Follow me on TwitterMy Tweets
- August 2016 (42)
- July 2016 (73)
- June 2016 (46)
- May 2016 (33)
- April 2016 (50)
- March 2016 (106)
- February 2016 (36)
- January 2016 (63)
- December 2015 (59)
- November 2015 (42)
- October 2015 (31)
- September 2015 (45)
- August 2015 (39)
- July 2015 (38)
- June 2015 (32)
- May 2015 (1)
- March 2015 (37)
- February 2015 (35)
- January 2015 (55)
- December 2014 (34)
- November 2014 (36)
- October 2014 (49)
- September 2014 (5)
- June 2014 (16)
- April 2014 (28)
- March 2014 (5)
- February 2014 (10)
- January 2014 (2)
- December 2013 (39)
- November 2013 (67)
- October 2013 (71)
- September 2013 (86)
- August 2013 (109)
- July 2013 (104)
- June 2013 (140)
- May 2013 (76)
Here is a series of five relatively short videos (13-20 minutes) from biblical scholar Dr. Brant Pitre. They are intended as introductions to his new 12 hour CD series THE CASE FOR JESUS. The series itself is based upon his book of the same title.
TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C
READINGS AND OFFICE:
Today’s Mass Readings (NABRE). Translation used in the USA.
Today’s Mass Readings (NJB). Scroll down slightly. The NJB is used in most other English speaking countries.
COMMENTARIES ON THE FIRST READING: Amos 6:1a, 4-7.
My Notes on Amos 6:1a, 4-7. On entire chapter.
COMMENTARIES ON THE RESPONSORIAL: Psalm146:7, 8-9, 9-10.
COMMENTARIES ON THE SECOND READING: 1 Timothy 6:11-16.
Pending: Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Timothy 6:11-16.
COMMENTARIES ON THE GOSPEL READING: Luke 16:19-31.
Pending: GENERAL RESOURCES:
CONCERNING THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS—-CONCERNING CONSCIENCE AND CONFESSION—-JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN.
1. To-day it is requisite that we should explain the rest of the parable concerning Lazarus. Perhaps you may suppose that we have explained the whole of it; but I would not avail myself of any want of knowledge on your part, in order to deceive; nor would I give up the task, before I can go away with the assurance that I have explored all, as far as light is given me: as the husbandman, when he gathers the fruit of the vine, ceases not until he has cut off every little bunch. Since, therefore, I now perceive, as if beneath the leaves, some thoughts still hidden in these words, permit me to gather up also these, using the mind as a sickle. A vine being entirely stripped of fruit stands for the present barren, having leaves only. With respect to the spiritual vine of the sacred Scriptures it is not so; but when we have gathered all the fruit that is to be seen, more still remains. Thus many also before us have spoken on this subject; many perhaps after us will speak on it; but no one will be able to exhaust the whole store of wealth. For such is the nature of this abundance, that the more deeply you dig down, the more plentifully divine instruction wells forth: it is a fountain never failing. |91
In the last assembly we ought to have discharged this debt owing to you, but we did not think it right to pass by the memory of the good deeds of Saint Babylas,1 and the two holy martyrs who followed him. Therefore, we put off the remainder of this subject, reserving the completion of the parable till to-day. Since, then, we have rendered to the fathers their praise, not according to their worth, but according to our ability; permit us now to deliver the remainder of this subject. And be not weary until we have arrived at the end, talcing up our discourse from the point at which we lately left off. Where then did we leave the narrative? It was at the point where we came to the great chasm between the just and the unjust. For, when the rich man said, “Send Lazarus,” Abraham answered him, “A great gulf is fixed between us and you: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence,” (Luke xvi. 26.) We also showed by many arguments that it is necessary to place our hope of safety, according to the grace of God, in our own right condition, and not trust in fathers or grandfathers, or great-grandfathers, or in relations, and friends, and associates, and neighbours; for “no man can by any means redeem his brother,” (Ps. xlviii. 8.) But how much soever they who depart |92 this life in company with sinners, beseech and supplicate on their behalf, all that they say will be vain and useless. For again, the five virgins begged from their companions a supply of oil, and did not obtain it; he also who hid his talent in the earth, though he made many excuses, still was condemned. They, too, who fed not the Lord when He was hungry, nor gave Him drink when thirsting —-they, hoping to find refuge in the plea of ignorance, did not gain any pardon or excuse. Others there are who are unable to say a word, as he who appeared at the feast clad in vile garments, being charged with the fault, was speechless. And not this man only, but also another who was unforgiving to his neighbour, of whom he demanded the hundred pence, who afterwards, when charged by his lord with cruelty and inhumanity, had nothing to reply. From these instances it is plain that nothing can help us there, if we have not the good deeds; but whether we use prayers and entreaties, or whether we be silent, the sentence of punishment and penalty will equally be uttered against us. Hear then how this man, having made request to Abraham for two things, failed to gain either of them. For, first he made supplication for himself, when he said, “Send Lazarus;” next, not for himself, but for his brethren, but he obtained neither request. If the first request was impossible, much more was the second—-that on behalf of his brethren. However, if it seem good, let us carefully mark the very words themselves. For if when the magistrate causes an offender to be brought into the public court, summons officers of justice, and proceeds with the trial, all hasten with eagerness to hear what questions the judge may put, and what replies the |93 accused may make,—-much more ought we to give attention in this case to what this criminal,—-I mean, the rich man, requests, and what the righteous judge, by the mouth of Abraham, replies. For it was not the patriarch that was judging the case, even though he uttered the words; but, as in our earthly courts, when robbers or murderers are under accusation, the law requires that they should stand at a distance and out of sight of the judge; it enjoins that they should not hear the sound of the judge’s voice, in this manner also marking their dishonour; but a messenger conveys the questions of the judge and the replies of the accused.2 The same thing took place then. The condemned man heard not the voice of God himself speaking to him; but Abraham acted as a deputy, conveying the words of the judge to the criminal. For he did not speak that which he said on his own authority, but he stated the divine laws to the rich man, and uttered the decisions given him from on high. And for this reason the rich man had nothing to reply.
2. Let us, therefore, carefully attend to that which is said. For I am purposely proceeding slowly through this parable: though this be the fourth day, I do not leave the subject; for I see great benefit arising from this examination, both to the rich and to the poor, and to those who are troubled because of the prosperity of the wicked and the poverty and tribulation of the just. For, in general, nothing is so great a stumbling-block and causes so much religious doubt to many people, as the fact that the rich who live in sin may enjoy great prosperity, while the just, |94 who live virtuously, are reduced to extreme poverty, and endure numberless other things even worse than poverty.
But this parable is sufficient to afford a remedy to make the wealthy more wise, to console the poor; it teaches the former not to be high-minded; it comforts the poor with respect to their present condition; it forbids the former to boast if, while living wickedly, they pay no penalty in this life, since a severe examination awaits them in the next world; it persuades the latter not to be troubled on account of the prosperity of others, and not to imagine that our affairs are not under the control of Providence, even if the just suffer ills here, while the wicked and depraved enjoy continual prosperity. For both will hereafter receive their desert; the former the crown which is the reward of patience and endurance, the latter the punishments and penalties which belong to sin. Let both rich and poor inscribe this parable,—-the rich on the walls of their houses, the poor on the walls of their mind; and should it ever by the growth of forgetfulness be obscured, renew it completely by means of fresh recollection. Or rather, let the rich also, instead of in their houses, write it in their mind, and constantly bear it about; and let it be their instructor and the groundwork of all their philosophy. For if we have this lastingly written in our mind, neither the delights of the present life will be able to elate us, nor its sorrows to humiliate or overthrow us; but we shall be affected by both these kinds of experience, only as we are by pictures painted on the wall. For when looking at a wall we see portrayed a rich man or a poor, we neither envy the one |95 nor despise the other; because that which we look at is an image only and not reality. Thus, also, if we learn the real nature of riches and poverty, of honour and dishonour; and of all other things both gloomy and bright, we shall be freed from the trouble which arises from each of these classes of things. For they all are more deceptive than a shadow; and neither will a brilliant and honourable position puff- up a lofty and noble soul, nor a lowly and despised position be able to trouble him.
However, it is time now for us to consider the words of the rich man: “I ask thee, father”—-that is, I beseech, I beg, I supplicate thee—-“that thou wouldest send Lazarus to my father’s house; for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment,” (Luke xvi. 27, 28.) Since he failed to gain that which he sought for himself, he made supplication for others. Mark how benevolent and mild he becomes when under punishment. He who despised Lazarus when present, now has regard for others who are absent: he who passed by one who was placed before his eyes, is mindful of those whom he does not see, and he entreats with great earnestness and zeal that warning should be given to them, that they might escape the evils about to overtake them. And he begs that Lazarus should be sent to his father’s house,—-to the place which had been to Lazarus as an arena, the place where his virtue had been tested. Let them see him crowned, he says, who have seen him contending; let the witnesses of his poverty and hunger, of his innumerable woes, be also witnesses of his honour, his transfiguration, his complete glory; that, |96 being taught by both sights, they may learn that our interests are not bounded by this present life; that they may be prepared beforehand, so as to be able to escape this punishment and ruin. What does Abraham reply? “They have Moses and the prophets,” he saith; “let them hear,them.” Thou hast not, he implies, so much care for thy brethren as God has, who made them: He has given them many teachers, advisers, and counsellors. What, then, does the rich man say? “Nay, father Abraham; but if one went unto them from the dead, they would be persuaded.”
The same thing is often said now. Where are now those who say, “Who has come from thence? Who ever rose from the dead? Who can tell us what is in Hades?” How many things of this kind the rich man used to say within himself when he was living luxuriously! He did not simply request that some one should rise from the dead; but since when he heard the Scriptures he had been accustomed to despise them, to deride, to regard the things said as myths; from that which he himself had felt, he supposed that the same would be felt by his brothers. “They,” he would say, “are sceptical in the same way; but if one should arise from the dead, him they will not disbelieve nor deride, but will rather give heed to his words.”
What, then, does Abraham reply? “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they hear though one rose from the dead,” (Luke xvi. 31.) And that this is true—-that he who listens not to the Scriptures, will not listen even to those who rise from the dead—-of this the Jews afford an instance, who, since they did not |97 listen to Moses and their own prophets, did not believe even when they saw the dead arise; but at the very time of the event, tried to kill the risen Lazarus; and on another occasion, at the crucifixion, vehemently opposed the apostles even while many dead were rising.
3. But that you may be assured for another reason that the teaching of the apostles is more convincing than that of the restored to life, consider this—-that a dead man is altogether a servant, but the things which the Scriptures declare are uttered by the Lord himself; so that though one should rise from the dead, though an angel should descend from heaven, the Scriptures would still be the surest testimony. For the Ruler of angels and the Lord of the dead and of the living has Himself given the written law. Again, that they who wish for dead men to come back, wish for a superfluous thing, is proved, in addition to that which has been said, by comparing the case of our own courts. Gehenna does not seem to exist to those who believe not. To the faithful it is plain and manifest, but still to the unbelieving it does not seem to exist. There is a court of judgment in which we hear each day that such a one is punished, another is mulcted of property, another is condemned to the mines, another to be burnt, another to be put to death in some other way. Notwithstanding that they hear all this, the evil, the wicked and abandoned are not made wise; often, indeed, many such having been captured, and escaping punishment, break out of prison, and running away, again return to the same courses, and commit even greater crimes than before.
Let us not, therefore, wish to hear those things from |98 the dead which the Scriptures each day teach us, and much more clearly. For if God knew this; namely, that if certain should rise from the dead, they would benefit the living, He would not have overlooked it; He who has formed all things for our good would not have neglected this benefit. Again, if the dead arose continually to declare to us all that takes place there, even this phenomenon would in time also be disregarded; for the tempter could, with the greatest ease, adapt his wicked teaching to such a state of affairs. He would be able often to feign appearances, or by preparing his ministers to feign death and burial, and exhibiting them as having: risen from the dead, by these means he would introduce into the minds of those whom he misleads everything that he wished them to believe. For even now, when nothing of that kind takes place, the forms of the departed often have appeared in dreams, and have deceived and ruined many. Much more if such a state of things, namely, that many returned from the dead, existed, that subtle spirit would involve many in his wiles, and introduce great deception into our life. Therefore God has closed the portals, and does not permit any of those who have departed to return to tell us the things that take place there; so that the tempter cannot take advantage of such a state of things, and introduce all his deceit. For, also, when there were prophets Satan raised up false prophets, and when apostles, he raised up false apostles; even when Christ appeared, he raised up false Christs; and whenever sound doctrine has been delivered, he has introduced corrupt doctrine, sowing tares among the wheat. |99 So also, if this state of things had existed, he would have contrived to cause deception by his own instruments—-not really raising the dead, but by sorceries and guile misleading the senses of beholders, or even, as I said before, preparing those who should simulate death, thus turning upside down and confusing all things. But God, foreseeing all these things, has prevented such an attempt, and out of regard for us, has not permitted any one at any time to come from thence to relate to living men the things that take place there. He has taught us to regard the Holy Scriptures as more worthy of trust than everything else. For He has made certain things more clear to us than they would have been made by the resurrection of the dead; He has instructed the whole world; He has driven away error, and brought in the truth; He has, by the instrumentality of fishermen and men of no reputation, procured all these benefits, and afforded to us on all sides sufficient proofs of His own providence. Therefore let us not imagine that our affairs are bounded by the present life; but let us be assured that there will be a scrutiny, and a recompense or a retribution for all that has happened here. This fact is so clear and plain to all, that both Jews and Greeks, even heretics, agree concerning it; yea, all men of every class. For if also all men do not act as wisely as they ought, with regard to the resurrection, still all agree with respect to the judgment, and future punishment and trial. All agree that there is a recompense hereafter for all the things that have happened here. For if this were not the case, why did God stretch out such a heaven and spread the earth beneath, and make the expanse of the sea, and diffuse |100 the air? Why did He display such foresight, if He did not intend to be concerned in our affairs even to the end?
4. Do you not see many who, after living a virtuous life, having suffered innumerable ills, have departed hence without receiving any good? Others, again, who have displayed every kind of evil disposition, who have plundered the possessions of others, have robbed and oppressed widows and orphans, these have departed this life after enjoying wealth and luxury and endless other good things, and have suffered no misfortune whatever. When, therefore, do the former receive the reward of their virtue,—-when do the latter pay the penalty of their wickedness, if our affairs are limited by the present life? For that, if there be a God—-as there assuredly is—-He is a just God, every one will allow; and that, if He is just, He will reward these two classes according to their deserts—-this also will be granted. But if He intends to render to each class their desert, whereas in this life neither class received it —-neither the one, the punishment of their sin, nor the other, the reward of their virtue—-it is manifest that an opportunity is reserved when each will receive their appropriate recompense.
And for what purpose has God put within our mind a judge so ever-watchful and vigilant,—-I mean conscience? It is impossible that any judge among men should be so indefatigable as our conscience is. For judges in worldly affairs are sometimes corrupted by money, or weakened by flattery, or dissemble because of fear; and many other things there are that destroy the rectitude of their decision; but the judgment-seat of conscience never yields to any of these influences; but whether you offer money, or |101 flatter, or threaten, or do any other such thing, it utters still an impartial sentence against the schemes of sinners; and whosoever commits iniquity, himself condemns himself, even though no one else should accuse him. And not once, nor twice, but even frequently, and through one’s whole life, it continues to do the same; though much time may have intervened, it never forgets what has happened. At the moment when sin is committed, and before its commission, and after its commission, conscience constitutes itself our accuser; but chiefly after the commission. For at the time of committing the sin, being intoxicated by the pleasure, we are not so sensitive; but when the affair is passed, and has reached its conclusion, then, especially when all the pleasure is exhausted, the sharp sting of repentance is felt. And contrary to that which happens to women in travail, who before the birth have great and unbearable suffering, who feel the pangs of labour causing intense pain, but afterwards have relief, since the pain ceases with the birth of the infant; in the case we are considering, it is not so. For as long as we conceive and have in our mind corrupt designs, we are glad and rejoice; but when we have brought forth this evil offspring, sin, then we see the baseness of that which is produced and are pained; then are we in greater misery than women in travail. Wherefore do not, I beseech you, entertain any corrupt desire, especially the beginning of such a desire. But if we have admitted any such desire, let us quench the beginnings of it; and, even if we have been negligent beyond this, let us destroy the sin which has proceeded to deeds, by confession, and tears, and self-condemnation. |102 Nothing is so great an antidote to sin as condemnation and repudiation of it with penitence and tears. Condemning thy own sin, thou dost put off its yoke. Who is it that speaks thus? God, the Judge himself. “Acknowledge first thy sin, that thou mayest be justified,” (Isa. xliii. 26, LXX.) Why are you ashamed and blush to confess your sin? Why speak of it to man, who may blame you? Why confess it to your fellow-servant, who may cause you shame? Rather show it to the Master, to Him who cares for you, who is kindly-disposed; show the wound to the Physician.3
And even if you do not confess, He is not ignorant of the deed, who knew it before it was committed. Why then do you not speak of it? Does the transgression become heavier by the confession?—-nay, it becomes lighter and less troublesome. And it is for this reason that He would have you confess, not that you should be punished, but that you should be forgiven; not that He may learn thy sin, (how could this be, since He has seen it,) but that you may learn what favour He bestows. He wishes you to learn the greatness of His grace, that you may praise Him perfectly, that you may be slower to sin, that you may be quicker to virtue. And if you do not confess the greatness of the need, you will not understand the exceeding magnitude of His grace. I do not oblige you, He saith, to come into the midst of the assembly before a throng of witnesses; declare the sin in secret to Me only, that I may heal the sore and remove the pain. Therefore it is that He has placed within us a conscience |103 more faithful than a father. For a father having warned his son once, or twice, or three times, or perhaps, ten times, when he sees him remaining uncorrected, publicly renounces him and dismisses him from the house, and severs the tie of relationship; but not so does conscience act. For if once, or twice, or thrice, or a thousand times it speaks, and you obey not, it will speak again, and will not cease until the latest breath; and both in the house and in the street, at table and in the market, and on the road, often even in dreams, it places before us the image and appearance of our sins.
5. Behold the wisdom of God! He has caused the reproof of conscience not to be unceasing, (for had we been constantly accused, we could not have endured the burden,) nor has He made it so weak as to cease after a first or second warning. For if we felt self-condemnation every day and every hour, we should have been overcome by sorrow. If, again, conscience having warned us once or twice, then ceased to rebuke, we should not have reaped much benefit. Therefore He has caused the warning to be lasting, but not unceasing: it is lasting, that we may not fall into negligence, but that always to the end of our life, being warned, we may be watchful. Again, the warning is not unceasing, nor made cumulative, in order that we may not sink under it, but that we may be refreshed by seasons of repose and other consolations. Thus complete freedom from mental pain would be ruinous to sinners; it would produce in us utter insensibility; while, on the other hand, to feel this pain unceasingly and without measure would be even more injurious. For excess of sorrow, being often strong enough |104 to overthrow man’s natural powers of mind, overwhelms the soul, and causes our good qualities to be wholly unserviceable. For this reason God has caused the convictions of conscience to be imposed on us only at intervals, these convictions being exceedingly severe, and often piercing the sinner more sharply than a goad. Not only at the time when we ourselves have sinned, but also when others have committed the same acts, conscience is roused, and with great vehemence accuses us. The fornicator, the adulturer, or the thief, not only when he himself is accused, but when he hears that others are accused of having dared the same sins, he feels as if he himself were punished; he is reminded of his own sin by the blame thrown upon others; and though it is another that is accused, he himself, without being blamed feels the charge, since he has dared to do the same things. In the same way, also, with regard to good deeds, when others are praised and honoured, those who have accomplished the same things rejoice with them, as though they were praised no less than the others. What, therefore, can be more miserable than the case of the sinner who, as often as others are accused, himself feels abashed? What, also, is more blessed than the lot of him who, living virtuously, whenever others are praised, himself feels joy and gladness, being reminded of his own good deeds by the praise bestowed upon others? These things are the work of God’s wisdom; they are instances of His exceeding providence. The warning of conscience is a divine anchor, not permitting us to be altogether wrecked in the abyss of iniquity.
The brethren of Joseph one day sold him, without having any charge to bring against him, except that he foresaw in dreams his coming honour foreshadowed to him: for “I saw,” said he, “your sheaves making obeisance to my sheaf,” (Gen. xxxvii. 6.) Indeed, for this very thing they ought to have the more cared for him, for he was to be the crown of the whole family, and the glory of all his race. Such, however, is envy; it makes war against its own honour; and an envious man would rather suffer a thousand ills than see his neighbour renowned, even though a share of the renown were to fall to himself. Than this what can be more wretched? This kind of feeling possessed the brethren of Joseph. Seeing him at a distance, coming to bring them provisions, they said one to another, “Come, let us kill him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams,” (Gen. xxxvii. 20.) If they had no regard for him as a brother, nor felt the bond of nature, they ought to have had regard to the very aid that he brought, and to the manner of his service, in coming to supply them with sustenance. But mark how they unwittingly uttered a prophecy: “Come,” said they, “let us kill him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” If they had not plotted against him and concocted treachery, and planned that shameless scheme, they would not have experienced the full intent of those dreams. For it was not likely that he, though meeting with no ill-fortune, would rise as high as the throne of Egypt; yet, by means of these difficulties and hindrances, |106 he attained such a height of splendour. For if they had not conspired against him, they would not have sold him into Egypt; if they had not sold him into Egypt, the mistress would not have been enamoured of him; if the mistress had not been enamoured of him, he would not have been cast into prison, he would not have interpreted the dreams, he would not have been made ruler; if he had not been made ruler, the brethren would not have come to buy corn, nor have bowed down before him. Thus, since they were ready to kill him, for this very cause chiefly did they feel the full meaning of the dreams. What then? Were they the procurers of all his future good, and the cause of his glory? By no means; they were ready to expose him to death, or to sorrow, or to slavery—-to the uttermost ills. But the overruling God used the wickedness of the conspirators for the trial and approval of him who was sold and betrayed.
6. In order that this result may not be thought to arise from any casual coincidence or accidental revolution of things, God, by means of the very men who opposed it, brought to pass the very result which they opposed, using His enemies for the approval of His servants, in order that you may learn, that what God has willed no one will hinder, and that none will turn aside His high hand; in order that whenever you are plotted against, you may not stumble or be downcast, but be enabled to know that the plot will result in good in the end, if only you bear your lot well.
Behold, therefore, in this instance, how envy produced a royal possession; how jealousy procured for its victim |107 a crown, and gained him a throne; those who plotted against him, themselves bore him forward to the greatness of his power. He who was plotted against governed, they who plotted served; he received homage, they paid homage. Whensoever, therefore, ills, frequent and accumulated, come upon you, be not troubled nor downcast, but abide till the end. The end will turn out in every way worthy of the beneficence of God, if only you bear thankfully the things that in the meantime befall you.
He who had these visions, being in extreme danger, who was sold by his brethren, injured by his mistress, and again thrown into prison,—-he did not say within himself, “What is all this? The visions then are all delusion! I am an exile from my country and deprived of freedom; because of my God, I have not yielded to the seductions of my mistress; because of temperance and virtue, I am punished, and He has not even in this pass defended me, nor stretched forth. His hand, but has suffered me to be delivered to constant and increasing bondage. After the pit, slavery befell me; after slavery, treachery; after treachery, calumny; after calumny, a prison.” But none of these things moved him; he remained steadfast in his hope, being confident that none of the things that had been promised would ever fail.
God was, indeed, able to fulfil everything on the very same day; but in order to display His own might and the faith of His servants, he permitted a long time to intervene, and many hindrances to arise, so that you may understand His power, by His fulfilling the promises at the very time when you would give way to despair, and that you may |108 see the patience and faith of His servants, by their not falling away from their expectation of good in the very midst of calamities.
However, as I said, the patriarchs came again, famine as an armed soldier driving them by force, and urging them to the presence of Joseph, the governor; and they wished to buy corn. What, then, did he say to them? “Ye are spies.” They then said within themselves, “What is this! we came to get food, and we have endangered our life!” Yes, justly!—-since he also came to you bringing food, and ye put him in danger of his life. And he then endured it beeause of his integrity; ye now are suffering because of hypocrisy. He was not, however, their enemy; he put on the appearance of hostility, that he might learn accurately the condition of the family. For since they had been wicked and heartless in his own case, not seeing Benjamin with them, he feared for the child, lest he had been also a brother in suffering. He commands that some one of them should be bound and left there; and that all the rest taking their corn should depart, threatening them with death if they should not bring back their other brother.
Since, then, this had happened and he had said, “Leave one here, and bring back the other brother, or ye shall die,” what did they say one to another? “Verily we were guilty concerning our brother when he besought us.” Do you observe after how long time they remember that crime? They then said to their father, “An evil beast hath devoured him,” (Gen. xxxvii. 33.) Now, when Joseph himself is present and listening, they bewail their crime. What can be more extraordinary than this? |109 Without a tribunal, there is conviction; without accusation, an apology; a proof without testimony; the very men who wrought the deed condemn themselves, and publish abroad that which was done in secret! Who had persuaded them, or obliged them, to expose in public the things dared so long before? Is it not plain that conscience, the inexorable judge, had been constantly disturbing their thoughts and troubling their soul? He also who had been murderously treated, sat there silently judging them; and while no one brought any charge against them, they themselves passed sentence upon themselves.
They spake thus among themselves: another also said in excuse: “Spake I not to you saying, Do not sin against the child, nor do him any harm, for he is our brother? and, behold, now his blood is required at our hands,” (Gen. xlii. 22, loosely quoted.) Though there was no one who spoke thus, or said anything concerning the crime, or of murder; though the victim himself, sitting in their presence, inquired about no such thing, but rather was asking about the other brother; their conscience, taking advantage of the opportunity, arose and took possession of their mind, and when no person accused them, obliged them to confess their deeds.
Such things we ourselves often suffer, when the sins are long gone by. When we are searched by woe or misfortune, we call to mind our former ill-doings.
7. Knowing, therefore, all these things, whenever we have done any wrong, let us not wait for calamity or difficulty, for danger and chains; but let us each hour of the day set up for ourselves this tribunal, and let us pass |110 judgment against ourselves, and endeavour in every way to make our peace with God. Let us not doubt about the resurrection and future judgment, nor be hindered by what others say; but by all means, according to the truths we have learnt, let us refute them. For if we were not to render account of all we have done, God would not have set up such a tribunal within us. But this also is a proof of His kindness. For since He will hereafter require from us an account of our sins, He has placed this incorruptible judge within us, that by condemning us for our sins now and making us wiser, He may rescue us from the future judgment. This also St Paul saith: “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged by the Lord,” (1 Cor. xi. 31.) In order, therefore, that we may not be punished then, nor pay the penalty then, let each of us betake himself to conscience; and unrolling his past life, and examining with care all his faults, let him condemn the soul that wrought such deeds; let him chastise his thoughts; let him be afflicted; let him be straitened in his own mind; let him require a penalty from himself for his sins, by self-condemnation, by thorough penitence, by tears, by confession, by fasting and alms-giving, by temperance and love. Let us do this that by all means in our power we may be able, with all confidence, to attain the future kingdom, which may it be the lot of us all to gain by the grace and goodness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father be glory, and also to the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen. THE END. Source.
CONCERNING LAZARUS—- CONCERNING READING THE SCRIPTURES —- THE REASON WHY IT IS NOT SAID, “THOU HADST,” BUT “THOU RECEIVEDST “—-WHY IS IT THAT THE JUST OFTEN FALL INTO TROUBLES, WHILE THE WICKED ESCAPE THEM?
1. The parable about Lazarus has benefited us not a little, both rich and poor, teaching the latter to bear poverty well, and not allowing the former to think highly of their riches; but showing, by the circumstances of the case, that he is of all men to be most pitied who lives in luxury without sharing his wealth with others. Allow me again to take up the same subject; since, also, those who work in mines, wherever they see many grains of gold, there they dig again, and do not cease until they have gathered out all that can be found. Let us, therefore, proceed, and, at the place where we left off yesterday, there again recommence the discourse. It might be possible, indeed, to unfold to you the whole parable in a single day; but we do not strive to be able to depart with the feeling that we have said a great deal, but that you, having received and retained the things spoken, may be able, through this carefulness, to gain a sense of real spiritual benefit. A tender mother about to change the |60 food of her child from milk to more solid diet, if she were at once to give it unmixed wine would injure it, for the child would at once reject the new diet. She feeds it little by little, and thus the new nourishment is received without trouble. In order that you may not feel distaste for the offered food, we do not without preparation pour out to you from the cup of instruction; but distributing the portion over several days, we give an interval of repose from the toil of hearing, that both that which has been said may be firmly fixed in your understanding and in your heart, and that you may receive that which is about to be said with constant and increasing zeal.
Thus I often state several days beforehand the subject about to be considered, in order that, in the intervening time, you may take a book and go through the whole passage; and, noticing what has been stated and what reserved, you may be prepared to hear more intelligently that which is to be said.
This, also, I am ever urging, and shall not cease to urge, that you give attention, not only to the words spoken, but that also, when at home in your house, you exercise yourselves constantly in reading the Divine Scriptures. This, also, I have never ceased to press upon those who come to me privately. Let not any one say to me that these exhortations are vain and irrelevant, for “I am constantly busy in the courts,” (suppose him to say;) “I am discharging public duties; I am engaged in some art or handiwork; I have a wife; I am bringing up my children; I have to manage a household; I am full of worldly business; it is not for me to read the Scriptures, but for those who have bid adieu to the |61 world,1 for those who dwell on the summit of the hills;2 those who constantly lead a secluded life.” What dost thou say, O man? Is it not for thee to attend to the Scriptures, because thou art involved in numerous cares? It is thy duty even more than theirs, for they do not so much need the aid to be derived from the Holy Scriptures as they do who are engaged in much business. For those who lead a solitary life, who are free from business and from the anxiety arising from business, who have pitched their tent in the wilderness, and have no communion with any one, but who meditate at leisure on wisdom, in that peace that springs from repose—-they, like those who lie in the harbour, enjoy abundant security. But ourselves, who, as it were, are tossed in the midst of the sea, cannot avoid many failings, we ever stand in need of the immediate and constant comfort of the Scriptures. They rest far from the strife, and, therefore, escape many wounds; but you stand perpetually in the array of battle, and constantly are liable to be wounded: on this account, you have more need of the healing remedies. For, suppose, a wife provokes, a son causes grief, a slave excites to anger, an enemy plots against us, a friend is envious, a neighbour is insolent, a fellow-soldier causes us to stumble—-or often, perhaps, a judge threatens us, poverty pains us, or loss of property causes us trouble, or |62 prosperity puffs us up, or misfortune overthrows us;—-there are surrounding us on all sides many causes and occasions of anger, many of anxiety, many of dejection or grief, many of vanity or pride; from all quarters, weapons are pointed at us. Therefore it is that there is need continually of the whole armour of the Scriptures. For, “understand,” it says, “that thou passest through the midst of snares, and walkest on the battlements of a city,” (Ecclus. ix. 13.) The lusts of the flesh also more grievously afflict those who are engaged in the midst of business. For a noble appearance and beautiful person gain power over us through the eyes; and wicked words, entering by the cars, trouble our thoughts. Often, also, a well-modulated song softens the constancy of the mind. But why do I say these things’? For that which seems to be weaker than all these, even the odour of sweet scents from the meretricious throng with whom we meet, falling upon the senses, entrances us, and, by this chance accident, we are made captive.
2. Many other such things there are that beset our soul; and we have need of the divine remedies that we may heal wounds inflicted, and ward off those which, though not inflicted, would else be received in time to come—-thus quenching afar off the darts of Satan, and shielding ourselves by the constant reading of the Divine Scriptures. It is not possible—-I say, it is not possible, for any one to be secure without constant supplies of this spiritual instruction.3 Indeed, we may congratulate ourselves,4 if, constantly using this remedy, we ever are able |63 to attain salvation. But when, though each day receiving wounds, we make use of no remedies, what hope can there be of salvation?
Do you not notice that workmen in brass, or goldsmiths, or silversmiths, or those who engage in any art whatsoever, preserve carefully all the instruments of their art; and if hunger come, or poverty afflict them, they prefer to endure anything rather than sell for their maintenance any of the tools which they use. It is frequently the case that many thus choose rather to borrow money to maintain their house and family, than part with the least of the instruments of their art. This they do for the best reasons; for they know that when those are sold, all their skill is rendered of no avail, and the entire groundwork of their gain is gone. If those are left, they may be able, by persevering in the exercise of their skill, in time to pay off their debts; but if they, in the meantime, allow the tools to go to others, there is, for the future, no means by which they can contrive any alleviation of their poverty and hunger. We also ought to judge in the same way. As the instruments of their art are the hammer and anvil and pincers, so the instruments of our work are the apostolic and prophetic books, and all the inspired and profitable Scriptures.5 And as they, by their instruments, shape all the articles they take in hand, so also do we, by our instruments, arm our mind, and strengthen it when relaxed, and renew it when out of condition. Again, artists display their skill in beautiful forms, being unable to change the material of their productions, or to transmute silver into gold, but only to |64 make their figures symmetrical. But it is not so with thee, for thou hast a power beyond theirs—-receiving a vessel of wood, thou canst make it gold. And to this St Paul testifies, speaking thus: “In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work,” (2 Tim. ii. 20, 21.) Let us then not neglect the possession of the sacred books, that we receive no fatal injuries. Let us not hoard gold, but lay up, as our treasures, these inspired books. For gold, whenever it becomes abundant, causes trouble to its possessors; but these books, when carefully preserved, afford great benefit to those who possess them. As also where royal arms are stored, though no one should use them, they afford great security to those who dwell there; since neither thieves nor burglars, nor any other evil-doers, dare attack that place. In the same way, where the inspired books are, from thence all satanical influence is banished, and the great consolation of right principles comes to those who live there; yea, even the very sight of these books by itself makes us slower to commit iniquity. Even if we attempt any forbidden thing, and make ourselves unclean, when we return home and see these books, our conscience accuses us more keenly, and we become less likely to fall again into the same sins. Again, if we have been steadfast in our integrity, we gain more benefit, (if we are acquainted with the word;) for as soon as one comes to the gospel, he by a mere look both rectifies his understanding and ceases from all worldly cares. And |65 if careful reading also follows, the soul, as if initiated in sacred mysteries, is thus purified and made better, while holding converse with God through the Scriptures.
“But what,” say they, “if we do not understand the things we read?” Even if you do not understand the contents, your sanctification in a high degree results from it. However, it is impossible that all these things should alike be misunderstood; for it was for this reason that the grace of the Holy Spirit ordained that tax-gatherers, and fishermen, and tent-makers, and shepherds, and goatherds, and uninstructed and illiterate men, should compose these books, that no untaught man should be able to make this pretext; in order that the things delivered should be easily comprehended by all—-in order that the handicraftsman, the domestic, the widow, yea, the most unlearned of all men, should profit and be benefited by the reading. For it is not for vain-glory, as men of the world, but for the salvation of the hearers, that they composed these writings, who, from the beginning, were endued with the gift of the Holy Ghost.
3. For those without—-philosphers, rhetoricians, and annalists, not striving for the common good, but having in view their own renown—-if they said anything useful, even this they involved in their usual obscurity, as in a cloud. But the apostles and prophets always did the very opposite; they, as the common instructors of the world, made all that they delivered plain to all men, in order that every one, even unaided, might be able to learn by the mere reading. Thus also the prophet spake before, when he said, “All shall be taught of God,” (Isa. liv. 13.) “And they shall no more say, every one to his |66 neighbour, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me from the least to the greatest,” (Jer. xxxi. 34.) St Paul also says, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech, or of wisdom, declaring unto you the mystery of God,” (1 Cor. ii. 1.) And again, “My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” (1 Cor. ii. 4.) And again, “We speak wisdom,” it is said, “but not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world that come to nought,” (1 Cor. ii. 6.) For to whom is not the gospel plain? Who is it that hears, “Blessed are the meek; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the pure in heart,” and such things as these, and needs a teacher in order to understand any of the things spoken?
But (it is asked) are the parts containing the signs and wonders and histories also clear and plain to every one? This is a pretence, and an excuse, and a mere cloak of idleness. You do not understand the contents of the book? But how can you ever understand, while you are not even willing to look carefully? Take the book in your hand. Read the whole history; and, retaining in your mind the easy parts, peruse frequently the doubtful and obscure parts; and if you are unable, by frequent reading, to understand what is said, go to some one wiser; betake yourself to a teacher; confer with him about the things said. Show great eagerness to learn: then, when God sees that you are using such diligence, He will not disregard your perseverance and carefulness; but if no human being can teach you that which you seek to know, He himself will reveal the whole. |67
Remember the eunuch of the queen of Ethiopia. Being a man of a barbarous nation, occupied with numerous cares, and surrounded on all sides by manifold business, he was unable to understand that which he read. Still, however, as he was seated in the chariot, he was reading. If he showed such diligence on a journey, think how diligent he must have been at home: if while on the road he did not let an opportunity pass without reading, much more must this have been the case when seated in his house; if when he did not fully understand the things he read, he did not cease from reading, much more would he not cease when able to understand. To show that he did not understand the things which he read, hear that which Philip said to him: “Understandest thou what thou readest?” (Acts viii. 30.) Hearing this question he did not show provocation or shame: but confessed his ignorance, and said: “How can I, except some man should guide me?” (ver. 31.) Since therefore, while he had no man to guide him, he was thus reading; for this reason, he quickly received an instructor. God knew his willingness, He acknowledged his zeal, and forthwith sent him a teacher.
But, you say, Philip is not present with us now. Still, the Spirit that moved Philip is present with us. Let us not, beloved, neglect our own salvation! “All these things are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come,” (1 Cor. x. 11.) The reading of the Scriptures is a great safeguard against sin; ignorance of the Scriptures is a great precipice and a deep gulf; to know nothing of the Scriptures, is a great betrayal of our salvation. This ignorance is the cause of |68 heresies; this it is that leads to dissolute living; this it is that makes all things confused. It is impossible—-I say, it is impossible, that any one should remain unbenefited who engages in persevering and intelligent reading. For see how much one parable has profited us! how much spiritual good it has done us! For many I know well have departed, bearing away abiding profit from the hearing; and if there be some who have not reaped so much benefit, still for that day on which they heard these things, they were rendered in every way better. And it is not a small thing to spend one day in sorrow on account of sin, and in consideration of the higher wisdom, and in affording the soul a little breathing time from wordly cares. If we can effect this at each assembly without intermission, the continued hearing would work for us a great and lasting benefit.
4. Let me then deliver to you the remainder of this parable. What is it that follows? The rich man having said, “Send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,” let us listen to that which Abraham says in reply. “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us from thence,” (Luke xvi. 25, 26.) These words are heavy to bear and cause us grief. I know, indeed, that in proportion to the wounds inflicted by conscience, is the benefit received by the wounded mind. For if it were in the next world that these things were said to us, as |69 they were to this rich man, truly should we have to lament, and mourn, and grieve, since time of repentance would no longer have been left us; but since we hear these things here, where it is possible to become wise, and to purge away our sins, and gain great confidence, and, fearing the evils that have befallen others, to repent,—-let us give thanks to the good God, who, by the punishment of others, stirs up our sluggishness and wakes us from our slumber. For this reason it is that these things are foretold, in order that we may not suffer the same. If God wished to punish us, He would not have foretold these things; but since He does not wish that we should fall into punishment, for this reason He foretells the punishment, that being made wise by the warning, we may escape experience of such things.
But why does Abraham not say, “Thou hadst” (ἔλαβες) “thy good things,” but “thou receivedst” (ἀπέλαβες)? You remember, I dare say, that I said that here a vast and boundless sea of thought is opened before us. For the word (ἀπέλαβες) receivedst suggests and intimates the idea of debt; for any one receives (ἀπολάμβανει) that which is owing to him. If then this rich man was wicked, yea, most wicked, cruel, or inhuman, why is it not said to him,” Thou hadst” (ἔλαβες) “thy good things,” but “thou receivedst” (ἀπέλαβες), as if it implied things deserved by, or owed to him? What then do we learn from this? That some men, even wicked men, even those who have proceeded to the very extremity of wickedness, may often have done one, or two, or three good things. And that this statement is not mere conjecture is plain, from the following case. For what greater |70 wickedness could exist than that of the unjust judge? What could be more inhuman, what more impious? This man neither feared God nor regarded men, (Luke xviii. 2.) Still, though living in such wickedness, he performed one good act, namely, the having pity on the widow who constantly troubled him; the yielding to grace, and granting her request, and proceeding against those who troubled her. Thus also it happens that a man may be intemperate, and at the same time often merciful; or he may be cruel, but also sober; and if he be both intemperate and cruel, still, often in the business of life, he may do some good deed. And similarly we ought to think of the good. For as the most depraved of men often do some useful thing, so also the zealous and honourable often commit sin in some respect. “For who,” it is said, “can boast that he has a clean heart, or who can say that he is free from iniquity?” (Prov. xx. 9.)
Since, therefore, it was likely that the rich man, though he had proceeded to the extreme of iniquity, had done some good work; and that Lazarus, even though he had arrived at the summit of virtue, had committed some sin, mark how the patriarch intimates both these things, when he says, “Thou, in thy lifetime, receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things.” That which he says, implies this: “If thou also hast done good, and reward was owing to thee for that, all this reward thou receivedst in that life when thou didst live in luxury and wealthy enjoying great prosperity and success. This man (Lazarus) also, if he did any wrong, has received all the equivalent in poverty and hunger, being oppressed with the most extreme ills. Each of you has arrived here free—-this |71 man from his sins, and thou from works of righteousness. Therefore, he has unmixed consolation—-thou endurest unmitigated punishment.”
Thus when our righteousness is small and slender, and the burden of our sins great and incalculable, and still we enjoy success here, and suffer no ill, we shall depart hence entirely destitute and devoid of that reward of good actions, having “received all our good things in this life.” Also, when our works of righteousness are great and numerous, and our transgressions few and slight, and we also suffer some kinds of ill, we are purged from the transgressions here, and we receive there an unmixed recompense of our good acts, prepared for us. Whenever, then, you see any one living in wickedness, and suffering no misfortune, do not think him blessed, but mourn for and bewail him, as being about to undergo his woes there, as did also this rich man. Again, when you see any one striving after virtue, and enduring innumerable trials, consider him blessed; envy him as paying the penalty for all his transgressions here, and about to receive the reward of his constancy prepared for him there; as also it happened in the case of Lazarus.
5. Some men are punished here only; others suffer here no ill, but receive the whole punishment hereafter; others are punished both here and hereafter. Which, then, of these three classes do you esteem fortunate? Without doubt, the first; those who are punished and purged from their sins here. But which class is second in order? You, perhaps, may say, those who suffer nothing in this life, but undergo the whole punishment hereafter. I, however, should say not those, but rather they |72 who are punished in both worlds. For he who in this life pays the penalty, will hereafter feel lighter pains; but he who must undergo the whole infliction hereafter, will have an inexorable doom. Thus this rich man, not being cleansed here from any of his indwelling sins, was so severely punished in the next world as not to be able to procure even a drop of water. Also, with respect to those who sin in this world, but suffer no ill, I pity them by far the most who, together with freedom from punishment, also enjoy here luxury and security. For as the freedom from penalty for sin in this world makes their future punishment more severe, so also when sinners enjoy here great repose and luxury and success, this prosperity becomes to them a means and cause of greater punishment and penalty. While in a state of sin, whenever we, in the course of divine providence, receive honours, these very honours may the more surely cast us into the fire. If, for instance, any one should experience only long-suffering without making the right use of it, he will receive heavier punishment. When, besides long-suffering, he enjoys the highest honours, and, notwithstanding, remains in his wickedness, who can save him from punishment? For, to show that they who here experience long-suffering prepare for themselves unmitigated punishment hereafter, if they do not repent, hear what St Paul says: “Thinkest thou, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent |73 heart treasurest up for thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,” (Rom. ii. 3-5.) Whenever, then, thou seest any men abounding in riches, living in luxury, using precious ointments, surfeiting day by day, having power and great honour and splendour, and, at the same time, living in sin, and suffering no ill; for this very reason chiefly it is that we weep and lament for them, that when sinning, they are not punished. Just as when you see any one afflicted with dropsy, or any other disease, or having sores or wounds in all parts of his body; if, in addition to this, he indulges in drinking and eating, and thus aggravates his malady, you not only do not admire him, nor think him happy on account of his luxury, but, for this very reason, you think him wretched. In the same way, also, we should judge concerning the affairs of the soul. Whenever you see a man living in wickedness, and enjoying great prosperity, and suffering no calamity, on this account lament for him the more, because, being under the power of disease and grievous corruption, he increases his own weakness, becoming worse by luxury and indolence. For punishment is not in itself an evil, but the real evil is sin. The latter separates us from God; the former leads us to God, and mitigates His wrath. How is this shown? Hear the prophet saying, “O priests, comfort ye, comfort ye my people. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and say that she has received of the Lord’s hand double for her sins,” (Isa. xl. 1,2, LXX.) And again: “O Lord our God, give us peace, for thou hast repaid all to us,” (Isa. xxvi. 12, LXX.) And in order that you may understand that some are punished here, others hereafter, hear what St Paul |74 saith, reproving those who partake of the mysteries unworthily. For having said, “He who eateth this bread, and drinketh this cup unworthily, is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord,” (1 Cor. xi. 27,) he immediately adds, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged; but now we are judged of the Lord and chastened, in order that we should not be condemned with the world,” (1 Cor. xi. 30-32.) Do you see how the punishment inflicted here frees from the punishment hereafter? Also with respect to him who had committed fornication, it is said, “Deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1 Cor. v. 5.) Also from the case of Lazarus this is clear, that if he had committed any ill, having been purged from it here, he departed hence clean. And the same appears from the case of the paralytic man, who, having lived in weakness thirty and eight years, was freed from sin by the length of his affliction. And that it was sin for which he was thus afflicted, hear what Christ said, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee,” (John v. 14.) That some are punished here and purified from sin, is therefore shown by these instances.
6. And. that some men, when they do not receive punishment here equivalent to the magnitude of their offences, are punished both here and hereafter, hear what Christ saith concerning the Sodomites. For having said, “Whosoever will not receive you, shake off the dust from your feet,” (Luke ix. 5; x. 11,) He proceeds to say, “It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in |75 the day of judgment than for that city,” (Luke x. 12.) The expression more tolerable shows this, that they will be punished indeed, but more lightly, since also here they paid the penalty. And that there are some who, in this world suffer no ill, but in the next world endure the full punishment, the case of this rich man teaches us, who there underwent such unmitigated punishment, as not even to enjoy the consolation of a drop of water; for the whole infliction was to be meted out to him there. As therefore, of those who commit sin, they who suffer no ill here, undergo greater punishment hereafter; thus also, of those who live righteously, they who suffer many ills here, enjoy greater honour there. And if there be two sinners, the one punished here, the other not punished; the one who is punished is more fortunate than the one unpunished. Again, if there be two righteous men, of whom one endures more, and the other fewer trials; he that endures the most is the most fortunate, since to each will be rendered according to his work.
What then? Is it not possible, they say, to enjoy ease both here and hereafter? This, O man, is unattainable; it is one of the things impossible. It cannot, it cannot be, that he who here enjoys ease and plenty, and continually indulges in every luxury—-who lives a vain and aimless life—-can also enjoy honour hereafter. At the same time, if he be not troubled by poverty, he still is troubled by desire, and from this cause suffers restraint—-a cause which gives rise to no small amount of trouble, Again, if disease do not afflict him, yet evil passion burns within, and it is no slight pain that springs from wrath; also, if trials be not laid upon him, yet wicked thoughts |76 constantly arise to vex him. It is by no means a trivial matter to restrain lawless desire, to put a stop to vainglorious thoughts, to check insensate pride, to refrain from excess, to live in self-denial. And he who does not accomplish these things, and such as these, can never attain salvation. For that they who live luxuriously are not saved, hear what St Paul says concerning widows, “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth,” (1 Tim. v. 6.) And if this is said concerning a widow, much more is it true concerning a man. Again, that it is not possible for one living a dissipated life to reach heaven, even Christ has made quite plain, when He declares, “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it,” (Matt. vii. 4.) How is it then that it is said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light”? (Matt. xi. 30.) For if the way be narrow and confined, how can it again be called light and easy? We answer: The former is true, because of the very nature of trial; the latter, because of the determination of him who endures trial. For it is possible that that which is by nature unendurable, may become light, when we bear it willingly. As, therefore, the apostles, being beaten, returned rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of the Lord, though the nature of such trial always causes tribulation and pain, still the previous determination of those who received the stripes, even overcame the nature of things. With respect to this same thing, St Paul says, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution,” (2 Tim. iii. 12.) So that if man do not persecute, the devil fights against us, and we have need of much |77 philosophy and great perseverance, in order that, with the aid of prayer, we may be sober and watchful,—-that we may not covet the possessions of others,—-that we may be willing to distribute of our substance to those who are in need,—-that we may bid farewell to all self-indulgence, both with respect to dress and with respect to food,—-that we may avoid covetousness,—-that we may flee drunkenness, and evil-speaking,—-that we may have the tongue in subjection,—-that we may not utter any unbecoming word, (for “let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you,” Eph. iv. 31,)—-that we may not speak base or deceitful words. There is no small labour requisite to exhibit perfect observance of all these things. And in order that you may learn how great a thing it is to live wisely, and that it is a work which admits no repose, hear what St Paul saith, “I keep under my body, and bring it unto subjection,” (1 Cor. ix. 27.) By these words he intimates the force and great effort which it is needful to put forth in order to render the body obedient in all things. Christ also said to His disciples, “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world,” (John xvii. 33.) This very tribulation, it is said, procures for you rest. The present life is an arena, and he that is to be crowned can have no rest while in the arena, and engaged in contest. Thus also, if any one be desirous to be crowned, he must adopt a hard and laborious mode of life, in order that having toiled here for a short period, he may hereafter enjoy perpetual repose.
7. How many troubles arise each day! How great must that soul be that is not annoyed—-that is not |78 vexed, but gives thanks and praise,—-that adores Him who ordains that these trials should be endured! How many unexpected things there are,—-how many difficulties! And we must restrain evil thoughts, and not suffer the tongue to speak any improper word, as did the blessed Job, who praised God while he endured a multitude of ills.
There are some who, if they meet with any reverse, or are slandered by any one, or if they fall into any bodily malady, any pain in the foot or head, or any other disease, immediately blaspheme. In this way they endure the affliction, but are deprived of the benefit. What doest thou, O man, blaspheming against thy benefactor and Saviour! Dost thou not perceive that thou art on the brink of a precipice, and art casting thyself into an abyss of utter destruction? Nor dost thou, by blaspheming, make thy suffering lighter; but thou dost increase it, and makest thy pain more severe. It is with this intent that the tempter brings against thee a multitude of ills,—-that he may lead thee into that abyss; and if he see thee blaspheming, how easily does he increase the anguish and make it greater, that, being afflicted, thou mayest rebel again. But if he see thee bearing it nobly, and in proportion to the increase of the suffering, the more giving thanks to God, he at once desists; since for the future he would attack thee fruitlessly and in vain. Thus also the tempter, as a dog waiting at table, if he see the man who is eating, continually throwing to him some morsel or other from the dishes on the table he waits patiently; but if, having waited once or twice, he should go away without anything, he desists for the future, because he has waited fruitlessly and in vain. Thus also |79 does the evil one constantly attend us with open mouth; and if you should throw to him, as to a dog, a wicked word, snatching it up, he again prepares himself for more; but if you continue thankful, you as it were starve him, and quickly drive him away and make him flee. But, you say, you are not able to be silent when goaded by. pain. Nor do I hinder you from speaking: but instead of blasphemy, give utterance to praise—-instead of discontent, to thankfulness.
Make confession to your Master; cry aloud in prayer: thus your suffering will be alleviated, the tempter will be put to flight by thanksgiving, and the aid of God will be brought nigh. Besides, if you blaspheme, you avert the help of God, and cause the tempter to be more powerful against you, and you involve yourself the more in pains; but if you give thanks, you repel the assaults of the evil spirit, and gain for yourself the care of a gracious God.
But, it is said, the tongue often by force of habit lapses into the utterance of some evil word. Whenever, then, you are failing, before the word can gain utterance, close your teeth against it firmly. Better for the tongue to shed a drop of blood now, than that hereafter craving a drop of water it should be unable to gain that comfort: better to endure pain in season, than to undergo ceaseless punishment hereafter. For the tongue of the rich man, when consumed with heat, found no relief.
God has enjoined that you should love your enemies: do you turn away from the God who loves you? He has commanded that you should bless them that despitefully use you, that you should speak well of those that slander you: |80 do you, when in no respect injured, speak evil of your benefactor and patron? Was He not able, you say, to free you from this temptation? Yes, but He permitted it that you might be the more approved. “But, alas!” you say, “I fall! I perish!” Then this is not because of the temptation, but because of your slothfulness. For, tell me, which is the easier, blasphemy or praise? Does not the former cause those who hear it to be your enemies and opponents, and cause yourself to feel dejection, and produce afterward great pain? Does not the latter gain for you the manifold reward of wisdom, and the admiration of all, and procure great reward from God? Why, then, leaving that which is useful, and easy, and agreeable, do you instead follow that which is injurious, and painful, and corrupting? Beside this, if the pressure of trial and poverty caused you to utter blasphemy, it would follow that those who live in poverty would always be blasphemers. But in fact, those who live in poverty—-many of them in extreme poverty—-are constantly thankful; while others who enjoy wealth and luxury are constantly blasphemers. Thus, it is not the nature of the things, but rather our own state of mind, that causes the one line of conduct or the other.
For this reason, therefore, let us read this parable, in order that we may learn that neither does wealth benefit the slothful man, nor does poverty in any way injure the upright. Yea, what do I say?—-poverty!—-rather not all the ills that afflict mankind, should they together assail him, can ever overthrow the soul of the godly and wise man, or persuade him to forsake virtue; and of this, Lazarus is an example. So also wealth can never benefit |81 the idle and dissolute man, nor can health, nor continual prosperity, nor any other thing.
8. Let us, therefore, not say that sickness, or poverty, or the presence of danger, obliges us to blaspheme. It is not poverty, but folly,—-not sickness, but arrogance,—-not the presence of danger, but the absence of piety,—-that leads the negligent to blasphemy and every other evil habit.
But for what reason, it is said, are some punished here, and others there, and not all here? For what reason?—-because if it were so, we all should perish; for all of us are worthy of punishment. Again, if no one were punished here, the mass of mankind would become more negligent; many would deny the existence of a Providence. For if men say such things even now, when we see many of the wicked enduring punishment, what would they say if this were not so? What bounds would there be to evil? For this reason God punishes some men here, and some He does not punish. He punishes some, removing their wickedness, and making their punishment in the next world lighter, or completely renewing them, and making those who live in wickedness wiser by the punishment of others. Again, some He does not punish, in order that if they should take heed to themselves,—-if being touched by the manifestation of God’s long-suffering they should repent—-that then they may escape both punishment here and the penalty hereafter; but if they should remain hardened and not profit by the forbearance of God, that then they may endure greater inflictions hereafter because of this their exceeding neglect. And if any of those who know these things should say that they who are thus punished are wronged, (being unable to repent,) we might |82 reply thus:—-that if God had foreseen that they would repent, He would not have punished them. For if He passes over those whom He knows to be incorrigible, much more would He tolerate in the present life those whom He knows to be benefited by His long-suffering, in order that they may profit by the opportunity of repentance. Since He now deals with them beforehand, He causes their future punishment to be lighter, and by these His dealings,—-by the punishment of these, He makes other men more prudent and wise. But wherefore does He not act thus towards all sinners alike? It is in order that by fear arising from the punishment of others, they may be confirmed in wisdom; and giving glory to God, on account of His long-suffering, and feeling shame on account of His clemency, they may depart from iniquity. But, it is said, they do not act so? Notwithstanding after this, God is not the cause of their woe, but their own negligence, since they are careless about using these remedies to ensure their own salvation. And that you may be assured that God acts thus for this reason, mark this:—-Pilate on one occasion mingled the blood of some Galileans with the sacrifices, Certain men having hastened to tell this to Christ, He said, “Suppose ye that only these Galileans were sinners? I tell you, Nay; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” (Luke xiii. 2, 3.) Again, on another occasion, eighteen men were buried under a fallen tower, and concerning them He said the same. The words, “Think ye that they only were sinners? I say unto you, Nay,” teach us that those who escaped alive were worthy of the same fate. The words, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” teach us |83 that it was allotted to those men to suffer, in order that those who remained alive, made afraid by the calamities happening to others, might repent and become heirs of the kingdom. “What then?” say they; “is another punished that I may become better?” Not so; but another is punished for his own individual iniquity; and this event also becomes a cause of salvation to those who pay heed to it, making them more zealous because of the very fear arising from those calamities. In this same way masters act; when they chastise one slave, they cause the rest to be more careful through fear. Thus, whenever you see any shipwrecked, or buried under a fallen house, or ruined by fire, or drowned in a river, or losing life in any other violent way,—-when you also see others who have committed the same things, or even worse, suffering none of these things, do not say in your perplexity, “Why then is it that those who have sinned alike do not suffer the same ills?” but think thus, “One man was permitted to be destroyed or drowned, that his future punishment should be more tolerable to him, or even to make him quite pure;” while another was ordained to suffer no such calamity, in order that being taught by another’s punishment he might become more submissive; but should he still remain unchanged, that he, by his own negligence might heap up for himself unmitigated penalties; still of this unendurable punishment God is not the cause.
Again, when you see a just man afflicted, or suffering all the afore-mentioned woes, do not stumble at it; for even to himself the woes are the cause of a brighter reward.
In a word, with respect to all punishment, if it be |84 inflicted on sinners, it lessens the burden of sin; if on the just, it makes the soul more glorious;—-and the greatest gain accrues to each of us from affliction, if only we bear it thankfully. For this is the design of punishment.
9. For this reason the history contained in the sacred Scriptures is filled with innumerable examples of this kind. Both just men and unjust are shown to us suffering ills, in order that, whether a man be just or whether he be a sinner, having these examples, he may bear ills well. And wicked men are shown to us not only suffering ills, but also prospering; so that you may not be troubled at their prosperity, since you learn from that which befell this rich man that the tormenting fire awaits them if they repent not. And the Scripture tells us that it is not possible to enjoy repose both here and hereafter; it cannot be.
Therefore it is that just men in this world live a laborious life. But “what,” say they, “do you say with respect to Abraham?” Yet who suffered so many ills as he? Was he not obliged to leave his fatherland? Was he not separated from all his relatives? Did he not suffer want in a strange land? Did he not, like a pilgrim, continually change his abode—-from Babylon to Mesopotamia, from thence to Palestine, from thence again to Egypt? How can one relate his trouble about his wife, the deadly strife with the barbarians, the carrying captive of the household of his kinsman, the many other troubles like these? And when at length he had the son, did he not suffer the hardest trial of all, being commanded to slay his cherished and beloved one with his own hand? |85 And what shall we say of Isaac, the sacrifice? Was he not vexed perpetually by his neighbours, deprived of his wife, (as his father had been,) and for so long a time bereaved of his child? What, again, shall we say concerning Jacob, who was brought up in his father’s house? Did he not endure greater ills than his grandfather? And not to make the discourse too long by going through all these things, hear what he himself says concerning his whole life: “Few and evil have been my days, and I have not attained to the days of my fathers,” (Gen. xlvii. 9.) Although he saw his son sitting on a royal throne and possessed of such glory, he did not forget the ills of the past; he had been so afflicted that even in such prosperity he could not be unmindful of the misfortunes that had befallen him. What shall we say about David? How many tragical events happened to him? Did he not also exclaim like Jacob: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they come to fourscore years, yet is their strength but labour and sorrow”? (Ps. xc. 10.) What with respect to Jeremiah? Did he not, because of overwhelming evils, curse the day of his birth? What shall we say of Moses? Did he not in despair exclaim, “Kill me, if thou thus deal with me”? (Numb. xi. 15.) Elijah also, that heavenly soul—-he that shut heaven 6 —-did he not, after working so many wonders, lament before God thus: “Take away my life, for I am not better than my fathers “? (1 Kings xix. 4.) And what need is there to go through each instance? St Paul, taking them [the just] all together, |86 proceeds to speak of them thus: “They wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy,” (Heb. xi. 37, 38.) And, in a word, it is ever necessary that he who would please God and become approved and holy should not lead an easy, free, and dissolute life, but a laborious life, full of hardship and toil. For “no man,” it is said, “is crowned except he strive lawfully,” (2 Tim. ii. 5;) and in another place, “Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things,” (1 Cor. ix. 25.) He abstains from evil words and looks, from base conversation and slander, and from blasphemy and evil speaking. Prom this we learn that, though trial may not come upon us from any external source, it is our duty to exercise ourselves each day in fasting, self-denial, moderate diet, and a plain table, avoiding extravagance in any way. Otherwise we cannot please God. Let not any one repeat the foolish saying, that such and such a one has both the good things of this world and also of the next. It is impossible in the case of rich and luxurious sinners that the saying can be true; but if it be right to say it at all, it should be said of those who are afflicted,—-of those who are in distress,—-that they have the good of this world and also of the next. For they have good things in the next world as their reward; good things also they have here, being sustained by the hope of the future, and not feeling acutely present ills, because of the anticipation of future good.
But let us hear the following words of the parable: “Besides all this, between us and you there is a great |87 gulf fixed.” Well, therefore, spake David, “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him,” (Ps. xlix. 7.) No one can redeem even a brother, or a father, or a son. For mark, Abraham addressed the rich man as son; yet had he no power to perform the part of a father. The rich man addressed Abraham as father; * but the paternal aid which a son commonly receives he was unable to gain;—-in order that you may learn that neither relationship, nor friendship, nor kind feeling, nor any other existing thing, can procure release for him who is delivered to destruction by his own evil life.
10. I have said these things because it frequently happens that many, when we urge them to take heed to themselves and practise self-denial, are indolent, and turn the warning into ridicule. They say, “Do thou befriend me at that day, and then I shall be confident and have no fear.” Another says, “I have a father who was a martyr;” and another, “I have a friend who is a bishop.” Others bring forward their whole household. But all these excuses are idle words; for the goodness of others will not help us then. Remember “that the wise virgins did not bestow any oil on the other five virgins; but they themselves went in to the bridal feast, while the others were shut out! It is a great blessing to found our hopes of safety on our own condition; for there no friend will ever stand in our stead. If even here it is said to Jeremiah, “Pray not thou for this people,” (Jer. vii. 16,) while it was still possible for them to repent, much more will the difficulty be increased hereafter. |88
What dost thou say?—-that thou hadst a father who was a martyr? This very thing will then add to thy condemnation; since having had an example of goodness in thy own household, thou didst prove thyself an unworthy child of a righteous father. But thou hast a friend who is noble and admirable? Neither will he profit thee then. Why then is it said, “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when ye fail they may receive you into everlasting habitations”? (Luke xvi. 9.) It is not the friendship that will then avail thee, but the charity. For if the friendship alone could avail, it would be necessary to say only, “Make to yourself friends;” but now, showing that not friendship alone avails, it is added, “of the mammon of unrighteousness.” As if perhaps some one might say, “I am able to make friends without the mammon, and much more zealous ones than those made by means of it. But that you may know that it is charity that avails us,—–that it is our work and righteous act,—-he persuades us to confide, not simply in the friendship of the saints, but in the friendship caused by the right use of mammon. Knowing all these things, beloved, let us give heed to ourselves with all diligence; when we are afflicted, let us give thanks; when we live in prosperity, let us be on our guard, becoming wise by the misfortunes of others; let us, by repentance and compunction and continual confession, offer praise; and if in any way we transgress in this present life, putting away the sin, and with the utmost zeal cleansing away every stain from our soul, let us beseech God to make us all fit when we die, thus to depart |89 that we may not be with the rich man, but that, enjoying with Lazarus a place in the patriarch’s bosom, we may be filled with undying blessedness; which may it be the lot of us all to attain, through the grace and kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be praise for ever and ever. Amen. Source.
CONCERNING LAZARUS —- AND THAT THE SOULS OF THOSE THAT DIE A VIOLENT DEATH DO NOT BECOME WANDERING SPIRITS—-CONCERNING ALSO FUTURE JUDGMENT, AND CHARITY.
1. I was pleased yesterday to see your right feeling when I entered upon the subject of Lazarus, inasmuch as you approved of the patience of the poor man, and shrank from the cruelty and inhumanity of the rich man. These are no small tokens of a noble mind. For if, though not possessing virtue, we yet praise it, then we may be at all events more able to attain it. In like manner if, though we do not flee from sin, we still blame sin, then we may at all events be able to escape from it. Since, therefore, you received that address with great favour, let me deliver to you those things which still remain.
You then saw Lazarus in the gateway of the rich man; to-day behold him in Abraham’s bosom. You saw him then licked by dogs; see him now guarded and tended by angels. You saw him then in poverty; behold him now in affluence. You saw him wanting food; behold him enjoying the greatest plenty. You saw him engaged in the contest; behold him crowned as victor. You saw his labour; behold his reward; behold it, whether you be rich or poor,—-if rich, that you may not think highly of wealth apart from virtue,—-if poor, that |39 you may not think poverty, in itself, an evil. To both classes this man may afford instruction. If he, living in poverty, did not resent his lot, what excuse will they have who do so in wealth? If, living in want and amid so many ills, he could give thanks, what defence can they make who, while they possess abundance, have no desire to attain to the virtue of thankfulness? Again; those who are poor, and who on that account are vexed and discontented, what excuse can they have, when this man, who lived in continual hunger and poverty, desertion and weakness, and who passed his days hard by the dwelling of a rich man; who was scorned by all, while there was no one else who had suffered the like, to whom he might look, still showed such patience and resignation? Prom him we may learn not to think the rich happy nor the poor miserable. Or rather, to speak the truth, he is not rich who is surrounded by many possessions, but he who does not need many possessions; and he is not poor who possesses nothing, but he who requires many things. We ought to consider this to be the distinction between poverty and wealth. When, therefore, you see any one longing for many things, esteem him of all men the poorest, even though he possess all manner of wealth; again, when you see one who does not wish for many things, judge him to be of all men most affluent, even if he possess nothing. For by the condition of our mind, not by the quantity of our material wealth, should it be our custom to distinguish between poverty and affluence. As also in the case of a man who is always thirsty, we do not say that he is in health, even should he enjoy abundance,—-even should |40 he lie beside rivers and streams; for what is the use of this abundance of water while his thirst is unquenched? Thus also we conclude in the case of the rich; we can never think those wealthy who are perpetually desiring and thirsting for other people’s possessions, not even if they enjoy a certain kind of abundance. For he who cannot restrain his desires, even if he should be surrounded by every kind of possessions, how can he ever be rich? Those, indeed, who are satisfied with their own property, enjoying what they have, and not casting a covetous eye on the substance of others, even if they be, as to means, of all men the most limited, ought to be regarded as the most affluent. For he who does not desire other people’s possessions, but is willing to be satisfied with his own, is the wealthiest of all.
However, with your permission, let us return to the proposed subject. “It came to pass,” it is said, “that Lazarus died; and he was carried up by angels,” (Luke xvi. 22.) Here, before I proceed, I desire to remove a wrong impression from your minds. For it is a fact that many of the less instructed think that the souls of those who die a violent death become wandering spirits, (demons.)
But this is not so. I repeat it is not so.1 For not the souls of those who die a violent death become demons, but rather the souls of those who live in sin; not that their nature is changed, but that in their desires they imitate the evil nature of demons. Showing this very thing to the Jews, Christ said, “Ye are the children of the devil,” (John vii. 44.) He said that they were the children of the devil, not because they were |41 changed into a nature like his, but because they performed actions like his. Wherefore also He adds:—- “For the lusts of your father ye will do.” Also John says: “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Do therefore works meet for repentance. And think not to say, We have Abraham for our father” (Matt. iii. 7-9.) The Scripture, therefore, is accustomed to base the laws of relationship, not on natural origin, but on good or evil disposition; and those to whom any one shows similarity of manners and actions, the Scripture declares him to be their son or their brother.
2. But for what object did the evil one introduce this wicked saying? It is because he would strive to undermine the glory of the martyrs. For since these also died a violent death, he did this with the intention of spreading a low estimation of them. This, however, he is unable to effect; they remain in possession of their former glory. But another and more grievous thing he has brought to pass; he has, by these means, persuaded the wizards who do his work to murder many innocent children, expecting them to become wandering spirits, and afterward to be their servants. But these notions are false: I repeat they are false. What then if the demons 2 say, “I am the spirit of such and such a monk”? Neither because of this do I credit the notion, since evil spirits say so to deceive those who listen to them. |42
For this reason St Paul stopped their mouth, even when speaking the truth, in order that they might not, on this pretext, at another time mingle falsehood with the truth, and still be deemed worthy of credit. For when they said, “These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation,” (Acts xvi. 17;) being grieved in spirit, he rebuked the sorceress, and commanded the spirits to go out. What evil was there in saying, “These men are the servants of the most high God”? Be that as it may, since many of the more weak-minded cannot always know how to decide aright concerning things spoken by demons, he at once put a stop to any credence in them. “If,” he implied, “thou art one of those in dishonour, thou hast no liberty of speaking: be silent, and open not thy mouth; it is not thy office to preach; this is the privilege of the apostles. Why dost thou arrogate to thyself that which is not thine? Be silent! thou art fallen from honour.” The same thing also Christ did, when the evil spirits said to Him, “We know Thee who Thou art,” (Mark i. 24; Luke iv. 24.) He rebuked them with great severity, teaching us never to listen to spirits, not even when they say what is true. Having learnt this, therefore, let us not trust at all in an evil spirit, even though he speak the truth; let us avoid him and turn away. Sound doctrine and saving truth are to be learned with accuracy, not from evil spirits, but from the Holy Scripture.
To show that it is not true that the soul, when it departs from the body, comes under the dominion of evil spirits, hear what St Paul says: “He that is dead is freed |43 from sin,” (Rom. vi. 7,) that is, he no longer sins. For if while the soul dwells in the body, the devil can use no violence against it, it is clear that he cannot when the soul has departed. How is it then, say they, that men sin, if they do not suffer any violence? They sin voluntarily and intentionally, surrendering themselves without compulsion or coercion. And this all those prove who have overcome the evil one’s devices. Thus [Satan] was unable to persuade Job to utter any blasphemous word, though he tried a thousand plans. Hence it is manifest that it is in our power either to be influenced or not to be influenced by his counsels; and that we are under no necessity nor tyranny from him. And not only from that which has just been said, but from the parable, it is quite certain that souls when they leave the body do not still linger here, but are forthwith led away. And hear how it is shown: “It came to pass,” it is said, “that he died, and was carried away by the angels.” Not the souls of the just only, but also those of sinners are led away. This also is clear from the case of another rich man. For when his land brought forth abundantly, he said within himself, “What shall I do? I will pull down my barns and build greater,” (Luke xii. 18.) Than this state of mind nothing could be more wretched. He did in truth pull down his barns; for secure storehouses are not built with walls of stone; they are “the mouths of the poor.” 3 But this man neglecting these, was busy about stone walls. What, however, did God say to him? “Thou fool, this night shall they require thy soul of thee.” Mark also: in one passage it is said that the soul is |44 carried away by angels; in the other, that “they require it;” and in the latter case they lead it away as a prisoner; in the former, they guard and conduct it as a crowned victor. And like as in the arena a combatant, having received many wounds, is drenched with blood; his head being then encircled with a crown, those who stand ready by the spot take him up, and with great applause and praise they bear him home amid shouting and admiration. In this way the angels on that occasion led Lazarus also away. But in the other instance dreadful powers,4 probably sent for that purpose, required the soul. For it is not of its own accord that the soul departs this life; indeed, it is not able. For if when we travel from one city to another we need guides, much more does the soul stand in want of those who can conduct it, when it is separated from the flesh, and is entering upon the future state of existence. For this reason it often rises up and again sinks down into the depth below; it fears and shivers as it is about to put off the flesh. The consciousness of sin ever pierces us, and chiefly at that hour when we are about to be led hence to the account there to be rendered, and to the awful tribunal. Then, if a man has robbed, if he has been covetous, if he has been haughty, if he has unjustly been any one’s enemy, if he has committed any other sin whatsoever, all the load of guilt is brought fresh to light, and being placed before the eye causes mental compunction. And as those who live in prison are always in sorrow and pain, and especially on that day when they are to be led forth, and brought to the place where they are to be tried, and |45 placed at the bar, and hear the voice of the judge within;5 as they then are full of fear, and seem no better than dead men, so the soul, though it is much pained at the very moment of the sinful act, is much more afflicted when about to be hurried away.
3. Ye are silent as ye listen to these things. Much rather would I have silence than applause. Applause and praises tend to my own glory; but silence tends to make you wiser. I know that what has been said causes pain, but it brings also great and inexpressible advantage. That rich man, if he had had some one to admonish him of these things, and had not had those flatterers counselling him always with a view to favour, and encouraging him in luxury, would not have come to the place of punishment; 6 he would not have endured those insupportable tortures, he would not afterwards have repented so inconsolably. But since all his associates spoke with a view to favour, they betrayed him to the fire. Oh that we could at all times and constantly act wisely with respect to these things, and speak thus concerning future punishment! “In all thy words,” it is said, “remember thy latter end, and thou wilt never sin,” (Ecclus. vii. 36.) And again, “Prepare thy work for going forth, and make ready for thy journey,” (Prov. xxiv. 27, LXX.) If thou hast defrauded any one of anything, restore it, and say with Zacchaeus “I restore him fourfold,” (Luke xix. 8.) If thou hast slandered any, if thou hast been any one’s enemy, be reconciled before thou comest before the Judge. Settle every affair here, that thou mayest see that tribunal with untroubled mind. As long as we are here we |46 have good hope, but when we come there, we no longer have it in our power to repent nor to cleanse ourselves from our sins. Wherefore it is necessary to be always ready for our going thither. For what if this evening it should seem good to the Lord to call us? What if He should do so to-morrow? The future is left uncertain, that we may be constantly striving and prepared for departure. Thus then Lazarus was at all times submissive and patient, and therefore he was led away with such honour. The rich man also died and was buried: his soul also was buried in the body as in a tomb, and bore about its sepulchre, the flesh. Having fettered his soul by drinking and gluttony as by a chain, he had thus made it inactive and dead.
Beloved, do not carelessly pass by this word “he was buried;” but let us think of the tables inlaid with silver, the couches, the carpets, the vestments, all the ornaments throughout the house, the unguents, the perfumes, the abundance of wine, the variety of meats, the confections, the cooks, the flatterers, the attendants, the household slaves, and all the rest of the display, all burnt up and come to nought. All is ashes, all cinders and dust, lamentations and mourning; no one any longer able to help him, or to bring back the departing soul. Then was made manifest the real power of gold, and of all the rest of his wealth. From all that crowd of attendants, he departed naked and alone, not being able out of all that abundance to carry anything away; but he went away destitute and deserted. No one of all his servants, no one of his supporters was at hand to rescue him from punishment, but led away from all these, he is alone taken |47 to bear those insupportable penalties. Truly “all flesh is as grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower fadeth; but the word of the Lord abideth for ever,” (Isa. xl. 6, 7.) Death came and withered all those things, and seizing the man himself as a captive, led him away downcast, filled with shame, speechless, trembling, afraid; him who had, as in a dream, enjoyed all that luxury. And after this, the rich man became a suppliant of the poor man, and required a supply from the table of him who once was famishing, and who lay at his gate, licked by dogs. Affairs were now reversed. All men now learned which was the rich man and which the poor, and that Lazarus was one of the most wealthy of men, and the rich man one of the most destitute. Just as in a play, certain men enter, wearing masks of kings and generals, and physicians and orators, and sophists and soldiers, being themselves in reality none of these; thus also, with respect to the present life, both poverty and wealth are only masks. As, therefore, when sitting in the theatre, you see one of the players on the stage, having on the mask of a king, you do not think him happy, nor think him really a king; neither would you wish to become like him; but since you know that he is some common man or other—-a rope-maker, perhaps, or a worker in brass, or some one else of that sort, you do not think him happy because of his mask and his dress, nor do you judge of his condition in life by these things, but you rather look down upon him because of his insignificance in other respects. Thus in truth also, here in this present life, it is as if we were sitting in a theatre, and looking at the players on the |48 stage. Do not, when you see many abounding in wealth, think that they are in reality wealthy, but dressed up in the semblance of wealth. And as one man, representing on the stage a king or a general, often may prove to be a household servant, or one of those who sell figs or grapes in the market; thus the rich, man may often chance to be the poorest of all. For if you remove his mask and examine his conscience, and enter into his inner mind, you will find there great poverty as to virtue, and ascertain that he is the meanest of men. As also, in the theatre, as evening closes in, and the spectators depart, those who come forth divested of their theatrical ornaments, who seemed to all to be kings and generals, now are seen to be whatever they are in reality; even so with respect to this life, when death comes, and the theatre is deserted, when all, having put off their masks of wealth or of poverty, depart hence, being judged only by their works, they appear, some really rich, some poor; some in honour, some in dishonour. Thus it often happens, that one of those who are here the most wealthy, is there most poor, as it was also in the case of this rich man. For when evening, that is, death, came, and he went out from the theatre of the present life, and put off his mask, he was seen there to be poorest of all, even so poor as not to possess a drop of water, but obliged to beg for this, and not gain the object of his petition. What could be more abject than poverty like this? And hear how having lifted up his eyes, he said to Abraham, “Father, have mercy on me and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,” (Luke xvi. 24.) Do you see how great his tribulation is? Him |49 whom he passed by when he was close at hand, he now calls to when far off; him upon whom he often, in going out and coming in, did not bestow a glance, he now, when far off, regards steadfastly.
But why does he now look at him? Very often, perhaps, the rich man had said, “What need have I of piety and goodness? All things flow to me as from a perennial fountain. I enjoy great honour, great prosperity. I suffer no unwished-for casualty. Why should I strive after goodness? This poor man, though he lives in piety and goodness, suffers a thousand ills.” Many in these days often say such things. In order, therefore, that these false notions might be completely rooted out, it is shown to the rich man, that for wickedness there is in store punishment, and for righteous toil, a crown and honour. And not only on this account did the rich man then see the poor man, but also that the rich man should endure the same that the poor man had endured, and in a higher degree. As therefore, in the case of the poor man, his being laid at the gate of the rich man, and thus seeing the prosperity of another, had made his affliction much heavier, thus also, in the case of the rich man, it made his pain greater, that he, now lying in the place of punishment,7 also sees the bliss of Lazarus; so that, not only by the very nature of torture, but by the contrast with the other’s honour, he should bear more insufferable punishment. And as God, when He drove Adam forth from Paradise, caused him to dwell opposite to Paradise, that the constant sight, ever renewing his grief, might produce in him a sense of his falling away from good; |50 thus also did He place this man within sight of Lazarus, that he might see of what he had deprived himself. “I sent to thee,” He might say, “this poor man Lazarus to thy gate, that he might be to thee a teacher of virtue, and an oportunity for the exercise of benevolence. Thou didst overlook the gain; thou wert not willing to use aright this means of salvation. From henceforth find it to be a cause of increased pain and punishment.”
We learn from this that all those whom we have de-spitefully treated or wronged will then meet us face to face. Still this man was not in any way wronged by the rich man: for the rich man did not seize any of his property; yet he bestowed not upon him any of his own. And since he did not bestow anything on him, he had the neglected poor man for his accuser. What mercy can he expect who has robbed other men’s goods, when he is surrounded by all those whom he has injured! No need is there of witnesses, none of accusers, none of evidences or proofs; but the very deeds themselves, whatsoever we have committed, will then be placed before our own eyes.
Behold, then, it is said, the man and his works. This also is robbery—-not to impart our good things to others. Very likely it may seem to you a strange saying; but wonder not at it, for I will, from the Divine Scriptures, bring testimony showing that not only robbery of other men’s goods, but also the not imparting our own good things to others,—-that this also is robbery, and covetous-ness, and fraud. What then is this testimony? God, rebuking the Jews, speaks thus through the prophet: “The earth has brought forth her fruit, and ye have not brought in the tithes; but the plunder of the poor is in |51 your houses,” (Mal. iii. 10.) Since, it is said, ye have not given the customary oblations, ye have robbed the poor. This is said in order to show to the rich that they possess things which belong to the poor, even if their property be gained by inheritance,—-in fact, from what source soever their substance be derived. And, again, in another place, it is said, “Do not deprive the poor of life,” (Ecclus. iv. 1.) Now, he who deprives, deprives some other man of property. It is said to be deprivation when we retain things taken from others. And in this way, therefore, we are taught that if we do not bestow alms, we shall be treated in the same way as those who have been extortioners. Our Lord’s things they are, from whencesoever we may obtain them. And if we distribute to the needy we shall obtain for ourselves great abundance. And for this it is that God has permitted you to possess much,—-not that you should spend it in fornication, in drunkenness, in gluttony, in rich clothing, or any other mode of luxury, but that you should distribute it to the needy. And just as if a receiver of taxes, having in charge the king’s property, should not distribute it to those for whom it is ordered, but should spend it for his own enjoyment, he would pay the penalty and come to ruin; thus also the rich man is, as it were, a receiver of goods which are destined to be dispensed to the poor—-to those of his fellow-servants who are in want. If he then should spend upon himself more than he really needs, he will pay hereafter a heavy penalty. For the things he has are not his own, but are the things of his fellow-servants.
5. Let us then be as sparing of our possessions as we |52 should be of those of other people, that they may become really our own. In what manner, then, can we be as sparing of them as of those of other people? By not expending them on superfluous wants, nor for our own needs only, but by imparting them also to the poor. Even if you are a rich man, if you spend more than you need, you will render an account of the property which has been entrusted to you. This same thing happens in great households. Many in this way entrust their entire property into the hands of dependants; yet those who are thus trusted take care of the things delivered to them, and do not squander the deposit, but distribute to whomsoever and whensoever the master orders. The same thing do you. If you have received more than others, you have received it, not that you only should spend it, but that you should be a good steward of it for the advantage of others.
It is worth while to inquire here, why it was that the rich man beheld Lazarus, not in company with any other of the just, but in the bosom of Abraham? Abraham was hospitable, and that there might be this rebuke of his own inhospitality, therefore it was that the rich man saw Lazarus there. Abraham used to lie in wait for those who passed by, and constrain them to enter his abode; but this rich man neglected even one that lay within his very porch; and while he had such a treasure, such an opportunity of salvation, overlooked it each day, and did not show kindness to the poor man, even with respect to the necessaries of life. But the patriarch was not like this. He was the very opposite. Sitting at the |53 tent-door he captured,8 as it were, all those that passed by, and as a fisher casting his net into the sea, draws up fishes, and draws up also, it may be, sometimes gold or pearls, so also he, a fisher of men, once entertained even angels; and there was this wonderful circumstance, that he did so without knowing it. The same thing also St Paul with much admiration insists on, in these words: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares,” (Heb. xiii. 2.) And well does he say unawares, (e1laqon.) For if they had knowingly received them with such good-will, they would have done no great or wonderful thing: all the praise depends on the fact that not knowing who they were that passed by, and supposing them to be simply wayfaring men, they with such alacrity invited them to enter. If when you receive some noble and honourable man you display such zeal as this, you do nothing wonderful; for the nobility of the guest obliges even the inhospitable often to show all kindness. It is this that is great and admirable,—-that when they are chance guests, wanderers, people of limited means, we receive them with great good-will. Thus also Christ, speaking of those who acted thus, said: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto Me,” (Matt. xxv. 45.) And again, “It is not the will of your Father that one of these little ones should perish,” (Matt. xviii. 14.) And again, “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were cast into the sea,” (Matt. xviii. 6.) And at |54 all times Christ said much on behalf of the poor and lowly.
Since Abraham also was wise in this respect, he did not inquire of travellers as to who they were, or from whence they came, as we do in these days; but he simply received all who passed by. It becomes him that is truly well-disposed not to require an account of a man’s past life, but simply to relieve poverty and to satisfy want. The poor man has only one plea—-his poverty, and his being in want. Demand from him nothing more; but if he be the most wicked of all, and be in need of necessary food, you ought to satisfy his hunger. Thus did Christ command us to do, when he said, “Be ye like your Father which is in heaven, for He maketh His sun to shine on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust,” (Matt. v. 45.) The merciful man is as a harbour to those who are in need; and the harbour receives all who are escaping shipwreck, and frees them from danger, whether they be evil or good; whatsoever kind of men they be that are in peril, it receives them into its shelter. You also, when you see a man suffering shipwreck on land through poverty, do not sit in judgment on him, nor require explanations, but relieve his distress. Why do you give yourself unnecessary trouble? God frees you from all such anxiety and labour. How many things would many men have said, and how many difficulties would they have caused, if God had commanded us to inquire accurately into a man’s life, his antecedents, the things which each man had previously done; and after this, to have pity on him! But now are we free from |55 all this trouble. “Why, then, do we burden ourselves with superfluous cares? To be a judge is one thing, to be merciful is another. Mercy is called by that name for this reason, that it gives even to the unworthy. This again St Paul teaches, when he says, “Be not weary in doing good, indeed to all, but especially unto them that are of the household of faith,” (Gal. vi. 10.) If we are concerned and troubled about keeping the unworthy away, it will not be likely that the worthy come within our reach; but if we impart to the unworthy, also the worthy —-even those who are so worthy as to counterbalance all the rest—-will assuredly come under our influence. In this way it befell Abraham, of blessed memory, who, not troubling himself nor being inquisitive about these wayfarers, was once privileged to entertain even angels. Him let us zealously imitate, and also his descendant Job. For even he imitated with all diligence the magnanimity of his progenitor, and therefore spoke thus: “My door was open to every traveller,” (Job xxxi. 32, LXX.) It was not open to one and. closed to another, but open to all alike.
6. Thus, I beseech you, let us also do, not making a more minute inquiry than is necessary. For the need of the poor man is a sufficient cause of itself; and whosoever with this qualification should at any time come to us, let us not trouble ourselves further; for we do not minister to the character, but to the man: we have pity on him, not on account of his virtue, but on account of his calamity, in order that we also may gain that great mercy from the Lord—-that we also, though unworthy, may gain |56 His favour. For if we seek for worthiness in our fellow-servants, and make diligent inquiry, the same also will God do to us; and if we demand explanations from our fellow-servants, we ourselves shall fail to gain favour from above. “With what judgment,” it is said,9 “ye judge, ye shall be judged,” (Matt. viii. 2.)
But let us again turn our discourse to the subject on hand. Seeing this poor man, therefore, in the bosom of Abraham, the rich man said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus.” Why does he not address his words to Lazarus? It seems to me that he was ashamed and daunted, and that he thought that Lazarus would assuredly retain an angry remembrance of the things done to him. He would say within himself, “If I, while I enjoyed such abundance, and without any just complaint against him, neglected this man when he lived in such misery, and did not bestow upon him even the crumbs, much more will he who has been thus neglected, not yield to pity.” We do not say this to disparage Lazarus; for he was not at all thus disposed—-far from it; but the rich man, fearing such things as this, did not address him, but raised his voice to Abraham, whom he might suppose to be ignorant of what had happened. And now he strove to gain the service of that finger which he had often allowed to be licked by dogs.
What then did Abraham say to him? “Son! thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things,” (Luke xvi. 25.) Mark the wisdom—-mark the tenderness of the saint! He |57 did not say, “Inhuman and cruel man! full of all wickedness! Having inflicted such evils on this man, dost thou now speak of benevolence, or pity, or compassion! Dost thou not blush! Art thou not ashamed!” But what does he say? “Son,” he saith, “thou receivedst thy good things.” For it is also written, “Thou shalt not add trouble to an afflicted soul,” (Ecclus. iv. 3.) The trouble which he has brought upon himself is sufficient. Besides this, and to the end that you may not suppose that he hinders Lazarus from going to the rich man because of any feeling of revenge for the past, Abraham addresses him as “son,” as if he would by this mode of address apologise for himself. “Whatever is in my power,” he implies, “I grant to thee; but to leave this place is not now in my power. Thou didst receive thy good things.” Why also did he not say “thou hadst” (ἔλαβες), but “thou receivedst” (ἀπέαβες)? Here I perceive a vast sea of thought opening out before us.
Therefore, keeping in mind with all care the things which have been already said, as well those now said as those yesterday, let us safely store them in the mind. By means of that which has been said, make yourselves better prepared to hear that which will be spoken on another occasion, and, if possible, remember all that has been said; and if that be not possible, I beg that, chiefest of all, you will remember constantly that not to share our own riches with the poor is a robbery of the poor, and a depriving them of their livelihood; and that that which we possess is not only our own, but also theirs. If our minds are disposed in accordance with this truth, we shall freely use |58 all our possessions; we shall feed Christ while hungering here, and we shall lay up great treasures there; we shall, be enabled to attain future blessedness, by the grace and favour of our Lord, with whom, to the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory, honour, might, now and ever, even to all eternity. Amen.
Note: the following is excerpted from a discourse preached the day after a pagan festival. The Title of the discourse given by its editor is a follows:
CONCERNING DRUNKARDS AND FREQUENTERS OF TAVERNS, AND FESTAL PROCESSIONS IN THE STREETS—-A TEACHER OUGHT NOT TO DESPAIR OF HIS DISCIPLES EVEN ‘WHILE THEY DISREGARD HIS WORDS—-ALSO, CONCERNING LAZARUS AND THE RICH MAN.
Yesterday (it was the day of a pagan festival), we alleged against such feasters the testimony of St Paul, who says, “Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God,” (1 Cor. x. 31.) To-day, we shall show them the Lord of Paul not only advising or counselling to abstain from luxury, but also punishing and inflicting penalties on one who lived in luxury; for the narrative of the rich man and Lazarus, and of the things which befell them, proves nothing less than this. And rather than that our |14 consideration of this subject should be superficial, I will read to you the parable from the commencement. “There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores,” (Luke xvi. 19-21.)
Now for what reason did the Lord speak to them in parables? Why also did He explain some of these, and leave others unexplained? And what indeed is a parable? These, and other questions of this nature, we will reserve until another opportunity, so as not to digress from the argument now claiming our attention.
One thing, however, we will ask: Which of the evangelists has delivered to us this parable as spoken by Christ? Which then is it? It is St Luke only. For it is also necessary to know that, of the things which are related, some are related by all four; some, as by special information, by one only. And why? In order that the reading of the other Gospels might be necessary, and that their agreement with each other might be made manifest. For if they all delivered all the events, we should not examine them all with such care, since one only would be sufficient to inform us about everything. If, again, all spoke of different events, we should fail to discover their agreement. On this account they all wrote many things in common, while at the same time each received and delivered matters peculiar to himself.
To return, however, to Christ’s teaching in the parable. |15 It is this: A certain man, it is said, living in great wickedness, was rich; and he experienced no ill fortune, but all good things flowed to him as from a perennial fountain. For that nothing undesirable happened to him—-no cause of trouble—-none of the ills of human life —-is implied when it is said, that “he fared sumptuously every day.” And that he lived wickedly is clear from the end allotted to him, and even before his end, from the neglect which he displayed in the case of the poor man; for that he felt pity neither for the poor man at his gate nor for any other, he himself showed. For if he had no pity on the man continually laid at his gate, and placed before his eyes, whom every day, once or twice, or oftentimes, as he went in and out, he was obliged to see;—-for the man was not placed in a by-way, nor in a hidden and narrow place, but in a spot where the rich man, in his continual coming-in and going-out, was obliged, even if unwilling, to look upon him;—-if, therefore, the rich man did not pity him lying there in such suffering, and living in such distress,—-yea, rather, all his life long in misery because of sickness, and that of the most grievous kind,—-would he ever have been moved with compassion towards any of the afflicted whom he might casually meet? For though on one occasion the rich man passed him by, it was likely that he would manifest some feeling the next day; and if even then he disregarded the poor man, still on the third day, or the fourth, or even after that, he might be expected in some way to be moved to compassion, even if he were more cruel than the wild beasts. But he had no feeling: he was more severe and harsh than that judge who neither |16 feared God nor regarded man. For the judge, though so cruel and stern, was moved by the perseverance of the widow to be gracious and listen to her petition; but this man could not even thus be induced to give aid to the poor man, notwithstanding that his petition was not like that of the widow, but much easier and fairer. For she requested aid against her enemies, while this poor man was entreating that his hunger might be allayed, and that he should not be allowed to perish. The widow also caused trouble by her entreaties; but this man, though often in the day seen by the rich man, only lay without speaking: and this circumstance was quite sufficient to soften a heart harder than stone. When we are urged, we frequently feel annoyed; but when we see those who need our help remaining in perfect silence and saying not a word, and though always failing to gain their object, not bearing it hardly, but. only appearing before us in silence, even though we are more unfeeling than the very stones, we are shamed and moved by such exceeding humility. There is also another circumstance of not less weight, namely, that the very appearance of the poor man was pitiable, since he was emaciated by hunger and long sickness. Yet none of these things influenced that cruel man.
First, then, there was this vice of cruelty and inhumanity in a degree that could not be exceeded. For it is not the same thing for one living in poverty not to assist those who are in need, as for one who enjoys such luxury to neglect others who are wasting away through hunger. Again, it is not the same thing for one to pass by a poor man when he sees him once or twice, as to see him every day |17 without being moved by the oft-recurring sight to pity and benevolence. Again, it is not the same thing for one who is in difficulties and anxiety, and troubled in soul, not to help his neighbour, as for one enjoying such good fortune and unbroken prosperity, to neglect others who are perishing from hunger, and to shut up his bowels of compassion, and not rather, for the very sake of his own happiness, to become more benevolent. For know this of a truth, that unless we are the most cruel of all men, we are, by our very nature, apt, by our own prosperity, to be rendered milder and more gentle. But this rich man did not grow better on account of his prosperity, but remained ill-natured; or rather had, deep in his disposition, cruelty and inhumanity greater than that of a beast of the field.
Still it came to pass that a man living in wickedness and inhumanity enjoyed every kind of good fortune, and a just and virtuous man lingered in the greatest ills. For that Lazarus was a just man is made plain, as in the other case, by his end, and even before his end, by his patience and poverty. Do you not, indeed, seem to see these things present before our eyes? The ship of the rich man was laden with merchandise, and sailed with a fair wind. But do not marvel; for it was borne on to shipwreck, since he was not willing to bestow its burden wisely. Would you that I should give another proof of his wickedness? It is his living in luxury every day without fear. For this in truth is the height of wickedness; and not only now, (in this dispensation,) when we are required to show such moderation, but even in the beginning, under the old covenant, when there was no |18 revelation of the need of this self-control. For hear what the prophet says: “Woe to them that come to an evil day, that come near, and that make a Sabbath of lies,” (Amos vi. 3, LXX.)
The Jews suppose that the Sabbath was given to them for the sake of ease. But this is not the object of it; but it was in order that, separating themselves from, worldly affairs, they might bestow all that leisure on spiritual things. For that the Sabbath was not for the sake of idleness, but for spiritual work, is clear from its very circumstances. The priest, on that day, does a double portion of work, a single sacrifice being offered each common day, while on that day he is commanded to offer a double sacrifice. And if the Sabbath were for the sake of idleness, the priest before all others ought to be idle. Since therefore the Jews, separating themselves from worldly things, devoted not themselves to spiritual things, to temperance, and gentleness, and hearing the divine word, but did the very opposite, feasting, drinking, indulging in excess and luxury; on this account it is, that the prophet condemns them. For he says, “Woe to them that come to an evil day,” and, in continuation, “that make a Sabbath of lies.” He shows by that which follows how their Sabbath became unprofitable. How then did they make it unprofitable? By their working wickedness, living in luxury, drinking, and doing numberless other base and vile acts. And that this charge is true, hear what follows; for he intimates that which I am affirming, by that which he immediately adds, saying: “That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the |19 calves out of the midst of the stall; that drink refined wine, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments,” (Amos vi. 4, 6.)
Thou didst receive the Sabbath that thou mightest purify thy soul from wickedness; but thou hast increased wickedness. For what can be worse than this effeminacy —-this “sleeping upon beds of ivory?” The other sins, as drinking, covetousness, or prodigality, may be accompanied with some small amount of pleasure; but the sleeping on beds of ivory, what pleasure is there in it? Is more refreshing or sweeter sleep brought to us by the beauty of the couch? Nay, rather this beauty is more burdensome and more troublesome to us, if we reflect upon the matter. For whenever thou dost consider that while thou art sleeping on an ivory couch, another fellow-creature is not even able to enjoy the certainty of having bread to eat, will not conscience condemn thee and rise up to accuse this wrong? And if to sleep on an ivory couch be a reproach, what defence can we make when the bed is also decked with silver? Dost thou wish to know the true beauty of a couch? I will show thee the adornment, not of a couch belonging to one in private life, nor to a soldier, but to a king. Though thou shouldst be of all men the most desirous of honour, be assured that thou couldst not wish to have a couch more becoming than that of this king. It is also not that of an ordinary king, but of a very great king, a king of all kings most kingly, and even to this day magnified in the whole world. I show thee the couch of the blessed David. Of what kind then was it? It was not decked with silver and gold, but everywhere with tears and |20 confessions. And this he himself says, speaking thus: “All the night make I my bed to swim, and water my couch with my tears,” (Ps. vi. 6.) Thus with tears was it in all parts adorned as if with pearls.
8. Mark then with me this godly soul. For although by day manifold cares—-about the rulers, about the governors, about the tribes, about the different races, about soldiers, about war, about peace, about affairs of state, about household affairs, about things far off, about things near home, distracted and disturbed him, nevertheless, the leisure time which we all give to sleep he spent in confessions and prayers and tears. And this he did not for one night to cease from it the next, not for two or three nights, after intervals of repose; but he was doing this every night; for “every night,” said he, “wash I my bed, and water my couch with my tears,” (Ps. vi. 6, Prayer-book version,) indicating the abundance of his tears and their continuance. For when all were quiet and at rest, he alone held converse with God; and the eye of Him who never sleepeth was turned towards the man who bewailed and lamented and confessed his indwelling sins. Such a couch as this do thou prepare. For silver ornaments both excite the envy of man and enkindle wrath from above. But such tears as those of David can even extinguish the fire of Gehenna.
Do you wish me to show thee another couch? I mean that of Jacob. He lay on the ground, and a stone was under his head. Therefore also, he saw the symbolical stone,2 and that ladder on which angels were ascending |21 and descending. Couches of this kind let us also have, that we may see such visions. If we lie upon silver, we not only gain no pleasure, but also endure trouble. For whenever thou dost consider that in the severest cold in the middle of the night, while thou art sleeping on thy couch, the poor man lying on chaff in the porticoes of the baths, covered with straw, is trembling, numb with cold, and fainting with hunger, even if thou shouldst be most stony-hearted, be assured that thou wilt condemn thyself for being content that while thou art luxuriating in things superfluous, he is not able to enjoy even the necessaries of life. “No man that warreth,” saith the apostle, “entangleth himself with the affairs of this life,” (2 Tim. ii. 4.) Thou art a spiritual soldier; but such a soldier does not sleep on an ivory bed, but on the ground; he does not use scented unguents, for this is the habit of sensual and dissolute men—-of those who live on the stage, or in indolence; and it is not the odour of ointment that thou shouldst have, but that of virtue. The soul is none the more pure when the body is thus scented. Yea, this fragrance of the body and of the dress may even be a sign of inward corruption and uncleanness. For when Satan makes his approaches to corrupt the soul and fill it with all indolence, then also by means of ointments he impresses upon the body the stains which mark its inner defilement. And just as those who suffer continually from flux and catarrh defile their garments and person, constantly discharging these humours; in the same way the soul denies the body with the evil of this corrupt discharge. What noble or useful deed can be expected from a man scented with myrrh and living effeminately, or |22 rather keeping company with meretricious women, and giving himself up to the company of low actors? Rather let the soul exhale spiritual odours, in order that thou mayest in the greatest degree benefit both thyself and thy associates.
For nothing—-nothing is worse than luxury. Hear what Moses again says concerning it: “He is waxen fat, he is grown thick, he is increased, he that is beloved kicked,” (Deut. xxxii. 15, LXX.) And he does not say: “he rebelled,” but he “kicked,” indicating to us his wildness and intractableness. And again, in another place; “When thou hast eaten and art full, beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God,” (Deut. viii. 10, 11.) Thus does luxury lead to forgetfulness. Then do thou also, beloved, when thou sittest at table, remember that after the meal thou shouldst pray: and so moderately refresh thyself that thou mayest not through fulness be unable to bend the knee and call upon God. Do you not see beasts of burden, how after feeding, they recommence the journey, they bear loads, they fulfil all the service that falls to their lot? But thou when thou risest from table, art unfit for any work; thou art become useless. How wilt thou avoid being thought less worthy of honour than the very beasts? Wherefore? Because it is then the proper time to be sober and to watch. For the time after meals is the time for thanksgiving; and he who gives thanks should not indulge in excess, but be sober and vigilant. Let us not turn from the table to the couch, but to prayer, that we become not more irrational than the beasts.
9. I am aware that many will condemn that which is said, |23 as leading to a new and strange manner of living. But I the more condemn the evil customs that are now prevalent amongst us. For that when we rise from food, and from the table, we ought to proceed, not to sleep and the couch, but to prayers and the reading of the Holy Scriptures; this is made most clear by Christ. For when He had feasted the innumerable multitude in the wilderness, He did not dismiss them to lie down to sleep, but called them to hear the divine word.3 He did not fill them to repletion, nor allow them to fall into excess; but having satisfied their need, he led them to a spiritual feast. Thus let us also act, and let us accustom ourselves to eat so much only as will sustain our higher life, and not hinder and oppress it. For it was not for this that we were born, and exist—-namely, that we should eat and drink; but let us eat for this—-namely, that we may live. It was not given us at first to live for the sake of eating, but to eat for the sake of living. But we, as if we had come into the world merely to eat, upon this we spend everything.
In order that this charge against luxury may be corroborated, and come home to those who are living in it, let us return in our discourse to Lazarus. And thus the warning will become clearer, and the counsel more effectual, since you will see those who live in excess instructed and corrected, not by words only, but by acts. The rich man lived in this kind of wickedness, and luxuriated day by day, and was splendidly attired; but he was bringing |24 on himself severer punishment, stirring up a fiercer flame, making his condemnation more complete, and the penalty more inexorable.
But the poor man who was cast at his gate grieved not, nor blasphemed, nor complained. He did not say within himself, as many do, “Why is this so? This man living in wickedness and cruelty and inhumanity enjoys all things even beyond his need, and endures no trouble nor any of the unlooked-for reverses that often happen in human affairs. He enjoys unmixed pleasure, while I have not the opportunity of partaking even of necessary food. To this man, who squanders all his substance on parasites and flatterers and wine—-to him all good things flow like a river; while I live as an object to be gazed at —-an object of shame and derision, and am wasting through hunger. Is this Providence? Can it be Justice that overrules human affairs?”
He did not say any of these things, nor had he them in his mind. How is this manifest? From the circumstance that guardian angels surrounded him at his death, and bore him away to Abraham’s bosom. Had he been a blasphemer, he would not have gained this glory. Thus also most people wonder at this man merely because of his poverty; but I proceed to show that he endured these ninefold 4 afflictions, not for punishment, but that he might become more glorious. This result accordingly happened.
A dreadful thing, in truth, is poverty, as all who have had experience of it know. For no words can express |25 the trouble which they endure who live in poverty, without knowing the relief of true philosophy. And in the case of Lazarus, there was not only this evil, but bodily ‘weakness superadded, and that in the highest degree. Notice how it is shown that both these inflictions reached the highest pitch. That the poverty of Lazarus at that time surpassed all other poverty, is clear, when it is said that he did not obtain the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. And that his weakness had reached the same pitch as his poverty, beyond which it could not go, this also is shown when it is said that the dogs licked his sores.5 He was so feeble as not to be able to drive away the dogs; but he lay like a living corpse, seeing their approach, but powerless to keep them at a distance-To such an extent were his limbs emaciated; so much was he wasted by bodily sickness; so far was he worn down by trials. You see that poverty and weakness in the highest degree, as it were, besieged his body. And if each of these evils by itself is unbearable and dreadful, what adamantine strength must he have who must bear them both united! Many people are often in ill health, but they do not at the same time lack necessary food. Others may live in utter poverty, but they may enjoy |26 health; and the blessing on the one hand may counterbalance the evil on the other; but in the case we are considering, both these evils came together.
Suppose, however, that there may be some alleviation even in weakness and in poverty. But this cannot be, when in such a state of desertion. For if there were no one connected with him or at his home, to pity him, yet he might have met with compassion from some of the beholders, when lying before the public; but in this case the utter lack of helpers increased the afore-mentioned evils. And the being laid at the gate of the rich man added to his distress. If he had been placed in a desert and uninhabited place when he suffered this neglect, he would not have felt such grief; for the fact of there being no one nigh would have led him, even though unwillingly, to submit to these unavoidable evils; but being placed in the midst of so many people carousing and rejoicing, and meeting with not the slightest attention from any of them, made the thought of his own woes more bitter, and the more inflamed his grief. For we are so constituted as not to be so much distressed by evils when all helpers are at a distance, as when helpers who are near are unwilling to stretch out a hand to aid us. This grief, then, this poor man felt. There was no one either to console him by a word, or to comfort him by a kind act; no friend, no neighbour, no relation, no one of those who saw him; not one of all the corrupt household of the rich man.
10. Besides, in addition to these things, it would cause another accession of woe to see another man in such prosperity. Not that he was envious and evil-minded, but |27 because it is the nature of us all to feel our own private misfortunes more acutely when we see others in prosperity. And with respect to the rich man, there was another circumstance which would give Lazarus pain. For, in truth, not only by comparing his own ill-fortune with another’s prosperity did he feel the more deeply his own woes, but also by the consideration that another who acted with cruelty and inhumanity was in every respect fortunate; while he himself, with his virtue and meekness, suffered extreme misery; and thus, again, he would feel inconsolable grief. For if the rich man had been just, if he had been gentle, if he had been worthy of admiration, full of all virtue, the thought would not thus have grieved Lazarus. But now, when the rich man was living in wickedness, proceeding to the extreme of evil, displaying such inhumanity, and acting as an enemy, passing him by as shamelessly and pitilessly as though he were a stone; and notwithstanding all this was enjoying such prosperity, consider how likely it would be that this state of things would plunge the soul of the poor man in continual waves of woe! Consider how Lazarus would feel when he saw parasites, flatterers’ servants going up and down, coming in and out, as they hastened about, noisy, drinking, dancing, and displaying every form of wantonness. For, just as if he had come for the very purpose of being a witness of another’s prosperity, he was laid at his gate, having life only sufficient to make him sensible of his own ills. He suffered, as it were, shipwreck at the very harbour’s mouth, and was consumed with thirst at the very edge of the spring.
Shall I add to these yet another woe? It is this,—- |28 that he could nowhere see another Lazarus. We ourselves even though we suffer ten thousand ills, still are able looking at him (Lazarus) to gain effectual comfort and feel great consolation. For to find fellowship in his private ills, whether they be physical or mental, brings great alleviation to the sufferer. Lazarus, however, could not look to any other man suffering the same things as himself; or rather he could not even hear of any one of those going before him, who had endured such things. This of itself was enough to becloud his mind. And, besides this, we have to mention another thing:—-that he was unable to console himself with any hope of the resurrection, 6 but thought that present things are bounded by the present existence, for he lived under the old dispensation, (πρὸ τῆς χάριτος.) And if even now, in these days, after such a revelation of God’s character, and the blessed hope of the resurrection, and the knowledge of the punishment laid up for sinners, and the good things prepared for the righteous, many men are so feeble-minded and weak as not even to be confirmed by such expectations as these, what would he, in all probability, endure who was without such an anchor of hope? This man could not at any time thus console himself, because the time had not yet arrived when such revelations were vouchsafed to man. And even in addition to this, there was yet another thing, namely, that his character was maligned by foolish men. For the generality of men are accustomed, when they see any in hunger and thirst, or living in great trouble, not to entertain any charitable feeling respecting them, but rather to pass judgment on their life by their |29 misfortunes, and to suppose that they are thus afflicted entirely on account of their wickedness; and they say to each other many things of this kind—-foolishly no doubt—-but still they say so:—-“This man, if he were favourably regarded by God, would not have been suffered to be afflicted with poverty and other woes.” In this way it happened to Job and to Paul. To the former they said:—-“Hath it not often been said to thee in trouble, The force of thy words who can bear? For if thou didst instruct many, and strengthen the weak hands, and raise up the feeble with thy words, and give power to the tottering knees; yet now trouble has come upon thee, and thou art over-anxious. Is not thy fear the offspring of folly?” 7 (Job iv. 2-6, LXX.) The meaning of these words is this —-“If,” they say, “thou hadst acted rightly thou wouldst not have suffered these present ills; but thou art paying the penalty of sins and transgressions.”
And this it was especially that wounded the blessed Job.
Again concerning Paul, the barbarians spoke in the same strain; when they saw the viper hanging from his hand, they had no favourable opinion of him, but supposed that he was one of those who dare to commit the greatest crimes. This is plain from that which they said:—-“This man though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live,” (Acts xxviii. 4.) This same thing frequently disturbs ourselves not a little. But notwithstanding that the waves of trouble, dashing against each other, were so great, the bark of this poor man was not overwhelmed; and though he was placed as it were |30 in a furnace, he preserved his tranquillity as if refreshed with perpetual dew.
11. Nor did he say within himself anything of this kind—-as it seems many do say, namely:—-“This rich man when he departs this life will undergo punishments and penalties, and then one will have become one again; but if he there be honoured two will have come to nothing.” 8 Now, do not many among yourselves use such expressions in the market, or introduce into the church words which belong to the circus or the theatre? I should be ashamed, and blush to utter such words aloud, were it not necessary to say such things in order that you may avoid the unlicensed mirth and shame and harm springing from the use of such expressions. Many frequently laugh when they say these things; but this is the effect of satanical guile, in order to bring corrupt expressions into common use instead of sound words. Such things as these many constantly repeat in the workshop, in the market, in their houses,—-things full of utter unbelief and folly—-things that are in reality ridiculous and puerile. For to say, “if the wicked when they depart are punished,” and not to be fully persuaded in one’s own mind that they will in truth be punished, is a mark of unbelief and scepticism. If also it should result, even as it will result, even the very thought that the evil will enjoy the same rewards as the just, is utter folly.
What dost thou mean, tell me, when thou sayest, if the rich man when he departs should receive punishment, “one has become one?” (There is equality.) And how |31 is the saying true? For how many years do you wish that we suppose that he has here enjoyed wealth? Do you wish to suppose a hundred? I, for my part, am willing rather to suppose two hundred, or three hundred, or twice as many; or even, if you wish, a thousand, however impossible it may be. The days of our years, it is said, are eighty years, (alluding to Ps. xc. 10.) Suppose, however, a thousand. But can you, I pray, show me in this world a life that has no end?—-one that knows no limit, such as is the life of the just in heaven? Tell me then, if some one in the course of a hundred years, seeing for a single night a dream of prosperity; and, after enjoying in his sleep great luxury, should be punished for a hundred years—-would you be able to say of him one has become one, (there is an equal balance,) and place the one night of dreams as a counterpoise to the hundred years? It is impossible to say so. Think, then, in the same way concerning the life to come. For the proportion that the dream of one night has to the hundred years, the same the present life has to the future life; or, rather, the latter proportion is much the less. As a little drop to the fathomless ocean, so is a thousand years to that future glory and bliss. And what can one say more, except that that life has no limit, and knows no end; and that there is as much difference between dreams and realities as there is between our condition in this world and our condition in the next. Besides, even before the future punishment, those who live wickedly are punished now. For do not tell me only of enjoying a sumptuous table, and of being clothed in silken garments, and of being followed by troops of slaves, and of proceeding in state through the public places of |32 resort; but lay open to me the conscience of such a man, and there you shall see within great trouble on account of sins, perpetual dread, tempest, and confusion, and the reason, as in a court of justice, ascending the royal throne of conscience, sitting there as a judge, bringing forward the thoughts as ministers of justice, racking the mind, torturing it on account of sin, and vehemently accusing it; and this state of things is known to no one else, save only God, who sees all that takes place.
Again, he who commits fornication, though he be rich in the highest degree, and though he have no accuser, never ceases inwardly to accuse himself. The pleasure is fleeting, while the pain is lasting; there is fear from all sides and trembling, suspicion, and agony; he fears the by-ways, he trembles at the very shadows, at his own domestics, at those who know his guilt, at those who know it not, at the injured one, at her wronged husband: he goes about bearing with him a keen accuser—-his own conscience—-being self-condemned, and unable to find the slightest relief. And even on his bed, or at his table, or in the market, or in his house, by day, by night, even in his very dreams he often sees the image of his sin; he lives the life of a Cain, groaning and trembling on the earth; and though no one knows it, he has within himself the unquenchable fire.
This also they who rob and who are covetous suffer; this also does the drunkard suffer, and, in short, every one living in sin.
It is impossible that that tribunal can in any way be influenced. And if we do not follow after virtue, yet we are pained for not following after it; and if we follow |33 vice, as soon as we lose the pleasure that accompanies the sin, we feel the pain. Let us therefore not say concerning those who are prosperous here, and yet do ill, and concerning the just who enjoy felicity in the next world, that “one becomes one” (all is equally balanced,) but that “two come to nothing” (all the good is on one side.) For, to the just the life here and the life yonder both bring much pleasure; but they who live in wickedness and in luxury are punished both in the life here and the life yonder. For even here they are harassed by the expectation of the coming penalty, as well as by the bad opinion in which they are held by all, and by the fact that by the very sin itself their soul is corrupted; and after their departure thither they endure insupportable penalties.
Again, the just, even if they suffer a thousand ills here, are encouraged by pleasant hopes; they have unmixed, sure, and abiding pleasure; and after these things, innumerable blessings accrue to them, as also we see in the case of Lazarus.
Therefore do not say to me that he was full of sores; but mark this—-that he had within him a soul more precious than all gold; or rather, mark not only his soul, but also his body; for bodily perfection consists not in stoutness and vigour, but in being able to bear so many and so great afflictions. For, if one have in his body wounds of this kind, he is not therefore to be despised. But rather, if one have in his soul so many defects, for him we should have no regard;—-and such was that rich man, covered with wounds within. And as dogs licked the wounds of the one, so the evil spirits aggravated the sins |34 of the other; as the one starved for lack of food, so the other for lack of virtue.
12. Knowing, therefore, these things, let us act wisely, and let us not say that if God loved such a one, He would not have allowed him to be in poverty. This very thing is the greatest token of love. For “whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth,” (Heb. xii. 6.) And again, “My son, if thou dost purpose to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for trial, make ready thy heart, and be strong,” (Ecclesiasticus ii. 1.) Let us then, beloved, cast these vain imaginations away from us, and these common sayings; for “filthiness and foolish talking and jesting, let it not proceed out of your mouth,” (Eph. v. 4.) Let us not say such things; and if we see others speaking thus, let us refute them, let us boldly arise and put a stop to such shameless speech. Tell me, if you should see any robber prowling about the road, lying in wait for those that pass by, and plundering the land, secreting gold and silver in caves and hiding-places, and shutting up in such places a great quantity of booty, gaining from this course of life rich garments and many captives; tell me, should you then think him happy on account of such wealth? Or should you think him miserable on account of the judgment about to overtake him? And even if he should escape this, if he should not be delivered into the hand of justice, nor fall into prison, nor have any accuser, nor come to trial, but eat and drink and enjoy great abundance, still we do not think him happy because of present and visible circumstances; but we think him miserable on account |35 of the things which are to come, and to which we look forward.
In the same way reason with yourself concerning the rich and the avaricious. Robbers lie in wait in the way and plunder travellers, and hide the wealth of others in their own lurking-places—-in caves or dens. Do not, therefore, think them happy on account of the present, but miserable on account of the future—-on account of the fearful judgment, the inevitable account to be rendered—-the outer darkness which will envelop them. Even though robbers often escape the hand of men, yet, notwithstanding though we know this, we deprecate for ourselves such a life as theirs, or even for our enemies we should deprecate such an accursed prosperity. Yet with respect to God such a thing cannot be said. No one can escape His judgment, but all who in any way live in covetousness and rapine will undergo the punishment allotted by Him—-that deathless punishment which has no end,—-in the same way as also did this rich man.
Taking all this, therefore, into consideration, beloved, think those blessed, not who live in wealth, but in virtue; think those miserable, not those who live in poverty, but in wickedness: let us look not at the present, but at the future; let us examine, not the outward appearance, but the conscience of each man; and following after the virtue and the bliss of right actions, let us, whether we be wealthy or poor, emulate Lazarus. He endured not one, nor two, nor three, but many tests of his goodness. These tests were his poverty, his weakness, his lack of helpers, his suffering these evils in a place where there |36 was at hand the means of complete relief, while no one vouchsafed a word of comfort, his seeing him who disregarded him possessing all that abundance, and not only possessing abundance, but living in wickedness, and suffering no ill; also, his being able to look to no other Lazarus, and his being unable to console himself by the thought of the resurrection. And besides all the aforesaid ills, there was his having to bear an ill-character among many, for the very reason that he was a sufferer. There was, not only for two or three days, but for his whole life, the seeing himself in such circumstances, and the rich man in the very opposite.
What excuse, therefore, shall we have if, while this man bore all these excessive evils with such fortitude, we cannot bear even the half of them? for you are unable—-you are unable, I say, to show, or even to name, any man who has borne such numerous and heavy evils. For this cause, therefore, Christ brought them before our notice, in order that whensoever we fall into trouble, seeing in his case the exceeding greatness of his affliction, we may, from his wisdom and patience, gain effectual consolation and comfort; for he is set as a general instructor of the whole world, for all who are suffering any kind of distress; enabling all to look to one who surpassed them all in the exceeding greatness of his woes. For all these things, therefore, let us give thanks unto God—-the merciful God; let us reap the benefit of this narrative, continually bearing it in mind, in the assembly, at home, in the market, yea everywhere; and let us diligently gain all the wealth of wisdom contained in this parable, in order that we may |37 without grief pass through evils, and that we may attain the good things in store. Which benefits may we all be enabled to gain, by the grace and kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom, with the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be praise, honour, adoration, now and ever, even to all eternity. Amen. Source.
Two Exegetical Homilies of St Cyril of Alexandria on Luke 16:19-31 the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus
16:19-31. But there was a certain rich, man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, feasting sumptuously every day. And a certain poor man whose name was Lazarus had been laid at his gate, full of sores; and desiring to satisfy himself with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass that the poor man died, and the angels carried him to Abraham’s bosom. And the rich man also died, and was buried. And in Hades, having lifted up his eyes, being in torment, he saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue: for behold! I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that you received your good things in your life time; and Lazarus in like manner his evil things: but now he is comforted here, and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you a great gulf is placed, so that those who would pass from hence to you cannot; nor can those pass who would come from thence unto us. And he said, I pray you, father, to send him to my father’s house: I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come unto this place of torment. But Abraham said unto him, They have Moses and the prophets: let them hear them. But he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one go unto them from the dead they will repent. But he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, they would not be persuaded even though one rose from the dead.
WHEN Solomon was offering up prayers in behalf of his kingdom, he somewhere said unto God, “Give me wisdom, even that which abides by Your throne.” And God praised him for earnestly desiring such blessings as these; for there is nothing better for men than sacred gifts: of which one worthy of our acceptance, and that perfects in blessedness those who have been counted worthy of it, is the wisdom which |525 God bestows. For it is the sight of the mind and heart, and the knowledge of every good and profitable thing.
And it is our duty also to be enamoured of such gifts as these: that being counted worthy thereof we may rightly and without error approach the Saviour’s words. For this is useful for us unto spiritual improvement, and leads unto a praiseworthy and blameless life. Come therefore, that being made partakers of the wisdom which is from above, we may examine the meaning of the parable now set before us.
It is necessary however, I think, in the first place to mention, what was the occasion which led to His speaking of these things; or what Christ intended to illustrate in so excellently sketching and describing the parable set before us. The Saviour therefore was perfecting us in the art of well-doing, and commanding us to walk uprightly in every good work, and to be in earnest in adorning ourselves with the glories which arise from virtuous conduct. For He would have us be lovers one of another, and ready to communicate: prompt to give, and merciful, and careful of showing love to the poor, and manfully persisting in the diligent discharge of this duty. And He especially admonished the rich in this world to be careful in so doing, and to guide them into the way winch altogether becomes the saints, He said, “Sell your possessions, and give alms: make you purses that grow not old; a treasure that does not fail for ever in heaven.” Now the commandment indeed is beautiful, and good, and salutary: but it did not escape His knowledge, that it is impossible for the majority to practise it. For the mind of man has ever been, so to speak, infirm in the discharge of those duties which are arduous and difficult: and to abandon wealth and possessions and the enjoyment which they give, is not a thing very acceptable to any, inasmuch as the mind is early clothed and entangled, as it were, in indissoluble cords, which bind it to the desire of pleasure.
As being therefore good and loving unto men, He has provided for them a special kind of help, lest eternal and never-ending poverty should follow upon wealth here, and everlasting torment succeed to the pleasures of the present time. “For make for yourselves friends, He says, of the unrighteous mammon: that when it has failed, they may receive you into |526 eternal tabernacles.’” And this then is the advice of One providing them with something which they can do. For if, He says, you cannot he persuaded to give up this pleasure-loving wealth, and to sell your possessions, and make distribution to those who are in need, at least be diligent in the practice of inferior virtues.” “Make for yourselves friends with the unrighteous mammon:” that is, do not consider your riches as belonging to yourselves alone; open wide your hand to those who are in need: assist those in poverty and pain: comfort those who have fallen into extreme distress: condole with those who are in sorrow, or oppressed with bodily maladies, and the want of necessaries: and comfort also the saints who embrace a voluntary poverty that they may serve God without distraction. Nor shall your so doing be unrewarded. For when your earthly wealth abandons you, as you reach the end of your life, then shall they make you partakers of their hope, and of the consolation given them by God. For He being good and kind to man, will lovingly and bountifully refresh those who have laboured in this world: and more especially such as have wisely and humbly and soberly borne the heavy burden of poverty. And somewhat similar advice the wise Paul also gives to those who live in wealth and abundance respecting those in misery: “Your abundance shall be to supply their falling short: in order that also their abundance may supply your falling short.” But this is the advice of one who enjoins that simply which Christ spoke; “Make to yourselves friends of the unrighteous mammon:” so that the commandment is well worthy of our admiration.
And that our refusal so to act will cause our ruin, and bring us down to the inextinguishable flame, and to an unavailing remorse, He plainly shows by weaving for us the present parable. “For there was a certain rich man, He says, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, feasting sumptuously every day. And a certain poor man whose name was Lazarus had been cast down at his gate, full of sores.”
Here observe, I pray, and mark accurately the Saviour’s words. For while it was easy to have said, “That there was such and such a rich man whoever it might be 1,” He does not say so, but simply calls him a rich man: while He |527 mentions the poor man by name. What conclusion therefore must we draw? That the rich man as being uncompassionate was nameless in God’s presence: for He has somewhere said by the voice of the Psalmist, concerning those who do not fear Him, “I will not make mention of their names with My lips:” while, as I said, the poor man is mentioned by name by the tongue of God.
But let us look at the pride of the rich man puffed up for things of no real importance; “he was clothed, it says, in purple and fine linen,” that is, his study was to deck himself in beautiful attire, so that his raiment was of great price, and he lived in never-ceasing banquetings; for such is the meaning of his feasting every day: besides which it adds that he feasted sumptuously, that is, prodigally. All the luxury therefore of that rich man consisted in things of this sort: in clothing clean, delicate, and embroidered with linen, and dyed with purple, so as to gratify the eyes of beholders. And what is the result? Differing but little from the figures in statuary and painting, the rich man is indeed admired by those who are destitute of sense, but his heart is full of pride and haughtiness: he has high thoughts of himself and is boastful, and while there is nothing of excellence in his mind, he makes variously coloured hues a reason for his empty pride. His delight is in expensive banquets; in music and revellings; he has numerous cooks, who labour to provoke gluttony by carefully prepared meats: his cupbearers are beautifully attired; he has singing men and singing women, and the voices of flatterers. Such were the things in which the rich man lived; for the disciple of Christ certifies us. saying, “that all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of the world.”
Meanwhile Lazarus, bound fast by sickness and poverty, was cast down, He says, at his gate. For the rich man dwelt in lofty halls, and spacious mansions nobly built: whereas the poor man was not so much laid as cast down, thrown there in neglect, and not deemed worthy of any account. Cut off from compassion and care, he would have liked, to satisfy his hunger, have gathered the worthless morsels that fell from the rich man’s table 2. He was tormented moreover by a severe and |528 incurable malady; “Yes, even the dogs, it says, licked his sores,” and that, as it seems, not to injure him, but rather, so to speak, as sympathizing with him, and tending him: for with their tongues they allay their own sufferings, removing with them that which pains them, and gently soothing the sore.
But the rich man was more cruel than the beasts; for he felt neither sympathy for him nor compassion; but was full of all mercilessness. And what the result was, the outline of the parable teaches us in what follows: but it is too long to tell it now. For lest my discourse should prove more than sufficient for my hearers, and a fatigue beyond due measure to him who speaks, stopping now from a due regard for the good both of myself and you, I will speak to you again upon these things at our next meeting, if Christ our common Saviour grant me the ability so to do: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen 3. |529
The same subject continued.
THE blessed prophet Isaiah has somewhere introduced those who by faith in Christ have been won unto life, as calling out eagerly, so to speak, unto one another, and saying; “Come, let us go up unto the mountain of the Lord, and unto the house of the God of Jacob, and they shall teach us His way, and we will walk in it.” Now by the mountain here we affirm to be meant not any earthly mountain; for to imagine this would be foolish: but rather the church which Christ has rescued for Himself. For it is high and conspicuous to people everywhere, and, so to say, exalted, because there is nothing in it which brings men down to earth. For those who dwell within it care nothing for the things of earth, but rather desire those things that are above: and, as the Psalmist says, “They are exalted far above the earth;” as being altogether brave and courageous, and practising uninterrupted endeavours after all things whatsoever which please God.
And such we believe you to be; and your earnest desire after instruction is a plain proof thereof. For you have come of course to seek the fulfilment of the promise given unto you: but neither have we forgotten what we promised, but pay our debt, adding on to what has been already said that which is still wanting to the parable of Lazarus and the rich man.
“For it came to pass, He says, that Lazarus died, and was carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom: and the rich man also died, and was buried.” Observe carefully the Saviour’s words. For of the poor man, He says, that he was carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom: but of the rich man there is nothing of the sort, but only that he died and was buried. For those who have hope towards God find in their departure from the world a deliverance from anguish and pain. And something like this Solomon also has taught us, saying, “In the sight of men they seemed to die, and their departure was considered an injury and their going from among us a breaking to pieces: but they are at peace, and their hope is full of |530 immortality.” For there is given unto them a measure of consolation commensurate with their labours: or even perhaps one which surpasses and exceeds their toils: for Christ has somewhere said, that “good measure, pressed down, and heaped up, and running over shall they give into your bosom.” For like as ships that sail upon the sea stand the shock of savage waves, and struggle with the violence of mighty winds, but afterwards arriving at tranquil havens fit for their rest, cease there from tossing; so in like manner I think that the souls of men, when they emerge from the turbulence of earthly things, enter the mansions that are above, as into a haven of salvation.
“Lazarus then, He says, was carried by the holy angels unto Abraham’s bosom: but the rich man died and was buried.” For to that rich man who had shewn himself harsh and unmerciful the separation from the body was death. For he was going from pleasure to torment: from glory to shame: from light to darkness. Such were the things that the rich man must suffer, who had been voluptuous, and close-handed, and unready for mercy. And to torment him the more now that he dwells in Hades, he beheld, it says, Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham: and made supplication that he might be sent to drop a little water upon his tongue: for he was tormented, it says, as in a fierce flame. And what reply does the patriarch Abraham make? “Son, you received your good things in your life: and Lazarus his evil things.” You were enamoured, He says, of these temporal things; you were clad in fine linen and purple IMPORTANT: NOTE4; you were boastful and haughty; all your time was spent in luxury; you offered up your wealth to your appetite and to flatterers; but you never once called to mind the sick and sorrowful: you had no compassion on Lazarus when you saw him thrown down at your portals. You beheld the man suffering incurable misery, and a prey to intolerable griefs: for two maladies at once possessed him, |531 each worse than the other, the cruel pain of his ulcers, and the want of the necessaries of life. The very beasts soothed Lazarus, because he was in pain; “the dogs licked his sores,” but you were more hard-hearted than the beasts. “You have received therefore, He says, your good things in your life, and Lazarus his evil: and now here he is comforted, and you are tormented;” and, as the sacred Scripture says, “they shall have judgment without mercy who have wrought no mercy.” You would have been a partner with Lazarus, and a portion of his consolation would have been given you by God, if you had admitted him to be a partner of your wealth. But this you did not do, and therefore you alone are tormented: for such is the fitting punishment of the unmerciful, and of those whose mind feels no sympathy for the sick.
Let us therefore make for ourselves friends of the unrighteous mammon: let us listen to Moses and the prophets calling us unto mutual love and brotherly affection: let us not wait for any of those now in Hades to return hither to tell us the torments there: the sacred Scripture is necessarily true: we have heard, that “Christ shall sit upon the throne of His glory to judge the world in righteousness, and that He shall set the sheep indeed on His right hand, but the goats on His left. And to those on His right hand He shall say, Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from before the foundations of the world: for I was hungry, and you gave Me to eat; and thirsty also, and you gave Me to drink: I was naked, and you clothed Me; in prison, and you came unto Me.” But upon those upon the left hand He shall lay a heavy condemnation, saying, “Go to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” And the charge against them is, that they have done the very opposite of that for which the saints were praised. “For I was hungry, and you gave Me not to eat; and thirsty, and you gave Me not to drink: for inasmuch as you did it not, He says, to one of these little ones, you did it not to Me.”
But to this perhaps some one will object, that there are many kinds of well living; for virtue is diversified, so to speak, and manifold: why therefore, having omitted those other kinds, does He make mention only of love to the poor? To this we reply, that the act is better than any other kind of |532 well doing: for it works in our souls a certain divine likeness which moulds us, so to speak, after God’s image. For Christ also has said, “Be you merciful, as your Father also in heaven is merciful,” He who is quick to show mercy, and compassionate and kind, is ranked with the true worshippers; for it is written, that “a pure and unpolluted sacrifice to God the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their poverty, and that a man keep himself unspotted from the world.” And the wise Paul also has somewhere written, “But alms and communication forget not: for with such sacrifices God is content.” For He loves not the incense of the legal worship, but requires rather the pleasantness of the sweet spiritual savour. But the sweet spiritual savour unto God is to show pity unto men, and to maintain love towards them. This also Paul advises us, saying, “Owe no man anything, but that you love one another:” and the daughter of love is pity for poverty.
Come therefore, you rich, cease from transitory pleasure: be earnest after the hope that is set before you: clothe yourselves with mercy and kindness: hold out the hand to them that are in need: comfort those who are in necessity: count as your own the sorrows of those who are in extreme distress.
Luk 16:19 There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and feasted sumptuously every day.
Luk 16:20 And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, who lay at his gate, full of sores,
Luk 16:21 Desiring to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. And no one did give him: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
Luk 16:22 And it came to pass that the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. And the rich man also died: and he was buried in hell.
Luk 16:23 And lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom:
Luk 16:24 And he cried and said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water to cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame.
Luk 16:25 And Abraham said to him: Son, remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted and thou art tormented.
Luk 16:26 And besides all this, between us and you, there is fixed a great chaos: so that they who would pass from hence to you cannot, nor from thence come hither.
Luk 16:27 And he said: Then, father, I beseech thee that thou wouldst send him to my father’s house, for I have five brethren,
Luk 16:28 That he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torments.
Luk 16:29 And Abraham said to him: They have Moses and the prophets. Let them hear them.
Luk 16:30 But he said: No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will do penance.
Luk 16:31 And he said to him: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead.
OUR God and Saviour does not lead men to hate wickedness and love virtue by negative precepts alone, but also by examples he makes clear the lessons of good conduct, bringing us both by deeds and words to the apprehension of a good and godly life. As he has often told us by the mouths of both prophets and evangelists, nay, even by his own voice also, that he turns away from the overbearing and haughty man of wealth, and loves a kindly disposition, and poverty when united to righteousness; so also in this parable, in order to confirm his teaching, he brings effective examples to attest the word, and in the narrative of the rich man and the |20 beggar points out the lavish enjoyment of the one, the straitened life of the other, and the end to which each finally came, in order that we, having discerned the truth from the practices of others, may justly judge our own lives.
There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen.1 By two brief words the Scripture ridicules and satirizes the prodigal and unmeasured wastefulness of those who are wickedly rich. For purple is an expensive and superfluous color, and fine linen is not necessary. It is the nature and delight of those that choose a well-ordered and frugal life to measure the use of necessary things by the need of them; and to avoid the rubbish of empty vainglory and deceptive amusement as the mother of wickedness. And that we may see more clearly the meaning and force of |21 this teaching, let us note the original use of clothing; to what extent it is to be employed when kept within rational limits.
What, then, says the law of the Just One? Sheep God created with well-fleeced skins, abounding in wool. Take them, shear it off, and give it to a skilful weaver, and fashion for yourself tunic and mantle, that you may escape both the distress of winter, and the harm of the sun’s burning rays. But if you need for greater comfort lighter clothing in the time of summer, God has given the use of flax, and it is very easy for you to get from it a becoming covering, that at once clothes and refreshes you by its lightness. And while enjoying these garments, give thanks to the Creator that he has not only made us, but has also provided for us comfort and security in living; but if, rejecting the sheep and the wool, the needful provision |22 of the Creator of all things, and departing from rational custom through vain devices and capricious desires, you seek out fine linen, and gather the threads of the Persian worms and weave the spider’s airy web; and going to the dyer, pay large prices in order that he may fish the shell-fish out of the sea and stain the garment with the blood of the creature,—-this is the act of a man surfeited, who misuses his substance, having no place to pour out the superfluity of his wealth. For this in the Gospel such a man is scourged, being portrayed as stupid and womanish, adorning himself with the embellishments of wretched girls.
Others again, according to common report are lovers of like vanity; but having cherished wickedness to a greater degree, they have not restricted their foolish invention even to the things already mentioned; |23 but having found some idle and extravagant style of weaving, which by the twining of the warp and the woof, produces the effect of a picture, and imprints upon their robes the forms of all creatures, they artfully produce, both for themselves and for their wives and children, clothing beflowered and wrought with ten thousand objects. Thenceforth they become self-confident. They no longer engage in serious business; from the vastness of their wealth they misuse life, by not using it;2 they act contrary to Paul and contend against the divinely inspired voices,3 not by words, but by deeds. For what he by word forbade, these men by their deeds support and confirm. When, therefore, they dress themselves and appear in public, they look like pictured walls in the eyes of those that meet them. And |24 perhaps even the children surround them, smiling to one another and pointing out with the finger the picture on the garment; and walk along after them, following them for a long time. On these garments are lions and leopards; bears and bulls and dogs; woods and rocks and hunters; and all attempts to imitate nature by painting. For it was necessary, as it seems, to adorn not only their houses, but finally also their tunics and their mantles.
But such rich men and women as are more pious, have gathered up the gospel history and turned it over to the weavers; I mean Christ himself with all the disciples, and each of the miracles, as recorded in the Gospel. You may see the wedding of Galilee, and the water-pots; the paralytic carrying his bed on his shoulders; the blind man being healed with the clay; the woman with the bloody issue, taking hold of the |25 border of the garment; the sinful woman falling at the feet of Jesus; Lazarus returning to life from the grave. In doing this they consider that they are acting piously and are clad in garments pleasing to God. But if they take my advice let them sell those clothes and honor the living image of God. Do not picture Christ on your garments. It is enough that he once suffered the humiliation of dwelling in a human body which of his own accord he assumed for our sakes. So, not upon your robes but upon your soul carry about his image.
Do not portray the paralytic on your garments, but seek out him that lies sick. Do not tell continually the story of the woman with the bloody issue, but have pity on the straitened widow. Do not contemplate the sinful woman kneeling before the Lord, but, with contrition for your |26 own faults, shed copious tears. Do not sketch Lazarus rising from the dead, but see to it that you attain to the resurrection of the just. Do not carry the blind man about on your clothing, but by your good deeds comfort the living, who has been deprived of sight. Do not paint to the life the baskets of fragments that remained, but feed the hungry. Do not carry upon your mantles the water-pots which were filled in Cana of Galilee, but give the thirsty drink. Thus we have profited by the magnificent raiment of the rich man.
What follows must not, however, be overlooked; for there is added to the purple and fine linen, that he fared sumptuously every day. For of course both the adorning of one’s self with useless magnificence, and serving the belly and the palate luxuriously, belong to the same disposition. Luxuriousness, then, is a thing hostile to |27 virtuous life, but characteristic of idleness and inconsiderate wastefulness, of unmeasured enjoyment and slavish habit. And though at first blush it may seem a simple matter, it proves upon careful investigation to include manifold, great and many-headed evils. Luxuriousness would be impossible without great wealth; but to heap up riches without sin is also impossible; unless indeed it happens to some one rarely, as to Job, both to be abundantly rich, and at the same time to live in exact accord with justice. The man who will give himself to luxury, then, needs first a costly home, adorned like a bride, with gems and marbles and gold, and well adapted to the changes of the seasons of the year. For a dwelling is required that is warm, comfortable in winter, and turned toward the brightness of the south; but open toward the north in the summer, that |28 it may be fanned by northern breezes, light and cool. Besides this, expensive stuffs are demanded to cover the seats, the couches, the beds, the doors. For the rich carefully adorn all things, even things inanimate, while the poor are pitiably naked. Moreover, enumerate the gold and silver vessels, the costly birds from Phasis, wines from Phoenicia, which the vines of Tyre produce in abundance and at a high price, for the rich; and all the rest of the wasteful equipment which only those who use it can name with particularity.
Now luxury, steadily increasing in elaborateness, even mingles Indian spices with the food; and the apothecaries furnish supplies to the cooks rather than to the physicians. Then consider the multitude that serve the table,—-the table-setters, the cupbearers, the stewardesses and the musicians that go before them, women musicians, |29 dancing girls, flute-players, jesters, flatterers, parasites,—-the rabble that follows vanity. That these things may be gained, how many poor are robbed! how many orphans maltreated! how many widows weep! how many, dreadfully tortured, are driven to suicide!
Like one who has tasted some Lethean stream, the self-indulgent soul absolutely forgets what it itself is, and the body to which it has been joined, and that some day it shall be released from this union, and again at some future time inhabit the reconstructed body. But when the appointed time shall come, and the inexorable command separates the soul from the body, then also shall come the recollection of things done in the past life, and vain repentance, too late! For repentance helps when the penitent has power of amendment, but the possibility of reform being |30 taken away, grief is useless and repentance vain.
There was a certain beggar named Lazarus. The narrative describes him not simply as poor, destitute of money, and of the necessaries of life, but also as afflicted with a painful disease, emaciated in body, houseless, homeless, incurable, cast down at the rich man’s gate. And very carefully the narrative finally works up the circumstances of the beggar to signalize the hard-heartedness of him who had no pity; for the man that has no feeling of pity or sympathy for hunger or disease is an unreasoning wild beast in human form, deliberately and wickedly deceiving men; nay more, he is less sympathetic than the very beasts themselves; since, at least, when a hog is slaughtered, the rest of the drove feel some painful sensation and grunt miserably over the freshly spilled |31 blood; and the cattle that stand about when the bull is killed indicate their distress by passionate lowing. Flocks of cranes also when one of their mates is caught in the nets, flutter about him and fill the air with a sort of grieving clamor, seeking to release their mate and fellow. And how unnatural that man, endowed with reason and blessed with culture, who has also been taught goodness by the example of God, should take so little thought of his kinsman in pain and misfortune!
So the suffering but grateful pauper lay without feet, or else certainly he would have fled from the accursed and haughty man, and sought another place instead of the inhospitable gate, which was closed against the poor; he lay without hands, having not even a palm to stretch forth for alms; his very organs of speech were so impaired that his voice was hoarse and harsh; in fact, |32 he was quite mutilated in all his members, the wreck of a foul disease, a pitiable illustration of human infirmity.4 Yet not even such a list of misfortunes moved the haughty man to attention, but he passed the beggar as if he were a stone, deliberately filling up the measure of his sin; for, if accused, he could not utter this common and specious excuse, “I did not know: I was not aware: I did not notice the beggar howling.” For the beggar lay before his gate, a spectacle as he went in and out to make the condemnation of the proud man inevitable. He was even denied the crumbs from the table; and while the rich man was bursting with fulness, he was wasting away with want. Therefore it would have been fair and right to have made the Canaanitish Phoenician woman the teacher of the |33 misanthropic man of wealth, saying those things that are written: “Haughty wretch, even the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table,5 and did you not think your brother, one who belongs to the same race, worthy of that bounty?” But the dogs were carefully fed, the watch-dogs by themselves and the hunting-dogs by themselves, and they were deemed worthy of a roof, and beds and attendants were carefully allotted to them; but the image of God was cast on the earth uncared for and trampled on,—-that image which the great Builder and Maker of all fashioned with his own hand, if one regards Moses as having given credible testimony to the genesis of man.
Now if the story of Lazarus had ended at this point, and the nature of things were such that our life was truly represented by |34 the inequality of his career with that of the rich man, I should have cried aloud with indignation,—-that we who are created equal, live on such unequal terms with men of the same race. But since that which remains is good to hear, do you, poor man, who groan over the past, take courage from the sequel, when you learn the blessed enjoyment of your fellow in poverty. For you will find that the just Judge renders exact judgment, so that the man who has lived a life of ease groans, and he who has had hardship finds luxury, each receiving his due reward.
And it came to pass that the beggar died and was carried away by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. Do you see who they were who ministered to the poor and just man, and who took him to heaven? For angels were his body-guard, looking upon him gently and mildly, and betokening by |35 their manner the attendance and relief that awaited him. And he was taken and placed in the bosom of the patriarch, a statement which affords ground for doubt to those who like to question minutely the deep things of the Scriptures, for if every just man, when he dies, should be taken to the same place, the bosom would be a great one and expanded to an endless extent, if it were intended to accommodate the whole multitude of the saints. But if this is absolutely impossible—-for the bosom can scarcely embrace one man and hardly two infants,—-the thought presents itself to us that the material bosom is the symbol of a spiritual truth; for what is it that is meant? Abraham, he says, receives those who have lived an upright life. Then tell us, wonderful Luke,—-for I will address you as though visibly present,—-why, when there were many just men, even older than Abraham, |36 did you withhold this distinction from his predecessors, passing in silence over Enoch, Noah and many others who were like these in their manner of life? But perhaps I understand you, and my judgment does not go wide of the mark. For Abraham was a minister of Christ, and, beyond other men, received the things of the revelation of Christ, and the mystery of the Trinity was adequately bodied forth in the tent of this old man when he entertained the three angels as wayfaring men. In short, after many mystical enigmas, he became the friend of God, who in after time put on flesh and, through the medium of this human veil, openly associated with men. On this account, Christ says that Abraham’s bosom is a sort of fair haven, and sheltered resting-place for the just. For we all have our salvation and expectation of the life to come, in Christ, who, in his |37 human descent, sprang from the flesh of Abraham. And I think the honor in the case of this old man has reference to the Saviour, who is the judge and rewarder of virtue, and who calls the just with a gracious voice, saying: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.” 6 And it came to pass that the beggar died. Two sides of the beggar’s life are indicated: on the one hand is shown his poverty, and on the other his modesty and the humility of his character. Let not, therefore, the man who is without substance, in want of money, and clothed in pitiable garb appropriate to himself the praise of virtue, nor think that want will secure for him salvation. For not he who is poor from necessity is commended, but he is held up to admiration who of his own accord moderates his desires. For the poverty of |38 those who are in extreme want, and have at the same time an unmanageable or incorrigible disposition, leads to many evil deeds of daring. Whenever I have come near a ruler’s judgment-seat, I have seen that all housebreakers and kidnappers, thieves and robbers, and even murderers, were poor men, unknown, houseless and hearthless. So that from this it is clear that the Scripture accounts that poor man happy who bears his hardships with a philosophic mind, and shows himself nobly steadfast in the face of his circumstances in life, and does not wickedly do any evil deed to gain for himself the enjoyment of luxury. Such a man the Lord describes even more clearly in the first of the beatitudes, where he says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” 7 So, not every poor man is righteous, but only one who is like Lazarus; nor is every |39 rich man to be despaired of, but only one who has the disposition of him that neglected Lazarus; and in real life we easily find witnesses of this truth. For who is richer than was the godly Job? Nevertheless his great prosperity did not divorce him from righteousness nor, to speak briefly, did it estrange him from virtue. Who is poorer than was Iscariot? His poverty did not secure salvation for him; but while associating with the eleven poor men who loved wisdom, and with the Lord himself, who for our sakes voluntarily became poor,8 he was carried away by the wickedness of his covetous disposition and finally was guilty even of the betrayal.
It is also worth while to examine intelligently how each of these men when dead was carried forth. The poor man when he fell asleep had angels as his guards and |40 attendants, who carried him, full of joyful expectation, to the place of rest; and the rich man, Christ says, died and was buried. It is not possible in any respect to improve the declaration of the Scriptures, since a single sentence adequately indicates the unhonored decease of the rich man. For the sinner when he dies is indeed buried, being earthy in body, and worldly in soul. He debases the spiritual within him to the material by yielding to the enticements of the flesh, leaving behind no good memorial of his life, but, dying the death of beasts, is wrapped in unhonored forgetfulness. For the grave holds the body, and Hades the soul,—-two gloomy prisons dividing between them the punishment of the wicked. And who would not blame the wretched man for his thoughtlessness?—-since when he was on earth he prided himself, held his head high, exulted over all who lived about him and |41 were of the same race, deeming those whom he chanced to meet hardly better than ants and worms, and vainly boasting of his short-lived glory. But when he dies, and like a scourged slave is deprived of those usurped possessions of which in his folly he thought himself master, he is as deeply humiliated as he was previously highly exalted, and, uttering complaints like a lamenting old woman, calls loudly and vainly on the patriarch, saying, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” He seeks mercy, which he had not given when he had the power of benefiting another, and demands that Lazarus shall come down into the fire to him to help him. He prays that he may suck the finger of the leper slightly moistened in water. Such is |42 the thoughtlessness of those who love the body. This is the end of those who love wealth and pleasure. It therefore becomes the wise man who is provident of the future, to consider the parable as a sort of medicine, preventive of sickness; and to flee the experience of like evil, preferring the sympathetic and philanthropic disposition as the condition of the life to come. For the Scripture has presented the admonition to us dramatically in the persons of particular characters in order to impress upon us by a concrete and vivid example the law of good conduct, so that we may never think lightly of the precepts of the Scripture as terrifying in word only, without inflicting the threatened punishment. I know that most men, snared by such fancies, take the liberty of sinning. But the Scripture before us teaches quite the contrary, that neither any confession of |43 the justice of the judgment lightens the punishment, nor does pity for the one in torment lessen the penalty ordained; if indeed it is necessary that the Scripture attest the word of the patriarch. For after the manifold supplications of the rich man, and after hearing countless piteous appeals, Abraham was neither moved by the laments of the suppliant, nor did he remove from his pain the one who was bitterly scourged; but with austere mind he confirmed the final judgment, saying that God had allotted to each according to his desert. And he said to the rich man, Since in life you lived in luxury through the calamities of others, what you are suffering is imposed upon you as the penalty of your sin. But to him who once had hardships, and was trampled on and endured in bitterness life in the flesh, there is allotted here a sweet and joyful existence. |44 And besides, he says, There is also a great gulf which prevents them from intercourse with one another, and separates those who are being punished from those who are being honored, that they may live apart from each other, not mixing the rewards of good and evil deeds. And I suppose the parable to be a material representation of a spiritual truth. For let us not imagine that there is in reality a ditch digged by angels, like the trenches on the outer borders of military camps, but Luke by the similitude of a gulf has represented for us the separation of those who have lived virtuously and those who have lived otherwise. And this thought Isaiah also stamps for us with his approval, speaking somewhat thus: Is the hand of the Lord not strong to save, or is his ear heavy that it cannot hear? But our sins stand between us and God. Source.
Ver 19. There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:20. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,21. And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
BEDE; Our Lord had just before advised the making friends of the Mammon of unrighteousness, which the Pharisees derided. He next confirms by examples what he had set before them, saying, There was a certain rich man, &c.
CHRYS. There was, not is, because he had passed away as a fleeting shadow.
AMBROSE; But not all poverty is holy, or all riches criminal, but as luxury disgraces riches, so does holiness commend poverty.
It follows, And be was clothed in purple and fine linen.
BEDE; Purple, the color of the royal robe, is obtained from sea shells, which are scraped with a knife. Byssus is a kind of white and very fine linen.
GREG. Now if the wearing of fine and precious robes were not a fault, word of God would never have so carefully expressed this. For no one seeks costly garments except for vainglory, that he may seem more honorable than others; for no one wishes to be clothed with such, where he cannot be seen by others.
CHRYS. Ashes, dust, and earth he covered with purple, and silk; or ashes, dust, and earth bore upon them purple and silk. As his garments were, so was also his food. Therefore with us also as our food is, such let our clothing be Hence it follows, And he fared sumptuously everyday.
GREG. And here we must narrowly watch ourselves, seeing that banquets can scarcely be celebrated blamelessly, for almost always luxury accompanies feasting; and when the body is swallowed up in the delight of refreshing itself, the heart relaxes to empty joys.
It follows, And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus.AMBROSE; This seems rather a narrative than a parable, since the name is also expressed.
CHRYS. But a parable is that in which an example is given, while the names are omitted. Lazarus is interpreted, “one who was assisted.” For he was poor, and the Lord helped him.
CYRIL; Or else; This discourse concerning the rich man and Lazarus was written after the manner of a comparison in a parable, to declare that they who abound in earthly riches, unless they will relieve the necessities of the poor, shall meet with a heavy condemnation. But the tradition of the Jews relates that there was at that time in Jerusalem a certain Lazarus who was afflicted with extreme poverty and sickness, whom our Lord remembering, introduces him into the example for the sake of adding greater point to His words.
GREG. We must observe also, that among the heathen the names of poor men are more likely to be known than of rich. Now our Lord mentions the name of the poor, but not the name of the rich, because God knows and approves the humble, but not the proud. But that the poor man might be more approved, poverty and sickness were at the same time consuming him; as it follows, who was laid at his gate full of sores.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. He lay at his gate for this reason, that the rich might not say, I never saw him, no one told me; for he saw him both going out and returning. The poor is full of sores, that so he might set forth in his own body the cruelty of the rich. You see the death of your body lying before the gate, and you pity not. If you regard not the commands of God, at least have compassion on your own state, and fear lest also you become such as he. But sickness has some comfort if it receives help. How great then was the punishment in that body, in which with such wounds he remembered not the pain of his sores, but only his hunger; for it follows, desiring to be fed with the crumbs, &c. As if he said, What you throw away from your table, afford for alms, make your losses gain.
AMBROSE; But the insolence and pride of the wealthy is manifested afterwards by the clearest tokens, for it follows, and no one gave to him. For so unmindful are they of the condition of mankind, that as if placed above nature they derive from the wretchedness of the poor an incitement to their own pleasure, they laugh at the destitute, they mock the needy, and rob those whom they ought to pity.
AUG. For the covetousness of the rich is insatiable, it neither fears God nor regards man, spares not a father, keeps not its fealty to a friend, oppresses the widow, attacks the property of a ward.
GREG. Moreover the poor man saw the rich as he went forth surrounded by flatterers, while he himself lay in sickness and want, visited by no one. For that no one came to visit him, the dogs witness, who fearlessly licked his sores, for it follows, moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. Those sores which no man deigned to wash and dress, the beasts tenderly lick.
GREG. By one thing Almighty God displayed two judgments. He permitted Lazarus to lie before the rich man’s gate, both that the wicked rich man might increase the vengeance of his condemnation, and the poor man by his trials enhance his reward; the one saw daily him on whom he should show mercy, the other that for which he might be approved.
Ver 22. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;23. And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.24. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.25. But Abraham said, Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and you are tormented.26. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. We have heard how both fared on earth, let us see what their condition is among the dead. That which was temporal has passed away; that which follows is eternal. Both died; the one angels receive, the other torments; for it is said, And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels, &c. Those great sufferings are suddenly exchanged for bliss. He is carried after all his labors, because he had fainted, or at least that he might not tire by walking; and he was carried by angels. One angel was not sufficient to carry the poor man, but many come, that they may make a joyful band, each angel rejoicing to touch so great a burden. Gladly do they thus encumber themselves, that so they may bring men to the kingdom of heaven
But he was carried into Abraham’s bosom, that he might be embraced and cherished by him; Abraham’s bosom is Paradise. And the ministering angels carried the poor man, and placed him in Abraham’s bosom, because though he lay despised, he yet despaired not nor blasphemed, saying, This rich man living in wickedness is happy and suffers no tribulation, but I cannot get even food to supply my wants.
AUG. Now as to your thinking Abraham’s bosom to be any thing bodily, I am afraid lest you should be thought to treat so weighty a matter rather lightly than seriously. For you could never be guilty of such folly, as to suppose the corporeal bosom of one man able to hold so many souls, nay, to use your own words, so many bodies as the Angels carry thither as they did Lazarus. But perhaps you imagine that one soul to have alone deserved to come to that bosom. If you would not fall into a childish mistake, you must understand Abraham’s bosom to be a retired and hidden resting-place where Abraham is; and therefore called Abraham’s, not that it is his alone, but because he is the father of many nations, and placed first, that others might imitate his preeminence of faith.
GREG. When the two men were below on earth, that is, the poor and the rich, there was one above who saw into their hearts, and by trials exercised the poor man to glory, by endurance awaited the rich man to punishment. Hence it follows, The rich man also cried.
CHRYS. He died then indeed in body, but his soul was dead before. For he did none of the works of the soul. All that warmth which issues from the love of our neighbor had fled, and he was more dead than his body. But no one is spoken of as having ministered to the rich man’s burial as to that of Lazarus. Because when he lived pleasantly in the broad road, he had many busy flatterers; when he came to his end, all forsook him. For it simply follows, and was buried in hell. But his soul also when living was buried, enshrined in its body as it were in a tomb.
AUG. The burial in hell is the lowest depth of torment which after this life devours the proud and unmerciful.
PSEUDO-BASIL. Hell is a certain common place in the interior of the earth, shaded on all sides and dark, in which there is a kind of opening stretching downward, through which lies the descent of the souls who are condemned to perdition.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. Or as the prisons of kings are placed at a distance without, so also hell is somewhere far off without the world, and hence it is called the outer darkness.
THEOPHYL. But some say that hell is the passing from the visible to the invisible, and the unfashioning of the soul. For as long as the soul of the sinner is in the body, it is visible by means of its own operations. But when it flies out of the body, it becomes shapeless.
CHRYS. As it made the poor man’s affliction heavier while he lived to lie before the rich man’s gate, and to behold the prosperity of others, so when the rich man was dead it added to his desolation, that he lay in hell and saw the happiness of Lazarus, feeling not only by the nature of His own torments, but also by the comparison of Lazarus’s honor, his own punishment the more intolerable. Hence it follows, But lifting up his eyes. He lifted up his eyes that he might look on him, not despise him; for Lazarus was above, he below. Many angels carried Lazarus; he was seized by endless torments. Therefore it is not said, being in torment, but torments. For he was wholly in torments, his eyes alone were free, so that he might behold the joy of another. His eyes are allowed to be free that he may be the more tortured, not having that which another has. The riches of others are the torments of those who are in poverty.
GREG. Now if Abraham sate below, the rich man placed in torments would not see him. For they who have followed the path to the heavenly country, when they leave the flesh, are kept back by the gates of hell; not that punishment smites them as sinners, but that resting in some more remote places, (for the intercession of the Mediator was not yet come,) the guilt of their first fault prevents them from entering the kingdom.
CHRYS. There were many poor righteous men, but he who lay at his door met his sight to add to his woe. For it follows, And Lazarus in his bosom. It may here be observed, that all who are offended by us are exposed to our view. But the rich man sees Lazarus not with any other righteous man, but in Abraham’s bosom. For Abraham was full of love, but the man is convicted of cruelty. Abraham sitting before his door followed after those that passed by, and brought them into his house, the other turned away even them that abode within his gate.
GREG. And this rich man forsooth, now fixed in his doom, seeks as his patron him to whom in this life he would not show mercy.
THEOPHYL. He does not however direct his words to Lazarus, but to Abraham, because he was perhaps ashamed, and thought Lazarus would remember his injuries; but he judged of him from himself. Hence it follows, And he cried and said.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. Great punishments give forth a great cry. Father Abraham. As if he said, I call you father by nature, as the son who wasted his living, although by my own fault I have lost you as a father. Have mercy on me. In vain you work repentance, when there is no place for repentance; your torments drive you to act the penitent, not the desires of your soul. He who is in the kingdom of heaven, I know not whether he can have compassion on him who is in hell. The Creator pities His creature. There came one Physician who was to heal all; others could not heal. Send Lazarus. You err, wretched man. Abraham cannot send, but he can receive. To dip the tip of his finger in water. You would not deign to look upon Lazarus, and now you desire his finger. What you seek now, you ought to have done to him when alive. You are in want of water, who before despised delicate food. Mark the conscience of the sinner; he durst not ask for the whole of the finger. We are instructed also how good a thing it is not to trust in riches. See the rich man in need of the poor who was before starving. Things are changed, and it is now made known to all who was rich and who was poor. For as in the theaters, when it grows towards evening, and the spectators depart, then going out, and laying aside their dresses, they who seemed kings and generals are seen as they really are, the sons of gardeners and fig-sellers. So also when death is come, and the spectacle is over, and all the masks of poverty and riches are put off, by their works alone are men judged, which are truly rich, which poor, which are worthy of honor, which of dishonor.
GREG. For that rich man who would not give to the poor man even the scraps of his table, being in hell came to beg for even the least thing. For he sought for a drop of water, who refused to give a crumb of bread.
BASIL; But he receives a meet reward, fire and the torments of hell; the parched tongue; for the tuneful lyre, wailing; for drink, the intense longing for a drop; for curious or wanton spectacles, profound darkness; for busy flattery, the undying worm. Hence it follows, That he may cool my tongue, for I am tormented in the flame.
CHRYS. But not because he was rich was he tormented, but because he was not merciful.
GREG. We may gather from this, with what torments he will be punished who robs another, if he is smitten with the condemnation to hell, who does not distribute what is his own.
AMBROSE; He is tormented also because to the luxurious man it is a punishment to be without his pleasures; water is also a refreshment to the soul which is set fast in sorrow.
GREG. But what means it, that when in torments he desires his tongue to be cooled, except that at his feasts having sinned in talking, now by the justice of retribution, his tongue was in fierce flame; for talkativeness is generally rife at the banquet.
CHRYS. His tongue too had spoken many proud things. Where the sin is, there is the punishment; and because the tongue offended much, it is the more tormented.
CHRYS. Or, in that he wishes his tongue to be cooled, when he was altogether burning in the flame, that is signified which is written, Death and life are in the hands of the tongue, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation; which from pride he did not do, but the tip of the finger means the very least work in which a man is assisted by the Holy Spirit.
AUG. You say that the members of the soul are here described, and by the eye you would have the whole head understood, because he was said to lift up his eyes; by the tongue, the jaws; by the finger, the hand. But what is the reason that those names of members when spoken of God do not to your mind imply a body, but when of the soul they do? It is that when spoken of the creature they are to be taken literally, but when of the Creator metaphorically and figuratively. Will you then give us bodily wings, seeing that not the Creator, but man, that is, the creature, says, If I take not the wings in the morning? Besides, if the rich man had a bodily tongue, because he said, to cool my tongue, in us also who live in the flesh, the tongue itself has bodily hands, for it is written, Death and life are in the hands of the tongue.
GREG. NYSS.. As the most excellent of mirrors represents an image of the face, just such as the face itself which is opposite to it, a joyful image of that which is joyful, a sorrowful of that which is sorrowful; so also is the just judgment of God adapted to our dispositions. Wherefore the rich man because he pitied not the poor as he lay at his gate, when he needs mercy for himself, is not heard, for it follows, And Abraham said to him, Son, &c.
CHRYS. Behold the kindness of the Patriarch; he calls him son, (which may express his tenderness,) Yet gives no aid to him who had deprived himself of cure. Therefore he says, Remember, that is, consider the past, forget not that you delighted in your riches, and you received good things in your life, that is, such as you thought to be good. You could not both have triumphed on earth, and triumph here. Riches can not be true both on earth and below. It follows, And Lazarus likewise evil things; not that Lazarus thought them evil, but he spoke this according to the opinion of the rich man, who thought poverty, and hunger, and severe sickness, evils. When the heaviness of sickness harasses us, let us think of Lazarus, and joyfully accept evil things in this life.
AUG. All this then is said to Him because he chose the happiness of the world, and loved no other life but that in which he proudly boasted; but he says, Lazarus received evil things, because he knew that the perishableness of this life, its labors, sorrows, and sickness, are the penalty of sin, for we all die in Adam who by transgression was made liable to death.
CHRYS. He says, You received good things in your life, (as if your due;) as though he said, If you have done any good thing for which a reward might be due, you have received all things in that world, living luxuriously, abounding in riches, enjoying the pleasure of prosperous undertakings; but he if he committed any evil has received all, afflicted with poverty, hunger, and the depths of wretchedness. And each of you came hither naked; Lazarus indeed of sin, wherefore he receives his consolation; you of righteous wherefore you endure your inconsolable punishment; and hence it follows, But now he is comforted, and you are tormented.
GREG. Whatsoever then you have well in this world, when you recollect to have done any thing good, be very fearful about it, lest the prosperity granted you be your recompense for the same good. And when you behold poor men doing any thing blameably, fear not, seeing that perhaps those whom the remains of the slightest iniquity defiles, the fire of honesty cleanses.
CHRYS. But you will say, Is there no one who shall enjoy pardon, both here and there? This is indeed a hard thing, and among those which are impossible. For should poverty press not, ambition urges; if sickness provoke not, anger inflames; if temptations assail not, corrupt thoughts often overwhelm. It is no slight toil to bridle anger, to check unlawful desires, to subdue the swellings of vain-glory, to quell pride or haughtiness, to lead a severe life. He that does not these things, can not be saved.
GREG. It may also be answered, that evil men receive in this life good things, because they place their whole joy in transitory happiness, but the righteous may indeed have good things here, yet not receive them for reward, because while they seek better things, that is, eternal, in their judgment whatever good things are present seem by no means good.
CHRYS. But after the mercy of God, we must seek in our own endeavors for hope of salvation, not in numbering fathers, or relations, or friends. For brother does not deliver brother; and therefore it is added, And beside all this between us and you there is a great gulf fixed.
THEOPHYL. The great gulf signifies the distance of the righteous from sinners. For as their affections were different, so also their abiding places do not slightly differ.
CHRYS. The gulf is said to be fixed, because it cannot be loosened, moved, or shaken.
AMBROSE; Between the rich and the poor then there is a great gulf, because after death rewards cannot be changed. Hence it follows, So that they who would pass from hence to you cannot, nor come thence to us.
CHRYS. As if he says, We can see, we cannot pass; and we see what we have escaped, you what you have lost; our joys enhance your torments, your torments our joys.
GREG. For as the wicked desire to pass over to the elect, that is, to depart from the pangs of their sufferings, so to the afflicted and tormented would the just pass in their mind by compassion, and wish to set them free. But the souls of the just, although in the goodness of their nature they feel compassion, after being united to the righteousness of their Author, are constrained by such great uprightness as not to be moved with compassion towards the reprobate. Neither then do the unrighteous pass over to the lot of the blessed, because they are bound in everlasting condemnation, nor can the righteous pass to the reprobate, because being now made upright by the righteousness of judgment, they in no way pity them from any compassion.
THEOPHYL. You may from this derive an argument against the followers of Origen, who say, that since an end is to be placed to punishments, there will be a time when sinners shall be gathered to the righteous and to God.
AUG. For it is shown by the unchangeableness of the Divine sentence, that no aid of mercy can be rendered to men by the righteous, even though they should wish to give it; by which he reminds us, that in this life men should relieve those they can, since hereafter even if they be well received, they would not be able to give help to those they love. For that which was written, that they may receive you into everlasting habitations, was not said of the proud and unmerciful, but of those who have made to themselves friends by their works of mercy, whom the righteous receive, not as if by their own power benefiting them, but by Divine permission.
Ver 27. Then he said, I pray you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house:28. For I have five brethren; that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment.29. Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.30. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will repent.31. And he said to him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
GREG. When the rich man in flames found that all hope was taken away from him, his mind turns to those relations whom he had left behind, as it is said, Then said he, I pray you therefore, father Abraham, to send him to my father’s house.
AUG. He asks that Lazarus should be sent, because he felt himself unworthy to offer testimony to the truth. And as he had not obtained even to be cooled for a little while, much less does he expect to be set free from hell for the preaching of the truth.
CHRYS. Now mark his perverseness; not even in the midst of his torments does he keep to truth. If Abraham is your father, how say you, Send him to your father’s house? But you have not forgotten your father, for he has been your ruin.
GREG. The hearts of the wicked are sometimes by their own punishment taught the exercise of charity, but in vain; so that they indeed have an especial love to their own, who while attached to their sins did not love themselves. Hence it follows, For I have five brethren, that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
AMBROSE; But it is too late for the rich man to begin to be master, when he has no longer time for learning or teaching.
GREG. And here we must remark what fearful sufferings are heaped upon the rich man in flames. For in addition to his punishment, his knowledge and memory are preserved. He knew Lazarus whom he despised, he remembered his brethren whom he left. For that sinners in punishment may be still more punished, they both see the glory of those whom they had despised, and are harassed about the punishment of those whom they have unprofitably loved. But to the rich man seeking Lazarus to be sent to them, Abraham immediately answers, as follows, Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.
CHRYS. As if he said, your brethren are not so much your care as God’s, who created them, and appointed them teachers to admonish and urge them. But by Moses and the Prophets, he here means the Mosaic and prophetic writings.
AMBROSE; In this place our Lord most plainly declares the Old Testament to be the ground of faith, thwarting the treachery of the Jews, and precluding the iniquity of Heretics.
GREG. But he who had despised the words of God, supposed that his followers could not hear them. Hence it is added, And he said, Nay, father Abraham, but if one went to them from the dead they would repent. For when he heard the Scriptures he despised them, and thought them fables, and therefore according to what he felt himself, he judged the like of his brethren.
GREG. NYSS.. But we are also taught something besides, that the soul of Lazarus is neither anxious about present things, nor looks back to aught that it has left behind, but the rich man, (as it were caught by birdlime,) even after death is held down by his carnal life. For a man who becomes altogether carnal in his heart, not even after he has put off his body is out of the reach of his passions.
GREG. But soon the rich man is answered in the words of truth; for it follows, And he said to him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe though one rose from the dead. For they who despise the words of the Law, will find the commands of their Redeemer who rose from the dead, as they are more sublime, so much the more difficult to fulfill.
CHRYS. But that it is true that he who hears not the Scriptures, takes no heed to the dead who rise again, the Jews have testified, who at one time indeed wished to kill Lazarus, but at another laid hands upon the Apostles, notwithstanding that some had risen from the dead at the hour of the Cross. Observe this also, that every dead man is a servant, but whatever the Scriptures say, the Lord says. Therefore let it be that dead men should rise again, and an angel descend from heaven, the Scriptures are more worthy of credit than all. For the Lord of Angels, the Lord as well of the living and the dead, is their author. But if God knew this that the dead rising again, profited the living, He would not have omitted it, seeing that He disposes all things for our advantage. Again, if the dead were often to rise again, this too would in time be disregarded. And the devil also would easily insinuate perverse doctrines, devising resurrection also by means of his own instruments, not indeed really raising up the deceased, but by certain delusions deceiving the sight of the beholders, or contriving, that is, setting up some to pretend death.
AUG. But some one may say, If the dead have no care for the living, how did the rich man ask Abraham, that he should send Lazarus to his five brethren? But because he said this, did the rich man therefore know what his brethren were doing, or what was their condition at that time? His care about the living was such that he might yet be altogether ignorant what they were doing, just as we care about the dead, although we know nothing of what they do. But again the question occurs, How did Abraham know that Moses and the prophets are here in their books? Whence also had he known that the rich man had lived in luxury, but Lazarus in affliction. Not surely when these things were going on in their lifetime, but at their death he might know through Lazarus’ telling him, that in order that might not be false which the prophet says; Abraham heard us not. The dead might also hear something from the angels who are ever present at the things which are done here. They might also know some things which it was necessary for them to have known, not only past, but also future, through the revelation of the Church of God.
AUG. But these things may be so taken in allegory, that by the rich man we understand the proud Jews ignorant of the righteousness of God, and going about to establish their own. The purple and fine linen are the grandeur of the kingdom. And the kingdom of God (he says) shall be taken away from you. The sumptuous feasting is the boasting of the Law, in which they gloried, rather abusing it to swell their pride, than using it as the necessary means of salvation. But the beggar, by name Lazarus, which is interpreted “assisted,” signifies want; as, for instance, some Gentile, or Publican, who is all the more relieved, as he presumes less on the abundance of his resources.
GREG. Lazarus then full of sores, figuratively represents the Gentile people, who when turned to God, were not ashamed to confess their sins. Their wound was in the skin. For what is confession of sins but a certain bursting forth of wounds. But Lazarus, full of wounds, desired to be fed by the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table, and no one gave to him; because that proud people disdained to admit any Gentile to the knowledge of the Law, and words flowed down to him from knowledge, as the crumbs fell from the table.
AUG. But the dogs which licked the poor man’s sores are those most wicked men who loved sin, who with a large tongue cease not to praise the evil works, which another loathes, groaning in himself, and confessing.
GREG. Sometimes also in the holy Word by dogs are understood preachers; according to that, That the tongue of your dogs may be red by the very blood of your enemies; for the tongue of dogs while it licks the wound heals it; for holy teachers, when they instruct us in confession of sin, touch as it were by the tongue the soul’s wound. The rich man was buried in hell, but Lazarus was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom, that is, into that secret rest of which the truth says, Many shall come from the east and the west, and shall lie down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom shall be cast into outer darkness. But being afar off, the rich man lifted up his eyes to behold Lazarus, because the unbelievers while they suffer the sentence of their condemnation, lying in the deep, fix their eyes upon certain of the faithful, abiding before the day of the last Judgment in rest above them, whose bliss afterwards they would in no wise contemplate. But that which they behold is afar off, for thither they cannot attain by their merits. But he is described to burn chiefly in his tongue, because the unbelieving people held in their mouth the word of the Law, which in their deeds they despised to keep. In that part then a man will have most burning wherein he most of all shows he knew that which he refused to do. Now Abraham calls him his son, whom at the same time he delivers not from torments; because the fathers of this unbelieving people, observing that many have gone aside from their faith, are not moved with any compassion to rescue them from torments, whom nevertheless they recognize as sons.
AUG. By the five brothers whom he says he has in his father’s house, he means the Jews who were called five, because they were bound under the Law, which was given by Moses who wrote five books.
CHRYS. Or he had five brothers, that is, the five senses, to which he was before a slave, and therefore he could not love Lazarus because his brethren loved not poverty. Those brethren have sent you into these torments, they cannot be saved unless they die; otherwise it must needs be that the brethren dwell with their brother. But why seek you that I should send Lazarus? They have Moses and the Prophets. Moses was the poor Lazarus who counted the poverty of Christ greater than the riches of Pharaoh. Jeremiah, cast into the dungeon, was fed on the bread of affliction; and all the prophets teach those brethren. But those brethren cannot be saved unless some one rise from the dead. For those brethren, before Christ was risen, brought me to death; He is dead, but those brethren have risen again. For my eye sees Christ, my ear hears Him, my hands handle Him. From what we have said then, we determine the fit place for Marcion and Manichaeus, who destroy the Old Testament. See what Abraham says, If they hear not Moses and the prophets. As though he said, you do well by expecting Him who is to rise again; but in them Christ speaks. If you will hear them, you will hear Him also.
GREG. But the Jewish people, because they disdained to spiritually understand the words of Moses, did not come to Him of whom Moses had spoken.
AMBROSE; Or else, Lazarus is poor in this world, but rich to God; for not all poverty is holy, nor all riches vile, but as luxury disgraces riches, so holiness commends poverty. Or is there any Apostolical man, poor in speech, but rich in faith, who keeps the true faith, requiring not the appendage of words. To such a one I liken him who ofttimes beaten by the Jews offered the wounds of his body to be licked as it were by certain dogs. Blessed dogs, to whom the dropping from such wounds so falls as to fill the heart and mouth of those whose office it is to guard the house, preserve the flock, keep off the wolf ! And because the word is bread, our faith is of the word; the crumbs are as it were certain doctrines of the faith, that is to say, the mysteries of the Scriptures. But the Arians, who court the alliance of regal power that they may assail the truth of the Church, do not they seem to you to be in purple and fine linen? And these, when they defend the counterfeit instead of the truth, abound in flowing discourses. Rich heresy has composed many Gospels, and poor faith has kept this single Gospel, which it had received. Rich philosophy has made itself many gods, the poor Church has known only one. Do not those riches seem to you to be poor, and that poverty to be rich?
AUG. Again also that story may be so understood, as that we should take Lazarus to mean our Lord; lying at the gate of the rich man, because he condescended to the proud ears of the Jews in the lowliness of His incarnation; desiring to be fed from the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table, that is, seeking from them even the least works of righteousness, which through pride they would not use for their own table, (that is, their own power,) which works, although very slight and without the discipline of perseverance in a good life, sometimes at least they might do by chance, as crumbs frequently fall from the table. The wounds are the sufferings of our Lord, the dogs who licked them are the Gentiles, whom the Jews called unclean, and yet, with the sweetest odor of devotion, they lick the sufferings of our Lord in the Sacraments of His Body and Blood throughout the whole world. Abraham’s bosom is understood to be the hiding place of the Father, whither after His Passion our Lord rising again was taken up, whither He was said to be carried by the angels, as it seems to me, because that reception by which Christ reached the Father’s secret place the angels announced to the disciples. The rest may be taken according to the former explanation, because that is well understood to be the Father’s secret place, where even before the resurrection the souls of the righteous live with God.
Text in purple indicates the Bishop’s paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.
1 Tim 6:11 But thou, O man of God, fly these things: and pursue justice, godliness, faith, charity, patience, mildness.
But thou, O man of God, fly this vice of avarice, and all these other sins which follow in its train, and zealously cultivate Christian sanctity and its concomitant virtues, viz., piety, faith, love, patience, meekness.
“O man of God,” Every minister of religion is like Timothy, “a man of God,” wholly devoted to him, enlisted in his service, his representative before men, consequently, entitled to the utmost respect. But he should, at the same time, fly avarice and its attendant vices, so opposed to the exalted disinterestedness, which should distinguish the man who, at his first entrance into the sanctuary, had chosen God for his inheritance, and practise “justice,” i.e., Christian justice or sanctity, and its concomitant virtues of “piety” towards God; “faith,” which points out to us heavenly goods; “charity” towards our neighbour, which inspires us with liberality towards him, so opposed to cupidity; “patience,” in adversity, and when in want of temporal goods; “mildness,” even when offended and maltreated by those, whom we served on former occasions.
1 Tim 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith. Lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art called and be it confessed a good confession before many witnesses.
Engage bravely in the glorious struggle for the faith, grasp the prize of eternal life to which thou hast been invited, and in pursuit of which thou hadst made a glorious confession in presence of many witnesses.
In order to incite Timothy to labour with greater zeal in shunning vice, and practising virtue, the Apostle alludes to the Grecian exercises of the gymnasium, of which the people of Asia Minor were so fond, and particularly to the exercises of the racecourse, to which he so often assimilates the course of a Christian life (1 Cor. 9; Philip. 1:29; Hebrews 12:1), and compares the struggle in which Timothy is engaged for the faith, in which struggle faith alone can insure success, to these different bodily exercises. “Lay hold on eternal life.” This is the prize held out by God, as master of the course, to such as gain the victory. “And hast confessed a good confession before many witnesses,” and in pursuit of which Timothy made this public confession, which some understand of the profession of faith, which he publicly made at his baptism; others, of that which he made at Ephesus on the occasion of the tumult referred to (Acts, 19:25); and a third class, of the public promise, which he made at his Episcopal consecration, of faithfully discharging the duties of a bishop.
1 Tim 6:13 I charge thee before God who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate, a good confession:
I command and conjure thee before God, who vivifies all things, and before Christ Jesus who rendered publicly under Pontius Pilate a glorious testimony to truth,
He conjures him in the presence of God, who gives life to every creature that lives, and of Christ, who sealed with his blood the testimony which he bore to truth, and gave him the example of declaring the truth at the risk of his life.
1 Tim 6:14 That thou keep the commandment without spot, blameless, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
To observe, in their full integrity, without any admixture of error, or without incurring any reprehension for their violation, all the precepts delivered to thee in this Epistle, until the final coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“The commandment,” is commonly understood of all the precepts given in this Epistle, “without spot,” “blameless,” can, according to the Greek, ἄσπιλον, ἀνεπιληπτον, affect either Timothy, or the commandment; “without spot,” is commonly understood of the precepts, which should be kept without the alloy of falsehood or error; “blameless,” of Timothy, who should not incur reprehension, by violating the commandments given him. “The coming (in the Greek, της ἔπιφανείας, unto the Epiphany or manifestation) of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Writing to Timothy, he wishes to instruct all bishops, that to the end of time these precepts are obligatory. And he also, by reference to the coming of Christ, which will virtually take place for all at the hour of death, wishes to remind Timothy and all bishops, that they will be judged for the observance of the precepts which he is after delivering.
1 Tim 6:15 Which in his times he shall shew, who is the Blessed and only Mighty, the King of kings and Lord of lords:
Which glorious coming of Christ, he shall display at the proper time, who alone is essentially happy, and alone enjoys of himself sovereign sway, the King of kings, and the Lord of those that rule.
“Which” i.e., apparition or coming, “in his time,” i.e., at the period he has destined and decreed. “He shall show,” i.e., openly and publicly reveal. “Who is the blessed and only Mighty,” i.e., who is alone essentially happy, and alone, of his own nature, possesses absolute sway. “The King of kings, and the Lord of lords,” who, of himself, enjoys absolute, independent authority, of which all created power is but a mere emanation and dependent participation.
1 Tim 6:16 Who only hath immortality and inhabiteth light inaccessible: whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and empire everlasting. Amen.
Who alone is, of his own nature, unchangeably immortal, and inhabits light inaccessible to mortals, whom no man ever saw in this life, or ever can see by the sole aids of nature, to whom belong honour and empire for endless ages. Amen.
“Who only hath immortality,” i.e., has life essentially of himself, with perfect incorruptibility and immutability. “And inhabiteth light inaccessible,” which light is God himself; for, God exists in himself. Hence, the words mean, that God is an uncreated, immense, infinite light, and so, “inaccessible” to mortals. “Whom no man hath seen or can see,” i.e., in this life, or ever can see, since this vision of God is reserved as the great reward of the life to come; and even there, the sole aids of nature will not suffice, nor the grace of this life; the light of glory must elevate created faculties, to the power of seeing God. What an idea of God, alone immortal and invisible, alone sovereignly powerful, alone supremely happy! To serve him is to reign. He alone is capable of satisfying the desires of our hearts; he has made us for himself, nor can our hearts find rest until they rest in him.—St. Augustine.
The following is excerpted from St John Chrysostom’s 17th and 18th Homilies on St Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy. An online edition of the homilies can be found here.
Ver. 11. “But thou, O man of God.”
This is a title of great dignity. For we are all men of God, but the righteous peculiarly so, not by right of creation only, but by that of appropriation. If then thou art a “man of God,” seek not superfluous things, which lead thee not to God, but
“Flee these things, and follow after righteousness.” Both expressions are emphatic; he does not say turn from one, and approach the other, but “flee these things, pursue righteousness,” so as not to be covetous.
“Godliness,” that is, soundness in doctrines.
“Faith,” which is opposed to questionings.
“Love,” patience, meekness.
Ver. 12. “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.” Lo, there is thy reward, “whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession,” in hope of eternal life, “before many witnesses.”
That is, do not put that confidence to shame. Why dost thou labor to no profit? But what is the “temptation and snare,” which he says, those that would be rich fall into? It causes them to err from the faith, it involves them in dangers, it renders them less intrepid. “Foolish desires,” he says. And is it not a foolish desire, when men like to keep idiots and dwarfs, not from benevolent motives, but for their pleasure, when they have receptacles for fishes in their halls, when they bring up wild beasts, when they give their time to dogs, and dress up horses, and are as fond of them as of their children? All these things are foolish and superfluous, nowise necessary, nowise useful.
“Foolish and hurtful lusts!” What are hurtful lusts? When men live unlawfully, when they desire what is their neighbor’s, when they do their utmost in luxury, when they long for drunkenness, when they desire the murder and destruction of others. From these desires many have aimed at tyranny, and perished. Surely to labor with such views is both foolish and hurtful. And well has he said, “They have erred from the faith.” Covetousness attracting their eyes to herself, and gradually stealing away their minds, suffers them not to see their way. For as one walking on the straight road, with his mind intent on something else, proceeds on his way indeed, but, often without knowing it, passes by the very city to which he was hastening, his feet plying on at random and to no purpose: such like a thing is covetousness. “They have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Dost thou see what he means by that word “pierced”? What he means to express by the allusion is this. Desires are thorns, and as when one touches thorns, he gores his hand, and gets him wounds, so he that falls into these lusts will be wounded by them, and pierce his soul with griefs. And what cares and troubles attend those who are thus pierced, it is not possible to express. Therefore he says, “Flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.” For meekness springs from love.
“Fight the good fight.” Here he commends his boldness and manliness, that before all he confidently “made profession,” and he reminds him of his early instruction.
“Lay hold on eternal life.” There is need not only of profession, but of patience also to persevere in that profession, and of vehement contention, and of numberless toils, that you be not overthrown. For many are the stumbling-blocks, and impediments, therefore the way is “strait and narrow.” (Matt. 7:14.) It is necessary therefore to be self-collected,3 and well girt on every side. All around appear pleasures attracting the eyes of the soul. Those of beauty, of wealth, of luxury, of indolence, of glory, of revenge, of power, of dominion, and these are all fair and lovely in appearance, and able to captivate those who are unsteady, and who do not love the truth. For truth has but a severe and uninviting countenance. And why? Because the pleasures that she promises are all future, whereas the others hold out present honors and delights, and repose; though all are false and counterfeit. To these therefore adhere gross, effeminate, unmanly minds, indisposed to the toils of virtue. As in the games of the heathens, he who does not earnestly covet the crown, may from the first give himself up to revellings and drunkenness, and so do in fact the cowardly and unmanly combatants, whilst those who look steadfastly to the crown sustain blows without number. For they are supported and roused to action by the hope of future reward.
MORAL. Let us then flee from this root of all evils, and we shall escape them all. “The love of money,” he says, “is the root;” thus says Paul, or rather Christ by Paul, and let us see how this is. The actual experience of the world testifies it. For what evil is not caused by wealth, or rather not by wealth, but by the wicked will of those who know not how to use it? For it is possible to use wealth in well doing, and even through means of it to inherit the kingdom. But now what was given us for the relief of the poor, to make amends for our past sins, to win a good report, and to please God, this we employ against the poor and wretched, or rather against our own souls, and to the high displeasure of God. For as for the other, a man robs him of his wealth, and reduces him to poverty, but himself to death; and him he causes to pine in penury here, but himself in that eternal punishment. Are they equal sufferers, think you?
What evils then does it not cause! what fraudulent practices, what robberies! what miseries, enmities, contentions, battles! Does it not stretch forth its hand even to the dead, nay, to fathers, and brethren? Do not they who are possessed by this passion violate the laws of nature, and the commandments of God? in short everything? Is it not this that renders our courts of justice necessary? Take away therefore the love of money, and you put an end to war, to battle, to enmity, to strife and contention. Such men ought therefore to be banished from the world, as wolves and pests. For as opposing and violent winds, sweeping over a calm sea, stir it up from its foundations, and mingle the sands of the deep with the waves above, so the lovers of wealth confound and unsettle everything. The covetous man never knows a friend: a friend, did I say? he knows not God Himself, driven mad, as he is, by the passion of avarice. Do ye not see the Titans going forth sword in hand? This is a representation of madness. But the lovers of money do not counterfeit, they are really mad, and beside themselves; and if you could lay bare their souls, you would find them armed in this way not with one or two swords, but with thousands, acknowledging no one, but turning their rage against all; flying and snarling at all, slaughtering not dogs,1 but the souls of men, and uttering blasphemies against heaven itself. By these men all things are subverted, and ruined by their madness after wealth.
For whom indeed, whom I should accuse, I know not! It is a plague that so seizes all, some more, some less, but all in a degree. Like a fire catching a wood, that desolates and destroys all around, this passion has laid waste the world. Kings, magistrates, private persons, the poor, women, men, children, are all alike affected by it. As if a gross darkness had overspread the earth, no one is in his sober senses. Yet we hear, both in public and private, many declamations against covetousness, but no one is mended by them.
What then is to be done? How shall we extinguish this flame? For though it has risen up to heaven itself, it is to be extinguished. We have only to be willing, and we shall be able to master the conflagration. For as by our will it has got head, so it may be brought under by our will. Did not our own choice cause it, and will not the same choice avail to extinguish it? Only let us be willing. But how shall that willingness be engendered? If we consider the vanity and the unprofitableness of wealth, that it cannot depart hence with us, that even here it forsakes us, and that whilst it remains behind, it inflicts upon us wounds that depart along with us. If we see that there are riches There, compared to which the wealth of this world is more despicable than dung. If we consider that it is attended with numberless dangers, with pleasure that is temporary, pleasure mingled with sorrow. If we contemplate aright the true riches of eternal life, we shall be able to despise worldly wealth. If we remember that it profits nothing either to glory, or health, or any other thing; but on the contrary drowns men in destruction and perdition. If thou consider that here thou art rich, and hast many under thee, but that when thou departest hence, thou wilt go naked and solitary. If we often represent these things to ourselves, and listen to them from others, there will perhaps be a return to a sound mind, and a deliverance from this dreadful punishment.
Is a pearl beautiful? yet consider, it is but sea water, and was once cast away in the bosom of the deep. Are gold and silver beautiful? yet they were and are but dust and ashes. Are silken vestments beautiful? yet they are nothing but the spinning of worms. This beauty is but in opinion, in human prejudice, not in the nature of the things. For that which possesses beauty from nature, need not any to point it out. If you see a coin of brass that is but gilded over, yon admire it at first, fancying that it is gold; but when the cheat is shown to you by one who understands it, your wonder vanishes with the deceit. The beauty therefore was not in the nature of the thing. Neither is it in silver; you may admire tin for silver, as you admired brass for gold, and you need some one to inform you what you should admire. Thus our eyes are not sufficient to discern the difference. It is not so with flowers, which are much more beautiful. If you see a rose, you need no one to inform you, you can of yourself distinguish an anemone, and a violet, or a lily, and every other flower. It is nothing therefore but prejudice. And to show, that this destructive passion is but a prejudice; tell me, if the Emperor were pleased to ordain that silver should be of more value than gold, would you not transfer your love and admiration to the former? Thus we are everywhere under the influence of covetousness and opinion.4 And that it is so, and that a thing is valued for its rarity, and not for its nature, appears hence. The fruits that are held cheap among us are in high esteem among the Cappadocians, and among the Serians5 even more valuable than the most precious among us, from which country these garments are brought; and many such instances might be given in Arabia and India, where spices are produced, and where precious stones are found. Such preference therefore is nothing but prejudice, and human opinion. We act not from judgment, but at random, and as accident determines. But let us recover from this intoxication, let us fix our view upon that which is truly beautiful, beautiful in its own nature, upon godliness and righteousness; that we may obtain the promised blessings, through the grace and lovingkindness of Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom, &c.
1 Tim 6:13-16~“I give thee charge in the sight of God, Who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, Who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in his times He shall show, Who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; Whom no man hath seen, nor can see; to Whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen.”
AGAIN he calls God to witness, as he had done a little before, at once to increase his disciple’s awe, and to secure his safety, and to show that these were not human commandments, that receiving the commandment as from the Lord Himself, and ever bearing in mind the Witness1 before Whom he heard it, he may have it more fearfully impressed upon his mind
“I charge thee,” he says, “before God, Who quickeneth all things.” Here is at once consolation in the dangers which awaited him, and a remembrance of the resurrection awakened in him.
“And before Jesus Christ, Who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession.” The exhortation again is derived from the example of his Master, and what he means is this; as He had done, so ought ye to do, for for this cause He “witnessed” (1 Pet. 2:21), that we might tread in His steps.
“A good confession.” What he does in his Epistle to the Hebrews,—“Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Heb. 12:2, 3),—that he now does to his disciple Timothy. As if he had said, Fear not death, since thou art the servant of God, Who can give life to all things.
But to what “good confession” does he allude? To that which He made when Pilate asked, “Art thou a King?” “To this end,” He said, “was I born.” And again, “I came, that I might bear witness to the Truth. Behold, these have heard Me.” (John 18:37.) He may mean this, or that when asked, “Art thou the Son of God?” He answered, “Thou sayest, that I am (the Son of God).” (Luke 22:70.) And many other testimonies and confessions did He make.
Ver. 14. “That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
That is, till thy end, thy departure hence, though he does not so express it, but that he may the more arouse him, says, “till His appearing.” But what is “to keep the commandment without spot”? To contract no defilement, either of doctrine or of life.
Ver. 15. “Which in His times He shall show, Who is the blessed and only Potentate, King of kings, and Lord of lords, Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto.”
Of whom are these things said? Of the Father, or of the Son? Of the Son, undoubtedly: and it is said for the consolation of Timothy, that he may not fear nor stand in awe of the kings of the earth.
“In His times,” that is, the due and fitting times, that he may not be impatient, because it has not yet come. And whence is it manifest, that He will show it? Because He is the Potentate, the “only Potentate.” He then will show it, Who is “blessed,” nay blessedness itself; and this is said, to show that in that appearing there is nothing painful or uneasy.
But he says, “only,” either in contradistinction to men, or because He was unoriginated,3 or as we sometimes speak of a man whom we wish to extol.
“Who only hath immortality.” What then? hath not the Son immortality? Is He not immortality itself? How should not He, who is of the same substance with the Father, have immortality?
“Dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto.” Is He then Himself one Light, and is there another in which He dwells? is He then circumscribed by place? Think not of it. By this expression is represented the Incomprehensibleness of the Divine Nature. Thus he speaks of God, in the best way he is able. Observe, how when the tongue would utter something great, it fails in power.
“Whom no man hath seen nor can see.” As, indeed, no one hath seen the Son, nor can see Him.
“To whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen.” Thus properly, and much to the purpose, has he spoken of God. For as he had called Him to witness, he speaks much of that Witness, that his disciple may be in the greater awe. In these terms he ascribes glory to Him, and this is all we can do, or say. We must not enquire too curiously, who He is. If power everlasting is His, fear not. Yea though now it take not place,1 to Him is honor, to Him is power evermore.