Chrysostom on Rm 2600
2600 that there is nothing unclean of itself, but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.”
After first rebuking the person who judgeth his brother, and moving him to leave off this reproaching, he then explains himself further upon the doctrinal part, and instructs in a dispassionate tone the weaker sort, displaying in this case too a great deal of gentleness. For he does not say he shall be punished, nor anything of the sort, but merely disburdens him of his fears in the matter, and that with a view to his being more easily persuaded with what he tells him; and he says, “I know, and am persuaded.” And then to prevent any of those who did not trust him (or “believe,” twn ou pistwn) saying, And what is it to us if thou art persuaded? for thou art no trustworthy evidence to be set in competition with so great a law, and with oracles brought down from above, he proceeds, “in the Lord.” That is, as having learned from Him, as having my confidence from Him. The judgment then is not one of the mind of man. What is it that thou art persuaded of and knowest? Tell us. “That there is nothing unclean of itself.” By nature, he says, nothing is unclean but it becomes so by the spirit in which a man uses it. Therefore it becomes so to himself only, and not to all. “For to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” What then? Why not correct thy brother, that he may think it not unclean? Why not with full authority call him away from this habit of mind and conception of things, that he may never make it common? My reason is, he says, I am afraid to grieve him. Wherefore he proceeds,
Rm 14,15. “But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably.”
You see how far, for the present, he goesin affection for him, showing that he makes so great account of him, that with a view not to grieve him he does not venture even to enjoin things of great urgency, but by yieldingness would rather draw him to himself, and by charity. For even when he has freed him of his fears, he does not drag him and force him, but leaves him his own master. For keeping a person from meats is no such matter as overwhelming with grief.1 You see how much he insists upon charity. And this is because he is aware that it can do everything. And on this ground he makes somewhat larger demand upon them. For so far he says from its being proper for them to distress you at all, they ought even, if need be, not to hesitate at condescending to you. Whence he proceeds to say, “Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.” Or dost thou not value thy brother enough even to purchase his salvation at the price of abstinence from meats? And yet Christ refused not to become a slave, nor yet to die for him; but thou dost not despise even food, that thou mayest save him. And yet with it all Christ was not to gain all, yet still He died for all; so fulfilling His own part. But art thou aware that by meat thou art overthrowing him in the more important matters, and yet makest a disputing? And him who is the object of such care unto Christ, dost thou consider so contemptible, and dishonor one whom He loveth? Yet He died not for the weak only, but even for an enemy. And wilt not thou refrain from meats even, for him that is weak? Yet Christ did what was greatest even, but thou not even the less. And He was Master, thou a brother. These words then were enough to tongue-tie him.For they show him to be of a little spirit, and after having the benefit of great things from God, not to give in return even little ones.
Rm 14,16-17. “Let not then your good be evil spoken of. For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink.”
By their “good,” he means here either their faith, or the hope of rewards hereafter, or the perfectness of their religious state.2 For it is not only that you fail to profit your brother, he means, but the doctrine itself, and the grace of God, and His gift, you cause to be evil spoken of. Now when thou tightest, when thou quarrellest, when thou art vexatious, when thou makest schism in the Church, and reproachest thy brother, and art distant with him, those that are without will speak evil of you. And so good is so far from coming of this, that just the opposite is the case. For your good is charity, love of the brotherhood, being united, being bound together, living at peace, living in gentleness (epieikeia"). He again, to put an end to his fears and the other’s disputatiousness, says, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink.” Is it by these, he means, that we are to be approved? As he says in another passage too,3 “Neither if we eat are we the better, neither if we eat not are we the worse.” And he does not need any proof, but is content with stating it. And what he says is this, If thou eatest, does this lead thee to the Kingdom? And this was why, by way of satirizing them as mightily pleased with themselves herein, he said, not “meat” only, but “drink.” What then are the things that do bring us here? “Righteousness, and peace, and joy,” and a virtuous life, and peace with our brethren (whereto this quarrelsomeness is opposed), the joy from unanimity, which this rebuking puts an end to. But this he said not to one party only, but to both of them, it being a fit season for saying it to both. Then as he had mentioned peace and joy, but there is a peace and joy over bad actions also, he adds, “in the Holy Ghost.” Since he that ruins his brother, hath at once subverted peace, and wronged joy, more grievously than he that plunders money. And what is worse is, that Another saved him, and thou wrongest and ruinest him. Since then eating, and the supposed perfect state, does not bring in these virtues, but the things subversive of them it does bring in, how can it be else than right to make light of little things, in order to give firmness to great ones? Then since this rebuking took place in some degree out of vanity, he proceeds to say,
Rm 14,18. “For he that in these things serveth Christ, is acceptable to God, and approved of men.”
72 For they will not admire thee so much for thy perfect state, as all will for peace and amity. For this is a goodly thing, that all will have the benefit of, but of that not one even will.
Rm 14,19. “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify one another.”
This applies to the other, that he may grow peaceable. But the other to the latter too, that he may not destroy his brother. Still he has made both apply to either again, by saying, “one another,” and showing that without peace it is not easy to edify.
Rm 14,20. “For meat destroy not the work of God.”
Giving this name to the salvation of a brother, and adding greatly to the fears, and showing that he is doing the opposite of that he desires.4 For thou, he says, art so far from building up as thou intendest, that thou dost even destroy, and that a building too not of man but of God, and not for any great end either, but for a trivial thing. For it was “for meat,” he says. Then lest so many indulgences should confirm the weaker brother in his misconception, he again becomes doctrinal, as follows,
“All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.”
Who does it, that is, with a bad conscience. And so if you should force him, and he should eat, there would be nothing gained. For it is not the eating that maketh unclean, but the intention with which a man eats. If then thou dost not set that aright, thou hast done all to no purpose, and hast made things worse: for thinking a thing unclean is not so bad as tasting it when one thinks it unclean. Here then you are committing two errors, one by increasing his prejudice through your quarrelsomeness, and another by getting him to taste of what is unclean. And so, as long as you do not persuade him, do not force him.
Rm 14,21. “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.”
Again, he requires the greater alternative, that they should not only not force him, but even condescend to him. For he often did this himself also, as when he circumcised (Ac 16,3), when he was shorn (Ac 18,18), when he sacrificed that Jewish sacrifice. (ib. 21,26, see p. 126). And he does not say to the man “do so,” but he states it in the form of a sentiment to prevent again making the other, the weaker man, too listless. And what are his words? “It is good not to eat flesh.” And why do I say flesh? if it be wine, or any other thing of the sort besides, which gives offence, refrain. For nothing is so important as thy brother’s salvation. And this Christ shows us, since He came from Heaven, and suffered all that He went through, for our sakes. And let me beg you to observe, how he also drives it home upon the other, by the words “stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.” And do not tell me (he means) that he is so without reason but, that thou hast power to set it right. For the other has a sufficient claim to be helped in his weakness, and to thee this were no loss, not being a case of hypocrisy (Ga 2,13), but of edification and economy. For if thou force him, he is at once destroyed, and will condemn thee, and fortify himself the more in not eating. But if thou condescend to him, then he will love thee, and will not suspect thee as a teacher, and thou wilt afterwards gain the power of sowing imperceptibly in him the right views. But if he once hate thee, then thou hast closed the entrance for thy reasoning. Do not then compel him, but even thyself refrain for his sake, not refraining from it as unclean, but because he is offended, and he will love thee the more. So Paul also advises when he says, “It is good not to eat flesh,” not because it was unclean, but because the brother is offended and is weak.
Rm 14,22. “Hast thou faith? have it to thyself.”
Here he seems to me to be giving a gentle warning to the more advanced on the score of vanity. And what he says is this, Dost thou wish to show me that thou art perfect, and fully furnished? Do not show it to me, but let thy conscience suffice. And by faith, be here means that concerned not with doctrines, but with the subject in hand. For of the former it says, “With the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rm 10,10); and, “Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny.”5 (Lc 9,26). For the former by not being confessed, ruins us; and so does this by being confessed unseasonably. “Happy is he that condemneth not himself in the thing which he alloweth.”6 Again he strikes at the weaker one, and gives him (i.e. the stronger) a sufficient crown, in that of his conscience. Even if no man see, that is, thou art able to be happy in thyself. For after saying, “Have it to thyself,” to prevent his thinking this a contemptible tribunal, he tells him this is better to thee than the world.7 And if all accuse thee, and thou condemn not thyself, and thy conscience lay no charge against thee, thou art happy. But this is a statement he did not make to apply to any person whatever. For there are many that condemn not themselves, and yet are great transgressors: and these are the most miserable of men. But he still keeps to the subject in hand.
73 Rm 14,23. “And he that doubteth is condemned if he eat.”
Again, it is to exhort him to spare the weaker, that he says this. For what good is it if he eat in doubt, and condemn himself? For I approve of him, who both eateth, and doeth it not with doubting. See how he induces him not to eating only, but to eating with a good conscience too. Then he mentions likewise the reason why he is condemned continuing in these words,
“Because he eateth not of faith.” Not because it is unclean, but because it is not of faith. For he did not believe that it is clean, but though unclean he touched it. But by this he shows them also what great harm they do by compelling men, and not persuading them, to touch things which had hitherto appeared unclean to them, that for this at all events they might leave rebuking. “For whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” For when a person does not feel sure, nor believe that a thing is clean, how can he do else than sin? Now all these things have been spoken by Paul of the subject in hand, not of everything. And observe what care he takes not to offend any; and he had said before, “If thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably.” But if one should not grieve him, much less ought one to give him offence. And again, “For meat destroy not the work of God.” For if it were a grievous act of iniquity to throw down a Church, much more so is it to do so to the spiritual Temple. Since a man is more dignified than a Church: for it was not for walls that Christ died, but for these temples.
Let us then watch our own conduct on all sides, and afford to no one ever so little handle. For this life present is a race-course and we ought to have thousands of eyes (Hilary in Ps cxix). on every side, and not even to fancy that ignorance will be an adequate excuse. For there is such a thing, there certainly is, as being punished for ignorance, when the ignorance is inexcusable. Since the Jews too were ignorant, yet not ignorant in an excusable way. And the Gentiles were ignorant, but they are without excuse. (Rm 1,20). For when thou art ignorant of those things which it is not possible to know, thou wilt not be subject to any charge for it: but when of things easy and possible, thou wilt be punished with the utmost rigor. Else if we be not excessively supine, but contribute our own share to its full amount, God will also reach forth His hand unto us in those things which we are ignorant of. And this is what Paul said to the Philippians likewise. “If in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.” (Ph 3,15). But when we are not willing to do even what we are masters of, we shall not have the benefit of His assistance in this either. And this was the case with the Jews too. “For this cause,” He says, “speak I unto them in parables, because seeing they see not.” (Mt 13,13). In what sense was it that seeing they saw not? They saw devils cast out, and they said, He hath a devil. They saw the dead raised, and they worshipped not, but attempted to kill Him. But not of this character was Cornelius. (Mt 12,24). For this reason then, when he was doing the whole of his duty with sincerity, God added unto him that which was lacking also. Say not then, how came God to neglect such and such a one who was no formalist (aplasto") and a good man, though a Gentile? For in the first place no man can possibly know for certain whether a person is no formalist,8 but He only who “formed (plasanti) the hearts severally.” (Ps 33,15 Ps 32,15, LXX). And then there is this to be said too, that perchance (pollaki") such an one was neither thoughtful nor earnest. And how, it may be said, could he, as being very uninformed? (aplasto"). Let me beg you to consider then this simple and single-hearted man, and take notice of him in the affairs of life, and you will see him a pattern of the utmost scrupulousness, such that if he would have shown it in spiritual matters he would not have been overlooked: for the facts of the truth are clearer than the sun. And wherever a man may go, he might easily lay hold of his own salvation, if he were minded, that is, to be heedful, and not to look on this as a by-work. For were the doings shut up into Palestine, or in a little corner of the world? Hast thou not heard the prophet say, “All shall know Me from the least even to the greatest?” (Jr 31,34 He 8,11). Do not you see the things themselves uttering the truth? How then are these to be excused, seeing as they do the doctrine of the truth spread far and wide, and not troubling themselves, or caring to learn it? And dost thou require all this, it is asked, of a rude savage? Nay not of a rude savage only, but of any who is more savage than men of the present day. For why is it, pray, that in matters of this world he knows how to answer when he is wronged, and to resist when he has violence done him, and do and devise everything to prevent his ever having his will thwarted even in the slightest degree; but in spiritual concerns he has not used this same judgment? And when a man worships a stone, and thinks it a god, he both keeps feasts to it, and spends money on it, and shows much fear towards it, and in no case becomes listless from his simpleness. But when he has to seek to the very and true God, do you then mention singleness and simpleness to me? These things are not so, assuredly they are not! For the complaints are those of mere listlessness. For which do you think the most simple and rude, those in Abraham’s day or those now? (Jos 24,2). Clearly the former. And when that it was easiest to find religion out now or then? Clearly now. For now the Name of God is proclaimed even by all men, and the Prophets have preached, the things come to pass, the Gentiles been convinced. 9 (Gn 32,29 Jg 13,18). But at that day the majority were still in an uninstructed state, and sin was dominant. And there was no law to instruct, nor prophets, nor miracles, nor doctrine, nor multitude of men acquainted with it, nor aught else of the kind, but all things then lay as it were in a deep darkness, and a night moonless and stormy. And yet even then that wondrous and noble man, though the obstacles were so great, still knew God and practised virtue, and led many to the same zeal; and this though he had not even the wisdom of those without. 10 For how should he, when there were no letters even yet invented? Yet still he brought his own share in, and God joined to bring in what was lacking to him. For you cannot say even this, that Abraham received his religion from his fathers, because he (Terah, see Jos 24,2). was an idolater. But still, though he was from such forefathers and was uncivilized, and lived among uncivilized people, and had no instructor in religion, yet he attained to a knowledge of God, and in comparison with all his descendants, who had the advantage both of the Law and the Prophets, he was so much more illustrious as no words can express. Why was it then? It was because in things of this world he did not give himself any great anxiety, but in things of the spirit he applied his whole attention. (In Gn Hem. 33, etc). And what of Melchizedek? was not he also born about those times, and was so bright as to be called even a priest of God? (In Gn Hem. 35, 36). For it is impossible in the extreme, that the sober-minded (nhfonta) should ever be overlooked. And let not these things be a trouble to us, but knowing that it is the mind with which in each case the power lies, let us look to our own duties, that we may grow better. Let us not be demanding an account of God or enquire why He let such an one alone, but called such an one. For we are doing the same as if a servant that had given offence were to pry into his master’s housekeeping. Wretched and miserable man, when thou oughtest to be thoughtful about the account thou hast to give, and how thou wilt reconcile thy master, dost thou call him to account for things that thou art not to give an account of, passing over those things of which thou art to give a reckoning? 11 What am I to say to the Gentile? he asks. Why, the same that I have been saying. And look not merely to what thou shalt say to the Gentile, but also to the means of amending thyself. 12 When he is offended by examining into thy life, then consider what thou wilt say. For if he be offended, thou wilt not be called to a reckoning for him, but if it be thy way of life by which he is injured, thou wilt have to undergo the greatest danger. When he seeth thee philosophizing about the kingdom, and fluttering at the things of this life, and at once afraid about hell, and trembling at the calamities of this life, then lay it to mind. When he sees this, and accuses thee, and says, If thou art in love with the Kingdom, how is it thou dost not look down upon the things of this life? If thou art expecting the awful judgment, why dost thou not despise the terrors of this world? If thou hopest for immortality, why dost thou not think scorn of death? When he says this, be thou anxious what defence thou wilt make. When he sees thee trembling at the thought of losing thy money, thee that expectest the heavens, and exceedingly glad about a single penny, and selling thy soul again for a little money, then lay it to mind. For these are the things, just these, that make the Gentiles stumble. And so, if thou art thoughtful about his salvation, make thy defence on these heads, not by words, but by actions. For it is not through that question that anybody ever blasphemed God, but through men’s bad lives it is, that there are thousands of blasphemies in all quarters. Set him right then. For the Gentile will next ask thee, How am I to know that God’s commands are feasible? For thou that art of Christian extraction, and hast been brought up in this fine religion, dost not do anything of the kind. And what will you tell him? You will be sure to say, I will show you others that do; monks that dwell in the deserts. And art thou not ashamed to confess to being a Christian, and yet to send to others, as unable to show that you display the temper of a Christian? For he also will say directly, What need have I to go to the mountains, and to hunt up the deserts? For if there is no possibility for a person who is living in the midst of cities to be a disciple, this is a sad imputation on this rule of conduct, that we are to leave the cities, and run to the deserts. But show me a man who has a wife, and children, and family, and yet pursueth wisdom. What are we then to say to all this? Must we not hang down our heads, and be ashamed? For Christ gave us no such commandment; but what? “Let your light shine before men” (Mt 5,16), not mountains, and deserts, and wildernesses, and out-of-the-way places. And this I say, not as abusing those who have taken up with the mountains, but as bewailing those that dwell in cities, because they have banished virtue from thence. Wherefore I beseech you let us introduce the discipline they have there here also, that the cities may become cities indeed. This will improve the Gentile. This will free him from countless offences. And so if thou wouldest set him free from scandal, and thyself enjoy rewards without number, set thy own life in order, and make it shine forth upon all sides, “that men may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” For so we also shall enjoy that unutterable and great glory, which God grant that we may all attain to, by the grace and love toward man, etc).
1 i. e. “better deprive the strong of his meats, than deeply grieve the weak.”
2 In addition to the three possible meanings of “your good” which Chrys. mentions, two other interpretations may be noted: (1) “The good you enjoy,” 1,e. your Christian liberty (Godet); (2) “The kingdom of God” (v. 17) (Meyer). The connection favors the view that to agaqon is a general reference to the same source of blessing which is more specifically designated as h basileia tou qeou (17).—G. B. S.
3 (1Co 8,8, speaking of things offered to idols.
4 “The work of God” is much more naturally taken as designating the Christian himself—his personality, than as designating his salvation (Chrys)..—G. B. S).
5 Compare St. Ephrem). Serm. 20,vol. 3,adv. Scrutatores. pp. 172, 173, Oxf. Tr.
6 Krinwn should not be rendered “condemning” as if it were katakrinwn (as Chrys. and many mod. interpreters). The meaning is: Happy is he who does not pass judgment upon himself, i.e. who is so confident of the rightness of his course that he has no anxiety or scruple regarding the course of action in such disputed points which he approves and has resolved upon.—G. B. S.
7 Nullum Theatrum virtuti conscientia majus. Cicero, Tusc. 2,26. Virtue has no field for display more ample than conscience).
8 (So rendered, to keep up the play upon the words: it means, not framing himself to a false show.
9 Or, “the systems of the Gentiles been confuted,” ta `Ellhnwn elhlegktai.
10 Philo, however, makes Abraham learned in all Chaldaean wisdom). De Nob. §5, also Joseph, Ant. i.c. 8, §2. It is now certain that the art of writing was older than his time, in Mesopotamia as well as Egypt).
11 (So Field with most mss. Vulg. “for which thou art to be punished.”
12 (So Field auton for auton).
2700 according to my Gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and (mss. te which Sav. omits) by the Scriptures of the Prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: to God only wise, to Him be glory through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”1
2701 It is always a custom with Paul to conclude his exhortation with prayers and doxologies. For he knows that the thing is one of no slight importance. And it is out of affectionateness and caution that he is in the habit of doing this. For it is the character of a teacher devoted to his children, and to God, not to instruct them in words only, but by prayer too to bring upon his teaching the assistance which is from God. And this he does here also. But the connection is as follows: “To Him that is of power to stablish you, be glory for ever. Amen.” For he again clings to those weak brethren, and to them he directs his discourse. For when he was rebuking, he made all share his rebuke; but now, when he is praying, it is for these that he wears the attitude of a suppliant. And after saying, “to stablish,” he proceeds to give the mode of it, “according to my Gospel;” and this was what one would do to show that as yet they were not firmly fixed, but stood, though with wavering. Then to give a trustworthiness to what he says, he proceeds, “and the preaching of Jesus Christ;” that is, which He Himself preached. But if He preached it, the doctrines are not ours, but the laws are of Him. And afterwards, in discussing the nature of the preaching, He shows that this gift is one of much benefit, and of much honor; and this he first proves from the person of the declarer thereof, and then likewise from the things declared. For it was glad tidings. Besides, from His not having made aught of them known to any before us. And this he intimates in the words, “according to the revelation of the mystery.” And this is a sign of the greatest friendliness, to make us share in the mysteries, and no one before us. “Which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest.” For it had been determined long ago, but was only manifested now. How was it made manifest? “By the Scriptures of the Prophets.” Here again he is releasing the weak person from fear. For what dost thou fear? is it lest2 thou depart from the Law? This the Law wishes, this it foretold from of old. But if thou pryest into the cause of its being made manifest now, thou art doing a thing not safe to do, in being curious about the mysteries of God, and calling Him to account. For we ought not with things of this nature to act as busybodies, but to be well pleased and content with them. Wherefore that he might himself put a check upon a spirit of this sort, he adds, “according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for the obedience of faith.” For faith requires obedience, and not curiosity. And when God commands, one ought to be obedient, not curious. Then he uses another argument to encourage them, saying “made known to all nations.” That is, it is not thou alone but the whole world that is of this Creed, as having had not man, but God for a Teacher. Wherefore also he adds, “through Jesus Christ.” But it was not only made known, but also confirmed. Now both are His work. And on this ground too the way it is to be read is,3 “Now to Him that is of power to stablish you through Jesus Christ;” and, as I was saying, he ascribes them both to Him; or rather, not both of these only, but the glory belonging (or ascribed, Gr). thn ei") to the Father also. And this too is why he said, “to Whom be glory forever, Amen.” And he uses a doxology again through awe at the incomprehensibleness of these mysteries. For even now they have appeared, there is no such thing as comprehending them by reasonings, but it is by faith we must come to a knowledge of them, for in no other way can we. He well says, “To the only wise God.” For if you will only reflect how He brought the nations in, and blended them with those who in olden time had wrought well, how He saved those who were desperate, how He brought men not worthy of the earth up to heaven, and brought those who had fallen from the present life into that undying and unalterable life, and made those who were trampled down by devils to vie with Angels, and opened Paradise, and put a stop to all the old evils, and this too in a short time and by an easy and compendious way, then wilt thou learn His wisdom;—when thou seest that which neither Angels nor Archangels knew, they of the Gentiles learnt on a sudden through Jesus. (2 mss. add “then wilt thou know His power.”) Right then is it to admire His wisdom, and to give Him glory! But thou keepest dwelling over little things, still sitting under the shadow. And this is not much like one that giveth glory. For he who has no confidence in Him, and no trust in the faith, does not bear testimony to the grandeur of His doings. But he himself offers glory up in their behalf, in order to bring them also to the same zeal. But when you hear him say, “to the only wise God,” think not that this is said in disparagement of the Son. For if all these things whereby His wisdom is made apparent were done (or made, see Jn 1,3) by Christ, and without Him no single one, it is quite plain that he is equal in wisdom also. What then is the reason of his saying” only?” To set Him in contrast with every created being. After giving the doxology4 then, he again goes from prayer to exhortation, directing his discourse against the stronger, and saying as follows:
Rm 15,1. “We then that are strong, ought ”—it is “we ought,” not “we are so kind as to.” What is it we ought to do?—“ to bear the infirmities of the weak.”
See how he has roused their attention by his praises, not only by calling them powerful, but also by putting them alongside of himself. And not by this only, but by the advantage of the thing he again allures them, and by its not being burdensome. For thou, he says, art powerful, and art no whit the worse for condescending. But to him the hazard is of the last consequence, if he is not borne with. And he does not say the infirm, but the “infirmities of the weak,” so drawing him and bending him to mercy. As in another place too he says, “Ye that are spiritual restore such an one.” (Ga 6,1) Art thou become powerful? Render a return to God for making thee so. But render it thou wilt if thou settest the weakness of the sickly right. For we too were weak, but by grace we have become powerful. And this we are to do not in this case only, but also in the case of those who are weak in other respects. As, for instance, if any be passionate, or insolent, or has any such like failing bear with him. And how is this to be? Listen to what comes next. For after saying “we ought to bear,” he adds, “and not to please ourselves.”5
Rm 15,2. “Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.”
But what he says is this. Art thou powerful? Let the weak have trial of thy power. Let him come to know thy strength; please him. And he does not barely say please, but for his good, and not barely for his good, lest the advanced person should say, See I am drawing him to his good! but he adds, “to edification.” And so if thou be rich or be in power, please not thyself, but the poor and the needy, because in this way thou wilt at once have true glory to enjoy, and be doing much service. For glory from things of the world soon flies away, but that from things of the Spirit is abiding, if thou do it to edification. Wherefore of all men he requires this. For it is not this and that person that is to do it, but “each of you.” Then since it was a great thing he had commanded them, and had bidden them even relax their own perfectness in order to set right the other’s weakness; he again introduces Christ, in the following words:
Rm 15,3. “For even Christ pleased not Himself.”
And this he always does. For when he was upon the subject of alms, he brought Him forward and said, “Ye know the grace of the Lord, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor.” (2Co 8,9). And when he was exhorting to charity, it was from Him that he exhorted in the words “As Christ also loved us.” (Ep 5,25). And when he was giving advice about bearing shame and dangers, he took refuge in Him and said, “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame.” (He 12,2). So in this passage too he shows how He also did this, and how the prophet proclaimed it from of old. Wherefore also he proceeds:
“The reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell upon Me.” (Ps 69,9). But what is the import of, “He pleased not Himself?” He had power not to have been reproached, power not to have suffered what He did suffer, had He been minded to look to His own things. But yet He was not so minded. But through looking to our good He neglected His own. And why did he not say, “He emptied Himself?” (Ph 2,7). It is because this was not the only thing he wished to point out, that He became man, but that He was also ill-treated, and obtained a bad reputation with many, being looked upon as weak. For it says, “If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the Cross.” (Mt 27,40). And, “He saved others, Himself He cannot save.” (Mt 27,42). Hence he mentions a circumstance which was available for his present subject, and proves much more than he undertook to do; for he shows that it was not Christ alone that was reproached, but the Father also. “For the reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell,” he says, “upon Me.” But what he says is nearly this, What has happened is no new or strange thing. For they in the Old Testament who came to have a habit of reproaching Him, they also raved against His Son. But these things were written that we should not imitate them. And then he supplies (Gr. anoints) them for a patient endurance of temptations.
Rm 15,4. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime,” he says, “were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope.”
That is, that we might not fall away, (for there are sundry conflicts within and without), that being nerved and comforted by the Scriptures, we might exhibit patience, that by living in patience we might abide in hope. For these things are productive of each other, patience of hope, and hope of patience. And both of them are brought about by the Scriptures. Then he again brings his discourse into the form of prayer, and says,
Rm 15,5. “Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one towards another, according to Christ Jesus.”
For since he had given his own advice, and had also urged the example of Christ, he added the testimony of the Scriptures also, to show that with the Scripture Himself giveth patience also. And this is why he said, “Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one towards another, according to Christ Jesus.” For this is what love would do, be minded toward another even as toward himself. Then to show again that it is not mere love that he requires, he adds, “according to Christ Jesus.” And this he does, in all places, because there is also another sort of love. And what is the advantage of their agreeing?
Rm 15,6. “That ye may with one mind,” he says, “and one mouth, glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(He does not say merely with one mouth, but bids us do it with one will also. See how he has united the whole body into one, and how he concludes his address again with a doxology, whereby he gives the utmost inducement to unanimity and concord. Then again from this point he keeps to the same exhortation as before, and says,
Rm 15,7. “Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.”
The example again is as before, and the gain unspeakable. For this is a thing that doth God especial glory, the being closely united. And so if even against thy will (Field “being grieved for His sake,” after Savile, but against mss.) and for His sake, thou be at variance with thy brother, consider that by putting an end to thine anger thou art glorifying thy Master, and if not on thy brother’s account, for this at all events be reconciled to him: or rather for this first. For Christ also insists upon this upon all possible grounds,6 and when addressing His Father he said, “By this shall all men know that Thou hast sent Me, if they be one.” (Jn 17,21).
Let us obey then, and knit ourselves to one another. For in this place it is not any longer the weak, but all that he is rousing. And were a man minded to break with thee, do not thou break also. Nor give utterance to that cold saying, “Him I love that loveth me; if my right eye does not love me, I tear it out.” For these are satanical sayings, and fit for publicans, and the little spirit of the Gentiles. But thou that art called to a greater citizenship, and are enrolled in the books of Heaven, art liable to greater laws. Do not speak in this way, but when he is not minded to love thee, then display the more love, that thou mayest draw him to thee. For he is a member; and when by any force a member is sundered from the body, we do everything to unite it again, and then pay more attention to it. For the reward is the greater then, when one draws to one a person not minded to love. For if He bids us invite to supper those that cannot make us any recompense, that what goes for recompense may be the greater, much more ought we to do this in regard to friendship. Now he that is loved and loveth, does pay thee a recompense. But he that is loved and loveth not, hath made God a debtor to thee in his own room. And besides, when he loves thee he needs not much pains; but when he loves thee not, then he stands in need of thy assistance. Make not then the cause for painstaking a cause for listlessness; and say not, because he is sick, that is the reason I take no care of him (for a sickness indeed the dulling of love is), but do thou warm again that which hath become chilled. But suppose he will not be warmed, “what then?” is the reply. Continue to do thy own part. “What if he grow more perverse?” He is but procuring to thee so much greater return, and shows thee so much the greater imitator of Christ. For if the loving one another was to be the characteristic of disciples (“For hereby,” He says, shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye love one another), (Jn 13,35) consider how great an one loving one that hates us must be. For thy Master loved those that hated Him, and called them to Him;and the weaker they were, the greater the care He showed them; and He cried and said, “They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” (Mt 9,12). And He deemed publicans and sinners worthy of the same table with Him. And as great as was the dishonor wherewith the Jewish people treated Him, so great was the honor and concern He showed for them, yea, and much greater. Him do thou also emulate: for this good work is no light one, but one without which not even he that is a martyr can please God much, as Paul says.7 Say not then, I get hated, and that is why I do not love. For this is why thou oughtest to love most. And besides, it is not in the nature of things for a man who loves to be soon hated, but brute as a person may be, he loves them that love him. For this He says the heathens and the publicans do. (Mt 5,46). But if every one loves those that love him, who is there that would not love those who love while they are hated? Display then this conduct, and cease not to use this word, “Hate me as much as you may, I will not leave off loving thee,” and then thou wilt humble his quarrelsomeness, and cast out all coldness.8 For this disorder comes either from excessive heat (flegmonh", inflammation), or from coldness; but both of these is the might of love wont to correct by its warmth. Did you never see those who indulge a base love beaten, spit upon, called names, ill-treated in a thousand ways by those fornicatresses? What then? Do the insults break off this love? In no wise: they even kindle it the more. And yet they who do these things, besides being harlots, are of a disreputable and low grade. But they who submit to it, have often illustrious ancestors to count up, and much other nobility to boast of. Yet still none of these things break the tie, nor keep them aloof from her whom they love. And are we not ashamed then to find what great power the love of the devil (v. p. 520) and the demons hath, and not to be able to display as much in the love according to God? Dost thou not perceive that this is a very great weapon against the devil? Do you not see, that that wicked demon stands by, dragging to himself the man thou hatest, and desiring to snatch away the member? And dost thou run by, and give up the prize of the conflict? For thy brother, lying between you, is the prize. And if thou get the better, thou receivest a crown; but if thou art listless, thou goest away without a crown. Cease then to give utterance to that satanical saying, “if my eye hates me, I cannot see it.”9 For nothing is more shameful than this saying, and yet the generality lay it down for a sign of a noble spirit. But nothing is more ignoble than all this, nothing more senseless, nothing more foolish. 10 Therefore I am indeed quite grieved that the doings of vice are held to be those of virtue, that looking down on men, and despising them, should seem to be honorable and dignified. And this is the devil’s greatest snare, to invest iniquity with a good repute, whereby it becomes hard to blot out. For I have often heard men taking credit to themselves at their not going near those who are averse to them. And yet thy Master found a glory in this. How often do not men despise (dieptusan) Him? how often show aversion to Him? Yet He ceaseth not to run unto them. Say not then that “I cannot bear to come near those that hate me,” but say, that “I cannot bear to despise (diaptusai) those that despise me.” This is the language of Christ’s disciple, as the other is of the devil’s. This makes men honorable and glorious, as the other doth shameful and ridiculous. It is on this ground we feel admiration for Moses, because even when God said, “Let Me alone, that I may destroy them in Mine anger,” (Ex 32,10) he could not bear to despise those who had so often shown aversion to him, but said, “If thou wilt forgive them their trespass, forgive it; else blot out me also.” (Ex 32). This was owing to his being a friend of God, and a copyer of Him. And let us not pride ourselves in things for which we ought to hide our faces. Nor let us use the language of these lewd fellows, that are the scum of men, I know how to scorn (kataptusai, spit at) thousands. But even if another use it, let us laugh him down, and stop his mouth for taking a delight in what he ought to feel ashamed of. What say you, pray, do you scorn a man that believes, whom when unbelieving Christ scorned not? Why do I say scorned not? Why He had such love towards him, when he was vile and unsightly, as even to die for him. He then so loved, and that such a person, and do you now, when he has been made fair and admirable, scorn him; now he is made a member of Christ, and hath been made thy Master’s body? Dost thou not consider what thou art uttering, nor perceive what thou art venturing to do? He hath Christ as a Head, and a Table, and a Garment, and Life, and Light, and a Bridegroom, and He is everything to him, and dost thou dare to say, “this fellow I despise?” and not this only, but thousands of others along with him? Stay thee, O man, and cease from thy madness; get to know thy brother. Learn that these be words of unreasonableness, and frenzy, and say on the contrary, though he despise me ten thousand times, yet will I never stand aloof from him. In this way thou wilt both gain thy brother, and wilt live to the glory of God, and wilt share the good things to come. To which God grant that we may all attain, by the grace and love toward man, etc.
1 These three verses are placed here by Theodoret, St. Cyr. Alex., St. Jn Dam, and some 200 cursive mss. Of the few uncial mss. which have come down to us, the Codex Sinaiticus the Codex Vaticanus and the very ancient C. D. with the chief versions of the New Testament, including the two first made, the Old Latin and the Peschito-syriac. Origen put them where we do, at the end of the Epistle. The fifth century Alexandrian ms. in tire British Museum and two or three other mss. have the passage twice over. (For an elaborate defence both of the genuineness of this doxology and of the view that it belongs at the end of chap. 16,see Meyer’s criti-cat note prefixed to his comments on chap. xvi.—G. B. S).
2 Mh aposth", one ms. ou mh, which seems to determine the construction.
3 v). 27, in the Greek reads thus: “To God only wise through Jesus Christ, to Him (or to Whom) be glory,” etc).
4 The grammatical form of the doxology presents a noticeable anacoluthon. The dative tw dunamenw is resumed in monw sofw qew and again in the relative w as if the proposition begun with the dative had been competed. Thus the previous datives are left without grammatical government). w, if read (many texts omit it) is to be understood as referring to qew.—G. B. S.
5 Chap. 15,contains conclusions and applications drawn from the principles laid down in regard to the treatment which should be accorded to the weak in chap. 14,The crowning consideration is that Christ pleased not himself, but bore the burdens of the weak. This is presented as the type of all Christian duty. In 5,6 the construction usually preferred is (as in R. V). “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. Ep 1,3, Ep 1,17).—G. B. S).
6 anw kai katw strefei, see Ast). ad Platon. Phoedr. 127).
7 See St. Chrys). ad loc. Hom. 32, on 1 Cor p. 446 O.T. in some places he seems to speak exclusively of love to one’s neighbor in quoting this passage, but he always views this as the carrying out of love toward God, see p. 515.
8 mss. yuxin exebale". Sav). yuchn emalaxa", soften any soul.
9 (So Field from mss.: old edd. “If my brother hates me, I do not even wish to see him.” Perhaps the true reading is, “If my eye hates me, I do not even wish it to see,” ean o ofqalmo" mou mish me, oude idein auton boulomai, which seems more proverbial, (if the aorist will bear this construction as Mt 13,14), and agrees with p. 537.
10 (So all mss. Sav. “more cruel.”
Chrysostom on Rm 2600