Are you a Christian?
Perhaps some one may think there is something unworthy of Timothy’s courage in this piece of advice. But not on Timothy’s account is this said, but for the hearers’ sake: lest by their design against him they should hurt themselves: since he for his part had his station always in the way of dangers345
“For as a child serveth a father,” saith he, “so he served with me in furtherance of the Gospel.” (Philip. ii. 22.) But lest from boldness towards the disciple they should proceed also to the teacher, and become worse, he checks them from afar off, saying, “that he may be with you without fear;” that is, that none of those desperate persons rise up against him. For he intended perhaps to rebuke them about the things concerning which Paul also had written: and indeed Paul professed to send him for this very reason. “For I have sent Timothy unto you,” saith he, (c. iv. 17.) “who shall put you in remembrance of my ways in Christ even as I teach every where in every Church.” In order then that they might not through confidence in their high birth and wealth, and the support of the people, and the wisdom from without, attack him and spit upon him and plot against him, being grieved at the reproofs which came from him; or lest in revenge for the teacher’s rebuke they should demand satisfaction of him, so punishing the other; therefore he saith, “that he be without fear with you.” As if he had said, “Tell me not of those who are without, the Gentiles and unbelievers. It is your part that I require, you for whom also the whole Epistle was composed,” the persons also whom in the beginning and the outset he had frightened. Wherefore he saith, “with you.”
Then in virtue of his ministry he sets him forth as a person to be fully trusted; saying “For the work of the Lord he worketh.” That is; “look not,” saith he, “to this, his not being rich, namely, nor highly educated, nor old: but what commands are laid upon him, what work he is doing. ‘For the work of the Lord he worketh.’” And this serves him instead of all nobility and wealth and age and wisdom.
And he is not content with this, but adds, “Even as I also.” And some way above, “Who is my beloved son and faithful in the Lord; he shall put you in remembrance of my ways in Christ.” Seeing then that he was both young, and had been singly entrusted with the improvement of so numerous a people, both of which things tended to bring him into contempt, he adds, as we might expect,
Ver. 11. “Let no one therefore despise him.” And not this only doth he demand of them, but also greater honor; wherefore also he saith, “but set him forward in peace;” that is, without fear; causing no fightings or contentions, no enmities or hatreds, but rendering all subjection as to a teacher.
“That he may come unto me: for I expect him with the brethren.” This also was the language of one that would alarm them. That is, in order that they might become more considerate, as knowing that all would be told him whatever Timothy’s treatment might be, he adds therefore, “for I expect him.” And besides, hereby he both shows that Timothy is worthy of their confidence; since being on the point of departing he waits for him; and also signifies the love which he hath towards them, it appearing that for their sakes he sent away one so useful to him.
This man appears to have been both well-educated and also older than Timothy. Lest they should say then, “For what possible reason did he not send the man grown, but the youth instead of him?” observe how he softens down this point also, both calling him a brother, and saying that he had besought him much. For lest he should seem to have held Timothy in higher honor than him and to have exalted him more, and on this account not to have sent him, and cause their envy to burst out more abundantly, he adds, “I besought him much to come.” What then: did not the other yield nor consent? did he resist and show himself contentious? He saith not this, but that he might not excite prejudice against him, and also might make excuse for himself, he saith, “and it was not at all his will to come now.” Then to prevent their saying that all this was an excuse and pretence, he added, “but he will come to you when he shall have opportunity.” This was both an excuse for him, and a refreshment to them who desired to see him, by the hope which it gave of his coming.
Not in the wisdom which is without: for there it is not possible to stand, but to be borne along; even as “in the faith” ye may “stand.” “Quit you like men, be strong.” “Let all that ye do be done in love.” Now in saying these things, he seems indeed to advise; but he is reprimanding them as indolent. Wherefore he saith, “Watch,” as though they slept; “Stand,” as though they were rocking to and fro: “Quit you like men,” as though they were playing the coward: “Let all that ye do be done in love,” as though they were in dissensions. And the first caution refers to the deceivers, viz., “Watch,” “stand:” the next, to those who plot against us, “Quit you like men:” the third, to those who make parties and endeavor to distract, “Let all that ye do be done in love;” which thing is “the bond of perfectness,” and the root and fountain of all blessings.
But what means, “All things in love?” “Whether any one rebuke,” saith he, “or rule or be ruled, or learn or teach, let all be in love:” since in fact all the things which have been mentioned arose from neglect of it. For if this had not been neglected, they would not have been puffed up, they would not have said, “I am of Paul, and I of Apollos.” If this had existed, they would not have gone to law before heathens, or rather they would not have gone to law at all. If this had existed, that notorious person would not have taken his father’s wife: they would not have despised the weak brethren; there would have been no factions among them; they would not have been vain-glorious about their gifts. Therefore it is that he saith, “Let all things be done in love.”
In the beginning too he mentions this man, saying, “I baptized also the home of Stephanas:” and now he speaks of him as “the first-fruits” not of Corinth only, but also of all Greece. And this too is no small encomium that he was the first to come to Christ. Wherefore also in the Epistle to the Romans, praising certain persons on this account, he said, “Who also were in Christ before me.” (Rom. xvi. 7.) And he said not, that they were the first who believed, but were the “first-fruits;” implying that together with their faith they showed forth also a most excellent life, in every way proving themselves worthy, as in the case of fruits. For so the first-fruits ought to be better than the rest of those things whereof they are the first-fruits: a kind of praise which Paul hath attributed to these also by this expression: namely, that they not only had a genuine faith, as I was saying, but also they exhibited great piety, and the climax of virtue, and liberality in alms-giving.
And that they flourished in good works also, he declares by what follows, saying, “They have set themselves to minister unto the saints.” Hear ye, how vast are the praises of their hospitality? For he did not say, “they minister,” but, “have set themselves:” this kind of life they have chosen altogether, this is their business in which they are always busy.
“That ye also be in subjection unto such, that is, “that ye take a share with them both in expenditure of money, and in personal service: that ye be partakers with them.” For both to them the labor will be light when they have comrades, and the results of their active benevolence will extend to more.
And he said not merely, “be fellow-helpers,” but added, “whatsoever directions they give, obey;” implying the strictest obedience. And that he might not appear to be favoring them, he adds, “and to every one that helpeth in the work and laboreth.” “Let this,” saith he, “be a general rule: for I do not speak about them individually, but if there be any one like them, let him also have the same advantages.” And therefore when he begins to commend, he calls upon themselves as witnesses, saying, “I beseech you, ye know the house of Stephanas.” “For ye also yourselves are aware,” saith he, “how they labor, and have no need to learn from us.”
Ver. 18. “For they refreshed my spirit and yours.”
Thus, since it was natural for them to be greatly irritated against these persons, for it was they who had come and showed him all about the division, inasmuch as by them also they had written the questions about the virgins, and about the married persons:—mark how he softened them down; both in the beginning of his Epistle by saying, “For it hath been signified unto me by them which are of the house of Chloe;” thus at once concealing these and bringing forward the others: (for it should seem that the latter had given their information by means of the former:) and in this place again, “They have supplied your lack, and refreshed my spirit and yours:” signifying that they had come instead of all, and had chosen to undertake so great a journey on their behalf. How then may this, their peculiar praise, become common? “If you will solace me for what was wanting on your part by your kindness towards them; if you will honor, if you will receive, them, if you will communicate with them in doing good.” Wherefore he saith, “Acknowledge ye then them that are such.” And while praising those that came, he embraces also the others in his praise, the senders together with the sent: where he saith, “‘They refreshed my spirit and yours, therefore acknowledge such as these,’ because for your sakes they left country and home.” Dost thou perceive his consideration? He implies that they had obliged not Paul only, but the Corinthians likewise, in that they bore about in themselves the whole city. A thing which both added credit to them, and did not allow the others to sever themselves from them, inasmuch as in their persons they had presented themselves to Paul.
“Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord;”—for with them he was lodging, being a tent-maker—“with the Church which is in their house.” This thing too is no small excellency, that they had made their very house a Church.
By this one word he strikes fear into all: those who made their members the members of an harlot; those who put stumbling blocks in the way of their brethren by the things offered in sacrifice unto idols; those who named themselves after men; those who refuse to believe the resurrection. And he not only strikes fear, but also points out the way of virtue and the fountain of vice, viz. that as when our love towards Him hath become intense, there is no kind of sin but is extinguished and cast out thereby; so when it is too weak, it causes the same to spring up.
But what is the meaning of “Maran atha?” “Our Lord is come.” For what reason then doth he use this phrase in particular? To confirm the doctrine of the Economy: out of which class of topics more than any other he hath put together those arguments which are the seeds of the Resurrection349
Thus to hinder them from thinking that in flattery to them he so ended, he saith, “In Christ Jesus.” It having nothing in it human or carnal, but being of a sort of spiritual nature. Wherefore it is thoroughly genuine. For indeed the expression was that of one who loves deeply. As thus; because he was separated from them as regards place, as it were by the stretching out of a right hand he incloses them with the arms of his love, saying, “My love be with you all;” just as if he said, “With all of you I am.” Whereby he intimates that the things written came not of wrath or anger, but of provident care, seeing that after so heavy an accusation he doth not turn himself away, but rather loves them, and embraces them when they are afar off, by these epistles and writings throwing himself into their arms.
[5.] For so ought he that corrects to do: since he at least, who acts merely from anger is but satisfying his own feeling; but he who after correcting the sinner renders also the offices of love, shows that those words also, whatsoever he spake in reproof, were words of fond affection. Just so let us too chasten one another; and let neither the corrector be angry, (for this belongs not to correction, but to passion,) nor let him that is corrected take it ill. For what is done is healing, not despite. Now if physicians use cautery and are not found fault with, and that too, frequently, though they quite miss their object; but even in their pain the subjects of the cautery and amputation esteem as benefactors those who excite this pain; much more ought he who receives reproof to be so disposed, and as to a physician so to give heed to the corrector, and not as to an enemy. And let us also who rebuke approach with great gentleness, with great prudence. And if thou seest a brother committing sin, as Christ commanded, make not your rebuke public, but “between thee and him alone:” (Matt. xviii. 15.) not reproaching nor insulting over him when down, but in pain and with a melting heart350
Now that what I say may be plainer, let us put an imaginary case and so try our rule. For God forbid that in very deed we should be provided with such an illustration of it. Suppose any brother dwelling in the same house with a virgin, in honor and chastity, and yet not even so quite escaping evil report.351
Yea, neither is it enough for our excuse that he hath understanding: since we too after our many and manifold exhortations have not been sufficient, nor proved useful, unto ourselves. Bear this in mind then in regard to him also that is in error; that it is natural he should receive the best counsel rather from thee than from himself.
And say not, “But what care I about these things?” Fear thou him who first spoke this word; for the saying, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. iv. 9.) tends to the same point as this. This is the mother of all our evils that we esteem the concerns of our own body as foreign to us. What sayest thou? Thou carest not for thy brother? Who then is to care for him? the unbeliever who rejoices over and reproaches and insults him? or the devil who urges him on and supplants him?
And whence comes this? “How do I know that I shall accomplish anything,” saith he, “though I speak and advise what is right.” But how is it clear that thou wilt do no good? Why, this again is extreme folly, while the end remains in obscurity to incur the manifold blame of confessed indifference. And yet God who foresees the future often speaks and doth no good; yet doth He not even so give up; and that, knowing that He shall not even persuade men. Now if He who knows beforehand that He shall win no advantage, ceases not from the work of correction, what excuse wilt thou have, who art completely ignorant of the future and yet faintest and art benumbed? Yea, and many have succeeded by frequent attempts: and when they most of all despaired, then did they most gain their point. And though thou shouldest gain no advantage, thou hast done thine own part.
Be not then inhuman, nor unmerciful, nor careless: for that these words come of cruelty and indifference is plain from what follows: viz. What is the reason that when one of the members of thy body is in pain, thou sayest not, “What care I?” Yet whence is it plain, that if it be taken due care of, it is restored? And yet thou leavest nothing undone, that even although thou profit not, thou mayest not have to blame thyself for the omission of any thing which ought to have been done. Hereupon I ask, are we to take such care for the members of our body and to neglect those of Christ? Nay, how can such things deserve pardon? For if I make no impression upon thee by saying, “Have a care of thine own member;” in order that thou mayest become better were it only through fear, I put thee in mind of the body of Christ. But how can it be other than a matter of horror to see His flesh putrefying, and neglect it? And if thou hadst a slave or an ass afflicted with a mortifying sore, thou couldest not have the heart to neglect it: but seest thou the Body of Christ full of scurvy354
[6.] Draw near to him whom I speak of, as dwelling with a virgin, and speak some small praise of thy brother, making it up from the other excellencies which he hath. And foment him with thy commendations as it were with warm water, and so mitigate the tumor of his wound. Speak of thyself also as wretched; accuse the common race of mankind; point out that we are all in sins; ask for pardon, saying, that thou art undertaking things too great for thee, but love persuades thee to dare all things. Then in giving thine advice, do it not imperiously, but in a brotherly way. And when by all these means thou hast reduced the swelling and soothed the pain arising from the cutting reproof which is in store for him, and when thou hast again and again deprecated and besought him not to be angry: when thou hast bound him down with these things, then use the knife; neither pressing the matter too close, nor yet undoing it; that he may neither fly off on the one hand, nor on the other think little of it. For if thou strike not to the quick thou hast done no good, and if thy blow be violent, thou makest him start away.
Wherefore, even after all this, being on the very point of the reproof, mix up again commendation with thy censures. And seeing that this proceeding considered in itself cannot be matter of praise, (for it is not commendable to keep house with a damsel that is a virgin;) let the purpose of him who doth so be thy topic for effecting this; and say, “I know indeed that thou doest it for God’s sake, and that the desolation and unprotected state of that poor woman met thine eye, and caused thee to stretch out thine hand to her.” And although he may not be doing it with this intention, do thou speak so; and after this add what follows also; again excusing thyself and saying, “These things I speak not to direct but to remind thee. Thou doest it for God’s sake; I too know that. But let us see whether another evil be not produced thereby. And if there be none, keep her in thine house, and cling to this excellent purpose. There is no one to hinder thee. But if any mischief arise from hence exceeding the advantage, let us take care, I beseech you, lest while we are earnest to comfort one soul, we put a stumbling-block in the way of ten thousand.” And do not add immediately the punishments due to those who give offence, but take his own testimony also, saying, “Thou hast no need to learn these things from me: thou thyself knowest, ‘if any one offend one of these little ones,’ how great a penalty is threatened. And thus, having sweetened thy speech and smoothed down his wrath, apply the medicine of thy correction. And should he again urge her forlorn condition, do not thou even so expose his pretence, but say to him, “Let nothing of this sort make you afraid: thou wilt have an ample plea, the offence given to others: since not for indifference, but in care towards them, didst thou cease from this thy purpose.”
And let the matter of thine advice be brief, for there is no need of much teaching; but let the expressions of forbearance on the other hand be many and close upon one another. And continually have thou recourse to the topic of love; throwing into shade the painfulness of what thou sayest, and giving him his full power, and saying, “This is what I for my part advise and recommend; but about taking the advice thou art only judge: for I do not compel and force thee, but submit the whole thing to thine own discretion.”
If we so manage our reproof, we shall easily be able in correct those in error: even as what we now do is surely more like the conduct of wild beasts or irrational creatures than of men. For if any persons now perceive any one committing errors of this kind, with the person himself they do not at all confer, but themselves, like silly old women who have drunk too much, whisper with another. And the saying, “Get love for nothing, but do not get hatred for nothing,” hath not here any place in their opinion. But, when they have a fancy to speak evil, they mind not being “hated for nothing,” rather I should say, “being punished;” since it is not hatred alone that is hereby produced, but also punishment. But when there is need of correction, they allege both this, and innumerable other pretexts. Whereas then would be the time to think of these things, when thou speakest evil, when thou calumniatest; I mean the saying, “Be not hated for nothing,” and “I can do nothing,” and “it is no care of mine.” But as things are, in the former case, thou art vehemently and idly curious, and carest not for hatred and ills innumerable; but when thou shouldest be taking thought for the salvation of thy brother, then it is thy pleasure to be a sort of unofficious, inoffensive person. And yet from evil speaking arises hatred both on God’s part and on men’s; and this is no great care to thee: but by giving advice privately, and reproofs of that kind, both he and God will be made thy friends. And even should he hate thee, God goes on loving thee the rather on this account. Nay, in fact, not even so will he hate thee, as when his hatred came from thine evil speaking: but in that case he will avoid thee as a foe and an enemy, whereas now he will consider thee more venerable than any father. And if he apparently take it ill, inwardly and privately he will feel much obliged to thee.
These things I say, not in anxiety about those who have an ill report falsely: for they are worthy even of crowns, when they bear what is said nobly; but in anxiety for you that so speak. For him that is evil reported of falsely, the Scriptures pronounce “blessed;” but the evil-speaker they expel from the holy Mysteries, nay even from the very precincts. For it is said, (Ps. ci. 5.) “Him that privily speaketh against his neighbor, this man did I chase out.” And he saith too that such a one is unworthy to read the sacred books. For, “Why,” saith He, (Ps. l. 16.) “dost thou declare My righteous laws, and takest My covenant in thy mouth?” Then, annexing the cause He saith (v. 20.) “Thou satest and spakest against thy brother.” And here indeed he doth not distinctly add whether they be things true or false which he speaks. But elsewhere this too makes part of His prohibition: He implying, that even though thou speak truths, yet such things are not to be uttered by thee. For, “Judge not,” saith He,” that ye be not judged:” (Matt. vii. 1.) since he too who spoke evil of the publican was condemned, although it was true which he laid to his neighbor’s charge.
“What then,” you will say, “if any one be daring and polluted, must we not correct him? must we not expose him?” We must both expose and correct: but in the way which I mentioned before. But if thou do it upbraiding him, take heed lest thine imitation of that Pharisee cause thee to fall into his state. For no advantage accrues from hence; none to thee who speakest, none to him who hears thee, none to the person accused. But the latter, for his part, becomes more reckless: since as long as he is unobserved, he is sensible of shame; but as soon as he becomes manifest and notorious, he casts off the curb also which that feeling imposed on him.
And the hearer will in his turn be yet more injured. For whether he be conscious to himself of good deeds, he becomes puffed and swoln up with the accusation brought against another; or of faults, he then becomes more eager for iniquity.
But hast thou a fancy to avenge thyself on the other person? Why then punish thyself instead of him? Nay, do thou, who art so earnestly seeking redress from those who have annoyed thee, avenge thyself as Paul recommended to take vengeance. “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink.” (Rom. xii. 20.) But if thou do not so, but only plot against him, thou pointest the sword against thyself.
Wherefore if that other speak evil, answer him with praises and commendations. For so wilt thou be able both to take vengeance on him, and wilt deliver thyself from evil surmising. Since he that feels pain at hearing ill of himself, is thought to be so affected because of some consciousness of evil: but he that laughs to scorn what is said, exhibits a most unquestionable token of his not being conscious to himself of any evil thing.356
Seeing then that thou profitest neither thine hearer, nor thyself, nor him that is accused, and dost but point thy sword at thine own self, even from such considerations do thou learn more soberness. For one ought indeed to be moved by the thought of the kingdom of heaven, and of what pleases God: but since thou art of grosser disposition and bitest like a wild beast, hereby even be thou instructed; that these arguments having corrected thee, thou mayest be able to order thyself simply from consideration of what pleases God; and having come to be above every passion, mayest obtain the heavenly blessings:—which may God grant us all to obtain, through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and His mercy towards mankind; with Whom, to the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory, power, honor, now and henceforth, and unto everlasting ages. Amen.