The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, concerning all things which Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day on which, having given charge to the Apostles, whom He had chosen, by the Holy Spirit, He was taken up.
To many persons this Book is so little known, both it and its author, that they are not even aware that there is such a book in existence. For this reason especially I have taken this narrative for my subject, that I may draw to it such as do not know it, and not let such a treasure as this remain hidden out of sight. For indeed it may profit us no less than even the Gospels; so replete is it with Christian wisdom and sound doctrine, especially in what is said concerning the Holy Ghost. Then let us not hastily pass by it, but examine it closely. Thus, the predictions which in the Gospels Christ utters, here we may see these actually come to pass; and note in the very facts the bright evidence of Truth which shines in them, and the mighty change which is taking place in the disciples now that the Spirit has come upon them. For example, they heard Christ say,
Whoso believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do John 14:12: and again, when He foretold to the disciples, that they should be brought before rulers and kings, and in their synagogues they should scourge them, and that they should suffer grievous things, and overcome all Matthew 10:18: and that the Gospel should be preached in all the world Matthew 24:14: now all this, how it came to pass exactly as it was said, may be seen in this Book, and more besides, which He told them while yet with them. Here again you will see the Apostles themselves, speeding their way as on wings over land and sea; and those same men, once so timorous and void of understanding, on the sudden become quite other than they were; men despising wealth, and raised above glory and passion and concupiscence, and in short all such affections: moreover, what unanimity there is among them now; nowhere any envying as there was before, nor any of the old hankering after the preeminence, but all virtue brought in them to its last finish, and shining through all, with surpassing lustre, that charity, concerning which the Lord had given so many charges saying,
In this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35 And then, besides, there are doctrines to be found here, which we could not have known so surely as we now do, if this Book had not existed, but the very crowning point of our salvation would be hidden, alike for practice of life and for doctrine.
The greater part, however, of this work is occupied with the acts of Paul, who
laboured more abundantly than they all. 1 Corinthians 15:10 And the reason is, that the author of this Book, that is, the blessed Luke, was his companion: a man, whose high qualities, sufficiently visible in many other instances, are especially shown in his firm adherence to his Teacher, whom he constantly followed. Thus at a time when all had forsaken him, one gone into Galatia, another into Dalmatia, hear what he says of this disciple:
Only Luke is with me. 2 Timothy 4:10 And giving the Corinthians a charge concerning him, he says,
Whose praise is in the Gospel throughout all the Churches. 2 Corinthians 8:18 Again, when he says,
He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve, and,
according to the Gospel which you received (1 Corinthians 15:5, 1), he means the Gospel of this Luke. So that there can be no mistake in attributing this work to him: and when I say, to him, I mean, to Christ. And why then did he not relate every thing, seeing he was with Paul to the end? We may answer, that what is here written, was sufficient for those who would attend, and that the sacred writers ever addressed themselves to the matter of immediate importance, whatever it might be at the time: it was no object with them to be writers of books: in fact, there are many things which they have delivered by unwritten tradition. Now while all that is contained in this Book is worthy of admiration, so is especially the way the Apostles have of coming down to the wants of their hearers: a condescension suggested by the Spirit who has so ordered it, that the subject on which they chiefly dwell is that which pertains to Christ as man. For so it is, that while they discourse so much about Christ, they have spoken but little concerning His Godhead; it was mostly of the Manhood that they discoursed, and of the Passion, and the Resurrection, and the Ascension. For the thing required in the first instance was this, that it should be believed that He was risen, and ascended into heaven. As then the point on which Christ himself most insisted was, to have it known that He had come from the Father, so is it this writer's principal object to declare, that Christ was risen from the dead, and was received up into Heaven, and that He went to God, and came from God. For, if the fact of His coming from God were not first believed, much more, with the Resurrection and Ascension added thereto, would the Jews have found the entire doctrine incredible. Wherefore gently and by degrees he leads them on to higher truths. Nay, at Athens Paul even calls Him man simply, without saying more Acts 17:31. For if, when Christ Himself spoke of His equality with the Father, they often attempted to stone Him, and called Him a blasphemer for this reason, it was little to be expected that they would receive this doctrine from the fishermen, and that too, with the Cross coming before it.
But why speak of the Jews, seeing that even the disciples often upon hearing the more sublime doctrines were troubled and offended? Therefore also He told them,
I have many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now. John 16:12 If those could not, who had been so long time with Him, and had been admitted to so many secrets, and had seen so many wonders, how was it to be expected that men, but newly dragged away from altars, and idols, and sacrifices, and cats, and crocodiles (for such did the Gentiles worship), and from the rest of their evil ways, should all at once receive the more sublime matters of doctrine? And how in particular should Jews, hearing as they did every day of their lives, and having it ever sounded in their ears,
The Lord your God is one Lord, and beside Him is none other Deuteronomy 6:4: who also had seen Him hanging nailed on the Cross, nay, had themselves crucified and buried Him, and not seen Him even risen: when they were told that this same person was God and equal with the Father, how should they, of all men, be otherwise than shocked and revolted? Therefore it is that gently and little by little they carry them on, with much consideration and forbearance letting themselves down to their low attainments, themselves the while enjoying in more plentiful measure the grace of the Spirit, and doing greater works in Christ's name than Christ Himself did, that they may at once raise them up from their grovelling apprehensions, and confirm the saying, that Christ was raised from the dead. For this, in fact, is just what this Book is: a Demonstration of the Resurrection: this being once believed, the rest would come in due course. The subject then and entire scope of this Book, in the main, is just what I have said. And now let us hear the Preface itself.
The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach.
Acts 1:1 Why does he put him in mind of the Gospel? To intimate how strictly he may be depended upon. For at the outset of the former work he says,
It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto you in order. Luke 1:3 Neither is he content with his own testimony, but refers the whole matter to the Apostles, saying,
Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word. Luke 1:2 Having then accredited his account in the former instance, he has no need to put forth his credentials afresh for this treatise, seeing his disciple has been once for all satisfied, and by the mention of that former work he has reminded him of the strict reliance to be placed in him for the truth. For if a person has shown himself competent and trustworthy to write of things which he has heard, and moreover has obtained our confidence, much more will he have a right to our confidence when he has composed an account, not of things which he has received from others, but of things which he has seen and heard. For you received what relates to Christ; much more will you receive what concerns the Apostles.
What then, (it may be asked), is it a question only of history, with which the Holy Spirit has nothing to do? Not so. For, if
those delivered it unto us, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word; then, what he says, is theirs. And why did he not say, 'As they who were counted worthy of the Holy Spirit delivered them unto us;' but
Those who were eyewitnesses? Because, in matter of belief, the very thing that gives one a right to be believed, is the having learned from eyewitnesses: whereas the other appears to foolish persons mere parade and pretension. And therefore John also speaks thus:
I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. John 1:34 And Christ expresses Himself in the same way to Nicodemus, while he was dull of apprehension,
We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and no one receives our witness. John 3:11 Accordingly, He gave them leave to rest their testimony in many particulars on the fact of their having seen them, when He said,
And do ye bear witness concerning Me, because you have been with Me from the beginning. John 15:27 The Apostles themselves also often speak in a similar manner;
We are witnesses, and the Holy Spirit which God has given to those that obey Him. Acts 2:32; and on a subsequent occasion, Peter, still giving assurance of the Resurrection, said,
Seeing we ate and drank with Him. Acts 10:41 For they more readily received the testimony of persons who had been His companions, because the notion of the Spirit was as yet very much beyond them. Therefore John also at that time, in his Gospel, speaking of the blood and water, said, he himself saw it, making the fact of his having seen it equivalent, for them, to the highest testimony, although the witness of the Spirit is more certain than the evidence of sight, but not so with unbelievers. Now that Luke was a partaker of the Spirit, is abundantly clear, both from the miracles which even now take place; and from the fact that in those times even ordinary persons were gifted with the Holy Ghost; and again from the testimony of Paul, in these words,
Whose praise is in the Gospel 2 Corinthians 8:18; and from the appointment to which he was chosen: for having said this, the Apostle adds,
But also appointed of the Churches to travel with us with this grace which is administered by us.
Now mark how unassuming he is. He does not say, The former Gospel which I preached, but,
The former treatise have I made; accounting the title of Gospel to be too great for him; although it is on the score of this that the Apostle dignifies him:
Whose praise, he says,
is in the Gospel. But he himself modestly says,
The former treatise have I made— O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach: not simply
of all, but from the beginning to the end;
until the day, he says,
in which He was taken up. And yet John says, that it was not possible to write all: for
were they written, I suppose, says he,
that even the world itself could not contain the books written. John 21:25 How then does the Evangelist here say,
Of all? He does not say
of all, as much as to say,
in a summary way, and in the gross; and
of all that is mainly and pressingly important. Then he tells us in what sense he says all, when he adds,
Which Jesus began both to do and to teach; meaning His miracles and teaching; and not only so, but implying that His doing was also a teaching.
But now consider the benevolent and Apostolic feelings of the writer: that for the sake of a single individual he took such pains as to write for him an entire Gospel.
That you might have, he says,
the certainty of those things, wherein you have been instructed. Luke 1:4 In truth, he had heard Christ say,
It is not the will of My Father that one of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:14 And why did he not make one book of it, to send to one man Theophilus, but has divided it into two subjects? For clearness, and to give the brother a pause for rest. Besides, the two treatises are distinct in their subject-matter.
But consider how Christ accredited his words by His deeds. Thus He says,
Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart. Matthew 11:29 He taught men to be poor, and exhibited this by His actions:
For the Son of Man, He says,
has not where to lay His head. Matthew 8:20 Again, He charged men to love their enemies; and He taught the same lesson on the Cross, when He prayed for those who were crucifying Him. He said,
If any man will sue you at the law, and take away your coat, let him have your cloak also Matthew 5:40: now He not only gave His garments, but even His blood. In this way He bade others teach. Wherefore Paul also said,
So as you have us for an example. Philippians 3:17 For nothing is more frigid than a teacher who shows his philosophy only in words: this is to act the part not of a teacher, but of a hypocrite. Therefore the Apostles first taught by their conduct, and then by their words; nay rather they had no need of words, when their deeds spoke so loud. Nor is it wrong to speak of Christ's Passion as action, for in suffering all He performed that great and wonderful act, by which He destroyed death, and effected all else that He did for us.
Until the day in which He was taken up, after that He, through the Holy Spirit, had given commandments unto the Apostles whom He had chosen. After He had given commandments through the Spirit
Acts 1:2; i.e. they were spiritual words that He spoke unto them, nothing human; either this is the meaning, or, that it was by the Spirit that He gave them commandments. Do you observe in what low terms he still speaks of Christ, as in fact Christ had spoken of Himself?
But if I by the Spirit of God cast out devils Matthew 12:28; for indeed the Holy Ghost wrought in that Temple. Well, what did He command?
Go ye therefore, He says,
make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. (Ib. 28:19-20.) A high encomium this for the Apostles; to have such a charge entrusted to them, I mean, the salvation of the world! Words full of the Spirit! And this the writer hints at in the expression,
through the Holy Ghost (and,
the words which I spoke unto you, says the Lord,
are Spirit) John 6:63; thus leading the hearer on to a desire of learning what the commands were, and establishing the authority of the Apostles, seeing it is the words of the Spirit they are about to speak, and the commandments of Christ.
After He had given commandments, he says,
He was taken up. He does not say, 'ascended;' he still speaks as concerning a man. It appears then that He also taught the Disciples after His resurrection, but of this space of time no one has related to us the whole in detail. St. John indeed, as also does the present writer, dwells at greater length on this subject than the others; but none has clearly related every thing (for they hastened to something else); however, we have learned these things through the Apostles, for what they heard, that did they tell.
To whom also He showed Himself alive. Having first spoken of the Ascension, he adverts to the Resurrection; for since you have been told that
He was taken up, therefore, lest you should suppose Him to have been taken up by others , he adds,
To whom He showed Himself alive. For if He showed Himself in the greater, surely He did in the minor circumstance. Do you see, how casually and unperceived he drops by the way the seeds of these great doctrines?
Being seen of them during forty days. He was not always with them now, as He was before the Resurrection. For the writer does not say
forty days, but,
during forty days. He came, and again disappeared; by this leading them on to higher conceptions, and no longer permitting them to stand affected towards Him in the same way as before, but taking effectual measures to secure both these objects, that the fact of His Resurrection should be believed, and that He Himself should be ever after apprehended to be greater than man. At the same time, these were two opposite things; for in order to the belief in His Resurrection, much was to be done of a human character, and for the other object, just the reverse. Nevertheless, both results have been effected, each when the fitting time arrived.
But why did He appear not to all, but to the Apostles only? Because to the many it would have seemed a mere apparition, inasmuch as they understood not the secret of the mystery. For if the disciples themselves were at first incredulous and were troubled, and needed the evidence of actual touch with the hand, and of His eating with them, how would it have fared in all likelihood with the multitude? For this reason therefore by the miracles [wrought by the Apostles] He renders the evidence of His Resurrection unequivocal, so that not only the men of those times— this is what would come of the ocular proof— but also all men thereafter, should be certain of the fact, that He was risen. Upon this ground also we argue with unbelievers. For if He did not rise again, but remains dead, how did the Apostles perform miracles in His name? But they did not, say you, perform miracles? How then was our religion (ἔ θνος) instituted? For this certainly they will not controvert nor impugn what we see with our eyes: so that when they say that no miracles took place, they inflict a worse stab upon themselves. For this would be the greatest of miracles, that without any miracles, the whole world should have eagerly come to be taken in the nets of twelve poor and illiterate men. For not by wealth of money, not by wisdom of words, not by any thing else of this kind, did the fishermen prevail; so that objectors must even against their will acknowledge that there was in these men a Divine power, for no human strength could ever possibly effect such great results. For this He then remained forty days on earth, furnishing in this length of time the sure evidence of their seeing Him in His own proper Person, that they might not suppose that what they saw was a phantom. And not content with this, He added also the evidence of eating with them at their board: as to signify this, the writer adds,
And being at table with them, He commanded.
Acts 1:4 And this circumstance the Apostles themselves always put forth as an fallible token of the Resurrection; as where they say,
Who ate and drank with Him. Acts 10:41
And what did He, when appearing unto them those forty days? Why, He conversed with them, says the writer,
concerning the kingdom of God. Acts 1:3
For, since the disciples both had been distressed and troubled at the things which already had taken place, and were about to go forth to encounter great difficulties, He recovered them by His discourses concerning the future.
He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father.
Acts 1:4 First, He led them out to Galilee, afraid and trembling, in order that they might listen to His words in security. Afterwards, when they had heard, and had passed forty days with Him,
He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem. Wherefore? Just as when soldiers are to charge a multitude, no one thinks of letting them issue forth until they have armed themselves, or as horses are not suffered to start from the barriers until they have got their charioteer; so Christ did not suffer these to appear in the field before the descent of the Spirit, that they might not be in a condition to be easily defeated and taken captive by the many. Nor was this the only reason, but also there were many in Jerusalem who should believe. And then again that it might not be said, that leaving their own acquaintance, they had gone to make a parade among strangers, therefore among those very men who had put Christ to death do they exhibit the proofs of His Resurrection, among those who had crucified and buried Him, in the very town in which the iniquitous deed had been perpetrated; thereby stopping the mouths of all foreign objectors. For when those even who had crucified Him appear as believers, clearly this proved both the fact of the crucifixion and the iniquity of the deed, and afforded a mighty evidence of the Resurrection. Furthermore, lest the Apostles should say, How shall it be possible for us to live among wicked and bloody men, they so many in number, we so few and contemptible, observe how He does away their fear and distress, by these words,
But wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard of Me.
Acts 1:4 You will say, When had they heard this? When He said,
It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you. John 16:7 And again,
I will pray the Father, and He shall send you another Comforter, that He may abide with you. John 14:16
But why did the Holy Ghost come to them, not while Christ was present, nor even immediately after his departure, but, whereas Christ ascended on the fortieth day, the Spirit descended
when the day of Pentecost, that is, the fiftieth,
was fully come? Acts 2:1 And how was it, if the Spirit had not yet come, that He said,
Receive the Holy Ghost? John 20:22 In order to render them capable and meet for the reception of Him. For if Daniel fainted at the sight of an Angel Daniel 8:17, much more would these when about to receive so great a grace. Either this then is to be said, or else that Christ spoke of what was to come, as if come already; as when He said,
Tread ye upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the devil. Luke 10:19 But why had the Holy Ghost not yet come? It was fit that they should first be brought to have a longing desire for that event, and so receive the grace. For this reason Christ Himself departed, and then the Spirit descended. For had He Himself been there, they would not have expected the Spirit so earnestly as they did. On this account neither did He come immediately after Christ's Ascension, but after eight or nine days. It is the same with us also; for our desires towards God are then most raised, when we stand in need. Accordingly, John chose that time to send his disciples to Christ when they were likely to feel their need of Jesus, during his own imprisonment. Besides, it was fit that our nature should be seen in heaven, and that the reconciliation should be perfected, and then the Spirit should come, and the joy should be unalloyed. For, if the Spirit being already come, Christ had then departed, and the Spirit remained; the consolation would not have been so great as it was. For in fact they clung to Him, and could not bear to part with Him; wherefore also to comfort them He said,
It is expedient for you that I go away. John 16:7 On this account He also waits during those intermediate days, that they might first despond for awhile, and be made, as I said, to feel their need of Him. and then reap a full and unalloyed delight. But if the Spirit were inferior to the Son, the consolation would not have been adequate; and how could He have said,
It is expedient for you? For this reason the greater matters of teaching were reserved for the Spirit, that the disciples might not imagine Him inferior.
Consider also how necessary He made it for them to abide in Jerusalem, by promising that the Spirit should be granted them. For lest they should again flee away after His Ascension, by this expectation, as by a bond, He keeps them to that spot. But having said,
Wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard of Me, He then adds,
For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. (v. 4-5.) For now indeed He gives them to see the difference there was between Him and John, plainly, and not as heretofore in obscure hints; for in fact He had spoken very obscurely, when He said,
Notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he: but now He says plainly,
John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Matthew 11:11 And he no longer uses the testimony, but merely adverts to the person of John, reminding the disciples of what he had said, and shows them that they are now become greater than John; seeing they too are to baptize with the Spirit. Again, He did not say, I baptize you with the Holy Ghost, but,
You shall be baptized: teaching us humility. For this was plain enough from the testimonyof John, that it was Christ Himself Who should baptize:
He it is that shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire Luke 3:16; wherefore also He made mention of John.
The Gospels, then, are a history of what Christ did and said; but the Acts, of what that
other Comforter said and did. Not but that the Spirit did many things in the Gospels also; even as Christ here in the Acts still works in men as He did in the Gospels: only then the Spirit wrought through the Temple, now through the Apostles: then, He came into the Virgin's womb, and fashioned the Temple; now, into Apostolic souls: then in the likeness of a dove; now, in the likeness of fire. And wherefore? Showing there the gentleness of the Lord, but here His taking vengeance also, He now puts them in mind of the judgment likewise. For, when need was to forgive, need was there of much gentleness; but now we have obtained the gift, it is henceforth a time for judgment and examination.
But why does Christ say,
You shall be baptized, when in fact there was no water in the upper room? Because the more essential part of Baptism is the Spirit, through Whom indeed the water has its operation; in the same manner our Lord also is said to be anointed, not that He had ever been anointed with oil, but because He had received the Spirit. Besides, we do in fact find them receiving a baptism with water [and a baptism with the Spirit], and these at different moments. In our case both take place under one act, but then they were divided. For in the beginning they were baptized by John; since, if harlots and publicans went to that baptism, much rather would they who thereafter were to be baptized by the Holy Ghost. Then, that the Apostles might not say, that they were always having it held out to them in promises John 14:15-16, (for indeed Christ had already discoursed much to them concerning the Spirit, that they should not imagine It to be an impersonal Energy or Operation, (ἐ νέργειαν ἀνυπόστατον) that they might not say this, then, He adds,
not many days hence. And He did not explain when, that they might always watch: but, that it would soon take place, He told them, that they might not faint; yet the exact time He refrained from adding, that they might always be vigilant. Nor does He assure them by this alone; I mean, by the shortness of the time, but withal by saying,
The promise which you have heard of Me. For this is not, says He, the only time I have told you, but already I have promised what I shall certainly perform. What wonder then that He does not signify the day of the final consummation, when this day which was so near He did not choose to reveal? And with good reason; to the end they may be ever wakeful, and in a state of expectation and earnest heed.
For it cannot, it cannot be, that a man should enjoy the benefit of grace except he watch. Do you see not what Elias says to his disciple?
If you see me when I am taken up 2 Kings 2:10, this that you ask shall be done for you. Christ also was ever wont to say unto those that came unto Him,
Believest thou? For if we be not appropriated and made over to the thing given, neither do we greatly feel the benefit. So it was also in the case of Paul; grace did not come to him immediately, but three days intervened, during which he was blind; purified the while, and prepared by fear. For as those who dye the purple first season with other ingredients the cloth that is to receive the dye, that the bloom may not be fleeting; so in this instance God first takes order that the soul shall be thoroughly in earnest, and then pours forth His grace. On this account also, neither did He immediately send the Spirit, but on the fiftieth day. Now if any one ask, why we also do not baptize at that season of Pentecost? We may answer, that grace is the same now as then; but the mind becomes more elevated now, by being prepared through fasting. And the season too of Pentecost furnishes a not unlikely reason. What may that be? Our fathers held Baptism to be just the proper curb upon evil concupiscence, and a powerful lesson for teaching to be sober-minded even in a time of delights.
As if then we were banquetting with Christ Himself, and partaking of His table, let us do nothing at random, but let us pass our time in fastings, and prayers, and much sobriety of mind. For if a man who is destined to enter upon some temporal government, prepares himself all his life long, and that he may obtain some dignity, lays out his money, spends his time, and submits to endless troubles; what shall we deserve, who draw near to the kingdom of heaven with such negligence, and both show no earnestness before we have received, and after having received are again negligent? Nay, this is the very reason why we are negligent after having received, that we did not watch before we had received. Therefore many, after they have received, immediately have returned to their former vomit, and have become more wicked, and drawn upon themselves a more severe punishment; when having been delivered from their former sins, herein they have more grievously provoked the Judge, that having been delivered from so great a disease, still they did not learn sobriety, but that has happened unto them, which Christ threatened to the paralytic man, saying,
Behold you are made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto you John 5:14: and which He also predicted of the Jews, that
the last state shall be worse than the first. Matthew 12:45 For if, says He, showing that by their ingratitude they should bring upon them the worst of evils,
if I had not come, and spoken unto them, they had not had sin John 15:22; so that the guilt of sins committed after these benefits is doubled and quadrupled, in that, after the honour put upon us, we show ourselves ungrateful and wicked. And the Laver of Baptism helps not a whit to procure for us a milder punishment. And consider: a man has gotten grievous sins by committing murder or adultery, or some other crime: these were remitted through Baptism. For there is no sin, no impiety, which does not yield and give place to this gift; for the Grace is Divine. A man has again committed adultery and murder; the former adultery is indeed done away, the murder forgiven, and not brought up again to his charge,
for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance Romans 11:29; but for those committed after Baptism he suffers a punishment as great as he would if both the former sins were brought up again, and many worse than these. For the guilt is no longer simply equal, but doubled and tripled. Look: in proof that the penalty of these sins is greater, hear what St. Paul says:
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 has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, and has done despite unto the Spirit of grace? Hebrews 10:28-29
Perhaps we have now deterred many from receiving baptism. Not however with this intention have we so spoken, but on purpose that having received it, they may continue in temperance and much moderation. 'But I am afraid,' says one. If you were afraid, you would have received and guarded it. 'Nay,' says he, 'but this is the very reason why I do not receive it—that I am frightened.' And are you not afraid to depart thus? 'God is merciful,' says he. Receive baptism then, because He is merciful and ready to help. But you, where to be in earnest is the thing required, dost not allege this mercifulness; you think of this only where you have a mind to do so. And yet that was the time to resort to God's mercy, and we shall then be surest of obtaining it, when we do our part. For he that has cast the whole matter upon God, and, after his baptism, sins, as being man it is likely, he may, and repents, shall obtain mercy; whereas he that prevaricates with God's mercy, and departs this life with no portion in that grace, shall have his punishment without a word to be said for him. 'But how if he depart,' say you, 'after having had the grace vouchsafed to him?' He will depart empty again of all good works. For it is impossible, yes, it is in my opinion impossible, that the man who upon such hopes dallied with baptism should have effected ought generous and good. And why do you harbor such fear, and presume upon the uncertain chance of the future? Why not convert this fear into labor and earnestness, and you shall be great and admirable? Which is best, to fear or to labor? Suppose some one to have placed you, having nothing to do, in a tottering house, saying, Look for the decaying roof to fall upon your head: for perhaps it will fall, perhaps not; but if you had rather it should not, then work and inhabit the more secure apartment: which would you have rather chosen, that idle condition accompanied with fear, or this labor with confidence? Why then, act now in the same way. For the uncertain future is like a decayed house, ever threatening to fall; but this work, laborious though it be, ensures safety.
Now God forbid that it should happen to us to fall into so great straits as to sin after baptism. However, even if anything such should happen, God is merciful, and has given us many ways of obtaining remission even after this. But just as those who sin after baptism are punished for this reason more severely than the Catechumens, so again, those who know that there are medicines in repentance, and yet will not make use of them, will undergo a more grievous chastisement. For by how much the mercy of God is enlarged, by so much does the punishment increase, if we do not duly profit by that mercy. What do you say, O man? When you were full of such grievous evils, and given over, suddenly you became a friend, and wast exalted to the highest honor, not by labors of your own, but by the gift of God: you again returned to your former misconduct; and though you deserved to be sorely punished, nevertheless, God did not turn away, but gave unnumbered opportunities of salvation, whereby you may yet become a friend: yet for all this, you have not the will to labor. What forgiveness can you deserve henceforth? Will not the Gentiles with good reason deride you as a worthless drone? For if there be power in that doctrine of yours, say they, what means this multitude of uninitiated persons? If the mysteries be excellent and desirable, let none receive baptism at his last gasp. For that is not the time for giving of mysteries but for making of wills; the time for mysteries is in health of mind and soundness of soul. For, if a man would not prefer to make his will in such a condition; and if he does so make it, he gives a handle for subsequent litigation (and this is the reason why testators premise these words:
Alive, in my senses, and in health, I make this disposal of my property:), how should it be possible for a person who is no longer master of his senses to go through the right course of preparation for the sacred mysteries? For if in the affairs of this life, the laws of the world would not permit a man who was not perfectly sound in mind to make a will, although it be in his own affairs that he would lay down the law; how, when you are receiving instruction concerning the kingdom of heaven, and the unspeakable riches of that world, shall it be possible for you to learn all clearly, when very likely too you are beside yourself through the violence of your malady? And when will you say those words to Christ, in the act of being buried with Him when at the point to depart hence? For indeed both by works and by words must we show our good will towards Him. Romans 6:4 Now what you are doing is all one, as if a man should want to be enlisted as a soldier, when the war is just about to break up; or to strip for the contest in the arena, just when the spectators have risen from their seats. For you have your arms given you, not that you should straightway depart hence, but that being equipped therewith, you may raise a trophy over the enemy. Let no one think that it is out of season to discourse on this subject, because it is not Lent now. Nay, this it is that vexes me, that you look to a set time in such matters. Whereas that Eunuch, barbarian as he was and on a journey, yea on the very highway, he did not seek for a set time Acts 8:27; no, nor the jailer, though he was in the midst of a set of prisoners, and the teacher he saw before him was a man scourged and in chains, and whom he was still to have in his custody. Acts 16:29 But here, not being inmates of a jail, nor out on a journey, many are putting off their baptism even to their last breath.
Now if you still questionest that Christ is God, stand away from the Church: be not here, even as a hearer of the Divine Word, and as one of the catechumens: but if you are sure of this, and know clearly this truth, why delay? Why shrink back and hesitate? For fear, say you, lest I should sin. But do you not fear what is worse, to depart for the next world with such a heavy burden? For it is not equally excusable, not to have gotten a grace set before you, and to have failed in attempting to live uprightly. If you be called to account, Why did you not come for it? What will you answer? In the other case you may allege the burden of your passions, and the difficulty of a virtuous life: but nothing of the kind here. For here is grace, freely conveying liberty. But you fear lest you should sin? Let this be your language after Baptism: and then entertain this fear, in order to hold fast the liberty you have received; not now, to prevent your receiving such a gift. Whereas now you are wary before baptism, and negligent after it. But you are waiting for Lent: and why? Has that season any advantage? Nay, it was not at the Passover that the Apostles received the grace, but at another season; and then three thousand (Luke says,) and five thousand were baptized: (ch. 2:41; 4:4, and ch. x.) and again Cornelius. Let us then not wait for a set time, lest by hesitating and putting off we depart empty, and destitute of so great gifts. What do you suppose is my anguish when I hear that any person has been taken away unbaptized, while I reflect upon the intolerable punishments of that life, the inexorable doom! Again, how I am grieved to behold others drawing near to their last gasp, and not brought to their right mind even then. Hence too it is that scenes take place quite unworthy of this gift. For whereas there ought to be joy, and dancing, and exultation, and wearing of garlands, when another is christened; the wife of the sick man has no sooner heard that the physician has ordered this, than she is overcome with grief, as if it were some dire calamity; she sets up the greatest lamentation, and nothing is heard all over the house but crying and wailing, just as it is when condemned criminals are led away to their doom. The sick man again is then more sorely grieved; and if he recovers from his illness, is as vexed as if some great harm had been done to him. For since he had not been prepared for a virtuous life, he has no heart for the conflicts which are to follow, and shrinks at the thought of them. Do you see what devices the devil contrives, what shame, what ridicule? Let us rid ourselves of this disgrace; let us live as Christ has enjoined. He gave us Baptism, not that we should receive and depart, but that we should show the fruits of it in our after life. How can one say to him who is departing and broken down, Bear fruit? Have you not heard that
the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace? Galatians 5:22 How comes it then that the very contrary takes place here? For the wife stands there mourning, when she ought to rejoice; the children weeping, when they ought to be glad together; the sick man himself lies there in darkness, and surrounded by noise and tumult, when he ought to be keeping high festival; full of exceeding despondency at the thought of leaving his children orphans, his wife a widow, his house desolate. Is this a state in which to draw near unto mysteries? Answer me; is this a state in which to approach the sacred table? Are such scenes to be tolerated? Should the Emperor send letters and release the prisoners in the jails, there is joy and gladness: God sends down the Holy Ghost from Heaven to remit not arrears of money, but a whole mass of sins, and do ye all bewail and lament? Why, how grossly unsuitable is this! Not to mention that sometimes it is upon the dead that the water has been poured, and holy mysteries flung upon the ground. However, not we are to blame for this, but men who are so perverse. I exhort you then to leave all, and turn and draw near to Baptism with all alacrity, that having given proof of great earnestness at this present time, we may obtain confidence for that which is to come; whereunto that we may attain, may it be granted unto us all by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.
Acts I. 6
When they therefore had come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, will You at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
When the disciples intend to ask anything, they approach Him together, that by dint of numbers they may abash Him into compliance. They well knew that in what He had said previously,
Of that day knows no man Matthew 24:36, He had merely declined telling them: therefore they again drew near, and put the question. They would not have put it had they been truly satisfied with that answer. For having heard that they were about to receive the Holy Ghost, they, as being now worthy of instruction, desired to learn. Also they were quite ready for freedom: for they had no mind to address themselves to danger; what they wished was to breathe freely again; for they were no light matters that had happened to them, but the utmost peril had impended over them. And without saying any thing to Him of the Holy Ghost, they put this question:
Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? They did not ask, when? But whether
at this time. So eager were they for that day. Indeed, to me it appears that they had not any clear notion of the nature of that kingdom; for the Spirit had not yet instructed them. And they do not say, When shall these things be? But they approach Him with greater honour, saying,
Will You at this time restore again the kingdom, as being now already fallen. For there they were still affected towards sensible objects, seeing they were not yet become better than those who were before them; here they have henceforth high conceptions concerning Christ. Since then their minds are elevated, He also speaks to them in a higher strain. For He no longer tells them,
Of that day not even the Son of Man knows Mark 13:32; but He says, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father has put in His own power
Acts 1:7 You ask things greater than your capacity, He would say. And yet even now they learned things that were much greater than this. And that you may see that this is strictly the case, look how many things I shall enumerate. What, I pray you, was greater than their having learned what they did learn? Thus, they learned that there is a Son of God, and that God has a Son equal with Himself in dignity John 5:17-20; they learned that there will be a resurrection Matthew 17:9; that when He ascended He sat on the right hand of God Luke 22:69; and what is still more stupendous, that Flesh is seated in heaven, and adored by Angels, and that He will come again Mark 16:19; they learned what is to take place in the judgment Matthew 16:27; learned that they shall then sit and judge the twelve tribes of Israel Luke 21:27; learned that the Jews would be cast out, and in their stead the Gentiles should come in Matthew 19:28. For, tell me, which is greater? To learn that a person will reign, or to learn the time when? Luke 21:24. Paul learned
things which it is not lawful for a man to utter 2 Corinthians 12:4; things that were before the world was made, he learned them all. Which is the more difficult, the beginning or the end? Clearly to learn the beginning. This, Moses learned, and the time when, and how long ago: and he enumerates the years. And the wise Solomon says,
I will make mention of things from the beginning of the world. And that the time is at hand, they do know: as Paul says,
The Lord is at hand, be careful for nothing. Philippians 4:5. These things they knew not [then], and yet He mentions many signs Matthew 24. But, as He has just said,
Not many days hence, wishing them to be vigilant, and did not openly declare the precise moment, so is it here also. However, it is not about the general Consummation that they now ask Him, but,
Will You at this time, say they,
restore the kingdom to Israel? And not even this did He reveal to them. They also asked this [about the end of the world] before: and as on that occasion He answered by leading them away from thinking that their deliverance was near and, on the contrary, cast them into the midst of perils, so likewise on this occasion but more mildly. For, that they may not imagine themselves to be wronged, and these things to be mere pretences, hear what He says: He immediately gives them that at which they rejoiced: for He adds:
But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Acts 1:8 Then, that they may make no more enquiries, straightway He was received up. Thus, just as on the former occasion He had darkened their minds by awe, and by saying,
I know not; here also He does so by being taken up. For great was their eagerness on the subject, and they would not have desisted; and yet it was very necessary that they should not learn this. For tell me, which do the Gentiles most disbelieve? That there will be a consummation of the world, or that God has become man, and issued from the Virgin? But I am ashamed of dwelling on this point, as if it were about some difficult matter. Then again, that the disciples might not say, Why do you leave the matter in suspense? He adds,
Which the Father has put in His own power. And yet He declared the Father's power and His to be one: as in the saying,
For as the Father raises up the dead and quickens them, even so the Son quickens whom He will. John 5:21 If where need is to work, Thou actest with the same power as the Father; where it behooves to know, dost Thou not know with the same power? Yet certainly to raise up the dead is much greater than to learn the day. If the greater be with power, much more the other.
But just as when we see a child crying, and pertinaciously wishing to get something from us that is not expedient for him, we hide the thing, and show him our empty hands, and say,
See, we have it not: the like has Christ here done with the Apostles. But as the child, even when we show him [our empty hands], persists with his crying, conscious he has been deceived, and then we leave him, and depart, saying,
Such an one calls me: and we give him something else instead, in order to divert him from his desire, telling him it is a much finer thing than the other, and then hasten away; in like manner Christ acted. The disciples asked to have something, and He said He had it not. And on the first occasion he frightened them. Then again they asked to have it now: He said He had it not; and He did not frighten them now, but after having shown [the empty hands], He has done this, and gives them a plausible reason:
Which the Father, He says,
has put in his own power. What? Thou not know the things of the Father! You know Him, and not what belongs to Him! And yet You have said,
None knows the Father but the Son Luke 10:25; and,
The Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God 1 Corinthians 2:10; and Thou not know this! But they feared to ask Him again, lest they should hear Him say,
Are ye also without understanding? Matthew 15:26 For they feared Him now much more than before.
But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost has come upon you. As in the former instance He had not answered their question (for it is the part of a teacher to teach not what the disciple chooses, but what is expedient for him to learn), so in this, He tells them beforehand, for this reason, what they ought to know, that they may not be troubled. In truth, they were yet weak. But to inspire them with confidence, He raised up their souls, and concealed what was grievous. Since he was about to leave them very shortly, therefore in this discourse He says nothing painful. But how? He extols as great the things which would be painful: all but saying,
'Fear not': for you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria. For since he had said,
Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not Matthew 10:5, what there He left unsaid, He here adds,
And to the uttermost part of the earth; and having spoken this, which was more fearful than all the rest, then that they may not again question Him, He held His peace.
And having this said, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight
Do you see that they did preach and fulfil the Gospel? For great was the gift He had bestowed on them. In the very place, He says, where you are afraid, that is, in Jerusalem, there preach ye first, and afterwards unto the uttermost part of the earth. Then for assurance of what He had said,
While they beheld, He was taken up. Not
while they beheld did He rise from the dead, but
while they beheld, He was taken up. Inasmuch, however, as the sight of their eyes even here was not all-sufficient; for in the Resurrection they saw the end, but not the beginning, and in the Ascension they saw the beginning, but not the end: because in the former it had been superfluous to have seen the beginning, the Lord Himself Who spoke these things being present, and the sepulchre showing clearly that He is not there; but in the latter, they needed to be informed of the sequel by word of others: inasmuch then as their eyes do not suffice to show them the height above, nor to inform them whether He is actually gone up into heaven, or only seemingly into heaven, see then what follows. That it was Jesus Himself they knew from the fact that He had been conversing with them (for had they seen only from a distance, they could not have recognized Him by sight), but that He is taken up into Heaven the Angels themselves inform them. Observe how it is ordered, that not all is done by the Spirit, but the eyes also do their part. But why did
a cloud receive Him? This too was a sure sign that He went up to Heaven. Not fire, as in the case of Elijah, nor fiery chariot, but
a cloud received Him; which was a symbol of Heaven, as the Prophet says;
Who makes the clouds His chariot Psalm 104:3; it is of the Father Himself that this is said. Therefore he says,
on a cloud; in the symbol, he would say, of the Divine power, for no other Power is seen to appear on a cloud. For hear again what another Prophet says:
The Lord sits upon a light cloud Isaiah 19:1. For it was while they were listening with great attention to what He was saying, and this in answer to a very interesting question, and with their minds fully aroused and quite awake, that this thing took place. Also on the mount [Sinai] the cloud was because of Him: since Moses also entered into the darkness, but the cloud there was not because of Moses. And He did not merely say,
I go, lest they should again grieve, but He said,
I send the Spirit John 16:5-7; and that He was going away into heaven they saw with their eyes. O what a sight they were granted!
And while they looked steadfastly, it is said,
toward heaven, as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, You men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven— they used the expression
This demonstratively, saying,
this Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall thus— demonstratively,
in this way—
come in like manner as you have seen Him going into heaven. (v. 10-11.) Again, the outward appearance is cheering [
in white apparel]. They were Angels, in the form of men. And they say,
You men of Galilee: they showed themselves to be trusted by the disciples, by saying,
You men of Galilee. For this was the meaning: else, what needed they to be told of their country, who knew it well enough? By their appearance also they attracted their regard, and showed that they were from heaven. But wherefore does not Christ Himself tell them these things, instead of the Angels? He had beforehand told them all things; [
What if you shall see the Son of Man] going up where He was before? John 6:62.
Moreover the Angels did not say, 'whom you have seen taken up,' but,
going into heaven: ascension is the word, not assumption; the expression
taken up, belongs to the flesh. For the same reason they say,
He which is taken up from you shall thus come, not,
shall be sent, but,
shall come. He that ascended, the same is he also that descended Ephesians 4:10. So again the expression,
a cloud received Him: for He Himself mounted upon the cloud. Of the expressions, some are adapted to the conceptions of the disciples, some agreeable with the Divine Majesty. Now, as they behold, their conceptions are elevated: He has given them no slight hint of the nature of His second coming. For this,
Shall thus come, means, with the body; which thing they desired to hear; and, that he shall come again to judgment
thus upon a cloud.
And, behold, two men stood by them. Why is it said,
men? Because they had fashioned themselves completely as such, that the beholders might not be overpowered.
Which also said: their words moreover were calculated for soothing:
Why stand ye gazing up into heaven? They would not let them any longer wait there for Him. Here again, these tell what is greater, and leave the less unsaid. That
He will thus come, they say, and that
ye must look for Him from heaven. For the rest, they called them off from that spectacle to their saying, that they might not, because they could not see Him, imagine that He was not ascended, but even while they are conversing, would be present ere they were aware. For if they said on a former occasion,
Where are You going? John 13:36 much more would they have said it now.
Will You at this time, say they,
restore the kingdom to Israel?
(Recapitulation). They so well knew his mildness, that after His Passion also they ask Him,
Will you restore? And yet He had before said to them,
You shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, but the end is not yet, nor shall Jerusalem be taken. But now they ask Him about the kingdom, not about the end. And besides, He does not speak at great length with them after the Resurrection. They address then this question, as thinking that they themselves would be in high honor, if this should come to pass. But He (for as touching this restoration, that it was not to be, He did not openly declare; for what needed they to learn this? Hence they do not again ask,
What is the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world? for they are afraid to say that: but,
Will You restore the kingdom to Israel? for they thought there was such a kingdom), but He, I say, both in parables had shown that the time was not near, and here where they asked, and He answered thereto,
You shall receive power, says He,
when the Holy Ghost has come upon you. Is come upon you, not,
is sent, [to show the Spirit's coequal Majesty. How then do you dare, O opponent of the Spirit, to call Him a creature ?].
And you shall be witnesses to Me. He hinted at the Ascension. [And when he had spoken these things. ] Which they had heard before, and He now reminds them of. [
He was taken up.] Already it has been shown, that He went up into heaven. [
And a cloud, etc.]
Clouds and darkness are under His feet, Psalm 18:9; 97:2 says the Scripture: for this is declared by the expression,
And a cloud received Him: the Lord of heaven, it means. For as a king is shown by the royal chariot, so was the royal chariot sent for Him. [Behold, two men, etc.] That they may vent no sorrowful exclamations, and that it might not be with them as it was with Elisha, 2 Kings 2:12 who, when his master was taken up, rent his mantle. And what say they?
This Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall thus come. And,
Behold, two men stood by them. Matthew 18:16 With good reason: for
in the mouth of two witnesses shall every word be established Deuteronomy 17:6: and these utter the same things. And it is said, that they were
in white apparel. In the same manner as they had already seen an Angel at the sepulchre, who had even told them their own thoughts; so here also an Angel is the preacher of His Ascension; although indeed the Prophets had frequently foretold it, as well as the Resurrection.
Everywhere it is Angels as at the Nativity,
for that which is conceived in her, says one,
is by the Holy Ghost Matthew 1:20: and again to Mary,
Fear not, Mary. Luke 1:30 And at the Resurrection:
He is not here; He is risen, and goes before you. Luke 24:6
Come, and see! Matthew 28:6 And at the Second Coming. For that they may not be utterly in amaze, therefore it is added,
Shall thus come. Matthew 25:31 They recover their breath a little; if indeed He shall come again, if also thus come, and not be unapproachable! And that expression also, that it is
from them He is taken up, is not idly added. And of the Resurrection indeed Christ Himself bears witness (because of all things this is, next to the Nativity, nay even above the Nativity, the most wonderful: His raising Himself to life again): for,
Destroy, He says,
this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up. John 2:19
Shall thus come, say they. If any therefore desires to see Christ; if any grieves that he has not seen Him: having this heard, let him show forth an admirable life, and certainly he shall see Him, and shall not be disappointed. For Christ will come with greater glory, though
thus, in this manner, with a body ; and much more wondrous will it be to see Him descending from heaven. But for what He will come, they do not add.
Shall thus come, etc.] This is a confirmation of the Resurrection; for if he was taken up with a body, much rather must He have risen again with a body. Where are those who disbelieve the Resurrection? Who are they, I pray? Are they Gentiles, or Christians? For I am ignorant. But no, I know well: they are Gentiles, who also disbelieve the work of Creation. For the two denials go together: the denial that God creates any thing from nothing, and the denial that He raises up what has been buried. But then, being ashamed to be thought such as
know not the power of God Matthew 22:29, that we may not impute this to them, they allege: We do not say it with this meaning, but because there is no need of the body. Truly it may be seasonably said,
The fool will speak foolishness. Isaiah 32:6 Are you not ashamed not to grant, that God can create from nothing? If he creates from matter already existing, wherein does He differ from men? But whence, you demand, are evils? Though you should not know whence, ought you for that to introduce another evil in the knowledge of evils? Hereupon two absurdities follow. For if you do not grant, that from things which are not, God made the things which are, much more shall you be ignorant whence are evils: and then, again, you introduce another evil, the affirming that Evil (τὴν κακίαν) is uncreated. Consider now what a thing it is, when you wish to find the source of evils, to be both ignorant of it, and to add another to it. Search after the origin of evils, and do not blaspheme God. And how do I blaspheme? Says he. When you make out that evils have a power equal to God's; a power uncreated. For, observe what Paul says;
For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. Romans 1:20 But the devil would have both to be of matter, that there may be nothing left from which we may come to the knowledge of God. For tell me, whether is harder: to take that which is by nature evil (if indeed there be ought such; for I speak upon your principles, since there is no such thing as evil by nature), and make it either good, or even coefficent of good? Or, to make of nothing? Whether is easier (I speak of quality); to induce the non-existent quality; or to take the existing quality, and change it into its contrary? Where there is no house, to make the house; or where it is utterly destroyed, to make it identically exist again? Why, as this is impossible, so is that: to make a thing into its opposite. Tell me, whether is harder; to make a perfume, or to make filth have the effect of perfume? Say, whether of these is easier (since we subject God to our reasonings: nay, not we, but you); to form eyes, or to make a blind man to see continuing blind, and yet more sharp-sighted, than one who does see? To make blindness into sight, and deafness into hearing? To me the other seems easier. Say then do you grant God that which is harder, and not grant the easier? But souls also they affirm to be of His substance. Do you see what a number of impieties and absurdities are here! In the first place, wishing to show that evils are from God, they bring in another thing more impious than this, that they are equal with Him in majesty, and God prior in existence to none of them, assigning this great prerogative even to them! In the next place, they affirm evil to be indestructible: for if that which is uncreated can be destroyed, you see the blasphemy! So that it comes to this, either that nothing is of God if not these; or that these are God! Thirdly, what I have before spoken of, in this point they defeat themselves, and prepare against themselves fresh indignation. Fourthly, they affirm unordered matter to possess such inherent (ἐ πιτηδειότητα) power. Fifthly, that evil is the cause of the goodness of God, and that without this the Good had not been good. Sixthly, they bar against us the ways of attaining unto the knowledge of God. Seventhly, they bring God down into men, yea plants and logs. For if our soul be of the substance of God, but the process of its transmigration into new bodies brings it at last into cucumbers, and melons, and onions, why then the substance of God will pass into cucumbers! And if we say, that the Holy Ghost fashioned the Temple [of our Lord's body] in the Virgin, they laugh us to scorn: and if, that He dwelt in that spiritual Temple, again they laugh; while they themselves are not ashamed to bring down God's substance into cucumbers, and melons, and flies, and caterpillars, and asses, thus excogitating a new fashion of idolatry: for let it not be as the Egyptians have it,
The onion is God; but let it be,
God in the onion! Why do you shrink from the notion of God's entering into a body? 'It is shocking,' says he. Why then this is much more shocking. But, forsooth, it is not shocking— how should it be?— this same thing which is so, if it be into us! 'But your notion is indeed shocking.' Do ye see the filthiness of their impiety?— But why do they not wish the body to be raised? And why do they say the body is evil? By what then, tell me, do you know God? By what have you the knowledge of existing things? The philosopher too: by means of what is he a philosopher, if the body does nothing towards it? Deaden the senses, and then learn something of the things one needs to know! What would be more foolish than a soul, if from the first it had the senses deadened? If the deadening of but a single part, I mean of the brain, becomes a marring of it altogether; if all the rest should be deadened, what would it be good for? Show me a soul without a body. Do you not hear physicians say, The presence of disease sadly enfeebles the soul? How long will you put off hanging yourselves? Is the body material? Tell me.
To be sure, it is. Then you ought to hate it. Why do you feed, why cherish it? You ought to get quit of this prison. But besides:
God cannot overcome matter, unless he (συμπλακἥ) implicate himself with it: for he cannot issue orders to it (O feebleness!) until he close with it, and (σταθἥ) take his stand (say you) through the whole of it! And a king indeed does all by commanding; but God, not by commanding the evil! In short, if it were unparticipant of all good, it could not subsist at all. For Evil cannot subsist, unless it lay hold upon somewhat of the accidents of Virtue: so that if it had been heretofore all unmixed with virtue, it would have perished long ago: for such is the condition of evils. Let there be a profligate man, let him put upon himself no restraint whatever, will he live ten days? Let there be a robber, and devoid of all conscience in his dealings with every one, let him be such even to his fellow robbers, will he be able to live? Let there be a thief, void of all shame, who knows not what blushing is, but steals openly in public. It is not in the nature of evils to subsist, unless they get some small share at least in good. So that hereupon, according to these men, God gave them their subsistence. Let there be a city of wicked men; will it stand? But let them be wicked, not only with regard to the good, but towards each other. Why, it is impossible such a city should stand. Truly,
professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. Romans 1:22 If bodily substance be evil, then all things visible exist idly, and in vain, both water and earth, and sun, and air; for air is also body, though not solid. It is in point then to say,
The wicked have told me foolish things. Psalm 119:85 But let not us endure them, let us block up our ears against them. For there is, yea, there is, a resurrection of bodies. This the sepulchre which is at Jerusalem declares, this the pillar to which He was bound, when He was scourged. For,
We ate and drank with Him, it is said. Let us then believe in the Resurrection, and do things worthy of it, that we may attain to the good things which are to come, through Christ Jesus our Lord, with Whom to the Father, and the Holy Ghost together, be power, honor, now and for ever, world without end. Amen.
Acts I. 12
Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey.
Then returned they, it is said: namely, when they had heard. For they could not have borne it, if the angel had not (ὑ περέθετο) referred them to another Coming. It seems to me, that it was also on a sabbath-day that these things took place; for he would not thus have specified the distance, saying,
from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey, unless they were then going on the sabbath-day a certain definite distance.
And when they had come in, it says,
they went up into an upper room, where they were making their abode: so they then remained in Jerusalem after the Resurrection:
both Peter, and James, and John: no longer is only the latter together with his brother mentioned, but together with Peter the two:
and Andrew, and Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, and James (the son) of Alphæus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas, (the brother) of James.
Acts 1:13 He has done well to mention the disciples: for since one had betrayed Christ, and another had been unbelieving, he thereby shows that, except the first, all of them were preserved.
These were all continuing with one accord in prayer together with the women.
Acts 1:14 For this is a powerful weapon in temptations; and to this they had been trained. [
Continuing with one accord.] Good. (καλὥς). Besides, the present temptation directed them to this: for they exceedingly feared the Jews.
With the women, it is said: for he had said that they had followed Him:
and with Mary the mother of Jesus. Luke 23:55 How then [is it said, that
that disciple] took her to his own home John 19:26, at that time? But then the Lord had brought them together again, and so returned.
And with His brethren. John 17:5 These also were before unbelieving.
And in those days, it says,
Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said.
Acts 1:15 Both as being ardent, and as having been put in trust by Christ with the flock, and as having precedence in honor, he always begins the discourse. (
The number of the names together were about an hundred and twenty.) Men and brethren, he says,
this Scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost spoke before, [etc.]
Acts 1:16 Why did he not ask Christ to give him some one in the room of Judas? It is better as it is. For in the first place, they were engaged in other things; secondly, of Christ's presence with them, the greatest proof that could be given was this: as He had chosen when He was among them, so did He now being absent. Now this was no small matter for their consolation. But observe how Peter does everything with the common consent; nothing imperiously. And he does not speak thus without a meaning. But observe how he consoles them concerning what had passed. In fact, what had happened had caused them no small consternation. For if there are many now who canvass this circumstance, what may we suppose they had to say then?
Men and brethren, says Peter. For if the Lord called them brethren, much more may he. [
Men, he says]: they all being present. See the dignity of the Church, the angelic condition! No distinction there,
neither male nor female. I would that the Churches were such now! None there had his mind full of some worldly matter, none was anxiously thinking about household concerns. Such a benefit are temptations, such the advantage of afflictions!
This Scripture, says he,
must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost spoke before. Always he comforts them by the prophecies. So does Christ on all occasions. In the very same way, he shows here that no strange thing had happened, but what had already been foretold.
This Scripture must needs have been fulfilled, he says,
which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spoke before. He does not say, David, but the Spirit through him. See what kind of doctrine the writer has at the very outset of the book. Do you see, that it was not for nothing that I said in the beginning of this work, that this book is the Polity of the Holy Spirit?
Which the Holy Ghost spoke before by the mouth of David. Observe how he appropriates (οἰκειοὕται) him; and that it is an advantage to them, that this was spoken by David, and not by some other Prophet.
Concerning Judas, he says,
which was guide. Here again mark the philosophical temper of the man: how he does not mention him with scorn, nor say,
that miscreant: but simply states the fact; and does not even say,
who betrayed Him, but does what he can to transfer the guilt to others: nor does he animadvert severely even on these:
Which was guide, he says,
to them that took Jesus. Furthermore, before he declares where David had spoken, he relates what had been the case with Judas, that from the things present he may fetch assurance of the things future, and show that this man had already received his due.
For he was numbered, says he,
with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. Now this man acquired a field out of the reward of iniquity. (v. 17-18.) He gives his discourse a moral turn, and covertly mentions the cause of the wickedness, because it carried reproof with it. And he does not say, The Jews, but,
this man, acquired it. For since the minds of weak persons do not attend to things future, as they do to things present, he discourses of the immediate punishment inflicted.
And falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst. He does well to dilate not upon the sin, but upon the punishment.
And, he says,
all his bowels gushed out. This brought them consolation.
And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue Aceldama, that is to say, the field of blood.
Acts 1:19. Now the Jews gave it this name, not on this account, but because of Judas; here, however, Peter makes it to have this reference, and when he brings forward the adversaries as witnesses, both by the fact that they named it, and by saying,
in their proper tongue, this is what he means.
Then after the event, he appositely brings in the Prophet, saying,
For it is written in the Book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein
Acts 1:20 Psalm 69:25: this is said of the field and the dwelling: And his bishopric let another take; that is, his office, his priesthood. So that this, he says, is not my counsel, but His who has foretold these things. For, that he may not seem to be undertaking a great thing, and just such as Christ had done, he adduces the Prophet as a witness.
Wherefore it behooves of these men which have companied with us all the time.
Acts 1:21 Why does he make it their business too? That the matter might not become an object of strife, and they might not fall into contention about it. For if the Apostles themselves once did this, much more might those. This he ever avoids. Wherefore at the beginning he said,
Men and brethren. It behooves to choose from among you. He defers the decision to the whole body, thereby both making the elected objects of reverence and himself keeping clear of all invidiousness with regard to the rest. For such occasions always give rise to great evils. Now that some one must needs be appointed, he adduces the prophet as witness: but from among what persons:
Of these, he says,
which have companied with us all the time. To have said, the worthy must present themselves, would have been to insult the others; but now he refers the matter to length of time; for he says not simply,
These who have companied with us, but,
all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John unto that same day that He was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of His resurrection
Acts 1:22: that their college (ὁ χορὸς) might not be left mutilated. Then why did it not rest with Peter to make the election himself: what was the motive? This; that he might not seem to bestow it of favor. And besides, he was not yet endowed with the spirit.
And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabus, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
Acts 1:23 Not he appointed them: but it was he that introduced the proposition to that effect, at the same time pointing out that even this was not his own, but from old time by prophecy; so that he acted as expositor, not as preceptor.
Joseph called Barsabus, who was surnamed Justus. Perhaps both names are given, because there were others of the same name, for among the Apostles also there were several names alike; as James, and James (the son) of Alphæus; Simon Peter, and Simon Zelotes; Judas (the brother) of James, and Judas Iscariot. The appellation, however, may have arisen from a change of life, and very likely also of the moral character.
They appointed two, it is said,
Joseph called Barsabus, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed, and said; Thou, Lord, which know the hearts of all men, show whether of these two you have chosen, that he may take part of this ministry and Apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. (v. 24-25.) They do well to mention the sin of Judas, thereby showing that it is a witness they ask to have; not increasing the number, but not suffering it to be diminished.
And they gave forth their lots (for the spirit was not yet sent),
and the lot fell upon Matthias: and he was numbered with the eleven Apostles.
Then, it says, returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet
which is near to Jerusalem, at the distance of a sabbath-day's journey:] so that there was no long way to go, to be a cause of alarm to them while yet trembling and fearful.
And when they had come in, they went up into an upper room. They dared not appear in the town. They also did well to go up into an upper room, as it became less easy to arrest them at once.
And they continued, it is said,
with one accord in prayer. Do you see how watchful they were?
Continuing in prayer, and
with one accord, as it were with one soul, continuing therein: two things reported in their praise. [
Where they were abiding, etc., to,
And Mary the Mother of Jesus and His brethren.] Now Joseph perhaps was dead: for it is not to be supposed that when the brethren had become believers, Joseph believed not; he who in fact had believed before any. Certain it is that we nowhere find him looking upon Christ as man merely. As where His mother said, [
Your father and I did seek you sorrowing. Luke 2:48 And upon another occasion, it was said,]
Your mother and your brethren seek you. Matthew 13:47 So that Joseph knew this before all others. And to them [the brethren] Christ said, The world cannot hate you, but Me it hates. John 7:7
Again, consider the moderation of James. He it was who received the Bishopric of Jerusalem, and here he says nothing. Mark also the great moderation of the other Apostles, how they concede the throne to him, and no longer dispute with each other. For that Church was as it were in heaven: having nothing to do with this world's affairs: and resplendent not with wails, no, nor with numbers, but with the zeal of them that formed the assembly. They were
about an hundred and twenty, it says. The seventy perhaps whom Christ Himself had chosen, and other of the more earnest-minded disciples, as Joseph and Matthias.
Acts 1:14 There were women, he says, many, who followed Him. Mark 15:41 [
The number of the names together.] Together they were on all occasions.
Men and brethren, etc.] Here is forethought for providing a teacher; here was the first who ordained a teacher. He did not say, 'We are sufficient.' So far was he beyond all vain-glory, and he looked to one thing alone. And yet he had the same power to ordain as they all collectively. But well might these things be done in this fashion, through the noble spirit of the man, and because prelacy then was not an affair of dignity, but of provident care for the governed. This neither made the elected to become elated, for it was to dangers that they were called, nor those not elected to make a grievance of it, as if they were disgraced. But things are not done in this fashion now; nay, quite the contrary.— For observe, they were an hundred and twenty, and he asks for one out of the whole body: with good right, as having been put in charge of them: for to him had Christ said,
And when you are converted, strengthen your brethren. Luke 22:32
For he was numbered with us, (πρὥτος τοῦ πράγματος αὐθεντει absent from A.B.C) says Peter. On this account it behooves to propose another; to be a witness in his place. And see how he imitates his Master, ever discoursing from the Scriptures, and saying nothing as yet concerning Christ; namely, that He had frequently predicted this Himself. Nor does he mention where the Scripture speaks of the treachery of Judas; for instance,
The mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me Psalm 109:1; but where it speaks only of his punishment; for this was most to their advantage. It shows again the benevolence of the Lord:
For he was numbered with us (τοὕτο γὰρ αὐτοὺς μάλιστα ὡφέλειGod's grace and election, and reminding them of the old times, inasmuch as God chose him into His own lot or portion, as of old He took the Levites. He also dwells upon the circumstances respecting Judas, showing that the reward of the treachery was made itself the herald of the punishment. For he
acquired, he says,
a field out of the reward of the iniquity. Observe the divine economy in the event.
Of the iniquity, he says. For there are many iniquities, but never was anything more iniquitous than this: so that the affair was one of iniquity. Now not only to those who were present did the event become known, but to all thereafter, so that without meaning or knowing what they were about, they gave it a name; just as Caiaphas had prophesied unconsciously. God compelled them to call the field in Hebrew
Aceldama. Matthew 26:24 By this also the evils which were to come upon the Jews were declared: and Peter shows the prophecy to have been so far in part fulfilled, which says,
It had been good for that man if he had not been born. We may with propriety apply this same to the Jews likewise; for if he who was guide suffered thus, much more they. Thus far however Peter says nothing of this. Then, showing that the term,
Aceldama, might well be applied to his fate, he introduces the prophet, saying,
Let his habitation be desolate. For what can be worse desolation than to become a place of burial? And the field may well be called his. For he who cast down the price, although others were the buyers, has a right to be himself reckoned owner of a great desolation. This desolation was the prelude to that of the Jews, as will appear on looking closely into the facts. For indeed they destroyed themselves by famine, and killed many, and the city became a burial-place of strangers, of soldiers, for as to those, they would not even have let them be buried, for in fact they were not deemed worthy of sepulture.
Wherefore of these men which have companied with us, continues Peter. Observe how desirous he is they should be eye-witnesses. It is true indeed that the Spirit would shortly come; and yet great care is shown with regard to this circumstance.
Of these men, he says,
which have companied with us, all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us. He shows that they had dwelt with Christ, not simply been present as disciples. In fact, from the very beginning there were many that then followed Him. Observe, for instance, how this appears in these words:
One of the two which heard John speak, and followed Jesus.— All the time, he says,
that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John. John 1:40 True! For no one knew what preceded that event, though they did learn it by the Spirit.
Unto that same day that He was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of His resurrection. He said not, a witness of the rest of his actions, but a witness of the resurrection alone. For indeed that witness had a better right to be believed, who was able to declare, that He Who ate and drank, and was crucified, the same rose again. Wherefore it was needed that he should be a witness, not only of the time preceding this event, nor only of what followed it, and of the miracles; the thing required was, the resurrection. For the other matters were manifest and acknowledged, but the resurrection took place in secret, and was manifest to these only. And they do not say, Angels have told us; but, We have seen. For this it was that was most needful at that time: that they should be men having a right to be believed, because they had seen.
And they appointed two, it is said. Why not many? That the feeling of disappointment might not reach further, extending to many. Again, it is not without reason that he puts Matthias last; he would show, that frequently he that is honourable among men, is inferior before God. And they all pray in common saying,
You, Lord, which know the hearts of all men, show. You, not
We. And very seasonably they use the epithet,
heart-knowing: for by Him Who is this must the choice be made. So confident were they, that assuredly one of them must be appointed. They said not, Choose, but,
Show the chosen one; knowing that all things were foreordained of God;
Whom You chose: one of these two, say they,
to have his lot in this ministry and apostleship. For there was besides another ministry (διακονία).
And they gave them their lots. For they did not yet consider themselves to be worthy to be informed by some sign. And besides, if in a case where neither prayer was made, nor men of worth were the agents, the casting of lots so much availed, because it was done of a right intention, I mean in the case of Jonah Jonah 1:7; much more did it here. Thus, did he, the designated, fill up the company, complete the order: but the other candidate was not annoyed; for the apostolic writers would not have concealed [that or any other] failings of their own, seeing they have told of the very chief Apostles, that on other occasions they had indignation Matthew 20:24; Matthew 26:8, and this not once only, but again and again.
Let us then also imitate them. And now I address no longer every one, but those who aim at preferment. If you believe that the election is with God, be not displeased. Mark 10:14-21 and 14:4 For it is with Him you are displeased, and with Him you are exasperated: it is He who has made the choice; you do the very thing that Cain did; because, forsooth, his brother's sacrifice was preferred, he was indignant, when he ought to have felt compunction. However, that is not what I mean here; but this, that God knows how to dispense things for the best. In many cases, you are in point of disposition more estimable than the other but not the fit person. Besides, on the other hand, your life is irreproachable, and your habits those of a well-nurtured man, but in the Church this is not all that is wanted. Moreover, one man is adapted for one thing, another for another. Do you not observe, how much discourse the holy Scripture has made on this matter? But let me say why it is that the thing has become a subject of competition: it is because we come to the Episcopate not as unto a work of governing and superintending the brethren, but as to a post of dignity and repose. Did you but know that a Bishop is bound to belong to all, to bear the burden of all; that others, if they are angry, are pardoned, but he never; that others, if they sin, have excuses made for them, he has none; you would not be eager for the dignity, would not run after it. So it is, the Bishop is exposed to the tongues of all, to the criticism of all, whether they be wise or fools. He is harassed with cares every day, nay, every night. He has many to hate him, many to envy him. Talk not to me of those who curry favor with all, of those who desire to sleep, of those who advance to this office as for repose. We have nothing to do with these; we speak of those who watch for your souls, who consider the safety and welfare of those under them before their own. Tell me now: suppose a man has ten children, always living with him, and constantly under his control; yet is he solicitous about them; and a bishop, who has such numbers, not living under the same roof with him, but owing obedience to his authority— what does he not need to be! But he is honored, you will say. With what sort of honor, indeed! Why, the paupers and beggars abuse him openly in the market-place. And why does he not stop their mouths then? Yes, very proper work, this, for a bishop, is it not? Then again, if he do not give to all, the idle and the industrious alike, lo! A thousand complaints on all sides. None is afraid to accuse him, and speak evil of him. In the case of civil governors, fear steps in; with bishops, nothing of the kind. As for the fear of God, it does not influence people, as regards them, in the least degree. Why speak of the anxiety connected with the word and doctrine? The painful work in Ordinations? Either, perhaps, I am a poor wretched incompetent creature, or else, the case is as I say. The soul of a Bishop is for all the world like a vessel in a storm: lashed from every side, by friends, by foes, by one's own people, by strangers. Does not the Emperor rule the whole world, the Bishop a single city? Yet a Bishop's anxieties are as much beyond those of the emperor, as the waters of a river simply moved, by the wind are surpassed in agitation by the swelling and raging sea. And why? Because in the one case there are many to lend a hand, for all goes on by law and by rule; but in the other there is none of this, nor is there authority to command; but if one be greatly moved, then he is harsh; if the contrary, then he is cold! And in him these opposites must meet, that he may neither be despised, nor be hated. Besides, the very demands of business preoccupy him: how many is he obliged to offend, whether he will or not! How many to be severe with! I speak not otherwise than it is, but as I find it in my own actual experience. I do not think there are many among Bishops that will be saved, but many more that perish: and the reason is, that it is an affair that requires a great mind. Many are the exigencies which throw a man out of his natural temper; and he had need have a thousand eyes on all sides. Do you not see what a number of qualifications the Bishop must have? To be apt to teach, patient, holding fast the faithful word in doctrine see 1 Timothy 3:2-9; Titus 1:7-9. What trouble and pains does this require! And then, others do wrong, and he bears all the blame. To pass over every thing else: if one soul depart unbaptized, does not this subvert all his own prospect of salvation? The loss of one soul carries with it a penalty which no language can represent. For if the salvation of that soul was of such value, that the Son of God became man, and suffered so much, think how sore a punishment must the losing of it bring! And if in this present life he who is cause of another's destruction is worthy of death, much more in the next world. Do not tell me, that the presbyter is in fault, or the deacon. The guilt of all these comes perforce upon the head of those who ordained them. Let me mention another instance. It chances, that a bishop has inherited from his predecessor a set of persons of indifferent character. What measures is it proper to take in respect of bygone transgressions (for here are two precipices) so as not to let the offender go unpunished, and not to cause scandal to the rest? Must one's first step be to cut him off? There is no actual present ground for that. But is it right to let him go unmarked? Yes, say you; for the fault rests with the bishop who ordained him. Well then? Must one refuse to ordain him again, and to raise him to a higher degree of the ministry? That would be to publish it to all men, that he is a person of indifferent character, and so again one would cause scandal in a different way. But is one to promote him to a higher degree? That is much worse.
If then there were only the responsibility of the office itself for people to run after in the episcopate, none would be so quick to accept it. But as things go, we run after this, just as we do after the dignities of the world. That we may have glory with men, we lose ourselves with God. What profit in such honor? How self-evident its nothingness is! When you covet the episcopal rank, put in the other scale, the account to be rendered after this life. Weigh against it, the happiness of a life free from toil, take into account the different measure of the punishment. I mean, that even if you have sinned, but in your own person merely, you will have no such great punishment, nothing like it: but if you have sinned as bishop, you are lost. Remember what Moses endured, what wisdom he displayed, what good deeds he exhibited: but, for committing one sin only, he was bitterly punished; and with good reason; for this fault was attended with injury to the rest. Not in regard that the sin was public, but because it was the sin of a spiritual Ruler (ί ερέως) cf. S.); for in truth we do not pay the same penalty for public and for hidden faults. Augustine in Psalm 99:6 The sin may be the same, but not the (ζημία) harm of it; nay, not the sin itself; for it is not the same thing to sin in secret and unseen, and to sin openly. But the bishop cannot sin unobserved. Well for him if he escape reproach, though he sin not; much less can he think to escape notice, if he do sin. Let him be angry, let him laugh, or let him but dream of a moment's relaxation, many are they that scoff, many that are offended, many that lay down the law, many that bring to mind the former bishops, and abuse the present one; not that they wish to sound the praise of those; no, it is only to carp at him that they bring up the mention of fellow bishops, of presbyters. Sweet, says the proverb, is war to the inexperienced; but it may rather be said now, that even after one has come out of it, people in general have seen nothing of it: for in their eyes it is not war, but like those shepherds in Ezekiel, we slay and devour. Ezekiel 34:2 Which of us has it in his power to show that he has taken as much care for the flocks of Christ, as Jacob did for Laban's? Genesis 31:40 Which of us can tell of the frost of the night? For talk not to me of vigils, and all that parade. The contrary plainly is the fact. Prefects, and governors (ὕ παρχοι καὶ τοπάρχαι) of provinces, do not enjoy such honour as he that governs the Church. If he enter the palace, who but he is first? If he go to see ladies, or visit the houses of the great, none is preferred to him. The whole state of things is ruined and corrupt. I do not speak thus as wishing to put us bishops to shame, but to repress your hankering after the office. For with what conscience, (even should you succeed in becoming a bishop, having made interest for it either in person or by another), with what eyes will you look the man in the face who worked with you to that end? What will you have to plead for your excuse? For he that unwillingly, by compulsion and not with his own consent, was raised to the office, may have something to say for himself, though for the most part even such an one has no pardon to expect, and yet truly he so far has something to plead in excuse. Think how it fared with Simon Magus. What signifies it that you give not money, if, in place of money, you pay court, you lay many plans, you set engines to work?
Your money perish with you! Acts 8:20 Thus was it said to him, and thus will it be said to these: your canvassing perish with you, because you have thought to purchase the gift of God by human intrigue! But there is none such here? And God forbid there should be! For it is not that I wish any thing of what I have been saying to be applicable to you: but just now the connection has led us on to these topics. In like manner when we talk against covetousness, we are not preaching at you, no, nor against any one man personally. God grant it may be the case, that these remedies were prepared by us without necessity. The wish of the physician is, that after all his pains, his drugs may be thrown away because not wanted: and this is just what we desire, that our words may not have been needed, and so have been spoken to the wind, so as to be but words. I am ready to submit to anything, rather than be reduced to the necessity of using this language. But if you like, we are ready to leave off; only let our silence be without bad effects. No one, I imagine, though he were ever so vainglorious, would wish to make a display of severity, when there is nothing to call for it. I will leave the teaching to you: for that is the best teaching, which teaches by actions. For indeed the best physicians, although the sickness of their patients brings them in fees, would rather their friends were well. And so we too wish all to be well. 2 Corinthians 13:7 It is not that we desire to be approved, and you reproved. I would gladly manifest, if it were possible, with my very eyes, the love which I bear to you: for then no one would be able to reproach me, though my language were ever so rough.
For speech of friends, yea, were it insult, can be borne; more faithful are the wounds of a friend, rather than the ready kisses of an enemy. Proverbs 27:6 There nothing I love more than you, no, not even light itself. I would gladly have my eyes put out ten thousand times over, if it were possible by this means to convert your souls; so much is your salvation dearer to me than light itself. For what profit to me in the rays of the sun, when despondency on your account makes it all thick darkness before my eyes? Light is good when it shines in cheerfulness, to a sorrowful heart it seems even to be a trouble. How true this is, may you never learn by experience! However, if it happen to any of you to fall into sin, just stand by my bedside, when I am laid down to rest and should be asleep; see whether I am not like a palsied man, like one beside himself, and, in the language of the prophet, the light of my eyes, it also is gone from me. Psalm 38:10 For where is our hope, if you do not make progress? Where our despondency, if you do excellently? I seem to have wings, when I hear any thing good of you.
Fulfil ye my joy. Philippians 2:2 This one thing is the burden of my prayers, that I long for your advancement. But that in which I strive with all is this, that I love you, that I am wrapped up in you, that you are my all, father, mother, brethren, children. Think not then that any thing that has been said was said in a hostile spirit, nay, it is for your amendment. It is written
A brother assisted by his brother is as a strong city. Proverbs 18:19 Then do not take it in disdain: for neither do I undervalue what you have to say. I should wish even to be set right by you. For all (Edd. 'all we') you are brethren, and One is our Master: yet even among brothers it is for one to direct, while the others obey. Then disdain it not, but let us do all to the glory of God, for to Him belongs glory for ever and ever. Amen.