HomilyOn the passage (Matt. xxvi. 19), "Father if it be possible let this cup pass from me," etc., and against Marcionists and Manichæans. Translated by Rev. W. R. W. Stephens, M.A., Prebendary of Chichester Cathedral, and Rector of Woolbeding, Sussex.
Published in 1886 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.
Against Marcionists and Manichæans.On the passage "Father if it be possible let this cup pass from me, nevertheless not as I will but as thou wilt:" and against Marcionists and Manichæans: also, that we ought not to rush into danger, but to prefer the will of God before every other will.
1. I lately inflicted a severe stroke upon those who are grasping and wish to overreach others;  I did this not in order to wound them but in order to correct them; not because I hate the men, but because I detest their wickedness. For so the physician also lances the abscess, not as making an attack upon the suffering body, but as a means of contending with the disorder and the wound. Well to-day let us grant them a little respite, that they may recover from their distress, and not recoil from the remedy by being perpetually afflicted. Physicians also act thus; after the use of the knife they apply plasters and drugs, and let a few days pass whilst they devise things to allay the pain. Following their example let me today, devising means for them to derive benefit from my discourse, start a question concerning doctrine, directing my speech to the words which have been read. For I imagine that many feel perplexed as to the reason why these words were uttered by Christ: and it is probable also that any heretics who are present may pounce upon the words, and thereby upset many of the more simple-minded brethren.
In order then to build a wall against their attack and to relieve those who are in perplexity from bewilderment and confusion, let us take in hand the words which have been cited, and dwell upon the passage, and dive into the depths of its meanings. For reading does not suffice unless knowledge also be added to it. Even as the eunuch of Candace read, but until one came who instructed him in the meaning of what he was reading he derived no great benefit from it. In order therefore that you may not be in the same condition attend to what is said, exert your understanding, let me have your mind disengaged from other thoughts, let your eye be quick-sighted, your intention earnest: let your soul be set free from worldly cares, that we may not sow our words upon the thorns, or upon the rock, or by the way side, but that we may till a deep and rich field, and so reap an abundant harvest. For if you thus attend to what is said you will render my labour lighter and facilitate the discovery of that which you are seeking.
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Hear at least how variously all announce the cross. First of all the patriarch Jacob: for directing his discourse to Him he says "Out of a tender shoot didst thou spring up:"  by the word shoot signifying the Virgin and the undefiled nature of Mary. Then indicating the cross he said "Thou didst lie down and slumber as a lion, and as a lion's whelp; who shall raise him up?"  Here he called death a slumbering and a sleep, and with death he combined the resurrection when he said "who shall raise him up?" No one indeed save he himself--wherefore also Christ said "I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again,"  and again "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up."  And what is meant by the words "thou didst lie down and slumber as a lion?" For as the lion is terrible not only when he is awake but even when he is sleeping, so Christ also not only before the cross but also on the cross itself and in the very moment of death was terrible, and wrought at that time great miracles, turning back the light of the sun, cleaving the rocks, shaking the earth, rending the veil, alarming the wife of Pilate, convicting Judas of sin, for then he said "I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood;"  and the wife of Pilate declared "Have nothing to do with that just man, for I have suffered many things in a dream because of Him."  The darkness took possession of the earth, and night appeared at midday, then death was brought to nought, and his tyranny was destroyed: many bodies at least of the saints which slept arose. These things the patriarch declaring beforehand, and demonstrating that, even when crucified, Christ would be terrible, said "thou didst lie down and slumber as a lion." He did not say thou shalt slumber but thou didst slumber, because it would certainly come to pass. For it is the custom of the prophets in many places to predict things to come as if they were already past. For just as it is impossible that things which have happened should not have happened, so is it impossible that this should not happen, although it be future. On this account they predict things to come under the semblance of past time, indicating by this means the impossibility of their failure, the certainty of their coming to pass. So also spake David, signifying the cross; "They pierced my hands and my feet."  He did not say they "shall pierce" but "they pierced" "they counted all my bones."  And not only does he say this, but he also describes the things which were done by the soldiers. "They parted my garments among themselves, and upon my vesture did they cast lots."  And not only this but he also relates they gave Him gall to eat, and vinegar to drink. For he says "they gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink."  And again another one says that they smote him with a spear, for "they shall look on Him whom they pierced."  Esaias again in another fashion predicting the cross said "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before his shearer is dumb, so openeth he not his mouth." "In his humiliation his judgment was taken away." 
2. Now observe I pray how each one of these writers speaks as if concerning things already past, signifying by the use of this tense the absolute inevitable certainty of the event. So also David, describing this tribunal, said, "Why did the heathen rage and the people imagine vain things? The Kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against his Christ."  And not only does he mention the trial, and the cross, and the incidents on the cross, but also him who betrayed him, declaring that he was his familiar companion and guest. "For," he saith, "he that eateth bread with me did magnify his heel against me."  Thus also does he foretell the voice which Christ was to utter on the cross saying "My God, My God why hast thou forsaken me?"  and the burial also does he describe: "They laid me in the lowest pit, in dark places, and in the shadow of death."  And the resurrection: "thou shalt not leave my soul in hell, neither shalt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption;"  and the ascension: "God has gone up with a merry noise, the Lord with the sound of the trump."  And the session on the right hand: "The Lord said to my Lord sit thou on my right hand until I make thy foes thy footstool."  But Esaias also declares the cause; saying, "for the transgressions of my people is He brought to death,"  and because all have strayed like sheep, therefore is he sacrificed."  Then also he adds mention of the result, saying "by his stripes we have all been healed:"  and "he hath borne the sins of many."  The prophets then knew the cross, and the cause of the cross and that which was effected by it, and the burial and the resurrection, and the ascension, and the betrayal, and the trial, and described them all with accuracy: and is He who sent them and commanded them to speak these things ignorant of them Himself? What reasonable man would say that? Seest thou that we must not attend merely to the words? For this is not the only perplexing passage, but what follows is more perplexing. For what does He say? "Father if it be possible let this cup pass from me." Here he will be found to speak not only as if ignorant, but as if deprecating the cross: For this is what He says. "If it be permissible let me not be subjected to crucifixion and death." And yet when Peter, the leader of the apostles, said this to Him, "Be it far from thee Lord, this shall not happen unto Thee," He rebuked him so severely as to say; "get thee behind me Satan, thou art an offence unto me, for thou savourest not the things which be of God, but those which be of men:"  although a short time before he had pronounced him blessed. But to escape crucifixion seemed to Him so monstrous a thing, that him who had received the revelation from the Father, him whom He had pronounced blessed, him who had received the keys of Heaven, He called Satan, and an offence, and accused him of not savouring the things which be of God because he said to Him, "Be it far from thee Lord, this shall never be unto Thee"--namely crucifixion. He then who thus vituperated the disciple, and poured such an invective upon him as actually to call him Satan (after having bestowed such great praise on him), because he said "avoid crucifixion," how could He desire not to be crucified? and how after these things when drawing the picture of the good shepherd could He declare this to be the special proof of his virtue, that he should be sacrificed for the sake of the sheep, thus saying, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep?"  Nor did He even stop there, but also added, "but he that is an hireling and not the shepherd seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth."  If then it is the sign of the good shepherd to sacrifice himself, and of the hireling to be unwilling to undergo this, how can He who calls Himself the good shepherd beseech that he may not be sacrificed? And how could He say "I lay down my life of myself"? For if thou layest down thy life of thyself, how canst thou beseech another that thou mayest not lay it down? And how is it that Paul marvels at Him on account of this declaration, saying "Who being in the form of God counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, but emptied Himself taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross."  And He Himself again speaks in this wise, "For this cause doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again."  For if He does not desire to lay it down, but deprecates the act, and beseeches the Father, how is it that He is loved on this account? For love is of those who are like minded. And how does Paul say again "Love one another even as Christ also loved us and gave Himself for us?"  And Christ Himself when He was about to be crucified said "Father, the hour has come: glorify thy Son,"  speaking of the cross as glory: and how then does He deprecate it here when He urges it there? For that the cross is glory listen to what the evangelist says "the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."  Now the hearing of this expression is "grace was not yet given because the enmity towards men was not yet destroyed by reason that the cross had not yet done its work." For the cross destroyed the enmity of God towards man, brought about the reconciliation, made the earth Heaven, associated men with angels, pulled down the citadel of death, unstrung the force of the devil, extinguished the power of sin, delivered the world from error, brought back the truth, expelled the Demons, destroyed temples, overturned altars, suppressed the sacrificial offering, implanted virtue, founded the Churches. The cross is the will of the Father, the glory of the Son, the rejoicing of the Spirit, the boast of Paul, "for," he says, "God forbid that I should boast save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."  The cross is that which is brighter than the sun, more brilliant than the sunbeam: for when the sun is darkened then the cross shines brightly: and the sun is darkened not because it is extinguished, but because it is overpowered by the brilliancy of the cross. The cross has broken our bond, it has made the prison of death ineffectual, it is the demonstration of the love of God. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that every one who believes in Him should not perish."  And again Paul says "If being enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son."  The cross is the impregnable wall, the invulnerable shield, the safeguard of the rich, the resource of the poor, the defence of those who are exposed to snares, the armour of those who are attacked, the means of suppressing passion, and of acquiring virtue, the wonderful and marvellous sign. "For this generation seeketh after a sign: and no sign shall be given it save the sign of Jonas;"  and again Paul says, "for the Jews ask for a sign and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified."  The cross opened Paradise, it brought in the robber, it conducted into the kingdom of Heaven the race of man which was about to perish, and was not worthy even of earth. So great are the benefits which have sprung and do spring from the cross, and yet doth He not desire to be crucified I ask? Who would venture to say this? And if He did not desire it who compelled Him, who forced Him to it? and why did He send prophets beforehand announcing that He would be crucified, if He was not to be, and did not wish to undergo it? And for what reason does He call the cross a cup, if He did not desire to be crucified? For that is the word of one who signifies the desire which he has concerning the act. For as the cup is sweet to those who are thirsty so also was crucifixion to Him: wherefore also He said "With desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you,"  and this He meant not absolutely, but relatively, because after that evening the cross was awaiting Him.
3. He then who calls the thing glory, and rebukes the disciple because he was trying to hinder Him, and proves that what constitutes the good shepherd is his sacrificing himself on behalf of the sheep, and declares that he earnestly longs for this thing, and willingly goes to meet it, how is it that He beseeches it may not come to pass? And if He did not wish it what difficulty was there in hindering those who came for that purpose? But in fact you behold Him hastening towards the deed. At least when they came upon Him He said "Whom seek ye?" and they replied "Jesus." Then He saith to them "Lo! I am He: and they went backward and fell to the ground."  Thus having first crippled them and proved that He was able to escape their hands, He then surrendered Himself, that thou mightest learn that not by compulsion or force, or the tyrannical power of those who attacked Him, did He unwillingly submit to this, but willingly with purpose and desire, preparing for it a long time before. Therefore also were prophets sent beforehand, and patriarchs foretold the events, and by means of words and deeds the cross was prefigured. For the sacrifice of Isaac also signified the cross to us: wherefore also Christ said "Abraham your father rejoiced to see my glory and he saw it and was glad."  The patriarch then was glad beholding the image of the cross, and does He Himself deprecate it? Thus Moses also prevailed over Amalek when he displayed the figure of the cross: and one may observe countless things happening in the Old Testament descriptive by anticipation of the cross. For what reason then was this the case if He who was to be crucified did not wish it to come to pass? And the sentence which follows this is yet more perplexing. For having said "Let this cup pass from me He added "nevertheless not as I will but as Thou wilt."  For herein as far as the actual expression is concerned we find two wills opposed to one another: if at least the Father desires Him to be crucified, but He Himself does not desire it. And yet we everywhere behold Him desiring and purposing the same things as the Father. For when He says "grant to them, as I and Thou are one that they also may be one in us,"  it is equivalent to saying that the purpose of the Father and of the Son is one. And when He says "The words which I speak I speak not myself, but the Father which dwelleth in me, He doeth these works,"  He indicates the same thing. And when He says "I have not come of myself"  and "I can of my own self do nothing"  he does not say this as signifying that He has been deprived of authority, either to speak or to act (away with the thought!), but as desiring to prove the concord of his purpose, both in words and deeds, and in every kind of transaction, to be one and the same with the Father, as I have already frequently demonstrated. For the expression "I speak not of myself" is not an abrogation of authority but a demonstration of agreement. How then does He say here "Nevertheless not as I will but as Thou wilt"? Perhaps I have excited a great conflict in your mind, but be on the alert: for although many words have been uttered I know well that your zeal is still fresh: for the discourse is now hastening on to the solution. Why then has this form of speech been employed? Attend carefully, The doctrine of the incarnation was very hard to receive. For the exceeding measure of His lovingkindness and the magnitude of His condescension were full of awe, and needed much preparation to be accepted. For consider what a great thing it was to hear and to learn that God the ineffable, the incorruptible, the unintelligible, the invisible, the incomprehensible, in whose hand are the ends of the earth,  who looketh upon the earth, and causeth it to tremble, who toucheth the mountains, and maketh them smoke,  the weight of whose condescension not even the Cherubim were able to bear but veiled their faces by the shelter of their wings, that this God who surpasses all understanding, and baffles all calculation, having passed by angels, archangels, and all the spiritual powers above, deigned to become man, and to take flesh formed of earth and clay, and enter the womb of a virgin, and be borne there the space of nine months, and be nourished with milk, and suffer all things to which man is liable. Inasmuch then as that which was to happen was so strange as to be disbelieved by many even when it had taken place, He first of all sends prophets beforehand, announcing this very fact. For instance the patriarch predicted it saying "Thou didst spring from a tender shoot my son: thou didst lie down and slumber as a lion;"  and Esaias saying "Behold the Virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall call His name Emmanuel;"  and elsewhere again "We beheld Him as a young child, as a root in a dry ground;"  and by the dry ground he means the virgin's womb. And again "unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given,"  and again "there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall spring out of his root."  And Baruch in the book of Jeremiah says "this is our God: no other shall be reckoned by the side of Him: He found out every path of knowledge and gave it to Jacob His servant, and Israel his beloved. After these things also He appeared upon the earth, and held converse with men."  And David signifying His incarnate presence said "He shall come down like the rain into a fleece of wool, and like the drop which distills upon the earth"  because He noiselessly and gently entered into the Virgin's womb.
4. But these proofs alone did not suffice, but even when He had come, lest what had taken place should be deemed an illusion, He warranted the fact not only by the sight but by duration of time and by passing through all the phases incident to man. For He did not enter once for all into a man matured and completely developed, but into a virgin's womb, so as to undergo the process of gestation and birth and suckling and growth, and by the length of the time and the variety of the stages of growth to give assurance of what had come to pass. And not even here were the proofs concluded, but even when bearing about the body of flesh He suffered it to experience the infirmities of human nature and to be hungry, and thirsty, and to sleep and feel fatigue; finally also when He came to the cross He suffered it to undergo the pains of the flesh. For this reason also streams of sweat flowed down from it and an angel was discovered strengthening it, and He was sad and down-cast: for before He uttered these words He said "my soul is troubled, and exceeding sorrowful ever unto death."  If then after all these things have taken place the wicked mouth of the devil speaking through Marcion of Pontus, and Valentinus, and Manichæus of Persia and many more heretics, has attempted to overthrow the doctrine of the Incarnation and has vented a diabolical utterance declaring that He did not become flesh, nor was clothed with it, but that this was mere fancy, and illusion, a piece of acting and pretence, although the sufferings, the death, the burial, the thirst, cry aloud against this teaching; supposing that none of these things had happened would not the devil have sown these wicked doctrines of impiousness much more widely? For this reason, just as He hungered, as He slept, as He felt fatigue, as He ate and drank, so also did He deprecate death, thereby manifesting his humanity, and that infirmity of human nature which does not submit without pain to be torn from this present life. For had He not uttered any of these things, it might have been said that if He were a man He ought to have experienced human feelings. And what are these? in the case of one about to be crucified, fear and agony, and pain in being torn from present life: for a sense of the charm which surrounds present things is implanted in human nature: on this account wishing to prove the reality of the fleshly clothing, and to give assurance of the incarnation He manifests the actual feelings of man with full demonstration.
This is one consideration, but there is another no less important. And what is this? Christ having come to earth wished to instruct men in all virtue: now the instructor teaches not only by word, but also by deed: for this is the teacher's best method of teaching. A pilot for instance when he makes the apprentice sit by his side shows him how he handles the rudder, but he also joins speech to action, and does not depend upon words alone or example alone: in like manner also an architect when he has placed by his side the man who is intended to learn from him how a wall is constructed, shows him the way by means of action as well as by means of oral teaching; so also with the weaver, and embroiderer, and gold refiner, and coppersmith;--and every kind of art has teachers who instruct both orally and practically. Inasmuch then as Christ Himself came to instruct us in all virtue, He both tells us what ought to be done, and does it. "For," he says, "he who does and teaches the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."  Now observe; He commanded men to be lowly-minded, and meek, and He taught this by His words: but see how He also teaches it by His deeds. For having said "Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek,"  He shows how these virtues ought to be practised. How then did He teach them? He took a towel and girded Himself and washed the disciples' feet.  What can match this lowliness of mind? for He teaches this virtue no longer by His words only but also by His deeds. Again He teaches meekness and forbearance by His acts. How so? He was struck on the face by the servant of the high priest, and said "If I have spoken evil bear witness of the evil: but if well why smitest thou me?"  He commanded men to pray for their enemies: this also again He teaches by means of His acts: for when He had ascended the cross He said "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."  As therefore He commanded men to pray so does He Himself pray, instructing thee to do so by his own unflagging utterances of prayer. Again He commanded us to do good to those who hate us, and to deal fairly with those who treat us despitefully:  and this He did by his own acts: for he cast devils out of the Jews, who said that He Himself was possessed by a devil, He bestowed benefits on His persecutors, He fed those who were forming designs against Him, He conducted into His kingdom those who were desiring to crucify Him. Again He said to His disciples "Get you no gold nor silver neither brass in your purses,"  thus training them for poverty: and this also He taught by His example, thus saying, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head."  And He had neither table nor dwelling nor anything else of that kind: not because He was at a loss to obtain them, but because He was instructing men to go in that path. After the same manner then he taught them also to pray. They said to Him "Teach us to pray."  Therefore also He prays, in order that they may learn to pray. But it was necessary for them not merely to learn to pray but also how they ought to pray: for this reason He delivered to them a prayer in this form: "Our Father which art in Heaven hallowed be thy name, Thy kingdom come: Thy will be done, as in Heaven, so on earth. Give us this day our daily bread: and forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors: and lead us not into temptation:"  that is into danger, into snares. Since then He commanded them to pray "lead us not into temptation," He instructs them in this very precept by putting it in practice Himself, saying "Father if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me," thus teaching all the saints not to plunge into dangers, not to fling themselves into them but to wait for their approach, and to exhibit all possible courage, only not to rush forwards themselves, or to be the first to advance against terrors. Why so, pray? both to teach us lowliness of mind, and also to deliver us from the charge of vainglory. On this account it is said also in this passage that when He had spoken these words "He went away and prayed:" and after He had prayed He speaks thus to His disciples "Could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation."  Seest thou He not only prays but also admonishes? "For the Spirit indeed is willing," He said, "but the flesh is weak."  Now this He said by way of emptying their soul of vanity, and delivering them from pride, teaching them self-restraint, training them to practice moderation. Therefore the prayer which He wished to teach them, He Himself also offered, speaking after the manner of men, not according to His Godhead (for the divine nature is impassable) but according to His manhood. And He prayed as instructing us to pray, and even to seek deliverance from distress; but, if this be not permitted, then to acquiesce in what seems good to God. Therefore He said "Nevertheless not as I will but as Thou wilt:" not because He had one will and the Father another; but in order that He might instruct men even if they were in distress and trembling, even if danger came upon them, and they were unwilling to be torn from present life, nevertheless to postpone their own will to the will of God: even as Paul also when he had been instructed practically exhibited both these principles; for he besought that temptations might be removed from him, thus saying "For this thing I besought the Lord thrice:"  and yet since it did not please God to remove it, he says "Wherefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in insults, in persecutions."  But perhaps what I have said is not quite clear: therefore I will make it clearer. Paul incurred many dangers and prayed that he might not be exposed to them. Then he heard Christ saying "my grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness."  As soon then as he saw what the will of God was, he in future submitted his will to God's will. By means of this prayer then Christ taught both these truths, that we should not plunge into dangers, but rather pray that we may not fall into them; but if they come upon us we should bear them bravely, and postpone our own will to the will of God. Knowing these things then let us pray that we may never enter into temptation: but if we do enter it let us beseech God to give us patience and courage, and let us honour His will in preference to every will of our own. For then we shall pass through this present life with safety, and shall obtain the blessings to come: which may we all receive by the favour and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom be to the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, glory, might, honour, now and for ever world without end. Amen.
Translated by Rev. W. R. W. Stephens, M.A., Prebendary of Chichester Cathedral, and Rector of Woolbeding, Sussex.
This wealth we found in great abundance stored in the soul of the paralytic. And you are witnesses who with great zeal drew up draughts of this treasure yet without exhausting it. For such is the nature of spiritual wealth; it resembles fountains of water, or rather exceeds their plenteousness, being most abundant when it has many to draw upon it. For when it enters into any man's soul it is not divided, not diminished, but coming in its entireness to each remains continually unconsumed, being incapable of ever failing: which was just what took place at that time. For although so many have applied to the treasure, and all are drawing upon it as much as they can--but why do I speak of you, seeing that it has made countless persons rich from that time to the present day, and yet abides in its original perfection? Let us not then grow weary in having recourse to this source of spiritual wealth: but as far as possible let us now also draw forth draughts from it, and let us gaze upon our merciful Lord, gaze upon His patient servant. He had been thirty and eight years struggling with an incurable infirmity and was perpetually plagued by it, yet he did not repine, he did not utter a blasphemous word, he did not accuse his Maker, but endured his calamity bravely and with much meekness. And whence is this manifest? you say: for Scripture has not told us anything clearly concerning his former life, but only that he had been thirty-eight years in his infirmity; it has not added a word to prove that he did not show discontent, or anger or petulance. And yet it has made this plain also, if any one will pay careful attention to it, not looking at it curiously and carelessly. For when you hear that on the approach of Christ who was a stranger to him, and regarded merely as a man, he spoke to him with such great meekness, you may be able to perceive his former wisdom. For when Jesus said to him "Wilt thou be made whole?" he did not make the natural reply "thou seest me who have been this long time lying sick of the palsy, and dost thou ask me if I wish to be made whole? hast thou come to insult my distress, to reproach me and laugh me to scorn and make a mock of my calamity? He did not say or conceive anything of this kind but meekly replied "Yea Lord."  Now if after thirty-eight; years he was thus meek and gentle, when all the vigour and strength of his reasoning faculties was broken down, consider what he is likely to have been at the outset of his trouble. For be assured that invalids are not so hard to please at the beginning of their disorder, as they are after a long lapse of time: they become most intractable, most intolerable to all, when the malady is prolonged. But as he, after so many years, was so wise, and replied with so much forbearance, it is quite clear that during the previous time also he had been bearing that calamity with much thankfulness.
Considering these things then let us imitate the patience of our fellow-servant: for his paralysis is sufficient to brace up our souls: for no one can be so supine and indolent after having observed the magnitude of that calamity as not to endure bravely all evils which may befall him, even if they are more intolerable than all that were ever known. For not only his soundness but also his sickness has become a cause of the greatest benefit to us: for his cure has stimulated the souls of the hearers to speak the praise of the Lord, and his sickness and infirmity has encouraged you to patience, and urged you to match his zeal; or rather it has exhibited to you the lovingkindness of God. For the actual deliverance of the man to such a malady, and the protracted duration of his infirmity is a sign of the greatest care for his welfare. For as a gold refiner having cast a piece of gold into the furnace suffers it to be proved by the fire until such time as he sees it has become purer: even so God permits the souls of men to be tested by troubles until they become pure and transparent and have reaped much profit from this process of sifting: wherefore this is the greatest species of benefit.
2. Let us not then be disturbed, neither dismayed, when trials befall us. For if the gold refiner sees how long he ought to leave the piece of gold in the furnace, and when he ought to draw it out, and does not allow it to remain in the fire until it is destroyed and burnt up: much more does God understand this, and when He sees that we have become more pure, He releases us from our trials so that we may not be overthrown and cast down by the multiplication of our evils. Let us then not be repining, or faint-hearted, when some unexpected thing befalls us; but let us suffer Him who knows these things accurately, to prove our hearts by fire as long as He pleases: for He does this for a useful purpose and with a view to the profit of those who are tried.
On this account a certain wise man admonishes us saying "My Son, if thou come to serve the Lord prepare thy soul for temptation, set thy heart aright and constantly endure and make not haste in time of trouble;"  "yield to Him" he says, "in all things," for He knoweth exactly when it is right to pluck us out of the furnace of evil. We ought therefore everywhere to yield to Him and always to give thanks, and to bear all things contentedly, whether He bestows benefits or chastisement upon us, for this also is a species of benefit. For the physician, not only when he bathes and nourishes the patient and conducts him into pleasant gardens, but also when he uses cautery and the knife, is a physician all the same: and a father not only when he caresses his son, but also when he expels him from his house, and when he chides and scourges him, is a father all the same, no less than when he praises him. Knowing therefore that God is more tenderly loving than all physicians, do not enquire too curiously concerning His treatment nor demand an account of it from Him, but whether He is pleased to let us go free or whether He punishes, let us offer ourselves for either alike; for He seeks by means of each to lead us back to health, and to communion with Himself, and He knows our several needs, and what is expedient for each one, and how and in what manner we ought to be saved, and along that path He leads us. Let us then follow whithersoever He bids us, and let us not too carefully consider whether He commands us to go by a smooth and easy path, or by a difficult and rugged one: as in the case of this paralytic. It was one species of benefit indeed that his soul should be purged by the long duration of his suffering, being delivered to the fiery trial of affliction as to a kind of furnace; but it was another benefit no less than this that God was present with him in the midst of the trials, and afforded him great consolation. He it was who strengthened him, and upheld him, and stretched forth a hand to him, and suffered him not to fall. But when you hear that it was God Himself do not deprive the paralytic of his meed of praise, neither him nor any other man who is tried and yet steadfastly endures. For even if we be infinitely wise, even if we are mightier and stronger than all men, yet in the absence of His grace we shall not be able to withstand even the most ordinary temptation. And why do I speak of such insignificant and abject beings as we are? For even if one were a Paul, or a Peter, or a James, or a John, yet if he should be deprived of the divine help he would easily be put to shame, overthrown, and laid prostrate. And on behalf of these I will read you the words of Christ Himself: for He saith to Peter "Behold Satan hath asked to have you that he may sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not."  What is the meaning of "sift"? to turn and twist, and shake and stir and shatter, and worry, which is what takes place in the case of things which are winnowed: but I he says have restrained him, knowing that you are not able to endure the trial, for the expression "that thy faith fail not" is the utterance of one who signifies that if he had permitted it his faith would have failed. Now if Peter who was such a fervent lover of Christ and exposed his life for Him countless times and sprang into the foremost rank in the Apostolic band, and was pronounced blessed by his Master, and called Peter on this account because he kept a firm and inflexible hold of the faith, would have been carried away and fallen from profession if Christ had permitted the devil to try him as much as he desired, what other man will be able to stand, apart from His help? Therefore also Paul saith "But God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape that ye may be able to bear it."  For not only does He say that He does not suffer a trial to be inflicted beyond our strength, but even in that which is proportioned to our strength He is present carrying us through it, and bracing us up, if only we ourselves first of all contribute the means which are at our disposal, such as zeal, hope in Him, thanksgiving, endurance, patience. For not only in the dangers which are beyond our strength, but in those which are proportioned to it, we need the divine assistance, if we are to make a brave stand; for elsewhere also it is said "even as the sufferings of Christ abound to us, even so our comfort also aboundeth through Christ, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."  So then he who comforted this man is the same who permitted the trial to be inflicted upon him. And now observe after the cure what tenderness He displays. For He did not leave him and depart, but having found him in the temple he saith "behold! thou art made whole; sin no more lest some worse thing happen unto thee."  For had He permitted the punishment because He hated him He would not have released him, He would not have provided for his future safety: but the expression "lest some worse thing happen unto thee" is the utterance of one who would check coming evils beforehand. He put an end to the disease, but did not put an end to the struggle: He expelled the infirmity but did not expel the dread of it, so that the benefit which had been wrought might remain unmoved. This is the part of a tender-hearted physician, not only to put an end to present pains, but to provide for future security, which also Christ did, bracing up his soul by the recollection of past events. For seeing that when the things which distress us have departed, the recollection of them oftentimes departs with them, He wishing it to abide continually, saith "sin no more lest some worse thing happen unto thee."
3. Moreover it is possible to discern His forethought and consideration not only from this, but also from that which seems to be a rebuke. For He did not make a public exposure of his sins, but yet He told him that he suffered what he did suffer on account of his sins, but what those sins were He did not disclose; nor did He say "thou hast sinned" or "thou hast transgressed," but He indicated the fact by one simple utterance "sin no more;" and having said so much as just to remind him of it He put him more on the alert against future events, and at the same time He made manifest to us all his patience and courage and wisdom, having reduced him to the necessity of publicly lamenting his calamity, and having displayed his own earnestness on the man's behalf, "for while I am coming," he says, "another steppeth down before me:"  yet he did not publicly expose his sins. For just as we ourselves desire to draw a veil over our sins even so does God much more than we: on this account He wrought the cure in the presence of all, but He gives the exhortation or the advice privately. For He never makes a public display of our sins, except at any time He sees men insensible to them. For when He says "ye saw me hungry, and fed me not: and thirsty and gave me no drink,"  He speaks thus at the present time in order that we may not hear these words in time to come. He threatens, He exposes us in this world, that He may not have to expose us in the other: even as He threatened to overthrow the city of the Ninevites  for the very reason that He might not overthrow it. For if He wished to publish our sins He would not announce beforehand that He would publish them: but as it is He does make this announcement in order that being sobered by the fear of exposure, if not also by the fear of punishment we may purge ourselves from them all. This also is what takes place in the case of baptism: for He conducts the man to the pool of water without disclosing his sins to any one; yet He publicly presents the boon and makes it manifest to all, while the sins of the man are known to no one save God Himself and him who receives the forgiveness of them. This also was what took place in the case of this paralytic, He makes the reproof without the presence of witnesses, or rather the utterance is not merely a reproof but also a justification; He justifies Himself as it were for evil-entreating him so long, telling him and proving to him that it was not without cause and purpose that He had suffered him to be so long afflicted, for He reminded him of his sins, and declared the cause of his infirmity. "For having found him," we read, "in the temple, He said unto him, sin no more lest some worse thing happen unto thee."
And now since we have derived so much profit from the account of the former paralytic let us turn to the other who is presented to us in St. Matthew's Gospel. For in the case of mines where any one happens to find a piece of gold he makes a further excavation again in the same place: and I know that many of those who read without care imagine that one and the same paralytic is presented by the four evangelists: but it is not so. Therefore you must be on the alert, and pay careful attention to the matter. For the question is not concerned with ordinary matters, and this discourse when it has received its proper solution will be serviceable against both Greeks and Jews and many of the heretics. For thus all find fault with the evangelists as being at strife and variance: yet this is not the fact, Heaven forbid! but although the outward appearance is different, the grace of the Spirit which works upon the soul of each is one, and where the grace of the Spirit is, there is love, joy, and peace; and there war and disputation, strife and contention are not. How then shall we make it clear that this paralytic is not the same as the other, but a different man? By many tokens, both of place and time, and season, and day, and from the manner of the cure, and the coming of the physician and the loneliness of the man who was healed. And what of this? some one will say: for have not many of the evangelists given diverse accounts of other signs? Yes, but it is one thing to make statements which are diverse, and another, statements which are contradictory; for the former causes no discord or strife: but that which is now presented to us is a strong case of contradiction unless it be proved that the paralytic at the pool was a different man from him who is described by the other three evangelists. Now that you may understand what is the difference between statements which are diverse and contradictory, one of the evangelists has stated that Christ carried the cross,  another that Simon the Cyrenian carried it:  but this causes no contradiction or strife. "And how," you say, "is there no contradiction between the statements that he carried and did not carry?" Because both took place. When they went out of the Prætorium Christ was carrying it: but as they proceeded Simon took it from Him and bore it. Again in the case of the robbers, one says that the two blasphemed:  another that one of them checked him who was reviling the Lord.  Yet in this again there is no contradiction: because here also both things took place, and at the beginning both the men behaved ill: but afterwards when signs occurred, when the earth shook and the rocks were rent, and the sun was darkened, one of them was converted, and became more chastened, and recognized the crucified one and acknowledged his kingdom. For to prevent your supposing that this took place by some constraining force of one impelling him from within, and to remove your perplexity, he exhibits the man to you on the cross while he is still retaining his former wickedness in order that you may perceive that his conversion was effected from within and out of his own heart assisted by the grace of God and so he became a better man.
4. And it is possible to collect many other instances of this kind from the Gospels, which seem to have a suspicion of contradiction, where there is no real contradiction, the truth being that some incidents have been related by this writer, others by that; or if not occurring at the same hour one author has related the earlier event, another the later; but in the present case there is nothing of this kind, but the multitude of the evidences which I have mentioned proves to those who pay any attention whatever to the matter, that the paralytic was not the same man in both instances. And this would be no slight proof to demonstrate that the evangelists were in harmony with each other and not at variance. For if it were the same man the discord is great between the two accounts: but if it be a different one all material for dispute has been destroyed.
Well then let me now state the actual reasons why I affirm that this man is not the same as that. What are they? The one is cured in Jerusalem, the other in Capernaum; the one by the pool of water, the other in some house; there is the evidence from place: the former during the festival: there is the evidence from the special season: the former had been thirty and eight years suffering from infirmity: concerning the other the evangelist relates nothing of that kind: there is the evidence from time: the former was cured on the Sabbath: there is the evidence from the day: for had this man also been cured on the Sabbath Matthew would not have passed by the fact in silence nor would the Jews who were present have held their peace: for they who found fault for some other reason even when a man was not cured on the Sabbath would have been yet more violent in their accusation against Christ if they had got an additional handle from the argument of the special day. Moreover this man was brought to Christ: to the other Christ Himself came, and there was no man to assist him. "Lord," said he, "I have no man:" whereas this man had many who came to his aid, who also let him down through the roof. And He healed the body of the other man before his soul: for after he had cured the paralysis He then said "Behold thou art made whole, sin no more:" but not so in this case, but after He had healed his soul, for He said to him "Son be of good cheer thy sins be forgiven thee," He then cured his paralysis. That this man then is not the same as the other has been clearly demonstrated by these proofs, but it now remains for us to turn to the beginning of the narrative and see how Christ cured the one and the other, and why differently in each case: why the one on the Sabbath and the other not on the Sabbath, why He came Himself to the one but waited for the other to be brought to Him, why He healed the body of the one and the soul of the other first. For He does not these things without consideration and purpose seeing that He is wise and prudent. Let us then give our attention and observe Him as He performs the cure. For if in the case of physicians when they use the knife or cautery or operate in any other way upon a maimed and crippled patient, and cut off a limb, many persons crowd round the invalid and the physician who is doing these things, much more ought we to act thus in this case, in proportion as the physician is greater and the malady more severe, being one which cannot be corrected by human art, but only by divine grace. And in the former case we have to see the skin being cut, and matter discharging, and gore set in motion, and to endure much discomfort produced by the spectacle, and great pain and sorrow not merely from the sight of the wounds, but also from the suffering undergone by those who are subjected to this burning or cutting: for no one is so stony-hearted as to stand by those who are suffering these things, and hear them shrieking, without being himself overcome and agitated, and experiencing much depression of spirit; but yet we undergo all this owing to our desire to witness the operation. But in this case nothing of that kind has to be seen, no application of fire, no plunging in of an instrument, no flowing of blood, no pain or shrieking of the patient; and the reason of this is, the wisdom of the healer, which needs none of these external aids, but is absolutely self-sufficient. For it is enough that He merely utters a command and all distress ceases. And the wonder is not only that He effects the cure with so much ease, but also without pain, causing no trouble to those who are being healed.
Seeing then that the marvel is greater and the cure more important, and the pleasure afforded to the spectators unalloyed by any kind of sorrow, let us now carefully contemplate Christ in the act of healing. "And He entered into a boat and crossed over and came into His own city: and behold they brought to him a man sick of the palsy lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy "Son! be of good cheer: thy sins are forgiven."  Now they were inferior to the centurion in respect of their faith, but superior to the impotent man by the pool. For the former neither invited the physician nor brought the sick man to the physician; but approached Him as God and said "Speak the word only and my servant shall be healed."  Now these men did not invite the physician to the house, and so far they are on an equality with the centurion: but they brought the sick man to the physician and so far they are inferior, because they did not say "speak the word only." Yet they are far better than the man lying by the pool. For he said "Lord I have no man when the water is troubled to put me into the pool:" but these men knew that Christ had no need either of water, or pool, or anything else of that kind: nevertheless Christ not only released the servant of the centurion but the other two men also from their maladies, and did not say: "because thou hast proffered a smaller degree of faith the cure which thou receivest shall be in proportion;" but He dismissed the man who displayed the greater faith with eulogy and honour, saying "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel."  On the man who exhibited less faith than this one he bestowed no praise yet He did not deprive him of a cure, no! not even him who displayed no faith at all. But just as physicians when curing the same disorder receive from some person a hundred gold pieces, from others half, from others less and from some nothing at all: even so Christ received from the centurion a large and unspeakable degree of faith, but from this man less and from the other not even an ordinary amount, and yet He healed them all. For what reason then did He deem the man who made no deposit of faith worthy of the benefit? Because his failure to exhibit faith was not owing to indolence, or to insensibility of soul, but to ignorance of Christ and having never heard any miracle in which He was concerned either small or great. On this account therefore the man obtained indulgence: which in fact the evangelist obscurely intimates when he says, "for he wist not who it was,"  but he only recognized Him by sight when he lighted upon Him the second time.
5. There are indeed some who say that this man was healed merely because they who brought him believed; but this is not the fact. For "when He saw their faith" refers not merely to those who brought the man but also to the man who was brought. Why so? "Is not one man healed," you say, "because another has believed?" For my part I do not think so unless owing to immaturity of age or excessive infirmity he is in some way incapable of believing. How then was it you say that in the case of the woman of Canaan the mother believed but the daughter was cured? and how was it that the servant of the centurion who believed rose from the bed of sickness and was preserved. Because the sick persons themselves were not able to believe. Hear then what the woman of Canaan says: "My daughter is grievously vexed with a devil  and sometimes she falleth into the water and sometimes into the fire:"  now how could she believe whose mind was darkened and possessed by a devil, and was never able to control herself, not in her sound senses? As then in the case of the woman of Canaan so also in the case of the centurion; his servant lay ill in the house, not knowing Christ, himself, nor who He was. How then was he to believe in one who was unknown to him, and of whom he had never yet obtained any experience? But in the case before us we cannot say this: for the paralytic believed. Whence is this manifest? From the very manner of his approach to Christ. For do not attend simply to the statement that they let the man down through the roof: but consider how great a matter it is for a sick man to have the fortitude to undergo this. For you are surely aware that invalids are so faint-hearted and difficult to please as often to decline the treatment administered to them on their sick bed, and to prefer bearing the pain which arises from their maladies to undergoing the annoyance caused by the remedies. But this man had the fortitude to go outside the house, and to be carried into the midst of the market place, and to exhibit himself in the presence of a crowd. And it is the habit of sick folk to die under their disorder rather than disclose their personal calamities. This sick man however did not act thus, but when he saw that the place of assembly was filled, the approaches blocked, the haven of refuge obstructed, he submitted to be let down through the roof. So ready in contrivance is desire, so rich in resource is love. "For he also that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."  The man did not say to his friends "What is the meaning of this? why make this ado? why push on? Let us wait until the house is cleared and the assembly is dissolved: the crowds will withdraw, we shall then be able to approach him privately and confer about these matters. Why should you expose my misfortunes in the midst of all the spectators, and let me down from the roof-top, and behave in an unseemly manner?" That man said none of these things either to himself or to his bearers, but regarded it as an honour to have so many persons made witnesses of his cure. And not from this circumstance only was it possible to discern his faith but also from the actual words of Christ. For after he had been let down and presented Christ said to him, "Son! be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee." And when he heard these words he was not indignant, he did not complain, he did not say to the physician "What mean you by this? I came to be healed of one thing and you heal another. This is an excuse and a pretence and a screen of incompetence. Do you forgive sins which are invisible?" He neither spoke nor thought any of these things, but waited, allowing the physician to adopt the method of healing which He desired. For this reason also Christ did not go to him, but waited for him to come, that He might exhibit his faith to all. For could He not have made the entrance easy? But He did none of these things; in order that He might exhibit the man's zeal and fervent faith to all. For as He went to the man who had been suffering thirty and eight years because he had no one to aid him, so did He wait for this man to come to him because he had many friends that He might make his faith manifest by the man being brought to Him, and inform us of the other man's loneliness by going to him, and disclose the earnestness of the one and the patience of the other to all and especially to those who were present. For some envious and misanthropical Jews were accustomed to grudge the benefits done to their neighbours and to find fault with His miracles, sometimes on account of the special season, saying that He healed on the sabbath day; sometimes on account of the life of those to whom the benefit was done, saying "if this man were a prophet He would have known who the woman was who touched Him:"  not knowing that it is the special mark of a physician to associate with the infirm and to be constantly seen by the side of the sick, not to avoid them, or hurry from their presence--which in fact was what He expressly said to those murmurers; "They that are whole have no need of a physician but they that are sick."  Therefore in order to prevent their making the same accusations again He proves first of all that they who come to Him are deserving of a cure on account of the faith which they exhibit. For this reason He exhibited the loneliness of one man, and the fervent faith and zeal of the other: for this reason He healed the one on the Sabbath, the other not on the Sabbath: in order that when you see them accusing and rebuking Christ on another day you may understand that they accused him on the former occasion also not because of their respect for the law, but because they could not contain their own malice. But why did He not first address Himself to the cure of the paralytic, but said, "Son! be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee?" He did this very wisely. For it is a habit with physicians to destroy the originating cause of the malady before they remove the malady itself. Often for example when the eyes are distressed by some evil humour and corrupt discharge, the physician, abandoning any treatment of the disordered vision, turns his attention to the head, where the root and origin of the infirmity is: even so did Christ act: He represses first of all the source of the evil. For the source and root and mother of all evil is the nature of sin. This it is which enervates our bodies: this it is which brings on disease: therefore also on this occasion He said, "Son! be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee." And on the other He said, "Behold! thou art made whole, sin no more lest some worse thing happen unto thee," intimating to both that these maladies were the offspring of sin. And in the beginning and outset of the word disease as the consequence of sin attacked the body of Cain. For after the murder of his brother, after that act of wickedness, his body was subject to palsy.  For trembling is the same thing as palsy. For when the strength which regulates a living creature becomes weakened, being no longer able to support all the limbs, it deprives them of their natural power of direction, and then having become unstrung they tremble and turn giddy.
6. Paul also demonstrated this: for when he was reproaching the Corinthians with a certain sin he said, "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you." Therefore also Christ first removes the cause of the evil, and having said "Son! be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee," He uplifts the spirit and rouses the downcast soul: for the speech became an efficient cause and having entered into the conscience it laid hold of the soul itself and cast out of it all distress. For nothing creates pleasure and affords confidence so much as freedom from self-reproach. For where remission of sins is there is sonship. Even so at least we are not able to call God Father until we have washed away our sins in the pool of the sacred water. It is when we have come up from thence, having put off that evil load, that we say "Our Father which art in Heaven." But in the case of the man who was infirm thirty and eight years why did He not act thus, but cured his body first of all? Because by that long period of time his sins had been exhausted: for the magnitude of a trial can lighten the load of sins; as indeed we read was the case with Lazarus, that he received his evil things in full, and thereupon was comforted: and again in another place we read, "Comfort ye my people, say ye to the heart of Jerusalem, that she hath received of the Lord's hand double for her sins."  And again the prophet says "O Lord give us peace, for thou hast requited all things to us,"  indicating that penalties and punishments work forgiveness of sins; and this we might prove from many passages. It seems to me then that the reason why He said nothing to that man about remission of sins, but only secured him against the future, was because the penalty for his sins had been already worked out by the long duration of his sickness: or if this was not the reason, it was because he had not yet attained any high degree of belief concerning Christ that the Lord first addressed Himself to the lesser need, and one which was manifest and obvious, the health of the body; but in the case of the other man He did not act thus, but inasmuch as this man had more faith, and a loftier soul, He spoke to him first of all concerning the more dangerous disease: with the additional object of exhibiting his equality of rank with the Father. For just as in the former case He healed on the Sabbath day because He wished to lead men away from the Jewish mode of observing it, and to take occasion from their reproaches to prove Himself equal with the Father: even so in this instance also, knowing beforehand what they were going to say, He uttered these words that He might use them as a starting-point and a pretext for proving His equality of rank with the Father. For it is one thing when no one brings an accusation or charge to enter spontaneously upon a discourse about these things, and quite another when other persons give occasion for it, to set about the same work in the order and shape of a defence. For the nature of the former demonstration was a stumbling block to the hearers: but the other was less offensive, and more acceptable, and everywhere we see Him doing this, and manifesting His equality not so much by words as by deeds. This at any rate is what the Evangelist implied when he said that the Jews persecuted Jesus not only because He broke the Sabbath but also because He said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God,  which is a far greater thing, for He effected this by the demonstration of His deeds. How then do the envious and wicked act, and those who seek to find a handle in every direction? "Why does this man blaspheme?" they say for "no man can forgive sins save God alone."  As they persecuted Him there because He broke the Sabbath, and took occasion from their reproaches to declare His equality with the Father in the form of a defence, saying "my Father worketh hitherto and I work,"  so here also starting from the accusations which they make He proves from these His exact likeness to the Father. For what was it they said? "No man can forgive sins save God alone." Inasmuch then as they themselves laid down this definition, they themselves introduced the rule, they themselves declared the law, He proceeds to entangle them by means of their own words. "You have confessed," He says, "that forgiveness of sins is an attribute of God alone: my equality therefore is unquestionable." And it is not these men only who declare this but also the prophet thus saying: "who is God as thou?" and then, indicating His special attribute he adds "taking away iniquity and passing over unrighteousness."  If then any one else appears thus doing the same thing He also is God, God even as that one is God. But let us observe how Christ argues with them, how meekly and gently, and with all tenderness. "And behold some of the scribes said within themselves: this man blasphemeth." They did not utter the word, they did not proclaim it through the tongue, but reasoned in the secret recesses of their heart. How then did Christ act? He made public their secret thoughts before the demonstration which was concerned with the cure of the paralytic's body, wishing to prove to them the power of His Godhead. For that it is an attribute of God alone, a sign of His deity to shew the secrets of His mind, the Scripture saith "Thou alone knowest men's hearts."  Seest thou that this word "alone," is not used with a view of contrasting the Son with the Father. For if the Father alone knows the heart, how does the Son know the secrets of the mind? "For He Himself" it is said, "knew what was in man;"  and Paul when proving that the knowledge of secret things is a special attribute of God says, "and He that searchest the heart,"  shewing that this expression is equivalent to the appellation "God." For just as when I say "He who causeth rain said," I signify none other than God by mentioning the deed, since it is one which belongs to Him alone: and when I say "He who maketh the sun to rise," without adding the word God, I yet signify Him by mentioning the deed: even so when Paul said "He who searcheth the hearts," he proved that to search the heart is an attribute of God alone. For if this expression had not been of equal force with the name "God" for pointing out Him who was signified, he would not have used it absolutely and by itself. For if the power were shared by Him in common with some created being, we should not have known who was signified, the community of power causing confusion in the mind of the hearers. Inasmuch then as this appears to be a special attribute of the Father, and yet is manifested of the Son whose equality becomes thence unquestionable, therefore we read "why think ye evil in your hearts? for whether is easier: to say: Thy sins are forgiven thee or to say arise and walk?"
7. See moreover He makes a second proof of His power of forgiving sins. For to forgive sins is a very much greater act than to heal the body, greater in proportion as the soul is greater than the body. For as paralysis is a disease of the body, even so sin is a disease of the soul: but although this is the greater it is not palpable: whereas the other although it be less is manifest. Since then He is about to use the less for a demonstration of the greater proving that He acted thus on account of their weakness, and by way of condescension to their feeble condition He says "whether is easier? to say thy sins are forgiven thee or to say arise and walk?" For what reason then should He address Himself to the lesser act on their account? Because that which is manifest presents the proof in a more distinct form. Therefore He did not enable the man to rise until He had said to them "But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith He to the sick of the palsy) arise and walk:" as if He had said: forgiveness of sins is indeed a greater sign: but for your sakes I add the less also since this seems to you to be a proof of the other. For as in another case when He praised the centurion for saying "speak the word only and my servant shall be healed: for I also say to this man go and he goeth and to the other come and he cometh," He confirmed his opinion by the eulogy which He pronounced: and again when He reproved the Jews for finding fault with Him on the Sabbath day saying that He transgressed the law, He proved that He had authority to alter laws: even so in this instance also when some said "He maketh Himself equal with God by promising that which belongs only to the Father," He having upbraided and accused them and proved by His deeds that He did not blaspheme supplied us with indisputable evidence that He could do the same things as the Father who begat Him. Observe at least the manner in which He pleases to establish the fact that what belongs to the Father only, belongs also to Himself: for He did not simply enable the paralytic to get up, but also said "but that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins:" thus it was his endeavour and earnest desire to prove above all things that He had the same authority as the Father.
8. Let us then carefully hold fast all these things, both those which were spoken yesterday and the day before that, and let us beseech God that they may abide immoveably in our heart, and let us contribute zeal on our side, and constantly meet in this place. For in this way we shall preserve the truths which have been formerly spoken, and we shall add others to our store; and if any of them slip from our memory through the lapse of time we shall easily be able to recover them by the aid of continual teaching. And not only will the doctrines abide sound and uncorrupt but our course of life will have the benefit of much diligent care and we shall be able to pass through this present state of existence with pleasure and cheerfulness. For whatever kind of suffering is oppressing our soul when we come here will easily be got rid of: seeing that now also Christ is present, and he who approaches Him with faith will readily receive healing from Him. Suppose some one is struggling with perpetual poverty, and at a loss for necessary food, and often goes to bed hungry, if he has come in here, and heard Paul saying that he passed his time in hunger and thirst and nakedness, and that he experienced this not on one or two or three days, but constantly (this at least is what he indicates when he says "up to the present hour we both hunger and thirst and are naked"),  he will receive ample consolation, learning by means of these words that God has not permitted him to be in poverty because He hated him or abandoned him: for if this were the effect of hatred, He would not have permitted it in the case of Paul who was of all men especially dear to Him: but He permitted it out of His tender love and providential care, and by way of conducting him to a higher degree of spiritual wisdom. Has some other man a body which is beset with disease and countless sufferings? The condition of these paralytics may be an ample source of consolation and besides these the blessed and brave disciple of Paul who was continually suffering from disorders, and never had any respite from prolonged infirmity, even as Paul also said "Use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities,"  where he does not speak merely of infirmities as such. Or another having been subjected to false accusation has acquired a bad reputation with the public, and this is continually vexing and gnawing his soul: he enters this place and hears "Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you and say all manner of evil against you falsely: rejoice ye and be exceeding glad for great is your reward in Heaven:"  then he will lay aside all despondency and receive every kind of pleasure: for it is written "leap for joy, and be exceeding glad when men cast out your name as evil."  In this manner then God comforts those that are evil spoken of, and them that speak evil He puts in fear after another manner saying "every evil word which men shall speak they shall give an account thereof whether it be good or evil." 
Another perhaps has lost a little daughter or a son, or one of his kinsfolk, and he also having come here listens to Paul groaning over this present life and longing to see that which is to come, and oppressed by his sojourn in this world, and he will go away with a sufficient remedy for his grief when he has heard him say "Now concerning them that are asleep I would not have you ignorant brethren that ye sorrow not even as others who have no hope."  He did not say concerning the dying, but "concerning them that are asleep" proving that death is a sleep. As then if we see any one sleeping we are not disturbed or distressed, expecting that he will certainly get up: even so when we see any one dead, let us not be disturbed or dejected for this also is a sleep, a longer one indeed, but still a sleep. By giving it the name of slumber He comforted the mourners and overthrew the accusation of the unbelievers. If you mourn immoderately over him who has departed you will be like that unbeliever who has no hope of a resurrection. He indeed does well to mourn, inasmuch as he cannot exercise any spiritual wisdom concerning things to come: but thou who hast received such strong proofs concerning the future life, why dost thou sink into the same weakness with him? Therefore it is written "now concerning them that are asleep we would not have you ignorant that ye sorrow not even as others who have no hope."
And not only from the New Testament but from the Old also it is possible to receive abundant consolation. For when you hear of Job after the loss of his property, after the destruction of his herds, after the loss not of one, or two, or three, but of a whole troop of sons in the very flower of their age, after the great excellence of soul which he displayed, even if thou art the weakest of men, thou wilt easily be able to repent and regain thy courage. For thou, O man, hast constantly attended thy sick son, and hast seen him laid upon the bed, and hast heard him uttering his last words, and stood beside him whilst he was drawing his last breath and hast closed his eyes, and shut his mouth: but he was not present at the death struggle of his sons, he did not see them breathing their last gasp, but the house became the common grave of them all, and on the same table brains and blood were poured forth, and pieces of wood and tiles, and dust, and fragments of flesh, and all these things were mingled together in like manner. Nevertheless after such great calamities of this kind he was not petulant, but what does he say--"The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away; as it seemed good unto the Lord even so has it come to pass, blessed be the name of the Lord for ever."  Let this speech be our utterance also over each event which befalls us; whether it be loss of property, or infirmity of body, or insult, or false accusation or any other form of evil incident to mankind, let us say these words "The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away; as it seemed good to the Lord so has it come to pass; blessed be the name of the Lord for ever." If we practise this spiritual wisdom, we shall never experience any evil, even if we undergo countless sufferings, but the gain will be greater than the loss, the good will exceed the evil: by these words thou wilt cause God to be merciful unto thee, and wilt defend thyself against the tyranny of Satan. For as soon as thy tongue has uttered these words forthwith the Devil hastens from thee: and when he has hastened away, the cloud of dejection also is dispelled and the thoughts which afflict us take to flight, hurrying off in company with him, and in addition to all this thou wilt win all manner of blessings both here and in Heaven. And you have a convincing example in the case of Job, and of the Apostle, who having for God's sake despised the troubles of this world, obtained the everlasting blessings. Let us then be trustful and in all things which befall us let us rejoice and give thanks to the merciful God, that we may pass through this present life with serenity, and obtain the blessings to come, by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ to whom be glory, honour and might always, now and ever, world without end. Amen.
Translated by Rev. W. R. W. Stephens, M.A., Prebendary of Chichester Cathedral, and Rector of Woolbeding, Sussex.
1. I did no good as it seems by the prolonged discourse which I lately addressed to you with a view to kindling your zeal for the assemblies here:  for again our Church is destitute of her children. Wherefore also I am again compelled to seem vexatious and burdensome, reproving those who are present, and finding fault with those who have been left behind: with them because they have not put away their sloth, and with you because you have not given a helping hand to the salvation of your brethren. I am compelled to seem burdensome and vexatious, not on behalf of myself, or my own possessions, but on your behalf and for your salvation, which is more precious to me than anything else. Let him who pleases take it in bad part, and call me insolent and impudent, yet will I not cease continually annoying him for the same purpose; for nothing is better for me than this kind of impudence. For it may be, it may be, that this at least if nothing else, will put you to shame, and that to avoid being perpetually importuned concerning the same things, ye will take part in the tender care of your brethren. For what profit is there to me in praise when I do not see you making advances in virtue? and what harm is there from the silence of the hearers when I behold your piety increasing? For the praise of the speaker does not consist in applause, but in the zeal of the hearers for godliness: not in noise made just at the time of hearing, but in lasting earnestness. As soon as applause has issued from the lips it is dispersed in air and perishes; but the moral improvement of the hearers brings an imperishable and immortal reward both to him who speaks and to them who obey. The praise of your cheers makes the speaker illustrious here, but the piety of your soul affords the teacher much confidence before the judgment-seat of Christ. Wherefore if any one loves the speaker, let him not desire the applause but the profit of the hearers. To neglect our brethren is no ordinary wrong, but one which brings extreme punishment, and an inexorable penalty. And the case of the man who buried the talent proves this: he was not reproached at least on account of his own life: for as regarded the deposit itself he did not turn out a bad man, since he restored it intact: nevertheless he did turn out a bad man as regarded his management of the deposit. For he did not double that which was entrusted to him; and so was punished. Whence it is manifest that even if we are earnest and well trained, and have much zeal about hearing the holy scriptures this does not suffice for our salvation. For the deposit must be doubled, and it becomes doubled when together with our own salvation we undertake to make some provision for the good of others. For the man in the parable said "Lo! there thou hast that is thine:" but this did not serve him for a defence: for it was said to him "thou oughtest to have put the money to the exchangers." 
And observe I pray how easy the commands of the Master are: for men indeed make those who lend out capital sums at interest answerable for recalling them; "you have made the deposit," one says, "you must call it in: I have no concern with the man who has received it." But God does not act thus; He only commands us to make the deposit, and does not render us liable for the recall. For the speaker has the power of advising, not of persuading. Therefore he says: "I make thee answerable for depositing only, and not for the recall." What can be easier than this? And yet the servant called the master hard, who was thus gentle and merciful. For such is the wont of the ungrateful and indolent; they always try to shift the blame of their offences from themselves to their master. And therefore the man was thrust out with torture and bonds into the outer darkness. And lest we should suffer this penalty let us deposit our teaching with the brethren, whether they be persuaded by it, or not. For if they be persuaded they will profit both themselves and us: and if they are not, they involve themselves indeed in inevitable punishment, but will not be able to do us the slightest injury. For we have done our part, by giving them advice: but if they do not listen to it no harm will result to us from that. For blame would attach to us not for failing to persuade, but for failing to advise: and after prolonged and continual exhortation and counsel they and not we, have to reckon henceforth with God.
I have been anxious at any rate to know clearly, whether you continue to exhort your brethren, and if they remain all the time in the same condition of indolence: otherwise I would never have given you any trouble: as it is, I have fears that they may remain uncorrected in consequence of your neglect and indifference. For it is impossible that a man who continually has the benefit of exhortation and instruction should not become better and more diligent. The proverb which I am about to cite is certainly a common one, nevertheless it confirms this very truth. For "a perpetual dropping of water" it says, "wears a rock," yet what is softer than water? and what is harder than a rock? Nevertheless perpetual action conquers nature: and if it conquers nature much more will it be able to prevail over the human will. Christianity is no child's play, my beloved: no matter of secondary importance. I am continually saying these things, and yet I effect nothing.
2. How am I distressed, think you, when I call to mind that on the festival days the multitudes assembled resemble the broad expanse of the sea, but now not even the smallest part of that multitude is gathered together here? Where are they now who oppress us with their presence on the feast days? I look for them, and am grieved on their account when I mark what a multitude are perishing of those who are in the way of salvation,  how large a loss of brethren I sustain, how few are reached by the things which concern salvation, and how the greater part of the body of the Church is like a dead and motionless carcase. "And what concern is that to us?" you say. The greatest possible concern if you pay no attention to your brethren, if you do not exhort and advise, if you put no constraint on them, and do not forcibly drag them hither, and lead them away out of their deep indolence. For that one ought not to be useful to himself alone, but also to many others, Christ declared plainly, when He called us salt,  and leaven,  and light:  for these things are useful and profitable to others. For a lamp does not shine for itself, but for those who are sitting in darkness: and thou art a lamp not that thou mayest enjoy the light by thyself, but that thou mayest bring back yonder man who has gone astray. For what profit is a lamp if it does not give light to him who sits in darkness? and what profit is a Christian when he benefits no one, neither leads any one back to virtue? Again salt is not an astringent to itself but braces up those parts of the body which have decayed, and prevents them from falling to pieces and perishing. Even so do thou, since God has appointed thee to be spiritual salt, bind and brace up the decayed members, that is the indolent and sordid brethren, and having rescued them from their indolence as from some form of corruption, unite them to the rest of the body of the Church. And this is the reason why He called you leaven: for leaven also does not leaven itself, but, little though it is, it affects the whole lump however big it may be. So also do ye: although ye are few in number, yet be ye many and powerful in faith, and in zeal towards God. As then the leaven is not weak on account of its littleness, but prevails owing to its inherent heat, and the force of its natural quality, so ye also will be able to bring back a far larger number than yourselves, if you will, to the same degree of zeal as your own. Now if they make the summer season their excuse: for I hear of their saying things of this kind, "the present stifling heat is excessive, the scorching sun is intolerable, we cannot bear being trampled and crushed in the crowd, and to be steaming all over with perspiration and oppressed by the heat and confined space:" I am ashamed of them, believe me: for such excuses are womanish: indeed even in their case who have softer bodies, and a weaker nature, such pretexts do not suffice for justification. Nevertheless, even if it seems a disgrace to make a reply to a defence of this kind, yet is it necessary. For if they put forward such excuses as these and do not blush, much more does it behove us not to be ashamed of replying to these things. What then am I to say to those who advance these pretexts? I would remind them of the three children in the furnace and the flame, who when they saw the fire encircling them on all sides, enveloping their mouth and their eyes and even their breath, did not cease singing that sacred and mystical hymn to God, in company with the universe, but standing in the midst of the pyre sent up their song of praise to the common Lord of all with greater cheerfulness than they who abide in some flowery field:  and together with these three children I should think it proper to remind them also of the lions which were in Babylon, and of Daniel and the den:  and not of this one only but also of another den, and the prophet Jeremiah, and the mire in which he was smothered up to the neck.  And emerging from these dens, I would conduct these persons who put forward heat as an excuse into the prison and exhibit Paul to them there, and Silas bound fast in the stocks, covered with bruises and wounds lacerated all over their body with a mass of stripes, yet singing praises to God at midnight and celebrating their holy vigil. For is it not a monstrous thing that those holy men, both in the furnace and the fire, and the den, and amongst wild beasts, and mire, and in a prison and the stocks, and amidst stripes and gaolers, and intolerable sufferings, never complained of any of these things, but were continually uttering prayers and sacred songs with much energy and fervent zeal, whilst we who have not undergone any of their innumerable sufferings small or great, neglect our own salvation on account of a scorching sun and a little short lived heat and toil, and forsaking the assembly wander away, depraving ourselves by going to meetings which are thoroughly unwholesome? When the dew of the divine oracles is so abundant dost thou make heat thy excuse? "The water which I will give him," saith Christ "shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life;"  and again; "He that believeth on me as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."  Tell me; when thou hast spiritual wells and rivers, art thou afraid of material heat? Now in the market place where there is so much turmoil and crowding, and scorching wind, how is it that you do not make suffocation and heat an excuse for absenting yourself? For it is impossible for you to say that there you can enjoy a cooler temperature, and that all the heat is concentrated here with us:--the truth is exactly the reverse; here indeed owing to the pavement floor, and to the construction of the building in other respects (for it is carried up to a vast height), the air is lighter and cooler: whereas there the sun is strong in every direction, and there is much crowding, and vapour and dust, and other things which add to discomfort far more than these. Whence it is plain that these senseless excuses are the offspring of indolence and of a supine disposition, destitute of the fire of the Holy Spirit.
3. Now these remarks of mine are not so much directed to them, as to you who do not bring them forward, do not rouse them from their indolence, and draw them to this table of salvation. Household slaves indeed when they have to discharge some service in common, summon their fellow slaves, but you when you are going to meet for this spiritual ministry suffer your fellow servants to be deprived of the advantage by your neglect. "But what if they do not desire it?" you say. Make them desire it by your continual importunity: for if they see you insisting upon it they certainly will desire it. Nay these things are a mere excuse and pretence. How many fathers at any rate are there here who have not their sons standing with them? Was it so difficult for thee to bring hither some of thy children? Whence it is clear that the absence of all the others who remain outside is due not only to their own indolence, but also to your neglect. But now at least, if never before, rouse yourselves up, and let each person enter the Church accompanied by a member of his family: let them incite and urge one another to the assembly here, the father his son, the son his father, the husbands their wives, and the wives their husbands, the master his slave, brother his brother, friend his friend: or rather let us not summon friends only but also enemies to this common treasury of good things. If thy enemy sees thy care for his welfare, he will undoubtedly relinquish his hatred.
Say to him: "art thou not ashamed and dost thou not blush before the Jews who keep their sabbath with such great strictness, and from the evening of it abstain from all work? And if they see the sun verging towards setting on the day of the Preparation they break off business, and cut short their traffic: and if any one who has been making a purchase from them, before the evening, comes in the evening bringing the price, they do not suffer themselves to take it, or to accept the money." And why do I speak of the price of market wares and transaction of business? Even if it were possible to receive a treasure they would rather lose the gain than trample on their law. Are the Jews then so strict, and this when they keep the law out of due season, and cling to an observance of it which does not profit them, but rather does them harm: and wilt thou, who art superior to the shadow, to whom it has been vouchsafed to see the Sun of Righteousness, who art ranked as a citizen of the Heavenly commonwealth, wilt thou not display the same zeal as those who unseasonably cleave to what is wrong, thou who hast been entrusted with the truth, but although thou art summoned here for only a short part of the day, canst thou not endure to spend even this upon the hearing of the divine oracles? and what kind of indulgence, pray, could you obtain? and what answer will you have to make which is reasonable and just? It is utterly impossible that one who is so indifferent and indolent should ever obtain indulgence, even if he should allege the necessities of worldly affairs ten thousand times over as an excuse. Do you not know that if you come and worship God and take part in the work which goes on here, the business you have on hand is made much easier for you? Have you worldly anxieties? Come here on that account that by the time you spend here you may win for yourself the favour of God, and so depart with a sense of security; that you may have Him for your ally, that you may become invincible to the dæmons because you are assisted by the heavenly hand. If you have the benefit of prayers uttered by the fathers, if you take part in common prayer, if you listen to the divine oracles, if you win for yourself the aid of God, if, armed with these weapons, you then go forth, not even the devil himself will be able henceforth to look you in the face, much less wicked men who are eager to insult and malign you. But if you go from your house to the market place, and are found destitute of these weapons, you will be easily mastered by all who insult you. This is the reason why both in public and private affairs, many things occur contrary to our expectation, because we have not been diligent about spiritual things in the first place, and secondarily about the secular, but have inverted the order. For this reason also the proper sequence and right arrangement of things has been upset, and all our affairs are full of much confusion. Can you imagine what distress and grief I suffer when I observe, that if a public holy day and festival is at hand there is a concourse of all the inhabitants of the city, although there is no one to summon them; but when the holy day and festival are past, even if we should crack our voice by continuing to call you all day long there is no one who pays any heed? For often when turning these things over in my mind I have groaned heavily, and said to myself: What is the use of exhortation or advice, when you do everything merely by the force of habit, and do not become a whit more zealous in consequence of my teaching? For whereas in the festivals you need no exhortation from me, but, when they are past you profit nothing by my teaching, do you not show that my discourse, so far as you are concerned, is superfluous?
4. Perhaps many of those who hear these things are grieved. But such is not the sentiment of the indolent: else they would put away their carelessness, like ourselves, who are daily anxious about your affairs. And what gain do you make by your secular transactions in proportion to the damage you sustain? It is impossible to depart from any other assembly, or gathering, in the possession of so much gain as you receive from the time spent here, whether it be the law court, or council-chamber, or even the palace itself. For we do not commit the administration of nations or cities nor the command of armies to those who enter here, but another kind of government more dignified than that of the empire itself; or rather we do not ourselves commit it, but the grace of the spirit.
What then is the government, more dignified than that of the empire, which they who enter here receive? They are trained to master untoward passions, to rule wicked lusts, to command anger, to regulate ill-will, to subdue vainglory. The emperor, seated on the imperial throne, and wearing his diadem, is not so dignified as the man who has elevated his own inward right reason to the throne of government over base passions, and by his dominion over them has bound as it were a glorious diadem upon his brow. For what profit is there, pray, in purple, and raiment wrought with gold, and a jewelled crown, when the soul is in captivity to the passions? What gain is there in outward freedom when the ruling element within us is reduced to a state of disgraceful and pitiable servitude. For just as when a fever penetrates deep, and inflames all the inward parts, there is no benefit to be got from the outward surface of the body, although it is not affected in the same way: even so when our soul is violently carried away by the passion within, no outward government, not even the imperial throne, is of any profit, since reason is deposed from the throne of empire by the violent usurpation of the passions, and bows and trembles beneath their insurrectionary movements. Now to prevent this taking place prophets and apostles concur on all sides in helping us, repressing our passions, and expelling all the ferocity of the irrational element within us, and committing a mode of government to us far more dignified than the empire. This is why I said that they who deprive themselves of this care  receive a blow in the vital parts, sustaining greater damage than can be inflicted from any other quarter inasmuch as they who come here get greater gain than they could derive from any other source: even as Scripture has declared. The law said "Thou shalt not appear before the Lord empty;"  that is, enter not into the temple without sacrifices. Now if it is not right to go into the house of God without sacrifices, much more ought we to enter the assembly accompanied by our brethren: for this sacrifice and offering is better than that, when thou bringest a soul with thee into the Church. Do you not see doves which have been trained, how they hunt for others when they are let out? Let us also do this. For what kind of excuse shall we have, if irrational creatures are able to hunt for an animal of their own species, while we who have been honoured with reason and so much wisdom neglect this kind of pursuit? I exhorted you in my former discourse with these words: "Go, each of you to the houses of your neighbours, wait for them to come out, lay hold of them, and conduct them to their common mother: and imitate those who are mad upon theatre going, who diligently arrange to meet each other and so wait at early dawn to see that iniquitous spectacle." Yet I have not effected anything by this exhortation. Therefore I speak again and shall not cease speaking, until I have persuaded you. Hearing profits nothing unless it is accompanied by practice. It makes our punishment heavier, if we continually hear the same things and do none of the things which are spoken. That the chastisement will be heavier, hear the statement of Christ. "If I had not come and spoken to them they had not sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin."  And the Apostle says "for not the hearers of the law shall be justified."  These things He says to the hearers; but when He wishes to instruct the speaker also, that even he will not gain anything from his teaching unless his behaviour is in close correspondence with his doctrine, and his manner of life is in harmony with his speech, hear how the Apostle and the prophet address themselves to him: for the latter says "but to the sinner said God, why dost thou preach my laws and takest my covenant in thy mouth, whereas thou hast hated instruction?"  And the Apostle, addressing himself to these same again who thought great things of their teaching, speaks on this wise: "Thou art confident that thou thyself art a leader of the blind, a light of those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes: thou therefore that teachest another teachest thou not thyself?"  Inasmuch then as it could neither profit me the speaker to speak, nor you the hearers to hear, unless we comply with the things which are spoken, but rather would increase our condemnation, let us not limit the display of our zeal to hearing only, but let us observe what is said, in our deeds. For it is indeed a good thing to spend time continually in hearing the divine oracles: but this good thing becomes useless when the benefit to be derived from hearing is not linked with it.
Therefore that you may not assemble here in vain I shall not cease beseeching you with all earnestness, as I have often besought you before, "conduct your brethren to us, exhort the wanderers, counsel them not by word only but also by deed." This is the more powerful teaching--that which comes through our manners and behaviour--Even if you do not utter a word, but yet, after you have gone out of this assembly, by your mien, and your look, and your voice and all the rest of your demeanour you exhibit to the men who have been left behind the gain which you have brought away with you, this is sufficient for exhortation and advice. For we ought to go out from this place as it were from some sacred shrine, as men who have descended from heaven itself, who have become sedate, and philosophical, who do and say everything in proper measure: and when a wife sees her husband returning from the assembly, and a father his son, and a friend his friend, and an enemy his enemy, let them all receive an impression of the benefit which you have derived from coming here: and they will receive it, if they perceive that you have become milder, more philosophical, more devout. Consider what privileges you enjoy who hast been initiated into the mysteries,  with what company thou offerest up that mystic hymn, with what company thou criest aloud the "Ter sanctus." Teach "them that are without" that thou hast joined the chorus of the Seraphim, that thou art ranked as a citizen of the commonwealth above, that thou hast been enrolled in the choir of Angels, that thou hast conversed with the Lord, that thou hast been in the company of Christ. If we regulate ourselves in this way we shall not need to say anything, when we go out to those who are left behind: but from our advantage they will perceive their own loss and will hasten hither, so as to enjoy the same benefits themselves. For when, merely by the use of their senses, they see the beauty of your soul shining forth, even if they are the most stupid of men, they will become enamoured of your goodly appearance. For if corporeal beauty excites those who behold it, much more will symmetry of soul be able to move the spectator, and stimulate him to equal zeal. Let us then adorn our inward man, and let us be mindful of the things which are said here, when we go out: for there especially is it a proper time to remember them; and just as an athlete displays in the lists the things which he has learned in the training school: even so ought we to display in our transactions in the world without the things which we have heard here.
5. Bear in mind then the things which are said here, that when you have gone out and the devil lays hold of you either by means of anger or vainglory, or any other passion, you may call to remembrance the teaching which you have received here and may be able easily to shake off the grasp of the evil one. Do you not see the wrestling-masters in the practising grounds, who, after countless contests having obtained exemption from wrestling on account of their age, sit outside the lines by the side of the dust and shout to those who are wrestling inside, telling one to grasp a hand, or drag a leg, or seize upon the back, and by many other directions of that kind, saying, "if you do so and so you will easily throw your antagonist," they are of the greatest service to their pupils? Even so do thou look to thy training master, the blessed Paul, who after countless victories is now sitting outside the boundary, I mean this present life, and cries aloud to us who are wrestling, shouting out by means of his Epistles, when he sees us overcome by wrath and resentment of injuries, and choked by passion; "if thy enemy hunger feed him, if he thirst give him drink;"  --a beautiful precept full of spiritual wisdom, and serviceable both to the doer and the receiver. But the reminder of the passage causes much perplexity, and does not seem to correspond to the sentiment of him who uttered the former words. And what is the nature of this? the saying that "by so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." For by these words he does a wrong both to the doer and the receiver: to the latter by setting his head on fire, and placing coals upon it; for what good will he get from receiving food and drink in proportion to the evil he will suffer from the heaping of coals on his head? Thus then the recipient of the benefit is wronged, having a greater vengeance inflicted on him, but the benefactor also is injured in another way. For what can he gain from doing good to his enemies when he acts in the hope of revenge? For he who gives meat and drink to his enemy for the purpose of heaping coals of fire on his head would not become merciful and kind, but cruel and harsh, having inflicted an enormous punishment by means of a small benefit. For what could be more unkind than to feed a person for the purpose of heaping coals of fire on his head? This then is the contradiction: and now it remains that the solution should be added, in order that by those very things which seem to do violence to the letter of the law you may clearly see all the wisdom of the lawgiver. What then is the solution?
That great and noble-minded man was well aware of the fact that to be reconciled quickly with an enemy is a grievous and difficult thing; grievous and difficult, not on account of its own nature, but of our moral indolence. But he commanded us not only to be reconciled with our enemy, but also to feed him; which was far more grievous than the former. For if some are infuriated by the mere sight of those who have annoyed them, how would they be willing to feed them when they were hungry? And why do I speak of the sight infuriating them? If any one makes mention of the persons, and merely introduces their name in society, it revives the wound in our imagination, and increases the heat of passion. Paul then being aware of all these things and wishing to make what was hard and difficult of correction smooth and easy, and to persuade one who could not endure to see his enemy, to be ready to confer that benefit already mentioned upon him, added the words about coals of fire, in order that a man prompted by the hope of vengeance might hasten to do this service to one who had annoyed him. And just as the fisherman surrounding the hook on all sides with the bait presents it to the fishes in order that one of them hastening to its accustomed food may be captured by means of it and easily held fast: even so Paul also wishing to lead on the man who has been wronged to bestow a benefit on the man who has wronged him does not present to him the bare hook of spiritual wisdom, but having covered it as it were with a kind of bait, I mean the "coals of fire," invites the man who has been insulted, in the hope of inflicting punishment, to confer this benefit on the man who has annoyed him; but when he has come he holds him fast in future, and does not let him make off, the very nature of the deed attaching him to his enemy; and he all but says to him: "if thou art not willing to feed the man who has wronged thee for piety's sake: feed him at least from the hope of punishing him." For he knows that if the man once sets his hand to the work of conferring this benefit, a starting-point is made and a way of reconciliation is opened for him. For certainly no one would have the heart to regard a man continually as his enemy to whom he has given meat and drink, even if he originally does this in the hope of vengeance. For time as it goes on relaxes the tension of his anger. As then the fisherman, if he presented the bare hook would never allure the fish, but when he has covered it gets it unawares into the mouth of the creature who comes up to it: so also Paul if he had not advanced the expectation of inflicting punishment would never have persuaded those who were wronged to undertake to benefit those who had annoyed them. Wishing then to persuade those who recoiled in disgust, and were paralysed by the very sight of their enemies, to confer the greatest benefits upon them, he made mention of the coals of fire, not with a view of thrusting the persons in question into inexorable punishment, but in order that when he had persuaded those who were wronged to benefit their enemies in the expectation of punishing them, he might afterwards in time persuade them to abandon their anger altogether.
6. Thus then did he encourage the man who has been wronged; but observe also how he unites again the man who has done the wrong to him who has been provoked. First of all by the very manner of the benefit: (for there is no one so degraded and unfeeling as to be unwilling, when he receives meat and drink, to become the servant and friend of him who does this for him): and in the second place through the dread of vengeance. For the passage, "by so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head" seems indeed to be addressed to the person who gives the food; but it more especially touches him who has caused the annoyance, in order that through fear of this punishment he may be deterred from remaining continually in a state of enmity, and being aware that the reception of food and drink might do him the greatest mischief if he constantly retains his animosity, may suppress his anger. For thus he will be able to quench the coals of fire. Wherefore the proposed punishment and vengeance both induces the one who has been wronged to benefit him who has annoyed him, and it deters and checks him who has given the provocation, and impels him to reconciliation with the man who gives him meat and drink. Paul therefore linked the two persons by a twofold bond, the one depending on a benefit, the other on an act of vengeance. For the difficulty is to make a beginning and to find an opening for the reconciliation: but when that has once been cleared in whatever way it may be, all which follows will be smooth and easy. For even if at first the man who has been annoyed feeds his enemy in the hope of punishing him, yet becoming his friend by the act of giving him food he will be able to expel the desire of vengeance. For when he has become a friend he will no longer feed the man who has been reconciled to him, with an expectation of this kind. Again he who has given the provocation, when he sees the man who has been wronged electing to give him meat and drink, casts out all his animosity, both on account of this deed, and also of his fear of the punishment which is in store for him, even if he be excessively hard and harsh and stony hearted, being put to shame by the benevolence of him who gives him food, and dreading the punishment reserved for him, if he continues to be an enemy after accepting the food.
For this reason Paul did not stop even here in his exhortation, but when he has emptied each side of wrath he proceeds to correct their disposition, saying, "be not overcome of evil." "For if," he says, "you continue to bear resentment and to seek revenge you seem indeed to conquer your enemy, but in reality you are being conquered by evil, that is, by wrath: so that if you wish to conquer, be reconciled, and do not make an attack upon your adversary;" for a brilliant victory is that in which by means of good, that is to say by forbearance, you overcome evil, expelling wrath and resentment. But the injured man, when inflamed with passion would not have borne these words. Therefore when he had satisfied his wrath he proceeded to conduct him to the best reason for reconciliation, and did not permit him to remain permanently animated by the wicked hope of vengeance. Dost thou perceive the wisdom of the lawgiver? And that you may learn that he introduced this law only on account of the weakness of those who would not otherwise be content to make terms amongst themselves, hear how Christ, when He ordained a law on this same subject did not propose the same reward, as the Apostle; but, having said "Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you," which means give them food and drink, He did not add "for in so doing ye shall heap coals of fire on their heads:" but what did He say? "that ye may become like your Father who is in Heaven."  Naturally so, for He was discoursing to Peter, James, and John and the rest of the apostolic band: therefore He proposed that reward. But if you say that even on this understanding the precept is onerous you improve once more the defence which I am making for Paul, but you deprive yourself of every plea of indulgence. For I can prove to you that this which seems to you onerous was accomplished under the Old Dispensation when the manifestation of spiritual wisdom was not so great as it is now. For this reason also Paul did not introduce the law in his own words, but used the very expressions which were employed by him who originally brought it in, that he might leave no room for excuse to those who do not observe it: for the precept "if thine enemy hunger feed him, if he thirst give him drink" is not the utterance of Paul in the first instance, but of Solomon.  For this reason he quoted the words that he might persuade the hearer that for one who has been advanced to such a high standard of wisdom to regard an old law as onerous and grievous which was often fulfilled by the men of old time, is one of the basest things possible. Which of the ancients, you ask, fulfilled it? There were many, but amongst others David especially did so more abundantly. He did not indeed merely give food or drink to his enemy, but also rescued him several times from death, when he was in jeopardy; and when he had it in his power to slay him he spared him once, twice, yea many times. As for Saul he hated and abhorred him so much after the countless good services which he had done, after his brilliant triumphs, and the salvation which he had wrought in the matter of Goliath, that he could not bear to mention him by his own name, but called him after his father. For once when a festival was at hand, and Saul, having devised some treachery against him, and contrived a cruel plot, did not see him arrive--"where," said he, "is the son of Jesse?"  He called him by his father's name, both because on account of his hatred he could not endure the recollection of his proper name, and also because he thought to damage the distinguished position of that righteous man by a reference to his low birth;--a miserable and despicable thought: for certainly, even if he had some accusation to bring against the father this could in no wise injure David. For each man is answerable for his own deeds, and by these he can be praised and accused. But as it was, not having any evil deed to mention, he brought forward his low birth, expecting by this means to throw his glory into the shade, which in fact was the height of folly. For what kind of offence is it to be the child of insignificant and humble men, "the son of Jesse," but when David found him sleeping inside the cave, he did not call him the "son of Kish," but by his title of honour: "for I will not lift up my hand," he said, "against the Lord's anointed."  So purely free was he from wrath and resentment of injuries: he calls him the Lord's anointed who had done him such great wrongs, who was thirsting for his blood, who after his countless good services had many times attempted to destroy him. For he did not consider how Saul deserved to be treated, but he considered what was becoming for himself both to do and to say, which is the greatest stretch of moral wisdom. How so? When thou hast got thy enemy in a prison, made fast by a twofold, or rather by a triple chain, confinement of space, dearth of assistance, and necessity of sleep, dost thou not demand a penalty and punishment of him? "No," he says; "for I am not now regarding what he deserves to suffer, but what it behoves me to do." He did not look to the facility for slaying, but to the accurate observance of the moral wisdom which was becoming to him. And yet which of the existing circumstances was not sufficient to prompt him to the act of slaughter? Was not the fact that his enemy was delivered bound into his hands a sufficient inducement? For you are aware I suppose that we hasten more eagerly to deeds for which facilities abound, and the hope of success increases our desire to act, which was just what happened then in his case.
Well! did the captain who then counselled and urged him to the deed,  did the memory of past events induce him to slay? no one of these things moved him: in fact the very facility for slaughter averted him from it: for he bethought him that God had put Saul in his hands for the purpose of furnishing ample ground and opportunity for the exercise of moral wisdom. You then perhaps admire him, because he did not cherish the memory of any of his past evils: but I am much more astonished at him for another reason. And what is this? that the fear of future events did not impel him to lay violent hands on his enemy. For he knew clearly that if Saul escaped his hands, he would again be his adversary; yet he preferred exposing himself to danger by letting go the man who had wronged him, to providing for his own security by laying violent hands upon his foe. What could equal then the great and generous spirit of this man, who, when the law commanded eye to be plucked out for eye, and tooth for tooth, and retaliation on equal terms,  not only abstained from doing this, but exhibited a far greater measure of moral wisdom? At least if he had slain Saul at that time he would have retained credit for moral wisdom unimpaired, not merely because he had acted on the defensive, not being himself the originator of violence, but also because by his great moderation he was superior to the precept "an eye for an eye." For he would not have inflicted one slaughter in return for one; but, in return for many deaths, which Saul endeavoured to bring on him, having attempted to slay him not once or twice but many times, he would have brought only one death on Saul; and not only this, but if he had proceeded to avenge himself out of fear of the future, even this, combined with the things already mentioned, would procure him the reward of forbearance without any deduction. For he who is angry on account of the things which have been done to him, and demands satisfaction would not be able to obtain the praise of forbearance: but when a man dismisses the consideration of all past evils, although they are many and painful, but is compelled to take steps for self-defence from fear of the future, and by way of providing for his own security, no one would deprive him of the rewards of moderation.
7. Nevertheless David did not act even thus, but found a novel and strange form of moral wisdom: and neither the remembrance of things past, nor the fear of things to come, nor the instigation of the captain, nor the solitude of the place, nor the facility for slaying, nor anything else incited him to kill; but he spared the man who was his enemy, and had given him pain just as if he was some benefactor, and had done him much good. What kind of indulgence then shall we have, if we are mindful of past transgressions, and avenge ourselves on those who have given us pain, whereas that innocent man who had undergone such great sufferings and expected more and worse evils to befall him in consequence of saving his enemy, is seen to spare him, so as to prefer incurring danger himself and to live in fear and trembling, rather than put to a just death the man who would cause him endless troubles?
His moral wisdom then we may perceive, not only from the fact that he did not slay Saul, when there was so strong a compulsion, but also that he did not utter an irreverent word against him, although he who was insulted would not have heard him. Yet we often speak evil of friends when they are absent, he on the contrary not even of the enemy who had done him such great wrong. His moral wisdom then we may perceive from these things: but his lovingkindness and tender care from what he did after these things. For when he had cut off the fringe of Saul's garment, and had taken away the bottle of water he withdrew afar off and stood and shouted, and exhibited these things to him whose life he had preserved, doing so not with a view to display and ostentation, but desiring to convince him by his deeds that he suspected him without a cause as his enemy, and aiming therefore at winning him into friendship. Nevertheless when he had even thus failed to persuade him, and could have laid hands on him, he again chose rather to be an exile from his country and to sojourn in a strange land, and suffer distress every day, in procuring necessary food than to remain at home and vex his adversary. What spirit could be kinder than his? He was indeed justified in saying "Lord remember David and all his meekness."  Let us also imitate him, and let us neither say nor do evil to our enemies, but benefit them according to our power: for we shall do more good to ourselves than to them. "For if ye forgive your enemies," we are told "ye shall be forgiven."  Forgive base offences that thou mayest receive a royal pardon for thy offences; but if any one has done thee great wrongs, the greater the wrongs you forgive, the greater will be the pardon which you will receive. Therefore we have been instructed to say "Forgive us, as we forgive," that we may learn that the measure of our forgiveness takes its beginning in the first place from ourselves. Wherefore in proportion to the severity of the evil which the enemy does to us is the greatness of the benefit which he bestows. Let us then be earnest and eager to be reconciled with those who have vexed us, whether their wrath be just or unjust. For if thou art reconciled here, thou art delivered from judgment in the other world; but if in the interval while the hatred is still going on, death interrupting steps in and carries the enmity away with it, it follows of necessity that the trial of the case should be brought forward in the other world. As then many men when they have a dispute with one another, if they come to a friendly understanding together outside the law court save themselves loss, and alarm, and many risks, the issue of the case turning out in accordance with the sentiment of each party; but if they severally entrust the affair to the judge the only result to them will be loss of money, and in many cases a penalty, and the permanent endurance of their hatred; even so here if we come to terms during our present life we shall relieve ourselves from all punishment; but if while remaining enemies we depart to that terrible tribunal in the other world we shall certainly pay the utmost penalty at the sentence of the judge there, and shall both of us undergo inexorable punishment: he who is unjustly wroth because he is thus unjustly disposed, and he who is justly wroth, because he has, however justly, cherished resentment. For even if we have been unjustly ill-treated, we ought to grant pardon to those who have wronged us. And observe how he urges and incites those who have unjustly given pain to reconciliation with those whom they have wronged. "If thou offerest thy gift before the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother."  He did not say, "assemble, and offer thy sacrifice" but "be reconciled and then offer it." Let it lie there, he says, in order that the necessity of making the offering may constrain him who is justly wroth to come to terms even against his will. See how he again prompts us to go to the man who has provoked us when he says "Forgive your debtors in order that your Father may also forgive your trespasses." For He did not propose a small reward, but one which far exceeds the magnitude of the achievement. Considering all these things then, and counting the recompense which is given in this case and remembering that to wipe away sins does not entail much labour and zeal, let us pardon those who have wronged us. For that which others scarcely accomplish, I mean the blotting out of their own sins by means of fasting and lamentations, and prayers, and sackcloth, and ashes, this it is possible for us easily to effect without sackcloth and ashes and fasting if only we blot out anger from our heart, and with sincerity forgive those who have wronged us. May the God of peace and love, having banished from our soul all wrath and bitterness, and anger, deign to grant that we being closely knit one to another according to the proper adjustment of the parts,  may with one accord, one mouth and one soul continually offer up our hymns of thanksgiving due to Him: for to Him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.
Translated by R. Blackburn, M.A., Rector of Selham, Sussex, and late Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford.
1. I account you happy for the zeal, beloved, with which you flock into the Father's house. For from this zeal I have ground for feeling confidence about your health also with respect to the soul; for indeed the school of the Church is an admirable surgery--a surgery, not for bodies, but for souls. For it is spiritual, and sets right, not fleshly wounds, but errors of the mind,  and of these errors and wounds the medicine is the word. This medicine is compounded, not from the herbs growing on the earth, but from the words proceeding from heaven--this no hands of physicians, but tongues of preachers have dispensed. On this account it lasts right through; and neither is its virtue impaired by length of time, nor defeated by any strength of diseases. For certainly the medicines of physicians have both these defects; for while they are fresh they display their proper strength, but when much time has passed; just as those bodies which have grown old; they become weaker; and often too the difficult character of maladies is wont to baffle them; since they are but human. Whereas the divine medicine is not such as this; but after much time has intervened, it still retains all its inherent virtue. Ever since at least Moses was born (for from thence dates the beginning of the Scripture) it has healed so many human beings; and not only has it not lost its proper power, but neither has any disease ever yet overcome it. This medicine it is not possible to get by payment of silver; but he who has displayed sincerity of purpose and disposition goes his way having it all. On account of this both rich and poor alike obtain the benefit of this healing process. For where there is a necessity to pay down money the man of large means indeed shares the benefit; but the poor man often has to go away deprived of the gain, since his income does not suffice him for the making up of the medicine. But in this case, since it is not possible to pay down silver coin, but it is needful to display faith and a good purpose, he who has paid down these with forwardness of mind, this is he who most reaps the advantage; since indeed these are the price paid for the medicinal treatment. And the rich and the poor man share the benefit alike; or rather it is not alike that they share the benefit, but often the poor man goes away in the enjoyment of more. What ever can be the reason? It is because the rich man, possessed beforehand by many thoughts, having the pride and puffed-up temper belonging to wealthiness; living with carelessness and lazy ease as companions, receives the medicine of the hearing of the Scriptures not with much attention, nor with much earnestness; but the poor man, far removed from delicate living and gluttony and indolence; spending all his time in handicraft and honest labours; and gathering hence much love of wisdom for the soul; becomes thereby more attentive and free from slackness, and is wont to give his mind with more accurate care to all that is said: whence also, inasmuch as the price he has paid is higher, the benefit which he departs having reaped is greater.
2. It is not as absolutely bringing an accusation against those who are wealthy that I say all this; nor as praising the poor without reference to circumstances: for neither is wealth an evil, but the having made a bad use of wealth; nor is poverty a virtue, but the having made a virtuous use of poverty. That rich man who was in the time of Lazarus was punished,  not because he was rich, but because he was cruel and inhuman. And that poor man who rested in the bosom of Abraham was praised, not because he was poor, but because he had borne his poverty with thankfulness.
For of things--(now attend carefully to this saying; for it will avail to put into you sufficient religious knowledge, and to cast out all unsound reasoning, and to bring about your having your judgment right concerning the truth of things)--well, of things some are by nature morally good, and others the contrary; and others neither good nor evil, but they occupy the intermediate position. A good thing piety is by nature, impiety an evil thing; a good thing virtue, an evil thing wickedness; but wealth and poverty in themselves are neither the one nor the other; but from the will of those who use them they become either the one or the other. For if thou hast used thy wealth for purposes of philanthropy, the thing becomes to thee a foundation of good; but if for rapine and grasping and insolence, thou hast turned the use of it to the direct opposite; but for this wealth is not chargeable, but he who has used his wealth for insolence. So also we may say of poverty: if thou have borne it nobly by giving thanks to the Master, what has been done becomes to thee a cause and ground for receiving crowns; but if on account of this thou blaspheme thy Creator, and accuse Him for His providence, thou hast again used the thing to an evil purpose. But just as in that case it is not wealth that is responsible for the avarice, but the person who has made a bad use of wealth, so also here we are not to lay the blame of the blasphemy on poverty, but on him who did not choose to bear the thing in a sober spirit. For in every case both the praise and the blame belong to our own will and choice. Good is wealth, yet not absolutely, but to him only to whom it is not sin; and again poverty is wicked, but not absolutely, but only in the mouth of the impious, because he is discontented, because he blasphemes, because he is indignant, because he accuses Him who has made him.
3. Let us not therefore accuse riches, nor revile poverty absolutely, but those who do not will  to use these virtuously; for the things themselves lie in the middle. But as I was saying (for it is good to return to the former subject), both rich and poor enjoy the benefit of the medicines administered here with the same boldness and freedom; and often the poor with more earnestness. For the special excellence of the medicines is not this only, that they heal souls, that their virtue is not destroyed by length of time, that they are not worsted by any disease, that the benefit is publicly offered gratuitously, that the healing treatment is on a footing of equality both for rich and poor--but they have another quality also not inferior to these good points. Pray of what character is this? It is that we do not publicly expose those who come to this surgery. For they who go off to the surgeries of the outside world, have many who examine their wounds, and unless the physician have first uncovered the sore, he does not apply the dressing; but here not so, but seeing as we do innumerable patients, we go through the medical treatment of them in a latent manner. For not by dragging into publicity those who have sinned do we thus noise abroad the sins committed by them; but after putting forth our teaching, as common to all, we leave it entirely to the conscience of the hearers; so that each may draw to himself from what is said the suitable medicine for his own wound. For there proceeds the word of doctrine from the tongue of the speaker, containing accusation of wickedness, praise of virtue, blame of lewdness, commendation of chasteness, censure of pride, praise of gentleness, just as a medicine of varied and manifold ingredients, compounded from every kind; and to take what is applicable to himself and salutary is the part of each of the hearers. The word then issues openly, and settling into the conscience of each, secretly both affords the healing treatment which comes from it, and before the malady has been divulged, has often restored health.
4. You at all events heard yesterday how I extolled the power of prayer, how I reproached those who pray with listlessness; without having publicly exposed one of them. Those then who were conscious to themselves of earnestness, accepted that commendation of prayer, and became still more earnest by the praises, while those who were conscious to themselves of listlessness, accepted on the other hand the rebuking, and put off their carelessness. But neither these nor those do we know; and this ignorance is serviceable to both--how, I now tell you. He who has heard the commendations of prayer and is conscious to himself of earnestness, were he to have many witnesses of the commendations, would have lapsed towards pride; but, as it is, by having secretly accepted the praise, he is removed from all arrogance. On the other hand he who is conscious to himself of listlessness, having heard the accusation, has become better from the accusation, as having no one of men a witness of the rebuking; and this was of no ordinary profit to him. For on account of the being flurried at the opinion of the vulgar,  so long as we may think that we escape notice in our wickedness, we exert ourselves to become better; but when we have become notorious to all, and have lost the consolation derived from the escaping notice, we grow more shameless and remiss rather. And just as sores become more painful by being unbandaged and frequently exposed to cold air, so also the soul after having sinned, if in the presence of many it be rebuked for what it has done amiss, grows thereby more shameless. In order therefore that this might not take place, the word administered its medicine to you covertly. And that you may understand  that the gain which this covert treatment has is great, hear what the Christ says. "If thy brother have committed a fault against thee convince him of it," and he did not say "between him and the whole town," nor, "between thee and the whole people,"  but "only between thee and him." Let the accusation, he says, be unwitnessed to, in order that the change to amendment may be made easy of digestion. A great good surely, the making the advice unpublished. Sufficient is the conscience, sufficient that incorruptible judge. It is not so much thou who rebukest him who has done wrong as his own conscience (that accuser is the sharper), nor dost thou do it with the more exact knowledge of the faults committed. Add not therefore wound to wound by exposing him who has done wrong; but administer for thyself the counsel unwitnessed. This therefore we are doing now--the very thing that Paul also did, framing the indictment against him who among the Corinthians had sinned without citing of witnesses. And hear how. "On this account," he says, "brethren, I have applied these figures of speech to myself and Apollos." And yet not he himself nor Apollos were they who had rent the people in schism and divided the Church; but all the same he concealed the accusation, and just as by some masks, by hiding the countenances of the defendants by his own and Apollos' names, he afforded them power to amend of that wickedness. And again, "Lest in some way after I have come God humble me, and I may have to mourn many of those who have before sinned, and have not repented over the uncleanness and lasciviousness which they had committed."  See how here also he indefinitely mentions those who had sinned, in order that he might not, by openly bringing the accusation, render the soul of those who had sinned more shameless. Therefore, just as we administer our reproofs with so much sparing of your feelings, so do ye also with all seriousness receive the correction; and attend with carefulness to what is said.
5. We discoursed to you yesterday about the power which is in prayer. I pointed out  how the devil then lies in wait, deceiver that he is. For since he sees very great gain accruing to us from prayer, then most he assails us, in order that he may disable us from our defence;  that he may send us off home empty-handed. And just as before magistrates, when the officers of the court who are about the person of the magistrate have a hostile feeling toward those who come before him, they by their staves drive them away to a distance, preventing their coming near and resorting to lamentation and so obtaining compassion; so also the devil, when he has seen us coming to the judge, drives us away to a distance, not by any staff, but through our own slackness. For he knows, he knows clearly, that if they have come to him in a sober spirit, and have told the sins committed, and have mourned with their soul fervent, they will depart having received full forgiveness; for God loves mankind; and on this account he is beforehand with them, and debars them from access,  in order that they may obtain no one of the things which they need. But the soldiers of magistrates with violence scare away those who are coming to them; but he with no compulsion, but by deceiving us, and throwing us into security. On this account we are not deserving even of allowance, since we voluntarily deprive ourselves of the good things. Prayer with earnestness is a light of the understanding and soul--a light unquenchable and perpetual. On this account he throws into our minds countless rubbish-heaps of imaginations; and things which we never had imagined, these collecting together at the very moment of prayer he pours down upon our souls. And just as winds often rushing from an opposite quarter by a violent gust extinguish a lamp's flame as it is being lighted, so also the devil, when he has seen the flame of our prayer being kindled, blowing it on every side with the blasts of countless thoughts, does not desist before and until he has quenched the light. But the very thing which they who are kindling those lamps do, this let us also do. And what do they do? When they see a violent wind coming, by laying their finger upon the opening of the lamp they bar the entrance against the wind. For so long as he assails from without we shall be able to stand against him; but when we have opened to him the doors of the mind, and have received the enemy inside; after that we are no longer able to withstand even a little; but, having on all sides completely extinguished the memory,  just as a smoking lamp, he allows our mouth to utter empty words. But just as they put their finger upon the opening of the lamp, so let us lay consideration upon our mind: let us close off from the wicked spirit the entrance, in order that he may not quench our light of prayer. Remember both those illustrations, both that of the soldiers and the magistrate, and that respecting the lamp. For with this purpose we adduce to you these illustrations; with which we are conversant, in which we live, in order that, after we have departed hence and have returned home, we may from things of familiar occurrence receive a reminder of what has been said.
6. Prayer is a strong piece of armour and a great security. You heard yesterday how the three children, fettered as they were, destroyed the power of the fire; how they trampled down the blaze; how they overcame the furnace, and conquered the operation of the element. Hear to-day again how the noble and great Isaac overcame the nature itself of bodies through prayer. They destroyed  the power of fire, this man to-day loosed the bonds of incapacitated nature. And learn how he effected this. "Isaac," it says, "prayed  concerning his wife, because she was barren." This has to-day been read to you; yesterday the sermon was about prayer; and to-day again there is a demonstration of the power of prayer. See how the grace of the Spirit has ordered that what has been read to-day harmonises with what was said yesterday. "Isaac," it says, "prayed concerning Rebecca his wife, because she was barren." This first is worth inquiring into, for what cause she was barren. She was of a life admirable and replete with much chastity--both herself and her husband. We cannot lay hold  of the life of those just ones, and say that the barrenness was the work of sin. And not only was she herself barren, but also his mother Sarah, who had borne him; not only was his mother barren and his wife, but also his daughter-in-law, the wife of Jacob, Rachel. What is the meaning of this band of barren ones? All were righteous, all living in virtue, all were witnessed to by God. For it was of them that He said, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Of the same persons Paul also thus speaks. "For which cause God is not ashamed to call himself their God."  Many are the commendations of them in the New, many the praises of them in the Old Testament. On all sides they were bright and illustrious, and yet they all had barren wives, and continued in childlessness until an advanced period. When therefore thou seest man and wife living with virtue; when thou seest them beloved of God, caring for piety, and yet suffering the malady of childlessness; do not suppose that the childlessness is at all a retribution for sins. For many are God's reasons for the dispensation, and to us inexplicable; and for all we must be heartily thankful, and think those only wretched who live in wickedness; not those who do not possess children. Often God does it expediently, though we know not the cause of events. On this account in every case it is our duty to admire His wisdom, and to glorify His unspeakable love of man.
7. Well,  this consideration indeed is able to school us in moral character, but it is necessary also to state the cause for which those women were barren. What then was the cause? It was in order that when thou hast seen the Virgin bringing forth our common Master, thou mightest not disbelieve. Wherefore exercise thy mind in the womb of the barren; in order that when thou hast seen the womb, disabled and bound as it is, being opened to the bearing of children from the grace of God, thou mightest not marvel at hearing that a virgin has brought forth. Or rather even marvel and be astounded; but do not disbelieve the marvel. When the Jew says to thee, "how did the virgin bear?" say to him "how did she bear who was barren and enfeebled by old age?" There were then two hindrances, both the unseasonableness of her age and the unserviceableness of nature; but in the case of the Virgin there was one hindrance only, the not having shared in marriage. The barren one therefore prepares the way for the virgin. And that thou mayest learn that it was on this account that the barren ones had anticipated it, in order that the Virgin's childbirth might be believed, hear the words of Gabriel which were addressed to her--For when he had come and said to her, "thou shalt conceive in the womb and bear a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus;" the Virgin was astonished and marvelled, and said, "how will this be to me, since I know not a man." What then said the Angel? "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee." Seek not the sequence of nature, he says, when that which takes place is above nature; look not round for marriage and throes of child-birth, when the manner of the birth is too grand for marriage. "And how will this be," she says, "since I know not a husband." And verily on this account shall this be, since thou knowest no husband. For didst thou know a husband, thou wouldest not have been deemed worthy to serve this ministry. So that, for the reason why thou disbelievest, for this believe. And thou wouldest not have been deemed worthy to serve this ministry, not because marriage is an evil; but because virginity is superior; and right it was that the entry of the Master should be more august than ours; for it was royal, and the king enters through one more august. It was necessary that He should both share as to birth, and be diverse from ours. Wherefore both these things are managed.
For the being born from the womb is common in respect to us, but the being born without marriage is a thing greater than on a level with us. And the gestation and conception in the belly belongs to human nature; but that the pregnancy should take place without sexual intercourse is too august for human nature.  And for this purpose both these things took place, in order that thou mayest learn both the pre-eminence and the fellowship with thee of Him who was born.
8. And pray consider the wisdom of all that was done. Neither did the pre-eminence injure the likeness and kinship to us, nor did the kinship to us dim the pre-eminence; but both were displayed by all the circumstances; and the one had our condition in its entirety, and the other what was diverse compared with us. But just as I was saying, on this account the barren ones went before, in order that the Virgin's child-birth might be believed, that she  might be led by the hand to faith in that promise and undertaking which she heard from the angel, saying, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the miraculous power  of the Most High shall overshadow thee"--thus, he says, thou art able to bear. Look not to the earth; it is from the heavens that the operation will come. That which takes place is a grace of the Spirit; pray inquire not about nature and laws of marriage. But since those words were too high for her, he wills to afford also another demonstration. But do thou, pray, observe how the barren one leads her on the way to the belief in this. For since that demonstration was too high for the Virgin's intelligence, hear how he brought down what he said to lower things also, leading her by the hand by sensible facts. For "behold," he says, "Elizabeth thy kinswoman--she also has conceived a son in her old age; and this month is the sixth to her who was called barren." Seest thou that the barren one was for the sake of the Virgin? since with what object did he adduce to her the child-bearing of her kinswoman? with what object did he say, "in her old age?" with what object did he add, "who was called barren?" It was by way of inducing her by all these things, manifestly, to the believing the glad annunciation. For this cause he spoke of both the age and the disabling effect of nature; for this cause he awaited the time also which had elapsed from the conception; for he did not tell to her the glad tidings immediately from the beginning,  but awaited for a six-months period to have passed to the barren one, in order that the puerperal swelling might, for the rest, be a pledge of the pregnancy, and an indisputable demonstration might arise of the conception. And pray again look at the intelligence of Gabriel. For he neither reminded her  of Sarah, nor of Rebecca, nor of Rachel; and yet they also were barren, and they had grown old, and that which took place was a marvel; but the stories were ancient. Now things new and recent and occurring in our generation are wont to induce us into the belief of marvels more than those which are old. On this account having let those women alone, that she should understand from her kinswoman Elizabeth herself what was coming upon her, he brought it forward; so as from her to lead her to her own--that most awful and august childbirth. For the child-birth of the barren one lay between ours and that of the Master less indeed than that of the Virgin, but greater than ours. On this account it was by Elizabeth lying between, just as by some bridge, that he lifted up the mind of the Virgin from the travail which is according to nature, to that which is above nature.
9. I did desire to say more, and to teach you other reasons for which Rebecca, and Rachel, were barren; but the time does not permit; urging on the discourse to the power of prayer. For on this account indeed I have mooted all these points, that ye might understand how the prayer of Isaac unbound the barrenness of his wife; and that prayer for so long a time. "Isaac," it says, "continually prayed about Rebecca his wife, and God listened to him." For do not suppose that he invoked God and had immediately been listened to; for he had spent much time in praying to God. And if you desire to learn how much, I will tell you this too with exactness. He had spent the number of twenty years in praying to God. Whence is this manifest? from the sequence itself. For the Scripture, desiring to point out the faith and the endurance and the love of wisdom of that righteous man, did not break off and leave untold even the time, but made it also clear to us, covertly indeed, so as to rouse up our indolence; but nevertheless did not allow it to be uncertain. Hear then how it covertly indicated to us the time. "Now Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebecca, a daughter of Bethuel the Syrian." You hear how many years old he was when he brought home his wife: "Forty years old," it says, "he was when he took Rebecca." But since we have learnt how many years old he was when he married his wife, let us learn also when he after all became a father, and how many years old he was then, when he begat Jacob; and we shall be able to see how long a time his wife had remained barren; and that during all that time he continued to pray to God. How many years old then was he when he begat Jacob? "Jacob," it says, "came forth laying hold with his right hand of his brother's heel: on this account he called him Jacob, and him Esau. Now Isaac was sixty years old when he begat them." If therefore when he brought Rebecca home he was forty years old, and when he begat the sons sixty, it is very plain that his wife had remained barren for twenty years between, and during all this time Isaac continued to pray to God.
10. After this do we not feel shame, and hide our faces, at seeing that righteous man for twenty years persevering  and not desisting; we ourselves after a first or second petition often fainting and indignant? And yet he indeed had in large measure liberty of speech towards God,  and all the same he felt no discontent at the delay of the giving, but remained patient, whereas we, laden with countless sins, living with an evil conscience, displaying no good will towards the Master; if we are not heard before having spoken, are bewildered, impatiently recoil, desist from asking--on this account we always retire with empty hands. Who has for twenty years besought God for one thing, as this righteous man did? or rather who for twenty months only? Yesterday I was saying that they are many who pray with slackness, and yawning, and stretching themselves, and continually shifting their attitude, and indulging in every carelessness in their prayers--but to-day I have found also another damage attaching itself to their prayers more destructive than that one. For many, throwing themselves prostrate, and striking the ground with their forehead, and pouring forth hot tears, and groaning bitterly from the heart  and stretching out their hands, and displaying much earnestness, employ this warmth and forwardness against their own salvation. For it is not on behalf of their own sins that they beseech God; nor are they asking forgiveness of the offences committed by them; but they are exerting this earnestness against their enemies entirely, doing just the same thing as if one, after whetting his sword, were not to use the weapon against his enemies, but to thrust it through his own throat. So these also use their prayers not for the remission of their own sins, but about revenge on their enemies; which is to thrust the sword against themselves. This too the wicked one has devised, in order that on all sides we may destroy ourselves, both through slackness and through earnestness. For the one class by their carelessness in their prayers exasperate God, by displaying contempt through their slackness; and the others, when they display earnestness, display the earnestness on the other hand against their own salvation. "A certain person," he (the devil) says, "is slack: that is sufficient for me with a view to his obtaining nothing; this man is earnest and thoroughly aroused; what then must be done to accomplish the same result? I cannot slacken his earnestness, nor throw him into carelessness; I will contrive his destruction in the other way. How so? I will manage that he use his earnestness for transgressing the law:" (for the praying against one's personal enemies is a transgression of law). "He shall depart therefore not only having gained nothing by his earnestness, but also having endured the hurt which is greater than that caused through slackness." Such as these are the injuries of the devil: the one sort he destroys through their remissness; and the other through their earnestness itself, when it is shown not according to God's laws.
11. But it is also worth hearing the very words of their prayer, and how the words are of a puerile mind; of how infantile a soul. I am ashamed in truth when about to repeat them; but it is absolutely necessary to repeat them, and to imitate that coarse tongue. What then are the words? "Avenge me of my enemies, show them that I too have God (on my side)." They do not then learn, man, that we have God, when we are indignant and angry and impatient; but when we are gentle and meek and subdued, and practise all love of wisdom. So also God said, "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in the heavens."  Perceivest thou not that it is an insult to God, the making a request to God against thine enemies? And how is it an insult? one will say. Because He Himself said, "pray for your enemies;" and brought in this divine law. When therefore thou claimest that the legislator should relax his own laws; and callest upon him to legislate in opposition to himself; and supplicatest him who had forbidden thee to pray against thine enemies to hear thee praying against thine enemies; thou art not praying in doing this, nor calling upon him; but thou art insulting the lawgiver, and acting with drunken violence towards him, who is sure to give to thee the good things which result from prayer. And how is it possible to be heard when praying, tell me, when thou exasperatest him who is sure to hear? For by doing these things thou art pushing thine own salvation into a pit, and art rushing down a precipice, by striking thine enemy before the king's eyes.  For even if thou doest not this with the hands, with thy words thou strikest him, the thing which thou darest not do even in the case of thy fellow-slaves. At least dare to do this in a ruler's presence, and though thou hast done countless public services, thou wilt straightway surely be led away to execution. Then (I ask) in the presence of a ruler dost thou not dare to insult thine equal, but when doing this in God's presence, tell me, dost thou not shudder, nor fear when in the time of entreaty and prayer being so savage and turning thyself into a wild beast; and displaying greater want of feeling than he who demanded payment of the hundred pence?  For that thou art more insolent than he, listen to the story itself. A certain man owed ten thousand talents to his master; then, not having (wherewith) to pay, he entreated him to be long-suffering, in order that, his wife having been sold and his house and his children, he might settle his master's claim. And the master seeing him lamenting had compassion on him, and remitted the ten thousand talents. He having gone out and found another servant owing him a hundred pence, seizing his throat demanded them with great cruelty and inhumanity. The Master having heard this threw him into the prison, and laid on him again the debt of the ten thousand talents which he had before remitted; and he paid the penalty of the cruelty shown towards his fellow-servant.
12. Now do thou consider in how much more unfeeling and insensible in a way thou hast acted even than he, praying against thine enemies. He did not beg his master to demand, but he himself demanded, the hundred pence; whereas thou even callest on the Master for this shameless and forbidden demand. And he seized his fellow-servant's throat not before his lord's eyes, but outside; while thou in the very moment of prayer, standing in the King's presence, doest this. And if he, for doing this without either having urged his master to the demand, and after going forth, met with no forgiveness; thou, both stirring up the Master to (exacting) this forbidden payment, and doing this before his eyes, what sort of penalty will thou have to pay? tell me. But thy mind is inflamed by the memory of the enmity, and swells, and thy heart rises,  and when recurring in memory to him who has caused pain, thou art unable to reduce the swelling of thy thought. But set against this inflammation the memory resulting from thine own sins committed the fear resulting from the punishment to come. Recall to memory for how many things thou art accountable to thy master, and that for all those things thou owest Him satisfaction; and this fear will surely overcome that anger; since indeed this is far more powerful than that passion. Recall the memory of hell and punishment and vengeance during the time of thy prayer; and thou wilt not be able even to receive thine enemy into thy mind.  Make thy mind contrite, humble thy soul by the memory of the offences committed by thee, and wrath will not be able even to trouble thee. But the cause of all these evils is this, that we scrutinise the sins of all others with great exactitude; while we let our own pass with great remissness. Whereas we ought to do the contrary--to keep our own faults unforgotten; but never even to admit a thought of those of others. If we do this we shall both have God propitious, and shall cease cherishing immortal anger against our neighbours, and we shall never have any one as an enemy; and even if we should have at any time we shall both quickly put an end to his enmity, and should obtain speedy pardon for our own sins. For just as he who treasures up the memory of wrong against his neighbour does not permit the punishment upon his own sins to be done away; so he who is clear of anger will speedily be clear of sins also. For if we, wicked as we are and enslaved to passion, on account of the commandment of God overlook all the faults committed against us, much more will He who is a lover of mankind, and good, and free from any passion, overlook our delinquencies, rendering to us the recompense of our kindly spirit towards our neighbour in the forgiveness of our own sins: which God grant that we may attain, by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is the glory and the dominion, to the ages of the ages. Amen.
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