And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven.
Do you perceive the type? What is this Pentecost? The time when the sickle was to be put to the harvest, and the ingathering was made. See now the reality, when the time had come to put in the sickle of the word: for here, as the sickle, keen-edged, came the Spirit down. For hear the words of Christ:
Lift up your eyes, He said,
and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest. John 4:35 And again,
The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few. Matthew 9:38 But as the first-fruits of this harvest, He himself took [our nature], and bore it up on high. Himself first put in the sickle. Therefore also He calls the Word the Seed.
When, it says,
the day of Pentecost was fully come Luke 8:5, 11: that is, when at the Pentecost, while about it, in short. For it was essential that the present events likewise should take place during the feast, that those who had witnessed the crucifixion of Christ, might also behold these.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven.
Acts 2:2 Why did this not come to pass without sensible tokens? For this reason. If even when the fact was such, men said,
They are full of new wine, what would they not have said, had it been otherwise? And it is not merely,
there came a sound, but,
from heaven. And the suddenness also startled them, and brought all together to the spot.
As of a rushing mighty wind: this betokens the exceeding vehemence of the Spirit.
And it filled all the house: insomuch that those present both believed, and (Edd. τούτους) in this manner were shown to be worthy. Nor is this all; but what is more awful still,
And there appeared unto them, it says,
cloven tongues like as of fire.
Acts 2:3 Observe how it is always,
like as; and rightly: that you may have no gross sensible notions of the Spirit. Also,
as it were of a blast: therefore it was not a wind.
Like as of fire. For when the Spirit was to be made known to John, then it came upon the head of Christ as in the form of a dove: but now, when a whole multitude was to be converted, it is
like as of fire. And it sat upon each of them. This means, that it remained and rested upon them. For the sitting is significant of settledness and continuance.
Was it upon the twelve that it came? Not so; but upon the hundred and twenty. For Peter would not have quoted to no purpose the testimony of the prophet, saying,
And it shall come to pass in the last days, says the Lord God, I will pour out of My spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Joel 2:28
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.
Acts 2:4 For, that the effect may not be to frighten only, therefore is it both
with the Holy Ghost, and with fire. And began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Matthew 3:11 They receive no other sign, but this first; for it was new to them, and there was no need of any other sign.
And it sat upon each of them, says the writer. Observe now, how there is no longer any occasion for that person to grieve, who was not elected as was Matthias,
And they were all filled, he says; not merely received the grace of the Spirit, but
were filled. And began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. It would not have been said, All, the Apostles also being there present, unless the rest also were partakers. For were it not so, having above made mention of the Apostles distinctively and by name, he would not now have put them all in one with the rest. For if, where it was only to be mentioned that they were present, he makes mention of the Apostles apart, much more would he have done so in the case here supposed. Observe, how when one is continuing in prayer, when one is in charity, then it is that the Spirit draws near. It put them in mind also of another vision: for as fire did He appear also in the bush. As the Spirit gave them utterance, ἀ ποφθέγγεσθαι Exodus 3:2 For the things spoken by them were ἀ ποφθέγματα, profound utterances.
And, it says,
there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men.
Acts 2:5 The fact of their dwelling there was a sign of piety: that being of so many nations they should have left country, and home, and relations, and be abiding there. For, it says, There were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded.
Acts 2:6 Since the event had taken place in a house, of course they came together from without. The multitude was confounded: was all in commotion. They marvelled;
Because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were amazed, it says,
and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans?
Acts 2:7-13 They immediately turned their eyes towards the Apostles.
And how (it follows)
hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene: mark how they run from east to west:
and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And, they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What means this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. O the excessive folly! O the excessive malignity! Why it was not even the season for that; for it was Pentecost. For this was what made it worse: that when those were confessing— men that were Jews, that were Romans, that were proselytes, yea perhaps that had crucified Him— yet these, after so great signs, say,
They are full of new wine!
But let us look over what has been said from the beginning.
And when the day of Pentecost, etc.
It filled, he says,
the house. That wind πνοὴ was a very pool of water. This betokened the copiousness, as the fire did the vehemence. This nowhere happened in the case of the Prophets: for to uninebriated souls such accesses are not attended with much disturbance; but
when they have well drunken, then indeed it is as here, but with the Prophets it is otherwise. Ezekiel 3:3 The roll of a book is given him, and Ezekiel ate what he was about to utter.
And it became in his mouth, it is said,
as honey for sweetness. (And again the hand of God touches the tongue of another Prophet; but here it is the Holy Ghost Himself: Jeremiah 1:9 so equal is He in honor with the Father and the Son.) And again, on the other hand, Ezekiel calls it
Lamentations, and mourning, and woe. Ezekiel 2:10 To them it might well be in the form of a book; for they still needed similitudes. Those had to deal with only one nation, and with their own people; but these with the whole world, and with men whom they never knew. Also Elisha receives the grace through the medium of a mantle 2 Kings 13; another by oil, as David 1 Samuel 16:13; and Moses by fire, as we read of him at the bush. Exodus 3:2 But in the present case it is not so; for the fire itself sat upon them. (But wherefore did the fire not appear so as to fill the house? Because they would have been terrified.) But the story shows, that it is the same here as there. For you are not to stop at this, that
there appeared unto them cloven tongues, but note that they were
of fire. Such a fire as this is able to kindle infinite fuel. Also, it is well said, Cloven, for they were from one root; that you may learn, that it was an operation sent from the Comforter.
But observe how those men also were first shown to be worthy, and then received the Spirit as worthy. Thus, for instance, David: what he did among the sheepfolds, the same he did after his victory and trophy; that it might be shown how simple and absolute was his faith. Again, see Moses despising royalty, and forsaking all, and after forty years taking the lead of the people Exodus 2:11; and Samuel occupied there in the temple 1 Samuel 3:3; Elisha leaving all 1 Kings 19:21; Ezekiel again, made manifest by what happened thereafter. In this manner, you see, did these also leave all that they had. They learned also what human infirmity is, by what they suffered; they learned that it was not in vain they had done these good works. 1 Samuel 9 and 11:6 Even Saul, having first obtained witness that he was good, thereafter received the Spirit. But in the same manner as here did none of them receive. Thus Moses was the greatest of the Prophets, yet he, when others were to receive the Spirit, himself suffered diminution. But here it is not so; but just as fire kindles as many flames as it will, so here the largeness of the Spirit was shown, in that each one received a fountain of the Spirit; as indeed He Himself had foretold, that those who believe in Him, should have
a well of water springing up into everlasting life. John 4:14 And good reason that it should be so. For they did not go forth to argue with Pharaoh, but to wrestle with the devil. But the wonder is this, that when sent they made no objections; they said not, they were
weak in voice, and of a slow tongue. Exodus 4:10 For Moses had taught them better. They said not, they were too young. Jeremiah 1:6 Jeremiah had made them wise. And yet they had heard of many fearful things, and much greater than were theirs of old time; but they feared to object.— And because they were angels of light, and ministers of things above [
Suddenly there came from heaven, etc.] To them of old, no one
from heaven appears, while they as yet follow after a vocation on earth; but now that Man has gone up on high, the Spirit also descends mightily from on high.
As it were a rushing mighty wind; making it manifest by this, that nothing shall be able to withstand them, but they shall blow away all adversaries like a heap of dust.
And it filled all the house. The house also was a symbol of the world.
And it sat upon each of them, [etc.] and
the multitude came together, and were confounded. Observe their piety; they pronounce no hasty judgment, but are perplexed: whereas those reckless ones pronounce at once, saying,
These men are full of new wine. Now it was in order that they might have it in their power, in compliance with the Law, to appear thrice in the year in the Temple, that they dwelt there, these
devout men from all nations. Observe here, the writer has no intention of flattering them. For he does not say that they pronounced any opinion: but what?
Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded. And well they might be; for they supposed the matter was now coming to an issue against them, on account of the outrage committed against Christ. Conscience also agitated their souls, the very blood being yet upon their hands, and every thing alarmed them.
Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? For indeed this was confessed. [
And how hear we] so much did the sound alarm them. [
Every man in our own tongue, etc.] for it found the greater part of the world assembled there. [
Parthians and Medes, etc.] This nerved the Apostles: for, what it was to speak in the Parthian tongue, they knew not but now learned from what those said. Here is mention made of nations that were hostile to them, Cretans, Arabians, Egyptians, Persians: and that they would conquer them all was here made manifest. But as to their being in those countries, they were there in captivity, many of them: or else, the doctrines of the Law had become disseminated [among] the Gentiles in those countries. So then the testimony comes from all quarters: from citizens, from foreigners, from proselytes.
We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. For it was not only that they spoke (in their tongues), but the things they spoke were wonderful. Well then might they be in doubt: for never had the like occurred. Observe the ingenuousness of these men. They were amazed and were in doubt, saying,
What means this? But
others mocking said, 'These men are full of new wine' John 8:48, and therefore mocked. O the effrontery! And what wonder is it? Since even of the Lord Himself, when casting out devils, they said that He had a devil! For so it is; wherever impudent assurance exists, it has but one object in view, to speak at all hazards, it cares not what; not that the man should say something real and relevant to the matter of discourse, but that he should speak no matter what. [
They are full of new wine.] Quite a thing of course (is not it?), that men in the midst of such dangers, and dreading the worst, and in such despondency, have the courage to utter such things! And observe: since this was unlikely; because they would not have been drinking much [at that early hour], they ascribe the whole matter to the quality (of the wine), and say,
They are full of it.
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them. In a former place you saw his provident forethought, here you see his manly courage. For if they were astonished and amazed, was it not as wonderful that he should be able in the midst of such a multitude to find language, he, an unlettered and ignorant man? If a man is troubled when he speaks among friends, much more might he be troubled among enemies and bloodthirsty men. That they are not drunken, he shows immediately by his very voice, that they are not beside themselves, as the soothsayers: and this too, that they were not constrained by some compulsory force. What is meant by,
with the eleven? They expressed themselves through one common voice, and he was the mouth of all. The eleven stood by as witnesses to what he said.
He lifted up his voice, it is said. That is, he spoke with great confidence, that they might perceive the grace of the Spirit. He who had not endured the questioning of a poor girl, now in the midst of the people, all breathing murder, discourses with such confidence, that this very thing becomes an unquestionable proof of the Resurrection: in the midst of men who could deride and make a joke of such things as these! What effrontery, think you, must go to that! What impiety, what shamelessness! For wherever the Holy Spirit is present, He makes men of gold out of men of clay. Look, I pray you, at Peter now: examine well that timid one, and devoid of understanding; as Christ said,
Are ye also yet without understanding? Matthew 15:16 the man, who after that marvellous confession was called
Satan. Matthew 16:23 Consider also the unanimity of the Apostles. They themselves ceded to him the office of speaking; for it was not necessary that all should speak.
And he lifted up his voice, and spoke out to them with great boldness. Such a thing it is to be a spiritual man! Only let us also bring ourselves into a state meet for the grace from above, and all becomes easy. For as a man of fire falling into the midst of straw would take no harm, but do it to others: not he could take any harm, but they, in assailing him, destroy themselves. For the case here was just as if one carrying hay should attack one bearing fire: even so did the Apostles encounter these their adversaries with great boldness.
For what did it harm them, though they were so great a multitude? Did they not spend all their rage? Did they not turn the distress upon themselves? Of all mankind were ever any so possessed with both rage and terror, as those became possessed? Were they not in an agony, and were dismayed, and trembled? For hear what they say,
Do ye wish to bring this man's blood upon us? Acts 5:28 Did they (the Apostles) not fight against poverty and hunger: against ignominy and infamy (for they were accounted deceivers): did they not fight against ridicule and wrath and mockery?— for in their case the contraries met: some laughed at them, others punished them—were they not made a mark for the wrathful passions, and for the merriment, of whole cities? Exposed to factions and conspiracies: to fire, and sword, and wild beasts? Did not war beset them from every quarter, in ten thousand forms? And were they any more affected in their minds by all these things, than they would have been at seeing them in a dream or in a picture? With bare body they took the field against all the armed, though against them all men had arbitrary power [against them, were]: terrors of rulers, force of arms, in cities and strong walls: without experience, without skill of the tongue, and in the condition of quite ordinary men, matched against juggling conjurors, against impostors, against the whole throng of sophists, of rhetoricians, of philosophers grown mouldy in the Academy and the walks of the Peripatetics, against all these they fought the battle out. And the man whose occupation had been about lakes, so mastered them, as if it cost him not so much ado as even a contest with dumb fishes: for just as if the opponents he had to outwit were indeed more mute than fishes, so easily did he get the better of them! And Plato, that talked a deal of nonsense in his day, is silent now, while this man utters his voice everywhere; not among his own countrymen alone, but also among Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and in India, and in every part of the earth, and to the extremities of the world. Where now is Greece, with her big pretentions? Where the name of Athens? Where the ravings of the philosophers? He of Galilee, he of Bethsaida, he, the uncouth rustic, has overcome them all. Are you not ashamed— confess it— at the very name of the country of him who has defeated you? But if you hear his own name too, and learn that he was called Cephas, much more will you hide your faces. This, this has undone you quite; because you esteem this a reproach, and account glibness of tongue a praise, and want of glibness a disgrace. You have not followed the road you ought to have chosen, but leaving the royal road, so easy, so smooth, you have trodden one rough, and steep, and laborious. And therefore you have not attained unto the kingdom of heaven.
Why then, it is asked, did not Christ exercise His influence upon Plato, and upon Pythagoras? Because the mind of Peter was much more philosophical than their minds. They were in truth children shifted about on all sides by vain glory; but this man was a philosopher, one apt to receive grace. If you laugh at these words, it is no wonder; for those aforetime laughed, and said, the men were full of new wine. But afterwards, when they suffered those bitter calamities, exceeding all others in misery; when they saw their city falling in ruins, and the fire blazing, and the walls hurled to the ground, and those manifold frantic horrors, which no one can find words to express, they did not laugh then. And you will laugh then, if you have the mind to laugh, when the time of hell is close at hand, when the fire is kindled for your souls. But why do I speak of the future? Shall I show you what Peter is, and what Plato, the philosopher? Let us for the present examine their respective habits, let us see what were the pursuits of each. The one wasted his time about a set of idle and useless dogmas, and philosophical, as he says, that we may learn that the soul of our philosopher becomes a fly. Most truly said, a fly! not indeed changed into one, but a fly must have entered upon possession of the soul which dwelt in Plato; for what but a fly is worthy of such ideas! The man was full of irony, and of jealous feelings against every one else, as if he made it his ambition to introduce nothing useful, either out of his own head or other people's. Thus he adopted the metempsychosis from another, and from himself produced the Republic, in which he enacted those laws full of gross turpitude. Let the women, he says, be in common, and let the virgins go naked, and let them wrestle before the eyes of their lovers, and let there also be common fathers, and let the children begotten be common. But with us, not nature makes common fathers, but the philosophy of Peter does this; as for that other, it made away with all paternity. For Plato's system only tended to make the real father next to unknown, while the false one was introduced. It plunged the soul into a kind of intoxication and filthy wallowing. Let all, he says, have intercourse with the women without fear. The reason why I do not examine the maxims of poets, is, that I may not be charged with ripping up fables. And yet I am speaking of fables much more ridiculous than even those. Where have the poets devised anything so portentous as this? But (not to enter into the discussion of his other maxims), what say you to these— when he equips the females with arms, and helmets, and greaves, and says that the human race has no occasion to differ from the canine! Since dogs, he says, the female and the male, do just the same things in common, so let the women do the same works as the men, and let all be turned upside down. For the devil has always endeavored by their means to show that our race is not more honorable than that of brutes; and, in fact, some have gone to such a pitch of (κενοδοξίας) absurdity, as to affirm that the irrational creatures are endued with reason. And see in how many various ways he has run riot in the minds of those men! For whereas their leading men affirmed that our soul passes into flies, and dogs, and brute creatures; those who came after them, being ashamed of this, fell into another kind of turpitude, and invested the brute creatures with all rational science, and made out that the creatures— which were called into existence on our account— are in all respects more honorable than we! They even attribute to them foreknowledge and piety. The crow, they say, knows God, and the raven likewise, and they possess gifts of prophecy, and foretell the future; there is justice among them, and polity, and laws. Perhaps you do not credit the things I am telling you. And well may you not, nurtured as you have been with sound doctrine; since also, if a man were fed with this fare, he would never believe that there exists a human being who finds pleasure in eating dung. The dog also among them is jealous, according to Plato. But when we tell them that these things are fables, and are full of absurdity, 'You do not enter (ἐ νοήσατε) into the higher meaning,' say they. No, we do not enter into this your surpassing nonsense, and may we never do so: for it requires (of course! ) an excessively profound mind, to inform me, what all this impiety and confusion would be at. Are you talking, senseless men, in the language of crows, as the children are wont (in play)? For you are in very deed children, even as they. But Peter never thought of saying any of these things: he uttered a voice, like a great light shining out in the dark, a voice which scattered the mist and darkness of the whole world. Again, his deportment, how gentle it was, how considerate (ἐ πιεικὲς); how far above all vainglory; how he looked towards heaven without all self-elation, and this, even when raising up the dead! But if it had come to be in the power of any one of those senseless people (in mere fantasy of course) to do anything like it, would he not straightway have looked for an altar and a temple to be reared to him, and have wanted to be equal with the gods? Since in fact when no such sign is forthcoming, they are forever indulging such fantastic conceits. And what, pray you, is that Minerva of theirs, and Apollo, and Juno? They are different kinds of demons among them. And there is a king of theirs, who thinks fit to die for the mere purpose of being accounted equal with the gods. But not so the men here: no, just the contrary. Hear how they speak on the occasion of the lame man's cure. You men of Israel, why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made him to walk? Acts 3:12 We also are men of like passions with you. Acts 14:14 But with those, great is the self-elation, great the bragging; all for the sake of men's honors, nothing for the pure love of truth and virtue. (φιλοσοφίας ἔνεκεν.) For where an action is done for glory, all is worthless. For though a man possess all, yet if he have not the mastery over this (lust), he forfeits all claim to true philosophy, he is in bondage to the more tyrannical and shameful passion. Contempt of glory; this it is that is sufficient to teach all that is good, and to banish from the soul every pernicious passion. I exhort you therefore to use the most strenuous endeavors to pluck out this passion by the very roots; by no other means can you have good esteem with God, and draw down upon you the benevolent regard of that Eye which never sleeps. Wherefore, let us use all earnestness to obtain the enjoyment of that heavenly influence, and thus both escape the trial of present evils, and attain unto the future blessings, through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, power, honor, now and ever, and to all ages. Amen.
Acts II. 14
You men of Judea, and all you that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words.
He men of Judea, and all you that dwell at Jerusalem,] whom the writer above described as strangers. Here he directs his discourse to those others, the mockers, and while he seems to reason with those, he sets these right. For indeed it was divinely ordered that
some mocked, that he might have a starting-point for his defence, and by means of that defence, might teach. [
And all you that dwell in Jerusalem.] It seems they accounted it a high encomium to dwell in Jerusalem too.
Be this, says he,
known unto you, and hearken unto my words. In the first instance he made them more disposed to attend to him.
For not as you suppose, says he,
are these drunken. Do you observe the mildness of his defence?
Acts 2:15 Although having the greater part of the people on his side, he reasons with those others gently; first he removes the evil surmise, and then he establishes his apology. On this account, therefore, he does not say,
as you mock, or,
as you deride, but,
as you suppose; wishing to make it appear that they had not said this in earnest, and for the present taxing them with ignorance rather than with malice.
For these are not drunken, as you suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. And why this? Is it not possible at the third hour to be drunken? But he did not insist upon this to the letter; for there was nothing of the kind about them; the others said it only in mockery. Hence we learn that on unessential points one must not spend many words. And besides, the sequel is enough to bear him out on this point: so now the discourse is for all in common. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel, And it shall come to pass in the last days, says the Lord God. (v. 16, 17. Joel 2:28.) Nowhere as yet the name of Christ, nor His promises but the promise is that of the Father. Observe the wisdom: observe the considerate forbearance: (συγκατάβασιν.) He did not pass on to speak at once of the things relating to Christ; that He had promised this after His Crucifixion; truly that would have been to upset all. And yet, you will say, here was sufficient to prove His divinity. True, it was, if believed (and the very point was that it should be believed); but if not believed, it would have caused them to be stoned.
And I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh. He offers even to them excellent hopes, if they would have them. And so far, he does not leave it to be regarded as the exclusive advantage of himself and his company; which would have made them be looked upon with an evil eye; thus cutting off all envious feeling.
And your sons shall prophesy. And yet, he says, not yours this achievement, this distinction; the gift has passed over to your children. Himself and his company he calls their sons, and those [whom he is addressing] he calls his and their fathers.
And your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; and on My servants and on My handmaidens I will pour out in those days of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy. So far he shows that he and his have found favor, in that they had received (καταξιωθέντας) [the Spirit]; not so they whom he is addressing; for that they had crucified [the Lord]. So Christ also, willing to mitigate their wrath, said,
By whom do your sons cast out devils? Matthew 12:27 He did not say, My disciples; for indeed it seemed a flattering mode of expression. And so Peter also did not say, 'They are not drunk, but speak by the Spirit.' but he takes refuge with the prophet, and under shelter of him, so speaks. As for the accusation [of drunkenness], he cleared himself of that by his own assertion; but for the grace, he fetches the prophet as witness.
I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh. [
And your sons, etc.] To some the grace was imparted through dreams, to others it was openly poured forth. For indeed by dreams the prophets saw, and received revelations.
Then he goes on with the prophecy, which has in it also something terrible.
And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs [
in the earth beneath].
Acts 2:19 In these words he speaks both of the judgment to come, and of the taking of Jerusalem.
Blood and fire, and vapor of smoke. Observe how he describes the capture.
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood.
Acts 2:20 This results from the (διαθέσεως) internal affection of the sufferers. It is said, indeed, that many such phenomena actually did occur in the sky, as Josephus attests. At the same time the Apostle strikes fear into them, by reminding them of the darkness which had lately occurred, and leading them to expect things to come.
Before that great and notable day of the Lord come. For be not confident, he means to say, because at present you sin with impunity. For these things are the prelude of a certain great and dreadful day. Do you see how he made their souls to quake and melt within them, and turned their laughter into pleading for acquittal? For if these things are the prelude of that day, it follows that the extreme of danger is impending. But what next? He again lets them take breath, adding,
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved. Romans 10:13 This is said concerning Christ, as Paul affirms, but Peter does not venture as yet to reveal this.
Well, let us look over again what has been said. It is well managed, that as against men laughing and mocking, he starts up and begins with,
Be this known unto you all and hearken unto my words. But he begins by saying,
You men of Judea. By the expression ᾿ Ιουδαἵοι, I take him to mean those that lived in Judea.— And, if you please, let us compare those expressions in the Gospel, that you may learn what a sudden change has taken place in Peter.
A damsel, it is written,
came out unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. And, says he,
I know not the Man. And being again questioned,
he began to curse and to swear. Matthew 26:69-72 But see here his boldness, and his great freedom of speech.— He did not praise those who had said,
We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God; but by his severity towards those others, he made these more earnest, and at the same time his address is clear from all appearance of adulation. And it is well to remark, on all occasions, however the Apostles may condescend to the level of their hearers (συγκατάβασις), their language is clear from all appearance both of adulation and of insolence: which is a difficult point to manage.
Now that these things should have occurred at
the third hour, was not without cause. For the brightness of this fire is shown at the very time when people are not engaged in their works, nor at dinner; when it is bright day, when all are in the market-place. Do you observe also the freedom which fills his speech?
And hearken to my words. And he added nothing, but,
This, says he,
is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days. He shows, in fact, that the consummation is near at hand, and the words,
In the last days, have a kind of emphasis. [
I will pour out, etc.] And then, that he may not seem to limit the privilege to the sons only, he subjoins,
And your old men shall dream dreams. Mark the sequence. First sons; just as David said,
Instead of your fathers, were begotten your sons. Psalm 45:17 And again Malachi;
They shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children. And on my handmaidens, and on my servants. Malachi 4:6 This also is a token of excellence, for we have become His servants, by being freed from sin. And great is the gift, since the grace passes over to the other sex also, not as of old, it was limited to just one or two individuals, as Deborah and Huldah. He did not say that it was the Holy Ghost, neither did he expound the words of the prophet; but he merely brings in the prophecy to fight its own battle. As yet also he has said nothing about Judas; and yet it was known to all what a doom and punishment he had undergone; for nothing was more forcible than to argue with them from prophecy: this was more forcible even than facts. For when Christ performed miracles, they often contradicted Him. But when Christ brought forward the prophet, saying,
The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit on my right hand, they were silent, and
no man, we read,
was able to answer Him a word. Psalm 90:1 And on all occasions He Himself also appealed to the Scriptures; for instance,
If he called them gods to whom the word of God came. John 10:35 And in many places one may find this. On this account here also Peter says,
I will pour out of my spirit upon all flesh; that is, upon the Gentiles also. But he does not yet reveal this, nor give interpretations; indeed, it was better not to do so (as also this obscure saying,
I will show wonders in heaven above, put them the more in fear because it was obscure.) And it would have been more an offense, had it been interpreted from the very first. Then besides, even as plain, he passes over it, wishing to make them regard it as such. But after all, he does interpret to them anon, when he discourses to them upon the resurrection, and after he has paved the way by his discourse. (infra v. 39.) For since the good things were not sufficient to allure them, [it is added,
And I will show wonders, etc.]. Yet this has never been fulfilled. For none escaped then [in that former judgment], but now the faithful did escape, in Vespasian's time. And this it is that the Lord speaks of,
Except those days had been shortened, not all flesh should be saved.— [
Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.] Matthew 24:22 The worst to come first; namely, the inhabitants to be taken, and then the city to be razed and burnt. Then he dwelt upon the metaphor, bringing before the eyes of the hearers the overthrow and the taking.
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood. What means, the moon turned into blood? It denotes the excess of the slaughter. The language is fraught with helpless dismay. (supra p. 32.)
And it shall come to pass, every one who shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Every one, he says: though he be priest (but he does not vet reveal the meaning), though bond, though free. For there is no male nor female in Christ Jesus, no bond, no free. Galatians 3:28 Well may it be so, for all these are but shadow. For if in king's palaces there is no high-born nor low-born, but each appears according to his deeds; and in art, each is shown by his works; much more in that school of wisdom (φιλοσοφια).
Every one who shall invoke. Invoke: not any how, for it is written,
Not every one that says unto Me, Lord, Lord: but with (διαθέσεως) inward earnest affection, with a life more than commonly good, with the confidence which is meet. Thus far, however, he makes the discourse light, by introducing that which relates to faith, and that terrible which relates to the punishment. For in the invocation is the salvation.
What, I pray you, is this you say? Do you talk of salvation for them after the Cross? Bear with me a little. Great is the mercy of God. And this very fact does, no less than the resurrection, prove him to be God, yea, no less than His miracles— the fact that He calls these to Him. For surpassing goodness is, above all things, peculiarly God's own. Therefore also He says,
None is good save one, that is, God. Luke 18:19 Only let us not take this goodness for an occasion of negligence. For He also punishes as God. In fact, the very punishments here spoken of, He brought them to pass, even He who said,
Every one who shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be saved. I speak of the fate of Jerusalem; that intolerable punishment: of which I will tell you some few of the particulars, useful to us in our contest, both with the Marcionites and many other heretics. For, since they distinguish between Christ a good God, and that evil God [of the Old Testament], let us see who it was that effected these things. The evil God, taking vengeance for Christ? Or not so? How then alien to Him? But was it the good God? Nay, but it is demonstrated that both the Father and the Son did these things. The Father in many places; for instance, when He says in the parable of the vineyard, [
He will miserably destroy those wicked husbandmen Matthew 21:41; again in the parable of the marriage feast, the King is said] to send His armies Matthew 22:7: and the Son, when He says,
But those Mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before Me. Luke 19:27 * * *. And they sent, saying, We will not have You to reign over us. Would you like then to hear the things which actually came to pass? Moreover, Christ Himself also speaks of the future tribulations, than which never any thing more dreadful came to pass; never any thing more ruthless, my beloved, than the deeds then done! And He Himself declared it. For what could you wish to see more grievous than these? * * *— probed them with their daggers! — * * * But shall I relate to you the shocking case of the woman, that tragic tale? * * * (Joseph. B. J. vi. 3. 4.) Did not the actual events cast all misery into the shade? But shall I tell you of famines and pestilences? One might speak of horrors without number: nature was unknown; law unknown; they outdid wild beasts in ferocity. True, these miseries came by the fate of wars; but because God, because Christ so willed it to be. These facts will apply both against the Marcionites and against those who do not believe that there is a hell: for they are sufficient to silence their impudence. Are not these calamities more severe than the Babylonian? Are not these sufferings more grievous than the famines of that time? Yes, for [
never was the like from the beginning of the world]
no, nor ever shall be such. Matthew 24:21 And this was Christ's own declaration. In what sense then, think ye, is it said that Christ remitted them their sin? Perhaps it seems a commonplace question: but do ye solve it.— It is not possible to show anywhere, even in fiction, any thing like what the reality was here. And had it been a Christian that wrote this history, the matter might be regarded with suspicion: but if he was a Jew, and a Jewish zealot, and after the Gospel, how can the meaning of the facts be otherwise than palpable to all men? For you will see the man, how, everywhere, he always extols the concerns of the Jews.— There is therefore a hell, O man! And God is good.— Aye, did you shudder at hearing these horrors? But these, which take place here, are nothing in comparison with what shall be in that world. Once more I am compelled to seem harsh, disagreeable, stern. But what can I do? I am set to this: just as a severe schoolmaster is set to be hated by his scholars: so are we. For would it not be strange indeed, that, while those who have a certain post assigned them by kings do that which is appointed them, however disagreeable the task may be, we, for fear of your censure, should leave our appointed task undone? Another has a different work. Of you, many have it for their work, to show mercy, to act humanely, to be pleasant and agreeable to the persons to whom you are benefactors. But to those to whom we do good, we seem stern and severe, troublesome and disagreeable. For we do good, not by the pleasure we give, but by the pain we inflict. So it is also with the physician: though he indeed is not excessively disagreeable, for the benefit afforded by his art is had immediately; ours hereafter. So again the magistrate is odious to the disorderly and seditious; so the legislator is vexatious to them for whom he makes laws. But not so he that invites to enjoyment, not so he that prepares public festivities and entertainments, and puts all the people in garlands: no, these are men that win acceptance, feasting, as they do, whole cities with all sorts of spectacles; contributing largely, bearing all the cost. And therefore those whom they have treated, requite them for these enjoyments with words of welcome and benediction, with hanging (παραπετάσματα) of tapestries, and a blaze of lamps, and with wreaths, and boughs, and brilliant garments. Whereas, at the sight of the physician, the sick become sad and downcast: at sight of the magistrate, the rioters become subdued: no running riot then, no gambolling, except when he also goes over into their ranks. Let us see, then, which render the best service to their cities; those who provide these festivities, and banquetings, and expensive entertainments, and manifold rejoicings; or those who restrain all those doings, bearing before them stocks, scourges, executioners, dreaded soldiers, and a voice fraught with much terror: and issuing orders, and making men hang down their heads, and with the rod dispersing the idlers in the market-place. Let us see, I say; these are the disagreeable, those the beloved: let us see where the gain rests. (λήλει.) What comes then of your pleasure-givers? A kind of frigid enjoyment, lasting till the evening, and tomorrow vanished; mirth ungoverned, words unseemly and dissolute. And what of these? Awe, sobriety, subdued thoughts; reasonableness of mind, an end of idleness; a curb on the passions within; a wall of defence, next to God, against assailants from without. It is by means of these we have each our property but by those ruinous festivities we dissipate it. Robbers indeed have not invaded it, but vainglory together with pleasure acts the part of robber. Each sees the robber carrying off everything before his eyes, and is delighted at it! A new fashion of robbery, this, to induce people to be glad when one is plundering them! On the other part, there is nothing of the kind: but God, as the common Father, has secured us as by a wall against all [depredators], both seen and unseen. For,
Take heed, says He,
that you do not your alms before men. Matthew 6:1 The soul learns from the one, [excess; from the other] to flee injustice. For injustice consists not merely in grasping at more wealth than belongs to us, but in giving to the belly more than its needful sustenance, in carrying mirth beyond its proper bounds, and causing it to run into frantic excesses. From the one, it learns sobriety; from the other, unchastity. For it is unchastity, not merely to have carnal intercourse with women, but even to look upon a woman with unchaste eyes. From the one, it learns modesty; from the other, conceited self-importance. For,
All things, says the Apostle,
are lawful for me, but not all things expedient. 1 Corinthians 6:12 From the one, decent behavior; from the other unseemliness. For, as to the doings in the theatres, I pass these. But to let you see that it is not even a pleasure either, but a grief, show me, but a single day after the festival, both those who spent their money in giving it, and those who were feasted with spectacles: and you shall see them all looking dejected enough, but most of all him, your (ἔ κεἵνον) famous man that has spent his money for it. And this is but fair: for, the day before, he delighted the common man, and the common man indeed was in high good humor and enjoyment, and rejoiced indeed in the splendid garment, but then not having the use of it, and seeing himself stripped of it, he was grieved and annoyed; and wanted to be the great man, seeing even his own enjoyment to be small compared with his. Therefore, the day after, they change places, and now he, the great man, gets the larger share in the dejection.
Now if in worldly matters, amusements are attended with such dissatisfaction, while disagreeable things are so beneficial, much more does this hold in things spiritual. Why is it that no one quarrels with the laws, but on the contrary all account that matter a common benefit? For indeed not strangers from some other quarter, nor enemies of those for whom the laws are made, came and made these orders, but the citizens themselves, their patrons, their benefactors: and this very thing, the making of laws, is a token of beneficence and good-will. And yet the laws are full of punishment and restraint, and there is no such thing as law without penalty and coercion. Then is it not unreasonable, that while the expositors of those laws are called deliverers, benefactors, and patrons, we are considered troublesome and vexatious if we speak of the laws of God? When we discourse about hell, then we bring forward those laws: just as in the affairs of the world, people urge the laws of murder, highway robbery, and the like, so do we the penal laws: laws, which not man enacted, but the Only-Begotten Son of God Himself. Let him that has no mercy, He says, be punished Matthew 18:23; for such is the import of the parable. Let him that remembers injuries, pay the last penalty. Let him that is angry without cause, be cast into the fire. Let him that reviles, receive his due in hell. If you think these laws which you hear strange, be not amazed. For if Christ was not intended to make new laws, why did He come? Those other laws are manifest to us; we know that the murderer and adulterer ought to be punished. If then we were meant only to be told the same things over again, where was the need of a heavenly Teacher? Therefore He does not say, Let the adulterer be punished, but, whoso looks on with unchaste eyes. And where, and when, the man will receive punishment, He there tells us. And not in fine public monuments, nor yet somewhere out of sight, did He deposit His laws; not pillars of brass did He raise up, and engrave letters thereon, but twelve souls raised He up for us, the souls of the Apostles, and in their minds has He by the Spirit inscribed this writing. This cite we to you. If this was authorized to Jews, that none might take refuge in the plea of ignorance, much more is it to us. But should any say,
I do not hear, therefore have no guilt, on this very score he is most liable to punishment. For, were there no teacher, it would be possible to take refuge in this plea; but if there be, it is no longer possible. Thus see how, speaking of Jews, the Lord deprives them of all excuse;
If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: John 15:22: and Paul again,
But I say, have they not heard? Nay, but into all the earth went forth their sound. Romans 10:18 For then there is excuse, when there is none to tell the man; but when the watchman sits there, having this as the business of his life, there is excuse no longer. Nay, rather, it was the will of Christ, not that we should look only upon these written pillars, but that we should ourselves be such. But since we have made ourselves unworthy of the writing, at least let us look to those. For just as the pillars threaten others, but are not themselves obnoxious to punishment, nor yet the laws, even so the blessed Apostles. And observe; not in one place only stands this pillar, but its writing is carried round about in all the world. Whether you go among the Indians, you shall hear this: whether into Spain, or to the very ends of the earth, there is none without the hearing, except it be of his own neglect. Then be not offended, but give heed to the things spoken, that you may be able to lay hold upon the works of virtue, and attain unto the eternal blessings in Christ Jesus our Lord, with Whom to the Father and Holy Ghost together be glory, power, honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen.
Acts II. 22
You men of Israel, hear these my words.
He men of Israel]: it is not for flattery that he uses this term; but, as he has borne hard upon them, he relaxes a little, and puts them in mind of their great ancestor [Israel]. Here again he begins with an introduction, that they may not become excited, now that he is going to make express mention to them of Jesus: for in what preceded, there was no reason why they should be excited, while the Prophet was the subject of discourse: but the name of Jesus would have given offense at the very outset.— And he does not say,
Do as I bid you, but, Hear; as being not at all exacting. And observe how he forbears to speak of the high matters, and begins with the very low:
Jesus, he says: and then straightway mentions the place He belonged to, being one which was held in mean estimation:
Jesus of Nazareth: and does not say anything great about Him, nor even such as one would say about a Prophet, so far:
Jesus, he says,
of Nazareth, a man proved (to be) from God among you. Observe; what great matter was this, to say that He was sent from God? For this was the point which on all occasions both He and John and the Apostles were studious to show. Thus hear John saying:
The same said unto me On whom you shall see the Spirit descending, and abiding on him, this is He. John 1:33 But Christ Himself does this to an extreme; Of Myself I am not come, He sent Me. John 7:28 And everywhere in the Scriptures this seems the point most studiously insisted upon. Therefore also this holy leader of the blessed company, the lover of Christ, the good shepherd, the man put in trust with the keys of heaven, the man who received the Spiritual Wisdom, when he has first subdued the Jews by fear; and has shown what great things have been vouchsafed to the disciples, and what a right they have to be believed, then first proceeds to speak concerning Him. Only think what boldness it was to say it, in the midst of the murderers— that He is risen! And yet he does not all at once say, He is risen; but what?—
He came, says he,
from God: this is manifest by the signs which— he does not yet say, Jesus Himself wrought: but what?—
which God wrought by Him in the midst of you. He calls themselves as witnesses.
A man proved (to be sent) from God among you, by miracles and wonders and signs, which God wrought by him in the midst of you, as also ye yourselves know. Then, having fallen upon the mention of that their sacrilegious outrage, observe how he endeavors to quit them of the crime:
Him, he says,
being by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God delivered up:
Acts 2:23 [adding however,]
you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: for though it was predetermined, still they were murderers. [
By the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God:] all but using the same words as Joseph did; just as he said to his brethren;
Be not angry one with another by the way: God sent me hither. Genesis 45:5, 24 It is God's doing.
What of us, then? (it might be said,)
it was even well done on our part. That they may not say this, therefore it is that he adds,
By wicked hands you have crucified and slain. Here then he hints at Judas; while at the same time he shows them that it was not from any strength of theirs, and would not have been, if He had not Himself permitted it: it was God that delivered Him up. He has transferred the evil entire upon the head of Judas, now already parted from them; for he it was that delivered Him over to them by the kiss. Or,
By wicked hands, refers to the soldiers: for neither is it simply,
You have slain, but, By wicked men you have done this. And observe how everywhere they make it of great importance that the Passion should first be confessed. Whom God Raised Up
Acts 2:24, says he. This was the great thing; and observe how he sets it in the middle of his discourse: for the former matters had been confessed; both the miracles and the signs and the slaying—
Whom God, says he,
raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be kept in its power. It is something great and sublime that he has hinted at here. For the expression,
It was not possible, even itself is that of one assigning something. It shows that death itself in holding Him had pangs as in travail, and was sore bestead: whereas, by pains, or, travail-pangs, of death, the Old Testament means danger and disaster: and that He so rose as never more to die. For the assertion,
Seeing that it was not possible that He should be holden of it, means this, that His rising was not common to the rest. Then, however, before their thoughts can enter at all into his meaning, he brings David upon them, an authority which sets aside all human reasoning.
For David says (with reference) to Him.
Acts 2:25 And observe how, once more, the testimony is lowly. For therefore he begins the citation further up, with the matters of lowlier import: therefore was death not in the number of grievous things [because], says he,
I foresaw the Lord always before my face, that He is on my right hand that I should not be moved:
Acts 2:25-27 and,
that You will not leave my soul in hell. Then, having finished the citation from the Prophet, he adds;
Men and brethren.
Acts 2:29 When he is about to say anything great, he uses this opening address, to rouse and to conciliate them.
Let me be allowed, he says,
to speak freely to you of the patriarch David. Remarkable lowliness, in a case where he was giving no hurt, nor was there any reason why the hearers should be angry. For he did not say, This is not said concerning David, but concerning the Christ. But in another point of view: by his reverential expression towards the blessed David, he awed them; speaking of an acknowledged fact as if it were a bold thing to say, and therefore begging them to pardon him for saying it. And thereupon his expression is not simply
concerning David, but
concerning the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried: he does not also say,
and is not risen again, but in another way (though this too would have been no great thing to say),
And his sepulchre is with us unto this day, he has said what comes to the same thing. Then— and even so he does not come to the mention of Christ, but what next?— he goes on with his encomium upon David,
Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that with an oath God had sworn unto him.
Acts 2:30 But this he says, that were it but on account of the honor shown to David, and the descent from him, they may accept what is said concerning Christ's resurrection, as seeing that it would be an injury to the prophecy, and a derogating from (τἥς εἰς αὐτοὺς τιμἥς) their honor, if this were not the fact.
And knowing, he says,
that with an oath God had sworn unto him— he does not say simply
of the fruit of his loins after the flesh to raise up Christ, to seat Him upon his throne. Observe how he has again only hinted at what is sublime. For now that he has soothed them with his expression, he confidently adds this: The prophet [says it]
of His resurrection, that neither was His soul left in hell, nor did His flesh see corruption.
Acts 2:31 This again is wonderful: it shows that His resurrection was not like that of other men. For though death laid hold on Him, yet it did not its own work then.— And, as regards the sin, he has spoken of that, covertly and darkly; of the punishment, he forbore to add anything; but that they had slain Him, this he has spoken out; for the rest he now comes to the sign given by God. And when it is once proved, that He, the slain, was just, was dear to God, then, though thou be silent of the punishment, be sure that he which did the sin will condemn himself more than ever you can condemn him. So then, that he refers all to the Father, is in order that they may receive what is said: and that assertion,
Not possible, he fetches in from the prophecy. Well then, let us again look over what has been said.
Jesus of Nazareth, a man proved (to be sent) from God unto you.
Recapitulation of Acts 2:22-31: one, of whom, by reason of His works, there can be no doubt; but who, on the contrary, is demonstrated. Thus also Nicodemus said,
No man can do these miracles which Thou doest— By miracles, and wonders, and signs which God wrought by Him in the midst of you John 3:2: not secretly. Setting out from facts notorious to those whom he was addressing, he then comes to things hidden. Thereupon [in saying,
By the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,]
Acts 2:23 he shows that it was not because they had the power to do it, and that there was a wisdom and a Divine arrangement in the event, seeing it was from God. He rapidly passes over the unpleasant part, [adding,
Whom God raised up, etc.]
Acts 2:24. For it is always a point of great importance with them to show that He was once dead. Though you should deny it, says he, (ἐ κεῖνοι) those (present) will bear witness to the fact. [
Having loosed the pangs of death.] He that gives Death trouble, may much more give trouble to them that crucified Him: however, nothing of the kind is here said, as that He had power to slay you. Meanwhile, let us also learn thus to hold. For one that is in pain like a woman in travail, does not hold the thing held, and is not active but passive; and makes haste to cast it off. And it is well said:
For David says in reference to him (v. 25); that you may not refer that saying to the Prophet.— [
Therefore being a Prophet, and knowing, etc.] (v. 30, 31.) Do you observe how he now interprets the prophecy, and does not give it bare of comment? How did He
seat Him upon David's
throne? For the kingdom after the Spirit is in heaven. Observe how, along with the resurrection, he has also declared the kingdom in the fact of His rising again. He shows that the Prophet was under constraint: for the prophecy was concerning Him. Why does he say, not, Concerning His kingdom (it was a great matter), but
Concerning His resurrection? And how did He seat Him upon his (David's) throne? Why, He reigns as King over Jews also, yea, what is much more, over them that crucified Him.
For His flesh saw no corruption. This seems to be less than resurrection, but it is the same thing.
This Jesus— observe how he does not call Him otherwise—
has God raised up; whereof all we are witnesses. Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted (v. 33, 34): again he takes refuge with the Father, and yet it had been enough to say what precedes: but he knows what a great point this is. Here he has hinted at the Ascension also, and that Christ is in heaven: but neither does he say this openly.
And having received, says he,
the promise of the Holy Ghost. Observe how, in the beginning of his discourse, he does not say that Jesus Himself had sent It, but the Father: now, however, that he has mentioned His signs and the things done to Him by the Jews, and has spoken of His resurrection, he boldly introduces what he has to say about these matters, again adducing themselves as witnesses by both senses: [
He has shed forth this, which you do see and hear.] And of the resurrection he has made continual mention, but of their outrageous deed he has spoken once for all.
And having received the promise of the Holy Ghost. This again is great.
The promise, he says; because [promised] before His Passion. Observe how he now makes it all His [
He has poured forth this], covertly making a great point. For if it was He that poured it forth, it is of Him that the Prophet has spoken above, In the last days I will pour forth of My Spirit on My Servants, and on Mine handmaids, and I will do wonders in the heaven above.
Acts 2:17 Observe what he secretly puts into it! But then, because it was a great thing, he again veils it with the expression of
His having received of the Father. He has spoken of the good things fulfilled, of the signs; has said, that He is king, the point that touched them; has said, that it is He that gives the Spirit. (Arist. Rhet. 1. 3.) (For, however much a person may say, if it does not issue in something advantageous, he speaks to no purpose.) Just as John:
The same, says he,
shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. Matthew 3:11 And it shows that the Cross not only did not make Him less, but rendered Him even more illustrious, seeing that of old God promised it to Him, but now has given it. Or [it may be],
the promise which He promised to us. He so foreknew it about to be, and has given it to us greater after the resurrection. And,
has poured it out, he says; not requiring worthiness: and not simply gave, but with abundance. Whence does this appear? Henceforth after the mention of His giving the Spirit, he confidently speaks also of His ascension into heaven; and not only so, but again adducing the witness, and reminding them of that Person concerning Whom Christ once spoke. Matthew 22:43
For not David, says he ascended into the heavens.
Acts 2:34 Here he no longer speaks in lowly phrase, having the confidence which results from the things said; nor does he say,
Be it permitted me to speak, or the like:
But he says himself; The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit on My right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool. Now if He be David's Lord, much more shall they not disdain Him.
Sit on My right hand; he has set the whole matter here;
until I make Your enemies Your footstool: here also he has brought upon them a great terror, just as in the beginning he showed what He does to His friends, what to his enemies. And again, as to the act of subjugation, not to provoke unbelief, he ascribes it to the Father. Since then these are great things that he has uttered, he again brings his discourse down to lowly matters.
Let therefore, he says, the whole house of Israel know assuredly: i.e. question ye not, nor doubt ye: then also in the tone of command it follows;
that God has made Him both Lord— this he says from David—
Acts 2:36, this from the Psalm: For when it would have been rightly concluded,
Let therefore the whole house of Israel know assuredly that He sits on the right hand of God, this, which would have been great, he forbears, and brings in a different matter which is much more humble, and the expression
Hath made; i.e. has ordained: so that there is nothing about (οὐσίωσις) communication of substance here, but the expression relates to this which has been mentioned.
Even this Jesus, Whom you crucified. He does well to end with this, thereby agitating their minds. For when he has shown how great it is, he has then exposed their daring deed, so as to show it to be greater, and to possess them with terror. For men are not so much attracted by benefits as they are chastened by fear.
But the admirable and great ones, and beloved of God, need none of these motives: men, such as was Paul: not of the kingdom, not of hell, made he account. For this is indeed to love Christ, this to be no hireling, nor to reckon it a matter of trafficking and trading, but to be indeed virtuous, and to do all for the love of God. Romans 9:3 Then what tears does it not deserve, when, owing so large a measure, we do not even like traders seek the kingdom of heaven! He promises us so great things, and not even so is He worthy to be heard? What can come up to this enmity! And yet, they are mad after money-making, though it be with enemies, though it be with slaves, though it be with persons most hostile to them, that they come in contact, though it be with persons utterly evil, if only they expect that they shall be enabled by their means to make money, they will do everything, will flatter, and be obsequious, and make themselves slaves, and will esteem them more to be revered than all men, to get some advantage out of them: for the hope of money does not allow them to give a thought to any such considerations as these. But the Kingdom is not so powerful as money is; nay, rather, not in the smallest proportion as powerful. For it is no ordinary Being that promises: but this is greater than even the Kingdom itself that we receive it from such a Giver! But now the case is the same as if a king, wishing, after ten thousand other benefits, to make us his heirs and coheirs with his son [should be despised]: while some captain of a band of robbers, who has done ten thousand wrongs to us and to our parents, and is himself fraught with ten thousand wickednesses, and has utterly marred our honor and our welfare, should, on presenting a single penny, receive our worship. God promises a Kingdom, and is despised: the Devil helps us to hell, and he is honored! Here God, there Devil. But let us see the difference of the tasks enjoined. For if there were none of these considerations in the case: if it were not, here God, there Devil; not, here one helping to a kingdom, there to a hell: the nature itself of the tasks enjoined were sufficient to induce us to comply with the former. For what does each enjoin? The one, the things which make glorious; the other the things which put to shame: one, the things which involve in ten thousand calamities and disgraces; the other, the things which have with them abundant refreshment. For look: the one says,
Learn ye of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and you shall find rest unto your souls. Matthew 11:29: the other says, Be thou savage, and ungentle, and passionate, and wrathful, and more a wild beast than a man. Let us see which is more useful, which, I pray you, more profitable.
Speak not of this, say you. * * * But consider that he is the devil: above all indeed, if that be shown: there is need also to undergo toils, and, on the other hand, the prize of victory will be greater. For not he that enjoins easy tasks is the kind (κηδεμὼν) benefactor, but he that enjoins what is for our good. Since fathers also enjoin disagreeable tasks; but for this they are fathers: and so again do masters to slaves: but kidnappers and destroyers (λυμεὥνες) on the other hand, do just the reverse. And yet that the commands of Christ are attended with a pleasure, is manifest from that saying. For to what sort do you take the passionate man to belong, and to what the forbearing and meek? Does not the soul of the (ἐ κείνου) one seem to be in a kind of solitary retreat, enjoying exceeding quiet; while that of (τούτου) the other is like a market-place and tumult and the midst of cities, where great is the clamor of those going out, the noise of camels, mules, asses: of men shouting loud to those that meet them, that they may not be trodden under foot: and again, of silver-beaters, of braziers, of men thrusting and pushing this way and that and some overborne, some overbearing? But the soul of (τούτου) the former is like some mountain-top, with its delicate air, its pure sunshine, its limpid gushing fountains, its multitude of charming flowers, while the vernal meads and gardens put on their plumage of shrubs and flowers, and glance with rifling waters: and if any sound is heard there, it is sweet, and calculated to affect the ear with a sense of much delight. For either the warbling birds perch on the outermost spray of the branching trees, and cicadas, nightingales and swallows, blended in one harmony, perform a kind of concerted music; or the zephyr gently stirring the leaves, draws whistling tones from pines and firs, resembling oft the notes of the swan: and roses, violets, and other flowers, gently swayed, and (κυανίζοντα) dark-dimpling, show like a sea just rippled over with gentle undulations. Nay, many are the images one might find. Thus, when one looks at the roses, one shall fancy that he beholds in them the rainbow; in the violets a waving sea; in the lilies, the sky. But not by the spectacle alone, and the beholding, does such an one then cause delight: but also in the very body of him that looks to the meadow, rather it refreshes him, and causes him to breathe freely, so that he thinks himself more in heaven than on earth. There is withal a sound of a different kind, when water from the mountain-steep, borne by its own force through ravines gently plashes over its pebbly bed with lulling noise, and so relaxes our frame with the pleasurable sensations, as quickly to draw over our eyes the soft languor of slumber. You have heard the description with pleasure: perhaps also it has made you enamored of solitude. But sweeter far than this solitude is the soul * * of the long-suffering. For it was not for the sake of describing a meadow, nor for the sake of making a display of language, that we have broached this similitude: but the object was, that, seeing how great is the delight of the long suffering, and how, by converse with a long suffering man, one would be far more both delighted and benefited, than by frequenting such spots, you may follow after such men. For when not even a breath of violence proceeds from such a soul, but mild and engaging words, then indeed does that gentle softness of the zephyr find its counterpart: entreaties also, devoid of all arrogance, but forming the resemblance to those winged warblers,— how is not this far better? For not the body is fanned by the soft breeze of speech; no, it refreshes our souls heated and glowing. A physician, by ever so great attention, could not so speedily rid a man of the fever, as a patient man would cool, by the breath of his own words, a person who was passionate and burning with wrath. And why do I speak of a physician? Not even iron, made red-hot and dipped into water, so quickly parts with its heat, as does the passionate man when he comes in contact with the soul of the long-suffering. But as, if it chance that singing birds find their way into the market, they go for nothing there, just so is it with our precepts when they light upon souls addicted to wrathful passions. Assuredly, sweeter is gentleness than bitterness and frowardness.— Well, but the one was God's bidding, the other the devil's. Do you see that it was not for nothing that I said, even if there were no devil or God in the case, the things enjoined would be enough in themselves to (ἀ ποστἥσαι) revolt us? For the one is both agreeable to himself, and serviceable to others, the other displeasing to himself, and hurtful to others. Nothing is more unpleasant than a man in a passion, nothing more noisome, more odious, more shocking, as also nothing more pleasing than one who knows not what it is to be in a passion. Better dwell with a wild beast than with a passionate man. For the beast, when once tamed, abides by its law; but the man, no matter how often you have tamed him, again turns wild, unless however he should of himself settle down into some such habit (of gentleness).
For as a bright sunny day and winter with all its gloom, so are the soul of the angry and that of the gentle. However, let us at present look not to the mischievous consequences resulting to others, but to those which affect the persons themselves: though indeed it is also no slight mischief (to one's self) to cause ill to another, for the present, however, let that be the consideration. What executioner with his lash can so lacerate the ribs, what red-hot lancets (ὀ βελίσκοι) ever so pierced the body, what madness can so dispossess a man of his natural reason, as anger and rage do? I know many instances of persons engendering diseases by giving loose to anger: and the worst of fevers are precisely these. But if they so injure the body, think of the soul. For do not argue that you do not see the mischief, but rather consider, if that which is the recipient of the malignant passion is so hurt, what must be the hurt sustained by that which engenders it! Many have lost their eyes, many have fallen into most grievous disease. Yet he that bears bravely, shall endure all things easily. But, however, both such are the troublesome tasks the devil enjoins, and the wages he assigns us for these is hell. He is both devil and foe to our salvation, and we rather do his bidding than Christ's, Saviour as He is, and Benefactor and Defender, and speaking as He does such words, which are both sweeter, and more reverend, and more profitable and beneficial, and are both to ourselves and to those who live in our company the greatest of blessings. Nothing worse than anger, my beloved, nothing worse than unseasonable wrath. It will not have any long delay; it is a quick, sharp passion. Many a time has a mere word been blurted out in anger, which needs for its curing a whole lifetime, and a deed been done which was the ruin of the man for life. For the worst of it is this, that in a little moment, and by one act, and by a single word, full oft has it cast us out from the possession of eternal good, and brought to nought a world of pains. Wherefore I beseech you to do all you can to curb this savage beast. Thus far, however, I have spoken concerning meekness and wrath; if one should take in hand to treat of other opposites, as covetousness and the mad passion for glory, contrasted with contempt of wealth and of glory; intemperance with sobriety; envy with benevolence; and to marshal them each against its opposite, then one would know how great the difference. Behold how from the very things enjoined it is plainly shown, that the one master is God, the other the devil! Why then, let us do God's bidding, and not cast ourselves into bottomless pits; but while there is time, let us wash off all that defiles the soul, that we may attain unto the eternal blessings, through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father and Holy Ghost together be glory, power, honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
Acts II. 37
Now when they heard these words (E.V. 'this,') they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the Apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
Do you see what a great thing gentleness is? More than any vehemence, it pricks our hearts, inflicts a keener wound. For as in the case of bodies which have become callous, the man that strikes upon them does not affect the sense so powerfully, but if he first mollify them and make them tender, then he pierces them effectually; so in this instance also, it is necessary first to mollify. But that which softens, is not wrath, not vehement accusation, not personal abuse; it is gentleness. The former indeed rather aggravate the callousness, this last alone removes it. If then you are desirous to reprove any delinquent, approach him with all possible mildness. For see here; he gently reminds them of the outrages they have committed, adding no comment; he declares the gift of God, he goes on to speak of the grace which bore testimony to the event, and so draws out his discourse to a still greater length. So they stood in awe of the gentleness of Peter, in that he, speaking to men who had crucified his Master, and breathed murder against himself and his companions, discoursed to them in the character of an affectionate father and teacher. Not merely were they persuaded; they even condemned themselves, they came to a sense of their past behavior. For he gave no room for their anger to be roused, and darken their judgment, but by means of humility he dispersed, as it were, the mist and darkness of their indignation, and then pointed out to them the daring outrage they had committed. For so it is; when we say of ourselves that we are injured, the opposite party endeavor to prove that they have not done the injury; but when we say, we have not been injured, but have rather done the wrong, the others take the contrary line. If, therefore, you wish to place your enemy (εἰς ἀγώνα) in the wrong, beware of accusing him; nay (ἀ γώνισαι), plead for him, he will be sure to find himself guilty. There is a natural spirit of opposition in man. Such was the conduct of Peter. He did not accuse them harshly; on the contrary, he almost endeavored to plead for them, as far as was possible. And this was the very reason that he penetrated into their souls. You will ask, where is the proof that they were pricked? In their own words; for what say they?
Men and brethren, what shall we do? Whom they had called deceivers, they call
brethren: not that hereby they put themselves on an equality with them, but rather by way of attracting their brotherly affection and kindness: and besides, because the Apostles had deigned to call them by this title. And, say they,
What shall we do? They did not straightway say, Well then, we repent; but they surrendered themselves to the disciples. Just as a person on the point of shipwreck, upon seeing the pilot, or in sickness the physician, would put all into his hands, and do his bidding in everything; so have these also confessed that they are in extreme peril, and destitute of all hope of salvation. They did not say, How shall we be saved? But,
What shall we do? Here again Peter, though the question is put to all, is the man to answer.
Repent, says he,
and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ.
Acts 2:38 He does not yet say, Believe, but,
Be baptized every one of you. For this they received in baptism. Then he speaks of the gain;
For the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. If you are to receive a gift, if baptism conveys remission, why delay? He next gives a persuasive turn to his address, adding,
For the promise is unto you
Acts 2:39: for he had spoken of a promise above.
And to your children, he says: the gift is greater, when these are to be heirs of the blessings.
And to all, he continues,
that are afar off: if to those that are afar off, much more to you that are near:
even as many as the Lord our God shall call. Observe the time he takes for saying,
To those that are afar off. It is when he finds them conciliated and self-accusing. For when the soul pronounces sentence against itself, no longer can it feel envy.
And with many other words did he testify, and exhort, saying.
Acts 2:40 Observe how, throughout, the writer studies brevity, and how free he is from ambition and display.
He testified and exhorted, saying. This is the perfection of teaching, comprising something of fear and something of love.
Save yourselves from this untoward generation. He says nothing of the future, all is about the present, by which indeed men are chiefly swayed; he shows that the Gospel releases from present evils as well.
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
Acts 2:41 Think you not this cheered the Apostles more than the miracle?
And they continued steadfastly and with one accord in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship.
Acts 2:42 Here are two virtues, perseverance and concord.
In the Apostles' doctrine, he says: for they again taught them;
and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer. All in common, all with perseverance.
And fear came upon every soul
Acts 2:43: of those that believed. For they did not despise the Apostles, like common men, nor did they fix their regard on that which was visible merely. Verily, their thoughts were kindled into a glow. And as Peter had before spoken much, and declared the promises, and the things to come, well might they be beside themselves with fear. The wonders also bore witness to the words:
Many wonders and signs were done by the Apostles. As was the case with Christ; first there were signs, then teaching, then wonders; so was it now.
And all that believed were together, and had all things common.
Acts 2:44 Consider what an advance was here immediately! For the fellowship was not only in prayers, nor in doctrine alone, but also in (πολιτεία) social relations.
And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. See what fear was wrought in them!
And they parted them, he says, showing the (τὸ οἰκονομικὸν) wise management:
As every man had need. Not recklessly, like some philosophers among the Greeks, of whom some gave up their land, others cast into the sea great quantities of money; but this was no contempt of riches, but only folly and madness. For universally the devil has made it his endeavor to disparage the creatures of God, as if it were impossible to make good use of riches.
And continuing daily with one accord in the temple
Acts 2:46, they enjoyed the benefit of teaching. Consider how these Jews did nothing else great or small, than assiduously attend at the temple. For, as having become more earnest, they had increased devotion also to the place. For the Apostles did not for the present pluck them away from this object, for fear of injuring them.
And breaking bread from house to house, did take their portion of food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people.
Acts 2:47 It seems to me that in mentioning
bread, he here signifies fasting and hard life; for they
took their portion of food, not of dainty fare.
With gladness, he says. Do you see that not the dainty fare, but the (τροφἥς οὐ τρυφἥς) food made the enjoyment. For they that fare daintily are under punishment and pain; but not so these. Do you see that the words of Peter contain this also, namely, the regulation of life? [
And singleness of heart.] For no gladness can exist where there is no simplicity. How had they
favor with all the people? On account of their alms deeds. For do not look to the fact, that the chief priests for envy and spite rose up against them, but rather consider that
they had favor with the people.—
And the Lord added to the Church daily (ἐ πὶ τὸ αὐτό) [together] such as should be saved.— And all that believed were together. Once more, the unanimity, the charity, which is the cause of all good things!
Now when they heard this, etc.
Then Peter said unto them, etc.]
Acts 2:37 What had been said was not enough. For those sayings indeed were sufficient to bring them to faith; but these are to show what things the believer behooves to do. And he said not, In the Cross, but,
In the name of Jesus Christ let every one of you be baptized.
Acts 2:38 And he does not put them continually in mind of the Cross, that he may not seem to reproach them, but he says simply,
Repent: and why? That we may be punished? No:
And let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins. And yet quite other is the law; of this world's tribunals: but in the case of the Gospel proclamation (κηρύγματος); when the delinquent has confessed, then is he saved! Observe how Peter does not instantly hurry over this, but he specifies also the conditions, and adds,
You shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; an assertion accredited by the fact, that the Apostles themselves had received that gift. [
For the promise, etc.]
The promise, i.e. the gift of the Holy Ghost. So far, he speaks of the easy part, and that which has with it a great gift; and then he leads them to practice: for it will be to them a ground of earnestness, to have tasted already of those so great blessings [
and with many other words did he testify, etc.]
Acts 2:40. Since, however, the hearer would desire to learn what was the sum and, substance of these further words, he tells us this: [
Saying, save yourselves from this untoward generation.] [
They then, that gladly received his words, etc.]
Acts 2:41 they approved of what had been said, although fraught with terror, and after their assent given, proceed at once to baptism.
And they continued it is written,
steadfastly in the doctrine (or,
of the Apostles
Acts 2:42: for it was not for one day, no nor for two or three days that they were under teaching as being persons who had gone over to a different course of life. [
And they continued with one accord in the Apostles' doctrine, etc.] The expression is not, ὁ μοὕ
together, but ὁ μοθυμαδὸν,
with one accord; (
and daily, he says [afterwards],
they were continuing with one accord in the temple,) i.e. with one soul. And here again in his conciseness, he does not relate the teaching given; for as young children, the Apostles nourished them with spiritual food.
And fear came upon every soul
Acts 2:43: clearly, of those, as well, who did not believe; namely, upon seeing so great a change all at once effected, and besides in consequence of the miracles. [
And all that believed were together, and had all things in common, etc.]
Acts 2:44 They are all become angels on a sudden; all of them continuing in prayer and hearing, they saw that spiritual things are common, and no one there has more than other, and they speedily came together (ἐ πὶ τὸ αὐτὸ), to the same thing in common, even to the imparting to all.
And all the believing
Acts 2:44, it says, were ἐ πὶ τὸ αὐτὸ: and to see that this does not mean that they were together in place, observe what follows [
And had all things common].
All, it says: not one with the exception of another. This was an angelic commonwealth, not to call anything of theirs their own. Forthwith the root of evils was cut out. By what they did, they showed what they had heard: this was that which he said,
Save yourselves from this untoward generation.—
And daily continuing with one accord in the temple.
Acts 2:46 Since they have become three thousand, they take them abroad now: and withal, the boldness imparted by the Spirit being great: and daily they went up as to a sacred place, as frequently we find Peter and John doing this: for at present they disturbed none of the Jewish observances. And this honor too passed over to the place; the eating in the house. In what house? In the Temple. Observe the increase of piety. They cast away their riches, and rejoiced, and had great gladness, for greater were the riches they received without labor (ἄ πονα Cat. al. ἀ γαθά). None reproached, none envied, none grudged; no pride, no contempt was there. As children they did indeed account themselves to be under teaching: as new born babes, such was their disposition. Yet why use this faint image? If you remember how it was when God shook our city with an earthquake, how subdued all men were. (Infra, Hom. xli. §2.) Such was the case then with those converts. No knavery, no villany then: such is the effect of fear, of affliction! No talk of
yours then. Hence gladness waited at their table; no one seemed to eat of his own, or of another's—I grant this may seem a riddle. Neither did they consider their brethren's property foreign to themselves; it was the property of a Master; nor again deemed they anything their own, all was the brethren's. The poor man knew no shame, the rich no haughtiness. This is gladness. The latter deemed himself the obliged and fortunate party; the others felt themselves as honored herein, and closely were they bound together. For indeed, because when people make doles of money, there are apt to be insults, pride, grudging; therefore says the Apostle,
Not grudgingly, or of necessity.— 2 Corinthians 9:7 [
With gladness and simplicity of heart, etc.] See of how many things he bears witness to them! Genuine faith, upright conduct, perseverance in hearing, in prayers, in singleness, in cheerfulness. [
Acts 2:47 Two things there were which might deject them; their abstemious living, and the loss of their property. Yet on both these accounts did they rejoice. [
And having favor with all the people.] For who but must love men of this character, as common fathers? They conceived no malice toward each other; they committed all to the grace of God. [
With all the people.] Fear there was none; yea, though they had taken their position in the midst of dangers. By singleness, however, he denotes their entire virtue, far surpassing their contempt of riches, their abstinence, and their preseverance in prayer. For thus also they offered pure praise to God: this is to praise God. But observe also here how they immediately obtain their reward.
Having favor with all the people. They were engaging, and highly beloved. For who would not prize and admire their simplicity of character; who would not be linked to one in whom was nothing underhand? To whom too does salvation belong, but to these? To whom those great marvels? Was it not to shepherds that the Gospel was first preached? And to Joseph, being a man of simple mind, insomuch that he did not let a suspicion of adultery frighten him into doing wrong? Did not God elect rustics, those artless men? For it is written,
Blessed is every simple soul. Proverbs 11:25 And again,
He that walks simply, walks surely. Proverbs 10:9
True, you will say,
but prudence also is needed. Why, what is simplicity, I pray you, but prudence? For when you suspect no evil, neither can you fabricate any: when you have no annoyances, neither can you remember injuries. Has any one insulted you? You were not pained. Has any one reviled you? You were nothing hurt. Has he envied you? Still you had no hurt. Simplicity is a high road to true philosophy. None so beautiful in soul as the simple. For as in regard of personal appearance, he that is sullen, and downcast, and reserved (σύννους), even if he be good-looking, loses much of his beauty; while he that relaxes his countenance, and gently smiles, enhances his good looks; so in respect of the soul, he that is reserved, if he have ten thousand good points, disfigures them; but the frank and simple, just the reverse. A man of this last description may be safely made a friend, and when at variance easily reconciled. No need of guards and outposts, no need of chains and fetters with such an one; but great is his own freedom, and that of those who associate with him. But what, you will say, will such a man do if he fall among wicked people? God, Who has commanded us to be simple-minded, will stretch out His hand. What was more guileless than David? What more wicked than Saul? Yet who triumphed? Again, in Joseph's case; did not he in simplicity approach his master's wife, she him with wicked art? Yet what, I pray, was he the worse? Furthermore, what more simple than was Abel? What more malicious than Cain? And Joseph again, had he not dealt artlessly with his brethren? Was not this the cause of his eminence, that he spoke out unsuspiciously, while they received his words in malice? He declared once and again his dreams unreservedly; and then again he set off to them carrying provisions; he used no caution; he committed all to God: nay, the more they held him in the light of an enemy, the more did he treat them as brothers. God had power not to have suffered him to fall into their hands; but that the wonder might be made manifest, how, though they do their worst, he shall be higher than they: though the blow do come upon him, it comes from another, not from himself. On the contrary, the wicked man strikes himself first, and none other than himself.
For alone, it is said,
shall he bear his troubles. Proverbs 9:12 Ever in him the soul is full of dejection, his thoughts being ever entangled: whether he must hear anything or say anything, he does all with complaints, with accusation. Far, very far from such do friendship and harmony make their abode: but fightings are there, and enmities, and all unpleasantness. They that are such suspect even themselves. To these not even sleep is sweet, nor anything else. And have they a wife also, lo, they are enemies and at war with all: what endless jealousies, what unceasing fear! Aye, the wicked, πονηρὸς has his name from πονεἵν,
to have trouble. And, indeed, thus the Scripture is ever calling
wickedness by the name of labor; as, for instance,
Under his tongue is toil and labor; and again,
In the midst of them is toil and labor. Psalm 10:7; 90:10; and 55:11
Now if any one should wonder, whence those who had at first been of this last class, now are so different, let him learn that affliction was the cause, affliction, that school-mistress of heavenly wisdom, that mother of piety. When riches were done away with, wickedness also disappeared. True, say you, for this is the very thing I am asking about; but whence comes all the wickedness there is now? How is it that it came into the minds of those three thousand and five thousand straightway, to choose virtue, and that they simultaneously became Christian philosophers, whereas now hardly one is to be found? How was it that they then were in such harmony? What was it, that made them resolute and active? What was it that so suddenly inflamed them? The reason is, that they drew near with much piety; that honors were not so sought after as they are now; that they transferred their thoughts to things future, and looked for nothing of things present. This is the sign of an ardent mind, to encounter perils; this was their idea of Christianity. We take a different view, we seek our comfort here. The result is, that we shall not even obtain this, when the time has come.
What are we to do? asked those men. We, just the contrary—
What shall we do? What behooved to be done, they did. We, quite the reverse. Those men condemned themselves, despaired of saving themselves. This is what made them such as they were. They knew what a gift they had received. But how can you become like them, when you do everything in an opposite spirit? They heard, and were immediately baptized. They did not speak those cold words which we do now, nor did they contrive delays (p. 47, note 3); and yet they had heard all the requirements: but that word,
Save yourselves from this generation, made them to be not sluggish; rather they welcomed the exhortation; and that they did welcome it, they proved by their deeds, they showed what manner of men they were. They entered at once the lists, and took off the coat; whereas we do enter, but we intend to fight with our coat on. This is the cause that our antagonist has so little trouble, for we get entangled in our own movements, and are continually thrown down. We do precisely the same thing as he who, having to cope with a man frantic, breathing fire; and seeing him, a professed wrestler, covered with dust, tawny, stripped, clotted with dirt from the sand and sun, and running down with sweat and oil and dirt; himself, smelling of perfumes, should put on his silken garments, and his gold shoes, and his robe hanging down to his heels, and his golden trinkets on the head, and so descend into the arena, and grapple with him. Such a one will not only be impeded, but being taken up with the sole idea of not staining or rending his fine clothes, will tumble at the very first onset, and withal will suffer that which he chiefly dreaded, the damage of those his fond delights. The time for the contest has come, and say, are you putting on your silks? It is the time of exercise, the hour of the race, and are you adorning yourself as for a procession? Look not to outward things, but to the inward. For by the thoughts about these things the soul is hampered on all sides, as if by strong cords, so that she cannot let you raise a hand, or contend against the adversary; and makes you soft and effeminate. One may think himself, even when released from all these ties, well off, to be enabled to conquer that impure power. And on this account Christ too did not allow the parting with riches alone to suffice, but what says He?
Sell whatsoever you have, and give to the poor, and come and follow Me. Mark 10:21 Now if, even when we cast away our riches, we are not yet in a safe position, but stand still in need of some further art and close practice; much more, if we retain them, shall we fail to achieve great things, and, instead thereof, become a laughing-stock to the spectators, and to the evil one himself. For even though there were no devil, though there were none to wrestle with us, yet ten thousand roads on all sides lead the lover of money to hell. Where now are they who ask why the devil was made (διατί ὁ δ. γέγονεν;)? Behold here the devil has no hand in the work, we do it all ourselves. Of a truth they of the hills might have a right to speak thus, who after they had given proof of their temperance, their contempt of wealth and disregard of all such things, have infinitely preferred to abandon father, and houses, and lands, and wife, and children. Yet, they are the last to speak so: but the men who at no time ought to say it, these do say it. Those are indeed wrestlings with the devil; these he does not think worth entering into. You will say, But it is the devil who instils this same covetousness. Well, flee from it, do not harbor it, O man. Suppose now, you see one flinging out filth from some upper story, and at the same time a person seeing it thrown out, yet standing there and receiving it all on his head: you not only do not pity him, but you are angry, and tell him it serves him right; and,
Do not be a fool, everyone cries out to him, and lays the blame not so much on the other for shooting out the filth, as on him for letting it come on him. But now, you know that covetousness is of the devil; you know that it is the cause of ten thousand evils; you see him flinging out, like filth, his noisome imaginations; and do you not see that you are receiving on your bare head his nastiness, when it needed but to turn aside a little to escape it altogether? Just as our man by shifting his position would have escaped; so, do you refuse to admit such imaginations, ward off the lust. And how am I to do this? You will ask. Were you a Gentile, and had eyes for things present alone, the matter perhaps might be one of considerable difficulty, and yet even the Gentiles have achieved as much; but you— a man in expectation of heaven and heavenly bliss— and you to ask,
How am I to repel bad thoughts? Were I saying the contrary, then you might doubt: did I say, covet riches,
How shall I covet riches, you might answer,
seeing such things as I do? Tell me, if gold and precious stones were set before you, and I were to say, Desire lead, would there not be reason for hesitation? For you would say, How can I? But if I said, Do not desire it; this had been plainer to understand. I do not marvel at those who despise, but at those who despise not riches. This is the character of a soul exceeding full of stupidity, no better than flies and gnats, a soul crawling upon the earth, wallowing in filth, destitute of all high ideas. What is it you say? Are you destined to inherit eternal life; and do you say, how shall I despise the present life for the future? What, can the things be put in competition? You are to receive a royal vest; and say you, How shall I despise these rags? You are going to be led into the king's palace; and do you say, How shall I despise this present hovel? Of a truth, we ourselves are to blame in every point, we who do not choose to let ourselves be stirred up ever so little. For the willing have succeeded, and that with great zeal and facility. Would that you might be persuaded by our exhortation, and succeed too, and become imitators of those who have been successful, through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost together be glory, and power, and honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.