Chrysostom on 1Cor 1300
1300 (For it is necessary from this point to resume our discourse:) “but ye are wise in Christ: we are weak, but ye are strong: ye have glory, but we have dishonor.” (1Co 4,10-16)
1301 Having filled his speech with much severity which conveys a sharper blow than any direct charge and having said, “Ye have reigned without us;” and “God hath set forth us last, as men doomed to death” he shows by what comes next how they are “doomed to death;” saying, We are fools, and weak, and despised, and hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place, and toil, working with our own hands:” which were very signs of genuine teachers and apostles. Whereas the others prided themselves on the things which are contrary to these, on wisdom, glory, wealth, consideration.
Desiring therefore to take down their self-conceit and to point out that in respect of these things, so far from taking credit to themselves, they ought rather to be ashamed; he first of all mocks them, saying, “Ye have reigned without us.” As if he had said, “My sentence is that the present is not a time of honor nor of glory, which kind of things you enjoy, but of persecution and insult, such as we are suffering. If however it be not so; if this rather be the time of remuneration: then as far as I see,” (but this he saith in irony,) “ye, the disciples, for your part have become no less than kings: but we the teachers and apostles, and before all entitled to receive the reward, not only have fallen very far behind you, but even, as persons doomed to death, that is, condemned convicts, spend our lives entirely in dishonors, and dangers, and hunger: yea insulted as fools, and driven about, and enduring all intolerable things.”
Now these things he said that he might hereby cause them also to consider, that they should zealously seek the condition of the Apostles; their dangers and their indignities, not their honors and glories. For these, not the other, are what the Gospel requires. But to this effect he speaks not directly, not to shew himself disagreeable to them: rather in a way characteristic of himself he takes in hand this rebuke. For if he had introduced his address in a direct manner, he would have spoken thus; “Ye err, and are beguiled, and have swerved far from the apostolical mode of instruction. For every apostle and minister of Christ ought to be esteemed a fool, ought to live in affliction and dishonor; which indeed is our state: whereas you are in the contrary case.”
But thus might his expressions have offended them yet more, as containing but praises of the Apostles; and might have made them fiercer, censured as they were for indolence and vainglory and luxuriousness. Wherefore he conducts not his statement in this way, but in another, more striking but less offensive; and this is why he proceeds with his address as follows, saying ironically, “But ye are strong and honorable;” since, if he had not used irony, he would have spoken to this effect; “It is not possible that one man should be esteemed foolish, and another wise; one strong, and another weak; the Gospel requiring both the one and the other. For if it were in the nature of things that one should be this, and another that, perchance there might be some reason in what you say. But now it is not permitted, either to be counted wise, or honorable, or to be free from dangers. If otherwise, it follows of necessity that you are preferred before us in the sight of God; you the disciples before us the teachers, and that after our endless hardships.” If this be too bad for anyone to say, it remains for you to make our condition your object.
[2.] And “let no one,” saith he, “think that I speak only of the past:”
1Co 4,11. “Even unto this present hour we both hunger and thirst and are naked.” Seest thou that all the life of Christians must be such as this; and not merely a day or two? For though the wrestler who is victorious in a single contest only, be crowned, he is not crowned again if he suffer a fall.
“And hunger;” against the luxurious. “And are buffeted;” against those who are puffed up. “And have no certain dwelling-place;” for we are driven about. “And are naked;” against the rich.
1Co 4,12. “And labor;” now against the false apostles who endure neither toil nor peril, while they themselves receive the fruits. “But not so are we,” saith he: “but together with our perils from without, we also strain ourselves to the utmost with perpetual labor. And what is still more, no one can say that we fret at these things, for the contrary is our requital to them that so deal with us: this, I say, is the main point, not our suffering evil, for that is common to all, but our suffering without despondency or vexation. But we so far from desponding are full of exultation. And a sure proof of this is our requiting with the contrary those who do us wrong.”
1302 Now as to the fact that so they did, hear what follows.
1Co 4,12-13 “Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat; we are made as the filth of the world.” This is the meaning of “fools for Christ’s sake.” For whoso suffers wrong and avenges not himself nor is vexed, is reckoned a fool by the heathen; and dishonored and weak. And in order that he might not render his speech too unpalatable by referring the sufferings he was speaking of to their city, what saith he? “We are made the filth,” not, “of your city,” but, “of the world.” And again, “the off-scouring of all men;” not of you alone, but of all. As then when he is discoursing of the providential care of Christ, letting pass the earth, the heaven, the whole creation, the Cross is what he brings forward; so also when he desires to attract them to himself hurrying by all his miracles, he speaks of his sufferings on their account. So also it is our method when we be injured by any and despised, whatsoever we have endured for them, to bring the same forward.
“The offscouring of all men, even until now.” This is a vigorous blow which he gave at the end, “of all men;” “not of the persecutors only,” saith he, “but of those also for whom we suffer these things: Oh greatly am I obliged to them.” It is the expression of one seriously concerned; not in pain himself, but desiring to make them feel, (plhxai)that he who hath innumerable complaints to make should even salute them. And therefore did Christ command us to bear insults meekly that we might both exercise ourselves in a high strain of virtue, and put the other party to the more shame. For that effect one produces not so well by reproach as by silence,
1Co 4,14 [3.] Then since he saw that the blow could not well be borne, he speedily heals it; saying, “I write not these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” “For not as abashing you,” saith he, “do I speak these things.” The very thing which by his words he had done, this he says he had not done: rather he allows that he had done it, not however with an evil and spiteful mind. Why, this mode of soothing is the very best, if we should say what we have to say and add the apology from our motive. For not to speak was impossible, since they would have remained uncorrected: on the other hand, after he had spoken, to leave the wound untended, were hard. Wherefore along with his severity he apologizes: for this so far from destroying the effect of the knife, rather makes it sink deeper in, while it moderates the full pain of the wound. Since when a man is told that not in reproach but in love are these things said, he the more readily receives correction.
However, even here also is great severity, and a strong appeal to their sense of shame,(entroph) in that he said not, “As a master” nor yet “asan apostle,” nor yet “as having you for my disciples; (which had well suited his claims on them;) but, “as my beloved childrenadmonish you. And not simply, children; but, “longed after.” “Forgive me,” saithhe. “If anything disagreeable has been said,it all proceeds of love.” And he said not, “Irebuke” but “I admonish.” Now, who would not bear with a father in grief, and in the act of giving good advice? Wherefore he did not say this before, but after he had given theblow.
“What then?” some might say; “Do not other teachers spare us?” “I say not so, but, they carry not their forbearance so far.” This however he spake not out at once, but by their professions and titles gave indication of it; “Tutor” and “Father” being the terms which he employs.
1Co 4,15 [4.] “For though,” saith he, “ye have ten thousand tutors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers.” He is not here setting forth his dignity, but the exceeding greatness of his love. Thus neither did he wound the other teachers: since he adds the clause, “in Christ:” but rather soothed them, designating not as parasites but as tutors those among them who were zealous and patient of labor: and also manifested his own anxious care of them. On this account he said not, “Yet not many masters,” but, “not many fathers.” So little was it his object to set down any name of dignity, or to argue that of him they had received the greater benefit: but granting to the others the great pains they had taken for the Corinthians, (for that is the force of the word Tutor,)the superiority in love he reserves for his own portion: for that again is the force of the word Father.
And he saith not merely, No one loves you so much; a statement which admired not of beingcalled in question; but he also brings forward areal fact. What then is this? “For in Christ Jesus I begat you through the Gospel. In Christ Jesus.” Not unto myself do I impute this. Again, he strikes at those who gave theirown names to their teaching. For “ye,” saith he, “are the seal of mine Apostleship.” And again, “I planted:” and in this place, “I begat.” He said not, “I preached the word,” but, “I begat;” using the words of natural relationship. (toi" th" fusew" onomasi) For his one care at the moment was, to shew forth the love which he had for them. “For they indeed received you from me, and led you on; but that you are believers at all came to pass through me.” Thus, because he had said, “as children;” lest you should suppose that the expression was flattery he produces also the matter of fact.
1Co 4,16 [5.] “I beseech you, be ye imitators of me, as I also am of Christ.” (kaqwskagw Xristou, omitted in our version: the Vulgate has it, see c. 11,1). Astonishing! How great is our teacher’s boldness of speech! How highly finished the image, when he can even exhort others hereunto! Not that in self-exaltation he doth so, but implying that virtue is an easy thing. As if he had said, “Tell me not, ‘I am not able to imitate thee. Thou art a Teacher, and a great one.’ For the difference between me and you is not so great as between Christ and me: and yet I have imitated Him.”
1303 On the other hand, writing to the Ephesians, he interposes no mention of himself, but leads them all straight to the one point, “Be ye imitators of God,” is his word. (Ep 5,1) But in this place, since his discourse was addressed to weak persons, he puts himself in by the way.
And besides, too, he signifies that it is possible even thus to imitate Christ. For he who copies the perfect impression of the seal, copies the original model.
Let us see then in what way he followed Christ: for this imitation needs not time and art, but a steady purpose alone. Thus if we go into the study of a painter, we shall not be able to copy the portrait, though we see it ten thousand times. But to copy him we are enabled by hearing alone. Will ye then that we bring the tablet before you and sketch out for you Paul’s manner of life? Well, let it be produced, that picture far brighter than all the images of Emperors: for its material is not boards glued together, nor canvass stretched out; but the material is the work of God: being as it is a soul and a body: a soul, the work of God, not of men; and a body again in like wise.
Did you utter applause here? Nay, not here is the time for plaudits; but in what follows: for applauding, I say, and for imitating too: for so far we have but the material which is common to all without exception: inasmuch as soul differs not from soul in regard of its being a soul: but the purpose of heart shews the difference. For as one body differs not from another in so far as it is a body, but Paul’s body is like every one’s else, only dangers make one body more brilliant than another: just so is it in the case of the soul also.
[6.] Suppose then our tablet to be the soul of Paul: this tablet was lately lying covered with soot, full of spider’s webs; (for nothing can be worse than blasphemy;) but when He:came who transformeth all things, and saw that not through indolence or sluggishness were his lines so drawn but through inexperience and his not having the tints (ta anqh) of true piety: (for zeal indeed he had, but the colors were not there; for he had not “the zeal according to knowledge:”) He gives him the tint of the truth, that is, grace: and in a moment he exhibited the imperial image. For having got the colors and learnt what he was ignorant of, he waited no time, but forthwith appeared a most excellent artist. And first he shews the head of the king, preaching Christ; then also the remainder of the body; the body of a perfect Christian life. Now painters we know shut themselves up and execute all their works with great nicety and in quiet; not opening the doors to any one: but this man, setting forth his tablet in the view of the world, in the midst of universal opposition, clamor, disturbance, did under such circumstances work out this Royal Image, and was not hindered. And therefore he said, “We are made a spectacle unto the world;” in the midst of earth, and sea, and the heaven, and the whole habitable globe, and the world both material and intellectual, he was drawing that portrait of his.
Would you like to see the other parts also thereof from the head downwards? Or will ye that from below we carry our description upwards? Contemplate then a statue of gold or rather of something more costly than gold, and such as might stand in heaven; not fixed with lead nor placed in one spot, but hurrying from Jerusalem even unto Illyricum, (Rm 15,19) and setting forth into Spain, and borne as it were on wings over every part of the world. For what could be more “beautiful” than these “feet” which visited the whole earth under the sun? This same “beauty” the prophet also from of old proclaimeth, saying, (Is 52,7) “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace!” Hast thou seen how fair are the feet? Wilt thou see the bosom too? Come, let me shew thee this also, and thou shalt behold it far more splendid than these beautiful, yea even than the bosom itself of the ancient lawgiver. For Moses indeed carried tablets of stone: but this man within him had Christ Himself: it was the very image of the King which he bore.
1304 For this cause he was more awful than the Mercy Seat and the Cherubim. For no such voice went out from them as from hence; but from them it talked with men chiefly about things of sense, from the tongue of Paul on the other hand about the things above the heavens. Again, from the Mercy Seat it spake oracles to the Jews alone; but from hence to the whole world: and there it was by things without life; but here by a soul instinct with virtue.
This Mercy Seat was brighter even than heaven, not shining forth with variety of stars nor with rays from the sun, but the very Sun of righteousness was there, and from hence He sent forth His rays. Again, from time to time in this our heaven, any cloud coursing over at times makes it gloomy; but that bosom never had any such storm sweeping across it. Or rather there did sweep over it many storms and oft: but the light they darkened not; rather in the midst of the temptation and dangers the light shone out. Wherefore also he himself when bound with his chain kept exclaiming, (2Tm 2,9) “The word of God is not bound.” Thus continually by means of that tongue was It sending forth its rays. And no fear, no danger made that bosom gloomy. Perhaps the bosom seems to outdo the feet; however, both they as feet are beautiful, and this as a bosom.
Wilt thou see also the belly with its proper beauty? Hear what he saith about it, (ch. 8,13). “If meat make my brother to stumble, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth: (Rm 14,21) It is good neither to eat flesh nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak: (ch. 6,13) Meats for the belly and the belly for meats.” What can be more beautiful in its kind than this belly thus instructed to be quiet, and taught all temperance, and knowing how both to hunger and be famished, and also to suffer thirst? For as a well-trained horse with a golden bridle, so also did this walk with measured paces, having vanquished the necessity of nature. For it was Christ walking in it. Now this being so temperate, it is quite plain that the whole body of vice besides was done away.
Wouldst thou see the hands too? those which he now hath? Or wouldest thou rather behold first their former wickedness? (Ac 8,3) “Entering (this very man) into the houses, he haled,” of late, “men and women,” with the hands not of man, but of some fierce wild beast. But as soon as he had received the colors of the Truth and the spiritual experience, no longer were these the hands of a man, but spiritual; day by day being bound with chains. And they never struck any one, but they were stricken times without number. Once even a viper (Ac 28,3 and Ac 28,5) reverenced those hands: for they were the hands of a human being no longer; and therefore it did not even fasten on them.
And wilt thou see also the back, resembling as it does the other members? Hear what he saith about this also. (2Co 11,24-25) “Five times I received of the Jews forty stripes save one; thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep.”
[7.] But lest we too should fall into an interminable deep, and be carried away far and wide, going over each of his members severally; come let us quit the body and look at another sort of beauty, that, namely, which proceeds from his garments; to which even devils shewed reverence; and therefore both they made off, and diseases took flight. And wheresoever Paul happened to shew himself, they all retired and got out of the way, as if the champion of the whole world had appeared. And as they who have been often wounded in war, should they see but some part of the armor of him thai wounded them feel a shuddering; much in the same way the devils also, at sight of “handkerchiefs” only were astonied. Where be now the rich, and they that have high thoughts about wealth? Where they who count over their own titles and their costly robes? With these things if they compare themselves, it will be clay in their sight and dirt, all they have of their own. And why speak I of garments and golden ornaments? Why, if one would grant me the whole world in possession, the mere nail of Paul I should esteem more powerful than all that dominion: his poverty than all luxury: his dishonor, than all glory: his nakedness than all riches: no security would I compare with the buffering of that sacred head: no diadem, with the stones to which he was a mark. This crown let us long for, beloved: and if persecution be not now, let us mean while prepare ourselves. For neither was he of whom we speak glorious by persecutions alone: for he said also, (1Co 9,27upopiezw rec. text, upwpiazw) “Ikeep under my body;” now in this one may attain excellence without persecutions. And he exhorted not to (Rm 13,14) “make provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.” And again, (1Tm 6,8) “Having food and covering, let us be therewith content.” For to these purposes we have no need of persecutions. And the wealthy too he sought to moderate, saying, (Ac 9). “They that desire to be rich fall into temptation.”
If therefore we also thus exercise ourselves, when we enter into the contest we shall be crowned: and though there be no persecution before us, we shall receive for these things many rewards. But if we pamper the body and live the life of a swine, even in peace we shall often sin and bear shame.
Seest thou not with whom we wrestle? With the incorporeal powers. How then, being ourselves flesh, are we to get the better of these? For if wrestling with men one have need to be temperate in diet, much more with evil spirits. But when together with fulness of flesh we are also bound down to wealth, whence are we to overcome our antagonists? For wealth is a chain, a grievous chain, to those who know not how to use it; a tyrant savage and in human, imposing all his commands by way of outrage on those who serve him. Howbeit, if we will, this bitter tyranny we shall depose from its throne, and make it yield to us, instead of commanding. How then shall this be? By distributing our wealth unto all. For so long as it stands against us, each single handed, like any robber in a wilderness it works all its bad ends: but when we bring it forth among others, it will master us no more, holden as it will be in chains, on all sides, by all men.
1305 [8.] And these things I say, not because riches are a sin: the sin is in not distributing them to the poor, and in the wrong use of them. For God made nothing evil but all things very good; so that riches too are good; i.e. if they do not master their owners; if the wants of our neighbors be done away by them. For neither is that light good which instead of dissipating darkness rather makes it intense: nor should I call that wealth, which instead of doing away poverty rather increases it. For the rich man seeks not to take from others but to help others: but he that seeks to receive from others is no longer rich, but is emphatically poor. So that it is not riches that are an evil, but the needy mind which turns wealth into poverty. These are more wretched than those who ask alms in the narrow streets, carrying a wallet and mutilated in body. I say, clothed in rags as they are, not so miserable as those in silks and shining garments. Those who strut in the market-place are more to be pitied than those who haunt the crossings of the streets, and enter into the courts, and cry from their cellars, and ask charity. For these for their part do utter praises to God, and speak words of mercy and a strict morality. And therefore we pity them, and stretch out the hand, and never find fault with them. But those who are rich to bad purpose; cruelty and inhumanity, ravening and satanical lust, are in the words they belch out. And therefore by all are they detested and laughed to scorn. Do but consider; which of the two among all men is reckoned disgraceful, to beg of the rich or the poor. Every one, I suppose, sees it at once:—of the poor. Now this, if you mark it, is what the rich do; for they durst not apply to those who are richer than themselves: whereas those who beg do so of the wealthy: for one beggar asks not alms of another, but of a rich man; but the rich man tears the poor in pieces.
Again tell me, which is the more dignified, to receive from those who are willing and are obliged to you, or when men are unwilling, to compel and tease them? Clearly not to trouble those who are unwilling. But this also the rich do: for the poor receive from willing hands, and such as are obliged to them; but the rich from persons unwilling and repugnant, which is an indication of greater poverty. For if no one would like so much as to go to a meal, unless the inviter were to feel obliged to the guest, how can it be honorable to take one’s share of any property by compulsion? Do We not on this account get out of the way of dogs and fly from their baying, because by their much besetting they fairly force us off? This also our rich men do.
“But, that fear should accompany the gift, is more dignified.” Nay, this is of all most disgraceful. For he who moves heaven and earth about his gains, who can be so laughed to scorn as he? For even unto dogs, not seldom, through fear, we throw whatever we had hold of. Which I ask again, is more disgraceful? that one clothed with rags should beg, or one who wears silk? Thus when a rich man pays court to old and poor persons, so as to get possession of their property, and this when there are children, what pardon can he deserve?
Further: If you will, let us examine the very words; what the rich beggars say, and what the poor· What then saith the poor man? “That he who giveth alms will never have to give by measure (metriasei perhaps corrupt: conj). peinasei, “will never hunger); that he is giving of what is God’s: that God is loving unto men, and recompenses more abundantly; all which are words of high morality, and exhortation, and counsel. For he recommends thee to look unto the Lord, and he takes away thy fear of the poverty to come. And one may perceive much instruction in the words of those who ask alms: but of what kind are those of the rich? Why, of swine, and dogs, and wolves, and all other wild beasts. For some of them discourse perpetually on banquets, and dishes, and delicacies, and wine of all sorts, and ointments, and vestures, and all the rest of that extravagance. And others about the interest of money and loans. And making out accounts and increasing the mass of debts to an intolerable amount, as if it had begun in the time of men’s fathers or grandfathers, one they rob of his house, another of his field, and another of his slave, and of all that he has. Why should one speak of their wills, which are written in blood instead of ink? For either by surrounding them with some intolerable danger, or else bewitching them with some paltry promises, whomsoever they may see in possession of some small property, those they persuade to pass by all their relations, and that oftentimes when perishing through poverty, and instead of them to enter their own names. Is there any madness and ferocity of wild beasts of any sort which these things do not throw into the shade?
[8.] Wherefore I beseech you, all such wealth as this let us flee, disgraceful as it is and in deaths abundant; and let us obtain that which is spiritual, and let us seek after the treasures in the heavens. For whoso possess these, they are the rich, they are the wealthy, both here and there enjoying things; even all things. Since whoso will be poor, according to the word of God, has all men’s houses opened to him. For unto him that for God’s sake has ceased to possess any thing, every one will contribute of his own. But whoso will hold a little with injustice, shutteth the doors of all against him. To the end, then, that we may attain both to the good things here and to those which are there, let us choose the wealth which cannot be removed, that immortal abundance: which may God grant us all to obtain, through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, &c.
1400 who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, who shall put you in remembrance of my ways which in Christ Jesus. (1Co 4,17-21)
Consider here also, I entreat, the noble soul, the soul more glowing and keener than fire: how he was indeed especially desirous to be present himself with the Corinthians, thus distempered and broken into parties. For he knew well what a help to the disciples his presence was and what a mischief his absence. And the former he declared in the Epistle to the Philippians, saying, (Ph 2,12 kai; om. in rec. text). “Not as in my presence only, but also now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” The latter he signifies in this Epistle, saying, (1Co 4,18). “Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you; but I will come.” He was urgent, it seems, and desirous to be present himself. But as this was not possible for a time, he corrects them by the promise of his appearance; and not this only, but also by the sending of his disciple. “For this,” he saith, “I have sent unto you Timothy.” “For this cause:” how is that? “Because I care for you as for children, and as having begotten you.” And the message is accompanied with a recommendation of his person: “Who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord.” Now this he said, both to shew his love of him, and to prepare them to look on him with respect. And not simply “faithful,” but, “in the Lord;” that is, in the things pertaining to the Lord. Now if in worldly things it is high praise for a man to be faithful, much more in things spiritual.
If then he was his “beloved child,” consider how great was Paul’s love, in choosing to be separated from him for the Corinthian’s sake, And if “faithful” also, he will be unexceptionable in his ministering to their affairs.
“Who shall put you in remembrance.” He said not, “shall teach,” lest they should take it ill, as being used to learn from himself. Wherefore also towards the end he saith, (1Co 16,10-11) “For he worketh the work of the Lord, as I, also do. Let no man therefore despise him.” For there was no envy among the Apostles, but they had an eye unto one thing, the edification of the Church. And if he that was employed was their inferior, they did as it were support (sunekrotoun) him with all earnestness. Wherefore neither was he contented with saying, “He shall put you in remembrance;” but purposing to cut out their envy more completely,—for Timothy was young,—with this view, I say, he adds, “my ways;” not “his,” but “mine;” that is, his methods, (ta" oikonomia"). his dangers, his customs, his laws, his ordinances, his Apostolical Canons, and all the rest. For since he had said, “We are naked, and are buffered, and have no certain dwelling place: all these things,” saith he, “he will remind you of;” and also of the laws of Christ; for destroying all heresies. Then, carrying his argument higher, he adds, “which be in Christ;” ascribing all, as was his wont, unto the Lord, and on that ground establishing the credibility of what is to follow. Wherefore he subjoins, “Even as I teach every where in every church.” “Nothing new have I spoken unto you: of these my proceedings all the other Churches are cognizant as well as you.” Further: he calls them “ways in Christ,” to shew that they have in them nothing human, and that with the aid from that source he doth all things well.
[2.] And having said these things and so soothed them, and being just about to enter on his charge against the unclean person, he again utters words full of anger; not that in himself he felt so but in order to correct them: and giving over the fornicator, he directs his discourse to the rest, as not deeming him worthy even of words from himself; just as we act in regard to our servants when they have given us great offence.
Next, after that he had said, “I send Timothy, lest they should thereupon take things too easily, mark what he saith:
1Co 4,18. “Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming unto you.” For there he glances both at them and at certain others, casting down their highmindedness: since the love of preeminence is in fault, when men abuse the absence of their teacher for their own self-will. For when he addresses himself unto the people, observe how he does it by way of appeal to their sense of shame; when unto the originators of the mischief, his manner is more vehement. Thus unto the former he saith, “We are the offscouring of all:” and soothing them he saith, “Not to shame you I write these things;” but to the latter, “Now as though I were not coming to you, some are puffed up;” shewing that their self-will argued a childish turn of mind. For so boys in the absence of their master wax more negligent.
1402 This then is one thing here indicated; and another is that his presence was sufficient for their correction. For as the presence of a lion makes all living creatures shrink away, so also does that of Paul the corrupters of the Church.
1Co 4,19. And therefore he goes on, “But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will.” Now to say this only would seem to be mere threatening. But to promise himself and demand from them the requisite proof by actions also; this was a course for a truly high spirit. Accordingly he added this too, saying,
“And I will know, not the word of them which are puffed up, but the power.” For not from any excellencies of their own but from their teacher’s absence, this self-will arose. Which again itself was a mark of a scornful mind towards him. And this is why, having said, “I have sent Timothy,” he did not at once add, “I will come;” but waited until he had brought his charge against them of being “puffed up:” after that he saith, “I will come.” Since, had he put it before the charge, it would rather have been an apology for himself as not having been deficient, instead of a threat; nor even so (outw" so the King’s M S). outo" the rec. text). would the statement have been convincing. But as it is, placing it after the accusation, he rendered himself such as they would both believe and fear.
(Mark also how solid and secure he makes his ground: for he saith not simply, “I will come:” but, “If the Lord will:” and he appoints no set time. For since he might perhaps be tardy in coming, by that uncertainty he would fain keep them anxiously engaged. And, lest they should hereupon fall back again, he added, “shortly,”
[2.] “And I will know, not the word of them that are puffed up, but the power.” He said not, “I will know not the wisdom, nor the signs,” but what? “not the word:” by the term he employs at the same time depressing the one and exalting the other. And for a while he is setting himself against the generality of them who were countenancing the fornicator. For if he were speaking of him, he would not say, “the power;” but, “the works,” the corrupt works which he did.
Now why seekest thou not after “the word?” “Not because I am wanting in word but because all our doings are ‘in power.’“As therefore in war success is not for those who talk much but those who effect much; so also in this case, not speakers, but doers have the victory. “Thou,” saith he, “art proud of this fine speaking. Well, if it were a contest and a time for orators, thou mightest reasonably be elated thereat: but if of Apostles preaching truth, and by signs confirming the same, why art thou puffed up for a thing superfluous and unreal, and to the present purpose utterly inefficient? For what could a display of words avail towards raising the dead, or expelling evil spirits, or working any other such deed of wonder? But these are what we want now, and by these our cause stands.” Whereupon also he adds,
1Co 4,20. “For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” By signs, saith he, not by fine speaking, we have prevailed: and that our teaching is divine and really announces the Kingdom of Heaven we give the greater proof, namely, our signs which we work by the power of the Spirit. If those who are now puffed up desire to be some great ones; as soon as I am come, let them shew whether they have any such power. And let me not find them sheltering themselves behind a pomp of words: for that kind of art is nothing to us.
[4.] 1Co 4,21. “What will ye? Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of meekness?”
There is much both of terror and of gentleness in this saying. For to say, “I will know,” was the language of one as yet withholding himself: but to say, “What will ye? Must I come unto you with a rod?” are the words of one thenceforth ascending the teacher’s seat, and from thence holding discourses with them and taking upon him all his authority.
What means, “with a rod?” With punishment, with vengeance: that is, I will destroy; I will strike with blindness: the kind of thing which Peter did in the case of Sapphira, and himself in the case of Elymas the sorcerer. For henceforth he no longer speaks as bringing himself into a close comparison with the other teachers, but with authority. And in the second Epistle too he appears to say the same, when he writes, “Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me.”
“Shall I come with a rod, or in love?” What then? to come with a rod, was it not an instance of love? Of love it was surely. But because through his great love he shrinks back in punishing, therefore he so expresses himself.
Further; when he spoke about punishment, he said not, “in a spirit of meekness, but, [simply,] “with a rod:” and yet of that too the Spirit was author. For there is a spirit of meekness, and a spirit of severity. He doth not, however, choose so to call it, but from its milder aspect (apo twn krhstoterwn]). And for a like reason also, God, although avenging Himself, has it often affirmed of Him that He is “gracious and long-suffering, and rich in mercy and pity:” but that He is apt to punish, once perhaps or twice, and sparingly, and that upon some urgent cause.
[5.] Consider then the wisdom of Paul; holding the authority in his own hands, he leaves both his and that in the power of others, saying. “What will ye?” “The matter is at your disposal.”
For we too have depending on us both sides of the alternative; both falling into hell, and obtaining the kingdom: since God hath so willed it. For, “behold,” saith he, “fire and water: whichever way thou wilt, thou mayest stretch forth thine hand” (Si 15,16) And, “If ye be willing, and will hearken unto me, ye shall eat the good of the land; (Is 1,19,) but if ye be not willing, the sword shall devour you.”
1403 But perhaps one will say, “I am willing; (and no one is so void of understanding as not to be willing;) but to will is not sufficient for me.” Nay, but it is sufficient, if thou be duly willing, and do the deeds of one that is willing, But as it is, thou art not greatly willing.
And let us try this in other things, if it seem good. For tell me, he that would marry a wife, is he content with wishing? By no means; but he looks out for women to advance his suit, and request friends to keep watch with him, and gets together money. Again, the merchant is not content with sitting at home and wishing, but he first hires a vessel, then selects sailors and rowers, then takes up money on interest, and is inquisitive about a market and the price of merchandise. Is it not then strange for men to shew themselves so much in earnest about earthly things, but that when they are to make a venture for heaven, they should be content with wishing only? rather I should say, not even in this do they shew themselves properly in earnest. For he that wills a thing as he ought, puts also his hand unto the means which, lead to the object of his desire. Thus, when hunger compels thee to take nourishment, thou waitest not for the viands to come unto thee of their own accord, but omittest nothing to gather victuals together. So in thirst, and cold and all other such things, thou art industrious and duly prepared to take care of the body. Now do this in respect of God’s kingdom also, and surely thou shall obtain it.
For to this end God made thee a free agent, that thou mightest not afterwards accuse God, as though some necessity had bound thee: but thou, in regard of those very things wherein thou hast been honored, dost murmur.
For in fact I have often heard people say. “But why did He then make my goodness depend on me?” Nay, but how was He to bring thee, slumbering and sleeping, and in love with all iniquity, and living delicately, and pampering thyself; how was He to bring thee up to heaven? If He had, thou wouldest not have abstained from vice. For if now, even in the face of threatening, thou dost not turn aside from thy wickedness; had he added no less than heaven as the end of thy race, when wouldest thou have ceased waxing more careless and worse by far? (keirwn pollw). pollwn Bened).
Neither again wilt thou be able to allege, He hath shewed me indeed what things were good but gave no help, for abundant also is His promise to thee of aid.
[6.] “But,” say you, “Virtue is burden”some and distasteful; while with vice great “pleasure is blended; and the one is wide and “broad, but the other strait and narrow.”
Tell me then, are they respectively such throughout, or only from the beginning? For in fact what thou here sayest, thou sayest, not intending it, in behalf of virtue; so potent a thing is truth. For suppose there were two roads, the one leading to a furnace, and the other to a Paradise; and that the one unto the furnace were broad, the other unto Paradise, narrow; which road wouldest thou take in preference? For although you may now gainsay for contradiction’s sake, yet things which are plainly allowed on all hands, however shameless, you will not be able to gainsay. Now that that way is rather to be chosen which hath its beginning difficult but not its end, I will endeavor to teach you from what is quite obvious. And, if you please, let us first take in hand the arts. For these have their beginning full of toil, but the end gainful. “But,” say you, “no one applies himself to an art without some one to compel him; for,” you add, “so long as the boy is his own master, he will choose rather to take his ease at first, and in the end to endure the evil, how great soever, than to live hardly at the outset, and afterwards reap the fruit of those labors.” Well then, to make such a choice comes of a mind left to itself, (orfanikh" dianoia") and of childish idleness: but the contrary choice, of sense and manliness. And so it is with us: were we not children in mind, we should not be like the child aforesaid, forsaken (orfanw) as he is and thoughtless, but like him that hath a father. We must cast out then our own childish mind, and not find fault with the things themselves; and we must set a charioteer over our conscience, who will not allow us to indulge our appetite, but make us run and strive mightily. For what else but absurdity is it to inure our children with pains at first unto pursuits which have laborious beginnings, but their end good and pleasant; while we ourselves in spiritual things take just the contrary turn?
And yet even in those earthly things it is not quite plain that the end will be good and pleasant: since before now untimely death, or poverty, or false accusation, or reverse of fortune, or other such things, of which there are many, have caused men after their long toil to be deprived of all its fruits. What is more, those who have such pursuits, though they succeed, it is no great gain which they will reap. For with the present life all those things are dissolved. But here, not for such fruitless and perishable things is our race, neither have we fears about the end; but greater and more secure is our hope after our departure hence. What pardon then can there be, what excuse for those who will not strip themselves for the evils to be endured for virtue’s sake?
And do they yet ask, “Wherefore is the way narrow?” Why, thou dost not deem it right that any fornicator or lewd or drunken (kai twn mequontwn] inserted from the King’s ms.) person should enter into the courts of earthly kings; and claimest thou for men to be let into heaven itself with licentiousness, and luxury, and drunkenness, and covetousness, and all mariner of iniquity? And how can these things be pardonable?
1404 [7.] “Nay,” you reply, “I say not that, but why has not virtue a “broad way?” In good truth if we be willing, its way is very easy.For whether is easier, tell me; to dig through awall and take other men’s goods and so be castinto prison; or to be content with what you have and freed from all fear? I have not however said all. For whether is easier, tell me; to steal all men’s goods and revel in few of them for a short time, and then to be racked and scourged eternally; or having lived in righteous poverty for a short time, to live ever after in delights? (For let us not enquire as yet which is the more profitable, but for the present, which is the more easy). Whether again is it pleasanter, to see a good dream and to be punished in reality; or after having had a disagreeable dream to be really in enjoyment? Of course the latter. Tell me then, In what sense dost thou call virtue harsh? I grant, it is harsh, tried by comparison with our carelessness. However, that it is really easy and smooth, hear what Christ saith, (St. Mt 11,30) “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” But if thou perceivest not the lightness, plainly it is for want of courageous zeal; since where that is, even heavy things are light; and by the same rule where it is not, even light things are heavy. For tell me, what could be sweeter and more easily obtained than the banquet of manna? Yet the Jews were discontented, though enjoying such delightful fare. What more bitter than hunger and all the other hardships which Paul endured? Yet he leaped up, and rejoiced, and said, (Col 1,24) “Now I rejoice in my sufferings.” What then is the cause? The difference of the mind. If then you frame this as it ought to be, you will see the easiness of virtue.
“What then,” say you, “does she only become such through the mind of those who pursue her?” She is such, not from their mind alone, but by nature as well. Which I thus prove: If the one had been throughout a thing painful, the other throughout of the contrary sort, then with some plausibility might some fallen persons have said that the latter was easier than the former. But if they have their beginnings, the one in hardship, the other in pleasure, but their respective ends again just opposite to these; and if those ends be both infinite, in the one the pleasure, in the other the burthen; tell me, which is the more easy to choose?
“Why then do many not choose that whichis easy?” Because some disbelieve; and others, who believe, have their judgment corrupt, and would prefer pleasure for a season to that which is everlasting. “Is not this then easy?” Not so: but this cometh of a sicksoul. And as the reason why persons in a fever long after cool drink is not upon calculation that the momentary luxury is pleasanter than being burned up from beginning to end, but because they cannot restrain their inordinate desire; so also these. Since if one brought them to their punishment at the very moment of their pleasure, assuredly they never would have chosen it. Thus you see in what sense vice is not an easy thing.
[8.] But if yon will, let us try this same point over again by an example in the proper subject matter. Tell me, for instance, which is pleasanter and easier? (only let us not take again the desire of the many for our rule in the matter; since one ought to decide, not by the sick, but by the whole; just as you might show me ten thousand men in a fever, seeking things unwholesome upon choice to suffer for it afterwards; but I should not allow such choice;) which, I repeat, brings more ease, tell me; to desire much wealth, or to be above that desire? For I, for my part, think the latter. If thou disbelieve it, let the argument be brought to the facts themselves.
Let us then suppose one man desiring much, another nothing. Which now is the better state, tell me, and which the more respectable? However, let that pass. For this is agreed upon, that the latter is a finer character than the former. And we are making no enquiry about this at present, but which lives the easier and pleasanter life? Well then: the lover of money will not enjoy even what he has: for that which he loves he cannot choose to spend; but would gladly even carve (katakoyeie) himself out, and part with his flesh rather than with his gold. But he that despises wealth, gains this the while, that he enjoys what he has quietly and with great security, and that he values himself more than it. Which then is the pleasanter; to enjoy what one has with freedom, or to live under a master, namely wealth, and not dare to touch a single thing even of one’s own? Why, it seemeth to me to be much the same as if any two men, having wives and loving them exceedingly, were not upon the same terms with them; but the one were allowed the presence and intercourse of his wife, the other not even permitted to come near his.
There is another thing which I wish to mention, indicating the pleasure of the one and the discomfort: of the other. He that is greedy of gain will never be stayed in that desire, not only because it is impossible, for him to obtain all men’s goods, but also because whatever he may have compassed, he counts himself to have nothing. But the despiser of riches will deem it all superfluous, and will not have to punish his soul with endless desires. I say, punish; for nothing so completely answers the definition of punishment as desire deprived of gratification; a thing too which especially marks his perverse mind. Look at it in this way. He that lusts after riches and hath increased his store, he is the sort of person to feel as if he had nothing. I ask then, what more complicated than this disease? And the strange thing is not this only, but that although having, he thinks he has not the very things which are in his hold, and as though he had them not he bewails himself. If he even get all men’s goods, his pain is but greater. And should he gain an hundred talents, he is vexed that he hath not received a thousand: and if he received a thousand; he is stung to the quick that it is not ten thousand: and if he receive ten thousand, he utterly bemoans himself (katakopetai) because it is not ten times as much. And the acquisition of more to him becomes so much more poverty; for the more he receives so much the more he desires. So then, the more he receives, the more he becomes poor: since whoso desires more, is more truly poor. When then he hath an hundred talents, is he not very poor? for he desires a thousand. When he hath got a thousand, then he becomes yet poorer. For it is no longer a thousand asbefore, but ten thousand that he professes himself to want. Now if you say that to wish and not to obtain is pleasure, you seem to me to be very ignorant of the nature of pleasure.
[9.] To shew that this sort of thing is not pleasure but punishment, take another case, and so let us search it out, When we are thirsty, do we not therefore feel pleasure in drinking because we quench our thirst; and is it not therefore a pleasure to drink because it relieves us from a great torment, the desire, I mean, of drinking? Every one, I suppose, can tell. But were we always to remain in such a state of desire, we should be as badly off as the rich man in the parable of Lazarus for the matter of punishment; for his punishment was just this that vehemently desiring one little drop, he obtained it not. And this very thing all covetous persons seem to me continually to stiffer, and to resemble him where he begs that he may obtain that drop, and obtains it not. For their soul is more on fire than his.
Well indeed hath one said, that all lovers of money are in a sort of dropsy; for as they, bearing much water in their bodies, are the more burnt up: so also the covetous, bearing about with them great wealth, are greedy of more. The reason is that neither do the one keep the water in the parts of the body where it should be, nor the other their desire in the limits of becoming thought.
1405 Let us then flee this strange and craving (xenhn kai kenhn): a play on the sound of the words,) disease; let us flee the root of all evils; let us flee that which is present hell; for it is a hell, the desire of these things. Only just lay open the soul of each, of him who despises wealth and of him who does not so; and you will see that the one is like the distracted, choosing neither to hear nor see any thing: the other, like a harbor free from waves: and he is the friend of all, as the other is the enemy. For whether one take any thing of his, it gives him no annoyance; or if whether, on the contrary, one give him aught, it puffs him not up; but there is a certain freedom about him with entire security. The one is forced to flatter and feign before all; the other, to no man.
If now to be fond of money is to be both poor and timid and a dissembler and a hypocrite and to be full of fears and and great penal anguish and chastisement: while he that despises wealth has all the contrary enjoyments: is it not quite plain that virtue is the more pleasant?
Now we might have gone through all the other evils also whereby it is shewn that there is no vice which hath pleasure in it, had we not spoken before so much at large.
Wherefore knowing these things, let us choose virtue; to the end that we may both enjoy such pleasure as is here, and may attain unto the blessings which are to come, through the grace and loving-kindness, &c. &c).
Chrysostom on 1Cor 1300