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ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
HOMILIES ON FIRST CORINTHIANS, 20-27
[Translated by the Rev. Hubert Kestell Cornish, M.A., late Fellow of Exeter
College, and the Rev. John Medley, M.A., of Wadham College, Vicar of St.
Thomas, in the city of Exeter; revised by the Rev. Talbot W. Chambers,
D.D., Pastor of the Collegiate Reformed Dutch Church, New York.]
HOMILY XX: 1 Cor. viii. 1.
Now concerning things sacrificed to idols: we know that we all have
knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth.
IT is necessary first to say what the meaning of this passage is: for
so shall we readily comprehend the Apostle's discourse. For he that sees a
charge brought against any one, except he first perceive the nature of the
offence will not understand what is said. What then is it of which he was
then accusing the Corinthians? A heavy charge and the cause of many evils.
Well, what is it? Many among them, having learnt that (St. Matt. xv. 11.)
"not the things which enter in defile the man, but the things which proceed
out," and that idols of wood and stone, and demons, have no power to hurt
or help, had made an immoderate use of their perfect knowledge of this to
the harm both of others and of themselves. They had both gone in where
idols were and had partaken of the tables there, and were producing thereby
great and ruinous evil. For, on the one hand, those who still retained the
fear of idols and knew not how to contemn them, took part in those meals,
because they saw the more perfect sort doing this; and hence they got the
greatest injury: since they did not touch what was set before them with the
same mind as the others, but as things offered in sacrifice to idols; and
the thing was becoming a way to idolatry. On the other hand, these very
persons who pretended to be more perfect were injured in no common way,
partaking in the tables of demons.
This then was the subject of complaint. Now this blessed man being
about to correct it, did not immediately begin to speak vehemently; for
that which was done came more of folly than of wickedness: wherefore in the
first instance there was need rather of exhortation than of severe rebuke
and wrath. Now herein observe his good sense, how he immediately begins to
"Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have
knowledge." Leaving alone the weak, which he always doth, he discourses
with the strong first. And this is what he did also in the Epistle to the
Romans, saying, (Rom. xiv. 10.) "But thou, why dost thou judge thy
brother?" for this is the sort of person that is able to receive rebuke
also with readiness. Exactly the same then he doth here also.
And first he makes void their conceit by declaring that this very thing
which they considered as peculiar to themselves, the having perfect
knowledge, was common to all. Thus, "we know," saith he, "that we all have
knowledge." For if allowing them to have high thoughts, he had first
pointed out how hurtful the thing was to others, he would not have done
them so much good as harm. For the ambitious soul when it plumes itself
upon any thing, even though the same do harm to others, yet strongly
adheres to it because of the tyranny of vain-glory. Wherefore Paul first
examines the matter itself by itself: just as he had done before in the
case of the wisdom from without, demolishing it with a high hand. But in
that case he did it as we might have expected: for the whole thing was
altogether blameworthy and his task was very easy. Wherefore he signifies
it to be not only useless, but even contrary to the Gospel. But in the
present case it was not possible to do this. For what was done was of
knowledge, and perfect knowledge. Nor was it safe to overthrow it, and yet
in no other way was it possible to cast out the conceit which had resulted
from it. What then doeth he? First, by signifying that it was common, he
curbs that swelling pride of theirs. For they who possess something great
and excellent are more elated, when they alone have it; but if it be made
out that they possess it in common with others, they no longer have so much
of this feeling. First then he makes it common property, because they
considered it to belong to themselves alone.
Next, having made it common, he does not make himself singly a sharer
in it with them; for in this way too he would have rather set them up; for
as to be the only possessor elates, so to have one partner or two perhaps
among leading persons has this effect just as much. For this reason he does
not mention himself but all: he said not, "I too have knowledge," but, "we
know that we all have knowledge."
[2.] This then is one way, and the first, by which he cast down their
pride; the next hath greater force. What then is this? In that he shews
that not even this thing itself was in all points complete, but imperfect,
and extremely so. And not only imperfect, but also injurious, unless there
were another thing joined together with it. For having said that" we have
knowledge," he added, "Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth:" so that
when it is without love, it lifts men up to absolute arrogance.
"And yet not even love," you will say, "without knowledge hath any
advantage." Well: this he did not say; but omitting it as a thing allowed
by all, he signifies that knowledge stands in extreme need of love. For he
who loves, inasmuch as he fulfils the commandment which is most absolute of
all, even though he have some defects, will quickly be blest with knowledge
because of his love; as Cornelius and many others. But he that hath
knowledge but hath not love, not only shall gain nothing more, but shall
also be cast out of that which he hath, in many cases falling into
arrogance. It seems then that knowledge is not productive of love, but on
the contrary debars from it him that is not on his guard, puffing him up
and elating him. For arrogance is wont to cause divisions: but love both
draws together and leads to knowledge. And to make this plain he saith,
"But if any man loveth God, the same is known of Him." So that "I forbid
not this," saith he, "namely, your having perfect knowledge; but your
having it with love, that I enjoin; else is it no gain, but rather loss."
Do you see how he already sounds the first note of his discourse
concerning love? For since all these evils were springing from the
following root, i. e., not from perfect knowledge, but from their not
greatly loving nor sparing their neighbors; whence ensued both their
variance and their self-satisfaction, and all the rest which he had charged
them with; both before this and after he is continually providing for love;
so correcting the fountain of all good things. "Now why," saith he, "are ye
puffed up about knowledge? For if ye have not love, ye shall even be
injured thereby. For what is worse than boasting? But if the other be
added, the first also will be in safety. For although you may know
something more than your neighbor, if you love him you will not set
yourself up but lead him also to the same." Wherefore also having said,
"Knowledge puffeth up," he added, "but love edifieth." He did not say,
"Behaveth itself modestly," but what is much more, and more gainful. For
their knowledge was not only puffing them up but also distracting them. On
this account he opposes the one to the other.
[3.] And then he adds a third consideration, which was of force to set
them down. What then is this? that although charity be joined with it, yet
not even in that case is this our knowledge perfect. And therefore he adds,
Ver. 2. "But if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth
nothing yet as he ought to know." This is a mortal blow. "I dwell not,"
saith he, "on the knowledge being common to all. I say not that by hating
your neighbor and by arrogance, you injure yourself most. But even though
you have it by yourself alone, though you be modest, though you love your
brother, even in this case you are imperfect in regard of knowledge. "For
as yet thou knowest nothing as thou oughtest to know," Now if we possess as
yet exact knowledge of nothing, how is it that some have rushed on to such
a pitch of frenzy as to say that they know God with all exactness? Whereas,
though we had an exact knowledge of all other things, not even so were it
possible to possess this knowledge to such an extent. For how far He is
apart from all things, it is impossible even to say.
And mark how he pulls down their swelling pride: for he said not, "of
the matters before us ye have not the proper knowledge," but, "about every
thing." And he did not say, "ye," but, "no one whatever," be it Peter, be
it Paul, be it any one else. For by this he both soothed them and carefully
kept them under.
Ver. 3. "But if any man love God, the same," he doth not say, "knoweth
Him," but, "is known of Him." For we have not known Him, but He hath known
us. And therefore did Christ say, "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen
you." And Paul elsewhere, "Then shall I know fully,(1) even as also I have
Observe now, I pray, by what means he brings down their high-
mindedness. First, he points out that not they alone knew the things which
they knew; for "we all," he saith," have knowledge." Next, that the thing
itself was hurtful so long as it was without love; for "knowledge," saith
he, "puffeth up." Thirdly, that even joined with love it is not complete
nor perfect. "For if any man thinketh that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth
nothing as yet as he ought to know," so he speaks. In addition to this,
that they have not even this from themselves, but by gift from God. For he
said not, "hath known God," but, "is known of Him." Again, that this very
thing comes of love which they have not as they ought. For, "if any man,"
saith he, "love God, the same is known of Him." Having then so much at
large allayed their irritation, he begins to speak doctrinally, saying
[4.] Ver. 4. "Concerning therefore the eating of things sacrificed to
idols, we know that no idol is anything in the world, and that there is no
God but one." Look what a strait he hath fallen into! For indeed his mind
is to prove both; that one ought to abstain from this kind of banquet, and
that it hath no power to hurt those who partake of it: things which were
not greatly in agreement with each other. For when they were told that they
had no harm, in them, they would naturally run to them as indifferent
things. But when forbidden to touch them, they would suspect, on the
contrary, that their having power to do hurt occasioned the prohibition.
Wherefore, you see, he puts down their opinion about idols, and then states
as a first reason for their abstaining the scandals which they place in the
way of their brethren; in these words: "Now concerning the eating of things
sacrificed to idols, we know that no idol is anything in the world." Again
he makes it common property and doth not allow this to be theirs alone, but
extends the knowledge all over the world. For "not among you alone," says
he, "but every where on earth this doctrine prevails." What then is it?
"That no idol is anything in the world; that there is no God but one." What
then? are there no idols? no statues? Indeed there are; but they have no
power: neither are they gods, but stones and demons. For he is now setting
himself against both parties; both the grosser sort among them, and those
who were accounted lovers of wisdom. Thus, seeing that the former know of
no more than the mere stones, the others assert that certain powers reside
in them(2), which they also call gods; to the former accordingly he says,
that "no idol is anything in the world," to the other, that "there is no
God but one."
Do you mark how he writes these things, not simply as laying down
doctrine, but in opposition to those without? A thing indeed which we must
at all times narrowly observe, whether he says anything abstractedly, or
whether he is opposing any persons. For this contributes in no ordinary way
to the accuracy of our doctrinal views, and to the exact understanding of
[5.] Ver. 5. "For though there be that are called gods, whether in
heaven or on earth, as there are gods many and lords many; yet to us there
is one God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and we unto Him; and one
Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom are all things, and we through Him." Since
he had said, that "an idol is nothing" and that "there is no other God;"
and yet there were idols and there were those that were called gods; that
he might not seem to be contradicting plain facts, he goes on to say, "For
though there be that are called gods, as indeed there are;" not absolutely,
"there are;" but, "called," not in reality having this but in name: "be it
in heaven or on earth:--in heaven," meaning the sun and the moon and the
remainder of the choir of stars; for these too the Greeks worshipped: but
upon the earth demons, and all those who had been made gods of men:--"yet
to us there is One God, the Father." In the first instance having expressed
it without the word "Father," and said, "there is no God but one," he now
adds this also, when he had utterly cast out the others.
Next, he adduces what indeed is the greatest token of divinity; "of
Whom are all things." For this implies also that those others are not gods.
For it is said (Jer. x. 11.), "Let the gods who made not the heaven and the
earth perish." Then he subjoins what is not less than this, "and we unto
Him." For when he saith, "of Whom are all things," he means the creation
and the bringing of things out of nothing into existence. But when he
saith, "and we unto Him," he speaks of the word of faith and mutual
appropriation (oikeiw'sews), as also he said before (1 Cor. i. 30.),
"but of Him are ye also in Christ Jesus." In two ways we are of Him, by
being made when we were not, and by being made believers. For this also is
a creation: a thing which he also declares elsewhere; (Eph. ii. 15.) "that
He might create in Himself of the twain one new man."
"And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through Whom are all things, and
we through Him." And in regard to Christ again, we must conceive of this in
like manner. For through Him the race of men was both produced out of
nothing into existence, and returned from error to truth. So that as to the
phrase "of Whom," it is not to be understood apart from Christ. For of Him,
through Christ, were we created.
[6.] Nor yet, if you observe, hath he distributed the names as if
belonging exclusively, assigning to the Son the name Lord, and to the
Father, God. For the Scripture useth also often to interchange them; as
when it saith, (Psalm cx. 1.) "The Lord saith unto My Lord;" and again,
(Psalm xlv. 8.) "Wherefore God Thy God hath appointed Thee;" and, (Rom. ix.
5.) "Of Whom is Christ according to the flesh, Who is God over all." And in
many instances you may see these names changing their places. Besides, if
they were allotted to each nature severally, and if the Son were not God,
and God as the Father, yet continuing a Son: after saying, "but to us there
is but One God," it would have been superfluous, his adding the word
"Father," with a view to declare the Unbegotten. For the word of God was
sufficient to explain this, if it were such as to denote Him only.
And this is not all, but there is another remark to make: that if you
say, "Because it is said 'One God,' therefore the word God doth not apply
to the Son;" observe that the same holds of the Son also. For the Son also
is called "One Lord," yet we do not maintain that therefore the term Lord
applies to Him alone. So then, the same force which the expression "One"
has, applied to the Son, it has also, applied to the Father. And as the
Father is not thrust out from being the Lord, in the same sense as the Son
is the Lord, because He, the Son, is spoken of as one Lord; so neither does
it cast out the Son from being God, in the same sense as the Father is God,
because the Father is styled One God.
[7.] Now if any were to say, "Why did he make no mention of the
Spirit?" our answer might be this: His argument was with idolaters, and the
contention was about "gods many and lords many." And this is why, having
called the Father, God, he calls the Son, Lord. If now he ventured not to
call the Father Lord together with the Son, lest they might suspect him to
be speaking of two Lords; nor yet the Son, God, with the Father, lest he
might be supposed to speak of two Gods: why marvel at his not having
mentioned the Spirit? His contest was, so far, with the Gentiles: his
point, to signify that with us there is no plurality of Gods. Wherefore he
keeps hold continually of this word, "One;" saying, "There is no God but
One; and, to us there is One God, and One Lord." From which it is plain,
that to spare the weakness of the hearers he used this mode of explanation,
and for this reason made no mention at all of the Spirit. For if it be not
this, neither ought he to make mention of the Spirit elsewhere, nor to join
Him with the Father and the Son. For if He be rejected from the Father and
Son, much more ought He not to be put in the same rank with them in the
matter of Baptism; where most especially the dignity of the Godhead appears
and gifts are bestowed which pertain to God alone to afford. Thus then I
have assigned the cause why in this place He is passed over in silence. Now
do thou if this be not the true reason, tell me, why He is ranked with Them
in Baptism? But thou canst not give any other reason but His being of equal
honor. At any rate, when he has no such constraint upon him, he puts Him in
the same rank, saying thus: (2 Cor. xiii. 14.) "The grace of our Lord Jesus
Christ, and the love of God and the Father,(1) and the fellowship of the
Holy Ghost, be with you all:" and again, (ch. xii 4.) "There are
diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit: and there are diversities of
administrations, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of workings
but the same God." But because now his speech was with Greeks and the
weaker sort of the converts from among Greeks, for this reason he husbands
it (tamieu'etai) so far. And this is what the prophets do in regard of
the Son; no where making mention of Him plainly because of the infirmity of
Ver. 7. "But not in all is knowledge," saith he. What knowledge doth be
mean? about God, or about things offered in sacrifice to idols? For either
he here glances at the Greeks who say that there are many gods and lords,
and who know not Him that is truly God; or at the converts from among
Greeks who were still rather infirm, such as did not yet know clearly that
they ought not to fear idols and that "an idol is nothing in the world."
But in saying this, he gently soothes and encourages the latter. For there
was no need of mentioning all he had to reprove, particularly as he
intended to visit them again with more severity.
[8.] "But some being used to the idol eat as of a thing sacrificed to
an idol, and their conscience being weak is defiled." They still tremble at
idols, he saith. For tell me not of the present establishment, and that
you have received the true religion from your ancestors. But carry back
your thoughts to those times, and consider when the Gospel was just set on
foot, and impiety was still at its height, and altars burning, and
sacrifices and libations offering up, and the greater part of men were
Gentiles; think, I say, of those who from their ancestors had received
impiety, and who were the descendants of fathers and grandfathers and
great-grandfathers like themselves, and who had suffered great miseries
from the demons. How must they have felt after their sudden change! How
would they face and tremble at the assaults of the demons! For their sake
also he employs some reserve, saying, "But some with conscience of the
things sacrificed to an idol.(1) "Thus he neither exposed them openly, not
to strike them hard; nor doth he pass by them altogether: but makes mention
of them in a vague manner, saying, "Now some with conscience of the idol
even until now eat as of a thing sacrificed to an idol; that is, with the
same thoughts as they did in former times: 'and their conscience being weak
is defiled;'" not yet being able to despise and once for all laugh them to
scorn, but still in some doubt. Just as if a man were to think that by
touching a dead body he should pollute himself according to the Jewish
custom, and then seeing others touching it with a clear conscience, but not
with the same mind touching it himself, would be polluted. This was their
state of feeling at that time. "For some," saith he, "with conscience of
the idol do it even until now." Not without cause did he add, "even until
now;" but to signify that they gained no ground by their refusing to
condescend. For this was not the way to bring them in, but in some other
way persuading them by word and by teaching.
"And their conscience being weak is defiled." No where as yet cloth he
state his argument about the nature of the thing, but turns himself this
way and that as concerning the conscience of the person partaking. For he
was afraid lest in his wish to correct the weak person, he should inflict a
heavy blow upon the strong one, and make him also weak. On which account he
spares the one no less than the other. Nor doth he allow the thing itself
to be thought of any consequence, but makes his argument very full to
prevent any suspicion of the kind.
[9.] Ver. 8. "But meat doth not commend us to God. For neither if we
eat are we the better, nor if we eat not are we the worse." Do you see how
again he takes down their high spirit? in that, after saying that "not only
they but all of us have knowledge," and that "no one knoweth any thing as
he ought to know," and that "knowledge puffeth up;" then having soothed
them, and said that "this knowledge is not in all," and that "weakness is
the cause of these being defiled," in order that they might not say, "And
what is it to us, if knowledge be not in all? Why then has not such an one
knowledge? Why is he weak?"--I say, in order that they might not rejoin in
these terms, he did not proceed immediately to point out clearly that for
fear of the other's harm one ought to abstain: but having first made but a
sort of: skirmish upon mention of him, he points out what is more than
this. What then is this? That although no one were injured nor any
perversion of another ensued, not even in this case were it right so to do.
For the former topic by itself is laboring in vain. Since he that hears of
another being hurt while himself has the gain, is not very apt to abstain;
but then rather he doth so, when he finds out that he himself is no way
advantaged by the thing. Wherefore he sets this down first, saying, "But
meat commendeth us not to God." See how cheap he holds that which was
accounted to spring from perfect knowledge! "For neither if we eat are we
the better," (that is, stand higher in God's estimation, as if we had done
any thing good or great :) "nor if we eat not are we the worse," that is,
fall in anyway short of others. So far then he hath signified that the
thing itself is superfluous, and as nothing. For that which being done
profits not, and which being left undone injures not, must be superfluous.
[10.] But as he goes on, he discloses all the harm which was likely to
arise from the matter. For the present, however, that which befel the
brethren is his subject.
Ver. 9. "For take heed," saith he, "lest by any means this liberty of
yours become a stumbling-block to the weak among the brethren." (tw^n
adelphw^n not in rec. text.)
He did not say, "Your liberty is become a stumbling-block," nor did he
positively affirm it that he might not make them more shameless; but how?
"Take heed;" frightening them, and making them ashamed, and leading them to
disavow any such conduct. And he said not, "This your knowledge," which
would have sounded more like praise; nor "this your perfectness;" but,
"your liberty;" a thing which seemed to savor more of rashness and
obstinacy and arrogance. Neither said he, "To the brethren," but, "To those
of the brethren who are weak;" enhancing his accusation from their not even
sparing the weak, and those too their brethren. For let it be so that you
correct them not, nor arouse them: yet why trip them up, and make them to
stumble, when you ought to stretch out the hand? but for that you have no
mind: well then, at least avoid casting them down. Since if one were
wicked, he required punishment; if weak, healing: but now he is not only
weak, but also a brother.
Ver. 10. "For if a man see thee who hast knowledge, sitting at meat in
an idol's temple, will not his conscience if he is weak, be emboldened(1)
to eat things sacrificed to idols?"
After having said, "Take heed lest this your liberty become a
stumbling-block," he explains how and in what manner it becomes so: and he
continually employs the term "weakness," that the mischief may not be
thought to arise from the nature of the thing, nor demons appear
formidable. As thus: "At present," saith he, "a man is on the point of
withdrawing himself entirely from all idols; but when he sees you fond of
loitering about them, he takes the circumstance for a recommendation and
abides there himself also. So that not only his weakness, but also your
ill-timed behavior, helps to further the plot against him; for it is you
who make him weaker."
Ver. 11. "And through thy meat(2) he that is weak perisheth, the
brother for whose sake Christ died."
For there are two things which deprive you of excuse in this mischief;
one, that he is weak, the other, that he is thy brother: rather, I should
say, there is a third also, and one more terrible than all. What then is
this? That whereas Christ refused not even to die for him, thou canst not
bear even to accommodate thyself to him. By these means, you see, he
reminds the perfect man also, what he too was before, and that for him He
died. And he said not, "For whom even to die was thy duty;" but what is
much stronger, that even Christ died for his sake. "Did thy Lord then not
refuse to die for him, and dost thou so make him of none account as not
even to abstain from a polluted table for his sake? Yea, dost thou permit
him to perish, after the salvation so wrought, and, what is still more
grievous, 'for a morsel of meat?'" For he said not, "for thy perfectness,"
nor "for thy knowledge," but "for thy meat." So that the charges are four,
and these extremely heavy: that it was a brother, that he was weak, and one
of whom Christ made so much account as even to die for him, and that after
all this for a "morsel of meat" he is destroyed.
Ver. 12. "And thus sinning against the brethren, and wounding their
weak conscience, ye sin against Christ."
Do you observe how quietly and gradually he hath brought their offence
up to the very summit of iniquity? And again, he makes mention of the
infirmity of the other sort: and so, the very thing which these considered
to make for them, that he every where turns round upon their own head. And
he said not, "Putting stumbling-blocks in their way," but, "wounding;" so
as by the force of his expression to indicate their cruelty. For what can
be more savage than a man who wounds the sick? and yet no wound is so
grievous as making a man to stumble. Often, in fact, is this also the cause
But how do they "sin against Christ?" In one way, because He considers
the concerns of His servants as His own; in another, because those who are
wounded go to make up His Body and that which is part of Him: in a third
way, because that work of His which He built up by His own blood, these are
destroying for their ambition's sake.
[11.] Ver. 13, "Wherefore, if meat make my brother to stumble, I will
eat no flesh for ever." This is like the best of teachers, to teach in his
own person the things which he speaks. Nor did he say whether justly or
unjustly; but in any case. "I say not," (such is his tone,) "meat offered
in sacrifice to an idol, which is already prohibited for another reason;
but if any even of those things which are within license and are permitted
causes stumbling, from these also will I abstain: and not one or two days,
but all the time of my life." For he saith, "I will eat no flesh for ever."
And he said not, "Lest I destroy my brother," but simply, "That I make not
my brother to stumble." For indeed it comes of folly in the extreme that
what things are greatly cared for by Christ, and such as He should have
even chosen to die for them, these we should esteem so entirely beneath our
notice as not even to abstain from meats on their account.
Now these things might be seasonably spoken not to them only, but also
to us, apt as we are to esteem lightly the salvation of our neighbors and
to utter those satanical words. I say, satanical: for the expression, "What
care I, though such an one stumble, and such another perish?" savors of his
cruelty and inhuman mind. And yet in that instance, the infirmity also of
those who were offended had some share in the result: but in our case it is
not so, sinning as we do in such a way as to offend even the strong. For
when we smite, and raven, and overreach, and use the free as if they were
slaves, whom is not this enough to offend? Tell me not of such a man's
being a shoemaker, another a dyer, another a brazier: but bear in mind that
he is a believer and a brother. Why these are they whose disciples we are;
the fishermen, the publicans, the tent-makers, of Him who was brought up in
the house of a carpenter; and who deigned to have the carpenter's betrothed
wife for a mother; and who was laid, after His swaddling clothes, in a
manger; and who had not where to lay His head;--of Him whose journeys were
so long that His very journeying was enough to tire Him down; of Him who
was supported by others.
[12.] Think on these things, and esteem the pride of man to be nothing.
But count the tent-maker as well as thy brother, as him that is borne upon
a chariot and hath innumerable servants and struts in the market-place:
nay, rather the former than the latter; since the term brother would more
naturally be used where there is the greater resemblance. Which then
resembles the fisherman? He who is supported by daily labor and hath
neither servant nor dwelling, but is quite beset with privations; or that
other who is surrounded with such vast pomp, and who acts contrary to the
laws of God? Despise not then him that is more of the two thy brother, for
he comes nearer to the Apostolic pattern.
"Not however," say you, "of his own accord, but by compulsion; for he
doeth not this of his own mind." How comes this? Hast thou not heard,
"Judge not, that ye be not judged?" But, to convince thyself that he doeth
it not against his inclination, approach and give him ten thousand talents
of gold, and thou shalt see him putting it away from him. And thus, even
though he have received no wealth by inheritance from his ancestors, yet
when it is in his power to take it, and he lets it not come near him
neither adds to his goods, he exhibits a mighty proof of his contempt of
wealth. For so John was the son of Zebedee that extremely poor man: yet I
suppose we are not therefore to say that his poverty was forced upon him.
Whensoever then thou seest one driving nails, smiting with a hammer,
covered with soot, do not therefore hold him cheap, but rather for that
reason admire him. Since even Peter girded himself, and handled the
dragnet, and went a fishing after the Resurrection of the Lord.
And why say I Peter? For this same Paul himself, after his incessant
runnings to and fro and all those vast miracles, standing in a tent-maker's
shop, sewed hides together: while angels were reverencing him and demons
trembling. And he was not ashamed to say, (Acts xx. 34.) "Unto my
necessities, and to those who were with me, these hands ministered." What
say I, that he was not ashamed? Yea, he gloried in this very thing.
But you will say, "Who is there now to be compared with the virtue of
Paul?" I too am aware that there is no one, yet not on this account are
those who live now to be despised: for if for Christ's sake thou give
honor, though one be last of all, yet if he be a believer he shall justly
be honored. For suppose a general and a common soldier both present
themselves before you, being friends of the king, and you open your house
to both: in which of their persons would you seem to pay most honor to the
king? Plainly in that of a soldier. For there were in the general, beside
his loyalty to the king, many other things apt to win such a mark of
respect from you: but the soldier had nothing else but his loyalty to the
Wherefore God bade us call to our suppers and our feasts the lame, and
the maimed, and those who cannot repay us; for these are most of all
properly called good deeds which are done for God's sake. Whereas if thou
entertain some great and distinguished man, it is not such pure mercy, what
thou doest but some portion many times is assigned to thyself also,(1)
both by vain-glory, and by the return of the favor, and by thy rising in
many men's estimation on account of thy guest. At any rate, I think I could
point out many who with this view pay court to the more distinguished among
the saints, namely, that by their means they may enjoy a greater intimacy
with rulers, and that they may find them thenceforth more useful in their
own affairs and to their families. And many such favors do they ask in
recompense from those saints; a thing which mars the repayment of their
hospitality, they seeking it with such a mind.
And why need I say this about the saints? Since he who seeks, even from
God, the reward of his labors in the present life and follows after virtue
for this world's good, is sure to diminish his recompense. But he that asks
for all his crowns wholly there, is found far more admirable; like that
Lazarus, who even now is "receiving" (St. Luke xvi. 25.) there all "his
good things;" like those Three Children, who when they were on the point of
being thrown into the furnace said, (Dan. iii. 17, 18.) "There is a God in
heaven able to deliver us; and if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that
we serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set
up:" like Abraham, who even offered(2) his son and slew him; and this he
did, not for any reward, but esteeming this one thing the greatest
recompense, to obey the Lord.
These let us also imitate. For so shall we be visited with a return of
all our good deeds and that abundantly, because we do all with such a mind
as this: so shall we obtain also the brighter crowns. And God grant that we
may all obtain them, through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord
Jesus Christ, with Whom, to the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory,
power, honor, now, henceforth, and for everlasting ages. Amen.
HOMILY XXI: 1 Cor. IX. 1.
Am I not an Apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?
are not ye my work in the Lord?
INASMUCH as he had said, "If meat make my brother to stumble I will eat
no flesh forever;" a thing which he had not yet done, but professed he
would do if need require: lest any man should say, "Thou vauntest thyself
at random, and art severe in discourse, and utterest words of promise, a
thing easy to me or to any body; but if these sayings come from thy heart,
shew by deeds something which thou hast slighted in order to avoid making
thy brother stumble:" for this cause, I say, in what follows he is
compelled to enter on the proof of this also, and to point out how he was
used to forego even things permitted that he might not give offence,
although without any law to enforce his doing so.
And we are not yet come to the admirable part of the matter: though it
be admirable that he abstain even from things lawful to avoid offence: but
it is his habit of doing so at the cost of so much trouble and danger(1)
"For why," saith he, "speak of the idol sacrifices? Since although Christ
had enjoined that those who preach the Gospel should live at the charge of
their disciples, I did not so, but chose, if need were, to end my life with
famine and die the most grievous of deaths, so I might avoid receiving of
those whom I instruct."
Not because they would otherwise be made to stumble, but because his
not receiving would edify them(2): a much greater thing for him to do. And
to witness this he summons themselves, among whom he was used to live in
toil and in hunger, nourished by others, and put to straits, in order not
to offend them. And yet there was no ground for their taking offence, for
it would but have been a law which he was fulfilling. But for all this, by
a sort of supererogations(3) he used to spare them.
Now if he did more than was enacted lest they should take offence, and
abstained from permitted things to edify others; what must they deserve who
abstain not from idol sacrifices? and that, when many perish thereby? a
thing which even apart from all scandal one ought to shrink from, as being
"the table of demons."
The sum therefore of this whole topic is this which he works out in
many verses. But we must resume it and make a fresh entrance on what he
hath alleged. For neither hath he set it down thus expressly as I have
worded it; nor doth he leap at once upon it; but begins from another topic,
[2.] "Am I not an Apostle?" For besides all that hath been said, this
also makes no small difference that Paul himself is the person thus
conducting himself. As thus: To prevent their alleging, "You may taste of
the sacrifices, sealing(4) at the same time:" for a while he withstands not
that statement, but argues, "Though it were lawful, your brethren's harm
should keep you from doing so;" and afterwards he proves that it is not
even lawful. In this particular place, however, he establishes the former
point from circumstances relating to himself. And intending presently to
say that he had received nothing from them, he sets it not down at once,
but his own dignity is what he first affirms: "Am I not an Apostle? am I
Thus, to hinder their saying, "True; thou didst not receive, but the
reason thou didst not was its not being lawful;" he sets down therefore
first the causes why he might reasonably have received, had he been willing
to do so.
Further: that there might not seem to be any thing invidious in regard
of Peter and such as Peter, in his saying these things, (for they did not
use to decline receiving;) he first shows that they had authority to
receive, and then that no one might say, "Peter had authority to receive
but thou hadst not," he possesses the hearer beforehand with these
encomiums of himself. And perceiving that he must praise himself, (for that
was the way to correct the Corinthians,) yet disliking to say any great
thing of himself, see how he hath tempered both feelings as the occasion
required: limiting his own panegyric, not by what he knew of himself, but
by what the subject of necessity required. For he might have said, "I most
of all had a right to receive, even more than they, because 'I labored more
abundantly than they.'" But this he omits, being a point wherein he
surpassed them; and those points wherein they were great and which were
just grounds for their receiving, those only he sets down: as follows:
"Am I not an Apostle? am I not free?" i.e. "have I not authority over
myself? am I under any, to overrule me and forbid my receiving?"
"But they have an advantage over you, in having been with Christ."
"Nay, neither is this denied me." With a view to which he saith,
"Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?" For "last of all," (c. xv. 8.)
saith he, "as unto one born out of due time, He appeared unto me also." Now
this likewise was no small dignity: since "many Prophets," (S. Mat. xiii.
17.) saith He, "and righteous men have desired to see the things which ye
see, and have not seen them:" and, "Days will come when ye shall desire to
see one of these days." (S. Luke xvii.
"What then, though thou be 'an Apostle,' and 'free,' and hast 'seen
Christ,' if thou hast not exhibited any work of an Apostle; how then can it
be right for thee to receive?" Wherefore after this he adds,
"Are not ye my work in the Lord?" For this is the great thing; and
those others avail nothing, apart from this. Even Judas himself was "an
Apostle," and "free," and "saw Christ;" but because he had not "the work of
an Apostle," all those things profited him not. You see then why he adds
this also, and calls themselves to be witnesses of it.
Moreover, because it was a great thing which he had uttered, see how he
chastens it, adding, "In the Lord:" i.e., "the work is God's, not mine."
Ver. 2. "If to others I am not an Apostle, yet at least I am to you."
Do you see how far he is from enlarging here without necessity? And yet
he had the whole world to speak of, and barbarous nations, and sea and
land. However, he mentions none of these things, but carries his point by
concession, and even granting more than he need. As if he had said, "Why
need I dwell on things over and above, since these even alone are enough
for my present purpose? I speak not, you will observe, of my achievements
in other quarters, but of those which have you for witnesses. Upon which it
follows that if from no other quarter, yet from you I have a right to
receive. Nevertheless, from whom I had most right to receive, even you
whose teacher I was, from those I received not."
"If to others I am not an Apostle, yet at least I am to you." Again, he
states his point by concession. For the whole world had him for its
Apostle. "However," saith he, "I say not that, I am not contending nor
disputing, but what concerns you I lay down. 'For the seal of mine
Apostleship are ye:'" i.e., its proof. "Should any one, moreover, desire to
learn whence I am an Apostle, you are the persons whom I bring forward: for
all the signs of an Apostle have I exhibited among you, and not one have I
failed in." As also he speaks in the Second Epistle, saying, (2 Cor. xii.
12) "Though I am nothing, truly the signs of an Apostle were wrought among
you in all patience, by signs and wonders and mighty works. For what is
there wherein ye were made inferior to the rest of the Churches?" Wherefore
he saith, "The seal of mine Apostleship are ye." "For I both exhibited
miracles, and taught by word, and underwent dangers, and shewed forth a
blameless life." And these topics you may see fully set forth by these two
Epistles, how he lays before them the demonstration of each with all
[3.] Ver. 3. "My defence to them that examine me is this." What is, "My
defence to them that examine me is this?" "To those whe seek to know
whereby I am proved to be an Apostle, or who accuse me as receiving money,
or inquire the cause of my not receiving, or would fain shew that I am not
an Apostle: to all such, my instruction given to you and these things which
I am about to say, may stand for a full explanation and defence." What
then are these?
Ver. 4, 5. "Have we no right to eat and to drink? Have we no right to
lead about a wife that is a believer?" Why, how are these sayings a
defence? "Because, when it appears that I abstain even from things which
are allowed, it cannot be just to look suspiciously on me as a deceiver or
one acting for gain."
Wherefore, from what was before alleged and from my having instructed
you and from this which I have now said, I have matter sufficient to make
my defence to you: and all who examine me I meet upon this ground, alleging
both what has gone before and this which follows: "Have we no right to eat
and to drink? have we no right to lead about a wife that is a believer?
"Yet for all this, having it I abstain?"
What then? did he not use to eat or to drink?
It were most true to say that in many places he really did not eat nor
drink: for (c. iv. II.) "in hunger," saith he, "and in thirst, and in
nakedness" we were abiding." Here, however, this is not his meaning; but
what? "We eat not nor drink, receiving of those whom we instruct, though we
have a right so to receive."
"Have we no right to lead about a wife that is a believer, even as the
rest of the Apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?" Observe
his skilfulness. The leader of the choir stands last in his arrangement:
since that is the time for laying down the strongest of all one's topics.
Nor was it so wonderful for one to be able to point out examples of this
conduct in the rest, as in the foremost champion and in him who was
entrusted with the keys of heaven. But neither does he mention Peter alone,
but all of them: as if he had said, Whether you seek the inferior sort or
the more eminent, in all you find patterns of this sort.
For the brethren too of the Lord, being freed from their first unbelief
(vid. S. John vii. 5.), had come to be among those who were approved,
although they attained not to the Apostles. And accordingly the middle
place is that which he hath assigned to them, setting down those who were
in the extremes before and after.
Ver. 6. "Or I only and Barnabas, have we not a right to forbear
(See his humility of mind and his soul pure from envy, how he takes
care not to conceal him whom he knew to be a partaker with himself in this
perfection.) For if the other things be common, how is not this common?
Both they and we are apostles and are free, and have seen Christ, and have
exhibited the works of Apostles. Therefore we likewise have a right both to
live without working and to be supported by our disciples.
[4.] Ver. 7. "What soldier ever serveth at his own charges?" For since,
which was the strongest point, he had proved from the Apostles that it is
lawful to do so, he next comes to examples and to the common practice; as
he uses to do: "What soldier serveth at his own charges?" saith he. But do
thou consider, I pray, how very suitable are the examples to his proposed
subject, and how he mentions first that which is accompanied with danger;
viz. soldiership and arms and wars. For such a kind of thing was the
Apostolate, nay rather much more hazardous than these. For not with men
alone was their warfare, but with demons also, and against the prince of
those beings was their battle array. What he saith therefore is this: "Not
even do heathen governors, cruel and unjust as they are, require their
soldiers to endure service and peril and live on their own means. How then
could Christ ever have required this?"
Nor is he satisfied with one example. For to him who is rather simple
and dull, this also is wont to come as a great refreshment, viz. their
seeing the common custom also going along with the laws of God. Wherefore
he proceeds to another topic also and says, "Who planteth a vineyard, and
eateth not of the fruit thereof?" For as by the former he indicated his
dangers, so. by this his labor and abundant travail and care.
He adds likewise a third example, saying, "Who feedeth a flock, and
eateth not of the milk thereof?" He is exhibiting the great concern which
it becomes a teacher to show for those who are under his rule. For, in
fact, the Apostles were both soldiers and husbandmen and shepherds, not of
the earth nor of irrational animals, nor in such wars as are perceptible by
sense; but of reasonable souls and in battle array with the demons.
It also must be remarked how every where he preserves moderation,
seeking the useful only, not the extraordinary. For he said not, "What
soldier serveth and is not enriched?" but, "What soldier ever serveth at
his own charges?" Neither did he say, "Who planteth a vineyard, and
gathereth not gold, or spareth to collect the whole fruit?" but, "Who
eateth not of the fruit thereof?" Neither did he say, "Who feedeth a flock,
and maketh not merchandize of the lambs?" But what? "And eateth not of the
milk thereof?" Not of the lambs, but of the milk; signifying, that a little
relief should be enough for the teacher, even his necessary food alone.
(This refers to those who would devour all and gather the whole of the
fruit.) "So likewise the Lord ordained," saying, "The laborer is worthy of
his food." (St. Mat. x. 10.)
And not this only doth he establish by his illustrations, but he shows
also what kind of man a priest ought to be. For he ought to possess both
the courage of a soldier and the diligence of a husbandman and the
carefulness of a shepherd, and after all these, to seek nothing more than
[5.] Having shewn, as you see, both from the Apostles, that it is not
forbidden the teacher to receive, and from illustrations found in common
life, he proceeds also to a third head, thus saying,
Ver. 8. "Do I speak these things after the manner of men? or saith not
the law also the same?"
For since he had hitherto alleged nothing out of the Scriptures, but
put forward the common custom; "think not," saith he, "that I am confident
in these alone, nor that I go to the opinions of men for the ground of
these enactments. For I can shew that these things are also well-pleasing
to God, and I read an ancient law enjoining them." Wherefore also he
carries on his discourse in the form of a question, which is .apt to be
done in things fully acknowledged; thus saying, "Say I these things after
the manner of men?" i.e. "do I strengthen myself only by human examples?"
"or saith not the law also the same?"
Ver. 9. "For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle
the ox when he treadeth out the corn."
And on what account hath he mentioned this, having the example of the
priests? Wishing to establish it far beyond what the case required.
Further, lest any should say, "And what have we to do with the saying about
the oxen?" he works it out more exactly, saying, "Is it for the oxen that
God careth;" Doth God then, tell me, take no care for oxen? Well, He doth
take care of them, but not so as to make a law concerning such a thing as
this. So that had he not been hinting at something important, training the
Jews to mercy in the case of the brutes, and through these, discoursing
with them of the teachers also; he would not have taken so much interest as
even to make a law to forbid the muzzling of oxen.
Wherein he points out another thing likewise, that the labor of
teachers both is and ought to be great.
And again another thing. What then is this? That whatever is said by
the Old Testament respecting care for brutes, in its principal meaning
bears on the instruction of human beings: as in fact do all the rest: the
precepts, for example, concerning various garments; and those concerning
vineyards and seeds and not making the ground bear divers crops,(1) and
those concerning leprosy; and, in a word, all the rest: for they being of a
duller sort He was discoursing with them from these topics, advancing them
by little and little.
And see how in what follows he doth not even confirm it, as being clear
and self-evident. For having said, "Is it for the oxen that God careth?" he
added, "or saith he it altogether for our sake?" Not adding even the
"altogether" at random, but that he might not leave the hearer any thing
whatever to reply.
And he dwells upon the metaphor, saying and declaring, "Yea for our
sakes it was written, because he who ploweth ought to plow in hope;" i.e.,
the teacher ought to enjoy the returns of his labors; "and he that
thresheth ought to thresh in hope of partaking." And observe his wisdom in
that from the seed he transferred the matter to the threshing floor; herein
also again manifesting the many toils of the teachers, that they in their
own persons both plough and tread the floor. And of the ploughing, because
there was nothing to reap, but labor only, he used the word, "hope;" but of
treading the floor he presently allows the fruit, saying, "He that
thresheth is a partaker of his hope."
Further, lest any should say, "Is this then the return for so many
toils," he adds, "in hope," i.e., "which is to come." No other thing
therefore doth the mouth of this animal being unmuzzled declare than this;
that the teachers who labor ought also to enjoy some return.
[6.] Ver. 11. "If we sowed unto you spiritual things, is it a great
matter if we shall reap your carnal things?"
Lo, he adds also a fourth argument for the duty of yielding support.
For since he had said, "What soldier ever serveth at his own charges?" and,
"who planteth a vineyard?" and, "who feedeth a flock?" and introduced the
ox that treadeth the corn; he points out likewise another most reasonable
cause on account of which they might justly receive; viz. having bestowed
much greater gifts, no more as having labored only. What is it then? "if we
sowed unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your
carnal things?" Seest thou a most just allegation and fuller of reason than
all the former? for "in those instances," says he, "carnal is the seed,
carnal also is the fruit; but here not so, but the seed is spiritual, the
return carnal." Thus, to prevent high thoughts in those who contribute to
their teachers, he signified that they receive more than they give. As if
he had said, "Husbandmen, whatsoever they sow, this also do they receive;
but we, sowing in your souls spiritual things, do reap carnal." For such is
the kind of support given by them. Further, and still more to put them to
Ver. 12. "If others partake of this right over you, do not we yet
See also again another argument, and this too from examples though not
of the same kind. For it is not Peter whom he mentions here nor the
Apostles, but certain other spurious ones, with whom he afterwards enters
into combat, and concerning whom he says, (2 Cor. xi. 20.) "If a man devour
you, if he take you captive, if he exalt himself, if he smite you on the
face," and already he is sounding the prelude(2) to the fight with them.
Wherefore neither did he say, "If others take of you," but pointing out
their insolence and tyranny and trafficking, he says, "if others partake of
this right over you," i.e., "rule you, exercise authority, use you as
servants, not taking you captive only, but with much authority." Wherefore
he added "do not we yet more?" which he would not have said if the
discourse were concerning the Apostles. But it is evident that he hints at
certain pestilent men, and deceivers of them. "So that besides the law of
Moses even ye yourselves have made a law in behalf of the duty of
And having said, "do not we yet more?" he does not prove why yet more,
but leaves it to their consciences to convince them of that, wishing at the
same time both to alarm and to abash them more thoroughly.
[7.] "Nevertheless, we did not use this right;" i.e., "did not
receive." Do you see, when he had by so many reasons before proved that
receiving is not unlawful, how he next says, "we receive not," that he
might not seem to abstain as from a thing forbidden? "For not because it is
unlawful," saith he, "do I not receive; for it is lawful and this we have
many ways shown: from the Apostles; from the affairs of life, the soldier,
the husbandman, and the shepherd; from the law of Moses; from the very
nature of the case, in that we have sown unto you spiritual things; from
what yourselves have done to others." But as he had laid down these things,
lest he should seem to put to shame the Apostles who were in the habit of
receiving; abashing them and signifying that not as from a forbidden thing
doth he abstain from it: so again, lest by his large store of proof and the
examples and reasonings by which he had pointed out the propriety of
receiving, he should seem to be anxious to receive himself and therefore to
say these things; he now corrects it. And afterwards he laid it down more
clearly where he says, "And I wrote not these things, that it may be so
done in my case;" but here his words are, "we did not use this right."
And what is a still greater thing, neither could any have this to say,
that being in abundance we declined using it; rather, when necessity
pressed upon us we would not yield to the necessity. Which also in the
second Epistle he says; "I robbed other Churches, taking wages of them that
I might minister unto you; and when I was present with you, and was in
want, I was not a burden on any man." (2 Cor. xi. 8, 9.) And in this
Epistle again, "We both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are
buffeted." (1 Cor. iv. 11.) And here again he hints the same thing, saying,
"But we bear all things." For by saying, "we bear all things," he intimates
both hunger and great straits and all the other things. "But not even thus
have we been compelled," saith he, "to break the law which we laid down for
ourselves. Wherefore? "that we may cause no hinderance to the Gospel of
Christ." For since the Corinthians were rather weak-minded, "lest we should
wound you," saith he "by receiving, we chose to do even more than was
commanded rather than hinder the Gospel," i.e., your instruction. Now if we
in a matter left free to us, and when we were both enduring much hardship
and having Apostles for our pattern, used abstinence lest we should give
hindrance, (and he did not say, "subversion," but "hindrance;" nor simply
"hindrance," but "any" hindrance,) that we might not, so to speak, cause so
much as the slightest suspense and delay to the course of the Word: "If
now," saith he, "we used so great care, how much more ought you to abstain,
who both come far short of the Apostles and have no law to mention, giving
you permission: but contrariwise are both putting your hand to things
forbidden and things which tend to the great injury of the Gospel, not to
its hindrance only(1) and not even having any pressing necessity in view."
For all this discussion he had moved on account of these Corinthians, who
were making their weaker brethren to stumble by eating of things sacrificed
[8.] These things also let us listen to, beloved; that we may not
despise those who are offended, nor, "cause any hindrance to the Gospel of
Christ;" that we may not betray our own salvation. And say not thou to the
when thy brother is offended, "this or that, whereby he is offended, hath
not been forbidden; it is permitted." For I have something greater to say
to thee: "although Christ Himself have permitted it, yet if thou seest any
injured, stop and do not use the permission." For this also did Paul; when
he might have received, Christ having granted permission, he received not.
Thus hath our Lord in His mercy mingled much gentleness with His precepts
that it might not be all merely of commandment, but that we might do much
also of our own mind. Since it was in His power, had He not been so minded,
to extend the commandments further and to say, "he who fasts not
continually, let him be chastised; he who keeps not his virginity, let him
be punished; he that doth not strip himself of all that he hath, let him
suffer the severest penalty." But he did not so, giving thee occasion, if
thou wilt, to be forward in doing more. Wherefore both when He was
discoursing about virginity, He said, "He that is able to receive, let him
receive it:" and in the case of the rich man, some things He commanded, but
some He left to the determination of his mind. For He said not, "Sell what
thou hast," but, "If thou wilt be perfect, sell."
But we are not only not forward to do more, and to go beyond the
precepts, but we fall very short even of the measure of things commanded.
And whereas Paul suffered hunger that he might not hinder the Gospel; we
have not the heart even to touch what is in our own stores, though we see
innumerable souls overthrown "Yea" saith one, "let the moth eat, and let
not the poor eat; let the worm devour, and let not the naked be clothed;
let all be wasted away with time, and let not Christ be fed; and this when
He hungereth." "Why, who said this?" it will be asked. Nay, this is the
very grievance, that not in words but in deeds these things are said: for
it were less grievous uttered in words than done in deeds. For is not this
the cry, day by day, of the inhuman and cruel tyrant, Covetousness, to
those who are led captive by her? "Let your goods be set before informers
and robbers and traitors for luxury, and not before the hungry and needy
for their sustenance." Is it not ye then who make robbers? Is it not ye who
minister fuel to the fire of the envious? Is it not ye who make vagabonds
and traitors, putting your wealth before them for a bait? What madness is
this? (for a madness it is, and plain distraction,) to fill your chests
with apparel, and overlook him that is made after God's image and
similitude, naked and trembling with cold, and with difficulty keeping
"But he pretends," saith one, "this tremor and weakness." And dost thou
not fear lest a thunderbolt from heaven, kindled by this word, should fall
upon thee? (For I am bursting with wrath: bear with me.) Thou, I say,
pampering and fattening thyself and extending thy potations to the dead of
night and comforting thyself in soft coverlets, dost not deem thyself
liable to judgment, so lawlessly using the gifts of God: (for wine was not
made that we should be drunken; nor food, that we should pamper our
appetites; nor meats, that we should distend the belly.) But from the poor,
the wretched, from him that is as good as dead, from him demandest thou
strict accounts, and dost thou not fear Christ's tribunal, so full of all
awfulness and terror? Why, if he do play the hypocrite, he doth it of
necessity and want, because of thy cruelty and inhumanity, requiring the
use of such masks and refusing all inclination to mercy. For who is so
wretched and miserable as without urgent necessity, for one loaf of bread,
to submit to such disgrace, and to bewail himself and endure so severe a
punishment? So that this hypocrisy of his goeth about, the herald of thine
inhumanity. For since by supplicating and beseeching and uttering piteous
expressions and lamenting and weeping and going about all day, he doth not
obtain even necessary food, he devised perhaps even l this contrivance
also, the disgrace and blame whereof falls not so much on himself as on
thee: for he indeed is meet to be pitied because. he hath fallen into so
great necessity; but we are worthy of innumerable punishments because we
compel the poor to suffer such things. For if we would easily give way,
never would he have chosen to endure such things.
And why speak I of nakedness and trembling? For I will tell a thing yet
more to be shuddered at, that some have been compelled even to deprive
their children of sight at an early age in order that they might touch our
insensibility. For since when they could see and went about naked, neither
by their age nor by their misfortunes could they win favor of the
unpitying, they added to so great evils another yet sterner tragedy, that
they might remove their hunger; thinking it to be a lighter thing to be
deprived of this common light and that sunshine which is given to all, than
to struggle with continual famine and endure the most miserable of deaths.
Thus, since you have not learned to pity poverty, but delight yourselves in
misfortunes, they satisfy your insatiable desire, and both for themselves
and for us kindle a fiercer flame in hell.
[9.] And to convince you that this is the reason why these and such
like things are done, I will tell you of an acknowledged proof which no man
can gainsay. There are other poor men, of light and unsteady minds and not
knowing how to bear hunger, but rather enduring every thing than it. These
having often tried to deal with us by piteous gestures and words and
finding that they availed nothing, have left off those supplications and
henceforward our very wonder-workers are surpassed by them, some chewing
the skins of worn-out shoes, and some fixing sharp nails into their heads,
others lying about in frozen pools with naked stomachs, and others enduring
different things yet more horrid than these, that they may draw around them
the ungodly spectators. And thou, while these things are going on, standest
laughing and wondering the while and making a fine show of other men's
miseries, our common nature disgracing itself. And what could a fierce
demon do more? Next, you give him money in abundance that he may do these
things more promptly. And to him that prays and calls on God and approaches
with modesty, you vouchsafe neither an answer nor a look: rather you utter
to him, continually teazing you, those disgusting expressions, "Ought this
fellow to live? or at all to breathe and see this sun?" whereas to the
other sort you are both cheerful and liberal, as though you were appointed
to dispense the prize of that ridiculous and Satanic unseemliness.
Wherefore with more propriety to those who appoint these sports and bestow
nothing till they see others punishing themselves, might these words be
addressed, "Ought these men to live, to breathe at all, or see the sun, who
trangress against our common nature, who insult God?" For whereas God
saith, "Give alms, and I give thee the kingdom of heaven," thou hearest
not: but when the Devil shews thee a head pierced with nails, on a sudden
thou hast become liberal. And the contrivance of the evil spirit pregnant
with so much mischief, hath wrought upon thee more than the promise of God
bringing innumerable blessings. If gold were to be laid down to prevent the
doing of these things or the looking upon them when done, there is nothing
which thou oughtest not to practise and endure, to get rid of so excessive
madness; but ye contrive every thing to have them done, and look on the
doing of them. Still askest thou then, tell me, to what end is hell-fire?
Nay, ask not that any more, but how is there one hell only? For of how many
punishments are not they worthy, who get up this cruel and merciless
spectacle and laugh at what both they and yourselves ought to weep over;
yea, rather of the two, ye who compel them to such unseemly doings.
"But I do not compel them," say you. What else but compelling is it, I
should like to know? Those who are more modest and shed tears and invoke
God, thou art impatient even of listening to; but for these thou both
findest silver in abundance and bringest around thee many to admire them.
"Well, let us leave off," say you, "pitying them. And dost thou too
enjoin this?" Nay, it is not pity, O man, to demand so severe a punishment
for a few pence, to order men to maim themselves for necessary food and cut
into many pieces the skin of their head so mercilessly and pitifully.
"Gently," say you, "for it is not we who pierce those heads." Would it were
thou, and the horror would not be so horrible. For he that slays a man does
a much more grievous(1) thing than he who bids him slay himself, which
indeed happens in the case of these persons. For they endure more bitter
pains when they are bidden to be themselves the executors of these wicked
And all this in Antioch, where men were first called Christians,
wherein are bred the most civilized of mankind, where in old time the fruit
of charity flourished so abundantly. For not only to those at hand but also
to those very far off, they used to send, and this when famine was
[10.] What then ought we to do? say you. To cease from this savage
practice: and to convince all that are in need that by doing these things
they will gain nothing, but if they modestly approach they shall find your
liberality great. Let them be once aware of this, even though they be of
all men most miserable, they will never choose to punish themselves so
severely, I pledge myself; nay, they will even give you thanks for
delivering them both from the mockery and the pain of that way of life. But
as it is, for charioteers you would let out even your own children, and for
dancers you would throw away your very souls, while for Christ an hungered
you spare not the smallest portion of your substance. But if you give a
little silver, you think as much of it as if you had laid out all you have,
not knowing that not the giving but the giving liberally, this is true
almsgiving. Wherefore also it is not those simply who give whom the prophet
proclaims and calls happy, but those who bestow liberally. For he doth not
say simply, He hath given, but what? (Ps. cxii. 8.) "he hathdispersed
abroad, he hath given to the poor." For what profit is it, when out of it
thou givest as it were a glass of water out of the sea, and even a widow's
magnanimity is beyond thy emulation? And how wilt thou say, "Pity me, O
Lord, according to thy great pity, and according to the multitude of thy
mercies blot out my transgression," thyself not pitying according to any
great pity, nay, haply not according to any little. For I am greatly
ashamed, I own, when I see many of the rich riding upon their golden-bitted
chargers with a train of domestics clad in gold, and having couches of
silver and other and more pomp, and yet when there is need to give to a
poor man, becoming more beggarly than the very poorest.
[11.] But what is their constant talk? "He hath," they say, "the common
church-allowance." And what is that to thee? For thou wilt not be saved
because I give; nor if the Church bestow hast thou blotted out thine own
sins. For this cause givest thou not, because the Church ought to give to
the needy? Because the priests pray, wilt thou never pray thyself? And
because others fast, wilt thou be continually drunken? Knowest thou not
that God enacted not almsgiving so much for the sake of the poor as for the
sake of the persons themselves who bestow ?
But dost thou suspect the priest? Why this thing itself, to begin with,
is a grievous sin. However, I will not examine the matter too nicely. Do
thou it all in thine own person, and so shalt thou reap a double reward.
Since in fact, what we say in behalf of almsgiving, we say not, that thou
shouldest offer to us, but that thou shouldest thyself minister by thine
own hands. For if thou bringest thine alms to me, perhaps thou mayest even
be led captive by vain-glory, and oftentimes likewise thou shall go away
offended through suspicion of something evil: but if ye do all things by
yourselves, ye shall both be rid of offences and of unreasonable suspicion,
and greater is your reward. Not therefore to compel you to bring your money
hither, do I say these things; nor from indignation on account of the
priests being ill-reported of. For if one must be indignant and grieve, for
you should be our grief, who say this ill. Since to them who are spoken ill
of falsely and vainly the reward is greater, but to the speakers the
condemnation and punishment is heavier. I say not these things therefore in
their behalf, but in solicitude and care for you. For what marvel is it if
some in our generation are suspected, when in the case of those holy men
who imitated the angels, who possessed nothing of their own, I mean the
Apostles, there was a murmuring in the ministration to the widows (Acts VI
I.) that the poor were overlooked? when "not one said that aught of the
things he possessed was his own, but they had all things common?" (Acts iv.
Let us not then put forward these pretexts, nor account it an excuse
that the Church is wealthy. But when you see the greatness of her
substance, bear in mind also the crowds of poor who are on her list, the
multitudes of her sick, her occasions of endless expenses. Investigate,
scrutinize, there is none to forbid, nay, they are even ready to give you
an account. But I wish to go much farther. Namely, when we have given in
our accounts and proved that our expenditure is no less than our income,
nay, sometimes more, I would gladly ask you this further question: When we
depart hence and shall hear Christ saying, "Ye saw me hungry, and gave me
no meat; naked, and ye clothed me not;" what shall we say? what apology
shall we make? Shall we bring forward such and such a person who disobeyed
these commands? or some of the priests who were suspected? "Nay, what is
this to thee? for I accuse thee," saith He, "of those things wherein thou
hast thyself sinned. And the apology for these would be, to have washed
away thine own offences, not to point to others whose errors have been the
same as thine."
In fact, the Church through your meanness is compelled to have such
property as it has now. Since, if men did all things according to the
apostolical laws, its revenue should have been your good will, which were
both a secure chest and an inexhaustible treasury. But now when ye lay up
for yourselves treasures upon the earth and shut up all things in your own
stores, while the Church is compelled to be at charges with bands of
widows, choirs of virgins, so journings of strangers, distresses of
foreigners, the misfortunes of prisoners, the necessities of the sick and
maimed, and other such like causes, what must be done? Turn away from all
these, and block up so many ports? Who then could endure the shipwrecks
that would ensue; the weepings, the lamentations, the wailings which would
reach us from every quarter?
Let us not then speak at random what comes into our mind. For now, as I
have just said, we are really prepared to render up our accounts to you.
But even if it were the reverse, and ye had corrupt teachers plundering and
grasping at every thing, not even so were their wickedness an apology for
you. For the Lover of mankind and All-wise, the Only-Begotten Son of God,
seeing all things, and knowing the chance that in so great length of time
and in so vast a world there would be many corrupt priests; lest the
carelessness of those under their rule should increase through their
neglect, removing every excuse for indifference; "In Moses' seat," saith
He, "sit the Scribes and the Pharisees; all things, therefore, whatsoever
they bid you, these do ye, but do not ye after their works:" implying, that
even if thou hast a bad teacher, this will not avail thee, shouldest thou
not attend to the things which are spoken. For not from what thy teacher
hath done but from what thou hast heard and disobeyed, from that, I say,
doth God pass his sentence upon thee. So that if thou doest the things
commanded, thou shalt then stand with much boldness: but if thou disobey
the things spoken, even though thou shouldest show ten thousand corrupt
priests, this will not plead for thee at all. Since Judas also was an
apostle, but nevertheless this shall never be any apology for the
sacrilegious and covetous. Nor will any be able when accused to say, "Why
the Apostle was a thief and sacrilegious, and a traitor;" yea, this very
thing shall most of all be our punishment and condemnation that not even by
the evils of others were we corrected. For this cause also these things
were written that we might shun all emulation of such things.
Wherefore, leaving this person and that, let us take heed to ourselves.
For "each of us shall give account of himself to God." In order therefore
that we may render up this account with a good defence, let us well order
our own lives and stretch out a liberal hand to the needy, knowing that
this only is our defence, the showing ourselves to have rightly done the
things commanded; there is no other whatever. And if we be able to produce
this, we shall escape those intolerable pains of hell, and obtain the good
things to come; unto which may we all attain, by the grace and mercy of our
Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory,
power, and honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY XXII: 1 Cor. ix. 13, 14.
Know ye not that they which minister about sacred things eat of the temple?
and they which wait upon the altar have their portion with the altar? Even
so did the Lord ordain that they which proclaim the Gospel should live of
He takes great care to show that the receiving was not forbidden.
Whereupon having said so much before, he was not content but proceeds also
to the Law, furnishing an example closer to the point than the former. For
it was not the same thing to bring forward the oxen and to adduce the law
expressly given concerning priests.
But consider, I pray, in this also the wisdom of Paul, how he mentions
the matter in a way to give it dignity. For he did not say, "They which
minister about sacred things receive of those who offer them." But what?
"They eat of the temple:" so that neither they who receive may be blamed
nor they who give may be lifted up. Wherefore also what follows he hath set
down in the same way.
For neither did he say, "They which wait upon the altar receive of them
which sacrifice," but, "have their portion with the altar." For the things
offered now no longer belonged to those who offered them, but to the temple
and the altar. And he said not, "They receive the holy things," but, they
"eat of the temple," indicating again their moderation, and that it behoves
them not to make money nor to be rich. And though he say that they have
their portion "with the altar," he doth not speak of equal distribution but
of relief given them as their due. And yet the case of the Apostles was
much stronger. For in the former instance the priesthood was an honor, but
in the latter it was dangers and slaughters and violent deaths. Wherefore
all the other examples together did not come up to the saying, "If we sowed
unto you spiritual things:" since in saying, "we sowed," he points out the
storms, the danger, the snares, the unspeakable evils, which they endured
in preaching. Nevertheless, though the superiority was so great, he was
unwilling either to abase the things of the old law or to exalt the things
which belong to himself: nay he even contracts his own, reckoning the
superiority not from the dangers, but from the greatness of the gift. For
he said not, "if we have jeoparded ourselves" or "exposed ourselves to
snares" but "if we sowed unto you spiritual things.
And the part of the priests, as far as possible, he exalts, saying,
"They which minister about sacred things," and "they that wait upon the
altar," thereby intending to point out their continual servitude and
patience. Again, as he had spoken of the priests among the Jews, viz. both
the Levites and the Chief Priests, so he hath expressed each of the orders,
both the inferior and the superior; the one by saying, "they which minister
about sacred things," and the other by saying, "they which wait upon the
altar." For not to all was one work commanded; but some were entrusted with
the coarser, others with the more exalted offices. Comprehending therefore
all these, lest any should say, "why talk to us of the old law? knowest
thou not that ours is the time of more perfect commandments?" after all
those topics he placed that which is strongest of all, saying,
Ver. 14. "Even so did the Lord ordain that they who proclaim the Gospel
should live of the Gospel."
Nor doth he even here say that they are supported by men, but as in the
case of the priests, of "the temple" and "of the altar," so likewise here,
"of the Gospel;" and as there he saith, "eat," so here, "live," not make
merchandize nor lay up treasures. "For the laborer," saith He, "is worthy
of his hire."
[2.] Ver. 15. "But I have used none of these things:"
What then if thou hast not used them now, saith one, but intendest to
use them at a future time, and on this account sayest these things. Far
from it; for he speedily corrected the notion, thus saying;
"And I write not these things that it may be so done in my case."
And see with what vehemence he disavows and repels the thing:
"For it were good for me rather to die, than that any man should make
my glorying void."
And not once nor twice, but many times he uses this expression. For
above he said, "We did not use this right:" and after this again, "that I
abuse not my right:" and here, "but I have used none of these things."
"These things;" what things? The many examples.(1) That is to say, many
things giving me license; the soldier, the husbandman, the shepherd, the
Apostles, the law, the things done by us unto you, the things done by you
unto the others, the priests, the ordinance of Christ; by none of these
have I been induced to abolish my own law, and to receive. And speak not to
me of the past: (although I could say, that I have endured much even in
past times on this account,) nevertheless I do not rest on it alone, but
likewise concerning the future I pledge myself, that I would choose rather
to die of hunger than be deprived of these crowns.
"For it were good for me rather to die," saith he, "than that any man
should make my glorying void."
He said not, "that any man should abolish my law," but, "my glorying."
For lest any should say, "he doth it indeed but not cheerfully, but with
lamentation and grief," willing to show the excess of his joy and the
abundance of his zeal, he even calls the matter "glorying." So far was he
from vexing himself that he even glories, and chooses rather to die than to
fall from this "glorying." So much dearer to him even than life itself was
that proceeding of his.
[3.] Next, he exalts it from another consideration also, and signifies
that it was a great thing, not that he might show himself famous, (for far
was he from that disposition,) but to signify that he rejoices, and with a
view more abundantly to take away all suspicion. For on this account, as I
before said, he also called it a glorying: and what saith he?
Ver. 16, 17, 18. "For if I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory
of; for necessity is laid upon me; for woe is unto me, if I preach not the
Gospel! For if I do this of mine own will, I have a reward: but if not of
mine own will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. What then is my
reward? That when I preach the Gospel, I may make the Gospel of Christ
without charge, so as not to use to the full my right in the Gospel."
What sayest thou? tell me. "If thou preach the Gospel, it is nothing
for thee to glory of, but it is, if thou make the Gospel of Christ without
charge?" Is this therefore greater than that? By no means; but in another
point of view it hath some advantage, inasmuch as the one is a command, but
the other is a good deed of my own free-will: for what things are done
beyond the commandment, have a great reward in this respect: but such as
are in pursuance of a commandment, not so great: and so in this respect he
says, the one is more than the other; not in the very nature of the thing.
For what is equal to preaching; since it maketh men vie even with the
angels themselves. Nevertheless since the one is a commandment and a debt,
the other a forwardness of free-will, in this respect this is more than
that. Wherefore he saith, explaining the same, what I just now mentioned:
"For if I do this of mine own will, I have a reward, but if not of mine
own will, a stewardship is entrusted to me;" taking the words of mine own
"will" and "not of mine own will," of its being committed or not committed
to him. And thus we must understand the expression, "for necessity is laid
upon me;" not as though. he did aught of these things against his will, God
forbid, but as though he were bound by the things commanded, and for
contradistinction to the liberty in receiving before mentioned. Wherefore
also Christ said to the disciples, (St. Luke xvii. 10.) "When ye have done
all, say, We are unprofitable servants; for we have done that which was our
duty to do."
"What then is my reward? That when I preach the Gospel, I may make the
Gospel without charge." What then, tell me, hath Peter' no reward? Nay, who
can ever have so great an one as he? And what shall we say of the other
Apostles? How then said he, "If I do this of mine own will I have a reward,
but if not of mine own will, a stewardship is entrusted to me?" Seest thou
here also his wisdom? For he said not, "But if not of mine own will," I
have no reward, but, "a stewardship is committed unto me:" implying that
even thus he hath a reward, but such as he obtains who hath performed what
was commanded, not such as belongs to him who hath of his own resources
been generous and exceeded the commandment.
"What then is the reward? That, when I preach the Gospel," saith he, "I
may make the Gospel without charge, so as not to use to the full my right
in the Gospel." See how throughout he uses the term "right," intimating
this, as I have often observed; that neither are they who receive worthy of
blame. But he added,. "in the Gospel," partly to show the reasonableness of
it, partly also to forbid our carrying the matter out into every case. For
the teacher ought to receive, but not the mere drone also.(2)
[4.] Ver. 19. "For though I was free from all men, I brought myself
under bondage to all, that I might gain the more."
Here again he introduces another high step in advance. For a great
thing it is even not to receive, but this which he is about to mention is
much more than that. What then is it that he says? "Not only have I not
received," saith he," not only have I not used this right, but I have even
made myself a slave, and in a slavery manifold and universal. For not in
money alone, but, which was much more than money, in employments many and
various have I made good this same rule: and I have made myself a slave
when I was subject to none, having no necessity in any respect, (for this
is the meaning of, "though I was free from all men;") and not to any single
person have I been a slave, but to the whole world." brought Wherefore also
he subjoined, "I myself under bondage to all." That is, "To preach the
Gospel I was commanded, and to proclaim the things committed to my trust;
but the contriving and devising numberless things beside, all that was of
my own zeal. For I was only under obligation to invest the money, whereas I
did every thing in order to get a return for it, attempting more than was
commanded." Thus doing as he did all things of free choice and zeal and
love to Christ, he had an insatiable desire for the salvation of mankind.
Wherefore also he used to overpass by a very great deal the lines marked
out, in every way springing higher than the very heaven.
[5.] Next, having mentioned his servitude, be describes in what follows
the various modes of it.. And what are these?
Ver. 20. "And I became," says he, "to the Jews as a Jew, that I might
gain Jews." And how did this take place? When he circumcised that he might
abolish circumcision. Wherefore he said not, "a Jew," but, "as a Jew,"
which was a wise arrangement. What sayest thou? The herald of the world and
he who touched the very heavens and shone so bright in grace, doth he all
at once descend so low? Yea. For this is to ascend. For you are not to look
to the fact only of his descending, but also to his raising up him that was
bowed down and bringing him up to himself.
"To them that are under the law, as under the law, not being myself
under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law." Either it is
the explanation of what went before, or he hints at some other thing
besides the former: calling those Jews, who were such originally and from
the first: but "under the law," the proselytes, or those who became
believers and yet adhered to the law. For they were no longer as Jews, yet
'under the law.' And when was he under the law? When he shaved his head;
when he offered sacrifice. Now these things were done, not because his mind
changed, (since such conduct would have been wickedness,) but because his
love condescended. For that he might bring over to this faith those who
were really Jews, he became such himself not really, showing himself such
only, but not such in fact nor doing these things from a mind so disposed.
Indeed, how could he, zealous as he was to convert others also, and doing
these things only in order that he might free others who did them from that
Vet. 21. "To them that are without law, as without law." These were
neither Jews, nor Christians, nor Greeks; but 'outside of the Law,' as was
Cornelius, and if there were any others like him. For among these also
making his appearance, he used to assume many of their ways. But some say
that he hints at his discourse with the Athenians from the inscription on
the altar, and that so he saith, "to them that are without law, as without
Then, lest any should think that the matter was a change of mind, he
added, "not being without law to God, but under law to Christ;" i.e., "so
far from being without law, I am not simply under the Law, but I have that
law which is much more exalted than the older one, viz. that of the Spirit
and of grace." Wherefore also he adds, "to Christ." Then again, having made
them confident of his judgment, he states also the gain of such
condescension, saying, "that I might gain them that are without law." And
every where he brings forward the cause of his condescension, and stops not
even here, but says,
Ver. 22. "To the weak became I weak, that I might gain the weak:" in
this part coming to their case, with a view to which also all these things
have been spoken. However, those were much greater things, but this more to
the purpose; whence also he hath placed it after them. Indeed he did the
same thing likewise in his Epistle to the Romans, when he was finding fault
about meats; and so in many other places.
Next, not to waste time by naming all severally, he saith, "I am become
all things to all men, that I may by all means save some."
Seest thou how far it is carried? "I am become all things to all men,"
not expecting, however, to save all, but that I may save though it be but a
few. And so great care and service have I undergone, as one naturally would
who was about saving all, far however from hoping to gain all: which was
truly magnanimous(1) and a proof of burning zeal. Since likewise the sower
sowed every where, and saved not all the seed, notwithstanding he did his
part. And having mentioned the fewness of those who are saved, again,
adding, "by all means," he consoled those to whom this was a grief. For
though it be not possible that all the seed should be saved, nevertheless
it cannot be that all should perish. Wherefore he said, "by all means,"
because one so ardently zealous must certainly have some success.
Ver. 23. "And I do all things for the Gospel's sake, that I may be a
joint partaker thereof."
"That is, that I may seem also myself to have added some contribution
of mine own, and may partake of the crowns laid up for the faithful. For as
he spake of "living of the Gospel," i.e, of the believers; so also here,
"that I may be a joint partaker in the Gospel, that I may be able to
partake with them that have believed in the Gospel." Do you perceive his
humility, how in the recompense of rewards he places himself as one of the
many, though he had exceeded all in his labors? whence it is evident that
he would in his reward also. Nevertheless, he claims not to enjoy the first
prize, but is content if so be he may partake with the others in the crowns
laid up for them. But these things he said, not because he did this for any
reward, but that hereby at least he might draw them on, and by these hopes
might induce them to do all things for their brethren's sake. Seest thou
his wisdom! Seest thou the excellency of his perfection? how he wrought
beyond the things commanded, not receiving when it was lawful to receive.
Seest thou the exceeding greatness of his condescension? how he that was
"under law to Christ," and kept that highest law, "to them that were
without law," was "as one without law," to the Jews, as a Jew, in either
kind showing himself preeminent, and surpassing all.
[6.] This also do thou, and think not being eminent, that thou lowerest
thyself, when for thy brother's sake thou submittest to some abasement. For
this is not to fall, but to descend. For he who falls, lies prostrate,
hardly to be raised up again; but he who descends shall also rise again
with much advantage. As also Paul descended indeed alone, but ascended with
the whole world: not acting a part, for he would not have sought the gain
of them that are saved had he been acting. Since the hypocrite seeks men's
perdition, and feigns, that he may receive, not that he may give. But the
apostle not so: as a physician rather, as a teacher, as a father, the one
to the sick, the other to the disciple, the third to the son, condescends
for his correction, not for his hurt; so likewise did he.
To show that the things which have been stated were not pretence; in a
case where he is not compelled to do or say any such thing but means to
express his affection and his confidence; hear him saying, (Rom. viii. 39.)
"neither life, nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor
things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other
creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in
Christ Jesus our Lord." Seest thou a love more ardent than fire? So let us
also love Christ. For indeed it is easy, if we will. For neither was the
Apostle such by nature. On this account, you see, his former life was
recorded, so contrary to this, that we may learn that the work is one of
choice, and that to the willing all things are easy.
Let us not then despair, but even though thou be a reviler, or
covetous, or whatsoever thou art, consider that Paul was (1 Tim. i. 13,
16.) "a blasphemer, and persecutor, and injurious, and the chief of
sinners," and suddenly rose to the very summit of virtue, and his former
life proved no hindrance to him. And yet none with so great frenzy clings
to vice as he did to the war against the Church. For at that time he put
his very life into it; and because he had not ten thousand hands that he
might stone Stephen with all of them, he was vexed. Notwithstanding, even
thus he found how he might stone him with more hands, to wit, those of the
false witnesses whose clothes he kept. And again, when he entered into
houses like a wild beast and no otherwise did he rush in, haling, tearing
men and women, filling all things with tumult and confusion and innumerable
conflicts. For instance, so terrible was he that the Apostles, (Acts ix.
26.) even after his most glorious change, did not yet venture to join
themselves to him. Nevertheless, after all those things he became such as
he was: for I need not say more.
[7.] Where now are they who build up the necessity of fate against the
freedom of the will? Let them hear these things, and let their mouths be
stopped. For there is nothing to hinder him that willeth to become good,
even though before he should be one of the vilest. And in fact we are more
aptly disposed that way, inasmuch as virtue is agreeable to our nature, and
vice contrary to it, even as sickness and health. For God hath given us
eyes, not that we may look wantonly, but that, admiring his handiwork, we
may worship the Creator. And that this is the use of our eyes is evident
from the things which are seen. For the lustre of the sun and of the sky we
see from an immeasurable distance, but a woman's beauty one cannot discern
so far off. Seest thou that for this end our eye was chiefly given? Again,
he made the ear that we should entertain not blasphemous words, but saving
doctrines. Wherefore you see, when it receives any thing dissonant, both
our soul shudders and our very body also. "For," saith one, (Ecclus. xxvii.
5.) "the talk of him that sweareth much maketh the hair stand upright." And
if we hear any thing cruel or merciless, again our flesh creeps; but if any
thing decorous and kind, we even exult and rejoice. Again, if our mouth
utter base words, it causes us to be ashamed and hide ourselves, but if
grave words, it utters them with ease and all freedom. Now for those things
which are according to nature no one would blush, but for those which are
against nature. And the hands when they steal hide themselves, and seek
excuses; but if they give alms, they even glory. So that if we will, we
have from every side a great inclination towards virtue. But if thou talk
to me of the pleasure which arises from vice, consider that this also is a
thing which we reap more of from virtue. For to have a good conscience and
to be looked up to by all and to entertain good hopes, is of all things
most pleasant to him that hath seen into the nature of pleasure, even as
the reverse is of all things the most grievous to him that knows the nature
of pain; such as to be reproached by all, to be accused by our own
conscience, to tremble and fear both at the future and the present.
And that what I say may become more evident, let us suppose for
argument's sake one man having a wife, yet defiling the marriage-bed of his
neighbor and taking pleasure in this wicked robbery, enjoying his paramour.
Then let us again oppose to him another who loves his own spouse. And that
the victory may be greater and more evident, let the man who enjoys his own
wife only, have a fancy also for the other, the adulteress, but restrain
his passion and do nothing evil: (although neither is this pure chastity.)
However, granting more than is necessary, that you may convince yourself
how great is the pleasure of virtue, for this cause have we so framed our
Now then, having brought them together, let us ask them accordingly,
whose is the pleasanter life: and you will hear the one glorying and
exulting in the conquest over his lust: but the other--or rather, there is
no need to wait to be informed of any thing by him. For thou shalt see him,
though he deny it times without number, more wretched than men in a prison.
For he fears and suspects all, both his own wife and the husband of the
adulteress and the adulteress herself, and domestics, and friends, and
kinsmen, and walls, and shadows, and himself, and what is worst of all, he
hath his conscience crying out against him, barking aloud every day. But if
he should also bring to mind the judgment-seat of God, he will not be able
even to stand. And the pleasure is short: but the pain from it unceasing.
For both at even, and in the night, in the desert and the city and every
where, the accuser haunts him, pointing to a sharpened sword and the
intolerable punishment, and with that terror consuming and wasting him. But
the other, the chaste person, is free from all these things, and is at
liberty, and with comfort looks upon his wife, his children, his friends,
and meets all with unembarrassed eyes. Now if he that is enamored but is
master of himself enjoy so great pleasure, he that indulges no such passion
but is truly chaste, what harbor, what calm will be so sweet and serene as
the mind which he will attain? And on this account you may see few
adulterers but many chaste persons. But if the former were the pleasanter,
it would be preferred by the greater number. And tell me not of the terror
of the laws. For this is not that which restrains them, but the excessive
unreasonableness, and the fact that the pains of it are more than the
pleasures, and the sentence of conscience.
[8.] Such then is the adulterer. Now, if you please, let us bring
before you the covetous, laying bare again another lawless passion. For him
too we shall see afraid of the same things and unable to enjoy real
pleasure: in that calling to mind both those whom he hath wronged, and
those who sympathize with them, and the public sentence of all concerning
himself, he hath ten thousand agitations.
And this is not his only vexation, but not even his beloved object can
he enjoy. For such is the way of the covetous; not that they may enjoy do
they possess, but that they may not enjoy. But if this seem to thee a
riddle, hear next what is yet worse than this and more perplexing; that
not in this way only are they deprived of the pleasure of their goods, by
their not venturing to use them as they would, but also by their never
being filled with them but living in a continual thirst: than which what
can be more grievous? But the just man is not so, but is delivered both
from trembling and hatred and fear and this incurable thirst: and as all
men curse the one, even so do all men conspire to bless the other: and as
the one hath no friend, so hath the other no enemy.
What now, these things being so acknowledged, can be more unpleasing
than vice or more pleasant than virtue? Nay, rather, though we should speak
for ever, no one shall be able to represent in discourse either the pain of
this, or the pleasure of the other, until we shall experience it. For then
shall we find vice more bitter than gall, when we shall have fully tasted
the honey of virtue. Not but vice is even now unpleasant, and disgusting,
and burdensome, and this not even her very votaries gainsay; but when we
withdraw from her, then do we more clearly discern the bitterness of her
commands. But if the multitude run to her, it is no marvel; since children
also oftentimes, choosing things less pleasant, despise those which are
more delightful and the sick for a momentary gratification lose the
perpetual and more certain joy. But this comes of the weakness and folly of
those who are possessed with any fondness, not of the nature of the things.
For it is the virtuous man who lives in pleasure; he who is rich indeed and
But if any one would grant the rest to virtue,--liberty, security
freedom from cares, the fearing no man, the suspecting no man,--but would
not grant it pleasure; to laugh, and that heartily, occurs to me, I
confess, as the only course to be taken. For what else is pleasure, but
freedom from care and fear and despondency, and the not being under the
power of any? And who is in pleasure, tell me, the man in frenzy and
convulsion, who is goaded by divers lusts, and is not even himself; or he
who is freed from all these waves, and is settled in the love of wisdom, as
it were in a harbor? Is it not evident, the latter? But this would seem to
be a thing peculiar to virtue. So that vice hath merely the name of
pleasure, but of the substance it is destitute. And before the enjoyment,
it is madness, not pleasure: but after the enjoyment, straightway this also
is extinguished. Now then if neither at the beginning nor afterwards can
one discern the pleasure of it, when will it appear, and where?
And that thou mayest more clearly understand what I say, let us try the
force of the argument in an example. Now consider. One is enamored of a
fair and lovely woman: this man as long as he cannot obtain his desire is
like unto men beside themselves and frantic; but after that he hath
obtained it, he hath quenched his appetite. If therefore neither at the
beginning doth he feel pleasure, (for the affair is madness,) nor in the
end, (for by the indulgence of his lust he cools down his wild fancy,)
where after all are we to find it? But our doings are not such, but both at
the beginning they are freed from all disturbance, and to the end the
pleasure remains in its bloom: nay rather there is no end of our pleasure,
nor have our good things a limit, nor is this pleasure ever done away.
Upon all these considerations, then, if we love pleasure, let us lay
hold on virtue that we may win good things both now and hereafter: unto
which may we all attain, through the grace and mercy, &c.
HOMILY XXIII: I Cor ix. 24.
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the
Having pointed out the manifold usefulness of condescension and that
this is the highest perfectness, and that he himself having risen higher
than all towards perfection, or rather having gone beyond it by declining
to receive, descended lower than all again; and having made known to us the
times for each of these, both for the perfectness and for the
condescension; he touches them more sharply in what follows, covertly
intimating that this which was done by them and which was counted a mark of
perfectness, is a kind of superfluous and useless labor. And he saith it
not thus out clearly, lest they should become insolent; but the methods of
proof employed by him makes this evident.
And having said that they sin against Christ and destroy the brethren,
and are nothing profited by this perfect knowledge, except charity be
added; he again proceeds to a common example, and saith,
"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth
the prize?" Now this he saith, not as though here also one only out of many
would be saved; far from it; but to set forth the exceeding diligence which
it is our duty to use. For as there, though many descend into the course
not many are crowned, but this befalls one only; and it is not enough to
descend into the contest, nor to anoint one's self and wrestle: so likewise
here it is not sufficient to believe, and to contend in any way; but unless
we have so run as unto the end to show ourselves unblameable, and to come
near the prize, it will profit us nothing. For even though thou consider
thyself to be perfect according to knowledge, thou hast not yet attained
the whole; which hinting at, he said, "so run, that ye may obtain." They
had not then yet, as it seems, attained. And having said thus, he teaches
them also the manner.
Ver. 25. "And every man that striveth in the games is temperate in all
What is, "all things?" He doth not abstain from one and err in another,
but he masters entirely gluttony and lasciviousness and drunkenness and all
his passions. "For this," saith he, "takes place even in the heathen games.
For neither is excess of wine permitted to those who contend at the time of
the contest, nor wantonness, lest they should weaken their vigor, nor yet
so much as to be busied about any thing else, but separating themselves
altogether from all things they apply themselves to their exercise only."
Now if there these things be so where the crown fails to one, much more
here, where the incitement in emulation is more abundant. For here neither
is one to be crowned alone, and the rewards also far surpass the labors.
Wherefore also he puts it so as to shame them, saying, "Now they do it
receive to a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible."
[2.] Ver. 56. "I therefore so run, as not uncertainly."
Thus having shamed them from those that are without, he next brings
forward himself also, which kind of thing is a most excellent method of
teaching: and accordingly we find him every where doing so.
But what is, "not uncertainly?" "Looking to some mark," saith he, "not
at random and in vain, as ye do. For what profit have ye of entering into
idol-temples, and exhibiting forsooth that perfectness? None. But not such
am I, but all things whatsoever I do, I do for the salvation of my
neighbor. Whether I show forth perfectness, it is for their sake; or
condescension, for their sake again: whether I surpass Peter in declining
to receive [compensation], it is that they may not be offended; or descend
lower than all, being circumcised and shaving my head, it is that they may
not be subverted. This is, "not uncertainly." But thou, why dost thou eat
in idol-temples, tell me? Nay, thou canst not assign any reasonable cause.
For "meat commendeth thee not to God; neither if thou eat art thou the
better, nor if thou eat not art thou the worse." (I Cor. viii. 8.) Plainly
then thou runnest at random: for this is, "uncertainly."
"So fight I, as not beating the air." This he saith, again intimating
that he acted not at random nor in vain. "For I have one at whom I may
strike, i.e., the devil. But thou dost not strike him, but simply throwest
away thy strength."
Now so far then, altogether bearing with them, he thus speaks. For
since he had dealt somewhat vehemently with them in the preceding part, he
now on the contrary keeps back his rebuke, reserving for the end of the
discourse the deep wound of all. Since here he says that they act at random
and in vain; but afterwards signifies that it is at the risk of no less
than utter ruin to their own soul, and that even apart from all injury to
their brethren, neither are they themselves guiltless in daring so to act.
Ver. 27. "But I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage lest by any
means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected."
Here he implies that they are subject to the lust of the belly and give
up the reins to it, and under a pretence of perfection fulfil their own
greediness; a thought which before also he was travailing to express, when
he said, "meats for the belly, and the belly for meats." (1 Cor. vi. 13.)
For since both fornication is caused by luxury, and it also brought forth
idolatry, he naturally oftentimes inveighs against this disease; and
pointing out how great things he suffered for the Gospel, he sets this also
down among them. "As I went," saith he, "beyond the commands, and this when
it was no light matter for me:" ("for we endure all things," it is said,)
"so also here I submit to much labor in order to live soberly. Stubborn as
appetite is and the tyranny of the belly, nevertheless I bridle it and give
not myself up to the passion, but endure all labor not to be drawn aside by
"For do not, I pray you, suppose that by taking things easily I arrive
at this desirable result. For it is a race and a manifold struggle,(1) and
a tyrannical nature continually rising up against me and seeking to free
itself. But I bear not with it but keep it down, and bring it into
subjection with many struggles." Now this he saith that none may
despairingly withdraw from the conflicts in behalf of virtue because the
undertaking is laborious. Wherefore he saith, "I buffet and bring into
bondage." He said not, "I kill:" nor., "I punish" for the flesh is not to
be hated, but, "I buffet and bring into bondage;" which is the part of a
master not of an enemy, of a teacher not of a foe, of a gymnastic master
not of an adversary.
"Lest by any means, having preached to others, I myself should be a
Now if Paul feared this who had taught so many, and feared it after his
preaching and becoming an angel and undertaking the leadership of the whole
world; what can we say?
For, "think not," saith he, "because ye have believed, that this is
sufficient for your salvation: since if to me neither preaching nor
teaching nor bringing over innumerable persons, is enough for salvation
unless I exhibit my own conduct also unblameable, much less to you."
[3.] Then he comes to other illustrations again. And as above he
alleged the examples of the Apostles and those of common custom and those
of the priests, and his own, so also here having set forth those of the
Olympic games and those of his own course, he again proceeds to the
histories of the Old Testament. And because what he has to say will be
somewhat unpleasing he makes his exhortation general, and discourses not
only concerning the subject before him, but also generally concerning all
the evils among the Corinthians. And in the case of the heathen games,
"Know ye not?" saith he: but here,
Chap. x. ver. 1. "For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant."
Now this he said, implying that they were not very well instructed in
these things. And what is this which thou wouldest not have us ignorant of?
Ver. 1--5 "That our fathers," saith he, "were all under the cloud, and
all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud
and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink
the same spiritual drink; for they drank of a spiritual Rock that followed
them: and the Rock was Christ. Howbeit with most of them God was not well
And wherefore saith he these things? To point out that as they were
nothing profited by the enjoyment of so great a gift, so neither these by
obtaining Baptism and partaking of spiritual Mysteries, except they go on
and show forth a life worthy of this grace. Wherefore also he introduces
the types both of Baptism and of the Mysteries.
But what is, "They were baptized into Moses?" Like as we, on our belief
in Christ and His resurrection, are baptized, as being destined in our own
persons to partake in the same mysteries; for, "we are baptized," saith he,
"for the dead," i.e., for our own bodies; even so they putting confidence
in Moses, i.e., having seen him cross first, ventured also themselves into
the waters. But because he wishes to bring the Type near the Truth; he
speaks it not thus, but uses the terms of the Truth even concerning the
Further: this was a symbol of the Font, and that which follows, of the
Holy Table. For as thou eatest the Lord's Body, so they the manna: and as
thou drinkest the Blood, so they water from a rock. For though they were
things of sense which were produced, yet were they spiritually exhibited,
not according to the order of nature, but according to the gracious
intention of the gift, and together with the body nourished also the soul,
leading it unto faith. On this account, you see, touching the food he made
no remark, for it was entirely different, not in mode only but in nature
also; (for it was manna;) but respecting the drink, since the manner only
of the supply was extraordinary and required proof, therefore having said
that "they drank the same spiritual drink," he added, "for they drank of a
spiritual Rock that followed them," and he subjoined, "and the Rock was
Christ." For it was not the nature of the rock which sent forth the water,
(such is his meaning,) else would it as well have gushed out before this
time: but another sort of Rock, a spiritual One, performed the whole, even
Christ who was every where with them and wrought all the wonders. For on
this account he said, "that followed them"
Perceivest thou the wisdom of Paul, how in both cases he points cut Him
as the Giver, and thereby brings the Type nigh to the Truth? "For He who
set those things before them," saith he, "the same also hath prepared this
our Table: and the same Person both brought them through the sea and thee
through Baptism; and before them set manna, but before thee His Body and
[4.] As touching His gift then, such is the case: now let us observe
also what follows, and consider, whether when they showed themselves
unworthy of the gift, He spared them. Nay, this thou canst not say.
Wherefore also he added, "Howbeit with most of them God was not well-
pleased;" although He had honored them with so great honor. Yea, it
profited them nothing, but most of them perished. The truth is, they all
perished, but that he might not seem to prophesy total destruction to these
also, therefore he said, "most of them." And yet they were innumerable, but
their number profited them nothing: and these were all so many tokens of
love; but not even did this profit them, inasmuch as they did not
themselves show forth the fruits of love.
Thus, since most men disbelieve the things said of hell, as not being
present nor in sight; he alleges the things heretofore done as a proof that
God doth punish all who sin, even though He have bestowed innumerable
benefits upon them: "for if ye disbelieve the things to come," so he
speaks, "yet surely the things that are past ye will not disbelieve."
Consider, for example, how great benefits He bestowed on them: from Egypt
and the slavery there He set them free, the sea He made their path, from
heaven he brought down manna, from beneath He sent forth strange and
marvellous fountains of waters; He was with them every where, doing wonders
and fencing them in on every side: nevertheless since they showed forth
nothing worthy of this gift, He spared them not, but destroyed them all.
Ver. 5. "For they were overthrown," saith he, "in the wilderness."
Declaring by this word both the sweeping destruction, and the punishments
and the vengeance inflicted by God, and that they did not so much as attain
to the rewards proposed to them. Neither were they in the land of promise
when He did these things unto them, but without and afar somewhere, and
wide of that country; He thus visiting them with a double vengeance, both
by not permitting them to see the land, and this too though promised unto
them, and also by actual severe punishment.
And what are these things to us? say you. To thee surely they belong.
Wherefore also he adds,
Ver. 6. "Now these things were figures of us(1)."
For as the gifts are figures, even so are the punishments figures: and
as Baptism and the Table were sketched out prophetically, so also by what
ensued, the certainty of punishment coming on those who are unworthy of
this gift was proclaimed beforehand for our sake that we by these examples
might learn soberness. Wherefore also he adds,
"To the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also
lusted." For as in the benefits the types went before and the substance
followed, such shall be the order also in the punishments. Seest thou how
he signifies not only the fact that these shall be punished, but also the
degree, more severely than those ancients? For if the one be type, and the
other substance, it must needs be that the punishments should as far exceed
as the gifts.
And see whom he handles first: those who eat in the idol-temples. For
having said, "that we should not lust after evil things," which was
general, he subjoins that which is particular, implying that each of their
sins arose from evil lusting. And first he said this,
Ver. 7. "Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is
written, 'the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.'"
Do you hear how he even calls them "idolaters?" here indeed making the
declaration, but afterwards bringing the proof. And he assigned the cause
too wherefore they ran to those tables; and this was gluttony. Wherefore
having said, "to the intent that we should not lust after evil things," and
having added, nor "be idolaters," he names the cause of such transgression;
and this was gluttony. "For the people sat down," saith he, "to eat and to
drink," and he adds the end thereof, "they rose up to play." "For even as
they," saith he, "from sensuality passed into idolatry; so there is a fear
lest ye also may fall from the one into the other." Do you see how he
signifies that these, perfect men forsooth, were more imperfect than the
others whom they censured? Not in this respect only, their not bearing with
their brethren throughout, but also in that the one sin from ignorance, but
the others from gluttony. And from the ruin of the former he reckons the
punishment to these, but allows not these to lay upon another the cause of
their own sin but pronounces them responsible both for their injury, and
for their own.
"Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed."
Wherefore doth he here make mention of fornication. again, having so
largely discoursed concerning it before? It is ever Paul's custom when he
brings a charge of many sins, both to set them forth in order and
separately to proceed with his proposed topics, and again in his discourses
concerning other things to make mention also of the former: which thing God
also used to do in the Old Testament, in reference to each several
transgression, reminding the Jews of the calf and bringing that sin before
them. This then Paul also does here, at the same time both reminding them
of that sin, and teaching that the parent of this evil also was luxury and
gluttony. Wherefore also he adds, "Neither let us commit fornication, as
some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand."
And wherefore names he not likewise the punishment for their idolatry?
Either because it was clear and more notorious, or because the plague was
not so great at that time, as in the matter of Balaam, when they joined
themselves to Baalpeor, the Midianitish women appearing in the camp and
alluring them to wantonness according to the counsel of Balaam. For that
this evil counsel was Balaam's Moses sheweth after this, in the following
statement at the end of the Book of Numbers. (Numb. xxxi. 8, 11, 15, 16, in
our translation.) "Balaam also the son of Beor they slew in the war of
Midian with the sword and they brought the spoils. ... And Moses was wroth,
and said, Wherefore have ye saved all the women alive? For these were to
the children of Israel for a stumbling-block, according to the word of
Balaam, to cause them to depart from and despise the word of the Lord for
Ver. 9. "Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and
perished by serpents."
By this he again hints at another charge which he likewise states at
the end, blaming them because they contended about signs. And indeed they
were destroyed on account of trials, saying, "when will the good things
come? when the rewards?" Wherefore also he adds, on this account correcting
and alarming them,
Ver. 10. "Neither murmur ye, as some of them murmured, and perished by
For what is required is not only to suffer for Christ, but also nobly
to bear the things that come on us, and with all gladness: since this is
the nature of every crown. Yea, and unless this be so, punishment rather
will attend men who take calamity with a bad grace. Wherefore, both the
Apostles when they were beaten rejoiced, and Paul gloried in his
[5.] Ver. 11. "Now all these things happened unto them by way of
example; and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of
the ages are come."
Again he terrifies them speaking of the "ends," and prepares them to
expect things greater than had already taken place. "For that we shall
suffer punishment is manifest," saith he, "from what hath been said, even
to those who disbelieve the statements concerning hell-fire; but that the
punishment also will be most severe, is evident, from the more numerous
blessings which we have enjoyed, and from the things of which those were
but figures. Since, if in the gifts one go beyond the other, it is most
evident that so it will be in the punishment likewise." For this cause he
both called them types, and said that they were "written for us" and made
mention of an "end" that he might remind them of the consummation of all
things. For not such will be the penalties then as to admit of a
termination and be done away, but the punishment will be eternal; for even
as the punishments in this world are ended with the present life, so those
in the next continually remain. But when he said, "the ends of the ages,"
he means nothing else than that the fearful judgment is henceforth nigh at
Ver. 12. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he
Again, he casts down their pride who thought highly of their knowledge.
For if they who had so great privileges suffered such things; and some for
murmuring alone were visited with such punishment, and others for tempting,
and neither their multitude moved God to repent(1), nor their having
attained to such things; much more shall it be so in our case, except we be
sober. And well said he, "he that thinketh he standeth:" for this is not
even standing as one ought to stand, to rely on yourself: for quickly will
such an one fall: since they too, had they not been high-minded and self-
confident, but of a subdued frame of mind, would not have suffered these
things. Whence it is evident, that chiefly pride, and carelessness from
which comes gluttony also, are the sources of these evils. Wherefore even
though thou stand, yet take heed lest thou fall. For our standing here is
not secure standing, no not until we be delivered out of the waves of this
present life and have sailed into the tranquil haven. Be not therefore
high-minded at thy standing, but guard against thy falling; for if Paul
feared who was firmer than all, much more ought we to fear.
[6.] Now the Apostle's word, as we have seen, was, "Wherefore let him
that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall;" but we cannot say even
this; all of us, so to speak, having fallen, and lying prostrate on the
ground. For to whom am I to say this? To him that committeth extortion
every day? Nay, he lies prostrate with a mighty fall. To the fornicator? He
too is cast down to the ground. To the drunkard? He also is fallen, and
knoweth not even that he is fallen. So that it is not the season for this
word, but for that saying of the prophet which he spake even to the Jews,
(Jer. viii. 4.)--"He that falleth, doth he not rise again?" For all are
fallen, and to rise again they have no mind. So that our exhortation is not
concerning the not falling, but concerning the ability of them that are
fallen to arise. Let us rise again then, late though it be, beloved, let us
rise again, and let us stand nobly. How long do we lie prostrate? How long
are we dranken, besotted with the excessive desire of the things of this
life? It is a meet opportunity now to say, (Jer. vi. 10.) "To whom shall I
speak and testify?" So deaf are all men become even to the very instruction
of virtue, and thence filled with abundance of evils. And were it possible
to discern their souls naked; as in armies when the battle is ended one may
behold some dead, and some wounded, so also in the Church we might see.
Wherefore I beseech and implore you, let us stretch out a hand to each
other and thoroughly raise ourselves up. For I myself am of them that are
smitten, and require one to apply some remedies.
Do not however despair on this account. For what if the wounds be
severe? yet are they not incurable; such is our physician: only let us feel
our wounds. Although we be arrived at the very extreme of wickedness, many
are the ways of safety which He strikes out for us. Thus, if thou forbear
to be angry with thy neighbor, thine own sins shall be forgiven. "For if ye
forgive men," saith He, "your heavenly Father will also forgive you." (Mat.
vi. 14.) And if thou give alms, He will remit thee thy sins; for, "break
off thy sins," saith He, "by alms." (Dan. iv. 54.) And if thou pray
earnestly, thou shalt enjoy forgiveness: and this the widow signifieth who
prevailed upon that cruel judge by the importunity of her prayer. And if
thou accuse thine own sins, thou hast relief: for "declare thou thine
iniquities first, that thou mayest be justified:" (Is. xlvii. 26.) and if
thou art sorrowful on account of these things, this too will be to thee a
powerful remedy: "for I saw," saith He, "that he was grieved and went
sorrowful, and I healed his ways." (Is. lvii. 17.) And if, when thou
sufferest any evil, thou bear it nobly, thou hast put away the whole. For
this also did Abraham say to the rich man, that "Lazarus received his evil
things, and here he is comforted." And if thou hast pity on the widow, thy
sins are washed away. For, "Judge," saith He, "the orphan, and plead for
the widow, and come and let us reason together, saith the Lord. And if your
sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow; and if they be as
crimson, I will make them white as wool." (Is. 1. 17.) For not even a
single scar of the wounds doth He suffer to appear. Yea, and though we be
come to that depth of misery into which he fell, who devoured his father's
substance and fed upon husks, and should repent, we are undoubtedly saved.
And though we owe ten thousand talents, if we fall down before God and bear
no malice, all things are forgiven us. Although we have wandered away to
that place whither the sheep strayed from his keeper, even thence He
recovers us again: only let us be willing, beloved. For God is merciful.
Wherefore both in the case of him that owed ten thousand talents, He was
content with His falling down before Him; and in the case of him who had
devoured his father's goods, with his return only; and in the case of the
sheep, with its willingness to be borne.
[7.] Considering therefore the greatness of His mercy, let us here make
Him propitious unto us, and "let us come before His face by a full
confession," (Ps. xcv. 2. LXX.) that we may not depart hence without
excuse, and have to endure the extreme punishment. For if in the present
life we exhibit even an ordinary diligence, we shall gain the greatest
rewards: but if we depart having become nothing better here, even though we
repent ever so earnestly there it will do us no good. For it was our duty
to strive while yet remaining within the lists, not after the assembly was
broken up idly to lament and weep: as that rich man did, bewailing and
deploring himself, but to no purpose and in vain, since he overlooked the
time in which he ought to have done these things. And not he alone, but
many others there are like him now among the rich; not willing to despise
wealth, but despising their own souls for wealth's sake: at whom I cannot
but wonder, when I see men continually interceding with God for mercy,
whilst they are doing themselves incurable harm, and unsparing of their
very soul as if it were an enemy. Let us not then trifle, beloved, let us
not trifle nor delude ourselves, beseeching God to have mercy upon us,
whilst we ourselves prefer both money and luxury, and, in fact, all things
to this mercy. For neither, if any one brought before thee a case and said
in accusation of such an one, that being to suffer ten thousand deaths and
having it in his power to rid himself of the sentence by a little money, he
chose rather to die than to give up any of his property, would you say that
he was worthy of any mercy or compassion. Now in this same way do thou also
reason touching thyself. For we too act in this way, and making light of
our own salvation, we are sparing of our money. How then dost thou beseech
God to spare thee, when thou thyself art so unsparing of thyself, and
honorest money above thy soul?
Wherefore also I am greatly astonished to see, how great witchery lies
hid in wealth, or rather not in wealth, but in the souls of those that are
beguiled. For there are, there are those that utterly derided this
sorcery(1). For which among the things therein is really capable of
bewitching us? Is it not inanimate matter? is it not transitory? is not the
possession thereof unworthy of trust? is it not full of fears and dangers?
nay, of murders and conspiracy? of enmity and hatred? of carelessness and
much vice? is it not dust and ashes? what madness have we here? what
"But," say you, "we ought not merely to bring such accusations against
those that are so diseased, but also to destroy the passion." And in what
other way shall we destroy it, except by pointing out its baseness and how
full it is of innumerable evils?
But of this it is not easy to persuade a lover concerning the objects
of his love. Well then, we must set before him another sort of beauty. But
incorporeal beauty he sees not, being yet in his disease. Well then, let us
show him some beauty of a corporeal kind, and say to him, Consider the
meadows and the flowers therein, which are more sparkling than any gold,
and more elegant and transparent than all kinds of precious stones.
Consider the limpid streams from their fountains, the rivers which like oil
flow noiselessly out of the earth. Ascend to heaven and behold the lustre
of the sun, the beauty of the moon, the stars that cluster like flowers(2).
"Why, what is this," say you, "since we do not, I suppose, make use of them
as of wealth?" Nay, we use them mere than wealth, inasmuch as the use
thereof is more needful, the enjoyment more secure. For thou hast no fear,
lest, like money, any one should take them and go off: but you may be ever
confident of having them, and that without anxiety or care. But if thou
grieve because thou enjoy-est them in common with others, and dost not
possess them alone like money; it is not money, but mere covetousness,
which thou seemest to me to be in love with: nor would even the money be an
object of thy desire, if it had been placed within reach of all in common.
[8.] Therefore, since we have found the beloved object, I mean
Covetousness, come let me show thee how she hates and abhors thee, how many
swords she sharpens against thee, how many pits she digs, how many nooses
she ties, how many precipices she prepares; that thus at any rate thou
mayest do away with the charm. Whence then are we to obtain this knowledge?
From the highways, from the wars, from the sea, from the courts of justice.
For she hath both filled the sea with blood, and the swords of the judges
she often reddens contrary to law, and arms those who on the highway lie in
wait day and night, and persuades men to forget nature, and makes
parricides and matricides, and introduces all sorts of evils into man's
life. Which is the reason why Paul entitles her "a root of these things."
(I Tim. vi. 10.) She suffers not her lovers to be in any better condition
than those who work in the mines. For as they, perpetually shut up in
darkness and in chains, labor unprofitably; so also these buried in the
caves of avarice, no one using any force with them, voluntarily draw on
their punishment, binding on themselves fetters that cannot be broken. And
those condemned to the mines. at least when even comes on, are released
from their toils; but these both by day and night are digging in these
wretched mines. And to those there is a definite limit of that hard labor,
but these know no limit, but the more they dig so much the greater hardship
do they desire. And what if those do it unwillingly, but these of their own
will? in that thou tellest me of the grievous part of the disease, that it
is even impossible for them to be rid of it, since they do not so much as
hate their wretchedness. But as a swine in mud, so also do these delight to
wallow in the noisome mire of avarice, suffering worse things than those
condemned ones. As to the fact that they are in a worse condition, hear the
circumstances of the one, and then thou wilt know the state of the other.
Now it is said that that soil which is impregnated with gold has
certain clefts and recesses in those gloomy caverns. The malefactor then
condemned to labor in that place, taking for that purpose a lamp and a
mattock, so, we are told, enters within, and carries with him a cruse to
drop oil from thence into the lamp, because there is darkness even by day,
without a ray of light, as I said before. Then when the time of day calls
him to his wretched meal, himself, they say, is ignorant of the time, but
his jailor from above striking violently on the cave, by that clattering
sound declares to those who are at work below the end of the day.
Do ye not shudder when ye hear all this? Let us see now, whether there
be not things more grievous than these in the case of the covetous. For
these too, in the first place, have a severer jailor, viz. avarice, and so
much severer, as that besides their body he chains also their soul. And
this darkness also is more awful than that. For it is not subject to sense,
but they producing it within, whithersoever they go, carry it about with
themselves. For the eye of their soul is put out: which is the reason why
more than all Christ calls them wretched, saying, "But if the light that is
in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness." (S. Mat. vi. 23.) And
they for their part have at least a lamp Shining, but these are deprived
even of this beam of light; and therefore every day they fall into
countless pitfalls. And the condemned when night overtakes them have a
respite, sailing into that calm port which is common to all the
unfortunate, I mean the night: but against the covetous even this harbor is
blocked up by their own avarice: such grievous thoughts have they even at
night, since then, without disturbance from any one, at full leisure they
cut themselves to pieces.
Such are their circumstances in this world; but those in the next, what
discourse shall exhibit? the intolerable furnaces, the rivers burning with
fire, the gnashing of teeth, the chains never to be loosed, the envenomed
worm, the rayless gloom, the never-ending miseries. Let us fear them,
beloved, let us fear the fountain of so great punishments, the insatiate
madness, the destroyer of our salvation. For it is impossible at the same
time to love both money and your soul. Let us be convinced that wealth is
dust and ashes, that it leaves us when we depart hence, or rather that even
before our departure it oftentimes darts away from us, and injures us both
in regard of the future and in respect of the present life. For before hell
fire, and before that punishment, even here it surrounds us with
innumerable wars, and stirs up strifes and contests. For nothing is so apt
to cause war as avarice: nothing so apt to produce beggary, whether it show
itself in wealth or in poverty. For in the souls of poor men also this
grievous disease ariseth, and aggravates their poverty the more. And if
there be found a poor covetous man, such an one suffers not punishment in
money, but in hunger. For he allows not himself to enjoy his moderate means
with comfort, but both racks his belly with hunger and punishes his whole
body with nakedness and cold, and every where appears more squalid and
filthy than any prisoners; and is always wailing and lamenting as though he
were more wretched than all, though there be ten thousand poorer than he.
This man, whether he go into the market-place, goes away with many a
stripe; or into the bath, or into the theatre, he will still be receiving
more wounds, not only from the spectators, but also from those upon the
stage, where he beholds not a few of the unchaste women glittering in gold.
This man again, whether he sail upon the sea, regarding the merchants and
their richly-freighted ships and their enormous profits, will not even
count himself to live: or whether he travel by land, reckoning up the
fields, the suburban farms, the inns, the baths, the revenues arising out
of them, will count his own life thenceforth not worth living; or whether
thou shut him up at home, he will but rub and fret the wounds received in
the market, and so do greater despite to his own soul: and he knows only
one consolation for the evils which oppress him; death and deliverance from
And these things not the poor man only, but the rich also, will suffer,
who falls into this disease, and so much more than the poor, inasmuch as
the tyranny presses more vehemently on him, and the intoxication is
greater. Wherefore also he will account himself poorer than all; or rather,
he is poorer. For riches and poverty are determined not by the measure of
the substance, but by the disposition of the mind: and he rather is the
poorest of all, who is always hangering after more and is never able to
stay this wicked lust.
On all these accounts then let us flee covetousness, the maker of
beggars, the destroyer of souls, the friend of hell, the enemy of the
kingdom of heaven, the mother of all evils together; and let us despise
wealth that we may enjoy wealth, and with wealth may enjoy also the good
things laid up for us; unto which may we all attain, &c.
HOMILY XXIV: 1 Cor. x. 13.
There hath no temptation taken you, but such as man can bear: but God is
faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but
will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able
to endure it.
Thus, because he terrified them greatly, relating the ancient examples,
and threw them into an agony, saying, "Let him that thinketh he standeth
take heed lest he fall; "though they had borne many temptations, and had
exercised themselves many times therein; for "I was with you," saith he,
"in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling:" (1 Cor. ii. 3.) lest
they should say, "Why terrify and alarm us? we are not unexercised in these
troubles, for we have been both driven and persecuted, and many and
continual dangers have we endured:" repressing again their pride, he says,
"there hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear," i.e.,
small, brief, moderate. For he uses the expression "man can bear(2),'' in
respect of what is small; as when he says, "I speak after the manner of men
because of the infirmity of your flesh." (Rom. vi. 19.) "Think not then
great things," saith he, "as though ye had overcome the storm. For never
have ye seen a danger threatening death nor a temptation intending
slaughter:" which also he said to the Hebrews, "ye have not yet resisted
unto blood, striving against sin." (Heb. xii. 4.)
Then, because he terrified them, see how again he raises them up, at
the same time recommending moderation; in the words, "God is faithful, Who
will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able." There are
therefore temptations which we are not able to bear. And what are these?
All, so to speak. For the ability lies in God's gracious influence; a power
which we draw down by our own will. Wherefore that thou mayest know and see
that not only those which exceed our power, but not even these which are
"common to man" is it possible without assistance from God easily to bear,
"But will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that ye may
be able to endure it."
For, saith he, not even those moderate temptations, as I was remarking,
may we bear by our own power: but even in them we require aid from Him in
our warfare that we may pass through them, and until we have passed, bear
them. For He gives patience and brings on a speedy release; so that in this
way also the temptation becomes bearable. This he covertly imtimates,
saying, "will also make the way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it:"
and all things he refers to Him.
[2.] Ver. 14. "Wherefore, my brethren(1), flee from idolatry."
Again he courts them by the name of kindred, and urges them to be rid
of this sin with all speed. For he did not say, simply, depart, but "flee;"
and he calls the matter "idolatry," and no longer bids them quit it merely
on account of the injury to their neighbor, but signifies that the very
thing of itself is sufficient to bring a great destruction.
Vet. 15. "I speak as to wise men: judge ye what I say."
Because he hath cried out aloud and heightened the accusation, calling
it idolatry; that he might not seem to exasperate them and to make his
speech disgusting, in what follows he refers the decision to them, and sets
his judges down on their tribunal with an encomium. "For I speak as to wise
men," saith he: which is the mark of one very confident of his own rights,
that he should make the accused himself the judge of his allegations.
Thus also he more elevates the hearer, when he discourses not as
commanding nor as laying down the law, but as advising with them and as
actually pleading before them. For with the Jews, as more foolishly and
childishly disposed, God did not so discourse, nor did He in every instance
acquaint them with the reasons of the commands, but merely enjoined them;
but here, because we have the privilege of great liberty, we are even
admitted to be counsellors. And he discourses as with friends, and says, "I
need no other judges, do ye yourselves pass this sentence upon me, I take
you for arbiters."
[3.] Ver. 16. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a
communion of the Blood of Christ?"
What sayest thou, O blessed Paul? When thou wouldest appeal to the
hearer's reverence, when thou art making mention of awful mysteries, dost
thou give the title of "cup of blessing" to that fearful and most
tremendous cup? "Yea," saith he; "and no mean title is that which was
spoken. For when I call it 'blessing,' I mean thanksgiving, and when I call
it thanksgiving I unfold all the treasure of God's goodness, and call to
mind those mighty gifts." Since we too, recounting over the cup the
unspeakable mercies of God and all that we have been made partakers of, so
draw near to Him, and communicate; giving Him thanks that He hath delivered
from error the whole race of mankind(2); that being afar off, He made them
nigh; that when they had no hope and were without God in the world, He
constituted them His own brethren and fellow-heirs. For these and all such
things, giving thanks, thus we approach. "How then are not your doings
inconsistent," saith he, "O ye Corinthians; blessing God for delivering you
from idols, yet running again to their tables?"
"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the Blood
of Christ?". Very persuasively spake he, and awfully. For what he says is
this: "This which is in the cup is that which flowed from His side, and of
that do we partake." But he called it a cup of blessing, because holding it
in our hands, we so exalt Him in our hymn, wondering, astonished at His
unspeakable gift, blessing Him, among other things, for the pouring out of
this self-same draught that we might not abide in error: and not only for
the pouring it out, but also for the imparting thereof to us all.
"Wherefore if thou desire blood," saith He, "redden not the altar of idols
with the slaughter of brute beasts, but My altar with My blood." Tell me,
What can be more tremendous than this? What more tenderly kind? This also
lovers do. When they see those whom they love desiring what belongs to
strangers and despising their own, they give what belongs to themselves,
and so persuade them to withdraw themselves from the gifts of those others.
Lovers, however, display this liberality in goods and money and garments,
but in blood none ever did so. Whereas Christ even herein exhibited His
care and fervent love for us. And in the old covenant, because they were in
an imperfect state, the blood which they used to offer to idols He Himself
submitted to receive, that He might separate them from those idols; which
very thing again was a proof of His unspeakable affection: but here He
transferred the service to that which is far more awful and glorious,
changing the very sacrifice itself, and instead of the slaughter of
irrational creatures, commanding to offer up Himself.
[4.] "The bread which we break, is it not a communion of the Body of
Christ?" Wherefore said he not, the participation? Because he intended to
express something more and to point out how close was the union: in that we
communicate not only by participating and partaking, but also by being
united. For as that body is united to Christ, so also are we united to him
by this bread.
But why adds he also, "which we break?" For although in the Eucharist
one may see this done, yet on the cross not so, but the very contrary. For,
"A bone of Him," saith one, "shall not be broken." But that which He
suffered not on the cross, this He suffers in the oblation for thy sake,
and submits to be broken, that he may fill all men.
Further, because he said, "a communion of the Body," and that which
communicates is another thing from that whereof it communicates; even this
which seemeth to be but a small difference, he took away. For having said,
"a communion of the Body," he sought again to express something nearer.
Wherefore also he added,
Ver. 17. "For we, who are many, are one bread, one body." "For why
speak I of communion?" saith he, "we are that self-same body." For what is
the bread? The Body of Christ. And what do they become who partake of it?
The Body of Christ: not many bodies, but one body. For as the bread
consisting of many grains is made one, so that the grains no where appear;
they exist indeed, but their difference is not seen by reason of their
conjunction; so are we conjoined both with each other and with Christ:
there not being one body for thee, and another for thy neighbor to be
nourished by, but the very same for all. Wherefore also he adds,
"For we all partake of the one bread." Now if we are all nourished of
the same and all become the same, why do we not also show forth the, same
love, and become also in this respect one? For this was the old way too in
the time of our forefathers: "for the multitude of them that believed,"
saith the text, "were of one heart and soul." (Acts iv. 32.) Not so,
however, now, but altogether the reverse. Many and various are the contests
betwixt all, and worse than wild beasts are we affected towards each
other's members. And Christ indeed made thee so far remote, one with
himself: but thou dost not deign to be united even to thy brother with due
exactness, but separatest thyself, having had the privilege of so great
love and life from the Lord. For he gave not simply even His own body; but
because the former nature of the flesh which was framed out of earth, had
first become deadened by sin and destitute of life; He brought in, as one
may say, another sort of dough and leaven, His own flesh, by nature indeed
the same, but free from sin and full of life; and gave to all to partake
thereof, that being nourished by this and laying aside the old dead
material, we might be blended together unto that which is living and
eternal, by means of this table.
[5.] Ver. 18. "Behold Israel after the flesh: have not they which eat
the sacrifices communion with the altar?"
Again, from the old covenant he leads them unto this point also. For
because they were far beneath the greatness of the things which had been
spoken, he persuades them both from former things and from those to which
they were accustomed. And he says well, "according to the flesh," as though
they themselves were according to the Spirit. And what he says is of this
nature: "even from persons of the grosser sort ye may be instructed that
they who eat the sacrifices, have communion with the altar." Dost thou see
how he intimates that they who seemed to be perfect have not perfect
knowledge, if they know not even this, that the result of these sacrifices
to many oftentimes is a certain communion and friendship with devils, the
practice drawing them on by degrees? For if among men the fellowship of
salt(1) and the table becomes an occasion and token of friendship, it is
possible that this may happen also in the case of devils.
But do thou, I pray, consider, how with regard to the Jews he said not,
"they are par-takers with God," but, "they have communion with the altar;"
for what was placed thereon was burnt: but in respect to the Body of
Christ, not so. But how? It is "a Communion of the Lord's Body." For not
with the altar, but with Christ Himself, do we have communion.
But having said that they have "communion with the altar," afterwards
fearing lest he should seem to discourse as if the idols had any power and
could do some injury, see again how he overthrows them, saying,
Ver. 19. "What say I then? That an idol is any thing? or that a thing
sacrificed to idols is any thing?"
As if he had said, "Now these things I affirm, and try to withdraw you
from the idols, not as though they could do any injury or had any power:
for an idol is nothing; but I wish you to despise them." "And if thou wilt
have us despise them," saith one, "wherefore dost thou carefully withdraw
us from them?" Because they are not offered to thy Lord.
Ver. 20.(2) "For that which the Gentiles sacrifice," saith he, "they
sacrifice to demons, and not to God."
Do not then run to the contrary things. For neither if thou wert a
king's son, and having the privilege of thy father's table, shouldest leave
it and choose to partake of the table of the condemned and the prisoners in
the dungeon, would thy father permit it, but with great vehemence he would
withdraw thee; not as though the table could harm thee, but because it
disgraces thy nobility and the royal table. For verily these too are
servants who have offended; dishonored, condemned, prisoners reserved for
intolerable punishment, accountable for ten thousand crimes. How then art
thou riot ashamed to imitate the gluttonous and vulgar crew, in that when
these condemned persons set out a table, thou runnest thither and partakest
of the viands? Here is the cause why I seek to withdraw thee. For the
intention of the sacrificers, and the person of the receivers, maketh the
things set before thee unclean.
"And I would not that ye should have communion with demon." Perceivest
thou the kindness of a careful father? Perceivest thou also the very word,
what force it hath to express his feeling? "For it is my wish," saith he,
"that you have nothing in common with them."
[6.] Next, because he brought in the saying by way of exhortation, lest
any of the grosser sort should make light of it as having license, because
he said, "I would not," and, "judge ye;" he positively affirms in what
follows and lays down the law, saying,
Ver. 21. "Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons:
ye cannot partake of the Lord's table, and of the table of demons."
And he contents himself with the mere terms, for the purpose of keeping
them away. Then, speaking also to their sense of shame, Ver. 22. "Do we
provoke the Lord to jealousy?(1) are we stronger than He?" i.e.," Are we
tempting Him, whether He is able to punish us, and irritating Him by going
over to the adversaries and taking our stand with His enemies?" And this he
said, reminding them of an ancient history and of their fathers'
transgression. Wherefore also he makes use of this expression, which Moses
likewise of old used against the Jews, accusing them of idolatry in the
person of God. "For they," saith He, "moved Me to jealousy(2) with that
which is not God; they provoked Me to anger with their idols." (Deut.
Are we stronger than He?" Dost thou see how terribly, how awfully he
rebukes them, thoroughly shaking their very nerves, and by his way of
reducing them to an absurdity, touching them to the quick and bringing down
their pride? "Well, but why," some one will say, "did he not set down these
things at first, which would be most effectual to withdraw them?" Because
it is his custom to prove his point by many particulars, and to place the
strongest last, and to prevail by proving more than was necessary. On this
account then, he began from the lesser topics, and so made his way to that
which is the sum of all evils: since thus that last point also became more
easily admitted, their mind having been smoothed down by the things said
Ver. 23, 24. "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not
expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no
man seek his own, but each his neighbor's good."
Seest thou his exact wisdom? Because it was likely that they might say,
"I am perfect and master of myself, and it does me no harm to partake of
what is set before me;" "Evenso," saith he, "perfect thou art and master of
thyself; do not however look to this, but whether the result involve not
injury, nay subversion." For both these he mentioned, saying, "All things
are not expedient, all things edify not;" and using the former with
reference to one's self, the latter, to one's brother: since the clause,
"are not expedient," is a covert intimation of the ruin of the person to
whom he speaks; but the clause, "edify not," of the stumbling block to the
Wherefore also he adds, "Let no man seek his own;" which he every where
through the whole Epistle insists upon and in that to the Romans; when he
says, "For even Christ pleased not Himself:" (Rom. xv. 3.) and again, "Even
as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit." (Cor. x.
33) And again in this place; he does not, however, fully work it out here.
That is, since in what had gone before he had established it at length, and
shown that he no where "seeks his own," but both "to the Jews became as a
Jew and to them that are without law as without law," and used not his own
"liberty" and "right" at random, but to the profit of all, serving all; he
here broke off, content with a few words, by these few guiding them to the
remembrance of all which had been said.
[7.] These things therefore knowing, let us also, beloved, consult for
the good of the brethren and preserve unity with them. For to this that
fearful and tremendous sacrifice leads us, warning us above all things to
approach it with one mind and fervent love, and thereby becoming eagles, so
to mount up to the very heaven, nay, even beyond the heaven. "For
wheresoever the carcase is," saith He, "there also will be the eagles,"
(St. Mat. xxiv. 28.) calling His body a carcase by reason of His death. For
unless He had fallen, we should not have risen again. But He calls us
eagles, implying that he who draws nigh to this Body must be on high and
have nothing common with the earth, nor wind himself downwards and creep
along; but must ever be soaring heavenwards, and look on the Sun of
Righteousness, and have the eye of his mind quick-sighted. For eagles, not
daws, have a right to this table.(1) Those also shall then meet Him
descending from heaven, who now worthily have this privilege, even as they
who do so unworthily, shall suffer the extremest torments.
For if one would not inconsiderately receive a king--(why say I a king?
nay were, it but a royal robe, one would not inconsiderately touch it with
unclean hands;)--though he should be in solitude, though alone, though no
man were at hand: and yet the robe is nought but certain threads spun by
worms: and if thou admirest the dye, this too is the blood of a dead fish;
nevertheless, one would not choose to venture on it with polluted hands: I
say now, if even a man's garment be what one would not venture
inconsiderately to touch, what shall we say of the Body of Him Who is God
over all, spotless, pure, associate with the Divine Nature, the Body
whereby we are, and live; whereby the gates of hell were broken down and
the sanctuaries(1) of heaven opened? how shall we receive this with so
great insolence? Let us not, I pray you, let us not slay ourselves by our
irreverence, but with all awfulness and purity draw nigh to It; and when
thou seest It set before thee, say thou to thyself, "Because of this Body
am I no longer earth and ashes, no longer a prisoner, but free: because of
this I hope for heaven, and to receive the good things therein, immortal
life, the portion of angels, converse with Christ; this Body, nailed and
scourged, was more than death could stand against; this Body the very sun
saw sacrificed, and turned aside his beams; for this both the veil was rent
in that moment, and rocks were burst asunder, and all the earth was shaken.
This is even that Body, the blood-stained, the pierced, and that out of
which gushed the saving fountains, the one of blood, the other of water,
for all the world."
Wouldest thou from another source also learn its power? Ask of her
diseased with an issue of blood, who laid hold not of Itself, but of the
garment with which It was clad; nay not of the whole of this, but of the
hem: ask of the sea, which bare It on its back: ask even of the Devil
himself, and say, "Whence hast thou that incurable stroke? whence hast thou
no longer any power? Whence art thou captive? By whom hast thou been seized
in thy flight?" And he will give no other answer than this, "The Body that
was crucified." By this were his goads broken in pieces; by this was his
head crushed; by this were the powers and the principalities made a show
of. "For," saith he, "having put off from himself principalities and
powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it." (Col.
Ask also Death, and say, "whence is it that thy sting hath been taken
away? thy victory abolished? thy sinews cut out? and thou become the
laughing-stock of girls and children, who wast before a terror even to
kings and to all righteous men?" And he will ascribe it to this Body. For
when this was crucified, then were the dead raised up, then was that prison
burst, and the gates of brass were broken, and the dead were loosed,(1) and
the keepers of hell-gate all cowered in fear. And yet, had He been one of
the many, death on the contrary should have become more mighty; but it was
not so. For He was not one of the many. Therefore was death dissolved. And
as they who take food which they are unable to retain, On account of that
vomit up also what was before lodged in them; so also it happened unto
death. That Body, which he could not digest, he received: and therefore had
to cast forth that which he had within him. Yea, he travailed in pain,
whilst he held Him, and was straitened until He vomited Him up. Wherefore
saith the Apostle, "Having loosed the pains of death." (Acts xi. 24.) For
never woman labouring of child was so full of anguish as he was torn and
racked in sunder, while he held the Body of the Lord. And that which
happened to the Babylonian dragon, when, having taken the food it burst
asunder in the midst(2) this also happened unto him. For Christ came not
forth again by the mouth of death, but having burst asunder and ripped up
in the very midst, the belly of the dragon, thus from His secret chambers
(Psalm xix. 5.) right gloriously He issued forth and flung abroad His beams
not to this heaven alone, but to the very throne most high. For even
thither did He carry it up.
This Body hath He given to us both to hold and to eat; a thing
appropriate to intense love. For those whom we kiss vehemently, we oft-
times even bite with our teeth. Wherefore also Job, indicating the love of
his servants towards him, said, that they ofttimes, out of their great
affection towards him, said, "Oh! that we were filled with his flesh!" (Job
xxxi. 31.) Even so Christ hath given to us to be filled with His flesh,
drawing us on to greater love.
[8.] Let us draw nigh to Him then with fervency and with inflamed love,
that we may not have to endure punishment. For in proportion to the
greatness of the benefits bestowed on us, so much the more exceedingly are
we chastised when we show ourselves unworthy of the bountifulness. This
Body, even lying in a manger, Magi reverenced. Yea, men profane and
barbarous, leaving their country and their home, both set out on a long
journey, and when they came, with fear and great trembling worshipped Him.
Let us, then, at least imitate those Barbarians, we who are citizens of
heaven. For they indeed when they saw Him but in a manger, and in a hut,
and no such thing was in sight as thou beholdest now, drew nigh with great
awe; but thou beholdest Him not in the manger but on the altar, not a woman
holding Him in her arms, but the priest standing by, and the Spirit with
exceeding bounty hovering over the gifts set before us. Thou dost not see
merely this Body itself as they did, but thou knowest also Its power, and
the whole economy, and art ignorant of none of the holy things which are
brought to pass by It, having been exactly initiated into all.
Let us therefore rouse ourselves up and be filled with horror, and let
us show forth a reverence far beyond that of those Barbarians; that we may
not by random and careless approaches heap fire upon our own heads. But
these things I say, not to keep us from approaching, but to keep us from
approaching without consideration. For as the approaching at random is
dangerous, so the not communicating in those mystical suppers is famine and
death. For this Table is the sinews of our soul, the bond of our mind, the
foundation of our confidence, our hope, our salvation, our light, our life.
When with this sacrifice we depart into the outer world, with much
confidence we shall tread the sacred threshold, fenced round on every side
as with a kind of golden armor. And why speak I of the world to come?
Since here this mystery makes earth become to thee a heaven. Open only for
once the gates of heaven and look in; nay, rather not of heaven, but of the
heaven of heavens; and then thou wilt behold what I have been speaking of.
For what is there most precious of all, this will I show thee lying upon
the earth. For as in royal palaces, what is most glorious of all is not
walls, nor golden roofs, but the person of the king sitting on the throne;
so likewise in heaven the Body of the King. But this, thou art now
permitted to see upon earth. For it is not angels, nor archangels, nor
heavens and heavens of heavens, that I show thee, but the very Lord and
Owner of these. Perceivest thou how that which is more precious than all
things is seen by thee on earth; and not seen only, but also touched; and
not only touched, but likewise eaten; and after receiving It thou goest
Make thy soul clean then, prepare thy mind for the reception of these
mysteries. For if thou wert entrusted to carry a king's child with the
robes, the purple, and the diadem, thou wouldest cast away all things which
are upon the earth. But now that it is no child of man how royal soever,
but the only-begotten Son of God Himself, Whom thou receivedst; dost thou
not thrill with awe, tell me, and cast away all the love of all worldly
things, and have no bravery but that wherewith to adorn thyself? or dost
thou still look towards earth, and love money, and pant after gold? What
pardon then canst thou have? what excuse? Knowest thou not that all this
worldly luxury is loathsome to thy Lord? Was it not for this that on His
birth He was laid in a manger, and took to Himself a mother of low estate?
Did He not for this say to him that was looking after gain, "But the Son of
Man hath not where to lay His head?" (St. Mat. viii. 20.)
And what did the disciples? Did they not observe the same law, being
taken to houses of the poor and lodged, one with a tanner, another with a
tent-maker, and with the seller of purple? For they inquired not after the
splendor of the house, but for the virtues of men's souls.
These therefore let us also emulate, hastening by the beauty of pillars
and of marbles, and seeking the mansions which are above; and let us tread
under foot all the pride here below with all love of money, and acquire a
lofty mind. For if we be sober-minded, not even this whole world is worthy
of us, much less porticoes and arcades. Wherefore, I beseech you, let us
adorn our souls, let us fit up this house which we are also to have with us
when we depart; that we may attain even to the eternal blessings, through
the grace and mercy, &c.
HOMILY XXV: 1 Cor. x. 25.
Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, eat, asking no question for conscience
HAVING said that "they could not drink the cup of the Lord and the cup
of the devils," and having once for all led them away from those tables, by
Jewish examples, by human reasonings, by the tremendous Mysteries, by the
rites solemnized among the idols(1); and having filled them with great
fear; that he might not by this fear drive again to another extreme, and
they be forced, exercising a greater scrupulosity than was necessary, to
feel alarm, lest possibly even without their knowledge there might come in
some such thing either from the market or from some other quarter; to
release them from this strait, he saith, "Whatsoever is sold in the
shambles, eat, asking no question." "For," saith he, "if thou eat in
ignorance and not knowingly, thou art not subject to the punishment: it
being thenceforth a matter not of greediness, but of ignorance."
Nor doth he free the man only from this anxiety, but also from another,
establishing them in thorough security and liberty. For he cloth not even
suffer them to "question;" i.e., to search and enquire, whether it be an
idol-sacrifice or no such thing; but simply to eat every thing which comes
from the market, not even acquainting one's self with so much as this, what
it is that is act before us. So that even he that eateth, if in ignorance,
may be rid of anxiety. For such is the nature of those things which are not
in their essence evil, but through the man's intention make him unclean.
Wherefore he saith, "asking no question."
Ver. 26. "For to the Lord belongeth the earth and the fulness thereof."
Not to the devils. Now if the earth and the fruits and the beasts be all
His, nothing is unclean: but it becomes unclean otherwise, from our
intention and our disobedience. Wherefore he not only gave permission, but
Ver. 27. "If one of them that believe not biddeth you," saith he, "to a
feast, and you are disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat,
asking no question for conscience sake."
See again his moderation. For he did not command and make a law that
they should withdraw themselves, yet neither did he forbid it. And again,
should they depart, he frees them from all suspicion. Now what may be the
account of this? That so great curiousness might not seem to arise from any
fear and cowardice. For he who makes scrupulous enquiry doth so as being in
dread: but he who, on hearing the fact, abstains, abstains as out of
contempt and hatred and aversion. Wherefore Paul, purposing to establish
both points, saith, "Whatsoever is set before you, eat."
Ver. 28. "But if any man say unto you, This hath been offered in
sacrifice unto idols; eat not, for his sake that showed it."
Thus it is not at all for any power that they have but as accursed,
that he bids abstain from them. Neither then, as though they could injure
you, fly from them, (for they have no strength;) nor yet, because they have
no strength, indifferently partake: for it is the table of beings hostile
and degraded. Wherefore he said, "eat not for his sake that showed it, and
for conscience sake. For the earth is the Lord's and the fulness
Seest thou how both when he bids them eat and when they must abstain,
he brings forward the same testimony? "For I do not forbid," saith he, "for
this cause as though they belonged to others: ("for the earth is the
Lord's:") but for the reason I mentioned, for conscience sake; i.e., that
it may not be injured." Ought one therefore to inquire scrupulously? "Nay"
saith he "for I said not thy conscience, but his. For I have already said,
'for his sake that showed it."' And again, v. 29, "Conscience, I say, not
thine own, but the other's."
[2.] But perhaps some one may say, "The brethren indeed, as is natural,
thou sparest, and dost not suffer us to taste for their sakes, lest their
conscience being weak might be emboldened to eat the idol sacrifices. But
if it be some heathen, what is this man to thee? Was it not thine own word,
'What have I to do with judging them that are without?' (1 Cor. v. 12.)
Wherefore then dost thou on the contrary care for them?" "Not for him is my
care," he replies, "but in this case also for thee." To which effect also
"For why is my liberty judged by another conscience?" meaning by
"liberty," that which is left without caution or prohibition. For this is
liberty, freed from Jewish bondage. And what he means is this: "God hath
made me free and above all reach of injury, but the Gentile knoweth not how
to judge of my rule of life, nor to see into the liberality of my Master,
but will condemn and say to himself, Christianity is a fable; they abstain
from the idols, they shun demons, and yet cleave to the things offered to
them: great is their gluttony.'" "And what then?" it may be said. "What
harm is it to us, should he judge us unfairly?" But how much better to give
him no room to judge at all'. For if thou abstain, he will not even say
this. "How," say you, "will he not say it? For when he seeth me not making
these inquiries, either in the shambles or in the banquet; what should
hinder him from using this language and condemning me, as one who partakes
without discrimination?" It is not so at all. For thou partakest, not as of
idol-sacrifices, but as of things clean. And if thou makest no nice
enquiry, it is that thou mayest signify that thou fearest not the things
set before thee; this being the reason why, whether thou enterest a house
of Gentiles or goest into the market, I suffer thee not to ask questions;
viz. lest thou become timid(1) and perplexed,(2) and occasion thyself
needless trouble. Ver. 30. "If I by grace partake, why am I evil spoken of
for that for which I give thanks?" "Of what dost thou 'by grace partake?'
tell me." Of the gifts of God. For His grace is so great, as to render my
soul unstained and above all pollution. For as the sun sending down his
beams upon many spots of pollution, withdraws them again pure; so likewise
and much more, we, living in the midst of the world remain pure, if we
will, by how much the power we have is even greater than his. "Why then
abstain?" say you. Not as though I should become unclean, far from it; but
for my brother's sake, and that I may not become a partaker with devils,
and that I may not be judged by the unbeliever. For in this case it is no
longer now the nature of the thing, but the disobedience and the friendship
with devils which maketh me unclean, and the purpose of heart worketh the
pollution. But what is, "why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give
thanks? "I, for my part" saith he "give thanks to God that He hath thus set
me on high, and above the low estate of the Jews, so that from no quarter
am I injured. But the Gentiles not knowing my high rule of life will
suspect the contrary, and will say, 'Here are Christians indulging a taste
for our customs; they are a kind of hypocrites, abusing the demons and
loathing them, yet running to their tables; than which what can be more
senseless? We conclude that not for truth's sake, but through ambition and
love of power they have betaken themselves to this doctrine.' What folly
then would it be that in respect of those things whereby I have been so
benefited as even to give solemn thanks, in respect of these I should
become the cause of evil-speaking?" "But these things, even as it is," say
you, "will the Gentile allege, when he seeth me not making enquiry." In no
wise. For all things are not full of idol-sacrifices so that he should
suspect this: nor dost thou thyself taste of them as idol-sacrifices. But
not then scrupulous overmuch, nor again, on the other hand, when any say
that it is an idol-sacrifice, do thou partake. For Christ gave thee grace
and set thee on high and above all injury from that quarter, not that thou
mightest be evil spoken of, nor that the circumstance which hath been such
a gain to thee as to be matter of special thanksgiving, should so injure
others as to make them even blaspheme. "Nay, why," saith he, "do I not say
to the Gentile, 'I eat, I am no wise injured, and I do not this as one in
friendship with the demons'?" Because thou canst not persuade him, even
though thou shouldst say it ten thousand times: weak as he is and hostile.
For if thy brother hath not yet been persuaded by thee, much less the enemy
and the Gentile. If he is possessed by his consciousness of the idol-
sacrifice, much more the unbeliever. And besides, what occasion have we for
so great trouble?
"What then? whereas we have known Christ and give thanks, while they
blaspheme, shall we therefore abandon this custom also?" Far from it. For
the thing is not the same. For in the one case, great is our gain from
bearing the reproach; but in the other, there will be no advantage.
Wherefore also he said before, "for neither if we eat, are we the better;
nor if we eat not, are we the worse." (c. viii. 8.) And besides this too he
showed that the thing was to be avoided, so that even on another ground
ought they to be abstained from, not on this account only but also for the
other reasons which he assigned.
[3.] Ver. 31. "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do,
do all to the glory of God."
Perceivest thou how from the subject before him, he carried out the
exhortation to what was general, giving us one, the most excellent of all
aims, that God in all things should be glorified?
Ver. 32. "Give no occasion of stumbling, either to Jews, or to Greeks,
or to the Church of God:" i.e., give no handle to anyone: since in the case
supposed, both thy brother is offended, and the Jew will the more hate and
condemn thee, and the Gentile in like manner deride thee even as a
gluttonous man and a hypocrite.
Not only, however, should the brethren receive no hurt from us, but to
the utmost of our power not even those that are without. For if we are
"light," and "leaven," and "luminaries," and "salt," we ought to enlighten,
not to darken; to bind, not to loosen; to draw to ourselves the
unbelievers, not to drive them away. Why then puttest thou to flight those
whom thou oughtest to draw to thee?. Since even Gentiles are hurt, when
they see us reverting to such things: for they know not our mind nor that
our Soul hath come to be above all pollution of sense. And the Jews too,
and the weaker brethren, will suffer the same.
Seest thou how many reasons he hath assigned for which we ought to
abstain from the idol-sacrifices? Because of their unprofitableness,
because of their needlessness, because of the injury to our brother,
because of the evil-speaking of the Jew, because of the reviling of the
Gentile, because we ought not to be partakers with demons, because the
thing is a kind of idolatry.
Further, because he had said, "give no occasion of stumbling," and he
made them responsible for the injury done, both to the Gentiles and to the
Jews; and the saying was grievous; see how he renders it acceptable and
light, putting himself forward, and saying,
Ver. 33. "Even as I also please all men in all things, not seeking mine
own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved."
Chap. xi. ver. I. "Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ."
This is a rule of the most perfect Christianity, this is a landmark
exactly laid down, this is the point that stands highest of all; viz. the
seeking those things which are for the common profit: which also Paul
himself declared, by adding, "even as I also am of Christ." For nothing can
so make a man an imitator of Christ as caring for his neighbors. Nay,
though thou shouldest fast, though thou shouldest lie upon the ground, and
even strangle thyself, but take no thought for thy neighbor; thou hast
wrought nothing great, but still standest far from this Image, while so
doing. However, in the case before us, even the very thing itself is
naturally useful, viz; the abstaining from idol-sacrifices. But "I," saith
he, "have done many of those things which were unprofitable also: e.g.,
when I used circumcision, when I offered sacrifice; for these, were any one
to examine them in themselves, rather destroy those that follow after them
and cause them to fall from salvation: nevertheless, I submitted even to
these on account of the advantage therefrom: but here is no such thing. For
in that case, except there accrue a certain benefit and except they be done
for others' sake, then the thing becomes injurious: but in this, though
there be none made to stumble, even so ought one to abstain from the things
But not only to things hurtful have I submitted, but also to things
toilsome For, "I robbed other Churches," saith he, "taking wages of them;
(2 Cor. xi. 8.) and when it was lawful to eat and not to work, I sought not
this, but chose to perish of hunger rather than offend another." This is
why he says, "I please all men in all things." "Though it be against the
law, though it be laborious and hazardous, which is to be done, I endure
all for the profit of others. So then, being above all in perfection, he
became beneath all in condescension."
[4.] For no virtuous action can be very exalted, when it doth not
distribute its benefit to others also: as is shown by him who brought the
one talent safe, and was cut in sunder because he had not made more of it.
And thou then, brother, though thou shouldest remain without food, though
thou shouldest sleep upon the ground, though thou shouldest eat ashes and
be ever wailing, and do good to no other; thou wilt do no great work. For
so also those great and noble persons who were in the beginning made this
their chiefest care: examine accurately their life, and thou wilt see
clearly that none of them ever looked to his own things, but each one to
the things of his neighbor, whence also they shone the brighter. For so
Moses (to mention him first) wrought many and great wonders and signs; but
nothing made him so great as that blessed voice which he uttered unto God,
saying, "If Thou wilt forgive their sin," forgive.'" but if not, blot me
also out." (Exod. xxxii. 32.) Such too was David: wherefore also he said,
"I the shepherd have sinned, and I have done wickedly, but these, the
flock, what have they done? Let Thine hand be upon me and upon my father's
house." (2 Sam. xxiv. 17.) So likewise Abraham sought not his own profit,
but the profit of many. Wherefore he both exposed himself to dangers and
besought God for those who in no wise belonged to him.
Well: these indeed so became glorious. But as for those who sought
their own, consider what harm too they received. The nephew, for instance,
of the last mentioned, because he listened to the saying, "If thou wilt go
to the right, I will go to the left;" (Gen. xiii. 9.) and accept-ring the
choice, sought his own profit, did not even find his own: but this region
was burned up, while that remained untouched. Jonah again, not seeking the
profit of many, but his own, was in danger even of perishing: and while the
city stood fast, he himself was tossed about and overwhelmed in the sea.
But when he sought the profit of many, then he also found his own. So
likewise Jacob among the flocks, not seeking his own gain, had exceeding
riches for his portion. And Joseph also, seeking the profit of his
brethren, found his own. At least, being sent by his father, (Gen xxxvii.
14.) I he said not, "What is this? Hast thou not heard that for a vision
and certain dreams they even attempted to tear me in pieces, and I was held
responsible for my dreams, and suffer punishment for being beloved of thee?
What then will they not do when they get me in the midst of them?" He said
none of these things, he thought not of them, but prefers the care of his
brethren above all. Therefore he enjoyed also all the good things which
followed, which both made him very brilliant and declared him glorious.
Thus also Moses,--for nothing hinders that we should a second time make
mention of him, and behold how he overlooked his own things and sought the
things of others:--I say this Moses, being conversant in a king's court,
because he "counted the reproach of Christ (Heb. xi. 26.) greater riches
than the treasures of Egypt;" and having cast them even all out of his
hands, became a partaker of the afflictions of the Hebrews;--so far from
being himself enslaved, he liberated them also from bondage.
Well: these surely are great things and worthy of an angelical life.
But the conduct of Paul far exceeds this. For all the rest leaving their
own blessings chose to be partakers in the afflictions of others: but Paul
did a thing much greater. For it was not that he consented to be a partaker
in others' misfortunes, but he chose himself to be at all extremities that
other men might enjoy blessings. Now it is not the same for one who lives
in luxury to cast away his luxury and suffer adversity, as for one himself
alone suffering adversity, to cause others to be in security and honor. For
in the former case, though it be a great thing to exchange prosperity for
affliction for your neighbor's sake, nevertheless it brings some
consolation to have partakers in the misfortune. But consenting to be
himself alone in the distress that others may enjoy their good things,--
this belongs to a much more energetic soul, and to Paul's own spirit.
And not by this only, but by another and greater excellency doth he
surpass all those before mentioned. That is, Abraham and all the rest
exposed themselves to dangers in the present life, and all these were but
asking for this kind of death once for all: but Paul prayed (Rom. ix. 3.,)
that he might fall from the glory of the world to come for the sake of
I may mention also a third point of superiority. And what is this? That
some of those, though they interceded for the persons who conspired against
them, nevertheless it was for those with whose guidance they had been
entrusted: and the same thing happened as if one should stand up for a wild
and lawless son, but still a son: whereas Paul wished to be accursed in the
stead of those with whose guardianship he was not entrusted. For to the
Gentiles was he sent. Dost thou perceive the greatness of his soul and the
loftiness of his spirit, transcending the very heaven? This man do thou
emulate: but if thou canst not, at least follow those who shone in the old
covenant. For thus shalt thou find thine own profit, if thou seekest that
of thy neighbor. Wherefore when thou feelest backward to care for thy
brother, considering that no otherwise canst thou be saved, at least for
thine own sake stand thou up for him and his interests.
[5.] And although what hath been said is sufficient to convince thee
that no otherwise is it possible to secure our own benefit: yet if thou
wouldst also assure thyself of it by the examples of common life, conceive
a fire happening any where to be kindled in a house, and then some of the
neighbors with a view to their own interest refusing to confront the danger
but shutting themselves up and remaining at home, in fear lest some one
find his way in and purloin some part of the household goods; how great
punishment will they endure? Since the fire will come on and burn down
likewise all that is theirs; and because they looked not to the profit of
their neighbor, they lose even their own besides. For so God, willing to
bind us all to each other, hath imposed upon things such a necessity, that
in the profit of one neighbor that of the other is bound up; and the whole
world is thus constituted. And therefore in a vessel too, if a storm come
on, and the steersman, leaving the profit of the many, should seek his own
only, he will quickly sink both himself and them. And of each several art
too we may say that should it look to its own profit only, life could never
stand, nor even the art itself which so seeketh its own. Therefore the
husbandman sows not so much corn only as is sufficient for himself, since
he would long ago have famished both himself and others; but seeks the
profit of the many: and the soldier takes the field against dangers, not
that he may save himself, but that he may also place his cities in
security: and the merchant brings not home so much as may be sufficient for
himself alone, but for many others also.
Now if any say, "each man doeth this, not looking to my interest, but
his own, for he engages in all these things to obtain for himself money and
glory and security, so that in seeking my profit he seeks his own:" this
also do I say and long since wished to hear from you, and for this have I
framed all my discourse; viz. to signify that thy neighbor then seeks. his
own profit, when he looks to thine. For since men would no otherwise make
up their mind to seek the things of their neighbor, except they were
reduced to this necessity; therefore God hath thus joined things together,
and suffers them not to arrive at their own profit except they first travel
through the profit of others.
Well then, this is natural to man, thus to follow after his neighbors'
advantage; but one ought to be persuaded not from this reason, but from
what pleases God. For it is not possible to be saved, wanting this; but
though thou shouldest exercise the highest perfection of the work and
neglect others who are perishing, thou wilt gain no confidence towards God.
Whence is this evident? From what the blessed Paul declared. "For if I
bestow my goods to feed the poor, and give my body to be burned, and have
not love, it profiteth me nothing," (1 Cor. xiii. 3.) saith he. Seeth thou
how much Paul requireth of us? And yet he that bestowed his goods to feed
the poor, sought not his own good, but that of his neighbor. But this alone
is not enough, he saith. For he would have it done with sincerity and much
sympathy. For therefore also God made it a law that he might bring us into
the bond of love. When therefore He demands so large a measure, and we do
not render even that which is less, of what indulgence shall we be
"And how," saith one, "did God say to Lot by the Angels, 'Escape for
thy life?"' (Gen. xix. 17.) Say, when, and why. When the punishment was
brought near, not when there was an opportunity of correction but when they
were condemned and incurably diseased, and old and young had rushed into
the same passions, and henceforth they must needs be burned up, and in that
day when the thunderbolts were about to be launched. And besides, this was
not spoken of vice and virtue but of the chastisement inflicted by God. For
what was he to do, tell me? Sit still and await the punishment, and without
at all profiting them, be burned up? Nay, this were the extremest folly.
For I do not affirm this, that one ought to bring chastisement on one's
self without discrimination and at random, apart from the will of God. But
when a man tarries long in sin, then I bid thee push thyself forward and
correct him: if thou wilt, for thy neighbor's sake: but if not, at least
for thine own profit. It is true, the first is the better course: but if
thou reachest not yet unto that height, do it even for this. And let no man
seek his own that he may find his own; and bearing in mind that neither
voluntary poverty nor martyrdom, nor any other thing, can testify in our
favor, unless we have the crowning virtue of love; let us preserve this
beyond the rest, that through it we may also obtain all other, both present
and promised blessings; at which may we all arrive through the grace and
mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ; Whom be the glory world without end. Amen.
HOMILY XXVI: 1 Cor. xi. 2.
Now I praise you that ye remember me in all things, and hold fast the
traditions, even as I delivered them to you.
HAVING completed the discourse concerning the idol-sacrifices as became
him, and having rendered it most perfect in all respects, he proceeds to
another thing, which also itself was a complaint, but not so great a one.
For that which I said before, this do I also now say, that he doth not set
down all the heavy accusations continuously, but after disposing them in
due order, he inserts among them the lighter matters, mitigating what the
readers would else feel offensive in his discourse on account of his
Wherefore also he set the most serious of all last, that relating to
the resurrection. But for the present he goes to another, a lighter thing,
saying, "Now I praise you that ye remember me in all things." Thus when the
offence is admitted, he both accuses vehemently and threatens: but when it
is questioned, he first proves it and then rebukes. And what was admitted,
he aggravates: but what was likely to be disputed, he shows to be admitted.
Their fornication, for instance, was a thing admitted. Wherefore there was
no need to show that there was an offence; but in that case he proved the
magnitude of the transgression, and conducted his discourse by way of
comparison. Again, their going to law before aliens was an offence, but not
so great a one. Wherefore he considered by the way, and proved it. The
matter of the idol-sacrifices again was questioned. It was however, a most
serious evil. Wherefore he both shows it to be an offence, and amplifies it
by his discourse. But when he doeth this, he not only withdraws them from
the several crimes, but invites them also to their contraries. Thus he said
not only that one must not commit fornication, but likewise that one ought
to exhibit great holiness. Wherefore he added, "Therefore' glorify God in
your body, and in your spirit." (c. vi. 20.) And having said again that one
ought not to be wise with the wisdom that is without, he is not content
with this, but bids him also to "become a fool." (c. iii. 18.) And where he
advises them not to go to law before them that are without, and to do no
wrong; he goeth further, and takes away even the very going to law, and
counsels them not only to do no wrong, but even to suffer wrong. (c. vi. 7,
And discoursing concerning the idol-sacrifices, he said not that one
ought to abstain from things forbidden only, but also from things permitted
when offence is given: and not only not to hurt the brethren, but not even
Greeks, nor Jews. Thus, "give no occasion of stumbling," saith he, "either
to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the Church of God." (c. x. 32.)
[2.] Having finished therefore all the discourses concerning all these
things, he next proceeds also to another accusation. And what was this?
Their women used both to pray and prophesy unveiled and with their head
bare, (for then women also used to prophesy;) but the men went so far as to
wear long hair as having spent their time in philosophy(1), and covered
their heads when praying and prophesying, each of which was a Grecian
custom. Since then he had already admonished them concerning these things
when present, and some perhaps listened to him and others disobeyed;
therefore in his letter also again, he foments the place, like a physician,
by his mode of addressing them, and so corrects the offence. For that he
had heretofore admonished them in person is evident from what he begins
with. Why else, having said nothing of this matter any where in the Epistle
before, but passing on from other accusations, doth he straightway say,
"Now I praise you that ye remember me in all things, and hold fast the
traditions, even as I delivered them to you?"
Thou seest that some obeyed, whom he praises; and others disobeyed,
whom he corrects by what comes afterwards, saying, "Now if any man seem to
be contentious, we have no such custom." (ver. 16.) For if after some had
done well but others disobeyed, he had included all in his accusation, he
would both have made the one sort bolder, and have caused the others to
become more remiss; whereas now by praising and approving the one, and
rebuking the other, he both refreshes the one more effectually, and causes
the other to shrink before him. For the accusation even by itself was such
as might well wound them; but now that it takes place in contrast with
others who have done well and are praised, it comes with a sharper sting.
However, for the present he begins not with accusation, but with encomiums
and great encomiums, saying, "Now I praise you that ye remember me in all
things." For such is the character of Paul; though it be but for small
matters he weaves a web of high praise; nor is it for flattery that he doth
so: far from it; how could he so act to whom neither money was desirable,
nor glory, nor any other such thing? but for their salvation he orders all
his proceedings. And this is why he amplifies the encomium, saying, "Now I
praise you that ye remember me in all things."
All what things? For hitherto his discourse was only concerning their
not wearing long hair and not covering their heads; but, as I said, he is
very bountiful in his praises, rendering them more forward. Wherefore he
"That ye remember me in all things, and hold fast the traditions, even
as I delivered them to you." It appears then that he used at that time to
deliver many things also not in writing, which he shows too in many other
places. But at that time he only delivered them, whereas now he adds an
explanation of their reason: thus both rendering the one sort, the
obedient, more steadfast, and pulling down the others' pride, who oppose
themselves. Further, he doth not say, "ye have obeyed, whilst others
disobeyed," but without exciting suspicion, intimates it by his mode of
teaching in what follows, where he saith,
Ver. 3. "But I would have ye know, that the head of every man is
Christ; and the head of every woman is the man; and the head of Christ is
This is his account of the reason of the thing, and he states it to
make the weaker more attentive. He indeed that is faithful, as he ought to
be, and steadfast, doth not require any reason or cause of those things
which are commanded him, but is content with the ordinance(1) alone. But he
that is weaker, when he also learns the cause, then both retains what is
said with more care and obeys with much readiness.
Wherefore neither did he state the cause until he saw the commandment
transgressed. What then is the cause? "The head of every man is Christ." Is
He then Head of the Gentile also? In no wise. For if "we are the Body of
Christ, and severally members thereof," (c. xii. 27.) and in this way He is
our head, He cannot be the head of them who are not in the Body and rank
not among the members. So that when he says, "of every man," one must
understand it of the believer. Perceivest thou how every where he appeals
to the hearer's shame by arguing from on high? Thus both when he was
discoursing on love, and when on humility, and when on alms-giving, it was
from thence that he drew his examples.
[2.] "But the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is
God." Here the heretics rush upon us with a certain declaration of
inferiority, which out of these words they contrive against the Son. But
they stumble against themselves. For if "the man be the head of the woman,"
and the head be of the same substance with the body, and "the head of
Christ is God," the Son is of the same substance with the Father. "Nay,"
say they, "it is not His being of another substance which we intend to show
from hence, but that He is under subjection." What then are we to say to
this? In the first place, when any thing lowly is said of him conjoined as
He is with the Flesh, there is no disparagement of the Godhead in what is
said, the Economy admitting the expression. However, tell me how thou
intendest to prove this from the passage? "Why, as the man governs the
wife, saith he, "so also the Father, Christ." Therefore also as Christ
governs the man, so likewise the Father, the Son. "For the head of every
man," we read, "is Christ." And who could ever admit this? For if the
superiority of the Son compared with us, be the measure of the Fathers'
compared with the Son, consider to what meanness thou wilt bring Him. So
that we must not try(2) all things by like measure in respect of ourselves
and of God, though the language used concerning them be similar; but we
must assign to God a certain appropriate excellency, and so great as
belongs to God. For should they not grant this, many absurdities will
follow. As thus; "the head of Christ is God:" and, "Christ is the head of
the man, and he of the woman." Therefore if we choose to take the term,
"head," in the like sense in all the clauses, the Son will be as far
removed from the Father as we are from Him. Nay, and the woman will be as
far removed from us as we are from the Word of God. And what the Son is to
the Father, this both we are to the Son and the woman again to the man. And
who will endure this?
But dost thou understand the term "head" differently in the case of the
man and the woman, from what thou dost in the case of Christ? Therefore in
the case of the Father and the Son, must we understand it differently also.
"How understand it differently?" saith the objector. According to the
occasion (3). For had Paul meant to speak of rule and subjection, as thou
sayest, he would not have brought forward the instance of a wife, but
rather of a slave and a master. For what if the wife be under subjection
to us? it is as a wife, as free, as equal in honor. And the Son also,
though He did become obedient to the Father, it was as the Son of God, it
was as God. For as the obedience of the Son to the Father is greater than
we find in men towards the authors of their being, so also His liberty is
greater. Since it will not of course be said that the circumstances of the
Son's relation to the Father are greater and more intimate than among men,
and of the Father's to the Son, less. For if we admire the Son that He was
obedient so as to come even unto death, and the death of the cross, and
reckon this the great wonder concerning Him; we ought to admire the Father
also, that He begat such a son, not as a slave under command, but as free,
yielding obedience and giving counsel. For the counsellor is no slave. But
again, when thou hearest of a counsellor, do not understand it as though
the Father were in need, but that the Son hath the same honor with Him that
begat Him. Do not therefore strain the example of the man and the woman to
For with us indeed the woman is reasonably subjected to the man: since
equality of honor causeth contention. And not for this cause only, but by
reason also of the deceit (1 Tim. ii. 14.) which happened in the beginning.
Wherefore you see, she was not subjected as soon as she was made; nor, when
He brought her to the man, did either she hear any such thing from God, nor
did the man say any such word to her: he said indeed that she was "bone of
his bone, and flesh of his flesh:" (Gen. ii. 23.) but of rule or subjection
he no where made mention unto her. But when she made an ill use of her
privilege and she who had been made a helper was found to be an ensnarer
and ruined all, then she is justly told for the future, "thy turning shall
be to thy husband." (Gen. iii. 16.)
To account for which; it was likely that this sin would have thrown our
race into a state of warfare; (for her having been made out of him would
not have contributed any thing to peace, when this had happened, nay,
rather this very thing would have made the man even the harsher, that she
made as she was out of him should not have spared even him who was a member
of herself:) wherefore God, considering the malice of the Devil, raised up
the bulwark of this word and what enmity was likely to arise from his evil
device, He took away by means of this sentence and by the desire implanted
in us: thus pulling down the partition-wall, i. e, the resentment caused by
that sin of hers. But in God and in that undefiled Essence, one must not
suppose any such thing.
Do not therefore apply the examples to all, since elsewhere also from
this source many grievous errors will occur. For so in the beginning of
this very Epistle, he said, (1 Cor. iii. 22, 23.) "All are yours, and ye
are Christ's, and Christ is God's." What then? Are all in like manner ours,
as "we are Christ's, and Christ is God's?" In no wise, but even to the very
simple the difference is evident, although the same expression is used of
God, and Christ, and us. And elsewhere also having called the husband "head
of the wife," he added, (Eph. v. 23.) "Even as Christ is Head and Saviour
and Defender of the Church, so also ought the man to be of his own wife."
Are we then to understand in like manner the saying in the text, both this,
and all that after this is written to the Ephesians concerning this
subject? Far from it. It is impossible. For although the same words are
spoken of God and of men, they do not have the same force in respect to God
and to men, but in one way those must be understood, and in another these.
Not however on the other hand all things diversely: since contrariwise they
will seem to have been introduced at random and in vain, we reaping no
benefit from them. But as we must not receive all things alike, so neither
must we absolutely reject all.
Now that what I say may become clearer, I will endeavor to make it
manifest in an example. Christ is called "the Head of the Church." If I am
to take nothing from what is human in the idea, why, I would know, is the
expression used at all? On the other hand, if I understand all in that way,
extreme absurdity will result. For the head is of like passions with the
body and liable to the same things. What then ought we to let go, and what
to accept? We should let go these particulars which I have mentioned, but
accept the notion of a perfect union, and the first principle; and not even
these ideas absolutely, but here also we must form a notion, as we may by
ourselves, of that which is too high for us and suitable to the Godhead:
for both the union is surer and the beginning more honorable.
Again, thou hearest the word "Son;" do not thou in this case admit all
particulars; yet neither oughtest thou to reject all: but admitting
whatever is meet for God, e.g. that He is of the same essence, that He is
of God; the things which are incongruous and belong to human weakness,
leave thou upon the earth.
Again, God is called "Light." Shall we then admit all circumstances
which belong to natural light? In no wise. For this light yields to
darkness, and is circumscribed by space, and is moved by another power, and
is overshadowed; none of which it is lawful even to imagine of That
Essence. We will not however reject all things on this account, but will
reap something useful from the example. The illumination which cometh to us
from God, the deliverance from darkness, this will be what we gather from
[4.] Thus much in answer to the heretics: but we must also orderly go
over the whole passage. For perhaps some one might here have doubt also,
questioning with himself, what sort of a crime it was for the woman to be
uncovered, or the man covered? What sort of crime it is, learn now from
Symbols many and diverse have been given both to man and woman; to him
of rule, to her of subjection: and among them this also, that she should be
covered, while he hath his head bare. If now these be symbols. you see that
both err when they disturb the proper order, and transgress the disposition
of God, and their own proper limits, both the man falling into the woman's
inferiority, and the woman rising up against the man by her outward
For if exchange of garments be not lawful, so that neither she should
be clad with a cloak, nor he with a mantle or a veil: ("for the woman,"
saith He, "shall not wear that which pertaineth to a man, neither shall a
man put on a woman's garments:") much more is it unseemly for these (Deut.
xxii. 5.) things to be interchanged. For the former indeed were ordained by
men, even although God afterwards ratified them: but this by nature, I mean
the being covered or uncovered. But when I say Nature, I mean God. For He
it is Who created Nature. When therefore thou overturnest these boundaries,
see how great injuries ensue.
And tell me not this, that the error is but small. For first, it is
great even of itself: being as it is disobedience. Next, though it were
small, it became great because of the greatness of the things whereof it is
a sign. However, that it is a great matter, is evident from its ministering
so effectually to good order among mankind, the governor and the governed
being regularly kept in their several places by it.
So that he who transgresseth disturbs all things, and betrays the gifts of
God, and casts to the ground the honor bestowed on him from above; not
however the man only, but also the woman. For to her also it is the
greatest of honors to preserve her own rank; as indeed of disgraces, the
behavior of a rebel. Wherefore he laid it down concerning both, thus
Ver. 4. "Every man praying or prophesying having his head covered,
dishonoreth his head. But every woman praying or prophesying with her head
unveiled. dishonoreth her head."
For there were, as I said, both men who prophesied and women who had
this girl at that time, as the daughters of Philip, (Acts. xxi. 9.) as
others before them and after them: concerning whom also the prophet spake
of old: "your sons shall prophesy, and your daughters shall see visions."
(Joel ii. 28. Acts ii. 17.)
Well then: the man he compelleth not to be always uncovered, but only
when he prays. "For every man," saith he, "praying or prophesying, having
his head covered, dishonoreth his head." But the woman he commands to be at
all times covered. Wherefore also having said, "Every woman that prayeth or
prophesieth with her head unveiled, dishonoreth her head," he stayed not at
this point only, but also proceeded to say, "for it is one and the same
thing as if she were shaven." But if to be shaven is always dishonorable,
it is plain too that being uncovered is always a reproach. And not even
with this only was he content, but added again, saying, "The woman ought to
have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels." He signifies
that not at the time of prayer only but also continually, she ought to be
covered. But with regard to the man, it is no longer about covering but
about wearing long hair, that he so forms his discourse. To be covered he
then only forbids, when a man is praying; but the wearing long hair he
discourages at all times. Wherefore, as touching the woman, he said, "But
if she be not veiled, let her also be shorn;" so likewise touching the man,
"If he have long hair, it is a dishonor unto him." He said not, "if he be
covered" but, "if he have long hair," Wherefore also he said at the
beginning, "Every man praying or prophesying, having any thing on his head,
dishonoreth his head." He said not, "covered," but "having any thing on his
head;" signifying that even though he pray with the head bare, yet if he
have long hair, he is like to one covered. "For the hair," saith he, "is
given for a covering."
Ver. 6. "But if a woman is not veiled, let her also be shorn: but if it
be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be veiled."
Thus, in the beginning he simply requires that the head be not bare:
but as he proceeds he intimates both the continuance of the rule, saying,
"for it is one and the same thing as if she were shaven," and the keeping
of it with all care and diligence. For he said not merely covered, but
"covered over(1)," meaning that she be carefully wrapped up on every side.
And by reducing it to an absurdity, he appeals to their shame, saying by
way of severe reprimand, "but if she be not covered, let her also be
shorn." As if he had said, "If thou cast away the covering appointed by the
law of God, cast away likewise that appointed by nature."
But if any say, "Nay, how can this be a shame to the woman, if she
mount up to the glory of the man?" we might make this answer; "She doth not
mount up, but rather falls from her own proper honor." Since not to abide
within our own limits and the laws ordained of God, but to go beyond, is
not an addition but a diminuation. For as he that desireth other men's
goods and seizeth what is not his own, hath not gained any thing more, but
is diminished, having lost even that which he had, (which kind of thing
also happened in paradise:) so likewise the woman acquireth not the man's
dignity, but loseth even the woman's decency which she had. And not from
hence only is her shame and reproach, but also on account of her
Having taken then what was confessedly shameful, and having said, "but
if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven," he states in what
follows his own conclusion, saying, "let her be covered." And he said not,
"let her have long hair," but, "let her be covered," ordaining both these
to be one, and establishing them both ways, from what was customary and
from their contraries: in that he both affirms the covering and the hair to
be one, and also that she again who is shaven is the same with her whose
head is bare. "For it is one and the same thing," saith he, "as if she were
shaven." But if any say, "And how is it one, if this woman have the
covering of nature, but the other who is shaven have not even this?" we
answer, that as far as her will goes, she threw that off likewise by having
the head bare. And if it be not bare of tresses, that is nature's doing,
not her own. So that as she who is shaven hath her head bare, so this
woman in like manner. For this cause He left it to nature to provide her
with a covering, that even of it she might learn this lesson and veil
Then he states also a cause, as one discoursing with those who are
free: a thing which in many places I have remarked. What then is the cause?
Ver. 7. "For a man indeed ought not to have his head veiled, forasmuch
as he is the image and glory of God."
This is again another cause. "Not only," so he speaks, "because he hath
Christ to be His Head ought he not to cover the head, but because also he
rules over the woman." For the ruler when he comes before the king ought to
have the symbol of his rule. As therefore no ruler without military girdle
and cloak, would venture to appear before him that hath the diadem: so
neither do thou without the symbols of thy rule, (one of which is the not
being covered,) pray before God, lest thou insult both thyself and Him that
hath honored thee.
And the same thing likewise one may say regarding the woman. For to her
also is it a reproach, the not having the symbols of her stib-jection. "But
the woman is the glory of the man." Therefore the rule of the man is
[5.] Then, having affirmed his point, he states again other reasons and
causes also, leading thee to the first creation, and saying thus:
Ver. 8. "For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man."
But if to be of any one, is a glory to him of whom one is, much more
the being an image of him.
Ver. 9. "For neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman
for the man."
This is again a second superiority, nay, rather also a third, and a
fourth, the first being, that Christ is the head of us, and we of the
woman; a second, that we are the glory of God, but the woman of us; a
third, that we are not of the woman, but she of us; a fourth, that we are
not for her, but she for us.
Ver. 10. "For this cause ought the woman to have a sign of authority on
"For this cause:" what cause, tell me? "For all these which have been
mentioned," saith he; or rather not for these only, but also "because of
the angels." "For although thou despise thine husband," saith he, "yet
reverence the angels."
It follows that being covered is a mark of subjection and authority.
For it induces her to look down and be ashamed and preserve entire her
proper virtue. For the virtue and honor of the governed is to abide in his
Again: the man is not compelled to do this; for he is the image of his
Lord: but the woman is; and that reasonably. Consider then the excess of
the transgression when being honored with so high a prerogative, thou
puttest thyself to shame, seizing the woman's dress. And thou doest the
same as if having received a diadem, thou shouldest cast the diadem from
thy head, and instead of it take a slave's garment.
Ver. 11. "Nevertheless, neither is the man without the woman, nor the
woman without the man, in the Lord."
Thus, because he had given great superiority to the man, having said
that the woman is of him and for him and under him; that he might neither
lift up the men more than was due nor depress the women, see how he brings
in the correction, saying, "Howbeit neither is the man without the woman,
nor the woman without the man, in the Lord." "Examine not, I pray," saith
he, "the first things only, and that creation. Since if thou enquire into
what comes after, each one of the two is the cause of the other; or rather
not even thus each of the other, but God of all." Wherefore he saith,
"neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in
Ver. 12. "For as the woman is of the man, so is the man also by the
He said not, "of the woman," but he repeats the expression, (from v.
7.) "of the man." For still this particular prerogative remains entire with
the man. Yet are not these excellencies the property of the man, but of
God. Wherefore also he adds, "but all things of God." If therefore all
things belong to God, and he commands these things, do thou obey and
Ver. 13. "Judge ye in yourselves: is it seemly that a woman pray unto
God veiled?" Again he places them as judges of the things said, which also
he did respecting the idol-sacrifices. For as there he saith, "judge ye
what I say:" (c. x. 15.) so here, "judge in yourselves:" and he hints
something more awful here. For he says that the affront here passes on unto
God: although thus indeed he doth not express himself, but in something of
a milder and more enigmatical form of speech: "is it seemly that a woman
pray unto God unveiled?"
Ver. 14. "Doth not even nature itself teach you, that if a man have
long hair, it is a dishonor unto him?"
Ver. 15. "But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her; for her
hair is given her for a covering." His constant practice of stating
commonly received reasons he adopts also in this place, betaking himself to
the common custom, and greatly abashing those who waited to be taught these
things from him, which even from men s ordinary practice they might have
learned. For such things are not unknown even to Barbarians: and see how he
every where deals in piercing expressions: "every man praying having his
head covered dishonoreth his head;" and again, "but if it be a shame for a
woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be veiled:" and here again, "if a man
have long hair, it is a shame unto him; but if a woman have long hair, it
is a glory to her, for her hair is given her for a covering."
"And if it be given her for a covering," say you, "wherefore need she
add another covering?" That not nature only, but also her own will may have
part in her acknowledgment of subjection. For that thou oughtest to be
covered nature herself by anticipation enacted a law. Add now, I pray,
thine own part also, that thou mayest not seem to subvert the very laws of
nature; a proof of most insolent rashness(1), to buffet not only with us,
but with nature also. This is why God accusing the Jews said, (Ezek. xvi.
21, 22.) "Thou hast slain thy sons and thy daughters: this is beyond all
And again, Paul rebuking the unclean among the Romans thus aggravates
the accusation, saying, that their usage was not only against the law of
God, but even against nature. "For they changed the natural use into that
which is against nature." (Rom. i. 26.) For this cause then here also he
employs this argument signifying this very thing, both that he is not
enacting any strange law and that among Gentiles their inventions would all
be reckoned as a kind of novelty against nature.(3) So also Christ,
implying the same, said, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do
ye also so them;" showing that He is not introducing any thing new.
Ver. 16. "But if any man seems to be contentious, we have no such
custom, neither the Churches of God."
It is then contentiousness to oppose these things, and not any exercise
of reason. Notwithstanding, even thus it is a measured sort of rebuke which
he adopts, to fill them the more with self-reproach; which in truth
rendered his saying the more severe. "For we," saith he, "have no such
custom," so as to contend and to strive and to oppose ourselves. And he
stopped not even here, but also added, "neither the Churches of God;"
signifying that they resist and oppose themselves to the whole world by
not yielding. However, even if the Corinthians were then contentious, yet
now the whole world hath both received and kept this law. So great is the
power of the Crucified.
[6.] But I fear lest having assumed the dress, yet in their deeds some
of our women should be found immodest and in other ways uncovered. For
therefore also writing to Timothy Paul was not content with these things,
but added others, saying, "that they adorn themselves in modest apparel,
with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold." (1 Tim.
ii. 9.) For if one ought not to have the head bare, but everywhere to carry
about the token of authority, much more is it becoming to exhibit the same
in our deeds. Thus at any rate the former women also used both to call
their husbands lords, (1 Pe. iii. 6.) and to yield the precedence to them.
"Because they for their part, "you say," used to love their own wives." I
know that as well as you: I am not ignorant of it. But when we are
exhorting thee concerning thine own duties, let not theirs take all thine
attention. For so, when we exhort children to be obedient to parents,
saying, that it is written, "honor thy father and thy mother," they reply
to us, "mention also what follows, 'and ye fathers, provoke not your
children to wrath," (Eph. vi. 1-4.) And servants when we tell them that it
is written that they should "obey their masters, and not serve with eye-
service," they also again demand of us what follows, bidding us also give
the same advice to masters. For Paul bade them also, they saw, "to forbear
threatening." But let us not do thus nor enquire into the things enjoined
on others, when we are charged with regard to our own: for neither will thy
obtaining a partner in the charges free thee from the blame: but look to
one thing only, how thou mayest rid thyself of those charges which lie
against thyself. Since Adam also laid the blame on the woman, and she again
on the serpent, but this did in no wise deliver them. Do not thou,
therefore, for thy part, say this to me now, but be careful with all
consideration to render what thou owest to thy husband: since also when I
am discoursing with thy husband, advising him to love and cherish thee, I
suffer him not to bring forward the law that is appointed for the woman,
but I require of him that which is written for himself. And do thou
therefore busy thyself with those things only which belong to thee, and
show thyself tractable to thy consort. And accordingly if it be really for
God's sake that thou obeyest thy husband, tell me not of the things which
ought to be done by him, but for what things thou hast been made
responsible by the lawgiver, those perform with exactness. For this is
especially to obey God, not to transgress the law even when suffering
things contrary to it. And by the same rule, he that being beloved loves,
is not reckoned to do any great thing. But he that waits upon a person who
hateth him, this above all is the man to receive a crown. In the same
manner then do thou also reckon that if thy husband give thee disgust, and
thou endure it, thou shalt receive a glorious crown: but if he be gentle
and mild, what will there be for God to reward in thee? And these things I
say, not bidding the husbands be harsh; but persuading the wives to bear
even with harshness in their husbands. Since when each is careful to fulfil
his own duty, his neighbor's part also will quickly follow: as when the
wife is prepared to bear even with rough behavior in the husband, and the
husband refrains from abusing her in her angry mood; then all is a calm and
a harbor free from waves.
[7.] So also was it with those of old time. Each was employed in
fulfilling his own duty, not in exacting that of his neighbor. Thus, if you
mark it, Abraham took his brother's son: his wife found no fault with him.
He commanded her to travel a long journey; she spake not even against this
but followed. Again, after those many miseries and labors and toils having
become lord of all, he yielded the precedency to Lot. And so far from Sarah
being offended at this, she did not even open her mouth, nor uttered any
such thing as many of the women of these days utter, when they see their
own husbands coming off inferior in such allotments, and especially in
dealing with inferiors; reproaching them, and calling them fools and
senseless and unmanly and traitors and stupid. But no such thing did she
say or think, but was pleased with all things that were done by him.
And another thing, and that a greater: after that Lot had the choice
put in his power, and had thrown the inferior part upon his uncle, a great
danger fell upon him. Whereof the patriarch hearing, armed all his
people, and set himself against the whole army of the Persians with his own
domestics only, and not even then did she detain him, nor say, as was
likely, "O man, whither goest thou, thrusting thyself down precipices, and
exposing thyself to so great hazards; for one who wronged thee and seized
on all that was thine, shedding thy blood? Yea, and even if thou make light
of thyself, yet have pity on me which have left house and country and
friends and kindred, and have followed thee in so long a pilgrimage; and
involve me not in widowhood, and in the miseries of widowhood." None of
these things she said: she thought not of them but bore all in silence.
After this, her womb continuing barren, she herself suffers not the
grief of women nor laments: but he complains, though not to his wife, but
to God. And see how each preserves his own appropriate part: for he neither
despised Sarah as childless, nor reproached her with any such thing: and
she again was anxious to devise some consolation to him for her
childlessness by means of the handmaid. For these things had not yet been
forbidden then as now. For now neither is it lawful for women to indulge
their husbands in such things, nor for the men, with or without the wife's
knowledge, to form such connexions, even though the grief of their
childlessness should infinitely harass them: since they also shall hear the
sentence, "their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched."
For now it is not permitted, but then it had not been forbidden. Wherefore
both his wife commanded this, and he obeyed, yet not even thus for
pleasure's sake. But "behold," it will be said, "how he cast Hagar out
again at her bidding." Well, this is what I want to point out, that both he
obeyed her in all things, and she him. But do not thou give heed to these
things only, but examine, thou who urgest this plea, into what had gone
before also, Hagar's insulting her, her boasting herself against her
mistress; than which what can be more vexatious to a free and honorable
[8.] Let not then the wife tarry for the virtue of the husband and then
show her own, for this is nothing great; nor, on the other hand, the
husband, for the obedience of the wife and then exercise self-command; for
neither would this any more be his own well-doing; but let each, as I said,
furnish his own share first. For if to the Gentiles smiting us on the
right, we must turn the other cheek; much more ought one to bear with harsh
behavior in a husband.
And I say not this for a wife to be beaten; far from it: for this is
the extremest affront, not to her that is beaten, but to him who beateth.
But even if by some misfortune thou have such a yokefellow allotted thee,
take it not ill, O woman, considering the reward which is laid up for such
things and their praise too in this present life. And to you husbands also
this I say: make it a rule that there can be no such offence as to bring
you under the necessity of striking a wife. And why say I a wife? since not
even upon his handmaiden could a free man endure to inflict blows and lay
violent hands. But if the shame be great for a man to beat a maidservant,
much more to stretch forth the right hand against her that is free. And
this one might see even from heathen legislatures who no longer compel her
that hath been so treated to live with him that beat her, as being unworthy
of her fellowship. For surely it comes of extreme lawlessness when thy
partner of life, she who in the most intimate relations and in the highest
degree, is united with thee; when she, like a base slave, is dishonored by
thee. Wherefore also such a man, if indeed one must call him a man and not
rather a wild beast, I should say, was like a parricide and a murderer of
his mother. For if for a wife's sake we were commanded to leave even father
and mother, not wronging them but fulfilling a divine law; and a law so
grateful to our parents themselves that even they, the very persons whom we
are leaving, are thankful, and bring it about with great eagerness; what
but extreme frenzy can it be to insult her for whose sake God bade us leave
even our parents?
But we may well ask, Is it only madness? There is the shame too: I
would fain know who can endure it. And what description can set it before
us; when shrieks and wailings are borne along the alleys, and there is a
running to the house of him that is so disgracing himself, both of the
neighbors and the passers by, as though some wild beast were ravaging
within? Better were it that the earth should gape asunder for one so
frantic, than that he should be seen at all in the forum after it.
"But the woman is insolent," saith he. Consider nevertheless that she
is a woman, the weaker vessel, whereas thou art a man. For therefore wert
thou ordained(1) to be ruler; and wert assigned to her in place of a head,
that thou mightest bear with the weakness of her that is set under thee.
Make then thy rule glorious. And glorious it will be when the subject of it
meets with no dishonor from thee. And as the monarch will appear so much
the more dignified, as he manifests more dignity in the officer under him;
but if he dishonor and depreciate the greatness of that rank, he is
indirectly cutting off no small portion of his own glory likewise: so also
thou dishonor her who governs next to thyself, wilt in no common degree mar
the honor of thy governance.
Considering therefore all these things, command thyself: and withal
think also of that evening on which the father having called thee,
delivered thee his daughter as a kind of deposit, and having separated her
from all, from her mother, from himself, from the family, intrusted her
entire guardianship to thy right hand. Consider that (under God) through
her thou hast children and hast become a father, and be thou also on that
account gentle towards her.
Seest thou not the husbandmen, how the earth which hath once received
the seed, they tend with all various methods of culture, though it have ten
thousand disadvantages; e.g., though it be an unkindly soil or bear ill
weeds, or though it be vexed with excessive rain through the nature of its
situation? This also do thou. For thus shalt thou be first to enjoy both
the fruit and the calm. Since thy wife is to thee both a harbor, and a
potent healing charm to rejoice thy heart. Well then: if thou shalt free
thy harbor from winds and waves, thou shalt enjoy much tranquility on thy
return from the market-place: but if thou fill it with clamor and tumult,
thou dost but prepare for thyself a more grievous shipwreck. In order then
to prevent this, let what I advise be done: When any thing uncomfortable
happens in the household, if she be in the wrong console her and do not
aggravate the discomfort. For even if thou shouldest lose all, nothing is
more grievous than to have a wife without good-will sharing thine abode.
And whatever offence thou canst mention, thou wilt tell me of nothing so
very painful as being at strife with her. So that if it were only for such
reasons as these, let her love be more precious than all things. For if one
another's burdens are to be borne, much more our own wife's.
Though she be poor do not upbraid her: though she be foolish, do not
trample on her, but train her rather: because she is a member of thee, and
ye are become one flesh. "But she is trifling and drunken and passionate."
Thou oughtest then to grieve over these things, not to be angry; and to
beseech God, and exhort her and give her advice, and do every thing to
remove the evil. But if thou strike her thou dost aggravate the disease:
for fierceness is removed by moderation, not by rival fierceness. With
these things bear in mind also the reward from God: that when it is
permitted thee to cut her off, and thou doest not so for the fear of God,
but bearest with so great defects, fearing the law appointed in such
matters which forbids to put away a wife whatsoever disease she may have:
thou shalt receive an unspeakable reward. Yea, and before the reward thou
shalt be a very great gainer, both rendering her more obedient and becoming
thyself more gentle thereby. It is said, for instance, that one of the
heathen philosophers(2), who had a bad wife, a trifler and a brawler, when
asked, "Why, having such an one, he endured her;" made reply, "That he
might have in his house a school and training-place of philosophy. For I
shall be to all the rest meeker," saith he, "being here disciplined every
day." Did you utter a great shout? Why, I at this moment am greatly
mourning, when heathens prove better lovers of wisdom than we; we who are
commanded to imitate angels, nay rather who are commanded to follow God
Himself in respect of gentleness.
But to proceed: it is said that for this reason the philosopher having
a bad wife, cast her not out; and some say that this very thing was the
reason of his marrying her. But I, because many men have dispositions not
exactly reasonable, advise that at first they do all they can, and be
careful that they take a suitable partner and one full of all virtue.
Should it happen, however, that they miss their end, and she whom they have
brought into the house prove no good or tolerable bride, then I would have
them at any rate try to be like this philosopher, and train her in every
way, and consider nothing more important than this. Since neither will a
merchant, until he have made a compact with his partner capable of
procuring peace, launch the vessel into the deep, nor apply himself to the
rest of the transaction. And let us then use every effort that she who is
partner with us in the business of life and in this our vessel, may be kept
in all peace within. For thus shall our other affairs too be all in calm,
and with tranquility shall we run our course through the ocean of the
present life. Compared with this, let house, and slaves, and money, and
lands, and the business itself of the state, be less in our account. And
let it be more valuable than all in our eyes that she who with us sits at
the oars should not be in mutiny and disunion with us. For so shall our
other matters proceed with a favoring tide, and in spiritual things also we
shall find ourselves much the freer from hindrance, drawing this yoke with
one accord; and having done all things well, we shall obtain the blessings
laid up in store; unto which may we all attain, through the grace and mercy
of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father, with the Holy Ghost, be
glory, power, and honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY XXVII: 1 Cor. XI. 17.
But in giving you this charge, I praise you not, that ye come together not
for the better, but for the worse.
IT is necessary in considering the present charge to state also first
the occasion of it. For thus again will our discourse be more intelligible.
What then is this occasion?
As in the case of the three thousand who believed in the beginning, all
had eaten their meals in common and had all things common; such also was
the practice at the time when the Apostle wrote this: not such indeed
exactly; but as it were a certain outflowing of that communion which abode
among them descended also to them that came after. And because of course
some were poor, but others rich, they laid not down all their goods in the
midst, but made the tables open on stated days, as it should seem; and when
the solemn service(1) was completed, after the communion of the Mysteries,
they all went to a common entertainment, the rich bringing their provisions
with them, and the poor and destitute being invited by them, and all
feasting in common. But afterward this custom also became corrupt. And the
reason was, their being divided and addicting themselves, some to this
party, and others to that, and saying, "I am of such a one," and "I of such
a one; "which thing also to correct he said in the beginning of the:
Epistle, "For it hath been signified unto me concerning you, my brethren,
by them which are of the household of Chloe, that there are contentions
among you. Now this I mean, that each one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I
of Apollos; and I of Cephas." Not that Paul was the person to whom they
were attaching themselves; for he would not have borne it: but wishing by
concession to tear up this custom from the root, he introduced himself,
indicating that if any one had inscribed upon himself even his name when
breaking off from the common body, even so the thing done was profane and
extreme wickedness. And if in his case it were wickedness, much more in the
case of those who were inferior to him.
[2.] Since therefore this custom was broken through, a custom most
excellent and most useful; (for it was a foundation of love, and a comfort
to poverty, and a corrective of riches, and an occasion of the highest
philosophy, and an instruction of humility:) since however he saw so great
advantages in a way to be destroyed, he naturally addresses them with
severity, thus saying: "But in giving you this charge, I praise you not."
For in the former charge, as there were many who kept (the ordinances), he
began otherwise, saying thus: "Now I praise you that ye remember me in all
things:" but here contrariwise, "But in giving you this charge, I praise
you not." And here is the reason why he placed it not after the rebuke of
them that eat the idol-sacrifices. But because that was unusually harsh he
interposes the discourse about wearing of long hair, that he might not have
to pass from one set of vehement reproofs to others again of an invidious
kind and so appear too harsh: and then he returns to the more vehement
tone, and says, "But in giving you this charge, I praise you not." What is
this? That which I am about to tell you of. What is, "giving you this
charge, I praise you not?" "I do not approve you," saith he, "because ye
have reduced me to the necessity of giving advice: I do not praise you,
because ye have required instruction in regard to this, because ye have
need of an admonition from me." Dost thou perceive how from his beginning
he signifieth that what was done was very profane? For when he that errs
ought not to require so much as a hint to prevent his erring, the error
would seem to be unpardonable.
And why dost thou not praise? Because "ye come together," saith he,
"not for the better but for the worse;" i.e., because ye do not go forward
unto virtue. For it were meet that your liberality(1) should increase and
become manifold, but ye have taken rather from the custom which already
prevailed, and have so taken from it as even to need warning from me, in
order that ye may return to the former order.
Further, that he might not seem to say these things on account of the
poor only, he doth not at once strike in to the discourse concerning the
tables, lest he render his rebuke such as they might easily come to think
slightly of, but he searches for an expression most confounding and very
fearful. For what saith he?
Ver. 18. "For first of all, when ye come together in the Church, I hear
that divisions(2) exist among you.
And he saith not, "For fear that you do not sup together in common;"
"for I hear that you feast in private, and not with the poor:" but what was
most calculated thoroughly to shake their minds, that he set down, the name
of division, which was the cause of this mischief also: and so he reminded
them again of that which was said in the beginning of the Epistle, and was
"signified by them of the house of Chloe." (c. i. 11.) "And I partly
Thus, lest they should say, "But what if the accusers speak falsely?"
he neither saith, "I believe it," lest he should rather make them reckless;
nor again, on the other hand, "I disbelieve it," lest he Should seem to
reprove without cause, but, "I partly believe it," saith he, i.e., "I
believe it in a small part;" making them anxious and inviting them to
return to correction.
[3.] Ver. 19. "For there must be also factions among you, that they
which are approved may be made manifest among you."
By "factions," here he means those which concern not the doctrines, but
these present divisions. But even if he had spoken of the doctrinal
heresies, not even thus did he give them any handle. For Christ Himself
said, "it must needs be that occasions of stumbling come," (Matt. xviii.
7.) not destroying the liberty of the will nor appointing any necessity and
compulsion over man's life, but foretelling what would certainly ensue from
the evil mind of men; which would take place, not because of his
prediction, but because the incurably disposed are so minded. For not
because he foretold them did these things happen: but because they were
certainly about to happen, therefore he foretold them. Since, if the
occasions of stumbling were of necessity and not of the mind of them that
bring them in, it was superfluous His saying, "Woe to that man by whom the
occasion cometh." But these things we discussed more at length when we were
upon the passage itself(3); now we must proceed to what is before us.
Now that he said these things of these factions relating to the tables,
and that contention and division, he made manifest also from what follows.
For having said, "I hear that there are divisions among you," he stopped
not here, but signifying what divisions he means he goes on to say, "each
one taketh before other his own supper;" and again, "What? have ye not
houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the Church of God?" However,
that of these he was speaking is evident. And if he call them divisions,
marvel not. For, as I said, he wishes to touch them by the expression:
whereas had they been divisions of doctrine, he would not have discoursed
with them thus mildly. Hear him, for instance, when he speaks of any such
thing, how vehement lie is both in assertion and in reproof: in assertion,
as when he says, "If even an angel preach any other gospel unto you than
that ye have received, let him be accursed ;" (Gal. i. 8.) but in reproof,
as when he says, "Whosoever of you would be justified by the law, ye are
fallen away from grace." (Gal. v. 4.) And at one time he calls the
corrupters "dogs," saying, "Beware of dogs:" (Phil. iii. 2.) at another,
"having their consciences seared with a hot iron." (1 Tim. iv. 2.) And
again, "angels of Satan:" (2 Cor. xi. 14-15.) but here he said no such
thing, but spoke in a gentle and subdued tone.
But what is, "that they which are approved may be made manifest among
you?" That they may shine the more. And what he intends to say is this,
that those who are unchangeable and firm are so far from being at all
injured hereby, but even shows them the more, and that it makes them more
glorious. For the word, "that(1)," is not every where indicative of cause,
but frequently also of the event of things. Thus Christ Himself uses it,
when He saith, "For judgement I am come into this world; that they which
see not may see, and that they which see may be made blind." (John ix. 39.)
So likewise Paul in another place, when discoursing of the law, he writes,
"And the Law came in beside, that the trespass might abound." (Rom. v. 20.)
But neither was the law given to this end that the trespasses of the Jews
might be increased: (though this did ensue:) nor did Christ come for this
end that they which see might be made blind, but for the contrary; but the
result was such. Thus then also here must one understand the expression,
"that they which are approved may be made manifest." For not at all with
this view came heresies into being, that "they which are approved may be
made manifest," but on these heresies taking place such was the result. Now
these things he said to console the poor, those of them who nobly bore that
sort of contempt. Wherefore he said not, "that they may become approved,"
but, "that they which are approved may be made manifest; showing that
before this also they were such, but they were mixed up with the multitude,
and while enjoying such relief as was afforded them by the rich, they were
not very conspicuous: but now this strife and contentiousness made them
manifest, even as the storm shows the pilot. And he said not, "that ye may
appear approved," but, "that they which are approved may be made manifest,
those among you who are such." For neither when he is accusing doth he lay
them open, that he may not render them more reckless; nor when praising,
that he may not make them more boastful; but he leaves both this expression
and that in suspense(2), allowing each man's own conscience to make the
application of what he saith.
Nor doth he here seem to me to be comforting the poor only, but those
also who were not violating the custom. For it was likely that there were
among them also those that observed it.
And this is why he said, "I partly believe it." Justly then doth he
call these "approved," who not only with the rest observed the custom, but
even without them kept this good law undisturbed. And he doth this,
studying by such praises to render both others and these persons themselves
[4.] Then at last he adds the very form of offence. And what is it?
Ver. 20. "When ye assemble yourselves together," saith he, "it is not
possible to eat the Lord's Supper."
Seest thou how effectually appealing to their shame, even already by
way of narrative he contrives to give them his counsel? "For the appearance
of your assembly," saith he, "is different. It is one of love and brotherly
affection. At least one place receives you all, and ye are together in one
flock. But the Banquet, when you come to that, bears no resemblance to the
Assembly of worshippers." And he said not, "When ye come together, this is
not to eat in common;' "this is not to feast with one another;" but
otherwise again and much more fearfully he reprimands them, saying, "it is
not possible to eat the Lord's Supper," sending them away now from this
point to that evening on which Christ delivered the awful Mysteries.
Therefore also he called the early meal "a supper." For that supper too had
them all reclining at meat together: yet surely not so great was the
distance between the rich and the poor as between the Teacher and the
disciples. For that is infinite. And why say I the Teacher and the
disciples? Think of the interval between the Teacher and the traitor:
nevertheless, the Lord Himself both sat at meat with them and did not even
cast him out, but both gave him his portion of salt and made him par-taker
of the Mysteries.
Next he explains how "it is not possible to eat the Lord's Supper."
Ver. 21. "For in your eating,(3) each one taketh before other his own
supper," saith he, "and one is hungry, and another is drunken."
Perceivest thou how he intimates that they were disgracing themselves
rather? For that which is the Lord's, they make a private matter: so that
themselves are the first to suffer indignity, depriving their own table of
its greatest prerogative. How and in what manner? Because the Lord's
Supper, i.e. the Master's, ought to be common. For the property of the
master belongs not to this servant without belonging to that, but in common
to all. So that by "the Lord's" Supper he expresses this, the "community"
of the feast. As if he had said, "If it be thy master's, as assuredly it
is, thou oughtest not to withdraw it as private, but as belonging to thy
Lord and Master to set it in common before all. For this is the meaning of,
'the Lord's.' But now thou dost not suffer it to be the Lord's, not
suffering it to be common but feasting by thyself." Wherefore also he goes
on to say,
"For each one taketh before other his own supper." And he said not,
"cutteth off," but "taketh before," tacitly censuring them both for
greediness and for precipitancy. This at least the sequel also shows. For
having said this, he added again, "and one is hungry, and another is
drunken," each of which showed a want of moderation, both the craving and
the excess. See also a second fault again whereby those same persons are
injured: the first, that they dishonor their supper: the second, that they
are greedy and drunken; and what is yet worse, even when the poor are
hungry. For what was intended to be set before all in common, that these
men fed on alone, and proceeded both to surfeiting and to drunkenness.
Wherefore neither did he say, "one is hungry, and another is filled:" but,
"is drunken." Now each Of these, even by itself, is worthy of censure: for
it is a fault to be drunken even without despising the poor; and to despise
the poor without being drunken, is an accusation. When both then are
joined together at the same time, consider how exceeding great is the
Next, having pointed out their profaneness, he adds his reprimand in
what follows, with much anger, saying,
Ver. 22. "What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise
ye the Church of God, and put them to shame that have not?"
Seest thou how he transferred the charge from the indignity offered to
the poor to the Church, that his words might make a deeper impression of
disgust? Here now you see is yet a fourth accusation, when not the poor
only, but the Church likewise is insulted. For even as thou makest the
Lord's Supper a private meal, so also the place again, using the Church as
a house. For it was made a Church, not that we who come together might be
divided, but that they who are divided might be joined: and this act of
"And put them to shame that have not." He said not, "and kill with
hunger them that have not," but so as much more to put them to the blush,
"shame them;" to point out that it is not food which he cares for so much
as the wrong done unto them. Behold again a fifth accusation, not only to
overlook the poor but even to shame them. Now this he said, partly as
treating with reverence the concerns of the poor, and intimating that they
grieve not so for the belly as for the shame; and partly also drawing the
hearer to compassion.
Having therefore pointed out so great impieties, indignity to the
Supper, indignity to the Church, the contempt practised towards the poor;
he relaxes again the tones of his reproof, saying, all of a sudden(1),
"Shall I praise you? In this I praise you not." Wherein one might
especially marvel at him that when there was need to strike and chide more
vehemently after the proof of so great offences, he doeth the contrary
rather, gives way, and permits them to recover breath. What then may the
cause be? He had touched more painfully than usual in aggravating the
charge, and being a most excellent physician, he adapts the incision to the
wounds, neither cutting superficially those parts which require a deep
stroke; (for thou hast heard him how he cut off among those very persons
him that had committed fornication;) nor delivering over to the knife those
things which require the milder sort of remedies. For this cause then here
also he conducts his address more mildly, and in another point of view
likewise, he sought especially to render them gentle to the poor: and this
is why he discourses with them rather in a subdued tone.
[5.] Next, wishing also from another topic to shame them yet more, he
takes again the points which were most essential and of them weaves his
Vet. 23. "For I received of the Lord," saith he, "that which also I
delivered unto you: how that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was
betrayed, took bread:"
Ver. 24. "And when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take,
eat: this is My Body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of
Wherefore doth he here make mention of the Mysteries? Because that
argument was very necessary to his present purpose. As thus: "Thy Master,"
saith he, "counted all worthy of the same Table, though it be very awful
and far exceeding the dignity of all: but thou considerest them to be
unworthy even of thine own, small and mean as we see it is; and while they
have no advantage over thee in spiritual things, thou robbest them in the
temporal things. For neither are these thine own."
However, he doth not express himself thus, to prevent his discourse
becoming harsh: but he frames it in a gentler form, saying, that "the Lord
Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed, took bread."
And wherefore doth he remind us of the time, and of that evening, and
of the betrayal? Not indifferently nor without some reason, but that he
might exceedingly fill them with compunction, were it but from
consideration of the time. For even if one be a very stone, yet when he
considers that night, how He was with His disciples, "very heavy," how He
was betrayed, how He was bound, how He was led away, how He was judged, how
He suffered all the rest in order, he becometh softer than wax, and is
withdrawn from earth and all the pomp of this world. Therefore he leads us
to the remembrance of all those things, by His time, and His table, and His
betrayal, putting us to shame and saying, "Thy Master gave up even Himself
for thee: and thou dost not even share a little meat with thy brother for
thine own sake."
But how saith he, that "he received it from the Lord?" since certainly
he was not present then but was one of the persecutors. That thou mayest
know that the first table had no advantage above that which cometh after
it. For even to-day also it is He who doeth all, and delivereth it even as
And not on this account only doth he remind us of that night, but that
he may also in another way bring us to compunction. For as we particularly
remember those words which we hear last from those who are departing; and
to their heirs if they should venture to transgress their commands, when we
would put them to shame we say, "Consider that this was the last word that
your father uttered to you, anal until the evening when he was just about
to breathe his last he kept. repeating these injunctions:" just so Paul,
purposing hence also to make his argument full of awfulness; "Remember,"
saith he, "that this was the last mysterious rite(1) He gave unto you, and
in that night on which He was about to be slain for us, He commanded these
things, and having delivered to us that Supper after that He added nothing
Next also he proceeds to recount the very things that were done,
saying, "He took bread, and, when He had given thanks, He brake it, and
said, Take, eat: this is My Body, which is broken for you." If therefore
thou comest for a sacrifice of thanksgiving,(2) do thou on thy part
nothing unworthy of that sacrifice: by no means either dishonor thy
brother, or neglect him in his hunger; be not drunken, insult not the
Church. As thou comest giving thanks for what thou hast enjoyed: so do thou
thyself accordingly make return, and not cut thyself off from thy neighbor.
Since Christ for His part gave equally to all, saying, "Take, eat." He gave
His Body equally, but dost not thou give so much as the common bread
equally? Yea, it was indeed broken for all alike, and became the Body
equally for all.
Ver. 25. "In like manner also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is
the New Covenant in My Blood: this do, as oft as ye drink of it, in
remembrance of Me."
What sayest thou? Art thou making a remembrance of Christ, and
despisest thou the poor and tremblest not? Why, if a son or brother had
died and thou wert making a remembrance of him, thou wouldst have been
smitten by thy conscience, hadst thou not fulfilled the custom and invited
the poor: and when thou art making remembrance of thy Master, dost thou not
so much as simply give a portion of the Table?
But what is it which He saith, "This cup is the New Covenant?" Because
there was also a cup of the Old Covenant; the libations and the blood of
the brute creatures. For after sacrificing, they used to receive the blood
in a chalice and bowl and so pour it out. Since then instead of the blood
of beasts He brought in His own Blood; lest any should be troubled on
hearing this, He reminds them of that ancient sacrifice.
[6.] Next, having spoken concerning that Supper, he connects the things
present with the things of that time, that even as on that very evening and
reclining on that very couch and receiving from Christ himself this
sacrifice, so also now might men be affected; and he saith,
Ver. 26. "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye
proclaim the Lord's death till He come."
For as Christ in regard to the bread and the cup said, "Do this in
remembrance of Me," revealing to us the cause of the giving of the Mystery,
and besides what else He said, declaring this to be a sufficient cause to
ground our religious fear upon:--(for when thou considerest what thy Master
hath suffered for thee, thou wilt the better deny thyself:)--so also Paul
saith here: "as often as ye eat ye do proclaim His death." And this is that
Supper. Then intimating that it abides unto the end, he saith, "till He
Ver. 27. "Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread and drink the cup of
the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the Body and the Blood of the
Why so? Because he poured it out, and makes the thing appear a
slaughter and no longer a sacrifice. Much therefore as they who then
pierced Him, pierced Him not that they might drink but that they might shed
His blood: so likewise doth he that cometh for it unworthily and reaps no
profit thereby. Seest thou how fearful he makes his discourse, and inveighs
against them very exceedingly, signifying that if they are thus to drink,
they partake unworthily of the elements(3)? For how can it be other than
unworthily when it is he who neglects the hungry? who besides overlooking
him puts him to shame? Since if not giving to the poor casteth one out of
the kingdom, even though one should be a virgin; or rather, not giving
liberally: (for even those virgins too had oil, only they had it not
abundantly:) consider how great the evil will prove, to have wrought so
"What impieties?" say you. Why sayest thou, what impieties? Thou hast
partaken of such a Table and when thou oughtest to be more gentle than any
and like the angels, none so cruel as thou art become. Thou hast tasted the
Blood of the Lord, and not even thereupon dost thou acknowledge thy
brother. Of what indulgence then art thou worthy? Whereas if even before
this thou hadst not known him, thou oughtest to have come to the knowledge
of him from the Table; but now thou dishonorest the Table itself; he having
been deemed worthy to partake of it and thou not judging him worthy of thy
meat. Hast thou not heard how much he suffered who demanded the hundred
pence? how he made void the gift vouchsafed to him(1)? Doth it not come
into thy mind what thou wert and what thou hast become? Dost thou not put
thyself in remembrance that if this man be poor in possessions, thou wast
much more beggarly in good works, being full of ten thousand sins?
Notwithstanding, God delivered thee from all those and counted thee worthy
of such a Table: but thou art not even thus become more merciful: therefore
of course nothing else remaineth but that thou shouldest be "delivered to
[7.] These words let us also listen to, all of us, as many as in this
place approach with the poor to this holy Table, but when we go out, do not
seem even to have seen them, but are both drunken and pass heedlessly by
the hungry; the very things whereof the Corinthians were accused. And when
is this done? say you. At all times indeed, but especially at the
festivals, where above all times it ought not so to be. Is it not so, that
at such times, immediately after Communion, drunkenness succeeds and
contempt of the poor? And having partaken of the Blood, when it were a time
for thee to fast and watch, thou givest thyself up to wine and revelling.
And yet if thou hast by chance made thy morning meal on any thing good,
thou keepest thyself lest by any other unsavory viand thou spoil the taste
of the former: and now that thou hast been feasting on the Spirit thou
bringest in asatanical luxury. Consider, when the Apostles partook of that
holy Supper, what they did: did they not betake themselves to prayers and
singing of hymns? to sacred vigils? to that long work of teaching, so full
of all self-denial? For then He related and delivered to them those great
and wonderful things, when Judas had gone out to call them who were about
to crucify Him. Hast thou not heard how the three thousand also who partook
of the Communion continued even in prayer and teaching, not in drunken
feasts and revellings? But thou before thou hast partaken fastest, that in
a certain way thou mayest appear worthy of the Communion: but when thou
hast partaken, and thou oughtest to increase thy temperance, thou undoest
all. And yet surely it is not the same to fast before this and after it.
Since although it is our duty to be temperate at both times, yet most
particularly after we have received the Bridegroom. Before, that thou
mayest become worthy of receiving: after, that thou mayest not be found
unworthy of what thou hast received.
"What then? ought we to fast after receiving?" I say not this, neither
do I use any compulsion. This indeed were well: however, I do not enforce
this, but I exhort you not to feast to excess. For if one never ought to
live luxuriously, and Paul showed this when he said, "she that giveth
herself to pleasure is dead while she liveth" (1 Tim. v. 6.); much more
will she then be dead. And if luxury be death to a woman, much more to a
man: and if this done at another time is fatal, much more after the
communion of the Mysteries. And dost thou having taken the bread of life,
do an action of death and not shudder? Knowest thou not how great evils are
brought in by luxury? Unseasonable laughter, disorderly expressions,
buffoonery fraught with perdition, unprofitable trifling, all the other
things, which it is not seemly even to name. And these things thou doest
when thou hast enjoyed the Table of Christ, on that day on which thou hast
been counted worthy to touch His flesh with thy tongue. What then is to be
done to prevent these things? Purify thy right hand, thy tongue, thy lips,
which have become a threshold for Christ to tread upon. Consider the time
in which thou didst draw near and set forth a material table, raise thy
mind to that Table, to the Supper of the Lord, to the vigil of the
disciples, in that night, that holy night. Nay, rather should one
accurately examine, this very present state is night. Let us watch then
with the Lord, let us be pricked in our hearts with the disciples. It is
the season of prayers, not of drunkenness; ever indeed, but especially
during a festival. For a festival is therefore appointed, not that we may
behave ourselves unseemly, not that we may accumulate sins, but rather that
we may blot out those which exist.
I know, indeed, that I say these things in vain, yet will I not cease
to say them. For if ye do not all obey, yet surely ye will not all disobey;
or rather, even though ye should all be disobedient, my reward will be
greater, though yours will be more condemnation. However, that it may not
be more, to this end I will not cease to speak. For perchance, perchance,
by my perseverance I shall be able to reach you.
Wherefore I beseech you that we do not this to condemnation; let us
nourish Christ, let us give Him drink, let us clothe Him. These things are
worthy of that Table. Hast thou heard holy hymns? Hast thou seen a
spiritual marriage? Hast thou enjoyed a royal Table? Hast thou been filled
with the Holy Ghost? Hast thou joined in the choir of the Seraphim? Hast
thou become partaker of the powers above? Cast not away so great a joy,
waste not the treasure, bring not in drunkenness, the mother of dejection,
the joy of the devil, the parent of ten thousand evils. For hence is a
sleep like unto death, and heaviness of head, and disease, and
obliviousness, and an image of dead men's condition. Further, if thou
wouldst not choose to meet with a friend when intoxicated, when thou hast
Christ within, durst thou, tell me, to thrust in upon Him so great an
But dost thou love enjoyment? Then, on this very account cease being
drunken. For I, too, would have thee enjoy thyself, but with the real
enjoyment, that which never fadeth. What then is the real enjoyment, ever
blooming? Invite Christ to sup(1) (Rev. ii. 20.) with thee; give Him to
partake of thine, or rather of His own. This bringeth pleasure without
limit, and in its prime everlastingly. But the things of sense are not
such; rather as soon as they appear they vanish away; and he that hath
enjoyed them will be in no better condition than he who hath not, or rather
in a worse. For the one is settled as it were in a harbor, but the other
exposes himself to a kind of torrent, a besieging army of distempers, and
hath not even any power to endure the first swell of the sea.(2)
That these things be therefore not so, let us follow after moderation.
For thus we shall both be in a good state of body, and we shall possess our
souls in security, and shall be delivered from evils both present and
future: from which may we all be delivered, and attain unto the kingdom,
through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the
Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, power, and honor, now and
ever, and world without end. Amen.
Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published
by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in
1867. (LNPF I/XII, Schaff). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible
Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.