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.