Chrysostom 2Tm 300
300 .— “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost Which dwelleth in us. This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: but, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.”
Not by letters alone did Paul instruct his disciple in his duty, but before by words also which he shows, both in many other passages, as where he says, “whether by word or our Epistle” (2Th 2,15)., and especially here. Let us not therefore suppose that anything relating to doctrine was spoken imperfectly. For many things he delivered to him without writing. Of these therefore he reminds him, when he says, “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me.” After the manner of artists, I have impressed on thee the image of virtue, fixing in thy soul a sort of rule, and model, and outline of all things pleasing to God. These things then hold fast, and whether thou art meditating any matter of faith or love, or of a sound mind, form from hence your ideas of them. It will not be necessary to have recourse to others for examples, when all has been deposited within thyself.
“That good thing which was committed unto thee keep,”—how?—“by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” For it is not in the power of a human soul, when instructed with things so great, to be sufficient for the keeping of them. And why? Because there are many robbers, and thick darkness, and the devil still at hand to plot against us; and we know not what is the hour, what the occasion for him to set upon us. How then, he means, shall we be sufficient for the keeping of them? “By the Holy Ghost”; that is if we have the Spirit with us, if we do not expel grace, He will stand by us. For, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” (Ps 127,1). This is our wall, this our castle, this our refuge. If therefore It dwelleth in us, and is Itself our guard, what need of the commandment? Thatwe may hold It fast, may keep It, and not banish It by our evil deeds.
Then he describes his trials and temptations, not to depress his disciple, but to elevate him, that if he should ever fall into the same, he may not think it strange, when he looks back and remembers what things happened to his Teacher. What then says he? Since it was probable that Timothy might be apprehended, and be deserted, and be relieved by no friendly attention, or influence, or assistance, but be abandoned even by his friends and the faithful themselves, hear what he says, “This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me.” It seems that there were then in Rome many persons from the regions of Asia. “But no one stood by me,” he says, no one acknowledged me, all were alienated. And observe the philosophy of his soul. He only mentions their conduct, he does not curse them, but he praises him that showed kindness to him, and invokes a thousand blessings upon him, without any curse on them. “Of whom is Phygellus and Hermogenes. The Lord give mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain. But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out diligently and found me.” Observe how he everywhere speaks of the shame, and not of the danger, lest Timothy should be alarmed. And yet it was a thing that was full of peril. For he gave offense to Nero by making friends with one of his prisoners. But when he was in Rome, he says, he not only did not shun intercourse with me, but “sought me out very diligently, and found me.”
“The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.”
Such ought the faithful to be. Neither fear, nor threats, nor disgrace, should deter them from assisting one another, standing by them and succoring them as in war. For they do not so much benefit those who are in danger, as themselves, by the service they render to them, making themselves partakers of the crowns due to them. For example, is any one of those who are devoted to God visited with affliction and distress, and maintaining the conflict with great fortitude; whilst thou art not yet brought to this conflict? It is in thy power if thou wilt, without entering into the course, to be a sharer of the crowns reserved for him, by standing by him, preparing his mind, and animating and exciting him. Hence it is that Paul elsewhere says, “Ye have done well that ye did communicate with my affliction. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.” (Ph 4,14 Ph 4,16). And how could they that were far off share in the affliction of him that was not with them? How? He says, “ye sent once and again unto my necessities.” Again he says, speaking of Epaphroditus, “Because he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, that he might supply your lack of service toward me.” (Ph 2,30). For as in the service of kings, not only those who fight the battle, but those who guard the baggage, share in the honor; and not merely so, but frequently even have an equal portion of the spoils, though they have not imbrued their hands in blood, nor stood in array, nor even seen the ranks of the enemy; so it is in these conflicts. For he who relieves the combatant, when wasted with hunger, who stands by him, encouraging him by words, and rendering him every service, he is not inferior to the combatant.
For do not suppose Paul the combatant, that irresistible and invincible one, but some one of the many, who, if he had not received much consolation and encouragement, would not perhaps have stood, would not have contended. So those who are out of the contest may perchance be the cause of victory to him, who is engaged in it, and may be partakers of the crowns reserved for the victor. And what wonder, if he who communicates to the living is thought worthy of the same rewards with those who contend, since it is possible to communicate after death even with the departed, with those who are asleep, who are already crowned, who want for nothing. For hear Paul saying, “Partaking in the memories of the Saints.” And how may this be done? When thou admirest a man, when thou doest any of those acts for which he was crowned, thou art evidently a sharer in his labors, and in his crowns.
“The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day.” He had compassion on me, he says, he shall therefore have the like return in that terrible Day, when we shall have need of much mercy. “The Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord.” Are there two Lords then? By no means. But “to us there is one Lord Christ Jesus, and one God.” (1Co 8,6). Here those who are infected with the heresy of Marcion assail this expression; but let them learn that this mode of speech is not uncommon in Scripture; as when it is said, “The Lord said unto my Lord” (Ps 110,1).; and again, “I said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord” (Ps 16,2).; and, “The Lord rained fire from the Lord.” (Gn 19,24). This indicates that the Persons are of the same substance, not that there is a distinction of nature. For we are not to understand that there are two substances differing from each other, but two Persons, each being of the same substance.
Observe too, that he says, “The Lord grant him mercy.” For as he himself had obtained mercy from Onesiphorus, so he wished him to obtain the same from God). Moral. And if Onesiphorus, who exposed himself to danger, is saved by mercy, much more are we also saved by the same. For terrible indeed, terrible is that account, and such as needs great love for mankind, that we may not hear that awful sentence, “Depart from me …I never knew you, ye that work iniquity” (Mt 7,23).; or that fearful word, “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt 25,40).: that we may not hear, “Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed” (Lc 16,16).: that we may not hear that voice full of horror, “Take him away, and cast him into outer darkness”: that we may not hear those words full of terror, “Thou wicked and slothful servant.” (Mt 22,13 Mt 25,26). For awful truly and terrible is that tribunal. And yet God is gracious and merciful. He is called a God “of mercies and a God of comfort” (2Co 1,3).; good as none else is good, and kind, and gentle, and full of pity, Who “willeth not the death of a sinner, but that he should be converted and live.” (Ez 18,24 Ez 33,11) Whence then, whence is that Day so full of agony and anguish? A stream of fire is rolling before His face. The books of our deeds are opened. The day itself is burning as an oven, the angels are flying around, and many furnaces are prepared. How then is He good and merciful, and full of lovingkindness to man? Even herein is He merciful, and He shows in these things the greatness of His lovingkindness. For He holds forth to us these terrors, that being constrained by them, we may be awakened to the desire of the kingdom.
And observe how, besides commending Onesiphorus, he specifies his kindness, “he oft refreshed me”; like a wearied wrestler overcome by heat, he refreshed and strengthened him in his tribulations. And in how many things he ministered to me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well. Not only at Ephesus, but here also he refreshed me. For such ought to be the conduct of one on the watch and awakened to good actions. not to work once, or twice, or thrice, but through the whole of life. For as our body is not fed once for all, and so provided with sustenance for a whole life, but needs also daily food, so in this too, godliness requires to be supported every day by good works. For we ourselves have need of great mercy. It is on account of our sins that God, the Friend of man, does all these things, not that He needs them Himself, but He does all for us. For therefore it is that He has revealed them all, and made them known to us, and not merely told us of them, but given us assurance of them by what He has done. Though He was worthy of credit upon His word only, that no one may think it is said hyperbolically, or in the way of threatening merely, we have further assurance by His works. How? By the punishments which He has inflicted both publicly and privately. And that thou mayest learn by the very examples, at one time he punished Pharaoh, at another time He brought a flood of water upon the earth, and that utter destruction, and again at another time a flood of fire: and even now we see in many instances the wicked suffering vengeance, and punishments, which things are figures of Hell.
For lest we should slumber and be slothful, and forget His word, He awakens our minds by deeds; showing us, even here, courts of justice, judgment seats, and trials. Is there then among men so great a regard for justice, and doth God, whose ordinance even these things are, make no account of it? Is this credible? In a house, in a market-place, there is a court of justice. The master daily sits in judgment upon his slaves, calls them to account for their offenses, punishes some and pardons others. In the country, the husbandman and his wife are daily at law. In a ship, the master is judge, and in a camp the general over his soldiers, and everywhere one may see judicial proceedings. In trades, the master judges the learner. In short all, publicly and privately, are judges to one another. In nothing is the consideration of justice overlooked, and all in every place give account of their actions. And is the inquisition for justice here thus spread through cities, through houses, and among individuals; and is there no regard for what is justice there, where “the right hand of God is full of righteousness” (Ps 48,10), and “His righteousness is as the mountains of God”? (Ps 36,6).
How is it then that God, “the righteous Judge, strong and patient” (Ps 7,11), Sept)., bears thus with men, and does not exact punishment? Here thou hast the cause, He is longsuffering, and thereby would lead thee to repentance. But if thou continuest in sin, thou “after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath.” (Rm 2,5). If then He is just, He repays according to desert, and does not overlook those who suffer wrongfully, but avenges them. For this is the part of one who is just. If He is powerful, He requites after death, and at the Resurrection: for this belongs to him who is powerful. And if because He is longsuffering He bears with men, let us not be disturbed, nor ask, why He does not prosecute vengeance here? For if this were done, the whole human race before this would have been swept away, if every day He should call us to account for our transgressions, since there is not, there is not indeed, a single day pure from sin, but in something greater or less we offend; so that we should not one of us have arrived at our twentieth year, but for His great long-suffering, and His goodness, that grants us a longer space for repentance, that we may put off our past transgressions.
Let each therefore, with an upright conscience, entering into a review of what he has done, and bringing his whole life before him, consider, whether he is not deserving of chastisements and punishments without number? And when he is indignant that some one, who has been guilty of many bad actions, escapes with impunity; let him consider his own faults, and his indignation will cease. For those crimes appear great, because they are in great and notorious matters; but if he will enquire into his own, he will perhaps find them more numerous. For to rob and to defraud is the same thing, whether it be done for gold or silver; since both proceed from the same mind. He that will steal a little would not refuse to steal much, if it fell in his way; and that it does not, is not his own choice, but an accidental circumstance. A poor man, who robs a poorer, would not hesitate to rob the rich if he could. His forbearance arises from weakness, and not from choice. Such an one, yousay, is a ruler; and takes away the property of those who are under his rule. And say, dost not thou steal? For tell me not that he steals talents, and you as many pence. In giving alms, some cast in gold, while the widow threw in two mites, yet she contributed not less than they. Wherefore? Because the intention is considered, and not the amount of the gift. And then, in the case of alms, thou wilt have God judge thus, and wouldest, because of thy poverty, receive no less a reward for giving two mites than he who lays down many talents of gold? and is not the same rule applicable to wrongful dealings? How is this consistent? As she who contributed two mites was considered equal to the greatest givers, because of her good intention, so thou, who stealest two mites, art as culpable as those mightier robbers. Nay, if I may give utterance to something strange, thou art a worse robber than they. For a man would be equally an adulterer, whether he committed the sin with the wife of a king, or of a poor man, or of a slave: since the offense is not judged by the quality of the persons, but by the wickedness of his will who commits it; so is it likewise in this case. Nay, I should call him who committed the sin with an inferior perhaps more guilty, than him who intrigued with the queen herself. For in this case, wealth, and beauty, and other attractions might be pleaded, none of which exist in the other. Therefore the other is the worse adulterer. Again, he seems to me a more determined drunkard, who commits that excess with bad wine; so he is a worse defrauder, who does not despise small thefts; for he who commits great robberies, would perhaps not stoop to petty thefts, whereas he who steals little things would never forbear greater, therefore he is the greater thief of the two. For how should he despise gold, who does not despise silver? So that when we accuse our rulers, let us recount our own faults, and we shall find ourselves more given to wrong and robbery than they; unless we judge of right and wrong rather by the act, than by the intention of the mind, as we ought to judge. If one should be convicted of having stolen the goods of a poor man, another those of a rich man, will they not both be punished alike? Is not a man equally a murderer, whether he murder a poor and deformed, or a rich and handsome, man? When therefore we say that such an one has seized upon another person’s land, let us reflect upon our own faults, and then we shall not condemn other men, but we shall admire the longsuffering of God. We shall not be indignant that judgment does not fall upon them, but we shall be more slow to commit wickedness ourselves. For when we perceive ourselves liable to the same punishment, We shall no longer feel such discontent, and shall desist from offenses, and shall obtain the good things to come, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father, &c.
400 .— “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. The husbandman that laboreth must be first partaker of the fruits. Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.”
The young sailor at sea is inspired with great confidence, if the Master of the ship has been preserved in a shipwreck. For he will not consider that it is from his inexperience that he is exposed to the storm, but from the nature of things; and this has no little effect upon his mind. In war also the Captain, who sees his General wounded and recovered again, is much encouraged. And thus it produces some consolation to the faithful, that the Apostle should have been exposed to great sufferings, and not rendered weak by the utmost of them. And had it not been so, he would not have related his sufferings. For when Timothy heard, that he who possessed so great powers, who had conquered the whole world, is a prisoner, and afflicted, yet is not impatient, nor discontented upon the desertion of his friends; he, if ever exposed to the same sufferings himself, would not consider that it proceeded from human weakness, nor from the circumstance of his being a disciple, and inferior to Paul, since his teacher too suffered the like, but that all this happened from the natural course of things. For Paul himself did this, and related what had befallen him, that he might strengthen Timothy, and renew his courage. And he shows that it was for this reason he mentioned his trials and afflictions, in that he has added, “Thou, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” What sayest thou? Thou hast shaken us with terrors, thou hast told us that thou art in chains, in afflictions, that all have forsaken thee, and, as if thou hadst said thou hadst not suffered anything, nor been abandoned by any, thou addest, “Thou therefore, my son, be strong”?—And justly too. For these things were to thy strengthening more than to his. For if I, Paul, endure these things, much more oughtest thou to bear them. If the master, much more the disciple. And this exhortation he introduces with much affection, calling him “son,” and not only so, but “my son.” If thou art a son, he means, imitate thy father. If thou art a son, be strong in consideration of the things which I have said, or rather be strong, not merely from what I have told you, but “of God.” “Be strong,” he says, “in the grace that is in Christ Jesus”; that is, “through the grace of Christ.” That is, stand firmly. Thou knowest the battle. For elsewhere he says, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood.” (Ep 6,12). And this he says not to depress but to excite them. Be sober therefore, he means, and watch have the grace of the Lord coöperating with thee, and aiding thee in thy contest, contribute thy own part with much alacrity and resolution. “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men”; to “faithful” men, not to questioners nor to reasoners, to “faithful.” How faithful? Such as betray not the Gospel they should preach. “The things which thou hast heard,” not which thou hast searched out. For “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rm 10,17). But wherefore, “among many witnesses”? As if he had said: Thou hast not heard in secret, nor apart, but in the presence of many, with all openness of speech. Nor does he say, Tell, but “commit,” as a treasure committed is deposited in safety. Again he alarms his disciple, both from things above and things below. But he says not only “commit to faithful men”; for of what advantage is it that one is faithful, if he is not able to convey his doctrine to others? when he does not indeed betray the faith; but does not render others faithful? The teacher therefore ought to have two qualities, to be both faithful, and apt to teach; wherefore he says, “who shall be able to teach others also.”
“Thou therefore endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” Oh, how great a dignity is this, to be a soldier of Jesus Christ! Observe the kings on earth, how great an honor it is esteemed to serve under them. If therefore the soldier of the king ought to endure hardness, not to endure hardness is not the part of any soldier. So that it behooves thee not to complain, if thou endurest hardness, for that is the part of a soldier; but to complain, if thou dost not endure hardness.
“No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned except he strive lawfully.”
These things are said indeed to Timothy, but through him they are addressed to every teacher and disciple. Let no one therefore of those who hold the office of a Bishop disdain to hear these things, but let him be ashamed not to do them. “If any one strive for masteries,” he says, “he is not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” What is meant by “lawfully”? It is not enough that he enters into the lists, that he is anointed, and even engages, unless he comply with all the laws of the exercise, with respect to diet, to temperance and sobriety, and all the rules of the wrestling school, unless, in short, he go through all that is befitting for a wrestler, he is not crowned. And observe the wisdom of Paul. He mentions wrestlers and soldiers, the one to prepare him for slaughter and blood, the other with reference to endurance, that he might bear everything with fortitude, and be ever in exercise.
“The husbandman that laboreth must be first partaker of the fruits.”
(He had first spoken from his own example as a teacher. He now speaks from those that are more common, as wrestlers and soldiers, and in their case he sets before him the rewards. First, that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier; secondly, that he may be crowned; now he proposes a third example that more particularly suits himself. For the instance of the soldier and the wrestler corresponds to those who are under rule, but that of the husbandman to the Teacher. (Strive) not as a soldier or a wrestler only, but as a husbandman too. The husbandman takes care not of himself alone, but of the fruits of the earth. That is, no little reward of his labors is enjoyed by the husbandman.
Here he both shows, that to God nothing is wanting, and that there is a reward for Teaching, which he shows by a common instance. As the husbandman, he says, does not labor without profit, but enjoys before others the fruits of his own toils, so is it fit that the teacher should do: either he means this, or he is speaking of the honor to be paid to teachers, but this is less consistent. For why does he not say the husbandman simply, but him “that laboreth”? not only that worketh, but that is worn with toil? And here with reference to the delay of reward, that no one may be impatient, he says, thou reapest the fruit already, or there is a reward in the labor itself. When therefore he has set before him the examples of soldiers, of wrestlers, and husbandmen, and all figuratively, “No one,” he says, “is crowned except he strive lawfully.” And having observed that “the husbandman who laboreth must first be partaker of the fruits,” he adds,
“Consider what I say, and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.”
It is on this account that he has spoken these things in proverb and parable. Then again to show his affectionate disposition, he ceases not to pray for him, as fearing for his own son, and he says,
2Tm 2,8-9. “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead, according to my Gospel. Wherein I suffer trouble as an evil-doer, even unto bonds.”
On what account is this mentioned? It is directed chiefly against the heretics, at the same time to encourage Timothy, by showing the advantage of sufferings, since Christ, our Master, Himself overcame death by suffering. Remember this, he says, and thou wilt have sufficient comfort. “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead.” For upon that point many had already begun to subvert the dispensation, being ashamed at the immensity of God’s love to mankind. For of such a nature are the benefits which God has conferred upon us, that men were ashamed to ascribe them to God, and could not believe He had so far condescended. “According to my Gospel.” Thus he everywhere speaks in his Epistles, saying “according to my Gospel,” either because they were bound to believe him, or because there were some who preached “another Gospel.” (Ga 1,6)
“Wherein I suffer trouble,” he says, “as an evil-doer, even unto bonds.” Again he introduces consolation and encouragement from himself, and he prepares his hearer’s mind with these two things; first, that he should know him to endure hardness; and, secondly, that he did not so but for a useful purpose, for in this case he will gain, in the other will even suffer harm. For what advantage is it, that you can show that a Teacher has exposed himself to hardship, but not for any useful purpose? But if it is for any benefit, if for the profit of those who are taught, then it is worthy of admiration).
“But the word of God is not bound.” That is, if we were soldiers of this world, and waged an earthly warfare, the chains that confine our hands would avail. But now God has made us such that nothing can subdue us. For our hands are bound, but not our tongue, since nothing can bind the tongue but cowardice and unbelief alone; and where these are not, though you fasten chains upon us, the preaching of the Gospel is not bound. If indeed you bind a husbandman, you prevent his sowing, for he sows with his hand: but if you bind a Teacher, you hinder not the word, for it is sown with his tongue, not with his hand. Our word therefore is not subjected to bonds. For though we are bound, that is free, and runs its course. How? Because though bound, behold, we preach. This is for the encouragement of those that are free. For if we that are bound preach, much more does it behoove you that are loose to do so. You have heard that I suffer these things, as an evil-doer. Be not dejected. For it is a great wonder, that being bound I do the work of those that are free, that being bound I overcome all, that being bound I prevail over those that bound me. For it is the word of God, not ours. Human chains cannot bind the word of God. “These things I suffer on account of the elect.”
2Tm 2,10. “Therefore I endure all things,” he says, “for the elect’s sake, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
Behold another incentive. I endure these things, he says, not for myself, but for the salvation of others. It was in my power to have lived free from danger; to have suffered none of these things, if I had consulted my own interest. On what account then do I suffer these things? For the good of others, that others may obtain eternal life. What then dost thou promise thyself? He has not said, simply on account of these particular persons; but “for the elect’s sake.” If God has chosen them, it becomes us to suffer everything for their sakes. “That they also may obtain salvation.” By saying, “they also,” he means, as well as we. For God hath chosen us also; and as God suffered for our sakes, so should we suffer for their sakes. Thus it is a matter of retribution, not of favor. On the part of God it was grace, for He having received no previous benefit, hath done us good: but on our parts it is retribution, we having previously received benefits from God, suffer for these, for whom we suffer, in order “that they may obtain salvation.” What sayest thou? What salvation? Art thou who wast not the author of salvation to thyself, but wast destroying thyself, art thou the author of salvation to others? Surely not, and therefore he adds, “salvation that is in Christ Jesus”; that which is truly salvation, “with eternal glory.” Present things are afflictive, but they are but on earth. Present things are ignominious, but they are temporary. They are full of bitterness and pain; but they last only to-day and to-morrow.
Such is not the nature of the good things, they are eternal, they are in heaven. That is true glory, this is dishonor).
Moral. For observe, I pray, beloved, that is not glory which is on earth, the true glory is in heaven. But if any one would be glorified, let him be dishonored. If he would obtain rest, let him suffer affliction. If any one would be forever illustrious, would enjoy pleasure, let him despise temporal things. And that dishonor is glory, and glory dishonor, let us now set before us to the best of our power, that we may see what is real glory. It is not possible to be glorified upon earth; if thou wouldest be glorified, it must be through dishonor. And let us prove this in the examples of two persons, Nero and Paul. The one had the glory of this world, the other the dishonor. How? The first was a tyrant, had obtained great success had raised many trophies, had wealth ever flowing in, numerous armies everywhere; he had the greater part of the world and the imperial city subject to his sway, the whole senate crouching to him, and his palace too was advancing with splendid show. When he must be armed, he went forth arrayed in gold and precious stones. When he was to sit still in peace, he sat clothed in robes of purple. He was surrounded by numerous guards and attendants. He was called Lord of land and sea, Emperor, Augustus, Caesar, King, and other such high-sounding names as implied flattery and courtship; and nothing was wanting that might tend to glory. Even wise men and potentates and sovereigns trembled at him. For beside all this, he was said to be a cruel and violent man. He even wished to be thought a god, and he despised both all the idols, and the very God Who is over all. He was worshiped as a god. What greater glory than this? Or rather what greater dishonor? For—I know not how—my tongue is carried away by the force of truth, and passes sentence before judgment. Meanwhile let us examine the matter according to the opinion of the multitude, and of unbelievers, and the estimation of flattery.
What is greater in the common estimation of glory than to be reputed a god? It is indeed a great disgrace that any human being should be so mad, but for the present let us consider the matter according to the opinion of the multitude. Nothing then was wanting to him, that contributes to human glory, but he was worshiped by all as a god. Now in opposition to him, let us consider Paul. He was a Cilician, and the difference between Rome and Cilicia, all know. He was a tent-maker, a poor man, unskilled in the wisdom of those without, knowing only the Hebrew tongue, a language despised by all, especially by the Italians. For they do not so much despise the barbarian, the Greek, or any other tongue as the Syriac, and this has affinity with the Hebrew. Nor wonder at this, for if they despised the Greek, which is so admirable and beautiful, much more the Hebrew. He was a man that often lived in hunger, often went to bed without food, a man that was naked, and had not clothes to put on; “in cold, and nakedness,” as he says of himself. (1Co 11,27). Nor was this all; but he was cast into prison at the command of Nero himself, and confined with robbers, with impostors, with gave-breakers, with murderers, and he was, as he himself says, scourged as a malefactor. Who then is the more illustrious? The name of the one the greater part have never heard of. The other is daily celebrated by Greeks, and Barbarians, and Scythians, and those who inhabit the extremities of the earth.
But let us not yet consider what is the case now, but even at that time who was the more illustrious, who the more glorious, he that was in chains, and dragged bound from prison, or he that was clothed in a purple robe, and walked forth from a palace? The prisoner certainly. For the other, who had armies at his command, and sat arrayed in purple, was not able to do what he would. But the prisoner, that was like a malefactor, and in mean attire, could do everything with more authority. How? The one said, “Do not disseminate the word of God.” The other said, “I cannot forbear; ‘the word of God is not bound.’” Thus the Cilician, the prisoner, the poor tent-maker, who lived in hunger, despised the Roman, rich as he was, and emperor, and ruling over all, who enriched so many thousands; and with all his armies he availed nothing. Who then was illustrious? who venerable? He that in chains was a conqueror, or he that in a purple robe was conquered? He that standing below, smote, or he that sitting above, was smitten? He that commanded and was despised, or he who was commanded and made no account of the commands? He who being alone was victorious, or he who with numerous armies was defeated? The king therefore so came off, that his prisoner triumphed over him. Tell me then on whose side you would be? For do not look to what comes afterwards, but to what was then their state. Would you be on the side of Nero, or of Paul? I speak not according to the estimate of faith, for that is manifest; but according to the estimate of glory, and reverence, and preëminence. Any man of right understanding would say, on the side of Paul. For if to conquer is more illustrious than to be conquered, he is more glorious. And this is not yet much, that he conquered, but that being in so mean a state he conquered one in so exalted a condition. For I say, and will not cease to repeat it, though bound with a chain, yet he smote him that was invested with a diadem.
Such is the power of Christ. The chain surpassed the kingly crown, and this apparel was shown more brilliant than that. Clothed in filthy rags, as the inhabitant of a prison, he turned all eyes upon the chains that hung on him, rather than on the purple robe. He stood on earth bound down and stooping low, and all left the tyrant mounted on a golden chariot to gaze on him. And well they might. For it was customary to see a king with white horses, but it was a strange and unwonted sight to behold a prisoner conversing with a king with as much confidence as a king would converse with a pitiful and wretched slave. The surrounding multitude were all slaves of the king, yet they admired not their lord, but him who was superior to their lord. And he before whom all feared and trembled, was trampled upon by one solitary man. See then how great was the brightness of these very chains!
And what need to mention what followed after these things? The tomb of the one is nowhere to be seen; but the other lies in the royal city itself, in greater splendor than any king, even there where he conquered, where he raised his trophy. If mention is made of the one, it is with reproach, even among his kindred, for he is said to have been profligate. But the memory of the other is everywhere accompanied with a good report, not among us only, but among his enemies. For when truth shines forth, it puts to shame even one’s enemies, and if they admire him not for his faith, yet they admire him for his boldness and his manly freedom. The one is proclaimed by all mouths, as one that is crowned, the other is loaded with reproaches and accusations. Which then is the real splendor?
And yet I am but praising the lion for his talons, when I ought to be speaking of his real honors. And what are these? Those in the heavens. How will he come in a shining vesture with the King of Heaven! How will Nero stand then, mournful and dejected! And if what I say seems to thee incredible and ridiculous, thou art ridiculous for deriding that which is no subject for laughter. For if thou disbelievest the future, be convinced from what is past. The season for being crowned is not yet come, and yet how great honor has the combatant gained! What honor then will he not obtain, when the Distributor of the prizes shall come! He was among foreigners, “a stranger and a sojourner” (He 11,13)., and thus is he admired: what good will he not enjoy, when he is amongst his own? Now “our life is hid with Christ in God” (Col 3,3); yet he who is dead worketh more and is more honored than the living. When that our life shall come, what will he not participate? What will he not attain?
On this account God made him enjoy these honors, not because he wanted them. For if when in the body he despised popular glory, much more will he despise it now that he is delivered from the body. Nor only on this account has He caused him to enjoy honor, but that those who disbelieve the future may be convinced from the present. I say that when the Resurrection shall be, Paul will come with the King of Heaven, and will enjoy infinite blessings. But the unbeliever will not be convinced. Let him believe then from the present. The tent-maker is more illustrious, more honored than the king. No emperor of Rome ever enjoyed so great honor. The emperor is cast out, and lies, no one knows where. The tent-maker occupies the midst of the city, as if he were a king, and living. From these things believe, even with respect to the future. If he enjoys so great honor here, where he was persecuted and banished, what will he not be when he shall come hereafter? If when he was a tent-maker, he was so illustrious, what will he be when he shall come rivaling the beams of the sun? If in so much meanness he overcame such magnificence, to whom, at his coming, will he not be superior? Can we avoid the conclusion? Who is not moved by the fact, that a tent-maker became more honorable than the most honored of kings? If here things happen so beyond the course of nature, much more will it be so hereafter. If thou wilt not believe the future, O man, believe the present. If thou wilt not believe invisible things, believe things that are seen: or rather believe things which are seen, for so thou wilt believe things which are invisible. But if thou wilt not, we may fitly say with the Apostle, “We are pure from your blood” (Ac 20,26): for we have testified to you of all things, and have left out nothing that we should have said. Blame yourselves therefore, and to yourselves will ye impute the punishment of Hell. But let us, my beloved children, be imitators of Paul, not in his faith only, but in his life, that we may attain to heavenly glory, and trample upon that glory that is here. Let not any things present attract us. Let us despise visible things, that we may obtain heavenly things, or rather may through these obtain the others, but let it be our aim preeminently to obtain those, of which God grant that we may be all accounted worthy, through the grace and lovingkindness, &c).
Chrysostom 2Tm 300