Chrysostom on 2Cor 800
800 even as we obtained mercy we faint not, but we have renounced the hidden things of shame. (2Co 4,1-7)
Seeing he had uttered great things and had set himself and all the faithful before Moses, aware of the height and greatness of what he had said, observe how he moderates his tone again. For it was necessary on account of the false Apostles to exalt his hearers also, and again to calm down that swelling; yet not to do it away, since this would be a trifler’s part. Wherefore he manages this in another manner, by showing that not of their own merits was it, but all of the loving-kindness of God. Wherefore also he says, “Therefore seeing we have this ministry.” For nothing more did we contribute, except that we became ministers, and made ourselves subservient to the things given by God. Wherefore he said not ‘largess,’ nor ‘supply,’ but ‘ministry.’ Nor was he contented with this even, but added, “as we obtained mercy.” For even this itself, he saith, the ministering to these things, is of mercy and loving-kindness. Yet it is mercy’s to deliver from evils, not to give so many good things besides: but the mercy of God includes this also.
“We faint not.” And this indeed is to be imputed to His loving-kindness. For the clause, “as we obtained mercy,” take to be said with reference both to the “ministry,” and to the words, “we faint not.” And observe how earnestly he endeavors to lower his own things. ‘For,’ saith he, ‘that one who hath been counted worthy of such and so great things, and this from mercy only and loving-kindness, should show forth such labors, and undergo dangers, and endure temptations, is no great matter. Therefore we not only do not sink down, but we even rejoice and speak boldly.’ For instance, having said, “we faint not,” he added,
2Co 4,2. “But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully.”
And what are “the hidden things of shame?” We do not, he saith, profess and promise great things, and in our actions show other things, as they do; wherefore also he said, “Ye look on things after the outward appearance;” but such we are as we appear, not having any duplicity, nor saying and doing such things as we ought to hide and veil over with shame and blushes. And to interpret this, he added, “not walking in craftiness.” For what they considered to be praise, that he proves to be shameful and worthy of scorn. But what is, “in craftiness?” They had the reputation of taking nothing,, but they took and kept it secret; they had the character of saints and approved Apostles, but they were full of numberless evil things. But, saith he, “we have renounced” these things: (for these are what he also calls the “hidden things of shame;” being such as we appear to be, and keeping nothing veiled over. And that not in this [our] life only, but also in the Preaching itself. For this is, “nor handling the word of God deceitfully.”
“But by the manifestation of the truth.”
Not by the countenance and the outward show, but by the very proof of our actions.
“Commending ourselves to every man’s conscience.”
For not to believers only, but also to unbelievers, we are manifest; lying open unto all that they may test our actions, as they may choose; and by this we commend ourselves, not by acting a part and carrying about a specious mask. We say then, that we take nothing, and we call you for witnesses; we say that we are conscious of no wickedness, and of this again we derive the testimony from you, not as they (sc. false Apostles) who, veiling over their things, deceive many. But we both set forth our life before all men; and we lay bare the Preaching, so that all comprehend it.
[2.] Then because the unbelievers knew not its power, he added, this is no fault of ours, but of their own insensibility. Wherefore also he saith,
2Co 4,3-4. “But if our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that are lost; in whom the God of this world hath blinded the eyes of the unbelieving.”
As he said also before, “To some a savor from death unto death, to others a savor from life unto life,” (ch. 2,16). so he saith here too. But what is “the God of this world?” Those that are infected with Marcion’s notions, affirm that this is said of the Creator, the just only, and not good; for they say that there is a certain God, just and not good. But the Manichees say that the devil is here intended, desiring from this passage to introduce another creator of the world besides the True One, very senselessly. For the Scripture useth often to employ the term God, not in regard of the dignity of that so designated, but of the weakness of those in subjection to it; as when it calls Mammon lord, and the belly god. But neither is the belly therefore God, nor Mammon Lord, save only of those who bow down themselves to them. But we assert of this passage that it is spoken neither of the devil nor of another creator, but of the God of the Universe, and that it is to be read thus; “God hath blinded the minds of the unbelievers of this world.” For the world to come hath no unbelievers; but the present only. But if any one should read it even otherwise, as, for instance, “the God of this world;” neither doth this afford any handle, for this doth not show Him to be the God of this world only. For He is called “the God of Heaven,” (Ps 136,26. &c). yet is He not the God of Heaven only; and we say, ‘God of the present day;’ yet we say this not as limiting His power to it alone. And moreover He is called the “God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;” (Ex 3,6. &c). and yet He is not the God of them alone. And one may find many other like testimonies in the Scriptures. How then “hath” He “blinded” them? Not by working unto this end; away with the thought! but by suffering and allowing it. For it is usual with the Scripture so to speak, as when it saith, “God gave them up unto a reprobate mind.” For when they themselves first disbelieved, and rendered themselves unworthy to see the mysteries; He Himself also thereafter permitted it. But what did it behove Him to do? To draw them by force, and reveal to those who would not see? But so they would have despised the more, and would not have seen either. Wherefore also he added,
“That the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ should not dawn upon them.”
Not that they might disbelieve in God, but thatunbelief might not see what are the things within, as also He enjoined us, commanding not to “east the pearls before the swine.” (Mt 7,6) For had He revealed even to those who disbelieve, their disease would have been the rather aggravated. For if one compel a man laboring under ophthalmia to look at the sunbeams, he the rather increases his infirmity. Therefore the physicians even shut them up in darkness, so as not to aggravate their disorder. So then here also we must consider that these persons indeed became unbelievers of themselves, but having become so, they no longer saw the secret things of the Gospel, God thenceforth excluding its beams from them. As also he said to the disciples, “Therefore I speak unto them in proverbs, (Mt 13,13) because hearing they hear not.” But what I say may also become clearer by an example; suppose a Greek, accounting our religion to be fables. This man then, how will he be more advantaged? by going in and seeingthe mysteries, or by remaining without? Therefore he says, “That the light should not dawn upon them,” still dwelling on the history of Moses. For what happened to the Jews in his case, this happeneth to all unbelievers in the case of the Gospel. And what is that which is overshadowed, and which is not illuminated unto them? Hear him saying, “That the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ who is the Image of God, should not dawn upon them.” Namely, that the Cross is the salvation of the world, and His glory; that this Crucified One himself is about to come with much splendor; all the other things, those present, those to come, those seen, those not seen, the unspeakable splendor of the things looked for. Therefore also he said, “dawn,” that thou mayest not look for the whole here, for that which is [here] given is only, as it were, a little dawning of the Spirit. Therefore, also above as indicating this, he spoke of “savor;” (c. 2,16). and again, “earnest,” (c. 1,25). showing that the greater part remaineth there. But neverthelesss all these things have been hidden from them; but had been hidden because they disbelieved first. Then to show that they are not only ignorant of the Glory of Christ, but of the Father’s also, since they know not His, he added, “Who is the Image of God?” For do not halt at Christ only. For as by Him thou seest the Father, so if thou art ignorant of His Glory, neither wilt thou know the Father’s.
[3.] 2Co 4,5. “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”
803 And what is the nature of the connexion there? What hath this in common with what has been said? He either hints at them as exalting themselves, and persuading the disciples to name themselves after them: as he said in the former Epistle, “I am of Paul and I of Apollos;” or else another thing of the gravest character. What then is this? Seeing that they waged fierce war against them, and plotted against them on every side; ‘Is it,’ he says, ‘with us ye fight and war? [Nay but] with Him that is preached by us, “for we preach not ourselves.” I am a servant, I am [but] a minister even of those who receive the Gospel, transacting every thing for Another, and for His glory doing whatsover I do. So that in warring against me thou throwest down what is His. For so far am I from turning to my own personal advantage any part of the Gospel, that I will not refuse to be even your servant for Christ’s sake; seeing it seemed good to Him so to honor you, seeing He so loved you and did all things for you.’ Wherefore also he saith, “and ourselves your servants for Christ’s sake.” Seest thou a soul pure from glory? ‘For in truth,’ saith he, ‘we not only do not take to ourselves aught of our Master’s, but even to you we submit ourselves for His sake.’
2Co 4,6. “Seeing it is God that said, Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in your hearts.”
Seest thou how again to those who were desirous of seeing that surpassing glory, I mean that of Moses, he shows it flashing with added lustre? ‘As upon the face of Moses, so also hath it shined unto your hearts,’ he saith. And first, he puts them in mind of what was made in the beginning of the Creation, sensible light and darkness sensible, showing that this creation is greater. And where commanded He light to shine out of darkness? In the beginning and in prelude to the Creation; for, saith he, “Darkness was upon the face of the deep. And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.” (Gn 1,3) Howbeit then indeed He said, “Let it be, and it was:” but now He said nothing, but Himself became Light for us. For he said not, ‘hath also now commanded,’ but “hath” Himself “shined.” Therefore neither do we see sensible objects by the shining of this Light, but God Himself through Christ. Seest thou the invariableness in the Trinity? For of the Spirit, he says, “But we all with unveiled face reflecting in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory even as from the Lord the Spirit.” (c. iii. 18). And of the Son; “That the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, Who is the Image of God, should not dawn upon them.” (v. 4). And of the Father; “He that said Light shall shine out of darkness shined in your hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” For as when he had said, “Of the Gospel of the glory of Christ,” he added, “Who is the Image of God,” showing that they were deprived of His glory also; So after saying, “the knowledge of God,” he added, “in the face of Christ,’ to show that through Him we know the Father, even as through the Spirit also we are brought unto Him.
2Co 4,7. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves.”
For seeing he had spoken many and great things of the unspeakable glory, lest any should say, ‘And how enjoying so great a glory remain we in a mortal body?’ he saith, that this very thing is indeed the chiefest marvel and a very great example of the power of God, that an earthen vessel hath been enabled to bear so great a brightness and to keep so high a treasure. And therefore as admiring this, he said, “That the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves;” again alluding to those who gloried in themselves. For both the greatness of the things given and the weakness of them that receive show His power; in that He not only gave great things, but also to those who are little. For he used the term “earthen” in allusion to the frailty of our mortal nature, and to declare the weakness of our flesh. For it is nothing better constituted than earthenware; so is it soon damaged, and by death and disease and variations of temperature and ten thousand other things easily dissolved. And he said these things both to take down their inflation, and to show to all that none of the things we hold is human. For then is the power of God chiefly conspicuous, when by vile it worketh mighty things. Wherefore also in another place He said, “For My power is made perfect in weakness.”(2Co 12,9) And indeed in the Old [Testament] whole hosts of barbarians were turned to flight by gnats and flies, wherefore also He calleth the caterpillar His mighty force; (Jl 2,25) and in the beginning, by only confounding tongues, He put a stop to that great tower in Babylon. And in their wars too, at one time, He routed innumerable hosts by three hundred men; at another He overthrew cities by trumpets; and afterwards by a little and poor stripling, David, He turned to flight the whole army of barbarians. So then here also, sending forth twelve only He overcame the world; twelve, and those, persecuted, warred against.
[4.] Let us then be amazed at the Power of God, admire, adore it. Let us ask Jews, let us ask Greeks, who persuaded the whole world to desert from their fathers’ usages, and to go over to another way of life? The fisherman, or the tentmaker? the publican, or the unlearned and ignorant? And how can these things stand with reason, except it were Divine Power which achieveth all by their means? And what too did they say to persuade them? ‘Be baptized in the Name of The Crucified.’ Of what kind of man? One they had not seen nor looked upon. But nevertheless saying and preaching these things, they persuaded them that they who gave them oracles, and whom they had received by tradition from their forefathers, were no Gods: whilst this Christ, He Who was nailed [to the wood,] drew them all unto Himself. And yet that He was indeed crucified and buried, was manifest in a manner to all; but that He was risen again, none save a few saw. But still of this too they persuaded those who had not beheld; and not that He rose again only, but that He ascended also into Heaven, and cometh to judge quick and dead. Whence then the persuasiveness of these sayings, tell me? From nothing else than the Power of God. For, in the first place, innovation itself was offensive to all; but when too one innovates in such things, the matter becomes more grievous: when one tears up the foundations of ancient custom, when one plucks laws from their seat. And besides all this, neither did the heralds seem worthy of credit, but they were both of a nation hated amongst all men, and were timorous and ignorant. Whence then overcame they the world? Whence cast they out you, and those your forefathers who were reputed to be philosophers, along with their very gods? Is it not quite evident that it was from having God with them? For neither are these successes of human, but of some divine and unspeakable, power. ‘No,’ saith one, ‘but of witchcraft.’ Then certainly ought the power of the demons to have increased and the worship of idols to have extended. How then have they been overthrown and have vanished, and our things the reverse of these? So that from this even it is manifest that what was done was the decree of God; and not from the Preaching only, but also from the title of life itself. For when was virginity so largely planted every where in the world? when contempt of wealth, and of life, and of all things besides? For such as were wicked and wizards, would have effected nothing like this, but the contrary in all respects: whilst these introduced amongst us the life of angels; and not introduced merely, but established it in our own land, in that of the barbarians, in the very extremities of the earth. Whence it is manifest that it was the power of Christ every where that effected all, which every where shineth, and swifter than any lightning illumeth the hearts of men. All these things, then, considering, and accepting what hath been done as a clear proof of the promise of the things to come, worship with us the invincible might of The Crucified, that ye may both escape the intolerable punishments, and obtain the everlasting kingdom; of which may all we partake through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ; to Whom be glory world without end. Amen.
900 yet not straitened; perplexed, yet not unto despair; pursued, yet not forsaken. (2Co 4,8-18)
HE still dwells upon proving that the whole work is to be ascribed to the power of God, repressing the highmindedness of those that glory in themselves. ‘For not this only,’ saith he, ‘is marvelous, that we keep this treasure in earthen vessels, but that even when enduring ten thousand hardships, and battered on every side, we [still] preserve and lose it not. Yet though there were a vessel of adamant, it would neither have been strong enough to carry so vast a treasure, nor have sufficed against so many machinations; yet, as it is, it both bears it and suffers no harm, through God’s grace.’ For, “we are pressed on every side,” saith he, “but not straitened.” What is, “on every side?”
‘In respect of our foes, in respect of our friends, in respect of necessaries, in respect of other needs, by them which be hostile, by them of our own household.’ “Yet not straitened.” And see how he speaks contrarieties, that thence also he may show the strength of God. For, “we are pressed on every side, yet not straitened,” saith he; “perplexed, yet not unto despair;” that is, ‘we do not quite fall off. For we are often, indeed, wrong in our calculations, and miss our aim, yet not so as to fall away from what is set before us: for these things are permitted by God for our discipline, not for our defeat.’
2Co 4,9. “Pursued, yet not forsaken; smitten down, yet not destroyed.”For these trials do indeed befal, but not the consequences of the trials. And this indeed through the power and Grace of God. In other places indeed he says that these things were permitted in order both to their own humble-mindedness, and to the safety of others: for “that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn,”(2Co 12,6-7). he says: and again, “Lest any man should account of me above that which he seeth me to be, or heareth from me;” and in another place again, “that we should not trust in ourselves:” (2Co 1,9) here, however, that the power of God might be manifested. Seest thou how great the gain of his trials? For it both showed the power of God, and more disclosed His grace. For, saith He, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” (2Co 12,9) It also anointed them unto lowliness of mind, and prepared them for keeping down the rest, and made them to be more hardy. “For patience,” saith he, “worketh probation, and probation hope.” (Rm 5,4) For they who had fallen into ten thousand dangers and through the hope they had in God had been recovered, were taught to hold by it more and more in all things.
2Co 4,10. “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body.”
And what is the “dying of the Lord Jesus,” which they bare about? Their daily deaths by which also the resurrection was showed. ‘For if any believe not,’ he says, ‘that Jesus died and rose again, beholding us every day die and rise again, let him believe henceforward in the resurrection.’ Seest thou how he has discovered yet another reason for the trials? What then is this reason? “That his life also may be manifested in our body.” He says, ‘by snatching us out of the perils. So that this which seems a mark of weakness and destititution, this, [I say,] proclaims His resurrection. For His power had not so appeared in our suffering no unpleasantness, as it is now shown in our suffering indeed, but without being overcome.’
2Co 4,11. “For we which live are also delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in us in our mortal flesh.”
For every where when he has said any thing obscure, he interprets himself again. So he has done here also, giving a clear interpretation of this which I have cited. ‘For therefore, “we are delivered,”’ he says, ‘in other words, we bear about His dying that the power of His life may be made manifest, who permitteth not mortal flesh, though undergoing so great sufferings, to be overcome by the snowstorm of these calamities.’ And it may be taken too in another way. How? As he says in another place, “If we die with him, we shall also live with Him.” (2Tm 2,11) ‘For as we endure His dying now, and choose whilst living to die for His sake: so also will he choose, when we are dead, to beget us then unto life. For if we from life come into death, He also will from death lead us by the hand into life.’
2Co 4,12. “So then death worketh in us, but life in you.”
Speaking no more of death in the strict sense, but of trials and of rest. ‘For we indeed,’ he says, ‘are in perils and trials, but ye in rest; reaping the life which is the fruit of these perils. And we indeed endure the dangerous, but ye enjoy the good things; for ye undergo not so great trials.’
[2.] 2Co 4,13. “But having the same spirit of faith, according to that which is written, I believed, and therefore did I speak; we also believe, and therefore also we speak; that He which raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise up us also by Jesus.” (Ps 116,10)
(He has reminded us of a Psalm which abounds in heavenly wisdom, and is especially fitted to encourage in dangers. For this saying that just man uttered when he was in great dangers, and from which there was no other possibility of recovery than by the aid of God. Since then kindred circumstances are most effective in comforting, therefore he says, “having the same Spirit;” that is, ‘by the same succor by which he was saved, we also are saved; by the Spirit through which he spake, we also speak.’ Whence he shows, that between the New and Old Covenants great harmony exists, and that the same Spirit wrought in either; and that not we alone are in dangers, but all those of old were so too; and that we must find a remedy through faith and hope, and not seek at once to be released from what is laid upon us. For having showed by arguments the resurrection and the life, and that the danger was not a mark of helplessness or destitution; he thenceforward brings in faith also, and to it commits the whole. But still of this also, he furnishes a proof, the resurrection, namely, of Christ, saying, “we also believe, and therefore also we speak.” What do we believe? tell me.
2Co 4,14-15. “That He which raised up Jesus, shall raise up also, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the grace, being multiplied through the many, may cause the thanksgiving to abound unto the glory of God.”
Again, he fills them with lofty thoughts, that they may not hold themselves indebted to men, I mean to the false Apostles. For the whole is of God Who willeth to bestow upon many, so that the grace may appear the greater. For your sakes, therefore, was the resurrection and all the other things. For He did not these things for the sake of one only, but of all.
2Co 4,16. “Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.”
How does it decay? Being scourged, being persecuted, suffering ten thousand extremities. “Yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” How is it renewed? By faith, by hope, by a forward will, finally, by braving those extremities. For in proportion as the body suffers ten thousand things, in the like proportion hath the soul goodlier hopes and becometh brighter, like gold refined in the fire more and more. And see how he brings to nothing the sorrows of this present life.
2Co 4,17-18. “For the light affliction,” he saith, “which is for the moment, worketh more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.”
Having closed the question by a reference to hope, (and, as he said in his Epistle to the Romans, “We are saved by hope, but hope that is seen is not hope;” (Rm 8,24) establishing the same point here also,) he sets side by side the things present with the things to come, the momentary with the eternal, the light with the weighty, the affliction with the glory. And neither is he content with this, but he addeth another expression, doubling it and saying, “more and more exceedingly“Next he also shows the mode how so great afflictions are light. How then light? “While we look not at the things that are seen, but at the things that are not seen.” So will both this present be light and that future great, if we withdraw ourselves from the things that are seen. “For the things that are seen are temporal.” (v. 18). Therefore the afflictions are so too. “But the things that are not seen are eternal.” Therefore the crowns are so also. And he said not the afflictions are so, but “the things that are seen;” all of them, whether punishment or rest, so that we should be neither puffed up by the one nor overborne by the other. And therefore when speaking of the things to come, he said not the kingdom is eternal; but, “the things which are not seen are eternal,” whether they be a kingdom, or again punishment; so as both to alarm by the one and to encourage by the other.
[3.] Since then “the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal,” let us look to them. For what excuse even can we have, if we choose the temporal instead of the eternal? For even if the present be pleasurable, yet it is not abiding; whilst the woe it entails is abiding and irremissible. For what excuse will they have who have been counted worthy of the Spirit and have enjoyed so great a gift, if they become of grovelling mind and fall down to the earth. For I hear many saying these words worthy of all scorn, ‘Give me to-day and take tomorrow.’ ‘For,’ saith one, ‘if indeed there be such things there as ye affirm, then it is one for one; but if there be no such thing at all, then it is two for nothing.’ What can be more lawless than these words? or what more idle prating”? We are discoursing about Heaven and those unspeakable good things; and thou bringest forth unto us the terms of the race-course, yet art not ashamed nor hidest thy face, whilst uttering such things as befit maniacs? Blushest thou not that art so rivetted to the present things? Wilt thou not cease from being distraught and beside thyself, and in youth a dotard? Were Greeks indeed to talk in this way, it were no marvel: but that believers should vent such dotage, of what forgiveness doth it admit? For dost thou hold those immortal hopes in utter suspicion? Dost thou think these things to be utterly doubtful? And in what are these things deserving of pardon? ‘And who hath come,’ saith one, ‘and brought back word what is there?’ Of men indeed not any one, but God, more trustworthy than all, hath declared these things. But thou beholdest not what is there. Neither dost thou see God. Wilt thou then deny that there is a God, because thou seest Him not? ‘Yes.’ he replies, ‘I firmly believe there is a God.’ If then an infidel should ask thee, ‘And who came from Heaven and brought back word of this?’ what wilt thou answer? Whence dost thou know that there is a God? ‘From the things that are seen,’ he answers, ‘from the fair order existing through the whole creation, from its being manifest to all.’ Therefore receive also in the same way the doctrine of the judgment. ‘How?’ he asks. I will question thee, and do thou answer me. Is this God just, and will He render to each according to his deserving? or, on the contrary, doth He will the wicked should live happily and in luxury, and the good in the contrary things? ‘By no means,’ he answers, ‘for man even would not feel thus.’ Where then shall they who have done virtuously here, enjoy the things that be good in and where the wicked the opposites, except there is to be a life and retribution hereafter? Seest thou that at present it is one for one, and not two for one. But I will show thee, as I proceed, that it is not even one against one, but it shall be for the righteous two for nothing; and for the sinners and these that live here riotously, quite the contrary. For they that have lived riotously here have received not even one for one; but those who pass their life in virtue two for nothing. For who are at in rest, they that have abused this present life, or they that followed heavenly wisdom? Perhaps thou wilt say the former, but I prove it of the latter, summoning for my witnesses those very men that have enjoyed these present things; and they will not be so shameless as to deny what I am going to say. For oftentimes have they imprecated curses upon matchmakers and upon the day that their bridal chamber was wreathed, and have proclaimed them happy who have not married. Many too of the young, even when they might have married, have refused for no other reason than the trouble-someness of the thing. And this I say, not as accusing marriage; for it is “honorable;” (He 13,4) but those who have used it amiss. Now if they who have lived a married life, often considered their life not worth the living; what shall we say of those who have been swept down into whores’ deep pits, and are more slavishly and wretchedly treated than any captive? what of those who have grown rotten in luxury and have enveloped their bodies with a thousand diseases? ‘But it is a pleasure to be had in honor.’ Yea, rather, nothing is bitterer than this slavery. For he that seeketh vain honor is more servile than any slave, and desirous of pleasing any body; but he that treads it under foot is superior to all, who careth not for the glory that cometh from others. ‘But the possession of wealth is desirable.’ Yet we have often shown that they who are loose from it and have nothing, enjoy greater riches and repose. ‘But to be drunken is pleasant.’ But who will say this? Surely then if to be without riches is pleasanter than to have them, and not to marry than to marry, and not to seek vainglory than to seek it, and not to live luxuriously than to live so; even in this world they who are not riveted to those present things have the advantage. And as yet I say not how that the former, even though he be racked with ten thousand tortures, hath that good hope to carry him through: whilst the latter, even though he is in the enjoyment of a thousand delights, hath the fear of the future disquieting and confounding his pleasure. For this, too, is no light sort of punishment; nor therefore the contrary, of enjoyment and repose. And besides these there is a third sort. And what is this? In that the things of worldly delight do not even whilst they are present appear such, being refuted both by nature and time; but the others not only are, but also abide immovable. Seest thou that we shall be able to put not two for nothing only, but three even, and five, and ten, and twenty, and ten thousand for nothing? But that thou mayest learn this same truth by an example also,—the rich man and Lazarus,—the one enjoyed the things present, the other those to come. (Lc 16,19. &c). Seems it then to thee to be one and one, to be punishedthroughout all time, and to be an hungered for a little season? to be diseased in thycorruptible body, and to scorch” miserably in an undying one? to be crowned and live in undying delights after that little sickness, and to be endlessly tormented after that short enjoyment of his goods. And who will say this? For what wilt thou we should compare?the quantity? the quality? the rank? the decision of God concerning each? How long will ye utter the words of beetles that are for ever wallowing. in dung! For these are not the words of reasoning men, to throw away a soul which is so precious for nothing, when there needeth little labor to receive heaven. Wilt thou that I teach thee also in another way that there is an awful tribunal there? Open the doors of thy conscience, and behold the judge that sitteth in thine heart. Now if thou condemnest thyself, although a lover of thyself, and canst not refrain from passing a righteous verdict, will not God much rather make great provision for that which is just, and pass that impartial judgment upon all; or will He permit everything to go on loosely and at random? And who will say this? No one; but both Greeks and barbarians, both poets and philosophers, yea the whole race of men in this agree with us, though differing in particulars, and affirm that there are tribunals of some sort in Hades; so manifest and uncontroverted is the thing.
[4.] ‘And wherefore,’ saith one, ‘doth he not punish here?’ That He may display that longsuffering of His, and may offer to us the salvation that cometh by repentance, and not make our race to be swept away, nor pluck away those who by an excellent change are able to be saved, before that salvation. For if he instantly punished upon the commission of sins, and destroyed, how should Paul have been saved, how should Peter, the chief teachers of the world? How should David have reaped the salvation that came by his repentance? How the Galatians? How many others? For this reason then He neither exacts the penalty from all here, (but only from some out of all,) nor yet there from all, but from one here, and from another there; that He may both rouse those who are exceedingly insensible by means of those whom He punishes, and may cause them to expect the future things by those whom He punishes not. Or seest thou not many punished here, as those, for instance, who were buried under the ruins of that tower; (Lc 13,4 and Lc 13,7) as those whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices; as those who perished by an untimely death amongst the Corinthians, because they partook unworthily of the mysteries (1Co 11,30); as Pharaoh; as those of the Jews who were slain by the barbarians; as many others, both then, and now, and continually? And yet others too, having sinned in many things, departed without suffering the penalty here; as the rich man in the story of Lazarus; as many others. (Lc 16). Now these things He does, both to arouse those who quite disbelieves in the things to come, and to make those who do believe and are careless more diligent. “For God is a righteous Judge, and strong, and longsuffering, and visits not with wrath every day.” (Ps 7,11 LXX). But if we abuse His longsuffering, there will come a time when He will no more be longsuffering even for a little, but will straightway inflict the penalty.
Let us not then, in order that for a single moment (for such is this present life) we may live luxuriously, draw on ourselves punishment through endless ages: but let us toil for a moment, that we may be crowned for ever. See ye not that even in worldly things most men act in this manner: and choose a brief toil in order to a long rest, even though the opposite falls out unto them? For in this life indeed there is an equal portion of toils and reward; yea, often, on the contrary, the toil is endless whilst the fruit is little, or not even a little; but in the case of the kingdom conversely, the labor is little whilst the pleasure is great and boundless. For consider: the husbandman wearieth himself the whole year through, and at the very end of his hope of times misses of the fruit of those many toils. The shipmaster again and the soldier, until extreme old age, are occupied with wars and labors; and oftentimes hath each of them departed, the one with the loss of his wealthy cargoes, the other, along with victory, of life itself. What excuse then shall we have, tell me, if in worldly matters indeed we prefer what is laborious in order that we may rest for a little, or not a little even; (for the hope of this is uncertain;) but in spiritual things do the converse of this and draw upon ourselves unutterable punishment for a little sloth? Wherefore I beseech you all, though late, yet still at length to recover from this frenzy. For none shall deliver us in that day; neither brother, nor father, nor child, nor friend, nor neighbor, nor any other: but if our works play us false, all will be over and we must needs perish. How many lamentations did that rich man make, and besought the Patriarch and begged that Lazarus might be sent! But hear what Abraham said unto him: “There is a gulf betwixt us and you, so that they who wish to go forth cannot pass thither.” (Lc 16,26) How many petitions did those virgins make to their fellows for a little oil! But hear what they also say; “Peradventure there will not be enough for you and for us;” (Mt 25,9) and none was able to bring them in to the bridal chamber.
Thinking then on these things let us also be careful of that which is our life. For mention what toils soever and bring forward besides what punishment soever; all these combined will be nothing in comparison of the good things to come. Instance therefore, if thou wilt, fire and steel and wild beasts, and if there be aught sorer than these; but yet these are not even a shadow compared with those torments. For these things when applied in excess become then especially light, making the release speedy; since the body sufficeth not unto intensity at once and long continuance of suffering; but both meet together, both prolongation and excess, alike in the good and the grievous. Whilst we have time then, “let us come before His presence with confession,” (Ps 95,2, LXX). that in that day we may behold Him gentle and serene, that we may escape altogether those threat-bearing Powers. Seest thou not how this world’s soldiers who perform the bidding of those in authority drag men about; how they chain, how they scourge them, how they pierce their sides, how they apply torches to their torments, how they dismember them? Yet all these things are but plays and joke unto those punishments. For these punishments are temporal; but there neither the worm dieth nor is the fire quenched: for that body of all is incorruptible, which is then to be raised up. But God grant that we may never learn these things by experience; but that these fearful things may never be nearer unto us than in the mention of them; and that we be not delivered over to those tormentors, but may be hence made wise. How many things shall we then say in accusation of ourselves! How many lamentations shall we utter! How many groans! But it will thenceforth be of no avail. For neither can sailors, when the ship hath gone to pieces and hath sunk, thereafter be of any service; nor physicians when the patient is departed; but they will often say indeed that so and so ought to have been done; but all is fruitless and in vain. For as long indeed as hopes remain from amendment, one onght both to say and do every thing: but when we have no longer any thing in our power, all being quite ruined, it is to no purpose that all is said and done. For even then Jews will then say, “Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord:” (Mt 23,39) but they will be able to reap none advantage of this crytowards escaping their punishment; for when they ought to have said it, theysaid it not. That then this be not the case with us in respect to our life, let us now and from this time reform that we may stand at the tribunal of Christ with all boldness; whereunto may all of us attain through the grace and love toward men of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father, with the Holy Spirit, be glory and might for ever and ever. Amen).
Chrysostom on 2Cor 800