Church Fathers: Nicene Fathers Vol 10: 110.01.31 Homily XLI-XLII

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Church Fathers: Nicene Fathers Vol 10: 110.01.31 Homily XLI-XLII



TOPIC: Nicene Fathers Vol 10 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 110.01.31 Homily XLI-XLII

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Homily XLI.

Matthew Chapter 12, Verse 25 And Matthew Chapter 12, Verse 26

"And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself, shall not stand: and if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?"

Even before now they had accused Him of this, that "by Beelzebub He casteth out the devils."hyperlink But whereas then He did not rebuke them, allowing them both to know His power by His more numerous miracles, and by His teaching to learn His majesty: now, since they continued saying the same, He proceeds also to rebuke them, showing His Godhead by this first, that He made their secrets public; and secondly, by the very act of casting out the devils with ease.

And indeed the accusation too was very shameless. Because, as I have said, envy seeks not what to say, but only that it may say somewhat. Yet for all that, not even so did Christ despise them, but defends Himself with the forbearance proper to Him, teaching us to be meek to our enemies; and though they say such things, as we are neither conscious of, nor have they any the least probability, not to be disturbed, nor troubled, but with all long suffering to render them an account. This then He did most especially on that very occasion, affording the strongest proof, that the things were false that were said by them. For neither was it a demoniac's part to exhibit so much meekness; it was not a demoniac's part to know men's secrets.

For, in truth, both because of the exceeding impudence of such a suspicion, and because of the fear of the multitude, they durst not publicly make these charges, but were turning them in their mind. But He, to show them that He knew all that likewise, doth not set down the accusation, nor doth He expose their wickedness; but the refutation He adds, leaving it to the conscience of them that bad said it to convict them. For on one thing only was He bent, to do good to them that were sinning, not to expose them.

Yet surely, if He had been minded to extend his speech in length, and to make them ridiculous, and withal to have exacted of them also the most extreme penalty, there was nothing to hinder Him. Nevertheless He put aside all these things, and looked to one object only, not to render them more contentious, but more candid, and so to dispose them better toward amendment.

How then doth He plead with them? Not by allegation out of the Scriptures (for they would not so much as attend, but were sure rather to distort their meaning), but by the events of ordinary life. For "every kingdom," saith He, "divided against itself shall not stand; and a city and a house, if it be divided, is soon dissolved."hyperlink

For the wars from without are not so ruinous as the civil ones. Yea, and this is the case in bodies too; it is the case even in all things; but for this time He takes His illustration from those that are more publicly known.

And yet, what is there more powerful on earth than a kingdom? Nothing, but nevertheless it perishes if in dissension. And if in that case one throw the blame on the great burden of the affairs thereof, as breaking down by its own weight; what wouldest thou say of a city? and what of a house? Thus, Whether it be a small thing, or a great, if at dissension with itself, it perishes. If then I, having a devil, do by him cast out the devils, there is dissension and fighting among devils, and they take their stand one against another. But if they stand one against another, their strength is wasted and destroyed. "For if Satan cast out Satan" (and He said not "the devils," implying their great unanimity one with another), "he is then divided against himself;" so He speaks. But if he be divided, he is become weaker, and is ruined; and if he be ruined, how can he cast out another?

Seest thou how great the absurdity of the accusation, how great the folly, the inconsistency? Since it is not for the same persons to say first, that He stands, and casts out devils, and then to say, that He stands by that, which it was likely would be the cause of His undoing.

2. This then being the first refutation, the next after it is that which relates to the disciples. For not always in one way only, but also in a second and third, He solves their objections, being minded most abundantly to silence their shamelessness. Which sort of thing He did also with respect to the Sabbath, bringing forward David, the priests, the testimony that saith, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice," the cause of the Sabbath, for which it was ordained; "for the Sabbath," saith He," was for man."hyperlink This then He doth in the present case also: where after the first He proceeds to a second refutation, plainer than the former.

"For if I," saith He, "by Belezebub cast out devils, by whom do your sins cast them out?"hyperlink

See here too His gentleness. For He said not, "my disciples," nor, "the apostles," but "your sons;" to the end that if indeed they were minded to return to the same noblenesshyperlink with them, they might derive hence a powerful spring that way; but if they were uncandid, and continued in the same course, they might not thenceforth be able to allege any plea, though ever so shameless.

But what He saith is like this, "By whom do the apostles cast them out?" For in fact they were doing so already, because they had received authority from Him, and these men brought no charge against them; their quarrel not being with the acts, but with the person only. As then it was His will to show that their. sayings arose only from their envy against Him, He brings forward the apostles; thus: If I so cast them out, much more those, who have received their authority from me. Nevertheless, no such thing have ye said to them. How then bring ye these charges against me, the author of their doings, while acquitting them of the accusations? This, however, will not free you from your punishment, rather it will condemn you the more. Therefore also He added, "They shall be your judges." For when persons from among you, and having been practised in these things, both believe me and obey, it is most clear that they will also condemn those who are against me both in deed and word.

"But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God is come unto you."hyperlink

What means "the Kingdom"? "My coming." See how again He conciliates and soothes them, and draws them to the knowledge of Himself, and signifies that they are warring with their own good, and contentious against their own salvation. "For whereas ye ought to rejoice," saith He, "and leap for joy, that One is come bestowing those great and unutterable blessings, hymned of old by the prophets, and that the time of your prosperity is at hand; ye do the contrary; so far from receiving the blessings, you do even speak ill of them, and frame accusations that have no real being."

Now Matthew indeed saith, "If I by the Spirit of God cast out"; but Luke, "If I by the finger of God cast out the devils:"hyperlink implying that to cast out devils is a work of the greatest power, and not of any ordinary grace. And He means indeed that from these things they should infer and say, If this be so, then the Son of God is come. This, however, He saith not, but in a reserved way, and so as not to be galling to them, He darkly intimates it by saying, "Then the kingdom of God is Come unto you."

Seest thou exceeding wisdom? By the very things which they were blaming, He showed His presence shining forth.

Then, to conciliate them, He said not simply, "The Kingdom is come," but, "unto you,"hyperlink as though He had said, To you the good things are come; wherefore then feel displeased at your proper blessings? why war against your own salvation? This is that time, which the prophets long ago foretold: this, the sign of that advent which was celebrated by them, even these things being wrought by divine power. For the fact indeed, that they are wrought, yourselves know; but that they are wrought by divine power, the deeds themselves cry out. Yea, and it is impossible that Satan should be stronger now; rather he must of absolute necessity be weak. But it cannot be, that he who is weak should, as though he were strong, cast out the strong devil.

Now thus speaking He signified the power of charity, and the weakness of separation and contentiousness. Wherefore He was Himself also continually charging His disciples, on every occasion, concerning charity, and teaching them that the devil, to subvert it, leaves nothing undone.

3. Having then uttered His second refutation, He adds also a third, thus saying:

"How can one enter into the strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man, and then spoil his goods?"hyperlink

For that Satan cannot possibly cast out Satan is evident from what hath been said; but that neither in any other way is it possible to cast him out, except one first get the better of him, this too is acknowledged by all.

What then is established hereby? The former statement, with more abundant evidence. "Why, I am so far," saith He, "from using the devil as an ally, that I make war upon him, and bind him; and an infallible proof thereof is the plundering of his goods." See how the contrary is proved, of what they were attempting to establish. For whereas they wished to show, that not by His own power doth He cast out devils, He shows that not only the devils, but even their very chief leader is held by Him bound with all authority; and that over him, before them, did He prevail by His own power. And this is evident from the things that are done. For if he be the prince, and they subjects, how, except he were worsted, and made to bow down, could they have been spoiled?

And here His saying seems to me to be a prophecy likewise. For not only, I suppose, are the evil spirits the goods of the devil, but also the men that are doing his works. Therefore to declare that He doth not only cast out devils, but also will drive away all error from the world, and will put down his sorceries, and make all his arts useless, He said these things.

And He said not, He will take away, but "He will spoil," to express what is done with authority. But He calls him "strong," not because he is so by nature, God forbid, but declaring his former tyranny, which arose from our remissness.

4. "He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad."hyperlink

Behold also a fourth refutation. For what is my desire? saith He. To bring men to God, to teach virtue, to proclaim the kingdom. What, that of the devil, and the evil spirits? The contrary to these. How then should he that gathers not with me, nor is at all with me, be likely to co-operate with me? And why do I say co-operate? Nay, on the contrary, his desire is rather to scatter abroad my goods. He then who is so far from cooperating that he even scatters abroad, how should he have exhited such unanimity with me, as with me to cast out the devils?

Now it is a natural surmise that He said this not of the devil only, but Himself also of Himself, as being for His part against the devil, and scattering abroad his goods. And how, one may say, is he that is not with me against me? By this very fact, of his not gathering. But if this be true, much more he that is against him. For if he that doth not co-operate is an enemy, much more he that wages war.

But all these things He saith, to indicate His enmity against the devil, how great and unspeakable it is. For tell me, if thou must go to war with any one, he that is not willing to fight on thy side, by this very fact is he not against thee? And if elsewhere He saith, "He that is not against you is for you,"hyperlink it is not contrary to this. For here He signified one actually against them, but there He points to one who in part is on their side: "For they cast out devils," it is said "in Thy name."hyperlink

But to me He seems here to be hinting also at the Jews, setting them on the devil's side. For they too were against Him, and were scattering what He gathered. As to the fact that He was hinting at them also, He declared it by speaking thus,

"Therefore I say unto you, that all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men."hyperlink

5. Thus having defended Himself, and refuted their objection, and proved the vanity of their shameless dealings, He proceeds to alarm them. For this too is no small part of advice and correction, not only to plead and persuade, but to threaten also; which He doth in many passages, when making laws and giving counsel.

And though the saying seem to have much obscurity, yet if we attend, its solution will prove easy.

First then it were well to listen to the very words: "All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy of the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto them. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world toCome. "hyperlink

What now is it that He affirms? Many things have ye spoken against me; that I am a deceiver, an adversary of God. These things I forgive you on your repentance, and exact no peualty of you; but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven, no, not to those who repent. And how can this be right? For even this was forgiven upon repentance. Many at least of those who said these words believed afterward, and all was forgiven them. What is it then that He saith? That this sin is above all things unpardonable. Why so? Because Himself indeed they knew not, who He might be, but of the Spirit they received ample experience. For the prophets also by the Spirit said whatever they said; and indeed all in the Old Testament had a very high notion of Him.

What He saith, then, is this: Be it so: ye are offended at me, because of the flesh with which I am encompassed: can ye say of the Spirit also, We know it not? And therefore is your blasphemy unpardonable, and both here and hereafter shall ye suffer punishment. For many indeed have been punished here only (as he who had committed fornication,hyperlink as they who partook unworthily of the mysteries,hyperlink amongst the Corinthians); but ye, both here and hereafter.

Now as to your blasphemies against me, before the cross, I forgive them: and the daring crime too of the cross itself; neither shall ye be condemned for your unbelief alone. (For neither had they, that believed before the cross, perfect faith. And on many occasions He even charges them to make Him known to no man before the Passion; and on the cross He said that this sin was forgiven them.) But as to your words touching the Spirit, they wilt have no excuse. For in proof that He is speaking of what was said of Him before the crucifixion, He added, "Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Ghost," there is no more forgiveness. Wherefore? Because this is known to you; and the truths are notorious which you harden yourselves against. For though ye say that ye know not me; yet of this surely ye are not ignorant, that to cast out devils, and to do cures, is a work of the Holy Ghost. It is not then I only whom ye are insulting, but the Holy Ghost also. Wherefore your punishment can be averted by no prayers, neither here nor there.

For so of men, some are punished both here, and there, some here only, some there only, others neither here nor there. Here and there, as these very men (for both here did they pay a penalty, when they suffered those incurable ills at the taking of their city, and there shall they undergo a very grievous one), as the inhabitants of Sodom; as many others. There only, as the rich man who endured the flames,hyperlink and had not at his command so much as a drop of water. Here, as he that had committed fornication amongst the Corinthians. Neither here nor there, as the apostles, as the prophets, as the blessed Job; for their sufferings were not surely in the way of punishment, but as contests and wrestlings.

Let us labor, therefore, to be of the same part with these: or if not with these, at least with them that wash away their sins here. For fearful indeed is that other judgment, and inexorable the vengeance, and incurable the punishment.

6. But if thou desire not to be punished even here, pass judgment on thyself, exact thine own penalty. Listen to Paul, when he saith, "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged."hyperlink If thou do this, proceeding in order thou shall even arrive at a crown.

But how are we to exact our own penalty? one may ask.

Lament, groan bitterly, humble, afflict thyself, call to remembrance thy sins in their particulars. This thing is no small torture to a man's soul. If any man hath been in a state of contrition, he knows that the soul is punished by this more than anything. If any hath been living in remembrance of sins, he knows the anguish thence arising. Therefore doth God appoint righteousness as a reward for such repentance, saying, "Be thou first to tell thy sins, that thou mayest be justified."hyperlink For it is not, it is not indeed, a small step towards amendment, to lay together all our sins, and to be continually revolving and reckoning them up with their particulars. For he that is doing this will be so heart-broken, as not to think himself worthy so much as to live; and he that thinks thus, will be tenderer than any wax. For tell me not of acts of fornication only, nor of adulteries, nor of these things that are manifest, and acknowledged amongst all men: but lay together also thy secret crafts, and thy false accusations, and thine evil speakings, and thy vain gloryings, and thine envy, and all such things. For neither will these bring a trifling punishment. For the reviler too shall fall into hell; and the drunkard hath no part in the kingdom; and he that lovest not his neighbor so offends God, as to find no help even in his own martyrdom; and he that neglects his own hath denied the faith, and he who overlooks the poor is sent into the fire.

Account not then these things to be little, but put all together, and write them as in a book. For if thou write them down, God blots them out; even as on the other hand, if thou omit writing them, God both inscribes them, and exacts their penalty. It were then far better for them to be written by us, and blotted out above, than on the contrary, when we have forgotten them, for God to bring them before our eyes in that day.

Therefore that this may not be so, let us reckon up all with strictness, and we shall find ourselves answerable for much. For who is clear from covetousness? Nay, tell me not of the quantity, but since even in a small amount we shall pay the same penalty, consider this and repent. Who is rid of all insolence? Yet this casts into hell. Who hath not secretly spoken evil of his neighbor? Yet this deprives one of the Kingdom.hyperlink Who hath not been self-willed? Yet this man is more unclean than all. Who hath not looked with unchaste eyes? Yet this is a complete adulterer. Who hath not been "angry with his brother without a cause"? Yet such an one is "in danger of the council." Who hath not sworn? Yet this thing is of the evil one. Who hath not forsworn himself? but this man is something more than of the evil one. Who hath not served mammon? but this man is fallen away from the genuine service of Christ.

I have also other things greater than these to mention: but even these are enough, and able, if a man be not made of stone, nor utterly past feeling, to bring him to compunction. For if each one of them casts into hell, what will they not bring to pass when all are met together?

How then can one be saved? it may be asked. By application of the countervailing remedies: alms, prayers, compunction, repentance, humility, a contrite heart, contempt of possessions. For God hath marked out for us innumerable ways of salvation, if we be willing to attend. Let us then attend, and let us every way cleanse out our wounds, showing mercy, remitting our anger against them that have displeased us, giving thanks for all things to God, fasting according to our power, praying sincerely, "making unto ourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness."hyperlink For so shall we be able to obtain pardon for our offenses, and to win the promised good things; whereof may we all be counted worthy, by the grace and love toward man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.



Footnotes



1 Matt. ix. 34. ["Demons," and so throughout.-R.]

2 [Comp verse 25.]

3 See Matt. xii. 3, 5, 7, and Mark ii. 27.

4 Matt. xii. 27.

5 eu0ge/neian, "hereditary good feeling." [Comp. Acts xvii. 11.]

6 Matt. xii. 28. [R. V., "upon you." ]

7 Luke xi. 20.

8 ["upon you," see note *.

9 Matt. xii. 29. [The R. V and A. V. follow a different reading in the last clause.-R.]

10 Matt. xii. 30.

11 Mark ix. 40; Luke ix. 50. [In Mark "us" is better supported.-R.]

12 Mark ix. 38 ; Luke ix. 49.

13 Matt. xii. 31. [R. V. "every sin," etc.]

14 Matt. xii. 31, 32. [The Greek text is almost identical with that followed in the R. V.-R.]

15 See 1 Cor. v. and vi.

16 See 1 Cor. v. and vi.

17 a0pothganizo/menoj, "was broiling."

18 1 Cor. xi. 31. [The Greek text of 1 Cor. xi 31 is slightly modified here.-R.]

19 Isa. xliii. 26 [LXX.]

20 [This clause is wanting in three Mss.-R.]

21 Luke xvi. 9. [R. V., "by means of," "Greek, out of."



Homily XLII.

Matthew, Chapter 12, Verse 33

"Either make the tree good, and his fruit good, or else make the tree corrupt, and hisfruit corrupt; for the tree is known by his fruit."

Again in another way He shames them, and is not content with His former refutations. But this He doth, not freeing Himself from accusations, (for what went before was quite enough), but as wishing to amend them.

Now His meaning is like this: none of you hath either found fault about the persons healed, as not being healed; nor hath said, that it is an evil thing to deliver one from a devil. For though they had been ever so shameless, they could not have said this.

Since therefore they brought no charge against the works, but were defaming the Doer of them, He signifies that this accusation is against both the common modes of reasoning, and the congruity of the circumstances. A thing of aggravated shamelessness, not only to interpret maliciously, but also to make up such charges as are contrary to men's common notions.

And see how free He is from contentiousness. For He said not, "Make the tree good, forasmuch as the fruit also is good;" but, most entirely stopping their mouths, and exhibiting His own considerateness, and their insolence, He saith, Even if ye are minded to find fault with my works, I forbid it not at all, only bring not inconsistent and contradictory charges. For thus were they sure to be most clearly detected, persisting against what was too palpable. Wherefore to no purpose is your maliciousness, saith He, and your self-contradictory statements. Because in truth the distinction of the tree is shown by the fruit, not the fruit by the tree; but ye do the contrary. For what if the tree be the origin of the fruit; yet it is the fruit that makes the tree to be known. And it were consistent, either in blaming us to find fault with our works too, or praising these, to set us who do them free from these charges. But now ye do the contrary; for having no fault to find with the works, which is the fruit, ye pass the opposite judgment upon the tree, calling me a demoniac; which is utter insanity.

Yea, and what He had said before,hyperlink this He establishes now also; that a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, nor again can the converse be. So that their charges were against all consistency and nature.

Then since He is arguing not for Himself, but for the Spirit, He hath dealt out His reproof even as a torrent, saying, "O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things?"hyperlink

Now this is at once to accuse, and to give demonstration of His own sayings from their case. For behold, saith He, ye being evil trees, cannot bring forth good fruit. I do not then marvel at your talking thus: for ye were both ill nurtured, being of wicked ancestors, and ye have acquired a bad mind.

And see how carefully, and without any hold for exception, He hath expressed His accusations: in that He said not, "How can ye speak good things, being a generation of vipers? (for this latter is nothing to the former): but, "How can ye, being evil, speak good things?"

But He called them "broods of vipers," because they prided themselves on their forefathers. To signify therefore that they had no advantage thereby, He both casts them out from their relationship to Abraham, and assigns them forefathers of kindred disposition, having stripped them of that ground of illustriousness.

"For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." Here again He indicates His Godhead, which knew their secrets: and that not for words only, but also for wicked thoughts, they shall suffer punishment; and that He knows it all, as God. And He saith, that it is possible even for men to know these things; for this is a natural consequence, that when wickedness is overflowing within, its words should be poured forth through the lips. So that when thou hearest a man speak wicked words, do not suppose only so much wickedness to be in him as the words display, but conjecture the fountain to be much more abundant; for that which is spoken outwardly, is the superabundance of that which is within.

See how vehemently He reprehends them. For if what they had said is so evil, and is of the very mind of the devil, consider the root and well-spring of their words, how far that must reach. And this is naturally the case; for while the tongue through shame often pours not forth all its wickedness at once, the heart having no human witness, fearlessly gives birth to whatever evils it will; for of God it hath not much regard.hyperlink Since then men's sayings come to examination: and are set before all, but the heart is concealed; therefore the evils of the former grow less, while those of the latter increase. But when that within is multiplied, all that hath been awhile hidden comes forth with a violent gushing. And as persons vomiting strive at first to keep down the humors that force their way out, but, when they are overcome, cast forth much abomination; so do they that devise evil things, and speak ill of their neighbors.

"A good man out of his good treasure," saith He, "bringeth forth good things, and an evil man out of his evil treasure bringeth forth evil things."hyperlink

For think not by any means, saith He, that it is so in respect of wickedness only, for in goodness also the same occurs: for there too the virtue within is more than the words without. By which He signified, that both they were to be accounted more wicked than their words indicated, and Himself more perfectly good than His sayings declared. And He calls it "a treasure," indicating its abundance.

Then again He fences them in with great terror. For think not at all, saith He, that the thing stops at this, that is, at the condemnation of the multitude; nay, for all that do wickedly in such things shall suffer the utmost punishment. And He said not, "ye," partly in order to instruct our whole race, partly to make His saying the less burdensome."But I say unto you," this is His word, "that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment."hyperlink

And that is idle, which is not according to the fact, which is false, which hath in it unjust accusation; and some say, that which is vain also, for instance, provoking inordinate laughter, or what is filthy, and immodest, and coarse.

"For by thy words thou shall be justified, and by thy words thou shall be condemned."hyperlink

Seest thou how far the tribunal is from invidiousness? how favorable the account required? For not upon what another hath said of thee, but from what thou hast thyself spoken, will the Judge give His sentence; which is of all things the very fairest: since surely with thee it rests, either to speak, or not to speak.

2. Wherefore not those that are slandered, but the slanderers, have need to be anxious and to tremble. For the former are not constrained to answer for themselves touching the evil things which are said of them, but the latter will, for the evil they have spoken; and over these impends the whole danger. So that the persons censured should be without anxiety, not being to give account of the evil that others have said; but the censurers have cause to be in anxiety, and to tremble, as being themselves to be dragged before the judgment-seat in that behalf. For this is indeed a diabolical snare, and a sin having in it no pleasure, but harm only. Yea, and such an one is laying up an evil treasure in his soul. And if he that hath an evil humor in him doth himself first reap the fruits of the malady, much more he that is treasuring up in himself what is more bitter than any bile, I mean, wickedness, will suffer the utmost evils, gathering unto himself a grievous disease. And it is evident from the things that He vomits out. For if they pain others so much, far more the soul that gives them birth.

Thus the plotter destroys himself first; just as he that treadshyperlink on fire burns up himself, and he that smites adamant spites himself, and he that kicks against the pricks draws blood from himself. For somewhat of this kind is he that knows how to suffer wrong, and to bear it manfully; he is adamant, and the pricks, and fire; but he that hath used himself to do wrong is feebler than any clay.

Not therefore to suffer wrong is evil, but to do it, and not to know how to bear being wronged. For instance, how great wrongs did David endure! How great wrongshyperlink did Saul commit! Which then was the stronger and happier? which the more wretched and miserable? was it not he that did wrong? And mark it. Saul had promised, if David should slay the Philistine, to take him for his son-in law, and to give him his daughter with great favor. He slew the Philistine; the other broke his engagements, and so far from bestowing her, did even go about to slay him. Which then became the more glorious? Was not the one choking with despair and the evil demon, while the other shone brighter than the sun with his trophies, and his loyalty to God? Again, before the choir of the women, was not me one suffocated with envy, while the other enduring all in silence, won all men, and bound them unto himself? And when he had even gotten him into his hands, and spared him, which again was happy? and which wretched? which was the weaker? which the more powerful? Was it not this man, who did not avenge himself even justly? And very naturally. For the one had armed soldiers, but the other, righteousness, that is more mighty than ten thousand armies, for his ally and helper. And for this reason, though unjustly conspired against, he endured not to slay him even justly. For he knew by what had taken place before, that not to do evil, but to suffer evil, this is what makes men more powerful. So it is with bodies also, so also with trees.

And what did Jacob? Was he not injured by Laban, and suffered evil? Which then was the stronger? he that had gotten the other into his hands, and durst not touch him, but was afraid and trembling;hyperlink or he whom we see without arms and soldiers proving more terrible to him than innumerable kings?

But that I may give you another demonstration of what I have said, greater than this, let us again in the instance of David himself try the reasoning on the opposite side. For this man who being injured was so strong, afterwards upon committing an injury became on the contrary the weaker party. At least, when he had wronged Uriah, his position was changed again, and the weakness passed to the wrong doer, and the might to the injured; for he being dead laid waste the other's house. And the one being a king, and alive, could do nothing, but the other, being but a soldier, and slain, turned upside down all that pertained to his adversary.

Would ye that in another way also I should make what I say plainer? Let us look into their case, who avenge themselves even justly. For as to the wrong doers, that they are the most worthless of all men, warring against their own soul; this is surely plain to every one.

But who avenged himself justly, yet kindled innumerable ills, and pierced himself through with many calamities and sorrows? The captain of David's host. For he both stirred up a grievous war, and suffered unnumbered evils; not one whereof would have happened, had he but known how to command himself.hyperlink

Let us flee therefore from this sin, and neither in words nor deeds do our neighbors wrong. For He said not, If thou slander, and summon a court of justice, but simply, If thou speak evil, though within thyself, even so shall thou suffer the utmost punishment. Though it be true which thou hast said, though thou have spoken upon conviction, even so shall vengeance come upon thee. For not according to what the other hath done, but according to what thou hast spoken, will God pass sentence; "for by thy words thou shall be condemned," saith He. Art thou not told that the Pharisee also spake the truth, and affirmed what was manifest to all men, without discovering what was hidden? Nevertheless, he paid the utmost penalty.

But if we ought not to accuse men of things which are acknowledged, much less of those which are disputed; nay, for the offender hath a judge. Do not now, I warn thee, seize upon the privilege of the Only Begotten. For Him is the throne of judgment reserved.

3. Wouldest thou however be a judge? Thou hast a court of judgment which hath great profit, and bears no blame. Make consideration, as judge, to sit down upon thy conscience, and bring before it all thy transgressions, search out the sins of thy soul, and exact with strictness the account thereof, and say, "wherefore didst thou dare to do this and that?" And if she shun these, and be searching into other men's matters, say to her, "Not about these am I judging thee, not for these art thou come here to plead. For what, if such a one be a wicked man? Thou, why didst thou commit this and that offense? Answer for thyself, not to accuse; look to thine own matters, do not those of others." And be thou continually urging her to this anxious trial. Then, if she have nothing to say, but shrink back, wear her out with the scourge, like some restless and unchaste handmaid. And this tribunal do thou cause to sit every day, and picture the river of fire, the venomous worm, the rest of the torments.

And permit her not to be with the devil any more, nor bear with her shameless sayings, "he comes to me, he plots against me, he tempts me;" but tell her, "If thou weft not willing, all that would be to no purpose." And if she say again, "I am entangled with a body, I am clothed with flesh, I dwell in the world, I abide on earth;" tell her, "All these are excuses and pretexts. For such an one too was encompassed with flesh, and such another dwelling in the world, and abiding on earth, is approved; and thou thyself too, when thou doest well, doest it encompassed with flesh." And if she be pained at hearing this, take not off thine hand; for she will not die, if thou smite her, but thou wilt save her from death. And if she say again, "Such an one provoked me," tell her, "But it is in thy power not to be provoked; often at least thou hast restrained thine anger." And if she say, "The beauty of such a woman moved me;" tell her, "Yet wast thou able to have mastered thyself." Bring forward those that have got the better, bring forward the first woman, who said, "The serpent beguiled me,hyperlink and yet was not acquitted of the blame.

And when thou art searching out these things, let no man be present, let no man disturb thee; but as the judges sit under curtains to judge, so do thou too, instead of curtains, seek a time and place of quiet. And when after thy supper thou art risen up, and art about to lie down, then hold this thy judgment; this is the time convenient for thee, and the place, thy bed, and thy chamber. This the prophet likewise commanded, saying, "For the things which ye say in your hearts, be ye moved to compunction upon your beds."hyperlink And for small offenses require great satisfaction, that unto the great thou mayest never even approach. If thou do this every day, thou wilt with confidence stand at that fearful judgment-seat.

In this way Paul became clean; therefore also he said, "For if we judged ourselves, we should not be judged."hyperlink Thus did Job cleanse his sons.hyperlink For he that offered sacrifices for secret sins, much more did he require an account of such as were manifest.

4. But we do not so, but altogether the contrary. For as soon as we are laid down to rest, we rather think over all our worldly maters; and some introduce unclean thoughts, some usuries, and contracts, and temporal cares.

And if we have a daughter, a virgin, we watch her strictly; but that which is more precious to us than a daughter, our soul, her we suffer to play the harlot and defile herself, introducing to her innumerable wicked thoughts. And whether it be the love of covetousness, or that of luxury, or that of fair persons, or that of wrath, or be it what you will else that is minded to come in, we throw open the doors, and attract and invite it, and help it to defile our soul at its leisure. And what can be more barbarous than this, to overlook our soul that is more precious than all, abused by so many adulterers, and so long companying with them, even until they are sated? which will never be. So it is, therefore, that when sleep overtakes us, then only do they depart from her; or rather not even then, for our dreams and imaginations furnish her with the same images. Whence also, when day is come, the soul stored with such images often falls away to the actual performance of those fancies.

And thou, while into the apple of thine eye thou sufferest not so much as a grain of dust to enter, dost thou pass unnoticed thy soul, gathering to itself a heap of so great evils? When shall we then be able to clear out this filth, which we are daily laying up within us? when to cut up the thorns? when to sow the seed? Knowest thou not that henceforth the time of harvest is at hand? But we have not yet so much as ploughed our fields. If then the husbandman should come and find fault, what shall we say? and what answer shall we make? That no man gave us the seed? Nay, this is sown daily. That no man, then, hath cut up the thorns? Nay, every day we are sharpening the sickle. But do the necessary engagements of life distract thee? And why hast thou not crucified thyself to the world? For if he that repays that only, which is given him, is wicked, because he did not double it; he that hath wasted even this, what will be said to him? If that person was bound, and cast out where is gnashing of teeth, what shall we have to suffer, who, when numberless motives are drawing us toward virtue, shrink back and are unwilling?

For what is there, that hath not enough in it to persuade thee? Seest thou not the vileness of the world, the uncertainty of life, the toil, the sweat, for things present? What? is it the case that virtue must be toiled for, but may vice be had without toil? If then both in the one and in the other there is toil, why didst thou not choose this, which hath so great profit?

Or rather, there are some parts of virtue, which are free even from toil. For what kind of toil is it, not to calumniate, not to lie, not to swear, to lay aside our anger against our neighbor? Nay, on the contrary, to do these things is toilsome, and brings much anxiety.

What plea then shall we have, what excuse, not doing right even in these matters? For hereby it is plain, that out of remissness and sloth the more toilsome duties also altogether escape us.

All these things let us consider; let us flee vice, let us choose virtue, that we may attain both unto the good things that are present, and unto those that are to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.



Footnotes



1 Matt. vii. 16-18.

2 Matt. xii. 34.

3 [ou0 polu\j su0th|, "it takes not much account."-R.]

4 Matt. xii, 35. [R. V, "The good man

the evil man," etc.]

5 Matt. xii. 36.

6 Matt. xii. 37.

7 matw=n. Bened. from Mss. a0na/ptwn, "he that kindles:" which seems to agree with the tenor of the sentence better. [There are other various readings: a#ptwn, a!ptwn. All can be more readily accounted for, if patw=n is accepted as the original form.-R.]

8 [Oxford Version : "things;" probably a misprint, the Greek being the same as before..-R.]

9 Gen. xxxi. 29.

10 See 2 Samuel iii. 23-30, and xx. 9, 10: 1 Kings ii. 5, 6.

11 Gen. iii. 13.

12 Ps. iv. 4, LXX.

13 1 Cor. xi. 31.

14 Job. i. 5.