SERMONS ON SELECTED LESSONS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

SERMON XIV.

ON THE WORDS OF THE GOSPEL, MATT. X. 16, "BEHOLD, I SEND YOU FORTH AS SHEEP IN THE MIDST OF WOLVES," ETC.

Delivered on a Festival of Martyrs.

1. When the Holy Gospel was read, Brethren, ye heard how our Lord Jesus Christ strengthened His Martyrs by His teaching, saying, "Behold, I send you forth as lambs in the midst of wolves."(7) Now consider, my Brethren, what he does. If but one wolf come among many sheep, be they ever so many thousands, they will all be put to confusion by one wolf in the midst of them: and though all may not be torn, yet all are frightened. What manner of design is this then, what manner of counsel, what manner of power, not to let in a wolf amongst the sheep, but to send the sheep against the wolves! "I send you," saith He, "as sheep in the midst of wolves;" not to the neighbourhood of wolves, but "in the midst of wolves." There was then at that time a herd of wolves, and but few sheep. For when the many wolves killed the few sheep, the wolves were changed and became sheep.

2. Let us hear then what advice He hath given, who hath promised the crown, but hath first appointed the combat; who is a spectator of the combatants, and assisteth them in their toil. What manner of conflict hath He prescribed? "Be ye," saith He, "wise as serpents, and simple as doves."(7) Whoso understandeth, and holdeth to this, may die in assurance(8) that he will not really die. For no one ought to die in this assurance, but he who knows that he shall in such sort die, as that death only shall die in him, and life be crowned.

3. Wherefore, Beloved, I must explain to you, though I have often spoken already on this subject, what it is to be "simple as doves, and wise as serpents." Now if the simplicity of doves be enjoined us, what hath the wisdom of the serpent to do in the simplicity of the dove? This in the dove I love, that she has no gall; this I fear in the serpent, that he has poison. But now do not fear the serpent altogether; something he has for thee to hate, and something for thee to imitate. For when the serpent is weighed down with age, and he feels the burden of his many years, he contracts and forces himself into a hole, and lays aside his old coat(9) of skin, that he may spring forth into new life. Imitate him in this, thou Christian, who dost hear Christ saying, "Enter ye in at the strait gate."(10) And the Apostle Paul saith to thee, "Put ye off the old man with his deeds, and put ye on the new man."(11) Thou hast then something to imitate in the serpent. Die not for the "old man," but for the truth. Whoso dies for any temporal good dies "for the old man." But when thou hast stripped thyself of all "that old man," thou hast imitated the wisdom of the serpent. Imitate him in this again; "keep thy head safe." And what does this mean, keep thy head safe? Keep Christ with thee. Have not some of you, it may be, observed, on occasions when you have wished to kill an adder, how to save his head, he will expose his whole body to the strokes of his assailant? He would not that that part of him should be struck, where he knows that his life resides. And our Life is Christ, for He hath said Himself, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life."(1) Here the Apostle also; "The Head of the man is Christ."(2) Whoso then keepeth Christ in him, keepeth his head for his protection.

4. Now what need is there to commend to you in many words the simplicity of the dove? For the serpent's poison had need to be guarded against: there, there was a danger in imitation; there, there was something to be feared; but the dove may you imitate securely. Mark how the doves rejoice in society; everywhere do they fly and feed together; they do not love to be alone, they delight in communion, they preserve affection; their cooings are the plaintive cries(3) of love, with kissings they beget their young. Yea even when doves, as we have often noticed, dispute about their holes, it is as it were but a peaceful strife. Do they separate, because of their contentions? Nay, still do they fly and feed together, and their very strife is peaceful. See this strife of doves, in what the Apostle saith, "If any man obey not our word by this epistle, mark that man, and have no company with him." Behold the strife; but observe now how it is the strife of doves, not of wolves. He subjoined immediately, "Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother."(4) The dove loves even when she is in strife; and the wolf even when he caresses, hates. Therefore having the simplicity of doves, and the wisdom of serpents, celebrate the solemnities of the Martyrs in sobriety of mind,s not(6) in bodily excess, sing lauds to God. For He who is the Martyrs' God, is our Lord God also, He it is who will crown us. If we shall have wrestled well, we shall be crowned by Him, who hath crowned already those whom we desire to imitate.

SERMON XV.

[LXV. BEN.]

ON THE WORDS OF THE GOSPEL, MATT. X. 28, "BE NOT AFRAID OF THEM THAT KILL THE BODY."

Delivered on a Festival of Martyrs.

1. The Divine oracles which have just been read teach us in fearing not to fear, and in not fearing to fear. Ye observed when the Holy Gospel was being read, that our Lord God before He died for us, would have us to be firm; and this by admonishing us "not" to fear, and withal to fear. For he said, "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul." See where He advised us not to fear. See now where He advised us to fear. "But," saith he, "fear Him who hath power to destroy both body and soul in hell."(7) Let us fear therefore, that we may not fear. Fear seems to be allied to cowardice: seems to be the character of the weak, not the strong. But see what saith the Scripture, "The fear of the Lord is the hope of strength."(8) Let us then fear, that we may not fear; that is, let us fear prudently, that we may not fear vainly. The holy Martyrs on the occasion of whose solemnity this lesson was read out of the Gospel, in fearing, feared not; because in fearing God, they did not regard men.

2. For what need a man fear from man? And what is that whereby one man should cause another fear, since both of them are men? One threatens and says, "I will kill thee;" and does not fear, lest after his threat he die before he have fulfilled it. "I will kill thee," he says. Who says it, and to whom? I hear two men, the one threatening, and the other alarmed: of whom the one is powerful, and the other weak, yet both are mortal. Why then does he so stretch out himself, he, in honour, a somewhat more inflated power, in body, equal weakness? Let him securely threaten death who does not fear death. But if he fear that whereby he causes fear; let him think of himself, and compare himself with him whom he is threatening. Let him see in him whom he threateneth a likeness of condition, and so together with him let him seek like pity from the Lord. For he is but a man, and he threatens another man, a creature, another creature; only the one puffed up under his Creator's eye, and the other fleeing for refuge

to the same Creator.

3. Let the stout Martyr then, as he stands a man before another man, say; "I do not fear, because I fear." Thou canst not do what thou art threatening, unless He will; but what He threateneth, none can hinder Him from doing. And then again, what dost thou threaten, and what canst thou do, if thou art permitted? 'Thy violence extends but to the flesh, the soul is safe from thee. Thou canst not kill what thou dost not see: visible thyself, thou threatenest that which is visible in me. But we have both an invisible Creator, whom we ought both to fear; who of that which was both visible and invisible created man. He made Him visible out of the earth, and with His Breath He breathed into Him an invisible Spirit. Therefore the invisible substance, that is, the soul, which has raised from the earth the earth as it lay, does not fear, when thou assaultest the earth. Thou canst strike the habitation, but canst thou strike him who dwells there? When the chain is broken, he escapes who before was bound, and he will now be crowned in secret. Why then dost thou threaten me, who canst do nothing to my soul? Through the desert of that to which thou canst do nothing, will that to which thy power extends rise again. For through the soul's desert, will the flesh also rise again; and will be restored to its inhabitant, now no more to fail, but to endure for ever. Behold (I am using the words of a Martyr), behold, I say, not even on account of my body do I fear thy threats. My body indeed is subject to thy power; but even the hairs of my head are numbered by my Creator. Why should I fear lest I lose my body, who cannot even lose a hair? How shall he not have a care of my body, to whom my meanest things are so well known? This body which may be wounded and slain will for a time be ashes, but it will be for ever immortal. But to whom shall this be? To whom shall the body be restored for life eternal, even though it have been slain, destroyed, and scattered to the winds? to whom shall it be so restored? To him who has not been afraid to lay down his own life, since he does not fear, lest his body should be slain.

4. For, Brethren, the soul is said to be immortal, and immortal it is according to a certain manner of its own: for it is a kind of life which is able to give life to the body by its presence. For by the soul doth the body live. This life cannot die, and therefore is the soul immortal. Why then said I according to a certain manner of its own? Hear why. Because there is a true immortality, an immortality which is an on-tire unchangeableness; of which the Apostle saith, speaking of God, "Who only hath immortality, dwelling in that light which no man may approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see, to whom be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen."(1) If then God only hath immortality, the soul must needs be mortal. See then why it was that I said that the soul is immortal after a certain manner of its own. For in fact it may also die. Understand this, Beloved, and there will remain no difficulty. I venture to say then that the soul can die, can be slain also. Yet it is undoubtedly immortal. See, I venture to say, it is at once immortal, and it may be slain; and therefore I said that there is a kind of immortality, an entire unchangeableness, that is, which God Only hath, of whom it is said, "Who Only hath immortality;" for if the soul cannot be slain, how did the Lord Himself say, when He would make us fear, "Fear Him who hath power to slay both body and soul in hell"?

5. Hitherto I have confirmed, not solved, the difficulty. I have proved that the soul can be slain. The Gospel cannot he gainsaid but by the ungodly soul. Lo, something occurs to me here, and comes into my mind to speak. Life cannot be gainsaid, but by a dead soul. The Gospel is life, impiety and infidelity are the death of the soul. See then, it can die, and yet it is immortal. How then is it immortal? Because there is always a sort of life which is never extinguished in it. And how does it die? Not in ceasing to be life, but by losing its life. For the soul is both life to something else, and it has its own proper life. Consider the order of the creatures. The soul is the life of the body: God is the life of the soul. As the life, that is the soul, is present with the body, that the body die not; so ought the life of the soul, that is God, to be with it that the soul die not. How does the body die? By the soul's leaving it. I say, by the soul's leaving it the body dies; and it lies along a mere carcass, what was a little before a desirable, now a contemptible, object. There are in it still its several members, the eyes, and ears; but these are but the windows of the house, its inhabitant is gone. They who bewail the dead, cry in vain at the windows of the house; there is none within to hear. How many things does the fond affection of the mourner give utterance to, how many enumerate and call to mind; and with what a madness of sorrow, so to say, does he speak, as with one who was sensible of what was doing, when he is really speaking with one who is no longer there? He recounts his good qualities, and the tokens of his goodness towards himself. It was thou that didst give me this; and did his and that for me; it was thou who didst thus and thus dearly love me. But if thou wouldest only consider and understand, and restrain the madness of thy grief, he who once loved thee, is gone; in vain does the house receive thy knockings, in which thou canst not find a dweller.

6. Let us return to the subject I was speaking of a little while since. The body is dead. Why? Because its life, that is the soul, is gone• Again, the body is alive, and the man is impious, unbelieving, hard of belief, incorrigible; in this case whilst the body is alive, the soul by which the body lives is dead. For the soul is so excellent a thing, that it has power even though dead to give life to the body. So excellent a thing, I say, is the soul, so excellent a creature, that even though dead itself, it has power to quicken the body. For the soul of the impious, unbelieving, unregulated man is dead, and yet by it though dead the body lives. And therefore is it in the body; it sets on the hands to work, and the feet to walk; it directs the eye to see, it disposes the ears to hear, it discriminates tastes, avoids pains, seeks after pleasures. All these are tokens of the life of the body; but they are from the presence of the soul. If I were to ask a body whether it were alive; it would answer me, You see me walking, you see me working, you hear me talking, you perceive that I have certain aims and aversions, and do you not understand that the body is alive? By these works then of the soul which is placed within, I understand that the body is alive. I ask the soul also whether it is alive? It also has its proper works, by which it manifests its life. The feet walk. I understand by this that the body lives, but by the presence of the soul. I ask now, does the soul live? These feet walk. (To speak only of this one movement.) I am questioning both body and soul, as touching their life. The feet walk, I understand that the body lives. But whither do they walk? To adultery, it is said. Then is the soul dead. For so hath unerring Scripture said, "The widow who liveth in pleasure is dead."(1) Now since the difference is great between "pleasure" and adultery, how can the soul which is said to be dead in pleasure, live in adultery? It is surely dead. But it is dead even though it be not in this case. I hear a man speaking; the body then lives. For the tongue could not move itself in the mouth, and by its several motions give utterance to articulate sounds, were there not an inhabitant within; and a musician as it were to this instrument, to make use of his tongue. I understand it perfectly. Thus the body speaks; the body then lives. But I ask, is the soul alive also? Lo, the body speaks, and so is alive. But what does it speak? As I said concerning the feet; they walk, and so the body is alive, and I then asked, whither do they walk? that I might understand whether the soul was alive also. So also when I hear a man speak, I understand that the body is alive; I ask what does he speak, that I may know whether the soul is alive also. He speaks a lie. If so, then is the soul dead. How do we prove this? Let us ask the truth itself, which saith, "The mouth that lieth, slayeth the soul."(2) I ask, why is the soul dead? I ask as I did just now, why is the body dead? Because the soul, its life, was gone. Why is the soul dead? Be cause God, its life, hath forsaken it.

7. After this brief examination then, know and hold for certain that the body is dead without the soul, and that the soul is dead without God. Every man without God hath a dead t soul. Thou dost bewail the dead: bewail the sinner rather, bewail rather the ungodly man, bewail the unbeliever. It is written, "The mourning for the dead is seven days; for a fool and an ungodly man all the days of his life."(3) What! are there no bowels of Christian compassion in thee; that thou mournest for a body from which the soul is gone, and mournest not for the soul, from which God is departed? Let the Martyr remembering this make answer to him that threatens him, "Why dost thou force me to deny Christ?" Wouldest thou then force me to deny the truth? And if I will not, what wilt thou do? Thou wilt assault my body, that my soul shall depart from it; but this same soul of mine has its body only for the soul's sake. It is not so foolish or unwise. Thou wouldest wound my body; but wouldest thou, that through fear lest thou shouldest wound my body, and my, soul should depart from it, I should wound mine own soul, and my God should depart from it? Fear not then, O Martyr, the sword of thy executioner; fear only thine own tongue, lest thou do execution upon thine own self, and slay, not thy body, but thy soul. Fear for thy soul, lest it die in hell-fire.

8. Therefore said the Lord, "Who hath power to slay both body and soul in hell-fire." How? when the ungodly shall be cast into hell-fire, will his body and his soul burn there? Everlasting punishment will be the death of the body; the absence of God will be the death of the soul. Wouldest thou know what the death of the soul is? Understand the Prophet who saith, "Let the ungodly be taken away, that he may not see the glory of the Lord." (4) Let the soul then fear its proper death, and not fear the death of its body. Because if it fear its own death, and so live in its God, by not offending and thrusting Him away from him, it will be found worthy s to receive its body again at the end; not unto everlasting punishment, as the ungodly, but unto life eternal, as the righteous. By fearing this death, and loving that life, did the Martyrs, in hope of the promises of God, and in contempt of the threats of persecutors, attain(6) themselves to be crowned with God, and have left to us the celebration of these solemnities.

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