Chrysostom hom. on Mt 40
40 Mt 12,9-10
“And when He was departed thence, He went into their synagogue: and, behold, a man which had his hand withered.”
Again He heals on a Sabbath day, vindicating what had been done by His disciples. And the other evangelists indeed say, that He “set” the man “in the midst,” and asked them, “If it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath days.”1
See the tender bowels of the Lord. “He set him in the midst,” that by the sight He might subdue them; that overcome by the spectacle they might cast away their wickedness, and out of a kind of shame towards the man, cease from their savage ways. But they, ungentle and inhuman, choose rather to hurt the fame of Christ, than to see this person made whole: in both ways betraying their wickedness; by their warring against Christ, and by their doing so with such contentiousness, as even to treat with despite His mercies to other men.
And while the other evangelists say, He asked the question, this one saith, it was asked of Him. “And they asked Him,” so it stands, “saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days? that they might accuse Him.”2 And it is likely that both took place. For being unholy wretches, and well assured that He would doubtless proceed to the healing, they hastened to take Him beforehand with their question, thinking in this way to hinder Him. And this is why they asked, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days?” not for information, but that “they might accuse Him.” Yet surely the work was enough, if it were really their wish to accuse Him; but they desired to find a handle in His words too, preparing for themselves beforehand an abundance of arguments.
But He in His love towards man doth this also: He answers them, teaching His own meekness, and turning it all back upon them; and points out their inhumanity. And He “setteth” the man “in the midst;” not in fear of them, but endeavoring to profit them, and move them to pity.
But when not even so did He prevail with them, then was He grieved, it is said, and wroth with them for the hardness of their heart, and He saith,
“What man is there among you that shall have one sheep, and if this fall into a pit on the Sabbath days, will he not lay hold of it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep?3 Wherefore it is lawful to do well4 on the Sabbath days.”5
Thus, lest they have ground of obstinacy, and of accusing him again of transgression, He convicts them by this example. And do thou mark, I pray thee, how variously and suitably in each case, He introduces His pleas for the breaking of the sabbath. Thus, first, in the case of the blind man,6 He cloth not so much as defend Himself to them, when He made the clay: and yet then also were they blaming Him; but the manner of the creation was enough to indicate the Lord and Owner7 of the law. Next, in the case of the paralytic, when he carried his bed, and they were finding fault,8 He defends Himself, now as God, and now as man; as man, when He saith, “If a man on the Sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law should not be broken;” (and He said not “that a man should be profiled”); “are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whir whole on the Sabbath day?”9 As God again, when He saith, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.”10
But when blamed for His disciples, He said, “Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungered, himself and they that were with him, how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the show-bread? He brings forward the priests also.
And here again; “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil?11 Which of you shall have one sheep?” For He knew their love of wealth, that they were all taken up with it, rather than with love of mankind. And indeed the other evangelist. saith,12 that He also looked about upon them when asking these questions, that by His very eye He might win them over; but not even so did they become better.
1 See Mc 3,3-4, and Lc 6,8-9.
2 Mt 12,10.
3 [R. V., “How much, then, is a man of more value than a sheep!”]
4 [R. V. “to do good.”]
5 Mt 12,3.
6 Jn 9,6.
7 [to;n Despovthn, not two titles, as the English rendering would suggest.—R.]
8 Jn 5,9-10.
9 Jn 7,23.
10 Jn 5,17.
11 Mt 12,3-4.
And yet here He speaks only; whereas elsewhere in many cases He heals by laying on of hands also. But nevertheless none of these things made them meek; rather, while the man was healed, they by his health became worse.
For His desire indeed was to cure them before him, and He tried innumerable ways of healing, both by what He did in their presence, and by what He said: but since their malady after all was incurable, He proceeded to the work. “Then saith He to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth, and it was restored whole, like as the other.”13
2. What then did they? They go forth, it is said, and take counsel together to slay Him. For “the Pharisees,” saith the Scripture, “went out and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him.”14 They had received no injury, yet they went about to slay Him. So great an evil is envy. For not against strangers only, but even against our own, is it ever warring. And Mark saith, they took this counsel with the Herodians.15
What then doth the gentle and meek One? He withdrew, on being aware of it. “But when Jesus knew their devices,16 He withdrew Himself,” it is said, “from them”17 Where now are they who say, miracles ought to be done? Nay, by these things He signified, that the uncandid soul is not even thereby persuaded; and He made it plain that His disciples too were blamed by them without cause. This however we should observe, that they grow fierce especially at the benefits done to their neighbors; and when they see any one delivered either from disease or from wickedness, then is the time for them to find fault, and become wild beasts. Thus did they calumniate Him, both when He was about to save the harlot, and when He was eating with publicans, and now again, when they saw the hand restored.
But do thou observe, I pray thee, how He neither desists from His tender care over the infirm, and yet allays their envy. “And great multitudes18 followed Him, and He healed them all; and He charged them that were healed, that they should make Him known to no man.”19 Because, while the multitudes everywhere both admire and follow Him, they desist not from their wickedness.
Then, lest thou shouldest be confounded at what is going on, and at their strange frenzy, He introduces the prophet also, foretelling all this. For so great was the accuracy of the prophets, that they omit not even these things, but foretell His very journeyings, and changes of place, and the intent with which He acted therein; that thou mightest learn, how they spake all by the Spirit. For if the secrets of men cannot by any art be known, much more were it impossible to learn Christ’s purpose, except the Spirit revealed it.20
What then saith the prophet? Nay, it is subjoined: “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the Prophet, saying, Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon Him, and He shall show judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive nor cry,21 neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench, till He send forth judgment unto victory. And in His name shall the Gentiles trust.”22
The prophet celebrates His meekness, and His unspeakable power, and opens to the Gentiles “a great door and effectual;” he foretells also the ills that are to overtake the Jews, and signifies His unanimity with the Father. For “behold,” saith He, “my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased.” Now if He chose Him, not as an adversary doth Christ set aside the law, nor as being an enemy of the lawgiver, but as having the same mind with Him, and the same objects.
Then proclaiming His meekness, he saith, “He shall not strive nor cry.” For His desire indeed was to heal in their presence; but since they thrust Him away, not even against this did He contend.
And intimating both His might, and their weakness, he saith, “A bruised reed shall He not break.” For indeed it was easy to break them all to pieces like a reed, and not a reed merely, but one already bruised.
“And smoking flax shall He not quench.” Here he sets forth both their anger that is kindled, and His might that is able to put down their anger, and to quench it with all ease; whereby His great mildness is signified.
What then? Shall these things always be? And will He endure them perpetually, forming such frantic plots against Him? Far from it; but when He hath performed His part, then shall He execute the other purposes also. For this He declared by saying “Till He send forth judgment unto victory: and in His name shall the Gentiles trust.” As Paul likewise saith, “Having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.”23
But what is, “when He sends forth judgment unto victory?” When He hath fulfilled all His own part, then, we are told, He will bring down upon them His vengeance also, and that a perfect vengeance. Then shall they suffer His terrors, when His trophy is gloriously set up, and the ordinances that proceed from Him have prevailed, and He hath left them no plea of contradiction, however shameless. For He is wont to call righteousness, “judgment.”
But not to this will His dispensation be confined, to the punishment of unbelievers only, but He will also win to Himself the whole world. Wherefore He added, “And in His name shall the Gentiles trust.”
Then, to inform thee that this too is according to the purpose of the Father, in the beginning the prophet had assured us of this likewise, together with what had gone before; saying, “My well-beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased.” For of the well-beloved it is quite evident that He did these things also according to the mind of the beloved.24
3. “Then they brought unto Him one possessed with a devil, blind and dumb, and He healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw.”25
O wickedness of the evil spirit! he had barred up both entrances, whereby that person should have believed, as well sight as hearing; nevertheless, both did Christ open.
“And all the people were amazed, saying, Is not this the Son of David?26 But the Pharisees said, This fellow doths not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.”27
12 [So Mc and Luke, but not Matthew.—R.]
13 Mc 3,5 Lc 6,10.
14 Mt 12,13.
15 Mt 12,14. [R. V., “took counsel,” etc.]
16 Mc 3,6.
17 [“Their devices” is borrowed from verse 25, where the Greek phrase occurs (“their thoughts,” A. V).—R.]
18 Mt 12,15.
19 [So Chrysostom, with the received text. Comp. R. V.—R.]
20 Mt 12,15-16. [“To no man,” peculiar to Chrysostom.—R.]
21 1Co 2,11.
22 [R. V., “cry aloud.”]
23 . see . [ R. V., “hope” for “trust”.]
24 2Co 10,6. [R. V., “being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be fulfilled.”]
25 oJ ajgaphto;"—tou` filoumevnou. See Is 5,1. [“well beloved” answers to the former term, rendered “beloved” above.—R.]
26 Mt 12,22. [“Then was brought” (A. V. and R. V)., but the other form occors in the Homily. R. V. omits “both.”.—R. ]
And yet what great thing had been said? Nevertheless, not even this did they endure: to such a degree, as I have already remarked, are they ever stung by the good works done to their neighbors, and nothing grieves them so much as the salvation of men. And yet He had actually retired, and had given room for their passion to subside; but the evil was again rekindled, because a benefit was again conferred; and the evil spirit was not so indignant as they. For he indeed departed from the body, and gave place and fled away, uttering no sound; but these were endeavoring now to slay, now to defame Him. That is, their first aim not succeeding, they would fain hurt His good name.
Such a thing is envy, than which no worse evil can exist. For the adulterer indeed enjoys some pleasure, such as it is, and in a short time accomplishes his proper sin; but the envious man punishes himself, and takes vengeance upon himself more than on the person whom he envies, and never ceases from his sin, but is continually engaged in the commission thereof. For as a sow in mire, and evil spirits in our hurt, so also doth he delight in his neighbor’s ills; and if anything painful take place, then is he refreshed, and takes breath; accounting the calamities of others his own joys, and the blessings of others his own ills; and he considers not what pleasure may accrue to himself, but what pain to his neighbor. These men therefore were it not meet to stone and beat to death, like mad dogs, like destroying demons, like the very furies?
For as beetles feed on dung, so do these men on the calamities of others, being a sort of common foes and enemies of our nature. And whereas the rest of mankind pity even a brute when it is killed, dost thou, on seeing a man receive benefits, become like a wild beast, tremble, and turn pale? Why, what can be worse than this madness? Therefore, you see, whoremongers and publicans were able to enter into the kingdom, but the envious, being within it, went out: For “the children of the kingdom,” it is said, “shall be cast out.”28 And the former, once freed from their present wickedness, attained to things which they never looked for, while these latter lost even the good things which they had; and very reasonably. For this turns a man into a devil, this renders one a savage demon. Thus did the first murder arise; thus was nature forgotten; thus the earth defiled; thus afterwards did it open its mouth, to receive yet living, and utterly destroy, Dathan, and Korah, and Abiram, and all that multitude.29
4. But to declaim against envy, one may say, is easy; but we ought to consider also how men are to be freed from the disease. How then are we to be rid of this wickedness? If we bear in mind, that as he who hath committed fornication cannot lawfully enter the church, so neither he that envies; nay, and much less the latter than the former. For as things are, it is accounted even an indifferent thing; wherefore also it is little thought of; but if its real badness be made evident, we should easily refrain from it.
Weep then, and groan; lament, and entreat God. Learn to feel and to repent for it, as for a grievous sin. And if thou be of this mind, thou wilt quickly be rid of the disease.
And who knows not, one may say, that envy is an evil thing? No one indeed is ignorant of it: yet they have not the same estimation of this passion as of adultery and fornication. When, at least, did any one condemn himself bitterly for having envied? when did he entreat God concerning this pest, that He would be merciful to him? No man at any time: but if he shall fast and give a little money to a poor man, though he be envious to the thousandth degree, he counts himself to have done nothing horrid, held as he is in subjection by the most accursed passion of all. Whence, for example, did Cain become such as he was? Whence Esau? Whence the children of Laban? Whence the sons of Jacob? Whence Korah Dathan, and Abiram, with their company? Whence Miriam? Whence Aaron? Whence the devil himself?
Herewith consider this also; that thou injurest not him whom thou enviest, but into thyself thou art thrusting the sword. For wherein did Cain injure Abel? Did he not even against his own will send him the more quickly into the kingdom? but himself he pierced through with innumerable evils. Wherein did Esau harm Jacob? Did not Jacob grow wealthy, and enjoy unnumbered blessings; while he himself both became an outcast from his father’s house, and wandered in a strange land, after that plot of his?30 And wherein did Jacob’s sons again make Joseph the worse, and this, though they proceeded even unto blood? had not they to endure famine, and encounter peril to the utmost, whereas he became king of all Egypt? For the more thou enviest, the more dost thou become a procurer of greater blessing to the object of thine envy. For there is a God who beholds these things; and when He sees him injured, that doeth no injury, him He exalts the more, and so makes him glorious, but thee He punishes.
For if them that exult over their enemies, He suffer not to go unpunished (“For rejoice not,” it is said, “when thine enemies fall, lest at any time the Lord see it, and it displease Him”31 ); much more such as envy those who have done no wrong.
Let us then extirpate the many-headed wild beast. For in truth many are the kinds of envy. Thus, if he that loves one that is a friend to him hath no more than the publican,32 where shall he stand who hates him that doeth him no wrong? and how shall he escape hell,33 becoming worse than the heathens? Wherefore also I do exceedingly grieve, that we who are commanded to copy the angels, or rather the Lord of the angels, emulate the devil. For indeed there is much envy, even in the church; and more among us, than among those under authority. Wherefore we must even discourse unto ourselves.
5. Tell me then, why dost thou envy thy neighbor? Because thou seest him reaping honor, and words of good report? Then dost thou not bear in mind how much evil honors bring on the unguarded? lifting them up to pride, to vainglory, to arrogance, to contemptuousness; making them more careless? and besides these evils, they wither also lightly away. For the most grievous thing is this, that the evils arising therefrom abide immortal, but the pleasure at the moment of its appearing, is flown away. For these things then dost thou envy? tell me.
“But he hath great influence with the Ruler, and leads and drives all things which way he will, and inflicts pain on them that offend him, and benefits his flatterers, and hath much power.” These are the sayings of secular persons, and of men that are riveted to the earth. For the spiritual man nothing shall be able to hurt.
For what serious harm shall he do to him? vote him out of his office? And what of that? For if it be justly done, he is even profited; for nothing so provokes God, as for one to hold the priest’s office unworthily. But if unjustly, the blame again falls on the other, not on him; for he who hath suffered anything unjustly, and borne it nobly, obtains in this way the greater confidence towards God.
Let us not then aim at this, how we may be in places of power, and honor, and authority, but that we may live in virtue and self denial. For indeed places of authority persuade men to do many things which are not approved of God; and great vigor of soul is needed, in order to use authority aright. For as he that is deprived thereof, practises self restraint, whether with or against his will, so he that enjoys it is in some such condition, as if any one living with a graceful and beautiful damsel were to receive rules never to look upon her unchastely. For authority is that kind of thing. Wherefore many, even against their will, hath it induced to show insolence; it awakens wrath, and removes the bridle from the tongue, and tears off the door of the lips; fanning the soul as with a wind, and sinking the bark in the lowest depth of evils. Him then who is in so great danger dost thou admire, and sayest thou he is to be envied? Nay, how great madness is here! Consider, at any rate (besides what we have mentioned), how many enemies and accusers, and how many flatterers this person hath besieging him. Are these then, I pray thee, reasons for calling a man happy? Nay, who can say so?
“But the people,” you say, “hold high account of him.” And what is this? For the people surely is not God, to whom he is to render account: so that in naming the people, thou art speaking of nothing else than of other breakers, and rocks, and shoals, and sunken ridges. For to be in favor with the people, the more it makes a man illustrious, the greater the dangers, the cares, the despondencies it brings with it. For such an one has no power at all to take breath or stand still, having so severe a master. And why say I, “stand still and take breath”? Though such an one have never so many good works, hardly doth he enter into the kingdom. For nothing is so wont to overthrow34 men, as the honor which comes of the multitude, making them cowardly, ignoble, flatterers, hypocrites.
Why, for instance, did the Pharisees say that Christ was possessed? Was it not because they were greedy of the honor of the multitude?
And whence did the multitude pass the right judgment on Him? Was it not because this disease had no hold on them? For nothing, nothing so much tends to make men lawless and foolish, as gaping after the honor of the multitude. Nothing makes them glorious and immoveable, like despising the same.
Wherefore also great vigor of soul is needed for him who is to hold out against such an impulse, and so violent a blast. For as when things are prosperous, he prefers himself to all, so when he undergoes the contrary, he would fain bury himself alive: and this is to him both hell, and the kingdom, when he hath come to be overwhelmed by this passion.
Is all this then, I pray thee, matter of envyings, and not rather of lamentations and tears? Every one surely can see. But thou doest the same, in envying one in that kind of credit, as if a person, seeing another bound and scourged and torn by innumerable wild beasts, were to envy him his wounds and stripes. For in fact, as many men as the multitude comprises, so many bonds also, so many tyrants hath he: and, what is yet more grievous, each of these hath a different mind: and they all judge whatever comes into their heads concerning him that is a slave to them, without examining into anything; but whatever is the decision of this or that person, this they also confirm.
What manner of waves then, what tempest so grievous as this? Yea, such a one is both puffed up in a moment by the pleasure, and is under water again easily, being ever in fluctuation, in tranquillity never. Thus, before the time of the assembly, and of the contests in speaking, he is possessed with anxiety and fear; but after the assembly he is either dead with despondency, or rejoices on the contrary without measure; a worse thing than sorrow. For that pleasure is not a less evil than sorrow is plain from the effect it has on the soul; how light it makes it, and unsteady, and fluttering.
And this one may see even from those of former times. When, for instance, was David to be admired; when he rejoiced, or when he was in anguish? When, the people of the Jews? groaning and calling upon God, or exulting in the wilderness, and worshipping the calf? Wherefore Solomon too, who best of all men knew what pleasure is, saith, “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to the house of laughter.”35 Wherefore Christ also blesses the one, saying, “Blessed are they that mourn,”36 but the other sort He bewails, saying, “Woe unto you that laugh, for ye shall weep.”37 And very fitly. For in delight the soul is more relaxed and effeminate, but in mourning it is braced up, and grows sober, and is delivered from the whole swarm of passions, and becomes higher and stronger.
Knowing then all these things, let us shun the glory that comes from the multitude, and the pleasure that springs therefrom, that we may win the real and everlasting glory; unto which may we all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might, forever and ever. Amen.
27 [R. V., “Is this the Son of David ?”]
28 [R. V., “this man.”]
29 Mt 12,23-24.
30 Mt 8,12
31 Nb 16
32 Gn 27,41.
33 Pr 24,17-18.
34 Mt 5,46.
37 Qo 7,2.
41 Mt 12,25-26
“And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself, shall not stand: and if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?”
Even before now they had accused Him of this, that “by Beelzebub He casteth out the devils.”1 But whereas then He did not rebuke them, allowing them both to know His power by His more numerous miracles, and by His teaching to learn His majesty: now, since they continued saying the same, He proceeds also to rebuke them, showing His Godhead by this first, that He made their secrets public; and secondly, by the very act of casting out the devils with ease.
And indeed the accusation too was very shameless. Because, as I have said, envy seeks not what to say, but only that it may say somewhat. Yet for all that, not even so did Christ despise them, but defends Himself with the forbearance proper to Him, teaching us to be meek to our enemies; and though they say such things, as we are neither conscious of, nor have they any the least probability, not to be disturbed, nor troubled, but with all long suffering to render them an account. This then He did most especially on that very occasion, affording the strongest proof, that the things were false that were said by them. For neither was it a demoniac’s part to exhibit so much meekness; it was not a demoniac’s part to know men’s secrets.
For, in truth, both because of the exceeding impudence of such a suspicion, and because of the fear of the multitude, they durst not publicly make these charges, but were turning them in their mind. But He, to show them that He knew all that likewise, doth not set down the accusation, nor doth He expose their wickedness; but the refutation He adds, leaving it to the conscience of them that bad said it to convict them. For on one thing only was He bent, to do good to them that were sinning, not to expose them.
Yet surely, if He had been minded to extend his speech in length, and to make them ridiculous, and withal to have exacted of them also the most extreme penalty, there was nothing to hinder Him. Nevertheless He put aside all these things, and looked to one object only, not to render them more contentious, but more candid, and so to dispose them better toward amendment.
How then doth He plead with them? Not by allegation out of the Scriptures (for they would not so much as attend, but were sure rather to distort their meaning), but by the events of ordinary life. For “every kingdom,” saith He, “divided against itself shall not stand; and a city and a house, if it be divided, is soon dissolved.”2
For the wars from without are not so ruinous as the civil ones. Yea, and this is the case in bodies too; it is the case even in all things; but for this time He takes His illustration from those that are more publicly known.
And yet, what is there more powerful on earth than a kingdom? Nothing, but nevertheless it perishes if in dissension. And if in that case one throw the blame on the great burden of the affairs thereof, as breaking down by its own weight; what wouldest thou say of a city? and what of a house? Thus, Whether it be a small thing, or a great, if at dissension with itself, it perishes. If then I, having a devil, do by him cast out the devils, there is dissension and fighting among devils, and they take their stand one against another. But if they stand one against another, their strength is wasted and destroyed. “For if Satan cast out Satan” (and He said not “the devils,” implying their great unanimity one with another), “he is then divided against himself;” so He speaks. But if he be divided, he is become weaker, and is ruined; and if he be ruined, how can he cast out another?
Seest thou how great the absurdity of the accusation, how great the folly, the inconsistency? Since it is not for the same persons to say first, that He stands, and casts out devils, and then to say, that He stands by that, which it was likely would be the cause of His undoing.
2. This then being the first refutation, the next after it is that which relates to the disciples. For not always in one way only, but also in a second and third, He solves their objections, being minded most abundantly to silence their shamelessness. Which sort of thing He did also with respect to the Sabbath, bringing forward David, the priests, the testimony that saith, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice,” the cause of the Sabbath, for which it was ordained; “for the Sabbath,” saith He,” was for man.”3 This then He doth in the present case also: where after the first He proceeds to a second refutation, plainer than the former.
“For if I,” saith He, “by Belezebub cast out devils, by whom do your sins cast them out?”4
See here too His gentleness. For He said not, “my disciples,” nor, “the apostles,” but “your sons;” to the end that if indeed they were minded to return to the same nobleness5 with them, they might derive hence a powerful spring that way; but if they were uncandid, and continued in the same course, they might not thenceforth be able to allege any plea, though ever so shameless.
But what He saith is like this, “By whom do the apostles cast them out?” For in fact they were doing so already, because they had received authority from Him, and these men brought no charge against them; their quarrel not being with the acts, but with the person only. As then it was His will to show that their. sayings arose only from their envy against Him, He brings forward the apostles; thus: If I so cast them out, much more those, who have received their authority from me. Nevertheless, no such thing have ye said to them. How then bring ye these charges against me, the author of their doings, while acquitting them of the accusations? This, however, will not free you from your punishment, rather it will condemn you the more. Therefore also He added, “They shall be your judges.” For when persons from among you, and having been practised in these things, both believe me and obey, it is most clear that they will also condemn those who are against me both in deed and word.
“But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God is come unto you.”6
What means “the Kingdom”? “My coming.” See how again He conciliates and soothes them, and draws them to the knowledge of Himself, and signifies that they are warring with their own good, and contentious against their own salvation. “For whereas ye ought to rejoice,” saith He, “and leap for joy, that One is come bestowing those great and unutterable blessings, hymned of old by the prophets, and that the time of your prosperity is at hand; ye do the contrary; so far from receiving the blessings, you do even speak ill of them, and frame accusations that have no real being.”
Now Matthew indeed saith, “If I by the Spirit of God cast out”; but Luke, “If I by the finger of God cast out the devils:”7 implying that to cast out devils is a work of the greatest power, and not of any ordinary grace. And He means indeed that from these things they should infer and say, If this be so, then the Son of God is come. This, however, He saith not, but in a reserved way, and so as not to be galling to them, He darkly intimates it by saying, “Then the kingdom of God is Come unto you.”
Seest thou exceeding wisdom? By the very things which they were blaming, He showed His presence shining forth.
Then, to conciliate them, He said not simply, “The Kingdom is come,” but, “unto you,”8 as though He had said, To you the good things are come; wherefore then feel displeased at your proper blessings? why war against your own salvation? This is that time, which the prophets long ago foretold: this, the sign of that advent which was celebrated by them, even these things being wrought by divine power. For the fact indeed, that they are wrought, yourselves know; but that they are wrought by divine power, the deeds themselves cry out. Yea, and it is impossible that Satan should be stronger now; rather he must of absolute necessity be weak. But it cannot be, that he who is weak should, as though he were strong, cast out the strong devil.
Now thus speaking He signified the power of charity, and the weakness of separation and contentiousness. Wherefore He was Himself also continually charging His disciples, on every occasion, concerning charity, and teaching them that the devil, to subvert it, leaves nothing undone.
3. Having then uttered His second refutation, He adds also a third, thus saying:
“How can one enter into the strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man, and then spoil his goods?”9
For that Satan cannot possibly cast out Satan is evident from what hath been said; but that neither in any other way is it possible to cast him out, except one first get the better of him, this too is acknowledged by all.
What then is established hereby? The former statement, with more abundant evidence. “Why, I am so far,” saith He, “from using the devil as an ally, that I make war upon him, and bind him; and an infallible proof thereof is the plundering of his goods.” See how the contrary is proved, of what they were attempting to establish. For whereas they wished to show, that not by His own power doth He cast out devils, He shows that not only the devils, but even their very chief leader is held by Him bound with all authority; and that over him, before them, did He prevail by His own power. And this is evident from the things that are done. For if he be the prince, and they subjects, how, except he were worsted, and made to bow down, could they have been spoiled?
And here His saying seems to me to be a prophecy likewise. For not only, I suppose, are the evil spirits the goods of the devil, but also the men that are doing his works. Therefore to declare that He doth not only cast out devils, but also will drive away all error from the world, and will put down his sorceries, and make all his arts useless, He said these things.
And He said not, He will take away, but “He will spoil,” to express what is done with authority. But He calls him “strong,” not because he is so by nature, God forbid, but declaring his former tyranny, which arose from our remissness.
4. “He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”10
Behold also a fourth refutation. For what is my desire? saith He. To bring men to God, to teach virtue, to proclaim the kingdom. What, that of the devil, and the evil spirits? The contrary to these. How then should he that gathers not with me, nor is at all with me, be likely to co-operate with me? And why do I say co-operate? Nay, on the contrary, his desire is rather to scatter abroad my goods. He then who is so far from cooperating that he even scatters abroad, how should he have exhited such unanimity with me, as with me to cast out the devils?
Now it is a natural surmise that He said this not of the devil only, but Himself also of Himself, as being for His part against the devil, and scattering abroad his goods. And how, one may say, is he that is not with me against me? By this very fact, of his not gathering. But if this be true, much more he that is against him. For if he that doth not co-operate is an enemy, much more he that wages war.
But all these things He saith, to indicate His enmity against the devil, how great and unspeakable it is. For tell me, if thou must go to war with any one, he that is not willing to fight on thy side, by this very fact is he not against thee? And if elsewhere He saith, “He that is not against you is for you,”11 it is not contrary to this. For here He signified one actually against them, but there He points to one who in part is on their side: “For they cast out devils,” it is said “in Thy name.”12
But to me He seems here to be hinting also at the Jews, setting them on the devil’s side. For they too were against Him, and were scattering what He gathered. As to the fact that He was hinting at them also, He declared it by speaking thus,
“Therefore I say unto you, that all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men.”13
5. Thus having defended Himself, and refuted their objection, and proved the vanity of their shameless dealings, He proceeds to alarm them. For this too is no small part of advice and correction, not only to plead and persuade, but to threaten also; which He doth in many passages, when making laws and giving counsel.
And though the saying seem to have much obscurity, yet if we attend, its solution will prove easy.
First then it were well to listen to the very words: “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy of the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto them. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world toCome. “14
What now is it that He affirms? Many things have ye spoken against me; that I am a deceiver, an adversary of God. These things I forgive you on your repentance, and exact no peualty of you; but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven, no, not to those who repent. And how can this be right? For even this was forgiven upon repentance. Many at least of those who said these words believed afterward, and all was forgiven them. What is it then that He saith? That this sin is above all things unpardonable. Why so? Because Himself indeed they knew not, who He might be, but of the Spirit they received ample experience. For the prophets also by the Spirit said whatever they said; and indeed all in the Old Testament had a very high notion of Him.
What He saith, then, is this: Be it so: ye are offended at me, because of the flesh with which I am encompassed: can ye say of the Spirit also, We know it not? And therefore is your blasphemy unpardonable, and both here and hereafter shall ye suffer punishment. For many indeed have been punished here only (as he who had committed fornication,15 as they who partook unworthily of the mysteries,16 amongst the Corinthians); but ye, both here and hereafter.
Now as to your blasphemies against me, before the cross, I forgive them: and the daring crime too of the cross itself; neither shall ye be condemned for your unbelief alone. (For neither had they, that believed before the cross, perfect faith. And on many occasions He even charges them to make Him known to no man before the Passion; and on the cross He said that this sin was forgiven them.) But as to your words touching the Spirit, they wilt have no excuse. For in proof that He is speaking of what was said of Him before the crucifixion, He added, “Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Ghost,” there is no more forgiveness. Wherefore? Because this is known to you; and the truths are notorious which you harden yourselves against. For though ye say that ye know not me; yet of this surely ye are not ignorant, that to cast out devils, and to do cures, is a work of the Holy Ghost. It is not then I only whom ye are insulting, but the Holy Ghost also. Wherefore your punishment can be averted by no prayers, neither here nor there.
For so of men, some are punished both here, and there, some here only, some there only, others neither here nor there. Here and there, as these very men (for both here did they pay a penalty, when they suffered those incurable ills at the taking of their city, and there shall they undergo a very grievous one), as the inhabitants of Sodom; as many others. There only, as the rich man who endured the flames,17 and had not at his command so much as a drop of water. Here, as he that had committed fornication amongst the Corinthians. Neither here nor there, as the apostles, as the prophets, as the blessed Job; for their sufferings were not surely in the way of punishment, but as contests and wrestlings.
Let us labor, therefore, to be of the same part with these: or if not with these, at least with them that wash away their sins here. For fearful indeed is that other judgment, and inexorable the vengeance, and incurable the punishment.
6. But if thou desire not to be punished even here, pass judgment on thyself, exact thine own penalty. Listen to Paul, when he saith, “If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.”18 If thou do this, proceeding in order thou shall even arrive at a crown.
But how are we to exact our own penalty? one may ask.
Lament, groan bitterly, humble, afflict thyself, call to remembrance thy sins in their particulars. This thing is no small torture to a man’s soul. If any man hath been in a state of contrition, he knows that the soul is punished by this more than anything. If any hath been living in remembrance of sins, he knows the anguish thence arising. Therefore doth God appoint righteousness as a reward for such repentance, saying, “Be thou first to tell thy sins, that thou mayest be justified.”19 For it is not, it is not indeed, a small step towards amendment, to lay together all our sins, and to be continually revolving and reckoning them up with their particulars. For he that is doing this will be so heart-broken, as not to think himself worthy so much as to live; and he that thinks thus, will be tenderer than any wax. For tell me not of acts of fornication only, nor of adulteries, nor of these things that are manifest, and acknowledged amongst all men: but lay together also thy secret crafts, and thy false accusations, and thine evil speakings, and thy vain gloryings, and thine envy, and all such things. For neither will these bring a trifling punishment. For the reviler too shall fall into hell; and the drunkard hath no part in the kingdom; and he that lovest not his neighbor so offends God, as to find no help even in his own martyrdom; and he that neglects his own hath denied the faith, and he who overlooks the poor is sent into the fire.
Account not then these things to be little, but put all together, and write them as in a book. For if thou write them down, God blots them out; even as on the other hand, if thou omit writing them, God both inscribes them, and exacts their penalty. It were then far better for them to be written by us, and blotted out above, than on the contrary, when we have forgotten them, for God to bring them before our eyes in that day.
Therefore that this may not be so, let us reckon up all with strictness, and we shall find ourselves answerable for much. For who is clear from covetousness? Nay, tell me not of the quantity, but since even in a small amount we shall pay the same penalty, consider this and repent. Who is rid of all insolence? Yet this casts into hell. Who hath not secretly spoken evil of his neighbor? Yet this deprives one of the Kingdom.20 Who hath not been self-willed? Yet this man is more unclean than all. Who hath not looked with unchaste eyes? Yet this is a complete adulterer. Who hath not been “angry with his brother without a cause”? Yet such an one is “in danger of the council.” Who hath not sworn? Yet this thing is of the evil one. Who hath not forsworn himself? but this man is something more than of the evil one. Who hath not served mammon? but this man is fallen away from the genuine service of Christ.
I have also other things greater than these to mention: but even these are enough, and able, if a man be not made of stone, nor utterly past feeling, to bring him to compunction. For if each one of them casts into hell, what will they not bring to pass when all are met together?
How then can one be saved? it may be asked. By application of the countervailing remedies: alms, prayers, compunction, repentance, humility, a contrite heart, contempt of possessions. For God hath marked out for us innumerable ways of salvation, if we be willing to attend. Let us then attend, and let us every way cleanse out our wounds, showing mercy, remitting our anger against them that have displeased us, giving thanks for all things to God, fasting according to our power, praying sincerely, “making unto ourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness.”21 For so shall we be able to obtain pardon for our offenses, and to win the promised good things; whereof may we all be counted worthy, by the grace and love toward man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.
1 Mt 9,34. [“Demons,” and so throughout.—R.]
2 [Comp verse 25.]
3 See Mt 12,3 Mt 12,5 Mt 12,7, and Mc 2,27.
4 Mt 12,27.
5 eujgevneian, “hereditary good feeling.” [Comp. Ac 17,11]
6 Mt 12,28. [R. V., “upon you.” ]
7 Lc 11,20.
8 [“upon you,” see note *.
9 Mt 12,29. [The R. V and A. V. follow a different reading in the last clause.—R.]
10 Mt 12,30.
11 Mc 9,40 Lc 9,50. [In Mark “us” is better supported.—R.]
12 Mc 9,38 Lc 9,49.
13 Mt 12,31. [R. V. “every sin,” etc.]
14 Mt 12,31-32. [The Greek text is almost identical with that followed in the R. V.—R.]
15 See 1Co 5-6
16 See 1Co 5-6
17 ajpothganizovmeno", “was broiling.”
18 1Co 11,31. [The Greek text of 1 Cor. xi 31 is slightly modified here.—R.]
19 Is 43,26 [LXX.]
20 [This clause is wanting in three Mss.—R.]
21 Lc 16,9. [R. V., “by means of,” “Greek, out of.”]
Chrysostom hom. on Mt 40