Chrysostom on 1Cor 2200

Homily XXII - 1Co 9,13 - Know ye not that they which minister

2200 about sacred things eat of the temple? and they which wait upon the altar have their portion with the altar? Even so did the Lord ordain that they which proclaim the Gospel should live of the Gospel. (1Co 9,13-23)

2201 (He takes great care to show that the receiving was not forbidden. Whereupon having said so much before, he was not content but proceeds also to the Law, furnishing an example closer to the point than the former. For it was not the same thing to bring forward the oxen and to adduce the law expressly given concerning priests.

But consider, I pray, in this also the wisdom of Paul, how he mentions the matter in a way to give it dignity. For he did not say, “They which minister about sacred things receive of those who offer them.” But what? “They eat of the temple:” so that neither they who receive may be blamed nor they who give may be lifted up. Wherefore also what follows he hath set down in the same way.

For neither did he say, “They which wait upon the altar receive of them which sacrifice,” but, “have their portion with the altar.” For the things offered now no longer belonged to those who offered them, but to the temple and the altar. And he said not, “They receive the holy things,” but, they “eat of the temple,” indicating again their moderation, and that it behoves them not to make money nor to be rich. And though he say that they have their portion “with the altar,” he doth not speak of equal distribution but of relief given them as their due. And yet the case of the Apostles was much stronger. For in the former instance the priesthood was an honor, but in the latter it was dangers and slaughters and violent deaths. Wherefore all the other examples together did not come up to the saying, “If we sowed unto you spiritual things:” since in saying, “we sowed,” he points out the storms, the danger, the snares, the unspeakable evils, which they endured in preaching. Nevertheless, though the superiority was so great, he was unwilling either to abase the things of the old law or to exalt the things which belong to himself: nay he even contracts his own, reckoning the superiority not from the dangers, but from the greatness of the gift. For he said not, “if we have jeoparded ourselves” or “exposed ourselves to snares” but “if we sowed unto you spiritual things.

And the part of the priests, as far as possible, he exalts, saying, “They which minister about sacred things,” and “they that wait upon the altar,” thereby intending to point out their continual servitude and patience. Again, as he had spoken of the priests among the Jews, viz. both the Levites and the Chief Priests, so he hath expressed each of the orders, both the inferior and the superior; the one by saying, “they which minister about sacred things,” and the other by saying, “they which wait upon the altar.” For not to all was one work commanded; but some were entrusted with the coarser, others with the more exalted offices. Comprehending therefore all these, lest any should say, “why talk to us of the old law? knowest thou not that ours is the time of more perfect commandments?” after all those topics he placed that which is strongest of all, saying,

1Co 9,14. “Even so did the Lord ordain that they who proclaim the Gospel should live of the Gospel.”

Nor doth he even here say that they are supported by men, but as in the case of the priests, of “the temple” and “of the altar,” so likewise here, “of the Gospel;” and as there he saith, “eat,” so here, “live,” not make merchandize nor lay up treasures. “For the laborer,” saith He, “is worthy of his hire.”

[2.] 1Co 9,15. “But I have used none of these things:”

What then if thou hast not used them now, saith one, but intendest to use them at a future time, and on this account sayest these things. Far from it; for he speedily corrected the notion, thus saying;

“And I write not these things that it may be so done in my case.”

And see with what vehemence he disavows and repels the thing:

“For it were good for me rather to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.”

And not once nor twice, but many times he uses this expression. For above he said, “We did not use this right:” and after this again, “that I abuse not my right:” and here, “but I have used none of these things.” “These things;” what things? The many examples. That is to say, many things giving me license; the soldier, the husbandman, the shepherd, the Apostles, the law, the things done by us unto you, the things done by you unto the others, the priests, the ordinance of Christ; by none of these have I been induced to abolish my own law, and to receive. And speak not to me of the past: (although I could say, that I have endured much even in past times on this account,) nevertheless I do not rest on it alone, but likewise concerning the future I pledge myself, that I would choose rather to die of hunger than be deprived of these crowns.

“For it were good for me rather to die,” saith he, “than that any man should make my glorying void.”

(He said not, “that any man should abolish my law,” but, “my glorying.” For lest any should say, “he doth it indeed but not cheerfully, but with lamentation and grief,” willing to show the excess of his joy and the abundance of his zeal, he even calls the matter “glorying.” So far was he from vexing himself that he even glories, and chooses rather to die than to fall from this “glorying.” So much dearer to him even than life itself was that proceeding of his.

2202 [3.] Next, he exalts it from another consideration also, and signifies that it was a great thing, not that he might show himself famous, (for far was he from that disposition,) but to signify that he rejoices, and with a view more abundantly to take away all suspicion. For on this account, as I before said, he also called it a glorying: and what saith he?

1Co 9,16-18. “For if I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of; for necessity is laid upon me; for woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel! For if I do this of mine own will,I have a reward: but if not of mine own will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. What then is my reward? That when I preach the Gospel, I may make the Gospel of Christ without charge, so as not to use to the full my right in the Gospel.”

What sayest thou? tell me. “If thou preach the Gospel, it is nothing for thee to glory of, but it is, if thou make the Gospel of Christ without charge?” Is this therefore greater than that? By no means; but in another point of view it hath some advantage, inasmuch as the one is a command, but the other is a good deed of my own free-will: for what things are done beyond the commandment, have a great reward in this respect: but such as are in pursuance of a commandment, not so great: and so in this respect he says, the one is more than the other; not in the very nature of the thing. For what is equal to preaching; since it maketh men vie even with the angels themselves. Nevertheless since the one is a commandment and a debt, the other a forwardness of free-will, in this respect this is more than that. Wherefore he saith, explaining the same, what I just now mentioned:

“For if I do this of mine own will, I have a reward, but if not of mine own will, a stewardship is entrusted to me;” taking the words of mine own “will” and “not of mine own will,” of its being committed or not committed to him. And thus we must understand the expression, “for necessity is laid upon me;” not as though. he did aught of these things against his will, God forbid, but as though he were bound by the things commanded, and for contradistinction to the liberty in receiving before mentioned. Wherefore also Christ said to the disciples, (St. Lc 17,10) “When ye have done all, say, We are unprofitable servants; for we have done that which was our duty to do.”

“What then is my reward? That when I preach the Gospel, I may make the Gospel without charge.” What then, tell me, hath Peter’ no reward? Nay, who can ever have so great an one as he? And what shall we say of the other Apostles? How then said he, “If I do this of mine own will I have a reward, but if not of mine own will, a stewardship is entrusted to me?” Seest thou here also his wisdom? For he said not, “But if not of mine own will,” I have no reward, but, “a stewardship is committed unto me:” implying that even thus he hath a reward, but such as he obtains who hath performed what was commanded, not such as belongs to him who hath of his own resources been generous and exceeded the commandment.

“What then is the reward? That, when I preach the Gospel,” saith he, “I may make the Gospel without charge, so as not to use to the full my right in the Gospel.” See how throughout he uses the term “right,” intimating this, as I have often observed; that neither are they who receive worthy of blame. But he added,. “in the Gospel,” partly to show the reasonableness of it, partly also to forbid our carrying the matter out into every case. For the teacher ought to receive, but not the mere drone also).

[4.] 1Co 9,19. “For though I was free from all men, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more.”

2203 Here again he introduces another high step in advance. For a great thing it is even not to receive, but this which he is about to mention is much more than that. What then is it that he says? “Not only have I not received,” saith he,” not only have I not used this right, but I have even made myself a slave, and in a slavery manifold and universal. For not in money alone, but, which was much more than money, in employments many and various have I made good this same rule: and I have made myself a slave when I was subject to none, having no necessity in any respect, (for this is the meaning of, “though I was free from all men;”) and not to any single person have I been a slave, but to the whole world.” brought Wherefore also he subjoined, “I myself under bondage to all.” That is, “To preach the Gospel I was commanded, and to proclaim the things committed to my trust; but the contriving and devising numberless things beside, all that was of my own zeal. For I was only under obligation to invest the money, whereas I did every thing in order to get a return for it, attempting more than was commanded.” Thus doing as he did all things of free choice and zeal and love to Christ, he had an insatiable desire for the salvation of mankind. Wherefore also he used to overpass by a very great deal the lines marked out, in every way springing higher than the very heaven.

[5.] Next, having mentioned his servitude, be describes in what follows the various modes of it.. And what are these?

1Co 9,20. “And I became,” says he, “to the Jews as a Jew, that I might gain Jews.” And how did this take place? When he circumcised that he might abolish circumcision. Wherefore he said not, “a Jew,” but, “as a Jew,” which was a wise arrangement. What sayest thou? The herald of the world and he who touched the very heavens and shone so bright in grace, doth he all at once descend so low? Yea. For this is to ascend. For you are not to look to the fact only of his descending, but also to his raising up him that was bowed down and bringing him up to himself.

“To them that are under the law, as under the law, not being myself under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law.” Either it is the explanation of what went before, or he hints at some other thing besides the former: calling those Jews, who were such originally and from the first: but “under the law,” the proselytes, or those who became believers and yet adhered to the law. For they were no longer as Jews, yet ‘under the law.’ And when was he under the law? When he shaved his head; when he offered sacrifice. Now these things were done, not because his mind changed, (since such conduct would have been wickedness,) but because his love condescended. For that he might bring over to this faith those who were really Jews, he became such himself not really, showing himself such only, but not such in fact nor doing these things from a mind so disposed. Indeed, how could he, zealous as he was to convert others also, and doing these things only in order that he might free others who did them from that degradation?

1Co 9,21. “To them that are without law, as without law.” These were neither Jews, nor Christians, nor Greeks; but ‘outside of the Law,’ as was Cornelius, and if there were any others like him. For among these also making his appearance, he used to assume many of their ways. But some say that he hints at his discourse with the Athenians from the inscription on the altar, and that so he saith, “to them that are without law, as without law.”

Then, lest any should think that the matter was a change of mind, he added, “not being without law to God, but under law to Christ;” i.e., “so far from being without law, I am not simply under the Law, but I have that law which is much more exalted than the older one, viz. that of the Spirit and of grace.” Wherefore also he adds, “to Christ.” Then again, having made them confident of his judgment, he states also the gain of such condescension, saying, “that I might gain them that are without law.” And every where he brings forward the cause of his condescension, and stops not even here, but says,

1Co 9,22. “To the weak became I weak, that I might gain the weak:” in this part coming to their case, with a view to which also all these things have been spoken. However, those were much greater things, but this more to the purpose; whence also he hath placed it after them. Indeed he did the same thing likewise in his Epistle to the Romans, when he was finding fault about meats; and so in many other places.

Next, not to waste time by naming all severally, he saith, “I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.”

Seest thou how far it is carried? “I am become all things to all men,” not expecting, however, to save all, but that I may save though it be but a few. And so great care and service have I undergone, as one naturally would who was about saving all, far however from hoping to gain all: which was truly magnanimous and a proof of burning zeal. Since likewise the sower sowed every where, and saved not all the seed, notwithstanding he did his part. And having mentioned the fewness of those who are saved, again, adding, “by all means,” he consoled those to whom this was a grief. For though it be not possible that all the seed should be saved, nevertheless it cannot be that all should perish. Wherefore he said, “by all means,” because one so ardently zealous must certainly have some success.

1Co 9,23. “And I do all things for the Gospel’s sake, that I may be a joint partaker thereof.”

“That is, that I may seem also myself to have added some contribution of mine own, and may partake of the crowns laid up for the faithful. For as he spake of “living of the Gospel,” i.e, of the believers; so also here, “that I may be a joint partaker in the Gospel, that I may be able to partake with them that have believed in the Gospel.” Do you perceive his humility, how in the recompense of rewards he places himself as one of the many, though he had exceeded all in his labors? whence it is evident that he would in his reward also. Nevertheless, he claims not to enjoy the first prize, but is content if so be he may partake with the others in the crowns laid up for them. But these things he said, not because he did this for any reward, but that hereby at least he might draw them on, and by these hopes might induce them to do all things for their brethren’s sake. Seest thou his wisdom! Seest thou the excellency of his perfection? how he wrought beyond the things commanded, not receiving when it was lawful to receive. Seest thou the exceeding greatness of his condescension? how he that was “under law to Christ,” and kept that highest law, “to them that were without law,” was “as one without law,” to the Jews, as a Jew, in either kind showing himself preeminent, and surpassing all.

[6.] This also do thou, and think not being eminent, that thou lowerest thyself, when for thy brother’s sake thou submittest to some abasement. For this is not to fall, but to descend. For he who falls, lies prostrate, hardly to be raised up again; but he who descends shall also rise again with much advantage. As also Paul descended indeed alone, but ascended with the whole world: not acting a part, for he would not have sought the gain of them that are saved had he been acting. Since the hypocrite seeks men’s perdition, and feigns, that he may receive, not that he may give. But the apostle not so: as a physician rather, as a teacher, as a father, the one to the sick, the other to the disciple, the third to the son, condescends for his correction, not for his hurt; so likewise did he.

2204 To show that the things which have been stated were not pretence; in a case where he is not compelled to do or say any such thing but means to express his affection and his confidence; hear him saying, (Rm 8,39) “neither life, nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Seest thou a love more ardent than fire? So let us also love Christ. For indeed it is easy, if we will. For neither was the Apostle such by nature. On this account, you see, his former life was recorded, so contrary to this, that we may learn that the work is one of choice, and that to the willing all things are easy.

Let us not then despair, but even though thou be a reviler, or covetous, or whatsoever thou art, consider that Paul was (1Tm 1,13 and 1Tm 1,16) “a blasphemer, and persecutor, and injurious, and the chief of sinners,” and suddenly rose to the very summit of virtue, and his former life proved no hindrance to him. And yet none with so great frenzy clings to vice as he did to the war against the Church. For at that time he put his very life into it; and because he had not ten thousand hands that he might stone Stephen with all of them, he was vexed. Notwithstanding, even thus he found how he might stone him with more hands, to wit, those of the false witnesses whose clothes he kept. And again, when he entered into houses like a wild beast and no otherwise did he rush in, haling, tearing men and women, filling all things with tumult and confusion and innumerable conflicts. For instance, so terrible was he that the Apostles, (Ac 9,26) even after his most glorious change, did not yet venture to join themselves to him. Nevertheless, after all those things he became such as he was:for I need not say more.

[7.] Where now are they who build up the necessity of fate against the freedom of the will? Let them hear these things, and let their mouths be stopped. For there is nothing to hinder him that willeth to become good, even though before he should be one of the vilest. And in fact we are more aptly disposed that way, inasmuch as virtue is agreeable to our nature, and vice contrary to it, even as sickness and health. For God hath given us eyes, not that we may look wantonly, but that, admiring his handi-work, we may worship the Creator. And that this is the use of our eyes is evident from the things which are seen. For the lustre of the sun and of the sky we see from an immeasurable distance, but a woman’s beauty one cannot discern so far off. Seest thou that for this end our eye was chiefly given? Again, he made the ear that we should entertain not blasphemous words, but saving doctrines. Wherefore you see, when it receives any thing dissonant, both our soul shudders and our very body also. “For,” saith one, (Si 27,5) “the talk of him that sweareth much maketh the hair stand upright.” And if we hear any thing cruel or merciless, again our flesh creeps; but if any thing decorous and kind, we even exult and rejoice. Again, if our mouth utter base words, it causes us to be ashamed and hide ourselves, but if grave words, it utters them with ease and all freedom. Now for those things which are according to nature no one would blush, but for those which are against nature. And the hands when they steal hide themselves, and seek excuses; but if they give alms, they even glory. So that if we will, we have from every side a great inclination towards virtue. But if thou talk to me of the pleasure which arises from vice, consider that this also is a thing which we reap more of from virtue. For to have a good conscience and to be looked up to by all and to entertain good hopes, is of all things most pleasant to him that hath seen into the nature of pleasure, even as the reverse is of all things the most grievous to him that knows the nature of pain; such as to be reproached by all, to be accused by our own conscience, to tremble and fear both at the future and the present.

2205 And that what I say may become more evident, let us suppose for argument’s sake one man having a wife, yet defiling the marriage-bed of his neighbor and taking pleasure in this wicked robbery, enjoying his paramour. Then let us again oppose to him another who loves his own spouse. And that the victory may be greater and more evident, let the man who enjoys his own wife only, have a fancy also for the other, the adulteress, but restrain his passion and do nothing evil: (although neither is this pure chastity). However, granting more than is necessary, that you may convince yourself how great is the pleasure of virtue, for this cause have we so framed our story.

Now then, having brought them together, let us ask them accordingly, whose is the pleasanter life: and you will hear the one glorying and exulting in the conquest over his lust: but the other—or rather, there is no need to wait to be informed of any thing by him. For thou shalt see him, though he deny it times without number, more wretched than men in a prison. For he fears and suspects all, both his own wife and the husband of the adulteress and the adulteress herself, and domestics, and friends, and kinsmen, and walls, and shadows, and himself, and what is worst of all, he hath his conscience crying out against him, barking aloud every day. But if he should also bring to mind the judgment-seat of God, he will not be able even to stand. And the pleasure is short: but the pain from it unceasing. For both at even, and in the night, in the desert and the city and every where, the accuser haunts him, pointing to a sharpened sword and the intolerable punishment, and with that terror consuming and wasting him. But the other, the chaste person, is free from all these things, and is at liberty, and with comfort looks upon his wife, his children, his friends, and meets all with unembarrassed eyes. Now if he that is enamored but is master of himself enjoy so great pleasure, he that indulges no such passion but is truly chaste, what harbor, what calm will be so sweet and serene as the mind which he will attain? And on this account you may see few adulterers but many chaste persons. But if the former were the pleasanter, it would be preferred by the greater number. And tell me not of the terror of the laws. For this is not that which restrains them, but the excessive unreasonableness, and the fact that the pains of it are more than the pleasures, and the sentence of conscience.

[8.] Such then is the adulterer. Now, if you please, let us bring before you the covetous, laying bare again another lawless passion. For him too we shall see afraid of the same things and unable to enjoy real pleasure: in that calling to mind both those whom he hath wronged, and those who sympathize with them, and the public sentence of all concerning himself, he hath ten thousand agitations.

And this is not his only vexation, but not even his beloved object can he enjoy. For such is the way of the covetous; not that they may enjoy do they possess, but that they may not enjoy. But if this seem to thee a riddle, hearnext what is yet worse than this and more perplexing; that not in this way only are they deprived of the pleasure of their goods, by their not venturing to use them as they would, but also by their never being filled with them but living in a continual thirst: than which what can be more grievous? But the just man is not so, but is delivered both from trembling and hatred and fear and this incurable thirst: and as all men curse the one, even so do all men conspire to bless the other: and as the one hath no friend, so hath the other no enemy.

What now, these things being so acknowledged, can be more unpleasing than vice or more pleasant than virtue? Nay, rather, though we should speak for ever, no one shall be able to represent in discourse either the pain of this, or the pleasure of the other, until we shall experience it. For then shall we find vice more bitter than gall, when we shall have fully tasted the honey of virtue. Not but vice is even now unpleasant, and disgusting, and burdensome, and this not even her very votaries gainsay; but when we withdraw from her, then do we more clearly discern the bitterness of her commands. But if the multitude run to her, it is no marvel; since children also oftentimes, choosing things less pleasant, despise those which are more delightfuland the sick for a momentary gratification lose the perpetual and more certain joy. But this comes of the weakness and folly of those who are possessed with any fondness, not of the nature of the things. For it is the virtuous man who lives in pleasure; he who is rich indeed and free indeed.

But if any one would grant the rest to virtue,—liberty, security freedom from cares, the fearing no man, the suspecting no man,—but would not grant it pleasure; to laugh, and that heartily, occurs to me, I confess, as the only course to be taken. For what else is pleasure, but freedom from care and fear and despondency, and the not being under the power of any? And who is in pleasure, tell me, the man in frenzy and convulsion, who is goaded by divers lusts, and is not even himself; or he who is freed from all these waves, and is settled in the love of wisdom, as it were in a harbor? Is it not evident, the latter? But this would seem to be a thing peculiar to virtue. So that vice hath merely the name of pleasure, but of the substance it is destitute. And before the enjoyment, it is madness, not pleasure: but after the enjoyment, straightway this also is extinguished. Now then if neither at the beginning nor afterwards can one discern the pleasure of it, when will it appear, and where?

And that thou mayest more clearly understand what I say, let us try the force of the argument in an example. Now consider. One is enamored of a fair and lovely woman: this man as long as he cannot obtain his desire is like unto men beside themselves and frantic; but after that he hath obtained it, he hath quenched his appetite. If therefore neither at the beginning doth he feel pleasure, (for the affair is madness,) nor in the end, (for by the indulgence of his lust he cools down his wild fancy,) where after all are we to find it? But our doings are not such, but both at the beginning they are freed from all disturbance, and to the end the pleasure remains in its bloom: nay rather there is no end of our pleasure, nor have our good things a limit, nor is this pleasure ever done away.

Upon all these considerations, then, if we love pleasure, let us lay hold on virtue that we may win good things both now and hereafter: unto which may we all attain, through the grace and mercy, &c.

Homily XXIII. - 1Co 9,24 - Know ye not that they which run in a race run all,

2300 but one receiveth the prize? (1Co 9,24-27 1Co 10,1-12)

2301 Having pointed out the manifold usefulness of condescension and that this is the highest perfectness, and that he himself having risen higher than all towards perfection, or rather having gone beyond it by declining to receive, descended lower than all again; and having made known to us the times for each of these, both for the perfectness and for the condescension; he touches them more sharply in what follows, covertly intimating that this which was done by them and which was counted a mark of perfectness, is a kind of superfluous and useless labor. And he saith it not thus out clearly, lest they should become insolent; but the methods of proof employed by him makes this evident.

And having said that they sin against Christ and destroy the brethren, and are nothing profited by this perfect knowledge, except charity be added; he again proceeds to a common example, and saith,

“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?” Now this he saith, not as though here also one only out of many would be saved; far from it; but to set forth the exceeding diligence which it is our duty to use. For as there, though many descend into the course not many are crowned, but this befalls one only; and it is not enough to descend into the contest, nor to anoint one’s self and wrestle: so likewise here it is not sufficient to believe, and to contend in any way; but unless we have so run as unto the end to show ourselves unblameable, and to come near the prize, it will profit us nothing. For even though thou consider thyself to be perfect according to knowledge, thou hast not yet attained the whole; which hinting at, he said, “so run, that ye may obtain.” They had not then yet, as it seems, attained. And having said thus, he teaches them also the manner.

1Co 9,25. “And every man that striveth in the games is temperate in all things.”

What is, “all things?” He doth not abstain from one and err in another, but he masters entirely gluttony and lasciviousness and drunkenness and all his passions. “For this,” saith he, “takes place even in the heathen games. For neither is excess of wine permitted to those who contend at the time of the contest, nor wantonness, lest they should weaken their vigor, nor yet so much as to be busied about any thing else, but separating themselves altogether from all things they apply themselves to their exercise only.” Now if there these things be so where the crown fails to one, much more here, where the incitement in emulation is more abundant. For here neither is one to be crowned alone, and the rewards also far surpass the labors. Wherefore also he puts it so as to shame them, saying, “Now they do it receive to a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible.”

[2.] 1Co 9,26. “I therefore so run, as not uncertainly.”

Thus having shamed them from those that are without, he next brings forward himself also, which kind of thing is a most excellent method of teaching: and accordingly we find him every where doing so.

But what is, “not uncertainly?” “Looking to some mark,” saith he, “not at random and in vain, as ye do. For what profit have ye of entering into idol-temples, and exhibiting for-sooth that perfectness? None. But not such am I, but all things whatsoever I do, I do for the salvation of my neighbor. Whether I show forth perfectness, it is for their sake; or condescension, for their sake again: whether I surpass Peter in declining to receive [compensation], it is that they may not be offended; or descend lower than all, being circumcised and shaving my head, it is that they may not be subverted. This is, “not uncertainly.” But thou, why dost thou eat in idol-temples, tell me? Nay, thou canst not assign any reasonable cause. For “meat commendeth thee not to God; neither if thou eat art thou the better, nor if thou eat not art thou the worse.” (1Co 8,8) Plainly then thou runnest at random: for this is, “uncertainly.”

“So fight I, as not beating the air.” Thishe saith, again intimating that he acted not at random nor in vain. “For I have one at whom I may strike, i.e., the devil. But thou dost not strike him, but simply throwest away thy strength.”

Now so far then, altogether bearing with them, he thus speaks. For since he had dealt somewhat vehemently with them in the preceding part, he now on the contrary keeps back his rebuke, reserving for the end of the discourse the deep wound of all. Since here he says that they act at random and in vain; but afterwards signifies that it is at the risk of no less than utter ruin to their own soul, and that even apart from all injury to their brethren, neither are they themselves guiltless in daring so to act.

1Co 9,27. “But I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.”

Here he implies that they axe subject to the lust of the belly and give up the reins to it, and under a pretence of perfection fulfil their own greediness; a thought which before also he was travailing to express, when he said, “meats for the belly, and the belly for meats.” (1Co 6,13) For since both fornication is caused by luxury, and it also brought forth idolatry, he naturally oftentimes inveighs against this disease; and pointing out how great things he suffered for the Gospel, he sets this also down among them. “As I went,” saith he, “beyond the commands, and this when it was no light matter for me:” (“for we endure all things,” it is said,) “so also here I submit to much labor in order to live soberly. Stubborn as appetite is and the tyranny of the belly, nevertheless I bridle it and give not myself up to the passion, but endure all labor not to be drawn aside by it.”

2302 “For do not, I pray you, suppose that by taking things easily I arrive at this desirable result. For it is a race and a manifold struggle, and a tyrannical nature continually rising up against me and seeking to free itself. But I bear not with it but keep it down, and bring it into subjection with many struggles.” Now this he saith that none may despairingly withdraw from the conflicts in behalf of virtue because the undertaking is laborious. Wherefore he saith, “I buffet and bring into bondage.” He said not, “I kill:” nor., “I punish” for the flesh is not to be hated, but, “I buffet and bring into bondage;” which is the part of a master not of an enemy, of a teacher not of a foe, of a gymnastic master not of an adversary.

“Lest by any means, having preached to others, I myself should be a rejected.”

Now if Paul feared this who had taught so many, and feared it after his preaching and becoming an angel and undertaking the leadership of the whole world; what can we say?

For, “think not,” saith he, “because ye have believed, that this is sufficient for your salvation: since if to me neither preaching nor teaching nor bringing over innumerable persons, is enough for salvation unless I exhibit my own conduct also unblameable, much less toyou,.”

[3.] Then he comes to other illustrations again. And as above he alleged the examples of the Apostles and those of common custom and those of the priests, and his own, so also here having set forth those of the Olympic games and those of his own course, he again proceeds to the histories of the Old Testament. And because what he has to say will be somewhat unpleasing he makes his exhortation general, and discourses not only concerning the subject before him, but also generally concerning all the evils among the Corinthians. And in the case of the heathen games, “Know ye not?” saith he: but here,

1Co 10,1. “For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant.”

Now this he said, implying that they were not very well instructed in these things. And what is this which thou wouldest not have us ignorant of?

“That our fathers,” saith he, “were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of a spiritual Rock that followed them: and the Rock was Christ. Howbeit with most of them God was not well pleased.”

And wherefore saith he these things? To point out that as they were nothing profited by the enjoyment of so great a gift, so neither these by obtaining Baptism and partaking of spiritual Mysteries, except they go on and show forth a life worthy of this grace. Wherefore also he introduces the types both of Baptism and of the Mysteries.

But what is, “They were baptized into Moses?” Like as we, on our belief in Christ and His resurrection, are baptized, as being destined in our own persons to partake in the same mysteries; for, “we are baptized,” saith he, “for the dead,” i.e., for our own bodies; even so they putting confidence in Moses, i.e., having seen him cross first, ventured also themselves into the waters. But because he wishes to bring the Type near the Truth; he speaks it not thus, but uses the terms of the Truth even concerning the Type.

Further: this was a symbol of the Font, and that which follows, of the Holy Table. For as thou eatest the Lord’s Body, so they the manna: and as thou drinkest the Blood, so they water from a rock. For though they were things of sense which were produced, yet were they spiritually exhibited, not according to the order of nature, but according to the gracious intention of the gift, and together with the body nourished also the soul, leading it unto faith. On this account, you see, touching the food he made no remark, for it was entirely different, not in mode only but in nature also; (for it was manna;) but respecting the drink, since the manner only of the supply was extraordinary and required proof, therefore having said that “they drank the same spiritual drink,” he added, “for they drank of a spiritual Rock that followed them,” and he subjoined, “and the Rock was Christ.” For it was not the nature of the rock which sent forth the water, (such is his meaning,) else would it as well have gushed out before this time: but another sort of Rock, a spiritual One, performed the whole, even Christ who was every where with them and wrought all the wonders. For on this account he said, “that followed them”

Perceivest thou the wisdom of Paul, how in both cases he points cut Him as the Giver, and thereby brings the Type nigh to the Truth? “For He who set those things before them,” saith he, “the same also hath prepared this our Table: and the same Person both brought them through the sea and thee through Baptism; and before them set manna, but before thee His Body and Blood.”

[4.] As touching His gift then, such is the case: now let us observe also what follows, and consider, whether when they showed themselves unworthy of the gift, He spared them. Nay, this thou canst not say. Wherefore also he added, “Howbeit with most of them God was not well-pleased;” although He had honored them with so great honor. Yea, it profited them nothing, but most of them perished. The truth is, they all perished, but that he might not seem to prophesy total destruction to these also, therefore he said, “most of them.” And yet they were innumerable, but their number profited them nothing: and these were all so many tokens of love; but not even did this profit them, inasmuch as they did not themselves show forth the fruits of love.

Thus, since most men disbelieve the things said of hell, as not being present nor in sight; he alleges the things heretofore done as a proof that God doth punish all who sin, even though He have bestowed innumerable benefits upon them: “for if ye disbelieve the things to come,” so he speaks, “yet surely the things that are past ye will not disbelieve.”

2303 Consider, for example, how great benefits He bestowed on them: from Egypt and the slavery there He set them free, the sea He made their path, from heaven he brought down manna, from beneath He sent forth strange and marvellous fountains of waters; He was with them every where, doing wonders and fencing them in on every side: nevertheless since they showed forth nothing worthy of this gift, He spared them not, but destroyed them all.

1Co 10,5. “For they were overthrown,” saith he, “in the wilderness.” Declaring by this word both the sweeping destruction, and the punishments and the vengeance inflicted by God, and that they did not so much as attain to the rewards proposed to them. Neither were they in the land of promise when He did these things unto them, but without and afar somewhere, and wide of that country; He thus visiting them with a double vengeance, both by not permitting them to see the land, and this too though promised unto them, and also by actual severe punishment.

And what are these things to us? say you. To thee surely they belong. Wherefore also he adds,

1Co 10,6. “Now these things were figures of us.”

For as the gifts are figures, even so are the punishments figures: and as Baptism and the Table were sketched out prophetically, so also by what ensued, the certainty of punishment coming on those who are unworthy of this gift was proclaimed beforehand for our sake that we by these examples might learn soberness. Wherefore also he adds,

“To the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.” For as in the benefits the types went before and the substance followed, such shall be the order also in the punishments. Seest thou how he signifies not only the fact that these shall be punished, but also the degree, more severely than those ancients? For if the one be type, and the other substance, it must needs be that the punishments should as far exceed as the gifts.

And see whom he handles first: those who eat in the idol-temples. For having said, “that we should not lust after evil things,” which was general, he subjoins that which is particular, implying that each of their sins arose from evil lusting. And first he said this,

1Co 10,7. “Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, ‘the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.’“

Do you hear how he even calls them “idolaters?” here indeed making the declaration, but afterwards bringing the proof. And he assigned the cause too wherefore they ran to those tables; and this was gluttony. Wherefore having said, “to the intent that we should not lust after evil things,” and having added, nor “be idolaters,” he names the cause of such transgression; and this was gluttony. “For the people sat down,” saith he, “to eat and to drink,” and he adds the end thereof, “they rose up to play.” “For even as they,” saith he, “from sensuality passed into idolatry; so there is a fear lest ye also may fall from the one into the other.” Do you see how he signifies that these, perfect men forsooth, were more imperfect than the others whom they censured? Not in this respect only, their not bearing with their brethren throughout, but also in that the one sin from ignorance, but the others from gluttony. And from the ruin of the former he reckons the punishment to these, but allows not these to lay upon another the cause of their own sin but pronounces them responsible both for their injury, and for their own.

“Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed.” Wherefore doth he here make mention of fornication. again, having so largely discoursed concerning it before? It is ever Paul’s custom when he brings a charge of many sins, both to set them forth in order and separately to proceed with his proposed topics, and again in his discourses concerning other things to make mention also of the former: which thing God also used to do in the Old Testament, in reference to each several transgression, reminding the Jews of the calf and bringing that sin before them. This then Paul also does here, at the same time both reminding them of that sin, and teaching that the parent of this evil also was luxury and gluttony. Wherefore also he adds, “Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.”

And wherefore names he not likewise the punishment for their idolatry? Either because it was clear and more notorious, or because the plague was not so great at that time, as in the matter of Balaam, when they joined themselves to Baalpeor, the Midianifish women appearing in the camp and alluring them to wantonness according to the counsel of Balaam. For that this evil counsel was Balaam’s Moses sheweth after this, in the following statement at the end of the Book of Numbers. (Nb 31,8; Nb 31,11; Nb 31,15-16, in our translation). “Balaam also the son of Beor they slew in the war of Midian with the sword and they brought the spoils. ... And Moses was wroth, and said, Wherefore have ye saved all the women alive? For these were to the children of Israel for a stumbling-block, according to the word of Balaam, to cause them to depart from and despise the word of the Lord for Peor’s sake.”

1Co 10,9. “Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and perished by serpents.”

2304 By this he again hints at another charge which he likewise states at the end, blaming them because they contended about signs. And indeed they were destroyed on account of trials, saying, “when will the good things come? when the rewards?” Wherefore also he adds, on this account correcting and alarming them,

1Co 10,10. “Neither murmur ye, as some of them murmured, and perished by the destroyer.”

For what is required is not only to suffer for Christ, but also nobly to bear the things that come on us, and with all gladness: since this is the nature of every crown. Yea, and unless this be so, punishment rather will attend men who take calamity with a bad grace. Wherefore, both the Apostles when they were beaten rejoiced, and Paul gloried in his sufferings.

[5.] 1Co 10,11. “Now all these things happened unto them by way of example; and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come.”

Again he terrifies them speaking of the “ends,” and prepares them to expect things greater than had already taken place. “For that we shall suffer punishment is manifest,” saith he, “from what hath been said, even to those who disbelieve the statements concerning hell-fire; but that the punishment also will be most severe, is evident, from the more numerous blessings which we have enjoyed, and from the things of which those were but figures. Since, if in the gifts one go beyond the other, it is most evident that so it will be in the punishment likewise.” For this cause he both called them types, and said that they were “written for us” and made mention of an “end” that he might remind them of the consummation of all things. For not such will be the penalties then as to admit of a termination and be done away, but the punishment will be eternal; for even as the punishments in this world are ended with the present life, so those in the next continually remain. But when he said, “the ends of the ages,” he means nothing else than that the fearful judgment is henceforth nigh at hand.

1Co 10,12. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

Again, he casts down their pride who thought highly of their knowledge. For if they who had so great privileges suffered such things; and some for murmuring alone were visited with such punishment, and others for tempting, and neither their multitude moved God to repent, nor their having attained to such things; much more shall it be so in our case, except we be sober. And well said he, “he that thinketh he standeth:” for this is not even standing as one ought to stand, to rely on yourself: for quickly will such an one fall: since they too, had they not been high-minded and self-confident, but of a subdued frame of mind, would not have suffered these things. Whence it is evident, that chiefly pride, and carelessness from which comes gluttony also, are the sources of these evils. Wherefore even though thou stand, yet take heed lest thou fall. For our standing here is not secure standing, no not until we be delivered out of the waves of this present life and have sailed into the tranquil haven. Be not therefore high-minded at thy standing, but guard against thy falling; for if Paul feared who was firmer than all, much more ought we to fear.

[6.] Now the Apostle’s word, as we have seen, was, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall;” but we cannot say even this; all of us, so to speak, having fallen, and lying prostrate on the ground. For to whom am I to say this? To him that committeth extortion every day? Nay, he lies prostrate with a mighty fall. To the fornicator? He too is cast down to the ground. To the drunkard? He also is fallen, and knoweth not even that he is fallen. So that it is not the season for this word, but for that saying of the prophet which he spake even to the Jews, (Jr 8,4) —“He that falleth, doth he not rise again?” For all are fallen, and to rise again they have no mind. So that our exhortation is not concerning the not falling, but concerning the ability of them that are fallen to arise. Let us rise again then, late though it be, beloved, let us rise again, and let us stand nobly. How long do we lie prostrate? How long are we dranken, besotted with the excessive desire of the things of this life? It is a meet opportunity now to say, (Jr 6,10) “To whom shall I speak and testify?” So deaf are all men become even to the very instruction of virtue, and thence filled with abundance of evils. And were it possible to discern their souls naked; as in armies when the battle is ended one may behold some dead, and some wounded, so also in the Church we might see. Wherefore I beseech and implore you, let us stretch out a hand to each other and thoroughly raise ourselves up. For I myself am of them that are smitten, and require one to apply some remedies.

Do not however despair on this account. For what if the wounds be severe? yet are they not incurable; such is our physician: only let us feel our wounds. Although we be arrived at the very extreme of wickedness, many are the ways of safety which He strikes out for us. Thus, if thou forbear to be angry with thy neighbor, thine own sins shall be forgiven. “For if ye forgive men,” saith He, “your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Mt 6,14) And if thou give alms, He will remit thee thy sins; for, “break off thy sins,” saith He, “by alms.” (Da 4,24) And if thou pray earnestly, thou shalt enjoy forgiveness: and this the widow signifieth who prevailed upon that cruel judge by the importunity of her prayer. And if thou accuse thine own sins, thou hast relief: for “declare thou thine iniquities first, that thou mayest be justified:” (Is 47,26) and if thou art sorrowful on account of these things, this too will be to thee a powerful remedy: “for I saw,” saith He, “that he was grieved and went sorrowful, and I healed his ways.” (Is 57,17) And if, when thou sufferest any evil, thou bear it nobly, thou hast put away the whole. For this also did Abraham say to the rich man, that “Lazarus received his evil things, and here he is comforted.” And if thou hast pity on the widow, thy sins are washed away. For, “Judge,” saith He, “the orphan, and plead for the widow, and come and let us reason together, saith the Lord. And if your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow; and if they be as crimson, I will make them white as wool.” (Is 1,17) For not even a single scar of the wounds doth He suffer to appear.

2305 Yea, and though we be come to that depth of misery into which he fell, who devoured his father’s substance and fed upon husks, and should repent, we are undoubtedly saved. And though we owe ten thousand talents, if we fall down before God and bear no malice, all things are forgiven us. Although we have wandered away to that place whither the sheep strayed from his keeper, even thence He recovers us again: only let us be willing, beloved. For God is merciful. Wherefore both in the case of him that owed ten thousand talents, He was content with His falling down before Him; and in the case of him who had devoured his father’s goods, with his return only; and in the case of the sheep, with its willingness to be borne.

[7.] Considering therefore the greatness of His mercy, let us here make Him propitious unto us, and “let us come before His face by a full confession,” (
Ps 95,2LXX). that we may not depart hence without excuse, and have to endure the extreme punishment. For if in the present life we exhibit even an ordinary diligence, we shall gain the greatest rewards: but if we depart having become nothing better here, even though we repent ever so earnestly there it will do us no good. For it was our duty to strive while yet remaining within the lists, not after the assembly was broken up idly to lament and weep: as that rich man did, bewailing and deploring himself, but to no purpose and in vain, since he overlooked the time in which he ought to have done these things. And not he alone, but many others there are like him now among the rich; not willing to despise wealth, but despising their own souls for wealth’s sake: at whom I cannot but wonder, when I see men continually interceding with God for mercy, whilst they are doing themselves incurable harm, and unsparing of their very soul as if it were an enemy. Let us not then trifle, beloved, let us not trifle nor delude ourselves, beseeching God to have mercy upon us, whilst we ourselves prefer both money and luxury, and, in fact, all things to this mercy. For neither, if any one brought before thee a case and said in accusation of such an one, that being to suffer ten thousand deaths and having it in his power to rid himself of the sentence by a little money, he chose rather to die than to give up any of his property, would you say that he was worthy of any mercy or compassion. Now in this same way do thou also reason touching thyself. For we too act in this way, and making light of our own salvation, we are sparing of our money. How then dost thou beseech God to spare thee, when thou thyself art so unsparing of thyself, and honorest money above thy soul?

Wherefore also I am greatly astonished to see, how great witchery lies hid in wealth, or rather not in wealth, but in the souls of those that are beguiled. For there are, there are those that utterly derided this sorcery. For which among the things therein is really capable of bewitching us? Is it not inanimate matter? is it not transitory? is not the possession thereof unworthy of trust? is it not full of fears and? dangers? nay, of murders and conspiracy? of enmity and hatred? of carelessness and much vice? is it not dust and ashes? what madness have we here? what disease?

“But,”say you, “we ought not merely to bring such accusations against those that are so diseased, but also to destroy the passion.” And in what other way shall we destroy it, except by pointing out its baseness and how full it is of innumerable evils?

But of this it is not easy to persuade a lover concerning the objects of his love. Well then, we must set before him another sort of beauty. But incorporeal beauty he sees not, being yet in his disease. Well then, let us show him some beauty of a corporeal kind, and say to him, Consider the meadows and the flowers therein, which are more sparkling than any gold, and more elegant and transparent than all kinds of precious stones. Consider the limpid streams from their fountains, the rivers which like oil flow noiselessly out of the earth. Ascend to heaven and behold the lustre of the sun, the beauty of the moon, the stars that cluster like flowers. “Why, what is this,” say you, “since we do not, I suppose, make use of them as of wealth?” Nay, we use them mere than wealth, inasmuch as the use thereof is more needful, the enjoyment more secure. For thou hast no fear, lest, like money, any one should take them and go off: but you may be ever confident of having them, and that without anxiety or care. But if thou grieve because thou enjoy-est them in common with others, and dost not possess them alone like money; it is not money, but mere covetousness, which thou seemest to me to be in love with: nor would even the money be an object of thy desire, if it had been placed within reach of all in common.

[8.] Therefore, since we have found the beloved object, I mean Covetousness, come let me show thee how she hates and abhors thee, how many swords she sharpens against thee, how many pits she digs, how many nooses she ties, how many precipices she prepares; that thus at any rate thou mayest do away with the charm. Whence then are we to obtain this knowledge? From the highways, from the wars, from the sea, from the courts of justice. For she hath both filled the sea with blood, and the swords of the judges she often reddens contrary to law, and arms those who on the highway lie in wait day and night, and persuades men to forget nature, and makes parricides and matricides, and introduces all sorts of evils into man’s life.

2306 Which is the reason why Paul entitles her “a root of these things.”(1Tm 6,10) She suffers not her lovers to be in any better condition than those who work in the mines. For as they, perpetually shut up in darkness and in chains, labor unprofitably; so also these buried in the caves of avarice, no one using any force with them, voluntarily draw on their punishment, binding on themselves fetters that cannot be broken. And those condemned to the mines. at least when even comes on, are released from their toils; but these both by day and night are digging in these wretched mines. And to those there is a definite limit of that hard labor, but these know no limit, but the more they dig so much the greater hardship do they desire. And what if those do it unwillingly, but these of their own will? in that thou tellest me of the grievous part of the disease, that it is even impossible for them to be rid of it, since they do not so much as hate their wretchedness. But as a swine in mud, so also do these delight to wallow in the noisome mire of avarice, suffering worse things than those condemned ones. As to the fact that they are in a worse condition, hear the circumstances of the one, and then thou wilt know the state of the other.

Now it is said that that soil which is impregnated with gold has certain clefts and recesses in those gloomy caverns. The malefactor then condemned to labor in that place, taking for that purpose a lamp and a mattock, so, we are told, enters within, and carries with him a cruse to drop oil from thence into the lamp, because there is darkness even by day, without a ray of light, as I said before. Then when the time of day calls him to his wretched meal, himself, they say, is ignorant of the time, but his jailor from above striking violently on the cave, by that clattering sound declares to those who are at work below the end of the day.

Do ye not shudder when ye hear all this? Let us see now, whether there be not things more grievous than these in the case of the covetous. For these too, in the first place, have a severer jailor, viz. avarice, and so much severer, as that besides their body he chains also their soul. And this darkness also is more awful than that. For it is not subject to sense, but they producing it within, whithersoever they go, carry it about with themselves. For the eye of their soul is put out: which is the reason why more than all Christ calls them wretched, saying, “But if the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness.” (S. Mt 6,23) And they for their part have at least a lamp Shining, but these are deprived even of this beam of light; and therefore every day they fall into countless pitfalls. And the condemned when night overtakes them have a respite, sailing into that calm port which is common to all the unfortunate, I mean the night: but against the covetous even this harbor is blocked up by their own avarice: such grievous thoughts have they even at night, since then, without disturbance from any one, at full leisure they cut themselves to pieces.

Such are their circumstances in this world; but those in the next, what discourse shall exhibit? the intolerable furnaces, the rivers burning with fire, the gnashing of teeth, the chains never to be loosed, the envenomed worm, the rayless gloom, the never-ending miseries. Let us fear them, beloved, let us fear the fountain of so great punishments, the insatiate madness, the destroyer of our salvation. For it is impossible at the same time to love both money and your soul. Let us be convinced that wealth is dust and ashes, that it leaves us when we depart hence, or rather that even before our departure it oftentimes darts away from us, and injures us both in regard of the future and in respect of the present life. For before hell fire, and before that punishment, even here it surrounds us with innumerable wars, and stirs up strifes and contests. For nothing is so apt to cause war as avarice: nothing so apt to produce beggary, whether it show itself in wealth or in poverty. For in the souls of poor men also this grievous disease ariseth, and aggravates their poverty the more. And if there be found a poor covetous man, such an one suffers not punishment in money, but in hunger. For he allows not himself to enjoy his moderate means with comfort, but both racks his belly with hunger and punishes his whole body with nakedness and cold, and every where appears more squalid and filthy than any prisoners; and is always wailing and lamenting as though he were more wretched than all, though there be ten thousand poorer than he. This man, whether he go into the market-place, goes away with many a stripe; or into the bath, or into the theatre, he will still be receiving more wounds, not only from the spectators, but also from those upon the stage, where he beholds not a few of the unchaste women glittering in gold. This man again, whether he sail upon the sea, regarding the merchants and their richly-freighted ships and their enormous profits, will not even count himself to live: or whether he travel by land, reckoning up the fields, the suburban farms, the inns, the baths, the revenues arising out of them, will count his own life thenceforth not worth living; or whether thou shut him up at home, he will but rub and fret the wounds received in the market, and so do greater despite to his own soul: and he knows only one consolation for the evils which oppress him; death and deliverance from this life.

And these things not the poor man only, but the rich also, will suffer, who falls into this disease, and so much more than the poor, inasmuch as the tyranny presses more vehemently on him, and the intoxication is greater. Wherefore also he will account himself poorer than all; or rather, he is poorer. For riches and poverty are determined not by the measure of the substance, but by the disposition of the mind: and he rather is the poorest of all, who is always hangering after more and is never able to stay this wicked lust.

Chrysostom on 1Cor 2200