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Upon the discourses delivered yesterday and the day before, follows the Gospel lesson of to-day, which we must endeavor to expound in due course, not indeed proportionably to its importance, but according to our ability: both because you take in, not according to the bountifulness of the gushing fountain, but according to your moderate capacity; and we too speak into your ears, not so much as the fountain gives forth, but so much as we are able to take in we convey into your minds,—the matter itself working more fruitfully in your hearts than we in your ears. For a great matter is treated of, not by great masters, nay, rather by very small; but He who, being great, for our sakes became small, gives us hope and confidence. For if we were not encouraged by Him, and invited to understand Him; if He abandoned us as contemptible, since we were not able to partake His divinity if He did not partake our mortality and come to us to speak His gospel to us; if He had not willed to partake with us what in us is abject and most small,—then we might think that He who took on Himself our smallness, had not been willing to bestow on us His own greatness. This I have said lest any should blame us as over-bold in handling these matters, or despair of himself that he should be able to understand, by God’s gift, what the Son of God has deigned to speak to him. Therefore what He has deigned to speak to us, we ought to believe that He meant us to understand. But if we do not understand, He, being asked, gives understanding, who gave His Word unasked.
2. Lo, what these secrets of His words are, consider well. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whoso heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath eternal life.” Surely we are all striving after eternal life: and He saith, “Whoso heareth my word, and believeth Him that sent me, hath eternal life.” Then, would He have us hear His word, and yet would He not have us understand it? Since, if in hearing and believing is eternal life, much more in understanding. But the action of piety is faith, the fruit of faith understanding, that we may come to eternal life, when there will be no reading of Gospel to us; but after all pages of reading and the voice of reader and preacher have been removed out of the way, He, who has at this time dispensed to us the gospel, will Himself appear to all that are His, now present with Him with purged heart and in an immortal body never more to die, cleansing and enlightening them, now living and seeing how that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” Therefore let us consider at this time who we are, and ponder whom we hear. Christ is God, and He is speaking with men. He would have them to apprehend Him, let Him make them capable; He would have them see Him, let Him open their eyes. It is not, however, without cause that He speaks to us, but because that is true which He promises to us.
3. “Whoso heareth my words,” saith He, “and believeth Him that sent me, hath eternal life, and shall not come into judgment, but is passed from death unto life.” Where, when do we come from death to life, that we come not into judgment? In this life there is a passing from death to life; in this life, which is not yet life, there is a passing hence from death unto life. What is that passing? “Whoso heareth my words,” He said, “and believeth Him that sent me.” Observing these, thou believest and passest. And does a man pass while standing? Evidently; for in body he stands, in mind he passes. Where was he, whence he should pass, and whither does he pass? He passes from death to life. Look at a man standing, in whom all that is here said may happen. He stands, he hears, perhaps he did not believe, by hearing he believes: a little before he did not believe, just now he believes; he has made a passage, as it were, from the region of unbelief to the region of faith, by motion of the heart, not of the body, by a motion into the better; because they who again abandon faith move into the worse. Behold, in this life, which, just as I have said, is not yet life, there is a passing from death to life, so that there may not be a coming into judgment. But why did I say that it is not yet life? If this were life, the Lord would not have said to a certain man, “If thou wilt come into life, keep the commandments.”445
4. What is this, “and thou comest not into judgment”? And who will be better than the Apostle Paul, who saith, “We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may there receive what he has done in the body, whether it be good or evil”?447
5. The Lord our God then reveals it, and by His Scriptures puts us in mind how it may be understood when judgment is spoken of. I exhort you, therefore, to give attention. Sometimes judgment means punishment, sometimes it means discrimination. According to that mode of speech in which judgment means discrimination, “we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ that” a man “may there receive what things he has done in the body, whether it be good or ill.” For this same is a discrimination, to distribute good things to the good, evil things to the evil. For if judgment were always to be taken in a bad sense, the psalm would not say, “Judge me, O God.” Perhaps some one is surprised when he hears one say, “Judge me, O God.” For man is wont to say, “Forgive me, O God;” “Spare me, O God.” Who is it that says, “Judge me, O God”? Sometimes in the psalm this very verse even is placed in the pause, 448
6. For, lest thou shouldest think that by believing thou art not to die according to the flesh, or lest, understanding it carnally, thou shouldest say to thyself, “My Lord has said to me, Whoso heareth my words, and believeth Him that sent me, is passed from death to life: I then have believed, I am not to die;” be assured that thou shalt pay that penalty, death, which thou owest by the punishment of Adam. For he, in whom we all then were, received this sentence, “Thou shalt surely die;”450
7. Himself explains that already, and goes on, “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” In case, because He said “is passed from death to life,” we should understand this of the future resurrection, and willing to show that he who believes is passed, and that to pass from death to life is to pass from unbelief to faith, from injustice to justice, from pride to humility, from hatred to charity, He saith now, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour cometh, and now is.” What more evident? “And now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” We have already spoken of these dead. What think we, my brethren? Are there no dead in this crowd that hear me? They who believe and act according to the true faith do live, and are not dead. But they who either do not believe, or believe as the devils believe, trembling,454
8. “The hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live.” From what source shall they live? From life. From what life? From Christ. How do we prove that the source is Christ the life? “I am,” saith He, “the way, the truth, and the life.”457
9. And how hath He? Even as the Father hath. Hear Himself saying, “For as the Father hath life in Himself, so also hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.” Brethren, I shall speak as I shall be able. For these are those words that perplex the puny understanding. Why has He added, “in Himself”? It would suffice to say, “For as the Father hath life, so also hath He given to the Son to have life.” He added, “in Himself:” for the Father “hath life in Himself,” and the Son hath life in Himself. He meant us to understand something in that which He saith, “in Himself.” And here a secret matter is shut up in this word; let there be knocking, that there may be an opening. O Lord, what is this that Thou hast said? Wherefore hast Thou added, “in Himself”? For did not Paul the apostle, whom Thou madest to live, have life? He had, said He. As for men that were dead to be made alive, and at Thy word to pass unto life by believing; when they shall have passed, will they not have life in Thee? They shall have life; for I said also a little before, “Whoso heareth my words, and believeth Him that sent me, hath eternal life.” Therefore those that believe in Thee have life; and Thou hast not said, “in themselves.” But when Thou speakest of the Father, “even as the Father hath life in Himself;” again, when Thou speakest of Thyself, Thou saidst, “So also hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.” Even as He hath, so gave He to have. Where hath He? “In Himself.” Where gave He to have? “In Himself.” Where hath Paul life? Not in himself, but in Christ. Where hast thou, believer? Not in thyself, but in Christ. Let us see whether the apostle says this: “Now I live; but not I, but Christ liveth in me.”458
10. I may perhaps declare that matter more plainly still. One lights a candle: that candle, for example, so far as regards the little flame which shines there—that fire has light in itself; but thine eyes, which lay idle and saw nothing, in the absence of the candle, now have light also, but not in themselves. Further, if they turn away from the candle, they are made dark; if they turn to it, they are illumined. But certainly that fire shines so long as it exists: if thou wouldst take the light from it, thou dost also at the same time extinguish it; for without the light it cannot remain. But Christ is light inextinguishable and co-eternal with the Father, always bright, always shining, always burning: for if He were not burning, would it be said in the psalm, “Nor is there any that can hide himself from his heat?”459
11. Afterwards, because He was made man, what gave He to Him? “And hath given Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of man.” In that He is the Son of God, “As the Father hath life in Himself, so also hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself;” in that He is the Son of man, “He hath given Him authority of executing judgment.” This is what I ex plained to you yesterday, my beloved, that in the judgment man will be seen, but God will not be seen; but after the judgment, God will be seen by those who have prevailed in the judgment, but by the wicked He will not be seen. Since, therefore, the man will be seen in the judgment in that form in which He will so come as He ascended, for that reason He had said above, “The Father judgeth not any man, but hath given all judgment to the Son.” He repeats the same thing also in this place, when He says, “And hath given Him authority of executing judgment, because He is the Son of man.” As if thou wert to say, “hath given Him authority of executing judgment.” In what way? When He had not that authority of executing judgment? Since “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God;” since “all things were made by Him,” did He not already have authority of executing judgment? Yes, but according to this, I say, “He gave Him authority of executing judgment, because He is the Son of man:” according to this, He received authority of judging “because He is the Son of man.” For in that He is the Son of God, He always had this authority. He that was crucified, received; He who was in death, is in life: the Word of God never was in death, but is always in life.
12. Now, therefore, as to a resurrection, perhaps some one of us was saying: Behold, we have risen; he who hears Christ, and believes, and is passed from death to life, also will not come into judgment. The hour cometh, and now is, that whoso heareth the voice of the Son of God shall live: he was dead, he has heard; behold, he doth rise. What is this that is said, that there is to be a resurrection afterwards? Spare thyself, do not hasten the sentence, lest thou hurry after it. There is, indeed, this resurrection which comes to pass now; unbelievers were dead, the unrighteous were dead; the righteous live, they pass from the death of unbelief to the life of faith. But do not thence believe that there will not be a resurrection afterwards of the body; believe that there will be a resurrection of the body also. For hear what follows after the declaration of this resurrection which is by faith, lest any should think this to be the only resurrection, or fall into that desperation and error of men who perverted the thoughts of others, “saying that the resurrection is past already,” of whom the apostle saith, “and they overthrow the faith of some.”462
13. And whence, sayest thou, dost thou prove to me that He spoke about the resurrection itself? If thou hear patiently, thou wilt presently prove it to thyself. Let us go on then: “Marvel not at this; for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the graves.” What more evident than this resurrection? A while ago, He had not said, “they that are in the graves,” but, “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live.” He has not said, some shall live, others shall be damned; because all who believe shall live. But what does He say concerning the graves? “All that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth.” He said not, “shall hear and live.” For if they have lived wickedly, and lay in the graves, they shall rise to death, not to life. Let us see, then, who shall come forth. Although, a little before, the dead by hearing and believing did live, there was no distinction there made: it was not said, The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and when they shall have heard, some shall live, and some shall be damned; but, “all that hear shall live:” because they that believe shall live, they that have charity shall live, and none of them shall die. But concerning the graves, “They shall hear His voice, and come forth: they that have done well, to the resurrection of life; they that have done ill, to the resurrection of judgment.” This is the judgment, that punishment of which He had said a while before, “Whoso believeth in me is passed from death to life,” and shall not come into judgment.
14. “I cannot of myself do anything; as I hear I judge, and my judgment is just.” If as Thou hearest Thou judgest, of whom dost Thou hear? If of the Father, yet surely “the Father judgeth not any man, but hath given all judgment to the Son.” When dost Thou, being in a manner the Father’s herald, declare what Thou hearest? I speak what I hear, because what the Father is, that I am: for, indeed, speaking is my function; because I am the Father’s Word. For this Christ says to thee. Thereupon, of thine. What is “As I hear I judge,” but “As I am”? For in what manner does Christ hear? Let us inquire, brethren, I beg of you. Does Christ hear of the Father? How doth the Father speak to Him? Undoubtedly, if He speaks to Him, He uses words to Him; for every one who says something to any one, says it by a word. How doth the Father speak to the Son, seeing that the Son is the Father’s Word? Whatever the Father says to us, He says it by His Word: the Word of the Father is the Son; by what other word, then, doth He speak to the Word Himself? God is one, has one Word, contains all things in one Word. What does that mean, then, “As I hear, I judge?” Just as I am of the Father, so I judge. Therefore “my judgment is just.” If Thou doest nothing of Thyself, O Lord Jesus, as carnal men think; if Thou doest nothing of Thyself, how didst Thou say a while before, “So also the Son quickeneth whom He will”? Just now Thou sayest, Of myself I do nothing. But what does the Son declare, but that He is of the Father? He that is of the Father is not of Himself. If the Son were of Himself, He would not be the Son: He is of the Father. That the Father is, is not of the Son; that the Son is, is of the Father. Equal to the Father; but yet the Son of the Father, not the Father of the Son.
15. “Because I seek not my own will, but the will of Him that sent me.” The Only Son saith, “I seek not my own will,” and yet men desire to do their own will! To such a degree does He who is equal to the Father humble Himself; and to such a degree does He extol Himself, who lies in the lowest depth, and cannot rise except a hand is reached to Him! Let us then do the will of the Father, the will of the Son, the will of the Holy Ghost; because of this Trinity there is one will, one power, one majesty. Yet for that reason saith the Son, “I came not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me;” because Christ is not of Himself, but of the Father. But what He had that He might appear as a man, He assumed of the creature which He himself formed.