In the beginning was the Word.
Were John about to converse with us, and to say to us words of his own, we needs must describe his family, his country, and his education. But since it is not he, but God by him, that speaks to mankind, it seems to me superfluous and distracting to enquire into these matters. And yet even thus it is not superfluous, but even very necessary. For when you have learned who he was, and from whence, who his parents, and what his character, and then hear his voice and all his heavenly wisdom, then you shall know right well that these (doctrines) belong not to him, but to the Divine power stirring his soul.
From what country then was he? From no country; but from a poor village, and from a land little esteemed, and producing no good thing. For the Scribes speak evil of Galilee, saying,
Search and look, for out of Galilee arises no prophet. John 7:52 And
the Israelite indeed speaks ill of it, saying,
Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? And being of this land, he was not even of any remarkable place in it, but of one not even distinguished by name. Of this he was, and his father a poor fisherman, so poor that he took his sons to the same employment. Now you all know that no workman will choose to bring up his son to succeed him in his trade, unless poverty press him very hard, especially where the trade is a mean one. But nothing can be poorer, meaner, no, nor more ignorant, than fishermen. Yet even among them there are some greater, some less; and even there our Apostle occupied the lower rank, for he did not take his prey from the sea, but passed his time on a certain little lake. And as he was engaged by it with his father and his brother James, and they mending their broken nets, a thing which of itself marked extreme poverty, so Christ called him.
As for worldly instruction, we may learn from these facts that he had none at all of it. Besides, Luke testifies this when he writes not only that he was ignorant, but that he was absolutely unlettered. Acts 4:13 As was likely. For one who was so poor, never coming into the public assemblies, nor falling in with men of respectability, but as it were nailed to his fishing, or even if he ever did meet any one, conversing with fishmongers and cooks, how, I say, was he likely to be in a state better than that of the irrational animals? How could he help imitating the very dumbness of his fishes?
2. This fisherman then, whose business was about lakes, and nets, and fish; this native of Bethsaida of Galilee; this son of a poor fisherman, yes, and poor to the last degree; this man ignorant, and to the last degree of ignorance too, who never learned letters either before or after he accompanied Christ; let us see what he utters, and on what matters he converses with us. Is it of things in the field? Is it of things in rivers? On the trade in fish? For these things, perhaps, one expects to hear from a fisherman. But fear not; we shall hear nought of these; but we shall hear of things in heaven, and what no one ever learned before this man. For, as might be expected of one who speaks from the very treasures of the Spirit, he has come bringing to us sublime doctrines, and the best way of life and wisdom, [as though just arrived from the very heavens; yea, rather such as it was not likely that all even there should know, as I said before. ] Do these things belong to a fisherman? Tell me. Do they belong to a rhetorician at all? To a sophist or philosopher? To every one trained in the wisdom of the Gentiles? By no means. The human soul is simply unable thus to philosophize on that pure and blessed nature; on the powers that come next to it; on immortality and endless life; on the nature of mortal bodies which shall hereafter be immortal; on punishment and the judgment to come; on the enquiries that shall be as to deeds and words, as to thoughts and imaginations. It cannot tell what is man, what the world; what is man indeed, and what he who seems to be man, but is not; what is the nature of virtue, what of vice.
3. Some of these things indeed the disciples of Plato and Pythagoras enquired into. Of the other philosophers we need make no mention at all; they have all on this point been so excessively ridiculous; and those who have been among them in greater esteem than the rest, and who have been considered the leading men in this science, are so more than the others; and they have composed and written somewhat on the subject of polity and doctrines, and in all have been more shamefully ridiculous than children. For they have spent their whole life in making women common to all, in overthrowing the very order of life, in doing away the honor of marriage, and in making other the like ridiculous laws. As for doctrines on the soul, there is nothing excessively shameful that they have left unsaid; asserting that the souls of men become flies, and gnats, and bushes, and that God Himself is a soul; with some other the like indecencies.
And not this alone in them is worthy of blame, but so is also their ever-shifting current of words; for since they assert everything on uncertain and fallacious arguments, they are like men carried here and there in Euripus, and never remain in the same place.
Not so this fisherman; for all he says is infallible; and standing as it were upon a rock, he never shifts his ground. For since he has been thought worthy to be in the most secret places, and has the Lord of all speaking within him, he is subject to nothing that is human. But they, like persons who are not held worthy even in a dream to set foot in the king's palace, but who pass their time in the forum with other men, guessing from their own imagination at what they cannot see, have erred a great error, and, like blind or drunken men in their wandering, have dashed against each other; and not only against each other, but against themselves, by continually changing their opinion, and that ever on the same matters.
4. But this unlettered man, the ignorant, the native of Bethsaida, the son of Zebedee, (though the Greeks mock ten thousand times at the rusticity of the names, I shall not the less speak them with the greater boldness.) For the more barbarous his nation seems to them, and the more he seems removed from Grecian discipline, so much the brighter does what we have with us appear. For when a barbarian and an untaught person utters things which no man on earth ever knew, and does not only utter, (though if this were the only thing it were a great marvel,) but besides this, affords another and a stronger proof that what he says is divinely inspired, namely, the convincing all his hearers through all time; who will not wonder at the power that dwells in him? Since this is, as I said, the strongest proof that he lays down no laws of his own. This barbarian then, with his writing of the Gospel, has occupied all the habitable world. With his body he has taken possession of the center of Asia, where of old philosophized all of the Grecian party, shining forth in the midst of his foes, dispersing their darkness, and breaking down the stronghold of devils: but in soul he has retired to that place which is fit for one who has done such things.
5. And as for the writings of the Greeks, they are all put out and vanished, but this man's shine brighter day by day. For from the time that he (was) and the other fishermen, since then the (doctrines) of Pythagoras and of Plato, which seemed before to prevail, have ceased to be spoken of, and most men do not know them even by name. Yet Plato was, they say, the invited companion of kings, had many friends, and sailed to Sicily. And Pythagoras occupied Magna Græcia, and practiced there ten thousand kinds of sorcery. For to converse with oxen, (which they say he did,) was nothing else but a piece of sorcery. As is most clear from this. He that so conversed with brutes did not in anything benefit the race of men, but even did them the greatest wrong. Yet surely, the nature of men was better adapted for the reasoning of philosophy; still he did, as they say, converse with eagles and oxen, using sorceries. For he did not make their irrational nature rational, (this was impossible to man,) but by his magic tricks he deceived the foolish. And neglecting to teach men anything useful, he taught that they might as well eat the heads of those who begot them, as beans. And he persuaded those who associated with him, that the soul of their teacher had actually been at one time a bush, at another a girl, at another a fish.
Are not these things with good cause extinct, and vanished utterly? With good cause, and reasonably. But not so the words of him who was ignorant and unlettered; for Syrians, and Egyptians, and Indians, and Persians, and Ethiopians, and ten thousand other nations, translating into their own tongues the doctrines introduced by him, barbarians though they be, have learned to philosophize. I did not therefore idly say that all the world has become his theater. For he did not leave those of his own kind, and waste his labor on the irrational creatures, (an act of excessive vainglory and extreme folly,) but being clear of this as well as of other passions, he was earnest on one point only, that all the world might learn somewhat of the things which might profit it, and be able to translate it from earth to heaven.
For this reason too, he did not hide his teaching in mist and darkness, as they did who threw obscurity of speech, like a kind of veil, around the mischiefs laid up within. But this man's doctrines are clearer than the sunbeams, wherefore they have been unfolded to all men throughout the world. For he did not teach as Pythagoras did, commanding those who came to him to be silent for five years, or to sit like senseless stones; neither did he invent fables defining the universe to consist of numbers; but casting away all this devilish trash and mischief, he diffused such simplicity through his words, that all he said was plain, not only to wise men, but also to women and youths. For he was persuaded that the words were true and profitable to all that should hearken to them. And all time after him is his witness; since he has drawn to him all the world, and has freed our life when we have listened to these words from all monstrous display of wisdom; wherefore we who hear them would prefer rather to give up our lives, than the doctrines by him delivered to us.
6. From this then, and from every other circumstance, it is plain, that nothing of this man's is human, but divine and heavenly are the lessons which come to us by this divine soul. For we shall observe not sounding sentences, nor magnificent diction, nor excessive and useless order and arrangement of words and sentences, (these things are far from all true wisdom,) but strength invincible and divine, and irresistible force of right doctrines, and a rich supply of unnumbered good things. For their over-care about expression was so excessive, so worthy of mere sophists, or rather not even of sophists, but of silly striplings, that even their own chief philosopher introduces his own master as greatly ashamed of this art, and as saying to the judges, that what they hear from him shall be spoken plainly and without premeditation, not tricked out rhetorically nor ornamented with (fine) sentences and words; since, says he, it cannot surely be becoming, O men, that one at my age should come before you like a lad inventing speeches. And observe the extreme absurdity of the thing; what he has described his master avoiding as disgraceful, unworthy of philosophy and work for lads, this above all he himself has cultivated. So entirely were they given up to mere love of distinction.
And as, if you uncover those sepulchers which are whitened without you will find them full of corruption, and stench, and rotten bones; so too the doctrines of the philosopher, if you strip them of their flowery diction, you will see to be full of much abomination, especially when he philosophizes on the soul, which he both honors and speaks ill of without measure. And this is the snare of the devil, never to keep due proportion, but by excess on either hand to lead aside those who are entangled by it into evil speaking. At one time he says, that the soul is of the substance of God; at another, after having exalted it thus immoderately and impiously, he exceeds again in a different way, and treats it with insult, making it pass into swine and asses, and other animals of yet less esteem than these.
But enough of this; or rather even this is out of measure. For if it were possible to learn anything profitable from these things, we must have been longer occupied with them; but if it be only to observe their indecency and absurdity, more than requisite has been said by us already. We will therefore leave their fables, and attach ourselves to our own doctrines, which have been brought to us from above by the tongue of this fisherman, and which have nothing human in them.
7. Let us then bring forward the words, having reminded you now, as I exhorted you at the first, earnestly to attend to what is said. What then does this Evangelist say immediately on his outset?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. John 1:1 Do you see the great boldness and power of the words, how he speaks nothing doubting nor conjecturing, but declaring all things plainly? For this is the teacher's part, not to waver in anything he says, since if he who is to be a guide to the rest require another person who shall be able to establish him with certainty, he would be rightly ranked not among teachers, but among disciples.
But if any one say,
What can be the reason that he has neglected the first cause, and spoken to us at once concerning the second? we shall decline to speak of
second, for the Divinity is above number, and the succession of times. Wherefore we decline these expressions; but we confess that the Father is from none, and that the Son is begotten of the Father. Yes, it may be said, but why then does he leave the Father, and speak concerning the Son? Why? Because the former was manifest to all, if not as Father, at least as God; but the Only-Begotten was not known; and therefore with reason did he immediately from the very beginning hasten to implant the knowledge of Him in those who knew Him not.
Besides, he has not been silent as to the Father in his writings on these points. And observe, I beg of you, his spiritual wisdom. He knows that men most honor the eldest of beings which was before all, and account this to be God. Wherefore from this point first he makes his beginning, and as he advances, declares that God is, and does not like Plato assert, sometimes that He is intellect, sometimes that He is soul; for these things are far removed from that divine and unmixed Nature which has nothing common with us, but is separated from any fellowship with created things, I mean as to substance, though not as to relation.
And for this reason he calls Him
The Word. For since he is about to teach that this
Word is the only-begotten Son of God, in order that no one may imagine that His generation is passible, by giving Him the appellation of
The Word, he anticipates and removes beforehand the evil suspicion, showing that the Son is from the Father, and that without His suffering (change).
8. Do you see then that as I said, he has not been silent as to the Father in his words concerning the Son? And if these instances are not sufficient fully to explain the whole matter, marvel not, for our argument is God, whom it is impossible to describe, or to imagine worthily; hence this man nowhere assigns the name of His essence, (for it is not possible to say what God is, as to essence,) but everywhere he declares Him to us by His workings. For this
Word one may see shortly after called
Light, and the
Light in turn named
Although not for this reason only did he so name Him; this was the first reason, and the second was because He was about to declare to us the things of the Father. For
all things, He says,
that I have heard from my Father, I have made known unto you. John 15:15 He calls Him both
Life, for He has freely given to us the light which proceeds from knowledge, and the life which follows it. In short, one name is not sufficient, nor two, nor three, nor more, to teach us what belongs to God. But we must be content to be able even by means of many to apprehend, though but obscurely, His attributes.
And he has not called Him simply
Word, but with the addition of the article, distinguishing Him from the rest in this way also. Do you see then that I said not without cause that this Evangelist speaks to us from heaven? Only see from the very beginning whither he has drawn up the soul, having given it wings, and has carried up with him the mind of his hearers. For having set it higher than all the things of sense, than earth, than sea, than heaven, he leads it by the hand above the very angels, above cherubim and seraphim, above thrones and principalities and powers; in a word, persuades it to journey beyond all created things.
9. What then? When he has brought us to such a height as this, is he in truth able to stop us there? By no means; but just as one by transporting into the midst of the sea a person who was standing on the beach, and looking on cities, and beaches, and havens, removes him indeed from the former objects, yet does not stay his sight anywhere, but brings him to a view without bound; so this Evangelist, having brought us above all creation, and escorted us towards the eternal periods which lie beyond it, leaves the sight suspended, not allowing it to arrive at any limit upwards, as indeed there is none.
For the intellect, having ascended to
the beginning, enquires what
beginning; and then finding the
was always outstripping its imagination, has no point at which to stay its thought; but looking intently onwards, and being unable to cease at any point, it becomes wearied out, and turns back to things below. For this
was in the beginning, is nothing else than expressive of ever being and being infinitely.
Do you see true philosophy and divine doctrines? Not like those of the Greeks, who assign times, and say that some indeed of the gods are younger, some elder. There is nothing of this with us. For if God Is, as certainly He Is, then nothing was before Him. If He is Creator of all things, He must be first; if Master and Lord of all, then all, both creatures and ages, are after Him.
10. I had desired to enter the lists yet on other difficulties, but perhaps our minds are wearied out; when therefore I have advised you on those points which are useful to us for the hearing, both of what has been said, and of what is yet to be said, I again will hold my peace. What then are these points? I know that many have become confused by reason of the length of what has been spoken. Now this takes place when the soul is heavy laden with many burdens of this life. For as the eye when it is clear and transparent is keen-sighted also, and will not easily be tired in making out even the minutest bodies; but when from some bad humor from the head having poured into it, or some smoke-like fumes having ascended to it from beneath, a kind of thick cloud is formed before the ball, this does not allow it clearly to perceive even any larger object; so is naturally the case with the soul. For when it is purified, and has no passion to disturb it, it looks steadfastly to the fit objects of its regard; but when, darkened by many passions, it loses its proper excellence, then it is not easily able to be sufficient for any high thing, but soon is wearied, and falls back; and turning aside to sleep and sloth, lets pass things that concern it with a view to excellence and the life thence arising, instead of receiving them with much readiness.
And that you may not suffer this, (I shall not cease continually thus to warn you,) strengthen your minds, that you may not hear what the faithful among the Hebrews heard from Paul. For to them he said that he had
many things to say, and hard to be uttered Hebrews 5:11; not as though they were by nature such, but because, says he,
you are dull of hearing. For it is the nature of the weak and infirm man to be confused even by few words as by many, and what is clear and easy he thinks hard to be comprehended. Let not any here be such an one, but having chased from him all worldly care, so let him hear these doctrines.
For when the desire of money possesses the hearer, the desire of hearing cannot possess him as well; since the soul, being one, cannot suffice for many desires; but one of the two is injured by the other, and, from division, becomes weaker as its rival prevails, and expends all upon itself.
And this is wont to happen in the case of children. When a man has only one, he loves that one exceedingly. But when he has become father of many, then also his dispositions of affection being divided become weaker.
If this happens where there is the absolute rule and power of nature, and the objects beloved are akin one with another, what can we say as to that desire and disposition which is according to deliberate choice; especially where these desires lie directly opposed to each other; for the love of wealth is a thing opposed to the love of this kind of hearing. We enter heaven when we enter here; not in place, I mean, but in disposition; for it is possible for one who is on earth to stand in heaven, and to have vision of the things that are there, and to hear the words from thence.
11. Let none then introduce the things of earth into heaven; let no one standing here be careful about what is at his house. For he ought to bear with him, and to preserve both at home and in his business, what he gains from this place, not to allow it to be loaded with the burdens of house and market. Our reason for entering in to the chair of instruction is, that thence we may cleanse ourselves from the filth of the outer world; but if we are likely even in this little space to be injured by things said or done without, it is better for us not to enter at all. Let no one then in the assembly be thinking about domestic matters, but let him at home be stirring with what he heard in the assembly. Let these things be more precious to us than any. These concern the soul, but those the body; or rather what is said here concerns both body and soul. Wherefore let these things be our leading business, and all others but occasional employments; for these belong both to the future and the present life, but the rest neither to the one nor the other, unless they be managed according to the law laid down for these. Since from these it is impossible to learn not only what we shall hereafter be, and how we shall then live, but how we shall rightly direct this present life also.
For this house is a spiritual surgery, that whatever wounds we may have received without, here we may heal, not that we may gather fresh ones to take with us hence. Yet if we do not give heed to the Spirit speaking to us, we shall not only fail to clear ourselves of our former hurts, but shall get others in addition.
Let us then with much earnestness attend to the book as it is being unfolded to us; since if we learn exactly its first principles and fundamental doctrines, we shall not afterwards require much close study, but after laboring a little at the beginning, shall be able, as Paul says, to instruct others also. Romans 15:14 For this Apostle is very sublime, abounding in many doctrines, and on these he dwells more than on other matters.
Let us not then be careless hearers. And this is the reason why we set them forth to you little by little, so that all may be easily intelligible to you, and may not escape your memory. Let us fear then lest we come under the condemnation of that word which says,
If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin. John 15:22 For what shall we be profited more than those who have not heard, if even after hearing we go our way home bearing nothing with us, but only wondering at what has been said.
Allow us then to sow in good ground; allow us, that you may draw us the more to you. If any man has thorns, let him cast the fire of the Spirit among them. If any has a hard and stubborn heart, let him by employing the same fire make it soft and yielding. If any by the wayside is trodden down by all kind of thoughts, let him enter into more sheltered places, and not lie exposed for those that will to invade for plunder: that so we may see your cornfields waving with grain. Besides, if we exercise such care as this over ourselves, and apply ourselves industriously to this spiritual hearing, if not at once yet by degrees, we shall surely be freed from all the cares of life.
Let us therefore take heed that it be not said of us, that our ears are those of a deaf adder. Psalm 58:4 For tell me, in what does a hearer of this kind differ from a beast? And how could he be otherwise than more irrational than any irrational animal, who does not attend when God is speaking? And if to be well-pleasing to God is really to be a man, what else but a beast can he be who will not even hear how he may succeed in this? Consider then what a misfortune it would be for us to fall down of our own accord from (the nature of) men to (that of) beasts, when Christ is willing of men to make us equal to angels. For to serve the belly, to be possessed by the desire of riches, to be given to anger, to bite, to kick, become not men, but beasts. Nay, even the beasts have each, as one may say, one single passion, and that by nature. But man, when he has cast away the dominion of reason, and torn himself from the commonwealth of God's devising, gives himself up to all the passions, is no longer merely a beast, but a kind of many-formed motley monster; nor has he even the excuse from nature, for all his wickedness proceeds from deliberate choice and determination.
May we never have cause to suspect this of the Church of Christ. Indeed, we are concerning you persuaded of better things, and such as belong to salvation; but the more we are so persuaded, the more careful we will be not to desist from words of caution. In order that having mounted to the summit of excellencies, we may obtain the promised goods. Which may it come to pass that we all attain to, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory world without end. Amen.
In the beginning was the Word.
1. On the subject of attention in hearkening it is superfluous to exhort you any more, so quickly have you shown by your actions the effects of my advice. For your manner of running together, your attentive postures, the thrusting one another in your eagerness to get the inner places, where my voice may more clearly be heard by you, your unwillingness to retire from the press until this spiritual assembly be dissolved, the clapping of hands, the murmurs of applause; in a word, all things of this kind may be considered proofs of the fervor of your souls, and of your desire to hear. So that on this point it is superfluous to exhort you. One thing, however, it is necessary for us to bid and entreat, that you continue to have the same zeal, and manifest it not here only, but that also when you are at home, you converse man with wife, and father with son, concerning these matters. And say somewhat of yourselves, and require somewhat in return from them; and so all contribute to this excellent banquet.
For let no one tell me that our children ought not to be occupied with these things; they ought not only to be occupied with them, but to be zealous about them only. And although on account of your infirmity I do not assert this, nor take them away from their worldly learning, just as I do not draw you either from your civil business; yet of these seven days I claim that you dedicate one to the common Lord of us all. For is it not a strange thing that we should bid our domestics slave for us all their time, and ourselves apportion not even a little of our leisure to God; and this too when all our service adds nothing to Him, (for the Godhead is incapable of want,) but turns out to our own advantage? And yet when you take your children into the theaters, you allege neither their mathematical lessons, nor anything of the kind; but if it be required to gain or collect anything spiritual, you call the matter a waste of time. And how shall you not anger God, if you find leisure and assign a season for everything else, and yet think it a troublesome and unseasonable thing for your children to take in hand what relates to Him?
Do not so, brethren, do not so. It is this very age that most of all needs the hearing these things; for from its tenderness it readily stores up what is said; and what children hear is impressed as a seal on the wax of their minds. Besides, it is then that their life begins to incline to vice or virtue; and if from the very gates and portals one lead them away from iniquity, and guide them by the hand to the best road, he will fix them for the time to come in a sort of habit and nature, and they will not, even if they be willing, easily change for the worse, since this force of custom draws them to the performance of good actions. So that we shall see them become more worthy of respect than those who have grown old, and they will be more useful in civil matters, displaying in youth the qualities of the aged.
For, as I before said, it cannot be that they who enjoy the hearing of such things as these, and who are in the company of such an Apostle, should depart without receiving some great and remarkable advantage, be it man, woman, or youth, that partakes of this table. If we train by words the animals which we have, and so tame them, how much more shall we effect this with men by this spiritual teaching, when there is a wide difference between the remedy in each case, and the subject healed as well. For neither is there so much fierceness in us as in the brutes, since theirs is from nature, ours from choice; nor is the power of the words the same, for the power of the first is that of the human intellect, the power of the second is that of the might and grace of the Spirit. Let then the man who despairs of himself consider the tame animals, and he shall no longer be thus affected; let him come continually to this house of healing, let him hear at all times the laws of the Spirit, and on retiring home let him write down in his mind the things which he has heard; so shall his hopes be good and his confidence great, as he feels his progress by experience. For when the devil sees the law of God written in the soul, and the heart become tablets to write it on, he will not approach any more. Since wherever the king's writing is, not engraved on a pillar of brass, but stamped by the Holy Ghost on a mind loving God, and bright with abundant grace, that (evil one) will not be able even to look at it, but from afar will turn his back upon us. For nothing is so terrible to him and to the thoughts which are suggested by him as a mind careful about Divine matters, and a soul which ever hangs over this fountain. Such an one can nothing present annoy, even though it be displeasing; nothing puff up or make proud, even though it be favorable; but amidst all this storm and surge it will even enjoy a great calm.
2. For confusion arises within us, not from the nature of circumstances, but from the infirmity of our minds; for if we were thus affected by reason of what befalls us, then, (as we all sail the same sea, and it is impossible to escape waves and spray,) all men must needs be troubled; but if there are some who stand beyond the influence of the storm and the raging sea, then it is clear that it is not circumstances which make the storm, but the condition of our own mind. If therefore we so order the mind that it may bear all things contentedly, we shall have no storm nor even a ripple, but always a clear calm.
After professing that I should say nothing on these points, I know not how I have been carried away into such a length of exhortation. Pardon my prolixity; for I fear, yes, I greatly fear lest this zeal of ours should ever become weaker. Did I feel confident respecting it, I would not now have said to you anything on these matters, since it is sufficient to make all things easy to you. But it is time in what follows to proceed to the matters proposed for consideration today; that you may not come weary to the contest. For we have contests against the enemies of the truth, against those who use every artifice to destroy the honor of the Son of God, or rather their own. This remains for ever as it now is, nothing lessened by the blaspheming tongue, but they, by seeking eagerly to pull down Him whom they say they worship, fill their faces with shame and their souls with punishment.
What then do they say when we assert what we have asserted?
That the words, 'in the beginning was the Word,' do not denote eternity absolutely, for that this same expression was used also concerning heaven and earth. What enormous shamelessness and irreverence! I speak to you concerning God, and do you bring the earth into the argument, and men who are of the earth? At this rate, since Christ is called Son of God, and God, Man who is called Son of God must be God also. For,
I have said, You are Gods, and all of you are children of the Most High. Psalm 82:6 Will you contend with the Only-Begotten concerning Sonship, and assert that in that respect He enjoys nothing more than thou?
By no means, is the reply. And yet you do this even though thou say not so in words.
How? Because you say that thou by grace art partaker of the adoption, and He in like manner. For by saying that He is not Son by nature, thou only makest him to be so by grace.
However, let us see the proofs which they produce to us.
In the beginning, it is said,
God made the Heaven and the earth, and the earth was invisible and unformed. Genesis 1:2 And,
There 'was' a man of Ramathaim Zophim. 1 Samuel 1:1 These are what they think strong arguments, and they are strong; but it is to prove the correctness of the doctrines asserted by us, while they are utterly powerless to establish their blasphemy. For tell me, what has the word
was in common with the word
made? What has God in common with man? Why do you mix what may not be mixed? Why confound things which are distinct, why bring low what is above? In that place it is not the expression
was only which denotes eternity, but that One
was in the beginning. And that other,
The Word was; for as the word
being, when used concerning man, only distinguishes present time, but when concerning God, denotes eternity, so
was, when used respecting our nature, signifies to us past time, and that too limited, but when respecting God it declares eternity. It would have been enough then when one had heard the words
man, to imagine nothing more concerning them than what one may fitly think of a nature that came into being, for that which came to be, be it what it may, has come to be either in time, or the age before time was, but the Son of God is above not only times, but all ages which were before, for He is the Creator and Maker of them, as the Apostle says,
by whom also He made the ages. Now the Maker necessarily is, before the thing made. Yet since some are so senseless, as even after this to have higher notions concerning creatures than is their due, by the expression
He made, and by that other,
there was a man, he lays hold beforehand of the mind of his hearer, and cuts up all shamelessness by the roots. For all that has been made, both heaven and earth, has been made in time, and has its beginning in time, and none of them is without beginning, as having been made: so that when you hear that
he made the earth, and that
there was a man, you are trifling to no purpose, and weaving a tissue of useless folly.
For I can mention even another thing by way of going further. What is it? It is, that if it had been said of the earth,
In the beginning was the earth, and of man,
In the beginning was the man, we must not even then have imagined any greater things concerning them than what we have now determined. For the terms
man as they are presupposed, whatever may be said concerning them, do not allow the mind to imagine to itself anything greater concerning them than what we know at present. Just as
the Word, although but little be said of It, does not allow us to think (respecting It) anything low or poor. Since in proceeding he says of the earth,
The earth was invisible and unformed. For having said that
He made it, and having settled its proper limit, he afterwards declares fearlessly what follows, as knowing that there is no one so silly as to suppose that it is without beginning and uncreated, since the word
earth, and that other
made, are enough to convince even a very simple person that it is not eternal nor increate, but one of those things created in time.
3. Besides, the expression
was, applied to the earth and to man, is not indicative of absolute existence. But in the case of a man (it denotes) his being of a certain place, in that of the earth its being in a certain way. For he has not said absolutely
the earth was, and then held his peace, but has taught how it was even after its creation, as that it was
invisible and unformed, as yet covered by the waters and in confusion. So in the case of Elkanah he does not merely say that
there was a man, but adds also whence he was,
of Armathaim Zophim. But in the case of
the Word, it is not so. I am ashamed to try these cases, one against the other, for if we find fault with those who do so in the case of men, when there is a great difference in the virtue of those who are so tried, though in truth their substance be one; where the difference both of nature and of everything else is so infinite, is it not the extremest madness to raise such questions? But may He who is blasphemed by them be merciful to us. For it was not we who invented the necessity of such discussions, but they who war against their own salvation laid it on us.
What then do I say? That this first
was, applied to
the Word, is only indicative of His eternal Being, (for
In the beginning, he says,
was the Word,) and that the second
and the Word was with God,) denotes His relative Being. For since to be eternal and without beginning is most peculiar to God, this he puts first; and then, lest any one hearing that He was
in the beginning, should assert, that He was
unbegotten also, he immediately remedies this by saying, before he declares what He was, that He was
with God. And he has prevented any one from supposing, that this
Word is simply such a one as is either uttered or conceived, by the addition, as I beforesaid, of the article, as well as by this second expression. For he does not say, was
in God, but was
with God: declaring to us His eternity as to person. Then, as he advances, he has more clearly revealed it, by adding, that this
But yet created, it may be said. What then hindered him from saying, that
In the beginning God made the Word? At least Moses speaking of the earth says, not that
in the beginning was the earth, but that
He made it, and then it was. What now hindered John from saying in like manner, that
In the beginning God made the Word? For if Moses feared lest any one should assert that the earth was uncreated, much more ought John to have feared this respecting the Son, if He was indeed created. The world being visible, by this very circumstance proclaims its Maker, (
the heavens, says the Psalmist,
declare the glory of God Psalm 19:1), but the Son is invisible, and is greatly, infinitely, higher than all creation. If now, in the one instance, where we needed neither argument nor teaching to know that the world is created, yet the prophet sets down this fact clearly and before all others; much more should John have declared the same concerning the Son, if He had really been created.
Yes, it may be said,
but Peter has asserted this clearly and openly. Where and when?
When speaking to the Jews he said, that 'God has made Him both Lord and Christ.' Acts 2:36 Why do you not add what follows,
That same Jesus whom you have crucified? Or do you not know that of the words, part relate to His unmixed Nature, part to His Incarnation? But if this be not the case, and you will absolutely understand all as referring to the Godhead, then you will make the Godhead capable of suffering; but if not capable of suffering, then not created. For if blood had flowed from that divine and ineffable Nature, and if that Nature, and not the flesh, had been torn and cut by the nails upon the cross, on this supposition your quibbling would have had reason; but if not even the devil himself could utter such a blasphemy, why do you feign to be ignorant with ignorance so unpardonable, and such as not the evil spirits themselves could pretend? Besides the expressions
Christ belong not to His Essence, but to His dignity; for the one refers to His Power, the other to his having been anointed. What then would you say con cerning the Son of God? For if he were even, as you assert, created, this argument could not have place. For He was not first created and afterwards God chose Him, nor does He hold a kingdom which could be thrown aside, but one which belongs by nature to His Essence; since, when asked if He were a King, He answers,
To this end was I born. John 18:37 But Peter speaks as concerning one chosen, because his argument wholly refers to the Dispensation.
4. And why do you wonder if Peter says this? For Paul, reasoning with the Athenians, calls Him
Man only, saying,
By that Man whom He has ordained, whereof He has given assurance to all men, in that He has raised Him from the dead. Acts 17:31 He speaks nothing concerning
the form of God Philippians 2:6, nor that He was
equal to Him, nor that He was the
brightness of His glory. Hebrews 1:3 And with reason. The time for words like these was not yet come; but it would have contented him that they should in the meanwhile admit that He was Man, and that He rose again from the dead. Christ Himself acted in the same manner, from whom Paul having learned, used this reserve. For He did not at once reveal to us His Divinity, but was at first held to be a Prophet and a good man; but afterwards His real nature was shown by His works and words. On this account Peter too at first used this method, (for this was the first sermon that he made to the Jews;) and because they were not yet able clearly to understand anything respecting His Godhead, he dwelt on the arguments relating to His Incarnation; that their ears being exercised in these, might open a way to the rest of his teaching. And if any one will go through all the sermon from the beginning, he will find what I say very observable, for he (Peter) calls Him
Man, and dwells on the accounts of His Passion, His Resurrection, and His generation according to the flesh. Paul too when he says,
Who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh Romans 1:3, only teaches us that the word
made is taken with a view to His Incarnation, as we allow. But the son of thunder is now speaking to us concerning His Ineffable and Eternal Existence, and therefore he leaves the word
made and puts
was; yet if He were created, this point he needs must most especially have determined. For if Paul feared that some foolish persons might suppose that He shall be greater than the Father, and have Him who begot Him made subject to Him, (for this is the reason why the Apostle in sending to the Corinthians writes,
But when He says, All things are put under Him, it is manifest that He is excepted which did put all things under Him, yet who could possibly imagine that the Father, even in common with all things, will be subject to the Son?) if, I say, he nevertheless feared these foolish imaginations, and says,
He is excepted that did put all things under Him; much more if the Son of God were indeed created, ought John to have feared lest any one should suppose Him uncreated, and to have taught on this point before any other.
But now, since He was Begotten, with good reason neither John nor any other, whether apostle or prophet, has asserted that He was created. Neither had it been so would the Only-Begotten Himself have let it pass unmentioned. For He who spoke of Himself so humbly from condescension would certainly not have been silent on this matter. And I think it not unreasonable to suppose, that He would be more likely to have the higher Nature, and say nothing of it, than not having it to pass by this omission, and fail to make known that He had it not. For in the first case there was a good excuse for silence, namely, His desire to teach mankind humility by being silent as to the greatness of His attributes; but in the second case you can find no just excuse for silence. For why should He who declined many of His real attributes have been, if He were created, silent as to His having been made? He who, in order to teach humility, often uttered expressions of lowliness, such as did not properly belong to Him, much more if He had been indeed created, would not have failed to speak of this. Do you not see Him, in order that none may imagine Him not to have been begotten, doing and saying everything to show that He was so, uttering words unworthy both of His dignity and His essence, and descending to the humble character of a Prophet? For the expression,
As I hear, I judge John 5:30; and that other,
He has told Me what I should say, and what I should speak John 12:49, and the like, belong merely to a prophet. If now, from His desire to remove this suspicion, He did not disdain to utter words thus lowly, much more if He were created would He have said many like words, that none might suppose Him to be uncreated; as,
Think not that I am begotten of the Father; I am created, not begotten, nor do I share His essence. But as it is, He does the very contrary, and utters words which compel men, even against their will and desire, to admit the opposite opinion. As,
I am in the Father, and the Father in Me John 14:11; and,
Have I been so long time with you, and yet have you not known Me, Philip? He that has seen Me, has seen the Father. John 14:9 And,
That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. John 5:23
As the Father raises up the dead and quickens them, even so the Son quickens whom He will. John 5:21
My Father works hitherto, and I work. John 5:17
As the Father knows Me, even so know I the Father. John 10:15
I and My Father are One. John 10:30 And everywhere by putting the
as, and the
so, and the
being with the Father, He declares His undeviating likeness to Him. His power in Himself He manifests by these, as well as by many other words; as when He says,
Peace, be still. Mark 4:39
I will, be thou clean. Matthew 8:3
Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge you, come out of him. Mark 9:25 And again,
You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not kill; but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger. Matthew 5:21-22 And all the other laws which He gave, and wonders which He worked, are sufficient to show His power, or rather, I should say, a very small part of them is enough to bring over and convince any, except the utterly insensate.
5. But vainglory is a thing powerful to blind even to very evident truths the minds of those ensnared by it, and to persuade them to dispute against what is allowed by others; nay, it instigates some who know and are persuaded of the truth to pretended ignorance and opposition. As took place in the case of the Jews, for they did not through ignorance deny the Son of God, but that they might obtain honor from the multitude;
they believed, says the Evangelist, but were afraid,
lest they should be put out of the synagogue. John 12:40 And so they gave up their salvation to others. For it cannot be that he who is so zealous a slave to the glory of this present world can obtain the glory which is from God. Wherefore He rebuked them, saying,
How can you believe, which receive honor of men, and seek not the honor which comes from God? John 5:44 This passion is a sort of deep intoxication, and makes him who is subdued by it hard to recover. And having detached the souls of its captives from heavenly things, it nails them to earth, and lets them not look up to the true light, but persuades them ever to wallow in the mire, giving them masters so powerful, that they have the rule over them without needing to use commands. For the man who is sick of this disease, does of his own accord, and without bidding, all that he thinks will be agreeable to his masters. On their account he clothes himself in rich apparel, and beautifies his face, taking these pains not for himself but for others; and he leads about a train of followers through the market-place, that others may admire him, and all that he does he goes through, merely out of obsequiousness to the rest of the world. Can any state of mind be more wretched than this? That others may admire him, he is ever being precipitated to ruin.
Would you learn what a tyrannous sway it exercises? Why surely, the words of Christ are sufficient to show it all. But yet listen to these further remarks. If you will ask any of those men who mingle in state affairs and incur great expenses, why they lavish so much gold, and what their so vast expenditure means; you will hear from them, that it is for nothing else but to gratify the people. If again you ask what the people may be; they will say, that it is a thing full of confusion and turbulent, made up for the most part of folly, tossed blindly to and fro like the waves of the sea, and often composed of varying and adverse opinions. Must not the man who has such a master be more pitiable than any one? And yet strange though it be, it is not so strange that worldly men should be eager about these things; but that those who say that they have started away from the world should be sick of this same disease, or rather of one more grievous still, this is the strangest thing of all. For with the first the loss extends only to money, but in the last case the danger reaches to the soul. For when men alter a right faith for reputation's sake, and dishonor God that they may be in high repute themselves, tell me, what excess of stupidity and madness must there not be in what they do? Other passions, even if they are very hurtful, at least bring some pleasure with them, though it be but for a time and fleeting; those who love money, or wine, or women, have, with their hurt, a pleasure, though a brief one. But those who are taken captives by this passion, live a life continually embittered and stripped of enjoyment, for they do not obtain what they earnestly desire, glory, I mean, from the many. They think they enjoy it, but do not really, because the thing they aim at is not glory at all. And therefore their state of mind is not called glory, but a something void of glory, vaingloriousness, so have all the ancients named it, and with good reason; inasmuch as it is quite empty, and contains nothing bright or glorious within it, but as players' masks seem to be bright and lovely, but are hollow within, (for which cause, though they be more beautiful than natural faces, yet they never draw any to love them,) even so, or rather yet more wretchedly, has the applause of the multitude tricked out for us this passion, dangerous as an antagonist, and cruel as a master. Its countenance alone is bright, but within it is no more like the mask's mere emptiness, but crammed with dishonor, and full of savage tyranny. Whence then, it may be asked, has this passion, so unreasonable, so devoid of pleasure, its birth? Whence else but from a low, mean soul? It cannot be that one who is captivated by love of applause should imagine readily anything great or noble; he needs must be base, mean, dishonorable, little. He who does nothing for virtue's sake, but to please men worthy of no consideration, and who ever makes account of their mistaken and erring opinions, how can he be worth anything? Consider; if any one should ask him, What do you think of the many? He clearly would say,
that they are thoughtless, and not to be regarded. Then if any one again should ask him,
Would you choose to be like them? I do not suppose he could possibly desire to be like them. Must it not then be excessively ridiculous to seek the good opinion of those whom you never would choose to resemble?
6. Do you say that they are many and a sort of collective body? This is the very reason why you ought most to despise them. If when taken singly they are contemptible, still more will this be the case when they are many; for when they are assembled together, their individual folly is increased by numbers, and becomes greater. So that a man might possibly take a single one of them and set him right, but could not do so with them when together, because then their folly becomes intense, and they are led like sheep, and follow in every direction the opinions of one another. Tell me, will you seek to obtain this vulgar glory? Do not, I beg and entreat you. It turns everything upside down; it is the mother of avarice, of slander, of false witness, of treacheries; it arms and exasperates those who have received no injury against those who have inflicted none. He who has fallen into this disease neither knows friendship nor remembers old companionship, and knows not how to respect any one at all; he has cast away from his soul all goodness, and is at war with every one, unstable, without natural affection.
Again, the passion of anger, tyrannical though it be and hard to bear, still is not wont always to disturb, but only when it has persons that excite it; but that of vainglory is ever active, and there is no time, as one may say, when it can cease, since reason neither hinders nor restrains it, but it is always with us not only persuading us to sin, but snatching from our hands anything which we may chance to do aright, or sometimes not allowing us to do right at all. If Paul calls covetousness idolatry, what ought we to name that which is mother, and root, and source of it, I mean, vainglory? We cannot possibly find any term such as its wickedness deserves. Beloved, let us now return to our senses; let us put off this filthy garment, let us rend and cut it off from us, let us at some time or other become free with true freedom, and be sensible of the nobility which has been given to us by God; let us despise vulgar applause. For nothing is so ridiculous and disgraceful as this passion, nothing so full of shame and dishonor. One may in many ways see, that to love honor, is dishonor; and that true honor consists in neglecting honor, in making no account of it, but in saying and doing everything according to what seems good to God. In this way we shall be able to receive a reward from Him who sees exactly all our doings, if we are content to have Him only for a spectator. What need we other eyes, when He who shall confer the prize is ever beholding our actions? Is it not a strange thing that, whatever a servant does, he should do to please his master, should seek nothing more than his master's observation, desire not to attract other eyes (though they be great men who are looking on) to his conduct, but aim at one thing only, that his master may observe him; while we who have a Lord so great, seek other spectators who can nothing profit, but rather hurt us by their observation, and make all our labor vain? Not so, I beseech you. Let us call Him to applaud and view our actions from whom we shall receive our rewards. Let us have nothing to do with human eyes. For if we should even desire to attain this honor, we shall then attain to it, when we seek that which comes from God alone. For, He says,
Them that honor Me, I will honor. 1 Samuel 2:30 And even as we are best supplied with riches when we despise them, and seek only the wealth which comes from God (
Seek, he says,
the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you Matthew 6:33); so it is in the case of honor. When the granting either of riches or honor is no longer attended with danger to us, then God gives them freely; and it is then unattended with danger, when they have not the rule or power over us, do not command us as slaves, but belong to us as masters and free men. For the reason that He wishes us not to love them is, that we may not be ruled by them; and if we succeed in this respect, He gives us them with great liberality. Tell me, what is brighter than Paul, when he says,
We seek not honor of men, neither of you, nor yet of others. 1 Thessalonians 2:6 What then is richer than him who has nothing, and yet possesses all things? For as I said, when we are not mastered by them, then we shall master them, then we shall receive them. If then we desire to obtain honor, let us shun honor, so shall we be enabled after accomplishing the laws of God to obtain both the good things which are here, and those which are promised, by the grace of Christ, with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.
1. When children are just brought to their learning, their teachers do not give them many tasks in succession, nor do they set them once for all, but they often repeat to them the same short ones, so that what is said may be easily implanted in their minds, and they may not be vexed at the first onset with the quantity, and with finding it hard to remember, and become less active in picking up what is given them, a kind of sluggishness arising from the difficulty. And I, who wish to effect the same with you, and to render your labor easy, take little by little the food which lies on this Divine table, and instill it into your souls. On this account I shall handle again the same words, not so as to say again the same things, but to set before you only what yet remains. Come, then, let us again apply our discourse to the introduction.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. Why, when all the other Evangelists had begun with the Dispensation ; (for Matthew says,
The Book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David; and Luke too relates to us in the beginning of his Gospel the events relating to Mary; and in like manner Mark dwells on the same narratives, from that point detailing to us the history of the Baptist;) why, when they began with these matters, did John briefly and in a later place hint at them, saying,
the Word was made flesh John 1:14; and, passing by everything else, His conception, His birth, His bringing up, His growth, at once discourse to us concerning His Eternal Generation?
I will now tell you what the reason of this is. Because the other Evangelists had dwelt most on the accounts of His coming in the flesh, there was fear lest some, being of grovelling minds, might for this reason rest in these doctrines alone, as indeed was the case with Paul of Samosata. In order, therefore, to lead away from this fondness for earth those who were like to fall into it, and to draw them up towards heaven, with good reason he commences his narrative from above, and from the eternal subsistence. For while Matthew enters upon his relation from Herod the king, Luke from Tiberius Cæsar, Mark from the Baptism of John, this Apostle, leaving alone all these things, ascends beyond all time or age. Thither darting forward the imagination of his hearers to the
was in the beginning, not allowing it to stay at any point, nor setting any limit, as they did in Herod, and Tiberius, and John.
And what we may mention besides as especially deserving our admiration is, that John, though he gave himself up to the higher doctrine, yet did not neglect the Dispensation; nor were the others, though intent upon the relation of this, silent as to the subsistence before the ages. With good cause; for One Spirit It was that moved the souls of all; and therefore they have shown great unanimity in their narrative. But you, beloved, when you have heard of
The Word, do not endure those who say, that He is a work; nor those even who think, that He is simply a word. For many are the words of God which angels execute, but of those words none is God; they all are prophecies or commands, (for in Scripture it is usual to call the laws of God His commands, and prophecies, words; wherefore in speaking of the angels, he says,
Mighty in strength, fulfilling His word) Psalm 103:20, but this Word is a Being with subsistence, proceeding without affection from the Father Himself. For this, as I before said, he has shown by the term
Word. As therefore the expression,
In the beginning was the Word, shows His Eternity, so
was in the beginning with God, has declared to us His Co-eternity. For that you may not, when you hear
In the beginning was the Word, suppose Him to be Eternal, and yet imagine the life of the Father to differ from His by some interval and longer duration, and so assign a beginning to the Only-Begotten, he adds,
was in the beginning with God; so eternally even as the Father Himself, for the Father was never without the Word, but He was always God with God, yet Each in His proper Person.
How then, one says, does John assert, that He was in the world, if He was with God? Because He was both with God and in the world also. For neither Father nor Son are limited in any way. Since, if
there is no end of His greatness Psalm 145:3, and if
of His wisdom there is no number Psalm 147:5, it is clear that there cannot be any beginning in time to His Essence. You have heard, that
In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth Genesis 1:1; what do you understand from this
beginning? Clearly, that they were created before all visible things. So, respecting the Only-Begotten, when you hear that He was
in the beginning, conceive of him as before all intelligible things, and before the ages.
But if any one say,
How can it be that He is a Son, and yet not younger than the Father? Since that which proceeds from something else needs must be later than that from which it proceeds; we will say that, properly speaking, these are human reasonings; that he who questions on this matter will question on others yet more improper; and that to such we ought not even to give ear. For our speech is now concerning God, not concerning the nature of men, which is subject to the sequence and necessary conclusions of these reasonings. Still, for the assurance of the weaker sort, we will speak even to these points.
2. Tell me, then, does the radiance of the sun proceed from the substance itself of the sun, or from some other source? Any one not deprived of his very senses needs must confess, that it proceeds from the substance itself. Yet, although the radiance proceeds from the sun itself, we cannot say that it is later in point of time than the substance of that body, since the sun has never appeared without its rays. Now if in the case of these visible and sensible bodies there has been shown to be something which proceeds from something else, and yet is not after that from whence it proceeds; why are you incredulous in the case of the invisible and ineffable Nature? This same thing there takes place, but in a manner suitable to That Substance. For it is for this reason that Paul too calls Him
Brightness Hebrews 1:3; setting forth thereby His being from Him and His Co-eternity. Again, tell me, were not all the ages, and every interval created by Him? Any man not deprived of his senses must necessarily confess this. There is no interval therefore between the Son and the Father; and if there be none, then He is not after, but Co-eternal with Him. For
after are notions implying time, since, without age or time, no man could possibly imagine these words; but God is above times and ages.
But if in any case you say that you have found a beginning to the Son, see whether by the same reason and argument you are not compelled to reduce the Father also to a beginning, earlier indeed, but still a beginning. For when you have assigned to the Son a limit and beginning of existence, do you not proceed upwards from that point, and say, that the Father was before it? Clearly you do. Tell me then, what is the extent of the Father's prior subsistence? For whether you say that the interval is little, or whether you say it is great, you equally have brought the Father to a beginning. For it is clear, that it is by measuring the space that you say whether it is little or great; yet it would not be possible to measure it, unless there were a beginning on either side; so that as far as you are concerned you have given the Father a beginning, and henceforth, according to your argument, not even the Father will be without beginning. See you that the word spoken by the Saviour is true, and the saying everywhere discovers its force? And what is that word? It is
He that honors not the Son, honors not the Father. John 5:23
And I know indeed that what now has been said cannot by many be comprehended, and therefore it is that in many places we avoid agitating questions of human reasonings, because the rest of the people cannot follow such arguments, and if they could, still they have nothing firm or sure in them.
For the thoughts of mortal men are miserable, and our devices are but uncertain. Wisdom 9:14 Still I should like to ask our objectors, what means that which is said by the Prophet,
Before Me there was no God formed, nor is there any after Me? Isaiah 43:10 For if the Son is younger than the Father, how, says He,
Nor is there any after me? Will you take away the being of the Only-Begotten Himself? You either must dare this, or admit one Godhead with distinct Persons of the Father and Son.
Finally, how could the expression,
All things were made by Him, be true? For if there is an age older than He, how can that which was before Him have been made by Him? Do you see to what daring the argument has carried them, when once the truth has been unsettled? Why did not the Evangelist say, that He was made from things that were not, as Paul declares of all things, when he says,
Who calls those things which be not as though they were; but says,
Was in the beginning? Romans 4:17 This is contrary to that; and with good reason. For God neither is made, nor has anything older; these are words of the Greeks. Tell me this too: Would you not say, that the Creator beyond all comparison excels His works? Yet since that which is from things that were not is similar to them, where is the superiority not admitting of comparison? And what mean the expressions,
I am the first and I am the last Isaiah 44:6; and,
before Me was no other God formed? Isaiah 43:10 For if the Son be not of the same Essence, there is another God; and if He be not Co-eternal, He is after Him; and if He did not proceed from His Essence, clear it is that He was made. But if they assert, that these things were said to distinguish Him from idols, why do they not allow that it is to distinguish Him from idols that he says,
the Only True God? John 17:3 Besides, if this was said to distinguish Him from idols, how would you interpret the whole sentence?
After Me, He says,
is no other God. In saying this, He does not exclude the Son, but that
After Me there is no idol God, not that
there is no Son. Allowed, says he; what then? And the expression,
Before Me was no other God formed, will you so understand, as that no idol God indeed was formed before Him, but yet a Son was formed before Him? What evil spirit would assert this? I do not suppose that even Satan himself would do so.
Moreover, if He be not Co-eternal with the Father, how can you say that His Life is infinite? For if it have a beginning from before, although it be endless, yet it is not infinite; for the infinite must be infinite in both directions. As Paul also declared, when he said,
Having neither beginning of days, nor end of life Hebrews 7:3; by this expression showing that He is both without beginning and without end. For as the one has no limit, so neither has the other. In one direction there is no end, in the other no beginning.
3. And how again, since He is
Life, was there ever when He was not? For all must allow, that Life both is always, and is without beginning and without end, if It be indeed Life, as indeed It is. For if there be when It is not, how can It be the life of others, when It even Itself is not?
How then, says one,
does John lay down a beginning by saying, 'In the beginning was'? Tell me, have you attended to the
In the beginning, and to the
was, and do you not understand the expression,
the Word was? What! When the Prophet says,
From everlasting and to everlasting You are Psalm 90:2, does he say this to assign Him limits? No, but to declare His Eternity. Consider now that the case is the same in this place. He did not use the expression as assigning limits, since he did not say,
had a beginning, but
was in the beginning; by the word
was carrying you forward to the idea that the Son is without beginning.
Yet observe, says he,
the Father is named with the addition of the article, but the Son without it. What then, when the Apostle says,
The Great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ Titus 2:13; and again,
Who is above all, God? Romans 9:5 It is true that here he has mentioned the Son, without the article; but he does the same with the Father also, at least in his Epistle to the Philippians Philippians 2:6, he says,
Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; and again to the Romans,
Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:7 Besides, it was superfluous for it to be attached in that place, when close above it was continually attached to
the Word. For as in speaking concerning the Father, he says,
God is a Spirit John 4:24, and we do not, because the article is not joined to
Spirit, yet deny the Spiritual Nature of God; so here, although the article is not annexed to the Son, the Son is not on that account a less God. Why so? Because in saying
God, and again
God, he does not reveal to us any difference in this Godhead, but the contrary; for having before said,
and the Word was God; that no one might suppose the Godhead of the Son to be inferior, he immediately adds the characteristics of genuine Godhead, including Eternity, (for
He was, says he,
in the beginning with God,) and attributing to Him the office of Creator. For
by Him were all things made, and without Him was not anything made that was made; which His Father also everywhere by the Prophets declares to be especially characteristic of His own Essence. And the Prophets are continually busy on this kind of demonstration, not only of itself, but when they contend against the honor shown to idols;
Let the gods perish, says one
who have not made heaven and earth Jeremiah 10:11: and again,
I have stretched out the heaven with My hand Isaiah 44:24; and it is as declaring it to be indicative of Divinity, that He everywhere puts it. And the Evangelist himself was not satisfied with these words, but calls Him
Life too and
Light. If now He was ever with the Father, if He Himself created all things, if He brought all things into existence, and keeps together all things, (for, this he meant by
Life,) if He enlightens all things, who so senseless as to say, that the Evangelist desired to teach an inferiority of Divinity by those very expressions, by which, rather than by any others, it is possible to express its equality and not differing? Let us not then confound the creation with the Creator, lest we too hear it said of us, that
they served the creature rather than the Creator Romans 1:25; for although it be asserted that this is said of the heavens, still in speaking of the heavens he positively says, that we must not serve the creature, for it is a heathenish thing.
4. Let us therefore not lay ourselves under this curse. For this the Son of God came, that He might rid us from this service; for this He took the form of a slave, that He might free us from this slavery; for this He was spit upon, for this He was buffeted, for this He endured the shameful death. Let us not, I entreat you, make all these things of none effect, let us not go back to our former unrighteousness, or rather to unrighteousness much more grievous; for to serve the creature is not the same thing as to bring down the Creator, as far at least as in us lies, to the meanness of the creature. For He continues being such as He is; as says the Psalmist,
You are the same, and Your years shall not fail. Psalm 102:27 Let us then glorify Him as we have received from our fathers, let us glorify Him both by our faith and by our works; for sound doctrines avail us nothing to salvation, if our life is corrupt. Let us then order it according to what is well-pleasing to God, setting ourselves far from all filthiness, unrighteousness, and covetousness, as strangers and foreigners and aliens to the things here on earth. If any have much wealth and possessions, let him so use them as one who is a sojourner, and who, whether he will or not, shall shortly pass from them. If one be injured by another, let him not be angry forever, nay rather not even for a time. For the Apostle has not allowed us more than a single day for the venting of anger.
Let not, says he,
the sun go down upon your wrath Ephesians 4:26; and with reason; for it is matter for contentment that even in so short a time nothing unpleasant take place; but if night also overtake us, what has happened becomes more grievous, because the fire of our wrath is increased ten thousand times by memory, and we at our leisure enquire into it more bitterly. Before therefore we obtain this pernicious leisure and kindle a hotter fire, he bids us arrest beforehand and quench the mischief. For the passion of wrath is fierce, fiercer than any flame; and so we need much haste to prevent the flame, and not allow it to blaze up high, for so this disease becomes a cause of many evils. It has overturned whole houses, it has dissolved old companionships, and has worked tragedies not to be remedied in a short moment of time.
For, says one,
the sway of his fury shall be his destruction. Sirach 1:22 Let us not then leave such a wild beast unbridled, but put upon him a muzzle in all ways strong, the fear of the judgment to come. Whenever a friend grieves you, or one of your own family exasperates you, think of the sins you have committed against God, and that by kindness towards him you make that judgment more lenient to yourself, (
Forgive, says He,
and you shall be forgiven) Luke 6:37, and your passion shall quickly skulk away.
And besides, consider this, whether there has been a time when thou were being carried away into ferocity, and controlled yourself, and another time when you have been dragged along by the passion. Compare the two seasons, and you shall gain thence great improvement. For tell me, when did you praise yourself? Was it when you were worsted, or when you had the mastery? Do we not in the first case vehemently blame ourselves, and feel ashamed. even when none reproves us, and do not many feelings of repentance come over us, both for what we have said and done; but when we gain the mastery, then are we not proud, and exult as conquerors? For victory in the case of anger is, not the requiting evil with the like, (that is utter defeat,) but the bearing meekly to be ill treated and ill spoken of. To get the better is not to inflict but to suffer evil. Therefore when angry do not say,
certainly I will retaliate,
certainly I will be revenged; do not persist in saying to those who exhort you to gain a victory,
I will not endure that the man mock me, and escape clear. He will never mock you, except when you avenge yourself; or if he even should mock you he will do so as a fool. Seek not when you conquer honor from fools, but consider that sufficient which comes from men of understanding. Nay, why do I set before you a small and mean body of spectators, when I make it up of men? Look up straight to God: He will praise you, and the man who is approved by Him must not seek honor from mortals. Mortal honor often arises from flattery or hatred of others, and brings no profit; but the decision of God is free from this inequality, and brings great advantage to the man whom He approves. This praise then let us follow after.
Will you learn what an evil is anger? Stand by while others are quarreling in the forum. In yourself you cannot easily see the disgrace of the thing, because your reason is darkened and drunken; but when you are clear from the passion, and while your judgment is sound, view your own case in others. Observe, I pray you, the crowds collecting round, and the angry men like maniacs acting shamefully in the midst. For when the passion boils up within the breast, and becomes excited and savage, the mouth breathes fire, the eyes emit fire, all the face becomes swollen, the hands are extended disorderly, the feet dance ridiculously, and they spring at those who restrain them, and differ nothing from madmen in their insensibility to all these things; nay, differ not from wild asses, kicking and biting. Truly a passionate man is not a graceful one.
And then, when after this exceedingly ridiculous conduct, they return home and come to themselves, they have the greater pain, and much fear, thinking who were present when they were angry. For like raving men, they did not then know the standers by, but when they have returned to their right mind, then they consider, were they friends? Were they foes and enemies that looked on? And they fear alike about both; the first because they will condemn them and give them more shame; the others because they will rejoice at it. And if they have even exchanged blows, then their fear is the more pressing; for instance, lest anything very grievous happen to the sufferer; a fever follow and bring on death, or a troublesome swelling rise and place him in danger of the worst. And,
what need (say they)
had I of fighting, and violence, and quarreling? Perish such things. And then they curse the ill-fated business which caused them to begin, and the more foolish lay on
wicked spirits, and
an evil hour, the blame of what has been done; but these things are not from an evil hour, (for there is no such thing as an evil hour,) nor from a wicked spirit, but from the wickedness of those captured by the passion; they draw the spirits to them, and bring upon themselves all things terrible.
But the heart swells, says one,
and is stung by insults. I know it; and that is the reason why I admire those who master this dreadful wild beast; yet it is possible if we will, to beat off the passion. For why when our rulers insult us do we not feel it? It is because fear counterbalances the passion, and frightens us from it, and does not allow it to spring up at all. And why too do our servants, though insulted by us in ten thousand ways, bear all in silence? Because they too have the same restraint laid upon them. And think thou not merely of the fear of God, but that it is even God Himself who then insults you, who bids you be silent, and then you will bear all things meekly, and say to the aggressor, How can I be angry with you? There is another that restrains both my hand and my tongue; and the saying will be a suggestion of sound wisdom, both to yourself and to him. Even now we bear unbearable things on account of men, and often say to those who have insulted us,
Such an one insulted me, not you. Shall we not use the same caution in the case of God? How else can we hope for pardon? Let us say to our soul,
It is God who holds our hands, who now insults us; let us not be restive, let not God be less honored by us than men. Did you shudder at the word? I wish you would shudder not at the word only, but at the deed. For God has commanded us when buffeted not only to endure it, but even to offer ourselves to suffer something worse; and we withstand Him with such vehemence, that we not only refuse to offer ourselves to suffer evil, but even avenge ourselves, nay often are the first to act on the offensive, and think we are disgraced if we do not the same in return. Yes, and the mischief is, that when utterly worsted we think ourselves conquerors, and when lying undermost and receiving ten thousand blows from the devil, then we imagine that we are mastering him. Let us then, I exhort you, understand what is the nature of this victory, and this kind of nature let us follow after. To suffer evil is to get the crown. If then we wish to be proclaimed victors by God, let us not in these contests observe the laws of heathen games, but those of God, and learn to bear all things with longsuffering; for so we may get the better of our antagonists, and obtain both present and promised goods, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom and with whom to the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory, power, and honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.
1. Moses in the beginning of the history and writings of the Old Testament speaks to us of the objects of sense, and enumerates them to us at length. For,
In the beginning, he says,
God made the heaven and the earth, and then he adds, that light was created, and a second heaven and the stars, the various kinds of living creatures, and, that we may not delay by going through particulars, everything else. But this Evangelist, cutting all short, includes both these things and the things which are above these in a single sentence; with reason, because they were known to his hearers, and because he is hastening to a greater subject, and has instituted all his treatise, that he might speak not of the works but of the Creator, and Him who produced them all. And therefore Moses, though he has selected the smaller portion of the creation, (for he has spoken nothing to us concerning the invisible powers,) dwells on these things; while John, as hastening to ascend to the Creator Himself, runs by both these things, and those on which Moses was silent, having comprised them in one little saying,
All things were made by Him. And that you may not think that he merely speaks of all the things mentioned by Moses, he adds, that
without Him was not anything made that was made. That is to say, that of created things, not one, whether it be visible or intelligible was brought into being without the power of the Son.
For we will not put the full stop after
not anything, as the heretics do. They, because they wish to make the Spirit created, say,
What was made, in Him was Life; yet so what is said becomes unintelligible. First, it was not the time here to make mention of the Spirit, and if he desired to do so, why did he state it so indistinctly? For how is it clear that this saying relates to the Spirit? Besides, we shall find by this argument, not that the Spirit, but that the Son Himself, is created by Himself. But rouse yourselves, that what is said may not escape you; and come, let us read for a while after their fashion, for so its absurdity will be clearer to us.
What was made, in Him was Life. They say that the Spirit is called
Life. But this
Life is found to be also
Light, for he adds,
And the Life was the Light of men. John 1:4 Therefore, according to them the
Light of men here means the Spirit. Well, but when he goes on to say, that
There was a man sent from God, to bear witness of that Light vers. 6, 7, they needs must assert, that this too is spoken of the Spirit; for whom he above called
Word, Him as he proceeds he calls
Word he says was
Life, and this
Light. If now this Word was Life, and if this Word and this Life became flesh, then the Life, that is to say, the Word,
was made flesh, and we beheld Its
glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father. If then they say that the Spirit is here called
Life, consider what strange consequences will follow. It will be the Spirit, not the Son, that was made flesh; the Spirit will be the Only-Begotten Son.
And those who read the passage so will fall, if not into this, yet in avoiding this into another most strange conclusion. If they allow that the words are spoken of the Son, and yet do not stop or read as we do, then they will assert that the Son is created by Himself. Since, if
the Word was Life, and
what was made in Him was Life; according to this reading He is created in Himself and through Himself. Then after some words between, he has added,
And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father. John 1:14 See, the Holy Spirit is found, according to the reading of those who assert these things, to be also an only-begotten Son, for it is concerning Him that all this declaration is uttered by him. See when the word has swerved from the truth, whither it is perverted, and what strange consequences it produces!
What then, says one, is not the Spirit
Light? It is Light: but in this place there is no mention of the Spirit. Since even God (the Father) is called
Spirit, that is to say, incorporeal, yet God (the Father) is not absolutely meant wherever
Spirit is mentioned. And why do you wonder if we say this of the Father? We could not even say of the Comforter, that wherever
Spirit (is mentioned), the Comforter is absolutely meant, and yet this is His most distinctive name; still not always where Spirit (is mentioned is) the Comforter (meant). Thus Christ is called
the power of God 1 Corinthians 1:24, and
the wisdom of God; yet not always where
the power and
the wisdom of God are mentioned is Christ meant; so in this passage, although the Spirit does give
Light, yet the Evangelist is not now speaking of the Spirit.
When we have shut them out from these strange opinions, they who take all manner of pains to withstand the truth, say, (still clinging to the same reading,)
Whatever came into existence by him was life, because, says one,
whatever came into existence was life. What then do you say of the punishment of the men of Sodom, and the flood, and hell fire, and ten thousand like things?
But, says one,
we are speaking of the material creation. Well, these too belong entirely to the material creation. But that we may out of our abundance refute their argument, we will ask them,
Is wood, life, tell me?
Is stone, life? these things that are lifeless and motionless? Nay, is man absolutely life? Who would say so? He is not pure life, but is capable of receiving life.
2. See here again, an absurdity; by the same succession of consequences we will bring the argument to such a point, that even hence you may learn their folly. In this way they assert things by no means befitting of the Spirit. Being driven from their other ground, they apply those things to men, which they before thought to be spoken worthily of the Spirit. However, let us examine the reading itself this way also. The creature is now called
life, therefore, the same is
light, and John came to witness concerning it. Why then is not he also
light? He says that
he was not that light John 1:8, and yet he belonged to created things? How then is he not
light? How was he
in the world, and the world was made by him? John 1:10 Was the creature in the creature, and was the creature made by the creature? But how did
the world know him not? How did the creature not know the creature?
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God. John 1:12 But enough of laughter. For the rest I leave it to you to attack these monstrous reasonings, that we may not seem to have chosen to raise a laugh for its own sake, and waste the time without cause. For if these things are neither said of the Spirit, (and it has been shown that they are not,) nor of anything created, and yet they still hold to the same reading, that stranger conclusion than any which we before mentioned, will follow, that the Son was made by Himself. For if the Son is the true Light, and this Light was Life, and this Life was made in Him, this must needs be the result according to their own reading. Let us then relinquish this reading, and come to the recognized reading and explanation.
And what is that? It is to make the sentence end at
was made, and to begin the next sentence with,
In Him was Life. What (the Evangelist) says is this,
Without Him was not anything made that was made; whatever created thing was made, says he, was not made without Him. See you how by this short addition he has rectified all the besetting difficulties; for the saying, that
without Him was not anything made, and then the adding,
which was made, includes things cognizable by the intellect, but excludes the Spirit. For after he had said that
all things were made by Him, and
without Him was not anything made, he needed this addition, lest some one should say,
If all things were made by Him, then the Spirit also was made.
I, he replies,
asserted that whatever was made was made by Him, even though it be invisible, or incorporeal, or in the heavens. For this reason, I did not say absolutely, 'all things,' but 'whatever was made,' that is, 'created things,' but the Spirit is uncreated.
Do you see the precision of his teaching? He has alluded to the creation of material things, (for concerning these Moses had taught before him,) and after bringing us to advance from thence to higher things, I mean the immaterial and the invisible, he excepts the Holy Spirit from all creation. And so Paul, inspired by the same grace, said,
For by Him were all things created. Colossians 1:16 Observe too here again the same exactness. For the same Spirit moved this soul also. That no one should except any created things from the works of God because of their being invisible, nor yet should confound the Comforter with them, after running through the objects of sense which are known to all, he enumerates also things in the heavens, saying,
Whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; for the expression
whether subjoined to each, shows to us nothing else but this, that
by Him all things were made, and without Him was not anything made that was made.
But if you think that the expression
by is a mark of inferiority, (as making Christ an instrument,) hear him say,
You, Lord, in the beginning, hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. Psalm 102:25 He says of the Son what is said of the Father in His character of Creator; which he would not have said, unless he had deemed of Him as of a Creator, and yet not subservient to any. And if the expression
by Him is here used, it is put for no other reason but to prevent any one from supposing the Son to be Unbegotten. For that in respect of the title of Creator He is nothing inferior to the Father; hear from Himself, where He says,
As the Father raises up the dead and quickens them, even so the Son quickens whom He will. John 5:21 If now in the Old Testament it is said of the Son,
You, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, His title of Creator is plain. But if you say that the Prophet spoke this of the Father, and that Paul attributed to the Son what was said of the Father, even so the conclusion is the same. For Paul would not have decided that the same expression suited the Son, unless he had been very confident that between Father and Son there was an equality of honor; since it would have been an act of extremest rashness to refer what suited an incomparable Nature to a nature inferior to, and falling short of it. But the Son is not inferior to, nor falls short of, the Essence of the Father; and therefore Paul has not only dared to use these expressions concerning Him, but also others like them. For the expression
from Whom, which you decide to belong properly to the Father alone, he uses also concerning the Son, when he says,
from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increases with the increase of God. Colossians 2:19
3. And he is not content with this only, he stops your mouths in another way also, by applying to the Father the expression
by whom, which you say is a mark of inferiority. For he says,
God is faithful, by whom you were called unto the fellowship of His Son 1 Corinthians 1:9: and again,
By His will 1 Corinthians 1:1, etc.; and in another place,
For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things. Romans 11:26 Neither is the expression
from whom, assigned to the Son only, but also to the Spirit; for the angel said to Joseph,
Fear not to take unto you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. Matthew 1:20 As also the Prophet does not deem it improper to apply to the Father the expression
in whom, which belongs to the Spirit, when he says,
In God we shall do valiantly. Psalm 60:12 And Paul,
Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey, in the will of God, to come unto you. Romans 1:10 And again he uses it of Christ, saying,
In Christ Jesus. Romans 6:11, 23, etc. In short, we may often and continually find these expressions interchanged; now this would not have taken place, had not the same Essence been in every instance their subject. And that you may not imagine that the words,
All things were made by Him, are in this case used concerning His miracles, (for the other Evangelists have discoursed concerning these;) he farther goes on to say,
He was in the world, and the world was made by Him; (but not the Spirit, for This is not of the number of created things, but of those above all creation.)
Let us now attend to what follows. John having spoken of the work of creation, that
All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made, goes on to speak concerning His Providence, where he says,
In Him was Life. That no one may doubt how so many and so great things were
made by Him, he adds, that
In Him was Life. For as with the fountain which is the mother of the great deeps, however much you take away you nothing lessen the fountain; so with the energy of the Only-Begotten, however much you believe has been produced and made by it, it has become no whit the less. Or, to use a more familiar example, I will instance that of light, which the Apostle himself added immediately, saying,
And the Life was the Light. As then light, however many myriads it may enlighten, suffers no diminution of its own brightness; so also God, before commencing His work and after completing it, remains alike indefectible, nothing diminished, nor wearied by the greatness of the creation. Nay, if need were that ten thousand, or even an infinite number of such worlds be created, He remains the same, sufficient for them all not merely to produce, but also to control them after their creation. For the word
Life here refers not merely to the act of creation, but also to the providence (engaged) about the permanence of the things created; it also lays down beforehand the doctrine of the resurrection, and is the beginning of these marvelous good tidings. Since when
life has come to be with us, the power of death is dissolved; and when
light has shone upon us, there is no longer darkness, but life ever abides within us, and death cannot overcome it. So that what is asserted of the Father might be asserted absolutely of Him (Christ) also, that
In Him we live and move and have our being. Colossians 1:16-17 As Paul has shown when he says,
By Him were all things created, and
by Him all things consist; for which reason He has been called also
But when you hear that
In Him was Life, do not imagine Him a compound Being, since farther on he says of the Father also,
As the Father has Life in Himself, so has He given to the Son also to have Life John 5:26; now as you would not on account of this expression say that the Father is compounded, so neither can you say so of the Son. Thus in another place he says, that
God is Light 1 John 1:5, and elsewhere (it is said), that He
dwells in light unapproachable 1 Timothy 6:16; yet these expressions are used not that we may suppose a compounded nature, but that little by little we may be led up to the highest doctrines. For since one of the multitude could not easily have understood how His life was Life Impersonate, he first used that humbler expression, and afterwards leads them (thus) trained to the higher doctrine. For He who had said that
He has given Him (the Son) to have life John 5:26; the Same says in another place,
I am the Life John 14:6; and in another,
I am the Light. John 8:12 And what, tell me, is the nature of this
light? This kind (of light) is the object not of the senses, but of the intellect, enlightening the soul herself. And since Christ should hereafter say, that
None can come unto Me except the Father draw him John 6:44; the Apostle has in this place anticipated an objection, and declared that it is He (the Son) who
gives light John 1:9; that although you hear a saying like this concerning the Father, you may not say that it belongs to the Father only, but also to the Son. For,
All things, He says,
which the Father has are Mine. John 16:15
First then, the Evangelist has instructed us respecting the creation, after that he tells us of the goods relating to the soul which He supplied to us by His coming; and these he has darkly described in one sentence, when he says,
And the Life was the Light of men. John 1:4 He does not say,
was the light of the Jews, but universally
of men: nor did the Jews only, but the Greeks also, come to this knowledge, and this light was a common proffer made to all.
Why did he not add 'Angels,' but said, 'of men?'? Because at present his discourse is of the nature of men, and to them he came bearing glad tidings of good things.
And the light shines in darkness. John 1:5 He calls death and error,
darkness. For the light which is the object of our senses does not shine in darkness, but apart from it; but the preaching of Christ has shone forth in the midst of prevailing error, and made it to disappear. And He by enduring death has so overcome death, that He has recovered those already held by it. Since then neither death overcame it, nor error, since it is bright everywhere, and shines by its proper strength, therefore he says,
And the darkness comprehended it not. For it cannot be overcome, and will not dwell in souls which wish not to be enlightened.
4. But let it not trouble you that It took not all, for not by necessity and force, but by will and consent does God bring us to Himself. Therefore do not thou shut your doors against this light, and you shall enjoy great happiness. But this light comes by faith, and when it has come, it lights abundantly him that has received it; and if you display a pure life (meet) for it, remains indwelling within continually.
For, He says,
He that loves Me, will keep My commandments; and I and My Father will come unto him, and make Our abode with him. John 14:23; slightly varied As then one cannot rightly enjoy the sunlight, unless he opens his eyes; so neither can one largely share this splendor, unless he have expanded the eye of the soul, and rendered it in every way keen of sight.
But how is this effected? Then when we have cleansed the soul from all the passions. For sin is darkness, and a deep darkness; as is clear, because men do it unconsciously and secretly. For,
every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light. John 3:20 And,
It is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. Ephesians 5:12 For, as in darkness a man knows neither friend nor foe, but cannot perceive any of the properties of objects; so too is it in sin. For he who desires to get more gain, makes no difference between friend and enemy; and the envious regards with hostile eyes the man with whom he is very intimate; and the plotter is at mortal quarrel with all alike. In short, as to distinguishing the nature of objects, he who commits sin is no better than men who are drunk or mad. And as in the night, wood, lead, iron, silver, gold, precious stones, seem to us all alike on account of the absence of the light which shows their distinctions; so he who leads an impure life knows neither the excellence of temperance nor the beauty of philosophy. For in darkness, as I said before, even precious stones if they be displayed do not show their luster, not by reason of their own nature, but because of the want of discernment in the beholders. Nor is this the only evil which happens to us who are in sin, but this also, that we live in constant fear: and as men walking in a moonless night tremble, though none be by to frighten them; so those who work iniquity cannot have confidence, though there be none to accuse them; but they are afraid of everything, and are suspicious, being pricked by their conscience: all to them is full of fear and distress, they look about them at everything, are terrified at everything. Let us then flee a life so painful, especially since after this painfulness shall follow death; a deathless death, for of the punishment in that place there will be no end; and in this life they (who sin) are no better than madmen, in that they are dreaming of things that have no existence. They think they are rich when they are not rich, that they enjoy when they are not enjoying, nor do they properly perceive the cheat until they are freed from the madness and have shaken off the sleep. Wherefore Paul exhorts all to be sober, and to watch; and Christ also commands the same. For he who is sober and awake, although he be captured by sin, quickly beats it off; while he who sleeps and is beside himself, perceives not how he is held prisoner of it.
Let us then not sleep. This is not the season of night, but of day. Let us therefore
walk honestly as in the day Romans 13:13; and nothing is more indecent than sin . In point of indecency it is not so bad to go about naked as in sin and wrong doing. That is not so great matter of blame, since it might even be caused by poverty; but nothing has more shame and less honor than the sinner. Let us think of those who come to the justice-hall on some account of extortion, or overreaching; how base and ridiculous they appear to all by their utter shamelessness, their lies, and audacity. But we are such pitiable and wretched beings, that we cannot bear ourselves to put on a garment awkwardly or awry; nay, if we see another person in this state, we set him right; and yet though we and all our neighbors are walking on our heads, we do not even perceive it. For what, say, can be more shameful than a man who goes in to a harlot? What more contemptible than an insolent, a foul-tongued or an envious man? Whence then is it that these things do not seem so disgraceful as to walk naked? Merely from habit. To go naked no one has ever willingly endured; but all men are continually venturing on the others without any fear. Yet if one came into an assembly of angels, among whom nothing of the sort has ever taken place, there he would clearly see the great ridicule (of such conduct). And why do I say an assembly of angels? Even in the very palaces among us, should one introduce a harlot and enjoy her, or be oppressed by excess of wine, or commit any other like indecency, he would suffer extreme punishment. But if it be intolerable that men should dare such things in palaces, much more when the King is everywhere present, and observes what is done, shall we if we dare them undergo severest chastisement. Wherefore let us, I exhort you, show forth in our life much gentleness, much purity, for we have a King who beholds all our actions continually. In order then that this light may ever richly enlighten us, let us gladly accept these bright beams, for so shall we enjoy both the good things present and those to come, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom, and with whom, to the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
1. Having in the introduction spoken to us things of urgent importance concerning God the Word, (the Evangelist) proceeding on his road, and in order, afterwards comes to the herald of the Word, his namesake John. And now that you hear that he was
sent from God, do not for the future imagine that any of the words spoken by him are mere man's words; for all that he utters is not his own, but is of Him who sent him. Wherefore he is called
messenger Malachi 3:1, for the excellence of a messenger is, that he say nothing of his own. But the expression
was, in this place is not significative of his coming into existence, but refers to his office of messenger; for
'there was' a man sent from God, is used instead of
a man 'was sent' from God.
How then do some say, that the expression,
being in the form of God Philippians 2:6 is not used of His invariable likeness to the Father, because no article is added? For observe, that the article is nowhere added here. Are these words then not spoken of the Father? What then shall we say to the prophet who says, that,
Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who shall prepare Your way Malachi 3:1, as found in Mark 1:2? For the expressions
Your declare two Persons.
The same came for a witness, to bear witness of that Light.
What is this, perhaps one may say, the servant bear witness to his Master? When then you see Him not only witnessed to by His servant, but even coming to him, and with Jews baptized by him, will you not be still more astonished and perplexed? Yet you ought not to be troubled nor confused, but amazed at such unspeakable goodness. Though if any still continue bewildered and confused, He will say to such an one what He said to John,
Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becomes us to fulfill all righteousness Matthew 3:15; and, if any be still further troubled, again He will say to him too what he said to the Jews,
But I receive not testimony from man. John 5:34 If now he needs not this witness, why was John sent from God? Not as though He required his testimony— this were extremest blasphemy. Why then? John himself informs us, when he says,
That all men through him might believe.
And Christ also, after having said that
I receive not testimony from man John 5:34, in order that He may not seem to the foolish to clash with Himself, by declaring at one time
There is another that bears witness of Me and I know that his witness is true John 5:32 (for He pointed to John;) and at another,
I receive not testimony from man John 5:34; He immediately adds the solution of the doubt,
But these things I say for your own sake,
that you might be saved. As though He had said, that
I am God, and the really-Begotten Son of God, and am of that Simple and Blessed Essence, I need none to witness to Me; and even though none would do so, yet am not I by this anything diminished in My Essence; but because I care for the salvation of the many, I have descended to such humility as to commit the witness of Me to a man. For by reason of the groveling nature and infirmity of the Jews, the faith in Him would in this way be more easily received, and more palatable. As then He clothed Himself with flesh, that he might not, by encountering men with the unveiled Godhead, destroy them all; so He sent forth a man for His herald, that those who heard might at the hearing of a kindred voice approach more readily. For (to prove) that He had no need of that (herald's) testimony, it would have sufficed that He should only have shown Himself who He was in His unveiled Essence, and have confounded them all. But this He did not for the reason I have before mentioned. He would have annihilated all, since none could have endured the encounter of that unapproachable light. Wherefore, as I said, He put on flesh, and entrusted the witness (of Himself) to one of our fellow-servants, since He arranged all for the salvation of men, looking not only to His own honor, but also to what might be readily received by, and be profitable to, His hearers. Which He glanced at when He said,
These things I say for your sake,
that you might be saved. John 5:34 And the Evangelist using the same language as his Master, after saying,
to bear witness of that Light, adds,
That all men through Him might believe. All but saying, Think not that the reason why John the Baptist came to bear witness, was that he might add anything to the trustworthiness of his Master. No; (He came,) that by his means beings of his own class might believe. For it is clear from what follows, that he used this expression in his anxiety to remove this suspicion beforehand, since he adds,
He was not that Light.
Now if he did not introduce this as setting himself against this suspicion, then the expression is absolutely superfluous, and tautology rather than elucidation of his teaching. For why, after having said that he
was sent to bear witness of that Light, does he again say,
He was not that Light? (He says it,) not loosely or without reason; but, because, for the most part, among ourselves, the person witnessing is held to be greater, and generally more trustworthy than the person witnessed of; therefore, that none might suspect this in the case of John, at once from the very beginning he removes this evil suspicion, and having torn it up by the roots, shows who this is that bears witness, and who is He who is witnessed of, and what an interval there is between the witnessed of, and the bearer of witness. And after having done this, and shown His incomparable superiority, he afterwards proceeds fearlessly to the narrative which remains; and after carefully removing whatever strange (ideas) might secretly harbor in the minds of the simpler sort, so instills into all easily and without impediment the word of doctrine in its proper order.
Let us pray then, that henceforth with the revelation of these thoughts and rightness of doctrine, we may have also a pure life and bright conversation, since these things profit nothing unless good works be present with us. For though we have all faith and all knowledge of the Scriptures, yet if we be naked and destitute of the protection derived from (holy) living, there is nothing to hinder us from being hurried into the fire of hell, and burning for ever in the unquenchable flame. For as they who have done good shall rise to life everlasting, so they who have dared the contrary shall rise to everlasting punishment, which never has an end. Let us then manifest all eagerness not to mar the gain which accrues to us from a right faith by the vileness of our actions, but becoming well-pleasing to Him by these also, boldly to look on Christ. No happiness can be equal to this. And may it come to pass, that we all having obtained what has been mentioned, may do all to the glory of God; to whom, with the Only-Begotten Son and the Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
That was the true Light, which lights every man that comes into the world.
1. The reason, O children greatly beloved, why we entertain you portion by portion with the thoughts taken from the Scriptures, and do not at once pour all forth to you, is, that the retaining what is successively set before you may be easy. For even in building, one who before the first stones are settled lays on others, constructs a rotten wall altogether, and easily thrown down: while one who waits that the mortar may first get hard, and so adds what remains little by little, finishes the whole house firmly, and makes it strong, not one to last for a short time, or easily to fall to pieces. These builders we imitate, and in like manner build up your souls. For we fear lest, while the first foundation is but newly laid, the addition of the succeeding speculations may do harm to the former, through the insufficiency of the intellect to contain them all at once.
What now is it that has been read to us today?
That was the true Light, which lights every man that comes into the world. For since above in speaking of John he said, that he came
to bear witness of that Light; and that he was sent in these our days; lest any one at hearing this should, on account of the recent coming of the witness, conceive some like suspicion concerning Him, who is witnessed of, he has carried up the imagination, and transported it to that existence which is before all beginning, which has neither end nor commencement.
And how is it possible, says one,
that being a Son, He should possess this (nature)? We are speaking of God, and do you ask how? And do you not fear nor shudder? Yet should any one ask you,
How should our souls and bodies have endless life in the world to come? you will laugh at the question, on the ground that it does not belong to the intellect of man to search into such questions, but that he ought only to believe, and not to be over-curious on the subject mentioned, since he has a sufficient proof of the saying, in the power of Him who spoke it. And if we say, that He, who created our souls and bodies, and who incomparably excels all created things, is without beginning, will you require us to say
How? Who could assert this to be the act of a well-ordered soul, or of sound reason? You have heard that
That was the true Light: why are you vainly and rashly striving to overshoot by force of reasoning this Life which is unlimited? You cannot do it. Why seek what may not be sought? Why be curious about what is incomprehensible? Why search what is unsearchable? Gaze upon the very source of the sunbeams. You cannot; yet you are neither vexed nor impatient at your weakness; how then have you become so daring and headlong in greater matters? The son of thunder, John who sounds the spiritual trumpet, when he had heard from the Spirit the was, enquired no farther. And are you, who share not in his grace, but speak from your own wretched reasonings, ambitious to exceed the measure of his knowledge? Then for this very reason you will never be able even to reach to the measure of his knowledge. For this is the craft of the devil: he leads away those who obey him from the limits assigned by God, as though to things much greater: but when, having enticed us by these hopes, he has cast us out of the grace of God, he not only gives nothing more, (how can he, devil as he is?) but does not even allow us to return again to our former situation, where we dwelt safely and surely, but leads us about in all directions wandering and not having any standing ground. So he caused the first created man to be banished from the abode of Paradise. Having puffed him up with the expectation of greater knowledge and honor, he expelled him from what he already possessed in security. For he not only did not become like a god as (the devil) promised him, but even fell beneath the dominion of death; having not only gained no further advantage by eating of the tree, but having lost no small portion of the knowledge which he possessed, through hope of greater knowledge. For the sense of shame, and the desire to hide himself because of his nakedness, then came upon him, who before the cheat was superior to all such shame; and this very seeing himself to be naked, and the need for the future of the covering of garments, and many other infirmities, became thenceforth natural to him. That this be not our case, let us obey God, continue in His commandments, and not be busy about anything beyond them, that we may not be cast out from the good things already given us. Thus they have fared (of whom we speak). For seeking to find a beginning of the Life which has no beginning, they lost what they might have retained. They found not what they sought, (this is impossible,) and they fell away from the true faith concerning the Only-Begotten.
Let us not then remove the eternal bounds which our fathers set, but let us ever yield to the laws of the Spirit; and when we hear that
That was the true Light, let us seek to discover nothing more. For it is not possible to pass beyond this saying. Had His generation been like that of a man, needs must there have been an interval between the begetter and the begotten; but since it is in a manner ineffable and becoming God, give up the
before and the
after, for these are the names of points in time, but the Son is the Creator even of all ages.
Then, says one,
He is not Father, but brother. What need, pray? If we had asserted that the Father and the Son were from a different root, you might have then spoken this well. But, if we flee this impiety, and say the Father, besides being without beginning, is Unbegotten also, while the Son, though without beginning, is Begotten of the Father, what kind of need that as a consequence of this idea, that unholy assertion should be introduced? None at all. For He is an Effulgence: but an effulgence is included in the idea of the nature whose effulgence it is. For this reason Paul has called Him so, that you may imagine no interval between the Father and the Son. Hebrews 1:3 This expression therefore is declaratory of the point; but the following part of the proof quoted, corrects an erroneous opinion which might beset simple men. For, says the Apostle, do not, because you have heard that he is an Effulgence, suppose that He is deprived of His proper person; this is impious, and belongs to the madness of the Sabellians, and of Marcellus' followers. We say not so, but that He is also in His proper Person. And for this reason, after having called Him
Effulgence, Paul has added that He is
the express image of His Person Hebrews 1:3, in order to make evident His proper Personality, and that He belongs to the same Essence of which He is also the express image. For, as I before said, it is not sufficient by a single expression to set before men the doctrines concerning God, but it is desirable that we bring many together, and choose from each what is suitable. So shall we be able to attain to a worthy telling of His glory, worthy, I mean, as regards our power; for if any should deem himself able to speak words suitable to His essential worthiness, and be ambitious to do so, saying, that he knows God as God knows Himself, he it is who is most ignorant of God.
Knowing therefore this, let us continue steadfastly to hold what
they have delivered unto us, which from the beginning were eye-witnesses, and ministers of the word. Luke 1:2 And let us not be curious beyond: for two evils will attend those who are sick of this disease, (curiosity,) the wearying themselves in vain by seeking what it is impossible to find, and the provoking God by their endeavors to overturn the bounds set by Him. Now what anger this excites, it needs not that you who know should learn from us. Abstaining therefore from their madness, let us tremble at His words, that He may continually build us up. For,
upon whom shall I look Isaiah 66:2, Septuagint, says He,
but upon the lowly, and quiet, and who fears my words? Let us then leave this pernicious curiosity, and bruise our hearts, let us mourn for our sins as Christ commanded, let us be pricked at heart for our transgressions, let us reckon up exactly all the wicked deeds, which in time past we have dared, and let us earnestly strive to wipe them off in all kinds of ways.
Now to this end God has opened to us many ways. For,
Tell you first, says He,
your sins, that you may be justified Isaiah 43:26 ; and again,
I said, I have declared mine iniquity unto You, and You have taken away the unrighteousness of my heart Psalm 32:5, Septuagint; since a continual accusation and remembrance of sins contributes not a little to lessen their magnitude. But there is another more prevailing way than this; to bear malice against none of those who have offended against us, to forgive their trespasses to all those who have trespassed against us. Will you learn a third? Hear Daniel, saying,
Redeem your sins by almsdeeds, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Daniel 4:27, Septuagint And there is another besides this; constancy in prayer, and persevering attendance on the intercessions made with God. In like manner fasting brings to us some, and that not small comfort and release from sins committed, provided it be attended with kindness to others, and quenches the vehemence of the wrath of God. 1 Timothy 2:1 For
water will quench a blazing fire, and by almsdeeds sins are purged away. Sirach 3:30, Septuagint
Let us then travel along all these ways; for if we give ourselves wholly to these employments, if on them we spend our time, not only shall we wash off our bygone transgressions, but shall gain very great profit for the future. For we shall not allow the devil to assault us with leisure either for slothful living, or for pernicious curiosity, since by these among other means, and in consequence of these, he leads us to foolish questions and hurtful disputations, from seeing us at leisure, and idle, and taking no forethought for excellency of living. But let us block up this approach against him, let us watch, let us be sober, that having in this short time toiled a little, we may obtain eternal goods in endless ages, by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom and with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
That was the true Light, which lights every man that comes into the world.
1. Nothing hinders us from handling today also the same words, since before we were prevented by the setting forth of doctrines, from considering all that was read. Where now are those who deny that He is true God? For here He is called
the true Light John 14:6, and elsewhere very
Truth and very
Life. That saying we will discuss more clearly when we come to the place; but at present we must for a while be speaking to your Charity of that other matter.
lights every man that comes into the world, how is it that so many continue unenlightened? For not all have known the majesty of Christ. How then does He
light every man? He lights all as far as in Him lies. But if some, wilfully closing the eyes of their mind, would not receive the rays of that Light, their darkness arises not from the nature of the Light, but from their own wickedness, who willfully deprive themselves of the gift. For the grace is shed forth upon all, turning itself back neither from Jew, nor Greek, nor Barbarian, nor Scythian, nor free, nor bond, nor male, nor female, nor old, nor young, but admitting all alike, and inviting with an equal regard. And those who are not willing to enjoy this gift, ought in justice to impute their blindness to themselves; for if when the gate is opened to all, and there is none to hinder, any being willfully evil remain without, they perish through none other, but only through their own wickedness.
He was in the world.
But not as of equal duration with the world. Away with the thought. Wherefore he adds,
And the world was made by Him; thus leading you up again to the eternal existence of the Only-Begotten. For he who has heard that this universe is His work, though he be very dull, though he be a hater, though he be an enemy of the glory of God, will certainly, willing or unwilling, be forced to confess that the maker is before his works. Whence wonder always comes over me at the madness of Paul of Samosata, who dared to look in the face so manifest a truth, and voluntarily threw himself down the precipice. For he erred not ignorantly but with full knowledge, being in the same case as the Jews. For as they, looking to men, gave up sound faith, knowing that he was the only-begotten Son of God, but not confessing Him, because of their rulers, lest they should be cast out of the synagogue; so it is said that he, to gratify a certain woman, sold his own salvation. A powerful thing, powerful indeed, is the tyranny of vainglory; it is able to make blind the eyes even of the wise, except they be sober; for if the taking of gifts can effect this, much more will the yet more violent feeling of this passion. Wherefore Jesus said to the Jews,
How can you believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that comes from God only? John 5:44
And the world knew Him not. By
the world he here means the multitude, which is corrupt, and closely attached to earthly things, the common turbulent, silly people. For the friends and favorites of God all knew Him, even before His coming in the flesh. Concerning the Patriarch Christ Himself speaks by name,
that your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad. John 8:56 And concerning David, confuting the Jews He said,
How then does David in spirit call Him Lord, saying, the Lord said unto my Lord, Sit on My right hand. Matthew 22:43; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42 And in many places, disputing with them, He mentions Moses; and the Apostle (mentions) the rest of the prophets; for Peter declares, that all the prophets from Samuel knew Him, and proclaimed beforehand His coming afar off, when he says,
All the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Acts 3:24 But Jacob and his father, as well as his grandfather, He both appeared to and talked with, and promised that He would give them many and great blessings, which also He brought to pass.
How then, says one,
did He say Himself, 'Many prophets have desired to see those things which you see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which you hear, and have not heard them'? Luke 10:24 Did they then not share in the knowledge of Him? Surely they did; and I will endeavor to make this plain from this very saying, by which some think that they are deprived of it.
For many, He says,
have desired to see the things which you see. So that they knew that He would come [to men] from heaven, and would live and teach as He lived and taught; for had they not known, they could have not desired, since no one can conceive desire for things of which he has no idea; therefore they knew the Son of Man, and that He would come among men. What then are the things which they did not hear? What those which they did not know? The things which you now see and hear. For if they did hear His voice and did see Him, it was not in the Flesh, not among men; nor when He was living so familiarly, and conversing so frankly with them. And indeed He to show this said not simply,
Me: but what?
the things which you see; nor
Me: but what?
the things which you hear. So that if they did not behold His coming in the Flesh, still they knew that it would be, and they desired it, and believed on Him without having seen Him in the Flesh.
When therefore the Greeks bring charges such as these against us, and say;
What then did Christ in former time, that He did not look upon the race of men? And for what possible reason did He come at last to assist in our salvation, after neglecting us so long? we will reply, that before this He was in the world, and took thought for His works, and was known to all who were worthy. But if you should say, that, because all did not then know Him, because He was only known by those noble and excellent persons, therefore He was not acknowledged; at this rate you will not allow that He is worshipped even now, since even now all men do not know Him. But as at present no one, because of those who do not know Him, would refuse credit to those who do, so as regards former times, we must not doubt that He was known to many, or rather to all of those noble and admirable persons.
2. And if any one say,
Why did not all men give heed to Him? Nor all worship Him, but the just only? I also will ask, why even now do not all men know him? But why do I speak of Christ, when not all men knew His Father then, or know Him now? For some say, that all things are borne along by chance, while others commit the providence of the universe to devils. Others invent another God besides Him, and some blasphemously assert, that His is an opposing power, and think that His laws are the laws of a wicked dæmon. What then? Shall we say that He is not God because there are some who say so? And shall we confess Him to be evil? For there are some who even so blaspheme Him. Away with such mental wandering, such utter insanity. If we should delineate doctrines according to the judgment of madmen, there is nothing to hinder us from being mad ourselves with most grievous madness. No one will assert, looking to those who have weak vision, that the sun is injurious to the eyes, but he will say that it is fitted to give light, drawing his judgments from persons in health. And no one will call honey bitter, because it seems so to the sense of the sick. And will any, from the imaginations of men diseased (in mind) decide that God either is not, or is evil; or that He sometimes indeed exerts His Providence, sometimes does not so at all? Who can say that such men are of sound mind, or deny that they are beside themselves, delirious, utterly mad?
The world, he says,
knew Him not; but they of whom the world was not worthy knew Him. And having spoken of those who knew Him not, he in a short time puts the cause of their ignorance; for he does not absolutely say, that no one knew Him, but that
the world knew him not; that is, those persons who are as it were nailed to the world alone, and who mind the things of the world. For so Christ was wont to call them; as when He says,
O Holy Father, the world has not known You. Luke 17:25 The world then was ignorant, not only of Him, but also of His Father, as we have said; for nothing so darkens the mind as to be closely attached to present things.
Knowing therefore this, remove yourselves from the world, and tear yourselves as much as possible from carnal things, for the loss which comes to you from these lies not in common matters, but in what is the chief of goods. For it is not possible for the man who clings strongly to the things of the present life really to lay hold on those in heaven, but he who is earnest about the one must needs lose the other.
You cannot, He says,
serve God and Mammon Matthew 6:24, for you must hold to the one and hate the other. And this too the very experience of the things proclaims aloud. Those, for instance, who deride the lust of money, are especially the persons who love God as they ought, just as those who respect that sovereignty (of Mammon), are the men who above all others have the slackest love for Him. For the soul when made captive once for all by covetousness, will not easily or readily refuse doing or saying any of the things which anger God, as being the slave of another master, and one who gives all his commands in direct opposition to God. Return then at length to your sober senses, and rouse yourselves, and calling to mind whose servants we are, let us love His kingdom only; let us weep, let us wail for the times past in which we were servants of Mammon; let us cast off once for all his yoke so intolerable, so heavy, and continue to bear the light and easy yoke of Christ. For He lays no such commands upon us as Mammon does. Mammon bids us be enemies to all men, but Christ, on the contrary, to embrace and to love all. The one having nailed us to the clay and the brickmaking, (for gold is this,) allows us not even at night to take breath a little; the other releases us from this excessive and insensate care, and bids us gather treasures in heaven, not by injustice towards others, but by our own righteousness. The one after our many toils and sufferings is not able to assist us when we are punished in that place and suffer because of his laws, nay, he increases the flame; the other, though He command us to give but a cup of cold water, never allows us to lose our reward and recompense even for this, but repays us with great abundance. How then is it not extremest folly to slight a rule so mild, so full of all good things, and to serve a thankless, ungrateful tyrant, and one who neither in this world nor in the world to come is able to help those who obey and give heed to him. Nor is this the only dreadful thing, nor is this only the penalty, that he does not defend them when they are being punished; but that besides this, he, as I before said, surrounds those who obey him with ten thousand evils. For of those who are punished in that place, one may see that the greater part are punished for this cause, that they were slaves to money, that they loved gold, and would not assist those who needed. That we be not in this case, let us scatter, let us give to the poor, let us deliver our souls from hurtful cares in this world, and from the vengeance, which because of these things is appointed for us in that place. Let us store up righteousness in the heavens. Instead of riches upon earth, let us collect treasures impregnable, treasures which can accompany us on our journey to heaven, which can assist us in our peril, and make the Judge propitious at that hour. Whom may we all have gracious unto us, both now and at that day, and enjoy with much confidence the good things prepared in the heavens for those who love Him as they ought, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.
1. If you remember our former reflections, we shall the more zealously proceed with the building up of what remains, as doing so for great gain. For so will our discourse be more intelligible to you who remember what has been already said, and we shall not need much labor, because you are able through your great love of learning to see more clearly into what remains. The man who is always losing what is given to him will always need a teacher, and will never know anything; but he who retains what he has received, and so receives in addition what remains, will quickly be a teacher instead of a learner, and useful not only to himself, but to all others also; as, conjecturing from their great readiness to hear, I anticipate that this assembly will specially be. Come then, let us lay up in your souls, as in a safe treasury, the Lord's money, and unfold, as far as the grace of the Spirit may afford us power, the words this day set before us.
He (St. John) had said, speaking of the old times, that
the world knew him not John 1:10; afterwards he comes down in his narrative to the times of the proclamation (of the Gospel), and says,
He came to His own, and His own received Him not, now calling the Jews
His own, as His peculiar people, or perhaps even all mankind, as created by Him. And as above, when perplexed at the folly of the many, and ashamed of our common nature, he said that
the world by Him was made, and having been made, did not recognize its Maker; so here again, being troubled beyond bearing at the stupidity of the Jews and the many, he sets forth the charge in a yet more striking manner, saying, that
His own received Him not, and that too when
He came to them. And not only he, but the prophets also, wondering, said the very same, as did afterwards Paul, amazed at the very same things. Thus did the prophets cry aloud in the person of Christ, saying,
A people whom I have not known, have served Me; as soon as they heard Me, they obeyed Me; the strange children have dealt falsely with Me. The strange children have waxed aged, and have halted from their paths. Psalm 18:43-45, Septuagint And again,
They to whom it had not been told concerning Him, shall see, and they which had not heard, shall understand. And,
I was found of them that sought Me not Isaiah 52:15;
I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. Isaiah 45:1, as quoted in Romans 10:20 And Paul, in his Epistles to the Romans, has said,
What then? Israel has not obtained that which he seeks for: but the election has obtained it. Romans 11:7 And again;
What shall we say then? That the Gentiles which followed not after righteousness, have attained unto righteousness: but Israel which followed after the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Romans 9:30
For it is a thing indeed worthy of our amazement, how they who were nurtured in (knowledge of) the prophetical books, who heard Moses every day telling them ten thousand things concerning the coming of the Christ, and the other prophets afterwards, who moreover themselves beheld Christ Himself daily working miracles among them, giving up His time to them alone, neither as yet allowing His disciples to depart into the way of the Gentiles, or to enter into a city of Samaritans, nor doing so Himself, but everywhere declaring that He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel Matthew 10:5: how, (I say), while they saw the signs, and heard the Prophets, and had Christ Himself continually putting them in remembrance, they yet made themselves once for all so blind and dull, as by none of these things to be brought to faith in Christ. Matthew 15:24 While they of the Gentiles, who had enjoyed none of these things, who had never heard the oracles of God, not, as one may say, so much as in a dream, but ever ranging among the fables of madmen, (for heathen philosophy is this,) having ever in their hands the sillinesses of their poets, nailed to stocks and stones, and neither in doctrines nor in conversation possessing anything good or sound. (For their way of life was more impure and more accursed than their doctrine. As was likely; for when they saw their gods delighting in all wickedness, worshipped by shameful words, and more shameful deeds, reckoning this festivity and praise, and moreover honored by foul murders, and child-slaughters, how should not they emulate these things?) Still, fallen as they were as low as the very depth of wickedness, on a sudden, as by the agency of some machine, they have appeared to us shining from on high, and from the very summit of heaven.
How then and whence came it to pass? Hear Paul telling you. For that blessed person searching exactly into these things, ceased not until he had found the cause, and had declared it to all others. What then is it? And whence came such blindness upon the Jews? Hear him who was entrusted with this stewardship declare. What then does he say in resolving this doubt of the many? 1 Corinthians 9:17
For they, says he,
being ignorant of God's righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. Romans 10:3 Wherefore they have suffered this. And again, explaining the same matter in other terms, he says,
What shall we say then? That the Gentiles which followed not after righteousness, have attained unto righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith; but Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. Romans 9:30-32 His meaning is this:
These men's unbelief has been the cause of their misfortunes, and their haughtiness was parent of their unbelief. For when having before enjoyed greater privileges than the heathen, through having received the law, through knowing God, and the rest which Paul enumerates, they after the coming of Christ saw the heathen and themselves called on equal terms through faith, and after faith received one of the circumcision in nothing preferred to the Gentile, they came to envy and were stung by their haughtiness, and could not endure the unspeakable and exceeding lovingkindness of the Lord. So this has happened to them from nothing else but pride, and wickedness, and unkindness.
2. For in what, O most foolish of men, are you injured by the care bestowed on others? How are your blessings made less through having others to share the same? But of a truth wickedness is blind, and cannot readily perceive anything that it ought. Being therefore stung by the prospect of having others to share the same confidence, they thrust a sword against themselves, and cast themselves out from the lovingkindness of God. And with good reason. For He says,
Friend, I do you no wrong, I will give to 'these also' even as unto you. Matthew 20:14 Or rather, these Jews are not deserving even of these words. For the man in the parable if he was discontented, could yet speak of the labors and weariness, the heat and sweat, of a whole day. But what could these men have to tell? Nothing like this, but slothfulness and profligacy and ten thousand evil things of which all the prophets continued ever to accuse them, and by which they like the Gentiles had offended against God. And Paul declaring this says,
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God: being justified freely by His grace. Romans 10:12; Romans 3:22-24 And on this head he treats profitably and very wisely throughout that Epistle. But in a former part of it he proves that they are worthy of still greater punishment.
For as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law Romans 2:12; that is to say, more severely, as having for their accuser the law as well as nature. And not for this only, but for that they have been the cause that God is blasphemed among the Gentiles:
My Name, He says,
is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you. Romans 2:24; Isaiah 52:5
Since now this it was that stung them most, (for the thing appeared incredible even to those of the circumcision who believed, and therefore they brought it as a charge against Peter, when he had come up to them from Cesarea, that he
went in to men uncircumcised, and did eat with them Acts 11:3; and after that they had learned the dispensation of God, even so still they wondered how
on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost Acts 10:45: showing by their astonishment that they could never have expected so incredible a thing,) since then he knew that this touched them nearest, see how he has emptied their pride and relaxed their highly swelling insolence. For after having discoursed on the case of the heathen, and shown that they had not from any quarter any excuse, or hope of salvation, and after having definitely charged them both with the perversion of their doctrines and the uncleanness of their lives, he shifts his argument to the Jews; and after recounting all the expressions of the Prophet, in which he had said that they were polluted, treacherous, hypocritical persons, and had
altogether become unprofitable, that there was
none among them
that seeks after God, that they had
all gone out of the way Romans 3:12, and the like, he adds,
Now we know that what things soever the law says, it says to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Romans 3:19
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
Why then exaltest you yourself, O Jew? Why are you high minded? For your mouth also is stopped, your boldness also is taken away, you also with all the world have become guilty, and, like others, are placed in need of being justified freely. You ought surely even if you had stood upright and had had great boldness with God, not even so to have envied those who should be pitied and saved through His lovingkindness. This is the extreme of wickedness, to pine at the blessings of others; especially when this was to be effected without any loss of yours. If indeed the salvation of others had been prejudicial to your advantages, your grieving might have been reasonable; though not even then would it have been so to one who had learned true wisdom. But if your reward is not increased by the punishment of another, nor diminished by his welfare, why do you bewail yourself because that other is freely saved? As I said, you ought not, even were thou (one) of the approved, to be pained at the salvation which comes to the Gentiles through grace. But when you, who are guilty before your Lord of the same things as they, and have yourself offended, are displeased at the good of others, and think great things, as if you alone ought to be partaker of the grace, you are guilty not only of envy and insolence, but of extreme folly, and may be liable to all the severest torments; for you have planted within yourself the root of all evils, pride.
Wherefore a wise man has said,
Pride is the beginning of sin Sirach 10:13: that is, its root, its source, its mother. By this the first created was banished from that happy abode: by this the devil who deceived him had fallen from that height of dignity; from which that accursed one, knowing that the nature of the sin was sufficient to cast down even from heaven itself, came this way when he labored to bring down Adam from such high honor. For having puffed him up with the promise that he should be as a God, so he broke him down, and cast him down into the very gulfs of hell. Because nothing so alienates men from the lovingkindness of God, and gives them over to the fire of the pit, as the tyranny of pride. For when this is present with us, our whole life becomes impure, even though we fulfill temperance, chastity, fasting, prayer, almsgiving, anything. For,
Every one, says the wise man,
that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord. Proverbs 16:5 Let us then restrain this swelling of the soul, let us cut up by the roots this lump of pride, if at least we would wish to be clean, and to escape the punishment appointed for the devil. For that the proud must fall under the same punishment as that (wicked) one, hear Paul declare;
Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the judgment, and the snare of the devil. What is
the judgment? He means, into the same
condemnation, the same punishment. How then does he say, that a man may avoid this dreadful thing? By reflecting upon his own nature, upon the number of his sins, upon the greatness of the torments in that place, upon the transitory nature of the things which seem bright in this world, differing in nothing from grass, and more fading than the flowers of spring. If we continually stir within ourselves these considerations, and keep in mind those who have walked most upright, the devil, though he strive ten thousand ways, will not be able to lift us up, nor even to trip us at all. May the God who is the God of the humble, the good and merciful God, grant both to you and me a broken and humbled heart, so shall we be enabled easily to order the rest aright, to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory forever and ever. Amen.
He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.
1. Beloved, God being loving towards man and beneficent, does and contrives all things in order that we may shine in virtue, and as desiring that we be well approved by Him. And to this end He draws no one by force or compulsion: but by persuasion and benefits He draws all that will, and wins them to Himself. Wherefore when He came, some received Him, and others received Him not. For He will have no unwilling, no forced domestic, but all of their own will and choice, and grateful to Him for their service. Men, as needing the ministry of servants, keep many in that state even against their will, by the law of ownership; but God, being without wants, and not standing in need of anything of ours, but doing all only for our salvation makes us absolute in this matter, and therefore lays neither force nor compulsion on any of those who are unwilling. For He looks only to our advantage: and to be drawn unwilling to a service like this is the same as not serving at all.
Why then, says one,
does He punish those who will not listen to Him, and why has He threatened hell to those who endure not His commands? Because, being Good exceedingly, He cares even for those who obey Him not, and withdraws not from them who start back and flee from Him. But when we had rejected the first way of His beneficence, and had refused to come by the path of persuasion and kind treatment, then He brought in upon us the other way, that of correction and punishments; most bitter indeed, but still necessary, when the former is disregarded. Now lawgivers also appoint many and grievous penalties against offenders, and yet we feel no aversion to them for this; we even honor them the more on account of the punishments they have enacted, and because though not needing a single thing that we have, and often not knowing who they should be that should enjoy the help afforded by their written laws, they still took care for the good ordering of our lives, rewarding those who live virtuously, and checking by punishments the intemperate, and those who would mar the repose of others. And if we admire and love these men, ought we not much more to marvel at and love God on account of His so great care? For the difference between their and His forethought regarding us is infinite. Unspeakable of a truth are the riches of the goodness of God, and passing all excess. Consider;
He came to His own, not for His personal need, (for, as I said, the Divinity is without wants,) but to do good unto His own people. Yet not even so did His own receive Him, when He came to His own for their advantage, but repelled Him, and not this only, but they even cast Him out of the vineyard, and slew Him. Yet not for this even did He shut them out from repentance, but granted them, if they had been willing, after such wickedness as this, to wash off all their transgressions by faith in Him, and to be made equal to those who had done no such thing, but are His special friends. And that I say not this at random, or for persuasion's sake, all the history of the blessed Paul loudly declares. For when he, who after the Cross persecuted Christ, and had stoned His martyr Stephen by those many hands, repented, and condemned his former sins, and ran to Him whom he had persecuted, He immediately enrolled him among His friends, and the chiefest of them, having appointed him a herald and teacher of all the world, who had been
a blasphemer, and persecutor, and injurious. 1 Timothy 1:13 Even as he rejoicing at the lovingkindness of God, has proclaimed aloud, and has not been ashamed, but having recorded in his writings, as on a pillar, the deeds formerly dared by him, has exhibited them to all; thinking it better that his former life should be placarded in sight of all, so that the greatness of the free gift of God might appear, than that he should obscure His ineffable and indescribable lovingkindness by hesitating to parade before all men his own error. Wherefore continually he treats of his persecution, his plottings, his wars against the Church, at one time saying,
I am not meet to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God 1 Corinthians 15:9; at another,
Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 1 Timothy 1:15 And again,
You have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it. Galatians 1:13
2. For making as it were a kind of return to Christ for His longsuffering towards him, by showing who it was, what a hater and enemy that He saved, he declared with much openness the warfare which at the first with all zeal he warred against Christ; and with this he holds forth good hopes to those who despaired of their condition. For he says, that Christ accepted him, in order that in him first He
might show forth all longsuffering 1 Timothy 1:16, and the abundant riches of His goodness,
for a pattern to them that should hereafter believe in Him to life everlasting. Because the things which they had dared were too great for any pardon which the Evangelist declaring, said,
He came to His own, and His own received Him not. Whence came He, who fills all things, and who is everywhere present? What place did He empty of His presence, who holds and grasps all things in His hand? He exchanged not one place for another; how should He? But by His coming down to us He effected this. For since, though being in the world, He did not seem to be there, because He was not yet known, but afterwards manifested Himself by deigning to take upon Him our flesh, he (St. John) calls this manifestation and descent
a coming. One might wonder at the disciple who is not ashamed of the dishonor of his Teacher, but even records the insolence which was used towards Him: yet this is no small proof of his truth-loving disposition. And besides, he who feels shame should feel it for those who have offered an insult, not for the person outraged. Indeed He by this very thing shone the brighter, as taking, even after the insult, so much care for those who had offered it; while they appeared ungrateful and accursed in the eyes of all men, for having rejected Him who came to bring them so great goods, as hateful to them, and an enemy. And not only in this were they hurt, but also in not obtaining what they obtained who received Him. What did these obtain?
As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God.
Why then, O blessed one, do you not also tell us the punishment of them who received Him not? You have said that they were 'His own,' and that when 'He came to His own, they received Him not'; but what they shall suffer for this, what punishment they shall undergo, you have not gone on to add. Yet so you would the more have terrified them, and have softened the hardness of their insanity by threatening. Wherefore then have you been silent?
And what other punishment, he would say,
can be greater than this, that when power is offered them to become sons of God, they do not become so, but willingly deprive themselves of such nobility and honor as this? Although their punishment shall not even stop at this point, that they gain no good, but moreover the unquenchable fire shall receive them, as in going on he has more plainly revealed. But for the present he speaks of the unutterable goods of those who received Him, and sets these words in brief before us, saying,
As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become sons of God. Whether bond or free, whether Greeks or barbarians or Scythians, unlearned or learned, female or male, children or old men, in honor or dishonor, rich or poor, rulers or private persons, all, He says, are deemed worthy the same privilege; for faith and the grace of the Spirit, removing the inequality caused by worldly things, has moulded all to one fashion, and stamped them with one impress, the King's. What can equal this lovingkindness? A king, who is framed of the same clay with us, does not deign to enrol among the royal host his fellow-servants, who share the same nature with himself, and in character often are better than he, if they chance to be slaves; but the Only-Begotten Son of God did not disdain to reckon among the company of His children both publicans, sorcerers, and slaves, nay, men of less repute and greater poverty than these, maimed in body, and suffering from ten thousand ills. Such is the power of faith in Him, such the excess of His grace. And as the element of fire, when it meets with ore from the mine, straightway of earth makes it gold, even so and much more Baptism makes those who are washed to be of gold instead of clay; the Spirit at that time falling like fire into our souls, burning up the
image of the earthy 1 Corinthians 15:49, and producing
the image of the heavenly, fresh coined, bright and glittering, as from the furnace-mould.
Why then did he say not that
He made them sons of God, but that
He gave them power to become sons of God? To show that we need much zeal to keep the image of sonship impressed on us at Baptism, all through without spot or soil ; and at the same time to show that no one shall be able to take this power from us, unless we are the first to deprive ourselves of it. For if among men, those who have received the absolute control of any matters have nearly as much power as those who gave them the charge; much more shall we, who have obtained such honor from God, be, if we do noth ing unworthy of this power, stronger than all; because He who put this honor in our hands is greater and better than all. At the same time too he wishes to show, that not even does grace come upon man irrespectively, but upon those who desire and take pains for it. For it lies in the power of these to become (His) children since if they do not themselves first make the choice, the gift does not come upon them, nor have any effect.
3. Having therefore everywhere excluded compulsion and pointing to (man's) voluntary choice and free power, he has said the same now. For even in these mystical blessings, it is, on the one hand, God's part, to give the grace, on the other, man's to supply faith; and in after time there needs for what remains much earnestness. In order to preserve our purity, it is not sufficient for us merely to have been baptized and to have believed, but we must if we will continually enjoy this brightness, display a life worthy of it. This then is God's work in us. To have been born the mystical Birth, and to have been cleansed from all our former sins, comes from Baptism; but to remain for the future pure, never again after this to admit any stain belongs to our own power and diligence. And this is the reason why he reminds us of the manner of the birth, and by comparison with fleshly pangs shows its excellence, when he says,
Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God.
This he has done, in order that, considering the vileness, and lowness of the first birth, which is
of blood, and
the will of the flesh, and perceiving the highness and nobleness of the second, which is by grace, we may form from thence some great opinion of it, and one worthy of the gift of Him who has begotten us, and for the future exhibit much earnestness.
For there is no small fear, lest, having sometime defiled that beautiful robe by our after sloth and transgressions, we be cast out from the inner room and bridal chamber, like the five foolish virgins, or him who had not on a wedding garment. Matthew 25; Matthew 22 He too was one of the guests, for he had been invited; but because, after the invitation and so great an honor, he behaved with insolence towards Him who had invited him, hear what punishment he suffers, how pitiable, fit subject for many tears. For when he comes to partake of that splendid table, not only is he forbidden the least, but bound hand and foot alike, is carried into outer darkness, to undergo eternal and endless wailing and gnashing of teeth. Therefore, beloved, let not us either expect that faith is sufficient to us for salvation; for if we do not show forth a pure life, but come clothed with garments unworthy of this blessed calling, nothing hinders us from suffering the same as that wretched one. It is strange that He, who is God and King, is not ashamed of men who are vile, beggars, and of no repute, but brings even them of the cross ways to that table; while we manifest so much insensibility, as not even to be made better by so great an honor, but even after the call remain in our old wickedness, insolently abusing the unspeakable lovingkindness of Him who has called us. For it was not for this that He called us to the spiritual and awful communion of His mysteries, that we should enter with our former wickedness; but that, putting off our filthiness, we should change our raiment to such as becomes those who are entertained in palaces. But if we will not act worthily of that calling this no longer rests with Him who has honored us, but with ourselves; it is not He that casts us out from that admirable company of guests, but we cast out ourselves.
He has done all His part. He has made the marriage, He has provided the table, He has sent men to call us, has received us when we came, and honored us with all other honor; but we, when we have offered insult to Him, to the company, and to the wedding, by our filthy garments, that is, our impure actions, are then with good cause cast out. It is to honor the marriage and the guests, that He drives off those bold and shameless persons; for were He to suffer those clothed in such a garment, He would seem to be offering insult to the rest. But may it never be that one, either of us or of other, find this of Him who has called us! For to this end have all these things been written before they come to pass, that we, being sobered by the threats of the Scriptures, may not suffer this disgrace and punishment to go on to the deed, but stop it at the word only, and each with bright apparel come to that call; which may it come to pass that we all enjoy, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
And the Word was made Flesh, and dwelt among us.
1. I desire to ask one favor of you all, before I touch on the words of the Gospel; do not you refuse my request, for I ask nothing heavy or burdensome, nor, if granted, will it be useful only to me who receive, but also to you who grant it, and perhaps far more so to you. What then is it that I require of you? That each of you take in hand that section of the Gospels which is to be read among you on the first day of the week, or even on the Sabbath, and before the day arrive, that he sit down at home and read it through, and often carefully consider its contents, and examine all its parts well, what is clear, what obscure, what seems to make for the adversaries, but does not really so; and when you have tried, in a word every point, so go to hear it read. For from zeal like this will be no small gain both to you and to us. We shall not need much labor to render clear the meaning of what is said, because your minds will be already made familiar with the sense of the words, and you will become keener and more clear-sighted not for hearing only, nor for learning, but also for the teaching of others. Since, in the way that now most of those who come hither hear, compelled to take in the meaning of all at once, both the words, and the remarks we make upon them, they will not, though we should go on doing this for a whole year, reap any great gain. How can they, when they have leisure for what is said as a bywork, and only in this place, and for this short time? If any lay the fault on business, and cares, and constant occupation in public and private matters, in the first place, this is no slight charge in itself, that they are surrounded with such a multitude of business, are so continually nailed to the things of this life, that they cannot find even a little leisure for what is more needful than all. Besides, that this is a mere pretext and excuse, their meetings with friends would prove against them, their loitering in the theaters, and the parties they make to see horse races, at which they often spend whole days, yet never in that case does one of them complain of the pressure of business. For trifles then you can without making any excuses, always find abundant leisure; but when you ought to attend to the things of God, do these seem to you so utterly superfluous and mean, that you think you need not assign even a little leisure to them? How do men of such disposition deserve to breathe or to look upon this sun?
There is another most foolish excuse of these sluggards; that they have not the books in their possession. Now as to the rich, it is ludicrous that we should take our aim at this excuse; but because I imagine that many of the poorer sort continually use it, I would gladly ask, if every one of them does not have all the instruments of the trade which he works at, full and complete, though infinite poverty stand in his way? Is it not then a strange thing, in that case to throw no blame on poverty, but to use every means that there be no obstacle from any quarter, but, when we might gain such great advantage, to lament our want of leisure and our poverty?
Besides, even if any should be so poor, it is in their power, by means of the continual reading of the holy Scriptures which takes place here, to be ignorant of nothing contained in them. Or if this seems to you impossible, it seems so with reason; for many do not come with fervent zeal to hearken to what is said, but having done this one thing for form's sake on our account, immediately return home. Or if any should stay, they are no better disposed than those who have retired, since they are only present here with us in body. But that we may not overload you with accusations, and spend all the time in finding fault, let us proceed to the words of the Gospel, for it is time to direct the remainder of our discourse to what is set before us. Rouse yourselves therefore, that nothing of what is said escape you.
And the Word was made Flesh, he says,
and dwelt among us.
Having declared that they who received Him were
born of God, and had become
sons of God, he adds the cause and reason of this unspeakable honor. It is that
the Word became Flesh, that the Master took on Him the form of a servant. For He became Son of man, who was God's own Son, in order that He might make the sons of men to be children of God. For the high when it associates with the low touches not at all its own honor, while it raises up the other from its excessive lowness; and even thus it was with the Lord. He in nothing diminished His own Nature by this condescension, but raised us, who had always sat in disgrace and darkness, to glory unspeakable. Thus it may be, a king, conversing with interest and kindness with a poor mean man, does not at all shame himself, yet makes the other observed by all and illustrious. Now if in the case of the adventitious dignity of men, intercourse with the humbler person in nothing injures the more honorable, much less can it do so in the case of that simple and blessed Essence which has nothing adventitious, or subject to growth or decay, but has all good things immovable, and fixed for ever. So that when you hear that
the Word became Flesh, be not disturbed nor cast down. For that Essence did not change to flesh, (it is impiety to imagine this,) but continuing what it is, It so took upon It the form of a servant.
2. Wherefore then does he use the expression,
was made? To stop the mouths of the heretics. For since there are some who say that all the circumstances of the Dispensation were an appearance, a piece of acting, an allegory, at once to remove beforehand their blasphemy, he has put
was made; desiring to show thereby not a change of substance, (away with the thought,) but the assumption of very flesh. For as when (Paul) says,
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, he does not mean that His essence removing from Its proper glory took upon It the being of an accursed thing, (this not even devils could imagine, nor even the very foolish, nor those deprived of their natural understanding, such impiety as well as madness does it contain,) as (St. Paul) does not say this, but that He, taking upon Himself the curse pronounced against us, leaves us no more under the curse; so also here he (St. John) says that He
was made Flesh, not by changing His Essence to flesh, but by taking flesh to Himself, His Essence remained untouched.
If they say that being God, He is Omnipotent, so that He could lower Himself to the substance of flesh, we will reply to them, that He is Omnipotent as long as He continues to be God. But if He admit of change, change for the worse, how could He be God? For change is far from that simple Nature. Wherefore the Prophet says,
They all shall wax old as does a garment, and as a vesture shall Thou roll them up, and they shall be changed; but You are the same, and Your years shall not fail. Psalm 102:27, Septuagint For that Essence is superior to all change. There is nothing better than He, to which He might advance and reach. Better do I say? No, nor equal to, nor the least approaching Him. It remains, therefore, that if He change, He must admit a change for the worse; and this would not be God. But let the blasphemy return upon the heads of those who utter it. Nay, to show that he uses the expression,'
was made only that you should not suppose a mere appearance, hear from what follows how he clears the argument, and overthrows that wicked suggestion. For what does he add?
And dwelt among us. All but saying,
Imagine nothing improper from the word 'was made'; I spoke not of any change of that unchangeable Nature, but of Its dwelling and inhabiting. But that which dwells cannot be the same with that in which it dwells, but different; one thing dwells in a different thing, otherwise it would not be dwelling; for nothing can inhabit itself. I mean, different as to essence; for by an Union and Conjoining God the Word and the Flesh are One, not by any confusion or obliteration of substances, but by a certain union ineffable, and past understanding. Ask not how ; for It was made, so as He knows.
What then was the tabernacle in which He dwelt? Hear the Prophet say;
I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen. Amos 9:11 It was fallen indeed, our nature had fallen an incurable fall, and needed only that mighty Hand. There was no possibility of raising it again, had not He who fashioned it at first stretched forth to it His Hand, and stamped it anew with His Image, by the regeneration of water and the Spirit. And observe I pray you, the awful and ineffable nature of the mystery. He inhabits this tabernacle for ever, for He clothed Himself with our flesh, not as again to leave it, but always to have it with Him. Had not this been the case, He would not have deemed it worthy of the royal throne, nor would He while wearing it have been worshipped by all the host of heaven, angels, archangels, thrones, principalities, dominions, powers. What word, what thought can represent such great honor done to our race, so truly marvelous and awful? What angel, what archangel? Not one in any place, whether in heaven, or upon earth. For such are the mighty works of God, so great and marvelous are His benefits, that a right description of them exceeds not only the tongue of men, but even the power of angels.
Wherefore we will for a while close our discourse, and be silent; only delivering to you this charge, that you repay this our so great Benefactor by a return which again shall bring round to us all profit. The return is, that we look with all carefulness to the state of our souls. For this too is the work of His lovingkindness, that He who stands in no need of anything of ours says that He is repaid when we take care of our own souls. It is therefore an act of extremist folly, and one deserving ten thousand chastisements, if we, when such honor has been lavished upon us, will not even contribute what we can, and that too when profit comes round to us again by these means, and ten thousand blessings are laid before us on these conditions. For all these things let us return glory to our merciful God, not by words only, but much more by works that we may obtain the good things hereafter, which may it be that we all attain to, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
1. Perhaps we seemed to you the other day needlessly hard upon you and burdensome, using too sharp language, and extending too far our reproaches against the sluggishness of the many. Now if we had done this merely from a desire to vex you, each of you would with cause have been angry; but if, looking to your advantage, we neglected in our speech what might gratify you, if you will not give us credit for our forethought, you should at least pardon us on account of such tender love. For in truth we greatly fear, lest, if we are taking pains, and you are not willing to manifest the same diligence in listening your future reckoning may be the more severe. Wherefore we are compelled continually to arouse and waken you, that nothing of what is said may escape you. For so you will be enabled to live for the present with much confidence, and to exhibit it at that Day before the judgment-seat of Christ. Since then we have lately sufficiently touched you, let us today at the outset enter on the expressions themselves.
We beheld, he says,
His glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father.
Having declared that we were made
sons of God, and having shown in what manner, namely, by the
Word having been
made Flesh, he again mentions another advantage which we gain from this same circumstance. What is it?
We beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father; which we could not have beheld, had it not been shown to us, by means of a body like to our own. For if the men of old time could not even bear to look upon the glorified countenance of Moses, who partook of the same nature with us, if that just man needed a veil which might shade over the purity of his glory, and show to them the face of their prophet mild and gentle; how could we creatures of clay and earth have endured the unveiled Godhead, which is unapproachable even by the powers above? Wherefore He tabernacled among us, that we might be able with much fearlessness to approach Him, speak to, and converse with Him.
But what means
the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father? Since many of the Prophets too were glorified, as this Moses himself, Elijah, and Elisha, the one encircled by the fiery chariot 2 Kings 6:17, the other taken up by it; and after them, Daniel and the Three Children, and the many others who showed forth wonders ; and angels who have appeared among men, and partly disclosed to beholders the flashing light of their proper nature; and since not angels only, but even the Cherubim were seen by the Prophet in great glory, and the Seraphim also: the Evangelist leading us away from all these, and removing our thoughts from created things, and from the brightness of our fellow-servants, sets us at the very summit of good. For,
not of prophet, says he,
nor angel, nor archangel, nor of the higher power, nor of any other created nature, if other there be, but of the Master Himself, the King Himself, the true Only-Begotten Son Himself, of the Very Lord of all, did we
behold the glory.
For the expression
as, does not in this place belong to similarity or comparison, but to confirmation and unquestionable definition; as though he said,
We beheld glory, such as it was becoming, and likely that He should possess, who is the Only-Begotten and true Son of God, the King of all. The habit (of so speaking) is general, for I shall not refuse to strengthen my argument even from common custom, since it is not now my object to speak with any reference to beauty of words, or elegance of composition, but only for your advantage; and therefore there is nothing to prevent my establishing my argument by the instance of a common practice. What then is the habit of most persons? Often when any have seen a king richly decked, and glittering on all sides with precious stones, and are afterwards describing to others the beauty, the ornaments, the splendor, they enumerate as much as they can, the glowing tint of the purple robe, the size of the jewels, the whiteness of the mules, the gold about the yoke, the soft and shining couch. But when after enumerating these things, and other things besides these, they cannot, say what they will, give a full idea of the splendor, they immediately bring in:
But why say much about it; once for all, he was like a king; not desiring by the expression
like, to show that he, of whom they say this, resembles a king, but that he is a real king. Just so now the Evangelist has put the word as, desiring to represent the transcendent nature and incomparable excellence of His glory.
For indeed all others, both angels and archangels and prophets, did everything as under command; but He with the authority which becomes a King and Master; at which even the multitudes wondered, that He taught as
one having authority. Matthew 7:29 Even angels, as I said, have appeared with great glory upon the earth; as in the case of Daniel, of David, of Moses, but they did all as servants who have a Master. But He as Lord and Ruler of all, and this when He appeared in poor and humble form; but even so creation recognized her Lord. Now the star from heaven which called the wise men to worship Him, the vast throng pouring everywhere of angels attending the Lord, and hymning His praise, and besides them, many other heralds sprang up on a sudden, and all, as they met, declared to one another the glad tidings of this ineffable mystery; the angels to the shepherds; the shepherds to those of the city; Gabriel to Mary and Elisabeth; Anna and Simeon to those who came to the Temple. Nor were men and women only lifted up with pleasure, but the very infant who had not yet come forth to light, I mean the citizen of the wilderness, the namesake of this Evangelist, leaped while yet in his mother's womb, and all were soaring with hopes for the future. This too immediately after the Birth. But when He had manifested Himself still farther, other wonders, yet greater than the first, were seen. For it was no more star, or sky, no more angels, or archangels, not Gabriel, or Michael, but the Father Himself from heaven above, who proclaimed Him, and with the Father the Comforter, flying down at the uttering of the Voice and resting on Him. Truly therefore did he say,
We beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father.
2. Yet he says it not only on account of these things, but also on account of what followed them; for no longer do shepherds only, and widow women, and aged men, declare to us the good tidings, but the very voice of the things themselves, sounding clearer than any trumpet, and so loudly, that the sound was straightway heard even in this land.
For, says one,
his fame went into all Syria Matthew 4:24; and He revealed Himself to all, and all things everywhere exclaimed, that the King of Heaven had come. Evil spirits everywhere fled and started away from Him, Satan covered his face and retired, death at that time retreated before Him, and afterwards disappeared altogether; every kind of infirmity was loosed, the graves let free the dead, the devils those whom they had maddened, and diseases the sick. And one might see things strange and wonderful, such as with good cause the prophets desired to see, and saw not. One might see eyes fashioned John 9:6-7, (might see) Him showing to all in short space and on the more noble portion of the body, that admirable thing which all would have desired to see, how God formed Adam from the earth; palsied and distorted limbs fastened and adapted to each other, dead hands moving, palsied feet leaping amain, ears that were stopped re-opened, and the tongue sounding aloud which before was tied by speechlessness. For having taken in hand the common nature of men, as some excellent workman might take a house decayed by time, He filled up what was broken off, banded together its crevices and shaken portions, and raised up again what was entirely fallen down.
And what should one say of the fashioning of the soul, so much more admirable than that of the body? The health of our bodies is a great thing, but that of our souls is as much greater as the soul is better than the body. And not on this account only, but because our bodily nature follows withersoever the Creator will lead it, and there is nothing to resist, but the soul being its own mistress, and possessing power over its acts, does not in all things obey God, unless it will to do so. For God will not make it beautiful and excellent, if it be reluctant and in a manner constrained by force, for this is not virtue at all; but He must persuade it to become so of its own will and choice. And so this cure is more difficult than the other; yet even this succeeded, and every kind of wickedness was banished. And as He re-ordered the bodies which He cured, not to health only, but to the highest vigor, so did He not merely deliver the souls from extremist wickedness, but brought them to the very summit of excellence. A publican became an Apostle, and a persecutor, blasphemer, and injurious, appeared as herald to the world, and the Magi became teachers of the Jews, and a thief was declared a citizen of Paradise, and a harlot shone forth by the greatness of her faith, and of the two women, of Canaan and Samaria, the latter who was another harlot, undertook to preach the Gospel to her countrymen, and having enclosed a whole city in her net, so brought them to Christ; while the former by faith and perseverance, procured the expulsion of an evil spirit from her daughter's soul; and many others much worse than these were straightway numbered in the rank of disciples, and at once all the infirmities of their bodies and diseases of their souls were transformed, and they were fashioned anew to health and exactest virtue. And of these, not two or three men, not five, or ten, or twenty, or an hundred only, but entire cities and nations, were very easily remodeled. Why should one speak of the wisdom of the commands, the excellency of the heavenly laws, the good ordering of the angelic polity? For such a life has He proposed to us, such laws appointed for us, such a polity established, that those who put these things into practice, immediately become angels and like to God, as far as is in our power, even though they may have been worse than all men.
3. The Evangelist therefore having brought together all these things, the marvels in our bodies, in our souls, in the elements (of our faith), the commandments, those gifts ineffable and higher than the heavens, the laws, the polity, the persuasion, the future promises, His sufferings, uttered that voice so wonderful and full of exalted doctrine, saying,
We beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. For we admire Him not only on account of the miracles, but also by reason of the sufferings; as that He was nailed upon the Cross, that He was scourged, that He was buffeted, that He was spit upon, that He received blows on the cheek from those to whom He had done good. For even of those very things which seem to be shameful, it is proper to repeat the same expression, since He Himself called that action
glory. For what then took place was (proof) not only of kindness and love, but also of unspeakable power. At that time death was abolished, the curse was loosed, devils were shamed and led in triumph and made a show of, and the handwriting of our sins was nailed to the Cross. And then, since these wonders were doing invisibly, others took place visibly, showing that He was of a truth the Only-Begotten Son of God, the Lord of all creation. For while yet that blessed Body hung upon the tree, the sun turned away his rays, the whole earth was troubled and became dark, the graves were opened, the ground quaked, and an innumerable multitude of dead leaped forth, and went into the city. And while the stones of His tomb were fastened upon the vault, and the seals yet upon them, the Dead arose, the Crucified, the nail-pierced One, and having filled His eleven disciples with His mighty power, He sent them to men throughout all the world, to be the common healers of all their kind, to correct their way of living, to spread through every part of the earth the knowledge of their heavenly doctrines, to break down the tyranny of devils, to teach those great and ineffable blessings, to bring to us the glad tidings of the soul's immortality, and the eternal life of the body, and rewards which are beyond conception, and shall never have an end. These things then, and yet more than these, the blessed Evangelist having in mind, things which though he knew, he was not able to write, because the world could not have contained them (for if all things
should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written John 21:25), reflecting therefore on all these, he cries out,
We beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
It behooves therefore those who have been deemed worthy to see and to hear such things, and who have enjoyed so great a gift, to display also a life worthy of the doctrines, that they may enjoy also the good things which are (laid up) there. For our Lord Jesus Christ came, not only that we might behold His glory here, but also that which shall be. For therefore He says,
I will that these also be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory. John 17:24 Now if the glory here was so bright and splendid, what can one say of that (which shall be)? For it shall appear not on this corruptible earth, nor while we are in perishable bodies, but in a creation which is imperishable, and waxes not old, and with such brightness as it is not possible even to represent in words. O blessed, thrice blessed, yea many times so, they who are deemed worthy to be beholders of that glory! It is concerning this that the prophet says,
Let the unrighteous be taken away, that he behold not the glory of the Lord. Isaiah 26:10, Septuagint God grant that not one of us be taken away nor excluded ever from beholding it. For if we shall not hereafter enjoy it, then it is time to say of ourselves,
Good were it for us,
had never been born. For why do we live and breathe? What are we, if we fail of that spectacle, if no one grant us then to behold our Lord? If those who see not the light of the sun endure a life more bitter than any death, what is it likely that they who are deprived of that light must suffer? For in the one case the loss is confined to this one privation; but in the other it does not rest here, (though if this were the only thing to be dreaded, even then the degrees of punishment would not be equal, but one would be as much severer than the other, as that sun is incomparably superior to this,) but now we must look also for other vengeance; for he who beholds not that light must not only be led into darkness, but must be burned continually, and waste away, and gnash his teeth, and suffer ten thousand other dreadful things. Let us then not permit ourselves by making this brief time a time of carelessness and remissness, to fall into everlasting punishment, but let us watch and be sober, let us do all things, and make it all our business to attain to that felicity, and to keep far from that river of fire, which rushes with a loud roaring before the terrible judgment seat. For he who has once been cast in there, must remain for ever; there is no one to deliver him from his punishment, not father, not mother, not brother. And this the prophets themselves declared aloud; one saying,
Brother delivers not brother. Shall man deliver? Psalm 49:7, Septuagint And Ezekiel has declared somewhat more than this, saying,
Though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters. Ezekiel 14:16 For one defense only, that through works, is there, and he who is deprived of that cannot be saved by any other means. Revolving these things, then, and reflecting upon them continually, let us cleanse our life and make it lustrous, that we may see the Lord with boldness, and obtain the promised good things; through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
John bears witness of Him, and cries, saying, This is He of whom I spoke, saying, He that comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.
1. Do we then run and labor in vain? Are we sowing upon the rocks? Does the seed fall upon the rocks? Does the seed fall without our knowing it by the wayside, and among thorns? I am greatly troubled and fear, lest our husbandry be unprofitable; not as though I shall be a loser as well as you, touching the reward of this labor. For it is not with those who teach as it is with husbandmen. Oftentimes the husbandman after his year's toil, his hard work and sweat, if the earth produce no suitable return for his pains, will be able to find comfort for his labors from none else, but returns ashamed and downcast from his barn to his dwelling, his wife and children, unable to require of any man a reward for his lengthened toil. But in our case there is nothing like this. For even though the soil which we cultivate bring forth no fruit, if we have shown all industry, the Lord of it and of us will not suffer us to depart with disappointed hopes, but will give us a recompense; for, says St. Paul,
Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor 1 Corinthians 3:8, not according to the event of things. And that it is so, hearken:
And You, he says,
Son of man, testify unto this people, if they will hear, and if they will understand. Ezekiel 2:5, not from Septuagint And Ezekiel says,
If the watchman give warning what it behooves to flee from, and what to choose, he has delivered his own soul, although there be none that will take heed. Ezekiel 3:18, and 33:9; not quoted from Septuagint Yet although we have this strong consolation, and are confident of the recompense that shall be made us, still when we see that the work in you does not go forward, our state is not better than the state of those husbandmen who lament and mourn, who hide their faces and are ashamed. This is the sympathy of a teacher, this is the natural care of a father. For Moses too, when it was in his power to have been delivered from the ingratitude of the Jews, and to have laid the more glorious foundation of another and far greater people, (
Let Me alone, said God,
that I may consume them, and make of you a nation mightier than this Exodus 32:10) because he was a holy man, the servant of God, and a friend very true and generous, he did not endure even to hearken to this word, but chose rather to perish with those who had been once allotted to him, than without them to be saved and be in greater honor. Such ought he to be who has the charge of souls. For it is a strange thing that any one who has weak children, will not be called the father of any others than those who are sprung from him, but that he who has had disciples placed in his hands should be continually changing one flock for another, that we should be catching at the charge now of these, then of those, then again of others, having no real affection for any one. May we never have cause to suspect this of you. We trust that you abound more in faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in love to one another and towards all men. And this we say as desiring that your zeal may be increased, and the excellence of your conversation farther advanced. For it is thus that you will be able to bring your understandings down to the very depth of the words set before us, if no film of wickedness darken the eyes of your intellect, and disturb its clearsightedness and acuteness.
What then is it which is set before us today?
John bore witness of Him, and cried, saying, This was He of whom I spoke, He that comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me. The Evangelist is very full in making frequent mention of John, and often bearing about his testimony. And this he does not without a reason, but very wisely; for all the Jews held the man in great admiration, (even Josephus imputes the war to his death; and shows, that, on his account, what once was the mother city, is now no city at all, and continues the words of his encomium to great length,) and therefore desiring by his means to make the Jews ashamed, he continually reminds them of the testimony of the forerunner. The other Evangelists make mention of the older prophets, and at each successive thing that took place respecting Him refer the hearer to them. Thus when the Child is born, they say,
Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esias the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with Child, and shall bring forth a Son Matthew 1:22; Isaiah 7:14; and when He is plotted against and sought for everywhere so diligently, that even tender infancy is slaughtered by Herod, they bring in Jeremy, saying,
In Ramah was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children Matthew 2:18; Jeremiah 31:15; and again, when He comes up out of Egypt, they mention Hosea, saying,
Out of Egypt have I called My Son Matthew 2:15; Hosea 11:1; and this they do everywhere. But John providing testimony more clear and fresh, and uttering a voice more glorious than the other, brings continually forward not those only who had departed and were dead, but one also who was alive and present, who pointed Him out and baptized Him, him he continually introduces, not desiring to gain credit for the master through the servant, but condescending to the infirmity of his hearers. For as unless He had taken the form of a servant, He would not have been easily received, so had He not by the voice of a servant prepared the ears of his fellow-servants, the many (at any rate) of the Jews would not have received the Word.
2. But besides this, there was another great and wonderful provision. For because to speak any great words concerning himself, makes a man's witness to be suspected, and is often an obstacle to many hearers, another comes to testify of Him. And besides this the many are in a manner wont to run more readily to a voice which is more familiar and natural to them, as recognizing it more than other voices; and therefore the voice from heaven was uttered once or twice, but that of John oftentimes and continually. For those of the people who had surmounted the infirmity of their nature, and had been released from all the things of sense, could hear the Voice from heaven, and had no great need of that of man, but in all things obeyed that other, and were led by it; but they who yet moved below, and were wrapt in many veils, needed that meaner (voice). In the same way John, because he had snipped himself in every way of the things of sense, needed no other instructors, but was taught from heaven.
He that sent me, says he,
to baptize with water, the Same said unto me, Upon whom you shall see the Spirit of God
descending, the same is He. John 1:33 But the Jews who still were children, and could not as yet reach to that height, had a man for their teacher, a man who did not speak to them words of his own, but brought them a message from above.
What then says he? He
bears witness concerning Him, and cries, saying What means that word
cries? Boldly, he means, and freely, without any reserve, he proclaims. What does he proclaim? To what does he
bear witness, and
This is He of whom I said, He that comes after me is preferred before me; for He was before me. The testimony is dark, and contains besides much that is lowly. For he does not say,
This is the Son of God, the Only-begotten, the true Son ; but what?
He that comes after me, is preferred before me; for He was before me. As the mother birds do not teach their young all at once how to fly, nor finish their teaching in a single day, but at first lead them forth so as to be just outside the nest, then after first allowing them to rest, set them again to flying, and on the next day continue a flight much farther, and so gently, little by little, bring them to the proper height; just so the blessed John did not immediately bring the Jews to high things, but taught them for a while to fly up a little above the earth saying, that Christ was greater than he. And yet this, even this was for the time no small thing, to have been able to persuade the hearers that one who had not yet appeared nor worked any wonders was greater than a man, (John, I mean,) so marvelous, so famous, to whom all ran, and whom they thought to be an angel. For a while therefore he labored to establish this in the minds of his hearers, that He to whom testimony was borne was greater than he who bore it; He that came after, than he that came before, He who had not yet appeared, than he that was manifest and famous. And observe how prudently he introduces his testimony; for he does not only point Him out when He has appeared, but even before He appears, proclaims Him. For the expression,
This is He of whom I spoke, is the expression of one declaring this. As also Matthew says, that when all came to him, he said,
I indeed baptize you with water, but He that comes after me is mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose. Wherefore then even before His appearance did he this? In order that when He appeared, the testimony might readily be received, the minds of the hearers being already prepossessed by what was said concerning Him, and the mean external appearance not vitiating it. For if without having heard anything at all concerning Him they had seen the Lord, and as they beheld Him had at the same time received the testimony of John's words, so wonderful and great, the meanness of His appearance would have straightway been an objection to the grandeur of the expressions. For Christ took on Him an appearance so mean and ordinary, that even Samaritan women, and harlots, and publicans, had confidence boldly to approach and converse with Him. As therefore, I said, if they had at once heard these words and seen Himself, they might perhaps have mocked at the testimony of John; but now because even before Christ appeared, they had often heard and had been accustomed to what was said concerning Him, they were affected in the opposite way, not rejecting the instruction of the words by reason of the appearance of Him who was witnessed of, but from their belief of what had been already told them, esteeming Him even more glorious.
that comes after, means,
after me, not
that was born
after me. And this Matthew glances at when he says,
after me comes a man, not speaking of His birth from Mary, but of His coming to preach (the Gospel), for had he been speaking of the birth, he would not have said,
has come; since He was born when John spoke this. What then means
is before me? Is more glorious, more honorable.
Do not, he says,
because I came preaching first from this, suppose that I am greater than He; I am much inferior, so much inferior that I am not worthy to be counted in the rank of a servant. This is the sense of
is before me, which Matthew showing in a different manner, says,
The latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose. Luke 3:16 Again, that the phrase,
is before me, does not refer to His coming into Being, is plain from the sequel; for had he meant to say this, what follows,
for He was before me, would be superfluous. For who so dull and foolish as not to know that He who
was born before him
was before him? Or if the words refer to His subsistence before the ages, what is said is nothing else than that
He who comes after me came into being before me. Besides, such a thing as this is unintelligible, and the cause is thrown in needlessly; for he ought to have said the contrary, if he had wished to declare this,
that He who comes after me was before me, since also He was born before me. For one might with reason assign this, (the
being born before) as the cause of
being before, but not the
being before, as the cause of
being born. While what we assert is very reasonable. Since you all at least know this, that they are always things uncertain not things evident, that require their causes to be assigned. Now if the argument related to the production of substance, it could not have been uncertain that he who
was born first must needs
be first; but because he is speaking concerning honor, he with reason explains what seems to be a difficulty. For many might well enquire, whence and on what pretext He who came after, became before, that is, appeared with great honor; in reply to this question therefore, he immediately assigns the reason; and the reason is, His Being first. He does not say, that
by some kind of advancement he cast me who has been first behind him, and so became before me, but that
he was before me, even though he arrives after me.
But how, says one, if the Evangelist refers to His manifestation to men, and to the glory which was to attend Him from them, does he speak of what was not yet accomplished, as having already taken place? For he does not say,
shall be, but
was. Because this is a custom among the prophets of old, to speak of the future as of the past. Thus Isaiah speaking of His slaughter does not say,
He shall be led (which would have denoted futurity) as a sheep to the slaughter; but
He was led as a sheep to the slaughter Isaiah 53:7; yet He was not yet Incarnate, but the Prophet speaks of what should be as if it had come to pass. So David, pointing to the Crucifixion, said not,
They shall pierce My hands and My feet, but
They pierced My hands and My feet, and parted My garments among them, and cast lots upon My vesture Psalm 22:16-18; and discoursing of the traitor as yet unborn, he says,
He which did eat of My bread, has lifted up his heel against Me Psalm 41:9; and of the circumstances of the Crucifixion,
They gave Me gall for meat, and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink. Psalm 69:21
4. Do you desire that we adduce more examples, or do these suffice? For my part, I think they do; for if we have not dug over the ground in all its extent, we have at least dug down to its bottom; and this last kind of work is not less laborious than the former; and we fear lest by straining your attention immoderately we cause you to fall back.
Let us then give to our discourse a becoming conclusion. And what conclusion is becoming? A suitable giving of glory to God; and that is suitable which is given, not by words only, but much more by actions. For He says,
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven. Matthew 5:16 Now nothing is more full of light than a most excellent conversation. As one of the wise men has said,
The paths of the just shine like the light Proverbs 4:18, Septuagint; and they shine not for them alone who kindle the flame by their works, and are guides in the way of righteousness, but also for those who are their neighbors. Let us then pour oil into these lamps, that the flame become higher, that rich light appear. For not only has this oil great strength now, but even when sacrifices were at their height, it was far more acceptable than they could be.
I will have mercy, He says,
and not sacrifice. Matthew 12:7; Hosea 6:6 And with good reason; for that is a lifeless altar, this a living; and all that is laid on that altar becomes the food of fire, and ends in dust, and it is poured forth as ashes, and the smoke of it is dissolved into the substance of the air; but here there is nothing like this, the fruits which it bears are different. As the words of Paul declare; for in describing the treasures of kindness to the poor laid up by the Corinthians, he writes,
For the administration of this service not only supplies the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God. 2 Corinthians 9:12 And again;
Whiles they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the Gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men; and by their prayer for you, which long after you. Do you behold it resolving itself into thanksgiving and praise of God, and continual prayers of those who have been benefited, and more fervent charity? Let us then sacrifice, beloved, let us sacrifice every day upon these altars. For this sacrifice is greater than prayer and fasting, and many things beside, if only it come from honest gain, and honest toils, and be pure from all covetousness, and rapine, and violence. For God accepts such offerings as these, but the others He turns away from and hates; He will not be honored out of other men's calamities, such sacrifice is unclean and profane, and would rather anger God than appease Him. So that we must use all carefulness, that we do not, in the place of service, insult Him whom we would honor. For if Cain for making a second-rate offering, having done no other wrong, suffered extreme punishment, how shall not we when we offer anything gained by rapine and covetousness, suffer yet more severely. It is for this that God has shown to us the pattern of this commandment, that we might have mercy, not be severe to our fellow-servants; but he who takes what belongs to one and gives it to another, has not shown mercy, but inflicted hurt, and done an extreme injustice. As then a stone cannot yield oil, so neither can cruelty produce humanity; for alms when it has such a root as this is alms no longer. Therefore I exhort that we look not to this only, that we give to those that need, but also that we give not from other men's plunder.
When one prays, and another curses, whose voice will the Lord hear? Sirach 34:24 If we guide ourselves thus strictly, we shall be able by the grace of God to obtain much lovingkindness and mercy and pardon for what we have done amiss during all this long time, and to escape the river of fire; from which may it come to pass that we be all delivered, and ascend to the Kingdom of Heaven, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.
1. I said the other day, that John, to resolve the doubts of those who should question with themselves how the Lord, though He came after to the preaching, became before and more glorious than he, added,
for He was before me. And this is indeed one reason. But not content with this, he adds again a second, which now he declares. What is it?
And of his fullness, says he,
have all we received, and grace for grace. With these again he mentions another. What is this? That
The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
And what means that, says he,
Of His fullness have all we received? For to this we must for a while direct our discourse. He possesses not, says he, the gift by participation, but is Himself the very Fountain and very Root of all good, very Life, and very Light, and very Truth, not retaining within Himself the riches of His good things, but overflowing with them unto all others, and after the overflowing remaining full, in nothing diminished by supplying others, but streaming ever forth, and imparting to others a share of these blessings, He remains in sameness of perfection. What I possess is by participation, (for I received it from another) and is a small portion of the whole, as it were a poor rain-drop compared with the untold abyss or the boundless sea; or rather not even can this instance fully express what we attempt to say, for if you take a drop from the sea, you have lessened the sea itself, though the diminution be imperceptible. But of that Fountain we cannot say this; how much soever a man draw, It continues undiminished. We therefore must needs proceed to another instance, a weak one also, and not able to establish what we seek, but which guides us better than the former one to the thought now proposed to us.
Let us suppose that there is a fountain of fire; that from that fountain ten thousand lamps are kindled, twice as many, thrice as many, ofttimes as many; does not the fire remain at the same degree of fullness even after its imparting of its virtue to such members? It is plain to every man that it does. Now if in the case of bodies which are made up of parts, and are diminished by abstraction, one has been found of such a nature, that after supplying to others something from itself it sustains no loss, much more will this take place with that incorporeal and uncompounded Power. If in the instance given, that which is communicated is substance and body, is divided yet does not suffer division, when our discourse is concerning an energy, and an energy too of an incorporeal substance, it is much more probable that this will undergo nothing of the sort. And therefore John said,
Of His fullness have all we received, and joins his own testimony to that of the Baptist; for the expression,
Of his fullness have we all received, belongs not to the forerunner but to the disciple; and its meaning is something like this:
Think not, he says,
that we, who long time companied with Him, and partook of His food and table, bear witness through favor, since even John, who did not even know Him before, who had never even been with Him, but merely saw Him in company with others when he was baptizing cried out,
He was before me, having from that source received all; and all we the twelve, the three hundred, the three thousand, the five thousand, the many myriads of Jews, all the fullness of the faithful who then were, and now are, and hereafter shall be, have
received of His fullness. What have we received?
grace for grace, says he. What grace, for what? For the old, the new. For there was a righteousness, and again a righteousness, (
Touching the righteousness which is in the law, says Paul
blameless.) Philippians 3:6 There was a faith, there is a faith. (
From faith to faith.) Romans 1:17 There was an adoption, there is an adoption. (
To whom pertains the adoption.) Romans 9:4 There was a glory, there is a glory. (
For if that which was done away was glorious, much more that which remains is glorious.) 2 Corinthians 3:11 There was a law, and there is a law. (
For the law of the Spirit of life has made me free.) Romans 8:2 There was a service, and there is a service. (
To whom pertains the service Romans 9:4 and again:
Serving God in the Spirit.) Philippians 3:3 There was a covenant, and there is a covenant. (
I will make with you a new covenant, not according to the covenant which I made with your fathers.) Jeremiah 31:31 There was a sanctification, and there is a sanctification: there was a baptism, and there is a Baptism: there was a sacrifice, and there is a Sacrifice: there was a temple, and there is a temple: there was a circumcision, and there is a circumcision; and so too there was a
grace, and there is a
grace. But the words in the first case are used as types, in the second as realities, preserving a sameness of sound, though not of sense. So in patterns and figures, the shape of a man scratched with white lines upon a black ground is called a man as well as that which has received the correct coloring; and in the case of statues, the figure whether formed of gold or of plaster, is alike called a statue, though in the one case as a model, in the other as a reality.
2. Do not then, because the same words are used, suppose that the things are identical, nor yet diverse either; for in that they were models they did not differ from the truth; but in that they merely preserved the outline, they were less than the truth. What is the difference in all these instances? Will you that we take in hand and proceed to examine one or two of the cases mentioned? Thus the rest will be plain to you; and we shall see that the first were lessons for children, the last for high-minded full-grown men; that the first laws were made as for mortals, the latter as for angels.
Whence then shall we begin? From the sonship itself? What then is the distinction between the first and second? The first is the honor of a name, in the second the thing goes with it. Of the first the Prophet says,
I have said, You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High Psalm 82:6; but of the latter, that they
were born of God. How, and in what way? By the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. For they, even after they had received the title of sons, retained the spirit of slavery, (for while they remained slaves they were honored with this appellation,) but we being made free, received the honor, not in name, but in deed. And this Paul has declared and said,
For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Romans 8:15 For having been born again, and, as one may say, thoroughly remade, we so are called
sons. And if one consider the character of the holiness, what the first was and what the second, he will find there also great difference. They when they did not worship idols, nor commit fornication or adultery, were called by this name; but we become holy, not by refraining from these vices merely, but by acquiring things greater. And this gift we obtain first by means of the coming upon us of the Holy Ghost; and next, by a rule of life far more comprehensive than that of the Jews. To prove that these words are not mere boasting hear what He says to them,
You shall not use divination, nor make purification of your children, for you are a holy people. So that holiness with them consisted in being free from the customs of idolatry; but it is not so with us.
That she may be holy, says Paul,
in body and spirit. 1 Corinthians 7:34
Follow peace, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord Hebrews 12:14: and,
Perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1 For the word
holy has not force to give the same meaning in every case to which it is applied; since God is called
Holy, though not as we are. What, for instance, does the Prophet say, when he heard that cry raised by the flying Seraphim?
Woe is me! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips Isaiah 6:5; though he was holy and clean; but if we be compared with the holiness which is above, we are unclean. Angels are holy, Archangels are holy, the Cherubim and Seraphim themselves are holy, but of this holiness again there is a double difference; that is, in relation to us, and to the higher powers. We might proceed to all the other points, but then the discussion would become too long, and its extent too great. We will therefore desist from proceeding farther, and leave it to you to take in hand the rest, for it is in your power at home to put these things together, and examine their difference, and in the same way to go over what remains.
Give, says one,
a starting place to the wise, and he becomes wiser. Proverbs 9:9 , Septuagint The beginning is from us, but the end will be from you. We must now resume the connection.
After having said,
Of His fullness have all we received, he adds,
and grace for grace. For by grace the Jews were saved:
I chose you, says God,
not because you were many in number, but because of your fathers. Deuteronomy 7:7, Septuagint If now they were chosen by God not for their own good deeds, it is manifest that by grace they obtained this honor. And we too all are saved by grace, but not in like manner; not for the same objects, but for objects much greater and higher. The grace then that is with us is not like theirs. For not only was pardon of sins given to us, (since this we have in common with them, for all have sinned,) but righteousness also, and sanctification, and sonship, and the gift of the Spirit far more glorious and more abundant. By this grace we have become the beloved of God, no longer as servants, but as sons and friends. Wherefore he says,
grace for grace. Since even the things of the law were of grace, and the very fact of man being created from nothing, (for we did not receive this as a recompense for past good deeds, how could we, when we even were not? But from God who is ever the first to bestow His benefits,) and not only that we were created from nothing, but that when created, we straightway learned what we must and what we must not do, and that we received this law in our very nature, and that our Creator entrusted to us the impartial rule of conscience, these I say, are proofs of the greatest grace and unspeakable lovingkindness. And the recovery of this law after it had become corrupt, by means of the written (Law), this too was the work of grace. For what might have been expected to follow was, that they who falsified the law once given should suffer correction and punishments; but what actually took place was not this, but, on the contrary, an amending of our nature, and pardon, not of debt, but given through mercy and grace. For to show that it was of grace and mercy, hear what David says;
The Lord executes righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed; He made known His ways unto Moses, His acts unto the children of Israel Psalm 103:6-7: and again;
Good and upright is the Lord, therefore will He give laws to them that are in the way. Psalm 25:8
3. Therefore that men received the law was of pity, mercies, and grace; and for this reason he says,
Grace for grace. But striving yet more fervently to (express) the greatness of the gifts, he goes on to say,
Ver. 17 .
The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
Do you see how gently, by a single word and little by little, both John the Baptist and John the Disciple lead up their hearers to the highest knowledge, having first exercised them in humbler things? The former having compared to himself Him who is incomparably superior to all, thus afterwards shows His superiority, by saying,
has become before me, and then adding the words,
was before me: while the latter has done much more than he, though too little for the worthiness of the Only-Begotten, for he makes the comparison, not with John, but with one reverenced by the Jews more than John, with Moses.
For the law, says he,
was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
Observe his wisdom. He makes enquiry not concerning the person, but the things; for these being proved, it was probable that even the senseless would of necessity receive from them a much higher judgment and notion respecting Christ. For when facts bear witness, which cannot be suspected of doing so either from favor to any, or from malice, they afford a means of judging which cannot be doubted even by the senseless; for they remain to open view just as their actors may have arranged them, and therefore their evidence is the least liable to suspicion of any. And see how he makes the comparison easy even to the weaker sort; for he does not prove the superiority by argument, but points out the difference by the bare words, opposing
grace and truth to
was given. Between each of these there is a great difference; for one,
was given, belongs to something ministered, when one has received from another, and given to whom he was commanded to give; but the other,
grace and truth came, befits a king forgiving all offenses, with authority, and himself furnishing the gift. Wherefore He said,
Your sins be forgiven you Matthew 9:2; and again,
But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins (He says to the sick of the palsy), Arise, take up your bed, and go unto your house. Matthew 5:6
Seest thou how
grace comes by Him? Look also to
grace the instance just mentioned, and what happened in the case of the thief, and the gift of Baptism, and the grace of the Spirit given by Him declare, and many other things. But His
truth we shall more clearly know, if we understand the types. For the types like patterns anticipated and sketched beforehand the dispensations which should be accomplished under the new covenant, and Christ came and fulfilled them. Let us now consider the types in few words, for we cannot at the present time go through all that relates to them; but when you have learned some points from those (instances) which I shall set before you, you will know the others also.
Will you then that we begin with the Passion itself? What then says the type?
Take a lamb for an house, and kill it, and do as he commanded and ordained. Exodus 12:3 But it is not so with Christ. He does not command this to be done, but Himself becomes It, by offering Himself a Sacrifice and Oblation to His Father.
4. See how the type was
given by Moses, but the
Truth came by Jesus Christ. Exodus 17:12
Again, when the Amalekites warred in Mount Sinai, the hands of Moses were supported, being stayed up by Aaron and Hur standing on either side of him Exodus 17:12; but when Christ came, He of Himself stretched forth His Hands upon the Cross. Have you observed how the type
was given, but
the Truth came?
Again, the Law said,
Cursed is every one that continues not in all things that are written in this book. Deuteronomy 27:26, Septuagint But what says grace?
Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest Matthew 11:28; and Paul,
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. Galatians 3:13
Since then we have enjoyed such
truth, I exhort you that we be not more slothful by reason of the greatness of the gift; for the greater the honor of which we have been deemed worthy, the greater our debt of excellence; for one who has received but small benefits, even though he makes but small returns, does not deserve the same condemnation; but he who has been raised to the highest summit of honor, and yet manifests groveling and mean dispositions, will be worthy of much greater punishment. May I never have to suspect this of you. For we trust in the Lord that you have winged your souls for heaven, that you have removed from earth, that being in the world you handle not the things of the world; yet though so persuaded, we do not cease thus continually to exhort you. In the games of the heathen, they whom all the spectators encourage are not those who have fallen and lie supine, but those who are exerting themselves and running still; of the others, (since they would be doing what would be of no use, and would not be able to raise up by their encouragements men once for all severed from victory,) they cease to take any notice. But in this case some good may be expected, not only of you who are sober, but even of those who have fallen, if they would but be converted. Wherefore we use every means, exhorting, reproving, encouraging, praising, in order that we may bring about your salvation. Be not then offended by our continual admonishing concerning the Christian conversation, for the words are not the words of one accusing you of sloth, but of one who has very excellent hopes respecting you. And not to you alone, but to ourselves who speak them, are these words said, yea, and shall be said, for we too need the same teaching; so though they be spoken by us, yet nothing hinders their being spoken to us, (for the Word, when it finds a man in fault, amends him, when clear and free, sets him as far off from it as possible,) and we ourselves are not pure from transgressions. The course of healing is the same for all, the medicines are set forth for all, only the application is not the same, but is made according to the choice of those who use the medicines; for one who will handle the remedy as he ought, gains some benefit from the application, while he who does not place it upon the wound, makes the evil greater, and brings it to the most painful end. Let us then not fret when we are being healed, but much rather rejoice, even though the system of discipline bring bitter pains, for hereafter it will show to us fruit sweeter than any. Let us then do all to this end, that we may depart to that world, cleared of the wounds and strokes which the teeth of sin make in the soul, so that having become worthy to behold the countenance of Christ, we may be delivered in that day, not to the avenging and cruel powers, but to those who are able to bring us to that inheritance of the heavens which is prepared for them that love Him; to which may it come to pass that we all attain, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
No man has seen God at any time; the Only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
1. God will not have us listen to the words and sentences contained in the Scriptures carelessly, but with much attention. This is why the blessed David has prefixed in many places to his Psalms the title
for understanding, and has said,
Open Thou my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your Law. Psalm 32:42, etc.; Psalm 119:18 And after him his son again shows that we ought to
seek out wisdom as silver, and to make merchandise of her rather than of gold. Proverbs 2:4 and 3:14 [partially quoted]; John 5:39 And the Lord when He exhorts the Jews to
search the Scriptures, the more urges us to the enquiry, for He would not thus have spoken if it were possible to comprehend them immediately at the first reading. No one would ever search for what is obvious and at hand, but for that which is wrapt in shadow, and which must be found after much enquiry; and so to arouse us to the search He calls them
hidden treasure. Proverbs 2:4; Matthew 13:44 These words are said to us that we may not apply ourselves to the words of the Scriptures carelessly or in a chance way, but with great exactness. For if any one listen to what is said in them without enquiring into the meaning, and receive all so as it is spoken, according to the letter, he will suppose many unseemly things of God, will admit of Him that He is a man, that He is made of brass, is wrathful, is furious, and many opinions yet worse than these. But if he fully learn the sense that lies beneath, he will be freed from all this unseemliness. Revelation 1:15 The very text which now lies before us says, that God has a bosom, a thing proper to bodily substances, yet no one is so insane as to imagine, that He who is without body is a body. In order then that we may properly interpret the entire passage according to its spiritual meaning, let us search it through from its beginning.
No man has seen God at any time. By what connection of thought does the Apostle come to say this? After showing the exceeding greatness of the gifts of Christ, and the infinite difference between them and those ministered by Moses, he would add the reasonable cause of the difference. Moses, as being a servant, was minister of lower things, but Christ being Lord and King, and the King's Son, brought to us things far greater, being ever with the Father, and beholding Him continually; wherefore He says,
No man has seen God at any time. What then shall we answer to the most mighty of voice, Esaias, when he says,
I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up Isaiah 6:1; and to John himself testifying of Him, that
he said these things when he had seen His glory? John 12:41 What also to Ezekiel? For he too beheld Him sitting above the Cherubim. Ezekiel 1 and 10 What to Daniel? For he too says,
The Ancient of days did sit Daniel 7:9 What to Moses himself, saying,
Show me Your Glory, that I may see You so as to know You. Exodus 33:13, partly from Septuagint And Jacob took his name from this very thing, being called
Israel; for Israel is
one that sees God. And others have seen him. How then says John,
No man has seen God at any time? It is to declare, that all these were instances of (His) condescension, not the vision of the Essence itself unveiled. For had they seen the very Nature, they would not have beheld It under different forms, since that is simple, without form, or parts, or bounding lines. It sits not, nor stands, nor walks: these things belong all to bodies. But how He Is, He only knows. And this He has declared by a certain prophet, saying,
I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes by the hands of the prophets Hosea 12:10, that is,
I have condescended, I have not appeared as I really was. For since His Son was about to appear in very flesh, He prepared them from old time to behold the substance of God, as far as it was possible for them to see It; but what God really is, not only have not the prophets seen, but not even angels nor archangels. If you ask them, you shall not hear them answering anything concerning His Essence, but sending up,
Glory to God in the Highest, on earth peace, good will towards men. Luke 2:14 If you desire to learn something from Cherubim or Seraphim, you shall hear the mystic song of His Holiness, and that
heaven and earth are full of His glory. Isaiah 6:3 If you enquire of the higher powers, you shall but find that their one work is the praise of God.
Praise Him, says David,
all His hosts. Psalm 148:2 But the Son only Beholds Him, and the Holy Ghost. How can any created nature even see the Uncreated? If we are absolutely unable clearly to discern any incorporeal power whatsoever, even though created, as has been often proved in the case of angels, much less can we discern the Essence which is incorporeal and uncreated. Wherefore Paul says,
Whom no man has seen, nor can see. 1 Timothy 6:16 Does then this special attribute belong to the Father only, not to the Son? Away with the thought. It belongs also to the Son; and to show that it does so, hear Paul declaring this point, and saying, that He
is the Image of the invisible God. Colossians 1:15 Now if He be the Image of the Invisible, He must be invisible Himself, for otherwise He would not be an
image. And wonder not that Paul says in another place,
God was manifested in the Flesh 1 Timothy 3:16; because the manifestation took place by means of the flesh, not according to (His) Essence. Besides, Paul shows that He is invisible, not only to men, but also to the powers above, for after saying,
was manifested in the Flesh, he adds,
was seen of angels.
2. So that even to angels He then became visible, when He put on the Flesh; but before that time they did not so behold Him, because even to them His Essence was invisible.
How then, asks some one,
did Christ say, 'Despise not one of these little ones, for I tell you, that their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven'? Matthew 18:10 Hath then God a face, and is He bounded by the heavens? Who so mad as to assert this? What then is the meaning of the words? As when He says,
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God Matthew 5:8, He means that intellectual vision which is possible to us, and the having God in the thoughts; so in the case of angels, we must understand that by reason of their pure and sleepless nature they do nothing else, but always image to themselves God. And therefore Christ says, that
No man knows the Father, save the Son. Matthew 10:27 What then, are we all in ignorance? God forbid; but none knows Him as the Son knows Him. As then many have seen Him in the mode of vision permitted to them, but no one has beheld His Essence, so many of us know God, but what His substance can be none knows, save only He that was begotten of Him. For by
knowledge He here means an exact idea and comprehension, such as the Father has of the Son.
As the Father knows Me, even so know I the Father. John 10:15
Observe, therefore, with what fullness the Evangelist speaks; for having said that
no man has seen God at any time, he does not go on to say,
that the Son who has seen, has declared Him, but adds something beyond
seeing by the words,
Who is in the bosom of the Father; because,
to dwell in the bosom is far more than
to see. For he that merely
sees has not an in every way exact knowledge of the object, but he that
dwells in the bosom can be ignorant of nothing. Now lest when you hear that
none knows the Father, save the Son, you should assert that although He knows the Father more than all, yet He knows not how great He is, the Evangelist says that He dwells in the bosom of the Father; and Christ Himself declares, that He knows Him as much as the Father knows the Son. Ask therefore the gainsayer,
Tell me, does the Father know the Son? And if he be not mad, he will certainly answer
Yes. Then ask again;
Does He see and know Him with exact vision and knowledge? Does He know clearly what He Is? He will certainly confess this also. From this next collect the exact comprehension the Son has of the Father. For He says,
As the Father knows me, even so know I the Father John 10:15; and in another place,
Not that any man has seen the Father, save He which is of God. John 6:46 Wherefore, as I said, the Evangelist mentions
the bosom, to show all this to us by that one word; that great is the affinity and nearness of the Essence, that the knowledge is nowise different, that the power is equal. For the Father would not have in His bosom one of another essence, nor would He have dared, had He been one among many servants, to live in the bosom of his Lord, for this belongs only to a true Son, to one who has much confidence towards His Father, and who is in nothing inferior to Him.
Would you learn also His eternity? Hear what Moses says concerning the Father. When he asked what he was commanded to answer should the Jews enquire of him,
Who it was that had sent him, he heard these words:
Say, I AM has sent me. Exodus 3:14 Now the expression
I AM, is significative of Being ever, and Being without beginning, of Being really and absolutely. And this also the expression,
Was in the beginning, declares, being indicative of Being ever; so that John uses this word to show that the Son Is from everlasting to everlasting in the bosom of the Father. For that you may not from the sameness of name, suppose that He is some one of those who are made sons by grace, first, the article is added, distinguishing Him from those by grace. But if this does not content you, if you still look earthwards, hear a name more absolute than this,
Only-Begotten. If even after this you still look below,
I will not refuse, says he, (St. John,)
to apply to God a term belonging to man, I mean the word 'bosom,' only suspect nothing degrading. Do you see the lovingkindness and carefulness of the Lord? God applies to Himself unworthy expressions, that even so you may see through them, and have some great and lofty thought of Him; and do you tarry below? For tell me, wherefore is that gross and carnal word
bosom employed in this place? Is it that we may suppose God to be a body? Away, he by no means says so. Why then is it spoken? For if by it neither the genuineness of the Son is established, nor that God is not a body, the word, because it serves no purpose, is superfluously thrown in. Why then is it spoken? For I shall not desist from asking you this question. Is it not very plain, that it is for no other reason but that by it we might understand the genuineness of the Only-Begotten, and His Co-eternity with the Father?
He has declared Him, says John. What has he declared? That
no man has seen God at any time? That
God is one? But this all the other prophets testify, and Moses continually exclaims,
The Lord your God is one Lord Deuteronomy 6:4; and Esaias,
Before Me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. Isaiah 43:10 What more then have we learned from
the Son which is in the bosom of the Father? What from
the Only-Begotten? In the first place, these very words were uttered by His working; in the next place, we have received a teaching that is far clearer, and learned that
God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth John 4:24; and again, that it is impossible to see God;
that no man knows Him,
save the Son Matthew 11:27; that He is the Father of the true and Only-Begotten; and all other things that are told us of Him. But the word
has declared shows the plainer and clearer teaching which He gave not to the Jews only but to all the world, and established. To the prophets not even all the Jews gave heed, but to the Only-Begotten Son of God all the world yielded and obeyed. So the
declaration in this place shows the greater clearness of His teaching, and therefore also He is called
Angel of great Counsel.
Since then we have been vouchsafed a larger and more perfect teaching, God having no longer spoken by the prophets, but
having in these last days spoken to us by His Son Hebrews 1:1, let us show forth a conversation far higher than theirs, and suitable to the honor bestowed on us. Strange would it be that He should have so far lowered Himself, as to choose to speak to us no longer by His servants, but by His own mouth, and yet we should show forth nothing more than those of old. They had Moses for their teacher, we, Moses' Lord. Let us then exhibit a heavenly wisdom worthy of this honor, and let us have nothing to do with earth. It was for this that He brought His teaching from heaven above, that He might remove our thoughts there, that we might be imitators of our Teacher according to our power. But how may we become imitators of Christ? By acting in everything for the common good, and not merely seeking our own.
For even Christ, says Paul,
pleased not Himself, but as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached You fell on Me. Romans 15:3; Psalm 69:9 Let no one therefore seek his own. In truth, a man (really) seeks his own good when he looks to that of his neighbor. What is their good is ours; we are one body, and parts and limbs one of another. Let us not then be as though we were rent asunder. Let no one say,
such a person is no friend of mine, nor relation, nor neighbor, I have nought to do with him, how shall I approach, how address him? Though he be neither relation nor friend, yet he is a man, who shares the same nature with you, owns the same Lord, is your fellow-servant, and fellow-sojourner, for he is born in the same world. And if besides he partakes of the same faith, behold he has also become a member of you: for what friendship could work such union, as the relationship of faith? And our intimacy one with another must not be such nearness only as friends ought to show to friends, but such as is between limb and limb, because no man can possibly discover any intimacy greater than this sort of friendship and fellowship. As then you cannot say,
Whence arises my intimacy and connection with this limb? (that would be ridiculous;) so neither can you say so in the case of your brother.
We are all baptized into one body 1 Corinthians 12:13, says Paul.
Wherefore into one body? That we be not rent asunder, but preserve the just proportions of that one body by our intercourse and friendship one with another.
Let us not then despise one another, lest we be neglectful of ourselves.
For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it. Ephesians 5:29 And therefore God has given to us but one habitation, this earth, has distributed all things equally, has lighted one sun for us all, has spread above us one roof, the sky, made one table, the earth, bear food for us. And another table has He given far better than this, yet that too is one, (those who share our mysteries understand my words,) one manner of birth He has bestowed on all, the spiritual, we all have one country, that in the heavens, of the same cup drink we all. He has not bestowed on the rich man a gift more abundant and more honorable, and on the poor one more mean and small, but He has called all alike. He has given carnal things with equal regard to all, and spiritual in like manner. Whence then proceeds the great inequality of conditions in life? From the avarice and pride of the wealthy. But let not, brethren, let not this any longer be; and when matters of universal interest and more pressing necessity bring us together, let us not be divided by things earthly and insignificant: I mean, by wealth and poverty, by bodily relationship, by enmity and friendship; for all these things are a shadow, nay less substantial than a shadow, to those who possess the bond of charity from above. Let us then preserve this unbroken, and none of those evil spirits will be able to enter in, who cause division in so perfect union; to which may we all attain by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who are you?
1. A dreadful thing is envy, beloved, a dreadful thing and a pernicious, to the enviers, not to the envied. For it harms and wastes them first, like some mortal venom deeply seated in their souls; and if by chance it injure its objects, the harm it does is small and trifling, and such as brings greater gain than loss. Indeed not in the case of envy only, but in every other, it is not he that has suffered, but he that has done the wrong, who receives injury. For had not this been so, Paul would not have enjoined the disciples rather to endure wrong than to inflict it, when he says,
Why do you not rather take wrong? Why do you not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? 1 Corinthians 6:7 Well he knew, that destruction ever follows, not the injured party, but the injuring. All this I have said, by reason of the envy of the Jews. Because those who had flocked from the cities to John, and had condemned their own sins, and caused themselves to be baptized, repenting as it were after Baptism, send to ask him,
Who are you? Of a truth they were the offspring of vipers, serpents, and even worse if possible than this. O evil and adulterous and perverse generation, after having been baptized, do you then become vainly curious, and question about the Baptist? What folly can be greater than this of yours? How was it that you came forth? That you confessed your sins, that you ran to the Baptist? How was it that you asked him what you must do? When in all this you were acting unreasonably, since you knew not the principle and purpose of his coming. Yet of this the blessed John said nothing, nor does he charge or reproach them with it, but answers them with all gentleness.
It is worth while to learn why he did thus. It was, that their wickedness might be manifest and plain to all men. Often did John testify of Christ to the Jews, and when he baptized them he continually made mention of Him to his company, and said,
I indeed baptize you with water, but there comes One after me who is mightier than I; He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire. Matthew 3:11 With regard to him they were affected by a human feeling; for, tremblingly attentive to the opinion of the world, and looking to
the outward appearance 2 Corinthians 10:7, they deemed it an unworthy thing that he should be subject to Christ. Since there were many things that pointed out John for an illustrious person. In the first place, his distinguished and noble descent; for he was the son of a chief priest. Then his conversation, his austere mode of life, his contempt of all human things; for despising dress and table, and house and food itself, he had passed his former time in the desert. In the case of Christ all was the contrary of this. His family was mean, (as they often objected to Him, saying,
Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brethren James and Joses?) Matthew 13:55; and that which was supposed to be His country was held in such evil repute, that even Nathanael said,
Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? John 1:46 His mode of living was ordinary, and His garments not better than those of the many. For He was not girt with a leathern girdle, nor was His raiment of hair, nor did He eat honey and locusts. But He fared like all others, and was present at the feasts of wicked men and publicans, that He might draw them to Him. Which thing the Jews not understanding reproached Him with, as He also says Himself,
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. Matthew 11:19 When then John continually sent them from himself to Jesus, who seemed to them a meaner person, being ashamed and vexed at this, and wishing rather to have him for their teacher, they did not dare to say so plainly, but send to him, thinking by their flattery to induce him to confess that he was the Christ. They do not therefore send to him mean men, as in the case of Christ, for when they wished to lay hold on Him, they sent servants, and then Herodians, and the like, but in this instance,
priests and Levites, and not merely
priests, but those
from Jerusalem, that is, the more honorable; for the Evangelist did not notice this without a cause. And they send to ask,
Who are you? Yet the manner of his birth was well known to all, so that all said,
What manner of child shall this be? Luke 1:66; and the report had gone forth into all the hill country. And afterwards when he came to Jordan, all the cities were set on the wing, and came to him from Jerusalem, and from all Judæa, to be baptized. Why then do they now ask? Not because they did not know him, (how could that be, when he had been made manifest in so many ways?) but because they wished to bring him to do that which I have mentioned.
2. Hear then how this blessed person answered to the intention with which they asked the question, not to the question itself. When they said,
Who are you? he did not at once give them what would have been the direct answer,
I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness. But what did he? He removed the suspicion they had formed; for, says the Evangelist, being asked,
Who are you?
He confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
Observe the wisdom of the Evangelist. He mentions this for the third time, to set forth the excellency of the Baptist, and their wickedness and folly. And Luke also says, that when the multitudes supposed him to be the Christ, he again removes their suspicion. This is the part of an honest servant, not only not to take to himself his master's honor, but also to reject it when given to him by the many. But the multitudes arrived at this supposition from simplicity and ignorance; these questioned him from an ill intention, which I have mentioned, expecting, as I said, to draw him over to their purpose by their flattery. Had they not expected this, they would not have proceeded immediately to another question, but would have been angry with him for having given them an answer foreign to their enquiry, and would have said,
Why, did we suppose that? Did we come to ask you that? But now as taken and detected in the fact, they proceed to another question, and say,
What then? Are you Elias? And he says, I am not.
For they expected that Elias also would come, as Christ declares; for when His disciples enquired,
How then do the scribes say that Elias must first come? Matthew 17:10 He replied,
Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. Then they ask,
Are you that prophet? And he answered, No. Matthew 17:10 Yet surely he was a prophet. Wherefore then does he deny it? Because again he looks to the intention of his questioners. For they expected that some special prophet should come, because Moses said,
The Lord your God will raise up unto you a Prophet of your brethren like me, unto Him shall you harken. Deuteronomy 18:15 Now this was Christ. Wherefore they do not say,
Are you a prophet? meaning thereby one of the ordinary prophets; but the expression,
Are you the prophet? with the addition of the article, means,
Are you that Prophet who was foretold by Moses? and therefore he denied not that he was a prophet, but that he was
Then said they unto him, Who are you? That we may give an answer to them that sent us. What do you say of yourself?
Observe them pressing him more vehemently, urging him, repeating their questions, and not desisting; while he first kindly removes false opinions concerning himself, and then sets before them one which is true. For, says he,
I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
When he had spoken some high and lofty words concerning Christ, as if (replying) to their opinion, he immediately betook himself to the Prophet to draw from thence confirmation of his assertion.
And [says the Evangelist] they who were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why do you baptize then, if you be not that Christ, neither Elias, neither that Prophet?
Do you see not without reason I said that they wished to bring him to this? And the reason why they did not at first say so was, lest they should be detected by all men. And then when he said,
I am not the Christ, they, being desirous to conceal what they were plotting within, go on to
that Prophet. But when he said that he was not one of these either, after that, in their perplexity, they cast aside the mask, and without any disguise show clearly their treacherous intention, saying,
Why do you baptize then, if you be not that Christ? And then again, wishing to throw some obscurity over the thing, they add the others also,
that Prophet. For when they were not able to trip him by their flattery, they thought that by an accusation they could compel him to say the thing that was not.
What folly, what insolence, what ill-timed officiousness! You were sent to learn who and whence he might be, not to lay down laws for him also. This too was the conduct of men who would compel him to confess himself to be the Christ. Still not even now is he angry, nor does he, as might have been expected, say to them anything of this sort,
Do you give orders and make laws for me? but again shows great gentleness towards them.
I baptize with water: but there stands one among you, whom you know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
3. What could the Jews have left to say to this? For even from this the accusation against them cannot be evaded, the decision against them admits not of pardon, they have given sentence against themselves. How? In what way? They deemed John worthy of credit, and so truthful, that they might believe him not only when he testified of others, but also when he spoke concerning himself. For had they not been so disposed, they would not have sent to learn from him what related to himself. Because you know that the only persons whom we believe, especially when speaking of themselves, are those whom we suppose to be more veracious than any others. And it is not this alone which closes their mouths, but also the disposition with which they had approached him; for they came forth to him at first with great eagerness, even though afterwards they altered. Both which things Christ declared, when He said,
He was a burning (and a shining) light, and you were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. Moreover, his answer made him yet more worthy of credit. For (Christ) says,
He that seeks not his own glory, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. Now this man sought it not, but refers the Jews to another. And those who were sent were of the most trustworthy among them, and of the highest rank, so that they could have in no way any refuge or excuse, for the unbelief which they exhibited towards Christ. Wherefore did you not receive the things spoken concerning Him by John? You sent men who held the first rank among you, you enquired by them, you heard what the Baptist answered, they manifested all possible officiousness, sought into every point, named all the persons you suspected him to be; and yet most publicly and plainly he confessed that he was neither
that Prophet. Nor did he stop even there, but also informed them who he was, and spoke of the nature of his own baptism, that it was but a slight and mean thing, nothing more than some water, and told of the superiority of the Baptism given by Christ; he also cited Esaias the prophet, testifying of old very long ago, and calling Christ
Lord Isaiah 40:3, but giving him the names of
minister and servant. What after this ought they to have done? Ought they not to have believed on Him who was witnessed of, to have worshipped Him, to have confessed Him to be God? For the character and heavenly wisdom of the witness showed that his testimony proceeded, not from flattery, but from truth; which is plain also from this, that no man prefers his neighbor to himself, nor, when he may lawfully give honor to himself, will yield it up to another, especially when it is so great as that of which we speak. So that John would not have renounced this testimony (as belonging) to Christ, had He not been God. For though he might have rejected it for himself as being too great for his own nature, yet he would not have assigned it to another nature that was beneath it.
But there stands One among you, whom you know not. Reasonable it was that Christ should mingle among the people as one of the many, because everywhere He taught men not to be puffed up and boastful. And in this place by
knowledge the Baptist means a perfect acquaintance with Him, who and whence He was. And immediately next to this he puts,
Who comes after me; all but saying,
Think not that all is contained in my baptism, for had that been perfect, Another would not have arisen after me to offer you a different One, but this of mine is a preparation and a clearing the way for that other. Mine is but a shadow and image, but One must come who shall add to this the reality. So that His very coming 'after me' especially declares His dignity: for had the first been perfect, no place would have been required for a second.
Is before me, is more honorable, brighter. And then, lest they should imagine that His superiority was found by comparison, desiring to establish His incomparableness, he says,
Whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose; that is, who is not simply
before me, but before me in such a way, that I am not worthy to be numbered among the meanest of His servants. For to loose the shoe is the office of humblest service.
Now if John was not worthy to
unloose the latchet Matthew 11:11, John, than whom
among them that are born of women there has not risen a greater, where shall we rank ourselves? If he who was equal to, or rather greater than, all the world, (for says Paul,
the world was not worthy of them Hebrews 11:38 declares himself not worthy to be reckoned even among the meanest of those who should minister unto Him, what shall we say, who are full of ten thousand sins, and are as far from the excellence of John, as earth from heaven.
4. He then says that he himself is not
worthy so much as to unloose the latchet of His shoe; while the enemies of the truth are mad with such a madness, as to assert that they are worthy to know Him even as He knows Himself. What is worse than such insanity, what more frenzied than such arrogance? Well has a wise man said,
The beginning of pride is not to know the Lord.
The devil would not have been brought down and become a devil, not being a devil before, had he not been sick of this disease. This it was that cast him out from that confidence, this sent him to the pit of fire, this was the cause of all his woes. For it is enough of itself to destroy every excellence of the soul, whether it find almsgiving, or prayer, or fasting, or anything. For, says the Evangelist,
That which is highly esteemed among men is impure before the Lord. Luke 16:15 — not quoted exactly Therefore it is not only fornication or adultery that are wont to defile those who practice them, but pride also, and that far more than those vices. Why? Because fornication though it is an unpardonable sin, yet a man may plead the desire; but pride cannot possibly find any cause or pretext of any sort whatever by which to obtain so much as a shadow of excuse; it is nothing but a distortion and most grievous disease of the soul, produced from no other source but folly. For there is nothing more foolish than a proud man, though he be surrounded with wealth, though he possess much of the wisdom of this world, though he be set in royal place, though he bear about with all things that among men appear desirable.
For if the man who is proud of things really good is wretched and miserable, and loses the reward of all those things, must not he who is exalted by things that are nought, and puffs himself up because of a shadow or the flower of the grass, (for such is this world's glory,) be more ridiculous than any, when he does just as some poor needy man might do, pining all his time with hunger, yet if ever he should chance one night to see a dream of good fortune, filled with conceit because of it?
O wretched and miserable! When your soul is perishing by a most grievous disease, when you are poor with utter poverty, are you high-minded because you have such and such a number of talents of gold? Because you have a multitude of slaves and cattle? Yet these are not yours; and if you dost not believe my words, learn from the experience of those who have gone before you. And if you are so drunken, that you can not be instructed even from what has befallen others, wait a little, and you shall know by what befalls yourself that these things avail you nothing, when gasping for life, and master not of a single hour, not even of a little moment, you shall unwillingly leave them to those who are about you, and these perhaps those whom you would not. For many have not been permitted even to give directions concerning them, but have departed suddenly, desiring to enjoy them, but not permitted, dragged from them, and forced to yield them up to others, giving place by compulsion to those to whom they would not. That this be not our case, let us, while we are yet in strength and health, send forward our riches hence to our own city, for thus only and in no other way shall we be able to enjoy them; so shall we lay them up in a place inviolate and safe. For there is nothing, there is nothing there that can take them from us; no death, no attested wills, no successors to inheritances, no false informations, no plottings against us, but he who has departed hence bearing away great wealth with him may enjoy it there for ever. Who then is so wretched as not to desire to revel in riches which are his own throughout? Let us then transfer our wealth, and remove it there. We shall not need for such a removal asses, or camels, or carriages, or ships, (God has relieved even us from this difficulty,) but we only want the poor, the lame, the crippled, the infirm. These are entrusted with this transfer, these convey our riches to heaven, these introduce the masters of such wealth as this to the inheritance of goods everlasting. Which may it be that we all attain through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
These things were done in Bethany beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day he sees Jesus coming unto him, and says, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.
1. A great virtue is boldness and freedom of speech, and the making all things second in importance to the confessing of Christ; so great and admirable, that the Only-begotten Son of God proclaims such an one in the presence of the Father. Luke 12:8 Yet the recompense is more than just, for you confess upon earth, He in heaven, thou in the presence of men, He before the Father and all the angels.
Such an one was John, who regarded not the multitude, nor opinion, nor anything else belonging to men, but trod all this beneath his feet, and proclaimed to all with becoming freedom the things respecting Christ. And therefore the Evangelist marks the very place, to show the boldness of the loud-voiced herald. For it was not in a house, not in a corner, not in the wilderness, but in the midst of the multitude, after that he had occupied Jordan, when all that were baptized by him were present, (for the Jews came upon him as he was baptizing,) there it was that he proclaimed aloud that wonderful confession concerning Christ, full of those sublime and great and mysterious doctrines, and that he was not worthy to unloose the latchet of His shoe. Wherefore he says,
These things were done in Bethany, or, as all the more correct copies have it,
in Bethabara. For Bethany was not
beyond Jordan, nor bordering on the wilderness, but somewhere near to Jerusalem.
He marks the places also for another reason. Since he was not about to relate matters of old date, but such as had come to pass but a little time before, he makes those who were present and had beheld, witnesses of his words, and supplies proof from the places themselves. For confident that nothing was added by himself to what was said, but that he simply and with truth described things as they were, he draws a testimony from the places, which, as I said, would be no common demonstration of his veracity.
The next day he sees Jesus coming to him, and says, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.
The Evangelists distributed the periods among them; and Matthew having cut short his notice of the time before John the Baptist was bound, hastens to that which follows, while the Evangelist John not only does not cut short this period, but dwells most on it. Matthew, after the return of Jesus from the wilderness, saying nothing of the intermediate circumstances, as what John spoke, and what the Jews sent and said, and having cut short all the rest, passes immediately to the prison.
For, says he,
Jesus having heard that John was betrayed,
departed thence. Matthew 14:13 But John does not so. He is silent as to the journey into the wilderness, as having been described by Matthew; but he relates what followed the descent from the mountain, and after having gone through many circumstances, adds,
For John was not yet cast into prison. John 3:24
And wherefore, says one, does Jesus now come to him? Why does he come not merely once, but this second time also? For Matthew says that His coming was necessary on account of Baptism: since Jesus adds, that
thus it becomes us to fulfill all righteousness. Matthew 3:15 But John says that He came again after Baptism, and declares it in this place, for,
I saw, says he,
the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and It abode upon Him. Wherefore then did He come to John? For He came not casually, but went expressly to him.
John, says the Evangelist,
sees Jesus coming unto him. Then wherefore comes He? In order that since John had baptized Him with many (others), no one might suppose that He had hastened to John for the same reason as the rest to confess sins, and to wash in the river unto repentance. For this He comes, to give John an opportunity of setting this opinion right again, for by saying,
Behold the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world, he removes the whole suspicion. For very plain it is that One so pure as to be able to wash away the sins of others, does not come to confess sins, but to give opportunity to that marvelous herald to impress what he had said more definitely on those who had heard his former words, and to add others besides. The word
Behold is used, because many had been seeking Him by reason of what had been said, and for a long time. For this cause, pointing Him out when present, he said,
Behold, this is He so long sought, this is
the Lamb. He calls Him
Lamb, to remind the Jews of the prophecy of Isaiah, and of the shadow under the law of Moses, that he may the better lead them from the type to the reality. That Lamb of Moses took not at once away the sin of any one; but this took away the sin of all the world; for when it was in danger of perishing, He quickly delivered it from the wrath of God.
This is He of whom I said, He that comes after me is preferred before me.
2. Do you see here also how he interprets the word
before? For having called Him
Lamb, and that He
takes away the sin of the world, then he says that
He is preferred before me, for He was before me; declaring that this is the
before, the taking upon Him the sins of the world,
and the baptizing with the Holy Ghost.
For my coming had no farther object than to proclaim the common Benefactor of the world, and to afford the baptism of water; but His was to cleanse all men, and to give them the power of the Comforter.
He is preferred before me, that is to say, has appeared brighter than I, because
He was before me. Let those who have admitted the madness of Paul of Samosata be ashamed when they withstand so manifest a truth.
And I knew Him not.
Here he renders his testimony free from suspicion, by showing that it was not from human friendship, but had been caused by divine revelation.
I knew Him not, he says. How then couldest thou be a trustworthy witness? How shall you teach others, while you yourself art ignorant? He did not say
I know Him not, but,
I knew Him not; so that in this way he would be shown most trustworthy; for why should he have shown favor to one of whom he was ignorant?
But that He should be made manifest unto Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
He then did not need baptism, nor had that laver any other object than to prepare for all others a way to faith on Christ. For he did not say,
that I might cleanse those who are baptized, or,
that I might deliver them from their sins, but,
that He should be made manifest unto lsrael.
And why, tell me, could he not without baptism have preached and brought the multitudes to Him? But in this way it would not have been by any means easy. For they would not so all have run together, if the preaching had been without the baptism; they would not by the comparison have learned His superiority. For the multitude came together not to hear his words, but for what? To be
baptized, confessing their sins. But when they came, they were taught the matters concerning Christ, and the difference of His baptism. Yet even this of John was of greater dignity than the Jewish, and therefore all ran to it; yet even so it was imperfect.
How then did you know Him?
By the descent of the Spirit, he says. But again, lest any one should suppose that he was in need of the Spirit as we are, hear how he removes the suspicion, by showing that the descent of the Spirit was only to declare Christ. For having said,
And I knew Him not, he adds,
But He that sent me to baptize with water the Same said unto me, Upon whom you shall see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizes with the Holy Ghost. John 1:33
Do you see that this was the work of the Spirit, to point out Christ? The testimony of John was indeed not to be suspected, but wishing to make it yet more credible, he leads it up to God and the Holy Spirit. For when John had testified to a thing so great and wonderful, so fit to astonish all his hearers, that He alone took on Him the sins of all the world, and that the greatness of the gift sufficed for so great a ransom, afterwards he proves this assertion. And the proof is that He is the Son of God, and that He needed not baptism, and that the object of the descent of the Spirit was only to make Him known. For it was not in the power of John to give the Spirit, as those who were baptized by him show when they say,
We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. Acts 19:2 In truth, Christ needed not baptism, neither his nor any other; but rather baptism needed the power of Christ. For that which was wanting was the crowning blessing of all, that he who was baptized should be deemed worthy of the Spirit; this free gift then of the Spirit He added when He came.
And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from the heaven like a dove, and It abode upon Him. And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the Same said unto me, Upon whom you shall see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizes with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
He puts the
I knew Him not repeatedly. On what account, and wherefore? He was His kinsman according to the flesh.
Behold, says the angel,
your cousin Elisabeth, she also has received a son. Luke 1:36 That therefore he might not seem to favor Him because of the relationship, he repeats the
I knew Him not. And this happened with good reason; for he had passed all his time in the wilderness away from his father's house.
How then, if he knew Him not before the descent of the Spirit, and if he then for the first time recognized Him, did he forbid Him before baptism, saying,
I have need to be baptized by You, and You come to me? Matthew 3:14, since this was a proof that he knew Him very well. Yet he knew Him not before or for a long time, and with good cause; for the marvels which took place when He was a child, as the circumstances of the Magi and others the like, had happened long before, while John himself was very young, and since much time had elapsed in the interval, He was naturally unknown to all. For had He been known, John would not have said,
That He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing.
3. Hence it remains clear to us, that the miracles which they say belong to Christ's childhood, are false, and the inventions of certain who bring them into notice. For if He had begun from His early age to work wonders, neither could John have been ignorant of Him, nor would the multitude have needed a teacher to make Him known. But now he says, that for this he has come,
that He might be made manifest to Israel; and for this reason he said again,
I have need to be baptized by You. Afterwards, as having gained more exact knowledge of Him, he proclaimed Him to the multitude, saying,
This is He of whom I said, After me comes a Man which is preferred before me. For
He who sent me to baptize with water, and sent me for this end,
that He should be made manifest to Israel, Himself revealed Him even before the descent of the Spirit. Wherefore even before He came, John said,
One comes after me who is preferred before me. He knew Him not before he came to Jordan and baptized all men, but when He was about to be baptized, then he knew Him; and this from the Father revealing Him to the Prophet, and the Spirit showing Him when He was being baptized to the Jews, for whose sake indeed the descent of the Spirit took place. For that the witness of John might not be despised who said, that
He was before me, and that
He baptizes with the Spirit, and that
He judges the world, the Father utters a Voice proclaiming the Son, and the Spirit descends, directing that Voice to the Head of Jesus. For since one was baptizing, the other receiving baptism, the Spirit comes to correct the idea which some of those present might form, that the words were spoken of John. So that when he says,
I knew Him not, he speaks of former time, not that near to His baptism. Otherwise how could he have forbidden Him, saying,
I have need to be baptized by You? How could he have said such words concerning Him?
But, says one,
how then did not the Jews believe? For it was not John only that saw the Spirit in the likeness of a dove. It was, because, even if they did see, such things require not only the eyes of the body, but more than these, the vision of the understanding, to prevent men from supposing the whole to be a vain illusion. For if when they saw Him working wonders, touching with His own hands the sick and the dead, and so bringing them back to life and health, they were so drunk with malice as to declare the contrary of what they saw; how could they shake off their unbelief by the descent of the Spirit only? And some say, that they did not all see it, but only John and those of them who were better disposed. Because even though it were possible with fleshly eyes to see the Spirit descending as in the likeness of a dove, still not for this was it absolutely necessary that the circumstance should be visible to all. For Zacharias saw many things in a sensible form, as did Daniel and Ezekiel, and had none to share in what they saw; Moses also saw many things such as none other has seen; nor did all the disciples enjoy the view of the Transfiguration on the mount, nor did they all alike behold Him at the time of the Resurrection. And this Luke plainly shows, when he says, that He showed Himself
to witnesses chosen before of God. Acts 10:41
And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
Where did he
bear record that this is the Son of God? he called Him indeed
Lamb, and said that He should
baptize with the Spirit, but nowhere did he say of Him,
Son of God. But the other Evangelists do not write that He said anything after the baptism, but having been silent as to the time intervening, they mention the miracles of Christ which were done after John's captivity, whence we may reasonably conjecture that these and many others are omitted. And this our Evangelist himself has declared, at the end of his narrative. For they were so far from inventing anything great concerning Him, that the things which seem to bring reproach, these they have all with one voice and with all exactness set down, and you will not find one of them omitting one of such circumstances; but of the miracles, part some have left for the others to relate, part all have passed over in silence.
I say not this without cause, but to answer the shamelessness of the heathen. For this is a sufficient proof of their truth-loving disposition, and that they say nothing for favor. And thus as well as in other ways you may arm yourselves for trial of argument with them. But take heed. Strange were it that the physician, or the shoemaker, or the weaver, in short all artists, should be able each to contend correctly for his own art, but that one calling himself Christian should not be able to give a reason for his own faith; yet those things if overlooked bring only loss to men's property, these if neglected destroy our very souls. Yet such is our wretched disposition, that we give all our care to the former, and the things which are necessary, and which are the groundwork of our salvation, as though of little worth, we despise.
4. That it is which prevents the heathen from quickly deriding his own error. For when they, though established in a lie, use every means to conceal the shamefulness of their opinions, while we, the servants of the truth, cannot even open our mouths, how can they help condemning the great weakness of our doctrine? How can they help suspecting our religion to be fraud and folly? How shall they not blaspheme Christ as a deceiver, and a cheat, who used the folly of the many to further his fraud? And we are to blame for this blasphemy, because we will not be wakeful in arguments for godliness, but deem these things superfluous, and care only for the things of earth. He who admires a dancer or a charioteer, or one who contends with beasts, uses every exertion and contrivance not to come off worst in any disputes concerning him, and they string together long panegyrics, as they compose their defense against those who find fault with them, and cast sneers without number at their opponents: but when arguments for Christianity are proposed, they all hang their heads, and scratch themselves, and gape, and retire at length the objects of contempt.
Must not this deserve excessive wrath, when Christ is shown to be less honorable in your estimation than a dancer? Since you have contrived ten thousand defenses for the things they have done, though more disgraceful than any, but of the miracles of Christ, though they have drawn to Him the world, you cannot bear even to think or care at all. We believe in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, in the Resurrection of bodies, and in Life everlasting. If now any heathen say,
What is this Father, what this Son, what this Holy Ghost? How do you who say that there are three Gods, charge us with having many Gods? What will you say? What will you answer? How will you repel the attack of these arguments? But what if when you are silent, the unbeliever should again propose this other question, and ask,
What in a word is resurrection? Shall we rise again in this body? Or in another, different from this? If in this, what need that it be dissolved? What will you answer? And what, if he say,
Why did Christ come now and not in old time? Has it seemed good to Him now to care for men, and did He despise us during all the years that are past? Or if he ask other questions besides, more than these? For I must not propose many questions, and be silent as to the answers to them, lest, in so doing, I harm the simpler among you. What has been already said is sufficient to shake off your slumbers. Well then, if they ask these questions, and you absolutely cannot even listen to the words, shall we, tell me, suffer trifling punishment only, when we have been the cause of such error to those who sit in darkness? I wished, if you had sufficient leisure, to bring before you all the book of a certain impure heathen philosopher written against us, and that of another of earlier date, that so at least I might have roused you, and led you away from your exceeding slothfulness. For if they were wakeful that they might say these things against us, what pardon can we deserve, if we do not even know how to repel the attacks made upon us? For what purpose have we been brought forward? Do you not hear the Apostle say,
Be ready to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you? 1 Peter 3:15 And Paul exhorts in like manner, saying,
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Colossians 3:16 What do they who are more slothful than drones reply to this?
Blessed is every simple soul, and,
he that walks simply walks surely. Proverbs 10:8 For this is the cause of all sorts of evil, that the many do not know how to apply rightly even the testimony of the Scriptures. Thus in this place, the writer does not mean (by
simple) the man who is foolish, or who knows nothing, but him who is free from wickedness, who is no evil-doer, who is wise. If it were not so, it would have been useless to say,
Be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. Matthew 10:16 But why should I name these things, when the discourse comes in quite out of place? For besides the things already mentioned, other matters are not right with us, those, I mean, which concern our life and conversation. We are in every way wretched and ridiculous, ever ready to find fault with each other, but slow to correct in ourselves things for which we blame and accuse our neighbor. Wherefore I exhort you, that now at least we attend to ourselves, and stop not at the finding fault, (this is not enough to appease God;) but that we show forth a change in every way most excellent, in order that having lived here to the glory of God, we may enjoy the glory to come; which may it come to pass that we will all attain, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as He walked, he says, Behold the Lamb of God. And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
1. The nature of man is somehow a thing slothful, and easily declining to perdition, not by reason of the constitution of the nature itself, but by reason of that sloth which is of deliberate choice. Wherefore it needs much reminding. And for this cause Paul, writing to the Philippians, said,
To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Philippians 3:1
The earth when it has once received the seed, straightway gives forth its fruits, and needs not a second sowing; but with our souls it is not so, and one must be content, after having sown many times, and manifested much carefulness, to be able once to receive fruit. For in the first place, what is said settles in the mind with difficulty, because the ground is very hard, and entangled with thorns innumerable, and there are many which lay plots, and carry away the seed; afterwards, when it has been fixed and has taken root, it still needs the same attention, that it may come to maturity, and having done so may remain uninjured, and take no harm from any. For in the case of seeds, when the ear is fully formed and has gained its proper strength, it easily despises rust, and drought, and every other thing; but it is not so with doctrines; in their case after all the work has been fully done, one storm and flood often comes on, and either by the attack of unpleasant circumstances, or by the plots of men skilled to deceive, or by various other temptations brought against them, brings them to ruin.
I have not said this without cause, but that when you hear John repeating the same words, you may not condemn him for vain talking; nor deem him impertinent or wearisome. He desired to have been heard by once speaking, but because not many gave heed to what was spoken from the first, by reason of deep sleep, he again rouses them by this second call. Now observe; he had said,
He that comes after me, is preferred before me: and that
I am not worthy to unloose the latchet of His shoe; and that
He baptizes with the Holy Ghost, and with fire; and that he
saw the Spirit descending like a dove, and it abode upon Him, and he
bare record that this is the Son of God. No one gave heed, nor asked, nor said,
Why do you say these things? In whose behalf? For what reason? Again he had said,
Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world; yet not even so did he touch their insensibility. Therefore, after this he is compelled to repeat the same words again, as if softening by tillage some hard and stubborn soil, and by his word as by a plow, disturbing the mind which had hardened into clods, so as to put in the seed deep. For this reason he does not make his discourse a long one either; because he desired one thing only, to bring them over and join them to Christ. He knew that as soon as they had received this saying, and had been persuaded, they would not afterwards need one to bear witness unto Him. As also it came to pass. For, if the Samaritans could say to the woman after hearing Him,
Now we believe, not because of your saying, for we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world, the disciples would be much more quickly subdued, as was the case. For when they had come and heard Him but one evening, they returned no more to John, but were so nailed to Him, that they took upon them the ministry of John, and themselves proclaimed Him. For, says the Evangelist,
He finds his own brother Simon, and says unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And observe, I pray you, this, how, when he said,
He that comes after me is preferred before me; and that,
I am not worthy to unloose the lachet of His shoe; he caught no one, but when he spoke of the Dispensation, and lowered his discourse to a humbler tone, then the disciples followed Him.
And we may remark this, not only in the instance of the disciples, but that the many are not so much attracted when some great and sublime thing is said concerning God, as when some act of graciousness and lovingkindness, something pertaining to the salvation of the hearers, is spoken of. They heard that
He takes away the sin of the world, and straightway they ran to Him. For, said they,
if it is possible to wash away the charges that lie against us, why do we delay? Here is One who will deliver us without labor of ours. Is it not extreme folly to put off accepting the Gift? Let those hear who are Catechumens, and are putting off their salvation to their latest breath.
Again, says the Evangelist,
John stood, and says, Behold, the Lamb of God. Christ utters no word, His messenger says all. So it is with a bridegroom. He says not for a while anything to the bride, but is there in silence, while some show him to the bride, and others give her into his hands; she merely appears, and he departs not having taken her himself, but when he has received her from another who gives her to him. And when he has received her thus given, he so disposes her, that she no more remembers those who betrothed her. So it was with Christ. He came to join to Himself the Church; He said nothing, but merely came. It was His friend, John, who put into His the bride's right hand, when by his discourses he gave into His hand the souls of men. He having received them, afterwards so disposed them, that they departed no more to John who had committed them to Him.
2. And here we may remark, not this only, but something besides. As at a marriage the maiden goes not to the bridegroom, but he hastens to her, though he be a king's son, and though he be about to espouse some poor and abject person, or even a servant, so it was here. Man's nature did not go up, but contemptible and poor as it was, He came to it, and when the marriage had taken place, He suffered it no longer to tarry here, but having taken it to Himself, transported it to the house of His Father.
Why then does not John take his disciples apart, and converse with them on these matters, and so deliver them over to Christ, instead of saying publicly to them in common with all the people, 'Behold the Lamb of God?'? That it may not seem to be a matter of arrangement; for had they gone away from him to Christ after having been privately admonished by him, and as though to do him a favor, they would perhaps soon have started away again; but now, having taken upon them the following Him, from teaching which had been general, they afterwards remained His firm disciples, as not having followed Him in order to gratify the teacher, but as looking purely to their own advantage.
The Prophets and Apostles then all preached Him absent; the Prophets before His coming according to the flesh, the Apostles after He was taken up; John alone proclaimed Him present. Wherefore he calls himself the
friend of the Bridegroom John 3:29, since he alone was present at the marriage, he it was that did and accomplished all, he made a beginning of the work. And
looking upon Jesus walking, he says, Behold the Lamb of God. Not by voice alone, but with his eyes also he bore witness to, and expressed his admiration of, Christ, rejoicing and glorying. Nor does he for awhile address any word of exhortation to his followers, but only shows wonder and astonishment at Him who was present, and declares to all the Gift which He came to give, and the manner of purification. For
the Lamb declares both these things. And he said not,
Who shall take, or
Who has taken; but,
Who takes away the sins of the world; because this He ever does. He took them not then only when He suffered, but from that time even to the present does He take them away, not being repeatedly crucified, (for He offered One Sacrifice for sins,) but by that One continually purging them. As then The Word shows us His pre-eminence, and The Son His superiority in comparison with others, so
The Lamb, The Christ, that Prophet, the True Light, the Good Shepherd, and whatever other names are applied to Him with the addition of the article, mark a great difference. For there were many
sons, but from all these John separates Him by a wide interval. And this he secured not by the article only, but by the addition of
Only-Begotten; for He had nothing in common with the creation.
If it seems to any unseasonable that these things should be spoken at
the tenth hour (that was the time of day, for he says,
It was about the tenth hour— John 1:39, such an one seems to me to be much mistaken. In the case indeed of the many, and those who serve the flesh, the season after feasting is not very suitable for any matters of pressing moment, because their hearts are burdened with meats: but here was a man who did not even partake of common food, and who at evening was as sober as we are at morning, (or rather much more so; for often the remains of our evening food that are left within us, fill our souls with imaginations, but he loaded his vessel with none of these things;) he with good reason spoke late in the evening of these matters. Besides, he was tarrying in the wilderness by Jordan, where all came to his baptism with great fear, and caring little at that time for the things of this life; as also they continued with Christ three days, and had nothing to eat. Matthew 15:32 For this is the part of a zealous herald and a careful husbandman, not to desist before he see that the planted seed has got a firm hold.
Why then did he not go about all the parts of Judæa preaching Christ, rather than stand by the river waiting for Him to come, that he might point Him out when He came? Because he wished that this should be effected by His works; his own object being in the mean time only to make Him known, and to persuade some to hear of eternal life. But to Him he leaves the greater testimony, that of works, as also He says,
I receive not testimony of men. The works which My Father has given Me, the same bear witness of Me. c. v. 34, 36 Observe how much more effectual this was; for when he had thrown in a little spark, at once the blaze rose on high. For they who before had not even given heed to his words, afterwards say,
All things which John spoke were true. John 10:41
3. Besides, if he had gone about saying these things, what was being done would have seemed to be done from some human motive, and the preaching to be full of suspicion.
And the two disciples heard him, and followed Jesus.
Yet John had other disciples, but they not only did not
follow Jesus, but were even jealously disposed towards him.
Rabbi, says one,
He that was with you beyond Jordan, to whom you bore witness, behold, the same baptizes, and all men come unto him. John 3:26 And again they appear bringing a charge against him;
Why do we fast, but your disciples fast not? Matthew 9:14 But those who were better than the rest had no such feeling, but heard, and at once followed; followed, not as despising their teacher, but as being most fully persuaded by him, and producing the strongest proof that they acted thus from a right judgment of his reasonings. For they did not do so by his advice, that might have appeared suspicious; but when he merely foretold what was to come to pass, that
He should baptize with the Holy Ghost, [and with fire,] they followed. They did not then desert their teacher, but rather desired to learn what Christ brought with Him more than John. And observe zeal combined with modesty. They did not at once approach and question Jesus on necessary and most important matters, nor were they desirous to converse with Him publicly, while all were present, at once and in an off-hand manner, but privately; for they knew that the words of their teacher proceeded not from humility, but from truth.
One of the two who heard, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.
Wherefore then has he not made known the name of the other also? Some say, because it was the writer himself that followed; others, not so, but that he was not one of the distinguished disciples; it behooved not therefore to say more than was necessary. For what would it have advantaged us to learn his name, when the writer does not mention the names even of the seventy-two? St. Paul also did the same.
We have sent, says he,
with him the brother, (who has often in many things been forward,)
whose praise is in the Gospel. 2 Corinthians 8:18 Moreover, he mentions Andrew for another reason. What is this? It is, that when you are informed that Simon having in company with him heard,
Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men Matthew 4:19, was not perplexed at so strange a promise, you may learn that his brother had already laid down within him the beginnings of the faith.
Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and says unto them, What do you seek?
Hence we are taught, that God does not prevent our wills by His gifts, but that when we begin, when we provide the being willing, then He gives us many opportunities of salvation.
What do you seek? How is this? He who knows the hearts of men, who dwells in our thoughts, does He ask? He does; not that He may be informed; how could that be? But that by the question He may make them more familiar, and impart to them greater boldness, and show them that they are worthy to hear Him; for it was probable that they would blush and be afraid, as being unknown to him, and as having heard such accounts of Him from the testimony of their teacher. Therefore to remove all this, their shame and their fear, he questions them, and would not let them come all the way to the house in silence. Yet the event would have been the same had He not questioned them; they would have remained by following Him, and walking in His steps would have reached His dwelling. Why then did He ask? To effect that which I said, to calm their minds, yet disturbed with shame and anxiety, and to give them confidence.
Nor was it by their following only that they showed their earnest desire, but by their question also: for when they had not as yet learned or even heard anything from Him, they call Him,
Master; thrusting themselves as it were among His disciples, and declaring what was the cause of their following, that they might hear somewhat profitable. Observe their wisdom also. They did not say,
Teach us of Your doctrines, or some other thing that we need to know; but what?
Where dwellest Thou? Because, as I before said, they wished in quiet to say somewhat to Him, and to hear somewhat from Him, and to learn. Therefore they did not defer the matter, nor say,
We will come tomorrow by all means, and hear you speak in public; but showed the great eagerness they had to hear Him, by not being turned back even by the hour, for the sun was already near its setting, (
it was, says John,
about the tenth hour.) And therefore Christ does not tell them the marks of His abode, nor its situation, but rather induces them to follow Him by showing them that He had accepted them. For this reason He did not say anything of this kind to them,
It is an unseasonable time now for you to enter into the house, tomorrow you shall hear if you have any wish, return home now; but converses with them as with friends, and those who had long been with Him.
How then says He in another place,
But the Son of Man has not where to lay His head Luke 9:58, while here He says,
Come and see John 1:39 where I abide? Because the expression
has not where to lay His head, signifies that He had no dwelling place of His own, not that He did not abide in a house. And this too is the meaning of the comparison. The Evangelist has mentioned that
they abode with Him that day, but has not added wherefore, because the reason was plain; for from no other motive did they follow Christ, and He draw them to Him, but only that they might have instruction; and this they enjoyed so abundantly and eagerly even in a single night, that they both proceeded straightway to the capture of others.
4. Let us then also learn hence to consider all things secondary to the hearing the word of God, and to deem no season unseasonable, and, though a man may even have to go into another person's house, and being a person unknown to make himself known to great men, though it be late in the day, or at any time whatever, never to neglect this traffic. Let food and baths and dinners and the other things of this life have their appointed time; but let the teaching of heavenly philosophy have no separate time, let every season belong to it. For Paul says,
In season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort 2 Timothy 4:2; and the Prophet too says,
In His law will he meditate day and night Psalm 1:3; and Moses commanded the Jews to do this always. For the things of this life, baths, I mean, and dinners, even if they are necessary, yet being continually repeated, render the body feeble; but the teaching of the soul the more it is prolonged, the stronger it renders the soul which receives it. But now we portion out all our time for trifles and unprofitable silly talking, and we sit together idly during the morning and afternoon, midday and evening besides, and we have appointed places for this; but hearing the divine doctrines twice or thrice in the week we become sick, and thoroughly sated. What is the reason? We are in a bad state of soul; its faculty of desiring and reaching after these things we have relaxed altogether. And therefore it is not strong enough to have an appetite for spiritual food. And this among others is a great proof of weakness, not to hunger nor thirst, but to be disinclined to both. Now if this, when it takes place in our bodies, is a sure sign of grievous disease, and productive of weakness, much more is it so in the soul.
How then, says one,
shall we be able to renew it, thus fallen and relaxed, to strength? What doing, what saying? By applying ourselves to the divine words of the prophets, of the Apostles, of the Gospels, and all the others; then we shall know that it is far better to feed on these than on impure food, for so we must term our unseasonable idle talking and assemblies. For which is best, tell me, to converse on things relating to the market, or things in the law courts, or in the camp, or on things in heaven, and on what shall be after our departure hence? Which is best, to talk about our neighbor and our neighbor's affairs, to busy ourselves in what belongs to other people, or to enquire into the things of angels, and into matters which concern ourselves? For a neighbor's affairs are not yours at all; but heavenly things are yours.
But, says some one,
a man may by once speaking finish these subjects altogether. Why do you not think this in matters on which you converse uselessly and idly, why though you waste your lives on this have you never exhausted the subject? And I have not yet named what is far more vile than this. These are the things about which the better sort converse one with the other; but the more indifferent and careless carry about in their talk players and dancers and charioteers, defiling men's ears, corrupting their souls, and driving their nature into mad excesses by these narratives, and by means of this discourse introducing every kind of wickedness into their own imagination. For as soon as the tongue has uttered the name of the dancer, immediately the soul has figured to itself his looks, his hair, his delicate clothing, and himself more effeminate than all. Another again fans the flame in another way, by introducing some harlot into the conversation, with her words, and attitudes, and glances, her languishing looks and twisted locks, the smoothness of her cheeks, and her painted eyelids. Were you not somewhat affected when I gave this description? Yet be not ashamed, nor blush, for the very necessity of nature requires this, and so disposes the soul according as the tendency of what is said may be. But if, when it is I that speak, you, standing in the church, and at a distance from these things, were somewhat affected at the hearing, consider how it is likely that they are disposed, who sit in the theater itself, who are totally free from dread, who are absent from this venerable and awful assembly, who both see and hear those things with much shamelessness.
And why then, perhaps one of those who heed not may say,
if the necessity of nature so disposes the soul, do you let go that, and blame us? Because, to be softened when one hears these things, is nature's work; but to hear them is not a fault of nature, but of deliberate choice. For so he who meddles with fire must needs be injured, so wills the weakness of our nature; yet nature does not therefore draw us to the fire and to the injury thence arising; this can be only from deliberate perversity. I beseech you, therefore, to remove and correct this fault, that you may not of your own accord cast yourself down the precipice, nor thrust yourselves into the pits of wickedness, nor run of yourselves to the blaze, lest we place ourselves in jeopardy of the fire prepared for the devil. May it come to pass, that we all being delivered both from this fire and from that, may go to the very bosom of Abraham, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
He first finds his own brother Simon, and says unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus.
1. When God in the beginning made man, He did not suffer him to be alone, but gave him woman for a helpmate, and made them to dwell together, knowing that great advantage would result from this companionship. What though the woman did not rightly employ this benefit? Still if any one make himself fully acquainted with the nature of the matter, he will see, that to the wise great advantage arises from this dwelling together; not in the cause of wife or husband only, but if brothers do this, they also shall enjoy the benefit. Wherefore the Prophet has said,
What is good, what is pleasant, but that brethren should dwell together? Psalm 133:1, Septuagint And Paul exhorted not to neglect the assembling of ourselves together. Hebrews 10:25 In this it is that we differ from beasts, for this we have built cities, and markets, and houses, that we may be united one with another, not in the place of our dwelling only, but by the bond of love. For since our nature came imperfect from Him who made it, and is not self-sufficient, God, for our advantage, ordained that the want hence existing should be corrected by the assistance arising from mutual intercourse; so that what was lacking in one should be supplied by another, and the defective nature thus be rendered self-sufficient; as, for instance, that though made mortal, it should by succession for a long time maintain immortality. I might have gone into this argument at greater length, to show what advantages arise to those who come together from genuine and pure intercourse with each other: but there is another thing which presses now, that on account of which we have made these remarks.
Andrew, after having tarried with Jesus and learned what He did, kept not the treasure to himself, but hastens and runs quickly to his brother, to impart to him of the good things which he had received. But wherefore has not John said on what matters Christ conversed with them? Whence is it clear that it was for this that they
abode with Him? It was proved by us the other day; but we may learn it from what has been read today as well. Observe what Andrew says to his brother;
We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. You see how, as far as he had learned in a short time, he showed the wisdom of the teacher who persuaded them, and their own zeal, who cared for these things long ago, and from the beginning. For this word,
we have found, is the expression of a soul which travails for His presence, and looks for His coming from above, and is made overjoyed when the looked-for thing has happened, and hastens to impart to others the good tidings. This is the part of brotherly affection, of natural friendship, of a sincere disposition, to be eager to stretch out the hand to each other in spiritual things. Hear him besides speak with the addition of the article; for he does not say
the Messias; thus they were expecting some one Christ, having nothing in common with the others. And behold, I beg of you, the mind of Peter obedient and tractable from the very beginning; he ran to Him without any delay;
He brought him, says St. John,
to Jesus. Yet let no one blame his easy temper if he received the word without much questioning, because it is probable that his brother had told him these things more exactly and at length; but the Evangelists from their care for conciseness constantly cut many things short. Besides, it is not said absolutely that
he believed, but that
he brought him to Jesus, to give him up for the future to Him, so that from Him he might learn all; for the other disciple also was with him, and contributed to this. And if John the Baptist, when he had said that He was
the Lamb, and that He
baptized with the Spirit, gave them over to learn the clearer doctrine concerning this thing from Him, much more would Andrew have done this, not deeming him self sufficient to declare the whole, but drawing him to the very fount of light with so much zeal and joy, that the other neither deferred nor delayed at all.
And when Jesus beheld him, He said, 'You are Simon, the son of Jonas; you shall be called Cephas, which is, by interpretation, a stone.'
2. He begins from this time forth to reveal the things belonging to His Divinity, and to open It out little by little by predictions. So He did in the case of Nathaniel and the Samaritan woman. For prophecies bring men over not less than miracles; and are free from the appearance of boasting. Miracles may possibly be slandered among foolish men,
He casts out devils, said they,
by Beelzebub Matthew 12:24, but nothing of the kind has ever been said of prophecy. Now in the case of Nathaniel and Simon He used this method of teaching, but with Andrew and Philip He did not so. Why was this? Because those (two) had the testimony of John, no small preparation, and Philip received a credible evidence of faith, when he saw those who had been present.
You are Simon, the son of Jonas. By the present, the future is guaranteed; for it is clear that He who named Peter's father foreknew the future also. And the prediction is attended with praise; but the object was not to flatter, but to foretell something future. Hear at least in the case of the Samaritan woman, how He utters a prediction with severe reproofs;
You have had, he says,
five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not your husband. John 4:18 So also His Father makes great account of prophecy, when He sets Himself against the honor paid to idols:
Let them declare to you, says He,
what shall come upon you Isaiah 47:13; and again,
I have declared, and have saved, and there was no foreign God among you Isaiah 43:12, Septuagint; and He brings this forward through all prophecy. Because prophecy is especially the work of God, which devils cannot even imitate, though they strive exceedingly. For in the case of miracles there may be delusion; but exactly to foretell the future belongs to that pure Nature alone. Or if devils ever have done so, it was by deceiving the simpler sort; whence their oracles are always easily detected.
But Peter makes no reply to these words; as yet he knew nothing clearly, but still was learning. And observe, that not even the prediction is fully set forth; for Jesus did not say,
I will change your name to Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, but,
You shall be called Cephas. The former speech would have expressed too great authority and power; for Christ does not immediately nor at first declare all His power, but speaks for a while in a humbler tone; and so, when He had given the proof of His Divinity, He puts it more authoritatively, saying,
Blessed are you, Simon, because My Father has revealed it to you; and again,
You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church. Matthew 16:17-18 Him therefore He so named, and James and his brother He called
sons of thunder. Mark 3:17 Why then does He this? To show that it was He who gave the old covenant, that it was He who altered names, who called Abram
Abraham, and Sarai
Sarah, and Jacob
Israel. To many he assigned names even from their birth, as to Isaac, and Samson, and to those in Isaiah and Hosea Isaiah 8:3; Hosea 1:4-9; but to others He gave them after they had been named by their parents, as to those we have mentioned, and to Joshua the son of Nun. It was also a custom of the Ancients to give names from things, which in fact Leah also has done; and this takes place not without cause, but in order that men may have the appellation to remind them of the goodness of God, that a perpetual memory of the prophecy conveyed by the names may sound in the ears of those who receive it. Thus too He named John early, because they whose virtue was to shine forth from their early youth, from that time received their names; while to those who were to become great at a later period, the title also was given later.
3. But then they received each a different name, we now have all one name, that which is greater than any, being called
sons of God, and (His)
friends, and (His)
Body. For the very term itself is able more than all those others to rouse us, and make us more zealous for the practice of virtue. Let us not then act unworthily of the honor belonging to the title, considering the excess of our dignity, we who are called Christ's; for so Paul has named us. Let us bear in mind and respect the grandeur of the appellation. 1 Corinthians 3:23 For if one who is said to be descended from some famous general, or one otherwise distinguished, is proud to be called this or that man's son, and deems the name a great honor, and strives in every way so as not to affix, by remissness of his own, reproach to him after whom he is called; shall not we who are called after the name, not of a general, nor any of the princes upon earth, nor Angel, nor Archangel, nor Seraphim, but of the King of these Himself, shall not we freely give even our very life, so as not to insult Him who has honored us? Do you not know what honor the royal bands of shield-bearers and spearmen that are about the king enjoy? So let us who have been deemed worthy to be near Him, and much closer, and as much nearer than those just named, as the body is closer to the head than they, let us, I say, use every means to be imitators of Christ.
What then says Christ?
The foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has not where to lay His head. Luke 9:58 Now if I demand this of you, it will seem perhaps to most of you grievous and burdensome; because therefore of your infirmity I speak not of such perfection, but desire you not to be nailed to riches; and as I, because of the infirmity of the many, retire somewhat from (demanding) the excess of virtue, I desire that you do so and much more on the side of vice. I blame not those who have houses, and lands, and wealth, and servants, but wish them to possess these things in a safe and becoming way. And what is
a becoming way? As masters, not as slaves; so that they rule them, be not ruled by them; that they use, not abuse them. This is why they are called,
things to be used, that we may employ them on necessary services, not hoard them up; this is a domestic's office, that a master's; it is for the slave to keep them, but for the lord and one who has great authority to expend. You did not receive your wealth to bury, but to distribute. Had God desired riches to be hoarded, He would not have given them to men, but would have let them remain as they were in the earth; but because He wishes them to be spent, therefore He has permitted us to have them, that we may impart them to each other. And if we keep them to ourselves, we are no longer masters of them. But if you wish to make them greater and therefore keep them shut up, even in this case the best plan of all is to scatter and distribute them in all directions; because there can be no revenue without an outlay, no wealth without expenditure. One may see that it is so even in worldly matters. So it is with the merchant, so with the husbandman, who put forth the one his wealth, the other his seed; the one sails the sea to disperse his wares, the other labors all the year putting in and tending his seed. But here there is no need of any one of these things, neither to equip a vessel, nor to yoke oxen, nor to plough land, nor to be anxious about uncertain weather, nor to dread a fall of hail; here are neither waves nor rocks; this voyage and this sowing needs one thing only, that we cast forth our possessions; all the rest will that Husbandman do, of whom Christ says,
My Father is the Husbandman. John 15:1 Is it not then absurd to be sluggish and slothful where we may gain all without labor, and where there are many toils and many troubles and cares, and after all, an uncertain hope, there to display all eagerness? Let us not, I beseech you, let us not be to such a degree senseless about our own salvation, but let us leave the more troublesome task, and run to that which is most easy and more profitable, that we may obtain also the good things that are to come; through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy and quickening Spirit be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee and finds Philip, and says unto him, Follow Me. Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
To every careful thinker there is a gain Proverbs 14:23, Septuagint, says the proverb; and Christ implied more than this, when He said,
He that seeks finds. Matthew 7:8 Wherefore it does not occur to me any more to wonder how Philip followed Christ. Andrew was persuaded when he had heard from John, and Peter the same from Andrew, but Philip not having learned anything from any but Christ who said to him only this,
Follow Me, straightway obeyed, and went not back, but even became a preacher to others. For he ran to Nathanael and said to him,
We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets did write. Do you see what a thoughtful mind he had, how assiduously he meditated on the writings of Moses, and expected the Advent? For the expression,
we have found, belongs always to those who are in some way seeking.
The day following Jesus went forth into Galilee. Before any had joined Him, He called no one; and He acted thus not without cause, but according to his own wisdom and intelligence. For if, when no one came to Him spontaneously, He had Himself drawn them, they might perhaps have started away; but now, having chosen this of themselves, they afterwards remained firm. He calls Philip, one who was better acquainted with Him; for he, as having been born and bred in Galilee, knew Him more than others. Having then taken the disciples, He next goes to the capture of the others, and draws to Him Philip and Nathanael. Now in the case of Nathanael this was not so wonderful, because the fame of Jesus had gone forth into all Syria. Matthew 4:24 But the wonderful thing was respecting Peter and James and Philip, that they believed, not only before the miracles, but that they did so being of Galilee, out of which
arises no prophet, nor
can any good thing come; for the Galilæans were somehow of a more boorish and dull disposition than others; but even in this Christ displayed forth His power, by selecting from a land which bore no fruit His choicest disciples. It is then probable that Philip having seen Peter and Andrew, and having heard what John had said, followed; and it is probable also that the voice of Christ wrought in him somewhat; for He knew those who would be serviceable. But all these points the Evangelist cuts short. That Christ should come, he knew; that this was Christ, he knew not, and this I say that he heard either from Peter or John. But John mentions his village also, that you may learn that
God has chosen the weak things of the world. 1 Corinthians 1:27
Philip finds Nathanael, and says unto him, We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
He says this, to make his preaching credible, which it must be if it rests on Moses and the Prophets besides, and by this to abash his hearer. For since Nathanael was an exact man, and one who viewed all things with truth, as Christ also testified and the event showed, Philip with reason refers him to Moses and the Prophets, that so he might receive Him who was preached. And he not troubled though he called Him
the son of Joseph; for still he was supposed to be his son.
And whence, O Philip, is it plain that this is He? What proof do you mention to us? For it is not enough merely to assert this. What sign have you seen, what miracle? Not without danger is it to believe without cause in such matters. What proof then have you?
The same as Andrew, he replies; for he though unable to produce the wealth which he had found, or to describe his treasure in words, when he had discovered it, led his brother to it. So too did Philip. How this is the Christ, and how the prophets proclaimed Him beforehand, he said not; but he draws him to Jesus, as knowing that he would not afterwards fall off, if he should once taste His words and teaching.
And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip says unto him, Come and see. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and says of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.
He praises and approves the man, because he had said,
Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? and yet he ought to have been blamed. Surely not; for the words are not those of an unbeliever, nor deserving blame, but praise.
How so, and in what way? Because Nathanael had considered the writings of the Prophets more than Philip. For he had heard from the Scriptures, that Christ must come from Bethlehem, and from the village in which David was. This belief at least prevailed among the Jews, and the Prophet had proclaimed it of old, saying,
And thou, Bethlehem, art by no means the least among the princes of Judah, for out of you shall come a Governor, that shall feed My people Israel. Matthew 2:6; Micah 5:2 And so when he heard that He was
from Nazareth, he was confounded, and doubted, not finding the announcement of Philip to agree with the prediction of the Prophet.
But observe his wisdom and candor even in his doubting. He did not at once say,
Philip, you deceive me, and speakest falsely, I believe you not, I will not come; I have learned from the prophets that Christ must come from Bethlehem, you say, 'from Nazareth'; therefore this is not that Christ. He said nothing like this; but what does he? He goes to Him himself; showing, by not admitting that Christ was
of Nazareth, his accuracy respecting the Scriptures, and a character not easily deceived; and by not rejecting him who brought the tidings, the great desire which he felt for the coming of Christ. For he thought within himself that Philip was probably mistaken about the place.
2. And observe, I pray you, his manner of declining, how gentle he has made it, and in the form of a question. For he said not,
Galilee produces no good; but how said he?
Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip also was very prudent; for he is not as one perplexed, angry, and annoyed, but perseveres, wishing to bring over the man, and manifesting to us from the first of his preaching the firmness which becomes an Apostle. Wherefore also Christ says,
Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile. So that there is such a person as a false Israelite; but this is not such an one; for his judgment, Christ says, is impartial, he speaks nothing from favor, or from ill-feeling. Yet the Jews, when they were asked where Christ should be born, replied,
In Bethlehem Matthew 2:5, and produced the evidence, saying,
And thou, Bethlehem, art by no means the least among the princes of Judah. Micah 5:2 Before they had seen Him they bore this witness, but when they saw Him in their malice they concealed the testimony, saying,
But as for this fellow, we know not whence He is. John 9:29 Nathanael did not so, but continued to retain the opinion which he had from the beginning, that He was not
How then do the prophets call Him a Nazarene? From His being brought up and abiding there. And He omits to say,
I am not 'of Nazareth,' as Philip has told you, but of Bethlehem, that He may not at once make the account seem questionable; and besides this, because, even if He had gained belief, He would not have given sufficient proof that He was the Christ. For what hindered Him without being Christ, from being of Bethlehem, like the others who were born there? This then He omits; but He does that which has most power to bring him over, for He shows that He was present when they were conversing. For when Nathanael had said,
Whence know Thou me? . . . Before that Philip called you, when you were under the fig-tree, I saw you.
Observe a man firm and steady. When Christ had said,
Behold an Israelite indeed, he was not made vain by this approbation, he ran not after this open praise, but continues seeking and searching more exactly, and desires to learn something certain. He still enquired as of a man, but Jesus answered as God. For He said,
I have known you from the first, (him and the candor of his character, this He knew not as a man, from having closely followed him, but as God from the first,)
and but now I saw you by the fig-tree; when there was no one present there but only Philip and Nathanael who said all these things in private. It is mentioned, that having seen him afar off, He said,
Behold an Israelite indeed; to show, that before Philip came near, Christ spoke these words, that the testimony might not be suspected. For this reason also He named the time, the place, and the tree; because if He had only said,
Before Philip came to you, I saw you, He might have been suspected of having sent him, and of saying nothing wonderful; but now, by mentioning both the place where he was when addressed by Philip, and the name of the tree, and the time of the conversation, He showed that His foreknowledge was unquestionable.
And He did not merely show to him His foreknowledge, but instructed him also in another way. For He brought him to a recollection of what they then had said; as,
Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? And it was most especially on this account that Nathanael received Him, because when he had uttered these words, He did not condemn, but praised and approved him. Therefore he was assured that this was indeed the Christ, both from His foreknowledge, and from His having exactly searched out his sentiments, which was the act of One who would show that He knew what was in his mind; and besides, from His not having blamed, but rather praised him when he had seemed to speak against Himself. He said then, that Philip had
called him; but what Philip had said to him or he to Philip, He omitted, leaving it to his own conscience, and not desiring farther to rebuke him.
3. Was it then only
before Philip called him that He
saw him? Did He not see him before this with His sleepless eye? He saw him, and none could gainsay it; but this is what it was needful to say at the time. And what did Nathanael? When he had received an unquestionable proof of His foreknowledge, he hastened to confess Him, showing by his previous delay his caution, and his fairness by his assent afterwards. For, said the Evangelist,
He answered and says unto Him, Rabbi, You are the Son of God, You are the King of Israel:
Do you see how his soul is filled at once with exceeding joy, and embraces Jesus with words?
You are, says he,
that expected, that sought-for One. Do you see how he is amazed, how he marvels? How he leaps and dances with delight?
So ought we also to rejoice, who have been thought worthy to know the Son of God; to rejoice, not in thought alone, but to show it also by our actions. And what must they do who rejoice? Obey Him who has been made known to them; and they who obey, must do whatever He wills. For if we are going to do what angers Him, how shall we show that we rejoice? Do you not see in our houses when a man entertains one whom he loves, how gladly he exerts himself, running about in every direction, and though it be needful to spend all that he has, sparing nothing so that he please his visitor? But if one who invites should not attend to his guest, and not do such things as would procure him ease, though he should say ten thousand times that he rejoices at his coming, he could never be believed by him. And justly; for this should be shown by actions. Let us then, since Christ has come to us, show that we rejoice, and do nothing that may anger him; let us garnish the abode to which He has come, for this they do who rejoice; let us set before Him the meal which He desires to eat, for this they do who hold festival. And what is this meal? He says Himself;
My meat is, that I may do the will of Him that sent me. John 4:34 When He is hungry, let us feed Him; when He is thirsty, let us give Him drink: though thou give Him but a cup of cold water, He receives it; for He loves you, and to one who loves, the offerings of the beloved, though they be small, appear great. Only be not thou slothful; though you cast in but two farthings, He refuses them not, but receives them as great riches. For since He is without wants, and receives these offerings, not because He needs them, it is reasonable that all distinction should be not in the quantity of the gifts, but the intention of the giver. Only show that you love Him who has come, that for His sake you are giving all diligence, that you rejoice at His coming. See how He is disposed toward you. He came for you, He laid down His life for you, and after all this He does not refuse even to entreat you.
We are ambassadors, says Paul,
for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us. 2 Corinthians 5:20
And who is so mad, says some one,
as not to love his own Master? I say so too, and I know that not one of us would deny this in words or intention; but one who is beloved desires love to be shown, not by words only, but by deeds also. For to say that we love, and not to act like lovers, is ridiculous, not only before God, but even in the sight of men. Since then to confess Him in word only, while in deeds we oppose Him, is not only unprofitable, but also hurtful to us; let us, I entreat you, also make confession by our works; that we also may obtain a confession from Him in that day, when before His Father He shall confess those who are worthy in Christ Jesus our Lord, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
Nathanael answered and says unto Him, Rabbi, You are the Son of God, You are the King of Israel. Jesus answered, and said unto him, Because I said unto you, I saw you under the fig-tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.
1. Beloved, we need much care, much watchfulness, to be able to look into the depth of the Divine Scriptures. For it is not possible to discover their meaning in a careless way, or while we are asleep, but there needs close search, and there needs earnest prayer, that we may be enabled to see some little way into the secrets of the divine oracles. Today, for instance, here is no trifling question proposed to us, but one which requires much zeal and enquiry. For when Nathanael said,
You are the Son of God, Christ replies,
Because I said unto you, I saw you under the fig-tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.
Now what is the question arising from this passage? It is this. Peter, when after so many miracles and such high doctrine he confessed that,
You are the Son of God Matthew 16:16, is called
blessed, as having received the revelation from the Father; while Nathanael, though he said the very same thing before seeing or hearing either miracles or doctrine, had no such word addressed to him, but as though he had not said so much as he ought to have said, is brought to things greater still. What can be the reason of this? It is, that Peter and Nathanael both spoke the same words, but not both with the same intention. Peter confessed Him to be
The Son of God but as being Very God; Nathanael, as being mere man. And whence does this appear? From what he said after these words; for after,
You are the Son of God, he adds,
You are the King of Israel. But the Son of God is not
King of Israel only, but of all the world.
And what I say is clear, not from this only, but also from what follows. For Christ added nothing more to Peter, but as though his faith were perfect, said, that upon this confession of his He would build the Church; but in the other case He did nothing like this, but the contrary. For as though some large, and that the better, part were wanting to his confession He added what follows. For what says He?
Verily, verily I say unto you, Hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the Angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.
Do you see how He leads him up little by little from the earth, and causes him no longer to imagine Him a man merely? For One to whom Angels minister, and on whom Angels ascend and descend, how could He be man? For this reason He said,
You shall see greater things than these. And in proof of this, He introduces the ministry of Angels. And what He means is something of this kind:
Does this, O Nathanael, seem to you a great matter, and have you for this confessed me to be King of Israel? What then will you say, when you see the Angels ascending and descending upon Me? Persuading him by these words to own Him Lord also of the Angels. For on Him as on the King's own Son, the royal ministers ascended and descended, once at the season of the Crucifixion, again at the time of the Resurrection and the Ascension, and before this also, when they
came and ministered unto Him Matthew 4:11, when they proclaimed the glad tidings of His birth, and cried,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace Luke 2:14, when they came to Mary, when they came to Joseph.
And He does now what He has done in many instances; He utters two predictions, gives present proof of the one, and confirms that which has to be accomplished by that which is so already. For of His sayings some had been proved, such as,
Before Philip called you, under the fig-tree I saw you; others had yet to come to pass, and had partly done so, namely, the descending and ascending of the Angels, at the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension; and this He renders credible by His words even before the event. For one who had known His power by what had gone before, and heard from Him of things to come, would more readily receive this prediction too.
What then does Nathanael? To this he makes no reply. And therefore at this point Christ stopped His discourse with him, allowing him to consider in private what had been said; and not choosing to pour forth all at once, having cast seed into fertile ground, He then leaves it to shoot at leisure. And this He has shown in another place, where He says,
The kingdom of heaven is like to a man that sows good seed, but while he slept, his enemy comes, and sows tares among the wheat.