ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
HOMILIES ON FIRST THESSALONIANS.
[Translated by the Rev. James Tweed, M.A., of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge; revised by the Rev. John A. Broadus, D.D., President of the Southern Baptist
Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.]
HOMILY I: 1 THESSALONIANS i. 1-3.
"Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy, unto the Church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you, and peace.(1) We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father."
WHEREFORE then, when writing to the Ephesians,(2) and having Timothy with him, did he not include him with himself (in his salutation), known as he was to them and admired, for he says, "Ye know the proof of him, that as a child serveth the father, so he served with me in the Gospel" (Phil. ii. 22); and again, "I have no man like-minded who will care truly for your state" (ver. 20); but here he does associate him with himself? It seems to me, that he was about to send him immediately, and it was superfluous for him to write, who would overtake the letter. For he says, "Him therefore I hope to send forthwith." (Phil. ii. 23.) But here it was not so; but he had just returned to him, so that he naturally joined in the letter. For he says, "Now when Timothy came from you unto us." (1 Thess. iii. 6.) But why does he place Silvanus before him,(3) though he testifies to his numberless good qualities, and prefers him above all? Perhaps Timothy wished and requested him to do so from his great humility; for when he saw his teacher so humble-minded, as to associate his disciple with himself, he would much the more have desired this, and eagerly sought it. For he says,
"Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy, unto the Church of the Thessalonians." Here he gives himself no title--not "an Apostle," not "a Servant"; I suppose, because the men were newly instructed, and had not yet had any experience of him,(4) he does not apply the title; and it was as yet the beginning of his preaching to them.
"To the Church of the Thessalonians," he says. And well. For it is probable there were few, and they not yet formed into a body; on this account he consoles them with the name of the Church. For where much time had passed, and the congregation of the Church was large, he does not apply this term. But--because the name of the Church is for the most part a name of multitude, and of a system(1) now compacted, on this account he calls them by that name.
"In God the Father," he says, "and the Lord Jesus Christ." "Unto the Church of the Thessalonians," he says, "which is in God." Behold again the expression, "in,"(2) applied both to the Father and to the Son. For there were many assemblies,(3) both Jewish and Grecian; but he says, "to the (Church) that is in God." It is a great dignity, and to which there is nothing equal, that it is "in God." God grant therefore that this Church may be so addressed! But I fear that it is far from that appellation. For if any one were the servant of sin, he cannot be said to be "in God." If any one walks not according to God, he cannot be said to be "in God."(4)
"Grace be unto you, and peace."(5) Do you perceive that the very commencement of his Epistle is with encomiums? "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers." For to give thanks to God for them is the act of one testifying to their great advancement, when they are not only praised themselves, but God also is thanked for them, as Himself having done it all. He teaches them also to be moderate, all but saying, that it is all of the power of God. That he gives thanks for them, therefore, is on account of their good conduct, but that he remembers them in his prayers, proceeds from his love towards them. Then as he often does, he says that he not only remembers them in his prayers, but apart from his prayers. "Remembering without ceasing," he says, "your work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father." What is remembering without ceasing? Either remembering before God and the Father, or remembering your labor of love that is before God and the Father, or simply, "Remembering you without ceasing." Then again, that you may not think that this "remembering you without ceasing" is said simply, he has added, "before our God and Father." And because no one amongst men was praising their actions, no one giving them any reward, he says this, "You labor before God." What is "the work of faith"? That nothing has turned aside your steadfastness. For this is the work of faith. If thou believest, suffer all things; if thou dost not suffer, thou dost not believe. For are not the things promised such, that he who believes would choose to suffer even ten thousand deaths? The kingdom of heaven is set before him, and immortality, and eternal life. He therefore who believes will suffer all things. Faith then is shown through his works. Justly might one have said, not merely did you believe, but through your works you manifested it, through your steadfastness, through your zeal.
And your labor "of love." Why? what labor is it to love? Merely to love is no labor at all. But to love genuinely is great labor. For tell me, when a thousand things are stirred up that would draw us from love, and we hold out against them all, is it not labor? For what did not these men suffer, that they might not revolt from their love? Did not they that warred against the Preaching go to Paul's host, and not having found him, drag Jason before the rulers of the city? (Acts xvii. 5, 6.) Tell me, is this a slight labor, when the seed had not yet taken root, to endure so great a storm, so many trials? And they demanded security of him. And having given security, he says, Jason sent away Paul.(6) Is this a small thing, tell me? Did not Jason expose himself to danger for him? and this he calls a labor of love, because they were thus bound to him.
And observe: first he mentions their good actions, then his own, that he may not seem to boast, nor yet to love them by anticipation.(7) "And patience," he says. For that persecution was not confined to one time, but was continual, and they warred not only with Paul, the teacher, but with his disciples also. For if they were thus affected towards those who wrought miracles, those venerable men; what think you were their feelings towards those who dwelt among them, their fellow-citizens, who had all of a sudden revolted from them? Wherefore this also he testifies of them, saying," For ye became imitators of the Churches of God which are in Judaea."
"And of hope," he says, "in our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father." For all these things proceed from faith and hope, so that what happened to them showed not their fortitude only, but that they believed with full assurance in the rewards laid up for them. For on this account God permitted that persecutions should arise immediately, that no one might say, that the Preaching was established lightly or by flattery, and that their fervor might be shown, and that it was not human persuasion, but the power of God, that persuaded the souls of the believers, so that they were prepared even for ten thousand deaths, which would not have been the case, if the Preaching had not immediately been deeply fixed and remained unshaken.
Ver. 4, 5. "Knowing, brethren beloved of God, your election, how that our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; even as ye know what manner of men we showed ourselves among you for your sake."
Knowing what? How "we showed ourselves among you"? Here he also touches upon his own good actions, but covertly. For he wishes first to enlarge upon their praises, and what he says is something of this sort. I knew that you were men of great and noble sort, that you were of the Elect. For this reason we also endure all things for your sake. For this, "what manner of men we showed ourselves among you," is the expression of one showing that with much zeal and much vehemence we were ready to give up our lives for your sake; and for this thanks are due not to us, but to you, because ye were elect. On this account also he says elsewhere, "And these things I endure for the Elect's sake." (2 Tim. ii. 10.) For what would not one endure for the sake of God's beloved ones? And having spoken of his own part, he all but says, For if you were both beloved and elect, we suffer all things with reason. For not only did his praise of them confirm them, but his reminding them that they too themselves had displayed a fortitude corresponding to their zeal: he says,
Ver. 6. "And ye became imitators of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost."
Strange! what an encomium is here! The disciples have suddenly become teachers! They not only heard the word, but they quickly arrived at the same height with Paul. But this is nothing; for see how he exalts them, saying, "Ye became imitators of the Lord." How? "Having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost." Not merely with affliction, but with much affliction. And this we may learn from the Acts of the Apostles, how they raised a persecution against them. (Acts xvii. 5- 8.) And they troubled all the rulers of the city, and they instigated the city against them. And it is not enough to say, ye were afflicted indeed, and believed, and that grieving, but even rejoicing. Which also the Apostles did: "Rejoicing," it is said, "that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name." (Acts v. 41.) For it is this that is admirable. Although neither is that a slight matter, in any way to bear afflictions. But this now was the part of men surpassing human nature, and having, as it were, a body incapable of suffering.
But how were they imitators of the Lord? Because He also endured many sufferings, but rejoiced. For He came to this willingly. For our sakes He emptied Himself. He was about to be spit upon, to be beaten and crucified, and He so rejoiced in suffering these things, that He said to the Father, "Glorify Me." (John xvii. 1-5.)
"With joy of the Holy Ghost," he says. That no one may say, how speakest thou of "affliction"? how "of joy"? how can both meet in one? he has added, "with joy of the Holy Ghost." The affliction is in things bodily, and the joy in things spiritual. How? The things which happened to them were grievous, but not so the things which sprang out of them, for the Spirit does not allow it. So that it is possible both for him who suffers, not to rejoice, when one suffers for his sins; and being beaten to take pleasure, when one suffers for Christ's sake. For such is the joy of the Spirit. In return for the things which appear to be grievous, it brings out delight. They have afflicted you, he says, and persecuted you, but the Spirit did not forsake you, even in those circumstances. As the Three Children in the fire were refreshed with dew, so also were you refreshed in afflictions. But as there it was not of the nature of the fire to sprinkle dew, but of the "whistling wind," so also here it was not of the nature of affliction to produce joy, but of the suffering for Christ's sake, and of the Spirit bedewing them, and in the furnace of temptation setting them at ease. Not merely with joy, he says, but "with much joy." For this is of the Holy Spirit.
Ver. 7. "So that ye became ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia."
And yet it was later that he went to them. But ye so shone, he says, that ye became teachers of those who received (the word) before you. And this is like the Apostle. For he did not say, so that ye became ensamples in regard to believing, but ye became an ensample to those who already believed; how one ought to believe in God, ye taught, who from the very beginning entered into your conflict.
"And in Achaia," he says; that is, in Greece.
Do you see how great a thing is zeal? that it does not require time, nor delay, nor procrastination, but it is sufficient only to venture one's self, and all is fulfilled. Thus then though coming in later to the Preaching, they became teachers of those who were before them.
MORAL. Let no one therefore despair, even though he has lost much time, and has done nothing. It is possible for him even in a little while to do so much, as he never has done in all his former time. For if he who before did not believe, shone so much at the beginning, how much more those who have already believed! Let no one, again, upon this consideration be remiss, because he perceives that it is possible in a short time to recover everything. For the future is uncertain, and the Day of the Lord is a thief, setting upon us suddenly when we are sleeping. But if we do not sleep, it will not set upon us as a thief, nor carry us off unprepared. For if we watch and be sober, it will not set upon us as a thief, but as a royal messenger, summoning us to the good things prepared for us. But if we sleep, it comes upon us as a thief. Let no one therefore sleep, nor be inactive in virtue, for that is sleep. Do you not know how, when we sleep, our goods are not in safety, how easy they are to be plotted against? But when we are awake, there needs not so much guarding. When we sleep, even with much guarding we often perish. There are doors, and bolts, and guards, and outer guards, and the thief has come upon us.
Why then do I say this? Because, if we wake we shall not need the help of others; but if we sleep, the help of others will profit us nothing, but even with this we perish. It is a good thing to enjoy the prayer of the Saints, but it is when we ourselves also are on the alert. And what need, you say, have I of another's prayer, if I am on the alert myself. And in sooth, do not place yourself in a situation to need it; I do not wish that you should; but we are always in need of it, if we think rightly. Paul did not say, what need have I of prayer? and yet those who prayed were not worthy of him, or rather not equal to him; and you say, what need have I of prayer? Peter did not say, What need have I of prayer, for "prayer," it says, "was made earnestly of the Church unto God for him." (Acts xii. 5.) And thou sayest, What need have I of prayer? On this account thou needest it, because thou thinkest that thou hast no need. Yea, though thou become as Paul, thou hast need of prayer. Do not exalt thyself, lest thou be humbled.
But, as I said, if we be active also ourselves, the prayers for us avail too. Hear Paul saying, "For I know that this shall turn to my salvation, through your supplication, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ." (Phil. i. 19.) And again, "That for the gift bestowed upon us by means of many, thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf." (2 Cor. i. 11.) And thou sayest, what need have I of prayer? But if we be idle, no one will be able to profit us. What did Jeremiah profit the Jews? Did he not thrice draw nigh to God, and the third time hear, "Pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer, for I will not hear thee"? (Jer. vii. 16.) What did Samuel profit Saul? Did he not mourn for him even to his last day, and not merely pray for him only? What did he profit the Israelites? Did he not say, "God forbid that I should sin in ceasing to pray for you"? (1 Sam. xii. 23.) Did they not all perish? Do prayers then, you say, profit nothing? They profit even greatly: but it is when we also do something. For prayers indeed cooperate and assist, but a man cooperates with one that is operating, and assists one that is himself also working. But if thou remainest idle, thou wilt receive no great benefit.
For if prayers had power to bring us to the kingdom while we do nothing, why do not all the Greeks become Christians? Do we not pray for all the world? Did not Paul also do this? Do we not intreat that all may be converted? Why do not the wicked become good without contributing anything of themselves? Prayers, then, profit greatly, when we also contribute our own parts.
Would you learn how much prayers have profited? consider, I pray, Cornelius, Tabitha. (Acts x. 3 and ix. 36.) Hear also Jacob saying to Laban, "Except the Fear of my father had been with me, surely thou hadst now sent me away empty." (Gen. xxxi. 45.) Hear also God again, saying, "I will defend this city for Mine own sake, and for My servant David's sake." (2 Kings ix. 34.) But when? In the time of Hezekiah, who was righteous. Since if prayers availed even for the extremely wicked, why did not God say this also when Nebuchadnezzar came, and why did He give up the city? Because wickedness availed more. Again, Samuel himself also prayed for the Israelites, and prevailed. But when? When they also pleased God, then they put their enemies to flight. And what need, you say, of prayer from another, when I myself please God? Never, O man, say this. There is need, aye, and need of much prayer. For hear God saying concerning the friends of Job; "And he shall pray for you, and your sin shall be forgiven you." (Job xlii. 8.) Because they had sinned indeed, but not a great sin. But this just man, who then saved his friends by prayer, in the season of the Jews was not able to save the Jews who were perishing. And that you may learn this, hear God saying through the prophet; "If Noah, Daniel, and Job stood, they shall not deliver their sons and their daughters." (Ezek. xiv. 14, 16.) Because wickedness prevailed. And again, "Though Moses and Samuel stood." (Jer. xv. 1.)
And see how this is said to the two Prophets, because both prayed for them, and did not prevail. For Ezekiel says, "Ah Lord, dost thou blot out the residue of Israel?" (Ezek. ix. 8.) Then showing that He does this justly, He shows him their sins; and showing that not through despising him does He refuse to accept his supplication for them, he says, Even these things are enough even to persuade thee, that not despising thee, but on account of their many sins, I do not accept thy supplication. Nevertheless He adds, "Though. Noah, Job, and Daniel stood." (From Ezek. xiv.) And with good reason does He the rather say this to him, because it is he who suffered so many things. Thou badest me, he says, eat upon dung, and I ate upon it. Thou badest me, and I shaved my head. Thou badest me, and I lay upon one side. Thou badest me go out through a hole in the wall, bearing a burden, and I went out. Thou tookest away my wife, and badest me not mourn, and I did not mourn, but bore it with fortitude. (Ezek. xxiv. 18.) Ten thousand other things have I wrought for their sake: I entreat for them, and dost Thou not comply? Not from despising thee, says he, do I do this, but though Noah, Job, and Daniel were there, and were entreating for sons and daughters, I would not comply.
And again to Jeremiah, who suffered less from the commandments of God, but more from their wickedness, what does He say? "Seest thou not what these do?" (Jer. vii. 17.) "Yea," he says, "they do so--but do Thou do it for my sake." On this account He says to him, "Though Moses and Samuel stood." Their first lawgiver, who often delivered them from dangers, who had said, "If now thou forgivest their sins, forgive it; but if not, blot me out also." (Ex. xxxii. 32, Sept.) If therefore he were now alive, and spoke thus, he would not have prevailed,--nor would Samuel, again, who himself also delivered them, and who from his earliest youth was admired. For to the former indeed I said, that I conversed with him as a friend with a friend, and not by dark sayings. And of the latter I said, that in his first youth I was revealed to him, and that on his account, being prevailed upon, I opened the prophecy that had been shut up. For "the word of the Lord," it is said, "was precious in those days; there was no open vision." (1 Sam. iii. 1.) If these men, therefore, stood before Me, they would profit nothing. And of Noah He says, "Noah was a righteous man, and perfect in his generations." (Gen. vi. 9.) And concerning Job, He was "blameless, just, true, fearing God." (Job i. 1, Sept.) And concerning Daniel, whom they even thought a God.; and they will not deliver, says he, their sons and daughters. Knowing these things, therefore, let us neither despise the prayers of the Saints, nor throw everything upon them: that we may not, on the one hand, be indolent and live carelessly; nor on the other deprive ourselves of a great advantage. But let us both beseech them to pray and lift up the hand for us, and let us adhere to virtue; that we may be able to obtain the blessings promised to those who love Him by the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, &c.
HOMILY II: 1 Thessalonians i. 8-10.
"For from you hath sounded forth the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is gone forth; so that we need not to speak anything. For they themselves report concerning us what manner of entering in we had unto you; and how ye turned unto God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from Heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivereth us from the wrath to come."
AS a sweet-smelling ointment keeps not its fragrance shut up in itself, but diffuses it afar, and scenting the air with its perfume, so conveys it also to the senses of the neighbors; so too illustrious and admirable men do not Shut up their virtue within themselves, but by their good report benefit many, and render them better. Which also then happened. Where fore he said, "So that ye became ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia." "For from you," he says, "hath sounded forth the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is gone forth." Ye have filled, therefore, all your neighbors with instruction, and the world with wonder. For this is meant by the expression, "in every place." And he has not said, your faith is noised abroad, but "has sounded out"; as every place near is filled with the sound of a loud trumpet, so the report of your manfulness is loud, and sounding even like that, is sufficient to fill the world, and to fall with equal sound upon all that are round about. For great actions are more loudly celebrated there, where they have taken place; afar off indeed they are celebrated, but not so much.
But in your case it was not so, but the sound of good report was spread abroad in every part of the earth. And whence know we, says one, that the words were not hyperbolical? For this nation of the Macedonians, before the coming of Christ, was renowned, and celebrated everywhere more than the Romans. And the Romans were admired on this account, that they took them captive. For the actions of the Macedonian king exceeded all report, who, setting out from a little city indeed, yet subdued the world. Wherefore also the Prophet saw him, a winged leopard, showing his swiftness, his vehemence, his fiery nature, his suddenly in a manner flying over the whole world with the trophies of his victory. And they say, that hearing from a certain philosopher, that there were infinite worlds, he groaned bitterly, that when they were numberless, he had not conquered even one. So high- minded was he, and high-souled, and celebrated everywhere. And with the fame of the king the glory of the nation also kept pace. For he was called "Alexander, the Macedonian." So that what took place there was also naturally much talked of. For nothing can be concealed that relates to the illustrious. The Macedonians then were not inferior to the Romans.
And this has also arisen from their vehemence. For as if he were speaking of something living, he introduces the word "gone forth"; so vehement and energetic was their faith. "So that we need not to speak anything," says he, "for they themselves report concerning us what entering in we had unto you." They do not wait to hear from us, but those who were not present, and have not seen, anticipate those who were present, and have seen your good deeds. So manifest were they everywhere made by report. We shall not therefore need, by relating your actions, to bring them to equal zeal. For the things which they ought to have heard from, us, these they themselves talk of, anticipating: us. And yet in the case of such there is frequently envy, but the exceeding greatness of the thing conquered even this, and they are the heralds of your conflicts. And though left behind, not even so are they silenced, but they are beforehand with us. And being such, it is not possible for them to disbelieve our report.
What means, "What manner of entering in we had unto you"? That it was full of dangers, and numberless deaths, but that none of these things troubled you. But as if nothing had happened, so you adhered to us; as if ye had suffered no evil, but had enjoyed infinite good, so you received us after these things. For this was the second entering. They went to Beroea, they were persecuted, and when they came after this they so received them, as though they had been honored by these also, so that they even laid down their lives for them. The expression, "What manner of entering in we had," is complicated, and contains an encomium both of them and of themselves. But he himself has turned this to their advantage. "And how," he says, "ye turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God"; that is, that ye did it readily, that ye did it with much eagerness, that it did not require much labor to make you. "In order to serve," says he, "a living and true God."
Here also he introduced an exhortation, which is the part of one who would make his discourse less offensive. "And to wait," he says, "for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivereth us from the wrath to come." "And to wait," he says, "for His Son from heaven"; Him that was crucified, Him that was buried; to wait for Him from heaven. And how "from heaven"? "Whom He raised from the dead." You see all things at the same time; both the Resurrection, and the Ascension, and the second Coming, the Judgment, the retribution of the just, the punishment of the wicked. "Jesus," he says, "which delivereth us from the wrath to come." This is at once comfort, and exhortation, and encouragement. For if He raised Him from the dead, and He is in heaven, and thence will come, (and ye believed in Him; for if ye had not believed in Him, ye would not have suffered so much), this of itself is sufficient comfort. These shall suffer punishment, which he says in his second epistle, and you will have no small consolation.
And to "wait," he says, "for His Son from heaven." The terrible things are in hand, but the good things are in the future, when Christ shall come from heaven. See how much hope is required, in that He who was crucified has been raised, that He has been taken up into heaven, that He will come to judge the quick and the dead.
Chap. ii. 1, 2. "For yourselves, brethren, know our entering in unto you, that it hath not been found vain: but having suffered before, and been shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we waxed bold in our God to speak unto you the Gospel of God in much conflict."
Great indeed were your actions also, but yet neither did we have recourse to human speech. But what he says above, that also he repeats here, that from both sides is shown what was the nature of the Preaching, from the miracles, and from the resolution of the preachers, and from the zeal and fervor of those who received it. "For yourselves," he says," know our entering in unto you, that it hath not been found vain," that is, that it was not according to man, nor of any common kind. For being fresh from great dangers, and deaths, and stripes, we immediately fell into dangers. "But," he says, "having suffered before, and been shamefully entreated; as ye know, at Philippi, we waxed bold in our God." Do you see how again he refers the whole to God? "To speak unto you," says he, "the Gospel of God in much conflict." It is not possible to say, that there indeed we were in danger, but here we are not; yourselves also know, how great was the danger, with how much contention we were among you. Which also he says in his Epistle to the Corinthians; "And I was with you in weakness," and in labor, "and in fear, and in much trembling." (1 Cor. ii. 3.)
Ver. 3, 4. "For our exhortation is not of error nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: but even as we have been approved of God to be entrusted with the Gospel, so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God which proveth our hearts."
Do you see that, as I said, from their perseverance he makes a proof that the Preaching is divine? For, if it were not so, if it were a deceit, we should not have endured so many dangers, which allowed us not even to take breath. You were in tribulation, we were in tribulation. What then was it? Unless somewhat of things future had excited us, unless we had been persuaded that there is a good hope, we should not have been filled with the more alacrity by suffering. For who would have chosen for the sake of what we have here to endure so many sufferings, and to live a life of anxiety, and full of dangers? For whom would they persuade? For are not these things of themselves enough to trouble the disciples, when they see their teachers in dangers? But this was not your case.
"For our exhortation," that is, our teaching, "is not of error." The matter, he says, is not guile nor deceit, that we should give it up. It is not for things abominable, as the tricks of jugglers and sorcerers. "And of uncleanness," says he, "nor in guile," nor for any insurrection, like what Theudas did. "But even as we have been approved of God to be entrusted with the Gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God." Do you see, that it is not vainglory? "But God," he says, "which proveth our hearts." We do nothing for the sake of pleasing men, he says. For on whose account should we do these things? Then having praised them, he says, Not as wishing to please men, nor seeking the honors that are from men, he adds, "But as we have been approved of God to be entrusted with the Gospel." Unless He had seen that we were free from every worldly consideration, He would not have chosen us. As therefore He approved us, such we remain, as having been "approved of God." Whence did he approve us, and entrust us with the Gospel? We appeared to God approved, so we remain. It is a proof of our virtue, that we are entrusted with the Gospel; if there had been anything bad in us, God would not have approved us. But the expression that He approved us, does not here imply search. But what we do upon proving, that he does without proving. That is, as he found us proof, and trusted us, so we speak; as it is reasonable that those should, who are approved and entrusted to be worthy of the Gospel, so we speak, "not as pleasing men," that is, not on your account do we do all these things. Because previously he had praised them, that he might not bring his speech under suspicion, he says,
Ver. 5, 6. "For neither at any time were we found using words of flattery, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness, God is witness; nor seeking glory of men, neither from you, nor from others, when we might have been burdensome, as Apostles of Christ."
For "neither at any time," he says, "were we found using words of flattery"; that is, we did not flatter, which is the part of deceivers, who wish to get possession and to domineer. No one can say that we flattered in order to rule, nor that we had recourse to it for the sake of wealth. Of this, which was manifest, he afterwards calls them to be witnesses. "Whether we flattered," he says, "ye know." But as to what was uncertain, namely, whether it were in the way of covetousness, he calls God to witness. "Nor seeking glory of men, neither from you, nor from others, when we might have been burdensome, as Apostles of Christ;" that is, not seeking after honors either, nor boasting ourselves, nor requiring attendance of guards. And yet even if we had done this, we should have done nothing out of character. For if persons sent forth by kings are nevertheless in honor, much more might we be. And he has riot said, that "we were dishonored," nor that "we did not enjoy honors," which would have been to reproach them, but "we did not seek them." We therefore, who, when we might have sought them, sought them not, even when the preaching required it, how should we do anything for the sake of glory? And yet even if we had sought them, not even in that case would there have been any blame. For it is fit that those men who are sent forth from God, as ambassadors now coming from heaven, should enjoy great honor.
But with an excess of forbearance we do none of these things, that we may stop the mouths of the adversaries. And it cannot be said, that to you we act thus, but not so others. For thus also he said in his Epistle to the Corinthians: "For ye bear with a man if he bringeth you into bondage, if he devoureth you, if he taketh you captive, if he exalteth himself, if he smiteth you on the face." (2 Cot. xi. 20.) And again, "His bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account." (2 Cor. x. 10.) And again, "Forgive me this wrong." (2 Cor. xii. 13.) He shows there also that he was exceeding humble from his suffering so many things. But here he also says concerning money, "when we might have been burdensome, as Apostles of Christ."
Ver. 7, 8. "But we were gentle in the midst of you, as when a nurse cherisheth her own children: even so, being affectionately desirous of you, we were well pleased to impart unto you, not the Gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were become very dear to us."
"But we were gentle," he says; we exhibited nothing that was offensive or troublesome, nothing displeasing, or boastful. And the expression "in the midst of you," is as if one should say, we were as one of you, not taking the higher lot. "As when a nurse cherisheth her own children." So ought the teacher to be. Does the nurse flatter that she may obtain glory? Does she ask money of her little children? Is she offensive or burdensome to them? Are they not more indulgent to them than mothers? Here he shows his affection. "Even so, being affectionately desirous of you," he says, we are so bound to you, he says, and we not only take nothing of you, but if it be necessary even to impart to you our souls, we should not have refused. Tell me, then, is this of a human view? and who is so foolish as to say this? "We were well pleased to impart to you," he says, "not the Gospel of God only, but also our own souls." So that this is greater than the other. And what is the gain? For from the Gospel is gain, but to give our souls, is with respect to difficulty a greater thing than that. For merely to preach is not the same thing as to give the soul. For that indeed is more precious, but the latter is a matter of more difficulty. We were willing, he says, if it were possible, even to spend our souls upon you. And this we should have been willing to do; for if we had not been willing, we should not have endured the necessity. Since then he praised, and does praise, on this account he says, that, not seeking money, nor flattering you, nor desiring glory, do we do this. For observe; they had contended much, and so ought to be praised and admired even extraordinarily, that they might be more firm; the praise was suspicious. On this account he says all these things, by way of repelling the suspicion. And he also mentions the dangers. And again, that he may not be thought to speak of the dangers on this account, as if laboring for them, and claiming to be honored by them, therefore again, as he had to mention the dangers, he added, "Because ye were become very dear to us"; we would willingly have given our souls for you, because we were vehemently attached to you. The Gospel indeed we proclaim, because God commanded it; but so much do we love you, that, if it were possible, we would have given even our souls.
He who loves, ought so to love, that if he were asked even for his soul, and it were possible, he would not refuse it. I do not say "if he were asked," but so that he would even run to present him with the gift. For nothing, nothing can be sweeter than such love; nothing will fall out there that is grievous. Truly "a faithful friend is the medicine of life." (Ecclus. vi. 16.) Truly "a faithful friend is a strong defense." (Ib. 14.) For what will not a genuine friend perform? What pleasure will he not afford? what benefit? what security? Though you should name infinite treasures, none of them is comparable to a genuine friend. And first let us speak of the great delight of friendship itself. A friend rejoices at seeing his friend, and expands with joy. He is knit to him with an union of soul that affords unspeakable pleasure. And if he only calls him to remembrance, he is roused in mind, and transported.
I speak of genuine friends, men of one soul, who would even die for each other, who love fervently. Do not, thinking of those who barely love, who are table-companions, mere nominal friends, suppose that my discourse is refuted. If any one has a friend such as I speak of, he will acknowledge the truth of my words. He, though he sees his friend every day, is not satiated. For him he prays for the same things as for himself. I know one, who calling upon holy men in behalf of his friend, besought them to pray first for him, and then for himself. So dear a thing is a good friend, that times and places are loved on his account. For as bodies that are luminous spread their radiance to the neighboring places, so also friends leave a grace of their own in the places to which they have come. And oftentimes in the absence of friends, as we have stood on those places, we have wept, and remembering the days which we passed together, have sighed. It is not possible to represent by speech, how great a pleasure the intercourse with friends affords. But those only know, who have experience. From a friend we may both ask a favor, and receive one without suspicion. When they enjoin anything upon us, then we feel indebted to them; but when they are slow to do this, then we are sorrowful. We have nothing which is not theirs. Often despising all things here, on their account we are not willing to depart hence; and they are more longed for by us than the light.
For, in good truth, a friend is more to be longed for than the light; I speak of a genuine one. And wonder not: for it were better for us that the sun should be extinguished, than that we should be deprived of friends; better to live in darkness, than to be without friends. And I will tell you why. Because many who see the sun are in darkness, but they can never be even in tribulation, who abound in friends. I speak of spiritual friends, who prefer nothing to friendship. Such was Paul, who would willingly have given his own soul, even though not asked, nay would have plunged into hell(1) for them. With so ardent a disposition ought we to love.
I wish to give you an example of friendship. Friends, that is, friends according to Christ, surpass fathers and sons. For tell me not of friends of the present day, since this good thing also has past away with others. But consider, in the time of the Apostles, I speak not of the chief men, but of the believers themselves generally; "all," he says, "were of one heart and soul: and not one of them said that aught of the things which he possessed was his own ... and distribution was made unto each, according as any one had need." (Acts iv. 32, 35.) There were then no such words as "mine" and "thine." This is friendship, that a man should not consider his goods his own, but his neighbor's, that his possessions belong to another; that he should be as careful of his friend's soul,(2) as of his own; and the friend likewise.
And where is it possible, somebody says, that such an one should be found? Because we have not the will; for it is possible. If it were not possible, neither would Christ have commanded it; he would not have discoursed so much concerning love. A great thing is friendship, and how great, no one can learn, and no discourse represent, but experience itself. It is this(3) that has caused the heresies. This makes the Greeks to be Greeks. He who loves does not wish to command, nor to rule, but is rather obliged when he is ruled and commanded. He wishes rather to bestow a favor than to receive one, for he loves, and is so affected, as not having satisfied his desire. He is not so much gratified when good is done to him, as when he is doing good. For he wishes to oblige, rather than to be indebted to him; or rather he wishes both to be beholden to him, and to have him his debtor. And he wishes both to bestow favors, and not to seem to bestow them, but himself to be the debtor. I think that perhaps many of you do not understand what has been said. He wishes to be the first in bestowing benefits, and not to seem to be the first, but to be returning a kindness. Which God also has done in the case of men. He purposed to give His own Son for us; but that He might not seem to bestow a favor, but to be indebted to us, He commanded Abraham to offer his son,(4) that whilst doing a great kindness, He might seem to do nothing great.
For when indeed there is no love, we both upbraid men with our kindnesses and we exaggerate little ones; but when there is love, we both conceal them and wish to make the great appear small, that we may not seem to have our friend for a debtor, but ourselves to be debtors to him, in having him our debtor. I know that the greater part do not understand what is said, and the cause is, that I am speaking of a thing which now dwells in heaven. As therefore if I were speaking of any plant growing in India, of which no one had ever had any experience, no speech would avail to represent it, though I should utter ten thousand words: so also now whatever things I say, I say in vain, for no one will be able to understand me. This is a plant that is planted in heaven, having for its branches not heavy-clustered pearls, but a virtuous life, much more acceptable than they. What pleasure would you speak of, the foul and the honorable? But that of friendship excelleth them all, though you should speak of the sweetness of honey. For that satiates, but a friend never does, so long as he is a friend; nay, the desire of him rather increases, and such pleasure never admits of satiety. And a friend is sweeter than the present life. Many therefore after the death of their friends have not wished to live any longer. With a friend one would bear even banishment; but without a friend would not choose to inhabit even his own country. With a friend even poverty is tolerable, but without him both health and riches are intolerable. He has another self: I am straitened, because I cannot instance by an example. For I should in that case make it appear that what has been said is much less than it ought to be.
And these things indeed are so here. But from God the reward of friendship is so great, that it cannot be expressed. He gives a reward, that we may love one another, the thing for which we owe a reward. "Pray," He says, "and receive a reward," for that for which we owe a reward, because we ask for good things. "For that which you ask," He says, "receive a reward. Fast, and receive a reward. Be virtuous, and receive a reward," though you rather owe a reward. But as fathers, when they have made their children virtuous, then further give them a reward; for they are debtors, because they have afforded them a pleasure; so also God acts. "Receive a reward," He says, "if thou be virtuous, for thou delightest thy Father, and for this I owe thee a reward. But if thou be evil, not so: for thou provokest Him that begot thee." Let us not then provoke God, but let us delight Him, that we may obtain the kingdom of Heaven, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be the glory and the strength, world without end. Amen.
HOMILY III: 1 THESSALONIANS ii. 9--12.
"For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: for working night and day, that we might not burden any of you, we preached unto you the Gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and righteously and unblamably we behaved ourselves toward you that believe: as ye know how we dealt with each one of you, as a father with his own children, exhorting you, and encouraging you, and testifying, to the end that ye should walk worthily of God, who calleth you into His own kingdom and glory."
THE teacher ought to do nothing with a feeling of being burdened, that tends to the salvation of his disciples. For if the blessed Jacob was buffeted night and day in keeping his flocks, much more ought he, to whom the care of souls is entrusted, to endure all toils, though the work be laborious and mean, looking only to one thing, the salvation of his disciples, and the glory thence arising to God. See then, Paul, a man that was a Preacher, an Apostle of the world, and raised to so great honor, worked with his hands that he might not be burdensome to his disciples.
"For ye remember," he says, "my brethren, our labor and travail." He had said previously, "we might have been burdensome as the Apostles of Christ," as he also says in the Epistle to the Corinthians, "Know ye not that they which minister about sacred things eat of the things of the Temple? Even so also did Christ ordain that they which proclaim the Gospel should live of the Gospel." (1 Cor. ix. 13, 14.) But I, he says, would not, but I labored; and he did not merely work, but with much diligence. Observe then what he says; "For ye remember," he has not said, the benefits received from me, but, "our labor and travail: for working night and day, that we might not burden any of you, we preached unto you the Gospel of God." And to the Corinthians he said a different thing, "I robbed other Churches, taking wages of them that I might minister unto you." (2 Cor. xi. 8.) And yet even there he worked, but of this he made no mention, but urged what was more striking,(1) as if he had said, I was maintained by others when ministering to you. But here it is not so. But what? "Working night and day." And there indeed he says, "And when I was present with you, and was in want, I was not a burden on any man," and, "I took wages that I might minister unto you." (2 Cor. xi. 8, 9.) And here he shows that the men were in poverty, but there it was not so.
On this account he frequently addresses them as witnesses. For "ye are witnesses," he says, "and God also"; God was worthy to be believed, but this other was that which most fully assured them. For that indeed was uncertain to those who were ignorant of it; but this was without doubt to all. For do not enquire whether it was Paul who said these things. Much beyond what was necessary he gives them assurance. Wherefore he says, "Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and righteously and unblamably we behaved ourselves toward you that believe." It was proper to praise them again. On this account he sets these things before them, which were sufficient to persuade them. For he that stood there in want, and did not receive anything, would much more not receive anything now. "How holily," says he, "and righteously and unblamably we behaved ourselves toward you that believe"
"As ye know how we exhorted and comforted each one of you, as a father doth his own children." Above having spoken of his behavior here he speaks of his love, which was more than what belonged to his rule over them. And what is said marks his freedom from pride. "As a father his own children, exhorting you, and encouraging you, and testifying, to the end that ye should walk worthily of God, who calleth you into His own kingdom and glory." When he says, "and testifying," then he makes mention of "fathers"; although we testified, it was not violently, but like fathers. "Each one of you." Strange! in so great a multitude to omit no one, neither small nor great, neither rich nor poor. "Exhorting" you, he says; to bear. "And comforting and testifying." "Exhorting,"(1) therefore they did not seek glory; and "testifying," therefore they did not flatter. "That ye should walk worthily of God, who calleth you into His own kingdom and glory." Observe again, how, in relating, he both teaches and comforts. For if He hath called them unto His kingdom, if He called them unto glory, they ought to endure all things. We "entreat"(2) you, not that you should grant us any favor, but that you should gain the kingdom of heaven.
Ver. 13. "And for this cause we also thank God without ceasing, that when ye received from us the word of the message, even the word of God, ye accepted it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also worketh in you that believe."
It cannot be said, he says, that we indeed do all things unblamably, but you on the other hand have done things unworthy of our course of life. For in hearing us, you gave such heed as if not hearing men, but as if God Himself were exhorting you. Whence is this manifest? Because as he shows from his own temptations and their testimony, and the way in which he acted, that he did not preach with flattery or vainglory; so from their trials, he shows also that they rightly received the word. For whence, he says, unless ye had heard as if God were speaking, did ye endure such perils? And observe his dignity.
Ver. 14, 15, 16. "For ye, brethren, became imitators of the Churches of God, which are in Judaea in Christ Jesus: for ye also suffered the same things of your own countrymen, even as they did of the Jews; who both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and drave out us, and please not God, and are contrary to all men; forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved; to fill up their sins alway: but the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost."
"For ye," he says, "became imitators of the Churches of God which are in Judaea." This is a great consolation. It is no wonder, he says, that they should do these things to you, inasmuch as they have done it also to their own countrymen. And this too is no little proof that the Preaching is true, that even Jews were able to endure all things. "For ye also," he says, "have suffered the same things of your own countrymen, even as they did of the Jews." There is something more in his saying, "as they also did in Judaea"; it shows that everywhere they rejoiced, as having nobly contended. He says therefore, "that ye also suffered the same things." And again, what wonder is it, if to you also, when even to the Lord they dared do such things?
Do you see how he introduces this as containing great consolation? And constantly he adverts to it; and upon a close examination one may find it in nearly all his Epistles, how variously,(3) upon all occasions of temptation, he brings foward Christ. Observe accordingly, that here also, when accusing the Jews, he puts them in mind of the Lord, and of the sufferings of the Lord; so well does he know that this is a matter of the greatest consolation.
"Who both killed the Lord," he says--but, perhaps, they did not know Him,--assuredly they did know Him. What then? Did they not slay and stone their own prophets, whose books even they carry about with them? And they did not do this for the sake of truth. There is therefore not only a consolation under the temptations, but they are reminded not to think that (the Jews) did it for the truth's sake, and be troubled on that account. "And drave out us,"(4) he says. And we also, he says, have suffered numberless evils. "And please not God, and are contrary to all men; forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that they may be saved." "Contrary to all men," he says. How? Because if we ought to speak to the world, and they forbid us, they are the common enemies of the world. They have slain Christ and the prophets, they insult God, they are the common enemies of the world, they banish us, when coming for their salvation. What wonder if they have done such things also to you, when they have done them even in Judaea? "Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be saved." It is a mark of envy therefore to hinder the salvation of all. "To fill up their sins alway. But the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost." What is "to the uttermost"? These things are no longer like the former. There is here no return back, no limit. But the wrath is nigh at hand. Whence is this manifest? From that which Christ foretold. For not only is it a consolation to have partakers in our afflictions, but to hear also that our persecutors are to be punished. And if the delay is a grievance, let it be a consolation that they will never lift up their heads again; or rather he hath cut short the delay, by saying, "THE wrath," showing that it was long ago due, and predetermined, and predicted.
Ver. 17. "But we, being taken from you(1) for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored the more abundantly to see your face with great desire."
He has not said "separated," but what was much more.(2) He had spoken above of flattery, showing that he did not flatter, that he did not seek glory. He speaks here concerning love. Because he had said above, "as a father his children," "as a nurse," here he uses another expression, "being made orphans," which is said of children who have lost their fathers. And yet they(3) were made orphans. "No"--he says--"but we. For if any one should examine our longing, even as little children without a protector, having sustained an untimely bereavement, long for their parents, not only from the feelings of nature itself, but also on account of their deserted state, so truly do we too feel." From this also he shows his own despondency on account of their separation. And this we cannot say, he says, that we have waited a long period, but "for a short time," and that "in presence, not in heart." For we always have you in our mind. See how great is his love Although having them always in his heart, he sought also their presence face to face. Tell me not of your superlative(4) philosophy This is truly fervent love; both to see, and to hear, and speak; and this may be of much advantage. "We endeavored the more exceedingly." What is "more exceedingly"? He either means to say, "we are vehemently attached to you," or, "as was likely, being bereaved for a season, we endeavored to see your face." Observe the blessed Paul. When of himself he cannot satisfy his longing, he does it through others, as when he sends Timothy to the Philippians, and the same person again to the Corinthians, holding intercourse with them through others, when he cannot of himself. For in loving them, he was like some mad person, not to be restrained, nor to command himself in his affection.
Ver. 18. "Wherefore we would fain have come unto you."
Which is the part of love; yet here he mentions no other necessity but "that we might see you." "I Paul once and again, and Satan hindered us."
What sayest thou? does Satan hinder? Yes, truly, for this was not the work of God. For in the Epistle to the Romans, he says this, that God hindered him (from Rom. xv. 22); and elsewhere Luke says, that "the Spirit" hindered them from going into Asia. (Acts xvi. 7.) And in the Epistle to the Corinthians he says, that it is the work of the Spirit, but here only of Satan. But what hindrance of Satan is he speaking of? Some unexpected and violent temptations:(5) for a plot, it says, being formed against him by the Jews, he was detained three months in Greece. But it is another thing to remain for the sake of the dispensation, and willingly. For there he says, "Wherefore having no more place in these parts" (Rom. xv. 23), and, "To spare you I forbare to come unto Corinth." (2 Cor. i. 23.) But here nothing of this sort. But what? That "Satan hindered" him. "Even I Paul," he says, "both once and again." Observe, how ambitious he is, and what a display he makes, in his willingness to show that he loved them most of all. "I Paul," he says, instead of Although no others. For they indeed were only willing, but I even attempted it.
Ver. 19. "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of glorying? Are not even ye before our Lord Jesus at His coming?"
Are the Macedonians, tell me, thy hope, O blessed Paul? Not these alone, he says. Therefore he has added, "Are not ye also?" For "what," he says, "is our hope, or joy, or crown of glorying"? Observe then the words, which are those of women, inflamed with tenderness, talking to their little children. "And crown of glorying," he says. For the name of "crown" was not sufficient to express the splendor, but also "of glorying." Of what fiery warmth is this! Never could either mother, or father, yea if they even met together, and commingled their love, have shown their own affection to be equivalent to that of Paul. "My joy and crown," he says, that is, I rejoice in you more than in a crown. For consider how great a thing it is, that an entire Church should be present, planted and rooted by Paul. Who would not rejoice in such a multitude of children, and in the goodness of those children? So that this also is not flattery. For he has not said "ye," but "ye also"(1) together with the others.
Ver. 20. "For ye are our glory and our joy."
Chap. iii. 1, 2. "Wherefore, when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left behind at Athens alone." Instead of saying, "we chose." "And sent Timothy, our brother and God's minister and our fellow- worker in the Gospel of Christ."
And this he says, not as extolling Timothy, but honoring them, that he sent them the fellow-worker, and minister of the Gospel. As if he had said, Having withdrawn him from his labors we have sent to you the minister of God, and our fellow-laborer in the Gospel of Christ.
"To establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith."
Ver. 3. "That no man be moved by these afflictions."
What then does he say here? Because the temptations of the teachers trouble their disciples, and he had then fallen into many temptations, as also he himself says, that "Satan hindered us," always saying this; "both once," he says, "and again I would have come to you," and was not able, which was a proof of great violence. And it was reasonable that this should trouble them, for they are not so much troubled at their own temptations, as at those of their teachers; as neither is the soldier so much troubled at his own trials,(2) as when he sees his general wounded. "To establish you," he says; not that they were at all deficient in faith, nor that they required to learn anything.
"And to comfort you concerning your faith; that no man be moved by these afflictions; for yourselves know that hereunto we are appointed."
Ver. 4. "For verily, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we are to suffer affliction; even as it came to pass, and ye know."
Ye ought not, he says, to be troubled, for nothing strange, nothing contrary to expectation is happening; which was sufficient to raise them up. For do you see that on this account also Christ foretold to His disciples? For hear Him saying, "Now I have told you before it came to pass, that when it is come to pass ye may believe." (John xiv. 29.) For greatly indeed, greatly does it tend to the comfort of others, to have heard from their teachers what is to happen. For as he that is sick, if he hear from his physician that this or that is taking place, is not much troubled; but if anything happen unexpectedly, as if he too were at a loss, and the disorder was beyond his art, he is afflicted and troubled; so also is it here. Which Paul fore-knowing, foretold to them, "we are about to be afflicted," "as it came to pass, and ye know." He not only says that this came to pass, but that he foretold many things, and they happened. "Hereunto we are appointed." So that not only ye ought not to be troubled and disturbed about the past, but not even about the future, if any such thing should happen, "for hereunto we are appointed."
MORAL. Let us hear, who have ears to hear. The Christian is appointed hereunto. For concerning all the faithful is this said, "Hereunto we are appointed." And we, as if we were appointed(3) for ease, think it strange if we suffer anything; and yet what reason have we for thinking anything strange? For no season of affliction or temptation has overtaken us, but what is common to man. It is a fit season for us to say to you, "Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin" (Heb. xii. 4). Or rather, this is not seasonable for us to say to you--but what? Ye have not yet despised riches. For to them indeed these words were said with reason, when they had lost all their own possessions,(4) but this is said to those who retain theirs. Who has been robbed of his riches for Christ's sake? Who has been beaten? Who has been insulted? even in words, I mean. What have you to boast of? What confidence have you to say anything? So many things Christ suffered for us when we were enemies. What can we show that we have suffered for Him? Nothing that we have suffered indeed, but infinite good things that we have received from Him. Whence shall we have confidence in that Day? Know ye not, that the soldier too, when he can show numberless wounds and scars, will then be able to shine in the presence of the king? But if he has no good action to show, though he may have done no harm, he will take rank among the least.
But, you say, it is not the season of war. But if it was, tell me, who would contend? Who would attack? Who would break through(5) the phalanx? Perhaps no one. For when I see that you do not despise riches for the sake of Christ, how shall I believe that you will despise blows? Tell me, do you bear manfully those who insult you, and do you bless them? You do not--but you disobey. What is attended with no danger, you do not; and will you endure blows, in which there is much pain and suffering? Know ye not that it is proper in peace to keep up the exercises of war?(6) Do you not see these(1) soldiers, who though no war disturbs them, but it is profound peace, brightening up their arms, and going forth with the teachers who teach them tactics, into the broad and level plains, I may say, every day, keep up with the greatest strictness the exercises of war? Of our spiritual soldiers, who has done this? No one. For this reason we become in war weak and ignoble, and easily led captive by any.
But what stupidity is this, not to think the present a season of war, when Paul is Crying out, "Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. iii. 12); and Christ says, "In the world ye shall have tribulation." (John xvi. 33.) And again the blessed Paul with a loud voice cries out, saying, "Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood," and again, "Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth." (Eph. vi. 12 and 14.) Why dost thou arm us, tell me, when it is not war? Why dost thou give us trouble to no purpose? Thou puttest breastplates on the soldiers, when it is allowed them to rest and revive. But he would have said, Certainly, however, though it were not war, it would be right to attend to the concerns of war. For he who in peace considers the business of battle, will be formidable in the season of battle; but he who is without experience in the things of war, will be more troubled even in peace. Why so? Because he will weep for the things which he possesses, and not being able to fight for them, will be in anguish. For the possessions of the cowardly and inexperienced and ignoble in war, are the property of all who are brave and warlike. So that on this account first I arm you. But then also the whole time of our life is the season of war. How and in what respect? The devil is ever at hand. Hear what it says, "As a roaring lion, he walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." (1 Pet. v. 8.) Numberless bodily affections assail us, which it is necessary to enumerate, that we may not vainly deceive ourselves. For tell me, what does not war against us? Riches, beauty, pleasure, power, authority, envy, glory, pride? For not only does our own glory war against us, forbidding us to descend to humility; but the glory of others also, leading us to envy and ill-nature. But what do their opposites, poverty, dishonor, the being despised, rejected, the having no power? These things indeed are in us. But from men proceed wickedness, plots, deceits, slanders, assaults innumerable. In like manner on the part of the demons, "principalities, powers, the world-rulers of this darkness, spiritual hosts of wickedness." Some of us are rejoicing, others grieving, both are deviations from the right course. But health and sickness (war against us). From what quarter will not man be falling into sin? Would you that I should tell you from the beginning, commencing even immediately from Adam? What took captive the first created? Pleasure, and eating, and the love of dominion. What the son who came next after him? Grudging and envy. What those in the time of Noah? Fleshly pleasures, and the evils issuing from them. What his son? Insolence and irreverence. What the Sodomites? Insolence, wantonness; and fullness of bread. But often even poverty has this effect. On this account a certain wise man said, "Give me neither poverty nor riches." (Prov. xxx. 8.) However it is neither poverty nor riches, but the will that cannot use either of them. "Acknowledge," he says, "that thou passest through the midst of snares." (Ecclus. ix. 13.)
The blessed Paul has admirably said, "Hereunto we are appointed." He has not said merely, that we are tempted, but that "hereunto we are appointed," as if he had said, For this were we born. This is our business, this our life, and dost thou seek rest? The executioner does not stand over us, lacerating our sides, and compelling us to sacrifice; but the desire of riches, and of possessing more, is instant, tearing out our eyes. No soldier has kindled a pile, nor placed us on a gridiron,(2) but more than this, the flames of the flesh set fire on our souls. No king is present promising numberless bounties, and putting us out of countenance. But there is present a rage for glory, tickling us worse than he. A great war, truly, exceedingly great, if we would watch.
And the present season too has its crowns. Hear Paul saying, "Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the righteous Judge shall give me ... and not only to me, but also to all them that have loved His appearing." (2 Tim. iv. 8.) When thou hast lost a beloved and only son, whom thou wert bringing up in much wealth, displaying good hopes, himself being the only one to succeed to thine inheritance; do not complain, but give thanks to God, and glorify Him who has taken him, and in this respect thou wilt not be worse than Abraham. For as he gave him to God, when he commanded it, so thou hast not complained, when He has taken him. Hast thou fallen into a severe sickness, and do many come, constraining thee, some with charms, some with amulets, and others with other things, to remedy the evil? and hast thou borne it firmly and unflinchingly from the fear of God, and wouldst thou have chosen to suffer all things rather than submit to do any of those idolatrous practices? This brings to thee the crown of martyrdom. Doubt it not. And how and by what means, I will tell thee. For as such an one bears firmly the pains of torture, so as not to worship the image, so thou also bearest the sufferings of thy disease, so as to want nothing of those remedies which the other offers, nor to do the things which he prescribes. "But those pains are more violent"--yes, but these are of longer duration, so that it is the same in the end; nay often these are more violent too. For tell me, when fever is raging and burning within, and thou rejectest the charm that others recommend to, thee, hast thou not bound on thee the crown of martyrdom?
Again, has any one lost money? many advise thee to have recourse to diviners; but thou, from fear of God, because it is forbidden, choosest rather not to receive thy money than to disobey God--thou hast a reward equal to him who has given it to the poor, if having lost, thou givest thanks, and when able to have recourse to diviners, thou bearest not to receive, rather than so to receive it. For as he from the fear of God has given all to the needy, so thou also from fear of God, when they have plundered thee, hast not recovered it.
We are the masters of injuring or not injuring ourselves. And if you will, let us make the whole matter plain in the case of theft itself. The thief has cut through the wall, he has rushed into the chamber, he has carried off costly golden vessels, and precious stones, in short, he has cleared thy whole treasure, and has not been taken. The fact is grievous, and it seems to be a loss; still as yet it is not so but it depends on thee to make it either a loss or a gain. And how, sayest thou, can this be a gain? I will endeavor to show thee how, if thou art willing, it will be a great gain, but if unwilling, the loss will be severer than that which has taken place. For as in the case of artificers, when material is before them, he who is skilled in his art uses it to good purpose, but he that is unskillful spoils it, and makes it a loss to him, so also in these matters. How then will it be a gain? If thou givest thanks to God, if thou dost not wail bitterly, if thou utterest the words of Job, "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away. Naked came I out of my mother's womb, naked shall I also go away." (Job i. 21, Sept. )
"What?" sayest thou, "the Lord hath taken away? The thief hath taken away, and how canst thou say, the Lord hath taken away?" Wonder not, for even Job, of things which the devil took away, said, These the Lord hath taken away? And shalt not thou say of what the thief took, The Lord hath taken away? Tell me, whom dost thou admire? him who has bestowed all his goods upon the poor, or Job for these words? Is he, who did not then give, inferior to him, who has given alms? For say not, "I feel no thankfulness. The matter was not done with my consent, or knowledge, or will. The robber took it. What will be my reward?" Neither did these things happen with Job's knowledge or will. For how could it be? Nevertheless, he wrestled.
And it is in thy power to receive as great a reward, as if thou hadst cast it away willingly. And perhaps we admire this man more, who thankfully suffers wrongs, than him who gives spontaneously. And why? Because the latter indeed is fed with praises, and supported by conscience, and has good hopes; and having before borne manfully the privation of his goods, he then cast them away; but the former, whilst yet bound to them, was forcibly deprived of them. And it is not the same thing, having first been induced to part with riches, in that way to bestow them, as it is while yet longing to be deprived of them. If thou wilt say these words, thou wilt receive many times as much, and even more than Job. For he received twice as much here, but to thee Christ has promised a hundred fold. From the fear of God, thou hast not blasphemed? thou hast not had recourse to diviners? suffering wrong, thou hast been thankful? Thou art like one who despises wealth, for thou couldest not do this, hadst thou not first despised it. And it is not the same thing in a long time to practice the contempt of riches, and all at once to bear a loss that has happened. Thus the loss becomes gain, and thou wilt not be injured, but even benefited by the devil.
But how does the loss also become grievous? When thou losest thy soul! Tell me, the thief has deprived thee of thy possessions: wilt thou deprive thyself of salvation? Wherefore, grieving at the evils which thou hast suffered from others, dost thou plunge thyself into more evils? He perhaps has involved thee in poverty: but thou perversely injurest thyself in things that are fatal. He hath deprived thee of things that are without thee, and that hereafter would spring away from thee even against thy will. But thou deprivest thyself of the eternal riches. The devil hath grieved thee by taking away thy wealth; do thou also grieve him, and do not delight him. If thou hast recourse to diviners, thou delightest him. If thou rederest thanks to God, thou givest him his death-blow.
And see what happens. Thou wilt not still find it, if thou goest to the diviners, for it is not in their power to know; and even if by any chance they have told thee, thou both losest thy own soul besides, and thou wilt be derided by thy brethren, and again wilt lose it wretchedly. For the demon, knowing that thou canst not bear thy loss, but for the sake of these things deniest even thy God, again gives thee wealth, that he may have an opportunity of deceiving thee again, and making thee fall away. And if the diviners should tell thee, wonder not. The demon is without body: he is everywhere going about. It is he who arms the robbers themselves. For these things do not take place without the demon. If therefore he arms them, he knows also where it is deposited. He is not ignorant of his own ministers. And this is not wonderful. If he sees thee grieving at the loss, he adds yet another to it. If he sees thee laughing at it, and despising it, he will desist from this course. For as we deal to our enemies those things by which we grieve them, but if we see that they do not grieve, we henceforth desist, as being unable to plague them; so does the devil also.
What sayest thou? Dost thou not see those who sail on the sea, how, when a storm arises, they regard not their wealth, but even throw overboard their substance? "O man, what dost thou say? Art thou cooperating with the storm and the shipwreck? Before the wave has taken away thy wealth, dost thou do it with thine own hands? Why, before the shipwreck, dost thou wreck thyself?" But indeed a rustic inexperienced in the trials of the sea might say this. But the naval man, and one who truly knows what are the causes of calm, and what of storm, will even laugh at him who talks thus. For I throw it overboard, he says, that there may be no whelming sea. So he who is experienced in the events and trials of life, when he sees the storm impending, and the spirits of evil wishing to cause shipwreck, throws overboard even the remainder of his wealth. Hast thou been plundered? Do alms, and thou lightenest the ship. Have robbers ravaged thee? Give what remains to Christ. So thou wilt console thy poverty from thy former loss. Lighten the ship, do not hold fast what remains, lest the vessel fill with water. They, to preserve their bodies, throw their goods overboard, and wait not for the assailing wave to overturn the vessel. And wilt thou not stay the shipwreck, that thou mayest save souls?
Make the trial, I beseech you--if you disbelieve, make the trial, and you will see the glory of God. When anything grievous has happened, immediately give alms; render thanks that it has happened, and thou wilt see how much joy will come upon thee. For spiritual gain, though it be small, is so great as to throw into the shade all bodily loss. As long as thou hast to give to Christ, thou art rich. Tell me, if when thou wast robbed, the king coming to thee held out his hand, begging to receive something from thee, wouldest thou not then think thyself richer than all, if the king not even after so great poverty was ashamed of thee? Be not carried away with thy wealth, only overcome thyself, and thou wilt overcome the assault of the devil. It is in thy power to acquire great gain.
Let us despise wealth, that we may not despise the soul. But how can any one despise it? Dost thou not see in the case of beautiful bodies, and the lovers of them, how as long as they are in their sight the fire is kindled, the flame rises bright; but when any one has removed them afar off, all is extinguished, all is lulled to sleep; so also in the case of wealth, let no one provide gold, nor precious stones, nor necklaces; when seen, they ensnare the eyes. But if thou wouldest be rich like the ancients, be rich not in gold, but in necessary things, that thou mayest bestow on others from that which thou hast ready. Be not fond of ornament. Such wealth is both easy to be plotted against by robbers, and a thing that brings us cares. Not vessels of gold and silver, but let there be stores of bread and wine and oil, not that being sold again they may procure money, but that they may be supplied to those who need. If we withdraw ourselves from those superfluities, we shall obtain the heavenly goods; which God grant that we may all obtain, in Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom, &c.
HOMILY IV: 1 Thessalonians iii. 5-8.
"For this cause I also, when I could no longer forbear, sent that I might know your faith, lest by any means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor should be in vain. But when Timothy came even now unto us from you, and brought us glad tidings of your faith and love, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, longing to see us, even as we also to see you; for this cause, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our distress and affliction through your faith: for now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord."
A QUESTION lies before us to-day, which is much disputed, and which is gathered from many sources. But what is this question? "For this cause," he says, "when I could no longer forbear, I sent Timothy that I might know your faith." What sayest thou? He, who knew so many things, who heard unutterable words, who ascended even to the third heaven, doth not he know, even when he is in Athens? And yet the distance is not great, nor has he been long parted from them. For he says, "Being bereaved of you for a short season." He does not know the affairs of the Thessalonians, but is compelled to send Timothy to know their faith, "lest," he says, "the tempter had tempted you, and our labors should be in vain."
What then is one to say? That the Saints knew not all things. And this one might learn from many instances, both of the early ones, and of those who came after them, as Elisha knew not concerning the woman (2 Kings iv. 27); as Elijah said to God, "I only am left, and they seek my life." Wherefore he heard from God, "I have left me seven thousand men." (1 Kings xix. 10 and 18.) Samuel again, when he was sent to anoint David; "The Lord said to him, Look not on his countenance, nor on the height of his stature; because I have rejected him: for God seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart." (1 Sam. xvi. 7.)
And this comes to pass out of great care on God's part. How, and in what way? For the sake both of the Saints themselves, and of those who believe in them. For as He permits that there should be persecutions, so He permits that they should also be ignorant of many things, that they may be kept humble. On this account also Paul said, "There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, that I should not be exalted over much." (2 Cor. xii. 7.) And again, lest others also should have great imaginations concerning them. For if they thought they were gods from their miracles, much more if they had continued always knowing all things. And this again he also says: "Lest any man should account of me above that which he seeth me to be, or heareth from me." (2 Cor. xii. 6.) And again hear Peter, when he healed the lame man, saying, "Why fasten ye your eyes on us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made him to walk." (Acts iii. 12.) And if even when they were saying and doing these things, and from these few and small miracles, evil imaginations were thus engendered, much more would they have been from great ones
But for another reason too these things were allowed. For that no one might be able to say it was as being other than men that they performed those excellent actions, and so all should become supine, he shows their infirmity, that from their folly he might cut off every pretext of shamelessness. For this reason he is ignorant, for this reason also, after having purposed, he frequently does not come, that they might perceive there were many things he knew not. Great advantage then came of this. For if there were some yet saying, "This man is that power of God which is called Great" (Acts viii. 10), and some, that it is this person, or that; unless these things had been so, what would they not have thought?
But here, however, there seems to be a censure on them. But quite otherwise, it even shows their admirable conduct, and proves the excess of their temptations. How? Attend. For if thou first sayest "that we are appointed thereunto," and "let no man be moved," why again dost thou send Timothy, fearing that something might happen which thou wouldest not wish. This indeed he does from his great love. For those who love suspect even what is safe, from their exceeding warmth. But this is caused by their great temptations. For I said indeed that we are appointed thereunto, but the excess of the temptations alarmed me. Wherefore he has not said, I send him as condemning you, but "when I could no longer forbear," which is rather an expression of love.
What means, "Lest by any means the tempter had tempted you "? Dost thou see that to be shaken in afflictions proceeds from the devil, and from his seduction? For when he cannot shake us ourselves, he takes another way, and shakes the weaker sort through our means, which argues exceeding infirmity, and such as admits of no excuse; as he did in the case of Job, having stirred up his wife, "Speak some word against the Lord," she says, "and die." (Job ii. 9, Sept.) See how he tempted her.
But wherefore has he not said, "shaken," but "tempted"? Because, he says, I only suspected so much, as that you had been tempted. For he does not call his temptation a wavering. For he who admits his attack is shaken. Strange! how great is the affection of Paul He did not regard afflictions, nor plots against him. For I think that he then remained there, as Luke says, that "he abode in Greece three months, when the Jews laid a plot against him." (Acts xx. 3.)
His concern therefore was not for his own dangers, but for his disciples. Seest thou how he surpassed every natural parent? For we in our afflictions and dangers lose the remembrance of all. But he so feared and trembled for his children, that he sent to them Timothy, whom alone he had for his consolation, his companion and fellow-laborer, and him too in the very midst of dangers.
"And our labor," he says, "should be in vain." Wherefore! for even if they were turned aside, it was not through thy fault, not through thy negligence. But nevertheless, though this were the case, I think, from my great love of the brethren, that my labor had been rendered vain.
"Lest by any means the tempter had tempted you." But he tempts, not knowing whether he shall overthrow. Does he then, even though he knows not, yet assail us, and do we, who know that we shall completely overcome him, not watch? But that he does attack us, though he knows not, he showed in the case of Job. For that evil demon said to God, "Hast Thou not made a hedge about his things within, and his things without? Take away his goods, and surely he will bless Thee to Thy face." (Job i. 10, 11, Sept.) He makes trial; if he sees anything weak, he makes an attack, if strong, he desists. "And our labor," he says, "be in vain." Let us all hear, how Paul labored. He does not say work, but "labor"; he does not say, and you be lost, but "our labor." So that even if anything had happened, it would be happening with some reason. But that it did not happen was a great wonder. These things indeed we expected, he says, but the contrary happened. For not only did we receive from you no addition to our affliction but even consolation.
"But when Timothy came even now unto us, and brought us glad tidings of your faith and love." "Brought us glad tidings," he says. Do you see the excessive joy of Paul? he does not say, brought us word, but "brought us glad tidings." So great a good did he think their steadfastness and love. For it was necessary, the one remaining firm, that the other also must be steadfast. And he rejoiced in their love, because it was a sign of their faith. "And that ye have," he says, "good remembrance of us always, longing to see us, even as we also to see you." That is, with praises. Not when we were present, nor when we were working miracles, but even now, when we are far off, and are scourged, and are suffering numberless evils, "ye have good remembrance of us." Hear how disciples are admired, who have good remembrance of their teachers, how they are called blessed. Let us imitate these. For we benefit ourselves, not those who are loved by us. "Longing to see us," he says, "as we also to see you." And this too cheered them; for to him who loves, to perceive that the beloved person knows that he is beloved, is a great comfort and consolation.
"For this cause, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our distress and affliction through your faith. For now we live if ye stand fast in the Lord." What is comparable to Paul, who thought the salvation of his neighbors was his own, being so affected towards all, as really towards members? Who now would be able to break forth into such speech? Or rather, who will ever be able to have such a thought? He did not require them to be thankful to him for the trials which he suffered for them, but he was thankful to them that they were not moved on account of his trials. As if he had said, that to you rather than to us was injury done by those trials; you were tempted rather than we, you who suffered nothing, rather than we who suffered. Because, he says, Timothy brought us these good tidings, we feel nothing of our sorrows, but were comforted in all our affliction; not in this affliction only. For nothing besides can touch a good teacher, as long as the affairs of his disciples go on to his mind. Through you, he says, we were comforted; you confirmed us. And yet the reverse was the case. For that when suffering they did not yield, but stood manfully, was sufficient to confirm the disciples. But he reverses the whole matter, and turns the encomium over to them. You have anointed us, he says, you have caused us to breathe again; you have not suffered us to feel our trials. And he has not said, we breathe again, nor we are comforted, but what? "Now we live," showing that he thinks nothing is either trial or death, but their stumbling, whereas their advancement was even life. How else could any one have set forth either the sorrow for the weakness of one's disciples, or the joy? He has not said we rejoice, but "we live," the life to come.
So that without this we do not even think it life to live. So ought teachers to be affected, so disciples; and there will be nothing at any time amiss. Then further softening the expression, see what he says,
Ver. 9, 10. "For what thanksgiving can we render again unto God for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face, and may perfect that which is lacking in your faith?"
Not only, he says, are ye the causes of life to us, but also of much joy, and so much that we cannot worthily give thanks to God. Your good behavior, he says, we consider to be the gift of God. Such kindnesses have you shown to us, that we think it to be of God; yea, rather, and it is of God. For such a disposition of mind comes not of a human soul or carefulness.
"Night and day," he says, "praying exceedingly." This too is a sign of joy. For as any husbandman, hearing concerning his land that has been tilled by himself, that it is burdened with ears of grain, longs with his own eyes to see so pleasant a sight, so Paul to see Macedonia. "Praying exceedingly." Observe the excess; "that we may see your face, and may perfect that which is lacking in your faith."
Here there is a great question. For if now thou livest, because they stand fast, and Timothy brought thee "glad tidings of their faith and love," and thou art full of so much joy as not to be able worthily to give thanks to God, how sayest thou here that there are deficiencies in their faith? Were those then the words of flattery? By no means, far be it. For previously he testified that they endured many conflicts, and were no worse affected than the Churches in Judaea. What then is it? They had not enjoyed the full benefit of his teaching, nor learned all that it behoved them to learn. And this he shows toward the end. Perhaps there had been questionings among them concerning the Resurrection, and there were many who troubled them, not by temptations, nor by dangers, but by acting the part of teachers. This is what he says is lacking in their faith, and for this reason, he has so explained himself, and has not said, that you should be confirmed, where indeed he feared concerning the faith itself, "I have sent," he says, "Timothy 'to confirm you,'" but here, "to perfect that which is lacking,'' which is rather a matter of teaching than of confirming. As also he says elsewhere, "that ye may be perfected unto every good work." (From 1 Cor. i. 10, or 2 Tim. iii. 17.) Now the perfected thing is one in which there is some little deficiency: for it is that which is brought to perfection.
Ver. 11, 12. "Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ direct our way unto you: and the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we also do toward you."
This is a proof of excessive love, that he not only prays for them by himself, but even in his Epistles inserts his prayer. This argues a fervent soul, and one truly not to be restrained. This is a proof of the prayers made there also, and at the same time also an excuse, as showing that it was not voluntarily, nor from indolence, that they did not go to them. As if he had said, May God Himself cut short the temptations that everywhere distract us, so that we may come directly to you. "And the Lord make you to increase and abound." Do you see the unrestrainable madness of love that is shown by his words? "Make you to increase and abound," instead of cause you to grow. As if one should say, that with a kind of superabundance he desires to be loved by them. "Even as we do also toward you," he says. Our part is already done, we pray that yours may be done. Do you see how he wishes love to be extended, not only toward one another, but everywhere? For this truly is the nature of godly love, that it embraces all. If you love indeed such an one, but do not love such an one, it is human love. But such is not ours. "Even as we do also toward you."
Ver. 13. "To the end He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints."
He shows that love produces advantage to themselves, not to those who are loved. I wish, he says, that this love may abound, that there may be no blemish. He does not say to stablish you, but your hearts. "For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts." (Matt. xv. 19.) For it is possible, without doing anything, to be a bad man; as for example, to have envy, unbelief, deceit, to rejoice at evils, not to be loving, to hold perverted doctrines, all these things are of the heart; and to be pure of these things is holiness. For indeed chastity is properly by preeminence called holiness, since fornication and adultery is also uncleanness. But universally all sin is uncleanness, and every virtue is purity. For, "Blessed," it is said, "are the pure in heart." (Matt. v. 8.) By "the pure" He means those who are in every way pure.
For other things also know how to pollute the soul, and no less. For that wickedness defiles the soul, hear the prophet, saying, "O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness." (Jer. iv. 14.) And again, "Wash you, make you clean, put away the wickednesses from your souls." (Isa. i. 16, Sept.) He did not say "fornications," so that not only fornication, but other things also defile the soul.
"To establish your hearts," he says, "unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints." Therefore Christ will then be a Judge, but not before Him (only), but also before the Father we shall stand to be judged. Or does he mean this, to be unblamable before God, as he always says, "in the sight of God," for this is sincere virtue--not in the sight of men?
It is love then that makes them unblamable. For it does make men really unblamable. And once when I was discoursing of this to a certain one, and saying, that love makes men unblamable, and that love to our neighbor does not suffer any entrance of transgression, and in my discourse going over, and pursuing all the rest--some one of my acquaintance interposing himself said, What then of fornication, is it not possible both to love, and to commit fornication? And it is indeed from love that this springs. Covetousness indeed, and adultery, and envy, and hostile designs, and everything of this sort can, from love of one's neighbor, be stopped; but how fornication? he said. I therefore told him, that even this can love stop. For if a man should love a woman that commits fornication, he will endeavor both to draw her off from other men, and not himself also to add to her sin. So that to commit fornication with a woman is the part of one exceedingly hating her with whom he commits the fornication, but one who truly loved her would withdraw her from that abominable practice. And there is not, there is not any sin, which the power of love, like fire, cannot consume. For it is easier for a vile faggot to resist a great pile of fire, than for the nature of sin to resist the power of love.
This then let us plant in Our own souls, that we may stand with all the Saints. For they all pleased God by their love to their neighbor. Whence was Abel slain, and did not slay? From his vehement love to his brother, he could not even admit such a thought. Whence was the destructive pest of envy received by Cain? For I will no longer call him the brother of Abel! Because the foundations of love had not been firmly fixed in him. Whence did the sons of Noah obtain a good report? was it not because they vehemently loved their father, and did not endure to see his exposure? And whence was the other cursed? was it not from not loving him? And whence did Abraham obtain a good report? was it not from love in doing what he did concerning his nephew? what he did as to his supplication for the Sodomites? For strongly, strongly, were the Saints affected with love and with sympathy.
For consider, I pray; Paul, he that was bold in the face of fire, hard as adamant, firm and unshaken, on every side compact, riveted in the fear of God, and inflexible; for, "who (said he) shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword"? (Rom. viii. 35) he that was bold in the face of all these things, and of earth and sea, he that laughed to scorn the adamantine gates of death, whom nothing ever withstood,--he, when he saw the tears of some whom he loved, was so broken and crushed,--the adamantine man,--that he did not even conceal his feelings, but said straightway, "What do ye, weeping and breaking my heart?" (Acts xxi. 13.) What sayest thou, tell me? Had a tear the power to crush that soul of adamant? Yea, he says, for I hold out against all things except love. This prevails over me, and subdues me. This is the mind of God. An abyss of water a did not crush him, and a few tears crushed him. "What do ye, weeping and crushing my heart?" For great is the force of love. Dost thou not see him again weeping? Why weepest thou? Tell me. "By the space of three years," he says, "I ceased not to admonish every one night and day with tears." (Acts xx. 31.) From his great love he feared, lest some plague should be introduced among them. And again, "For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears." (2 Cor. ii. 4.)
And what did Joseph? tell me, that firm one, who stood up against so great a tyranny, who appears so noble against so great a flame of love, who so out-battled and overcame the madness of his mistress. For what was there not then to charm him? A beautiful person, the pride of rank, the costliness of garments, the fragrance of perfumes, (for all these things know how to soften the soul,) words more soft than all the rest! For ye know that she who loves, and so vehemently, nothing so humble but she will bring herself to say it, taking upon her the attitude of a supplicant. For so broken was this woman, though wearing gold, and being of royal dignity, that she threw herself at the knees perhaps of the captive boy, and perhaps even intreated him weeping and clasping his knees, and had recourse to this not once, and a second time, but oftentimes. Then he might see her eye shining most brilliantly. For it is probable that she not simply but with excessive nicety would set off her beauty; as wishing by many nets to catch the lamb of Christ. Add here I pray also many magic charms. Yet nevertheless this inflexible, this firm man, of rocky hardness, when he saw his brothers who had bartered him away, who had thrown him into a pit, who had sold him, who had even wished to murder him, who were the causes both of the prison and the honor, when he heard from them how they had worked upon their father, (for, we said, it says, that one was devoured by a wild beast [Gen. xxxvii. 20, and lxiv. 28,]) he was broken, softened, crushed, "And he wept," it says, and not being able to bear his feelings, he went in, and composed himself (Gen. xliii. 30), that is, wiped away his tears.
What is this? dost thou weep, O Joseph? and yet the present circumstances are deserving not of tears, but of anger, and wrath, and indignation, and great revenge and retribution. Thou hast thine enemies in thy hands, those fratricides; thou canst satiate thy wrath. And yet neither would this be injustice. For thou dost not thyself begin the unjust acts, but defendest thyself against those who have done the wrong. For look not to thy dignity. This was not of their contrivance, but of God, who shed His favor upon thee. Why dost thou weep? But he would have said, far be it that I, who in all things have obtained a good report, should by this remembrance of wrongs overturn them all. It is truly a season for tears. I am not more brutish than beasts. They pour out a libation to nature, whatever harm they suffer. I weep, he says, that they ever treated me thus.
This man let us also imitate. Let us mourn and weep for those who have injured us. Let us not be angry with them. For truly they are worthy of tears, for the punishment and condemnation to which they make themselves liable. I know, how you now weep, how you rejoice, both admiring Paul, and amazed at Joseph, and pronouncing them blessed. But if any one has an enemy, let him now take him into recollection, let him bring him to his mind, that whilst his heart is yet warm with the remembrance of the Saints, he may be enabled to dissolve the stubbornness of wrath, and to soften what is harsh and callous. I know, that after your departure hence, after that I have ceased speaking, if anything of warmth and fervor should remain, it will not be so great, as it now is whilst you are hearing me. If therefore any one, if any one has become cold, let him dissolve the frost. For the remembrance of injuries is truly frost and ice. But let us invoke the Sun of Righteousness, let us entreat Him to send His beams upon us, and there will no longer be thick ice, but water to drink.
If the fire of the Sun of Righteousness has touched our souls, it will leave nothing frozen, nothing hard, nothing burning, nothing unfruitful. It will bring out all things ripe, all things sweet, all things abounding with much pleasure. If we love one another, that beam also will come. Allow me, I beseech you, to say these things with earnestness. Cause me to hear, that by these words we have produced some effect; that some one has gone and thrown both his arms about his enemy, has embraced him, has twined himself around him, has warmly kissed him, has wept. And though the other be a wild beast, a stone, or whatever he be, he will be made gentle by such affectionate kindness. For on what account is he thine enemy? Hath he insulted thee? yet he has not injured thee at all. But dost thou for the sake of money suffer thy brother to be at enmity with thee? Do not so, I beseech you. Let us do away all. It is our season. Let us use it to good purpose. Let us cut asunder the cords of our sins. Before we go away to judgment, let us not ourselves judge one another. "Let not the sun" (it is said) "go down upon your wrath." (Eph. iv. 26.) Let no one put it off. These puttings off produce delays. If you have deferred it to-day, you blush the more, and if you add to-morrow, the shame is greater, and if a third day, yet worse. Let us not then put ourselves to shame, but let us forgive, that we may be forgiven. And if we be forgiven, we shall obtain all blessings, through Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom, &c.
HOMILY V: 1 Thessalonians iv. 1-3.
"Finally then, brethren, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as ye received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye abound more and more. For ye know what charge we gave you through the Lord Jesus Christ. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification."
WHEN he has met what was pressing, and what was upon his hands, and is about henceforth to enter upon things that are perpetual, and which they ought continually to hear, he adds this expression, "finally," that is, always and forever. "We beseech and exhort you in the Lord." Strange! He does not even speak of himself as of sufficient credit to exhort. And yet who was so worthy of credit? But he takes Christ along with him. We exhort you, he says, by God. Which also he said to the Corinthians, "God entreats (exhorts) you through us." (2 Cor. v. 20.) "That as ye received of us." This received" is not of words only, but of actions also, viz. "how ye ought to walk," and he means thereby the whole conduct of life. "And to please God, that ye abound more and more. That is, that by more abounding ye do not stop at the limit of the commandments, but that you even go beyond them. For this it is, that "ye abound more and more." In what preceded he accepts the marvel of their firm faith, but here he regulates their life. For this is proficiency, even to go beyond the commandments and the statutes. For no longer from the constraint of a teacher, but from their own voluntary choice, is all this performed. For as the earth ought not to bear only what is thrown upon it, so too ought the soul not to stop at those things which have been inculcated, but to go beyond them. Do you see that he has properly said "to go beyond"? For virtue is divided into these two things, to decline from evil, and to do good. For the withdrawal from evil is not sufficient for the arrival at virtue, but it is a kind of path, and a beginning leading thereto; still we have need of great alacrity. The things therefore to be avoided he tells them in the order of commandment. And justly. For these things indeed being done bring punishment, but not being done, yet bring no praise. The acts of virtue however, such as to give away our goods, and such like, are not of the order of commandment, he says. But what? "He that is able to receive, let him receive." (Matt. xix. 12.) It is profitable, therefore, that as he with much fear and trembling had given these commandments to them, he also by these letters reminds them of that his care. Wherefore he does not repeat them, but reminds them of them.
"For ye know," he says, "what charge we gave you through our Lord Jesus Christ. For this is the will Of God, even your sanctification." And observe How he nowhere so vehemently glances at any other thing, as at this. As elsewhere also he writes to this effect; "Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord." (Heb. xii. 14.) And why dost thou wonder, if he everywhere writes to his disciples upon this subject, when even in his Epistle to Timothy he has said, "Keep thyself pure." (1 Tim. V. 22.) Also in his second Epistle to the Corinthians he has said, "In much patience, in fastings, by pureness." (2 Cor. vi. 5, 6.) And one may find this in many places, both in this Epistle to the Romans, and everywhere, and in all his Epistles. For in truth this is an evil pernicious to all. And as a swine full charged with mire, wherever he enters, fills all places with his ill odor, and chokes the senses with dung, so too does fornication; it is an evil not easy to be washed away. But when some even who have wives practice this, how excessive is the outrage! "For this," he says, "is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye abstain from all fornication." For there are many forms of disorderly conduct. The pleasures of wantonness are of many kinds and various, it were not tolerable to mention them. But having said "from all fornication," he leaves it to those who know them.
Ver. 4, 5. "That each one of you know how to possess himself of his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in the passion of lust, even as the Gentiles which know not God."
He says, "That each one of you know how to possess himself of his own vessel." It is, then, a matter to be learnt, and that diligently, not to be wanton. But we possess our vessel, when it is pure; when it is impure, sin possesses it. And reasonably. For it does not do the things which we wish, but what sin commands. "Not in the passion of lust," he says. Here he shows also the manner, according to which one ought to be temperate; that we should cut off the passions of lust. For luxury, and wealth, and idleness, and sloth, and ease, and all such things, lead us on to irregular lust. "Even as the Gentiles," he says, "which know not God." For such are they who do not expect that they shall suffer punishment.
Ver. 6. "That no man transgress, and wrong his brother in the matter."
He has well said, "that no man transgress." To each man God has assigned a wife, he has set bounds to nature, that intercourse with one only: therefore intercourse with another is transgression, and the taking of more than belongs to one, and robbery; or rather it is more cruel than any robbery; for we grieve not so much, when our riches are carried off, as when marriage is invaded. Dost thou call him brother, and wrongest him, and that in things which are unlawful? Here he speaks concerning adultery, but above also concerning "all fornication." For since he was about to say, "That no man transgress and wrong his brother," Do not think, he says, that I say this only in the case of brethren; you must not have the wives of others at all, nor even women that have no husbands, and that are common. You must abstain from "all fornication"; "Because," he says, "the Lord is an avenger in all these things." He exhorted them first, he shamed them, saying, "even as the Gentiles." Then from reasonings he showed the impropriety of defrauding a brother. Afterwards he adds the principal thing; "Because," he says, "the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as also we forewarned you and testified." For we do not these things without being punished, neither do we enjoy so much pleasure, as we undergo punishment.
Ver. 7. "For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification."
Because he had said "his brother," and had also added, that God is the avenger, showing that even if an unbeliever has suffered this, he who has done it shall suffer punishment, he says, it is not as avenging him that He punishes thee, but because thou hast insulted Himself. He Himself called thee, thou hast insulted Him who called thee. On this account, he has added,
Ver. 8. "Therefore he that rejecteth, rejecteth not man, but God, who giveth His Holy Spirit unto you."
So that even if thou shouldest defile the Empress, he says, or even thine own handmaid, that hath a husband, the crime is the same. Why? Because He avenges not the persons that are injured, but Himself. For thou art equally defiled, thou hast equally insulted God; for both the one and the other is adultery, as both the one and the other is marriage. And though thou shouldest not commit adultery, but fornication, though the harlot has no husband, yet nevertheless God avenges, for He avenges Himself. For thou dost this act, not despising the man, so much as God. And it is manifest from this, that thou doest it concealing it from man, but thou pretendest that God doth not see thee. For tell me, if one who was thought worthy of the purple, and of infinite honor from the king (Emperor), and was commanded to live suitably to the honor, should go and defile himself with any woman; whom has he insulted? her, or the king who gave him all? She indeed is insulted too, but not equally.
Wherefore, I beseech you, let us guard against this sin. For as we punish women, when, being married to us, they give themselves to others, so also are we punished, though not by the Roman laws, yet by God. For this also is adultery. For not only is adultery committed in doing so by her who is married to another, but by him also, who is yoked to a wife. Attend carefully to what I say. For although what is said is offensive to many, it is necessary to be said, to set the matter right for the future. Not only is this adultery, when we defile a woman who is married to a man; but if we ourselves being married to a woman defile one who is free and disengaged, the matter is adultery. For what, if she with whom the adultery is committed is not bound? Yet art thou bound. Thou hast transgressed the law. Thou hast injured thine own flesh. For tell me, wherefore dost thou punish thy wife, if she commit fornication with a man who is loosed, and has not a wife? Because it is adultery. Why? Yet he who defiled her has not a wife, but she is bound to a husband. Well then, thou also art bound to a wife; so that in like manner thy offence also is adultery. For it is said, "Every one that putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress: and whosoever shall marry her when she is put away, committeth adultery." (Matt. v. 32.) If he who marries her who is divorced commits adultery, he who, with a wife of his own, defiles himself also with that other--it is manifest to every one. But perhaps to you who are men, enough has been said on this subject. For concerning them that are such, Christ says, "Their worm will not die and the fire will not be quenched." (Mark ix. 44.) But for the sake of the young it is necessary to speak to you, not to the young themselves so much, but to you. For these things are suitable not to them only, but also to you. And how? I will now tell you. He who has not learnt to commit fornication, will neither know how to commit adultery. But he who walloweth among harlots, will quickly also arrive at the other, and will defile himself, if not with the married, yet with those who are disengaged.
What then do I advise, so as to extirpate the roots? So many of you as have young sons, and are bringing them up to a worldly life, quickly draw them under the yoke of marriage. For since whilst he is yet young desires trouble him, for the time before marriage, by admonitions, threats, fears, promises, and numberless other methods restrain them. But at the season of marriage, let no one defer it. Behold, I speak the words of a match-maker, that you should let your sons marry. But I am not ashamed to speak thus, since not even Paul was ashamed to say, "Defraud ye not one the other" (1 Cor. vii. 5), which seems more shameful than what I have said; yet he was not ashamed. For he did not pay heed to words, but to the acts that were set right by words. When thy son is grown up, before he enters upon warfare, or any other course of life, consider of his marriage. And if he sees that thou wilt soon take a bride for him, and that the time intervening will be short, he will be able to endure the flame patiently. But if he perceives that thou art remiss and slow, and waitest until he shall acquire a large income, and then thou wilt contract a marriage for him, despairing at the length of the time, he will readily fall into fornication. But alas! the root of evils here also is the love of money. For since no one cares how far his son shall be sober and modest, but all are mad for gold, for this reason no one makes this a matter of concern. Wherefore I exhort you first to regulate well their souls. If he find his bride chaste, and know that body alone, then will both his desire be vehement, and his fear of God the greater, and the marriage truly honorable, receiving bodies pure and undefiled; and the offspring will be full-charged with blessing, and the bride and bridegroom will comply with one another, for both being inexperienced in the manners of others, they will submit to one another. But one that begins when younger to wax wanton, and to have experience of the ways of harlots, for the first and second evening will praise his own wife; but after that he will soon fall back into that wantonness, seeking that dissolute and disorderly laughter, the words that are full of base import, the dissolute deportment, and all the other indecency, which it is not tolerable that we should mention. But a woman of free estate would not endure to make such exhibitions, nor to tarnish herself. For she was espoused to her husband to be his partner in life, and for the procreation of children, not for the purposes of indecency and laughter; that she might keep the house, and instruct him also to be grave, not that she might supply to him the fuel of fornication.
But the gestures s of a harlot seem to you agreeable. I know it. For the Scripture says, "The lips of a strange woman drop honey." (Prov. v. 3.) For on this account I take all this trouble, that ye may have no experience of that honey, for it straightway turns into gall. And this also the Scripture says, "Who for a season is smooth to thy throat, but afterwards thou shalt find her more bitter than gall, and sharper than a two-edged sword." (Prov. v. 3, 4, Sept.) What sayest thou? Bear with me speaking somewhat impure, if I may say so--and expressing myself as one shameless and unblushing. For I do not submit to this willingly, but on account of those who are shameless in their actions, I am compelled to speak this sort of words. And many such we see even in the Scriptures. For even Ezekiel, reproaching Jerusalem, utters many such things, and is not ashamed. And justly. For he did not say them from his own inclination, but from his concern. For although the words seem to be indecent, yet his aim is not indecent, but even highly becoming one who wishes to banish uncleanness from the soul. For if the shameless soul does not hear the very words, it is not affected. For a physician wishing to remove a putrid sore, first thrusts his fingers into the wound, and if he does not first defile his healing hands, he will not be able to cure it. So it is with me. Unless I first defile my mouth, that heals your passions, I shall not be able to heal you. But rather neither is my mouth defiled, nor his hands. Why then? Because the uncleanness is not that of nature, nor from our own body, as neither in that case from his hands, but from what is another's. But if where the body is another's, he does not refuse to dip his own hands, tell me, shall we refuse, where it is our own body? For you are our body, sickly indeed and impure, but ours nevertheless.
What then is this which I say, and for which I have made so long a digression? A garment indeed which your slave wears, you would not choose ever to wear, being disgusted on account of its filth, but you would rather go naked than make use of it. But a body that is unclean and filthy, and which is used not only by your slave, but by numberless others, that will you abuse, and not be disgusted? Are you ashamed at hearing this? But be ashamed of the actions, not of the words. And I pass over all other things, the rudeness, and the corruption of their manners, the servility and illiberality of the rest of their life. Tell me, should you and your servant go to the same woman? and I wish it were only your servant, and not, it may be, the executioner! And yet you could not bear to take the executioner by the hand; but her who has been made one body with him you kiss and embrace, and do not shudder, nor fear! Are, you not ashamed? are you not abashed? are you not pierced with anguish?
I said indeed to your fathers, that they ought early to lead you to marriage: but nevertheless neither are you without liability to punishment. For if there were not other young men also, more numerous than you, living in chastity, both formerly, and now, there would perhaps be some excuse for you. But if there are, how can you say, that we were not able to restrain the flame of lust? For they, who have been able, are your accusers, in that they are partakers of the same nature. Hear Paul saying, "Follow after peace ... and the sanctification, without which no man shall see the Lord." (Heb. xii. 14.) Is not this threat sufficient to terrify you? Do you see others continuing altogether in chastity, and in gravity passing their lives; and cannot you command yourself even so long as the period of youth? Do you see others ten thousand times overcoming pleasure, and cannot you once refrain? With your leave, I will tell you the cause. For youth is not the cause, since then all young men would be dissolute. But we thrust ourselves into the fire. For when you go up to the theater, and sit feasting your eyes with the naked limbs of women, for the time indeed you are delighted, but afterwards, you have nourished thence a mighty fever. When you see women exhibited as it were in the form of their bodies and spectacles and songs containing nothing else but irregular loves: such a woman, it is said, loved such a man, and not obtaining him, hanged herself; and unlawful loves having mothers for their object; when you receive these things by hearing also, and through women, and through figures, yea, and even through old men, (for many there put masks upon their faces, and play the parts of women,) tell me, how will you be able to continue chaste afterwards, these narratives, these spectacles, these songs occupying your soul, and dreams of this sort henceforth succeeding. For it is the nature of the soul for the most part to raise visions of such things, as it wishes for and desires in the daytime. Therefore when you there both see base actions, and hear baser words, and receive indeed the wounds but do not apply the remedies, how will not the sore naturally be increased? how will not the disease become more intense; and in a much greater degree than in our bodies? For if we were willing, our will admits of correction more easily than our bodies. For there indeed drugs, and physicians, and time are required, but here it is sufficient having but the will, to become both good and bad. So that you have rather admitted the disorder. When therefore we gather to us indeed the things that injure, but pay no regard to the things that benefit, how can there ever be any health?
On this account Paul said, "even as the Gentiles who knew not God." Let us be ashamed, let us be afraid, if the Gentiles, that know not God, are often chaste. Let us turn for shame, when we are worse than they. It is easy to achieve chastity, if we will, if we withdraw ourselves from those things that are injurious, since it is not even easy to avoid fornication, if we will not. For what is more easy than to walk in the market-place? but from the excess of laziness it is become difficult, not only in the case of women, but sometimes even in that of men. What is more easy than to sleep? but we have made even this difficult. Many however of the rich toss themselves through a whole night, from their not waiting for the need of sleep, and then sleeping. And in short nothing is difficult, when men are willing; as nothing is easy, when they are unwilling; for we are masters of all these things. On this account the Scripture says, "If ye be willing and hear me." (Isa. i. 19, Sept.) And again, "If ye be unwilling, and hear not." (Ver. 20.) So that all depends upon being willing or unwilling. On this account we both are punished and are praised. But may it be ours, being of those who are praised, to obtain the promised blessings, by the grace and lovingkindness, &c.
HOMILY VI: 1 THESSALONIANS iv. 9, 10.
"But concerning love of the brethren we have no need to write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another; for indeed ye do it toward all the brethren, and those which are in all Macedonia."
WHY then having discoursed with them earnestly concerning chastity, and being about to discourse about the duty of working, and about the not sorrowing for the departed, does he introduce that which was the principal of all good things, love, as if he were passing it over, saying, "We have no need to write to you"? This also is from his great wisdom, and belongs to spiritual instruction. For here he shows two things. First, that the thing is so necessary, as not to require instruction. For things that are very important are manifest to all. And secondly, by saying this he makes them more ashamed than if he had admonished them. For he who thinks that they have behaved aright, and therefore does not admonish them, even if they had not behaved aright, would the sooner lead them to it. And observe, he does not speak of love towards all, but of that towards the brethren. "We have no need to write unto you." He ought then to have been silent, and to say nothing, if there was no need. But now by saying there is no need, he has done a greater thing, than if he had said it.
"For ye yourselves are taught of God." And see with how high a praise he has made God their Teacher in this matter. Ye need not, he says, to learn from man. Which also the prophet says, "and they shall all be taught of God." (Isa. liv. 13.) "For ye yourselves," he says, "are taught of God to love one another. For indeed ye do it toward all the brethren, and those which are in all Macedonia"; and toward all the others, he means. These words are very encouraging to make them do so. And I do not merely say, that ye are taught of God, but I know it from the things which you do. And in this respect he bore many testimonies to them.
"But we exhort you, brethren, that ye abound more and more, and study;" that is, increase and study.
Ver. 11, 12. "To be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your hands, even as we charged you: that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and may have need of nothing."
He shows of how many evils idleness is the cause, and of how many benefits industry. And this he makes manifest from things which happen among us, as he often does, and that wisely. For by these things the majority are led on more than by spiritual things. For it is a mark of love to our neighbors not to receive from them, but to impart to them. And observe. Being about to exhort and admonish, he places in the middle their good conduct, both that they may recover even from the preceding admonition, and from the threat, when he said, "He therefore that rejecteth, rejecteth not man, but God," and that they may not be restive at this. And this is the effect of working, that one does not receive of others, nor live idly, but by working imparts to others. For it is said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts xx. 35.) "And to work," he says, "with your hands." Where are those, who look out for work that is spiritual? Seest thou how he takes from them every excuse, saying, "with your hands "? But does one practice fasting with his hands? or watchings all night? or lyings on the ground? This no one can say. But he is speaking of spiritual work. For it is truly spiritual, that one should by working impart to others, and there is nothing equal to this. "That ye may walk," he says, "becomingly." Seest thou whence he touches them? He has not said, that ye may not be shamed by begging. But he has indeed insinuated the same, yet he puts it in a milder way, so as both to strike and not to do this severely. For if those who are among us are offended at these things, much more those who are without, finding numberless accusations and handles, when they see a man who is in good health and able to support himself, begging and asking help of others. Wherefore also they call us Christ-mongers. On this account, he means, "the name of God is blasphemed." (Rom. ii. 24.) But none of these things has he stated; but that which was able to touch them most nearly, the disgracefulness of the thing.
Ver. 13. "But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, which have no hope."
These two things, poverty and despondency, distressed them most, which also pertain to all men. See therefore how he remedies them. But their poverty arose from their goods being taken from them. But if he commands those, whose goods had been taken from them for Christ's sake, to support themselves by working, much more then others. For that they were taken away is manifest from his saying, Ye became partakers(1) with the churches of God. How partakers with them? "And ye took joyfully the spoiling of your possessions." (Heb. x. 34.)
Here he proceeds now to start his discourse concerning the Resurrection. And why? Had he not discoursed with them upon that point?(2) Yes, but here he glances at some further mystery. What then is this? "That we that are alive," he says, "that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in nowise precede them that are fallen asleep." The discourse then of the Resurrection was sufficient to comfort him that was grieving. But that which is now said is sufficient also to make the Resurrection eminently worthy of credit. But first let us speak of what precedes, "But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, which have no hope." See how here also he treats them mildly. He does not say, "Are ye so without understanding?" as he said to the Corinthians, "foolish"? that, knowing there is a resurrection, ye so sorrow, as those who do not believe; but he speaks very mildly, showing respect to their other virtues. And he has not said "concerning the dead," but" them that are asleep,"(3) even at the beginning suggesting consolation to them. "That ye sorrow not," he says, "even as the rest, which have no hope." Therefore to afflict yourselves for the departed is to act like those who have no hope. And they justly. For a soul that knows nothing of the Resurrection, but thinks that this death is death, naturally afflicts itself, and bewails and mourns intolerably as for lost ones. But thou, who expectest a resurrection, on what account dost thou lament? To lament then is the part of those who have no hope.
Hear this, ye women, as many of you as are fond of wailing, as many as at times of mourning take the sorrow impatiently, that ye act the part of heathens. But if to grieve for the departed is the part of heathens, then tell me whose part it is to beat one's self, and tear the cheeks? On what account do you lament, if you believe that he will rise again, that he has not perished, that the matter is but a slumber and a sleep? You say, On account of his society, his protection, his care of our affairs, and all his other services. When therefore you lose a child at an untimely age, who is not yet able to do anything, on what account do you lament? Why do you seek to recall him? He was displaying, you say, good hopes, and I was expecting that he would be my supporter. On this account I miss my husband, on this account my son, on this account I wail and lament, not disbelieving the Resurrection, but being left destitute of support, and having lost my protector, my companion, who shared with me in all things--my comforter. On this account I mourn. I know that he will rise again, but I cannot bear the intermediate separation. A multitude of troubles rushes in upon me. I am exposed to all who are willing to injure me. Those of my servants who formerly feared me now despise me, and trample upon me. If any one has been benefited, he has forgotten the benefit he received from him; if any one was ill-treated by the departed, to return the grudge against him, he lets loose his anger upon me. These things do not suffer me to bear my widowhood. It is for these things that I afflict myself, for these things I bewail.
How then shall we comfort such? What shall we say? flow shall we banish their sorrow?(4) In the first place I shall endeavor to convict them, that their wailing proceeds not from these things they say, but from an unreasonable passion. For if you mourn for these things, you ought always to mourn the departed. But if when a year has passed away, you forget him as if he had never been, you do not bewail the departed nor his protection. But you cannot endure the separation, nor the breaking off of your society? And what can they say, who even enter into second marriages? Sure enough! It is the former husbands that they long for. But let us not direct our discourse to them, but to those who preserve a kind affection towards the departed. Wherefore dost thou lament thy child? Wherefore thine husband? The former, because I had not enjoyed him, you say; the latter, because I expected that I should have enjoyed him longer. And this very thing, what want of faith does it argue, to suppose that thy husband or thy son constitutes thy safety, and not God! How dost thou not think to provoke Him? For often on this account He takes them away, that thou mayest not be so bound to them, so that it may withdraw thy hopes from them. For God is jealous, and wills to be loved by us most of all things: and that, because He loves us exceedingly. For ye know that this is the custom of those who love to distraction. They are excessively jealous, and would choose rather to throw away their life, than to be surpassed in esteem by any of their rival lovers. On this account also God hath taken him because of these words.(1)
For, tell me, on what account were there not in old times widowhoods, and untimely orphanhoods? Wherefore did He permit Abraham and Isaac to live a long time? Because even when he was living he preferred God before him. He said indeed, slay; and he slew him. Why did he bring Sarah to so great an age? Because, even whilst she was living, he listened to God rather than to her. For this reason God said to him, "Hear Sarah thy wife." (From Gen. xxi. 12.) No one then either from love to husband or wife, or on account of the protection of a child, provoked God to anger. But now because we are declining downwards, and have exceedingly fallen off, we men love our wives more than God, and we women honor our husbands more than God. It is on this account that He draws us even against our will to the love of Himself. Love not thy husband more than God, and thou shalt not ever experience widowhood. Or rather, even if it should happen, thou shalt not have the feeling of it. Why? Because thou hast an immortal Protector who loves thee better. If thou lovest God more, mourn not: for He who is more beloved is immortal, and does not suffer thee to feel the loss of him who is less beloved. This I will make manifest to thee by an example. Tell me, if thou hast a husband, complying with thee in all things, one that is respected, and that makes thee honorable everywhere, and not to be despised, one respected amongst all, intelligent and wise, and loving thee, thou being esteemed happy on his account, and in conjunction with him shouldest thou also bring forth a child, and then before it has arrived at the age of maturity, that child should depart; wilt thou then feel the affliction? By no means. For he that is more beloved makes it disappear. And now if thou love God more than thy husband, assuredly He will not soon take him away. But even if He should take him, thou "wilt not be sensible of the affliction. For this reason the blessed Job felt no severe suffering, when he heard of the death of his children all at once, because he loved God more than them. And whilst He whom he loved was living, those things would not be able to afflict him.
What sayest thou, O woman? Thy husband or thy son was thy protector? But does not thy God spare thee? Who gave thee thy very husband? Was it not He? And who made thee? Was it not He? He surely who brought thee out of nothing into being, and breathed into thee a soul, and put in thee a mind, and vouchsafed to favor thee with the knowledge of Himself, and for thy sake spared not His only-begotten Son, does not He spare thee? And does thy fellow-servant spare thee? What wrath is due to these words! What of this kind hast thou had from thy husband? Thou canst not say anything. For if he has even done thee any kindness, it was after he had received kindness, you having previously begun. But in the case of God no one can say any such thing. For it is not as having received any favors from us that God benefits us, but being incapable of want, from His goodness alone He does good to mankind. He has promised thee a kingdom, He has given immortal life, glory, brotherhood, adoption. He has made thee fellow-heir with His Only-Begotten. And dost thou after so great benefits remember thy husband? What has he bestowed of this kind? He has made His sun to shine, He has given rain, He sustains thee with yearly nourishment. Woe to us for our great ingratitude!
For this reason He takes thy husband, that thou mayest not seek him. But dost thou still cling to him though departed, and forsakest God, when it was thy duty to give thanks, to cast it all upon Him? For what is it that thou hast received from thy husband? The pains of childbirth, and labors, and insults and reproaches often, and chidings, and bursts of anger. Are not these the things that come from husbands? But there are, you say, other things too that are good. Of what sort then are these? Did he set off thy beauty with costly garments? Did he put gold ornaments about thy face? Did he make thee respected by all? But if thou wilt, thou shalt adorn thyself with a much better ornament than the departed. For gravity makes its possessor much more admirable than golden ornaments. This King also has garments, not of this sort, but much better. With those, if thou wilt, invest thyself. Of what sort then are they? There is a clothing which has fringes of gold; if thou wilt, array the soul. But did he make thee not to be despised by men? And what is there great in that? Thy widowhood suffers thee not to be despised by the demons. Then thou ruledst over thy servants, if at least thou didst at all rule over them. But now, instead of thy servants, thou hast mastery over unbodied powers, principalities, authorities, the ruler of this world. And thou dost not mention the troubles, in which thou sharedst with him, sometimes the fear of magistrates, sometimes the preference given to neighbors. From all these things thou art now delivered, from dread and fear. But art thou solicitous who will support the children that are left thee? The "Father of the fatherless." For tell me, who gave them? Dost thou not hear Christ in the Gospels saying, "Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment?" (Matt. vi. 25.)
Seest thou, that thy lamentation is not from loss of his society, but from want of faith. But the children of a father that is dead are not equally illustrious. Wherefore? They have God for their Father, and are they not illustrious? How many can I show you brought up by widows, who have become famous, how many who have been under their fathers, and have been undone! For if thou bringest them up from their first youth, as they ought to be brought up, they will enjoy an advantage much greater than a father's protection. For that it is the business of widows--I speak of the bringing up of children--hear Paul saying, "If she hath brought up children" (1 Tim. v. 10) and again, "She shall be saved through the child- bearing," (he has not said through her husband,) if they continue in faith and love and sanctification with sobriety." (1 Tim. ii. 15.) Instill into them the fear of God from their first youth, and He will protect them better than any father; this will be a wall not to be broken. For when there is a guard seated within, we have no need of contrivances without: but where he is not, all our outward contrivances are vain
This will be to them wealth and glory too and ornament. This will make them illustrious, not upon earth, but even in heaven. For do not look to those who are begirt with the golden girdles, nor those who are borne on horses, nor those who shine in kings' palaces on account of their fathers, nor those who have footmen and tutors. For these things perhaps cause widows to bewail over their orphans, thinking that this my son also, if his father at least were living, would have enjoyed so much happiness; but now he is in a state of depression and dishonor, and worthy of no consideration. Think not of these things, O woman, but open to thee in thought the gates of heaven, consider the palace there, behold the King who is there seated. Consider if those who are upon the earth can be more illustrious than thy son there--and then groan. But if some are of good repute on earth, this is not worth any consideration. It is, allowed him, if thou wilt, to be a soldier in heaven, to enlist him in the ranks of that army. For those who are enlisted there are not borne on horses, but in the clouds. They walk not upon earth, but are caught up into heaven. They have not slaves to go before them, but the Angels themselves. They stand not in the presence of a mortal king, but of Him who is immortal, the King of kings and Lord of lords. They have not a leathern girdle about their loins, but that glory which is unspeakable, and they are more splendid than kings, or whoever have been most illustrious. For in those royal courts not wealth is required, nor noble birth, nothing else than virtue alone; and where that is present, nothing is wanting to their obtaining the chief place.
Nothing is painful to us, if we are willing to cultivate wisdom. Look up to heaven, and see how much more splendid it is than the roofs of palaces. And if the pavement of the palaces above is so much more grand than those below, that the one may be considered as dirt in comparison with the other; if any one should be thought worthy to see those palaces perfectly, what blessedness will not be his!
"But she," he says, "that is a widow indeed, and desolate, hath her hope set on God." (1 Tim. v. 5.) To whom is this said? To those who have no(1) children, because they are more highly approved, and have a greater opportunity of pleasing God, because all their chains are loosened to them. There is no one to hold them fast, no one to compel them to drag their chains after them. Thou art separated from thy husband, but art united to God. Thou hast not a fellow-servant for thy associate, but thou hast thy Lord. When thou prayest, tell me, dost thou not converse with God? When thou readest, hear Him conversing with thee. And what does He say to thee? Much kinder words than thy husband. For though indeed thy husband should flatter thee, the honor is not great, for he is thy fellow-servant. But when the Lord flatters the slave, then is the courtship great. How then does He court us? Hear by what means he does it. "Come," He says, "unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt. xi. 28.) And again through the Prophet He calls, saying, "Will a woman forget to have compassion on the offspring of her womb? But even if a woman should forget, yet will I not forget thee, saith the Lord." (Isa. xlix. 15, Sept.) Of how great a love are these words? And again, "Turn unto Me" (Isa. xlv. 22); and again elsewhere, "Turn unto Me, and thou shall be saved." (Isa. xliv. 22.) And if one was willing to select too from the Canticles, taking them in the more mystical way, he will hear Him conversing and saying to every soul that is fitted for Him, "My fair one, my dove." (Cant. ii. 10.) What is sweeter than these words? Seest thou the conversation of God with then? But what? tell me, seest thou not how many children of those blessed women are gone, and are in their tombs; how many have suffered more severely, and with their husbands have lost also their children? To these things let us attend; let us be anxious about these things, and nothing will be grievous to us, but we shall continue passing all our time in spiritual joy; and we shall enjoy the eternal blessings, of which may we all be partakers, by the grace and lovingkindness, &c.
HOMILY VII: 1 THESSALONIANS iv. 13
"But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, which have no hope."
THERE are many things which from ignorance alone cause us sorrow, so that if we come to understand them well, we banish our grief. This therefore Paul also showing, says, "I would not have you ignorant, that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, which have no hope." Is it on this account thou wouldest not have them ignorant? But wherefore dost thou not speak of the punishment that is laid up? Ignorant, says he, of the doctrine of the Resurrection. But why? This is manifest from the other, and is admitted. But meanwhile, together with that, there will also be this not inconsiderable gain. For since they did not disbelieve the Resurrection, but nevertheless bewailed, on this account he speaks. And he discourses indeed with those who disbelieve the Resurrection in one way, but with these in another. For it is manifest that they knew, who were enquiring about the "times and seasons." (1 Thess. v. 1.)
Ver. 14. "For if we believe," he says, "that Jesus died and rose again," and lived,(1) "even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God, bring with Him."
Where are they who deny the Flesh?(2) For if He did not assume Flesh, neither did He die. If He did not die, neither did He rise again. How then does he exhort us from these things; to faith? Was he not then according to them a trifler and a deceiver? For if to die proceeds from sin, and Christ did not sin, how does he now encourage us? And now, concerning whom does he say, O men, for whom do ye mourn? For whom do ye sorrow? for sinners, or simply for those who die? And why does he say, "Even as the rest, which have no hope"? For whom do the rest mourn? so that to them all these things are vapid? "The firstborn from the dead" (Col. i. 18), he says, the first-fruits. Therefore there must also be others left. And see how here he introduces nothing from reasonings, because they were docile. For in writing to the Corinthians, he started many things also from reasonings, and then he added, "Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened." (1 Cor. xv. 36.) For this is more authoritative, but it is when he converses with the believer. But with him who is without, what authority would this have? "Even so," he says, "them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." Again, "fallen asleep": he nowhere says, the dead. But with respect to Christ, his words are, "He died," because there followed mention of the Resurrection, but here "them that are fallen asleep." How "through Jesus"?(4) Either that they fell asleep through Jesus, or that through Jesus will He bring them. The phrase "that fell asleep through Jesus" means the faithful. Here the heretics say, that he is speaking of the baptized. What place then is there for "even so"? For Jesus did not fall asleep through Baptism. But on what account does he say, "them that are fallen asleep"? So that he is discoursing not of a general Resurrection, but of a partial one. Them that are fallen asleep through Jesus, he says, and thus he speaks in many places.
Ver. 15. "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in nowise precede them that are fallen asleep."
Speaking concerning the faithful, and them "which are fallen asleep in(1) Christ" (1 Cor. xv. 18); and again, "the dead shall rise in Christ." Since his discourse is not concerning the Resurrection only, but both concerning the Resurrection and concerning the honor in glory; all then shall partake of a Resurrection, he says, but not all shall be in glory, only those in Christ. Since therefore he wishes to comfort them, he comforts them not with this only, but also with the abundant honor, and with its speedy arrival, since they knew that. For in proof that he wishes to comfort them with the honor, as he goes on, he says, "And we shall be ever with the Lord": and "we shall be caught up in the clouds."
But how do the faithful fall asleep in Jesus? It means having Christ within themselves. But the expression, "He shall bring with Him," shows that they are brought from many places. "This." Something strange he was about to tell them. On this account he also adds what makes it worthy of credit; "From the word of the Lord," he says, that is, we speak not of ourselves, but having learnt from Christ, "That we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in nowise precede them that are fallen asleep." Which also he says in his Epistle to the Corinthians; "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye." (1 Cor. xv. 52.) Here he gives a credibility to the Resurrection by the manner also [in which it will occur].
For because the matter seems to be difficult he says that as it is easy for the living to be taken up, so also for the departed. But in saying "we," he does not speak of himself, for he was not about to remain until the Resurrection, but he speaks of the faithful. On this account he has added, "We that are left unto the coming of the Lord shall in nowise precede them that are fallen asleep." As if he had said, Think not that there is any difficulty. It is God that does it. They who are then alive shall not anticipate those who are dissolved, who are rotted, who have been dead ten thousand years. But as it is easy to bring those who are entire, so is it also those who are dissolved.
But there are some who disbelieve the matter, because they know not God. For, tell me, which is the more easy, to bring one into being out of nothing, or to raise up again him that was dissolved? But what say they? A certain one suffered shipwreck and was drowned in the sea, and having fallen many fishes caught him, and each of the fish devoured some member. Then of these very fishes, one was caught in this gulf, and one in that, and this was eaten by one man, and that by another, while having in it the devoured pieces of flesh. And again, those who ate the fishes, that had eaten up the man, died in different places, and were themselves perhaps devoured by wild beasts. And--when there has been so great a confusion and dispersion--how shall the man rise again? Who shall gather up the dust? But wherefore dost thou say this, O man, and weavest strings of trifles, and makest it a matter of perplexity? For tell me, if the man had not fallen into the sea, if the fish had not eaten him, nor the fish again been devoured by numberless men--but he had been preserved with care in a coffin, and neither worms nor anything else had disturbed him, how shall that which is dissolved rise again? How shall the dust and ashes be again conglutinated?(2) Whence shall there be any more its bloom for the body? But is not this a difficulty?
If indeed they be Greeks who raise these doubts, we shall have numberless things to say to them. What then? For there are among them those who convey souls into plants, and shrubs, and dogs. Tell me, which is more easy, to resume one's own body, or that of another? Others again say that they are consumed by fire, and that there is a resurrection of garments and of shoes, and they are not ridiculed. Others say atoms. With them, however, we have no argument at all; but to the faithful, (if we ought to call them faithful who raise questions,) we will still say what the Apostle has said, that all life springs from corruption, all plants, all seeds.(3) Seest thou not the fig tree, what a trunk it has, what stems, how many leaves, and branches, stalks, and roots, occupying so much ground and embosomed therein. This then, such and so great as it is, springs from the grain which was thrown into the ground and itself first corrupted. And if it be not rotted and dissolved, there will be none of these things. Tell me, whence does this happen? And the vine too, which is so fair both to see and to partake of, springs from that which is vile in appearance. And what, tell me, is not the water that descends from above one thing? how is it changed into so many things? For this is more wonderful than the Resurrection. For there indeed the same seed and the same plant is the subject, and there is a great affinity. But here tell me how, having one quality and one nature, it turns into so many things? In the vine it becomes wine, and not only wine, but leaves and sap. For not only is the cluster of grapes, but the rest of the vine nourished by it. Again, in the olive (it becomes) oil, and the other so numerous things. And what is wonderful, here it is moist, there dry, here sweet there sour, here astringent, elsewhere bitter Tell me how it turns into so many things? Show me the reason! But you cannot.
And in the case of thyself, tell me, for this comes nearer, this seed, that is deposited, how is it fashioned and molded into so many things? how into eyes? how into ears? how into hands? how into heart? Are there not in the body ten thousand differences of figures, of sizes, of qualities, of positions, of powers, of proportions? Nerves and veins and flesh and bones and membranes, and arteries and joints and cartilages, and as many more things beside these, as the sons of the physicians precisely specify, which compose our nature--and these come from that one seed! Does not this then seem to you much more difficult than those things? How is the moist and soft congealed into the dry and cold, that is, bone? How into the warm and moist, which are united in the blood? How into the cold and soft, the nerve? How into the cold and moist, the artery?(1) Tell me, whence are these things? Art thou not quite at a loss about these things? Dost thou not see every day a resurrection and a death taking place in the periods of our life? Whither is our youth gone? whence is our age come? how is it that he who is grown old cannot indeed make himself young, but begets another, a very young child, and what he cannot give to himself, that he bestows upon another?
This also we may see in trees and in animals. And yet that which gives to another ought first to bestow upon itself. But this is what human reasoning demands. But when God creates, let all things give way. If these things are so difficult, nay, so excessively difficult, I am reminded of those mad persons, who are curious about the incorporeal Generation of the Son. Things that take place every day, that are within the grasp of our hands, and that have been enquired into ten thousand times, no one has yet been able to discover; tell me, then, how is it they are curious about that secret and ineffable Generation? Is not the mind of such men wearied in treading that void? Has it not been whirled into ten thousand giddinesses? Is it not dumfounded? And yet not even so are they instructed. When they are able to say nothing about grapes and figs, they are curious about God! For tell me, how is that grape-stone resolved into leaves and stems? How before this were they not in it, nor seen in it? But it is not the grape- stone, you say, but all is from the earth. Then how is it that without this the earth bears nothing of itself? But let us not be void of understanding. What takes place is neither from the earth, nor from the grape-stone, but from Him who is Lord both of the earth and of its seeds. For this reason He has caused the same thing to be made both without them, and with them. In the first place, showing His own power, when he said, "Let the earth bring forth the herb of grass." (From Gen. i. 11.) And secondly, besides showing His power, instructing us also to be laborious and industrious.
Why then have these things been said by us? Not idly, but that we may believe also in the Resurrection, and that, when we again wish to apprehend something by our reasonings, but do not find it, we may not be angry and take offense, but discreetly withdrawing and checking our reasoning, we may take refuge in the power and skillfulness of God. Knowing these things therefore, let us put a curb upon our reasonings. Let us not transgress our bounds, nor the measures that have been assigned to our knowledge. For, "If any man," he says, "thinketh that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know." (1 Cor. viii. 2.)
I speak not concerning God, he says, but concerning everything. For what? wouldest thou learn about the earth? What dost thou know? Tell me. How great is its measure? What is its size? What is its manner of position? What is its essence? What is its place? Where does it stand, and upon what? None of these things can you tell? But that it is cold, and dry, and black, this you can tell--and nothing farther. Again, concerning the sea? But there you will be reduced to the same uncertainty, not knowing where it begins, and where it ends, and upon what it is borne, what supports the bottom of it, and what sort of place there is for it, and whether after it there is a continent, or it ends in water and air. And what dost thou know of the things that are in it? But what? Let me pass over the elements. Would you have us select the smallest of plants? The unfruitful grass, a thing which we all know, tell me, how it is brought forth? Is not the material of it water, and earth, and dung? What is it that makes it appear so beautiful, and have such an admirable color? Whence does that beauty so fade away? This is not the work of water, or of earth. Seest thou that there is everywhere need of faith? How does the earth bring forth, how does it travail? Tell me. But you can tell me none of these things.
Be instructed, O man, in things that are here below, and be not curious nor overmeddling about heaven. And would it were heaven, and not the Lord of heaven! Dost thou not know the earth from which thou wast brought forth, in which thou wast nourished, which thou inhabitest, on which thou walkest, without which thou canst not even breathe; and art thou curious about things so far removed? Truly "man is vanity." (Ps. xxxix. 5, and cxliv. 5.) And if any one should bid thee descend into the deep, and trace out things at the bottom of the sea, thou wouldest not tolerate the command. But, when no one compels thee, thou art willing of thyself to fathom the unsearchable abyss? Do not so, I beseech you. But let us sail upwards, not floating, for we shall soon be weary, and sink; but using the divine Scriptures, as some vessel, let us unfurl the sails of faith. If we sail in them, then the Word of God will be present with us as our Pilot. But if we float upon human reasonings, it will not be so. For to whom of those who float, is a Pilot present? So that the danger is twofold, in that there is no vessel, and that the Pilot is absent. For if even the boat without a pilot is unsafe, when both are wanting, what hope is there of safety? Let us not then throw ourselves into manifest danger, but let us go upon a safe vessel, having fastened ourselves by the sacred anchor. For thus we shall sail into the tranquil haven, with much merchandise,(2) and at the same time with great safety, and we shall obtain the blessings laid up for them that love Him, in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom, to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, power, honor, now and always and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY VIII: 1 Thessalonians iv. 15-17.
"For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in nowise precede them that are fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
THE Prophets indeed, wishing to show the credibility of the things said by them, before all other things say this, "The vision which Isaiah saw" (Isa. i. 1); and again, "The word of the Lord which came to Jeremiah" (Jer. i. 1, Sept.); and again, "Thus saith the Lord"; with many such expressions. And many of them even saw God sitting, as far as it was possible for them to see Him. But Paul not having seen Him sitting, but having Christ speaking in himself, instead of Thus saith the Lord, said, "Do ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me?" (2 Cor. xiii. 3.) And again, "Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ." For the "Apostle" speaks the things of Him who sent him; showing that nothing is of himself. And again, "I think that I also have the Spirit of God." (I Cor. vii. 40.) All those things therefore he spake by the Spirit, but this, which he now says, he heard even expressly from God. As also that which he had said discoursing to the EIders of Ephesus, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," he heard among things not recorded.(1) (Acts xx. 35.)
Let us then see what he now also says. "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in nowise precede them that are fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the last trump." For then, he saith, "The powers of the heavens shall be shaken." (Matt. xxiv. 29.) But wherefore with the trumpet? For we see this on Mount Sinai too, and Angels there also. But what means the voice of the Archangel? As he said in the parable of the Virgins, Arise! "The Bridegroom cometh." (From Matt. xxv. 6.) Either it means this, or that as in the case of a king, so also shall it then be, Angels ministering at the Resurrection. For He says, let the dead rise, and the work is done, the Angels not having power to do this, but His word. As if upon a king's commanding and saying it, those who were shut up should go forth, and the servants should lead them out, yet they do this not from their own power, but from that Voice. This also Christ says in another place: "He shall send forth his Angels with a great trumpet, and they shall gather together his Elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matt. xxiv. 31.) And everywhere you see the Angels running to and fro. The Archangel therefore I think is he, who is set over those who are sent forth, and who shouts thus: "Make all men ready, for the Judge is at hand." And what is "at the last trumpet"?(1) Here he implies that there are many trumpets, and that at the last the Judge descends. "And the dead," he says, "in Christ shall rise first. Then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
Ver. 18. "Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
If He is about to descend, on what account shall we be caught up? For the sake of honor. For when a king drives into a city, those who are in honor go out to meet him; but the condemned await the judge within. And upon the coming of an affectionate father, his children indeed, and those who are worthy to be his children, are taken out in a chariot, that they may see and kiss him; but those of the domestics who have offended remain within. We are carried upon the chariot of our Father. For He received Him up in the clouds, and "we shall be caught up in the clouds." (Acts i. 9.) Seest thou how great is the honor? and as He descends, we go forth to meet Him, and, what is more blessed than all, so we shall be with Him.
"Who shall speak of the mightinesses of the Lord, and make all His praises to be heard?" (Ps. cvi. 2, Sept.) How many blessings has He vouchsafed to the human race! Those who are dead are raised first, and thus the meeting takes place together. Abel who died before all shall then meet Him together with those who are alive. So that they in this respect will have no advantage, but he who is corrupted, and has been so many years in the earth, shall meet Him with them, and so all the others. For if they awaited us, that we might be crowned, as elsewhere he says in an Epistle, "God having provided some better thing concerning us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect" (Heb. xi. 40), much more shall we also await them; or rather, they indeed awaited, but we not at all. For the Resurrection takes place "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye."
But as to the saying, that they are gathered together; they arise indeed everywhere, but are gathered together by the Angels. The former therefore is the work of the power of God commanding the earth to give up its deposit, and there is no one who ministers in it, as He then called Lazarus, "Lazarus, come forth" (John xi. 43); but the gathering is the work of ministers. But if Angels gather them together, and run to and fro, how are they(2) caught up here? They are caught up after the descent,(3) after that they are gathered together.
For this is also done without any one being aware.(4) For when they see the earth agitated, the dust mingling, the bodies rising perchance(5) on every side, no one ministering to this, but the "shout" being sufficient, the whole earth filled (for consider how great a thing it is that all the men from Adam unto His coming shall then stand with wives and children),-- when they see so great a tumult upon the earth,--then they shall know. As therefore in the Dispensation that was in the Flesh, they had foreseen nothing of it, so also will it then be.
When these things then are done, then also will be the voice of the Archangel shouting and commanding the Angels, and the trumpets, or rather the sound of the trumpet. What trembling then, what fear will possess those that remain upon the earth. For one woman is caught up and another is left behind, and one man is taken, and another is passed over. (Matt. xxiv. 40, 41; Luke xvii. 34, 35.) What will be the state of their souls, when they see some indeed taken up, but themselves left behind? Will not these things be able to shake their souls more terribly than any hell? Let us represent then in word that this is now present. For if sudden death, or earthquakes in cities, and threatenings thus terrify our souls; when we see the earth breaking up, and crowded with all these, when we hear the trumpets, and the voice of the Archangel louder than any trumpet, when we perceive the heaven shriveled up, and God the King of all himself coming nigh --what then will be our souls? Let us shudder, I beseech you, and be frightened as if these things were now taking place. Let us not comfort ourselves by the delay. For when it must certainly happen, the delay profits us nothing.
How great will then be the fear and trembling! Have you ever seen men led away to death? What do you think is the state of their souls, as they are going on the way to the gate? is it not worse than many deaths? What would they not choose both to do and to suffer, so that they might be delivered from that cloud of darkness? I have heard many say, who have been recalled by the mercy of the king (Emperor), after having been led away, that they did not even see men as men, their souls being so troubled, so horror-struck, and beside themselves. If then the death of the body thus frightens us, when eternal death approaches, what will be our feelings? And why do I speak of those who are led away? A crowd then stands around, the greater part not even knowing them. If any one looked into their souls, no one is so cruel no one so hard-hearted, no one so firm, as not to have his soul dejected, and relaxed with fear and despair. And if when others are taken off by this death, which differs nothing from sleep, those who are not concerned in it are thus affected; when we ourselves fall into greater evils, what then will be our state? It is not, believe me, it is not possible to represent the suffering by words.
Nay, you say, but God is full of love to man, and none of these things will happen! Then it is written in vain! No, you say, but only as a threat, that we may become wise! If then we are not wise, but continue evil, will He not, tell me, inflict the punishment? Will He not then recompense the good either with rewards? Yes, you say, for that is becoming to Him, to do good even beyond desert. So that those things indeed are true and will certainly be, while the punishments will not be at all, but are only for the purpose of a threat, and of terror! By what means I shall persuade you, I know not. If I say, that "the worm will not die, and the fire will not be quenched" (Mark ix. 44); if I say, that "they shall go away into everlasting fire" (Matt. xxv. 41, 46); if I set before you the rich man already suffering punishment, you will say that it is all a matter of threatening. Whence then shall I persuade you? For this is a Satanic reasoning, indulging you with a favor that will not profit, and causing you to be slothful.
How then can we banish it? Whatever things we say from Scripture, you will say, are for the purpose of threatening. But with respect to future things this indeed might be said, but not so concerning things that have happened, and have had an end. You have heard of the deluge. And were those things also said by way of threat? Did they not actually happen? Those men too said many such things, and for a hundred years while the ark was building, and the wood was being wrought, and the righteous man was calling aloud, there was no one who believed. But because they did not believe the threat in words, they suffered the punishment in very deed. And this will be our fate too, if we shall not have believed. On this account it is that He compares His coming with the days of Noah, because as some disbelieved in that deluge, so will they in the deluge of hell. Were these things a threat? were they not a fact? Then will not He, who then brought punishment upon them so suddenly, much more inflict it now also? For the things that are committed now are not less than the offenses of that time. How?-- because then, it says, "the sons of God went in unto the daughters of men" (Gen. vi. 4), and those mixtures were the great offense. But now there is no form of wickedness, which is unattempted. Do you then believe that the deluge took place? Or does it seem to you a fable? And yet even the mountains where the ark rested, bear witness; I speak of those in Armenia.
But, even superabundantly, I will turn my discourse to another thing more evident than that. Has any one of you ever traveled in Palestine? For I will no longer mention report, but facts, and yet the other were clearer than facts. For whatever things the Scripture says, are more to be trusted than things we see. Has any one of you then ever traveled in Palestine? I suppose so. What then? Bear witness then for me, ye who have seen the places, to those who have not been there. For above Ascalon and Gaza up to the very end of the river Jordan there is a country wide and fruitful--or rather there was--for it is not now. This then is that which was as a garden. For it is said, "Lot beheld all the plain(1) of Jordan--and it was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the Lord." (Gen. xiii. 10.) This, therefore, that was so flourishing, and that rivaled all countries, which for thrivingness exceeded the Paradise of God, is now more desolate than any wilderness. And there stand trees, indeed, and they bear fruit. But the fruit is a monument of the wrath of God. For there stand pomegranates, I speak both of the tree and the fruit, having a very fine appearance, and to the ignorant man holding out great hopes. But if they are taken into the hand, being broken open they display no fruit indeed, but much dust and ashes stored up within. Such also is the whole land. If you find a stone, you will find it full of ashes. And why do I speak of stone and wood and earth, where the air and water partake of the calamity? For as when a body is burnt and consumed, the shape remains, and the outline in the appearance of the fire, and the bulk and the proportion, but the power is no more, so truly there you may see earth, which yet has nothing of earth about it, but all ashes; trees and fruit, but nothing of trees and fruit about them; air and water, but nothing of water nor of air about them, for even these are turned to ashes. And yet how could air ever have been burnt, or water, whilst it remained water? For wood and stones indeed it is possible to burn, but air and water it is altogether impossible. Impossible to us, but possible to Him who did these things. Therefore the air is nothing else than a furnace, the water is a furnace. All things are unfruitful, all unproductive, all for vengeance; images of wrath that has gone before, and proofs of that which is to come.
Are these too but threatening words? Are these but the sound of words? For to me indeed the former things were not incredible, but things not seen were equally credible with things that were seen. But even to the unbeliever these are sufficient to produce faith. If any one disbelieves hell, let him consider Sodom, let him reflect upon Gomorrah, the vengeance that has been inflicted, and which yet remains. This is a proof of the eternity of punishment. Are these things grievous? And is it not grievous, when you say that there is no hell, but that God has merely threatened it? when you slack the hands of the people?(1) It is thou who disbelievest that compellest me to say these things it is thou that hast drawn me out into these words. If thou believedst the words of Christ I should not be compelled to bring forward facts to induce belief. But since you have evaded them, you shall be persuaded henceforth, whether willing or unwilling. For what have you to say concerning Sodom? Would you wish also to know the cause, for which these things were then done? It was one sin, a grievous and accursed one certainly, yet but one. The men of that time had a passion for boys, and on that account they suffered this punishment. But now ten thousand sins equal and even more grievous than these are committed. Then He who for one sin poured forth so much anger, and neither regarded the supplication of Abraham, nor yet Lot who dwelt among them, the man who from honor to His servants offered his own daughters to insult, will He spare, when there are so many sins? These things truly are ridiculous, trifling, delusion, and diabolical deceit!
Do you wish that I should also bring forward another? You have certainly heard of Pharaoh, king of the Egyptians; you know therefore the punishment also which he suffered, how even with his whole host, chariots and horses and all, he was engulfed in the Erythraean sea. Would you hear also other examples? he perhaps was an impious man, or rather not perhaps, but certainly he was an impious man. Would you see those also punished, who were of the number of believers, and who held fast to God, but were not of upright life? Hear Paul saying, "Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us murmur, as some of them murmured, and perished by the destroyer. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them tempted, and perished by the serpents." (1 Cor. x. 8-10.) And if fornication, and if murmuring had such power, what will not be the effect of our sins?
And if thou dost not now pay the penalty, do not wonder. For they knew not of a hell, therefore they were visited with punishments following close at their heels. But thou, whatever sins thou commit, though thou shouldest escape present penalty, wilt pay for it all There. Did he so punish those who were nearly in the state of children, and who did not sin so greatly-- and will He spare us? It would not be reasonable. For if we commit the same sins with them, we shall deserve a greater punishment than they did. Wherefore? Because we have enjoyed more grace. But when our offenses are numerous, and more heinous than theirs, what vengeance shall we not undergo? They--and let no one think I say it as admiring them, or excusing them; far be it: for when God punishes, he who passes a contrary sentence, does it at the suggestion of the devil; I say this therefore, not praising them nor excusing them, but showing our wickedness--they therefore, although they murmured, were, however, traveling a wilderness road: but we murmur though we have a country, and are in our own houses. They, although they committed fornication, yet it was just after they came out of the evils of Egypt, and had hardly heard of such a law. But we do it, having previously received from our forefathers the doctrine of salvation, so that we are deserving of greater punishment.
Would you hear also of other things? what were their sufferings in Palestine, famines, pestilences, wars, captivities, under the Babylonians, and under the Assyrians, and their miseries from the Macedonians, and those under Hadrian and Vespasian? I have something that I wish, beloved, to relate to thee; nay, do not run away!(2) Or rather I will tell thee another thing before it. There was once a famine, it says, and the king was walking upon the wall; then a woman came to him and uttered these words: "O king, this woman said to me, Let us roast thy son to-day, and eat him--to-morrow mine. And we roasted and ate, and now she does not give me hers." (From 2 Kings vi. 28.) What can be more dreadful than this calamity? Again, in another place the Prophet says, "The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children." (Lam. iv. 10.) The Jews then suffered such punishment, and shall we not much rather suffer?
Would you also hear other calamities of theirs? Read over Josephus, and you will learn that whole tragedy, if perchance we may persuade you from these things, that there is a hell. For consider, if they were punished, why are we not punished? or how is it reasonable that we are not now punished, who sin more grievously than they? Is it not manifest that it is, because the punishment is kept in store for us? And, if you please, I will tell you in the person of every individual how they were punished. Cain murdered his brother. A horrible sin indeed, who can deny it? But he suffered punishment; and a heavy one, equivalent to ten thousand deaths, for he would rather have died ten thousand times. For hear him saying, "If Thou castest me out from the land, and I shall be hidden from Thy face, then it will happen that every one who findeth me will slay me." (Gen iv. 14, Sept.) Tell me then, do not many even now do the same things that he did? For when thou slayest not thy brother according to the flesh, but thy spiritual brother, dost thou not do the same? For what, though not by the sword? yet by some other means; when being able to relieve his hunger, thou neglectest him. What then? Has no one now envied his brother? has no one plunged him into dangers? But here they have not suffered punishment, yet they will suffer it. Then he, who never heard the written laws, nor the prophets, nor saw great miracles suffered such great vengeance; and shall he who has done the same things in another way, and was not rendered wise by so many examples, shall he go unpunished? Where then is the justice of God, and where His goodness?
Again, a certain one for having gathered sticks on the Sabbath was stoned, and yet this was a small commandment, and less weighty than circumcision. He then who gathered sticks on the Sabbath was stoned; but those who often commit ten thousand things contrary to the Law have gone off unpunished! If then there be not a hell, where is His justice, where His impartiality, that respects not persons? And yet He lays to their charge many such things, that they did not observe the Sabbath.
Again, another, Charmi,(1) having stolen a devoted thing, was stoned with all his family. What then? Has no one from that time committed sacrilege? Saul, again, having spared contrary to the command of God, suffered so great punishment. Has no one from that time spared? Would indeed that it were so! Have we not, worse than wild beasts, devoured one another contrary to the command of God, and yet no one has fallen in war?(2) Again, the sons of Eli, because they ate before the incense was offered, suffered the most severe punishment together with their father. Has no father then been neglectful with respect to his children? and are there no wicked sons? But no one has suffered punishment. Where will they suffer it then, if there be no hell?
Again, numberless instances one might enumerate. What? Ananias and Sapphira were immediately punished, because they stole part of what they had offered. Has no one then since that time been guilty of this? How was it then that they did not suffer the same punishment?
Do we then persuade you that there is a hell, or do you need more examples? Therefore we will proceed also to things that are unwritten, such as now take place in life. For it is necessary that this idea should be gathered by us from every quarter, that we may not, by vainly gratifying ourselves, do ourselves harm. Do you not see many visited by calamities, maimed in their bodies, suffering infinite troubles, but others in good repute? For what reason do some suffer punishment for murders, and others not? Hear Paul saying, "Some men's sins are evident, ... and some men they follow after." (1 Tim. v. 24.) How many murderers have escaped! how many violators of the tombs! But let these things pass. How many do you not see visited with the severest punishment? Some have been delivered to a long disease, others to continued tortures, and others to numberless. other ills. When therefore you see one who has been guilty of the same things as they, or even much worse--and yet not suffering punishment, will you not suspect, even against your will, that there is a hell? Reckon those here who before you have been severely punished, consider that God is no respecter of persons, and that though you have done numberless wickednesses, you have suffered no such thing, and you will have the idea of hell. For God has so implanted that idea within us, that no one can ever be ignorant of it. For poets and philosophers and fabulists, and in short all men, have philosophized concerning the retribution that is there, and have said that the greater number are punished in Hades. And if those things are fables, yet what we have received are not so.
I say not these things as wishing to frighten you, nor to lay a burden on your souls, but to make them wise, and render them easier. I could wish also myself that there were no punishment--yes, myself most of all men. And why so? Because whilst each of you fears for his own soul, I have to answer for this office also in which I preside over you. So that most of all it is impossible for me to escape. But it cannot be that there is not punishment and a hell. What can I do? Where then, they say, is the kindness of God to men? In many places. But on this subject I will rather discourse at some other season, that we may not confuse the discourses concerning hell. In the meantime let not that slip, which we have gained. For it is no small advantage to be persuaded concerning hell. For the recollection of such discourses, like some bitter medicine, will be able to clear off every vice, if it be constantly settled in your mind. Let us therefore use it, that having a pure heart, we may so be thought worthy to see those things, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man. Which may we all obtain by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, &c.
HOMILY IX: 1 Thessalonians v. 1, 2.
"But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that aught be written unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night."
NOTHING, as it seems, is so curious, and so fondly prone to pry into things obscure and concealed, as the nature of men. And this is wont to happen to it, when the mind is unsettled and in an imperfect state. For the simpler sort of children never cease teasing their nurses, and tutors, and parents, with their frequent questions, in which there is nothing else but "when will this be?" and "when that?" And this comes to pass also from living in indulgence, and having nothing to do. Many things therefore our mind is in haste to learn already and to comprehend, but especially concerning the period of the consummation; and what wonder if we are thus affected, for those holy men, themselves, were most of all affected in the same way? And before the Passion, the Apostles come and say to Christ, "Tell us, when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?" (Matt. xxiv. 23.) And after the Passion and the Resurrection from the dead, they said to Him, Tell us, "dost Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (From Acts i. 6.) And they asked Him nothing sooner than this.
But it was not so afterwards, when they had been vouchsafed the Holy Ghost. Not only do they not themselves inquire, nor complain of this ignorance, but they repress those who labor under this unseasonable curiosity. Hear for instance what the blessed Paul now says, "But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that aught be written unto you." Why has he not said that no one knows? why has he not said, that it is not revealed, instead of saying, "Ye have no need that aught be written unto you"? Because in that case he would have grieved them more, but by speaking thus he comforted them. For by the expression, "Ye have no need," as if it were both superfluous, and inexpedient, he suffers them not to enquire.
For tell me, what would be the advantage? Let us suppose that the end would be after twenty or thirty or a hundred years, what is this to us? Is not the end of his own life the consummation to every individual? Why art thou curious, and travailest about the general end? But the case is the same with us in this, as in other things. For as in other things, leaving our own private concerns, we are anxious about things in general, saying, Such an one is a fornicator, such an one an adulterer, that man has robbed, another has been injurious; but no one takes account of what is his own, but each thinks of anything rather than his own private concerns; so here also, each omitting to take thought about his own end, we are anxious to hear about the general dissolution. Now what concern is that of yours? for if you make your own a good end, you will suffer no harm from the other; be it far off, or be it near. This is nothing to us.
For this reason Christ did not tell it, because it was not expedient. How, you say, was it not expedient? He who also concealed it knows wherefore it was not expedient. For hear Him saying to His Apostles, "It is not for you to know times, or seasons, which the Father hath set within His own authority." (Acts i. 7.) Why are you curious? Peter, the chief of the Apostles, and his fellows, heard this said, as if they were seeking things too great for them to know. True, you say; but it were possible to stop the mouths of the Greeks in this way. How? tell me. Because they say, that this world is a god; if we knew the period of its dissolution, we should have stopped their mouths. Why, is this what will stop their mouths, to know when it will be destroyed, or to know that it will be destroyed? Tell them this, that it will have an end. If they do not believe this, neither will they believe the other.
Hear Paul saying, "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." Not the general day only, but that of every individual. For the one resembles the other, is also akin to it. For what the one does collectively, that the other does partially. For the period of consummation took its beginning from Adam, and then is the end of the consummation;(1) since even now one would not err in calling it a consummation. For when ten thousand die every day, and all await That Day, and no one is raised before it is it not the work(2) of That Day? And if you would know on what account it is concealed and why it so cometh as a thief in the night, I will tell you how I think I can well account for it. No one would have ever cultivated virtue during his whole life; but knowing his last day, and, after having committed numberless sins, then having come to the Layer, he would so have departed. For if now, when the fear arising from its uncertainty shakes the souls of all, still all,(3) having spent their whole former life in wickedness, at their last breath give themselves up to Baptism,--if they had fully persuaded themselves concerning this matter, who would ever have cultivated virtue? If many have departed without Illumination, and not even this fear has taught them, whilst living, to cultivate the things that are pleasing to God; if this fear also had been removed, who would ever have been sober, or who gentle? There is not one And another thing again. The fear of death and the love of life restrain many. But if each one knew that to-morrow he would certainly die, there is nothing he would refuse to attempt before that day, but he would murder whomsoever he wished, and would retrieve himself by taking vengeance on his enemies, and would perpetrate ten thousand crimes.
For a wicked man, who despairs of his life here, pays no regard even to him who is invested with the purple. He therefore who was persuaded that he must at all events die would both be revenged upon his enemy, and after having first satisfied his own soul, so would meet his end. Let me mention also a third thing. Those who are fond of life, and vehemently attached to the things of this world, would(4) be ruined by despair and grief. For if any of the young knew that before he reached old age, he should meet his end, as the most sluggish of wild beasts, when they are taken, become still more sluggish from expecting their end, so would he also be affected. Besides, not even the men that are courageous would have had their reward. For if they knew that after three years they must certainly die, and before that time it was not possible, what reward would they have gained for daring in the face of dangers? For any one might say to them, Because you are confident of the three years of life, for this reason you throw yourselves into dangers, knowing that it is not possible for you to pass away. For he, that expects from each danger that he may come by his death, and knows that he shall live indeed, if he does not expose himself to peril, but shall die if he attempts such and such actions, he gives the greatest proof of his zeal, and of his contempt for the present life. And this I will make plain to you by an example. Tell me, if the patriarch Abraham, foreknowing that he should not have to sacrifice his son, had brought him to the place, would he then have had any reward? And what if Paul, foreknowing that he should not die, had despised dangers, in what respect would he have been admirable? For so even the most sluggish would rush into the fire, if he could find any one he could trust to ensure his safety. But not such were the Three Children. For hear them saying, "O king, there is a God in heaven, who will deliver us out of thine hands, and out of this furnace; and if not, be it known to thee that we do not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." (Dan. iii. 17, Sept.)
Ye see how many advantages there are, and yet there are more than these that arise from not knowing the time of our end. Meanwhile it is sufficient to learn these. On this account He so cometh as a thief in the night; that we may not abandon ourselves to wickedness, nor to sloth; that He may not take from us our reward. "For yourselves know perfectly," he says. Why then are you curious, if you are persuaded? But that the future is uncertain, learn from what Christ has said. For that on this account He said it, hear what he says, "Watch therefore: for ye know not at what hour" the thief(5) "cometh." (Matt. xxiv. 42.) On this account also Paul said,
Ver. 3. "When they are saying peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall in nowise escape."
Here he has glanced at something which he has also said in his second Epistle. For since(6) they indeed were in affliction, but they that warred on them at ease and in luxury, and then while he comforted them in their present sufferings by this mention of the Resurrection, the others insulted them with arguments taken from their forefathers, and said, When will it happen?--which the Prophets also said, "Woe unto them that say, Let him make speed, let God hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel come, that we may know it!" (Isa. v. 19); and again "Woe unto them that desire the day of the Lord." (Amos v. 18.) He means this day; for he does not speak simply of persons who desire it, but of those who desire it because they disbelieve it: and "the day of the Lord," he says, "is darkness, and not light"--see then how Paul consoles them, as if he had said, Let them not account their being in a prosperous state, a proof that the Judgment is not coming. For so it is that it will come.
But it may be worth while to ask, If Antichrist comes, and Elias comes, how is it "when they say Peace and safety," that then a sudden destruction comes upon them? For these things do not permit the day to come upon them unawares, being signs of its coming. But he does not mean this to be the time of Antichrist, and the whole day, because that will be a sign of the coming of Christ, but Himself will not have a sign, but will come suddenly and unexpectedly. For travail, indeed, you say, does not come upon the pregnant woman unexpectedly: for she knows that after nine months the birth will take place. And yet it is very uncertain. For some bring forth at the seventh month, and others at the ninth. And at any rate the day and the hour is uncertain. With respect to this therefore, Paul speaks thus. And the image is exact. For there are not many sure signs of travail; many indeed have brought forth in the high roads, or when out of their houses and abroad, not fore-seeing it. And he has not only glanced here at the uncertainty, but also at the bitterness of the pain. For as she while sporting, laughing, not looking for anything at all, being suddenly seized with unspeakable pains, is pierced through with the pangs of labor --so will it be with those souls, when the Day comes upon them.
"And they shall in nowise escape." As he was saying just now.
Ver. 4. "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief."
Here he speaks of a life that is dark and impure. For it is just as corrupt and wicked men do all things as in the night, escaping the notice of all, and inclosing themselves in darkness. For tell me, does not the adulterer watch for the evening, and the thief for the night? Does not the violator of the tombs carry on all his trade in the night? What then? Does it not overtake them as a thief? Does it not come upon them also uncertainly, but do they know it beforehand? How then does he say, "Ye have no need that aught be written unto you"? He speaks here not with respect to the uncertainty, but with respect to the calamity, that is, it will not come as an evil to them. For it will come uncertainly indeed even to them, but it will involve them in no trouble. "That that Day," he says, "may not overtake you as a thief." For in the case of those who are watching and who are in the light, if there should be any entry of a robber, it can do them no harm: so also it is with those who live well. But those who are sleeping he will strip of everything, and go off; that is, those who are trusting in the things of this life.
Ver. 5. "For ye are all," he says, "sons of light, and sons of the day."
And how is it possible to be "sons of the day "? Just as it is said, "sons of destruction" and "sons of hell." Wherefore Christ also said to the Pharisees, "Woe unto you--for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is become so, ye make him a son of hell." (Matt. xxiii. 15.) And again Paul said, "For which things' sake cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience." (Col. iii. 6.) That is, those who do the works of hell and the works of disobedience. So also sons of God are those who do things pleasing to God; so also sons of day and sons of light, those who do the works of light. "And we are not of the night nor of darkness." Ver. 6, 7, 8. "So then let us not sleep, as do also the rest, but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, since we are of the day, be sober."
Here he shows, that to be in the day depends on ourselves. For here indeed, in the case of the present day and night, it does not depend on ourselves. But night comes even against our will, and sleep overtakes us when we do not wish it. But with respect to that night and that sleep, it is not so, but it is in our power always to have it day, it is in our power always to watch. For to shut the eyes of the soul, and to bring on the sleep of wickedness, is not of nature, but of our own choice. "But let us watch," he says, "and be sober." For it is possible to sleep while awake, by doing nothing good. Wherefore he has added, "and be sober." For even by day, if any one watches, but is not sober, he will fall into numberless dangers, so that sobriety is the intensity of watchfulness. "They that sleep," he says, "sleep in the night, and they that be drunken are drunken in the night." The drunkenness he here speaks of is not that from wine only, but that also which comes of all vices. For riches and the desire of wealth is a drunkenness of the soul, and so carnal lust; and every sin you can name is a drunkenness of the soul. On what account then has he called vice sleep? Because in the first place the vicious man is inactive with respect to virtue: again, because he sees everything as a vision, he views nothing in its true light, but is full of dreams, and oftentimes of unreasonable actions: and if he sees anything good, he(1) has no firmness, no fixedness. Such is the present life. It is full of dreams, and of phantasy. Riches are a dream, and glory, and everything of that sort. He who sleeps sees not things that are and have a real subsistence, but things that are not he fancies as things that are. Such is vice, and the life that is passed in vice. It sees not things that are, that is, spiritual, heavenly, abiding things, but things that are fleeting and fly away, and that soon recede from us.
But it is not sufficient to watch and be sober, we must also be armed. For if a man watch and is sober, but has not arms, the robbers soon dispatch him. When therefore we ought both to watch, and to be sober, and to be armed, and we are unarmed and naked and asleep, who will hinder him from thrusting home his sword? Wherefore showing this also, that we have need of arms, he has added:
Ver. 8. "Putting on the breastplate of faith and love: and for a helmet the hope of salvation."
"Of faith and love," he says. Here he glances at life and doctrine. He has shown what it is to watch and be sober, to have "the breastplate of faith and love." Not a common faith, he says, but as nothing can soon pierce through a breastplate, but it is a safe wall to the breast;--so do thou also, he says, surround thy soul with faith and love, and none of the fiery darts of the devil can ever be fixed in it. For where the power of the soul is preoccupied with the armor of love, all the devices of those who plot against it are vain and ineffectual. For neither wickedness, nor hatred, nor envy, nor flattery, nor hypocrisy, nor any other thing will be able to penetrate such a soul. He has not simply said "love," but he has bid them put it on as a strong breastplate. "And for a helmet the hope of salvation." For as the helmet guards the vital part in us, surrounding the head and covering it on every side, so also this hope does not suffer the reason to falter, but sets it upright as the head, not permitting anything from without to fall upon it. And whilst nothing falls on it, neither does it slip of itself. For it is not possible that one who is fortified with such arms as these, should ever fall. For" now abideth faith, hope, love." (1 Cor. xiii. 13.) Then having said, Put on, and array yourselves, he himself provides the armor, whence faith, hope, and love may be produced, and may become strong.
Ver. 9. "For God appointed us not unto wrath, but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us."
Thus God has not inclined to this,(2) that He might destroy us, but that He might save us. And whence is it manifest that this is His will? He has given His own Son for us. So does He desire that we should be saved, that He has given His Son, and not merely given, but given Him to death. From these considerations hope is produced. For do not despair of thyself, O man, in going to God, who has not spared even His Son for thee. Faint not at present evils. He who gave His Only-Begotten, that He might save thee and deliver thee from hell, what will He spare henceforth for thy salvation? So that thou oughtest to hope for all things kind. For neither should we fear, if we were going to a judge who was about to judge us, and who had shown so much love for us, as to have sacrificed his son. Let us hope therefore for kind and great things, for we have received the principal thing; let us believe, for we have seen an example; let us love, for it is the extreme of madness for one not to love who has been so treated.
Ver. 10, 11. "That, whether we wake or sleep," he says, "we should live together with Him. Wherefore exhort one another, and build each other up, even as also ye do."
And again, "whether we wake or sleep"; by sleep there he means one thing, and here another. For here, "whether we sleep" signifies the death of the body; that is, fear not dangers; though we should die, we shall live. Do not despair because thou art in danger. Thou hast a strong security. He would not have given His Son if He had not been inflamed by vehement love for us. So that, though thou shouldest die, thou wilt live; for He Himself also died. Therefore whether we die, or whether we live, we shall live with Him. This is a matter of indifference: it is no concern of mine, whether I live or die; for we shall live with Him. Let us therefore do everything for that life: looking to that, let us do all our works. Vice, O beloved, is darkness, it is death, it is night; we see nothing that we ought, we do nothing that becomes us. As the dead are unsightly and of evil odor, so also the souls of those who are vicious are full of much impurity. Their eyes are closed, their mouth is stopped, they remain without motion in the bed of vice; or rather more wretched than those who are naturally dead. For they truly are dead to both, but these are insensible indeed to virtue, but alive to vice. If one should strike a dead man, he perceives it not, he revenges it not, but is like a dry stick. So also his soul is truly dry, having lost its life; it receives daily numberless wounds, and has no feeling of any, but lies insensible to everything.
One would not err in comparing such men to those who are mad, or drunk, or delirious. All these things belong to vice, and it is worse than all these. He that is mad is much allowed for by those who see him, for his disease is not from choice, but from nature alone; but how shall he be pardoned, who lives in vice? Whence then is vice? whence are the majority bad? Tell me, whence have diseases their evil nature? whence is frenzy? whence is lethargy? Is it not from carelessness? If physical disorders have their origin in choice, much more those which are voluntary. Whence is drunkenness? Is it not from intemperance of soul? Is not frenzy from excess of fever? And is not fever from the elements too abundant in us? And is not this superabundance of elements from our carelessness? For when either from deficiency or excess we carry any of the things within us beyond the bounds of moderation, we kindle that fire. Again, if when the fire is kindled, we continue to neglect it, we make a conflagration for ourselves, which we are not able to extinguish. So is it also with vice. When we do not restrain it at its beginning, nor cut it off, we cannot afterwards reach to the end of it, but it becomes too great for our power. Wherefore, I beseech you, let us do everything that we may never become drowsy. Do you not see that when sentinels have only given way a little to sleep, they derive no advantage from their long watch, for by that little they have ruined the whole, having given perfect security to him who is prepared to steal. For as we do not see thieves in the same way that they see us, so also the devil most of all is ever instant, and lying in wait, and grinding his teeth. Let us not then slumber. Let us not say, on this side there is nothing, on that side nothing; we are often plundered from a quarter whence we did not expect it. So it is with vice; we perish from a quarter whence we did not expect it. Let us look carefully round upon all things, let us not be drunken, and we shall not sleep. Let us not be luxurious, and we shall not slumber. Let us not be mad for external things, and we shall continue in sobriety. Let us discipline ourselves on every side. And as men who walk upon a tight rope cannot be off their guard ever so little, for that little causes great mischief: for the man losing his balance is at once precipitated down and perishes; so neither is it possible for us to be off our guard. We walk upon a narrow road intercepted by precipices on either side, not admitting of two feet at the same time. Seest thou not how much carefulness is necessary? Seest thou not how those who travel on such roads guard not only their feet, but their eyes also? For if he should choose to gaze on one side, though his foot stand firm, his eye becoming dizzy from the depth, plunges the whole body down. But he must take heed to himself and to his steps; wherefore he says, "neither to the right hand, nor to the left." (Prov. iv. 27.) Great is the depth of vice, high the precipices, much darkness below. Let us take heed to the narrow way, let us walk with fear and trembling. No one, who is traveling such a road, is dissolved in laughter nor heavy with drunkenness, but travels such a road with sobriety and fasting. No one traveling such a road carries with him any superfluities; for he would be contented even lightly equipped to be able to escape. No one entangles his own feet, but leaves them disengaged, and free to move.
But we, chaining ourselves down with numberless cares, and carrying with us the numberless burdens of this life, staring about, and loosely rambling, how do we expect to travel in that narrow road? He has not merely said that "narrow is the way" (Matt. vii. 14), but with wonder, "how(1) narrow is the way," that is, exceedingly narrow. And this we also do in things that are quite objects of wonder. And "straitened," he says, "is the way which leadeth unto life." And he has well said it. For when we are bound to give an account of our thoughts, and words, and actions, and all things, truly it is narrow. But we ourselves make it more narrow, spreading out and widening ourselves, and shuffling out our feet. For the narrow way is difficult to every one, but especially to him who is incumbered with fat, as he who makes himself lean will not perceive its narrowness. So that he who has practiced himself in being pinched, will not be discouraged at its pressure.
Let not any one therefore expect that he shall see heaven with ease. For it cannot be. Let no one hope to travel the narrow road with luxury, for it is impossible. Let no one traveling in the broad way hope for life. When therefore thou seest such and such an one luxuriating in baths, in a sumptuous table, or in other matters having troops of attendants; think not thyself unhappy, as not partaking of these things, but lament for him, that he is traveling the way to destruction. For what is the advantage of this way, when it ends in tribulation? And what is the injury of that straitness, when it leads to rest? Tell me, if any one invited to a palace should walk through narrow ways painful and precipitous, and another led to death should be dragged through the midst of the market-place, which shall we call happy? which shall we commiserate? Him, shall we not, who walks through the broad road? So also now, let us think happy, not those who are luxurious, but those who are not luxurious. These are hastening to heaven, those to hell.
And perhaps indeed many of them will even laugh at the things that are said by us. But I most of all lament and bewail them on this account, that they do not even know what they ought to laugh at, and for what they ought especially to mourn, but they confound and disturb and disorder everything. On this account I bewail them. What sayest thou, O man, when thou art to rise again, and to give an account of thy actions, and to undergo the last sentence, dost thou pay no regard indeed to these, but give thought to gratifying thy belly, and being drunken? And dost thou laugh at these things? But I bewail thee, knowing the evils that await thee, the punishment that is about to overtake thee. And this I most especially bewail, that thou dost laugh! Mourn with me, bewail with me thine own evils. Tell me, if one of thy friends perishes, dost thou not turn from those who laugh at his end, and think them enemies, but love those who weep and sympathize with thee? Then indeed if the dead body of thy wife were laid out, thou turnest from him that laughs: but when thy soul is done to death, dost thou turn from him that weeps, and laugh thyself? Seest thou how the devil has disposed us to be enemies and adversaries to ourselves? For once let us be sober, let us open our eyes, let us watch, let us lay hold on eternal life, let us shake off this long sleep. There is a Judgment, there is a Punishment, there is a Resurrection, there is an Inquisition into what we have done! The Lord cometh in the clouds "Before Him," he says, a fire will be kindled, and round about Him a mighty tempest" (Ps. 1. 3, Sept.) A river of fire rolls before him, the undying worm, unquenchable fire, outer darkness, gnashing of teeth. Although you should be angry with me ten thousand times for mentioning these things, I shall not cease from mentioning them. For if the prophets, though stoned, did not keep silence, much more ought we to bear with enmities, and not to discourse to you with a view to please, that we may not, for having deceived you, be ourselves cut in sunder. There is punishment, deathless, unallayed, and no one to stand up for us. "Who will pity," he says, "the charmer that is bitten by a serpent?" (Ecclus. xii. 13.) When we pity not our own selves, tell me, who will pity us? If you see a man piercing himself with a sword, will you be able to spare his life? By no means. Much more, when having it in our power to do well we do not do well, who will spare us? No one! Let us pity ourselves. When we pray to God, saying, "Lord, have mercy(1) upon me," let us say it to ourselves, and have mercy upon ourselves. We are the arbiters(2) of God's having mercy upon us. This grace He. has bestowed upon us. If we do things worthy of mercy, worthy of His loving-kindness towards us, God will have mercy upon us. But if we have not mercy on ourselves, who will spare us? Have mercy on thy neighbor, and thou shalt find mercy of God Himself. How many every day come to thee, saying," Have pity on me," and thou dost not turn towards them; how many naked, how many maimed, and we do not bend toward them, but dismiss their supplications. How then dost thou claim(3) to obtain mercy, when thou thyself dost nothing worthy of mercy? Let us become compassionate, let us become pitiful, that so we may be well-pleasing to God, and obtain the good things promised to those that love Him, by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, &c.
HOMILY X: 1 THESSALONIANS v. 12, 13.
"But we beseech you, brethren, to know them that labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them exceeding highly in love for their work's sake. Be at peace among yourselves."
IT must needs happen that a ruler should have many occasions of enmities.(1) As physicians(2) are compelled to give much trouble to the sick, preparing for them both diet and medicines that are not pleasant indeed, but attended with benefit; and as fathers are often annoying to their children: so also are teachers, and much more. For the physician, though he be odious to the sick man, yet has the relations and friends on good terms with him,(3) nay, and often the sick man himself. And a father also, both from the force of nature and from external laws, exercises his dominion over his son with great ease; and if he should chastise and chide his son against his will, there is no one to prevent him, nor will the son himself be able to raise a look against him. But in the case of the Priest there is a great difficulty. For in the first place, he ought to be ruling people willing to obey, and thankful to him for his rule; but it is not possible that this should soon come to pass. For he who is convicted and reproved, be he what he may, is sure to cease from being thankful, and to become an enemy. In like manner he will act who is advised, and he who is admonished and he who is exhorted. If therefore I should say, empty out wealth on the needy, I say what is offensive and burdensome. If I say, chastise thine anger, quench thy wrath, check thine inordinate desire, cut off a small portion of thy luxury, all is burdensome and offensive. And if I should punish one who is slothful, or should remove him from the Church, or exclude him from the public prayers, he grieves, not because he is deprived of these things, but because of the public disgrace. For this is an aggravation of the evil, that, being interdicted from spiritual things, we grieve not on account of our deprivation of these great blessings, but because of our disgrace in the sight of others. We do not shudder at, do not dread, the thing itself.
For this reason Paul from one end to the other discourses largely concerning these persons. And Christ indeed has subjected them with so strict a necessity, that He says, "The Scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat. All things therefore whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe: but do not ye after their works." (Matt. xxiii. 2, 3.) And again, when He healed the leper, He said, "Go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded for a testimony unto them." (Matt. viii. 4.) And yet Thou sayest, "Ye make him twofold more a son of hell than yourselves." (Matt. xxiii. 15.) For this reason I said, answers He, "Do not the things which they do." Therefore he hath shut out all excuse from him that is under rule. In his Epistle to Timothy also this Apostle said, "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor." (1 Tim. v. 17.) And in his Epistle to the Hebrews also he said, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit to them." (Heb. xiii. 17.) And here again, "But we beseech you, brethren, to know them that labor among you, and are over you in the Lord." For since he had said, "build each other up," lest they should think that he raised them to the rank of teachers, he has added, See, however, that I gave leave to you also to edify one another, for it is not possible for a teacher to say everything. "Them that labor among you," he says, "and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you." And how, he says, is it not absurd? If a man stand up for thee before a man, thou doest anything, thou confessest thyself much indebted; but he stands up for thee before God, and thou dost not own the favor. And how does he stand up for me? thou sayest. Because he prays for thee, because he ministers to thee the spiritual gift that is by Baptism, he visits, he advises and admonishes thee, he comes at midnight if thou callest for him; he is nothing else than the constant subject of thy mouth, and he bears thy injurious speeches. What necessity had he? Has he done well or ill? Thou indeed hast a wife, and livest luxuriously, and choosest a life of commerce. But from this the Priest has hindered himself by his occupation; his life is no other than to be employed about the Church. "And to esteem them," he says, "exceeding highly in love for their work's sake; be at peace with them."(4) Seest thou how well he is aware that unpleasant feelings arise? He does not merely say "love," but" very highly," as children love their fathers. For through them ye were begotten by that eternal generation: through them you have obtained the kingdom: through their hands all things are done, through them the gates of heaven are opened to you. Let no one raise divisions, let no one be contentious. He who loves Christ, whatever the Priest may be, will love him, because through him he has obtained the awful Mysteries. Tell me, if wishing to see a palace resplendent with much gold, and radiant with the brightness of precious stones, thou couldest find him who had the key, and he being called upon immediately opened it, and admitted thee within, wouldest thou not prefer him above all men? Wouldest thou not love him as dearly as thine eyes? Wouldest thou not kiss him? This man hath opened heaven to thee, and thou dost not kiss him, nor pay him court. If thou hast a wife, dost thou not love him above all, who procured her for thee? So if thou lovest Christ, if thou lovest the kingdom of heaven, acknowledge through whom thou obtainedst it. On this account he says, "for their work's sake, be at peace with them."
Ver. 14. "And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the disorderly, encourage the faint-hearted, support the weak, be long suffering toward all."
Here he addresses those who have rule. Admonish, he says, "the disorderly," not of imperiousness, he says, nor of self-will rebuke them, but with admonition. "Encourage the fainthearted, support the weak, be longsuffering toward all." For he who is rebuked with harshness, despairing of himself, becomes more bold in contempt.(1) On this account it is necessary by admonition to render the medicine sweet. But who are the disorderly? All those who do what is contrary to the will of God. For this order of the Church is more harmonious than the order of an army; so that the reviler is disorderly, the drunkard is disorderly, and the covetous, and all who sin; for they walk not orderly in their rank, but out of the line, wherefore also they are overthrown? But there is also another kind of evils, not such as this indeed, but itself also a vice, littlemindedness. For this is destructive equally with sloth. He who cannot bear an insult is feeble-minded. He who cannot endure trial is feeble-minded. This is he who is sown upon the rock. There is also another sort, that of weakness. "Support the weak," he says; now weakness occurs in regard to faith. But observe how he does not permit them to be despised. And elsewhere also in his Epistles he says, "Them that are weak in the faith receive ye." (Rom. xiv. 1.) For in our bodies too we do not suffer the weak member to perish. "Be longsuffering toward all," he says. Even toward the disorderly? Yes, certainly. For there is no medicine equal to this, especially for the teacher, none so suitable to those who are under rule. It can quite shame and put out of countenance him that is fiercer and more shameless than all men.
Ver. 15. "See that none render unto any one evil for evil."
If we ought not to render evil for evil, much less evil for good; much less, when evil has not been previously done, to render evil, Such an one, you say, is a bad man, and has aggrieved me, and done me much injury. Do you wish to revenge yourself upon him? Do not retaliate. Leave him unpunished. Well, is this the stopping-place? By no means;
"But alway follow after that which is good, one toward another, and toward all."
This is the higher philosophy, not only not to requite evil with evil, but to render good for evil. For this is truly revenge that brings harm to him and advantage to thyself, or rather great advantage even to him, if he will. And that thou mayest not think that this is said with respect to the faithful, therefore he has said, "both one toward another and toward all." Ver. 16. "Rejoice alway."
This is said with respect to the temptations that bring in affliction. Hear ye, as many as have fallen into poverty, or into distressing circumstances. For from these joy is engendered. For when we possess such a soul that we take revenge on no one, but do good to all, whence, tell me, will the sting of grief be able to enter into us? For he who so rejoices in suffering evil, as to requite even with benefits him that has done him evil, whence can he afterwards suffer grief? And how, you say, is this possible? It is possible, if we will. Then also he shows the way.
Ver. 17, 18. "Pray without ceasing; In every thing giving thanks: for this is the will of God."
Always to give thanks, this is a mark of a philosophic soul. Hast thou suffered any evil? But if thou wilt, it is no evil. Give thanks to God, and the evil is changed into good. Say thou also as Job said, "Blessed be the name of the Lord for ever."(3) (Job i. 21.) For tell me, what such great thing hast thou suffered? Has disease befallen thee? Yet it is nothing strange. For our body is mortal, and liable to suffer. Has a want of possessions overtaken thee? But these also are things to be acquired, and again to be lost, and that abide here. But is it plots and false accusations of enemies? But it is not we that are injured by these, but they who are the authors of them. "For the soul," he says, "that sinneth, itself shall also die." (Ezek. xviii. 4.) And he has not sinned who suffers the evil, but he who has done the evil.
Upon him therefore that is dead you ought not to take revenge, but to pray for him that you may deliver him from death. Do you not see how the bee dies upon the sting? By that animal God instructs us not to grieve our neighbors. For we ourselves receive death first. For by striking them perhaps we have pained them for a little time, but we ourselves shall not live any longer, even as that animal will not. And yet the Scripture commends it, sating that it is a worker, whose work kings and private men make use of for their health. (Ecclus. xi. 3.) But this does not preserve it from dying, but it must needs perish. And if its other excellence does not deliver it when it does injury, much less will it us.
For indeed it is the part of the fiercest beasts, when no one has injured thee, to begin the injury, or rather not even of beasts. For they, if thou permittest them to feed in the wilderness, and dost not by straitening them reduce them to necessity, will never harm thee, nor come near thee, nor bite thee, but will go their own way.
But you being a rational man, honored with so much rule and honor and glory, do not(1) even imitate the beasts in your conduct to your fellow- creature, but you injure your brother, and devour him. And how will you be able to excuse yourself? Do you not hear Paul saying, "Why not rather take wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? Nay, but ye yourselves do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren." (1 Cor. vi. 7, 8.) Do you see that suffering wrong consists in doing wrong, but that to suffer wrongfully is to receive a benefit? For tell me, if any one were to revile his rulers, if he were to insult those in power, whom does he injure? Himself, or them? Clearly himself. Then he who insults a ruler insults not him, but himself-- and he that insults a Christian does he not through him insult Christ? By no means, thou sayest. What sayest thou? He that casts a stone at the images of the king (Emperor), at whom does he cast a stone? is it not at himself? Then does he who casts a stone at the image of an earthly king, cast a stone at himself, and does not he who insults the image of God (for man is the image of God) injure himself?
How long shall we love riches? For I shall not cease exclaiming against them: for they are the cause of everything. How long do we not get our fill of this insatiable desire? What is the good of gold? I am astonished at the thing! There is some enchantment in the business, that gold and silver should be so highly valued among us. For our own souls indeed we have no regard, but those lifeless images engross much attention. Whence is it that this disease has invaded the world? Who shall be able to effect its destruction? What reason can cut off this evil beast, and destroy it with utter destruction? The desire is deep sown in the minds of men, even of those who seem to be religious. Let us be put to shame by the commands of the Gospel. Words only lie there in Scripture, they are nowhere shown by works.
And what is the specious plea of the many? I have children, one says, and I am afraid lest I myself be reduced to the extremity of hunger and want, lest I should stand in need of others. I am ashamed to beg. For that reason therefore do you cause others to beg? I cannot, you say, endure hunger. For that reason do you expose others to hunger? Do you know what a dreadful thing it is to beg, how dreadful to be perishing by hunger? Spare also your brethren! Are you ashamed, tell me, to be hungry, and are you not ashamed to rob? Are you afraid to perish by hunger, and not afraid to destroy others? And yet to be hungry is neither a disgrace nor a crime; but to cast others into such a state brings not only disgrace, but extreme punishment.
All these are pretenses, words, trifles. For that it is not on account of your children that you act thus, they testify who indeed have no children, nor will have, but who yet toil and harass themselves, and are busy in acquiring wealth, as much as if they had innumerable children to leave it to. It is not the care for his children that makes a man covetous, but a disease of the soul. On this account many even who have not children are mad about riches, and others living with a great number of children even despise what they have. They will accuse thee in that Day. For if the necessities of children compelled men to accumulate riches, they also must necessarily have the same longing, the same lust. And if they have not, it is not from the number of children that we are thus mad, but from the love of money. And who are they, you say, who having children, yet despise riches? Many, and in many places. And if you will allow me, I will speak also of instances among the ancients.
Had not Jacob twelve children? Did he not lead the life of a hireling? Was he not wronged by his kinsman? and did he not often disappoint him? And did his number of children ever compel him to have recourse to any dishonest counsel? What was the case with Abraham? With Isaac, had he not also many other children? What then? Did he not possess all he had for the benefit of strangers? Do you see, how he not only did not do wrong, but even gave up his possessions, not only doing good, but choosing to be wronged by his nephew? For to endure being robbed for the sake of God is a much greater thing than to do good. Why? Because the one is the fruit of the soul and of free choice, whence also it is easily performed but the other is injurious treatment and violence. And a man will more easily throw away ten thousand talents voluntarily, and will not think that he has suffered any harm, than he will bear meekly being robbed of three pence against his will. So that this rather is philosophy of soul. And this, we see, happened in the case of Abraham. "For Lot," it is said, "beheld all the plain; and it was well watered as the garden of God, and he chose it." (Gen. xiii. 10, 11.) And Abraham said nothing against it. Seest thou, that he not only did not wrong him, but he was even wronged by him? Why, O man, dost thou accuse thine own children? God did not give us children for this end, that we should seize the possessions of others. Take care, lest in saying this thou provoke God. For if thou sayest that thy children are the causes of thy grasping and thine avarice, I fear lest thou be deprived of them, as injuring and ensnaring thee. God hath given thee children that they may support thine old age, that they may learn virtue from thee.
For God on this account hath willed that mankind should thus be held together, providing for two most important objects: on the one hand, appointing fathers to be teachers, and on the other, implanting great love. For if men were merely to come into being, no one would have any relation towards any other. For if now, when there are the relations of fathers, and children, and grandchildren, many do not regard many, much more would it then be the case. On this account God hath given thee children. Do not therefore accuse the children.
But if they who have children have no excuse, what can they say for themselves, who having no children wear themselves out about the acquisition of riches? But they have a saying for themselves, which is destitute of all excuse. And what is this? That, instead of children we may have, they say, may have(1) our riches as a memorial. This is truly ridiculous. Instead of children, one says, my house becomes the immortal memorial of my glory. Not of thy glory, O man, will it be the memorial, but of thy covetousness. Dost thou not see how many now as they pass the magnificent houses say one to another, What frauds, what robberies such an one committed, that he might build this house, and now he is become dust and ashes, and his house has passed into the inheritance of others! It is not of thy glory then that thou leavest a memorial, but of thy covetousness. And thy body indeed is concealed in the earth, but thou dost not permit the memorial of thy covetousness to be concealed, as it might have been(2) by length of time, but causest it to be turned up and disinterred through thy house. For as long as this stands, bearing thy name, and called such an one's, certainly the mouths of all too must needs be opened against thee. Dost thou see that it is better to have nothing than to sustain such an accusation?
And these things indeed here. But what shall we do There? tell me, having so much at our disposal here, if we have imparted to no one of our possessions, or at least very little; how shall we put off our dishonest gains? For he that wishes to put off covetous gain, does not give a little out of a great deal, but many times more than he has robbed, and he ceases from robbing. Hear what Zacchaeus says, "And for as many things as I have taken wrongfully, I restore fourfold." (Luke xix. 8.) But thou, taking wrongfully ten thousand talents, if thou give a few drachmas, thinkest thou hast restored the whole, and art affected as if thou hadst given more. And even this grudgingly. Why? Because thou oughtest both to have restored these, and to have added other out of thine own private possessions. For as the thief is not excused when he gives back only what he has stolen, but often he has added even his life; and often he compounds upon restoring many times as much: so also should the covetous man. For the covetous man also is a thief and a robber, far worse than the other, by how much he is also more tyrannical. He indeed by being concealed, and by making his attack in the night, cuts off much of the audacity of the attempt, as if he were ashamed, and feared to sin. But the other having no sense of shame, with open face in the middle of the market-place steals the property of all, being at once a thief and a tyrant. He does not break through walls, nor extinguish the lamp, nor open a chest, nor tear off seals. But what? He does things more insolent than these, in the sight of those who are injured he carries things out by the door, he with confidence opens everything, he compels them to expose all their possessions themselves. Such is the excess of his violence. This man is more wicked than those, inasmuch as he is more shameless and tyrannical. For he that has suffered by fraud is indeed grieved, but he has no small consolation, that he who injured him was afraid of him. But he who together with the injury he suffers is also despised, will not be able to endure the violence. For the ridicule is greater. Tell me, if one committed adultery with a woman in secret, and another committed it in the sight of her husband, who grieved him the most, and was most apt to wound him. For he indeed, together with the wrong he has done, treated him also with contempt. But the former, if he did nothing else, showed at least that he feared him whom he injured. So also in the case of money. He that takes it secretly, does him honor in this respect, that he does it secretly; but he who robs publicly and openly, together with the loss adds also the shame.
Let us therefore, both poor and rich, cease from taking the property of others. For m present discourse is not only to the rich, but to the poor also. For they too rob those who are poorer than themselves. And artisans who are better off, and more powerful, outsell the poorer and more distressed, tradesmen outsell tradesmen, and so all who are engaged in the market-place. So that I wish from every side to take away injustice. For the injury consists not in the measure of the things plundered and stolen, but in the purpose of him that steals. And that these are more thieves and defrauders, who do not despise little gains, I know and remember that I have before told you, if you also remember it. But let us not be over exact. Let them be equally bad with the rich. Let us instruct our mind not to covet greater things, not to aim at more than we have. And in heavenly things let our desire of more never be satiated, but let each be ever coveting more. But upon earth let every one be for what is needful and sufficient, and seek nothing more, that so he may be able to obtain the real goods, by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, strength, honor, now and always, and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY XI: 1 THESSALONIANS v. 19--22.
Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. But prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from every form of evil."
A THICK mist, a darkness and cloud is spread over all the earth. And, showing this, the Apostle said, "For we(1) were once darkness." (Eph. v. 8.) And again, "Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief." Since therefore there is, so to speak, a moonless night, and we walk in that night, God hath given us a bright lamp, having kindled in our souls the grace of the Holy Spirit. But some who have received this light have rendered it more bright and shining, as, for instance, Paul and Peter, and all those Saints; while others have even extinguished it, as the five virgins, as those who have "made shipwreck concerning the faith," as the fornicator of Corinth, as the Galatians who were perverted.
On this account Paul says, "Quench not the Spirit," that is, the gift of grace, for it is his custom so to call the gift of the Spirit. But this an impure life extinguishes. For as any one, who has sprinkled both water and dust upon the light of our(2) lamp, extinguishes it, and if he does not this, but only takes out the oil--so it is also with the gift of grace. For if you have cast over it earthly things, and the cares of fluctuating matters,(3) you have quenched the Spirit. And if you have done none of these things, but a temptation coming from some other quarter has vehemently assailed it, as some wind, and if the light be not strong, and it has not much oil, or you have not closed the opening, or have not shut the door, all is undone. But what is the opening? As in the lamp, so is it also in us: it is the eye and the ear. Suffer not a violent blast of wickedness to fall upon these, since it would extinguish the lamp, but close them up with the fear of God. The mouth is the door. Shut it, and fasten it, that it may both give light, and repel the attack from without. For instance, has any one insulted and reviled you? Do you shut the mouth; for if you open it, you add force to the wind. Do you not see in houses, when two doors stand directly opposite, and there is a strong wind, if you shut one, and there is no opposite draught, the wind has no power, but the greater part of its force is abated? So also now, there are two doors, thy mouth, and his who insults and affronts thee; if thou shuttest thy mouth, and dost not allow a draught on the other side, thou hast quenched the whole blast but if thou openest it, it will not be restrained. Let us not therefore quench it.
And the flame is often liable to be extinguished even when no temptation assails it. When the oil fails, when we do not alms,(1) the Spirit is quenched. For it came to thee as an alms from God. Then He sees this fruit not existing in thee, and he abides not with an unmerciful soul. But the Spirit being quenched, ye know what follows, as many of you as have walked on a road in a moonless night. And if it is difficult to walk by night in a road from land to land, how is it safe in the road that leads from earth to heaven? Know ye not how many demons there are in the intervening space, how many wild beasts, how many spirits of wickedness? If indeed we have that light, they will be able to do us no hurt; but if we extinguish it, they soon take us captive, they soon rob us of everything. Since even robbers first extinguish the lamp, and so plunder us, For they indeed see in this darkness, since they do the works of darkness: but we are unaccustomed to that light.(2) Let us not then extinguish it. All evil doing extinguishes that light, whether reviling, or insolence, or whatever you can mention. For as in the case of fire, everything that is foreign to its nature is destructive of it, but that kindles it which is congenial to it; whatever is dry, whatever is warm, whatever is fiery, kindles the flame of the Spirit. Let us not therefore overlay it with anything cold or damp; for these things are destructive of it.
But there is also another explanation. There were among them many indeed who prophesied truly, but some prophesied falsely. This also he says in the Epistle to the Corinthians, that on this account He gave "the discernings of spirits." (1 Cor. xii. 10.) For the devil, of his vile craft, wished through this gift of grace to subvert everything pertaining to the Church. For since both the demon and the Spirit prophesied concerning the future, the one indeed uttering falsehood, and the other truth, and it was not possible from any quarter to receive a proof of one or the other, but each spoke without being called to account, as Jeremiah and Ezekiel had done, but when the time came they were convicted, He gave also the "discernings of spirits."(3) Since therefore then also among the Thessalonians many were prophesying, glancing at whom he says, "Neither by word, nor by epistle, as from us, as that the day of the Lord is now present" (2 Thess. ii. 2), he says this here. That is, do not, because there are false prophets among you, on their account prohibit also these, and turn away from them; "quench" them "not," that is, "despise not prophesyings."
Seest thou that this is what he means by, "Prove all things"? Because he had said, "Despise not prophesyings," lest they should think that he opened the pulpit to all, he says, "Prove all things," that is, such as are really prophecies; "and hold fast that which is good. Abstain from every form of evil"; not from this or that, but from all; that you may by proof distinguish both the true things and the false, and abstain from the latter, and hold fast the former. For thus both the hatred of the one will be vehement and the love of the other arises, when we do all things not carelessly, nor without examination, but with careful investigation.
Ver. 23. "And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Observe the affection of the Teacher. After the admonition he adds a prayer; not only that, but even introduces it in his letter.(4) For we need both counsel and prayer. For this reason we also first giving you counsel, then offer prayers for you. And this the Initiated know. But Paul indeed did this with good reason, having great confidence towards God, whereas we are confounded with shame, and have no freedom of speech. But because we were appointed to this we do it, being unworthy even to stand in His presence, and to hold the place of the lowest disciples. But because grace works even through the unworthy, not for our own sakes but for theirs who are about to be benefited, we contribute our parts.
"Sanctify you wholly," he says, and may "your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." What does he here call the spirit? The gift of grace.(5) For if we depart hence having our lamps bright, we shall enter into the bridechamber. But if they are quenched, it will not be so. For this reason he says "your spirit." For if that remains pure, the other remains also. "And soul and body," he says. For neither the one nor the other then admits anything evil.
Ver, 24. "Faithful is He that calleth you, who will also do it."
Observe his humility. For, because he had prayed, Think not, he says, that this happens from my prayers, but from the purpose, with which He called you. For if He called you to salvation, and He is true, He will certainly save you, in that He wills it. Ver. 25. "Brethren, pray for us also."(1) Strange! what humility is here! But he indeed said this for the sake of humility, but we,(2) not from humility, but for the sake of great benefit, and wishing to gain some great profit from you, say, "Pray for us also." For although you do not receive any great or wonderful benefit from us, do it nevertheless for the sake of the honor and the title itself. Some one has had children, and even if they had not been benefited by him, nevertheless, because he has been their father, he perhaps sets this before them, saying, "For one day I have not been called father by thee." a On this account we too say, "Pray for us also." I am not merely saying this, but really desiring your prayers. For if I have become responsible for this presidency over you all, and shall have to render an account, much more ought I to have the benefit of your prayers. On your account my responsibilities are greater, therefore the help also from you should be greater.
Ver. 56. "Salute all the brethren with a holy kiss."
Oh! what fervor! Oh! what mad passion is here! Because being absent he could not greet them with the kiss, he greets them through others, as when we say, Kiss him for me. So also do ye yourselves retain the fire of love. For it does not admit of distances, but even through long intervening ways it extends itself, and is everywhere present.
Ver. 27. "I adjure you by the Lord that this Epistle be read unto all the holy(4) brethren."
And this command is rather from love, and not so much in the way of teaching; that with them also, he means, I may be conversing.
Ver. 28. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."(5)
And he does not merely command, but adjures them, and this from a fervent mind, that even though they should despise him, for the sake of the adjuration they may practice what is commanded. For men had a great dread of that appeal, but now that too is trampled under foot. And often when a slave is scourged, and adjures by God and His Christ, and says, "So may you die a Christian," yet no one gives heed, no one regards it; but if he adjures him by his own son, immediately, though unwilling, and grinding his teeth, he gives up his anger. Again, another being dragged and led away through the middle of the market-place,(6) in the presence both of Jews and Greeks, adjures him that leads him away with the most fearful adjurations, and no one regards it. What will not the Greeks say, when one of the faithful adjures a faithful man and a Christian, and no regard is paid to it, but we even despise him.
Will you allow me to tell you a certain story which I myself have heard? For I do not say it of my own invention, but having heard it from a person worthy of credit. There was a certain maid-servant united to a wicked man, a vile run-away slave; she, when her husband having committed many faults was about to be sold by her mistress; (for the offenses were too great for pardon, and the woman was a widow, and was not able to punish him who was the plague of her house, and therefore resolved to sell him; then considering that it was an unholy thing to separate the husband from the wife, the mistress, although the girl was useful, to avoid separating her from him, made up her mind to sell her also with him;) then the girl seeing herself in these straits, came to a venerable person who was intimate with her mistress, and who also told it to me, and clasping her knees, and with a thousand lamentations, besought her to entreat her mistress in her behalf; and having wasted many words, at last she added this also, as thereby especially to persuade her, laying on her a most awful adjuration, and the adjuration was this, "So mayest thou see Christ at the Day of Judgment, as thou neglectest not my petition." And having so said, she departed. And she who had been entreated, upon the intrusion of some worldly care, such as happens in families, forgot the matter. Then suddenly late in the afternoon, the most awful adjuration came into her mind, and she felt great compunction, and she went and with great earnestness asked, and obtained her request. And that very night she suddenly saw the heavens opened, and Christ Himself. But she saw Him, as far as it was possible for a woman to see Him. Because she at all regarded the adjuration, because she was afraid, she was thought worthy of this vision.
And these things I have said, that we may not despise adjurations, especially when any entreat us for things that are good, as for alms, and for works of mercy. But now poor men, who have lost their feet, sit and see thee hastening by, and when they cannot follow thee with their feet, they expect to detain thee, as with a kind of hook, by the fear of an adjuration, and stretching out their hands, they adjure thee to give them only one or two pennies. But thou hastenest by, though adjured by thy Lord. And if he adjure thee by the eyes either of thy husband, who is gone abroad, or of thy son, or thy daughter, immediately thou yieldest, thy mind is transported, thou art warmed; but if he adjure thee by thy Lord, thou hastenest by. And I have known many women who, hearing indeed the name of Christ, have hastened by; but being commended for their beauty by those who came to them, have been melted and softened, and have stretched out their hand.
Yea thus they have reduced suffering and wretched beggars to this, even to deal in making sport! For when they do not touch their souls by uttering vehement and bitter words, they have recourse to this way by which they delight them exceedingly. And our great wickedness compels him that is in calamity or is straitened by hunger, to utter encomiums upon the beauty of those who pity him. And I wish this were all. But there is even another form worse than this. It compels the poor to be jugglers, and buffoons, and filthy jesters. For when he fastens on his fingers cups and bowls and cans, and plays on them as cymbals, and having a pipe, whistles on it those base and amorous melodies, and sings them at the top of his voice; and then many stand round, and some give him a piece of bread, some a penny, and others something else, and they detain him long, and both men and women are delighted; what is more grievous than this? Are not these things deserving of much groaning? They are indeed trifling, and are considered trifling, but they engender great sins in our character. For when any obscene and sweet melody is uttered, it softens the mind, and corrupts the very soul itself. And the poor man indeed who calls upon God, and invokes a thousand blessings upon us, is not vouchsafed a word from you; but he who instead of these things introduces sportive sallies, is admired.
And what has now come into my mind to say to you, that I will utter. And what is this? When you are involved in poverty and sickness, if from no other quarter, at least from those who beg, who wander through the narrow streets, learn to give thanks to the Lord. For they, spending their whole life in begging, do not blaspheme, are not angry, nor impatient, but make the whole narrative of their beggary in thanksgiving, magnifying God, and calling Him merciful. He indeed that is perishing with hunger, calls Him merciful, but you who are living in plenty, if you cannot get the possessions of all, call Him cruel. How much better is he! how will he condemn us! God has sent the poor through the world, as common teachers in our calamities, and consolation under them. Hast thou suffered anything contrary to thy wishes? yet nothing like what that poor man suffers. Thou hast lost an eye, but he both his. Thou hast long labored under disease, but he has one that is incurable. Thou hast lost thy children, but he even the health of his own body. Thou hast suffered a great loss, but thou art not yet reduced to supplicate from others. Give thanks to God. Thou seest them in the furnace of poverty, and begging indeed from all, but receiving from few. When thou art weary of praying, and dost not receive, consider how often thou hast heard a poor man calling upon thee, and hast not listened to him, and he has not been angry nor insulted thee. And yet thou indeed actest thus from cruelty; but God from mercy even declines to hear. If therefore thou, thyself from cruelty not hearing thy fellow-servant, expectest not to be found fault with, dost thou find fault with the Lord, who out of mercy does not hear His servant? Seest thou how great the inequality, how great the injustice?
Let us consider these things constantly, those who are below us, those who are under greater calamities, and so we shall be able to be thankful to God. Life abounds with many such instances. And he who is sober, and willing to attend, gains no small instruction from the houses of prayer. For on this account the poor sit before the vestibule both in the churches and in the chapels of the Martyrs,(1) that we may receive great benefit from the spectacle of these things. For consider, that when we enter into earthly palaces, we can see nothing of this kind; but men that are dignified and famous, and wealthy and intelligent, are everywhere hastening to and fro. But into the real palaces, I mean the Church, and the oratories(2) of the Martyrs, enter the demoniacs, the maimed, the poor, the aged, the blind, and those whose limbs are distorted. And wherefore? That thou mayest be instructed by the spectacle of these things; in the first place that if thou hast entered drawing after thee any pride from without, having looked upon these, and laid aside thy arrogance, and become contrite in heart, so thou mayest go in, and hear the things that are said; for it is not possible that he who prays with an arrogant mind should be heard. That when thou seest an aged man, thou mayest not be elated at thy youth, for these old men were once young. That when thou boastest highly of thy warfare, or thy kingly power, thou mayest consider that from these are sprung those who are become illustrious in kings' courts. That, when thou presumest upon thy bodily health, taking heed to these, thou mayest abate thy lofty spirit. For the healthy man who continually enters here will not be highminded on account of his bodily health; and the sick man will receive no slight consolation.
But they do not sit here only on this account, but that they may also make thee compassionate, and thou mayest be inclined to pity; that thou mayest admire the lovingkindness of God; for if God is not ashamed of them, but has set them in His vestibules, much less be thou ashamed; that thou mayest not be highminded on account of palaces upon earth. Be not ashamed, when called upon by a poor man; and if he should draw near, if he should catch thy knees, shake him not off. For these are certain admirable dogs of the Royal Courts. For I do not call them dogs as dishonoring them -- far be it -- but even highly commending them. They guard the King's court. Therefore feed them. For the honor passes on to the King. There all is pride,--I speak of the palaces on earth--here all is humility. You learn especially from the very vestibules that human beings are nothing. From the very persons who sit before them, you are taught that God delights not in riches. For their sitting and assembling there is all but an admonition, sending forth a clear voice regarding the nature of all men, and saying that human things are nothing, that they are shadow and smoke. If riches were a good, God would not have seated the poor before His own vestibule. And if He admits rich people also, wonder not for He admits them not on this account, that they may continue rich, but that they may be delivered from their encumbrance. For hear what Christ says to them, "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon" (Matt. vi. 24.); and again, "It is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven"; and again, "It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. xix. 23, 24.) On this account He receives the rich, that they may hear these words, that they may long for the eternal riches, that they may covet things in heaven. And why dost thou wonder that He does not disdain to seat such at His vestibules? for He does not disdain to call them to His spiritual Table, and make them partakers of that Feast. But the maimed and the lame, the old man that is clothed in rags and filth, and has catarrh, comes to partake of that Table with the young and the beautiful, and with him even who is clothed in purple, and whose head is encircled with a diadem--and is thought worthy of the spiritual Feast, and both enjoy the same benefits, and there is no difference.
Does then Christ not disdain to call them to His Table with the king (Emperor)--for both are called together--and thou perhaps disdainest even to be seen giving to the poor, or even conversing with them? Fie upon thy haughtiness and pride! See that we suffer not the same with the rich man formerly. He disdained even to look upon Lazarus, and did not allow him to share his roof or shelter, but he was without, cast away at his gate, nor was he even vouchsafed a word from him. But see how, when fallen into straits, and in want of his help, he failed to obtain it. For if we are ashamed of those of whom Christ is not ashamed, we are ashamed of Christ, being ashamed of His friends. Let thy table be filled with the maimed and the lame. Through them Christ comes, not through the rich. Perhaps thou laughest at hearing this; therefore, that thou mayest not think it is my word, hear Christ Himself speaking, that thou mayest not laugh, but shudder: "When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends nor thy brethren, nor thy kinsmen, nor rich neighbors; lest haply they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, bid the poor, the maimed, the halt, the blind; and thou shalt be blessed; because they have not wherewith to recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed in the Resurrection of the just." (Luke xiv. 12-14.) And greater is thy glory even here, if thou lovest that. For from the former class of guests arise envy, and malice, and slanders, and revilings, and much fear lest anything unbecoming should occur. And thou standest like a servant before his master, if those who are invited are thy superiors, fearing their criticism and their lips. But in the case of these there is nothing of this sort, but whatever you bring them, they receive all with pleasure; and ample is the applause, brighter the glory, higher the admiration. All they that hear do not so much applaud the former, as the latter. But if thou disbelievest, thou who art rich, make the trial, thou who invitest generals and governors. Invite the poor, and fill thy table from them, and see if thou art not applauded by all, if thou art not loved by all, if all do not hold thee as a father. For of those feasts there is no advantage, but for these heaven is in store, and the good things of heaven--of which may we all be partakers, by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, power, honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.