The Divine Lamp

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 22:30, 23:6-11

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 1, 2016

Text in red are my additions.

Act 22:30 But on the next day, meaning to know more diligently for what cause he was accused by the Jews, he loosed him and commanded the priests to come together and all the council: and, bringing forth Paul, he set him before them.

“And all the Council”—the Sanhedrim. “Commanded the Priests,” &c. This convening of a Council by a Roman Military Tribunal shows what little liberty, even in religious matters, the Jews enjoyed under the Roman dominion.

“Bringing forth Paul” from the Castle to the place where the meeting was held, usually, in the house of the High Priest.

“Set him before them,” to plead his cause, and let all see the true state of the case and the nature of the accusations brought against him.

Act 23:6 And Paul, knowing that the one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, cried out in the council: Men, brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees: concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.

Knowing from his former acquaintance with the members and their character.

“Pharisees” and “Sadducees,” (see Matthew 3:7, Commentary on).

He wishes to enlist in his favour a great number of the members, by a kind of side issue, in introducing the much controverted question, especially among the Pharisees and Sadducees, regarding the Resurrection of the dead.

“A Pharisee,” formerly when professing Judaism.

Act 23:7 And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. And the multitude was divided.

“The multitude,” composing the Sanhedrim.

Dissension. See Luke 2:34-35; Acts 14:4, 21:34.

Act 23:8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.

Sadducees. It is said that their teaching had its rise in the thought that “God’s servants should not do service with the hope of reward.” As the life to come would be a reward we are told that their doctrine developed into the denial of the Resurrection. As we meet with them in the New Testament, they are mainly members of the priestly order, and appear to have accepted only the written Law, as distinct from tradition, yet in spite of the mention of angels in the Pentateuch they appear to have explained the language in such wise as to identify these angelic appearances with some manifestation of the divine glory, and thus to have come to deny the existence of any spiritual beings distinct from God Himself. In political matters they were on the side of Rome, and in consequence are found uniting at times with the Herodians.

Act 23:9 And there arose a great cry. And some of the Pharisees rising up, strove, saying: We find no evil in this man. What if a spirit hath spoken to him, or an angel?

“If a spirit or an angel.” The chief distinctive doctrine of the Pharisees was, the Resurrection of the dead. The opposite was the case with the Sadducees, which Paul well knew. He turns to account on this occasion, his knowledge of their discordant feelings and opinions.

Act 23:10 And when there arose a great dissension, the tribune, fearing lest Paul should be pulled in pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and to take him by force from among them and to bring him into the castle.

It was on account of his knowing, that Paul was a Roman citizen, that the Tribune felt much interest in his safety.

Act 23:11 And the night following, the Lord standing by him, said: Be constant: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

“Night following.” How this consoling and encouraging apparition took place is not mentioned. It conveyed an assurance that Paul’s mode of acting before the Sanhedrim was pleasing to our Lord. There is no allusion to a dream or ecstasy. Hence, many hold it occurred while Paul was awake. He ardently desired to visit Rome (19:21). He now receives an assurance that his wishes will be gratified. “Constant,” in Greek “take courage,” “be without fear.”

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 20:28-38

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 1, 2016

Text in red are my additions.

Act 20:28 Take heed to yourselves and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the Church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood.

“Take heed to yourselves.” The first and chief thing for pastors if they wish to have their labours successful and abiding, is to attend first to the work of their own sanctification. This St. Paul inculcates (Tim. 4:16), attende Tibi and doctrinæ. See Commentary on.

“And the whole flock.” Our Lord himself is fond of using a pastoral image or metaphor, when speaking of his people, whom he often represents under the image of a flock, cared by shepherds, of whom he is himself the chief and head.

“Wherein.” That portion of the universal church over which “the Holy Ghost has placed you bishops.” The word “bishop” means overscer, superintendent, with power communicated by the spirit of fortitude and strength, to oversee all, priests and people. No doubt, several bishops were present, as also some priests. The designation “bishops” marks their office of superintending and ruling priests and people, and of conducting them in the way of salvation.

“To rule.” The Greek word—ποιμαινειν—a pastoral term—means to rule, guide, govern and direct. This is specially addressed to such of the audience as were bishops or priests of the first order, of whom some, no doubt, came together from the outlying districts, bordering on Ephesus.

“The Church of God.” There is a diversity of reading here, some MSS. have the Church of the Lord, others, the “Church of the Lord and God.” The Vulgate reading is best sustained by the testimony of the Fathers. The Vulgate reading is more in accordance with the language of St. Paul, who, frequently in his writings, speaks of the “Church of God;” never, “of our Lord.” These words furnish an unanswerable proof of our Lord’s Divinity. He who purchased the Church is called “God.” It was our Lord Jesus Christ that, with the blood of His humanity hypostatically united to His Divinity, purchased the Church. It is said here, it was “God” that purchased the Church. Hence, our Lord is “God.” It was through His humanity he purchased it, by the effusion of His blood. It was His Divine Person that imparted an infinite value to all the works performed through His human nature.

Act 20:29 I know that after my departure ravening wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

They should attend to their flock now more diligently, on account of the dangers they were exposed to from without, from the Judaizers after his departure.

“Ravening wolves.” In Greek heavy, destructive wolves, false teachers, hypocrites.

Act 20:30 And of your own selves shall arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

Also from within. Heretics who sprung forth from the bosom of the Church, in which Gnosticism soon appeared. In his Epistles to Timothy, whom the Apostle appointed bishop of Ephesus, he refers to several false teachers (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 1:15; 2:17).

Act 20:31 Therefore watch, keeping in memory that for three years I ceased not with tears to admonish every one of you, night and day.

Surrounded with such dangers, they should “watch,” be ever on the alert to meet these heretics. They should also gratefully remember the zeal and burning charity he himself displayed in admonishing all, both by night and by day. The fruit of such zeal among the people should not be allowed to be lost through their fault.

“For three years” or thereabouts. He was only two years teaching in the school of Tyrannus (19:8–10), and about three months more in the synagogue, “three years” more or less.

Act 20:32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, who is able to build up and to give an inheritance among all the sanctified.

“Now” about to leave them for ever, he commends them to God.

“The word of His grace,” viz., the word of the Gospel to which, provided it be faithfully believed and its precepts carried out in practice, is attached the grace of salvation, and all the particular graces that conduct thereto.

“Build up.” Make them advance in Christian life and the work of sanctification.

“And to give you an inheritance,” make you His heirs and partakers with all God’s saints in the inheritance in store for them.

Act 20:33 I have not coveted any man’s silver, gold or apparel, as
Act 20:34 You yourselves know. For such things as were needful for me and them that are with me, these hands have furnished.

He concludes this magnificent, valedictory address by inculcating disinterestedness, of which he gave so noble an example. They all knew his disinterestedness, free from not alone the stain, but the very suspicion of sordid avarice, or any desire to become possessed of any of their worldly goods. All he sought for was, not their worldly substance; but, their immortal souls. By labouring hard and with the work of his hands, he supported himself and those who were with him.

Act 20:35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring you ought to support the weak and to remember the word of the Lord Jesus, how he said: It is a more blessed thing to give, rather than to receive.

“Showed” by word and example, “all things,” in regard to all things appertaining to the apostolic and pastoral mode of life. “How you ought,” by labouring, after my example, “to support the weak,” by administering to the corporal wants of the needy too weak to labour for themselves; or, it more likely means the infirm in faith. By thus labouring to procure a livelihood, we would accommodate ourselves to the weakness of our infirm brethren, who might be scandalized by seeing us receive temporal remuneration and support for having laboured spiritually in the cause of the Gospel. By thus labouring for our own sustenance, we would support and stretch to them a helping hand, so that they would not be scandalized at our seeming selfishness, and be saved from the temptation of abandoning the faith.

“And to remember … it is a more blessed thing,” &c. This saying of our Lord is found no where in the Gospels, which, however, do not claim to record all his sayings (John 16:15). St. Paul supposes it to be well known to those whom he addresses. He learned it from some of our Lord’s disciples. It has reference to temporal matters. By renouncing their just claim to temporal support, the Apostles would have fulfilled in themselves and realized this adage. In preaching the Gospel gratuitously, they give of their own to others.

Act 20:36 And when he had said these things, kneeling down, he prayed with them all.

Kneeling down. It should be remembered that St Paul is on his way to Jerusalem and knows that chains and afflictions await him (Acts 20:22-23). Jesus also knew what awaited him and he also knelt down in prayer (Luke 22:41).

Act 20:37 And there was much weeping among them all. And falling on the neck of Paul, they kissed him,

Kissed him. The word κατεφιλουν = kataphiloun is in the imperfect tense, denoting repeated action. It expresses intense sorrow and is found elsewhere only in describing the father’s response to his prodigal son’s return (Luke 15:22).

Act 20:38 Being grieved most of all for the word which he had said, that they should see his face no more. And they brought him on his way to the ship.

Being grieved. The same Greek word (οδυνωμενοι = odynomenoi) is used to describe the effect of the child Jesus’ absence upon Mary and Joseph in Luke 2:48. It is used to express intense emotional or physical anguish. It is also used to describe the torment undergone by the rich man in the Parable of Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16:24-25).

 

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 20:17-27

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 1, 2016

Act 20:17 And sending from Miletus to Ephesus, he called the ancients of the church.

Miletus was not far from Ephesus, about a day’s journey, forty miles or so.

“Ancients of the Church.” It is a subject of discussion among commentators whether this term refers to the clergy of the First order only, whom the Apostle calls, v. 28. Episcopi or bishops. Some Commentators say the Apostle summoned the several bishops from the surrounding districts of the Province of Ephesus, each having its own bishop; or, whether it refers to priests of the Second order only, as is maintained by some, who, however, admit the superiority of bishops over priests, defined as a point of faith (C. of Trent, ss. xxiii., c. 4, can. 7), some hold that it includes priests as well of the first as of the second order. The opinion which understands the term as common to bishops and priests, seems to be the one more generally adopted by Commentators and Ecclesiastical writers as more probable.

The term, Presbyter, according to Etymology, means, one advanced in age. Episcopus or Bishop, an overseer, or superintendent. But, according Ecclesiastical and Scriptual usage, Presbyter designates, a sacred minister or priest; Episcopus or Bishop, one who holds the first place in a church, oversees things and exercises jurisdiction over others. The term, Episcopus, while strictly denoting bishops, priests of the first order, to whom it is confined, and the high office they exercise, may also, to a certain extent, designate priests of the second order, who participate in the sacred office which the bishops exercise in its plenitude, in virtue of which they delegate a portion of their power, as also care and duty of superintendence to the clergy of the second order (see Ep. ad Philip 1; Titus 1:5; 1 Tim. 3:8, Commentary on).

Act 20:18 And when they were come to him and were together, he said to them: You know from the first day that I came into Asia, in what manner I have been with you, for all the time.

This valedictory address contains much in praise of the Apostle. It proceeded, however, not from vain glory, but from a sincere desire to point out to the pastors the line of conduct they should pursue, and the great zeal they should display, after his example.

He speaks only of what they knew already regarding his life, labours, and sufferings.

Act 20:19 Serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and temptations which befell me by the conspiracies of the Jews:

“Serving the Lord” by the faithful discharge of the duties of his high Apostolic office.

“With all humility,” not puffed up; humbly referring all his success to God.

“With tears” caused by the perverse conduct of his persecutors. “And temptations,” trials, arising from the snares and murderous designs of the Jews, and their plots against his life (v. 3).

Act 20:20 How I have kept back nothing that was profitable to you, but have preached it to you, and taught you publicly, and from house to house,

“Nothing profitable.” Whether palatable or otherwise, provided he saw it would ultimately prove of service to them.

Act 20:21 Testifying both to Jews and Gentiles penance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Testifying,” inculcating and urging, by all means, on all, “Jews and Gentiles,” the necessity of doing penance for their sins against God, and of “faith in our Lord,” &c., by whose blood they were redeemed.

Act 20:22 And now, behold, being bound in the spirit, I go to Jerusalem: not knowing the things which shall befall me there:

“Bound in the spirit.” Some understand “spirit” of the Holy Ghost, impelling, constraining him by his influences, to go forward, heedless of personal risks. In the next verse, however, he speaks of the “Holy Ghost.” Hence, others understand it of his own will, which, under a sense strong of duty, not, however, without the superintending guidance of God’s spirit, urges him forward.

“Not knowing,” having no clear or distinct knowledge in detail, as to their issue, or what particular kinds of persecutions await me, or if the issue of them be death.

Act 20:23 Save that the Holy Ghost in every city witnesseth to me, saying: That bands and afflictions wait for me at Jerusalem.

“Save that.” Excepting that “in every city” through which I passed, “the Holy Ghost,” either by direct revelation or through the Prophets, whom he inspired in each of these places—of this we have an example (21:4–11) “witnesseth,” testifies, “that at Jerusalem, bands,” &c. “Jerusalem,” is wanting in almost all Greek copies.

Act 20:24 But I fear none of these things, neither do I count my life more precious than myself, so that I may consummate my course and the ministry of the word which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

“More precious,” &c. I don’t value life more than my eternal salvation; so that no risks or perils can turn me aside from “consummating my course” as a faithful Apostle, and from discharging the duties of the ministry confided to me by no other than “the Lord Jesus” himself (Acts 9:15–17).

“To testify the Gospel,” &c. To bear witness to the joyous message of the grace which God, as a merciful Father, is prepared to confer on mankind. This is the direct design of the ministry confided on me—

The reading in the Greek is somewhat different, but substantially the same, “neither do I count my life dear unto myself, that I may consummate my course,” &c. I look upon it, as a fixed idea, that my life is to be accounted by me for nothing, and all dangers regarded as nought, in attaining the object of my ministry, &c.

Act 20:25 And now behold, I know that all you, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.

“I know,” I have the firmest conviction, &c. This he adds to fix their attention on the admonitions he was about giving them, for the last time.

“All of you,” &c. None of you shall see me again. “Among whom,” &c. Very likely, there came together the priests and bishops from the districts round Ephesus. Possibly, on hearing of Paul’s transit, they may have come of their own accord.

Act 20:26 Wherefore I take you to witness this day that I am clear from the blood of all men.

He appeals to themselves as witnesses of his fidelity, so that if any of them die the second death in mortal sin, “their-blood,” be they Jew or Gentile, their eternal loss will be chargeable to themselves and not to him. Hence, it is inferred, that the pastor, who neglects his duty is guilty of the “blood,” the eternal loss of his people.

Act 20:27 For I have not spread to declare unto you all, the counsel of God.

“For”—a reason why he is not answerable—“not spared,” shrunk from any motives or influences, whether of fear or selfishness, from fully “declaring” and making known to them “all the counsel of God,” the entire will of God in regard to the salvation of men. He fearlessly threw open to them, the full economy of God, in the work of redemption, the Faith to be believed and professed, the morals and deeds of virtue to be practised to gain eternal life; and the vices and crimes to be shuned, to escape eternal torments.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 19:1-8

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 1, 2016

A SUMMARY ANALYSIS OF ACTS CHAPTER 19

Coming to Ephesus, the Apostle finding some converts imperfectly instructed in some points of faith, he more fully instructs them, baptizes them, and imposing hands on them, imparts the Holy Ghost (1–7). He continues instructing them for two years, working miracles, casting out devils, which some unauthorized men attempting were overpowered by the demon (8–17). The violent tumult caused by Demetrius the silversmith and his fellow craftsmen (23–34). The intervention of the City Magistrate, warning them of the possible consequences of their disorderly conduct, restored order (35–40).

Act 19:1 And it came to pass, while Apollo was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper coasts, came to Ephesus and found certain disciples.

“Upper coasts,” or regions of Asia. Phrygia and Galatia, situated in a high country, a distance from the Ægean sea. See map here.

“Came to Ephesus,” according to promise (18:21). It was situated in the lower maritime district.

“Certain disciples,” who were baptized into John’s Baptism, and received John’s teaching regarding the near Advent of the Messiah. They like Apollos, had not heard that the Messiah had come, nor anything regarding the Holy Ghost.

Act 19:2 And he said to them: Have you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? But they said to him: We have not so much as heard whether there be a Holy Ghost.

Assuming these disciples to be baptized members of the Church, but doubting if they were confirmed, he now asks them after having believed and consequently having received Baptism, if they had received the Sacrament of Confirmation which was veribly accompanied by the external gifts of the Holy Ghost, such as the gift of tongues, miracles, &c. These twelve men may have been natives of Palestine, at a time when the Faith of Christ was not preached, but only the teaching of John and his Baptism was known. “We have not so much as heard,” &c.

Act 19:3 And he said: In what then were you baptized? Who said: In John’s baptism.

St. Paul then asks, as from their answer it would seem they could not have received the Baptism of Christ in the very form of which the Holy Ghost is expressly mentioned. (The word “then” or therefore implies that there was mention of the Holy Ghost in Christ’s Baptism), what other Baptism did they receive, “in what then,” &c. The Greek is, into what, into whose name, what Faith or doctrine. What Faith did you profess at Baptism?

“In John’s Baptism.” A necessary condition of which was faith in the Messiah now come, John’s preaching had reference, in a special way, to the Messiah and not to the Holy Ghost. Hence the disciples of John not having been instructed in Christian doctrine, knew nothing of the Holy Ghost.

Act 19:4 Then Paul said: John baptized the people with the baptism of penance saying: That they should believe in him, who was to come after him, that is to say, in Jesus.

“With the baptism of penance, which was a symbol of and an incentive to penance for their sins. The Greek construction is different. The word “people” is connected with “saying” thus; John baptized, saying to the people. However, there is but little difference of signification in both constructions.

“Saying they should believe in Him,” &c. From this St. Jerome, St. Thomas, Bonaventure and others infer, that the form used in John’s baptism—if form and not rather their protestation or profession of faith it could be called—was in the words “I baptize thee that thou mayest believe in Him who is to come, that is in Jesus Christ.” These words are hortatory and convey an exhortation and admonition to do penance and have faith in Christ.

The words “who was to come after him,” are a paraphrase for the Messiah or Christ.

Act 19:5 Having heard these things, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Having heard Paul concerning John’s baptism and its effects to which he most likely, added instructions on the principal points of Christian doctrine, including the necessity of Christian baptism and its effects. “Baptized in the name,” &c. Received Christian baptism, as instituted by our Lord Jesus, incorporated with Him, members of His Mystical Body, bearing His Name, and embracing His religion. No doubt, St. Paul in conferring the baptism of Christ, employed the form with the distinct mention of the Trinity presented by our Lord. Indeed, this is implied in the words “in what then were you baptized?”

Act 19:6 And when Paul had imposed his hands on them, the Holy Ghost came upon them: and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.

“Imposed his hands on them” By administering confirmation.

“The Holy Ghost came,” &c., in the visible appearance of fire and tongues. “And they spoke with tongues and prophesied,” either by foretelling future events, or sounding forth the praises of God with great fervour of spirit, making known the hidden things of God (8:15–17).

Act 19:7 And all the men were about twelve.

Fr. MacEvilly doesn’t offer a commentary on this verse. Some scholars see the reference to “twelve” as symbolic of all Israel (i.e., the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel who father the twelve tribes of Israel).

Act 19:8 And entering into the synagogue, he spoke boldly for the space of three months, disputing and exhorting concerning the kingdom of God.

“Concerning the Kingdom of God.” Pointing out the economy of Redemption, the means and necessary course to be pursued in order to secure Eternal life.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 18:1-8

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 30, 2016

Act 18:1 After these things, departing from Athens, he came to Corinth.

Corinth, the capital of Achaia. For description of (see the Introduction to Corinthians). Here is what Fr. MacEvilly wrote in that introduction: CORINTH was a wealthy city, situated on the isthmus that divides the Morea from continental Greece. It was destroyed by Mummius (A.C. 146) by order of the Roman Senate, and a hundred years after restored by Julius Cæsar (A.C. 44). It was constituted by Augustus the capital of Achaia (A. 27). In the time of St. Paul, it more than recovered its former opulence and splendour. Owing to its favourable situation for commerce—having a ready communication with the East and West, by means of its ports on the Ægean and Ionian seas—it became the grand emporium in these parts. It abounded in riches, and their attendant vices, of every description. There were two leading vices, however, for which Corinth was particularly remarkable, viz., pride and impurity; the latter of which is often permitted by a jealous God, as the appropriate punishment of the former. The dissoluteness of the Corinthian women became, accordingly, proverbial throughout the rest of Greece; and the loathsome vice of impurity was, to a certain extent, publicly sanctioned—Venus being one of the tutelary deities of the city. We are informed by Strabo (lib. 9), and by Herodotus (in Clio), that the temple of this goddess at Corinth was wealthy enough to support more than one thousand courtezans devoted to infamy and prostitution. Such was the wretched state, such the deplorable spiritual condition of this city, on the occasion of the Apostle’s first visit (A.D. 52), which is recorded (Acts 18). He remained there eighteen months, and founded a Church composed partly of Jewish, but principally of Gentile converts.

Act 18:2 And finding a certain Jew, named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with Priscilla his wife (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome), he came to them.

“Aquila.” There was no distinction made in the public acts of the Empire, between Jews and Christians. Christians, therefore, were comprised in the Edict of Claudius. Whether Aquila was converted at Rome, and professing the Christian religion when St. Paul came to Corinth, or was converted by St. Paul, is disputed (Vide Beelen). The exact date of the Edict of Claudius (who reigned from A.D. 41-54) is unknown. A number of scholars date the event circa 49, but this is debated. The extent of the expulsion is also debated. Luke says “all Jews” were commanded to depart, but “all” in the Mediterranean world was often used as a hyperbole (= many, most). How long the edict was in force is also unknown.

Act 18:3 And because he was of the same trade, he remained with them and wrought. (Now they were tentmakers by trade.)

“Same trade.” Tent-making, manufacturing tents from skins or cloth. The Apostle gloried in labouring for his livelihood (Acts 20:34; 2 Thess. 3:9, 10). He was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, and originally destined for the legal profession. The Jews made it a custom to have their children taught some useful trade, as a part of their education. This was inculcated by the Rabbins.

“Tent-making.” Making portable tents out of cloth or skins was a pretty remunerative trade in the East.

Act 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, bringing in the name of the Lord Jesus. And he persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.

“Reasoned,” discoursed, incidentally “bringing in the name of Jesus.” It was only after the arrival of Silas and Timothy, he entered boldly into discussion regarding our Lord (v. 5).

“Persuaded.” Strove to persuade. “Greeks,” Proselytes of the gate, who frequented the synagogue.

Act 18:5 And when Silas and Timothy were come from Macedonia, Paul was earnest in preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ.

“Silas,” &c. (17:15), “earnest;” was animated by their presence to preach to the Jews, “that Jesus is the Christ” their long-expected Messiah.

Very likely, Silas and Timothy brought him from Macedonia some pecuniary aid (2 Cor. 11:8, 9) so that now he needed not to labour for his support and could devote his undivided attention and all his time to preaching and the work of the ministry.

Act 18:6 But they gainsaying and blaspheming, he shook his garments and said to them: Your blood be upon your own heads: I am clean. From henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.

“Blaspheming,” Uttering opprobrious language against our Lord, vilifying him, speaking of him scornfully and contemptuously.

“Shook his garments.” A symbolical action, conveying that he gave up all communication with them; had nothing in common with them.

“Blood.” Destruction and ruin “on your own heads.” “I am clear.” I have done my part.

“Henceforth.” This was peculiar and exceptional treatment of the Corinthian Jews. For, we find that he afterwards laboured for the conversion of his Jewish brethren elesewhere.

Act 18:7 And departing thence, he entered into the house of a certain man, named Titus Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house was adjoining to the synagogue.

Thence,” the synagogue, “entered into the house,” &c., which served for the purpose of instruction, which he gave before in the synagogue. He lodged with Aquila.

“Worshipped God.” This Titus Justus was a proselyte.

Act 18:8 And Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, with all his house. And many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized.

Fr. MacEvilly offers no note on this verse. The following is taken from the CBSC, an Anglican commentary: This “Crispus” is alluded to, 1 Cor 1:14, as one of the few whom St Paul himself baptized. His previous distinguished position among the Jews, and the conversion of his whole family, would make him noticeable among the Christian converts. There may have been more than one synagogue in Corinth. In Acts 18:17 we read of Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue. But it is quite possible that this man may have been appointed immediately after the conversion of Crispus, and may have been desirous to shew his zeal against the Christian teachers by laying an immediate information against Paul before the proconsul.

“and many of the Corinthians … were baptized”. St Paul mentions that he himself only baptized (in addition to Crispus) Gaius and the household of Stephanas (see 1 Cor 1:14-16). But Silas and Timothy were now by his side and would care for the admission of the new converts to baptism.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 9:1-20

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 10, 2016

AN ANALYSIS OF ACTS CHAPTER 9

The Chapter commences with the wonderful and miraculous conversion of Saul on his way to persecute the Christians of Damascus, which was perfected by the instructions of Ananias, whose fears occasioned by the persecuting character of Saul were dissipated by Divine assurances on the subject (1–18). The zeal of Saul in preaching the Gospel, the conspiracy on the part of the Jews to kill him (19–25), His escape (25). The distrust of the faithful of Jerusalem regarding him on account of his repute, as Persecutor, quieted by the intervention of Barnabas, who introduced him to the Apostles (26, 27). The machinations of the Gentiles to kill him. Hence his escape to Tharsus (29, 30). The miracles wrought by Peter in the restoration to health of Eneas (32–35). The wonderful miracle wrought by him in raising Tabitha or Dorcas from the dead, which caused the conversion of many (36–43).

Act 9:1 And Saul, as yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest

“And Saul,” who had already rendered himself prominently conspicuous in the persecution of the Christians, was now “as yet,” in the interval between the present time and the death of Stephen, indulging still, his passion for persecution, shown in the murder of Stephen.

“Breathing out.” Furiously agitated, displaying a violent thirst for vengeance. “Threatenings,” all kinds of threatening and denunciatory language. “And slaughter,” designs of wholesale murder “against the disciples of our Lord,” the converted believers. He had a hand in putting to death a great number of Christians (Acts 26:10, 11).

“Went to the High Priest,”

Act 9:2 And asked of him letters to Damascus, to the synagogues: that if he found any men and women of this way, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

“And asked of him letters,” &c. The letters were written by the authority of the Sanhedrim and signed by the High Priest, as president of the Council. Some say the conversion of St. Paul took place in the thirty-fifth year of our era, three years after our Lord’s death. In that case the High Priest was Caiphas, who was deposed by Tertullus.

If it occurred later, the High Priest was Theophilus. To the Sanhedrim, belonged to take cognizance of offences against religion. The Romans connived at their doing this beyond the precincts of Judea, wherever synagogues were found, dependent on the Sanhedrim.

“Asked.” He himself volunteered to act as persecutor; “Letters,” credentials conveying a commission or authorization. “To Damascus” a celebrated well-known city of Asia, mentioned in Scripture city, in the days of Abraham (Genisis 15:2). After various vicissitudes, it was ultimately taken by Selim, A. D. 1517. Ever since, it has been subject to the Saracens.

It was well-known to Saul, that a large number of Christians had been at Damascus, and the credential letters gave him the power vested in the Sanhedrim to punish all offences against religion. The policy of the Romans was to leave the exercise of such power to the Sanhedrim, reserving for themselves the confirmation of the sentence of death.

“To the Synagogues.” Over whom the Sanhedrim exercised authority.

“Men and women,” even “women,” were not spared, which shows intense hatred.

“Of this way,” of thinking and believing; of this sect.

“Bring them bound,” for trial before the Sanhedrim, whose powers in matters pertaining to religion, the Romans sanctioned or connived at, save in the supreme case of death, specially reserved for themselves.

Act 9:3 And as he went on his journey, it came to pass that he drew nigh to Damascus. And suddenly a light from heaven shined round about him.

“While travelling along the road, and when he was near Damascus—how near, no one can tell—the important event here mentioned, took place.

“Suddenly.” With the suddenness of a flash of lightning. It was not, however, a flash of lightning. It was the transcendent, overwhelming, dazzling glory, surrounding our Lord Himself, as at his Transfiguration (John 17:5). It was our Lord Himself, personally appearing to St. Paul in His glory, which Paul recognized, calling Him “Lord” (v. 5). For Barnabas declared “how he had seen the Lord in the way (v. 27). He himself says (1 Cor. 9:1, 15:8), that he saw our Lord. Similar is the language (1 Cor. 9:1). He now sees resuscitated, living, glorious, our Lord, whom he supposed to be dead.

“A light from heaven,” from the sky, “above the brightness of the sun (26:13).

“About him,” and his companions also (26:13).

Act 9:4 And falling on the ground, he heard a voice saying to him: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

Overpowered by the dazzling light, he fell to the ground, and so did those who were with him, overawed by the majesty of what they saw (26:14). It is not opposed to this, that “they stood amazed” (v. 7), for they might have soon risen to their feet.

“He heard a voice, Saul, Saul.” The word is repeated for emphasis sake.

“Why,”—for what reason, on account of what provocation? “persecutest thou me,” viz., in his chosen members. He was head of the body whose members Saul was engaged in furiously and relentlessly persecuting.

Act 9:5 Who said: Who art thou, Lord? And he: I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. It is hard for thee to kick against the goad.

“Lord” does not imply Divinity. It is only a term of courteous reverence elicited by the terror he was in. Up to this, Saul did not for certain acknowledge Jesus Christ to be God. Similar is the meaning of Magdalen’s words, when she thought she was addressing the gardener (John 20:15).

“I am Jesus,” &c. In chap. 22:8, it is “I am Jesus of Nazareth,” in which is conveyed that the humble Nazarene, whom Paul despised, as if nothing good could come out of Nazareth, is now Lord of all. He now appears to him in glory.

“It is hard for thee to kick,” &c. A proverbial expression with the Greeks and Romans, conveying that obstinate and stubborn resistance to lawful authority and rebellion against those who have a right to command is injurious to the man who resists. The idea is borrowed from stubborn oxen kicking against the “goad,” or sharp piece of iron used to urge them on. By kicking, they injure themselves. This according to the conjecture of some, denotes the resistance Paul had been giving before our Lord appeared to him, to the interior emotions of grace urging him to desist from the persecution he was practising. The example and admonition of his former teacher, Gamaliel (22:3) who embraced the faith, may have served to disquiet him and cause some remorse of conscience.

Act 9:6 And he, trembling and astonished, said: Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?

What he saw and heard created a feeling of terror and alarm on reflecting on the wicked course he had been pursuing.

“Lord.” The term here denotes the supreme reverence due to Him as God and Saviour. “What wilt thou,” &c., shows his thorough conversion and prompt change of heart. Giving up his own wicked will and feeling of opposition to God, he now professes at once his willingness to embrace in all things God’s Adorable Will.

Act 9:7 And the Lord said to him: Arise and go into the city; and there it shall be told thee what thou must do. Now the men who went in company with him stood amazed, hearing indeed a voice but seeing no man.

“The Lord”—our God and Saviour—“arise.” He was still prostrate (v. 8, 26:16).

“Go into the city”—Damascus close by (v. 3). The whole narrative is more circumstantially detailed by St. Paul himself (c. 26:16–18) in his address to King Agrippa.

“And there it shall be told thee,” &c. In this we see the wonderful and mysterious ways of God’s Providence in carrying out his designs. He might himself have instructed him on the spot. But, no; it pleased Him to employ the ministry of an humble disciple at Damascus for perfecting His beneficent designs. In this He had also in view to test Paul’s humility, obedience and self abnegation.

“The men.… stood amazed.” The Greek word for amazed (εννεοι) means struck dumb, unable to speak. They were struck mute with terror. It may be, when the first feeling of alarm which prostrated them (26:14) subsided, they stood up immediately, while Paul, who was chiefly concerned in the matter, continued prostrate. In c. 26:14, it is said they were “all fallen on the ground.” This occurred, as the immediate effect of the light, before they heard the voice. Here we have an account of what took place after the first feeling of panic and alarm was over. They stood up immediately. It may be, the word, “stood,” has no particular meaning; that it merely denotes the feeling of alarm they felt, without reference to what position they were in, whether standing or prostrate.

“Hearing, indeed, a voice,” probably means hearing a sound, but not understanding the articulate utterance and meaning as it was understood by Saul.

Act 9:8 And Saul arose from the ground: and when his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. But they, leading him by the hands, brought him to Damascus.

“And when his eyes were opened.” The Greek would be more properly rendered, and although his eyes opened, “or with eyes opened.” For while prostrate, his eyes were opened, looking at our Lord in His glorious appearance. But, when he rose up, on account of the dazzling, intense brightness of the light emanating from the glorified body of Jesus, his eyes though opened, were bereft of the faculty of seeing “for three days,” v. 9.

Act 9:9 And he was there three days without sight: and he did neither eat nor drink.

“And he did neither eat,” &c. Terror and remorse, suspense and perplexity, as he received no intimation as to what he was to do, joined with fervent and absorbing prayer for pardon of his sins, for heavenly light to remove his state of perplexity, made him indifferent and unconcerned about all corporal sustenance.

Act 9:10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias. And the Lord said to him in a vision: Ananias, And he said: Behold I am here, Lord.

“A certain disciple,” a Christian, who had already heard of Saul’s violent persecution of his fellow-believers (v. 13). “Ananias,” the term would indicate a Jew by birth converted to the faith.

Act 9:11 And the Lord said to him: Arise and go into the street that is called Strait and seek in the house of Judas, one named Saul of Tarsus. For behold he prayeth.

“For he prayeth.” Fear him no longer, as a fanatical persecutor of the Christians. He is now a different man, completely changed, engaged in fervent prayer for light, guidance and forgiveness. This would point to the manner Paul spent the three days in question.

Act 9:12 (And he saw a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hands upon him, that he might receive his sight.)

Very likely, the words of this verse are parenthetical, inserted by St. Luke, to inform us that while our Lord was addressing Ananias in a vision, Saul was favoured with another vision, assuring him that Ananias, whose name he gives, was no impostor, and would soon show him, on the part of God, what he was to do. “Quid Te oporteat facere” (v. 7).

Act 9:13 But Ananias answered: Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints in Jerusalem.

In this Ananias expresses his fears and surprise. Probably, Ananias, informed by letters from the faithful of Jerusalem, or by public rumour, or by some Christians who fled on account of the persecution from Jerusalem to Damascus, heard all about Paul’s fanaticism and persecuting violence.

“Thy saints.” The term always applied by the Apostle, in his Epistles, to Christians.

Act 9:14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that invoke thy name.

“And here” in this very city. Likely, the companions of Saul published all about him, and so it reached Ananias.

Act 9:15 And the Lord said to him: Go thy way: for this man is to me a vessel of election, to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.

“Go thy way.” A brief form of expressing that God will do what is just and reasonable. Here, it is a repetition of God’s instructions to Ananias regarding Saul.

“A vessel of Election.” “Vessel,” according to Hebrew usage, signifies an organ or instrument. “Election,” chosen, like the other Apostles, to carry out My designs of mercy. “Carry My name.” Proclaim My attributes as God and Man, Creator and Redeemer of mankind.

“Before the Gentiles.” The different nations of the earth. Paul was in a special manner constituted the Apostle of the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13, 15:16; Gal. 2:8).

“And kings.” This he did (Acts 25:23, 26:1).

“And children of Israel.” This he did at once (20, 21).

Act 9:16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.

“I will shew him,” &c. As a proof that he will be a distinguished instrument to be employed by Me, I will have him suffer much on My account, and hence he will be distinguished in My service. His success will be proportioned to his fortitude and constancy in enduring evils. That he did suffer this is shown from the picture he draws for us (2 Cor. 11) and his subsequent History in these Acts of the Apostles.

Act 9:17 And Ananias went his way and entered into the house. And laying his hands upon him, he said: Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus hath sent me, he that appeared to thee in the way as thou camest, that thou mayest receive thy sight and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

In obedience to our Lord’s command, Ananias, proceeded to his destination, “and laying his hands upon him.” It was not for the purpose of giving the Sacrament of Confirmation. There is no evidence that Ananias was in a position to do so—moreover, Saul was still unbaptized, and Ananias himself states the object: “that thou mayst receive thy sight,” which he did on the spot, “and be filled with the Holy Ghost,” through the baptism, he was immediately to receive. The imposition of hands restored his sight. Baptism gave him the Holy Ghost.” It may be, that with the effect of baptism, Paul received in an extraordinary way the grace of Confirmation without the eternal rite, as did the Apostles on Pentecost Sunday.

Act 9:18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it were scales: and he received his sight. And rising up, he was baptized.

The teguments that fell from his eyes and impeded his sight were like “scales.” They fell, as if “scales” had fallen, with which fishes and serpents are covered. The cure being so sudden, and, so far as human agency was concerned, without any human adequate cause, shows that it was manifestly miraculous.

“He was baptized.” As there is no mention of having received the necessary previous instruction in the truths of faith, it is most likely our Lord Himself fully instructed him during the three days preceding his baptism. Hence, he says (Gal. 1) he received the Gospel, not from man, but from Jesus Christ.

Act 9:19 And when he had taken meat, he was strengthened. And he was with the disciples that were at Damascus, for some days.

He recovered his natural strength, weakened by previous fasting.

After his communion he proceeded to Arabia, and then again came back to Damascus. St. Luke makes no mention of his journey to Arabia.

Act 9:20 And immediately he preached Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the son of God.

This shows the genuine sincerity of his conversion.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Acts 4:1-22

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 27, 2016

ACTS IV. 1.-“And as they spake unto the people, there came unto them the priests, and the captain of the temple.”

Ere yet their had time to take breath after their first trials, straightway they enter into others. And observe how the events are disposed. First, they were all mocked together; this was no small trial: secondly, they enter into dangers. And these two things do not take place in immediate succession; but when first the Apostles have won admiration by their two discourses, and after that have performed a notable miracle, thereupon it is that, after they are waxen bold, through God’s disposal, they enter the lists. But I wish you to consider, how those same persons, who in the case of Christ must need look out for one to deliver Him up to them, now with their own hands arrest the Apostles, having become more audacious and more impudent since the Crucifixion. In truth, sin, while it is yet struggling to the birth, is attended with some sense of shame; but when once fully born, it makes those more shameless who practise it. “And the captain of the temple,” it is said. The object again was to attach a public criminality to what was doing, and not to prosecute it as the act of private individuals: such in fact was constantly their plan of proceeding.

“Being grieved that they taught the people.” (v. 2.) Not merely because they taught, but because they declared, not alone that Christ Himself was risen from the dead, but moreover, that we through Him do rise again. “Because they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection of the dead.” So mighty was His Resurrection, that to others also He is the cause of a resurrection.1 “And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day; for it was now eventide. (v. 3.) What impudence! They2 feared not the multitude; for this also the captain of the temple was with them: they had their hands still reeking with the blood of the former victim. “For it was now eventide,” it is said. It was with the wish to abate their spirit that those men did this, and guarded them; but the delay only served to make the Apostles more intrepid. And consider who these are who are arrested. They are the chiefs of the Apostles, who are now become a pattern to the rest, that they should no longer crave each other’s support, nor want to be together. “Howbeit, many having heard the word, believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.” (v. 4.) How was this? Did they see them in honor? Did they not behold them put in bonds? How then did they, believe? Do you see the evident efficacy? And yet even those that believed already might well have become weaker. But no, it is no longer so: for Peter’s sermon had laid the seed deep into them, and had taken a hold upon their understandings. Therefore were [their enemies] incensed, that they did not fear them, that they made no account of their present troubles. For, say they, if He that was crucified effects such great things, and makes the lame to walk, we fear not these men either.3 This again is of God’s ordering. For those who now believe were more numerous than the former. Therefore it was that in their presence they bound the Apostles, to make them also more fearful. But the reverse took place. And they examine them not before the people, but privately, that the hearers may not profit by their boldness.

“And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, and Annas the High Priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the High Priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.” (v. 5, 6.) For now along with the other evils (of the times4 ), the Law was no longer observed. And again they set off the business with the form of a tribunal, to constitute them guilty by their iniquitous sentence. “And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” (v. 7.) And yet they knew it well; for it was because they were “grieved that they preached through Jesus the resurrection” that they arrested them. Then for what purpose do they question them? They expected the numbers present would make them recant, and thought by this means to have put all right again. Observe then what they say: “And by what name have ye done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them.” (v. 8.) And now, I pray you, call to mind Christ’s saying; “When they deliver you up unto the synagogues, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall speak; for it is the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. (Luke xii. 11, 14.) So that it was a mighty Power they enjoyed. What then says Peter? “Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel.” Mark the Christian wisdom of the man; how full of confidence it is: he utters not a word of insult, but says with respect, “Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we be this day called to account of the good deed done to the impotent man.” He takes them in hand right valiantly; by the opening of his speech he exposes5 them, and reminds them of the former things: that it is for a work of beneficence they are calling them to account. As if he had said, “In all fairness we ought to have been crowned for this deed, and proclaimed benefactors; but since “we are even put upon our trial for a good deed done to an impotent man,” not a rich man, not powerful, not noble-and yet who would feel envy in a case like this?” It is a most forcible (apaggelia, al. epaggelia) way of putting the case; and he shows that they are piercing their own selves:-” By what means this man is made whole: be it known unto you all, and to all the people Israel; that by the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth: “-this is what would vex them most. For this was that which Christ had told the disciples, “What ye hear in the ear that preach ye upon the housetops.-That in the name of Jesus Christ,” he says, “of Nazareth, Whom ye crucified, WhOm God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole.” (v. 10). (Matt. x. 27.) Think not, he says that we conceal the country, or the nature of the death. “Whom ye crucified, Whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand before you whole.” Again the death, again the resurrection. “This is the stone,” he says, “which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.” (v. 11.) He reminds them also of a saying which was enough to frighten them. For it had been said, “Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. (Matt. xxi. 44.)-Neither is there salvation in any other, (v. 12.) Peter says. What wounds, think you, must these words inflict on them! “For there is none other name,” he continues, “under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Here he utters also lofty words. For when6 the object is, not to carry some point successfully, but only to show boldness he does not spare; for he was not afraid of striking too deep. Nor does be say simply, “By another;” but, “Neither is there salvation in any other: that is, He is able to save us. In this way he subdued their threatening.

“Now when they saw the, boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” (v. 13.) The two unlearned men beat down with their rhetoric them and the chief priests. For it was not they that spake, but the grace of the Spirit. “And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.” (v. 14.) Great was the boldness of the man; that even in the judgment-hall he has not left them. For had they said that the fact was not so, there was he to refute them. “But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, What are we to do to these men?” (v. 15.) See the difficulty they are in, and how the fear of men again does everything. As in the case of Christ, they were not able (as the saying is) to undo what is done,7 nor to cast it into the shade, but for all their hindering, the Faith did but gain ground the more; so was it now. “What shall we do?” O the folly! to suppose that those who had tasted of the conflict, would now take fright at it: to expect, impotent as their efforts had proved in the beginning, to effect something new, after such a specimen of oratory as had been exhibited! The more they wished to hinder, the more the business grew upon their hands. But what say they? “For that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straightly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all, nor teach, in the name of Jesus.” (v. 16-18.) See what effrontery is shown by these, and what greatness of mind by the Apostles. “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people.” (v. 19-21.) The miracles shut their mouths: they would not so much as let them finish their speech, but cut them short in the middle, most insolently. “For all men glorified God for that which was done. For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was showed.” (v. 22.) But let us look over what has been said from the beginning.

“And as they spake unto the people, etc. Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection of the dead.” (Recapitulation, v. 1, 2.) So8 then at first they did all for the sake of man’s opinion (or glory): but now another motive was added: that they should not be thought guilty of murder, as they said subsequently, “Do ye wish to bring this man’s blood on us?” (ch. v. 28.) O the folly! Persuaded that He was risen, and having received this proof of it,9 they expected that He Whom death could not hold, could be cast into the shade by their machinations! What can match the folly of this!10 Such is the nature of wickedness: it has no eyes for anything, but on all occasions it is thrown into perturbation. Finding themselves overborne, they felt like persons who have been outwitted: as is the case with people who have been forestalled and made a sport of in some matter. And yet11 they everywhere affirmed that it was God that raised Him: but12 it was “in the Name of Jesus” that they spake showing that Jesus was risen. “Through Jesus, the resurrection of the dead”: for they themselves also held a resurrection: a cold and puerile doctrine, indeed, but still they held it. Why this alone, was it not sufficient to induce them to do nothing to them-I mean, that the disciples with such boldness bore themselves in the way they did? Say, wherefore, O Jew, dost thou disbelieve? Thou oughtest to have attended to the sign done, and to the words, not to the evil disposition of the many. “By their teaching the people.”13 For already they were in ill repute with them by reason of what they had done to Christ; so that they were rather increasing their own obloquy. “And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold until the morrow; for it was now eventide.” (v. 3.) In the case of Christ, however, they did not so; but having taken Him at midnight, they immediately led him away, and made no delay, being exceedingly in fear of the multitude: whereas in the case of the Apostles here, they were bold. And they no more take them to Pilate, being ashamed and blushing at the thought of the former affair, lest they should also be taken to task for that.

“And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes. were gathered together at Jerusalem.” (v. 5.) Again in Jerusalem: and there it is that men’s blood is poured out; no reverence for their city either; “And Annas, and Caiaphas,” etc. (v. 6.) “And Annas,” it says, “and Caiaphas.” His maid-servant it was that questioned Peter, and he could not bear it: in his house it was that Peter denied, when Another was in bonds there: but now, when he has come into the midst of them all, see how he speaks! “By what name have ye done this?” Why dost thou not speak it, what it is, but keepest that out of sight? “By what name have ye done this?” (v. 7.) And yet he affirmed, It was not we that did it. “Ye rulers of the people,” etc. (v. 8.) Observe his wisdom: he does not say outright, “In the Name of Jesus we did it,” but how? “In His Name this man “-He does not say, “was made whole by us;” but-” doth stand here before you whole.” And again, “If we be examined concerning the good deed done to the impotent man.” (v. 9.) He hits them hard, that they are always making a crime of such acts, finding fault with works of beneficence done to men: and he reminds them of their former doings, that they run to do murder, and not only so, but make a crime of doing good deeds. Do you observe too (in point of rhetoric) with what dignity they express themselves?14 Even in the use of words they were becoming expert by practice, and henceforth they were not to be beaten down.15 “Be it known unto you all,” etc. (v. 10.) Whereby he shows them that they rather do, in spite of themselves, preach Christ; themselves extol the doctrine, by their examining and questioning. O exceeding boldness-” Whom ye crucified! Whom God raised up”-this is bolder still! Think not that we hide what there is to be ashamed of. He says this all but tauntingly: and not merely says it, but dwells upon the matter. “This,” says he, “is the Stone which was set at naught by you builders; “and then he goes on to teach them, saying in addition, “Which is made the head of the corner” (v. 11.); that is to say, that the Stone is indeed approved! Great was the boldness they now had, in consequence of the miracle. And when there was need to teach, observe how they speak and allege many prophecies; but when the point was to use boldness of speech, then they only speak peremptorily. Thus “Neither,” says he, “is there any other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” (v. 12.) It is manifest to all, he says, because not to us alone was that Name given; he cites even themselves as witnesses. For, since they asked, “In what name did ye it?” “In Christ’s,” says he: “there is none other name. How is it that ye ask? On all hands this is palpable. “For there exists not another name under heaven, whereby we must be saved.” This is the language of a soul which has renounced (kategnwkuiaj) this present life. His exceeding out-spokenness proves here, that when he speaks in lowly terms of Christ, he does it not of fear, but of wise forbearance (sugkatabainwn): but now that it was the fitting time, he speaks not in lowly terms: by this very thing intending to strike dismay into them. Behold another miracle not less than the former. “And beholding the boldness of Peter and John,” etc. “And they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.” (v. 13.) Not without a meaning has the Evangelist set down this passage; but in saying, “they recognized them that they had been with Jesus,” he means, in His Passion: for only these were [with Him] at that time, and then indeed they had seen them humble, dejected: and this it was that most surprised them: the greatness of the change. For in fact Annas and Caiaphas with their company were there, and these then also had stood by Him, and their boldness now amazed them. “And beholding the boldness.” For16 not only their words; their very bearing showed it; that they should stand there so intrepidly to be tried in a cause like this, and with uttermost peril impending over them! Not only by their words, but by their t gesture also, and their look and voice, and, in short, by everything about them, they manifested the boldness with which they confronted the people. From the things they uttered, they marvelled, perhaps: “that they were unlearned and common men:” for one may be unlearned, yet not a common or private man, and a common man, yet not unlearned. “Having perceived,” it says. Whence? From17 what they said? Peter does not draw out long speeches, but then by his very manner and method (thj apaggeliaj kai thj sunqhkhj) he declares his confidence. “And they recognized them that they had been with Jesus.” Which circumstance made them believe that it was from Him they had learned these things, and that they did all in the character of His disciples.18 But not less than the voice of these, the miracle uttered a voice of its own: and that sign itself stopped their mouths. “And beholding the man,” etc.] So that they would have been peremptory (epeskhyan) with them, if the man had not been with them. “We cannot deny it.” So that they would have denied it, if the thing had not been so: if the testimony had not been that of the people in general. “But that it spread no further among the people.” (v. 17.) And yet it was palpable to all men! But such is the nature of wickedness: everywhere it is shamed. “Let us straitly threaten them.” What sayest thou? Threaten? And expect ye to stop the preaching? And19 yet all beginnings are hard and trying. Ye slew the Master, and did not stop it: and now, if ye threaten, do ye expect to turn us back? The imprisonment did not prevail with us to speak submissively, and shall ye prevail? “And they called them, and commanded them,” etc. (v. 18, 19.) It20 had been much better for them to let them go. “And Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” When the terror was abated (for that command was tantamount to their being dismissed), then also the Apostles speak more mildly: so far were they from mere bravery: “Whether21 it be right,” says he: and “We cannot [but speak]. Whether it be right in the sight of God to obey you rather than God.” (v. 20.) Here [by “God”] they mean Christ, for he it was that commanded them. And once more they confirm the fact of His Resurrection. “For we cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard:” so that we are witnesses who have a right to be believed. “So when they had further threatened them.” (v. 21.) Again they threatened in vain. “They let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.” So then the people glorified God, but these endeavored to destroy them: such fighters against God were they! Whereby they made them more conspicuous and illustrious. “For My strength,” it is said, “is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. xii. 9.)

Already these as martyrs have borne testimony: set in the battle against all, they said, “We cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard.” If the things we speak be false, reprehend them; if true, why hinderest thou? Such is philosophy! Those, in perplexity, these in gladness: those covered with exceeding shame, these doing all with boldness: those in fear, these in confidence. For who, I would ask, were the frightened? those who said, “That it spread no further among people,” or these who said, “we cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard?” And these had a delight, a freedom of speech, a joy surpassing all; those a despondency, a shame, a fear; for they feared the people. But these were not afraid of those; on the contrary, while these spake what they would, those did not what they would. Which were in chains and dangers? was it not these last?

Let us then hold fast to virtue; let not these words end only in delight, and in a certain elevation of the spirits. This is not the theatre, for singers (kiqarwdwn), and tragedians, and musicians (kiqaristwn), where the fruit consists only in the enjoyment and where the enjoyment itself passes with the passing day. Nay, would that it were enjoyment alone, and not mischief also with the enjoyment! But so it is: each man carries home with him much of what he has witnessed there, sticking to him like the infection of a plague: and one indeed, of the younger sort, having culled such snatches of song here and there of those satanic plays,22 as he could fix in his memory, goes singing them about the house: while another, a senior, and forsooth too staid for such levity, does not this indeed, but what is there spoken, both the preachments and the very words, he remembers it all; and another again, some filthy and absurd ditty. From this place you depart, taking nothing with you.-We have laid down a law-nay, not we: God forbid! for it is said, “Call no man your master upon the earth” (Matt. xxiii. 8); Christ has laid down a law that none should swear. Now, say, what has been done with regard to this law? For I will not cease speaking of it; “lest,” as the Apostle saith, “if I come again, I must not spare.” (2 Cor. xiii. 2.) I ask then, have you laid the matter to heart? have you thought of it seriously? have you been in earnest about it, or must we again take up the same subject? Nay, rather, whether you have or not, we will resume it, that you may think seriously about it, or, if you have laid it to heart, may again do this the more surely, and exhort others also. With what then, I pray you, with what shall we begin? Shall it be with the Old Testament? For indeed this also is to our shame, that the precepts of the Law, which we ought to surpass, we do not even thus observe! For we ought not to be hearing such matters as these: these are precepts adapted to the poor Jewish level (thj ‘Ioudaikhj euteleiaj): we ought to be hearing those counsels of perfection; “Cast away thy property, stand courageously, and give up thy life in behalf of the Gospel, scorn all the goods of earth, have nothing in common with this present life; if any wrong thee, do him good; if any defraud thee, bless him; if any revile thee, show him honor; be above everything.” (S. Ambros. de Off. i. 2.) These and such as these are what we ought to be hearing. But here are we discoursing about swearing; and our case is just the same as if, when a person ought to be a philosopher, one should take him away from the great masters, and set him to spell syllables letter by letter! Just think now what a disgrace it would be for a man having a flowing beard, and with staff in hand, and cope on shoulders,23 to go to school with children, and be set the same tasks with them would it not be above measure ridiculous? And yet the ridicule which belongs to us is even greater. For not as the difference between philosophy and the spelling-lesson, so is that between the Jewish polity and ours: no indeed, but as the difference between angels and men. Say now, if one could fetch down an angel from heaven, and should bid him stand here and listen to our preaching, as one whose duty it is to conform himself thereto, would it not be shameful and preposterous? But if to be yet, like children, under teaching about these things be ridiculous; what must it be, not even to attend to these things: how great the condemnation, how great the shame To be Christians still, and to have to learn that it is not right to swear! However, let us put up with that, lest we incur even worse ridicule.

Well, then, let us speak to you to-day from the Old Testament. What does it tell us? “Accustom not thy mouth to swearing; neither use thyself to the naming of the Holy One.” And why? “For as a servant that is continually beaten shall not be without a blue mark, so he that sweareth.” (Ecclus. xxiii. 10.) See the discernment of this wise man. He did not say, “Accustom not to swearing” thy mind, but “thy mouth”; because being altogether an affair of the mouth, thus it is easily remedied. For at last it becomes a habit without intention; as for instance, there are many who entering the public baths, as soon as they have passed the threshold, cross (Hom. in 1 Cor. xi. 7) themselves (sfragizontai).24 This the hand has got to do, without any one’s bidding, by force of habit. Again, at the lighting of a candle, often when the mind is intent on something else, the hand makes the sign. In the same way also the mouth, without concurrence of the mind, articulates the word, from mere habit, and the whole affair is in the tongue. “Neither use thyself,” he says, “to the naming of the Holy One. For as a servant that is continually beaten shall not be without a blue mark, so he that sweareth.” He speaks not here of false oaths, but he cuts down all oaths, and to them also assigns their punishment. Why then, swearing is a sin. For such in truth is the soul; full of all these ulcers, all these scars. But you do not see them? Yes, this is the mischief of it; and yet you might see if you wished; for God has given you eyes. With eyes of this kind did the Prophet see, when he said, “My wounds stink, and are corrupt, because of my foolishness.” (Ps. xxxviii. 5.) We have despised God, we have hated that good Name, we have trodden Christ under foot, we have lost all reverence, none names the Name of God with honor. Yet if you love any one, even at his name you start to your feet; but God you thus continually invoke, and make nothing of it. Call upon Him for the benefit of your enemy; call upon Him for the salvation of your own soul; then he will be present, then you will delight Him; whereas now you provoke Him to anger. Call upon Him as Stephen did; “Lord,” he said, “lay not this sin to their charge.” (ch. vii. 59.) Call upon Him as did the wife of Elkanah, with tears and sobs, and prayers. (1 Sam. i. 10.) I prevent you not, rather I earnestly exhort you to it. Call upon him as Moses called upon Him, yea, cried, interceding for those25 who had driven him into banishment. For you to make mention at random of any person of consideration, is taken as an insult: and do you bandy God about in your talk, in season, out of season? I do not want to hinder you from keeping God always in your mind: nay, this I even desire and pray for, only that you should do this, so as to honor Him. Great good would this have done us, if we had called upon God only when we ought, and for what we ought. And why, I would ask, were such miracles wrought in the Apostles’ times, and not in ours? And yet it is the same God, the same Name. But no, the case is not the same. For then they called upon Him only for those objects which I have mentioned; whereas we call upon Him not for these, but quite other purposes.-If a man refuse to believe you, and that is why you swear, say to him, “Believe me:” however, if you will needs make oath, swear by yourself. I say this, not to set up a law against Christ’s law; God forbid; for it is said. “Let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay (Matt. v. 37): but by way of coming down to your present level, that I may more easily lead you to the practice of this commandment, and divert you from this tyrannical habit. How many who have done well in other respects, have been undone by these practices! Shall I tell you why it was permitted the ancients to take oaths? (for to take false oaths, was not permitted to them either.) Because they swore by idols. But are you not ashamed to rest in laws, by which they in their infirmity were led on to something better? It is true, when I take a Gentile in hand, I do not immediately lay this injunction upon him, but in the first place I exhort him to know Christ; but if the believer, who has both learnt Him and heard Him, must needs crave the same forbearance with the Gentile, what is the use, what the gain (of his Christianity?)-But the habit is strong, and you cannot detach yourself from it? Well then, since the tyranny of habit is so great, transfer it into another channel. And how is this to be done? you will ask. What I have said often, I say also now; let there be many monitors (logistai), let there be many examiners and censors (ecetasrai, dokimastai). Say, if you chance to put on your26 mantle inside out, you allow your servant to correct your mistake, and are ashamed to learn of him, although there is much to be ashamed of in this; and here when you are getting hurt to your soul, are you ashamed to be taught better by another? You suffer your menial to put your dress in order, and to fasten your shoes, and will you not endure him that would put your soul in order? Let even your menial, your child, your wife, your friend, your kinsman, your neighbor, be your teachers on this point. For as when a wild beast is hunted down from all sides, it is impossible for it to escape; so he that has so many to watch him, so many to reprove him, who is liable to be struck at from all sides, cannot help being on his guard. The first day he will find it hard to put up with, and the second, and the third; but after that it will come easier, and, the fourth passed, there will not even be anything to do. Make the experiment, if you doubt me; take it into consideration, I beseech you. It is not a trifling matter to be wrong in, nor yet to come fight in; on both sides it is great for evil and for good. May the good be effected, through the grace and loving-mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, power, and honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Acts 3:12-26

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 27, 2016

ACTS III. 12.-“And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this, or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we have made this man to walk?”

There is greater freedom of speech in this harangue, than in the former. Not that he was afraid on the former occasion, but the persons whom he addressed there, being jesters and scoffers, would not have borne it. Hence in the beginning of that address he also bespeaks their attention by his preamble; “Be this known unto you, and hearken to my words.” (ch. ii. 14.) But here there is no need of this management. (kataskeuhj.) For his hearers were not in a state of indifference. The miracle had aroused them all; they were even full of fear and amazement. Wherefore also there was no need of beginning at that point, but rather with a different topic; by which, in fact, he powerfully conciliated them, namely, by rejecting the glory which was to be had from them. For nothing is so advantageous, and so likely to pacify the hearers, as to say nothing about one’s self of an honorable nature, but, on the contrary, to obviate all surmise of wishing to do so. And, in truth, much more did they increase their glory by despising glory, and showing that what had just taken place was no human act, but a Divine work; and that it was their part to join with the beholders in admiration, rather than to receive it from them. Do you see how clear of all ambition he is, and how he repels the honor paid to him? In the same manner also did the ancient fathers; for instance, Daniel said, “Not for any wisdom that is in me.” (Dan. ii. 30.) And again Joseph, “Do not interpretations belong to God?” (Gen. xi. 8.) And David, “When the lion and the bear came, in the name of the Lord I rent them with my hands.” (1 Sam. xvii. 34.) And so likewise here the Apostles, “Why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?” (v. 13.) Nay, not even this;1 for not by our own merit did we draw down the Divine influence. “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers.” See how assiduously he thrusts himself (eiswqei) upon the fathers of old, lest he should appear to be introducing a new doctrine. In the former address he appealed to the patriarch David, here he appeals to Abraham and the rest. “Hath glorified His Servant2 Jesus.” Again a lowly expression, like as in the opening address.

But at this point he proceeds to enlarge upon the outrage, and exalts the heinousness of the deed, no longer, as before, throwing a veil over it. This he does, wishing to work upon them more powerfully. For the more he proved them accountable, the better his purpose were effected. “Hath glorified,” he says, ‘His Servant Jesus, Whom ye delivered up, and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.” The charge is twofold: Pilate was desirous to let Him go; you would not, when he was willing. “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince (or Author) of Life: Whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.” (v. 14, 15.) Ye desired a robber instead of Him. He shows the great aggravation of the act. As he has them under his hand, he now strikes hard. “The Prince of Life,” he says. In these words he establishes the doctrine of the Resurrection. “Whom God hath raised from the dead.” (ch. ii. 26.) “Whence doth this appear?” He no longer refers to the Prophets, but to himself, inasmuch as now he has a right to be believed. Before, when he affirmed that He was risen, he adduced the testimony of David; now, having said it, he alleges the College of Apostles. “Whereof we are witnesses”, he says.

“And His name, through faith in His name, hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by Him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.” Seeking to declare the matter (zhtwn to pragma eipein), he straightway brings forward the sign: “In the presence,” he says, “of you all.” As he hid borne hard upon them, and had shown that He Whom they crucified had risen, again he relaxes, by giving them the power of repentance; “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.” (v. 17.) This is one ground of excuse. The second3 is of a different kind. As Joseph speaks to his brethren, “God did send me before you (Gen. xlv. 5); what in the former speech he had briefly said, in the words, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken,”-this he here enlarges upon: “But what God before had showed by the mouth of all His Prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled.” (v. 18.) At the same time showing, that it was not of their doing, if this be proved, that it took place after God’s counsel. He alludes to those words with which they had reviled Him on the Cross, namely “Let Him deliver Him, if He will have Him; for He said, I am the Son of God. If4 He trust in God, let Him now come down from the cross.” (Matt. xxvii. 42, 43.) O foolish men, were these idle words? It must needs so come to pass, and the prophets bear witness thereunto. Therefore if He descended not, it it was for no weakness of His own that He did not come down, but for very power. And Peter puts this by way of apology for the Jews, hoping that they may also close with what he says. “He hath so fulfilled,” he says. Do you see now how he refers everything to that source? “Repent ye therefore,” he says, “and be converted.” He does not add, “from your sins;” but, “that your sins, may be blotted out,” means the same thing. And then he adds the gain: “So shall the times of refreshing come from the presence of the Lord.” (v. 19.) This betokens them in a sad state, brought low by many wars.5 For it is to the case of one on fire, and craving comfort, that the expression applies. And see now how he advances. In his first sermon, he but slightly hinted at the resurrection, and Christ’s sitting in heaven; but here he also speaks of His visible advent. “And He shall send Jesus the Christ ordained6 (for you), “Whom the heaven must (i.e. must of necessity) receive, until the times of the restitution of all things.” The reason why He does not now come is clear. “Which God hath spoken,” he continues, “by the mouth7 of His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.” Before, he had spoken of David, here he speaks of Moses. “Of all things,” he says, “which He hath spoken.” But he does not say, “which Christ,” but, “which God hath spoken8 by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” (v. 20, 21.) Then he betakes him to the ground of credibility, saying, “A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; Him shall ye hear in all things.” And then the greatness of the punishment: “And it shall come to pass, that every soul which will not hear that Prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those that follow, after, as many as have spoken have likewise foretold of these days.” (v. 23, 24.) He has done well to set the distinction here. For whenever he says anything great, he appeals to them of old. And he found a text which contained both truths; just as in the other discourse he said, “Until He put His foes under His feet.” (ch. ii. 35.) The remarkable circumstance is, that the two things stand together; that is, subjection and disobedience, and the punishment. “Like unto me,” he says. Then why are ye alarmed? “Ye are the children of the prophets” (v. 25): so that to you they spake, and for your sakes have all these things come to pass. For as they deemed that through their outrage they had become alienated (and indeed there is no parity of reason, that He Who now is crucified, should now cherish them as His own), he proves to them that both the one and the other are in accordance with prophecy. “Ye are the children,” he says, “of the Prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, `And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.’ Unto you first,” he continues, “God having raised up His Son (ton Paida) sent Him.” “To others indeed also, but to you first who crucified Him.” “To bless you,” he adds, “in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” (v. 26.)

Now let us consider again more minutely what has been read out. (Recapitulation.) In the first place, he establishes the point that the miracle was performed by them9 ; saying, “Why marvel ye?” And he will not let the assertion be disbelieved: and to give it more weight, he anticipates their judgment. “Why look ye,” he says, “so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?” (v. 12.) If this troubles and confounds you, learn Who was the Doer, and be not amazed. And observe how on all occasions when he refers to God, and says that all things are from Him, then he fearlessly chides them: as above where he said, “A man approved of God among you.” (ch. ii. 22.) And on all occasions he reminds them of the outrage they had committed, in order that the fact of the Resurrection may be established. But here he also subjoins something else; for he no more says, “of Nazareth,” but what? “The God of our fathers hath glorified His Servant Jesus.” (v. 13.) Observe also the modesty. He reproached them not, neither did he say at once, “Believe then now: behold, a man that has been forty years lame, has been raised up through the name of Jesus Christ.” This he did not say, for it would have excited opposition. On the contrary, he begins by commending them for admiring the deed, and again calls them after their ancestor: “Ye men of Israel.” Moreover, he does not say, It was Jesus that healed him: but, “The God of our fathers hath glorified,” etc. But then, lest they should say, How can this stand to reason-that God should glorify the transgressor? therefore he reminds them of the judgment before Pilate, showing that, would they but consider, He was no transgressor; else Pilate had not wished to release Him. And he does not say, “when Pilate was desirous,” but, “was determined to let Him go.” “But ye denied the Holy One,” etc. (v. 13, 14.) Him who had killed others, ye asked to be released; Him Who quickeneth them that are killed, ye did not wish to have! And that they might not ask again, How should it be that God now glorifies Him, when before He gave no assistance? he brings forward the prophets, testifying that so it behooved to be. “But those things which God before had showed,” etc., (infra v. 18.) Then, lest they should suppose that God’s dispensation was their own apology, first he reproves them. Moreover, that the denying Him “to Pilate’s face,” was no ordinary thing; seeing that he wished to release Him. And that ye cannot deny this, the man who was asked in preference to Him is witness against you. This also is part of a deep dispensation. Here it shows their shamelessness and effrontery; that a Gentile, one who saw Him for the first time, should have discharged Him, though he had heard nothing striking; while they who had been brought up among His miracles, have done the very opposite! For, as be has said, “When he (Pilate) had determined to let Him go,” that it may not be imagined that he did this of favor, we read, “And he said, It is a custom with you to release one prisoner: will ye therefore that [ release unto you this man? (Matt. xxvii. 15.) “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just.” (Mark xv. 6.) He does not say, “Ye delivered up;” but everywhere, “Ye denied.” For, said they, “We have no king but Caesar.” (John xix. 15.) And he does not say only, Ye did not beg off the innocent, and, “Ye denied” Him but, “Ye slew” Him. While they were hardened, he refrained from such language; but when their minds are most moved, then he strikes home, now that they are in a condition to feel it. For just as when men are drunk we say nothing to them, but when they are sober, and are recovered from their intoxication then we chide them; thus did Peter: when they were able to understand his words, then he also sharpened his tongue, alleging against them many charges; that, Whom God had glorified, they had delivered up; Whom Pilate would have acquitted they denied to his face; that they preferred the robber before Him.

Observe again how he speaks covertly concerning Christ’s power, showing that He raised Himself: just as in his first discourse he had said, “Because it was not possible that He should be holden of it” (ch. ii. 24), so here he says, “And killed the Prince of Life.” (v. 15.) It follows that the Life He had was not from another. The prince (or author) of evil would be he that first brought forth evil; the prince or author of murder, he who first originated murder; so also the Prince (or Author) of Life must be He Who has Life from Himself.10 “Whom God raised up,” he continues: and now that he has uttered this, he adds, “And his name, upon faith in his name, hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know; yea, the faith which is by Him hath given Him this perfect soundness. [The faith which is by Him h di autou pistij.] And11 yet it was h eij autou pistij, “the faith which is in Him” (as its object) that did all. For the Apostles did not say, “By the name,” but, “In the name,” and it was in Him (eij autou) that the man believed. But they did not yet make bold to use the expression, “The faith which is in Him.” For, that the phrase “By Him” should not be too low, observe that after saying, “Upon the faith of His name,” he adds, “His name hath made him strong,” and then it is that he says, “Yea, the faith which is by Him hath given him this perfect soundness.” Observe how he implies, that in the kai ekeino former expression also “Whom God raised up,” he did but condescend to their low attainments. For that Person needed not Another’s help for His rising again, Whose Name raised up a lame man, being all one as dead. Mark how on all occasions he adduces their own testimony. Thus above, he said, “As ye yourselves also know;” and, “In the midst of you:” and here again, “Whom ye see and know: in the presence of you all.” (ch. ii. 22.) And yet that it was, “In His name,” they knew not: but they did know that the man was lame, that he stands there whole.12 They that had wrought the deed themselves confessed, that it was not by their own power, but by that of Christ. And had this assertion been unfounded, had they not been truly persuaded themselves that Christ had risen again, they would not have sought to establish the honor of a dead man instead of their own, especially while the eyes of the multitude were upon them. Then, when their minds were alarmed, immediately he encourages them, by the appellation of Brethren, “And now, brethren, I wot, etc.” For in the former discourse he foretold13 nothing, but only says concerning Christ, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly:” here he adds an admonition. There he waited till the people spoke: here, he knew how much they had already effected, and that the present assembly was better disposed toward them. “That through ignorance ye did it.” And yet the circumstances mentioned above were not to be put to the score of ignorance. To choose the robber, to reject Him Who had been adjudged to be acquitted, to desire even to destroy Him-how should this be referred to ignorance? Nevertheless, he gives them liberty to deny it, and to change their mind about what had happened. “Now this indeed, that you put to death the innocent, ye knew: but that you were killing “the Prince of Life,” this, belike, ye did not know.” And he exculpated not them alone, but also the chief contrivers of the evil, “ye and your rulers:” for doubtless it would have roused their opposition, had he gone off into accusation. For the evil-doer, when you accuse him of some wickedness that he has done, in his endeavor to exonerate himself, grows more vehement. And he no longer says, “Ye crucified,” “Ye killed,” but, “Ye did it;” leading them to seek for pardon. If those rulers did it through ignorance, much more did these present.14 “But these things which God before had showed,” etc. (v. 18.) But it is remarkable, that both in the first and in the second discourse, speaking to the same effect, that is, in the former, “By the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God;” and in this, “God before had showed that Christ should suffer;” in neither does he adduce any particular text in proof. The fact is, that each one of such passages is accompanied with many accusations, and with mention of the punishment in store for them [as]; “I will deliver up,” says one, “the wicked in requital for His grave, and the rich in return for His death.” (Is. liii. 9.) And again, * * * “Those things,” he says, “which God before had showed by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled.” It shows the greatness of that “counsel,”15 in that all spoke of it, and not one only. It does not follow, because the event was through ignorance, that it took place irrespectively of God’s ordinance. See how great is the Wisdom of God, when it uses the wickedness of others to bring about that which must be. “He hath fulfilled,” he says: that they may not imagine that anything at all is wanting; for whatsoever Christ must needs suffer, has been fulfilled. But do not think, that, because the Prophets said this, and because ye did it through ignorance, this sufficeth to your exculpation. However, he does not express himself thus, but in milder terms says, “Repent ye therefore.” (v. 19.) “Why? For16 either it was through ignorance, or by the dispensation of God.” “That your sins may be blotted out.” I do not mean the crimes committed at the Crucifixion; perhaps they were through ignorance; but so that your other sins may be blotted out: this17 only. “So shall the times of refreshing come unto you.” Here he speaks of the Resurrection, obscurely.18 For those are indeed times of refreshing, which Paul also looked for, when he said, “We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burthened.” (2 Cor. v. 4.) Then to prove that Christ is the cause of the days of refreshing, he says, “And He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was for you ordained.” (v. 20.) He said not, “That your sin may be blotter out,” but, “your sins;” for he hints at that sin also. “He shall send.” And whence?19 “Whom the heaven must receive.” (v. 21.) Still [“must”] “receive?” And why not simply, Whom the heaven hath received? This, as if discoursing of old times: so, he says, it is divinely ordered, so it is settled: not a word yet of His eternal subsistence.-” For Moses indeed said unto the fathers, A Prophet shall the Lord raise up for you:” “Him shall ye hear in all things that He shall speak unto you:” and having said, “All things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy Prophets,” (v. 22) now indeed he brings in Christ Himself. For, if He predicted many things and it is necessary to hear Him, one would not be wrong in saying that the Prophets have spoken these things. But, besides, he wishes to show that the Prophets did predict the same things. And, if any one will look closely into the matter, he will find these things spoken in the Old Testament, obscurely indeed, but nevertheless spoken. “Who was purposely designed,” says he: in Whom20 there is nothing novel. Here he also alarms them, by the thought that much remains to be fulfilled. But if so, how says he, “Hath fulfilled?” (v. 18.) The things which it was necessary “that Christ should suffer,” are fulfilled: the things which must come to pass, not yet. “A prophet shall the Lord God raise up for you from among your brethren, like unto me.” This would most conciliate them. Do you observe the sprinkling of low matters and high, side by side,-that He Who was to go up into the heavens should be like unto Moses? And yet it was a great thing too. For in fact He was not simply like unto Moses,21 if so be that “every soul which will not hear shall be destroyed.” And one might mention numberless other things which show that He was not like unto Moses; so that it is a mighty text that he has handled. “God shall raise Him up unto you,” says Moses, “from among your brethren,” etc.: consequently Moses himself threatens those that should not hear. “Yea, and all the prophets,” etc.: all this22 is calculated to attract “Yea, and all the prophets,” says the Apostle. “from Samuel.” He refrains from enumerating them singly, not to make his discourse too long; but having alleged that decisive testimony of Moses, he passes by the rest. “Ye,” he says, “are the children of the Prophets, and of the covenant which God made.” (v. 25) “Children of the covenant;” that is, heirs. For test they should think that they received this offer from the favor of Peter, he shows, that of old it was due to them, in order that they may the rather believe that such also is the will of God. “Unto you first,” he continues, “God having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him.” (v. 26.) He does not say simply, “Unto you He sent His Son,” but also, after the resurrection, and when He had been crucified. For that they may not suppose that he himself granted them this favor, and not the Father, he says, “To bless you.” For if He is your Brother, and blesses you, the affair is a promise. “Unto you first.” That is, so far are you from having no share in these blessings, that He would have you become moreover promoters and authors of them to others. For23 you are not to feel like castaways. “Having raised up”: again, the Resurrection. “In turning away,” he says, “every one of you from his iniquities.” In this way He blesses you: not in a general way. And what kind of blessing is this? A great one. For of course not the turning a man away from his iniquities is itself sufficient to remit them also. And if it is not sufficient to remit, how should it be to confer a blessing? For it is not to be supposed that the transgressor becomes forthwith also blessed; he is simply released from his sins. But this,24 “Like unto me,” would no wise apply. “Hear ye Him,” he says; and not this alone, but he adds, “And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that Prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” When he has shown them that they had sinned, and has imparted forgiveness to them, and promised good things, then indeed, then he says, “Moses also says the same thing.” What sort of connection is this: “Until the times of the restitution;” and then to introduce Moses, saying, that25 all that Christ said shall come to pass? Then also, on the other hand, he says, as matter of encomium (so that for this reason also ye ought to obey): “Ye are the children of the prophets and of the covenant:” i.e. heirs. Then why do you stand affected towards that which is your own, as if it were another’s? True, you have done deeds worthy of condemnation; still you may yet obtain pardon. Having said this, with reason he is now able to say, “Unto you God sent his Son Jesus to bless you.” He says not, To save you, but what is greater; that the crucified Jesus blessed His crucifiers.

Let us then also imitate Him. Let us cast out that spirit of murder and enmity. It is not enough not to retaliate (for even in the Old Dispensation this was exemplified); but let us do all as we would for bosom-friends, as we would for ourselves so for those who have injured us. We are followers of Him, we are His disciples, who after being crucified, sets everything in action in behalf of his murderers, and sends out His Apostles to this end. And yet we have often suffered justly; but those acted not only unjustly, but impiously; for He was their Benefactor, He had done no evil, and they crucified Him. And for what reason? For the sake of their reputation. But He Himself made them objects of reverence. “The scribes and the pharisees sit in Moses’ seat; all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that do ye, but after their works do ye not.” (Matt. xxiii. 2.) And again in another place, “Go thy way, show thyself to the priest.” (ib. viii. 4.) Besides, when He might have destroyed them, He saves them. Let us then imitate Him, and let no one be an enemy, no one a foe, except to the devil.

Not a little does the habit of not swearing contribute to this end: I mean to the not giving way to wrath:26 and by not giving way to wrath, we shall not have an enemy either. Lop off the oaths of a man, and you have clipt the wings of his anger, you have smothered all his passion. Swearing, it is said, is as the wind to wrath. Lower the sails; no need of sails, when there is no wind. If then we do not clamor, and do not swear, we have cut the sinews of passion. And if you doubt this, just put it to experiment. Impose it as a law upon the passionate man that he shall never swear, and you will have no necessity of preaching moderation to hint. So the whole business is finished. For27 even though you do not forswear yourselves [yet], by swearing at all, do you not know in what absurd consequences you involve yourselves-binding yourselves to an absolute necessity and as with a cord, and putting yourselves to all manner of shifts, as men studying how to rescue their soul from an evil which there is no escaping, or, failing of that, obliged [by that self-imposed necessity] to spend your life thenceforth in vexation, in quarrels, and to curse your wrath? But all is in vain, and to no purpose. Threaten, be peremptory (diorisai), do all, whatever it be, without swearing; [so]: it is in your power to reverse analusai) both what you have said and what you have done if you have the mind. Thus on the present day I must needs speak more gently to you. For since ye have heard me, and the greater part of the reformation is achieved by you, now then let us see for what purpose the taking of oaths was introduced, and why allowed to be. In relating to you their first origin, and when they were conceived, and how, and by whom we shall give you this account in requital for your obedience. For it is fit that he who has made his practice right, should be taught the philosophy of the matter, but he who is not yet doing the right, is not worthy to be told the history.

They made many covenants in Abraham’s time, and slew victims, and offered sacrifices, and as yet oaths were not. Whence then did they come in? When evil increased, when all was confusion, upside down, when men had turned aside to idolatry: then it was, then, when men appeared no longer worthy to be believed, that they called God as witness, as if thereby giving an adequate surety for what they said. Such in fact is the Oath: it is a security where men’s principles cannot be trusted.28 So that in the indictment of the swearer the first charge is this,-that he is not to be trusted without a surety, and a great surety too: for such is the exceeding faithlessness, that they ask not man as surety, but will needs have God! Secondly, the same charge lies against him who receives the oath: that, in a question of compact, he must drag in God for warranty, and refuse to be satisfied unless he get Him. O the excessive stupidity, the insolence of such conduct! Thou, a worm, earth and dust, and ashes, and vapor, to drag in thy Lord as the, surety, and to compel the other to drag Him in likewise! Tell me, if your servants were disputing with each other, and exchanging29 assurances with each other, and the fellow-servant should declare that for his part he would not be satisfied till he had their common master given him for surety, would he not have stripes given him without number, and be made to know that the master is for other purposes, and not to be put to any such use as this? Why do I speak of a fellow-servant?30 For should he choose any respectable person, would not that person consider it an affront? But I do not wish to do this, say you.31 Well: then do not compel the other to do so either: since where men only are in question, this is done-if your party says, “I give such an one as my surety,” you do not allow him. “What then,” say you, “am I to lose what I have given?” I am not speaking of this; but that you allow him to insult God. For which reason greater shall be the inevitable punishment to him who forces the oath upon another, than to him who takes it: the same holds with regard to him who gives an oath when no one asks him. And what makes it worse, is, that every one is ready to swear, for one farthing, for some petty item, for his own injustice. All this may be said, when there is no perjury; but if perjury follow in the train, both he that imposes and he that takes the oath have turned everything upside down. “But there are some things,” you will say, “which are unknown.” Well take these into account, and do nothing negligently; but, if you do act negligently, take the loss to yourself as your punishment. It is better to be the loser thus, than in a very different way. For tell me-you force a man to take an oath, with what expectation? That he will forswear himself? But this is utter insanity; and the judgment will fall upon your own head; better you should lose your money, than he be lost. Why act thus to your own detriment, and to the insulting of God? This is the spirit of a wild beast, and of an impious man. But you do this in the expectation that he will not forswear himself? Then trust him without the oath. “Nay, there are many,” you reply, “who in the absence of an oath would presume to defraud; but, once the oath taken, would refrain.” You deceive yourself, man. A man having once learnt to steal, and to wrong his neighbor, will presume full oft to trample upon his oath; if on the contrary he shrinks from swearing, he will much more shrink from injustice. “But he is influenced against his will.” Well then, he deserves pardon.

But why am I speaking of this kind of oaths, while I pass over those in the market-place? For as regards these last, you can urge none of these pleas. For ten farthings you there have swearing and forswearing. In fact, because the thunderbolt does not actually fall from heaven, because all things are not overthrown, you stand holding God in your bonds: to get a few vegetables, a pair of shoes, for a little matter of money, calling Him to witness. What is the meaning of this? Do not let us imagine, that because we are not punished, therefore we do not sin; this comes of God’s mercy; not of our merit. Let your oath be an imprecation upon your own child, upon your own self: say, “Else let the hangman lash my ribs.” But you dare not. Is God less valuable than thy ribs? is He less precious than thy pate? Say “Else let me be struck blind.” But no. Christ so spares us, that He will not let us swear even by our own head; and yet we so little spare the honor of God, that on all occasions we must drag Him in! Ye know not what God is, and with what sort of lips he behooves to be invoked. Why, when we speak of any man of eminent worth, we say, “First wash your mouth, and then make mention of him:” and yet, that precious Name which is above every name, the Name which is marvellous in all the earth, the Name which devils hear and tremble, we haul about as we list! Oh! the force of habit! thereby has that Name become cheap. No doubt, if you impose on any one the necessity of coming into the sacred edifice to take his oath there, you feel that you have made the oath an awful one. And yet how is it that it seems awful in this way, but because we have been in the habit of using that at random, but not this? For ought not a shudder of awe to be felt when God is but named? But now, whereas among the Jews His Name was held to be so reverend, that it was written upon plates, and none was allowed to wear the characters except the high-priest alone: we bandy about His Name like any ordinary word. If simply to name God was not allowed to all; to call Him to witness, what audacity is it! nay, what madness! For if need were (rather than this)to fling away all that you have, ought you not readily to part with all? Behold, I solemnly declare and testify; reform these oaths of the forum, these superfluous oaths,32 and bring to me all those who wish to take them. Behold, in the presence of this assembly, I charge those who are set apart for the tending of the Houses of Prayer, I exhort and issue this order to them, that no person be allowed to take such oaths at his own discretion: or rather, that none be allowed to swear in any other way, but that the person be brought to me, whosoever he be, since even for these matters less will not serve but they must needs come before us, just as if one had to do with little children. May there be no occasion! It is a shame in some things still to need to be taught. Do you dare to touch the Holy Table, being a person unbaptized? No, but what is still worse, you the baptized dare to lay your hand upon the Holy Table, which not even all ordained persons are allowed to touch, and so to take your oath. Now you would not go and lay your hand upon the head of your child,33 and yet do you touch the Table, and not shudder, not feel afraid? Bring these men to me; I will judge, and send them away rejoicing, both the one and the other.34 Do what you choose; I lay it down as a law that there be no swearing at all. What hope of salvation, while we thus make all to have been done in vain? Is this the end of your bills, and your bonds, that you should sacrifice your own soul? What gain do you get so great as the loss? Has he forsworn himself? You have undone both him and yourself. But has he not? even so still you have undone (both), by forcing him to transgress the commandment.35 Let us cast out this disease from the soul: at any rate let us drive it out of the forum, out of our shops, out of our other work-places; our profits will but be the greater. Do not imagine that the success of your worldly plans is to be ensured by transgressions of the Divine laws. “But he refuses to trust me,” say you; and in fact I have sometimes heard this said by some: “Unless I swear oaths without number, the man will not trust me.” Yes, and for this you may thank yourself, because you are so off-hand with your oaths. For were it not so, but on the contrary were it clear to all men that you do not swear, take my word for it, you would be more readily believed upon your mere nod, than those are who swallow oaths by thousands. For look now: which do you more readily believe? me who do not swear, or those that do swear? “Yes,” say you, “but then you are ruler and bishop.” Then suppose I prove to you that it is not only for that reason? Answer me with truth, I beseech you; were I in the habit of perpetually swearing, would my office stand me in that stead? Not a whir. Do you see that it is not for this reason? And what do you gain at all? Answer me that. Paul endured hunger; do you then also choose to hunger rather than to transgress one of the commandments of God. Why are you so unbelieving? Here are you, ready to do and suffer all things for the sake of not swearing: and shall not He reward you? Shall He, Who sustains day by day both takers and breakers of oaths, give you over to hunger, when you have obeyed Him? Let all men see, that of those who assemble in this Church not one is a swearer. By this also let us become manifest, and not by our creed alone; let us have this mark also to distinguish us both from the Gentiles and from all men. Let us receive it as a seal from heaven, that we may everywhere be seen to be the King’s own flock. By our mouth and tongue let us be known, in the first place, just as the barbarians are by theirs: even as those who speak Greek are distinguished from barbarians, so let us be known. Answer me: the birds which are said to be parrots, how are they known to be parrots? is it not by speaking like men? Let us then be known by speaking like the Apostles; by speaking like the Angels. If any one bid you swear tell him, “Christ has spoken, and I do not swear.” This is enough to make a way for all virtue to come in. It is a gate to religion, a high road leading to the philosophy of piety;36 a kind of training-school. These things let us observe, that we may obtain also the future blessings, through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost together be glory, power and honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen. (source)

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Acts 3:1-13

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 27, 2016

ACTS III. 1.-“Now Peter and John went up together into the temple, at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.”

Everywhere we find these two Apostles in great harmony together. “To him Simon Peter beckoned.” (John xiii. 24.) These two also “came together to the sepulchre. (Ib. xx. 3 et seq.) And concerning John, Peter said unto Christ, “And what shall this man do?” (Ib. xxi. 21.) Now as for the other miracles, the writer of this book omits them; but he mentions the miracle by which they were all1 put in commotion. Observe again that they do not come to them purposely; so clear were they of ambition, so closely did they imitate their Master. Why now did they go up to the temple? Did they still live as Jews? No, but for expediency (xrhsimwj).2 A miraculous sign again takes place, which both confirms the converts, and draws over the rest; and such, as they were a sign for having wrought.3 The disease was in the nature of the man, and baffled the art of medicine. He had been forty years lame (ch. iv. 20), as the writer says afterwards, and no one during all that time had cured him. And the most obstinate diseases are those which are born with men. It was a great calamity, insomuch that even to provide for himself his necessary sustenance was impossible for him. The man was conspicuous both from the place, and from his malady. Hear how the matter is related. “And a certain man, lame from his mother’s womb, was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple.” (v. 2.) He sought to receive alms, and he did not know who the men were. “Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him, with John, said, Look on us.” (v. 3, 4.) Yet, not even so were the man’s thoughts elevated, but he persisted in his importunity. For such is poverty; upon a refusal, it compels people still to persist. Let this put us to shame who fall back in our prayers. But observe, I pray you, Peter’s gentleness: for he said, “Look on us.” So truly did their very bearing, of itself, betoken their character. “And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have I give thee.” (v. 5, 6.) He did not say, I give thee something much better than silver or gold: but what? “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up.” (v. 7.) Such was also the way of Christ. Often He healed by word, often by an act, often also He stretched forth the hand, where men were somewhat weak in faith, that the cure might not appear to be spontaneous. “And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up.” This act made manifest the Resurrection, for it was an image of the Resurrection. “And immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked.” (v. 8.) Perhaps it was by way of trying himself that he put it thus to further proof, whether perchance the thing done might not be to no purpose. His feet were weak; it was not that he had lost them. Some say that he did not even know how to walk.4 “And entered with them into the temple.” Of a truth it was marvellous. The Apostles do not urge him; but of his own accord he follows, by the act of following pointing out his benefactors. “And leaping and praising God;” not admiring them, but God that wrought by them. The man was grateful.

[“Now5 Peter and John went up together into the temple,” etc.] You observe how they continued in prayer. “The ninth hour:” there they prayed together. [“And a certain man,” etc.] The man was in the act of being carried at that instant. [“Whom they laid daily:”] (his bearers carried him away:) [“at the gate,” etc.] just when people went into the temple. And that you may not suppose that they carried him for some other purpose, but that it was in order that he might receive alms, hear what the writer says: “so that he might receive alms of those entering into the temple.” (Recapitulation of vv. 1-8.) And this is the reason why he also makes mention of the places, to give evidence of what he relates. “And how was it,” you may ask, “that they did not present him to Christ?” Perhaps they were certain unbelieving men, that haunted the temple, as in fact neither did they present him to the Apostles, when they saw them entering, after having done such great miracles. “He asked,” it is written, “to receive an alms.” (v. 3.) Their bearing marked them as certain devout and righteous men. [“And Peter fastening his eyes upon him, with John, said,” etc.] (v. 4, 5.) And observe how John is everywhere silent, while Peter makes excuse for him also; “Silver and gold,” he says, “have I none.” (v. 6.) He does not say, I have none here, as we are wont to speak, but absolutely, I have none. “What then?” he might say, “do you take no notice of me, your suppliant?” Not so, but of what I have, receive thou. Do you remark how unassuming Peter is, how he makes no display even to the object of his beneficence? [“In the name,” etc. “And he took him by the hand,” etc.] (v. 7.) And the mouth and the hand did all. Such6 sort of persons were the Jews; lame, and the right thing being to ask for health, these same ask for money, grovelling on the ground: for this it was that they beset the temple-to get money. What then does Peter? He did not despise him; he did not look about for some rich subject; he did not say, If the miracle is not done to some great one (eij ekeinon), nothing great is done: he did not look for some honor from him, no, nor heal him in the presence of people; for the man was at the entrance, not where the multitude were, that is, within. But Peter sought no such object; nor upon entering did he proclaim the matter: no, it was by his bearing that he attracted the lame man to ask. And the wonder is, that he believed so readily. For those who are set free from diseases of long standing, hardly believe their very eyesight. Once healed, he remains with the Apostles, giving thanks to God. “And he entered,” it is said, “with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.” (v. 8.) Observe how restless he is, in the eagerness of his delight, at the same time shutting the mouths of the Jews. Also, that he leaped, was to prevent the suspicion of hypocrisy; for after all, this was beyond the possibility of deception. For if previously he was totally unable to walk, even when hunger pressed hard (and indeed he would not have chosen to share with his bearers the proceeds of his begging, if he had been able to manage for himself), this holds still more in the present ease. And how should he have feigned in behalf of those who had given him no alms? But the man was grateful, even after his recovery. And thus on either side his faith is shown, both by his thankfulness, and by the recent event.

He was so7 well known to all, that “they recognized him. And all the people,” it says, “saw him walking and praising God; and they recognized (epeginwskon) that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple.” (v. 9.) It is well said, “they recognized,” inasmuch as he was one unknown now by reason of what had happened: for we use this term with regard to objects, which we find a difficulty in recognizing. [“And they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.”] Needs must it be believed that8 the name of Christ remits sins, seeing it produces even such effects as this. (“And as he held Peter and John, all the people came together at the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering.” (v. 11.) From his good feelings and love towards the Apostles, the lame man would not leave them; perhaps he was thanking them openly, and praising them. “And all the people,” it is said, “ran together unto them. And when Peter saw them, he answered.” (v. 12.) Again it is he who acts, and addresses the people.

And in the former instance, it was the circumstance of the tongues that aroused them to hearing, now it was this miracle; then, he took occasion to speak from their accusations now, from their supposition. Let us then consider, in what this address differs from the former, and in what it agrees with that. The former was held in a house, before any one has come over, and before they themselves have wrought anything; this, when all are wondering, and the healed man is standing by; when none doubt, as in the other case where some said “These men are full of new wine.” (Acts xii. 13.) At the one, he was surrounded by all the Apostles as he spoke; but at this, he has John alone; for by this time he is bold, and become more energetic. Such is the nature of virtue; once started, it advances, and never stops. Observe also how it was divinely ordered, that the miracle should take place in the temple, that others also might wax bold, while the Apostles work not in holes (eij kataduseij) and corners, and in secret: though not in the interior of the temple either, where the greater number were. How then, I pray you, was it believed? The man himself who was healed proclaimed the benefit. For there was no reason why he should lie, nor why he should have joined a different set of people.9 Either then it was because of the spaciousness of the place, that he there wrought the miracle, or because the spot was retired. And observe the event. They went up for one object, and they accomplished another. Thus also did Cornelius: he prayed and fasted10 * * *. But hitherto they always call Him, “of Nazareth.” “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” said Peter, walk. For in the first instance, the thing required was, that He should be believed in.

Let us not, I pray you, give over at the beginning of the story:11 and if one has named some particular achievement of virtue, and then has dropped it for awhile, let us begin over again. If we get into the right mood (en ecei), we shall soon arrive at the end, soon reach the summit. For earnestness, it is said, begets earnestness, and dulness begets dulness. He who has effected some little reformation, thereby receives encouragement to approach greater things, and thence again to go on something more than that; and just as it is with fire, the more wood it lays hold on, the more vehement it becomes, so likewise zeal, the more pious reflections it kindles, the more effectually is it armed against their opposites. As, for example: There are set in us, like so many thorns, perjury, falsehood hypocrisy, deceit, dishonesty, abusiveness, scoffing, buffoonery, indecency, scurrility; again under another head, covetousness, rapacity, injustice, calumny, insidiousness; again, wicked lust, uncleanness, lewdness, fornication, adultery; again, envy, emulation, anger, wrath, rancor, revenge, blasphemy, and numberless others. If we effect a reformation in the first instances, not only in them will the success have been achieved, but through them in the following cases also. For reason has then gained more strength to overthrow those other vices. For instance, if he, who has frequently sworn, once extirpates that satanic habit, he has not only gained this point, but a habit of piety in other respects will have been brought in. For no one, I suppose, averse to swearing would easily consent to do any other wicked act; he will feel a reverence for the virtue already acquired. Just as the man who wears a beautiful robe, will blush to roll himself in the mire; so is it also here. From this beginning he will come to learn not to be angry, not to strike, not to insult. For if once he has come right in little matters, the whole affair is done. Often, however, something of this sort takes place, that a person has once reformed, and then again through carelessness falls back into the old sins but too readily, so that the case becomes irremediable. For instance, we have made it a law to ourselves not to swear; we have got on well, for some three, or even four days; after that being hard put to it, we scattered away the whole of our collected gain; we then fall into indolence and recklessness. Still it is not right to give over; one must set to work zealously again. For it is said, he that has built up a house, and then sees his building pulled down, will have less spirit for building again. Yes, but for all this, one must not be dispirited, but must once more set to work zealously.

Let us then lay down daily laws for ourselves. For a time let us begin with the easier. Let us retrench all that superfluity of paths, and put a bridle on our tongues; let no one swear by God. Here is no outlay, here is no fatigue, here is no cost of time. It is sufficient to will, and all is done. It is a matter of habit. I beseech and entreat you, let us contribute thus much of zeal. Tell me, if I had bid you contribute your money, would not each one of you readily cast in according to his ability? If you saw me in extreme danger, would you not, if it had been possible, have cut off your own flesh to give me? Well, I am in danger now, and in great danger, such indeed that, were I withal confined to a dungeon, or had I received ten thousand stripes, or were a convict in the mines, I could not suffer more. Reach me then the hand. Consider how great is the danger, that I should not have been able to reform this which is least: I say “least” in regard to the labor required. What shall I have to say hereafter, when thus called to account? “Why did you not remonstrate? why did you not enjoin? why did you not lay the law before them? why did you not cheek the disobedient?” It will not be enough for me to say, that I did admonish. It will be answered, “You ought to have used more vehement rebuke; since Eli also admonished.” (1 Sam. ii. 24.) But God forbid I should compare you with Eli’s sons. Indeed, he did admonish them and say, “Nay, my sons, do not so; evil is the report that I hear of you.” (1 Sam. iii. 13.) But subsequently the Scripture saith, that he did not admonish his sons: since he did not admonish them severely, or with threats. For is it not strange indeed, that in the synagogues of the Jews the laws are in such force, and whatever the teacher enjoins is performed; while here we are thus despised and rejected? It is not my own glory that I care for (my glory is your good report), but it is for your salvation. Every day we lift up our voice, and shout in your ears. But there is none to hear. Still we take no strong measures. I fear we shall have to give an account at the coming Day of this excessive and unseasonable leniency.

Wherefore, with a loud and clear voice, I proclaim to all and testify, that those who are notorious for this transgression, who utter words which come “of the evil one,” (Matt. v. 37.) (for such is swearing,) shall not step over the threshold of the Church. Let this present month be the time allowed you for reforming in this matter. Talk not to me, “Necessity of business compels me to use oaths, else people do not believe me.” To begin with this, retrench those oaths which come merely of habit. I know many will laugh, but it is better to be laughed at now, than wept for hereafter. They will laugh, who are mad. For who, I ask, in his right mind would laugh at the keeping of the commandment? But suppose they do; why, it will not be at us, but at Christ, that such men will laugh. You shudder at the word! I knew you would. Now if this law were of my making, at me would be the laughing; but if Another be the Lawgiver, the jeering passes over to Him. Yes, and Christ was once spit upon, and smitten with the palm, smitten upon the face. Now also He bears with this, and it is no wonder (ouden apeikoj)! For this, hell is prepared; for this, the worm that dieth not. Behold, again I say and testify; let him laugh that will, let him scoff that listeth. Hereunto are we set, to be laughed at and mocked, to suffer all things. We are “the offscouring” (1 Cor. iv. 13) or the world, as blessed Paul says. If any man refuse to conform to this order, that man I, by my word, as with a trumpet’s blast, do prohibit to set foot over the Church’s threshold, be he prince, be he even the crowned head. Either depose me from this station, or if I am to remain, expose me not to danger. I cannot bear to ascend this throne, without effecting Some great reformation. For if this be impossible, it is better to stand below. Nothing more wretched than a ruler who does his people no good. Do exert yourselves, and attend to this, I entreat you; and let us strive, and of a surety more will come of it. Fast, entreat God (and we will do the same with you) that this pernicious habit may be eradicated. It is no great matter,12 to become teachers to the world; no small honor to have it said everywhere, that really in this city there is not a man that swears. If this come to pass, you will receive the reward not only of your own good works; indeed what I am to you, this you will become to the world. Assuredly others also will emulate you; assuredly you will be a candle set upon a candlestick.

And is this, you will say, the whole matter? No, this is not all, but this is a beginning of other virtues. He who swears not, will certainly attain unto piety in other respects, whether he will or not, by dint of self-respect and awe. But you will urge that most men do not keep to it, but fall away. Well, better one man that doeth the will of the Lord, than ten thousand transgressors. In fact, hereby is everything subverted, everything turned upside down, I mean, because after the fashion of the Theatre we desire numbers not a select number. For what indeed will a multitude be able to profit? Would you learn that it is the saints, not the numbers, which make the multitude? Lead out to war ten hundred thousand men, and one saint, and let us see who achieves the most? Joshua the son of Nun went out to war, and alone achieved all; the rest were of no use.13 Wouldest thou see, beloved, that the great multitude, when it does not the will of God, is no better than a thing of naught? I wish indeed, and desire, and with pleasure would be torn in pieces, to adorn the Church with a multitude, yea, but a select multitude; yet if this be impossible, that the few should be select, is my desire. Do you not see, that it is better to possess one precious stone, than ten thousand farthing pieces? Do you not see that it is better to have the eye sound, than to be loaded with flesh, and yet deprived of sight? Do you not see that it is better to have one healthy sheep, than ten thousand with the murrain; that fine children, though few, are better than many children diseased withal; that in the Kingdom there will be few, but in hell many? What have I to do with a multitude? what profit therein? None. Rather they are a plague to the rest. It is as if one who had the option of ten healthy persons of ten thousand sick folks, should take to himself the latter in addition to the ten. The many who do nothing well, will avail us only for punishment hereafter, and disgrace for the time being. For no one will urge it as a point in our favor that we are many; we shall be blamed for being unprofitable. In fact, this is what men always tell us, when we say, We are many; “aye, but bad,” they answer.

Behold again: I give warning, and proclaim with a loud voice, let no one think it a laughing matter: I will exclude and prohibit the disobedient; and as long as I sit on this throne, I will give up not one of its rights. If any one depose me from it, then I am no longer responsible; as long as I am responsible, I cannot disregard them; on account not of my own punishment, but of your salvation. For I do exceedingly long for your salvation. To advance it, I endure pain and vexation. But yield your obedience, that both here and hereafter you may receive a plentiful reward, and that we may in common reap eternal blessings; through the grace and mercy of the only-begotten Son of God; to Whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, power, and honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen. (source)

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Acts 2:34-41

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 27, 2016

The following is excerpted from St. Chrysostom’s 6th and 7th homilies on Acts of Apostles. The homilies can be read in full here.

Excerpt from Homily VI on Acts 4:34-36~Now if He be David’s Lord, much more shall they not disdain Him. “Sit thou on My right hand;” he has set the whole matter here; “until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool:” here also he has brought upon them a great terror, just as in the beginning he showed what He does to His friends, what to his enemies. And again, as to the act of subjugation, not to provoke unbelief, he ascribes it to the Father. Since then these are great things that he has uttered, he again brings his discourse down to lowly matters. “Let therefore,” he says, “the whole house of Israel know assuredly: i.e. question ye not, nor doubt ye: then also in the tone of command it follows; “that God hath made Him both Lord-” this he says from David- “and Christ,” (v. 36), this from the Psalm:14 For when it would have been rightly concluded, “Let therefore the whole house of Israel know assuredly that” He sitteth on the right hand of God, this, which would have been great, he forbears, and brings in a different matter which is much more humble, and the expression “Hath made;” i.e. hath ordained: so that there is nothing about (ousiwsij) communication of substance here, but the expression relates to this which has been mentioned. “Even this Jesus, Whom ye crucified.” He does well to end with this, thereby agitating their minds. For when he has shown how great it is, he has then exposed their daring deed, so as to show it to be greater, and to possess them with terror. For men are not so much attracted by benefits as they are chastened by fear.15

But the admirable and great ones, and beloved of God, need none of these motives: men, such as was Paul: not of the kingdom, not of hell, made he account. For this is indeed to love Christ, this to be no hireling, nor to reckon it a matter of trafficking and trading, but to be indeed virtuous, and to do all for the love of God. (Rom. ix. 3.) Then what tears does it not deserve, when, owing so large a measure, we do not even like traders seek the kingdom of heaven! He promises us so great things, and not even so is He worthy to be heard? What can come up to this enmity!16 And yet, they are mad after money-making, though it be with enemies, though it be with slaves, though it be with persons most hostile to them, that they come in contact, though it be with persons utterly evil, if only they expect that they shall be enabled by their means to make money, they will do everything, will flatter, and be obsequious, and make themselves slaves, and will esteem them more to be revered than all men, to get some advantage out of them: for the hope of money does not allow them to give a thought to any such considerations as these. But the Kingdom is not so powerful as money is; nay, rather, not in the smallest proportion as powerful. For17 it is no ordinary Being that promises: but this is greater than even the Kingdom itself that we receive it ‘from such a Giver! But now the case is the same as if a king, wishing, after ten thousand other benefits, to make us his heirs and coheirs with his son [should be despised]: while some captain of a band of robbers, who has done ten thousand wrongs to us and to our parents, and is himself fraught with ten thousand wickednesses, and has utterly marred our honor and our welfare, should, on presenting a single penny, receive our worship. God promises a Kingdom, and is despised: the Devil helps us to hell, and he is honored! Here God, there Devil. But let us see the difference of the tasks enjoined. For if there were none of these considerations in the case: if it were not, here God, there Devil; not, here one helping to a kingdom, there to a hell: the nature itself of the tasks enjoined were sufficient to induce us to comply with the former For what does each enjoin? The one,18 the things which make glorious; the other the things which put to shame: one, the things which involve in ten thousand calamities and disgraces; the other, the things which have with them abundant refreshment. For look: the one saith, “Learn ye of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matt. xi. 29): the other saith, Be thou savage, and ungentle, and passionate, and wrathful, and more a wild beast than a man. Let us see which is more useful, which, I pray you, more profitable. “Speak not of this,” say you.19 * * * But consider that he is the devil: above all indeed, if that be shown: there is need also to undergo toils, and, on the other hand, the prize of victory will be greater. For not he that enjoins easy tasks is the kind (khdemwn) benefactor, but he that enjoins what is for our good. Since fathers also enjoin disagreeable tasks; but for this20 they are fathers: and so again do masters to slaves: but kidnappers and destroyers (lumewnej) on the other hand, do just the reverse. And21 yet that the commands of Christ are attended with a pleasure, is manifest from that saying. For to what sort do you take the passionate man to belong, and to what the forbearing and meek? Does not the soul of the (ekeinou) one22 seem to be in a kind of solitary retreat, enjoying exceeding quiet; while that of (toutou) the other is like a market-place and tumult and the midst of cities, where great is the clamor of those: going out, the noise of camels, mules, asses: of men shouting loud to those that meet them, that they may not be trodden under foot: and again, of silver-beaters, of braziers, of men thrusting and pushing this way and that and some overborne, some overbearing? But the soul of (toutou) the former is like some mountain-top, with its delicate air, its pure sunshine, its limpid gushing fountains, its multitude of charming flowers, while the vernal meads and gardens put on their plumage of shrubs and flowers, and glance with rifling waters: and if any sound is heard there, it is sweet, and calculated to affect the ear with a sense of much delight. For either the warbling birds perch on the outermost spray of the branching trees, and cicadas, nightingales and swallows, blended in one harmony, perform a kind of concerted music; or the zephyr gently stirring the leaves, draws whistling tones from pines and firs, resembling oft the notes of the swan: and roses, violets, and other flowers, gently swayed, and (kuanizonta) dark-dimpling, show like a sea just rippled over with gentle undulations. Nay, many are the images one might find. Thus, when one looks at the roses, one shall fancy that he beholds in them the rainbow; in the violets a waving sea; in the lilies, the sky. But23 not by the spectacle alone, and the beholding, does such an one then cause delight: but also in the very body of him that looks to the meadow, rather it refreshes him, and causes him to breathe freely, so that he thinks himself more in heaven than on earth. There is withal a sound of a different kind, when water from the mountain-steep, borne by its own force through ravines gently plashes over its pebbly bed with lulling noise, and so relaxes our frame with the pleasurable sensations, as quickly to draw over our eyes the soft languor of slumber. You have heard the description with pleasure: perhaps also it has made you enamored of solitude. But sweeter far than this solitude is the soul * * of the long-suffering. For it was not for the sake of describing a meadow, nor for the sake of making a display of language, that we have broached this similitude: but the object was, that, seeing how great is the delight of the long suffering, and how, by converse with a long suffering man, one would be far more both delighted and benefited, than by frequenting such spots, ye may follow after such men. For when not even a breath of violence proceeds from such a soul, but mild and engaging words, then indeed does that gentle softness of the zephyr find its counterpart: entreaties also, devoid of all arrogance, but forming the resemblance to those winged warblers,-how is not this far better? For not the body is fanned by the soft breeze of speech; no, it refreshes our souls24 heated and glowing. A physician, by ever so great attention, could not so speedily rid a man of the fever, as a patient man would cool, by the breath of his own words, a person who was passionate and burning with wrath. And why do I speak of a physician? Not even iron, made red-hot and dipped into water, so quickly parts with its heat, as does the passionate man when he comes in contact with the soul of the long-suffering. But as, if it chance that singing birds find their way into the market, they go for nothing there, just so is it with our precepts when they light upon souls addicted to wrathful passions. Assuredly, sweeter is gentleness than bitterness and frowardness. -Well, but the one was God’s bidding, the other the devil’s. Do you see that it was not for nothing that I said, even if there were no devil or God in the case, the things enjoined would be enough in themselves to (aposthsai) revolt us? For the one is both agreeable to himself, and serviceable to others, the other displeasing to himself, and hurtful to others. Nothing is more unpleasant than a man in a passion, nothing more noisome, more odious, more shocking, as also nothing more pleasing than one who knows not what it is to be in a passion. Better dwell with a wild beast than with a passionate man. For the beast, when once tamed, abides by its law; but the man, no matter how often you have tamed him, again turns wild, unless25 however he should of himself settle down into some such habit (of gentleness).

For as a bright sunny day and winter with all its gloom, so are the soul of the angry and that of the gentle. However, let us at present look not to the mischievous consequences resulting to others, but to those which affect the persons themselves: though indeed it is also no slight mischief (to one’s self) to cause ill to another, for the present, however, let that be the consideration. What executioner with his lash can so lacerate the ribs, what red-hot lancets (obeliskoi) ever so pierced the body, what madness can so dispossess a man of his natural reason, as anger and rage do,? I know many instances of persons engendering diseases by giving loose to anger: and the worst of fevers are precisely these. But if they so injure the body, think of the soul. For do not argue that you do not see the mischief, but rather consider, if that which is the recipient of the malignant passion is so hurt, what must be the hurt sustained by that which engenders it! Many have lost their eyes, many have fallen into most grievous disease. Yet he that bears bravely, shall endure all things easily. But, however, both such are the troublesome tasks the devil enjoins, and the wages he assigns us for these is hell. He is both devil and foe to our salvation, and we rather do his bidding than Christ’s, Saviour as He is, and Benefactor and Defender, and speaking as He does such words, which are both sweeter, and more reverend, and more profitable and beneficial, and are both to ourselves and to those who live in our company the greatest of blessings. Nothing worse than anger, my beloved, nothingworse than unseasonable wrath. It will not have any long delay; it is a quick, sharp passion. Many a time has a mere word been blurted out in anger, which needs for its curing a whole lifetime, and a deed been done which was the ruin of the man for life. For the worst of it is this, that in a little moment, and by one act, and by a single word, full oft has it cast us out from the possession of eternal good, and brought to nought a world of pains. Wherefore I beseech you to do all you can to curb this savage beast. Thus far, however, I have spoken concerning meekness and wrath; if one should take in hand to treat of other opposites, as covetousness and the mad passion for glory, contrasted with contempt of wealth and of glory; intemperance with sobriety; envy with benevolence; and to marshal them each against its opposite, then one would know how great the difference. Behold how from the very things enjoined it is plainly shown, that the one master is God, the other the devil! Why then, let us do God’s bidding, and not cast ourselves into bottomless pits; but while there is time, let us wash off all that defiles the soul, that we may attain unto the eternal blessings, through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father and Holy Ghost together be glory, power, honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.

Excerpt from Homily VII on Acts 2:37-41~“Now when they heard these words (E. V. `this,’) they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the Apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

Do you see what a great thing gentleness is? More than any vehemence, it pricks our hearts, inflicts a keener wound. For as in the case of bodies which have become callous the man that strikes upon them does not affect the sense so powerfully, but if he first mollify them and make them tender, then he pierces them effectually; so in this instance also, it is necessary first to mollify. But that which softens, is not wrath, not vehement accusation, not personal abuse; it is gentleness. The former indeed rather aggravate the callousness, this last alone removes it. If then you are desirous to reprove any delinquent, approach him with all possible mildness. For see here; he gently reminds them of the outrages they have committed, adding no comment; he declares the gift of God, he goes on to speak of the grace which bore testimony to the event, and so draws out his discourse to a still greater length. So they stood in awe of the gentleness of Peter, in that he, speaking to men who had crucified his Master, and breathed murder against himself and his companions, discoursed to them in the character of an affectionate father and teacher. Not merely were they persuaded; they even condemned themselves, they came to a sense of their past behavior. For he gave no room for their anger to be roused, and darken their judgment, but by means of humility he dispersed, as it were, the mist and darkness of their indignation, and then pointed out to them the daring outrage they had committed. For so it is; when we say of ourselves that we are injured, the opposite party endeavor to prove that they have not done the injury; but when we say, we have not been injured, but have rather done the wrong, the others take the contrary line. If, therefore, you wish to place your enemy (eij agwna) in the wrong, beware of accusing him; nay (agwnisai), plead for him, he will be sure to find himself guilty. There is a natural spirit of opposition in man. Such was the conduct of Peter. He did not accuse them harshly; on the contrary, he almost endeavored to plead for them, as far as was possible. And this was the very reason that he penetrated into their souls. You will ask, where is the proof that they were pricked? In their own words; for what say they? “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Whom they had called deceivers, they call “brethren:” not that hereby they put themselves on an equality with them, but rather by way of attracting their brotherly affection and kindness: and besides,1 because the Apostles had deigned to call them by this title. And, say they, “What shall we do?” They did not straightway say, Well then, we repent; but they surrendered themselves to the disciples. Just as a person on the point of shipwreck, upon seeing the pilot, or in sickness the physician, would put all into his hands, and do his bidding in everything; so have these also confessed that they are in extreme peril, and destitute of all hope of salvation. They did not say, How shall we be saved? but, “What shall we do?” Here again Peter, though the question is put to all, is the man to answer. “Repent,” says he, “and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ.” (v. 38.) He does not yet say, Believe, but, “Be baptized every one of you.” For2 this they received in baptism. Then he speaks of the gain; “For the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” If you are to receive a gift, if baptism conveys remission, why delay? He next gives a persuasive turn to his address, adding, “For the promise is unto you” (v. 39): for he had spoken of a promise above. “And to your children,” he says: the gift is greater, when these are to be heirs of the blessings. “And to all,” he continues, “that are afar off:” if to those that are afar off, much more to you that are near: “even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Observe the time he takes for saying, “To those that are afar off.” It is when he finds them conciliated and self-accusing. For when the soul pronounces sentence against itself, no longer can it feel envy. “And with many other words did he testify, and exhort, saying.” (v. 40.) Observe how, throughout, the writer studies brevity, and how free he is from ambition and display. “He testified and exhorted, saying.” This is the perfection of teaching, comprising something of fear and something of love. “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” He says nothing of the future, all is about the present, by which indeed men are chiefly swayed; he shows that the Gospel releases from present3 evils as well. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” (v. 41.) Think you not this cheered the Apostles more than the miracle?

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