Chrysostom Phm


Volume XIII


208 The remark of Photius, that St. Chrysostom’s more finished works were those which he composed at Antioch, does not seem to afford a sufficient criterion for assigning a date to each set of Homilies. Tillemont appears to have been misled by it in the instance of those on the Epistles to Timothy, which he has on such grounds supposed to have been delivered at Constantinople. Montfaucon, however, alleges two reasons for placing them at Antioch.

1. That he speaks much of the Monks, as he used to do there, owing to the neighborhood of a large number of them, who lived in strict discipline and exemplary devotion. 2. That in speaking of Timothy’s office as Bishop, he never says a word of being one himself. A third reason may be added, which is perhaps more conclusive than either of these. In Hom. 8,on 2Tm 3,he seems pretty evidently to allude to the burning of the Temple of Apollo at Daphne. One can hardly doubt the allusion, in reading the full account in the Homily on St. Babylas; nor can it well be supposed that he would thus refer to it as a thing well known at any other place than Antioch.

The Homilies on the Epistle to Titus are fixed at Antioch by the mention of Daphne and the cave of Matrona in Hom. 3,(2). A passage in Hom. i. (4) seems to place him in a paternal relation to the people, as the plural we is constantly used by him for the singular. But the whole context seems rather to allude to another as Bishop, and he must be understood to speak as one of a body of clergy, in which in fact he held the second place.

Those on the Epistle to Philemon cannot easily be assigned to any particular date. The promise he mentions in the last Homily does not seem to afford a clue to it, but may possibly do so. The composition of these Homilies has been remarked on as negligent by Hemsterhusius, so that he takes them to have been extemporaneous effusions taken down by others. There may be some ground for this in the style, and in the paraphrastic character of the various readings, but as a commentary they are unusually closed and exact, and point out much of what regards the persuasive character of the Epistle that is not generally noticed.

For the Translation and some illustrative notes, the Editors are indebted to the Ap (Jc Tweed, M.A., of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. The text of the New Paris edition has been chiefly used, as it is improved from the Benedictine. Savile’s has been compared with it in many parts, and in every difficulty, and where both failed, a better reading has been sometimes found in the ms. marked B, which is in the British Museum marked Burney 48. The differences are, however, slight, and affect the Greek more than the Translation. A venice ms. which usually agrees with this has been collated for the Homilies on the Epistle to Philemon. An old Latin version published at Basle has been noticed in some places, where its variations appear to be derived from Greek copies.Oxford, 1843.C). M[Arriot].

Homilies on the Epistle of St. Paul to Philemon

The Oxford Translation Edited, with Additional Notes, ByRev. Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D.


287 First, it is necessary to state the argument of the Epistle, then also the matters that are questioned respecting it. What then is the argument? Philemon was a man of admirable and noble character. That he was an admirable man is evident from the fact, that his whole household was of believers,1 and of such believers as even to be called a Church: therefore he says in this Epistle, “And to the Church that is in thy house.” (v. 2). He bears witness also to his great obedience, and that “the bowels of the Saints are refreshed in him.” (v. 7). And he himself in this Epistle commanded him to prepare him a lodging. (v. 22). It seems to me therefore that his house was altogether2 a lodging for the Saints. This excellent3 man, then, had a certain slave named Onesimus. This Onesimus, having stolen something from his master, had run away. For that he had stolen, hear what he says: “If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee aught, I will repay thee.” (v. 18, 19). Coming therefore to Paul at Rome, and having found him in prison, and having enjoyed the benefit of his teaching, he there also received Baptism. For that he obtained there the gift of Baptism is manifest from his saying, “Whom I have begotten in my bonds.” (v. 10). Paul therefore writes, recommending him to his master, that on every account he should forgive him, and receive him as one now regenerate.4

But because some say, that it was superfluous that this Epistle should be annexed, since he is making a request about a small matter in behalf of one man, let them learn who make these objections, that they are themselves deserving of very many censures. For it was not only proper that these small Epistles, in behalf of things so necessary, should have been inscribed,5 but I wish that it were possible to meet with one who could deliver to us the history of the Apostles, not only all they wrote and spoke of, but of the rest of their conversation, even what they ate, and when they ate, when they walked, and where they sat,6 what they did every day, in what parts they were, into what house they entered, and where they lodged7 —to relate everything with minute exactness, so replete with advantage is all that was done by them. But the greater part, not knowing the benefit that would result thence, proceed to censure it.

For if only seeing those places where they sat or where they were imprisoned, mere lifeless spots, we often transport our minds thither, and imagine their virtue, and are excited by it, and become more zealous, much more would this be the case, if we heard their words and their other actions. But concerning a friend a man enquires, where he lives, what he is doing, whither he is going: and say, should we not make these enquiries8 about these the general instructors of the world? For when a man leads a spiritual life, the habit, the walk, the words and the actions of such an one, in short, all that relates to him, profits the hearers, and nothing is a hindrance or impediment.

But it is useful for you to learn that this Epistle was sent upon necessary matters. Observe therefore how many things are rectified thereby. We have this one thing first, that in all things it becomes one to be earnest. For if Paul bestows so much concern upon a runaway, a thief, and a robber, and does not refuse nor is ashamed to send him back with such commendations; much more does it become us not to be negligent in such matters. Secondly, that we ought not to abandon the race of slaves, even if they have proceeded to extreme wickedness. For if a thief and a runaway become so virtuous that Paul was willing to make him a companion, and says in this Epistle, “that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me” (v. 13), much more ought we not to abandon the free. Thirdly, that we ought not to withdraw slaves from the service of their masters. For if Paul, who had such confidence in Philemon, was unwilling to detain Onesimus, so useful and serviceable to minister to himself, without the consent of his master, much less ought we so to act. For if the servant is so excellent, he ought by all means to continue in that service, and to acknowledge the authority of his master, that he may be the occasion of benefit to all in that house. Why dost thou take the candle from the candlestick to place it in the bushel?

I wish it were possible to bring into the cities those (servants) who are without. “What,” say you, “if he also should become corrupt.” And why should he, I beseech you? Because he has come into the city? But consider, that being without he will be much more corrupt. For he who is corrupt being within, will be much more so being without. For here he will be delivered from necessary care, his master taking that care upon himself; but there the concern about those things will draw him off perhaps even from things more necessary, and more spiritual. On this account the blessed Paul, when giving them the best counsel, said, “Art thou called, being a servant? care not for it: but if even thou mayest be made free, use it rather” (
1Co 7,21); that is, abide in slavery.9 But what is more important than all, that the word of God be not blasphemed, as he himself says in one of his Epistles. “Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed.” (1Tm 6,1). For the Gentiles also will say, that even one who is a slave can be well pleasing to God. But now many are reduced to the necessity of blasphemy, and of saying Christianity has been introduced into life for the subversion of everything, masters having their servants taken from them, and it is a matter of violence.

Let me also say one other thing. He teaches us not to be ashamed of our domestics, if they are virtuous. For if Paul, the most admirable of men, speaks thus much in favor of this one, much more should we speak favorably of ours. There being then so many good effects—and yet we have not mentioned all—does any one think it superfluous that this Epistle was inserted? And would not this be extreme folly? Let us then, I beseech you, apply to the Epistle written by the Apostle. For having gained already so many advantages from it, we shall gain more from the text. 10

1 B. and a Venice ms. read pistw`;n. Edd). pisth;n, which applies to the household as one.
2 pavntwn e(vneken. The phrase occurs again in a few lines, where it is translated, “on every account.”
3 qaumasto;" as before.
4 B. and Ven. here add, “And on this score forgive him everything. And so much for the argument. Now let us proceed to the solution of the questions. Inasmuch as some venture to say,” &c. and presently, “For I say not only this, that it was proper,…but add this also, that I wish.”
5 (He means in the Canon, as before by the word “annexed.”
6 (So B. and Ven. Edd. “where they sat and when they walked.”
7 Lat. “landed.” but kathvcqhsan bears the other sense, and he means evidently, “in what part of the house.” B. and Ven. have, “I would not have been weary of relating.”
8 B. and Ven). ejrwtw`nta".
9 (So also he says on the place, and Theodoret too, although he calls it a hyperbole). Ei kai; is properly “if even,” but the kai; may be taken with the following word, as “also”; see Kühner, § 824, anm. 1, who quotes Eur. Andr. 1080, and Xen. Mem. 1,c. 6, § 12.
10 th`" uJfh`"

[Note.—The views of the Fathers on Slavery and Emancipation were very conservative, as slavery was interwoven with the whole structure of the Roman empire and could not be suddenly abolished without a radical social revolution. But the spirit of Christianity always suggested and encouraged individual emancipation and the ultimate abolition of the institution by teaching the universal love of God, the common redemption and brotherhood of men, and the sacredness of personality. Comp. Bishop Lightfoot’s Commentary on Colossians and Philemon, and Schaff’s Church History, I. 793–798; II. 347–354; III. 115–122. Mühler, in his Vermischte Schriften, II. 896 sqq., has collected the views of St. Chrysostom on slavery, and says that since the time of the Apostle Paul no one has done more valuable service to slaves than St. Chrysostom.—P. S.]

Homily I. Philemon 1,1–3.—“Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother,

100 unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow-laborer, And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the Church in thy house: Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Phm 1,1-3

101 These things are said to a master in behalf of a servant. Immediately at the outset, he has pulled down his spirit, and not suffered him to be ashamed, he has quenched his anger; calling himself a prisoner, he strikes him with compunction, and makes him collect himself, and makes it appear that present things are nothing. For if a chain for Christ’s sake is not a shame but a boast, much more is slavery not to be considered a reproach. And this he says, not exalting himself, but for a good purpose doing this, showing thence that he was worthy of credit; and this he does not for his own sake, but that he may more readily obtain the favor. As if he had said, “It is on your account that I am invested with this chain.” As he also has said elsewhere, there indeed showing his concern, but here his trustworthiness.

Nothing is greater than this boast, to be called “the stigmatized of Christ.” “For I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” (
Ga 6,17).

“The prisoner of the Lord.” For he had been bound on His account. Who would not be struck with awe, who would not be humbled when he hears of the chains of Christ? Who would not be ready to give up even his own life, much less one domestic?

“And Timothy our brother.”

(He joins another also with himself, that he, being entreated by many, may the more readily yield and grant the favor.

“Unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow-laborer.”

If “beloved,” then his confidence is not boldness nor forwardness, but a proof of much affection. If a “fellow-laborer,” then not only may he be instructed in such a matter, but he ought to acknowledge it as a favor. For he is gratifying himself, he is building up the same work. So that apart from any request, he says, thou hast another necessity for granting the favor. For if he is profitable to the Gospel, and thou art anxious to promote the Gospel, then oughtest thou not to be entreated, but to entreat.

Phm 1,2. “And to our beloved Apphia.”

It seems to me that she was his partner in life. Observe the humility of Paul; he both joins Timothy with him in his request, and asks not only the husband, but the wife also, and some one else, perhaps a friend.

“And Archippus,” he says, “our fellow-soldier.”

Not wishing to effect such things by command, and not taking it ill, if he did not immediately comply with his request; but he begs them to do what a stranger might have done to aid his request. For not only the being requested by many, but the petition being urged to many, contributes to its being granted. And on this account he says, “And Archippus our fellow-soldier.” If thou art a fellow-soldier, thou oughtest also to take a concern in these things. But this is the Archippus, about whom he says in his Epistle to the Colossians, “Say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it.” (Col 4,17). It seems to me too, that he, whom he joins with him in this request, was also one of the Clergy. And he calls him his fellow-soldier, that he may by all means cooperate with him.

“And to the Church in thy house.”

Here he has not omitted even the slaves. For he knew that often even the words of slaves have power to overthrow their master; and more especially when his request was in behalf of a slave. And perhaps it was they particularly who exasperated him. He does not suffer them therefore to fall into envy, having honored them by including them in a salutation with their masters. And neither does he allow the master to take offense. For if he had made mention of them by name, perhaps he would have been angry. And if he had not mentioned them at all, he might have been displeased. Observe therefore how prudently he has found a way by his manner of mentioning them, both to honor them by his mention of them, and not to wound him. For the name of the “Church” does not suffer masters to be angry, even though they are reckoned together with their servants. For the Church knows not the distinction of master and servant. By good actions and by sins she defines the one and the other. If then it is a Church, be not displeased that thy slave is saluted with thee. “For in Christ Jesus there is neither bond nor free.” (Ga 3,28).

“Grace to you, and peace.”

By mentioning “grace,” he brings his own sins to his remembrance. Consider, he says, how great things God has pardoned in thee, how by grace thou art saved. Imitate thy Lord. And he prays for “peace” to him; and naturally: for it comes then when we imitate Him, then grace abides. Since even that servant who was unmerciful to his fellow-servants, until he demanded the hundred pence, had the grace of his master abiding on him. But when he made that demand, it was taken from him, and he was delivered to the tormentors.

103 Moral. Considering these things, then, let us also be merciful and forgiving towards those who have trespassed against us. The offenses against us here are a hundred pence, but those from us against God are ten thousand talents. But you know that offenses are also judged by the quality of the persons: for instance, he who has insulted a private person has done wrong, but not so much as he who has insulted a magistrate, and he who has offended a greater magistrate offends in a higher degree, and he who offends an inferior one in a lower degree; but he who insults the king offends much more. The injury indeed is the same, but it becomes greater by the excellence of the person. And if he who insults a king receives intolerable punishment, on account of the superiority of the person; for how many talents will he be answerable who insults God? so that even if we should commit the same offenses against God, that we do against men, even so it is not an equal thing: but as great as is the difference between God and men, so great is that between the offenses against Him and them.

But now I find also that the offenses exceed, not only in that they become great by the eminence of the person, but by their very nature. And it is a horrible saying that I am about to utter, and truly awful, but it is necessary to be said, that it may even so shake our minds and strike them with terror, showing that we fear men much more than God, and we honor men much more than God. For consider, he that commits adultery knows that God sees him, yet he disregards Him; but if a man see him, he restrains his lust. Does not such a one not only honor men above God, not only insult God, but, which is even much more dreadful, whilst he fears them, despise Him? For if he sees them, he restrains the flame of lust, but rather what flame? it is not a flame, but a willfulness. For if indeed it was not lawful to have intercourse with a woman, the matter perhaps would be a flame, but now it is insult and wantonness. For if he should see men, he desists from his mad passion, but for the longsuffering of God he has less regard. Again, another who steals, is conscious that he is committing robbery, and endeavors to deceive men, and defends himself against those who accuse him, and clothes his apology with a fair show; but though he cannot thus prevail with God, he does not regard Him, nor stand in awe of Him, nor honor Him. And if the king indeed commands us to abstain from other men’s goods, or even to give away our own, all readily contribute, but when God commands not to rob, not to gather other men’s goods, we do not forbear.

Do you see then that we honor men more than God? It is a sad and grievous saying, a heavy charge. But show that it is grievous; flee from the fact! But if you fear not the fact, how can I believe you when you say, We fear your words, you lay a burden on us! It is you that by the deed lay a burden on yourselves, and not our words. And if I but name the words of which you do the deeds, you are offended. And is not this absurd?

May the thing spoken by me prove false! I would rather myself in That Day bear the imputation of ill language, as having vainly and causelessly reproached you, than see you accused of such things.

But not only do you honor men more than God, but you compel others to do so likewise. Many have thus compelled their domestics and slaves. Some have drawn them into marriage against their will, and others have forced them to minister to disgraceful services, to infamous love, to acts of rapine, and fraud, and violence: so that the accusation is twofold, and neither can they obtain pardon upon the plea of necessity. For if you yourself do wrong things unwillingly, and on account of the command of the ruler, not even so is it by any means a sufficient excuse: but the offense becomes heavier, when you compel them also to fall into the same sins. For what pardon can there be any more for such an one?

These things I have said, not from a wish to condemn you, but to show in how many things we are debtors to God. For if by honoring men even equally with God, we insult God, how much more, when we honor men above Him? But if those offenses that are committed against men are shown to be much greater against God; how much more when the actual offense is greater and more grievous in its own quality.

Let any one examine himself, and he will see that he does everything on account of men. Exceedingly blessed we should be, if we did as many things for the sake of God, as we do for the sake of men, and of the opinion of men, and for the dread or the respect of men. If then we have so many things to answer for, we ought with all alacrity to forgive those who injure us, who defraud us, and not to bear malice. For there is a way to the forgiveness of our sins that needs no labors, nor expense of wealth, nor any other things, but merely our own choice. We have no need to set out upon our travels, nor go beyond the boundaries of our country, nor submit to dangers and toils, but only to will.

What excuse, tell me, shall we have in things that appear difficult, when we do not do even a light thing, attended too with so much gain and so much benefit, and no trouble? Canst thou not despise wealth? Canst thou not spend thy substance on the needy? Canst thou not will anything that is good? Canst thou not forgive him that has injured thee? For if thou hadst not so many things to answer for, and God had only commanded thee to forgive, oughtest thou not to do it? But now having so many things to answer for, dost thou not forgive? and that too, knowing that thou art required to do it on account of things which thou hast from Him? If indeed we go to our debtor, he knowing it, receives us courteously, and shows us honor, and pays us every attention in a liberal way; and that though he is not paying off his debt, but because he wishes to render us merciful in our demand of payment: and thou, who owest so much to God, and art commanded to forgive that thou mayest receive in return, dost not thou forgive? And wherefore not, I beseech you? Woe is me! How much of goodness do we receive, and what wickedness do we show in return! What sleepiness! what indolence! How easy a thing is virtue, attended too with much advantage; and how laborious a thing is vice! But we, flying from that which is so light, pursue that which is heavier than lead.

Here there is no need of bodily strength, nor of wealth, nor possessions, nor of power, nor of friendship, nor of any other thing; but it is sufficient only to will, and all is accomplished. Hath some one grieved thee, and insulted thee, and mocked thee? But consider, how often thou hast done such things to others, and even to the Lord Himself; and forbear, and forgive him it. Consider that thou sayest, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.” (
Mt 6,13). Consider, that if thou dost not forgive, thou wilt not be able to say this with confidence: but if thou forgivest, thou demandest the matter as a debt, not by reason of the nature of the thing, but on account of the lovingkindness of Him that hath granted it. And wherein is it equal, that one who forgives his fellow-servants should receive remission of the sins committed against the Lord? but nevertheless we do receive such great lovingkindness, because He is rich in mercy and pity.

And that I may show that even without these things, and without the remission, thou art a gainer by forgiving, consider how many friends such a person has, how the praises of such an one are everywhere sounded by men who go about saying, “This is a good man, he is easily reconciled, he knows not to bear malice, he is no sooner stricken than he is healed.” When such an one falls into any misfortune, who will not pity him? when he has offended, who will not pardon him? When he asks a favor of others, who will not grant it to him? Who will not be willing to be the friend and servant of so good a soul? Yea, I entreat you, let us do all things for Him, not to our friends, not to our relations only, but even to our domestics. For He says, “Forbearing threatening, knowing that your Master also is in heaven.” (Ep 6,9).

If we forgive our neighbors their trespasses, ours will be forgiven to us, if we bestow alms, if we be humble. For this also taketh away sins. For if the publican, only for saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Lc 18,13), went down justified, much more we also, if we be humble and contrite, shall be able to obtain abundant lovingkindness. If we confess our own sins and condemn ourselves, we shall be cleansed from the most of our defilement. For there are many ways that purify. Let us therefore in every way war against the devil. I have said nothing difficult, nothing burdensome. Forgive him that has injured thee, have pity on the needy, humble thy soul, and though thou be a grievous sinner, thou wilt be able to obtain the kingdom, by these means purging off thy sins themselves, and wiping off their stain. And God grant that we all, having purified ourselves here by confession from all the filth of our sins, may there obtain the blessings promised in Christ Jesus our Lord, &c).

Homily II. Philemon 1,4–6.—“I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,

200 Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast towards the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints. That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging [in the knowledge] of every good thing which is in us, in Christ Jesus.”
Phm 1,4-16

201 He does not immediately at the commencement ask the favor, but having first admired the man, and having praised him for his good actions, and having shown no small proof of his love, that he always made mention of him in his prayers, and having said that many are refreshed by him, and that he is obedient and complying in all things; then he puts it last of all, by this particularly putting him to the blush. For if others obtain the things which they ask, much more Paul. If coming before others, he was worthy to obtain, much more when he comes after others, and asks a thing not pertaining to himself, but in behalf of another. Then, that he may not seem to have written on this account only, and that no one may say, “If it were not for Onesimus thou wouldest not have written,” see how he assigns other causes also of his Epistle. In the first place manifesting his love, then also desiring that a lodging may be prepared for him.

“Hearing,” he says, “of thy love.”

This is wonderful, and much greater than if being present he had seen it when he was present. For it is plain that from its being excessive it had become manifest, and had reached even to Paul. And yet the distance between Rome and Phrygia was not small. For he seems to have been there from the mention of Archippus. For the Colossians were of Phrygia, writing to whom he said, “When this Epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the Church of the Laodiceans, and that ye likewise read the Epistle from Laodicea.” (
Col 4,16). And this is a city of Phrygia.

I pray, he says, “that the communication of thy faith may become effectual in the knowledge of every good thing which is in Christ Jesus.” Dost thou see him first giving, before he receives, and before he asks a favor himself bestowing a much greater one of his own? “That the communication of thy faith,” he says, “may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus”; that is, that thou mayest attain all virtue, that nothing may be deficient. For so faith becomes effectual, when it is accompanied with works. For “without works faith is dead.” (Jc 2,26). And he has not said, “Thy faith,” but “the communication of thy faith,” connecting it with himself, and showing that it is one body, and by this particularly making him ashamed to refuse. If thou art a partaker, he says, with respect to the faith, thou oughtest to communicate also with respect to other things.

Phm 1,7. “For we have [I had] great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels [hearts] of the Saints are refreshed by thee, brother.”

Nothing so shames us into giving, as to bring forward the kindnesses bestowed on others, and particularly when a man is more entitled to respect than they. And he has not said, “If you do it to others, much more to me”; but he has insinuated the same thing, though he has contrived to do it in another and a more gracious manner.

“I had joy,” that is, thou hast given me confidence from the things which thou hast done to others. “And consolation,” that is, we are not only gratified, but we are also comforted. For they are members of us. If then there ought to be such an agreement, that in the refreshing of any others who are in affliction, though we obtain nothing, we should be delighted on their account, as if it were one body that was benefited; much more if you shall refresh us also. And he has not said, “Because thou yieldest, and compliest,” but even more vehemently and emphatically, “because the bowels of the Saints,” as if it were for a darling child fondly loved by its parents, so that this love and affection shows that he also is exceedingly beloved by them.

Phm 1,8. “Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient [befitting].”

Observe how cautious he is, lest any of the things which were spoken even from exceeding love should so strike the hearer, as that he should be hurt. For this reason before he says, “to enjoin thee,” since it was offensive, although, as spoken out of love, it was more proper to soothe him, yet nevertheless from an excess of delicacy, he as it were corrects it by saying, “Having confidence,” by which he implies that Philemon was a great man, that is “Thou hast given confidence to us.” And not only that, but adding the expression “in Christ,” by which he shows that it was not that he was more illustrious in the world, not that he was more powerful, but it was on account of his faith in Christ,—then he also adds, “to enjoin thee,” and not that only, but “that which is convenient,” that is, a reasonable action. And see out of how many things he brings proof for this. Thou doest good to others, he says, and to me, and for Christ’s sake, and that the thing is reasonable, and that love giveth, wherefore also he adds,

Phm 1,9. “Yet for love’s sake, I rather beseech thee.”

As if he had said, I know indeed that I can effect it by commanding with much authority, from things which have already taken place. But because I am very solicitous about this matter, “I beseech thee.” He shows both these things at once; that he has confidence in him, for he commands him; and that he is exceedingly concerned about the matter, wherefore he beseeches him.

202 “Being such an one,” he says, “as Paul the aged.” Strange! how many things are here to shame him into compliance! Paul, from the quality of his person, from his age, because he was old, and from what was more just than all, because he was also “a prisoner of Jesus Christ.”

For who would not receive with open arms a combatant who had been crowned? Who seeing him bound for Christ’s sake, would not have granted him ten thousand favors? By so many considerations having previously soothed his mind, he has not immediately introduced the name, but defers making so great a request. For you know what are the minds of masters towards slaves that have run away; and particularly when they have done this with robbery, even if they have good masters, how their anger is increased. This anger then having taken all these pains to soothe, and having first persuaded him readily to serve him in anything whatever, and having prepared his soul to all obedience, then he introduces his request, and says, “I beseech thee,” and with the addition of praises, “for my son whom I have begotten in my bonds.”

Again the chains are mentioned to shame him into compliance, and then the name. For he has not only extinguished his anger, but has caused him to be delighted. For I would not have called him my son, he says, if he were not especially profitable. What I called Timothy, that I call him also. And repeatedly showing his affection, he urges him by the very period of his new birth, “I have begotten him in my bonds,” he says, so that on this account also he was worthy to obtain much honor, because he was begotten in his very conflicts, in his trials in the cause of Christ.


Phm 1,11. “Which in time past was to thee unprofitable.”

See how great is his prudence, how he confesses the man’s faults, and thereby extinguishes his anger. I know, he says, that he was unprofitable.

“But now” he will be “profitable to thee and to me.”

(He has not said he will be useful to thee, lest he should contradict it, but he has introduced his own person, that his hopes may seem worthy of credit, “But now,” he says, “profitable to thee and to me.” For if he was profitable to Paul, who required so great strictness, much more would he be so to his master.

Phm 1,12. “Whom I have sent again to thee.”

By this also he has quenched his anger, by delivering him up. For masters are then most enraged, when they are entreated for the absent, so that by this very act he mollified him the more.

Phm 1,12. “Thou therefore receive him, that is mine own bowels.”

And again he has not given the bare name, but uses with it a word that might move him, which is more affectionate than son. He has said, “son,” he has said, “I have begotten” him, so that it was probable he would love him much, because he begot him in his trials. For it is manifest that we are most inflamed with affection for those children, who have been born to us in dangers which we have escaped, as when the Scripture saith, “Woe, Barochabel!” and again when Rachel names Benjamin, “the son of my sorrow.” (Gn 35,18).

“Thou therefore,” he says, “receive him, that is mine own bowels.” He shows the greatness of his affection. He has not said, Take him back, he has not said, Be not angry, but “receive him”; that is, he is worthy not only of pardon, but of honor. Why? Because he is become the son of Paul.

Phm 1,13. “Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the Gospel.”

Dost thou see after how much previous preparation, he has at length brought him honorably before his master, and observe with how much wisdom he has done this. See for how much he makes him answerable, and how much he honors the other. Thou hast found, he says, a way by which thou mayest through him repay thy service to me. Here he shows that he has considered his advantage more than that of his slave, and that he respects him exceedingly.

Phm 1,14. “But without thy mind,” he says, “would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be, as it were, of necessity, but willingly.”

This particularly flatters the person asked, when the thing being profitable in itself, it is brought out with his concurrence. For two good effects are produced thence, the one person gains, and the other is rendered more secure. And he has not said, That it should not be of necessity, but “as it were of necessity.” For I knew, he says, that not having learnt it, but coming to know it at once, thou wouldest not have been angry, but nevertheless out of an excess of consideration, that it should “not be as it were of necessity.”

Phm 1,15-16. “For perhaps he was therefore parted from thee for a season that thou shouldest have him for ever; no longer as a bond-servant.”

(He has well said, “perhaps,” that the master may yield. For since the flight arose from perverseness, and a corrupt mind, and not from such intention, he has said, “perhaps.” And he has not said, therefore he fled, but, therefore he was “separated,” by a more fair sounding expression softening him the more. And he has not said, He separated himself, but, “he was separated.” For it was not his own arrangement that he should depart either for this purpose or for that. Which also Joseph says, in making excuse for his brethren, “For God did send me hither” (Gn 45,5), that is, He made use of their wickedness for a good end. “Therefore,” he says, “he was parted for a season.” Thus he contracts the time, acknowledges the offense, and turns it all to a providence. “That thou shouldest receive him,” he says, “for ever,” not for the present season only, but even for the future, that thou mightest always have him, no longer a slave, but more honorable than a slave. For thou wilt have a slave abiding with thee, more well-disposed than a brother, so that thou hast gained both in time, and in the quality of thy slave. For hereafter he will not run away. “That thou shouldest receive him,” he says, “for ever,” that is, have him again.

“No longer as a bond-servant, but more than a bond-servant, a brother beloved, especially to me.”

Thou hast lost a slave for a short time, but thou wilt find a brother for ever, not only thy brother, but mine also. Here also there is much virtue. But if he is my brother, thou also wilt not be ashamed of him. By calling him his son, he hath shown his natural affection; and by calling him his brother, his great good will for him, and his equality in honor.

203 Moral. These things are not written without an object, but that we masters may not despair of our servants, nor press too hard on them, but may learn to pardon the offenses of such servants, that we may not be always severe, that we may not from their servitude be ashamed to make them partakers with us in all things when they are good. For if Paul was not ashamed to call one “his son, his own bowels, his brother, his beloved,” surely we ought not to be ashamed. And why do I say Paul? The Master of Paul is not ashamed to call our servants His own brethren; and are we ashamed? See how He honors us; He calls our servants His own brethren, friends, and fellow-heirs. See to what He has descended! What therefore having done, shall we have accomplished our whole duty? We shall never in any wise do it; but to whatever degree of humility we have come, the greater part of it is still left behind. For consider, whatever thou doest, thou doest to a fellow-servant, but thy Master hath done it to thy servants. Hear and shudder! Never be elated at thy humility!

Perhaps you laugh at the expression, as if humility could puff up. But be not surprised at it, it puffs up, when it is not genuine. How, and in what manner? When it is practiced to gain the favor of men, and not of God, that we may be praised, and be high-minded. For this also is diabolical. For as many are vainglorious on account of their not being vainglorious, so are they elated on account of their humbling themselves, by reason of their being high-minded. For instance, a brother has come, or even a servant thou hast received him, thou hast washed his feet; immediately thou thinkest highly of thyself. I have done, thou sayest, what no other has done. I have achieved humility. How then may any one continue in humility? If he remembers the command of Christ, which says, “When ye shall have done all things, say, We are unprofitable servants.” (
Lc 17,10). And again the Teacher of the world, saying, “I count not myself to have apprehended.” (Ph 3,13). He who has persuaded himself that he has done no great thing, however many things he may have done, he alone can be humble-minded, he who thinks that he has not reached perfection.

Many are elated on account of their humility; but let not us be so affected. Hast thou done any act of humility? be not proud of it, otherwise all the merit of it is lost. Such was the Pharisee, he was puffed up because he gave his tythes to the poor, and he lost all the merit of it. (Lc 18,12). But not so the publican. Hear Paul again saying, “I know nothing by myself, yet am I not hereby justified.” (1Co 4,4). Seest thou that he does not exalt himself, but by every means abases and humbles himself, and that too when he had arrived at the very summit. And the Three Children were in the fire, and in the midst of the furnace, and what said they? “We have sinned and committed iniquity with our fathers.” (Ct 5,6), in Sept.; (Da 3,29-30 Da 5,16). This it is to have a contrite heart; on this account they could say, “Nevertheless in a contrite heart and a humble spirit let us be accepted.” Thus even after they had fallen into the furnace they were exceedingly humbled, even more so than they were before. For when they saw the miracle that was wrought, thinking themselves unworthy of that deliverance, they were brought lower in humility. For when we are persuaded that we have received great benefits beyond our desert, then we are particularly grieved. And yet what benefit had they received beyond their desert? They had given themselves up to the furnace; they had been taken captive for the sins of others; for they were still young; and they murmured not, nor were indignant, nor did they say, What good is it to us that we serve God, or what advantage have we in worshiping Him? This man is impious, and is become our lord. We are punished with the idolatrous by an idolatrous king. We have been led into captivity. We are deprived of our country, our freedom, all our paternal goods, we are become prisoners and slaves, we are enslaved to a barbarous king. None of these things did they say. But what? “We have sinned and committed iniquity.” And not for themselves but for others they offer prayers. Because, say they, “Thou hast delivered us to a hateful and a wicked king.” Again, Daniel, being a second time cast into the pit, said, “For God hath remembered me.” Wherefore should He not remember thee, O Daniel, when thou didst glorify Him before the king, saying, “Not for any wisdom that I have”? (Da 2,30). But when thou wast cast into the den of lions, because thou didst not obey that most wicked decree, wherefore should He not remember thee? For this very reason surely should He. Wast thou not cast into it on His account? “Yea truly,” he says, “but I am a debtor for many things.” And if he said such things after having displayed so great virtue, what should we say after this? But hear what David says, “If He thus say, I have no delight in thee, behold here am I, let Him do to me as seemeth good unto Him.” (2S 15,26). And yet he had an infinite number of good things to speak of. And Eli also says, “It is the Lord: let Him do what seemeth Him good.” (1S 3,18).

204 This is the part of well-disposed servants, not only in His mercies, but in His corrections, and in punishments wholly to submit to Him. For how is it not absurd, if we bear with masters beating their servants, knowing that they will spare them, because they are their own; and yet suppose that God in punishing will not spare? This also Paul has intimated, saying, “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” (Rm 14,8). A man, we say, wishes not his property to be diminished, he knows how he punishes, he is punishing his own servants. But surely no one of us spares more than He Who brought us into being out of nothing, Who maketh the sun to rise, Who causeth rain; Who breathed our life into us, Who gave His own Son for us.

But as I said before, and on which account I have said all that I have said, let us be humble-minded as we ought, let us be moderate as we ought. Let it not be to us an occasion of being puffed up. Art thou humble, and humbler than all men? Be not high-minded on that account, neither reproach others, lest thou lose thy boast. For this very cause thou art humble, that thou mayest be delivered from the madness of pride; if therefore through thy humility thou fallest into that madness, it were better for thee not to be humble. For hear Paul saying, “Sin worketh death in me by that which is good, that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” (Rm 7,13). When it enters into thy thought to admire thyself because thou art humble, consider thy Master, to what He descended, and thou wilt no longer admire thyself, nor praise thyself, but wilt deride thyself as having done nothing. Consider thyself altogether to be a debtor. Whatever thou hast done, remember that parable, “Which of you having a servant …will say unto him, when he is come in, Sit down to meat? …I say unto you, Nay …but stay and serve me.” (From (Lc 17,7-8). Do we return thanks to our servants, for waiting upon us? By no means. Yet God is thankful to us, who serve not Him, but do that which is expedient for ourselves.

But let not us be so affected, as if He owed us thanks, that He may owe us the more, but as if we were discharging a debt. For the matter truly is a debt, and all that we do is of debt. For if when we purchase slaves with our money, we wish them to live altogether for us, and whatever they have to have it for ourselves, how much more must it be so with Him, who brought us out of nothing into being, who after this bought us with His precious Blood, who paid down such a price for us as no one would endure to pay for his own son, who shed His own Blood for us? If therefore we had ten thousand souls, and should lay them all down for Him, should we make Him an equal return? By no means. And why? Because He did this, owing us nothing, but the whole was a matter of grace. But we henceforth are debtors: and being God Himself, He became a servant, and not being subject to death, subjected Himself to death in the flesh. We, if we do not lay down our lives for Him, by the law of nature must certainly lay them down, and a little later shall be separated from it, however unwillingly. So also in the case of riches, if we do not bestow them for His sake, we shall render them up from necessity at our end. So it is also with humility. Although we are not humble for His sake, we shall be made humble by tribulations, by calamities, by over-ruling powers. Seest thou therefore how great is the grace! He hath not said, “What great things do the Martyrs do? Although they die not for Me, they certainly will die.” But He owns Himself much indebted to them, because they voluntarily resign that which in the course of nature they were about to resign shortly against their will. He hath not said, “What great thing do they, who give away their riches? Even against their will they will have to surrender them.” But He owns Himself much indebted to them too, and is not ashamed to confess before all that He, the Master, is nourished by His slaves.

For this also is the glory of a Master, to have grateful slaves. And this is the glory of a Master, that He should thus love His slaves. And this is the glory of a Master, to claim for His own what is theirs. And this is the glory of a Master, not to be ashamed to confess them before all. Let us therefore be stricken with awe at this so great love of Christ. Let us be inflamed with this love-potion. Though a man be low and mean, yet if we hear that he loves us, we are above all things warmed with love towards him, and honor him exceedingly. And do we then love? and when our Master loveth us so much, we are not excited? Let us not, I beseech you, let us not be so indifferent with regard to the salvation of our souls, but let us love Him according to our power, and let us spend all upon His love, our life, our riches, our glory, everything, with delight, with joy, with alacrity, not as rendering anything to Him, but to ourselves. For such is the law of those who love. They think that they are receiving favors, when they are suffering wrong for the sake of their beloved. Therefore let us be so affected towards our Lord, that we also may partake of the good things to come in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Chrysostom Phm