Chrysostom hom. on Mt 24
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven,but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven.”
Wherefore said He not, “but he that doeth my will?” Because for the time it was a great gain1 for them to receive even this first; yea it was very great, considering their weakness. And moreover He intimated the one also by the other. And withal this may be mentioned, that in fact there is no other will of the Son besides that of the Father.
And here He seems to me to be censuring the Jews chiefly, laying as they did the whole stress upon the doctrines, and taking no care of practice. For which Paul also blames them, saying, “Behold thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest His will:” (Rm 2,17-18) 2 but thou art nothing advantaged thereby, so long as the manifestation by life and by works is not there.
But He Himself staid not at this, but said also what was much more: that is,
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?” Mt 7,22 3 For “not only,” saith He, “is he that hath faith, if his life be neglected, cast out of Heaven, but though, besides his faith, he have wrought many signs, yet if he have done nothing good, even this man is equally shut out from that sacred porch.” “For many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?” Seest thou how He secretly brings in Himself also here and afterwards, having now finished His whole exhortation? how He implies Himself to be judge? For that punishment awaits such as sin, He hath signified in what precedes; and now who it is that punishes, He here proceeds to unfold.
1 [ajgaphtovn; probably the sense is rather: “it must suffice them,” etc.—R.]
2 [R. V., “But if thou bearest the name of a Jew,” etc.,following the reading eij dev,which is abundantly attested. Chrysostom has i[de, as in the received text.—R.]
3 [R. V., “did we not prophesy,” etc. The Greek verb is an aorist.—R.]
And He said not openly, I am He, but, “Many will say unto me;” making out again the same thing. Since were He not the judge, how could He have told them, “And then will I profess unto them, depart from me, I never knew you?” 4 Mt 7,23.
“Not only in the time of the judgment, but not even then, when ye were working miracles,” saith He. Therefore He said also to His disciples, Rejoice not, that the devils are subject unto you, but because your names are written in Heaven.”5 Lc 10,20. And everywhere He bids us practise great care of our way of life. For it is not possible for one living rightly, and freed from all the passions, ever to be overlooked; but though he chance to be in error, God will quickly draw him over to the truth.
But there are some who say, “they made this assertion falsely;” and this is their account why such men are not saved. Nay then it follows that His conclusion is the contrary of what He intends. For surely His intention is to make out that faith is of no avail without works. Then, enhancing it, He added miracles also, declaring that not only faith, but the exhibiting even of miracles, avails nothing for him who works such wonders without virtue. Now if they had not wrought them, how could this point have been made out here? And besides. they would not have dared, when the judgment was come, to say these things to His face: and the very reply too, and their speaking in the way of question, implies their having wrought them: I mean, that they, having seen the end contrary to their expectation, and after they had been here admired among all for their miracles, beholding themselves there with nothing but punishment awaiting them;—as amazed and marvelling they say, “Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?” how then dost thou turn from us now? What means this strange and unlooked-for end?
2402 2. But though they marvel because they are punished after working such miracles, yet do not thou marvel. For all the grace was of the free gift of Him that gave it, but they contributed nothing on their part; wherefore also they are justly punished, as having been ungrateful and without feeling towards Him that had so honored them as to bestow His grace upon them though unworthy.
“What then,” saith one, “did they perform such things while working iniquity?” Some indeed say that it was not at the time when they did these miracles that they also committed iniquity, but that they changed afterwards, and wrought their iniquity. But if this be so, a second time the point at which He is laboring fails to be established. For what He took pains to point out is this, that neither faith nor miracles avail where practise is not: to which effect Paul also said, “Though I have faith, so that I could remove mountains, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and have not charity, I am nothing.”6 (1Co 13,2) “Who then are these men?” you ask. Many of them that believed received gifts such as He that was casting out devils,7 (Mc 9,38 Lc 9,49) and was not with Him; such as Judas; for even he too, wicked as he was, had a gift. And in the Old Testament also this may be found, in that grace hath oftentimes wrought upon unworthy persons, that it might do good to others. That is, since all men were not meet for all things, but some were of a pure life, not having so great faith, and others just the contrary; by these sayings, while He urges the one to show forth much faith, the others too He was summoning by this His unspeakable gift to become better men. Wherefore also with great abundance did He bestow that grace. For “we wrought,” it is said, “many mighty works.” But “then will I profess unto them, I knew you not.” For “now indeed they suppose they are my friends; but then shall they know, that not as to friends did I give to them.”
And why marvel if He hath bestowed gifts on men that have believed on Him, though without life suitable to their faith, when even on those who have fallen from both these, He is unquestionably found working? For so Salaam was an alien both from faith and from a truly good life; nevertheless grace wrought on him for the service 8 a of other men. And Pharaoh too was of the same sort: yet for all that even to him He signified the things to come. And Nebuchadnezzar was very full of iniquity; yet to him again He revealed what was to follow after many generations. Da 3 9 And again to the son of this last, though surpassing his father in iniquity, He signified the things to come, ordering a marvellous and great dispensation. Da 5 10 Accordingly because then also the beginnings of the gospel were taking place, and it was requisite that the manifestation of its power should be abundant, many even of the unworthy used to receive gifts. Howbeit, from those miracles no gain accrued to them; rather they are the more punished. Wherefore unto them did He utter even that fearful saying, “I never knew you:” there being many for whom His hatred begins already even here; whom He turns away from, even before the judgment.
Let us fear therefore, beloved; and let us take great heed to our life, neither let us account ourselves worse off, in that we do not work miracles now. For that will never be any advantage to us, as neither any disadvantage in our not working them, if we take heed to all virtue. Because for the miracles we ourselves are debtors, but for our life and our doings we have God our debtor.
6 [R. V., “love,” as the unifoirn rendering of ajgavph.—R.]
7 [“Demons,” so in the New Testament passages.—R.]
2403 3. Having now, you see, finished all, having discoursed accurately of all virtue, and pointed out the pretenders to it, of divers kinds, both such as for display fast and make prayers, and such as come in the sheep’s hide; and them too that spoil it, whom He also called swine and dogs: He proceeds to signify how great is the profit of virtue even here, and how great the mischief of wickedness, by saying,
“Whosoever therefore heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man.” (Mt 7,24) 11
As thus: What they shall suffer who do not (although they work miracles), ye have heard; but ye should know also what such as obey all these sayings shall enjoy; not in the world to come only, but even here. “For whosoever,” saith He,” heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, shall be likened to a wise man.”
Scent thou how He varies His discourse; at one time saying, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord,” and revealing Himself; at another time, “He that doeth the will of my Father;” and again, bringing in Himself as judge, “For many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and I will say, I know you not.” And here again He indicates Himself to have the power over all, this being why He said, “Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine.”
Thus whereas all His discourse had been touching the future; of a kingdom, and an unspeakable reward and consolation, and the like; His will is, out of things here also to give them their fruits, and to signify how great is the strength of virtue even in the present life. What then is this her strength? To live in safety, to be easily subdued by no terror, to stand superior to all that despite fully use us. To this what can be equal? For this, not even he that wears the diadem can provide for himself, but that man who follows after virtue. For he alone is possessed of it in full abundance: in the ebb and flow12 of the things present he enjoys a great calm. The truly marvellous thing being this, that not in fair weather, but when the storm is vehement, and the turmoil great, and the temptations continual, he cannot be shaken ever so little.
“For the rain descended,” saith He, “the floods came, the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon the rock.”13
By “rain” here, and “floods,” and “winds,” He is expressing metaphorically the calamities and afflictions that befall men; such as false accusations, plots, bereavements, deaths, loss of friends, vexations from strangers, all the ills in our life that any one could mention. “But to none of these,” saith He, “doth such a soul give way; and the cause is, it is founded on the rock.” He calls the stedfastness of His doctrine a rock; because in truth His commands are stronger than any rock, setting one above all the waves of human affairs. For he who keeps these things strictly, will not have the advantage of men only when they are vexing him, but oven of the very devils plotting against him. And that it is not vain boasting so to speak, Job is our witness, who received all the assaults of the devil, and stood unmoveable; and the apostles too are our witnesses, for that when the waves of the whole world were beating against them, when both nations and princes, both their own people and strangers, both the evil spirits, and the devil, and every engine was set in motion, they stood firmer than a rock, and dispersed it all.
And now, what can be happier than this kind of life? For this, not wealth, not strength of body, not glory, not power, nor ought else will be able to secure, but only the possession of virtue. For there is not, nay there is not another life we may find free from all evils, but this alone. And ye are witnesses, who know the plots in king’s courts, the turmoils and the troubles in the houses of the rich. But there was not among the apostles any such thing.
What then? Did no such thing befall them? Did they suffer no evil at any man’s hand? Nay, the marvel is this above all things, that they were indeed the object of many plots, and many storms burst upon them, but their soul was not overset by them, nor thrown into despair, but with naked bodies they wrestled, prevailed, and triumphed.
Thou then likewise, if thou be willing to perform these things exactly, shall laugh all ills to scorn. Yea, for if thou be but strengthened with such philosophy as is in these admonitions, nothing shall be able to hurt thee. Since in what is he to harm thee, who is minded to lay plots? Will he take away thy money? Well, but before their threatening thou wast commanded to despise it, and to abstain from it so exceedingly, as not so much as even to ask any such thing of thy Lord. But doth he cast thee into prison? Why, before thy prison, thou wast enjoined so to live, as to be crucified even to all the world. But doth he speak evil? Nay, from this pain also Christ hath delivered thee, by promising thee without toil a great reward for the endurance of evil, and making thee so clear from the anger and vexation hence arising, as even to command thee to pray for them. But doth he banish thee and involve thee in innumerable ills? Well, he is making the crown more glorious for thee. But doth he destroy and murder thee? Even hereby he profits thee very greatly, procuring for thee the rewards of the martyrs, and conducting thee more quickly into the untroubled haven, and affording thee matter for a more abundant recompence, and contriving for thee to make a gain of the universal penalty.14 Which thing indeed is most marvellous of all, that the plotters, so far from injuring at all, do rather make the objects of their despite more approved. To this what can be comparable? I mean, to the choice of such a mode of life as this, and no other, is.
Thus whereas He had called the way strait and narrow; to soothe our labors on this side also, He signifies the security thereof to be great, and great the pleasure; even as of the opposite course great is the unsoundness, and the detriment. For as virtue even from things here was signified by Him to have her rewards, so vice also her penalties. For what I am ever saying, that I will say now also: that in both ways He is everywhere bringing about the salvation of His hearers on the one hand by zeal for virtue, on the other by hatred of vice. Thus, because there would be some to admire what He said, while they yield no proof of it by their works, He by anticipation awakens their fears, saying, Though the things spoken be good, hearing is not sufficient for security, but there is need also of obedience in actions, and the whole lies chiefly in this. And here He ends His discourse, leaving the fear at its height in them.
For as with regard to virtue, not only from the things to come did He urge them (speaking of a kingdom, and of Heaven, and an unspeakable reward, and comfort, and the unnumbered good things): but also from the things present, indicating the firm and immoveable quality of the Rock; so also with respect to wickedness, not from the expected things only doth He excite their fears (as from the tree that is cut down, and the unquenchable fire, and the not entering into the kingdom, and from His saying, “I know you not”): but also from the things present, the downfall, I mean, in what is said of the house.
11 [R. V., “Every one, therefore which beareth these words of mine, and doeth them, shall he likened.” The Greek text in the Homily is identical with that accepted in theR. V.—R.]
12 [eujrivpw/, a strait, where the ebb and flow is great and frequent. See Liddell and Scott, Greek Lexicon.—R.]
14 th;n koinh;n dikh;n paragmatgeuvesqaiv se paraskeuavzwn. “The universal penalty,” i.e., Death. See Hom. XXXIV., as quoted by Mr. Field, for this sense of pragmateuvesqai). [The verb means “to engage in business,” and it is an easy transition to the successful result of trading. The Latin rendering of Montfaucon is: ac tibi providen", ut a communi illa reddenda ratione te expedia" —R.]
2404 4. Wherefore also He made His argument more expressive, by trying its force15 in a parable; for it was not the same thing to say, “The virtuous man shall be impregnable but the wicked easily subdued,” as to suppose a rock, and a house, and rivers, and rain, and wind, and the like.
“And every one,” saith He, “that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened to a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand.”16 (Mt 7,26)
And well did He call this man “foolish”: for what can be more senseless than one building a house on the sand, and while he submits to the labor, depriving himself of the fruit and refreshment, and instead thereof undergoing punishment? For that they too, who follow after wickedness, do labor, is surely manifest to every one: since both the extortioner, and the adulterer, and the false accuser, toil and weary themselves much to bring their wickedness to effect; but so far from reaping any profit from these their labors, they rather undergo great loss. For Paul too intimated this when he said, “He that soweth to his flesh, shall of his flesh reap corruption.” 17 (Ga 6,8) To this man are they like also, who build on the sand; as those that are given up to fornication, to wantonness, to drunkenness, to anger, to all the other things.
Such an one was Ahab, but not such Elijah (since when we have put virtue and vice along side of one another, we shall know more accurately the difference): for the one had built upon the rock, the other on the sand; where fore though he were a king, he feared and trembled at the prophet, at him that had only his sheepskin. Such were the Jews but not the apostles; and so though they were few and in bonds, they exhibited the steadfastness of the rock; but those, many as they were, and in armor, the weakness of the sand. For so they said, “What shall we do to these men?” 18 (Ac 4,16) Seest thou those in perplexity, not who are in the hands of others, and bound, but who are active in holding down and binding? And what can be more strange than this? Hast thou hold of the other, and art yet in utter perplexity? Yes, and very naturally. For inasmuch as they had built all on the sand, therefore also were they weaker than all. For this cause also they said again, “What do ye, seeking to bring this man’s blood upon us?” (Ac 5,28) 19 What saith he? Dost thou scouge, and art thou in fear? entreatest thou despitefully, and art in dismay? Dost thou judge, and yet tremble? So feeble is wickedness.
But the Apostles not so, but how? “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” 20 (Ac 4,20) Seest thou a noble spirit? seest thou a rock laughing waves to scorn? seest thou a house unshaken? And what is yet more marvellous; so far from turning cowards themselves at the plots formed against them, they even took more courage, and cast the others into greater anxiety. For so he that smites adamant, is himself the one smitten; and he that kicks against the pricks, is himself the one pricked, the one on whom the severe wounds fall: and he who is forming plots against the virtuous, is himself the one in jeopardy. For wickedness becomes so much the weaker, the more it sets itself in array against virtue. And as he who wraps up fire in a garment, extinguishes not the flame, but consumes the garment; so he that is doing despite to virtuous men, and oppressing them, and binding them, makes them more glorious, but destroys himself.21 For the more ills thou sufferest, living righteously, the stronger art thou become; since the more we honor self-restraint, the less we need anything; and the less we need anything, the stronger we grow, and the more above all. Such a one was John; wherefore him no man pained, but he caused pain to Herod; so he that had nothing prevailed against him that ruled; and he that wore a diadem, and purple, and endless pomp, trembles, and is in fear of him that is stripped of all, and not even when beheaded could he without fear see his head. For that even after his death he had the terror of him in full strength, hear what He saith, “This is John, whom I slew,” 22 (Mt 14,2 Lc 9,9) Now the expression, “I slew,” is that of one not exulting, but soothing his own terror, and persuading his troubled soul to call to mind, that he himself slew him. So great is the force of virtue, that even after death it is more powerful than the living. For this same cause again, when he was living, they that possessed much wealth came unto him, and said, “What shall we do?” 23 (Lc 3,10 Lc 3,14) Is so much yours, and are ye minded to learn the way of your prosperity from him that hath nothing? the rich from the poor? the soldiers from him that hath not even a house?
Such an one was Elias too: wherefore also with the same freedom did he discourse to the people. For as the former said, “Ye generation of vipers;” 24 (Mt 3,7) so this latter, “How long will ye halt upon both your hips?” 25 (1R 18,21, LXX) And the one said, “Hast thou killed, and inherited?”(1R 21,19, LXX). the other, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother Philip’s wife.”(Mc 6,18
Seest thou the rock? Seest thou the sand; how easily it sinks down, how it yields to calamities? how it is overthrown, though it have the support of royalty, of number, of nobility? For them that pursue it, it makes more senseless than all.
And it doth not merely fall, but with great calamity: for “great indeed,” He saith, “was the fall of it.” The risk not being of trifles, but of the soul, of the loss of Heaven, and those immortal blessings. Or rather even before that loss, no life so wretched as he must live that follows after this; dwelling with continual despondencies, alarms, cares, anxieties; which a certain wise man also was intimating when he said, “The wicked fleeth, when no man is pursuing.”(Pr 28,1 For such men tremble at their shadows, suspect their friends, their enemies, their servants, such as know them, such as know them not; and before their punishment, suffer extreme punishment here. And to declare all this, Christ said, “And great was the fall of it;” shutting up these good commandments with that suitable ending, and persuading even by the things present the most unbelieving to flee from vice.
For although the argument from what is to come be raster, yet is this of more power to restrain the grosser sort, and to withdraw them from wickedness. Wherefore also he ended with it, that the profit thereof might make its abode in them.
Conscious therefore of all these things, both the present, and the future, let us flee from vice, let us emulate virtue, that we may not labor fruitlessly and at random, but may both enjoy the security here, and partake of the glory there: unto which God grant we may all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the might forever and ever. Amen.
16 [R. V., “these words.”—R.]
21 [eJauto;n de; hjfavnise, ’“but obliterates himself.”—R.]
22 [The verb a[ei`lon, which occurs here, is not found in the New Testament accounts of Herod’s language.—R.]
25 Mt 7,28-29 Mt 8,1-5
“And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at His doctrine.”1
Yet was it rather natural for them to grieve at the unpleasantness of His sayings, and to shudder at the loftiness of His injunctions; but now so great was the power of the Teacher, that many of them were even caught thereby, and thrown into very great admiration, and persuaded by reason of the sweetness of His sayings, not even when He ceased to speak, to depart from Him at all afterwards. For neither did the hearers depart, He having come down from the mountain, but even then the whole auditory followed Him; so great a love for His sayings had He instilled into them.
But they were astonished most of all at His authority. For not with reference to another, like the prophet and Moses, did He say what He said; but everywhere indicating Himself to be the person that had the power of deciding. For so, when setting forth His laws, He still kept adding, “But I say unto you.” And in reminding them of that day, He declared Himself to be the judge, both by the punishments, and by the honors.
And yet it was likely that this too would disturb them. For if, when they saw Him by His works showing forth His authority, the scribes were for stoning and persecuting Him; while there were words only to prove this, how was it other than likely for them to be offended? and especially when at first setting out these things were said, and before He had given proof of His own power? But however, they felt nothing of this; for when the heart and mind is candid, it is easily persuaded by the words of the truth. And this is just why one sort, even when the miracles were proclaiming His power, were offended; while the other on hearing mere words were persuaded and followed Him. This, I would add, the evangelist too is intimating, when he saith, “great multitudes followed Him,”2 not any of the rulers, nor of the scribes, but as many as were free from vice, and had their judgment uncorrupted. And throughout the whole gospel thou seest that such clave unto Him. For both while He spake, they used to listen in silence, not making any intrusion, nor breaking in upon the connexion of His sayings, nor tempting Him, and desiring to find a handle like the Pharisees; and after His exhortation they followed Him again, marvelling.
But do thou mark, I pray thee, the Lord’s consideration, how He varies the mode of profiting His hearers, after miracles entering on words, and again from the instruction by His words passing to miracles. Thus, both before they went up into the mountain, He healed many, preparing the way for His sayings; and after finishing that long discourse to the people, He comes again to miracles, confirming what had been said by what was done. And so, because He was teaching as “one having authority,” lest His so teaching should be thought boasting and arrogant, He doth the very same in His works also, as having authority to heal; that they might no more be perplexed at seeing Him teach in this way, when He was working His miracles also in the same.
2. “For when He was come down from the mountain, there came a leper, saying, Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.”3 Great was the understanding and the faith of him who so drew near. For he did not interrupt the teaching, nor break through the auditory, but awaited the proper time, and approaches Him “when He is come down.” And not at random, but with much earnestness, and at His knees, he beseeches Him,4 as another evangelist saith, and with the genuine faith and right opinion about him. For neither did he say, “If Thou request it of God,” nor, “If Thou pray,” but, “If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.” Nor did he say, “Lord, cleanse me,” but leaves all to Him, and makes His recovery depend on Him, and testifies that all the authority is His
“What then,” saith one, “if the leper’s opinion was mistaken?” It were meet to do away with it, and to reprove, and set it right. Did He then so do? By no means; but quite on the contrary, He establishes and confirms what had been said. For this cause, you see, neither did He say, “Be thou cleansed,” but, “I will, be thou clean;” that the doctrine might no longer be a thing of the other’s surmising, but of His own approval.
But the apostles not so: rather in what way? The whole people being in amazement, they said, “Why give heed to us, as though by our own power or authority we had made him to walk?”5 But the Lord, though He spake oftentimes many things modestly, and beneath His own glory, what saith He here, to establish the doctrine of them that were amazed at Him for His authority? “I will, be thou clean.” Although in the many and great signs which He wrought, He nowhere appears to have uttered this word. Here however, to confirm the surmise both of all the people and of the leper touching His authority, He purposely added, “I will.”
And it was not that He said this, but did it not; but the work also followed immediately. Whereas, if he had not spoken well, but the saying had been a blasphemy, the work ought to have been interrupted. But now nature herself gave way at His command, and that speedily, as was meet, even more speedily than the evangelist hath said. For the word, “immediately,” falls far short of the quickness that there was in the work.
But He did not merely say, “I will, be thou clean,” but He also “put forth His hand, and touched him;” a thing especially worthy of inquiry. For wherefore, when cleansing him by will and word, did He add also the touch of His hand? It seems to me, for no other end, but that He might signify by this also, that He is not subject to the law, but is set over it; and that to the clean, henceforth, nothing is unclean.6 For this cause, we see, Elisha did not so much as see Naaman, but though he perceived that he was offended at his not coming out and touching him, observing the strictness of the law, he abides at home, and sends him to Jordan to wash. Whereas the Lord, to signify that He heals not as a servant, but as absolute master, doth also touch. For His hand became not unclean from the leprosy, but the leprous body was rendered clean by His holy hand.
Because, as we know, He came not to heal bodies only, but also to lead the soul unto self-command. As therefore He from that time forward no more forbad to eat with unwashen hands, introducing that excellent law, which relates to the indifference of meats; just so in this case also, to instruct us for the future, that the soul must be our care;—that leaving the outward purifications, we must wipe that clean, and dread the leprosy thereof alone, which is sin (for to be a leper is no hindrance to virtue):—He Himself first touches the leper, and no man finds fault. For the tribunal was not corrupt, neither were the spectators under the power of envy. Therefore, so far from blaming, they were on the contrary astonished at the miracle, and yielded thereto: and both for what He said, and for what He did, they adored his uncontrollable power.
3. Having therefore healed his body, He bids him,
“Tell no man, but show himself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.”7
Now some say, that for this intent He bade him tell no man, that they might practise no craft about the discerning of his cure; a very foolish suspicion on their part. For He did not so cleanse as to leave the cleansing questionable, but He bids him “tell no man,” teaching us to avoid boasting and vainglory. And yet He well knew that the other would not obey, but would proclaim his benefactor: nevertheless He doth His own part.
“How then elsewhere doth He bid them tell of it?” one may ask. Not as jostling with or opposing Himself, but as teaching men to be grateful. For neither in that place did He give command to proclaim Himself, but to “give glory to God;”8 by this leper training us to be clear of pride and vainglory, by the other to be thankful and grateful; and instructing on every occasion to offer to the Lord the praise of all things that befall us. That is, because men for the most part remember God in sickness, but grow slacker after recovery; He bids them continually both in sickness and in health to give heed to the Lord, in these words, “give glory to God.”
But wherefore did He command him also to show himself to the priest, and to offer a gift? To fulfill the law here again.9 For neither did He in every instance set it aside, nor in every instance keep it, but sometimes He did the one, sometimes the other; by the one making way for the high rule10 of life that was to come, by the other checking for a while the insolent speech of the Jews, and condescending to their infirmity. And why marvel, if just at the beginning He Himself did this, when even the very apostles, after they were commanded to depart unto the Gentiles, after the doors were opened for their teaching throughout the world, and the law shut up, and the commandments made new, and all the ancient things had ceased, are found sometimes observing the law, sometimes neglecting it?
But what, it may be said, doth this saying, “Show thyself to the priest,” contribute to the keeping of the law? No little. Because it was an ancient law, that the leper when cleansed should not entrust to himself the judgment of his cleansing, but should show himself to the priest, and present the demonstration thereof to his eyes, and by that sentence be numbered amongst the clean. For if the priest said not “The leper is cleansed,” he remained still with the unclean without the camp. Wherefore he saith, “Show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded.” He said not, “which I command,” but for a time remits him to the law, by every means stopping their mouths. Thus, lest they should say, He had seized Upon the priests’ honor; though He performed the work Himself, yet the approving it He entrusted to them, and made them sit as judges of His own miracles “Why, I am so far,” He saith, “from striving either with Moses or with the priests, that I guide the objects of my favor to submit themselves unto them.”
But what is, “for a testimony unto them”? For reproof, for demonstration, for accusation, if they be unthankful. For since they said, as a deceiver and impostor we persecute Him, as an adversary of God, and a transgressor of the law; “Thou shalt bear me witness,” saith He, “at that time, that I am not a transgressor of the law. Nay, for having healed thee, I remit thee to the law, and to the approval of the priests;” which was the act of one honoring the law, and admiring Moses, and not setting himself in opposition to the ancient doctrines.
And if they were not in fact to be the better, hereby most of all one may perceive His respect for the law, that although He fore-knew they would reap no benefit, He fulfilled all His part. For this very thing He did indeed foreknow, and foretold it: not saying, “for their correction,” neither, “for their instruction,” but, “for a testimony unto them,” that is, for accusation, and for reproof, and for a witness that all hath been done on my part; and though I foreknew they would continue incorrigible, not even so did I omit what ought to be done; only they continued keeping up to the end their own wickedness.11
This, we may observe, He saith elsewhere also; “This gospel shall be preached in all the world for a testimony to all the nations, and then shall the end come;”12 to the nations, to them that obey not, to them that believe not. Thus, lest any one should say, “And wherefore preach to all, if all are not to believe?”—it is that I may be found to have done all my own part, and that no man may hereafter be able to find fault, as though he had not heard. For the very preaching shall bear witness against them, and they will not be able hereafter to say, “We heard not;” for the word of godliness “hath gone out unto the ends of the world.”13
4. Therefore bearing these things in mind, let us also fulfill all our duties to our neighbor, and to God let us give thanks continually. For it is too monstrous, enjoying as we do His bounty in deed every day, not so much as in word to acknowledge the favor; and this, though the acknowledgment again yield all its profit to us. Since He needs not, be sure, anything of ours: but we stand in need of all things from Him. Thus thanksgiving itself adds nothing to Him, but causes us to be nearer to Him. For if men’s bounties, when we call them to memory, do the more warm us with their proper love-charm;14 much more when we are continually bringing to mind the noble acts of our Lord towards us, shall we be more diligent in regard of His commandments.
For this cause Paul also said, “Be ye thankful.”15 For the best preservative of any benefit is the remembrance of the benefit, and a continual thanksgiving.
1 [R. V., “When Jesus ended these words, the multitudes were astonished at his teaching.”—R.]
2 Mt 8,1.
3 Mt 7,2. [The first clause is from verse 1 and the passages are joined to point the lesson from the assumed delay. But there can be little doubt that the healing of the leper took place earlier. Comp. ().—R.]
4 Mc 1,40. Comp. Lc 5,12.
5 Ac 3,52). [The New Testament passage has been modified in the citation.—R.]
6 Tt 1,15.
7 Mt 8,4.
8 Lc 17,18). [This is the passage probably referred to. The Oxford edition refers to Lc 7,18, and the Latin version to Jn 9,24, where the exact phrase occurs, but in the mouths of Christ’s opposers.—R.]
9 Lv 14,1-32.
11 [This interpretation is scarcely admissible, nor does Chrysostom notice the disobedience of the healed man Mc 1,45. The “testimony” is that commanded by Moses.—R.]
12 Mt 24,14
13 Ps 19,4 Rm 10,18.
14 tw`/ fivltrw/).
15 Col 3,15.
For this cause even the awful mysteries, so full of that great salvation, which are celebrated at every communion, are called a sacrifice of thanksgiving,16 because they are the commemoration of many benefits, and they signify the very sum of God’s care for us, and by all means they work upon us to be thankful. For if His being born of a virgin was a great miracle, and the evangelist said in amaze, “now all this was done;” His being also slain, what place shall we find for that? tell me. I mean, if to be born is called “all this;” to be crucified, and to pour forth His blood, and to give Himself to us for a spiritual feast and banquet,—what can that be called? Let us therefore give Him thanks continually, and let this precede both our words and our works.
But let us be thankful not for our own blessings alone, but also for those of others; for in this way we shall be able both to destroy our envy, and to rivet our charity, and make it more genuine. Since it will not even be possible for thee to go on envying them, in behalf of whom thou givest thanks to the Lord.
Wherefore, as you know, the priest also enjoins to give thanks for the world, for the former things, for the things that are now, for what hath been done to us before, for what shall befall us hereafter, when that sacrifice17 is set forth.
For this is the thing both to free us from earth, and to remove us into heaven, and to make us angels instead of men. Because they too form a choir, and give thanks to God for His good things bestowed on us, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.”18 “And what is this to us, that are not upon earth, nor are men?” “Nay, it is very much to us, for we have been taught so to love our fellow servants, as even to account their blessings ours.”
Wherefore Paul also, everywhere in his epistles, gives thanks for God’s gracious acts to the world.
Let us too therefore continually give thanks, for our own blessings, and for those of others, alike for the small and for the great. For though the gift be small, it is made great by being God’s gift, or rather, there is nothing small that cometh from Him, not only because it is bestowed by Him, but also in its very nature.
And to pass over all the rest, which exceed the sand in multitude; what is equal to the dispensation19 that hath taken place for our sake? In that what was more precious to Him than all, even His only-begotten Son, Him He gave for us His enemies; and not only gave, but after giving, did even set Him before us as food;20 Himself doing all things that were for our good, both in giving Him, and in making us thankful for all this. For because man is for the most part unthankful, He doth Himself everywhere take in hand and bring about what is for our good. And what He did with respect to the Jews, by places, and times, and feasts, reminding them of His benefits, that He did in this case also, by the manner of the sacrifice bringing us to a perpetual remembrance of His bounty in these things.
No one hath so labored that we should be approved, and great, and in all things right-minded, as the God who made us. Wherefore both against our will He befriends us often, and without our knowledge oftener than not. And if thou marvel at what I have said, I point to this as having occurred not to any ordinary person, but to the blessed Paul. For even that blessed man, when in much danger and affliction, often besought God that the temptations might depart from him: nevetheless God regarded not his request, but his profit, and to signify this He said, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”21 So that before He hath told him the reason, He benefits him against his will, and without his knowing it.
5. Now what great thing doth He ask, in requiring us to be thankful in return for such tender care? Let us then obey, and everywhere keep up this. Since neither were the Jews by anything ruined so much, as by being unthankful; those many stripes, one after another, were brought upon them by nothing else than this; or rather even before those stripes this had ruined and corrupted their soul. “For the hope of the unthankful,” saith one, “is like the winter’s hoar frost;”22 it benumbs and deadens the soul, as that doth our bodies.
And this springs from pride, and from thinking one’s self worthy of something. But the contrite will acknowledge grounds of thanksgiving to God, not for good things only, but also for what seem to be adverse; and how much soever he may suffer, will count none of his sufferings undeserved. Let us then also, the more we advance in virtue. so much the more make ourselves contrite; for indeed this, more than anything else is virtue. Because, as the sharper our sight is, the more thoroughly do we learn how distant we are from the sky; so the more we advance in virtue, so much the more are we instructed in the difference between God and us. And this is no small part of true wisdom,23 to be able to perceive our own desert. For he best knows himself, who accounts himself to be nothing. Thus we see that both David and Abraham, when they were come up to the highest pitch of virtue, then best fulfilled this; and would call themselves, the one, “earth and ashes,”24 the other, “a worm;”25 and all the saints too, like these, acknowledge their own wretchedness. So that he surely who is lifted up in boasting, is the very person to be most ignorant of himself. Wherefore also in our common practice we are wont to say of the proud, “he knows not himself,” “he is ignorant of himself.” And he that knows not himself, whom will he know? For as he that knows himself will know all things, so he who knows not this, neither will he know the rest.
Such an one was he that saith, “I will exalt my throne above the Heavens.”26 Being ignorant of himself, he was ignorant of all else. But not so Paul; he rather used to call himself “one born out of due time,”27 and last of the saints,28 and did not account himself to be worthy so much as of the title of the apostles, after so many and so great deeds of goodness.
Him therefore let us emulate and follow. And we shall follow him, if we rid ourselves of earth, and of things on earth. For nothing makes a man to be so ignorant of himself, as the being rivetted to worldly concerns: nor does anything again so much cause men to be rivetted to worldly concerns, as ignorance of one’s self: for these things depend upon each other. I mean, that as he that is fond of outward glory, and highly esteems the things present, if he strive for ever, is not permitted to understand himself; so he that overlooks these things will easily know himself; and having come to the knowledge of himself, he will proceed in order to all the other parts of virtue.
In order therefore that we may learn this good knowledge, let us, disengaged from all the perishable things that kindle in us so great flame, and made aware of their vileness, show forth all lowliness of mind, and self-restraint: that we may attain unto blessings, both present and future: by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be glory, might, and honor, to the Father, together with the Holy and Good Spirit, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
16 eucaristiva. (The translator has paraphrased the passage. Literally, “which are at every assembly (suvnaxin), are called a Eucharist.” There is no suggestion of “sacrifice” in the Greek at this point.—R.]
17 [Here the word meaning “sacrifice” is used.—R.]
18 Lc 2,14). [The form is that of the received text; but “among men” is the correct rendering even of this reading.—R.]
20 travpezan, a table).
21 2Co 12,9.
22 Sg 16,20.
24 Gn 18,27
25 Ps 2,7.
26 Is 14,13, Tw`najstevprwn tou` oujranou`, LXX).
27 1Co 15,8-9.
28 Ep 3,8,ejlacistotevron, here ejscaton).
Chrysostom hom. on Mt 24