The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople,
On the Acts of the ApostlesTranslated, with notes, by Rev. J. Walker, M.A., of Brasenose College;
Rev. J. Sheppard, M.A., of Oriel College, Oxford; and
Rev. H. Browne, M.A., of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
revised, with notes, by Rev. George B. Stevens, Ph.D., D.D., Professor in Yale University.
Published in 1886 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.
Homily X.Acts IV. 1
"And as they spake unto the people, there came unto them the priests, and the captain of the temple."
Ere yet they had time to take breath after their first trials, straightway they enter into others. And observe how the events are disposed. First, they were all mocked together; this was no small trial: secondly, they enter into dangers. And these two things do not take place in immediate succession; but when first the Apostles have won admiration by their two discourses, and after that have performed a notable miracle, thereupon it is that, after they are waxen bold, through God's disposal, they enter the lists. But I wish you to consider, how those same persons, who in the case of Christ must need look out for one to deliver Him up to them, now with their own hands arrest the Apostles, having become more audacious and more impudent since the Crucifixion. In truth, sin, while it is yet struggling to the birth, is attended with some sense of shame; but when once fully born, it makes those more shameless who practise it. "And the captain of the temple," it is said. The object again was to attach a public criminality to what was doing, and not to prosecute it as the act of private individuals: such in fact was constantly their plan of proceeding.
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"And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, and Annas the High Priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the High Priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem." (v. 5, 6.) For now along with the other evils (of the times  ), the Law was no longer observed. And again they set off the business with the form of a tribunal, to constitute them guilty by their iniquitous sentence. "And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?" (v. 7.) And yet they knew it well; for it was because they were "grieved that they preached through Jesus the resurrection" that they arrested them. Then for what purpose do they question them? They expected the numbers present would make them recant, and thought by this means to have put all right again. Observe then what they say: "And by what name have ye done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them." (v. 8.) And now, I pray you, call to mind Christ's saying; "When they deliver you up unto the synagogues, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall speak; for it is the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. (Luke xii. 11, 14.) So that it was a mighty Power they enjoyed. What then says Peter? "Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel." Mark the Christian wisdom of the man; how full of confidence it is: he utters not a word of insult, but says with respect, "Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we be this day called to account of the good deed done to the impotent man." He takes them in hand right valiantly; by the opening of his speech he exposes  them, and reminds them of the former things: that it is for a work of beneficence they are calling them to account. As if he had said, "In all fairness we ought to have been crowned for this deed, and proclaimed benefactors; but since "we are even put upon our trial for a good deed done to an impotent man," not a rich man, not powerful, not noble--and yet who would feel envy in a case like this?" It is a most forcible (apangelia, al. epangelia) way of putting the case; and he shows that they are piercing their own selves:--"By what means this man is made whole: be it known unto you all, and to all the people Israel; that by the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth:"--this is what would vex them most. For this was that which Christ had told the disciples, "What ye hear in the ear that preach ye upon the housetops.--That in the name of Jesus Christ," he says, "of Nazareth, Whom ye crucified, Whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole." (v. 10). (Matt. x. 27.) Think not, he says that we conceal the country, or the nature of the death. "Whom ye crucified, Whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand before you whole." Again the death, again the resurrection. "This is the stone," he says, "which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner." (v. 11.) He reminds them also of a saying which was enough to frighten them. For it had been said, "Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. (Matt. xxi. 44.)--Neither is there salvation in any other, (v. 12.) Peter says. What wounds, think you, must these words inflict on them! "For there is none other name," he continues, "under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Here he utters also lofty words. For when  the object is, not to carry some point successfully, but only to show boldness he does not spare; for he was not afraid of striking too deep. Nor does he say simply, "By another;" but, "Neither is there salvation in any other:" that is, He is able to save us. In this way he subdued their threatening.
"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." (v. 13.) The two unlearned men beat down with their rhetoric them and the chief priests. For it was not they that spake, but the grace of the Spirit. "And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it." (v. 14.) Great was the boldness of the man; that even in the judgment-hall he has not left them. For had they said that the fact was not so, there was he to refute them. "But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, What are we to do to these men?" (v. 15.) See the difficulty they are in, and how the fear of men again does everything. As in the case of Christ, they were not able (as the saying is) to undo what is done,  nor to cast it into the shade, but for all their hindering, the Faith did but gain ground the more; so was it now. "What shall we do?" O the folly! to suppose that those who had tasted of the conflict, would now take fright at it: to expect, impotent as their efforts had proved in the beginning, to effect something new, after such a specimen of oratory as had been exhibited! The more they wished to hinder, the more the business grew upon their hands. But what say they? "For that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straightly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all, nor teach, in the name of Jesus." (v. 16-18.) See what effrontery is shown by these, and what greatness of mind by the Apostles. "But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people." (v. 19-21.) The miracles shut their mouths: they would not so much as let them finish their speech, but cut them short in the middle, most insolently. "For all men glorified God for that which was done. For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was showed." (v. 22.) But let us look over what has been said from the beginning.
"And as they spake unto the people, etc. Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection of the dead." (Recapitulation, v. 1, 2.) So  then at first they did all for the sake of man's opinion (or glory): but now another motive was added: that they should not be thought guilty of murder, as they said subsequently, "Do ye wish to bring this man's blood on us?" (ch. v. 28.) O the folly! Persuaded that He was risen, and having received this proof of it,  they expected that He Whom death could not hold, could be cast into the shade by their machinations! What can match the folly of this!  Such is the nature of wickedness: it has no eyes for anything, but on all occasions it is thrown into perturbation. Finding themselves overborne, they felt like persons who have been outwitted: as is the case with people who have been forestalled and made a sport of in some matter. And yet  they everywhere affirmed that it was God that raised Him: but  it was "in the Name of Jesus" that they spake; showing that Jesus was risen. "Through Jesus, the resurrection of the dead": for they themselves also held a resurrection: a cold and puerile doctrine, indeed, but still they held it. Why this alone, was it not sufficient to induce them to do nothing to them--I mean, that the disciples with such boldness bore themselves in the way they did? Say, wherefore, O Jew, dost thou disbelieve? Thou oughtest to have attended to the sign done, and to the words, not to the evil disposition of the many. "By their teaching the people."  For already they were in ill repute with them by reason of what they had done to Christ; so that they were rather increasing their own obloquy. "And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold until the morrow; for it was now eventide." (v. 3.) In the case of Christ, however, they did not so; but having taken Him at midnight, they immediately led him away, and made no delay, being exceedingly in fear of the multitude: whereas in the case of the Apostles here, they were bold. And they no more take them to Pilate, being ashamed and blushing at the thought of the former affair, lest they should also be taken to task for that.
"And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes were gathered together at Jerusalem." (v. 5.) Again in Jerusalem: and there it is that men's blood is poured out; no reverence for their city either; "And Annas, and Caiaphas," etc. (v. 6.) "And Annas," it says, "and Caiaphas." His maid-servant it was that questioned Peter, and he could not bear it: in his house it was that Peter denied, when Another was in bonds there: but now, when he has come into the midst of them all, see how he speaks! "By what name have ye done this?" Why dost thou not speak it, what it is, but keepest that out of sight? "By what name have ye done this?" (v. 7.) And yet he affirmed, It was not we that did it. "Ye rulers of the people," etc. (v. 8.) Observe his wisdom: he does not say outright, "In the Name of Jesus we did it," but how? "In His Name this man"--He does not say, "was made whole by us;" but--"doth stand here before you whole." And again, "If we be examined concerning the good deed done to the impotent man." (v. 9.) He hits them hard, that they are always making a crime of such acts, finding fault with works of beneficence done to men: and he reminds them of their former doings, that they run to do murder, and not only so, but make a crime of doing good deeds. Do you observe too (in point of rhetoric) with what dignity they express themselves?  Even in the use of words they were becoming expert by practice, and henceforth they were not to be beaten down.  "Be it known unto you all," etc. (v. 10.) Whereby he shows them that they rather do, in spite of themselves, preach Christ; themselves extol the doctrine, by their examining and questioning. O exceeding boldness--"Whom ye crucified! Whom God raised up"--this is bolder still! Think not that we hide what there is to be ashamed of. He says this all but tauntingly: and not merely says it, but dwells upon the matter. "This," says he, "is the Stone which was set at naught by you builders;" and then he goes on to teach them, saying in addition, "Which is made the head of the corner" (v. 11.); that is to say, that the Stone is indeed approved! Great was the boldness they now had, in consequence of the miracle. And when there was need to teach, observe how they speak and allege many prophecies; but when the point was to use boldness of speech, then they only speak peremptorily. Thus "Neither," says he, "is there any other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." (v. 12.) It is manifest to all, he says, because not to us alone was that Name given; he cites even themselves as witnesses. For, since they asked, "In what name did ye it?" "In Christ's," says he: "there is none other name. How is it that ye ask? On all hands this is palpable. "For there exists not another name under heaven, whereby we must be saved." This is the language of a soul which has renounced (kategnokuias) this present life. His exceeding out-spokenness proves here, that when he speaks in lowly terms of Christ, he does it not of fear, but of wise forbearance (sunkatabainon): but now that it was the fitting time, he speaks not in lowly terms: by this very thing intending to strike dismay into them. Behold another miracle not less than the former. "And beholding the boldness of Peter and John," etc. "And they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus." (v. 13.) Not without a meaning has the Evangelist set down this passage; but in saying, "they recognized them that they had been with Jesus," he means, in His Passion: for only these were [with Him] at that time, and then indeed they had seen them humble, dejected: and this it was that most surprised them: the greatness of the change. For in fact Annas and Caiaphas with their company were there, and these then also had stood by Him, and their boldness now amazed them. "And beholding the boldness." For  not only their words; their very bearing showed it; that they should stand there so intrepidly to be tried in a cause like this, and with uttermost peril impending over them! Not only by their words, but by their gesture also, and their look and voice, and, in short, by everything about them, they manifested the boldness with which they confronted the people. From the things they uttered, they marvelled, perhaps: "that they were unlearned and common men:" for one may be unlearned, yet not a common or private man, and a common man, yet not unlearned. "Having perceived," it says. Whence? From  what they said? Peter does not draw out long speeches, but then by his very manner and method (thes apangelias kai thes sunthekes) he declares his confidence. "And they recognized them that they had been with Jesus." Which circumstance made them believe that it was from Him they had learned these things, and that they did all in the character of His disciples.  But not less than the voice of these, the miracle uttered a voice of its own: and that sign itself stopped their mouths. ["And beholding the man," etc.] So that they would have been peremptory (epeskepsan) with them, if the man had not been with them. "We cannot deny it." So that they would have denied it, if the thing had not been so: if the testimony had not been that of the people in general. "But that it spread no further among the people." (v. 17.) And yet it was palpable to all men! But such is the nature of wickedness: everywhere it is shamed. "Let us straitly threaten them." What sayest thou? Threaten? And expect ye to stop the preaching? And  yet all beginnings are hard and trying. Ye slew the Master, and did not stop it: and now, if ye threaten, do ye expect to turn us back? The imprisonment did not prevail with us to speak submissively, and shall ye prevail? "And they called them, and commanded them," etc. (v. 18, 19.) It  had been much better for them to let them go. "And Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye." When the terror was abated (for that command was tantamount to their being dismissed), then also the Apostles speak more mildly: so far were they from mere bravery: "Whether  it be right," says he: and "We cannot [but speak]. Whether it be right in the sight of God to obey you rather than God." (v. 20.) Here [by "God"] they mean Christ, for he it was that commanded them. And once more they confirm the fact of His Resurrection. "For we cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard:" so that we are witnesses who have a right to be believed. "So when they had further threatened them." (v. 21.) Again they threatened in vain. "They let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done." So then the people glorified God, but these endeavored to destroy them: such fighters against God were they! Whereby they made them more conspicuous and illustrious. "For My strength," it is said, "is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor. xii. 9.)
Already these as martyrs have borne testimony: set in the battle against all, they said, "We cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard." If the things we speak be false, reprehend them; if true, why hinderest thou? Such is philosophy! Those, in perplexity, these in gladness: those covered with exceeding shame, these doing all with boldness: those in fear, these in confidence. For who, I would ask, were the frightened? those who said, "That it spread no further among people," or these who said, "we cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard?" And these had a delight, a freedom of speech, a joy surpassing all; those a despondency, a shame, a fear; for they feared the people. But these were not afraid of those; on the contrary, while these spake what they would, those did not what they would. Which were in chains and dangers? was it not these last?
Let us then hold fast to virtue; let not these words end only in delight, and in a certain elevation of the spirits. This is not the theatre, for singers (kitharodon), and tragedians, and musicians (kitharisthon), where the fruit consists only in the enjoyment and where the enjoyment itself passes with the passing day. Nay, would that it were enjoyment alone, and not mischief also with the enjoyment! But so it is: each man carries home with him much of what he has witnessed there, sticking to him like the infection of a plague: and one indeed, of the younger sort, having culled such snatches of song here and there of those satanic plays,  as he could fix in his memory, goes singing them about the house: while another, a senior, and forsooth too staid for such levity, does not this indeed, but what is there spoken, both the preachments and the very words, he remembers it all; and another again, some filthy and absurd ditty. From this place you depart, taking nothing with you.--We have laid down a law--nay, not we: God forbid! for it is said, "Call no man your master upon the earth" (Matt. xxiii. 8); Christ has laid down a law that none should swear. Now, say, what has been done with regard to this law? For I will not cease speaking of it; "lest," as the Apostle saith, "if I come again, I must not spare." (2 Cor. xiii. 2.) I ask then, have you laid the matter to heart? have you thought of it seriously? have you been in earnest about it, or must we again take up the same subject? Nay, rather, whether you have or not, we will resume it, that you may think seriously about it, or, if you have laid it to heart, may again do this the more surely, and exhort others also. With what then, I pray you, with what shall we begin? Shall it be with the Old Testament? For indeed this also is to our shame, that the precepts of the Law, which we ought to surpass, we do not even thus observe! For we ought not to be hearing such matters as these: these are precepts adapted to the poor Jewish level (thes 'Ioudahikhes euteleias): we ought to be hearing those counsels of perfection; "Cast away thy property, stand courageously, and give up thy life in behalf of the Gospel, scorn all the goods of earth, have nothing in common with this present life; if any wrong thee, do him good; if any defraud thee, bless him; if any revile thee, show him honor; be above everything." (S. Ambros. de Off. i. 2.) These and such as these are what we ought to be hearing. But here are we discoursing about swearing; and our case is just the same as if, when a person ought to be a philosopher, one should take him away from the great masters, and set him to spell syllables letter by letter! Just think now what a disgrace it would be for a man having a flowing beard, and with staff in hand, and cope on shoulders,  to go to school with children, and be set the same tasks with them: would it not be above measure ridiculous? And yet the ridicule which belongs to us is even greater. For not as the difference between philosophy and the spelling-lesson, so is that between the Jewish polity and ours: no indeed, but as the difference between angels and men. Say now, if one could fetch down an angel from heaven, and should bid him stand here and listen to our preaching, as one whose duty it is to conform himself thereto, would it not be shameful and preposterous? But if to be yet, like children, under teaching about these things be ridiculous; what must it be, not even to attend to these things: how great the condemnation, how great the shame! To be Christians still, and to have to learn that it is not right to swear! However, let us put up with that, lest we incur even worse ridicule.
Well, then, let us speak to you to-day from the Old Testament. What does it tell us? "Accustom not thy mouth to swearing; neither use thyself to the naming of the Holy One." And why? "For as a servant that is continually beaten shall not be without a blue mark, so he that sweareth." (Ecclus. xxiii. 10.) See the discernment of this wise man. He did not say, "Accustom not to swearing" thy mind, but "thy mouth"; because being altogether an affair of the mouth, thus it is easily remedied. For at last it becomes a habit without intention; as for instance, there are many who entering the public baths, as soon as they have passed the threshold, cross (Hom. in 1 Cor. xi. 7) themselves (sphragizontai).  This the hand has got to do, without any one's bidding, by force of habit. Again, at the lighting of a candle, often when the mind is intent on something else, the hand makes the sign. In the same way also the mouth, without concurrence of the mind, articulates the word, from mere habit, and the whole affair is in the tongue. "Neither use thyself," he says, "to the naming of the Holy One. For as a servant that is continually beaten shall not be without a blue mark, so he that sweareth." He speaks not here of false oaths, but he cuts down all oaths, and to them also assigns their punishment. Why then, swearing is a sin. For such in truth is the soul; full of all these ulcers, all these scars. But you do not see them? Yes, this is the mischief of it; and yet you might see if you wished; for God has given you eyes. With eyes of this kind did the Prophet see, when he said, "My wounds stink, and are corrupt, because of my foolishness." (Ps. xxxviii. 5.) We have despised God, we have hated that good Name, we have trodden Christ under foot, we have lost all reverence, none names the Name of God with honor. Yet if you love any one, even at his name you start to your feet; but God you thus continually invoke, and make nothing of it. Call upon Him for the benefit of your enemy; call upon Him for the salvation of your own soul; then he will be present, then you will delight Him; whereas now you provoke Him to anger. Call upon Him as Stephen did; "Lord," he said, "lay not this sin to their charge." (ch. vii. 59.) Call upon Him as did the wife of Elkanah, with tears and sobs, and prayers. (1 Sam. i. 10.) I prevent you not, rather I earnestly exhort you to it. Call upon him as Moses called upon Him, yea, cried, interceding for those  who had driven him into banishment. For you to make mention at random of any person of consideration, is taken as an insult: and do you bandy God about in your talk, in season, out of season? I do not want to hinder you from keeping God always in your mind: nay, this I even desire and pray for, only that you should do this, so as to honor Him. Great good would this have done us, if we had called upon God only when we ought, and for what we ought. And why, I would ask, were such miracles wrought in the Apostles' times, and not in ours? And yet it is the same God, the same Name. But no, the case is not the same. For then they called upon Him only for those objects which I have mentioned; whereas we call upon Him not for these, but quite other purposes.--If a man refuse to believe you, and that is why you swear, say to him, "Believe me:" however, if you will needs make oath, swear by yourself. I say this, not to set up a law against Christ's law; God forbid; for it is said. "Let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay (Matt. v. 37): but by way of coming down to your present level, that I may more easily lead you to the practice of this commandment, and divert you from this tyrannical habit. How many who have done well in other respects, have been undone by these practices! Shall I tell you why it was permitted the ancients to take oaths? (for to take false oaths, was not permitted to them either.) Because they swore by idols. But are you not ashamed to rest in laws, by which they in their infirmity were led on to something better? It is true, when I take a Gentile in hand, I do not immediately lay this injunction upon him, but in the first place I exhort him to know Christ; but if the believer, who has both learnt Him and heard Him, must needs crave the same forbearance with the Gentile, what is the use, what the gain (of his Christianity?)--But the habit is strong, and you cannot detach yourself from it? Well then, since the tyranny of habit is so great, transfer it into another channel. And how is this to be done? you will ask. What I have said often, I say also now; let there be many monitors (logistai), let there be many examiners and censors (exetastai, dokimastai). Say, if you chance to put on your  mantle inside out, you allow your servant to correct your mistake, and are ashamed to learn of him, although there is much to be ashamed of in this; and here when you are getting hurt to your soul, are you ashamed to be taught better by another? You suffer your menial to put your dress in order, and to fasten your shoes, and will you not endure him that would put your soul in order? Let even your menial, your child, your wife, your friend, your kinsman, your neighbor, be your teachers on this point. For as when a wild beast is hunted down from all sides, it is impossible for it to escape; so he that has so many to watch him, so many to reprove him, who is liable to be struck at from all sides, cannot help being on his guard. The first day he will find it hard to put up with, and the second, and the third; but after that it will come easier, and, the fourth passed, there will not even be anything to do. Make the experiment, if you doubt me; take it into consideration, I beseech you. It is not a trifling matter to be wrong in, nor yet to come right in; on both sides it is great for evil and for good. May the good be effected, through the grace and loving-mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, power, and honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen.
"And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them."
Not for their own glory did they tell the tale--how should such be their motive?--but what they displayed was the proofs therein exhibited of the grace of Christ. All that their adversaries had said, this they told; their own part, it is likely, they omitted: this made the hearers all the more courageous. What then? These again flee to the true Succor, to the Alliance invincible, and again, "with one accord. And when they heard that," it is said, "with one accord they lifted up their voice to God, and said:" (v. 24) and with great earnestness, for it is no prayer made at random. Observe with what exquisite propriety their prayers are framed: thus, when they besought to be shown who was meet for the Apostleship, they said, "Thou, Lord, which knowest the heart of all men, show:" (ch. i. 24) for it was a subject for Prescience there: but here, where the thing needed was that the mouths of their adversaries should be stopped, they speak of lordship; wherefore they begin thus: Lord, "(Despota) the God that madest heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who,  by the Holy Ghost through the mouth of Thy servant, David our father, didst say, 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." (v. 24-26.) It is to sue God, as one may say upon His own covenants, that they thus produce this prophecy: and at the same time to comfort themselves with the thought, that in vain are all the imaginations of their foes. This then is what they say: Bring those words into accomplishment, and show that they "imagine vain things.--For of a truth," they proceed, "there were gathered together in this city, against Thy holy Child Jesus, (Phaida) Whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings." (v. 27-29.) Observe their largeness of mind (philosophian). These are not words of imprecation. In saying, "their threatenings, they do not mean this or that thing specifically threatened, but only in general, the fact of their threatening, perhaps, as being formidable. In fact, the writer is concise in his narrative. And observe, they do not say, "Crush them, cast them down;" but what? "And grant unto Thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy word." Let us also learn thus to pray. And yet how full of wrath one would be, when fallen among men intent upon killing him, and making threats to that effect? how full of animosity? But not so these saints. "By stretching forth Thine hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done by the Name of Thy holy Child Jesus." (v. 30.) If in that Name the mighty deeds are wrought, great will be the boldness.
"And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together." (v. 31.) This was the proof that they were heard, and of His visitation. "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost." What means, "They were filled?" It means, They were inflamed; and the Gift burned up within them. "And they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul." (v. 32.) Do you see that together with the grace of God they also contributed their part? For everywhere it ought to be well observed, that together with the grace of God they do their part likewise. Just as Peter said above, "Silver and gold have I none"; and again, that "they were all  together." (ch. iii. 6.) But in this place, having mentioned that they were heard, the sacred writer proceeds to speak also of them, what virtue they showed. Moreover, he is just about to enter upon the narrative of Sapphira and Ananias, and with a view to show the detestable conduct of that pair, he first discourses of the noble behavior of the rest. Now say, did their love beget their poverty, or the poverty the love? In my opinion, the love begat the poverty, and then the poverty drew tight the cords of love. For observe what he says: "They were all of one heart and of one soul." Behold,  heart and soul are what make the "together." "Neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power the Apostles rendered their testimony (apedidoun) of the resurrection." (v. 33.) The phrase betokens them to be as persons put in trust with a deposit: he speaks of it as a debt or obligation: that is, their testimony they with boldness did render, or pay off, to all. "And great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked." (v. 34.) Their feeling was just as if they were under the paternal roof, all for awhile  sharing alike. It is not to be said, that though indeed they maintained the rest, yet they did it with the feeling that the means whereof they maintained them were still their own. No, the admirable circumstance is this, that they first alienated their property, and so maintained the rest, on purpose that the maintenance might not come as of their own private means, but as of the common property. "For as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the price of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the Apostles' feet; and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need." (v. 35.) A great mark of honor this, that "they laid them at the Apostles' feet. And Joses, who by the Apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (`which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation.')" (v. 36.) I do not think that this is the same with the companion of Matthias; for that person was also called Justus and [Barsabas, but this, Joses and] "Barnabas" ["son of consolation"]. I suppose he also received the name from his virtue, as being qualified and suited for this duty. "A Levite, and of the country of Cyprus by birth." Observe on all occasions how the writer indicates the breaking up of the Law. But how was he also a "Cyprian by birth?" Because they then even removed to other countries, and still were called Levites. "Having land, sold it, and brought the price, and laid it at the Apostles' feet.  "
Let us now look over again what has been said. ["And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them."] (Recapitulation, v. 23.) See the unostentatious conduct of the Apostles, and their largeness of mind. They did not go about boasting, and say, "How we served (apechresametha) the priests!" nor were they ambitious of honor: but, we read, "they came unto their own company. Observe how they do not cast themselves upon temptations, but when the temptations present themselves, with courage endure them. Had it been some other of the disciples, perhaps, emboldened by the countenance of the multitude, he might have insulted, might have vented ever so many harsh expressions. But not so these true philosophers; they do all with mildness and with gentleness. "And when they heard that, we read, with one accord they lifted up their voice to God." (v. 24.) That shout proceeded from delight and great emotion. Such indeed are the prayers which do their work, prayers replete with true philosophy, prayers offered up for such objects, by such persons, on such occasions, in such a manner; whereas all others are abominable and profane. "Lord, Thou the God that madest heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is." Observe how they say nothing idle, no old wives' talk and fables, but speak of His power. Just as Christ Himself said to the Jews, "If I by the Spirit of God do cast out devils:" behold the Father also speaks by the Spirit. For what saith it? "Lord, the God Who,  by the Holy Ghost, through the mouth of our father Thy servant David didst say, Why did the nations rage?" (v. 25.) Scripture is wont thus to speak of one as of many. "For of a truth, Lord, against Thy Holy Child Jesus, Whom Thou didst anoint,  both Herod and Pontius Pilate," etc. (v. 27.) Observe how, even in prayer, they circumstantially describe the Passion, and refer all to God.--That is, Not they had power to do this: but Thou didst it all, Thou  that didst permit, that dost call to account, and yet didst bring to accomplishment, Thou the All-skilful and Wise, that didst serve Thee of Thine enemies for Thine own pleasure. (v. 28.) "For to do whatever Thy hand," etc. Here they discourse of His exceeding Skill and Wisdom and Power. So then, as enemies they came together, and with murderous purpose, and as opposing themselves, but they did what things Thou wouldest: "For to do," as it is said, "whatsoever Thy hand and Thy purpose determined before to be done." What means, "Thy hand?" Here he seems to me to denote  one and the same thing by power and purpose, meaning that for Thee it is enough but to will: for it is not by power that one determines. "Whatsoever Thy hand," etc. i.e. Whatsoever Thou didst ordain: either this is the meaning, or, that by His hand He did effect. "And now, Lord, regard their threatenings." (v. 29.) As at that time, it is said, they "imagined vain things," so "now," grant that their imaginations may be in vain: i.e. let not their threatenings come into accomplishment. And this they said not because they would themselves deprecate any hardship, but for the preaching's sake. For they do not say, "and deliver us out of dangers;" but what? "And grant unto Thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy word." Thou Who didst bring to pass the former designs, bring these also to accomplishment. Observe,  how they affirm God to be the Author of their confidence; and how they ask all for God's sake, nothing for their own glory or ambition. They promise for their own part, that they will not be dismayed; but they pray that signs may be wrought "by stretching forth Thy hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done:" (v. 30) for without these, however great the zeal they showed, they would be striving to no purpose. God assented to their prayer, and manifested this, by shaking the place. For "when they had prayed," it is said, "the place was shaken." (v. 31.) And wherefore this was done, hear from the prophet, when he says, "He looketh on the earth, and maketh it to tremble. (Ps. civ. 32.) For by this He made it manifest that He is present to their prayers. And again, another prophet saith, "The earth was shaken, and did tremble at the presence of the Lord." (Ps. xviii. 7; lxviii, 8.) And God did this, both to make it more awful, and to lead them on to a courageous trust. "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness." They  gained increased boldness. As it was the beginning (of their work), and they had besought a sensible sign for their persuasion (pros to peisthhenai autous)--but after this we nowhere find the like happening--therefore great was the encouragement they received. In fact, they had no means of proving that He was risen, save by miraculous signs. So that it was not only their own assurance (asphaleian) that they sought: but that they might not be put to shame, but that they might speak with boldness. "The place was shaken," and that made them all the more unshaken. For this is sometimes a token of wrath, sometimes of favor and providence, but on the present occasion, of wrath. For  in those times it took place in an unusual manner. Thus, at the Crucifixion, the earth was shaken: and the Lord Himself says, "Then there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places." (Matt. xxiv. 7.) But then the wrath of which it was a sign was against the adversaries: as for the disciples, it filled them with the Spirit. Observe, even the Apostles, after the prayer, are "filled with the Holy Ghost." "And  the multitudes of them that believed," etc. (v. 32.) Great, you perceive, is the virtue of this thing, seeing their was need of this (grace) even in that Company. For this is the foundation of all that is good, this of which he now for the second time makes mention, exhorting all men to the contempt of riches: "Neither  said any of them that aught of the things he possessed was his own," "but they had all things common." For that this was in consequence not merely of the miraculous signs, but of their own purpose, is manifest by the case of Sapphira and Ananias. "And with great power gave the Apostles witness," etc. (v. 33.) Not in word, but with power the Apostles exhibited their testimony of the Resurrection: just as Paul saith, "And my preaching was not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but with manifestation of the Spirit and of power." And it is not merely, With power, but, "With great power." (1 Cor. ii. 4.) "And great grace," it says, "was upon them all; for neither was there any among them that lacked." (v. 34.) This is why the grace (was upon them all,) for that "there was none that lacked:" that is, from the exceeding ardor of the givers, none was in want. For they did not give in part, and in part reserve: nor yet in giving all, give it as their own. And they lived moreover in great abundance: they removed all inequality from among them, and made a goodly order. "For as many as were possessors," etc. And with great respect they did this: for they did not presume to give into their hands, nor did they ostentatiously present, but brought to the Apostles' feet. To them they left it to be the dispensers, made them the owners, that thenceforth all should be defrayed as from common, not from private, property.  This was also a help to them against vain-glory. If this were done now, we should live more pleasant lives, both rich and poor, nor would it be more pleasant to the poor than to the rich themselves. And if you please, let us now for awhile depict it in words, and derive at least this pleasure from it, since you have no mind for it in your actions. For at any rate this is evident, even from the facts which took place then, that by selling their possessions they did not come to be in need, but made them rich that were in need. However, let us now depict this state of things in words, and let all sell their possessions, and bring them into the common stock--in words, I mean: let none be excited, rich or poor. How much gold think you would be collected? For my part, I conjecture--for of course it is not possible to speak exactly--that supposing all here, men and women, to empty out their whole property, lands, possessions, houses,--for I will not speak of slaves, since at that time there was no such thing, but doubtless such as were slaves they sat at liberty,--perhaps ten hundred thousand pounds weight of gold would be the amount collected: nay, twice or thrice as much. For consider; at what number of "juga"  (yokes) is our city rated? How many (of the population) shall we say are Christians? shall we say an hundred thousand, and the rest Greeks and Jews? Then what thousands (of pounds) of gold would be collected! And what is the number of poor? I do not think more than fifty thousand. Then to feed that number daily, what abundance there would be! And yet if the food were received in common, all taking their meals together, it would require no such great outlay after all. But, you will ask, what should we do after the money was spent? And do you think it ever could be spent? Would not the grace of God be ten thousand fold greater? Would not the grace of God be indeed richly poured out? Nay, should we not make it a heaven upon earth? If, where the numbers were three thousand and five thousand, the doing of this thing had such splendid success, and none of them complained of poverty, how much more glorious would this be in so vast a multitude? And even of those that are without, who would not contribute?--But, to show that it is the living separately that is expensive and causes poverty, let there be a house in which are ten children: and the wife and the man, let the one work at her wool, the other bring his earnings from his outdoor occupation: now tell me, in which way would these spend most? by taking their meals together and occupying one house, or by living separately? Of course, by living separately. For if the ten children must live apart, they would need ten several rooms, ten tables, ten attendants, and the income otherwise in proportion. Is it not for this very reason, that where there is a great number of servants, they have all one table, that the expense may not be so great? For so it is, division always makes diminution, concord and agreement make increase. The dwellers in the monasteries live just as the faithful did then: now did ever any of these die of hunger? was ever any of them not provided for with plenty of everything? Now, it seems, people are more afraid of this than of falling into a boundless and bottomless deep. But if we had made actual trial of this,  then indeed we should boldly venture upon this plan (thou pragmatos). What grace too, think you, would there not be! For if at that time, when there was no believer but only the three thousand and the five thousand: when all, throughout the world, were enemies, when they could nowhere look for comfort, they yet boldly entered upon this plan with such success; how much more would this be the case now, when by the grace of God there are believers everywhere throughout the world? What Gentile would be left? For my part, I think there would not be one: we should so attract all, and draw them to us? But yet if we do but make  fair progress, I trust in God that even this shall be realized. Only do as I say, and let us successfully achieve things in their regular order; if God grant life, I trust that we shall soon bring you over to this way of life.
In the first place, as regards that law about swearing: accomplish that; establish it firmly: and let him that has kept it make known him that has not, and call him to account withal and rebuke him sternly. For the (supra, Hom. viii.) appointed time (he prothesmia), is at hand and I am holding inquisition in the matter, and him that is found guilty I will banish and exclude. But God forbid that any such should be found among us; rather may it appear, that all have strictly kept this spiritual watchword. And as in war it is by the watchword that friends and strangers are shown, so let it be now; for indeed now also we are engaged in a war; that we may know our brethren that are properly such. For what a good thing it is that we should have this to be our cognizance both here and in a foreign land! What a weapon this, against the very head of the devil! A mouth that cannot swear will soon both engage God in prayers, and smite the devil a deadly blow. A mouth that cannot swear will also be incapable of using insulting language. Cast out this fire from your tongue, as you would from a house: this fire, drag it out. Give your tongue a little rest: make the sore less virulent. Yea, I beseech you, do this, that I may go on to set you another lesson: for as long as this is not rightly done, I dare not pass on to any other. Let this lesson be got perfectly, and you shall have a consciousness of the achievement, and then I will introduce you to other laws, or rather not I, but Christ. Implant in your soul this good thing, and by little and little ye shall be a paradise of God, far better than that paradise of old. No serpent among you, no deadly tree, nor any such thing. Fix this habit deep. If this be done, not ye only that are present shall be benefitted, but all that are in all the world; and not they alone, but those that are to succeed hereafter. For a good habit having once entered, and being kept by all, will be handed on to long ages, and no circumstances shall be able to erase it. If he that gathered sticks on the sabbath was stoned,--the man that is doing a far more heinous work than that gathering, the man that is amassing a load of sins, for such is the multitude of oaths, what shall he undergo? what shall he not have to endure? You will receive great assistance from God, if this be well achieved by you. If I were to say, Be not abusive, immediately you will plead to me your indignation; should I say, Be not envious, you will urge some other excuse. But in this case you have nothing of the kind to say. On which account I began with the easy precepts, which indeed is also the uniform practice in all arts. And thus one comes to the higher duties, by learning first those which are easier far. How easy it is you will see, when by the grace of God having succeeded in this, you shall receive another precept.
Put it in my power to speak out boldly, in the presence both of Gentiles and of Jews, and, above all, of God. Yea, I entreat you by the love, by the pangs wherewith I have travailed for your birth, "my little children." I will not add what follows, "of whom I travail in birth again;" nor will I say, "until Christ be formed in you." (Gal. iv. 19). For I am persuaded, that Christ has been formed in you. Other language I will use towards you; "My brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and my crown." (Phil. iv. 1.) Believe me that I shall use no other language. If at this moment there were placed upon my head ten thousand richly-jewelled royal crowns, they could not give me the joy which I feel at your growth in holiness; or rather, I do not think the monarch himself has such a joy, as that wherewith I joy over you. Let him have come home, victorious over all the nations at war with him, let him have won many other crowns besides the crown of his right; and receive other diadems as tokens of his victory: I do not think he would joy over his trophies, as I joy over your soul's progress. For I exult, as if I had a thousand crowns on my head; and well may I rejoice. For if by the grace of God you achieve this good habit, you will have gained a thousand battles far more difficult than his; by wrestling and fighting with malicious demons, and fiendish spirits, with the tongue, not with sword, but by the will. For consider how much is gained, if so be that you do succeed! You have eradicated, first, a heinous habit; secondly, an evil conceit, the source of all evil, namely, the opinion that the thing is indifferent and can do no hurt; thirdly, wrath; fourthly, covetousness; for all these are the offspring of swearing. Nay, hence you will acquire a sure footing in the way to all other virtues. For as when children learn their letters, they learn not them alone, but by means of them are gradually taught to read; so shall it be with you. That evil conceit will no longer deceive you, you will not say, This is indifferent; you will no longer speak by mere habit, but will manfully stand against all, so that having perfected in all parts that virtue which is after God, you may reap eternal blessings, through the grace and loving-kindness of His Only-Begotten Son, to Whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, power and honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen.
And Joses, who by the Apostles was surnamed Barnabas (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation), a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the Apostles' feet."
The writer is now about to relate the affair of Ananias and Sapphira, and in order to show that the man's sin was of the worst description, he first mentions him who performed the virtuous deed; that, there being so great a multitude all doing the same, so great grace, so great miracles, he, taught by none of these, but blinded by covetousness, brought destruction upon his own head. "Having land,--meaning that this was all he possessed,--sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the Apostles' feet. But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the Apostles' feet." (ch. v. 1, 2.) The aggravating circumstance was, that the sin was concerted, and none other saw what was done. How came it into the mind of this hapless wretch to commit this crime? "But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?" (v. 3.) Observe even in this, a great miracle performed, greater far than the former. "Whiles it remained," says he, "was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?" (v. 4.) That is, "Was there any obligation and force? do we constrain you against your will?" "Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost." (v. 5.) This miracle is greater than that of the lame man, in respect of the death inflicted, and the knowing what was in the thought of the heart, even what was done in secret.  "And great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, and wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much?" (v. 6-8.) The woman he would fain save, for the man had been the author of the sin: therefore he gives her time to clear herself, and opportunity for repentance, saying, "Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Holy Ghost? Behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then she fell down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost; and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the Church, and upon as many as heard these things." (v. 9-11.)
After this fear had come upon them, he wrought more miracles; both Peter and the rest; "And by the hands of the Apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch. And of the rest durst no man join himself to them," i.e. to the Apostles; "but the people magnified them," i.e. the Jewish people. If  "no man durst join himself unto them," the Apostles, "there were," however, "the more added unto the Lord, believers, multitudes both of men and of women, insomuch that they brought out into the streets their impotent folk, and laid them upon couches and beds, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them." (v. 12-15.) For Peter was the wonderful one, and he to whom they more gave heed both because of his public harangue, the first and the second and the third, and because of the miracle; for he it was that wrought the miracle, the first, the second, the third: for the present miracle was twofold: first, the convicting the thoughts of the heart, and next the inflicting of death at his word of command. "That at the least the shadow of Peter passing by," etc. This had not occurred in the history of Christ; but see here what He had told them actually coming to pass, that "they which believe on Me, the works that I do shall they do also; and greater works than these shall they do." (John xiv. 12.) "There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them that were vexed with unclean spirits; and they were healed every one." (v. 16.)
And now I would have you observe the way in which their whole life is interwoven. First there was despondency on account of Christ taken from them, and then came joy because of the Spirit descending upon them; again, dejection because of the scoffers, and then joy in the result of their own apology. And here again we find both dejection and gladness. In that they were become conspicuous, and that God made revelations to them, there was gladness: in that they had cut off some of their own company, there was sadness. Once more: again there is gladness upon their success, and again sadness by reason of the High Priest. And so it will be seen to be the case throughout. And the same will be found to hold in the case of the ancient saints likewise.--But let us look over again what has been said.
"They sold them," it is written, "and brought the prices, and laid them down at the Apostles' feet." (Recapitulation. iv. 34-37.) See, my beloved brethren, how instead of leaving the Apostles to sell, they themselves sold, and presented the prices to them. "But  a certain man named Ananias," etc. (v. 1.) This history touches Bishops too, and very forcibly. And the wife of Ananias was privy to the thing done: therefore he examines her. But perhaps some one will say that he dealt very harshly with her. What do you mean? What harshness? If for gathering sticks a man is to be stoned, much rather ought he for sacrilege; for this money was become sacred. He that has chosen to sell his goods and distribute them, and then withdraws them, is guilty of sacrilege. But if he is sacrilegious, who resumes from his own, much more he who takes from what is not his own. And do not think that because the consequence is not now the same, the crime will go unpunished. Do you see that this is the charge brought against Ananias, that having made the money sacred, he afterwards secreted it? Couldest thou not, said Peter, after selling thy land, use the proceeds as thine own? Wast thou forbidden? Wherefore after thou hadst promised it? See how at the very beginning, the devil made his attack; in the very midst of such signs and wonders, how this man was hardened! Something of the same kind had happened upon a time in the Old Testament. The son of Charmi coveted the devoted thing: for observe there also what vengeance ensues upon the sin. Sacrilege, beloved, is a most grievous crime, insulting, and full of contempt. We neither obliged thee to sell, the Apostle says, nor to give thy money when thou hadst sold; of thine own free choice thou didst it; why hast thou then stolen from the sacred treasury? "Why," he says, "hath Satan filled thine heart?" (v. 3.) Well, if Satan did the thing, why is the man made guilty of it? For admitting the influence of the devil, and being filled with it. You will say, they ought to have corrected him. But he would not have received correction; for he that has seen such things as he had seen, and is none the better, would certainly be none the better for anything else that could be done; the matter was not one to be simply passed over: like a gangrene, it must be cut out, that it might not infect the rest of the body. As it is, both the man himself is benefitted in regard that he is not left to advance further in wickedness, and the rest, in that they are made more earnest; otherwise the contrary would have ensued. In the next place, Peter proves him guilty, and shows that the deed was not hidden from him, and then pronounces the sentence. But wherefore, upon what purpose hast thou done this? Didst thou wish to keep it? Thou oughtest to have kept it all along, and never to have professed to give it. The sacrilege, beloved, is a grievous one. For another, it may be, coveted what was not his own: but it was at thy discretion to keep what was thine own. Why then didst thou first make it sacred, and then take it? Out of excessive contempt hast thou done this. The deed does not admit of pardon, it is past pleading for.--Therefore let it be no stumbling-block to any, if at present also there are sacrilegious persons. If there were such persons then, much more now, when evils are many. But let us "rebuke them before all, that others also may fear." (1 Tim. v. 20.) Judas was sacrilegious, but it was no stumbling-block to the disciples. Do you see how many evils spring from love of money? "And great fear, it is said, came on all them that heard these things." (v. 5.) That man was punished, and others profited thereby. Not without cause. And yet, signs had been wrought before: true, but there was not such a sense of fear. So true is that saying, "The Lord is known by executing judgments." (Ps. ix. 16.) The same thing had occurred in the case of the Ark: Uzzah was punished and fear came upon the rest. (2 Sam. vi. 7.) But in that instance the king through fear removed from him the Ark; but here the disciples became more earnestly heedful. ["And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in," etc.] (v. 7.) But observe how Peter, instead of sending for her, waited till she entered; and how none of the others durst carry out the intelligence. Such the teacher's awfulness, such the disciples' reverence, such the obedience! "An interval of three hours,"--and yet the woman did not hear of it, and none of those present reported it, although there was time enough for it to be noised abroad; but they were afraid. This circumstance the Evangelist relates with wonder even, when he says, "Not knowing what was done, came in." "And Peter answered unto her," etc. (v. 8.) And yet she might have perceived even from this that Peter knew the secret. For why, having questioned none other, does he question you? Was it not clear that he asked because he knew? But so great was her hardness, it would not let her attempt to evade the guilt; and with great confidence she replied; for she thought she was speaking only to a man. The aggravation of the sin was, that they committed it as with one soul, just as upon a settled compact between them. "How is it that ye have agreed together," he said, "to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door." (v. 9.) First he makes her learn the sin, and then shows that she will justly suffer the same punishment with her husband, since she has committed the same wickedness: "And they shall carry thee out. And she fell down straightway at his feet," for she was standing near him, "and yielded up the ghost." (v. 10.) So entirely by their own act had they invited upon themselves the vengeance! Who after that would not be struck with awe? who would not fear the Apostle? who would not marvel? who not be afraid? "And they were with one accord, all of them in Solomon's porch," (v. 12) no longer in a house, but having occupied the very Temple, they there passed their time! No longer they guarded themselves against touching the unclean; nay, without scruple they handled the dead. And observe how, while to their own people they are severe, against the aliens they do not exercise their power. "But  the people," he says, "magnified them." (v. 13.) And as he had mentioned their being "in Solomon's porch," that you may not wonder how the multitude allowed this, he tells us that they did not dare even to approach them: for "no man," he says, "durst join himself unto them." "But believers were the more added unto the Lord, multitudes both of men and women: insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them." (v. 14, 15.) Great faith, surpassing what had been shown in the case of Christ. How comes this? Because Christ declared: "And greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto My Father." (John xiv. 12.) And these things the people do, while the Apostles remain there, and are not moving about from place to place: also from other places they were all bringing [their sick] on beds and couches: and from all quarters accrued to them fresh tribute of wonder; from them that believed, from them that were healed, from him that was punished; from their boldness of speech towards those (their adversaries), from the virtuous behavior of the believers: for certainly the effect produced was not owing to the miracles only. For though the Apostles themselves modestly ascribe it all to this cause, declaring that they did these things in the name of Christ, yet at the same time the life and noble conduct of the men helped to produce this effect. "And believers were more added unto the Lord, multitudes both of men and women." Observe, how he now no longer tells the number of them that believe; at such a rate was the faith making way even to an immense multitude, and so widely was the Resurrection proclaimed. So then "the people magnified them:" but they were now no longer lightly to be despised as once they were: for in a little moment, at a single turn of the scale, such have been the effects produced by the fisherman and by the publican! Earth was become a heaven, for manner of life, for boldness of speech, for wonders, for all besides; like Angels were they looked upon with wonder: all unconcerued for ridicule, for threats, for perils: compassionate  were they, and beneficent; some of them they succoured with money, and some with words, and some with healing of their bodies and of their souls; no kind of healing (phan eidos iatreias) but they accomplished.
Peter all but pleads for himself, when at the point to inflict the punishment, and at the same time gives a lesson to the rest. For because the act would seem exceeding stern, therefore it is that he does so much  in the case.  In respect of the woman also the process of judgment was terrible. But  see how many evils grow out of the sacrilege: covetousness, contempt of God, impiety; and upon these too he pleaded for himself before the assembly, in that he did not immediately proceed to punishment, but first exposed the sin. None groaned, none lamented, all were terrified. For as their faith increased, the signs also were multiplied, and great was the fear among their own company: for the things which are from without do not so militate (polemhei) against our peace, as do the acts of our own people. If we be firmly joined together, no  warfare will be hard: but the mischief would be the being divided and broken up. Now they went about in the public place: with boldness they attacked even the market, and in the midst of enemies they prevailed, and that saying was fulfilled, "Be Thou Ruler in the midst among Thine enemies." (Ps. cx. 2.) This was a greater miracle, that they, arrested, cast into prison, should do such acts as these!
If those for lying suffered such things, what shall not the perjured suffer? Because she simply affirmed, "Yea, for so much," ye see what she suffered. Bethink you then; they that swear and forswear themselves, of what should they be worthy? It  comes in opportunely to-day even from the Old Testament to show you the heinousness of perjury. "There was," it says, "a flying sickle, ten cubits in breadth." (Zech. v. 2.) The "flying" betokens the swift advent of the vengeance which pursues oaths; that it is many cubits in length and breadth, signifies the force and magnitude of the woes; that it comes flying "from heaven," is to show that the vengeance comes from the judgment-seat on high: that it is in the form of a sickle," denotes the inevitableness of the doom: for just as the sickle, where it comes and has hooked the neck, is not drawn back with nothing but itself, but with the head reaped off, even so the vengeance which comes upon the swearers is severe, and will not desist until it have completed its work. But if we swear and escape, let us not be confident; this is but to our woe. For what think ye? How many, since Ananias and Sapphira, have dared the same with them? How is it then, say you, that they have not met with the same fate? Not because it was allowed in them, but because they are reserved for a greater punishment. For those who often sin and are not punished, have greater reason to fear and dread than if they were punished. For the vengeance is increased for them by their present impunity and the long-suffering of God. Then let us not look to this, that we are not punished; but let us consider whether we have not sinned: if sinning we are not punished, we have the more reason to tremble. Say, if you have a slave, and you only threaten him, and do not beat him; when is he most in fear, when most inclined to run away? Is is not when you only threaten him? And hence we advise each other not to be continually using threats, thereby choosing rather to agitate the mind by the terror, and lacerating it worse than with blows. For in the one instance the punishment is momentary, but in the other it is perpetual. If then no one feels the stroke of the sickle, do not look to this, but rather let each consider whether he commits such sins. Many like things are done now as were done before the Flood, yet no flood has been sent: because there is a hell threatened, and vengeance. Many sin as the people did in Sodom, yet no rain of fire has been poured down; because a river of fire is prepared. Many go the lengths of Pharaoh; yet they have not fared like Pharaoh, they have not been drowned in a Red Sea: for the sea that awaits them, is the sea of the bottomless pit, where the punishment is not accompanied with insensibility, where there is no suffocation to end all, but in ever lengthened torture, in burning, in strangling, they are consumed there. Many have offended like the Israelites, but no serpents have devoured them: there awaits them the worm that never dieth. Many have been like Gehazi, yet they have not been struck with leprosy: for instead of leprosy, it remains for them to be cut asunder, and numbered among the hypocrites. Many have both sworn and forsworn; but if they have indeed escaped, let us not be confident: the gnashing of teeth awaits them. Yea, here too they will suffer many grievous woes, though, it may be, not immediately, but after further transgressions, that the vengeance may be the greater; for even we often set out at first with small sins, and then through great offences lose all. Therefore when you see anything happening to you, call to mind that particular sin of yours. The sons of Jacob are an example of this. Remember Joseph's brothers; they had sold their brother, they had even attempted to slay him; nay, they had slain him, as far as inclination went; they had deceived and grieved the old man; they suffered nothing. After many years they are brought into extreme peril, and now they are put in remembrance of this their sin. Exceeding wisely is this circumstance brought in. Hear what they say: "We are verily guilty concerning our brother." (Gen. xlii. 21.) In this manner then do thou also, when anything happens, say, We are verily guilty, because we have not obeyed Christ; because we have sworn; my much swearing, and my false swearing, has fallen upon my own head. Confess thou; since they also confessed, and were saved. For what though the punishment follow not immediately? Since Ahab also did not immediately after his sin in the matter of Naboth suffer that vengeance which he yet at last suffered. (1 Kings xxi. 19.) And what is the reason of this? God sets thee a time, in which to wash thyself clean; but if thou persist, at last He will send down the vengeance. You have seen the fate of liars. Consider what is the fate of false swearers, consider, and desist. It is impossible a swearer should not forswear himself, whether he will or not; and no perjurer can be saved. One false oath sufficeth to finish all, to draw down upon us the whole measure of vengeance. Let us then take heed to ourselves, that we may escape the punishment due to this offence, and be deemed worthy of the loving kindness of God, through the grace and mercies of His only-begotten Son, with Whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, power, and honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
"Then having risen up, the high-priest and they that were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees) were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the Apostles, and put them in the common prison."
"Having risen up," that is, being  roused, being excited at the things taking place, the high-priest and they which were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees) were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the Apostles:" they now assault them more vigorously: "and put them in the common prison;" but did not forthwith bring them to trial, because they expected them again to be softened down. "But the Angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life." "And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught." (v. 19-21.) This was done both for the encouragement of the disciples, and for the benefit and instruction of the others. And observe how the proceeding in the present instance is just the same as in what Christ Himself did. Namely, in His miracles though He does not let men see them in the act of being wrought, He furnishes the means whereby they may be apprised of the things wrought: thus, in His Resurrection, He did not let them see how He rose: in the water made wine, the guests do not see it done, for they have been drinking much, and the discernment He leaves to others. Just so in the present case, they do not see them in the act of being brought forth, but the proofs from which they might gather what had been done, they do see. And it was by night that the Angel put them forth. Why was this? Because  in this way they were more believed than they would have been in the other: so, people would not even have had occasion to put the question: they would not in some other way have believed. So it was in the old times, in the case of Nebuchadnezzar: he saw them praising God in the furnace, and then indeed he was put in amazement. (Dan. iii. 24.) Whereas then these priests ought as their first question to have asked, How came ye out? instead of this, as if nothing had happened, they ask, "Did we not straitly charge you not to speak?" (v. 28.) And observe, by report of others they are apprised of all the circumstances: they see the prison remaining closed with safety, and the guards standing before the doors.  A twofold security this; as was the case at the sepulchre, where was both the seal, and the men to watch. See how they fought against God! Say, was this of man's doing, that happened to them? Who led them forth, when the doors were shut? How came they out, with the keepers standing before the door? Verily they must be mad or drunken to talk so. Here are men, whom neither prison, nor bonds, nor closed doors, had been able to keep in; and yet they expect to overpower them: such is their childish folly! Their officers come and confess what has taken place, as if on purpose to debar them from all show of reason. Do you mark how there is miracle upon miracle, differing in kind, some wrought by them, others on them, and these more illustrious than the others? "And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high-priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told, saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within. Now when the high-priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow." (v. 21-25.) It  is well ordered that the information was not brought to them at once, but they are first utterly at a loss what to think, that when they have considered it well and seen that there is a Divine Power in the case, then they may learn the whole state of the case. "Then came one, and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. Then went the captain with the other officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the multitude, lest they should have been stoned." (v. 25, 26.) O the folly of the men! "They feared," saith he, "the multitude." Why, how had the multitude helped the Apostles? When they ought to have feared that God Who was continually delivering them like winged creatures out of their power, instead of that, "they feared the multitude!" "And the high-priest," shameless, reckless, senseless, "asked them, saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." (v. 27, 28.) What then (say the Apostles)? Again with mildness they address them; and yet they might have said, "Who are ye, that ye countermand God?" But what do they say? Again in the way of exhortation and advice, and with much mildness, they make answer. "Then Peter and the other Apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men." (v. 29.) High magnanimity! He shows them too that they are fighting against God.  For, he says, Whom ye killed, Him hath God raised up. "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, Whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." (v. 30, 31.) And again they refer the whole to the Father, that He should not seem to be alien to the Father. "And hath exalted," saith He, "with his right hand." He affirms not merely the Resurrection, but the Exaltation also. "For to give repentance to Israel." Observe here as before the gain (to them): observe the perfection of doctrine conveyed in the form of apology. "And we are witnesses of these things." (v. 32.) Great boldness of speech! And the ground of their credibility: "And so is also the Holy Ghost, Whom God hath given to them that obey Him." Do you observe that they allege not only the Spirit's testimony? And they said not, "Whom He hath given" to us, but, "to them that obey Him:" therein alike showing their own unassuming temper, and intimating the greatness of the gift, and showing the hearers that it was possible for them also to receive the Spirit. See, how these people were instructed both by deeds and by words, and yet they paid no heed, that their condemnation might be just. For to this end did God suffer the Apostles to be brought to trial, that both their adversaries might be instructed, and all might learn, and that the Apostles might be invigorated to boldness of speech. "And they hearing that, were cut to the heart." (v. 33.) The  others (on a former occasion) "when they heard these things were pricked;" here they were cut (as with a saw) (dieprionto) "and desired to slay them." (ch. ii. 37.)
But it is necessary now to look over again what we have read. "But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. Brought  them forth." (Recapitulation, v. 19, 20.) He did not bring them away to benefit themselves thereby, but, "Stand," he says, "and speak in the temple to the people." But if the guards had put them out, as those thought, they would have fled, that is, supposing they had been induced to come out: and if those had put them forth, they would not have stood in the temple, but would have absconded. No one is so void of sense, as not at once to see this. "Did we not straitly charge you?" (v. 28.) Well, if they undertook to obey you, ye do well to call them to account: but if even at the very time they told you they would not obey, what account have you to call them to, what defence is there for them to make? "And behold ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us."  Mark the inconsistency of the accusations and the exceeding folly. They want to make it appear now, that the dispositions of the Jews  are sanguinary, as if they were doing these things not for the truth's sake, but in the wish to be revenged. And for this reason too the Apostles do not answer them with defiance (thraseos): for they were teachers. And yet where is the man, who, with a whole city to back him, and endowed with so great grace, would not have spoken and uttered something big? But not so did these: for they were not angered; no, they pitied these men, and wept over them, and marked in what way they might free them from their error and wrath. And they no longer say to them, "Judge ye:" (ch. iv. 19) but they simply affirm, saying, "Whom God raised up, Him do we preach: it is by the will of God that these things are done." They said not, Did not we tell you even then, that "we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard?" (ib. 20.) for they are not contentious for glory; but they repeat again the same story,--the Cross, the Resurrection. And they tell not, wherefore He was crucified--that it was for our sakes: but they hint at this indeed, but not openly as yet, wishing to terrify them awhile. And yet what sort of rhetoric is here? None at all,  but everywhere it is still the Passion, and the Resurrection and the Ascension, and the end wherefore: "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus," etc. (v. 30, 31.) And yet what improbable assertions are these! Very improbable, no doubt; but for all that, not rulers, not people, had a word to say against them: but those had their mouths stopped, and these received the teaching. "And we," saith he, "are witnesses of these things." (v. 32.) Of what things? Of His having promised forgiveness and repentance: for the Resurrection indeed was acknowledged, now. But that He giveth forgiveness, both we are witnesses, and "so is the Holy Ghost," Who would not have come down, unless sins had been first remitted: so that this is an indisputable proof. "When they heard that, they were cut" (to the heart), "and took counsel to slay them." (v. 33.) Hearest thou of the forgiveness of sins, O wretched man, and that God doth not demand punishment, and dost thou wish to slay them? What wickedness was this! And yet, either they ought to have convicted them of lying, or if they could not do that, to have believed: but if they did not choose to believe, yet they ought not to slay them. For what was there deserving of death? Such was their intoxication, they did not even see what had taken place. Observe, how everywhere the Apostles, when they have made mention of the crime, add the mention of forgiveness; showing, that while what had been done was worthy of death, that which was given was proffered to them as to benefactors! In what other way could any one have persuaded them?
"Then stood up the high-priest," etc. As  men in high repute, these (the Apostles) were about to take their place near to the Prophets. The Sadducees were they that were most sore on the subject of the Resurrection. But perchance some one will say: Why, what man, endowed with such gifts as the Apostles were, would not have been great? But consider,  I pray you, how, before that they were endowed with the grace, "they were continuing steadfastly with one accord in prayer" (ch. i. 14), and depending on the aid from above. And dost thou, my beloved, hope for the kingdom of heaven, yet endurest naught? And hast thou received the Spirit, yet sufferest not such things, nor encounterest perils? But they, before they had breathing-time from their former dangers, were again led into others. And even this too, that there is no arrogance, no conceit, how great a good it is! To converse with mildness, what a gain it is! For not all that they did was the immediate work of grace, but there are many marks of their own zeal as well. That the gifts of grace shine forth in them, this was from their own diligence. See, for instance, from the very beginning, how careful Peter is; how sober and vigilant: how they that believed cast away their riches, had no private property, continued in prayer, showed that they were of one mind, passed their time in fastings. What grace, I ask (alone), did all this? Therefore it is that He brings the evidence home to them through their own officers. Just as in the case of Christ, it was their officers who said, "Never man spake as this Man speaketh." (John vii. 46.) These  (proofs) are more apt to be believed than the Resurrection.--Observe also the moderation shown by (the rulers) themselves, and how they give way. "The high-priest asked them, saying," etc. (v. 27): here he reasons with them, forsooth, in a moderate tone; for he was frightened: indeed to hinder was what he desired rather than to kill, since that he cannot do: and with the view to rouse them all, and show them the extreme danger they are in, "And intend," says he (to the Apostles), "to bring this man's blood upon us." Dost thou still take Him to be but man? He wants to make it appear that the injunction was necessary for their own safety. But mark what (Peter) says: "Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." (v. 31.) Here he forbears to mention the Gentiles, not to give them a handle against him. "And they desired," it says, "to slay them." (v. 33.) See again these in perplexity, these in pain: but those in quiet and cheerfulness and delight. It is not merely, They were grieved, but "They were cut" (to the heart). Truly this makes good that proverb, "Evil do, evil fare:" as we may see in this case. Here were these men in bonds, set at the bar of judgment, and the men that sit in judgment upon them were in distress and helpless perplexity. For as he who strikes a blow upon the adamant, gets the shock of the blow himself, so it was with these men. But they saw that not only was their boldness of speech not stopped, but rather their preaching increased the more, and that they discoursed without a thought of fear, and afforded them no handles against them.
Let us imitate these, my beloved: let us be undaunted in all our dangers. There is nothing dreadful to him that fears God; but all that is dreadful is for others. For when a man is delivered from his passions, and regards all present things as a shadow, say, from whom shall he suffer anything dreadful? whom shall he have to fear? whom shall he need plead to? Let us flee to this Rock which cannot be shaken. If any one were to build for us a city, and throw up a wall around it, and remove us to a land uninhabited, where there were none to disturb us, and there supply us with abundance of everything, and not suffer us to have aught to trouble us with anybody, he would not set us in such perfect safety, as Christ hath done now. Be it a city made of brass, if you will, surrounded on all sides with a wall, lofty and impregnable, let there be no enemy near it; let it have land plentiful and rich, let there be added abundance of other things, let the citizens too be mild and gentle, and no evil-doer there, neither robber, nor thief, no informer, no court of justice, but merely agreements (sunallalmata); and let us dwell in this city: not even thus would it be possible to live in security. Wherefore? Because there could not but be differences with servants, with wives, with children, to be a groundwork of much discomfort. But here was nothing of the kind; for here was nothing at all to pain them or cause any discomfort. Nay, what is more wonderful to say, the very things which are thought to cause discomfort, became matter of all joy and gladness. For tell me, what was there for them to be annoyed at? what to take amiss? Shall we cite a particular case for comparison with them? Well, let there be one of consular dignity, let him be possessed of much wealth, let him dwell in the imperial city, let him have no troublesome business with anybody, but only live in delight, and have nothing else but this to do, seated at the very summit of wealth and honor and power: and let us set against him a Peter, in bonds if you will, in evils without number: and we shall find that he is the man that lives the most delightfully. For when there is such excess of joy, as to be delighted when in bonds, think what must be the greatness of that joy! For like as those who are high in office, whatsoever evils may happen, are not sensible of them, but continue in enjoyment: so did these the more rejoice on account of these very evils. For it is impossible, impossible in words to express how great pleasure falls to their lot, who suffer for Christ's sake: for they rejoice in their sufferings, rather than in their good things. Whoso loves Christ, knows what I say.--But what as regards safety? And who, I ask, if he were ever so rich, could have escaped so many perils, going about among so many different nations, for the sole purpose  of bringing about a reformation in their manner of life? For it was just as if by royal mandate that they carried all before them, nay, far more easily, for never mandate could have been so effectual, as their words were. For the royal edict compels by necessity, but these drew men willingly and spontaneously, yea, and with hearts above measure thankful. What royal edict, I ask, would ever have persuaded men to part with all their property and their lives; to despise home, country, kindred, yea, even self-preservation? Yet the voices of fishermen and tent-makers availed for this. So that they were both happy, and more powerful and strong than all others. "Yes," say you, "those of course were, for they wrought miracles." (supra, p. 83, note 4.) But I ask what miracles did those who believed work, the three thousand, and the five thousand; and yet these, we read, passed their time in gladness? And well they might: for that which is the groundwork of all discomforts, the possession of riches, was done away with. For that, that, I say, was ever the cause both of wars and fighting, and grief, and discomfort, and all evils: the thing which makes life full of labor and troubles, it is that. And indeed it would be found that many more rich than poor have reason to be sad. If any think this is not true, their notion is derived not from the nature of the things, but from their own fancy. And if the rich do enjoy some sort of pleasure, this is not to be wondered at: for even those who are covered all over with the itch, have a good deal of pleasure. For that the rich are for all the world like these, and their mind affected in the same sort, is plain from this circumstance. Their cares annoy them, and they choose to be engrossed with them for the sake of the momentary pleasure: while those who are free from these affections, are in health and without discomfort. Whether is more pleasant, I ask, whether of the two more safe? To have to take thought only for a single loaf of bread and suit of clothes, or for an immense family, both slaves and freemen, not having care about himself (only)? For as this man has his fears for himself, so have you for those who depend on your own person. Why,  I pray you, does poverty seem a thing to be shunned? Just in the same way as other good things are, in the judgment of many, things to be deprecated. "Yes," say you, "but it is not that those good things are subjects for deprecation, but that they are hard of attainment." Well, so is poverty, not a thing to be deprecated, but hard of attainment: so that if one could bear it, there would be no reason to deprecate it. For how is it that the Apostles did not deprecate it? how is it that many even choose it, and so far from deprecating, even run to it? For that which is really a thing to be deprecated, cannot be an object of choice save to madmen. But if it be the men of philosophic and elevated minds that betake themselves to this, as to a safe and salubrious retreat, no wonder if to the rest it wears a different appearance. For, in truth, the rich man seems to me to be just like a city, unwalled, situated in a plain, inviting assailants from all sides: but poverty, a secure fortress, strong as brass can make it, and the way up to it difficult. "And yet," say you, "the fact is just the reverse: for these are they, who are often dragged into courts of law, these are they who are overborne and ill-treated." No: not the poor, as poor, but those who being poor want to be rich. But I am not speaking of them, but of such as make it their study to live in poverty. For say, how comes it that nobody ever drags the brethren of the hills into courts of law? and yet if to be poor is to be a mark for oppression, those ought most of all to be dragged thither, since they are poorer than all others. How comes it that nobody drags the common mendicants into the law-courts? Because they are come to the extreme of poverty. How is it that none does violence to them, none lays vexatious informations against them? Because they abide in a stronghold too safe for that. How many think it a condition hard to struggle against, poverty, I mean, and begging! What then, I ask, is it a good thing to beg? "It is good, if there be comfort," say you; "if there be one to give: it is a life so free from trouble and reverses, as every one knows." But I do not mean to commend this; God forbid! what I advise is the not aiming at riches.
For say, whom would you rather call blessed? those who find themselves at home with virtue, (epitedeious pros areten) or those who stand aloof? Of course, those who are near. Say then, which of the two is the man to learn anything that is profitable, and to shine in the true wisdom? the former, or the latter? The first, all must see. If you doubt it, satisfy yourself in this way. Fetch hither from the market-place any of the poor wretches there; let him be a cripple, lame, maimed: and then produce some other person, comely of aspect, strong in body, full of life and vigor in every part, overflowing with riches: let him be of illustrious birth, and possessed of great power. Then let us bring both these into the school of philosophy: which of them, I ask, is more likely to receive the things taught? The first precept, at the outset, "Be lowly and moderate" (for this is Christ's command): which will be most able to fulfil it, this one or the other? "Blessed are they that mourn" (Matt. v. 4): which will most receive this saying? "Blessed are the lowly:" which will most listen to this? "Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake" (ib. 8, 6, 10). Which will with ease receive these sayings? And, if you will, let us apply to all of them these rules, and see how they will fit. Is not the one inflamed and swollen all over, while the other is ever lowly minded and subdued in his whole bearing? It is quite plain. Yes, and there is a saying to that effect among those that are without: "(I was) a slave,  Epictetus by name, a cripple in body, for poverty a very Irus, and a friend of the Immortals." For how, I would ask, can it be otherwise, but that the soul of the rich must teem with evils; folly, vainglory, numberless lusts, anger and passion, covetousness, iniquity, and what not? So that even for philosophy, the former is more congenially (epitedeia) disposed than the latter. By all means seek to ascertain which is the more pleasant: for this I see is the point everywhere discussed, whether such an one has the more enjoyable way of life. And yet even as regards this, we need not be in doubt; for to be near to health, is also to have much enjoyment. But whether of the two, I would ask, is best disposed (epitedeios) to the matter now in hand, that which we will needs carry into accomplishment--our law, I mean--the poor man or the rich? Whether of them will be apt to swear? The man who has children to be provoked with, the man who has his covenants with innumerable parties, or the man who is concerned to apply for just a loaf of bread or a garment? This man has not even need of oaths, should he wish, but always lives free from cares of business; nay, more, it is often seen that he who is disciplined to swear not at all, will also despise riches; and one shall see in his whole behavior his ways all branching off from this one good habit, and leading to meekness, to contempt of riches, to piety, to subduedness of soul, to compunction of heart. Then let us not be indolent, my beloved, but let us again show great earnestness: they who have succeeded, that they may keep the success achieved, that they be not easily caught by the receding wave, nor the refluent tide carry them back again [they  too who are yet behindhand, that they may be raised up again, and strive to make up that which is wanting. And meanwhile let those who have succeeded, help those who have not been able to do the same]: and by reaching out their hands, as they would to men struggling in the deep water, receive them into the haven of no-swearing (anomosias). For it is indeed a haven of safety, to swear not at all: whatever storms burst upon us, to be in no danger of sinking there: be it anger, be it insult, be it passion, be it what it may, the soul is stayed securely; yea, though one have vented some chance word or other that ought not, and had been better not, to be spoken, yet he has laid himself under no necessity, no law. (Supra, Hom. ix. §5. ad. Pop. Ant. viii. §3.) See what Herod did for his oath's sake: he cut off the head of the Fore-runner. "But because of his oaths," it says, "and because of them which sat at meat with him" (Mark vi. 26), he cut off the head of the Prophet. Think what the tribes had to suffer for their oath in the matter of the tribe of Benjamin (Judges xxi. 5-10): what Saul had to suffer for his oath (1 Sam. xiv. 24, etc.). For Saul indeed perjured himself, but Herod did what was even worse than perjury, he committed murder. Joshua again--you know how it fared with him, for his oath in the matter of the Gibeonites. (Joshua, ch. ix.) For it is indeed a snare of Satan, this swearing. Let us burst  the cords; let us bring ourselves into a condition in which it will be easy (not to swear); let us break loose from every entanglement, and from this snare of Satan. Let us fear the command of the Lord: let us settle ourselves in the best of habits: that, making progress, and having achieved this and the rest of the commandments, we may obtain those good things which are promised to them that love Him, through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost together be glory, power, and honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
"Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded the men to be put forth a little space."
This Gamaliel was Paul's teacher. And one may well wonder, how, being so right-minded in his judgment, and withal learned in the law, he did not yet believe. But it cannot be that he should have continued in unbelief to the end.  Indeed it appears plainly from the words he here speaks. He "commanded," it says, "to put the men forth a little space [and said unto them.]" Observe how judiciously he frames his speech, and how he immediately at the very outset puts them in fear. And that he may not be suspected of taking their part, he addresses them as if he and they were of the same opinion, and does not use much vehemence, but as speaking to men intoxicated through passion, he thus expresses himself: "Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men." (v. 35.) Do not, he would say, go to work rashly and in a hurry. "For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody: to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to naught." (v. 36.) By examples he teaches them prudence; and, by way of encouragement, mentions last the man who seduced the greatest number. Now before he gives the examples, he says, "Take heed to yourselves;" but when he has cited them, then he declares his opinion, and says, "Refrain from these men." For, says he, "there rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this council or this work be of men, it will come to naught. But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow them." (al. it) (v. 37-39.) Then  what is there, he would say, to hinder you to be overthrown? For, says he (take heed), "lest haply ye be found even to fight against God." He would dissuade them both by the consideration that the thing is impossible, and because it is not for their good. And he does not say by whom these people were destroyed, but that there they "were scattered," and their confederacy fell away to nothing. For if, says he, it be of man, what needs any ado on your part? but if it be of God, for all your ado you will not be able to overcome it. The argument is unanswerable. "And they were persuaded by him." (v. 40.) How were they persuaded? So as not to slay them, but merely to scourge. For, it says, "And when they had called the Apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go." See after what great works they are scourged! And again their teaching became more extended: for they taught at home and in the temple, "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. (v. 41, 42.) And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Hellenists against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration." (ch. vi. 1.) Not absolutely in those immediate days; for it is the custom of Scripture to speak of things next about to happen, as taking place in immediate succession. But by "Hellenists" I suppose he means those who spoke Greek ["against the Hebrews"]: for  they did not use the Greek language. Behold another trial! observe how from within and from without there are warrings, from the very first! "Then," it says, "the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables." (v. 2.) Well said: for the needful must give precedence to the more needful. But see, how straightway they both take thought for these (inferior matters), and yet do not neglect the preaching. "Because their widows were overlooked:" for those (the Hebrews) were treated as the persons of greater consequence (aidesimoteroi). "Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost" (v. 3-5.) so were the others also full of faith;  not to have the same things happening as in the case of Judas, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira--"and Philip, and Prochoras, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: whom they set before the Apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith." (v. 5-7.)
But  let us look over again what has been spoken. "Ye men of Israel take heed to yourselves."(Recapitulation, v. 35.) See here, I pray you, how mildly Gamaliel reasons, and how he says but a few words to them, and does not recount ancient histories, although he might have done so, but more recent instances, which are most powerful to produce belief. With this view he throws out a hint himself, saying, "For before these days" (v. 36): meaning, not many days before. Now had he at once said, "Let these men go," both himself would have fallen into suspicion, and his speech would not have been so effective: but after the examples, it acquired its own proper force. And he mentions not one instance, but a second also: "for," saith the Scripture, "in the mouth of two witnesses" (Matt. xviii. 16): and yet he had it in his power to mention even three. "Refrain from these men." (v. 38.) See how mild his manner is, and his speech not long, but concise, and his mention even of those (impostors) how free from passion: "And all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered." And  for all this he does not blaspheme Christ. They heard him, all these unbelievers, heard him, these Jews. ["For if this council or this work be of men, it will come to naught."] Well then, since it did not come to nought, it is not of men. ["But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it."] (v. 39.) Once more he checks them by the impossibility and the inexpediency of the thing, saying, "Lest haply ye be found even to fight against God."  And he does not say, If Christ be God; but the work (itself) declares (this). He does not pronounce upon it, either that, it is "of men," or that it is "of God;" but he leaves the proof to the future. "They were persuaded [by him]." (v. 40.) Then why, it may be asked, do ye scourge them? Such was the incontrovertible justness of his speech, they could not look it in the face; nevertheless, they sated their own animosity; and again they expected to terrify them in this way. By the fact also of his saying these things not in the presence of the Apostles, he gained a hearing more than he would otherwise have done; and then the suavity of his discourse and the justness of what was said, helped to persuade them. In fact, this man all but preached the Gospel. "  Ye were persuaded," one may say, "that ye had not strength to overthrow it. Wherefore did ye not believe?" Such is the witness borne even by enemies. There it is four hundred, there, four thousand: and here the first movers were twelve. Let not the number which added itself affright you. (ch. ii. 41; iv. 4.) He might also have mentioned another instance, that of the Egyptian, but what he has spoken is fully sufficient. And he closes his speech with an alarming topic: "Lest haply," etc. And he does not pronounce upon it, lest he should seem to be pleading their cause; but he reasons by way of syllogism from the issue of the matter. And he does not venture to pronounce that it is not of men, nor yet that it is of God; for had he said that it was of God, they would have gainsaid him: but had he said that it was of men, they would again have taken prompt measures. Therefore he bids them wait for the end, saying, "Refrain." But they once more threaten knowing indeed that they avail nothing, but doing after their manner. Such is the nature of wickedness: it attempts even impossibilities.--"And after this man rose up Judas," etc. These things Josephus relates in detail. (Ant. xx. 8; ib. v. 2; xviii. 1. B. J. ii. 8. 1.) But what a great thing it was that he ventured to affirm: that it was of God, when in the sequel it received its proof from the events! Great boldness of speech, great freedom from all respect of persons!  And he does not say, "But if ye do not overthrow it, it is of God;" but, "If it be of God, it will not be overthrown." "And to him they agreed." (v. 40.) They reverenced the high character of the man. "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ." (v. 41.) What miracles so wonderful as this? Nowhere is the like of this recorded of the old saints: for Jeremiah indeed was scourged for the word of God, and they threatened Elijah, and the rest: but in this case, even by this very thing, and not only by their miracles, these showed forth the power of God. He does not say, that they were not pained, but that though pained they rejoiced. How does this appear? From their boldness afterwards: they were so instant still, even after their beatings, in preaching the word. "But in the temple," it says, "and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ." (v. 42.) "And in those days"--when these things were done, when there were scourgings, when there were threatenings, when the disciples were multiplying--also, it says, "there arose a murmuring." (ch. vi. 1.) And this comes of the multitude: for it is impossible to have strict order in a multitude. "There arose a murmuring," etc. to,--"And  a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.--There arose murmuring against the Hebrews"--for that description of people seemed to be more honorable--"because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration."  (v. 1-7.) So then there was a daily ministration for the widows. And observe how he calls it a "ministration" (diakonia), and not directly alms: extolling by this at once the doers, and those to whom it was done. "Were neglected." This did not arise from malice, but perhaps from the carelessness of the multitude. And therefore he brought it forward openly, for this was no small evil. Observe, how even in the beginning the evils came not only from without, but also from within. For you must not look to this only, that it was set to rights, but observe that it was a great evil that it existed.  "Then the twelve," etc. (v. 2.) Do you observe  how outward concerns succeed to inward? They do not act at their own discretion, but plead for themselves to the congregation. So ought it to be done now. "It is not reason," says he, "that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables." First he puts to them the unreasonableness of the thing; that it is not possible for both things to be done with the same attention: just as when they were about to ordain Matthias, they first show the necessity of the thing, that one was deficient, and there must needs be twelve. And so here they showed the necessity; and they did it not sooner, but waited till the murmuring arose; nor, on the other hand, did they suffer this to spread far. And, lo! they leave the decision to them: those who pleased all, those who of all were honestly reputed, them they present:  not now twelve, but "seven, full of the Spirit and of wisdom: well reported of" for their conversation. (v. 3.) Now when Matthias was to be presented, it was said, "Therefore must one of these men which have companied with us all the time" (ch. i. 21): but not so here: for the case was not alike. And they do not now put it to the lot; they might indeed themselves have made the election, as moved by the Spirit: but nevertheless, they desire the testimony of the people. The fixing the number, and the ordaining them, and for this kind of business, rested with them: but the choice of the men they make over to the people, that they might not seem to act from favor: just as God also leaves it to Moses to choose as elders those whom he knew. (Num. xi. 16.) "And of wisdom." For indeed there needs much wisdom in such ministrations. For think not, because he hath not the word committed unto him, that such an one has no need of wisdom: he does need it, and much too. "But we," saith he, "will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." (v. 4.) Again they plead for themselves, beginning and ending with this. "Will give ourselves continually," he saith. For so it behooved, not just to do the mere acts, or in any chance way, but to be continually doing them. "And the saying," we are told, "pleased the whole multitude." (v. 5, 6.) This too was worthy of their wisdom. All approved of what was said so sensible was it. "And they chose," it says (again it is the people (autoi) that choose,) "Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: whom they set before the Apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them." They separated them from the multitude, and it is the people (autoi) that draw them, not the Apostles that lead them. Observe how he avoids all that is superfluous: he does not tell in what way it was done, but that they were ordained (echeirotonethesan) with prayer: for this is the meaning of cheirotonia, (i.e. "putting forth the hand,") or ordination: the hand of the man is laid upon (the person,) but the whole work is of God, and it is His hand which toucheth the head of the one ordained, if he be duly ordained. "And the word of God," it says, "increased: and the number of the disciples multiplied." (v. 7.) It is not for nothing that he says this: it shows how great is the virtue of alms and good order. And as he is about in the sequel to enlarge (auxein) upon the affair of Stephen, he puts first the causes which led to it. "And many," he says, "of the priests were obedient to the faith." For  since they perceived such to be the mind of their ruler and teacher, they put the matter to the test of facts.--It is also a subject for wonder, how it was that the multitude was not divided in its choice of the men, and how it was that the Apostles were not rejected by them. But what sort of rank these bore, and what sort of office they received, this is what we need to learn. Was it that of Deacons? And yet this is not the case in the Churches. But  is it to the Presbyters that the management belongs? And yet at present there was no Bishop, but the Apostles only. Whence I think it clearly and manifestily follows, that neither Deacons nor Presbyters is their designation: but it was for this particular purpose that they were ordained.  And this business was not simply handed over to them without further ceremony, but the Apostles prayed over them, that power might be given to them. But observe, I pray you, if there were need of seven men for this, great in proportion must have been the sums of money that flowed in, great in proportion also the number of widows. So then the prayers were not made in an off-hand way, but with much deliberate attention: and this office,  as well as preaching, was thus brought to good effect; for what they did, they effected mostly by the means of these (their prayers.) Thus they were enabled to give their attention to things spiritual; thus were these also free to undertake long journeys; thus were these put in trust with the word. But the writer does not say this, nor extol them, but that it was "not reason" that they should leave the work given to them. Thus they had been taught by Moses's example not to undertake the management of everything by themselves. (Num. xi. 14.) "Only," it is said, "that we should remember the poor." (Gal. ii. 10.) And  how did they bring these forward? They fasted. "Look you out seven men," etc. (v. 3.) It is not simply, spiritual men, but, "full of the Spirit and of wisdom," for it needed very great superiority of mind (philosophias) to bear the complainings of widows. For what profits it, that the dispenser of alms steal not, if nevertheless he waste all, or be harsh and easily provoked? "And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost." (v. 5.) And in this regard Philip also was admirable: for it is of him that the writer says: "And we entered into the house of Philip the Evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him."--(ch. xxi. 8.) Dost thou mark how matters are ordered quite otherwise than after the matter of men? "And the number of disciples was multiplied in Jerusalem." (v. 7.) In Jerusalem the multitude increased. Wonderful, where Christ was slain, there the preaching increased! And not only was it not the case that some were offended then in the manner of Ananias, but the awe became even greater: while these are scourged, those threatening, those tempting the Spirit, those murmuring. But I would have thee remark under what circumstances the multitude increased: after these trials, then it was that the multitude increased, and not before. Mark also how great the mercy of God. Of those chief-priests, of the very men who had indignation and sore displeasure and so cried out and said, "He saved others, Himself He cannot save;" of these same, "Many," it says, "were obedient unto the faith." (Matt. xxvii. 42.)
Him therefore let us also imitate. He received them, and did not cast them out. So let us requite those our enemies, who have wrought us even numberless ills. Whatever good thing we may have, let us impart to them: let us not pass them by, in our acts of beneficence. For if we ought, by suffering ill, to sate their rage, much more, by doing them good: for this is a less thing than the other. For it is not all alike, to do good to an enemy, and to be willing to suffer greater wrongs than he wishes (to inflict):  from the one we shall come on to the other. This is the dignity of Christ's disciples. Those crucified Him, when He had come for the very purpose of doing them good; His disciples they scourged; and after all this, He admits them to the same honor with His disciples, making them equally partakers of His gifts. I beseech you, let us be imitators of Christ: in this regard it is possible to imitate Him: this makes a man like unto God: this is more than human. Let us hold fast to Mercy: she is the schoolmistress and teacher of that higher Wisdom. He that has learnt to show mercy to the distressed, will learn also not to resent injuries; he that has learnt this, will be able to do good even to his enemies. Let us learn to feel for the ills our neighbors suffer, and we shall learn to endure the ills they inflict. Let us ask the person himself who ill-treats us, whether he does not condemn himself? would he not be glad to show a nobler spirit (philosophhein)? must he not own that his behavior is nothing but passion, that it is little-minded, pitiful? would he not like to be of those who are wronged and are silent, and not of those who do wrong, and are beside themselves with passion? can he go away not admiring the patient sufferer? Do not imagine that this makes men despicable. Nothing makes men so despicable, as insolent and injurious behavior: nothing makes men so respectable, as endurance under insolence and injury. For the one is a ruffian, the other a philosopher; the one is less than man, the other is equal to angels. For though he be inferior to the wrong-doer, yet, for all that, he has the power, if he had the mind, to be revenged. And besides, the one is pitied by all, the other hated. What then? The former will be much the better of the two: for everybody will treat the one as a madman, the other as a man of sense. He  cannot speak of him in evil sort: yea, thou fearest, says one, lest perchance he be not such (as thou wouldest represent). Best that thou speak not evil in thy thought even; next, that thou speak it not to another. Pray not then to God against this man: if thou hear him evil-spoken of, take his part: say, It was passion that spoke such words, not the man; say, It was anger, not my friend: his madness, not his heart. Thus let us account of each offence. Wait not for the fire to be kindled, but check it before it comes to that: do not exasperate the savage beast, rather do not suffer it to become exasperated: for thou wilt no longer be able to check it, if once the flame be kindled. For what has the man called thee? "Thou fool and simpleton." And which then is liable to the name? the called, or the caller? For the one, be he ever so wise, gets the character of being a fool: but the other, even if he be a simpleton, gets credit for being wise, and of philosophic temper. Say, which is the simpleton? he who alleges against another what is untrue, or he who even under such treatment is unmoved? For if it be the mark of true philosophy to be unmoved however moved; to fall into a passion when none moves to anger--what folly is it! I say not yet, how sore a manner of punishment is in store for those who utter such reproaches and revilings against their neighbor. But how? has he called thee "a low fellow and low-born, a sorry creature and of sorry extraction?" Again he has turned the taunt against himself. For the other will appear worthy and respectable, but he a sorry creature indeed: for to cast up such things, that is to say, meanness of birth, as a disgrace, is little-minded indeed: while the other will be thought a great and admirable character, because he thinks nothing of such a taunt, and is no more affected by it than if he were told  that he had about him any other ordinary and quite indifferent circumstance. But does he call thee "adulterer," and such like? At this thou mayest even laugh: for, when the conscience is not smitten, there can be no occasion for wrath. * * For when one has considered what bad and disgraceful disclosures he makes, still for all that, there is no need to grieve. He has but laid bare now, what everybody must be apprised of by and bye: meanwhile, as regards himself he has shown all men that he is not to be trusted, for that he knows not how to screen his neighbor's faults: he has disgraced himself more than he has the other; has stopped up against himself every harbor: has made terrible to himself the bar at which he must hereafter be tried. For not the person (whose secrets are betrayed) will be the object of everybody's aversion, but he, who where he ought not to have raised the veil, has stripped off the clothes. But speak thou nothing of the secrets thou knowest: hold thou thy peace if thou wouldest bear off the good fame. For not only wilt thou overthrow what has been spoken, and hide it: but thou wilt also bring about another capital result: thou wilt stop sentence being given against thyself. Does somebody speak evil of thee? Say thou: "Had he known all, he would not have spoken only thus much."--So you admire what has been said, and are delighted with it? Aye, but you must follow it. For when we tell you all  these maxims of the heathen moralists, it is not because Scripture does not contain hundreds of such sayings, but because these are of more force to put you to the blush. As in fact Scripture itself is wont to use this appeal to our sense of shame; for, instance, when it says, "Do ye even as the heathen." (Jer. xxxv. 3.) And the prophet Jeremiah brought forward into public view the children of Rechab, how they would not consent to violate the command of their father.--Miriam and her company spake evil of Moses, and he immediately begged them off from their punishment; nay, would not so much as let it be known that his cause was avenged. (Num. ch. xii.) But not so we: on the contrary, this is what we most desire; to have all men know that they have not passed unpunished. How long shall we breathe of the earth?--One party cannot make a fight. Pluck the madmen from both sides, you will exasperate them the more: but pluck from right or from left, and you have quenched the passion. The striker, if he has to do with one who will not put up with blows, is the more set on: but if with one who yields, he is the sooner unnerved, and his blow is spent upon himself. For no practised pugilist so unnerves the strength of his antagonist, as does a man who being injuriously treated makes no return. For the other only goes off ashamed, and condemned, first by his own conscience, and secondly by all the lookers on. And there is a proverb too, which says, that "to honor another, is to honor one's self": therefore also to abuse another is to abuse one's self. None, I repeat, will be able to harm us, unless we harm ourselves; nor will any make me poor, unless I make myself such. For come, let us look at it in this way. Suppose that I have a beggarly soul, and let all lavish all their substance upon me, what of that? So long as the soul is not changed, it is all in vain. Suppose I have a noble soul, and let all men take from me my substance: what of that? So long as you do not make the soul beggarly, no harm is done. Suppose my life be impure, and let all men say just the contrary of me: what of that? For though they say it, yet they do not judge thus of me in their heart. Again, suppose my life be pure, and let all say of me just the reverse: and what of that? For in their own conscience they will condemn themselves: since they are not persuaded of what they say. Just as we ought not to admit the praise, so neither the criminations. And why say I these things? None will ever be able to plot against us, nor lay us under any evil charge, if we choose (that they shall not). For how now, I ask you? Let him drag me into a court of justice, let him lay vexatious informations, let him, if you will, have the very soul out of me: and what of that? for a little while, undeservedly to suffer these things, what does it signify? "Well,  but this," say you, "is of itself an evil." Well, but of itself this is a good, to suffer undeservedly. What? would you have the suffering to be deserved? Let me mention again a piece of philosophy, from one of the sages. A certain person, says the story, had been put to death. And one of the sage's disciples said to him, "Woe is me, that he should have suffered unjustly!" The other turned upon him, "Why, how now?" said he, "would you have had him justly suffer?" (Socrates ap. Diog. Laert. and Xen. Mem. Socr.) John also, was not he unjustly put to death? Which then do you rather pity: them that justly suffer death, or [him?  Do you not count them miserable, while] him you even admire? Then what is a man injured, when from death itself he has got great gain, not merely no hurt? If indeed the man had been immortal, and this made him mortal, no doubt it would be a hurt: but if he be mortal, and in the course of nature must expect death a little later, and his enemy has but expedited his death, and glory with it, what is the harm? Let us but have our soul in good order, and there will be no harm from without. But thou art not in a condition of glory? And what of that? That which is true of wealth, the same holds for glory: if I be magnanimous (megaloprepes), I shall need none; if vainglorious, the more I get, the more I shall want. In this way shall I most become illustrious, and obtain greater glory; namely, if I despise glory. Knowing these things, let us be thankful to Him Who hath freely given us such a life, and let us ensue it unto His glory; for to Him belongs the glory, forever. Amen.
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