A SELECT LIBRARY
THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
PHILIP SCHAFF, D.D., LL.D.,
PROFESSOR IN THE UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, NEW YORK.
IN CONNECTION WITH A NUMBER OF PATRISTIC SCHOLARS OF EUROPE AND AMERICA.
WM. B. EERDMANS PUBLISHING COMPANY
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN
ON THE PRIESTHOOD
SELECT HOMILIES AND LETTERS
HOMILIES ON THE STATUTES
[i]Roberts, Alexander and Donaldson, James, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series: Volume IX
St. Jn Chrysostom
By Philip Schaff.
S. Joannis Chrysostomi, archiepiscopi Constantinopolitani, Opera omnia quae exstant vet quae ejus nomine circumferuntur, ad mss. codices Gallicos, Vaticanos, Anglicos, Germanicosque castigata, etc. Opera et studio D. Bernardi de Montfaucon, monachi ordinis S. Benedicti e congregatione S. Mauri, opem ferentibus aliis ex eodem sodalitio, monachis. Greek and Latin, Paris, 1718-’38, in 13 vole., fol. This is the best edition, and the result of about twenty years of the patient labor of Montfaucon (d. Dec. 21, 1741, 86 years old), and several assistants of the brotherhood of St. Maur. More than three hundred mss. were made use of, but the eight principal mss., as Field has shown, were not very carefully collated. Montfaucon, who at the date of the completion of his edition was 83 years old, prepared valuable prefaces to every treatise and set of homilies, arranged the works in chronological order, and added in vol. XIII. learned dissertations on the life, doctrine, discipline and heresies of the age of Chrysostom.
The Benedictine edition was reprinted at Venice, 1734-’41, in 13 vols. for.; at Paris, ed. by F. De Sinner (Gaume), 1834-’39, in 13 vols. (an elegant edition, with some additions); and, with various improvements and corrections, by J. P. Migne, Petit-Montrouge, 1859-’63, in 13 vols. The last is the most complete edition, but inferior in paper and type to that of Gaume. Migne uses the critical text of Field in Matthew and the Pauline Epp. He had previously edited a Latin Version, 1842, in 9 vols.
The edition of Sir Henry Savile (Provost of Eton), Etonae, 1612, in 8 vols. for., is less complete than the Benedictine edition, but gives a more correct Greek text (as was shown by F. Dübner from a collation of manuscripts) and valuable notes. Savile personally examined the libraries of Europe and spent 8,000 on his edition. His wife was so jealous of his devotion to Chrysostom that she threatened to burn his manuscripts.
The edition of Fronton Le Duc, a French Jesuit, and the two brothers, Frederick and Claude Morel, was published at Paris, 1636, in 12 vols. for., Greek and Latin.
A selection of Chrysostom’s works (Opera praestantissima) in Greek and Latin, was edited by T. G. Lomler Rudolphopoli (Rudolstadt), 1840 Unfinished).
The best edition of the Greek text of the Homilies on Matthew, and all the Pauline Epistles is by Dr). Frederick Field, of the Church of England (d. 1883), in the “Bibliotheca Patrum Ecclesiae Orientalis qui ante Orientis et Occidentis schisma floruerunt.” The Homilies on Matthew appeared at Cambridge, 1839, 3 vols.; the Homilies on the Epistles of Paul and the Hebrews, Oxford, 1839-’62, in 7 vols.
The treatise De Sacerdotio (periv iJerwsuvnh") was separately edited by Erasmus in Greek (Baser, 1525, from the press of Frobenius), by J. Hughes, in Greek and Latin (Cambridge, 1710), and by J. A. Bengel, the commentator, in Greek (Stuttgart, 1725, and repeatedly reprinted since at Leipzig, 1825, 1834, 1872, by C. Tauchnitz)). Lomler (Chrys. Opera, pp. 8,and ix). enumerates twenty-three separate editions and translations of the treatise on the Priesthood.
6 (A) German Translations.
The treatise on the Priesthood has been translated by Hasselbach, 1820; Ritter, 1821, and others. The Bibliothek der Kirchenväter (Rm Cath)., published at Kempten in Bavaria, devotes ten small volumes to St. Chrysostom, including the Priesthood, ascetic Treatises, and Homilies, translated by Joh. Chrysostomus Mitterrutzner, 1869-’84. German translations of selected Homilies by J. A. Cramer (Leipzig, 1748–51, 10 vols). Feder (Augsburg, 1786); Ph. Mayer (Nürnberg, 1830); W. Arnoldi (Trier, 1835); Augusti (Predigten der Kirchenväter vols. I. and II., Leipzig, 1839); Jos. Lutz (Tübingen, 2d ed. 1859); Gust. Leonhardi (Leipzig, 1888, selected sermons and orations, in vol I. of Klassikerbibliothek der Christl. Predigtliteratur).
(B) English Translations.
The work on the Priesthood was translated by Hollier (London, 1728); Bunce (London, 1759); Hohler (Cambridge, 1837); Marsh (London, 1844); Harris Cowper (London, 1866); and Stephens (N. York, 1888, prepared for this “Library”).
The Homilies on the Statues and on the New Testament were translated by several scholars for the “Oxford Library of the Fathers,” 1839-’77, 16 vols. The earlier parts (on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, and on the Statues) are based on the text of Montfaucon and Savile, the later parts on the improved text of Field. The Oxford translation has been revised and annotated by American scholars for this “Library,” and new translations of other works of St. Chrysostom have been added, namely, the treatise on the Priesthood, the Exhortation to the fallen Theodore, Letters, Tracts, and Special Homilies (in this first volume).
Palladius (a friend of Chrysostom and bishop of Helenopolis in Bithynia, author of the Historia Lausiaca; according to others a different person): Dialogus historicus de vita et conversatione beati Joannis Chrysostomi cum Theodoro ecclesiae Romanae diacono (in the Bened. edition of the Opera, tom. 13,pp. 1–89; in Migne’s ed., tom. i., Pars prior, 5–84, in Greek and Latin)). Hieronymus: De viris illustribus, c. 129 (a very brief notice, mentioning only the work De Sacerdotio)). Socrates: Hist. Eccl. VI., 3–21). Sozomen: Hist. Eccl. VIII. 2–23). Theodoret: Hist. Eccl. V. 27–36). B. De Montfaucon: Vita Joannis Chrysost. (in his edition of the Opera, tom. 13,91–178; in Migne, I.I. 84–264): Testimonia Veterum de S. Joann. Chrys. scriptis, ibid. tom. 13,256–292). Tillemont: Mémoires, vol. XI. pp. 1–405, 547–626 (exceedingly minute and accurate from the works of Chrys).). F. Stilting: Acta Sanctorum, Sept. 14 (the day of Chrysostom’s death), tom. 4,pp. 401–709; comp). Stilting’s Compendium chronologicum gestorum et scriptorum S. Joh. Chrys., in Migne, tom. i. 264–272). Alban Butler: Lives of Saints, sub. Jan. 27 (the day of the translation of the remains of Chrys).). W. Cave: Lives of the Fathers, vol. III. p. 237 sqq). J. A. Fabricius: Biblioth Gr., tom. 8,454 sqq). Schröckh: Kirchengeschichte, vol. X. p. 30g sqq). Gibbon: Decline and Fall, ch. 32,(a brilliant and appreciative sketch)). Neander: Der heilige Chrysostomus, 1821-’22, in 3 vols., second ed. 1832, third ed. Berlin, 1848, in 2 vols. (English translation of the same by J. C. Stapleton, vol. I., London, 1838, unfinished). The best monograph in the German language. Neander represents Chrysostom as a type of the Johannean tendency among the Fathers, as distinct from Augustin, the strongest type of the Pauline tendency. He gives a full account of the opinions and religious life of Chrysostom, but without a clear picture of his personality. (Hase says: “Neander hat uns das Lebensbild des Chrys. aufgestellt als ein Herzensverwandter, doch nicht ohne einige Abschwächung seiner Kraft und seines Gegensatzes zur Regierung.” K. Gesch. I. 511)). J. Pettersson: Chrys. homileta, Lund, 1833). C. Datt: S. Jean Chrys. comme prédicateur, Strassb., 1837). A. F. Villemain: Tableau de l’éloquence chrétienne au quatrième siècle, Paris, 1849, new ed. 1857). Perthes: Life of Chrysostom, Boston, 1854). P. Albert: St. Jean Chrysostome considéré comme orateur populaire, Paris, 1858. Abbé E. Martin: Saint Jean Chrysostome, ses aeuvres et son siècle, Montpellier and Paris, 1861, 3 vols. Abbé Rochet: Histoire de S. Jean Chrysostome, Paris, 1866, 2 vols). AméDée Thierry: St. Chrysostome et l’imperatrice Eudoxie, 2d ed., Paris, 1874 (originally in the “Revue des deux Mondes”)). Böhringer: Johann Chrysostomus Ed Olympias, in “Kirchengesch. in Biogr.,” vol. IX. new ed. 1876). Th. Förster: Chrysostomus in seinem Verhältniss zur Antiochenischen Schule, Gotha, 1869). W. Maggilory: Jn of the Golden Mouth, Land. 1871). W. R. W. Stephens: St. Jn Chrysostom, his Life and Times, London, 1872, 2d ed. 1880, 3rd ed. 1883 (the best biography of Chr).). R. W. Bush, Life and Times of Chrysostom, London, Rel. Tract Soc., 1885.
Canon E. Venables: in “Smith and Wace,” I. 518–535 (a very good sketch)). C. Burk: in Herzog, 2d ea., III. 225–231. E). Dandiran: in Lightenberger’s “Encyclopédie,” etc., III. 165–176). Schaff: Church Hist. III. 702 sqq., 933 sqq., 1036 sq). Hase: Kirchengesch. (Vorlesungen, 1885), I. 510 sqq. F. W). Farrar: Lives of the Fathers, London, 1889. Vol. II. 46527.
“Almighty God, who hast given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplications unto Thee; and doest promise, that when two or three are gathered together in Thy name Thou wilt grant their requests: fulfil now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of Thy servants, as may be most expedient for them; granting us in this world knowledge of Thy truth, and in the world to come life everlasting, Amen.”
This beautiful and comprehensive prayer, which is translated from the Liturgy of St. Chrysostom, has made his name a household word wherever the Anglican Liturgy is known and used.
John, surnamed Chrysostom (AEIwavnnh" Crusovstomo") is the greatest pulpit orator and commentator of the Greek Church, and still deservedly enjoys the highest honor in the whole Christian world. No one of the Oriental Fathers has left a more spotless reputation; no one is so much read and so often quoted by modern preachers and commentators. An admiring posterity, since the close of the fifth century, has given him the surname Chrysostom (the Golden Mouth), which has entirely superseded his personal name John, and which best expresses the general estimate of his merits.
His life may be divided into five periods: (1) His youth and training till his conversion and baptism, A.D. 347–370. (2) His ascetic and monastic life, 370–381. (3) His public life as priest and preacher at Antioch, 381–398. (4) His episcopate at Constantinople, 398–404. (5) His exile to his death, 404–407.
John (the name by which alone he is known among contemporary writers and his first biographers) was born in 347, at Antioch, the capital of Syria, and the home of the mother church of Gentile Christianity, where the disciples of Jesus were first called “Christians.”
His father, Secundus, was a distinguished military officer (magister militum) in the imperial army of Syria, and died during the infancy of John, without professing Christianity, as far as we know. His mother, Anthusa, was a rare woman. Left a widow at the age of twenty, she refused all offers of marriage, and devoted herself exclusively to the education of her only son and his older sister. She was probably from principle averse to a second marriage, according to a prevailing view of the Fathers. She shines, with Nonna and Monica, among the most pious mothers of the fourth century, who prove the ennobling influence of Christianity on the character of woman, and through her on all the family relations. Anthusa gained general esteem by her exemplary life. The famous advocate of heathenism, Libanius, on hearing of her consistency and devotion, felt constrained to exclaim: “Bless me! what wonderful women there are among the Christians.”
She gave her son an admirable education, and early planted in his soul the germs of piety, which afterwards bore the richest fruits for himself and the church. By her admonitions and the teachings of the Bible, he was secured against the seductions of heathenism).
Yet he was not baptized till he had reached the age of maturity. In that age of transition from heathenism to Christianity, the number of adult baptisms far exceeded that of infant baptisms. Hence the large baptisteries for the baptism of crowds of converts; hence the many sermons and lectures of Chrysostom, Cyril of Jerusalem and other preachers to catechumens, and their careful instruction before baptism and admission to the Missa Fidelium or the holy communion. Even Christian parents, as the father and mother of Gregory Nazianzen, the mother of Chrysostom, and the mother of Augustin, put off the baptism of their offspring, partly no doubt from a very high conception of baptism as the sacrament of regeneration, and the superstitious fear that early baptism involved the risk of a forfeiture of baptismal grace. This was the argument which Tertullian in the second century urged against infant baptism, and this was the reason why many professing Christians put off their baptism till the latest hour; just as now so many from the same motive delay repentance and conversion to their death-bed. Chrysostom often rebukes that custom. The Emperor Constantine who favored Christianity as early as 312, and convened the Council of Nicaea in 325, postponed baptism till 337, shortly before his death. The orthodox Emperor Theodosius the Great was not baptized till the first year of his reign (380), when attacked by a serious illness.
Chrysostom received his literary training chiefly from Libanius, the admirer and friend of Julian the Apostate, and the first classical scholar and rhetorician of his age, who after a long career as public teacher at Athens and Constantinople, returned to his native Antioch and had the misfortune to outlive the revival of heathenism under Julian and to lament the triumph of Christianity under his successors. He was introduced by him into a knowledge of the Greek classics and the arts of rhetoric, which served him a good purpose for his future labors in the church. He was his best scholar, and when Libanius, shortly before his death (about 393), was asked whom he wished for his successor, he replied: “John, if only the Christians had not stolen him from us.”
After the completion of his studies Chrysostom became a rhetorician, and began the profitable practice of law, which opened to him a brilliant political career. The amount of litigation was enormous. The display of talent in the law-courts was the high-road to the dignities of vice-prefect, prefect, and consul. Some of his speeches at the bar excited admiration and were highly commended by Libanius. For some time, as he says, he was “a never-failing attendant at the courts of law, and passionately fond of the theatre.” But he was not satisfied. The temptations of a secular profession in a corrupt state of society discouraged him. To accept a fee for making the worse cause appear the better cause, seemed to him tobe taking Satan’s wages.
The quiet study of the Scriptures, the example of his pious mother, the acquaintance with Bishop Meletius, and the influence of his intimate friend Basil, who was of the same age and devoted to ascetic life, combined to produce a gradual change in his character).
(He entered the class of catechumens, and after the usual period of three years of instruction and probation, he was baptized by Meletius in his twenty-third year (369 or 370). From this time on, says Palladius, “he neither swore, nor defamed any one, nor spoke falsely, nor cursed, nor even tolerated facetious jokes.” His baptism was, as in the case of St. Augustin, the turning point in his life, an entire renunciation of this world and dedication to the service of Christ. The change was radical and permanent.
Meletius, who foresaw the future greatness of the young lawyer, wished to secure him for the active service of the church, and ordained him to the subordinate office of rector (anagnostes, reader), about A.D. 370. The rectors had to read the Scripture lessons in the first part of divine service (the “Missa Catechumenorum”), and to call upon the people to pray, but could not preach nor distribute the sacraments.
The first inclination of Chrysostom after baptism was to adopt the monastic life as the safest mode, according to the prevailing notions of the church in that age, to escape the temptations and corruptions of the world, to cultivate holiness and to secure the salvation of the soul. But the earnest entreaties of his mother prevailed on him to delay the gratification of his desire. He relates the scene with dramatic power. She took him to her chamber, and by the bed where she had given him birth, she adjured him with tears not to forsake her. “My son,” she said in substance, “my only comfort in the midst of the miseries of this earthly life is to see thee constantly, and to behold in thy features the faithful image of my beloved husband who is no more. This comfort commenced with your infancy before you could speak. I ask only one favor from you: do not make me a widow a second time; wait at least till I die; perhaps I shall soon leave this world. When you have buried me and joined my ashes with those of your father, nothing will then prevent you from retiring into monastic life. But as long as I breathe, support me by your presence, and do not draw down upon you the wrath of God by bringing such evils upon me who have given you no offense.”
These tender, simple and impressive words suggest many heart-rending scenes caused by the ascetic enthusiasm for separation from the sacred ties of the family. It is honorable to Chrysostom that he yielded to the reasonable wishes of his devoted mother. He remained at home, but turned his home into a monastery. He secluded himself from the world and practiced a rigid asceticism. He ate little and seldom, and only the plainest food, slept on the bare floor and frequently rose to prayer. He kept almost unbroken silence to prevent a relapse into the habit of slander.
His former associates at the bar called him unsociable and morose. But two of his fellow-pupils under Libanius joined him in his ascetic life, Maximus (afterwards bishop of Seleucia), and Theodore of Mopsuestia. They studied the Scriptures under the direction of Diodorus (afterwards bishop of Tarsus), the founder of the Antiochian school of theology, of which Chrysostom and Theodore became the chief ornaments).
Theodore was warmly attached to a young lady named Hermione, and resolved to marry and to leave the ascetic brotherhood. This gave rise to the earliest treatise of Chrysostom—namely, an exhortation to Theodore, in two letters. He plied all his oratorical arts of sad sympathy, tender entreaty, bitter reproach, and terrible warning, to reclaim his friend to what he thought the surest and safest way to heaven. To sin, he says, is human, but to persist in sin is devilish; to fall is not ruinous to the soul, but to remain on the ground is. The appeal had its desired effect; Theodore resumed his monastic life and became afterwards bishop of Mopsuestia in Cilicia and one of the first biblical scholars. The arguments which Chrysostom used, would condemn all who broke their monastic vows. They retain moral force only if we substitute apostasy from faith for apostasy from monasticism, which must be regarded as a temporary and abnormal or exceptional form of Christian life.
About this time several bishoprics were vacant in Syria, and frequent depositions took place with the changing fortunes of orthodoxy and Arianism, and the interference of the court. The attention of the clergy and the people turned to Chrysostom and his friend Basil as suitable candidates for the episcopal office, although they had not the canonical age of thirty. Chrysostom shrunk from the responsibilities and avoided an election by a pious fraud. He apparently assented to an agreement with Basil that both should either accept, or resist the burden of the episcopate, but instead of that he concealed himself and put forward his friend whom he accounted much more worthy of the honor. Basil, under the impression that Chrysostom had already been consecrated, reluctantly submitted to the election. When he discovered the cheat, he upbraided his friend with the breach of compact, but Chrysostom laughed and rejoiced at the success of his plot. This conduct, which every sound Christian conscience must condemn, caused no offense among the Christians of that age, still less among the heathen, and was regarded as good management or “economy.” The moral character of the deception was supposed to depend altogether on the motive, which made it good or bad. Chrysostom appealed in justification of laudable deception to the stratagems of war, the conduct of physicians in dealing with refractory patients, to several examples of the Old Testament (Abraham, Jacob, David), and to the conduct of the Apostle Paul in circumcising Timothy for the sake of the Jews (Ac 16,3) and in observing the ceremonial law in Jerusalem at the advice of James (Ac 21,26).
The Jesuitical maxim, “the end justifies the means,” is much older than Jesuitism, and runs through the whole apocryphal, pseudo-prophetic, pseudo-apostolic, pseudo-Clementine and pseudo-Isidorian literature of the early centuries. Several of the best Fathers show a surprising want of a strict sense of veracity. They introduce a sort of cheat even into their strange theory of redemption, by supposing that the Devil caused the crucifixion under the delusion that Christ was a mere man, and thus lost his claim upon the fallen race. Origen, Chrysostom, and Jerome explain the offense of the collision between Paul and Peter at Antioch (Ga 2,11) sqq). away by turning it into a theatrical and hypocritical farce, which was shrewdly arranged by the two apostles for the purpose of convincing the Jewish Christians that circumcision was not necessary. Against such wretched exegesis the superior morel sense of Augustin rightly protested, and Jerome changed his view on this particular passage. Here is a point where the modern standard of ethics is far superior to that of the Fathers, and more fully accords with the spirit of the New Testament, which inculcates the strictest veracity as a fundamental virtues
The escape from the episcopate was the occasion for one of the best and most popular works of Chrysostom, the Six Books On the Priesthood, which he wrote probably before his ordination (between 375 and 381), or during his diaconate (between 381 and 386). It is composed in the form of a Platonic dialogue between Chrysostom and Basil. He first vindicates by argument and examples his well-meant but untruthful conduct towards his friend, and the advantages of timely fraud; and then describes with youthful fervor and eloquence the importance, duties and trials of the Christian ministry, without distinguishing between the priestly and the episcopal office. He elevates it above all other offices. He requires whole-souled consecration to Christ and love to his flock. He points to the Scriptures (quoting also from the Apocrypha) as the great weapon of the minister. He assumes, as may be expected, the then prevailing conception of a real priesthood and sacrifice, baptismal regeneration, the corporal presence, the virtue of absolution, prayers for the dead, but is silent about pope and councils, the orders of the clergy, prayers to saints, forms of prayer, priestly vestments, incense, crosses and other doctrines and ceremonies of the Greek and Roman churches).
(He holds up St. Paul as a model for imitation. The sole object of the preacher must be to please God rather than men (Ga 1,10). “He must not indeed despise approving demonstrations, but as little must he court them, nor trouble himself when they are withheld.” He should combine the qualities of dignity and humility, authority and sociability, impartiality and courtesy, independence and lowliness, strength and gentleness, and keep a single eye to the glory of Christ and the welfare of the church.
This book is the most useful or at least the best known among the works of Chrysostom, and is well calculated to inspire a profound sense of the tremendous responsibilities of the ministry. But it has serious defects, besides the objectionable justification of pious fraud, and cannot satisfy the demands of an evangelical minister. In all that pertains to the proper care of souls it is inferior to the “Reformed Pastor” of Richard Baxter.
After the death of his mother, Chrysostom fled from the seductions and tumults of city life to the monastic solitude of the mountains south of Antioch, and there spent six happy years in theological study and sacred meditation and prayer. Monasticism was to him (as to many other great teachers of the church, and even to Luther) a profitable school of spiritual experience and self-government. He embraced this mode of life as “the true philosophy” from the purest motives, and brought into it intellect and cultivation enough to make the seclusion available for moral and spiritual growth).
(He gives us a lively description of the bright side of this monastic life. The monks lived in separate cells or huts (kavlubai), but according to a common rule and under the authority of an abbot. They wore coarse garments of camel’s hair or goat’s hair over their linen tunics. They rose before sunrise, and began the day by singing a hymn of praise and common prayer under the leadership of the abbot. Then they went to their allotted task, some to read, others to write, others to manual labor for the support of the poor. Four hours in each day were devoted to prayer and singing. Their only food was bread and water, except in case of sickness. They slept on straw couches, free from care and anxiety. There was no need of bolts and bars. They held all things in common, and the words of “mine and shine,” which cause innumerable strifes in the world, were unknown among the brethren. If one died, he caused no lamentation, but thanksgiving, and was carried to the grave amidst hymns of praise; for he was not dead, but “perfected,” and permitted to behold the face of Christ. For them to live was Christ, and to die was gain.
Chrysostom was an admirer of active and useful monasticism, and warns against the dangers of idle contemplation. He shows that the words of our Lord, “One thing is needful;” “Take no anxious thought for the morrow;” “Labor not for the meat that perisheth,” do not inculcate total abstinence from work, but only undue anxiety about worldly things, and must be harmonized with the apostolic exhortation to labor and to do good. He defends monastic seclusion on account of the prevailing immorality in the cities, which made it almost impossible to cultivate there a higher Christian life.
In this period, from 374 to 381, Chrysostom composed his earliest writings in praise of monasticism and celibacy. The letters “to the fallen Theodore,” have already been mentioned. The three books against the Opponents of Monasticism were occasioned by a decree of the Arian Emperor Valens in 373, which aimed at the destruction of that system and compelled the monks to discharge their duties to the state by military or civil service. Chrysostom regarded this decree as a sacrilege, and the worst kind of persecution).
By excessive self-mortifications Jn undermined his health, and returned to Antioch. There he was immediately ordained deacon by Meletius in 380 or 381, and a few years afterwards presbyter by Flavian (386).
As deacon he had the best opportunity to become acquainted with the practical needs of the population, the care of the poor and the sick. After his ordination to the priesthood he preached in the presence of the bishop his first sermon to a vast crowd. It abounds in flowery Asiatic eloquence, in humble confession of his own unworthiness, and exaggerated praise of Meletius and Flavian).
(He now entered upon a large field of usefulness, the real work of his life. The pulpit was his throne, and he adorned it as much as any preacher of ancient or modern times.
Antioch was one of the great capitals of the Roman empire along with Alexandria, Constantinople, and Rome. Nature and art combined to make it a delightful residence, though it was often visited by inundations and earthquakes. An abundance of pure water from the river Orontes, a large lake and the surrounding hills, fertile plains, the commerce of the sea, imposing buildings of Asiatic, Greek, and Roman architecture, rich gardens, baths, and colonnaded streets, were among its chief attractions. A broad street of four miles, built by Antiochus Epiphanes, traversed the city from east to west; the spacious colonnades on either side were paved with red granite. Innumerable lanterns illuminated the main thoroughfares at night. The city was supplied with good schools and several churches; the greatest of them, in which Chrysostom preached, was begun by the Emperor Constantine and finished by Constantius. The inhabitants were Syrians, Greeks, Jews, and Romans. The Asiatic element prevailed. The whole population amounted, as Chrysostom states, to 200,000, of whom one half were nominally Christians. Heathenism was therefore still powerful as to numbers, but as a religion it had lost all vitality. This was shown by the failure of the attempt of the Emperor Julian the Apostate to revive the sacrifices to the gods. When he endeavored in 362 to restore the oracle of Apollo Daphneus in the famous cypress grove at Antioch and arranged for a magnificent procession, with libation, dances, and incense, he found in the temple one solitary old priest, and this priest ominously offered in sacrifice—a goose! Julian himself relates this ludicrous farce, and vents his anger at the Antiochians for squandering the rich incomes of the temple upon Christianity and worldly amusements.
Chrysostom gives us in his sermons lively pictures of the character of the people and the condition of the church. The prevailing vices even among Christians were avarice, luxury, sensuality, and excessive love of the circus and the theatre. “So great,” he says, “is the depravity of the times, that if a stranger were to compare the precepts of the gospel with the actual practice of society, he would infer that men were not the disciples, but the enemies of Christ.” Gibbon thus describes the morals of Antioch: “The warmth of the climate disposed the natives to the most intemperate enjoyment of tranquility and opulence, and the lively licentiousness of the Greeks was blended with the hereditary softness of the Syrians. Fashion was the only law, pleasure the only pursuit, and the splendor of dress and furniture was the only distinction of the citizens of Antioch. The arts of luxury were honored, the serious and manly virtues were the subject of ridicule, and the contempt for female modesty and reverent age announced the universal corruption of the capital of the East. The love of spectacles was the taste, or rather passion of the Syrians; the most skilful artists were procured from the adjacent cities. A considerable share of the revenue was devoted to the public amusements, and the magnificence of the games of the theatre and circus was considered as the happiness and as the glory of Antioch.”
The church of Antioch was rent for eighty-five years (330–415) by heresy and schism. There were three parties and as many rival bishops. The Meletians, under the lead of Meletius, were the party of moderate orthodoxy holding the Nicene Creed; the Arians, headed by Eudoxius, and supported by the Emperor Valens, denied the eternal divinity of Christ; the Eustathians, under the venerated priest Paulinus, were in communion with Athanasius, but were accused of Sabellianism, which maintained the Divine unity and strict deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit, but denied the tri-personality except in the form of three modes of self-revelation. Pope Damasus declared for Paulinus and condemned Meletius as a heretic. Alexandria likewise sided against him. Meletius was more than once banished from his see, and recalled. He died during the sessions of the Council of Constantinople, 381, over which he presided for a while. His remains were carried with great solemnities to Antioch and buried by the side of Babylas the Martyr. Chrysostom reconciled Flavian, the successor of Meletius, with Alexandria and Rome in 398. Alexander, the successor of Flavian, led the Eustathians back into the orthodox church in 415, and thus unity was restored.
Chrysostom preached Sunday after Sunday and during Lent, sometimes twice or oftener during the week, even five days in succession, on the duties and responsibilities of Christians, and fearlessly attacked the immorality of the city. Ire declaimed with special severity against the theatre and the chariot-races; and yet many of his hearers would run from his sermons to the circus to witness those exciting spectacles with the same eagerness as Jews and Gentiles. He exemplified his preaching by a blameless life, and soon acquired great reputation and won the love of the whole congregation. Whenever he preached the church was crowded. He had to warn his hearers against pickpockets, who found an inviting harvest in these denseaudiences.
A serious disturbance which took place during his career at Antioch, called forth a remarkable effort of his oratorical powers. The populace of the city, provoked by excessive taxes, rose in revolt against the Emperor Theodosius the Great, broke down his statues and those of his deceased excellent wife Flacilla (d. 385) and his son Arcadius, dragged the fragments through the streets, and committed other acts of violence. The Emperor threatened to destroy the whole city. This caused general consternation and agony, but the city was saved by the intercession of Bishop Flavian, who in his old age proceeded to Constantinople and secured free pardon from the Emperor. Although a man of violent temper, Theodosius had profound reverence for bishops, and on another occasion he submitted to the rebuke of St. Ambrose for the wholesale massacre of the Thessalonians (390).
In this period of public anxiety, which lasted several months, Chrysostom delivered series of extempore orations, in which he comforted the people and exhorted them to correct their vices. These are his twenty-one Homilies on the Statues, so-called from the overthrow of the imperial statues which gave rise to them. They were preached during Lent 387. In the same year St. Augustin submitted to baptism at the hands of St. Ambrose in Milan. One of the results of those sermons was the conversion of a large number of heathens. Thus the calamity was turned into a blessing to the church.
During the sixteen or seventeen years of his labors in Antioch Chrysostom wrote the greater part of his Homilies and Commentaries; a consolatory Epistle to the despondent Stagirius; the excellent book on the martyr Babylas, which illustrates by a striking example the divine power of Christianity; a treatise on Virginity, which he puts above marriage; and an admonition to a young widow on the glory of widowhood, and the duty of continuing in it. He disapproved of second marriage, not as sinful or illegal, but as inconsistent with an ideal conception of marriage and a high order of piety.,