JOHN ii. 4.

"Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come."

[1.] IN preaching the word there is some toil, and this Paul declares when he says, "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine." (1 Tim: v. 17.) Yet it is in your power to make this labor light or heavy; for if you reject our words, or if without actually rejecting them you do not show them forth in your works, our toil will be heavy, because we labor uselessly and in vain: while if ye heed them and give proof of it by your works, we shall not even feel the toil, because the fruit produced by our labor will not suffer the greatness of that labor to appear. So that if you would rouse our zeal, and not quench or weaken it, show us, I beseech you, your fruit, that we may behold the fields waving(1) with corn, and being supported by hopes of an abundant crop, and reckoning up your(2) riches, may not be slothful(3) in carrying on this good traffic.

It is no slight question which is proposed to us also to-day. For first, when the mother of Jesus says, "They have no wine," Christ replies, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine, hour is not yet come." And then, having thus spoken, He did as His mother had said; an action which needs enquiry no less than the words. Let us then, after calling upon Him who wrought the miracle, proceed to the explanation.

The words are not used in this place only, but in others also; for the same Evangelist says, "They could not lay hands on Him,(4) because His hour was not yet come" (c. viii. 20); and again, "No man laid hands on Him, because His hour was not yet come" (c. vii. 30); and again, "The hour is come, glorify Thy Son." (c. xvii. 1.) What then do the words mean? I have brought together more instances, that I may give one explanation of all. And what is that explanation? Christ did not say, "Mine hour is not yet come," as being subject to the necessity of seasons, or the observance of an "hour"; how can He be so, who is Maker of seasons, and Creator of the times and the ages? To what else then did He allude? He desires to show(5) this; that He works all things at their convenient season, not doing all at once; because a kind of confusion and disorder would have ensued, if, instead of working all at their proper seasons, He had mixed all together, His Birth, His Resurrection, and His coming to Judgment. Observe this; creation was to be, yet not all at once; man and woman were to be created, yet not even these together; mankind were to be condemned to death, and there was to be a resurrection, yet the interval between the two was to be great; the law was to be given, but not grace with it, each was to be dispensed at its proper time. Now Christ was not subject to the necessity of seasons, but rather settled their order, since He is their Creator; and therefore He saith in this place, "Mine hour is not yet come." And His meaning is, that as yet He was not manifest(6) to the many, nor had He even His whole company of disciples; Andrew followed Him, and next to(7) him Philip, but no one else. And moreover, none of these, not even His mother nor His brethren, knew Him as they ought; for after His many miracles, the Evangelist says of His brethren, "For neither did His brethren believe in Him." (c. vii. 5.) And those at the wedding did not know Him either, for in their need they would certainly have come to and entreated Him. Therefore He saith, "Mine hour is not yet come"; that is, "I am not yet known to the company, nor are they even aware that the wine has failed; let them first be sensible of this. I ought not to have been told it from thee; thou art My mother, and renderest the miracle suspicious. They who wanted the wine should have come and besought Me, not that I need this, but that they might with an entire assent accept the miracle. For one who knows that he is in need, is very grateful when he obtains assistance; but one who has not a sense of his need, will never have a plain and clear sense of the benefit."

Why then after He had said, "Mine hour is not yet come," and given her a denial, did He what His mother desired? Chiefly it was, that they who opposed Him, and thought that He was subject to the "hour," might have sufficient proof that He was subject to no hour; for had He been so, how could He, before the proper "hour" was come, have done what He did? And in the next place, He did it to honor His mother, that He might not seem entirely to contradict and shame her that bare Him in the presence of so many; and also, that He might not be thought to want power,(1) for she brought the servants to Him.

Besides, even while saying to the Canaanitish woman, "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to give(2) it unto dogs" (Matt. xv. 26), He still gave the bread, as considering her perseverance; and though after his first reply, He said, "I am not sent save unto the lost sheep of the house of lsrael," yet even after saying this, He healed the woman's daughter. Hence we learn, that although we be unworthy, we often by perseverance make ourselves worthy to receive. And for this reason His mother remained by, and openly(3) brought to Him the servants, that the request might be made by a greater number; and therefore she added,

Ver. 5. "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it."

For she knew that His refusal proceeded not from want of power, but from humility, and that He might not seem without cause(4) to hurry to(5) the miracle; and therefore she brought the servants.(6)

Ver. 6, 7. "And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus said unto them, Fill the waterpots with water; and they filled them up to the brim."

It is not without a reason that the Evangelist says, "After the manner of the purifying of the Jews," but in order that none of the unbelievers might suspect that lees having been left in the vessels, and water having been poured upon and mixed with them, a very weak wine had been made. Therefore he says, "after the manner of the purifying of the Jews," to show that those vessels were never receptacles for wine. For because Palestine is a country with but little water, and brooks and fountains were not everywhere to be found, they always used to fill waterpots with water, so that they might not have to hasten to the rivers if at any time they were filed, but might have the means of purification at hand.

"And why was it, that He did not the miracle before they filled them, which would have been more marvelous by far? for it is one thing to change given matter to a different quality, and another to create matter out of nothing." The latter would indeed have been more wonderful, but would not have seemed so credible to the many. And therefore He often purposely lessens(7) the greatness of His miracles, that it may be the more readily received.

"But why," says one, "did not He Himself produce the water which He afterwards showed to be wine, instead of bidding the servants bring it?" For the very same reason; and also, that He might have those who drew it out to witness that what had been effected was no delusion since if any had been inclined to be shameless, those who ministered might have said to them, "We drew the water, we filled the vessels." And besides what we have mentioned, He thus overthrows those doctrines which spring up against the Church. For since there are some who say that the Creator of the world is another, and that the things which are seen are not His works, but those of a certain other opposing god, to curb these men's madness He doth most of His miracles on matter found at hand.(8) Because, had the creator of these been opposed to Him, He would not have used what was another's to set forth His own power. But now to show that it is He who transmutes water in the vine plants, and who converts the rain by its passage through the root into wine, He effected that in a moment at the wedding which in the plant is long in doing.When they had filled the waterpots, He said,

Ver. 8-10. "Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast; and they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was, (but the servants which drew the water knew,) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, and saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worst; but thou hast kept the good wine until now."

Here again some mock,(9) saying, "this was an assembly of drunken men, the sense of the judges was spoilt, and not able to taste(10) what was made, or to decide on what was done, so that they did not know whether what was made was water or wine: for that they were drunk," it is alleged, "the ruler himself has shown by what he said." Now this is most ridiculous, yet even this suspicion the Evangelist has removed. For he does not say that the guests gave their opinion on the matter, but "the ruler of the feast," who was sober, and had not as yet tasted anything. For of course you are aware, that those who are entrusted with the management(1) of such banquets are the most sober, as having this one business, to dispose all things in order and regularity; and therefore the Lord called such a man's sober senses to testify to what was done. For He did not say, "Pour forth to them that sit at meat," but, "Bear unto the governor of the feast."

"And when the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was, (but the servants knew,) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom." "And why did he not call the servants? for so the miracle would have been revealed." Because Jesus had not Himself revealed what had been done, but desired that the power of His miracles should be known gently, little by little. And suppose that it had then been mentioned,(2) the servants who related it would never have been believed, but would have been thought mad to bear such testimony to one who at that time seemed to the many a mere man; and although they knew the certainty of the thing by experience, (for they were not likely to disbelieve their own hands,) yet they were not sufficient to convince others. And so He did not reveal it to all, but to him who was best able to understand what was done, reserving the clearer knowledge of it for a future time; since after the manifestation of other miracles this also would be credible. Thus when he was about to heal the nobleman's son, the Evangelist has shown that it had already become more clearly known; for it was chiefly because the nobleman had become acquainted with the miracle that he called upon Him, as John incidentally shows when he says, "Jesus came into Cana of Galilee, where He made the water wine." (c. iv. 46.) And not wine simply, but the best.

[3.] For such are the miraculous works of Christ, they are far more perfect and better than the operations of nature. This is seen also in other instances; when He restored any infirm member of the body, He made(3) it better than the sound.

That it was wine then, and the best of wine, that had been made, not the servants only, but the bridegroom and the ruler of the feast would testify; and that it was made by Christ, those who drew the water; so that although the miracle were not then revealed, yet it could not in the end be passed in silence, so many and constraining testimonies had He provided for the future. That He had made the water wine, He had the servants for witnesses; that the wine was good that had been made, the ruler of the feast and the bridegroom.

It might be expected that the bridegroom would reply to this, (the ruler's speech,) and say something, but the Evangelist, hastening to more pressing matters, has only touched upon this miracle, and passed on. For what we needed to learn was, that Christ made the water wine, and that good wine; but what the bridegroom said to the governor he did not think it necessary to add. And many miracles, at first somewhat obscure, have in process of time become more plain, when reported more exactly by those who knew them from the beginning.

At that time, then, Jesus made of water wine, and both then and now He ceases not to change our weak and unstable(4) wills. For there are, yes, there are men who in nothing differ from water, so cold, and weak, and unsettled. But let us bring those of such disposition to the Lord, that He may change their will to the quality of wine, so that they be no longer washy,(5) but have body,(6) and be the cause of gladness in themselves and others. But who can these cold ones be? They are those who give their minds to the fleeting things of this present life, who despise not this world's luxury, who are lovers of glory and dominion: for all these things are flowing waters, never stable, but ever rushing violently down the steep. The rich to-day is poor tomorrow, he who one day appears with herald, and girdle, and chariot, and numerous attendants, is often on the next the inhabitant of a dungeon, having unwillingly quitted all that show to make room for another. Again, the gluttonous and dissipated(7) man, when he has filled himself to bursting,(8) cannot retain even for a single day the supply(9) conveyed by his delicacies, but when that is dispersed, in order to renew it he is obliged to put in more, differing in nothing from a torrent. For as in the torrent when the first body of water is gone, others in turn succeed; so in gluttony, when one repast is removed, we again require another. And such is the nature and the lot of earthly things, never to be stable, but to be always pouring and hurrying by; but in the case of luxury, it is not merely the flowing and hastening by; but many other things that trouble us. By the violence of its course it wears away(10) the strength of the body, and strips the soul of its manliness, and the strongest currents of rivers do not so easily eat away their banks and make them sink down, as do luxury and wantonness sweep away all the bulwarks of our health; and if you enter a physician's house and ask him, you will find that almost all the causes of diseases arise from this. For frugality and a plain(1) table is the mother of health, and therefore physicians(2) have thus named it; for they have called the not being satisfied "health," (because not to be satisfied with food is health,) and they have spoken of sparing diet as the "mother of health." Now if the condition of wants is the mother of health, it is clear that fullness is the mother of sickness and debility, and produces attacks which are beyond the skill even of physicians. For gout in the feet, apoplexy, dimness of sight, pains in the hands, tremors, paralytic attacks, jaundice, lingering and inflammatory fevers, and other diseases many more than these, (for we have not time to go over them all,) are the natural offspring, not of abstinence and moderate(4) diet, but of gluttony and repletion. And if you will look to the diseases of the soul that arise from them, you will see that feelings of coveting, sloth, melancholy, dullness, impurity, and folly of all kinds, have their origin here. For after such banquets the souls of the luxurious become no better than asses, being torn to pieces by such wild beasts as these (passions). Shall I say also how many pains and displeasures they have who wait upon luxury? I could not enumerate them all, but by a single principal point I will make the whole clear. At a table such as I speak of, that is, a sumptuous one, men never eat with pleasure; for abstinence is the mother of pleasure as well as health, while repletion is the source and root not only of diseases, but of displeasure. For where there is satiety there desire cannot be, and where there is no desire, how can there be pleasure? And therefore we should find that the poor are not only of better understanding and healthier than the rich, but also that they enjoy a greater degree of pleasure. Let us, when we reflect on this, flee drunkenness and luxury, not that of the table alone, but all other which is found in the things of this life, and let us take in exchange for it the pleasure arising from spiritual things, and, as the Prophet says, delight ourselves in the Lord; "Delight thyself in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart" (Ps. xxxvii. 4); that so that we may enjoy the good things both here and hereafter, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory, world without end. Amen.


JOHN ii. 11.

"This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee."

[1.] FREQUENT and fierce is the devil in his attacks, on all sides besieging our salvation; we therefore must watch and be sober, and everywhere fortify ourselves against his assault, for if he but gain some slight vantage ground,(5) he goes on to make for himself a broad passage, and by degrees introduces all his forces. If then we have any care at all for our salvation, let us not allow him to make his approaches even in trifles, that thus we may check him beforehand in important matters; for it would be the extreme of folly, if, while he displays such eagerness to destroy our souls, we should not bring even an equal amount in defense of our own salvation.

I say not this without a cause, but because I fear lest that wolf be even now standing unseen by us in the midst of the fold,(6) and some sheep become a prey to him, being led astray from the flock and from hearkening by its own carelessness and his craft. Were the wounds(7) sensible, or did the body receive the blows, there would be no difficulty in discerning his plots; but since the soul is invisible, and since that it is which receives the wounds, we need great watchfulness that each may prove himself; for none knoweth the things of a man as the spirit of a man that is in him. (1 Cor. ii. 11.) The word is spoken indeed to all, and is offered as a general remedy to those who need it, but it is the business of every individual hearer to take what is suited to his complaint. I know not who are sick, I know not who are well. And therefore I use every sort of argument, and introduce remedies suited to all maladies,(8) at one time condemning covetousness, after that touching on luxury, and again on impurity, then composing something in praise of and exhortation to charity, and each of the other virtues in their turn. For I fear lest when my arguments are employed on any one subject, I may without knowing it be treating you for one disease while you are ill of others. So that if this congregation were but one person, I should not have judged it so absolutely necessary to make my discourse varied; but since in such a multitude there are probably also many maladies, I not unreasonably diversify my teaching, since my discourse will be sure to attain its object when it is made to embrace you all. For this cause also Scripture is something multiform,(1) and speaks on ten thousand matters, because it addresses itself to the nature of mankind in common, and in such a multitude all the passions of the soul must needs be; though all be not in each. Let us then cleanse ourselves of these, and so listen to the divine oracles, and with contrite heart(2) hear what has been this day read to us.

And what is that? "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee." I told you the other day, that there are some who say that this is not the beginning. "For what," says one, "if 'Cana of Galilee' be added? This shows that this was 'the beginning' He made 'in Cana.' "(3) But on these points I would not venture to assert anything exactly. I before have shown that He began His miracles after His Baptism, and wrought no miracle before it i but whether of the miracles done after His Baptism, this or some other was the first, it seems to me unnecessary to assert positively.

"And manifested forth His glory."

"How?" asks one, "and in what way? For only the servants, the ruler of the feast, and the bridegroom, not the greater number of those present, gave heed to what was done." How then did he "manifest forth His glory"? He manifested it at least for His own part, and if all present hear not of the miracle at the time, they would hear of it afterwards, for unto the present time it is celebrated, and has not been unnoticed. That all did not know it on the same day is clear from what follows, for after having said that He "manifested forth His glory," the Evangelist adds,

"And His disciples believed on Him."

His disciples, who even before this regarded Him with wonder.(4) Seest thou that it was especially necessary to work the miracles at times when men were present of honest minds, and who would carefully give heed to what was done? for these would more readily believe, and attend more exactly to the circumstances. "And how could He have become known without miracles?" Because His doctrine and prophetic powers were sufficient to cause wonder in the souls of His hearers, so that they took heed to what He did with a right disposition, their minds being already well affected towards Him. And therefore in many other places the Evangelists say, that He did no miracle on account of the perversity of the men who dwelt there. (Matt. xii. 38; ch. xiii. 58, &c.)

Ver. 12. "After this He went down to Capernaum, He, and His mother, and His brethren, and His disciples; and they continued there not many days."

Wherefore comes He with "His mother to Capernaum"? for He hath done no miracle there, and the inhabitants of that city were not of those who were rightminded towards Him, but of the utterly corrupt. And this Christ declared when He said, "And thou, Capernaum, which are exalted to heaven, shall be thrust down to hell." (Luke x. 15.) Wherefore then goes He? I think it was, because He intended a little after to go up to Jerusalem, that He then went to Capernaum, to avoid leading about(5) everywhere with Him, His mother and His brethren. And so, having departed and tarried a little while to honor His mother, He again commences His miracles after restoring to her home her who had borne Him. Therefore the Evangelist says, After "not many days,"

Ver. 13. "He went up to Jerusalem."

He received baptism then a few days before the passover. But on going up to Jerusalem, what did He, a deed full of high authority; for He cast out of the Temple those dealers and money changers, and those who sold doves, and oxen, and sheep, and who passed their time there for this purpose.

[2.] Another Evangelist writes, that as He cast them out, He said, Make not my Father's house(6) "a den of thieves," but this one,

Ver. 16. (" Make not My Father's house) an house of merchandise."

They do not in this contradict each other, but show that he did this a second time, and that both these expressions were not used on the same occasion, but that He acted thus once at the beginning of His ministry, and again when He had come to the very time of His Passion. Therefore, (on the latter occasion,) employing more strong expressions, He spoke of it as(7) (being made) "a den of thieves," but here at the commencement of His miracles He does not so, but uses a more gentle rebuke; from which it is probable that this took place(1) a second time.

"And wherefore," says one, "did Christ do this same, and use such severity against these men, a thing which He is nowhere else seen to do, even when insulted and reviled, and called by them 'Samaritan' and 'demoniac'? for He was not even satisfied with words only, but took a scourge, and so cast them out." Yes, but it was when others were receiving benefit, that the Jews accused and raged against Him; when it was probable that they would have been made savage by His rebukes, they showed no such disposition towards Him, for they neither accused nor reviled Him. What say they?

Ver. 18. "What sign showest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things?"

Seest thou their excessive malice, and how the benefits done to others incensed them more (than reproofs)?

At one time then He said, that the Temple was made by them "a den of thieves," showing that what they sold was gotten by theft, and rapine, and covetousness, and that they were rich through other men's calamities; at another, "a house of merchandise," pointing to their shameless traffickings. "But wherefore did He this?" Since he was about to heal on the Sabbath day, and to do many such things which were thought by them transgressions of the Law in order that He might not seem to do this as though He had come to be some rival God(2) and opponent of His Father, He takes occasion hence to correct any such suspicion of theirs. For One who had exhibited so much zeal for the House was not likely to oppose Him who was Lord of the House, and who was worshiped in it. No doubt even the former years during which He lived according to the Law, were sufficient to show His reverence for the Legislator, and that He came not to give contrary laws; yet since it was likely that those years were forgotten through lapse of time, as not having been known to all because He was brought up in a poor and mean dwelling, He afterwards does this in the presence of all, (for many were present because the feast was nigh at hand,) and at great risk. For he did not merely "cast them out," but also "overturned the tables," and "poured out the money," giving them by this to understand, that He who threw Himself into danger for the good order of the House could never despise his Master. Had He acted as He did from hypocrisy, He should only have advised them; but to place Himself in danger was very daring. For it was no light thing to offer Himself to the anger of so many market-folk,(3) to excite against Himself a most brutal mob of petty dealers by His reproaches and His blows, this was not the action of a pretender, but of one choosing to suffer everything for the order of the House.

And therefore not by His actions only, but by His words, He shows his agreement with the Father;(4) for He saith not "the Holy House," but "My Father's House." See, He even calls Him, "Father," and they are not wroth; they thought He spoke in a general way:(5) but when He went on and spoke more plainly, so as to set before them the idea of His Equality, then they become angry.

And what say they? "What sign showest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things?" Alas for their utter madness! Was there need of a sign before they could cease their evil doings, and free the house of God from such dishonor? and was it not the greatest sign of His Excellence that He had gotten such zeal for that House? In fact, the well-disposed(6) were distinguished by this very thing, for "They," His disciples, it says,

Ver. 17. "Remembered that it is written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up."

But the Jews did not remember the Prophecy, and said, "What sign showest Thou unto us?" (Ps. lxix. 9), both grieving that their shameful traffic was cut off, and expecting by these means to stop Him, and also desiring to challenge Him to a miracle, and to find fault with what He was doing. Wherefore He will not give them a sign; and before, when they came and asked Him, He made them the same answer, "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas." (Matt. xvi. 4.) Only then the answer was clear, now it is more ambiguous. This He doth on account of their extreme insensibility; for He who prevented(7) them without their asking, and gave them signs, would never when they asked have turned away from them, had He not seen that their minds were wicked and false, and their intention treacherous.(8) Think how full of wickedness the question itself was at the outset. When they ought to have applauded Him for His earnestness and zeal, when they ought to have been astonished that He cared so greatly for the House, they reproach Him, saying, that it was lawful to traffic, and unlawful for any to stop their traffic, except he should show them a sign. What saith Christ?

Ver. 19. "Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up."

Many such sayings He utters which were not intelligible to His immediate hearers, but which were to be so to those that should come after. And wherefore doth He this? In order that when the accomplishment of His prediction should have come to pass, He might be seen to have foreknown from the beginning what was to follow; which indeed was the case with this prophecy. For, saith the Evangelist,

Ver. 22. "When He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said."

But at the time when this was spoken, the Jews were perplexed as to what it might mean, and cast about to discover, saying,

Ver. 20. "Forty and six years was this Temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?"

"Forty and six years," they said, referring to the latter building, for the former was finished in twenty years' time. (Ezra vi. 15.)

[3.] Wherefore then did He not resolve the difficulty and say, "I speak not of that Temple, but of My flesh"? Why does the Evangelist, writing the Gospel at a later period, interpret the saying, and Jesus keep silence at the time? Why did He so keep silence? Because they would not have received His word; for if not even the disciples were able to understand the saying, much less were the multitudes. "When," saith the Evangelist, "He was risen from the dead, then they remembered, and believed the Scripture and His word." There were two things that hindered(1) them for the time, one the fact of the Resurrection, the other, the greater question whether He was God(2) that dwelt within; of both which things He spake darkly when He said, "Destroy this Temple, and I will rear it up in three days." And this St. Paul declares to be no small proof of His Godhead, when he writes, "Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the Resurrection from the dead." (Rom. i. 4.).

But why doth He both there, and here, and everywhere, give this for a sign, at one time saying,(8) "When ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then ye shall know that I Am" (c. viii. 28); at another, "There shall no sign be given you(4) but the sign of the prophet Jonas" (Matt. xii. 39); and again in this place, "In three days I will raise it up"? Because what especially showed that He was not a mere man, was His being able to set up a trophy of victory over death, and so quickly to abolish His long enduring tyranny, and conclude that difficult war. Wherefore He saith, "Then ye shall know." "Then." When? When after My Resurrection I shall draw (all) the world to Me, then ye shall know that I did these things as God, and Very Son of God, avenging the insult offered to My Father.

"Why then, instead of saying, 'What need is there of "signs" to check evil deeds?' did He promise that He would give them a sign?" Because by so doing He would have the more exasperated them; but in this way He rather astonished them. Still they made no answer to this, for He seemed to them to say what was incredible, so that they did not stay even to question Him upon it, but passed it by as impossible. Yet had they been wise, though it seemed to them at the time incredible, still when He wrought His many miracles they would then have come and questioned Him, would then have intreated that the difficulty might be resolved to them; but because they were foolish, they gave no heed at all to part of what was said, and part they heard with evil frame of mind. And therefore Christ spoke to them in an enigmatical way.

The question still remains, "How was it that the disciples did not know that He must rise from the dead?" It was, because they had not been vouchsafed the gift of the Spirit; and therefore, though they constantly heard His discourses concerning the Resurrection, they understood them not, but reasoned with themselves what this might be. For very strange and paradoxical was the assertion that one could raise himself, and would raise himself in such wise. And so Peter was rebuked, when, knowing nothing about the Resurrection, he said, "Be it far from Thee." (Matt. xvi. 22.) And Christ did not reveal it clearly to them before the event, that they might not be offended at the very outset, being led to distrust His words on account of the great improbability of the thing, and because they did not yet clearly know Him, who He was. For no one could help believing what was proclaimed aloud by facts, while some would probably disbelieve what was told to them in words. Therefore He at first allowed the meaning of His words to be concealed; but when by their experience He had verified His sayings, He after that gave them understanding of His words, and such gifts of the Spirit that they received them all at once. "He," saith Jesus, "shall bring all things to your remembrance." (c. xiv. 26.) For they who in a single night cast off all respect for Him, and fled from and denied that they even knew Him, would scarcely have remembered what He had done and said during the whole time, unless they had enjoyed much grace of the Spirit.

"But," says one, "if they were to hear from the Spirit, why needed they to accompany Christ when they would not retain His words?" Because the Spirit taught them not, but called to their mind what Christ had said before; and it contributes not a little to the glory of Christ, that they were referred to the remembrance of the words He had spoken to them. At the first then it was of the gift of God that the grace of the Spirit lighted upon them so largely and abundantly; but after that, it was of their own virtue that they retained the Gift. For they displayed a shining life, and much wisdom, and great labors, and despised this present life, and thought nothing of earthly things, but were above them all; and like a sort of light-winged eagle, soaring high by their works; reached(1) to heaven itself, and by these possessed the unspeakable grace of the Spirit.

Let us then imitate them, and not quench our lamps, but keep them bright by alms-doing, for so is the light of this fire preserved. Let us collect the oil into our vessels whilst we are here, for we cannot buy it when we have departed to that other place, nor can we procure it elsewhere, save only at the hands of the poor. Let us therefore collect it thence very abundantly, if, at least, we desire to enter in with the Bridegroom. But if we do not this, we must remain without the bridechamber, for it is impossible, it is impossible, though we perform ten thousand other good deeds, to enter the portals of the Kingdom without alms-doing. Let us then show forth this very abundantly, that we may enjoy those ineffable blessings; which may it come to pass that we all attain, by 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.


JOHN ii. 23.

" Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast, many believed on Him."

[1.] Of the men of that time some clung to their error, others laid hold on the truth, while of these last, some having retained it for a little while again fell off from it. Alluding to these, Christ compared them to seeds not deeply sown, but having their roots upon the surface of the earth; and He said that they should quickly perish. And these the Evangelist has here pointed out to us, saying,

"When He was in Jerusalem, at the Passover, in the feast, many believed on Him,(2) when they saw the miracles which He did."

Ver. 24. "But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them."

For they were the more perfect(3) among His disciples, who came to Him not only because of His miracles, but through His teaching also. The grosser sort the miracles attracted, but the better reasoners His prophecies and doctrines; and so they who were taken by His teaching were more steadfast than those attracted by His miracles. And Christ also called them "blessed," saying, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." (c. xx. 29.) But that these here mentioned were not real disciples, the following passage shows, for it saith, "Jesus did not commit Himself unto them." Wherefore?

"Because He knew all things,"(4)

Ver. 25. "And needed not that any should testify of man, for He knew what was in man."

The meaning is of this kind. "He who dwells in men's hearts, and enters into their thoughts, took no heed of outward words; and knowing well that their warmth was but for a season, He placed not confidence in them as in perfect disciples, nor committed all His doctrines to them as though they had already become firm believers." Now, to know what is in the heart of men belongs to God alone, "who hath fashioned hearts one by one" (Ps. xxxiii. 15, LXX.), for, saith Solomon, "Thou, even Thou only, knowest the hearts" (1 Kings viii. 39); He therefore needed not witnesses to learn the thoughts of His own creatures, and so He felt no confidence in them because of their mere, temporary belief. Men, who know neither the present nor the future, often tell and entrust all without any reserve to persons who approach them deceitfully and who shortly will fall off from them; but Christ did not so, for well He knew all their secret thoughts.

And many such now there are, who have indeed the name of faith, but are unstable,(5) and easily led away; wherefore neither now doth Christ commit Himself to them, but concealeth from them many things; and just as we do not place confidence in mere acquaintances but in real friends, so also doth Christ. Hear what He saith to His disciples, "Henceforth I call you not servants, ye are My friends." (c. xv. 14, 15.) Whence is this and why? "Because all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you." And therefore He gave no signs to the Jews who asked for them, because they asked tempting Him. Indeed the asking for signs is a practice of tempters both then and now; for even now there are some that seek them and say, "Why do not miracles take place also at this present time?" If thou art faithful, as thou oughtest to be, and lovest Christ as thou oughtest to love Him, thou hast no need of signs, they are given to the unbelievers. "How then," asks one, "were they not given to the Jews?" Given they certainly were; and if there were times when though they asked they did not receive them, it was because they asked them not that they might be delivered from their unbelief, but in order the more to confirm their wickedness.

Chap. iii. 1, 2. "And there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus. The same came to Jesus by night."

This man appears also in the middle of the Gospel, making defense for Christ; for he saith, "Our law judgeth no man(1) before it hear him" (c. vii. 51); and the Jews in anger replied to him, "Search and look, for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet." Again after the crucifixion he bestowed great care upon the burial of the Lord's body: "There came also," saith the Evangelist, "Nicodemus, which came to the Lord(2) by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight." (c. xix. 39.) And even now he was disposed towards Christ,(3) but not as he ought, nor with proper sentiments respecting Him, for he was as yet entangled in Jewish infirmity. Wherefore he came by night, because he feared to do so by day. Yet not for this did the merciful God reject or rebuke him, or deprive him of His instruction, but even with much kindness conversed with him and disclosed to him very exalted doctrines enigmatically indeed, but nevertheless He disclosed them. For far more deserving of pardon was he than those who acted thus through wickedness. They are entirely without excuse; but he, though he was liable to condemnation, yet was not so to an equal degree. "How then does the Evangelist say nothing of the kind concerning him?" He has said in another place, that "of the rulers also many believed on Him, but because of the Jews(4) they did not confess (Him), lest they should be put out of the synagogue" (c. xii. 42); but here he has implied the whole by mentioning his coming "by night." What then saith Nicodemus?

"Rabbi, we know that Thou art a Teacher come from God: for no man can do the miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him."

[2.] Nicodemus yet lingers(5) below, has yet human thoughts concerning Him, and speaks of Him as of a Prophet, imagining nothing great from His miracles. "We know," he says, "that Thou art a Teacher come from God." "Why then comest thou by night and secretly, to Him that speaketh the things of God, to Him who cometh from God? Why conversest thou not with Him openly?" But Jesus said nothing like this to him, nor did He rebuke him; for, saith the Prophet, "A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench; He shall not strive nor cry" (Isa. xlii. 2, 3; as quoted Matt. xii. 19, 20): and again He saith Himself, "I came not to condemn the world, but to save the world." (c. xii. 47.)

"No man can do these miracles, except God be with him."

Still here Nicodemus speaks like the heretics, in saying, that He hath a power working within Him,(6) and hath need of the aid of others to do as He did. What then saith Christ? Observe His exceeding condescension. He refrained for a while from saying, "I need not the help of others, but do all things with power, for I am the Very Son of God, and have the same power as My Father," because this would have been too hard for His hearer; for I say now what I am always saying, that what Christ desired was, not so much for a while to reveal His own Dignity, as to persuade men that He did nothing contrary to His Father. And therefore in many places he appears in words confined by limits,(7) but in His actions He doth not so. For when He worketh a miracle, He doth all with power, saying, "I will, be thou clean." (Matt. viii. 3.) "Talitha, arise." (Mark v. 41; not verbally quoted.) "Stretch forth thy hand." (Mark iii. 5.) "Thy sins be forgiven thee." (Matt. ix. 2.) "Peace, be still." (Mark iv. 39.) "Take up thy bed, and go unto thine house." (Matt. ix. 6.) "Thou foul spirit, I say unto thee, come out of him." (Mark ix. 25; not verbally quoted.) "Be it unto thee even as thou wilt." (Matt. xv. 28.) "If any one say (aught) unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of him." (Mark xi. 3.) "This day shall thou be with Me in Paradise." (Luke xxiii. 43.) "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shall not kill; but I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment." (Matt. v. 21, 22.) "Come ye after Me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Mark i. 17.) And everywhere we observe that His authority is great; for in His actions no one could find fault with what was done. How was it possible? Had His words not come to pass, nor been accomplished as He commanded, any one might have said that they were the commands of a madman; but since they did come to pass, the reality of their accomplishment stopped men's mouths even against their will. But with regard to His discourses, they might often in their insolence charge Him with madness. Wherefore now in the case of Nicodemus, He utters nothing openly, but by dark sayings leads him up from his low thoughts, teaching him, that He has sufficient power in Himself to show forth miracles; for that His Father begat Him Perfect and All-sufficient, and without any imperfection.

But let us see how He effects this. Nicodemus saith, "Rabbi, we know that Thou art a Teacher come from God, for no man can do the miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him." He thought he had said something great when he had spoken thus of Christ. What then saith Christ? To show that he had not yet set foot even on the threshold of right knowledge, nor stood in the porch, but was yet wandering somewhere without the palace, both he and whoever else should say the like, and that he had not so much as glanced towards true knowledge when he held such an opinion of the Only-Begotten, what saith He?

Ver. 3. "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God."

That is, "Unless thou art born again and receivest the right doctrines, thou art wandering somewhere without, and art far from the Kingdom of heaven." But He does not speak so plainly as this. In order to make the saying less hard to bear, He does not plainly direct it at him, but speaks indefinitely, "Except a man be born again": all but saying, "both thou and any other, who may have such opinions concerning Me, art somewhere without the Kingdom." Had He not spoken from a desire to establish this, His answer would have been suitable to what had been said. Now the Jews, if these words had been addressed to them, would have derided Him and departed; but Nicodemus shows here also his desire of instruction.(1) And this is why in many places Christ speaks obscurely, because He wishes to rouse His hearers to ask questions, and to render them more attentive. For that which is said plainly often escapes the hearer, but what is obscure renders him more active and zealous. Now what He saith, is something like this: "If thou art not born again, if thou partakest not of the Spirit which is by the washing(2) of Regeneration, thou canst not have a right opinion of Me, for the opinion which thou hast is not spiritual, but carnal."(3) (Tit. iii. 5.) But He did not speak thus, as refusing to confound(4) one who had brought such as he had, and who had spoken to the best of his ability; and He leads him unsuspectedly up to greater knowledge, saying, "Except a man be born again." The word "again,"(5) in this place, some understand to mean "from heaven," others, "from the beginning." "It is impossible," saith Christ, "for one not so born to see the Kingdom of God"; in this pointing to Himself, and declaring that there is another beside the natural sight, and that we have need of other eyes to behold Christ. Having heard this,

Ver. 4. "Nicodemus saith, How can a man be born when he is old?"

Callest thou Him "Master," sayest thou that He is "come from God," and yet receivest thou not His words, but usest to thy Teacher a manner of speaking which expresses(6) much perplexity? For the "How," is the doubting question of those who have no strong belief, but who are yet of the earth. Therefore Sarah laughed when she had said, "How?" And many others having asked this question, have fallen from the faith.

[3.] And thus heretics continue in their heresy, because they frequently make this enquiry, saying, some of them, "How was He begotten?" others, "How was He made flesh?" and subjecting that Infinite Essence to the weakness of their own reasonings.(7) Knowing which, we ought to avoid this unseasonable curiosity, for they who search into these matters shall, without learning the "How," fall away from the right faith. On this account Nicodemus, being in doubt, enquires the manner in which this can be, (for he understood that the words spoken referred to himself,) is confused, and dizzy,(8) and in perplexity, having come as to a man, and hearing more than man's words, and such as no one ever yet had heard; and for a while he rouses himself at the sublimity of the sayings, but yet is in darkness, and unstable, borne about in every direction, and continually falling away from the faith. And therefore he perseveres in proving the impossibility, so as to provoke Him to clearer teaching.

"Can a man," he saith, "enter into his mother's womb, and be born?"

Seest thou how when one commits spiritual things to his own reasonings, he speaks ridiculously, seems to be trifling, or to be drunken, when he pries into what has been said beyond what seems good to God, and admits not the submission of faith? Nicodemus heard of the spiritual Birth, yet perceived it not as spiritual, but dragged down the words to the lowness of the flesh, and i made a doctrine so great and high depend upon physical consequence. And so he invents frivolities, and ridiculous difficulties. Wherefore Paul said, "The natural(1) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit." (1 Cor. ii. 14.) Yet even in this he preserved his reverence for Christ, for he did not mock at what had been said, but, deeming it impossible, held his peace. There were two difficulties; a Birth of this kind, and the Kingdom; for neither had the name of the Kingdom ever been heard among the Jews, nor of a Birth like this. But he stops for a while at the first, which most astonished(2) his mind.

Let us then, knowing this, not enquire into things relating to God by reasoning, nor bring heavenly matters under the rule of earthly consequences, nor subject them to the necessity of nature; but let us think of all reverently, believing as the Scriptures have said; for the busy and curious person gains nothing, and besides not finding what he seeks, shall suffer extreme punishment. Thou hast heard, that (the Father) begat (the Son): believe what thou hast heard; but do ask not, "How," and so take away the Generation; to do so would be extreme folly. For if this man, because, on hearing of a Generation, not that ineffable GENERATION, but this which is by grace, he conceived nothing great concerning it, but human and earthly thoughts, was therefore darkened and in doubt, what punishment must they deserve, who are busy and curious about that most awful GENERATION, which transcends all reason and intellect? For nothing causes such dizziness(3) as human reasoning, all whose words are of earth, and which cannot endure to be enlightened from above. Earthly reasonings are full of mud, and therefore need we streams from heaven, that when the mud has settled, the clearer portion may rise and mingle with the heavenly lessons; and this comes to pass, when we present an honest soul and an upright life. For certainly it is possible for the intellect to be darkened, not only by unseasonable curiosity, but also by corrupt manners; wherefore Paul hath said to the Corinthians, "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able, for ye are yet carnal; for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal?" (1 Cor. iii. 2.) And also in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and in many places, one may see Paul asserting that this is the cause of evil doctrines; for that the soul possessed by passions(4) cannot behold anything great or noble, but as if darkened by a sort of film(5) suffers most grievous dimsightedness.

Let us then cleanse ourselves, let us kindle the light of knowledge, let us not sow among thorns. What the thorns are, ye know, though we tell you not; for often ye have heard Christ call the cares of this present life, and the deceitfulness of riches, by this name. (Matt. xiii. 22.) And with reason. For as thorns are unfruitful, so are these things; as thorns tear those that handle them, so do these passions; as thorns are readily caught by the fire, and hateful by the husbandman, so too are the things of the world; as in thorns, wild beasts, and snakes, and scorpions hide themselves, so do they in the deceitfulness of riches. But let us kindle the fire of the Spirit, that we may consume the thorns, and drive away the beasts, and make the field clear for the husbandman; and after cleansing it, let us water it with the streams of the Spirit, let us plant the fruitful olive, that most kindly of trees, the evergreen, the light-giving, the nutritious, the wholesome. All these qualities hath almsgiving, which is, as it were, a seal on(6) those that possess it. This plant not even death when it comes causes to wither, but ever it stands enlightening the mind, feeding the sinews(7) of the soul, and rendering its strength mightier. And if we constantly possess it, we shall be able with confidence to behold the Bridegroom, and to enter into the bridal chamber; to which may we all attain, 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.


JOHN iii. 5.

"Verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God."

[1.] LITTLE children who go daily to their teachers receive their lessons, and repeat(1) them, and never cease from this kind of acquisition, but sometimes employ nights as well as days, and this they are compelled(2) to do for perishable and transient things. Now we do not ask of you who are come to age such toil as you require of your children; for not every day, but two days only in the week do we exhort you to hearken to our words, and only for a short portion of the day, that your task may be an easy one. For the same reason also we divide(3) to you in small portions what is written in Scripture, that you may be able easily to receive and lay them up in the storehouses of your minds, and take such pains to remember them all, as to be able exactly to repeat them to others yourselves, unless any one be sleepy, and dull, and more idle than a little child.

Let us now attend to the sequel of what has been before said. When Nicodemus fell into error and wrested the words of Christ to the earthly birth, and said that it was not possible for an old man to be born again, observe how Christ in answer more clearly reveals the manner of the Birth, which even thus had difficulty for the carnal enquirer, yet still was able to raise the hearer from his low opinion of it. What saith He? "Verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God." What He declares is this: "Thou sayest that it is impossible, I say that it is so absolutely possible as to be necessary, and that it is not even possible otherwise to be saved." For necessary things God hath made exceedingly easy also. The earthly birth which is according to the flesh, is of the dust, and therefore heaven(4) is walled against it, for what hath earth in common with heaven? But that other, which is of the Spirit, easily unfolds to us the arches(5) above. Hear, ye as many as are unilluminated,(6) shudder, groan, fearful is the threat, fearful the sentence.(7) "It is not (possible)," He saith, "for one not born of water and the Spirit, to enter into the Kingdom of heaven"; because he wears the raiment of death, of cursing, of perdition, he hath not yet received his Lord's token,(8) he is a stranger and an alien, he hath not the royal watchword. "Except," He saith, "a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of heaven."

Yet even thus Nicodemus did not understand. Nothing is worse than to commit spiritual things to argument; it was this that would not suffer him to suppose anything sublime and great. This is why we are called faithful, that having left the weakness of human reasonings below,(3) we may ascend to the height of faith, and commit most of our blessings to her(10) teaching;(11) and if Nicodemus had done this, the thing would not have been thought by him impossible. What then doth Christ? To lead him away from his groveling imagination, and to show that He speaks not of the earthly birth, He saith, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit: he cannot enter into the Kingdom of heaven." This He spoke, willing to draw him to the faith by the terror of the threat, and to persuade him not to deem the thing impossible, and taking pains to move him from his imagination as to the carnal birth. "I mean," saith He, "another Birth, O Nicodemus. Why drawest thou down the saying to earth? Why subjectest thou the matter to the necessity of nature? This Birth is too high for such pangs as these; it hath nothing in common with you; it is indeed called 'birth,' but in name only has it aught in common, in reality it is different. Remove thyself from that which is common and familiar; a different kind of childbirth bring I into the world; in another manner will I have men to be generated: I have come to bring a new manner of Creation. I formed (man) of earth and water; but that which was formed was unprofitable, the vessel was wrenched awry;(12) I will no more form them of earth and water, but 'of water' and 'of the Spirit.' "

And if any one asks, "How of water?" I also will ask, How of earth? How was the clay separated into different parts? How was the material uniform, (it was earth only,) and the things made from it, various and of every kind? Whence are the bones, and sinews, and arteries, and veins? Whence the membranes, and vessels of the organs, the cartilages, the tissues, the liver, spleen, and heart? whence the skin, and blood, and mucus, and bile? whence so great powers, whence such varied colors? These belong not to earth or clay. How does the earth, when it receives the seeds, cause them to shoot, while the flesh receiving them wastes them? How does the earth nourish what is put into it, while the flesh is nourished by these things, and does not nourish them? The earth, for instance, receives water, and makes it wine; the flesh often receives wine, and changes it into water. Whence then is it clear that these things are formed of earth, when the nature of the earth is, according to what has been said;(1) contrary to that of the body? I cannot discover by reasoning, I accept it by faith only. If then things which take place daily, and which we handle, require faith, much more do those which are more mysterious and more spiritual than these. For as the earth, which is soulless and motionless, was empowered by the will of God, and such wonders were worked in it; much more when the Spirit is present with the water, do all those things so strange and transcending reason, easily take place.

[2.] Do not then disbelieve these things, because thou seest them not; thou dost not see thy soul, and yet thou believest that thou hast a soul, and that it is a something different besides(2) the body.

But Christ led him not in by this example, but by another; the instance of the soul, though it is incorporeal, He did not adduce for that reason, because His hearer's disposition was as yet too dull. He sets before him another, which has no connection with the density of solid bodies, yet does not reach so high as to the incorporeal natures; that is, the movement of wind. He begins at first with water, which is lighter than earth, but denser than air. And as in the beginning earth was the subject material,(3) but the whole(4) was of Him who molded it; so also now water is the subject material, and the whole(5) is of the grace of the Spirit: then, "man became a living soul," (Gen. ii. 7); now he becomes "a quickening Spirit." But great is the difference between the two. Soul affords not life to any other than him in whom it is; Spirit not only lives, but affords life to others also. Thus, for instance, the Apostles even raised the dead. Then, man was formed last, when the creation had been accomplished; now, on the contrary, the new man is formed before the new creation; he is born first, and then the world is fashioned anew. (1 Cor. xv. 45.) And as in the beginning He formed him entire, so He creates him entire now. Then He said, "Let us make for him a help" (Gen. ii. 18, LXX.), but here He said nothing of the kind. What other help shall he need, who has received the gift of the Spirit? What further need of assistance has he, who belongs to(6) the Body of Christ? Then He made man in the image of God, now He hath united 7 him with God Himself; then He bade him rule over the fishes and beasts, now He hath exalted our first-fruits above the heavens; then He gave him a garden for his abode,(8) now He hath opened heaven to us; then man was formed on the sixth day, when the world(9) was almost finished; but now on the first, at the very beginning, at the time when light was made before. From all which it is plain, that the things accomplished belonged to(10) another and a better life, and to a condition(11) having no end.

The first creation then, that of Adam, was from earth; the next, that of the woman, from his rib; the next, that of Abel, from seed; yet we cannot arrive at the comprehension of(12) any one of these, nor prove the circumstances by argument, though they are of a most earthly nature;(13) how then shall we be able to give account of the unseen(14) generation(15) by Baptism, which is far more exalted than these, or to require arguments(16) for that strange and marvelous Birth?(17) Since even Angels stand by while that Generation takes place, but they could not tell the manner of that marvelous working, they stand by only, not performing anything, but beholding what takes place. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, worketh all. Let us then believe the declaration of God; that is more trustworthy than actual seeing. The sight often is in error, it is impossible that God's Word should fail; let us then believe it; that which called the things that were not into existence may well be trusted when it speaks of their nature. What then says it? That what is effected is A GENERATION. If any ask, "How," stop his mouth with the decclaration of God,(18) which is the strongest and a plain proof. If any enquire, "Why is water included?" let us also in return ask, "Wherefore was earth employed at the beginning in the creation of man?" for that it was possible for God to make man without earth, is quite plain to every one. Be not then over-curious.

That the need of water is absolute and indispensable,(1) you may learn in this way. On one occasion, when the Spirit had flown down before the water was applied, the Apostle did not stay at this point, but, as though the water were necessary and not superfluous, observe what he says; "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" (Acts x. 47.)

What then is the use of the water? This too I will tell you hereafter, when I reveal to you the hidden mystery.(2) There are also other points of mystical teaching connected with the matter, but for the present I will mention to you one out of many. What is this one? In Baptism are fulfilled the pledges of our covenant with God;(3) burial and death, resurrection and life; and these take place all at once. For when we immerse our heads in the water, the old man is buried as in a tomb below, and wholly sunk forever;(4) then as we raise them again, the new man rises in its stead.(5) As it is easy for us to dip and to lift our heads again, so it is easy for God to bury the old man, and to show forth the new. And this is done thrice, that you may learn that the power of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost fulfilleth all this. To show that what we say is no conjecture, hear Paul saying, "We are buried with Him by Baptism into death": and again, "Our old man is crucified with Him": and again, "We have been planted together in the likeness of His death." (Rom. vi. 4, 5, 6.) And not only is Baptism called a "cross," but the "cross" is called "Baptism." "With the Baptism," saith Christ, "that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized" (Mark x. 39): and, "I have a Baptism to be baptized with" (Luke xii. 50) (which ye know not); for as we easily dip and lift our heads again, so He also easily died and rose again when He willed or rather much more easily, though He tarried the three days for the dispensation of a certain mystery.

[3.] Let us then who have been deemed worthy of such mysteries show forth a life worthy of the Gift, that is, a most excellent conversation;(6) and do ye who have not yet been deemed worthy, do all things that you may be so, that we may be one body, that we may be brethren. For as long as we are divided in this respect, though a man be father, or son, or brother, or aught else, he is no true kinsman, as being cut off from that relationship which is from above. What advantageth it to be bound by the ties of earthly family, if we are not joined by those of the spiritual? what profits nearness of kin on earth, if we are to be strangers in heaven? For the Catechumen is a stranger to the Faithful. He hath not the same Head, he hath not the same Father, he hath not the same City, nor Food, nor Raiment, nor Table, nor House, but all are different; all are on earth to the former, to the latter all are in heaven. One has Christ for his King; the other, sin and the devil; the food(7) of one is Christ, of the other, that meat which decays and perishes; one has worms' work for his raiment, the other the Lord of angels; heaven is the city of one, earth of the other. Since then we have nothing in common, in what, tell me, shall we hold communion? Did we remove the same pangs,(8) did we come forth from the same womb? This has nothing to do with that most perfect relationship. Let us then give diligence that we may become citizens of the city which is above. How long do we tarry over the border,(9) when we ought to reclaim our ancient country? We risk no common danger; for if it should come to pass, (which God forbid!) that through the sudden arrival of death we depart hence uninitiated,(10) though we have ten thousand virtues, our portion will be no other than hell, and the venomous worm, and fire unquenchable, and bonds indissoluble. But God grant that none of those who hear these words experience that punishment! And this will be, if having been deemed worthy of the sacred mysteries, we build upon that foundation gold, and silver, and precious stones; for so after our departure hence we shall be able to appear in that place rich, when we leave not our riches here, but transport them to inviolable treasuries by the hands of the poor, when we lend to Christ. Many are our debts there, not of money, but of sins; let us then lend Him our riches, that we may receive pardon for our sins; for He it is that judgeth. Let us not neglect Him here when He hungereth, that He may ever feed us there. Here let us clothe Him, that He leave us not bare of the safety which is from Him. If here we give Him drink, we shall not with the rich man say, "Send Lazarus, that with the tip of his finger he may drop water on my broiling(11) tongue." If here we receive Him into our house, there He will prepare many mansions for us; if we go to Him in prison, He too will free us from our bonds; if we take Him in when He is a stranger, He will not suffer us to be strangers to the Kingdom of heaven, but will give us a portion in the City which is above; if we visit Him when He is sick, He also will quickly deliver us from our infirmities.

Let us then, as receiving great things though we give but little, still give the little that we may gain the great. While it is yet time, let us sow, that we may reap. When the winter overtakes us, when the sea is no longer navigable, we are no longer masters of this traffic. But when shall the winter be? When that great and manifest Day is at hand. Then we shall cease to sail this great and broad sea, for such the present life resembles. Now is the time of sowing, then of harvest and of gain. If a man puts not in his seed at seed time and sows in harvest, besides that he effects nothing, he will be ridiculous. But if the present is seed time, it follows that it is a time not for gathering together, but for scattering; let us then scatter, that we may gather in, and not seek to gather in now, lest we lose our harvest; for, as I said, this season summons us to sow, and spend, and lay out, not to collect and lay by. Let us not then give up the opportunity, but let us put in abundant seed, and spare none of our stores, that we may receive. them again with abundant recompense, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, world without end. Amen.


JOHN iii. 6.

"That which is born of the flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."

[1.] GREAT mysteries are they, of which the Only-begotten Son of God has counted us worthy; great, and such as we were not worthy of, but such as it was meet for Him to give. For if one reckon our desert, we were not only unworthy of the gift, but also liable to punishment and vengeance; but He, because He looked not to this, not only delivered us from punishment, but freely gave us a life much more bright(1) than the first, introduced us into another world, made us another creature; "If any man be in Christ," saith Paul, "he is a new creature." (2 Cor. v. 17.) What kind of "new creature"? Hear Christ Himself declare; "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God." Paradise was entrusted to us, and we were shown unworthy to dwell even there, yet He hath exalted us to heaven. In the first things we were found unfaithful, and He hath committed to us greater; we could not refrain from a single tree, and He hath provided for us the delights(2) above; we kept not our place in Paradise, and He hath opened to us the doors of heaven. Well said Paul, "O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" (Rom. xi. 33.) There is no longer a mother, or pangs, or sleep, or coming together, and embracings of bodies; henceforth all the fabric(3) of our nature is framed above, of the Holy Ghost and water. The water is employed, being made the Birth to him who is born; what the womb is to the embryo, the water is to the believer; for in the water he is fashioned and formed. At first it was said, "Let the waters bring forth the creeping things that have life" (Gen. i. 20, LXX.); but from the time that the Lord entered the streams of Jordan, the water no longer gives forth the "creeping thing that hath life," but reasonable and Spirit-bearing souls; and what has been said of the sun, that he is "as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber" (Ps. xviii. 6), we may now rather say of the faithful, for they send forth rays far brighter than he. That which is fashioned in the womb requires time, not so that in water, but all is done in a single moment. Here our life is perishable, and takes its origin from the decay of other bodies; that which is to be born comes slowly, (for such is the nature of bodies, they acquire perfection by time,) but it is not so with spiritual things. And why? Because the things made are formed perfect from the beginning.

When Nicodemus still hearing these things was troubled, see how Christ partly opens to him the secret of this mystery, and makes that clear which was for a while obscure to him. "That which is born," saith He, "of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." He leads him away from all the things of sense. i and suffers him not vainly to pry into the mysteries revealed with his fleshly eyes; "We speak not," saith He, "of flesh, but of Spirit, O Nicodemus," (by this word He directs him heavenward for a while,) "seek then nothing relating to things of sense; never can the Spirit appear to those eyes, think not that the Spirit bringeth forth the flesh." "How then," perhaps one may ask, "was the Flesh of the Lord brought forth?" Not of the Spirit only, but of flesh; as Paul declares, when he says, "Made of a woman, made under the Law" (Gal iv. 4); for the Spirit fashioned Him not indeed out of nothing, (for what need was there then of a womb?) but from the flesh of a Virgin. How, I cannot explain unto you; yet it was done, that no one might suppose that what was born is alien to our nature. For if even when this has taken place there are some who disbelieve in such a birth, into what impiety would they not have fallen had He not partaken of the Virgin's flesh.

"That which is born(1) of the Spirit is spirit." Seest thou the dignity of the Spirit? It appears performing the work of God; for above he said of some, that, "they were begotten of God," (c. i. 13,) here He saith, that the Spirit begetteth them.

"That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." His meaning is of this kind; "He that is born(2) of the Spirit is spiritual." For the Birth which He speaks of here is not that according to essence,(3) but according to honor and grace. Now if the Son is so born also, in what shall He be superior to men so born? And how is He Only-begotten? For I too am born of God though not of His Essence, and if He also is not of His Essence, how in this respect does He differ from us? Nay, He will then be found to be inferior to the Spirit; for birth of this kind is by the grace of the Spirit. Needs He then the help of the Spirit that He may continue a Son? And in what do these differ from Jewish doctrines?

Christ then having said, "He that is born of the Spirit is spirit," when He saw him again confused, leads His discourse to an example from sense, saying,

Ver. 7, 8. "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.(4) The wind bloweth where it listeth."

For by saying, "Marvel not," He indicates the confusion of his soul, and leads him to something lighter than body. He had already led him away from fleshly things, by saying, "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit"; but when Nicodemus knew not what "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" meant, He next carries him to another figure, not bringing him to the density of bodies, nor yet speaking of things purely incorporeal, (for had he heard he could not have received this,) but having found a something between what is and what is not body, namely, the motion of the wind, He brings him to that next. And He saith of it,

"Thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth."

Though He saith, "it bloweth where it listeth," He saith it not as if the wind had any power of choice, but declaring that its natural motion cannot be hindered, and is with power. For Scripture knoweth how to speak thus of things without life, as when it saith, "The creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly." (Rom. viii. 20.) The expression therefore, "bloweth where it listeth," is that of one who would show that it cannot be restrained, that it is spread abroad everywhere, and that none can hinder its passing hither and thither, but that it goes abroad with great might, and none is able to turn aside its violence.

[2.] "And thou hearest its voice,"(5) (that is, its rustle, its noise,) "but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit."

Here is the conclusion of the whole matter. "If," saith He, "thou knowest not how to explain the motion nor the path of this wind(6) which thou perceivest by hearing and touch, why art thou over-anxious about the working of the Divine Spirit, when thou understandest not that of the wind, though thou hearest its voice?" The expression, "bloweth where it listeth," is. also used to establish the power of the Comforter; for if none can hold the wind, but it moveth where it listeth, much less will the laws of nature, or limits of bodily generation, or anything of the like kind, be able to restrain the operations of the Spirit.

That the expression, "thou hearest its voice," is used respecting the wind, is clear from this circumstance; He would not, when conversing: with an unbeliever and one unacquainted with the operation of the Spirit, have said, "Thou hearest its voice." As then the wind is not visible, although it utters a sound, so neither is the birth of that which is spiritual visible to our bodily eyes; yet the wind is a body, although a very subtle one; for whatever is the object of sense is body. If then you do not complain because you cannot see this body, and do not on this account disbelieve, why do you, when you hear of "the Spirit," hesitate and demand such exact accounts, although you act not so in the case of a body? What then doth Nicodemus? still he continues in his low Jewish opinion, and that too when so clear an example has been mentioned to him. Wherefore when he again says doubtingly,

Ver. 9, 10. "How can these things be?" Christ now speaks to him more chidingly; "Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things?"

Observe how He nowhere accuses the man of wickedness, but only of weakness and simplicity. "And what," one may ask, "has this birth in common with Jewish matters?" Tell me rather what has it that is not in common with them? For the first-created man, and the woman formed from his side, and the barren women, and the things accomplished by water, I mean what relates to the fountain on which Elisha made the iron tool to swim, to the Red Sea which the Jews passed over, to the pool which the Angel troubled, to Naaman the Syrian who was cleansed in Jordan, all these proclaimed beforehand, as by a figure, the Birth and the purification which were to be. And the words of the Prophet allude to the manner of this Birth, as, "It shall be announced unto the Lord a generation which cometh, and they shall announce His righteousness unto a people that shall be born, whom the Lord hath made" (Ps. xxii. 30; xxx. 31, LXX.); and, "Thy youth shall be renewed as an eagle's" (Ps. ciii. 5, LXX.); and, "Shine, O Jerusalem; behold, Thy King cometh!" (Isa. lx. 1; Zech. ix. 9); and, "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven." (Ps. xxxii. I, LXX.) Isaac also was a type of this Birth. For tell me, Nicodemus, how was he born? was it according to the law of nature? By no means; the mode of his generation was midway between this of which we speak and the natural; the natural, because he was begotten by cohabitation; the other, because he was begotten not of blood,(1) (but by the will of God.) I shall show that these figures(2) proclaimed beforehand not only this birth, but also that from the Virgin. For, because no one would easily have believed that a virgin could bear a child, barren women first did so, then such as were not only barren, but aged also. That a woman should be made from a rib was indeed far more wonderful than that the barren should conceive; but because that was of early and old time, another figure, new and fresh, was given, that of the barren women; to prepare the way for belief in the Virgin's travail. To remind him then of these things, Jesus said, "Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things?"

Ver. 11. "We speak that We do know, and testify that We have seen, and none receiveth(3) Our witness."

This He added, making His words credible by another argument, and condescending in His speech to the other's infirmity.

[3.] And what is this that He saith, "We speak that We do know, and testify that We have seen"? Because with us the sight is the most trustworthy of the senses, and if we desire to gain a person's belief, we speak thus, that we saw it with our eyes, not that we know it by hearsay; Christ therefore speaks to him rather after the manner of men, gaining belief for His words by this means also. And that this is so, and that He desires to establish nothing else, and refers not to sensual vision, is clear from this; after saying, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," He adds, "We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen." Now this (of the Spirit) was not yet born(4); how then saith He, "what we have seen"? Is it not plain that He speaks of a knowledge not otherwise than exact?

"And none receiveth our witness." The expression "we know," He uses then either concerning Himself and His Father, or concerning Himself alone; and "no man receiveth," is the expression not of one displeased, but of one who declares a fact: for He said not, "What can be more senseless than you who receive not what is so exactly declared by us?" but displaying all gentleness, both by His works and His words, He uttered nothing like this; mildly and kindly He foretold what should come to pass, so guiding us too to all gentleness, and teaching us when we converse with any and do not persuade them, not to be annoyed or made savage; for it is impossible for one out of temper to accomplish his purpose, he must make him to whom he speaks still more incredulous. Wherefore we must abstain from anger, and make our words in every way credible by avoiding not only wrath, but also loud speaking(5) for loud speaking is the fuel of passion.

Let us then bind(6) the horse, that we may subdue the rider; let us clip the wings of our wrath, so the evil shall no more rise to a height. A keen passion is anger, keen, and skillful to steal our souls; therefore we must on all sides guard against its entrance. It were strange that we should be able to tame wild beasts, and yet should neglect our own savage minds. Wrath is a fierce fire, it devours all things; it harms the body, it destroys the soul, it makes a man deformed(7) and ugly to look upon; and if it were possible for an angry person to be visible to himself at the time of his anger, he would need no other admonition, for nothing is more displeasing than an angry countenance. Anger is a kind of drunkenness, or rather it is more grievous than drunkenness, and more pitiable than (possession of) a daemon. But if we be careful not to be Bud in speech,(8) we shall find this the best path to sobriety of conduct.(9) And therefore Paul would take away clamor as well as anger, when he says, "Let all anger and clamor be put away from you." (Eph. iv. 31.) Let us then obey this teacher of all wisdom, and when we are wroth with our servants, let us consider our own trespasses, and be ashamed at their forbearance. For when thou art insolent, and thy servant bears thy insults in silence, when thou actest unseemly, he like a wise man, take this instead of any other warning. Though he is thy servant, he is still a man, has an immortal soul, and has been honored with the same gifts as thee by your common Lord. And if he who is our equal in more important and more spiritual things, on account of some poor and trifling human superiority so meekly bears our injuries, what pardon can we deserve, what excuse can we make, who cannot, or rather will not, be as wise through fear of God, as he is through fear of us? Considering then all these things, and calling to mind Our own transgressions, and the common nature of man, let us be careful at all times to speak gently, that being humble in hear we may find rest for our souls, both that which now is, and that which is to come; which may we all attain, by 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.


JOHN iii. 12, 13.

"If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaver, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven."

[1.] What I have often said I shall now repeat, and shall not cease to say. What is that? It is that Jesus, when about to touch on sublime doctrines, often contains Himself by reason of the infirmity of His hearers, and dwells not for a continuance on subjects worthy of His greatness, but rather on those which partake of condescension. For the sublime and great, being but once uttered, is sufficient to establish that character, as far as we are able to hear it; but unless more lowly sayings, and such as are nigh to(1) the comprehension of the hearers, were continually uttered, the more sublime would not readily take hold on a groveling listener. And therefore of the sayings of Christ more are lowly than sublime. But yet that this again may not work another mischief, by detaining the disciple here below, He does not merely set before men His inferior sayings without first telling them why He utters them; as, in fact, He has done in this place. For when He had said what He did concerning Baptism, and the Generation by grace which takes place on earth, being desirous to admit(2) them to that His own mysterious and incomprehensible Generation, He holds it in suspense for a while, and admits them not, and then tells them His reason for not admitting them. What is that? It is, the dullness and infirmity of His hearers. And referring to this He added the words, "If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?" so that wherever He saith anything ordinary and humble, we must attribute this to the infirmity of His audience.

The expression "earthly things," some say is here used of the wind; that is, "If I have given you an example from earthly things, and ye did not even so believe, how shall ye be able to learn sublimer things?" And wonder not if He here call Baptism an "earthly" thing, for He calls it so, either from its being performed on earth, or so naming it in comparison with that His own most awful Generation. For though this Generation of ours is heavenly, yet compared with that true GENERATION which is from the Substance of the Father, it is earthly.

He does not say, "Ye have not understood," but, "Ye have not believed"; for when a man is ill disposed towards those things which it is possible to apprehend by the intellect, and will not readily receive them, he may justly be charged with want of understanding; but when he receives not things which cannot be apprehended by reasoning, but only by faith, the charge against him is no longer want of understanding, but unbelief. Leading him therefore away from enquiring by reasonings into what had been said, He touches him more severely by charging him with want of faith. If now we must receive our own Generation(3) by faith, what do they deserve who are busy with their reasonings about that of the Only-Begotten?

But perhaps some may ask, "And if the hearers were not to believe these sayings, wherefore were they uttered?" Because though "they" believed not, those who came after would believe and profit by them. Touching him therefore very severely, Christ goes on to show that He knoweth not these things only, but others also, far more and greater than these. And this He declared by what follows, when He said, "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven."

"And what manner of sequel is this?"(1) asks one. The very closest, and entirely in unison with what has gone before. For since Nicodemus had said, "We know that Thou art a teacher come from God," on this very point He sets him right, all but saying, "Think Me not a teacher in such manner as were the many of the prophets who were of earth, for I have come from heaven (but) now. None of the prophets hath ascended up thither, but I dwell there." Seest thou how even that which appears very exalted is utterly unworthy of his greatness? For not in heaven only is He, but everywhere, and He fills all things; but yet He speaks according to the infirmity of His hearer, desiring to lead him up little by little. And in this place He called not the flesh "Son of Man," but He now named, so to speak, His entire Self from the inferior substance; indeed this is His wont, to call His whole Person(2) often from His Divinity, and often from His humanity.

Ver. 14. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up."

This again seems to depend upon what has gone before, and this too has a very close connection with it. For after having spoken of the very great benefaction that had come to man by Baptism, He proceeds to mention another benefaction, which was the cause of this, and not inferior to it; namely, that by the Cross. As also Paul arguing with the Corinthians sets down these benefits together, when he says, "Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized into the name of Paul?" for these two things most of all declare His unspeakable love, that He both suffered for His enemies, and that having died for His enemies, He freely gave to them by Baptism entire remission of their sins.

[2.] But wherefore did He not say plainly, "I am about to be crucified," instead of referring His hearers to the ancient type? First, that you may learn that old things are akin to new, and that the one are not alien to the other; next, that you may know that He came not unwillingly to His Passion; and again, besides these reasons, that you may learn that no harm arises to Him from the Fact,(3) and that to many there springs from it salvation. For, that none may say, "And how is it possible that they who believe on one crucified should be saved, when he himself is holden of death?" He leads us to the ancient story. Now if the Jews, by looking to the brazen image of a serpent, escaped death, much rather will they who believe on the Crucified, with good reason enjoy a far greater benefit. For this(4) takes place, not through the weakness of the Crucified, or because the Jews are stronger than He, but because "God loved the world," therefore is His living Temple fastened to the Cross.

Ver. 15. "That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."

Seest thou the cause of the Crucifixion, and the salvation which is by it? Seest thou the relationship of the type to the reality? there the Jews escaped death, but the temporal, here believers the eternal; there the hanging serpent healed the bites of serpents, here the Crucified Jesus cured the wounds inflicted by the spiritual(5) dragon; there he who looked with his bodily eyes was healed, here he who beholds with the eyes of his understanding put off all his sins; there that which hung was brass fashioned into the likeness of a serpent, here it was the Lord's Body, builded by the Spirit; there a serpent bit and a serpent healed, here death destroyed and a Death saved. But the snake which destroyed had venom, that which saved was free from venom; and so again was it here, for the death which slew us had sin with it, as the serpent had venom; but the Lord's Death was free from all sin, as the brazen serpent from venom. For, saith Peter, "He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth." (1 Pet. ii. 22.) And this is what Paul also declares, "And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it." (Col. ii. 16.) For as some noble champion by lifting on high and dashing down his antagonist, renders his victory more glorious, so Christ, in the sight of all the world, cast down the adverse powers, and having healed those who were smitten in the wilderness, delivered them from all venomous beasts(6) that vexed them, by being hung upon the Cross. Yet He did not say, "must hang," but, "must be lifted up" (Acts xxviii. 4); for He used this which seemed the milder term, on account of His hearer, and because it was proper to the type.(7)

Ver. 16. "God," He saith, "so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

What He saith, is of this kind: Marvel not that I am to be lifted up that ye may be saved, for this seemeth good to the Father, and He hath so loved you as to give His Son for slaves, and ungrateful slaves. Yet a man would not do this even for a friend, nor readily even for a righteous man; as Paul has declared when he said, "Scarcely for a righteous man will one die." (Rom. v. 7.) Now he spoke at greater length, as speaking to believers, but here Christ speaks concisely, because His discourse was directed to Nicodemus, but still in a more significant manner, for each word had much significance. For by the expression, "so loved," and that other, "God the world," He shows the great strength of His love. Large and infinite was the interval between the two. He, the immortal, who is without beginning, the Infinite Majesty, they but dust and ashes, full of ten thousand sins, who, ungrateful, have at all times offended Him; and these He "loved." Again, the words which He added after these are alike significant, when He saith, that "He gave His Only-begotten Son," not a servant, not an Angel, not an Archangel. And yet no one would show such anxiety for his own child, as God did for His ungrateful servants.

His Passion then He sets before him not very openly, but rather darkly; but the advantage of the Passion He adds in a clearer manner,(1) saying, "That every one that believeth in Him. should not perish, but have everlasting life." For when He had said, "must be lifted up," and alluded to death, test the hearer should be made downcast by these words, forming some mere human opinions concerning Him, and supposing that His death was a ceasing to be,(2) observe how He sets this right, by saying, that He that was given was "The Son of God," and the cause of life, of everlasting life. He who procured life for others by death, would not Himself be continually in death; for if they who believed on the Crucified perish not, much less doth He perish who is crucified. He who taketh away the destitution of others much more is He free from it; He who giveth life to others, much more to Himself doth He well forth life. Seest thou that everywhere there is need of faith? For He calls the Cross the fountain of life; which reason cannot easily allow, as the heathens now by their mocking testify. But faith which goes beyond the weakness of reasoning, may easily receive and retain it. And whence did God "so love the world"? From no other source but on]y from his goodness.

[3.] Let us now be abashed at His love, let us be ashamed at the excess of His lovingkindness, since He for our sakes spared not His Only-begotten Son, yet we spare our wealth to our own injury; He for us gave His Own Son, but we for Him do not so much as despise money, nor even for ourselves. And how can these things deserve pardon? If we see a man submitting to sufferings and death for us, we set him before all others, count him among our chief friends, place in his hands all that is ours, and deem it rather his than ours, and even so do not think that we give him the return that he deserves. But towards Christ we do not preserve even this degree of right feeling. He laid down His life for us, and poured forth His precious Blood for our sakes, who were neither well-disposed nor good, while we do not pour out even our money for our own sakes, and neglect Him who died for us, when He is naked and a stranger; and who shall deliver us from the punishment that is to come? For suppose that it were not God that punishes, but that we punished ourselves; should we not give our vote against ourselves? should we not sentence ourselves to the very fire of hell, for allowing Him who laid down His life for us, to pine with hunger? But why speak I of money? had we ten thousand lives, ought we not to lay them all down for Him? and yet not even so could we do what His benefits deserve. For he who confers a benefit in the first instance, gives evident proof of his kindness, but he who has received one, whatever return he makes, he repays as a debt, and does not bestow as a favor; especially when he who did the first good turn was benefiting his enemies. And he who repays both bestows his gifts on a benefactor, and himself reaps their fruit besides.(3) But not even this induces us; more foolish are we than any, putting golden necklaces about our servants and mules and horses, and neglecting our Lord who goes about naked, and passes from door to door, and ever stands at our outlets, and stretches forth His hands to us, but often regarding Him with unpitying eye; yet these very things He undergoeth for our sake. Gladly(4) doth He hunger that thou mayest be fed; naked doth He go that He may provide for thee the materials(5) for a garment of incorruption, yet not even so do ye give up any of your own. Some of your garments are moth-eaten, others are a load to your coffers, and a needless trouble to their possessors, while He who gave you these and all else that you possess goeth naked.

But perhaps you do not lay them by in your coffers, but wear them and make yourself fine with them. And what gain you by this? Is it that the street people may see you? What then? They will not admire thee who wearest such apparel, but the man who supplies garments to the needy; so if you desire to be admired, by clothing others, you will the rather get infinite applause. Then too God as well as man shall praise thee; now none can praise, but all will grudge at thee, seeing thee with a body well arrayed, but having a neglected soul. So harlots have adornment, and their clothes are often more than usually expensive and splendid; but the adornment of the soul is with those only who live in virtue.

These things I say continually, and I will not cease to say them, not so much because I care for the poor, as because I care for your souls. For they will have some comfort, if not from you, yet from some other quarter; or even if they be not comforted, but perish by hunger, the harm to them will be no great matter. What did poverty and wasting by hunger injure Lazarus! But none can rescue you from hell, if you obtain not the help of the poor;(6) we shall say to you what was said to the rich man, who was continually broiling, yet gained no comfort. God grant that none ever hear those words, but that all may go into the bosom of Abraham; by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.


JOHN iii. 17.

"For God sent not His Son(1) to condemn the world, but to save the world."(2)

[1.] MANY of the more careless sort of persons, using the lovingkindness of God to increase the magnitude of their sins and the excess of their disregard, speak in this way, "There is no hell, there is no future punishment, God forgives us all sins." To stop whose mouths a wise man says, "Say not, His mercy is great, He will be pacified for the multitude of my sins; for mercy and wrath come from Him, and His indignation resteth upon sinners" (Ecclus. v. 6): and again, "As His mercy is great, so is His correction also." (Ecclus. xvi. 12.) "Where then," saith one, "is His lovingkindness, if we shall receive for our sins according to our deserts?" That we shall indeed receive "according to our deserts," hear both the Prophet and Paul declare; one says, "Thou shalt render to every man according to his work" (Ps. lxii. 12, LXX.); the other, "Who will render to every man according to his work." (Rom. ii. 6.) And yet we may see that even so the lovingkindness of God is great; in dividing our existence(3) into two periods,(4) the present life and that which is to come, and making the first to be an appointment of trial, the second a place of crowning, even in this He hath shown great lovingkindness.

"How and in what way?" Because when we had committed many and grievous sins, and had not ceased from youth to extreme old age to defile our souls with ten thousand evil deeds, for none of these sins did He demand from us a reckoning, but granted us remission of them by the washing(5) of Regeneration, and freely gave us Righteousness and Sanctification. "What then," says one, "if a man who from his earliest age has been deemed worthy of the mysteries, after this commits ten thousand sins?" Such an one deserves a severer punishment. For we do not pay the same penalties for the same sins, if we do wrong after Initiation.(7) And this Paul declares, saying, "He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the Covenant an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" (Heb. x. 28, 29.) Such an one then is worthy of severer punishment.(8) Yet even for him God hath opened doors of repentance, and hath granted him many means for the washing away his transgressions, if he will. Think then what proofs of lovingkindness these are; by Grace to remit sins, and not to punish him who after grace has sinned and deserves punishment, but to give him a season and appointed space for his clearing.(9) For all these reasons Christ said to Nicodemus, "God sent not His Son to condemn the world, but to save the world."

For there are two Advents of Christ, that which has been, and that which is to be; and the two are not for the same purpose; the first came to pass not that He might search into our actions, but that He might remit; the object of the second will be not to remit, but to enquire. Therefore of the first He saith, "I came not to condemn the world, but to save the world" (c. iii. 17); but of the second, "When the Son shall have come in the glory of His Father, (1) He shall set the sheep on His right hand, and the goats on His left." (Matt. xxv. 31 and 46.) And they shall go, these into life; and these into eternal punishment. Yet His former coming was for judgment, according to the rule of justice. Why? Because before His coming there was a law of nature, and the prophets, and moreover a written Law, and doctrine, and ten thousand promises, and manifestations of signs, and chastisements, and vengeances, and many other things which might have set men right, and it followed that for all these things He would demand account; but, because He is merciful, He for a while pardons instead of making enquiry. For had He done so, all would at once have been hurried to perdition. For "all," it saith, "have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." (Rom. iii 23.) Seest thou the unspeakable excess of His lovingkindness?

Ver. 18. "He that believeth on the Son, (2) is not judged;(3) but he that believeth not, is judged already."

Yet if He "came not to judge the world," how is "he that believeth not judged already," if the time of "judgment" has not yet arrived? He either means this, that the very fact of disbelieving without repentance is a punishment, (for to be without the light, contains in itself a very severe punishment,) or he announces beforehand what shall be. For as the murderer, though he be not as yet condemned by the decision of the judge, is still condemned by the nature of the thing, so is it with the unbeliever. Since Adam also died on the day that he ate of the tree; for so ran the decree, "In the day that ye eat of the tree, ye shall die" (Gen. ii. 17, LXX.); yet he lived. How then "died" he? By the decree; by the very nature of the thing; for he who has rendered himself liable to punishment, is under its penalty, and if for a while not actually so, yet he is by the sentence.

Lest any one on hearing, "I came not to judge the world," should imagine that he might sin unpunished, and should so become more careless, Christ stops (4) such disregard by saying, "is judged already"; and because the "judgment" was future and not yet at hand, He brings near the dread of vengeance, and describes the punishment as already come. And this is itself a mark of great lovingkindness, that He not only gives His Son, but even delays the time of judgment, that they who have sinned, and they who believe not, may have power to, wash away their transgressions.

"He that believeth on the Son, is not judged." He that "believeth," not he that is over-curious: he that "believeth," not the busybody. But what if his life be unclean, and his deeds evil? It is of such as these especially that Paul declares, that they are not true believers at all: "They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him." (Tit. i. 16.) But here Christ saith, that such an one is not "judged" in this one particular; for his works indeed he shall suffer a severer punishment, but having believed once, he is not chastised for unbelief.

[2.] Seest thou how having commenced His discourse with fearful things, He has concluded it again with the very same? for at first He saith, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God": and here again, "He that believeth not on the Son, is judged already." "Think not," He saith, "that the delay advantageth at all the guilty, except he repent, for he that hath not believed, shall be in no better state than those who are already condemned and under punishment."

Ver. 19. "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light."

What He saith, is of this kind: "they are punished, because they would not leave the darkness, and hasten to the light." And hence He goes on to deprive them of all excuse for the future: "Had I come," saith He, "to punish and to exact account of their deeds, they might have been able to say, 'this is why we started away from thee,' but now I am come to free them from darkness, and to bring them to the light; who then could pity one who will not come from darkness unto light? When they have no charge to bring against us, but have received ten thousand benefits, they start away from us." And this charge He hath brought in another place, where He saith, "They hated Me without a cause" (John xv. 25): and again," If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin." (John xv. 22.) For he who in the absence of light sitteth in darkness, may perchance receive pardon; but one who after it is come abides by the darkness, produces against himself a certain proof of a perverse and contentious disposition. Next, because His assertion would seem incredible to most, (for none would prefer "darkness to light,") He adds the cause of such a feeling in them. What is that?

Ver. 19, 20. "Because," He saith, "their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved."

Yet he came not to judge or to enquire, but to pardon and remit transgressions, and to grant salvation through faith. How then fled they? (5) Had He come and sat in His Judgment seat, what He said might have seemed reasonable; for he that is conscious to himself of evil deeds, is wont to fly his judge. But, on the contrary, they who have transgressed even run to one who is pardoning. If therefore He came to pardon, those would naturally most hasten to Him who were conscious to themselves of many transgressions; and indeed this was the case with many, for even publicans and sinners sat at meat with Jesus. What then is this which He saith? He saith this of those who choose always to remain in wickedness. He indeed came, that He might forgive men's former sins, and secure them against those to come; but since there are some so relaxed, (1) so powerless for the toils of virtue, that they desire to abide by wickedness till their latest breath, and never cease from it, He speaks in this place reflecting (2) upon these. "For since," He saith, "the profession of Christianity requires besides right doctrine a sound conversation also, they fear to come over to us, because they like not to show forth a righteous life. Him that lives in heathenism none would blame, because with gods such as he has, and with rites as foul and ridiculous as his gods, he shows forth actions that suit his doctrines; but those who belong to the True God, if they live a careless life, have all men to call them to account, and to accuse them. So greatly do even its enemies admire the truth." Observe, then, how exactly He layeth down what He saith. His expression is, not "He that hath done evil cometh not to the light," but "he that doeth it always, he that desireth always to roll himself in the mire of sin, he will not subject himself to My laws, but chooses to stay without, and to commit fornication without fear, and to do all other forbidden things. For if he comes to Me, he becomes manifest as a thief in the light, and therefore he avoids My dominion." For instance, even now one may hear many heathen say, "that they cannot come to our faith, because they cannot leave off drunkenness and fornication, and the like disorders."

"Well," says some one, "but are there no Christians that do evil, and heathens that live discreetly?"(3) That there are Christians who do evil, I know; but whether there are heathens who live a righteous life, I do not yet know assuredly. For do not speak to me of those who by nature are good and orderly, (this is not virtue,) but tell me of the man who can endure the exceeding violence of his passions and (yet) be temperate.(4) You cannot. For if the promise of a Kingdom, and the threat of hell, and so much other provision;(5) can scarcely keep men in virtue, they will hardly go after virtue who believe in none of these things. Or, if any pretend to do so, they do it for show; and he who doth so for show, will not, when he may escape observation, refrain from indulging his evil desires. However, that we may not seem to any to be contentious, let us grant that there are right livers among the heathen; for neither doth this go against my argument, since I spoke of that which occurs in general, not of what happens rarely.

And observe how in another way He deprives them of all excuse, when He saith that, "the light came into the world." "Did they seek it themselves," He saith, "did they toil, did they labor to find it? The light itself came to them, and not even so would they hasten to it." And if there be some Christians who live wickedly, I would argue that He doth not say this of those who have been Christians from the beginning, and who have inherited true religion from their forefathers, (although even these for the most part have been shaken from (6) right doctrine by their evil life,) yet still I think that He doth not now speak concerning these, but concerning the heathen and the Jews who ought to have come (7) to the right faith. For He showeth that no man living in error would choose to come to the truth unless he before had planned (8) for himself a righteous life, and that none would remain in unbelief unless he had previously chosen always to be wicked.

Do not tell me that a man is temperate, and does not rob; these things by themselves are not virtue. For what advantageth it, if a man has these things, and yet is the slave of vainglory, and remains in his error, from fear of the company of his friends? This is not right living. The slave of a reputation (9) is no less a sinner than the fornicator; nay, he worketh more and more grievous deeds than he. But tell me of any one that is free from all passions and from all iniquity, and who remains among the heathen. Thou canst not do so; for even those among them who have boasted great things, and who have, as they say, (10) mastered avarice or gluttony, have been, most of all men, the slaves of reputation, (11) and this is the cause of all evils. Thus it is that the Jews also have continued Jews; for which cause Christ rebuked them and said, "How can ye believe, which receive honor from men?" (c. v. 44.)

"And why, pray, did He not speak on these matters with Nathanael, to whom He testified of the truth, nor extend His discourse to any length?" Because even he came not with such zeal as did Nicodemus. For Nicodemus made this his work, (1) and the season which others used for rest he made a season for hearing; but Nathanael came at the instance of another. Yet not even him did Jesus entirely pass by, for to him He saith," Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." (c. i. 51.) But to Nicodemus He spake not so, but conversed with him on the Dispensation and on eternal life, addressing each differently and suitably to the condition of his will. It was sufficient for Nathanael, because he knew the writings of the prophets, and was not so timid either, to hear only thus far; but because Nicodemus was as yet possessed by fear, Christ did not indeed clearly reveal to him the whole, but shook his mind so as to cast out fear by fear, declaring that he who did not believe was being judged," and that unbelief proceeded from an evil conscience. For since he made great account of honor from men, more than he did of the punishment; ("Many," saith the Evangelist, "of the rulers believed on Him, but because of the Jews they did not confess"--c. xii. 42;) on this point Christ toucheth him, saying, "It cannot be that he who believeth not on Me disbelieveth for any other cause save that he liveth an unclean life." Farther on He saith, "I am the Light" (c. viii. 12), but here, "the Light came into the world "; for at the beginning He spoke somewhat darkly, but afterwards more clearly. Yet even so the man was kept back by regard for the opinion of the many, and therefore could not endure to speak boldly as he ought.

Fly we then vainglory, for this is a passion more tyrannical than any. Hence spring covetousness and love of wealth, hence hatred and wars and strifes; for he that desires more than he has, will never be able to stop, and he desires from no other cause, but only from his love of vainglory. For tell me, why do so many encircle themselves with multitudes of eunuchs, and herds of slaves, and much show? Not because they need it, but that they may make those who meet them witnesses of this unseasonable display. If then we cut this off, we shall slay together with the head the other members also of wickedness, and there will be nothing to hinder us from dwelling on earth as though it were heaven. Nor doth this vice merely thrust its captives into wickedness, but is even co-existent (3) with their virtues, and when it is unable entirely to cast us out of these, it still causeth us much damage in the very exercise of them, forcing us to undergo the toil, and depriving us of the fruit. For he that with an eye to this, fasts, and prays, and shows mercy, has his reward. What can be more pitiable than a loss like this, that it should befall man to bewail (4) himself uselessly and in vain, and to become an object of ridicule, and to lose the glory from above? Since he that aims at both cannot obtain both. It is indeed possible to obtain both, when we desire not both, but one only, that from heaven; but he cannot obtain both, who longs for both. Wherefore if we wish to attain to glory, let us flee from human glory, and desire that only which cometh from God; so shall we obtain both the one and the other; which may we all enjoy, through the grace and loving kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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