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Since I bear the responsibility for very needful teaching, first of all I may briefly speak of the first thing for all to know. I desire that what is the basis of all men's salvation should be the foundation of our talk, and that our doctrine should commence from that point whence all that is arises and what has not been begins, and that the heart's belief should open the gateway of our talk, rightly opening, as it does, the mouths of all Christian believers to a salutary confession. Therefore, concerning the beginning of human salvation, with Christ's help, let our words rightly take their start.
Let each man then who wishes to be saved believe first in God the first and last, one and three, one in substance, three in character; one in power, three in person; one in nature, three in name; one in Godhead, Who is Father and Son and Holy Spirit, one God, wholly invisible, inconceivable, unspeakable, Whose property it is ever to exist,
cf. Hil. Pictav. de Trin. ii. 6since God the Trinity is eternal, for Whom you must not seek a beginning, Who has no end, and Who has ever been that which He is and shall be; since in God there is no repetition, but ever the perfection of the Trinity. That God the Trinity is one, God Himself bears witness of Himself in the law, saying Hear, Israel, the Lord thy God is one.
Deut. 6. 4But that that one God is a Trinity, the Saviour taught in the gospel with the words, Go now and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.
Matt. 28. 19By this double evidence of the two laws, as on some firmest supports, the faith of believers is confirmed. And there you truly have a unity in Trinity and Trinity in unity. Briefly then, considering the greatness of the matter, we have spoken of what we believe, and the heart's faith [has drawn forth] the confession of the mouth;
cf. Rom. 10. 10and this must be firmly held against all heresies, that the one God cannot be divided or parted, since that which is all, has always been as it is. Thus let there be an end to the poisonous and mad delirium of all the heretics, because we hear and believe on the witness of God Himself, Hear, Israel, the Lord thy God is one,
Deut. 6. 4since He Who is one, has ever been exactly what He is; but that you may know how many, He spoke in the plural number at the foundation of the world,
p.63Let us make man in our image and likeness.
Gen. 1. 26Yet lest you should err upon the number, Christ shows you the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, and in the name of this God as one God the whole human race is to be baptized. What more is needed on the joint eternity of the Trinity? That God is one, teaches us enough. But on the reality of the persons of Father and Son and Holy Ghost, Christ's division, with the authority of a command, has fully informed the hearers. So all the pravity of errors is debarred by means of these evidences, in which the Trinity is proved by being named, and the unity by being witnessed.
Since then the greatness of the matter prevents us from discoursing further on subjects which appear to be unspeakable, let us hold what has been said before with a firm faith. For the man to whom these few words on God the Trinity are not sufficient, will not, [according to Scripture,] be profited by more.
cf. Sulp. Sev. Dial. I 18For of Him we have said only that He is one in three and three in one. Yet of His being who shall be able to speak? Of how He is everywhere present and invisible, or of how He fills heaven and earth and every creature, according to that saying, Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord,
Ierem. 23. 24and elsewhere, The Spirit of God, [according to the prophet,] has filled the round earth,
Sap. 1. 7and again, Heaven is my throne, but earth is the footstool of my feet?
Isa. 66. 1Therefore God is everywhere, utterly vast, and everywhere nigh at hand, according to His own witness of Himself; I am, [He says,] a God at hand and not a God afar off.
Ierem. 23. 24Therefore it is no God dwelling far off from us that we seek, Whom if we merit it we have within us. For He resides in us like soul in body, if only we are sound members of Him, if we are not dead in sins, if we are uninfected by the taint of a corrupt will; then truly does He reside in us Who said, And I will reside in them and walk in their midst.
2 Cor. 6. 16Yet if we are worthy that He should be in us, then in truth we are quickened by Him as His living members; for in Him, [as the Apostle says,] we live and move and have our being.
Act. 17. 28Who, I say, shall explore His highest summit to the measure of this unutterable and inconceivable being? Who shall examine the secret depths of God? Who shall dare to treat of the eternal source of the universe? Who shall boast of knowing the infinite God, Who fills all and surrounds all, Who enters into all and passes beyond all, Who occupies all and escapes all? Whom none has ever seen
1 Tim. 6. 16as He is. Therefore let no man venture to seek out the unsearchable things of God, the nature, mode and cause of His existence. These are unspeakable, undiscoverable, unsearchable; only believe in simplicity and yet with firmness, that God is and shall be even as He has been, since God is immutable.
Who then is God? He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God.
p.65Seek no farther concerning God; for those who wish to know the great deep must first review the natural world. For knowledge of the Trinity is properly likened to the depths of the sea, according to that saying of the Sage, And the great deep, who shall find it out?
Eccles. 7. 24If then a man wishes to know the deepest ocean of divine understanding, let him first if he is able scan that visible sea, and the less he finds himself to understand of those creatures which lurk beneath the waves, the more let him realize that he can know less of the depths of its Creator; and as he ought and should, let him venture to treat less of Creator than of creature, since none can be competent in the greater if he has not first explored the less, and when a man is not trusted in the lesser, in the greater how should he be trusted? For why, I ask, does a man ignorant of earthly things examine the heavenly? Oh, those who speak idle words, Not knowing, [according to the Apostle,] either what they speak or whereof they affirm!
I Tim. 1. 7How many indeed, for whom the cry is woe, though striving to fly aloft with feeble wing, and turning their creaturely face towards the sky, at least partly, not to say in every case, without counting the cost beforehand, first venture with unclean heart and impure lips to teach concerning the great deep, not understanding that God the Trinity is known not by words but by faith, Who is understood by the pious faith of a clean heart, and not by the gabble of an impious mouth. Therefore the great Trinity is to be piously believed and not impiously questioned; for the one God, the Trinity, is an ocean that cannot be crossed over or searched out. High is the heaven, broad the earth, deep the sea and long the ages; but higher and broader and deeper and longer is the knowledge of Him Who is not diminished by nature, Who created it of nought.
Understand the creation, if you wish to know the Creator; if you will not know the former either, be silent concerning the Creator, but believe in the Creator. For a silent piety is better and knows more than an impious garrulity; for it is unseemly and impious enough to pass over from faith to the empty words of one who treats of the invisible, immeasurable, and unfathomable Lord. For The great deep, [as it is written,] who shall find it out?
Eccles. 7. 24Since, just as the depth of the sea is invisible to human sight, even so the Godhead of the Trinity is found to be unknowable by human senses. And thus if, I say, a man wishes to know what he ought to believe, let him not think that he understands [better] by speech than by believing;
cf. Aug. Serm. xliii. 6, 7for knowledge of the Godhead will recede farther when he seeks it than it was. Therefore seek the supreme wisdom, not by verbal debate, but by the perfection of a good life, not with the tongue but with the faith which issues from singleness of heart, not with that which is gathered from the guess of a learned
p.67irreligion. If then you seek the unutterable by discussion, He will fly farther from you
Eccles. 7. 24than He was;if you seek by faith, wisdom shall stand in her accustomed station at the gate,
Prov. 1. 21and where she dwells she shall at least in part be seen. But then is she also truly in some measure attained, when the invisible is believed in a manner that passes understanding; for God must be believed invisible as He is, though He be partly seen by the pure heart. Wherefore, my dearest brethren, let us pray to our God Himself, everywhere present and invisible, that either faith's fear of Him, or charity which knows no fall,
cf. I Cor. 13. 8may endure in us; and may this fear joined to charity make us wise in all things, and may piety persuade us to be silent on what is too great for speech, since it is a thing unsearchable and ineffable to know God as He is. Who He is and how great He is, He only knows. But since He is our God, though invisible to us, He must yet be besought by us, often besought; ever must we cling to God, to the deep, vast, hidden, lofty, and almighty God; and we must pray by the merits and intercession of His saints, that He would bestow even some ray of His light upon our darkness, which may shine on us in our dullness and ignorance on the dark roadway of this world, and that He would lead us to Himself, by the favour of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit is the glory unto ages of ages.
In the previous discourse, the greatness of God's depths has been as it were enjoyed by foretaste, and with honour due has been besought rather than declared, since that unspeakable quality of God is more for pondering than preaching, and except for those things which either Law or Prophets or Gospel or Apostles tell, there should be from others a profound silence on the Trinity. For only God's witness is to be believed about God, that is about Himself, Who has furnished a witness either in the Law or Prophet or Gospel or Apostle, or in the Spirit to each spiritual man about Himself, through Himself or through an angel. But human argument or skill or any vainglorious philosophy, which is unsound even on the nature of the world, cannot be our teacher about God, but is to be regarded as sacrilegious and impious to God. For indeed I ask, my brethren, whence could those vain, too wicked and impious men, who either do not know themselves, or do not understand the fact of their existencenot to mention the other creatures, whose nature they cannot follow to the least extentwhence could they have known the one invisible God, the co-eternal Trinity, embracing all things beneath, above, within, without, even up to the standard required for discussion,
p.69not to say as far as a finished definition of God? Therefore with due honour committing these things to silence as they are unspeakable, let us begin to talk about a matter which is clear and pleasing to the ineffable God, not daring like others, for whom we must feel shame, to seek concerning things too high, according to that saying of the Sage, Seek not things too high for thee,
Ecclus. 3. 22but rather preaching on the edification of our souls; we do not dare at the beginning to lay our own poor foundations, but seek the authority of a greater teacher, I mean the most perspicuous and polished doctrine of St. Faustus, from whose words we have chosen a few suitably enough for opening our work, for in fact he taught us when, though unworthy, we were entrusted to his care, out of the same stock of advice of which we wish to speak, and as he is my senior in time, deserts, and knowledge, let him speak first as if in my defence to attack all ignorant and degenerate men.
He says: 'If the tiller of the soil and farmer of the land, who is preparing his field for sowing seed, does not think it enough for him to have cleft that earth with sturdy share and softened the hard sods by frequent ploughing, but over and above is anxious to clean that field of useless grass, to free it of harmful rubble, and to pluck up and destroy the growth of thorns and roots, in the belief that his land will never yield good seed unless it is clear of bad grass, thinking that that prophetic word applies to himself', Break up your fallow ground and sow not over thorns;
Ierem. 4. 3how much more ought we to clean the field of our heart from the harmful motions of the vices, and to believe that it is not enough for us to till our body's clay with the toil of fasts and vigils, unless we are anxious above all to correct our vices and form our characters, seeing we believe our hope of harvest is laid up not on earth but in heaven? Therefore let us seek above all to root out the vices and plant the virtues; let us root out pride and sow humility, let us pluck up wrath and lay down patience, let us prune envy and plant good-will.
sq. cf. Paen. Venniani 29But if the flesh is harrowed and the soul does not bear fruit, it is as if a field were continually ploughed and yet the crop never grew, or as if a man fashioned a statue of gold on the outside and of clay within. For what use is it if without the city walls war is being waged, while within it suffers ruin?' As if a man dug outside his vineyard and right on its boundary, while leaving it, untilled within, to thorns and thistles! For of what use is the religion of the outward man, if there is not also shown an improvement in the inner? That person can be false and a thief, that person is false
p.71and a hypocrite, who displays one quality in his bearing and another in his character. Then let us not be like whited sepulchres,
Matt. 23. 27let us study to show ourselves splendid and adorned within and not without; for true religion resides in lowliness not of habit but of heart. For where else does the Lord dwell, save in the heart of the truly humble, according to that saying of Isaiah, But on whom shall I look, or with whom shall I abide, save with the humble and peaceable and with him who fears My words?
Isa. 66. 2Therefore whoever wishes to be made God's dwelling-place, should strive to make himself humble and peaceable, that he may be known to be God's servant, not by his greed for talk and pliability of mien, but by the reality of his lowliness; for goodness of heart requires no false unction of talk. Idle then is a religion decorated with prostrations of the body, equally idle is the mere mortification of the flesh, and the hollow devotion of the outward man, unless it be accompanied by a fruitful moderation of the mind. What use is it for the passions to be assailed by a servant, when they are found to be in league with the master? Then, lest perhaps we should labour without fruit, let us take pains to be freed from our vices by God's help, that thereafter we can be adorned with virtues. Thus let us cleanse ourselves as far as we are able from every taint of vices, from pride first, from ill-will, from anger, from blasphemy, from injustice, from spite, from melancholy, from vain glory, from covetousness, from malice, from all bitterness; that we may be possessed by lowliness, gentleness, kindness, courtesy, sobriety, mercy, justice, joy, and love.
But what do we do? We catalogue these qualities as if they were all alike, and as if they were equally harmless we leave them uncultivated and undivided. We are delighted by reading them, distracted by rooting them out. Will it save us to hear of things which we clearly do not have within us? If they are always read to us and never improved by us, will we be profited by the constant reading of things which are rooted out from us but slowly? Will a man by talk alone cleanse his house from some disfigurement, or move the dusty piles of squalid rubble by mere speech? Or can anyone without sweat accomplish even what appertains to daily life? Therefore, while we cleanse the house of the inner man, we need patience and application and toil and unwearied zeal, that we may show patience in injuries, application in religion, toil in business, zeal in progress. While we preach often we improve slowly; often are we offended, seldom patient, often conquered, seldom conquerors, often led astray, seldom wise. Then what will help us, like weak and unskilled fighters whose weapons turn and wound them,
cf. Caesar. Arelat. Serm. 196. 1while it is no credit to hear these things, but to accomplish them? For the law does not make
p.73holy by hearing, but doubtless by performance; each should honour the Lord, not simply by words and bodily toil, but by ripeness of character and purity of heart. And let it not be said of us, This people honours Me with the lips, but their heart is far off from Me.
3 Matt. 15. 8And when you hear of battle, trust that wounds and pursuit are there; and so long as each cannot enjoy peace from the seven hostile nations that attack him, let him remain girt and not cease to, strive, till by God's gift and a manful struggle he stands king and ruler of the seven nations. For none is crowned save him [who] has striven lawfully.
2 Tim. 2. 5and none strives lawfully in his first contest. We must therefore strive first, then stand and apply ourselves in warfare, that later we may strive lawfully. Would that we also strove lawfully, that we might also deserve the crown; and as we are in the same hosting and under the same arms, would daily so contend with our enemies, that we turned our weapons, not against ourselves, but on our foes. With God's grace long experience of war will teach this, through our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom is honour, glory, and virtue unto ages of ages.
What is the best thing in the world? To please its Creator. What is His will? To fulfil what He commanded, that is, to live rightly and dutifully to seek the Eternal; for duty and justice are the will of Him Who is dutiful and right. How do we reach this goal? By application. Then we must apply ourselves in duty and justice. What helps to maintain this practice? Understanding, which, while it winnows the remainder and finds nothing solid to rest in amongst those things which the world possesses, turns in wisdom to the one thing which is eternal. For the world will pass, and daily passes, and revolves towards its end (for what does it possess which it does not apportion to an ending?) and in a manner it is propped upon the pillars of vanity. But when an end of vanity is come, then it will fall and will not stand. But that it does not end is no description of the world. Thus by death and decline all things pass away and abide not. What then should the wise man love? A dead reflection, partly dumb and partly sounding, which he sees and does not understand? For if he understood, perhaps he would not love; but it offends in the further fact that it does not disclose itself. For who
p.75understands, either in himself or in another, made a flower of the earth and earth from earth, by what deserving a child of God and citizen of heaven is made out of what shall soon be earth and dust, and what without the assistance of the soul shall never profit?
If any man, to whom God has granted it, understands what life he ought to live to become eternal in place of mortal, wise in place of stupid, heavenly in place of earthly, first let him keep his discernment pure that he may employ it for living well, and look not on what is but on what shall be. For that which is not shall be, and he should consider what he sees not, by means of what he sees, and attempt to be what he was created, and call God's grace to help his striving; for it is impossible for anyone to acquire by his own efforts alone what he lost in Adam. But what help is it to gain discernment and not to use it well? He uses it well who lives in such a way that he may never repent or forget repentance; for a late repentance proves bad habits, while a good conscience commends man's life. So what should a pure discernment learn to love? Assuredly that which makes it love all else besides, ever remains and never grows old. No other outward thing ought to be loved, according to the reckoning of truth, except eternity and the eternal will, which is inspired and quickened by the Eternal, Wonderful, Ineffable, Invisible, Incomprehensible, Who fills all things and passes beyond all things, Who is present and yet eludes our grasp. The wise man should love nothing here, since nothing lasts; for there eternal things are with the Eternal, here transitory things are with the mortal. Thus it is perilous to dwell amongst deceptions and deceits, and not to see the truths you ought to love, and in addition to see things that entice you by their flight, and as in a dream allure you to sin with them, and smilingly beguile you (hateful as it is) and thus steal away the things that are justly lovable, as though they did not exist.
Thus it is agreed that he who dwells amongst deceivers ought to be concerned, as a man who will not escape, unless he shuns them and carefully conducts himself well. How shall we shun the world, which we ought not to love, when we are in the world and are taught to die to it, and yet on the contrary fold to our breasts with a sort of envious lust that world which we ought to have spurned as it were beneath our feet? He spurns the world who conquers himself, who dies to his vices before he dies by nature, and is mortified in mind sooner than in body; for none can hate the world who spares himself; for it is in himself alone
p.77that he either loves or hates the world. He who is dead to carnal lusts has nothing of the world to love. Let us die by such a death, since it overtakes few, while that bodily death overtakes all. For it falls to few men so to live as if they died daily; and while a man has not always been, nor can be always in the world, but spends his days in a most brief period, each ought so to live as if he died daily, that he may doubt this death and ponder only the eternal and heavenly things, in which, if he deserves it, he shall be eternal and heavenly. For the things that were before the world shall remain themselves both after the world's end and for ever, and they remain still, but do not appear, and are so far hidden from us, that it is not lawful for men to speak of them; for they do not emerge or enter into the heart or ears of man, nor can they be beheld by human sight.
I Cor. 2. 9How miserable is our state! The things we ought to have loved are so remote and undiscovered and unknown by us, that while we are men and situated in this prison of the body, the things that are truly good and eternal are utterly incapable of being seen or heard or thought by us. What then are we to do? Let us love and seek them even when unknown, lest perhaps we neglect and lose them for ever; for a man has been born to no purpose, if he neglects those everlasting things for ever, and ignores those eternal things for all eternity. Oh wretched man that you are! What you see, you ought to hate, and what you should love, you do not know. Your life is a net for you, you are ensnared willing or unwilling; in yourself you have the matter of entanglement, in yourself you do not have the means of release. Will you beware of yourself, wretched man, and not trust in yourself, who by yourself are netted and by yourself are not released? While you have eyes you are blindly bound, and gladly led to execution.
Unbearable blindness! Unique misery! Most ill-starred woe! A creature that favours its foes, that willingly hands itself over to scourges that never spare it, that joyfully complies with those that bind and bear it to its death. Who ever goes to his death gladly? Who is willingly led to be throttled or beheaded? Out on you, human wretchedness! Would that you were only throttled or beheaded, and not tormented for eternity. What is blinder than you, wretched mankind! You so transgress with your eyes open, though you see as far as the sky, you do not see beyond; beneath the sky you have some intelligence, beyond it, you have none. Hard and impenetrable ignorance, who will tell you what cannot be told? Miserable mankind, who will help you? Hear what a wise man
p.79said, The man to whom little is not enough will not benefit from more.
cf. Sulp. Sev. Dial. I 18I believe you have heard the Lord saying in the Gospel, Go, ye cursed, into eternal fire.
2 Matt. 25. 41And why, do you know, is that journey to the fire? Wretched man, have pity, perhaps you will thus be able to sunder yourself from the son of perdition; have no mercy on your food, have no mercy on your frail clothing, do not prefer your possessions to yourself. Love your person rather than your property, your soul more than your wealth; for it is yourself only and not your wealth that is wretched, and you should love yourself more than another's goods. For what is your own, except your soul? Then do not lose your one possession for the sake of naught. Have no mercy on transitory things, lest you lose what is eternal; the whole world is foreign to you who are born and buried bare. Incurable insanity! Why do you desire another's transitory treasure with such love that you lose your own eternal treasure for eternity? Therefore meditate on death, which sets an end to the world's pleasures, and behold the outcome of rich men's fair delight. Pomp, mirth, lust, rioting are still, and earth receives the naked corpse for worms and corruption to dissolve, while the miserable soul is given to eternal pains. What more mournful than this state, what more unhappy than this woe, following this life's trifles to the end of decay and everlasting ruin? One hour's endurance would truly have been better than the late repentance
cf. Phaedr. i. 13. 2of unending time. Then fear death beneath the sky, beyond it the eternal fire; the one which you see, the other which you do not see, but yet believe in Him who has seen it. For our Lord Jesus Christ is true, to Whom is honour and glory unto ages of ages.
All training, [according to the Apostle,] for the present seems to be a matter not of joy but of sorrow; nevertheless afterwards it yields a pleasant fruit and peaceful increase of reward to those who are exercised by it.
Heb. 12. 11For indeed what is learnt here without sorrow and toil, in the time of our very greatest stupidity and weakness? But if temporal sorts of training destroy the sweetness of present joy, what is to be hoped for from this training of our school? This is in fact the training of all trainings, and at the price of present sorrow it prepares the pleasure of unending time and the delight of unending joy. For what sort of training is there that is without the sorrow of chastisement? How much grief or sorrow lies in the craftsmen's trades? How much toil? How much labour
p.81awaits those that ply a craft or even build? With how many blows, with what pains are musicians' pupils taught? With how many fatigues or sorrows are doctors' students troubled? And with what anxieties are the lovers of wisdom
cf. Cic. Tim. 14. 51straitened, with what pressure of poverty the philosophers? Finally, with how many dangers are offices of government sought out? And in all these, though it be after the toils of countless miseries, a most peaceful conclusion is patiently awaited, and in consideration of this the aforesaid tribulations, though not without sorrow, though with much bitterness, are borne. And indeed if training is our companion in sorrow, yet its conclusion is reached in joy and the toil depends upon security, and in a strange manner sadness is very patiently borne for joy, bitterness for pleasure, toil for security, and anxiety for rest. For though they do not know if they will reach the conclusion of any training, yet even for an unsure hope of future happiness they endure present sorrow not disdainfully, and not backwardly do they prosecute hard toil. For which of them is sure whether he will ever even be a master of that training whose toil he endures? Or whether he will survive to share the happiness for which he bears sorrow?
But if, then, such and so many pains are borne untiringly for temporal and unsure rewards, what ought we to endure for eternal, true and sure ones, whose conclusion is eternal? And indeed, if amongst the disciples of temporal trainings it is uncertain how long they will be allowed to enjoy the training once acquired, yet they are distracted by no sloth in its pursuit, and thus, though in double doubt, they are more persistent than ourselves, for as I have said, they do not know whether they will reach the conclusion of their training, considering the uncertainty of life and the intractability of innate powers, and all the same, once they have acquired the training, they doubt afresh how long they may employ it. For they are as certain of quitting their training shortly as they are uncertain of perfecting it. Thus, as we have said, they bear temporal pursuits and imperfect aptitudes, sorrows and griefs, anxieties and toils, dangers and journeyings, injuries and fatigues, while indeed they admit the uncertainty and frailty of the things for which such tribulations are endured; if the training of our school involves trials, if it involves burdens, sorrows, bitternesses, will it be wondered at, will it be thought a thing to shun? Is it not impossible for any polished accomplishment or exercise to be attained without training? Or can training be acquired without bitterness? Therefore, since these things are so, let us make ready our mind, [not for joy, not for security, as the Sage says, but] for temptations
Ecclus. 2. 1and trials, for griefs and toils. Christ was tried,
p.83injured, reviled, suffered; and do you think of security on earth? See and understand how difficult it is for this age to be conquered, since a saint is freed from it not otherwise than by the death of Christ. If the just shall scarcely thus be saved, where shall the sinner and ungodly man appear?
1 Pet. 4. 18Listen to the Lord saying to His disciples, In the world you shall have tribulation,
Ioann. 16. 33and again, Yet you shall weep and wail, but the world shall rejoice and you shall be sad.
Observe the sorrow of our training, understand that we do not pass from joy to joy nor from security to security, but from grief to joy and from trial to security. Thus we must patiently bear brief sorrow, that we may obtain eternal joy; and the light measure of our trial must be endured with readiness, that we may attain the eternal life of great glory.
2 Cor. 4. 17For if in pursuit of transitory things these vexations, as we have very often said, occur without prevailing, what shall weary or prevail over us who are merchants of heavenly kingdoms? We should yield to no joys or sorrows, no blandishment or bitterness; for the world is full of both, and both have been conquered by the Captain of our war. And let us see how perilously the unclean yields to those things to which the clean and undefiled has not yielded; with Christ let us disdain the world's honours and the kingdoms of the devil with all their glory.
cf. Matt. 4. 8Let us scorn to receive whatever is of the devil, and to that king of brief rejoicing let us say, May your possessions go with you to perdition.
Act. 8. 20Let us be sad even unto death
cf. Matt. 26. 38with Christ, that our sorrow may be turned into joy.
cf. Ioann. 16. 20Let the world laugh with the devil, far from us be their rejoicing; if we wish to joy now, let us joy partly in hope, since hereafter we shall have true joy in reality, sorrowing for our sins, rejoicing for the hope of eternal life, sorrowing for Christ's absence, triumphing likewise, because we read, We shall see Him as He is.
1 Ioann. 3. 2For though we are filled with the sorrows of our present woes, though we are saddened by the repetition of our sins, yet victory over both is free rejoicing and a sterling joy; and though for a time we are on pilgrimage from the Lord,
2 Cor. 5. 6that as reward for a brief period's warfare we should be crowned for ever, we ought not to be over-sad, knowing that we shall soon go to Him, and with Him ever dwell. For He created us to this end, that ever reigning with Him, we should praise Him unto ages of ages, and continually give thanks to Him. Therefore, knowing these things, under no toils, no trials let us fail, by no sorrows let us be conquered, by no wars fatigued, let us be moved from our place by no agonies of training, again let us be distracted by no blandishments, beguiled by no charms, and let us say as with the Apostle's voice, May no one and nothing separate us from the love of Christ, [no] trial, [no] difficulty, [no] persecution, [no] hunger, [no] nakedness, [no] danger, [no] death
sqq. Rom. 8. 35-39fire, cross, or murder, nothing sad, nothing sweet, nothing hard, nothing fair, may none of the world's vanities separate us from Christ, that we may abide in Him here and for eternal ages of ages.
Oh human life, feeble and mortal, how many have you deceived, beguiled, and blinded!
sq. cf. Ps.-Aug. Serm. 49 (P. L. 40. 1332)While you fly, you are nothing, while you are seen, you are a shadow, while you arise, you are but smoke; daily you fly and daily you return, you fly in returning and return in flying, unequal in outcome, identical in origin, unequal in pleasure, identical in passage, sweet to the stupid, bitter to the wise. Those who love you do not know you, and those who scorn you really scan you. Thus you are not true but false; you show yourself as true, render yourself in falsehood.
What then are you, human life?
cf. Greg. Magn. Homil. in Evang. I 1You are the roadway of mortals, not their life, beginning from sin, enduring up till death; for you would be true, if you had not been cut short by the sin of man's first transgression, and then you became ready to fall and mortal, in that you have allotted all your travellers to death. So you are the way to life, not life; for you are a real way, but not an open one, long for some, short for others, broad for some, narrow for others, joyful for some, sad for others, for all alike hasting and irrevocable. A way is what you are, a way, but you are not manifest to all; for many see you, and few understand you to be a way. For you are so wily and so winsome that it is granted to few to know you as a way. Thus you are to be questioned and not believed or warranted, traversed, not occupied, wretched human life; for on a roadway none dwells but walks, that those who walk upon the way may dwell in their homeland.
Thus then, mortal life, you are dwelt in, loved and warranted by the stupid and the lost, disdained by men with sense, avoided by those that shall be saved. Therefore you must be feared and much avoided, human life, for you are so fleeting, shifting, dangerous, short, and uncertain, that you shall be dissolved like a shadow, a mirage, a cloud, or something null and void. Thus while you are nothing, mortal life, except a way, a mirage fleeting and void or a cloud, uncertain and feeble and a
p.87shadow, like a dream, we must thus make our journey through you so anxiously, so carefully, so hastily, that all men of understanding should hurry like pilgrims to their true homeland, confident of the past, troubled for that which remains. For it is no gain to you to reach the height that you have reached, unless you escape that which remains; for this life is to be considered as a way and an ascent. Let us not seek upon the way what shall be in our homeland; for toil and weariness are appointed on the journey, rest and peace are made ready in the homeland. Therefore we must beware, lest perhaps we be careless on the way, and fail to reach our true home, For indeed there are not a few so careless on this journey, that they seem to be not so much on the way as in their home; and they travel unwillingly rather than freely towards a homeland that is certainly already lost. For these have exhausted their home upon the roadway, and for a brief life have bought eternal death. Unhappy men, they joy in their disappointed trading; they have loved the transitory goods of others, and neglected their own eternal good. Hence, however joyful they be, however enticing, however splendid, let us avoid the earthly goods of others, that we lose not our own eternal good; let us be found faithful in the things of others, that in our private and peculiar things we may be made inheritors, by the gift of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who lives and reigns unto ages of ages.
By the Lord's help we have said of human life that it is the likeness of a roadway, on which each as he journeys towards the eternal things, unconcerned with others' ambitions, should be satisfied with no more than the poverty of a sort of travelling allowance, so that, cleaving to no allurements, he may understand that all earthly things are foreign to him. Now let us show, as we have already said, that the same life is a shadow. Does not the life of man on earth seem to you to be a shadow and mirage, which is so doubtful and uncertain in its length that its reality is the equivalent of shadow? For you see and see it not; itself and not itself, let us say; what has been you do not see, and cannot even see what shall be. You only see what is, while it lasts; take away what is, and you see nothing; it is so unseen as if it were not; thus each sees his life a shadow, and from morning until evening, as in a mirror, he beholds the vanity of his own life. But similar things, though of a different kind, he sees only in his sleep; for he observes false things alike as true, and in
p.89place of the image of truth is cheated by inanities. For what, I ask, is the difference between what I saw yesterday and dreamt this night? Do they not seem to you today to be equally unreal? And surely indeed what flies in the beholding would no more satisfy me as truth than what cheats me while I sleep; for both I find unreal. For what I am I was not and shall not be, and every hour I am different and never stay. For I am always moving from the day of my birth up till the day of death, and throughout the individual days of my life I change, and what things change or how they change I do not see; and I can never see my whole life in one together, and what yesterday I was, today I am not, and thus what today I am, tomorrow I shall not be; and for all the remaining periods of my life I shall be so transient and changeful, that from minute to minute, from minutes to hours, from hours to days, with the unsure periods of my time I shall hasten towards death, that there I may see sure things and true, and all things together in one, which is impossible for me here.
Wretched man that I am, if there I shall not see life, which I never see in truth; for it must be true there, where eternity dwells. Then fly, fly, you shade of mortal life; fly from us and we from you; fly as you are wont; for you ever fly that soon the true life may come; let us flee you, lest you deceive us; for you habitually deceive the laggards with specious entanglements. Fly, I say, and hasten, you that have beguiled many, and mean to beguile us, and after us will beguile others and apportion them to death. Oh, how blind, how beguiling are you, uncertain life! You await me to pounce, allure me to persuade, beseech me to beguile, persuade me to deceive. Who is so witless as to trust you who deceive your lovers and beguile your trusting friends? For those who cultivate you are deceived, and those who trust you are beguiled; but those who spurn you are enriched, and those who flee you, saved. They that scorn you seek God. Therefore let us flee you before you flee from us; and since you are mortal, brief, tottering, unsure, inconstant, transient, fickle, changeful, let us hold ourselves as lovers and merchants of God and eternal life rather than of you, and let us flee you as you flow and fly, lest you claim us with your lovers. For we must flee what flies, and so live in it as though we must daily die. For what does it matter to us whether we die today or tomorrow? For while we needs must die, we must so think of death as though it were already long past; and while nothing lasts upon this side of death, we must hasten to death, that after death we may be able to see eternal truths. Hence we must not linger, but hasten from the shadow of a pictured life to the true life's truth. And since the way of carnal life is quite other than the way of spiritual progress, let the mind in its progress press onward, even as life presses on its course, and let ripeness of the mind increase with fullness of age; and as the spans of life grow shorter, so let the number of our vices
p.91lessen, that with the world we may leave its own, and bear nothing of its character with us to the Lord, by the help of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom is glory unto ages of ages.
Blind madness, blind pitfallhuman will, that hide what you receive and do not restore your gifts! In vain are you appeased, for you batten in unthankfulness and devour in vain, you so clamourously demand the expense of your devouring. Insatiable and rabid leech, cruel when sated, fawning when hungry, devouring, shameless, gluttonous, what mark have you of right or honour? None. While you seek what is denied, repeat what is condemned, and gild what is foul, why do you not take notice of yourself, wretched mankind, inwardly rotten, full of bile, rheum, fluid, blood, and phlegm, but outwardly a skin washed yet never clean? For you are always stained and defiled from the inner filth of your uncleanness; though you be daily washed, you are polluted daily. Defiled skin, in vain are you washed that are unclean by nature. Perverse blindness, what you wash and gild is by nature corruption; but what you pollute and defile is by nature splendour. Why do you stain the clean and wash the unclean, when you corrupt the soul and gild the body? Do you love yourself enough, or show yourself enough disdain? For if you know yourself, why do you love the loathsome and unclean abodes of phlegm and filth? If you see some uncleanness on your clothing, if you loathe the phlegm and turn your gaze away, do you not flee and abominate yourself also, an unclean dung-heap in your clothing and a foul-smelling and corrupt slough? Do you not see what your ulcered skin discharges through its pores? It is shameful to relate what it is no shame to love. Why do we not loathe the loathsome? Why do we not abominate the shameful? Why do we not flee the foul? Surely because we are senseless and because we are not clean? Thus the unclean seeks uncleanness, the infamous infamy, the dishonourable dishonour; and because we are blind and dishonourable, therefore we avoid naught that is immodest. For if we are not blind, why do we not first despise ourselves for our uncleanness? Why do we not spurn ourselves for our immodesty or for our infamy? Surely infamous things do not seem honourable to you? Things that need frequent washings and various embellishments, and in their unthankfulness are not satisfied by what is spent on them, and when sated give no assistance for the future; and the performance of our will neither satisfies it for the present nor forestalls its future claims.
Thus he toils in vain who nourishes such passions, and sows into the wind who serves this empty will, where the payment of service does not profit. Then let those passions hunger, which are so unthankful, so burdensome, that they seem ever hungry. Those who nourish them deceive themselves. Disgraceful servitude that takes pleasure in the flesh! Harsh and irresistible, fierce though domestic usurpation, that is daily paid and daily demanded, each day goes and comes, having left sated, returns hungry! Alas for those who batten where famine reigns and is not overcome by-riches, and while these dues are paid others are demanded. For render the first and you will be forced to payout the second; nourish your appetite, and you will be dunned for lust. Thus we must cry with Susannah, Straits surround me on all sides,
Dan. 13. 22and with Paul we must exclaim and say, Wretched man that I am, who will free me from the body of this death?
Rom. 7. 24If you pay the essentials, you will be forced to render non-essentials. Then if, unhappy man, you fear to render the second, refuse the first if you are able; if not, render sparingly, payout miserly, pay nothing except against your will, give nothing freely. But you cannot, I see; this is worse and graver, that you love your usurers, and your enemy is your own friend. I know not what to say, and have no inkling of what to urge. One thing which I know I shall say: the man who here battens, here sates himself, here makes merry, here smiles, here is drunken, and here plays, shall hereafter hunger, thirst, mourn, wail, and lament, as the Lord has said, Woe to those who smile, for they shall mourn, [and,] Woe to you who are sated, for you shall hunger.
Luc. 6. 25For two ages and two lives succeed each other, and there are two worlds; one life is brief, the other long, and he who hungers in the one shall batten in the other; indeed he who here in the one devours, is sated and comforted, in the other shall hunger and thirst, according to that saying of Isaiah, For this reason saith the Lord, Lo, those who serve Me shall eat and drink, but you shall hunger and thirst,
Isa. 65. 13and a little later, Lo, those who serve Me shall leap for joy, but you shall cry for grief of heart and lament for remorse of spirit.
Isa. 65. 14Since then these things are so, we should spare our riches, and pay the least service to our short-lived will, lest our battening result in hunger, our satiety perhaps in famine, and our drinking in thirst; for we see that either here or hereafter one of the two must needs be undergone. Wherefore if we are sated, if we drink, wretched men that we are, let us eat here in part and not entirely, let us eat what is needful, not what panders; let us eat with the poor, drink with the poor, share with the poor, that even so we may deserve to share with the poor in that place where they shall be satisfied who here for Christ's sake hunger and thirst after righteousness.
Matt. 5. 6For to whom belongs the kingdom of heaven [save to the] poor
Matt. 5. 3who are lowly in mind and poor in riches for Christ's sake, to Whom is the glory unto ages of ages?
Now, you see, we must speak of the end of the way; for we have already said that human life is a roadway, and by the likeness of a shadow we have shown how doubtful it is and uncertain, and that it is not what it is; in the same manner, we have said before how incalculable and how blind it is; but concerning the end of our life, by the help of the Holy Spirit, our talk must be continued. It is for travellers to hasten to their homeland, likewise their part is anxiety upon the roadway, and in their homeland peace. Then let us, who are on the way, hasten home; for our whole life is like the journey of a single day. Our first duty is to love nothing here; but let us place our affections above, our desires above, our wisdom above, and above let us seek our home; for the fatherland is there where our Father is. Thus we have no home on earth, since our Father is in heaven.
Matt. 6. 9And indeed, if He is everywhere in virtue of His power and by the greatness of His Godhead, He is deeper than ocean, firmer than earth, broader than the world, clearer than air, higher than heaven, brighter than the sun; yet He dwells openly in the heavens, where He is the bread of angels,
cf. Ps. 77. 25who as His retinue inhabit the blessed palace of the highest heaven, and enjoy the sight of God. But since our weaker nature could not bear the pure nature of the invisible God, for that reason God in His goodness, in Whom are all things and beyond Whom is nothing,
cf. Hil. Pictav. de Trin. ii 6allotted to the supreme virtues the first region of the knowledge of Himself, which He bounded by the first heaven, and mollified that heaven by the waters that are above; for unless that nature of the first heaven were mollified by the aforesaid waters, it would be set on fire by the virtue of the Most High God, and could by no means be endured by lower natures; and so, while everywhere present to all, God remains invisible. For He is greater than what could be seen entire, and greater than all things, for He created all of nothing; and thus when seen He is imperceptible, since Who He is and how great He is, to Himself alone is known. Yet let us beseech Him, since God the Trinity, though imperceptible and imponderable, is known and present to each one, in proportion to the deserts of our purity. Let us beseech Him, I say, at least here, that there we may more closely approach, or more clearly understand, and singing on our journey let us say, Let us run after Thee towards the odour of Thy perfumes,
Cant. 1. 3and, My soul has clung behind Thee
Ps. 62. 8, and, Draw me after Thee;
Cant. 1. 3that with these songs we may speedily pass through the world, and controlled from above may scorn the things of the present, and ever thinking of heavenly things may shun the things of earth; for unless we long unweariedly with heavenly desires, we needs must be entangled in earthly ones.
Then, lest we be concerned with human things, let us concern ourselves with things divine, and as pilgrims ever sigh for and desire our homeland; for the end of the road is ever the object of travellers' hopes and desires, and thus, since we are travellers and pilgrims in the world, let us ever ponder on the end of the road, that is of our life, for the end of our roadway is our home. But there all who journey through this age find various lots according to their merits; and the good travellers have peace in their homeland, but the evil shall perish without; for many lose their true home, because they love rather the road. Let us not love the roadway rather than the homeland, lest we lose our eternal home; for we have such a home that we ought to love it. Therefore let this principle abide with us, that on the road we so live as travellers, as pilgrims, as guests of the world, entangled by no lusts, longing with no earthly desires, but let us fill our minds with heavenly and spiritual impressions, singing with grace and power, When shall I come and appear before the face of my God? [For] my soul thirsts for the mighty and living God,
Ps. 41. 2and, My soul is like a waterless land before Thee,
Ps. 142. 6and saying with Paul, I desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ,
Phil. 1. 23let us know that though we are strangers from the Lord while we remain in the body,
cf. 2 Cor. 5. 6yet we are present to the eyes of God. Hence, spurning all wickedness, and laying aside all sloth, let us strive to please Him Who is everywhere present, that with a good conscience we may happily pass over from the roadway of this age to the blessed and eternal homeland of our eternal Father, from present things to things absent, from mournful things to things of joy, from transitory things to things eternal, from earthly things to heavenly, from the sphere of death to that of the living, where we shall see heavenly things face to face, and the Ruler of rulers, ruling His realms with an upright rule, our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom is glory unto ages of ages.
Now let us speak of the end, my dearest brethren; for the end of our road, as we have said, is our homeland. But since some, taking possession of their homeland here, hereafter shall not enjoy the end of their road at home, but pass from road to road, that is shall change from one pain to another at the sting of conscience, and shall have no rest: therefore the end of the road, that is of their life, is not home but pain, it is not rest but tribulation. But the end of just men's life is life eternal, rest, perpetual peace, a heavenly home, a blessed eternity, a joy unending. Thus there is a difference in the end of the road of human life, since, though in its feebleness, and capricious vacillation, and uncertain
p.99flight, the road of human life is identical, yet it differs in pursuits and attainments. But this differing life is here oppressed by an identical fate, and troubled by the travail of a tortuous track; for all alike are born, grow, decline, weaken, suffer, die; but when they reach the end, then they are divided, and those whom an equal travail has wearied are separated by an unequal rank; for in that place there shall be a true trial and careful analysis of the identical misery by which all travellers are oppressed on the road that mortals tread alike. For there, as the Apostle says, Fire shall try each man's work, of what sort it is.
1 Cor. 3. 13You see the scheme of the misery of human life, from earth, on earth, to earth, from earth to fire, from fire to judgement, from judgement to hell or else to life; for from earth you were made, earth you tread, and to earth you shall return, from earth you shall arise, in fire you shall be tried, you shall await judgement, and thereafter you shall obtain either an eternal punishment or an eternal reign; for there It behoves us, [as the Apostle says], to appear before the judgement-seat of Christ, that each may receive his body's due reward, according as he has acted, either well or ill;
2 Cor. 5. 10and this the Lord also announces in the Gospel, The Son of Man is to come in His glory, and then He shall render to each according to his deeds.
Matt. 16. 27Tremble, I beg you, at the gravity of the words, and with your mind ever in a crisis of fear and fright unceasingly meditate that terrible approach of the divine judgement, when before that dread judgement-seat of Christ the Judge, Fire shall try each man's work, of what sort it is
1 Cor. 3. 13and each as he has acted shall receive the body's due of each, either good or ill,
cf. 2 Cor. 5. 10and when the Son of Man at His coming shall render to each according to his deeds.
cf. Matt. 16. 27
The statement is terrible enough, my brethren, since He did not say, according to His mercy, but according to a man's deeds shall He render to each;
cf. Matt. 16. 27for here He is merciful, but there a just Judge. Therefore we, my dearest friends, who read and hear these words, must fear and tremble greatly, when we learn from God's declaration that it must be rendered to each according to his deeds.
cf. Matt. 16. 27What harder word could have been said? What human hope has it left? For who can be justified by fire and not need the mercy of his Judge, when he dwells in the body of sin?
cf. Rom. 6. 6Who, I ask, of human kind, wearing our flesh, would not fear these things, in which it is foretold that we must all appear and in some manner be committed before the judgement-seat of Christ, and that there our deeds must be tried by fire? With grief for the damned we must say, To what purpose did clay receive reason? why was reason made from dust? Men like us, created out of earth, stationed upon it for a little, and soon after to return to it, when the same earth at God's command again restores us and casts us forth, shall at the last be tried by fire, so that the
p.101fire should by some art dissolve both earth and clay, and should show by melting the counterfeit whether it has had any gold or silver or other of earth's precious things. Thus not to fear these things is the part of dead and hopeless minds; for to the living, even to hear them once should be enough of warning. Wherefore let us know nothing more profitable for ourselves than to examine ourselves daily, every day of our life reviewing that dubious life, and keeping account of our words and thoughts, and shuddering at human life, to ponder without ceasing this aforesaid end of that roadway, that is of our life, while we spurn all the pleasures of this world. We see life, but discern it as a fleeting and deceptive shadow and mirage. Then let us not be cheated by a life that is deceitful and tempting, brief and short-lived, transitory and feeble, bitter and sad; let us ever ponder the life true and eternal, which after death shall keep the immortal just. Observe the inconstancy of things, life before death and after death, life; the just and godly enjoys both, and the ungodly sinner keeps one to his woe, losing the other that is blessed; for after a brief life, from death to death he passes to destruction, and from this may the loving-kindness of the good God deign to deliver us, through our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom is glory unto ages of ages.
Great fear for the end, my dearest brethren, is instilled in us by the Lord through the Gospel and Paul in the above passages. What refuge is there for us after these so terrible witnesses of holy scripture? What tears have we need of, and how many sighs? With what motions of remorse must our hard and stony heart be bruised, that we may escape such anger of our Judge? This is threatened by the Creator of the universe, our God and Lord, through His own lips, and by the Apostle and the Prophets, who do not hide the same threats when they say, Behold the day of the Lord comes scorching like an oven, and it will burn them up; and all the estranged and all who commit wrong shall be as stubble; and the day that comes shall consume them, saith the Lord Almighty, and root and seed shall not be left.
Matt. 4. 1Likewise also elsewhere the Prophet says, Behold the Lord Almighty comes, and who shall abide the day of His approach? Or who shall bear to look on Him? Since He draws nigh as the fire of a furnace.
Mal. 3. 1-2But Isaiah also says, Behold the day of the Lord shall come without remedy, a day of wrath and anger, a day of cloud and vapour,
Isa. 13. 9 et Sophon. 1. 15and a little later, For heaven shall be shaken and earth be moved from its foundations, because of the anger of the wrath of the Lord of Hosts, on the day when His anger shall have struck;
Isa. 13. 13and again he says,
p.103The foundations of the earth shall be moved, the earth shall tremble with a tremor, the earth shall be mazed in amazement, the earth shall sway with a swaying, and the earth shall be shaken with a shock; it shall be tossed like a drunken and inebriate man.
Isa. 24. 18-20Asaph also says the like, God shall openly come, our God, and He shall not keep silence; fire shall burn in His sight, and around Him a mighty storm.
Ps. 49. 3And David speaks in agreement with this when he says, Fire shall burn before Him and scorch His enemies around.
Ps. 96. 3
After these, I say, so terrible predictions of the Old and New Testament, from which we have related a few yesterday and today, let us see by what satisfaction we can avoid the wrath of such a Judge. We ought to remember our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ saying, Let him who wishes to make his soul safe lay it down; for he who has laid down his soul for My sake, shall find it.
Matt. 16. 25Thus we must gladly lay down whatever we love apart from Christ for Christ's sake; first the life by which the body is quickened in union with the soul, if so it should be needful, must be laid down by those who bear martyrdom for Christ; or if the opportunity of such blessedness is lacking, yet we shall not lack the mortification of our wills, so that he who lives, let him not live to himself, but to Him Who for him died.
Cor. 5. 15Thus let us live to Him Who while He dies for us is Life; and let us die to ourselves that we may live to Christ; for we cannot live to Him unless first we die to ourselves, that is, to our wills. Let us be Christ's and not our own; for we are not our own, for we are bought at a great price,
Cor. 6. 19-20and truly a great one, when the Lord is given for a slave, the King for a servant, and God for man. What ought we to render ourselves, if the Creator of the universe for us ungodly men, yet His creation, is unjustly put to death? Do you think you ought not to die to sin? Certainly you ought. Therefore let us die, let us die for the sake of life, since Life dies for the dead, so that we may be able to say with Paul, I live, yet no longer I, but Christ lives in me,
Gal. 2. 20He Who for me has died; for that is the cry of the elect. But none can die to himself, unless Christ lives in him; but if Christ be in him, he cannot live to himself. Live in Christ, that Christ may live in you.
But you wonder how reason lives in such a man, that he should tell you to die to yourself and live to Christ, or, as it must be said more truly, to live to yourself; for he who dies for Christ's sake, himself lives, and he who lives to himself, dies. For he is subject to death, if he lives for his own wishes, according to that saying of the Apostle, For if you have lived after the flesh, you shall die.
Rom. 8. 13Thus you see, my dearest friends, that we live in foreign lands, while even our life is not our own, and we ought not to live to ourselves, and it requires great violence to seek by toil and to maintain by enthusiasm what a corrupted nature has not kept. But yet, though blessedness is lost, it has not lost the choice of free will. Thence we now force the kingdom of heaven by strength and violence,
sq. cf. Matt. 11. 12
p.105and this we snatch somehow, as it were, from amidst our enemies' hands in the middle of the field of strife, and as it were in the bloodstained soil of battle, while we are too hardly assailed not only by our foes but by ourselves, while each loves himself ill, and in the act of loving hurts himself; for he loves well who hates, that is, disciplines himself savingly; but he who makes terms with his foes is not said to love himself aright. So it is a great misfortune, when a man hurts himself and does not know it. For while man is at feud with himself, it is not the gift of all so to pacify him that one should love himself truly. So here we must fight and struggle with our vices, that we may be crowned elsewhere.
cf. Hieron. Epist. xxii. 3For this time is a time of war; for no one should expect rest in warfare, for the reason that in warfare none sleeps, and none joins his rank at rest. Thus we must form rank against all that is vicious, luxurious, and foully fair. But it is enough for the contestants to defeat their foes; if you have conquered yourself, you are conqueror of all; yet if you are your own conqueror, you shall be found dead to yourself, alive to God; but when you hear the word 'dead', with what boldness shall you enter before the judgement-seat of Christ! Each man who seeks martyrdom for Christ makes himself the pleader of his cause, the prompter of his wish, and the avenger of his disesteem. For if he had truly taken up the cross of Christ, he would notice that none of these things is lawful for him, since Christ also gave an example in this, that none should seek his own, by saying, Not as I will, but as Thou wilt,
Matt. 26. 39and, I came down, not to do My will, but the will of Him Who sent me.
Ioann. 6. 38
Let each examine himself, lest he be found free and living instead of bond and crucified, and Let each remain before God in that state in which he was called,
Cor. 7. 20and as the Apostle said, Whether free, whether subject,
1 Cor. 12. 13let them be under the yoke of lowliness as slaves in Christ. Thus let each of us, my dearest friends, oppose himself; for if we oppose not ourselves but our brethren, and if we speak as we please, our religion is not true but feigned. Therefore there should be nothing free in the slaves of Christ, and nothing ought to be lofty in Christ's lowliness. Then let us not be proud, let us not be forward, and not free; but let us be lowly, gentle, kindly, courteous, that Christ, the lowly yet exalted King, may reign in us. But that we may love this saving death with some thrill of hope, let us hear its end. For who is really happier than he whose death is life, whose life is Christ, and reward his Saviour, to whom heaven is made low and Paradise opens, to whom earth is heavenly and hell is closed, for whom the gates are opened and life has no ending, to whom God is a Father and an angel his minister, who obtains long time for short, blessing for misery, eternity for change, joy for sorrow, triumph for lowliness, heaven for earth, and by a happy exchange, God
p.107for mortality? Therefore if we disdain present things and only seek what is to come, we change all these aforesaid conditions for the better. But if (may it not happen!) we reject the stronger in favour of the lower, we shall doubtless lose both. Wherefore let us thus seek life with Jesus, that we may keep His dying in us first; and may Christ our God deign to grant us this, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit is ever one God unto ages of ages.
Moses wrote in the law, God made man in His image and likeness.
Gen. 1. 26Mark, I beg you, the distinction of this saying; God the omnipotent, unseen, unfathomable, ineffable, unsearchable, when making man of clay, ennobled him with the distinction of His image. What comparison has man with God? What is there between earth and spirit? For God is Spirit.
Ioann. 4. 24It is a great dignity that God bestowed on man the image of His eternity and the likeness of His character. A grand distinction for man is the likeness of God, if it be preserved; but again, it is great damnation to defile the image of God. For if he prostitutes for the opposite employment what he has received from the breath of God, and corrupts the blessing of his nature, then he perverts the likeness of God and destroys it as far as in him lies; yet if he employs the virtues planted in his soul to a proper end, then he will be like to God. So whatever virtues God sowed in us in our original state, He taught us in the commandments to restore the same to Him. This is the first, To love our Lord with the whole heart,
Matt. 22. 37since He first loved us
Ioann. 4. 10from the beginning and before we were. For the love of God is the restoration of His image. But he loves God who observes His commands; for He said, If you love Me, keep My commands.
Ioann. 14. 15This is His command, a mutual love, according to that saying, This is My command, that you love one another, as I also have loved you.
Ioann. 15. 12But true love is not in word [only,] but in deed and in truth.
Ioann. 3. 18Therefore let us restore to our God, our Father, His own image undefiled in holiness, since He is holy, according to that saying, Be ye holy, since I am holy;
Lev. II. 44in love, since He is love, according to that saying of John, God is love;
Ioann. 4. 8in righteousness and truth, since He is righteous and true.
Let us not be the painters of another's image; for he is the painter of a despot's image, who is fierce, wrathful, proud. For just as false knowledge is detected, so a false image also is discovered as a phantom. For truth is distinguished from falsehood, justice from unrighteousness, love from ill will, enthusiasm from carelessness, rectitude from wrong, affection from pretence, and both paint some images upon us, which are mutually opposed. For righteousness and unrighteousness, peace and disagreement, are opposed to one another. Then lest perhaps we should import into ourselves despotic images, let Christ paint His image in us, as He does by saying, My peace I give you, My peace I leave to you.
Ioann. 14. 27But what advantage is it for us to know that peace is good, if it is not well preserved? For each best gift is usually the frailest, and the most valuable things require the more care and surer keeping; for a thing is over-frail that is lost by light talk, and perishes with the slightest injury of a brother. There is none you do not injure when you fawn upon him; and you flatter none when you disdain him. For if you say, Fool, you [have both broken peace, and] are made liable to hell fire.
Matt. 5. 22Thus those who practise the consummation of brotherly love must beware of speaking as they please, and of moving the tongue to follow the motion of their mind, when it is not only for hurtful words, but even for idle ones, that we shall render an account.
Matt. 12. 36Wherefore we must make it our practice not to linger over much speaking, but to say the barest minimum. For there is nothing more pleasant for men than to speak of and take interest in the concerns of others, and to utter idle words everywhere, and to criticize the absent; and thus those who cannot say, The Lord has given me a discerning tongue, that I can support him who is weary with a word,
Isa. 50. 4should keep silence, and if they say anything, let it be peaceable. For however wise a man may be, he offends less with few speeches than with many; for when each lies, curses, criticizes, he cuts his throat with his own sword. But what else would our enemies have desired for us, save that we should fall under our own arms? Do not criticize, [says the Scripture,] lest you be exterminated.
Ps. 36. 8-9See what is done in the works of unrighteousness; dwelling and planting, which we scarcely plant with long and daily labours, are exterminated with one word of criticism, and what can scarcely be established by lengthy toil is overthrown by the onset of a single speech. Then let each beware, lest for an angry criticism his root be exterminated from the land of the
p.111living. For none ever criticizes him whom he loves; for criticism is the first-born of anger, and thus the son of such a father ought justly to be exterminated.
It is a dangerous dwelling, my dearest friends, in which these things are not shunned. For if, [as the Apostle says,] you envy one another and bite one another, [criticize one another, I say,] see that you be not wasted by one another.
Gal. 5. 15For if he who loves not is in death
1 Ioann. 3. 14, where shall he be who criticizes? There is more need in this for tears than words. For what has the law of God commanded more carefully or more fully than love? And seldom do you find any so doing. What shall we say for excuse? Can we really say, It is troublesome, it is hard? Love is no trouble; love is more pleasant, more healthful, more saving to the heart. For if the heart has not become enervated in its vices, love is its own health, besides being what is dear to God; yet nothing is dearer to God than love, especially spiritual love, since it is the sum of His law and of all His commands, according to that saying of the Apostle, But he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law.
Rom. 13. 8But he who has fulfilled the law by the practice of love has eternal life, as John also says, Brethren, we know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren; for he who loves not is in death. Yet if any man hates, he is a murderer. But you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
1 Ioann. 3. 14-15Then we must either be occupied with nothing except love, or we must hope for nothing except punishment; for love is the fulfilment of the law,
Rom. 13. 10and with this may that Righteous One deign to inspire us richly, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Who deigned to be offered as the Author of peace and God of love, to Whom is the glory unto ages of ages.
In the previous discourses we have attempted in some manner to indicate a suggestion of the need for remorse, and as though in soliloquies have wished to arouse the listlessness, of our own certainly, and yet of every heart. But since poverty of faith and the will of the flesh, coupled with the lusts of the world, scorns these lessons of denunciation as it gives them a lukewarm hearing, the same must be repeated very often; for if faith were not doubtful, even one of the aforesaid evidences of the divine mentor would abundantly suffice. Thus those who neglect what they have heard believe and do not believe; otherwise if today, as
p.113someone says, you were told that a judge of this world wishes to burn you alive tomorrow, what anxiety, I ask, what fear would threaten you? And having heard this, if the extent of a single day were free for you, what would you do, how would you grovel, whom would you hasten to visit, how would you run about in lowliness and sorrow and mourning clothes? Would you not scatter all your money on those by whose good offices you thought you could escape? Would you not make all your goods the price of your soul
cf. Prov. 13. 8and keep nothing back, though you were thrifty and greedy, but would disburse all, bestow all for your life? And if someone tried to stop or hinder you, would you not say, Let them all perish for my safety, and let nothing remain; only let me live? Why would you do this? Because you did not doubt that you would burn tomorrow according to the verdict of a most strict judge. But here you doubt what you know not how soon it shall come to pass; yet you are not ignorant that it will come, though you pay no heed. Then you must awaken, watch and pray, according to the teaching of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and our God, when He said, But take heed to yourselves, lest perchance your hearts be weighed down with wine-bibbing and drunkenness and the cares of this life, and that day come upon you unawares; for as a snare shall it come upon all who dwell over the face of the whole earth. Therefore watch at all times, that you may be deemed worthy to escape all these things that shall be, and to stand before the Son of Man.
Luc. 21. 34-36
If we hear this and believe, our watchfulness will show our faith, and as we shake off the filthy and drowsy slumbers of a deadly sloth, let the judgement of our Lord and Saviour nerve our feelings, so that laying aside all mortal cares we may ever be prepared, because we await the coming of the last day, on which either punishment or glory shall receive us; and let the aforesaid word of the Lord, by which He taught us to be constantly watching and praying, sharpen the edge of our minds, that we be not as if we believed and did not believe, and as if we heard and did not hear; and let us unweariedly beseech, request, and pray for the unspeakable mercy of the righteous and good God from the bottom of our heart through Jesus Christ His Son, that He may deign so to inspire us with His love, that He join us to Him for eternity, weld us together inseparably, raise us from the ground, unite our senses to heaven all the time that we are stationed in this body of death;
cf. Rom. 7. 24and may we so await His coming without complaint, that when He shall appear we may run in welcome to meet Him with joy and great confidence of love. How blessed, how happy are those servants, whom the Lord when He comes shall find watching!
Luc. 12. 37Blessed watch, in which they watch for God the Creator of the universe, Who fills all things and surpasses all! Would that me also, wretched though I be, yet His poor servant, He might deign so to arouse from the sleep of idleness, so to kindle with that fire of
p.115divine love, that the flame of His love, the longing of His so great charity, would mount above the stars, and the divine fire would ever burn within me! Would that I had the tinder to foster, feed, and keep alight that fire unceasingly, and nourish that flame, which knows no quenching and knows all increase! Would that I were of such deserving, that my lamp might ever burn by night in he temple of my Lord, I that to all entering the house of my God it might give light.
Lord, grant me, I pray Thee in the name of Jesus Christ Thy Son, my God, that love which knows no fall, so that my lamp may feel the kindling touch and know no quenching, may burn for me and for others may give light. Do Thou, Christ, deign to kindle our lamps, our Saviour most sweet to us, that they may shine continually in Thy temple, and receive perpetual light from Thee the Light perpetual, so that our darkness may be enlightened, and yet the world's darkness may be driven from us. Thus do Thou enrich my lantern with Thy light, I pray Thee, Jesus mine, so that by its light there may be disclosed to me those holy places of the holy, which hold Thee the eternal Priest of the eternal things, entering there in the pillars of that great temple of Thine, that constantly I may see, observe, desire Thee only, and loving Thee only may behold, and before Thee my lamp may ever shine and burn. Be it Thine, I beg, most loving Saviour, to reveal Thyself to us who beseech Thee, so that knowing Thee, we may love Thee only, love Thee alone, desire Thee alone, contemplate Thee alone by day and night, and ever hold Thee in our thoughts; and do Thou deign so far to inspire us with Thy love, as it befits Thee to be loved and cherished as our God; that Thy charity may possess all our inward parts, and Thy love may own us all, and Thine affection may fill all our senses, so that we may know no other love apart from Thee Who art eternal; that such affection may be in us impossible of quenching by the many waters of this air and land and sea, according to that saying, And many waters are not able to quench love;
Cant. 8. 7which in us also can be fulfilled even in part, by the gift of Thee our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom is the glory unto ages of ages.
Having gathered the wretchedness of human life from considerations of daily experience, and at the same time dismayed by the divine prophecies, we have long been displaying in the previous discourses, though it be a piece of rashness, the little measure of our puny skill; and although this much speaking of ours may perhaps seem excessive to some, yet on our own part we consider that the talk has taken a beginning that is timely for ourselves; for we are not trying to arouse others' inertia
p.117so much as our own; and in addition, though a theology which has been thought out in part may have been less satisfactory to the perfectly instructed, yet to beginners and to persons of our standard in coolness it will seem needful and fit enough. For a thing, the hiding and hushing up of which is harmful, it is not profitable to conceal or stifle; for that reason it seemed better to us to speak, however rudely, than to keep silence; for indeed we judged it safer to talk about these things than about others that are either trifles or superfluities. So still, my dearest brethren, give ear to our words, in the belief that you will hear something needful, and refresh the thirst of your mind from the streams of the divine fountain of which we now wish to speak, but do not quench that thirst, drink, but be not sated; for now the living Fountain, the Fountain of life, calls us to Himself, and says, Let him that is athirst come unto Me and drink.
Ioann. 7. 37What you are to drink, take note. Let Isaiah tell you, let the Fountain Himself tell you, But they have forsaken Me the Fountain of living water, saith the Lord.
Ierem. 2. 13Thus the Lord Himself, our God Jesus Christ, is the Fountain of life, and so He calls us to Himself the Fountain, that we may drink of Him. He who loves drinks of Him, he drinks who is satisfied by the Word of God, who sufficiently adores, who longs sufficiently, he drinks who burns with the love of wisdom. Then let us Gentiles eagerly drink what the Jews have forsaken. For perhaps it was said of us with the Gentiles, He breaks off in amazement of mind, the heads of the mighty shall be moved, while they open riot their jaws, like a poor man eating in secret;
cf. Habac. 3. 14and as if it were said of us also with all the perfect, of whom this was written, let us open the jaws of our inner man, as in eating that Bread which came down from heaven, that we may eat greedily and in a manner swiftly, lest any see us, as if we ate in secret. Thus let us eat the same our Lord Jesus Christ as Bread, let us drink Him as the Fountain, Who calls Himself the living Bread, Who gives life to this world,
Ioann. 6. 33as it were to be taken by us, and Who likewise shows Himself as the Fountain when He says, Let him that is athirst come unto Me and drink,
Ioann. 7. 37of which Fountain the Prophet also says, Since with Thee is the Fountain of life.
Ps. 35. 9
Observe whence that Fountain flows; for it flows from that place whence also the Bread came down; since He is the same Who is Bread, and Fountain, the only Son, our God Christ the Lord, for Whom we should ever hunger. For though we eat Him in loving, though we feast on Him in desiring, let us still as hungering desire Him. Likewise as the Fountain, let us ever drink of Him with overflow of love, let us ever drink of Him with fulness of longing, and let us be gladdened by some pleasure of His loveliness. For the Lord is lovely and pleasant; though we eat and drink of Him, yet let us ever hunger and thirst, since our food
p.119and drink can never be consumed and drained entire; for though He is eaten He is not consumed, though He is drunk He is not lessened, since our Bread is eternal, and our Fountain is perennial, our Fountain is sweet. Wherefore the Prophet says, Go ye who thirst to the Fountain;
Isa. 55. 1for that is the Fountain of the thirsting, not of the surfeiting, and thus He calls to Himself the hungry and the thirsty, whom He blessed elsewhere, who have never enough of drinking, but the more they quaff, so much the more they thirst. Justly, my brethren, the Fountain of wisdom, the Word of God on high,
Ecclus. 1. 5is to be desired by us, sought after and ever loved, in Whom are hid, according to the Apostle's saying, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,
Coloss. 2. 3which He calls them that thirst to quaff. If you thirst, drink the Fountain of life; if you hunger, eat the Bread of life. Blessed are they who hunger for this Bread and thirst for this Fountain; for ever eating and drinking they still long to eat and drink. For that is lovely to excess which is ever eaten and drunk, and ever hungered and thirsted after, ever tasted and ever desired; wherefore the Prophet-King says, Taste and see how lovely, how pleasant is the Lord.
Ps. 33. 8Therefore, my brethren, let us follow this calling, with which we are called to the fountain of life by the Life Who is the Fountain, not only the Fountain of living water, but also of eternal life, the Fountain of light, yes, and the Fount of glory; for from Him come all these things, wisdom and life and light eternal. The Author of life is the Fountain of life, the Creator of light, the Fount of glory; and thus, spurning the things that are seen, making a passage through the world, in the loftier regions of the heavenlies let us seek the Fount of glory, the Fountain of life, the Fountain of living water, like intelligent and most wise fishes, that there we may drink the [living] water which springs up to eternal life.
Ioann. 4. 14
Would that Thou wouldest deign to admit me thither to that Fountain, merciful God, righteous Lord, so that there I too with Thy thirsty ones might drink the living stream of the living Fount of living water, gladdened by Whose overflowing loveliness I might ever cleave to Him on high and say, How lovely is the Fountain of living water, Whose water fails not, springing up to life eternal.
Ioann. 4. 14O Lord, Thou art Thyself that Fountain ever and again to be desired, though ever and again to be imbibed. Ever give [us], Lord [Christ,] this water,
Ioann. 4. 15that it may be in us too a Fountain of water that lives and springs up to eternal life.
Ioann. 4. 14I ask great gifts indeed, who knows it not? But Thou, the King of glory, knowest how to give greatly, and Thou hast promised great things; nothing is greater than Thyself and Thou hast given Thyself to
p.121us, Thou gavest Thyself for us. Wherefore we beseech Thee that we may know the thing we love, since we pray for nothing other than Thyself to be given to us; for Thou art our all, our life, our light, our salvation, our food, our drink, our God. Inspire our hearts, I beg Thee, O our Jesus, with that breath of Thy Spirit, and wound our souls with Thy love, that the soul of each one of us may be able to say in truth, Show me Him Whom my soul has loved,
Cant. 1. 6for by love am I wounded. I desire that those wounds may be in me, O Lord. Blessed is such a soul, which is thus wounded by love; such seeks the Fountain, such drinks, though it ever thirst in drinking, ever quaff in longing, and it ever drinks in thirsting; for thus in loving it ever seeks while it is healed in being wounded; and with this healing wound may our God and Lord Jesus Christ, that Physician of righteousness and health, deign to wound the inward parts of our soul, Who with the Father and the Holy Ghost is one unto ages of ages.