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“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day, or a new moon, or a sabbath day: which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ’s. Let no man rob you of your prize by a voluntary humility and worshiping of the Angels, dwelling in the things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast the Head, from whom all the body being supplied and knit together, through the joints and bands, increaseth with the increase of God.”
Having first said darkly, “Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you after the tradition of men” (ver. 8.); and again, further back, “This, I say, that no one may delude you with persuasiveness of speech” (ver. 4.); thus preoccupying their soul, and working in it anxious thoughts; next, having inserted those benefits, and increased this effect, he then brings in his reproof last, and says, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day, or a new moon, or a sabbath day.” Seest thou how he depreciates them? If ye have obtained such things, he saith, why make yourselves accountable for these petty matters? And he makes light of them, saying, “or in the part811
He puts that in the middle, and on either side, expressions of greater vehemence. “If ye died with Christ from the elements of the world,” he saith, “why as though living in the world do ye subject yourselves to ordinances?” This is not the consequence, for what ought to have been said is, “how as though living are ye subject to those elements?” But letting this pass, what saith he?
Ye are not in the world, he saith, how is it ye are subject to its elements? how to its observances? And mark how he makes sport of them, “touch not, handle not, taste not,” as though they were cowards and keeping themselves clear of some great matters, “all which things are to perish with the using.” He has taken down the swollenness of the many, and added, “after the precepts and doctrines of men.” What sayest thou? Dost thou speak even of the Law? Henceforth it is but a doctrine of men, after the time is come.815
“Show,” he saith; not power, not truth. So that even though they have a show of wisdom, let us turn away from them. For he may seem to be a religious person, and modest, and to have a contempt for the body.
“Not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.” For God hath given it honor, but they use it not with honor. Thus, when it is a doctrine, he knows how to call it honor. They dishonor the flesh, he says, depriving it, and stripping it of its liberty, not giving leave to rule it with its will. God hath honored the flesh.
He brings them together, having above established that He died. Therefore he saith, “If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above.” No observances are there. “Where Christ is seated on the right hand of God.” Wonderful! Whither hath he led our minds aloft! How hath he filled them with mighty aspiration! It was not enough to say, “the things that are above,” nor yet, “where Christ is,” but what? “seated on the right hand of God.” From that point he was preparing them henceforward to see the earth.
Ver. 2, 3, 4. “Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth. For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life shall be manifested, then shall ye also with Him be manifested in glory.”
This is not your life, he saith, it is some other one. He is now urgent to remove them, and insists upon showing that they are seated above, and are dead; from both considerations establishing the position, that they are not to seek the things which are here. For whether ye be dead, ye ought not to seek them; or Whether ye be above, ye ought not to seek them. Doth Christ appear? Neither doth your life. It is in God, above. What then? When shall we live? When Christ shall be manifested, who is your life; then seek ye glory, then life, then enjoyment.
This is to prepare the way for drawing them off from pleasure and ease. Such is his wont: when establishing one position, he darts off to another; as, for instance, when discoursing of those who at supper were beforehand with one another, he all at once falls upon the observance of the Mysteries.816
If therefore we shall then be manifested, let us not grieve, when we enjoy not honor: if this life be not life, but it be hidden, we ought to live this life as though dead. “Then shall ye also,” he saith, “with Him be manifested in glory.” “In glory,” he said, not merely “manifested.” For the pearl too is hidden so long as it is within the oyster. If then we be treated with insult, let us not grieve; or whatever it be we suffer; for this life is not our life, we are strangers and sojourners. “For ye died,” he saith. Who is so witless, as for a corpse, dead and buried, either to buy servants, or build houses, or prepare costly raiment? None. Neither then do ye; but as we seek one thing only, namely, that we be not in a naked state, so here too let us seek one thing and no more. Our first man is buried: buried not in earth, but in water; not death-destroyed, but buried by death’s destroyer, not by the law of nature, but by the governing command that is stronger than nature. For what has been done by nature, may perchance be undone; but what has been done by His command, never. Nothing is more blessed than this burial, whereat all are rejoicing, both Angels, and men, and the Lord of Angels. At this burial, no need is there of vestments, nor of coffin, nor of anything else of that kind. Wouldest thou see the symbol of this? I will show thee a pool wherein the one was buried, the other raised; in the Red Sea the Egyptians were sunk beneath it, but the Israelites went up from out of it; in the same act he buries the one, generates the other.
Marvel not that generation and destruction take place in Baptism; for, tell me, dissolving and cementing, are they not opposite? It is evident to all. Such is the effect of fire; for fire dissolves and destroys wax, but it cements together metallic earth, and works it into gold. So in truth here also, the force of the fire, having obliterated the statue of wax, has displayed a golden one in its stead; for in truth before the Bath we were of clay, but after it of gold. Whence is this evident? Hear him saying, “The first man is of the earth, earthy, the second man is the Lord from heaven.” (1 Cor. xv. 47.) I spoke of a difference as great as that between clay and gold; but greater still do I find the difference between heavenly and earthy; not so widely do clay and gold differ, as do things earthy and heavenly. Waxen we were, and clay-formed. For the flame of lust did much more melt us, than fire doth wax, and any chance temptation did far rather shatter us than a stone doth things of clay. And, if ye will, let us give an outline of the former life, and see whether all was not earth and water, and full of fluctuation and dust, and instability, and flowing away.
And if ye will, let us scrutinize not the former things, but the present, and see whether we shall not find everything that is, mere dust and water. For what wilt thou tell me of? authority and power? for nothing in this present life is thought to be more enviable than these. But sooner may one find the dust when on the air stationary, than these things; especially now. For to whom are they not under subjection? To those who are lovers of them; to eunuchs; to those who will do anything for the sake of money; to the passions of the populace; to the wrath of the more powerful. He who was yesterday up high on his tribunal,817
But what? Wilt thou that we examine that object of many prayers, wealth? Come, let us examine it in its several parts. It hath luxury, it hath honors, it hath power. First then, if thou wilt, let us examine luxury. Is it not dust? yea, rather, it goeth by swifter than dust, for the pleasure of luxurious living reacheth only to the tongue, and when the belly is filled, not to the tongue even. But, saith one, honors are of themselves pleasant things. Yet what can be less pleasant than that same honor, when it is rendered with a view to money? When it is not from free choice and with a readiness of mind, it is not thou that reapest the honor, but thy wealth. So that this very thing makes the man of wealth, most of all men, dishonored. For, tell me; suppose all men honored thee, who hadst a friend; the while confessing that thou, to be sure, wert good for nothing, but that they were compelled to honor thee on his account; could they possibly in any other way have so dishonored thee? So that our wealth is the cause of dishonor to us, seeing it is more honored than are its very possessors, and a proof rather of weakness than of power. How then is it not absurd that we are not counted of as much value as earth and ashes, (for such is gold,) but that we are honored for its sake? With reason. But not so he that despiseth wealth; for it were better not to be honored at all, than so honored. For tell me, were one to say to thee, I think thee worthy of no honor at all, but for thy servants’ sakes I honor thee, could now anything be worse than this dishonor? But if to be honored for the sake of servants, who are partakers of the same soul and nature with ourselves, be a disgrace, much more then is it such, to be honored for the sake of meaner things, such as the walls and courts of houses, and vessels of gold, and garments. A scorn indeed were this, and shame; better die than be so honored. For, tell me, if thou wert in peril in this thy pride, and some low and disgusting person were to be willing to extricate thee from thy peril, what could be worse than this? What ye say one to another about the city, I wish to say to you. Once on a time our818
Were it not then better not to be honored at all, than to be beholden to these for the honor? And besides this, moreover, I will endeavor to prove clearly that opulence is a condition full of dishonor; it embases the soul; and what is more dishonorable than this? For tell me, suppose one had a comely person, and passing all in beauty, and wealth were to go to him and promise to make it ugly, and instead of healthy, diseased, instead of cool, inflamed; and having filled every limb with dropsy, were to make the countenance bloated, and distend it all over; and were to swell out the feet, and make them heavier than logs, and to puff up the belly, and make it larger than any tun; and after this, it should promise not even to grant permission to cure him, to those who should be desirous of doing so, (for such is the way with power,) but would give him so much liberty as to punish any one that should approach him to withdraw him from what was harming him; well then, tell me, when wealth works these effects in the soul, how can it be honorable?
But this power is a more grievous thing than the disease itself; as for one in disease not to be obedient to the physician’s injunctions is a more serious evil than the being diseased; and this is the case with wealth, seeing it creates inflammation in every part of the soul, and forbids the physicians to come near it. So let us not felicitate these on the score of their power, but pity them; for neither were I to see a dropsical patient lying, and nobody forbidding him to take his fill of whatever drinks he pleased and of meats that are harmful, would I felicitate him because of his power. For not in all cases is power a good thing, nor are honors either, for these too fill one with much arrogance. But if thou wouldest not choose that the body should along with wealth contract such a disease, how comest thou to overlook the soul, and when contracting not this scourge alone, but another also? For it is on fire all over with burning fevers and inflammations, and that burning fever none can quench, for wealth will not allow of this, having persuaded it that those things are gains, which are really losses, such as not enduring any one and doing everything at will. For no other soul will one find so replete with lusts so great and so extravagant, as theirs who are desirous of being rich. For what silly trifles do they not picture to themselves! One may see these devising more extravagant things than limners of hippocentaurs, and chimæras, and dragon-footed things, and Scyllas, and monsters. And if one should choose to give a picture of one lust of theirs, neither Scylla, nor chimæra, nor hippocentaur will appear anything at all by the side of such a prodigy; but you will find it to contain every wild beast at once.
And perchance some one will suppose that I have been myself possessed of much wealth, seeing I am so true to what really comes of it. It is reported of one (for I will first confirm what I have said from the legends of the Greeks)—it is reported amongst them of a certain king, that he became so insolent in luxury, as to make a plane tree of gold,820
What then can be more senseless than are the wealthy? And this arises from the greediness of their desires. But, are there not many that admire him? Therefore truly do they share in the laughter he incurs. That displayed not his wealth but his folly. How much better than that golden plane tree is that which the earth produceth! For the natural is more grateful than the unnatural. But what meant that thy golden heaven, O senseless one? Seest thou how wealth that is abundant maketh men mad? How it inflamed them? I suppose he knows not the sea even, and perchance will presently have a mind to walk upon it.824
I know that many persons make jokes at me for this; but I heed them not, only let some good result from it. In truth, to be wealthy does make people senseless and mad. Did their power reach to such an excess, they would have the earth too of gold, and walls of gold, perchance the heaven too, and the air of gold. What a madness is this, what an iniquity, what a burning fever! Another, made after the image of God, is perishing of cold; and dost thou furnish thyself with such things as these? O the senseless pride! What more would a madman have done? Dost thou pay such honor to thine excrements, as to receive them in silver? I know that ye are shocked at hearing this; but those women that make such things ought to be shocked, and the husbands that minister to such distempers. For this is wantonness, and savageness, and inhumanity, and brutishness, and lasciviousness. What Scylla, what chimæra, what dragon, yea rather what demon, what devil would have acted on this wise? What is the benefit of Christ? what of the Faith? when one has to put up with men being heathens, yea rather, not heathens, but demons? If to adorn the head with gold and pearls be not right; one that useth silver for a service so unclean, how shall he obtain pardon? Is not the rest enough, although even it is not bearable, chairs and footstools all of silver? although even these come of senselessness. But everywhere is excessive pride; everywhere is vainglory. Nowhere is it use, but everywhere excess.
I am afraid lest, under the impulse of this madness, the race of woman should go on to assume some portentous form: for it is likely that they will wish to have even their hair of gold. Else declare that ye were not826
But if ye are incredulous, and think I am speaking in jest, I will relate what I have heard, or rather what is now existing. The king of the Persians wears his beard golden; those who are adepts at such work winding leaf of gold about his hairs as about the woof, and it is laid up as a prodigy.
Glory to Thee, O Christ; with how many good things hast Thou filled us! How hast Thou provided for our health! From how great monstrousness, from how great unreasonableness, hast Thou set us free! Mark! I forewarn you, I advise no longer; but I command and charge; let him that wills, obey, and him that wills not, be disobedient; that if ye women do continue thus to act, I will not suffer it, nor receive you, nor permit you to pass across this threshold. For what need have I of a crowd of distempered people? And what if, in my training of you, I do not forbid what is not827
And to the men I give this advice: Art thou come to school to be instructed in spiritual philosophy? Divest thyself of that pride! This is my advice both to men and women; and if any act otherwise, henceforward I will not suffer it. The disciples were but twelve, and hear what Christ saith unto them, “Would ye also go away?” (John vi. 67.) For if we go on for ever flattering you, when shall we reclaim you? when shall we do you service? “But,” saith one, “there are other sects, and people go over.” This is a cold argument, “Better is one that doeth the will of the Lord, than ten thousand transgressors.” (Ecclus. xvi. 3.) For, what wouldest thou choose thyself, tell me; to have ten thousand servants that were runaways and thieves, or a single one that loved thee? Lo! I admonish and command you to break up both those gay deckings for the face, and such vessels as I have described, and give to the poor, and not to be so mad.
Let him that likes quit me at once; let him that likes accuse me, I will not suffer it in any one. When I am about to be judged at the Tribunal of Christ, ye stand afar off, and your favor, while I am giving in my account. “Those words have ruined all! he says,828
Lo! I charge you again, and protest after the pattern of the blessed Paul, “that if I come again I will not spare.” (2 Cor. xiii. 2.) But when ye have done as ye ought, then ye will know how great the gain is, how great the advantage. Yes! I entreat and beseech you, and would not refuse to clasp your knees and supplicate you830