ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
HOMILIES ON PHILIPPIANS, 8-15
[Translated by the Rev. W. C. Cotton, M.A., of Christ Church, Chaplain to the Bishop of New Zealand; revised by the Rev. John A. Broadus, D.D.,
President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.]
HOMILY VIII: PHILIPPIANS ii. 12-16.
"So then, my beloved, even as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life; that I may have whereof to glory in the day of Christ."
THE admonitions which we give ought to be accompanied with commendations; for thus they become even welcome, when we refer those whom we admonish to that measure of zeal which they have themselves exhibited; as Paul, for instance, did here; and observe with what singular discretion; "So then, my beloved," he says; he did not say simply "be obedient," not until he had first commended them in these words, "even as ye have always obeyed "; i.e. "it is not other men, but your own selves, whom I bid you take example by." "Not as in my presence only, but much more in my absence." And why, "much more in my absence"? "Ye seemed perhaps at that time to be doing everything out of respect to me, and from a principle of shame, but that is no longer so; if then ye make it evident that ye now strive more earnestly, it is also made evident that neither then was it done out of consideration to me, but for God's sake." Tell me, what wouldest thou? "not that ye give heed to me, but that ye 'work out your own salvation with fear and trembling'"; for it is impossible for one, who lives devoid of fear, to set forth any high or commanding example; and he said not merely "with fear," but "and with trembling," which is an excessive degree of fear. Such fear had Paul: and therefore he said, I fear "lest having preached to others, I myself should be rejected." (1 Cor. ix. 27.) For if without the aid of fear temporal things can never be achieved, how much less spiritual matters; for I desire to know, who ever learnt his letters without fear? who has become a proficient in any art, without fear? But if, when the devil does not lie in the way, where indolence is the only obstacle, so much of fear is necessary merely in order that we may master that indolence which is natural to us; where there is so fierce a war, so great hindrances, how can we by any possibility be saved without fear? And how may this fear be produced? If we but consider that God is everywhere present, heareth all things, seeth all things, not only whatsoever is done and said, but also all that is in the heart, and in the depth of the soul, for He is "quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. iv. 12), if we so dispose ourselves, we shall not do or say or imagine aught that is evil. Tell me, if thou hadst to stand constantly near the person of a ruler, wouldest not thou stand there with fear? and how standing in God's presence, dost thou laugh and throw thyself back, and not conceive fear and dread? Let it never be that thou despisest His patient endurance, for it is to bring thee to repentance that He is longsuffering. Whenever thou eatest, consider that God is present, for He is present; whenever thou art preparing to sleep, or giving way to passion, if thou art robbing another, or indulging in luxury, or whatever thou art about, thou wilt never fall into laughter, never be inflamed with rage. If this be thy thought continually, thou wilt continually be in "fear and trembling," forasmuch as thou art standing beside the King. The architect, though he be experienced, though he be perfectly master of his art, yet stands with "fear and trembling," lest he fall down from the building. Thou too hast believed, thou hast performed many good deeds, thou hast mounted high: secure thyself, be in fear as thou standest, and keep a wary eye, lest thou fall thence. For manifold are the spiritual sorts of wickedness which aim to cast thee down. (Eph. vi. 12.) "Sense the Lord with fear," he says, "and rejoice unto Him with trembling." (Ps. ii. 11.) And how is rejoicing compatible with "trembling"? Yet this, be assured, is the only rejoicing; for when we perform some good work, and such as beseemeth those who do anything "with trembling," then only do we rejoice. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling": he says not "work," but "work out," i.e. with much earnestness, with much diligence; but as he had said, "with fear and trembling," see how he relieves their anxiety: for what does he say? "It is God that worketh in you." Fear not because said, "with fear and trembling." I said it not with this view, that thou shouldest give up in despair, that thou shouldest suppose virtue to be somewhat difficult to be attained, but that thou mightest be led to follow after it, and not spend thyself in vain pursuits; if this be the case, God will work all things. Do thou be bold; "for it is God that worketh in you." If then He worketh, it is our part to bring a mind ever resolute, clenched and unrelaxed. "For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to work." "If He does Himself work in us to will, how dost thou exhort us? for if He works Himself even the will, the words, which you speak to us, have no meaning, 'that ye have obeyed'; for we have not 'obeyed'; it is without meaning that thou sayest, 'with fear and trembling'; for the whole is of God." It was not for this that I said to you, "for it is He that worketh in you both to will and to work," but my object was to relieve your anxiety. If thou wilt, in that case He will "work in thee to will." Be not affrighted, thou art not- worsted; both the hearty desire and the accomplishment are a gift from Him: for where we have the will, thenceforward He will increase our will. For instance, I desire to do some good work: He has wrought the good work itself, and by means of it He has wrought also the will. Or he says this in the excess of his piety, as when he declares that our well-doings are gifts of grace.
As then, when he calls these gifts, he does not put us out of the pale of free will, but accords to us free will, so when he says, "to work in us to will," he does not deprive us of free will, but he shows that by actually doing right we greatly increase our heartiness in willing. For as doing comes of doing, so of not doing comes not doing. Hast thou given an alms? thou art the more incited to give. Hast thou refused to give? thou art become so much the more disinclined. Hast thou practiced temperance for one day? Thou hast an incitement for the next likewise. Hast thou indulged to excess? Thou hast increased the inclination to self-indulgence. "When a wicked man cometh into the depth of vice, then he despises." (Prov. xviii. 3.) As, then, when a man cometh into the depth of iniquity, he turns a despiser; so when he cometh into the depth of goodness, he quickens his exertions. For as the one runs riot in despair, so the second, under a sense of the multitude of good things, exerts himself the more, fearing lest he should lose the whole. "For His good pleasure," he says, that is, "for love's sake," for the sake of pleasing Him; to the end that what is acceptable to Him may take place; that things may take place according to His will. Here he shows, and makes it a ground of confidence, that He is sure to work in us, for it is His will that we live as He desires we should, and if He desires it, He Himself both worketh in us to this end, and will certainly accomplish it; for it is His will that we live aright. Seest thou, how he does not deprive us of free will?
"Do all things without murmurings and disputings." The devil, when he finds that he has no power to withdraw us from doing right, wishes to spoil our reward by other means. For he has taken occasion to insinuate pride or vainglory, or if none of these things, then murmuring, or, if not this, misgivings. Now then see how Paul sweeps away all these. He said on the subject of humility all that he did say, to overthrow pride; he spoke of vainglory, that is, "not as in my presence only"; he here speaks of "murmuring and disputing." But why, I want to know, when in the case of the Corinthians he was engaged in uprooting this evil tendency, did he remind them of the Israelites, but here has said nothing of the sort, but simply charged them? Because in that case the mischief was already done, for which reason there was need of a more severe stroke and a sharper rebuke; but here he is giving admonitions to prevent its being done. Severe measures then were not called for in order to secure those that had not yet been guilty; as in leading them to humility he did not subjoin the instance in the Gospel, wherein the proud were punished, but laid the charge as from God's lips (Luke xvi. 237 xviii. 14?); and he addresses them as free, as children of pure birth, not as servants; for in the practice of virtue a rightminded and generous person is influenced by those who do well, but one of bad principles by those who do not do well; the one by the consideration of honor, the other of punishment. Wherefore also writing to the Hebrews, he said, bringing forward the example of Esau, "Who for one mess of meat sold his own birthright" (Heb. xii. 16); and again, "if he shrink back, my soul hath no pleasure in him." (Heb. x. 38.) And among the Corinthians were many who had been guilty of fornication. Therefore he said, "Lest when I come again my God should humble me before you, and I should mourn for many that have sinned heretofore, and repented not of the uncleanness, and fornication, and lasciviousness which they committed. (2 Cor. xii. 21.) That ye may be blameless," says he, "and harmless"; i.e. irreproachable, unsullied; for murmuring occasions no slight stain. And what means "without disputing"? Is it good, or not good? Do not dispute, he says, though it be trouble, or labor, or any thing else whatever. He did not say, "that ye be not punished," for punishment is reserved for the thing; and this he made evident in the Epistle to the Corinthians; but here he said nothing of the sort; but he says, "That ye may be blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life, that I may have whereof to glory in the day of Christ." Observest thou that he is instructing these not to murmur? So that murmuring is left for unprincipled and graceless slaves. For tell me, what manner of son is that, who murmurs at the very time that he is employed in the affairs of his father and is working for his own benefit? Consider he says, that you are laboring for yourself, that it is for yourself that you are laying up; it is for those to murmur, when others profit by their labors, others reap the fruit, while they bear the burden; but he that is gathering for himself, why should he murmur? Because his wealth does not increase? But it is not so. Why does he murmur who acts of free-will, and not by constraint? It is better to do nothing than to do it with murmuring, for even the very thing itself is spoilt. And do you not remark that in our own families we are continually saying this; "it were better for these things never to be done, than to have them done with murmuring"? and we had often rather be deprived of the services some one owes us, than submit to the inconvenience of his murmuring. For murmuring is intolerable, most intolerable; it borders upon blasphemy. Otherwise why had those men to pay a penalty so severe? It is a proof of ingratitude; the murmurer is ungrateful to God, but whoso is ungrateful to God does thereby become a blasphemer. Now there were at that time, if ever, uninterrupted troubles, and dangers without cessation: there was no pause, no remission: innumerable were the horrors, which pressed upon them from all quarters; but now we have profound peace, a perfect calm.
Wherefore then murmur? Because thou art poor? Yet think of Job. Or because sickness is thy lot? What then if, with the consciousness of as many excellencies and as high attainments as that holy man, thou hadst been so afflicted? Again reflect on him, how that for a long time he never ceased to breed worms, sitting upon a dunghill and scraping his sores; for the account says that "(after a long time had passed,) then said his wife unto him, How long wilt thou persist, saying, Yet a little while I bide in expectation? Speak some word against the Lord, and die." (Job ii. 9, LXX.) But your child is dead? What then if thou hadst lost all thy children, and that by an evil fate, as he did? For ye know, ye know well, that it is no slight alleviation to take our place beside the sick man, to close the mouth, to shut the eyes, to stroke the beard, to hear the last accents; but that just man Was vouchsafed none of these consolations, they all being overwhelmed at once. And what do I say? Hadst thou, thine own self, been bidden to slay and offer up thine own son, and to see the body consumed, like that blessed Patriarch, what then wouldst thou have felt whilst erecting the altar, laying on the wood, binding the child? But there are some who revile thee? What then would be thy feelings did thy friends, come to administer consolation to thee, speak like Job's? For, as it is, innumerable are our sins, and we deserve to be reproached; but in that case he who was true, just, godly, who kept himself from every evil deed, heard the contrary of those laid to his charge by his friends. What then, tell me, if thou hadst heard thy wife exclaiming in accents of reproach; "I am a vagabond and a servant, wandering from place to place, and from house to house, waiting until the sun goes down, that I may rest from the woes that encompass me." (Job ii. 9, LXX.) Why dost thou speak so, O foolish woman? for is thine husband to blame for these things? Nay, but the devil. "Speak a word against God," she says, "and die";--and if thereupon the stricken man had cursed and died, how wouldest thou be the better?--No disease you can name is worse than that of his, though you name ten thousand. It was so grievous, that he could no longer be in the house and under cover; such, that all men gave him up. For if he had not been irrecoverably gone, he would never have taken his seat without the city, a more pitiable object than those afflicted with leprosy; for these are both admitted into houses, and they do herd together; but he passing the night in the open air, was naked upon a dunghill, and could not even bear a garment upon his body. How so? Perhaps there would only have been an addition to his pangs. For "I melt the clods of the earth," he says, "while I scrape off my sore." (Job vii. 5, LXX.) His flesh bred sores and worms in him, and that continually. Seest thou how each one of us sickens at the hearing of these things? but if they are intolerable to hear, is the sight of them more tolerable? and if the sight of them is intolerable, how much more intolerable to undergo them? And yet that righteous man did undergo them, not for two or three days, but for a long while, and he did not sin, not even with his lips. What disease can you describe to me like this, so exquisitely painful? for was not this worse than blindness? "I look on my food," he says, "as a fetid mass." (Job vi. 7.) And not only this, but that which affords cessation to others, night and sleep, brought no alleviation to him, nay, were worse than any torture. Hear his words: "Why dost thou scare me with dreams, and terrify me through visions? If it be morning, I say, When will it be evening?" (Job vii. 14, 4), and he murmured not. And there was not only this; but reputation in the eyes of the world was added; for they forthwith concluded him to be guilty of endless crimes, judging from all that he suffered. And accordingly this is the consideration, which his friends urged upon him; "Know therefore that God exacteth less of thee than thine iniquities deserve." (Job xi. 6.) Wherefore he himself said, "But now they that are younger than I have me in derision, whose fathers I disdained to set with the dogs of my flock." (Job xxx. 1.) And was not this worse than many deaths? Yet though assaulted on all sides by a flood like this, when there raged around him a fearful storm, clouds, rain, lightnings, whirling winds, and waterspouts, he remained himself unmoved, seated as it were in the midst of this surge, thus awful and overwhelming, as in a perfect calm, and no murmur escaped him; and this before the gift of grace, before that aught was declared concerning a resurrection, before aught concerning hell and punishment and vengeance. Yet we, who hear both Prophets and Apostles and Evangelists speaking to us, and have innumerable examples set before us, and have been taught the tidings of a Resurrection, yet harbor discontent, though no man can say that such a fate as this has been his own. For if one has lost money, yet not all that great number of sons and daughters, or if he has, perchance it was that he had sinned; but for him, he lost them suddenly, in the midst of his sacrifices, in the midst of the service which he was rendering to God. And if any man has at one blow lost property to the same amount, which can never be, yet he has not had the further affliction of a sore all over his body, he has not scraped the humors that covered him; or if this likewise has been his fate, yet he has not had men to upbraid and reproach him, which is above all things calculated to wound the feelings, more than the calamities we suffer. For if when we have persons to cheer and console us in our misfortunes, and to hold out to us fair prospects, we yet despond, consider what it was to have men upbraiding him. If the words, "I looked for some to have pity, but there was no man, and for comforters, but I found none" (Ps. lxix. 20), describe intolerable misery, how great an aggravation to find revilers instead of comforters! "Miserable comforters are ye all" (Job xvi. 2), he says. If we did but revolve these subjects continually in our minds, if we well weighed them, no ills of this present time could ever have force to disturb our peace, when we turned our eyes to that athlete, that soul of adamant, that spirit impenetrable as brass. For as though he had borne about him a body of brass or stone, he met all events with a noble and constant spirit.
Taking these things to heart, let us do everything "without murmuring and disputing." Is it some good work that thou hast before thee, and dost thou murmur? wherefore? art thou then forced? for that there are many about you who force you to murmur, I know well, says he. This he intimated by saying, "in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation"; but it is this that deserves admiration, that we admit no such feeling when under galling provocation. For the stars too give light in the night, they shine in the dark, and receive no blemish to their own beauty, yea they even shine the brighter; but when light returns, they no longer shine so. Thus thou too dost appear with the greater lustre, whilst thou holdest straight in the midst of the crooked. This it is which deserves our admiration, the being "blameless"; for that they might not urge this plea, he himself set it down by anticipation. What means "holding fast the word of life"? i.e. "being destined to live, being of those that are gaining salvation." Observe how immediately he subjoins the rewards, which are in reserve. Lights[i.e. luminaries], he says, retain the principle of light; so do ye the principle of life. What means "the word of life"? Having the seed of life, i.e. having pledges of life, holding life itself, i.e. "having in yourselves the seed of life," this is what he calls "the word of life." Consequently the rest are all dead, for by these words he signified as much; for otherwise those others likewise would have held "the word of life." "That I may have whereof to glory," he says; what is this? I too participate in your good deeds, he says. So great is your virtue, as not only to save yourselves, but to render me illustrious. Strange kind of "boasting," thou blessed Paul! Thou art scourged, driven about, reviled for our sakes: therefore he adds," in the day of Christ, that I did not run," he says, "in vain, nor labored in vain," but I always have a right to glory, he means, that I did not run in vain.
"Yea, and if I am offered." He said not, "and if I die even," nor did he when writing to Timothy, for there, too, he has made use of the same expression, "For I am already being offered." (2 Tim. iv. 6.) He is both consoling them about his own death, and instructing them to bear gladly the death that is for Christ's sake. I am become, he says, as it were a libation and a sacrifice. O blessed soul! His bringing them to God he calls a sacrifice. It is much better to present a soul than to present oxen. "If, then, over and above this offering," he says, "I add myself, my death as a libation, I rejoice." For this he implies, when he says, "Yea, and if I am offered upon the sacrifice and service, I joy and rejoice with you all; and in the same manner do ye also joy and rejoice with me." Why dost thou rejoice with them? Seest thou that he shows that it is their duty to rejoice? On the one hand then, I rejoice in being made a libation; on the other, I rejoice with you, in having presented a sacrifice; "and in the same manner do ye also joy and rejoice with me," that I am offered up; "rejoice with me, "who rejoice in myself." So that the death of the just is no subject for tears, but for joy. If they rejoice, we should rejoice with them. For it is misplaced for us to weep, while they rejoice. "But," it is urged, "we long for our wonted intercourse." This is a mere pretext and excuse; and that it is so, mark what he enjoins: "Rejoice with me, and joy." Dost thou miss thy wonted intercourse? If thou wert thyself destined to remain here, there would be reason in what thou sayest; but if after a brief space thou wilt overtake him who has departed, what is that intercourse which thou dost seek? for it is only when he is forever severed from him that a man misses the society of another, but if he will go the same way that thou wilt go, what is the intercourse which thou longest for? Why do we not bewail all that are upon foreign travel? Do we not just a little, and cease after the first or the second day? If thou longest for thy wonted intercourse with him, weep so far only. "It is no evil that I suffer," says he, "but I even rejoice in going to Christ, and do ye not rejoice." "Rejoice with me." Let us too rejoice when we see a righteous man dying, and yet more even when any of the desperately wicked; for the first is going to receive the reward of his labors, but the other has abated somewhat from the score of his sins. But it is said, perhaps he might have altered, had he lived. Yet God would never have taken him away, if there had been really a prospect of an alteration. For why should not He who orders all events for our salvation, allow him the opportunity, who gave promise of pleasing Him? If He leaves those, who never alter, much more those that do. Let then the sharpness of our sorrow be everywhere cut away, let the voice of lamentation cease. Let us thank God under all events: let us do all things without murmuring; let us be cheerful, and let us become pleasing to Him in all things, that we may also attain the good things to come, by the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, &c.
HOMILY IX: PHILIPPIANS ii. 19--21.
"But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no man likeminded, who will care truly for your state. For they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ."
HE had said, "have fallen out unto the progress of the Gospel; so that my bonds became manifest in Christ throughout the whole praetorian guard." (Phil. i. 12, 13.) Again, "Yea, and if I am offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith." (Phil. ii. 17.) By these words he strengthened them. Perchance they might suspect that his former words were spoken just to comfort them. What then? "I send Timothy unto you," says he; for they desired to hear all things that concerned him. And wherefore said he not, "that ye may know my state," but, "that I may know yours"? Because Epaphroditus would have reported his state before the arrival of Timothy. Wherefore further on he says, "But I counted it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother (Phil. ii. 25); but I wish to learn of your affairs. For it is likely that he had remained long time with Paul through his bodily weakness. So that he says, I wish to "know your state." See then how he refers everything to Christ, even the mission of Timothy, saying, "I hope in the Lord Jesus," that is, I am confident that God will facilitate this for me, that I too may be of good courage, when I know your state. As I refreshed you when ye heard the very things of me which ye had prayed for, that the Gospel had advanced, that its enemies were put to shame, that the means by which they thought to injure, rather made me rejoice; thus too do I wish to learn of your affairs, that I too may be of good courage when I know your state. Here he shows that they ought to rejoice (or his bonds, and to be conformed to them, for they begat in him great pleasure; for the words, "that I too may be of good comfort," imply, just as you are.
Oh, what longing had he toward Macedonia He testifies the same to the Thessalonians, as when he says, "But we, brethren, being bereaved of you for a short season," &c. (1 Thess. ii. 17.) And here he says, "I hope to send Timothy" that I may "know your state," which is a proof of excessive care: for when he could not himself be with them, he sent his disciples, as he could not endure to remain, even for a little time, in ignorance of their state. For he did not learn all things by revelation of the Spirit, and for this we can see some reason; for if the disciples had believed that it were so, they would have lost all sense of shame, but now from expectation of concealment, they were more easily corrected. In a high degree did he call their attention by saying, "that I too may be of good comfort," and rendered them more zealous, so that, when Timothy came he might not find any other state of things, and report it to him. He seems to have acted in like sort in his own person, when he delayed his coming to the Corinthians, that they might repent; wherefore he wrote, "to spare you I forbare to come to Corinth." (2 Cor. i. 23.) For his love was manifested not simply in reporting his own state, but in his desire to learn of theirs; for this is the part of a soul which has a care of others, which takes thought for them, which is always wrestling for them.
At the same time too, he honors them by sending Timothy. "What sayest thou? dost thou send Timothy? and wherefore?" Because "I have no one likeminded"; that is, none of those whose care is like mine, none who "will care truly for you." (Phil. ii. 20.) Had he then no one of those who were with him? No one likeminded, that is, who has yearnings and takes thought for you as I do. No one would lightly choose, he means, to make so long a journey for this purpose. Timothy is the one with me who loves you? For I might have sent others, but there was none like him. This then is that likemindedness, to love the disciples as the master loves them. "Who," says he, "will truly care for you," that is, as a father. "For they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ" (Phil. ii. 21), their own comfort, their own safety. This too he writes to Timothy. But why doth he lament such things as these? To teach us his hearers not to fall in like sort, to teach his hearers not to seek for remission from toil; for he who seeks remission from toil, seeks not the things that are Christ's, but his own. We ought to be prepared against every toil, against every distress.
Ver. 22. "Ye know the proof of him, that as a child serveth a father, so he served with me in furtherance of the Gospel."
And that I speak not at random, "ye yourselves," he says, "know, that as a child serveth a father, so he served with me in furtherance of the Gospel." He presents then Timothy to them, and with reason, that he might enjoy much honor from them. This too he does when he writes to the Corinthians, and he says, "Let no man therefore despise him, for he worketh the work of the Lord as I also do." (1 Cor. xvi. 10.) This he said not as caring for him, but for those who receive him, that they might receive a great reward.
Ver. 23. "Him therefore," he says, "I hope to send forthwith, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me," that is, when I see where I stand, and what end my affairs will have.
Ver. 24. "But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come to you shortly."
I am not therefore sending him, as though I myself would not come, but that I may be of good courage when I know your state, that even in the mean time I may not be ignorant of it. "But I trust in the Lord," says he. See how he makes all things depend on God, and speaks nothing of his own mind. That is, God willing.
Ver. 25. "But I counted it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and fellow-worker, and fellow-soldier."
And him too he sends with the same praises as Timothy, for he commended him on these two points; first, in that he loved them, when he says, "who will care truly for you "; and secondly, in that he had approved himself in the Gospel. And for the same reason, and in the same terms, he praises this man also: and how? By calling him a brother, and a fellow-worker, and not stopping at this point, but also "fellow-soldier," he showed how he shared in his dangers, and testifies of him the same things which he testifies of himself. For "fellow-soldier" is more than "fellow-worker "; for perchance he gave aid in quiet matters, yet not so in wars and dangers; but in saying "fellow-soldier," he showed this too.
Ver. 25. "To send to you your messenger, and minister to my needs"; that is, I give you your own, since I send to you him that is your own, or, perhaps, that is your Teacher. Again he adds many things concerning his love, in saying,
Ver. 26, 27. "Since he longed after you all, and was sore troubled, because ye had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow."
Here he aims at a farther point, making it manifest, that Epaphroditus too was well aware, how he was beloved of them. And this is no light thing toward loving. You know how he was sick, he says; and he grieved that on his recovery he did not see you, and free you from the grief ye had by reason of his sickness. Here too he gives another reason for sending so late to them, not from any remissness, but he kept Timothy because he had no one else, (for, as he had written, he had "no one likeminded,") and Epaphroditus because of his sickness. He then shows that this was a long sickness, and had consumed much time, by adding, "for he was sick nigh unto death." You see how anxious Paul is to cut off from his disciples all occasion of slighting or contempt, and every suspicion that his not coming was because he despised them. For nothing will have such power to draw a disciple toward one, as the persuasion that his superior cares for him, and that he is full of heaviness on his account, for this is the part of exceeding love. Because "ye have heard," he says, "that he was sick; for he was sick nigh unto death." And that I am not making an excuse, hear what follows. "But God had mercy on him." What sayest thou, O heretic? Here it is written, that God's mercy retained and brought back again him who was on the point of departure. And yet if the world is evil, it is no mercy to leave a man in the evil. Our answer to the heretic is easy, but what shall we say to the Christian? for he perchance will question, and say, "if to depart and to be with Christ is far better," how saith he that he hath obtained mercy? I would ask why the same Apostle says, that "it is more needful to abide with you"? For as it was needful for him, so too for this man, who would hereafter depart to God with more exceeding riches, and greater boldness. Hereafter that would take place, even if it did not now, but the winning souls is at an end for those who have once departed thither. In many places too, Paul speaks according to the common habits of his hearers, and not every where in accordance with his own heavenly wisdom: for he had to speak to men of the world who still feared death. Then he shows how he esteemed Epaphroditus, and thence he gets for him respect, by saying, that his preservation was so useful to himself, that the mercy which had been shown to Epaphroditus reached him also. Moreover, without this the present life is a good; were it not so, why does Paul rank with punishment untimely deaths? as when he says, "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and not a few sleep" (1 Cor. xi. 30); for the future life is not (merely) better than an evil state, since (then) it were not good, but better than a good state.
"Lest I should have," he says, "sorrow upon sorrow"; sorrow from his death in addition to that which sprung from his sickness. By this he shows how much he prized Epaphroditus.
Ver. 28. "I have sent him therefore the more diligently." What means "more diligently"? It is, without procrastination, without delay, with much speed, having bidden him lay all aside, and to go to you, that he might be freed from heaviness; for we rejoice not on hearing of the health of those we love, so much as when we see them, and chiefly so when this happens contrary to hope, as it was in the case of Epaphroditus.
"I have sent him therefore the more diligently, that when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful." How "less sorrowful"? Because if ye rejoice, I too rejoice, and he too joys at a pleasure of such sort, and I shall be "less sorrowful." He said not sorrowless, but "less sorrowful," to show that his soul never was free from sorrow: for he who said, "Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is made to stumble, and I burn not?" (2 Cor. xi. 29), when could such an one be free from sorrow? That is, this despondency I now cast off.
Ver. 29. "Receive him therefore in the Lord with all joy."
"In the Lord" either means spiritually and with much zeal, or rather "in the Lord" means God willing. Receive him in a manner worthy of saints, as saints should be received with all joy.
All this he does for their sakes, not for that of his messengers, for greater gain has the doer than the receiver of a good deed. "And such hold in honor," that is, receive him in a manner worthy of saints.
Ver. 30. "Because for the work of Christ he came nigh unto death, hazarding his life, to supply that which was lacking in your service towards me."
This man had been publicly sent by the city of the Philippians, who had come as minister to Paul, and perchance bringing him some contribution, for toward the end of the Epistle he shows that he also brought him money, when he says, "Having received of Epaphroditus the things that came from you." (Phil. iv. 18.)
It is probable then, that on his arrival at the city of Rome, he found Paul in great and urgent peril, so that those who were accustomed to resort to him were unable safely to do so, but were themselves in peril by their very attendance; which is wont to happen chiefly in very great dangers, and the exceeding wrath of kings, (for when any one has offended the king, and is cast into prison, and is strictly guarded, then even his servants are debarred from access, which probably then befell Paul,) and that Epaphroditus, being of a noble nature, despised all danger, that he might go in unto him, and minister unto him, and do everything which need required. He therefore sets forth two facts, by which he gains for him their respect; the one, that he was in jeopardy well nigh unto death, he says, for my sake; the other, that in so suffering he was representing their city, so that the recompense for that his peril would be accounted to those who sent him, as if the city had sent him as their ambassador, so that a kind reception of him and approval of what he had done may rather be called a participation in the things that he had dared. And he said not, "for my sake," but obtains the more credit for his words, by saying, "because for the work of God," since he acted not for my sake, but for God's sake "he was nigh unto death." What then? though by the providence of God he died not, yet he himself regarded not his life, and gave himself up to any suffering that might befall him, so as not to remit his attendance on me. And if he gave himself up to death to attend on Paul, much more would he have endured this for the Gospel's sake. Or rather, this also had been for the Gospel's sake, even to have died for Paul. For we may bind about our brows the crown of martyrdom, not only by refusing to sacrifice, but such causes as these also make death martyrdom, and if I may say something startling, these latter do so far more than the former. For he who dares to face death for the lesser cause, will much rather for the greater. Let us therefore, when we see the Saints in danger, regard not our life, for it is impossible without daring ever to perform any noble act, but need is that he who takes thought beforehand for his safety here, should fall from that which is to come.
"To supply," he says, "your lack of service toward me." What is this? the city was not present, but by sending him, it fulfilled through him all service toward me. He therefore supplied your lack of service, so that for this reason too he deserves to enjoy much honor, since, what ye all should have done, this hath he performed on your behalf. Here he shows that there is also a foregoing service rendered by those in safety to those in danger, for so he speaks of the lack, and the lack of service. Seest thou the spirit of the Apostle? These words spring not from arrogance, but from his great care towards them; for he calls the matter a "service" and a "lack," that they may not be puffed up, but be moderate, nor think that they have rendered some great thing, but rather be humble-minded.
For we owe the saints a debt, and are not doing them a favor. For as supplies are due by those who are in peace and not engaged in war to such as stand in the army and fight (for these stand on their behoof), thus too is it here. For if Paul had not taught, who would have cast him into prison? Wherefore we ought to minister to the Saints. For is it not absurd to contribute to an earthly king, when engaged in war, all that he wants, as clothing and food, not according to his need alone, but abundantly, whilst to the King of Heaven, when engaged in war, and contending against far more bitter foes (for it is written. "our wrestling is not against flesh and blood") (Eph. vi. 12), we will not supply urgent necessity? What folly is this! What ingratitude! What base love of gain! But, as it seems, the fear of man has greater force with us than hell, and the future torments. For this cause, in truth, all things are turned upside down; for political affairs are daily accomplished with much earnestness, and one must not be left behind, whilst of spiritual things there is no account taken at all; but the things which are demanded of us of necessity, and with compulsion, as though we were slaves, and against our wills, are laid down by us with much readiness, while such as are asked from willing minds, and as if from free men, are again deficient. I speak not against all, but against those who are behindhand with these supplies. For might not God have made these contributions compulsory? Yet He would not, for He has more care of you than of those whom you support. Wherefore He would not that you should contribute of necessity, since there is no recompense. And yet many of those who stand here are lower minded than the Jews. Consider how great things the Jews gave, tithes, first-fruits, tithes again, and again other tithes, and besides this thirteenths, and the shekel, and no one said, how much they devour; for the more they receive, the greater is the reward. They say not, They receive much, they are gluttons; which words I hear now from some. They for their part, while they are building houses, and buying estates, still think they have nothing; but if any priest is clothed in dress more bright than usual, and enjoys more than what is necessary for his sustenance, or has an attendant, that he may not be forced himself to act unbecomingly, they set the matter down for riches. And in truth we are rich even at this rate, and they admit it against their will; for we, though we have but little, are rich, whilst they, though they get everything about them, are poor.
How far shall our folly extend? does it not suffice to our punishment that we do no good deed, but must we add to it the punishment of evil speaking? For if what he has were your gifts, you lose your reward by upbraiding him for what you gave. In a word, if thou didst give it, why dost thou upbraid him? You have already borne witness to his poverty, by saying that what he has are your gifts. Why then dost thou upbraid? Thou shouldest not have given, didst thou intend so to do. But dost thou speak thus, when another gives? It is then more grievous, in that when thou thyself hast not given, thou upbraidest for another man's good deeds. How great reward thinkest thou those who are thus spoken of will receive? It is for God's sake they thus suffer. How and wherefore? Had they so willed, they might have taken up a trader's life, even though they received it not from their ancestors. For I hear many speaking thus at random, when we say that a certain man is poor. Had he willed, they say, he might have been rich, and then tauntingly add, His father, his grandfather, and I know not who was so; but now see what a robe he wears! But what? tell me, ought he to go about naked? You then start nice questionings on these points, but see lest thou thus speakest against thyself. Listen to that exhortation of Christ, which says, "Judge not that ye be not judged." (Matt. vii. 1.) He might, it is true, if he had willed, have led a trader's or a merchant's life, and would surely not have lacked. But he would not. What then, says one, is he here profited? Tell me, what is he profited? Does he wear silken robes? Does he proudly clear his way through the forum with a troop of followers? Is he borne along on horseback? Does he build houses, having where to dwell? If he act so, I too accuse him, and spare him not, but declare that he is unworthy of the priesthood. For how can he exhort others not to spend their time on these superfluities, who cannot advise himself? But if he has sufficient for support, is he therefore doing wrong? Would you have him lead a vagabond life, and beg? Wouldest not thou too, his disciple, be put to shame? But if thy father in the flesh did this, thou wouldest think shame of the thing. If thy spiritual father be compelled so to do, wilt thou not veil thy head, and even think thou art sinking into the earth? It is written, "A father's dishonor is a reproach to the children." (Ecclus. iii. 11.) But what? Should he perish with famine? This were not like a pious man; for God willeth it not. But what do they straightway philosophize? It is written, say they, "Get you no gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, neither two coats, nor yet staves" (Matt. x. 9, 10), whilst these men have three or four garments, and beds well spread. I am forced now to heave a bitter sigh, and, but that it had been indecorous, I had wept too! How so? Because we are such curious searchers into the motes of others, while we feel not the beams in our own eyes. Tell me, why sayest thou not this to thyself? The answer is, Because the command is laid only on our Teachers. When then Paul says, "having food and covering we shall be therewith content" (1 Tim. vi. 8), says he this only to Teachers? By no means, but to all men; and this is clear, if we will begin farther back. For what does he say? "Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim. vi. 6); for we brought nothing into this world, it is certain that neither can we carry anything out" (1 Tim. vi. 7); he then straightway adds, "And having food and covering, we shall be therewith content; but they that desire to be rich, fall into a temptation and a snare, and many foolish and hurtful lusts." (1 Tim. vi. 8, 9.) You see that this is spoken to all; and how is it when he says again, "Make not provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof" (Rom. xiii. 14), is not this said absolutely to all? and what when he says, "Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats, but God shall bring to nought both it and them" (1 Cor. vi. 13); or what when he says, "But she that giveth herself to pleasure, is dead while she liveth" (1 Tim. v. 6), speaking of a widow. Is then the widow a Teacher? Has not he said himself, "But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man"? (1 Tim. ii. 12.) But if a widow, in old age, (and age has need of great attendance,) and a woman's nature too, (for the woman's sex, being weak, has need of more refreshment,) if then, where there is both the age and the nature, he suffers her not to live in luxury, but even says that she is dead, (for he did not simply forbid a life of luxury, but said, "she who giveth herself to luxury is dead while she liveth,") and thus hath cut her off, (for she that is dead is cut off,) what indulgence then will any man have, who does those things, for which a woman and an aged one too is punished?
Yet no one gives a thought to these things, no one searches them out. And this I have been compelled to say, not from any wish to free the priests from these charges, but to spare you. They indeed suffer no harm at your hands, even if it is with cause and justice that they are thus charged of being greedy of gain; for, whether ye speak, or whether ye forbear, they must there give an account to the Judge, so that your words hurt them not at all; but if your words are false besides, they for their part gain by these false accusations, whilst ye hurt yourselves by these means. But it is not so with you; for be the things true, which ye bring against them, or be they false, ye speak ill of them to your hurt. And how so? If they be true, in that ye judge your Teachers, and subvert order, ye do it to your hurt. For if we must not judge a brother, much less a Teacher. But if they be false, the punishment and retribution is intolerable; for of "every idle word ye shall give account." (Matt. xii. 36.) For your sake then I thus act and labor.
But as I said, no one searches out these things, no one busies himself about these things, no one communes with himself on any of these things. Would ye that I should add still more? "Whosoever forsaketh not all that he hath, saith the Christ, is not worthy of Me." (Luke xiv. 33; Matt. x. 37.) What when he says, "It is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven"? (Matt. xix. 23; Mark x. 24.) What when he says again, "Woe unto you that are rich, for ye have received your consolation"? (Luke vi. 24.) No one searches this out, no one bears it in mind, no one reasons with himself, but all sit as severe inquisitors on other men's cases. Yet this is to make themselves sharers in the charges. But listen, that for your own sake I may free the priests from the charges, which ye say lie against them, for the persuasion that they transgress the law of God, inclines you not a little towards evil. Come then, let us examine this matter. Christ said, "Provide neither gold nor silver, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor girdle, nor yet staves." (Matt. x. 9, 10.) What then? tell me, did Peter transgress this command? Surely he did so, in having a girdle and a garment, and shoes, for listen to the words of the Angel, "Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals." (Acts xii. 8.) And yet he had no such great need of sandals, for at that season a man may go even unshod; their great use is in the winter, and yet he had them. What shall we say of Paul, when he writes thus to Timothy, "Do thy diligence to come before winter"? (2 Tim. iv. 21.) He gives him orders too and says, "The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus bring when thou comest, and the books, especially the parchments." (2 Tim. iv. 13.) See he speaks of a cloak, and no one can say that he had not another which he wore; for if he did not wear one at all, it were superfluous to order this one to be brought, and if he could not be without one to wear, it is clear he had a second.
What shall we say of his remaining "two whole years in his own hired dwelling"? (Acts xxviii. 30.) Did then this chosen vessel disobey Christ? this man who said, "Yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me" (Gal. ii. 20), concerning whom Christ testified, saying, "He is a chosen vessel unto Me"? (Acts ix. 15.) I ought to leave this difficulty with you, without supplying any solution to the question. I ought to exact of you this penalty for your negligence in the Scriptures, for this is the origin of all such difficulties. For we know not the Scriptures, we are not trained in the law of God, and so we become sharp inquirers into the faults of others, whilst we take no account of our own. I ought then to have exacted from you this penalty. But what shall I do? Fathers freely give to their sons many things beyond what is fitting: when their fatherly compassion is kindled, on seeing their child with downcast look, and wasted with grief, they themselves also feel sharper pangs than he, and rest not until they have removed the ground of his dejection.
So be it at least here, be ye at least dejected at not receiving, that ye may receive well. What then is it? They opposed not, far be it; but diligently followed the commands of Christ, for those commands were but for a season, and not enduring; and this I say not from conjecture, but from the divine Scriptures. And how? Luke relates that Christ said to His disciples, "When I sent you forth without purse, and wallet, and girdle, and shoes, lacked ye anything? And they said nothing. (Luke xxii. 35.) But for the future provide them." But tell me, what could he do? could he have but one coat? How then? If need was that this be washed, should he, because without it, stay at home? should he without it go abroad in an unbecoming manner, when need called? Consider what a thing it would have been that Paul, who made the circuit of the world with such great success, should remain at home for want of raiment, and thus hinder his noble work. And what if violent cold had set in, or rain had drenched it, or perhaps frozen in, how could he dry his raiment? must he again remain without it? And what if cold had deprived his body of strength? must he waste away with disease, and be unable to speak? For hear what be says to Timothy, to prove that they were not furnished with adamantine bodies, "Use a little wine for thy stomach's sake, and thine often infirmities." (1 Tim. v. 23.) And again, when he speaks of another, "I counted it necessary to send to you your messenger, and minister to my needs." (Phil. ii. 25.) "For indeed he was sick, nigh unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not on him only, but on me also." (Phil. ii. 27.) So that they were subject to every sort of sickness. What then? must they die? By no means. For what cause then did Christ at that time give them that command? To show His own power, and to prove that in after times He was able to do it, though He did it not. But wherefore did He not do it? They were much more admirable than the Israelites, whose shoes did not wax old, neither their garments, and that too whilst they were journeying through that desert where the glowing rays of the sun strike so hot, that they are capable of consuming even stones. (Ref. to Deut. xxix. 5.) Why then did he do this? For thy sake. For since thou wouldest not remain in health, but be full of wounds, He gave you that which might serve for medicine. And this is hence manifest; could He not Himself have fed them? He that gave to thee, who wast an enemy with Him, would He not much more have given to Paul? He who gave to the Israelites, those murmurers, those fornicators, those idolaters, would He not much more have given to Peter, who spent all for His sake? He who suffered wicked men to possess aught, would He not much more have freely given to John, who for Him forsook even his father? Yet he would not: through your hands he feeds them, that you may be sanctified. And see the excess of His lovingkindness. He chose that His disciples should be in want, that thou mightest be a little refreshed.
For if He had freed them from all want, they would have been much more admirable, far more glorious. But then that which is to thee salvation would have been cut off. God willed not then that they should be admirable, that thou mightest be saved, but that they should rather be lowered. He hath suffered them to be less accounted of, that thou mightest be able to be saved. The Teacher who receiveth is not equally reverenced, but he who receives not is chiefly honored. But then in the latter case the disciple is not benefited, he is hindered of his fruit. Seest thou the wisdom of God who thus loveth man? For as He Himself sought not His own glory, nor had respect to Himself, but when He was in glory, chose to be dishonored for thy sake, thus too is it in the case of your Teachers. When they might have been highly reverenced, He preferred that they should be subject to contempt for thy sake, that thou mightest be able to profit, that thou mightest be able to be rich. For he is in want of the things of this life, that you may abound in things spiritual. If then He might have made them above all want, He showed that for thy sake He suffers them to be in want. Knowing then these things, let us turn ourselves to well doing, not to accusations. Let us not be overcurious about the failings of others, but take account of our own; let us reckon up the excellences of other men, while we bear in mind our faults; and thus shall we be well pleasing to God. For he who looks at the faults of others, and at his own excellences, is injured in two ways; by the latter he is carried up to arrogance, through the former he falls into listlessness. For when he perceives that such an one hath sinned, very easily will he sin himself; when he perceives that he hath in aught excelled, very easily becometh he arrogant. He who consigns to oblivion his own excellences, and looks at his failings only, whilst he is a curious enquirer of the excellences, not the sins, of others, is profited in many ways. And how? When he sees that such an one hath done excellently, he is raised to emulate the same; when he sees that he himself hath sinned, he is rendered humble and modest. If we act thus, if we thus regulate ourselves, we shall be able to obtain the good things which are promised, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, &c.
HOMILY X: PHILIPPIANS iii. 1-3.
"Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not irksome, but for you it is safe. Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, and glory in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."
DEJECTION and care, whenever they strain the soul beyond due measure, bereave it of its native force. And therefore Paul relieves the Philippians, who were in great despondency, and they were in despondency because they did not know how matters were with Paul; they were in despondency because they thought that it was already over with him, because of the preaching, because of Epaphroditus. It is in giving them assurance on all these points that he introduces the words, "Finally, my brethren, rejoice." "You no longer have," he says, "cause for despondency. You have Epaphroditus, for whose sake you were grieved; you have Timothy; I am myself coming to you; the Gospel is gaining ground. What is henceforth wanting to you? Rejoice!"
Now he calls the Galatians indeed "children" (Gal. iv. 19), but these "brethren." For when he aims either to correct anything or to show his fondness, he calls them "children"; but when he addresses them with greater honor, "brethren" is the title. "Finally, my brethren," he says, "rejoice in the Lord." He said rightly "in the Lord," not "after the world." for this is no rejoicing. These tribulations, he says, which are according to Christ bring joy. "To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not irksome, but for you it is safe. Beware of the dogs." Dost thou mark how he forbears to bring in the exhortation at the beginning? But after he had given them much commendation, after he had shown his admiration of them, then he does this, and again repeats his commendation. For this mode of speech seems to bear somewhat hard upon them. Wherefore he overshadows it on every side. But whom does he style "dogs"? There were at this place some of those, whom he hints at in all his Epistles, base and contemptible Jews, greedy of vile lucre and fond of power, who, desiring to draw aside many of the faithful, preached both Christianity and Judaism at the same time, corrupting the Gospel. As then they were not easily discernible, therefore he says, "beware of the dogs": the Jews are no longer children; once the Gentiles were called dogs, but now the Jews. Wherefore? because as the Gentiles were strangers both to God and to Christ, even so are these become this now. And he shows forth their shamelessness and violence, and their infinite distance from the relation of children, for that the Gentiles were once called "dogs," hear what the Canaanitish woman says, "Yea, Lord: for even the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." (Matt. xv. 27.) But that they might not have this advantage, since even dogs are at the table, he adds that, whereby he makes them aliens also, saying, "Beware of the evil workers"; he admirably expressed himself, "beware of the evil workers"; they work, he means, but for a bad end, and a work that is much worse than idleness, plucking up what is laid in goodly order.
"Beware," he says, "of the concision." The rite of circumcision was venerable in the Jews' account, forasmuch as the Law itself gave way thereto, and the Sabbath was less esteemed than circumcision. For that circumcision might be performed the Sabbath was broken; but that the Sabbath might be kept, circumcision was never broken; and mark, I pray, the dispensation of God. This is found to be even more solemn than the Sabbath, as not being omitted at certain times. When then it is done away, much more is the Sabbath. Wherefore Paul makes a concision of the name, and says, "Beware of the concision"; and he did not say "that circumcision is evil, that it is superfluous," lest he should strike the men with dismay, but he manages it more wisely, withdrawing them from the thing, but gratifying them with the word, nay, rather with the thing too, in a more serious way. But not so in the case of the Galatians, for since in that case the disease was great, he forthwith adopts the remedy of amputation with open front and with all boldness; but in this case, as they had done nothing of the sort, he vouchsafes them the gratification of the title, he casts out the others, and says, "Beware of the concision; for we are the circumcision"--how?--"who worship God in spirit, and have no confidence in the flesh." He said not that" we test the one circumcision and the other, which is the better of the two"; but he would not even allow it a share in the name; but what does he say? That that circumcision is "concision." Why? Because they do nothing but cut the flesh up. For when what is done is not of the law, it is nothing else than a concision and cutting up of the flesh; it was then either for this reason that he called it so, or because they were trying to cut the Church in twain; and we call the thing "cutting up" in those who do this at random, without aim and without skill. Now if you must seek circumcision, he says, you will find it among us, "who worship God in spirit," i.e. who worship spiritually.
For answer me, which is superior, the soul or the body? Evidently the former. Therefore that circumcision is also superior, or rather, no longer superior, but this is the only circumcision; for while the type stood, He rightly brought it forward in conjunction, writing, "For ye shall circumcise the foreskins of your hearts." (Jerem. iv. 4.) In the same way in the Epistle to the Romans he does away with it, saying, "for he is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter." (Rom. ii. 28, 29.) And lastly, he takes from it the very name, "neither is it circumcision," he maintains; for the type while the reality is yet to come, is called this, but when the reality has come, it no longer retains the title. As in delineation, a man has drawn a king in outline; so long as the colors are not put on we say, Lo, there is the king, but when they are added, the type is lost in the reality, and ceases to show. And he said not, "for the circumcision is in us," but "we are the circumcision," and justly; for this is the Man, the circumcision in virtue, this is really the Man. And he did not say, "For among them is the concision"; for they themselves are henceforth in a condition of ruin and of wickedness. But no longer, says he, is circumcision performed in the body, but in the heart. "And have no confidence," says he, "in the flesh; though I myself might have confidence even in the flesh." (v. 4.) What does he call "confidence" here, and "in the flesh"? Boasting, boldness, a high tone. And he did well to add this; for if he had been of the Gentiles, and had condemned circumcision, and not only circumcision, but all those that adopted it out of place, it would have seemed that he was running it down, because he lacked the high ancestry of Judaism, as being a stranger to its solemn rites, and having no part therein. But as it is, he, who, though a sharer, yet blames them, will not therefore blame them as having no share in them, but as disowning them; not from ignorance, but most especially from acquaintance with them. Accordingly observe what he says in his Epistle to the Galatians also; having been brought into a necessity of saying great things about himself, how even in these circumstances does he manifest nought but humility. "For ye have heard, of my manner of life in time past," he says, n the Jews religion" (Gal. i. 13); and again here; "if any other man thinketh to have confidence in the flesh, I more." (v. 4). And he immediately added, "a Hebrew of Hebrews. But "if any other man," says he, showing the necessity, showing that it was on their account that he spoke. "If ye have confidence," he says, I also say so, since I am silent. And observe the absence of all ungraciousness in the reproofs; by forbearing to do it by name, he gave even them the opportunity of retracing their steps. "If any one thinketh to have confidence"; and it was well to say "thinketh," either inasmuch as they really had no such confidence, or as that confidence was no real confidence, for all was by necessity, and not of choice. "Circumcised on the eighth day"; and he sets down the first that wherein they chiefly boasted, viz. the ordinance of circumcision. "Of the stock of Israel." He pointed out both these circumstances, that he was neither a proselyte, nor born of proselytes; or from his being circumcised on the eighth day, it follows that he was not a proselyte, and from his being of the stock of Israel, that he was not of proselyte parents. But that you may not imagine that he was of the stock of Israel as coming of the ten tribes, he says, "of the tribe of Benjamin." So that he was of the more approved portion, for the place of the priests was in the lot of this tribe. "An Hebrew of Hebrews." Because he was not a proselyte, but from of old, of distinguished Jews; for he might have been of Israel, and yet not "an Hebrew of Hebrews," for many were already corrupting the matter, and were strangers to the language, being encircled by other nations; it is either this then, or the great superiority of his birth, that he shows. "According to the law a Pharisee." He is coming now to the circumstances dependent on his own will; for all those things were apart from the will, for his being circumcised was not of himself, nor that he was of the stock of Israel, nor that he was of the tribe of Benjamin. So that, even among these he has a larger share, even though there were really many who partook with him. Where then are we to place the "rather"? Particularly herein that he was not a proselyte; for to be of the most distinguished tribe and sect, and this from his ancestors of old, was a thing which belonged not to many. But he comes to the things which are matters of choice, wherein we have the "rather." "As touching the law, a Pharisee; as touching zeal, persecuting the Church." But this is not sufficient; for it is possible to be a Pharisee even, and yet not very zealous. But this also he adds; behold the "rather." "According to righteousness." It is possible, however, to be adventurous, or to act thus from ambition, and not out of zeal for the law, as the chief priests did. Yet neither was this the case, but, "according to the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless." If then both for purity of descent, and earnestness, and habits, and mode of life, I surpassed all, why have I renounced all those dignities, he asks, but because I found that the things of Christ are better, and better far? Wherefore he added; "howbeit what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ." (v. 7.)
Such a course of life, so strictly regulated, and entered upon from earliest childhood, such unblemished extraction, such dangers, plots, labors, forwardness, did Paul renounce, "counting them but loss," which before were "gain," that he might "win Christ." But we do not even contemn money, that we may "win Christ," but prefer to fail of the life to come rather than of the good things of the present life. And yet this is nothing else than loss; for tell me now, let us examine in detail the conditions of riches, and see whether it be not loss accompanied with trouble, and without any gain. For tell me, what is the advantage of those stores of costly garments, what good do we gain when we are arrayed in them? None, nay, we are only losers. How so? Because even the poor man, in his cheap and threadbare clothing, does not bear the scorching in time of heat any wise worse than yourself; nay, rather he bears it better, for clothes that are threadbare and worn single allow more ease to the body, but not so with those which are new made, though they be finer than the spider's web. Besides, you, from your excessive self-importance, wear even two and often three inner garments, and a cloak and girdle, and breeches too, but no one blames him if he wears but a single inner garment; so that he is the man that endures most easily. It is owing to this that we see rich men sweating, but the poor subject to nothing of the sort. Since then his cheap clothing, which is sold for a trifle, answers the same or even a better purpose to him, and those clothes, which oblige a man to pay down much gold, do only the same thing, is not this great superabundance so much loss? For it has added nothing in respect of its use and service, but your purse is emptied of so much the more gold, and the same use and service. You who have riches have purchased for a hundred pieces of gold, or even more, but the poor man for a trifling sum of silver. Do you perceive the loss? No, for your pride will not let you see it. Would you have us make out this account in the case of the gold ornaments too, which men put alike about their horses and their wives? For besides the other evils, the possession of money makes fools of men; they account their wives and horses to be worthy of the same honor, and the ornamentation of both is the same; and they would make themselves finer by the same means as the very beasts that carry them, or as the very skins of the awnings, wherein they are borne. What now is the use of decking out a mule or a horse with gold? or the lady, that has such a weight of gold and jewels about her person, what does she gain? "But the golden ornaments are never worn out," he answers. Assuredly this also is said that in the baths and many places both precious stones and gold ornaments lose much of their value. But be it so, and grant that they are not injured, tell me, what is the gain? And how is it when they drop out, and are lost? is there no loss sustained? And how when they draw down upon you envy and intrigues? is there no loss then? For when they do the wearer no good, but rather inflame the eyes of the envious, and act as an incitement to the robber, do they not become loss? And again, say, when a man may use them for a serviceable purpose, but is unable on account of the extravagance of his wife, and is obliged to starve and to stint himself, that he may see her arrayed in gold, is it not a matter of loss? For it was on this account that goods have their name from use, not that we should use them thus like goldsmiths' samples, but that we should do some good therewith; so then when love of gold does not allow this, is not the whole thing loss? for he that dares not use them forbears the use as if they were another's property, and there is no use of them in any way.
Again, how is it when we erect splendid and spacious mansions, decorated with columns, marbles, porticos, arcades, and in every possible way, setting images and statues everywhere? Many indeed even call demons out of these, i.e. the images, but let us omit the examination of those points. What too is the meaning of the gilded ceiling? Does it not supply the same need as to him, whose house is on a moderate scale? "But there is great delight in it," he says. Yes, for the first or second day, and afterwards, none at all, but it stands merely for nothing. For if the sun does not strike us with wonder, from its being customary, much more do works of art fail, and we only look at them like things of clay. For tell me, what does a range of pillars contribute to make your dwelling superior to others, or the finest statues, or the gilding spread over the wall? Nothing; rather, these come of luxury and insolence, and overweening pride and folly; for everything there ought to be necessary and useful, not superfluous things. Do you see that the thing is loss? Do you see that it is superfluous and unprofitable? for if it supplies no further use or delight, (and it "does," in the course of time, bring satiety,) it is nothing else than loss, and vainglory is the hindrance, which will not let us see this.
Did Paul then forsake those things which he "counted gain," and shall not we even quit our loss, for Christ's sake? How long shall we be riveted to the earth? How long till we shall look up to heaven? Do ye not mark the aged, what little perception they have of the past? Do ye not mark those that are finishing their course, both men in age, and men in youth? Do ye not see persons in the midst of life bereft of them? Why are we so wedded to unstable objects? Why are we linked to things that are shifting? How long before we lay hold of the things that last? What would not the old give, were it granted them to divest themselves of their old age? How irrational then to wish to return to our former youth, and gladly to give everything for the sake of this, that we might become younger, and yet when it is ours to receive a youth that knows no old age, a youth too, which, joined with great riches, hath far more of spirit, to be unwilling to give up a little trifle, but to hold fast things that contribute not a whir to the present life. They can never rescue you from death, they have no power to drive away disease, to stay old age, or any one of those events, which happen by necessity and according to the law of nature. And do you still hold to them? Tell me, what do you gain? Drunkenness, gluttony, pleasures contrary to nature and various in kind, which are far worse torturers than the hardest masters.
These are the advantages which we gain from riches, nor is there one besides, since we are not so minded, for if we had had the mind, we might have won heaven itself for our inheritance by our riches. "So then riches are good," he says. It is not riches, but the will of the possessor that effects this, for because it is the will that does this, it is in the power even of a poor man to win heaven. For, as I have often said, God does not regard the amount of the gifts, but the will of the givers; it is possible even for one in poverty, who has given but little, to bear off all, for God requires a measure proportioned to our ability, neither will riches secure heaven to us, nor poverty, hell; but a good or a bad will, either one or the other. This then let us correct, this let us repossess, this let us regulate, and all will then be easy to us.
For as the artificer works the wood the same, whether his axe be of iron or of gold, or rather he does it the better with an implement of iron, so here too, the straight path of virtue is more easily kept in a state of poverty. For touching riches we read, "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. 24.) But He has made no such declarations about poverty; nay, the very reverse. "Sell thy goods, and give to the poor, and come follow Me" (v. 21 ); as if the act of following were to spring from the selling.
Never then let us flee from poverty as an evil, for it is the procurer of heaven. Again, let us never follow riches as a good; for they are the ruin of such as walk unwarily, but in everything directing our eyes to God, let us, as occasion requires, use those gifts which He has vouchsafed us, both strength of body, and abundance of money, and every other gift; for it is unnatural that we, who have our being for Him, should make these things serviceable to others, yet not to Him who has made us He formed thine eye: make it serviceable to Him, not to the devil. But how serviceable to Him? By contemplating His creatures and praising and glorifying Him, and by withdrawing it from all gaze at women. Did He make thy hands? Preserve them for His use, not for the devil, not putting them out for robbery and rapine, but for His commandments and for good deeds, for earnest prayers, for holding out help to the fallen. Hath He made thine ears? Give these to Him, and not to effeminate strains nor to disgraceful tales; but "let all thy communication be in the law of the Most High." (Ecclus. ix. 15.) For "stand," he says, "in the multitude of the elders, and whoever is wise, cleave unto him." (Ecclus. vi. 34.) Did he make thy mouth? Let it do nought that is displeasing to Him, but sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. "Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth," says the Apostle, "but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear" (Eph. iv. 29); for edification and not for subversion, for fair words and not for evil speaking and plotting against other, but the very opposite. He hath made thy feet, not that thou shouldest run to do evil, but to do good. He made thy belly, not that thou shouldest cram it to bursting, but to practice lessons of wisdom. For the production of children, He implanted desire in thy mind, not for fornication, nor for adultery. He gave thee understanding, not to make of thee a blasphemer or a reviler, but that thou mightest be without falsehood. He gave us both money to be used on fitting occasion, and strength likewise to be used on fitting occasion. He instituted arts, that our present state of existence might be held together by them, not that we should separate ourselves from spiritual things, not that we should devote ourselves to the base arts but to the necessary ones, that we might minister to one another's good, and not that we should plot one against another. He gave us a roof, that it might afford shelter from the rain, and no more, not that it should be decked out with gold, while the poor man perishes with hunger. He gave clothing to cover us, not to make a display withal, not that things like these should have much gold lavished upon them, and that Christ should perish naked. He gave you a place of shelter, not that you should keep it to yourself, but to offer it to others also. He gave thee land, not that, cutting off the chief portion of it, you should spend the good gifts of God upon harlots, and dancers, and actors, and flute players, and harp players, but upon those that hunger and are in want. He gave you the sea to sail on, that you might not be wearied with journeying, not that you should pry into its depths, and bring up thence precious stones and all the other things of the same kind, nor that you should make this your business.
"Why then are there precious stones?" he says. Nay, do you tell me why these stones are such, and why one class are regarded as of great value, while the others are more useful? For these may be conducive to building, but those to no purpose; and these are stronger than those "But they," he says, "produce a beautiful effect." How so? it is a matter of fancy. Are they whiter? No, they are not whiter than pure white marble, nor nearly equal to it. But are they stronger? Not even this can be said for them. Well then, are they more useful? are they larger? Not even this. Whence then are they so admired, save from fancy? For if they are neither more beautiful, (for we shall find others more shining and more white,) nor useful, nor stronger, whence came they to be so admired? Was it not from mere fancy? Why then did God give them? They were not His gift, but it is your own imagination that they are anything great. "How is it, then," he answers, "that even the Scripture shows admiration of them?" So far it addresses itself to your fancy. As a master too in talking to a child often admires the same object as it does, when he desires to attract and engage it.
Why do you aim at finery in your clothing? He clothed thee with a garment and with sandals. But where is there any reason for these things? "The judgments of God," he says, "are more to be desired than gold; yea than much fine gold." (Ps. xix. 10.) These, beloved, are of no use. Had they been of use, he would not have bidden us despise them. And for Holy Scripture, it speaks with reference to our notion, and this too is an instance of God's lovingkindness. "Why then," he asks, "did He give purple and the like?" These things are products of God's gift. For He has willed by other things also to show forth His own riches. And He gave you corn too by itself; but from this you make many things, cakes and sweetmeats, of every sort and variety, having much enjoyment. Pleasure and vainglory give rise to all these inventions. It pleased you to set them before everything. For if a foreigner or a rustic, who was ignorant of the land, should put the question, and, seeing your admiration, were to say, "Why do you admire these?" What have you to say? that they are fair to look at? But not so. Let us then give up such notions; let us lay hold of the things that are truly real. These are not, but simply pass away, only flowing past like a river. Wherefore I charge you, let us take our stand upon the rock, that we both escape being easily turned about, and that we may obtain the good things to come, by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, &c.
HOMILY XI: PHILIPPIANS iii. 7-10.
"Howbeit what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yea verily, and I counted all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God."
IN our contests with heretics, we must make the attack with minds in vigor, that they may be able to give exact attention. I will therefore begin nay present discourse where the last ended. And what was that? Having enumerated every Jewish boast, both those from his birth, and those that were from choice, he added, "Howbeit, what things were gain to me, these have I counted to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may gain Christ." Here the heretics spring to their attack: for even this comes of the wisdom of the Spirit, to suggest to them hopes of victory, that they may undertake the fight.
For if it had been spoken plainly, they would have acted here as they have done in other places, they would have blotted out the words, they would have denied the Scripture, when they were unable at all to look it in the face. But as in the case of fishes, that which can take them is concealed so that they may swim up, and does not lie open to view; this in truth hath come to pass here too. The Law, they say, is called "dung" by Paul, it is called "loss." He says, it was not possible to gain Christ except I "suffered" this "loss." All these things induced the heretics to accept this passage, thinking it to be favorable to them: but when they had taken it, then did he enclose them on all sides with his nets. For what do they themselves say? Lo! the Law is "loss," is "dung"; how then do ye say that it is of God?
But these very words are favorable to the Law, and how they are so, shall be hence manifest. Let us attend accurately to his very words. He said not, The Law is loss: but "I counted it loss." But when he spake of gain, he said not, I counted them, but "they were gain." But when he spake of loss he said," I counted": and this rightly; for the former was naturally so, but the latter became so, from my opinion. "What then? Is it not so?" says he. It is loss for Christ.
And how has the law become gain? And it was not counted gain, but was so. For consider how great a thing it was, to bring men, brutalized in their nature, to the shape of men. If the law had not been, grace would not have been given. Wherefore? Because it became a sort of bridge; for when it was impossible to mount on high from a state of great abasement, a ladder was formed. But he who has ascended has no longer need of the ladder; yet he does not despise it, but is even grateful to it. For it has placed him in such a position, as no longer to require it. And yet for this very reason, that he doth not require it, it is just that he should acknowledge his obligation, for he could not fly up. And thus is it with the Law, it hath led us up on high; wherefore it was gain, but for the future we esteem it loss. How? Not because it is loss, but because grace is far greater. For as a poor man, that was in hunger, as long as he has silver, escapes hunger, but when he finds gold, and it is not allowable to keep both, considers it loss to retain the former, and having thrown it away, takes the gold coin; so also here; not because the silver is loss, for it is not; but because it is impossible to take both at once, but it is necessary to leave one. Not the Law then is loss, but for a man to cleave to the Law, and desert Christ. Wherefore it is then loss when it leads us away from Christ. But if it sends us on to Him, it is no longer so. For this cause he saith "loss for Christ"; if for Christ, it is not so naturally. But why doth not the Law suffer us to come to Christ? For this very cause, he tells us, was it given. And Christ is the fulfilling of the Law, and Christ is the end of the Law. It doth suffer us if we will. "For Christ is the end of the Law." He who obeyeth the Law, leaves the Law itself. It suffers, if we take heed to it, but if we do not take heed, it suffers not. "Yea verily, and I have counted all things but loss." Why, he means, do I say this of the Law? Is not the world good? Is not the present life good? but if they draw me away from Christ, I count these things loss. Why? "for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord." For when the sun hath appeared, it is loss to sit by a candle: so that the loss comes by comparison, by the superiority of the other. You see that Paul makes a comparison from superiority, not from diversity of kind; for that which is superior, is superior to somewhat of like nature to itself. So that he shows the connection of that knowledge by the same means, by which he draws the superiority from the comparison. "For whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them dung, that I may gain Christ." It is not yet manifest, whether he speaks of the Law, for it is likely that he applies it to the things of this world. For when he says, "the things which were gain to me, those I have counted loss for Christ; yea verily," he adds, "I count all things loss." Although he said all things, yet it is things present; and if you wish it to be the Law too, not even so is it insulted. For dung comes from wheat, and the strength of the wheat is the dung, I mean, the chaff. But as the dung was useful in its former state, so that we gather it together with the wheat, and had there been no dung, there would have been no wheat, thus too is it with the Law.
Seest thou, how everywhere he calls it "loss," not in itself, but for Christ. "Yea verily, and I count all things but loss." Wherefore again? "For the excellency of the knowledge (of Him), for whom I suffered the loss of all things." Again, " wherefore too I count all things to be loss, that I may gain Christ."
See how, from every point, he lays hold of Christ as his foundation, and suffers not the Law to be anywhere exposed, or receive a blow, but guards it on every side. "And that I may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the Law." If he who had righteousness, ran to this other righteousness because his own was nothing, how much rather ought they, who have it not, to run to Him? And he well said, "a righteousness of mine own," not that which I gained by labor and toil, but that which I found from grace. If then he who was so excellent is saved by grace, ranch more are you. For since it was likely they would say that the righteousness which comes from toil is the greater, he shows that it is dung in comparison with the other. For otherwise I, who was so excellent in it, would not have cast it away, and run to the other. But what is that other? That which is from the faith of God, i.e. it too is given by God. This is the righteousness of God; this is altogether a gift. And the gifts of God far exceed those worthless good deeds, which are due to our own diligence.
But what is "By faith that I may know Him"?(1) So then knowledge is through faith, and without faith it is impossible to know Him. Why how? Through it we must "know the power of His resurrection." For what reason can demonstrate to us the Resurrection? None, but faith only. For if the resurrection of Christ, who was according to the flesh, is known by faith, how can the generation of the Word of God be comprehended by reasoning? For the resurrection is less than the generation. Why? Because of that there have been many examples, but of this none ever; for many dead arose before Christ, though after their resurrection they died, but no one was ever born of a virgin. If then we must comprehend by faith that which is inferior to the generation according to the flesh, how can that which is far greater, immeasurably and incomparably greater, be comprehended by reason? These things make the righteousness; this must we believe that He was able to do, but how He was able we cannot prove. For from faith is the fellowship of His sufferings. But how? Had we not believed, neither should we have suffered: had we not believed, that "if we endure with Him, we shall also reign with Him" (2 Tim. ii. 12), we should not have endured the sufferings. Both the generation and the resurrection is comprehended by faith. Seest thou, that faith must not be absolutely, but through good works; for he especially believes that Christ hath risen, who in like sort gives himself up to dangers, who hath fellowship with Him in His sufferings. For he hath fellowship with Him who rose again, with Him who liveth; wherefore he saith, "And may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming conformed unto His death; if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead." He saith, being made conformable unto His death, i.e. having fellowship; whereas He suffered from men, thus I too; wherefore he said, "becoming conformed" and again in another place, "and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh." (Col. i. 24.) That is, these persecutions and sufferings work the image of His death, for He sought not His own, but the good of many.
Therefore persecutions, and afflictions, and straits, ought not to disturb you, but ought even to make you glad, because through them we are "conformed to His death." As if he had said, We are molded to His likeness; as he says in another place, where he writeth, "bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus." (2 Cor. iv. 10.) And this too comes from great faith. For we not only believe that He arose, but that after His resurrection also He hath great power: wherefore we travel the same road which He travelled, i.e. we become brethren to Him in this respect also. As if he had said, We become Christs in this respect. O how great is the dignity of sufferings! We believe that we become "conformed to His death" through sufferings! For as in baptism, we were "buried with the likeness of His death," so here, with His death. There did he rightly say, "The likeness of His death" (Rom. vi. 4, 5), for there we died not entirely, we died not in the flesh, to the body, but to sin. Since then a death is spoken of, and a death; but He indeed died in the body, whilst we died to sin, and there the Man died which He assumed, who was in our flesh, but here the man of sin; for this cause he saith, "the likeness of His death," but here, no longer the likeness of His death, but His death itself. For Paul, in his persecutions, no longer died to sin, but in(1) his very body. Wherefore, he endured the same death. "If by any means," saith he, "I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead." What sayest thou? All men will have a share in that. "For we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed" (1 Cor. xv. 51), and shall all share not only in the Resurrection, but in incorruption. Some indeed to honor, but others as a means of punishment. If therefore all have a share in the Resurrection, and not in the Resurrection only, but also in incorruption, how said he," If by any means I may attain," as if about to share in some especial thing? "For this cause," saith he, "I endure these things, if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead." For if thou hadst not died, thou wouldest not arise. What is it then? Some great thing seems here to be hinted at. So great was it, that he dared not openly assert it, but saith, "If by any means." I have believed in Him and His resurrection, nay, moreover, I suffer for Him, yet I am unable to be confident concerning the Resurrection. What resurrection doth he here mention? That which leads to Christ Himself. I said, that I believed in "Him, and in the power of His resurrection," and that I "have fellowship with His sufferings," and that I "become conformed to His death." Yet after all these things I am by no means confident; as he said elsewhere, "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." (1 Cor. x. 12.) And again, "I fear test by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected." (1 Cor. ix. 27.)
Ver. 12. "Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus."
"Not that I have already obtained." What means "already obtained"? He speaks of the prize, but if he who had endured such sufferings, he who was persecuted, he "who had in him the dying of the Lord Jesus," was not yet confident about that resurrection, what can we say? What meaneth, "if I may apprehend"? What he before said, "If I may attain to the resurrection of the dead." (2 Cor. iv. 10.) If I may apprehend, he saith, His resurrection; i.e. if I may be able to endure so great things, if I may be able to imitate Him, if I may be able to become conformed to Him. For example, Christ suffered many things, He was spit upon, He was stricken, was scourged, at last He suffered what things he suffered.(1) This is the entire course. Through all these things it is needful that men should endure the whole contest, and so come to His resurrection. Or he means this, if I am thought worthy to attain the glorious resurrection, which is a matter of confidence, in order to His resurrection. For if I am able to endure all the contests, I shall be able also to have His resurrection, and to rise with glory. For not as yet, saith he, am I worthy, but "I press on, if so be that I may apprehend." My life is still one of contest, I am still far from the end, I am still distant from the prize, still I run, still I pursue. And He said not, I run, but "I pursue." For you know with what eagerness a man pursues. He sees no one, he thrusts aside with great violence all who would interrupt his pursuit. He collects together his mind, and sight, and strength, and soul, and body, looking to nothing else than the prize. But if Paul, who so pursued, who had suffered so many things, yet saith, "if I may attain," what should we say, who have relaxed our efforts? Then to show that the thing is of debt, he saith, "For which also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus." I was, he saith, of the number of the lost, I gasped for breath, I was nigh dead, God apprehended me. For He pursued us, when we fled from Him, with all speed. So that he points out all those things; for the words, "I was apprehended," show the earnestness of Him who wishes to apprehend us, and our great aversion to Him, our wandering, our flight from Him.
So that we are liable for a vast debt, and no one grieves, no one weeps, no one groans, all having returned to their former state. For as before the appearance of Christ we fled from God, so now also. For we can flee from God, not in place, for He is everywhere; and hear the Prophet, when he says, "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from Thy presence"? (Ps. cxxxix. 7.) How then can we flee from God? Even as we can become distant from God, even as we can be removed afar off. "They that are far from Thee," it says, "shall perish." (Ps. lxxiii. 27.) And again, "Have not your iniquities separated between Me and you?" (Isa. lix. 2.) How then comes this removal, how comes this separation? In purpose and soul: for it cannot be in place. For how could one fly from Him who is everywhere present? The sinner then flies. This is what the Scripture saith, "The wicked fleeth when no man pursueth him." (Prov. xxviii. 1.) We eagerly fly from God, although He always pursueth us. The Apostle hasted, that he might be near Him. We haste, that we may be far off.
Are not these things then worthy of lamentation? Are they not worthy of tears? Whither fliest thou, wretched and miserable man? Whither fliest thou from thy Life and thy Salvation? If thou fly from God, with whom wilt thou take refuge? If thou fly from the Light, whither wilt thou cast thine eyes? If thou fly from thy Life, whence wilt thou henceforth live? Let us fly from the enemy of our Salvation! Whensoever we sin we fly from God, we are as runaways, we depart to a foreign land, as he who consumed his paternal goods and departed into a foreign land, who wasted all his father's substance, and lived in want. We too have substance from our Father; and what is this? He hath freed us from our sins; He hath freely given to us power, strength for works of virtue; He hath freely given to us readiness, patience; He hath freely given to us the Holy Ghost in our baptism; if we waste these things we shall henceforth be in want. For as the sick, as long as they are troubled with fevers, and badness of their juices, are unable to arise or work, or do anything, but if any one sets them free, and brings them to health, if they then work not, this comes from their own sloth; thus too is it with us. For the disease was heavy and the fever excessive. And we lay not upon a bed, but upon wickedness itself, cast away in crime, as on a dunghill, full of sores, and evil odors, squalid, wasting away, more like ghosts than men. Evil spirits encompassed us about, the Prince of this world deriding and assaulting us; the Only-Begotten Son of God came, sent forth the rays of His Presence, and straightway dispelled the darkness. The King, who is on His Father's throne, came to us, having left His Father's throne. And when I say having left, think not of any removal, for He filleth the heavens and the earth, but I speak of the economy; He came to an enemy, who hated Him, who turned himself away, who could not endure to behold Him, who blasphemed Him every day. He saw him lying on a dunghill, eaten with worms, afflicted with fever and hunger, having every sort of disease; for both fever vexed him, which is evil desire; and inflammation lay heavy on him, this is pride; and gnawing hunger had hold of him, which is covetousness; and putrefying sores on every side, for this is fornication; and blindness of eyes, which is idolatry; and dumbness, and madness, which is to worship stocks and stones, and address them; and great deformity, for wickedness is this, foul to behold, and a most heavy disease. And he saw us speaking more foolishly than the mad, and calling stocks our God, and stones likewise; He saw us in such great guilt, he did not reject us; was not wroth, turned not away, hated us not, for He was a Master, and could not hate His own creation. But what does he do? As a most excellent physician, He prepareth medicines of great price, and Himself tastes them first. For He Himself first followed after virtue, and thus gave it to us. And He first gave us the washing,(1) like some antidote, and thus we vomited up all our guilt, and all things took their flight at once, and our inflammation ceased, and our fever was quenched, and our sores were dried up. For all the evils which are from covetousness, and anger, and all the rest, were dissipated by the Spirit. Our eyes were opened, our ears were opened, our tongue spake holy words: our soul received strength, our body received such beauty and bloom, as it is like that he who is born a son of God should have from the grace of the Spirit; such glory as it is like that the new-born son of a king should have, nurtured in purple. Alas! How great nobility did He confer on us!
We were born, we were nurtured, why do we again fly from our Benefactor? He then, who hath done all these things, giveth us strength too, for it was not possible, for a soul bowed down by the disease to endure it, did not He Himself give us the strength. He gave us remission of our sins. We devoured all things. He gave us strength, we wasted it. He gave us grace, we quenched it; and how? we consumed it upon nought that was fitting, we used it for no useful end. These things have destroyed us, and what is more dreadful than all, when we are in a foreign country, and feeding on husks, we say not, Let us return to our Father, and say, "We have sinned against Heaven, and against Thee." (Luke xv. 18.) And that too, when we have so loving a Father, who eagerly desires our return. If we will only return to Him, He does not even bear to call in question our former deeds, only let us quit them. It is sufficient apology with Him, that we have returned. Not only He Himself calls not in question, but if another does so, He stops his mouth, though the accuser be one of good repute. Let us return! How long do we stand afar off? Let us perceive our dishonor, let us be sensible of our vileness. Sin makes us swine, sin brings famine to the soul; let us regain ourselves, and be sober again, and return to our former high birth, that we may obtain the good things which are to come, in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Spirit be glory, might, honor, now and ever and world without end.
HOMILY XII: PHILIPPIANS iii. 13, 14.
"Brethren, I count not myself yet to have apprehended: but one thing I do forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize
of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
NOTHING so renders our real excellences vain and puffs them away, as to be remembering the good deeds we have done; for this produces two evils, it both renders us remiss, and raises us to haughtiness. Wherefore see how Paul, since he knew our nature to be easily inclined to remissness, though he had given great praise to the Philippians, now subdues their mind by many other things above, but chiefly by his resent words And what are they? "Brethren, I count not myself(2) to have apprehended." But if Paul had not as yet apprehended, and is not confident about the Resurrection and things to come, hardly should they be so, who have not attained the smallest proportion of his excellence. That is, I consider that I have not as yet apprehended all virtue, as if one were speaking of a runner. Not as yet, saith he, have I completed all. And if in another place he saith, "I have fought the good fight" (2 Tim. iv. 7), but here, "I count myself not as yet to have apprehended "; any one who reads carefully will well know the reason both of those, and of the present words; (for it is not necessary to dwell continually on the same point;) and that he spoke these words at a much earlier date, but the others near his death. But I am solely engaged on "one thing," says he, "in stretching forward to the things which are before." But "one thing," says he, "forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." For what made him reach forward unto the things which are before, was his forgetting the things that are behind. He then, who thinks that all is accomplished, and that nothing is wanting to him for the perfecting of virtue, may cease running, as having apprehended all. But he who thinks that he is still distant from the goal, will never cease running. This then we should always consider, even though we have wrought ten thousand good deeds; for if Paul, after ten thousand deaths, after so many dangers, considered this, how much more should we? For I fainted not, saith he, although I availed not, after running so much; nor did I despair, but I still run, I still strive. This thing only I consider, that I may in truth advance. Thus too we should act, we should forget our successes, and throw them behind us. For the runner reckons not up how many circuits he hath finished, but how many are left. We too should reckon up, not how far we are advanced in virtue, but how much remains for us. For what doth that which is finished profit us, when that which is deficient is not added? Moreover he did not say, I do not reckon up, but I do not even remember. For we thus become eager, when we apply all diligence to what is left, when we give to oblivion everything else. "Stretching forward," saith he; before we arrive, we strive to obtain. For he that stretches forward is one who, though his feet are running, endeavors to outstrip them with the rest of his body, stretching himself towards the front, and reaching out his hands, that he may accomplish somewhat more of the course. And this comes from great eagerness, from much warmth; thus the runner should run with great earnestness, with so great eagerness, without relaxation. As far as one who so runs differs from him who lies supine, so far doth Paul differ from us. He died daily, he was approved daily, there was no season, there was no time in which his course advanced not. He wished not to take, but to snatch the prize; for in this way we may take it. He who giveth the prize standeth on high, the prize is laid up on high.
See how great a distance this is that must be run over! See how great an ascent! Thither we must fly up with the wings of the Spirit, otherwise it is impossible to surmount this height. Thither must we go with the body, for it is allowed. "For our citizenship is in heaven" (Phil. iii. 20), there is the prize; seest thou the runners, how they live by rule, how they touch nothing that relaxes their strength, how they exercise themselves every day in the palaestra, under a master, and by rule? Imitate them, or rather exhibit even greater eagerness, for the prizes are not equal: many are those who would hinder you; live by rule: many are the things which relax your strength; make its feet(1) agile: for it is possible so to do, it comes not naturally, but by our will. Let us bring it to lightness, lest our swiftness of foot be hindered by the weight of other things. Teach thy feet to be sure. for there are many slippery places, and if thou fallest, straightway thou losest much. But yet if thou fall, rise up again. Even thus mayst thou obtain the victory. Never attempt slippery things, and thou wilt not fall; walk upon firm ground, up with thy head, up with thine eyes; these commands the trainers give to those who run. Thus thy strength is supported; but if thou stoopest downward, thou fallest, thou art relaxed. Look upward, where the prize is; the sight of the prize increaseth the determination of our will. The hope of taking it suffereth not to perceive the toils, it maketh the distance appear short. And what is this prize? No palm branch; but what? The kingdom of heaven, everlasting rest, glory together with Christ, the inheritance, brotherhood, ten thousand good things, which it is impossible to name. It is impossible to describe the beauty of that prize; he who hath it alone knoweth it, and he who is about to receive it. It is not of gold, it is not set with jewels, it is far more precious. Gold is mire, in comparison with that prize, precious stones are mere bricks in comparison with its beauty. If thou hast this, and takest thy departure to heaven, thou wilt be able to walk there with great honor; the angels will reverence thee, when thou bearest this prize, with much confidence wilt thou approach them all. "In Christ Jesus." See the humility of his mind; this I do, saith he, "in Christ Jesus," for it is impossible without an impulse from Him to pass over so vast an interval: we have need of much aid, of a mighty alliance; He hath willed that thou shouldest struggle below, on high He crowns thee. Not as in this world; the crown is not here, where the contest is; but the crown is in that bright place. See ye not, even here, that the most honored of the wrestlers and charioteers are not crowned in the course below, but the king calls them up, and crowns them there? Thus too is it here, in heaven thou receivest the prize.
Ver. 15. "Let us, therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded," saith he. "And if in anything ye are otherwise minded, even this shall God reveal unto you." What sort of thing? That we should "forget the things which are behind." Wherefore it belongs to him who is perfect not to consider himself perfect. How therefore sayest thou, "as many as are perfect"? For tell me, are we minded as thou art? For if thou hast not attained nor art perfected, how dost thou command those that are perfect to be so minded as thou art, who art not yet perfect? Yea, for this, saith he, is perfection. And "if ye are in anything otherwise minded, even this shall God reveal unto you." That is, if any one considers that he has attained all excellence. He puts them on their guard, not by speaking directly, but what saith he? "If in anything ye are otherwise minded, even this shall God reveal unto you." See how humbly he saith this! God shall teach you, i.e. God shall persuade you,(1) not teach you; for Paul was teaching, but God shall lead them on. And he said not, shall lead you on, but "shall reveal," that this may rather seem to spring from ignorance. These words were spoken not concerning doctrines, but concerning perfection of life, and our not considering ourselves to be perfect, for he who considers that he hath apprehended all, hath nothing.
Ver. 16. "Only, whereunto we have already attained, by that same rule let us walk, let us mind the same thing."
"Only, whereunto we have attained." What means this? Let us hold fast, he saith, that in which we have succeeded; love, concord, and peace: for in this we have succeeded.(2) "Whereto we have attained: to walk by the same rule, to mind the same thing." "Whereunto we have attained," i.e. in this we have already succeeded. Seest thou, that he wills that his precepts should be a rule to us? And a rule admits neither addition, nor subtraction, since that destroys its being a rule. "By the same rule," i.e. by the same faith, within the same limits.
Ver. 17. "Brethren, be ye imitators of me, and mark them which so walk even as ye have us for an ensample."
He had said above, "beware of dogs," from such he had led them away; he brings them near to these whom they ought to imitate. If any one, saith he, wishes to imitate me, if any one wishes to walk the same road, let him take heed to them; though I am not present, ye know the manner of my walk, that is, my conduct in life. For not by words only did he teach, but by deeds too; as in the chorus, and the army, the rest must imitate the leader of the chorus or the army, and thus advance in good order. For it is possible that the order may be dissolved by sedition.
The Apostles therefore were a type, and kept throughout a certain archetypal model. Consider how entirely accurate their life was, so that they are proposed as an archetype and example, and as living laws. For what was said in their writings, they manifested to all in their actions. This is the best teaching; thus he will be able to carry on his disciple. But if he indeed speaks as a philosopher, yet in his actions doth the contrary, he is no longer a teacher. For mere verbal philosophy is easy even for the disciple: but there is need of that teaching and leading which comes of deeds. For this both makes the teacher to be reverenced, and prepares the disciple to yield obedience. How so? When one sees him delivering philosophy in words, he will say he commands impossibilities; that they are impossibilities, he himself is the first to show, who does not practice them. But if he sees his virtue fully carried out in action, he will no longer be able to speak thus. Yet although the life of our teacher be careless, let us take heed to ourselves, and let us listen to the words of the prophet; "They shall be all taught of God." (Isa. liv. 13.) "And they shall teach no more every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me from the least of them to the greatest of them." (Jer. xxxi. 34.) Hast thou a teacher who is not virtuous? Still thou hast Him who is truly a Teacher, whom alone thou shouldest call a Teacher. Learn from Him: He hath said, "Learn of Me, for I am meek." (Matt. xi. 29.) Take not heed, then, to thy teacher, but to Him and to His lessons. Take thence thy examples, thou hast a most excellent model, to it conform thyself. There are innumerable models laid before thee in the Scriptures of virtuous lives; whichsoever thou wilt, come, and after the Master find it in the disciples. One hath shown forth through poverty, another through riches; for example, Elijah through poverty, Abraham through riches. Go to that example, which thou esteemest most easy, most befitting thyself to practice. Again, one by marriage, the other by virginity; Abraham by marriage, the other by virginity. Follow whichever thou wilt: for both lead to heaven. One shone forth by fasting, as John, another without fasting, as Job. Again, this latter had a care for his wife, his children, his daughters, his family, and possessed great wealth; the other possessed nothing but the garment of hair. And why do I make mention of family, or wealth, or money, when it is possible that even one in a kingdom should lay hold on virtue, for the house of a king would be found more full of trouble than any private family. David then shone forth in his kingdom; the purple and the diadem rendered him not at all remiss. To another it was entrusted to preside over a whole people, I mean Moses, which was a more difficult task, for there the power was greater, whence the difficulty too became greater. Thou hast seen men approved in wealth, thou hast seen them in poverty also, thou hast seen them in marriage, thou hast seen them in virginity too; on the contrary, behold some lost in marriage and in virginity, in wealth and in poverty. For example, many men have perished in marriage, as Samson, yet not from marriage, but from their own deliberate choice. Likewise in virginity, as the five virgins. In wealth, as the rich man, who disregarded Lazarus: in poverty, innumerable poor men even now are lost. In a kingdom, I can point to many who have perished, and in ruling the people. Wouldest thou see men saved in the rank of a soldier? there is Cornelius; and in the government of a household? there is the eunuch of the Ethiopian Queen. Thus is it universally. If we use our wealth as is fit, nothing will destroy us; but if not, all things will destroy us, whether a kingdom, or poverty, or wealth. But nothing will have power to hurt the man, who keeps well awake.
For tell me, was captivity any harm? None at all. For consider, I pray thee, Joseph, who became a slave, and preserved his virtue. Consider Daniel, and the Three Children, who became captives, and how much the more they shone forth, for virtue shineth everywhere, is invincible, and nothing can put hindrances in its way. But why make I mention of poverty, and captivity, and slavery; and hunger, and sores, and grievous disease? For disease is, more hard to endure than slavery. Such was Lazarus, such was Job, such was also Timothy, straitened by" often infirmities." (1 Tim. v. 23.) Thou seest that nothing can obtain the mastery over virtue; neither wealth, nor poverty, nor dominion, nor subjection, nor the preeminence in affairs, nor disease, nor contempt, nor abandonment. But having left all these things below, and upon the earth, it hastens towards Heaven. Only let the soul be noble, and nought can hinder it from being virtuous. For when he who works is in vigor, nothing external can hinder him; for as in the arts, when the artificer is experienced and persevering, and thoroughly acquainted with his art, if disease overtakes him, he still hath it; if he became poor, he still hath it; whether he hath his tools in his hand or hath them not, whether he works or worketh not, he loseth not at all his art: for the science of it is contained within him. Thus too the virtuous man, who is devoted to God, manifests his art, if you cast him into wealth, or if into poverty, if into disease, if into health, if into dishonor, if into great honor. Did not the Apostles work in every state, "By glory and dishonor, by good report and evil report"? (2 Cor. vi. 8.) This is an athlete, to be prepared for everything; for such is also the nature of virtue.
If thou sayest, I am not able to preside over many, I ought to lead a solitary life; thou offerest an insult to virtue, for it can make use of every state, and shine through all: only let it be in the soul. Is there a famine? or is there abundance? It shows forth its own strength, as Paul saith, "I know how to abound, and how to be in want." (Phil. iv. 12; Acts xxviii. 30.) Was he required to work? He was not ashamed, but wrought two years. Was hunger to be undergone? He sank not under it, nor wavered. Was death to be borne? He became not dejected, through all he exhibited his noble mind and art. Him therefore let us imitate, and we shall have no cause of grief: for tell me, what will have power to grieve such an one? Nothing. As long as no one deprives us of this art, this will be the most blessed of all men, even in this life as well as in that to come. For suppose the good man hath a wife and children, and riches, and great honor, with all these things he remaineth alike virtuous. Take them away, and again in like sort he will be virtuous, neither overwhelmed by his misfortunes, nor puffed up by prosperity, but as a rock standeth equally unmoved in the raging sea and in calm, neither broken by the waves nor influenced at all by the calm, thus too the solid mind stands firm both in calm and in storm. And as little children, when sailing in a ship, are tossed about, whilst the pilot sits by, laughing and undisturbed, and delighted to see their confusion; thus too the soul which is truly wise, when all others are in confusion, or else are inopportunely smiling at any change of circumstance, sits unmoved, as it were, at the tiller and helm of piety. For tell me, what can disturb the pious soul? Can death? This is the beginning of a better life. Can poverty? This helps her on toward virtue. Can disease? She regards not its presence. She regards neither ease, nor affliction; for being beforehand with it, she hath afflicted herself. Can dishonor? The world hath been crucified to her. Can the loss of children? She fears it not, when she is fully persuaded of the Resurrection. What then can surprise her? None of all these things. Doth wealth elevate her? By no means, she knoweth that money is nothing. Doth glory? She hath been taught that "all the glory of man is as the flower of grass." (Isa. xl. 6.) Doth luxury? She hath heard Paul say, "She that giveth herself to pleasure is dead while she liveth." (1 Tim. v. 6.) Since then she is neither inflamed nor cramped, what can equal such health as this?
Other souls, meanwhile, are not such, but change more frequently than the sea, or the cameleon, so that thou hast great cause to smile, when thou seest the same man at one time laughing, at another weeping, at one time full of care, at another beyond measure relaxed and languid. For this cause Paul saith, "Be not fashioned according to this world." (Rom. xii. 2.) For we are citizens of heaven, where there is no turning. Prizes which change not are held out to us. Let us make manifest this our citizenship, let us thence already receive our good things. But why do we cast ourselves into the Euripus, into tempest, into storm, into foam? Let us be in calm. It all depends not on wealth, nor on poverty, nor honor, nor dishonor, nor on sickness, nor on health, nor on weakness, but on our own soul. If it is solid, and well-instructed in the science of virtue, all things will be easy to it. Even hence it will already behold its rest, and that quiet harbor, and, on its departure, will there attain innumerable good things, the which may we all attain, by the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, dominion, honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY XIII: PHILIPPIANS iii. 18--21.
"For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is perdition, whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working whereby He is able even to subject all things unto Himself."
Nothing is so incongruous in a Christian, and foreign to his character, as to seek ease and rest; and to be engrossed with the present life is foreign to our profession and enlistment. Thy Master was crucified, and dost thou seek ease? Thy Master was pierced with nails, and dost thou live delicately? Do these things become a noble soldier? Wherefore Paul saith, "Many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ." Since there were some who made a pretense of Christianity, yet lived in ease and luxury, and this is contrary to the Cross: therefore he thus spoke. For the cross belongs to a soul at its post for the fight, longing to die, seeking nothing like ease, whilst their conduct is of the contrary sort. So that even if they say, they are Christ's, still they are as it were enemies of the Cross. For did they love the Cross, they would strive to live the crucified life. Was not thy Master hung upon the tree? Do thou otherwise imitate Him. Crucify thyself, though no one crucify thee. Crucify thyself, not that thou mayest slay thyself, God forbid, for that is a wicked thing, but as Paul said, "The world hath been crucified unto me and I unto the world." (Gal. vi. 14.) If thou lovest thy Master, die His death. Learn how great is the power of the Cross; how many good things it hath achieved, and doth still: how it is the safety of our life. Through it all things are done. Baptism is through the Cross, for we must receive that seal. The laying on of hands is through the Cross. If we are on journeys, if we are at home, wherever we are, the Cross is a great good, the armor of salvation, a shield which cannot be beaten down, a weapon to oppose the devil; thou bearest the Cross when thou art at enmity with him, not simply when thou sealest thyself by it, but when thou sufferest the things belonging to the Cross. Christ thought fit to call our sufferings by the name of the Cross. As when he saith, "Except a man take up his cross and follow Me" (Matt. xvi. 24), i.e. except he be prepared to die.
But these being base, and lovers of life, and lovers of their bodies, are enemies of the Cross. And every one, who is a friend of luxury, and of present safety, is an enemy of that Cross in which Paul makes his boast: which he embraces, with which he desires to be incorporated. As when he saith, "I am crucified unto the world, and the world unto me." But here he saith, "I now tell you weeping." Wherefore? Because the evil was urgent, because such deserve tears. Of a truth the luxurious are worthy of tears, who make fat that which is thrown about them, I mean the body, and take no thought of that soul which must give account. Behold thou livest delicately, behold thou art drunken, to-day and to-morrow, ten years, twenty, thirty, fifty, a hundred, which is impossible; but if thou wilt, let us suppose it. What is the end? What is the gain? Nought at all. Doth it not then deserve tears, and lamentations, to lead such a life; God hath brought us into this course, that He may crown us, and we take our departure without doing any noble action. Wherefore Paul weepeth, where others laugh, and live in pleasure. So sympathetic is he: such thought taketh he for all men. "Whose god," saith he, "is the belly." For this have they a God! That is, "let us eat and drink!" Dost thou see, how great an evil luxury is? to some their wealth, and to others their belly is a god. Are not these too idolaters, and worse than the common? And their "glory is in their shame." (1 Cor. xv. 32.) Some say it is circumcision. I think not so, but this is its meaning, they make a boast of those things, of which they ought to be ashamed. It is a fearful thing to do shameful actions; yet to do them, and be ashamed, is only half so dreadful. But where a man even boasts himself of them, it is excessive senselessness.
Do these words apply to them alone? And do those who are here present escape the charge? And will no one have account to render of these things? Does no one make a god of his belly, or glory in his shame? I wish, earnestly I wish, that none of these charges lay against us, and that I did not know any one involved in what I have said. But I fear lest the words have more reference to us than to the men of those times. For when one consumes his whole life in drinking and reveling, and expends some small trifle on the poor, whilst he consumes the larger portion on his belly, will not these words with justice apply to him? No words are more apt to call attention, or more cutting in reproof, than these: "Whose god is the belly, whose glory is in their shame." And who are these? They, he says, who mind earthly things. "Let us build houses." Where, I ask? On the earth, they answer. Let us purchase farms; on the earth again: let us obtain power; again on the earth: let us gain glory; again on the earth: let us enrich ourselves; all these things are on the earth. These are they, whose god is their belly; for if they have no spiritual thoughts, but have all their possessions here, and mind these things, with reason have they their belly for their god, in saying, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die." And about thy body, thou grievest, tell me, that it is of earth, though thus thou art not at all injured. But thy soul thou draggest down to the earth, when thou oughtest to render even thy body spiritual; for thou mayest, if thou wilt. Thou hast received a belly, that thou mayest feed, not distend it, that thou mayest have the mastery over it, not have it as mistress over thee: that it may minister to thee for the nourishment of the other parts, not that thou mayest minister to it, not that thou mayest exceed limits. The sea, when it passes its bounds, doth not work so many evils, as the belly doth to our body, together with our soul. The former overfloweth all the earth, the latter all the body. Put moderation for a boundary to it, as God hath put the sand for the sea. Then if its waves arise, and rage furiously, rebuke it, with the power which is in thee. See how God hath honored thee, that thou mightest imitate Him, and thou wilt not; but thou seest the belly overflowing, destroying and overwhelming thy whole nature, and darest not to restrain or moderate it.
"Whose God," he saith, "is their belly." Let us see how Paul served God: let us see how gluttons serve their belly. Do not they undergo ten thousand such deaths? do not they fear to disobey whatever it orders? do not they minister impossibilities to it? Are not they worse than slaves? "But our citizenship," says he, "is in Heaven." Let us not then seek for ease here; there do we shine, where also our citizenship is. "From whence also," saith he, "we wait for a Saviour," the Lord Jesus Christ: "who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory." By little and little he hath carried us up. He saith, "From Heaven" and "Our Saviour," showing, from the place and from the Person, the dignity of the subject. "Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation," saith he. The body now suffereth many things: it is bound with chains, it is scourged, it suffereth innumerable evils; but the body of Christ suffered the same. This, then, he hinted at when he said, "That it may be conformed to the body of his glory." Wherefore the body is the same, but putteth on incorruption. "Shall fashion anew." Wherefore the fashion is different; or perchance he has spoken figuratively of the change.
He saith, "the body of our humiliation," because it is now humbled, subject to destruction, to pain, because it seemeth to be worthless, and to have nothing beyond that of other animals. "That it may be conformed to the body of his glory." What? shall this our body be fashioned like unto Him, who sitteth at the right hand of the Father, to Him who is worshiped by the Angels, before whom do stand the incorporeal Powers, to Him who is above all rule and power, and might? If then the whole world were to take up weeping and lament for those who have fallen from this hope, could it worthily lament? because, when a promise is given us of our body being made like to Him, it still departs with the demons. I care not for hell henceforth; whatever can be said, having fallen from so great glory, now and henceforth consider hell to be nothing to this falling away. What sayest thou, O Paul? To be made like unto Him? Yes, he answereth; then, lest you should disbelieve, he addeth a reason; "According to the working whereby He is able even to subject all things unto Himself." He hath power, saith he, to subject all things unto Himself, wherefore also destruction and death. Or rather, He doth this also with the same power. For tell me, which requireth the greater power, to subject demons, and Angels, and Archangels, and Cherubim, and Seraphim, or to make the body incorruptible and immortal? The latter certainly much more than the former; he showed forth the greater works of His power, that you might believe these too. Wherefore, though ye see these men rejoicing, and honored, yet stand firm, be not offended at them, be not moved. These our hopes are sufficient to raise up even the most sluggish and indolent.
Chap. iv. ver. I. "Wherefore," saith he, "my brethren, beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my beloved."
"So." How? Unmoved. See how he addeth praise after exhortation, "my joy and my crown," not simply joy but glory too, not simply glory but my crown too. Which glory nought can equal, since it is the crown of Paul. "So stand fast in the Lord, my beloved," i.e. in the hope of God.
Ver. 2, 3. "I exhort Euodia, and exhort Syntyche, to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yea, I beseech thee also, true yokefellow, help these women."
Some say Paul here exhorts his own wife; but it is not so, but some other woman, or the husband of one of them. "Help these women, for they labored with me in the Gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow-workers whose names are in the book of life." Seest thou how great a testimony he beareth to their virtue? For as Christ saith to his Apostles, "Rejoice not that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in the book of life" (Luke x. 20); so Paul testifieth to them, saying, "whose names are in the book of life." These women seem to me to be the chief of the Church which was there, and he commendeth them to some notable man whom he calls his "yokefellow," to whom perchance he was wont to commend them, as to a fellow-worker, and fellow-soldier, and brother, and companion, as he doth in the Epistle to the Romans, when he saith, "I commend unto you Phebe our sister, who is a servant of the Church that is at Cenchrea." (Rom. xvi. 1.) "Yokefellow;" either some brother of theirs, or a husband of hers; as if he had said, Now thou art a true brother, now a true husband, because thou hast become a Member. "For they labored with me in the Gospel." This protection came from home, not from friendship, but for good deeds. "Labored with me." What sayest thou? Did women labor with thee? Yes, he answereth, they too contributed no small portion. Although many were they who wrought together with him, yet these women also acted with him amongst the many. The Churches then were no little edified, for many good ends are gained where they who are approved, be they men, or be they women, enjoy from the rest such honor. For in the first place the rest were led on to a like zeal; in the second place, they also gained a by the respect shown; and thirdly, they made those very persons more zealous and earnest. Wherefore thou seest that Paul hath everywhere a care for this, and commendeth such men for consideration. As he saith in the Epistle to the Corinthians: "Who are the first-fruits of Achaia," (1 Cor. xvi. 15.) Some say that the word "yokefellow," (Syzygus,) is a proper name. Well, what? Whether it be so, or no, we need not accurately enquire, but observe that he gives his orders, that these women should enjoy much protection.
All we have, saith he, is in the heavens, our Saviour, our city, whatever a man can name: "whence," saith he, "we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ." And this is an act of His kindness and love toward man. He Himself again cometh to us, he doth not drag us thither, but takes us, and so departs with us. And this is a mark of great honor; for if He came to us when we were enemies, much rather doth He now when we are become friends. He doth not commit this to the Angels, nor to servants, but Himself cometh to call us to His royal mansion. See, we also "shall be caught up in the clouds" (1 Thess. iv. 17), doing him honor.
Who then is to be found "the faithful and wise servant"? Who are they that are deemed worthy of such good things? How miserable are those who fail! For if we were forever to weep, should we do aught worthy of the occasion? For were you to make mention of hells innumerable, you would name nothing equal to that pain which the soul sustaineth, when all the world is in confusion, when the trumpets are sounding, when the Angels are rushing forward, the first, then the second, then the third, then ten thousand ranks, are pouring forth upon the earth; then the Cherubim, (and many are these and infinite;) the Seraphim; when He Himself is coming, with His ineffable glory; when those meet Him, who had gone to gather the elect into the midst; when Paul and his companions, and all who in his time had been approved, are crowned, are proclaimed aloud, are honored by the King, before all His heavenly host. For if hell did not exist, how fearful a thing it is, that the one part should be honored, and the other dishonored! Hell, I confess, is intolerable, yea, very intolerable, but more intolerable than it is the loss of the Kingdom. Consider; if any king, or the son of a king, having taken his departure, and been successful in innumerable wars, and become the object of admiration, should with his army entire, return to any city, in his chariot, with his trophies, with his innumerable ranks of golden shields, with his spearmen, his body-guard all about him, whilst the whole city was adorned with crowns, whilst all the rulers of the world accompanied him, and all the soldiery of foreign nations followed him as captives, then praefects, satraps, and in the presence of all the rulers, and all that splendor, he should receive the citizens who meet him, and kiss them, and stretch forth his hand, and give them freedom of access, and converse with them, all standing around, as with friends, and tell them that all that journey was undertaken for their sake, and should lead them into his palace, and give them a share of it, even if the rest should not be punished, to how great punishment would not this be equal? But if in the case of men it were a bitter thing to fall away from this glory, much more is it so with God, when all the heavenly Powers are present with the King, when the demons, bound, and bowing down their heads, and the devil himself is led along in chains, and all military force that opposeth itself, when the Powers of the heavens, when He Himself, cometh upon the clouds.
Believe me, I am not even able to finish my words, from the grief which lays hold of my soul at this relation. Consider of how great glory we shall be deprived, when it is in our power not to be deprived of it. For this is the misery, that we suffer these things, when it is in our power not to suffer them. When he receiveth the one part and leadeth them to His Father in heaven, and rejecteth the other, whom Angels take and drag against their will, weeping, and hanging down their heads, to the fire of hell, when they have first been made a spectacle to the whole world, what grief, think you, is there? Let us then make haste, while there is time, and take great thought of our own salvation. How many things have we to say like the rich man? If any one would now suffer us, we would take counsel of the things that are profitable! But no one doth suffer us. And that we shall so say, is clear, not from him alone, but from many others. And that you may learn this, how many men have been in fevers, and said, if we recover, we shall never again fall into the same state. Many such words we shall then say, but we shall be answered as the rich man was, that there is a gulf, that we have received our good things here. (Luke xvi. 25, 26.) Let us groan then, I entreat you, bitterly, rather let us not only groan, but pursue virtue too; let us lament now, for salvation, that we may not then lament in vain. Let us weep now, and not weep then, at our evil lot. This weeping is of virtue, that of unprofitable repentance; let us afflict ourselves now, that we may not then; for it is not the same thing to be afflicted here and there. Here, thou art afflicted for a little time, or rather thou dost not perceive thy affliction, knowing that thou art afflicted for thy good. But there, the affliction is more bitter, because it is not in hope, nor for any escape, but without limit, and throughout.
But may we all be freed from this, and obtain remission. But let us pray and be diligent, that we may obtain the remission. Let us be diligent, I entreat; for if we are diligent, we prevail even through our prayer: if we pray earnestly, God grants our request; but if we neither ask Him, nor do earnestly aught of this sort, nor work, how is it possible that we should ever succeed? By sleeping? Not at all. For it is much if even by running, and stretching forth, and being conformed to His death, as Paul said, we shall be able to succeed, not to say sleeping. "If by any means I may attain," saith he. But if Paul said, "If by any means I may attain," what shall we say? For it is not possible by sleeping to accomplish even worldly business, not to say spiritual. By sleeping, not even from friends can anything be received, far less from God. Not even fathers honor them who sleep, far less doth God. Let us labor for a little time, that we may have rest for ever. We must at all events be afflicted. If we are not afflicted here, it awaits us there. Why choose we not to be afflicted here, that there we may have rest, and obtain the unspeakable blessings, in Christ Jesus, with whom, to the Father together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, power, and honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen.
HOMILY XIV: PHILIPPIANS iv. 4-7.
"Rejoice in the Lord alway: again I will say, Rejoice. Let your forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts through Christ Jesus."
"Blessed they that mourn," and "woe unto them that laugh" (Matt. v. 4; Luke vi. 25), saith Christ. How then saith Paul, "Rejoice in the Lord alway"? "Woe to them that laugh," said Christ, the laughter of this world which ariseth from the things which are present He blessed also those that mourn, not simply for the loss of relatives, but those who are pricked at heart, who mourn their own faults, and take count of their own sins, or even those of others. This joy is not contrary to that grief, but from that grief it too is born. For he who grieveth for his own faults, and confesseth them, rejoiceth. Moreover, it is possible to grieve for our own sins, and yet to rejoice in Christ. Since then they were afflicted by their sufferings, "for to you it is given not only to believe in him, but also to stiffer for him" (Phil. i. 29), therefore he saith, "Rejoice in the Lord." For this can but mean, If you exhibit such a life that you may rejoice. Or when your communion with God is not hindered, rejoice. Or else the word "in" may stand for "with": as if he had said, with the Lord. "Alway; again I will say, Rejoice." These are the words of one who brings comfort; as, for example, he who is in God rejoiceth alway. Yea though he be afflicted, yea whatever he may suffer, such a man alway rejoiceth. Hear what Luke saith, that "they returned from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be scourged for His name." (Acts v. 41.) If scourging and bonds, which seem to be the most grievous of all things, bring forth joy, what else will be able to produce grief in us?
"Again I will say, Rejoice." Well hath he repeated. For since the nature of the things brought forth grief, he shows by repeating, that they should by all means rejoice.
"Let your forbearance be known unto all men." He said above, "Whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame," and that they "mind earthly things." (Phil. iii. 19.) It was probable that they would be at enmity with the wicked; he therefore exhorted them to have nothing in common with them, but to use them with all forbearance, and that not only their brethren, but also their enemies and opposers. "The Lord is at hand, in nothing be anxious." For why, tell me? do they ever rise in opposition? And if ye see them living in luxury, why are ye in affliction? Already the judgment is nigh; shortly will they give account of their actions. Are ye in affliction, and they in luxury? But these things shall shortly receive their end. Do they plot against you, and threaten you? "In nothing be anxious." The judgment is already at hand, when these things shall be reversed. "In nothing be anxious." If ye are kindly affected toward those who prepare evil against you, yet it shall not at last turn out to their profit. Already the recompense is at hand, if poverty, if death, if aught else that is terrible be upon you. "But in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." There is this for one consolation, "the Lord is at hand." And again, "I will be with you alway, even unto the end of the world." (Matt. xxviii. 20.) Behold another consolation, a medicine which healeth grief, and distress, and all that is painful. And what is this? Prayer, thanksgiving in all things. And so He wills that our prayers should not simply be requests, but thanksgivings too for what we have. For how should he ask for future things, who is not thankful for the past? "But in everything by prayer and supplication." Wherefore we ought to give thanks for all things, even for those which seem to be grievous, for this is the part of the truly thankful man. In the other case the nature of the things demands it; but this springs from a grateful soul, and one earnestly affected toward God. God acknowledgeth these prayers, but others He knoweth not. Offer up such prayers as may be acknowledged; for He disposeth all things for our profit, though we know it not. And this is a proof that it greatly profiteth, namely, that we know it not. "And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus." What meaneth this? "The peace of God" which He hath wrought toward men, surpasseth all understanding. For who could have expected, who could have hoped, that such good things would have come? They exceed all man's understanding, not his speech alone. For His enemies, for those who hated Him, for those who determined to turn themselves away, for these, he refused not to deliver up His Only Begotten Son, that He might make peace with us. This peace then, i.e. the reconciliation, the love of God, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts.
For this is the part of a teacher, not only to exhort, but also to pray, and to assist by supplication, that they may neither be overwhelmed by temptations, nor carried about by deceit. As if he had said, May He who hath delivered you in such sort as mind cannot comprehend, may He Himself guard yon, and secure you, so that you suffer no ill. Either he means this, or that that peace of which Christ saith, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you" (John xiv. 27): this shall guard you, for this peace exceedeth all man's understanding. How? When he tells us to be at peace with our enemies, with those who treat us unjustly, with those who are at war and enmity toward us; is it not beyond man's understanding? But rather let us look to the former. If the peace surpasseth all understanding, much more doth God Himself, who giveth peace, pass all understanding, not ours only, but also that of Angels, and the Powers above. What meaneth "in Christ Jesus"? Shall guard us in Him, so that ye may remain firm, and not fall from His faith.
Ver. 8. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just." What is "Finally "? It stands for, "I have said all." It is the word of one that is in haste, and has nothing to do with present things.
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
Ver. 9. "The things which ye both learned and received, and heard and saw in me."
What meaneth, "whatsoever things are lovely "? Lovely to the faithful, lovely to God. "Whatsoever things are true." Virtue is really true, vice is falsehood. For the pleasure of it is a falsehood, and its glory is falsehood, and all things of the world are falsehood. "Whatsoever things are pure." This is opposed to the words "who mind earthly things." "Whatsoever things are honorable." This is opposed to the words "whose god is their belly." "Whatsoever things are just," i.e. saith he, "whatsoever things are of good report." "If there be any virtue, if there be any praise." Here he willeth them to take thought of those things too which regard men. "Think on these things," saith he. Seest thou, that he desires to banish every evil thought from our souls; for evil actions spring from thoughts. "The things which ye both learned and received." This is teaching, in all his exhortations to propose himself for a model: as he saith in another place, "even as ye have us for an ensample." (Phil. iii. 17.) And again here, "What things ye learned and received," i.e. have been taught by word of mouth, "and heard and saw in me": both in respect of my words and actions and conduct. Seest thou, how about everything he lays these commands on us? For since it was not possible to make an accurate enumeration of all things, of our coming in, and going out, and speech, and carriage, and intercourse (for of all these things it is needful that a Christian should have thought), he said shortly, and as it were in a summary, "ye heard and saw in me." I have led yon forward both by deeds and by words. "These things do," not only in words, but do them also. "And the God of peace shall be with you," i.e. ye shall be in a calm, in great safety, ye shall suffer nothing painful, nor contrary to your will. For when we are at peace with Him, and we are so through virtue, much more will He be at peace with us. For He who so loved us, as to show favor to us even against our will, will He not, if He sees us hastening toward Him, Himself yet much more exhibit His love toward us?
Nothing is such an enemy of our nature as vice. And from many things it is evident, how vice is at enmity with us, and virtue friendly toward us. What will ye? That I should speak of fornication? It makes men subject to reproach, poor, objects of ridicule, despicable to all, just as enemies treat them. Ofttimes it hath involved men in disease and danger; many men have perished or been wounded in behalf of their mistresses. And if fornication produces these things, much rather doth adultery. But doth almsgiving so? By no means. But as a loving mother setteth her son in great propriety, in good order, in good report, and gives him leisure to engage in necessary work, thus alms-giving doth not release us nor lead us away from our necessary work, but even renders the soul more wise. For nothing is more foolish than a mistress.
But what willest thou? To look upon covetousness? It too treats us like an enemy. And how? It makes us hated by all. It prepareth all men to vaunt themselves against us; both those who have been treated unjustly by us, and those who have not, who share the grief of the former, and are in fear for themselves. All men look upon us as their common foes, as wild beasts, as demons. Everywhere are there innumerable accusations, plots against us, envyings, all which are the acts of enemies. But justice, on the contrary, makes all men friends, all men sociable, all men well disposed towards us, by all men prayers are made in our behalf; our affairs are in perfect safety, there is no danger, there is no suspicion. But sleep also fearlessly comes over us with perfect safety, no care is there, no lamenting.
How much better this sort of life is! And what? Is it best to envy, or to rejoice with one another? Let us search out all these things, and we shall find that virtue, like a truly kind mother, places us in safety, while vice is a treacherous thing, and full of danger. For hear the prophet, who saith, "The Lord is a stronghold of them that fear Him, and His covenant is to show them." (Ps. xxv. 14, Sept.) He feareth no one, who is not conscious to himself of any wickedness; on the contrary, he who liveth in crime is never confident, but trembles at his domestics, and looks at them with suspicion. Why say, his domestics? He cannot bear the tribunal of his own conscience. Not only those who are without, but his inward thoughts affect him likewise, and suffer him not to be in quiet. What then, saith Paul? Ought we to live dependent on praise? He said not, look to praise, but do praiseworthy actions, yet not for the sake of praise.
"Whatsoever things are true," for the things we have been speaking of are false. "Whatsoever things are honorable." That which is "honorable" belongs to external virtue, that which is "pure" to the soul. Give no cause of stumbling, saith he, nor handle of accusation. Because he had said, "Whatsoever things are of good report," lest you should think that he means only those things which are so in the sight of men, he proceeds, "if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things"--do these things. He wills us ever to be in these things, to care for these things, to think on these things. For if we will be at peace with each other, God too will be with us, but if we raise up war, the God of peace will not be with us. For nothing is so hostile to the soul as vice. That is, peace and virtue place it in safety. Wherefore we must make a beginning on our part, and then we shall draw God toward us.
God is not a God of war and fighting. Make war and fighting to cease, both that which is against Him, and that which is against thy neighbor. Be at peace with all men, consider with what character God saveth thee. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matt. v. 9.) Such always imitate the Son of God: do thou imitate Him too. Be at peace. The more thy brother warreth against thee, by so much the greater will be thy reward. For hear the prophet who saith, "With the haters of peace I was peaceful." (Ps. cxx. 7, Sept.) This is virtue, this is above man's understanding, this maketh us near God; nothing so much delighteth God as to remember no evil. This sets thee free from thy sins, this looseth the charges against thee: but if we are fighting and buffeting, we become far off from God: for enmities are produced by conflict, and from enmity springs remembrance of evil.
Cut out the root, and there will be no fruit. Thus shall we learn to despise the things of this life, for there is no conflict, none, in spiritual things, but whatever thou seest, either conflicts or envy, or whatever a man can mention, all these spring from the things of this life. Every conflict hath its beginning either in covetousness, or envy, or vainglory. If therefore we are at peace, we shall learn to despise the things of the earth. Hath a man stolen our money? He hath not injured us, only let him not steal our treasure which is above. Hath he hindered thy glory? Yet not that which is from God, but that which is of no account. For this is no glory, but a mere name of glory, or rather a shame. Hath he stolen thy honor? Rather not thine but his own. For as he who committeth injustice doth not so much inflict as receive injustice, thus too he who plots against his neighbor, first destroyeth himself.
For "he who diggeth a pit for his neighbor, falleth into it." (Prov. xxvi. 27.) Let us then not plot against others, lest we injure ourselves. When we supplant the reputation of others, let us consider that we injure ourselves, it is against ourselves we plot. For perchance with men we do him harm, if we have power, but we injure ourselves in the sight of God, by provoking Him against us. Let us not then harm ourselves. For as we injure ourselves when we injure our neighbors, so by benefiting them we benefit ourselves. If then thy enemy harm thee, he hath benefited thee if thou art wise, and so requite him not with the same things, but even do him good. But the blow, you say, remains severe. Consider then that thou dost not benefit, but punishest him, and benefitest thyself, and quickly you will come to do him good. What then? Shall we act from this motive? We ought not to act on this motive, but if thy heart will not hear other reason, induce it, saith he, even by this, and thou wilt quickly persuade it to dismiss its enmity, and wilt for the future do good to thine enemy as to a friend, and wilt obtain the good things which are to come, to which God grant that we may all attain in Christ Jesus. Amen.
HOMILY XV: Philippians iv. 10--14.
"But I rejoice in the Lord greatly, that now at length ye have revived your thought for me; wherein ye did indeed take thought, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content. I know how to be abused, and I know also how to abound: in everything and in all things have I learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in want. I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me. Howbeit, ye did well, that ye had fellowship with my affliction."
I HAVE ofttimes said, that almsgiving hath been introduced not for the sake of the receivers, but of the givers, for the latter are they which make the greatest gain. And this Paul shows here also. In what way? The Philippians had sent him somewhat, after a long time, and had committed the same to Epaphroditus. See then, how when he is about to send Epaphroditus as the bearer of this Epistle, he praises them, and shows that this action was for the need, not of the receiver, but of the givers. This he doth, both that they who benefited him may not be lifted up with arrogance, and that they may become more zealous in well-doing, since they rather benefit themselves; and that they who receive may not fearlessly rush forward to receive, lest they meet with condemnation. For "it is more blessed," He saith, "to give than to receive." (Acts xx. 35.) Why then does he say, "I rejoice in the Lord greatly "? Not with worldly rejoicing, saith he, nor with the joy of this life, but in .the Lord. Not because I had refreshment, but because ye advanced; for this is my refreshment. Wherefore he also saith "greatly"; since this joy was not corporeal, nor on account of his own refreshment, but because of their advancement.
And see how, when he had gently rebuked them on account of the times that were passed, he quickly throweth a shadow over this, and teacheth them constantly and always to remain in well doing. "Because at length," saith he. The words, "at length," show long time to have elapsed. "Ye have revived," as fruits which have shot forth, dried up, and afterwards shot forth. Here he showeth, that being at first blooming, then having faded, they again budded forth. So that the word "flourished again," has both rebuke and praise. For it is no small thing, that he who hath withered should flourish again. He showeth also, that it was from indolence all this had happened to them. But here he signifies, that even in former time they were wont to be zealous in these things. Wherefore he addeth, "your thought for me, wherein ye did indeed take thought." And lest you should think, that in other things too they had been more zealous, and had then withered, but in this thing alone, behold how he has added, "your thought for me." I apply the words, "now at length," only to this; for in other things it is not so.
Here some one may enquire, how when he had said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts xx. 25, 34); and, "These hands ministered to my necessities, and to them that were with me"; and again when writing to the Corinthians, "For it were good for me rather to die, than that any man should make my glorying void" (1 Cor. ix. 15); he suffereth his glorying to be made void? And how? By receiving. For if his glorying was, that he received not, how doth he now endure so to do? What is it then? Probably, he then did not receive on account of the false Apostles, "that wherein they glory" (2 Cor. xi. 12), saith he, "they may be found even as we." And he said not "are," but "glory"; for they received but secretly. Wherefore he said, "wherein they glory." Wherefore he also said, "No man shall stop me of this glorying." (2 Cor. xi. 10,) And he said not simply, shall not stop me, but what? "in the regions of Achaia." And again, "I robbed other Churches, taking wages of them that I might minister unto you." (2 Cor. xi. 8.) Here he showed that he did receive. But Paul indeed received rightly, having so great a work; if in truth he did receive. But they who work not, how can they receive? "Yet I pray," saith one. But there is no work. For this may be done together with work. "But I fast." Neither is this work. For see this blessed one, preaching in many places, and working too. "But ye lacked opportunity." What meaneth lacked opportunity? It came not; saith he, of indolence, but of necessity. Ye had it not in your hands, nor were in abundance. This is the meaning of, "Ye lacked opportunity." Thus most men speak, when the things of this life do not flow in to them abundantly, and are in short supply.
"Not that I speak in respect of want." said, saith he, "now at length," and I rebuked you, not seeking mine own, nor censuring you on this account, as if I were in want: for I sought it not on this account. Whence is this, O Paul, that thou makest no vain boasting? To the Corinthians he saith, "For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or even acknowledge." (2 Cor. i. 13.) And in this case he would not have spoken to them so as to be convicted, he would not, had he been making boasts, have spoken thus. He was speaking to those who knew the facts, with whom detection, would have been a greater disgrace. "For I have learnt," saith he, "in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content." Wherefore, this is an object of discipline, and exercise, and care, for it is not easy of attainment, but very difficult, and a new thing. "In whatsoever state I am," saith he, "therein to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know also how to abound. In everything and in all things have I learned the secret." That is, I know how to use little, to bear hunger and want. "Both to abound, and to suffer need." "But, says one, there is no need of wisdom or of virtue in order to abound." There is great need of virtue, not less than in the other case. For as want inclines us to do many evil things, so too doth plenty. For many ofttimes, coming into plenty, have become indolent, and have not known how to bear their good fortune. Many men have taken it as an occasion of no longer working. But Paul did not so, for what he received he consumed on others, and emptied himself for them. This is to know. He was in nowise relaxed, nor did he exult at his abundance; but was the same in want and in plenty, he was neither oppressed on the one hand, nor rendered a boaster on the other. "Both to be filled," saith he "and to be hungry, both to abound, and to be in want." Many know not how to be full, as for example, the Israelites, "ate, and kicked" (Deut. xxxii. 15), but I am equally well ordered in all. He showeth that he neither is now elated, nor was before grieved: or if he grieved, it was on their account, not on his own, for he himself was similarly affected.
"In everything," saith he, "and in all things I have learned the secret," i.e. I have had experience of all things in this long time, and these things have all succeeded with me. But since boasting might seem to have a place here, see how quickly he checks up, and says, "I can do all things in Christ that strengtheneth me." The success is not mine own, but His who has given me strength. But since they who confer benefits, when they see the receiver not well affected toward them, but despising the gifts, are themselves rendered more remiss, (for they considered themselves as conferring a benefit and refreshment,) if therefore Paul despises the refreshment, they must necessarily become remiss, in order then that this may not happen, see how he healeth it again. By what he hath said above, he hath brought down their proud thoughts, by what followeth he maketh their readiness revive, by saying, "Howbeit ye did well, that ye had fellowship with my affliction." Seest thou, how he removed himself, and again united himself to them. This is the part of true and spiritual friendship. Think not, saith he, because I was not in want, that I had no need of this act of yours. I have need of it for your sake. How then, did they share his afflictions? By this means. As he said when in bonds, "Ye all are partakers with me of grace." (Phil. i. 7.) For it is grace to suffer for Christ, as he himself saith in another place, "For to you it is given from God not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him." (Phil. i. 29.) For since those former words by themselves might have made them regardless, for this cause he consoleth them, and receiveth them, and praiseth them again. And this in measured words. For he said not, "gave," but "had fellowship," to show that they too were profiled by becoming partakers of his labors. He said not, ye did lighten, but ye did communicate with my affliction, which was something more elevated. Seest thou the humility of Paul? seest thou his noble nature? When he has shown that he had no need of their gifts on his own account, he afterward uses freely such lowly words as they do who make a request; "since thou art wont to give." For he refuseth neither to do, nor say anything. That is, "Think not that my words show want of shame, wherein I accuse you, and say, ' Now at length ye have revived,' or are those of one in necessity; I speak not thus because I am in need, but why? From my exceeding confidence in you, and of this also ye yourselves are the authors."
Seest thou how he sootheth them? How are ye the authors? In that ye hasted to the work before all the others; and have given me confidence to remind you of these things. And observe his elevation; he accuseth them not while they did not send, lest he should seem to regard his own benefit, but when they had sent, then he rebuked them for the time past, and they received it, for he could not seem after that to regard his own benefit.
Ver. 15. "Ye yourselves also know, ye Philippians, that in the beginning of the Gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no Church had fellowship with me, in the matter of giving and receiving, but ye only."
Lo, how great is his commendation! For the Corinthians and Romans are stirred up by hearing these things from him, whilst the Philippians did it without any other Church having made a beginning. For "in the beginning of the Gospel," saith he, they manifested such zeal towards the holy Apostle, as themselves first to begin, without having any example, to bear this fruit. And no one can say that they did these things because he abode with them, or for their own benefit; for he saith, "When I departed from Macedonia, no Church had fellowship with me, in the matter of giving and receiving, but ye only." What meaneth "receiving," and what "had fellowship "? Wherefore said he not, "no Church gave to me," but "had fellowship with me, in the matter of giving and receiving"? Because it is a case of communication. He saith, "If we sowed unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your carnal things." (I Cor. ix. 11.) And again, "That your abundance may be a supply to their want." (2 Cor. viii. 14.) How did they communicate? In the matter of giving carnal things, and receiving spiritual. For as they who sell and buy communicate with each other, by mutually giving what they have, (and this is communication,) so too is it here. For there is not anything more profitable than this trade and traffic. It is performed on the earth, but is completed in heaven. They who buy are on the earth, but they buy and agree about heavenly things, whilst they lay down an earthly price.
But despond not; heavenly things are not to be bought with money, riches cannot purchase these things, but the purpose of him who giveth the money, his true wisdom, his superiority to earthly things, his love toward man, his mercifulness. For if money could purchase it, she who threw in the two mites would have gained nothing great. But since it was not the money, but the purpose that availed, she received everything, who exhibited a full purpose of mind. Let us not then say, that the Kingdom can be bought with money; it is not by money, but by purpose of mind which is exhibited by the money. Therefore, will one answer, there is no need of money? There is no need of money, but of the disposition; if thou hast this, thou wilt be able even by two mites to purchase Heaven; where this is not, not even ten thousand talents of gold will be able to do that, which the two mites could. Wherefore? Because if thou who hast much throwest in but a small portion, thou gavest an alms indeed, but not so great as the Widow did; for thou didst not throw it in with the same readiness as she. For she deprived herself of all she had, or rather she deprived not, but gave it all as a free gift to herself Not for a cup of cold water hath God promised the kingdom, but for readiness of heart; not for death, but for purpose of mind. For indeed it is no great thing. For what is it to give one life? that is giving one man; but one man is not of worth enough.
Ver. 16. "For even in Thessalonica, ye sent once and again unto my need."
Here again is great praise, that he, when dwelling in the metropolis, should be nourished by a little city. And lest, by always withdrawing himself from the supposition of want, he should, as I said at first, render them amiss, having previously shown by so many proofs that he is not in want, he here does it by one word only, by saying "needs." And he said not "my," but absolutely,--having a care of dignity. And not this only, but what followeth too, for since he was conscious that it was a very lowly thing, he again secures it, by adding as a correction,
Ver. 17. "Not that I seek for the gift."
As he said above, "Not that I speak in respect of want"; that is stronger than this. For it is one thing, that he who is in want, should not seek, and another that he who is in want should not even consider himself to be in want. "Not that I seek for the gift," he says, "but I seek for the fruit, that increaseth to your account." Not mine own. Seest thou, that the fruit is produced for them? This say I for your sake, says he, not for my own, for your salvation. For I gain nothing when I receive, but the grace belongeth to the givers, for the recompense is yonder in store for givers, but the gifts are here consumed by them who receive. Again even his desire is combined with praise and sympathy.
When he had said, I do not seek, lest he should again render them remiss, he adds,
Ver. 18. "But I have all things and abound," i.e. through this gift ye have filled up what was wanting, which would make them more eager. For benefactors, the wiser they are, the more do they seek gratitude from the benefited. That is, ye have not only filled up what was deficient in former time, but ye have gone beyond. For lest by these words he should seem to accuse them, see how he seals up all. After he had said, "Not that I seek for the gift," and "Now at length"; and had shown that their deed was a debt, for this is meant by, "I have all," then again he showeth, that they had acted above what was due, and saith, "I have all things and abound, I am filled." I say not this at hazard, or only from the feeling of my mind, but why? "Having received of Epaphroditus the things that came from you, an odor of a sweet smell; a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God." Lo, whither he hath raised their gift; not I, he saith, received, but God through me. Wherefore though I be not in need, regard it not, for God had no need, and He received at their hands in such sort, that the Holy Scriptures shrunk not from saying, "God smelled a sweet savor" (Gen. viii. 21), which denotes one who was pleased. For ye know, indeed ye know, how our soul is affected by sweet savors, how it is pleased, how it is delighted. The Scriptures therefore shrunk not from applying to God a word so human, and so lowly, that it might show to men that their gifts are become acceptable. For not the fat, not the smoke, made them acceptable, but the purpose of mind which offered them. Had it been otherwise, Cain's offering too had been received. It saith then, that He is even pleased, and how He is pleased. For men could not without this have learned. He then, who hath no need, saith that He is thus pleased, that they may not become remiss by the absence of need. And afterward, when they had no care for other virtues, and trusted to their offerings alone, behold, how again he setteth them right by saying, "Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?" (Ps. 1. 13.) This Paul also saith. "Not that I seek," saith he, "for the gift."
Ver. 19. "And may my God fulfill every. need of yours, according to His riches in glory, in Christ Jesus."
Behold how he invokes blessings upon them, as poor men do. But if even Paul blesseth those who give, much more let us not be ashamed to do this when we receive. Let us not receive as though we ourselves had need, let us not rejoice on our own account, but on that of the givers. Thus we too who receive shall have a reward, if we rejoice for their sake. Thus we shall not take it hardly, when men do not give, but rather shall grieve for their sake. So shall we render them more zealous, if we teach them, that not for our own sake do we so act; "but may my God" fulfill every need of yours, or every grace, or every joy. If the second be true, "every grace," he meaneth not only the alms, which are of earth, but every excellency. If the first, "your every need," which I think too should rather be read, this is what he means to show. As he had said, "ye lacked opportunity," he here maketh an addition, as he doth in the Epistle to the Corinthians, saying, "And He that supplieth seed to the sower, may He supply bread for food, and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the fruits of your righteousness." (2 Cor. ix. 10.) He invokes blessings upon them, that they may abound, and have wherewith to sow. He blesseth them too, not simply that they might abound, but "according to His riches," so that this too is done in measured terms. For had they been as he was, so truly wise, so crucified, he would not have done this; but since they were men that were handicraftsmen, poor, having wives, bringing up children, ruling their families, and who had given these very gifts out of small possessions, and had certain desires of the things of this world, he blesseth them appropriately. For it is not unseemly to invoke sufficiency and plenty upon those who thus use them. See too what he said. He said not, May He make you rich, and to abound greatly; but what said he? "May He fulfill every need of yours," so that ye may not be in want, but have things for your necessities. Since Christ too, when He gave us a form of prayer, inserted also this in the prayer, when He taught us to say, "Give us this day our daily bread." (Matt. vi. 11.)
"According to His riches." That is, according to His free gift, i.e. it is easy to Him, and possible, and quickly. And since I have spoken of need, do not think that he will drive you into straits. Wherefore he added, "according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." So shall all things abound to you, that you may have them to His glory. Or, ye are wanting in nothing; (for it is written, "great grace was upon them all, neither was there any that lacked.") (Acts iv. 33.) Or, so as to do all things for His glory, as if he had said, that ye may use your abundance to His glory.
Ver. 20. "Now unto our God and Father be the glory for ever and ever. Amen." For the glory of which he speaks belongs not only to the Son, but to the Father too, for when the Son is glorified, then is the Father also. For when he said, This is done to the glory of Christ, lest any one should suppose that it is to His glory alone, he continued, "Unto our God and Father be the glory," that glory which is paid to the Son.
Ver. 21. "Salute every saint in Christ Jesus." This also is no small thing. For it is a proof of great good will, to salute them through letters. "The brethren which are with me salute you." And yet thou saidst that thou hast "no one like-minded, who will care truly for your state." How then sayest thou now, "The brethren which are with me"? He either saith, "The brethren which are with me," because he hath no one like-minded of those who are with him, (where he doth not speak of those in the city, for how were they constrained to undertake the affairs of the Apostles?) or that he did not refuse to call even those brethren.
Ver. 22, 23. "All the saints salute you, especially they that are of Caesar's household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit."
He elevated them and strengthened them, by showing that his preaching had reached even to the king's(1) household. For if those who were in the king's palace despised all things for the sake of the King of Heaven, far more ought they to do this. And this too was a proof of the love of Paul, and that he had told many things of them, and said great things of them, whence he had even led those who were in the palace to a longing for them, so that those who had never seen them saluted them. Especially because the faithful were then in affliction, his love was great. And those who were absent from each other were closely conjoined together as if real limbs. And the poor man was similarly disposed toward the rich, and the rich toward the poor, and there was no preeminence, in that they were all equally hated and cast out, and that for the same cause. For as, if captives taken from divers cities should arise and come to the same towns, they eagerly embrace each other, their common calamity binding them together; thus too at that time they had great love one toward another, the communion of their afflictions and persecutions uniting them.
MORAL. For affliction is an unbroken bond, the increase of love, the occasion of compunction and piety. Hear the words of David, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Thy statutes." (Ps. cxix. 71.) And again another prophet, who saith, "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth." (Lam. iii. 27.) And again, "Blessed is the man whom Thou chastenest, O Lord." (Ps. xciv. 12.) And another who saith, "Despise not the chastening of the Lord." (Prov. iii. 11.) And "if thou come near to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation." (Ecclus. xi. 1.) And Christ also said to His disciples, "In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer." (John xvi. 33.) And again, "Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice." (John. xvi. 20.) And again, "Narrow and straitened is the way." (Matt. vii. 14.) Dost thou see how tribulation is everywhere lauded, everywhere assumed as needful for us? For if in the contests of the world, no one without this receiveth the crown, unless he fortify himself by toil, by abstinence from delicacies, by living according to rule, by watchings, and innumerable other things, much more so here. For whom wilt thou name as an instance? The king? Not even he liveth a life free from care, but one burdened with much tribulation and anxiety. For look not to his diadem, but to his sea of cares, by which the crown is produced for him. Nor look to his purple robe, but to his soul, which is darker than that purple. His crown doth not so closely bind his brow, as care doth his soul. Nor look to the multitude of his spearmen, but to the multitude of his disquietudes. For it is not possible to find a private house laden with so many cares as a king's palace. Violent deaths are each day expected, and a vision of blood is seen as they sit down to eat and drink. Nor can we say how oft he is disturbed in the night season, and leaps up, haunted with visions. And all this in peace; but if war should overtake him, what could be more piteous than such a life as this! What evils has he from those that are his own, I mean, those who are under his dominion. Nay, and of a truth the pavement of a king's house is always full of blood, the blood of his own relations. And if ye will, I will also relate some instances, and ye will presently know; chiefly old occurrences- -but also some things that have happened in our own times--yet still preserved in memory. One,(1) it is said, having suspected his wife of adultery, bound her naked upon mules, and exposed her to wild beasts, though she had already been the mother to him of many princes. What sort of life, think ye, could that man have lived? For he would not have broken out into such vengeance, had he not been deeply affected with that distress. Moreover, this same man slew his own son,(2) or rather his brother did so. Of his sons, the one indeed slew himself when seized by a tyrant,(3) and another put to death his cousin, his colleague in the kingdom, to which he had appointed him; and(4) saw his wife destroyed by pessaries, for when she bore not, a certain wretched and miserable woman (for such indeed she was who thought to supply the gift of God by her own wisdom) gave her pessaries, and destroyed the queen, and herself perished with her. And this man is said to have also killed his own brother.(5) Another again, his successor, was destroyed by noxious drugs, and his cup was to him no longer drink, but death. And his son had an eye put out, from fear of what was to follow, though he had done no wrong. It is not befitting to mention how another ended his life miserably. And after them, one was burnt, like some miserable wretch, amongst horses, and beams, and all sorts of things, and left his wife in widowhood. For it is not possible to relate the woes which he was compelled to undergo in his lifetime. when he rose up in revolt. And hath not he who now rules, from the time he received the crown, been in toil, in danger, in grief, in dejection, in misfortune, exposed to conspiracies? Such is not the kingdom of heaven, but after it is received, there is peace, life, joy delight. But as I said, life cannot be without pain. For if in the affairs of this world even he who is accounted most happy, if the king is burdened with so many misfortunes, what thinkest thou must be true of private life? I cannot say how many other evils there are! How many stories have ofttimes been woven on these subjects! For nearly all the tragedies of the stage, as well as the mythical stories, have kings for their subjects. For most of these stories are formed from true incidents, for it is thus they please. As for example, Thyestes' banquet, and the destruction to all that family by their misfortunes.
These things we know from the writers(6) that are without: but if ye will, I will adduce instances from the Scripture too. Saul was the first king, and ye knew how he perished, after experiencing numberless ills. After him, David, Solomon, Abia, Hezekiah, Josiah, in like sort. For it is not possible, without affliction and toil, and without dejection of mind, to pass through the present life. But let us be cast down in mind, not for such things as these, for which kings grieve, but for those things, whence we (thus) have great gain. "For godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, a repentance which bringeth no regret." (2 Cor. vii. 10.) On account of these things we should be grieved, for these things we should be pained, for these things we should be pricked at heart; thus was Paul grieved for sinners, thus did he weep. "For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you in many tears." (2 Cor. ii. 4.) For when he had no cause of grief on his own account, he did so on account of others, or rather he accounted those things too to be his own, at least as far as grief went. Others were offended, and he burned; others were weak, and he was weak: such grief as this is good, is superior to all worldly joy. Him who so grieves I prefer to all men, or rather the Lord Himself pronounces them blessed, who so grieve, who are sympathizing. I do not so much admire him in dangers, or rather I do not admire him less for the dangers by which he died daily, yet this still more captivates me. For it came of a soul devoted to God, and full of affection: from the love which Christ Himself seeketh: from a brotherly and a fatherly sympathy, or rather, of one greater than both these. Thus we should be affected, thus weep; such tears as these are full of great delight; such grief as this is the ground of joy.
And say not to me: What do they for whom I grieve gain by my so doing? Though we no way profit them for whom we grieve, at all events we shall profit ourselves. For he who grieveth thus on account of others, much more will so do for himself; he who thus weepeth for the sins of others will not pass by his own transgressions unwept, or rather, he will not quickly sin. But this is dreadful, that when we are ordered so to grieve for them that sin, we do not even exhibit any repentance for our own sins, but when sinning remain without feeling, and have care for and take account of anything, rather than our own sins. For this cause we rejoice with a worthless joy, which is the joy of the world, and straightway quenched, and which brings forth griefs innumerable. Let us then grieve with grief which is the mother of joy, and let us not rejoice with joy which brings forth grief. Let us shed tears which are the seeds of great joy, and not laugh with that laughter, which brings forth the gnashing of teeth for us. Let us be afflicted with affliction, from which springs up ease, and let us not seek luxury, whence great affliction and pain is born. Let us labor a little time upon the earth, that we may have continual enjoyment in heaven. Let us afflict ourselves in this transitory life, that we may attain rest in that which is endless. Let us not be remiss in this short life, lest we groan in that which is endless.
See ye not how many are here in affliction for the sake of worldly things? Consider that thou also art one of them, and bear thy affliction and thy pain, feeding on the hope of things to come. Thou art not better than Paul or Peter, who never obtained rest, who passed all their life in hunger and thirst and nakedness. If thou wouldest attain the same things with them, why journeyest thou along a contrary road? If thou wouldest arrive at that City, of which they have been deemed worthy, walk along the path which leadeth thither. The way of ease leadeth not thither, but that of affliction. The former is broad, the latter is narrow; along this let us walk, that we may attain eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom, to the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, be honor, might, power, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.