Chrysostom on Rm 2200

Homily XXII: Rm XII. 14.—“ Bless them which persecute you; bless, and curse not.”

2200 Rm 12,14

After teaching them how they ought to be minded towards one another, and after joining the members closely into one, he next proceeds to lead them forth to the battle without, which he makes easier as from this point. For as he who hath not managed things well with those of his own side, will find more difficulty in arranging affairs with strangers, so he, that has practised himself duly among these, will with the more ease have the advantage of those without also. Hence then Paul also as he goes on in his journey, after the one places the other, and says, “Bless them that persecute you.” He did not say, be not spiteful or revengeful, but required something far better. For that a man that was wise might do, but this is quite an angel’s part. And after saying “bless,” he proceeds, “and curse not,” lest we should do both the one and the ether, and not the former only. For they that persecute us are purveyors of a reward to us. But if thou art sober-minded, there will be another reward after that one, which thou wilt gain thyself. For he will yield thee that for persecution, but thou wilt yield thyself the one from the blessing of another, in that thou bringest forth a very great sign of love to Christ. For as he that curseth his persecutor, showeth that he is not much pleased at suffering this for Christ, thus he that blesseth showeth the greatness of his love. Do not then abuse him, that thou thyself mayest gain the greater reward, and mayest teach him that the thing is matter of inclination, not of necessity, of holiday and feast, not of calamity or dejection. For this cause Christ Himself said, “Rejoice when men speak all manner of evil against you falsely.” (Mt 5,11). Hence too it was that the Apostles returned with joy not from having been evil spoken of only, but also at having been scourged. (Ac 5,40-41). For besides what I have mentioned, there will be another gain, and that no small one, that you will make, both the abashing of your adversaries hereby, and instructing of them by your actions that you are travelling to another life; for if he see thee joyous, and elevated, (pteroumenon) from suffering ill, he will see clearly from the actions that thou hast other hopes greater than those of this life. So that if thou dost not so, but weepest and lamentest, how is he to be able to learn from that thou art tarrying for any other life? And besides this, thou wilt compass yet another thing. For provided he see thee not vexed at the affronts done thee, but even blessing him, he will leave harassing thee. See then how much that is good comes from this, both a greater reward for thyself and a less temptation, and he will forbear persecuting thee, and God too will be glorified: and to him that is in error thy endurance will be instruction in godliness. For this reason it was not those that insult us only, but even those that persecute us and deal despitefully with us, that he bade us requite with the contrary. And now he orders them to bless, but as he goes on, he exhorts them to do them good in deeds also.

Rm 12,15. “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”

Since it is possible to bless and not to curse, and yet not to do this out of love, he wishes us to be penetrated with the warmth of friendship throughout. And this is why he goes on in these words, that we are not only to bless, but even feel compassion for their pains and sufferings, whenever we happen to see them fallen into trouble. Yes, it will be said, but to join in the sorrows of mourners one can see why he ordered them, but why ever did he command them the other thing, when it is no such great matter? Aye, but that requires more of a high Christian temper, to rejoice with them that do rejoice, than to weep with them that weep. For this nature itself fulfils perfectly: and there is none so hard-hearted as not to weep over him that is in calamity: but the other requires a very noble soul, so as not only to keep from envying, but even to feel pleasure with the person who is in esteem. And this is why he placed it first. For there is nothing that ties love so firmly as sharing both joy and pain one with another. Do not then, because thou art far from difficulties thyself, remain aloof from sympathizing too. For when thy neighbor is ill-treated, thou oughtest to make the calamity thine own. Take share then in his tears, that thou mayest lighten his low spirits. Take share in his joy, that thou mayest make the joy strike deep root. and fix the love firmly, and be of service to thyself rather than to him in so doing, by thy weeping rendering thyself merciful, and by thy feeling his pleasure, purging thyself of envy and grudging. And let me draw your attention to Paul’s considerateness. For he does not say, Put an end to the calamity, lest thou shouldest say in many cases (or perchance pollaki") that it is impossible: but he has enjoined the easier task, and that which thou hast in thy power. For even if thou art not able to remove the evil, yet contribute tears, and thou wilt take the worst half away. And if thou be not able to increase a man’s prosperity, contribute joy, and thou wilt have made a great addition to it. Therefore it is not abstaining from envy only, but what is a much greater thing that he exhorts us to, namely, joining in the pleasure. For this is a much greater thing than not envying.

Rm 12,16. “Be of the same mind one towards another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate.”

Here again he insists much upon lowliness of mind, the subject he had started this exhortation with. For there was a probability of their being full of high-mindedness, both on account of their city (see (p. 343), and from sundry other causes; he therefore keeps drawing off (uposurei, 2 mss. uporuttei) the morbid matter, and lowers the inflammation. For there is nothing that makes such schisms in the Churches as vanity does. And what does he mean by. “Be of the same mind one towards another?” Has a poor man come into thy house? Be like him in thy bearing, do not put on any unusual pompous air on account of thy riches. There is no rich and poor in Christ. Be not then ashamed of him because of his external dress, but receive him because of his inward faith. And if thou seest him in sorrow, do not disdain to comfort him, nor if thou see him in prosperity, feel abashed at sharing his pleasure, and being gladdened with him, but be of the same mind in his case, that thou wouldest be of in thine own. For it says, “Be of the same mind one towards another.” For instance, if thou thinkest thyself a great man, therefore think him so likewise. Dost thou suspect that he is mean and little? Well then, pass this same sentence upon thyself, and cast aside all unevenness. And how is this to be? By thy casting aside that reckless temper. Wherefore he proceeds: “Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate.” That is, bring thyself down to their humble condition, associate with them, walk with them, do not be humbled in mind only, but help them also, and reach forth thy hand to them, not by means of others, but in thine own person, as a father taking care of a child, as the head taking care of the body. As he says in another place, “being bound with them that are in bonds.” (He 13,3, here he means by those of low estate not merely the lowly-minded, but those of a low rank, and which one is apt to think scorn of. 1

“Be not wise in your own conceits.” This is, do not think that you can do for yourselves. Because the Scripture saith in another place besides, “Woe to them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight.” (Is 5,22). And by this again, he secretly draws off recklessness, and reduces conceit and turgidity. For there is nothing that so elates men and makes them feel different from other people, as the notion that they can do by themselves. Whence also God hath placed us in need one of another, and though thou be wise thou wilt be in need of another: but if thou think that thou art not in need of him, thou wilt be the most foolish and feeble of men. For a man of this sort bares himself of all succor, and in whatever error he may run into, will not have the advantage either of correction or of pardon, and will provoke God by his recklessness, and will run into many errors. For it is the case, aye, and often too, that a wise man does not perceive what is needful, and a man of less shrewdness hits upon somewhat that is applicable. And this happened with Moses and his father-in-law, and with Saul and his servant, and with Isaac and Rebecca. Do not then suppose that you are lowered by needing another man For (his exalts you the more, this makes you the stronger, and the brighter too, and the more secure.

65 Rm 12,17. “Recompense to no man evil for evil.”

For if thou findest fault with another who plots against thee, why dost thou make thyself liable to this accusation? If he did amiss how comest thou not to shun imitating him? And observe how he puts no difference here but lays down one law for all. For he does not say, “recompense not evil” to the believer, but to “no man,” be he heathen, be he contaminated, or what not. “Provide things honest in the sight of all men.”

Rm 12,18. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”

This is that: “let your light shine before men” (Mt 5,16), not that we are to live for vanity, but that we are not to give those who have a mind for it a handle against us. Whence he says also in another place, “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God.” (1Co 10,32). And in what follows he limits his meaning well, by saying, “If it be possible.” For there are cases in which it is not possible, as, for instance, when we have to argue about religion, or to contend for those who are wronged. And why be surprised if this be not universally possible in the case of other persons, when even in the case of man and wife he broke through the rule? “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart.” (1Co 7,15). And his meaning is nearly as follows: Do thine own part, and to none give occasion of war or fighting, neither to Jew nor Gentile. But if you see the cause of religion suffering anywhere, do not prize concord above truth, but make a noble stand even to death. And even then be not at war in soul, be not averse in temper, but fight with the things only. For this is the import of “as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men.” But if the other will not be at peace, do not thou fill thy soul with tempest, but in mind be friendly (filo", several mss. filosofo") as I said before, without giving up the truth on any occasion.

Rm 12,19. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath. For it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Unto what wrath? To the wrath of God. Now since what the injured man desires most to see is, himself having the pleasure of revenge, this very thing he gives him in full measure, that if thou dost not avenge thyself. he means, God will be thy avenger. Leave it then to Him to follow up thy wrongs. For this is the force of “give place unto wrath.” Then to give further comfort, he brings the quotation forward also, and after winning him more throughly to himself in this way, he demands more Christian heroism (filosofian) of him, and says:

Rm 12,20-21. “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Why, he means, am I telling you that you must keep peace for? I even insist upon your doing kindness. For he says, “give him to eat, and give him to drink.” Then as the command he gave was a very difficult and a great one, he proceeds: “for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head.” And this he said both to humble the one by fear, and to make the other more ready-minded through hope of a recompense.2 For he that is wronged, when he is feeble, is not so much taken with any goods of his own as with the vengeance upon the person who has pained him. For there nothing so sweet as to see an enemy chastised. What he is longing for, then, that he gives him first, and when he has let the venom go, then be again gives advice of a higher tone, saying, “Be not overcome of evil.” For he knew that if the enemy were a very brute, he would not continue an enemy when he had been fed.3 And if the man injured be of ever so little4 a soul, still when feeding him and giving him to drink, he will not himself even have any farther craving for his punishment. Hence, out of confidence in the result of the action, he does not simply threaten, but even dwells largely upon the vengeance. For he did not say, “thou shall take vengeance” but, “thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head.”5 Then he further declares him victor, by saying, “be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” And he gives a kind of gentle hint, that one is not to do it with that intention, since cherishing a grudge still would be “being overcome of evil.” But he did not say it at once, as he did not find it advisable yet.6 But when he had disburdened the man of his anger, then he proceeded to say, “overcome evil with good.” Since this would be a victory. For the combatant is rather then the conqueror, not when he brings himself under to take the blows, but when he withdraws himself, and makes his antagonist waste his strength upon the air. And in this way he will not be struck himself, and will also exhaust the whole of the other’s strength. And this takes place in regard to affronts also. For when you do affronts in return, you have the worse, not as overcome (so I ms. nikhqei", Sav). kinhqei") by a man, but what is far more disgraceful, by the slavish passion of anger. But if you are silent, then you will conquer, and erect a trophy without a fight, and will have thousands to crown you, and to condemn the slander of falsehood. For he that replies, seems to be speaking in return as if stung. And he that is stung, gives reason to suspect that he is conscious of being guilty of what is said of him. But if you laugh at it, by your laughing you do away with the sentence against you. And if you would have a clear proof of what has been said, ask the enemy himself, when he is most vexed? when you are heated, and insult him in return? or when you laugh at him as he insults you? and you will be told the last rather. For he too is not so much pleased with not being insulted in return, as he is vexed because his abuse was not able to gain any hold upon you. Did you never see men in a passion, how they make no great account of their own wounds, but rush on with much violence, and are worse than very wild boars for seeking the hurt of their neighbor, and look to this alone, and are more given to this than to being on their guard against getting harmed? When therefore thou deprivest him of that he desires most, thou bereavest him of everything, by holding him thus cheap, and showing him to be easy to be despised, and a child rather than a man; and thou indeed hast gained the reputation of a wise man, and him dost thou invest with the character of a noisome beast. This too let us do when we are struck, and when we wish to strike, let us abstain from striking again. But, would you give a mortal blow? “Turn to him the other cheek also” (Mt 5,39), and thou wilt smite him with countless wounds. For they that applaud, and wonder at thee, are more annoying to him than men to stone him would be; and before them, his conscience will condemn him, and will exact the greatest punishment of him, and so he will go off with a confused look as if he had been treated with the utmost rigor. And if it is the estimation of the multitude that you look for, this too you will have in larger share. And in a general way we have a kind of sympathy with those who are the sufferers; but when we also see that they do not strike (several mss. resist, antipiptonta") in return, but even give themselves up to it, we not only pity them, but even feel admiration for them.

Here then I find reason to lament, that we who might have things present, if we listened to Christ’s Law as we should, and also attain to things to come, are cast out of both by not paying attention to what has been told us, but giving ourselves to unwarranted philosophising about them. For He has given us laws upon all these points for our good, and has shown us what makes us have a good name, what brings us to disgrace. And if it was likely to have proved His disciples ridiculous, He would not have enjoined this. But since this makes them the most notable of men namely, the not speaking ill, when we have ill spoken of us; the not doing ill when we have ill done us; this was His reason for enjoining it. But if this be so, much more the speaking of good when we have ill spoken of us, and the praising of those that insult us, and the doing good to those that plot against us, will make us so. This then was why He gave these laws. For He is careful for His own disciples, and knowing well what it is that maketh little or great. If then He both careth and knoweth, why dost thou quarrel with Him, and wish to go another road? For conquering by doing ill is one of the devil’s laws. Hence in the Olympic games which were celebrated to him7 it is so that all the competitors conquer. But in Christ’s race this is not the rule about the prize, for, on the contrary, the law is for the person smitten, and not for the person smiting, to be crowned. For such is the character of His race, it has all its regulations the other way; so that it is not in the victory only, but also in the way of the victory, that the marvel is the greater. Now when things which on the other side are signs of a victory, on this side he showeth to be productive of defeat, this is the power of God, this the race of Heaven, this the theatre of Angels. I know that ye are warmed thoroughly now, and are become as soft as any wax, but when ye have gone hence ye will spew it all out. This is why I sorrow, that what we are speaking of, we do not show in our actions, and this too though we should be greatest gainers thereby. For if we let our moderation be seen, we shall be invincible to any man; and there is nobody either great or small, who will have the power of doing us any hurt. For if any one abuseth thee, he has not hurt thee at all, but himself severely. And if again he wrong thee, the harm will be with the person who does the wrong. Did you never notice that even in the courts of law those who have had wrong done them are honored, and stand and speak out with entire freedom, but those who have done the wrong, are bowed down with shame and fear? And why do I talk of evil-speaking (Sav. conj. and 5 mss. kakhgorian) and of wrong? For were he even to whet his sword against thee, and to stain his right hand in thy life-blood (ei" ton laimon, as p. 505), it is not thee that he hath done any harm to, but himself that he hath butchered. And he will witness what I say who was first taken off thus by a brother’s hand. For he went away to the haven without a billow, having gained a glory that dieth not away; but the other lived a life worse than any death, groaning, and trembling, and in his body bearing about the accusation of what he had done. Let us not follow after this then, but that. For he that hath ill done him, has not an evil that taketh up its constant abode with him, since he is not the parent of it; but as he received it from others, he makes it good by his patient endurance. But he that doeth ill, hath the well of the mischief in himself. Was not Joseph in prison, but the harlot that plotted against him in a fine and splendid house? Which then wouldest thou wish to have been? And let me not hear yet of the requital, but examine the things that had taken place by themselves. For in this way thou wilt rate Joseph’s prison infinitely above the house with the harlot in it. For if you were to see the souls of them both, you would find the one full of enlargement and boldness, but that of the Egyptian woman in straitness, shame, dejection, confusion, and great despondency. And yet she seemed to conquer; but this was no real victor. Knowing all this then, let us fit ourselves for bearing ills, even that we may be freed from bearing ills, and may attain to the blessings to come. Which that we may all attain to, God grant, by the grace and love toward man, etc).

1 toi" tapeinoi" is best taken here as neuter (Meyer, De Wette, R. V). corresponding in this respect to ta uyhla. Meyer renders and interprets thus: “being drawn onward by the lowly; i.e. instead of following the impulse to high things. rather yielding to that which is humble, to the claims and tasks which are presented to you by the humbler relations of life, entering into this impulse towards the lower strata and spheres of life which lays claim to you, and following it. The tapeina ought to have for the Christian a force of attraction in virtue of which he yields himself to fellowship with them and allows himself to be guided by them in the determination of his conduct.” Those who understand tapeinoi" as masculine are divided between the meanings: of low rank and of humble disposition. Chrys.’ interpretation combines both ideas.—G. B. S).
2 antidosew". It means a recompense upon the other.
3 Most mss. omit “he would not. . …fed.”
4 mikroyuco", Ed. Ben. quotes St. Bas). Ep. 74 and St. Ath. t. 1,p). 142 a and 152 f. Hist. tracts pp. 41 and marg., 55, to show that this word may be used in the sense of “malicious.” It sometimes means “niggardly,” both being characteristics of a little mind. 5,p. 106 and 373.
5 The meaning which is here attached to the expression: thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, viz.: thou shalt bring the divine vengeance upon him, is very improbable. Such a consideration could not be urged as a motive of Christian love. Augustin well says: “How does any one love the man to whom he gives food and drink for the very purpose of heaping coals of fire upon his head, if ‘coals of fire’ in this place dignify some heavy punishment?” The meaning is: thou shalt by returning good for evil, bring the evildoer to shame and remorse. This course will be the dictate of Christian love because it will tend to reveal the man’s wrong-doing to himself, induce repentance for it and lead him to forsake it. The repentance of Saul is an example (1S 24,17). “And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. And he said: thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rendered unto me good, whereas I have rendered unto thee evil.”—G. B. S.
6 It may be objected that St. Paul was not speaking to a person in a rage, but generally to all. However, it is plain that the admonition is meant for those who want it. And there are many people who justify themselves in bearing malice, so as to require such management even in a general admonition).
7 The Fathers generally believed the devils were connected with idol-worship. See Tertullian de Spectac. p. 202 O. W. St. Augustin de Civ. Dei, 1,32, etc. Clem). Al. Protr. c. 3).

Homily XXIII: Rm XIII. 1.—“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.”

2300 Rm 13,1

Of this subject he makes much account in other epistles also, setting subjects under their rulers as household servants are under their masters. And this he does to show that it was not for the subversion of the commonwealth that Christ introduced His laws, but for the better ordering of it, and to teach men not to be taking up unnecessary and unprofitable wars. For the plots that are formed against us for the truth’s sake are sufficient and we have no need to be adding temptations superfluous and unprofitable. And observe too how well-timed his entering upon this subject is. For when he had demanded that great spirit of heroism, and made men fit to deal either with friends or foes, and rendered them serviceable alike to the prosperous and those in adversity and need, and in fact to all, and had planted a conversation worthy of angels, and had discharged anger, and taken down recklessness, and had in every way made their mind even, he then introduces his exhortation upon these matters also. For if it be right to requite those that injure us with the opposite, much more is it our duty to obey those that are benefactors to us. But this he states toward the end of his exhortation, and hitherto does not enter on these reasonings which I mention, but those only that enjoin one to do this as a matter of debt. And to show that these regulations are for all, even for priests, and monks, and not for men of secular occupations only, he hath made this plan at the outset, by saying as follows: “let every soul be subject unto the higher powers,” if thou be an Apostle even, or an Evangelist, or a Prophet, or anything whatsoever, inasmuch as this subjection is not subversive of religion. And he does not say merely “obey,” but “be subject.” And the first claim such an enactment has upon us, and the reasoning that suiteth the faithful, is, that all this is of God’s appointment.

“For there is no power,” he says, “but of God.” What say you? it may be said; is every ruler then elected by God? This I do not say, he answers. Nor am I now speaking about individual rulers, but about the thing in itself. For that there should be rulers, and some rule and others be ruled, and that all things should not just be carried on in one confusion, the people swaying like waves in this direction and that; this, I say, is the work of God’s wisdom. Hence he does not say, “for there is no ruler but of God;” but it is the thing he speaks of, and says, “there is no power but of God.1 And the powers that be, are ordained of God.” Thus when a certain wise man saith, “It is by the Lord that a man is matched with a woman” (Pr 19,14 LXX)., he means this, God made marriage, and not that it is He that joineth together every man that cometh to be with a woman. For we see many that come to be with one another for evil, even by the law of marriage, and this we should not ascribe to God. But as He said Himself, “He which made them at the beginning, made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall leave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh.” (Mt 19,4-5 Gn 2,24). And this is what that wise man meant to explain. For since equality of honor does many times lead to fightings, He hath made many governments and forms of subjection; as that, for instance, of man and wife, that of son and father, that of old men and young, that of bond and free,2 that of ruler and ruled, that of master and disciple. And why are you surprised in the case of mankind, when even in the body He hath done the same thing? For even here He hath not made all parts of equal honor, but He hath made one less and another greater, and some of the limbs hath He made to rule and some to be ruled. And among the unreasoning creatures one may notice this same principle, as amongst bees, amongst cranes, amongst herds of wild cattle. And even the sea itself is not without this goodly subordination; for there too many of the clans are ranged under one among the fishes, and are led thus as an army, and make long expeditions from home. For anarchy, be where it may, is an evil, and a cause of confusion. After having said then whence governments come, he proceeds, “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.” See what he has led the subject on to, and how fearful he makes it, and how he shows this to be a matter of debt. For lest the believers should say, You are making us very cheap and despicable, when you put us, who are to enjoy the Kingdom of Heaven, under subjection to rulers, he shows that it is not to rulers, but to God again that he makes them subject in doing this. For it is to Him, that he who subjects himself to authorities is obedient. Yet he does not say this—for instance that it is God to Whom a man who listens to authorities is obedient—but he uses the opposite case to awe them, and gives it a more precise form by saying, that he who listeneth not thereto is fighting with God, Who framed these laws. And this he is in all cases at pains to show, that it is not by way of favor that we obey them, but by way of debt. For in this way he was more likely to draw the governors who were unbelievers to religion, and the believers to obedience. For there was quite a common report in those days (Tert). Ap. 1, 31, 32), which maligned the Apostles, as guilty of a sedition and revolutionary scheme, and as aiming in all they did and said at the subversion of the received institutions. When then you show our common Master giving this in charge to all His, you will at once stop the mouths of those that malign us as revolutionists, and with great boldness will speak for the doctrines of truth. Be not then ashamed, he says, at such subjection. For God hath laid down this law, and is a strong Avenger of them if they be despised. For it is no common punishment that He will exact of thee, if thou disobey, but the very greatest; and nothing will exempt thee, that thou canst say to the contrary, but both of men thou shalt undergo the most severe vengeance, and there shall be no one to defend thee, and thou wilt also provoke God the more. And all this he intimates when he says,

“And they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” Then to show the gain of the thing after the fear, he uses reasons too to persuade them as follows:

Rm 13,3. “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.”

For when he has given a deep wound, and stricken them down, he again uses gentler treatment, like a wise physician, who applies soothing medicines, and he comforts them, and says, why be afraid? why shudder? For does he punish a person that is doing well? Or is he terrible to a person who lives in the practice of virtue? Wherefore also he proceeds, “Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shall have praise of the same.” You see how he has made him friends (wkeiwsen) with the ruler, by showing that he even praises him from his throne. You see how he has made wrath unmeaning.

Rm 13,4. “For he is the minister of God to thee for good.”

(So far is he from terrifying thee, he says, that he even praises thee: so far from being a hindrance to thee, that he even works with thee. When then thou hast his praise and his succor, how is it that thou art not in subjection to him? For he maketh virtue easier for thee in other ways also, by chastising the wicked, by benefiting and honoring3 the good, and by working together with the will of God. Whence too he has even given him the name of “Minister.”4 And consider: I give you counsel to be sober-minded, and he, by the laws, speaks the same language. I exhort you not to be rapacious and grasping. And he sits in judgment in such cases, and so is a worker together with us, and an assistant to us, and has been commissioned by God for this end.5 Hence there are both reasons for reverencing him, both because he was commissioned by God, and because it was for such an object. “But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid.” It is not then the ruler that maketh the fear, but our own wickedness.

“For he beareth not the sword in vain.” You see how he hath furnished him with arms, and set him on guard like a soldier, for a terror to those that commit sin. “For he is the minister of God to execute wrath, a revenger upon him that doeth evil.” Now lest you should start off at hearing again of punishment, and vengeance, and a sword, he says again that it is God’s law he is carrying out. For what if he does not know it himself? yet it is God that hath so shaped things (outw" etupwsen). If then, whether in punishing, or in honoring, he be a Minister, in avenging virtue’s cause, in driving vice away, as God willeth, why be captious against him, when he is the cause of so many good doings, and paves the way for thine too? since there are many who first practised virtue through the fear of God. For there are a duller sort, whom things to come have not such a hold upon as things present. He then who by fear and rewards gives the soul of the majority a preparatory turn towards its becoming more suited for the word of doctrine, is with good reason called “the Minister of God.”

Rm 13,5. “Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath but also for conscience sake.”

What is the meaning of, “not only for wrath?” It means not only because thou dost resist God by not being subject, nor only because thou art procuring great evils for thyself, both from God and the rulers, but also because he is a benefactor to thee in things of the greatest importance, as he procures peace to thee, and the blessings of civil institutions. For there are countless blessings to states through these authorities; and if you were to remove them, all things would go to ruin, and neither city nor country, nor private nor public buildings, nor anything else would stand, but all the world will be turned upside down, while the more powerful devour the weaker. And so even if some wrath were not to follow man’s disobedience, even on this ground thou oughtest to be subject, that thou mayest not seem devoid of conscience and feeling towards the benefactor.

Rm 13,6. “For, for this cause pay ye tribute also; for they are God’s ministers, attending continually on this very thing.”

67 Without going one by one into the benefits done to states by the rulers, as that of good order and peace, the other services, as regarding the soldiery, and those over the public business, he shows the whole of this by a single case. For that thou art benefited by him, he means, thou bearest witness thyself, by paying him a salary. Observe the wisdom and judgment of the blessed Paul. For that which seemed to be burdensome and annoying —the system of imposts—this he turns into a proof of their care for men. What is the reason, he means, that we pay tribute to a king? It is not as providing for us? And yet we should not have paid it unless we had known in the first instance that we were gainers from this superintendence. Yet it was for this that from of old all men came to an agreement that governors should be maintained by us, because to the neglect of their own affairs, they take charge of the public,6 and on this they spend their whole leisure, whereby our goods also are kept safe. After saying then what the external goods are, he again averts to the former line of argument (for in this way he was more likely to attract the believer to him), and he shows again that this is God’s decree, and on it he makes his advice rest finally, in these words, “they are God’s ministers.” Then to show the pains they take, and their hard life, he proceeds,

“Waiting continually upon this very thing.”

For this is their life, this their business, that thou mayest enjoy peace. Wherefore in another Epistle, he bids them not only be subject, but also “pray” in their behalf. And as showing there too that the advantage was common to all, he adds, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all things.”7 (
1Tm 2,1-2). For it is in no small degree that they contribute to the settled state of the present life, by keeping guard, beating off enemies, hindering those who are for sedition in the cities, putting an end to differences among any. For do not tell me of some one who makes an ill use of the thing, but look to the good order that is in the institution itself, and you will see the great wisdom of Him who enacted this law from the first.

(He still keeps upon the same line, bidding them pay them not money only, but honor and fear. And how is it when he said above, “Wilt thou not be afraid of the power? do that which is good;” that he here says “render fear?” He does it meaning exceeding honor, and not the fear which comes from a bad conscience, which he alluded to before And it is not “give,” that he says, but “render” (or “give back,” apodote), and then adds to it, the “dues.” For it is not a favor that you confer by so doing, since the thing is matter of due. And if you do it not, you will be punished as Obstinate. Do not suppose that you are lowering yourself, and detracting from the dignity of your own philosophy, if you rise up at the presence of a ruler, or if you uncover your head. For if he laid these laws down at that time, when the rulers were Gentiles, much more ought this to be done with them now they are believers. But if you mean to say, that you are entrusted with greater privileges, be informed that this is not thy time. For thou art a stranger and a sojourner. A time will be when thou shalt appear brighter than all. Now thy “life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Col 3,3-4). Seek not then in this life of accidents thy change, but even if thou hast to be with fear in a ruler’s presence, do not think that this is unworthy thy noble birth. For so God willeth, that the ruler who has his place marked8 by Him, should have his own power; And when he who is conscious of no evil in himself, stands with fear in the judge’s presence, much more will he who doth evil things be affrighted, and thou in this way wilt be the more respected. For it is not from honoring that the lowering of self comes but from dishonoring him. And the ruler will treat thee with greater respect, and he will glorify thy Master owing to this, even if he be an unbeliever. “Owe9 no man anything, but to love one another.” Again he has recourse to the mother of good deeds, and the instructress of the things spoken of, who is also productive of every virtue, and says that this is a debt also, not however such as the tribute or the custom, but a continuous one. For he does not wish it ever to be paid off, or rather he would have it always rendered, yet never fully so, but to be always owing. For this is the character of the debt, that one keeps giving and owing always. Having said then how he ought to love, he also shows the gain of it, saying,

“For he that loveth another hath fulfilled the Law.”

And do not, pray, consider even this a favor; for this too is a debt. For thou owest love to thy brother, through thy spiritual relationship. And not for this only, but also because “we are members one of another.” And if love leave us, the whole body is rent in pieces. Love therefore thy brother. For if from his friendship thou gainest so much as to fulfil the whole Law, thou owest him love as being benefited by him.

Rm 13,9. “For this, Thou shall not commit adultery, Thou shall not kill, Thou shall not steal, Thou shall not bear false witness, 10 and any other commandment, is briefly comprehended in this saying, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

(He does not say merely it is fulfilled, but "it is briefly comprehended, 11 that is, the whole work of the commandments is concisely and in a few words completed. For the beginning and the end of virtue is love. This it has for its root, this for its groundwork, this for its summit. If then it be both beginning and fulfilment, what is there equal to it? But he does not seek love merely, but intense love. For he does not say merely “love thy neighbor” but, “as thyself.” Hence also Christ said 12 that “the Law and the Prophets hang upon” it. And in making two kinds of love, see how He has raised this! For after saying that the first commandment is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,” second; 13 and He did not stay, but added, “like unto it; Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.” What can be equal to this love to man, or this gentleness? That when we were at infinite distance from Him, He brings the love to us into comparison with that toward Himself, and says that “is like unto this.” Hence then, to put the measures of either as nearly the same, of the one He says, “with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,” but of this towards one’s neighbor, He says, “as thyself.” But Paul said, that when this did not exist even the other was of no great profit to us. As their we, when we are fond of any one, say, if you love him, then you love me; so He also to show this saith, “is like unto it;” and to Peter, “If thou lovest Me, feed My sheep.” (Jn 21,16).

Rm 13,10. “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the Law.”

Observe how it has both virtues, abstinence from evils (for it “worketh no ill,” he says), and the working of good deeds. “For it is,” he says, “the fulfilling (or filling up) of the Law;” not bringing before us instruction only on moral duties in a concise form, but making the accomplishment of them easy also. For that we should become acquainted with things profitable to us was not alI that he was careful for (which is the Law’s care), but also with a view to the doing of them it brought us great assistance; accomplishing not some part of the commandments, but the whole sum of virtue in us. Let us then love one another, since in this way we shall also love God, 14 Who loveth us. For in the case of men, if you love a man’s beloved, he that loveth him is contentious at it. But here He deemeth thee worthy to share His love, and hateth thee when thou sharest not. For man’s love is laden with envy and grudging; 15 but God’s is free from all passion, whence also He seeketh for those to share His love. For He says, love thou with Me, and then thyself also will I love the more. You see the words of a vehement lover! If thou love My beloved, then will I also reckon Myself to be greatly beloved of thee. For He vehemently desireth our salvation, and this He showed from of old. Now hear what He saith when He was forming the man, “Let Us make man in Our Image:” and again, “Let Us 16 make an help meet for him. It is not good for him to be alone.” (Gn 1,26). And when he had transgressed, He rebuked him, observe how gently; 17 and He does not say, Wretch! thou very wretch! after receiving so great benefits, hast thou after all trusted to the devil? and left thy Benefactor, to take up with the evil spirit? But what saith He? “Who told thee that thou art naked, unless thou hast eaten of the Tree, from which alone I commanded thee not to eat?” (Gn 3,11). As if a father were to say to a child, who was ordered not to touch a sword, and then disobeyed and got wounded, “How camest thou wounded? Thou camest so by not listening to me.” You see they are the words of a friend rather than a master, of a friend despised, and not even then forsaking. Let us then imitate Him, and when we rebuke, let us preserve this moderation. For even the woman He also rebuketh again with the same gentleness. Or rather what He said was not so much rebuke as admonition and correction, and security against the future. This is why He saith nothing 18 to the serpent. For he was the designer of the mischiefs, and had it not in his power to put off the accusation on any one else, wherefore He punished him severely: and even here He did not come to a pause, but made the earth also to share in the curse. But if He cast them out of paradise, and condemned them to labor, even for this we ought to adore and reverence Him the most. For since self-indulgence issues in listlessness, He trenches upon the pleasure by building a fort of pain against listlessness, that we may return to the love of Him. And what of Cain’s case? Doth he not meet with the same gentleness? For being by him also insulted, He doth not reproach (same word as insult) in return, but entreats, (or comforts) him, and says, “Why is thy countenance fallen?” (Gn 4,6). And yet what he had done allowed of no excuse whatever. And this the younger brother shows. But still even then He doth not rebuke him: but what saith He? “Hast thou sinned: keep peace;” “do so no more.” “To thee shall his turning be, and thou shalt rule over him” 19 (ib. Gn 4,7 LXX)., meaning his brother. “For if thou art afraid, lest for this sacrifice,” He means, “I should deprive thee of the preüminence of the first-born, be of good cheer, for the entire command over him do I put into thy hands. Only be thou better, and love him that hath done thee no wrong; for I have an interest in you both. And what maketh Me most glad is, that ye be not at variance one with another.” For as a devoted mother, so doth God do and plan everything to keep one from being torn from another; but that you may get a clearer view, by an example, of my meaning, call to your mind, pray, Rebecca in her trouble, and running about everywhere, when the elder son was at enmity with the younger. For if she loved Jacob, still she did not feel averse to Esau. And therefore she said, Lest by any means “I be deprived of both of you, my children, in one day.” (Gn 27,45). Therefore also God upon that occasion said, “Thou hast sinned: be at peace: unto thee shall his turning be” (Gn 4,7), so repressing the murder beforehand, and aiming at the peace of them both. But when he had murdered him, He did not even then bring His care for him to a close, but again answers the fratricide in gentle terms, saying, “Where is thy brother Abel?” that even now, if he would, he might make a full confession. But he struggled in defence of his former misdeeds, with a greater and sadder shamelessness. But even then God doth not leave him, but again speaks the language of an iujured and despised lover, and says, “The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me.” (Gn 4,10). And again He rebukes the earth with the murderer, turning His wrath off to it, and saying, “Cursed be the earth, which opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood” (ib. Gn 2 ii).; and doing like those who lament (anakalounta"), as David also did when Saul was fallen. For he made an address to the mountains which received him as he died, in the words, “Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there fall on you neither rain nor dew, because there were the shields of the mighty cast away.” (2S 2S 1,21). And thus God also, as though singing some solitary dirge (monwdian), saith, “The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me; and now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand.” And this He said to humble his fiery passion, and to persuade him to love him at least now he was gone. Hast thou extinguished his life? He would say; why dost thou not now extinguish the hatred also? But what doth He do? He loveth both the one and the other, since He made them both. What then? 20 doth (4 mss. will) He let the murderer go unpunished? Nay, he would but have grown worse. Will He punish him then? Nay, He hath more tenderness than a father. See then how He at once punisheth and also displays, even in this, His love. Or rather, He doth not so much as punish, but only corrects. For He doth not kill him, but only fetters him with trembling, that he may divest himself of the crime, that so at least he may come back to a natural tenderness for the other, and that so at last he may make a truce with him now he hath gone; for He were fain he should not go away to the other world in enmity with him that was deceased. This is the way wherein they that love, when in doing acts of kindness they meet with no love in return, are led on to be vehement and to threaten, not with their will indeed, but led by their love to do this: that at least in this way they may win over those that scorn them. Yet affection of this sort is one of compulsion, and still this even solaces them, through the vehemency of their love. And so punishment itself comes from affection, since unless pained at being hated, they would not choose to punish either. Now observe, how this is what Paul says to the Corinthians. For “who is he” (says he) “that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me?” (2Co 2,2). And so when he is going to the full extent of punishment, then he shows his love. Thus the Egyptian woman too, from her vehement love, as vehemently punished Joseph: and she indeed did so for mischief, the love being unchaste; but God for good, since the love was worthy of Him who loved. This is why He does not refuse even to condescend to grosser words, and to speak the names of human passions, and to call Himself jealous. For “I am a jealous God” (Ex 20,5), He saith, that you may learn the intenseness of the love. Let us then love Him as He would have us: for He sets great store thereby. And if we turn away, He keepeth inviting us, and if we will not be converted, He chasteneth us through His affection, not through a wish to exact punishment of us. And see what He saith in Ezekiel to the city that was beloved, yet had despised Him. “I will bring thy lovers against thee, and will deliver thee into their hands, and they shall stone thee, and shall slay thee, and My jealousy shall be taken away from thee, and I will rest, and I will not trouble Myself any more.” (From (). What more than this could a vehement lover have said, when despised by his beloved, and after all again ardently loving her? For God doeth everything that He may be loved by us, and owing to this He spared not even His Son. But we are unbending, and savage. Yet let us become gentle at last, and love God as we ought to love Him, that we may with pleasure enjoy virtue. For if any that hath a beloved wife does not perceive any of the vexations that come day by day, He that loveth with this divine and pure love, only consider what great pleasure he will have to enjoy! For this is, indeed it is, the kingdom of Heaven; this is fruition of good things, and pleasure, and cheerfulness, and joy, and blessedness. Or rather, say as many things as I may, I shall still be unable to give you any such representation of it as should be, but the trial of it alone can give a knowledge of this goodly thing. Wherefore also the Prophet saith, “Delight thyself in the Lord” (Ps 37,4), and, “Taste and see that the Lord is gracious.” (IB 34,8). Let us then be persuaded, and indulge ourselves in His love. For in this way we shall both see His Kingdom even from out of this life, and shall be living the life of Angels, and while we abide on earth, we shall be in as goodly a condition as they that dwell in heaven; and after our departing hence, shall stand the brightest of beings by the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall enjoy that glory unutterable, which may we all attain unto, by the grace and love toward man of our Lord Jesus Christ. For to Him is the glory forever, Amen).

1 The distinction which Chrys. carries through his interpretation of this passage on human government, between authority in abstracto and in concreto belongs rather to a philosophical treatment of the subject than to an exposition of the apostle’s language. The use of general terms like exousia and ousia cannot have been designed to leave room for concrete exceptions since the apostle blends general and specific terms throughout the passage [arconte" (3) qeou diakono" (4)]. The question of obeying unjust rulers and supporting the “powers” in unjust measures, the apostle does not raise.He is stating a general principle and he says nothing of exceptions. His language does not exclude the possibility of exceptions when the reign of rulers becomes clearly subversive of moral order and opposed to the principles of the divine government.—G. B. S
2 See 1Co 7,21 Col 3,22 1Tm 6,2. Slavery is clearly recognized as a lawful state of life, appointed by Providence, and in Col 4,1, is shown to have a typical meaning; this does not necessarily imply the common opinion of the Greeks (Ar. Pol. 1,1), that there is a natural distinction of men into the free and the slavish).
3 Most mss. omit “and honoring.”
4 Or Deacon; the Coronation Service illustrates the sacred view of the kingly office; as by the use of the Dalmatic (sect. x)., which belongs also to Deacons; see Palmer, Or. Lit. append. sect. iv.
5 Compare Butler, Analogy 1, 2, and Arist. Eth. 5,1. “The law commands to do the acts of a brave man, such as not quitting one’s post, not flying, not throwing away one’s arms. And those of a sober man, as not to commit adultery, or to insult any one. And those of a meek person, as not to strike, not to defame; and so with other virtues and vices, …” Where he means that the law cannot enforce the character but can demand the acts, and is so far drawing man towards what is suitable to his nature. Butler shows that this is a part of God’s moral government).
6 Arist. Eth. 8,8, “The political union of men seems to have been first formed for advantage, and for this it is upheld.” See Pol. 1,2, where he says of it, that “it is formed that men may live, but is (in the nature of things) that they may live well.”
7 St. Augustin de Civ. Dei, 19,17, writes, “But the heavenly city, or rather that part of it which sojourneth in this mortal state, and liveth by faith, must likewise make use of this kind of peace, till that mortality, for which such peace is needful, pass away.” And 19,26, he quotes 1Tm 2,2, and Jr 29,7, to the same purpose).
8 tupwqei", see p. 513, outw" etupwsen. The sense appears to be, “whose precise character in every form of government Himself determines.”
9 Or “ye owe,” it may seem that this is his sense, from “thou owest,” but he would have it look the other way.
10 St. Chrysostom omits “Thou shalt not covet.” Many mss. of the New Testament omit “Thou shalt not hear false witness,” but all known mss. of St. Chrysostom have it, as well as the printed copies.
11 anakefalaioutai, see p. 472, note 3.
12 (Mt 22,39, Hilary on the place notices that the second could not be called like unto it, were it not that our Neighbor means Christ, (1.1), present in His members.
13 (So most mss. while the old edd. read “added, and the second—”
14 Ms. “be beloved of God,” which makes a fair sense with the context.
15 Plato, Phaedr. p. 217, B). o fqono" exw Qeiou corou istatai, Envy standeth without the Divine circle.
16 Gn ii:18. This plural is in the LXX., not in the Hebrew. See in Gn c. 2,Hom. xiv.
17 On the Fall, see Hom. 17,in Gen.
18 Nothing before or beside his sentence. Nothing of admonition. See Ben.
19 See Hom. 19,in Gen. St. Cyr). Al. Glaph. lib. 1,§2, p. 20 B. takes this as said to Abel).
20 Alluding to the stenwn kai tremwn of the LXX., 5,12).

Chrysostom on Rm 2200