Church Fathers: Nicene Fathers Vol 10: 110.01.27 Homily XXXIII-XXXIV

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Church Fathers: Nicene Fathers Vol 10: 110.01.27 Homily XXXIII-XXXIV



TOPIC: Nicene Fathers Vol 10 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 110.01.27 Homily XXXIII-XXXIV

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Homily XXXIII.

Matthew Chapter 10, Verse 16

"Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."

Having made them feel confident about their necessary food, and opened unto them all men's houses, and having invested their entrance with an appearance to attract veneration, charging them not to come in as wanderers, and beggars, but as much more venerable than those who received them (for this He signifies by His saying, "the workman is worthy of his hire;" and by His commanding them to inquire, who was worthy, and there to remain, and enjoining them to salute such as receive them; and by His threatening such as receive them not with those incurable evils): having I say, in this way cast out their anxiety, and armed them with the display of miracles, and made them as it were all iron and adamant, by delivering them from all worldly things, and enfranchising them from all temporal care: He speaks in what follows of the evils also that were to befall them; not only those that were to happen soon after, but those too that were to be in long course of time; from the first, even long beforehand, preparing them for the war against the devil Yea, and many advantages were hence secured; and first, that they learnt the power of His foreknowledge; secondly, that no one should suspect, that through weakness of their Master came these evils upon them; thirdly, that such as undergo these things should not be dismayed by their falling out unexpectedly, and against hope; fourthly, that they might not at the very time of the cross be troubled on hearing these things. For indeed, they were just so affected at that time; when also He upbraided them, saying, "Because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your hearts; and none of you asketh me, whither goest Thou?"hyperlink And yet He had said nothing as yet touching Himself, as that He should be bound, and scourged, and put to death, that He might not hereby also confound their minds; but for the present He announces before what should happen to themselves.

Then, that they might learn that this system of war is new, and the manner of the array unwonted; as He sends them bare, and with one coat, and unshod, and without staff, and without girdle or scrip, and bids them be maintained by such as receive them; so neither here did He stay His speech, but to signify His unspeakable power, He saith, "Even thus setting out, exhibit the gentleness of "sheep," and this, though ye are to go unto "wolves;" and not simply unto wolves, but "into the midst of wolves."

And He bids them have not only gentleness as sheep, but also the harmlessness of the dove. "For thus shall I best show forth my might, when sheep get the better of wolves, and being in the midst of wolves, and receiving a thousand bites, so far from being consumed, do even work a change on them a thing far greater and more marvellous than killing them, to alter their spirit, and to reform their mind; and this, being only twelve, while the whole world is filled with the wolves."

Let us then be ashamed, who do the contrary, who set like wolves upon our enemies. For so long as we are sheep, we conquer: though ten thousand wolves prowl around, we overcome and prevail. But if we become wolves, we are worsted, for the help of our Shepherd departs from us: for He feeds not wolves, but sheep: and He forsakes thee, and retires, for neither dost thou allow His might to be shown. Because, as He accounts the whole triumph His own, if thou being ill used, show forth gentleness; so if thou follow it up and give blows, thou obscurest His victory.

2. But do thou consider, I pray thee, who they are that hear these injunctions, so hard and laborious: the timid and ignorant; the unlettered and uninstructed; such as are in every respect obscure, who have never been trained up in the Gentile laws, who do not readily present themselves in the public, places; the fishermen, the publicans, men full of innumerable deficiencies. For if these things were enough to confound even the lofty and great, how were they not enough to cast down and dismay them that were in all respects untried, and had never entertained any noble imagination? But they did not cast them down.

"And very naturally," some one may perhaps say; "because He gave them power to cleanse lepers, to drive out devils." I would answer as follows: Nay, this very thing was enough especially to perplex them, that for all their raising the dead, they were to undergo these intolerable evils, both judgments, and executions, and the wars which all would wage on them, and the common hatred of the world; and that such terrors await them, while themselves are working miracles.

3. What then is their consolation for all these things? The power of Him that sends them. Wherefore also He puts this before all, saying, "Behold, I send you." This suffices for your encouragement, this for confidence, and fearing none of your assailants.

Seest thou authority? seest thou prerogative? seest thou invincible might? Now His meaning is like this: "Be not troubled" (so He speaks), "that sending you among wolves, I command you to be like sheep and like doves. For I might indeed have done the contrary, and have suffered you to undergo nothing terrible, nor as sheep to be exposed to wolves; I might have rendered you more formidable than lions; but it is expedient that so it should be. This makes you also more glorious; this proclaims also my power."

This He said also unto Paul: "My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness."hyperlink "It is I, now mark it, who have caused you so to be." For in saying, "I send you forth as sheep," He intimates this. "Do not therefore despond, for I know, I know certainly, that in this way more than any other ye will be invincible to all."

After this, that they may contribute something on their own part also, and that all might not seem to be of His grace, nor they supposed to be crowned at random, and vainly, He saith, "Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." "But what," it might be said, "will our wisdom avail in so great dangers? nay, how shall we be able to have wisdom at all, when so many waves are drenching us all over? For let a sheep be ever so wise, when it is in the midst of wolves, and so many wolves, what will it be able to do? Let the dove be ever so harmless, what will it profit, when so many hawks are assailing it?" In the brutes indeed, not at all: but in you as much as possible.

But let us see what manner of wisdom He here requires. That of the serpent, He saith. For even as that animal gives up everything, and if its very body must be cut off, doth not very earnestly defend it, so that it may save its head; in like manner do thou also, saith He, give up every thing but the faith; though goods, body, life itself, must be yielded. For that is the head and the root; and if that be preserved, though thou lose all, thou wilt recover all with so much the more splendor.hyperlink

On this account then He neither commanded to be merely a simple and single-hearted sort of person, nor merely wise; but hath mixed up both these, so that they may become virtue; taking in the wisdom of the serpent that we may not be wounded in our vitals; and the harmlessness of the dove, that we may not retaliate on our wrongdoers, nor avenge ourselves on them that lay snares; since wisdom again is useless, except this be added. Now what, I ask, could be more strict than these injunctions? Why, was it not enough to suffer wrong? Nay, saith He, but I do not permit thee so much as to be indignant. For this is "the dove." As though one should cast a reed into fire, and command it not to be burnt by the fire, but to quench it.

However, let us not be troubled; nay, for these things have come to pass, and have had an accomplishment, and have been shown in very deed, and men became wise as serpents, and harmless as doves; not being of another nature, but of the same with us.

Let not then any one account His injunctions impracticable. For He beyond all others knows the nature of things; He knows that fierceness is not quenched by fierceness, but by gentleness. And if in men's actual deeds too thou wouldest see this result, read the book of the Acts of the Apostles, and thou wilt see how often, when the people of the Jews had risen up against them and were sharpening their teeth, these men, imitating the dove, and answering with suitable meekness, did away with their wrath, quenched their madness, broke their impetuosity. As when they said, "Did not we straitly command you, that ye should not speak in this name?"hyperlink although able to work any number of miracles, they neither said nor did anything harsh, but answered for themselves with all meekness, saying, "Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye."hyperlink

Hast thou seen the harmlessness of the dove? Behold the wisdom of the serpent. "For we cannot but speak the things, whichwe know and have heard."hyperlink Seest thou how we must be perfect on all points, so as neither to be abased by dangers, nor provoked by anger?

4. Therefore He said also,hyperlink

"Beware of men, for they shall deliver you up to councils, and they shall scourge you in their synagogues: and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony to them and the Gentiles."

Thus again is He preparing them to be vigilant, in every case assigning to them the sufferance of wrong, and permitting the infliction of it to others; to teach thee that the victory is in suffering evil, and that His glorious trophies are thereby set up. For He said not at all, "Fight ye also, and resist them that would vex you," but only, "Ye shall suffer the utmost ills."

O how great is the power of Him that speaks! How great the self-command of them that hear! For indeed we have great cause to marvel, how they did not straightway dart away from Him on hearing these things, apt as they were to be startled at every sound, and such as had never gone further than that lake, around which they used to fish; and how they did not reflect, and say to themselves, "And whither after all this are we to flee? The courts of justice against us, the kings against us, the governors, the synagogues of the Jews, the nations of the Gentiles, the rulers, and the ruled." (For hereby He not only forewarned them of Palestine, and the ills therein, but discovered also the wars throughout the world, saying, "Ye shall be brought before kings and governors;" signifying that to the Gentiles also He was afterwards to send them as heralds.) "Thou hast made the world our enemy, Thou hast armed against us all them that dwell on the earth, peoples, tyrants, kings."

And what follows again is much more fearful, since men are to become on our account murderers of brothers, of children, of fathers.

"For the brother," saith He, "shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child; and children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death."hyperlink

"How, then," one might say, "will the rest of men believe, when they see on our account, children slain by their fathers, and brethren by brethren, and all things filled with abominations?" What? will not men, as though we were destructive demons, will they not, as though we were devoted, and pests of the world, drive us out from every quarter, seeing the earth filled with blood of kinsmen, and with so many murderers? Surely fair is the peace (is it not?) which we are to bring into men's houses and give them, while we are filling those houses with so many slaughters. Why, had we been some great number of us, instead of twelve; had we been, instead of "unlearned and ignorant," wise, and skilled in rhetoric, and mighty in speech; nay more, had we been even kings, and in possession of armies and abundance of wealth; how could we have persuaded any, while kindling up civil wars, yea, and other wars far worse than they? Why, though we were to despise our own safety, which of all other men will give heed to us?"

But none of these things did they either think or say, neither did they require any account of His injunctions, but simply yielded and obeyed. And this came not from their own virtue only, but also of the wisdom of their Teacher. For see how to each of the fearful things He annexed an encouragement; as in the ease of such as received them not, He said, "It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city;" so here again, when He had said, "Ye shall be brought before governors and kings," He added, "for my sake, for a testimony to them, and the Gentiles." And this is no small consolation, that they are suffering these things both for Christ, and for the Gentiles' conviction. Thus God, though no one regard, is found to be everywhere doing His own works. Now these things were a comfort to them, not that they desired the punishment of other men, but that they might have ground of confidence, as sure to have Him everywhere present with them, who had both foretold and foreknown these things; and because not as wicked men, and as pests, were they to suffer all this.

And together with these, He adds another, and that no small consolation for them, saying,

"But when they deliver you up, take no thoughthyperlink how or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in that hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you."hyperlink

For lest they should say, "How shall we be able to persuade men, when such things are taking place?" He bids them be confident as to their defense also. And elsewhere indeed He saith, "I will give you a mouth and wisdom;"hyperlink but here, "It is the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you," advancing them unto the dignity of the prophets. Therefore, when He had spoken of the power that was given, then He added also the terrors, the murders, and the slaughters.

"For the brother shall deliver up the brother," saith He, "to death, and the father the child, and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death."hyperlink

And not even at this did He stop, but added also what was greatly more fearful, and enough to shiver a rock to pieces: "And ye shall be hated of all men." And here again the consolation is at the doors, for, "For my name's sake," saith He, "ye shall suffer these things." And with this again another, "But he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved."hyperlink

And these things in another point of view likewise were sufficient to rouse up their spirits; since at any rate the power of their gospel was to blaze up so high, as that nature should be despised, and kindred rejected, and the Word preferred to all, chasing all mightily away. For if no tyranny of nature is strong enough to withstand your sayings, but it is dissolved and trodden under foot, what else shall be able to get the better of you? Not, however, that your life will be in security, because these things shall be; but rather ye will have for your common enemies and foes them that dwell in the whole world.

5. Where now is Plato? Where Pythagoras? Where the long chainhyperlink of the Stoics? For the first, after having enjoyed great honor, was so practically refuted, as even to be sold out of the country,hyperlink and to succeed in none of his objects, no, not go much as in respect of one tyrant: yea, he betrayed his disciples, and ended his life miserably. And the Cynics, mere pollutions as they were, have all passed by like a dream and a shadow. And yet assuredly no such thing ever befell them, but rather they were accounted glorious for their heathen philosophy, and the Athenians made a public monument of the epistles of Plato, sent them by Dion; and they passed all their time at ease, and abounded in wealth not a little. Thus, for instance, Aristippus was used to purchase costly harlots; and another made a will, leaving no common inheritance; and another, when his disciples had laid themselves down like a bridge, walked on them; and he of Sinope, they say, even behaved himself unseemly in the market place.

Yea, these are their honorable things. But there is no such thing here, but a strict temperance, and a perfect decency, and a war against the whole world in behalf of truth and godliness, and to be slain every day, and not until hereafter their glorious trophies.

But there are some also, one may say, skilled in war amongst them; as Themistocles, Pericles. But these things too are children's toys, compared with the acts of the fishermen. For what canst thou say? That he persuaded the Athenians to embark in their ships, when Xerxes was marching upon Greece? Why in this case, when it is not Xerxes marching, but the devil with the whole world, and his evil spirits innumerable assailing these twelve men, not at one crisis only, but throughout their whole life, they prevailed and vanquished; and what was truly marvellous, not by slaying their adversaries, but by converting and reforming them.

For this especially you should observe throughout, that they slew not, nor destroyed such as were plotting against them, but having found them as bad as devils, they made them rivals of angels, enfranchising human nature from this evil tyranny, while as to those execrable demons that were confounding all things, they drave them out of the midst of markets, and houses, or rather even from the very wilderness. And to this the choirs of the monks bear witness, whom they have planted everywhere, clearing out not the habitable only, but even the uninhabitable land. And what is yet more marvellous, they did not this in fair conflict, but in the enduring of evil they accomplished it all. Since men actually had them in the midst, twelve unlearned persons, binding, scourging, dragging them about, and were not able to stop their mouths; but as it is impossible to bind the sunbeam, so also their tongue. And the reason was, "it was not they" themselves "that spake," but the power of the Spirit. Thus for instance did Paul overcome Agrippa, and Nero, who surpassed all men in wickedness. "For the Lord," saith he, "stood with me, and strengthened me, and delivered me out of the mouth of the lion."hyperlink

But do thou also admire them, how when it was said to them, "Take no thought," they yet believed, and accepted it, and none of the terrors amazed them. And if thou say, He gave them encouragement enough, by saying, "It shall be the Spirit of your Father that shall speak;" even for this am I most amazed at them, that they doubted not, nor sought deliverance from their perils; and this, when not for two or three years were they to suffer these things, but all their life long. For the saying, "He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved," is an intimation of this.

For His will is, that not His part only should be contributed, but that the good deeds should be also done of them. Mark, for instance, how from the first, part is His, part His disciples'. Thus, to do miracles is His, but to provide nothing is theirs. Again, to open all men's houses, was of the grace from above; but to require no more than was needful, of their own self-denial. "For the workman is worthy of his hire." Their bestowing peace was of the gift of God, their inquiring for the worthy, and not entering in without distinction unto all, of their own self command. Again, to punish such as received them not was His, but to retire with gentleness from them, without reviling or insulting them, was of the apostles' meekness. To give the Spirit, and cause them not to take thought, was of Him that sent them, but to become like sheep and doves, and to bear all things nobly, was of their calmness and prudence. To be hated and not to despond, and to endure, was their own; to save them that endured, was of Him who sent them.

Wherefore also He said, "He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved." That is, because the more part are wont at the beginning indeed to be vehement, but afterwards to faint, therefore saith He, "I require the end." For what is the use of seeds, flourishing indeed at first, but a little after fading away? Therefore it is continued patience that He requires of them. I mean, lest any say, He wrought the whole Himself, and it was no wonder that they should prove such, suffering as they did nothing intolerable; therefore He saith unto them, "There is need also of patience on your part. For though I should rescue you from the first dangers, I am reserving you for others more grievous, and after these again others will succeed; and ye shall not cease to have snares laid for you, so long as ye have breath. For this He intimated in saying, "But he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved."

For this cause then, though He said, "Take no thought what ye shall speak;" yet elsewhere He saith, "Be ready to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you."hyperlink That is, as long as the contest is among friends, He commands us also to take thought; but when there is a terrible tribunal, and frantic assemblies, and terrors on all sides, He bestows the influence from Himself, that they may take courage and speak out, and not be discouraged, nor betray the righteous cause.

For in truth it was a very great thing, for a man occupied about lakes, and skins, and receipt of custom, when tyrants were on their thrones, and satraps, and guards standing by them, and the swords drawn, and all standing on their side; to enter in alone, bound, hanging down his head, and yet be able to open his mouth. For indeed they allowed them neither speech nor defense with respect to their doctrines, but set about torturing them to death, as common pests of the world. For "They," it is said, "that have turned the world upside down, are come hither also;" and again, "They preach things contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that Jesus Christ is king."hyperlink And everywhere the courts of justice were preoccupied by such suspicions, and much influence from above was needed, for their showing both the truth of the doctrine they preached, and that they are not violating the common laws; so that they should neither, while earnest to speak of the doctrine, fall under suspicion of overturning the laws; nor again, while earnest to show that they were not overturning the common government, corrupt the perfection of their doctrines: all which thou wilt see accomplished with all due consideration, both in Peter and in Paul, and in all the rest. Yea, and as rebels and innovators, and revolutionists, they were accused all over the world; yet nevertheless they both repelled this impression, and invested themselves with the contrary, all men celebrating them as saviors, and guardians, and benefactors. And all this they achieved by their much patience. Wherefore also Paul said, "I die daily;"hyperlink and he continued to "stand in jeopardy" unto the end.

6. What then must we deserve, having such high patterns, and in peace giving way to effeminacy, and remissness? With none to make war (it is too evident) we are slain; we faint when no man pursues, in peace we are required to be saved, and even for this we are not sufficient. And they indeed, when the world was on fire, and the pile was being kindled over the whole earth, entering, snatched from within, out of the midst of the flame, such as were burning; but thou art not able so much as to preserve thyself.

What confidence then will there be for us? What favor? There are no stripes, no prisons, no rulers, no synagogues, nor aught else of that kind to set upon us; yea, quite on the contrary we rule and prevail. For both kings are godly, and there are many honors for Christians, and precedences, and distinctions, and immunities, and not even so do we prevail. And whereas they being daily led to execution, both teachers and disciples, and bearing innumerable stripes, and continual brandings, were in greater luxury than such as abide in Paradise; we who have endured no such thing, not even in a dream, are softer than any wax. "But they," it will be said, "wrought miracles." Did this then keep them from the scourge? did it free them from persecution? Nay, for this is the strange thing, that they suffered such things often even at the hands of them whom they benefited, and not even so were they confounded, receiving only evil for good. But thou if thou bestow on any one any little benefit, and then be requited with anything unpleasant, art confounded, art troubled, and repentest of that which thou hast done.

If now it should happen, as I pray it may not happen nor at any time fall out, that there be a war against churches, and a persecution, imagine how great will be the ridicule, how sore the reproaches. And very naturally; for when no one exercises himself in the wrestling school, how shall he be distinguished in the contests? What champion, not being used to the trainer, will be able, when summoned by the Olympic contests, to show forth anything great and noble against his antagonist? Ought we not every day to wrestle and fight and run? See ye not them that are called Pentathli, when they have no antagonists, how they fill a sack with much sand, and hanging it up try their full strength thereupon? And they that are still younger, practise the fight against their enemies upon the persons of their companions.

These do thou also emulate, and practise the wrestlings of self denial. For indeed there are many that provoke to anger, and incite to lust, and kindle a great flame. Stand therefore against thy passions, bear nobly the mental pangs, that thou mayest endure also those of the body.

7. For so the blessed Job, if he had not exercised himself well before his conflicts, would not have shone so brightly in the same. Unless he had practised freedom from all despondency, he would have uttered some rash word, when his children died. But as it was he stood against all the assaults, against ruin of fortune, and destruction of so great affluence: against loss of children, against his wife's commiseration, against plagues in body, against reproaches of friends, against revilings of servants.

And if thou wouldest see his ways of exercise also, hear him saying, how he used to despise wealth: "If I did but rejoice," saith he. "because my wealth was great: if I set gold up for a heap, if I put my trust in a precious stone."hyperlink Therefore neither was he confounded at their being taken away, since he desired them not when present.

Hear how he also managed what related to his children, not giving way to undue softness, as we do, but requiring of them all circumspection. For he who offered sacrifice even for their secret sins, imagine how strict a judge he was of such as were manifest.hyperlink

And if thou wouldest also hear of his strivings after continence, hearken to him when he saith, "I made a covenant with mine eyes. that I should not think upon a maid."hyperlink For this cause his wife did not break his spirit, for he loved her even before this, not however immoderately, but as is due to a wife.

Wherefore I am led even to marvel, whence it came into the devil's thought to stir up the contest, knowing as he did of his previous training. Whence then did it occur to him? The monster is wicked, and never despairs: and this turns out to us a very great condemnation that he indeed never gives up the hope of our destruction, but we despair of our own salvation.

But for bodily mutilation and indignity, mark how he practised himself. Why, inasmuch as he himself had never undergone any such thing, trot had continued to live in wealth and luxury, and in all other splendor, he used to divine other men's calamities, one by one. And this he declared, when he said, "For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me; and that which I was afraid of is come unto me."hyperlink And again, "But I wept for every helpless man, and groaned when I saw a man in distress."hyperlink

So because of this, nothing of what happened confounded him, none of those great and intolerable ills. For I bid thee not look at the ruin of his substance, nor at the loss of his children, nor at that incurable plague, nor at his wife's device against him; but at those things which are far more grievous than these.

"And what," saith one, "did Job suffer more grievous than these? for from his history there is nothing more than these for us to learn." Because we are asleep, we do not learn, since he surely that is anxious, and searches well for the pearl, will know of many more particulars than these. For the more grievous, and apt to infuse greater perplexity, were different.

And first, his knowing nothing certain about the kingdom of heaven, and the resurrection; which indeed he also spoke of, lamenting. "For I shall not live alway, that I should suffer long."hyperlink Next, his being conscious to himself of many good works. Thirdly, his being conscious of no evil thing. Fourthly, his supposing that at God's hands he was undergoing it; or if at the devil's, this again was enough to offend him. Fifthly, his hearing his friends accusing him of wickedness, "For thou hast not been scourged," say they, "according to what thy sins deserve."hyperlink Sixthly, his seeing such as lived in wickedness prospering, and exulting over him. Seventhly, not having any other to whom he might look as even having ever suffered such things.

8. And if thou wouldest learn how great these things are, consider our present state. For if now, when we are looking for a kingdom, and hoping for a resurrection, and for the unutterable blessings, and are conscious to ourselves of countless evil deeds, and when we have so many examples, and are partakers of so high a philosophy; should any persons lose a little gold, and this often, after hating taken it by violence, they deem life not to be lived in, having no wife to lay sore on them, nor bereaved of children, nor reproached by friends, nor insulted by servants, but rather having many to comfort them, some by words, some by deeds; of how noble crowns must not he be worthy, who seeing what he had gotten together by honest labor, snatched away from him for nought and at random, and after all that, undergoing temptations without number, like sleet, yet throughout all abides unmoved, and offers to the Lord his due thanksgiving for it all?

Why, though no one had spoken any of the other taunts, yet his wife's words alone were sufficient utterly to shake a very rock. Look, for example, at her craft. No mention of money, none of camels, and flocks, and herds, (for she was conscious of her husband's self command with regard to these), but of what was harder to bear than all these, I mean, their children; and she deepens the tragedy, and adds to it her own influence.

Now if when men were in wealth, and suffering no distress, in many things and oft have women prevailed on them: imagine how courageous was that soul, which repulsed her, assaulting him with such powerful weapons, and which trod under foot the two most tyrannical passions, desire and pity. And yet many having conquered desire, have yielded to pity. That noble Joseph, for instance, held in subjection the most tyrannical of pleasures, and repulsed that strange woman, plying him as she did with innumerable devices; but his tears he contained not, but when he saw his brethren that had wronged him, he was all on fire with that passion, and quickly cast off the mask, and discovered the part he had been playing.hyperlink But when first of all she is his wife, and when her words are piteous, and the moment favorable for her, as well as his wounds and his stripes, and those countless waves of calamities; how can one otherwise than rightly pronounce the soul impassive to so great a storm to be firmer than any adamant?

Allow me freely to say, that the very apostles, if not inferior to this blessed man, are at least not greater than he was. For they indeed were comforted by the suffering for Christ; and this medicine was so sufficient daily to relieve them, that the Lord puts it everywhere, saying, "for me, for my sake," and, "If they call me, the master of the house, Beelzebub."hyperlink But he was destitute of this encouragement, and of that from miracles, and of that from grace; for neither had he so great power of the Spirit.

And what is yet greater, nourished in much delicacy, not from amongst fishermen, and publicans, and such as lived frugally, but after enjoyment of so much honor, he suffered all that he did suffer. And what seemed hardest to bear in the case of the apostles, this same he also underwent, being hated of friends, of servants, of enemies, of them who had received kindness of him: and the sacred anchor, the harbor without waves, namely, that which was said to the apostles, "for my sake," of this he had no sight.

I admire again the three children, for that they dared the furnace, that they stood up against a tyrant. But hear what they say, "We serve not thy Gods, nor worship the image which thou hast set up."hyperlink A thing which was the greatest encouragement to them, to know of a certainty that for God they are suffering all whatsoever they suffer. But this man knew not that it was all conflicts, and a wrestling; for had he known it, he would not have felt what was happening. At any rate, when he heard, "Thinkest thou that I have uttered to thee mine oracles for nought, or that thou mightest be proved righteous?"hyperlink consider how straightway, at a bare word, he breathed again, how he made himself of no account, how he accounted himself not so much as to have suffered what he had suffered, thus saying, "Why do I plead any more, being admonished and reproved of the Lord, hearing such things, I being nothing?"hyperlink And again, "I have heard of Thee before, as far as hearing of the ear; but now mine eye hath seen Thee; wherefore I have made myself vile, and have melted away; and I accounted myself earth and ashes."hyperlink

This fortitude then, this moderation, of him that was before law and grace, let us also emulate, who are after law and grace; that we may also be able to share with him the eternal tabernacles; unto which may we all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the victory forever and ever. Amen.



Footnotes



1 John xvi. 6, 5.

2 2Cor. xii. 9.

3 perifanei/aj.

4 Acts v. 28.

5 Acts iv. 19.

6 Acts iv. 20.

7 Matt. x. 17, 18.

8 Matt. x. 21.

9 [R. V., "be not anxious."]

10 Matt. x. 19, 20.

11 Luke xxi. 15.

12 Matt. x. 21.

13 Matt. x. 22.

14 o!rmaqoj.

15 For the story of Plato's slavery, see Diogen. Laertius, lib. 3; St. Chrys. in 1 Cor. Hom. IV. sec. 9 and Plutarch (as there quoted) in his Life of Dion. as to its authenticity, see Mitford's Greece, iv. C. 31, sec. 8.

16 2 Tim. iv. 17.

17 1Peter iii. 15.

18 Acts xvii. 6, 7.

19 1 Cor. xv. 31, 30.

20 Job xxxi. 25, 24, LXX.

21 Job i. 5.

22 Job xxxi. 1.

23 Job iii. 25.

24 Job xxx. 25.

25 Job vii. 16, LXX.

26 Job xi. 6.

27 dra=ma.

28 Matt. x. 25.

29 Dan. iii. 18.

30 Job xl. 3, LXX.

31 Job xl. 4, LXX.

32 Job xlii. 5, 6, LXX.



Homily XXXIV.

Matthew Chapter 10, Verse 23

"But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into the other; for verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come."

Having spoken of those fearful and horrible things, enough to melt very adamant, which after His cross, and resurrection, and assumption, were to befall them, He directs again His discourse to what was of more tranquil character, allowing those whom He is training to recover breath, and affording them full security. For He did not at all command them, when persecuted, to close with the enemy, but to fly. That is, it being so far but a beginning, and a prelude, He gave His discourse a very condescending turn. For not now of the ensuing persecutions is He speaking, but of those before the cross and the passion. And this He showed by saying, "Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come." That is, lest they should say, "What then, if when persecuted we flee, and there again they overtake us, and drive us out?"-to destroy this fear, He saith, "Ye shall not have gone round Palestine first, but I will straightway Conic upon you."And see how here again He doeth not away with the terrors, but stands by them in their perils. For He said not, "I will snatch you out, and will put an end to the persecutions;' but what? "Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come." Yea, for it sufficed for their consolation, simply to see Him.

But do thou observe, I pray thee, how He doth not on every occasion leave all to grace, but requires something also to be contributed on their part. "For if ye fear," saith He, "flee," for this He signified by saying, "flee ye," and "fear not."hyperlink And He did not command them to flee at first, but when persecuted to withdraw; neither is it a great distance that He allows them, but so much as to go about the cities of Israel.

Then again, He trains them for another branch of self-command; first, casting out all care for their food: secondly, all fear of their perils; and now, that of calumny. Since from that first anxiety He freed them, by saying, "The workman is worthy of his hire,"hyperlink and by signifying that many would receive them; and from their distress about their dangers, by saying, "Take no thought how or what ye shall speak," and, "He that endureth unto the end, the same shall be saved."hyperlink

But since withal it was likely that they should also bring upon themselves an evil report, which to many seems harder to bear than all; see whence He comforts them even in this case, deriving the encouragement from Himself, and from all that had been said touching Himself; to which nothing else was equal. For as He said in that other place, "Ye shall be hated of all men," and added, "for my name's sake," so also here.

And in another way He mitigates it, joining a fresh topic to that former. What kind of one then is it?

"The disciple," saith He, "is not above his Master, nor the servant above his Lord It is enough for the disciple that he be as his Master, and the servant as his Lord. If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of His household? Fear them not therefore."hyperlink

See how He discovers Himself to be the Lord and God and Creator of all things. What then? Is there not any disciple above his Master, or servant above his Lord?hyperlink So long as he is a disciple, and a servant, he is not, by the nature of that honor. For tell me not here of the rare instances, but take the principle from the majority. And He saith not, "How much more His servants," but "them of His household," to show how very near He felt them to be to Him.hyperlink And elsewhere too He said, "Henceforth I call you not servants; ye are my friends."hyperlink And He said not, If they have insulted the Master of the houses and calumniated Him; but states also the very form of the insult, that they "called Him Beelzebub."

Then He gives also another consolation, not inferior to this: for this indeed is the greatest; but because for them who were not yet living strictly, there was need also of another, such as might have special power to refresh them, He states it likewise. And the saying seems indeed in form to be an universal proposition, nevertheless not of all matters, but of those in hand only, is it spoken. For what saith He?

"There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; nor hid, that shall not be known."hyperlink Now what He saith is like this. It is indeed sufficient for your encouragement, that I also shared with you in the same reproach; I who am your Master and Lord. But if it still grieve you to hear these words, consider this other thing too, that even from this suspicion ye will soon be released. For why do ye grieve? At their calling you sorcerers and deceivers? But wait a little, and all men will address you as saviors, and benefactors of the world. Yea, for time discovers all things that are concealed, it will both refute their false accusation, and make manifest your virtue. For when the event shows you saviors, and benefactors, and examples of all virtue, men will not give heed to their words, but to the real state of the case; and they will appear false accusers, and liars, and slanderers, but ye brighter than the sun, length of time revealing and proclaiming you, and uttering a voice clearer than a trumpet, and making all men witnesses of your virtue. Let not therefore what is now said humble you, but let the hope of the good things to come raise you up. For it cannot be, that what relates to you should be hid.

2. Then, having rid them of all distress, and fears, and anxiety, and set them above men's reproaches, then, and not till then, He seasonably discourses to them also of boldness in their preaching.

For, "What I tell you," saith He, "in darkness, that speak ye in light; and what ye have heard in the ear, that preach yehyperlink upon the housetops."hyperlink

Yet it was not at all darkness, when He was saying these things; neither was He discoursing unto them in the ear; but He used a strong figure, thus speaking. That is, because He was conversing with them alone, and in a small corner of Palestine, therefore He said, "in darkness," and "in the ear;" contrasting the boldness of speech, which He was hereafter to confer on them, with the tone of the conversation which was then going on. "For not to one, or two, or three cities, but to the whole world ye shall preach," saith He, "traversing land and sea, the inhabited country, and the desert; to princes alike and tribes, to philosophers and orators, saying all with open face,hyperlink and with all boldness of speech." Therefore, He said, "On the house tops," and, "In the light," without any shrinking, and with all freedom.

And wherefore said He not only, "Preach on the housetops." and "Speak in the light," but added also, "What I tell you in darkness," and "What ye hear in the ear"? It was to raise up their spirits. As therefore when He said, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do;"hyperlink even so here too, to signify that He will do it all by them, and more than by Himself, He inserted this. For "the beginning indeed," saith He, "I have given, and the prelude; but the greater part it is my will to effect through you." Now this is the language of one not commanding only, but also declaring beforehand what was to be, and encouraging them with His sayings, and implying that they should prevail over all, and quietly also removinghyperlink again their distress at the evil report. For as this doctrine, after lying hid for a while, shall overspread all things, so also the evil suspicion of the Jews shall quickly perish.

Then, because He had lifted them up on high, He again gives warning of the perils also, adding wings to their mind, and exalting them high above all. For what saith He? "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul."hyperlink Seest thou how He set them far above all things, persuading them to despise not anxiety only and calumny, dangers and plots, but even that which is esteemed of all things most terrible, death? And not death alone, but by violence too? And He said not, "ye shall be slain," but with the dignity that became Him, He set this before them, saying, "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Himhyperlink which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell;" bringing round the argument, as He ever doth, to its opposite. For what? is your fear, saith He, of death? and are ye therefore slow to preach? Nay for this very cause I bid you preach, that ye fear death: for this shall deliver you from that which is really death. What though they shall slay you? yet over the better part they shall not prevail, though they strive ten thousand ways. Therefore He said not, "Who do not kill the soul," but, who "are not able to kill." For wish it as they may, they shall not prevail. Wherefore, if thou fear punishment, fear that, the more grievous by far.

Seest thou how again He doth not promise them deliverance from death, but permits them to die, granting them more than if He had not allowed them to suffer it? Because deliverance from death is not near so great as persuading men to despise death. You see now, He doth not push them into dangers, but sets them above dangers, and in a short sentence fixes in their mind the doctrines that relate to the immortality of the soul, and having in two or three words implanted a saving doctrine, He comforts them also by other considerations.

Thus, lest they should think, when killed and butchered, that as men forsaken they suffered this, He introduces again the argument of God's providence, saying on this wise: "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall into a snarehyperlink without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered."hyperlink "For what is viler than they?" saith He; "nevertheless, not even these shall be taken without God's knowledge." For He means not this, "by His operation they fall," for this were unworthy of God; but, "nothing that is done is hid from Him." If then He is not ignorant of anything that befalls us, and loves us more truly than a father, and so loves us, as to have numbered our very hairs; we ought not to be afraid. And this He said, not that God numbers our hairs, but that He might indicate His perfect knowledge, and His great providence over them. If therefore He both knows all the things that are done, and is able to save you, and willing; whatever ye may have to suffer, think not that as persons forsaken ye suffer. For neither is it His will to deliver you from the terrors, but to persuade you to despise them, since this is, more than anything, deliverance from the terrors.

3. "Fear ye not therefore; ye are of more value than many sparrows."hyperlink Seest thou that the fear had already prevailed over them? Yea, for He knew the secrets of the heart; therefore He added, "Fear them not therefore;" for even should they prevail, it will be over the inferior part, I mean, the body; which though they should not kill, nature will surely take with her and depart. So that not even this depends on them, but men have it from nature. And if thou fear this, much more shouldest thou fear what is greater, and dread "Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." And He saith not openly now, that it is Himself, "Who is able to destroy both soul and body," but where He before declared Himself to be judge, He made it manifest.

But now the contrary takes place: Him, namely, who is able to destroy the soul, that is, to punish it, we fear not, but those who slay the body, we shudder at. Yet surely while He together with the soul punishes the body also, they cannot even chasten the body, much less the soul: and though they chasten it ever so severely, yet in that way they rather make it more glorious.

Seest thou how He signifies the conflicts to be easy? Because in truth, death did exceedingly agitate their souls, inspiring terror for a time, for that it had not as yet been made easy to overcome, neither had they that were to despise it partaken of the grace of the Spirit.

Having, you see, cast out the fear and distress that was agitating their soul; by what follows He also encourages them again, casting out fear by fear; and not by fear only, but also by the hope of great prizes; and He threatens with much authority, in both ways urging them to speak boldly for the truth; and saith further,

"Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, himhyperlink will I also confess before my Father which is in Heaven. But whosoever shah deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in Heaven."hyperlink

Thus not from the good things only, but also from the opposites, doth He urge them; and He concludes with the dismal part.

And mark His exact care; He said not "me," but "in me," implying that not by a power of his own, but by the help of grace from above, the confessor makes his confession. But of him that denies, He said not, "in me," but "me;" for he having become destitute of the gift, his denial ensues.

"Why then is he blamed," one may say, "if being forsaken, he denies?" Because the being forsaken is the fault of the forsaken person himself.

But why is He not satisfied with the faith in the mind, but requires also the confession with the mouth? To train us up to boldness in speech, and a more abundant love and determination, and to raise us on high. Wherefore also He addresses Himself to all. Nor doth He at all apply this to the disciples only in person, for not them, but their disciples too, He is now rendering noble hearted. Because he that hath learnt this lesson will not only teach with boldness, but will likewise suffer all things easily, and with ready mind. This at any rate brought over many to the apostles, even their belief in this word. Because both in the punishment the infliction is heavier, and in the good things the recompense greater. I mean, whereas he that doeth right hath the advantage in time,hyperlink and the delay of the penalty is counted for gain by the sinner: He hath introduced an equivalent, or rather a much greater advantage, the increase of the recompenses. "Hast thou the advantage," saith He, "by having first confessed me here? I also will have the advantage of thee, by giving thee greater things, and unspeakably greater; for I will confess thee there." Seest thou that both the good things and the evil things are there to be dispensed? Why then hasten and hurry thyself? and why seek thy rewards here, thou who art "saved by hope?"hyperlink Wherefore, whether thou hast done anything good, and not received its recompense here, be not troubled (for with increase, in the time to come, the reward thereof awaits thee): or whether thou hast done any evil, and not paid the penalty, be not easy; for there will vengeance receive thee, if thou turn not and amend.

But if thou believe it not, from the things here form thy conjecture about things to come also. Why, if in the season of the conflicts they that confess are so glorious, imagine what they will be in the season of the crowns. If the enemies here applaud, how shall that tenderest of all fathers fail to admire and proclaim thee? Yea, then shall we have both our gifts for the good, and our punishments for the evil. So that such as deny shall suffer harm, both here and there; here living with an evil conscience, though they were never to die, they shall be surely dead; and there, undergoing the last penalty: but the other sort will profit both here and there, both here making a gain of their death, and in this way becoming more glorious than the living, and there enjoying those unspeakable blessings.

God then is in no wise prompt to punish only, but also to confer benefits; and for this last more than for the first. But why hath He put the reward once only, the punishment twice? He knows that this would be more apt to correct us. For this cause when He had said, "Fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell," He saith again, "Him will I also deny." So doth Paul also, continually making mention of hell.

Thus we see that He, having by all ways trained on His scholar (both by opening Heaven to him, and by setting before him that fearful judgment-seat, and by pointing to the amphitheatre of angels, and how in the midst of them the crowns shall be proclaimed, which thing would thenceforth prepare the way for the word of godliness to be very easily received); in what follows, lest they grow timid and the word be hindered, He bids them be prepared even for slaughter itself; to make them aware that such as continue in their error, will have to suffer (among other things) for plotting against them.

4. Let us therefore despise death, although the time be not come that requires it of us; for indeed it will translate us to a far better life. "But the body decays." Why, on this account most especially we ought to rejoice, because death decays, and mortality perishes, not the substance of the body. For neither, shouldest thou see a statue being cast, wouldest thou call the process destruction, but an improved formation. Just so do thou reason also concerning the body, and do not bewail. Then it were right to bewail, had it remained in its chastisement.

"But," saith one, "this ought to take place without the decay of our bodies; they should continue entire." And what would this have advantaged either the living or the departed? How long are ye lovers of the body? How long are ye rivetted to the earth and gaping after shadows? Why, what good would this have done? or rather, what harm would it not have done? For did our bodies not decay, in the first place the greatest of all evils, pride, would have continued with many. For if even while this is going on, and worms gushing out, many have earnestly sought to be gods; what would not have been the result did the body continue?

In the second place, it would not be believed to be of earth; for if, its end witnessing this, some yet doubt; what would they not have suspected if they did not see this? Thirdly, the bodies would have been excessively loved; and most men would have become more carnal and gross; and if even now some cleave to men's tombs and coffins, after that themselves have perished, what would they not have done, if they had even their image preserved? Fourthly, they would not have earnestly desired the things to come. Fifthly, they that say the world is eternal, would have been more confirmed, and would have denied God as Creator. Sixthly, they would not have known the excellence of the soul, and how great a thing is the presence of a soul in a body. Seventhly, many of them that lose their relations would have left their cities, and have dwelt in the tombs, and have become frantic, conversing continually with their own dead. For if even now men form to themselves images, since they cannot keep the body (for neither is it possible, but whether they will or no it glides and hurries from them), and are rivetted to the planks of wood; what monstrous thing would they not then have devised? To my thinking, the generality would have even built temples for such bodies, and they that are skilled in such sorceries would have persuaded evil spirits to speak through them; since at least even now, they that venture on the arts of necromancy attempt many things more out of the way than these. And how many idolatries would not have arisen from hence? when men even after the dust and ashes, are yet eager in those practices.

God therefore, to take away all our extravagances, and to teach us to stand off from all earthly things, destroys the bodies before our eyes. For even he that is enamored of bodies, and is greatly affected at the sight of a beautiful damsel, if he will not learn by discourse the deformity of that substance, shall know it by the very sight. Yea, many of the like age with her whom he loves, and oftentimes also fairer, being dead, after the first or second day, have emitted an ill savor, and foul matter, and decay with worms. Imagine then what sort of beauty thou lovest, and what sort of elegance has power so to disturb thee. But if bodies did not decay, this would not be well known: but as evil spirits run unto men's graves, so also many of our lovers, continually sitting by the tombs, would have received evil spirits in their soul, and would quickly have perished in this grievous madness. But as it is, together with all other things this also comforts the soul, that the form is not seen: it brings men to forgetfulness of their affliction. Indeed, if this were not so, there would be no tombs at all, but thou wouldest see our cities having corpses instead of statues, each man desiring to look upon his own dead. And much confusion would arise hence, and none of the ordinary sort would attend to his soul, nor would give room to the doctrine of immortality to enter in: and many other things too, more shocking than these, would have resulted, which even to speak of were unseemly. Wherefore it decays presently, that thou mightest see unveiled the beauty of the soul. For if she be the procurer of all that beauty and life, much more excellent must she herself be. And if she preserve that which is so deformed and unsightly, much more herself.

5. For it is not the body wherein the beauty lies, but the expression,hyperlink and the bloom which is shed over its substance by the soul. Now then, I bid thee love that which makes the body also to appear such as it is. And why speak I of death? Nay even in life itself, I would have thee mark how all is hers that is beautiful. For whether she be pleased, she showers roses over the cheeks; or whether she be pained, she takes that beauty, and involves it all in a dark robe. And if she be continually in mirth, the body improves in condition; if in grief, she renders the same thinner and weaker than a spider's web; if in wrath, she hath made it again abominable and foul; if she show the eye calm, great is the beauty that she bestows; if she express envy, very pale and livid is the hue she sheds over us; if love, abundant the gracefulness she at once confers. Thus in fact many women, not being beautiful in feature, have derived much grace from the soul; others again of brilliant bloom, by having an ungracious soul, have marred their beauty. Consider how a face that is pale grow