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But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, came with glory, so that the children of Israel could not look steadfastly upon the face of Moses, for the glory of his face; which glory was passing away: how shall not rather the ministration of the Spirit be with glory?
He said that the tables of Moses were of stone, as [also] they were written with letters; and that these were of flesh, I mean the hearts of the Apostles, and had been written on by the Spirit; and that the letter indeed killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. There was yet wanting to this comparison the addition of a further and not trifling particular, that of the glory of Moses; such as in the case of the New Covenant none saw with the eyes of the body. And even for this cause it appeared a great thing in that the glory was perceived by the senses; (for it was seen by the bodily eyes, even though it might not be approached;) but that of the New Covenant is perceived by the understanding. For to the weaker sort the apprehension of such a superiority is not clear; but the other did more take them, and turn them unto itself. Having then fallen upon this comparison and being set upon showing the superiority [in question], which yet was exceedingly difficult because of the dulness of the hearers; see what he does, and with what method577
For if that ministration were of death, but this of life, doubtless, saith he, the latter glory is also greater than the former. For since he could not exhibit it to the bodily eyes, by this logical inference he established its superiority, saying,
Now by “ministration of death” he means the Law. And mark too how great the caution he uses in the comparison so as to give no handle to the heretics; for he said not, ‘which causeth death,’ but, “the ministration of death;” for it ministereth unto, but was not the parent of, death; for that which caused death was sin; but [the Law] brought in the punishment, and showed the sin, not caused it. For it more distinctly revealed the evil and punished it: it did not impel unto the evil: and it ministered not to the existence of sin or death, but to the suffering of retribution by the sinner. So that in this way it was even destructive of sin. For that which showeth it to be so fearful, it is obvious, maketh it also to be avoided. As then he that taketh the sword in his hands and cutteth off the condemned, ministers to the judge that passeth sentence, and it is not he that is his destruction, although he cutteth him off; nay, nor yet is it he who passeth sentence and condemneth, but the wickedness of him that is punished; so truly here also it is not that578
“How shall not rather the ministration of the Spirit be with glory?” for henceforth with confidence he extolleth the things of the New [Covenant] as indisputable. And observe what he doth. He opposed ‘stone’ to ‘heart,’ and ‘letter’ to ‘spirit.’ Then having shown the results of each, he doth not set down the results of each; but having set down the work of the latter, namely, death and condemnation, he setteth not down that of the spirit, namely, life and righteousness; but the Spirit Itself; which added greatness to the argument. For the New Covenant not only gave life, but supplied also ‘The Spirit’ Which giveth the life, a far greater thing than the life. Wherefore he said, “the ministration of the Spirit.” Then he again reverts to the same thing, saying,
“Much rather doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.” For those Tables indeed showed the sinners and punished them, but this not only did not punish the sinners, but even made them righteous: for this did Baptism confer.
Now in what has gone before, indeed, he showed that this also is with glory; and not simply is with glory, but even exceedeth in it: for he did not say, “How shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather in glory?” but, “exceed in glory;” deriving the proof from the arguments before stated. Here he also shows the superiority, how great it is, saying, ‘if I compare this with that, the glory of the Old Covenant is not glory at all;’ not absolutely laying down that there was no glory, but in view of the comparison. Wherefore also he added, “in this respect,” that is, in respect of the comparison. Not that this doth disparage the Old Covenant, yea rather it highly commendeth it: for comparisons are wont to be made between things which are the same in kind. Next, he sets on foot yet another argument to prove the superiority also from a fresh ground. What then is this argument? That based upon duration, saying,
For since when he had heard so many and so great things concerning the New [Covenant,] the hearer would be desirous of seeing this glory manifested to the eye, mark whither he hurleth him, [even] to the world to come. Wherefore also he brought forward the “hope,” saying, “Having therefore such a hope.” Such? Of what nature? That we have been counted worthy of greater things than Moses; not we the Apostles only, but also all the faithful. “We use great boldness of speech.” Towards whom? tell me. Towards God, or towards the disciples? Towards you who are receiving instruction, he saith; that is, we speak every where with freedom, hiding nothing, withholding nothing, mistrusting nothing, but speaking openly; and we have not feared lest we should wound your eyesight, as Moses did that of the Jews. For that he alluded to this, hear what follows; or rather, it is necessary first to relate the history, for he himself keeps dwelling upon it. What then is the history? When, having received the Tables a second time, Moses came down, a certain glory darting from his countenance shone so much that the Jews were not able to approach and talk with him until he put a veil over his face. And thus it is written in Exodus, (Exod. xxxiv. 29; 34.) “When Moses came down from the Mount, the two Tables [were] in his hands. And Moses wist not that the skin of his countenance was made glorious to behold. And they were afraid to come nigh him. And Moses called them, and spake unto them. And when579
Putting them in mind then of this history, he says,
Now what he says is of this nature. There is no need for us to cover ourselves as Moses did; for ye are able to look upon this glory which we are encircled with, although it is far greater and brighter than the other. Seest thou the advance? For he that in the former Epistle said, “I have fed you with milk, not with meat;” saith here, “We use great boldness of speech.” And he produces Moses before them, carrying forward the discourse by means of comparison, and thus leading his hearer upwards.
See what he establisheth by this. For what happened then once in the case of Moses, the same happeneth continually in the case of the Law. What is said, therefore, is no accusation of the Law, as neither is it of Moses that he then veiled himself, but only the senseless Jews. For the law hath its proper glory, but they were unable to see it. ‘Why therefore are ye perplexed,’ he saith, ‘if they are unable to see this glory of the Grace, since they saw not that lesser one of Moses, nor were able to look steadfastly upon his countenance? And why are ye troubled that the Jews believe not Christ, seeing at least that they believe not even the Law? For they were therefore ignorant of the Grace also, because they knew not even the Old Covenant nor the glory which was in it. For the glory of the Law is to turn [men] unto Christ.’
[3.] Seest thou how from this consideration also he takes down the inflation of the Jews? By that in which they thought they had the advantage, namely, that Moses’ face shone, he proves their grossness and groveling nature. Let them not therefore pride themselves on that, for what was that to Jews who enjoyed it not? Wherefore also he keeps on dwelling upon it, saying one while, “The same veil in the reading of the old covenant remaineth,” it “not being revealed that it is done away in Christ:” another while, that “unto this day when Moses is read,” (v. 15.) the same “veil lieth upon their heart; “showing that the veil lieth both on the reading and on their heart; and above, “So that the children of Israel could not look steadfastly upon the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which” (v. 7.) glory “was passing away.” Than which what could mark less worth in them? Seeing that even of a glory that is to be done away, or rather is in comparison no glory at all, they are not able to be spectators, but it is covered from them, “so that they could not steadfastly look on the end of that which was passing away;” that is, of the law, because it hath an end; “but their minds were hardened.” ‘And what,’ saith one, ‘hath this to do with the veil then?’ Because it prefigured what would be. For not only did they not then perceive; but they do not even now see the Law. And the fault lies with themselves, for the hardness is that of an unimpressible and perverse judgment. So that it is we who know the law also; but to them not only Grace, but this as well is covered with a shadow; “For until this day the same veil upon the reading of the old covenant remaineth,” he saith, it “not being revealed that it is done away in Christ.” Now what he saith is this. This very thing they cannot see, that it is brought to an end, because they believe not Christ. For if it be brought to an end by Christ, as in truth it is brought to an end, and this the Law said by anticipation, how will they who receive not Christ that hath done away the Law, be able to see that the Law is done away? And being incapable of seeing this, it is very plain that even of the Law itself which asserted these things, they know not the power nor the full glory. ‘And where,’ saith one, ‘did it say this that it is done away in Christ?’ It did not say it merely, but also showed it by what was done. And first indeed by shutting up its sacrifices and its whole ritual582
For since he said that in the reading of the Old Testament the veil remaineth, lest any should think that this that is said is from the obscurity of the Law, he both by other things showed even before what his meaning was, (for by saying, “their minds were hardened,” he shows that the fault was their own,) and, in this place too, again. For he said not, ‘The veil remaineth on the writing,’ but “in the reading;” (now the reading is the act of those that read;) and again, “When Moses is read.” He showed this however with greater clearness in the expression which follows next, saying unreservedly, “The veil lieth upon their heart.” For even upon the face of Moses it lay, not because of Moses, but because of the grossness and carnal mind of these.
Seest thou that not over the face of Moses was there that veil, but over the eyesight of the Jews? For it was done, not that the glory of Moses might be hidden, but that the Jews might not see. For they were not capable. So that in them was the deficiency, for it586
[5.] See then from the beginning, how many things he has laid down, as constituting the difference and showing the superiority, not the enmity or contradiction, of the New Covenant in respect to the old. That, saith he, is letter, and stone, and a ministration of death, and is done away: and yet the Jews were not even vouchsafed this glory. (Or, the glory of this.) This table is of the flesh, and spirit, and righteousness, and remaineth; and unto all of us is it vouchsafed, not to one only, as to Moses of the lesser then. (ver. 18.) “For,” saith he, “we all with unveiled face reflecting589
For surely you will not assert, that he says, ‘And where the Lord of the Lord is.’ “Liberty,” he said, with reference to the former bondage. Then, that you may not think that he is speaking of a time to come, he says,
Seest thou how again he places the Spirit in the rank of God, (vide infra) and raises them up to the rank of the Apostles. For he said before, “Ye are the Epistle of Christ;” and here, “But we all with open face.” Yet they came, like Moses, bringing a law. But like as we, he says, needed no veil, so neither ye who received it. And yet, this glory is far greater, for this is not of our countenance, but of the Spirit; but nevertheless ye are able as well as we to look steadfastly upon it. For they indeed could not even by a mediator, but ye even without a mediator can [look steadfastly on] a greater. They were not able to look upon that of Moses, ye even upon that of the Spirit. Now had the Spirit been at all inferior, He would not have set down these things as greater than those. But what is, “we reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image.” This indeed was shown more clearly when the gifts of miracles were in operation; howbeit it is not even now difficult to see it, for one who hath believing eyes. For as soon as we are baptized, the soul beameth even more than the sun, being cleansed by the Spirit; and not only do we behold the glory of God, but from it also receive a sort of splendor. Just as if pure silver be turned towards the sun’s rays, it will itself also shoot forth rays, not from its own natural property merely but also from the solar lustre; so also doth the soul being cleansed and made brighter than silver, receive a ray from the glory of the Spirit, and send it back. Wherefore also he saith, “Reflecting as a mirror we are transformed into the same image from glory,” that of the Spirit, “to glory,” our own, that which is generated in us; and that, of such sort, as one might expect from the Lord the Spirit. See how here also he calleth the Spirit, Lord. And in other places too one may see that lordship of His. For, saith he, “As they ministered and fasted unto the Lord, the Spirit said, Separate me Paul and Barnabas.” (Acts xiii. 2.) For therefore he said, “as they ministered unto the Lord, Separate me,” in order to show the [Spirit’s] equality in honor. And again Christ saith, “The servant knoweth not what his lord doeth;” but even as a man knoweth his own things, so doth the Spirit know the things of God; not by being taught [them,] for so the similitude holdeth not good. Also the working as He willeth showeth His authority and lordship. This transformeth us. This suffereth not to be conformed to this world; for such is the creation of which This is the Author. For as he saith, “Created in Christ Jesus,” (Ephes. ii. 10.) so saith he, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit in my inward parts.” (Ps. li. 10, LXX.)
[6.] Wilt thou that I show thee this also from the Apostles more obviously to the sense. Consider Paul, whose garments wrought: Peter, whose very shadows were mighty. (Acts xix. 12; v. 15. XX.) For had they not borne a King’s image and their radiancy been unapproachable, their garments and shadows had not wrought so mightily. For the garments of a king are terrible even to robbers. Wouldest thou see this beaming even through the body? “Looking steadfastly,” said he, “upon the face of Stephen, they saw it as it had been the face of an angel.” (Acts vi. 15.) But this was nothing to the glory flashing within. For what Moses had upon his countenance, that did these carry about with them on their souls, yea ‘rather’ even far more. For that of Moses indeed was more obvious to the senses, but this was incorporeal. And like as fire-bright bodies streaming down from the shining bodies upon those which lie near them, impart to them also somewhat of their own splendor, so truly doth it also happen with the faithful. Therefore surely they with whom it is thus are set free from earth, and have their dreams of the things in the heavens. Woe is me! for well is it that we should here even groan bitterly, for that we who enjoy a birth so noble do not so much as know what is said, because we quickly lose the reality, and are dazzled about the objects of sense. For this glory, the unspeakable and awful, remaineth in us for a day or two, and then we quench it, bringing over it the winter of worldly concerns, and with the thickness of those clouds repelling its rays. For worldly things are a winter, and than winter more lowering. For not frost is engendered thence nor rain, neither doth it produce mire and deep swamps; but, things than all these more grievous, it formeth hell and the miseries of hell. And as in severe frost all the limbs are stiffened and are dead, so truly the soul shuddering in the winter of sins also, performeth none of its proper functions, stiffened, as it were, by a frost, as to conscience. For what cold is to the body, that an evil conscience is to the soul, whence also cometh cowardice. For nothing is more cowardly than the man that is rivetted to worldly things; for such an one lives the life of Cain, trembling every day. And why do I mention deaths, and losses, and offences, and flatteries, and services? for even without these he is in fear of ten thousand vicissitudes. And his coffers indeed are full of gold, but his soul is not freed from the fear of poverty. And very reasonably. For he is moored as it were on rotten and swiftly shifting things, and even though in his own case he experienced not the reverse, yet is he undone by seeing it happen in others; and great is his cowardice, great his unmanliness. For not only is such an one spiritless as to danger, but also as to all other things. And if desire of wealth assail him, he doth not like a free man beat off the assault; but like a bought slave, doth all [it bids], serving the love of money as it were a severe mistress. If again he have beheld some comely damsel, down he croucheth at once made captive, and followeth like a raging dog, though it behoveth to do the opposite. For when thou hast beheld a beautiful woman, consider not how thou mayest enjoy thy lust, but how be delivered from thy lust. ‘And how is this possible,’ saith one? ‘for loving is not my own doing.’ Whose then? tell me. It is from the Devil’s malice. Thou art quite convinced that that which plotteth against thee is a devil; wrestle then and fight with a distemper. But I cannot, he saith. Come then, let us first teach thee this, that what happeneth is from thine own listlessness, and that thou at the first gavest entrance to the Devil, and now if thou hast a mind, with much ease mayest drive him off. They that commit adultery, is it from lust they commit it, or simply from desire of dangers? Plainly from lust. Do they then therefore obtain forgiveness? Certainly not. Why not? Because the sin is their own. ‘But,’ saith one, ‘why, pray, string syllogisms? For my conscience bears me witness that I wish to repel the passion; and cannot, but it keepeth close, presses me sore, and afflicts me grievously.’ O man, thou dost wish to repel it, but thou dost not the things repellers should do; but it is with thee just as with a man in a fever, who drinking of cold streams to the fill, should say, ‘How many things I devise with the wish to quench this fever, and I cannot; but they stir up my flame the more.’ Let us see then whether at all thou too dost the things that inflame, yet thinkest thou art devising such as quench. ‘I do not,’ he saith. Tell me then, what hast thou ever essayed to do in order to quench the passion? and what is it, in fine, that will increase the passion? For even supposing we be not all of us obnoxious to these particular charges; (for more may be found who are captivated by the love of money than of beauty;) still the remedy to be proposed will be common to all, both to these and to those. For both that is an unreasonable passion, and this, is keener and fiercer than that. When then we have proved victorious over the greater, it is very plain that we shall easily subdue the less also. ‘And how is it,’ saith one, ‘that if this be keener, all persons are not made captive by the vice, but a greater number are mad after money?’ Because in the first place this last desire appears to be unattended with danger: next, although that of beauty be even fiercer, yet it is more speedily extinguished; for were it to continue like that of money, it would wholly destroy its captive.
[7.] Come then, let us discourse to you on this, the love of beauty, and let us see whereby the mischief is increased; for so we shall know whether the fault be ours, or not ours. And if ours, let us do everything to get the better of it; whereas if not ours, why do we afflict ourselves for nought? And why do we not pardon, but find fault, with those who are made captive by it? Whence then is this love engendered? ‘From comeliness of feature,’ saith one, ‘when she that woundeth one is beautiful and of fair countenance.’ It is said idly and in vain. For if it were beauty that attracted lovers, then would the maiden who is such have all men for her lovers; but if she hath not all, this thing cometh not of nature nor from beauty, but from unchaste eyes. For it was when by eyeing too curiously590
[8.] How then, when without habit one is taken captive at first sight? Here also it is indolence of body, or self-indulgence, and not attending to one’s duties, nor being occupied in necessary business. For such an one, wandering about like some vagabond, is transfixed by any wickedness; and like a child let loose, any one that liketh maketh such a soul his slave. For since it is its wont to be at work, when thou stoppest its workings in what is good, seeing it cannot be unemployed, it is compelled to engender what is otherwise. For just as the earth, when it is not sown nor planted, sends up simply weeds; so also the soul, when it hath nought of necessary things to do, being desirous by all means to be doing, giveth herself unto wicked deeds. And as the eye never ceaseth from seeing, and therefore will see wicked things, when good things are not set before it; so also doth the thought, when it secludes itself from necessary things, busy itself thereafter about such as are unprofitable. For that even the first assault occupation and thought are able to beat off, is evident from many things. When then thou hast looked on a beautiful woman, and wert moved towards her, look no more, and thou art delivered. ‘And how shall I be able to look no more,’ saith he, ‘when drawn by that desire?’ Give thyself to other things which may distract the soul, to books, to necessary cares, to protecting others, to assisting the injured, to prayers, to the wisdom which considers the things to come: with such things as these bind down thy soul. By these means, not only shalt thou cure a recent wound, but shalt wear away a confirmed and inveterate one easily. For if an insult according to the proverb prevails with the lover to give over his love, how shall not these spiritual charms592
And let this that we have said about habit be our speech unto the young; since to those who are men and taught in heavenly wisdom, stronger than all is the fear of God, the remembrance of hell, the desire of the kingdom of heaven; for these are able to quench the fire. And along with these take that thought also, that what thou seest is nothing else than rheum, and blood, and juices of decomposed food. ‘Yet a gladsome thing is the bloom of the features,’ saith one. But nothing is more gladsome than the blossoms of the earth, and these too rot and wither. Do not then in this either give heed to the bloom, but pass on further inward in thy thought, and stripping off that beauteous skin in thy thought, scan curiously what lies beneath it. For even the bodies of the dropsical shine brightly, and the surface hath nothing offensive; but still, shocked with the thought of the humor stored within we cannot love such persons. ‘But languishing is the eye and glancing, and beautifully arched the brow, and dark the lashes, and soft the eyeball, and serene the look.’ But see how even this itself again is nothing else than nerves, and veins, and membranes, and arteries. Think too, I pray, of this beautiful eye, when diseased and old, wasting with despair, swelling with anger, how hateful to the sight it is, how quickly it perisheth, how sooner even than pictured ones, it is effaced. From these things make thy mind pass to the true beauty. ‘But,’ saith he, ‘ I do not see beauty of soul.’ But if thou wilt choose, thou shalt see it: and as the absent beautiful may be with the mind admired, though with one’s eyes unseen, so it is possible to see without eyes beauty of soul. Hast thou not often sketched a beauteous form, and felt moved unto the drawing? Image also now beauty of soul, and revel in that loveliness. ‘But,’ saith he, ‘I do not see things incorporeal.’ And yet we see these, rather than the corporeal, with the mind. Therefore it is, for instance, that although we see them not, we admire angels also and archangels, and habits of character, and virtue of soul. And if thou seest a man considerate and moderate, thou wilt more admire him than that beautiful countenance. And if thou seest one insulted, yet bearing it; wronged, yet giving way, admire and love such, even though they be striken in age. For such a thing is the beauty of the soul; even in old age it hath many enamored of it, and it never fadeth, but bloometh for ever. In order then that we also may gain this beauty, let us go in quest of those that have it, and be enamored of them. For so shall we too be able, when we have attained this beauty, to obtain the good things eternal, whereof may all we partake, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father, with the Holy Spirit, be glory and might, for ever and ever. Amen.