Writings of John Chrysostom. On the Gospel According to John.

Advanced Information

St. Chrysostom:

The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople,

On the Gospel According to John.

The Oxford Translation, revised with additional notes by
Rev. Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D.

Published in 1886 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.


Homily XXVI.

John iii. 6

"That which is born of the flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."

[1.] Great mysteries are they, of which the Only-begotten Son of God has counted us worthy; great, and such as we were not worthy of, but such as it was meet for Him to give. For if one reckon our desert, we were not only unworthy of the gift, but also liable to punishment and vengeance; but He, because He looked not to this, not only delivered us from punishment, but freely gave us a life much more bright [679] than the first, introduced us into another world, made us another creature; "If any man be in Christ," saith Paul, "he is a new creature." ( 2 Cor. v. 17 .) What kind of "new creature"? Hear Christ Himself declare; "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God." Paradise was entrusted to us, and we were shown unworthy to dwell even there, yet He hath exalted us to heaven. In the first things we were found unfaithful, and He hath committed to us greater; we could not refrain from a single tree, and He hath provided for us the delights [680] above; we kept not our place in Paradise, and He hath opened to us the doors of heaven. Well said Paul, "O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" ( Rom. xi. 33 .) There is no longer a mother, or pangs, or sleep, or coming together, and embracings of bodies; henceforth all the fabric [681] of our nature is framed above, of the Holy Ghost and water. The water is employed, being made the Birth to him who is born; what the womb is to the embryo, the water is to the believer; for in the water he is fashioned and formed. At first it was said, "Let the waters bring forth the creeping things that have life" ( Gen. i. 20 , LXX.); but from the time that the Lord entered the streams of Jordan, the water no longer gives forth the "creeping thing that hath life," but reasonable and Spirit-bearing souls; and what has been said of the sun, that he is "as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber" ( Ps. xviii. 6 ), we may now rather say of the faithful, for they send forth rays far brighter than he. That which is fashioned in the womb requires time, not so that in water, but all is done in a single moment. Here our life is perishable, and takes its origin from the decay of other bodies; that which is to be born comes slowly, (for such is the nature of bodies, they acquire perfection by time,) but it is not so with spiritual things. And why? Because the things made are formed perfect from the beginning.

Text Font Face
.
Text Size
.
Background
Color
.
(for printing)
BELIEVE
Religious
Information
Source
web-site
BELIEVE Religious Information Source - By Alphabet Our List of 2,300 Religious Subjects
E-mail
When Nicodemus still hearing these things was troubled, see how Christ partly opens to him the secret of this mystery, and makes that clear which was for a while obscure to him. "That which is born," saith He, "of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." He leads him away from all the things of sense, and suffers him not vainly to pry into the mysteries revealed with his fleshly eyes; "We speak not," saith He, "of flesh, but of Spirit, O Nicodemus," (by this word He directs him heavenward for a while,) "seek then nothing relating to things of sense; never can the Spirit appear to those eyes, think not that the Spirit bringeth forth the flesh." "How then," perhaps one may ask, "was the Flesh of the Lord brought forth?" Not of the Spirit only, but of flesh; as Paul de clares, when he says, "Made of a woman, made under the Law" ( Gal. iv. 4 ); for the Spirit fashioned Him not indeed out of nothing, (for what need was there then of a womb?) but from the flesh of a Virgin. How, I cannot explain unto you; yet it was done, that no one might suppose that what was born is alien to our nature. For if even when this has taken place there are some who disbelieve in such a birth, into what impiety would they not have fallen had He not partaken of the Virgin's flesh.

"That which is born [682] of the Spirit is spirit." Seest thou the dignity of the Spirit? It appears performing the work of God; for above he said of some, that, "they were begotten of God," ( c. i. 13 ,) here He saith, that the Spirit begetteth them.

"That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." His meaning is of this kind; "He that is born [683] of the Spirit is spiritual." For the Birth which He speaks of here is not that according to essence, [684] but according to honor and grace. Now if the Son is so born also, in what shall He be superior to men so born? And how is He, Only-begotten? For I too am born of God, though not of His Essence, and if He also is not of His Essence, how in this respect does He differ from us? Nay, He will then be found to be inferior to the Spirit; for birth of this kind is by the grace of the Spirit. Needs He then the help of the Spirit that He may continue a Son? And in what do these differ from Jewish doctrines?

Christ then having said, "He that is born of the Spirit is spirit," when He saw him again confused, leads His discourse to an example from sense, saying,

Ver. 7, 8 . "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. [685] The wind bloweth where it listeth."

For by saying, "Marvel not," He indicates the confusion of his soul, and leads him to something lighter than body. He had already led him away from fleshly things, by saying, "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit"; but when Nicodemus knew not what "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" meant, He next carries him to another figure, not bringing him to the density of bodies, nor yet speaking of things purely incorporeal, (for had he heard he could not have received this,) but having found a something between what is and what is not body, namely, the motion of the wind, He brings him to that next. And He saith of it,

"Thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth."

Though He saith, "it bloweth where it listeth," He saith it not as if the wind had any power of choice, but declaring that its natural motion cannot be hindered, and is with power. For Scripture knoweth how to speak thus of things without life, as when it saith, "The creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly." ( Rom. viii. 20 .) The expression therefore, "bloweth where it listeth," is that of one who would show that it cannot be restrained, that it is spread abroad everywhere, and that none can hinder its passing hither and thither, but that it goes abroad with great might, and none is able to turn aside its violence.

[2.] "And thou hearest its voice," [686] (that is, its rustle, its noise,) "but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit."

Here is the conclusion of the whole matter. "If," saith He, "thou knowest not how to explain the motion nor the path of this wind [687] which thou perceivest by hearing and touch, why art thou over-anxious about the working of the Divine Spirit, when thou understandest not that of the wind, though thou hearest its voice?" The expression, "bloweth where it listeth," is also used to establish the power of the Comforter; for if none can hold the wind, but it moveth where it listeth, much less will the laws of nature, or limits of bodily generation, or anything of the like kind, be able to restrain the operations of the Spirit.

That the expression, "thou hearest its voice," is used respecting the wind, is clear from this circumstance; He would not, when conversing with an unbeliever and one unacquainted with the operation of the Spirit, have said, "Thou hearest its voice." As then the wind is not visible, although it utters a sound, so neither is the birth of that which is spiritual visible to our bodily eyes; yet the wind is a body, although a very subtle one; for whatever is the object of sense is body. If then you do not complain because you cannot see this body, and do not on this account disbelieve, why do you, when you hear of "the Spirit," hesitate and demand such exact accounts, although you act not so in the case of a body? What then doth Nicodemus? still he continues in his low Jewish opinion, and that too when so clear an example has been mentioned to him. Wherefore when he again says doubtingly,

Ver. 9, 10 . "How can these things be?" Christ now speaks to him more chidingly; "Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things?"

Observe how He nowhere accuses the man of wickedness, but only of weakness and simplicity. "And what," one may ask, "has this birth in common with Jewish matters?" Tell me rather what has it that is not in common with them? For the first-created man, and the woman formed from his side, and the barren women, and the things accomplished by water, I mean what relates to the fountain on which Elisha made the iron tool to swim, to the Red Sea which the Jews passed over, to the pool which the Angel troubled, to Naaman the Syrian who was cleansed in Jordan, all these proclaimed beforehand, as by a figure, the Birth and the purification which were to be. And the words of the Prophet allude to the manner of this Birth, as, "It shall be announced unto the Lord a generation which cometh, and they shall announce His righteousness unto a people that shall be born, whom the Lord hath made" ( Ps. xxii. 30; xxx. 31 , LXX.); and, "Thy youth shall be renewed as an eagle's" ( Ps. ciii. 5 , LXX.); and, "Shine, O Jerusalem; behold, Thy King cometh!" ( Isa. lx. 1; Zech. ix. 9 ); and, "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven." ( Ps. xxxii. 1 , LXX.) Isaac also was a type of this Birth. For tell me, Nicodemus, how was he born? was it according to the law of nature? By no means; the mode of his generation was midway between this of which we speak and the natural; the natural, because he was begotten by cohabitation; the other, because he was begotten not of blood, [688] (but by the will of God.) I shall show that these figures [689] proclaimed beforehand not only this birth, but also that from the Virgin. For, because no one would easily have believed that a virgin could bear a child, barren women first did so, then such as were not only barren, but aged also. That a woman should be made from a rib was indeed far more wonderful than that the barren should conceive; but because that was of early and old time, another figure, new and fresh, was given, that of the barren women; to prepare the way for belief in the Virgin's travail. To remind him then of these things, Jesus said, "Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things?"

Ver. 11 . "We speak that We do know, and testify that We have seen, and none receiveth [690] Our witness."

This He added, making His words credible by another argument, and condescending in His speech to the other's infirmity.

[3.] And what is this that He saith, "We speak that We do know, and testify that We have seen"? Because with us the sight is the most trustworthy of the senses, and if we desire to gain a person's belief, we speak thus, that we saw it with our eyes, not that we know it by hearsay; Christ therefore speaks to him rather after the manner of men, gaining belief for His words by this means also. And that this is so, and that He desires to establish nothing else, and refers not to sensual vision, is clear from this; after saying, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," He adds, "We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen." Now this (of the Spirit) was not yet born [691] ; how then saith He, "what we have seen"? Is it not plain that He speaks of a knowledge not otherwise than exact?

"And none receiveth our witness." The expression "we know," He uses then either concerning Himself and His Father, or concerning Himself alone; and "no man receiveth," is the expression not of one displeased, but of one who declares a fact: for He said not, "What can be more senseless than you who receive not what is so exactly declared by us?" but displaying all gentleness, both by His works and His words, He uttered nothing like this; mildly and kindly He foretold what should come to pass, so guiding us too to all gentleness, and teaching us when we converse with any and do not persuade them, not to be annoyed or made savage; for it is impossible for one out of temper to accomplish his purpose, he must make him to whom he speaks still more incredulous. Wherefore we must abstain from anger, and make our words in every way credible by avoiding not only wrath, but also loud speaking [692] for loud speaking is the fuel of passion.

Let us then bind [693] the horse, that we may subdue the rider; let us clip the wings of our wrath, so the evil shall no more rise to a height. A keen passion is anger, keen, and skillful to steal our souls; therefore we must on all sides guard against its entrance. It were strange that we should be able to tame wild beasts, and yet should neglect our own savage minds. Wrath is a fierce fire, it devours all things; it harms the body, it destroys the soul, it makes a man deformed [694] and ugly to look upon; and if it were possible for an angry person to be visible to himself at the time of his anger, he would need no other admonition, for nothing is more displeasing than an angry countenance. Anger is a kind of drunkenness, or rather it is more grievous than drunkenness, and more pitiable than (possession of) a dæmon. But if we be careful not to be loud in speech, [695] we shall find this the best path to sobriety of conduct. [696] And therefore Paul would take away clamor as well as anger, when he says, "Let all anger and clamor be put away from you." ( Eph. iv. 31 .) Let us then obey this teacher of all wisdom, and when we are wroth with our servants, let us consider our own trespasses, and be ashamed at their forbearance. For when thou art insolent, and thy servant bears thy insults in silence, when thou actest unseemly, he like a wise man, take this instead of any other warning. Though he is thy servant, he is still a man, has an immortal soul, and has been honored with the same gifts as thee by your common Lord. And if he who is our equal in more important and more spiritual things, on account of some poor and trifling human superiority so meekly bears our injuries, what pardon can we deserve, what excuse can we make, who cannot, or rather will not, be as wise through fear of God, as he is through fear of us? Considering then all these things, and calling to mind our own transgressions, and the common nature of man, let us be careful at all times to speak gently, that being humble in heart we may find rest for our souls, both that which now is, and that which is to come; which may we all attain, by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Footnotes

[679] al. "precious." [680] truphen . [681] kataskeue . [682] or, "begotten." [683] or, "begotten." [684] ousian . [685] or, "from above." [686] phonen . [687] or, "spirit." [688] lit "of bloods," as in c. i. 13 . [689] tropoi . [690] ou lambanete , G. T. [691] or, "begotten." [692] lit. "shouting." [693] lit. "tie the feet of." [694] or, "unpleasing." [695] krazein . [696] philosophian .


Homily XXVII.

John iii. 12, 13

"If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven."

[1.] What I have often said I shall now repeat, and shall not cease to say. What is that? It is that Jesus, when about to touch on sublime doctrines, often contains Himself by reason of the infirmity of His hearers, and dwells not for a continuance on subjects worthy of His greatness, but rather on those which partake of condescension. For the sublime and great, being but once uttered, is sufficient to establish that character, as far as we are able to hear it; but unless more lowly sayings, and such as are nigh to [697] the comprehension of the hearers, were continually uttered, the more sublime would not readily take hold on a groveling listener. And therefore of the sayings of Christ more are lowly than sublime. But yet that this again may not work another mischief, by detaining the disciple here below, He does not merely set before men His inferior sayings without first telling them why He utters them; as, in fact, He has done in this place. For when He had said what He did concerning Baptism, and the Generation by grace which takes place on earth, being desirous to admit [698] them to that His own mysterious and incomprehensible Generation, He holds it in suspense for a while, and admits them not, and then tells them His reason for not admitting them. What is that? It is, the dullness and infirmity of His hearers. And referring to this He added the words, "If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?" so that wherever He saith anything ordinary and humble, we must attribute this to the infirmity of His audience.

The expression "earthly things," some say is here used of the wind; that is, "If I have given you an example from earthly things, and ye did not even so believe, how shall ye be able to learn sublimer things?" And wonder not if He here call Baptism an "earthly" thing, for He calls it so, either from its being performed on earth, or so naming it in comparison with that His own most awful Generation. For though this Generation of ours is heavenly, yet compared with that true Generation which is from the Substance of the Father, it is earthly.

He does not say, "Ye have not understood," but, "Ye have not believed"; for when a man is ill disposed towards those things which it is possible to apprehend by the intellect, and will not readily receive them, he may justly be charged with want of understanding; but when he receives not things which cannot be apprehended by reasoning, but only by faith, the charge against him is no longer want of understanding, but unbelief. Leading him therefore away from enquiring by reasonings into what had been said, He touches him more severely by charging him with want of faith. If now we must receive our own Generation [699] by faith, what do they deserve who are busy with their reasonings about that of the Only-Begotten?

But perhaps some may ask, "And if the hearers were not to believe these sayings, wherefore were they uttered?" Because though "they" believed not, those who came after would believe and profit by them. Touching him therefore very severely, Christ goes on to show that He knoweth not these things only, but others also, far more and greater than these. And this He declared by what follows, when He said, "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven."

"And what manner of sequel is this?" [700] asks one. The very closest, and entirely in unison with what has gone before. For since Nicodemus had said, "We know that Thou art a teacher come from God," on this very point He sets him right, all but saying, "Think Me not a teacher in such manner as were the many of the prophets who were of earth, for I have come from heaven (but) now. None of the prophets hath ascended up thither, but I dwell there." Seest thou how even that which appears very exalted is utterly unworthy of his greatness? For not in heaven only is He, but everywhere, and He fills all things; but yet He speaks according to the infirmity of His hearer, desiring to lead him up little by little. And in this place He called not the flesh "Son of Man," but He now named, so to speak, His entire Self from the inferior substance; indeed this is His wont, to call His whole Person [701] often from His Divinity, and often from His humanity.

Ver. 14 . "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up."

This again seems to depend upon what has gone before, and this too has a very close connection with it. For after having spoken of the very great benefaction that had come to man by Baptism, He proceeds to mention another benefaction, which was the cause of this, and not inferior to it; namely, that by the Cross. As also Paul arguing with the Corinthians sets down these benefits together, when he says, "Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized into the name of Paul?" for these two things most of all declare His unspeakable love, that He both suffered for His enemies, and that having died for His enemies, He freely gave to them by Baptism entire remission of their sins.

[2.] But wherefore did He not say plainly, "I am about to be crucified," instead of referring His hearers to the ancient type? First, that you may learn that old things are akin to new, and that the one are not alien to the other; next, that you may know that He came not unwillingly to His Passion; and again, besides these reasons, that you may learn that no harm arises to Him from the Fact, [702] and that to many there springs from it salvation. For, that none may say, "And how is it possible that they who believe on one crucified should be saved, when he himself is holden of death?" He leads us to the ancient story. Now if the Jews, by looking to the brazen image of a serpent, escaped death, much rather will they who believe on the Crucified, with good reason enjoy a far greater benefit. For this [703] takes place, not through the weakness of the Crucified, or because the Jews are stronger than He, but because "God loved the world," therefore is His living Temple fastened to the Cross.

Ver. 15 . "That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."

Seest thou the cause of the Crucifixion, and the salvation which is by it? Seest thou the relationship of the type to the reality? there the Jews escaped death, but the temporal, here believers the eternal; there the hanging serpent healed the bites of serpents, here the Crucified Jesus cured the wounds inflicted by the spiritual [704] dragon; there he who looked with his bodily eyes was healed, here he who beholds with the eyes of his understanding put off all his sins; there that which hung was brass fashioned into the likeness of a serpent, here it was the Lord's Body, builded by the Spirit; there a serpent bit and a serpent healed, here death destroyed and a Death saved. But the snake which destroyed had venom, that which saved was free from venom; and so again was it here, for the death which slew us had sin with it, as the serpent had venom; but the Lord's Death was free from all sin, as the brazen serpent from venom. For, saith Peter, "He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth." ( 1 Pet. ii. 22 .) And this is what Paul also declares, "And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it." ( Col. ii. 16 .) For as some noble champion by lifting on high and dashing down his antagonist, renders his victory more glorious, so Christ, in the sight of all the world, cast down the adverse powers, and having healed those who were smitten in the wilderness, delivered them from all venomous beasts [705] that vexed them, by being hung upon the Cross. Yet He did not say, "must hang," but, "must be lifted up" ( Acts xxviii. 4 ); for He used this which seemed the milder term, on account of His hearer, and because it was proper to the type. [706]

Ver. 16 . "God," He saith, "so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

What He saith, is of this kind: Marvel not that I am to be lifted up that ye may be saved, for this seemeth good to the Father, and He hath so loved you as to give His Son for slaves, and ungrateful slaves. Yet a man would not do this even for a friend, nor readily even for a righteous man; as Paul has declared when he said, "Scarcely for a righteous man will one die." ( Rom. v. 7 .) Now he spoke at greater length, as speaking to believers, but here Christ speaks concisely, because His discourse was directed to Nicodemus, but still in a more significant manner, for each word had much significance. For by the expression, "so loved," and that other, "God the world," He shows the great strength of His love. Large and infinite was the interval between the two. He, the immortal, who is without beginning, the Infinite Majesty, they but dust and ashes, full of ten thousand sins, who, ungrateful, have at all times offended Him; and these He "loved." Again, the words which He added after these are alike significant, when He saith, that "He gave His Only-begotten Son," not a servant, not an Angel, not an Archangel. And yet no one would show such anxiety for his own child, as God did for His ungrateful servants.

His Passion then He sets before him not very openly, but rather darkly; but the advantage of the Passion He adds in a clearer manner, [707] saying, "That every one that believeth in Him. should not perish, but have everlasting life." For when He had said, "must be lifted up," and alluded to death, lest the hearer should be made downcast by these words, forming some mere human opinions concerning Him, and supposing that His death was a ceasing to be, [708] observe how He sets this right, by saying, that He that was given was "The Son of God," and the cause of life, of everlasting life. He who procured life for others by death, would not Himself be continually in death; for if they who believed on the Crucified perish not, much less doth He perish who is crucified. He who taketh away the destitution of others much more is He free from it; He who giveth life to others, much more to Himself doth He well forth life. Seest thou that everywhere there is need of faith? For He calls the Cross the fountain of life; which reason cannot easily allow, as the heathens now by their mocking testify. But faith which goes beyond the weakness of reasoning, may easily receive and retain it. And whence did God "so love the world"? From no other source but only from his goodness.

[3.] Let us now be abashed at His love, let us be ashamed at the excess of His lovingkindness, since He for our sakes spared not His Only-begotten Son, yet we spare our wealth to our own injury; He for us gave His Own Son, but we for Him do not so much as despise money, nor even for ourselves. And how can these things deserve pardon? If we see a man submitting to sufferings and death for us, we set him before all others, count him among our chief friends, place in his hands all that is ours, and deem it rather his than ours, and even so do not think that we give him the return that he deserves. But towards Christ we do not preserve even this degree of right feeling. He laid down His life for us, and poured forth His precious Blood for our sakes, who were neither well-disposed nor good, while we do not pour out even our money for our own sakes, and neglect Him who died for us, when He is naked and a stranger; and who shall deliver us from the punishment that is to come? For suppose that it were not God that punishes, but that we punished ourselves; should we not give our vote against ourselves? should we not sentence ourselves to the very fire of hell, for allowing Him who laid down His life for us, to pine with hunger? But why speak I of money? had we ten thousand lives, ought we not to lay them all down for Him? and yet not even so could we do what His benefits deserve. For he who confers a benefit in the first instance, gives evident proof of his kindness, but he who has received one, whatever return he makes, he repays as a debt, and does not bestow as a favor; especially when he who did the first good turn was benefiting his enemies. And he who repays both bestows his gifts on a benefactor, and himself reaps their fruit besides. [709] But not even this induces us; more foolish are we than any, putting golden necklaces about our servants and mules and horses, and neglecting our Lord who goes about naked, and passes from door to door, and ever stands at our outlets, and stretches forth His hands to us, but often regarding Him with unpitying eye; yet these very things He undergoeth for our sake. Gladly [710] doth He hunger that thou mayest be fed; naked doth He go that He may provide for thee the materials [711] for a garment of incorruption, yet not even so do ye give up any of your own. Some of your garments are moth-eaten, others are a load to your coffers, and a needless trouble to their possessors, while He who gave you these and all else that you possess goeth naked.

But perhaps you do not lay them by in your coffers, but wear them and make yourself fine with them. And what gain you by this? Is it that the street people may see you? What then? They will not admire thee who wearest such apparel, but the man who supplies garments to the needy; so if you desire to be admired, by clothing others, you will the rather get infinite applause. Then too God as well as man shall praise thee; now none can praise, but all will grudge at thee, seeing thee with a body well arrayed, but having a neglected soul. So harlots have adornment, and their clothes are often more than usually expensive and splendid; but the adornment of the soul is with those only who live in virtue.

These things I say continually, and I will not cease to say them, not so much because I care for the poor, as because I care for your souls. For they will have some comfort, if not from you, yet from some other quarter; or even if they be not comforted, but perish by hunger, the harm to them will be no great matter. What did poverty and wasting by hunger injure Lazarus! But none can rescue you from hell, if you obtain not the help of the poor; [712] we shall say to you what was said to the rich man, who was continually broiling, yet gained no comfort. God grant that none ever hear those words, but that all may go into the bosom of Abraham; by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Footnotes

[697] al. "touch." [698] katheinai . [699] i.e. the new Birth. [700] i.e. how is this connected with what has gone before? [701] to pan . [702] i.e. of the Passion. [703] i.e. the Crucifixion. [704] noetou . [705] therion . [706] e ngus tou tupou . [707] al. "clearly and openly." [708] a nuparxian . [709] palin . [710] lit. "sweetly." [711] hu pothesin . [712] al. "the hungry."


Homily XXVIII.

John iii. 17

"For God sent not His Son [713] to condemn the world, but to save the world." [714]

[1.] Many of the more careless sort of persons, using the lovingkindness of God to increase the magnitude of their sins and the excess of their disregard, speak in this way, "There is no hell, there is no future punishment, God forgives us all sins." To stop whose mouths a wise man says, "Say not, His mercy is great, He will be pacified for the multitude of my sins; for mercy and wrath come from Him, and His indignation resteth upon sinners" ( Ecclus. v. 6 ): and again, "As His mercy is great, so is His correction also." ( Ecclus. xvi. 12 .) "Where then," saith one, "is His lovingkindness, if we shall receive for our sins according to our deserts?" That we shall indeed receive "according to our deserts," hear both the Prophet and Paul declare; one says, "Thou shalt render to every man according to his work" ( Ps. lxii. 12 , LXX.); the other, "Who will render to every man according to his work." ( Rom. ii. 6 .) And yet we may see that even so the lovingkindness of God is great; in dividing our existence [715] into two periods, [716] the present life and that which is to come, and making the first to be an appointment of trial, the second a place of crowning, even in this He hath shown great lovingkindness.

"How and in what way?" Because when we had committed many and grievous sins, and had not ceased from youth to extreme old age to defile our souls with ten thousand evil deeds, for none of these sins did He demand from us a reckoning, but granted us remission of them by the washing [717] of Regeneration, and freely gave us Righteousness and Sanctification. "What then," says one, "if a man who from his earliest age has been deemed worthy of the mysteries, after this commits ten thousand sins?" Such an one deserves a severer punishment. For we do not pay the same penalties for the same sins, if we do wrong after Initiation. [718] And this Paul declares, saying, "He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the Covenant an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" ( Heb. x. 28, 29 .) Such an one then is worthy of severer punishment. [719] Yet even for him God hath opened doors of repentance, and hath granted him many means for the washing away his transgressions, if he will. Think then what proofs of lovingkindness these are; by Grace to remit sins, and not to punish him who after grace has sinned and deserves punishment, but to give him a season and appointed space for his clearing. [720] For all these reasons Christ said to Nicodemus, "God sent not His Son to condemn the world, but to save the world."

For there are two Advents of Christ, that which has been, and that which is to be; and the two are not for the same purpose; the first came to pass not that He might search into our actions, but that He might remit; the object of the second will be not to remit, but to enquire. Therefore of the first He saith, "I came not to condemn the world, but to save the world" ( c. iii. 17 ); but of the second, "When the Son shall have come in the glory of His Father, [721] He shall set the sheep on His right hand, and the goats on His left." ( Matt. xxv. 31, 46 .) And they shall go, these into life; and these into eternal punishment. Yet His former coming was for judgment, according to the rule of justice. Why? Because before His coming there was a law of nature, and the prophets, and moreover a written Law, and doctrine, and ten thousand promises, and manifestations of signs, and chastisements, and vengeances, and many other things which might have set men right, and it followed that for all these things He would demand account; but, because He is merciful, He for a while pardons instead of making enquiry. For had He done so, all would at once have been hurried to perdition. For "all," it saith, "have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." ( Rom. iii. 23 .) Seest thou the unspeakable excess of His lovingkindness?

Ver. 18 . "He that believeth on the Son, [722] is not judged; [723] but he that believeth not, is judged already."

Yet if He "came not to judge the world," how is "he that believeth not judged already," if the time of "judgment" has not yet arrived? He either means this, that the very fact of disbelieving without repentance is a punishment, (for to be without the light, contains in itself a very severe punishment,) or he announces beforehand what shall be. For as the murderer, though he be not as yet condemned by the decision of the judge, is still condemned by the nature of the thing, so is it with the unbeliever. Since Adam also died on the day that he ate of the tree; for so ran the decree, "In the day that ye eat of the tree, ye shall die" ( Gen. ii. 17 , LXX.); yet he lived. How then "died" he? By the decree; by the very nature of the thing; for he who has rendered himself liable to punishment, is under its penalty, and if for a while not actually so, yet he is by the sentence.

Lest any one on hearing, "I came not to judge the world," should imagine that he might sin unpunished, and should so become more careless, Christ stops [724] such disregard by saying, "is judged already"; and because the "judgment" was future and not yet at hand, He brings near the dread of vengeance, and describes the punishment as already come. And this is itself a mark of great lovingkindness, that He not only gives His Son, but even delays the time of judgment, that they who have sinned, and they who believe not, may have power to wash away their transgressions.

"He that believeth on the Son, is not judged." He that "believeth," not he that is over-curious: he that "believeth," not the busybody. But what if his life be unclean, and his deeds evil? It is of such as these especially that Paul declares, that they are not true believers at all: "They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him." ( Tit. i. 16 .) But here Christ saith, that such an one is not "judged" in this one particular; for his works indeed he shall suffer a severer punishment, but having believed once, he is not chastised for unbelief.

[2.] Seest thou how having commenced His discourse with fearful things, He has concluded it again with the very same? for at first He saith, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God": and here again, "He that believeth not on the Son, is judged already." "Think not," He saith, "that the delay advantageth at all the guilty, except he repent, for he that hath not believed, shall be in no better state than those who are already condemned and under punishment."

Ver. 19 . "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light."

What He saith, is of this kind: "they are punished, because they would not leave the darkness, and hasten to the light." And hence He goes on to deprive them of all excuse for the future: "Had I come," saith He, "to punish and to exact account of their deeds, they might have been able to say, `this is why we started away from thee,' but now I am come to free them from darkness, and to bring them to the light; who then could pity one who will not come from darkness unto light? When they have no charge to bring against us, but have received ten thousand benefits, they start away from us." And this charge He hath brought in another place, where He saith, "They hated Me without a cause" ( John xv. 25 ): and again, "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin." ( John xv. 22 .) For he who in the absence of light sitteth in darkness, may perchance receive pardon; but one who after it is come abides by the darkness, produces against himself a certain proof of a perverse and contentious disposition. Next, because His assertion would seem incredible to most, (for none would prefer "darkness to light,") He adds the cause of such a feeling in them. What is that?

Ver. 19, 20 . "Because," He saith, "their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved."

Yet he came not to judge or to enquire, but to pardon and remit transgressions, and to grant salvation through faith. How then fled they? [725]Had He come and sat in His Judgment seat, what He said might have seemed reasonable; for he that is conscious to himself of evil deeds, is wont to fly his judge. But, on the contrary, they who have transgressed even run to one who is pardoning. If therefore He came to pardon, those would naturally most hasten to Him who were conscious to themselves of many transgressions; and indeed this was the case with many, for even publicans and sinners sat at meat with Jesus. What then is this which He saith? He saith this of those who choose always to remain in wickedness. He indeed came, that He might forgive men's former sins, and secure them against those to come; but since there are some so relaxed, [726] so powerless for the toils of virtue, that they desire to abide by wickedness till their latest breath, and never cease from it, He speaks in this place reflecting [727] upon these. "For since," He saith, "the profession of Christianity requires besides right doctrine a sound conversation also, they fear to come over to us, because they like not to show forth a righteous life. Him that lives in heathenism none would blame, because with gods such as he has, and with rites as foul and ridiculous as his gods, he shows forth actions that suit his doctrines; but those who belong to the True God, if they live a careless life, have all men to call them to account, and to accuse them. So greatly do even its enemies admire the truth." Observe, then, how exactly He layeth down what He saith. His expression is, not "He that hath done evil cometh not to the light," but "he that doeth it always, he that desireth always to roll himself in the mire of sin, he will not subject himself to My laws, but chooses to stay without, and to commit fornication without fear, and to do all other forbidden things. For if he comes to Me, he becomes manifest as a thief in the light, and therefore he avoids My dominion." For instance, even now one may hear many heathen say, "that they cannot come to our faith, because they cannot leave off drunkenness and fornication, and the like disorders."

"Well," says some one, "but are there no Christians that do evil, and heathens that live discreetly?" [728] That there are Christians who do evil, I know; but whether there are heathens who live a righteous life, I do not yet know assuredly. For do not speak to me of those who by nature are good and orderly, (this is not virtue,) but tell me of the man who can endure the exceeding violence of his passions and (yet) be temperate. [729] You cannot. For if the promise of a Kingdom, and the threat of hell, and so much other provision, [730] can scarcely keep men in virtue, they will hardly go after virtue who believe in none of these things. Or, if any pretend to do so, they do it for show; and he who doth so for show, will not, when he may escape observation, refrain from indulging his evil desires. However, that we may not seem to any to be contentious, let us grant that there are right livers among the heathen; for neither doth this go against my argument, since I spoke of that which occurs in general, not of what happens rarely.

And observe how in another way He deprives them of all excuse, when He saith that, "the light came into the world." "Did they seek it themselves," He saith, "did they toil, did they labor to find it? The light itself came to them, and not even so would they hasten to it." And if there be some Christians who live wickedly, I would argue that He doth not say this of those who have been Christians from the beginning, and who have inherited true religion from their forefathers, (although even these for the most part have been shaken from [731] right doctrine by their evil life,) yet still I think that He doth not now speak concerning these, but concerning the heathen and the Jews who ought to have come [732] to the right faith. For He showeth that no man living in error would choose to come to the truth unless he before had planned [733] for himself a righteous life, and that none would remain in unbelief unless he had previously chosen always to be wicked.

Do not tell me that a man is temperate, and does not rob; these things by themselves are not virtue. For what advantageth it, if a man has these things, and yet is the slave of vainglory, and remains in his error, from fear of the company of his friends? This is not right living. The slave of a reputation [734] is no less a sinner than the fornicator; nay, he worketh more and more grievous deeds than he. But tell me of any one that is free from all passions and from all iniquity, and who remains among the heathen. Thou canst not do so; for even those among them who have boasted great things, and who have, as they say, [735] mastered avarice or gluttony, have been, most of all men, the slaves of reputation, [736] and this is the cause of all evils. Thus it is that the Jews also have continued Jews; for which cause Christ rebuked them and said, "How can ye believe, which receive honor from men?" ( c. v. 44 .)

"And why, pray, did He not speak on these matters with Nathanael, to whom He testified of the truth, nor extend His discourse to any length?" Because even he came not with such zeal as did Nicodemus. For Nicodemus made this his work, [737] and the season which others used for rest he made a season for hearing; but Nathanael came at the instance of another. Yet not even him did Jesus entirely pass by, for to him He saith, "Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." ( c. i. 51 .) But to Nicodemus He spake not so, but conversed with him on the Dispensation and on eternal life, addressing each differently and suitably to the condition of his will. It was sufficient for Nathanael, because he knew the writings of the prophets, and was not so timid either, to hear only thus far; but because Nicodemus was as yet possessed by fear, Christ did not indeed clearly reveal to him the whole, but shook his mind so as to cast out fear by fear, declaring that he who did not believe was being judged, [738] and that unbelief proceeded from an evil conscience. For since he made great account of honor from men, more than he did of the punishment; ("Many," saith the Evangelist, "of the rulers believed on Him, but because of the Jews they did not confess"-- c. xii. 42 ;) on this point Christ toucheth him, saying, "It cannot be that he who believeth not on Me disbelieveth for any other cause save that he liveth an unclean life." Farther on He saith, "I am the Light" ( c. viii. 12 ), but here, "the Light came into the world"; for at the beginning He spoke somewhat darkly, but afterwards more clearly. Yet even so the man was kept back by regard for the opinion of the many, and therefore could not endure to speak boldly as he ought.

Fly we then vainglory, for this is a passion more tyrannical than any. Hence spring covetousness and love of wealth, hence hatred and wars and strifes; for he that desires more than he has, will never be able to stop, and he desires from no other cause, but only from his love of vainglory. For tell me, why do so many encircle themselves with multitudes of eunuchs, and herds of slaves, and much show? Not because they need it, but that they may make those who meet them witnesses of this unseasonable display. If then we cut this off, we shall slay together with the head the other members also of wickedness, and there will be nothing to hinder us from dwelling on earth as though it were heaven. Nor doth this vice merely thrust its captives into wickedness, but is even co-existent [739] with their virtues, and when it is unable entirely to cast us out of these, it still causeth us much damage in the very exercise of them, forcing us to undergo the toil, and depriving us of the fruit. For he that with an eye to this, fasts, and prays, and shows mercy, has his reward. What can be more pitiable than a loss like this, that it should befall man to bewail [740] himself uselessly and in vain, and to become an object of ridicule, and to lose the glory from above? Since he that aims at both cannot obtain both. It is indeed possible to obtain both, when we desire not both, but one only, that from heaven; but he cannot obtain both, who longs for both. Wherefore if we wish to attain to glory, let us flee from human glory, and desire that only which cometh from God; so shall we obtain both the one and the other; which may we all enjoy, through the grace and loving kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Footnotes

[713] [ eis ton kosmon , G. T.] [714] hi na sothe ho kosmos di autou , G. T. [715] ta hemetera [716] aionas [717] or, " laver. " [718] mustagogian [719] Morel. " he then will be more severely punished who has sinned after grace. " [720] prothesmian apologias [721] te doxe autou . G. T. [722] eis auton , G. T. [723] or, " condemned, " E.V. [724] lit. " walls off. " [725] Morel. " therefore they fled to their own hurt. " [726] lit " flaccid. " [727] e piskopton [728] e n philosophia [729] philosophounta [730] al. " doctrine. " [731] paresaleuthesan [732] al. " shifted themselves. " [733] hu pograpsas . al. e pigrapsas [734] or, " glory. " [735] or, " thou sayest. " [736] or, " glory. " [737] i.e. his one great object. [738] krinesthai [739] paruphesteke [740] koptesthai


Homily XXIX.

John iii. 22

"And He came and His disciples into the land of Judæa, and there He tarried with them (and baptized)."

[1.] Nothing can be clearer or mightier than the truth, just as nothing is weaker than falsehood, though it be shaded by ten thousand veils. For even so it is easily detected, it easily melts away. But truth stands forth unveiled for all that will behold her beauty; she seeks no concealment, dreads no danger, trembles at no plots, desires not glory from the many, is accountable to no mortal thing, but stands above them all, is the object of ten thousand secret plots, yet remaineth unconquerable, and guards as in a sure fortress these who fly to her by her own exceeding might, who avoids secret lurking places, and setteth what is hers before all men. And this Christ conversing with Pilate declared, when He said, "I ever taught openly, and in secret have I said nothing." ( c. xviii. 20 .) As He spake then, so He acted now, for, "After this," saith the Evangelist, "He went forth and His disciples into the land of Judæa, and there He tarried with them and baptized." At the feasts He went up to the City to set forth in the midst of them His doctrines, and the help of His miracles; but after the feasts were over, He often went to Jordan, because many ran together there. For He ever chose the most crowded places, not from any love of show or vainglory, but because He desired to afford His help to the greatest number.

Yet the Evangelist farther on says, that "Jesus baptized not, but His disciples"; whence it is clear that this is his meaning here also. And why did Jesus not baptize? The Baptist had said before, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." Now he had not yet given the Spirit, and it was therefore with good cause that he did not baptize. But His disciples did so, because they desired to bring many to the saving doctrine.

"And why, when the disciples of Jesus were baptizing, did not John cease to do so? why did he continue to baptize, and that even until he was led to prison? for to say,

Ver. 23 . `John also was baptizing in Ænon'; and to add,

Ver. 24 . `John was not yet cast into prison,' was to declare that until that time he did not cease to baptize. But wherefore did he baptize until then? For he would have made the disciples of Jesus seem more reverend had he desisted when they began. Why then did he baptize?" It was that he might not excite his disciples to even stronger rivalry, and make them more contentious still. For if, although he ten thousand times proclaimed Christ, yielded to Him the chief place, and made himself so much inferior, he still could not persuade them to run to Him; he would, had he added this also, have made them yet more hostile. On this account it was that Christ began to preach more constantly when John was removed. And moreover, I think that the death of John was allowed, and that it happened very quickly, in order that the whole attention [741] of the multitude might be shifted to Christ, and that they might no longer be divided in their opinions concerning the two.

Besides, even while he was baptizing, he did not cease continually to exhort them, and to show them the high and awful nature of Jesus. For He baptized them, and told them no other thing than that they must believe on Him that came after him. Now how would a man who acted thus by desisting have made the disciples of Christ seem worthy of reverence? On the contrary, he would have been thought to do so through envy and passion. But to continue preaching gave a stronger proof; for he desired not glory for himself, but sent on his hearers to Christ, and wrought with Him not less, but rather much more than Christ's own disciples, because his testimony was unsuspected and he was by all men far more highly esteemed than they. And this the Evangelist implies, when he says, "all Judæa and the country around about Jordan went out to him and were baptized." ( Matt. iii. 5 .) Even when the disciples were baptizing, yet many did not cease to run to him.

If any one should enquire, "And in what was the baptism of the disciples better than that of John?" we will reply, "in nothing"; both were alike without the gift of the Spirit, both parties alike had one reason for baptizing, and that was, to lead the baptized to Christ. For in order that they might not be always running about to bring together those that should believe, as in Simon's case his brother did, and Philip to Nathanael, they instituted baptism, in order by it to bring all men to them easily, and to prepare a way for the faith which was to be. But that the baptisms had no superiority one over the other, is shown by what follows. What is that?

Ver. 25 . "There arose," saith the Evangelist, "a question (between some) of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying."

For the disciples of John being ever jealously disposed towards Christ's disciples and Christ Himself, when they saw them baptizing, began to reason with those who were baptized, as though their baptism was in a manner superior to that of Christ's disciples; and taking one of the baptized, they tried to persuade him of this; but persuaded him not. Hear how the Evangelist has given us to understand that it was they who attacked him, not he who set on foot the question. He doth not say, that "a certain Jew questioned with them," but that, "there arose a questioning from the disciples of John with a certain Jew, [742] concerning purification."

[2.] And observe, I pray you, the Evangelist's inoffensiveness. He does not speak in the way of invective, but as far as he is able softens the charge, merely saying, that "a question arose"; whereas the sequel (which he has also set down in an inoffensive manner) makes it plain that what was said was said from jealousy.

Ver. 26 . "They came," saith he, "unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold the same baptizeth, and all men come to Him."

That is, "He whom thou didst baptize"; for this they imply when they say, "to whom thou barest witness," as though they had said, "He whom thou didst point out as illustrious, and make remarkable, dares to do the same as thou." Yet they do not say, "He whom thou didst baptize" baptizeth; (for then they would have been obliged to make mention of the Voice that came down from heaven, and of the descent of the Spirit;) but what say they? "He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness"; that is, "He who held the rank of a disciple, who was nothing more than we, this man hath separated himself, and baptizeth." For they thought to make him jealous, [743] not only by this, but by asserting that their own reputation was now diminishing. "All," say they, "come to Him." Whence it is evident, that they did not get the better of the Jew with whom they disputed; but they spoke these words because they were imperfect in disposition, and were not yet clear from a feeling of rivalry. What then doth John? He did not rebuke them severely, fearing lest they should separate themselves again from him, and work some other mischief. What are his words? [744]

Ver. 27 . "A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from above."

Marvel not, if he speak of Christ in a lowly strain; it was impossible to teach all at once, and from the very beginning, men so pre-occupied by passion. But he desires to strike them for a while with awe and terror, and to show them that they warred against none other than God Himself, when they warred against Christ. And here he secretly establishes that truth, which Gamaliel asserted, "Ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God." ( Acts v. 39 .) For to say, "None can receive anything, except it be given him from heaven," was nothing else than declaring that they were attempting impossibilities, and so would be found to fight against God. "Well, but did not Theudas and his followers `receive' from themselves?" They did, but they straightway were scattered and destroyed, not so what belonged to Christ.

By this also he gently consoles them, showing them that it was not a man, but God, who surpassed them in honor; and that therefore they must not wonder if what belonged to Him was glorious, and if "all men came unto Him": for that this was the nature of divine things, and that it was God who brought them to pass, because no man ever yet had power to do such deeds. All human things are easily seen through, and rotten, and quickly melt away and perish; these were not such, therefore not human. Observe too how when they said, "to whom thou barest witness," he turned against themselves that which they thought they had put forward to lower Christ, and silences them after showing that Jesus' glory came not from his testimony; "A man cannot," he saith, "receive anything of himself, except it be given him from heaven." "If ye hold at all to my testimony, and believe it to be true, know that by that testimony ye ought to prefer not me to Him, but Him to me. For what was it that I testified? I call you yourselves to witness."

Ver. 28 . "Ye yourselves bear me witness that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him."

"If then ye hold to my testimony, (and ye even now produce it when ye say, `to whom thou barest witness,') He is not only not diminished by receiving my witness, but rather is increased by it; besides, the testimony was not mine, but God's. So that if I seem to you to be trustworthy, I said this among other things, that `I am sent before Him.'" Seest thou how he shows little by little that this Voice was divine? For what he saith is of this kind: "I am a servant, and say the words of Him that sent me, not flattering Christ through human favor, but serving His Father who sent me. I gave not the testimony as a gift, [745] but what I was sent to speak, I spake. Do not then because of this suppose that I am great, for it shows that He is great. He is Lord of all things." This he goes on to declare, and says,

Ver. 29 . "He that hath the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice."

"But how doth he who said, `whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose,' [746] now call himself His `friend'?" It is not to exalt himself, nor boastingly, that he saith this, but from desire to show that he too most forwards this, (i.e. the exaltation of Christ,) and that these things come to pass not against his will or to his grief, but that he desires and is eager for them, and that it was with a special view to them that all his actions had been performed; and this he has very wisely shown by the term "friend." For on occasions like marriages, the servants of the bridegroom are not so glad and joyful as his "friends." It was not from any desire to prove equality of honor, (away with the thought,) but only excess of pleasure, and moreover from condescension to their weakness that he calleth himself "friend." For his service he before declared [747] by saying, "I am sent before Him." On this account, and because they thought that he was vexed at what had taken place, he called himself the "friend of the Bridegroom," to show that he was not only not vexed, but that he even greatly rejoiced. "For," saith he, "I came to effect this, and am so far from grieving at what has been done, that had it not come to pass, I should then have been greatly grieved. Had the bride not come to the Bridegroom, then I should have been grieved, but not now, since my task has been accomplished. When His servants [748] are advancing, we are they who gain the honor; for that which we desired hath come to pass, and the bride knoweth the Bridegroom, and ye are witnesses of it when ye say, `All men come unto Him.' This I earnestly desired, I did all to this end; and now when I see that it has come to pass, I am glad, and rejoice, and leap for joy."

[3.] But what meaneth, "He which standeth and heareth Him rejoiceth greatly, because of the Bridegroom's voice"? He transfers the expression from the parable to the subject in hand; for after mentioning the bridegroom and the bride, he shows how the bride is brought home, that is, by a "Voice" and teaching. For thus the Church is wedded to God; and therefore Paul saith, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." ( Rom. x. 17 .) "At this `Voice,'" saith he, "I rejoice." And not without a cause doth he put "who standeth," but to show that his office had ceased, that he had given over to Him "the Bride," and must for the future stand and hear Him; that he was a servant and minister; that his good hope and his joy was now accomplished. Therefore he saith,

"This my joy therefore is fulfilled."

That is to say, "The work is finished which was to be done by me, for the future I can do nothing more." Then, to prevent increase of jealous feeling, not then only, but for the future, he tells them also of what should come to pass, confirming this too by what he had already said and done. [749] Therefore he continues,

Ver. 30 . "He must increase, but I must decrease."

That is to say, "What is mine has now come to a stand, and has henceforth ceased, but what is His increaseth; for that which ye fear shall not be now only, but much more as it advances. And it is this especially which shows what is mine the brighter; for this end I came, and I rejoice that what is His hath made so great progress, and that those things have come to pass on account of which all that I did was done." Seest thou how gently and very wisely he softened down their passion, quenched their envy, showed them that they were undertaking impossibilities, a method by which wickedness is best checked? For this purpose it was ordained, that these things should take place while John was yet alive and baptizing, in order that his disciples might have him as a witness of the superiority of Christ, and that if they should not believe, [750] they might be without excuse. For John came not to say these words of his own accord, nor in answer to other enquirers, but they asked the question themselves, and heard the answer. For if he had spoken of himself, their belief would not have been equal to the self-condemning [751] judgment which they received when they heard him answer to their question; just as the Jews also, in that they sent to him from their homes, heard what they did, and yet would not believe, by this especially deprived themselves of excuse.

What then are we taught by this? That a mad desire of glory [752] is the cause of all evils; this led them to jealousy, and when they had ceased for a little, this roused them to it again. Wherefore they come to Jesus, and say, "Why do thy disciples fast not?" ( Matt. ix. 14 .) Let us then, beloved, avoid this passion; for if we avoid this we shall escape hell. For this vice specially kindles the fire of hell, and everywhere extends [753] its role, and tyrannically occupies every age and every rank. [754] This hath turned churches upside down, this is mischievous in state matters, hath subverted houses, and cities, and peoples, and nations. Why marvelest thou? It hath even gone forth into the desert, and manifested even there its great power. For men who have bidden an entire farewell to riches and all the show of the world, who converse with no one, who have gained the mastery over the more imperious desires after the flesh, these very men, made captives by vainglory, have often lost all. By reason of this passion, one who had labored much went away worse off than one who had not labored at all, but on the contrary had committed ten thousand sins; the Pharisee than the Publican. However, to condemn the passion is easy enough, (all agree in doing that,) but the question is, how to get the better of it. How can we do this? By setting honor against honor. For as we despise the riches of earth when we look to the other riches, as we contemn this life when we think of that far better than this, so we shall be enabled to spit on this world's glory, when we know of another far more august than it, which is glory indeed. One is a thing vain and empty, has the name without the reality; but that other, which is from heaven, is true, and has to give its praise Angels, and Archangels, and the Lord of Archangels, or rather I should say that it has men as well. Now if thou lookest to that theater, learnest what crowns are there, transportest thyself into the applauses which come thence, never will earthly things be able to hold thee, nor when they come wilt thou deem them great, nor when they are away seek after them. For even in earthly palaces none of the guards who stand around the king, neglecting to please him that wears the diadem and sits upon the throne, troubles himself about the voices of daws, or the noise of flies and gnats flying and buzzing about him; and good report from men is no better than these. Knowing then the worthlessness of human things, [755] let us collect our all into treasuries that cannot be spoiled, let us seek that glory which is abiding and immovable; which may we all attain, through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom, and with whom to the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.

Footnotes

[741] diathesin [742] Ioudaiou tinos . This reading is found in the Complut. and in most of the Greek commentators: the plural in G. T., Vulgate, and Latin writers. [743] paraknizein [744] Morel. " but he speaks in a manner reservedly. " [745] e charisamen [746] c. i. 27 [747] al. " implied. " [748] or " affairs. " [749] So Savile and mss. Morel.'s reading has the same sense, but is less clear and concise. [750] or, " obey. " [751] i.e. " if they believed not. " [752] al. " vainglory. " [753] Ben. " so does it everywhere extend. " [754] a xian [755] al. " of men. "


Homily XXX.

John iii. 31

"He that cometh from above is above all; he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth."

[1.] A dreadful thing is the love of glory, dreadful and full of many evils; it is a thorn hard to be extracted, a wild beast untamable and many headed, arming itself against those that feed it; for as the worm eats through the wood from which it is born, as rust wastes the iron whence it comes forth, and moths the fleeces, so vainglory destroys the soul which nourishes it; and therefore we need great diligence to remove the passion. Observe here how long a charm John uses over [756] the disciples affected by it, and can scarcely pacify them. For he softens [757] them with other words besides those already mentioned. And what are these others? "He that cometh from above," he saith, "is above all; he that is of the earth, is earthly, and speaketh of the earth." Since you make much ado with my testimony, [758] and in this way say that I am more worthy of credit than He, you needs must know this, that it is impossible for One who cometh from heaven to have His credit strengthened by one that inhabiteth earth.

And what means "above all," what is the expression intended to show to us? That Christ hath need of nothing, but is Himself sufficient for Himself, and incomparably greater than all; of himself John speaks as being "of the earth, and speaking of the earth." Not that he spake of his own mind, but as Christ said, "If I have told you of earthly things and ye believe not," so calling Baptism, not because it was an "earthly thing," but because He compared it when He spake with His own Ineffable Generation, so here John said that he spake "of earth," comparing his own with Christ's teaching. For the "speaking of earth" means nothing else than this, "My things are little and low and poor compared with His, and such as it was probable that an earthly nature would receive. In Him `are hid all the treasures of wisdom.'" ( Col. ii. 5 .) That he speaks not of human reasonings is plain from this. "He that is of the earth," saith he, "is earthly." Yet not all in him was earthly, but the higher parts were heavenly, for he had a soul, and was partaker of a Spirit which was not of earth. How then saith he that he is "earthly"? Seest thou not that he means only, "I am small and of no esteem, going on the ground and born in the earth; but Christ came to us from above." Having by all these means quenched their passion, he afterwards speaks more openly of Christ; for before this it was useless to utter words which could never have gained a place in the understanding of his hearers: but when he hath pulled up the thorns, he then boldly casts in the seed, saying,

Ver. 31, 32 . "He that cometh from above is above all. And what He hath heard He speaketh, and what He hath seen He testifieth; [759] and no man receiveth His testimony."

Having uttered something great and sublime concerning Him, he again brings down his discourse to a humbler strain. For the expression, "what He hath heard and seen," is suited rather to a mere man. What He knew He knew not from having learned it by sight, or from having heard it, but He included the whole in His Nature, having come forth perfect from the Bosom of His Father, and needing none to teach Him. For, "As the Father," He saith, "knoweth Me, even so know I the Father." ( c. x. 15 .) What then means, "He speaketh that He hath heard, and testifieth that He hath seen"? Since by these senses we gain correct knowledge of everything, and are deemed worthy of credit when we teach on matters which our eyes have embraced and our ears have taken in, as not in such cases inventing or speaking falsehoods, John desiring here to establish this point, [760] said, "What He hath heard and seen": that is, "nothing that cometh from Him is false, but all is true." Thus we when we are making curious enquiry into anything, often ask, "Didst thou hear it?" "Didst thou see it?" And if this be proved, the testimony is indubitable, and so when Christ Himself saith, "As I hear, I judge" ( c. v. 30 ); and, "What I have heard from My Father, that I speak" [761] ( c. xv. 15 ); and, "We speak [762] that We have seen" ( c. iii. 11 ); and whatsoever other sayings He uttereth of the kind, are uttered not that we might imagine that He saith what He doth being taught of any, (it were extreme folly to think this,) but in order that nothing of what is said may be suspected by the shameless Jews. For because they had not yet a right opinion concerning Him, He continually betakes Himself to His Father, and hence makes His sayings credible.

[2.] And why wonderest thou if He betake Himself to the Father, when He often resorts to the Prophets and the Scriptures? as when He saith, "They are they that testify of Me." ( c. v. 39 .) Shall we then say that He is inferior to the Prophets, because He draws testimonies from them? Away with the thought. It is because of the infirmity of His hearers that He so orders His discourse, and saith that He spake what He spake having heard it from the Father, not because He needed a teacher, but that they might believe that nothing that He said was false. John's meaning is of this kind: "I desire to hear what He saith, for He cometh from above, bringing thence those tidings which none but life knoweth rightly; for `what He hath seen and heard,' is the expression of one who declareth this."

"And no man receiveth His testimony." Yet He had disciples, and many besides gave heed to His words. How then saith John, "No man"? He saith "no man," instead of "few men," for had he meant "no man at all," how could he have added,

Ver. 33 . "He that hath received His testimony, hath set to his seal that God is true."

Here he touches his own disciples, as not being likely for a time to be firm believers. And that they did not even after this believe in Him, is clear from what is said afterwards; for John even when dwelling in prison sent them thence to Christ, that he might the more bind them to Him. Yet even then they scarcely believed, to which Christ alluded when He said, "And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me." ( Matt. xi. 6 .) And therefore now he said, "And no man receiveth His testimony," to make sure his own disciples; all but saying, "Do not, because for a time few shall believe on Him, therefore deem that His words are false; for, `He speaketh that He hath seen.'" Moreover he saith this to touch also the insensibility of the Jews. A charge which the Evangelist at commencing [763] brought against them, saying, "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not." For this is no reproach against Him, but an accusation of those who received Him not. ( c. i. 11 .)

"He that hath received His testimony hath set to his seal that God is true." Here he terrifies them also by showing that he who believeth not on Him, disbelieveth not Him alone, but the Father also; wherefore he adds:

Ver. 34 . "He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God."

Since then He speaketh His words, he that believeth and he that believeth not, believeth or believeth not God. "Hath set to His seal," that is, "hath declared." Then, to increase their dread, he saith, "that God is true;" thus showing, that no man could disbelieve Christ without making God who sent Him guilty of a falsehood. Because, since He saith nothing save what is from the Father, but all that He saith is His, he that heareth not Him, heareth not Him that sent Him. See how by these words again he strikes them with fear. As yet they thought it no great thing not to hearken to Christ; and therefore he held so great a danger above the heads of the unbelievers, that they might learn that they hearken not to God Himself, who hearken not to Christ. Then he proceeds with the discourse, descending to the measure of their infirmity, and saying,

"For God giveth not the Spirit by measure."

Again, as I said, he brings down his discourse to lower ground, varying it and making it suitable to be received by those who heard it then; otherwise he could not have raised them and increased their fear. For had he spoken anything great and sublime concerning Jesus Himself, they would not have believed, but might even have despised Him. Therefore he leads up all to the Father, speaking for a while of Christ as of a man. But what is it that he saith, "God giveth not the Spirit by measure"? He would show that we all have received the operation of the Spirit, by measure, (for in this place he means by "Spirit" the operation of the Spirit, for this it is that is divided,) but that Christ hath all Its operation unmeasured and entire. Now if His operations be unmeasured, much more His Essence. Seest thou too that the Spirit is Infinite? How then can He who hath received all the operation of the Spirit, who knoweth the things of God, who saith, "We speak that We have heard, and testify that We have seen" ( c. iii. 11 ), be rightly suspected? He saith nothing which is not "of God," or which is not of "the Spirit." And for a while he uttereth nothing concerning God the Word, [764] but maketh all his doctrine credible by (reference to) the Father and the Spirit. For that there is a God they knew, and that there is a Spirit they knew, (even though they held not a right opinion concerning Him,) but that there is a Son, they knew not. It is for this reason that he ever has recourse to the Father and the Spirit, thence confirming his words. For if any one should take no account of this reason, and examine his language by itself, it [765] would fall very far short of the Dignity of Christ. Christ was not therefore worthy of their faith, because He had the operation of the Spirit, (for He needeth not aid from thence,) but is Himself Self-sufficient; only for a while the Baptist speaks to the understanding of the simpler [766] sort, desiring to raise them up by degrees from their low notions.

And this I say, that we may not carelessly pass by what is contained in the Scriptures, but may fully consider the object of the speaker, and the infirmity of the hearers, and many other points in them. For teachers do not say all as they themselves would wish, but generally as the state of their weak (hearers) requires. Wherefore Paul saith, "I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal; I have fed you with milk, and not with meat." ( 1 Cor. iii. 1, 2 .) He means, "I desired indeed to speak unto you as unto spiritual, but could not"; not because he was unable, but because they were not able so to hear. So too John desired to teach some great things to the disciples, but they could not yet bear to receive them, and therefore he dwells for the most part on that which is lowlier.

It behooves us therefore to explore all carefully. For the words of the Scriptures are our spiritual weapons; but if we know not how to fit those weapons and to arm our scholars rightly, they keep indeed their proper power, but cannot help those who receive them. For let us suppose there to be a strong corselet, and helm, and shield, and spear; and let one take this armor and put the corselet upon his feet, the helmet over his eyes instead of on his head, let him not put the shield before his breast, but perversely tie it to his legs: will he be able to gain any advantage from the armor? will he not rather be harmed? It is plain to any one that he will. Yet not on account of the weakness of the weapons, but on account of the unskillfulness of the man who knows not how to use them well. So with the Scriptures, if we confound their order; they will even so retain their proper force, yet will do us no good. Although I am always telling you this both in private and in public, I effect nothing, but see you all your time nailed to the things of this life, and not so much as dreaming [767] of spiritual matters. Therefore our lives are careless, and we who strive for truth have but little power, and are become a laughing stock to Greeks and Jews and Heretics. Had ye been careless in other matters, and exhibited in this place the same indifference as elsewhere, not even so could your doings have been defended; but now in matters of this life, every one of you, artisan and politician alike, is keener than a sword, while in necessary and spiritual things we are duller than any; making by-work business, and not deeming that which we ought to have esteemed more pressing than any business, to be by-work even. Know ye not that the Scriptures were written not for the first of mankind alone, but for our sakes also? Hearest thou not Paul say, that "they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come; that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope"? ( 1 Cor. x. 11; Rom. xv. 4 .) I know that I speak in vain, yet will I not cease to speak, for thus I shall clear myself [768] before God, though there be none to hear me. He that speaketh to them that give heed hath this at least to cheer his speech, the persuasion of his hearers; but he that speaks continually and is not listened to, and yet ceaseth not to speak, may be worthy of greater honor than the other, because he fulfills the will of God, even though none give heed unto him, to the best of his power. Still, though our reward will be greater owing to your disobedience, we rather desire that it be diminished, and that your salvation be advanced, thinking that your being well approved of [769] is a great reward. And we now say this not to make our discourse painful and burdensome to you, but to show to you the grief which we feel by reason of your indifference. God grant that we may be all of us delivered from this, that we may cling to spiritual zeal and obtain the blessings of heaven, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Footnotes

[756] ho sa epadei [757] e pantlei , lit. " foments. " [758] a no kai kato strephete [759] ho heor kai ek touto m . G. T. [760] i.e. the credibility of Christ. [761] e gnorisa humin , G. T. [762] marturoumen , G. T. [763] or, " at the comm. of the Gospel. " [764] tou Theou logou [765] or, " he. " [766] a telesteron [767] oude onar metechontas , al. oudena logon poioumenous [768] a pologesomai [769] eudokimesin


Homily XXXI.

John iii. 35, 36

"The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."

[1.] Great is shown to be in all things the gain of humility. [770] Thus it is that we have brought arts to perfection, not by learning them all at once from our teachers; it is thus that we have built cities, putting them together slowly, little by little; it is thus that we maintain [771] our life. And marvel not if the thing has so much power in matters pertaining to this life, when in spiritual things one may find that great is the power of this wisdom. For so the Jews were enabled to be delivered from their idolatry, being led on gently and little by little, and hearing from the first nothing sublime concerning either doctrine or life. So after the coming of Christ, when it was the time for higher doctrines, the Apostles brought over all men without at first uttering anything sublime. And so Christ appears to have spoken to most at the beginning, and so John did now, speaking of Him as of some wonderful man, and darkly introducing high matter.

For instance, when commencing he spake thus: "A man cannot receive anything of himself" [772] ( c. iii. 27 ): then after adding a high expression, and saying, "He that cometh from heaven [773] is above all," he again brings down his discourse to what is lowly, and besides many other things saith this, that "God giveth not the Spirit by measure." Then he proceeds to say, "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand." And after that, knowing that great is the force of punishment, [774] and that the many are not so much led by the promise of good things as by the threat of the terrible, he concludes his discourse with these words; "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." Here again he refers the account of punishment to the Father, for he saith not "the wrath of the Son," (yet He is the Judge,) but sets over them the Father, desiring so the more to terrify them.

"Is it then enough," saith one, "to believe on the Son, that one may have eternal life?" By no means. And hear Christ Himself declaring this, and saying, "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven" ( Matt. vii. 21 ); and the blasphemy against the Spirit is enough of itself to cast a man into hell. But why speak I of a portion of doctrine? Though a man believe rightly on the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, yet if he lead not a right life, his faith will avail nothing towards his salvation. Therefore when He saith, "This is life eternal, that they may know Thee the only true God" ( c. xvii. 3 ), let us not suppose that the (knowledge) spoken of is sufficient for our salvation; we need besides this a most exact life and conversation. Since though he has said here, "He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life," and in the same place something even stronger, (for he weaves his discourse not of blessings only, but of their contraries also, speaking thus: "He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him";) yet not even from this do we assert that faith alone is sufficient to salvation. And the directions for living given in many places of the Gospels show this. Therefore he did not say, "This by itself is eternal life," nor, "He that doth but believe on the Son hath eternal life," but by both expressions he declared this, that the thing [775] doth contain life, yet that if a right conversation follow not, there will follow a heavy punishment. And he did not say, "awaiteth him," but, "abideth on him," that is, "shall never remove from him." For that thou mayest not think that the "shall not see life," is a temporary death, but mayest believe that the punishment is continual, he hath put this expression to show that it rests [776] upon him continually. And this he has done, by these very words forcing them on [777] to Christ. Therefore he gave not the admonition to them in particular, but made it universal, the manner which best might bring them over. For he did not say, "if ye believe," and, "if ye believe not," but made his speech general, so that his words might be free from suspicion. And this he has done yet more strongly than Christ. For Christ saith, "He that believeth not is condemned already," but John saith, "shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." With good cause; for it was a different thing for a man to speak of himself and for another to speak of him. They would have thought that Christ spake often of these things from self-love, and that he was a boaster; but John was clear from all suspicion. And if at a later time, Christ also used stronger expressions, it was when they had begun to conceive an exalted opinion of Him.

Chap. IV. Ver. 1, 2, 3 . "When therefore Jesus [778] knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (though Jesus Himself baptized not but His disciples,) He left Judæa, and departed again into Galilee."

He indeed baptized not, but they who carried the news, desiring to excite their hearers to envy, so reported. "Wherefore then `departed' He?" Not from fear, but to take away [779] their malice, and to soften their envy. He was indeed able to restrain them when they came against Him, but this He would not do continually, that the Dispensation of the Flesh might not be disbelieved. For had He often been seized and escaped, this would have been suspected by many; therefore for the most part, He rather orders matters after the manner of a man. And as He desired it to be believed that He was God, so also that, being God, He bore the flesh; therefore even after the Resurrection, He said to the disciple, "Handle Me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones" ( Luke xxiv. 39 ); therefore also He rebuked Peter when he said, "Be it far from Thee, this shall not be unto thee." ( Matt. xvi. 22 .) So much was this matter an object of care to Him.

[2.] For this is no small part of the doctrines of the Church; it is the chief point of the salvation wrought for us; [780] by which all has been brought to pass, and has had success, for it was thus that the bonds of death were loosed, sin taken away, and the curse abolished, and ten thousand blessings introduced into our life. And therefore He especially desired that the Dispensation should be believed, as having been the root and fountain of innumerable goods to us.

Yet while acting thus in regard of His Humanity, [781] He did not allow His Divinity to be overcast. And so, after His departure He again employed the same language as before. For He went not away into Galilee simply, [782] but in order to effect certain important matters, those among the Samaritans; nor did He dispense these matters simply, but with the wisdom that belonged to [783] Him, and so as not to leave to the Jews any pretense even of a shameless excuse for themselves. And to this the Evangelist points when he says,

Ver. 4 . "And He must needs go through Samaria."

Showing that He made this the by-work of the journey. Which also the Apostles did; for just as they, when persecuted by the Jews, came to the Gentiles; so also Christ, when the Jews drove Him out, then took the Samaritans in hand, as He did also in the case of the Syrophenician woman. And this was done that all defense might be cut away from the Jews, and that they might not be able to say, "He left us, and went to the uncircumcised." And therefore the disciples excusing themselves said, "It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken unto you; but seeing ye judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles." ( Acts xiii. 46 .) And He saith again Himself, "I am not come [784] but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" ( Matt. xv. 24 ); and again, "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to give [785] it to dogs." But when they drove Him away, they opened a door to the Gentiles. Yet not so did He come to the Gentiles expressly, but in passing. [786] In passing then,

Ver. 5, 6 . "He cometh to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there."

Why is the Evangelist exact about the place? It is, that when thou hearest the woman say, "Jacob our father gave us this well," thou mayest not think it strange. For this was the place where Levi and Simeon, being angry because of Dinah, wrought that cruel slaughter. And it may be worth while to relate from what sources the Samaritans were made up; since all this country is called Samaria. Whence then did they receive their name? The mountain was called "Somor" from its owner ( 1 Kings xvi. 24 ): as also Esaias saith, "and the head of Ephraim is Somoron" ( Isa. vii. 9 , LXX.), but the inhabitants were termed not "Samaritans" but "Israelites." But as time went on, they offended God, and in the reign of Pekah, Tiglath-Pileser came up, and took many cities, and set upon Elah, and having slain him, gave the kingdom to Hoshea. [787] ( 2 Kings xv. 29 .) Against him Shalmaneser came and took other cities, and made them subject and tributary. ( 2 Kings xvii. 3 .) At first he yielded, but afterwards he revolted from the Assyrian rule, and betook himself to the alliance of the Ethiopians. [788] The Assyrian learnt this, and having made war upon them and destroyed their cities, he no longer allowed the nation to remain there, because he had such suspicions that they would revolt. ( 2 Kings xvii. 4 .) But he carried them to Babylon and to the Medes, and having brought thence nations from divers places, planted them in Samaria, that his dominion for the future might be sure, his own people occupying the place. After this, God, desiring to show that He had not given up the Jews through weakness, but because of the sins of those who were given up, sent lions against the foreigners, [789] who ravaged all their nation. These things were reported to the king, and he sent a priest to deliver to them the laws of God. Still not even so did they desist wholly from their impiety, but only by halves. But as time went on, they in turn abandoned [790] their idols, and worshiped God. And when things were in this state, the Jews having returned, ever after entertained a jealous feeling towards them as strangers and enemies, and called them from the name of the mountain, "Samaritans." From this cause also there was no little rivalry between them. The Samaritans did not use all the Scriptures, but received the writings of Moses only, and made but little account of those of the Prophets. Yet they were eager to thrust themselves into the noble Jewish stock, and prided themselves upon Abraham, and called [791] him their forefather, as being of Chaldæa; and Jacob also they called their father, as being his descendant. But the Jews abominated them as well as all (other nations). Wherefore they reproached Christ with this, saying, "Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil." ( c. viii. 48 .) And for this reason in the parable of the man that went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, Christ makes the man who showed pity upon him to have been "a Samaritan" ( Luke x. 33 ), one who by them was deemed mean, contemptible, and abominable. And in the case of the ten lepers, He calls one a "stranger" on this account, (for "he was a Samaritan,") and He gave His charge to the disciples in these words, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not." ( Matt. x. 5 .)

[3.] Nor was it merely to describe the place that the Evangelist has reminded us of Jacob, but to show that the rejection of the Jews had happened long ago. For during the time of their forefathers these Jews possessed the land, and not the Samaritans; and the very possessions which not being theirs, their forefathers had gotten, they being theirs, had lost by their sloth and transgressions. So little [792] is the advantage of excellent ancestors, if their descendants be not like them. Moreover, the foreigners when they had only made trial of the lions, straightway returned to the right worship [793] of the Jews, while they, after enduring such inflictions, were not even so brought to a sound mind.

To this place Christ now came, ever rejecting a sedentary and soft [794] life, and exhibiting [795] one laborious and active. He useth no beast to carry Him, but walketh so much on a stretch, as even to be wearied with His journeying. And this He ever teacheth, that a man should work for himself, go without superfluities, and not have many wants. Nay, so desirous is He that we should be alienated from superfluities, that He abridgeth many even of necessary things. Wherefore He said, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." ( Matt. viii. 20 .) Therefore He spent most of His time in the mountains, and in the deserts, not by day only, but also by night. And this David declared when he said, "He shall drink of the brook in the way" ( Ps. cx. 7 ): by this showing His frugal [796] way of life. This too the Evangelist shows in this place.

Ver. 6, 7, 8 . "Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus by the well; and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus saith unto her, Give Me to drink. For His disciples were gone away into the city to buy meat."

Hence we learn His activity in journeying, His carelessness about food, and how He treated it as a matter of minor importance. [797] And so the disciples were taught to use the like disposition themselves; for they took with them no provisions for the road. And this another Evangelist declares, saying, that when He spake to them concerning "the leaven of the Pharisees" ( Matt. xvi. 6 ), they thought that it was because they carried no bread; and when he introduces them plucking the ears of corn, and eating ( Matt. xii. 1 ), and when he saith that Jesus came to the fig-tree by reason of hunger ( Matt. xxi. 18 ), it is for nothing else but only to instruct us by all these to despise the belly, and not to deem that its service is anxiously to be attended to. Observe them, for instance, in this place neither bringing anything with them, nor because they brought not anything, caring for this at the very beginning and early part of the day, but buying food at the time when all other people were taking their meal. [798] Not like us, who the instant we rise from our beds attend to this before anything else, calling cooks and butlers, and giving our directions with all earnestness, applying ourselves afterwards to other matters, preferring temporal things to spiritual, valuing those things as necessary which we ought to have deemed of less importance. [799] Therefore all things are in confusion. We ought, on the contrary, making much account of all spiritual things, after having accomplished these, then to apply ourselves to the others.

And in this place it is not His laboriousness alone that is shown, but also His freedom from pride; not merely by His being tired, nor by His sitting by the way-side, but by His having been left alone, and His disciples having been separated [800] from Him. And yet it was in His power, if He had willed it, either not to have sent them all away, or when they departed to have had other ministers. But He would not; for so He accustomed His disciples to tread all pride beneath their feet.

"And what marvel," saith one, "if they were moderate in their wishes, since they were fishermen and tentmakers?" Yes! Fishermen and tentmakers they were; but they had in a moment [801] mounted even to the height of heaven, and had become more honorable than all earthly kings, being deemed worthy to become the companions of the Lord of the world, and to follow Him whom all beheld with awe. And ye know this too, that those men especially who are of humble origin, whenever they gain distinction, are the more easily lifted up to folly, because they are quite ignorant how to bear their sudden [802] honor. Restraining them therefore in their present humblemindedness, He taught them always to be moderate, [803] and never to require any to wait upon them.

"He therefore," saith the Evangelist, "being wearied with His journey, sat [804] thus at the well." [805]

Seest thou that His sitting was because of weariness? because of the heat? because of his waiting for His disciples? He knew, indeed, what should take place among the Samaritans, but it was not for this that He came principally; yet, though He came not for this, it behooved not to reject the woman who came to Him, when she manifested such a desire to learn. The Jews, when He was even coming to them, drove Him away; they of the Gentiles, when He was proceeding in another direction, drew Him to them. They envied, these believed on Him. They were angry with, these revered and worshiped Him. What then? Was He to overlook the salvation of so many, to send away such noble zeal? This would have been unworthy of His lovingkindness. Therefore He ordered all the matter in hand with the Wisdom which became Him. He sat resting His body and cooling It by the fountain; for it was the very middle of the day, as the Evangelist has declared, when he says,

"It was about the sixth hour."

He sat "thus." What meaneth "thus"? Not upon a throne, not upon a cushion, but simply, and as He was, [806] upon the ground.

Ver. 7 . "There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water."

[4.] Observe how he declareth that the woman came forth for another purpose, in every way silencing the shameless gainsaying of the Jews, that none might say that He acted in opposition to His own command, bidding (His disciples) not to enter into any city of the Samaritans, yet conversing with Samaritans. ( Matt. x. 5 .) And therefore the Evangelist has put,

Ver. 8 . "For His disciples were gone away into the city to buy meat." [807]

Bringing in many reasons for His conversation with her. What doth the woman? When she heard, "Give Me to drink," [808] she very wisely makes the speech of Christ an occasion for a question, and saith,

Ver. 9 . "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a Samaritan? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans."

And whence did she suppose Him to be a Jew? From His dress, perhaps, and from His dialect. Observe, I pray you, how considerate the woman was. If there was need of caution, Jesus needed it, not she. For she doth not say, "The Samaritans have no dealings with the Jews," but, "The Jews do not admit the Samaritans." Yet still, although free herself from blame, [809] when she supposed that another was falling into it she would not even so hold her peace, but corrected, as she thought, what was done unlawfully. Perhaps some one may ask how it was that Jesus asked drink of her, when the law [810] did not permit it. If it be answered that it was because He knew beforehand that she would not give it, then for this very reason He ought not to have asked. What then can we say? That the rejecting such observances as these was now a matter of indifference to Him; for He who induced others to do them away, would much more Himself pass them by. "Not that which goeth in," saith He, "defileth a man, but that which goeth out." ( Matt. xv. 11 .) And this conversation with the woman would be no slight charge against the Jews. For often did He draw them to Himself, both by words and deeds, but they would not attend; while observe how she is detained by a simple request. [811] For He did not as yet enter on the prosecution of this business, [812] nor the way, [813] yet if any came to Him He did not prevent them. And to the disciples also He said thus, "Into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not." He did not say, "And when they come to you, reject them"; that would have been very unworthy of His lovingkindness. And therefore He answered the woman, and said,

Ver. 10 . "If thou knewest the gift of God and who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water."

First, He showeth that she is worthy to hear and not to be overlooked, and then He revealeth Himself. For she, as soon as she had learnt who He was, would straightway hearken and attend to Him; which none can say of the Jews, for they, when they had learned, asked nothing of Him, nor did they desire to be informed on any profitable matter, but insulted and drove Him away. But when the woman had heard these words, observe how gently she answers:

Ver. 11 . "Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from whence then hast thou that living water?"

Already He hath raised her from her low opinion of Him, and from deeming that He is a common man. For not without a reason doth she here call Him, "Lord"; [814] but assigning to Him high honor. That she spake these words to honor Him, is plain from what is said afterwards, since she did not laugh nor mock, but doubted for a while. And wonder not if she did not at once perceive all, for neither did Nicodemus. What saith he? "How can these things be?" and again, "How can a man be born when he is old?" and again, "Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?" But this woman more reverently: "Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from whence then hast thou that living water?" Christ said one thing, and she imagined another, hearing nothing beyond the words, and as yet unable to form any lofty thought. Yet, had she spoken hastily, she might have said, "If thou hadst had that living water, thou wouldest not have asked of me, but wouldest rather have provided for thyself. Thou art but a boaster." But she said nothing like this; she answers with much gentleness, both at first and afterwards. For at first she saith, "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me?" she saith not, as though speaking to an alien and an enemy, "Far be it from me to give to thee, who art a foe and a stranger to our nation." And afterwards again, when she heard Him utter great words, a thing at which enemies are most annoyed, she did not mock nor deride [815] ; but what saith she?

Ver. 12 . "Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?"

Observe how she thrusts herself into the noble stock of the Jews. For what she saith is somewhat of this kind: "Jacob used this water, and had nothing better to give us." And this she said showing that from the first answer (of Christ) she had conceived a great and sublime thought; for by the words, "he drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle," she implies nothing else, than that she had a notion of a better Water, but that she [816] never found it, nor clearly knew it. More clearly to explain what she means to say, the sense of her words is this: "Thou canst not assert that Jacob gave us this well, and used another himself; for he and his children drank of this one, which they would not have done if they had had another and a better. Now of the water of this well it is not in thy power to give me, and thou canst not have another and a better, unless thou dost confess that thou art greater than Jacob. Whence then hast thou that water which thou promisest that thou wilt give us?" The Jews did not converse with Him thus mildly, and yet He spake to them on the same subject, making mention of the like water, but they profited nothing; and when He made mention of Abraham, they even attempted to stone Him. Not so does this woman approach Him; but with much gentleness, in the midst of the heat, at noon, she with much patience saith and hears all, and does not so much as think of what the Jews most probably would have asserted, that "This fellow is mad, and beside himself: he hath tied me to this fount and well, giving me nothing, but using big words"; no, she endures and perseveres until she has found what she seeks.

[5.] If now a woman of Samaria is so earnest to learn something profitable, if she abides by Christ though not as yet knowing Him, what pardon shall we obtain, who both knowing [817] Him, and being not by a well, nor in a desert place, nor at noon-day, nor beneath the scorching sunbeams, but at morning-tide, and beneath a roof like this, enjoying shade and comfort, [818] yet cannot endure to hear anything that is said, but are wearied [819] by it. Not such was that woman; so occupied was she by Jesus' words, that she even called others to hear them. The Jews, on the contrary, not only did not call, but even hindered and impeded those who desired to come to Him, [820] saying, "See, have any of the rulers believed on him? but this people, which knoweth not the Law, are cursed." [821] Let us then imitate this woman of Samaria; let us commune with Christ. For even now He standeth in the midst of us, speaking to us by the Prophets and Disciples; let us hear and obey. How long shall we live uselessly and in vain? Because, not to do what is well-pleasing to God is to live uselessly, or rather not merely uselessly, but to our own hurt; for when we have spent the time which has been given us on no good purpose, we shall depart this life to suffer severest punishment for our unseasonable extravagance. For it can never be that a man who has received money to trade with, and then has eaten it up, shall have it [822] required at his hands by the man who intrusted it to him; and that one who has spent such a life as ours to no purpose shall escape punishment. It was not for this that God brought us into this present life, and breathed into us a soul, that we should make use of the present time only, [823] but that we should do all our business with a regard to the life which is to come. Things irrational only are useful for the present life; but we have an immortal soul, that we may use every means to prepare ourselves for that other life. For if one enquire the use of horses and asses and oxen, and other such-like animals, we shall tell him that it is nothing else but only to minister to the present life; but this cannot be said of us; our best condition is that which follows on our departure hence; and we must do all that we may shine there, that we may join the choir of Angels, and stand before the King continually, through endless [824] ages. And therefore the soul is immortal, and the body shall be immortal too, that we may enjoy the never-ending blessings. But if, when heavenly things are proffered thee, thou remainest nailed to earth, consider what an insult is offered to thy Benefactor, when He holdeth forth to thee things above, and thou, making no great account of them choosest earth instead. And therefore, as despised by thee, He hath threatened thee with hell; that thou mayest learn hence of what great blessings thou deprivest thyself. God grant that none make trial of that punishment, but that having been well-pleasing to Christ, we may obtain everlasting blessings, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ; to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.

Footnotes

[770] lit. " condescension. " [771] diakratoumen [772] [ e a n me e ded. auto .] G. T. [773] a nothen , G. T. [774] al. " of the mention of punishment. " [775] i.e. believing. [776] lit. " sits upon. " [777] o thon [778] ho Kurios , G. T. [779] lit. " cut out. " [780] tes huper hemon sot [781] oikonomon ta anthropina [782] i.e. without an object, ha plos [783] or, " became. " [784] [ ouk apestalen ] G. T. [785] [ ballein ] G. T. [786] Morel. " having thus hinted that which he wished, he again begins, saying, Jesus therefore cometh, " &c. [787] This account does not agree with the history, ( 2 Kings xv. 29, 30 ,) but there is no other reading. [788] i.e. the Egyptians. [789] barbarous [790] lit. " started away from. " [791] lit. " registered. " [792] al. " truly little. " [793] eusebeian [794] banauson kai hugron [795] lit. " introducing. " [796] or " active. " [797] parergos [798] a ristopoiountai . See on Stat. Hom. ix. 1, and note [799] parergon [800] al. " having departed. " [801] a throon [802] al. " so great. " [803] sunestalthai [804] e katheto [ e kathezeto ] G. T. [805] e pi te pege [806] ho s etuchen [807] al. " had not yet come. " [808] al. being asked for water by Christ; for, " Give Me to drink, " the Evangelist tells us, was what Christ said to her. What then saith she? " How is it, " &c. [809] al. " sin. " [810] i.e. custom. [811] al. " introduction. " [812] i.e. conversion. [813] i.e. of salvation. [814] Kurie , " Sir, " E.V. [815] diesure [816] al. " not even he. " [817] al. " having seen. " [818] or, " coolness. " [819] a poknaiontes , al. a poknountes [820] al. " to enter in. " [821] c. vii. 49 . al. " is not this people, " &c. [822] al. " an account. " [823] al. " live only for the present, " kata to p [824] al. " incorrupt. "


Homily XXXII.

John iv. 13, 14

"Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting Life."

[1.] Scripture calls the grace of the Spirit sometimes "Fire," sometimes "Water," showing that these names are not descriptive of its essence, but of its operation; for the Spirit, being Invisible and Simple, cannot be made up of different substances. Now the one John declares, speaking thus, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with Fire" ( Matt. iii. 11 ): the other, Christ, "Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." ( John vii. 38 .) "But this," saith John, "spake He of the Spirit, which they should receive." So also conversing with the woman, He calleth the Spirit water; [825] for, "Whosoever shall drink of the water which I shall give him, shall never thirst." So also He calleth the Spirit by the name of "fire," alluding to the rousing and warming property of grace, and its power of destroying transgressions; but by that of "water," to declare the cleansing wrought by it, and the great refreshment which it affordeth to those minds which receive it. And with good reason; for it makes the willing soul like some [826] garden thick with all manner of trees fruitful and ever-flourishing, allowing it neither to feel despondency nor the plots of Satan, and quenches [827] all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

And observe, I pray you, the wisdom of Christ, [828] how gently He leads on [829] the woman; for He did not say at first, "If thou knewest who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink," but when He had given her an occasion of calling Him "a Jew," and brought her beneath the charge of having done so, repelling the accusation He saith, "If thou knewest who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him"; and having compelled her by His great promises to make mention [830] of the Patriarch, He thus alloweth the woman to look through, [831] and then when she objects, "Art thou greater than our father Jacob?" He saith not, "Yea, I am greater," (for He would have seemed but to boast, since the proof did not as yet appear,) but by what He saith He effecteth this. For He said not simply, "I will give thee water," but having first set that given by Jacob aside, He exalteth that given by Himself, desiring to show from the nature of the things given, how great is the interval and difference between the persons of the givers, [832] and His own superiority to the Patriarch. "If," saith He, "thou admirest Jacob because he gave thee this water, what wilt thou say if I give thee Water far better than this? Thou hast thyself been first to confess that I am greater than Jacob, by arguing against Me, and asking, `Art thou greater than Jacob, that thou promisest to give me better water?' If thou receivest that Water, certainly thou wilt confess that I am greater." Seest thou the upright judgment of the woman, giving her decision from facts, both as to the Patriarch, and as to Christ? The Jews acted not thus; when they even saw Him casting out devils, they not only did not call Him greater than the Patriarch but even said that He had a devil. Not so the woman, she draws her opinion whence Christ would have her, from the demonstration afforded by His works. For by these He justifieth Himself, saying, "If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not; but if I do, if ye believe not Me, believe the works." ( c. x. 37, 38 .) And thus the woman is brought over to the faith.

Wherefore also He, having heard, "Art thou greater than our father Jacob," leaveth Jacob, and speaketh concerning the water, saying, "Whosoever shall drink of this water, shall thirst again"; and He maketh His comparison, not by depreciating one, but by showing the excellence of the other; for He saith not, that "this water is naught," nor "that it is inferior and contemptible," but what even nature testifies that He saith: "Whosoever shall drink of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever shall drink of the Water which I shall give him, shall never thirst." The woman before this had heard of "living Water" ( v. 10 ), but had not known its meaning. Since because that water is called "living" which is perennial and bubbles up unceasingly from uninterrupted springs, she thought that this was the water meant. Wherefore He points out this more clearly by speaking thus, and establishing by a comparison the superiority (of the water which He would give). What then saith He? "Whosoever shall drink of the Water that I shall give him, shall never thirst." This and what was said next especially showed the superiority, for material water possesses none of these qualities. And what is it that follows? "It shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." For as one that hath a well within him could never be seized by thirst, so neither can he that hath this Water.

The woman straightway believed, showing herself much wiser than Nicodemus, and not only wiser, but more manly. For he when he heard ten thousand such things neither invited any others to this hearing, nor himself spake forth openly; but she exhibited the actions of an Apostle, preaching the Gospel to all, and calling them to Jesus, and drawing a whole city forth to Him. Nicodemus when he had heard said, "How can these things be?" And when Christ set before him a clear illustration, that of "the wind," he did not even so receive the Word. But the woman not so; at first she doubted, but afterwards receiving the Word not by any regular demonstration, but in the form of an assertion, she straightway hastened to embrace it. For when Christ said, "It shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting Life," immediately the woman saith,

Ver. 15 . "Give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw."

Seest thou how little by little she is led up to the highest doctrines? First she thought Him some Jew who was transgressing the Law; then when He had repelled that accusation, (for it was necessary that the person who was to teach [833] her such things should not be suspected,) having heard of "living water," she supposed that this was spoken of material water; afterwards, having learnt that the words were spiritual, she believed that the water could remove the necessity caused by thirst, but knew not yet what this could be; she still doubted, deeming it indeed to be above material things, but not being exactly informed. But here having gained a clearer insight, but not yet fully perceiving the whole, (for she saith, "Give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw,") she for the time preferreth Him to Jacob. "For" (saith she) "I need not this well if I receive from thee that water." Seest thou how she setteth Him before the Patriarch? This is the act of a fairly-judging [834] soul. She had shown how great an opinion she had of Jacob, she saw One better than he, and was not held back by her prepossession. Thus this woman was neither of an easy temper, (she did not carelessly receive what was said, how can she have done so when she enquired with so great exactness? [835] ) nor yet disobedient, nor disputatious, and this she showed by her petition. Yet to the Jews once He said, "Whosoever shall eat of My flesh [836] shall never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst" ( c. vi. 35 ); but they not only did not believe, but were offended at Him. The woman had no such feeling, she remains and petitions. To the Jews He said, "He that believeth on Me shall never thirst"; not so to the woman, but more grossly, "He that drinketh of this Water shall never thirst." For the promise referred to spiritual and unseen [837] things. Wherefore having raised her mind by His promises, He still lingers among expressions relating to sense, because she could not as yet comprehend the exact expression of spiritual things. Since had He said, "If thou believest in Me thou shalt not thirst," she would not have understood His saying, not knowing who it could be that spake to her, nor concerning what kind of thirst He spake. Wherefore then did He not this in the case of the Jews? Because they had seen many signs, while she had seen no sign, but heard these words first. For which reason He afterwards reveals His power by prophecy, and does not directly introduce His reproof, [838] but what saith He?

Ver. 16-19 . "Go, call thy husband, and come thither. The woman answered and said I have no husband. Jesus saith unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. The woman saith unto Him, Sir, I perceive that Thou art a Prophet."

[2.] O how great the wisdom of the woman! how meekly doth she receive the reproof! "How should she not," saith some one? Tell me, why should she? Did He not often reprove the Jews also, and with greater reproofs than these? (for it is not the same to bring forward the hidden thoughts of the heart, as to make manifest a thing that was done in secret; the first are known to [839] God alone, and none other knoweth them but he who hath them in his heart; the second, all who were sharers in it know;) but still when reproved did not bear it patiently. When He said, "Why seek ye to kill me?" ( c. vii. 19 ), they not only did not admire as the woman did but even mocked at and insulted Him; yet they had a demonstration from other miracles, she had only heard this speech. Still they not only did not admire, but even insulted Him, saying, "Thou hast a demon, who seeketh to kill thee?" While she not only doth not insult but admires, and is astonished at Him, and supposes Him to be a Prophet. Yet truly this rebuke touched the woman more than the other touched them; for her fault was hers alone, theirs was a general one; and we are not so much stung by what is general as by what is particular. Besides they thought they should be gaining a great object if they could slay Christ, but that which the woman had done was allowed by all to be wicked; yet was she not indignant, but was astonished and wondered. And Christ did this very same thing in the case of Nathanael. He did not at first introduce the prophecy, nor say, "I saw thee under the fig-tree," but when Nathanael said, "Whence knowest thou me?" then He introduced this. For He desired to take the beginnings of His signs and prophecies from the very persons who came near to Him, so that they might be more attached [840] by what was done, and He might escape the suspicion of vainglory. Now this He doth here also; for to have charged her first of all that, "Thou hast no husband," would have seemed burdensome and superfluous, but to take the reason (for speaking) from herself, and then to set right all these points, was very consistent, and softened the disposition of the hearer.

"And what kind of connection," saith some one, "is there in the saying, `Go, call thy husband'?" The discourse was concerning a gift and grace surpassing mortal nature: the woman was urgent in seeking to receive it. Christ saith, "Call thy husband," showing that he also must share in these things; but she, eager to receive [841] (the gift), and concealing the shamefulness of the circumstances, and supposing that she was conversing with a man, said, "I have no husband." Christ having heard this, now seasonably introduces His reproof, mentioning accurately both points; for He enumerated all her former husbands, and reproved her for him whom [842] she now would hide. What then did the woman? she was not annoyed, nor did she leave Him and fly, nor deem the thing an insult, but rather admired Him, and persevered the more. "I perceive," saith she, "that Thou art a Prophet." Observe her prudence; she did not straightway run to Him, but still considers Him, and marvels at Him. For, "I perceive," means, "Thou appearest to me to be a Prophet." Then when she suspected this, she asks Him nothing concerning this life, not concerning bodily health, or possessions, or wealth, but at once concerning doctrines. For what saith she?

Ver. 20 . "Our fathers worshiped in this mountain," (meaning Abraham and his family, for thither they say that he led up his son,) "and how say ye [843] that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship?"

[3.] Seest thou how much more elevated in mind she has become? She who was anxious that she might not be troubled for thirst, now questions concerning doctrines. What then doth Christ? He doth not resolve the question, (for to answer simply to men's words was not His care, for it was needless, [844] ) but leads the woman on to the greater height, and doth not converse with her on these matters, until she has confessed that He was a Prophet, so that afterwards she might hear His Word with abundant belief; for having been persuaded of this, she could no longer doubt concerning what should be said to her.

Let us now after this be ashamed, and blush. A woman who had had five husbands, and who was of Samaria, was so eager concerning doctrines, that neither the time of day, nor her having come for another purpose, nor anything else, led her away from enquiring on such matters; but we not only do not enquire concerning doctrines, but towards them all our dispositions are careless and indifferent. Therefore everything is neglected. For which of you when in his house takes some Christian book [845] in hand and goes over its contents, and searches the Scriptures? None can say that he does so, but with most we shall find draughts and dice, but books nowhere, except among a few. And even these few have the same dispositions as the many; for they tie up their books, and keep them always put away in cases, and all their care is for the fineness of the parchments, and the beauty of the letters, not for reading them. For they have not bought them to obtain advantage and benefit from them, but take pains about such matters to show their wealth and pride. Such is the excess of vainglory. I do not hear any one glory that he knows the contents, but that he hath a book written in letters of gold. And what gain, tell me, is this? The Scriptures were not given us for this only, that we might have them in books, but that we might engrave them on our hearts. For this kind of possession, the keeping the commandments merely in letter, belongs to Jewish ambition; but to us the Law was not so given [846] at all, but in the fleshy tables of our hearts. [847] And this I say, not to prevent you from procuring Bibles, on the contrary, I exhort and earnestly pray that you do this, but I desire that from those books you convey the letters and sense into your understanding, that so it may be purified when it receiveth the meaning of the writing. [848] For if the devil will not dare to approach a house where a Gospel is lying, much less will any evil spirit, or any sinful nature, [849] ever touch or enter a soul which bears about with it such sentiments as it contains. Sanctify then thy soul, sanctify thy body, by having these ever in thy heart, and on thy tongue. For if foul speech defiles and invites devils, it is clear that spiritual reading sanctifies and draws down the grace of the Spirit. The Scriptures [850] are divine charms, let us then apply to ourselves and [851] to the passions of our souls the remedies to be derived from them. For if we understand what it is that is read, we shall hear it with much readiness. I am always saying this, and will not cease to say it. Is it not strange that those who sit by the market can tell the names, and families, and cities of charioteers, and dancers, and the kinds of power possessed by each, and can give exact account of the good or bad qualities of the very horses, but that those who come hither should know nothing of what is done here, but should be ignorant of the number even of the sacred Books? If thou pursuest those worldly things for pleasure, I will show thee that here is greater pleasure. Which is sweeter, tell me, which more marvelous, to see a man wrestling with a man, or a man buffering with a devil, a body closing with an incorporeal power, and him who is of thy race victorious? These wrestlings let us look on, these, which also it is seemly and profitable to imitate, and which imitating, we may be [852] crowned; but not those in which emulation brings shame to him who imitates them. If thou beholdest the one kind of contest, thou beholdest it with devils; the other, with Angels and Archangels, and the Lord of Archangels. Say now, if thou wert allowed to sit with governors and kings, and to see and enjoy the spectacle, wouldest thou not deem it to be a very great honor? And here when thou art a spectator in company with the King of Angels, when thou seest the devil grasped by the middle of the back, [853] striving much to have the better, but powerless, dost thou not run and pursue after such a sight as this? "And how can this be?" saith some one. If thou keep the Bible in thy hands; for in it thou shalt see the lists, and the long races, and his grasps, [854] and the skill of the righteous one. For by beholding these things thou shalt learn also how to wrestle so thyself, and shalt escape clear of devils; the performances of the heathen are assemblies of devils, not theaters of men. Wherefore I exhort you to abstain from these Satanic assemblies; [855] for if it is not lawful to enter into an idol's house, much less to Satan's festival. I shall not cease to say these things and weary you, until I see some change; for to say these things, as saith Paul, "to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe." ( Phil. iii. 1 .) Be not then offended at my exhortation. If any one ought to be offended, it is I who often speak and am not heard, not you who are always hearing and always disobeying. God grant that you be not always liable to this charge, but that freed from this shame you be deemed worthy to enjoy the spiritual spectacle, [856] and the glory which is to come, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Footnotes

[825] al. " saith the same now. " [826] al. " some flourishing. " [827] al. " as quenching easily. " [828] al. " of God. " [829] al. " leads up. " [830] or, " to remember. " [831] or, " see clearly. " [832] al. " things given. " [833] katechein [834] eugnomonos [835] al. " readiness. " [836] ho erchomenos pros me , G. T. [837] al. " not finite. " [838] e lenchon [839] or, " is the work of. " [840] oikeiousthai [841] al. " to be hidden. " [842] al. " the thing which. " [843] kai hum. legete , G. T. [844] parelkon [845] puktion [846] al. " this Law was not given. " [847] i.e. on the Day of Pentecost. [848] al. " the reality of the matters. " [849] lit. " nature of sin. " [850] al. " the actions, " i.e. of the Gospel. [851] Morel. [let us prepare]. [852] al, " it were meet to be. " [853] Morel. " beholding the devil shamed by means of the Divine oracles, and greatly striving. " Below Morel. reads, " run to such a sight. " [854] skammata, diaulous, labas , terms of the wrestling school. skamma , the place dug out for the exercise, hence the exercise itself. diaulos , the double course. labe , the gripe of the wrestler. Thus of Job, on Stat. Hom. i. 16; of the Three Children, ib. Hom. iv. 8, &c. [855] This clause is not found in Ben. [856] al. " of the Eternal Goods. "


Homily XXXIII.

John iv. 21, 22

"Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews."

[1.] Everywhere , beloved, we have need of faith, faith the mother of blessings, the medicine of salvation; and without this it is impossible to possess any one of the great doctrines. Without this, men are like to those who attempt to cross [857] the open sea without a ship, who for a little way hold out by swimming, using both hands and feet, but when they have advanced farther, are quickly swamped by the waves: in like manner they who use their own reasonings, before they have learnt anything, suffer shipwreck; as also Paul saith, "Who concerning faith have made shipwreck." ( 1 Tim. i. 19 .) That this be not our case, let us hold fast the sacred anchor by which Christ bringeth over the Samaritan woman now. For when she had said, "How say ye [858] that Jerusalem is the place in which men ought to worship?" Christ replied, "Believe Me, woman, that the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in Jerusalem, nor yet in this mountain, worship the Father." An exceedingly great [859] doctrine He revealed to her, and one which He did not mention either to Nicodemus or Nathanael. She was eager to prove her own privileges more honorable than those of the Jews; and this she subtly argued from the Fathers, but Christ met not this question. For it was for the time distracting [860] to speak on the matter, and to show why the Fathers worshiped in the mountain, and why the Jews at Jerusalem. Wherefore on this point He was silent, and having taken away from both places priority in dignity, rouses her soul by showing that neither Jews nor Samaritans possessed anything great in comparison with that which was to be given; and then He introduceth the difference. Yet even thus He declared that the Jews were more honorable, not preferring place to place, but giving them the precedence because of their intention. As though He had said, "About the `place' of worship ye have no need henceforth to dispute, but in the `manner' the Jews have an advantage over you Samaritans, for `ye,' He saith, `worship ye know not what; we know what we worship.'"

How then did the Samaritans "know not" what they worshiped? Because they thought that God was local and partial; so at least they served Him, and so they sent to the Persians, and reported that "the God of this place is wroth with us" ( 2 Kings xxvi .), in this respect forming no higher opinion of Him than of their idols. Wherefore they continued to serve both Him and devils, joining things which ought not to be joined. The Jews, on the contrary, were free from this supposition, at least the greater part of them, and knew that He was God of the world. Therefore He saith, "Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship." Do not wonder that He numbereth Himself among Jews, for He speaketh to the woman's opinion of Him as though He were a Jewish Prophet, and therefore He putteth, "we worship." For that He is of the objects of worship is clear to every one, because to worship belongs to the creature, but to be worshiped to the Lord of the creature. But for a time He speaketh as a Jew; and the expression "we" in this place meaneth "we Jews." Having then exalted what was Jewish, He next maketh Himself credible, and persuadeth the woman to give the greater heed to His words, by rendering His discourse above suspicion, and showing that He doth not exalt what belongs to them by reason of relationship [861] to those of His own tribe. For it is clear, that one who had made these declarations concerning the place on which the Jews most prided themselves, and thought that they were superior to all, and who had taken away their high claims, would not after this [862] speak to get favor of any, but with truth and prophetic power. When therefore He had for a while removed her from such reasonings, [863] say ing, "Woman, believe Me," and what follows, then He addeth, "for salvation is of the Jews." What He saith is of this kind: neither, that blessings to the world came from them, (for to know God and condemn idols had its beginning from them, and with you the very act of worship, although ye do it not rightly, yet received its origin from them,) or else, He speaketh of His own Coming. Or rather, one would not be wrong in calling both these things "salvation" which He said was "of the Jews"; which Paul implied when he said, "Of whom is Christ according to the flesh, who is God over all." ( Rom. ix. 5 .) Seest thou how He commendeth [864] the old Covenant, and showeth that it is the root of blessings, and that He is throughout not opposed to the Law, since He maketh the groundwork [865] of all good things to come from the Jews?

Ver. 23 . "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father."

"We, O woman," He saith, "excel you in the manner of our worship, but even this shall henceforth have an end. Not the places only, but even the manner of serving God shall be changed. And this change is at your very doors. `For the hour cometh, and now is.'"

[2.] For since what the Prophets said they said long before the event, to show that here it is not so, [866] He saith, "And now is." Think not, He saith, that this is a prophecy of such a kind as shall be accomplished after a long time, the fulfillment is already at hand and at your very doors, "when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth." In saying "true," [867] He excludeth Jews as well as Samaritans; for although the Jews be better than the Samaritans, yet are they far inferior to those that shall come, as inferior as is the type to the reality. But He speaketh of the Church, that she [868] is the "true" worship, and such as is meet for God.

"For the Father seeketh such to worship Him."

If then He in times past sought such as these, He allowed to those others their way of worship, not willingly, [869] but from condescension, and for this reason, [870] that He might bring them in also. Who then are "the true worshipers"? Those who confine not their service by place, and who serve God in spirit; as Paul saith, "Whom I serve in my spirit [871] in the Gospel of His Son": and again, "I beseech you that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, acceptable unto God, your reasonable service." ( Rom. i. 9 and xii. 1 .) But when he saith,

Ver. 24 . "God is a Spirit" [God is spirit]. He declareth nothing else than His incorporeal Nature. Now the service of that which is incorporeal must needs be of the same character, and must be offered by that in us which is incorporeal, to wit, the soul, and purity of mind. Wherefore He saith, "they that worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and in truth." For because both Samaritans and Jews were careless about the soul, but took great pains about the body, cleansing it in divers ways, it is not, He saith, by purity of body, but by that which is incorporeal in us, namely the mind, that the incorporeal One is served. Sacrifice then not sheep and calves, but dedicate thyself to the Lord; make thyself a holocaust, this is to offer a living sacrifice. Ye must worship "in truth " [872] ; as former things were types, such as circumcision, and whole burnt offerings, and victims, and incense, they now no longer exist, but all is "truth." For a man must now circumcise not his flesh, but his evil thoughts, and crucify himself, and remove and slay his unreasonable desires." The woman was made dizzy by His discourse, and fainted [873] in at the sublimity of what He said, and, in her trouble, hear what she saith:

Ver. 25, 26 . "I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when He is come, He will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I am that speak unto thee."

And whence came the Samaritans to expect the coming of Christ, seeing that they received Moses only? [874] From the writings of Moses themselves. For even in the beginning He revealed the Son. "Let Us make man in Our Image, after Our Likeness" ( Gen. i. 26 ), was said to the Son. It was He who talked with Abraham in the tent. ( Gen. xviii .) And Jacob prophesying concerning Him said, "A ruler shall not fail from Judah, nor a leader from his thighs, until He come for whom it is reserved, [875] and He is the expectation of nations." ( Gen. xviii .) And Moses himself saith, "The Lord thy God will raise up unto you a Prophet of your brethren like unto me, unto Him shall ye hearken." ( Deut. xviii. 15 .) And the circumstances attending the serpent, and the rod of Moses, and Isaac, and the sheep, and many other things they who chose might select as proclaiming His coming.

"And why, pray," saith one, "did not Christ lead on the woman by these means? why did He instance the serpent to Nicodemus, and mention prophecy to Nathanael, but to her say nothing of the kind? For what reason, and why?" Because they were men, and were versed in these things, she a poor ignorant woman unpracticed in the Scriptures. Wherefore He doth not speak to her from them, but draweth her on by the "water" and by prophecy, and bringeth her to make mention of Christ and then revealeth Himself; which had He at first told the woman when she had not questioned Him, He would have seemed to her to trifle and talk idly, while as it is by bringing her little by little to mention Him, at a fitting time He revealed Himself. To the Jews, who continually said, "How long dost Thou make us to doubt? tell us if Thou art the Christ" ( c. x. 24 ), to them [876] He gave no clear answer, but to this woman He said plainly, that He is . For the woman was more fair-minded than the Jews; they did not enquire to learn, but always to mock at Him, for had they desired to learn, the teaching which was by His words, and by the Scriptures, and by His miracles would have been sufficient. The woman, on the contrary, said what she said from an impartial judgment and a simple mind, as is plain from what she did afterwards; for she both heard and believed, and netted [877] others also, and in every circumstance we may observe the carefulness and faith of the woman.

Ver. 27 . "And upon this came His disciples," (very seasonably did they come when the teaching was finished,) "and marveled that He talked with the woman, yet no man said, What seekest Thou? or, Why talkest Thou with her?"

[3.] At what did they marvel? At His want of pride and exceeding humility, that looked upon as He was, He endured with such lowliness of heart to talk with a woman poor, and a Samaritan. Still in their amazement they did not ask Him the reason, so well were they taught to keep the station of disciples, so much did they fear and reverence Him. For although they did not as yet hold the right opinion concerning Him, still they gave heed unto Him as to some marvelous one, and paid Him much respect. Yet they frequently are seen to act confidently; as when John lay upon His bosom, when they came to Him and said, "Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?" ( Matt. xviii. 1 ), when the sons of Zebedee entreated Him to set one of them on His right hand, and the other on His left. Why then did they not here question Him? Because since all those instances related to themselves, they had need to enquire into them, while what here took place was of no such great importance to them. And indeed John did that a long time after towards the very end, when He enjoyed greater confidence, and was bold in the love of Christ; for he it was, [878] he saith, "whom Jesus loved." What could equal such blessedness?

But, beloved, let us not stop at this, the calling the Apostle blessed, but let us do all things that we also may be of the blessed, let us imitate the Evangelist, and see what it was that caused such great love. What then was it? He left his father, his ship, and his net, and followed Jesus. Yet this he did in common with his brother, and Peter, and Andrew, and the rest of the Apostles. What then was the special [879] thing which caused this great love? Shall we discover it? He saith nothing of this kind about himself, but only that he was beloved; as to the righteous acts for which he was beloved he has modestly been silent. That Jesus loved him with an especial love was clear to every one; yet John doth not appear conversing with or questioning Jesus privately, as Peter often did, and Philip, and Judas, and Thomas, except only when he desired to show kindness and compliance to his fellow Apostle; for when the chief [880] of the Apostles by beckoning constrained him, then he asked. For these two had great love each for the other. Thus, for instance, they are seen going up together into the Temple and speaking in common to the people. Yet Peter in many places [881] is moved, and speaks more warmly than John. And at the end he hears Christ say, "Peter, [882] lovest thou Me more than these?" ( c. xxi. 15 .) Now it is clear that he who loved "more than these" was also beloved. But this in his case was shown by loving Jesus, in the case of the other by being beloved by Jesus. [883]

What then was it which caused this especial love? To my thinking, it was that the man displayed great gentleness and meekness, for which reason he doth not appear in many places speaking openly. And how great a thing this is, is plain also from the case of Moses. It was this which made him such and so great as he was. There is nothing equal to lowliness of mind. For which cause Jesus with this began the Beatitudes, and when about to lay as it were the foundation and base of a mighty building, He placed first lowliness of mind. Without this a man cannot possibly be saved; though he fast, though he pray, though he give alms, if it be with a proud spirit, these [884] things are abominable, if humility be not there; while if it be, all these things are amiable and lovely, and are done with safety. Let us then be modest, [885] beloved, let us be modest; success is easy, if we be sober-minded. For after all what is it, O man, that exciteth thee to pride? Seest thou not the poverty of thy nature? the unsteadiness [886] of thy will? Consider thine end, consider the multitude of thy sins. But perhaps because thou doest many righteous deeds thou art proud. By that very pride thou shalt undo them all. Wherefore it behoveth not so much him that has sinned [887] as him that doeth righteousness to take pains to be humble. Why so? Because the sinner is constrained by conscience, while the other, except he be very sober, soon caught up as by a blast of wind is lifted on high, and made to vanish like the Pharisee. Dost thou give to the poor? What thou givest is not thine, but thy Master's, common to thee and thy fellow-servants. For which cause thou oughtest especially to be humbled, in the calamities of those who are thy kindred foreseeing thine own, and taking knowledge of thine own nature in their cases. We ourselves perhaps are sprung from such ancestors; and if wealth has shifted to you, it is probable that it will leave you again. And after all, what is wealth? A vain [888] shadow, dissolving smoke, a flower of the grass, or rather something meaner than a flower. Why then art thou high-minded over grass? Doth not wealth fall to thieves, and effeminates, and harlots, and tomb-breakers? Doth this puff thee up, that thou hast such as these to share in thy possession? or dost thou desire honor? Towards gaining honor nothing is more serviceable than almsgiving. For the honors arising from wealth and power are compulsory, and attended with hatred, but these others are from the free will and real feeling of the honorers; and therefore those who pay them can never give them. Now if men show such reverence for the merciful, and invoke all blessings upon them, consider what return, what recompense they shall receive from the merciful God. Let us then seek this wealth which endureth forever, and never deserts [889] us, that, becoming great here and glorious there, we may obtain everlasting blessings, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.

Footnotes

[857] diabalein , al. dialabein , al. diaperan [858] hu meis legete , G. T. [859] polu mega [860] parelkon [861] al. " favor. " [862] al. " at this rate. " [863] al. " removed (her) reasoning from such things. " [864] sunkrotei [865] hu pothesin [866] lit. " removing this. " [867] al. " truth. " [868] or, " this. " [869] The passage is read differently in the ms. in Bodl. " not willing them to continue in those ancient (practices). " [870] al. " by these means. " [871] al. " in spirit. where? in, " &c. [872] ms. in Bodl. " this is to worship in truth . " [873] a pegoreuse [874] ms. in Bodl. " the law of Moses. " [875] ho apokeitai [876] al. " this. " [877] e sageneuse [878] ms. in Bodleian, " for, saith the Evangelist, Peter looks on the disciple. " [879] e xaireton [880] koruphaios [881] al. " all places. " [882] Simon Iona , G. T. [883] i.e. St. Peter loved his Lord, and therefore we infer that he was loved of Him; of St. John Scripture speaks expressly, as being " the Disciple whom Jesus loved. " [884] al. " all. " [885] metriazomen [886] to euolisthon [887] al. " that sinneth. " [888] a dranes [889] drapeteuonta


Homily XXXIV.

John iv. 28, 29

"The woman then left her water pot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a Man which told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ?"

[1.] We require much fervor and uproused zeal, for without these it is impossible to obtain the blessings promised to us. And to show this, Christ at one time saith, "Except a man take [890] up his cross and follow Me, he is not worthy of Me" ( Matt. x. 38 ); at another, "I am come to send fire upon the earth, and what will I if it be already kindled?" ( Luke xii. 49 ); by both these desiring to represent to us a disciple full of heat and fire, and prepared for every danger. Such an one was this woman. For so kindled was she by His words, that she left her water pot and the purpose for which she came, ran into the city, and drew all the people to Jesus. "Come," she saith, "see a Man which told me all things that ever I did."

Observe her zeal and wisdom. She came to draw water, and when she had lighted upon the true Well, she after that despised the material one; teaching us even by this trifling instance when we are listening to spiritual matters to overlook the things of this life, and make no account of them. For what the Apostles did, that, after her ability, did this woman also. [891] They when they were called, left their nets; she of her own accord, without the command of any, leaves her water pot, and winged by joy [892] performs the office of Evangelists. And she calls not one or two, as did Andrew and Philip, but having aroused a whole city and people, so brought them to Him.

Observe too how prudently she speaks; she said not, "Come and see the Christ," but with the same condescension [893] by which Christ had netted her she draws the men to Him; "Come," she saith, "see a Man who told me all that ever I did." She was not ashamed to say that He "told me all that ever I did." Yet she might have spoken otherwise, "Come, see one that prophesieth"; but when the soul is inflamed with holy fire, it looks then to nothing earthly, neither to glory nor to shame, but belongs to one thing alone, the flame which occupieth it.

"Is not this the Christ?" Observe again here the great wisdom of the woman; she neither declared the fact plainly, nor was she silent, for she desired not to bring them in by her own assertion, but to make them to share in this opinion by hearing Him; which rendered her words more readily acceptable to them. Yet He had not told all her life to her, only from what had been said she was persuaded (that He was informed) as to the rest. Nor did she say, "Come, believe," but, "Come, see"; a gentler [894] expression than the other, and one which more attracted them. Seest thou the wisdom of the woman? She knew, she knew certainly that having but tasted that Well, they would be affected in the same manner as herself. Yet any one of the grosser sort would have concealed the reproof which Jesus had given; but she parades her own life, and brings it forward before all men, so as to attract and capture all.

Ver. 31 . "In the mean time His disciples asked [895] Him, saying, Master, eat." "Asked," here is "besought," in their native language; for seeing Him wearied with the journey, and the oppressive heat, they entreated Him; for their request concerning food proceeded not from hastiness, but from loving affection for their Teacher? What then saith Christ?

Ver. 32, 33 . "I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore" (saith the Evangelist) "said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought Him aught to eat?"

Why now wonderest thou that the woman when she heard of "water," still imagined mere water to be meant, when even the disciples are in the same case, and as yet suppose nothing spiritual, but are perplexed? though they still show their accustomed modesty and reverence toward their Master, conversing one with the other, but not daring to put any question to Him. And this they do in other places, desiring to ask Him, but not asking. What then saith Christ?

Ver. 34 . "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work."

He here calleth the salvation of men "meat," showing what an earnest desire He hath of providing for us; [896] for as we long for food, so He that we may be saved. And hear how in all places He revealeth not all off-hand, but first throweth the hearer into perplexity, in order that having begun to seek the meaning of what has been said, and then being perplexed and in difficulty, he may when what he sought appears, receive it the more readily, and be made more attentive to listening. For wherefore said He not at once, "My meat is to do the will of My Father?" (though not even this would have been clear, yet clearer than the other.) But what saith He? "I have meat to eat that ye know not of"; for He desireth, as I said, first to make them more attentive through their uncertainty, and by dark sayings like these to accustom them to listen to His words. But what is "the will of the Father"? He next speaketh of this, and explaineth.

Ver. 35 . "Say ye not, that there are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look upon the fields, for they are white already to harvest."

[2.] Behold, He again by familiar words leadeth them up to the consideration of greater matters; for when He spoke of "meat," He signified nothing else than the salvation of the men who should come to Him; and again, the "field" and the "harvest" signify the very same thing, the multitude of souls prepared for the reception of the preaching; and the "eyes" of which He speaketh are those both of the mind and of the body; (for they now beheld the crowd of Samaritans advancing;) and the readiness of their will He calleth, "fields already white." For as the ears of corn, when they have become white, and are ready for reaping, so these, He saith, are prepared and fitted for salvation.

And wherefore instead of calling them "fields" and "harvest," did He not plainly say, that "the men were coming to believe and were ready to receive the Word, having been instructed by the Prophets; and now bringing forth fruit"? What mean these figures used by Him? for this He doth not here only, but through all the Gospel; and the Prophets also employ the same method, saying many things in a metaphorical manner. What then may be the cause of this? for the grace of the Spirit did not ordain it to be so without a reason, but why and wherefore? On two accounts; one, that the discourse may be more vivid, and bring what is said more clearly before our eyes. For the mind when it has laid hold on a familiar image of the matters in hand, is more aroused, and beholding them as it were in a picture, is occupied by them to a greater degree. This is one reason; the other is, that the statement may be sweetened, and that the memory of what is said may be more lasting. For assertion does not subdue and bring in an ordinary hearer so much as narration by objects, and the representation of experience. [897] Which one may here see most wisely effected by the parable.

Ver. 36 . "And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal."

For the fruit of an earthly harvest profiteth not to life eternal, but to this which is for a time; but the spiritual fruit to that which hath neither age nor death. Seest thou that the expressions are of sense, but the thoughts spiritual, and that by the very words themselves He divideth things earthly from heavenly? For when in discoursing of water He made this the peculiar property of the heavenly Water, that "he who drinketh it shall never thirst," so He doth here also when He saith, "that this fruit is gathered unto eternal life."

"That both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together."

Who is "he that soweth"? Who "he that reapeth"? The Prophets are they that sowed but they reaped not, but the Apostles. "Yet not on this account are they deprived of the pleasure and recompense of their labors, but they rejoice and are glad with us, although they reap not with us. For harvest is not such work as sowing. I therefore have kept you for that in which the toil is less and the pleasure greater, and not for sowing because in that there is much hardship and toil. In harvest the return is large, the labor not so great; nay there is much facility." [898] By these arguments He here desireth to prove, that "the wish of the Prophets is, that all men should come to Me." This also the Law was engaged in effecting; and for this they sowed, that they might produce this fruit. [899] He showeth moreover that He sent them also, and that there was a very intimate connection between the New Covenant and the Old, and all this He effecteth at once by this parable. He maketh mention also of a proverbial expression generally circulated.

Ver. 37 . "Herein," He saith, "is that saying true, One soweth and another reapeth."

These words the many used whenever one party had supplied toil and another had reaped the fruits; and He saith, "that the proverb is in this instance especially true, for the Prophets labored, and ye reap the fruits of their labors." He said not "the rewards," (for neither did their great labor go unrewarded,) but "the fruits." This also Daniel did, for he too makes mention of a proverb, "Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked"; and David in his lamenting makes mention of a similar proverb. [900] Therefore He said beforehand, "that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together." For since He was about to declare, that "one hath sowed and another reapeth," lest any one should deem that the Prophets were deprived of their reward, He asserteth something strange and paradoxical, such as never chanceth in sensual things, but is peculiar to spiritual only. For in things of sense, if it chance that one sow and another reap, they do not "rejoice together," but those who sowed are sad, as having labored for others, and those who reap alone rejoice. But here it is not so, but those who reap not what they sowed rejoice alike with those who reap; whence it is clear that they too share the reward.

Ver. 38 . "I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labors; other men labored, and ye are entered into their labors."

By this He the more encourageth them; for when it seemed a very hard matter to go through all the world and preach the Gospel, He showeth them that it is even most [901] easy. The very difficult work was that other, which required great labor, the putting in the seed, and introducing the uninitiated soul to the knowledge of God. But wherefore uttereth He these sayings? It is that when He sendeth them to preach they may not be confounded, as though sent on a difficult task. "For that of the Prophets," He saith, "was the more difficult, and the fact witnesseth to My word, that ye are come to what is easy; because as in harvest time the fruits are collected with ease, and in one moment the floor is filled with sheaves, which await [902] not the revolutions of the seasons, and winter, and spring, and rain, so it is now. The facts proclaim it aloud." While He was in the midst of saying these things, the Samaritans came forth, and the fruit was at once gathered together. On this account [903] He said, "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white." Thus He spake, and the fact was clear, and the words seen (true) by the event. For saith St. John,

Ver. 39 . "Many of the Samaritans of that city believed on Him for the saying of the woman which testified, He told me all that ever I did."

They perceived [904] that the woman would not from favor have admired One who had rebuked her sins, nor to gratify another have paraded her own course of life.

[3.] Let us then also imitate this woman, and in the case of our own sins not be ashamed of men, but fear, as is meet, God who now beholdeth what is done, and who hereafter punisheth those who do not now repent. At present we do the opposite of this, for we fear not Him who shall judge us, but shudder at those who do not in anything hurt us, and tremble at the shame which comes from them. Therefore in the very thing which we fear, in this do we incur punishment. For he who now regards only the reproach of men, but when God seeth is not ashamed to do anything unseemly, and who will not repent and be converted, in that day will be made an example, not only before one or two, but in the sight of the whole world. For that a vast assembly is seated there to behold righteous actions as well as those which are not such, let the parable of the sheep and the goats teach thee, as also the blessed Paul when He saith, "For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" ( 2 Cor. v. 10 ), and again, "Who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness." ( 1 Cor. iv. 5 .) Hast thou done or imagined any evil thing, and dost thou hide it from man? yet from God thou hidest it not. But for this thou careth nothing; the eyes of men, these are thy fear. Think then that thou wilt not be able to escape the sight even of men in that day [905] ; for all things as in a picture shall then be set before our very eyes, so that each shall be self-condemned. This is clear even from the instance of Dives, for the poor man whom he had neglected, Lazarus I mean, he saw standing before his eyes, and the finger which he had often loathed, he intreats may become a comfort to him then. I exhort you therefore, that although no one see what we do, yet that each of us enter into his own conscience, and set reason for his judge, and bring forward his transgressions, and if he desire them not to be exposed to public view then in that fearful day, let him now heal his wounds, let him apply to them the medicines of repentance. For it is in the power, yea, it is in the power of one full of ten thousand wounds to go hence whole. For "if ye forgive," He saith, "your sins are forgiven unto you." [906] ( Matt. vi. 14 , not verbally quoted.) For as sins buried [907] in Baptism appear no more, so these [908] also shall disappear, if we be willing to repent. And repentance is the not doing the same again; for he that again puts his hand to the same, is like the dog that returneth to his own vomit, and like him in the proverb who cards wool into the fire, [909] and draws water into a cask full of holes. It behooves therefore to depart both in action and in thought from what we have dared to do, and having departed, to apply to the wounds the remedies which are the contraries of our sins. For instance: hast thou been grasping and covetous? Abstain from rapine, and apply almsgiving to the wound. Hast thou been a fornicator? Abstain from fornication, and apply chastity to the wound. Hast thou spoken ill of thy brother, and injured him? Cease finding fault, [910] and apply kindness. Let us thus act with respect to each point in which we have offended, and let us not carelessly pass by our sins, for there awaiteth us hereafter, there awaiteth us a season of account. Wherefore also Paul said, "The Lord is at hand: be careful for nothing." ( Philip. iv. 5, 6 .) But we perhaps must add the contrary of this, "The Lord is at hand, be careful." For they might well hear, "Be careful for nothing," living as they did in affliction, and labors, and trials; but they who live by rapine, or in luxury, and who shall give a grievous reckoning, would in reason hear not this, but that other, "The Lord is at hand, be careful." Since no long time now remains until the consummation, but the world is hastening to its end; this the wars declare, this the afflictions, this the earthquakes, this the love which hath waxed cold. For as the body when in its last gasp and near to death, draws to itself ten thousand sufferings; and as when a house is about to fall, many portions are wont to fall beforehand from the roof and walls; so is the end of the world nigh and at the very doors, and therefore ten thousand woes are everywhere scattered abroad. If the Lord was then "at hand," much more is He now "at hand." If three hundred [911] years ago, when those words were used, Paul called that season "the fullness of time," much more would he have called the present so. But perhaps for this very reason some disbelieve, yet they ought on this account to believe the more. For whence knowest thou, O man, that the end is not "at hand," and the words shortly to be accomplished? For as we speak of the end of the year not as being the last day, but also the last month, though it has thirty days; so if of so many years I call even four hundred years "the end," I shall not be wrong; and so at that time Paul spoke of the end by anticipation. Let us then set ourselves in order, let us delight in the fear of God; for if we live here without fear of Him, His coming will surprise us suddenly, when we are neither careful, nor looking for Him. As Christ declared when He said, "For as in the days of Noah, and as in the days of Lot, so shall it be at the end of this world." ( Matt. xxiv. 37 , not verbally quoted.) This also Paul declared when he said, "For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child." ( 1 Thess. v. 3 .) What means, "as travail upon a woman with child"? Often have pregnant women when sporting, or at their meals, or in the bath or market-place, and foreseeing nothing of what was coming, been seized in a moment by their pains. Now since our case is like theirs, let us ever be prepared, for we shall not always hear these things, we shall not always have power to do them. "In the grave" saith David, "who shall give Thee thanks?" [912] ( Ps. vi. 5 .) Let us then repent here, that so we may find God merciful unto us in the day that is to come, and be enabled to enjoy abundant forgiveness; which may we all obtain, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and dominion now and ever, and world without end. Amen.

Footnotes

[890] ho s ou lambanei k.t.l . G. T. [891] Ben. " in a higher degree. " [892] al. " by grace. " [893] i.e. to their infirmity. [894] al. " more fearful. " [895] e roton . E.V. prayed: Ben and ms. in Bodl. e roton entautha parekaloun esti, te enchorio auton phone [896] ms. in Bodl. " our salvation. " [897] i.e. given by means of things which are objects of experience. hu pographe peiras , al. peira [898] eukolia , al. rh astone [899] al. " by this. " [900] There is no authority for a different reading, but it seems to be rightly conjectured by Savile and Ben. that the names " Daniel " and " David " should be transposed. The proverb is that used by David, 1 Sam. xxiv. 13 , and the other passage alluded to may be Dan. xii. 10 , " the wicked shall do wickedly. " ms. in Bodl. reads, a nomia ek babulonos for e x anomon plemmeleia [901] al. " more. " [902] al. " awaits. " [903] ms. in Bodl. " alluding to these. " [904] ms. in Bodl. " as soon as they heard the woman they believed, for they, " &c. [905] ms. in Bodleian reads here, " and be more careful than thy (present) self. " [906] ms. in Bodl. reads, " My Heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if ye forgive not, neither will He forgive you. " [907] katachonnumena [908] i.e. sins done after Baptism. [909] Eis pur xainonti . Plat. Legg. vi. p. 750. " And like, " &c. is not in the text of Savile. [910] al. " speaking evil. " [911] al. " four hundred. " [912] or, " confess to Thee. "


Also, see links to 600 other Chrysostom Manuscripts:
/believe/txv/earlycho.htm
/believe/txv/earlychp.htm
/believe/txv/earlychq.htm
/believe/txv/earlycia.htm
/believe/txv/earlycib.htm
/believe/txv/earlycic.htm
/believe/txv/earlycid.htm



E-mail to: BELIEVE




The main BELIEVE web-page (and the index to subjects) is at: BELIEVE Religious Information Source - By Alphabet http://mb-soft.com/believe/indexaz.html