For it were right indeed that earthly things should be proved from heavenly, but when the hearers are weak, the opposite course is taken.

[2.] Up to a certain point he lays down first the things which are common [to Christ and their High Priests], and then shows that He is superior. For comparative4 excellence arises thus, when in some respects there is community, in others superiority; otherwise it is no longer comparative.

“For every High Priest taken from among men,” this is common to Christ; “is ordained for men in things pertaining to God,” and this also; “that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for the people,” and this too, [yet] not entirely: what follows however is no longer so: “who can have compassion5 on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way,” from this point forward is the superiority, “inasmuch as himself also is encompassed with infirmity; and by reason hereof he ought as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.”

Then also [there are] other [points]: He is made [Priest] (he says) by Another and does not of Himself intrude into [the office]. This too is common (ver. 4), “And no man taketh this honor to himself, but he that is called of God as was Aaron.”

Here again he conciliates6 them in another point, because He was sent from God: which Christ was wont to say throughout to the Jews. “He that sent Me is greater than I,” and, “I came not of Myself.” (John 12:49; 14:28; 8:42.)

He appears to me in these words also to hint at the priests of the Jews, as being no longer priests, [but] intruders and corrupters of the law of the priesthood; (ver. 5) “So Christ also glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest.”

How then was He appointed (one says)? For Aaron was many times appointed as by the Rod, and when the fire came down and destroyed those who wished to intrude into the priesthood. But in this instance, on the contrary, they [the Jewish Priests] not only suffered nothing, but even are in high esteem. Whence then [His appointment]? He shows it from the prophecy. He has nothing [to allege] perceptible by sense, nothing visible. For this cause he affirms it from prophecy, from things future; “But He that said unto Him Thou art My Son, to-day have I begotten Thee.” What has this to do with the Son? Yea (he says) it is a preparation for His being appointed by God.

Ver. 6. “As He saith also in another place, Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedech.” Unto whom now was this spoken?

Who is “after the order of Melchisedech”? No other [than He]. For they all were under the Law, they all kept sabbaths, they all were circumcised; one could not point out any other [than Him].

[3.] Ver. 7, 8. “Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears, to Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.” Seest thou that he sets forth nothing else than His care and the exceeding greatness of His love? For what means the [expression] “with strong crying”? The Gospel nowhere says this, nor that He wept when He prayed, nor yet that He uttered a cry. Seest thou that it was a condescension? For he could not [merely] say that He prayed, but also “with strong crying.”

“And was heard,” (he says), “in that He feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.” (Ver. 9, 10), “And being made perfect He became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him: called of God an High Priest after the order of Melchisedech.”

Be it with “crying,” why also “strong [crying] and tears”?

“Having offered,” (he says), “and having been heard in that He feared.” What sayest thou? Let the Heretics1 be ashamed. The Son of God “was heard in that He feared.” And what more could any man say concerning the prophets? And what sort of connection is there, in saying, “He was heard in that He feared, though He were Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered”? Would any man say these things concerning God? Why, who was ever so mad? And who, even if he were beside himself, would have uttered these things? “Having been heard,” (he says), “in that He feared, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” What obedience? He that before this had been obedient even unto death, as a Son to His Father, how did He afterwards learn? Seest thou that this is spoken concerning the Incarnation?

Tell me now, did He pray the Father that He might be saved from death? And was it for this cause that He was “exceeding sorrowful, and said, If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me”? (Matt. 26:38, 39.) Yet He nowhere prayed the Father concerning His resurrection, but on the contrary He openly declares, “Destroy this temple and within three days I will raise it up.” (John. 2:19.) And, “I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again. No man taketh it from Me, I lay it down of Myself.” (John 10:18.) What then is it; why did He pray? (And again He said, “Behold we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death. And they shall deliver Him to the Gentiles, to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him; and the third day He shall rise again” (Matt. 20:18, 19), and said not, “My Father shall raise Me up again.”) How then did He pray concerning this? But for whom did He pray? For those who believed on Him.

And what he means is this, ‘He is readily listened to.’ For since they had not yet the right opinion concerning Him, he said that He was heard. Just as He Himself also when consoling His disciples said, “If ye loved Me, ye would rejoice, because I go to My Father” (John 14:28), and “My Father is greater than I.” But how did He not glorify Himself, He who “made Himself of no reputation” (Phil. 2:7), He who gave Himself up? For, it is said, “He gave Himself” up “for our sins.” (See Gal. 1:4.) And again, “Who gave Himself a ransom for us all.” (1 Tim. 2:6.) What is it then? Thou seest that it is in reference to the flesh that lowly things are spoken concerning Himself: So also here, “Although He were Son, He was heard in that He feared,” it is said. He wishes to show, that the success was of Himself, rather than of God’s favor. So great (he says) was His reverence, that even on account thereof God had respect unto Him.

“He learned,” he saith, to obey God. Here again he shows how great is the gain of sufferings. “And having been made perfect,” he says, “He became the Author of salvation to them that obey Him.” (Cf. supra, pp. 384, 391.) But if He, being the Son, gained obedience from His sufferings, much more shall we. Dost thou see how many things he discourses about obedience, that they might be persuaded to it? For it seems to me that they would not be restrained. “From the things,” he says, “which He suffered He” continually “learned” to obey God. And being “made perfect” through sufferings. This then is perfection, and by this means must we arrive at perfection. For not only was He Himself saved, but became to others also an abundant supply of salvation. For “being made perfect He became the Author of salvation to them that obey Him.”

[4.] “Being called,” he says, “of God an High Priest after the order of Melchisedech”: (ver. 11) “Of whom we have many things to say and hard to be uttered [or explained].” When he was about to proceed to the difference of the Priesthood, he first reproves them, pointing out both that such great condescension was “milk,” and that it was because they were children that he dwelt longer on the lowly subject, relating to the flesh, and speaks [about Him] as about any righteous man. And see, he neither kept silence as to the doctrine altogether, nor did he utter it; that on the one hand, he might raise their thoughts, and persuade them to be perfect, and that they might not be deprived of the great doctrines; and on the other, that he might not overwhelm their minds.

“Of whom,” he says, “we have many things to say and hard to be explained, seeing ye are dull of hearing.” Because they do not hear, the doctrine is “hard to be explained.” For when one has to do with men who do not go along with him nor mind the things that are spoken, he cannot well explain the subject to them.

But perhaps some one of you that stand here, is puzzled, and thinks it a hard case, that owing to the Hebrews, he himself is hindered from hearing the more perfect doctrines. Nay rather, I think that perhaps here also except a few, there are many such [as they], so that this may be said concerning yourselves also: but for the sake of those few I will speak.

Did he then keep entire silence, or did he resume the subject again in what follows; and do the same as in the Epistle to the Romans? For there too, when he had first stopped the mouths of the gainsayers, and said, “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?” (Rom. 9:20), he then subjoined the solution. And for my own part I think that he was not even altogether silent, and yet did not speak it out, in order to lead the hearers to a longing [for the knowledge]. For having mentioned [the subject], and said that certain great things were stored up in the doctrine, see how he frames his reproof in combination with panegyric.

For this is ever a part of Paul’s wisdom, to mix painful things with kind ones. Which he also does in the Epistle to the Galatians, saying, “Ye did run well; who did hinder you?” (Gal. 5:7.) And, “Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain” (Gal. 3:4), and, “I have confidence in you in the Lord.” (Gal. 5:10.) Which he says also to these [Hebrews], “But we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation.” (c. 6:9.) For these two things he effects, he does not overstrain them, nor suffer them to fall back; for if the examples of others are sufficient to arouse the hearer, and to lead him to emulation; when a man has himself for an example and is bidden to emulate himself, the possibility follows at the same time. He therefore shows this also, and does not suffer them to fall back as men utterly condemned, nor as being alway evil, but [says] that they were once even good; (ver. 12) for “when for the time ye ought to be teachers,” he says. Here he shows that they had been believers a long while, and he shows also that they ought to instruct others.

[5.] At all events observe him continually travailing to introduce the discourse concerning the High Priest, and still putting it off. For hear how he began: “Having a great High Priest that is passed into the heavens” (c. 4:14); and omitting to say how He was great, he says again, “For every High Priest taken from among men, is appointed for men in things pertaining to God.” (c. 5:1.) And again, “So Christ also glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest.” (c. 5:5.) And again after saying, “Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedech” (c. 5:6), he again puts off [the subject], saying, “Who in the days of His Flesh offered prayers and supplications.” (c. 5:7.) When therefore he had been so many times repulsed, he says, as if excusing himself, The blame is with you. Alas! how great a difference! When they ought to be teaching others, they are not even simply learners, but the last of learners. (Ver. 12), “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one1 teach you again which be the first principles2 of the oracles of God.” Here he means the Human Nature [of Christ]. For as in external literature it is necessary to learn the elements first, so also here they were first taught concerning the human nature.

Thou seest what is the cause of his uttering lowly things. So Paul did to the Athenians also, discoursing and saying, “The times of this ignorance God winked at: but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent, because He hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained, whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30, 31.) Therefore, if he says anything lofty, he expresses it briefly, while the lowly statements are scattered about in many parts of the Epistle. And thus too he shows the lofty; since the very lowliness [of what is said] forbids the suspicion that these things relate to the Divine Nature. So here also the safe ground was kept.3

But what produces this dullness? This he pointed out especially in the Epistle to the Corinthians, saying, “For whereas there is among you envy and strife and divisions, are ye not carnal?” (1 Cor. 3:3.) But observe, I beseech you, his great wisdom, how he always deals according to the distempers before him. For there the weakness arose more from ignorance, or rather from sin; but here not from sins only, but also from continual afflictions. Wherefore he also uses expressions calculated to show the difference, not saying, “ye are become carnal,” but “dull”: in that case “carnal,” but in this the pain is greater. For they [the Corinthians] indeed were not able to endure [his reproof], because they were carnal: but these were able. For in saying, “Seeing ye are become dull of hearing” (c. 5:11), he shows that formerly they were sound in health, and were strong, fervent in zeal, which he also afterwards testifies respecting them.

[6.] “And are become such as have need of milk, not of strong meat.” He always calls the lowly doctrine “milk,” both in this place and in the other. “When,” he says, “for [i.e. “because of”] the time ye ought to be teachers”: because of that very thing, namely the time, for which ye ought especially to be strong, for this especially ye are become backsliding. Now he calls it “milk,” on account of its being suited to the more simple. But to the more perfect it is injurious, and the dwelling on these things is hurtful. So that it is not fitting that matters of the Law should be introduced1 now or the comparison made from them, [such as] that He was an High Priest, and offered sacrifice, and needed crying and supplication. Wherefore see how these things are unhealthful2 to “us”; but at that time they nourished them being by no means unhealthful to them.

So then the oracles of God are true nourishment. “For I will give unto them,” he saith, “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst of water, but a famine of hearing the word of the Lord.” (Amos 8:11.)

“I gave you milk to drink, and not meat” (1 Cor. 3:2); He did not say, I fed you, showing that such [nourishment] as this is not food, but that [the case is] like that of little children who cannot be fed with bread. For such have not drink given them, but their food is to them instead of drink.

Moreover he did not say, “ye have need,” but “ye are become such as have need of milk and not of strong meat.” That is, ye willed [it]; ye have reduced yourselves to this, to this need.

Ver. 13. “For every one that partaketh of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.” What is “the Word [doctrine] of righteousness”? He seems to me here to hint at conduct also. That which Christ also said, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees” (Matt. 5:20), this he says likewise, “unskilled in the word of righteousness,” that is, he that is unskilled in the philosophy that is above, is unable to embrace a perfect and exact life.3 Or else by “righteousness” he here means Christ, and the high doctrine concerning Him.

That they then were “become dull,” he said; but from what cause, he did not add, leaving it to themselves to know it, and not wishing to make his discourse hard to bear. But in the case of the Galatians he both “marveled” (Gal. 1:6) and “stood in doubt” (Gal. 4:20), which tends much more to encourage, as [it is the language] of one who would never have expected that this should happen. For this is [what] the doubting [implies].

Thou seest that there is another infancy. Thou seest that there is another full age.4 Let us become of “full age” in this sense: It is in the power even of those who are children, and the young to come to that “full age”: for it is not of nature, but of virtue.

[7.] Ver. 14. “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age [perfect], even them who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Those had not “their senses exercised,” nor did they “know good and evil.” He is not speaking now concerning life [conduct], when he says “to discern good and evil,” for this is possible and easy for every man to know, but concerning doctrines that are wholesome and sublime, and those that are corrupted and low. The babe knows not how to distinguish bad and good food. Oftentimes at least it even puts dirt into its mouth, and takes what is hurtful; and it does all things without judgment; but not [so] the full grown man. Such [babes] are they who lightly listen to everything, and give up their ears indiscriminately: which seems to me to blame these [Hebrews] also, as being lightly “carried about,” and now giving themselves to these, now to those. Which he also hinted near the end [of the Epistle], saying, “Be not carried aside by divers and strange doctrines.” (c. 13:9.) This is the meaning of “to discern good and evil.” “For the mouth tasteth meat, but the soul trieth words.” (Job 34:3.)

[8.] Let us then learn this lesson. Do not, when thou hearest that a man is not a Heathen nor a Jew, straightway believe him to be a Christian; but examine also into all the other points; for even Manichæans, and all the heresies, have put on this mask, in order thus to deceive the more simple. But if we “have the senses” of the soul “exercised to discern both good and evil,” we are able to discern such [teachers].

But how do our “senses” become “exercised”? By continual hearing; by experience of the Scriptures. For when we set forth the error of those [Heretics], and thou hearest to-day and to-morrow; and provest that it is not right, thou hast learnt the whole, thou hast known the whole: and even if thou shouldest not comprehend to-day, thou wilt comprehend to-morrow.

“That have,” he says, their “senses exercised.” Thou seest that it is needful to exercise our hearing by divine studies, so that they may not sound strangely. “Exercised,” saith he, “for discerning,” that is, to be skilled.

One man says, that there is no Resurrection; and another looks for none of the things to come; another says there is a different God; another that He has His beginning from Mary. And see at once how they have all fallen away from want of moderation,1 some by excess, others by defect. As for instance, the first Heresy of all was that of Marcion; this introduced another different God, who has no existence.2 See the excess. After this that of Sabellius, saying that the Son and the Spirit and the Father are One.3 Next that of Marcellus and Photinus, setting forth the same things. Moreover that of Paul of Samosata, saying that He had His beginning from Mary. Afterwards that of the Manichæans; for this is the most modern of all. After these the heresy of Arius. And there are others too.

And on this account have we received the Faith, that we might not be compelled to attack innumerable heresies, and to deal with them, but whatever any man might have endeavored either to add or take away, that we might consider spurious. For as those who give the standards do not oblige [people] to busy themselves about measures innumerable, but bid them keep to what is given them; so also in the case of doctrines.

[9.] But no man is willing to give heed to the Scriptures. For if we did give heed, not only should we not be ourselves entangled by deceit, but we should also set others free who are deceived, and should draw them out of dangers. For the strong soldier is not only able to help himself, but also to protect his comrade, and to free him from the malice of the enemy. But as it is, some do not even know that there are any Scriptures. Yet the Holy Spirit indeed made so many wise provisions in order that they might be safely kept.

And look at it from the first, that ye may learn the unspeakable love of God. He inspired the blessed Moses; He engraved the tables, He detained him on the mount forty days; and again as many [more] to give the Law. And after this He sent prophets who suffered woes innumerable. War came on; they slew them all, they cut them to pieces, the books were burned. Again, He inspired another admirable man to publish them, Ezra I mean, and caused them to be put together from the remains. And after this He arranged that they should be translated by the seventy. They did translate them. Christ came, He receives them; the Apostles disperse them among men. Christ wrought signs and wonders.

What then after so great painstaking? The Apostles also wrote, even as Paul likewise said, “they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” (1 Cor. 10:11.) And again Christ said, “Ye do err not knowing the Scriptures” (Matt. 22:29): and again Paul said, “That through patience and comfort of the Scriptures we may have hope.” (Rom. 15:4.) And again, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable.” (2 Tim. 3:16.) And “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” (Col. 3:16.) And the prophet, “he shall meditate in His Law day and night” (Ps. 1:2), and again in another place, “Let all thy communication be in the law of the Most High.” (Ecclus. 9:15.) And again, “How sweet are Thy words unto my throat.” (He said not to my hearing, but to my “throat”); “more than honey and the honeycomb to my mouth.” (Ps. 119:103.) And Moses says, “Thou shalt meditate in them continually, when thou risest up, when thou sittest, when thou liest down.” (Deut. 6:7.) “Be in them” (1 Tim. 4:15), saith he. And innumerable things one might say concerning them. But notwithstanding, after so many things there are some who do not even know that there are Scriptures at all. For this cause, believe me, nothing sound, nothing profitable comes from us.

[10.] Yet, if any one wished to learn military affairs, of necessity he must learn the military laws. And if any one sought to learn navigation or carpentry or anything else, of necessity he must learn the [principles] of the art. But in this case they will not do anything of the kind, although this is a science which needs much wakeful attention. For that it too is an art which needs teaching, hear the prophet saying, “Come, ye children, hearken unto me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” (Ps. 34:11.) It follows therefore certainly that the fear of God needs teaching. Then he says, “What man is he that desireth life?” (Ps. 34:12.) He means the life yonder; and again, “Keep thy tongue from evil and thy lips from speaking guile; depart from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.” (Ps. 34:13, 14.)

Do you know indeed who said these things, a prophet or a historian, or an apostle, or an evangelist? For my own part I do not think you do, except a few. Yea and these themselves again, if we bring forward a testimony from some other place, will be in the same case as the rest of you. For see, I repeat the same statement expressed in other words. “Wash ye, make you clean, put away your wickedness from your souls before Mine eyes, learn to do well, seek out judgment. Keep thy tongue from evil, and do good: learn to do well.” (Isa. 1:16, 17.) Thou seest that virtue needs to be taught? For this one says, “I will teach you the fear of the Lord,” and the other, “Learn to do well.”

Now then do you know where these words are? For myself I do not think you do, except a few. And yet every week these things are read to you twice or even three times: and the reader when he goes up [to the desk] first says whose the book is, [the book] of such a prophet, and then says what he says, so that it shall be more intelligible to you and you may not only know the contents of the Book, but also the reason of the writings, and who spake these things. But all in vain; all to no purpose. For your zeal is spent on things of this life, and of things spiritual no account is made. Therefore not even those matters turn out according to your wishes, but there also are many difficulties. For Christ says, “Seek ye the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33.) These things He said, shall also be given in the way of addition: but we have inverted the order and seek the earth and the good things which are in the earth, as if those other [heavenly] things were to be given us in addition. Therefore we have neither the one nor the other. Let us then at last wake up and become coveters of the things which shall be hereafter; for so these also will follow. For it is not possible that he who seeks the things that relate to God, should not also attain human [blessings]. It is the declaration of the Truth itself which says this. Let us not then act otherwise, but let us hold fast to the counsel of Christ, lest we fail of all. But God is able to give you compunction and to make you better, in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost be glory, power, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, fathers of the church, Notes on Hebrews, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture, SERMONS, St John Chrysostom | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Titus 3:8-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 5, 2019

HOMILY 6
TITUS 3:8-15

“These things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law, for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject. Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.”

Having spoken of the love of God to man, of His ineffable regard for us, of what we were and what He has done for us, he has added, “These things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works”; that is, Discourse of these things, and from a consideration of them exhort to almsgiving. For what has been said will not only apply to humility, to the not being puffed up, and not reviling others, but to every other virtue. So also in arguing with the Corinthians, he says, “Ye know that our Lord being rich became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9.) Having considered the care and exceeding love of God for man, he thence exhorts them to almsgiving, and that not in a common and slight manner, but “that they may be careful,” he says, “to maintain good works,” that is, both to succor the injured, not only by money, but by patronage and protection, and to defend the widows and orphans, and to afford a refuge to all that are afflicted. For this is to maintain good works. For these things, he says, are good and profitable unto men. “But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law, for they are unprofitable and vain.” What do these “genealogies” mean? For in his Epistle to Timothy he mentions “fables and endless genealogies.” (1 Tim. 1:4.) [Perhaps both here and there glancing at the Jews, who, priding themselves on having Abraham for their forefather, neglected their own part. On this account he calls them both “foolish and unprofitable”; for it is the part of folly to confide in things unprofitable.3] “Contentions,” he means, with heretics, in which he would not have us labor to no purpose, where nothing is to be gained, for they end in nothing. For when a man is perverted and predetermined not to change his mind, whatever may happen, why shouldest thou labor in vain, sowing upon a rock, when thou shouldest spend thy honorable toil upon thy own people, in discoursing with them upon almsgiving and every other virtue? How then does he elsewhere say, “If God peradventure will give them repentance” (2 Tim. 2:25); but here, “A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted and sinneth, being condemned of himself”? In the former passage he speaks of the correction of those of whom he had hope, and who had simply made opposition. But when he is known and manifest to all, why dost thou contend1 in vain? why dost thou beat the air? What means, “being condemned of himself”? Because he cannot say that no one has told him, no one admonished him; since therefore after admonition he continues the same, he is self-condemned.

Ver. 12. “When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus; be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis.” What sayest thou? After having appointed him to preside over Crete, dost thou again summon him to thyself? It was not to withdraw him from that occupation,2 but to discipline him the more for it. For that he does not call him to attend upon him, as if he took him everywhere with him as his follower, appears from what he adds:

“For I have determined there to winter.”

Now Nicopolis3 is a city of Thrace.

Ver. 14. “Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them.”

These were not of the number to whom Churches had been intrusted, but of the number of his companions. But Apollos was the more vehement, being “an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures.” (Acts 18:24.) But if Zenas was a lawyer, you say, he ought not to have been supported by others. But by a lawyer here is meant one versed in the laws of the Jews. And he seems to say, supply their wants abundantly, that nothing may be lacking to them.

Ver. 14, 15. “And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful. All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith.”

That is, either those that love Paul himself,4 or those men that are faithful.

“Grace be with you all. Amen.”

How then dost thou command him to stop the mouths of gainsayers, if he must pass them by when they are doing everything to their own destruction?5 He means that he should not do it principally for their advantage, for being once perverted in their minds, they would not profit by it. But if they injured others, it behooved him to withstand and contend with them; and manfully await6 them, but if thou art reduced to necessity, seeing them destroying others, be not silent, but stop their mouths, from regard to those whom they would destroy. It is not indeed possible for a zealous man of upright life to abstain from contention, but so do as I have said. For the evil arises from idleness and a vain philosophy, that one should be occupied about words only. For it is a great injury to be uttering a superfluity of words, when one ought to be teaching, or praying, or giving thanks. For it is not right to be sparing of our money but not sparing of our words; we ought rather to spare words than our money, and not to give ourselves up to all sorts of persons.

What means, “that they be careful to maintain good works”? That they wait not for those who are in want to come to them, but that they seek out those who need their assistance. Thus the considerate man shows his concern, and with great zeal will he perform this duty. For in doing good actions, it is not those who receive the kindness that are benefited, so much as those who do it that make gain and profit, for it gives them confidence towards God. But in the other case, there is no end of contention: therefore he calls the heretic incorrigible. For as to neglect those for whom there is a hope of conversion is the part of slothfulness, so to bestow pains upon those who are diseased past remedy is the extreme of folly and madness; for we render them more bold.

“And let ours,” he says, “learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.” You observe that he is more anxious for them than for those who are to receive their kindnesses. For they might probably have been brought on their way by many others, but I am concerned, he says, for our own friends. For what advantage would it be to them, if others should dig up treasures,7 and maintain their teachers? This would be no benefit to them, for they remained unfruitful. Could not Christ then, Who with five loaves fed five thousand men, and with seven loaves fed four thousand, could not He have supported Himself and His disciples?

Moral. For what reason then was He maintained by women? For women, it is said, followed Him, and ministered unto Him. (Mark 15:41.) It was to teach us from the first that He is concerned for those who do good. Could not Paul, who supported others by his own hands, have maintained himself without assistance from others? But you see him receiving and requesting aid. And hear the reason for it. “Not because I desire a gift,” he says, “but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.” (Phil. 4:17.) And at the beginning too, when men sold all their possessions and laid them at the Apostles’ feet, the Apostles, seest thou, were more concerned for them than for those who received their alms. For if their concern had only been that the poor might by any means be relieved, they would not have judged so severely of the sin of Ananias and Sapphira, when they kept back their money. Nor would Paul have charged men to give “not grudgingly nor of necessity.” (2 Cor. 9:7.) What sayest thou, Paul? dost thou discourage giving to the poor? No, he answers; but I consider not their advantage only, but the good of those who give. Dost thou see, that when the prophet gave that excellent counsel to Nebuchadnezzar, he did not merely consider the poor. For he does not content himself with saying, Give to the poor; but what? “Break off thy sins by almsdeeds,1 and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.” (Dan. 4:27.) Part with thy wealth, not that others may be fed, but that thou mayest escape punishment. And Christ again says, “Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor … and come and follow Me.” (Matt. 19:21.) Dost thou see that the commandment was given that he might be induced to follow Him? For as riches are an impediment, therefore he commands them to be given to the poor, instructing the soul to be pitiful and merciful, to despise wealth, and to flee from covetousness. For he who has learnt to give to him that needs, will in time learn not to receive from those who have to give. This makes men like God. Yet virginity, and fasting, and lying on the ground, are more difficult than this, but nothing is so strong and powerful to extinguish the fire of our sins as almsgiving. It is greater than all other virtues. It places the lovers of it by the side of the King Himself, and justly. For the effect of virginity, of fasting, of lying on the ground, is confined to those who practice them, and no other is saved thereby. But almsgiving extends to all, and embraces the members of Christ, and actions that extend their effects to many are far greater than those which are confined to one.

For almsgiving is the mother of love, of that love, which is the characteristic of Christianity, which is greater than all miracles, by which the disciples of Christ are manifested. It is the medicine of our sins, the cleansing of the filth of our souls, the ladder fixed to heaven; it binds together the body of Christ. Would you learn how excellent a thing it is? In the time of the Apostles, men selling their possessions brought them to them, and they were distributed. For it is said, “Distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” (Acts 4:35.) For tell me how, setting aside the future, and not now considering the kingdom that is to come, let us see who in the present life are the gainers, those who received, or those who gave. The former murmured and quarreled with each other. The latter had one soul. “They were of one heart, and of one soul,” it is said, “and grace was upon them all.” (Acts 4:32.) And they lived in great simplicity.2 Dost thou see that they were gainers even by thus giving? Tell me now, with whom would you wish to be numbered, with those who gave away their possessions, and had nothing, or with those who received even the goods of others?

See the fruit of almsgiving, the separations and hindrances were removed, and immediately their souls were knit together. “They were all of one heart and of one soul.” So that even setting aside almsgiving, the parting with riches is attended with gain. And these things I have said, that those who have not succeeded to an inheritance from their forefathers may not be cast down, as if they had less than those who are wealthy. For if they please they have more. For they will more readily incline to almsgiving, like the widow, and they will have no occasion for enmity towards their neighbor, and they will enjoy freedom in every respect. Such an one cannot be threatened with the confiscation of his goods, and he is superior to all wrongs. As those who fly unincumbered with clothes are not easily caught, but they who are incumbered with many garments and a long train are soon overtaken, so it is with the rich man and the poor. The one, though he be taken, will easily make his escape, whilst the other, though he be not detained, is incumbered by cords of his own, by numberless cares, distresses, passions, provocations, all which overwhelm the soul, and not these alone, but many other things which riches draw after them. It is much more difficult for a rich man to be moderate and to live frugally, than for the poor, more difficult for him to be free from passion. Then he, you say, will have the greater reward.—By no means.—What, not if he overcomes greater difficulties?—But these difficulties were of his own seeking. For we are not commanded to become rich, but the reverse. But he prepares for himself so many stumbling-blocks and impediments.

Others not only divest themselves of riches, but macerate their bodies, as travelers in the narrow way. Instead of doing this, thou heatest more intensely the furnace of thy passions, and gettest more about thee.3 Go therefore into the broad way, for it is that which receives such as thee. But the narrow way is for those who are afflicted and straitened, who bear along with them nothing but those burdens, which they can carry through it, as almsgiving, love for mankind, goodness, and meekness. These if thou bearest, thou wilt easily find entrance, but if thou takest with thee arrogance, a soul inflamed with passions, and that load of thorns, wealth, there is need of wide room for thee to pass, nor wilt thou well be able to enter into the crowd without striking others, and coming down upon them on thy way. In this case a wide distance from others is required. But he who carries gold and silver, I mean the achievements of virtue, does not cause his neighbors to flee from him, but brings men nearer to him, even to link themselves with him.1 But if riches in themselves are thorns, what must covetousness be? Why dost thou take that away with thee? Is it to make the flame greater by adding fuel to that fire? Is not the fire of hell sufficient? Consider how the Three Children overcame the furnace. Imagine that to be hell. With tribulation were they plunged into it, bound and fettered; but within they found large room; not so they that stood around without.

Something of this kind even now will be experienced, if we will manfully resist the trials that encompass us. If we have hope in God, we shall be in security, and have ample room, and those who bring us into these straits shall perish. For it is written, “Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein.” (Ecclus. 26:27.) Though they bind our hands and our feet, the affliction will have power to set us loose. For observe this miracle. Those whom men had bound, the fire set free. As if certain persons were delivered up to the servants of their friends, and the servants, from regard to the friendship of their master, instead of injuring them, should treat them with much respect; so the fire, when as it knew that the Three Children were the friends of its Lord, burst their fetters, set them free, and let them go, and became to them as a pavement, and was trodden under their feet. And justly, since they had been cast into it for the glory of God. Let us, as many of us as are afflicted, hold fast these examples.

But behold, they were delivered from their affliction, you say, and we are not. True, they were delivered, and justly; since they did not enter into that furnace expecting deliverance, but as if to die outright. For hear what they say: “There is a God in Heaven, Who will deliver us. But if not, be it known unto thee, O King, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” (Dan. 3:17, 18.) But we, as if bargaining on the chastisements of the Lord, even fix a time, saying, “If He does not show mercy till this time.” Therefore it is that we are not delivered. Surely Abraham did not leave his home expecting again to receive his son, but as prepared to sacrifice him; and it was contrary to his expectation that he received him again safe. And thou, when thou fallest into tribulation, be not in haste to be delivered,2 prepare thy mind for all endurance, and speedily thou shalt be delivered from thy affliction. For God brings it upon thee for this end, that He may chasten thee. When therefore from the first we learn to bear it patiently, and do not sink into despair, He presently relieves us, as having effected the whole matter.

I should like to tell you an instructive story, which has much of profit in it. What then is it? Once, when a persecution arose, and a severe war was raging against the Church, two men were apprehended. The one was ready to suffer anything whatever; the other was prepared to submit with firmness to be beheaded, but with fear and trembling shrunk from other tortures. Observe then the dispensation towards these men. When the judge was seated, he ordered the one who was ready to endure anything, to be beheaded. The other he caused to be hung up and tortured, and that not once or twice, but from city to city. Now why was this permitted? That he might recover through torments that quality of mind which he had neglected, that he might shake off all cowardice, and be no longer afraid to endure anything. Joseph too, when he was urgent to escape from prison, was left to remain there. For hear him saying, “Indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews; but do thou make mention of me to the king.” (Gen. 40:14, 15.) And for this he was suffered to remain, that he might learn not to place hope or confidence in men, but to cast all upon God. Knowing these things therefore let us give thanks to God, and let us do all things that are expedient for us, that we may obtain the good things to come, through Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom to the Father be glory, with the Holy Ghost, now and ever, and world without end. Amen

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Titus 2:11-3:7

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 5, 2019

HOMILY 5
TITUS 2:11-3:7

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, Teaching them that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

Having demanded from servants so great virtue, for it is great virtue to adorn the doctrine of our God and Saviour in all things, and charged them to give no occasion of offense to their masters, even in common matters, he adds the just cause, why servants should be such: “For the grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared.” Those who have God for their Teacher,1 may well be such as I have described, seeing their numberless sins have been forgiven to them. For you know that in addition to other considerations, this in no common degree awes and humbles the soul, that when it had innumerable sins to answer for, it received not punishment, but obtained pardon, and infinite favors. For if one, whose servant had committed many offenses, instead of scourging him with thongs, should grant him a pardon for all those, but should require an account of his future conduct, and bid him beware of falling into the same faults again, and should bestow high favors upon him, who do you think would not be overcome at hearing of such kindness? But do not think that grace stops at the pardon of former sins—it secures us against them in future, for this also is of grace. Since if He were never to punish those who still do amiss, this would not be so much grace, as encouragement to evil and wickedness.

“For the grace of God,” he says, “hath appeared, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present world; looking for the blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” See, how together with the rewards he places the virtue. And this is of grace, to deliver us from worldly things, and to lead us to Heaven. He speaks here of two appearings; for there are two; the first of grace, the second of retribution and justice.

“That denying ungodliness,” he says, “and worldly lusts.”

See here the foundation of all virtue. He has not said “avoiding,” but “denying.” Denying implies the greatest distance, the greatest hatred and aversion. With as much resolution and zeal as they turned from idols, with so much let them turn from vice itself, and worldly lusts. For these too are idols, that is, worldly lusts,1 and covetousness, and this he names idolatry. Whatever things are useful for the present life are worldly lusts, whatever things perish with the present life are worldly lusts. Let us then have nothing to do with these. Christ came, “that we should deny ungodliness.”2 Ungodliness relates to doctrines, worldly lusts to a wicked life.

“And should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present world.”

Dost thou see, what I always affirm, that it is not sobriety only to abstain from fornication, but that we must be free from other passions. So then he who loves wealth is not sober. For as the fornicator loves women, so the other loves money, and even more inordinately, for he is not impelled by so strong a passion. And he is certainly a more powerless3 charioteer who cannot manage a gentle horse, than he who cannot restrain a wild and unruly one. What then? says he, is the love of wealth weaker than the love of women? This is manifest from many reasons. In the first place, lust springs from the necessity of nature, and what arises from this necessity must be difficult to restrain, since it is implanted in our nature. Secondly, because the ancients had no regard for wealth, but for women they had great regard, in respect of their chastity. And no one blamed him who cohabited with his wife according to law, even to old age, but all blamed him who hoarded money. And many of the Heathen philosophers despised money, but none of them were indifferent to women, so that this passion is more imperious than the other. But since we are addressing the Church, let us not take our examples from the Heathens, but from the Scriptures. This then the blessed Paul places almost in the rank of a command. “Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content.”4 (1 Tim. 6:8.) But concerning women he says, “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent”—and “come together again.” (1 Cor. 7:5.) And you see him often laying down rules for a lawful intercourse, and he permits the enjoyment of this desire, and allows of a second marriage, and bestows much consideration upon the matter, and never punishes on account of it. But he everywhere condemns him that is fond of money. Concerning wealth also Christ often commanded that we should avoid the corruption of it, but He says nothing about abstaining from a wife. For hear what He says concerning money; “Whosoever forsaketh not all that he hath” (Luke 14:33); but he nowhere says, “Whosoever forsaketh not his wife”; for he knew how imperious that passion is. And the blessed Paul says, “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled” (Heb. 13:4); but he has nowhere said that the care of riches is honorable, but the reverse. Thus he says to Timothy, “They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts.” (1 Tim. 6:9.) He says not, they that will be covetous, but, they that will be rich.

And that you may learn from the common, notions the true state of this matter, it must be set before you generally. If a man were once for all deprived of money, he would no longer be tormented with the desire of it, for nothing so much causes the desire of wealth, as the possession of it. But it is not so with respect to lust, but many who have been made eunuchs have not been freed from the flame that burned within them, for the desire resides in other organs, being seated inwardly in our nature. To what purpose then is this said? Because the covetous is more intemperate than the fornicator, inasmuch as the former gives way to a weaker passion. Indeed it proceeds less from passion than from baseness of mind. But lust is natural, so that if a man does not approach a woman, nature performs her part and operation. But there is nothing of this sort in the case of avarice.

“That we should live godly in this present world.”

And what is this hope? what the reward of our labors?

“Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing.”

For nothing is more blessed and more desirable than that appearing. Words are not able to represent it, the blessings thereof surpass our understanding.

“Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour.”1

Where are those who say that the Son is inferior to the Father?

“Our great God and Saviour.” He who saved us when we were enemies. What will He not do then when He has us approved?2

“The great God.” When he says great with respect to God, he says it not comparatively but absolutely,3 after Whom no one is great, since it is relative. For if it is relative, He is great by comparison, not great by nature. But now He is incomparably great.

Ver. 14. “Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people.”

“Peculiar”: that is, selected from the rest, and having nothing in common with them.

“Zealous of good works.”

Dost thou see that our part is necessary, not merely works, but “zealous”; we should with all alacrity, with a becoming earnestness, go forward in virtue. For when we were weighed down with evils, and incurably diseased, it was of His lovingkindness that we were delivered. But what follows after this is our part as well as His.

Ver. 15. “These things speak and exhort, and rebuke with all authority.”

“These things speak and exhort.” Do you see how he charges Timothy? “Reprove, rebuke, exhort.” But here, “Rebuke with all authority.” For the manners of this people were more stubborn, wherefore he orders them to be rebuked more roughly, and with all authority. For there are some sins, which ought to be prevented by command. We may with persuasion advise men to despise riches, to be meek, and the like. But the adulterer, the fornicator, the defrauder, ought to be brought to a better course by command. And those who are addicted to augury and divination, and the like, should be corrected “with all authority.” Observe how he would have him insist on these things with independence, and with entire freedom.4

“Let no man despise thee.” But

Chap. 3:1. “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers.”

What then? even when men do evil, may we nor revile them? nay, but “to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man.” Hear the exhortation, “To speak evil of no man.” Our lips should be pure from reviling. For if our reproaches are true, it is not for us to utter them, but for the Judge to enquire into the matter. “For why,” he says, “dost thou judge thy brother?” (Rom. 14:10.) But if they are not true, how great the fire.5 Hear what the thief says to his fellow-thief. “For we are also in the same condemnation.” (Luke 23:40.) We are running the same hazard.6 If thou revilest others, thou wilt soon fall into the same sins. Therefore the blessed Paul admonishes us: “Let him that standeth, take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12.)

“To be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men.”

Unto Greeks and Jews, to the wicked and the evil. For when he says, “Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall,” he wakens their fears from the future; but here, on the contrary, he exhorts them from the consideration of the past, and the same in what follows;

Ver. 3. “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish.”

Thus also he does in his Epistle to the Galatians, where he says, “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.” (Gal. 4:4.) Therefore he says, Revile no one, for such also thou wast thyself.

“For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.”

Therefore we ought to be thus to all, to be gently disposed. For he who was formerly in such a state, and has been delivered from it, ought not to reproach others, but to pray, to be thankful to Him who has granted both to him and them deliverance from such evils. Let no one boast; for all have sinned. If then, doing well thyself, thou art inclined to revile others, consider thy own former life, and the uncertainty of the future, and restrain thy anger.7 For if thou hast lived virtuously from thy earliest youth, yet nevertheless thou mayest have many sins; and if thou hast not, as thou thinkest, consider that this is not the effect of thy virtue, but of the grace of God. For if He had not called thy forefathers, thou wouldest have been disobedient. See here how he mentions every sort of wickedness. How many things has not God dispensed by the Prophets and all other means? have we heard?

“For we,” he says, “were once deceived”

Ver. 4. “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared.” How? “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”

Strange! How were we drowned1 in wickedness, so that we could not be purified, but needed a new birth? For this is implied by “Regeneration.” For as when a house is in a ruinous state no one places props under it, nor makes any addition to the old building, but pulls it down to its foundations, and rebuilds it anew; so in our case, God has not repaired us, but has made us anew. For this is “the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” He has made us new men. How? “By His Spirit”; and to show this further, he adds,

Ver. 6. “Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.”

Thus we need the Spirit abundantly.

“That being justified by His grace”—again by grace and not by debt—“we may be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

At the same time there is an incitement to humility, and a hope for the future. For if when we were so abandoned, as to require to be born again, to be saved by grace, to have no good in us, if then He saved us, much more will He save us in the world to come.

For nothing was worse than the brutality of mankind before the coming of Christ. They were all affected towards each other as if enemies and at war. Fathers slew their own sons, and mothers were mad against their children. There was no order settled, no natural, no written law; everything was subverted. There were adulteries continually, and murders, and things if possible worse than murders, and thefts; indeed we are told by one of the heathen, that this practice was esteemed a point of virtue. And naturally, since they worshiped a god2 of such character. Their oracles frequently required them to put such and such men to death. Let me tell you one of the stories of that time. One Androgeus, the son of Minos, coming to Athens, obtained a victory in wrestling, for which he was punished and put to death. Apollo therefore, remedying one evil by another, ordered twice seven youths to be executed on his account. What could be more savage than this tyrannical command? And it was executed too. A man undertook to atone the mad rage of the demon, and slew these young men, because the deceit of the oracle prevailed with them. But afterwards, when the young men resisted and stood upon their defense, it was no longer done. If now it had been just, it ought not to have been prevented, but if unjust, as undoubtedly it was, it ought not to have been commanded at all. Then they worshiped boxers and wrestlers. They waged constant wars in perpetual succession, city by city, village by village, house by house. They were addicted to the love of boys, and one of their wise men made a law that Pædrasty, as well as anointing for wrestling,3 should not be allowed to slaves, as if it was an honorable thing; and they had houses for this purpose, in which it was openly practiced. And if all that was done among them was related, it would be seen that they openly outraged nature, and there was none to restrain them. Then their dramas were replete with adultery, lewdness, and corruption of every sort. In their indecent nocturnal assemblies, women were admitted to the spectacle. There was seen the abomination of a virgin sitting in the theater during the night, amidst a drunken multitude of young men madly reveling. The very festival was the darkness, and the abominable deeds practiced by them. On this account he says, “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures.” One man loved his stepmother,4 a woman her step-son, and in consequence hung herself. For as to their passion for boys, whom they called their “Pædica,” it is not fit to be named. And would you see a son married to his mother? This too happened among them, and what is horrible, though it was done in ignorance, the god whom they worshiped did not prevent it, but permitted this outrage to nature to be committed, and that though she was a person of distinction. And if those, who, if for no other reason, yet for the sake of their reputation with the multitude, might have been expected to adhere to virtue; if they rushed thus headlong into vice, what is it likely was the conduct of the greater part, who lived in obscurity? What is more diversified than this pleasure? The wife of a certain one fell in love with another man, and with the help of her adulterer, slew her husband upon his return. The greater part of you probably know the story. The son of the murdered man killed the adulterer, and after him his mother, then he himself became mad, and was haunted by furies. After this the madman himself slew another man, and took his wife. What can be worse than such calamities as these? But I mention these instances taken from the Heathens,1 with this view, that I may convince the Gentiles, what evils then prevailed in the world. But we may show the same from our own writings. For it is said, “They sacrificed their sons and daughters unto devils.” (Ps. 106:37.) Again, the Sodomites were destroyed for no other cause than their unnatural appetites. Soon after the coming of Christ, did not a king’s daughter dance at a banquet in the presence of drunken men, and did she not ask as the reward of her dancing the murder and the head of a Prophet? “Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord?” (Ps. 6:2.)

“Hateful,” he says, “and hating one another.” For it must necessarily happen, when we let loose every pleasure on the soul, that there should be much hatred. For where love is, with virtue, no man overreacheth another in any matter. Mark also what Paul says, “Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you.” (1 Cor. 6:9, 10.) Dost thou see how every species of wickedness prevailed? It was a state of gross darkness, and the corruption of all that was right. For if those who had the advantage of prophecies, and who saw so many evils inflicted upon their enemies, and even upon themselves, nevertheless did not restrain themselves, but committed numberless foolish crimes, what would be the case with others? One of their lawgivers ordered that virgins should wrestle naked in the presence of men. Many blessings on you! that ye cannot endure the mention of it; but their philosophers were not ashamed of the actual practice. Another, the chief of their philosophers, approves of their going out to the war, and of their being common,2 as if he were a pimp and pander to their lusts.

“Living in malice and envy.”

For if those who professed philosophy among them made such laws, what shall we say of those who were not philosophers? If such were the maxims of those who word a long beard, and assumed the grave cloak,3 what can be said of others? Woman was not made for this, O man, to be prostituted as common. O ye subverters of all decency, who use men, as if they were women, and lead out women to war, as if they were men! This is the work of the devil, to subvert and confound all things, to overleap the boundaries that have been appointed from the beginning, and remove those which God has set to nature. For God assigned to woman the care of the house only, to man the conduct of public affairs. But you reduce the head to the feet, and raise the feet to the head. You suffer women to bear arms, and are not ashamed. But why do I mention these things? They introduce on the stage a woman that murders her own children, nor are they ashamed to stuff the ears of men with such abominable stories.

Ver. 4. “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour towards man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that being justified by His grace we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

What means, “according to the hope”? That, as we have hoped, so we shall enjoy eternal life, or because ye are even already heirs.

“This is a faithful saying.”

Because he had been speaking of things future and not of the present, therefore he adds, that it is worthy of credit. These things are true, he says, and this is manifest from what has gone before. For He who has delivered us from such a state of iniquity, and from so many evils, will assuredly impart to us the good things to come, if we abide in grace. For all proceeds from the same kind concern.

Moral. Let us then give thanks to God, and not revile them; nor accuse them, but rather let us beseech them, pray for them, counsel and advise them, though they should insult and spurn us. For such is the nature of those who are diseased.4 But those who are concerned for the health of such persons do all things and bear all things, though it may not avail, that they may not have themselves to accuse of negligence. Know ye not that often, when a physician despairs of a sick man, some relative standing by addresses him, “Bestow further attendance, leave nothing undone, that I may not have to accuse myself, that I may incur no blame,5 no self-reproach.” Do you not see the great care that near kinsmen take of their relations, how much they do for them, both entreating the physicians to cure them, and sitting perseveringly beside them? Let us at least imitate them. And yet there is no comparison between the objects of our concern. For if any one had a son diseased in his body, he could not refuse to take a long journey to free him from his disease. But when the soul is in a bad state, no one concerns himself about it, but we all are indolent, all careless, all negligent, and overlook our wives, our children, and ourselves, when attacked1 by this dangerous disease. But when it is too late, we become sensible of it. Consider how disgraceful and absurd it is to say afterwards, “we never looked for it, we never expected that this would be the event.” And it is no less dangerous than disgraceful. For if in the present life it is the part of foolish men to make no provision for the future, much more must it be so with respect to the next life, when we hear many counseling us, and informing us what is to be done, and what not to be done. Let us then hold fast that hope.2 Let us be careful of our salvation, let us in all things call upon God, that He may stretch forth His hand to us. How long will you be slothful? How long negligent? How long shall we be careless of ourselves and of our fellow-servants? He hath shed richly upon us the grace of His Spirit. Let us therefore consider how great is the grace he has bestowed upon us, and let us show as great earnestness ourselves, or, since this is not possible, some, although it be less. For if after this grace we are insensible, the heavier will be our punishment. “For if I,” He says, “had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin, but now they have no cloak for their sin.” (John 15:22.) But God forbid that this should be said of us, and grant that we may all be thought worthy of the blessings promised to those who have loved Him, in Jesus Christ our Lord, &c.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, fathers of the church, Notes on Titus, Scripture, SERMONS, St John Chrysostom | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Titus 2:2-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 5, 2019

HOMILY 4
TITUS 2:2-10

“That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”

There are some failings which age has, that youth has not. Some indeed it has in common with youth, but in addition it has2 a slowness, a timidity, a forgetfulness, an insensibility, and an irritability. For this reason he exhorts old men concerning these matters, “to be vigilant.”3 For there are many things which at this period make men otherwise than vigilant, especially what I mentioned, their general insensibility, and the difficulty of stirring or exciting them. Wherefore he also adds, “grave, temperate.”4 Here he means prudent. For temperance is named from the well-tempered5 mind. For there are, indeed there are, among the old, some who rave and are beside themselves, some from wine, and some from sorrow. For old age makes them narrowminded.

“Sound in faith, in charity [love], in patience.”

He has well added “in patience,” for this quality more especially befits old men.

Ver. 3. “The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness.”

That is, that in their very dress and carriage they exhibit modesty.

“Not false accusers, not given to much wine.”

For this was particularly the vice of women and of old age. For from their natural coldness at that period of life arises the desire of wine, therefore he directs his exhortation to that point, to cut off all occasion of drunkenness, wishing them to be far removed from that vice, and to escape the ridicule that attends it. For the fumes mount more easily from beneath, and the membranes (of the brain) receive the mischief from their being impaired by age, and this especially causes intoxication. Yet wine is necessary at this age, because of its weakness, but much is not required. Nor do young women require much, though for a different reason, because it kindles the flame of lust.

“Teachers of good things.”

And yet thou forbiddest a woman to teach; how dost thou command it here, when elsewhere thou sayest, “I suffer not a woman to teach”? (1 Tim. 2:12.) But mark what he has added, “Nor to usurp authority over the man.” For at the beginning it was permitted to men to teach both men and women. But to women it is allowed to instruct by discourse at home. But they are nowhere permitted to preside, nor to extend their speech to great length, wherefore he adds, “Nor to usurp authority over the man.”

Ver. 4. “That they may teach the young women to be sober.”

Observe how he binds the people together, how he subjects the younger women to the elder. For he is not speaking there of daughters, but merely in respect of age. Let each of the elder women, he means, teach any one that is younger to be sober.

“To love their husbands.”

This is the chief point of all that is good in a household, “A man and his wife that agree together.” (Ecclus. 25:1.) For where this exists, there will be nothing that is unpleasant. For where the head is in harmony with the body, and there is no disagreement between them, how shall not all the other members be at peace? For when the rulers are at peace, who is there to divide and break up concord? as on the other hand, where these are ill disposed to each other, there will be no good order in the house. This then is a point of the highest importance, and of more consequence than wealth, or rank, or power, or aught else. Nor has he said merely to be at peace, but “to love their husbands.” For where love is, no discord will find admittance, far from it, other advantages too spring up.

“To love their children.” This is well added, since she who loves the root, will much more love the fruit.

“To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good.” All these spring from love. They become “good, and keepers at home,” from affection to their husbands.

“Obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”

She who despises her husband, neglects also her house; but from love springs great soberness, and all contention is done away. And if he be a Heathen, he will soon be persuaded; and if he be a Christian, he will become a better man. Seest thou the condescension of Paul? He who in everything would withdraw us from worldly concerns, here bestows his consideration upon domestic affairs. For when these are well conducted, there will be room for spiritual things, but otherwise, they too will be marred. For she who keeps at home will be also sober, she that keeps at home will be also a prudent manager, she will have no inclination for luxury, unseasonable expenses, and other such things.

“That the word of God,” he says, “be not blasphemed.”

See how his first concern is for the preaching of the word, not for worldly things; for when he writes to Timothy, he says, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Tim. 2:2); and here, “that the word of God,” and the doctrine, “be not blasphemed.” For if it should happen that a believing woman, married to an unbeliever, should not be virtuous, the blasphemy is usually carried on to God; but if she be of good character, the Gospel obtains glory from her, and from her virtuous actions. Let those women hearken who are united to wicked men or unbelievers; let them hear, and learn to lead them to godliness by their own example. For if thou gain nothing else, and do not attract thy husband to embrace right doctrines, yet thou hast stopped his mouth, and dost not allow him to blaspheme Christianity; and this is no mean thing, but great indeed, that the doctrine should be admired through our conversation.

Ver. 6. “Young men likewise exhort to be soberminded.”

See how he everywhere recommends the observance of decorum. For he has committed to women the greater part in the instruction of women, having appointed the elder to teach the younger. But the whole instruction of men he assigns to Titus himself. For nothing is so difficult for that age as to overcome unlawful pleasures. For neither the love of wealth, nor the desire of glory, or any other thing so much solicits the young, as fleshly lust. Therefore passing over other things, he directs his admonition to that vital point. Not however that he would have other things neglected; for what says he?

Ver. 7. “In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works.”

Let the elder women, he says, teach the younger, but do thou thyself exhort young men to be soberminded. And let the luster of thy life be a common school of instruction, a pattern of virtue to all, publicly exhibited, like some original model, containing in itself all beauties, affording examples whence those who are willing may easily imprint upon themselves any of its excellences.

Ver. 7, 8. “In [thy] doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.

By “him that is of the contrary part,” he means the devil, and every one who ministers to him. For when the life is illustrious, and the discourse corresponds to it, being meek and gentle, and affording no handle to the adversaries, it is of unspeakable advantage. Of great use then is the ministry of the word, not any common word, but that which is approved, and cannot be condemned, affording no pretext to those who are willing to censure it.

Ver. 9. “Exhort servants to be obedient to their own masters, and to please them well in all things.”

Dost thou see what he has previously said, “that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.” He therefore is deserving of condemnation, who under pretense of continence separates wives from their husbands, and he who under any other pretext takes away servants from their masters. This is not “speech that cannot be condemned,” but it gives great handle to the unbelieving, and opens the mouths of all against us.

“Not answering again.”

Ver. 10. “Not purloining, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.”

Thus he has well said in another place, “Doing service as to the Lord, and not to men.” For if thou servest thy master with good will, yet the occasion of this service proceeds from thy fear,1 and he who with so great fear renders Him service, shall receive the greater reward. For if he restrain not his hand, or his unruly tongue, how shall the Gentile admire the doctrine that is among us? But if they see their slave, who has been taught the philosophy of Christ, displaying more self-command than their own philosophers, and serving with all meekness and good will, he will in every way admire the power of the Gospel. For the Greeks judge not of doctrines by the doctrine itself, but they make the life and conduct the test of the doctrines. Let women therefore and servants be their instructors by their conversation. For both among themselves, and everywhere, it is admitted that the race of servants is passionate, not open to impression, intractable, and not very apt to receive instruction in virtue, not from their nature, God forbid, but from their ill breeding,2 and the neglect of their masters. For those who rule them care about nothing but their own service; or if they do sometimes attend to their morals, they do it only to spare themselves the trouble that would be caused them by their fornication, their thefts, or their drunkenness, and being thus neglected and having no one to concern himself about them, they naturally sink into the very depths of wickedness. For if under the direction of a father and mother, a guardian, a master, and teacher, with suitable companions, with the honor of a free condition, and many other advantages, it is difficult to escape intimacies with the wicked, what can we expect from those who are destitute of all these, and are mixed up with the wicked, and associate fearlessly with whomsoever they will, no one troubling herself about their friendships? What sort of persons do we suppose they will be? On this account it is difficult for any servant to be good, especially when they have not the benefit of instruction either from those without or from ourselves. They do not converse with free men of orderly conduct, who have a great regard for their reputation. For all these reasons it is a difficult and surprising thing that there should ever be a good servant.

When therefore it is seen that the power of religion, imposing a restraint upon a class naturally so self-willed, has rendered them singularly well behaved and gentle, their masters, however unreasonable they may be, will form a high opinion of our doctrines. For it is manifest, that having previously infixed in their souls a fear of the Resurrection, of the Judgment, and of all those things which we are taught by our philosophy to expect after death, they have been able to resist wickedness, having in their souls a settled principle to counterbalance the pleasures of sin. So that it is not by chance or without reason, that Paul shows so much consideration for this class of men: since the more wicked they are, the more admirable is the power of that preaching which reforms them. For we then most admire a physician, when he restores to a healthy and sane state one who was despaired of, whom nothing benefited, who was unable to command his unreasonable desires, and wallowed in them. And observe what he most requires of them; the qualities which contribute most to their masters’ ease.

“Not answering again, not purloining”; that is, to show all good will in matters intrusted to them, to be particularly faithful in their masters’ concerns, and obedient to their commands.

Moral. Do not therefore think that I enlarge upon this subject without a purpose. For the rest of my discourse will be addressed to servants. Look not to this, my good friend, that thou servest a man, but that thy service is to God, that thou adornest the Gospel. Then thou wilt undertake everything in obedience to thy master, bearing with him, though impatient, and angry without a cause. Consider that thou art not gratifying him, but fulfilling the commandment of God; then thou wilt easily submit to anything. And what I have said before, I repeat here, that when our spiritual state is right, the things of this life will follow. For a servant, so tractable and so well disposed, will not only be accepted by God, and made partaker of those glorious crowns, but his master himself, whom he serves so well, even though he be brutish and stone-hearted, inhuman and ferocious, will commend and admire him, and will honor him above all the rest, and will set him over their heads, though he be a Gentile.

And that servants are required to be thus disposed towards a Gentile master, I will show you by an example. Joseph, who was of a different religion from the Egyptian, was sold to the chief cook.1 What then did he? When he saw the young man was virtuous, he did not consider the difference of their religion, but loved and favored and admired him, and committed the others to his superintendence, and knew nothing of the affairs of his own house because of him. Thus he was a second master, and even more of a master than his lord, for he knew more of his master’s affairs than his master himself. And even afterwards, as it seems to me, when he believed the unjust accusation framed against him by his wife, yet from his former regard for him, retaining a respect for that just man, he satisfied his resentment with imprisonment. For if he had not greatly reverenced and esteemed him from his former conduct, he would have thrust his sword through his body, and dispatched him at once. “For jealousy is the rage of a man; therefore he will not regard any ransom, neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts.” (Prov. 6:34, 35.) And if such is the jealousy of men in general, much more violent must it have been with him, an Egyptian and barbarian, and injured as he thought by one whom he had honored. For you all know that injuries do not affect us in the same way from all persons, but that those grieve us most bitterly and deeply which proceed from those who were well-affected toward us, who had trusted us and whom we had trusted, and who had received many kindnesses from us. He did not consider with himself, nor say, What! have I taken a servant into my house, shared with him my substance, made him free, and even greater than myself, and is this the return that he makes me? He did not say this, so much was his mind prepossessed by his previous respect for him.

And what wonder if he enjoyed so much honor in the house, when we see what great regard he obtained even in a prison. You know how practiced in cruelty are the dispositions of those who have the custody of prisons. They profit by the misfortune of others, and harass those whom others support in their afflictions, making a gain of them that is truly deplorable, with a more than brutal cruelty. For they take advantage of those wretched circumstances which ought to excite their pity. And we may further observe, that they do not treat in the same manner all their prisoners; for those who are confined upon accusation only, and who are injuriously treated, they perhaps pity, but they punish with numberless inflictions those who are imprisoned for shameful and atrocious crimes. So that the keeper of the prison not only from the manner of such men might have been expected to be inhuman, but from the cause for which he was imprisoned. For who would not have been incensed against a young man, who having been raised to so great honor, was charged with requiting such favors by a base attempt upon the master’s wife. Would not the keeper, considering these things, the honor to which he had been raised, and the crime for which he was imprisoned, would he not have treated him with more than brutal cruelty? But he was raised above all these things by his hope in God. For the virtue of the soul can mollify even wild beasts. And by the same meekness which had gained his master, he captivated also the keeper of the prison. Thus Joseph was again a ruler, he ruled in the prison as he had ruled in the house. For since he was destined to reign, it was fit that he should learn to be governed, and while he was governed he became a governor, and presided in the house.

For if Paul requires this of one who is2 promoted to a Church, saying, “If a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of God?” (1 Tim. 3:5), it was fit that he who was to be a governor, should first be an excellent ruler of the house. He presided over the prison, not as over a prison, but as if it had been a house. For he alleviated the calamities of all, and took charge of those who were imprisoned as if they had been his own members, not only taking an interest in their misfortunes and consoling them, but if he saw any one absorbed in thought, he went to him and enquired the cause, and could not bear even to see any one dejected, or be easy till he had relieved his dejection. Such love as this, many a one has not shown even to his own children. And to these things may be traced the beginning of his good fortune. For our part must go before, and then the blessing of God will follow.

For that he did show this care and concern we learn from the story. He saw, it is said, two eunuchs who had been cast into prison by Pharaoh, his chief butler and chief baker, and he said, “Wherefore look ye so sadly today?” (Gen. 40:7.) And not from this question only, but from the conduct of these men, we may discern his merit. For, though they were the officers of the king, they did not despise him, nor in their despair did they reject his services, but they laid open to him all their secret, as to a brother who could sympathize with them.

And all this has been said by me to prove, that though the virtuous man be in slavery, in captivity, in prison; though he be in the depth of the earth, nothing will be able to overcome him. This I have said to servants, that they may learn that though they have masters that are very brutes, as this Egyptian, or ferocious as the keeper of the prison, they may gain their regard, and though they be heathen as they were, or whatever they be, they may soon win them to gentleness. For nothing is more engaging than good manners, nothing more agreeable and delightful than meekness, gentleness, and obedience. A person of this character is suitable to all. Such an one is not ashamed of slavery, he does not avoid the poor, the sick, and the infirm. For virtue is superior, and prevails over everything. And if it has such power in slaves, how much more in those who are free? This then let us practice, whether bond or free, men or women. Thus we shall be loved both by God and men; and not only by virtuous men, but by the wicked; nay by them more especially, for they more especially honor and respect virtue. For as those who are under rule stand most in awe of the meek, so do the vicious most revere the virtuous, knowing from what they themselves have fallen. Since such then is the fruit of virtue, this let us pursue, and attain. If we adhere to this, nothing will be formidable, but all things easy and manageable. And though we pass through the fire and through the water, all things yield to virtue, even death itself. Let us then be zealous in the pursuit of it, that we may attain the good things to come, in Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom, &c.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Titus 1:12-2:1

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 5, 2019

HOMILY 3
TITUS 1:12-2:1

“One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Creatians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn born the truth.”

There are several questions here. First, who it was that said this? Secondly, why Paul quoted it? Thirdly, why he brings forward a testimony that is not correct? Let us then offer a seasonable solution of these, having premised some other things. For when Paul was discoursing to the Athenians, in the course of his harangue he quoted these words, “To the Unknown God”: and again, “For we also are His offspring, as certain also of your own poets have said.” (Acts 17:23, 28.) It was Epimenides1 who said this, himself a Cretan, and whence he was moved to say it is nesessary to mention. It is this. The Cretans have a tomb a Jupiter, with this inscription. “Here lieth Zan, whom they call Jove.” On account of this inscription, then, the poet ridiculing the Cretans as liars, as he proceeds, introduces, to increase the ridicule, this passage.

For even a tomb, O King, of thee

They made, who never diedst, but aye shalt be.

If then this testimony is true, observe what a difficulty! For if the poet is true who said that they spoke falsely, in asserting that Jupiter could die, as the Apostle says, it is a fearful thing! Attend, beloved, with much exactness. The poet said that the Cretans were liars for saying that Jupiter was dead. The Apostle confirmed his testimony: so, according to the Apostle, Jupiter is immortal: for he says, “this witness is true”! What shall we say then? Or rather how shall we solve this? The Apostle has not said this, but simply and plainly applied this testimony to their habit of falsehood. Else why has he not added, “For even a tomb, O king, of thee, they made”? So that the Apostle has not said this, but only that one had well said, “The Creatians are always liars.” But it is not only from hence that we are confident that Jupiter is not a God. From many other arguments we are able to prove this, and not from the testimony of the Cretans. Besides, he has not said, that in this they were liars. Nay and it is more probable that they were deceived as to this point too.2 For they believed in other gods, on which account the Apostle calls them liars.

And as to the question, why does he cite the testimonies of the Greeks? It is because we put them most to confusion when we bring our testimonies and accusations from their own writers, when we make those their accusers, who are admired among themselves. For this reason he elsewhere quotes those words, “To the Unknown God.” For the Athenians, as they did not receive all their gods from the beginning, but from time to time admitted some other, as those from the Hyperboreans, the worship of Pan, and the greater and the lesser mysteries, so these same, conjecturing that besides these there might be some other God, of whom they almost implying, “if there might be some God unknown to them.” He therefore said to them, Him whom you have by anticipation acknowledged, I declare to you. But those words, “We also are His offspring,” are quoted from Aratus, who having preciously said, “Earth’s paths are full of Jove, the sea is full”—adds, “For we too are His offerings,” in which I conceive he shows that we are sprung from God. How then does Paul wrest what is said of Jupiter to the God of the universe? He has not transferred to God, and was neither justly nor properly applied to Jupiter, this he restores to God, since the name of God belongs to Him alone, and is not lawfully bestowed upon idols.

And from what writers should he address them? From the Prophets? They would not have believe them. Since with the Jews too he does not argue from the Gospels, but from the Prophets. For this reason he says, “Unto the Jews I became as a Jew, to them that are without law, as without law, to those that are under the Law, as under the Law.” (1 Cor. 9:20, 21.) Thus does God too, as in the case of the wise men, He does not conduct them by an Angel, nor a Prophet, nor an Apostle, nor an Evangelist, but how? By a start. For as their art made them conversant with these, He made use of such means to guide them. So in the case of the oxen, that drew the ark. “If it goeth up by the way of his own coast, then He hath done us this great evil” (1 Sam. 6:9), as their prophets suggested. Do these prophets then speak the truth? No; but he refutes and confounds them out of their own mouths. Again, in the case of the witch, because Saul believed in her, he caused him to hear through her what was about to befall him. Why then did Paul stop the mouth of the spirit, that said, “These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation”? (Acts 16:17.) And why did Christ hinder the devils from speaking of Him? In this case there was reason, since the miracles were going on. For here it was not a star that proclaimed Him, but He Himself; and the demons again were not worshiped1; for it was not an image that spoke, that it should be forbidden. He also suffered Balaam to bless, and did not restrain him. Thus He everywhere condescends.

And what wonder? for He permitted opinions erroneous, and unworthy of Himself, to prevail, as that He was a body formerly,2 and that He was visible. In opposition to which He says, “God is a Spirit.” (John 4:24.) Again, that He delighted in sacrifices, which is far from His nature. And He utters words at variance with His declarations of Himself, and many such things. For He nowhere considers His own dignity, but always what will be profitable to us. And if a father considers not his own dignity, but talks lispingly with his children, and calls their meat and drink not by their Greek names, but by some childish and barbarous words, much more doth God. Even in reproving He condescends, as when He speaks by the prophet, “Hath a nation changed their gods?” (Jer. 2:11), and in every part of Scripture there are instances of His condescension both in words and actions.

Ver. 13. “Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.”

This he says, because their disposition was froward, deceitful, and dissolute. They have these numberless bad qualities; and because they are prone to lying, deceiving, gluttonous, and slothful, severe reproof is necessary. For such characters will not be managed by mildness, “therefore rebuke them.” He speaks not here of Gentiles, but of his own people. “Sharply.” Give them, he says, a stroke that cuts deep. For one method is not to be employed with all, but they are to be differently dealt with, according to their various characters and dispositions. He does not here have recourse to exhortation. For as he who treats with harshness the meek and ingenuous, may destroy them; so he who flatters one that requires severity, causes him to perish, and does not suffer him to be reclaimed.

“That they may be sound in the faith.”

This then is soundness, to introduce nothing spurious, nor foreign. But if they who are scrupulous about meats are not sound, but are sick and weak; for, “Them that are weak,” he says, “receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations” (Rom 14:1); what can be said of those who observe the same fasts, (with the Jews,) who keep the sabbaths, who frequent the places that are consecrated by them? I speak of that at Daphne,3 of that which is called the cave of Matrona, and of that plain in Cilicia, which is called Saturn’s. How are these sound? With them a heavier stroke is necessary. Why then does he not do the same with the Romans? Because their dispositions were different, they were of a nobler character.

Ver. 14. “Not giving heed,” he says, “to Jewish fables.”

The Jewish tenets were fables in two ways, because they were imitations, and because the thing was past its season, for such things become fables at last. For when a thing ought not to be done, and being done, is injurious, it is a fable even as it is useless. As then those4 ought not to be regarded, so neither ought these. For this is not being sound. For if thou believest the Faith, why dost thou add other things, as if the faith were not sufficient to justify? Why dost thou enslave thyself by subjection to the Law? Hast thou no confidence in what thou believest? This is a mark of an unsound and unbelieving mind. For one who is faithful does not doubt, but such an one evidently doubts.

Ver. 15. “Unto the pure,” he says, “all things are pure.”

Thou seest that this is said to a particular purpose.

“But unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure.”

Things then are not clean or unclean from their own nature, but from the disposition of him who partakes of them.

“But even their mind and conscience is defiled.”

Ver. 16. “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate.”

The swine therefore is clean. Why then was it forbidden as unclean? It was not unclean by nature; for, “all things are pure.” Nothing is more unclean than a fish, inasmuch as it even feeds upon human flesh. But it was permitted and considered clean. Nothing is more unclean than a bird, for it eats worms; or than a stag, which is said to have its name1 from eating serpents. Yet all these were eaten. Why then was the swine forbidden, and many other things? Not because they were unclean, but to check excessive luxury. But had this been said, they would not have been persuaded; they were restrained therefore by the fear of uncleanness. For tell me, if we enquire nicely into these things, what is more unclean than wine; or than water, with which they mostly purified themselves? They touched not the dead, and yet they were cleansed by the dead, for the victim was dead, and with that they were cleansed. This therefore was a doctrine for children. In the composition of wine, does not dung form a part? For as the vine draws moisture from the earth, so does it from the dung that is thrown upon it. In short, if we wish to be very nice, everything is unclean, otherwise if we please not to be nice, nothing is unclean. Yet all things are pure. God made nothing unclean, for nothing is unclean, except sin only. For that reaches to the soul, and defiles it. Other uncleanness is human prejudice.

“But unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.”

For how can there be anything unclean among the pure? But he that has a weak soul makes everything unclean, and if there be set abroad a scrupulous enquiry into what is clean or unclean, he will touch nothing. For even these things are not clean, I speak of fish, and other things, according to their notions; (for “their mind and conscience,” he says, “is defiled,”) but all are impure. Yet Paul says not so; he turns the whole matter upon themselves. For nothing is unclean, he says, but themselves, their mind and their conscience; and nothing is more unclean than these;2 but an evil will is unclean.

“They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”

2:1. “But speak thou the things that become sound doctrine.”

This then is uncleanness. They are themselves unclean. But be not thou silent on that account. Do thy part, although they may not receive thee. Advise and counsel them, though they may not be persuaded. Here he censures them more severely. For they who are mad imagine that nothing stands still, yet this arises not from the objects that are seen, but from the eyes that see. Because they are unsteady and giddy, they think that the earth turns round with them, which yet turns not, but stands firm. The derangement3 is of their own state, not from any affection of the element. So it is here, when the soul is unclean, it thinks all things unclean. Therefore scrupulous observances are no mark of purity, but it is the part of purity to be bold in all things. For he that is pure by nature ventures upon all things, they that are defiled, upon nothing. This we may say against Marcion. Seest thou that it is a mark of purity to be superior to all defilement, to touch nothing implies impurity. This holds even with respect to God. That He assumed flesh is a proof of purity; if through fear He had not taken it, there would have been defilement. He who eats not things that seem unclean, is himself unclean and weak, he who eats, is neither. Let us not call such pure, they are the unclean. He is pure, who dares to feed upon all things. All this caution we ought to exercise towards the things that defile the soul. For that is uncleanness, that is defilement. None of these things is so. Those who have a vitiated palate think what is set before them is unclean, but this is the effect of their disorder. It becomes us therefore to understand the nature of things pure, and things unclean.

Moral. What then is unclean? Sin, malice, covetousness, wickedness.4 As it is written: “Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings.” (Isa. 1:16.) “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” (Ps. 51:10.) “Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing.” (Isa. 52:11.) These observances were emblems of purifications.5 “Touch not a dead body,” it is said. For sin is such, it is dead and offensive. “The leper is unclean.” For sin is a leprosy, various and multiform. And that they had this meaning, appears from what follows. For if the leprosy is general, and overspreads the whole body, he is clean; if it is partial, he is unclean. Thus you see that what is various and changeable is the unclean thing. He again whose seed passes from him is unclean, consider one that is so in soul, casting away his seed. He who is uncircumcised is unclean. These things are not allegorical6 but typical, for he who does not cut off the wickedness of his heart is the unclean person. He who worketh on the Sabbath is to be stoned, that is, he who is not at all times devoted to God, shall perish.7 You see how many varieties of uncleanness there are. The woman in child-bed is unclean. Yet God made child-birth, and the seed of copulation. Why then is the woman unclean, unless something further was intimated? And what was this? He intended to produce piety in the soul, and to deter it from fornication. For if she is unclean who has borne a child, much more she who has committed fornication. If to approach his own wife is not altogether pure, much less to have intercourse with the wife of another. He who attends a funeral is unclean, much more he who has mixed in war and slaughter. And many kinds of uncleanness would be found, if it were necessary to recount them all. But these things are not now required of us. But all is transferred to the soul.

For bodily things are nearer to us, from these therefore he introduced instruction. But it is not so now. For we ought not to be confined to figures, and shadows, but to adhere to the truth, and to uphold it: sin is the unclean thing. From that let us flee, from that let us abstain. “If thou comest near it, it will bite1 thee.” (Ecclus. 21:2.) Nothing is more unclean than covetousness. Whence is this manifest? From the facts themselves. For what does it not defile? the hands, the soul, the very house where the ill-gotten treasure is laid up. But the Jews consider this as nothing. And yet Moses carried off the bones of Joseph. Samson drank from the jawbone of an ass, and ate honey from the lion, and Elijah was nourished by ravens, and by a widow woman. And tell me, if we were to be precise about these things, what can be more unclean than our books, which are made of the skins of animals? The fornicator, then, is not the only one that is unclean, hut others more than he, as the adulterer. But both the one and the other are unclean, not on account of the intercourse, (for according to that reasoning a man cohabiting with his own wife would be unclean,) but because of the wickedness of the act, and the injury done to his neighbor in his nearest interests. Dost thou see that it is wickedness that is unclean? He who had two wives was not unclean, and David who had many wives was not unclean. But when he had one unlawfully, he became unclean. Why? Because he had injured and defrauded his neighbor. And the fornicator is not unclean on account of the intercourse, but on account of the manner of it, because it injures the woman, and they injure one another, making the woman common, and subverting the laws of nature. For she ought to be the wife of one man, since it is said, “Male and female created He them.” (Gen. 1:27.) And, “they twain shall be one flesh.” Not “those many,” but “they twain shall be one flesh.” Here then is injustice, and therefore the act is wicked. Again, when anger exceeds due measure, it makes a man unclean, not in itself, but because of its excess. Since it is not said, “He that is angry,” merely, but “angry without a cause.” Thus every way to desire overmuch is unclean, for it proceeds from a greedy and irrational disposition. Let us therefore be sober, I beseech you, let us be pure, in that which is real purity, that we may be thought worthy to see God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom, &c.

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