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| John 5.23,24 |
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John v. 23, 24
“For My Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son; that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.”
[1.] Beloved, we need great diligence in all things, for we shall render account of and undergo a strict enquiry both of words and works. Our interests stop not with what now is, but a certain other condition of life shall receive us after this, and we shall be brought before a fearful tribunal. “For we must appear before the Judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath
done, whether it be good or bad.” ( 2 Cor. v. 10.) Let us ever bear in mind this tribunal, that we may thus be enabled at all times to continue in virtue; for as he who has cast out from his soul that day, rushes like a horse that has burst his bridle to precipices, (for “his ways are always defiled”1035
— Ps. x. 5 ,) and then assigning the reason the Psalmist hath added, “He putteth Thy judgments far away out of his sight”;) so he that always retains this fear will walk soberly. “Remember,” saith one, “thy last things, and thou shalt never do amiss.” ( Ecclus. vii. 40.) For He who now hath remitted our sins, will then sin in judgment; He who hath died for our sake will then appear again to judge all mankind.1036
“Unto them that look for Him,” saith the Apostle, “shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” ( Heb. ix. 28.) Wherefore in this place also He saith, “My Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son; that all men should honor the Son; even as they honor the Father.”
“Shall we then,” saith some one, “also call Him Father?” Away with the thought. He useth the word “Son” that we may honor Him still remaining a Son, as we honor the Father; but he who calleth Him “Father” doth not honor the Son as the Father, but has confounded the whole. Moreover as men are not so much brought to by being benefited as by being punished, on this account He hath spoken thus terribly,1037
that even fear may draw them to honor Him. And when He saith “all,” His meaning is this, that He hath power to punish and to honor, and doeth either as He will.1038
| 1037al. “since men being benefited are not so sensible of it, He saith ‘ hath given all judgment to ’ Him, in order that,” &c.
The expression “hath given,” is used that thou mayest not suppose Him not to have been Begotten, and so think that there are two Fathers. For all that the Father is, this the Son is also,1039
Begotten, and remaining a Son. And that thou mayest learn that “hath given” is the same as “hath begotten,” hear this very thing declared by another place. “As,” saith Christ, “the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.” ( Ver. 26.) “What then? Did he first beget and then give Him life? For he who giveth, giveth to something which is. Was He then begotten
without life?” Not even the devils could imagine this, for it is very foolish as well as impious. As then “hath given life” is “hath begotten Him who is Life,” so, “hath given judgment” is “hath begotten Him who shall be Judge.”
That thou mayest not when thou hearest that He hath the Father for His cause imagine any difference1040
of essence or inferiority of honor, He cometh to judge thee, by this proving His Equality.1041
For He who hath authority to punish and to honor whom He will, hath the same Power with the Father. Since, if this be not the case, if having been begotten He afterwards received the honor, how came it that He was afterwards [thus] honored, by what mode of advancement reached He so far as to receive and be appointed to this dignity? Are ye not ashamed thus impudently to apply to that Pure1042
Nature which admitteth of no addition these carnal and mean imaginations?
“Why then,” saith some one, “doth Christ so speak?” That His words may be readily received, and to clear the way for sublime sayings; therefore He mixeth these with those, and those with these. And observe how (He doth it); for it is good to see this from the beginning. He said, “My Father worketh, and I work” ( c. v. 17 , &c.): declaring by this their Equality and Equal honor. But they “sought to kill
Him.” What doth He then? He lowereth His form of speech indeed, and putteth the same meaning when He saith, “The Son can do nothing of Himself.” Then again He raiseth His discourse to high matters, saying, “What things soever the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” Then He returneth to what is lower, “For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth Him all things that Himself doeth; and He will show Him greater things than these.” Then He
riseth higher, “For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will.” After this again He joineth the high and the low together, “For neither doth the Father judge any one, but hath given all judgment to the Son”; then riseth again, “That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.” Seest thou how He varieth the discourse, weaving it both of high and low words and expressions, in order that it might be acceptable to
the men of that time, and that those who should come after might receive no injury, gaining from the higher part a right opinion of the rest? For if this be not the case, if these sayings were not uttered through condescension, wherefore were the high expressions added? Because one who is entitled to utter great words concerning himself, hath, when he saith anything mean and low, this reasonable excuse, that he doth it for some prudential purpose;1043
but if one who ought to speak meanly of himself saith anything great, on what account doth he utter words which surpass his nature? This is not for any purpose at all, but an act of extreme impiety.1044
[2.] We are therefore able to assign a reason for the lowly expressions, a reason sufficient, and becoming to God, namely, His condescension, His teaching us to be moderate, and the salvation which is thus wrought for us. To declare which He said Himself in another place, “These things I say that ye might be saved.” For when He left His own witness, and betook Himself to that of John, (a thing unworthy of His greatness,) He putteth the reason of such lowliness
of language, and saith, “These things I say that ye might be saved.” And ye who assert that He hath not the same authority and power with Him who begat Him, what can ye say when ye hear Him utter words by which He declareth His Authority and Power and Glory equal in respect of the Father? Wherefore, if He be as ye assert very inferior, doth He claim the same honor? Nor doth He stop even here, but goeth on to say,
“He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father which hath sent Him.” Seest thou how the honor of the Son is connected with that of the Father? “What of that?” saith one. “We see the same in the case of the Apostles; ‘He,’ saith Christ, ‘who receiveth you receiveth Me.’” ( Matt. x. 40.) But in that place He speaketh so, because He maketh the concerns of His servants His own; here, because the Essence and the
Glory is One (with that of the Father). Therefore1045
it is not said of the Apostles “that they may honor,” but rightly He saith, “He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father.” For where there are two kings, if one is insulted the other is insulted also, and especially when he that is insulted is a son. He is insulted even when one of his soldiers is maltreated; not in the same way as in this case, but as it were in the person of another,1046
while here it is as it were in his own. Wherefore He beforehand said, “That they should honor the Son even as they honor the Father,” in order that when He should say, “He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father,” thou mightest understand that the honor is the same. For He saith not merely, “he that honoreth not the Son,” but “he that honoreth Him not so as I have said” “honoreth not the Father.”
“And how,” saith one, “can he that sendeth and he that is sent be of the same essence?” Again, thou bringest down the argument to carnal things, and perceivest not that all this has been said for no other purpose, but that we might know Him to be The Cause,1047
and not fall into the error1048
of Sabellius, and that in this manner the infirmity of the Jews might be healed, so that He might not be deemed an enemy of God;1049
for they said, “This man is not of God” ( c. ix. 16 ), “This man hath not come from God.” Now to remove this suspicion, high sayings did not contribute so much as the lowly, and therefore continually and everywhere He said that He had been “sent”; not that thou mightest suppose that expression to be1050
| 1049For from their extreme senselessness He was counted among them an enemy of God. Morel.
any lessening of His greatness, but in order to stop their mouths. And for this cause also He constantly betaketh Himself to the Father, interposing moreover mention of His own high Parentage.1051
| 1050al. “not that He might by this show any lessening,” &c.
For had He said all in proportion to His dignity, the Jews would not have received His words, since because of a few such expressions, they persecuted and oftentimes stoned Him; and if looking wholly to them He had used none but low expressions, many in after times might have been harmed. Wherefore He mingleth and blendeth1052
| 1051al. “absolute power.”
His teaching, both by these lowly sayings stopping, as I said, the mouths of the Jews, and also by expressions suited to His dignity banishing1053
| 1052κιρνᾶ, generally of mixing wine with water.
from men of sense any mean notion of what He had said, and proving that such a notion did not in any wise apply to Him at all.
The expression “having been sent” denoteth change of place—but God is everywhere present. Wherefore then saith He that He was “sent”? He speaketh in an earthly1054
declaring His unanimity with the Father. At least He shapeth His succeeding words with a desire to effect this.
| 1055Morel. reads: “for this reason He doth not decline to use a more earthly expression, declaring,” &c.
Ver. 24. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life.”
Seest thou how continually He putteth the same thing to cure that feeling of suspicion, both in this place and in what follows by fear and by promises of blessings removing their jealousy of Him, and then again condescending greatly in words? For He said not, “he that heareth My words, and believeth on Me,” since they would have certainly deemed that to be pride, and a superfluous pomp of words; because, if after a very long time, and ten thousand miracles,
they suspected this when He spake after this manner, much more would they have done so then. It was on this account that at that later period1056
they said to Him, “Abraham is dead, and the prophets are dead, how sayest Thou,1057
If a man keep My saying, he shall never taste of death?” ( c. viii. 52.) In order therefore that they may not here also become furious, see what He saith, “He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life.” This had no small effect in making His discourse acceptable, when they learned that those who hear Him believe in the Father also; for after having received this with readiness, they would more easily
receive the rest. So that the very speaking in a humble manner contributed and led the way to higher things; for after saying, “hath everlasting life,” He addeth,
“And cometh not into judgment, but is passed from death unto life.”
By these two things He maketh His discourse acceptable; first, because it is the Father who is believed on, and then, because the believer enjoyeth many blessings. And the “cometh not into judgment” meaneth, “is not punished,” for He speaketh not of death “here,” but of death eternal, as also of the other “life” which is deathless.
Ver. 25. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that have heard shall live.”
Having said the words, He speaketh also of the proof by deeds.1058
For when He had said, “As the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will,” that the thing may not seem to be mere boasting and pride, He affordeth proof1059
| 1058Morel. reads: “He spake those great things in words, afterwards He desireth to prove them by works also.”
by works, saying, “The hour cometh”; then, that thou mayest not deem that the time is long, He addeth, “and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that have heard shall live.” Seest thou here His absolute and unutterable authority? For as it shall be in the Resurrection, even so, He saith, it shall be “now.” Then too when we hear His voice commanding us we are raised; for, saith the Apostle, “at the command of God the dead
“And whence,” perhaps some one will ask, “is it clear that the words are not mere boast?” From what He hath added, “and now is”; because had His promises referred only to some future time, His discourse would have been suspected by them, but now He supplieth them with a proof: “While I,” saith He, “am tarrying among you, this thing shall come to pass”; and He would not, had He not possessed the power, have promised for that time, lest through
the promise He should incur the greater ridicule. Then too He addeth an argument demonstrative of His assertions, saying,
Ver. 26. “For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.”
[3.] Seest thou that this declareth a perfect likeness save in one1061
point, which is the One being a Father, and the Other a Son? for the expression “hath given,” merely introduceth this distinction, but declareth that all the rest is equal and exactly alike. Whence it is clear that the Son doeth all things with as much authority and power as the Father, and that He is not empowered from some other source, for He “hath life” so as the Father hath. And on this account, what comes after is straightway added, that from this we may
understand the other also. What is this then? It is,
| 1061τὸ ἀπαράλλακτον καὶ ἑνὶ μόνῳ τὴν διαφορὰν ἐμφαῖνον
Ver. 27. “Hath given Him authority to execute judgment also.”
And wherefore doth He continually1062
dwell upon “resurrection” and “judgment”? For He saith, “As the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will”: and again, “the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son”: and again, “As the Father hath life in Himself so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself”; and again, “They that have heard [the Voice of the Son of God] shall live”; and here again, “Hath given to Him
authority to execute judgment.” Wherefore doth He dwell on these things continually? I mean, on “judgment,” and “life,” and “resurrection”? It is because these subjects are able most of any to attract even the obstinate hearer. For the man who is persuaded that he shall both rise again and shall give account to Christ1063
of his transgressions, even though he have seen no other sign, yet having admitted this, will surely run to Him to propitiate his Judge.
“That He is the Son of Man ( v. 28 ), marvel not at this.”
Paul of Samosata rendereth it not so; but how? “Hath given Him authority to execute judgment, ‘because’ He is the Son of Man.”1064
Now the passage thus read is inconsequent, for He did not receive judgment “because” He was man, (since then what hindered all men from being judges,) but because He is the Son of that Ineffable Essence, therefore is He Judge. So we must read, “That He is the Son of Man, marvel not at this.” For when what He said seemed to the hearers inconsistent, and they deemed Him nothing more than mere man, while His words were greater than suited man, yea, or even angel,
and were proper to God only, to solve this objection He addeth,
| 1064As in our Auth. Version.
Ver. 28, 29. “Marvel not [that He is the Son of Man,1065
] for the hour is coming in the which they1066
that are in the tombs shall hear His voice and shall go forth, they that have done good to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”
And wherefore said He not, “Marvel not that He is the Son of Man, for He is also the Son of God,” but rather mentioned the “resurrection”? He did indeed put this above, by saying, “shall hear the Voice of the Son of God.” And if here He is silent on the matter, wonder not; for after mentioning a work which was proper to God, He then permitteth His hearers to collect from it that He was God, and the Son of God. For had this been continually
asserted by Himself, it would at that time have offended them, but when proved by the argument of miracles, it rendered His doctrine less burdensome. So they who put together syllogisms, when having laid down their premises1067
they have fairly1068
proved the point in question, frequently do not draw the conclusion themselves, but to render their hearers more fairly disposed, and to make their victory more evident, cause the opponent himself to give the verdict, so that the by-standers may the rather agree with them when their opponents decide in their favor. When therefore He mentioned the resurrection of Lazarus, He spake not of the Judgment (for it was not for this that Lazarus arose); but when He spake generally He
also added, that “they that have done good shall go forth unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment.” Thus also John led on his hearers by speaking of the Judgment, and that “he that believeth not on the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him” ( c. iii. 36 ): so too Himself led on Nicodemus: “He that believeth on the Son,” He said to him, “is not
judged, but he that believeth not is judged already” ( c. iii. 18 ); and so here He mentioneth the Judgment-seat1069
and the punishment which shall follow upon evil deeds. For because He had said above, “He that heareth My words and believeth on Him that sent Me,” “is not judged,” lest any one should imagine that this alone is sufficient for salvation, He addeth also the result of man’s life,1070
declaring that “they which have done good shall come forth unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment.” Since then He had said that all the world should render account to Him, and that all at His Voice should rise again, a thing new and strange and even now disbelieved by many who seem to have believed, not to say by the Jews at that time, hear how He goeth to prove it, again condescending to the infirmity of His
Ver. 30. “I can of Mine own self do nothing; as I hear I judge, and My judgment is just, because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of Him1071
which sent Me.”
Although He had but lately given no trifling proof of the Resurrection by bracing1072
the paralytic; on which account also He had not spoken of the Resurrection before He had done what fell little short of resurrection. And the Judgment He hinted at after He had braced the body, by saying, “Behold, thou art made whole, sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee”; yet still He proclaimed beforehand the resurrection of Lazarus and of the world. And when He had spoken of these two, that of Lazarus which should come to pass almost immediately, and that
of the inhabited world which should be long after, He confirmeth the first by the paralytic and by the nearness of the time, saying, “The hour cometh and now is”; the other by the raising of Lazarus, by what had already come to pass bringing before their sight what had not yet done so. And this we may observe Him do everywhere, putting (forth) two or three predictions, and always confirming the future by the past.
[4.] Yet after saying and doing so much, since they still were very weak1073
He is not content, but by other expressions calms their disputatious temper,1074
| 1073al. “even thus too gross.”
saying, “I can of Myself do nothing; as I hear I judge, and My judgment is just, because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of Him which sent Me.” For since He appeared to make some assertions strange and varying from those of the Prophets, (for they said that it is God who judgeth all the earth, that is, the human race; and this truth David everywhere loudly proclaimed, “He shall judge the people in righteousness,” and, “God is a righteous
Judge, strong and patient” ( Ps. xcvi. 10; and Ps. vii. 11 , LXX.); as did all the Prophets and Moses; but Christ said, “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son”:1075
an expression which was sufficient to perplex a Jew who heard it, and to make him in turn suspect Christ of being an enemy of God,) He here greatly condescendeth in His speech, and as far as their infirmity requireth, in order to pluck up by the roots this pernicious opinion, and saith, “I can of Myself do nothing”; that is, “nothing strange, or unlike,1076
| 1075al. “I am [He] who judge.”
or what the Father desireth not will ye see done or hear said by Me.” And having before declared that He was “the Son of Man,” and because they1077
supposed Him to be a man at that time, so also He putteth [His expressions] here. As then when He said above, “We speak that we have heard, and testify that we have seen”; and when John said, “What He hath seen He testifieth, and no man receiveth His testimony” ( c. iii. 32 ); both expressions are used respecting exact knowledge, not concerning hearing and seeing merely; so in this place when He speaketh of
“hearing,” He declareth nothing else than that it is impossible for Him to desire anything, save what the Father desireth. Still He said not so plainly, (for they would not as yet have at once received it on hearing it thus asserted;) and how? in a manner very condescending and befitting a mere man, “As I hear I judge.” Again He useth these words in this place, not with reference to “instruction,” (for He said not, “as I am taught,” but “as I hear”;) nor as though He
needed to listen, (for not only did He not require to be taught, but He needed not even to listen;) but it was to declare the Unanimity and Identity of [His and the Father’s] decision, as though He had said, “So I judge, as if it were the Father Himself that judged.” Then He addeth, “and I know that My judgment is just, because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.” What sayest Thou? Hast Thou a will different from that of the Father? Yet in another place
He saith, “As I and Thou are One,” (speaking of will and unanimity,) “grant to these also that they may be one in Us” ( c. xvii. 21 ; not verbally quoted); that is, “in faith concerning Us.” Seest thou that the words which seem most humble are those which conceal a high meaning? For what He implieth is of this kind: not that the will of the Father is one, and His own another; but that, “as one will in one mind, so is Mine own will
and My Father’s.”
| 1077So Morel. and ms. in Bodl. Savile reads, “having shown that they,” &c.
And marvel not that He hath asserted so close a conjunction; for with reference to the Spirit also Paul hath used this illustration: “What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” Thus Christ’s meaning is no other than this: “I have not a will different and apart from that of the Father,1078
but if He desireth anything, then I also; if I, then He also. As therefore none could object to the Father judging, so neither may any to Me, for the sentence of Each1079
| 1078According to Savile’s conjectural reading, παρὰ τὸ τοῦ Π. in place of παρὰ τοῦ Π. for which there is also ms. authority.
is given from the same Mind.” And if He uttereth these words rather as a man, marvel not, seeing that they still deemed Him to be mere man. Therefore in passages like these it is necessary not merely to enquire into the meaning of the words, but also to take into account the suspicion of the hearers, and listen to what is said as being addressed to that suspicion. Otherwise many difficulties will follow. Consider for instance, He saith, “I seek not Mine own
will”: according to this then His will is different (from that of the Father), is imperfect, nay, not merely imperfect, but even unprofitable. “For if it be saving, if it agree with that of the Father, wherefore dost Thou not seek it?” Mortals might with reason say so because they have many wills contrary to what seemeth good to the Father, but Thou, wherefore sayest Thou this, who art in all things like the Father? for this none would say is the language even of a “man” made
perfect and crucified. For if Paul so blended himself1080
with the will of God as to say, “I live, yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me” ( Gal. ii. 20 ), how saith the Lord of all, “I seek not Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me,” as though that will were different? What then is His meaning? He applieth1081
His discourse as if the case were that of a mere man, and suiteth His language to the suspicion of His hearers. For when He had, by what had gone before, given proof of His sayings, speaking partly as God, partly as a mere man, He again as a man endeavoreth to establish1082
| 1081al. “brings forward.”
the same, and saith, “My judgment is just.” And whence is this seen? “Because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.” “For as in the case of men, he that is free from selfishness cannot be justly charged with having given an unfair decision, so neither will ye now be able to accuse Me. He that desireth to establish his own, may perhaps by many be suspected of corrupting justice with this intent; but he that
looketh not to his own, what reason can he have for not deciding justly? Apply now this reasoning to My case. Had I said that I was not sent by the Father, had I not referred to Him the glory of what was done, some of you might perhaps have suspected that desiring to gain honor for Myself, I said the thing that is not; but if I impute and refer what is done to another, wherefore and whence can ye have cause to suspect My words?” Seest thou how He confirmed His discourse, and asserted
that “His judgment was just” by an argument which any common man might have used in defending himself? Seest thou how what I have often said is clearly visible? What is that? It is that the exceeding humility of the expressions most persuadeth men of sense not to receive the words off hand1083
and then fall down [into low thoughts], but rather to take pains that they reach to the height of their meaning; this humility too with much ease then raiseth up those who were once groveling on the ground.
Now bearing all this in mind, let us not, I exhort you, carelessly pass by Christ’s words, but enquire closely into them all, everywhere considering the reason of what has been said; and let us not deem that ignorance and simplicity will be sufficient to excuse us, for He hath bidden us not merely to be “harmless,” but “wise.” ( Matt. x. 16.) Let us therefore practice wisdom with simplicity, both as to doctrines and the right
of our lives; let us judge ourselves here, that we be not condemned with the world hereafter;1085
let us act towards our fellow-servants as we desire our Master to act towards us: for (we say), “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” ( Matt. vi. 12.) I know that the smitten soul endureth not meekly, but if we consider that by so doing we do a kindness not to him who hath grieved us but to ourselves, we shall soon let go the venom of our wrath; for he who forgave not the hundred pence to him who had transgressed against him,
wronged not his fellow-servant but himself, by rendering himself liable for the ten thousand talents of which he had before received forgiveness. ( Matt. xviii. 30-34.) When therefore we forgive not others, we forgive not ourselves. And so let us not merely say to God, “remember not our offenses”; but let each also say to himself, “let us not remember the offenses of our fellow-servants done against us.” For thou first givest judgment on thine own
sins, and God judgeth after;1086
thou proposest the law concerning remission and punishment, thou declarest thy decision on these matters, and therefore whether God shall or shall not remember, rests with thee. For which cause Paul biddeth us “forgive, if any One hath cause of complaint against any” ( Col. iii. 13 ), and not simply forgive, but so that not even any remnants be left behind. Since Christ not only did not publish our transgressions, but did not put us the
transgressors in mind of them, nor say, “in such and such things hast thou offended,” but remitted and blotted out the handwriting, not reckoning our offenses, as Paul hath also declared. ( Col. ii. 14.) Let us too do this; let us wipe away all [trespasses against us] from our minds; and if any good thing hath been done to us by him that hath grieved us, let us only reckon that; but if anything grievous and hard to bear, let us cast it forth and blot it out, so
that not even a vestige of it remain. And if no good has been done us by him, so much the greater recompense and higher credit will be ours if we forgive. Others by watching, by making the earth their bed, by ten thousand hardships, wipe away their sins, but thou by an easier way, I mean by not remembering wrongs, mayest cause all thy trespasses to disappear. Why then thrustest thou the sword against thyself, as do mad and frantic men, and banishest thyself from the life which is to come,
when thou oughtest to use every means to attain unto it? For if this present life be so desirable, what can one say of that other from which pain, and grief, and mourning, have fled away? There it needs not to fear death, nor imagine any end to those good things. Blessed, thrice blessed, yea, and this many times over, are they who enjoy that blessed rest, while they are miserable, thrice miserable, yea, ten thousand times miserable, who have cast themselves forth from that blessedness.
“And what,” saith some one, “is it that maketh us to enjoy that life?” Hear the Judge Himself conversing with a certain young man on this matter. When the young man said, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” ( Matt. xix. 16 ) Christ, after repeating to him the other commandments, ended with the love of his neighbor. Perhaps like that rich man some of my hearers will say, “that we also have kept these, for we neither have robbed, nor killed, nor
committed adultery”; yet assuredly thou wilt not be able to say this, that thou hast loved thy neighbor as thou oughtest to have loved him. For if a man hath envied or spoken evil of another, if he hath not helped him when injured, or not imparted to him of his substance, then neither hath he loved him. Now Christ hath commanded not only this, but something besides. What then is this? “Sell,” he saith, “that thou hast, and give to the poor; and come, follow Me” (
Matt. xix. 21 ): terming the imitating Him in our actions “following” Him. What learn we hence? First, that he who hath not all these things cannot attain unto the chief places in “that” rest. For after the young man had said, “All these things have I done,” Christ, as though some great thing were wanting to his being perfectly approved, replied, “If thou wilt be perfect, sell that thou hast, and give to the poor: and come, follow Me.” First
then we may learn this; secondly, that Christ rebuked the man for his vain boast; for one who lived in such superfluity, and regarded not others living in poverty, how could he love his neighbor? So that neither in this matter did he speak truly. But let us do both the one and the other of these things; let us be eager to empty out our substance, and to purchase heaven. Since if for worldly honor men have often expended their whole possessions, an honor which was to stay here below, and
even here not to stay by us long, (for many even much before their deaths have been stripped of their supremacy, and others because of it have often lost their lives, and yet, although aware of this, they expend all for its sake;) if now they do so much for this kind of honor, what can be more wretched than we if for the sake of that honor which abideth and which cannot be taken from us we will not give up even a little, nor supply to others those things which in a short time while yet here we
shall leave? What madness must it be, when it is in our power voluntarily to give to others, and so to take with us those things of which we shall even against our will be deprived, to refuse to do so? Yet if a man were being led to death, and it were proposed to him to give up all his goods and so go free, we should think a favor was conferred upon him; and shall we, who are being led on the way to the pit, shall we, when it is allowed us to give up half and be free, prefer to be punished,
and uselessly to retain what is not ours even to the losing what is so? What excuse shall we have, what claim for pardon, who, when so easy a road has been cut for us unto life, rush down precipices, and travel along an unprofitable path, depriving ourselves of all things both here and hereafter, when we might enjoy both in security? If then we did not so before, let us at least stop now; and coming to ourselves, let us rightly dispose of things present, that we may easily receive those
which are to come, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
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