Chrysostom on Rm 300
300 Rm 1,18-25
301 Observe the discretion of Paul, how after encouraging by the gentler things, he turns his discourse to the more fearful. For after saying that the Gospel is the cause of salvation and of life, that it is the power of God, that it gendereth salvation and righteousness, he mentions what might well make them fear that were heedless of it. For since in general most men are not drawn so much by the promise of what is good as by the fear of what is painful, he draws them on both sides. For this cause too did God not only promise a kingdom, but also threaten hell. And the Prophets spake thus with the Jews, ever intermingling the evil with the good. For this cause too Paul thus varies his discourse, yet not any how, but he sets first the good things, and after the evil, to show that the former came of the guiding purpose of God, but the latter of the wickedness of the backsliding. And in this way the prophet puts the good first, saying, “If ye be willing and will obey me, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye be not willing and will not obey me, the sword shall devour you.” (Is 1,19-20). So here too does Paul conduct his discourse. But observe him; Christ, he means, came to bring forgiveness, righteousness, life, yet not in any way, but by the Cross, which is greatest too and wonderful, that He not only gave such things, but that He also suffered such things. If then ye insolently scorn the gifts, then will the penalties await you, And see how he raises his language, “For the wrath of God,” he says, “is revealed from heaven.” Whence does this appear? If it be a believer who says this, we will tell him of the declarations of Christ, but if the unbeliever and the Grecian, him Paul silences, by what he says presently of the judgment of God, bringing an uncontrovertible demonstration from the things which were done by them. And this too is by far the most striking point in him, how he exhibits those who speak against the truth, as themselves bearing witness by the things which they do daily, and say, to the doctrines of the truth. But of this in the sequel: but for the present, let us keep to what is set before us. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven.” And indeed even here this often takes place in famines and pestilences and wars: for each individually and all in common are punished. What will be the new thing then? That the chastisement will be greater, and common to all, and not by the same rules. For now what takes place is for correction; but then for vengeance.1 And this also St. Paul showed, when he said, “We are chastened now, that we should not be condemned with the world.” (1Co 11,32). And now indeed to many such things usually seem to come not of the wrath from above, but of the malice of man. But then the punishment from God shall be manifest, when the Judge, sitting upon the fearful tribunal, shall command some to be dragged to the furnaces, and some to the outer darkness,2 and some to other inexorable and intolerable punishments. And why is it that he does not speak as plainly as this, the Son of God is coming with ten thousand angels, and will call each man to account, but says, that “the wrath of God is revealed?” His hearers were as yet novices, and therefore he draws them first by things quite allowed by them. And besides what is here mentioned, he also seems to me to be aiming against the Greeks. And this is why he makes his beginning from this, but afterwards he introduces the subject of Christ’s judgment.
“Against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” Here he showeth that the ways of ungodliness are many,, and that of truth, one. For error is a thing various and multiform and compound, but the truth is one. And after speaking of doctrines he speaks of life, mentioning the unrighteousness of men. For there be various kinds of unrighteousness also. One is in money affairs, as when any one deals unrighteously by his neighbor in these; and another in regard to women, when a man leaves his own wife, and breaks in upon the marriage of another. For St. Paul calls this also defrauding, saying thus, “That no man go beyond or defraud his brother in the matter.” (1Th 4,6). Others again injure not the wife or property, but the reputation of their neighbor, and this too is unrighteousness. For “a good name is better than great riches.” (Pr 22,1). But some say that this also is said of Paul about doctrines. Still there is nothing to prevent its having been said of both. But what it is “to hold the truth in unrighteousness,” learn from the sequel.
Rm 1,19. “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath showed it unto them.”
But this glory they invested stocks and stones with. As then he which is entrusted with the goods of the king, and is ordered to spend them upon the king’s glory, if he waste these upon robbers, and harlots, and witches, and make these splendid out of the king’s stores, he is punished as having done the kingdom the greatest wrong. Thus they also who after having received the knowledge of God and of His glory, invested idols therewith, “held the truth in unrighteousness,” and, at least as far as was in their power, dealt unrighteously by the knowledge, by not using it upon fitting objects. Now, has what was said become clear to you, or must one make it still clearer? Perhaps it were needful to say somewhat more. What then is it which is here said? The knowledge of Himself God placed in men from the beginning. But this knowledge they invested stocks and stones with, and so dealt unrighteously to the truth, as far at least as they might. For it abideth unchanged, having its own glory immutable. “And whence is it plain that He placed in them this knowledge, O Paul?” “Because,” saith he, “that which may be known of Him is manifest in them.” This, however, is an assertion, not a proof. But do thou make it good, and show me that the knowledge of God was plain to them, and that they willingly turned aside. Whence was it plain then? did He send them a voice from above? By no means. But what was able to draw them to Him more than a voice, that He did, by putting before them the Creation, so that both wise, and unlearned, and Scythian, and barbarian, having through sight learned the beauty of the things which were seen, might mount up to God.3 Wherefore he says,
Rm 1,20. “For the invisible things of Him. from the Creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things which are made.”
Which also the prophet said, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” (Ps 19,1). For what will the Greeks (i.e. Heathen) say in that day? That “we were ignorant of Thee?” Did ye then not hear the heaven sending forth a voice by the sight, while the well-ordered harmony of all things spake out more clearly than a trumpet? Did ye not see the hours of night and day abiding unmoved continually, the goodly order of winter, spring, and the other seasons remaining both sure and unmoved, the tractableness (eugnwmosunhn) of the sea amid all its turbulence and waves? All things abiding in order and by their beauty and their grandeur, preaching aloud of the Creator? For all these things and more than these doth Paul sum up in saying, “The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things which are made, even His eternal Power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” And yet it is not for this God hath made these things, even if this came of it. For it was not to bereave them of all excuse, that He set before them so great a system of teaching, but that they might come to know Him. But by not having recognized4 Him they deprived themselves of every excuse, and then to show how they are bereaved of excuse, he says,
9Rm 1,21. “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God.”
This is the one greatest charge; and the second after it is their also worshipping idols, as Jeremy too in accusing them said, “This people hath committed two evils: they have forsaken me the fountain of living water, and have dug for themselves broken cisterns.” (Jr 2,13). And then as a sign of their having known God, and not used their knowledge upon a fit object, he adduces this very thing, that they knew gods. Wherefore he adds, “because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God.” And he names the cause through which they fell into such senselessness. What then is it? They trusted everything to their reasonings. Still he does not word it so, but in a much sharper language, “but became vain in their reasonings, and their foolish heart was darkened.” For as in a night without a moon, if any one attempt to go by a strange road, or to sail over a strange sea, so far will he be from soon reaching his destination, that he will speedily be lost. Thus they, attempting to go the way leading to Heaven, and having destroyed the light from their own selves, and, in lieu of it, trusted themselves to the darkness of their own reasoning, and seeking in bodies for Him who is incorporeal, and in shapes for Him who hath no shape, underwent a most rueful shipwreck. But beside what has been said, he names also another cause of their error, when he says,
Rm 1,22. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”
For having some great conceit of themselves, and not enduring to go the way which God had commanded them, they were plunged into the reasonings of senselessness (1 ms. dianoia"). And then to show and give in outline, what a rueful surge it was, and how destitute of excuse, he goes on to say,
Rm 1,23. “And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.”
The first charge is, that they did not find God; the second was, that it was while they had great and clear (Sav. marg. “wise”) means to do it; the third, that withal they said they were wise; the fourth, that they not only did not find that Reverend Being, but even lowered Him to devils and to stones and stocks. Now he takes down their haughtiness also in the Epistle to the Corinthians, but not in the same way there as here. For there it is from the Cross he gives them the blow, saying, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men.” (1Co 1,25). But here, without any comparison, he holds their wisdom by itself up to ridicule, showing it to be folly and a mere display of vain boasting. Then, that you may learn that when they had the knowledge of God they gave it up thus treacherously, “they changed,” he says. Now he that changeth, hath something to change. For they wished to find out more, and not bear with the limits given them, and so they were banished from these also. For they were lusters after new devices, for such is all that is Grecian. And this is why they stood against one another and Aristotle rose up against Plato, and the Stoics blustered (efruaxanto 6 mss. “fenced themselves,” efraxanto: which Field inclines to prefer) against him, and one has become hostile to one, another to another. So that one should not so much marvel at them for their wisdom, as turn away from them indignant and hate them, because through this very thing they have become fools. For had they not trusted what they have to reasonings, and syllogisms, and sophistries, they would not have suffered what they did suffer. Then, to strengthen the accusation against them he holds the whole of their idolatry up to ridicule. For in the first place the changing even were a very fit subject of scorn. But to change to such things too, is beyond all excuse. For what then did they change it, and what was it which they invested with His Glory? Some conceptions they ought to have had about Him, as, for instance, that He is God, that He is Lord of all, that He made them, which were not, that He exerciseth a Providence, that He careth for them. For these things are the “Glory of God.” To whom then did they ascribe it? Not even to men, but “to an image made like to corruptible man.” Neither did they stop here, but even dropped down to the brutes, or rather to the images of these. But consider, I pray, the wisdom of Paul, how he has taken the two extremes, God the Highest, and creeping things the lowest: or rather, not the creeping things, but the images of these; that he might clearly show their evident madness. For what knowledge they ought to have had concerning Him Who is incomparably more excellent than all, with that they invested what was incomparably more worthless than all. But what has this to do with the philosophers? a man may say. To these belongs most of all what I have said to do with them. For they have the Egyptians who were the inventors of these things to their masters. And Plato, who is thought more reverend than the rest of them, glories in these masters. (Plat. Tim. 21. B. etc). And his master is in a stupid awe of these idols, for he it is that bids them sacrifice the cock to Aesculapius5 (his last words, Phaedo), where (i.e. in his temple. So Field from Mss). are the images of these beasts, and creeping things. And one may see Apollo and Bacchus worshipped along with these creeping things. And some of the philosophers even lifted up to Heaven bulls, and scorpions, and dragons, and all the rest of that vanity. For in all parts did the devil zealously strive to bring men down before the images of creeping things, and to range beneath the most senseless of all things, him whom God hath willed to lift up above the heavens. And it is not from this only, but also from other grounds, that you will see their chief man to come under the remarks now made. For having made a collection of the poets, and having said that we should believe them upon matters relating to God, as having accurate knowledge, he has nothing else to bring forward but the “linked sweetness” of these absurdities, and then says, that this utterly ludicrous trifling is to be held for true.6 7
Rm 1,24. “Wherefore also God gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves.”
Hence he shows, that even of the perversion of the laws it was ungodliness which was the cause, but He “gave them up,” here is, let them alone.8 For as he that hath the command in an army, if upon the battle lying heavy upon him he retreat and go away, gives up his soldiers to the enemies not by thrusting them himself, but by stripping them of his own assistance; thus too did God leave those that were not minded to receive what cometh from Him, but were the first to bound off from Him, though Himself having wholly fulfilled His own part. But consider; He set before them, for a form doctrine, the world; He gave them reason, and an understanding capable of perceiving what was needful. None of these things did the men of that day use unto salvation, but they perverted to the opposite what they had received. What was to be done then? to drag them by compulsion and force? But this were not to make them virtuous. It remained then, after that, for Him to leave them alone, and this He did too, that in this way, if by no other, having by trial come to know the things they lusted after, they might flee from what was so shameful (3 mss. add eikotw", and with reason). For if any that was a king’s son, dishonoring his father, should choose to be with robbers and murderers, and them that break up tombs, and prefer their doings to his father’s house; the father leaves him, say, so that by actual trial, he may learn the extravagance of his own madness. But how comes he to mention no other sin, as murder, for instance, or covetousness, or other such besides, but only unchasteness? He seems to me to hint at his audience at the time, and those who were to receive the Epistle. “To uncleanness, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves.”
Note the emphasis here, as it is most severe. For they stood not in need of any others, it means, to do insolent violence to them, but the very treatment the enemies would have shown them, this they did to themselves. And then, taking up the charge again, he says,
Rm 1,25. “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator.”
Things which were matter for utter scorn, he puts down specially, but what seemed of a graver cast than the rest, in general terms; and by all he shows, that serving the creature is Grecian. And see how strong he makes his assertion, for he does not say, barely. “they served the creature,” but “more than the Creator:” thus everywhere giving fresh force to the charge, and, by the comparison, taking from them all ground of mitigation. “Who is blessed forever. Amen.” But by this, he means, He was not any whit injured. For Himself abideth “blessed for ever.” Here he shows, that it was not in self-defence that He left them alone, inasmuch as He suffered nothing Himself. For even if these treated Him insolently, yet He was not insolently treated, neither was any scathe done to the bearings of His glory, but He abideth continually blessed. For if it often happen, that man through philosophy would not feel the insults men offered him, much less would God, the imperishable and unalterable Nature, the unchangeable and immovable Glory.
For men are in this respect made like unto God,9 when they do not feel what is inflicted by them who would do them despite, and are neither insulted of others who insult them, nor beaten of them when beating them, nor made scorn of when they make scorn of them. And how in the nature of things can this be? it may be said. It is so, yea most certainly it is possible, when thou art not vexed at what is done. And how, it may be said, is it possible not to be vexed? Nay rather, how is it possible to be vexed? Tell me now, if your little child were to insult you, would you then reckon the insult an insult? What, but would you be vexed? Surely not. But and if you were to be vexed, would you not then be ridiculous? Thus too let us then get to feel disposed towards our neighbors, and then we shall have no sense of displeasure. For they that insult us are more senseless than children. Neither let us even seek to be free from insults, but when we are insulted to bear them. For this is the only secure honor. But why so? Because this you are master of, but that, another person. Do you not see the adamant reverberating the blows it receives? But nature, you will say, gives it this property. Yet you too have it in your power to become by free choice such, as that happens to be by nature. How? do you not know that the children in the furnace were not burned? and that Daniel in the den suffered no harm? This may even now come to pass. There stand by us too lions, anger and lust, with fearful teeth tearing asunder him that falleth among them. (Plato Rep. viii). Become then like that (ekeinon 3 mss.) Daniel, and let not these affections fasten their fangs into thy soul. But that, you will say, was wholly of grace. Yes; because the acts 10 of free-will led the way thereto. So that if we be willing to train ourselves to a like character, even now the grace is at hand. And even though the brutes be an hungered, yet will they not touch thy sides. For if at the sight of a servant’s body they were abashed, when they have seen the members of Christ, (and this is what we believers are,) how shall they do else than be still? Yet if they be not still, it is owing to the fault of those cast among them. For indeed many spend largely upon these lions, by keeping harlots, breaking through marriages, taking vengeance upon enemies. And so before ever they come to the bottom of the den they get torn in pieces. (Da 6,24). But with Daniel this did not so happen, neither yet would it with us, if we were so minded, but even a greater thing would take place than what then happened. For the lions hurt not him; and if we be sober-minded, then will they that hurt us even profit us. Thus then did Paul grow bright out of those that thwarted him and plotted against him, thus Jb out of the many scourges, thus Jeremy out of the miry pit, thus Noah out of the flood, thus Abel out of the treachery, thus Moses out of the bloodthirsty Jews, thus, Elisha, thus each of the worthies of old, not out of relaxedness and softness, but out of tribulations and trials, came to be attired with their bright crowns. Wherefore also Christ, inasmuch as He knew this to be the groundwork of a good report, said to His disciples, “In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16,33). What then, they will say, Have not many been turned to flight by these terrors? Yes, but that was not of the nature of temptation, but of their own remissness. But He that “with the temptation maketh also an escape, so that ye may be able to bear it” (1Co 10,13), may He stand by all of us, and reach forth His hand, that being gloriously proclaimed victorious we may attain to the everlasting crowns, through the grace and love towards man (5 mss. add the rest and so Field pasim)of our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom, and with Whom, to the Father be glory, with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen.
1 The author does not make it plain in what he understands’ the revelation of God’s wrath here spoken of to consist. He mentions famines and pestilences as things in which it “often takes place.” Paul evidently means that God’s wrath is manifest in the judicial hardening of the people for their sins (vid. vv. 21, 28). Their shameful deeds and lives are the penalty of their sin. “God punishes their sin by sin” (Weiss), that is, He made them reap the bitter fruit in sinful lives of their sinful choices and acts. The view of Ritschl that orgh qeou is here eschatological in meaning seems very inadequately supported (vid. Godet on Romans—Am. ed. p. 102).—G. B. S.
2 St. Basil speaks similarly of various punishments, Reguloe. Br. Tr. int. 267, ed. Ben. text 2,p. 507. Theophylact on Mt 8,12, seems to allude to this passage. Both say that “outer darkness” implies an “inner,” but seemingly in opposite senses Theoph. taking esw to be towards Heaven. Origen on Mt 22,13 makes it a temporary punishment. St. Chrys. on Matt. xxii). 13. St. Aug. on Ps 6,6. St. Jerome on Mt 8,12, take it otherwise. See also St. Bas. on Ps 33 (4), 11, text 1,151 e. See Maldonatus on Mt 8,12, and St. Chrys. on Rm 16,16, infra on the difference of punishments).
3 Pascal. Pen. c. 20, thinks an inward illumination implied here.
4 agnohsante" 4 mss. and Sav. marg.; in text agnwmonhsante", having been obstinate).
5 Thus Tert. Ap. 46. Lact. 3,20. Origen cont. Cels. 6,c. 4, quotes this as showing the Philosophers guilty of St. Paul’s charge at the same time speaking of Socrates’ previous discourse as “what God had shown them;” the note of Spencer, Ed. Ben. i, 631, quotes an allegorical explanation. Theodoret, Groec. Aff. Cur. Dis. 7,de Sacr. says it was done to disprove the charge of Atheism.
[Probably Socrates’ real judgment on the popular mythology was, that it was an imperfect and economical revelation of a higher truth than it expressed: and its ceremonies the legitimate though conventional expression of true devotion. Thus “the cock to Aesculapius” was the sick man’s thank-offering for recovery from “life’s fitful fever.”]
6 See Plat. Io 533 E. and perhaps Euthyph). 6 A. B: passages certainly not fairly representative of Plato’s deliberate opinions. But Greek Philosophy is here treated as attempting to rival the Gospel. The Fathers who most value what is true in it, as Clement of Alexandria and Justin Martyr, speak of it as from partial Divine Light, and use it against the false; as CI. A). Str. 1. recommends the study of it for subordinate knowledge, and Cohort). ad Gr. quotes Heathens against the mythology, whose authors he considers led by demons to deceive men. So too Justin, Ap. 1,46, allows Heathens a partaking of the Logo", and 20, 55, 58, 62, etc., refers idol rites to the demons. St. Augustin de Civ. Dei, 8,10, and elsewhere, gives a fair estimate of Gentile Philosophy. The Apostolical Constitutions, 1. 1,c. 6, forbid studying heathen books. Cotelerius in his note quotes on the same side, 1. 2,c. 61, recog. 10,15, 42. Isid. Sent. 3,13, etc., and the blame cast on Origen by many. On the other side Tert). de Idol. c. 10, who however only defends learning in heathen schools, rather than Christians should conform to heathen customs as teachers. Origen Philocal. c. 13. Greg. Naz. Or. 20. Hieron. ep. 84. 70 Vall ad Magnum Oratorem Greg. Papa. ad 1 Reg. 13,19, 20. Theod. H. E. 4,26, as checking excess in such studies, Greg. ad Desiderium, 50,9,Ep. 48. Hier. adv. Luciferianos, c. 5. Ep. 61, c. 1. Cassian. Coll. 14,c. 12, etc.
7 The steps of this degeneracy of the Gentile world as indicated in 5, 21–23 maybe indicated thus: (1) ceasing to give glory to God and to recognize his power and divineness. (2) Thanklessness. They lost the sense of their relation to him as recipients of his bounty. (3) They entered into vain and foolish speculations—dialogismoi. (4) These ended only in blindness of mind and heart to the truth which they once possessed. (5) Mistaking all this folly for wisdom, they were ripe for complete self-deception. They perverted their religious feeling’ by ceasing to make the glorious perfection of God the object of their worship and by substituting images of men and animals.—G. B. S.
8 The expression: “God gave them up,” etc. is not to be so softened down into the idea of mere permission. With this 5,(24) begins the description of God’s revelation of his wrath against them. This is introduced by dio; because they had pursued the course outlined in the preceding verses (19–23) God set in operation against them those moral and providential forces which reduced them to the lowest depth of misery and shame. Vv. 25–32 show what this exhibition of his wrath was and what were its consequences. For historic illustration of the condition of the Heathen world at this time, see Fisher, Beginnings of Christianity, chap. vi.—G. B. S.
9 Greg. Nyss. 1,p. 720.epei apaqe" to Qeion, o en paqei wn th" pro" to Qeion sunafeia" aposcoinizetai).
10 ta th" pr. i.e. his fastings, etc. S. Ephrem notes that it was not the miracles which were supernatural, but the grace of the doers thereof, in Nat. Dom. 9,text 2. p). 427. f.
400 Rm 1,26-27
for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one towards another.”
All these affections then were vile, but chiefly the mad lust after males; for the soul is more the sufferer in sins, and more dishonored, than the body in diseases. But behold how here too, as in the case of the doctrines, he deprives them of excuse, by saying of the women, that “they changed the natural use.” For no one, he means, can say that it was by being hindered of legitimate intercourse that they came to this pass, or that it was from having no means to fulfil their desire that they were driven into this monstrous insaneness. For the changing implies possession. Which also when discoursing upon the doctrines he said, “They changed the truth of God for a lie.” And with regard to the men again, he shows the same thing by saying, “Leaving the natural use of the woman.” And in a like way with those, these he also puts out of all means of defending themselves by charging them not only that they had the means of gratification, and left that which they had, and went after another, but that having dishonored that which was natural, they ran after that which was contrary to nature. But that which is contrary to nature hath in it an irksomeness and displeasingness, so that they could not fairly allege even pleasure. For genuine pleasure is that which is according to nature. But when God hath left one, then all things are turned upside down. And thus not only was their doctrine Satanical, but their life too was diabolical. Now when he was discoursing of their doctrines, he put before them the world and man’s understanding, telling them that, by the judgment afforded them by God, they might through the things which are seen, have been led as by the hand to the Creator, and then, by not willing to do so, they remained inexcusable. Here in the place of the world he sets the pleasure according to nature, which they would have enjoyed with more sense of security and greater glad-heartedness, and so have been far removed from shameful deeds. But they would not; whence they are quite out of the pale of pardon, and have done an insult to nature itself. And a yet more disgraceful thing than these is it, when even the women seek after these intercourses, who ought to have more sense of shame than men. And here too the judgment of Paul is worthy of admiration, how having fallen upon two opposite matters he accomplishes them both with all exactness. For he wished both to speak chastely and to sting the hearer. Now both these things were not in his power to do,1 but one hindered the other. For if you speak chastely you shall not be able to bear hard upon the hearer. But if you are minded to touch him to the quick, you are forced to lay the naked facts before him in plain terms. But his discreet and holy soul was able to do both with exactness, and by naming nature has at once given additional force to his accusation, and also used this as a sort of veil, to keep the chasteness of his description. And next, having reproached the women first, he goes on to the men also, and says, “And likewise also the men leaving the natural use of the woman.” Which is an evident proof of the last degree of corruptness, when both sexes are abandoned, and both he that was ordained to be the instructor of the woman, and she who was bid to become an helpmate to the man, work the deeds of enemies against one another. And reflect too how significantly he uses his words. For he does not say that they were enamoured of, and lusted after one another, but, “they burned in their lust one toward another.” You see that the whole of desire comes of an exorbitancy which endureth not to abide within its proper limits. For everything which transgresseth the laws by God appointed, lusteth after monstrous things and not those which be customary. For as many oftentimes having left the desire of food get to feed upon earth and small2 stones, and others being possessed by excessive thirst often long even for mire, thus these also ran into this ebullition of lawless love. But if you say, and whence came this intensity of lust? It was from the desertion of God:3 and whence is the desertion of God? from the lawlessness of them that left Him; “men with men working that which is unseemly.” Do not, he means, because you have heard that they burned, suppose that the evil was only in desire. For the greater part of it came of their luxuriousness, which also kindled into flame their lust. And this is why he did not say being swept along or being overtaken,4 an expression he uses elsewhere; but what? working. They made a business of the sin, and not only a business, but even one zealously followed up. And he called it not lust, but that which is unseemly, and that properly5 For they both dishonored nature, and trampled on the laws. And see the great confusion which fell out on both sides. For not only was the head turned downwards but the feet too were upwards, and they became enemies to themselves and to one another, bringing in a pernicious kind of strife, and one even more lawless than any civil war, and one rife in divisions, and of varied form. For they divided this into four new, and lawless kinds. Since (3 mss. whence) this war was not twofold or threefold, but even fourfold. Consider then. It was meet, that the twain should be one, I mean the woman and the man. For “the twain,” it says, “shall be one flesh.” (Gn 2,24). But this the desire of intercourse effected, and united the sexes to one another. This desire the devil having taken away, and having turned the course thereof into another fashion, he thus sundered the sexes from one another, and made the one to become two parts in opposition to the law of God. For it says, “the two shall be one flesh;” but he divided the one flesh into two: here then is one war. Again, these same two parts he provoked to war both against themselves and against one another. For even women again abused women, and not men only. And the men stood against one another, and against the female sex, as happens in a battle by night. You see a second and third war, and a fourth and fifth; there is also another, for beside what have been mentioned they also behaved lawlessly against nature itself. For when the Devil saw that this desire it is, principally, which draws the sexes together, he was bent on cutting through the tie, so as to destroy the race, not only by their not copulating lawfully, but also by their being stirred up to war, and in sedition against one another.
“And receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.” See how he goes again to the fountain head of the evil, namely, the impiety that comes of their doctrines, and this he says is a reward of that lawlessness. For since in speaking of hell and punishment, it seemed he would not at present be credible to the ungodly and deliberate choosers of such a life, but even scorned, he shows that the punishment was in this pleasure itself. (So Plato Theoet. p. 176, 7). But if they perceive it not, but are still pleased, be not amazed. For even they that are mad, and are afflicted with phrenzy (cf. Soph). Aj. 265–277) while doing themselves much injury and making themselves such objects of compassion, that others weep over them themselves smile and revel over what has happened. Yet we do not only for this not say that they are quit of punishment, but for this very reason are under a more grievous vengeance, in that they are unconscious of the plight they are in. For it is not the disordered but those who are sound whose votes one has to gain. Yet of old the matter seemed even to be a law,6 and a certain law-giver among them bade the domestic slaves neither to use unguents when dry (i.e. except in bathing) nor to keep youths, giving the free this place of honor, or rather of shamefulness. Yet they, however, did not think the thing shameful, but as being a grand privilege, and one too great for slaves, the Athenian people, the wisest of people, and Solon who is so great amongst them, permitted it to the free alone. And sundry other books of the philosophers may one see full of this disease. But we do not therefore say that the thing was made lawful, but that they who received this law were pitiable, and objects for many tears. For these are treated in the same way as women that play the whore. Or rather their plight is more miserable. For in the case of the one the intercourse, even if lawless, is yet according to nature: but this is contrary both to law and nature. For even if there were no hell, and no punishment had been threatened, this were worse than any punishment. Yet if you say “they found pleasure in it,” you tell me what adds to the vengeance. For suppose I were to see a person running naked, with his body all besmeared with mire, and yet not covering himself, but exulting in it, I should not rejoice with him, but should rather bewail that he did not even perceive that he was doing shamefully. But that I may show the atrocity in a yet clearer light, bear with me in one more example. Now if any one condemned a virgin to live in close dens (qalomeuomenhn), and to have intercourse with unreasoning brutes, and then she was pleased with such intercourse, would she not for this be especially a worthy object of tears, as being unable to be freed from this misery owing to her not even perceiving the misery? It is plain surely to every one. But if that were a grievous thing, neither is this less so than that. For to be insulted by one’s own kinsmen is more piteous than to be so by strangers: these I say (5 mss. “I consider”) are even worse than murderers: since to die even is better than to live under such insolency. For the murderer dissevers the soul from the body, but this man ruins the soul with the body. And name what sin you will, none will you mention equal to this lawlessness. And if they that suffer such things perceived them, they would accept ten thousand deaths so they might not suffer this evil. For there is not, there surely is not, a more grievous evil than this insolent dealing. For if when discoursing about fornication Paul said, that “Every sin which a man doeth is without the body, but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body” (1Co 6,18); what shall we say of this madness, which is so much worse than fornication as cannot even be expressed? For I should not only say that thou hast become a woman, but that thou hast lost thy manhood, and hast neither changed into that nature nor kept that which thou haddest, but thou hast been a traitor to both of them at once, and deserving both of men and women to be driven out and stoned, as having wronged either sex. And that thou mayest learn what the real force of this is, if any one were to come and assure you that he would make you a dog instead of being a man, would you not flee from him as a plague? But, lo! thou hast not made thyself a dog out of a man, but an animal more disgraceful than this. For this is useful unto service, but he that hath thus given himself up is serviceable for nothing. Or again, if any one threatened to make men travail and be brought to bed, should we not be filled with indignation? But lo! now they that have run into this fury have done more grievously by themselves. For it is not the same thing to change into the nature of women, as to continue a man and yet to have become a woman; or rather neither this nor that. But if you would know the enormity of the evil from other grounds, ask on what account the lawgivers punish them that make men eunuchs, and you will see that it is absolutely for no other reason than because they mutilate nature. And yet the injustice they do is nothing to this. For there have been those that were mutilated and were in many cases useful after their mutilation. But nothing can there be more worthless than a man who has pandered himself. For not the soul only, but the body also of one who hath been so treated, is disgraced, and deserves to be driven out everywhere. How many hells shall be enough for such? But if thou scoffest at hearing of hell and believest not that fire, remember Sodom. For we have seen, surely we have seen, even in this present life, a semblance of hell. For since many would utterly disbelieve the things to come after the resurrection, hearing now of an unquenchable fire, God brings them to a right mind by things present. For such is the burning of Sodom, and that conflagration! And they know it well that have been at the place, and have seen with their eyes that scourge divinely sent, and the effect of the lightnings from above. (Jud 7). Consider how great is that sin, to have forced hell to appear even before its time! For whereas many thought scorn of His words, by His deeds did God show them the image thereof in a certain novel way. For that rain was unwonted, for that the intercourse was contrary to nature, and it deluged the land, since lust had done so with their souls. Wherefore also the rain was the opposite of the customary rain. Now not only did it fail to stir up the womb of the earth to the production of fruits, but made it even useless for the reception of seed. For such was also the intercourse of the men, making a body of this sort more worthless than the very land of Sodom. And what is there more detestable than a man who hath pandered himself, or what more execrable? Oh, what madness! Oh, what distraction! Whence came this lust lewdly revelling and making man’s nature all that enemies could? or even worse than that, by as much as the soul is better than the body. Oh, ye that were more senseless than irrational creatures, and more shameless than dogs! for in no case does such intercourse take place with them, but nature acknowledgeth her own limits. But ye have even made our race dishonored below things irrational, by such indignities inflicted upon and by each other. Whence then were these evils born? Of luxury; of not knowing God. For so soon as any have cast out the fear of Him, all that is good straightway goes to ruin.7
Now, that this may not happen, let us keep clear before our eyes the fear of God. For nothing, surely nothing, so ruins a man as to slip from this anchor, as nothing saves so much as continually looking thereto. For if by having a man before our eyes we feel more backward at doing sins, and often even through feeling abashed at servants of a better stamp we keep from doing anything amiss, consider what safety we shall enjoy by having God before our eyes! For in no case will the Devil attack us when so conditioned, in that he would be laboring without profit. But should he see us wandering abroad, and going about without a bridle, by getting a beginning in ourselves he will be able to drive us off afterwards any whither. And as it happens with thoughtless servants at market, who leave the needful services which their masters have entrusted to them, and rivet themselves at a mere haphazard to those who fall in their way, and waste out their leisure there; this also we undergo when we depart from the commandments of God. For we presently get standing on, admiring riches, and beauty of person, and the other things which we have no business with, just as those servants attend to the beggars that do jugglers’ feats, and then, arriving too late, have to be grievously beaten at home. And many pass the road set before them through following others, who are behaving in the same unseemly way. But let not us so do. For we have been sent to dispatch many affairs that are urgent. And if we leave those, and stand gaping at these useless things, all our time will be wasted in vain and to no profit, and we shall suffer the extreme of punishment. For if you wish yourself to be busy, you have whereat you ought to wonder, and to gape all your days, things which are no subject for laughter, but for wondering and manifold praises. As he that admires things ridiculous, will himself often be such, and even worse than he that occasioneth the laughter. And that you may not fall into this, spring away from it forthwith. For why is it, pray, that you stand gaping and fluttering at sight of riches? What do you see so wonderful, and able to fix your eyes upon them? these gold-harnessed horses, these lackeys, partly savages, and partly eunuchs, and costly raiment, and the soul that is getting utterly soft in all this, and the haughty brow, and the bustlings, and the noise? And wherein do these things deserve wonder? what are they better than the beggars that dance and pipe in the market-place? For these too being taken with a sore famine of virtue, dance a dance more ridiculous than theirs, led and carried round at one time to costly tables, at another to the lodging of prostitute women, and at another to a swarm of flatterers and a host of hangers-on. But if they do wear gold, this is why they are the most pitiable, because the things which are nothing to them, are most the subject of their eager desire. Do not now, I pray, look at their raiment, but open their soul, and consider if it is not full of countless wounds, and clad with rags, and destitute, and defenceless! What then is the use of this madness of shows? for it were much better to be poor and living in virtue, than to be a king with wickedness; since the poor man in himself enjoys all the delights of the soul, and doth not even perceive his outward poverty for his inward riches. But the king, luxurious in those things which do not at all belong to him, is punished in those things which are his most real concern, even the soul, the thoughts, and the conscience, which are to go away with him to the other world. Since then we know these things, let us lay aside the gilded raiment, let us take up virtue and the pleasure which comes thereof. For so, both here and hereafter, shall we come to enjoy great delights, through the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom, and with Whom, be glory to the Father, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.
1 3 mss. tauta de (boulomenw) amfotera ouk enon (katorqoun). (Sav). enhn) but in these one cannot succeed merely by wishing it.
2 mikra", mss. the fem. is used of jewels. The Translator once had some earth which the natives of Mozambique eat in this way; it becomes a dram to them, its taste is like magnesia with iron, which last would give it a stimulant property. There are some other instances, but cases of madness are perhaps intended.
3 3 mss. I should say, …and if you ask whence is the desertion of God, I shall answer you again.
4 (Ga 6,1). prolhfqente", but 5 mss. paral.
5 kuriw", perhaps “as by name.”
6 See Mùller’s Dorians, 1. 4,c. 4, §6, where it is shown that this charge is more than exaggerated from confounding earlier times with later. Aristotle, Pol. 2,and Plato, Leg. 1,636, accuse the Lacedaemonians in like manner, but see Xen). de Rep. Lac. 2,13. Aelian. v. H. 3,I. 12, and other writers quoted by Mùller. At Athens opinion was, according to Plato, rather lax than positively immoral: it may be doubted if Solon’s law (Aesch). in Tim. 19, 25,) was meant to bear the worst sense, though censured by Plutarch in almost the same terms as here. That there was however a fearful prevalence of this vice among the heathen cannot be disputed).
7 There is no more forcible exhibition of the meaning of the apostle in the volume, then that found in this Homily. The depravity of the heathen world of which Paul has drawn but an outline picture is here painted in full in dark and awful colors. The force of dia touto (26) is rightly brought out as showing the relation of this depravity to the divine penalty for unbelief and irreligion. This deplorable moral condition is the judicial consequence of not following the light which God had given. It follows from the recoil of the moral law upon those who violate it. It is an example of the Saviour’s warning: “If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is the darkness?” (Mt 6,23). The inevitable result of continued sin is a constantly increased and inveterate sinfulness which, as Chrys. says, is itself a most bitter punishment.—G. B. S).
Chrysostom on Rm 300