ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
HOMILIES 1-10 ON THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS
PUBLISHED AFTER HIS FALLING ASLEEP, FROM NOTES
BY CONSTANTINE, PRESBYTER OF ANTIOCH.
[The Oxford Translation Revised by Rev. Frederic Gardiner, D.D. Late Professor in the Berkeley Divinity School, Middletown, Conn.]
ARGUMENT, AND SUMMARY OF THE EPISTLE.
[1.] The blessed Paul, writing to the Romans, says, "Inasmuch then as I am the Apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: if by any means I may provoke to emulation them that are my flesh":(1) and again, in another place, "For He that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles."(2) If therefore he were the Apostle of the Gentiles, (for also in the Acts, God said to him, "Depart; for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles,"(3)) what had he to do with the Hebrews? and why did he also write an Epistle to them?
And especially as besides, they were ill-disposed towards him, and this is to be seen from many places. For hear what James says to him, "Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe ... and these all have been informed of thee that thou teachest men to forsake the law."(4) And oftentimes he had many disputings concerning this.
Why therefore, one might ask, as he was so learned in the law (for he was instructed in the law at the feet of Gamaliel,(5) and had great zeal in the matter, and was especially able to confound them in this respect)--why did not God send him to the Jews? Because on this very account they were more vehement in their enmity against him. "For they will not endure thee,"(6) God says unto him; "But depart far hence to the Gentiles, for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me."(7) Whereupon he says, "Yea, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee; and when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him."(8) And this he says(9) is a sign and proof of their not believing him. For thus it is: when a man goes away from any people,(10) if he be one of the least and of those who are nothing worth, he does not much vex those from whom he went; but if he be among the distinguished and earnest partisans and those who care for these things, he exceedingly grieves and vexes them beyond measure, in that(11) he especially overthrows their system with the multitude.
And besides this, there was something else.(12) What now might this be? That they who were about Peter were also with Christ, and saw signs and wonders; but he [Paul] having had the benefit of none of these, but being with Jews, suddenly deserted and became one of them. This especially promoted our cause. For while they indeed, seemed to testify even from gratitude, and one might have said that they bore witness to those things in love for their Master; he, on the other hand, who testifies to the resurrection, this man was rather one who heard a voice only. For this cause thou seest them waging war passionately with him, and doing all things for this purpose, that they might slay him, and raising seditions(1)
The unbelievers, then, were hostile to him for this reason; but why were the believers? Because in preaching to the Gentiles he was constrained to preach Christianity purely; and if haply even in Judaea he were found [doing so], he cared not. For Peter and they that were with him, because they preached in Jerusalem, when there was great fierceness, of necessity enjoined the observance of the law; but this man was quite at liberty. The [converts] too from the Gentiles were more than the Jews because they were without.(2) And this(3) enfeebled the law, and they had no such great reverence for it, although(4) he preached all things purely. Doubtless in this matter they think to shame him by numbers, saying, "Thou seest, brother, how many ten thousands of Jews there are which(5) are come together."(6) On this account they hated him and turned away from him, because "They are informed of thee, he says, that thou teachest men to forsake the law."(7)
[2.] Why, then, not being a teacher of the Jews, does he send an Epistle to them? And where were those to whom he sent it? It seems to me in Jerusalem and Palestine. How then does he send them an Epistle? Just as he baptized, though he was not commanded to baptize. For, he says, "I was not sent to baptize":(8) not, however, that he was forbidden, but he does it as a subordinate matter. And how could he fail to write to those, for whom he was willing even to become accursed?(9) Accordingly he said,(10) "Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you."(11)
For as yet he was not arrested. Two years then he passed bound, in Rome; then he was set free; then, having gone into Spain, he saw Jews(12) also in like manner; and then he returned to Rome, where also he was slain by Nero. The Epistle to Timothy then was later(13) than this Epistle. For there he says, "For I am now ready to be offered"(14); there also he says, "In my first answer no man stood with me."(15) In many places they [the Hebrew Christians] had to contend(16) with persecution, as also he says, writing to the Thessalonians, "Ye became followers of the churches of Judaea":(17) and writing to these very persons he says, "Ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods."(18) Dost thou see them contending? And if men had thus treated the Apostles, not only in Judaea, but also wherever they were among the Gentiles, what would they not have done to the believers? On this account, thou seest, he was very careful for them. For when he says, "I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints";(19) and again, when he exhorts the Corinthians to beneficence, and says that the Macedonians had already made their contribution,(20) and says, "If it be meet that I go also,"(21)--he means this. And when he says, "Only that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do,"(22)--he declares this. And when he says, "They gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision,"(23)--he declares this.
But this was(24) not for the sake of the poor who were there, but that by this we might be partakers in the beneficence. For not as the preaching did we apportion the care for the poor to each other (we indeed to the Gentiles, but they to the circumcision). And everywhere thou seest him using great care for them: as was reasonable.
Among the other nations indeed, when there were both Jews and Greeks, such was not the case; but then, while they still seemed to have authority and independence and to order many things by their own laws, the government not being yet established nor brought perfectly under the Romans, they naturally exercised great tyranny. For if in other cities, as in Corinth, they beat the Ruler of the synagogue before the Deputy's judgment seat, and Gallio "cared for none of these things,"(25) but it was not so in Judaea.(1) Thou seest indeed, that while in other cities they bring them to the magistrates, and need help from them. and from the Gentiles, here they took no thought of this, but assemble a Sanhedrim themselves and slay whom they please. Thus in fact they put Stephen to death, thus they beat the Apostles, not taking them before rulers. Thus also they were about to put Paul to death, had not the chief captain thrown himself(2) [upon them]. For this took place while the priests, while the temple, while the ritual, the sacrifices were vet standing. Look indeed at Paul himself being tried before the High Priest, and saying," I wist not that he was the High Priest,"(3) and this in the presence of the Ruler.(4) For they had then great power. Consider then what things they were likely to suffer who dwelt in Jerusalem and Judaea.
[3.] He then who prays to become accursed for those who were not yet believers, and who so ministers to the faithful, as to journey himself, if need be, and who everywhere took great care of them;--let us not wonder if he encourage and comfort them by letters also, and if he set them upright when tottering and fallen. For in a word, they were worn down(5) and despairing on account of their manifold afflictions. And this he shows near the end, saying, "Wherefore lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees";(6) and again, "Yet a little while, he that shall come will come, and will not tarry";(7) and again, "If ye be without chastisement, ... then are ye bastards and not sons."(8)
For since they were Jews and learned from the fathers that they must expect both their good and their evil immediately and must live accordingly, but then [when the Gospel came] the opposite was [taught]-- their good things being in hope and after death, their evils in hand, though they had patiently endured much, it was likely that many would be fainthearted;--hereon he discourses.
But we will unfold these things at a fit opportunity. At present: he of necessity wrote to those for whom he cared so greatly. For while the reason why he was not sent to them is plain, yet he was not forbidden to write. And that they were becoming fainthearted he shows when he says, "Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths"(9) and again, "God is not unrighteous to forget your work and love."(10) For the soul overtaken by many trials, was turned aside even from the faith.(11) Therefore he exhorts them to "Give heed to the things which they have heard, and that there should not be an evil heart of unbelief."(12) On this account also, in this Epistle, especially, he argues at length concerning faith, and after much [reasoning] shows at the end that to them [of old] also He promised good things in hand, and yet gave nothing.
And besides these things, he establishes two points that they might not think themselves forsaken: the one, that they should bear nobly whatever befalls them; the other, that they should look assuredly for their recompense. For truly He will not overlook those with Abel and the line of unrewarded righteous following him.
And he draws comfort in three ways: first, from the things which Christ suffered: as He Himself says, "The servant is not greater than his Lord."(13) Next, from the good things laid up for the believers. Thirdly, from the evils; and this point he enforces not only from the things to come (which would be less persuasive), but also from the past and from what had befallen their fathers. Christ also does the same, at one time saying, "The servant is not greater than his Lord";(14) and again, "There are many mansions with the Father";(15) and He denounces innumerable woes on the unbelievers.
But he speaks much of both the New and the Old Covenant; for this was useful to him for the proof of the Resurrection. Lest they should disbelieve that [Christ] rose on account of the things which He suffered, he confirms it from the Prophets, and shows that not the Jewish, but ours are the sacred [institutions]. For the temple yet stood and the sacrificial rites; therefore he says, "Let us go forth therefore without, bearing His reproach."(16) But this also was made an argument against him: "If these things are a shadow, if these things are an image, how is it that they have not passed away or given place when the truth was manifested, but these things still flourish?" This also he quietly intimates shall happen, and that at a time close at hand.
Moreover, he makes it plain that they had been a long time in the faith and in afflictions, saying, "When for the time ye ought to be teachers,"(17) and, "Lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief,"(18) and ye became "Followers of them who through patience inherit the promises."(19)
HOMILY I: HEBREWS i. 1, 2.
"God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the Prophets, hath at the end of the days(1) spoken unto us by His Son whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds."
[1.] Truly, "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." (Rom. v. 20.) This at least the blessed Paul intimates here also, in the very beginning of his Epistle to the Hebrews. For since as it was likely that afflicted, worn out by evils, and judging of things thereby, they would think themselves worse off than all other men,--he shows that herein they had rather been made partakers of greater, even very exceeding, grace; arousing the hearer at the very opening of his discourse. Wherefore he says, "God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the Prophets, hath at the end of the days spoken unto us by His Son."
Why did he [Paul] not oppose "himself" to "the prophets"? Certainly, he was much greater than they, inasmuch as a greater trust was committed to him. Yet he doth not so. Why? First, to avoid speaking great things concerning himself. Secondly, because his hearers were not yet perfect. And thirdly, because he rather wished to exalt them, and to show that their superiority was great. As if he had said, What so great matter is it that He sent prophets to our fathers? For to us [He has sent] His own only- begotten Son Himself.
And well did he begin thus, "At sundry times and in divers manners," for he points out that not even the prophets themselves saw God; nevertheless, the Son saw Him. For the expressions, "at sundry times and in divers manners" are the same as "in different ways." "For I "(saith He) "have multiplied visions, and used similitudes by the ministry of the Prophets." (Hos. xii. 10.) Wherefore the excellency consists not in this alone, that to them indeed prophets were sent, but to us the Son; but that none of them saw God, but the Only-begotten Son saw Him. He doth not indeed at once assert this, but by what he says afterwards he establishes it, when he speaks concerning His human nature; "For to which of the Angels said He, Thou art My Son," (ver. 5), and, "Sit thou on My right hand"? (Ver. 13.)
And look on his great wisdom. First he shows the superiority from the prophets. Then having established this as acknowledged, he declares that to them indeed He spake by the prophets, but to us by the Only-begotten. Then [He spake] to them by Angels, and this again he establishes, with good reason (for angels also held converse with the Jews): yet even herein we have the superiority, inasmuch as the Master [spake] to us, but to them servants, and prophets, fellow- servants.
[2.] Well also said he, "at the end of the days," for by this he both stirs them up and encourages them desponding of the future. For as he says also in another place, "The Lord is at hand, be careful for nothing" (Phil. iv. 5, 6), and again, "For now is our salvation nearer than when we believed" (Rom. xiii. 11): so also here. What then is it which he says? That whoever is spent in the conflict, when he hears of the end thereof, recovers his breath a little, knowing that it is the end indeed of his labors, but the beginning of his rest.
"Hath in the end of the days spoken unto us in [His] Son." Behold again he uses the saying, "in [His] Son,"(2) for "through the Son,"(3) against those who assert that this phrase is proper to the Spirit.(4) Dost thou see that the [word] "in" is "through"?(5)
And the expression, "In times past," and this, "In the end of the days," shadows forth some other meaning:--that when a long time had intervened, when we were on the edge of punishment, when the Gifts had failed, when there was no expectation of deliverance, when we were expecting to have less than all--then we have had more.
And see how considerately he hath spoken it. For he' said not, "Christ spake" (albeit it was He who did speak), but inasmuch as their souls were weak, and they were not yet able to hear the things concerning Christ, he says, "God hath spoken by Him." What meanest thou?
did God speak through the Son? Yes. What then? Is it thus thou showest the superiority? for here thou hast but pointed out that both the New and the Old [Covenants] are of One and the same: and that this superiority is not great. Wherefore he henceforth follows on upon this argument, saying, "He spake unto us by [His] Son."
(Note, how Paul makes common cause, and puts himself on a level with the disciples, saying, He spake "to us": and yet He did not speak to him, but to the Apostles, and through them to the many. But he lifts them [the Hebrews] up, and declares that He spake also to them. And as yet he doth not at all reflect on the Jews. For almost all to whom the prophets spake, were a kind of evil and polluted persons. But as yet the discourse is not of these: but, hitherto of the gifts derived from God.)
"Whom He appointed," saith he, "heir of all." What is "whom He appointed heir of all"? He speaks here of the flesh [the human nature]. As He also says in the second Psalm, "Ask of Me, and I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance." (Ps. ii. 8.) For no longer is "Jacob the portion of the Lord" nor "Israel His inheritance" (Deut. xxxii. 9), but all men: that is to say, He hath made Him Lord of all: which Peter also said in the Acts, "God hath made Him both Lord and Christ." (Acts ii. 36.) But he has used the name "Heir," declaring two things: His proper sonship(1) and His indefeasible sovereignty. "Heir of all," that is, of all the world.
[3.] Then again he brings back his discourse to its former point. "By whom also He made the worlds [the ages]."(2) Where are those who say, There was [a time] when He was not?
Then, using degrees of ascent, he uttered that which is far greater than all this, saying,
Ver. 3, 4. "Who, (being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power,) when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made(3) so much better than the Angels as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they."
O! the wisdom of the Apostle! or rather, not the wisdom of Paul, but the grace of the Spirit is the thing to wonder at. For surely he uttered not these things of his own mind, nor in that way did he find his wisdom. (For whence could it be? From the knife, and the skins, or the workshop?) But it was from the working of God. For his own understanding did not give birth to these thoughts, which was then so mean and slender as in nowise to surpass the baser sort; (for how could it, seeing it spent itself wholly on bargains and skins?) but the grace of the Spirit shows forth its strength by whomsoever it will.
For just as one, wishing to lead up a little child to some lofty place, reaching up even to the top of Heaven, does this gently and by degrees, leading him upwards by the steps from below,--then when he has set him on high, and bidden him to gaze downwards, and sees him turning giddy and confused, and dizzy, taking hold of him, he leads him down to the lower stand, allowing him to take breath; then when he hath recovered it, leads him up again, and again brings him down;--just so did the blessed Paul likewise, both with the Hebrews and everywhere, having learnt it from his Master. For even He also did so; sometimes He led His hearers up on high, and sometimes He brought them down, not allowing them to remain very long.
See him, then, even here--by how many steps he led them up, and placed them near the very summit of religion, and then or ever they grow giddy, and are seized with dizziness, how he leads them again lower down, and allowing them to take breath, says, "He spake unto us by [His] Son," "whom He appointed Heir of all things."(4) For the name of Son is so far common. For where a true(5) [Son] it is understood of, He is above all: but however that may be, for the present he proves that He is from above.
And see how he says it: "Whom He appointed," saith he, "heir of all things." The phrase, "He appointed Heir," is humble. Then he placed them on the higher step, adding, "by whom also He made the worlds." Then on a higher still, and after which there is no other, "who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person." Truly he has led them to unapproachable light, to the very brightness itself. And before they are blinded see how he gently leads them down again, saying, "and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of he Majesty." He does not simply say, "He sat down," but "after the purifying, He sat town," for he hath touched on the Incarnation, and his utterance is again lowly.
Then again having said a little by the way (for he says, "on the right hand of the Majesty on high"), [he turns] again to what is lowly; "being made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they." Henceforward then he treats here of that which is according to the flesh, since the phrase "being made better" doth not express His essence according to the Spirit,(1) (for that was not "made" but "begotten,") but according to the flesh: for this was "made." Nevertheless the discourse here is not about being called into(2) existence. But just as John says, "He that cometh after me, is preferred before me" (John i. 15, 30), that is, higher in honor and esteem; so also here, "being made so much better than the angels"-- that is, higher in esteem and better and more glorious, "by how much He hath obtained by inheritance a more excellent name than they." Seest thou that he is speaking of that which is according to the flesh? For this Name,(3) God the Word ever had; He did not afterwards "obtain it by inheritance"; nor did He afterwards become "better than the Angels, when He had purged our sins"; but He was always "better," and better without all comparison.(4) For this is spoken of Him according to the flesh.
So truly it is our way also, when we talk of man, to speak things both high and low. Thus, when we say, "Man is nothing," "Man is earth," "Man is ashes," we call the whole by the worse part. But when we say, "Man is an immortal animal," and "Man is rational, and of kin to those on high," we call again the whole by the better part. So also, in the case of Christ, sometimes Paul discourseth from the less and sometimes from the better; wishing both to establish the economy, and also to teach about the incorruptible nature.
[4.] Since then "He hath purged our sins," let us continue pure; and let us receive no stain, but preserve the beauty which He hath implanted in us, and His comeliness undefiled and pure, "not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing." (Eph. v. 27.) Even little sins are "a spot and a wrinkle," such a thing, I mean, as Reproach, Insult, Falsehood.
Nay, rather not even are these small, but on the contrary very great: yea so great as to deprive a man even of the kingdom of Heaven. How, and in what manner? "He that calleth his brother fool, is in danger" (He saith) "of hellfire." (Matt. V. 22.) But if it be so with him who calls a man "fool," which seems to be the slightest of all things, and rather mere children's talk; what sentence of punishment will not he incur, who calleth him malignant and crafty and envious, and casteth at him ten thousand other reproaches? What more fearful than this?
Now suffer, I beseech you, the word [of exhortation].(5) For if he that "doeth" [aught] to "one of the least, doeth it to Him" (Matt. xxv. 40), and he that "doeth it not to one of the least doeth it not to Him" (Matt. xxv. 45), how is it not the same also in the matter of good or evil speaking? He that reviles his brother, reviles God: and he that honors his brother, honors God. Let us train therefore our tongue to speak good words. For "refrain," it is said, "thy tongue from evil." (Ps. xxxiv. 13.) For God gave it not that we should speak evil, that we should revile, that we should calumniate one another; but to sing hymns to God withal, to speak those things which "give grace to the hearers" (Eph. iv. 29), things for edification, things for profit.
Hast thou spoken evil of a man? What is thy gain, entangling thyself in mischief together with him? For thou hast obtained the reputation of a slanderer. For there is not any, no not any evil, which stops at him that suffers it, but it includes the doer also. As for instance, the envious person seems indeed to plot against another, but himself first reaps the fruit of his sin, wasting and wearing himself away, and being hated of all men. The cheat deprives another of his money; yea and himself too of men's good will: and causes himself to be evil spoken of by all men. Now reputation is much better than money, for the one it is not easy to wash out, whereas it is easy to gain possession of the other. Or rather, the absence of the one doth no hurt to him that wanteth it; but the absence of the other makes you reproached and ridiculed, and an object of enmity and warfare to all.
The passionate man again first punishes and tears himself in pieces, and then him with whom he is angry.
Just so the evil speaker disgraces first himself and then him who is evil-spoken of: or, it may be, even this hath proved beyond his power, and while he departs with the credit of a foul and detestable kind of person, he causes the other to be loved the more. For when a man hearing a bad name given him, doth not requite the giver in the same kind, but praises and admires, he doth not praise the other, but himself. For I before observed that, as calumnies against our neighbors first touch those who devise the mischief, so also good works done towards our neighbors, gladden first those who do them. The parent either of good, or evil, justly reaps the fruit of it first himself. And just as water, whether it be brackish or sweet, fills the vessels of those who resort to it, but lessens not the fountain which sends it forth; so surely also, both wickedness and virtue, from whatever person they proceed, prove either his joy or his ruin.
So far as to the things of this world; but what speech may recount the things of that world, either the goods or the evils? There is none. For as to the blessings, they surpass all thought, not speech only; for their opposites are expressed indeed in terms familiar to us. For fire, it is said, is there, and darkness, and bonds, and a worm that never dieth. But this represents not only the things which are spoken of, but others more intolerable. And to convince thee, consider at once this first: if it be fire, how is it also darkness? Seest thou how that fire is more intolerable than this? For it hath no light. If it be fire, how is it forever burning? Seest thou how something more intolerable than this happens? For it is not quenched. Yea, therefore it is called unquenchable. Let us then consider how great a misery it must be, to be forever burning, and to be in darkness, and to utter unnumbered groanings, and to gnash the teeth, and not even to be heard. For if here any one of those ingeniously brought up, should he be cast into prison, speaks of the mere ill savor, and the being laid in darkness, and the being bound with murderers, as more intolerable than any death: think what it is when we are burning with the murderers of the whole world, neither seeing nor being seen, but in so vast a multitude thinking that we are alone. For the darkness and gloom doth not allow our distinguishing those who are near to us, but each will burn as if he were thus suffering alone. Moreover, if darkness of itself afflicteth and terrifieth our souls, how then will it be when together with the darkness there are likewise so great pains and burnings?
Wherefore I entreat you to be ever revolving these things with yourselves, and to submit to the pain of the words, that we may not undergo the punishment of the things. For assuredly, all these things shall be, and those whose doings have deserved those chambers of torture no man shall rescue, not father, nor mother, nor brother.
"For a brother redeemeth not," He saith; "shall a man redeem?" (Ps. xlix. 7, LXX.), though he have much confidence, though he have great power with God. For it is He Himself who rewards every one according to his works, and upon these depends our salvation or punishment.
Let us make then to ourselves "friends of the mammon of unrighteousness" (Luke xvi. 9), that is: Let us give alms; let us exhaust our possessions upon them, that so we may exhaust that fire: that we may quench it, that we may have boldness there. For there also it is not they who receive us, but our own work: for that it is not simply their being our friends which can save us, learn from what is added. For why did He not say, "Make to yourselves friends, that they may receive you into their everlasting habitations," but added also the manner? For saying, "of the mammon of unrighteonsness," He points out that we must make friends of them by means of our possessions, showing that mere friendship will not protect us, unless we have good works, unless we spend righteously the wealth unrighteously gathered.
Moreover, this our discourse, of Almsgiving I mean, fits not only the rich, but also the needy. Yea even if there be any person who supporteth himself by begging, even for him is this word. For there is no one, so poverty-stricken, however exceeding poor he may be, as not to be able to provide "two mites." (Luke xxi. 2.) It is therefore possible that a person giving a small sum from small means, should surpass those who have large possessions and give more; as that widow did. For not by the measure of what is given, but by the means and willingness of the givers is the extent of the alms-deed estimated. In all cases the will is needed, in all, a right disposition; in all, love towards God. If with this we do all things, though having little we give little, God will not turn away His face, but will receive it as great and admirable: for He regards the will, not the gifts: and if He see that to be great, He assigneth His decrees and judges accordingly, and maketh them partakers of His everlasting benefits.
Which may God grant us all to obtain, by the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY II: HEBREWS i. 3.
"Who being the brightness of His Glory and the express Image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins."
[1.] EVERYWHERE indeed a reverential mind is requisite, but especially when we say or hear anything of God: Since neither can tongue speak nor thought(1) hear anything suitable to our God. And why speak I of tongue or thought?(1) For not even the understanding(2) which far excels these, will be able to comprehend anything accurately, when we desire to utter aught concerning God. For if "the peace of God surpasseth all understanding" (Phil. iv. 7), and "the things which are prepared for them that love Him have not entered into the heart of man" (1 Cor. ii. 9); much more He Himself, the God of peace, the Creator of all things, doth by a wide measure exceed our reasoning. We ought therefore to receive all things with faith and reverence, and when our discourse(3) fails through weakness, and is not able to set forth accurately the things which are spoken, then especially to glorify God, for that we have such a God, surpassing both our thought and our conception.(4) For many of our conceptions(5) about God, we are unable to express, as also many things we express, but have not strength to conceive of them. As for instance:--That God is everywhere, we know; but how, we no longer understand.(6) That there is a certain incorporeal power the cause of all our good things, we know: but how it is, or what it is, we know not. Lo! we speak, and do not understand. I said, That He is everywhere, but I do not understand it. I said, That He is without beginning, but I do not understand it. I said, That He begat from Himself, and again I know not how I shall understand it. And some things there are which we may not even speak--as for instance, thought conceives(7) but cannot utter.
And to show thee that even Paul is weak and doth not put out his illustrations with exactness; and to make thee tremble and refrain from searching too far, hear what he says, having called Him Son and named Him Creator, "Who being the brightness of His Glory, and the express image of His person."
This we must receive with reverence and clear of all incongruities. "The brightness of His glory," saith he. But observe in what reference he understands this, and so do thou receive it:--that He is of Him:(8) without passion: that He is neither greater, nor less; since there are some, who derive certain strange things from the illustration. For, say they, "the brightness" is not substantial,(9) but hath its being in another. Now do not thou, O man, so receive it, neither be thou sick of the disease of Marcellus(10) and Photinus.(11) For he hath a remedy for thee close at hand, that thou fall not into that imagination, nor doth he leave thee to be hurried down into that fatal malady. And what saith he? "And the express image of His person" [or "subsistence"(12)]: that is, just as He [the Father] is personally subsisting, being in need of nothing,(13) so also the Son. For he saith this here, showing the undeviating similitude(14) and the peculiar image of the Prototype, that He [the Son] is in subsistence by Himself.
For he who said above, that "by Him He made all things" here assigns to Him absolute authority. For what doth he add? "And upholding all things by the word of His power"; that we might hence infer not merely His being the express image of His Person, but also His governing all things with absolute authority.
See then, how he applies to the Son that which is proper to the Father. For on this account he did not say simply, "and upholding all things," nor did he say, "by His power," but, "by the word of His power." For much as just now we saw him gradually ascend and descend; so also now, as by steps, he goes up on high, then again descends, and saith, "by whom also He made the worlds."
Behold how here also he goes on two paths, by the one leading us away from Sabellius, by the other from Arius, yea and on another, that He [Christ] should not be accounted unoriginated,(1) which he does also throughout, nor yet alien from God. For if, even after so much, there are some who assert that He is alien, and assign to Him another father, and say that He is at variance with Him;--had [Paul] not declared these things, what would they not have uttered?
How then does he this? When he is compelled to heal, then is he compelled also to utter lowly things: as for instance, "He appointed Him" (saith he) "heir of all things," and "by Him He made the worlds." (Supra, ver. 2.) But that He might not be in another way dishonored, he brings Him up again to absolute authority and declares Him to be of equal honor with the Father, yea, so equal, that many thought Him to be the Father.
And observe thou his great wisdom. First he lays down the former point and makes it sure accurately. And when this is shown, that He is the Son of God, and not alien from Him, he thereafter speaks out safely all the high sayings, as many as he will. Since any high speech concerning Him, led many into the notion just mentioned, he first sets down what is humiliating and then safely mounts up as high as he pleases. And having said, "whom He appointed heir of all things," and that "by Him He made the worlds," he then adds, "and upholding all things by the word of His power." For He that by a word only governs all things, could not be in need of any one, for the producing all things.
[2.] And to prove this, mark how again going forward, and laying aside the "by whom," he assigns to Him absolute power. For after he had effected what he wished by the use of it, thenceforward leaving it, what saith he? "Thou Lord in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thine hands." (Infra, ver. 10.) Nowhere is there the saying "by whom," or that "by Him He made the worlds." What then? Were they not made by Him? Yes, but not, as thou sayest or imaginest, "as by an instrument": nor as though He would not have made them unless the Father had reached out a hand to Him. For as He "judgeth no man" (John v. 22), and is said to judge by the Son, in that He begat Him a judge; so also, to create by Him, in that He begat Him a Creator. And if the Father be the original cause of Him, in that He is Father, much more of the things which have been made by Him. When therefore he would show that He is of Him, he speaks of necessity lowly things. But when he would utter high things, Marcellus takes a handle, and Sabellius; avoiding however the excess of both, he holds a middle [way]. For neither does he dwell on the humiliation, lest Paul of Samosata should obtain a standing place, nor yet does he for ever abide in the high sayings; but shows on the contrary His abundant nearness, lest Sabellius rush in upon him. He names Him "Son," and immediately Paul of Samosata comes on him, saying that He is a son, as the many are. But he gives him a fatal wound, calling Him "Heir." But yet, with Arius, he is shameless. For the saying, "He appointed Him heir," they both hold: the former one saying, it comes of weakness; the other still presses objections, endeavoring to support himself by the clause which follows. For by saying, "by whom also He made the worlds," he strikes backwards the impudent Samosatene: while Arius still seems to be strong. Nevertheless see how he smites him likewise, saying again, "who being the brightness of His glory." But behold! Sabellius again springs on us, with Marcellus, and Photinus: but on all these also he inflicts one blow, saying, "and the express image of His person and upholding all things by the word of His power." Here again he wounds Marcion too;(2) not very severely, but however he doth wound him. For through the whole of this Epistle he is fighting against them.
But the very thing which he said, "the brightness of the glory," hear also Christ Himself saying, "I am the Light of the world." (John viii. 12.) Therefore he [the Apostle] uses the word "brightness," showing that this was said in the sense of "Light of Light." Nor is it this alone which he shows, but also that He hath enlightened our souls; and He hath Himself manifested the Father, and by "the brightness" he has indicated the nearness of the Being [of the Father and the Son(3)]. Observe the subtlety of his expressions. He hath taken one essence and subsistence to indicate two subsistences. Which he also doth in regard to the knowledge of the Spirit(4); for as he saith that the knowledge of the Father is one with that of the Spirit, as being indeed one, and in nought varying from itself (1 Cor. ii. 10--12): so also here he hath taken hold of one certain [thing] whereby to express the subsistence of the Two.(5)
And he adds that He is "the express Image." For the "express Image "is something other(1) than its Prototype: yet not Another in all respects, but as to having real subsistence. Since here also the term, "express image," indicates there is no variation from that whereof it is the "express image": its similarity in all respects. When therefore he calls Him both Form,(2) and express Image, what can they say? "Yea," saith he, "man is also called an Image of God."(3) What then! is he so [an image of Him] as the Son is? No (saith he) but because the term, image, doth not show resemblance. And yet, in that man is called an Image, it showeth resemblance, as in man. For what God is in Heaven, that man is on earth, I mean as to dominion. And as he hath power over all things on earth, so also hath God power over, all things which are in heaven and which are on earth. But otherwise, man is not called "Express image," he is not called Form: which phrase declares the substance, or rather both substance and similarity in substance. Therefore just as "the form of a slave" (Phil. ii. 6, 7) expresses no other thing than a man without variation(4) [from human nature], so also "the form of God" expresses no other thing than God.
"Who being" (saith he) "the brightness of His glory." See what Paul is doing. Having said, "Who being the brightness of His glory," he added again, "He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty": what names he hath used, nowhere finding a name for the Substance. For neither "the Majesty," nor "the Glory" setteth forth the Name, which he wishes to say, but is not able to find a name. For this is what I said at the beginning, that oftentimes we think something, and are not able to express [it]: since not even the word God is a name of substance, nor is it at all possible to find a name of that Substance.
And what marvel, if it be so in respect of God, since not even in respect of an Angel, could one find a name expressive of his substance? Perhaps too, neither in respect of the soul. For this name [soul] doth not seem to me to be significative of the substance thereof, but of breathing. For one may see that the same [thing] is called both Soul and Heart and Mind: for, saith he, "Create in me a clean heart, O God" (Ps. li. 10), and one may often see that it [the soul] is called spirit.
"And upholding all things by the word of His power." Tell me, "God said" (it is written), "Let there be light" (Gen. i. 3): "the Father, saith one,(5) commanded, and the Son obeyed"? But behold here He also [the Son] acts by word.
For (saith he), "And upholding all things"--that is, governing; He holds together what would fall to pieces; For, to hold the world together, is no less than to make it, but even greater (if one must say a strange thing). For the one is to bring forward something out of things which are not: but the other, when things which have been made are about to fill back into non-existence, to hold and fasten them together, utterly at variance as they are with each other: this is indeed great and wonderful, and a certain proof of exceeding power.
Then showing the easiness, he said, "upholding": (he did not say, governing,(6) from the figure of those who simply with their finger move anything, and cause it to go round.) Here he shows both the mass of the creation to be great, and that this greatness is nothing to Him. Then again he shows the freedom from the labor, saying, "By the word of His power." Well said he, "By the word." For since, with us, a word is accounted to be a bare thing, he shows that it is not bare with God. But, how "He upholdeth by the word," he hath not further added: for neither is it possible to know. Then he added concerning His majesty: for thus John also did: having said that "He is God" (John i. 1), he brought in the handiwork of the Creation. For the same thing which the one indirectly expressed, saying, "In the beginning was the Word," and "All things were made by Him" (John i. 3), this did the other also openly declare by "the Word," and by saying "by whom also. He made the worlds." For thus he shows Him to be both a Creator, and before all ages, What then? when the prophet saith, concerning the Father, "Thou art from everlasting and to everlasting" (Ps. xc. 2), and concerning the Son, that He is before all ages, and the maker of all things--what can they say? Nay rather, when the very thing which was spoken of the Father,--"He which was before the worlds,"--this one may see spoken of the Son also? And that which one saith, "He was life" (John i. 4), pointing out the preservation of the creation, that Himself is the Life of all things,--so also saith this other, "and upholding all things by the word of His power": not as the Greeks who defraud Him, as much as in them lies, both of Creation itself, and of Providence, shutting up His power, to reach only as far as to the Moon.
"By Himself" (saith he) "having purged our sins." Having spoken concerning those marvelous and great matters, which are most above us, he proceeds to speak also afterwards concerning His care for men. For indeed the former expression, "and upholding all things," also was universal: nevertheless this is far greater, for it also is universal: for, for His part, "all" men believed.(1) As John also, having said, "He was life," and so pointed out His providence, saith again, and "He was light."
"By Himself," saith he, "having purged our sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." He here setteth down two very great proofs of His care: first the "purifying us from our sins," then the doing it "by Himself." And in many places, thou seest him making very much of this,--not only of our reconciliation with God, but also of this being accomplished through the Son. For the gift being truly great, was made even greater by the fact that it was through the Son.
For(2) in saying, "He sat on the right hand," and, "having by Himself purged our sins,"--though he had put us in mind of the Cross, he quickly added the mention of the resurrection and ascension. And see his unspeakable wisdom: he said not, "He was commanded to sit down," but "He sat down." Then again, lest thou shouldest think that He standeth, he subjoins, "For to which of the angels said He at any time, Sit thou on My right hand."
"He sat" (saith he) "on the right hand of the Majesty on high." What is this "on high"? Doth he enclose God in place? Away with such a thought! but just as, when he saith, "on the right hand," he did not describe Him as having figure, but showed His equal dignity with the Father; so, in saying "on high," he did not enclose Him there, but expressed the being higher than all things, and having ascended up above all things. That is, He attained even unto the very throne of the Father: as therefore the Father is on high, so also is He. For the "sitting together" implies nothing else than equal dignity. But if they say, that He said, "Sit Thou," we may ask them, What then? did He speak to Him standing? Moreover, he said not that He commanded, not that He enjoined, but that "He said": for no other reason, than that thou mightest not think Him without origin and without cause. For that this is why he said it, is evident from the place of His sitting. For had he intended to signify inferiority, he would not have said, "on the right hand," but on the left hand.
Ver. 4. "Being made," saith he, "so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they." The "being made," here, is instead of "being shown forth," as one may say. Then also from whir does he reason confidently? From the Name. Seest thou that the name Son is wont to declare true relationship? And indeed if He were not a true Son (and "true" is nothing else than "of Him"), how does he reason confidently from this? For if He be Son only by grace, He not only is not "more excellent than the angels," but is even less than they. How? Because righteous men too were called sons; and the name son, if it be not a genuine son, doth not avail to show the "excellency." When too he would point out that there is a certain difference between creatures and their maker, hear what he saith:
Ver. 5. "For to which of the Angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee. And again, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son"? For these things indeed are spoken with reference also to the flesh: "I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son"--while this,(3) "Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee," expresses nothing else than "from [the time] that God is." For as He is said to be,(4) from the time present (for this befits Him more than any other), so also the [word] "To-day" seems to me to be spoken here with reference to the flesh. For when He hath taken hold of it, thenceforth he speaks out all boldly. For indeed the flesh partakes of the high things, just as the Godhead of the lowly. For He who disdained not to become man, and did not decline the reality, how should He have declined the expressions?
Seeing then that we know these things, let us be ashamed of nothing, nor have any high thoughts. For if He Himself being God and Lord and Son of God, did not decline to take the form of a slave, much more ought we to do all things, though they be lowly. For tell me, O man, whence hast thou high thoughts? from things of this life? but these or ever they appear, run by. Or, from things spiritual? nay, this is itself one spiritual excellency,-- to have no high thoughts.
Wherefore then dost thou cherish high thoughts? because thou goest on aright? hear Christ saying, "When ye have done all things, say, we are unprofitable servants, for we have done that which was our duty to do." (Luke xvii. 10.)
Or because of thy wealth hast thou high thoughts? Dost thou not see those before thee, how they departed naked and desolate? did we not come naked into life, and naked also shall depart? who hath high thoughts on having what is another's? for they who will use it to their own enjoyment alone, are deprived of it however unwillingly, often before death, and at death certainly. But (saith one) while we live we use them as we will. First of all, one doth not lightly see any man using what he hath as he will. Next, if a man do even use things as he will, neither is this a great matter: for the present time is short compared with the ages without end. Art thou high-minded, O man, because thou art rich? on what account? for what cause? for this befalleth also, robbers, and thieves, and man-slayers, and effeminate, and whoremongers, and all sorts of wicked men. Wherefore then art thou high-minded? Since if thou hast made meet use of it, thou must not be high-minded, lest thou profane the commandment: but if unmeet, by this indeed [it has come to pass that] thou art become a slave of money, and goods, and art overcome by them. For tell me, if any man sick of a fever should drink much water, which for a short space indeed quencheth his thirst, but afterwards kindleth the flame, ought he to be high-minded? And what, if any man have many cares without cause, ought he therefore to be high-minded? tell me, wherefore? because thou hast many masters? because thou hast ten thousand cares? because many will flatter thee? [Surely not.] For thou art even their slave. And to prove that to thee, hear plainly. The other affections which are within us, are in some cases useful. For instance, Anger is often useful. For (saith he) "unjust wrath shall not be innocent" (Ecclus. i. 22): wherefore it is possible for one to be justly in wrath. And again, "He that is angry with his brother without cause,(1) shall be in danger of hell." (Matt. v. 22.) Again for instance, emulation, desire, [are useful]: the one when it hath reference to the procreation of children, the other when he directs his emulation to excellent things. As Paul also saith, "It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing" (Gal. iv. 18) and, "Covet earnestly the best gifts." (1 Cor. xii. 31.) Both therefore are useful: but an insolent spirit is in no case good, but is always unprofitable and hurtful.
However, if a man must be proud, [let it be] for poverty, not for wealth. Wherefore? Because he who can live upon a little, is far greater and better than he who cannot. For tell me, supposing certain persons called to the Imperial City, if some of them should need neither beasts, nor slaves, nor umbrellas, nor lodging-places, nor sandals, nor vessels, but it should suffice them to have bread, and to take water from the wells,-- while others of them should say, "unless ye give us conveyances, and a soft bed, we cannot come; unless also we have many followers, unless we may be allowed continually to rest ourselves, we cannot come, nor unless we have the use of beasts, unless too we may travel but a small portion of the day--and we have need of many other things also": whom should we admire? those or these? plainly, these who require nothing. So also here: some need many things for the journey through this life; others, nothing. So that it would be more fitting to be proud, for poverty if it were fitting at all.
"But the poor man," they say, "is contemptible." Not he, but those who despise him. For why do not I despise those who know not how to admire what they ought? Why, if a person be a painter, he will laugh to scorn all who jeer at him, so long as they are uninstructed; nor cloth he regard the things which they say, but is content with his own testimony. And shall we depend on the opinion of the many? Therefore, we are worthy of contempt when men despise us for our poverty, and we do not despise them nor call them miserable.
And I say not how many sins are produced by wealth, and how many good things by poverty. But rather, neither wealth nor poverty is excellent in itself, but through those who use it. The Christian shines out in poverty rather than in riches. How? He will be less arrogant, more sober-minded, graver, more equitable, more considerate: but he that is in wealth, hath many impediments to these things. Let us see then what the rich man does, or rather, he who useth his wealth amiss. Such an one practiceth rapine, fraud, violence. Men's unseemly loves, unholy unions, witchcrafts, poisonings, all their other horrors,--wilt thou not find them produced by wealth? Seest thou, that in poverty rather than in wealth the pursuit of virtue is less laborious? For do not, I beseech thee, think that because rich men do not suffer punishment here, neither do they sin. Since if it were easy for a rich man to suffer punishment, thou wouldest surely have found the prisons filled with them. But among its other evils, wealth hath this also, that he who possesseth it, transgressing in evil with impunity, will never be staved from doing so, but will receive wounds without remedies, and no man will put a bridle on him.
And if a man choose, he will find that poverty affords us more resources even for pleasure. How? Because it is freed from cares, hatred, fighting, contention, strife, from evils out of number.
Therefore let us not follow after wealth, nor be forever envying those who possess much. But let those of us who have wealth, use it aright; and those who have not, let us not grieve for this, but give thanks for all things unto God, because He enableth us to receive with little labor the same reward with the rich, or even (if we will) a greater: and froth small means we shall have great gains. For so he that brought the two talents, was admired and honored equally with him who brought the five. Now why? Because he was entrusted with [but] two talents, yet he accomplished all that in him lay, and brought in what was entrusted to him, doubled. Why then are we eager to have much entrusted to us, when we may by a little reap the same fruits, or even greater? when the labor indeed is less, but the reward much more? For more easily will a poor man part with his own, than a rich man who hath many and great possessions. What, know ye not, that the more things a man hath, the more he setteth his love upon? Therefore, lest this befall us, let us not seek after wealth, nor let us be impatient of poverty, nor make haste to be rich: and let those of us who have [riches] so use them as Paul commanded. ("They that have," saith he, "as though they had not, and they that use this world as not abusing it"--1 Cor. vii. 29, 31): that we may obtain the good things promised. And may it be granted to us all to obtain them, by the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, now, and for ever, and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY III: HEBREWS i. 6-8.
"And again when He bringeth in the First-Begotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him. And of the Angels He saith, Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever."
[1.] OUR Lord Jesus Christ calls His coming in the flesh an exodus [or going out]: as when He saith, "The sower went out to sow." (Matt. xiii. 3.) And again, "I went out from the Father, and am come." (John xvi. 28.) And in many places one may see this. But Paul calls it an [eisodus or] coming in, saying, "And when again He bringeth in the First-Begotten into the world," meaning by this Bringing in, His taking on Him flesh.
Now why has he so used the expression? The things signified [thereby] are manifest, and in what respect it is [thus] said. For Christ indeed calls it a Going out, justly; for we were out from God. For as in royal palaces, prisoners and those who have offended the king, stand without, and he who desires to reconcile them, does not bring them in, but himself going out discourses with them, until having made them meet for the king's presence, he may bring them in, so also Christ hath done. Having gone out to us, that is, having taken flesh, and having discoursed to us of the King's matters, so He brought us in, having purged the sins, and made reconciliation. Therefore he calls it a Going out.
But Paul names it a Coming in, from the metaphor of those who come to an inheritance and receive any portion or possession. For the saying, "and when again He bringeth in the First-Begotten into the world," means this, "when he putteth the world into His hand." For when He was made known, then also He obtained possession of the whole thereof, He saith not these things concerning God The Word, but concerning that which is according to the flesh. For if according to John, "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him" (John i. 10): how is He "brought in," otherwise than in the flesh?
"And," saith he, "Let all the angels of God worship Him." Whereas he is about to say something great and lofty, he prepares it beforehand, and makes it acceptable, in that he represents the Father as "bringing in" the Son. He had said above, that "He spake to us not by prophets but by His Son"; that the Son is superior to angels; yea and he establishes this from the name [SON]. And here, in what follows, from another fact also. What then may this be? From worship. And he shows how much greater He is, as much as a Master is than a slave; just as any one introducing another into a house straightway commands those having the care thereof to do him reverence; [so] saying in regard to the Flesh, "And let all the Angels of God worship Him."
Is it then Angels only? No; for hear what follows: "And of His Angels He saith, Which maketh His Angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire: but unto the Son, Thy Throne, O God, is for ever and ever." Behold, the greatest difference! that they are created, but He uncreated. While of His angels He saith, who "maketh"; wherefore of the Son did He not say "Who maketh"? Although he might have expressed the difference as follows: "Of His Angels He saith, Who maketh His Angels spirits, but of the Son, 'The Lord created Me': 'God hath made Him Lord and Christ.'" (Prov. viii. 22; Acts ii. 36.) But neither was the one spoken concerning the Son, nor the other concerning God The Word, but concerning the flesh. For when he desired to express the true difference, he no longer included angels only, but the whole ministering power above. Seest thou how he distinguishes, and with how great clearness, between creatures and Creator, ministers and Lord, the Heir and true Son, and slaves?
[2.] "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." Behold a symbol of Kingly Office. "A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy kingdom." Behold again another symbol of Royalty.
Then again with respect to the flesh (ver. 9) "Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity, therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee."
What is, "Thy God"? Why, after that he hath uttered a great word, he again qualifieth it. Here he hits both Jews, and the followers of Paul of Samosata, and the Arians, and Marcellus, and Sabellius, and Marcion. How? The Jews, by his indicating two Persons, both God and Man;(1) the other Jews,(2) I mean the followers of Paul of Samosata, by thus discoursing concerning His eternal existence, and uncreated essence: for by way of distinction, against the word, "He made," he put, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." Against the Arians there is both this same again, and also that He is not a slave; but if a creature, He is a slave. And against Marcellus and the others, that these are two Persons, distinguished in reference to their subsistence.(3) And against the Marcionites, that the Godhead is not anointed, but the Manhood.
Next he saith, "Above Thy fellows." But who are these His "fellows" other than men? that is Christ received "not the Spirit by measure." (John iii. 34.) Seest thou how with the doctrine concerning His uncreated nature he always joins also that of the "Economy"? what can be clearer than this? Didst thou see how what is created and what is begotten are not the same? For otherwise he would not have made the distinction, nor in contrast to the word, "He made" [&c.], have added, "But unto the Son He said, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." Nor would he have called the name, "Son, a more excellent Name," if it is a sign of the same thing. For what is the excellence? For if that which is created, and that which is begotten be the same, and they [the Angels] were made, what is there [in Him] "more excellent"? Lo! again ho Theo`s, "God," with the Article.(4)
[3.] And again he saith (ver. 10--12): "Thou Lord in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thine hands. They shall perish, but Thou remainest, and they shall all wax old as a garment, and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same and Thy years shall not fail."
Lest hearing the words, "and when He bringeth in the First-Begotten into the world"; thou shouldest think it as it were a Gift afterwards super-added to Him; above, he both corrected this beforehand, and again further corrects, saying, "in the beginning": not now, but from the first. See again he strikes both Paul of Samosata and also Arius a mortal blow, applying to the Son the things which relate to the Father. And withal he has also intimated another thing by the way, greater even than this. For surely he hath incidentally pointed out also the transfiguration of the world, saying, "they shall wax old as a garment, and as a vesture Thou shall fold them up, and they shall be changed." Which also he saith in the Epistle to the Romans, that he shall transfigure the world. (See Rom. viii. 21.) And showing the facility thereof, he adds, as if a man should fold up a garment so shall He both fold up and change it. But if He with so much ease works the transfiguration and the creation to what is better and more perfect, needed He another for the inferior creation? How far doth your shamelessness go? At the same time too this is a very great consolation, to know that things will not be as they are, but they all shall receive change, and all shall be altered, but He Himself remaineth ever existing, and living without end: "and Thy years," he saith, "shall not fail."
[4.] Ver. 13. "But to which of the Angels said He at any time, Sit thou on My right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool?" Behold, again he encourages them, inasmuch as their enemies were to be worsted, and their enemies are the same also with Christ's.
This again belongs to Sovereignty, to Equal Dignity, to Honor and not weakness, that the Father should be angry for the things done to the Son. This belongs to His great Love and honor towards the Son, as of a father towards a son. For He that is angry in His behalf how is He a stranger to Him? Which also he saith in the second Psalm, "He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn, and the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure." (Ps. ii. 4, 5.) And again He Himself saith, "Those that would not that I should reign over them, bring hither before Me, and slay them." (Luke xix. 27.) For that they are His own words, hear also what He saith in another place, "How often would I have gathered thy children together, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left desolate." (Luke xiii. 34, 35.) And again, "The kingdom shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." (Matt. xxi. 43.) And again, "He that falleth upon that stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever It shall fall, It will grind him to powder." (Matt. xxi. 44.) And besides, He who is to be their Judge in that world, much more did He Himself repay them in this. So that the words "Till I make thine enemies thy footstool" are expressive of honor only towards the SON.
Ver. 14. "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" What marvel (saith he) if they minister to the Son, when they minister even to our salvation? See how he lifts up their minds, and shows the great honor which God has for us, since He has assigned to Angels who are above us this ministration on our behalf. As if one should say, for this purpose (saith he) He employs them; this is the office of Angels, to minister to God for our salvation. So that it is an angelical work, to do all for the salvation of the brethren: or rather it is the work of Christ Himself, for He indeed saves as Lord, but they as servants. And we, though servants are yet Angels' fellow- servants. Why gaze ye so earnestly on the Angels (saith he)? They are servants of the Son of God, and are sent many ways for our sakes, and minister to our salvation. And so they are partners in service with us.
Consider ye how he ascribes no great difference to the kinds of creatures. And yet the space between angels and men is great; nevertheless he brings them down near to us, all but saying, For us they labor, for our sake they run to and fro: on us, as one might say, they wait. this is their ministry, for our sake to be sent every way.
And of these examples both the Old [Testament] is full, and the New. For when Angels bring glad tidings to the shepherds, or to Mary, or to Joseph; when they sit at the sepulcher, when they are sent to say to the disciples, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?" (Acts i. 11), when they release Peter out of the prison, when they discourse with Philip, consider how great the honor is; when God sends His Angels for ministers as to friends; when to Cornelius [an Angel] appears, when [an Angel] brings forth all the apostles from the prison, and says, "Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people the words of this life" (Acts v. 20); and to Paul himself also an Angel appears. Dost thou see that they minister to us on God's behalf, and that they minister to us in the greatest matters? wherefore Paul saith, "All things are yours, whether life or death, or the world, or things present, or things to come." (1 Cor. iii. 22.)
Well then the SON also was sent, but not as a servant, nor as a minister, but as a Son, and Only-Begotten, and desiring the same things with the Father. Rather indeed, He was not "sent": for He did not pass from place to place, but took on Him flesh: whereas these change their places, and leaving those in which they were before, so come to others in which they were not.
And by this again he incidentally encourages them, saying, What fear ye? Angels are ministering to us.
[5.] And having spoken concerning the Son, both what related to the Economy, and what related to the Creation, and to His sovereignty, and having shown His co-equal dignity, and that as absolute Master He ruleth not men only but also the powers above, he next exhorts them, having made out his argument, that we ought to give heed to the things which have been heard. (c. it. 1.) "Wherefore we ought to give more earnest heed" (saith he) "to the things which we have heard." Why "more earnest"? Here he meant "more earnest" than to the Law: but he suppressed the actual expression of it, and yet makes it plain in the course of reasoning, not in the way of counsel, nor of exhortation. For so it was better.
Ver. 2, 3. "For if the word spoken by Angels" (saith he) "was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken to us by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him?"
Why ought we to "give more earnest heed to the things which we have heard"? were not those former things of God, as well as these? Either then he meaneth "more earnest" than [to] the Law, or "very earnest"; not making comparison, God forbid. For since, on account of the long space of time, they had a great opinion of the Old Covenant, but these things had been despised as vet new, he proves (more than his argument required) that we ought rather to give heed to these. How? By saying in effect, Both these and those are of God, but not in a like manner. And this he shows us afterwards: but for the present he treats it somewhat superficially, but afterwards more clearly, saying "For if that first covenant had been faultless" (c. viii. 7), and many other such things: "for that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." (c. viii. 13.) But as yet he ventures not to say any such thing in the beginning of his discourse, nor until he shall have first occupied and possessed his hearer by his fuller [arguments].
Why then ought we "to give more earnest heed"? "Lest at any time," saith he, "we should let them slip"--that is, lest at any time we should perish, lest we should fall away. And here he shows the grievousness of this falling away, in that it is a difficult thing for that which hath fallen away to return again, inasmuch as it hath happened through wilful negligence. And he took this form of speech from the Proverbs. For, saith he, "my son [take heed] lest thou fall away" (Prov. iii. 21, LXX.), showing both the easiness of the fall, and the grievousness of the ruin. That is, our disobedience is not without danger. And while by his mode of reasoning he shows that the chastisement is greater, yet again he leaves it in the form of a question, and not in the conclusion. For indeed this is to make one's discourse inoffensive, when one does not in every case of one's self infer the judgment, but leaves it in the power of the hearer himself to give sentence: and this would render them more open to conviction. And both the prophet Nathan doth the same in the Old [Testament], and in Matthew Christ, saying, "What will He do to the husbandmen" (Matt. xxi. 40) of that vineyard? so compelling them to give sentence themselves: for this is the greatest victory.
Next, when he had said, "For if the word which was spoken by Angels was steadfast"--he did not add, much more that by Christ: but letting this pass, he said what is less, "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" And see how he makes the comparison. "For if the word which was spoken by Angels," saith he. There, "by Angels," here, "by the Lord"--and there "a word," but here, "salvation."
Then lest any man should say, Thy sayings, O Paul, are they Christ's? he proves their trustworthiness both from his having heard these things of Him, and from their being now spoken by God; since not merely a voice is wafted, as in the case of Moses, but signs are done, and facts bear witness.
[6.] But what is this, "For if the word spoken by Angels was steadfast"? For in the Epistle to the Galatians also he saith to this effect, "Being ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator." (Gal. iii. 19.) And again, "Ye received a law by the disposition of Angels, and have not kept it." (Acts vii. 53.) And everywhere he saith it was given by angels. Some indeed say that Moses is signified; but without reason. For here he says Angels in the plural: and the Angels too which he here speaks of, are those in Heaven. What then is it? Either he means the Decalogue only (for there Moses spake, and God answered him--Ex. xix. 19),--or that angels were present, God disposing them in order,- -or that he speaks thus in regard of all things said and done in the old Covenant, as if Angels had part in them. But how is it said in another place, "The Law was given by Moses" (John i. 17), and here "by Angels"? For it is said, "And God came down in thick darkness."(1) (Ex. xix. 16, 20.)
"For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast." What is "was steadfast"? True, as one may say; and faithful in its proper season; and all the things which had been spoken came to pass. Either this is his meaning, or that they prevailed, and the threatenings were coming to be accomplished. Or by "the word" he means injunctions. For apart from the Law, Angels sent from God enjoined many things: for instance at Bochim, in the Judges, in [the history of] Samson. (Judg. ii. x; xiii. 3.) For this is the cause why he said not "the Law" but "the word." And he seems to me haply rather to mean this, viz., those things which are committed to the management of angels. What shall we say then? The angels who were entrusted with the charge of the nation were then present, and they themselves made the trumpets, and the other things, the fire, the thick darkness. (Ex. xix. 16.)
"And every transgression and disobedience," saith he. Not this one and that one, but "every" one. Nothing, he saith, remained unavenged, but "received a just recompense of reward," instead of [saying] punishment. Why now spake he thus? Such is the manner of Paul, not to make much account of his phrases, but indifferently to put down words of evil sound, even in matters of good meaning. As also in another place he saith, "Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."(2) (2 Cor. x. 5.) And again he hath put "the recompense" for punishment,(3) as here he calleth punishment "reward." "If it be a righteous thing," he saith, "with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you, and to you who are troubled rest." (2 Thess. i. 6, 7.) That is, justice was not violated, but God went forth against them, and caused the penalty to come round on the sinners, though not all their sins are made manifest, but only where the express ordinances were transgressed.
"How then shall we," he saith, "escape if we neglect so great salvation?" Hereby he signified, that other salvation was no great thing. Well too did he add the "So great." For not from wars (he saith) will He now rescue us, nor bestow on us the earth and the good things that are in the earth, but it will be the dissolution of death, the destruction of the devil, the kingdom of Heaven, everlasting life. For all these things he hath briefly expressed, by saying, "if we neglect so great salvation."
[7.] Then he subjoins what makes this worthy of belief. "Which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord": that is, had its beginning from the fountain itself. It was not a man who brought it over(1) into the earth, nor any created power, but the Only-Begotten Himself.
"And was confirmed unto us by them that heard [Him]." What is" confirmed"? It was believed,(2) or, it came to pass. For (he saith) we have the earnest;(3) that is, it hath not been extinguished, it hath not ceased, but it is strong and prevaileth. And the cause is, the Divine power works therein. It means they who heard from the Lord, themselves confirmed us. This is a great thing and trustworthy: which also Luke saith in the beginning of his Gospel, "As they delivered unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word." (Luke i. 2.)
How then was it confirmed? What if those that heard were forgers? saith some one. This objection then he overthrows, and shows that the grace was not human. If they had gone astray, God would not have borne witness to them; for he subjoined (ver. 4), "God also bearing witness with them." Both they indeed bear witness, and God beareth witness too. How doth He bear witness? not by word or by voice, (though this also would have been worthy of belief): but how? "By signs, and wonders, and divers miracles." (Well said he, "divers miracles," declaring the abundance of the gifts: which was not so in the former dispensation, neither so great signs and so various.) That is, we did not believe them simply, but through signs and wonders: wherefore we believe not them, but God Himself.
"And by gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will."
What then, if wizards also do signs, and the Jews said that He "cast out devils through Beelzebub"? (Luke xi. 15.) But they do not such kind of signs: therefore said he "divers miracles": for those others were not miracles, [or powers,(4)] but weakness and fancy, and things altogether vain. Wherefore he said, "by gifts of the Holy Ghost according to His own will."
[8.] Here he seems to me to intimate something further. For it is not likely there were many there who had gifts, but that these had failed, upon their becoming more slothful. In order then that even in this he might comfort them, and not leave them to fall away, he referred all to the will of God. He knows (he says) what is expedient, and for whom, and apportions His grace accordingly. Which also he [Paul] does in the Epistle to the Corinthians, saying, "God hath set every one of us, as it pleased Him." (1 Cor. xii. 18.) And again, "The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal." (1 Cor. xii. 7.)
"According to His will." He shows that the gift is according to the will of the Father. But oftentimes on account of their unclean and slothful life many have not received a gift, and sometimes also those whose life is good and pure have not received one. Why, I pray you? Lest they might be made haughty, that they might not be puffed up, that they might not grow more negligent, that they might not be more excited. For if even without a gift, the mere consciousness of a pure life be sufficient to lift a man up, much more when the grace is added also. Wherefore to the humble, to the simple, it was rather given, and especially to the simple: for it is said, "in singleness and gladness of heart." (Acts ii. 46.) Yea, and hereby also he rather urged them on, and if they were growing negligent gave them a spur. For the humble, and he who imagines no great things concerning himself, becomes more earnest when he has received a gift, in that he has obtained what is beyond his deserts, and thinks that he is not worthy thereof. But he who thinks he hath done well, reckoning it to be his due, is puffed up. Wherefore God dispenseth this profitably: which one may see taking place also in the Church: for one hath the word of teaching, another hath not power to open his mouth. Let not this man (he says) be grieved because of this. For "the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal." (1 Cor. xii. 7.) For if a man that is an householder knoweth to whom he should entrust anything, much more God, who understands the mind of men, "who knoweth all things or ever they come into being."(1) One thing only is worthy of grief, Sin: there is nothing else.
Say not, Wherefore have I not riches? or, If I had, I would give to the poor. Thou knowest not, if thou hadst them, whether thou wouldest not the rather be covetous. For now indeed thou sayest these things, but being put to the trial thou wouldest be different. Since also when we are satisfied, we think that we are able to fast; but when we have gone without a little space, other thoughts come into us. Again, when we are out of the way of strong drink, we think ourselves able to master our appetite, but no longer so, when we are caught by it.
Say not, Wherefore had I not the gift of teaching? or, If I had it, I should have edified innumerable souls. Thou knowest not, if thou hadst it, whether it would not be to thy condemnation,--whether envy, whether sloth, would not have disposed thee to hide thy talent. Now, indeed, thou art now free from all these, and though thou give not "the portion of meat" (Luke xii. 42), thou art not called to account: but then, thou wouldest have been responsible for many.
[9.] And besides, neither now art thou without the gift. Show in the little, what thou wouldst have been, if thou hadst had the other. "For if" (he says) "ye are not faithful in that which is little, how shall any one give you that which is great?" (Luke xvi. 11.) Give such proof as did the widow; she had two farthings,(2) and she cast in all, whatsoever she possessed.
Dost thou seek riches? Prove that thou thinkest lightly of the few things, that I may trust thee also concerning the many things. But if thou dost not think lightly even of these, much less wilt thou do so of the other.
Again, in speech, prove that thou canst use fitly exhortation and counsel. Hast thou not external eloquence? hast thou not store of thoughts? But nevertheless thou knowest these common things. Thou hast a child, thou hast a neighbor, thou hast a friend, thou hast a brother, thou hast kinsmen. And though publicly before the Church, thou art not able to draw out a long discourse, these thou canst exhort in private. Here, there is no need of rhetoric, nor of elaborate discourse: prove in these, that if thou hadst skill of speech, thou wouldest not have neglected it. But if in the small matter thou art not in earnest, how shall I trust thee concerning the great?
For, that every man can do this, hear what Paul saith, how he charged even lay people; "Edify," he says, "one another, as also ye do." (1 Thess. v. 11.) And, "Comfort one another with these words." (1 Thess. iv. 18.) God knoweth how He should distribute to every man. Art thou better than Moses? hear how he shrinks from the hardship. "Am I," saith he, "able to bear them? for Thou saidst to me, Bear them up, as a nursing-father would bear up the sucking-child." (Num. xi. 12.) What then did God? He took of his spirit and gave unto the others, showing that neither when he bare them was the gift his own, but of the Spirit. If thou hadst had the gift, thou wouldst perchance a have been lifted up, perchance wouldst thou have been turned out of the way. Thou knowest not thyself as God knoweth thee. Let us not say, To what end is that? on what account is this? When God dispenseth, let us not demand an account of Him: for this [is] of the uttermost impiety and folly. We are slaves, and slaves far apart from our Master, knowing not even the things which are before us.
[10.] Let us not then busy ourselves about the counsel of God, but whatsoever He hath given, this let us guard, though it be small, though it be the lowest, and we shall be altogether approved. Or rather, none of the gifts of God is small: art thou grieved because thou hast not the gift of teaching? Then tell me, which seems to you the greater, to have the gift of teaching, or the gift of driving away diseases? Doubtless the latter. But what? Tell me; doth it not seem to thee greater to give eyes to the blind than even to drive away diseases? But what? Tell me; doth it not seem to thee greater to raise the dead than to give eyes to the blind? What again, tell me; doth it not seem to thee greater to do this by shadows and napkins, than by a word? Tell me then, which wouldst thou? Raise the dead with shadows and napkins, or have the gift of teaching? Doubtless thou wilt say the former, to raise the dead with shadows and napkins. If then I should show to thee, that there is another gift far greater than this, and that thou dost not receive it when it is in thy power to receive it, art not thou justly deprived of those others? And this gift not one or two, but all may have. I know that ye open wide your mouths and are amazed, at being to hear that it is in your power to have a greater gift than raising the dead, and giving eyes to the blind, doing the same things which were done in the time of the Apostles. And it seems to you past belief.
What then is this gift? charity. Nay, believe me; for the word is not mine, but Christ's speaking by Paul. For what saith he? "Covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way." (1 Cor. xii. 31.) What is this, "yet more excellent"? What he means is this. The Corinthians were proud over their gifts, and those having tongues, the least gift, were puffed up against the rest. He saith therefore, Do ye by all means desire gifts? I show unto you a way of gifts not merely excelling but far more excellent. Then he saith, "Though I speak with the tongues of Angels, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I have faith so as to remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." (1 Cor. xiii. 1, 2.)
Hast thou seen the gift? Covet earnestly this gift. This is greater than raising the dead. This is far better than all the rest, And that it is so, hear what Christ Himself saith, discoursing with His disciples, "By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples." (John xiii. 35.) And showing how, He mentioned not the miracles, but what? "If ye have love one with another." And again He saith to the Father, "Hereby shall they know that Thou hast sent Me, if they be one." (John xvii. 21.) And He said to His disciples, "A new commandment I give to you, that ye love one another." (John xiii. 34.) Such an one therefore is more venerable and glorious than those who raise the dead; with reason. For that indeed is wholly of God's grace, but this, of thine own earnestness also. This is of one who is a Christian indeed: this shows the disciple of Christ, the crucified, the man that hath nothing common with earth. Without this, not even martyrdom can profit.
And as a proof, see this plainly. The blessed Paul took two of the highest virtues, or rather three; namely, those which consist in miracles, in knowledge, in life. And without this the others, he said, are nothing. And I will say how these are nothing. "Though I give my goods to feed the poor," he says, "and have not charity, I am nothing." (1 Cor. xiii. 3.) For it is possible not to be charitable even when one feeds the poor and exhausts one's means.
[11.] And indeed these things have been sufficiently declared by us, in the place concerning Charity:(1) and thither we refer the readers. Meanwhile, as I was saying, let us covet earnestly the Gift, let us love one another; and we shall need nothing else for the perfect acquisition of virtue, but all will be easy to us without toils and we shall do all perfectly with much diligence.
But see, even now, it is said, we love one another. For one man hath two friends, and another three. But this is not to love for God's sake, but for the sake of being beloved. But to love for God's sake hath not this as its principle of Love; but such an one will be disposed towards all men as towards brethren; loving those that are of the same faith as being true brothers; heretics and Heathen and Jews, brothers indeed by nature, but vile and unprofitable,--pitying and wearing himself out and weeping for them. Herein we shall be like God if we love all men, even our enemies; not, if we work miracles. For we regard even God with admiration when He worketh wonders, yet much more, when He showeth love towards man, when He is long-suffering. If then even in God this is worthy of much admiration, much more in men is it evident that this rendereth us admirable.
This then let us zealously seek after: and we shall be no way inferior to Paul and Peter and those who have raised innumerable dead, though we may not be able to drive away a fever. But without this [Love]; though we should work greater miracles even than the Apostles themselves, though we should expose ourselves to innumerable dangers for the faith: there will be to us no profit from any. And these things it is not I that say, but he, the very nourisher of Charity, knoweth these things. To him then let us be obedient; for thus we shall be able to attain to the good things promised, of which may we all be made partakers, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father with the Holy Ghost, be the glory, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY IV: HEBREWS ii. 5--7.
"For unto Angels He hath not put in subjection. the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man that Thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that Thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the Angels."
[1.] I COULD have wished to know for certain whether any hear with fitting earnestness the things that are said, whether we are not casting the seeds by the wayside: for in that case I should have made my instructions with more cheerfulness. For we shall speak, though no one hear, for the fear which is laid on us by our Saviour. For, saith He, testify to this people; even if they hear not, thou shalt thyself be guiltless. (See Ezek. iii. 19.) If however I had been persuaded of your earnestness, I should have spoken not for fear only, but should have done it with pleasure also. For now indeed, even if no man hear, even if my work, so long as I fulfill my own part, brings no danger, still the labor is not altogether pleasant. For what profit is it, when though I be not blamed, yet no one is benefited? But if any would give heed we shall receive advantage not so much from avoiding punishment ourselves as from your progress.
How then shall I know this? Having taken notice of some of you, who are not very attentive, I shall question them privately, when I meet them. And if I find that they retain any of the things that have been spoken (I say not all, for this would not be very easy for you), but even if [they retain] a few things out of many, it is plain I should have no further doubts about the rest. And indeed we ought, without giving notice beforehand, to have attacked you when off your guard. However it will suffice, if even in this way I should be able to attain my purpose. Nay rather, even as it is, I can attack you when you are off your guard. For that I shall question you, I have forewarned you; but when I shall question you I do not as yet make evident. For perhaps it may be to- day; perhaps to-morrow, perhaps after twenty or thirty days, perhaps after fewer, perhaps after more. Thus has God also made uncertain the day of our death. Nor hath He allowed it be clear to us, whether it shall befall us to-day, or to-morrow, or after a whole year, or after many years; that through the uncertainty of the expectation we may through all time keep ourselves firm in virtue. And that we shall indeed depart, He hath said,--but when, He hath not yet said. Thus too I have said that I shall question you, but I have not added when, wishing you always to be thoughtful.
And let no man say, I heard these things four or five weeks ago, or more, and I cannot retain them. For I wish the hearer so to retain them as to have his recollection perpetual and not apt to fade, nor yet that he should disown what is spoken. For I wish you to retain them, not, in order to tell them to me, but that ye may have profit; and this is of most serious interest to me. Let no one then say this.
[2.] However, I must now begin with what follows in the epistle. What then is set before us to speak on to-day?
"For not to angels," he says, "did He put in subjection the world to come,(1) whereof we speak." Is he then discoursing concerning some other world? No, but concerning this. Therefore he added "whereof we speak," that he might not allow the mind to wander away in search of some other. How then does he call it "the world to come"? Exactly as he also says in another place, "Who is the figure of him that was to come,"(2) (Rom. v. 14,) when he is speaking about Adam and Christ in the Epistle to the Romans; calling Christ according to the flesh "Him that was to come" in respect of the times of Adam, (for [then] He was to come). So now also, since he had said, "but when he bringeth in the First-Begotten into the world": that thou mightest not suppose that he is speaking of another world, it is made certain from many considerations and from his saying "to come." For the world was to come, but the Son of God always was. This world then which was about to come, He put in subjection not to Angels but to Christ. For that this is spoken with reference to the Son (he says) is evident: for surely no one would assert the other alternative, that it had reference to Angels.
Then he brings forward another testimony also and says, "but one in a certain place testified, saying." Wherefore did he not mention the name of the prophet, but hid it? Yea, and in other testimonies also he doth this: as when he saith, "but when He bringeth in again the First-Begotten into the world, He saith, And let all the Angels of God worship Him. And again, I will be to Him a Father. And of the Angels He saith, Who maketh His angels spirits. And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundations of the earth" (c. i. 6, 5, 7, 10):--so also here he saith, "but one in a certain place testified, saying." And this very thing (I conceive) is the act of one that conceals himself, and shows that they were well skilled in the Scriptures; his not setting down him who uttered the testimony, but introducing it as familiar and obvious.
"What is man that Thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that Thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels: Thou crownedst him with glory and honor."(1) (Ver. 8.) "Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet."
Now although these things were spoken of human nature generally, they would nevertheless apply more properly to Christ according to the flesh. For this, "Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet," belongs to Him rather than to us. For the Son of God visited us when we were nothing: and after having assumed our [nature],(2) and united it to Himself, He became higher than all. "For," he says, "in that He hath put all things in subjection under Him, He left nothing not put under Him: but now we see not yet all things put under Him." What he means is this:--since he had said, "Until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool" (c. i. 13),- -and it was likely that they would still be grieved,--then having inserted a few things after this parenthetically, he added this testimony in confirmation of the former. For that they might not say, How is it that He hath put His enemies under His feet, when we have suffered so much? he sufficiently hinted at it in the former place indeed (for the word "until" showed, not what should take place immediately, but in course of time) but here he followeth it up. For do not suppose (he says) that because they have not vet been made subject, they are not to be made subject: for that they must be made subject, is evident; for, on this account was the prophecy spoken. "For," he says, "in that He hath put all things under Him, He left nothing not put under Him." How then is it that all things have not been put under Him? Because they are hereafter to be put under Him.
If then all things must be made subject to Him, but have not yet been made subject, do not grieve, nor trouble thyself. If indeed when the end were come, and all things were made subject, thou wert still suffering these things, with reason wouldst thou repine: "But now we see not yet all things put under Him." The King has not yet clearly conquered. Why then art thou troubled when suffering affliction? the preaching [of the Gospel] hath not yet prevailed over all; it is not yet time that they should be altogether made subject.
[3.] Then again there is another consolation if indeed He who is hereafter to have all put in subjection under Him, hath Himself also died and submitted to sufferings innumerable. (Ver. 9.) "But," he says, "we see Him who was made a little(3) lower than the angels, even Jesus, for the suffering of death"--then the good things again,-- "crowned with glory and honor." Seest thou, how all things apply to Him? For the [expression], "a little," would rather suit Him, who was only three days in Hades, but not ourselves who are for a long time in corruption. Likewise also the [expression] "with glory and honor" will suit Him much more than us.
Again, he reminds them of the Cross, thereby effecting two things; both showing His care [for them] and persuading them to bear all things nobly, looking to the Master. For (he would say) if He who is worshiped of Angels, for thy sake endured to have a little less than the Angels, much more oughtest thou who art inferior to the Angels, to bear all things for His sake. Then he shows that the Cross is "glory and honor," as He Himself also always calls it, saying, "That the Son of Man might be glorified" (John xi. 5); and, "the Son of Man is glorified." (John xii. 23.) If then He calls the [sufferings] for His servants' sake "glory," much more shouldest thou the [sufferings] for the Lord.
Seest thou the fruit of the Cross, how great it is? fear not the matter: for it seemeth to thee indeed to be dismal, but it brings forth good things innumerable. From these considerations he shows the benefit of trial. Then he says, "That He by the grace of God should taste death for every man."
"That by the grace of God," he says. And He indeed because of the grace of God towards us suffered these things. "He who spared not His Own Son," he says, "but delivered Him up for us all." (Rom. viii. 32.) Why? He did not owe us this, but has done it of grace. And again in the Epistle to the Romans he says, "Much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace which is by one man Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many." (Rom. v. 15.)
"That by the grace of God He should taste death for every man," not for the faithful only, but even for the whole world: for He indeed died for all; But what if all have not believed? He hath fulfilled His own [part].
Moreover he said rightly "taste death for every man," he did not say "die." For as if He really was tasting it, when He had spent a little time therein, He immediately arose.
By saying then "for the suffering of death," he signified real death, and by saying "superior to angels," he declared the resurrection. For as a physician though not needing to taste the food prepared for the sick man, yet in his care for him tastes first himself, that he may persuade the sick man with confidence to venture on the food, so since all men were afraid of death, in persuading them to take courage against death, He tasted it also Himself though He needed not. "For," He says, "the prince of this world cometh and findeth nothing in Me." (John xiv. 30.) So both the words "by grace" and "should taste death for every man," establish this.
[4.] Ver. 10. "For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." He speaks here of the Father. Seest thou how again he applies the [expression] "by whom"(1) to Him? Which he would not have done, had it been [an expression] of inferiority, and only applicable to the Son. And what he says is this:--He has done what is worthy of His love towards mankind, in showing His First-born to be more glorious than all, and in setting Him forth as an example to the others, like some noble wrestler that surpasses the rest.
"The Captain of their salvation," that is, the Cause of their salvation. Seest thou how great is the space between? Both He is a Son, and we are sons; but He saves, we are saved. Seest thou how He both brings us together and then separates us; "bringing," he says, "many sons unto glory": here he brings us together,--"the Captain of their salvation," again he separates.
"To make perfect through sufferings."(2) Then sufferings are a perfecting, and a cause of salvation. Seest thou that to suffer affliction is not the portion of those who are utterly forsaken; if indeed it was by this that God first honored His Son, by leading Him through sufferings? And truly His taking flesh to suffer what He did suffer, is a far greater thing than making the world, and bringing it out of things that are not. This indeed also is [a token] of His loving-kindness, but the other far more. And [the Apostle] himself also pointing out this very thing, says, "That in the ages to come He might show forth the exceeding riches of His goodness, He both raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (Eph. ii. 7, 6.)
"For it became Him for whom are all things and by whom are all things in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through-sufferings." For (he means) it became Him who taketh tender care, and brought all things into being, to give up the Son for the salvation of the rest, the One for the many. However he did not express himself thus, but, "to make perfect through sufferings," showing the suffering for any one, not merely profits "him," but he himself also becomes more glorious and more perfect. And this too he says in reference to the faithful, comforting them by the way: for Christ was glorified then when He suffered. But when I say, He was glorified, do not suppose that there was an accession of glory to Him: for that which is of nature He always had, and received nothing in addition.
[5.] "For," he says, "both He that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one, for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren." Behold again how he brings [them] together, honoring and comforting them, and making them brethren of Christ, in this respect that they are "of one."(3) Then again guarding himself and showing that he is speaking of that which is according to the flesh, he introduces, "For He who sanctifieth," [i.e.] Christ, "and they who are sanctified," ourselves. Dost thou see how great is the difference?(4) He sanctifies, we are sanctified. And above he said, "the Captain of their salvation. For there is one God, of whom are all things." (5) (1 Cor. viii. 6.)
"For which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren." Seest thou how again he shows the superiority? For by saying, "He is not ashamed," he shows that the whole comes not of the nature of the thing, but of the loving affection of Him who was "not ashamed" of anything, [yea] of His great humility. For though we be "of one," yet He sanctifieth and we are sanctified: and great is the difference.(6) Moreover "He" is of the Father, as a true Son, that is, of His substance; "we," as created, that is, brought out of things that are not, so that the difference is great. Wherefore he says, "He is not ashamed to call them brethren" (ver. 12), "saying, I will declare Thy name unto My brethren." (Ps. xxii. 22.) For when He clothed Himself with flesh, He clothed Himself also with the brotherhood, and at the same time came in the brotherhood.
This indeed he brings forward naturally. But this (ver. 13) "I will put my trust in Him" (2 Sam. xxii. 3), what does it mean? For what follows this is also [introduced] naturally. "Behold, I and the children which God hath given Me." (Isa. viii. 18.) For as here He shows Himself a Father, so before, a Brother. "I will declare Thy name unto My brethren," He saith.
And again he indicates the superiority and the great interval [between us], by what follows (ver. 14): "Since then the children," he saith, "are partakers of flesh and blood" (thou seest where he saith the likeness is? in reference to the flesh), "in like manner He also Himself took part of the same." Let all the Heretics be ashamed, let those hide their faces who say that He came in appearance and not in reality.(1) For he did not say, "He took part of these" only, and then say no more; although had he said thus, it would have been sufficient, but he asserted something more, adding "in like manner," not in appearance, he means, or by an image (since in that case "in like manner" is not preserved) but in reality; showing the brotherhood.
[6.] Next he sets down also the cause of the economy.(2) "That through death," he says, "He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil."
Here he points out the wonder, that by what the devil prevailed, by that was he overcome, and the very thing which was his strong weapon against the world, [namely], Death, by this Christ smote him. In this he exhibits the greatness of the conqueror's power. Dost thou see how great good death hath wrought?
Ver. 15. "And should deliver them," he says, "who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." Why (he means) do ye shudder? Why do you fear him that hath been brought to nought? He is no longer terrible, but has been trodden under foot, hath been utterly despised; he is vile and of no account. (2 Tim. i. 10.)
But what is "through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage"? He either means this, that he who fears death is a slave, and submits to all things rather than die; or this, that all men were slaves of death and were held under his power, because he had not yet been done away; or that men lived in continual fear, ever expecting that they should die, and being afraid of death, could have no sense of pleasure, while this fear was present with them. For this he hinted at in saying," All their life- time." He here shows that the afflicted, the harassed, the persecuted, those that are deprived of country and of substance and of all other things, spend their lives more sweetly and more freely than they of old time who were in luxury, who suffered no such afflictions, who were in continual prosperity, if indeed these "all their life- time" were under this fear and were slaves; while the others have been made free and laugh at that which they shudder at. For this is now as if, when one was being led away to a captivity leading to death, and in continual expectation of it, one should feed him up with abundant dainties (something such as this was Death of old); but now, as if some one taking away that fear together with the dainties, were to promise a contest, and propose a combat that should lead no longer to death, but to a kingdom. Of which number wouldst thou have wished to be--those who are fed up in the prison-house, while every day looking for their sentence, or those who contend much and labor willingly, that they may crown themselves with the diadem of the kingdom? Seest thou how he has raised up their soul, and made them elated? He shows too, that not death alone has been put an end to, but that thereby he also who is ever showing that war without trace against us, I mean the devil, hath been brought to nought; since he that fears not death is out of reach of the devil's tyranny. For if "skin for skin, yea all things a man would give for his life" (Job ii. 4)--when any one has determined to disregard even this, of what henceforward will he be the slave? He fears no one, he is in terror of no one, he is higher than all, and more free than all. For he that disregards his own life, much more [doth he disregard] all other things. And when the devil finds a soul such as this, he can accomplish in it none of his works. For what? tell me, shall he threaten the loss of property, and degradation, and banishment from one's country? But these are small matters to him who "counteth not even his life dear" (Acts xx. 24) unto him, according to the blessed Paul. Thou seest that in casting out the tyranny of death, he also overthrew the strength of the devil. For he who has learnt to study innumerable [truths] concerning the resurrection,(3) how should he fear death? How should he shudder any more?
[7.] Therefore be ye not grieved, saying, why do we suffer such and such things? For so the victory becomes more glorious. And it would not have been glorious, unless by death He had destroyed death; but the most wonderful thing is that He conquered him by the very means by which he was strong, showing in every point the abundance of His means, and the excellence of His contrivances. Let us not then prove false to the gift bestowed on us. "For we," he says, "have received not a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (Rom. viii. 15; 2 Tim. i. 7.) Let us stand then nobly, laughing death to scorn.
But [I pause] for it comes over me to groan bitterly [at the thought of] whither Christ hath raised us up, and whither we have brought ourselves down. For when I see the wailings in the public places, the groanings over those departing life, the howlings, the other unseemly behavior, believe me, I am ashamed before those heathen, and Jews, and heretics who see it, and before all who for this cause openly laugh us to scorn. For whatever I may afterwards say, I shall talk to no purpose, when philosophizing concerning the resurrection. Why? Because the heathen do not attend to what is said by me, but to what is done by you. For they will say at once, 'when will any of these [fellows] be able to despise death, when he is not able to see another dead?'
Beautiful things were spoken by Paul, beautiful and worthy of Heaven, and of the love of God to man. For what does he say? "And He shall deliver them who through fear of death, were all their life-time subject to bondage." But ye do not allow these things to be believed, fighting against them by your deeds. And yet many things exist for this very end, God building a stronghold against it, that He might destroy this same evil custom. For tell me, what mean the bright torches? Do we not send them before as athletes? And what [mean] the hymns? Do we not glorify God, and give thanks that at last He has crowned the departed one, that He has freed him from his labors, that taking away uncertainty, He has him with Himself? Are not the Hymns for this? Is not Psalmody for this? All these are the acts of those rejoicing. "For," it is said, "is any merry? let him sing psalms." (Jas. v. 13.) But to these things the heathen give no heed. For (one will say) do not tell me of him who is philosophical(1) when out of the affliction, for this is nothing great or surprising;--show me a man who in the very affliction itself is philosophical, and then I will believe the resurrection,
And indeed, that women engaged in the affairs of this life(2) should act thus is no way surprising. And yet indeed this even is dreadful; for from them also is the same philosophy required. Wherefore also Paul says, "But concerning them which are asleep, I would not have you ignorant, that ye sorrow not even as the rest who have no hope." (1 Thess. iv. 13.) He wrote not this to solitaries, nor to perpetual virgins, but to women and men in the world.(3) But however this is not so dreadful. But when any man or woman, professing to be crucified to the world, he tears his hair, and she shrieks violently--what can be more unseemly than this? Believe me when I say if things were done as they ought, such persons should be excluded for a long time from the thresholds of the Church. For those who are indeed worthy of being grieved for, are these who still fear and shudder at death, who have no faith in the resurrection.
'But I do not disbelieve the resurrection' (one says) 'but I long after his society.' Why then, tell me, when he goes from home, and that for a long absence, dost not thou do the same? Yea, but I do weep then also' (she says) 'and mourn as I long after him.' But that is the conduct of those that really long after their associates, this that of her who despairs of his return.
Think, what thou singest on that occasion, "Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee." (Ps. cxvi. 7.) And again, "I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me." (Ps. xxiii. 4.) And again, "Thou art my refuge from the affliction which encompasseth me." (Ps. xxxii. 7.) Think what these Psalms mean. But thou dost not give heed, but art drunk from grief.
Consider carefully the funeral lamentations of others that thou mayest have a remedy in thine own case. "Return, O my soul, to thy rest, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee." Tell me, sayest thou that the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee, and weepest? Is not this mere acting, is it not hypocrisy? For if indeed thou really believest the things thou sayest, thy sorrow is superfluous: but if thou art in sport and acting a part, and thinkest these things fables, why dost thou sing psalms? Why dost thou even endure the attendants? Why dost thou not drive away the singers? But this would be the act of madmen. And yet far more the other.
For the present, then, I advise you: but as time goes on, I shall treat the matter more seriously: for indeed I am greatly afraid that by this practice some grievous disease may make its way into the Church. The case of the wailings then we will hereafter correct. And meanwhile I charge and testify, both to rich and poor, both to women and men.
May God indeed grant that you all depart out of life unwailed, and according to the fitting rule fathers now grown old may be attended to their graves by sons, and mothers by daughters, and grand-children, and great grand-children, in a green old age, and that untimely death may in no case occur. May this then be, and this I pray, and I exhort the prelates and all of you to beseech God for each other, and to make this prayer in common. But if (which God forbid, anti may it never happen) any bitter death should occur, bitter, I mean, not in its nature (for henceforth there is no bitter death, for it differs not at all from sleep), but bitter in regard of your disposition, if it should happen, and any should hire these mourning women, believe me when I say (I speak not without meaning(1) but as I have resolved, let him who will, be angry), that person we will exclude from the Church for a long time, as we do the idolater. For if Paul calls "the covetous man an idolater" (Eph. v. 5), (much more him who brings in the practices of the idolaters over a believer.
For, tell me, for what cause dost thou invite presbyters, and the singers? Is it not to afford consolation? Is it not to honor the departed? Why then dost thou insult him? And why dost thou make him a public show? And why dost thou make game as on a stage? We come, discoursing of the things concerning the resurrection, instructing all, even those who have not yet been smitten, by the honor shown to him, to bear it nobly if any such thing should happen and dost thou bring those who overthrow our [teachings] as much as in them lieth? What can be worse than this ridicule and mockery? What more grievous than this inconsistency?
[8.] Be ashamed and show reverence: but if ye will not, we cannot endure the bringing in upon the Church of practices so destructive. For, it is said, "them that sin rebuke before all." (1 Tim. v. 20.) And as to those miserable and wretched women, we through you forbid them(2) ever to introduce themselves into the funerals of the faithful, lest we should oblige them in good earnest to wail over their own evils, and teach them not to do these things in the ills of others, but rather to weep for their own misfortunes. For an affectionate father too, when he has a disorderly son, not only advises him not to draw near to the wicked, but puts them in fear also. Behold then, I advise you, and those women through you, that you do not invite such persons, and that they do not attend. And may God grant that my words may produce some effect, and that my threat may avail. But if (which God forbid) we should be disregarded, we have no choice henceforward but to put our threat into execution, chastising you by the laws of the Church, and those women as befits them.
Now if any man is obstinate and contemptuous, let him hear Christ saying even now, "If any one trespass against thee, go, tell him his fault between thee and him alone"; but if he will not be persuaded, "take with thee one or two." But if even so he contradict, "tell it to the Church, but if he shall also refuse to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican." (Matt. xviii. 15, 16, 17.) Now if when a man trespasses against me, and will not be persuaded, [the Lord] commands me thus to turn away from him, judge ye in what light I ought to hold him who trespasses against himself, and against God. For do not you yourselves condemn us when we come down so gently upon you?
If however any man disregard the bonds which we inflict, again let Christ instruct him, saying, "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matt. xviii. 18.) For though we ourselves be miserable and good for nothing and worthy to be despised, as indeed we are; yet are we not avenging ourselves nor warding off anger, but are caring for your salvation.
Be influenced by reverence, I beseech you, and respect. For if a man bear with a friend when he attacks him more vehemently than he ought, ascertaining his object, and that he does it with kind intention, and not out of insolence; much more [should he bear with] a teacher when rebuking him, and a teacher who does not himself say these things as of authority, nor as one in the position of a ruler, but in that of a kindly guardian. For we do not say these things as wishing to exhibit our authority, (for how could we, praying that we may never come to the trial of them?) but grieving and lamenting for you.
Forgive me then, and let no man disregard the bonds of the Church. For it is not man who binds, but Christ who has given unto us this authority, and makes men lords of this so great dignity. For we indeed wish to use this power for loosing; or rather, we wish to have no need even of that, for we wish that there should not be any bound among us--we are not so miserable and wretched [as that] even though some of us are extreme good- for-nothings. If however we be compelled [so to act], forgive us. For it is not of our own accord, nor wishing it, but rather out of sorrow for you that are bound that we put the chains around you. But if any man despise these chains, the time of judgment will come, which shall teach him. And what comes after I do not wish to speak of, lest I should wound your minds. For in the first place indeed we do not wish to be brought into this necessity; but if we are so brought, we fulfill our own part, we cast around the chains. And if any man burst through them, I have done my part, and am henceforth free from blame, and thou wilt have to give account to Him who commanded me to bind.
For neither, when a king is sitting in public, if any of the guard who stand beside him be commanded to bind one of the attendants, and to put the chains around [him], and he should not only thrust this man away, but also break the bonds in pieces, is it the guard who suffers the insult, and not much more the King who gave the order. For if He claim as His own, the things which are done to the faithful, much more will He feel as if Himself insulted when he is insulted who has been appointed to teach.
But God grant that none of those who are over this Church should be driven to the necessity of [inflicting] these bonds. For as it is a good thing not to sin, so is it profitable to endure reproof. Let us then endure the rebuke, and earnestly endeavor not to sin; and if we should sin let us bear the rebuke. For as it is an excellent thing not to be wounded, but, if this should happen, to apply the remedy to the wound, so also in this case.
But God forbid that any man should need such remedies as these. "But we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak." (c. vi. 9.) But we have discoursed more vehemently for the sake of greater security. For it is better that I should be suspected by you of being a harsh, and severe, and self-willed person, than that you should do things not approved of God. But we trust in God, that this reproof will not be unserviceable to you, but that ye will be so changed, that these discourses may be devoted to encomiums on you and to praises: that we may all be counted worthy to attain to those good things, which God hath promised to them that love Him in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost be glory, might, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY V: HEBREWS ii. 16, 17.
"For verily He taketh not hold of Angels, but of the seed of Abraham He taketh hold.(1) Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren."
[1.] PAUL wishing to show the great kindness of God towards man, and the Love which He had for the human race, after saying: "Forasmuch then as the children were partakers of blood and flesh, He also Himself likewise took part of the same" (c. v. 14)-- follows up the subject in this passage. For do not regard lightly what is spoken, nor think this merely a slight [matter], His taking on Him our flesh. He granted not this to Angels; "For verily He taketh not hold of Angels, but of the seed of Abraham." What is it that he saith? He took not on Him an Angel's nature, but man's. But what is "He taketh hold of"? He did not (he means) grasp that nature, which belongs to Angels, but ours. But why did he not say, "He took on Him," but used this expression, "He taketh hold of"? It is derived from the figure of persons pursuing those who turn away from them, and doing everything to overtake them as they flee, and to take hold of them as they are bounding away. For when human nature was fleeing from Him, and fleeing far away (for we "were far off"--Eph. ii. 13), He pursued after and overtook us. He showed that He has done this only out of kindness, and love, and tender care. As then when he saith, "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation" (c. i. 14)--he shows His extreme interest in behalf of human nature, and that God makes great account of it, so also in this place he sets it forth much more by a comparison, for he says, "He taketh not hold of angels." For in very deed it is a great and a wonderful thing, and full of amazement that our flesh should sit on high, and be adored by Angels and Archangels, by the Cherubim and the Seraphim. For myself having oftentimes thought upon this, I am amazed at it, and imagine to myself great things concerning the human race. For I see that the introductions are great and splendid, and that God has great zeal on behalf of our nature.
Moreover he said not "of men (simply) He taketh hold," but wishing to exalt them [the Hebrews] and to show that their race is great and honorable, he says, "but of the seed of Abraham He taketh hold."
"Wherefore it behooved [Him] in all things to be made like unto His brethren." What is this, "in all things"? He was born (he means), was brought up, grew, suffered all things necessary, at last He flied. This is, "in all things to be made like unto His brethren." For after he had discoursed much concerning His majesty and the glory on high, he then begins concerning the dispensation. And consider with how great power [he doth this,]. How he represents Him as having great zeal to be made like unto us": which was a sign of much care. For having said above, "Inasmuch then as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself in like manner took part of the same"; in this place also he says, "in all things to be made like unto His brethren." Which is all but saying, He that is so great, He that is "the brightness of His glory," He that is "the express image of His person," He that "made the worlds," He that "sitteth on the right hand of the Father," He was willing and earnest to become our brother in all things, and for this cause did He leave the angels and the other powers, and come down to us, and took hold of us, and wrought innumerable good things. He destroyed Death, He cast out the devil from his tyranny, He freed us from bondage: not by brotherhood alone did He honor us, but also in other ways beyond number. For He was willing also to become our High Priest with the Father: for he adds,
[2.] "That He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God." For this cause (he means) He took on Him our flesh, only for Love to man, that He might have mercy upon us. For neither is there any other cause of the economy, but this alone. For He saw us, cast on the ground, perishing, tyrannized over by Death, and He had compassion on us. "To make reconciliation," he says," for the sins of the people. That He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest."
What is "faithful"? True, able. For the Son is a faithful High Priest, able to deliver from their sins those whose High Priest He is. In order then that He might offer a sacrifice able to purify us, for this cause He has become man.
Accordingly he added, "in things pertaining to God,"--that is, for the sake of things in relation to God. We were become altogether enemies to God, (he would say) condemned, degraded, there was none who should offer sacrifice for us. He saw us in this condition, and had compassion on us, not appointing a High Priest for us, but Himself becoming a High Priest. In what sense He was "faithful," he added [viz.], "to make reconciliation for the sins of the people."
Ver. 18. "For," he says, "in that He hath suffered Himself being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted." This is altogether low and mean, and unworthy of God. "For in that He hath suffered Himself," he says. It is of Him who was made flesh that he here speaks, and it was said for the full assurance of the hearers, and on account of their weakness. That is (he would say) He went through the very experience of the things which we have suffered; "now" He is not ignorant of our sufferings; not only does He know them as God, but as man also He has known them, by the trial wherewith He was tried; He suffered much, He knows how to sympathize. And yet God is incapable of suffering: but he describes here what belongs to the Incarnation, as if he had said, Even the very flesh of Christ suffered many terrible things. He knows what tribulation is; He knows what temptation is, not less than we who have suffered, for He Himself also has suffered.
(What then is this, "He is able to succor them that are tempted"? It is as if one should say, He will stretch forth His hand with great eagerness, He will be sympathizing.)
[3.] Since they wished for something great, and to have an advantage over the [converts] from the Gentiles, he shows that they have an advantage in this while he did not hurt those from the Gentiles at all. In what respect now is this? Because of them is the salvation, because He took hold of them first, because from that race He assumed flesh. "For," he says, "He taketh not hold of angels, but of the seed of Abraham He taketh hold." Hereby he both gives honor to the Patriarch, and shows also what "the seed of Abraham" is. He reminds them of the promise made to him, saying, "To thee and to thy seed will I give this land" (Gen. xiii. 15 ); showing by the very least thing, the nearness [of the relationship] in that they were "all of one." But that nearness was not great: [so] he comes back to this, and thenceforward dwells upon the dispensation which was after the flesh, and says, Even the mere willing to become than was a proof of great care and love; but now it is not this alone, but there are also the undying benefits which are bestowed on us through Him, for, he says, "to make reconciliation for the sins of the people."
Why said he not, of the world, instead of" the people"? for He bare away the sins of all. Because thus far his discourse was concerning them [the Hebrews]. Since the Angel also said to Joseph, "Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people." (Matt. i. 21.) For this too ought to have taken place first, and for this purpose He came, to save them and then through them the rest, although the contrary came to pass. This also the Apostles said at the first, "To you [God] having raised up His Son, sent [Him] to bless you" (Acts iii. 26): and again, "To you was the word of this Salvation sent." (Acts xiii. 26.) Here he shows the noble birth of the Jews, in saying, "to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." For a while he speaks in this way. For that it is He who forgives the sins of all men, He declared both in the case of the paralytic, saying, "Thy sins are forgiven" (Mark it. 5); and also in that of Baptism: for He says to the disciples, "Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." (Matt. xxviii. 19.)
[4.] But when Paul has once taken in hand the flesh, he proceeds to utter all the lowly things, without any fear: for see what he says next:
C. iii. 1, 2. "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him that appointed [or made] Him, as also Moses [was faithful] in all His house."
Being about to place Him before Moses in comparison, he led his discourse to the law of the high-priesthood; for they all had a high esteem for Moses: moreover, he is already beforehand casting down the seeds of the superiority. Therefore he begins from the flesh, and goes up to the Godhead, where there was no longer any comparison. He began from the flesh [from His Human nature], by assuming for a time the equality, and says, "as also Moses in all His house": nor does he at first show His superiority lest the hearer should start away, and straightway stop his ears. For although they were believers, yet nevertheless they still had strong feeling of conscience as to Moses. "Who was faithful," he says, "to Him that made Him"--made [Him] what? "Apostle and High Priest." He is not speaking at all in this place of His Essence, nor of His Godhead; but so far concerning human dignities.
"As also Moses in all His house," that is, either among the people, or in the temple. But here he uses the expression "in His house," just as one might say, concerning those in the household; even as some guardian and steward of a household, so was Moses to the people. For that by "house" he means the people, he added, "whose house we are" (c. iii. 6); that is, we are in His creation, Then [comes] the superiority.
Ver. 3. "For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses," (Again [he is speaking] of the Flesh)," inasmuch as he who hath builded(1) [the house] hath more honor than the house "; [Moses] himself also (he means) was of the house. (Moreover he did not say, For this one was a servant, but the Other a master, but he covertly intimated it.) If the people were the house and he was of the people, then he certainly was of the household. For so also we are accustomed to say, such an one is of such an one's house. For here he is speaking of a house, not of the temple, for the temple was not constructed by God, but by men. But He that made(2) him [is] God. Moses he means. And see how he covertly shows the superiority. "Faithful," he says, "in all His house," being himself also of the house, that is, of the people. The builder has more honor than the house, yet he did not say "the artificer hath more honor than his works," but "he that hath builded the house, than the house." (Ver. 4.) "But He that built all things is God." Thou seest that he is speaking not about the temple but about the whole people.
Ver. 5. "And Moses verily [was] faithful in all His house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken." See also another point of superiority, that [which is derived] from the Son and the servants. You see again that by the appellation of The Son, he intimates true relationship. (Ver. 6.) "But Christ as a Son over His own house." Perceivest thou how he separates the thing made and the maker, the servant and the son? Moreover He indeed enters into His Father's property as a master, but the other as a servant.
"Whose" [i.e.] God's "house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." Here again he encourages them to press forward nobly, and not to fall: for we shall be the "house" of God (he says), as Moses was, "if we hold fist our confidence and our rejoicing firm unto the end." He however (he would say) that is distressed in his trials, and who falls, doth not glory: he that is ashamed, he that hideth himself, has no confidence, he that is perplexed doth not glory.
And then he also commends them, saying, "if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end," implying that they had even made a beginning; but that there is need of the end, and not simply to stand, but to have their hope firm "in full assurance of faith," without being shaken by their trials.
[5.] And be not astonished, that the [words] "Himself being tempted" (c. ii. 18) are spoken more after the manner of men. For if the Scripture says of the Father, who was not made flesh, "The Lord looked down from heaven, and beheld all the sons of men" (Ps. xiv. 2), that is, accurately acquainted Himself with all things; and again, "I will go down, and see whether they do altogether according to the cry of them" (Gen. xviii. 21); and again, "God cannot endure the evil ways of men" (Gen. vi. 5?), the divine Scripture shows forth the greatness of His wrath: much more, who even suffered in the flesh, these things are said of Christ. For since many men consider experience the most reliable means of knowledge, he wishes to show that He that has suffered knows what human nature suffers.
"Whence(3) holy brethren" (he says "whence" instead of "for this cause"), "partakers of an heavenly calling"--(seek nothing here, if ye have been called yonder--yonder is the reward, yonder the recompense. What then?) "Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also Moses [was faithful] in all His house." (What is "who was faithful to Him that appointed Him?" it is, well disposed, protecting what belongs to Him, not allowing them to be lightly carried away, "as also Moses in all His house ") that is, know who your High Priest is, and what He is, and ye will need no other consolation nor encouragement. Now he calls Him "Apostle," on account of His having been "sent," and "high priest of our profession," that is of the Faith. This One also was entrusted with a people, as the other with the leadership of a people, but a greater one and upon higher grounds.
"For a testimony of those things which shall be spoken." What meanest thou? Doth God receive the witness of man? Yes, certainly. For if He call to witness heaven and earth and hills (saying by the prophet, "Hear, O heaven, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken"--Isa. i. 2--and "Hear ye ravines,(1) foundations of the earth, for the Lord hath a controversy with His people"--Mic. vi. 2), much more men; that is, that they may be witnesses, when themselves [the Jews] shameless.
Ver. 6. "But Christ as a Son." The one takes care of the property of others, but this One of His own. "And the rejoicing of the hope." Well said he "of the hope." For since the good things were all in hope, and yet we ought so "to hold it fast," as even now to glory as for things which had already come to pass: for this cause he says, "the rejoicing of the hope."
And adds, "let us hold it firm unto the end." (Rom. viii. 24.) For "by hope we are saved"; if therefore "we are saved by hope," and "are. waiting with patience" (Rom. viii. 25), let us not be grieved at present things, nor seek now those that have been promised afterwards; "For" (he says) "hope which is seen is not hope." For since the good things are great, we cannot receive them here in this transitory life. With what object then did He even tell us of them beforehand, when He was not about to give them here? In order that by the promise He might refresh our souls, that by the engagement He might strengthen our zeal, that He might anoint [preparing us for our contests] and stir up our mind. For this cause then all these things were done.
[6.] Let us not then be troubled, let no man be troubled, when he seeth the wicked prospering. The recompense is not here, either of wickedness or of virtue; and if in any instance there be either of wickedness or of virtue, yet is it not according to desert, but merely as it were a taste of the judgment, that they who believe not the resurrection may yet even by things that happen here be brought to their senses. When then we see a wicked man rich, let us not be cast down; when we see a good man suffering, let us not be troubled. For yonder are the crowns, yonder the punishments.
Yea and in another point of view, it is not possible either that a bad man should be altogether bad, but he may have some good things also: nor again that a good man should be altogether good, but he may also have some sins. When therefore the wicked man prospers, it is for evil on his own head, that having here received the reward of those few good things, he may hereafter be utterly punished yonder; for this cause does he receive his recompense in this life. And happy is he most of all who is punished here, that having put away all his sins, he may depart approved, and pure, and without having to be called to account. And this Paul teacheth us when he says, "For this cause many [are] weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." (1 Cor. xi. 30.) And again, "I have delivered such an one to Satan." (1 Cor. v. 5.) And the prophet says, "for she hath received of the Lord's hand her sins double" (Isa. xl. 2); and again David, "Behold mine enemies that they are multiplied above the hairs of my head? and [with] an unjust hatred have they hated me": "and forgive Thou all my sins." (Ps. xxv. 19, 18.) And again another: "O Lord, our God, give peace unto us; for Thou hast rendered all things to us again." (Isa. xxvi. 12.)
These however are [the words] of one showing that good men receive here the punishments of their sins. But where are the wicked [mentioned] who receive their good things here, and there are utterly punished? Hear Abraham saying to the rich man, "Thou didst receive good things," and "Lazarus evil things." (Luke xvi. 25.) What good things? For in this place by saying "thou receivest,(3)" and not thou "hadst taken,(4)" he shows that it was according to what was due to him that each was treated, and that the one was in prosperity, and the other in adversity. And he says, "Therefore he is comforted" here (for thou seest him pure from sins) "and thou art tormented." Let us not then be perplexed when we see sinners well off here; but when we ourselves are afflicted, let us rejoice.
For this very thing is paying off the penalty(1) of sins.
[7.] Let us not then seek relaxation: for Christ promised tribulation to His disciples and Paul says, "All Who will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution." (2 Tim. iii. 12.) No noble-spirited wrestler, when in the lists,(2) seeks for baths, and a table full of food and wine. This is not for a wrestler, but for a sluggard. For the wrestler contendeth with dust, with oil, with the heat of the sun's ray, with much sweat, with pressure and constraint. This is the time for contest and for fighting, therefore also for being wounded, and for being bloody and in pain. Hear what the blessed Paul says, "So fight I, not as one that beateth the air." (1 Cor. ix. 26.) Let us consider that our whole life is in combats, and then we shall never seek rest, we shall never feel it strange when we are afflicted: no more than a boxer feels it strange, when he combats. There is another season for repose. By tribulation we must be made perfect.
And even if there be no persecution, nor tribulation, yet there are other afflictions which befall us every day. And if we do not bear these, we should scarcely endure those. "There hath no temptation taken you," it is said, "but such as is common to man." (1 Cor. x. 13.) Let us then pray indeed to God that we may not come into temptation; but if we come into it, let us bear it nobly. For that indeed is the part of prudent men, not to throw themselves upon dangers; but this of noble men and true philosophers. Let us not then lightly cast ourselves upon [dangers], for that is rashness; nor yet, if led into them, and called by circumstances let us give in, for that is cowardice. But if indeed the Gospel(3) call us, let us not refuse; but in a simple case, when there is no reason, nor need, nor necessity which calls us in 'the fear of God, let us not rush in. For this is mere display, and useless ambition. But should any of those things which are injurious to religion occur, then though it be necessary to endure ten thousand deaths, let us refuse nothing. Challenge not trials, when thou findest the things that concern godliness prosper as thou desirest. Why draw down needless dangers which bring no gain?
These things I say, because I wish you to observe the laws of Christ who commands us to "pray that we enter not into temptation" (Matt. xxvi. 41), and commands us to "take up the cross and follow" Him. (Matt. xvi. 24.) For these things are not contradictory, may they are rather exceedingly in harmony. Do thou be so prepared as is a valiant soldier, be continually in thine armor, sober, watchful, ever looking for the enemy: do not however breed wars, for this is not [the act] of a soldier but of a mover of sedition. But if on the other hand the trumpet of godliness call thee, go forth immediately, and make no account of thy life, and enter with great eagerness into the contests, break the phalanx of the adversaries, bruise the face of the devil, set up thy trophy. If however godliness be in nowise harmed, and no one lay waste our doctrines (those I mean which relate to the soul), nor compel us to do anything displeasing to God, do not be officious.
The life of the Christian must be full of blood-sheddings; I say not in shedding that of others, but in readiness to shed one's own. Let us then pour out oar own blood, when it is for Christ's sake, with as great readiness as one would pour out water (for the blood which flows about the body is water), and let us put off our flesh with as much good temper, as one even would a garment. And this shall we do, if we be not bound to riches, if not to houses, if not to affections, if we be detached from all things. For if they who live this life of [earthly] soldiers bid farewell to all things, and whithersoever war calls them there present themselves, and make journeys, and endure all things with ready mind; much more ought we, the soldiers of Christ, so to have prepared ourselves, and to set ourselves firm against the war of the passions.
[8.] There is no persecution now, and God grant there may never be: but there is another war, that of the desire of money, of envy, of the passions. Paul, describing this war, says, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood ." (Eph. vi. 12.) This war is ever at hand. Therefore he wishes us to stand ever armed. Because he wishes us to stand ever armed, he says, "Stand, having girded yourselves about." (Eph. vi. 14.) Which itself also belongs to the time present, and expresses that we ought ever to be armed. For great is the war through the tongue, great that through the eyes; this then we must keep down-- great [too] is that of the lusts.
Therefore he begins at that point to arm the soldier of Christ: for" stand," saith he, "having your loins girt about," and he added "with truth." (Eph. vi. 14.) Why "with truth"? Because lust is a mockery and a lie: wherefore the prophet says, "My loins are filled with mockings." (Ps. xxxviii. 7.) The thing is not pleasure, but a shadow of pleasure. "Having your loins," he says, "girt about with truth"; that is, with true pleasure, with temperance, with orderly behavior. For this cause he gives this advice, knowing the unreasonableness of sin, and wishing that all our members should be hedged round; for "unjust anger." it is said, "shall not be guiltless." (Ecclus. i. 22.)
Moreover he wishes us to have around us a breastplate and a buckler. For desire is a wild beast which easily springs forth, and we shall have need of walls and fences innumerable, to overcome, and to restrain it. And for this cause God has built this part [of our body] especially with bones, as with a kind of stones, placing around it a support, so that [desire] might not at any time, having broken or cut through, easily injure the whole man. For it is a fire (it is said) and a great tempest, and no other part of the body could endure this violence. And the sons of the physicians too say that for this cause the lungs have been spread under the heart, so that the heart being itself [put] into something soft and tender, by beating as it were into a sort of sponge, may continually be rested, and not [by striking] against the resisting and hard sternum, receive hurt through the violence of its beatings. We have need therefore of a strong breastplate, so as to keep this wild beast alway quiet.
We have need also of an helmet; for since the reasoning faculty is there, and from this it is possible for us either to be saved, when what is right is done, or it is possible for us to be ruined--therefore he says, "the helmet of salvation." (Eph. vi. 17.) For the brain is indeed by nature tender, and therefore is covered above with the skull, as with a kind of shell. And it is to us the cause of all things both good and evil, knowing what is fitting, or what is not so. Yea and our feet too and our hands need armor, not these hands, nor these feet, but as before those of the soul-- the former by being employed about what is right, the latter, that they may walk where they ought. Thus then let us thoroughly arm ourselves, and we shall be able to overcome our enemies, and to wreathe ourselves with the crown in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost be glory, might, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY VI: HEBREWS iii. 7-11.
"Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith, To-day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation in the day of temptation in the wilderness, when your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart, and they have not known My ways. So(1) I sware in My wrath they shall not enter into My rest."
[1.] PAUL, having treated of hope, and having said that "We are His house, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (c. iii. yet. 6); next shows that we ought to look forward with firmness, and he proves this from the Scriptures. But be attentive, because he has expressed this in a manner somewhat difficult and not readily to be comprehended. And therefore we must first make our own statements, and after we have briefly explained the whole argument, then make clear the words of the Epistle. For you will no longer need us, if you have understood the scope of the Apostle.
His discourse was concerning Hope, and that it behooves us to hope for the things to come, and that for those who have toiled here there will assuredly be some reward and fruit and refreshment. This then he shows from the prophet; and what says he? "Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, To-day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, they do alway err in their heart, and they have not known My ways. So(2) I sware in My wrath, they shall not enter into My rest."
He says that there are "three" rests: one, that of the Sabbath, in which God rested from His works; the second, that of Palestine, into which when the Jews had entered they would be at rest from their hardships and labors; the third, that which is Rest indeed, the kingdom of Heaven; which those who obtain, do indeed rest from their labors and troubles. Of these three then he makes mention here.
And why did he mention the three, when he is treating of the one only? That he might show that the prophet is speaking concerning this one. For he did not speak (he says) concerning the first. For how could he, when that had taken place long before? Nor vet again concerning the second, that in Palestine. For how could he? For he says," They shall not enter into My rest." It remains therefore that it is this third.
[2.] But it is necessary also to unfold the history, to make the argument more clear. For when they had come forth out of Egypt, and had accomplished a long journey, and had received innumerable proofs of the power of God, both in Egypt, and in the Red Sea (cf. Acts vii. 36), and in the wilderness, they determined to send spies to search out the nature of the land; and these went and returned, admiring indeed the country, and saying that it abounded in noble fruits, nevertheless it was a country of strong and invincible men: and the ungrateful and senseless Jews, when they ought to have called to mind the former blessings of God, and how when they were hemmed in the midst of the armies of so many Egyptians, He rescued them from their perils, and made them masters of their enemies' spoils; and again, in the wilderness He clave the rock, and bestowed on them abundance of waters, and gave them the manna, and the other wonderful things which He wrought; [when they ought, I say, to have remembered this,] and to have trusted in God, they considered none of these things, but being struck with terror, just as if nothing had been done, they said, we wish to go back again into Egypt, "for God hath brought us out thither" (it is said) "to slay us, with our children and wives." (Cf. Num. xiv. 3.) God therefore being angry that they had so quickly cast off the memory of what had been done, sware that generation, which had said these things, should not enter into the Rest; and they all perished in the wilderness. When David then, he says, speaking at a later period, and after these events, after that generation of men, said, "To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts," that ye may not suffer the same things which your forefathers did, and be deprived of the Rest; he evidently [said this] as of some [future] rest. For if they had received their Rest (he says) why does He again say to them, "To-day if ye will hear His voice harden not your hearts," as your fathers did? What other rest then is there, except the kingdom of Heaven, of which the Sabbath was an image and type?
[3.] Next having set down the whole testimony (and this is, "To-day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation in the day of temptation in the wilderness, when your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart, and they have not known My ways. So I sware in My wrath, they shall not enter into My rest"), he then adds:
Ver. 12. "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God." For from hardness unbelief ariseth: and as in bodies, the parts that have become callous and hard do not yield to the hands of the physicians, so also souls that are hardened yield not to the word of God. For it is probable besides that some even disbelieved as though the things which had been done were not true.
Therefore he says, "Take heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing From the living God." For since the argument from the future is not so persuasive as from the past, he reminds them of the history, in which they had wanted faith. For if your fathers (he says) because they did not hope as they ought to have hoped, suffered these things, much more will you. Since to them also is this word addressed: for, "To-day" (he says) is "ever," so long as the world lasts.
[4.] Ver. 13. Wherefore "exhort ye one another daily, while it is called to-day." That is, edify one another, raise yourselves up: lest the same things should befall you. "Lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Seest thou that sin produces unbelief? For as unbelief brings forth an evil life, so also a soul, "when it is come into a depth of evils, becometh contemptuous"(1) (Prov. xviii. 3), and having become contemptuous it endures not even to believe, in order thereby to free itself from fear. For "they said" (one says), "The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard." (Ps. xciv. 7.) And again, "Our lips are our own: who is Lord over us?" (Ps. xii. 4); and again "Wherefore hath the wicked man provoked God to wrath?" (Ps. x. 13); and again, "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God; they are corrupt and become abominable in their doings." (Ps. xiv. 1.) "There is no fear of God before his eyes, for he was deceitful before Him, to find out(2) his iniquity and to hate." (Ps. xxxvi. 1, 2.) Yea and Christ also says this same thing, "Every one that doeth evil, hateth the light and cometh not to the light." (John iii. 20.)
Then he adds (ver. 14), "For we have been made partakers of Christ." What is this, "We have been made partakers of Christ"? We partake of Him (he means); we were made One, we and He--since He is the Head and we the body, "fellow- heirs and of the same body; we are one body, of His flesh and of His bones." (Eph. iii. 6; Rom. xii. 5; Eph. v. 30.)
"If we hold fast the beginning of our confidence [or, the principle of our subsistence(3)] steadfast unto the end." What is "the principle of our subsistence "? The faith by which we stand, and have been brought into being and were made to exist, as one may say.
[5.] Then he adds (ver. 15), "When it is said,(1) To-day if ye hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation." This is a transposition,(2) "when it is said, To- day if ye hear His voice, harden not your hearts." [It must be read thus:]
(Ch. iv. 1, 2.) "Let us fear Jest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it; for to us was the Gospel preached(3) as well as unto them when it is said, To-day if ye hear His voice" (for "To- day" is "at every time"(4)).
Then [he adds] "but the word of hearing did not profit them, as they were not mixed(5) by faith with them that heard." How did it not profit? Then wishing to alarm them, he shows the same thing by what he says:
(Ch. iii. 16-19.) "For some when they had heard did provoke, howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses: And with whom was He grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? And to whom swear He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that believed not? So(6) we see, that they could not enter in because of unbelief." After again repeating the testimony, he adds also the question, which makes the argument clear. For he said (he repeats), "To-day if ye hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation." Of whom does he speak (he says) [as] having been hardened? Of whom [as] not believing? Is it not of the Jews?
Now what he says is to this effect. They also heard, as we hear: but no profit came to them. Do not suppose then that by "hearing" what is proclaimed ye will be profited; seeing that they also heard, but derived no benefit because they did not believe.
Caleb then and Joshua, because they agreed not with those who did not believe, escaped the vengeance that was sent forth against them. And see how admirably he said, not, They did not agree, but, "they were not mixed"- -that is, they stood apart, but not factiously when all the others had one and the same mind. Here it seems to me that a faction too is hinted at.(7)
[6.] (Ch. iv. 3.) For "we who have believed," he says, "do enter into rest." From what this is evident, he adds: "as He said, as I have sworn in My wrath, if they shall enter into My rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world." This indeed, is not evidence that we shall enter in, but that they did not enter in. What then? Thus far he aims to show that as that rest does not hinder the speaking of another rest, so neither does this [exclude] that of Heaven. Up to this point then, he wishes to show that they [the Israelites] did not attain to the rest. For because he means this, he says (ver. 4, 5), "For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all His works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into My rest." Thou seest how that doth not hinder this from being a rest?
Ver. 6, 7. "Seeing therefore it remaineth" (he says) "that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: again he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To- day, after so long a time; as it has been said before."(8) But what is it that he means? "Seeing then" (he means) that "some must" certainly "enter in," and "they did not enter in." And that an entrance is proclaimed, and that "some must enter in," let us hear from what this is clear. Because after so many years (he says) David again says: "To-day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts" (ver. 8), "For if Joshua had given them rest he would not afterward have spoken of another day." It is evident, that he says these things, as of persons who are to attain some recompense.
[7.] Ver. 9. "There remaineth therefore a rest(9) for the people of God." Whence [does this appear]? From the exhortation, "Harden not your hearts": for if there were no rest, these exhortations would not have been given. Neither would they have been exhorted not to do the same things [with the Jews] lest they should suffer the same things, unless they were about to suffer the same. But how were they who were in possession of Palestine about to suffer the same things [i.e. exclusion from the rest] unless there were some other rest?
And well did he conclude the argument. For he said not rest but "Sabbath-keeping"; calling the kingdom "Sabbath- keeping," by the appropriate name, and that which they rejoiced in and were attracted by. For as, on the Sabbath He commands to abstain from all evil things; and that those things only which relate to the Service of God should be done, which things the Priests were wont to accomplish, and whatsoever profits the soul, and nothing else; so also [will it be] then. However it is not he who spoke thus, but what? (Ver. 10), "For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God [did] from His." As God ceased from His works, he says, so he that hath entered into His rest [hath ceased]. For since his discourse to them was concerning rest, and they were desirous to hear when this would be, he concluded the argument with this.
[8.] And [he said] "To-day,"(1) that they might never be without hope. "Exhort one another daily," he says, ["while it is called today,"'] that is, even if a man have sinned, as long as it is "To-day," he has hope: let no man then despair so long as he lives. Above all things indeed, he says, "let there not be an evil heart of unbelief." (c. iii. 12.) But even suppose there should be, let no man despair, but let him recover himself; for as long as we are in this world, the "To-day" is in season. But here he means not unbelief only, but also murmurings: "whose carcasses," he says, "fell' in the wilderness." 2
Then, lest any think that they will simply be deprived of rest only, he adds also the punishment, saying (c. iv. 12), "For the Word of God is quick, and powerful; and sharper than any two-edged sword, and pierceth even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow: and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Here he is speaking of Hell and of punishment. "It pierceth" (he says) into the secrets of our heart, and cutteth asunder the soul. Here it is not the failing of carcasses nor, as there, the being deprived of a country, but of a heavenly kingdom; and being delivered to an everlasting hell, and to undying punishment and vengeance.
(Ch. iii. 13.) "But exhort(3) one another." Observe the gentleness and mildness [of the expression]: he said not "Rebuke," but "Exhort." Thus we are required to bear ourselves towards those who are straightened by affliction. This he says also in writing to the Thessalonians, "Warn them that are unruly" (1 Thess. v. 14), but in speaking of the feeble- minded, not so, but what? "Comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men"; that is, do not cease to hope; do not despair. For he that does not encourage one who is straightened by affliction, makes him more hardened.
[9.] "Lest any of you," he says, "be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." He means either the deceit of the devil (for it is indeed a deceit, not to look for the things to come, to think that we are without responsibility, and that we shall not pay the penalty for our deeds here, neither will there be a resurrection); or in another sense insensibility [or] despairing is deceit. For to say, 'What is there left? I have sinned once for all, I have no hope of recovering myself,' is deceit.
Then he suggests hopes to them, saying (ver. 14), "We are made partakers of Christ"; All but saying, He that so loved us, He that counted us worthy of so great things, as to make us His Body, will not suffer us to perish. Let us consider (he says) of what we have been thought worthy: we and Christ are One: let us not then distrust Him. And again, he hints at that which had been said in another place, that "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him." (2 Tim. ii. 12.) For this is [implied in] "We are made partakers," we partake of the same things whereof Christ also partakes.
He urges them on from the good things; "for we are," he says, "partakers of Christ." Then, again, from gloomy ones (c. iv. 1), "Let us fear, lest at any time a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." For that is manifest and confessed.
(Ch. iii. 9.) "They proved Me," He says, "and saw My works forty years." Seest thou that it is not right to call God to account, but whether He defend [our cause] or not, to trust Him? For against those [of old] he now brings this charge, that "they tempted God." For he that will have proof either of His power, or of His providence, or of His tender care, does not yet believe, either that He is powerful or kind to man. This he hints also in writing to these [Hebrews] who probably already wished, in their trials, to obtain experience and positive evidence of His power and His providential care for them. Thou seest that in all cases the provocation and the angering arises from unbelief.
What then does he say? (c. iv. 9.) "There remaineth therefore a rest for the people of God." And see how he has summed up the whole argument. "He sware," saith he, to those former ones, "that they should not enter into" the "rest," and they did not enter in. Then long after-their time discoursing to the Jews, he says, "Harden not your hearts," as your fathers, showing that there is another rest. For of Palestine we have not to speak: for they were already in possession of it. Nor can he be speaking of the seventh [day]; for surely he was not discoursing about that which had taken place long before. It follows therefore that he hints at some other, that which is rest indeed.
[10.] For that is indeed rest, where "pain, sorrow and sighing are fled away" (Isa. xxxv. 10): where there are neither cares, nor labors, nor struggle, nor fear stunning and shaking the soul; but only that fear of God which is full of delight. There is not, "In the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat thy bread," nor "thorns and thistles" (Gen. iii. 19, 18); no longer, "In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and to thy husband shall be thy desire and he shall rule over thee." (Gen. iii. 16.) All is peace, joy, gladness, pleasure, goodness, gentleness. There is no jealousy, nor envy, no sickness, no death whether of the body, or that of the soul. There is no darkness nor night; all [is] day, all light, all things are bright. It is not possible to be weary, it is not possible to be satiated: we shall always persevere in the desire of good things.(1)
Would you that I should also give you some image of the condition there? It is impossible. But yet, so far as it is possible, I will try to give you some image. Let us look up into the heaven when without any intervening cloud it shows forth its crown [of stars]. Then when we have dwelt long on the beauty of its appearance, let us think that we too shall have a pavement, not indeed such [as this], but as much more beautiful as the gold is than the clay, and [let us think] on the higher roof which is again beyond; then on the Angels, the Archangels, the infinite multitude of unbodied powers, the very palace of God itself, the Throne of the Father.
But language is too weak (as I said) to set forth the whole. Experience is necessary, and the knowledge which [cometh] by experience. Tell me, how was it (think you) with Adam in Paradise? This course of life is far better than that, as much as heaven [is better] than earth.
[11.] But however let us search after another image still. If it happened that he who now reigns was master of the whole world, and then was troubled neither by wars nor by cares, but was honored only and lived delicately; and had large tributes, and on every side gold flowed in to him, and he was looked up to, what feelings do you think he would have, if he saw that all the wars in all parts of the world had ceased? Something such as this will it be. But rather I have not even yet arrived at that image [which I seek]; therefore I must search after another too.
Consider then, I pray you: for as some royal child, so long as he is in the womb, has no sense of anything, but should it happen that he suddenly came forth from thence, and ascended the royal throne, not gradually, but all at once received possession of all things; so is it as regards this [present] and that [future] state. Or, if some captive, having suffered innumerable evils, should be caught up at once to the royal throne.
But not even thus have I attained to the image exactly. For here indeed whatever good things a person may obtain, even shouldst thou say the kingdom itself, during the first day indeed his desires are in full vigor, and for the second too, and the third, but as time goes on, he continues indeed to have pleasure, but not so great. For whatever it be, it always ceases from familiarity with it. But yonder it not Only does not diminish, but even increases. For consider how great a thing it is, that a soul after departing thither, should no longer look for an end of those good things, nor yet change, but increase, and life that has no end, and life set free from all danger, and from all despondency and care, full of cheerfulness and blessings innumerable.
For if when we go out into a plain, and there see the soldiers' tents fixed with curtains, and the spears, and helmets, and bosses of the bucklers glittering, we are lifted up with wonder; but if we also chance to see the king himself running in the midst or even riding with golden armor, we think we have everything; what thinkest thou [it will be] when thou seest the everlasting tabernacles of the saints pitched in heaven? (For it is said, "They shall receive you into their everlasting tabernacles"--Luke xvi. 9) when thou seest each one of them beaming with light above the rays of the sun, not from brass and steel, but from that glory whose gleamings the eye of man cannot look upon? And this indeed with respect to the men. But what, if one were to speak of the thousands of Angels, of Archangels, of Cherubim, of Seraphim, of thrones, of dominions, of principalities, of powers, whose beauty is inimitable, passing all understanding?
But how far shall I go in pursuing what cannot be overtaken? "For eye hath not seen," it is said, "nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." (1 Cor. ii. 9.) Therefore nothing is more pitiable than those who miss, nor anything more blessed than those who attain. Let us then be of the blessed, that we may attain to the everlasting good things that are in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost be glory, might, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY VII: HEBREWS iv. 11-13.
"Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick [i.e. living] and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight, but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do."
[1.] Faith is indeed great and bringeth salvation, and without it, it is not possible ever to be saved. It suffices not however of itself to accomplish this, but there is need of a right conversation also. So that on this account Paul also exhorts those who had already been counted worthy of the mysteries; saying, "Let us labor to enter into that rest." "Let us labor" (he says), Faith not sufficing, the life also ought to be added thereto, and our earnestness to be great; for truly there is need of much earnestness too, in order to go up into Heaven. For if they who suffered so great distress in the Wilderness, were not counted worthy of [the promised] land, and were not able to attain [that] land, because they murmured and because they committed fornication: how shall we be counted worthy of Heaven, if we live carelessly and indolently? We then have need of much earnestness.
And observe, the punishment does not extend to this only, the not entering in (for he said not, "Let us labor to enter into the rest," lest we fail of so great blessings), but he added what most of all arouses men. What then is this? "Lest any man fall, after the same example of unbelief." What means this? It means that we should have our mind, our hope, our expectation, yonder, lest we should fail. For that [otherwise] we shall fail, the example shows, "lest [&c.] after the same," he says.
[2.] In the next place, lest hearing [the words] "after the same [example]," thou shouldest think that the punishment is the same, hear what he adds; "For the Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and pierceth even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." In these words he shows that He, the Word of God, wrought the former things also, and lives, and has not been quenched.(1)
Do not then when hearing the Word, think of it lightly. For "He is sharper," he says, "than a sword." Observe His condescension; and hence consider why the prophets also needed to speak of saber(2) and bow and sword.(3) "If ye turn not," it is said, "He will whet His sword, He hath bent His bow and made it ready." (Ps. vii. 12.) For if now, after so long a time, and after their being perfected,(4) He cannot smite down by the name of the WORD alone, but needs these expressions in order to show the superiority [arising] from the comparison [of the Gospel with the law]: much more then [of old].
"Piercing," he says, "even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit." What is this? He hinted at something more fearful. Either that He divides the spirit from the soul, or that He pierces even through them disembodied, not as a sword through bodies only. Here he shows, that the soul also is punished, and that it thoroughly searches out the most inward things, piercing wholly through the whole man.
"And is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight." In these words most of all he terrified them. For do not (he says) be confident if ye still stand fast in the Faith, but without full assurance. He judges the inner heart, for there He passes through, both punishing and searching out.
And why speak I of men? he says. For even if thou speak of Angels, of Archangels, of the Cherubim, of the Seraphim, even of any "creature" whatsoever: all things are laid open to that Eye, all things are clear and manifest; there is nothing able to escape it; "All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him, with whom we have to do."
But what is "opened"(5)? [It is] a metaphor from the skins which are drawn off from the victims. For as in that case, when a man has killed them, and has drawn aside the skin from the flesh, he lays open all the inward parts, and makes them manifest to our eyes; so also do all things lie open before God. And observe, I pray thee, how he constantly needs bodily images; which arose from the weakness of the hearers. For that they were weak, he made plain, when he said that they were "dull," and "had need of milk, not of strong meat." "All things are naked," he says, "and opened unto the eyes of Him, with whom we have to do." c. v. 11, 12.)
[3.] But what is, "after the same example of unbelief"? As if one should say, why did they of old not see the land? They had received an earnest of the power of God; they ought to have believed, but yielding too much to fear and imagining nothing great concerning God, and being faint- hearted,--so they perished. And there is also something more to be said, as, that after they had accomplished the most part of the journey, when they were at the very doors, at the haven itself, they were sunk into the sea. This I fear (he says) for you also. This is [the meaning of] "after the same example of unbelief."
For that these also [to whom he is writing] had suffered much, he afterwards testifies, saying, "Call to mind the former days, in which after that ye had been enlightened, ye endured a great fight of afflictions." (c. x. 32.) Let no man then be faint- hearted, nor fall down near the end through weariness. For there are, there are those who at the beginning engage in the fight with the full vigor of zeal; but a little after, not being willing to add to all, they lose all. Your forefathers (he says) are sufficient to instruct you not to fall into the same [sins], not to suffer the same things which they suffered. This is, "After the same example of unbelief." Let us not faint, he means (which he says also near the end [of the Epistle]. "Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees"): "lest any man," he says, "fall after the same example." (c. xii. 12.) For this is to fall indeed.
Then, lest when thou hearest, "any man fall after the same example," thou shouldest conceive of the same death which they also underwent, see what he says: "For the Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword." For the Word falls upon the souls of these [men] more severely than any sword, causing grievous wounds; and inflicts fatal blows. And of these things he need not give the proof, nor establish them by argument, having a history so fearful. For (he would say) what kind of war destroyed them? What sort of sword? Did they not fall simply of themselves? For let us not be careless because we have not suffered the same things. While "it is called. To-day," it is in our power to recover ourselves.
For lest on hearing the things that belong to the soul we should grow negligent, he adds also what concerns the body. For then it is as a king, when his officers are guilty of some great fault, first strips them (say) of their command, and after depriving them of their belt, and their rank, and their herald,(1) then punishes them: so also in this case the sword of the Spirit works.
[4.] Next he discourses of the Son, "with whom we have to do," he says. What is "with whom we have to do"? To Him (he would say) we have to render account for the things we have done? Even so. How then [must we act] that we fall not, nor be faint- hearted?
These things indeed (he would say) are sufficient to instruct us. But we have also "a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God." Because he added [it], for this reason he went on, "For we have not an High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities." Therefore he said above, "In that He hath suffered Himself being tempted, He is able to succor them which are tempted." See then how here also he does the same. And what he says is to this effect: He went (he says) the road which we also [are going] now, or rather even a more rugged one. For He had experience of all human [sufferings].
He had said above "There is no creature that is not manifest in His sight," intimating His Godhead; then, since he had touched on the flesh, he again discourses more condescendingly, saying (ver. 14), "Having then a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens": and shows that His care is greater and that He protects them as His own, and would not have them fall away. For Moses indeed (he says) did not enter into the rest, while He [Christ] did enter in. And it is wonder fill how he has nowhere stated the same, lest they might seem to find an excuse; he however implied it, but that he might not appear to bring an accusation against the man,(2) he did not say it openly. For if, when none of these things had been said, they yet brought forward these [charges], saying, This man hath spoken against Moses and against the law (see Acts xxi. 21, 28); much more, if he had said, It is not Palestine but Heaven,(3) would they have said stronger things than these.
[5.] But he attributes not all to the Priest, but requires also what is [to come] from us, I mean our profession. For "having," he says, "a great High Priest, who is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession" [or "confession"(4)]. What sort of profession does he mean? That there is a Resurrection, that there is a retribution: that there are good things innumerable; that Christ is GOD, that the Faith is right. These things let us profess, these things let us hold fast. For that they are true, is manifest from the fact, that the High Priest is within. We have not failed of [our hopes], let us confess; although the realities are not present, yet let us confess: if already they were present they were but a lie. So that this also is true, that [our good things] are deferred. For our High Priest also is Great.
Ver. 15. "For we have not an High Priest, who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities." He is not (he means) ignorant of what concerns us, as many of the High Priests, who know not those in tribulations, nor that there is tribulation at any time. For in the case of men it is impossible that one should know the affliction of the afflicted who has not had experience, and gone through the actual sensations. Our High Priest endured all things. Therefore He endured first and then ascended, that He might be able to sympathize with us.
But was "in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Observe how both above he has used the word "in like manner," and here "after the likeness." (c. ii. 14.) That is, He was persecuted, was spit upon, was accused, was mocked at, was falsely informed against, was driven out, at last was crucified.
"After our likeness, without sin." In these words another thing also is suggested, that it is possible even for one in afflictions to go through them without sin. So that when he says also "in the likeness of flesh" (Rom. viii. 3), he means not that He took on Him [merely] "the likeness of flesh," but "flesh." Why then did he say "in the likeness"? Because he was speaking about" sinful flesh": for it was "like" our flesh, since in nature it was the same with us, but in sin no longer the same.
[6.] Ver. 16. "Let us come then boldly [with confidence] unto the throne of His grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
What "throne of grace" is he speaking of? that royal throne concerning which it is said, "The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand." (Ps. cx. 1.)
What is "let us come boldly"? Because "we have a sinless High Priest" contending with the world. For, saith He, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John xvi. 33); for, this is to suffer all things, and yet to be pure from sins. Although we (he means) are under sin, yet He is sinless.
How is it that we should "approach boldly "? Because now it is a throne of Grace, not a throne of Judgment. Therefore boldly, "that we may obtain mercy," even such as we are seeking. For the affair is [one of] munificence, a royal largess.
"And may find grace to help in time of need [for help in due season]." He well said, "for help in time of need." If thou approach now (he means) thou wilt receive both grace and mercy, for thou approachest "in due season"; but if thou approach then, no longer [wilt thou receive it]. For then the approach is unseasonable, for it is not "then a throne of Grace." Till that time He sitteth granting pardon, but when the end [is come], then He riseth up to judgment. For it is said, "Arise, O God, judge the earth." (Ps. lxxxii. 8.) ("Let us come boldly," or he says again having no "evil conscience," that is, not being in doubt, for such an one cannot "come with boldness.") On this account it is said, "I have heard thee in an accepted time and in a day of salvation have I succored thee." (2 Cor. vi. 2.) Since even now for those to find repentance who sin after baptism is of grace.
But lest when thou hearest of an High Priest, thou shouldst think that He standeth, he forthwith leads to the throne. But a Priest doth not sit, but stands. Seest thou that [for Him] to be made High Priest, is not of nature," but of grace and condescension, and humiliation?
This is it seasonable for us also now to say, "Let us draw near" asking "boldly": let us only bring Faith and He gives all things. Now is the time of the gift; let no man despair of himself. Then [will be] the time of despairing, when the bride- chamber is shut, when the King is come in to see the guests, when they who shall be accounted worthy thereof, shall have received as their portion the Patriarch's bosom: but now it is not as yet so. For still are the spectators assembled, still is the contest, still is the prize in suspense.
[7.] Let us then be earnest. For even Paul saith, "I so run not as uncertainly." (1 Cor. ix. 26.) There is need of running, and of running vehemently. He that runneth [a race] seeth none of those that meet him; whether he be passing through meadows, or through dry places: he that runneth looketh not at the spectators, but at the prize. Whether they be rich or whether they be poor, whether one mock at him, or praise him, whether one insult, or cast stones at him, or plunder his house, whether he see children, or wife, or anything whatever. He is occupied in one thing alone, in running, in gaining the prize. He that runneth, never standeth still, since even if he slacken a little, he has lost the whole. He that runneth, not only slackens nothing before the end, but then even especially straineth his speed.
This have I spoken for those who say; In our younger days we used discipline, in our younger days we fasted, now we are grown old. Now most of all it behooves you to make your carefulness more intense. Do not count up to me the old things especially done well: be now youthful and vigorous. For he that runneth this bodily race, when gray hairs have overtaken him, probably is not able to run as he did before: for the whole contest depends on the body; but thou-- wherefore dost thou lessen thy speed? For in this race there is need of a soul, a soul thoroughly awakened: and the soul is rather strengthened in old age; then it is in its full vigor, then is it in its pride.
For as the body, so long as it is oppressed by fevers and by one sickness after another, even if it be strong, is exhausted, but when it is freed from this attack, it recovers its proper force, so also the soul in youth is feverish, and is chiefly possessed by the love of glory, and luxurious living, and sensual lusts, and many other imaginations; but old age, when it comes on, drives away all these passions, some through satiety, some through philosophy. For old age relaxes the powers of the body, and does not permit the soul to make use of them even if it wish, but repressing them as enemies of various kinds, it sets her in a place free from troubles and produces a great calm, and brings in a greater fear.
For if none else does, it is said, yet they who are grown old know, that they are drawing to their end, and that they certainly stand near to death. When therefore the desires of this life are withdrawing, and the expectation of the judgment-seat is coming on, softening the stubbornness of the soul, does it not become more attentive, if one be willing?
[8.] What then (you allege) when we see old men more intractable than young ones? Thou tellest me of an excess of wickedness. For in the case of madmen too, we see them going over precipices, when no man pushes them. When therefore, an old man has the diseases of the young, this is an excess of wickedness; besides not even in youth would such an one have an excuse: since he is not able to say, "Remember not the sins of my youth, and my ignorances." (Ps. xxv. 7.) For he who in old age remains the same, shows that even in youth, he was what he was not from ignorance, nor from inexperience, nor from the time of life, but from slothfulness. For that man may say, "Remember not the sins of my youth, and mine ignorances," who does such things as become an old man, who changes in old age. But if even in age he continue the same unseemly courses, how can such an one be worthy of the name of an old man, who has no reverence even for the time of life? For he who says, "Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my ignorances," utters this, as one doing right in his old age. Do not then, by the deeds of age, deprive thyself also of pardon for the sins of youth.
For how can what is done be otherwise than unreasonable, and beyond pardon? An old man sits in taverns. An old man hurries to horse-races--an old man goes up into theaters, running with the crowd like children. Truly it is a shame and a mockery, to be adorned outside with gray hairs, but within to have the mind of a child.
And indeed if a young man insult [him], he immediately puts forward his gray hairs. Reverence them first thyself; if however thou dost not reverence thy own even when old, how canst thou demand of the young to reverence them? Thou dost not reverence the gray hairs, but puttest them to shame. God hath honored thee with whiteness of hairs: He hath given thee high dignity. Why dost thou betray the honor? How shall the young man reverence thee, when thou art more wanton than he? For the hoary head is then venerable, when it acts worthily of the gray head; but when it plays youth, it will be more ridiculous than the young. How then will you old men be able to give these exhortations to the young man when you are intoxicated by your disorderliness?
[9.] I say not these things as accusing the old, but the young. For in my judgment they who act thus even if they have come to their hundredth year, are young; just as the young if they be but little children, yet if they are sober-minded, are better than the old. And this doctrine is not my own, but Scripture also recognizes the same distinction. "For," it says, "honorable age is not that which standeth in length of time, and an unspotted life is old age." (Wisd. iv. 8, 9.)
For we honor the gray hair, not because we esteem the white color above the black, but because it is a proof of a virtuous life; and when we see them we conjecture therefrom the inward hoariness. But if men continue to do what is inconsistent with the hoary head, they will on that account become the more ridiculous. Since we also honor the Emperor, and the purple and the diadem, because they are symbols of his office. But if we should see him, with the purple, spitted on, trodden under foot by the guards, seized by the throat, cast into prison, torn to pieces, shall we then reverence the purple or the diadem, and not rather weep over the pomp itself? Claim not then to be honored for thy hoary head, when thou thyself wrongest it. For it ought indeed itself to receive satisfaction from thee, because thou bringest disgrace on a form so noble and so honorable.
We say not these things against all [old persons], nor is our discourse against old age simply (I am not so mad as that), but against a youthful spirit bringing dishonor on old age. Nor is it concerning those who are grown old that we sorrowfully say these things, but concerning those who disgrace the hoary head.
For the old man is a king, if you will, and more royal than he who wears the purple, if he master his passions, and keep them under subjection, in the rank of guards. But if he be dragged about and thrust down from his throne, and become a slave of the love of money, and vainglory, and personal adornment, and luxuriousness, and drunkenness, anger, and sensual pleasures, and has his hair dressed out with oil, and shows an age insulted by his way of life, of what punishment would not such an one be worthy?
[10.] But may ye not be such, O young men! for not even for you is there the excuse for sinning. Why so? Because it is possible to be old in youth: just as there are youths in old age, so also the reverse. For as in the one case the white hair saves no one, so in the other the black is no impediment. For if it is disgraceful for the old man to do these things of which I have spoken, much more than for the young man, yet still the young man is not freed from accusation. For a young man can have an excuse only, in case he is called to the management of affairs, when he is still inexperienced, when he needs time and practice; but no longer when it is necessary to display temperance and courage, nor yet when it is needful to keep his property.
For it sometimes happens that the young man is blamed more than the old. For the one needs much service, old age making him feeble: but the other being able, if he will, to provide for himself, what sort of excuse should he meet with, when he plunders more than the old, when he remembers injuries, when he is contemptuous, when he does not stand forward to protect others more than the old man, when he utters many things unseasonably, when he is insolent, when he reviles, when he is drunken?
And if in the [matter of] chastity he think that he cannot be impleaded, consider that here also he has many helps, if he will. For although desire trouble him more violently than it doth the old, yet nevertheless there are many things which he can do more than an old man, and so charm that wild beast. What are these things? Labors, readings, watchings through the night, fastings.
[11.] What then are these things to us (one says) who are not monastics? Sayest thou this to me? Say it to Paul, when he says, "Watching with all perseverance and supplication" (Eph. vi. 18), when he says, "Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof." (Rom. xiii.
14.) For surely he wrote not these things to solitaries only, but to all that are in cities. For ought the man who lives in the world to have any advantage over the solitary, save only the living with a wife? In this point he has allowance, but in others none, but it is his duty to do all things equally with the solitary.
Moreover the Beatitudes [pronounced] by Christ, were not addressed to solitaries only: since in that case the whole world would have perished, and we should be accusing God of cruelty. And if these beatitudes were spoken to solitaries only, and the secular person cannot fulfill them, yet He permitted marriage, then He has destroyed all men. For if it be not possible, with marriage, to perform the duties of solitaries, all things have perished and are destroyed, and the [functions] of virtue are shut up in a strait.
And, how can marriage be honorable, which so hinders us? What then? It is possible, yea very possible, even if we have wives, to pursue after virtue, if we will. How? If having "wives," we "be as though we had none," if we rejoice not over our "possessions," if we "use the world as not abusing it." (1 Cor. vii. 29, 31.)
And if any persons have been hindered by marriage state, let them know that marriage is not the hindrance, but their purpose which made an ill use of marriage. Since it is not wine which makes drunkenness, but the evil purpose, and the using it beyond due measure. Use marriage with moderation, and thou shall be first in the kingdom, and shalt enjoy all good things, which may we all attain by the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost be glory, might, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY VIII: HEBREWS V. 1--3.
"For every high priest taken from among men, is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: who can have compassion on(1) the ignorant and on them that are out of the way, for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity; and by reason hereof he ought, as for the people so also for himself to offer for sins."
[1.] THE blessed Paul wishes to show in the next place that this covenant is far better than the old. This then he does by first laying down remote considerations. For inasmuch as there was nothing bodily or that made a show,(2) no temple for instance, nor Holy of Holies, nor Priest with so great apparel, no legal observances, but all things higher and more perfect, and there was nothing of bodily things, but all was in things spiritual, and things spiritual did not attract the weak, as things bodily; he thoroughly sifts this whole matter.
And observe his wisdom: he makes his beginning from the priest first, and continually calls Him an High Priest, and from this first [point] shows the difference [of the two Dispensations]. On this account he first of all defines what a Priest is, and shows whether He has any things proper to a Priest, and whether there are any signs of priesthood. It was however an objection in his way that He [Christ] was not even well- born, nor was He of the sacerdotal tribe, nor a priest on earth. How then was He a Priest? some one may say.
And just as in the Epistle to the Romans having taken up an argument of which they were not easily persuaded, that Faith effects that which the labor of the Law could not, nor the sweat of the daily life, he betook himself to the Patriarch and referred the whole [question] to that time: so now here also he opens out the other path of the Priesthood, showing its superiority from the things which happened before. And as, in [the matter of] punishment, he brings before them not Hell alone, but also what happened to their fathers,(3) so now here also, he first establishes this position from things present. For it were right indeed that earthly things should be proved from heavenly, but when the hearers are weak, the opposite course is taken.
[2.] Up to a certain point he lays down first the things which are common [to Christ and their High Priests], and then shows that He is superior. For comparative(4) excellence arises thus, when in some respects there is community, in others superiority; otherwise it is no longer comparative.
"For every High Priest taken from among men," this is common to Christ; "is ordained for men in things pertaining to God," and this also; "that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for the people," and this too, [yet] not entirely: what follows however is no longer so: "who can have compassion(5) on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way," from this point forward is the superiority, "inasmuch as himself also is encompassed with infirmity; and by reason hereof he ought as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins."
Then also [there are] other [points]: He is made [Priest] (he says) by Another and does not of Himself intrude into [the office]. This too is common (ver. 4), "And no man taketh this honor to himself, but he that is called of God as was Aaron."
Here again he conciliates(6) them in another point, because He was sent from God: which Christ was wont to say throughout to the Jews. "He that sent Me is greater than I," and, "I came not of Myself." (John xii. 49; xiv. 28; viii. 42.)
He appears to me in these words also to hint at the priests of the Jews, as being no longer priests, [but] intruders and corrupters of the law of the priesthood; (ver. 5) "So Christ also glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest."
How then was He appointed (one says)? For Aaron was many times appointed as by the Rod, and when the fire came down and destroyed those who wished to intrude into the priesthood. But in this instance, on the contrary, they [the Jewish Priests] not only suffered nothing, but even are in high esteem. Whence then [His appointment]? He shows it from the prophecy. He has nothing [to allege] perceptible by sense, nothing visible. For this cause he affirms it from prophecy, from things future; "But He that said unto Him Thou art My Son, to-day have I begotten Thee." What has this to do with the Son? Yea (he says) it is a preparation for His being appointed by God.
Ver. 6. "As He saith also in another place, Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedech." Unto whom now was this spoken?
Who is "after the order of Melchisedech"? No other [than He]. For they all were under the Law, they all kept sabbaths, they all were circumcised; one could not point out any other [than Him].
[3.] Ver. 7, 8. "Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears, to Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered." Seest thou that he sets forth nothing else than His care and the exceeding greatness of His love? For what means the [expression] "with strong crying"? The Gospel nowhere says this, nor that He wept when He prayed, nor yet that He uttered a cry. Seest thou that it was a condescension? For he could not [merely] say that He prayed, but also "with strong crying."
"And was heard," (he says), "in that He feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He, obedience by the things which He suffered." (Ver. 9, 10), "And being made perfect He became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him: called of God an High Priest after the order of Melchisedech."
Be it with "crying," why also "strong [crying] and tears"?
"Having offered," (he says), "and having been heard in that He feared." What sayest thou? Let the Heretics(1) be ashamed. The Son of God "was heard in that He feared." And what more could any man say concerning the prophets? And what sort of connection is there, in saying, "He was heard in that He feared, though He were Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered"? Would any man say these things concerning God? Why, who was ever so mad? And who, even if he were beside himself, would have uttered these things? "Having been heard," (he says), "in that He feared, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered." What obedience? He that before this had been obedient even unto death, as a Son to His Father, how did He afterwards learn? Seest thou that this is spoken concerning the Incarnation?
Tell me now, did He pray the Father that He might be saved from death? And was it for this cause that He was "exceeding sorrowful, and said, If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me"? (Matt. xxvi. 38, 39.) Yet He nowhere prayed the Father concerning His resurrection, but on the contrary He openly declares, "Destroy this temple and within three days I will raise it up." (John. ii. 19.) And, "I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again. No man taketh it from Me, I lay it down of Myself." (John x. 18.) What then is it; why did He pray? (And again He said, "Behold we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death. And they shall deliver Him to the Gentiles, to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him; and the third day He shall rise again" (Matt. xx. 18, 19), and said not, "My Father shall raise Me up again.") How then did He pray concerning this? But for whom did He pray? For those who believed on Him.
And what he means is this, 'He is readily listened to.' For since the), had not yet the right opinion concerning Him, he said that He was heard. Just as He Himself also when consoling His disciples said, "If ye loved Me, ye would rejoice, because I go to My Father" (John xiv. 28), and "My Father is greater than I." But how did He not glorify Himself, He who "made Himself of no reputation" (Phil. ii. 7), He who gave Himself up? For, it is said, "He gave Himself" up "for our sins." (See Gal. i. 4.) And again, "Who gave Himself a ransom for us all." (1 Tim. ii. 6.) What is it then? Thou seest that it is in reference to the flesh that lowly things are spoken concerning Himself: So also here, "Although He were Son, He was heard in that He feared," it is said. He wishes to show, that the success was of Himself, rather than of God's favor. So great (he says) was His reverence, that even on account thereof God had respect unto Him.
"He learned," he saith, to obey God. Here again he shows how great is the gain of sufferings. "And having been made perfect," he says, "He became the Author of salvation to them that obey Him." (Cf. supra, pp. 384, 391.) But if He, being the Son, gained obedience from His sufferings, much more shall we. Dost thou see how many things he discourses about obedience, that they might be persuaded to it? For it seems to me that they would not be restrained. "From the things," he says, "which He suffered He" continually "learned" to obey God. And being "made perfect" through sufferings. This then is perfection, and by this means must we arrive at perfection. For not only was He Himself saved, but became to others also an abundant supply of salvation. For "being made perfect He became the Author of salvation to them that obey Him."
[4.] "Being called," he says, "of God an High Priest after the order of Melchisedech": (ver. 11) "Of whom we have many things to say and hard to be uttered [or explained]." When he was about to proceed to the difference of the Priesthood, he first reproves them, pointing out both that such great condescension was "milk," and that it was because they were children that he dwelt longer on the lowly subject, relating to the flesh, and speaks [about Him] as about any righteous man. And see, he neither kept silence as to the doctrine altogether, nor did he utter it; that on the one hand, he might raise their thoughts, and persuade them to be perfect, and that they might not be deprived of the great doctrines; and on the other, that he might not overwhelm their minds.
"Of whom," he says, "we have many things to say and hard to be explained, seeing ye are dull of hearing." Because they do not hear, the doctrine is "hard to be explained." For when one has to do with men who do not go along with him nor mind the things that are spoken, he cannot well explain the subject to them.
But perhaps some one of you that stand here, is puzzled, and thinks it a hard case, that owing to the Hebrews, he himself is hindered from hearing the more perfect doctrines. Nay rather, I think that perhaps here also except a few, there are many such [as they], so that this may be said concerning yourselves also: but for the sake of those few I will speak.
Did he then keep entire silence, or did he resume the subject again in what follows; and do the same as in the Epistle to the Romans? For there too, when he had first stopped the mouths of the gainsayers, and said, "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?" (Rom. ix. 20), he then subjoined the solution. And for my own part I think that he was not even altogether silent, and yet did not speak it out, in order to lead the hearers to a longing [for the knowledge]. For having mentioned [the subject], and said that certain great things were stored up in the doctrine, see how he frames his reproof in combination with panegyric.
For this is ever a part of Paul's wisdom, to mix painful things with kind ones. Which he also does in the Epistle to the Galatians, saying, "Ye did run well; who did hinder you?" (Gal. v. 7.) And, "Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain" (Gal. iii. 4), and, "I have confidence in you in the Lord." (Gal. v. 10.) Which he says also to these [Hebrews], "But we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation." (c. vi. 9.) For these two things he effects, he does not overstrain them, nor suffer them to fall back; for if the examples of others are sufficient to arouse the hearer, and to lead him to emulation; when a man has himself for an example and is bidden to emulate himself, the possibility follows at the same time. He therefore shows this also, and does not suffer them to fall back as men utterly condemned, nor as being alway evil, but [says] that they were once even good; (ver. 12) for "when for the time ye ought to be teachers," he says. Here he shows that they had been believers a long while, and he shows also that they ought to instruct others.
[5.] At all events observe him continually travailing to introduce the discourse concerning the High Priest, and still putting it off. For hear how he began: "Having a great High Priest that is passed into the heavens" (c. iv. 14); and omitting to say how He was great, he says again, "For every High Priest taken from among men, is appointed for men in things pertaining to God." (c. v. 1.) And again, "So Christ also glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest." (c. v. 5) And again after saying, "Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedech" (c. v. 6), he again puts off [the subject], saying, "Who in the days of His Flesh offered prayers and supplications." (c. v. 7.) When therefore he had been so many times repulsed, he says, as if excusing himself, The blame is with you. Alas! how great a difference! When they ought to be teaching others, they are not even simply learners, but the last of learners. (Ver. 12), "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one(1) teach you again which be the first principles(2) of the oracles of God." Here he means the Human Nature [of Christ]. For as in external literature it is necessary to learn the elements first, so also here they were first taught concerning the human nature.
Thou seest what is the cause of his uttering lowly things. So Paul did to the Athenians also, discoursing and saying, "The times of this ignorance God winked at: but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent, because He hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained, whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead." (Acts xvii. 30, 31.) Therefore, if he says anything lofty, he expresses it briefly, while the lowly statements are scattered about in many parts of the Epistle. And thus too he shows the lofty; since the very lowliness [of what is said] forbids the suspicion that these things relate to the Divine Nature. So here also the safe ground was kept.(3)
But what produces this dullness? This he pointed out especially in the Epistle to the Corinthians, saying, "For whereas there is among you envy and strife and divisions, are ye not carnal?" (x Cor. iii. 3.) But observe, I beseech you, his great wisdom, how he always deals according to the distempers before him. For there the weakness arose more from ignorance, or rather from sin; but here not from sins only, but also from continual afflictions. Wherefore he also uses expressions calculated to show the difference, not saying, "ye are become carnal," but" dull": in that case" carnal," but in this the pain is greater. For they [the Corinthians] indeed were not able to endure [his reproof], because they were carnal: but these were able. For in saying, "Seeing ye are become dull of hearing" (c. v. 11), he shows that formerly they were sound in health, and were strong, fervent in zeal, which he also afterwards testifies respecting them.
[6.] "And are become such as have need of milk, not of strong meat." He always calls the lowly doctrine "milk," both in this place and in the other. "When," he says, "for [i.e. "because of"] the time ye ought to be teachers": because of that very thing, namely the time, for which ye ought especially to be strong, for this especially ye are become backsliding. Now he calls it "milk," on account of its being suited to the more simple. But to the more perfect it is injurious, and the dwelling on these things is hurtful. So that it is not fitting that matters of the Law should be introduced(1) now or the comparison made from them, [such as] that He was an High Priest, and offered sacrifice, and needed crying and supplication. Wherefore see how these things are unhealthful(2) to "us"; but at that time they nourished them being by no means unhealthful to them.
So then the oracles of God are true nourishment. "For I will give unto them," he saith, "not a famine of bread, nor a thirst of water, but a famine of hearing the word of the Lord." (Amos viii. 11.)
"I gave you milk to drink, and not meat" (1 Cor. iii. 2); He did not say, I fed you, showing that such [nourishment] as this is not food, but that [the case is] like that of little children who cannot be fed with bread. For such have not drink given them, but their food is to them instead of drink.
Moreover he did not say, "ye have need," but "ye are become such as have need of milk and not of strong meat." That is, ye willed [it]; ye have reduced yourselves to this, to this need.
Ver. 13. "For every one that partaketh of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe." What is "the Word [doctrine] of righteousness"? He seems to me here to hint at conduct also. That which Christ also said, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees" (Matt. v. 20), this he says likewise, "unskilled in the word of righteousness," that is, he that is unskilled in the philosophy that is above, is unable to embrace a perfect and exact life.(3) Or else by "righteousness" he here means Christ, and the high doctrine concerning Him.
That they then were" become dull," he said; but from what cause, he did not add, leaving it to themselves to know it, and not wishing to make his discourse hard to bear. But in the case of the Galatians he both "marveled" (Gal. i. 6) and "stood in doubt" (Gal. iv. 20), which tends much more to encourage, as [it is the language] of one who would never have expected that this should happen. For this is [what] the doubting [implies].
Thou seest that there is another infancy, Thou seest that there is another full age.(4) Let us become of "full age" in this sense: It is in the power even of those who are children, and the young to come to that "full age": for it is not of nature, but of virtue.
[7.] Ver. 14. "But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age [perfect], even them who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." Those had not "their senses exercised," nor did they "know good and evil." He is not speaking now concerning life [conduct], when he says "to discern good and evil," for this is possible and easy for every man to know, but concerning doctrines that are wholesome and sublime, and those that are corrupted and low. The babe knows not how to distinguish bad and good food. Oftentimes at least it even puts dirt into its mouth, and takes what is hurtful; and it does all things without judgment; but not [so] the full grown man. Such [babes] are they who lightly listen to everything, and give up their ears indiscriminately: which seems to me to blame these [Hebrews] also, as being lightly "carried about," and now giving themselves to these, now to those. Which he also hinted near the end [of the Epistle], saying, "Be not carried aside by divers and strange doctrines." (c. xiii. 9.) This is the meaning of "to discern good and evil." "For the mouth tasteth meat, but the soul trieth words." (Job xxxiv. 3.)
[8.] Let us then learn this lesson. Do not, when thou hearest that a man is not a Heathen nor a Jew, straightway believe him to be a Christian; but examine also into all the other points; for even Manichaeans, and all the heresies, have put on this mask, in order thus to deceive the more simple. But if we "have the senses" of the soul "exercised to discern both good and evil," we are able to discern such [teachers].
But how do our "senses" become "exercised"? By continual hearing; by experience of the Scriptures. For when we set forth the error of those [Heretics], and thou hearest today and tomorrow; and provest that it is not right, thou hast learnt the whole, thou hast known the whole: and even if thou shouldest not comprehend to-day, thou wilt comprehend tomorrow.
"That have," he says, their "senses exercised." Thou seest that it is needful to exercise our hearing by divine studies, so that they may not sound strangely. "Exercised," saith he, "for discerning," that is, to be skilled.
One man says, that there is no Resurrection; and another looks for none of the things to come; another says there is a different God; another that He has His beginning from Mary. And see at once how they have all fallen away from want of moderation,(1) some by excess, others by defect. As for instance, the first Heresy of all was that of Marcion; this introduced another different God, who has no existence.(2) See the excess. After this that of Sabellius, saying that the Son and the Spirit and the Father are One.(3) Next that of Marcellus and Photinus, setting forth the same things. Moreover that of Paul of Samosata, saying that He had His beginning from Mary. Afterwards that of the Manichaeans; for this is the most modern of all. After these the heresy of Arius. And there are others too.
And on this account have we received the Faith, that we might not be compelled to attack innumerable heresies, and to deal with them, but whatever any man might have endeavored either to add or take away, that we might consider spurious. For as those who give the standards do not oblige [people] to busy themselves about measures innumerable, but bid them keep to what is given them; so also in the case of doctrines.
[9.] But no man is willing to give heed to the Scriptures. For if we did give heed, not only should we not be ourselves entangled by deceit, but we should also set others free who are deceived, and should draw them out of dangers. For the strong soldier is not only able to help himself, but also to protect his comrade, and to free him from the malice of the enemy. But as it is, some do not even know that there are any Scriptures. Yet the Holy Spirit indeed made so many wise provisions in order that they might be safely kept.
And look at it from the first, that ye may learn the unspeakable love of God. He inspired the blessed Moses; He engraved the tables, He detained him on the mount forty days; and again as many [more] to give the Law. And after this He sent prophets who suffered woes innumerable. War came on; they slew them all, they cut them to pieces, the books were burned. Again, He inspired another admirable man to publish them, Ezra I mean, and caused them to be put together from the remains, And after this He arranged that they should be translated by the seventy. They did translate them. Christ came, He receives them; the Apostles disperse them among men. Christ wrought signs and wonders.
What then after so great painstaking? The Apostles also wrote, even as Paul likewise said, "they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." (1 Cor. x. 11.) And again Christ said, "Ye do err not knowing the Scriptures" (Matt. xxii. 29): and again Paul said, "That through patience and comfort of the Scriptures we may have hope." (Rom. xv. 4.) And again, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable." (2 Tim. iii. 16.) And "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." (Col. iii. 16.) And the prophet, "he shall meditate in His Law day and night" (Ps. i. 2), and again in another place, "Let all thy communication be in the law of the Most High." (Ecclus. ix. 15.) And again, "How sweet are Thy words unto my throat." (He said not to my hearing, but to my "throat"); "more than honey and the honeycomb to my mouth." (Ps. cxix. 103.) And Moses says, "Thou shalt meditate in them continually, when thou risest up, when thou sittest, when thou liest down." (Deut. vi. 7.) "Be in them" (1 Tim. iv. 15), saith he. And innumerable things one might say concerning them. But notwithstanding, after so many things there are some who do not even know that there are Scriptures at all. For this cause, believe me, nothing sound, nothing profitable comes from us.
[10.] Yet, if any one wished to learn military affairs, of necessity he must learn the military laws. And if any one sought to learn navigation or carpentry or anything else, of necessity he must learn the [principles] of the art. But in this case they will not do anything of the kind, although this is a science which needs much wakeful attention. For that it too is an art which needs teaching, hear the prophet saying, "Come, ye children, hearken unto me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord." (Ps. xxxiv. 11.) It follows therefore certainly that the fear of God needs teaching. Then he says, "What man is he that desireth life?" (Ps. xxxiv. 12.) He means the life yonder; and again, "Keep thy tongue from evil and thy lips from speaking guile; depart from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it." (Ps. xxxiv. 13, 14.)
Do you know indeed who said these things, a prophet or a historian, or an apostle, or an evangelist? For my own part I do not think you do, except a few. Yea and these themselves again, if we bring forward a testimony from some other place, will be in the same case as the rest of you. For see, I repeat the same statement expressed in other words. "Wash ye, make you clean, put away your wickedness from your souls before Mine eyes, learn to do well, seek out judgment. Keep thy tongue from evil, and do good: learn to do well." (Isa. i. 16, 17.) Thou seest that virtue needs to be taught? For this one says, "I will teach you the fear of the Lord," and the other, "Learn to do well."
Now then do you know where these words are? For myself I do not think you do, except a few. And yet every week these things are read to you twice or even three times: and the reader when he goes up [to the desk] first says whose the book is, [the book] of such a prophet, and then says what he says, so that it shall be more intelligible to you and you may not only know the contents of the Book, but also the reason of the writings, and who spake these things. But all in vain; all to no purpose. For your zeal is spent on things of this life, and of things spiritual no account is made. Therefore not even those matters turn out according to your wishes, but there also are many difficulties. For Christ says, "Seek ye the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matt. vi. 33.) These things He said, shall also be given in the way of addition: but we have inverted the order and seek the earth and the good things which are in the earth, as if those other [heavenly] things were to be given us in addition. Therefore we have neither the one nor the other. Let us then at last wake up and become coveters of the things which shall be hereafter; for so these also will follow. For it is not possible that he who seeks the things that relate to God, should not also attain human [blessings]. It is the declaration of the Truth itself which says this. Let us not then act otherwise, but let us hold fast to the counsel of Christ, lest we fail of all. But God is able to give you compunction and to make you better, in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost be glory, power, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY IX: HEBREWS vi. 1-3.
"Therefore leaving the principles of the Doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God; of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands; and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permit."
[1.] YOU have heard how much Paul found fault with the Hebrews for wishing to be always learning about the same things. And with good reason: "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one teach you the elements of the first principles of the oracles of God." (c. v. 12.)
I am afraid that this might fitly be said to you also, that "when for the time ye ought to be teachers," ye do not maintain the rank of learners, but ever hearing the same things, and on the same subjects, you are in the same condition as if you heard no one. And if any man should question you, no one will be able to answer, except a very few who may soon be counted. But this is no trifling loss. For oftentimes when the teacher wishes to go on further, and to touch on higher and more mysterious themes, the want of attention in those who are to be taught prevents.
For just as in the case of a grammar-master, if a boy though hearing continually the first elements does not master them, it will be necessary for him to be continually dinning the same things into the boy, and he will not leave off teaching, until the boy has been able to learn them accurately; for it is great folly to lead him on to other things, without having put the first well into him; so too in the Church, if while we constantly say the same things you learn nothing more, we shall never cease saying the same things.
For if our preaching were a matter of display and ambition, it would have been right to jump from one subject to another and change about continually, taking no thought for you, but only for your applauses. But since we have not devoted our zeal to this, but our labors are all for your profit, we shall not cease discoursing to you on the same subjects, till you succeed in learning them. For I might have said much about Gentile superstition, and about the Manichaeans, and about the Marcionists, and by the grace of God have given them heavy blows, but this sort of discourse is out of season. For to those who do not yet know accurately their own affairs, to those who have not yet learned that to be covetous is evil, who would utter such discourses as those, and lead them on to other subjects before the time?
We then shall not cease to say the same things, whether ye be persuaded or not. We fear however, that by continually saying the same things, if ye hearken not, we may make the condemnation heavier for the disobedient.
I must not however say this in regard to you all; for I know many who are benefited by their coming here, who might with justice cry out against those others, as insidiously injuring them(1) by their ignorance and inattention. But not even so will they be injured. For hearing the same things continually is useful even to those who know them, since by often hearing what we know we are more deeply affected. We know, for instance, that Humility is an excellent thing, and that Christ often discoursed about it; but when we listen to the words themselves and the reflections made upon them, we are yet more affected, even if we hear them ten thousand times.
[2.] It is then a fitting time for us also to say now to you, "Wherefore leaving the beginning of the doctrine of Christ, let us go unto perfection."
What is" the beginning of the doctrine"?(2) He goes on to state it himself, saying, "not laying again" (these are his words) "the foundation of repentance from dead works, and faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms and of laying on of hands, of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment."
But if this be "the Beginning," what else is our doctrine save to repent "from dead works," and through the Spirit to receive "the faith,"(3) in "the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment"? But what is "the Beginning"? "The Beginning," he says, is nothing else than this, when there is not a strict life. For as it is necessary to instruct one who is entering on the study of grammar, in the Elements(4) first, so also must the Christian know these things accurately, and have no doubt concerning them. And should he again have need of teaching, he has not yet the foundation. For one who is firmly grounded ought to be fixed and to stand steady, and not be moved about. But if one who has been catechised and baptized is going ten years afterwards to hear again about the Faith, and that we ought to "believe" in "the resurrection of the dead," he does not yet have the foundation, he is again seeking after the beginning of the Christian religion. For that the Faith is the foundation, and the rest the building, hear him [the Apostle] saying; "I have laid the foundation and another buildeth thereupon." (1 Cor. iii. 10.) "If any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble." (1 Cor. iii. 12.)
"Not laying again" (he says) "the foundation of repentance from dead works."
[3.] But what is, "let us go on unto perfection"? Let us henceforth proceed (he means) even to the very roof, that is, let us have the best life. For as in the case of the letters the Alpha(5) involves the whole, and as the foundation, the whole building, so also does full assurance concerning the Faith involve purity of life. And without this it is not possible to be a Christian, as without foundations there can be no building; nor skill in literature without the letters. Still if one should be always going round about the letters, or if about the foundation, not about the building, he will never gain anything.
Do not however think that the Faith is depreciated by being called elementary: for it is indeed the whole power: for when he says, "For every one that useth milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe" (c. v. 13), it is not this which he calls "milk." But to be still doubting about these things is [a sign] of a mind feeble, and needing many discourses. For these are the wholesome doctrines. For we call him "a perfect man" [i.e. "of full age"] who with the faith has a right life; but if any one have faith, yet does evil, and is in doubt concerning [the faith] itself, and brings disgrace on the doctrine, him we shall with reason call "a babe," in that he has gone back again to the beginning. So that even if we have been ten thousand years in the faith, yet are not firm in it, we are babes; when we show a life not in conformity with it; when we are still laying a foundation.
[4.] But besides [their way of] life he brings another charge also against these [Hebrews], as being shaken to and fro, and needing "to lay a foundation of repentance from dead works." For he who changes from one to another, giving up this, and choosing that, ought first to condemn this, and to be separated from the system, and then to pass to the other. But if he intends again to lay hold on the first, how shall he touch the second?
What then of the Law (he says)? We have condemned it, and again we run back to it. This is not a shifting about, for here also [under the Gospel] we have a law. "Do we then" (he says) "make void the law through faith? God forbid, yea we establish the Law." (Rom. iii. 31.) I was speaking concerning evil deeds. For he that intends to pursue virtue ought to condemn wickedness first, and then go in pursuit of it. For repentance cannot prove(1) them clean. For this cause they were straightway baptized, that what they were unable to accomplish by themselves, this might be effected by the grace of Christ. Neither then does repentance suffice for purification, but men must first receive baptism. At all events, it was necessary to come to baptism, having condemned the sins thereby and given sentence against them.
But what is "the doctrine of baptisms"? Not as if there were many baptisms, but one only.(2) Why then did he express it in the plural? Because he had said, "not laying again a foundation of repentance." For if he again baptized them and catechised them afresh, and having been baptized at the beginning(3) they were again taught what things ought to be done and what ought not, they would remain perpetually incorrigible.
"And of laying on of hands." For thus did they receive the Spirit, "when Paul had laid his hands on them" (Acts xix. 6), it is said.
"And of the resurrection of the dead." For this is both effected in baptism, and is affirmed in the confession.
"And of eternal judgment." But why does he say this? Because it was likely that, having already believed, they would either be shaken [from their faith], or would lead evil and slothful lives, he says, "be wakeful."(4)
It is not open to them to say, If we live slothfully we will be baptized again, we will be catechised again, we will again receive the Spirit; even if now we fall from the faith, we shall be able again by being baptized, to wash away our sins, and to attain to the same state as before. Ye are deceived (he says) in supposing these things.
[5 .] Ver. 4, 5. "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly girl, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance, crucifying(5) to themselves the Son of God afresh, and putting Him to an open shame."
And see how putting them to shame,(6) and forbiddingly he begins. "Impossible." No longer (he says) expect that which is not possible; (For he said not, It is not seemly, or, It is not expedient, or, It is not lawful, but "impossible," so as to cast [them] into despair), if ye have once been altogether enlightened.
Then he adds, "and have tasted of the heavenly gift. If ye have tasted" (he says) "of the heavenly gift," that is, of forgiveness. "And been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and tasted the good word of God" (he is speaking here of the doctrine) "and the powers of the world to come" (what powers is he speaking of? either the working of miracles, or "the earnest of the Spirit"--2 Cor. i. 22) "and have fallen away, to renew them again unto repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh and put Him to an open shame." "Renew them," he says, "unto repentance," that is, by repentance, for unto repentance is by repentance. What then, is repentance excluded? Not repentance, far from it! But the renewing again by the layer.(7) For he did not say, "impossible" to be renewed "unto repentance," and stop, but added how "impossible, [by] crucifying afresh.
To "be renewed," that is, to be made new, for to make men new is [the work] of the layer only: for (it is said) "thy youth shall be renewed as the eagle's." (Ps. ciii. 5.) But it is [the work of] repentance, when those who have been made new, have afterwards become old through sins, to set them free from this old age, and to make them strong.(8) To bring them to that former brightness however, is not possible; for there the whole was Grace.
[6.] "Crucifying to themselves," he says, "the Son of God afresh, and putting Him to an open shame." What he means is this. Baptism is a Cross, and "our old man was crucified with [Him]" (Rom. vi. 6), for we were "made conformable to the likeness of His death" (Rom. vi. 5; Phil. iii. 10), and again, "we were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death." (Rom. vi. 4.) Wherefore, as it is not possible that Christ should be crucified a second time, for that is to "put Him to an open shame."(9) For "if death shall no more have dominion over Him" (Rom. vi. 9), if He rose again, by His resurrection becoming superior to death; if by death He wrestled with and overcame death, and then is crucified again, all those things become a fable and a mockery.(10) He then that baptizeth(1) a second time, crucifies Him again.
But what is "crucifying afresh"? [It is] crucifying over again. For as Christ died on the cross, so do we in baptism, not as to the flesh, but as to sin. Behold two deaths. He died as to the flesh; in our case the old man was buried, and the new man arose, made conformable to the likeness of His death. If therefore it is necessary to be baptized [again(2)], it is necessary that this same [Christ] should die again. For baptism is nothing else than the putting to death of the baptized, and his rising again.
And he well said, "crucifying afresh unto themselves." For he that does this, as having forgotten the former grace,(3) and ordering his own life carelessly, acts in all respects as if there were another baptism. It behooves us therefore to take heed and to make ourselves safe.
[7.] What is, "having tasted of the heavenly gift"? it is, "of the remission of sins": for this is of God alone to bestow, and the grace is a grace once for all. "What then? shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Far from it!" (Rom. vi, 1, 2.) But if we should be always going to be saved by grace we shall never be good. For where there is but one grace, and we are yet so indolent, should we then cease sinning if we knew that it is possible again to have our sins washed away? For my part I think not.
He here shows that the gifts are many: and to explain it, Ye were counted worthy (he says) of so great forgiveness; for he that was sitting in darkness, he that was at enmity, he that was at open war, that was alienated, that was hated of God, that was lost, he having been suddenly enlightened, counted worthy of the Spirit, of the heavenly gift, of adoption as a son, of the kingdom of heaven, of those other good things, the unspeakable mysteries; and who does not even thus become better, but while indeed worthy of perdition, obtained salvation and honor, as if he had successfully accomplished great things; how could he be again baptized?
On two grounds then he said that the thing was impossible, and he put the stronger last: first, because he who has been deemed worthy of such [blessings], and who has betrayed all that was granted to him, is not worthy to be again renewed; neither(4) is it possible that [Christ] should again be crucified afresh: for this is to "put Him to an open shame."
There is not then any second layer: there is not [indeed]. And if there is, there is also a third, and a fourth; for the former one is continually disannulled by the later, and this continually by another, and so on without end.
"And tasted," he says, "the good word of God"; and he does not unfold it; "and the powers of the world to come," for to live as Angels and to have no need of earthly things, to know that this is the means of our introduction to the enjoyment of the worlds to come; this may we learn through the Spirit, and enter into those sacred recesses.
What are "the powers of the world to come"? Life eternal, angelic conversation. Of these we have already received the earnest through our Faith from the Spirit. Tell me then, if after having been introduced into a palace, and entrusted with all things therein, thou hadst then betrayed all, wouldest thou have been entrusted with them again?(5)
[8.] What then (you say)? Is there no repentance? There is repentance, but there is no second baptism: but repentance there is, and it has great force, and is able to set free from the burden of his sins, if he will, even him that hath been baptized much in sins, and to establish in safety him who is in danger, even though he should have come unto the very depth of wickedness. And this is evident from many places. "For," says one, "doth not he that falleth rise again? or he that turneth away, doth not he turn back to [God]?" (Jer. viii. 4.) It is possible, if we will, that Christ should be formed in us again: for hear Paul saying, "My little children of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you." (Gal. iv. 19.) Only let us lay hold on repentance.
For behold the love of God to man! We ought on every ground to have been punished at the first; in that having received the natural law, and enjoyed innumerable blessings, we have not acknowledged our Master, and have lived an unclean life. Yet He not only has not punished us, but has even made us partakers of countless blessings, just as if we had accomplished great things. Again we fell away, and not even so does He punish us, but has given medicine of repentance, which is sufficient to put away and blot out all our sins; only if we knew the nature of the medicine, and how we ought to apply it.
What then is the medicine of Repentance? and how is it made up? First, of the condemnation of our own sins;(6) "For" (it is said) "mine iniquity have I not hid" (Ps. xxxii. 5); and again, "I will confess against myself my lawlessness unto the Lord, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my heart." And "Declare thou at the first thy sins, that thou mayest be justified." (Isa. xliii. 26.) And, "The righteous man is an accuser of himself at the first speaking." (Prov. xviii. 17.)
Secondly, of great humbleness of mind: For it is like a golden chain; if one have hold of the beginning, all will follow. Because if thou confess thy sin as one ought to confess, the soul is humbled. For conscience turning it on itself(1) causeth it to be subdued.
Other things too must be added to humbleness of mind if it be such as the blessed David knew, when he said, "A broken and a contrite heart God will not despise." (Ps. li. 17.) For that which is broken does not rise up, does not strike, but is ready to be ill- treated and itself riseth not up. Such is contrition of heart: though it be insulted, though it be evil entreated, it is quiet, and is not eager for vengeance.
And after humbleness of mind, there is need of intense prayers, of many tears, tears by day, and tears by night: for, he says, "every night, will I wash my bed, I will water my couch with my tears. I am weary with my groaning." (Ps. vi. 6.) And again, "For I have eaten ashes as it were bread, and mingled my drink with weeping." (Ps. cii. 9.)
And after prayer thus intense, there is need of much almsgiving: for this it is which especially gives strength to the medicine of repentance. And as there is a medicine among the physicians' helps which receives many herbs, but one is the essential, so also in case of repentance this is the essential herb, yea, it may be everything. For hear what the Divine Scripture says, "Give alms, and all things shall be clean." (Luke xi. 41.) And again, "By alms-giving and acts of faithfulness(2) sins are purged away." (Prov. xvi. 6.) And, "Water will quench a flaming fire, and alms will do away with great sins." (Ecclus. iii. 30.)
Next not being angry with any one, not bearing malice; the forgiving all their trespasses. For, it is said, "Man retaineth wrath against man, and yet seeketh healing from the Lord." (Ecclus. xxviii. 3.) "Forgive that ye may be forgiven." (Mark xi. 25.)
Also, the converting our brethren from their wandering. For, it is said,(3) "Go thou, and convert thy brethren, that thy sins may be forgiven thee." And from one's being in close relations with(4) the priests, "and if," it is said, "a man hath committed sins it shall be forgiven him." (Jas. v. 15.) To stand forward in defense of those who are wronged. Not to retain anger: to bear all things meekly.
[9.] Now then, before you learned that it is possible to have our sins washed away by means of repentance, were ye not in an agony, because there is no second laver, and were ye not in despair of yourselves? But now that we have learned by what means repentance and remission is brought to a successful issue, and that we shall be able entirely to escape, if we be willing to use it aright, what forgiveness can we possibly obtain, if we do not even enter on the thought of our sins? since if this were done, all would be accomplished.
For as he who enters the door, is within; so he who reckons up his own evils will also certainly come to get them cured. But should he say, I am a sinner, without reckoning them up specifically,(5) and saying, This and this sin have I committed, he will never leave off, confessing indeed continually, but never caring in earnest for amendment. For should he have laid down a beginning, all the rest will unquestionably follow too, if only in one point(6) he have shown a beginning: for in every case the beginning and the preliminaries are difficult. This then let us lay as a foundation, and all will be smooth and easy.
Let us begin therefore, I entreat you, one with. making his prayers intense: another with continual weeping: another with downcast(7) countenance. For not even is this, which is so small, unprofitable: for "I saw" (it is said) "that he was grieved and went downcast, and I healed his ways." (Isa. lvii. 17, 18.)
But let us all humble our own souls by alms-giving and forgiving our neighbors their trespasses, by not remembering injuries, nor avenging ourselves. If we continually reflect on our sins, no external circumstances can make us elated: neither riches, nor power, nor authority, nor honor; nay, even should we sit in the imperial chariot itself, we shall sigh bitterly: Since even the blessed David was a King, and yet he said, "Every night I will wash my bed," [&c.] (Ps. vi. 6): and he was not at all hurt by the purple robe and the diadem: he was not puffed up; for he knew himself to be a man, and inasmuch as his heart had been made contrite, he went mourning.
[10.] For what are all things human? Ashes and dust, and as it were spray before the wind; a smoke and a shadow, and a leaf driven here and there; and a flower; a dream, and a tale, and a fable, wind and air vainly puffed out and wasting away; a feather that hath no stay, a stream flowing by, or if there be aught of more nothingness than these.
For, tell me, what dost thou esteem great? What dignity thinkest thou to be great? is it that of the Consul? For the many think no greater dignity than that. He who is not Consul is not a whit inferior to him who is in so great splendor, who is so greatly admired. Both one and the other are of the same dignity; both of them alike, after a little while, are no more.
When was he made [Consul]? For how long a time? tell me: for two days? Nay, this takes place even in dreams. But that is [only] a dream, you say. And what is this? For (tell me) what is by day, is it [therefore] not a dream? Why do we not rather call these things a dream? For as dreams when the day comes on are proved, to be nothing: so these things also, when the night comes on, are proved to be nothing. For night and day have received each an equal portion of time, and have equally divided all duration. Therefore as in the day a person rejoices not in what happened at night, so neither in the night is it possible for him to reap the fruit of what is done in the day. Thou hast been made Consul? So was I in the night; only I in the night, thou in the day. And what of this? Not even so hast thou any advantage over me, except haply its being said, Such an one is Consul, and the pleasure that springs from the words, gives him the advantage.
I mean something of this kind, for I will express it more plainly: if I say "Such an one is Consul," and bestow on him the name, is it not gone as soon as it is spoken? So also are the things themselves; no sooner doth the Consul appear, than he is no more. But let us suppose [that he is Consul] for a year, or two years, or three or four years. Where are they who were ten times Consul? Nowhere.
But Paul is not so. For he was, and also is living continually: he did not live one day, nor two, nor ten, and twenty, nor thirty; nor ten and twenty, nor yet thirty years--and die. Even the four hundredth year is now past, and still even yet is he illustrious, yea much more illustrious than when he was alive. And these things indeed [are] on earth; but the glory of the saints in heaven what word could set forth?
Wherefore I entreat you, let us seek this glory; let us pursue after it, that we may attain it. For this is the true glory. Let us henceforth stand aloof from the things of this life, that we may find grace and mercy in Christ Jesus our Lord: with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor and worship, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY X: HEBREWS vi. 7, 8.
"For the Earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God. But if it bear(1) thorns and briars it is rejected, and nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned."
[1.] LET us hear the oracles of God with fear, with fear and much trembling. For (it is said) "Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice unto Him with trembling." (Ps. ii. 11.) But if even our joy and our exultation ought to be "with trembling," of what punishment are we not worthy, if we listen not with terror to what is said, when the things spoken, as now, are themselves fearful?
For having said that "it is impossible for those who have fallen away" to be baptized a second time, and to receive remission through the layer, and having pointed out the awfulness of the case, he goes on: "for the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God. But if it bear thorns and thistles, it is rejected,(2) and nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned."
Let us then fear, beloved! This threat is not Paul's, these words are not of man: they are of the Holy Ghost, of Christ that speaketh in him. Is there then any one that is clear from these thorns? And even if we were clear, not even so ought we to be confident, but to fear and tremble lest at any time thorns should spring up in us. But when we are "thorns and thistles" through and through, whence (tell me) are we confident? And are becoming supine? What is it which makes us inert? If "he that thinketh he standeth" ought to fear "test he fall"; for (he says) "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. x. 12); he that falleth, how anxious ought he to be that he may rise up again! If Paul fears, "lest that by any means, when he had preached to others, he himself should be a castaway" (1 Cor. ix. 27); and he who had been so approved is afraid lest he should become disapproved:(1) what pardon shall we have who are already disapproved, if we have no fear, but fulfill our Christianity as a custom, and for form's sake. Let us then fear, beloved: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven." (Rom. i. 18.) Let us fear, for it "is revealed" not "against impiety" only, but "against all unrighteousness." What is "against all unrighteousness"? [Against all] both small and great.
[2.] In this passage he intimates the lovingkindness of God towards man: and the teaching [of the Gospel] he calls "rain": and what he said above, "when for the time ye ought to be teachers" (c. v. 12), this he says here also. Indeed in many places the Scripture calls the teaching "rain." For (it says) "I will command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it" (Isa. v. 6), speaking of "the vineyard." The same which in another place it calls "a famine of bread, and a thirst of water." (Amos viii. 11.) And again, "The river of God is full of waters." (Ps. lxv. 9.)
"For land," he says, "which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it." Here he shows that they received and drank in the word, yea and often enjoyed this, and yet even so they were not profited. For if (he means) thou hadst not been tilled, if thou hadst enjoyed no rains, the evil would not have been so great. For (it is said) "If I had not come and spoken unto them they had not had sin." (John xv. 22.)But if thou hast often drunk and received [nourishment], wherefore hast thou brought forth other things instead of fruits? For (it is said) "I waited that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth thorns." (Isa. v. 2.)
Thou seest that everywhere the Scripture calleth sins "thorns." For David also saith, "I was turned into mourning when a thorn was fixed in me." (Ps. xxxii. 4, so LXX.) For it does not simply come on us, but is fixed in; and even if but a little of it remain in, even if we take it not out entirely, that little of itself in like manner causes pain, as in the case of a thorn. And why do I say, 'that little of itself'? Even after it has been taken out, it leaves therein for a long time the pain of the wound. And much care and treatment is necessary, that we may be perfectly freed from it. For it is not enough merely to take away the sin, it is necessary also to heal the wounded place.
But I fear however lest the things said apply to us more than to others. "For," he says, "the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it." We are ever drinking, ever hearing, but "when the sun is risen" (Matt. xiii. 6) we straightway lose our moisture, and therefore bring forth thorns. What then are the thorns? Let us hear Christ saying, that "the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful." (Matt. xiii. 22.)
[3.] "For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it," he says, "and bringeth forth meet herbs." Because nothing is so meet as purity of life, nothing so suitable as the best life, nothing so meet as virtue.
"And bringeth forth" (saith he) "herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God." Here he says that God is the cause of all things, giving the heathen a blow, who ascribed the production of fruits to the power of the earth. For (he says) it is not the hands of the husbandman which stir up the earth to bear fruits, but the command from God. Therefore he says, "receives blessing from God."
And see how in speaking of the thorns, he said not, "bringing forth(2) thorns," nor did he use this word expressive of what is useful; but what? "Bearing"(3) [literally "putting out"] "thorns," as if one should say, "forcing out," "throwing out."
"Rejected" (he says) "and nigh unto cursing." Oh! how great consolation in this word! For he said "nigh unto cursing," not "a curse." Now he that hath not yet fallen into a curse, but is come to be near [thereto], may also come to be far off [therefrom].
And not by this only did he encourage them, but also by what follows. For he did not say "rejected and nigh unto cursing," "which shall be burned," but what? "Whose end is to be burned," if he continue [such] (he means) unto the end. So that, if we cut out and burn the thorns, we shall be able to enjoy those good things innumerable and to become approved, and to partake of blessing.
And with good reason did he call sin "a thistle,"(4) saying "that which beareth thorns and thistles"; for on whatever side you lay hold on it, it wounds and stings, and it is unpleasant even to look at.
[4.] Having therefore sufficiently rebuked them, and alarmed and wounded them, he in turn heals them, so as not to cast them down too much, and make them supine. For he that strikes one that is "dull," makes him more dull. So then he neither flatters them throughout, test he should make them supine, nor does he wound them throughout, but having inserted a little to wound them, he applies much to heal in what follows.
For what does he say? We speak not these things, as having condemned you, nor as thinking you to be full of thorns, but fearing test this should come to pass. For it is better to terrify you by words, that ye may not suffer by the realities. And this is specially of Paul's wisdom.
Moreover he did not say, We think, or, we conjecture, or, we expect, or, we hope, but what? (Ver. 9) "But beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak." Which word he also used in writing to the Galatians: "But I am persuaded of you in the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded." (Gal. v. 10.) For in that instance, inasmuch as they were greatly to be condemned, and he could not praise them from things present, he does it from things future ("that ye will be none otherwise minded," he says): he said not, ye are, but "ye will be none otherwise minded." But here he encourages them from things present. "We are persuaded better things of you, beloved, and things that accompany to salvation, though we thus speak." And since he was not able to say so much from things present, he confirms his consolation from things past; and says,
Ver. 10. "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work, and the love, which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have ministered unto the saints and do minister." O how did he here restore their spirit, and give them fresh strength, by reminding them of former things, and bringing them to the necessity of not supposing that God had forgotten. (For he cannot but sin who is not fully assured concerning his hope, and says that God is unrighteous. Accordingly he obliged them by all means to look forward to those future things. For one who despairs of present things, and has, given up exerting himself, may be restored by [the prospect of] things future.) As he himself also said in writing to the Galatians, "Ye did run well" (Gal. v. 7): and again, "Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain." (Gal. iii. 4.)
And as in this place he puts the praise with the reproof, saying, "When for the time ye ought to be teachers" (c. v. 12), so also there, "I marvel that ye are so soon removed." (Gal. i. 6.) With the reproof is the praise. For respecting great things we marvel, when they fail. Thou seest that praise is concealed under the accusation and the blame. Nor does he say this concerning himself only, but also concerning all. For he said not, I am persuaded, but "we are persuaded better things of you," even good things (he means). He says this either in regard to matters of conduct, or to the recompense. In the next place, having said above, that it is "rejected and nigh unto a curse," and that it "shall be for burning," he says, we do not by any means speak this of you. "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work, and love." (Ver. 10.)
[5.] Why then did we say these things? (Ver. 11, 12) "But we desire that everyone of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end; that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises."
"We desire," he says, and we do not therefore merely labor for, or even so far as words go, wish this. But what? "We desire" that ye should hold fast to virtue, not as condemning your former conduct (he means), but fearing for the future. And he did not say, 'not as condemning your former conduct, but your present; for ye have fainted, ye are become too indolent'; but see how gently he indicated it, and did not wound them.
For what does he say? "But we desire that every, one of you do show the same diligence unto the end." For this is the admirable part of Paul's wisdom, that he does not expressly show that they "had" given in, that they "had" become negligent. For when he says, "We desire that every one of you"--it is as if one should say, I wish thee to be always in earnest; and such as thou weft before, such to be now also, and for the time to come. For this made his reproof more gentle and easy to be received.
And he did not say, "I will," which would have been expressive of the authority of a teacher, but what is expressive of the affection of a father, and what is more than "willing," "we desire." All but saying, Pardon us, even if we say what is distasteful.
"We desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of your hope unto the end." Hope (he means) carries us through: it recovers us again. Be not wearied out, do not despair, lest your hope be in vain. For he that worketh good hopeth also good, and never despairs of himself.
"That ye may not become dull." Still "become"; and yet he said above, "seeing ye are become dull of hearing." (c. v. 11.) Observe however how he limited the dullness to the hearing. And here he hints the very same thing; instead of that ye may not continue in it,' he says [this]. But again he leads on to that future time for which they were not yet responsible; saying in effect "that ye may not become too slothful": since for that which is not yet come we could not be responsible. For he who in regard to the present time is exhorted to be in earnest, as being remiss, will perhaps become even more slothful, but he who is exhorted with reference to the future, not so.
"We desire" (he says) "that every one of you." Great is his affection for them: he cares equally for great and small; moreover he knows all, and overlooks no one, but shows the same tender care for each, and equal value for all: from which cause also he the rather persuaded them to receive what was distasteful in his words.
"That ye be not slothful," he says. For as inactivity hurts the body, so also inactivity as to what is good renders the soul more supine and feeble.
[6.] "But followers" (he says) "of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises." And who they are, he tells afterwards. He said before, "Imitate your own former well-doings." Then, lest they should say, What? He leads them back to the Patriarch: bringing before them examples of well-doing indeed from their own history, but of the thought of being forsaken, from the Patriarch; that they might not suppose that they were disregarded and forsaken as worthy of no account, but might know that it is [the portion] of the very noblest men to make the journey of life through trials; and that God has thus dealt with great and admirable men.
Now we ought (he says) to bear all things with patience: for this also is believing: whereas if He say that He gives and thou immediately receivest, how hast thou also believed? Since in that case this is no longer of thy faith, but of Me, the Giver. But if I say that I give, and give after an hundred years, and thou hast not despaired; then hast thou accounted Me worthy to be believed, then thou hast the right opinion concerning Me. Thou seest that oftentimes unbelief arises not from want of hope only, but also from faintheartedness, and want of patience, not from condemning him who made the promise.
"For God" (he says) "is not unrighteous to forget your love" and the zeal "which ye have showed toward His Name, in that ye have ministered unto the saints, and do minister." He testifies great things of them, not deeds only; but deeds done with alacrity, which he says also in another place, "and not only so, but they gave themselves also to the Lord and to us." (2 Cor. viii. 5.)
"Which" (he says) "ye have showed toward His Name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister." See how again he soothes them, by adding "and do minister." Still even at this time (he says) ye are ministering, and he raises them up by showing that they had done [what they did] not to them [the saints], but to God. "Which ye have showed" (he says); and he said not "unto the saints," but "towards God," for this is "toward His Name." It is for His Name's sake (he means) that ye have done all. He therefore who has the enjoyment from you of so great zeal and love, will never despise you nor forget you.
[7.] Hearing these things, let us, I beseech you, "minister to the saints." For every believer is a saint in that he is a believer. Though he be a person living in the world, he is a saint. "For" (he says) "the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife by the husband." (1 Cor. vii. 14.) See how the faith makes the saintship. If then we see even a secular person in misfortune, let us stretch out a hand [to him]. Let us not be zealous for those only who dwell in the mountains; they are indeed saints both in manner of life and in faith; these others however are saints by their faith, and many of them also in manner of life. Let us not, if we see a monk [cast] into prison, in that case go in; but if it be a secular person, refuse to go in. He also is a saint and a brother.
What then (you say) if he be unclean and polluted? Listen to Christ saying, "Judge not that ye be not judged." (Matt. vii. 1.) Do thou act for GOD'S sake. Nay, what am I saying? Even if we see a heathen in misfortune, we ought to show kindness to him, and to every man without exception who is in misfortunes, and much more to a believer who is in the world. Listen to Paul, saying, "Do good unto all men, but especially to those who are of the household of faith." (Gal. vi. 10.)
But I know not whence this [notion] has been introduced, or whence this custom hath prevailed. For he that only seeks after the solitaries, and is willing to do good to them alone, and with regard to others on the contrary is over-curious in his enquiries, and says, 'unless he be worthy, unless he be righteous, unless he work miracles, I stretch out no hand'; [such an one] has taken away the greater part of charity, yea and in time he will in turn destroy the very thing itself. And yet that is charity, [which is shown] towards sinners, towards the guilty. For this is charity, not the pitying those who have done well, but those who have done wrong.
[8.] And that thou mayest understand this, listen to the Parable: "A certain man" (it is said) "went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves" (Luke x. 30, &c.); and when they had beaten him, they left him by the way- side, having badly bruised him. A certain Levite came, and when he saw him, he passed by; A priest came, and when he saw him, he hastened past; a certain Samaritan came, and bestowed great care upon him. For he "bound up his wounds" (Luke x. 34), dropped oil on them, set him upon his ass, "brought him to the inn, said to the host, Take care of him" (Luke x. 35); and (observe his great liberality), "and I," he says, "will give thee whatsoever thou shalt expend." Who then is his neighbor? "He," it is said, "that showed mercy on him. Go thou then also," He says, "and do likewise." (Luke x. 37.) And see what a parable He spake. He said not that a Jew did [so and so] to a Samaritan, but that a Samaritan showed all that liberality. Having then heard these things, let us not care only for "those that are of the household of faith" (Gal. vi. 10), and neglect others. So then also thou, if thou see any one in affliction, be not curious to enquire further. His being in affliction involves a just claim on thy aid. For if when thou seest an ass choking thou raisest him up, and dost not curiously enquire whose he is, much more about a man one ought not to be over-curious in enquiring whose he is. He is God's, be he heathen or be he Jew; since even if he is an unbeliever, still he needs help. For if indeed it had been committed to thee to enquire and to judge, thou wouldst have well said thus, but, as it is, his misfortune does not suffer thee to search out these things. For if even about men in good health it is not right to be over-curious, nor to be a busybody in other men's matters, much less about those that are in affliction.
[9.] But on another view what [shall we say]? Didst thou see him in prosperity, in high esteem, that thou shouldst say that he is wicked and worthless? But if thou seest him in affliction, do not say that he is wicked. For when a man is in high credit, we fairly say these things; but when he is in calamity, and needs help, it is not right to say that he is wicked. For this is cruelty, inhumanity, and arrogance. Tell me what was ever more iniquitous than the Jews. But nevertheless while God punished them, and that justly, yea, very justly, yet He approved of those who had compassion on them, and those who rejoiced over them He punished. (Amos v; 6.) For "they were not grieved," it is said, "at the affliction of Joseph."
And again it is said "Redeem [Ransom] those who are ready to be slain: spare not." (Prov. xxiv. 11.) (He said not, enquire curiously, and learn who he is; and yet, for the most part, they who are led away to execution are wicked,) for this especially is charity. For he that doeth good to a friend, doeth it not altogether for God's sake: but he that [doeth good] to one unknown, this man acts purely for God's sake. "Do not spare" thy money, even if it be necessary to spend all, yet give.
But we, when we see persons in extreme distress, bewailing themselves, suffering things more grievous than ten thousand deaths, and oftentimes unjustly, we[I say] are sparing of our money, and unsparing of our brethren; we are careful of lifeless things, but neglect the living soul. And yet Paul says, "in meekness instruct those that oppose themselves, if peradventure God should give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil who are taken captive by him, at His will." (2 Tim. ii. 25, 26.) "If peradventure," he says; thou seest of how great long-suffering the word is full.
Let us also imitate Him, and despair of no one.
For the fishermen too, when they have cast many times [suppose it], have not succeeded; but afterwards having cast again, have gained all. So we also expect that ye will all at once show to us ripe fruit. For the husbandman too, after he has sown, waits one day or two days, and is a long while in expectation: and all at once he sees the fruits springing up on every side. This we expect will take place in your case also by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and also to the Holy Ghost be glory, might, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.