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John Chrysostom, Against the Jews.  Homily 7


HOMILY VII

(2) Their trumpets were a greater outrage than those heard in the theaters; their fasts were more disgraceful than any drunken revel. So, too, the tents which at this moment are pitched among them are no better than the inns where harlots and flute girls ply their trades. Let no one condemn me for the boldness of my words; it is the height of boldness and outrage not to suspect the Jews of these excesses. Since they stubbornly fight against GOD and resist the HOLY SPIRIT, how can we avoid the necessity of passing such sentence upon them?

(3) This festival used to be a holy one when it was observed according to the Law and at God's command. But this is no longer true. All its dignity has been destroyed because it is observed against God's will. Those who, above all others, treat the Law and the ancient festivals with the least respect are the very ones who are ready today to observe the Law and festivals more than anyone else. But we are the one who honor the Law above all others, even if we let it rest like a man who has grown old and infirm, even if we do not drag it, gray with age, to the arena, even if we do not force it to enter the contests which are not suited to its years. In my past discourses I gave adequate proof that today is not the day of the Law nor of the old commonwealth and the old way of life.

(4) But come now, let me investigate what remains to be discussed. I did enough to complete my task when I proved from all the prophets that any such observance of ritual outside Jerusalem is transgression of the Law and sacrilege. But they never stop whispering in everybody's ear and bragging that they will get their city back again. Even if this were true, they could not escape the charge of transgressing the Law. But I gave you abundant evidence to prove that the city will not be restored nor will they get back their old commonwealth and way of life.

(5) Once that has been proved, there is no room for disagreement on any of the other points. For example, neither the form of sacrifice, nor of the holocaust, nor the binding force of the Law, nor any other aspect of their old commonwealth and way of life can stand. To begin with, the Law commanded that three times each year every male go up to the temple. But they could not do this once the temple was destroyed. Then, too, the Law commanded that sacrifices be offered by the man afflicted with gonorrhea, the leper, the woman in her menstrual period, the woman who had given birth to a child. But this is impossible since the place no longer exists nor is there an altar to be seen. The Law commanded them to sing sacred hymns but, as I showed before, the place they were living in prevented them; the prophets condemned them and said (917) they were reading the Law and making their confession of praise to God in a foreign land. Since they could not even read the Law outside Jerusalem, how could they observe it outside Jerusalem?

(6) This is why God threatened them and said: 'I shall not visit your daughters when they commit fornication nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery.' What does this mean? First, I shall read to you the old Law and then I shall try to make his meaning clearer. What, then, does the Law say? 'If a woman transgresses against her husband, disdaining and disregarding him, and if someone sleeps with her the sleep of intercourse, and if she escapes the eye of her husband and there is no witness against her, nor is she caught in the act, nor if a spirit of jealousy comes over her husband when she has not been defiled...'

(7) This is what the Law means. If a woman commits adultery and her husband suspects it, or if he suspects her when she has not committed adultery, but there is no witness nor conception to prove the suspicion, 'he will bring her to the priest and take along barley meal as an offering for her.' Why, I ask, must it be barley meal rather than fine flour or the meal of wheat? Since what happened was a source of pain, accusation, and wicked suspicion, the form of the sacrifice imitated a household disaster. This is why the Lord said: 'You will not pour oil on it nor put frankincense over it.' ''Then'' (for I must cut the account short) ''The priest shall lead her forward and will take pure water in an earthen vessel; he will pick up some of the dust which is on the floor and throw it into the water; he will make the woman stand, will make her swear an oath, and he will say to her: 'If you did not transgress so as to become defiled for your husband, be immune from the water of reproof. But if you did transgress and you are defiled, if someone other than your husband did have intercourse with you, may the Lord make of you an execration and a curse among your people.'

(8) What is the meaning of 'an execration and a curse'? As the saying goes; May what happened to that poor woman not happen to me! 'By the Lord causing your belly to swell and the water that brings a curse will enter your belly to make it swell.' And the woman will say: 'Amen, Amen'. And it will come to pass, if the woman is defiled, that the water of the curse will enter her belly to make it swell, and the woman will be an execration. If she is not defiled, she will be unharmed and will conceive offspring.' Once the Jews had gone off into bondage, none of these things could be done because there was no temple, no altar, no Meeting Tent, no sacrifice to be offered. Because this was the case, when God threatened them, he said: 'I shall not visit your daughters when they commit fornication nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery.'

II

(1) Do you see that the Law takes its force from the place? And since the city is gone, there can no longer be a priesthood. There can be no emperor if there are no armies, no crown, no purple robe, none of the other things which weld together an empire. So, too, there can be no priesthood if sacrifice has been destroyed, if offerings are forbidden, if the sanctuary has been trampled into the dust, if everything which constituted it has disappeared. For the priesthood depend on all these things. 

(2) As I said before, it was enough for my purpose to prove that neither the sacrifices, nor the holocausts, nor the other purifications, nor any other part of the (918) Jewish commonwealth and way of life would return. It was enough, finally, to prove that the temple will never rise again. Now that it is no more, everything has been taken away; if something ritualistic seems to be going on, it is against the Law and a reckless crime. In the same way, once I have proved that the temple will never be restored to its former state, I have at the same time also proved that the rest of the ritual of worship will not return to its former condition, that there will be no priest, there will be no king. If not even a commoner of Jewish blood was allowed to be a servant to foreigners, it would be all the more forbidden for their king himself to be subject to others. 

(3) But since my effort and zeal are here devoted not only to stopping up the mouths of the Jews but also to instructing your loving assembly, come now and let me take another authority and prove this same point. Let me prove that both the sacrifices of the Jews and their priesthood have completely ended that day will never again return to their former status. 

(4) Who says this? That great and wonderful prophet, David. He made it clear that the one kind of sacrifice would be abolished and another brought in to take its place when he said: 'Many are the wondrous works you have done. O Lord my God: and in your thoughts there is no one like to you. I have declared and I have spoken.' See how wise the prophet is. He said: 'Many are the wondrous works you have done,' and he stood aghast at God's power to work miracles. But he did not go on to tell us about the creation of the things we see of heaven, earth, and ocean, of water and fire; he did not tell us of those strange marvels which happened in Egypt, or of any other miracles like those. What did he say were wondrous works? 'Sacrifice and oblation you did not desire.' 

(5) What do you mean, David? Is this a strange marvel? No, he said. For this was not the only thing he saw. Inspired by heaven, he saw with prophetic eyes how God would lead the nations to him; he saw how those who were nailed to their gods, who worshipped stones, who were worse off than brute beasts suddenly looked up and recognized the Master of all creation; he saw how these men put aside their foul worship of demons and gave pure and bloodless worship to God. At the same time he saw that the Jews, too, who were even more imperfect than the pagans, would put aside their worship through sacrifices, holocausts, and other material things and be led to our way of life. And he pondered on God's ineffable loving-kindness which surpasses all understanding; he stood aghast at how greatly things had changed, how God had reshaped them, how he had made men from demons into angels, and how he had introduced a commonwealth and way of life worthy of heaven.

(6) All this was to take place after the old sacrifice had been abolished and after God had brought into its place the new sacrifice through the body of Christ. This is why David stood aghast and marveled and said: 'Many are the wondrous works you have done, O Lord my God.' To show that he made this whole prophetic prediction in behalf of Christ when he said: 'Sacrifice and oblation you did not desire,' David went on to say: 'But a body you have fitted to me.' By this he meant the Lord's body which became the common sacrifice for the whole world, the sacrifice which cleansed our soul, canceled our sin, put down death, opened heaven, gave us many great hopes, and made ready all the other things which Paul knew well and spoke of when he exclaimed: 'Oh, the depth of the riches and of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments and how unsearchable are his ways.'

(7) David, then, foresaw all this when he said: 'Many are the wondrous work you have done, O Lord my God.' He went to say, speaking in the person of Christ: 'In holocausts and sin offerings you had no pleasure, and then continued: 'Then I said, Behold I came.' When was 'then'? When the time was ripe for more perfect instructions. We had to learn the less perfect lessons through his servants, but the loftier lessons which surpass the nature of man we had to learn from the Lawgiver himself. 

(8) This is why Paul said: 'God, who at sundry times and in varied ways spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all in these days has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world.' And again, John said: 'For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.' And this is the highest panegyric for the Law, namely that it prepared human nature for the Teacher.

(9) But he did not want you to look on him as a new God or any kind of innovation. Hear what he said: 'In the head of the book it is written of me.' What he meant was this: 'Long ago the prophets foretold my coming and at the beginning of the Scriptures they opened them a little to give men a glimpse of the knowledge that I am God.'

III

(1) An so, at the beginning of creation, when God said: 'Let us make mankind in our image and likeness,' he was revealing to us in a rather obscure way the divinity of his Son, to whom he was then speaking. Later on the Psalmist showed that this new religious way of life did not contradict the old, but that it was God's will that the old sacrifice be abolished and the new sacrifice replace the old. The new was an extension of the right way of worship; it did not oppose or fight with the old. He showed this when he said: 'In the head of the book it is written of me,' and added: 'That I should do your will, O my God; I have desired it and your law in the mist of my heart.' And when he explained what God's will was, he made no mention of sacrifice or holocausts or offerings or toil and sweat, but said: 'I have declared your justice in a great assembly.'

(2) What does he mean when he says: 'I have declared your justice?' He did not simply say: 'I have given,' 'I have declared.' What does this mean? That he has justified our race not by right actions, nor by toils, not by barter and exchange, but by grace alone. Paul, too, made this clear when he said: 'But now the justice of God has been made manifest independently of the Law.' But the justice of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ and not through any labor and suffering. And Paul took up again the testimony of this Psalm when he spoke as follows: 'For the Law, having but a shadow of the good things to came, and not the exact image of the objects, is never able by the sacrifices which they offer continually, year after year the same, to perfect those who draw near. Therefore in coming into the world, he says: 'Sacrifice and oblation you wished not, but a body you have fitted to me.' By this he meant the entrance into the world of the Only-begotten, the dispensation through the flesh. For this is the way he came to us. He did not change place-how could he since he is every-where and fills all things-but he was made visible to us through the flesh.

(3) Here we are fighting not only against the Jews but also against the pagans and many heretics. So let me uncover for you the deeper meaning here; let me search out the reason why Paul mentioned this text when he had countless testimonies to show that the Law and the old commonwealth and way of life are no longer productive. He did not cite this simply by chance but he did it with good reason and ineffable wisdom. Everybody would agree that he had on this subject other testimonies, both of greater length and more vehement, if he had wished to bring them forward.

(4) For example, Isaiah said: 'I have no pleasure in you. I have had enough of whole-burnt rams. I desire not fat of fatlings and blood of bulls and goats, not even if you come into my sight. Who required these things at your hands? If you offer me wheaten flour, it is in vain. Incense is an abomination to me.' And again, in another place: 'I did not call you now, Jacob, nor, Israel, did I make you weary. You did not honor me with sacrifices nor did you worship me with your gifts; I did not weary you with frankincense, nor did you get incense for me with silver.' And Jeremiah said: 'Why do you bring me incense from Sheba and cinnamon from a far country? Your holocausts have not pleased me.' And again: 'Heap up your holocausts upon your sacrifices and eat up the flesh.' And another prophet said: 'Take away from me the sound of your songs: I will not hear the canticle of your harps.' And again, there was another text, where the Jews were saying: 'Will the Lord receive it in place of holocausts if I give my first-born for my wickedness, the fruit of my body for the sin of my souls?' And the prophet reproved them and said: 'It has been announced to you what is good and what the Lord God requires of you, that you love mercy, do judgment and justice, and be ready to walk behind your God.' David also spoke in the same vein when he said: 'I will not take calves from your house nor goats from your flocks.'

(5) When Paul had so many testimonies in which God surely rejects those sacrifices, the times of the new moon, the Sabbaths, the festivals, why did he omit all these and mention just that one text? Many of the infidels and many of the Jews themselves who are now doing battle with me maintain that their commonwealth and way of life was not abolished because it was imperfect or its place taken by a greater way of life-I mean ours-but because of the sinfulness of those who offered the sacrifices in those days. And Isaiah certainly did say: 'If you stretch out your hands, I will turn away my eyes from you: and if you multiply your prayers, I will not hear.' Then, to give the reason for this, he went on to say: 'For your hands are full of blood.' These words are not an accusation made against the sacrifices; they are an indictment of the sinfulness of those who offered them. God rejected their sacrifices because they offered them with bloodstained hands.

(6) Again, when David said: 'I will not take calves from your house nor goats from your flocks,' he went on to add: 'But to the sinner God said: 'Why do you declare my justices and take my covenant in your mouth? You hated discipline and cast my words behind you. If you saw a thief, you ran along with him and you threw in your lot with adulterers. Your mouth abounded with injustice and your tongue wrapped up deceits in your words. You sat down and spoke slander against your brother and set a stumbling-block for your mother's son.' This makes it clear that in this instance God did not simply reject sacrifices, but that he rejected them because those who offered them were adulterers and thieves and plotted against theirs brothers. So these enemies of mine maintain that, since each prophet accuses those who offer the sacrifices, his prophecy is saying that this is the reason why God rejected their sacrifices. 

IV

(1) This is what my opponents say to me. But Paul dealt them a knockout blow and said enough to shut their shameless mouths when he cited as his witness the text I have discussed. When Paul wished to prove that God had rejected the old commonwealth and way of life, because it was imperfect, and that he had rendered it inoperative, he took as testimony that text in which no accusation is made against those who offered the sacrifices. He used a text which makes it clear that the sacrifice was in itself imperfect. For the prophet David made no accusation against the Jews; he simply said: 'Sacrifice and oblation you did not desire, but a body you fitted to me: in holocausts and sin offerings you had no pleasure.'

(2) In explanation of this text Paul said: ' He annuls the first covenant in order to establish the second.' If David had said: 'Sacrifice and oblation you did not desire,' and than said no more, their argument would have some place to defend itself. But since he also said: 'But a body you fitted to me,' and showed that another sacrifice was brought in to replace it, he left no hope for the future that the old sacrifice would return. And in explaining this, Paul said: 'Through this offering we have been sanctified in the will of Christ;' and also: 'If the blood of bulls and goats and the sprinkled ashes of a heifer sanctify the unclean for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the Holy Spirit offered himself unblemished, cleanse our conscience from dead works? This gives us abundant proof, then, that those old rituals have stopped, that a new rite has been brought forward to replace them, and that the old will not hereafter be restored.

(3) What is left to discuss now? For some time I have been anxious to prove to you that their kind of priesthood has disappeared and will never return. Let me make this expressly clear from the Scriptures themselves. First I must preface this with a few remarks, so that my explanation of the scriptures say may be even more obvious.

(4) On his return from Persia, Abraham begot Isaac; Isaac then begot Jacob; Jacob begot the twelve patriarchs from whom arose the twelve tribes-or, rather, the thirteen, because, in Joseph's place, his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, became leaders of tribes. A tribe was named after each of Jacob's sons: for example, the tribe of Ruben, of Simeon, of Levi, of Judah, of Naphthali, of Gad, of Asher, of Benjamin. So also in Joseph's case, his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, gave their names to two tribes; one was called the tribe of Ephraim and the other the tribe of Manasseh. Of these thirteen tribes all but one had fields and large incomes, all but one tilled the fields and devoted themselves to all the other secular pursuits. But the tribe of Levi was honored with the priesthood; it alone was freed from secular work. They did not till the farms, nor do anything else of the sort, but devoted their attention exclusively to the priesthood. Form all the people they received tithes of wine and wheat and barley and everything else; all gave them tithes and this was their income. No one from any other tribe could ever become a priest. From this tribe-I mean the tribe of Levi-came Aaron, and by succession, his descendants received the priesthood; no one from another tribe ever becomes a priest. And so these Levites received tithes from the rest and, in this way, supported themselves.

(5) But in the time of Abraham, before the day of Jacob and Isaac, before the coming of Moses, when the Law had not yet been written, when the priesthood did not clearly to the Levites, when there was no Meeting Tent or Temple, before the division of the people into tribes, before Jerusalem existed, before anyone at all had yet taken control of the government among the Jews, there was a man named Melchizedek, a priest of the Most High God. This Melchizedek was at the same time both priest and king; he was to be a type of Christ, and Scripture makes clear mention of this. For Abraham attacked the Persians, rescued his nephew Lot from their hands, seized all the spoils, and was returning from his mighty victory over his foes. After describing those events the Scripture had this to say about Melchizedek. 'Melchizedek, the king of Salem, brought out bread and wine, for he was a priest of the Most High God. He blessed Abraham and said, 'Blessed by the Most High God, creator of heaven and earth: blessed be the Most High God who has delivered your enemies into your hand.' Then Abraham gave him a tenth of everything.'

(6) If, then, any prophet clearly says that after Aaron, after that priesthood, after those sacrifices and oblations, there will rise up another priest, not from Levi's tribe but from another tribe from which no one ever became a priest, a priest not according to the order of Aaron but according to the order of Melchizedek, it is just as clear that the old priesthood has ceased to exist and another, a new priesthood has been brought in to take its place. If the old priesthood were going to remain effective, it would have to be called a priesthood according to the order of Aaron and not according to the order of Melchizedek. Did any prophet speak of this new priesthood? Yes, that same prophet who before spoke about the sacrifices and who was speaking of Christ when he said: 'The Lord said to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand.'

V

(1) To prevent anyone from suspecting that this was said about some ordinary man, it was not Isaiah nor Jeremiah, nor any prophet who was a common man that said it, but King David himself. But a king cannot call any man his Lord; it is God alone whom he can call Lord. If David were a common man, perhaps one of those shameless people would have said that he was talking about a mere human being. But now, since David was a king, he would not have called a man his Lord. If David were talking about some ordinary person, how could he have said that this person sat at the right hand of that ineffable and mighty Majesty? That would have been impossible. But of this person said: 'The Lord said to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool.'

(2) Then, to keep you from thinking that this person was weak and powerless, David went on to say: 'With you is the principality in the day of your strength.' And he made it still clearer when he said: 'From the whom before the daystar I begot you.' But no mere man was begotter before the daystar. 'You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.' He did not say: 'According to the order of Aaron.' So ask the Jews why David brought in another priest, according to the order of Melchizedek, if the old priesthood was not going to be abolish.

(3) At any rate, see how Paul made this clearer when he came to this text. After Paul said of Christ: 'As he (David) says also in another place. 'You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek,' the Apostle went on to say: 'On this point we have much to say, and it is difficult to explain it.' After he reproved his disciples-but I must cut the account short-he went on to tell them who Melchizedek was and to tell the story. 'He met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him; to whom Abraham divided the tithes of all.' Then, to give some insight into Melchizedek, the type, he said: 'Now consider how great this man is, to whom even Abraham the patriarch gave tithes of all.' He did not say this for no purpose but because he wanted to show that our priesthood is much greater than the Jewish priesthood. And the excellence of the realities is shown beforehand in the very types which foreshadow them.

(4) Abraham was the father of Isaac, the grandfather of Jacob, and the ancestor of Levi, for Levi was Jacob's son. The priesthood among the Jews began with Levi. So this man Abraham was the ancestor of the Levites and the Jewish priests. But in the time if Melchizedek, who is the type of our priesthood, Abraham had the rank of a layman. Two things make this clear. First, he gave tithes to Melchizedek, and it is the laymen who give tithes to the priests. Second, he was blessed by Melchizedek, and laymen are blessed by priests.

(5) We again see the excellence of our priesthood when we find Abraham, the patriarch of the Jews, the ancestor of the Levites, receiving a blessing from Melchizedek and giving tithes to him. Surely the Old Testament says that Melchizedek blessed Abraham and exacted a tenth part from him. And Paul brought these very points to the fore and said: 'Consider how great this man is.' Who is 'this man'? Paul told us. Melchizedek, 'to whom even Abraham their patriarch gave tithes from the best portion of the spoils.' 'And indeed they who are of the priestly sons of Levi have a commandment to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brethren, though these also have come from the loins of Abraham.'

(6) What Paul means in this. He said that the Levites, who were priests among the Jews, received a commandment, according to the Law, to take tithes from the other Jews. Although they all were descended from Abraham, both the Levites and the rest of the people, nonetheless the Levites took tithes from their brothers. But Melchizedek, who was not of their descent, because he was not a descendant of Abraham, and who was not of the tribe of Levi but from another nation, exacted a tenth part from Abraham, that is, he took tithes from him.

(7) Not only this, but he did something further. What is that? He again blessed Abraham, even though it was Abraham who had received the promises. What does this show? That Abraham was much inferior to Melchizedek. How can this be? 'Beyond all contradiction, that which is less is blessed by the superior, ' so that, unless Abraham, the ancestor of the Levites, were inferior to Melchizedek, Melchizedek would not have blessed him, nor would Abraham have given tithes to Melchizedek. But Paul wished to show that, because of the excellence of Melchizedek, that inferiority might have continued, so he went on to say: 'Even Levi, the receiver of tithes, was also, so to speak, made subject to tithes, though Abraham.'

(8) What does he mean by 'was made subject to tithes'? Although Levi was not yet born, through his father, he, too, gave tithes to Melchizedek. As Paul said: 'He was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek meet him.' This is why Paul was careful to say: 'So to speak.' He went on to tell why he said this. 'If the perfection was by the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the Law), what further need was there that another priest should rise, according to the order of Melchizedek, and said not to be according of Aaron?'

(9) What is it that Paul Meant? He meant this. If the Jewish religion was perfect, if the Law was not a foreshadowing of future blessing but had been efficacious in every respect, if it was not going to yield to another Law, if the old priesthood was not going to disappear and make way for another priesthood, why did the prophet say: 'You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek?' He should have said: 'according to the order of Aaron.' This is why Paul said: 'If then perfection was by the Levitical priesthood, what further need was there that another priest should rise, according the order of Melchizedek, and said not to be according to the order of Aaron.'

(10) This surely made it clear that the old priesthood was ended and that another much better and more sublime priesthood has been brought in to replace it. When we admit this, we would also agree that another way of life suited to the new priesthood will be brought in and another Law given, and clearly this is ours. Paul prepared us for this when he said: 'When the priesthood is changed, it is necessary that a change of law be made also, for the author of these is one.'

(11) Many of the prescriptions of the Law were devoted to the ministries of the priesthood, and the old priesthood has been abolished. Since another priesthood was brought in to replace the old, it is clear also that a greater Law had to be brought in to replace the old. To make clear who it was of whom these words were spoken, Paul said: 'For he of whom these things are said is from another tribe, from which no one has ever done service at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord has sprung out of Judah, and Moses spoke nothing at all about priests when referring to this tribe.'

(12) Christ clearly is sprung from that tribe, namely the tribe of Judah; Christ surely is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek; Melchizedek is surely much more venerable than Abraham. Then we must also admit from every angle that one priesthood is being brought in to replace another and that it is much more sublime than the old priesthood. If the type was such, if it was more magnificent than the Jewish priesthood, the reality which it foreshadowed is itself still much more magnificent. This is the point which Paul was making when he said: 'And it is yet far more evident if there arise another priest, according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become so not according to the Law of carnal commandment, but according to a life that cannot end.'

(13) What did Paul mean when he said: 'Not according to the Law of carnal commandment, but according to a life that cannot end'? He meant that none of Christ's commandments are carnal commandments. He did not order the sacrifice of sheep and calves; he ordered us to worship God through the virtue of our lives; as our reward for this, he set the prize of a life that cannot end. And again, after he had died as the price of our sins, he came and raised us up; he saved us by freeing us from a double death: the death from sin and the death of the flesh. Since he came bringing us such gifts, Paul said: 'Not according to the Law of carnal commandment, but according to a life that cannot end.'

VI

(1) I have, therefore, now proved what was left to be proved. I have proved that, because the priesthood was changed, it was reasonable and necessary that there also be a change of Law. And again I was able to prove this very point by bringing forward as my witnesses the prophets. They testified that the Law will be changed, that the old commonwealth and way of life will be transformed for the better, and that never again will a king arise for the Jews.

(2) But I must say only as much as my audience can listen to and heed; I must not crowd everything together and say it all at once. Therefore, I will store up the rest for another occasion and, for the present, I will stop my instruction at this point. But let me first exhort you loving assembly to keep in mind what I have said and to connect it up with what I said before. And what I asked you before, I shall now ask you again. Rescue your brothers and show great concern for our members who have grown negligent. I do not undertake this great task just to hear myself talk or to enjoy the tumult of your applause; I do it to bring those who have been cut off back to the path of truth.

(3) Let no one say to me: 'I have nothing in common with him, I would be lucky to manage well my own affairs.' No one can manage his own affairs if he does not love his neighbor and work for his salvation. This is what Paul meant when he said: 'Let no one seek his own interest, but those of his neighbor.' He knew that your own interests lie in what benefits your neighbor. You are in good health, but your brother is sick. So then, if you are in your right mind, you will be distressed over him who is in distress and you will, in this matter, follow the example of that blessed soul who said: 'Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I am not inflamed?'

(4) If we find joy in tossing down a couple of obols and spending a little money on the poor, what great pleasure will we reap if we can save men's souls? What recompense will we enjoy in the life to come? Certainly, in this world, as often as we run into these men, we will derive great pleasure from meeting them, because we recall the good turn we did for them. When we see them in the next world before the dread tribunal of judgment, we will experience a great confidence. When the unjust, the greedy, the plunderers, and those who have inflicted countless evils on their neighbors go before this tribunal and see their victims-and they surely will see them, as Christ says, and as is clear from the story of the rich man and Lazarus - they will not be able to open their mouths nor to say a word in their own defense. They will be overwhelmed with the great shame of their condemnation and will be swept off from the sight of their victims into the rivers of flame.

(5) But when those who taught and instructed their neighbors in this life stand before the tribunal, they will see those whom they saved pleading in their behalf. And they will be filled with great confidence and trust. Paul made this clear when he said: 'We are your boast, as you will also be ours.' Tell me, when will this be? 'In the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.'

(6) And, again, Christ gave good counsel when he said: 'Make friend for yourselves with the mammon of wickedness, so that when you fail they may receive you into the everlasting dwellings.' You see that much confidence will come to us from those to whom we have done good in this life. But if there are so many prizes, such great recompense, such ample repayment for the money we spent on others, how will we fail to gain many great blessing when we help a soul? Tabitha clothed widows and aided the poor and came back to life from the dead. If the tears of those to whom she did good brought her departed soul back to her body-and this before the day of resurrection-will not the tears of those whom you rescued and saved do something to help you? The widows who stood around Tabitha's corps pointed out that she who had died was alive. In the same way, those whom you saved in this life will stand around you on the day of judgment. They will snatch you from the fire of Gehenna and to it that you enjoy His loving-kindness in abundance.

(7) Knowing, then, what we now know, let us not be roused to fervor only for the present hour; fan the fire you now have, go forth, and spread salvation over the city; even if you do not know them, get busy and find those who have this sickness. I shall be all the more eager to speak to you when I have found out from your very deeds that I did not scatter my seed on rocky ground. And you yourselves will be more eager to practice virtue. In money matters, the man who has made a profit of two gold pieces gets a greater enthusiasm to collect and amass a profit of ten or twenty pieces. This happens, too, in the matter of virtue. The man who has succeeded in doing a good deed gets some encouragement and motivation from doing this right action. The result is that he will undertake other good deeds.

(8) Let us, then, rescue our brothers and store up beforehand pardon for our sins. Much more, let us first store up abundant confidence and, before all else, let us see to it that God's name is glorified. To do this, let us take our wives, children, and households and go out after this game and quarry. Let us from the snares of the devil those whom he has made captive to his will. And let us not stop until we have done everything in our power to rescue them, whether they heed or reject our words. But it would be impossible, if they are Christians, for them not to heed us.

(9) Still, I do not want you to have even the excuse that they would not heed you. Let me say this. If you pour out many words and do everything in your power and still see that he refuses to heed you, then bring him to the priests. By the help of God's grace the priests will surely overcome their quarry. But it will all be your doing, because is was you who took him by the hand and led him to us. Let husbands talk to their wives and wives to their husbands, fathers to their children and friends to friends.

(10) Let the Jews learn how we feel. Let it also become known to those who side with the Jews, even though they pretend to be ranked with us. We have an eager and vigilant concern for our brothers who have deserted over the Jewish side. When the Jews find this out, it will be they, rather than we, who thrust out those of our number who frequent their synagogue. I should say, there will be no one hereafter who will dare to flee to them, and the body of the Church will be unsullied and pure.


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This material was uploaded by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2011, and derives from a translation of unknown origin formerly hosted at the Medieval Sourcebook. This file and all material on this page is believed to be in the public domain.  For more details see the preface to the online edition.


Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts