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“For unto Angels He hath not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man that Thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that Thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the Angels.”
[1.] I could have wished to know for certain whether any hear with fitting earnestness the things that are said, whether we are not casting the seeds by the wayside: for in that case I should have made my instructions with more cheerfulness. For we shall speak, though no one hear, for the fear which is laid on us by our Saviour. For, saith He, testify to this people; even if they hear not, thou shalt thyself be guiltless. (See Ezek. iii. 19.) If however I had been persuaded of your earnestness, I should have spoken not for fear only, but should have done it with pleasure also. For now indeed, even if no man hear, even if my work, so long as I fulfill my own part, brings no danger, still the labor is not altogether pleasant. For what profit is it, when though I be not blamed, yet no one is benefited? But if any would give heed we shall receive advantage not so much from avoiding punishment ourselves as from your progress.
How then shall I know this? Having taken notice of some of you, who are not very attentive, I shall question them privately, when I meet them. And if I find that they retain any of the things that have been spoken (I say not all, for this would not be very easy for you), but even if [they retain] a few things out of many, it is plain I should have no further doubts about the rest. And indeed we ought, without giving notice beforehand, to have attacked you when off your guard. However it will suffice, if even in this way I should be able to attain my purpose. Nay rather, even as it is, I can attack you when you are off your guard. For that I shall question you, I have forewarned you; but when I shall question you I do not as yet make evident. For perhaps it may be to-day; perhaps to-morrow, perhaps after twenty or thirty days, perhaps after fewer, perhaps after more. Thus has God also made uncertain the day of our death. Nor hath He allowed it be clear to us, whether it shall befall us to-day, or to-morrow, or after a whole year, or after many years; that through the uncertainty of the expectation we may through all time keep ourselves firm in virtue. And that we shall indeed depart, He hath said,—but when, He hath not yet said. Thus too I have said that I shall question you, but I have not added when, wishing you always to be thoughtful.
And let no man say, I heard these things four or five weeks ago, or more, and I cannot retain them. For I wish the hearer so to retain them as to have his recollection perpetual and not apt to fade, nor yet that he should disown what is spoken. For I wish you to retain them, not, in order to tell them to me, but that ye may have profit; and this is of most serious interest to me. Let no one then say this.
[2.] However, I must now begin with what follows in the epistle. What then is set before us to speak on to-day?
Then he brings forward another testimony also and says, “but one in a certain place testified, saying.” Wherefore did he not mention the name of the prophet, but hid it? Yea, and in other testimonies also he doth this: as when he saith, “but when He bringeth in again the First-Begotten into the world, He saith, And let all the Angels of God worship Him. And again, I will be to Him a Father. And of the Angels He saith, Who maketh His angels
spirits. And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundations of the earth” (
Now although these things were spoken of human nature generally, they would nevertheless apply more properly to Christ according to the flesh. For this, “Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet,” belongs to Him rather than to us. For the Son of God visited us when we were nothing: and after having assumed our [nature],2784
“For,” he says, “in that He hath put all things in subjection under Him, He left nothing not put under Him: but now we see not yet all things put under Him.” What he means is this:—since he had said, “Until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool” ( c. i. 13 ),—and it was likely that they would still be grieved,—then having inserted a few things after this parenthetically, he added this testimony in confirmation of the former. For that they might not say, How is it that He hath put His enemies under His feet, when we have suffered so much? he sufficiently hinted at it in the former place indeed (for the word “until” showed, not what should take place immediately, but in course of time) but here he followeth it up. For do not suppose (he says) that because they have not yet been made subject, they are not to be made subject: for that they must be made subject, is evident; for, on this account was the prophecy spoken. “For,” he says, “in that He hath put all things under Him, He left nothing not put under Him.” How then is it that all things have not been put under Him? Because they are hereafter to be put under Him.
If then all things must be made subject to Him, but have not yet been made subject, do not grieve, nor trouble thyself. If indeed when the end were come, and all things were made subject, thou wert still suffering these things, with reason wouldst thou repine: “But now we see not yet all things put under Him.” The King has not yet clearly conquered. Why then art thou troubled when suffering affliction? the preaching [of the Gospel] hath not yet prevailed over all; it is not yet time that they should be altogether made subject.
[3.] Then again there is another consolation if indeed He who is hereafter to have all put in subjection under Him, hath Himself also died and submitted to sufferings innumerable. ( Ver. 9.) “But,” he says, “we see Him who was made a little2785
Again, he reminds them of the Cross, thereby effecting two things; both showing His care [for them] and persuading them to bear all things nobly, looking to the Master. For (he would say) if He who is worshiped of Angels, for thy sake endured to have a little less than the Angels, much more oughtest thou who art inferior to the Angels, to bear all things for His sake. Then he shows that the Cross is “glory and honor,” as He Himself also always calls it, saying, “That the Son of Man might be glorified” ( John xi. 5 ); and, “the Son of Man is glorified.” ( John xii. 23.) If then He calls the [sufferings] for His servants’ sake “glory,” much more shouldest thou the [sufferings] for the Lord.
Seest thou the fruit of the Cross, how great it is? fear not the matter: for it seemeth to thee indeed to be dismal, but it brings forth good things innumerable. From these considerations he shows the benefit of trial. Then he says, “That He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”
“That by the grace of God,” he says. And He indeed because of the grace of God towards us suffered these things. “He who spared not His Own Son,” he says, “but delivered Him up for us all.” ( Rom. viii. 32.) Why? He did not owe us this, but has done it of grace. And again in the Epistle to the Romans he says, “Much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace which is by one man Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.” ( Rom. v. 15.)
“That by the grace of God He should taste death for every man,” not for the faithful only, but even for the whole world: for He indeed died for all; But what if all have not believed? He hath fulfilled His own [part].
By saying then “for the suffering of death,” he signified real death, and by saying “superior to angels,” he declared the resurrection. For as a physician though not needing to taste the food prepared for the sick man, yet in his care for him tastes first himself, that he may persuade the sick man with confidence to venture on the food, so since all men were afraid of death, in persuading them to take courage against death, He tasted it also Himself though He needed not. “For,” He says, “the prince of this world cometh and findeth nothing in Me.” ( John xiv. 30.) So both the words “by grace” and “should taste death for every man,” establish this.
[4.] Ver. 10. “For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” He speaks here of the Father. Seest thou how again he applies the [expression] “by whom”2786
“The Captain of their salvation,” that is, the Cause of their salvation. Seest thou how great is the space between? Both He is a Son, and we are sons; but He saves, we are saved. Seest thou how He both brings us together and then separates us; “bringing,” he says, “many sons unto glory”: here he brings us together,—“the Captain of their salvation,” again he separates.
“To make perfect through sufferings.”2787
“For it became Him for whom are all things and by whom are all things in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” For (he means) it became Him who taketh tender care, and brought all things into being, to give up the Son for the salvation of the rest, the One for the many. However he did not express himself thus, but, “to make perfect through sufferings,” showing the suffering for any one, not merely profits “him,” but he himself also becomes more glorious and more perfect. And this too he says in reference to the faithful, comforting them by the way: for Christ was glorified then when He suffered. But when I say, He was glorified, do not suppose that there was an accession of glory to Him: for that which is of nature He always had, and received nothing in addition.
[5.] “For,” he says, “both He that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one, for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Behold again how he brings [them] together, honoring and comforting them, and making them brethren of Christ, in this respect that they are “of one.”2788
“For which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Seest thou how again he shows the superiority? For by saying, “He is not ashamed,” he shows that the whole comes not of the nature of the thing, but of the loving affection of Him who was “not ashamed” of anything, [yea] of His great humility. For though we be “of one,” yet He sanctifieth and we are sanctified: and great is the difference.2791
This indeed he brings forward naturally. But this ( ver. 13 ) “I will put my trust in Him” ( 2 Sam. xxii. 3 ), what does it mean? For what follows this is also [introduced] naturally. “Behold, I and the children which God hath given Me.” (
And again he indicates the superiority and the great interval [between us], by what follows ( ver. 14 ): “Since then the children,” he saith, “are partakers of flesh and blood” (thou seest where he saith the likeness is? in reference to the flesh), “in like manner He also Himself took part of the same.” Let all the Heretics be ashamed, let those hide their faces who say that He came in appearance and not in reality.2792
[6.] Next he sets down also the cause of the economy.2793
Here he points out the wonder, that by what the devil prevailed, by that was he overcome, and the very thing which was his strong weapon against the world, [namely], Death, by this Christ smote him. In this he exhibits the greatness of the conqueror’s power. Dost thou see how great good death hath wrought?
Ver. 15. “And should deliver them,” he says, “who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Why (he means) do ye shudder? Why do you fear him that hath been brought to nought? He is no longer terrible, but has been trodden under foot, hath been utterly despised; he is vile and of no account. ( 2 Tim. i. 10.)
But what is “through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage”? He either means this, that he who fears death is a slave, and submits to all things rather than die; or this, that all men were slaves of death and were held under his power, because he had not yet been done away; or that men lived in continual fear, ever expecting that they should die, and being afraid of death, could have no sense of pleasure, while this fear was present with them. For this he hinted at in saying, “All their life-time.” He here shows that the afflicted, the harassed, the persecuted, those that are deprived of country and of substance and of all other things, spend their lives more sweetly and more freely than they of old time who were in luxury, who suffered no such afflictions, who were in continual prosperity, if indeed these “all their life-time” were under this fear and were slaves; while the others have been made free and laugh at that which they shudder at. For this is now as if, when one was being led away to a captivity leading to death, and in continual expectation of it, one should feed him up with abundant dainties (something such as this was Death of old); but now, as if some one taking away that fear together with the dainties, were to promise a contest, and propose a combat that should lead no longer to death, but to a kingdom. Of which number wouldst thou have wished to be—those who are fed up in the prison-house, while every day looking for their sentence, or those who contend much and labor willingly, that they may crown themselves with the diadem of the kingdom? Seest thou how he has raised up their soul, and made them elated? He shows too, that not death alone has been put an end to, but that thereby he also who is ever showing that war without truce against us, I mean the devil, hath been brought to nought; since he that fears not death is out of reach of the devil’s tyranny. For if “skin for skin, yea all things a man would give for his life” ( Job ii. 4 )—when any one has determined to disregard even this, of what henceforward will he be the slave? He fears no one, he is in terror of no one, he is higher than all, and more free than all. For he that disregards his own life, much more [doth he disregard] all other things. And when the devil finds a soul such as this, he can accomplish in it none of his works. For what? tell me, shall he threaten the loss of property, and degradation, and banishment from one’s country? But these are small matters to him who “counteth not even his life dear” ( Acts xx. 24 ) unto him, according to the blessed Paul. Thou seest that in casting out the tyranny of death, he also overthrew the strength of the devil. For he who has learnt to study innumerable [truths] concerning the resurrection,2794
[7.] Therefore be ye not grieved, saying, why do we suffer such and such things? For so the victory becomes more glorious. And it would not have been glorious, unless by death He had destroyed death; but the most wonderful thing is that He conquered him by the very means by which he was strong, showing in every point the abundance of His means, and the excellence of His contrivances. Let us not then prove false to the gift bestowed on us. “For we,” he says, “have received not a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” ( Rom. viii. 15; 2 Tim. i. 7.) Let us stand then nobly, laughing death to scorn.
But [I pause] for it comes over me to groan bitterly [at the thought of] whither Christ hath raised us up, and whither we have brought ourselves down. For when I see the wailings in the public places, the groanings over those departing life, the howlings, the other unseemly behavior, believe me, I am ashamed before those heathen, and Jews, and heretics who see it, and before all who for this cause openly laugh us to scorn. For whatever I may afterwards say, I shall talk to no purpose, when philosophizing concerning the resurrection. Why? Because the heathen do not attend to what is said by me, but to what is done by you. For they will say at once, ‘when will any of these [fellows] be able to despise death, when he is not able to see another dead?’
Beautiful things were spoken by Paul, beautiful and worthy of Heaven, and of the love of God to man. For what does he say? “And He shall deliver them who through fear of death, were all their life-time subject to bondage.” But ye do not allow these things to be believed, fighting against them by your deeds. And yet many things exist for this very end, God building a stronghold against it, that He might destroy this same evil custom. For tell me, what mean the bright torches? Do we not send them before as athletes? And what [mean] the hymns? Do we not glorify God, and give thanks that at last He has crowned the departed one, that He has freed him from his labors, that taking away uncertainty, He has him with Himself? Are not the Hymns for this? Is not Psalmody for this? All these are the acts of those rejoicing. “For,” it is said, “is any merry? let him sing psalms.” ( Jas. v. 13.) But to these things the heathen give no heed. For (one will say) do not tell me of him who is philosophical2795
‘But I do not disbelieve the resurrection’ (one says) ‘but I long after his society.’ Why then, tell me, when he goes from home, and that for a long absence, dost not thou do the same? ‘Yea, but I do weep then also’ (she says) ‘and mourn as I long after him.’ But that is the conduct of those that really long after their associates, this that of her who despairs of his return.
Think, what thou singest on that occasion, “Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.” ( Ps. cxvi. 7.) And again, “I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” ( Ps. xxiii. 4.) And again, “Thou art my refuge from the affliction which encompasseth me.” ( Ps. xxxii. 7.) Think what these Psalms mean. But thou dost not give heed, but art drunk from grief.
Consider carefully the funeral lamentations of others that thou mayest have a remedy in thine own case. “Return, O my soul, to thy rest, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.” Tell me, sayest thou that the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee, and weepest? Is not this mere acting, is it not hypocrisy? For if indeed thou really believest the things thou sayest, thy sorrow is superfluous: but if thou art in sport and acting a part, and thinkest these things fables, why dost thou sing psalms? Why dost thou even endure the attendants? Why dost thou not drive away the singers? But this would be the act of madmen. And yet far more the other.
For the present, then, I advise you: but as time goes on, I shall treat the matter more seriously: for indeed I am greatly afraid that by this practice some grievous disease may make its way into the Church. The case of the wailings then we will hereafter correct. And meanwhile I charge and testify, both to rich and poor, both to women and men.
May God indeed grant that you all depart out of life unwailed, and according to the fitting rule fathers now grown old may be attended to their graves by sons, and mothers by daughters, and grand-children, and great grand-children, in a green old age, and that untimely death may in no case occur. May this then be, and this I pray, and I exhort the prelates and all of you to beseech God for each other, and to make this prayer in common. But if (which God forbid, and may it never happen) any bitter death should occur, bitter, I mean, not in its nature (for henceforth there is no bitter death, for it differs not at all from sleep), but bitter in regard of your disposition, if it should happen, and any should hire these mourning women, believe me when I say (I speak not without meaning2798
For, tell me, for what cause dost thou invite presbyters, and the singers? Is it not to afford consolation? Is it not to honor the departed? Why then dost thou insult him? And why dost thou make him a public show? And why dost thou make game as on a stage? We come, discoursing of the things concerning the resurrection, instructing all, even those who have not yet been smitten, by the honor shown to him, to bear it nobly if any such thing should happen and dost thou bring those who overthrow our [teachings] as much as in them lieth? What can be worse than this ridicule and mockery? What more grievous than this inconsistency?
[8.] Be ashamed and show reverence: but if ye will not, we cannot endure the bringing in upon the Church of practices so destructive. For, it is said, “them that sin rebuke before all.” ( 1 Tim. v. 20.) And as to those miserable and wretched women, we through you forbid them2799
Now if any man is obstinate and contemptuous, let him hear Christ saying even now, “If any one trespass against thee, go, tell him his fault between thee and him alone”; but if he will not be persuaded, “take with thee one or two.” But if even so he contradict, “tell it to the Church, but if he shall also refuse to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.” ( Matt. xviii. 15, 16, 17.) Now if when a man trespasses against me, and will not be persuaded, [the Lord] commands me thus to turn away from him, judge ye in what light I ought to hold him who trespasses against himself, and against God. For do not you yourselves condemn us when we come down so gently upon you?
If however any man disregard the bonds which we inflict, again let Christ instruct him, saying, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” ( Matt. xviii. 18.) For though we ourselves be miserable and good for nothing and worthy to be despised, as indeed we are; yet are we not avenging ourselves nor warding off anger, but are caring for your salvation.
Be influenced by reverence, I beseech you, and respect. For if a man bear with a friend when he attacks him more vehemently than he ought, ascertaining his object, and that he does it with kind intention, and not out of insolence; much more [should he bear with] a teacher when rebuking him, and a teacher who does not himself say these things as of authority, nor as one in the position of a ruler, but in that of a kindly guardian. For we do not say these things as wishing to exhibit our authority, (for how could we, praying that we may never come to the trial of them?) but grieving and lamenting for you.
Forgive me then, and let no man disregard the bonds of the Church. For it is not man who binds, but Christ who has given unto us this authority, and makes men lords of this so great dignity. For we indeed wish to use this power for loosing; or rather, we wish to have no need even of that, for we wish that there should not be any bound among us—we are not so miserable and wretched [as that] even though some of us are extreme good-for-nothings. If however we be compelled [so to act], forgive us. For it is not of our own accord, nor wishing it, but rather out of sorrow for you that are bound that we put the chains around you. But if any man despise these chains, the time of judgment will come, which shall teach him. And what comes after I do not wish to speak of, lest I should wound your minds. For in the first place indeed we do not wish to be brought into this necessity; but if we are so brought, we fulfill our own part, we cast around the chains. And if any man burst through them, I have done my part, and am henceforth free from blame, and thou wilt have to give account to Him who commanded me to bind.
For neither, when a king is sitting in public, if any of the guard who stand beside him be commanded to bind one of the attendants, and to put the chains around [him], and he should not only thrust this man away, but also break the bonds in pieces, is it the guard who suffers the insult, and not much more the King who gave the order. For if He claim as His own, the things which are done to the faithful, much more will He feel as if Himself insulted when he is insulted who has been appointed to teach.
But God grant that none of those who are over this Church should be driven to the necessity of [inflicting] these bonds. For as it is a good thing not to sin, so is it profitable to endure reproof. Let us then endure the rebuke, and earnestly endeavor not to sin; and if we should sin let us bear the rebuke. For as it is an excellent thing not to be wounded, but, if this should happen, to apply the remedy to the wound, so also in this case.
But God forbid that any man should need such remedies as these. “But we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.” ( c. vi. 9.) But we have discoursed more vehemently for the sake of greater security. For it is better that I should be suspected by you of being a harsh, and severe, and self-willed person, than that you should do things not approved of God. But we trust in God, that this reproof will not be unserviceable to you, but that ye will be so changed, that these discourses may be devoted to encomiums on you and to praises: that we may all be counted worthy to attain to those good things, which God hath promised to them that love Him in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost be glory, might, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.