Chrysostom He 900
900 He 6,1-6
1 let us go on unto perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God; of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands; and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permit.”
[1.] You have heard how much Paul found fault with the Hebrews for wishing to be always learning about the same things. And with good reason: “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one teach you the elements of the first principles2 of the oracles of God.” (c. 5,12).
I am afraid that this might fitly be said to you also, that “when for the time ye ought to be teachers,” ye do not maintain the rank of learners, but ever hearing the same things, and on the same subjects, you are in the same condition as if you heard no one. And if any man should question you, no one will be able to answer, except a very few who may soon be counted.
But this is no trifling loss. For oftentimes when the teacher wishes to go on further, and to touch on higher and more mysterious themes, the want of attention in those who are to be taught prevents.
For just as in the case of a grammar-master, if a boy though hearing continually the first elements does not master them, it will be necessary for him to be continually dinning the same things into the boy, and he will not leave off teaching, until the boy has been able to learn them accurately; for it is great folly to lead him on to other things, without having put the first well into him; so too in the Church, if while we constantly say the same things you learn nothing more, we shall never cease saying the same things.
For if our preaching were a matter of display and ambition, it would have been right to jump from one subject to another and change about continually, taking no thought for you, but only for your applauses. But since we have not devoted our zeal to this, but our labors are all for your profit, we shall not cease discoursing to you on the same subjects, till you succeed in learning them. For I might have said much about Gentile superstition, and about the Manichaeans, and about the Marcionists, and by the grace of God have given them heavy blows, but this sort of discourse is out of season. For to those whodo not yet know accurately their own affairs, to those who have not yet learned that to be covetous is evil, who would utter such discourses as those, and lead them on to other subjects before the time?
We then shall not cease to say the same things, whether ye be persuaded or not. We fear however, that by continually saying the same things, if ye hearken not, we may make the condemnation heavier for the disobedient.
I must not however say this in regard to you all; for I know many who are benefited by their coming here, who might with justice cry out against those others, as insidiously injuring them3 by their ignorance and inattention. But not even so will they be injured. For hearing the same things continually is useful even to those who know them, since by often hearing what we know we are more deeply affected. We know, for instance, that Humility is an excellent thing, and that Christ often discoursed about it; but when we listen to the words themselves and the reflections made upon them, we are yet more affected, even if we hear them ten thousand times.
902 [2.] It is then a fitting time for us also to say now to you, “Wherefore leaving the beginning of the doctrine of Christ, let us go unto perfection.”
What is“the beginning of the doctrine”?4 He goes on to state it himself, saying, “not laying again” (these are his words) “the foundation of repentance from dead works, and faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms and of laying on of hands, of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”
But if this be “the Beginning,” what else is our doctrine save to repent “from dead works,” and through the Spirit to receive “the faith,”5 in “the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment”? But what is “the Beginning”? “The Beginning,” he says, is nothing else than this, when there is not a strict life. For as it is necessary to instruct one who is entering on the study of grammar, in the Elements6 first, so alsomust the Christian know these things accurately, and have no doubt concerning them. Andshould he again have need of teaching, he has not yet the foundation. For one who is firmly grounded ought to be fixed and to stand steady, and not be moved about. But if one who has been catechised and baptized is going ten years afterwards to hear again about the Faith, and that we ought to “believe” in “the resurrection of the dead,” he does not yet have the foundation, he is again seeking after the beginning of the Christian religion. For that the Faith is the foundation, and the rest the building, hear him [the Apostle] saying; “I have laid the foundation and another buildeth thereupon.” (1Co 3,10). “If any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble.” (1Co 3,12).
“Not laying again” (he says) “the foundation of repentance from dead works.”
903 [3.] But what is, “let us go on unto perfection”? Let us henceforth proceed (he means) even to the very roof, that is, let us have the best life. For as in the case of the letters the Alpha7 involves the whole, and as the foundation, the whole building, so also does full assurance concerning the Faith involve purity of life. And without this it is not possible to be a Christian, as without foundations there can be no building; nor skill in literature without the letters. Still if one should be always going round about the letters, or if about the foundation, not about the building, he will never gain anything.
Do not however think that the Faith is depreciated by being called elementary: for it is indeed the whole power: for when he says, “For every one that useth milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe” (c. 5,13), it is not this which he calls “milk.” But to be still doubting about these things is [a sign] of a mind feeble, and needingmany discourses. For these are the wholesome doctrines. For we call him “a perfect man” [i.e. “of full age”] who with the faith has a right life; but if any one have faith, yet does evil, and is in doubt concerning [the faith] itself, and brings disgrace on the doctrine, him we shall with reason call “a babe,” in that he has gone back again to the beginning. So that even if we have been ten thousand years in thefaith, yet are not firm in it, we are babes; when we show a lifenot in conformity with it; when we are still laying a foundation.
904 [4.] But besides [their way of] life he brings another charge also against these [Hebrews], as being shaken to and fro, and needing “to lay a foundation of repentance from dead works.” For he who changes from one to another, giving up this, and choosing that, ought first to condemn this, and to be separated from the system, and then to pass to the other. But if he intends again to lay hold on the first, how shall he touch the second?
What then of the Law (he says)? We have condemned it, and again we run back to it. This is not a shifting about, for here also [under the Gospel] we have a law. “Do we then” (he says) “make void the law through faith? God forbid, yea we establish the Law.” (Rm 3,31). I was speaking concerning evil deeds. For he that intends to pursue virtue ought to condemn wickedness first, and then go in pursuit of it. For repentance cannot prove8 them clean. For this cause they were straightway baptized, that what they were unable to accomplish by themselves, this might be effected by the grace of Christ. Neither then does repentance suffice for purification, but men must firstreceive baptism. At all events, it was necessary to come to baptism, having condemned the sins thereby and given sentence against them.
But what is “the doctrine of baptisms”? Not as if there were many baptisms, but one only.9 Why then did he express it in the plural? Because he had said, “not laying again a foundation of repentance.” For if he again baptized them and catechised them afresh, and havingbeen baptized at the beginning 10 they were again taught what things ought to be done and what ought not, they would remain perpetually incorrigible.
“And of laying on of hands.” For thus did they receive the Spirit, “when Paul had laid his hands on them” (Ac 19,6), it is said.
“And of the resurrection of the dead.” For this is both effected in baptism, and is affirmed in the confession.
“And of eternal judgment.” But why does he say this? Because it was likely that, having already believed, they would either be shaken [from their faith], or would lead evil and slothful lives, he says, “be wakeful.” 11
It is not open to them to say, If we live slothfully we will be baptized again, we will be catechised again, we will again receive the Spirit; even if now we fall from the faith, we shall be able again by being baptized, to wash away our sins, and to attain to the same state as before. Ye are deceived (he says) in supposing these things.
905 [5 .] He 5,4-5. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly girl, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance, crucifying 12 to themselves the Son of God afresh, and putting Him to an open shame.”
And see how putting them to shame, 13 and forbiddingly he begins. “Impossible.” No longer (he says) expect that which is not possible; (For he said not, It is not seemly, or, It is not expedient, or, It is not lawful, but “impossible,” so as to cast [them] into despair), if ye have once been altogether enlightened.
Then he adds, “and have tasted of the heavenly gift. If ye have tasted” (he says) “of the heavenly gift,” that is, of forgiveness. “And been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and tasted the good word of God” (he is speaking here of the doctrine) “and the powers of the world to come” (what powers is he speaking of? either the working of miracles, or “the earnest of the Spirit”—2Co 1,22) “and have fallen away, to renew them again unto repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh and put Him to an open shame.” “Renew them,” he says, “unto repentance,” that is, by repentance, for unto repentance is by repentance. What then, is repentance excluded? Not repentance, far from it! But the renewing again by the laver. 14 For he did not say, “impossible” to be renewed “unto repentance,” and stop, but added how “impossible, [by] crucifying afresh.”
To “be renewed,” that is, to be made new, for to make men new is [the work] of the layer only: for (it is said) “thy youth shall be renewed as the eagle’s.” (Ps 103,5). But it is [the work of] repentance, when those who have been made new, have afterwards become old through sins, to set them free from this old age, and to make them strong. 15 To bring them to that former brightness however, is not possible; for there the whole was Grace.
906 [6.] “Crucifying to themselves,” he says, “the Son of God afresh, and putting Him to an open shame.” What he means is this. Baptism is a Cross, and “our old man was crucified with [Him]” (Rm 6,6), for we were “made conformable to the likeness of His death” (Rm 6,5 Ph 3,10), and again, “we were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death.” (Rm 6,4). Wherefore, as it is not possible that Christ should be crucified a second time, for that is to “put Him to an open shame.” 16 For “if death shall no more have dominion over Him” (Rm 6,9), if He rose again, by His resurrection becoming superior to death; if by death He wrestled with and overcame death, and then is crucified again, all those things become a fable and a mockery. 17 He then that baptizeth 18 a second time, crucifies Him again.
But what is “crucifying afresh”? [It is] crucifying over again. For as Christ died on the cross, so do we in baptism, not as to the flesh, but as to sin. Behold two deaths. He died as to the flesh; in our case the old man was buried, and the new man arose, made conformable to the likeness of His death. If therefore it is necessary to be baptized [again 19 ], it is necessary that this same [Christ] should die again. For baptism is nothing else than the putting to death of the baptized, and his rising again.
And he well said, “crucifying afresh unto themselves.” For he that does this, as having forgotten the former grace, 20 and ordering his own life carelessly, acts in all respects as if there were another baptism. It behooves us therefore to take heed and to make ourselves safe.
907 [7.] What is, “having tasted of the heavenly gift”? it is, “of the remission of sins”: for this is of God alone to bestow, and the grace is a grace once for all. “What then? shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Far from it!” (Rm 6,1-2). But if we should be always going to be saved by grace we shall never be good. For where there is but one grace, and we are yet so indolent, should we then cease sinning if we knew that it is possible again to have our sins washed away? For my part I think not.
(He here shows that the gifts are many: and to explain it, Ye were counted worthy (he says) of so great forgiveness; for he that was sitting in darkness, he that was at enmity, he that was at open war, that was alienated, that was hated of God, that was lost, he having been suddenly enlightened, counted worthy of the Spirit, of the heavenly gift, of adoption as a son, of the kingdom of heaven, of those other good things, the unspeakable mysteries; and who does not even thus become better, but while indeed worthy of perdition, obtained salvation and honor, as if he had successfully accomplished great things; how could he be again baptized?
On two grounds then he said that the thing was impossible, and he put the stronger last: first, because he who has been deemed worthy of such [blessings], and who has betrayed all that was granted to him, is not worthy to be again renewed; neither 21 is it possible that [Christ] should again be crucified afresh: for this is to “put Him to an open shame.”
There is not then any second layer: there is not [indeed]. And if there is, there is also a third, and a fourth; for the former one is continually disannulled by the later, and this continually by another, and so on without end.
“And tasted,” he says, “the good word of God”; and he does not unfold it; “and the powers of the world to come,” for to live as Angels and to have no need of earthly things, to know that this is the means of our introduction to the enjoyment of the worlds to come; this may we learn through the Spirit, and enter into those sacred recesses.
What are “the powers of the world to come”?Life eternal, angelic conversation. Of these we have already received the earnest through our Faith from the Spirit. Tell me then, if after having been introduced into a palace, and entrusted with all things therein, thou hadst then betrayed all, wouldest thou have been entrusted with them again? 22
908 [8.] What then (you say)? Is there no repentance? There is repentance, but there is no second baptism: but repentance there is, and it has great force, and is able to set free from the burden of his sins, if he will, even him that hath been baptized much in sins, and to establish in safety him who is in danger, even though he should have come unto the very depth of wickedness. And this is evident from many places. “For,” says one, “doth not he that falleth rise again? or he that turneth away, doth not he turn back to [God]?” (Jr 8,4). It is possible, if we will, that Christ should be formed in us again: for hear Paul saying, “My little children of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you.” (Ga 4,19). Only let us lay hold on repentance.
For behold the love of God to man! We ought on every ground to have been punished at the first; in that having received the natural law, and enjoyed innumerable blessings, we have not acknowledged our Master, and have lived an unclean life. Yet He not only has not punished us, but has even made us partakers of countless blessings, just as if we had accomplished great things. Again we fell away, and not even so does He punish us, but has given medicine of repentance, which is sufficient to put away and blot out all our sins; only if we knew the nature of the medicine, and how we ought to apply it.
What then is the medicine of Repentance and how is it made up? First, of the condemnation of our own sins; 23 “For” (it is said) “mine iniquity have I not hid” (Ps 32,5); and again, “I will confess against myself my lawlessness unto the Lord, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my heart.” And “Declare thou at the first thy sins, that thou mayest be justified.” (Is 43,26). And, “The righteous man is an accuser of himself at the first speaking.” (Pr 18,17).
Secondly, of great humbleness of mind: For it is like a golden chain; if one have hold of the beginning, all will follow. Because if thou confess thy sin as one ought to confess, the soul is humbled. For conscience turning it on itself 24 causeth it to be subdued.
Other things too must be added to humbleness of mind if it be such as the blessed David knew, when he said, “A broken and a contrite heart God will not despise.” (Ps 51,17). For that which is broken does not rise up, does not strike, but is ready to be ill-treated and itself riseth not up. Such is contrition of heart: though it be insulted, though it be evil entreated, it is quiet, and is not eager for vengeance.
And after humbleness of mind, there is need of intense prayers, of many tears, tears by day, and tears by night: for, he says, “every night, will I wash my bed, I will water my couch with my tears. I am weary with my groaning.” (Ps 6,6). And again, “For I have eaten ashes as it were bread, and mingled my drink with weeping.” (Ps 102,9).
And after prayer thus intense, there is need of much almsgiving: for this it is which especially gives strength to the medicine of repentance. And as there is a medicine among the physicians’ helps which receives many herbs, but one is the essential, so also in case of repentance this is the essential herb, yea, it may be everything. For hear what the Divine Scripture says, “Give alms, and all things shall be clean.” (Lc 11,41). And again, “By alms-giving and acts of faithfulness 25 sins are purged away.” (Pr 16,6). And, “Water will quench a flaming fire, and alms will do away with great sins.” (Si 3,30).
Next not being angry with any one, not bearing malice; the forgiving all their trespasses. For, it is said, “Man retaineth wrath against man, and yet seeketh healing from the Lord.” (Si 28,3). “Forgive that ye may be forgiven.” (Mc 11,25).
Also, the converting our brethren from their wandering. For, it is said, 26 “Go thou, and convert thy brethren, that thy sins may be forgiven thee.” And from one’s being in close relations with 27 the priests, “and if,” it is said, “a manhath committed sins it shall be forgiven him.” (Jc 5,15). To stand forward in defense of those who are wronged. Not to retain anger: to bear all things meekly.
909 [9.] Now then, before you learned that it is possible to have our sins washed away by means of repentance, were ye not in an agony, because there is no second laver, and were ye not in despair of yourselves? But now that we have learned by what means repentance and remission is brought to a successful issue, and that we shall be able entirely to escape, if we be willing to use it aright, what forgiveness can we possibly obtain, if we do not even enter on the thought of our sins? since if this were done, all would be accomplished.
For as he who enters the door, is within; so he who reckons up his own evils will also certainly come to get them cured. But should he say, I am a sinner, without reckoning them up specifically, 28 and saying, This and this sin have I committed, he will never leave off, confessing indeed continually, but never caring in earnest for amendment. For should he have laid down a beginning, all the rest will unquestionably follow too, if only in one point 29 he have shown a beginning: for in every case the beginning and the preliminaries are difficult. This then let us lay as a foundation, and all will be smooth and easy.
Let us begin therefore, I entreat you, one with. making his prayers intense: another with continual weeping: another with downcast 30 countenance. For not even is this, which is so small, unprofitable: for “I saw” (it is said) “that he was grieved and went downcast, and I healed his ways.” (Is 57,18).
But let us all humble our own souls by alms-giving and forgiving our neighbors their trespasses, by not remembering injuries, nor avenging ourselves. If we continually reflect on our sins, no external circumstances can make us elated: neither riches, nor power, nor authority, nor honor; nay, even should we sit in the imperial chariot itself, we shall sigh bitterly: Since even the blessed David was a King, and yet he said, “Every night I will wash my bed,” [&c.] (Ps 6,6): and he was not at all hurt by the purple robe and the diadem: he was not puffed up; for he knew himself to be a man, and inasmuch as his heart had been made contrite, he went mourning.
910 [10.] For what are all things human? Ashes and dust, and as it were spray before the wind; a smoke and a shadow, and a leaf driven here and there; and a flower; a dream, and a tale, and a fable, wind and air vainly puffed out and wasting away; a feather that hath no stay, a stream flowing by, or if there be aught of more nothingness than these.
For, tell me, what dost thou esteem great? What dignity thinkest thou to be great? is it that of the Consul? For the many think no greater dignity than that. He who is not Consul is not a whit inferior to him who is in so great splendor, who is so greatly admired. Both one and theother are of the same dignity; both of them alike, after a little while, are no more.
When was he made [Consul]? For how long a time? tell me: for two days? Nay, this takes place even in dreams. But that is [only] a dream, you say. And what is this? For (tell me) what is by day, is it [therefore] not a dream? Why do we not rather call these things a dream? For as dreams when the day comes on are proved, to be nothing: so these things also, when thenight comes on, are proved to be nothing. For night and day have received each an equal portion of time, and have equally divided all duration. Therefore as in the day a person rejoices not in what happened at night, so neither in the night is it possible for him to reap the fruit of what is done in the day. Thou hast been made Consul? So was I in the night; only I in the night, thou in the day. And what of this? Not even so hast thou any advantage over me, except haply its being said, Such an one is Consul, and the pleasure that springs from the words, gives him the advantage.
I mean something of this kind, for I will express it more plainly: if I say “Such an one is Consul,” and bestow on him the name, is it not gone as soon as it is spoken? So also are the things themselves; no sooner doth the Consul appear, than he is no more. But let us suppose [that he is Consul] for a year, or two years, or three or four years. Where are they who were ten times Consul? Nowhere.
But Paul is not so. For he was, and also is living continually: he did not live one day, nor two, nor ten, and twenty, nor thirty; nor ten and twenty, nor yet thirty years—and die. Even the four hundredth year is now past, and still even yet is he illustrious, yea much more illustrious than when he was alive. And these things indeed [are] on earth; but the glory of the saints in heaven what word could set forth?
Wherefore I entreat you, let us seek this glory; let us pursue after it, that we may attain it. For this is the true glory. Let us henceforth stand aloof from the things of this life, that we may find grace and mercy in Christ Jesus our Lord: with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor and worship, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen.
1 to;n lovgon th`" ajrch`" tou` Cristou`. Literally, “the discourse of the beginning of Christ”; but presently St. Chrys. substitutes for this, hJ ajrch; tou` lovgou, “the beginning of the doctrine,” as the words are translated in our version.
2 ta; stoicei`a th`" ajrch`").
3 ejnedoeuovntwn aujtou;".
4 hJ ajrch; tou` lovgou.
5 The Faith; pivsti" with the article in this place and a little below means the Creed; as we say “the Belief.” [Yet it would be impossible to substitute the word “Creed”—“Creed in the resurrection.” &c. What is meant is that Christian belief which finds expression in the Creed, as well as elsewhere.—F. G.]
6 or “the letters.”
7 to; a[lfa).
9 That is, the Apostle repudiates the teaching of more than one baptism.
10 ejx ajrch`".
12 St. Chrys.’s exposition requires this literal translation of the participle. He gives two explanations of it, “to renew them by crucifying afresh,” and “seeing they crucify afresh.”
14 dia; loutrou`.
15 sterrou;" kainou;", Sav. Ben.
16 The common editions add ou(tw" oujde; baptisqh`nai, “so neither [is it possible] to be baptized [a second time].” The apodosis is wanting in the older text, as it is in several other places.
17 [The original has a paronomasia hardly to be reproduced in English. The word is, paradeigmatismov", of which the paradeigmativsai = “put to an open shame,” above is the verb.—F. G.]
18 The later texts add eJauto;n, “that baptizeth himself.” St. Chrys. however is speaking of a bishop who repeats baptism.
19 S. B. add pavlin.
20 cavri". The word is used throughout this passage in the sense of remission, as explained in the next clause.
21 The longer text in Sav. and Ben. adds, deutevrw/ de; o(ti ouj, “and secondly because it is not,” &c.: the shorter text has only oujde;, omitting “secondly.” There are many other instances of a similar negligence of style in the genuine text, as also in other works of St. Chrys.
22 The common texts add ta; ejkei`, “the things in heaven.” But St. Chrys. is speaking of present privileges here on earth.
23 The common texts add kai; ajpo; ejxagoreuvsew", “and [of] from confession.”
25 kai; pivstesin). [These same two words, ejlehmosuvnai, “almsgiving and acts of faithfulness,” are used by the Septuagint to translate “mercy and truth” in Pr 3,3 also, as if pivstei" were the distinct acts of faithfulness which go to make up truth, comp). true of heart throughout the Psalms.]
26 This seems to be an expression of the doctrine of James 5,19, 20, partially in the language of our Lord, Lc xxii. 33). [Cf. Ac 3,19.]
27 e[cein oijkeivw".
28 katAE ei\do".
29 eij" e)n, or, “once for all.”
30 kathfei`n, “seriousness.”
1000 He 6,7-12
and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God. But if it bear1 thorns and briars it is rejected, and nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned.”
[1.] Let us hear the oracles of God with fear, with fear and much trembling. For (it is said) “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice unto Him with trembling.” (Ps 2,11). But if even our joy and our exultation ought to be “with trembling,” of what punishment are we not worthy, if we listen not with terror to what is said, when the things spoken, as now, are themselves fearful?
For having said that “it is impossible for those who have fallen away” to be baptized a second time, and to receive remission through the layer, and having pointed out the awfulness of the case, he goes on: “for the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God. But if it bear thorns and thistles, it is rejected,2 and nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.”
Let us then fear, beloved! This threat is not Paul’s, these words are not of man: they are of the Holy Ghost, of Christ that speaketh in him. Is there then any one that is clear from these thorns? And even if we were clear, not even so ought we to be confident, but to fear and tremble lest at any time thorns should spring up in us. But when we are “thorns and thistles” through and through, whence (tell me) are we confident? And are becoming supine? What is it which makes us inert? If “he that thinkethhe standeth” ought to fear “test he fall”; for (he says) “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall” (1Co 10,12); he thatfalleth, how anxious ought he to be that he may rise up again! If Paul fears, “lest that by any means, when he had preached to others, he himself should be a castaway” (1Co 9,27); and he who had been so approved is afraid lest he should become disapproved:3 what pardon shall we have who are already disapproved, if we have no fear, but fulfill our Christianity as a custom, and for form’s sake. Let us then fear, beloved: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven.” (Rm 1,18). Let us fear, for it “is revealed” not “against impiety” only, but “against all unrighteousness.” What is “against all unrighteousness”? [Against all] both small and great.
1002 [2.] In this passage he intimates the lovingkindness of God towards man: and the teaching [of the Gospel] he calls “rain”: and what he said above, “when for the time ye ought to be teachers” (c. 5,12), this he says here also. Indeed in many places the Scripture calls the teaching “rain.” For (it says) “I will command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it” (Is 5,6), speaking of “the vineyard.” The same which in another place it calls “a famine of bread, and a thirst of water.” (Am 8,11). And again, “The river of God is full of waters.” (Ps 65,9).
“For land,” he says, “which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it.” Here he shows that they received and drank in the word, yea and often enjoyed this, and yet even so they were not profited. For if (he means) thou hadst not been tilled, if thou hadst enjoyed no rains, the evil would not have been so great. For (it is said) “If I had not come and spoken unto them they had not had sin.” (Jn 15,22).But if thou hast often drunk and received [nourishment], wherefore hast thou brought forth other things instead of fruits? For (it is said) “I waited that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth thorns.” (Is 5,2).
Thou seest that everywhere the Scripture calleth sins “thorns.” For David also saith, “I was turned into mourning when a thorn was fixed in me.” (Ps 32,4 LXX). For it does not simply come on us, but is fixed in; and even if but a little of it remain in, even if we take it not out entirely, that little of itself in like manner causes pain, as in the case of a thorn. And why do I say, ‘that little of itself’? Even after it has been taken out, it leaves therein for a long time the pain of the wound. And much care and treatment is necessary, that we may be perfectly freed from it. For it is not enough merely to take away the sin, it is necessary also to heal the wounded place.
But I fear however lest the things said apply to us more than to others. “For,” he says, “the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it.” We are ever drinking, ever hearing, but “when the sun is risen” (Mt 13,6) we straightway lose our moisture, and therefore bring forth thorns. What then are the thorns? Let us hear Christ saying, that “the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.” (Mt 13,22).
1003 [3.] “For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it,” he says, “and bringeth forth meet herbs.” Because nothing isso meet as purity of life, nothing so suitable as the best life, nothing so meet as virtue.
“And bringeth forth” (saith he) “herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God.” Here he says that God is the cause of all things, giving the heathen a blow, who ascribed the production of fruits to the power of the earth. For (he says) it is not the hands of the husbandman which stir up the earth to bear fruits, but the command from God. Therefore he says, “receives blessing from God.”
And see how in speaking of the thorns, he said not, “bringing forth4 thorns,” nor did he use this word expressive of what is useful; but what? “Bearing”5 [literally “putting out”] “thorns,” as if one should say, “forcing out,” “throwing out.”
“Rejected” (he says) “and nigh unto cursing.” Oh! how great consolation in this word! For he said “nigh unto cursing,” not “a curse.” Now he that hath not yet fallen into a curse, but is come to be near [thereto], may also come to be far off [therefrom].
And not by this only did he encourage them, but also by what follows. For he did not say “rejected and nigh unto cursing,” “which shall be burned,” but what? “Whose end is to be burned,” if he continue [such] (he means) unto the end. So that, if we cut out and burn the thorns, we shall be able to enjoy those good things innumerable and to become approved, and to partake of blessing.
And with good reason did he call sin “a thistle,”6 saying “that which beareth thorns and thistles”; for on whatever side you lay hold on it, it wounds and stings, and it is unpleasant even to look at.
1004 [4.] Having therefore sufficiently rebuked them, and alarmed and wounded them, he in turn heals them, so as not to cast them down too much, and make them supine. For he that strikes one that is “dull,” makes him more dull. So then he neither flatters them throughout, test he should make them supine, nor does he wound them throughout, but having inserted a little to wound them, he applies much to heal in what follows.
For what does he say? We speak not these things, as having condemned you, nor as thinking you to be full of thorns, but fearing test this should come to pass. For it is better to terrify you by words, that ye may not suffer by the realities. And this is specially of Paul’s wisdom.
Moreover he did not say, We think, or, we conjecture, or, we expect, or, we hope, but what? (He 6,9) “But beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.” Which word he also used in writing to the Galatians: “But I am persuaded of you in the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded.” (Ga 5,10). For in that instance, inasmuch as they were greatly to be condemned, and he could not praise them from things present, he does it from things future (“that ye will be none otherwise minded,” he says): he said not, ye are, but “ye will be none otherwise minded.” But here he encourages them from things present. “We are persuaded better things of you, beloved, and things that accompany to salvation, though we thus speak.” And since he was not able to say so much from things present, he confirms his consolation from things past; and says,
He 6,10. “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work, and7 the love, which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have ministered unto the saints and do minister.” O how did he here restore their spirit, and give them fresh strength, by reminding them of former things, and bringing them to the necessity of not supposing that God had forgotten. (For he cannot but sin who is not fully assured concerning his hope, and says that God is unrighteous. Accordingly he obliged them by all means to look forward to those future things. For one who despairs of present things, and has, given up exerting himself, may be restored by[the prospect of] things future). As he himself also said in writing to the Galatians, “Ye did run well” (Ga 5,7): and again, “Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.” (Ga 3,4).
And as in this place he puts the praise with the reproof, saying, “When for the time ye ought to be teachers” (He 5,12), so also there, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed.” (Ga 1,6). With the reproof is the praise. For respecting great things we marvel, when they fail. Thou seest that praise is concealed under the accusation and the blame. Nor does he say this concerning himself only, but also concerning all. For he said not, I am persuaded, but “weare persuaded better things of you,” even good things (he means). He says this either in regard to matters of conduct, or to the recompense. In the next place, having said above, that it is “rejected and nigh unto a curse,” and that it “shall be for burning,” he says, we do not by any means speak this of you. “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work, and love.” (He 6,10).
1005 [5.] Why then did we say these things? (He 6,11-12) “But we desire that everyone of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end; that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
“We desire,” he says, and we do not therefore merely labor for, or even so far as words go, wish this. But what? “We desire” that ye should hold fast to virtue, not as condemning your former conduct (he means), but fearing for the future. And he did not say, ‘not as condemning your former conduct, but your present; for ye have fainted, ye are become too indolent’; but see how gently he indicated it, and did not wound them.
For what does he say? “But we desire that every, one of you do show the same diligence unto the end.” For this is the admirable part of Paul’s wisdom, that he does not expresslyshow that they “had” given in, that they “had” become negligent. For when he says, “We desire that every one of you”—it is as if one should say, I wish thee to be always in earnest; and such as thou weft before, such to be now also, and for the time to come. For this made his reproof more gentle and easy to be received.
And he did not say, “I will,” which would have been expressive of the authority of a teacher, but what is expressive of the affection of a father, and what is more than “willing,” “we desire.” All but saying, Pardon us, even if we say what is distasteful.
“We desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of your hope unto the end.” Hope (he means) carries us through: it recovers us again. Be not wearied out, do not despair, lest your hope be in vain. For he that worketh good hopeth also good, and never despairs of himself.
“That ye may not become dull.”8 Still 9 “become”; and yet he said above, “seeing ye are become dull 10 of hearing.” (c. 5,11). Observe however how he limited the dullness to the hearing. And here he hints the very same thing; instead of‘that ye may not continue in it,’ he says [this]. But again he leads on to that future time for which they were not yet responsible; saying in effect “that ye may not become too slothful”: since for that which is not yet come we could not be responsible. For he who in regard to the present time is exhorted to be in earnest, as being remiss, will perhaps become even more slothful, but he who is exhorted with reference to the future, not so.
“We desire” (he says) “that every one of you.” Great is his affection for them: he cares equally for great and small; moreover he knows all, and overlooks no one, but shows the same tender care for each, and equal value for all: from which cause also he the rather persuaded them to receive what was distasteful in his words.
“That ye be not slothful,” he says. For as inactivity hurts the body, so also inactivity as to what is good renders the soul more supine and feeble.
1006 [6.] “But followers” (he says) “of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” And who they are, he tells afterwards. He said before, “Imitate your own former well-doings.” Then, lest they should say, What? He leads them back to the Patriarch: bringing before them examples of well-doing indeed from their own history, 11 but of the thought of being forsaken, from the Patriarch; that they might not suppose that they were disregarded and forsaken as worthy of no account, but might know that it is [the portion] of the very noblest men to make the journey of life through trials; and that God has thus dealt with great and admirable men.
Now we ought (he says) to bear all things with patience: for this also is believing: whereas if He say that He gives and thou immediately receivest, how hast thou also believed? Since in that case this is no longer of thy faith, but of Me, the Giver. But if I say that I give, and give after an hundred years, and thou hast not despaired; then hast thou accounted Me worthy to be believed, then thou hast the right opinion concerning Me. Thou seest that oftentimes unbelief arises not from want of hope only, but also from faintheartedness, and want of patience, not from condemning him who made the promise.
“For God” (he says) “is not unrighteous to forget your love” and the zeal “which ye have showed toward His Name, in that ye have ministered unto the saints, and do minister.” He testifies great things of them, not deeds only; but deeds done with alacrity, which he says also inanother place, “and not only so, but they gave themselves also to the Lord and to us.” (2Co 8,5).
“Which” (he says) “ye have showed toward His Name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” See how again he soothes them, by adding “and do minister.” Still even at this time (he says) ye are ministering, and he raises them up by showing that they had done [what they did] not to them [the saints], but to God. “Which ye have showed” (he says); and he said not “unto the saints,” but “towards God,” for this is “toward His Name.” It is for His Name’s sake (he means) that ye have done all. He therefore who has the enjoyment from you of 12 so great zeal and love, will never despise you nor forget you.
1007 [7.] Hearing these things, let us, I beseech you, “minister to the saints.” For every believer is a saint in that he is a believer. Though he be a person living in the world, he is a saint. “For” (he says) “the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife by the husband.” (1Co 7,14). See how the faith makes the saintship. If then we see even a secular person in misfortune, let us stretch out a hand [to him]. Let us not be zealous for those only who dwell in the mountains; they are indeed saints both in manner of life and in faith; these others however are saints by their faith, and many of them also in manner of life. Let us not, if we see a monk [cast] into prison, in that case go in; but if it be a secular person, refuse to go in. He also is a saint and a brother.
What then (you say) if he be unclean andpolluted? Listen to Christ saying, “Judge not that ye be not judged.” (Mt 7,1). Do thou act for God’s sake. Nay, what am I saying? Even if we see a heathen in misfortune, we ought to show kindness to him, and to every man without exception who is in misfortunes, and much more to a believer who is in the world. Listen to Paul, saying, “Do good unto all men, but especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Ga 6,10).
But I know not whence this [notion] has been introduced, or whence this custom hath prevailed. For he that only seeks after the solitaries, and is willing to do good to them alone, and with regard to others on the contrary is over-curious in his enquiries, and says, ‘unless he be worthy, 13 unless he be righteous, unless he work miracles, I stretch out no hand’; [such an one] has taken away the greater part of charity, 14 yea and in time he will in turn destroy the very thing itself. And yet that is charity, 15 [which is shown] towards sinners, towards the guilty. For this is charity, 16 not the pitying those who have done well, but those who have done wrong.
1008 [8.] And that thou mayest understand this, listen to the Parable: “A certain man” (it is said) “went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves” (Lc 10,30, &c).; and when they had beaten him, they left him by the way-side, having badly bruised him. A certain Levite came, and when he saw him, he passed by; A priest came, and when he saw him, he hastened past; a certain Samaritan came, and bestowed great care upon him. For he “bound up his wounds” (Lc 10,34), dropped oil on them, set him upon his ass, “brought him to the inn, said to the host, Take care of him” (Lc 10,35); and (observe his great liberality), “and I,” he says, “will give thee whatsoever thou shalt expend.” Who then is his neighbor? “He,” it is said, “that showed mercy on him. Go thou then also,” He says, “and do likewise.” (Lc 10,37). And see what a parable He spake. He said not that a Jew did [so and so] to a Samaritan, but that a Samaritan showed all that liberality. Having then heard these things, let us not care only for “those that are of the household of faith” (Ga 6,10), and neglect others. So then also thou, if thou see any one in affliction, be not curious to enquire further. His being in affliction involves a just claim on thy aid. 17 For if when thou seest an ass choking thou raisest him up, and dost not curiously enquire whose he is, much more about a man one ought not to be over-curious in enquiring whose he is. He is God’s, be he heathen or be he Jew; since even if he is an unbeliever, still he needs help. For if indeed it had been committed to thee to enquire and to judge, thou wouldst have well said thus, but, as it is, his misfortune does not suffer thee to search out these things. For if even about men in good health it is not right to be over-curious, nor to be a busybody in other men’s matters, much less about those that are in affliction.
1009 [9.] But on another view what [shall we say]? Didst thou see him in prosperity, in high esteem, that thou shouldst say that he is wicked and worthless? But if thou seest him in affliction, do not say that he is wicked. For when a man is in high credit, we fairly say these things; but when he is in calamity, and needs help, it is not right to say that he is wicked. For this is cruelty, inhumanity, and arrogance. Tell me what was ever more iniquitous than the Jews. But nevertheless while God punished them, and that justly, yea, very justly, yet He approved of those who had compassion on them, and those who rejoiced over them He punished. (Am 5,6). For “they were not grieved,” it is said, “at the affliction of Joseph.”
And again it is said “Redeem [Ransom] those who are ready to be slain: spare not.” (Pr 24,11). (He said not, enquire curiously, and learn who he is; and yet, for the most part, they who are led away to execution are wicked,) for this especially is charity. For he that doeth good to a friend, doeth it not altogether for God’s sake: but he that [doeth good] to one unknown, this man acts purely for God’s sake. “Do not spare” thy money, even if it be necessary to spend all, yet give.
But we, when we see persons in extreme distress, 18 bewailing themselves, suffering things more grievous than ten thousand deaths, and oftentimes unjustly, we[I say] are sparing of our money, and unsparing of our brethren; we are careful of lifeless things, but neglect the living soul. And yet Paul says, “in meekness instruct those that oppose themselves, if peradventure God should give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil who are taken captive by him, at His will.” (2Tm 2,25-26). “If peradventure,” he says; thou seest of howgreat long-suffering the word is full.
Let us also imitate Him, and despair of no one.For the fishermen too, when they have cast many times [suppose it], have not succeeded; but afterwards having cast again, have gained all. So we also expect that ye will all at once show to us ripe fruit. For the husbandman too, after he has sown, waits one day or two days, and is a long while in expectation: and all at once he sees the fruits springing up on every side. This we expect will take place in your case also by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and also to the Holy Ghost be glory, might, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen).
1 The received version is necessarily altered here: St. Chrysostom’s commentary will be more readily understood if it is kept in mind that the exact translation would be as below: “the land which hath drunk in,” &c., “partaketh of blessing,” &c). “But if it bear thorns and thistles, it is reprobate, and nigh unto a curse, whose end is for burning.” [There seems to be no need of this slight correction; the present participle of the Greek is even more closely represented by the A. V. than by the above translation. But in view of this note, it must be allowed to stand.—F. G.]
2 ajdovkimo" “reprobate.”
3 ajdovkimo". In the original it is one and the same word which in the text, He 6,8, is translated “rejected,” in 1Co 9,27, “a castaway”; it is in this clause opposed to dovkimo", “approved,” “accepted.” It means rejected after testing, as in case of metals: which may take place, as St. Chrys. implies in this passage, either here or hereafter; either for a time or for eternity.
6 [trivbolon, “a burr.”]
7 Sav. and Ben. here, and in other places where the text is cited, insert tou` kovpou, “the labor of love,” &c. These words are probably not part of the sacred text. They are not referred to by St. Chrysostom.
8 nwqroi;. The same word is translated “slothful” and “dull” in these two passages. It means “sluggish,” “stupid,” “without quickness in perception or energy in action.”
10 nwqroi;. The same word is translated “slothful” and “dull” in these two passages. It means “sluggish,” “stupid,” “without quickness in perception or energy in action.”
11 nwqroi;. The same word is translated “slothful” and “dull” in these two passages. It means “sluggish,” “stupid,” “without quickness in perception or energy in action.”
14 eja;n mhJ h\/ a[xio", eja;n mh; h\/ divkaio". Mr. Field retains mh; in these clauses, in accordance with the common editions, though all the mss. omit the negative in the first clause, and the best mss. in the second also, and it was not read by Mutianus. If it be omitted, the passage would run thus, “and says, If he be worthy, if he be righteous [I will help him]. Unless he work miracles I stretch out no hand,” &c.; which seems to give a good sense.
15 ejlehmosuvnh, “mercifulness.” or “almsgiving.”
16 ejlehmosuvnh, “mercifulness,” or “almsgiving.”
17 to; dikaivwma th`" bonqeiva".
Chrysostom He 900