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ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
HOMILIES 11-23 ON THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS
PUBLISHED AFTER HIS FALLING ASLEEP, FROM NOTES BY CONSTANTINE, PRESBYTER OF
[The Oxford Translation Revised by Rev. Frederic Gardiner, D.D.
Late Professor in the Berkeley Divinity School, Middletown, Conn.]
HOMILY XI: HEBREWS vi. 13-16.
"For when God made promise to Abraham, because lie could swear by no
greater, He sware by Himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee,
and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so after he had patiently
endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater, and
an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife."
[1.] HAVING boldly reflected on the faults of the Hebrews, and
sufficiently alarmed them, he consoles them, first, by praises, and
secondly (which also is the stronger ground), by the [thought] that they
would certainly attain the object of their hope. Moreover he draws his
consolation, not from things future, but again from the past, which indeed
would the rather persuade them. For as in the case of punishment, he alarms
them rather by those [viz. things future], so also in the case of the
prizes [set before them], he encourages them by these [viz. by things
past], showing [herein] God's way of dealing. And that is, not to bring in
what has been promised immediately, but after a long time. And this He
does, both to present the greatest proof of His power, and also to lead us
to Faith, that they who are living in tribulation without having received
the promises, or the rewards, may not faint under their troubles.
And omitting all [the rest], though he had many whom he might have
mentioned, he brought forward Abraham both on account of the dignity of his
person, and because this had occurred in a special way in his case.
And yet at the end of the Epistle he says, that "all these, having seen
the promises afar off, and having embraced them, received them not, that
they without us should not be made perfect." (c. xi. 13.) "For when God
made promise to Abraham" (he says) "because He could swear by no greater,
He sware by Himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and
multiplying I will multiply thee. And so after he had patiently endured, he
obtained the promise." (c. xi. 39, 40.) How then does he say at the end [of
the Epistle] that "he received not the promises," and here, that "after he
had patiently endured he obtained the promise"? How did he not receive? How
did he obtain? He is not speaking of the same things in this place and in
the other, but makes the consolation twofold. God made promises to Abraham,
and after a long space of time He gave the things [spoken of] in this
place, but those others not yet.
"And so after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise." Seest
thou that the promise alone did not effect the whole, but the patient
waiting as well? Here he alarms them, showing that oftentimes a promise is
thwarted through faintheartedness. And this he had indeed shown through
[the instance of] the [Jewish] people: for since they were faint-hearted,
therefore they obtained not the promise. But now he shows the contrary by
means of Abraham. Afterwards near the end [of the Epistle] he proves
something more also: [viz.] that even though they had patiently endured,
they did not obtain; and yet not even so are they grieved.
[2.] "For men verily swear by the greater, and an Oath for confirmation
is to them an end of all strife. But God because He could swear by no
greater, sware by Himself." Well, who then is He that sware unto Abraham?
Is it not the SON? No, one says. Certainly indeed it was He: however, I
shall not dispute [thereon]. So when He [the Son] sweareth the same oath,
"Verily, verily, I say unto you," is it not plain that it was because He
could not swear by any greater? For as the Father sware, so also the Son
sweareth by Himself, saying, "Verily, verily, I say unto you." He here
reminds them also of the oaths of Christ, which He was constantly uttering.
"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, he that believeth on Me shall never die."
(John xi. 26.)
What is, "And an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all
strife"? it is instead of, "by this every doubtful question is solved": not
this, or this, but every one.
God, however, ought to have been believed even without an oath: (ver.
17) "wherein" (he says) "God willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs
of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it [lit.
"mediated"] by an oath." In these words he comprehends also the
believers, and therefore mentions this "promise" which was made to us in
common [with them]. "He mediated" (he says) "by an oath." Here again he
says that the Son was mediator between men and God.
Ver. 18. "That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible that
God should lie." What are these two? The speaking and promising; and the
adding an oath to the promise. For since among men that which is
[confirmed] by an oath is thought more worthy of credit, on this account He
added that also.
Seest thou that He regardeth not His own dignity, but how He may
persuade men, and endures to have unworthy things said concerning Himself.
That is He wishes to impart full assurance. And in the case of Abraham
indeed [the Apostle] shows that the whole was of God, not of his patient
endurance, since He was even willing to add an oath, for He by whom men
swear, by Him also God "sware," that is "by Himself." They indeed as by one
greater, but He not as by one greater. And yet He did it. For it is not the
same thing for man to swear by himself, as for God. For man has no power
over himself. Thou seest then that this is said not more for Abraham than
for ourselves: "that we" (he says) "might have strong consolation, who have
fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us." Here too again,
"after he had patiently endured he obtained the promise."
"Now" he means, and he did not say "when He swore." But what the
oath is, he showed, by speaking of swearing by a greater. But since the
race of men is hard of belief, He condescends to the same [things] with
ourselves. As then for our sake He swears, although it be unworthy of Him
that He should not be believed, so also did [the Apostle] make that other
statement "He learned from the things which He suffered" (c. v. 8), because
men think the going through experience more worthy of reliance.
What is "the hope set before us"? From these [past events] (he says) we
conjecture the future. For if these came to pass after so long a time, so
certainly the others will. So that the things which happened in regard to
Abraham give us confidence also concerning the things to come.
[3.] (Ver. 19, 20) "Which [hope] we have as an anchor of the soul both
sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil: whither
the forerunner is for us entered, even JESUS, made High Priest forever
after the order of Melchisedech." He shows, that while we are still in the
world, and not yet departed from [this] life, we are already among the
promises. For through hope we are already in heaven. He said, "Wait; for it
shall surely be." Afterwards giving them full assurance, he says, "nay
rather by hope." And he said not, "We are within," but 'It hath entered
within,' which was more true and more persuasive. For as the anchor,
dropped from the vessel, does not allow it to be carried about, even if ten
thousand winds agitate it, but being depended upon makes it steady, so also
And see how very suitable an image he has discovered: For he said not,
Foundation; which was not suitable; but, "Anchor." For that which is on the
tossing sea, and seems not to be very firmly fixed, stands on the water as
upon land, and is shaken and yet is not shaken. For in regard to those who
are very firm, and philosophic, Christ with good reason made that
statement, saying, "Whosoever hath built his house on a rock." (Matt. vii.
24.) But in respect of those who are giving way, and who ought to be
carried through by hope, Paul hath suitably set down this. For the surge
and the great storm toss the boat; but hope suffers it not to be carried
hither and thither, although winds innumerable agitate it: so that, unless
we had this [hope] we should long ago have been sunk. Nor is it only in
things spiritual, but also in the affairs of this life, that one may find
the power of hope great. Whatever it may be, in merchandise, in husbandry,
in a military expedition, unless one sets this before him, he would not
even touch the work. But he said not simply "Anchor," but "sure and
steadfast" [i.e.] not shaken. "Which entereth into that within the veil";
instead of 'which reacheth through even to heaven.'
[4.] Then after this he led on to Faith also, that there might not only
be hope, but a very true [hope]. For after the oath he lays down another
thing too, even proof by facts, because "the forerunner is for us entered
in, even JESUS." But a forerunner is a forerunner of some one, as John was
Now he did not simply say, "He is entered in," but "where He is entered
in a forerunner for us," as though we also ought to attain. For there is no
great interval between the forerunner and those who follow: otherwise he
would not be a forerunner; for the forerunner and those who follow ought to
be in the same road, and to arrive after [each other].
"Being made an High Priest forever after the order," he says, "of
Melchisedech." Here is also another consolation, if our High Priest is on
high, and far better than those among the Jews, not in the kind [of
Priesthood] only, but also in the place, and the tabernacle, and the
covenant, and the person. And this also is spoken according to the flesh.
[5.] Those then, whose High Priest He is, ought to be greatly superior.
And as great as the difference is between Aaron and Christ, so great should
it be between us and the Jews. For see, we have our victim on high, our
priest on high, our sacrifice on high: let us bring such sacrifices as
can be offered on that altar, no longer sheep and oxen, no longer blood and
fat. All these things have been done away; and there has been brought in
their stead "the reasonable service." (Rom. xii. 1.) But what is "the
reasonable service"? The [offerings made] through the soul; those made
through the spirit. ("God," it is said, "is a Spirit, and they that worship
Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth"--John iv. 24); things which
have no need of a body, no need of instruments, nor of special places,
whereof each one is himself the Priest, such as, moderation, temperance,
mercifulness, enduring ill-treatment, long-suffering, humbleness of mind.
These sacrifices one may see in the Old [Testament] also, shadowed out
beforehand. "Offer to God," it is said, "a sacrifice of righteousness" (Ps.
iv. 5); "Offer a sacrifice of praise" (Ps. 1. 14); and, "a sacrifice of
praise shall glorify Me" (Ps. 1. 23), and, "the sacrifice of God is a
broken spirit" (Ps. li. 17); and "what doth the Lord require of thee but"
to hearken to Him? (Mic. vi. 8.) "Burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin
Thou hast had no pleasure in: then I said, Lo I come to do Thy will, O
God!" (Ps. xl. 6, 7), and again, "To what purpose do ye bring the incense
from Sheba?" (Jer. vi. 20.) "Take thou away from Me the noise of thy songs,
for I will not hear the melody of thy viols." (Amos v. 23.) But instead of
these "I will have mercy and not sacrifice." (Hosea vi. 6.) Thou seest with
what kind of "sacrifices God is well pleased." (c. xiii. 16.) Thou seest
also that already from the first the one class have given place, and these
have come in their stead.
These therefore let us bring, for the other indeed are [the offerings]
of wealth and of persons who have [possessions], but these of virtue: those
from without, these from within: those any chance person even might
perform; these only a few. And as much as a man is superior to a sheep, so
much is this sacrifice superior to that; for here thou offerest thy soul as
[6.] And other sacrifices also there are, which are indeed whole burnt-
offerings, the bodies of the martyrs: there both soul and body [are
offered]. These have a great savor of a sweet smell. Thou also art able, if
thou wilt, to bring such a sacrifice.
For what, if thou dost not burn thy body in the fire? Yet in a
different fire thou canst; for instance, in that of voluntary poverty, in
that of affliction. For to have it in one's power to spend one's days in
luxury and expense, and yet to take up a life of toil and bitterness, and
to mortify the body, is not this a whole burnt-offering? Mortify thy body,
and crucify it, and thou shalt thyself also receive the crown of this
martyrdom. For what in the other case the sword accomplishes, that in this
case let a willing mind effect. Let not the love of wealth burn, or possess
you, but let this unreasonable appetite itself be consumed and quenched by
the fire of the Spirit; let it be cut in pieces by the sword of the Spirit.
This is an excellent sacrifice, needing no priest but him who brings
it. This is an excellent sacrifice, performed indeed below but forthwith
taken up on high. Do we not wonder that of old time fire came down and
consumed all? It is possible now also that fire may come down far more
wonderful than that, and consume all the presented offerings: nay
rather, not consume, but bear them up to heaven. For it does not reduce
them to ashes, but offers them as gifts to God.
[7.] Such were the offerings of Cornelius. For (it is said) "thy
prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God." (Acts x. 4.)
Thou seest a most excellent union. Then are we heard, when we ourselves
also hear the poor who come to us. "He" (it is said) "that stoppeth his
ears that he may not hear the poor" (Prov. xxi. 13), his prayer God will
not hearken to. "Blessed is he that considereth the poor and needy: the
Lord will deliver him in the evil day." (Ps. xl. 1.) But what day is evil
except that one which is evil to sinners?
What is meant by "he that considereth"? He that understandeth what it
is to be a poor man, that has thoroughly learned his affliction. For he
that has learned his affliction, will certainly and immediately have
compassion on him. When thou seest a poor man, do not hurry by, but
immediately reflect what thou wouldest have been, hadst thou been he. What
wouldest thou not have wished that all should do for thee? "He that
considereth" (he says). Reflect that he is a free-man like thyself, and
shares the same noble birth with thee, and possesses all things in common
with thee; and yet oftentimes he is not on a level even with thy dogs. On
the contrary, while they are satiated, he oftentimes lies, sleeps, hungry,
and the free-man is become less honorable than thy slaves.
But they perform needful services for thee. What are these? Do they
serve thee well? Suppose then I show that this [poor man] too performs
needful services for thee far greater than they do. For he will stand by
thee in the Day of judgment, and will deliver thee from the fire. What do
all thy slaves do like this? When Tabitha died, who raised her up? The
slaves who stood around or the poor? But thou art not even willing to put
the free-man on an equality with thy slaves. The frost is hard, and the
poor man is cast out in rags, well-nigh dead, with his teeth chattering,
both by his looks and his air fitted to move thee: and thou passeth by,
warm and full of drink; and how dost thou expect that God should deliver
thee when in misfortune?
And oftentimes thou sayest this too: 'If it had been myself, and I had
found one that had done man), wrong things, I would have forgiven him; and
does not God forgive?' Say not this. Him that has done thee no wrong, whom
thou art able to deliver, him thou neglectest. How shall He forgive thee,
who art sinning against Him? Is not this deserving of hell?
And how amazing! Oftentimes thou adornest with vestments innumerable,
of varied colors and wrought with gold, a dead body, insensible, no longer
perceiving the honor; whilst that which is in pain, and lamenting, and
tormented, and racked by hunger and frost, thou neglectest; and givest more
to vainglory, than to the fear of God.
[8.] And would that it stopped here; but immediately accusations are
brought against the applicant. For why does he not work (you say)? And why
is he to be maintained in idleness? But (tell me) is it by working that
thou hast what thou hast, didst thou not receive it as an inheritance from
thy fathers? And even if thou dost work, is this a reason why thou
shouldest reproach another? Hearest thou not what Paul saith? For after
saying, "He that worketh not, neither let him eat" (2 Thess. iii. 10), he
says, "But ye be not weary in well doing." (2 Thess. iii. 13.)
But what say they? He is an impostor. What sayest thou, O man?
Callest thou him an impostor, for the sake of a single loaf or of a
garment? But (you say) he will sell it immediately. And dost thou manage
all thy affairs well? But what? Are all poor through idleness? Is no one so
from shipwreck? None from lawsuits? None from being robbed? None from
dangers? None from illness? None from any other difficulties? If however we
hear any, one bewailing such evils, and crying out aloud, and looking up
naked toward heaven, and with long hair, and clad in rags, at once we call
him, The impostor! The deceiver! The swindler! Art thou not ashamed? Whom
dost thou call impostor? Give nothing, and do not accuse the man.
But (you say) he has means, and pretends. This is a charge against
thyself, not against him. He knows that he has to deal with the cruel, with
wild beasts rather than with men, and that, even if he utter a pitiable
story, he attracts no one's attention: and on this account he is forced to
assume also a more miserable guise, that he may melt thy soul. If we see a
person coming to beg in a respectable dress, This is an impostor (you say),
and he comes in this way that he may be supposed to be of good birth. If we
see one in the contrary guise, him too we reproach. What then are they to
do? O the cruelty, O the inhumanity!
And why (you say) do they expose their maimed limbs? Because of thee.
If we were compassionate, they would have no need of these artifices: if
they persuaded us at the first application, they would not have contrived
these devices. Who is there so wretched, as to be willing to cry out so
much, as to be willing to behave in an unseemly way, as to be willing to
make public lamentations, with his wife destitute of clothing, with his
children, to sprinkle ashes on [himself]. How much worse than poverty are
these things? Yet on account of them not only are they not pitied, but are
even accused by us.
[9.] Shall we then still be indignant, because when we pray to God, we
are not heard? Shall we then still be vexed, because when we entreat we do
not persuade? Do we not tremble for fear, my beloved?
But (you say) I have often given. But dost thou not always eat? And
dost thou drive away thy children often begging of thee? O the
shamelessness! Dost thou call a poor man shameless? And thou indeed art not
shameless when plundering, but he is shameless when begging for bread!
Considerest thou not how great are the necessities of the belly? Dost not
thou do all things for this? Dost thou not for this neglect things
spiritual? Is not heaven set before thee and the kingdom of heaven? And
thou fearing the tyranny of that [appetite] endurest all things, and
thinkest lightly of that [kingdom]. This is shamelessness.
Seest thou not old men maimed? But O what trifling! 'Such an one' (you
say) 'lends out so many pieces of gold, and such an one so many, and yet
begs.' You repeat the stories and trifles of children; for they too are
always hearing such stories from their nurses. I am not persuaded of it. I
do not believe this. Far from it. Does a man lend money, and beg when he
has abundance? For what purpose, tell me? And what is more disgraceful than
begging? It were better to die than to beg. Where does our in inhumanity
stop? What then? Do all lend money? Are all impostors? Is there no one
really poor? "Yea" (you say) "and many." Why then dost thou not assist
those persons, seeing thou art a strict enquirer into their lives? This is
an excuse and a pretense.
"Give to every one that asketh of thee, and from him that would
borrow of thee turn not thou away." (Matt. v. 42.) Stretch out thy hand,
let it not be closed up. We have not been constituted examiners into men's
lives, since so we should have compassion on no one. When thou callest upon
God why dost thou say, Remember not my sins? So then, if that person even
be a great sinner, make this allowance in his case also, and do not
remember his sins. It is the season of kindness, not of strict enquiry; of
mercy, not of account. He wishes to be maintained: if thou art willing,
give; but if not willing, send him away without raising doubts. Why art
thou wretched and miserable? Why dost thou not even thyself pity him, and
also turnest away those who would? For when such an one hears from thee,
This [fellow] is a cheat; that a hypocrite; and the other lends out money;
he neither gives to the one nor to the other; for he suspects all to be
such. For you know that we easily suspect evil, but good, not [so easily].
[10.] Let us "be merciful," not simply so, but "as our heavenly Father
is." (Luke vi. 36.) He feeds even adulterers, and fornicators, and
sorcerers, and what shall I say? Those having every kind of wickedness. For
in so large a world there must needs be many such. But nevertheless He
feeds all; He clothes all. No one ever perished of hunger, unless one did
so of his own choice. So let us be merciful. If one be in want and in
necessity, help him.
But now we are come to such a degree of unreasonableness, as to act
thus not only in regard to the poor who walk up and down the alleys, but
even in the case of men that live in [religious] solitude. Such an one
is an impostor, you say. Did I not say this at first, that if we give to
all indiscriminately, we shall always be compassionate; but if we begin to
make over-curious enquiries, we shall never be compassionate? What dost
thou mean? Is a man an impostor in order to get a loaf? If indeed he asks
for talents of gold and silver, or costly clothes, or slaves, or anything
else of this sort, one might with good reason call him a swindler. But if
he ask none of these things, but only food and shelter, things which are
suited to a philosophic life, tell me, is this the part of a swindler?
Cease we from this unseasonable fondness for meddling, which is Satanic,
which is destructive.
For indeed, if a man say that he is on the list of the Clergy, or calls
himself a priest, then busy thyself [to enquire], make much ado: since in
that case the communicating without enquiry is not without danger. For
the danger is about matters of importance, for thou dost not give but
receivest. But if he want food, make no enquiry.
Enquire, if thou wilt, how Abraham showed hospitality towards all who
came to him. If he had been over-curious about those who fled to him for
refuge, he would not have "entertained angels." (c. xiii. 2.) For perhaps
not thinking them to be angels, he would have thrust them too away with the
rest. But since he used to receive all, he received even angels.
What? Is it from the life of those that receive [thy bounty] that God
grants thee thy reward? Nay [it is] from thine own purpose, from thy
abundant liberality; from thy loving-kindness; from thy goodness. Let this
be [found], and thou shalt attain all good things, which may we all attain,
through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to
the Father and together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, now
and for ever and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY XII: HEBREWS vii. 1-3.
"For this Melchisedec, King of Salem, Priest of the most High God, who met
Abraham returning from the slaughter of the Kings, and blessed him: to whom
also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King
of Righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of
Peace, without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither
beginning of days, nor end of life, But made like unto the Son of God,
abideth a Priest continually."
[1.] PAUL wishing to show the difference between the New and Old
[Covenant], scatters it everywhere; and shoots from afar, and noises it
abroad, and prepares beforehand. For at once even from the introduction,
he laid down this saying, that "to them indeed He spake by prophets, but to
us by the Son" (c. i. 1, 2), and to them "at sundry times and in divers
manners," but to us through the Son. Afterwards, having discoursed
concerning the Son, who He was and what He had wrought, and given an
exhortation to obey Him, lest we should suffer the same things as the Jews;
and having said that He is "High Priest after the order of Melchisedec" (c.
vi. 20), and having oftentimes wished to enter into [the subject of] this
difference, and having used much preparatory management; and having rebuked
them as weak, and again soothed and restored them to confidence; then at
last he introduces the discussion on the difference [of the two
dispensations] to ears in their full vigor. For he who is depressed in
spirits would not be a ready hearer. And that you may understand this, hear
the Scripture saying, "They hearkened not to Moses for anguish of
spirit." (Ex. vi. 9.) Therefore having first cleared away their
despondency by many considerations, some fearful, some more gentle, he then
from this point enters upon the discussion of the difference [of the
[2.] And what does he say? "For this Melchisedec, King of Salem, Priest
of the Most High God." And, what is especially noteworthy, he shows the
difference to be great by the Type itself. For as I said, he continually
confirms the truth from the Type, from things past, on account of the
weakness of the hearers. "For" (he says) "this Melchisedec, King of Salem,
Priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter
of the Kings, and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of
all." Having concisely set down the whole narrative, he looked at it
And first from the name. "First" (he says) "being by interpretation
King of righteousness": for Sedec means "righteousness"; and Melchi,
"King": Melchisedec, "King of righteousness." Seest thou his exactness even
in the names? But who is "King of righteousness," save our Lord Jesus
Christ? "King of righteousness. And after that also King of Salem," from
his city, "that is, King of Peace," which again is [characteristic] of
Christ. For He has made us righteous, and has "made peace" for "things in
Heaven and things on earth." (Col. i. 20.) What man is "King of
Righteousness and of Peace"? None, save only our Lord JESUS Christ.
[3.] He then adds another distinction, "Without father, without mother,
without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but
made like unto the Son of God, abideth a Priest continually." Since then
there lay in his way [as an objection] the [words] "Thou art a Priest for
ever, after the order of Melchisedec," whereas he [Melchisedec] was dead,
and was not" Priest for ever," see how he explained it mystically.
'And who can say this concerning a man?' I do not assert this in fact
(he says); the meaning is, we do not know when [or] what father he had,
nor what mother, nor when he received his beginning, nor when he died. And
what of this (one says)? For does it follow, because we do not know it,
that he did not die, [or] had no parents? Thou sayest well: he both died
and had parents. How then [was he] "without father, without mother"? How
"having neither beginning of days nor end of life"? How? [Why] from its not
being expressed? And what of this? That as this man is so, from his
genealogy not being given, so is Christ from the very nature of the
See the "without beginning"; see the "without end." As in case of this
man, we know not either "beginning of days," or "end of life," because they
have not been written; so we know [them] not in the case of JESUS, not
because they have not been written, but because they do not exist. For that
indeed is a type, and therefore [we say] 'because it is not written,'
but this is the reality, and therefore [we say] 'because it does not
exist.' For as in regard to the names also (for there "King of
Righteousness" and "of Peace" are appellations, but here the reality) so
these too are appellations in that case, in this the reality. How then hath
He a beginning? Thou seest that the Son is "without beginning," not in
respect of His not having a cause; (for this is impossible: for He has a
Father, otherwise how is He Son?) but in respect of His "not having
beginning or end of life."
"But made like unto the Son of God." Where is the likeness? That we
know not of the one or of the other either the end or the beginning. Of the
one because they are not written; of the other, because they do not exist.
Here is the likeness. But if the likeness were to exist in all respects,
there would no longer be type and reality; but both would be type. [Here]
then just as in representations [by painting or drawing], there is
somewhat that is like and somewhat that is unlike. By means of the lines
indeed there is a likeness of features, but when the colors are put on,
then the difference is plainly shown, both the likeness and the unlikeness.
[4.] Ver. 4. "Now consider" (saith he) "how great this man is to whom
even the Patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils." Up to this
point he has been applying the type: hence-forward he boldly shows him
[Melchisedec] to be more glorious than the Jewish realities. But if he who
bears a type of Christ is so much better not merely than the priests, but
even than the forefather himself of the priests, what should one say of the
reality? Thou seest how super-abundantly he shows the superiority.
"Now consider" (he says) "how great this man is to whom even the
Patriarch Abraham gave a tenth out of the choice portions." Spoils taken in
battle are called "choice portions." And it cannot be said that he gave
them to him as having a part in the war, because (he said) he met him
"returning from the slaughter of the kings," for he had staid at home (he
means), yet [Abraham] gave him the first-fruits of his labors.
Ver. 5. "And verily they that are of the sons of Levi who receive the
office of Priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people
according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of
the loins of Abraham." So great (he would say) is the superiority of the
priesthood, that they who from their ancestors are of the same dignity, and
have the same forefather, are yet far better than the rest. At all events
they "receive tithes" from them. When then one is found, who receives
tithes from these very persons, are not they indeed in the rank of laymen,
and he among the Priests?
And not only this; but neither was he of the same dignity with them,
but of another race: so that he would not have given tithes to a stranger
unless his dignity had been great. Astonishing! What has he accomplished?
He has made quite clear a greater point than those relating to faith which
he treated in the Epistle to the Romans. For there indeed he declares
Abraham to be the forefather both of our polity and also of the Jewish. But
here he is exceeding bold against him, and shows that the uncircumcised
person is far superior. How then did he show that Levi paid tithes? Abraham
(he says) paid them. 'And how does this concern us?' It especially concerns
you: for you will not contend that the Levites are superior to Abraham.
(Ver. 6 ) "But he whose descent is not counted from them, received tithes
And after that he did not simply pass on, but added, "and blessed him
that had the promises." Inasmuch as throughout, this was regarded with
reverence, he shows that [Melchisedec] was to be reverenced more than
Abraham, from the common judgment of all men. (Ver. 7) "And without all
contradiction," he says, "the less is blessed of the better," i.e. in the
opinion of all men it is the inferior that is blessed by the superior. So
then the type of Christ is superior even to "him that had the promises."
(Ver. 8) "And here men that die receive tithes: but there he of whom it
is testified that he liveth." But lest we should say, Tell us, why goest
thou so far back? He says, (ver. 9) "And as I may so say" (and he did well
in softening it) "Levi also who receiveth tithes payed tithes in Abraham."
How? (Ver. 10) "For he was yet in his loins when Melchisedec met him," i.e.
Levi was in him, although he was not yet born. And he said not the Levites
Hast thou seen the superiority? Hast thou seen how great is the
interval between Abraham and Melchisedec, who bears the type of our High
Priest? And he shows that the superiority had been caused by authority, not
necessity. For the one paid the tithe, which indicates the priest: the
other gave the blessing, which indicates the superior. This superiority
passes on also to the descendants.
In a marvelous and triumphant way he cast out the Jewish [system]. On
this account he said, "Ye are become dull," (c. v. 12), because he wished
to lay these foundations, that they might not start away. Such is the
wisdom of Paul, first preparing them well, he so leads them into what he
wishes. For the human race is hard to persuade, and needs much attention,
even more than plants. Since in that case there is [only] the nature of
material bodies, and earth, which yields to the hands of the husbandmen:
but in this there is will, which is liable to many alterations, and now
prefers this, now that. For it quickly turns to evil.
[5.] Wherefore we ought always to "guard" ourselves, test at any time
we should fall asleep. For "Lo" (it is said) "he that keepeth Israel shall
neither slumber nor sleep" (Ps. cxxi. 4), and "Do not suffer thy foot to
be moved." (Ps. cxxi. 3.) He did not say, 'be not moved' but "do not thou
suffer," &c. The suffering depends then on ourselves, and not on any other.
For if we will stand "steadfast and unmoveable" (1 Cor. xv. 58), we shall
not be shaken.
What then? Does nothing depend on God? All indeed depends on God, but
not so that our free-will is hindered. 'If then it depend on God,' (one
says), 'why does He blame us?' On this account I said, 'so that our free-
will is no hindered.' It depends then on us, and on Him For we must first
choose the good; and then He leads us to His own. He does not anticipate
our choice, lest our free-will should be outraged. But when we have
chosen, then great is the assistance he brings to us.
How is it then that Paul says, "not of him that willeth," if it depend
on ourselves also "nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy."
(Rom. ix. 16.)
In the first place, he did not introduce it as his own opinion, but
inferred it from what was before him and from what had been put forward
[in the discussion]. For after saying, "It is written, I will have mercy on
whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have
compassion" (Rom. ix. 15),he says, "It follows then that it is not of
him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy."
"Thou wilt say then unto me, why doth He yet find fault?" (Rom. ix. 16,
And secondly the other explanation may be given, that he speaks of all
as His, whose the greater part is. For it is ours to choose and to wish;
but God's to complete and to bring to an end. Since therefore the greater
part is of Him, he says all is of Him, speaking according to the custom of
men. For so we ourselves also do. I mean for instance: we see a house well
built, and we say the whole is the Architect's [doing], and yet certainly
it is not all his, but the workmen's also, and the owner's, who supplies
the materials, and many others', but nevertheless since he contributed the
greatest share, we call the whole his. So then [it is] in this case also.
Again, with respect to a number of people, where the many are, we say All
are: where few, nobody. So also Paul says, "not of him that willeth, nor of
him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy."
And herein he establishes two great truths: one, that we should not be
lifted up: even shouldst thou run (he would say), even shouldst thou be
very earnest, do not consider that the well doing is thine own. For if
thou obtain not the impulse that is from above, all is to no purpose.
Nevertheless that thou wilt attain that which thou earnestly strivest after
is very evident; so long as thou runnest, so long as thou willest.
He did not then assert this, that we run in vain, but that, if we think
the whole to be our own, if we do not assign the greater part to God, we
run in vain. For neither hath God willed that the whole should be His, lest
He should appear to be crowning us without cause: nor again our's, lest we
should fall away to pride. For if when we have the smaller [share], we
think much of ourselves, what should we do if the whole depended on us?
[6.] Indeed God hath done away many things for the purpose of cutting
away our boastfulness, and still there is the high hand. With how many
afflictions hath He encompassed us, so as to cut away our proud spirit!
With how many wild beasts hath He encircled us! For indeed when some say,
'why is this?' 'Of what use is this?' They utter these things against the
will of God. He hath placed thee in the midst of so great fear, and yet not
even so art thou lowly-minded; but if thou ever attain a little success,
thou reachest to Heaven itself in pride.
For this cause [come] rapid changes and reverses; and yet not even so
are we instructed. For this cause are there continual and untimely deaths,
but are minded as if we were immortal, as if we should never die. We
plunder, we over-reach, as though we were never to give account. We build
as if we were to abide here always. And not even the word of God daily
sounded into our ears, nor the events themselves instruct us. Not a day,
not an hour can be mentioned, in which we may not see continual funerals.
But all in vain: and nothing reaches our hardness [of heart]: nor are we
even able to become better by the calamities of others; or rather, we are
not willing. When we ourselves only are afflicted, then we are subdued, and
yet if God take off His hand, we again lift up our hand: no one considers
what is proper for man, no one despises the things on earth; no one
looks to Heaven. But as swine turn their heads downwards, stooping towards
their belly, wallowing in the mire; so too the great body of mankind defile
themselves with the most intolerable filth, without being conscious of it.
[7.] For better were it to be defiled with unclean mud than with sins;
for he who is defiled with the one, washes it off in a little time, and
becomes like one who had never from the first fallen into that slough; but
he who has fallen into the deep pit of sin has contracted a defilement that
is not cleansed by water, but needs long time, and strict repentance, and
tears and lamentations, and more wailing, and that more fervent, than we
show over the dearest friends. For this defilement attaches to us from
without, wherefore we also speedily put it away; but the other is generated
from within, wherefore also we wash it off with difficulty, and cleanse
ourselves from it. "For from the heart" (it is said) "proceed evil
thoughts, fornications, adulteries, thefts, false witnesses." (Matt. xv.
19.) Wherefore also the Prophet said, "Create in me a clean heart, O God."
(Ps. li. 10.) And another, "Wash thine heart from wickedness, O Jerusalem."
(Jer. iv. 14.) (Thou seest that it is both our [work] and God's.) And
again, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matt. v.
Let us become clean to the utmost of our power. Let us wipe away our
sins. And how to wipe them away, the prophet teaches, saying, "Wash you,
make you clean, put away your wickedness from your souls, before Mine
eyes." (Isa. i. 16.) What is "before Mine eyes"? Because some seem to be
free from wickedness, but only to men, while to God they are manifest as
being "whited sepulchers." Therefore He says, so put them away as I see.
"Learn to do well, seek judgment, do justice for the poor and lowly." "Come
now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: and though your sins be as
scarlet, I will make you white as snow, and if they be as crimson, I will
make you white as wool." (Isa. i. 17, 18.) Thou seest that we must first
cleanse ourselves, and then God cleanses us. For having said first, "Wash
you, make you clean," He then added "I will make you white."
Let no one then, [even] of those who are come to the extremest
wickedness, despair of himself. For (He says) even if thou hast passed into
the habit, yea and almost into the nature of wickedness itself, be not
afraid. Therefore taking [the instance of] colors that are not superficial
but almost of the substance of the materials, He said that He would bring
them into the opposite state. For He did not simply say that He would
"wash" us, but that He would "make" us "white, as snow and as wool," in
order to hold out good hopes before us. Great then is the power of
repentance, at least if it makes us as snow, and whitens us as wool, even
if sin have first got possession and dyed our souls.
Let us labor earnestly then to become clean; He has enjoined nothing
burdensome. "Judge the fatherless, and do justice for the widow." (Isa. i.
17.) Thou seest everywhere how great account God makes of mercy, and of
standing forward in behalf of those that are wronged. These good deeds let
us pursue after, and we shall be able also, by the grace of God, to attain
to the blessings to come: which may we all be counted worthy of, in Christ
Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost, be
glory, power, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY XIII: HEBREWS vii. 11-14.
"If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood; (for under it
the people have received the law') what further need was there that
another priest should arise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be
called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there
is made of necessity a change also of the law. For He of whom these
things are spoken, pertained to another tribe, of which no man gave
attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of
Judah, of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priests."
[1.] "IF therefore" (he says) "perfection were by the Levitical
priesthood." Having spoken concerning Melchisedec, and shown how much
superior he was to Abraham, and having set forth the great difference
between them, he begins from this point forward to prove the wide
difference as to the covenant itself, and how the one is imperfect and the
other perfect. However he does not even yet enter on the matters
themselves, but first contends on the ground of the priesthood, and the
tabernacle. For these things would be more easily received by the
unbelieving, when the proof was derived from things already allowed, and
He had shown that Melchisedec was greatly superior both to Levi and to
Abraham, being to them in the rank of the priests. Again he argues from a
different point. What then is this? Why (he says) did he not say, "after
the order of Aaron"? And observe, I pray you, the great superiority [of his
argument]. For from the very circumstance which naturally excluded His
priesthood, viz. that He was not "after the order of Aaron," from that he
establishes Him, and excludes the others. For this is the very thing that I
say (he declares); why has He "not been made after the order of Aaron"?
And the [saying] "what further need" has much emphasis. For if Christ
had been "after the order of Melchisedec" according to the flesh, and then
afterwards the law had been introduced, and all that pertained to Aaron,
one might reasonably say that the latter as being more perfect, annulled
the former, seeing that it had come in after it. But if Christ comes later,
and takes a different type, as that of His priesthood, it is evident that
it is because those. were imperfect. For (he would say) let us suppose for
argument's sake, that all has been fulfilled, and that there is nothing
imperfect in the priesthood. "What need" was there in that case that He
should be called "after the order of Melchisedec and not after the order of
Aaron"? Why did He set aside Aaron, and introduce a different priesthood,
that of Melchisedec? "If then perfection," that is the perfection of the
things themselves, of the doctrines, of life, "had been by the Levitical
And observe how he goes forward on his path. He had said that [He was]
"after the order of Melchisedec," implying that the [priesthood] "after the
order of Melchisedec" is superior: for [he was] far superior. Afterwards
he shows this from the time also, in that He was after Aaron; evidently as
[2.] And what is the meaning of what follows? "For" (he says) "under
[or "upon"] it the people have received the Law for "have been legislated
for"]." What is "under it" [&c.]? Ordereth itself by it; through it
does all things. You cannot say that it was given to others, "the people
under it have received the law," that is, have used it, and did use it. You
cannot say indeed that it was perfect, it did not govern the people; "they
have been legislated for upon it," that is, they used it.
What need was there then of another priesthood? "For the priesthood
being changed, there is of necessity a change of the law also." But if
there must be another priest, or rather another priesthood, there must
needs be also another law. This is for those who say, What need was there
of a new Covenant? For he could indeed have alleged a testimony from
prophecy also. "This is the covenant which I made with your fathers" [&c.].
(c. viii. 10.) But for the present he contends on the ground of the
priesthood. And observe, how be says this from the first. He said,
"According to the order of "Melchisedec." By this he excluded the order of
Aaron. For he would not have said "After the order of Melchisedec," if the
other had been better. If therefore another priesthood has been brought in,
there must be also [another] Covenant; for neither is it possible that
there should be a priest, without a covenant and laws and ordinances, nor
that having received a different priesthood He should use the former
In the next place, as to the ground of objection: "How could He be a
priest if He were not a Levite?" Having overthrown this by what had been
said above, he does not even think it worth answering, but introduces it in
passing. I said (he means) that the priesthood was changed, therefore also
the Covenant is. And it was changed not only in its character, or in its
ordinances, but also in its tribe. For of necessity [it must be changed] in
its tribe also. How? "For the priesthood being changed [or "transferred
"]," from tribe to tribe, from the sacerdotal to the regal [tribe], that
the same might be both regal and sacerdotal.
And observe the mystery. First it was royal, and then it is become
sacerdotal: so therefore also in regard to Christ: for King indeed He
always was, but has become Priest from the time that He assumed the Flesh,
that He offered the sacrifice. Thou seest the change, and the very things
which were ground of objection these he introduces, as though the natural
order of things required them. "For" (he says) "He of whom these things are
spoken pertained to another tribe." I myself also say it, I know that this
tribe [of Judah] had nothing of priesthood. For there is a transferring.
[3.] Yea and I am showing another difference also (he would say): not
only from the tribe, nor yet only from the Person, nor from the character
[of the Priesthood], nor from the covenant, but also from the type itself.,
(Ver. 16) "Who was made [" became" so], not according to the law of a
carnal commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. He
became" (he says) "a priest not according to the law of a carnal
commandment ": for that law was in many respects unlawful.
What is, "of a carnal commandment"? Circumcise the flesh, it says;
anoint the flesh; wash the flesh; purify the flesh; shave the flesh; bind
upon the flesh; cherish the flesh; rest as to the flesh. And again its
blessings, what are they? Long life for the flesh; milk and honey for the
flesh; peace for the flesh; luxury for the flesh. From this law Aaron
received the priesthood; Melchisedec however not so.
Ver. 15. "And it is yet far more evident, if after the similitude of
Melchisedec there ariseth another priest." What is evident? The interval
between the two priesthoods, the difference; how much superior He is "who
was made not
according to the law of a carnal commandment." (Who? Melchisedec? Nay; but
Christ.) "But according to the power of an endless life. For He
testifieth, Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec";
that is, not for a time, nor having any limit, "but according to the power
of an endless life," that is, by means of power, by means of "endless
And yet this does not follow after, "who was made not according to the
law of a carnal commandment": for what would follow would be to say, "but
according to that of a spiritual one." However by "carnal," he implied
temporary. As he says also in another place, carnal ordinances imposed
until the time of reformation." (c. ix. 10.)
"According to the power of life," that is, because He lives by His own
[4.] He had said, that there is also a change of law, and up to this
point he has shown it; henceforward he enquires into the cause, that which
above all gives full assurance to men's minds, [I mean] the knowing the
cause thoroughly; and it leads us more to faith when we have learned
also the cause, and the principle according to which [the thing] comes to
Ver. 18. "For there is verily" (he says) "a disannulling of the
commandment going before, for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof."
Here the Heretics press on. But listen attentively. He did not say "for
the evil," nor, "for the viciousness," but "for the weakness and
unprofitableness [thereof]," yea and in other places also he shows the
weakness; as when he says "In that it was weak through the flesh." (Rom.
viii. 3.0 [The law] itself then is not weak, but we.
Ver. 19. "For the Law made nothing perfect." What is, "make nothing
perfect"? Made no man perfect, being disobeyed. And besides, even if it had
been listened to, it would not have made one perfect and virtuous. But as
yet he does not say this here, but that it had no strength: and with good
reason. For written precepts were there set down, Do this and Do not that,
being enjoined only, and not giving power within. But "the Hope" is not
What is "a disannulling"? A casting out. A "disannulling" is a
disannulling of things which are of force. So that he implied, that it
[once] was of force, but henceforward was of no account, since it
accomplished nothing. Was the Law then of no use? It was indeed of use; and
of great use: but to make men perfect it was of no use. For in this respect
he says, "The Law made nothing perfect." All were figures, all shadows;
circumcision, sacrifice, sabbath. Therefore they could not reach through
the soul, wherefore they pass away and gradually withdraw. "But the
bringing in of a better hope did, by which we draw nigh unto God."
[5.] (Ver. 20) "And forasmuch as not without the taking of an oath."
Thou seest that the matter of the oath becomes necessary for him here.
Accordingly for this reason he previously treated much [hereon], how that
God swore; and swore for the sake of [our] fuller assurance.
"But the bringing in of a better hope." For that system also had a
hope, but not such as this. For they hoped that, if they were well pleasing
[to God], they should possess the land, that they should suffer nothing
fearful. But in this [dispensation] we hope that, if we are well pleasing
[to God], we shall possess not earth, but heaven; or rather (which is far
better than this) we hope to stand near to God, to come unto the very
throne of the Father, to minister unto Him with the Angels. And see how he
introduces these things by little and little. For above he says "which
entereth into that within the veil", (c. vi. 19), but here, "by which we
draw nigh unto God."
"And inasmuch as not without an oath." What is "And inasmuch as not
without an oath"? That is, Behold another difference also. And these things
were not merely promised (he says). "For those priests were made without an
oath," (ver. 21, 22) "but This with an oath, by Him that said unto Him, The
Lord swore and will not repent, Thou art Priest for ever after the order of
Melchisedec. By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better
covenant." He lays down two points of difference, that it hath no end as
the [covenant] of the Law had; and this he proves from [its being]
Christ who exercises [the priesthood]; for he says "according to the power
of an endless life." And he proves it also from the oath, because "He
swore," &c., and from the fact; for if the other was cast out, because it
was weak, this stands firm, because it is powerful. He proves it also from
the priest. How? Because He is One [only]; and there would not have been
One [only], unless He had been immortal. For as there were many priests,
because they were mortal, so [here is] The One, because He is immortal. "By
so much was Jesus made a surety of a better covenant," inasmuch as He sware
to Him that He should always be [Priest]; which He would not have done, if
He were not living.
[6.] (Ver. 25) "Wherefore He is able also to save them to the
uttermost, that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make
intercession for them." Thou seest that he says this in respect of that
which is according to the flesh. For when He [appears] as Priest, then He
also intercedes. Wherefore also when Paul says, "who also maketh
intercession for us" (Rom. viii. 34), he hints the same thing; the High
Priest maketh intercession. For He "that raiseth the dead as He will, and
quickeneth them," (John v. 21), and that "even as the Father" [doth], how
[is it that] when there is need to save, He "maketh intercession'? (John v.
22 .) He that hath "all judgment," how [is it that] He "maketh
intercession"? He that "sendeth His angels" (Matt. xiii. 41, 42), that they
may "cast" some into "the furnace," and save others, how [is it that] He
"maketh intercession"? Wherefore (he says) "He is able also to save." For
this cause then He saves, because He dies not. Inasmuch as "He ever
liveth," He hath (he means) no successor: And if He have no successor, He
is able to aid all men. For there [under the Law] indeed, the High Priest
although he were worthy of admiration during the time in which he was [High
Priest] (as Samuel for instance, and any other such), but, after this, no
longer; for they were dead. But here it is not so, but "He" saves "to the
What is "to the uttermost"? He hints at some mystery. Not here only
(he says) but there also He saves them that "come unto God by Him." How
does He save? "In that He ever liveth" (he says) "to make intercession for
them." Thou seest the humiliation? Thou seest the manhood? For he says not,
that He obtained this, by making intercession once for all, but
continually, and whensoever it may be needful to intercede for them.
"To the uttermost." What is it? Not for a time only, but there also in
the future life. ' Does He then always need to pray? Yet how can [this] be
reasonable? Even righteous men have oftentimes accomplished all by one
entreaty, and is He always praying? Why then is He throned with [the
Father]?' Thou seest that it is a condescension. The meaning is: Be not
afraid, nor say, Yea, He loves us indeed, and He has confidence towards the
Father, but He cannot live always. For He doth live alway.
[7.] (Ver. 26) "For such an High Priest also became us, who is holy,
harmless, undefiled, separate from the sinners." Thou seest that the whole
is said with reference to the manhood. (But when I say 'the manhood,' I
mean [the manhood] having Godhead; not dividing [one from the other], but
leaving [you] to suppose what is suitable.) Didst thou mark the
difference of the High Priest? He has summed up what was said before, "in
all points tempted like as we are yet without sin." (c. iv. 15.) "For" (he
says) "such an High Priest also became us, who is holy, harmless."
"Harmless ": what is it? Without wickedness: that which another Prophet
says: "guile was not found in His mouth" (Isa. liii. 9), that is, [He is]
not crafty. Could any one say this concerning God? And is one not ashamed
to say that God is not crafty, nor deceitful? Concerning Him, however, in
respect of the Flesh, it might be reasonable [to say it]. "Holy,
undefiled." This too would any one say concerning God? For has He a nature
capable of defilement? "Separate from sinners."
[8.] Does then this alone show the difference, or does the sacrifice
itself also? How? (Ver. 27) "He needeth not" (he says) "daily, as the High
Priest, to offer up sacrifices for his sins, for this He did once for
all, when He offered up Himself. "This," what? Here what follows sounds a
prelude concerning the exceeding greatness of the spiritual sacrifice and
the interval [between them]. He has mentioned the point of the priest; he
has mentioned that of the faith; he has mentioned that of the Covenant; not
entirely indeed, still he has mentioned it. In this place what follows is a
prelude concerning the sacrifice itself. Do not then, having heard that He
is a priest, suppose that He is always executing the priest's office. For
He executed it once, and thenceforward "sat down." (c. x. 12.) Lest thou
suppose that He is standing on high, and is a minister, he shows that the
matter is [part] of a dispensation [or economy]. For as He became a
servant, so also [He became] a Priest and a Minister. But as after becoming
a servant, He did not continue a servant, so also, having become a
Minister, He did not continue a Minister. For it belongs not to a minister
to sit, but to stand.
This then he hints at here, and also the greatness of the sacrifice, if
being [but] one, and having been offered up once only, it affected that
which all [the rest] were unable to do. But he does not yet [treat] of
"For this He did," he says. "This"; what? "For" (he says) "it is of
necessity that this [Man] have somewhat also to offer" (c. viii. 3); not
for Himself; for how did He offer Himself? But for the people. What sayest
thou? And is He able to do this? Yea (he says). "For the Law maketh men
high priests, which have infirmity." (c. vii. 28.) And doth He not need to
offer for Himself? No, he says. For, that you may not suppose that the
[words, "this "] "He did once for all," are said respecting Himself also,
hear what he says: "For the law maketh men high priests, which have
infirmity." On this account they both offer continually, and for
themselves. He however who is mighty, He that hath no sin, why should He
offer for Himself, or oftentimes for others?
"But the word of the oath which was since the Law [maketh] the Son who
has been consecrated for evermore." "Consecrated": what is that? Paul
does not set down the common terms of contradistinction; for after
saying "having Infirmity," he did not say "the Son" who is mighty, but
"consecrated": i.e. mighty, as one might say. Thou seest that the name
Son is used in contradistinction to that of servant. And by "infirmity" he
means either sin or death.
What is, "for evermore"? Not now only without sin but always. If then
He is perfect, if He never sins, if He lives always, why shall He offer
many sacrifices for us? But for the present he does not insist strongly on
this point: but what he does strongly insist upon is, His not offering on
His own behalf.
[9.] Since then we have such an High Priest, let us imitate Him: let us
walk in His footsteps. There is no other sacrifice: one alone has cleansed
us, and after this, fire and hell. For indeed on this account he repeats it
over and over, saying, "one Priest," "one Sacrifice," lest any one
supposing that there are many [sacrifices] should sin without fear. Let us
then, as many as have been counted worthy of The Seal, as many as have
enjoyed The Sacrifice, as many as have partaken of the immortal Table,
continue to guard our noble birth and our dignity for failing away is not
And as many as have not yet been counted worthy these [privileges], let
not these either be confident on that account. For when a person goes on in
sin, with the view of receiving holy baptism at the last gasp, oftentimes
he will not obtain it. And, believe me, it is not to terrify you that I say
what I am going to say. I have myself known many persons, to whom this has
happened, who in expectation indeed of the enlightening sinned much, and
on the day of their death went away empty. For God gave us baptism for this
cause, that He might do away our sins, not that He might increase our sins.
Whereas if any man have employed it as a security for sinning more, it
becomes a cause of negligence. For if there had been no Washing, they would
have lived more warily, as not having [the means of] forgiveness. Thou
seest that we are the ones who cause it to be said "Let us do evil, that
good may come." (Rom. iii. 8.)
Wherefore, I exhort you also who are uninitiated, be sober. Let no man
follow after virtue as an hireling, no man as a senseless person, no man
as after a heavy and burdensome thing, Let us pursue it then with a ready
mind, and with joy. For if there were no reward laid up, ought we not to be
good? But however, at least with a reward, let us become good. And how is
this anything else than a disgrace and a very great condemnation? Unless
thou give me a reward (says one), I do not become self- controlled. Then am
I bold to say something: thou wilt never be self-controlled, no not even
when thou livest with self-control, if thou dost it for a reward. Thou
esteemest not virtue at all, if thou dost not love it. But on account of
our great weakness, God was willing that for a time it should be practiced
even for reward, yet not even so do we pursue it.
But let us suppose, if you will, that a man dies, after having done
innumerable evil things, having also been counted worthy of baptism (which
however I think does not readily happen), tell me, how will he depart
thither? Not indeed called to account for the deeds he had done, but yet
without confidence; as is reasonable. For when after living a hundred
years, he has no good work to show, but only that he has not sinned, or
rather not even this, but that he was saved by grace only, and when he
sees others crowned, in splendor, and highly approved: even if he fall not
into hell, tell me, will he endure his despondency?
[10.] But to make the matter clear by an example, Suppose there are two
soldiers, and that one of them steals, injures, overreaches, and that the
other does none of these things, but acts the part of a brave man, does
important things well, sets up trophies in war, stains his right hand with
blood; then when the time arrives, suppose that (from the same rank in
which the thief also was) he is at once conducted to the imperial throne
and the purple; but suppose that the other remains there where he was, and
merely of the royal kindness does not pay the penalty of his deeds, let him
however be in the last place, and let him be stationed under the King. Tell
me, will he be able to endure his despair when he sees him who was [ranked]
with himself ascended even to the very highest dignities, and made thus
glorious, and master of the world, while he himself still remains below,
and has not even been freed from punishment with honor, but through the
grace and kindness of the King? For even should the King forgive him, and
release him from the charges against him, still he will live in shame; for
surely not even will others admire him: since in such forgiveness, we
admire not those who receive the gifts, but those who bestow them. And as
much as the gifts are greater, so much the more are they ashamed who
receive them, when their transgressions are great.
With what eyes then will such an one be able to took on those who are
in the King's courts, when they exhibit their sweatings out of number and
their wounds, whilst he has nothing to show, but has his salvation itself
of the mere loving-kindness of God? For as if one were to beg off a
murderer, a thief, an adulterer, when he was going to be arrested, and were
to command him to stay at the porch of the King's palace, he will not
afterwards be able to look any man in the face, although he has been set
free from punishment: so too surely is this man's case.
For do not, I beseech you, suppose that because it is called a
palace, therefore all attain the same things. For if here in Kings'
courts there is the Prefect, and all who are about the King, and also those
who are in very inferior stations, and occupy the place of what are called
Decani (though the interval be so great between the Prefect and the
Decanus) much more shall this be so in the royal court above.
And this I say not of myself. For Paul layeth down another difference
greater even than these. For (he says) as many differences as there are
between the sun and the moon and the stars and the very smallest star, so
many also between those in the kingdom [of Heaven]. And that the difference
between the sun and the smallest star is far greater than that between the
Decanus (as he is called) and the Prefect, is evident to all. For while the
sun shines upon all the world at once, and makes it bright, and hides the
moon and the stars, the other often does not appear, not even in the dark.
For there are many of the stars which we do not see. When then we see
others become suns, and we have the rank of the very smallest stars, which
are not even visible, what comfort shall we have?
Let us not, I beseech you, let us not be so slothful, not so inert, let
us not barter away the salvation of God for an easy life, but let us make
merchandise of it, and increase it. For even if one be a Catechumen, still
he knows Christ, still he understands the Faith, still he is a hearer of
the divine oracles, still he is not far from the knowledge; he knows the
will of his Lord. Wherefore does he procrastinate? wherefore does he delay
and postpone? Nothing is better than a good life whether here or there,
whether in case of the Enlightened or of the Catechumens,
[11.] For tell me what burdensome command have we enjoined? Have a wife
(it is said) and be chaste. Is this difficult? How? when many, not
Christians only but heathens also, live chastely without a wife. That which
the heathen surpasses for vainglory, thou dost not even keep for the
fear of God.
Give (He says) to the poor out of what thou hast. Is this burdensome?
But in this case also heathen condemn us who for vainglory only have
emptied out their whole possessions.
Use not filthy communication. Is this difficult? For if it had not been
enjoined, ought we not to have done right in this, to avoid appearing
degraded? For that the contrary conduct is troublesome, I mean the using
filthy communication, is manifest from the fact that the soul is ashamed
and blushes if it have been led to say any such thing and would not unless
perhaps it were drunk. For when sitting in a public place, even if thou
doest it at home, why dost thou not do it there? Because of those that are
present. Why dost thou not readily do the same thing before thy wife? That
thou mayest not insult her. So then thou dost it not, lest thou shouldest
insult thy wife; and dost thou not blush at insulting God? For He is
everywhere present, and heareth all things.
Be not drunken, He says. For this very thing of itself, is it not a
chastisement? He did not say, Put thy body on the rack, but what? Do not
give it free rein so as to take away the authority of the mind: on the
contrary "make not provision for the lusts thereof." (Rom. xiii. 14.)
Do not (He says) seize by violence what is not thine own; do not
overreach; do not forswear thyself. What labors do these things require
Speak evil of no man (He says) nor accuse falsely. The contrary indeed
is a labor. For when thou hast spoken ill of another, immediately thou art
in danger, in suspicion, [saying] Did he of whom I spake, hear? whether he
be great or small. For should he be a great man, immediately thou wilt be
indeed in danger; but if small, he will requite thee with as much, or
rather with what is far more grievous; for he will say evil of thee in a
greater degree. We are enjoined nothing difficult, nothing burdensome, if
we have the will. And if we have not the will, even the easiest things will
appear burdensome to us. What is easier than eating? but from great
effeminacy many feel disgust even at this, and I hear many say, that it is
weariness even to eat. None of these things is wearisome if thou hast but
the will. For everything depends on the will after the grace from above.
Let us will good things that we may attain also to the good things eternal,
in Christ Jesus our Lord, whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost
be glory, might, honor, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY XIV: HEBREWS viii. 1, 2.
"Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an
High Priest; who is set down on the right hand of the throne of the majesty
in the heavens: a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle
which the Lord pitched, and not man."
[1.] PAUL mixes the lowly things with the lofty, ever imitating his
Master, so that the lowly become the path to the lofty, and through the
former we are led to the latter, and when we are amid the great things we
learn that these [lowly ones] were a condescension. This accordingly he
does here also. After declaring that "He offered up Himself," and showing
Him to be a "High Priest," what does he say? "Now of the things which we
have spoken this is the sum: we have such an High Priest who is set down on
the right hand of the throne of the majesty." And yet this is not [the
office] of a Priest, but of Him whom the Priest should serve.
"A minister of the sanctuary," not simply a minister, but "a minister
of the sanctuary. And of the true Tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and
not man." Thou seest the condescension. Did he not a little before make a
separation, saying: "Are they not all ministering spirits?" (supra, i.
14) and therefore (he says) it is not said to them, "Sit thou on my right
hand," (supra, i. 13) for He that sitteth is not a minister. How is it then
that it is here said, "a minister," and "a minister of the Sanctuary "? for
he means here the Tabernacle.
See how he raised up the minds of the believing Jews. For as they would
be apt to imagine that we have no such tabernacle [as they had], see here
(he says) is the Priest, Great, yea, much greater than the other, and who
has offered a more wonderful sacrifice. But is not all this mere talk? is
it not a boast, and merely said to win over our minds? on this account he
established it first from the oath, and afterwards also from "the
tabernacle." For this difference too was manifest: but the Apostle thinks
of another also, "which" (he says) "the Lord pitched [or "made firm "] and
not man." Where are they who say that the heaven whirls around? where
are they who declare that it is spherical? for both of these notions are
"Now" (he says) "of the things which we have spoken this is the sum."
By "the sum" is always meant what is most important. Again he brings down
his discourse; having said what is lofty, henceforward he speaks
[2.] In the next place that thou mayest understand that he used the
word "minister" of the manhood, observe how he again indicates it: "For"
(ver. 3) (he says) "every high priest is ordained to offer both gifts and
sacrifices, wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also
Do not now, because thou hearest that He sitteth, suppose that His
being called High Priest is mere idle talk. For the former, viz. His
sitting, belongs to the dignity of the Godhead, but this to His great
lovingkindness, and His tender care for us. On this account he repeatedly
urges this very thing, and dwells more upon it: for he feared lest the
other[truth] should overthrow it. Therefore he again brings down his
discourse to this: since some were enquiring why He died. He was a Priest.
But there is no Priest without a sacrifice. It is necessary then that He
also should have a sacrifice.
And in another way; Having said that He is on high, he affirms and
proves that He is a Priest from every consideration, from Melchisedec, from
the oath, from offering sacrifice. From this he also frames another and
necessary syllogism. "For if" (he says) "He had been on earth, He would not
be a Priest, seeing that there are priests who offer the gifts according to
the Law." If then He is a Priest (as He really is), we must seek some other
place for Him. "For if He were" indeed "on earth, He should not be a
priest." For how [could He be]? He offered no sacrifice, He ministered not
in the Priest's office. And with good reason, for there were the priests.
Moreover he shows, that it was impossible that [He] should be a priest upon
earth. For how [could He be]? There was no rising up against [the appointed
Priests], he means.
[3.] Here we must apply our minds attentively, and consider the
Apostolic wisdom; for again he shows the difference of the Priesthood.
"Who" (he says) "serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things."
What are the heavenly things he speaks of here? The spiritual things.
For although they are done on earth, yet nevertheless they are worthy of
the Heavens. For when our Lord Jesus Christ lies slain [as a sacrifice],
when the Spirit is with us, when He who sitteth on the right hand of the
Father is here, when sons are made by the Washing, when they are fellow-
citizens of those in Heaven, when we have a country, and a city, and
citizenship there, when we are strangers to things here, how can all these
be other than "heavenly' things "? But what !Are not our Hymns heavenly? Do
not we also who are below utter in concert with them the same things which
the divine choirs of bodiless powers sing above? Is not the altar also
heavenly? How? It hath nothing carnal, all spiritual things become the
offerings. The sacrifice does not disperse into ashes, or into smoke, or
into steamy savor, it makes the things placed there bright and splendid.
How again can the rites which we celebrate be other than heavenly? For when
He says, "Whose soever sins ye retain they are retained, whose soever sins
ye remit, they are remitted" (John xx. 23) when they have the keys of
heaven, how can all be other than heavenly?
"Who" (he says) "serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things,
as Moses was admonished of God, when he was about to make the
tabernacle, for see, saith He, that thou make all things according to the
pattern showed to thee in the mount." Inasmuch as our hearing is less ready
of apprehension than our sight (for the things which we hear we do not in
such wise lay up in our soul, as those which we see with our very eyes), He
showed him all. Either then he means this by "the example and shadow," or
else he [speaks] of the Temple. For, he went on to say, "See" (His words
are), that "thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee
in the mount." Was it then only what concerned the furniture of the temple
that he saw, or was it also what related, to the sacrifices, and all the
rest? Nay, one would not be wrong in saying even this; for The Church is
heavenly, and is nothing else than Heaven.
[4.] (Ver. 6) "But now hath He obtained a more excellent ministry,
by how much also He is the Mediator of a better covenant." Thou seest (he
means) how much better is the one ministration than the other, if one be an
example and type, and the other truth [reality]. But this did not profit
the hearers, nor cheer them. Therefore he says what especially cheered
them: "Which was established upon better promises." Having raised them up
by speaking of the place, and the priest, and the sacrifice, he then sets
forth also the wide difference of the covenant, having also said before
that it was "weak and unprofitable." (See Heb. vii. 18.)
And observe what safeguards he lays down, when intending to find fault
with it. For in the former place after saying, "according to the power of
an endless life" (Heb. vii. 16), he then said that "there is a disannulling
of the commandment going before" (Heb. vii. 18); and then after that, he
set forth something great, saying, "by which we draw nigh unto God." (Heb.
vii. 19.) And in this place, after leading us up into Heaven, and showing
that instead of the temple, we have Heaven, and that those things were
types of ours, and having by these means exalted the Ministration [of the
New Covenant], he then proceeds suitably to exalt the priesthood.
But (as I said) he sets down that which especially cheers them, in the
words, "Which was established upon better promises." Whence does appear? In
that this the one was cast out, and the other introduced in its place: for
it is therefore of force because it is better. For as he says, "If
perfection were by" it, "what further need was there, that another priest
should rise, after the order of Melchisedec?" (Heb. vii. 11); so also here
he used the same syllogism, saying (ver. 7) "For if that first covenant had
been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second"; that
is, if it made men "faultless." For it is because he is speaking of this
that he did not say, "But finding fault with" it, but (ver. 8, 9) "But
finding fault with them, He saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house
of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in
the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt:
because they continued not in My covenant, and I regarded them not, saith
Yea, verily. And whence does it appear that [the first Covenant] came
to an end? He showed it indeed also from the Priest, but now he shows more
clearly by express words that it has been cast out.
But how is it "upon better promises "? For how, tell me, can earth and
heaven be equal? But do thou consider, how he speaks of promises there
[in that other covenant] also, that thou mayest not bring this charge
against it. For there also, he says "a better hope, by which we draw nigh
unto God" (Heb. vii. 19), showing that a Hope was there also; and in this
place "better promises," hinting that there also He had made promises.
But inasmuch as they were forever making objections, he says, "Behold!
the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the
house of Israel and with the house of Judah." He is not speaking of any old
Covenant: for, that they might not assert this, he determined the time
also. Thus he did not say simply, "according to the covenant which I made
with their fathers," lest thou shouldest say [it was] the one made with
Abraham, or that with Noah: but he declares what [covenant it was], "not
according to the covenant which I made with their fathers "in the Exodus.
Wherefore he added also, "in the day that I took them by the hand, to lead
them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in My covenant,
and I regarded them not, saith the Lord." Thou seest that the evils begin
first from ourselves (" they" themselves first, saith he," continued not in
[the "covenant "] ") and the negligence is from ourselves, but the good
things from Him; I mean the [acts] of bounty. He here introduces, as it
were, an apology showing the cause why He forsakes them.
[5.] (Ver. 10) "For this," he says, "is the covenant that I will make
with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put My
laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts, and I will be to them
a God, and they shall be to Me a people." Thus He says this concerning the
New [covenant] because His words are "not according to the covenant which I
But what other difference is there beside this? Now if any person
should say that "the difference is not in this respect, but in respect to
its being put into their hearts; He makes no mention of any difference of
ordinances, but points out the mode of its being given: for no longer" (he
says) "shall the covenant be in writings, but in hearts;" let the Jew in
that case show that this was ever carried into effect; but he could not,
for it was made a second time in writings after the return from Babylon.
But I show that the Apostles received nothing in writing, but received [it]
in their hearts through the Holy Ghost. Wherefore also Christ said, "When
He cometh, He will bring all things to your remembrance, and He shall teach
you." (John xiv. 26.)
[6.] (Ver. 11, 12) "And they shall not teach" (he says) "every man his
neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all
shall know Me from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to
their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember
no more." Behold also another sign. "From the least even to the greatest of
them" (he says) "they shall know Me, and they shall not say, Know the
Lord." When hath this been fulfilled save now? For our [religion] is
manifest: but theirs [i.e. the Jews'] was not manifest, but had been shut
up in a corner.
[A covenant] is then said to be "new," when it is different and shows
some advantage over the old. "Nay surely," says one, "it is new also
when part of it has been taken away, and part not. For instance, when an
old house is ready to fall down, if a person leaving the whole, has patched
up the foundation, straightway we say, he has made it new, when he has
taken some parts away, and brought others into their place. For even the
heaven also is thus called 'new,' when it is no longer ' of brass,' but
gives rain; and the earth likewise is new when it is not unfruitful, not
when it has been changed; and the house is likewise new, when portions of
it have been taken away, and portions remain. And thus, he says, he hath
well termed it 'a New Covenant.' "
If then I show that that covenant had become "Old" in this respect,
that it yielded no fruit? And that thou mayest know this exactly, read what
Haggai says, what Zechariah, what the Messenger, when the return from
the Captivity had not yet fully taken place; and what Esdras charges. How
then did [the people] receive him? And how no man enquired of the Lord,
inasmuch as they [the priests] themselves also transgressed, and knew it
not even themselves? Dost thou see how thy [interpretation] is broken
down, whilst I maintain my own: that this [covenant] must be called
"New" in the proper sense of the word?
And besides, I do not concede that the words "the heaven shall be new"
(Isa. lxv. 17), were spoken concerning this. For why, when saying in
Deuteronomy "the heaven shall be of brass," did he not set down this in the
contrasted passage, "but if ye hearken, it shall be new."
And further on this account He says that He will give "another
Covenant, because they did not continue in the first." This I show by what
he says (" For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the
flesh," Rom. viii. 3; and again, "Why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the
neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?"
Acts xv. 10.) But "they did not continue therein," he says.
Here he shows that [God] counts us worthy of greater and of spiritual
[privileges]: for it is said "their sound went out into all the earth and
their words unto the ends of the world." (Ps. xix. 5; Rom. x. 18.) That is
[the meaning of] "they shall not say each man to his neighbor, Know the
Lord." And again, "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as much water to cover the seas." (Isa. xi. 9.)
[7.] "In calling it new" (he says), "He hath made the first old: but
that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." See what was
hidden, how he hath laid open the very mind of the prophet !He honored the
law, and was not willing to call it "old" in express terms: but
nevertheless, this he did call it. For if the former had been new, he would
not have called this which came afterwards "new" also. So that by granting
something more and different, he declares that "it was waxen old."
Therefore it is done away and is perishing, and no longer exists.
Having taken boldness from the prophet, he attacks it more suitably,
 showing that our [dispensation] is now flourishing. That is, he showed
that [the other] was old: then taking up the word "old," and adding of
himself another [circumstance], the [characteristic] of old age, he took up
what was omitted by the others, and says "ready to vanish away."
The New then has not simply caused the old to cease, but because it had
become aged, as it was not [any longer] useful. On this account he said,
"for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof" (Heb. vii. 18), and, "the
law made nothing perfect" (Heb. vii. 19); and that "if the first had been
faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second." (Heb.
viii. 7.) And "faultless"; that is, useful; not as though it [the old
Covenant] was obnoxious to any charges, but as not being sufficient. He
used a familiar form of speech. As if one should say, the house is not
faultless, that is, it has some defect, it is decayed: the garment is not
faultless, that is, it is coming to pieces. He does not therefore here
speak of it as evil, but only as having some fault and deficiency.
[8.] So then we also are new, or rather we were made new, but now are
become old; therefore we are "near to vanishing away," and to destruction.
Let us scrape off this old age. It is indeed no longer possible to do it
by Washing, but by repentance it is possible here [in this life]. If
there be in us anything old, let us east it off; if any "wrinkle," if any
stain, if any "spot," let us wash it away and become fair (Eph. v. 27):
that "the King may desire our beauty." (Ps. xlv. 11.)
It is possible even for him who has fallen into the extremest
deformity to recover that beauty of which David says that the King
shall desire thy beauty. "Hearken, O daughter, and consider; forget also
thine own people and thy father's house: so shall the King greatly desire
thy beauty." (Ps. xlv. 10, 11.) And yet forgetting doth not produce beauty.
Yea, beauty is of the soul. What sort of forgetting? That of sins. For he
is speaking about the Church from among the Gentiles, exhorting her not to
remember the things of her fathers, that is [of] those that sacrificed to
idols; for from such was it gathered.
And he said not, "Go not after them," but what is more, Do not admit
them into thy mind; which he says also in another place, "I will not
mention their names through my lips." (Ps. xvi. 4.) And again, "That my
mouth may not talk of the deeds of men." (Ps. xvii. 3, 4.) As yet is this
no great virtue; nay, rather, it is indeed great, but not such as this
[which is here spoken of]. For what does he say there? He says not; "Talk
not of the things of men, neither speak of the things of thy fathers"; but,
neither remember them, nor admit them into thy mind. Thou seest to how
great a distance he would have us keep away from wickedness. For he that
remembers not [a matter] will not think of it, and he that does not think,
will not speak of it: and he that does not speak of it, will not do it.
Seest thou from how many paths he hath walled us off? by what great
intervals he hath removed us, even to a very great [distance]?
[9.] Let us then also "hearken and forget" our own evils. I do not say
our sins, for (He says) "Remember thou first, and I will not remember."
(Isa. xliii. 26, 25, LXX.) I mean for instance, Let us no longer remember
rapacity, but even restore the former [plunder']. This is to forget
wickedness, and to cast out the thought of rapacity, and never at any time
to admit it, but to wipe away also the things already done amiss.
Whence may the forgetfulness of wickedness come to us? From the
remembrance of good things, from the remembrance of God. If we continually
remember God, we cannot remember those things also. For (he says) "When I
remembered Thee upon my bed, I thought upon Thee in the morning dawn." (Ps.
lxiii. 6.) We ought then to have GOD always in remembrance, but then
especially, when thought is undisturbed, when by means of that remembrance
[a man] is able to condemn himself, when he can retain [things] in memory.
For in the daytime indeed, if we do remember, other cares and troubles
entering in, drive the thought out again: but in the night it is possible
to remember continually, when the soul is calm and at rest; when it is in
the haven, and under a serene sky. "The things which you say in your hearts
be ye grieved for on your beds," he says. (Ps. iv. 4, LXX.) For it were
indeed right to retain this remembrance through the day also. But inasmuch
as you are always full of cares, and distracted amidst the things of this
life, at least then remember God on your bed; at the morning dawn meditate
If at the morning dawn we meditate on these things, we shall go forth
to our business with much security. If we have first made God propitious by
prayer and supplication, going forth thus we shall have no enemy. Or if
thou shouldest, thou wilt laugh him to scorn, having God propitious. There
is war in the market place; the affairs of every day are a fight, they are
a tempest and a storm. We therefore need arms: and prayer is a great
weapon. We need favorable winds; we need to learn everything, so as to go
through the length of the day without shipwrecks and without wounds. For
every single day the rocks are many, and oftentimes the boat strikes and is
sunk. Therefore have we especially need of prayer early and by night.
[10.] Many of you have often beheld the Olympic games: and not only
have beheld but have been zealous partisans and admirers of the combatants,
one of this [combatant], one of that. You know then that both during the
days of the contests, and during those nights, all night long the herald
thinks of nothing else, has no other anxiety, than that the combatant
should not disgrace himself when he goes forth. For those who sit by the
trumpeter admonish him not to speak to any one, that he may not spend his
breath and get laughed at. If therefore he who is about to strive before
men, uses such forethought, much more will it befit us to be continually
thoughtful, and careful, since our whole life is a contest. Let every night
then be a vigil, and let us be careful that when we go out in the day we
do not make ourselves ridiculous. And would it were only making ourselves
ridiculous. But now the Judge of the contest is seated on the right hand of
the Father, hearkening diligently that we utter not any false note,
anything out of tune. For He is not the Judge of actions only, but of words
also. Let us keep our vigil, beloved; we also have those that are eager
for our success, if we will. Near each one of us Angels are sitting; and
yet we snore through the whole night. And would it were only this. But many
do even many licentious things, some indeed going to the very brothels,
and others making their own houses places of whoredom by taking courtesans
thither. Yes most certainly. For is it not so? They care well for their
contest. Others are drunken and speak amiss; others make an uproar.
Others keep evil vigil through the night weaving, and worse than those who
sleep, schemes of deceit; others by calculating usury; others by bruising
themselves with cares, and doing anything rather than what is suited to the
contest. Wherefore, I exhort you, let us lay aside all [other] things, and
look to one only, how we may obtain the prize, [how we may] be crowned with
the Chaplet; let us do all by which we shall be able to attain to the
promised blessings. Which may we all attain in Christ Jesus our Lord, with
whom to the Father and also to the Holy Ghost be glory, might, honor, now
and for ever and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY XV: HEBREWS ix. 1-5.
"Then verily the first [covenant] had also ordinances of divine service,
and a worldly Sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first,
wherein was the Candlestick, and the Table, and the Shew-bread, which is
called the Sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is
called the Holiest of all; which had the golden censer and the Ark of the
Covenant overlaid round about with gold: wherein was the golden pot that
had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant:
and over it the Cherubim of glory, shadowing the Mercy-seat: of which we
cannot now speak particularly."
[1.] HE has shown from the Priest, from the Priesthood, from the
Covenant, that that [dispensation] was to have an end. From this point he
shows it from the fashion of the tabernacle itself. How? This, he says,
[was] the "Holy" and the "Holy of Holies." The holy place then is a
symbol of the former period (for there all things are done by means of
sacrifices); but the Holy of Holies of this that is now present.
And by the Holy of Holies he means Heaven; and by the veil, Heaven, and
the Flesh "entereth into that within the veil": that is to say,
"through the veil of His flesh." (Supra, vi. 19; Heb. x, 20.)
And it were well to speak of this passage, taking it up from the
beginning. What then does he say? "Then verily the first had also" (the
first what? "The Covenant"). "Ordinances of Divine service." What are
"ordinances "? symbols or rights. Then; as (he means) it has not now.
He shows that it had already given place, for (he says) it had at that
time; so that now, although it stood, it is not.
"And the worldly Sanctuary." He calls it "worldly," inasmuch as it was
permitted to all to tread it, and in the same house the place was manifest
where the priests stood, where the Jews, the Proselytes, the Grecians, the
Nazarites. Since, therefore even gentiles were permitted to tread it, he
calls it "worldly." For surely the Jews were not "the world."
"For" (he says) "there was a tabernacle made; the first, which is
called holy, wherein was. the Candlestick, and the Table, and the Shew-
bread." These things are symbols of the world. "'And after the second veil"
(There was then not one veil [only], but there was a veil without also)
"the tabernacle, which is called holy of holies." Observe how everywhere he
calls it a tabernacle in regard of [God's] encamping there.
"Which had" (he says) "a golden Censer, and the ark of the Covenant
overlaid round about with gold: wherein was the golden pot that held the
manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant." All
these things were venerable and conspicuous memorials of the Jewish
obstinacy; "and the tables of the covenant" (for they brake them) "And the
manna" (for they murmured; and therefore handing on the memory thereof to
posterity, He commanded it to be laid up in a golden pot). "And Aaron's rod
that budded. And over it, the Cherubim of glory." What is "the Cherubim of
glory"? He either means "the glorious," or those which are under God.
"Shadowing the mercy-seat."
But in another point of view also he extols these things in his
discourse, in order to show that those which come after them are greater.
"Of which" (he says) "we cannot now speak particularly." In these words he
hints that these were not merely what was seen, but were a sort of
enigmas. "Of which" (he says) "we cannot now speak particularly,"
perhaps because they needed a long discourse.
[2.] Ver. 6. "Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests
went always into the first tabernacle accomplishing the service [of God]."
That is, these things indeed were [there], but the Jews did not enjoy them:
they saw them not. So that they were no more theirs than [ours] for whom
(Ver.7) "But into the second the High Priest went alone once every
year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors
of the people." Thou seest that the types were already laid down
beforehand? for, lest they should say, "how is there [but] one sacrifice?"
he shows that this was so from the beginning, since at least the more holy
and the awful [sacrifice] was [but] one. And how did the High Priest offer
once for all? Thus were they wont [to do] from the beginning, for then also
(he says) "the High Priest" offered "once for all."
And well said he, " not without blood." (Not indeed without blood, yet
not this blood, for the business was not so great.) He signifies that there
shall be a sacrifice, not consumed by fire, but rather distinguished by
blood. For inasmuch as he called the Cross a sacrifice, though it had
neither fire, nor logs, nor was offered many times, but had been offered in
blood once for all; he shows that the ancient sacrifice also was of this
kind, was offered "once for all" in blood.
"Which he offers for himself;" again, "for himself; and for the errors
of the people." He said not "sins"; but "errors," that, they might not be
high-minded. For even if thou hast not sinned intentionally, yet
unintentionally thou hast erred, and from this no man is pure.
And everywhere [he adds] the "for himself," showing that Christ is much
greater. For if He be separated from our sins, how did He "offer for
Himself"? Why then saidst thou these things (one says)? Because this is [a
mark] of One that is superior.
[3.] Thus far there is no speculation. But from this point he
philosophizes and says, (ver. 8) "The Holy Ghost this signifying, that
the way into the Holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the
first tabernacle was yet standing." For this cause (he says) have these
things been thus "ordained," that we might learn that "the Holy of Holies,"
that is, Heaven, is as yet inaccessible. Let us not then think (he says)
that because we do not enter them, they have no existence: inasmuch as
neither did we enter the Most Holy [place].
Ver. 9. "Which" (he says) "was established as a figure for the time
then present." What does he mean by "the time present"? That before the
coming of Christ: For after the coming of Christ, it is no longer a time
present: For how [could it be], having arrived, and being ended?
There is too something else which he indicates, when he says this,
"which [was] a figure for the time then present," that is, became the Type.
"In which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him
that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience." Thou seest
now what is [the meaning of] "The Law made nothing perfect," (Heb. vii.
19,) and "If that first [covenant] had been faultless." (Heb. viii. 7.)
How? "As pertaining to the conscience." For the sacrifices did not put
away the defilement from the soul, but still were concerned with the
body: "after the law of a carnal commandment." (Heb. vii. 16.) For
certainly they could not put away adultery, nor murder, nor sacrilege.
Seest thou? Thou hast eaten this, Thou hast not eaten that, which are
matters of indifference. ["Which stood] only in meats and drinks, and
divers washings." "Thou hast drunk this," he says: and yet nothing has been
ordained concerning drink, but he said this, treating them as trifles.
Ver. 10. "And [in] divers washings, and carnal ordinances imposed on
them until the time of reformation." For this is the righteousness of
the flesh. Here he depreciates the sacrifices, showing that they had no
efficacy, and that they existed "till the time of reformation," that is,
they waited for the time that reformeth all things.
[4.] Ver. 11. "But Christ being come an High Priest of good things that
are come by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands."
Here he means the flesh. And well did he say, "greater and more perfect,"
since God The Word and all the power of The Spirit dwells therein; "For God
giveth not the Spirit by measure [unto Him]." (John iii. 34.) And "more
perfect," as being both unblamable, and setting right greater things.
"That is, not of this creation." See how [it was] "greater." For it
would not have been "of the Spirit" (Matt. i. 20), if man had constructed
it. Nor yet is it "of this creation"; that is, not of these created things,
but spiritual, of the Holy Ghost.
Seest thou how he calls the body tabernacle and veil and heaven. "By
a greater and more perfect tabernacle. Through the veil, that is, His
flesh." (Heb. x. 20.) And again, "into that within the veil." (Heb. vi.
19.) And again, "entering into the Holy of Holies, to appear before the
face of God." (Heb. ix. 24.) Why then doth he this? According as one thing
or a different one is signified. I mean for instance, the Heaven is a veil,
for as a veil it walls off the Holy of Holies; the flesh [is a veil] hiding
the Godhead; and the tabernacle likewise holding the Godhead. Again,
Heaven [is] a tabernacle: for the Priest is there within.
"But Christ" (he says) "being come an High Priest ": he did not say,
"become," but "being come," that is, having come for this very purpose, not
having been successor to another. He did not come first and then become
[High Priest], but came and became at the same time. And he did not say
"being come an High Priest" of things which are sacrificed, but "of good
things that are come,"' as if his discourse had not power to put the whole
Ver. 12. "Neither by the blood," he says, "of goats and calves" (All
things are changed) "but by His own Blood" (he says) "He entered in once
for all into the Holy Place." See thus he called Heaven. "Once for all"
(he says) "He entered into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal
redemption." And this [expression] "having obtained," was [expressive] of
things very difficult, and that are beyond expectation, how by one entering
in, He "obtained everlasting redemption."
[5.] Next [comes] that which is calculated to persuade.
Ver. 13, 14. "For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of
an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the
flesh; how much more shall the Blood of Christ, who through the Holy
Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead
works, to serve the living God."
For (he says) if "the blood of bulls" is able to purify the flesh, much
rather shall the Blood of Christ wipe away the defilement of the soul. For
that thou mayest not suppose when thou hearest [the word] "sanctifieth,"
that it is some great thing, he marks out and shows the difference
between each of these purifyings, and how the one of them is high and the
other low. And says it is [so] with good reason, since that is "the blood
of bulls," and this "the Blood of Christ."
Nor was he content with the name, but he sets forth also the manner of
the offering. "Who" (he says) "through the Holy Spirit offered Himself
without spot to God," that is, the victim was without blemish, pure from
sins. For this is [the meaning of] "through the Holy Spirit," not through
fire, nor through any other things.
"Shall purge your conscience" (he says) "from dead works." And well
said he "from dead works"; if any man touched a dead body, he was polluted;
and here, if any man touch a "dead work," he is defiled through his
conscience. "To serve" (he says) "the Living and true God." Here he
declares that it is not [possible] while one has "dead works to serve the
Living and true God," for they are both dead and false; and with good
reason [he says this].
[6.] Let no man then enter in here with "dead works." For if it was not
fit that one should enter in who had touched a dead body, much more one
that hath "dead works ": for this is the most grievous pollution. And "dead
works" are, all which have not life, which breathe forth an ill odor. For
as a dead body is useful to none of the senses, but is even annoying to
those who come near it, so sin also at once strikes the reasoning
faculty, and does not allow the understanding itself to be calm, but
disturbs and troubles it.
And it is said too that a plague at its very commencement corrupts
the living bodies; such also is sin. It differs in nothing from a plague,
not [indeed] corrupting the air first, and then the bodies, but darting at
once into the soul. Seest thou not how persons affected with the plague,
are inflamed: how they writhe about, how they are full of an ill scent, how
disfigured are their countenances: how wholly unclean they are? Such are
they also that sin, though they see it not. For, tell me, is not he who is
possessed by the desire of riches or carnal lust, worse than any one that
is in a fever? Is he not more unclean than all these, when he does and
submits to all shameless things?
[7.] For what is baser than a man who is in love with money? Whatever
things women that are harlots or on the stage refuse not to do neither does
he [refuse]. Rather it is likely that they would refuse [to do] a thing,
rather than he. He even submits to do things fit for slaves, flattering
those whom he ought not; again he is overbearing where he ought not to be,
being inconsistent in every respect. He will sit by flattering wicked
people, and oftentimes depraved old men, that are of much poorer and meaner
condition than himself; and will he insolent and overbearing to others that
are good and in all respects virtuous. Thou seest in both respects the
baseness, the shamelessness: he is both humble beyond measure, and
Harlots however stand in front of their house, and the charge against
them is that they sell their body for money: yet, one may say, poverty and
hunger compel them (although at the most this is no sufficient excuse: for
they might gain a livelihood by work). But the covetous man stands, not
before his house, but before the midst of the city, making over to the
devil not his body but his soul; so that he [the devil] is in his company,
and goes in unto him, as verily to a harlot: and having satisfied all his
lusts departs; and all the city sees it, not two or three persons only.
And this again is the peculiarity of harlots, that the), are his who
gives the gold. Even if he be a slave or a gladiator, or any person
whatever, yet if he offers their hire, they receive him. But the free, even
should they be more noble than all, they do not accept without the money.
These men also do the same. They turn away right thoughts when they bring
no money; but they associate with the abominable, and actually with those
that fight with wild beasts, for the sake of the gold, and associate
with them shamelessly and destroy the beauty of the soul. For as those
women are naturally of odious appearance and black, and awkward and
gross, and formless and ill-shaped, and in all respects disgusting, such do
the souls of these men become, not able to conceal their deformity by their
outward paintings. For when the ill look is extreme, whatever they
may devise, they cannot succeed in their feigning.
For that shamelessness makes harlots, hear the prophet saying, "Thou
wert shameless towards all; thou hadst a harlot's countenance." (Jer. iii.
3.) This may be said to the covetous also: "Thou wert shameless towards
all," not towards these or those, but "towards all." How? Such an one
respects neither father, nor son, nor wife, nor friend, nor brother, nor
benefactor, nor absolutely any one. And why do I say friend, and brother,
and father? He respects not God Himself, but all [we believe] seems to him
a fable; and he laughs, intoxicated by his great lust, and not even
admitting into his ears any of the things which might profit him.
But O! their absurdity! and then what things they say! "Woe to thee, O
Mammon, and to him that has thee not." At this I am torn to pieces with
indignation: for woe to those who say these things, though they say them in
jest. For tell me, has not God uttered such a threat as this, saying, "Ye
cannot serve two masters "? (Matt. vi. 24.) And dost thou set at nought
the threat? Does not Paul say that it is Idolatry, and does he not call
"the covetous man an Idolater "? (Eph. v. 5.)
[8.] And thou standest laughing, raising a laugh after the manner of
women of the world who are on the stage. This has overthrown, this has cast
down everything. Our affairs, both our business and our politeness,
are turned into laughing; there is nothing steady, nothing grave. I say not
these things to men of the world only; but I know those whom I am hinting
at. For the Church has been filled with laughter. Whatever clever thing one
may say, immediately there is laughter among those present: and the
marvelous thing is that many do not leave off laughing even during the very
time of the prayer.
Everywhere the devil leads the dance, he has entered into all, is
master of all. Christ is dishonored, is thrust aside; the Church is made no
account of. Do ye not hear Paul saying, Let "filthiness and foolish talking
and jesting" (Eph. v. 4) be put away from you? He places "jesting" along
with "filthiness," and dost thou laugh? What is "foolish talking "? that
which has nothing profitable. And dost thou, a solitary, laugh at all and
relax thy countenance? thou that art crucified? thou that art a mourner?
tell me, dost thou laugh? Where dost thou hear of Christ doing this?
Nowhere: but that He was sad indeed oftentimes. For even when He looked on
Jerusalem, He wept; and when He thought on the Traitor He was troubled; and
when He was about to raise Lazarus, He wept; and dost thou laugh? If he who
grieves not over the sins of others deserves to be accused, of what
consideration will he be worthy, who is without sorrow for his own sins,
yea laughs at them? This is the season of grief and tribulation, of
bruising and bringing matter [the body], of conflicts and sweatings, and
dost thou laugh? Dost not thou see how Sarah was rebuked? dost thou not
hear Christ saying, "Woe to them that laugh, for they shall weep "? (Luke
vi. 25 .) Thou chantest these things every day, for, tell me, what dost
thou say? "I have laughed?" By no means; but what? "I labored in my
groaning." (Ps. vi. 6.)
But perchance there are some persons so dissolute and silly as even
during this very rebuke to laugh, because forsooth we thus discourse about
laughter. For indeed such is their derangement, such their madness, that it
does not feel the rebuke.
The Priest of God is Standing, offering up the prayer of all: and art
thou laughing, having no fears? And while he is offering up the prayers in
trembling for thee, dost thou despise all? Hearest thou not the Scripture
saying, "Woe, ye despisers!" (cf. Acts xiii. 41 from Hab. i. 5); dost thou
not shudder? dost thou not humble thyself? Even when thou enterest a royal
palace, thou orderest thyself in dress, and look, and gait, and all other
respects: and here where there is the true Palace, and things like those of
heaven, dost thou laugh? Thou indeed, I know, seest [them] not, but hear
thou that there are angels present everywhere, and in the house of God
especially they stand by the King, and all is filled by those incorporeal
This my discourse is addressed to women also, who in the presence of
their husbands indeed do not dare readily to do this, and even if they do
it, it is not at all times, but during a season of relaxation, but here
they do it always. Tell me, O woman, dost thou cover thine head and laugh,
sitting in the Church? Didst thou come in here to make confession of sins,
to fall down before God, to entreat and to supplicate for the
transgressions thou hast wretchedly committed, and dost thou do this with
laughter? How then wilt thou be able to propitiate Him?
[9.] But (one says) what harm is there in laughter? There is no harm in
laughter; the harm is when it is beyond measure, and out of season.
Laughter has been implanted in us, that when we see our friends after a
long time, we may laugh; that when we see any persons downcast and fearful,
we may relieve them by our smile; not that we should burst out violently
and be always laughing. Laughter has been implanted in our soul, that the
soul may sometimes be refreshed, not that it may be quite relaxed. For
carnal desire also is implanted in us, and yet it is not by any means
necessary that because it is implanted in us, therefore we should use it,
or use it immoderately: but we should hold it in subjection, and not say,
Because it is implanted in us, let us use it.
Serve God with tears, that thou mayest be able to wash away your sins.
I know that many mock us, saying, "Tears directly." Therefore it is a
time for tears. I know also that they are disgusted, who say, "Let us eat
and drink, for to-morrow we die." (1 Cor. xv. 32.) "Vanity of vanities, all
is vanity." (Eccles. i. 2.) It is not I that say it, but he who had had the
experience of all things saith thus: "I builded for me houses, I planted
vineyards, I made me pools of water, [I had] men servants and women
servants." (Eccles. ii. 4, 6, 7.) And what then after all these things?
"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." (Eccles. xii. 8.)
Let us mourn therefore, beloved, let us mourn in order that we may
laugh indeed, that we may rejoice indeed in the time of unmixed joy. For
with this joy [here] grief is altogether mingled: and never is it possible
to find it pure. But that is simple and undeceiving joy: it has nothing
treacherous, nor any admixture. In that joy let us delight ourselves; that
let us pursue after. And it is not possible to obtain this in any other
way, than by choosing here not what is pleasant, but what is profitable,
and being willing to be afflicted a little, and bearing all things with
thanksgiving. For thus we shall be able to attain even to the Kingdom of
Heaven, of which may we all be counted worthy, in Christ Jesus our Lord,
with whom to the Father be glory, together with the Holy Ghost, now and for
ever and world without end, Amen.
HOMILY XVI: HEBREWS ix. 15-18.
"And for this cause He is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means
of death for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first
Testament, they which are called might receive the promise of an eternal
inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the
death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead?
otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.
Whereupon neither the first [testament] was dedicated without blood."
[1.] IT was probable that many of those who were more weakly would
especially distrust the promises of Christ because He had died. Paul
accordingly out of a superabundance introduced this illustration,
deriving it from common custom. Of what kind is it? He says, "indeed, on
this very account we ought to be of good courage." On what account? Because
testaments are established and obtain their force when those who have made
them are not living, but dead. "And for this cause," he says, "He is the
Mediator of the New Testament." A Testament is made towards the last day,
[the day] of death.
And a testament is of this character: It makes some heirs, and some
disinherited. So in this case also: "I will that where I am," Christ says,
"they also may be." (John xvii. 24.) And again of the disinherited, hear
Him saying, "I pray not for" all, "but for them that believe on Me through
their word." (John xvii. 20.) Again, a testament has relation both to the
testator, and to the legatees; so that they have some things to receive,
and some to do, So also in this case. For after having made promises
innumerable, He demands also something from them, saying, "a new
commandment I give unto you." (John xiii. 34.) Again, a testament ought to
have witnesses. Hear Him again saying, "I am one that bear witness of
Myself, and He that sent Me beareth witness of Me." (John viii. 18.) And
again, "He shall testify of Me" (John xv. 26), speaking of the Comforter.
The twelve Apostles too He sent, saying, "Bear ye witness before God."
[2.] "And for this cause" (he says) "He is the Mediator of the New
Testament." What is a "Mediator "? A mediator is not lord of the thing of
which he is mediator, but the thing belongs to one person, and the mediator
is another: as for instance, the mediator of a marriage is not the
bridegroom, but one who aids him who is about to be married. So then also
here: The Son became Mediator between the Father and us. The Father willed
not to leave us this inheritance, but was wroth against us, and was
displeased [with us] as being estranged [from Him]; He accordingly became
Mediator between us and Him, and prevailed with Him.
And what then? How did He become Mediator? He brought words from [Him]
and brought [them to us], conveying over what came from the Father to
us, and adding His own death thereto. We had offended: we ought to have
died: He died for us and made us worthy of the Testament. By this is the
Testament secure, in that henceforward it is not made for the unworthy. At
the beginning indeed, He made His dispositions as a father for sons; but
after we had become unworthy, there was no longer need of a testament, but
Why then (he would say) dost thou think upon the law? For it placed us
in a condition of so great sin, that we could never have been saved, if our
Lord had not died for us; the law would not have had power, for it is
[3.] And he established this no longer from common custom only, but
also from what happened under the old [Testament]: which especially
influenced them. There was no one who died there: how then could that
[Testament] be firm? In the same way (he says). How? For blood was there
also, as there is blood here. And if it was not the blood of the Christ, do
not be surprised; for it was a type. "Whereupon," he says, "neither was the
first [Testament] dedicated without blood."
What is "was dedicated "? was confirmed, was ratified. The word
"whereupon" means "for this cause." It was needful that the symbol of
the Testament should be also that of death.
For why (tell me) is the book of the testament sprinkled? (Ver. 19, 20)
"For" (he says) "when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people
according to the law, he took the blood of calves, with water, and scarlet
wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people,
saying, This is the blood of the testament, which God hath enjoined unto
you:" Tell me then why is the book of the testament sprinkled, and also the
people, except on account of the precious blood, figured from the first?
Why "with hyssop"? It is close and retentive? And why the "water"? It shows
forth also the cleansing by water. And why the "wool"? this also [was
used], that the blood might be retained. In this place blood and water show
forth the same thing, for baptism is His passion.
[4.] Ver. 21, 22. "Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle
and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the
law purged with blood, and without shedding of blood is no remission." Why
the "almost "? why did he qualify it? Because those [ordinances] were not a
perfect purification, nor a perfect remission, but half-complete and in a
very small degree. But in this case He says, "This is the blood of the
New Testament, which is shed for you, for the remission of sins." (Matt.
Where then is "the book"? He purified their minds. They themselves then
were the books of the New Testament. But where are "the vessels of the
ministry "? They are themselves. And where is" the tabernacle "? Again,
they are; for "I will dwell in them," He says, "and walk in them." (2 Cor.
[5.] But they were not sprinkled with "scarlet wool," nor yet "with
hyssop." Why was this? Because the cleansing was not bodily but spiritual,
and the blood was spiritual. How? It flowed not from the body of irrational
animals, but from the Body prepared by the Spirit. With this blood not
Moses but Christ sprinkled us, through the word which was spoken; "This is
the blood of the New Testament, for the remission of sins." This word,
instead of hyssop, having been dipped in the blood, sprinkles all. And
there indeed the body was cleansed outwardly, for the purifying was bodily;
but here, since the purifying is spiritual, it entereth into the soul,-and
cleanseth it, not being simply sprinkled over, but gushing forth in our
souls. The initiated understand what is said. And in their case indeed one
sprinkled just the surface; but he who was sprinkled washed it off again;
for surely he did not go about continually stained with blood. But in the
case of the soul it is not so, but the blood is mixed with its very
substance, making it vigorous and pure, and leading it to the very
[6.] Henceforward then he shows that His death is the cause not only of
confirmation, but also of purification. For inasmuch as death was thought
to be an odious thing, and especially that of the cross, he says that it
purified, even a precious purification, and in regard to greater things.
Therefore the sacrifices preceded, because of this blood. Therefore the
lambs; everything was for this cause.
Ver. 23. "It was therefore necessary that the Patterns" (he says)
"of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the
heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these."
And how are they "patterns of things in the heavens "? And what does
he mean now by "the things in the heavens "? Is it Heaven? Or is it the
Angels? None of these, but what is ours. It follows then that our things
are in Heaven, and heavenly things are ours, even though they be
accomplished on earth; since although angels are on earth, yet they are
called Heavenly. And the Cherubim appeared on earth, but yet are heavenly.
And why do I say "appeared "? nay rather they dwell on earth, as indeed in
Paradise: but this is nothing; for they are heavenly. And, "Our
conversation is in Heaven" (Phil. iii. 20), and yet we live here.
"But these are the heavenly things," that is, the philosophy which
exists amongst us; those who have been called thereto.
With better sacrifices than these." What is "better" is better than
something [else] that is good. Therefore "the patterns also of things in
the heavens" have become good; for not even the patterns were evil: else
the things whereof they are patterns would also have been evil.
[7.] If then we are heavenly, and have obtained such a sacrifice,
let us fear. Let us no longer continue on the earth; for even now it is
possible for him that wishes it, not to be on the earth. For to be and not
to be on the earth is the effect of moral disposition and choice. For
instance; God is said to be in Heaven. Wherefore? not because He is
confined by space, far from it, nor as having left the earth destitute
of His presence, but by His relation to and intimacy with the Angels. If
then we also are near to God, we are in Heaven. For what care I about
Heaven when I see the Lord of Heaven, when I myself am become a Heaven?
"For," He says, "We will come," I and the Father, "and will make our abode
with him." (John xiv. 23.)
Let us then make our soul a Heaven. The heaven is naturally bright; for
not even in a storm does it become black, for it does not itself change its
appearance, but the clouds run together and cover it. Heaven has the Sun;
we also have the Sun of Righteousness. I said it is possible to become a
Heaven; and I see that it is possible to become even better than Heaven.
How? when we have the Lord of the Sun. Heaven is throughout pure and
without spot; it changes not either in a storm or in the night. Neither let
us then be so influenced either by tribulations or by "the wiles of the
devil" (Eph. vi. 11), but let us continue spotless and pure. Heaven is high
and far from the earth. Let us also effect this [as regards ourselves]; let
us withdraw ourselves from the earth, and exalt ourselves to that height,
and remove ourselves far from the earth. Heaven is higher than the rains
and the storms, and is reached by none of them. This we also can do, if we
It does appear to be, but is not really so affected. Neither then let
us be affected, even if we appear to be so. For as in a storm, most men
know not the beauty of [heaven,] but think that it is changed, while
philosophers know that it is not affected at all, so with regard to
ourselves also in afflictions; most men think that we are changed with
them, and that affliction has touched our very heart, but philosophers know
that it has not touched us.
[8.] Let us then become heaven, let us mount up to that height, and so
we shall see men differing nothing from ants. I do not speak of the poor
only, nor the many, but even if there be a general there, even if the
emperor be there, we shall not distinguish the emperor, nor the private
person. We shall not know what is gold, or what is silver, or what is
silken or purple raiment: we shall see all things as if they were flies, if
we be seated in that height. There is no tumult there, no disturbance, nor
And how is it possible (one says) for him who walks on the earth, to be
raised up to that height? I do not tell it thee in words, but I show thee
in fact those who have attained to that height. Who then are they?
I mean such as Paul, who being on earth, spent their lives in heaven.
But why do I say "in heaven "? They were higher than the Heaven, yea than
the other heaven, and mounted up to God Himself. For, "who" (he says)
"shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress,
or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" (Rom. viii.
35.) And again, "while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the
things which are not seen." (2 Cor. iv. 18.) Seest thou that he did not
even see the things here? But to show thee that he was higher than the
heavens, hear him saying himself, "For I am persuaded that neither death,
or life, 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 Christ."
(Rom. viii. 38, 39.)
Seest thou how thought, hurrying past all things, made him higher not
than this creation only, not than these heavens, but even [than any other
also] if any other there were? Hast thou seen the elevation of his mind?
Hast thou seen what the tent-maker became, because he had the will, he who
had spent his whole life in the market-place?
[9.] For there is no hindrance, no not any, but that we may rise above
all men, if we have the will. For if we are so successful in arts that are
beyond the reach of the generality, much more in that which does not
require so great labor.
For, tell me, what is more difficult than to walk along a tight rope,
as if on level ground, and when walking on high to dress and undress, as if
sitting on a couch? Does not the performance seem to us to be so frightful,
that we are not even willing to look at it, but are terrified and tremble
at the very sight? And tell me, what is more difficult than to hold a pole
upon your face, and when you have put up a child upon it, to perform
innumerable feats and delight the spectators? And what is more difficult
than to play at ball with swords? And tell me what is harder than
thoroughly to search out the bottom of the sea? And one might mention
innumerable other arts.
But easier than all these, if we have the will, is virtue, and the
going up into Heaven. For here it is only necessary to have the will, and
all [the rest] follows. For we may not say, I am unable, neither accuse the
Creator. For if He made us unable, and then commands, it is an accusation
[10.] How is it then (some one says) that many are not able? How is it
then that many are not willing? For, if they be willing, all will be able.
Therefore also Paul says, "I would that all men were even as I myself" (1
7), since he knew that all were able to be as himself. For he would not
have said this, if it had been impossible. Dost thou wish to become [such]?
only lay hold on the beginning.
Tell me now, in the case of any arts, when we wish to attain them, are
we content with wishing, or do we also engage with the things
themselves? As for instance, one wishes to become a pilot; he does not
say, I wish, and content himself with that, but he also puts his hand to
the work. He wishes to become a merchant; he does not merely say, I wish,
but he also puts his hand to the work. Again he wishes to travel abroad,
and he does not say, I wish, but he puts his hand to the work. In
everything then, wishing alone is not sufficient, but work must also be
added; and when thou wishest to mount up to heaven, dost thou merely say,
"I wish "?
How then (he says) saidst thou that willing is sufficient? [I meant]
willing joined with deeds, the laying hold on the thing itself, the
laboring. For we have God working with us, and acting with us. Only let us
make our choice, only let us apply ourselves to the matter as to work, only
let us think earnestly about it, only let us lay it to heart, and all
follows. But if we sleep on, and as we snore expect to enter into heaven,
how shall we be able to obtain the heavenly inheritance?
Let us therefore be willing, I exhort you, let us be willing. Why do we
carry on all our traffic with reference to the present life, which to-
morrow we shall leave? Let us choose then that Virtue which will suffice us
through all eternity: wherein we shall be continually, and shall enjoy the
everlasting good things; which may we all attain, in Christ Jesus our Lord,
with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost be glory, power,
honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY XVII: HEBREWS ix. 24--26.
"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are
the figures of the true, but into Heaven itself, now to appear in the
presence of God for us. Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the
High Priest entereth into the Holy Place every year with blood of others,
for then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world. But
now, once, in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin
by the sacrifice of Himself."
[1.] THE Jews greatly prided themselves on the temple and the
tabernacle. Wherefore they said, "The temple of the Lord, The temple of the
Lord, The temple of the Lord." (Jer. vii. 4.) For nowhere else in the earth
was such a temple constructed as this, either for costliness, or beauty, or
anything else. For God who ordained it, commanded that it should be made
with great magnificence, because they also were more attracted and urged on
by material things. For it had bricks of gold in the walls; and any one who
wishes may learn this in the second [book] of Kings, and in Ezekiel, and
how many talents of gold were then expended.
But the second [temple] was a more glorious building, both on account
of its beauty, and in all other respects. Nor was it reverenced for this
reason only, but also from its being One. For they were wont to resort
thither from the uttermost parts of the earth, whether from Babylon or from
Ethiopia. And Luke shows this when he says in the Acts: "There were
dwelling" there "Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in
Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and
Pamphylia, in Egypt and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene." (Acts ii. 5,
9, 10.) They then who lived in all parts of the world assembled there, and
the fame of the temple was great.
What then does Paul do? What [he did] in regard to the sacrifices, that
also he does here. For as there he set against [them] the death of Christ,
so here also he sets the whole heaven against the temple.
[2.] And not by this alone did he point out the difference, but also by
adding that The Priest is nearer to God: for he says, "to appear in the
presence of God." So that he made the matter august, not only by the
[consideration of] heaven, but also by [that of Christ's] entering in
[there]. For not merely through symbols as here, but He sees God Himself
Seest thou that condescension through the lowly things have been said
throughout? Why dost thou then any longer wonder that He intercedes there,
where He places Himself as a High Priest? "Nor yet, that He should offer
Himself often, as the High Priest."
"For Christ is not entered into the Holy Places made with hands" (he
says) "which are the figures of the True." (These then are true; and
those are figures, for the temple too has been so arranged, as the
Heaven of Heavens.)
What sayest thou? He who is everywhere present, and who filleth all
things, doth not He "appear" unless He enter into Heaven? Thou seest
that all these things pertain to the flesh.
"To appear," he says, "in the presence of God for us." What is "for us
"? He went up (he means) with a sacrifice which had power to propitiate the
Father. Wherefore (tell me)? Was He an enemy? The angels were enemies, He
was not an enemy. For that the Angels were enemies, hear what he says, "He
made peace as to things on earth and things in Heaven." (Col. i. 20.) So
that He also "entered into Heaven, now to appear in the presence of God for
us." He "now appeareth," but "for us."
[3.] "Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the High Priest
entereth into the Holy place every year with blood of others." Seest Thou
how many are the differences? The "often" for the "once"; "the blood of
others," for "His own." Great is the distance. He is Himself then both
victim and Priest and sacrifice. For if it had not been so, and it had been
necessary to offer many sacrifices, He must have been many times crucified.
"For then," he says," He must often have suffered since the foundation of
In this place he has also veiled over something. "But now once more
in the end of the world."' Why "at the end of the world "? After the many
sins. If therefore, it had taken place at the beginning, then no one would
have believed; and He must not die a second time, all would have been
useless. But since later, there were many transgressions, with reason He
then appeared: which he expresses in another place also, "Where sin
abounded, grace did much more abound. But now once in the end of the world,
hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." (Rom. v.
[4.] (Ver. 27) "And as it is appointed" unto men once to die, but after
this, the Judgment." He next says also why He died once [only]: because He
became a ransom by one death. "It had been appointed" (he says) "unto men
once to die." This then is [the meaning of] "He died once," for
all. (What then? Do we no longer die that death? We do indeed die, but
we do not continue in it: which is not to die at all. For the tyranny of
death, and death indeed, is when he who dies is never more allowed to
return to life. But when after dying is living, and that a better life,
this is not death, but sleep.) Since then death was to have possession of
all, therefore He died that He might deliver us.
Ver. 28. "So Christ was once offered." By whom offered? evidently
by Himself. Here he says that He is not Priest only, but Victim also, and
what is sacrificed. On this account are [the words] "was offered." "Was
once offered" (he says) "to bear the sins of many." Why "of many," and
not "of all"? Because not all believed, For He died indeed for all, that is
His part: for that death was a counterbalance against the destruction
of all men. But He did not bear the sins of all men, because they were not
And what is [the meaning of] "He bare the sins "? Just as in the
Oblation we bear up our sins and say, "Whether we have sinned voluntarily
or involuntarily, do Thou forgive,"  that is, we make mention of them
first, and then ask for their forgiveness. So also was it done here. Where
has Christ done this? Hear Himself saying, "And for their sakes I
sanctify Myself." (John xvii. 19.) Lo! He bore the sins. He took them
from men, and bore them to the Father; not that He might determine anything
against them [mankind], but that He might forgive them.
"Unto them that look for Him shall He appear" (he says) "the second
time without sin unto salvation." What is "without sin"? it is as much as
to say, He sinneth not. For neither did He die as owing the debt of death,
nor yet because of sin. But how "shall He appear "? To punish, you say. He
did not however say this, but what was cheering; "shall He appear unto them
that look for Him, without sin unto salvation." So that for the time to
come they no longer need sacrifices to save themselves, but to do this by
[5.] (Chap. x. 1.) "For" (he says) "the Law having a shadow of the good
things to come not the very image of the things"; i.e. not the very
reality. For as in painting, so long as one [only] draws the outlines, it
is a sort of "shadow" but when one has added the bright paints and laid in
the colors, then it becomes "an image." Something of this kind also was the
"For" (he says) "the Law having a shadow of the good things to come,
not the very image of the things," i.e. of the sacrifice, of the remission:
"can never by those sacrifices with which they offered continually
make the comers thereunto perfect." (Ver. 2-9) "For then would they not
have ceased to be offered? because that the worshipers once purged, should
have had no more conscience of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a
remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the
blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when He cometh
into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a
body hast Thou prepared Me. In burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou
hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo! I come, in the volume of the book it
is written of Me, to do Thy will, O God. Above when He said, Sacrifice, and
offering, and burnt-offerings, and [offering] for sin Thou wouldest not,
neither hadst pleasure therein, which are offered by the Law, then He said,
Lo! I come to do Thy will, O God! He taketh away the first that He may
establish the second."
Thou seest again the superabundance [of his proofs]? This sacrifice (he
says) is one; whereas the others were many: therefore they had no strength,
because they were many. For, tell me, what need of many, if one had been
sufficient? so that their being many, and offered "continually," proves
that they [the worshipers] were never made clean. For as a medicine, when
it is powerful and productive of health, and able to remove the disease
entirely, effects all after one application; as, therefore, if being once
applied it accomplishes the whole, it proves its own strength in being no
more applied, and this is its business, to be no more applied; whereas if
it is applied continually, this is a plain proof of its not having
strength. For it is the excellence of a medicine to be applied once, and
not often. So is it in this case also. Why forsooth are they continually
cured with the "same sacrifices "? For if they were set free from all their
sins, the sacrifices would not have gone on being offered every day. For
they had been appointed to be continually offered in behalf of the whole
people, both in the evening and in the day. So that there was an
arraignment of sins, and not a release from sins; an arraignment of
weakness, not an exhibition of strength. For because the first had no
strength, another also was offered: and since this effected nothing, again
another; so that it was an evidence of sins. The "offering" indeed then,
was an evidence of sins, the "continually," an evidence of weakness. But
with regard to Christ, it was the contrary: He was "once offered." The
types therefore contain the figure only, not the power; just as in
images, the image has the figure of the man, not the power. So that the
reality and the type have [somewhat] in common with one another. For the
figure exists equally in both, but not the power. So too also is it in
respect of Heaven and of the tabernacle, for the figure was equal: for
there was the Holy of Holies, but the power and the other things were not
What is, "He hath appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of
Himself"? What is this "putting away"? it is making contemptible. For
sin has no longer any boldness; for it is made of no effect in that when it
ought to have demanded punishment, it did not demand it: that is, it
suffered violence: when it expected to destroy all men, then it was itself
"He hath appeared by the sacrifice of Himself" (he says), that is, "He
hath appeared," unto God, and drawn near [unto Him]. For do not [think]
because the High Priest was wont to do this oftentimes in the year. ...
So that henceforward this is done in vain, although it is done; for what
need is there of medicines where there are no wounds? On this account He
ordained offerings "continually," because of their want of power, and that
a remembrance of sins might be made.
[6.] What then? do not we offer every day? We offer indeed, but making
a remembrance of His death, and this [remembrance] is one and not many.
How is it one, and not many? Inasmuch as that [Sacrifice] was once for
all offered, [and] carried into the Holy of Holies. This is a figure of
that [sacrifice] and this remembrance of that. For we always offer the
same, not one sheep now and to-morrow another, but always the same
thing: so that the sacrifice is one. And yet by this reasoning, since
the offering is made in many places, are there many Christs? but Christ is
one everywhere, being complete here and complete there also, one Body. As
then while offered in many places, He is one body and not many bodies; so
also [He is] one sacrifice. He is our High Priest, who offered the
sacrifice that cleanses us. That we offer now also, which was then offered,
which cannot be exhausted. This is done in remembrance of what was then
done. For (saith He) "do this in remembrance of Me." (Luke xxii. 19.) It is
not another sacrifice, as the High Priest, but we offer always the same,
or rather we perform a remembrance of a Sacrifice.
[7.] But since I have mentioned this sacrifice, I wish to say a little
in reference to you who have been initiated; little in quantity, but
possessing great force and profit, for it is not our own, but the words of
Divine SPIRIT. What then is it? Many partake of this sacrifice once in the
whole year, others twice; others many times. Our word then is to all; not
to those only who are here, but to those also who are settled in the
desert. For they partake once in the year, and often indeed at intervals
of two years.
What then? which shall we approve? those [who receive] once [in the
year]? those who [receive] many times? those who [receive] few times?
Neither those [who receive] once, nor those [who receive] often, nor those
[who receive] seldom, but those [who come] with a pure conscience, from a
pure heart, with an irreproachable life. Let such draw near continually;
but those who are not such, not even once. Why, you will ask? Because they
receive to themselves judgment, yea and condemnation, and punishment, and
vengeance. And do not wonder. For as food, nourishing by nature, if
received by a person without appetite, ruins and corrupts all [the system],
and becomes an occasion of disease, so surely is it also with respect to
the awful mysteries. Dost thou feast at a spiritual table, a royal table,
and again pollute thy mouth with mire? Dost thou anoint thyself with sweet
ointment, and again fill thyself with ill savors?
Tell me, I beseech thee, when after a year thou partakest of the
Communion, dost thou think that the Forty Days are sufficient for thee
for the purifying of the sins of all that time? And again, when a week has
passed, dost thou give thyself up to the former things? Tell me now, if
when thou hast been well for forty days after a long illness, thou
shouldest again give thyself up to the food which caused the sickness, hast
thou not lost thy former labor too? For if natural things are changed, much
more those which depend on choice. As for instance, by nature we see, and
naturally we have healthy eyes; but oftentimes from a bad habit [of body]
our power of vision is injured. If then natural things are changed, much
more those of choice. Thou assignest forty days for the health of the soul,
or perhaps not even forty, and dost thou expect to propitiate God? Tell me,
art thou in sport?
These things I say, not as forbidding you the one and annual coming,
but as wishing you to draw near continually.
[8.] These things have been given to the holy. This the Deacon also
proclaims when he calls on the holy; even by this call searching the
faults of all. For as in a flock, where many sheep indeed are in good
health, but many are full of the scab, it is needful that these should be
separated from the healthy; so also in the Church: since some sheep are
healthy, and some diseased, by this voice he separates the one from the
other, the priest [I mean] going round on all sides by this most awful cry,
and calling and drawing on the holy. For it is not possible that a man
should know the things of his neighbor, (for "what man," he says, "knoweth
the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?"--1 Cor. ii.
11): he utters this voice after the whole sacrifice has been completed,
that no person should come to the spiritual fountain carelessly and in a
chance way. For in the case of the flock also (for nothing prevents us from
again using the same example), the sickly ones we shut up within, and keep
them in the dark, and give them different food, not permitting them to
partake either of pure air, or of simple grass, or of the fountain without
[the fold]. In this case then also this voice is instead of fetters.
Thou canst not say, 'I did not know, I was not aware that danger
attends the matter.' Nay surely Paul too especially testified this. But
wilt thou say, 'I never read it'? This is not an apology, but even an
accusation. Dost thou come into the Church every day and yet art ignorant
However, that thou mayest not have even this excuse to offer, for this
cause, with a loud voice, with an awful cry, like some herald lifting up
his hand on high, standing aloft, conspicuous to all, and after that awful
silence crying out aloud, he invites some, and some he forbids, not doing
this with his hand, but with his tongue more distinctly than with his hand.
For that voice, falling on our ears, just like a hand, thrusts away and
casts out some, and introduces and presents others.
Tell me then, I beseech [you], in the Olympic games does not the herald
stand, calling out with loud and uplifted voice, saying, "Does any one
accuse this man? Is he a slave? Is he a thief? Is he one of wicked
manners?" And yet, those contests for prizes are not of the soul nor yet of
good morals, but of strength and the body. If then where there is exercise
of bodies, much examination is made about character, how much rather here,
where the soul is alone the combatant. Our herald then even now stands, not
holding each person by the head, and drawing him forward, but holding all
together by the head within; he does not set against them other accusers,
but themselves against themselves. For he says not, "Does any one accuse
this man?" but what? "If any man accuse himself." For when he says, The
Holy things for the holy, he means this: "If any is not holy, let him not
He does not simply say, "free from sins,' but, "holy." For it is not
merely freedom from sins which makes a man holy, but also the presence of
the Spirit, and the wealth of good works. I do not merely wish (he says)
that you should be delivered from the mire, but also that you should be
bright and beautiful. For if the Babylonian King, when he made choice of
the youths from the captives, chose out those who were beautiful in form,
and of fair countenance: much more is it needful that we, when we stand by
the royal table, should be beautiful in form, [I mean] that of the soul,
having adornment of gold, our robe pure, our shoes royal, the face of our
soul well-formed, the golden ornament put around it, even the girdle of
truth. Let such an one as this draw near, and touch the royal cups.
But if any man clothed in rags, filthy, squalid, wish to enter in to
the royal table, consider how much he will suffer, the forty days not being
sufficient to wash away the offenses which have been committed in all the
time. For if hell is not sufficient, although it be eternal (for therefore
also it is eternal), much more this short time. For we have not shown a
strong repentance, but a weak.
[9.] Eunuchs especially ought to stand by the King: by eunuchs, I mean
those who are clear in their mind, having no wrinkle nor spot, lofty in
mind, having the eye of the soul gentle and quick-sighted, active and
sharp, not sleepy nor supine; full of much freedom, and yet far from
impudence and overboldness, wakeful, healthful, neither very gloomy and
downcast, nor yet dissolute and soft.
This eye we have it in our own power to create, and to make it
quicksighted and beautiful. For when we direct it, not to the smoke nor to
the dust (for such are all human things), but to the delicate breeze, to
the light air, to things heavenly and high, and full of much calmness and
purity, and of much delight, we shall speedily restore it, and shall
invigorate it, as it luxuriates in such contemplation. Hast thou seen
covetousness and great wealth? do not thou lift up thine eye thereto. The
thing is mire, it is smoke, an evil vapor, darkness, and great distress and
suffocating cares. Hast thou seen a man cultivating righteousness, content
with his own, and having abundant space for recreation, having anxieties,
not fixing his thoughts on things here? Set [thine eye] there, and lift
[it] up on high; and thou wilt make it far the most beautiful, and more
splendid, feasting it not with the flowers of the earth, but with those of
virtue, with temperance, moderation, and all the rest. For nothing so
troubles the eye as an evil conscience ("Mine eye," it is said, "was
troubled by reason of anger"--Ps. vi. 7); nothing so darkens it. Set it
free from this injury, and thou wilt make it vigorous and strong, ever
nourished with good hopes.
And may we all make both it and also the other energies of the soul,
such as Christ desires, that being made worthy of the Head who is set over
us, we may depart thither where He wishes. For He saith, "I will that where
I am, they also may be with Me, that they may behold My glory." (John xvii.
24.) Which may we all enjoy in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the
Father together with the Holy Ghost be glory, might, honor, now and for
ever and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY XVIII: HEBREWS x. 8-13.
"Above when He said, Sacrifice and offering, and burnt-offerings, and
[offering] for sin, Thou wouldest not neither hadst pleasure [therein],
which are offered by the Law, they. said He, Lo! I come to do Thy will,
O God. He taketh away the first, that He may establish the second. By the
which will we are sanctified, by the offering of the body of JESUS
Christ, once for all. And every Priest standeth daily ministering, and
offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
But this [man] after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat
down on the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting till His enemies
be made His footstool."
[1.] IN what has gone before he had shown that the sacrifices were
unavailing for perfect purification, and were a type, and greatly
defective. Since then there was this objection to his argument, If they are
types, how is it that, after the truth is come, they have not ceased, nor
given place, but are still performed? he here accordingly labors at this
very point, showing that they are no longer performed, even as a figure,
for God does not accept them. And this again he shows not from the New
[Testament], but from the prophets, bringing forward from times of old the
strongest testimony, that it [the old system] comes to an end, and ceases,
and that they do all in vain, "alway resisting the Holy Ghost." (Acts vii.
And he shows over and above that they cease not now [only], but at the
very coming of the Messiah, nay rather, even before His coming: and how it
was that Christ did not abolish them at the last, but they were abolished
first, and then He came; first they were made to cease, and then He
appeared. That they might not say, Even without this sacrifice, and by
means of those, we could have been well pleasing unto God, He waited for
these sacrifices to be convicted [of weakness], and then He appeared; for
(He says) "sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not." Hereby He took all
away; and having spoken generally, He says also particularly, "In burnt-
offerings and [sacrifice] for sin Thou hadst no pleasure." But "the
offering" was everything except the sacrifice. "Then said I, Lo! I come."
Of whom was this spoken? of none other than the Christ.
Here he does not blame those who offer, showing that it is not because
of their wickednesses that He does not accept them, as He says elsewhere,
but because the thing itself has been convicted for the future and shown to
have no strength, nor any suitableness to the times. What then has this
to do with the "sacrifices" being offered "oftentimes"? Not only from their
being "oftentimes" [offered] (he means) is it manifest that they are weak,
and that they effected nothing; but also from God's not accepting them, as
being unprofitable and useless. And in another place it is said, "If Thou
hadst desired sacrifice I would have given it." (Ps. li. 16.) Therefore by
this also he makes it plain that He does not desire it. Therefore
sacrifices are not God's will, but the abolition of sacrifices. Wherefore
they sacrifice contrary to His will.
What is "To do Thy will"? To give up, Myself, He means: This is the
will of God.
"By which Will we are sanctified." Or he even means something still
further, that the sacrifices do not make men clean, but the Will of God.
Therefore to offer sacrifice is not the will of God.
[2.] And why dost thou wonder that it is not the will of God now, when
it was not His will even from the beginning? For "who," saith He, "hath
required this at your hands?" (Isa. i. 12.)
How then did He Himself enjoin it? In condescension. For as Paul says,
"I would that all men were even as I myself" (1 Cor. vii. 7), in respect
of continence, and again says, "I will that the younger women marry,
bear children" (1 Tim. v. 14); and lays down two wills, yet the two are not
his own, although he commands; but the one indeed is his own, and therefore
he lays it down without reasons; while the other is not his own, though he
wishes it, and therefore it is added with a reason. For having previously
accused them, because "they had waxed wanton against Christ" (1 Tim. v.
11), he then says, "I will that the younger women marry, bear children." (1
Tim. v. 14.) So in this place also it was not His leading will that the
sacrifices should be offered. For, as He says, "I wish not the death of the
sinner, as that he should turn unto [Me] and live" (Ezek. xxxiii. 11): and
in another place He says that He not only wished, but even desired this:
and yet these are contrary to each other: for intense wishing is desire.
How then dost Thou "not wish"? how dost Thou in another place "desire,"
which is a sign of vehement wishing? So is it in this case also.
"By the which will we are sanctified," he says. How sanctified? "by the
offering of the Body of JESUS Christ once for all."
[3.] "And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering
oftentimes the same sacrifice." (To stand therefore is a sign of
ministering; accordingly to sit, is a sign of being ministered unto.) "But
this [man] after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down
on the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting till His enemies be
made His footstool." (Ver. 14, 15) "For by one offering He hath perfected
forever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness
to us." He had said that those [sacrifices] are not offered; he reasoned
from what is written, [and] from what is not written; moreover also he
put forward the prophetic word which says, "sacrifice and offering Thou
wouldest not." He had said that He had forgiven their sins. Again this also
He proves from the testimony of what is written, for" the Holy Ghost" (he
says) "is a witness to us: for after that He had said," (ver. 16-18) "This
is the covenant, that I will make with them, after those days, saith the
Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write
them, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where
remission of these is there is no more offering for sin." So then He
forgave their sins, when He gave the Covenant, and He gave the Covenant by
sacrifice. If therefore He forgave the sins through the one sacrifice,
there is no longer need of a second.
"He sat down on the right band of God, from henceforth expecting." Why
the delay? "that His enemies be put under His feet. For by one offering He
hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." But perhaps some one
might say; Wherefore did He not put them under at once? For the sake of the
faithful who should afterwards be brought forth and born. Whence then [does
it appear] that they shall be put under? By the saying "He sat down." He
called to mind again that testimony which saith, "until I put the enemies
under His feet." (See above, i. 13.) But His enemies are the Jews. Then
since he had said, "Till His enemies be put under His feet," and they
[these enemies were vehemently urgent, therefore he introduces all his
discourse concerning faith after this. But who are the enemies? All
unbelievers: the daemons. And intimating the greatness of their subjection,
he said not "are subjected," but "are put under His feet."
[4.] Let us not therefore be of [the number of] His enemies. For not
they alone are enemies, the unbelievers and Jews, but those also who are
full of unclean living. "For the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it
is not subject to the law of God, for neither can it be." (Rom. viii. 7.)
What then (you say)? this is not a ground of blame. Nay rather, it is very
much a ground of blame. For the wicked man as long as he is wicked, cannot
be subject [to God's law]; he can however change and become good.
Let us then cast out carnal minds. But what are carnal? Whatever makes
the body flourish and do well, but injures the soul: as for instance,
wealth, luxury, glory (all these things are of the flesh), carnal love. Let
us not then love gain, but ever follow after poverty: for this is a great
But (you say) it makes one humble and of little account. [True:] for we
have need of this, for it benefits us much. "Poverty" (it is said) "humbles
a man." (Prov. x. 4, LXX.) And again Christ [says], "Blessed are the poor
in spirit." (Matt. v. 3.) Dost thou then grieve because thou art upon a
path leading to virtue? Dost thou not know that this gives us great
But, one says, "the wisdom of the poor man is despised." (Eccles. ix.
16.) And again another says, "Give me neither riches nor poverty" (Prov.
xxx. 8), and, "Deliver me from the furnace of poverty." (See Isa.
xlviii. 10.) And again, if riches and poverty are from the Lord, how can
either poverty or riches be an evil? Why then were these things said? They
were said under the Old [Covenant], where there was much account made of
wealth, where there was great contempt of poverty, where the one was a
curse and the other a blessing. But now it is no longer so.
But wilt thou hear the praises of poverty? Christ sought after it, and
saith, "But the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." (Matt. viii.
20.) And again He said to His disciples, "Provide neither gold, nor
silver, nor two coats." (Matt. x. 9, 10.) And Paul in writing said, "As
having nothing and yet possessing all things." (2 Cor. vi. 10.) And Peter
said to him who was lame from his birth, "Silver and gold have I none."
(Acts iii. 6.) Yea and under the Old [Covenant] itself, where wealth was
held in admiration, who were the admired? Was not Elijah, who had nothing
save the sheepskin? Was not Elisha? Was not John?
Let no man then be humiliated on account of his poverty: It is not
poverty which humiliates, but wealth, which compels us to have need of
many, and forces us to be under obligations to many?
And what could be poorer than Jacob (tell me), who said, "If the Lord
give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on"? (Gen. xxviii. 20.) Were
Elijah and John then wanting in boldness? Did not the one reprove Ahab,
and the other Herod? The latter said, "It is not lawful for thee to have
thy brother Philip's wife." (Mark vi. 18.) And Elias said to Ahab with
boldness "It is not I that trouble Israel, but thou and thy father's
house." (1 Kings xviii. 18.) Thou seest that this especially produces
boldness; poverty [I mean]? For while the rich man is a slave, being
subject to loss, and in the power of every one wishing to do him hurt, he
who has nothing, fears not confiscation, nor fine. So, if poverty had made
men wanting in boldness Christ would not have sent His disciples with
poverty to a work requiring great boldness. For the poor man is very
strong, and has nothing wherefrom he may be wronged or evil entreated. But
the rich man is assailable on every side: just in the same way as one would
easily catch a man who was dragging many long ropes after him, whereas one
could not readily lay hold on a naked man. So here also it fails out in the
case of the rich man: slaves, gold, lands, affairs innumerable, innumerable
cares, difficult circumstances, necessities, make him an easy prey to all.
[5.] Let no man then henceforth esteem poverty a cause of disgrace. For
if virtue be there, all the wealth of the world is neither clay, nor even a
mote in comparison of it. This then let us follow after, if we would enter
into the kingdom of heaven. For, He saith, "Sell that thou hast, and give
to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven." (Matt. xix. 21.) And
again, "It is hard for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven."
(Matt. xix. 23.) Dost thou see that even if we have it not, we ought to
draw it to us? So great a good is Poverty; For it guides us by the hand, as
it were, on the path which leads to Heaven, it is an anointing for the
combat, an exercise great and admirable, a tranquil haven.
But (you say) I have need of many [things], and am unwilling to receive
a favor from any. Nevertheless, even in this respect the rich man is
inferior to thee; for thou perhaps askest the favor for thy support, but he
shamelessly [asks] for ten thousand things for covetousness' sake. So that
it is the rich that are in need of many [persons], yea oftentimes those who
are unworthy of them. For instance, they often stand in need of those who
are in the rank of soldiers, or of slaves: but the poor man has no need
even of the Emperor himself, and if he should need him, he is admired
because he has brought himself down to this, when he might have been rich.
Let no man then accuse poverty as being the cause of innumerable evils,
nor let him contradict Christ, who declared it to be the perfection of
virtue, saying, "If thou wilt be perfect." (Matt. xix. 21.) For this He
both uttered in His words, and showed by His acts, and taught by His
disciples. Let us therefore follow after poverty, it is the greatest good
to the sober-minded.
Perhaps some of those who hear me, avoid it as a thing of ill omen. I
do not doubt it. For this disease is great among most men, and such is
the tyranny of wealth, that they cannot even as far as words endure the
renunciation of it, lint avoid it as of ill omen. Far be this from the
Christian's soul: for nothing is richer than he who chooses poverty of his
own accord, and with a ready mind.
[6.] How? I will tell you, and if you please, I will prove that he who
chooses poverty of his own accord is richer even than the king himself. For
he indeed needs many [things], and is in anxiety, and fears lest the
supplies for the army should fail him; but the other has enough of
everything, and fears about nothing, and if he fears, it is not about so
great matters. Who then, tell me, is the rich man? he who is daily asking,
and earnestly laboring to gather much together, and fears lest at any time
he should fall short, or he who gathers nothing together, and is in great
abundance and hath need of no one? For it is virtue and the fear of God,
and not possessions which give confidence. For these even enslave. For it
is said, "Gifts and presents blind the eyes of the wise, and like a muzzle
on the mouth turn away reproofs." (Ecclus. xx. 29.)
Consider how the poor man Peter chastised the rich Ananias. Was not the
one rich and the other poor? But behold the one speaking with authority and
saying, "Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much" (Acts v. 8), and the
other saying with submission, "Yea, for so much." And who (you say) will
grant to me to be as Peter? It is open to thee to be as Peter if thou wilt;
cast away what thou hast. "Disperse, give to the poor" (Ps. cxii. 9),
follow Christ, and thou shalt be such as he. How? he (you say) wrought
miracles. Is it this then, tell me, which made Peter an object of
admiration, or the boldness which arose from his manner of life? Dost thou
not hear Christ saying, "Rejoice not because the devils are subject unto
you; If thou wilt be perfect [&c]." (Luke x. 20.) Hear what Peter says:
"Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give thee." (Acts iii. 6.)
If any man have silver and gold, he hath not those other gifts.
Why is it then, you say, that many have neither the one nor the other?
Because they are not voluntarily poor: since they who are voluntarily poor
have all good things. For although they do not raise up the dead nor the
lame, yet, what is greater than all; they have confidence towards God. They
will hear in that day that blessed voice," Come, ye blessed of My Father,"
(what can be better than this?) "inherit the kingdom prepared for you from
the foundation of the world: for I was an hungered and ye gave Me meat: I
was thirsty and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger and ye took Me in: I was
naked and ye clothed Me: I was sick and in prison and ye visited Me.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
(Matt. xxv. 34-36.) Let us then flee from covetousness, that we may attain
to the kingdom [of Heaven]. Let us feed the poor, that we may feed Christ:
that we may become fellow-heirs with Him in Christ Jesus our Lord, with
whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor,
now and for ever and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY XIX: HEBREWS x. 19--23.
"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the
blood of JESUS, by a new and living way which He hath consecrated for
us, through the Veil, that is to say, His flesh, and having an High
Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart, in
full assurance of faith, having our 'hearts sprinkled from an evil
conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the
profession of our hope without wavering."
[1.] "HAVING therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by
the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He hath consecrated for
us." Having shown the difference of the High Priest, and of the sacrifices,
and of the tabernacle, and of the Covenant, and of the promise, and that
the difference is great, since those are temporal, but these eternal, those
"near to vanishing away," these permanent, those powerless, these perfect,
those figures, these reality. for (he says) "not according to the law of a
carnal commandment, but according to the power of an endless life." (c.
vii. 16.) And "Thou art a Priest for ever." (c. v. 6.) Behold the
continuance of the Priest. And concerning the Covenant, That (he says) is
old (for "that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away "--c.
viii. 13), but this is new; and has remission of sins, while that [has]
nothing of the kind: for (he says) "the Law made nothing perfect." (c. vii.
19.) And again, "sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not." (c. x. 5.) That
is made with hands, while this is "not made with hands" (c. ix. 11): that
"has the blood of goats (c. ix. 12 ), this of the LORD; that has the Priest
"standing," this "sitting." Since therefore all those are inferior and
these greater, therefore he says, "Having therefore, brethren, boldness."
[2.] "Boldness": from whence? As sins (he means) produce shame, so the
having all things forgiven us, and being made fellow-heirs, and enjoying so
great Love, [produces] boldness.
"For the entrance into the holiest." What does he mean here by
"entrance"? Heaven, and the access to spiritual things.
"Which he hath inaugurated," that is, which He prepared, and which
He began; for the beginning of using is thenceforth called the
inaugurating; which He prepared (he means) and by which He Himself passed.
"A new and living way." Here He expresses "the full assurance of hope."
"New," he says. He is anxious to show that we have all things greater;
since now the gates of Heaven have been opened, which was not done even for
Abraham. "A new and living way," he says, for the first was a way of death,
leading to Hades, but this of life. And yet he did not say, "of life," but
called it "living," (the ordinances, that is,) that which abideth.
"Through the veil" (he says) "of His flesh." For this flesh first cut
that way, by this He inaugurated it [the way] by which He walked. And with
good reason did he call [the flesh] "a veil." For when it was lifted up
on high, then the things in heaven appeared.
"Let us draw near" (he says) "with a true heart." To what should we"
draw near"? To the holy things, the faith, the spiritual service. "With a
true heart, in full assurance of faith," since nothing is seen; neither the
priest hence-forward, nor the sacrifice, nor the altar. And yet neither was
that priest visible, but stood within, and they all without, the whole
people. But here not only has this taken place, that the priest has entered
into the holy of holies, but that we also enter in. Therefore he says," in
full assurance of faith." For it is possible for the doubter to believe in
one way, as there are even now many who say, that of some there is a
resurrection and of others not. But this is not faith. "In full assurance
of faith" (he says); for we ought to believe as concerning things that we
see, nay, even much more; for "here" it is possible to be deceived in the
things that are seen, but there not: "here" we trust to the senses, but
there to the Spirit.
"Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience." He shows that
not faith only, but a virtuous life also is required, and the consciousness
to ourselves of nothing evil. Since the holy of holies does not receive
"with full assurance" those who are not thus disposed. For they are holy,
and the holy of holies; but here no profane person enters. They were
sprinkled as to the body, we as to the conscience, so that we may even now
be sprinkled over with virtue itself. "And having our body washed with pure
water."' Here he speaks of the Washing, which no longer cleanses the
bodies, but the soul.
"For He is faithful that promised." "That promised" what? That we are
to depart thither and enter into the kingdom. Be then in nothing over-
curious, nor demand reasonings. Our [religion] needs faith.
[3.] (Ver. 24, 25) "And" (he says) "let us consider one another to
provoke unto love and to good works. Not forsaking the assembling of
ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another
and so much the more as ye see the day approaching." And again in other
places, "The Lord is at hand; be careful for nothing." (Phil. iv. 5, 6.)
"For now is our salvation nearer: Henceforth the time is short." (Rom.
xiii. 11.) What is, "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together"?
(1 Cor. vii. 29.) He knew that much strength arises from being together and
assembling together. "For where two or three" (it is said) "are gathered
together in My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. xviii. 20);
and again, "That they may be One, as we" also are (John xvii. 11); and,
"They had all one heart and [one] soul." (Acts iv. 32.) And not this only,
but also because love is increased by the gathering [of ourselves]
together; and love being increased, of necessity the things of God must
follow also. "And earnest prayer" (it is said) was" made by" the people.
(Acts xii. 5.) "As the manner of some is." Here he not only exhorted, but
also blamed [them].
"And let us consider one another," he says, "to provoke unto love
and to good works." He knew that this also arises from "gathering
together." For as "iron sharpeneth iron" (Prov. xvii.17), so also
association increases love. For if a stone rubbed against a stone sends
forth fire, how much more soul mingled with soul! But not unto emulation
(he says) but "unto the sharpening of love." What is "unto the sharpening
of love"? Unto the loving and being loved more. "And of good works"; that
so they might acquire zeal. For if doing has greater force for instruction
than speaking, ye also have in your number many teachers, who effect this
by their deeds.
What is "let us draw near with a true heart"? That is, without
hypocrisy; for "woe be to a fearful heart, and faint hands" (Ecclus. ii.
12): let there be (he means) no falsehood among us; let us not say one
thing and think another; for this is falsehood; neither let us be
fainthearted, for this is not [a mark] of a "true heart." Faintheartedness
comes from not believing. But how shall this be? If we fully assure
ourselves through faith.
"Having our hearts sprinkled": why did he not say "having been
purified"? [Because] he wished to point out the difference of the
sprinklings: the one he says is of God, the other our own. For the washing
and sprinkling the conscience is of God; but "the drawing near with" truth
and "in full assurance of faith" is our own. Then he also gives strength to
their faith from the truth of Him that promised.
What is "and having our bodies washed with pure water"? With water
which makes pure; or which has no blood.
Then he adds the perfect thing, love. "Not forsaking the assembling of
ourselves together," which some (he says) do, and divide the assemblies.
For "a brother helped by a brother is as a strong city." (Prov. xviii. 19,
"But let us consider one another to provoke unto love." What is, "let
us consider one another"? For instance if any be virtuous, let us imitate
him, let us look on him so as to love and to be loved. For from Love good
works proceed. For the assembling is a great good: since it makes love more
warm; and out of love all good things arise. For nothing is good which is
not done through love.
[4.] This then let us "confirm" towards each other. "For love is the
fulfilling of the law." (Rom. xiii. 10.) We have no need of labors or of
sweatings if we love one another. It is a pathway leading of itself towards
virtue. For as on the highway, if any man find the beginning, he is guided
by it, and has no need of one to take him by the hand; so is it also in
regard to Love: only lay hold on the beginning, and at once thou art guided
and directed by it. "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor" (Rom. xiii. 10);
"thinketh no evil." (1 Cor. xiii. 5.) Let each man consider with himself,
how he is disposed toward himself. He does not envy himself; he wishes all
good things for himself; he prefers himself before all; he is willing to do
all things for himself. If then we were so disposed towards others also,
all grievous things are brought to an end; there is no enmity; there is no
covetousness: for who would choose to overreach himself? No man; but on the
contrary we shall possess all things in common, and shall not cease
assembling ourselves together. And if we do this, the remembrance of
injuries would have no place: for who would choose to remember injuries
against himself? Who would choose to be angry with himself? Do we not make
allowances for ourselves most of all? If we were tires disposed towards our
neighbors also, there will never be any remembrance of injuries.
And how is it possible (you say) that one should so love his neighbor
as himself? If others had not done this, you might well think it
impossible: but if they have done it, it is plain that from indolence it is
not done by ourselves.
And besides, Christ enjoins nothing impossible, seeing that many have
even gone beyond His commands. Who has done this? Paul, Peter, all the
company of the Saints. Nay, indeed if I say that they loved their
neighbors, I say no great matter: they so loved their enemies as no man
would love those who were likeminded with himself. For who would choose for
the sake of those likeminded, to go away into Hell. when he was about to
depart unto a kingdom? No man. But Paul chose this for the sake of his
enemies, for those who stoned him, those who scourged him. What pardon then
will there be for us, what excuse, if we shall not show towards our friends
even the very smallest portion of that love which Paul showed towards his
And before him too, the blessed Moses was willing to be blotted out of
God's book for the sake of his enemies who had stoned him. David also when
he saw those who had stood up against him slain, saith, "I, the shepherd,
have sinned, but these, what have they done?" (See 2 Sam. xxiv. 17.) And
when he had Saul in his hands, he would not slay him, but saved him; and
this when he himself would be in danger. But if these things were done
under the Old [Covenant] what excuse shall we have who live under the New,
and do not attain even to the same measure with them? For if, "unless our
righteousness exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, we shall not enter
into the kingdom of Heaven" (Matt. v. 20), how shall we enter in when we
have even less than they?
[5.] "Love your enemies," He says. (Matt. v. 44.) Love thou therefore
thy enemy: for thou art doing good not to him, but to thyself. How? Thou
art becoming like God. He, if he be beloved of thee, hath no great gain,
for he is beloved by a fellow-slave; but thou, if thou love thy fellow-
slave, hast gained much, for thou art becoming like God. Seest thou that
thou art doing a kindness not to him but to thyself? For He appoints the
prize not for him, but for thee.
What then if he be evil (you say)? So much the greater is the reward.
Even for his wickedness thou oughtest to feel grateful to him: even should
he be evil after receiving ten thousand kindnesses. For if he were not
exceedingly evil, thy reward would not have been exceedingly increased; so
that the reason [thou assignest] for not loving him. the saying that he is
evil, is the very reason for loving him. Take away the contestant and thou
takest away the opportunity for the crowns. Seest thou not the athletes,
how they exercise when they have filled the bags with sand? But there is no
need for thee to practice this. Life is full of things that exercise thee,
and make thee strong. Seest thou not the trees too, the more they are
shaken by the winds, so much the more do they become stronger and firmer?
We then. if we be long-suffering, shall also become strong. For it is said,
"a man who is long-suffering abounds in wisdom, but he that is of a little
soul is strongly foolish." (Prov. xiv. 29.) Seest thou how great is his
commendation of the one, seest thou how great his censure of the other?
"Strongly foolish," i.e. very [foolish].
Let us not then be faint-hearted one towards another: for this does not
rise from enmity, but from having a small soul. As if the soul be strong,
it will endure all things easily, and nothing will be able to sink it, but
will lead it into tranquil havens. To which may we all attain, by the grace
and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father
together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, now and for ever and
world without end. Amen.
HOMILY XX: HEBREWS x. 26, 27.
"For if we sin willfully, after we have received the knowledge of the
truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful
looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation which shall devour the
[1.] TREES which have been planted, and have had the advantage of all
other care, and the hands and the labors of the cultivator, and yet yield
no return for the labors, are pulled up by the roots, and handed over to
the fire. So somewhat of this kind takes place also in the case of our
Illumination. For when Christ has planted us, and we have enjoyed the
watering of the Spirit, and then show no fruit; fire, even that of Hell,
awaits us, and flame unquenchable.
Paul therefore having exhorted them to love and to bringing forth the
fruit of good works, and having urged them from the kindlier
[considerations.] (What are these? That we have an entrance into the holy
of holies, "the new way which He hath inaugurated for us."--c. x. 20), does
the same again from the more gloomy ones, speaking thus. For having said,
"not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some
is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as ye see the day
approaching" (c. x. 25), this being sufficient for consolation, he added,
"For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the
truth." There is need, he means, of good works, yea, very great need, "For
if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth,
there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins." Thou wast cleansed; thou wast
set free from the charges against thee, thou hast become a son. If then
thou return to thy former vomit, there awaits thee on the other hand
excommunication and fire and whatever such things there are. For there is
no second sacrifice.
[2.] At this place we are again assailed by those who take away
repentance, and by those who delay to come to baptism. The one saying,
that it is not safe for them to come to baptism, since there is no second
remission: And the other asserting that it is not safe to impart the
mysteries to those who have sinned, if there is no second remission.
What shall we say then to them both? That he does not take away
repentance, nor the propitiation through repentance, nor does he thrust
away and cast down with despair the fallen. He is not thus an enemy of our
salvation; but what? He takes away the second Washing. For he did not say,
no more is there repentance, or no more is there remission, but "no
more" is there a "sacrifice," that is, there is no more a second Cross.
For this is what he means by sacrifice. "For by one sacrifice," he says,
"He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" (c: x. 14); not like
the Jewish [rites.]. For this reason he has treated-so much throughout
concerning the Sacrifice, that it is one, even one; not wishing to show
this only, that herein it differed from the Jewish [rites], but also to
make [men] more steadfast, so that they might no longer expect another
sacrifice according to the Jewish law.
"For," saith he, "if we sin willfully." See how he is disposed to
pardon. He says, "if we sin willfully," so that there is pardon for those
[who sin.] not willfully. "After the knowledge of the truth": He either
means, of Christ, or of all doctrines. "There remaineth no more sacrifice
for sins," but what? "A certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery
indignation which shall devour the adversaries." By" Adversaries" he means
not the unbelievers, but those also who do what is against virtue; or [else
he means] that the same fire shall receive them of the household also,
which [receives] "the adversaries." Then expressing its devouring nature,
he says, as if giving it life, "fiery indignation which shall devour the
adversaries." For as a wild beast when irritated and very fierce and
savage, would not rest till it could lay hold on some one and eat him up;
so also that fire, like one goaded by indignation, whatever it can lay hold
of does not let go, but devours and tears it to pieces.
[3.] Next he adds also the reason of the threat, that it is on good
grounds, that it is just; for this contributes to confidence, when we show
that it is just.
For, he says, (ver. 28) "He that hath despised Moses' law dies without
mercy, under two or three witnesses." "Without mercy," he says; so that
there is no pardon, no pity there although the law is of Moses; for he
ordained the most of it.
What is "under two or three"? If two or three bore witness, he means,
they immediately suffered punishment.
If then under the Old [Covenant], when the law of Moses is set at
nought, there is so great punishment, (yet. 29) "Of how much sorer
punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under
foot the Son of God and hath counted the blood of the covenant an unholy [a
common] thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?"
And how does a man "tread under foot the Son of God"? When partaking of
Him in the mysteries (he would say) he has wrought sin, has he not trodden
Him under foot? Has he not despised Him? For just as we make no account of
those who are trodden under foot so also, they who sin have made no account
of Christ; and so they have sinned. Thou art become the Body of Christ,
and givest thou thyself to the devil, so that he treads thee under foot.
"And accounted the blood a common thing," he says. What is "common"? It
is "unclean," or the having nothing beyond other things.
"And done despite unto the Spirit of grace." For he that accepts not a
benefit, does despite to the benefactor. He made thee a son: and thou
wishest to become a slave. He came to dwell with thee, and thou bringest in
wicked imaginations to Him. Christ wished to stay with thee: and thou
treadest Him down by surfeiting, by drunkenness.
Let us listen, whoever partake of the mysteries unworthily: let us
listen, whoever approach that Table unworthily. "Give not" (He says) "that
which is holy unto the dogs, lest in time they trample them under their
feet" (Matt. vii. 6), that is, lest they despise, lest they repudiate
[them]. Yet he did not say this, but what was more fearful than this. For
he constrains their souls by what is fearful. For this also is adapted to
convert, no less than consolation. And at the same time he shows both the
difference, and the
chastisement, and sets forth the judgment upon them, as though it were an
evident matter. "Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be
thought worthy?" Here also he appears to me to hint at the mysteries.
[4.] Next he adds testimony, saying, (ver. 31, 30) "It is a fearful thing
to fall into the hands I of the Living God." "For" it is written:
"Vengeance [belongeth] unto Me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And
again, The Lord shall judge His people." "Let us fall," it is said, "into
the hands of the Lord, and not into the hands of men." (Ecclus. ii. 18.)
But if ye repent not, ye shall "fill into the hands of" God: that is
fearful: it is nothing, to "fall into the hands of men." When, he means, we
see any man punished here, let us not be terrified at the things present,
but shudder at the things to come. "For according to His mercy, so is His
wrath." And, "His indignation will rest upon sinners." (Ecclus. v. 6.)
At the same time too he hints at something else. For "Vengeance
[belongeth] unto Me," he says, "I will recompense." This is said in regard
to their enemies, who are doing evil, not to those who are suffering evil.
Here he is consoling them too, all but saying, God abideth for ever and
liveth, so that even if they 'receive not [their reward] now, they will
receive it hereafter. They ought to groan, not we: for we indeed shall fall
into their hands, but they into the hands of God. For neither is it the
sufferer who suffers the ill, but he that does it; nor is it he who
receives a benefit that is benefited, but the benefactor.
[5.] Knowing then these things, let us be patient as to suffering evil,
forward as to kindnesses. And this will be, if we think lightly of wealth
and honor. He that hath stripped himself of those affections, is of all men
most generous, and more wealthy even than he who wears the purple. Seest
thou not how many evils come through money? I do not say how many through
covetousness, but merely by our attachment to these things. For instance,
if a man has lost his money, he leads a life more wretched than any death.
Why grievest thou, O man? why weepest thou? Because God has delivered Thee
from excessive watching? Because thou dost not sit trembling and fearful?
Again, if any one chain thee to a treasure, commanding thee to sit there
perpetually, and to keep watch for other people's goods, thou art grieved,
thou art disgusted; and dost thou, after thou hast bound thyself with most
grievous chains, grieve when thou art delivered from the slavery?
Truly sorrows and joys are [matters] of fancy. For we guard them as if
we had another's.
Now my discourse is for the women. A woman often has a garment woven
with gold, and this she shakes, wraps up in linen, keeps with care,
trembles for it, and has no enjoyment of it. For either she dies, or she
becomes a widow. Or, even if none of these things happen, yet from fear
lest wearing it out by continual use, she should deprive herself of it, she
deprives herself of it in another way, by sparing it. But she passes it on
[you say] to another. But neither is this clear: and even if she should
pass it on, the other again will also use it in the same way. And if any
one will search their houses, he will find that the most costly garments
and other choice things, are tended with special honor, as if they were
living masters. For she does not use them habitually, but fears and
trembles, driving away moths and the other things that are wont to eat
them, and laying most of them in perfumes and spices, nor permitting all
persons to be counted worthy of the sight of them, but oftentimes carefully
putting them in order herself with her husband.
Tell me: did not Paul with reason call covetousness "idolatry"? (Col.
iii. 5.) For these show as great honor to their garments, their gold, as
they to their idols.
[6.] How long shall we stir up the mire? How long shall we be fixed to
the clay and the brickmaking? For as they toiled for the King of the
Egyptians, so do we also toil for the devil, and are scourged with far more
grievous stripes. For by how much the soul surpasses the body, by so much
does anxiety the weals of scourging. We are scourged every day, we are full
of fear, in anxiety, in trembling. But if we will groan, if we will look up
to God, He sendeth to us, not Moses, nor Aaron, but His own Word, and
compunction. When this [word] has come, and taken hold of our souls, He
will free from the bitter slavery, He will bring us forth out of Egypt,
from unprofitable and vain zeal, from slavery which brings no gain. For
they indeed went forth after having at least received golden [ornaments],
the wages for building, but we [receive] nothing: and would it were
nothing. For indeed we also receive, not golden ornaments, but the evils of
Egypt, sins and chastisements and punishments.
Let us then learn to be made use of, let us learn to be spitefully
treated; this is the part of a Christian. Let us think lightly of golden
raiment, let us think lightly of money, that we may not think lightly of
our salvation. Let us think lightly of money and not think lightly of the
soul. For this is chastised, this is punished: those things remain here,
but the soul departeth yonder. Why, tell me, dost thou cut thyself to
pieces, without perceiving it?
[7.] These things I say to the overreaching. And it is well to say also
to those who are overreached. Bear their overreachings generously; they are
ruining themselves, not you. You indeed they defraud of your money, but
they strip themselves of the good will and help of God. And he that is
stripped of that, though he clothe himself with the whole wealth of the
world, is of all men most poor: and so he who is the poorest of all, if he
have this, is the wealthiest of all. For "the Lord" (it is said) "is my
shepherd, and I shall lack nothing." (Ps. xxiii. 1.)
Tell me now, if thou hadst had a husband, a great and admirable man,
who thoroughly loved thee and cared for thee, and then knewest that he
would live always, and not die before thee, and would give thee all things
to enjoy in security, as thine own: wouldst thou then have wished to
possess anything? Even if thou hadst been stripped of all, wouldst thou not
have thought thyself the richer for this?
Why then dost thou grieve? Because thou hast no property? But consider
that thou hast had the occasion of sin taken away. But is it because thou
hadst [property] and hast been deprived of it? But thou hast acquired the
good will of God. And how have I acquired it (you say)? He has said,
"Wherefore do ye not rather suffer wrong?" (1 Cor. vi. 7.) He hath said,
"Blessed are they who bear all things with thankfulness." Consider
therefore how great good will thou wilt enjoy, if thou showest forth those
things by [thy] works. For one thing only is required from us, "in all
things to give thanks" to God, and [then] we have all things in abundance.
I mean, for instance: hast thou lost ten thousand pounds of gold? Forthwith
give thanks unto God, and thou hast acquired ten times ten thousand, by
that word and thanksgiving.
[8.] For tell me when dost thou account Job blessed? When he had so
many camels, and flocks, and herds, or when he uttered that saying: "The
Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away"? (Job i. 21.) Therefore also the devil
causes us losses, not that he may take away our goods only, for he knows
that is nothing, but that through them he may compel us to utter some
blasphemy. So in the case of the blessed Job too, he did not strive after
this only, to make him poor, but also to make him a blasphemer. At any
rate, when he had stripped him of everything, observe what he says to him
through his wife, "Say some word against the Lord, and die." (Job ii. 9.)
And yet, O accursed one, thou hadst stripped him of everything. 'But' (he
says) 'this is not what I was striving for; for I have not yet accomplished
that for which I did all. I was striving to deprive him of God's help: for
this cause I deprived him of his goods too. This is what I wish, that other
is nothing. If this be not gained, he not only has not been injured at all,
but has even been benefited.' Thou seest that even that wicked demon knows
how great is the loss in this matter?
And see him plotting the treachery through the wife. Hear this, ye
husbands, as many as have wives that are fond of money, and compel you to
blaspheme God. Call Job to mind. But let us see, if it please you, his
great moderation, how he silenced her. "Wherefore" (he says) "hast thou
spoken as one of the foolish women [speaketh]?" (Job ii. 10.) Of a truth
"evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Cor. xv. 33), at all times
indeed, but particularly in calamies: then they who give evil advice have
strength. For if the soul is even of itself prone to impatience, how much
more, when there is also an adviser. Is it not thrust into a pit? A wife is
a great good, as also a great evil. For because a wife is a great [good],
observe from what point he [Satan] wishes to break through the strong wall.
'The depriving him of his property' (he says) 'did not take him; the loss
has produced no great effect.' Therefore he says, 'If indeed he will curse
thee to thy face.' (Job ii. 5.) You see whither he was aspiring.
If then we bear [losses] thankfully, we shall recover even these
things; and if we should not recover them, our reward will be greater. For
when he had wrestled nobly, then God restored to him these things also.
When He had shown the devil, that it is not for these things that he serves
Him, then He restored them also to him.
[9.] For such is He. When God sees that we are not riveted to things of
this life, then He gives them to us. When He sees that we set a higher
value on things spiritual, then He also bestows on us things carnal. But
not first, lest we should break away from things spiritual: and to spare us
He does not give carnal things, to keep us away from them, even against our
Not so (you say) but if I receive [them], I am satisfied, and am the
more thankful. It is false, O man, for then especially wilt thou be
Why then (you say) does He give [them] to many? Whence is it clear,
that He gives [them]? But who else, you say, gives? Their overreaching,
their plundering. How then does He allow these things? As He also [allows]
murders, thefts, and violence.
What then (you will say) as to those who receive by succession an
inheritance from their fathers, being themselves full of evils innumerable?
And what of this? How does God suffer them (you say) to enjoy these things?
Surely just as He allows thieves, and murderers, and other evil doers. For
it is not now the time of judgment, but of the best course of life.
And what I just now said, that I repeat, that they shall suffer greater
punishment, who, when they have enjoyed all good things, do not even so
become better. For all shall not be punished alike; but they who, even
after His benefits, have continued evil, shall suffer a greater punishment,
while they who after poverty [have done this] not so. And that this is
true, hear what He says to David, "Did I not give thee all thy master's
goods?" (2 Sam. xii. 8.) Whenever then thou seest a young man that has
received a paternal inheritance without labor and continues wicked, be
assured that his punishment is increased and the vengeance is made more
intense. Let us not then emulate these; but if any man has succeeded to
virtue, if any man has obtained spiritual wealth, [him let us emulate]. For
(it is said) "Woe to them that trust in their riches" (cf. Ps. xlix. 6):
"Blessed are they that fear the Lord." (Ps. cxxviii. 1.) To which of these,
tell me, wouldst thou belong? Doubtless to those who are pronounced
blessed. Therefore emulate these, not the other, that thou also mayest
obtain the good things which are laid up for them. Which may we all obtain,
in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father be glory together with
the Holy Ghost, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY XXI: HEBREWS x. 32-34.
"But call to remembrance the former days, in which after ye were
illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; partly, whilst ye
were made a gazing stock both by reproaches and afflictions, and partly
whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had
compassion on those who were in bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of
yourr goods, knowing that ye have for yourselves in heaven a better and
an enduring substance."
[1.] THE best Physicians after they have made a deep incision, and have
increased the pains by the wound, soothing the afflicted part, and giving
rest and refreshment to the disturbed soul, proceed not to make a second
incision, but rather soothe that which has been made with gentle remedies,
and such as are suited to remove the violence of the pain. This Paul also
did after he had shaken their souls, and pierced them with the recollection
of Hell, and convinced then, that he must certainly perish, who does
despite to the grace of God, and after he had shown from the laws of Moses,
that they also shall perish, and the more [fearfully], and confirm it by
other testimonies, and had said, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the
hands of the Living God" (c. x. 31): then, lest the soul desponding through
excessive fear, should be swallowed up with grief, he soothes them by
commendations and exhortation, and gives them zeal derived from their own
conduct. For, he says, "call to remembrance the former days, in which after
ye had been enlightened, ye endured a great fight of afflictions." Powerful
is the exhortation from deeds [already done]: for he who begins a work
ought to go forward and add to it. As if he had said, when ye were brought
in [to the Church], when ye were in the rank of learners, ye displayed
so great readiness, so great nobleness; but now it is no longer so. And he
who encourages, does thus especially encourage them from their own example.
And he did not simply say, "ye endured a fight" but a "great"
[fight]. Moreover he did not say "temptations" but "fight," which is an
expression of commendation and of very great praise.
Then he also enumerates them particularly, amplifying his discourse,
and multiplying his praise. How? "Partly" (he says) "whilst ye were made a
gazing-stock by reproaches and afflictions"; for reproach is a great thing,
and calculated to pervert the soul, and to darken the judgment. For hear
what the prophet says: " While they daily say unto me, Where is thy
God?" (Ps. xlii. 10.) And again, "If the enemy had reproached me, I would
have borne it." (Ps. Iv. 12.) For since the human race is exceedingly
vainglorious, therefore it is easily overcome by this.
And he did not simply say "by reproaches," but that even with great
intensity, being "made a gazing-stock." For when a person is reproached
alone, it is indeed painful, but far more so when in presence of all. For
tell me how great the evil was when men who had left the meanness of
Judaism, and gone over, as it were, to the best course of life, and
despised the customs of their fathers, were ill treated by their own
people, and had no help.
[2.] I cannot say (he says) that ye suffered these things indeed and
were grieved, but ye even rejoiced exceedingly. And this he expressed by
saying, "Whilst ye became companions of them that were so used," and he
brings forward the Apostles themselves. Not only (he means) were ye not
ashamed of your own sufferings, but ye even shared with others who were
suffering the same things. This too is the language of one who is
encouraging them. He said not, 'Bear my afflictions, share with me,' but
respect your own.
"Ye had compassion on them that were in bonds." Thou seest that he
is speaking concerning himself and the rest who were in prison. Thus ye did
not account "bonds" to be bonds: but as noble wrestlers so stood ye: for
not only ye needed no consolation in your own [distresses], but even became
a consolation to others.
And "ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods." O! what "full
assurance of faith"! (c. x. 22.) Then he also sets forth the motive, not
only consoling them for their struggles, but also that they might not be
shaken from the Faith. When ye saw your property plundered (he means) ye
endured; for already ye saw Him who is invisible, as visible: which was the
effect of genuine faith, and ye showed it forth by your deeds themselves.
Well then, the plundering was perhaps from the force of the plunderers,
and no man could prevent it; so that as yet it is not clear, that ye
endured the plundering for the faith's sake. (Although this too is clear.
For it was in your power if you chose, not to be plundered, by not
believing.) But ye did what is far greater than this; the enduring such
things even "with joy"; which was altogether apostolical, and worthy of
those noble souls, who rejoiced when scourged. For, it says, "they departed
from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy
to suffer shame for the Name." (Acts v. 41.) But he that endures "with
joy," shows that he has some reward, and that the affair is no loss but a
Moreover the expression "ye took"' shows their willing endurance,
because, he means, ye chose and accepted.
"Knowing" (he says) "that ye have for yourselves in heaven a better and
an enduring substance"; instead of saying, firm, not perishing like this.
[3.] In the next place, having praised them, he says, (ver. 35) "Cast
not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward."
What meanest thou? He did not say, 'ye have cast it away, and recover it':
but, which tended more to strengthen them, "ye have it," he says. For to
recover again that which has been cast away, requires more labor: but not
to lose that which is held fast does not. But to the Galatians he says the
very opposite: "My children of whom I travail in birth again, till Christ
be formed in you" (Gal. iv. 19); and with reason; for they were more
supine, whence they needed a sharper word; but these were more faint-
hearted, so that they rather needed what was more soothing.
"Cast not away therefore" (he says) "your confidence," so that they
were in great confidence towards God. "Which hath" (he says) "great
recompense of reward." "And when shall we receive them (some one might
say)? Behold! All things on our part have been done." Therefore he
anticipated them on their own supposition, saying in effect, If ye know
that ye have in heaven a better substance, seek nothing here.
"For ye have need of patience," not of any addition [to your labors],
that ye may continue in the same state, that ye may not cast away what has
been put into your hands. Ye need nothing else, but so to stand as ye have
stood, that when ye come to the end, ye may receive the promise.
(Ver. 36) "For" (he says) "ye have need of patience, that after ye have
done the will of God, ye might receive the promise." Ye have need of one
thing only, to bear with the delay; not that ye should fight again. Ye are
at the very crown (he means); ye have borne all the combats of bonds, of
afflictions; your goods have been spoiled. What then? Henceforward ye are
standing to be crowned: endure this only, the delay of the crown. O the
greatness of the consolation! It is as if one should speak to an athlete
who had overthrown all, and had no antagonist, and then was to be crowned,
and yet endured not that time, during which the president of the games
comes, and places the crown [upon him]; and he impatient, should wish to go
out, and escape as though he could not bear the thirst and the heat.
He then also hinting this, what does he say? (Ver. 37) "Yet a little
while and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry." For lest they
should say, And when will He come? He comforts them from the Scriptures.
For thus also when he says in another place, "Now is our salvation nearer"
(Rom. xiii. 11), he comforts them because the remaining time is short. And
this he says not of himself but from the Scriptures. But if from that
time it was said, "Yet a little while, and He that shall come will come,
and will not tarry," it is plain that now He is nearer. Wherefore also
waiting is no small reward.
(Ver. 38) "Now the just" (he says) "shall live by faith, but if any man
draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him." This is a great
encouragement when one shows that they have succeeded in the whole matter
and are losing it through a little indolence. (Ver. 39) "But we are not of
them that draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving
of the soul."
[4.] (c. xi. 1, 2) "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good
report." O what an expression has he used, in saying, "an evidence of
things not seen." For [we say] there is "evidence," in the case of things
that are very plain. Faith then is the seeing things not plain (he
means), and brings what are not seen to the same full assurance with what
are seen. So then neither is it possible to disbelieve in things which are
seen, nor, on the other hand can there be faith unless a man be more fully
assured with respect to things invisible, than he is with respect to things
that are most clearly seen. For since the objects of hope seem to be
unsubstantial, Faith gives them substantiality, or rather, does not give
it, but is itself their substance. For instance, the Resurrection has
not come, nor does it exist substantially, but hope makes it substantial in
our soul. This is [the meaning of] "the substance of things."
If therefore it is an "evidence of things not seen," why forsooth do
you wish to see them, so as to fall away from faith, and from being
just? Since "the just shall live by faith," whereas ye, if ye wish to
see these things, are no longer faithful. Ye have labored (he says), ye
have struggled: I too allow this, nevertheless, wait for this is Faith: do
not seek the whole "here."
[5.] These things were indeed said to the Hebrews, but they are a
general exhortation also to many of those who are here assembled. How and
in what way? To the faint- hearted; to the mean-spirited. For when they see
the wicked prospering, and themselves faring ill, they are troubled, they
bear it impatiently: while they long for the chastisement, and the
inflicting vengeance on others; while they wait for the rewards of their
own sufferings. "For yet a little time, and He that shah come will come."
Let us then say this to the slothful: Doubtless there will be
punishment; doubtless He will come, henceforth the events of the
Resurrection are even at the doors.
Whence [does] that [appear] (you say)? I do not say, from the prophets;
for neither do I now speak to Christians only; but even if a heathen be
here, I am perfectly confident, and bring forward my proofs, and will
instruct him. How (you say)?
Christ foretold many things. If those former things did not come to
pass, then do not believe them; but if they all came to pass, why doubt
concerning those that remain? And indeed, it were very unreasonable,
nothing having come to pass, to believe the one, or when all has come to
pass, to disbelieve the others.
But I will make the matter more plain by an example. Christ said, that
Jerusalem should be taken, and should be so taken as no city ever was
before, and that it should never be raised up: and in fact this prediction
came to pass. He said, that there should be "great tribulation" (Matt.
xxiv. 21), and it came to pass. He said that a grain of mustard seed is
sown, so should the preaching [of the Gospel] be extended: and every day we
see this running over the world. He said, that they who left father or
mother, or brethren, or sisters, should have both fathers and mothers; And
this we see fulfilled by facts. He said, "in the world ye shall have
tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John xvi.
33), that is, no man shall get the better of you. And this we see by the
events has come to pass. He said that "the gates of hell shall not prevail
against the Church" (Matt. xvi. 18), even though persecuted, and that no
one shall quench the preaching [of the Gospel]: and the experience of
events bears witness to this prediction also: and yet when He said these
things, it was very hard to believe Him. Why? Because all these were words,
and He had not as yet given proof of the things spoken. So that they have
now become far more credible. He said that "when the Gospel should have
been preached among all the nations, then the end shall come" (Matt. xxiv.
14); lo! now ye have arrived at the end: for the greater part of the world
hath been preached to, therefore the end is now at hand. Let us tremble,
[6.] But what, tell me? Art thou anxious about the end? It indeed is
itself near, but each man's life and death is nearer. For it is said,
"the days of our years are seventy years; but if [one be] in strength,
fourscore years." (Ps. xc. 10; [LXX. lxxxix. 10].) The day of judgment is
near. Let us fear. "A brother doth not redeem; shall man redeem?" (Ps.
xlix. 7; [LXX. xlviii. 8].) There we shall repent much, "but in death no
man shall praise Him." (Ps. vi. 5; [LXX. 6].) Wherefore he saith, "Let us
come before His presence with thanksgiving" (Ps. xcv. 2; [LXX. xciv.]),
that is, his coming. For here [in this life] indeed, whatever we do has
efficacy; but there, no longer. Tell me, if a man placed us for a little
while in a flaming furnace, should we not submit to anything in order to
escape, even were it necessary to part with our money, nay to undergo
slavery? How many have fallen into grievous diseases, and would gladly give
up all, to be delivered from them, if the choice were offered them? If in
this world then, a disease of short duration so afflicts us, what shall we
do yonder, when repentance will be of no avail?
[7.] Of how many evils are we now full, without being conscious of
them? We bite one another, we devour one another, in wronging, accusing,
calumniating, being vexed by the credit of our neighbors. (Cf. Gal. v. 15.)
And see the difficulty? When a man wishes to undermine the reputation
of a neighbor, he says, 'Such an one said this of him; O God, forgive me,
do not examine me strictly, I must give account of what I have heard.'
Why then dost thou speak of it at all, if thou dost not believe it? Why
dost thou speak of it? Why dost thou make it credible by much reporting?
Why dost thou pass on the story which is not true? Thou dost not believe
it, and thou entreatest God not to call thee to strict account? Do not say
it then, but keep silence, and free thyself from all fear.
But I know not from whence this disease has fallen upon men. We have
become tattlers, nothing remains in our mind. Hear the exhortation of a
wise man who says, "Hast thou heard a word? Let it die in thee, be bold;
it will not burst thee." (Ecclus. xix. 10.) And again, "A fool heareth a
word, and travaileth, as a women in labor of a child." (Ecclus. xix. 11.)
We are ready to make accusations, prepared for condemning. Even if no other
evil thing had been done by us, this were sufficient to ruin us, and to
carry us away to Hell, this involves us in ten thousand evils. And that
thou mayest know this certainly, hear what the prophet says, "Thou satest
and spakest against thy brother." (Ps. 1. 20.)
But it is not I, you say, but the other [who told me]. Nay rather, it
is thyself; for if thou hadst not spoken, another would not have heard: or
even if he should hear it, yet thou wouldest not have been to blame for the
sin. We ought to shade over and conceal the failings of neighbors, but thou
paradest them under a cloak of zeal for goodness. Thou becomest, not an
accuser, but a gossip, a trifler, a fool. O what cleverness! Without being
aware of it, thou bringest disgrace upon thyself as well as on him.
And see what great evils which arise from this. Thou provokest the
wrath of God. Dost thou not hear Paul saying about widows, "they not only"
(these are his words) "learn to be idle, but tattlers also and busybodies,
wandering about from house to house, and speaking things which they ought
not." (1 Tim. v. 13.) So that even when thou believest the things which are
said against thy brother, thou oughtest not even in that case to speak of
them; much less, when thou dost not believe them.
But thou [forsooth] lookest to thine own interest? Thou fearest to be
called to account by God? Fear then, lest even for thy tattling thou be
called to account. For here, thou canst not say, 'O God, call me not to
account for light talking': for the whole matter is light talking. Why
didst thou publish it? Why didst thou increase the evil? This is sufficient
to destroy us. On this account Christ said," Judge not, that ye be not
judged." (Matt. vii. 1.)
But we pay no regard to this, neither are we brought to our senses by
what happened to the Pharisee. He said what was true, "I am not as this
Publican" (Luke xviii. 11), he said it too in no man's hearing; yet was he
condemned. If he were condemned when he said what was true, and uttered it
in no man's hearing, what fearful [punishment] shall not they suffer, who
like gossiping women, carry about everywhere lies which they do not even
themselves believe? What shall they not endure?
[8.] Henceforward let us set "a door and a bolt before the mouth."
(Ecclus. xxviii. 25.) For innumerable evils have arisen from tattling;
families have been ruined, friendships torn asunder, innumerable other
miseries have happened. Busy not thyself, O man, about the affairs of thy
But thou art talkative and hast a weakness. Talk of thine own [faults]
to God: thus the weakness will be no longer a weakness, but an advantage.
Talk of thy own [faults] to thy friends, those who are thorough friends and
righteous men, and in whom thou hast confidence, that so they may pray for
thy sins. If thou speak of the [sins] of others, thou art nowise profited,
neither hast thou gained anything, but hast ruined thyself. If thou
confessest thy own [sins] to the Lord, thou hast great reward: for one
says, "I said, I will confess against myself mine iniquity to the Lord, and
Thou forgavest the impiety of my heart." (Ps. xxxii. 5.)
Dost thou wish to judge? Judge thine own [sins]. No one will accuse
thee, if thou condemn thyself: but he will accuse if thou do not condemn;
he will accuse thee, unless thou convict thyself; will accuse thee of
insensibility. Thou hast seen such an one angry, irritated, doing something
else out of place? Think at once, even thou on thy own [faults]: and thus
thou wilt not greatly condemn him, and wilt free thyself from the load of
thy past transgressions. If we thus regulate our own conduct, if we thus
manage our own life, if we condemn ourselves, we shall probably not commit
many sins, and we shall do many good things, being fair and moderate; and
shall enjoy all the promises to them that love God: to which may all
attain, by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom
to the Father together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, now and
for ever and world with end. Amen.
HOMILY XXII: HEBREWS xi. 3, 4.
"Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of
God; so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by
which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his
gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh."
[1.] FAITH needs a generous and vigorous soul, and one rising above
all things of sense, and passing beyond the weakness of human reasonings.
For it is not possible to become a believer, otherwise than by raising
one's self above the common customs [of the world].
Inasmuch then as the souls of the Hebrews were thoroughly weakened, and
though they had begun from faith, yet from circumstances, I mean
sufferings, afflictions, they had afterwards become faint-hearted, and of
little spirit, and were shaken from [their position], he encouraged them
first indeed from these very things, saying, "Call to remembrance the
former days" (c. x. 32); next from the Scripture saying, "But the just
shall live by faith" (c. x. 38); afterwards from arguments, saying, "But
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not
seen." (c. xi. 1.) And now again from their forefathers, those great and
admirable men, as much as saying; If where the good things were close at
hand, all were saved by faith, much more are we.
For when a soul finds one that shares the same sufferings with itself,
it is refreshed and recovers breath. This we may see both in the case of
Faith, and in the case of affliction: "that there may be comfort for you
it is said through our mutual faith." (Rom. i. 12.) For mankind are very
distrustful, and cannot place confidence in themselves, are fearful about
whatever things they think they possess, and have great regard for the
opinion of the many.
[2.] What then does Paul do? He encourages them by the fathers; and
before that by the common notions [of mankind]. For tell me, he says,
since Faith is calumniated as being a thing without demonstration and
rather a matter of deceit, therefore he shows that the greatest things are
attained through faith and not through reasonings. And how does he show
this, tell me? It is manifest, he saith, that God made the things which
are, out of things which are not, things which appear, out of things
which appear not, things which subsist, out of things which subsist not.
But whence [is it shown] that He did this even "by a Word"? For reason
suggests nothing of this kind; but on the contrary, that the things which
appear are [formed] out of things which appear.
Therefore the philosophers expressly say that 'nothing comes out of
things that are not' being "sensual" (Jude 19), and trusting nothing to
Faith And yet these same men, when they happen to say anything great and
noble, are caught entrusting it to Faith. For instance, that "God is
without beginning, and unborn"; for reason does not suggest this,
but the contrary. And consider, I beseech you, their great folly. They
say that God is without beginning; and yet this is far more wonderful
than the [creation] out of things that are not. For to say, that He is
without beginning, that He is unborn, neither begotten by Himself nor by
another is more full of difficulties, than to say that God made the
things which are, out of things which are not. For here there are many
things uncertain: as, that some one made it, that what was made had a
beginning, that, in a word, it was made. But in the other case, what? He is
self- existing, unborn, He neither had beginning nor time; tell me, do
not these things require faith? But he did not assert this, which was far
greater, but the lesser.
Whence [does it appear], he would say, that God made these things?
Reason does not suggest it; no one was present when it was done. Whence is
it shown? It is plainly the result of faith. "Through faith we understand
that the worlds were made." Why "through faith"? Because "the things that
are seen were not made of things which do appear." For this is Faith.
[3.] Having thus stated the general [principle], he afterwards
tests it by individuals. For a man of note is equivalent to the world.
This at all events he afterwards hinted. For when he had matched it against
one or two hundred persons, and then saw the smallness of the number, he
afterwards says, "by whom the world was outweighed in worth." (c. xi.
And observe whom he puts first, him who was ill-treated, and that by a
brother. It was their own affliction, "For you also" (he says) "have
suffered like things of your own countrymen." (1 Thess. ii. 14.) And by a
brother who had been nothing wronged, but who envied him on God's account;
showing that they also are looked on with an evil eye and envied. He
honored God, and died because he honored Him: and has not yet attained to a
resurrection. But his readiness is manifest, and his part has been done,
but God's part has not yet been carried out towards him.
And by a "more excellent sacrifice" in this place, he means that which
is more honorable, more splendid, more necessary.
And we cannot say (he says) that it was not accepted. He did accept it,
and said unto Cain, ["Hast thou] not [sinned], if thou rightly offer, but
dost not rightly divide?" (Gen. iv. 7, LXX.) So then Abel both rightly
offered, and rightly divided. Nevertheless for this, what recompense did he
receive? He was slain by his brother's hand: and that sentence which his
father endured on account of sin, this he first received who was upright.
And he suffered so much the more grievously because it was from a brother,
and he was the first [to suffer].
And he did these things rightly looking to no man. For to whom could he
look, when he so honored God? To his father and his mother? But they had
outraged Him in return for His benefits. To his brother then? But he also
had dishonored [God]. So that by himself he sought out what was good.
And he that is worthy of so great honor, what does he suffer? He is put
to death. And how too was he otherwise "testified of that he was
righteous"? It is said, that fire came down and consumed the sacrifices.
For instead of ["And the Lord] had respect to Abel and to his sacrifices"
(Gen. iv. 4), the Syriac said, "And He set them on fire." He therefore
who both by word and deed bare witness to the righteous man and sees him
slain for His sake, did not avenge him, but left him to suffer.
But your case is not such: for how could it be? You who have both
prophets and examples, and encouragements innumerable, and signs and
miracles accomplished? Hence that was faith indeed. For what miracles did
he see, that he might believe he should have any recompense of good things?
Did he not choose virtue from Faith alone?
What is, "and by it he being dead yet speaketh"? That he might not cast
them into great despondency, he shows that he has in part obtained a
recompense. How? 'The influence coming from him is great, he means, "and
he yet speaketh"; that is, [Cain] slew him, but he did not with him slay
his glory and memory. He is not dead; therefore neither shall ye die. For
by how much the more grievous a man's sufferings are, so much the greater
is his glory.'
How does he "yet speak"? This is a sign both of his being alive, and of
his being by all celebrated, admired, counted blessed. For he who
encourages others to be righteous, speaks. For no speech avails so much, as
that man's suffering. As then heaven by its mere appearance speaks, so also
does he by being had in remembrance. Not if he had made proclamation of
himself, not if he had ten thousand tongues, and were alive, would he have
been so admired as now. That is, these things do not take place with
impunity, nor lightly, neither do they pass away.
[4.] (Ver. 5) "By faith Enoch was translated, that he should not see
death, and was not found, because God had translated him." This man
displayed greater faith than Abel. How (you ask)? Because, although be came
after him, yet what befell [Abel] was sufficient to guide him back. How?
God foreknew that [Abel] would be killed. For He said to Cain: "Thou hast
sinned: do not add thereto." Honored by him, He did not protect him. And
yet neither did this throw him [Enoch] into indifference. He said not to
himself, 'What need of toils and dangers? Abel honored God, yet He did not
protect him. For what advantage had he that was departed, from the
punishment of his brother? And what benefit could he reap therefrom? Let us
allow that he suffers severe punishment: what is that to him who has been
slain?' He neither said nor thought anything of this kind, but passing
beyond all these things, he knew that if there is a God, certainly there is
a Rewarder also: although as yet they knew nothing of a resurrection. But
if they who as yet know nothing of a resurrection, and see contradictory
things here, thus pleased [God], how much more should we? For they neither
knew of a resurrection, nor had they any examples to look to. This same
thing then made [Enoch] well-pleasing [to God], namely, that he received
nothing. For he knew that [God] "is a rewarder." Whence [knew he this]?
"For He recompensed Abel," do you say? So that reason suggested other
things, but faith the opposite of what was seen. Even then (he would say)
if you see that you receive nothing here, be not troubled.
How was it "by faith" that "Enoch was translated"? Because his pleasing
[God] was the cause of his translation, and faith [the cause] of his
pleasing [Him]. For if he had not known that he should receive a reward,
how could he have pleased [Him]? "But without faith it is impossible to
please" Him. How? If a man believe that there is a God and a retribution,
he will have the reward. Whence then is the well-pleasing?
[5.] It is necessary to "believe that He is," not 'what He is.' If
"that He is" needs Faith, and not reasonings; it is impossible to
comprehend by reasoning 'what He is.' If that "He is a rewarder" needs
Faith and not reasonings, how is it possible by Reasoning to compass His
essence? For what Reasoning can reach this? For some persons say that
the things that exist are self-caused. Seest thou that unless we have
Faith in regard to all things, not only in regard to retribution, but also
in regard to the very being of God, all is lost to us?
But many ask whither Enoch was translated, and why he was translated,
and why he did not die, neither he nor Elijah, and, if they are still
alive, how they live, and in what form. But to ask these things is
superfluous. For that the one was translated, and that the other was taken
up, the Scriptures have said; but where they are, and how they are, they
have not added: For they say nothing more than is necessary. For this
indeed took place, I mean his translation, immediately at the beginning,
the human soul [thereby] receiving a hope of the destruction of death, and
of the overthrow of the devil's tyranny, and that death will be done away;
for he was translated, not dead, but "that he should not see death."
Therefore he added, he was translated alive, because he was well-
pleasing [unto God]. For just as a Father when he has threatened his son,
wishes indeed immediately after he has threatened, to relax his threat, but
endures and continues resolute, that for a time he may chasten and correct
him, allowing the threat to remain firm; so also God, to speak as it were
after the manner of men, did not continue resolute, but immediately showed
that death is done away. And first He allows death to happen, wishing to
terrify the father through the son: For wishing to show that the sentence
is verily fixed, He subjected to this punishment not wicked men at once,
but him even who was well- pleasing, I mean, the blessed Abel; and almost
immediately after him, He translated Enoch. Moreover, He did not raise the
former, lest they should immediately grow bold; but He translated the other
being yet alive: having excited fear by Abel, but by this latter giving
zeal to be well-pleasing unto Him. Wherefore they who say that all things
are ruled and governed of themselves, and do not expect a reward, are
not well- pleasing; as neither are the heathen. For "He becomes a rewarder
of them that diligently seek Him" by works and by knowledge.
[6.] Since then we have "a rewarder," let us do all things that we may
not be deprived of the rewards of virtue. For indeed the neglecting such a
recompense, the scorning such a reward, is worthy of many tears. For as to
"those who diligently seek Him," He is a rewarder, so to those who seek Him
not, the contrary.
"Seek" (He says) "and ye shall find" (Matt. vii. 7): but how can we
find the Lord? Consider how gold is found; with much labor. [" I sought the
Lord] with my hands" (it is said) "by night before Him, and I was not
deceived" (Ps. lxxvii. 2. See LXX [Ps. lxxvi. 3]), that is, just as we seek
what is lost, so let us seek God. Do we not concentrate our mind thereon?
Do we not enquire of every one? Do we not travel from home? Do we not
For instance, suppose that any among us has lost his son, what do we
not do? What land, what sea do we not make the circuit of? Do we not reckon
money, and houses, and everything else as secondary to the finding him? And
should we find him, we cling to him, we hold him fast, we do not let him
go. And when we are going to seek anything whatever, we busy ourselves in
all ways to find what is sought. How much more ought we to do this in
regard to God, as seeking what is indispensable; nay rather, not in the
same way, but much more! But since we are weak, at least seek God as thou
seekest thy money or thy son. Wilt thou not leave thy home for Him? Hast
thou never left thy home for money? Dost thou not busy thyself in all ways?
When thou hast found [it], art thou not full of confidence?
[7.] "Seek" (He says) "and ye shall find." For things sought after need
much care, especially in regard of God. For many are the hindrances, many
the things that darken, many that impede our perception. For as the sun is
manifest, and set forth publicly before all, and we have no need to seek
it; but if on the other hand we bury ourselves and turn everything upside
down, we need much labor to look at the sun; so truly here also, if we bury
ourselves in the depth of evil desires, in the darkness of passions and of
the affairs of this life, with difficulty do we look up, with difficulty do
we raise our heads with difficulty do we see clearly. He that is buried
underground, in whatever degree he sees upwards, in that degree does he
come towards the sun. Let us therefore shake off the earth let us break
through the mist which lies upon us. It is thick, and close, and does not
allow us to see clearly.
And how, you say, is this cloud broken through? If we draw to ourselves
the beams of "the sun of righteousness." "The lifting up of my hands" (it
is said) "is an evening sacrifice." (Ps. cxli. 2.) With our hands let us
also lift up our mind: ye who have been initiated know what I mean,
perhaps too ye recognize the expression, and see at a glance what I have
hinted at. Let us raise up our thoughts on high.
I myself know many men almost suspended apart from the earth, and
beyond measure stretching up their hands, and out of heart because it is
not possible to be lifted into the air, and thus praying with earnestness.
Thus I would have you always, and if not always, at least very often; and
if not very often, at least now and then, at least in the morning, at least
in the evening prayers. For, tell me, canst thou not stretch forth the
hands? Stretch forth the will, stretch forth as far as thou wilt, yea even
to heaven itself. Even shouldst thou wish to touch the very summit, even if
thou wouldst ascend higher and walk thereon, it is open to thee. For our
mind is lighter, and higher than any winged creature. And when it receives
grace from the Spirit, O! how swift is it! How quick is it! How does it
compass all things! How does it never sink down or fall to the ground!
These wings let us provide for ourselves: by means of them shall we be able
to fly even across the tempestuous sea of this present life. The swiftest
birds fly unhurt over mountains, and woods, and seas, and rocks, in a brief
moment of time. Such also is the mind; when it is winged, when it is
separated from the things of this life, nothing can lay hold of it, it is
higher than all things, even than the fiery darts of the devil.
The devil is not so good a marksman, as to be able to reach this
height; he sends forth his darts indeed, for he is void of all shame, yet
he does not hit the mark; the dart returns to him without effect, and not
without effect only, but it [falls] upon his own head. For what is sent
forth by him must of necessity strike [something]. As then, that which has
been shot out by men, either strikes the person against whom it is
directed, or pierces bird, or fence, or garment, or wood, or the mere air,
so does the dart of the devil also. It must of necessity strike; and if it
strike not him that is shot at, it necessarily strikes him that shoots it.
And we may learn from many instances, that when we are not hit, without
doubt he is hit himself. For instance, he plotted against Job: he did not
hit him, but was struck himself. He plotted against Paul, he did not hit
him, but was struck himself. If we watch, we may see this happening
everywhere. For even when he strikes, he is hit; much more then [when he
does not hit].
[8.] Let us turn his weapons then against himself, and having armed and
fortified ourselves with the shield of faith, let us keep guard with
steadfastness, so as to be impregnable. Now the dart of the devil is evil
concupiscence. Anger especially is a fire, a flame; it catches, destroys,
consumes; let us quench it, by longsuffering, by forbearance. For as red-
hot iron dipped into water, loses its fire, so an angry man filling in with
a patient one does no harm to the patient man, but rather benefits him, and
is himself more thoroughly subdued.
For nothing is equal to longsuffering. Such a man is never insulted;
but as bodies of adamant are not wounded, so neither are such souls. For
they are above the reach of the darts. The longsuffering man is high, and
so high as not to receive a wound from the shot. When one is furious,
laugh; but do not laugh openly, lest thou irritate him: but laugh mentally
on his account. For in the case of children, when they strike us
passionately, as though forsooth they were avenging themselves, we laugh.
If then thou laugh, there will be as great difference between thee and him,
as between a child and a man: but if thou art furious thou hast made
thyself a child. For the angry are more senseless than children. If one
look at a furious child, does he not laugh at him? "The poor-spirited" (it
is said) "is mightily simple." (Prov. xiv. 29.) The simple then is a child:
and "he who is longsuffering" (it is said) "is abundant in wisdom." This
"abundant wisdom" then let us follow after, that we may attain to the good
things promised us in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father
together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, now and for ever and
world without end. Amen.
HOMILY XXIII: HEBREWS xi. 7.
"By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved
with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he
condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by
[1.] "BY faith" (he says) "Noah being warned of God." As the Son of
God, speaking of His own coming, said, "In the days of Noah they married
and were given in marriage" (Luke xvii. 26, 27), therefore the Apostle also
recalled to their mind an appropriate image. For the example of Enoch, was
an example only of Faith; that of Noah, on the other hand, of unbelief
also. And this is a complete consolation and exhortation, when not only
believers are found approved, but also unbelievers suffer the opposite.
For what does he say? "By faith being warned of God." What is "being
warned of God"? It is, "It having been foretold to him." But why is the
expression "divine communication" (Luke ii. 26) used? for in another
place also it is said, "and it wag communicated to him by the Spirit,"
and again, "and what saith the divine communication?" (Rom. xi. 4.)
Seest thou the equal dignity of the Spirit? For as God reveals, so also
does the Holy Spirit. But why did he speak thus? The prophecy is called "a
"Of things not seen as yet," he says, that is of the rain.
"Moved with fear, prepared an ark." Reason indeed suggested nothing of
this sort; For "they were marrying and being given in marriage"; the air
was clear, there were no signs [of change]: but nevertheless he feared: "By
faith" (he says) "Noah being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved
with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house."
How is it, "By the which he condemned the world"? He showed them to be
worthy of punishment, since they were not brought to their senses even by
"And he became" (he says) "heir of the righteousness which is by
Faith": that is, by his believing God he was shown to be righteous. For
this is the [part] of a soul sincerely disposed towards Him and judging
nothing more reliable than His words, just as Unbelief is the very
contrary. Faith, it is manifest, works righteousness. For as we have been
warned of God respecting Hell, so was he also: and yet at that time he was
laughed at; he was reviled and ridiculed; but he regarded none of these
[2.] (Ver. 8, 9) "By faith Abraham when he was called to go out into a
place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went
out not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of
promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles, with Isaac and
Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise." ["By faith"]: for (tell me)
whom did he see to emulate? He had for father a Gentile, and an
idolater; he had heard no prophets; he knew not whither he was going. For
as they of the Hebrews who believed, looked to these [patriarchs] as having
enjoyed blessings innumerable, he shows that none of them obtained anything
as yet; all are unrewarded; no one as yet received his reward. "He "escaped
from his country and his home, and "went out not knowing whither he went."
And what marvel, if he himself [were so], when his seed also dwelt in
this same way? For seeing the promise disproved (since He had said, "To
thee will I give this land, and to thy seed"--Gen. xii. 7; xiii. 15), he
saw his son dwelling there; and again his grandson saw himself dwelling in
a land not his own; yet was he nowise troubled. For the affairs of Abraham
happened as we might have expected, since the promise was to be
accomplished afterwards in his family (although it is said even to himself,
"To thee, and to thy seed," not, "to thee through thy seed," but "to thee
and to thy seed"): still neither he, nor Isaac, nor Jacob, enjoyed the
promise. For one of them served for hire, and the other was driven out: and
he himself even was failing through fear: and while he took some things
indeed in war, others, unless he had had the aid of God, would have been
destroyed. On this account [the Apostle] says, "with the heirs of the same
promise"; not himself alone, he means; but the heirs also.
[3.] (Ver. 13) "These all died in faith," he says, "not having
obtained the promises." At this place it is worth while to make two
enquiries; how, after saying that [God] "translated Enoch, and he was not
found, so that he did not see death," does he say, "These all died in
Faith." And again, after saying, "they not having obtained the promises,"
he declares that Noah had received a reward, "to the saving of his house,"
and that Enoch had been "translated," and that Abel "yet speaks," and that
Abraham had gained a hold on the land, and yet he says, "These all died in
Faith, not having obtained the promises." What then is [meant]?
It is necessary to solve the first [difficulty], and then the second.
"These all" (he says) "died in faith." The word "all" is used here not
because all had died, but because with that one exception "all these had
died," whom we know to be dead.
And the [statement] "not having obtained the promises," is true: for
surely the promise to Noah was not to be this [which is here spoken of].
But further, of what kind of "promises" is he speaking? For Isaac and Jacob
received the promises of the land; but as to Noah and Abel and Enoch, what
kind of promises did they receive? Either then he is speaking concerning
these three; or if concerning those others also, the promise was not this,
that Abel should be admired, nor that Enoch should be translated, nor that
Noah should be preserved; but these things came to them for their
virtue's sake, and were a sort of foretaste of things to come. For God from
the beginning, knowing that the human race needs much condescension,
bestows on us not only the things in the world to come, but also those
here; as for instance, Christ said even to the disciples, "Whosoever hath
left houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, shall receive
an hundredfold and shall inherit everlasting life." (Matt. xix. 29.) And
again, "Seek ye the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added
unto you." (Matt. vi. 33.) Seest thou that these things are given by Him in
the way of addition, that we might not faint? For as the athletes have
the benefit of careful attention, even when engaged in the combat, but do
not then enjoy entire ease, living under rules, yet afterwards they enjoy
it entire: so God also does not grant us here to partake of "entire" ease.
For even here He does give [some].
[4.] "But having seen them afar off," he says, "and embraced them."
Here he hints at something mystical: that they received beforehand all the
things which have been spoken concerning things to come; concerning the
resurrection, concerning the Kingdom of Heaven, concerning the other
things, which Christ proclaimed when He came, for these are "the promises"
of which he speaks. Either then he means this, or, that they did not indeed
receive them, but died in confidence respecting them, and they were [thus]
confident through Faith only.
"Having seen them afar off": four generations before; for after so many
[generations], they went up out of Egypt.
"And embraced them," saith he, and were glad. They were so persuaded of
them as even to "embrace [or "salute"] them," from the metaphor of persons
on ship-board seeing from afar the longed-for cities: which, before they
enter them, they take and occupy by words of greeting.
(Ver. 10) "For they looked" (he says) "for the city which hath
foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Seest thou that they received
them in this sense, in their already accepting them and being confident
respecting them. If then to be confident is to receive, it is in your power
also to receive. For these, although they enjoyed not those [blessings],
yet still saw them by their longing desire. Why now do these things happen?
That we might be put to shame, in that they indeed, when things on earth
were promised them, regarded them not, but sought the future "city":
whereas God again and again speaks to us of the city which is above, and
yet we seek that which is here. He said to them, I will give you the things
of the present [world]. But when He saw, or rather, when they showed
themselves worthy of greater things, then He no longer suffers them to
receive these, but those greater ones; wishing to show us that they are
worthy of greater things, being unwilling to be bound to these. As if one
should promise playthings to an intelligent child, not that he might
receive them, but by way of exhibiting his philosophy, when he asks for
things more important. For this is to show, that they held off from the
land with so great earnestness, that they did not even accept what was
given. Wherefore their posterity receive it on this account, for themselves
were worthy of the land.
What is, "the city which hath foundations"? For are not these [which
are visible] "foundations"? In comparison of the other, they are not.
"Whose Builder and Maker is God." O What an encomium on that city!
[5.] (Ver. 11) "By faith also Sarah herself," he says. Here he began
[speaking] in a way to put them to shame, in case, that is, they should
show themselves more faint-hearted than a woman. But possibly some one
might say, How "by faith," when she laughed? Nay, while her laughter indeed
was from unbelief, her fear [was] from Faith, for to say, "I laughed not"
(Gen. xviii. 15), arose from Faith. From this then it appears that when
unbelief had been cleared out, Faith came in its place.
"By faith also Sarah received strength to conceive seed even when she
was past age." What is, "to conceive seed "? She who was become dead,
who was barren, received power for the retaining of seed, for conception.
For her imperfection was two- fold; first from her time of life for she was
really old; secondly from nature, for she was barren.
(Ver. 12) "Wherefore even from one they" all "sprang, as the stars of
the sky, and as the sand which is by the sea-shore." "Wherefore" (he says)
"even from one they" all "sprang." Here he not only says that she bare [a
child], but that she also became mother of so many as not even fruitful
wombs [are mothers of]. "As the stars," He says. How then is it that He
often numbers them, although He said, "As the stars of the heaven shall not
be numbered, so neither shall your seed"? (Gen. xv. 5.) He either means the
excess, or else [speaks of] those who are continually being born. For is it
possible, tell me, to number their forefathers of one family as, such an
one son of such an one, and such an one son of such an one? But here such
are the promises of God, so skillfully arranged are His undertakings.
[6.] But if the things which He promised as additional, are so
admirable, so beyond expectation, so magnificent, what will those be, to
which these are an addition, to which these are somewhat over and above?
What then can be more blessed than they who attain them? What more wretched
than those who miss them? For if a man when driven out from his native
country, is pitied by all; and when he has lost an inheritance is
considered by all as an object of compassion, with what tears ought he to
be bewailed, who fails of Heaven, and of the good things there stored up?
Or rather, he is not even to be wept for: for one is wept for, when he
suffers something of which he is not himself the cause; but when of his own
choice he has entangled himself in evil, he is not worthy of tears, but
of wailings; or rather then of mourning; since even our Lord JESUS
Christ mourned and wept for Jerusalem, impious as it was. Truly we are
worthy of weepings innumerable, of wailings innumerable. If the whole world
should receive a voice, both stones, and wood, and trees, and wild beasts,
and birds, and fishes, and in a word, the whole world, if receiving a voice
it should bewail us who have failed of those good things, it would not
bewail and lament enough. For what language, what intellect, can represent
that blessedness and virtue, that pleasure, that glory, that happiness,
that splendor? "What eye hath not seen, and ear hath not heard, and what
hath not entered into the heart of man" (1 Cor. ii. 9), (he did not say,
that they simply surpass [what we imagine]; but none hath ever conceived)
"the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." For of what
kind are those good things likely to be, of which God is the Preparer and
Establisher? For if immediately after He had made us, when we had not yet
done anything, He freely bestowed so great [favors], Paradise, familiar
intercourse with Himself, promised us immortality, a life happy and freed
from cares; what will He not bestow on those who have labored and struggled
so greatly, and endured on His behalf? For us He spared not His Only
Begotten, for us when we were enemies He gave up His own SON to death; of
what will He not count us worthy, having become His friends? what will He
not impart to us, having reconciled us to Himself?
[7.] He both is abundantly and infinitely rich; and He desires and
earnestly endeavors to obtain our friendship; we do not thus earnestly
endeavor. What am I saying, 'do not earnestly endeavor'? We do not wish to
obtain the good things as He wishes it. And what He has done shows that He
wishes it more [than we]. For while, for our own sake, we with difficulty
think lightly of a little gold: He, for our sake, gave even the Son who was
His own. Let us make use of the love of God as we ought; let us reap the
fruits of His friendship. For "ye are My friends" (he says) "if ye do what
I say to you." (John xv. 14.) How wonderful! His enemies, who were at an
infinite distance from Him, whom in all respects He excels by an
incomparable superiority, these He has made His friends and calls them
friends. What then should not one choose to suffer for the sake of this
friendship? For the friendship of men we often incur danger, but for that
of God, we do not even give up money. Our [condition] does indeed call for
mourning, for mourning and tears and wailings, and loud lamentation and
beating of the breast. We have fallen from our hope, we are humbled from
our high estate, we have shown ourselves unworthy of the honor of God even
after His benefits we are become unfeeling, and ungrateful. The devil has
stripped us of all our good things. We who were counted worthy to be sons;
we His brethren and fellow-heirs are come to differ nothing from His
enemies that insult Him.
Henceforward, what consolation shall there be for us? He called us to
Heaven, and we have thrust ourselves down to hell. "Swearing and lying and
stealing and adultery, are poured out upon the earth." (Hos. iv. 2.) Some
"mingle blood upon blood"; and others do deeds worse than blood-shedding.
Many of those that are wronged, many of those that are defrauded prefer ten
thousand deaths to the suffering such things: and except they had feared
God, would even have killed themselves, being so murderously disposed
against themselves. Are not these things then worse than blood-shedding?
[8.] "Woe is me, my soul! For the godly man is perished from the earth,
and there is none upright among men" (Mic. vii. 1, 2, LXX.); let us also
now cry out, first about our own selves but aid me in my lamentation.
Perhaps some are even disgusted and laugh. For this very cause ought we
to make our lamentations the more intense, because we are so mad and beside
ourselves, that we do not know that we are mad, but laugh at things for
which we ought to groan. O man! "There is wrath revealed from heaven
against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" from. i. 18); "God will
come manifestly: a fire will burn before Him, and round about Him will be a
mighty tempest." (Ps. 1. 3.) "A fire will burn before Him, and consume His
enemies on every side." (Ps. xcvii. 3.) "The day of the Lord is as a
burning oven." (Mal. iv. 1.) And no man lays up these things in his mind,
but these tremendous and fearful doctrines are more despised than fables,
and are trodden under foot. He that heareth,--there is no one: while they
who laugh and make sport are--all. What resource will there be for us?
Whence shall we find safety? "We are undone, we are utterly consumed" (Num.
xvii. 12), we are become the laughingstock of our enemies, and a mockery
for the heathen and the Demons. Now is the devil greatly elated; he glories
and is glad. The angels to whom we had been entrusted are all ashamed and
in sadness: there is no man to convert [you]: all means have been used by
us in vain, and we seem to you as idle talkers. It is seasonable even now
to call on the heaven, because there is no man that heareth; to take to
witness the elements: "Hear, O heaven! and give ear, O earth! for the Lord
hath spoken." (Isa. i. 2.)
Give a hand, stretch it forth, O ye who have not yet been overwhelmed,
to them who are undone through their drunkenness: ye that are whole to them
that are sick, ye that are sober-minded to them that are mad, that are
giddily whirling round.
Let no man, I beseech you, prefer the favor of his friend to his
salvation; and let violence and rebuke look to one thing only,--his
benefit. When one has been seized by a fever, even slaves lay hold of their
Masters. For when that is pressing on him, throwing his mind into
confusion, and a swarm of slaves are standing by, they recognize not the
law of Master and Servant, in the calamity of the Master.
Let us collect ourselves, I exhort you: there are daily wars,
submersions [of towns], destructions innumerable all around us, and on
every side the wrath of God is enclosing us as in a net. And we, as though
we were well-pleasing to Him, are in security. We all make our hands ready
for unjust gains, none for helping others: alI for plundering, none for
protecting: each one is in earnest as to how he shall increase his
possessions; no one as to how he shall aid the needy: each one has much
anxiety how he may add to his wealth; no one how he may save his own soul.
One fear possesses all, lest (you say) we should become poor; no man is in
anguish and trembling lest we should fall into hell. These things call for
lamentations, these call for accusation, these call for reprobation.
[9.] But I do not wish to speak of these things, but I am constrained
by my grief. Forgive me: I am forced by sorrow to utter many things, even
those which I do not wish. I see that our wound is grievous, that our
calamity is beyond comfort, that woes have overtaken us greater than the
consolation. We are undone. "O that my head were waters and mine eyes a
fountain of tears" (Jer. ix. 1), that I might lament. Let us weep, beloved,
let us weep, let us groan.
Possibly there may be some here who say, He talks to us of nothing but
lamentation, nothing but tears. It was not my wish, believe me, it was not
my wish, but rather to go through a course of commendations and praises:
but now it is not the season for these. Beloved, it is not lamenting which
is grievous, but the doing things which call for lamentations. Sorrow is
not the: thing to shrink from, but the committing things that call for
sorrow. Do not thou be punished, and I will not mourn. Do not die, and I
will not weep. If the body indeed lies dead, thou callest on all to grieve
with thee, and thinkest those without sympathy who do not mourn: And when
the soul is perishing, dost thou tell us not to mourn?
But I cannot be a father, if I do not weep. I am a father full of
affection. Hear how Paul exclaims, "My little children, of whom I travail
in birth again" (Gal. iv. 19): what mother in child-birth utters cries so
bitter as he! Would that it were possible for thee to see the very fire
that is in my heart, and thou wouldest know, that I burn [with grief] more
intense than any woman, or gift that suffers untimely widowhood. She does
not so mourn over her husband, nor any father over his son, as I do over
this multitude that is here with us.
I see no progress. Everything turns to calumnies and accusations. No
man makes it his business to please God; but (he says) 'let us speak evil
of such an one or such an one.' 'Such an one is unfit to be among the
Clergy.' 'Such an one does not lead a respectable life.' When we ought to
be grieving for our own evils, we judge others, whereas we ought not to do
this, even when we are pure from sins. "For who maketh thee to differ" (he
says) "and what hast thou which thou didst not receive? But if thou hast
received it, why dost thou glory, as though thou hadst not received it?" (1
Cor. iv. 7.) "And thou, why dost thou judge thy brother" (Rom. xiv. 10),
being thyself full of innumerable evils? When thou sayest, Such an one is a
bad man, and a spendthrift, and vicious, think of thyself, and examine
strictly thy own [condition], and thou wilt repent of what thou hast said.
For there is no, no not any, such powerful stimulus to virtue, as the
recollecting of our sins.
If we turn over these two things in our minds, we shall be enabled to
attain the promised blessings, we shall be enabled to cleanse ourselves and
wipe away [what is amiss]. Only let us take serious thought sometime; let
us be anxious about the matter, beloved. Let us grieve here in reflection,
that we may not grieve yonder in punishment, but may enjoy the everlasting
blessings, where "pain and sorrow and sighing are fled away" (Isa. xxxv.
10), that we may attain to the good things which surpass man's
understanding, in Christ Jesus our Lord, for to Him is glory and power for
ever and ever. 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/XIV, Schaff). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible
Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.