Chrysostom on 2Cor 1400
1400 we wronged no man, we corrupted no man, we took advantage of no man. I say it not to condemn you; for l have said before, [as I have also declared above], that ye are in our hearts to die together and live together. (2Co 7,2-8)
1401 Again he raiseth the discourse about love, mitigating the harshness of his rebuke. For since he had convicted and reproached them as being beloved indeed, yet not loving in an equal degree, but breaking away from his love and mixing up with other pestilent fellows; again he softens the vehemence of his rebuke, saying, “Make room for us,” that is, “love us;” and prays to receive a favor involving no burden, and advantaging them that confer above them that receive it. And he said not, ‘love,’ but with a stronger appeal to their pity, “make room for.” ’ Who expelled us? ’ saith he: ’ Who cast us out of your hearts? How come we to be straitened in you?’ for since he said above, “Ye are straitened in your affections;” here declaring it more clearly, he said, “make room for us:” in this way also again winning them to himself. For nothing doth so produce love as for the beloved to know that he that loveth him exceedingly desireth his love.
“We wronged no man.” See how again he does not mention the benefits [done by him], but frameth his speech in another way, so as to be both less offensive and more cutting. And at the same time he also alludes to the false apostles, saying, “We wronged no man, we corrupted no man, we defrauded no man.”
What is “we corrupted?” That is, we beguiled no man; as he says elsewhere also. “Lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve, so your minds should be corrupted.” (2Co 11,3)
“We defrauded no man;” we plundered, plotted against no man. And he for the present forbears to say, ’ we benefited you in such and such ways;’ but framing his language so as more to shame them, “We wronged no man, “’ he says; as much as saying, ’ Even had we in no wise benefited you, not even so ought ye to turn away from us; for ye have nothing to lay to our charge, either small or great.’ Then, for he felt the heaviness of his rebuke, he tempers it again. And he was neither silent altogether, for so he would not have aroused them; nor yet did he let the harshness of his language go unmodified, for so he would have wounded them too much. And what says he? 2Co 7,3. “I say it not to condemn you.” How is this evident? “For I have said before,” he adds, “that ye are in our hearts to die and live with you.” This is the greatest affection, when even though treated with contempt, he chooseth both to die and live with them. ‘For neither are ye merely in our hearts,’ he says, ‘but in such sort as I said. For it is possible both to love and to shun dangers, but we do not thus.’ And behold here also wisdom unspeakable. For he spake not of what had been done for them, that he might not seem to be again reproaching them, but he promiseth for the future. ’ For should it chance,’ saith he, ’ that danger should invade, for your sakes I am ready to suffer every thing; and neither death nor life seemeth aught to me in itself, but in whichever ye be, that is to me more desirable, both death than life and life than death.’ Howbeit, dying indeed is manifestly a proof of love; but living, who is there that would not choose, even of those who are not friends? Why then does the Apostle mention it as something great? Because it is even exceeding great. For numbers indeed sympathize with their friends when they are in misfortune, but when they are in honor rejoice not with, but envy, them. ’ But not so we; but whether ye be in calamity, we are not afraid to share your ill fortune; or whether ye be prosperous, we are not wounded with envy.’
[2.] Then after he had continually repeated these things, saying, “Ye are not straitened in us;” and, “Ye are straitened in your own affections;” and, “make room for us;” and, “Be ye also enlarged;” and, “We wronged no man;” and all these things seemed to be a condemnation of them: observe how he also in another manner alleviates this severity by saying, “Great is my boldness of speech towards you.” ’ Therefore I venture upon such things,’ he says, ’ not to condemn you by what I say, but out of my great boldness of speech,’ which also farther signifying, he said, “Great is my glorying on your behalf.” ’ For think not indeed,’ he saith, ’ that because I thus speak, I speak as though I had condemned you altogether; (for I am exceedingly proud of, and glory in, you;) but both out of tender concern and a desire that you should make greater increase unto. virtue.’ And so he said to the Hebrews also after much rebuke; “But we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak: and we desire that each one of you may show the same diligence to the fullness of hope even to the end.” (He 6,9 and He 6,11) So indeed here also, “Great is my glorying on your behalf.” ‘We glory others of you,’ he says. Seest thou what genuine comfort he has given? ‘And,’ he saith, ‘I do not simply glory, but also, greatly.’ Accordingly he added these words; “I am filled with comfort.” What comfort? ‘That coming from you; because that ye, having been reformed, comforted me by your conduct.’ This is the test of one that loveth, both to complain of not being loved and to fear lest he should inflict pain by complaining immoderately. Therefore he says, “I am filled with comfort, I overflow with joy.” ‘But these expressions,’ saith one, ‘seem to contradict the former.’ They do not do so, however, but are even exceedingly in harmony with them. For these procure for the former a favorable reception; and the praise which they convey makes the benefit of those rebukes more genuine, by quietly abstracting what was painful in them. Wherefore he uses these expressions, but with great genuineness and earnestness. For he did not say, ’ I am filled with joy;’ but, “I abound;” or rather, not “abound” either, but “super-abound;” in this way also again showing his yearning, that even though he be so loved as to rejoice and exult, he does not yet think himself loved as he ought to be loved, nor to have received full payment; so insatiable was he out of his exceeding love of them. For the joy it brings to be loved in any degree by those one passionately loves, is great by reason of our loving them exceedingly. So that this again was a proof of his affection. And of the comfort indeed, he saith, ’ ’ I am filled;” ’I have received what was owing to me;’ but of the joy, “I superabound;” that is, ’I was desponding about you; but ye have sufficiently excused yourselves and supplied comfort: for ye have not only removed the ground of my sorrow, but have even increased joy.’ Then showing its greatness, he not only declares it by saying, ’, I superabound in joy,” but also by adding, “in all our affliction.” ’ For so great was the delight arising to us on your account that it was not even dimmed by so great tribulation, but through the excess of its own greatness it overcame the sorrows that had hold of us, and suffered us not to feel the sense of them.’
2Co 7,5. “For even when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no relief.”
For since he said, “our tribulation;” he both explains of what sort it was, and magnifies it by his words, in order to show that the consolation and joys received from them was great, seeing it had repelled so great a sorrow. “But we were afflicted on every side.”
How on every side? for “without were fightings,” from the unbelievers; “within were fears;” because of the weak among the believers, lest they should be drawn aside. For not amongst the Corinthians only did these things happen, but elsewhere also.
2Co 7,6. “Nevertheless He that comforteth the lowly comforted us by the coming of Titus.”
For since he had testified great things of them in what he said, that he may not seem to be flattering them he cites as witness Titus the brother, who had come from them to Paul after the first Epistle to declare unto him the particulars of their amendment. But consider, I pray you, how in every place he maketh a great matter of the coming of Titus. For he saith also before, “Furthermore when I came to Troas for the Gospel, I had no relief for my spirit because I found not Titus my brother;” (c. 2,12, 13). and in this place again we were comforted,” he saith, “by the coming of Titus.” For he is desirous also of establishing the man in their confidence and of making him exceedingly dear to them. And observe how he provides for both these things. For by saying on the one hand, “I had no relief for my spirit,” he showeth the greatness of his virtue; and by saying on the other, that, in our tribulation his coming sufficed unto comfort; yet “not by his coming only, but also by the comfort wherewith he was comforted in you,” he endeareth the man unto the Corinthians. For nothing doth so produce and cement friendships as the saying something sound and favorable of any one. And such he testifies Titus did; when he says that ‘by his coming he hath given us wings with pleasure; such things did he report of you. On this ground his coming made us glad. For we were delighted not “only by his coming, but also for the comfort wherewith he was comforted in you.” And how was he comforted? By your virtue, by your good deeds.’ Wherefore also he adds,
“While he told us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me. ‘These things made him glad,’ he says, ‘these things comforted him.’ Seest thou how he shows that he also is an earnest lover of theirs, seeing he considers their good report as a consolation to himself; and when he was come, gloried, as though on account of his own good things, unto Paul.
And observe with what warmth of expression he reporteth these things, “Your longing, your mourning, your zeal.” For it was likely that they would mourn and grieve why the blessed Paul was so much displeased, why he had kept away from them so long. And therefore he did not say simply tears, but “mourning;” nor desire, but “longing;” nor anger, but “zeal;” and again “zeal toward him,” which they displayed both about him that had committed fornication and about those who were accusing him. ‘For,’ saith he, ‘ye wereinflamed and blazed out on receiving my letters.’ On these accounts he abounds in joy, on these accounts he is filled with consolation, because he made them feel. It seems to me, however, that these things are said not only to soften what has gone before, but also in encouragement of those who had acted in these things virtuously. For although I suppose that some were obnoxious to those former accusations and unworthy of these praises; nevertheless, he doth not distinguish them, but makes both the praises and the accusations common, leaving it to the conscience of his hearers to select that which belongs to them. For so both the one would be void of offence, and the other lead them on to much fervor of mind).
[4.] Such also now should be the feelings of those who are reprehended; thus should they lament and mourn; thus yearn after their teachers; thus, more than fathers, seek them. For by those indeed living cometh, but by these good living. Thus ought they to bear the rebukes of their fathers, thus to sympathize with their rulers on account of those that sin. For it does not rest all with them, but with you also. For if he that hath sinned perceives that he was rebuked indeed by his father, but flattered by his brethren; he becometh more easy of mind. But when the father rebukes, be thou too angry as well, whether as concerned for thy brother or as joining in thy father’s indignation; only be the earnestness thou showest great; and mourn, not that he was rebuked, but that he sinned. But if I build up and thou pull down, what profit have we had but labor? (Si 34,23) Yea, rather, thy loss stops not here, but thou bringest also punishment on thyself. For he that hindereth the wound from being healed is punished not less than he that inflicted it, but even more. For it is not an equal offence to wound and to hinder that which is wounded from being healed; for this indeed necessarily gendereth death, but that not necessarily. Now I have spoken thus to you; that ye may join in the anger of your rulers whenever they are indignant justly; that when ye see any one rebuked, ye may all shun him more than does the teacher. Let him that hath offended fear you more than his rulers. For if he is afraid of his teacher only, he will readily sin: but if he have to dread so many eyes, so many tongues, he will be in greater safety. For as, if we do not thus act, we shall suffer the extremest punishment; so, if we perform these things, we shall partake of the gain that accrues from his reformation. Thus then let us act; and if any one shall say, ’ be humane towards thy brother, this is a Christian’s duty; let him be taught, that he is humane who is angry [with him], not he who sets him at ease prematurely and alloweth him not even to come to a sense of his transgression. For which, tell me, pities the man in a fever and laboring under delirium, he that lays him on his bed, and binds him down, and keeps him from meats and drinks that are not fit for him; or he that allows him to glut himself with strong drink, and orders him to have his liberty, and to act in every respect as one that is in health? Does not this person even aggravate the distemper, the man that seemeth to act humanely, whereas the other amends it? Such truly Ought our decision to be in this case also. For it is the part of humanity, not to humor the sick in every thing nor to flatter their unseasonable desires. No one so loved him that committed fornication amongst the Corinthinians, as Paul who commandeth to deliver him to Satan; no one so hated him as they that applaud and court him; and the event showed it. For they indeed both puffed him up and increased his inflammation; but [the Apostle] both lowered it and left him not until he brought him to perfect health. And they indeed added to the existing mischief, he eradicated even that which existed from the first. These laws, then, of humanity let us learn also. For if thou seest a horse hurrying down a precipice, thou appliest a bit and holdest him in with violence and lashest him frequently; although this is punishment, yet the punishment itself is the mother of safety. Thus act also in the case of those that sin. Bind him that hath transgressed until he have appeased God; let him not go loose, that he be not bound the faster by the anger of God. If I bind, God doth not chain; if I bind not, the indissoluble chains await him. “For if we judged ourselves, we should not be judged. (1Co 11,31) Think not, then, that thus to act cometh of cruelty and inhumanity; nay, but of the highest gentleness and the most skillful leechcraft and of much tender care. But, saith one, they have been punished for a long time. How long? Tell me. A year, and two, and three years? Howbeit, I require not this, length of time, but amendment of soul. This then show, whether they have been pricked to the heart, whether they have reformed, and all is done: since if there be not this, there is no advantage in the time. For neither do we inquire whether the wound has been often bandaged, but whether the bandage has been of any service. If therefore it hath been of service, although in a short time, let it be kept on no longer: but if it hath done no service, even at the end of ten years, let it be still kept on: and let this fix the term of release, the good of him that is bound. If we are thus careful both of ourselves and of others, and regard not honor and dishonor at the hands of men; but bearing in mind the punishment and the disgrace that is there, and above all the provoking of God, apply with energy the medicines of repentance: we shall both presently arrive at the perfect health, and shall obtain the good things to come; which may all we obtain, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom, to the Father, with the Holy Spirit, be glory, might, honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
1500 I do not regret it, though I did regret, (2Co 7,8-12)
1501 (He goes on to apologize for his Epistle, when, (the sin having been corrected,) to treat them tenderly was unattended with danger; and he shows the advantage of the thing. For he did this indeed even before, when he said, “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart, I wrote unto you: not that ye should be made sorry, but that ye might know the love which I have toward you.” (c. 2,4). And he does it also now, establishing this same point in more words. And he said not, ‘I regretted indeed before, but now I do not regret:’ but how? “I regret not now, though I did regret.” ‘Even if what I wrote,’ he says, ‘was such as to overstep the [due] measure of rebuke, and to cause me to regret; still the great advantage which has accrued from them doth not allow me to regret.’ And this he said, not as though he had rebuked them beyond due measure, but to heighten his praises of them. ’ For the amendment ye manifested was so great,’ saith he, ’ that even if I did happen to smite you too severely insomuch that I even condemned myself, I praise myself now from the result.’ Just as with little children, when they have undergone a painful remedy, such as an incision, or cautery, or bitter physic, afterwards we are not afraid to sooth them; so also doth Paul.
2Co 7,8-9. “For I see that that epistle made you sorry, though but for a season. Now I rejoice not that ye were made sorry, but that ye were made sorry unto repentance.”
Having said, “I do not regret,” he tells the reason also; alleging the good that resulted from his letter; and skillfully excusing himself by saying, “though but for a season.” For truly that which was painful was brief, but that which was profitable was perpetual. And what indeed followed naturally was to say, ‘even though it grieved you for a season, yet it made you glad and benefited you forever.’ But he doth not say this: but before mentioning the gain he passes again to his praises of them, and the proof of his own concern for them, saying, “Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry,” (‘for what gain came to me from you being made sorry?) “but that ye were made sorry unto repentance,” that the sorrow brought some gain.’ For a father also when he sees his son under the knife rejoiceth not that he is being pained, but that he is being cured; so also doth this man, But observe how he transfers all that was well achieved in the matter unto themselves; and lays whatever was painful to the account of the Epistle, saying, “It made you sorry for a season;” whilst the benefit that resulted from it he speaks of as their own good achieving. For he said not, ’ The Epistle corrected you,’ although this was the case; but, “ye sorrowed unto repentance.”
“For ye were made sorry after a godly sort, that ye might suffer loss by us in nothing.”
Seest thou wisdom unspeakable? ‘For had we not done this,’ he says, ‘we had done you damage.’ And he affirms that indeed which was well achieved to be theirs, but the damage his own, if indeed he had been silent. For if they are likely to be corrected by a sharp rebuke, then, if we did not sharply rebuke, we should have done you damage; and the injury would not be with you alone, but also with us. For just as he that gives not to the merchant what is necessary for his voyage, he it is that causeth the damage; so also we, if we did not offer you that occasion of repentance, should have wrought you damage. Seest thou that the not rebuking those that sin is a damage both to the master and to the disciple?
[2.] 2Co 7,10. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, a repentance which bringeth no regret.”
‘Therefore.’ he says, ‘though I did regret before I saw the fruit and the gain, how great they were I do not regret now ’For such a thing is godly sorrow. And then he philosophizeth about it, showing that sorrow is not in all cases a grievous thing, but when it is worldly. And what is worldly? If thou be in sorrow for money, for reputation,for him that is departed, all these are worldly. Wherefore also they work death. For he that is in sorrow for reputation’s sake feeleth envy and is driven oftentimes to perish: such sorrow was that which Cain sorrowed, such Esau. By this worldly sorrow then he meaneth that which is to the harm of those that sorrow. For only in respect to sins is sorrow a profitable thing; as is evident in this way. He that sorroweth for loss of wealth repaireth not that damage; he that sorroweth for one deceased raiseth not the dead to life again; he that sorroweth for a sickness, not only is not made well but even aggravates the disease: he that sorroweth for sins, he alone attains some advantage from his sorrow, for he maketh his sins wane and disappear. For since the medicine has been prepared for this thing, in this case only is it potent and displays its profitableness; and in the other cases is even injurious. ‘And yet Cain,’ saith one, ‘sorrowed because he was not accepted with God.’ It was not for this, but because he saw his brother glorious in honor; for had he grieved for this, it behoved him to emulate and rejoice with him; but, as it was, grieving, he showed that his was a worldly sorrow. But not so did David, nor Peter, nor any of the righteous. Wherefore they were accepted, when grieving either over their own sins or those of others. And yet what is more oppressive than sorrow? Still when it is after a godly sort, it is better than the joy in the world. For this indeed ends in nothing; but that “worketh repentance unto salvation, a salvation that bringeth no regret.” For what is admirable in it is this that one who had thus sorrowed would never repent, whilst this is an especial characteristic of worldly sorrow. For what is mote regretted than a true born son? And what is a heavier grief than a death of this sort? But yet those fathers who in the height of their grief culture nobody and who wildly beat themselves, after a time repent because they have grieved immoderately; as having thereby nothing benefitted themselves, but even added to their affliction. But not such as this is godly sorrow; but it possesseth two advantages, that of not being condemned in that a man grieves for, and that this sorrow endeth in salvation; of both which that is deprived. For they both sorrow unto harm and after they have sorrowed vehemently condemn themselves, bringing forth this greatest token of having done it unto harm. But godly sorrow is the reverse [of this]: wherefore also he said, “worketh repentance unto salvation, a repentance that bringeth no regret.” For no one will condemn himself if he have sorrowed for sin, if he have mourned and afflicted himself. Which also when the blessed Paul hath said he needeth not to adduce from other sources the proof of what he said, nor to bring forward those in the old histories who, sorrowed, but he adduceth the Corinthians themselves; and furnishes his proof from what they had done; that along with praises he might both instruct them and the rather win them to, himself.
2Co 7,11. “For behold,” he saith, “thisself-same thing, that ye were made sorry after a godly sort, what earnest care it wrought in you.” ‘For not only,’ he saith, ‘did your sorrow not cast you into that condemning of yourselves, as having acted idly in so doing; but it made you even more careful.’ Then he speaks of the certain tokens of that carefulness;
“Yea,” what “clearing of yourselves,” towards me. “Yea, what indignation” against him that had sinned. “Yea, what fear.” (2Co 7,11). For so great carefulness and very speedy reformation was the part of men who feared exceedingly. And that he might not seem to be exalting himself, see how quickly he softened it by saying,
“Yea, what longing,” that towards me.“Yea, what zeal,” that on God’s behalf. “Yea, what avenging:” for ye also avenged the laws of God that had been outraged.
“In every thing ye approved yourselves to be pure in the matter.” Not only by not having perpetrated, for this was evident before, but also by not consenting unto it. For since he said in the former Epistle, “and ye are puffed up;” (1Co 5,2) he also says here, ‘ye havecleared yourselves of this suspicion also; not only by not praising, but also by rebuking and being indignant.’
[3.] 2Co 7,12. “So although I wrote unto you,” I wrote “not for his cause that did the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered the wrong.” For that they might not say, Why then dost thou rebuke us if we were “clear in the matter?” setting himself to meet this even further above, and disposing of it beforehand, he said what he said, namely, “I donor regret, though I did regret.” ‘For so far,’ says he, ‘am I from repenting now of what I wrote then, that I repented then more than I do now when ye have approved yourselves.’ Seest thou again his vehemence and earnest contention, how he has turned around what was said unto the veryopposite. For what they thought would have made him recant in confusion as having rebuked them hastily, by reason of their amendment; that he uses as a proof that it was right in him to speak freely. For neither does he refuse afterwards to humor them fearlessly, when he finds he can do this. For he that said farther above such things as these, “He that is joined to an harlot is one body,” (1Co 6,16) and, “Deliver such an one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,” (1Co 5,5) and, “Every sin that a man doeth is without the body,” (1Co 6,18) and such like things; how saith he here, “Not for his cause that did the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered the wrong?” Not contradicting, but being even exceedingly consistent with, himself. How consistent with himself? Because it was a very great point with him to show the affection he bore towards them. He does not therefore discard concern for him, but shows at the same time, as I said, the love he had for them, and that a greater fear agitated him, [namely] for the whole Church. For he had feared lest the evil should eat further, and advancing on its way should seize upon the whole Church. Wherefore also he said, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” (1Co 5,6) This however he said at the time; but now that they had well done, he no longer puts it so but differently: and implies indeed the same thing, but manages his expressions more agreeably, saying,
“That our care for you might appear unto you.“
That is, ‘that ye might know how I love you.’ Now this is the same thing as the former, but being differently expressed seemed to convey another meaning. For [to convince thyself] that it is the same, unfold his conception and thou wilt perceive the difference to be nothing. ‘For because I love you exceedingly,’ saith he, ‘I was afraid lest ye should suffer any injury from that quarter, and yourselves succeed to that sorrow.’ As therefore when he says, “Doth God take care for oxen?” (1Co 9,9) he doth not mean that He careth not, (for it is not possible for any existing thing to consist if deserted by the Providence of God:) but that He did not legislate primarily for oxen, so also here he means to say, ‘I wrote first indeed on your account, but secondly on his also. And I had indeed that love inmyself,’ he says, ‘even independently of mine Epistle: but I was desirous of showing it both to you, and in a word to all, by that writing.‘
2Co 7,13. “Therefore we have been comforted.”
Since we both showed our care for you and have been wholly successful. As he said also in another place, “Now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord;” (1Th 3,8)and again, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? are not even ye?” (1Th 2,19). For this is life, this comfort, this consolation to a teacher possessed of understanding; the growth of his disciples.
[4.] For nothing doth so declare him that beareth rule as paternal affection for the ruled. For begetting alone constitutes not a father; but after begetting, also loving. But if where nature is concerned there is so great need of love, much more where grace is concerned. In this way were all the ancients distinguished. As many, for instance, as obtained a good report amongst the Hebrews, by this were made manifest. So was Samuel shown to be great, saying, “But God forbid that I should sin against God in ceasing to pray for you:” (1S 12,23) so was David, so Abraham, so Elijah, and so each one of the righteous, those in the New Testament and those in the Old. For so Moses for the sake of those he ruled left so great riches and treasures untold, “choosing to suffer affliction with the people of God,” (He 11,25) and before his appointment was leader of the people by his actions. Wherefore also very foolishly did that Hebrew say to him, “Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?” (Ex 2,14) What sayest thou? Thou seest the actions and doubtest of the title? Just as if one seeing a physician using the knife excellently well, and succoring that limb in the body which was diseased, should say, ‘Who made thee a physician and ordered thee to use the knife?’ ‘Art, my good Sir, and thine own ailment.’ So too did his knowledge make him (i.e., Moses,) what he claimed to be. For ruling is an art, not merely a dignity, and an art above all arts. For if the rule of those without is an art and science superior to all other, much more this. For this rule is as much better than that, as that than the rest; yea, rather, even much more. And, if ye will, let us examine this argument more accurately. There is an art of agriculture, of weaving, of building; which are both very necessary and tend greatly to preserve our life. For others surely are but ancillary to these; the coppersmith’s, the carpenter’s, the shepherd’s. But further, of arts themselves the most necessary of all is the agricultural, which was even that which God first introduced when He had formed man. For without shoes and clothes it is possible to live; but without agriculture it is impossible. And such they say are the Hamaxobii, the Nomads amongst the Scythians, and the Indian Gymnosophists. For these troubled not themselves with the arts of house-building, and weaving, and shoemaking, but need only that of agriculture. Blush ye that have need of those arts that be superfluous, cooks, confectioners, embroiderers, and ten thousand other such people, that ye may live; blush ye that introduce vain refinements into life; blush ye who are unbelievers, before those barbarians who have no need of art. For God made nature exceedingly independent, needing only a few things. However, I do not compel you nor lay it down for law that ye should live thus; but as Jacob asked. And what did he ask? “If the Lord will give me bread to eat and raiment to put on.” (Gn 28,20) So also Paul commanded, saying, “And having food and covering let us be therewith content.” (1Tm 6,8) First then comes agriculture; second, weaving; and third after it, building; and shoemaking last of all; for amongst us atany rate there are many both servants and laborers who live without shoes. These, therefore, are the useful and necessary arts. Come, then, let us compare them with that of ruling. For I have therefore brought forward these that are of all most important, that when it shall have been seen to be superior to them, its victory over the rest may be unquestioned. Whereby then shall we show that it is more necessary than all? Because without it there is no advantage in these. And if you think good, let us leave mention of the rest and bring on the stage that one which stands higher and is more important than any, that of agriculture. Where then will be the advantage of the many hands of your laborers. if they are at war with one another and plunder one another’s goods? For, as it is, the fear of the ruler restrains them and protects that which is wrought by them; but if thou take this away, in vain is their labor. But if one examine accurately, he will find yet another rule which is the parent and bond of this. What then may this be? That according to which it behoveth each man to control and rule himself, chastising his unworthy passions, but both nourishing and promoting the growth of all the germs of virtue with all care.
For there are [these] species of rule; one, that whereby men rule peoples and states, regulating this the political life; which Paul denoting said, “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers; for there is no power but of God.” (Rm 13,1 and Rm 13,4) Afterwards to show the advantage of this, he went on to say, that the ruler “is a minister of God for good;” and again, “he is a minister of God, and avenger to execute wrath on him that doeth evil.”
A second there is whereby every one that hath understanding ruleth himself; and this also the Apostle further denoted, saying, “Wouldest thou have no fear of the power? do that which is good;” (Rm 13,3) speaking of him that ruleth himself.
[5.] Here, however, there is yet another rule, higher than the political rule. And what is this? That in the Church. And this also itself Paul mentions, saying, “Obey them that have the rule over you and submit to them; for they watch in behalf of your souls as they that shall give account.” (He 13,17) For this rule is as much better than the political as heaven is than earth; yea rather, even much more. For, in the first place, it considers principally not how it may punish sins committed, but how, they may never be committed at all; next, when committed, not how it mayremove the deceased [member], but how they may be blotted out. And of the things of this life indeed it maketh not much account, but all its transactions are about the things in heaven. “For our citizenship is in heaven.” (Ph 3,20) And our life is here. “For our life,” saith he, “is hid with Christ in God.” (Col 3,3) And our prizes are there, and our race is for the crowns that be there. For this life is not dissolved after the end, but then shineth forth the more. And therefore, in truth, they who bear this rule have a greater honor committed to their hands, not only than viceroys but even than those themselves who wear diadems, seeing that they mould men in greater, and for greater, things. But neither he that pursueth political rule nor he that pursueth spiritual, will be able well to administer it, unless they have first ruled themselves as they ought, and have observed with all strictness the respective laws of their polity. For as the rule over the many is in a manner twofold, so also is that which each one exerts over himself. And again, in this point also the spiritual rule transcends the political, as what we have said proved. But one may observe certain also of the arts imitating rule; and in particular, that of agriculture. For just as the tiller of the soil is in a sort a ruler over the plants, clipping and keeping back some, making others grow and fostering them: just so also the best rulers punish and cut off such as are wicked and injure the many; whilst they advance the goodand orderly. For this cause also the Scripture likeneth rulers to vine-dressers. For what though plants utter no cry, as in states the injured do? nevertheless they still show the wrong by their appearance, withering, straitened for room by the worthless weeds. And like as wickedness is punished by laws, so truly here also by this art both badness of soil and degeneracy and wildness in plants, are corrected. For all the varieties of human dispositions we shall find here also, roughness, weakness, timidity, forwardness, steadiness: and some of them through wealth luxuriating unseasonably, and to the damage of their neighbors, and others impoverished and injured; as, for instance, when hedges are raised to luxuriance at the cost of the neighboring plants; when other barren and wild trees, running up to a great height, hinder the growth of those beneath them. And like as rulers and kings have those that vex their rule with outrage and war; so also hath the tiller of the soil attacks of wild beasts, irregularity of weather, hail, mildew, great rain, drought, and all such things. But these things happen in order that thou mayest constantly look unto the hope of God’s aid. For the other arts indeed hold their way through the diligence of men as well; but this getteth the better as God determines the balance, and is throughout almost wholly dependent thereupon; and it needeth rains from above, and the admixture of weathers, and, above all, His Providence. “For neither is he that planteth any thing, nor he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase.” (1 Col 3,7)
Here also there is death and life, and throes and procreation, just as with men. For here happen instances both of being cut off, and of bearing fruit, and of dying, and of being born (the same that was dead) over again, wherein the earth discourseth to us both variously and clearly of a resurrection. For when the root beareth fruit, when the seed shooteth, is not the thing a resurrection? And one might perceive a large measure of God’s providence and wisdom involved in this rule, if one go over it point by point. But what I wished to say is that this [rule] is concerned with earth and plants; but ours with care of souls. And great as is the difference between plants and a soul; so great is the superiority of this to that. And the rulers of the present life again are as much inferior to that [rule], as it is better to have mastery over the willing than the unwilling. For this is also a natural rule; for truly in that case every thing is done through fear and by constraint; but here, what is done aright is of choice and purpose. And not in this point alone doth this excel the other, but in that it is not only a rule, but a fatherhoodso to speak; for it has the gentleness of a father; and whilst enjoining greater things, [still] persuades. For the temporal ruler indeed says, ‘If thou committest adultery, thou hast forfeited thy life,’ but this, shouldst thou look with unchaste eyes, threatens the highest punishments. For awful is this judgment court, and for the correction of soul, not of body only. As great then as the difference between soul and body, is that which separates this rule again from that. And the one indeed sitteth as judge of things that are open; yea, rather, not of all these even, but of such as can be fully proved; and ofttimes moreover, even in these dealeth treacherously, but this court instructeth those that enter it that He that judgeth in our case, will bring forward “all things naked and laid open,” (He 4,13) before the common theatre of the world, and that to be hidden will be impossible. So that Christianity keeps together this our life far more than temporal laws. For if to tremble about secret sins makes a man safer than to fear for such as are open; and if to call him to account even for those offences which be less doth rather excite him unto virtue, than to punish the graver only; then it is easily seen that this rule, more than all others, welds our life together.
[6.] But, if thou wilt, let us consider also the mode of electing the rulers; for here too thou shalt behold the difference to be great. For it is not possible to gain this authority by giving money, but by having displayed a highly virtuous character; and not as unto glory with men and ease unto himself, but as unto toils and labors and the welfare of the many, thus, (I say,) is he that hath been appointed inducted unto this rule. Wherefore also abundant is the assistance he enjoys from the Spirit. And in that case indeed the rule can go no further than to declare merely what is to be done; but in this it addeth besides the help derived from prayers and from the Spirit. But further; in that case indeed is not a word about philosophy, nor doth any sit to teach what a soul is, and what the world, and what we are to be hereafter, and unto what things we shall depart hence, and how we shall achieve virtue. Howbeit of contracts and bonds and money, there is much speech, but of those things not a thought; whereas in the Church one may see that these are the subjects of every discourse. Wherefore also with justice may one call it by all these names, a court of justice, and a hospital, and a school of philosophy, and a nursery of the soul, and a training course for that race that leadeth unto heaven. Further, that this rule is also the mildest of all, even though requiring greater strictness, is plain from hence. For the temporal ruler if he catch an adulterer straightway punishes him. And yet what is the advantage. of this? For this is not to destroy the passion, but to send away the soul with its wound upon it. But this ruler, when he hath detected, considers not how he shall avenge, but how extirpate the passion. For thou indeed dost the same thing, as if when there was a disease of the head, thou shouldest not stay the disease, but cut off the head. But I do not thus: but I cut off the disease. And I exclude him indeed from mysteries and hallowed precincts; but when I have restored him I receive him back again, at once delivered from that viciousness and amended by his repentance. ‘And how is it possible,’ saith one, ‘to extirpate adultery?’ It is possible, yea, very possible, if a man comes under these laws. For the Church is a spiritual bath, which wipeth away not filth of body, but stains of soul, by its many methods of repentance. For thou, indeed, both if thou let a man go unpunished hast made him worse, and if thou punish hast sent him away uncured: but I neither let him go unpunished, nor punish him, as thou, but both exact a satisfaction which becomes me, and set that right which hath been done. Wilt thou learn in yet another way how that thou indeed, though drawing swords and displaying flames to them that offend, workest not any considerable cure; whilst I, without these things, have conducted them to perfect health? But no need have I of arguments or words, but I bring forth earth and sea, and human nature itself, [for witnesses.] And inquire, before this court held its sittings, what was the condition of human affairs; how, not even the names of the good works which now are done, were ever heard of. For who braved death? who despised money? who was indifferent to glory? who, fleeing from the turmoils of life, bade welcome to mountains and solitude, the mother of heavenly wisdom? where was at all the name of virginity? For all these things, and more than these, were the good work of this judgment court, the doings of this rule. Knowing these things then, and well understanding that from this proceedeth every benefit of our life, and the reformation of the world, come frequently unto the hearing of the Divine words, and our assemblies here, and the prayers. For if ye thus order yourselves, ye will be able, having displayed a deportment worthy of heaven, to obtain the promised good things; which may all we obtain, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Chrysostom on 2Cor 1400