Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke (1859) Sermons 81-88. (Luke 11:19-12:10.) pp.369-408.
11:19-26. But if I by Beelzebub cast out the devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I by the finger of God cast out the devils, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When the strong man armed guards his house, his goods are in peace: but when He Who is stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, He takes from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divides his spoils. He that is not with Me is against Me: and he that gathers not with Me, scatters for Me. When the unclean spirit has gone forth from the man, it wanders about in places where there is no water, seeking rest: and not having found it, then it says, I will return to my house, whence I came out. And when it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and garnished. Then it goes, and brings seven other spirits worse than itself, and they enter in and dwell there. And the last state of that man is made worse than the first.
THE God of all, blaming the haughtiness of the Jews, and their constant tendency to run into disobedience, thus spoke by the voice of Isaiah; "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken. I have begotten, and brought up sons; and they have rejected Me." For they rejected God the Father, by setting in manifold ways the Son at nothing, Who, though sprung from Him by nature, yet afterwards was made like unto us for our sakes: and yet He called them unto the grace that is by faith, and would have fulfilled the promise given unto their fathers. For of this the sacred Paul bears witness, where he writes, "For I say that Christ was a minister of the circumcision, to fulfil the promises of the fathers: and that the Gentiles might glorify God for mercy." The Only-begotten Word of God therefore was made man, that He might fulfil the promise of the blessing granted unto |370 them. And that they might know that it was He Whom the law had prefigured by shadows, and Whom the company also of the holy prophets had foretold, He wrought these godlike deeds, and rebuked the unclean spirits. But they, though it was their duty to have praised Him, as doing wonders, as One Who possessed a power and authority beyond that of nature, and incomparable in degree, on the contrary disparaged His glory, saying, "This man only casts out devils by Beelzebub the prince of the devils." And what doth Christ reply to this? "If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out?"
Now this subject was explained by me to you at length at our last meeting. But inasmuch as it is right that the wickedness of the Jews, in thus idly prating against Him, should still further be rebuked by many and convincing arguments, He adds on this account to what had been already said, an unanswerable consideration. And what this is, I will now mention to you as to my children.
The blessed disciples were Jews, and the children of Jews, according to the flesh; but they had obtained authority from Christ over unclean spirits, and set free those that were possessed by them, by calling over them these words, "In the Name of Jesus Christ." For Paul also once with apostolic authority commanded an unclean spirit, saying, "I command you, in the Name of Jesus Christ, to come out of her." When therefore He says, your own children in My Name trample upon Beelzebub, by rebuking his satellites, and expelling them forthwith from those in whom they are, what else is it but manifest blasphemy, joined with great ignorance, to say that I borrow this power from Beelzebub? You are convicted therefore, He says, by the faith of your own children, if, as is the case, they having received of Me authority and power, overthrow Satan, and against his will drive him from those in whom he dwells; while you affirm, that I make use of his agency in working divine miracles. But inasmuch as what you say is not true, but, on the contrary, empty and false, and liable to the charge of calumny, it is plain that I cast out devils by the finger of God. And by the finger of God He means the Holy Ghost. For the Son is called the hand and arm of God the Father; for He does all things by the Son, |371 and the Son in like manner works by the Spirit. For just as the finger is appended to the hand, as something not foreign from it, but belonging to it by nature, so also the Holy Spirit, by reason of His being equal in substance, is joined in oneness to the Son, even though He proceed from God the Father. For, as I said, the Son does every thing by the consubstantial Spirit. Here, however, purposely He says, that by the finger of God He casts out devils, speaking as a man: because the Jews in the infirmity and folly of their mind, would not have endured it, if He had said, "by My own Spirit I cast out devils." Appeasing therefore their excessive readiness to anger, and the proneness of their mind unto insolence and phrensy, He spake as a man, although He is by nature God, and Himself the Giver of the Spirit from God the Father to those who are worthy, and employs as His own that power which is from Him. For He is consubstantial with Him, and whatsoever is said to be done by God the Father, this necessarily is by the Son in the Spirit. If therefore, He says, I, being a man, and having become like unto you, cast out devils in the Spirit of God, human nature has in Me first attained to a godlike kingdom. For it has become glorious by breaking the power of Satan, and rebuking the impure and abominable spirits: for such is the meaning of the words, that "the kingdom of God has come upon you." But the Jews did not understand the mystery of the dispensation of the Only-begotten in the flesh: and yet how ought they not rather to have reflected, that by the Only-begotten Word of God having become man, without ceasing to be that which He was, He glorified the nature of man, in that He did not disdain to take upon Him its meanness, in order that He might bestow upon it His own riches.
And inasmuch as it was necessary, as I showed, that the argument upon this subject should travel through many considerations, He makes use of a most plain and evident comparison, by means of which those who will may see, that He has conquered the ruler of this world, and having, so to speak, hamstrung him, and stripped him of the power which he possessed, has given him over for a prey unto His followers. "For when, He says, the strong man being armed guards his house, all his goods are in peace: but when One That is |372 stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, He takes away all his armour wherein he trusted, and divides his spoil," This is, as I said, a plain demonstration, and type of the matter depicted after the manner of human affairs. For as long as a strong man retains the superiority, and guards his own property, he is in no danger of being plundered. But when one who is stronger than he, and more powerful, comes upon him, and prevails against him, then forthwith he is spoiled. And such has been the fate of our common enemy, the wicked Satan, that many headed serpent, the inventor of sin. For before the coining of the Saviour, he was in great power, driving and shutting up, so to speak, in his own stall flocks not his own, but belonging to God over all, like some rapacious and most insolent robber. But inasmuch as the Word of God Who is above all, the Giver of all might, and Lord of powers assailed Him, having become man, all his goods have been plundered, and his spoil divided. For those who of old had been ensnared by him into ungodliness and error have been called by the holy apostles to the acknowledgment of the truth, and been brought near unto God the Father by faith in His Son.
Would you like to hear and learn another convincing argument besides these? "He that is not with Me," He says, "is against Me: and he that gathers not with Me, scatters for Me." For I, He says, have come to save every man from the hands of the devil; to deliver from his guile those whom he had ensnared; to set the prisoners free; to give light to those in darkness; to raise up them that had fallen; to heal the broken-spirited: and to gather together the children of God who were scattered abroad. Such was the object of My coming. But Satan is not with Me; on the contrary he is against Me. For he ventures to scatter those whom I have gathered and saved. How then can he, who wars against Me, and sets his wickedness in array against My purposes, give Me power against himself? How is it not foolish even barely to imagine the possibility of such a thing as this?
The cause however which made the Jewish multitudes fall into such thoughts concerning Christ He Himself makes plain, by saying; "When the wicked spirit has gone forth from the man, it returns with seven other spirits more bitter |373 than itself; and the last state of that man is worse than the first." For as long as they were in bondage in Egypt, and lived according to the customs and laws of the Egyptians, which were full of all impurity, they led polluted lives; an evil spirit dwelt in them: for it dwells in the hearts of the wicked. But when in the mercy of God they had been delivered by Moses, and received the law as a schoolmaster, calling them to the light of the true knowledge of God, the impure and polluted spirit was driven out. But because they did not believe in Christ, but rejected the Saviour, the impure spirit again attacked them: for he found their heart empty, and devoid of all fear of God, and, swept as it were, and took up his abode in them. For just as the Holy Spirit, when He sees any one's heart free from all impurity, and clean, dwells and abides there, and rests therein; so also the impure spirit is wont to dwell in the souls of the wicked. For they are devoid, as I said, of all virtue: and thero is in them no fear of God. The last state therefore of the Israelites has become worse than the first. For as the disciple of the Saviour said; "It had been better for them not to have known the way of truth, than that when they have known it, they should turn back again from the holy commandment that was delivered unto them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb; The dog that returned to its vomit; and the washed sow to wallow in the mire." Let us flee therefore from being like the Jews; let Christ Who works miracles, be extolled by us: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |374
11:29-36. And when the multitudes were gathered together, He began to say; This generation is an evil generation. It seeks a sign: and a sign shall not be given it, except the sign of Jonah. 1
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THE request originated in malice, and therefore was not granted them, according to the text, "The wicked shall seek Me, and shall not find Me." * * * * * * * * and which He spoke to the divine Moses; the rod was changed into a serpent. And what thing is this? some one, forsooth, may say; or what is the truth it hints at? And this certainly we must examine: for I say that of all that is contained in the sacred Scriptures, there is nothing which is not useful for edification. When Israel then had dwelt for a lengthened period in Egypt, and been brought up in the customs of its inhabitants, he wandered far from God, and became like one that had fallen from His hand, and been made a serpent, by which is meant one naturally of a thoroughly wicked disposition. But inasmuch as God again took hold of him, he was restored to his former state, and became a rod, that is to say, a plant of Paradise. For he was called to the true knowledge of God, and enriched with the law as the means of a virtuous life.
Moreover God wrought also something further of an equally miraculous character. For He said unto Moses, "Put your hand into your bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom; and he drew forth his hand from his bosom, and his hand had become leprous, like snow. And he said again, Put your hand into your bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom; and he drew it forth from his bosom, and it had gained again the colour of his flesh." For as long as Israel adhered to the customs of his fathers, and represented in his |375 own manners the type of virtuous living which he had in Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, he was, as it were, in the bosom of God, that is, under His guardianship and protection: but by abandoning the virtue of his ancestors, he became, so to speak, leprous; and fell into impurity: for the leper by the law of Moses was impure. But when He was again accepted by God, and placed under His protection, he was delivered from his leprosy; and put away the impurity of the Egyptian mode of life. And when these signs were wrought in their presence, they believed Moses, saying, "The Lord God of your fathers has sent me unto you."
Observe therefore that they did not make the display of miracles a reason for fault finding. They did not revile the divine Moses; they did not give free license to an unbridled tongue, and say that he wrought the miracles which he displayed before them by means of Beelzebub: they did not ask a sign from heaven, in contempt of his mighty deeds. But you assigned to Beelzebub works thus honourable and miraculous, and was not ashamed in bringing to perdition others as well as your own self, by means of those very things which ought to have made you possess a steadfast faith in Christ. But He will not grant you another sign, that He may not give holy things unto dogs, nor cast pearls before swine. For how can they who are hot calumniators of the miracles already wrought, deserve yet more? On the contrary we see that very skilful husbandmen, when they observe land sluggish in bearing fruit, withhold their hand, and refuse to plough it any more, that they may not suffer the loss at once both of their labour and of the seed.
He said, however, the sign only of Jonah shall be given them, by which is meant the passion upon the cross, and the resurrection from the dead. "For as Jonah," He says, "was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights, so shall also the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights." But had it been possible for Jesus not to have willed to suffer death in the flesh upon the cross, neither would this sign have been given to the Jews: but inasmuch as the passion, wrought for the salvation of the world, was indispensable, it was given these unbelievers for their condemnation. For also in speaking to the Jews, He |376 said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." But that the abolishing of death, and restoration of corruption by the resurrection from the dead, is a very great sign of the power and godlike authority of the Incarnate Word, will be sufficiently proved, as I imagine, in the judgment of serious men, by the soldiers of Pilate, who were appointed to guard the tomb, having been bribed with a large sum of money to say, that "the disciples came by night, and stole Him." It was therefore no unavailing sign, but rather one sufficient to convince all the inhabitants of the whole earth, that Christ is God, that of His own choice He suffered death in the flesh, but rose again, having commanded the bonds of death to depart, and overthrown corruption. But the Jews did not believe even this: for which reason it was very justly said of them, that "the queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment against this generation."
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[From Mai] This woman, though a barbarian, earnestly sought to hear Solomon, and for this purpose travelled so vast a distance, to listen to his wisdom upon the nature of things visible, and animals, and plants. But you, though already present, and listening to Wisdom Itself, Who came to you, discoursing upon things invisible and heavenly, and confirming what He said by deeds and miracles, turn away from the word, and pass by with indifference the wonderful nature of His oracles. How then is there not more than Solomon here, that is in Me? And again observe, I pray, the skilfulness of His language; for why does He say "here," and not rather "in Me?" It is to persuade us to be humble, even though we be largely endowed with spiritual gifts. And besides, it is not at all unlikely, that had the Jews heard Him say, "that there is more than Solomon in Me," they would have ventured to speak of Him in their usual way: 'See! He says, that He is superior even to the kings who have gloriously reigned over us.' The Saviour, therefore, for the economy's sake, uses moderate language, saying, "here," instead of "in Me."
He says, moreover, that the Ninevites will appear for the condemnation of the Jews at the season of judgment: for they were rude and barbarous people, ignorant of Him Who by nature and in truth is God, who had never even heard of the predictions of Moses, and were without knowledge of the |377 glorious tidings of prophecy: but even though this was their mental state, they repented, He says, at the preaching of Jonah. Far better therefore were they than the Israelites, and will condemn them. But listen to the very words: "The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold! a greater than Jonah is here." "No man, having lighted a lamp, puts it into a cellar, nor under the bushel, but upon the lampstand, that they who enter in may see the light." And what was the object of such words as these? He combats the Jews by an objection drawn from their own folly and ignorance: for they said that He wrought miracles, not that He might be more fully believed in, but that He might have numbers of followers, and catch the applause of those who saw his wondrous acts. And this calumny He refutes by taking as an example the use of a lamp. For a lamp, He says, is always elevated, and put upon a stand, to be of use to those who see. And let us consider the inference which follows from this. Before then the coining of our Saviour, the father of darkness, even Satan, had made the world dark, and blackened all things with an intellectual gloom; but in this state the Father gave us the Son, to be as it were a lamp to the world, to irradiate us with divine light, and rescue us from Satanic darkness. But, O Jew, if you blame the lamp, because it is not hidden, but on the contrary, being set on high on a stand, gives its light to those who see, then blame Christ for not wishing to be concealed, but on the contrary to be seen of all, illuminating those in darkness, and shedding on them the light of the true knowledge of God. He did not therefore fulfil His miracles so much in order to be wondered at, nor seek by them to become famous, as that we might rather believe, that whereas He is God by nature, yet He became man for our sakes, but without ceasing to be what He was. And upon the holy church as a lamp-stand, shining by the doctrine He proclaims, He gives light to the minds of all by filling them with divine knowledge. |378
11:37-41. And as He was speaking, a certain Pharisee besought Him to dine with him: and He went in and lay down to meat. But the Pharisee, when he saw it, wondered that He had not first washed before dinner. But the Lord said unto him, Now do you Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the dish,, but that which is within you is full of rapine and wickedness. O you little-minded, did not He Who made that which is without, make that which is within also? But whatever there is give as alms, and behold! every thing is clean unto you.
THE very wise Paul truly tells us, that "Christ came into the world to save sinners." For this was His aim, and for this purpose He humbled Himself to the emptying of His glory, and appeared upon earth in the flesh, and conversed with men. For it was right, that as being the Creator and Lord of all, He should give a saving hand to those who had fallen into sin, and show unto them that were wandering in error, a pathway that would lead them straight unto every good work, and the excellence of virtuous deeds. And it is said somewhere also by one of the holy prophets, concerning those who have been called by faith to the knowledge of His glory "And they shall be all taught of God." How, therefore, does He lead us into every thing that is useful? By humbling Himself to be with sinners, and condescending sometimes even to those things that He would not, that so He might save many. That this was the case we may see by the lessons from the gospel now set before us; for one of the Pharisees, it says, besought Him to dine at His house: "and He went in, and lay down to meat." And yet how is it not plain to every one, that the gang of the Pharisees were always wicked and impure, hateful to God, and envious, ready for anger, of innate pride, and ever bold of speech against Christ the Saviour of us all? For they found fault with His divine miracles, and gathering wicked troops of counsellors, plotted His death. How then |379 did He become their guest? Was He not aware of their maliciousness? But how can this be safely affirmed? For as God He knowcth all things. What therefore is the explanation? It is this, that He was especially anxious to admonish them, therein resembling the most excellent physicians. For they apply the remedies of their are to those who are most dangerously ill, struggling against the disease under which they suffer, and assuaging its cruel attacks. As they therefore without restraint gave way to an infatuated mind, it was necessary for Christ to speak unto them what was requisite and useful for their salvation. For as He Himself somewhere says, "He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." And again He also said, that "they who are whole need not a physician, but they who are sick."
The Pharisee therefore for some purpose of his own invites Him to an entertainment: and the Saviour of all submits, as I said, to this, for the economy's sake. But He made the matter an opportunity of giving instruction, not consuming the time of their meeting in the enjoyment of food and delicacies, but in the task of making those more virtuous who were assembled there. And the dull Pharisee himself supplied an occasion for His discourse, for "he wondered," it says, "that He had not washed before dinner." Did he then wonder at Him, as having done something of which he approved, as being especially worthy of the saints? This was not his view: how could it be? On the contrary he was offended, because having the reputation among them of a righteous man and a prophet, He did not conform Himself to their unreasonable customs. For they washed before meat, as though they so freed themselves from all pollution. But this was very absurd. For the washing with water is highly useful for those who are unclean in body; but how can it free men from the defilement of the mind and heart?
Our argument however is this: O foolish Pharisee, you boast much of your knowledge of the sacred Scriptures: you are ever quoting the law of Moses. Tell us therefore where Moses gave you this precept? What commandment can you mention, ordained by God, requiring men to wash before meat? The waters of sprinkling were indeed given by the command of Moses for the cleansing of corporeal |380 uncleanness, as being a type of the baptism which really is holy and cleansing, even that in Christ. Those also who were called to the priesthood were bathed in water: for so did the divine Moses bathe Aaron, and the Levites with him, the law thereby declaring by means of the baptism enacted in type and shadow, that even its priesthood had not that which suffices for sanctification, but, on the contrary, needs divine and holy baptism for the true cleansing: and further, beautifully showing us that the Saviour of all is sufficient to sanctify and cleanse from all defilement, by means of holy and precious baptism, ourselves, who are the generation consecrated to and elect of God. Plainly however, he nowhere commands it as a duty to wash before eating. Why therefore do you wonder, or for what reason are you offended, O Pharisee? He Who Himself spoke it in old time has not violated the precept of Moses: and, as I said, the law, which you makea profession of honouring, has nowhere given you any such commandment.
But what said the Saviour? He most opportunely rebuked them, saying, "Now you Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup, and the dish; but that which is within you is full of rapine and wickedness." For it would have been easy for the Lord to have used other words with the view of instructing the foolish Pharisee, but He found an opportunity, and, so to speak, connects His teaching with what was before their eyes. For as it was the time of eating, and of sitting at table, He takes as a plain comparison the cup and the dish, and shows that those who sincerely serve God must be pure and clean, not only from bodily impurity, but also from that hidden within in the mind; just, for instance, as those utensils also that serve the table must be cleansed both from those impurities that are on the outside, and also as well from those that are within. "For He who made," He says, "that which is without, made also that which is within:" by which is meant, that He Who created the body made also the soul. As therefore they are both the works of one virtue-loving God, their purification must be uniform.
But this was not the practice of the Scribes and Pharisees; for so far as the mere reputation went of being clean, they were anxious to do every thing. They went about with sad |381 looks, as though pale from fasting; and as the Saviour says, "made broad the hems of their robes, and widened their phylacteries, and stood in the streets and prayed, that they might be seen of many," wishing rather to have praise of men than God, and to carry off the applause of the spectators. And, to speak briefly, while they exhibited themselves to the lookers on as the very pattern of the life of virtue that is by the law, they in every possible way withdrew from being lovers of God. "Whitened sepulchres were they," as the Saviour said, "which on the outside are beautiful, but inside are full of bones of the dead, and of all uncleanness." But Christ wills not that we be such as these, but rather spiritual worshippers, holy and without blame both in soul and body. For one also of our communion said, "Cleanse your hands you sinners, and sanctify your hearts, you double-minded." And the prophet David somewhere sings, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." And again the prophet Isaiah speaks as in the person of God, "Wash you, make you clean; put away iniquities from your souls from before My eyes. Cease from your iniquities." Observe the exactness of the expression: for His words are, "From before My eyes put away iniquities from your souls." For the wicked do sometimes escape the eyes of men, but never can they escape those of God. It is our duty therefore, inasmuch as God sees what is secret, to put away wickedness from before His eyes.
But the Pharisees had no knowledge of any such method of virtuous living: what medicine therefore did the Saviour offer them after His rebukes? How did He Who struck them make them whole? "Whatever you have," He says, " give as alms: and lo! every thing is pure unto you." And yet we affirm that there are many ways of virtuous conduct, such for instance as meekness, humility, and other kindred virtues: why therefore did He omit these, and command them to be |382 compassionate? What answer do we make to this? The Pharisees then were exceedingly avaricious, and the slaves of base gains, and accumulated with greedy hand stores of wealth. For the God of all even somewhere said concerning them, "How has the faithful city Zion, that was full of judgment, become a harlot! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers! Your silver is adulterate; your merchants mingle the wine with water; your princes are disobedient, the partners of thieves, loving bribes, running after recompense; they judge not the fatherless, and regard not the suit of the widow." He purposely therefore had regard to that malady which had possession of them, and tears their avarice up by the root, that being delivered from its wickedness, and attaining to purity in mind and heart, they might become true worshippers.
The Saviour therefore in all these things acted in accordance with the plan of salvation; and being invited to a banquet, bestowed spiritual food, not only upon His entertainer, but upon all those who were feasting with Him. And let us too pray Him for this spiritual food; for "He is that living Bread, which came down from heaven, and gives life unto the world:" by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |383
11:42-44. But woe unto you, Pharisees! who tithe mint and rue and all herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God. But these things ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Woe unto you, Pharisees! for you love the uppermost seat in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets. Woe unto you! for you are as those graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them know it not.
THOSE who are exact observers of the sacred commandments do not venture in any way whatsoever to offend the God of all. For they feel the truth of what is written, "That whosoever shall keep the whole law, but shall offend in one particular, becomes guilty of all. For He Who said, You shall not commit adultery, said also, You shall not kill. If then you do not commit adultery, but yet kill, you are become a transgressor of the law." The transgression therefore of one commandment transgresses the law, that is, proves the man to be without the law. But when any one disregards those commandments, which especially are important above the rest, what words will he find able to save him from deserved punishment? That the Pharisees then merited these severe censures, the Lord proved against them, saying, "Woe unto you, Pharisees! who tithe mint and rue and all herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God. These things ought you to have done, and not to pass by the other, that is, to leave them undone." For while they omitted, as of no importance, those duties which they were especially bound to practice, as, for instance, judgment and the love of God, they carefully and scrupulously observed, or rather commanded the people subject to their authority to observe, those commandments only which were a way and means of great revenues for themselves. |384
Put more fully to explain these things to you, my beloved, I must speak as follows. The law of Moses commanded tithes to be offered to the priests by the Israelites. For it spoke thus; "The sons of Levi shall have no inheritance among the children of Israel. The offerings of the Lord are their inheritance." For whatsoever was offered by any one for the glory of God, on the score I mean of tithe, this God set apart for those whose office it was to minister; and this was their inheritance. But inasmuch as the Pharisees above all others were covetous, and fond of disgraceful gains, they commanded that this law of tithing should be observed carefully and scrupulously, so as not even to omit the most paltry and insignificant herbs; while they carelessly disregarded what they ought to have observed, namely, the more essential commandments given by Moses; such, for instance, as judgment, by which is meant justice in passing judgment, and the love of God. For it would have been a just judgment, and an upright sentence, to have considered every thing that was commanded deserving of equal care and attention, and not to neglect things of primary importance, while they paid a scrupulous regard to those only which were to their profit. And the effect of love to God would have been to avoid making Him angry in any respect, and to dread the violation of any part whatsoever of the law.
Or to put it in another light, one may say, that judgment would have been to decree just sentences, and to make upon no matter whatsoever an unfair decision. And this too was disregarded by the Pharisees; for the Spirit rebuked them by the voice of David, thus saying, "God arose in the congregation of the Gods, and in the midst of the Gods He judges. How long will you judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?" He accused them also by the voice of Isaiah, saying, "How has the faithful city Zion, that was full of judgment, become a harlot? Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers. Your silver is adulterate: your merchants mingle the wine with water: your princes are disobedient, the partners of thieves, loving bribes, running after recompense: they judge not the fatherless, and regard not the suit of the widow." For to judge unjustly is not the part of those who practice love to the brethren, but the crime rather |385 of an iniquitous mind, and a plain proof of a falling away into sin. While therefore you tithe mint, He says, and rue, and every herb, and ordain that the commandment upon these points is to be strictly kept, you deign to give no attention to the weightier matters of the law, to those commandments, I mean, which are more especially necessary and beneficial to the soul, and by means of which you might prove yourselves honourable and holy, and full of such praises as become those whose desire it is to love God, and please Him.
And He adds yet another woe to those already spoken, saying, "Woe unto you, Pharisees, who love the uppermost seat in the synagogues, and greetings in the market places," Is then this reproof useful to the Pharisees only? Not so: for the benefit of it extends even unto us: for by the rebukes He addressed to them, He effects also our improvement. For true it is, that those who are perfect in mind, and lovers of upright conduct, find in the rebukes of others the means of their own safety. For they of course avoid imitating them, and do not expose themselves to being caught in similar faults. The accusation therefore which Christ brings against the Pharisees, that they seek for greetings in the market places, and the uppermost seats in the synagogues, or meetings, shows that they were fond of praise, and wont to indulge themselves in empty ostentation, and an absurd superciliousness. And what can be worse than this? or how must not such conduct be hateful to every man, as being boastful and annoying, and destitute of the praises of virtue, and intent solely upon stealing the reputation of being honourable. And how must not he be incomparably superior to men thus disposed, who is poor in spirit, and gentle, and affable; not loving boasting, but courteous; not deceiving men by outside and fictitious disguises, but being rather a true worshipper, and adorned with that rational beauty which the divine Word imprints in us by means of all virtue and holiness and righteousness.
For if we must prove ourselves better than others,----and there is nothing to prevent this,----let the sentence of superiority be given us of God, by our excelling them in point of conduct and morals, and in a wise and blameless knowledge of the sacred scriptures. For to be saluted by others, and seated higher |386 than one's friends, does not at all prove us to be persons of merit: for this is possessed by many, who, so far from being virtuous, are rather lovers of pleasure, and lovers of sin. For they wrest honours from every one, because of their possessing either vast wealth or worldly power.
But that our being admired by others without investigation and inconsiderately, and without their knowing our real state, does not at all make us elect in the presence of God, Who knows all things, the Saviour at once demonstrates by Saying; "Woe unto you, for you are as those graves which appear not, and the men who walk over them know it not," Observe, I pray, very clearly the force of the example. Those who desire to be saluted by every one in the marketplace, and anxiously consider it a great matter to have the foremost seats in the synagogues, differ in no respect from graves that appear not, which on the outside are beautifully adorned, but are full of all impurity. See here, I pray, that hypocrisy is utterly blamed: for it is a hateful malady, both towards God and men. For whatsoever the hypocrite seems, and is thought to be, that he is not: but he borrows, so to speak, the reputation of goodness, and thereby accuses his real baseness: for the very thing which he praises and admires, he will not practise. But it is a thing impossible for you long to hide your hypocrisy: for just as the figures painted in pictures fall off, as time dries up the colours, so also hypocrisies, after escaping observation for a very little time, are soon convicted of being really nothing.
We then must be true worshippers, and not as wishing to please men, lest we fall from being servants of Christ. For so the blessed Paul somewhere speaks; "For now do I persuade men or God? or do I seek to please men? If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." For suppositions in matters of moral excellence are simply ridiculous, and worthy neither of account nor admiration. For just as in gold coins, that which is counterfeit and faulty is rejected, so the hypocrite is regarded with scorn both by God and men. But he who is |387 true meets with admiration; just, for instance, as Nathaniel, of whom Christ said, "Behold one truly an Israelite, in whom is no guile." He who is such is esteemed before God; he is counted worthy of crowns and honours; has a glorious hope given him; and is "a fellow-citizen with the saints, and of the household of God."
Let us therefore flee from the malady of hypocrisy: and may there rather dwell within us a pure and uncorrupt mind, resplendent with glorious virtues. For this will unite us unto Christ; by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |388
11:45-48. Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto Him, Teacher, in saying these things you reproach us also. And He said, Also unto you, lawyers, woe! for you burden men with burdens heavy and grievous to be borne; and you yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe unto you! for you build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. Therefore you bear witness, and approve of the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and you build their sepulchres.
REPROOF is ever, so to speak, a thing difficult for any man to bear: but it is not without profit to the soberminded: for it leads them to the duty of performing those things which make them worthy of honour, and lovers of virtuous pursuits. But those who run into wickedness with all eagerness, and whose heart is set against admonition, are hurried into greater sins by the very things that should have made them more soberminded, and are only hardened by the words of those who try to benefit them. And, as an example of this state of mind, behold those who among the Jews were called lawyers. For the Saviour of all was rebuking the Pharisees, as men that were wandering far from the right way, and fallen into unbecoming practices. For He blamed them as being boasters, as hypocrites, as loving greetings in the markets, and as wishing to sit in front of everybody else in the synagogues: and He further called them "whited sepulchres, which on the outside are beautiful, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all impurity." At these things the band of wicked lawyers was indignant, and one of them stood up to controvert the Saviour's declarations, and said; "Teacher, in saying these things, You reproach us also." Oh what great ignorance! what blindness in mind and understanding unto every thing necessary! These men subject themselves to blame: or rather the force of truth showed them to be liable to the same accusations as the Pharisees, and of one mind with them, and partners of their |389 evil deeds, if they thus consider that what Christ said unto the others was spoken also against them. For tell me, for what reason are you angry? When any reproof is addressed to the Pharisees, you say that you are reproached. You confess therefore your deeds. You are conscious, of course, to thyself of being a similar character. But if you consider it a reproach for ought of this sort to be said of you, and nevertheless do not alter your behaviour, it is your own conduct you are found blaming. If you hate reproof as being a reproach, show thyself superior to the faults with which you are charged: or rather do not regard as a reproach the word of correction. Do you not see that those who heal the bodies of men converse with the sick upon the causes which have brought on their maladies, and use pungent drugs to counteract what has happened: but no one is angry with them on this account, or regards what they say as a reproach. But you are weak-minded in bearing admonitions, nor consent to learn what those passions are which are bringing injury to your heart. Far better would it be to love reproof, and ask for deliverance from your maladies, and healing for the ulcers of your soul. Far better were it rather to say, "Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed: save me, and I shall be saved: for You are my praise."
Nothing however of this sort enters the mind of the lawyers, but they venture even to say; "In speaking these things, You reproach us also:" ignorantly giving the name of reproach to a reproof which was for their benefit and advantage. What then does Christ reply? He makes His reproof yet more severe, and humbles their empty pride, thus saying; "Also to you, lawyers, woe! for you burden men with burdens heavy and grievous to be borne: and you yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers." He frames His argument against them out of a plain example. For the law was confessedly grievous to the Israelites, as the divine disciples also acknowledged. For they even rebuked those who were endeavouring to make such as had already believed desire to return to the legal ritual: for they said; "And now why tempt you God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear? And the Saviour Himself taught us this, crying out and saying; "Come |390 unto Me, all you weary, and heavy laden; and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and you shall find rest for your-selves." Weary then and heavy laden are those, He says, who are under the law: while He calls Himself meek, as though the law had nothing in it of this character. For, as Paul says; "Whosoever has despised Moses' law is put to death without mercy at the mouth of two or three witnesses." Woe to you, therefore, He says, O lawyers: for while you bind burdens grievous to be borne, and intolerable to carry, and lay them on those who are under the law, you yourselves will not touch them. For while commanding that the ordinance of Moses should be kept inviolate, and passing sentence of death upon any who despise it, they themselves paid not the slightest heed to the duty of performing its precepts. As accustomed thus to act, the wise Paul also rebukes them, saying; "Behold you are called a Jew, and rest in the law, and make your boast of God; and know His will, and discern the things that are more excellent, being instructed by the law; and are confident of thyself, that you are a guide of the blind; an instructor of those without understanding; a teacher of babes; and that you have the form of knowledge and of truth in the law. You therefore that teach others, teach you not thyself? you that say that men should not steal, do you steal? you that say that men should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? And you that despise idols, do you plunder the sanctuary? And you that boast in the law, by the transgression of the law despise you God?" For the teacher is rejected with infamy when his conduct does not agree with his words. Upon him our Saviour also passes the sentence of severe punishment: "for whosoever," He says, "has taught and done, shall be called great: but whosoever shall teach and not do, he shall " be called small in the kingdom of heaven." And for the same reason the disciple of the Saviour also writes to us; "Let there not be many teachers among you, my brethren; knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we all of us commit wrong."
And having thus shown the worthlessness of this abominable crew of lawyers, He goes on to utter a common reproof to all |391 the chiefs of the Jews: "Woe unto you! for you build the sepulchres of the prophets: and your fathers killed them. Therefore you bear witness, and approve of the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their sepulchres." Let us then carefully examine what the Saviour means; for what wicked act can we say that they were guilty of in building the tombs of the saints? Were they not rather doing them distinguished honour? What doubt can there be of this? It is necessary therefore to see what it is which Christ teaches us. The ancestors then of the Jews had from time to time put the holy prophets to death, when bringing them the word of God, and leading them unto the right way: but their descendants, acknowledging that the prophets were holy and venerable men, built over them sepulchres or tombs, as bestowing upon them an honour suitable to the saints. Their fathers therefore slew them; but they, as believing that they were prophets and holy men. became the judges of those that slew them. For by determining to pay honour to those who had been put to death, they thereby accused the others of having done wrongfully. But they, who condemned their fathers for such cruel murders, were about to incur the guilt of equal crimes, and to commit the same, or rather more abominable offences. For they slew the Prince of Life, the Saviour and Deliverer of all: and added also to their wickedness towards Him other abominable murders. For Stephen was put to death, not as being accused of any thing base, but rather for admonishing them, and speaking unto them what is contained in the inspired Scriptures. And other crimes besides were committed by them against every saint who preached unto them the Gospel message of salvation.
The lawyers therefore and Pharisees were reproved in every way, as being haters of God, and boastful, and lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God: and as everywhere hating to be saved. For this reason Christ added always that word "woe," as something peculiarly theirs: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |392 |393
11:52 ... 12:1-3. Woe unto you, lawyers: for you have taken away the key of knowledge: you entered not in, and those that are entering in you hindered. And as He came out from thence, the scribes and Pharisees began to urge Him vehemently, and to put Him to silences about many things, lying in wait to catch something out of his mouth. Meanwhile many myriads of the people having assembled, so that they trod one upon another, He began to say unto His disciples first of all, Beware in yourselves of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed: neither hid, that shall not be known. All things whatsoever you have spoken in darkness, shall be heard in the light: and that which you have spoken in the ear in chambers, shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
THOSE who search the sacred Scriptures, and know the Lord's will, if they are virtuous men, and anxious for the people's good, and skilled in leading them aright unto every thing that is admirable, shall be rewarded with every blessing, if they discharge their duties with earnestness. And of this the Saviour assures us where He says, "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord has set over his household, to give them meat in its season? Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord shall come and find so doing: verily, I say unto you, that he will set him over all that he has." But if he be indolent, and neglectful, and a cause of offence to those entrusted to his charge, so as for them to fall from the right way, most miserable is he, and in danger of hopeless punishment. For again Christ Himself has said; "Whosoever therefore shall offend one of these little ones, which believe in Me, it were better for him that the millstone of an ass were hung about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea." |394
Of faults thus grievous, Christ proved them guilty who professed to be skilled in the law; the scribes, I mean, and lawyers: and for this reason he said unto them; "Also to you lawyers woe! who have taken away the key of knowledge." By the key of knowledge we consider that the law itself is meant, and justification in Christ, by faith I mean in Him. For though the law was in shadow and type, yet those types shape out to us the truth, and those shadows depict to us in manifold ways the mystery of Christ. A lamb was sacrificed according to the law of Moses; they ate its flesh, they anointed the lintels with its blood, and overcame the destroyer. But the blood of a mere sheep could not turn away death. It was Christ then Who was typified under the form of a lamb, Who endures to be the victim for the life of the world, and saves by His blood those who are partakers of Him. And one might mention many other instances as well, by means of which we can discern the mystery of Christ, sketched out in the shadows of the law. And He Himself once when speaking to the Jews said, "There is one that accuses you, even Moses, in whom you trusted. For if you had believed Moses, you would have also believed Me; for he wrote of Me." And again; Search the Scriptures: for in them you think that you have eternal life; and it is they that testify of Me. And you are not willing to come unto Me, that you may have life." For every word of divinely inspired Scripture looks unto Him, and refers to Him. And whether it be Moses who speaks, he, as has been shown, was typifying Christ: or be it the holy prophets that you name, they also proclaimed to us in manifold ways the mystery of Christ, preaching beforehand the salvation that is by Him.
It was the duty therefore of those who were called lawyers, because they studied the law of Moses, and were well acquainted with the words of the holy prophets, to open, so to speak, to the Jewish multitudes the doors of knowledge. For the law directs men unto Christ, and the pious announcements of the holy prophets lead, as I said, to the acknowledgment of Him. But this the so-called lawyers did not do, but on the contrary they took away the key of knowledge, by which you are to understand the guidance of the law, or really faith in Christ. For by faith is the knowledge of the truth, as the |395 prophet Isaiah somewhere says; " If you will not believe, neither shall you understand." This same way of salvation by faith in Christ He before declared unto us by the holy prophets, saying; "Yet a little, a little while, and he that comes shall come, and shall not tarry. And whosoever shall draw back, in him My soul shall have no pleasure." And what is meant by a person's drawing back is his giving way to slothfulness. When therefore He says, that no one of those who have been called must draw back, it means, that if he grow slothful in his progress towards the grace which is by faith, My soul shall have no pleasure in him.
But that the fathers were proved by faith, the examination of their deeds demonstrates. Take, for instance, the patriarch Abraham, who was called the friend of God: what is written of him? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness: and he was called the friend of God." And it is written again; "By faith Noah, when it was revealed to him of things not seen as yet, prepared the ark for the saving of his house, in which few, that is, eight persons, were saved by water." And the blessed Paul has laid down for us a definition, so to speak, or rather a general law, thus saying; "Without faith it is impossible for any one whatsoever to please God." "For by it, he said, the elders, that is, those in old time, obtained a good report."
But these so-called lawyers had taken away the key of knowledge; for they would not let men believe in Christ the Saviour of all. He wrought miracles in manifold ways; raising the dead from their graves; restoring beyond all hope their sight to the blind; making the lame whole in their feet; cleansing lepers; and rebuking unclean spirits. But they, though it was their duty to regard Him with admiration because of these things, despised His divine signs: and making the people entrusted to their charge to stumble, they said; "This man casts not out devils but in Beelzebub the prince of the devils." Here then you see them taking away the key of knowledge. He taught in their synagogues; He revealed to His hearers that good and acceptable and perfect will of God the Father; but they cannot leave even these His instructions without blame: for they called out to the multitudes, "He has a devil, and is utterly mad. Why hear you |396 Him?" In truth therefore they took away the key of knowledge: they went not in themselves, and the others they hindered.
And thus being indignant at this reproof, ''they began," it says, "to urge Him vehemently;" by which is meant, to attack Him with cunning, and oppose Him, and show their hatred of Him. And they ventured also, it says, even "to put Him to silence about many things." And what again is the meaning of their putting Him to silence? It is that they required Him at once, and so to speak, without consideration to make answer to their wicked questions; expecting forsooth that he would fall, and say something or other open to objection. But they knew not that He was God; or rather, they were despisers, and proud and contemptuous. And therefore it was that Christ told His friends, that is, His disciples, to "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and scribes," meaning by leaven their false pretence. For hypocrisy is a thing hateful to God, and abominated by man, bringing no reward, and utterly useless for the salvation of the soul, or rather the cause of its perdition. For though sometimes it may escape detection for a little, yet before long it is sure to be laid bare, and bring upon them disgrace; like ill-featured women, when they are stripped of that external embellishment which they had produced by artificial means.
Hypocrisy therefore is a thing foreign to the character of the saints: for that it is impossible for those things that are done and said by us to escape the eye of the Deity, He showed by saying; "For there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed: neither hid that shall not be known." For all our words and deeds shall be revealed at the day of judgment. Hypocrisy therefore is superfluous trouble; and our duty is to prove ourselves true worshippers, serving God with free and open countenance, not submitting our judgment to those who take away the key of knowledge, but seeing even in the law the mystery of Christ, and seizing upon the words of the holy prophets to confirm our knowledge of Him. For this His disciple also taught us thus saying; "We have for confirmation the word of prophecy, into which you do well to look, as upon a torch shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the star of light arise in your hearts." |397 On us then who are in Christ the day has shone, and the star of the rational dawn has arisen, possessing as we do a correct and blameless knowledge of Him: for He has Himself put into our mind and heart divine knowledge, being the Saviour and Lord of all; by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |398
THIS HOMILY IS FIT TO BE READ IN A TIME OF STRUGGLE AND PERSECUTION FOR FAITH IN GOD.
12:4-7. And I say unto you, My friends, Fear not them that kill the body, and afterwards have nothing more to do. But I will show you Whom you shall fear: fear Him Who after He has killed has power to cast into hell: yea, I say unto you, fear Him. Are not five sparrows sold for two halfpence; and not one of them is forgotten before God. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not: you are of more value than many sparrows.
PATIENCE, and an enduring and courageous mind, form the impenetrable armour of the saints: for they render them approved and resplendent with the praises of piety. For one also of the holy apostles thus spake, at one time; "In patience possess you your souls:" at another; "You have need of patience, that by doing the will of God, you may receive the promise." By such manly virtues we become famous, and praiseworthy, and renowned among men everywhere, and worthy of honours and the blessings that are prepared for the saints: even those which "eye has not seen, nor ear heard," as wise Paul says. And how must not those things be worth the gaining and admirable, which surpass our understanding and reason? And therefore, as I said, He prepares those who love Him for spiritual fortitude, thus speaking; "I say unto you, My friends."
His present discourse therefore does not, as it seems, belong to every one absolutely: but, on the contrary, to those only who evidently love Him with all their heart, and can fitly say; "Who shall separate me from the love of Christ? shall |399 tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" For those who have as yet no sure and certain and well-founded love of Him, as long as they live in tranquil times, may indeed possibly preserve their faith in Him: but if distress or persecution harass them a little, they turn away and forsake Him, losing, together with their faith, that which stirred them up to love Him. For just as young plants, which have lately sprung up, cannot endure the violence of too tempestuous a wind, because they have not as yet struck their roots deep; while those which are firmly fixed, and well rooted, remain secure in the ground, even though a gale of fierce winds shake them: so those whose mind is not yet firmly and securely fixed upon Him are very easily drawn aside, and readily desert; while those who have stored up and possais in mind and heart a secure and unwavering love of Him, are unalterable in mind, and unwavering in heart, being superior to all indolence, and looking with contempt upon the most intolerable dangers, and making a mock at terrors, so as even to ridicule the violence of death. The commandment therefore so to act belongs to those who love Him.
But who are those who love Him? They are, so to speak, such as are like-minded with Him, and anxious to follow in His footsteps. And to this His disciple encourages us by saying; "Forasmuch then as Christ has suffered for us in the flesh, do you for His sake arm yourselves with the same mind." He laid down His life for us, and was "among the dead as one free." For death did not attack Him, as it attacks us, because of sin: for He was and is far removed from all sin, and incapable of iniquity: but of His own will He endured it for our sakes, because of His boundless love toward us. For listen to Him as He plainly says; "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." And how then is it not a most base thing not to return to Christ, as a most necessary debt, that which we have received of Him? |400 And, to put it in another light; as being His friends, we ought not to fear death, but rather imitate the faith of the holy fathers. The patriarch Abraham, when tempted, offered his only-begotten son Isaac, "accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead." What terror of death, therefore, can assail us, now that "Life has abolished death?" for Christ is "the Resurrection and the Life."
And this too we must bear in mind, that the crowns are to be won by labour. It is strong exertion united with skill that perfects those mighty athletes in the games. It is courage and a brave mind that are most serviceable to those who are skilled in battles: while the man who throws away his shield is ridiculed even by the foe: and if the runaway live, he leads a life of disgrace. But he who was steadfast in the battle, and stood stoutly and courageously with all his might against the enemy, is honoured if he win the victory; and if he fall, is looked upon with admiration. And so ought we to reckon for ourselves; for to endure patiently, and maintain the conflict with courage, brings with it great reward, and is highly desirable, and wins for us the blessings bestowed by God: while to refuse to suffer death in the flesh for the love of Christ, brings upon us lasting, or rather never-ending punishment. For the wrath of man reaches at most to the body, and the death of the flesh is the utmost that they can contrive against us: but when God punishes, the loss reaches not to the flesh alone;----how could it?----but the wretched soul also is cast alone; with it into torments. Let our lot therefore rather be the honoured death; for it makes us mount up to the commencement of an eternal life, to which of necessity are attached those blessings also which come from the divine bounty: and let us flee from and despise a life of shame; a life accursed, and of short duration, and which leads down to bitter and everlasting torment.
And to bestow yet another means of succour upon our minds, He forcibly added; "that five sparrows are scarcely perhaps worth two halfpence, and yet not one of them is forgotten before God." And further, He said; "that also the |401 separate hairs of your head are all numbered." Consider, therefore, how great care He takes of those that love Him. For if the Preserver of the universe extends His aid to things thus worthless, and descends, so to speak, to the smallest animals, how can He forget those who love Him, especially when He takes so great care of them, and deigns so to visit them, as to know exactly each particular of their state, and even how many are the hairs of their head?
Where, then, is the vain and senseless babbling of heathen boasting? "Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For some of them entirely deny the providence of God: while others make it reach down as far only as the moon, and set bounds to it, as though they had had this authority committed to them. Unto such we would say: Is the providence of God too weak to reach down to that which is below, and even as far as unto us, or is the Creator of all too weary to see what we do? If then they say that it is too weak, this is mere stupidity, and nothing else. But if they represent the divine nature as subject to indolence, they make it thereby liable also to envy. And this again is blasphemy, and a crime than which none is greater. But they answer, it is giving trouble to the divine and supreme will to impose upon it the care of all these earthly matters. They know not how great is that nature which the mind cannot understand nor speech describe, and which rules over all. For to it all things are small: and so the blessed prophet Isaiah teaches us where he says; "If it is true that all the nations are as a drop from a cask, and are reckoned as the turn of a balance, and shall be counted as spittle, to what have you likened the Lord?" For what is one drop from a cask? and what is the turn of a balance? and what too is spittle?----that is, a single expectoration? If therefore this be the position of all things towards God, how can it be a great matter to Him, or one that occasions Him trouble, to have the care of all things? The noxious sentiments therefore of the heathen are bereft of reason.
Let us therefore not doubt but that with rich hand He will bestow His grace upon those who love Him. For either He |402 will not permit us to fall into temptation: or if, by His wise purpose, He permit us to be taken in the snare, in order that we may gain glory by suffering. He will most assuredly grant us the power to bear it. And of this the blessed Paul is our witness, who says; "God is powerful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able, but will with the temptation also make a way of egress, that you may be able to bear it." For He Who is the Saviour and Lord of us all, is the Lord of powers: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |403
THIS HOMILY ALSO IS FIT TO BE READ IN A TIME OF STRUGGLE AND PERSECUTION FOR FAITH IN GOD.
12:8-10. And I say unto you, that whosoever shall confess Me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God. But he that shall deny Me before men, shall be denied before the angels of God. And whosoever shall speak a word against the son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him.
HERE too, you who love to hear, replenish yourselves with the words of holiness: receive within you the knowledge of the sacred doctrines, that advancing prosperously in the faith, you may obtain the crown of love and steadfastness in Christ. For He bestows it, not upon those whose heart is faint and easily shaken, but rather on those who can with fitness say; "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." For those who live holily, live unto Christ; and those, who for piety towards Him, endure dangers, gain the life incorruptible, being crowned by His decree before the judgment seat of God. And this He teaches us, saying; "Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God,"
It is then a thing above all others worthy of our attention to see who it is that confesses Christ, and in what way one may rightly and blamelessly confess Him. Most wise Paul, therefore writes to us, "Say not in yours heart, Who shall ascend unto heaven? that is to bring Christ down: or who shall descend into the deep? that is, to bring Christ up from the dead. But what says the Scripture? The Word is nigh you, in your mouth and in your heart; that is, the Word of faith which we preach: because if you shall say with your mouth that Jesus is the Lord, and shall believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall live. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth |404 confession is made unto salvation." In which words the mystery of Christ is most excellently explained. For first of all it is our duty to confess that the Son, Who sprang from God the Father, and Who is the Only-begotten of His substance, even God the Word, is Lord of all: not as one on whom lordship has been bestowed from without, and by imputation, but as being by nature and in truth Lord, as the Father also is. And next we must believe, that " God raised Him from the dead," that is, when having become man, He had suffered in the flesh for our sakes: for so He arose from the dead. The Son therefore is, as I said, Lord; yet must He not be reckoned with those other lords, to whom the name of lordship is given and imputed: for He alone, as I said, is Lord by nature, being God the Word, Who transcends every created thing. And this the wise Paul teaches us saying; "That though there be in heaven or in earth certain Gods many, and Lordships many: yet to us there is one God the Father, from Whom is everything and we from Him: and one Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom is everything and we by Him." But even though there be but one God, Whose name is the Father; and one Lord, Who is the Son; yet neither is the Father put aside from being Lord, by reason of His being God by nature: nor docs the Son cease from being God, because He is Lord by nature. For perfect freedom is the attribute of the divine and supreme substance only, and to be entirely separate from the yoke of servitude: or rather, to have the creation put in subjection under Its feet. And therefore, though the Only-begotten Word of God became like unto us, and, as for as regarded the measure of the human nature, was placed under the yoke of slavery:----for He purposely paid the Jewish tax-gatherers the two drachms according to the law of Moses; ----yet He did not conceal the splendour of the glory that dwelt in Him. For He asked the blessed Peter; "The kings of the earth, of whom do they receive tribute and poll-tax; of their own children, or of strangers? And when he had said, Of strangers: Then, said He, are the children free." The Son therefore is in His own nature Lord as being free: as the wise Paul has again taught us, thus writing: "But we all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same likeness, from glory to glory, as by |405 the Lord, the Spirit." "Now the Spirit is the Lord: but where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." Observe therefore how he affirms that the Spirit is Lord: not as possessed of sonship; for He is the Spirit, and not the Son; but as being co-essential with the Son, Who is Lord and free, and proved by this natural equality with Him to possess that freedom which befits God.
Whosoever therefore confesses Christ before men, as God and Lord, shall be acknowledged by Him before the angels of God. But where and how? Evidently at that time, when He shall descend from heaven in the glory of His Father with the holy angels at the end of this world: then shall He crown His true confessor, who possessed an unwavering and genuine faith, and so made profession. There also shall the company of the holy martyrs shine, who endured the conflict even unto life and blood, and honoured Christ by their patient endurance: for they denied not the Saviour, nor was His glory unknown to them, but they kept their fealty to Him. Such shall be praised by the holy angels; and shall themselves glorify Christ the Saviour of all, for bestowing upon the saints those honours which especially are their due. And so the Psalmist also declares, "And the heavens shall declare His righteousness; because God is judge." And such then shall be the lot of those who confess Him.
But the rest, those who denied and despised him, shall be denied: when the Judge shall say to them that, as it were, which was spoken by the holy prophets to certain of old; "As you have done, it shall be done unto you; and your requital shall be requited upon yours own head;" and shall deny them in these words: "Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity, I know you not." And who then are they that shall be denied? First of all, those who when persecution was pressing upon them, and tribulation had overtaken them, deserted the faith. The hope of such shall depart utterly from its very root: for such no human words can suffice; for wrath and judgment and the unappeasable fire shall receive them.
And in like manner both the followers and teachers of heresy deny him. For they venture to say that the Only-begotten Word of God is not by nature and in truth God; and they |406 traduce His ineffable generation, by saying that He is not of the substance of the Father: yes rather, they count among things created Him Who is the Creator of all, and wickedly class with those who are under the yoke Him Who is Lord of all; although Paul affirms, that we must say that "Jesus is Lord."
The disciples also of the vain babbling of Nestorius deny Him by acknowledging two sons, one false, and one true; the true one, the Word of God the Father: the false one, to whom the honour and name of a son belongs by imputation only, who in their phrase is the son only, and sprung from the seed of the blessed David, according to the flesh. Most heavy is the judgment of these also; for they have denied "the Lord Who bought them." They have not understood the mystery of His dispensation in the flesh: for "there is one Lord, one faith," as it is written. For we do not believe in a man and a God, but in one Lord, the Word Who is from God the Father, Who became man, and took upon Him our flesh. And thus then these also are numbered among those Who deny Him.
And that blasphemy is a most wicked crime for men to commit, He has further taught us by saying, "that whosoever shall speak a word against the son of man", it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven." And in what way is this too to be understood? Now if the Saviour means this, that if any scornful word be used by any one of us towards some more man, he will obtain forgiveness if he repent, the matter is free from all difficulty. For as God is by nature good, He will free from blame all those who repent. But if the declaration |407 has reference to Christ himself, the Saviour of all, how can he he innocent, or secure from condemnation, who has spoken against Him? What then we say is this; that whenever any one, who has not yet learnt the meaning of His mystery, nor understood that being by nature God, He humbled Himself to our estate, and became man, speaks anything against Him, blasphemous to a certain extent, but yet not so wicked as to pass forgiveness, such things God will pardon in those who have sinned from ignorance. And to explain my meaning by an example; Christ somewhere said, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven, and gives life to the world." Because therefore some did not know His glory, but thought that he was a mere man, they said, "Is not this the carpenter's son, Whose father and mother we know? How does He now say that I came down from heaven?" And again, He was once standing teaching in a synagogue, and was wondered at by them all. But some, it tells us, said, "How knows this man learning, having never been taught?" For of course they knew not that "in Him are all the treasures of wisdom, and the hidden things of knowledge." Such things might well be forgiven, as being spoken inconsiderately from ignorance.
But for those who have blasphemed the Godhead itself, condemnation is inevitable, and the punishment eternal both in this world and in that which is to come.
For by the Spirit He here means not only the Holy Spirit, but also the whole nature of the Godhead, as understood (to consist) in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And the Saviour Himself also somewhere said, "God is a Spirit." Blasphemy therefore against the Spirit, is against the whole supreme substance: for as I said, the nature of the Deity, as offered to our understanding in the holy and adorable Trinity, is one.
Let us therefore, as the writer of the book of Proverbs says, "put a door and a bar to the tongue," and draw near to the God over all, thus saying, "Set a watch, O Lord, upon my mouth; and a door of safety about my lips; incline not my heart to wicked words;" for those are wicked words which are against God. And if thus we rightly fear Him, Christ |408 will bless us: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.
1. a A folium in the Syriac has perished, of which Mai has recovered but one sentence, the Catenae seldom preserving the Exordia of these discourses. Of the next folium lost most has been preserved.
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2008. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using unicode.
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