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ST. JOHN CHRYSTOSTOM
HOMILIES 58-67 ON THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW
[Translated by Rev. Sir George Prevost, Baronet, M.A.
of Oriel College, Oxford.]
HOMILY LVIII: MATT. XVII. 22, 23.
"And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of Man
shall be betrayed into the hands of men, and they shall kill Him, and the
third day He shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry."
THAT is, to hinder their saying, "wherefore do we abide here
continually," He speaks to them again of the passion; on hearing which they
had no wish so much as to see Jerusalem. And it is remarkable how, when
both Peter had been rebuked, and Moses and Elias had discoursed concerning
it, and had called the thing glory, and the Father had uttered a voice from
above, and so many miracles had been done, and the resurrection was at the
doors (for He said, He should by no means abide any long time in death, but
should be raised the third day); not even so did they endure it, but were
sorry; and not merely sorry, but exceeding sorry.
Now this arose from their being ignorant as yet of the force of His
sayings. This Mark and Luke indirectly expressing said, the one, "They
understood not the saying, and were afraid to ask Him:"(1) the other, "It
was hid from them, that they perceived it not, and they feared to ask Him
of that saying."(2)
And yet if they were ignorant, how were they sorry? Because they were
not altogether ignorant; that He was to die they knew, continually hearing
it, but what this death might be, and that there would be a speedy release
from it, and that it would work innumerable blessings, as yet they knew not
clearly; nor what this resurrection might be: but they understood it not,
wherefore they grieved; for indeed they clung very earnestly to their
"And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received the didrachma
came to Peter, and said, Doth not your Master pay the didrachma?"(3)
And what is this "didrachma?" When God had slain the firstborn of the
Egyptians, then He took the tribe of Levi in their stead.(4) Afterwards,
because the number of the tribe was less than of the firstborn among the
Jews, for them that are wanting to make up the number, He commanded(5) a
shekel to be contributed: and moreover a custom came thereby in force, that
the firstborn should pay this tribute.
Because then Christ was a firstborn child, and Peter seemed to be first
of the disciples, to him they come: their way being, as I suppose, to exact
it in every city; wherefore also in His native place they approached Him;
for Capernaum was accounted His native place.
And Him indeed they durst not approach, but Peter; nor him either with
much violence, but rather gently. For not as blaming, but as inquiring,
they said, "Doth not your Master pay the didrachma?" For the right opinion
of Him they had not as yet, but as concerning a man, so did they feel; yet
they rendered Him some reverence and honor, because of the signs that went
2. What then saith Peter? "He saith, Yea:" and to these indeed he said,
that He payeth, but to Him he said it not, blushing perhaps to speak to Him
of these things. Wherefore that gentle one, well knowing as He did all
things, prevented him,(6) "saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? Of whom do
the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own sons, or of
strangers;" and when he said "of strangers," He replied, "Then are the sons
For lest Peter should suppose Him to say so, being told it by the
others, He prevents him, partly indicating what hath been said, partly
giving him leave to speak freely, backward as he was to speak first of
And what He saith is like this, "I am indeed free from paying tribute.
For if the kings of the earth take it not of their sons, but of their
subjects; much more ought I to be freed from this demand, I who am Son, not
of an earthly king, but of the King of Heaven, and myself a King." Seest
thou how He hath distinguished the sons from them that are not sons? And if
He were not a Son, to no purpose hath He brought in the example also of the
kings. "Yea," one may say, "He is a Son, but not truly begotten." Then is
He not a Son; and if not a Son, nor truly begotten, neither doth He belong
to God, but to some other. But if He belong to another, then neither hath
the comparison its proper force. For He is discoursing not of the sons
generally, but of the genuine sons, men's very own; of them that share the
kingdom with their parents.
Wherefore also in contradistinction He hath mentioned the "strangers;"
meaning by "strangers," such as are not born of them, but by "their own,"
those whom they have begotten of themselves.
And I would have thee mark this also; how the high doctrine,(1)
revealed to Peter, He doth hereby again confirm. And neither at this did He
stop, but by His very condescension declares this self-same truth; an
instance of exceeding wisdom.
For after thus speaking, He saith, "But lest we should offend them, go
thou and cast an hook into the sea, and take up the fish that first cometh
up, and thou shall find therein a piece of money;(2) that take, and give
unto them for me and thee."(3)
See how He neither declines the tribute, nor simply commands to pay it,
but having first proved Himself not liable to it, then He gives it: the one
to save the people, the other, those around Him, from offense. For He gives
it not at all as a debt, but as doing the best(4) for their weakness.
Elsewhere, however, He despises the offense, when He was discoursing of
meats,(5) teaching us to know at what seasons we ought to consider them
that are offended, and at what to disregard them.
And indeed by the very mode of giving He discloses Himself again. For
wherefore doth He not command him to give of what they have laid up? That,
as I have said, herein also He might signify Himself to be God of all, and
the sea also to be under His rule. For He had indeed signified this even
already, by His rebuke, and by His commanding this same Peter to walk on
the waves; but He now again signifies the self- same thing, though in
another way, yet so as to cause herein great amazement. For neither was it
a small thing, to foretell that the first, who out of those depths should
come in his way, would be the fish that would pay the tribute; and having
cast forth His commandment like a net into that abyss, to bring up the one
that bore the piece of money; but it was of a divine and unutterable power,
thus to make even the sea bear gifts, and that its subjection to Him should
be shown on all hands, as well when in its madness it was silent,(6) and
when, though fierce, it received its fellow servant;(7) as now again, when
it makes payment in His behalf to them that are demanding it.
"And give unto them," He saith, "for me and thee." Seest thou the
exceeding greatness of the honor? See also the self-command of Peter's
mind. For this point Mark, the follower of this apostle, doth not appear to
have set down, because it indicated the great honor paid to him; but while
of the denial he wrote as well as the rest, the things that make him
illustrious he hath passed over in silence, his master perhaps entreating
him not to mention the great things about himself. And He used the phrase,
"for me and thee," because Peter too was a firstborn child.
Now as thou art amazed at Christ's power, so I bid thee admire also the
disciple's faith, that to a thing beyond possibility he so gave ear. For
indeed it was very far beyond possibility by nature. Wherefore also in
requital for his faith, He joined him to Himself in the payment of the
3. "In that hour came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who then is the
greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"(8)
The disciples experienced some feeling of human weakness; wherefore the
evangelist also adds this note, saying, "In that hour;" when He had
preferred him to all. For of James too, and John, one was a firstborn son,
but no such thing as this had He done for them.
Then, being ashamed to avow their feeling, they say not indeed openly,
"Wherefore hast thou preferred Peter to us?" or, "Is he greater than we
are?" for they were ashamed; but indefinitely they ask, "Who then is
greater?" For when they saw the three preferred, they felt nothing of the
kind; but now that the honor had come round to one, they were vexed. And
not for this only, but there were many other things which they put together
to kindle that feeling. For to him He had said, "I will give thee the
keys;"(9) to him, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona;" to him here, "Give
unto them for me and thee;" and seeing too in general how freely he was
allowed to speak, it somewhat fretted them. And if Mark saith,(10) that
they did not ask, but reasoned in themselves, that is nothing contrary to
this. For it is likely that they did both the one and the other, and
whereas before, on another occasion, they had had this feeling, both once
and twice, that now they did both declare it, and reason among themselves.
But to thee I say, "Look not to the charge against them only, but
consider this too; first, that they seek none of the things of this world;
next, that even this passion they afterwards laid aside, and give up the
first place one to another." But we are not able to attain so much as unto
their faults, neither do we seek, "who is greatest(1) in the kingdom of
heaven;" but, who is greatest(2) in the earthly kingdom, who is wealthiest,
who most powerful.
What then saith Christ? He unveils their conscience, and replies to
their feeling, not merely to their words. "For He called a little child
unto Him," saith the Scripture, "and said, Except ye be converted, and
become as this little child, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of
heaven."(3) "Why, you," He saith, "inquire who is greatest, and are
contentious for first honors; but I pronounce him, that is not become
lowest of all, unworthy so much as to enter in thither."
And full well doth He both allege that pattern, and not allege it only,
but also set the child in the midst, by the very sight abashing them, and
persuading them to be in like manner lowly and artless. Since both from
envy the little child is pure, and from vainglory, and from longing for the
first place; and he is possessed of the greatest of virtues, simplicity,
and whatever is artless and lowly.
Not courage then only is wanted, nor wisdom, but this virtue also,
humility I mean, and simplicity. Yea, and the things that belong to our
salvation halt even in the chiefest point, if these be not with us.
The little child, whether it be insulted and, beaten, or honored and
glorified, neither by the one is it moved to impatience or envy, nor by the
other lifted up.
Seest thou how again He calls us on to all natural excellencies,
indicating that of free choice it is possible to attain them, and so
silences the wicked frenzy of the Manichaeans? For if nature be an evil
thing, wherefore doth He draw from hence His patterns of severe goodness?
And the child which He set in the midst suppose to have been a very young
child indeed, free from all these passions. For such a little child is free
from pride and the mad desire of glory, and envy, and contentiousness, and
all such passions, and having many virtues, simplicity, humility,
unworldliness,(4) prides itself upon none of them; which is a twofold
severity of goodness; to have these things, and not to be puffed up about
Wherefore He brought it in, and set it in the midst; and not at this
merely did He conclude His discourse, but carries further this admonition,
saying, "And whoso shall receive such a little child in my name, receiveth
"For know," saith He, "that not only, if ye yourselves become like
this, shall ye receive a great reward; but also if for my sake ye honor
others who are such, even for your honor to them do I appoint unto you a
kingdom as your recompence." Or rather, He sets down what is far greater,
saying, "he receiveth me." So exceedingly dear to me is all that is lowly
and artless." For by "a little child," here, He means the men that are thus
simple and lowly, and abject and contemptible in the judgment of the common
4. After this, to obtain yet more acceptance for His saying, He
establishes it not by the honor only, but also by the punishment, going on
to say, "And whoso shall offend one of these little ones, it were better
for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were
drowned in the depth of the sea."(6)
"For as they," saith He, "who honor these for my sake, have heaven, or
rather an honor greater than the very kingdom; even so they likewise who
dishonor them (for this is to offend them), shall suffer the extremity of
punishment. And marvel thou not at His calling the affront "an offense;"(7)
for many feeble-minded persons have suffered no ordinary offense from being
treated with slight and insult. To heighten therefore and aggravate the
blame, He states the mischief arising therefrom.
And He doth not go on to express the punishment in the same way, but
from the things familiar to us, He indicates how intolerable it is. For
when He would touch the grosser sort most sharply, He brings sensible
images. Wherefore here also, meaning to indicate the greatness of the
punishment they shall undergo, and to strike into the arrogance of those
that despise them, He brought forward a kind of sensible punishment, that
of the millstone, and of the drowning. Yet surely it were suitable to what
had gone before to have said, "He that receiveth not one of these little
ones, receiveth not me;" a thing bitterer than any punishment; but since
the very unfeeling, and exceeding gross, were not so much penetrated by
this, terrible as it is, He puts "a millstone," and "a drowning." And He
said not, "A millstone shall be hanged about his neck," but, "It were
better for him"(1) to undergo this; implying that another evil, more
grievous than this, awaits him; and if this be unbearable, much more that.
Seest thou how in both respects He made His threat terrible, first by
the comparison with the known image rendering it more distinct, then by the
excess on its side presenting it to the fancy as far greater than that
visible one. Seest thou how He plucks up by the root the spirit of
arrogance; how He heals the ulcer of vainglory; how He instructs us in
nothing to set our heart on the first honors; how He persuades such as
covet them in everything to follow after the lowest place?
5. For nothing is worse than arrogance.(2) This even takes men out of
their natural senses, and brings upon them the character of fools; or
rather, it really makes them to be utterly like idiots.
For like as, if any one, being three cubits in stature, were to strive
to be higher than the mountains, or actually to think it, and draw himself
up, as overpassing their summits, we should seek no other proof of his
being out of his senses; so also when thou seest a man arrogant, and
thinking himself superior to all, and accounting it a degradation to live
with other people, seek not thou after that to see any other proof of that
man's madness. Why, he is much more ridiculous than any natural fool,
inasmuch as he absolutely creates this his disease on purpose. And not in
this only is he wretched, but because he doth without feeling it fall into
the very gulf of wickedness.
For when will such an one come to due knowledge of any sin? when will
he perceive that he is offending? Nay, rather he is as a vile and captive
slave, whom the devil having caught goes off with, and makes him altogether
a prey, buffetting him on every side, and encompassing him with ten
For unto such great folly doth he lead them in the end, as to get them
to be haughty towards their children, and wives, and towards their own
forefathers. And others, on the contrary, He causes to be puffed up by the
distinction of their ancestors. Now, what can be more foolish than this?
when from opposite causes people are alike puffed up, the one sort because
they had mean persons for fathers, grandfathers, and ancestors; and the
other because theirs were glorious and distinguished? How then may one
abate in each case the swelling sore? By saying to these last, "Go farther
back than your grandfather, and immediate ancestors, and you will find
perchance many cooks, and drivers of asses, and shopkeepers:" but to the
former, that are puffed up by the meanness of their forefathers, the
contrary again; "And thou again, if thou proceed farther up among thy
forefathers, wilt find many far more illustrious than thou art."
For that nature hath this course, come let me prove it to thee even
from the Scriptures. Solomon was son of a king, and of an illustrious king,
but that king's father was one of the vile and ignoble. And his grandfather
on his mother's side in like manner; for else he would not have given his
daughter to a mere soldier. And if thou weft to go up again higher from
these mean persons, thou wilt see the race more illustrious and royal. So
in Saul's case too, so in many others also, one shall come to this result.
Let us not then pride ourselves herein. For what is birth? tell me.
Nothing, but a name only without a substance; and this ye will know in that
day. But because that day is not yet come, let us now even from the things
present persuade you, that hence arises no superiority. For should war
overtake us, should famine, should anything else, all these inflated
conceits of noble birth are put to the proof: should disease, should
pestilence come upon us, it knows not how to distinguish between the rich
and the poor, the glorious and inglorious, the high born and him that is
not such; neither doth death, nor the other reverses of fortune, but they
all rise up alike against all; and if I may say something that is even
marvellous, against the rich more of the two. For by how much they are less
exercised in these things, so much the more do they perish, when overtaken
by them. And the fear too is greater with the rich. For none so tremble at
princes as they; and at multitudes, not less than at princes, yea rather
much more; many such houses in fact have been subverted alike by the wrath
of multitudes and the threatening of princes. But the poor man is exempt
from both these kinds of troubled waters.
6. Wherefore let alone this nobility, and if thou wouldest show me that
thou art noble, show the freedom of thy soul, such as that blessed man had
(and he a poor man), who said to Herod, "It is not lawful for thee to have
thy brother Philip's wife;"(1) such as he was possessed of, who before him
was like him, and after him shall be so again; who said to Ahab, "I do not
trouble Israel, but thou, and thy father's house;"(2) such as the prophets
had, such as all the apostles.
But not like this are the souls of them that are slaves to wealth, but
as they that are under ten thousand tutors, and taskmasters, so these dare
not so much as lift up their eye, and speak boldly in behalf of virtue. For
the love of riches, and that of glory, and that of other things, looking
terribly on them, make them slavish flatterers; there being nothing which
so takes away liberty, as entanglement in worldly affairs, and the wearing
what are accounted marks of distinction. For such an one hath not one
master, nor two, nor three, but ten thousand.
And if ye would fain even number them, let us bring in some one of
those that are in honor in kings' courts, and let him have both very much
wealth, and great power, and a birthplace excelling others, and distinction
of ancestry, and let him be looked up to by all men. Now then let us see,
if this be not the very person to be more in slavery than all; and let us
set in comparison with him, not a slave merely, but a slave's slave, for
many though servants have slaves. This slave's slave then for his part hath
but one master. And what though that one be not a freeman? yet he is but
one, and the other looks only to his pleasure. For albeit his master's
master seem to have power over him, yet for the present he obeys one only;
and if matters between them two are well, he will abide in security all his
life. But our man hath not one or two only, but many, and more grievous
masters. And first he is in care about the sovereign himself. And it is not
the same to have a mean person for a master, as to have a king, whose ears
are buzzed into by many, and who becomes a property now to this set and now
Our man, though conscious of nothing, suspects all; both his comrades
and his subordinates; both his friends and his enemies.
But the other man too, you may say, fears his master. But how is it the
same thing, to have one or many, to make one timorous? Or rather, if a man
inquire carefully, he will not find so much as one. How, and in what sense?
Whereas that slave hath no one that desires to put him out of that service
of his, and to introduce himself (whence neither hath he any one to plot
against him therein); these have not even any other pursuit, but to
unsettle him. that is more approved and more beloved by their ruler.
Wherefore also he must needs flatter all, his superiors, his equals, his
friends. For where envy is, and love of glory, there even sincere
friendship has no strength. For as those of the same craft cannot love one
another with a perfect and genuine love, so is it with rivals in honor
also, and with them that long for the same among worldly objects. Whence
also great is the war within.
Seest thou what a swarm of masters, and of hard masters? Wilt thou that
I show thee yet another, more grievous than this? They that are behind him,
all of them strive to get before him: all that are before him, to hinder
him from coming nearer them, and passing them by.
7. But O marvel! I undertook indeed to show you masters, but our
discourse, we find, coming on and waxing eager, hath performed more than my
undertaking, pointing out foes instead of masters; or rather the same
persons both as foes and as masters. For while they are courted like
masters, they are terrible as foes, and they plot against us as enemies.
When then any one hath the same persons both as masters, and as enemies,
what can be worse than this calamity? The slave indeed, though he be
subject to command, yet nevertheless hath the advantage of care and good-
will on the part of them who give him orders; but these, while they receive
commands, are made enemies, and are set one against another; and that so
much more grievously than those in battles, in that they both wound
secretly, and in the mask of friends they treat men as their enemies would
do, and oftentimes make themselves credit of the calamity of others.
But not such are our circumstances; rather should another fare ill,
there are many to grieve with him: should he obtain distinction, many to
find pleasure with him. Not so again the apostle: "For whether," saith he,
"one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be
honored, all the members rejoice with it."(3) And the words of him who
gives these admonitions, are at one time, "What is my hope or joy? are not
even ye?"(4) at another, "Now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord;"(1) at
another, "Out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you;"(2)
and, "Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?"(3)
Wherefore then do we still endure the tempest and the billows of the
world without, and not run to this calm haven, and leaving the names of
good things, go on to the very things themselves? For glory, and dignity,
and wealth, and credit, and all such things, are names with them, but with
us realities; just as the grievous things, death and dishonor and poverty,
and whatever else is like them, are names indeed with us, but realities
And, if thou wilt, let us first bring forward glory, so lovely and
desirable with all of them. And I speak not of its being short-lived, and
soon put out, but when it is in its bloom, then show it me. Take not away
the daubings and colored lines of the harlot, but bring her forward decked
out, and exhibit her to us, for me thereupon to expose her deformity. Well
then, of course thou wilt tell of her array, and her many lictors, and the
heralds' voice, and the listening of all classes, and the silence kept by
the populace, and the blows given to all that come in one's way, and the
universal gazing. Are not these her splendors? Come then, let us examine
whether these things be not vain, and a mere unprofitable imagination. For
wherein is the person we speak of the better for these things, either in
body, or in soul? for this constitutes the man. Will he then be taller
hereby, or stronger, or healthier, or swifter, or will he have his senses
keener, and more piercing? Nay, no one could say this. Let us go then to
the soul, if haply we may find there any advantage occurring herefrom. What
then? Will such a one be more temperate, more gentle, more prudent, through
that kind of attendance? By no means, but rather quite the contrary. For
not as in the body, so also is the result here. For there the body indeed
gains nothing in respect of its proper excellence; but here the mischief is
not only the soul's reaping no good fruit, but also its actually receiving
much evil therefrom: hurried as it is by such means into haughtiness, and
vainglory, and folly, and wrath, and ten thousand faults like them.
"But he rejoices," thou wilt say, "and exults in these things, and they
brighten him up." The crowning point(4) of his evils lies in that word of
thine, and the incurable part of the disease. For he that rejoices in these
things, would be unwilling however easily to be released from that which is
the ground of his evils; yea, he hath blocked up against himself the way of
healing by this delight. So that here most of all is the mischief, that he
is not even pained, but rather rejoices, when the diseases are growing upon
For neither is rejoicing always a good thing; since even thieves
rejoice in stealing, and an adulterer in defiling his neighbor's marriage
bed, and the covetous in spoiling by violence, and the manslayer in
murdering. Let us not then look whether he rejoice, but whether it be for
something profitable, lest(5) perchance we find his joy to be such as that
of the adulterer and the thief.
For wherefore, tell me, doth he rejoice? For his credit with the
multitude, because he can puff himself up, and be gazed upon? Nay, what can
be worse than this desire, and this ill-placed fondness? or if it be no bad
thing, ye must leave off deriding the vainglorious and aspersing them with
continual mockeries: ye must leave off uttering imprecations on the haughty
and contemptuous. But ye would not endure it. Well then, they too deserve
plenty of censure, though they have plenty of lictors. And all this I have
said of the more tolerable sort of rulers; since the greater part of them
we shall find transgressing more grievously than either robbers, or
murderers, or adulterers, or spoilers of tombs, from not making a good use
of their power. For indeed both their thefts are more shameless, and their
butcheries more hardened, and their impurities far more enormous than the
others; and they dig through, not one wall, but estates and houses without
end, their prerogative making it very easy to them.
And they serve a most grievous servitude, both stooping basely under
their passions,(6) and trembling at all their accomplices. For he only is
free, and he only a ruler, and more kingly than all kings, who is delivered
from his passions.
Knowing then these things, let us follow after the true freedom, and
deliver ourselves from the evil slavery, and let us account neither pomp of
power nor dominion of wealth, nor any other such thing, to be blessed; but
virtue only. For thus shall we both enjoy security here, and attain unto
the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord
Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might, with the Father and the Holy
Spirit, world without end. Amen.
HOMILY LIX: MATT. XVIII. 7.
Woe unto the world because of offenses:(1) for it must needs be that
offenses come: but woe to that man by(2) whom the offense cometh."
"AND if 'it must needs be that offenses come,'" (some one of our
adversaries may perchance say), "why doth He lament over the world, when He
ought rather to afford succor, and to stretch forth His hand in its behalf?
For this were the part of a physician, and a protector, whereas the other
might be looked for even from any ordinary person."
What then could we possibly say, in answer to so shameless a tongue?
nay what dost thou seek for equal to this healing care of His? For indeed
being God He became man for thee, and took the form of a slave, and
underwent all extremities, and left undone none of those things which it
concerned Him to do. But inasmuch as unthankful men were nothing the better
for this, He laments over them, for that after so much fostering care they
continued in their unsoundness.
It was like as if over the sick man, that had had the advantage of much
attendance, and who had not been willing to obey the rules of the
physician, any one were to lament and say, "Woe to such a man from his
infirmity, which he has increased by his own remissness." But in that case
indeed there is no advantage from the bewailing, but here this too is a
kind of healing treatment to foretell what would be, and to lament it. For
many oftentimes, though, when advised, they were nothing profited, yet,
when mourned for, they amended.
For which reason most of all He used the word "Woe," thoroughly to
rouse them, and to make them in earnest, and to work upon them to be
wakeful. And at the same time He shows forth the good will He had towards
those very men and His own mildness, that He mourns for them even when
gainsaying, not taking mere disgust at it, but correcting them, both with
the mourning, and with the prediction, so as to win them over.
But how is this possible? he may say. For if "it must needs be that
offenses come," how is it possible to escape these? Because that the
offenses come indeed must needs be, but that men should perish is not
altogether of necessity. Like as though a physician should say (for nothing
hinders our using the same illustration again), it must needs be that this
disease should come on, but it is not a necessary consequence that he who
gives heed should be of course destroyed by the disease. And this He said,
as I mentioned, to awaken together with the others His disciples. For that
they may not slumber, as sent unto peace and unto untroubled life, He shows
many wars close upon them, from without, from within. Declaring this, Paul
said, "Without were fightings, within were fears;"(3) and, "In perils among
false brethren;"(4) and in his discourse to the Milesians too He said,
"Also of you shall some arise speaking perverse things;"(5) and He Himself
too said, "The man's foes shall be they of his own household."(6) But when
He said, "It must needs be," it is not as taking away the power of choosing
for themselves, nor the freedom of the moral principle, nor as placing
man's life under any absolute constraint of circumstances, that He saith
these things, but He foretells what would surely be; and this Luke hath set
forth in another form of expression, "It is impossible but that offenses
But what are the offenses?(8) The hindrances on the right way. Thus
also do those on the stage call them that are skilled in those matters,
them that distort their bodies.
It is not then His prediction that brings the offenses; far from it;
neither because He foretold it, therefore doth it take place; but because
it surely was to be, therefore He foretold it; since if those who bring in
the offenses had not been minded to do wickedly, neither would the offenses
have come; and if they had not been to come, neither would they have been
foretold. But because those men did evil, and were incurably diseased, the
offenses came, and He foretells that which is to be.
But if these men had been kept right, it may be said, and there had
been no one to bring in an offense, would not this saying have been
convicted of falsehood? By no means, for neither would it have been spoken.
For if all were to have been kept right, He would not have said, "it must
needs be that they come," but because He foreknew they would be of
themselves incorrigible, therefore He said, the offenses will surely come.
And wherefore did He not take them out of the way? it may be said. Why,
wherefore should they have been taken out of the way? For the sake of them
that are hurt? But not thence is the ruin of them that are hurt, but from
their own remissness. And the virtuous prove it, who, so far from being
injured thereby, are even in the greatest degree profiled, such as was Job,
such as was Joseph, such as were all the righteous, and the apostles. But
if many perish, it is from their own slumbering. But if it were not so, but
the ruin was the effect of the offenses, all must have perished. And if
there are those who escape, let him who doth not escape impute it to
himself. For the offenses, as I have said, awaken, and render more quick-
sighted, and sharper, not only him that is preserved; but even him that
hath fallen into them, if he rise up again quickly, for they render him
more safe, and make him more difficult to overcome; so that if we be
watchful, no small profit do we reap from hence, even to be continually
awake. For if when we have enemies, and when so many dangers are pressing
upon us, we sleep, what should we be if living in security. Nay, if thou
wilt, look at the first man. For if having lived in paradise a short time,
perchance not so much as a whole day, and having enjoyed delights, he drove
on to such a pitch of wickedness, as even to imagine an equality with God,
and to account the deceiver a benefactor, and not to keep to one
commandment; if he had lived the rest of his life also without affliction,
what would he not have done?
2. But when we say these things, they make other objections again,
asking, And why did God make him such? God did not make him such, far from
it, since then neither would He have punished him. For if we in those
matters in which we are the cause, do not find fault with our servant, much
more will not the God of all. "But whence did this come to pass?" one may
say. Of himself and his own remissness. "What means, of himself?" Ask
thyself. For if it be not of themselves the bad are bad, do not punish thy
servant nor reprove thy wife for what errors she may commit, neither beat
thy son, nor blame thy friend, nor hate thine enemy that doth despite to
thee: for all these deserve to be pitied, not to be punished, unless they
offend of themselves. "But I am not able to practise self-restraint," one
may say. And yet, when thou perceivest the cause not to be with them, but
of another necessity, thou canst practise self-restraint. When at least a
servant being taken with sickness doth not the things enjoined him, so far
from blaming thou dost rather excuse him. Thus thou art a witness, that the
one thing is of one's self, the other not of one's self. So that here too,
if thou knewest that he was wicked from being born such, so far from
blaming, thou wouldest rather have shown him indulgence. For surely, when
thou makest him allowance for his illness, it could not be that thou
wouldest have refused to make allowance for God's act of creation, if
indeed he had been made such from the very first.
And in another way too it is easy to stop the mouths of such men, for
great is the abounding power of the truth. For wherefore dost thou never
find fault with thy servant, because he is not of a beautiful countenance,
that he is not of fine stature in his body, that he is not able to fly?
Because these things are natural. So then from blame against his nature he
is acquitted, and no man gainsays it. When therefore thou blamest, thou
showest that the fault is not of nature but of his choice. For if in those
things, which we do not blame, we bear witness that the whole is of nature,
it is evident that where we reprove, we declare that the offense is of the
Do not then bring forward, I beseech thee, perverse reasonings, neither
sophistries and webs slighter than the spider's, but answer me this again:
Did God make all men? It is surely plain to every man. How then are not all
equal in respect of virtue and vice? whence are the good, and gentle, and
meek? whence are the worthless and evil? For if these things do not require
any purpose, but are of nature, how are the one this, the others that? For
if by nature all were bad, it were not possible for any one to be good, but
if good by nature, then no one bad. For if there were one nature of all
men, they must needs in this respect be all one, whether they were to be
this, or whether they were to be that.
But if we should say that by nature the one are good, the other bad,
which would not be reasonable (as we have shown), these things must be
unchangeable, for the things of nature are unchangeable. Nay, mark. All
mortals are also liable to suffering; and no one is free from suffering,
though he strive without end. But now we see of good many becoming
worthless, and of worthless good, the one through remissness, the other by
earnestness; which thing most of all indicates that these things do not
come of nature.
For the things of nature are neither changed, nor do they need
diligence for their acquisition. For like as for seeing and hearing we do
not need labor, so neither should we need toils in virtue, if it had been
apportioned by nature.
"But wherefore did He at all make worthless men, when He might have
made all men good? Whence then are the evil things?" saith he. Ask thyself;
for it is my part to show they are not of nature, nor from God.
"Come they then of themselves?" he saith. By no means. "But are they
unoriginated?" Speak reverently, O man, and start back from this madness,
honoring with one honor God and the evil things, and that honor the
highest. For if they be unoriginate they are mighty, and cannot so much as
be plucked up, nor pass into annihilation. For that what is unoriginate is
imperishable, is surely manifest to all.
3. And whence also are there so many good, when evil hath such great
power? how are they that have an origin stronger than that which is
"But God destroys these things," he saith. When? And how will He
destroy what are of equal honor, and of equal strength, and of the same
age, as one might say, with Himself?
Oh malice of the devil! how great an evil hath he invented! With what
blasphemy hath he persuaded men to surround God! with what cloak of
godliness hath he devised another profane account? For desiring to show,
that not of Him was the evil, they brought in another evil doctrine,
saying, that these things are unoriginate.
"Whence then are evils?" one may say. From willing and not willing.
"But the very thing of our willing and not willing, whence is it?" From
ourselves. But thou dost the same in asking, as if when thou hadst asked,
whence is seeing and not seeing? then when I said, from closing the eyes or
not closing the eyes, thou wert to ask again; the very closing the eyes or
not, whence is it? then having heard that it was of ourselves, and our
will, thou weft to seek again another cause.
For evil is nothing else than disobedience to God. "Whence then," one
may say, "did man find this?" "Why, was it a task to find this? I pray
thee." "Nay, neither do I say this, that this thing is difficult; but
whence became he desirous to disobey." "From remissness. For having power
for either, he inclined rather to this."
But if thou art perplexed yet and dizzy at hearing this, I will ask
thee nothing difficult nor involved, but a simple and plain question. Hast
thou become some time bad? and hast thou become some time also good? What I
mean, is like this. Didst thou prevail some time over passion, and wast
thou taken again by passion? Has thou been overtaken by drunkenness, and
hast thou prevailed over drunkenness? Wast thou once moved to wrath, and
again not moved to wrath? Didst thou overlook a poor man, and not overlook
him? Didst thou commit whoredom once? and didst thou become chaste again?
Whence then are all these things? tell me, whence? Nay if thou thyself do
not tell, I will say. Because at one time thou didst restrain thyself and
strive, but after that thou becamest remiss and careless. For to those that
are desperate, and are continually in wickedness, and are in a state of
senselessness, and are mad, and who are not willing so much as to hear what
will amend them, I will not even discourse of self restraint; but to them
that have been sometimes in the one, and sometimes in the other, I will
gladly speak. Didst thou once take by violence the things that belonged not
to thee; and after this, subdued by pity, didst impart even of thine unto
him that was in need? Whence then this change? Is it not quite plain it is
from the mind, and the choice of will?
It is quite plain, and there is no one who would not say this.
Wherefore I entreat you to be in earnest, and to cleave to virtue, and ye
will have no need of these questions. For our evils are mere names, if we
be willing. Inquire not then whence are evils, neither perplex thyself; but
having found that they are from remissness only, flee the evil deeds.
And if any one should say, that these things come not from us; whenever
thou seest him angry with his servants, and provoked with his wife, and
blaming a child, and condemning them who injure him, say to him, how then
saidst thou, that evils come not from us? For if they be not from us,
wherefore dost thou find fault? Say again; is it of thyself thou revilest,
and insultest? For if it be not of thyself, let no man be angry with thee;
but if it be of thyself, of thyself and of thy remissness are thy evil
But what? thinkest thou there are some good men? For if indeed no man
is good, whence hast thou this word? whence are praises? But if there are
good men, it is quite plain that they will also reprove the bad. Yet if no
one is voluntarily wicked, nor of himself, the good will be found to be
unjustly reproving the bad, and they themselves too will be in this way bad
again. For what can be worse than to subject the guiltless to accusations?
But if they continue in our estimation good men, though reproving, and this
especially is a proof of their goodness, even to the very fools it is
hereby plain, that no one is ever by necessity bad.
But if after all this thou wouldest still inquire, whence are evils? I
would say, from remissness, from idleness, from keeping company with the
bad, from contempt of virtue; hence are both the evils themselves, and the
fact that some inquire, whence are the evils. Since of them surely who do
right no one inquires about these things, of them that are purposed to live
equitably and temperately; but they, who dare to commit wicked acts, and
wish to devise some foolish comfort(1) to themselves by these discussions,
do weave spiders' webs.
But let us tear these in pieces not by our words only, but by our deeds
too. For neither are these things of necessity. For if they were of
necessity, He would not have said, "Woe to the man, by whom the offense
cometh."(2) For those only doth he bewail, who are wicked by their choice.
And if He saith "by whom,"(3) marvel not. For not as though another
were bringing in it by him, doth He say this, but viewing him as himself
causing the whole. For the Scripture is wont to say, "by whom," for "of
whom;"(4) as when it saith, "I have gotten a man by God,"(5) putting not
the second cause, but the first; and again, "Is not the interpretation of
them by God,"(6) and, "God is faithful, by whom ye are called unto the
fellowship of His Son."(7)
4. And that thou mayest learn that it is not of necessity, hear also
what follows. For after bewailing them, He saith, "If thy hand, or thy foot
offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: for it is better for
thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or
feet to be cast into the fire. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it
out; it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, than having two
eyes to be cast into the furnace of fire;"(8) not saying these things of
limbs; far from it; but of friends, of relations, whom we regard in the
rank of necessary members. This He had both said further back, and now He
saith it. For nothing is so hurtful as bad company. For what things
compulsion cannot, friendship can often effect, both for hurt, and for
profit. Wherefore with much earnestness He commands us to cut off them that
hurt us, intimating these that bring the offenses.
Seest thou how He hath put away the mischief that would result from the
offenses? By foretelling that there surely will be offenses, so that they
might find no one in a state of carelessness, but that looking for them men
might be watchful. By showing the evils to be great (for He would not have
said without purpose, "Woe to the world because of the offenses," but to
show that great is the mischief therefrom), by lamenting again in stronger
terms over him that brings them in. For the saying, "But woe to that man,"
was that of one showing that great was the punishment, but not this only,
but also by the comparison which He added He increased the fear.
Then He is not satisfied with these things, but He showeth also the
way, by which one may avoid the offenses.
But what is this? The wicked, saith He, though they be exceeding dear
friends to thee, cut off from thy friendship.
And He giveth a reason that cannot be gainsaid. For if they continue
friends, thou wilt not gain them, but thou wilt lose thyself besides; but
if thou shouldest cut them off, thine own salvation at least thou wilt
gain. So that if any one's friendship harms thee, cut it off from thee. For
if of our own members we often cut off many, when they are both in an
incurable state, and are ruining the rest, much more ought one to do this
in the case of friends.
But if evils were by nature, superfluous were all this admonition and
advice, superfluous the precaution by the means that have been mentioned.
But if it be not superfluous, as surely it is not superfluous, it is quite
clear that wickedness is of the will.(9)
"Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto
you, that their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in
He calleth little ones not them that are really little, but them that
are so esteemed by the multitude, the poor, the objects of contempt, the
unknown (for how should he be little who is equal in value to the whole
world; how should he be little, who is dear to God?); but them who in the
imagination of the multitude are so esteemed.
And He speaks not of many only, but even of one, even by this again
warding off the hurt of the many offenses. For even as to flee the wicked,
so also to honor the good, hath very great gain, and would be a twofold
security to him who gives heed, the one by rooting out the friendships with
them that offend, the other from regarding these saints with respect and
Then in another way also He makes them objects of reverence, saying,
"That their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in
Hence it is evident, that the saints have angels, or even all men. For
the apostle too saith of the woman, "That she ought to have power on her
head because of the angels."(1) And Moses, "He set the bounds of the
nations according to the number of the angels(2) of God."(3)
But here He is discoursing not of angels only, but rather of angels
that are greater than others. But when He saith, "The face of my Father,"
He means nothing else than their fuller confidence, and their great honor.
"For the Son of Man is come to save that which was lost."(4)
Again, He is putting another reason stronger than the former, and
connects with it a parable, by which He brings in the Father also as
desiring these things. "For how think ye?" saith He; "If a man have an
hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety
and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone
astray? And if so be that he find it,(5) he rejoiceth over it more than
over the ninety and nine, which went not astray. Even so it is not will
before your Father,(6) that one of these little ones should perish."(7)
Seest thou by how many things He is urging to the care of our mean
brethren. Say not then, "Such a one is a blacksmith, a shoemaker, he is a
ploughman, he is a fool," and so despise him. For in order that thou
shouldest not feel this, see by how many motives He persuades thee to
practise moderation, and presses thee into a care for these. He set a
little child, and saith, "Be ye as little children." And, "Whosoever
receiveth such a little child receiveth me;" and, "Whosoever shall offend,"
shall suffer the utmost penalties. And He was not even satisfied with the
comparison of the "millstone," but added also His "woe," and commanded us
to cut off such, though they be in the place of hands and eyes to us. And
by the angels again that are entrusted with these same mean brethren, He
makes them objects of veneration, and from His own will and passion (for
when He said, "The Son of Man is come to save that which was lost," He
signifies even the cross, like as Paul saith, speaking of a brother, "For
whom Christ died"); and from the Father, for that neither to Him doth it
seem good that one should perish; and from common custom, because the
shepherd leaves them that are safe, and seeks what is lost; and when he
hath found what was gone astray, he is greatly delighted at the finding and
the saving of this.
5. If then God thus rejoices over the little one that is found, how
dost thou despise them that are the objects of God's earnest care, when one
ought to give up even one's very life for one of these little ones? But is
he weak and mean? Therefore for this very cause most of all, one ought to
do everything in order to preserve him. For even He Himself left the ninety
and nine sheep, and went after this, and the safety of so many availed not
to throw into the shade the loss of one. But Luke saith, that He even
brought it on his shoulders, and that "There was greater joy over one
sinner that repenteth, than over ninety and nine just persons"(8) And from
His forsaking those that were saved for it, and from His taking more
pleasure in this one, He showed His earnestness about it to be great.
Let us not then be careless about such souls as these. For all these
things are said for this object. For by threatening, that he who has not
become a little child should not so much as at all set foot in the Heavens,
and speaking of "the millstone," He hath brought down the haughtiness of
the boastful; for nothing is so hostile to love as pride; and by saying,
"It must needs be that offenses come," He made them to be wakeful; and by
adding, "Woe unto him by whom the offense cometh," He hath caused each to
endeavor that it be not by him. And while by commanding to cut off them
that offend He made salvation easy; by enjoining not to despise them, and
not merely enjoining, but with earnestness (for "take heed," saith He,
"that ye despise not one of these little ones"), and by saying, "Their
angels behold the face of my Father," and, "For this end am I come," and
"my Father willeth this," He hath made those who should take care of them
Seest thou what a wall He hath set around them, and what earnest care
He taketh of them that are contemptible and perishing, at once threatening
incurable ills to them that make them fall, and promising great blessings
to them that wait upon them, and take care of them, and bringing an example
from Himself again and from the Father?
Him let us also imitate, refusing none of the tasks that seem lowly and
troublesome for our brethren's sake; but though we have to do service,
though he be small, though he be mean for whom this is done, though the
work be laborious, though we must pass over mountains and precipices, let
all things be held endurable for the salvation of our brother. For a soul
is an object of such earnest care to God, that "He spared not His own
Wherefore I entreat, when morning hath appeared, straightway as we come
out of our house, let us have this one object in view, this earnest care
above all, to rescue him that is in danger; I do not mean this danger only
that is known by sense, for this is not danger at all, but the danger of
the soul, that which is brought upon men by the devil.
For the merchant too, to increase his wealth, crosses the sea; and the
artisan, to add to his substance, doeth all things. Let us also then not be
satisfied with our own salvation only, since else we destroy even this. For
in a war too, and in an engagement, the soldier who is looking to this only
how he may save himself by flight, destroys the rest also with himself;
much as on the other hand the noble-minded one, and he who stands in arms
in defense of the others, with the others preserves himself also. Since
then our state too is a war, and of all wars the bitterest, and an
engagement and a battle, even as our King commanded us, so let us set
ourselves in array in the engagement, prepared for slaughter, and blood,
and murders, looking to salvation in behalf of all, and cheering them that
stand, and raising up them that are down. For indeed many of our brethren
lie fallen in this conflict, having wounds, wallowing in blood, and there
is none to heal, not any one of the people, not a priest, no one else, no
one to stand by, no friend, no brother, but we look every man to his own
By reason of this we maim our own interests also. For the greatest
confidence and means of approval is the not looking to our own things.
Therefore I say, are we weak and easy to be overcome both by men, and
by the devil, because we seek the opposite to this, and lock not our
shields one with another, neither are fortified with godly love, but seek
for ourselves other motives of friendship, some from relationship, some
from long acquaintance, some from community of interest, some from
neighborhood; and from every cause rather are we friends, than from
godliness, when one's friendships ought to be formed upon this only. But
now the contrary is done; with Jews and with Greeks(2) we sometimes become
friends, rather than with the children of the church.
6. Yes, saith he, because the one is worthless, but the other kind and
gentle. What sayest thou? Dost thou call thy brother worthless, who art
commanded not to call him so much as Raca? And art thou not ashamed,
neither dost thou blush, at exposing thy brother, thy fellow member, him
that hath shared in the same birth with thee, that hath partaken of the
But if thou hast any brother after the flesh, if he should perpetrate
ten thousand evil deeds, thou laborest to conceal him, and accountest
thyself also to partake of the shame, when he is disgraced; but as to thy
spiritual brother, when thou oughtest to free him from calumny, thou dost
rather encompass him with ten thousand charges against him?
"Why he is worthless and insufferable," thou mayest say. Nay then for
this reason become his friend, that thou mayest put an end to his being
such a one, that thou mayest convert him, that thou mayest lead him back to
virtue.--" But he obeys not," thou wilt say, "neither cloth he bear
advice."--Whence knowest thou it? What, hast thou admonished him, and
attempted to amend him?--"I have admonished him often," thou wilt say. How
many times?--Oftentimes, both once, and a second time.--Oh! Is this often?
Why, if thou hadst done this throughout all the time, oughtest thou to grow
weary, and to give it up? Seest thou not how God is always admonishing us,
by the prophets, by the apostles, by the evangelists? What then? have we
performed all? and have we been obedient in all things? By no means. Did He
then cease admonishing? Did He hold His peace? Doth He not say each day,
"Ye cannot serve God, and mammon"(1) and with many, the superfluity and the
tyranny of wealth yet increases? Doth He not cry aloud each day, "Forgive,
and ye shall have forgiveness,"(2) and we become wild beasts more and more?
Doth He not continually admonish to restrain desire, and to keep the
mastery over wicked lust, and many wallow worse than swine in this sin? But
nevertheless, He ceases not speaking.
Wherefore then do we not consider these things with ourselves, and say
that even with us God reasons, and abstains not from doing this, although
we disobey Him in many things?
Therefore He said that, "Few are the saved."(3) For if virtue in
ourselves suffices not for our salvation, but we must take with us others
too when we depart; when we have saved neither ourselves, nor others, what
shall we suffer? Whence shall we have any more a hope of salvation?
But why do I blame for these things, when not even of them that dwell
with us do we take any account, of wife, and children, and servants, but we
have care of one thing instead of another, like drunken men, that our
servants may be more in number, and may serve us with much diligence, and
that our children may receive from us a large inheritance, and that our
wife may have ornaments of gold, and costly garments, and wealth; and we
care not at all for themselves, but for the things that belong to them. For
neither do we care for our own wife, nor provide for her, but for the
things that belong to the wife; neither for the child, but for the things
of the child.
And we do the same as if any one seeing a house in a bad state, and the
walls giving way, were to neglect to raise up these, and to make up great
fences round it without; or when a body was diseased, were not to take care
of this, but were to weave for it gilded garments; or when the mistress was
ill, were to give heed to the maidservants, and the looms, and the vessels
in the house, and mind other things, leaving her to lie and moan.
For this is done even now, and when our soul is in evil and wretched
case, and angry, and reviling, and lusting wrongly, and full of vainglory,
and at strife, and dragged down to the earth, and torn by so many wild
beasts, we neglect to drive away the passions from her, and are careful
about house and servants. And while if a bear has escaped by stealth, we
shut up our houses, and run along by the narrow passages, so as not to fall
in with the wild beast; now while not one wild beast, but many such
thoughts are tearing in pieces the soul, we have not so much as a feeling
of it. And in the city we take so much care, as to shut up the wild beasts
in solitary places and in cages, and neither at the senate house of the
city, nor at the courts of justice, nor at the king's palace, but far off
somewhere at a distance do we keep them chained; but in the case of the
soul, where the senate house is, where the King's palace, where the court
of justice is, the wild beasts are let loose, crying and making a tumult
about the mind itself and the royal throne. Therefore all things are turned
upside down, and all is full of disturbance, the things within, the things
without, and we are in nothing different from a city thrown into confusion
from being overrun by barbarians; and what takes place in us is as though a
serpent were setting on a brood of sparrows, and the sparrows, with their
feeble cries, were flying about every way affrighted, and full of trouble,
without having any place whither to go and end their consternation.
7. Wherefore I entreat, let us kill the serpent, let us shut up the
wild beasts, let us stifle them, let us slay them, and these wicked
thoughts let us give over to the sword of the Spirit, lest the prophet
threaten us also with such things as he threatened Judea, that "The wild
asses shall dance there, and porcupines, and serpents."(4)
For there are, there are even men worse than wild asses, living as it
were in the wilderness, and kicking; yea the more part of the youth amongst
us is like this. For indeed having wild lusts they thus leap, they kick,
going about unbridled, and spend their diligence on no becoming object.
And the fathers are to blame, who while they constrain the
horsebreakers to discipline their horses with much attention, and suffer
not the youth of the colt to go on long untamed, but put upon it both a
rein, and all the rest, from the beginning; but their own young ones they
overlook, going about for a long season unbridled, and without temperance;
disgracing themselves, by fornications, and gamings, and continuings in the
wicked theatres, when they ought before fornication to give him to a wife,
to a wife chaste, and highly endued with wisdom; for she will both bring
off her husband from his most disorderly course of life, and will be
instead of a rein to the colt.
For indeed fornications and adulteries come not from any other cause,
than from young men's being unrestrained. For if he have a prudent wife, he
will take care of house and honor and character. "But he is young," you
say. I know it too. For if Isaac was forty years old when he took his
bride, passing all that time of his life in virginity, much more ought
young men under grace to practise this self-restraint. But oh what grief!
Ye do not endure to take care of their chastity, but ye overlook their
disgracing, defiling themselves, becoming accursed; as though ye knew not
that the profit of marriage is to preserve the body pure, and if this be
not so, there is no advantage of marriage. But ye do the contrary; when
they are filled with countless stains, then ye bring them to marriage
without purpose and without fruit.
"Why I must wait," thou wilt say, "that he may become approved, that he
may distinguish himself in the affairs of the state." but of the soul ye
have no consideration, but ye overlook it as a cast-away. For this reason
all things are full of confusion, and disorder, and trouble, because this
is made a secondary matter, because necessary things are neglected, but the
unimportant obtain much forethought.
Knowest thou not, that thou canst do no such kindness to the youth, as
to keep him pure from whorish uncleannness? For nothing is equal to the
soul. Because, "What is a man profited," saith He, "if he shall gain the
whole world, but lose his own soul."(1) But because the love of money hath
overturned and cast down all, and hath thrust aside the strict fear of God,
having seized upon the souls of men. like some rebel chief upon a citadel;
therefore we are careless both of our children's salvation, and of our own,
looking to one object only, that having become wealthier, we may leave
riches to others, and these again to others after them, and they that
follow these to their posterity, becoming rather a kind of passers on of
our possessions and of our money, but not masters.
Hence great is our folly; hence the free are less esteemed than the
slaves. For slaves we reprove, if not for their sake, yet for our own; but
the free enjoy not the benefit even of this care, but are more vile in our
estimation than these slaves. And why do I say, than our slaves? For our
children are less esteemed than cattle; and we take care of horses and
asses rather than of children. And should one have a mule, great is his
anxiety to find the best groom, and not one either harsh, or dishonest, or
drunken, or ignorant of his art; out if we have set a tutor(2) over a
child's soul, we take at once, and at random, whoever comes in our way. And
yet than this art there is not another greater. For what is equal to
training the soul, and forming the mind of one that is young? For he that
hath this art, ought to be more exactly observant than any painter and any
But we take no account of this, but look to one thing only, that he may
be trained as to his tongue. And to this again we have directed our
endeavors for money's sake. For not that he may be able to speak, but that
he may get money, does he learn speaking; since if it were possible to grow
rich even without this, we should have no care even for this.
Seest thou how great is the tyranny of riches? how it has seized upon
all things, and having bound them like some slaves or cattle, drags them
where it will?
But what are we advantaged by such accusations against it? For we
indeed shoot at it in words, but it prevails over us in deeds.
Nevertheless, not even so shall we cease to shoot at it with words from our
tongue. For if any advance is made, both we are gainers and you; but if you
continue in the same things, all our part at least hath been performed.
But may God both deliver you from this disease, and cause us to glory
in you, for to Him be glory, and dominion, world without end. Amen.
HOMILY LX: MATT. XVIII. 15.
"If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault(2)
between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy
For, since He had used vehement language against them that cause
offense, and on every hand had moved them to fear; in order that the
offended might not in this way on the other hand become supine. neither
supposing all to be cast upon others, should be led on to another vice,
soften in themselves, and desiring to be humored in everything, and run
upon the shoal of pride; seest thou how He again checks them also, and
commands the telling of the faults to be between the two alone, lest by the
testimony of the many he should render his accusation heavier, and the
other, become excited to opposition, should continue incorrigible.
Wherefore He saith, "Between thee and him alone," and, "If he shall
hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother." What is, "If he shall hear thee?"
If he shall condemn himself, if he shall be persuaded that he has done
"Thou hast gained thy brother." He did not say, Thou hast a sufficient
revenge, but, "Thou hast gained thy brother," to show that there is a
common loss from the enmity. For He said not, "He hath gained himself
only," but, "thou too hast gained him," whereby He showed that both the one
and the other were losers before this, the one of his brother, the other of
his own salvation.
This, when He sat on the mount also, He advised; at one time bringing
him who has given the pain to him that had been pained, and saying, "Be
reconciled to thy brother,"(3) and at another commanding him that had been
wronged to forgive his neighbor. For He taught men to say, "Forgive us our
debts, like as we forgive our debtors."(4)
But here He is devising another mode. For not him that gave the pain,
doth He now call upon,(5) but him that was pained He brings to this one.
For because this who hath done the wrong would not easily come to make
excuse, out of shame, and confusion of face, He draws that other to him,
and not merely so, but in such way as also to correct what hath been done.
And He saith not, "Accuse," nor "Charge him," nor "Demand satisfaction, and
an account," by. "Tell him of his fault,"(6) saith He. For he is held in a
kind of stupor through anger and shame with which he is intoxicated; and
thou, who art in health, must go thy way to him that is ill, and make the
tribunal private, and the remedy such as may be readily received. For to
say, "Tell him of his fault," is nothing else than "Remind him of his
errors" tell him what thou hast suffered at his hand, which very thing, if
it be done as it ought, is the part of one making excuse for him, and
drawing him over earnestly to a reconciliation.
What then, if he should disobey, and be disposed to abide in hardness?
"Take with thyself yet one or two, that in the mouth of two witnesses every
word may be established."(7) For the more he is shameless, and bold, the
more ought we to be active for his cure, not in anger and indignation. For
the physician in like manner, when he sees the malady obstinate, doth not
give up nor grow impatient, but then makes the more preparation; which He
commands us to do in this case too.
For since thou appearedst to be too weak alone, make thyself more
powerful by this addition. For surely the two are sufficient to convict him
that hath sinned. Seest thou how He seeketh not the good of him that hath
been pained only, but of him also that hath given the pain. For the person
injured is this one who is taken captive by his passion, he it is that is
diseased, and weak, and infirm. Wherefore He often sends the other to this
one, now alone, and now with others; but if he continue in it, even with
the church. For, "Tell it," saith He, "to the Church."(8) For if He were
seeking this one's advantage only, He would not have commanded to pardon,
seventy times seven, one repenting. He would not so often have set so many
over him to correct his passion; but if he had remained incorrigible after
the first conference would have let him be; but now once, and twice, and
thrice, He commands to attempt his cure, and now alone and now with two,
now with more.
Wherefore, with respect to them that are without He saith no such
thing, but, "If any one smite thee," He saith, "on thy right cheek, turn to
him the other also,"(1) but here not in such wise. For what Paul meaneth,
saying, "What have I to do to judge them also that are without?"(2) but the
brethren he commands both to tell of their faults, and to avoid them, and
to cut them off, not being obedient, that they may be ashamed; this Himself
also doeth here, making these laws about the brethren; and He sets three(3)
over him for teachers and judges, to teach him the things that are done at
the time of his drunkenness. For though it be himself that hath said and
done all those unreasonable things, yet he will need others to teach him
this, like as the drunken man. For anger and sin is a more frantic thing(4)
than any drunkenness, and puts the soul in greater distraction.
Who, for instance, was wiser than David? Yet for all that, when he had
sinned he perceived it not, his lust keeping in subjection all his
reasoning powers, and like some smoke filling his soul. Therefore he stood
in need of a lantern from the prophet, and of words calling to his mind
what he had done. Wherefore here also He brings these to him that hath
sinned, to reason with him about the things he had done.
2. But for what reason doth He command this one to tell him of his
fault, and not another? Because this man he would endure more quietly,
this, who hath been wronged, who hath been pained, who hath been
despitefully used. For one doth not bear in. the same way being told by
another of one's fault concerning him that hath been insulted, as by the
insulted person himself, especially when this person is alone convicting
him. For when he who should demand justice against him, even this one
appears to be caring for his salvation, this will have more power than
anything in the world to shame him.
Seest thou how this is done not for the sake of just punishment, but of
amendment? Therefore He doth not at once command to take with him the two,
but when himself hath failed; and not even then doth He send forth a
multitude against him; but makes the addition no further than two, or even
one; but when he has contemned these too, then and not till then He brings
him out to the church.
So much earnestness doth He show, that our neighbor's sins be not
exposed by us. And indeed He might have commanded this from the first, but
that this might not be, He did not command it, but after a first and second
admonition He appoints this.
But what is, "In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall
be established?" Thou hast a sufficient testimony. His meaning is, that
thou hast done all thy part, that thou hast left undone none of the things
which it pertained to thee to do.
"But if he shall neglect to hear them also, tell it to the church,"
that is, to the rulers of it; "but if he neglect to hear the church, let
him be to thee as an heathen man and a publican." For after this such a one
is incurably diseased.
But mark thou, I pray thee, how everywhere He putteth the publican for
an example of the greatest wickedness. For above too He saith, "Do not even
the publicans the same?"(5) And further on again, "Even the publicans and
the harlots shall go before you into the Kingdom of Heaven,"(6) that is,
they who are utterly reprobated and condemned. Let them hearken, who are
rushing upon unjust gains, who are counting up usuries upon usuries.
But why did He set him with these? To soothe the person wronged, and to
alarm him. Is this only then the punishment? Nay, but hear also what
follows. "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven."(7)
And He did not say to the ruler of the church, "Bind such a man," but, "If
thou bind," committing the whole matter to the person himself, who is
aggrieved, and the bonds abide indissoluble. Therefore he will suffer the
utmost ills; but not he who hath brought him to account is to blame, but he
who hath not been willing to be persuaded.
Seest thou how He hath bound him down with twofold constraint, both by
the vengeance here, and by the punishment hereafter? But these things hath
He threatened, that these circumstances may not arise, but that fearing, at
once the being cast out of the church, and the danger from the bond, and
the being bound in Heaven, he may become more gentle. And knowing these
things, if not at the beginning, at any rate in the multitude of the
tribunals he will put off his anger. Wherefore, I tell you, He hath set
over him a first, and a second, and a third court,(1) so that though he
should neglect to hear the first, he may yield to the second; and even if
he should reject that, he may fear the third; and though he should make no
account of this, he may be dismayed at the vengeance to come, and at the
sentence and judgment to proceed from God.
"And again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as
touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my
Father which is in Heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in
my name, there am I in the midst of them."(2)
Seest thou how by another motive also He puts down our enmities, and
takes away our petty dissensions,(3) and draws us one to another, and this
not from the punishment only which hath been mentioned, but also from the
good things which spring from charity? For having denounced those threats
against contentiousness, He putteth here the great rewards of concord, if
at least they who are of one accord do even prevail with the Father, as
touching the things they ask, and have Christ in the midst of them.
"Are there then indeed nowhere two of one accord?" Nay, in many places,
perchance even everywhere. "How then do they not obtain all things?"
Because many are causes of their failing. For either they often ask things
inexpedient. And why marvellest thou, if this is the case with some others,
whereas it was so even with Paul, when he heard. "My grace is sufficient
for thee; for my strength is perfected in weakness."(4) Or they are
unworthy to be reckoned with them that heard these words, and contribute
not their own part, but He seeks for such as are like them; therefore He
saith "of you," of the virtuous, of them that show forth an angelic rule of
life.(5) Or they pray against them that have aggrieved them, seeking for
redress and vengeance; and this kind of thing is forbidden, for, "Pray,"
saith He, "for your enemies."(6) Or having sins unrepented they ask mercy,
which thing it is impossible to receive, not only if themselves ask it, but
although others having much confidence towards God entreat for them, like
as even Jeremiah praying for the Jews did hear, "Pray not thou for this
people, because I will not hear thee."(7)
But if all things are there, and thou ask things expedient, and
contribute all thine own part, and exhibit an apostolical life, and have
concord and love towards thy neighbor, thou wilt obtain on thy entreaty;
for the Lord is loving towards man.
3. Then because He had said, "Of my Father," in order that He might
show that it is Himself that giveth, and not He who begat Him only, He
added, "For wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them."
What then? are there not two or three gathered together in His name?
There are indeed, but rarely. For not merely of the assembling doth He
speak, neither this doth He require only; but most surely, as I said before
also, the rest of virtue too together with this, and besides, even this
itself He requires with great strictness. For what He saith is like this,
"If any holds me the principal ground of his love to his neighbors, I will
be with Him, if he be a virtuous man in other respects."
But now we see the more part having other motives of friendship. For
one loves, because he is loved, another because he hath been honored, a
third because such a one has been useful to him in some other worldly
matter, a fourth for some other like cause; but for Christ's sake it is a
difficult thing to find any one loving his neighbor sincerely, and as he
ought to love him. For the more part are bound one to another by their
worldly affairs. But Paul did not love thus, but for Christ's sake;
wherefore even when not loved in such wise as he loved, he did not cease
his love, because he had planted a strong root of his affection; but not so
our present state, but on inquiry we shall find with most men anything
likely to produce friendship rather than this. And if any one bestowed on
me power in so great a multitude to make this inquiry, I would show the
more part bound one to another by worldly motives.
And this is evident from the causes that work enmity. For because they
are bound one to another by these temporal(8) motives, therefore they are
neither fervent towards one another, nor constant, but insult, and loss of
money, and envy, and love of vainglory, and every such thing coming upon
them, severs the love-tie. For it finds not the root spiritual. Since if
indeed it were such, no worldly thing would dissolve things spiritual. For
love for Christ's sake is firm, and not to be broken, and impregnable, and
nothing can tear it asunder; not calumnies, not dangers, not death, no
other thing of this kind. For though he suffer ten thousand things, who
thus loves; looking to the ground of his love, he will not desist. For he
who loves because of being loved, should he meet with anything painful,
puts an end to his love; but he who is bound by this, will never desist.
Wherefore Paul also said, "Charity never faileth."(1) For what hast
thou to say? That when honored he insults? that receiving benefits he was
minded to slay thee? But even this works upon thee to love more, if thou
lovest for Christ's sake. For what things are in the rest subversive of
love, these here become apt to produce it. How? First, because such a one
is to thee a cause of rewards; secondly, because he that is so disposed
stands in need of more succor, and much attention. Therefore I say, he who
thus loves inquires not about race, nor country, nor wealth, nor his love
to himself, nor any other such matter, but though he be hated, though he be
insulted, though he be slain, continues to love, having as a sufficient
ground for love, Christ; wherefore also he stands steadfast, firm, not to
be overthrown, looking unto Him.
For Christ too so loved his enemies, having loved the obstinate, the
injurious, the blasphemers, them that hated Him, them that would not so
much as see Him; them that were preferring wood and stones to Him, and with
the highest love beyond which one cannot find another. "For greater love
hath no man than this," He saith, "that one lay down his life for his
And those even that crucified Him, and acted in so many instances with
contumely against Him, see how He continues to treat with kindness. For
even to His Father He speaks for them, saying, "Forgive them, for they know
not what they do."(3) And He sent His disciples moreover, after these
things, unto them.
This love then let us also imitate, unto this let us look, that being
followers of Christ, we may attain both unto the good things here, and unto
those to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ,
to whom be glory and might world without end. Amen.
HOMILY LXI: MATT. XVIII.
"Then came Peter to Him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin
against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I
say not unto thee, Until seven times. but, Until seventy times seven."(1)
PETER supposed he was saying something great, wherefore also as aiming
at greatness he added, "Until seven times?" For this thing, saith he, which
Thou hast commanded to do, how often shall I do? For if he forever sins,
but forever when reproved repents, how often dost thou command us to bear
with this man? For with regard to that other who repents not, neither
acknowledges his own faults, Thou hast set a limit, by saying, "Let him be
to thee as the heathen and the publican;" but to this no longer so, but
Thou hast commanded to accept him.
How often then ought I to bear with him, being told his faults, and
repenting? Is it enough for seven times?
What then saith Christ, the good God, who is loving towards man? "I say
not unto thee, until seven times, but, until seventy times seven," not
setting a number here, but what is infinite and perpetual and forever. For
even as ten thousand times signifies often, so here too. For by saying,
"The barren hath borne seven,"(1) the Scripture means many. So that He hath
not limited the forgiveness by a number, but hath declared that it is to be
perpetual and forever.
This at least He indicated by the parable that is put after. For that
He might not seem to any to enjoin great things and hard to bear, by
saying, "Seventy times seven," He added this parable, at once both leading
them on to what He had said, and putting down him who was priding himself
upon this, and showing the act was not grievous, but rather very easy.
Therefore let me add, He brought forward His own love to man, that by the
comparison, as He saith, thou mightest learn, that though thou forgive
seventy times seven, though thou continually pardon thy neighbor for
absolutely all his sins, as a drop of water to an endless sea, so much, or
rather much more, doth thy love to man come short in comparison of the
boundless goodness of God, of which thou standest in need, for that thou
art to be judged, and to give an account.
Wherefore also He went on to say, "The Kingdom of Heaven is likened
unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.(2) And when
he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten
thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay,(3) he commanded him
to be sold, and his wife, and his children, and all that he had."(4)
Then after this man had enjoyed the benefit of mercy, he went out, and
"took by the throat his fellow-servant, which owed him an hundred
pence;"(5) and having by these doings moved his lord, he caused him to cast
him again into prison, until he should pay off the whole.
Seest thou how great the difference between sins against man and
against God? As great as between ten thousand talents, and a hundred pence,
or rather even much more. And this arises both from the difference of the
persons, and the constant succession of our sins. For when a man looks at
us, we stand off and shrink from sinning: but when God sees us every day,
we do not forbear, but do and speak all things without fear.
But not hereby alone, but also from the benefit and from the honor of
which we have partaken, our sins become more grievous.
And if ye are desirous to learn how our sins against Him are ten
thousand talents. or rather even much more, I will try to show it briefly.
But I fear test to them that are inclined to wickedness, and love
continually to sin, I should furnish still greater security, or should
drive the meeker sort to despair, and they should repeat that saying of the
disciples, "who can be saved?"(6)
Nevertheless for all that I will speak, that I may make those that
attend more safe, and more meek. For they that are incurably diseased, and
past feeling, even without these words of mine, do not depart from their
own carelessness, and wickedness; and if even from hence they derive
greater occasion for contempt, the fault is not in what is said, but in
their insensibility; since what is said surely is enough both to restrain
those that attend to it, and to prick their hearts; and the meeker sort,
when they see on the one hand the greatness of their sins, and learn also
on the other hand the power of repentance, will cleave to it the more,
wherefore it is needful to speak.
I will speak then, and will set forth our sins, both wherein we offend
against God, and wherein against men, and I will set forth not each
person's own, but what are common; but his own let each one join to them
after that from his conscience.
And I will do this, having first set forth the good deeds of God to us.
What then are His good deeds? He created us when we were not, and made all
things for our sakes that are seen, Heaven, sea, air, all that in them is,
living creatures, plants, seeds; for we must needs speak briefly for the
boundless ocean of the works. Into us alone of all that are on earth He
breathed a living soul such as we have, He planted a garden, He gave a
help-meet, He set us over all the brutes, He crowned us with glory and
After that, when man had been unthankful towards his benefactor, He
vouchsafed unto him a greater gift.
2. For look not to this only, that He cast him out of paradise, but
mark also the gain that arose from thence. For after having cast him out of
paradise, and having wrought those countless good works, and having
accomplished His various dispensations, He sent even His own Son for the
sake of them that had been benefited by Him and were hating Him, and opened
Heaven to us, and unfolded paradise itself, and made us sons, the enemies,
Wherefore it were even seasonable now to say, "O the depth of the
riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!"(7)
And He gave us also a baptism of the remission of sins, and a deliverance
from vengeance, and an inheritance of a kingdom, and He promised numberless
good things on our doing what is right, and stretched forth His hand, and
shed abroad His Spirit into our hearts.
What then? After so many and such great blessings, what ought to be our
disposition; should we indeed, even if each day we died for Him who so
loves us, make due recompense, or rather should we repay the smallest
portion of the debt? By no means, for moreover even this again is turned to
How then are we disposed, whose disposition ought to be like this? Each
day we insult His law. But be ye not angry, if I let loose my tongue
against them that sin, for not you only will I accuse, but myself also.
Where then would ye that I should begin? With the slaves, or with the
free? with them that serve in the army, or with private persons? with the
rulers, or with the subjects? with the women, or with the men? with the
aged men, or with the young? with what age? with what race? with what rank?
with what pursuit?
Would ye then that I should make the beginning with them that serve as
soldiers? What sin then do not these commit every day, insulting, reviling,
frantic, making a gain of other men's calamities, being like wolves, never
clear from offenses, unless one might say the sea too was without waves.
What passion doth not trouble them? what disease cloth not lay siege to
For to their equals they show a jealous disposition, and they envy, and
seek after vainglory; and to those that are subject to them, their
disposition is covetous; but to them that have suits, and run unto them as
to a harbor, their conduct is that of enemies and perjured persons. How
many robberies are there with them! How many frauds! How many false
accusations, and meannesses! how many servile flatteries!
Come then, let us apply in each case the law of Christ. "He that saith
to his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.(1) He that hath
looked on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with
her.(2) Unless one humble himself as the little child, he shall not enter
into the Kingdom of Heaven."(3)
But these even study haughtiness, becoming towards them that are
subject to them, and are delivered into their hands, and who tremble at
them, and are afraid of them, more fierce than a wild beast; for Christ's
sake doing nothing, but all things for the belly, for money, for vainglory.
Can one indeed reckon up in words the trespass of their actions? What
should one say of their decisions, their laughter, their unseasonable
discourses, their filthy language? But about covetousness one cannot so
much as speak. For like as the monks on the mountains know not even what
covetousness is, so neither do these; but in an opposite way to them, For
they indeed, because of being far removed from the disease, know not the
passion, but these, by reason of being exceedingly intoxicated with it,
have not so much as a perception how great the evil is. For this vice hath
so thrust aside virtue and tyrannises, that it is not accounted so much as
a heavy charge with those madmen.
But will ye, that we leave these, and go to others of a gentler kind?
Come then, let us examine the race of workmen and artisans. For these above
all seem to live by honest labors, and the sweat of their own brow. But
these too, when they do not take heed to themselves, gather to themselves
many evils from hence. For the dishonesty that arises from buying and
selling they bring into the work of honest labor, and add oaths, and
perjuries, and falsehoods to their covetousness often, and are taken up
with worldly things only, and continue riveted to the earth; and while they
do all things that they may get money, they do not take much heed that they
may impart to the needy, being always desirous to increase their goods.
What should one say of the revilings that are uttered touching such
matters, the insults, the loans, the usurious gains, the bargains full of
much mean trafficking, the shameless buyings and sellings.
3. But will ye that we leave these too, and go to others who seem to be
more just? Who then are they? They that are possessed of lands, and reap
the wealth that springs from the earth. And what can be more unjust than
these? For if any one were to examine how they treat their wretched and
toil-worn laborers, he will see them to be more cruel than savages. For
upon them that are pining with hunger, and toiling throughout all their
life, they both impose constant and intolerable payments, and lay on them
laborious burdens, and like asses or mules, or rather like stones, do they
treat their bodies, allowing them not so much as to draw breath a little,
and when the earth yields, and when it doth not yield, they alike wear them
out, and grant them no indulgence. And what can be more pitiable than this,
when after having labored throughout the whole winter, and being consumed
with frost and rain, and watchings, they go away with their hands empty,
yea moreover in debt, and fearing and dreading more that this famine and
shipwreck, the torments of the overlookers,(1) and their dragging them
about, and their demands, and their imprisonments, and the services from
which no entreaty can deliver them!
Why should one speak of the merchandise which they make of them, the
sordid gains which they gain by them, by their labors and their sweat
filling winepresses, and wine vats, but not suffering them to take home so
much as a small measure, but draining off the entire fruits into the casks
of their wickedness, and flinging to them for this a little money?
And new kinds of usuries also do they devise, and not lawful even
according to the laws of the heathens, and they frame contracts for loans
full of many a curse. For not the hundredth part of the sum, but the half
of the sum they press for and exact; and this when he of whom it is exacted
has a wife, is bringing up children, is a human being, and is filling their
threshing floor, and their wine-press by his own toils.
But none of these things do they consider. Wherefore now it were
seasonable to bring forward the prophet and say, "Be astonished, O Heaven,
and be horribly afraid, O earth,"(2) to what great brutality hath the race
of man been madly carried away!(3)
But these things I say, not blaming crafts, nor husbandry, nor military
service,(4) but ourselves. Since Cornelius also was a centurion, and Paul a
worker in leather, and after his preaching practised his craft, and David
was a king, and Job enjoyed the possession of land and of large revenues,
and there was no hindrance hereby to any of these in the way of virtue.
Bearing in mind all these things, and considering the ten thousand
talents, let us at least hence hasten to remit to our neighbors their few
and trifling debts. For we too have an account to give of the commandments
wherewith we have been trusted, and we are not able to pay all, no not
whatever we may do. Therefore God hath given us a way to repayment both
ready and easy, and which is able to cancel all these things, I mean, not
to be revengeful.
In order then that we may learn this well, let us hear the whole
parable, going on regularly through it. "For there was brought unto Him,"
it saith, "one which owed ten thousand talents, and when he had not to pay,
He commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and his children." Wherefore, I
pray thee? Not of cruelty, nor of inhumanity (for the loss came back again
upon himself, for she too was a slave), but of unspeakable tenderness.
For it is His purpose to alarm him by this threat, that He might bring
him to supplication, not that he should be sold. For if He had done it for
this intent, He would not have consented to his request, neither would He
have granted the favor.
Wherefore then did He not do this, nor forgive the debt before the
account? Desiring to teach him, from how many obligations He is delivering
him, that in this way at least he might become more mild towards his fellow
servant. For even if when he had learnt the weight of his debt, and the
greatness of the forgiveness, he continued taking his fellow-servant by the
throat; if He had not disciplined him beforehand with such medicines, to
what length of cruelty might he not have gone?
What then saith the other? "Have patience with me, and I will pay thee
all. And his Lord was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave
him the debt."(6)
Seest thou again surpassing benevolence? The servant asked only for
delay and putting off the time, but He gave more than he asked, remission
and forgiveness of the entire debt. For it had been his will to give it
even from the first, but he did not desire the gift to be his only, but
also to come of this man's entreaty, that he might not go away uncrowned.
For that the whole was of him, although this other fell down to him and
prayed, the motive of the forgiveness showed, for "moved with compassion"
he forgave him. But still even so he willed that other also to seem to
contribute something, that he might not be exceedingly covered with shame,
and that he being schooled in his own calamities, might be indulgent to his
4. Up to this point then this man was good and acceptable; for he
confessed, and promised to pay the debt, and fell down before him, and
entreated, and condemned his own sins, and knew the greatness of the debt.
But the sequel is unworthy of his former deeds. For going out straightway,
not after a long time but straightway, having the benefit fresh(1) upon
him, he abused to wickedness the gift, even the freedom bestowed on him by
For, "he found one of his fellow-servants, which owed him an hundred
pence, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me what thou owest."(2)
Seest thou the master's benevolence? Seest thou the servant's cruelty?
Hear, ye who do these things for money. For if for sins we must not do so,
much more not for money.
What then saith the other? "Have patience with me, and I will pay thee
all."(3) But he did not regard even the words by which he had been saved
(for he himself on saying this was delivered from the ten thousand
talents), and did not recognize so much as the harbor by which he escaped
shipwreck; the gesture of supplication did not remind him of his master's
kindness, but he put away from him all these things, from covetousness and
cruelty and revenge, and was more fierce than any wild beast, seizing his
fellow- servant by the throat.
What doest thou, O man? perceivest thou not, thou art making the demand
upon thyself, thou an thrusting the sword into thyself, and revoking the
sentence and the gift? But none of these things did he consider, neither
did he remember his own state, neither did he yield; although the entreaty
was not for equal objects.
For the one besought for ten thousand talents, the other for a hundred
pence; the one his fellow-servant, the other his lord; the one received
entire forgiveness, the other asked for delay, and not so much as this did
he give him, for "he cast him into prison."
"But when his fellow-servants saw it, they accused him to their lord."
Not even to men is this well-pleasing, much less to God. They therefore who
did not owe, partook of the grief.
What then saith their lord? "O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all
that debt, because thou desiredst(4) me; shouldest not thou also have had
compassion, even as I had pity on thee?"(5)
See again the lord's gentleness. He pleads with him, and excuses
himself, being on the point of revoking his gift; or rather, it was not he
that revoked it, but the one who had received it. Wherefore He saith, "I
forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me; shouldest not thou
also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant?" For even if the thing
cloth seem to thee hard; yet shouldest thou have looked to the gain, which
hath been, which is to be. Even if the injunction be galling, thou oughtest
to consider the reward; neither that he hath grieved thee, but that thou
hast provoked God, whom by mere prayer thou hast reconciled. But if even so
it be a galling thing to thee to become friends with him who hath grieved
thee, to fall into hell is far more grievous; and if thou hadst set this
against that, then thou wouldest have known that to forgive is a much
And whereas, when he owed ten thousand talents, he called him not
wicked, neither reproached him, but showed mercy on him; when he had become
harsh to his fellow- servant, then he saith, "O thou wicked servant."
Let us hearken, the covetous, for even to us is the word spoken. Let us
hearken also, the merciless, and the cruel, for not to others are we cruel,
but to ourselves. When then thou art minded to be revengeful, consider that
against thyself art thou revengeful, not against another; that thou art
binding up thine own sins, not thy neighbors. For as to thee, whatsoever
thou mayest do to this man, thou doest as a man and in the present life,
but God not so, but more mightily will He take vengeance on thee, and with
the vengeance hereafter.
"For He delivered him over till he should pay that which was due," that
is, for ever; for he will never repay. For since thou art not become better
by the kindness shown thee, it remains that by vengeance thou be corrected.
And yet, "The graces and the gifts are without repentance,"(6) but
wickedness has had such power as to set aside even this law. What then can
be a more grievous thing than to be revengeful, when it appears to
overthrow such and so great a gift of God.
And he did not merely "deliver" him, but "was wroth." For when he
commanded him to be sold, his were not the words of wrath (therefore
neither did he do it), but a very great occasion for benevolence; but now
the sentence is of much indignation, and vengeance, and punishment.
What then means the parable? "So likewise shall my Father do also unto
you," He saith, "if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother
He saith not "your Father," but "my Father." For it is not meet for God
to be called the Father of such a one, who is so wicked and malicious.
5. Two things therefore doth He here require, both to condemn ourselves
for our sins, and to forgive others; and the former for the sake of the
latter, that this may become more easy (for he who considers his own sins
is more indulgent to his fellow-servant); and not merely to forgive with
the lips, but from the heart.
Let us not then thrust the sword into ourselves by being revengeful.
For what grief hath he who hath grieved thee inflicted upon thee, like thou
wilt work unto thyself by keeping thine anger in mind, and drawing upon
thyself the sentence from God to condemn thee? For if indeed thou art
watchful, and keepest thyself under control, the evil will come round upon
his head, and it will be he that will suffer harm; but if thou shouldest
continue indignant, and displeased, then thyself wilt undergo the harm not
from him, but from thyself.
Say not then that he insulted thee, and slandered thee, and did unto
thee ills beyond number; for the more thou tellest, so much the more dost
thou. declare him a benefactor. For he hath given thee an opportunity to
wash away thy sins; so that the greater the injuries he hath done thee, so
much more is he become to thee a cause of a greater remission of sins.
For if we be willing, no one shall be able to injure us, but even our
enemies shall advantage us in the greatest degree. And why do I speak of
men? For what can be more wicked than the devil; yet nevertheless, even
hence have we a great opportunity of approving ourselves; and Job showeth
it. But if the devil hath become a cause of crowns, why art thou afraid of
a man as an enemy?
See then how much thou gainest, bearing meekly the spiteful acts of
thine enemies. First and greatest, deliverance from sins; secondly,
fortitude and patience; thirdly, mildness and benevolence; for he that
knoweth not how to be angry with them that grieve him, much more will he be
ready to serve them that love him. Fourthly, to be free from anger
continually, to which nothing can be equal. For of him that is free from
anger, it is quite clear that he is delivered also from the despondency
hence arising, and will not spend his life on vain labors and sorrows. For
he that knows not how to hate, neither cloth he know how to grieve, but
will enjoy pleasure, and ten thousand blessings.
So that we punish ourselves by hating others, even as on the other hand
we benefit ourselves by loving them.
Besides all these things, thou wilt be an object of veneration even to
thy very enemies, though they be devils; or rather, thou wilt not so much
as have an enemy whilst thou art of such a disposition.
But what is greater than all, and first, thou gainest the favor of God.
Shouldest thou have sinned, thou wilt obtain pardon; shouldest thou have
done what is right, thou wilt obtain a greater confidence. Let us
accomplish therefore the hating no one, that God also may love us, that,
though we be in debt for ten thousand talents, He may have compassion and
But hast thou been injured by him? Pity him then, do not hate him; weep
and mourn, do not turn away from him. For thou art not the one that hath
offended against God, but he; but thou hast even approved thyself, if thou
endure it. Consider that Christ, when about to be crucified, rejoiced for
Himself, but wept for them that were crucifying Him. This ought to be our
disposition also; and the more we are injured, so much the more should we
lament for them that are injuring us. For to us many are the benefits hence
arising, but to them the opposites.
But did he insult thee, and strike thee before all? Then bath he
disgraced and dishonored himself before all, and hath opened the mouths of
a thousand accusers, and for thee hath he woven more crowns, and gathered
for thee many to publish thy forbearance.
But did he slander thee to others? And what is this? God is the one
that is to demand the account, not they that have heard this. For to
himself hath he added occasion of punishment, so that not only for his own
sins he should give account, but also of what he said of thee. And upon
thee hath he brought evil report with men, but he himself hath incurred
evil report with God.
And if these things are not sufficient for thee, consider that even thy
Lord(1) was evil reported of both by Satan and by men, and that to those
most loved by Him; and His Only-Begotten the same again. Wherefore He said,
"If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, much more shall
they call them of His household."(2)
And that wicked demon did not only slander Him, but was also believed,
and slandered Him not in ordinary matters, but with the greatest reproaches
and accusations. For he affirmed Him to be possessed, and to be a deceiver,
and an adversary of God.
But hast thou also done good, and received evil? Nay, in respect of
this most of all lament and grieve for him that hath done the wrong, but
for thyself rather rejoice, because thou art become like God, "Who maketh
the sun to rise upon evil and good."(1)
But if to follow God is beyond thee, although to him that watcheth not
even this is hard; yet nevertheless if this seem to thee to be too great
for thee, come let us bring thee to thy fellow-servants, to Joseph, who
suffered countless things, and did good unto his brethren; to Moses, who
after their countless plots against him, prayed for them; to the blessed
Paul, who cannot so much as number what he suffered from them, and is
willing to be accursed for them; to Stephen, who is stoned, and entreating
this sin may be forgiven them. And having considered all these things, cast
away all anger, that God may forgive us also all our trespasses by the
grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the
Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, might, honor, now and always, and world
without end. Amen.
HOMILY LXII: MATT. XIX. 1.
"And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, He
departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judæa beyond Jordan."
Having constantly left Judæa on account of the envy of those men, now
He frequents it from this time forth, because the passion was to be nigh at
hand; He goeth not up, however, unto Jerusalem for a while, but "into the
coasts of Judæa."
"And," when He was come, "great multitudes followed Him, and He healed
For neither in the teaching by words doth He continue always, nor in
the wonderful working of signs, but He doeth now one now the other,
variously working the salvation of them that were waiting upon Him and
following Him, so as by the miracles to appear, in what He said, a Teacher
worthy of belief, and by the teaching of His word to increase the profit
from the miracles; and this was to lead them by the hand to the knowledge
But do thou mark, I pray thee, this too, how the disciples pass over
whole multitudes with one word, not declaring by name each of them that are
healed. For they said not, that such a one, and such another, but that
many, teaching us to be unostentatious. But Christ healed, benefiting both
them, and by them many others. For the healing of these men's infirmity was
to others a foundation for the knowledge of God.
But not so to the Pharisees, but even for this self-same thing they
become more fierce, and come unto Him tempting Him. For because they could
not lay hold of the works that were doing, they propose to Him questions.
For they "came unto Him, and tempting Him said, Is it lawful for a man to
put away his wife for every cause?"(2)
O folly! They thought to silence Him by their questions, although they
had already received certain proof of this power in Him. When at least they
argued much about the Sabbath, when they said, "He blasphemeth," when they
said, "He hath a devil," when they found fault with His disciples as they
were walking in the corn fields, when they argued about unwashen hands, on
every occasion having sewed fast their mouths, and shut up their shameless
tongue, He thus sent them away. Nevertheless, not even so do they keep off
from Him. For such is wickedness, such is envy, shameless and bold; though
it be put to silence ten thousand times, ten thousand times doth it assault
But mark thou, I pray thee, their craft also from the form of their
question. For neither did they say unto Him, Thou didst command not to put
away a wife, for indeed He had already discoursed about this law; but
nevertheless they made no mention of those words; but took occasion from
hence, and thinking to make their snare the greater, and being minded to
drive Him to a necessity of contradicting the law, they say not, why didst
Thou enact this or that? but as though nothing had been said, they ask, "Is
it lawful expecting that He had forgotten having said it; and being ready
if on the one hand He said, "It is lawful to put away," to bring against
Him the things He Himself had spoken, and to say, How then didst Thou
affirm the contrary? but if the same things now again as before, to bring
against Him the words of Moses.
What then said He? He said not," tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?" although
afterwards He saith this, but here He speaks not thus. Why can this be? In
order that together with His power He might show forth His gentleness also.
For He doth neither always keep silence, lest they should suppose they are
hidden; nor doth He always reprove, in order that He may instruct us to
bear all things with gentleness.
How then cloth He answer them? "Have ye not read, that He which made
them at(1) the beginning, made them male and female, and said, For this
cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his
wife; and they twain shall be(2) one flesh? So that they are no more twain
but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put
See a teacher's wisdom. I mean, that being asked, Is it lawful? He did
not at once say, It is not lawful, lest they should be disturbed and put in
disorder, but before the decision by His argument He rendered this
manifest, showing that it is itself too the commandment of His Father, and
that not in opposition to Moses did He enjoin these things, but in full
agreement with him.
But mark Him arguing strongly not from the creation only, but also from
His command. For He said not, that He made one man and one woman only, but
that He also gave this command that the one man should be joined to the one
woman. But if it had been His will that he should put this one away, and
bring in another, when He had made one man, He would have formed many
But now both by the manner of the creation, and by the manner of
lawgiving, He showed that one man must dwell with one woman continually,
and never break off from her.
And see how He saith, "He which made them at the beginning, made them
male and female," that is, from one root they sprung. and into one body
came they together, "for the twain shall be one flesh."
After this, to make it a fearful thing to find fault with this
lawgiving, and to confirm the law, He said not, "Sever not therefore, nor
put asunder," but, "What God hath joined together, let not man put
But if thou put forward Moses, I tell thee of Moses' Lord, and together
with this, I rely upon the time also. For God at the beginning made them
male and female; and this law is older (though it seem to have been now
introduced by me), and with much earnestness established. For not merely
did He bring the woman to the man, but also commanded to leave father and
mother. And neither did He make it a law for him merely to come to the
woman, but also "to cleave to her," by the form of the language intimating
that they might not be severed. And not even with this was He satisfied,
but sought also for another greater union, "for the twain," He saith,
"shall be one flesh."
Then after He had recited the ancient law, which was brought in both by
deeds and by words, and shown it to be worthy of respect because of the
giver, with authority after that He Himself too interprets and gives the
law, saying, "So that they are no more twain, but one flesh." Like then as
to sever flesh is a horrible thing,(4) so also to divorce a wife is
unlawful. And He stayed not at this, but brought in God also by saying,
"What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder," showing
that the act was both against nature, and against law; against nature,
because one flesh is dissevered; against law, because that when God hath
joined and commanded it not to be divided, ye conspire to do this.
2. What then ought they to have done after this? Ought they not to have
held their peace, and to have commended the saying? ought they not to have
marvelled at His wisdom? ought they not to have stood amazed at His
accordance with the Father? But none of these things do they, but as though
they were contending for the law, they say, "How then did Moses command to
give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?"(5) And yet they ought
not now to have brought this forward, but rather He to them; but
nevertheless He doth not take advantage of them, nor doth He say to them,
"I am not now bound by this," but He solves this too.
And indeed if He had been an alien from the old covenant, He would not
have striven for Moses, neither would He haste argued positively from the
things done once for all at the beginning; He would not have studied to
show that His own precepts agreed with those of old.
And indeed Moses had given many other commandments besides, both those
about meats, and those about the Sabbath; wherefore then do they nowhere
bring him forward, as here? From a wish to enlist the multitude of the
husbands against him. For this was considered a thing indifferent with the
Jews, and all used to do so much as this. Accordingly it was for this
reason that when so many things had been said on the mount, they remembered
this commandment only now.
Nevertheless, unspeakable wisdom maketh a defense even for these
things, and saith. "Moses for the hardness of your hearts" thus made the
law. And not even him doth He suffer to remain under accusation, forasmuch
as He had Himself given him the law; but delivers him from the charge, and
turns the whole upon their head, as everywhere He doth.
For again when they were blaming His disciples for plucking the ears of
corn, He shows themselves to be guilty; and when they were laying a
trangression to their charge as to their not washing their hands, He shows
themselves to be the transgressors, and touching the Sabbath also: both
everywhere, and here in like manner.
Then because the saying was hard to bear, and brought on them much
blame, He quickly directs back His discourse to that ancient law, saying as
He had said before also, "But in the beginning it was not so," that is, God
by His acts at the beginning ordained the contrary. For in order that they
may not say, Whence is it manifest, that "for our hardness Moses said
this?" hereby again He stoppeth their mouths. For if this were the primary
law, and for our good, that other would not have been given at the
beginning; God in creating would not have so created, He would not have
said such things.
"But I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife except it be for
fornication, and marry another, committeth adultery."(1) For since he had
stopped their mouths, He then gives the law with His own authority, like as
touching the meats, like as touching the Sabbath.
For with regard to the meats likewise, when He had overcome them, then,
and not till then, He declared unto the multitude, that, "Not that which
goeth in defileth the man; "(2) and with regard to the Sabbath, when He had
stopped their mouths, He saith, "Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the
Sabbath day;"(3) and here this self-same thing.
But what took place there, this happened here also. For as there, when
the Jews had been put to silence the disciples were troubled, and came unto
Him with Peter and said, "Declare unto us this parable;"(4) even so now
also they were troubled and said, "If the case of the man be so, it is good
not to marry."(5)
For now they understood the saying more than before. Therefore then
indeed they held their peace, but now when there hath been gainsaying, and
answering, and question, and learning by reply, and the law appeared more
clear, they ask Him. And openly to contradict they do not dare, but they
bring forward what seemed to be a grievous and galling result of it,
saying, "If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to
marry." For indeed it seemed to be a very hard thing to have a wife full of
every bad quality, and to endure a wild beast perpetually shut up with one
in the house. And that thou mayest learn that this greatly troubled them,
Mark said,(6) to show it, that they spake to Him privately.
3. But what is, "If such be the case of a man with his wife?" That is,
if to this end he is joined with her, that they should be one, or, on the
other hand, if the man shall get to himself blame for these things, and
always transgresses by putting away, it were easier to fight against
natural desire and against one's self, than against a wicked woman.
What then saith Christ? He said not, "yea, it is easier, and so do,"
lest they should suppose that the thing is a law; but He subjoined, "Not
all men receive it, but they to whom it is given,"(7) raising the thing,
and showing that it is great, and in this way drawing them on, and urging
But see herein a contradiction. For He indeed saith this is a great
thing; but they, that it is easier. For it was meet that both these things
should be done, and that it should be at once acknowledged a great thing by
Him, that it might render them more forward, and by the things said by
themselves it should be shown to be easier, that on this ground too they
might the rather choose virginity and continence. For since to speak of
virginity seemed to be grievous, by the constraint of this law He drove
them to this desire. Then to show the possibility of it, He saith, "There
are some eunuchs, who were so born from their mother's womb, there are some
eunuchs which were made eunuchs of men, and there be eunuchs which have
made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven's sake,"(1) by these
words secretly leading them to choose the thing, and establishing the
possibility of this virtue, and all but saying, Consider if thou weft in
such case by nature, or hadst endured this selfsame thing at the hands of
those who inflict such wanton injuries, what wouldest thou have done, being
deprived indeed of the enjoyment, yet not having a reward? Thank God
therefore now, for that with rewards and crowns thou undergoest this, which
those men endure without crowns; or rather not ever this, but what is much
lighter, being supported both by hope, and by the consciousness of the good
work, and not having the desire so raging like waves within thee.
For the excision of a member is not able to quell such waves, and to
make a calm, like the curb of reason; or rather, reason only can do this.
For this intent therefore He brought in those others, even that He
might encourage these, since if this was not what He was establishing, what
means His saying concerning the other eunuchs? But when He saith, that they
made themselves eunuchs, He means not the excision of the members, far from
it, but the putting away of wicked thoughts. Since the man who hath
mutilated himself, in fact, is subject even to a curse, as Paul saith, "I
would they were even cut off(2) which trouble you."(3) And very reasonably.
For such a one is venturing on the deeds of murderers. and giving occasion
to them that slander God's creation. and opens the mouths of the
Manichæans, and is guilty of the same unlawful acts as they that mutilate
themselves amongst the Greeks. For to cut off our members hath been from
the beginning a work of demoniacal agency, and satanic device, that they
may bring up a bad report upon the work of God, treat they may mar this
living creature, that imputing all not to the choice, but to the nature of
our members, the more part of them may sin in security. as being
irresponsible; and doubly harm this living creature, both by mutilating the
members, and by impeding the forwardness of the free choice in behalf of
These are the ordinances of the devil, bringing in, besides the things
which we have mentioned, another wicked doctrine also, and making way
beforehand for the arguments concerning destiny and necessity even from
hence, and everywhere marring the freedom given to us of God. and
persuading us that evil deeds are of nature, and hence secretly implanting
many other wicked doctrines, although not openly. For such are the devil's
Therefore I beseech you to flee from such lawlessness. For together
with the things I have mentioned. neither doth the force of lust become
milder hereby, but even more fierce. For from another origin hath the seed
that is in us its sources, and from another cause do its waves swell. And
some say from the brain, some from the loins, this violent impulse hath its
birth; but I should say from nothing else than from an ungoverned will and
a neglected mind: if this be temperate, there is no evil result from the
motions of nature.
Having spoken then of the eunuchs that are eunuchs for nought and
fruitlessly, unless with the mind they too practise temperance, and of
those that are virgins for Heaven's sake, He proceeds again to say, "He
that is able to receive it, let him receive it," at once making them more
earnest by showing that the good work is exceeding in greatness, and not
suffering the thing to be shut up in the compulsion of a law, because of
His unspeakable gentleness. And this He said, when He showed it to be most
possible, in order that the emulation of the free choice might be greater.
And if it is of free choice, one may say, how doth He say, at the
beginning, "All men do not receive it, but they to whom it is given?" That
thou mightest learn that the conflict is great, not that thou shouldest
suspect any compulsory allotments. For it is given to those, even to the
But He spake thus to show that much influence from above is needed by
him who entereth these lists, whereof He that is willing shall surely
partake. For it is customary for Him to use this form of speech when the
good work done is great, as when He saith, "To you it is given to know the
And that this is true, is manifest even from the present instance. For
if it be of the gift from above only, and they that live as virgins
contribute nothing themselves, for nought did He promise them the kingdom
of Heaven, and distinguish them from the other eunuchs.
But mark thou, I pray, how from some men's wicked doings, other men
gain. I mean, that the Jews went away having learnt nothing, for neither
did they ask with the intent of learning, but the disciples gained even
4. "Then were there brought unto Him little children, that He should
put His hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But He
said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is
the kingdom of Heaven. And He laid His hands on them, and departed
And wherefore did the disciples repel the little children? For dignity.
What then doth He? Teaching them to be lowly, and to trample under foot
worldly pride, He doth receive them, and takes them in His arms, and to
such as them promises the kingdom; which kind of thing He said before
Let us also then, if we would be inheritors of the Heavens, possess
ourselves of this virtue with much diligence. For this is the limit of true
wisdom; to be simple with understanding; this is angelic life; yes, for the
soul of a little child is pure from all the passions. Towards them who have
vexed him he bears no resentment, but goes to them as to friends, as if
nothing had been done; and how much soever he be beaten by his mother;
after her he seeks, and her doth he prefer to all. Though thou show him the
queen with a diadem, he prefers her not to his mother clad in rags, but
would choose rather to see her in these, than the queen in splendor. For he
useth to distinguish what pertains to him and what is strange to him, not
by its poverty and wealth, but by friendship. And nothing more than
necessary things doth he seek, but just to be satisfied from the breast,
and then he leaves sucking. The young child is not grieved at what we are
grieved, as at loss of money and such things as that, and he doth not
rejoice again at what we rejoice, namely, at these temporal things, he is
not eager about the beauty of persons.
Therefore He said, "of such is the kingdom of Heaven," that by choice
we should practise these things, which young children have by nature. For
since the Pharisees from nothing rise so much as out of craft and pride did
what they did, therefore on every hand He charges the disciples to be
single hearted, both darkly hinting at those men, and instructing these.
For nothing so much lifts up unto haughtiness, as power and precedence.
Forasmuch then as the disciples were to enjoy great honors throughout the
whole world, He preoccupies their mind, not suffering them to feel anything
after the manner of men, neither to demand honors from the multitude, nor
to have men dear the way(3) before them.
For though these seem to be little things, yet are they a cause of
great evils. The Pharisees at least being thus trained were carried on into
the very summit of evil, seeking after the salutations, the first seats,
the middle places,(4) for from these they were cast upon the shoal of their
mad desire of glory, then from thence upon impiety. So therefore those men
went away having drawn upon themselves a curse by their tempting, but he
little children a blessing, as being freed from all these.
Let us then also be like the little children, and "in malice be we
babes."(5) For it cannot be, it cannot be for one otherwise to see Heaven,
but the crafty and wicked must needs surely be cast into hell.
5. And before hell too, we shall here suffer the utmost ills. "For if
thou be evil," it is said, "thou alone shalt endure the evil; but if good,
it is for thyself and for thy neighbor."(6) Mark, at any rate, how this
took place in the former instances also. For neither was anything more
wicked than Saul, nor more simple and single-hearted than David. Which
therefore was the stronger? Did not David get him twice into his hands, and
having the power to slay him, forebore? Had he not him shut up as in a net
and prison, and spared him? And this when both others were urging him, and
when he himself was able to accuse him of countless charges; but
nevertheless he suffered him to go away safe. And yet the other was
pursuing him with all his army, but he was, with a few desperate fugitives,
wandering and changing from place to place; nevertheless the fugitive had
the advantage of the king, forasmuch as the one came to the conflict with
simplicity, the other with wickedness.
For what could be more wicked than that man, who when he was leading
his armies, and bringing all his wars to a successful issue, and undergoing
the labors of the victory and the trophies, but bringing the crowns to him,
assayed to slay him?
6. Such is the nature of envy, it is ever plotting against its own
honors, and wasting him that hath it, and encompassing him with countless
calamities. And that miserable man, for instance, until David departed,
burst not forth into that piteous cry, bewailing himself and saying, "I am
sore distressed, and the Philistines make war against me, and the Lord is
departed from me."(1) not in war, but was both in safety and in glory; for
indeed unto the king passed the glory of the captain. For neither was the
man disposed to usurpation, nor did he assay to depose the other from his
throne, but for him did he achieve all things, and was earnestly attached
to him, and this is evident even from what followed afterwards. For when
indeed he was set under him, any one of them who do not search carefully
might perhaps suppose these things to be by the usual custom of a subject;
but after he had withdrawn himself out of Saul's kingdom, what then was
there to restrain him, and to him even to slay? Had not the other beet evil
towards him once, twice, and often? Was it not after having received
benefits from him Was it not having nothing whereof to accuse him? Was not
Saul's kingdom and safety danger and insecurity to himself? must he not
needs wander and be a fugitive, and be in trembling for fear of the utmost
ills, while the other is alive, and reigning? Nevertheless none of these
things constrained him to stain his sword with blood, but when he saw him
asleep, and bound, and alone, and in the midst of his own men, and had
touched his head, and when there were many rousing him those who were
urging him on, and refrained from the murder, and sent him away both safe
and well; and as though he had been rather a body guard of his, and a
shield-bearer, not an enemy, so did he chide the host for their treachery
towards the king.(2)
What could be equal to this soul? What to that mildness? For this it is
possible to see even by the things that have been mentioned but much more
by what are done now. For when we have considered our vileness, then we
shall know more perfectly the virtue of those saints. Wherefore I entreat
you to hasten towards the emulation of them.
For indeed if thou lovest glory, and for this cause art plotting
against thy neighbor, then shalt thou enjoy it more largely, when having
spurned it, thou wilt abstain from the plotting. For like as to become
rich(3) is contrary to covetousness, so is the loving of glory to the
obtaining of glory. And if ye be minded, let us inquire into each. For
since we have no fear of hell, nor much regard for the kingdom, come and
even from the things present let us lead you on.
For who are they that are ridiculous? Tell me. Is it not they that are
doing anything for the sake of glory from the multitude? And who are the
objects of praise? Is it not they who spurn the praise of the multitude?
Therefore if the love of vainglory be matter of reproach, and it cannot be
concealed that the vainglorious man loves it, he will assuredly be an
object of reproach, and the love of glory is become to him a cause of
dishonor. And not in this respect only doth he disgrace himself, but also
in that he is compelled to do many things shameful, and teeming with the
utmost disgrace. And like as with respect to their gains men are wont to
suffer harm more than anything from the disease of covetousness (they
become at least the subjects of many tricks, and of small gains make great
losses, wherefore this saying hath prevailed even to be a proverb); and as
to the voluptuous man likewise, his passion becomes a hindrance to the
enjoyment of his pleasure. These at least that are exceedingly given up
thereto, and are the slaves of women these above all do women carry about
as servants, and will never vouchsafe to treat them as men, buffeting,
spurning them, leading, and taking them about everywhere, and giving
themselves airs, and in everything merely giving them orders.
Even so also than him that is arrogant and mad about glory, and
accounts himself to be high, nothing is more base and dishonored. For the
race of man is fond of contention, and against nothing else doth it set
itself so much, as against a boaster, and a contemptuous man, and a slave
And he himself too, in order to maintain the fashion of his pride,
exhibits the conduct of a slave to the common sort, flattering, courting
them, serving a servitude more grievous than that of one bought for money.
Knowing then all these things, let us lay down these passions, that we
may not both pay a penalty here, and there be punished without end. Let us
become lovers of virtue. For so both before reaching the kingdom we shall
reap the greatest benefits here, and when we are departed thither we shall
partake of the eternal blessings; unto which God grant we may all attain by
the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory
and might world without end. Amen.
HOMILY LXIII: MATT. XIX. 16.
"And, behold, one came and said unto Him, Good Master, by doing what, shall
I inherit eternal life?"
SOME indeed accuse this young man, as one dissembling and ill-minded,
and coming with a temptation to Jesus, but I, though I would not say he was
not fond of money, and under subjection to his wealth, since Christ in fact
convicted him of being such a character, yet a dissembler I would by no
means call him, both because it is not safe to venture on things uncertain,
and especially in blame, and because Mark hath taken away this suspicion;
for he saith, that "having come running unto Him, and kneeling to Him, he
besought Him," and that" Jesus beheld him, and loved him."(1)
But great is the tyranny of wealth, and it is manifest hence; I mean,
that though we be virtuous as to the rest, this ruins all besides. With
reason hath Paul also affirmed it to be the root of all evils in general.
"For the love of money is the root of all evils,"(2) he saith.
Wherefore then doth Christ thus reply to him, saying, "There is none
good?"(3) Because He came unto Him as a mere man, and one of the common
sort, and a Jewish teacher; for this cause then as a man He discourses with
him. And indeed in many instances He replies to the secret thoughts of them
that come unto Him; as when He saith, "We worship we know what;"(4) and,
"If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true."(5) When therefore He
saith, "There is none good;" not as putting Himself out from being good
doth He say this, far from it; for he said not, "Why dost thou call me
good? I am not good;" but, "there is none good," that is, none amongst men.
And when He saith this self-same thing, He saith it not as depriving
even men of goodness, but in contradistinction to the goodness of God.
Wherefore also He added, "But one, that is, God;" and He said not, "but my
Father" that thou mightest learn that He had not revealed Himself to the
young man. So also further back He called men evil, saying, "If ye, being
evil, know how to give good gifts to your children."(6) For indeed there
too He called them evil, not as condemning the whole race as evil (for by
"ye," He means not "ye men"), but comparing the goodness that is in men
with the goodness of God, He thus named it; therefore also He added, "How
much more shall your Father give good things to them that ask Him?" And
what was there to urge Him,(7) or what the profit that He should answer in
this way? He leads him on by little and little, and teaches him to be far
from all flattery, drawing him off from the things upon each, and fastening
him upon God, and persuading him to seek after the things to come, and to
know that which is really good, and the root and fountain of all things,
and to refer the honors to Him.
Since also when He saith, "Call no one master upon each," it is in
contradistinction to Himself He saith this, and that they might learn what
is the chief sovereignty over all things that are. For neither was it a
small forwardness the young man had shown up to this time in having fallen
into such a desire; and when of the rest some were tempting, some were
coming to Him for the cure of diseases, either their own or others, he for
eternal life was both coming to Him, and discoursing with Him. For fertile
was the land and rich, but the multitude of the thorns choked the seed.
Mark at any rate how he is prepared thus far for obedience to the
commandments. For "By doing what," he saith, "shall I inherit eternal
life?" So ready was he for the performance of the things that should be
told him. But if he had come unto Him, tempting Him, the evangelist would
have declared this also to us, as He doth also with regard to the others,
as in the case of the lawyer. And though himself had been silent, Christ
could not have suffered him to lie concealed, but would have convicted him
plainly, or at least would have intimated it, so that he should not seem to
have deceived Him, and to be hidden, and thereby have suffered hurt.
If he had come unto Him tempting, he would not have departed sorrowing
for what he heard. This was not at any rate ever the feeling of any of the
Pharisees, but they grew fierce when their mouths were stopped. But not so
this man; but he goeth away cast down, which is no little sign that not
with an evil will he had come unto Him, but with one too feeble, and that
he did indeed desire life, but was held in subjection by another and most
Therefore when Christ said, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the
commandments," he saith, "Which?" Not tempting, far from it, but supposing
there were some others besides those of the law that should procure him
life, which was like one who was very desirous. Then since Jesus mentioned
those out of the law, he saith, "All these things have I kept from my youth
up."(1) And neither at this did he stop, but again asks, "What lack I yet?"
which itself again was a sign of his very earnest desire.(2)
What then saith Christ? Since He was going to enjoin something great,
He setteth forth the recompenses, and saith, "If thou wilt be perfect, go
and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure
in Heaven: and come, and follow me."(3)
2. Seest thou how many prizes, how many crowns, He appoints for this
race? If he had been tempting, He would not have told him these things. But
now He both saith it, and in order to draw him on, He also shows him the
reward to be great, and leaves it all to his own will, by all means
throwing into the shade that which seemed to be grievous in His advice.
Wherefore even before mentioning the conflicts and the toil, He shows him
the prize, saying "If thou wilt be perfect," and then saith, "Sell that
thou hast, and give to the poor," and straightway again the rewards, "Thou
shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come, and follow me." For indeed to
follow Him is a great recompense. "And thou shalt have treasure in Heaven."
For since his discourse was of money, even of all did He advise him to
strip himself, showing that he loses not what he hath, but adds to his
possessions, He gave him more than He required him to give up; and not only
more, but also as much greater as Heaven is greater than earth, and yet
But He called it a treasure, showing the plenteousness of the
recompense, its permanency, its security, so far as it was possible by
human similitudes to intimate it to the hearer. It is not then enough to
despise wealth, but we must also maintain poor men, and above all things
follow Christ; that is, do all the things that are ordered by Him, be ready
for slaughter and daily death. "For if any man will come after me, let him
deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."(4) So that to cast
away one's money is a much less thing than this last commandment, to shed
even one's very blood; yet not a little doth our being freed from wealth
contribute towards this.
"But when the young man heard it, he went away sorrowful"(5) After this
the evangelist, as it were to show that he hath not felt anything it was
unlikely he should feel, saith, "For he had(6) great possessions." For they
that have little are not equally held in subjection, as they that are
overflowed with great affluence, for then the love of it becomes more
tyrannical. Which thing I cease not always saying, that the increase of
acquisitions kindles the flame more, and renders the getters poorer,
inasmuch as it puts them in greater desire, and makes them have more
feeling of their want.
See, for example, even here what strength did this passion exhibit. Him
that had come to Him with joy and forwardness, when Christ commanded him to
cast away his riches, it so overwhelmed and weighed down, as not to suffer
him so much as to answer touching these things, but silenced and become
dejected and sullen to go away.
What then saith Christ? "How hardly shall the rich enter into the
kingdom of Heaven!"(7) blaming not riches but them that are held in
subjection by them. But if the rich man "hardly," much more the covetous
man. For if not to give one's own be an hindrance to entering the kingdom,
even to take of other men's goods, think how much fire it heapeth up.
Why can it have been, however, that He said to His disciples, that
"hardly shall a rich man enter in," they being poor men, and having no
possessions? Instructing them not to be ashamed of their poverty, and, as
it were, excusing Himself to them for suffering them to have nothing.
But having said it was hard; as He proceeds, He shows that it is even
impossible, and not merely impossible, but even in the highest degree
impossible; and this He showed by the comparison concerning the camel and
"It is easier" saith He, "for a camel to enter in by the eye of a
needle,(2) than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of Heaven."(3)
Whence it is shown, that there is no ordinary reward for them that are
rich, and are able to practise self command. Wherefore also He affirmed it
to be a work of God, that He might show that great grace is needed for him
who is to achieve this. At least, when the disciples were troubled, he
said, He said, "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are
And wherefore are the disciples troubled, being poor, yea, exceedingly
poor? Wherefore then are they confounded? Being in pain about the salvation
of the rest, and having a great affection for all, and having already taken
upon themselves the tender bowels of teachers. They were at least in such
trembling and fear for the whole world from this declaration, as to need
Therefore, having first "beheld them, He said unto them, The things
which are impossible with men, are possible with God." For with a mild and
meek look, having soothed their shuddering mind, and having put an end to
their distress (for this the evangelist signified by saying, "He beheld
them"), then by His words also He relieves them, bringing before them God's
power, and so making them feel confidence.
But if thou wilt learn the manner of it likewise, and how what is
impossible may become possible, hear. Born either for this end did He say,
"The things which are impossible with men, are possible with God," that
thou shouldest give it up, and abstain, as from things impossible; but that
having considered the greatness of the good work, thou shouldest hasten to
it readily, and having besought God to assist thee in these noble contests,
shouldest attain unto life.
3. How then should this become possible? If thou cast away what thou
hast, if thou empty thyself of thy wealth, if thou refrain from the wicked
desire. For in proof that He does not refer it to God alone, but that to
this end He said it, that thou shouldest know the vastness of the good
work, hear what follows. For when Peter had said, "Behold, we have forsaken
all, and followed Thee," and had asked, "What shall we have therefore?"
having appointed the reward for them; He added, "And every one who hath
forsaken houses, or lands, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother,
shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit eternal life."(5) Thus
that which is impossible becometh possible. But how may this very thing be
done, one may say, to forsake these? how is it possible for him that is
once sunk in such lust of wealth, to recover himself? If he begin to empty
himself of his possessions, and cut off what are superfluous. For so shall
he both advance further, and shall run on his course more easily
Do not then seek all at once, but gently, and by little and little,
ascend this ladder, that leads thee up to Heaven.(6) For like as those in
fevers having acrid bile abounding within them, when they cast in thereon
meats and drinks, so far from quenching their thirst, do even kindle the
flame; so also the covetous, when they cast in their wealth upon this
wicked lust more acrid than that bile, do rather inflame it. For nothing so
stays it as to refrain for a time from the lust of gain, like as acrid bile
is stayed by abstinence and evacuations.
But this itself, by what means will it be done? one may say. If thou
consider, that whilst rich, thou wilt never cease thirsting, and pining
with the lust of more; but being freed from thy possessions, thou wilt be
able also to stay this disease. Do not then encompass thyself with more,
lest thou follow after things unattainable, and be incurable, and be more
miserable than all, being thus frantic.
For answer me, whom shall we affirm to be tormented and pained? him
that longs after costly meats and drinks, and is not able to enjoy them as
he will, or him that hath not such a desire? It is quite clear one must
say, him that desires, but cannot obtain what he desires. For this is so
painful, to desire and not to enjoy, to thirst and not to drink, that
Christ desiring to describe hell to us, described it in this way, and
introduced the rich man thus tormented. For longing for a drop of water,
and not enjoying it, this was his punishment. So then he that despises
wealth quiets the desire, but he that desires to be rich(7) hath inflamed
it more, and not yet doth he stay; but though he have got ten thousand
talents, he desireth as much more; though he obtain these, again he aims at
sea, and all to become gold for him, being mad with a kind of new and
fearful madness, and one that can never thus be extinguished.
And that thou mightest learn, that not by addition but by taking away
this evil is stayed; if thou hadst ever had an absurd desire to fly and to
be borne through the air, how wouldest thou extinguish this unreasonable
desire? By fashioning wings, and preparing other instruments, or by
convincing the mind that it is desiring things impossible, and that one
should attempt none of these things? It is quite plain, that by convincing
the mind. But that, thou mayest say, is impossible. But this again is more
impossible, to find a limit for this desire. For indeed it is more easy for
men to fly, than to make this lust cease by an addition of more. For when
the objects of desire are possible, one may be soothed by the enjoyment of
them, but when they are impossible, one must labor for one thing, to draw
ourselves off from the desire, as otherwise at least it is not possible to
recover the soul.
Therefore that we may not have superfluous sorrows, let us forsake the
love of money that is ever paining, and never endures to hold its peace,
and let us remove ourselves to another love, which both makes us happy, and
hath great facility, and let us long after the treasures above. For neither
is the labor here so great, and the gain is unspeakable, and it is not
possible for him to fail of them who is but in any wise watchful and sober,
and despises the things present; even as on the other hand, as to him that
is a slave to these last, and is utterly given up to them, it as altogether
of necessity that he fail of those better riches.
4. Considering then all these things, put away the wicked desire of
wealth. For neither couldest thou say this, that it gives the things
present, though it deprive us of the things to come, albeit even if this
were so, this were extreme punishment, and vengeance. But and before that
hell, even here it casts thee into a more grievous punishment. For many
houses hath this lust overthrown, and fierce wars hath it stirred up, and
compelled men to end their lives by a violent death; and before these
dangers it ruins the nobleness of the soul, and is wont often to make him
that hath it cowardly, and unmanly, and rash, and false, and calumnious,
and ravenous, and over-reaching, and all the worst things.
But seeing perhaps the brightness of the silver, and the multitude of
the servants, and the beauty of the buildings, the court paid in the
market-place, art thou bewitched thereby? What remedy then may there be for
this evil wound? If thou consider how these things affect thy soul, how
dark, and desolate, and foul they render it, and how ugly; if thou reckon
with how many evils these things were acquired, with how many labors they
are kept, with how many dangers: or rather they are not kept unto the end,
but when thou hast escaped the attempts of all, death coming on thee is
often wont to remove these things into the hand of thine enemies, and goeth
and taketh thee with him destitute, drawing after thee none of these
things, save the wounds and the sores only, which the soul received from
these, before its departing. When then thou seest any one resplendent
outwardly with raiment and large attendance, lay open his conscience, and
thou shalt see many a cobweb within, and much dust. Consider Paul, Peter
Consider John, Elias, or rather the Son of God Himself, who hath not where
to lay His head. Be an imitator of Him, and of His servants, and imagine to
thyself the unspeakable riches of these.
But if having obtained a little sight by these, thou shouldest be
darkened again, as in any shipwreck when a storm hath come on, hear the
declaration of Christ, which affirms, that it is impossible "for a rich man
to enter into the kingdom of Heaven." And against this declaration set the
mountains, and the earth, and the sea; and all things, if thou wilt,
suppose(1) to be gold; for thou shalt see nothing equal to the loss arising
to thee from thence. And thou indeed makest mention of acres of land, so
many and so many, and of houses ten or twenty or even more, and of baths as
many, and of slaves a thousand, or twice as many, and of chariots fastened
with silver and overlaid with gold; but I say this, that if each one of you
that are rich were to leave this poverty (for these things are poverty
compared with what I am about to say), and were possessed of a whole world,
and each of them had as many men as are now everywhere on land and sea, and
each a world both sea and land, and everywhere buildings, and cities, and
nations, and from every side instead of water, instead of fountains, gold
flowed up for him, I would not say those who are thus rich are worth three
farthings, when they are cast out of the kingdom
For if now aiming at riches that perish, when they miss them, they are
tormented, if they should obtain a perception of those unspeakable
blessings, what then will suffice for consolation for them? There is
nothing Tell me not then of the abundance of their possessions, but
consider how great loss the lovers of this abundance undergo in consequence
thereof, for these things losing Heaven, and being in the same state, as if
any one after being cast out of the highest honor in kings' courts, having
a dung heap, were to pride himself on that. For the storing up of money
differs nothing from that, or rather that is even the better. For that is
serviceable both for husbandry, and for heating a bath, and for other such
uses, but the buried gold for none of these things. And would it were
merely useless; but as it is, it kindles moreover many furnaces for him
that hath it, unless he use it rightly; countess evils at least spring
Therefore they that are without used to call the love of money the
citadel(1) of evils; but the blessed Paul spake much better and more
vividly, pronouncing it "the root of all evils."(2)
Considering then all these things, let us emulate the things worthy of
emulation, not gorgeous buildings not costly estates, but the men that have
much confidence towards God, those that have riches in Heaven, the owners
of those treasures, them that are really rich, them that are poor for
Christ's sake, that we may attain unto the good things of eternity by the
grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be unto the
Father, together with the Holy Ghost, glory, might, honor, now and always
and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY LXIV: MATT. XIX. 27.
"Then answered Peter and said unto Him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and
followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?"
All which? O blessed Peter; the rod? the net? the boat? the craft?
These thing dost thou tell me of, as all? Yea, saith he, but not for
display do I say these things, but in order that by this question I may
bring in the multitude of the poor. For since the Lord had said, "If thou
wilt be perfect, sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt
have treasure in Heaven;"(1) lest any one of the poor should say, What
then? if I learn, that thou art made in no respect inferior by this: Peter
asks, that thou mayest not learn from Peter and doubt (for indeed he was
imperfect as yet, and void of the Spirit), but that, having received the
declaration from Peter's Master, thou mayest be confident.
For like as we do (we make things our own often when speaking of the
concerns of others), so did the apostle, when he put to Him this question
in behalf of all the world. Since that at least he knew with certainty his
own portion, is manifest from what had been said before; for he that had
already received the keys of the Heavens, much more might feel confidence
about the things hereafter.
But mark also how exactly his reply is according to Christ's demand.
For He had required of the rich man these two things, to give that he had
to the poor, and to follow Him. Wherefore he also expresses these two
things, to forsake, and to follow. "For behold we have forsaken all," saith
he, "and have followed Thee." For the forsaking was done for the sake of
following, and the following was rendered easier by the forsaking, and made
them feel confidence and joy touching the forsaking.
What then saith He? "Verily, I say unto you, that ye which have
followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit on the
throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the
twelve tribes of Israel."(1) What then, one may say, shall Judas sit there?
By no means How, then, doth He say, "Ye shall sit on twelve thrones?" how
shall the terms of the promise
Hear how, and on what principle. There is a law ordained of God,
recited by Jeremiah, the prophet to the Jews, and in these words: "At what
instant I shall speak a sentence concerning a nation and kingdom, to pluck
up and destroy; if that nation turn from their evil deeds, I also will
repent of the evils, which I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I
shall speak concerning a nation and kingdom to build and to plant it; and
if they do evil in my sight, that they obey not my voice, I also will
repent of the good, which I said I would do unto them."(2)
For the same custom do I observe with respect to the good things as
well, saith He. For though I spake of building up, should they show
themselves unworthy of the promise, I will no longer do it. Which sort of
thing was done with respect to man upon his creation, "For the dread of
you," it is said, "and the fear of you shall be on the wild beasts,"(3) and
it came not to pass, for he proved himself unworthy of the sovereignty,
even as did Judas also.
For in order that neither at the denunciations of punishment any men
should despair and become more hardened, nor by the promises of good things
be rendered causelessly more remiss, He remedies both these evils, by that
which I have before mentioned, saying in this way: Though I should
threaten, do not despair; for thou an able to repent, and to reverse the
denunciation, like the Ninevites. Though I should promise any good thing,
grow not remiss because of the promise. For shouldest thou appear unworthy,
the fact of my having promised will not advantage thee, but will rather
bring punishment. For I promise thee being worthy.
Therefore even then in His discourse with His disciples He did not
promise to them simply, for neither did He say, "you," only, but added,
"which have followed me," that He might both cast out Judas, and draw
towards Him those that should come afterwards. For neither to them only was
it said, nor to Judas any more, when he had become unworthy.
Now to the disciplines He promised things to come, saying, "Ye shall
sit on twelve thrones," for. they were now of a higher stamp, and sought
after none of the things of the present world, but to the rest He promises
also what are here.
For "every one," He saith, "that hath forsaken brethren, or sisters, or
father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, or house, for my names
sake, shall receive an hundredfold in this world, and shall inherit eternal
For lest any after having heard the word "ye," should suppose this a
thing peculiar to the disciples (I mean now the enjoying the greatest and
first honors in the things to come), He extended the word, and spread the
promise over the whole earth, and from the things present establishes the
things to come also. And to the disciples also at the beginning, when they
were in a more imperfect state, He reasoned from the things present. For
when He drew them from the sea, and took them from their trade, and
commanded them to forsake the ships, He made mention not of Heaven, not of
thrones, but of the things here, saying, "I will make you fishers of men;"
but when He had wrought them to be of higher views, then after that He
discourses of the things to come also.
2, But what is, "Judging the twelve tribes of Israel?" This is,
"condemning them." For they are not surely to sit as judges, but like as He
said the Queen of the South should condemn that generation, and the
Ninevites shall condemn them; so now these also. Therefore He said not, the
nations, and the world, but the tribes of Israel. For since both the Jews
alike and the apostles had been brought up under the same laws, and
customs, and polity; when the Jews said, that for this cause they could not
believe in Christ, because the law forbade to receive His commandments, by
bringing forward these men, who had received the same law, and yet had
believed, He condemns all those; like as even already He had said,
"therefore they shall be your judges."(5)
And what great thing doth He promise them, it may be said, if what the
Ninevites have and the Queen of the South, this these are to have also? In
the first place He had promised them many other things before this, and
after this doth promise them, and this alone is not their reward.
And besides even in this He intimated by the way something more than
these things. For of those He simply said, The men of Nineveh shall rise up
and condemn this generation,"(1) and, "The Queen of the South shall condemn
it;" but concerning these, not merely thus, but how? "When the Son of Man
shall sit upon the throne of His glory, then shall ye also sit upon twelve
thrones," saith He, declaring, that they also shall reign with Him, and
partake of that glory. "For if we suffer," it is said, "we shall also reign
with Him."(2) For neither do the thrones signify a sitting (in judgment),
for He alone is the one that shall sit and judge, but honor and glory
unspeakable did He intimate by the thrones.
To these then He spake of these things, but to all the rest of eternal
life and an hundredfold here. But if to the rest, much more to these too,
both these things, and the things in this life.
And this surely came to pass; for when they had left a fishing rod and
a net, they possessed with authority the substances of all, the prices of
the houses and the lands, and the very bodies of the believers. For often
did they choose even to be slain for their sake, as Paul also bears witness
to many, when he saith, "If it had been possible ye would have plucked out
your eyes, and given them to me."(3) But when He saith, "Every one who hath
forsaken wife," He saith not this, for marriages to be broken asunder for
nought, but as He saith concerning one's life, "He that loseth his life for
my sake shall find it,"(4) not that we should destroy ourselves, neither
that while yet here we should part it from the body, but that we should
prefer godliness to all things; this too He saith also with respect to wife
But He seems to me here to intimate also the persecutions. For since
there were many instances both of fathers urging their sons to ungodliness,
and wives their husbands; when they command these things, saith He, let
them be neither wives nor parents, even as Paul likewise said, "But if the
unbelieving depart, let him depart."(5)
When He had then raised the spirit of all, and had persuaded them to
feel confidence both with respect to themselves and to all the world, He
added, that "Many that were first shall be last, and last first."(6) But
this although it be spoken also without distinction concerning many others
likewise, it is spoken also concerning these men and concerning the
Pharisees, who did not believe, even as before also He had said, "Many
shall come from east and west and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac,
and Jacob; but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out."(7)
Then He adds also a parable, as training those who had fallen short to
a great forwardness.
"For the kingdom of Heaven," He said, "is like to a man that is an
householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his
vineyard. And when he had agreed with them for a penny a day, he sent them
into his vineyard."
"And at the third hour he saw others standing idle, and to them too he
said, Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give
you. And about the sixth and ninth hours he did likewise. And about the
eleventh hour, he saw others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand
ye here all the day idle? But they say unto him, No man hath hired us. He
saith unto them, Go ye also into my vineyard, and whatsoever is right, ye
"So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his
steward, Call the laborers, and give them their hire, beginning from the
last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh
hour, they received every man a penny. And the first supposed that they
should receive more, and they received likewise every man a penny. And when
they had received it, they murmured against the good man of the house,
saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal
unto us that have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one
of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong; didst thou not agree with me
for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way; I will give unto this last
also, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with
mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? Thus the last shall be
first, and the first last: for many are called, but few chosen."(8)
3. What is to us the intent of this parable? For the beginning doth not
harmonize with what is said at the end, but intimates altogether the
contrary. For in the first part He shows all enjoying the same, and not
some cast out, and some brought in; yet He Himself both before the parable
and after the parable said the opposite thing. "That the first shall be
last, and the last first," that is, before the very first, those not
continuing first, but having become last. For in proof that this is His
meaning, He added, "Many are called, but few chosen," so as doubly both to
sting the one, and to soothe and urge on the other.
But the parable saith not this, but that they shall be equal to them
that are approved, and have labored much. "For thou hast made them equal
unto us," it is said, "that have borne the burden and heat of the day."
What then is the meaning of the parable? For it is necessary to make
this first clear, and then we shall clear up that other point. By a
vineyard He meaneth the injunctions of God and His commandments: by the
time of laboring, the present life: by laborers, them that in different
ways are called to the fulfillment of the injunctions: by early in the
morning, and about the third and ninth and eleventh hours, them who at
different ages have drawn near to God, and approved themselves.
But the question is this, whether the first having gloriously approved
themselves, and having pleased God, and having throughout the whole day
shone by their labors, are possessed by the basest feeling of vice,
jealousy and envy. For when they had seen them enjoying the same rewards,
they say, "These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them
equal unto us, that have borne the burden and heat of the day." And in
these words, when they are to receive no hurt, neither to suffer diminution
as to their own hire, they were indignant, and much displeased at the good
of others, which was proof of envy and jealousy. And what is yet more, the
good man of the house in justifying himself with respect to them, and in
making his defense to him that had said these things, convicts him of
wickedness and the basest jealousy, saying, "Didst thou not agree with me
for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way; I will give unto the last
even as unto thee. Is thine eye evil, because I am good?"
What then is it which is to be established by these things? For in
other parables also this self-same thing may be seen. For the son who was
approved is brought in, as having felt this self-same thing, when he saw
his prodigal brother enjoying much honor, even more than himself. For like
as these enjoyed more by receiving first, so he in a greater degree was
honored by the abundance of the things given him; and to these things he
that was approved bears witness.
What then may we say? There is no one who is thus justifying himself,
or blaming others in the kingdom of Heaven; away with the thought! for that
place is pure from envy and jealousy. For if when they are here the saints
give their very lives for sinners, much more when they see them there in
the enjoyment of these things, do they rejoice and account these to be
blessings of their own. Wherefore then did He so frame His discourse? The
saying is a parable, wherefore neither is it right to inquire curiously
into all things in parables word by word,(1) but when we have learnt the
object for which it was composed, to reap this, and not to busy one's self
about anything further.
Wherefore then was this parable thus composed? what is its object to
effect? To render more earnest them that are converted and become better
men in extreme old age, and not to allow them to suppose they have a less
portion. So it is for this cause He introduces also others displeased at
their blessings, not to represent those men as pining or vexed, away with
the thought! but to teach us that these have enjoyed such honor, as could
even have begotten envy in others. Which we also often do, saying, "Such a
one blamed me, because I counted thee worthy of much honor," neither having
been blamed, nor wishing to slander that other, but hereby to show the
greatness of the gift which this one enjoyed.
But wherefore can it have been that He did not hire all at once? As far
as concerned Him, He did hire all; but if all did not hearken at once, the
difference was made by the disposition of them that were called. For this
cause, some are called early in the morning, some at the third hour, some
at the sixth, some at the ninth, some at the eleventh, when they would
This Paul also declared when he said, "When it pleased Him, who
separated me from my mother's womb."(2) When did it please Him? When he was
ready to obey. For He willed it even from the beginning, but because he
would not have yielded, then it pleased Him, when Paul also was ready to
obey. Thus also did He call the thief, although He was able to have called
him even before, but he would not have obeyed. For if Paul at the beginning
would not have obeyed, much more the thief.
And if they say, "No man hath hired us," in the first place as I said
we must not be curious about all the points in the parables; but here
neither is the good man of the house represented to say this, but they; but
he cloth not convict them, that he might drive them to perplexity, but
might win them over. For that He called all, as far as lay in Him, from the
first even the parable shows, saying, that "He went out early in the
morning to hire."
4. From everything then it is manifest to us, that the parable is
spoken with reference to them who from earliest youth, and those who in old
age and more tardily, lay hold on virtue; to the former, that they may not
be proud, neither reproach those called at the eleventh hour; to the
latter, that they may learn that it is possible even in a short time to
For since He had been speaking about earnestness, and the casting away
of riches, and contempt of all one's possessions, but this needed much
vigor of mind and youthful ardor; in order to kindle in them a fire of
love, and to give vigor to their will, He shows that it is possible even
for men coming later to receive the hire of the whole day.
But He doth not say it thus, lest again He should make them proud, but
he shows that the whole is of His love to man, and because of this they
shall not fail, but shall themselves enjoy the unspeakable blessings.
And this chiefly is what it is His will to establish by this parable.
And if He adds, that, "So the last shall be first and the first last; for
many are called, but few chosen," marvel not. For not as inferring it from
the parable doth He say this, but His meaning is this, that like as this
came to pass, so shall that come to pass. For here indeed the first did not
become last, but all received the same contrary to hope and expectation.
But as this result took place contrary to hope and contrary to expectation,
and they that came before were equalled by them that followed, so shall
that also come to pass which is more than this, and more strange, I mean,
that the last should come to be even before the first, and that the first
should be after these. So that that is one thing, and this another.
But He seems to me to say these, things, darkly hinting at the Jews,
and amongst the believers at those who at first shone forth, but afterwards
neglected virtue, and fell back; and those others again that have risen
from vice, and have shot beyond many. For we see such changes taking place
both with respect to faith and practice.
Wherefore I entreat you let us use much diligence both to stand in the
right faith, and to show forth an excellent life. For unless we add also a
life suitable to our faith, we shall suffer the extremest punishment.
And this the blessed Paul showed even from times of old, when he said,
that "They did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same
spiritual drink: "and added, that they were not saved; "for they were
overthrown in the Wilderness."(1) And Christ declared it even in the
evangelists, when He brought in some that had cast out devils and
prophesied, and are led away to punishment. And all His parables also, as
that of the virgins, that of the net, that of the thorns, that of the tree
not bringing forth fruit, demand virtue in our works. For concerning
doctrines He discourses seldom, for neither doth the subject need labor,
but of life often or rather everywhere, for the war about this is
continual, wherefore also so is the labor.
And why do I speak of the whole code. For even a part of it overlooked
brings upon one great evils; as, for instance, almsgiving overlooked casts
into hell them that have come short in it; and yet this is not the whole of
virtue, but a part thereof. But nevertheless both the virgins were punished
for not having this, and the rich man was for this cause tormented, and
they that have not fed the hungry, are for this condemned with the devil.
Again, not to revile is a very small part of it, nevertheless this too
casts out them that have not attained to it. "For he that saith to his
brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire."(2) Again, even
continence itself is a part, but nevertheless, without this no one shall
see the Lord. For, "Follow peace," it is said. "and holiness(3) without
which no man shall see the Lord."(4) And humility too in like manner is a
part of virtue; but nevertheless though any one should fulfill other good
works, but have not attained to this, he is unclean with God. And this is
manifest from the Pharisee, who though abounding with numberless good
works, by this lost all.
But I have also something more than these things to say again. I mean,
that not only one of them overlooked shuts Heaven against us, but though it
be done, yet not in due perfection and abundance, it produces the selfsame
effect again. "For except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness
of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of
Heaven."(5) So that though thou give alms, but not more than they, thou
shalt not enter in.
And how much did they bestow in alms? one may ask. For this very thing,
I am minded to say now, that they who do not give may be roused to give,
and they that give may not pride themselves, but may make increase of their
gifts. What then did they give? A tenth of all their possessions, and again
another tenth, and after this a third, so that they almost gave away the
third part, for three-tenths put together make up this. And together with
these, first fruits, and first born, and other things besides, as, for
instance, the offerings for sins, those for purification, those at feasts,
those in the jubilee,(1) those by the cancelling of debts, and the
dismissals of servants. and the lendings that were clear of usury. But if
he who gave the third part of his goods, or rather the half (for those
being put together with these are the half), if then he who is giving the
half, achieves no great thing, he who doth not bestow so much as the tenth,
of what shall he be worthy? With reason He said, "There are few that be
5. Let us not, then, despise the care of our life. For if one portion
of it despised brings so great a destruction, when on every hand we are
subject to the sentence of condemnation, how shall we escape the
punishment? and what manner of penalty shall we not suffer? and what manner
of hope of salvation have we, one may ask, if each of the things we have
numbered threatens us with hell? I too say this; nevertheless, if we give
heed we may be saved, preparing the medicines of almsgiving, and attending
to our wounds.
For oil does not so strengthen a body, as benevolence at once
strengthens a soul, and makes it invincible to all and impregnable to the
devil. For wheresoever he may seize us, his hold then slips, this oil not
suffering his grasp to fix on our back.
With this oil therefore let us anoint ourselves continually. For it. is
the cause of health, and a supply of light, and a source of cheerfulness.
"But such a one," thou wilt say, "hath talents of gold so many and so many,
and gives away nothing." And what is that to thee? For thus shalt thou
appear more worthy of admiration, when in poverty thou an more munificent
than he. It was on this ground Paul marvelled at the Macedonians, not
because they gave, but because even though they were in poverty they
Look not then at these, but at the common Teacher of all, who "had not
where to lay His head."(3) And why, you say, doth not this and that person
do so? Do not judge another, but deliver thyself from the charge against
thee. Since the punishment is greater when thou at the same time blamest
others, and thyself doest not, when judging other men, thou art again
thyself also subject to the same judgment. For if even them who do right He
permits not to judge others, much more will He not permit offenders. Let us
not therefore judge others, neither let us look to others who are taking
their ease, but unto Jesus, and from thence let us draw our examples.
Why! have I been thy benefactor? Why! did I redeem thee, that thou
lookest to me? It is another who hath bestowed these things on thee. Why
dost thou let go thy Master, and look unto thy fellow-servant? Heardest
thou not Him saying, "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart?"(4)
And again, "He that would be first amongst you, let him be servant of all:"
and again, "Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to
minister."(5) And after these things again, lest taking offense at them who
are remiss amongst thy fellow-servants, thou continue in contemptuousness;
to draw thee off from that, He saith, "I have made myself an example to
you, that as I have done, ye should do also."(6) But hast thou no teacher
of virtue amongst those persons that are with thee, neither such a one as
to lead thee on to these things? More abundant then will be the praise, the
commendation greater, when not even being supplied with teachers thou hast
become one to be marvelled at.
For this is possible, nay very easy, if we be willing: and this they
show, who first duly performed these things, as for instance, Noah,
Abraham, Melchizedeck, Job, and all the men like them. To them it is
needful to look every day, and not unto these, whom ye never cease
emulating, and passing about their names in your assemblies. For nothing
else do I hear you saying everywhere, but such words as these; "Such a one
has bought so many acres of land; such a one is rich, he is building." Why
dost thou stare, O man, at what is without? Why dost thou look to others?
If thou art minded to look to others, look to them that do their duty, to
them that approve themselves, to them that carefully fulfill the law, not
to those that have become offenders, and are in dishonor. For if thou look
to these, thou wilt gather hence many evil things, falling into remissness,
into pride, into condemnation of others; but if thou reckon over them that
do right, thou wilt lead thyself on unto humility, unto diligence, unto
compunction, unto the blessings that are beyond number.
Hear what the Pharisee suffered, because he let pass them that do
right, and looked to him that had offended; hear and fear.
See how David became one to be marvelled at, because he looked to his
ancestors that were noted for virtue. "For I am a stranger," saith he, "and
a sojourner, as all my fathers were."(1) For this man, and all that are
like him, let pass them that had sinned, and thought of those who had
This do thou also. For thou art not set to judge of the negligences of
which others have been guilty, nor to inquire into the sins which others
are committing; thou art required to do judgment on thyself, not on others.
"For if we judged ourselves," it is said, "we should not be judged, but
when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord."(2) But thou hast
reversed the order, of thyself requiring no account of offenses great or
small, but being strict and curious about the offenses of others.
Let us no more do this, but leaving off this disorderly way, let us set
up a tribunal in ourselves for the sins committed by ourselves, becoming
ourselves accusers, and judges, and executioners for our offenses.
But if it be thy will to be busy about the things of other men also,
busy thyself about their good works, not their sins, that both by the
memory of our negligences and by our emulation for the good works they have
done, and by setting before ourselves the judgment-seat from which no
prayers can deliver, wounded each day by our conscience as by a kind of
goad,(3) we may lead ourselves on to humility, and a greater diligence, and
attain unto the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of
our Lord Jesus Christ; with whom be to the Father, together with the Holy
Ghost, glory, might, honor, now and always, and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY LXV: MATT. XX. 17--19.
"And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the
way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man
shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the Scribes, and they
shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock,
and to scourge, and to crucify Him; and the third day He shall be raised."
He goeth not up at once to Jerusalem when He is come out of Galilee,
but having first wrought miracles, and having stopped the mouths of
Pharisees, and having discoursed with His disciples of renouncing
possessions: for, "if thou wilt be perfect," saith He, "sell that thou
hast: "(1) and of virginity, "He that is able to receive, let him receive
it:"(2) and of humility, "For except ye be converted, and become as little
children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven:"(3) and of a
recompense of the things here, "For whoso hath forsaken houses, or
brethren, or sisters, shall receive an hundredfold in this world:"(4) and
of rewards there, "For he shall also inherit," it is said, "eternal life:"
then He assails the city next, and being on the point of going up,
discourses again of His passion. For since it was likely that they, because
they were not willing this should come to pass, would forget it, He is
continually putting them in remembrance, exercising their mind by the
frequency with which He reminded them, and diminishing their pain.
But He speaks with them "apart," necessarily; for it was not meet that
His discourse about these things should be published to the many; neither
that it should be spoken plainly, for no advantage arose from this. For if
the disciples were confounded at hearing these things, much more the
multitude of the people.
What then? was it not told to the people? you may say. It was indeed
told to the people also, but not so plainly. For, "Destroy," saith lie,
"this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up;"(5) and, "This
generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given it, but
the sign of Jonas; "(6) and again, "Yet a little while am I with you, and
ye shall seek me, and shall not find me."(1)
But to the disciples not so, but as the other things He spake unto them
more plainly, so also spake He this too. And for what purpose, if the
multitude understood not the force of His sayings, were they spoken at all?
That they might learn after these things, that fore-knowing it, He came to
His passion, and willing it; not in ignorance, nor by constraint But to the
disciples not for this cause only did He foretell it; but, as I have said,
in order that having been exercised by the expectation, they might more
easily endure the passion, and that it might not confound them by coming
upon them without preparation. So for this cause, while at the beginning He
spake of His death only, when they were practised and trained to hear of
it, He adds the other circumstances also; as, for instance, that they
should deliver Him to the Gentiles, that they should mock and scourge Him;
as well on this account, as in order that when they saw the mournful events
come to pass, they might expect from this the resurrection also. For He who
had not cloaked from them what would give pain, and what seemed to be
matter of reproach, would reasonably be believed about good things too.
But mark, I pray thee, how with regard to the time also He orders the
thing wisely. For neither at the beginning did He tell them, lest He should
disquiet them, neither at the time itself, lest by this again He should
confound them; but when they had received sufficient proof of His power,
when He had given them promises that were very great concerning life
everlasting, then He introduces also what He had to say concerning these
things, once and twice and often interweaving it with His miracles and His
But another evangelist saith, that He brought in the prophets also as
witnesses;(2) and another again saith, that even they themselves understood
not His words, but the saying was hid from them, and that they were amazed
as they followed Him.(3)
Surely then, one may say, the benefit of the prediction is taken away.
For if they knew not what they were hearing, neither could they look for
the event, and not looking for it, neither could they be exercised by their
But I say another thing also more perplexing than this: If they did not
know, how were they sorry. For another saith, they were sorry. If therefore
they knew it not, how were they sorry? How did Peter say, "Be it far from
Thee. this shall not be unto Thee?"(4)
What then may we say? That He should die indeed they knew, albeit they
knew not clearly the mystery of the Incarnation.(5) Neither did they know
clearly about the resurrection, neither what He was to achieve; and this
was hid from them.
For this cause also they felt pain. For some they had known to have
been raised again by other persons, but for any one to have raised up
himself again, and in such wise to have raised himself as not to die any
more, they had never known.
This then they understood not, though often said; nay nor of this self-
same death did they clearly know what it was, and how it should come on
Him. Wherefore also they were amazed as they followed Him, but not for this
cause only; but to me at least He seems even to amaze them by discoursing
of His passion.
2. Yet none of these things made them take courage, and this when they
were continually hearing about His resurrection. For together with His
death this also especially troubled them, to hear that men should "mock and
scourge Him," and the like. For when they considered His miracles, the
possessed persons whom He had delivered, the dead whom He had raised, all
the other marvellous works which He was doing, and then heard these things,
they were amazed, if He who doeth these works is thus to suffer. Therefore
they fell even into perplexity, and now believed. now disbelieved, and
could not understand His sayings. So far at least were they from
understanding clearly what He said, that the sons of Zebedee at the same
time came to Him, and spake to Him of precedence. "We desire," it is said,
"that one should sit on Thy right hand, and one on Thy left "(6) How then
doth this evangelist 'say, that their mother came to Him? It is probable
both things were done. I mean, that they took their mother with them, with
the purpose of making their entreaty stronger, and in this way to prevail
For in proof that this is true, as I say, and the request was rather
theirs, and that being ashamed they put forward their mother, mark how
Christ directs His words to them.
But rather let us learn, first, what do they ask, and with what
disposition, and whence they were moved to this? Whence then were they
moved to this? They saw themselves honored above the rest, and expected
from that they should obtain this request also. But what can it be they
ask? Hear another evangelist plainly declaring this. For, "Because He was
nigh," it is said, "to Jerusalem, and because they thought the kingdom of
God should immediately appear,"(1) they asked these things. For they
supposed that this was at the doors, and visible, and that having obtained
what they asked, they would undergo none of the painful things. For neither
for its own sake only did they seek it, but as though they would also
escape the hardships.
Wherefore also Christ in the first place leads them off from these
thoughts, commanding them to await slaughter and dangers, and the utmost
tenors. For, "Are ye able," saith He, "to drink of the cup that I drink
But let no man be troubled at the apostles being in such an imperfect
state. For not yet was the cross accomplished, not yet the grace of the
Spirit given. But if thou wouldest learn their virtue, notice them after
these things, and thou wilt see them superior to every passion. For with
this object He reveals their deficiencies, that after these things thou
mightest know what manner of men they became by grace.
That then they were asking, in fact, for nothing spiritual, neither had
a thought of the kingdom above, is manifest from hence. But let us see
also, how they come unto Him, and what they say. "We would," it is said,
"that whatsoever we shall desire of Thee, Thou shouldest do it for us."(3)
And Christ saith to them, "What would ye? "(4) not being ignorant, but
that He may compel them to answer, and lay open the wound, and so apply the
medicine. But they out of shame and confusion of face, because under the
influence of a human passion they were come to do this, took Him privately
apart from the disciples, and asked Him. For they went before, it is said,
so that it might not be observable to them, and so said what they wished.
For it was their desire, as I suppose, because they heard, "Ye shall sit on
twelve thrones, to have the first place of these seats. And that they had
an advantage over the others, they knew, but they were afraid of Peter, and
say, "Command, that one sit on Thy right hand, one on Thy left;" and they
urge Him, saying, "Command."
What then saith He? Showing, that they asked nothing spiritual,
neither, if they had known again what they were asking, would they have
ventured to ask for so much, He saith, "Ye know not what ye ask," how
great, how marvellous, how surpassing even the powers above. After that He
adds, "Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be
baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"(5) Seest thou, how He
straightway drew them off from their suspicion, by framing His discourse
from the contrary topics? For ye, He saith, talk to me of honor and crowns,
but I to you of conflicts and labors. For this is not the season for
rewards, neither shall that glory of mine appear now, but the present time
is one of slaughter, and wars, and dangers.
And see how by the form of His question, He both urges and attracts
them. For He said not, "Are ye able to be slain?" "Are ye able to pour
forth your blood?" but how? "Are ye able to drink of the cup?" Then to
attract them to it, He saith, "Which I shall drink of," that by their
fellowship with Him in it they might be made more ready.
And a baptism again calls He it; showing that great was the cleansing
the world was to have from the things that were being done.
"They say unto Him, We are able."(6) Out of their forwardness they
straightway undertook it, not knowing even this which they were saying, but
looking to hear what they had asked.
What then saith He? "Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized
with the baptism that I am baptized with."(7) Great blessings did He
foretell to them. His meaning is, ye shall be counted worthy of martyrdom,
and shall suffer these things which I suffer; ye shall close your life by a
violent death, and in these things ye shall be partakers with me; "But to
sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give, but it shall be
given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father."
3. Having first elevated their souls, and made them of a higher
character, and having rendered them such as sorrow could not subdue, then
He reproves their request.
But what can be this present saying? For indeed there are two points
that are subjects of inquiry to many: one, if it be prepared for any to sit
on His right hand; and then, if the Lord of all hath not power to bestow it
on them for whom it is prepared.
What then is the saying? If we solve the former point, then the second
also will be clear to the inquirers. What then is this? No one shall sit on
His right hand nor on His left. For that throne is inaccessible to all, I
do not say to men only, and saints, and apostles, but even to angels, and
archangels, and to all the powers that are on high.
At least Paul puts it. as a peculiar privilege of the Only-Begotten,
saying, "To which of the angels said He at any time, Sit thou on my right
hand?(1) And of the angels He saith, who maketh His angels spirits;" but
unto the Son, 'Thy throne, O God.'"(2)
How then saith He, "To sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine
to give," as though there are some that should sit there? Not as though
there are; far from it; but He makes answer to the thoughts of them who ask
the favor, condescending to their understanding. For neither did they know
that lofty throne, and His sitting at the right hand of the Father; how
should they, when even the things that were much lower than these, and were
daily instilled into them, they understood not? but they sought one thing
only, to enjoy the first honors, and to stand before the rest, and that no
one should stand before them with Him; even as I have already said before,
that, since they heard of twelve thrones, in ignorance what the saying
could mean, they asked for the first place.
What therefore Christ saith is this: "Ye shall die indeed for me, and
shall be slain for the sake of the gospel, and shall be partakers with me,
as far as regards the passion: but this is not sufficient to secure you the
enjoyment of the first seat, and to cause that ye should occupy the first
place. For if any one else should come, together with the martyrdom,
possessed of all the other parts of virtue far more fully than you, not
because I love you now, and prefer you to the rest, therefore. shall I set
aside him that is distinguished by his good works, and give the first
honors to you."
But thus indeed He did not say it, so as not to pain them, but darkly
He intimates the self-same thing, saying, "Ye shall drink indeed of my cup,
and ye shall be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to
sit on my right hand and on my left, this is not mine to give, but it shall
be given to those for whom it is prepared."
But for whom is it prepared? For them who could become distinguished by
their works. Therefore He said not, It is not mine to give, but my
Father's, lest any should say that He was too weak, or wanting in vigor for
their recompense; but how? It is not mine, but of those for whom it is
prepared. And in order that what I say may be more explain, let us work it
on an illustration, and let us suppose there was some master of the games,
then that many excellent combatants went down to the contest, and that some
two of the combatants that were most nearly connected with the master of
the games were to come to him and say, "Cause us to be crowned and
proclaimed," confiding in their good-will and friendship with him; and that
he were to say to them, "This is not mine to give, but it shall be given to
them for whom it is prepared, by their labors, and their toils;" should we
indeed condemn him as powerless? By no means, but we should approve him for
his justice, and for having no respect of persons. Like then as we should
not say that he did not give the crown from want of vigor, but as not
wishing to corrupt the law of the games, nor to disturb the order of
justice; in like manner now should I say Christ said this, from every
motive to compel them, after the grace of God, to set their hopes of
salvation and approval on the proof of their own good works.
Therefore He saith, "For whom it is prepared." For what, saith He, if
others should appear better than you? What, if they should do greater
things? For shall ye, because ye have become my disciples, therefore enjoy
the first honors, if ye yourselves should not appear worthy of the choice?
For that He Himself hath power over the whole, is manifest from His
having the entire judgment. For to Peter too He speaks thus, "I will give
thee the keys of the Heavens."(3) And Paul also makes this clear where he
saith, "Henceforth is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the
Lord, the righteous judge, will give me in that day; and not to me only,
but unto all them also which have loved His appearing.", But the appearing
was of Christ. But that no one will stand before Paul, is surely clear to
And if He hath expressed these things somewhat obscurely, marvel not.
For to lead them on by hidden instruction.(5) not to be rudely pressing Him
without object or cause for the first honors (for from a human passion they
felt this), and not wishing to give them pain, by the obscurity He effects
both these objects.
"Then were the ten moved with indignation with respect to the two."
Then. When.) When He had reproved them. So long as the judgment was
Christ's, they were not moved with indignation; but seeing them preferred,
they were contented, and held their peace, out of reverence and honor to
And if they were vexed in mind, yet they dared not utter this. And when
they had some feeling of human weakness towards Peter, at the time that He
gave the didrachmas, they did not give way to anger, but asked only, "Who
then is greatest?" But since here the request was the disciples', they are
moved with indignation. And not even here are they straightway moved with
indignation, when they asked, but when Christ had reproved them, and had
said they should not enjoy the first honors, unless they showed themselves
worthy of these.
4. Seest thou how they were all in an imperfect state, when both these
were lifting themselves up above the ten, and those envying the two? But,
as I said, show me them after these things, and thou wilt see them
delivered from all these passions. Hear at least how this same John, he who
now came to Him for these things, everywhere gives up the first place to
Peter, both in addressing the people, and in working miracles, in the Acts
of the Apostles.
And he conceals not Peter's good deeds, but relates both the
confession, which he openly made when all were silent,(1) and his entering
into the tomb,(2) and puts the apostle before himself. For, because both
continued with Him at His crucifixion, taking away the ground of his own
commendation, he saith, "That disciple was known unto the high priest."(3)
But James survived not a long time, but from the beginning he was so
greatly filled with warmth, and so forsook all the things of men, and
mounted up to an height unutterable, as straightway to be slain. Thus, in
all respects, they after these things became excellent.(4)
But then, "they were moved with indignation." What then saith Christ?
"He called them unto Him, and said, The princes of the Gentiles exercise
dominion over them."(5) For, as they were disturbed and troubled, He
soothes them by His call before His word, and by drawing them near Him. For
the two having separated themselves from the company of the ten, had stood
nearer Him, pleading their own interests. Therefore He brings near Him
these also, by this very act, and by exposing and revealing it before the
rest, soothing the passion both of the one and of the other.
And not as before, so now also doth He check them. For whereas before He
brings little children into the midst, and commands to imitate their
simplicity and lowliness; here He reproves them in a sharper way from the
contrary side, saying, "The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion(6)
over them, and their great ones exercise authority upon them, but it shall
not be so among you;(7) but he that will be great among you, let this man
be minister to all; and he that will be first, let him be last of all;"(8)
showing that such a feeling as this is that of heathens, I mean, to love
the first place. For the passion is tyrannical, and is continually
hindering even great men; therefore also it needs a severer stripe. Whence
He too strikes deeper into them, by comparison with the Gentiles shaming
their inflamed soul, and removes the envy of the one and the arrogance of
the other, all but saying, "Be not moved with indignation, as insulted. For
they harm and disgrace themselves most, who on this wise seek the first
places, for they are amongst the last. For matters with us are not like
matters without. 'For the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over
them,' but with me the last, even he is first."
"And in proof that I say not these things without cause, by the things
which I do and suffer, receive the proof of my sayings. For I have myself
done something even more. For being King of the powers above, I was willing
to become man, and I submitted to be despised, and despitefully entreated.
And not even with these things was I satisfied, but even unto death did I
come. Therefore," He saith,
"Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to
minister, and to give His life a ransom for many."(9) "For not even at this
did I stop," saith He, "but even my life did I give a ransom; and for whom?
For enemies. But thou if thou art abused, it is for thyself, but I for
Be not then afraid, as though thine honor were plucked down. For how
much soever thou humblest thyself, thou canst not descend so much as thy
Lord. And yet His descent hath become the ascent of all, and hath made His
own glory shine forth. For before He was made man, He was known amongst
angels only; but after He was made man and was crucified, so far from
lessening that glory, He acquired other besides, even that from the
knowledge of the world.
Fear not then, as though thine honor were put down, if thou shouldest
abase thyself, for in this way is thy glory more exalted, in this way it
becomes greater. This is the door of the kingdom. Let us not then go the
opposite way, neither let us war against ourselves. For if we desire to
appear great, we shall not be great, but even the most dishonored of all.
Seest thou how everywhere He urges them by the opposite things, giving
them what they desire? For in the preceding parts also we have shown this
in many instances, and in the cases of the covetous, and of the vain-
glorious, He did thus. For wherefore, He saith, dost thou give alms before
men? That thou mayest enjoy glory? Thou must then not do so, and thou shall
surely enjoy it. Wherefore dost thou lay up treasures? That thou mayest be
rich? Thou must then not lay up treasures, and thou shalt be rich. Even so
here too, wherefore dost thou set thy heart on the first places? That thou
mayest be before others? Choose then the last place, and then thou wilt
enjoy the first. So that if it be thy will to become great, seek not to
become great, and then thou wilt be great. For the other is to be little.
5. Seest thou how He drew them off from the disease, by showing them
both from thence failing of their object, and from hence gaining, that they
might flee the one, and follow after the other.
And of the Gentiles, too, He for this cause reminded them, that in this
way again He might show the thing to be disgraceful and to be abhorred.
For the arrogant is of necessity base, and, on the contrary, the lowly-
minded is high. For this is the height that is true and genuine, and exists
not in name only, nor in manner of address. And that which is from without
is of necessity and fear, but this is like to God's. Such a one, though he
be admired by no one, continues high; even as again the other, though he be
courted by all, is of all men the basest. And the one is an honor rendered
of necessity, whence also it easily passes away; but the other is of
principle, whence also it continues steadfast. Since for this we admire the
saints also, that being greater than all, they humbled themselves more than
all. Wherefore even to this day they continue to be high, and not even
death hath brought down that height.
And if ye be minded, let us by reasonings also inquire into this very
thing. Any one is said to be high, either when he is so by greatness of
stature, or when he hath chanted to be set on a high place, and low in like
manner, from the opposite things.
Let us see then who is like this, the boaster, or he that keeps within
measure, that thou mayest perceive that nothing is higher than lowliness of
mind, and nothing lower than boastfulness.
The boaster then desires to be greater than all, and affirms no one to
be equal in worth with him; and how much soever honor he may obtain, he
sets his heart on more and claims it, and accounts himself to have obtained
none, and treats men with utter contempt, and yet seeks after the honor
that comes from them; than which what can be more unreasonable? For this
surely is like an enigma. By those, whom he holds in no esteem, he desires
to be glorified.
Seest thou how he who desires to be exalted falls down and is set on
the ground? For that he accounts all men to be nothing compared with
himself, he himself declares, for this is boasting. Why then dost cast
thyself upon him who is nothing? why dost thou seek honor of him? Why dost
thou lead about a with thee such great multitudes?
Seest thou one low, and set on a low place. Come then, let us inquire
about the high man. This one knows what man is, and that man is a great
thing, and that he himself is last of all, and therefore whatever honor he
may enjoy, he reckons this great, so that this one is consistent with
himself and is high, and shifts not his judgment; for whom he accounts
great, the honors that come from them he esteems great also, though they
should chance to be small, because he accounts those who bestow them to be
great. But the boastful man accounts them that give the honors to be
nothing, yet the honors bestowed by them he reckons to be great.
Again, the lowly man is seized by no passion, no anger can much trouble
this man, no love of glory, no envy, no jealousy: and what can be higher
than the soul that is delivered from these things? But the boastful man is
held in subjection by all these things, like any worm crawling in the mire,
for jealousy and envy and anger are forever troubling his soul.
Which then is high? He that is superior to his passions, or he that is
their slave? He that trembles at them and is afraid of them, or he that is
unsubdued, and never taken by them? Which kind of bird should we say flies
higher? that which is higher than the hands and the arrows of the hunter,
or that which does not even suffer the hunters to need an arrow, from his
flying along the ground, and from not being able ever to elevate himself?
Is not then the arrogant man like this? for indeed every net readily
catches him as crawling on the ground.
6. But if thou wilt, even from that wicked demon prove thou this. For
what can be baser than the devil, because he had exalted himself; what
higher than the man who is willing to abase himself? For the former crawls
on the ground under our heel (For, "ye tread," He saith,(1) "upon serpents
and scorpions"), but the latter is set with the angels on high.
But if thou desirest to learn this from the example of haughty men
also, consider that barbarian king, that led so great an army, who knew not
so much as the things that are manifest to all; as, for instance, that
stone was stone, and the images, images; wherefore he was inferior even to
these. But the godly and faithful are raised even above the sun; than whom
what can be higher, who rise above even the vaults of heaven, and passing
beyond angels, stand by the very throne of the king.
And that thou mayest learn in another way their vileness; who will be
abased? He who has God for his ally, or he with whom God is at war? It is
quite plain that it is he with whom He is at war. Hear then touching either
of these what saith the Scripture. "God resisteth the proud, but giveth
grace unto the humble."(2)
Again, I will ask you another thing also. Which is higher? He who acts
as a priest to God and offers sacrifice? or he who is somewhere far removed
from confidence towards Him? And what manner of sacrifice doth the lowly
man offer? one may say. Hear David saying, "The sacrifice of God is a
contrite spirit; a contrite and humbled heart God will not despise."(3)
Seest thou the purity of this man? Behold also the uncleanness of the
other; for "every one that is proud in heart is unclean before God."(4)
Besides, the one hath God resting upon him, ("For unto whom will I look,"
saith He, "but to him that is meek and quiet, and trembleth at my
words"),(5) but the other crawls with the devil, for he that is lifted up
with pride shall suffer the devil's punishment. Wherefore Paul also said,
"Lest, being lifted up with pride, he should fall into the condemnation of
And the thing opposite to what he wishes, befalls him. For his wish is
to be arrogant, that he may be honored; but the most contemned of all is
this character. For these most of all are laughing stocks, foes and enemies
to all men, the most easy to be subdued by their enemies, the men that
easily fall into anger, the unclean before God.
What then can be worse than this, for this is the extremity of evils?
And what is sweeter than the lowly, what more blessed, since, they are
longed after, and beloved of God? And the glory too that cometh of men,
these do most of all enjoy, and all honor them as fathers, embrace them as
brothers, receive them as their own members.
Let us then become lowly, that we may be high. For most utterly doth
arrogance abase. This abased Pharaoh. For, "I know not," he saith, "the
Lord,"(7) and he became inferior to flies and frogs, and the locusts, and
after that with his very arms and horses was he drowned in the sea. In
direct opposition to him, Abraham saith, "I am dust and ashes,"(8) and
prevailed over countless barbarians, and having fallen into the midst of
Egyptians, returned, bearing a trophy more glorious than the former, and,
cleaving to this virtue, grew ever more high. Therefore he is celebrated
everywhere, therefore he is crowned and proclaimed; but Pharaoh is both
earth and ashes, and if there is anything else more vile than these. For
nothing cloth God so abhor as arrogance. For this object hath He done all
things from the beginning, in order that He might root out this passion.
Because of this are we become mortal, and are in sorrows, and wailings.
Because of this are we in toil, and sweat, and in labor continual, and
mingled with affliction. For indeed out of arrogance did the first man sin,
looking for an equality with God. Therefore, not even what things he had,
did he continue to possess, but lost even these.
For arrogance is like this, so far from adding to us any improvement of
our life, it subtracts even what we have; as, on the contrary, humility, so
far from subtracting from what we have, adds to us also what we have not.
This virtue then let us emulate, this let us pursue, that we may both
enjoy present honor, and attain unto the glory to come, by the grace and
love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be unto the Father
glory and might, together with the Holy Ghost, now and always, and world
without end. Amen.
HOMILY LXVI: MATT, XX. 29, 30.
"And as they departed from Jericho, great multitudes followed Him. And,
behold, two blind men sitting by the wayside, when they heard that Jesus
passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, Thou Son of David."
SEE whence He passed unto Jerusalem, and where He abode before this,
with regard to which it seems to me especially worthy of inquiry, wherefore
He went not away even long before this from thence unto Galilee, but
through Samaria. But this we will leave to them that are fond of learning.
For if any one were disposed to search the matter out carefully, he will
find that John intimates it well, and hath expressed the cause.(1)
But let us keep to the things set before us, and let us listen to these
blind men, who were better than many that see. For neither having a guide,
nor being able to see Him when come near to them, nevertheless they strove
to come unto Him, and began to cry with a loud voice, and when rebuked for
speaking, they cried the more. For such is the nature of an enduring soul,
by the very things that hinder, it is borne up.
But Christ suffered them to be rebuked, that their earnestness might
the more appear, and that thou mightest learn that worthily they enjoy the
benefits of their cure. Therefore He doth not so much as ask, "Do ye
believe?" as He doth with many; for their cry, and their coming unto Him,
sufficed to make their faith manifest.
Hence learn, O beloved, that though we be very vile and outcast, but
yet approach God with earnestness, even by ourselves we shall be able to
effect whatsoever we ask. See, for instance, these men, how, having none of
the apostles to plead with them, but rather many to stop their mouths, they
were able to pass over the hindrances, and to come unto Jesus Himself. And
yet the evangelist bears witness to no confidence of life(2) in them, but
earnestness sufficed them instead of all.
These then let us also emulate. Though God defer the gift, though there
be many withdrawing us, let us not desist from asking. For in this way most
of all shall we win God to us. See at least even here, how not poverty, not
blindness, not their being unheard, not their being rebuked by the
multitude, not anything else, impeded their exceeding earnestness. Such is
the nature of a fervent and toiling soul.
What then saith Christ? "He called them, and said, What will ye that I
should do unto you? They say unto Him, Lord, that our eyes may be
opened."(3) Wherefore cloth He ask them? Lest any one should think that
when they wish to receive one thing, He giveth them another thing. For
indeed it is usual with Him on every occasion, first to make manifest and
discover to all the virtue of those He is healing, and then to apply the
cure, for one reason, that He might lead on the others likewise to
emulation; and for another, that He might show that they were enjoying the
gift worthily. This, for instance, He did with respect to the Canaanitish
woman also, this too in the case of the centurion, this again as to her
that had the issue of blood, or rather that marvellous woman even
anticipated the Lord's inquiry; but not so did He pass her by, but even
after the cure makes her manifest. Such earnest care had He on every
occasion to proclaim the good deeds of them that come to Him, and to show
them to be much greater than they are,(4) which He doth here also.
Then, when they said what they wished, He had compassion on them, and
touched them. For this alone is the cause of their cure, for which also He
came into the world. But nevertheless, although it be mercy and grace, it
seeks for the worthy.
But that they were worthy is manifest, both from what they cried out,
and from the fact that, when they had received, they did not hasten away,
as many do, being ungrateful after the benefits. Nay, they were not like
this, but were both persevering before the gift, and after the gift
grateful, for "they followed Him."
"And when He drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and was come to Bethphage, unto
the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, saying, Go into the
village over against you, and ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with
her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say aught unto you,
ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he sendeth them.
And this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Zechariah
the prophet, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh to thee,
meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass."(1)
And yet He had often entered Jerusalem before, but never with so much
circumstance. What then is the cause? It was the beginning then of the
dispensation; and neither was He very well known, nor the time of His
passion near; wherefore He mixed with them with less distinction, and more
disguising Himself. For He would not have been held in admiration, had He
so appeared, and He would have excited them to greater anger. But when He
had both given them sufficient proof of His power, and the cross was at the
doors, He makes Himself then more conspicuous, and doeth with greater
circumstance all the things that were likely to inflame them. For it was
indeed possible for this to have been done at the beginning also; but it
was not profitable nor expedient it should be so.
But do thou observe, I pray thee. how many miracles are done, and how
many prophecies are fulfilled. He said, "Ye shall find an ass;" He foretold
that no man should hinder them, but that all, when they heard, should hold
But this is no small condemnation of the Jews, if them that were never
known to Him, neither had appeared before Him, He persuades to give up
their own property, and to say nothing against it, and that by His
disciples, while these, being present with Him at the working of His
miracles, were not persuaded.
2. And do not account what was done to be a small thing. For who
persuaded them, when their own property was taken from them, and that, when
they were perhaps poor men and husbandmen, not to forbid it? Why say I not
to forbid it? not to ask, or even if they asked, to hold their peace, and
give it up. For indeed both things were alike marvellous, as well, if they
said nothing, when their beasts were dragged away, or if having spoken, and
heard, "The Lord hath need of them," they yielded and withstood not, and
this when they see not Him, but His disciples.
By these things He teaches them, that it was in His power to have
entirely hindered the Jews also, even against their will, when they were
proceeding to attack Him, and to have made them speechless, but He would
And another thing again together with these doth He teach the
disciples, to give whatever He should ask; and, though he should require
them to yield up their very life, to give even this, and not to gainsay.
For if even strangers gave up to Him, much more ought they to strip
themselves of all things.
And besides what we have said, He was fulfilling also another prophecy,
one which was twofold, one part in words, and another in deeds. And that in
deeds was, by the sitting on the ass; and that by words, the prediction of
Zacharias; because he had said, that the King should sit on an ass. And He,
having sat and having fulfilled it, gave to the prophecy another beginning
again, by what He was doing typifying beforehand the things to come.
How and in what manner? He proclaimed beforehand the calling of the
unclean Gentiles, and that He should rest upon them, and that they should
yield to Him and follow Him, and prophecy succeeded to prophecy.
But to me He seemeth not for this object only to sit on the ass, but
also as affording us a standard of self-denial. For not only did He fulfill
prophecies, nor did He only plant the doctrines of the truth, but by these
very things He was correcting our practice for us, everywhere setting us
rules of necessary use, and by all means amending our life.
For this cause, I say, even when He was to be born He sought not a
splendid house, nor a mother rich and distinguished, but a poor woman, and
one that had a carpenter as her betrothed husband; and is born in a shed,
and laid in a manger: and choosing His disciples, He chose not orators and
wise men, not rich men and nobly born, but poor men, and of poor families,
and in every way undistinguished; and providing His table, at one time He
sets before Himself barley loaves, and at another at the very moment
commands the disciples to buy at the market. And making His couch, He makes
it of grass, and putting on raiment, He clothes Himself in what is cheap,
and in no respect different from the common sort; and a house He did not so
much as possess. And if He had to go from place to place, He did this
travelling on foot, and so travelling, as even to grow weary. And sitting,
He requires no throne nor pillow, but sits on the ground, sometimes in the
mountain, and sometimes by the well, and not merely by the well, but also
alone, and talks with a Samaritan woman.
Again, setting measures of sorrow, when He had need to mourn, He weeps
moderately, everywhere setting us rules, as I have said, and limits how far
one ought to proceed, and not any further. So for this intent now also,
since it happens that some are weak and have need of beasts to carry them,
in this too He fixes a measure, showing that one ought not to yoke horses
or mules to be borne by them, but to use an ass, and not to proceed
further, and everywhere to be limited by the want.
But let us look also at the prophecy, that by words, that by acts. What
then is the prophecy? "Behold, thy King cometh to thee, meek, and riding on
an ass, and a young colt;"(1) not driving chariots, like the rest of the
kings, not demanding tributes, not thrusting men off, and leading about
guards, but displaying His great meekness even hereby.
Ask then the Jew, what King came to Jerusalem borne on an ass? Nay, he
could not mention, but this alone.
But He did these things, as I said, signifying beforehand the things to
come. For here the church is signified by the colt, and the new people,
which was once unclean, but which, after Jesus sat on them, became clean.
And see the image preserved throughout. I mean that the disciples loose the
asses For by the apostles, both they and we were called; by the apostles
were we brought near. But because our acceptance provoked them also to
emulation, therefore the ass appears following the colt. For after Christ
hath sat on the Gentiles, then shall they also come moving us to
emulation.(2) And Paul declaring this, said, "That blindnesss in part is
happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in; and so
all Israel shall be saved."(4) For that it was a prophecy is evident from
what is said. For neither would the prophet have cared to express with such
great exactness the age of the ass, unless this had been so.
But not these things only are signified by what is said, but also that
the apostles should bring them with ease. For as here, no man gainsaid them
so as to keep the asses, so neither with regard to the Gentiles was any one
able to prevent them, of those who were before masters of them.
But He doth not sit on the bare colt, but on the apostles' garments.
For after they had taken the colt, they then gave up all, even as Paul also
said, "I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls."(5)
But mark how tractable the colt, how being unbroken, and having never
known the rein, he was not restive, but went on orderly; which thing itself
was a prophecy of the future, signifying the submissiveness of the
Gentiles, and their sudden conversion to good order. For all things did
that word work, which said, "Loose him, and bring him to me:" so that the
unmanageable became orderly, and the unclean thenceforth clean.
3. But see the baseness of the Jews. He had wrought so many miracles,
and never were they thus amazed at Him; but when they saw a multitude
running together, then they marvel. "For all the city was moved, saying,
Who is this? But the multitudes said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth
of Galilee."(6) And when they thought they were saying something great,
even then were their thoughts earthly, and low, and dragging on the
But these things He did, not as displaying any pomp, but at once, as I
have said, both fulfilling a prophecy, and teaching self-denial, and at the
same time also comforting His disciples, who were grieving for His death,
and showing them that He suffers all these things willingly.
And mark thou, I pray thee, the accuracy of the prophet, how he
foretold all things. And some things David, some things Zechariah, had
proclaimed beforehand. Let us also do likewise, and let us sing hymns, and
give up our garments to them that bear Him. For what should we deserve,
when some clothe the ass on which He was set, and others strew the garments
even under her feet; but we, seeing him naked, and not being even commanded
to strip ourselves, but to spend of what is laid by, not even so are
liberal? And when they indeed attend upon Him before and behind, but we,
when He cometh unto us, send Him away, and thrust Him off and insult Him.
How sore a punishment do these things deserve, how great vengeance! Thy
Lord cometh unto thee in need, and thou art not willing so much as to
listen to His entreaty, but thou blamest and rebukest Him, and this, when
thou hast heard such words as these. But if in giving one loaf, and a
little money, thou art so mean, and haughty, and backward; if thou hadst to
empty out all, what wouldest thou become?
Seest thou not those that show their magnificence in the theatre, how
much they give away to the harlots? but thou givest not so much as the
half, nay often not the smallest part. But the devil is exhorting to give
to whom it may chance, procuring us hell, and thou givest; but Christ to
the needy, promising a kingdom, and thou, far from giving, dost rather
insult them, and thou choosest rather to obey the devil, that thou mightest
be punished, than to submit to Christ, and be saved.
And what could be worse than this frenzy? One procures hell, the other
a kingdom, and ye leave the latter, and run unto the former. And this ye
send away, when He cometh unto you, that when he is far off, ye call unto
you. And what you do is the same as if a king bearing a royal robe, and
offering a diadem, did not win your choice, but a robber brandishing a
sword at you, and threatening death, were to win it.
Considering these things then, beloved, let us discern the truth at
length though late, and let us grow sober. For I am now ashamed of speaking
of almsgiving, because that having often spoken on this subject, I have
effected nothing worth the exhortation. For some increase indeed hath there
been, but not so much as I wished. For I see you sowing, but not with a
liberal hand. Wherefore I fear too lest ye also "reap sparingly."(1)
For in proof that we do sow sparingly, let us inquire, if it seem good,
which(2) are more numerous in the city, poor or rich; and which they, who
are neither(2) poor nor rich, but have a middle place. As, for instance, a
tenth part is of rich, and a tenth of the poor that have nothing at all,
and the rest of the middle sort.
Let us distribute then amongst the poor the whole multitude of the
city, and ye will see the disgrace how great it is. For the very rich
indeed are but few, but those that come next to them are many; again, the
poor are much fewer than these. Nevertheless, although there are so many
that are able to feed the hungry, many go to sleep in their hunger, not
because those that have are not able with ease to succor them, but because
of their great barbarity and inhumanity. For if both the wealthy, and those
next to them, were to distribute amongst themselves those who are in need
of bread and raiment, scarcely would one poor person fall to the share of
fifty men or even a hundred. Yet nevertheless, though in such great
abundance of persons to assist them, they are wailing every day. And that
thou mayest learn the inhumanity of the others, when the church is
possessed of a revenue of one of the lowest among the wealthy, and not of
the very rich, consider how many widows it succors every day, how many
virgins; for indeed the list of them hath already reached unto the number
of three thousand. Together with these, she succors them that dwell in the
prison, the sick in the caravansera, the healthy, those that are absent
from their home, those that are maimed in their bodies, those that wait
upon the altar; and with respect to food and raiment, them that casually
come every day; and her substance is in no respect diminished. So that if
ten men only were thus willing to spend, there would be no poor.
4. And what, it will be said, are our children to inherit? The
principal remains, and the income again is become more abundant, the goods
being stored up for them in Heaven.
But are ye not willing to do this? At least do it by the half, at least
by the third part, at least by the fourth part at least by the tenth. For
owing to God's favor, it were possible for our city to nourish the poor of
And if ye will, let us make some calculation(3) in proof of this; or
rather there is no need so much as of reckoning; for of itself the easiness
of the thing is discernible. See at least, upon public occasions, how much
one house hath often not been backward to spend, and hath not had so much
as a little feeling of the expense, which service if each of the rich were
willing to perform for the poor, in a brief moment of time he would have
seized on Heaven.
What plea then will there be? what shadow of defense, when not even of
the things from which we must assuredly be separated, when taken away from
hence, not even of these do we impart to the needy with as much liberality
as others to those on the stage, and this when we are to reap so many
benefits therefrom? For we ought indeed, even though we were always to be
here, not even so to be sparing of this good expenditure; but when after a
little time, we are to be removed from hence, and dragged away naked from
all, what kind of defense shall we have for not even out of our income
giving to the hungry and distressed?(1)
For neither do I constrain thee to lessen thy possessions, not because
I do not wish it, but because I see thee very backward. It is not then this
I say, but spend of your fruits, and treasure up nothing from these. It is
enough for thee to have the money of thine income pouring in on thee as
from a fountain; make the poor sharers with thee, and become a good steward
of the things given thee of God.
But I pay tribute, one may say. For this cause then dost thou despise,
because in this case no one demands it of thee? And the other, who, should
the earth bear, or should it not bear, takes by force, and extorts, thou
darest not gainsay; but Him that is so mild, and then only demands, when
the earth bears, thou answerest not even to a word? And who will deliver
thee from those intolerable punishments? There is no one. For if, because
in the other case a very sore punishment will ensue to thee for not giving,
therefore thou becomest diligent about the payment, consider here too is
one more sore; not to be bound, neither to be cast into prison, but to
depart into the eternal fire.
For all reasons then let us pay these tributes first: for great is the
facility, and greater the reward; and more abundant the gain, and worse the
punishments to us if we are obstinate. For a punishment cometh upon us,
which hath no end.
But if thou tell me of the soldier's fighting for thee with the
barbarians, there is here too a camp, that of the poor, and a war, which
the poor are waging for thee. For when they receive, by praying they make
God propitious; and making Him propitious, they repulse, instead of
barbarians, the assaults of the devils; they suffer not the evil one to be
violent, neither to attack us continually, but they relax his might.
5. Seeing therefore these soldiers every day fighting in thy behalf
with the devil by their supplications and prayers, demand of thyself this
good contribution, their nourishment. For this King being mild hath not
assigned thee any to demand it of thee, but desires thou shouldest give it
willingly; though thou pay by little and little, He receives it; though
being in difficulty, thou shouldest pay after a long time, He cloth not
press him that hath not.
Let us not then despise His long-suffering; let us treasure up for
ourselves, not wrath, but salvation; not death, but life; not punishment
and vengeance, but honors and crowns. There is no need in this case to pay
a hire for the conveyance of the things contributed; there is no need in
this case to labor in turning them into money. If thou givest them up, the
Lord Himself removes them into Heaven; He Himself makes the traffic the
more gainful for thee.
There is no need here to find one to carry in what thou hast
contributed; contribute only, and straightway it goeth up, not that others
may be maintained as soldiers, but that it may remain for thee with great
profit. For here(2) whatsoever thou mayest have given, it is not possible
to recover; but there thou wilt receive them again with much honor, and
shalt gain greater, and more spiritual gains. Here the gifts are a demand;
there a loan, and money at interest, and a debt.
Yea farther, God hath given thee bonds. For" he that showeth mercy to a
poor man," it is said, "lendeth to the Lord."(3) He gave thee also an
earnest, and bail, and this being God! What sort of earnest? The things in
the present life, the visible, the spiritual things, the foretaste of the
things to come.
Why then dost thou delay, and why art thou backward, having received so
many things already, looking for so many things?
For what thou hast received are these: He Himself made thee a body, He
Himself put in thee a soul, He honored with speech thee alone of the things
on the earth, He gave thee the use of all the things that are seen, He
bestowed on thee the knowledge of Himself, He gave up His Son for thee, He
gave thee a baptism full of so many good things, He gave thee a holy table,
He promised a kingdom, and the good things that cannot be told.
Having then received so many good things, having to receive so many,
again I say the same thing, art thou making petty reckoning about perishing
riches, and what excuse wilt thou have?
But art thou looking altogether at thy children? and dost draw back for
the sake of these? Nay, rather teach them also to gain such gains. For if
thou hadst money lent out and bearing interest, and thou hadst a grateful
debtor, thou wouldest ten thousand times rather choose instead of the gold
to leave the bond to thy child, so that he should have the large income
from it, and not be constrained to go about, and seek for others to borrow
And now give this bond to thy children, and leave God a debtor to them.
Thou dost not sell thy lands, and give to thy children, but leavest them,
that the income may remain, and that they may have a greater increase of
riches from thence; but this bond, which is more productive than any land
or revenue, and bears so many fruits, this art thou afraid to leave to
them? What great folly must this be, and frenzy. And this when thou
knowest, that though thou shouldest leave it to them, thou thyself also
shall again take it away with thee.
Of this nature are the things spiritual; they have great munificence.
Let us not then be beggarly; neither be inhuman and savage towards
ourselves, but let us traffic in that good merchandise; that we may both
ourselves take it away with us when we depart, and leave it to our own
children, and attain to the good things to come, by the grace and love
towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be unto the Father,
together with the Holy Ghost, glory, might, honor, now and ever, and world
without end. Amen.
HOMILY LXVII: MATT. XXI. 12, 13.
"And Jesus went into the temple,(1) and cast out all them that sold and
bought in the temple, and overthrow the tables of the money-changers and
the seats of them that sold doves, and saith unto them, It is written, my
house shall be called a house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of
This John likewise saith, but he in the beginning of his Gospel, this
at the end. Whence it is probable this was done twice, and at different
And it is evident both from the times, and from their reply. For there
He came at the very passover, but here much before. And there the Jews say,
"What sign showest thou us?"(3) but here they hold their peace, although
reproved, because He was now marvelled at amongst all men.
And this is a heavier charge against the Jews, that when He had done
this not once only, but a second time, they continued in their trafficking,
and said that He was an adversary of God, when they ought even from hence
to have learnt His honor for His Father and His own might. For indeed He
also wrought miracles, and they saw His words agreeing with His works.
But not even so were they persuaded, but "were sore displeased," and
this while they heard the prophet crying aloud, and the children in a
manner beyond their age proclaiming Him. Wherefore also He Himself sets up
Isaiah against them as an accuser, saying, "My house shall be called a
house of prayer.(4)
But not in this way only doth He show His authority, but also by His
healing divers infirmities. "For the blind and the tame came unto Him, and
He healed them,"(5) and His power and authority He indicates.
But they not even so would be persuaded, but together with the rest of
the miracles hearing even the children proclaiming, were ready to choke,
and say, "Hearest thou not what these say?(6) And yet it was Christ's part
to have said this to them, "Hear ye not what these say?" for the children
were singing to Him as to God.
What then saith He? Since they were speaking against things manifest,
He applies His correction more in the way of reproof, saying, "Have ye
never read, Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected
praise?" And well did He say, "Out of the mouth." For what was said was not
of their understanding, but of His power giving articulation to their
tongue yet immature.
And this was also a type of the Gentiles lisping, and sounding forth at
once great things with understanding and faith.
And for the apostles also there was from hence no small consolation.
For that they might not be perplexed, how being unlearned they should be
able to publish the gospel, the children anticipate them, and remove all
their anxiety, teaching them, that He would grant them utterance, who made
even these to sing praises.
And not so only, but the miracle showed that He is Creator even of
nature. The children then, although of age immature, uttered things that
had a clear meaning, and were in accordance with those above, but the men
things teeming with frenzy and madness. For such is the nature of
Forasmuch then as there were many things to provoke them, from the
multitude, from the casting out of the sellers, from the miracles, from the
children, He again leaves them, giving room to the swelling passion, and
not willing to begin His teaching, test boiling with envy they should be
the more displeased at His sayings.
"Now in the morning as He returned into the city, He was an
hungered."(1) How is He an hungered in the morning? When He permits the
flesh, then it shows its feeling. "And when He saw a fig tree in the way,
He came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only."(2) Another
evangelist saith, "The time of figs was not yet;"(3) but if it was not
time, how doth the other evangelist say, "He came, if haply He might find
fruit thereon." Whence it is manifest that this belongs to the suspicion of
His disciples, who were yet in a somewhat imperfect state. For indeed the
evangelists in many places record the suspicions of the disciples.
Like as this then was their suspicion, so also was it too to suppose it
was cursed for this cause, because of having no fruit. Wherefore then was
it cursed? For the disciples' sakes, that they might have confidence. For
because everywhere He conferred benefits, but punished no man; and it was
needful that He should afford them a demonstrative proof of His power to
take vengeance also, that both the disciples might learn, and the Jews,
that being able to blast them that crucify Him, of His own will He submits,
and does not blast them; and it was not His will to show forth this upon
men; upon the plant did He furnish the proof of His might in taking
vengeance. But when unto places, or unto plants, or unto brutes, any such
thing as this is done, be not curious, neither say, how was the fig-tree
justly dried up, if it was not the time of figs; for this it is the utmost
trifling to say; but behold the miracle, and admire and glorify the worker
Since in the case also of the swine that were drowned, many have said
this, working out the argument of justice; but neither there should one
give heed, for these again are brutes, even as that was a plant without
Wherefore then was the act invested with such an appearance, and with
this plea for a curse? As I said, this was the disciple's suspicion.
But if it was not yet time, vainly do some say the law is here meant.
For the fruit of this was faith, and then was the time of this fruit, and
it had indeed borne it; "For already(4) are the fields white to harvest,"
saith He; and, "I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor."(5)
2. Not any therefore of these things doth He here intimate, but it is
what I said, He displays His power to punish, and this is shown by saying,
"The time was not yet," making it clear that of this special purpose He
went, and not for hunger, but for His disciples' sake, who indeed marvelled
exceedingly, although many miracles had been done greater; but, as I said,
this was strange, for now first He showed forth His power to take
vengeance. Wherefore not in any other, but in the moistest of all planted
things did He work the miracle, so that hence also the miracle appeared
And that thou mightest learn, that for their sakes this was done, that
He might train them to feel confidence, hear what He saith afterwards. But
what saith He? "Ye also shall do greater things, if ye are willing to
believe and to be confident in prayer." Seest thou that all is done for
their sake, so that they might not be afraid and tremble at plots against
them? Wherefore He saith this a second time also, to make them cleave to
prayer and faith. For not this only shall ye do, but also shall remove
mountains; and many more things shall ye do, being confident in faith and
But the boastful and arrogant Jews, wishing to interrupt His teaching,
came unto Him, and asked, "By what authority doest thou these things?"(7)
For since they could not object against the miracles, they bring forward
against Him the correction of the traffickers in the temple. And this in
John also they appear to ask, although not in these words, but with the
same intent. For there too they say, "What sign showest thou unto us?
seeing that thou doest these things." But there He answers them, saying,
"Destroy this temple, and I in three days will raise it up,"(1) whereas
here He drives them into a difficulty. Whence it is manifest, that then
indeed was the beginning and prelude of the miracles, but here the end.
But what they say is this: Hast thou received the teacher's chair? Hast
thou been ordained a priest, that thou didst display such authority? it is
said. And yet He had done nothing implying arrogance, but had been careful
for the good order of the temple, yet nevertheless having nothing to say,
they object against this. And indeed when He cast them out, they did not
dare to say anything, because of the miracles, but when He showed Himself,
then they find fault with Him.
What then saith He? He doth not answer them directly, to show that, if
they had been willing to see His authority, they could; but He asks them
again, saying, "The baptism of John, whence is it? From heaven, or of
And what sort of inference is this? The greatest surely. For if they
had said, from heaven, He would have said unto them, why then diet ye not
believe him? For if they had believed, they would not have asked these
things. For of Him John had said, "I am not worthy to loose the latchet of
His shoe; and, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the
world;" and, "This is the Son of God;"(3) and, "He that cometh from above
is above all;"(4) and, "His fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly
purge His floor."(5) So that if they had believed him, there was nothing to
hinder them from knowing by what authority Christ doeth these things.
After this, because they, dealing craftily, said, "We know not," He
said not, neither know I, but what? "Neither tell I you."(6) For if indeed
they had been ignorant it would have been requisite for them to be
instructed; but since they were dealing craftily with good reason He
answers them nothing.
And how was it they did not say that the baptism was of men? "They
feared the people"(7) it is said. Seest thou a perverse heart? It, every
case they despise God and do all things for the sake of men. For this man
too they feared for their sakes not reverencing the saint(8) but on account
of men? and they were not willing to believe in Christ, because of men, and
all their evils were engendered to them from hence.
After this, He saith, "What think ye? A man had two sons; and he saith
to the first, go, work to-day in the vineyard. But he answered and said, I
will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second,
and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go sir: and went not.
Whether then of them twain did the will of his father? They say, the
Again He convicts them by a parable, intimating both their unreasonable
obstinacy, and the submissiveness of those who were utterly condemned by
them. For these two children declare what came to pass with respect to both
the Gentiles and the Jews. For the former not having undertaken to obey,
neither having become hearers of the law, showed forth their obedience in
their works; and the latter having said, "All that the Lord shall speak, we
will do, and will hearken,"(11) in their works were disobedient. And for
this reason, let me add, that they might not think the law would benefit
them, He shows that this self-same thing condemns them, like as Paul also
saith," Not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of
the law shall be justified."(12) For this intent, that He might make them
even self-condemned, He causes the judgment to be delivered by themselves,
like as He does also in the ensuing parable of the vineyard.
3. And that this might be done, He makes trial of the accusation in the
person of an other. For since they were not willing to confess directly, He
by a parable drives them on to what He desired.
But when, not understanding His sayings, they had delivered the
judgment, He unfolds His concealed meaning after this, and saith,
"Publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of Heaven before you. For John
came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not; but the
publicans(13) believed him; and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not
afterwards, that ye might believe him.(14)
For if He had said simply, harlots go before you, the word would have
seemed to them to be offensive; but now, being uttered after their own
judgment it appears to be not too hard.
Therefore He adds also the accusation. What then is this? "John came,"
He saith, "unto you," not unto them, and not this only, but; also "in the
way of righteousness." "For neither with this can ye find fault, that he
was some careless one, and of no profit; but both his life was
irreprehensible, and his care for you great, and ye gave no heed to him."
And with this there is another charge also, that publicans gave heed;
and with this, again another, that "not even after them did ye. For ye
should have done so even before them, but not to do it even after them was
to be deprived of all excuse;" and unspeakable was both the praise of the
one, and the charge against the other. "To you he came, and ye accepted him
not; he came not to them, and they receive him, and not even them did ye
take for instructors."
See by how many things is shown the commendation of those, and the
charge against these. To you he came, not to them. Ye believed not, this
offended not them. They believed, this profited not you.
But the word, "go before you," is not as though these were following,
but as having a hope, if they were willing. For nothing, so much as
jealousy, rouses the grosser sort. Therefore He is ever saying, "The first
shall be last, and the last first." Therefore He brought in both harlots
and publicans, that they might provoke them to jealousy.
For these two indeed are chief sins, engendered of violent lust, the
one of sexual desire, the other of the desire of money. And He indicates
that this especially was hearing the law of God, to believe John. For it
was not of grace only, that harlots entered in, but also of righteousness.
For not, as continuing harlots, did they enter in, but having obeyed and
believed, and having been purified and converted, so did they enter in.
Seest thou how He rendered His discourse less offensive, and more
penetrating, by the parable, by His bringing in the harlots? For neither
did He say at once, wherefore believed ye not John? but what was much more
pricking, when, He had put forward the publicans and the harlots, then He
added this, by the order of their actions convicting their unpardonable
conduct, and showing that for fear of men they do all things, and for
vainglory. For they did not confess Christ for fear, test they should be
put out of the synagogue; and again, of John they dared not speak evil, and
not even this from reverence, but for fear. All which things He convicted
by His sayings, and with more severity afterwards did He go on to inflict
the blow, saying, "But ye, when ye knew it, repented not afterwards, that
ye might believe him."
For an evil thing it is not at the first to choose the good, but it is
a heavier charge not even to be brought round. For this above all maketh
many wicked, which I see to be the case with some now from extreme
But let no one be like this; but though he be sunk down to the
extremity of wickedness, let him not despair of the change for the better.
For it is an easy thing to rise up out of the very abysses of wickedness.
Heard ye not how that harlot, that went beyond all in lasciviousness,
outshone all in godly reverence. Not the harlot in the gospels do I mean,
but the one in our generation, who came from Phoenice, that most lawless
city. For she was once a harlot among us, having the first honors on the
stage, and great was her name everywhere, not in our city only, but even as
far as the Cilicians and Cappadocians. And many estates did she ruin, and
many orphans did she overthrow; and many accused her of sorcery also, as
weaving such toils not by her beauty of person only, but also by her drugs.
This harlot once won even the brother of the empress, for mighty indeed was
But all at once, I know not how, or rather I do know well, for it was
being so minded, and converting, and bringing down upon herself God's
grace, she despised all those things, and having cast away the arts of the
devils, mounted up to heaven.
And indeed nothing was more vile than she was, when she was on the
stage; nevertheless, afterwards she outwent many in exceeding continence,
and having clad herself with sackcloth, all her time she thus disciplined
herself. On the account of this woman both the governor was stirred up, and
soldiers armed, yet they had not strength to carry her off to the stage,
nor to lead her away from the virgins that had received her.
This woman having been counted worthy of the unutterable mysteries, and
having exhibited a diligence proportionate to the grace (given her) so
ended her life, having washed off all through grace, and after her baptism
having shown forth much self- restraint. For not even a mere sight of
herself did she allow to those who were once her lovers, when they had come
for this, having shut herself up, and having passed many years, as it were,
in a prison. Thus "shall the last be first, and the first last;" thus do we
in every case need a fervent soul, and there is nothing to hinder one from
becoming great and admirable:
4. Let no man then of them that live in vice despair; let no man who
lives in virtue slumber. Let neither this last be confident, for often the
harlot will pass him by; nor let the other despair, for it is possible for
him to pass by even the first. Hear what God saith unto Jerusalem, "I said,
after she had committed all these whoredoms, Turn thou unto me, and she
returned not."(1) When we have come back unto the earnest love of God, He
remembers not the former things. God is not as man, for He reproaches us
not with the past, neither doth He say, Why wast thou absent so long a
time? when we repent; only let us approach Him as we ought. Let us cleave
to Him earnestly, and rivet our hearts to His fear.
Such things have been done not under the new covenant only, but even
under the old. For what was worse than Manasseh? but he was able to appease
God. What more blessed than Solomon? but when he slumbered, he fell. Or
rather I can show even both things to have taken place in one, in the
father of this man, for he the same person became at different times both
good and bad. What more blessed than Judas? but he became a traitor. What
more wretched than Matthew? but he became an evangelist. What worse than
Paul? but he became an apostle. What more to be envied than Simon? but he
became even himself the most wretched of all.
How many other such changes wouldest thou see, both to have taken place
of old, and now taking place every day? For this reason then I say, Neither
let him on the stave despair, nor let him in the church be confident. For
to this last it is said, "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest
he fall;"(2) and to the other, "Shall not he that falleth arise?"(3) and,
"Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees."(4) Again, to
these He saith, "Watch;" but to those, "Awake, thou that sleepest and arise
from the dead."(5) For these need to preserve what they have, and those to
become what they are not; these to preserve their health, those to be
delivered from their infirmity, for they are sick; but many even of the
sick become healthy, and of the healthy many by remissness grow infirm.
To the one then He saith, "Behold, thou art made whole, sin no more,
lest a worse thing come unto thee;"(6) but to these, "Wilt thou be made
whole? Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house."(7) For a dreadful,
dreadful palsy is sin, or rather it is not palsy only, but also somewhat
else more grievous. For such a one is not only in inactivity as to good
works, but also in the active doing of evil works. But nevertheless, though
thou be so disposed, and be willing to rouse thyself a little, all the
terrors are at an end.
Though thou hast been so "thirty and eight years," and art earnest to
become whole, there is no one to hinder thee. Christ is present now also,
and saith, "Take up thy bed," only be willing to rouse thyself, despair
not. Hast thou no man? but thou hast God. Hast thou no one to put thee into
the pool? but thou hast Him who suffers thee not to need the pool. Hast
thou had no one to cast thee in there? but thou hast Him that commands thee
to take up thy bed.
Thou mayest not say, "While I am coming, another steppeth down before
me."(8) For if it be thy will to go down into the fountain, there is none
to hinder thee. Grace is not consumed, is not spent, it is a kind of
fountain springing up constantly; by His fullness are we all healed both
soul and body. Let us come unto it then even now. For Rahab also was a
harlot, yet was she saved; and the thief was a murderer, yet he became a
citizen of paradise; and while Judas being with his Master perished, the
thief being on a cross became a disciple. Such are the wonderful works of
God. Thus the magi approved themselves, thus the publican became an
evangelist, thus the blasphemer an apostle.
5. Look at these things, and never despair, but be ever confident, and
rouse thyself. Lay hold only on the way that leads thither, and thou wilt
advance quickly. Shut not up the doors, close not up the entrance. Short is
the present life, small the labor. But though it were great, not even so
ought one to decline it. For if thou toil not at this most glorious toil
that is spent upon repentance and virtue, in the world thou wilt assuredly
toil and weary thyself in other ways. But if both in the one and the other
there be labor, why do we not choose that which hath its fruit abundant,
and its recompense greater.
Yet neither is this labor and that the same. For in worldly pursuits
are continual perils, and losses one upon another, and the hope uncertain;
great is the servility, and the expenditure alike of wealth, and of bodies,
and of souls; and then the return of the fruits is far below our
expectation, if perchance it should grow up.
For neither doth toil upon worldly matters everywhere bear fruit; nay
but even, when it hath not failed, but has brought forth its produce even
abundantly, short is the time wherein it continues.
For when thou art grown old, and hast no longer after that the feeling
of enjoyment in perfection, then and not till then doth the labor bear thee
its recompense. And whereas the labor was with the body in its vigor, the
fruit and the enjoyment is with one grown old and languid, when time has
dulled even the feeling, although if it had not dulled it, the expectation
of the end suffers us not to find pleasure.
But in the other case not so, but the labor is in corruption and a
dying body, but the crown in one incorruptible, and immortal, and having no
end. And the labor is both first and short-lived; but the reward both
subsequent and endless, that with security thou mayest take thy rest after
that, looking for nothing unpleasant.
For neither mayest thou fear change any more or loss as here. What sort
of good things, then, are these, which are both insecure, and short-lived,
and earthly, and vanishing before they have appeared, and acquired with
many toils? And what good things are equal to those, that are immovable,
that grow not old, that have no toil, that even at the time of the
conflicts bring thee crowns?
For he that despises money even here already receives his reward, being
freed from anxiety, from rivalry, from false accusation, from plotting from
envy. He that is temperate, and lives orderly, even before his departure,
is crowned and lives in pleasure, being delivered from unseemliness,
ridicule, dangers of accusation,(1) and the other things that are to be
feared. All the remaining parts of virtue likewise make us a return here
In order therefore that we may attain unto both the present and the
future blessings, let us flee from vice and choose virtue. For thus shall
we both enjoy delight, and obtain the crowns to come, unto which God grant
we may all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus
Christ, to whom be glory and might forever 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/X, Schaff). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible
Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.