2. "For when He was come down from the mountain, there came a leper,
saying, Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean." Great was the
understanding and the faith of him who so drew near. For he did not interrupt
the teaching, nor break through the auditory, but awaited the proper time,
and approaches Him "when He is come down." And not at random, but with
much earnestness, and at His knees, he beseeches Him, as another evangelist
saith, and with the genuine faith and right opinion about him. For neither
did he say, "If Thou request it of God," nor, "If Thou pray," but, "If
Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean." Nor did he say, "Lord, cleanse me,"
but leaves all to Him, and makes His recovery depend on Him, and testifies
that all the authority is His
"What then," saith one, "if the leper's opinion was mistaken?" It were
meet to do away with it, and to reprove, and set it right. Did He then
so do? By no means; but quite on the contrary, He establishes and confirms
what had been said. For this cause, you see, neither did He say, "Be thou
cleansed," but, "I will, be thou clean;" that the doctrine might no longer
be a thing of the other's surmising, but of His own approval.
But the apostles not so: rather in what way? The whole people being
in amazement, they said, "Why give heed to us, as though by our own power
or authority we had made him to walk?" But the Lord, though He spake oftentimes
many things modestly, and beneath His own glory, what saith He here, to
establish the doctrine of them that were amazed at Him for His authority?
"I will, be thou clean." Although in the many and great signs which He
wrought, He nowhere appears to have uttered this word. Here however, to
confirm the surmise both of all the people and of the leper touching His
authority, He purposely added, "I will."
And it was not that He said this, but did it not; but the work also
followed immediately. Whereas, if he had not spoken well, but the saying
had been a blasphemy, the work ought to have been interrupted. But now
nature herself gave way at His command, and that speedily, as was meet,
even more speedily than the evangelist hath said. For the word, "immediately,"
falls far short of the quickness that there was in the work.
But He did not merely say, "I will, be thou clean," but He also "put
forth His hand, and touched him;" a thing especially worthy of inquiry.
For wherefore, when cleansing him by will and word, did He add also the
touch of His hand? It seems to me, for no other end, but that He might
signify by this also, that He is not subject to the law, but is set over
it; and that to the clean, henceforth, nothing is unclean. For this cause,
we see, Elisha did not so much as see Naaman, but though he perceived that
he was offended at his not coming out and touching him, observing the strictness
of the law, he abides at home, and sends him to Jordan to wash. Whereas
the Lord, to signify that He heals not as a servant, but as absolute master,
doth also touch. For His hand became not unclean from the leprosy, but
the leprous body was rendered clean by His holy hand.
Because, as we know, He came not to heal bodies only, but also to lead
the soul unto self-command. As therefore He from that time forward no more
forbad to eat with unwashen hands, introducing that excellent law, which
relates to the indifference of meats; just so in this case also, to instruct
us for the future, that the soul must be our care;-that leaving the outward
purifications, we must wipe that clean, and dread the leprosy thereof alone,
which is sin (for to be a leper is no hindrance to virtue):-He Himself
first touches the leper, and no man finds fault. For the tribunal was not
corrupt, neither were the spectators under the power of envy. Therefore,
so far from blaming, they were on the contrary astonished at the miracle,
and yielded thereto: and both for what He said, and for what He did, they
adored his uncontrollable power.
3. Having therefore healed his body, He bids him,
"Tell no man, but show himself to the priest, and offer the gift
that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them."
Now some say, that for this intent He bade him tell no man, that they
might practise no craft about the discerning of his cure; a very foolish
suspicion on their part. For He did not so cleanse as to leave the cleansing
questionable, but He bids him "tell no man," teaching us to avoid boasting
and vainglory. And yet He well knew that the other would not obey, but
would proclaim his benefactor: nevertheless He doth His own part.
"How then elsewhere doth He bid them tell of it?" one may ask. Not as
jostling with or opposing Himself, but as teaching men to be grateful.
For neither in that place did He give command to proclaim Himself, but
to "give glory to God;" by this leper training us to be clear of pride
and vainglory, by the other to be thankful and grateful; and instructing
on every occasion to offer to the Lord the praise of all things that befall
us. That is, because men for the most part remember God in sickness, but
grow slacker after recovery; He bids them continually both in sickness
and in health to give heed to the Lord, in these words, "give glory to
But wherefore did He command him also to show himself to the priest,
and to offer a gift? To fulfill the law here again. For neither did He
in every instance set it aside, nor in every instance keep it, but sometimes
He did the one, sometimes the other; by the one making way for the high
rule of life that was to come, by the other checking for a while the insolent
speech of the Jews, and condescending to their infirmity. And why marvel,
if just at the beginning He Himself did this, when even the very apostles,
after they were commanded to depart unto the Gentiles, after the doors
were opened for their teaching throughout the world, and the law shut up,
and the commandments made new, and all the ancient things had ceased, are
found sometimes observing the law, sometimes neglecting it?
But what, it may be said, doth this saying, "Show thyself to the priest,"
contribute to the keeping of the law? No little. Because it was an ancient
law, that the leper when cleansed should not entrust to himself the judgment
of his cleansing, but should show himself to the priest, and present the
demonstration thereof to his eyes, and by that sentence be numbered amongst
the clean. For if the priest said not "The leper is cleansed," he remained
still with the unclean without the camp. Wherefore he saith, "Show thyself
to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded." He said not, "which
I command," but for a time remits him to the law, by every means stopping
their mouths. Thus, lest they should say, He had seized Upon the priests'
honor; though He performed the work Himself, yet the approving it He entrusted
to them, and made them sit as judges of His own miracles "Why, I am so
far," He saith, "from striving either with Moses or with the priests, that
I guide the objects of my favor to submit themselves unto them."
But what is, "for a testimony unto them"? For reproof, for demonstration,
for accusation, if they be unthankful. For since they said, as a deceiver
and impostor we persecute Him, as an adversary of God, and a transgressor
of the law; "Thou shalt bear me witness," saith He, "at that time, that
I am not a transgressor of the law. Nay, for having healed thee, I remit
thee to the law, and to the approval of the priests;" which was the act
of one honoring the law, and admiring Moses, and not setting himself in
opposition to the ancient doctrines.
And if they were not in fact to be the better, hereby most of all one
may perceive His respect for the law, that although He fore-knew they would
reap no benefit, He fulfilled all His part. For this very thing He did
indeed foreknow, and foretold it: not saying, "for their correction," neither,
"for their instruction," but, "for a testimony unto them," that is, for
accusation, and for reproof, and for a witness that all hath been done
on my part; and though I foreknew they would continue incorrigible, not
even so did I omit what ought to be done; only they continued keeping up
to the end their own wickedness.
This, we may observe, He saith elsewhere also; "This gospel shall be
preached in all the world for a testimony to all the nations, and then
shall the end come;" to the nations, to them that obey not, to them that
believe not. Thus, lest any one should say, "And wherefore preach to all,
if all are not to believe?"-it is that I may be found to have done all
my own part, and that no man may hereafter be able to find fault, as though
he had not heard. For the very preaching shall bear witness against them,
and they will not be able hereafter to say, "We heard not;" for the word
of godliness "hath gone out unto the ends of the world."
4. Therefore bearing these things in mind, let us also fulfill all our
duties to our neighbor, and to God let us give thanks continually. For
it is too monstrous, enjoying as we do His bounty in deed every day, not
so much as in word to acknowledge the favor; and this, though the acknowledgment
again yield all its profit to us. Since He needs not, be sure, anything
of ours: but we stand in need of all things from Him. Thus thanksgiving
itself adds nothing to Him, but causes us to be nearer to Him. For if men's
bounties, when we call them to memory, do the more warm us with their proper
love-charm; much more when we are continually bringing to mind the noble
acts of our Lord towards us, shall we be more diligent in regard of His
For this cause Paul also said, "Be ye thankful." For the best preservative
of any benefit is the remembrance of the benefit, and a continual thanksgiving.
For this cause even the awful mysteries, so full of that great salvation,
which are celebrated at every communion, are called a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
because they are the commemoration of many benefits, and they signify the
very sum of God's care for us, and by all means they work upon us to be
thankful. For if His being born of a virgin was a great miracle, and the
evangelist said in amaze, "now all this was done;" His being also slain,
what place shall we find for that? tell me. I mean, if to be born is called
"all this;" to be crucified, and to pour forth His blood, and to give Himself
to us for a spiritual feast and banquet,-what can that be called? Let us
therefore give Him thanks continually, and let this precede both our words
and our works.
But let us be thankful not for our own blessings alone, but also for
those of others; for in this way we shall be able both to destroy our envy,
and to rivet our charity, and make it more genuine. Since it will not even
be possible for thee to go on envying them, in behalf of whom thou givest
thanks to the Lord.
Wherefore, as you know, the priest also enjoins to give thanks for the
world, for the former things, for the things that are now, for what hath
been done to us before, for what shall befall us hereafter, when that sacrifice
is set forth.
For this is the thing both to free us from earth, and to remove us into
heaven, and to make us angels instead of men. Because they too form a choir,
and give thanks to God for His good things bestowed on us, saying, "Glory
to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men." "And
what is this to us, that are not upon earth, nor are men?" "Nay, it is
very much to us, for we have been taught so to love our fellow servants,
as even to account their blessings ours."
Wherefore Paul also, everywhere in his epistles, gives thanks for God's
gracious acts to the world.
Let us too therefore continually give thanks, for our own blessings,
and for those of others, alike for the small and for the great. For though
the gift be small, it is made great by being God's gift, or rather, there
is nothing small that cometh from Him, not only because it is bestowed
by Him, but also in its very nature.
And to pass over all the rest, which exceed the sand in multitude; what
is equal to the dispensation that hath taken place for our sake? In that
what was more precious to Him than all, even His only-begotten Son, Him
He gave for us His enemies; and not only gave, but after giving, did even
set Him before us as food; Himself doing all things that were for our good,
both in giving Him, and in making us thankful for all this. For because
man is for the most part unthankful, He doth Himself everywhere take in
hand and bring about what is for our good. And what He did with respect
to the Jews, by places, and times, and feasts, reminding them of His benefits,
that He did in this case also, by the manner of the sacrifice bringing
us to a perpetual remembrance of His bounty in these things.
No one hath so labored that we should be approved, and great, and in
all things right-minded, as the God who made us. Wherefore both against
our will He befriends us often, and without our knowledge oftener than
not. And if thou marvel at what I have said, I point to this as having
occurred not to any ordinary person, but to the blessed Paul. For even
that blessed man, when in much danger and affliction, often besought God
that the temptations might depart from him: nevetheless God regarded not
his request, but his profit, and to signify this He said, "My grace is
sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness." So that
before He hath told him the reason, He benefits him against his will, and
without his knowing it.
5. Now what great thing doth He ask, in requiring us to be thankful
in return for such tender care? Let us then obey, and everywhere keep up
this. Since neither were the Jews by anything ruined so much, as by being
unthankful; those many stripes, one after another, were brought upon them
by nothing else than this; or rather even before those stripes this had
ruined and corrupted their soul. "For the hope of the unthankful," saith
one, "is like the winter's hoar frost;" it benumbs and deadens the soul,
as that doth our bodies.
And this springs from pride, and from thinking one's self worthy of
something. But the contrite will acknowledge grounds of thanksgiving to
God, not for good things only, but also for what seem to be adverse; and
how much soever he may suffer, will count none of his sufferings undeserved.
Let us then also, the more we advance in virtue. so much the more make
ourselves contrite; for indeed this, more than anything else is virtue.
Because, as the sharper our sight is, the more thoroughly do we learn how
distant we are from the sky; so the more we advance in virtue, so much
the more are we instructed in the difference between God and us. And this
is no small part of true wisdom, to be able to perceive our own desert.
For he best knows himself, who accounts himself to be nothing. Thus we
see that both David and Abraham, when they were come up to the highest
pitch of virtue, then best fulfilled this; and would call themselves, the
one, "earth and ashes," the other, "a worm;" and all the saints too, like
these, acknowledge their own wretchedness. So that he surely who is lifted
up in boasting, is the very person to be most ignorant of himself. Wherefore
also in our common practice we are wont to say of the proud, "he knows
not himself," "he is ignorant of himself." And he that knows not himself,
whom will he know? For as he that knows himself will know all things, so
he who knows not this, neither will he know the rest.
Such an one was he that saith, "I will exalt my throne above the Heavens."
Being ignorant of himself, he was ignorant of all else. But not so Paul;
he rather used to call himself "one born out of due time," and last of
the saints, and did not account himself to be worthy so much as of the
title of the apostles, after so many and so great deeds of goodness.
Him therefore let us emulate and follow. And we shall follow him, if
we rid ourselves of earth, and of things on earth. For nothing makes a
man to be so ignorant of himself, as the being rivetted to worldly concerns:
nor does anything again so much cause men to be rivetted to worldly concerns,
as ignorance of one's self: for these things depend upon each other. I
mean, that as he that is fond of outward glory, and highly esteems the
things present, if he strive for ever, is not permitted to understand himself;
so he that overlooks these things will easily know himself; and having
come to the knowledge of himself, he will proceed in order to all the other
parts of virtue.
In order therefore that we may learn this good knowledge, let us, disengaged
from all the perishable things that kindle in us so great flame, and made
aware of their vileness, show forth all lowliness of mind, and self-restraint:
that we may attain unto blessings, both present and future: by the grace
and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be glory, might,
and honor, to the Father, together with the Holy and Good Spirit, now and
ever, and world without end. Amen.
Matthew Chapter 8, Verse 5
"And when He was entered into Capernaum, there came unto Him a centurion,
beseeching Him, and saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the
palsy, grievously tormented."
The leper came unto Him "when He was come down front time mountain,"
but this centurion, "when He was entered into Capernaum." Wherefore then
did neither the one nor the other go up into the mountain? Not out of remissness,
for indeed the faith of them both was fervent, but in order not to interrupt
But having come unto Him, he saith, "My servant lieth at home sick of
the palsy, grievously tormented." Now some say, that by way of excuse he
mentioned also the cause, why he had not brought him. "For neither was
it possible," saith he, "paralyzed as he was, and tormented, and at his
last gasp, to lift and convey him." For that he was at the point of expiring,
Luke saith; "He was even ready to die." But I say, this is a sign of his
having great faith, even much greater than theirs, who let one down through
the roof. For because he knew for certain, that even a mere command was
enough for the raising up of the patient, he thought it superfluous to
What then doth Jesus? What He had in no case done before, here He doeth.
For whereas on every occasion He was used to follow the wish of His supplicants,
here He rather springs toward it, and offers not only to heal him, but
also to come to the house. And this He doth, that we might learn the virtue
of the centurion. For if He had not made this offer, but had said, "Go
thy way, let thy servant be healed;" we should have known none of these
This at least He did, in an opposite way, in the case also of the Phoenician
woman. For here, when not summoned to the house, of His own accord He saith,
He will come, that thou mightest learn the centurion's faith and great
humility; but in the case of the Phoenician woman, He both refuses the
grant, and drives her, persevering therein, to great perplexity.
For being a wise physician and full of resources, He knows how to bring
about contraries the one by the other. And as here by His freely-offered
coming, so there by His peremptory putting off and denial, He unfolds the
woman's faith. So likewise He doth in Abraham's case, saying, "I will by
no means hide from Abraham my servant;" to make thee know that man's kindly
affection, and his care for Sodom. And in the instance of Lot, they that
were sent refuse to enter into his house, to make thee know the greatness
of that righteous man's hospitality.
What then saith the centurion? "I am not worthy that thou shouldest
come under my roof." Let us hearken, as many as are to receive Christ:
for it is possible to receive Him even now. Let us hearken, and emulate,
and receive Him with as great zeal; for indeed, when thou receivest a poor
man who is hungry and naked, thou hast received and cherished Him.
2. "But say in a word only, and my servant shall be healed."
See this man also, how, like the leper, he hath the right opinion touching
Him. For neither did this one say, "entreat," nor did he say, "pray, and
beseech," but "command only." And then from fear lest out of modesty He
refuse, He saith,
"For I also am a man under authority, having under me soldiers; and
I say to this man, go, and he goeth; and to another, come, and he cometh;
and to my servant, do this, and he doeth it."
"And what of that," saith one, "if the centurion did suspect it to be
so? For the question is, whether Christ affirmed and ratified as much."
Thou speakest well, and very sensibly. Let us then look to this very thing;
and we shall find what happened in the case of the leper, the same happening
here likewise. For even as the leper said, "If thou wilt" (and not from
the leper only are we positive about His authority, but also from the voice
of Christ; in that, so far from putting an end to the suspicion, He did
even confirm it more, by adding what were else superfluous to say, in the
phrase,. "I will, be thou cleansed," in order to establish that man's doctrine):
so here too, it is right to see whether any such thing occurred. In fact,
we shall find this same thing again taking place. For when the centurion
had spoken such words, and had testified His so great prerogative; so far
from blaming, He did even approve it, and did somewhat more than approve
it. For neither hath the evangelist said, that He praised the saying only,
but declaring a certain earnestness in His praise, that He even "marvelled;"
and neither did He simply marvel, but in the presence also of the whole
people, and set Him as an example to the rest, that they should emulate
Seest thou how each of them that bore witness of His authority is" marvelled
at? And the multitudes were astonished at His doctrine, because He taught
as one having authority;" and so far from blaming them, He both took them
with Him when He came down, and by His words of cleansing to the leper,
confirmed their judgment. Again, that leper said, "If thou wilt, thou canst
make me clean;" and so far from rebuking, He on the contrary cleansed him
by such treatment as He had said. Again, this centurion saith, "Speak the
word only, and my servant shall be healed: " and "marvelling" at him, He
said, "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel."
Now, to convince thee of this by the opposite also; Martha having said
nothing of this sort, but on the contrary, "Whatsoever thou wilt ask of
God, He will give Thee;" so far from being praised, although an acquaintance,
and dear to Him, and one of them that had shown great zeal toward Him,
she was rather rebuked and corrected by Him, as not having spoken well;
in that He said to her, "Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe,
thou shouldest see the glory of God?" blaming her, as though she did not
even yet believe. And again, because she had said, "Whatsoever Thou wilt
ask of God, He will give Thee;" to lead her away from such a surmise, and
to teach her that He needs not to receive from another, but is Himself
the fountain of all good things, He saith, "I am the resurrection and the
life;" that is to say, "I wait not to receive active power, but work all
Wherefore at the centurion He both marvels, and prefers him to all the
people, and honors him with the gift of the kingdom, and provokes the rest
to the same zeal. And to show thee that for this end He so spake, viz.
for the instructing of the rest to believe in like manner, listen to the
exactness of the evangelist. how he hath intimated it. For,
"Jesus," saith He, "turned Him about, and said to them that followed
Him, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel."
It follows, that to have high imaginations concerning Him, this especially
is of faith, and tends to procure the kingdom and His other blessings.
For neither did His praise reach to words only, but He both restored the
sick man whole, in recompence of his faith, and weaves for him a glorious
crown, and promises great gifts, saying on this wise,
"Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down in the bosoms
of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; but the children of the kingdom shall
be cast out."
Thus, since He had shown many miracles, He proceeds to talk with them
Then, that no one might suppose His words to come of flattery, but that
all might be aware that such was the mind of the centurion, He saith,
"Go thy way; as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee."
And straightway the work followed, bearing witness to his character.
"And his servant was healed from that hour."
Which was the result in the case of the Syrophoenician woman also;
for to her too He saith, "O woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee
even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole."
3. But since Luke, also relating this miracle, inserts by the way a
good many other things, which seem to indicate some disagreement; these
too must be explained by us.
What then saith Luke? He sent elders of the Jews unto Him entreating
Him to come. But Matthew saith, that he approached himself, and said, "I
am not worthy." And some indeed say, the one is not the same as the other,
though they have many points of resemblance. Thus, of the one it is said,
that "He both hath builded our synagogue, and loveth our nation; " but
concerning this other Jesus Himself saith, "I have not found so great faith,
no not in Israel." And touching the former, He did not say, "many shall
come from the east;" whence it is likely that he was a Jew.
What then are we to say? That this solution is indeed easy, but the
question is, whether it be true. To me this one seems to be the same as
the other. How then, it may be asked, doth Matthew relate, that he himself
said, "I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof," but Luke,
that he sent for Christ to come? To me Luke seems to be intimating to us
the flattery of the Jews; and that persons in affliction, being unsettled,
form to themselves many different counsels. For it is likely that the centurion,
when he wished to have gone, was stopped by the Jews, flattering him, and
saying, "We will go and bring Him."
See at least that even their entreaty is full of flattering. "For He
loveth our nation" (so it runs), "and our synagogue He builded:" neither
know they for what to praise the man. For whereas they ought to have said,
He was minded himself to come and entreat Thee, "but we forbad him, seeing
his affliction, and the calamity lying upon his house;" and so they should
have set forth the greatness of his faith; this they say not, for neither
were they willing, for envy, to declare the man's faith: but they chose
rather to cast a shade over his virtue, for whom they had come to make
their supplication, lest He who was entreated, should seem to be some great
one; than by proclaiming the other's faith, to accomplish that for which
they had come. For envy is enough to blind the understanding. But He who
knows the secret things, even against their will proclaimed that centurion.
And that this is true, hear Luke himself again, interpreting it. For
he himself saith on this wise: "When He was now not far off, he sent, saying,
O Lord, trouble not Thyself: for I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter
under my roof." That is, when he was freed from their importunity, then
he sends, saying, "Think not it was for sloth that I came not, but I accounted
myself unworthy to receive Thee in my house." And if Matthew saith that
not by his friends, but by himself did he say this; that proves nothing;
for the question is, whether each of them has set before us the zealousness
of the man, and his having had the right opinion concerning Christ. But
it is likely, that after sending his friends, he himself also came and
said these things. And if Luke did not speak of the one, no more did Matthew
of the other; and this is not the part of men disagreeing amongst themselves,
but rather of those that are filling up the things omitted by one another.
But see by another thing also how Luke hath proclaimed his faith, saying
that his servant "was ready to die." Nevertheless, not even this cast him
into despondency, neither did it cause him to give up: but even so he trusted
that he should prevail. And if Matthew affirm Christ to have said, "I have
not found so great faith, no, not in Israel," and hereby to show clearly
that he was not an Israelite; while Luke saith, "He built our synagogue;"
neither is this a contradiction. For it was possible for one, even though
not a Jew, both to build the synagogue, and to love the nation.
4. But do not thou, I pray thee, merely inquire what was said by him,
but add thereto his rank also, and then thou wilt see the man's excellency.
Because in truth great is the pride of them that are in places of command,
and not even in afflictions do they take lower ground. He, for example,
who is set down in John, is for dragging Him unto his house, and saith,
"Come down, for my child is ready to die." But not so this man; rather
he is far superior both to him, and to those who let down the bed through
the roof For he seeks not for His bodily presence, neither did He bring
the sick man near the physician; a thing which implied no mean imaginations
concerning Him, but rather a suspicion of His divine dignity. And he saith,
"speak the word only." And at the beginning he saith not even, "speak the
word," but only describe his affliction: for neither did he, of great humility,
expect that Christ would straightway consent, and inquire for his house.
Therefore, when he heard Him say, "I will come and heal him," then, not
before he saith, "speak the word." Nor yet did the suffering confound him,
but still under calamity he reasons coolly, not looking so much to the
health of the servant, as to the avoiding all appearance of doing anything
And yet it was not he that pressed it, but Christ that offered it: nevertheless
even so he feared, lest perchance he should be thought to be going beyond
his own deservings, and to be drawing upon himself a thing above his strength.
Seest thou his wisdom? Mark the folly of the Jews, in saying, "He was worthy
for whom He should do the favor." For when they should have taken refuge
in the love of Jesus towards man, they rather allege this man's worthiness;
and know not so much as on what ground to allege it. But not so he, but
he affirmed himself even in the utmost degree unworthy, not only of the
benefit, but even of receiving the Lord in his house. Wherefore even when
he said, "My servant lieth sick," he did not add, "speak," for fear lest
he should be unworthy to obtain the gift; but he merely made known his
affliction. And when he saw Christ zealous in His turn, not even so did
he spring forward, but still continues to keep to the end his own proper
And if any one should say, "wherefore did not Christ honor him in return?"
we would say this, that He did make return to him in honor, and that exceedingly:
first by bringing out his mind, which thing chiefly appeared by His not
coming to his house; and in the second place, by introducing him into His
kingdom, and preferring him to the whole Jewish nation. For because he
made himself out unworthy even to receive Christ into his house, he became
worthy both of a kingdom, and of attaining unto those good things which
"But wherefore," one may say, "was not the leper commended, who showed
forth things greater than these?" For he did not so much as say, "speak
the word," but what was far more, "be willing only," which is what the
prophet saith concerning the Father, "He hath done whatsoever He pleased."
But he also was commended. For when He said, "Offer the gift that Moses
commanded, for a testimony unto them," He means nothing else but, "thou
shalt be an accuser of them, in that thou didst believe." And besides,
it was not the same for one that was a Jew to believe, and for one from
without that nation. For that the centurion was not a Jew is evident, both
from his being a centurion and from its being said, "I have not found
so great faith, no, not in Israel." And it was a very great thing for
a man who was out of the list of the Jewish people to admit so great a
thought. For he did no less than imagine to himself, as it seems to me,
the armies in Heaven; or that the diseases and death, and everything else,
were so subject to Him, as his soldiers to himself.
Wherefore he said likewise, "For I also am a man set under authority;"
that is, Thou art God, and I man; I under authority, but Thou not under
authority. If I therefore, being a man, and under authority, can do so
much; far more He, both as God, and as not under authority. Thus with the
strongest expression He desires to convince Him, that he saith this, as
one giving not a similar example, but one far exceeding. For if I (said
he), being equal in honor to them whom I command, and under authority,
yet by reason of the trifling superiority of my rank am able to do such
great things; and no man contradicts me, but what I command, that is done,
though the injunctions be various ("for I say to this man, go, and he goeth;
and to another, come, and he cometh": ) much more wilt Thou Thyself be
And some actually read the place in this way, "For if I, being a
man," and having inserted a stop, they add, "having soldiers under
authority under me."
But mark thou, I pray thee, how he signified that Christ is able both
to overcome even death as a slave, and to command it as its master. For
in saying, "come, and he cometh," and "go, and he goeth;" he expresses
this: "If Thou shouldest command his end not to come upon him, it will
Seest thou how believing he was? For that which was afterwards to be
manifest to all, here is one who already hath made it evident; that He
hath power both of death and of life, and "leadeth down to the gates of
hell, and bringeth up again." Nor was he speaking of soldiers only, but
also of slaves; which related to a more entire obedience.
5. But nevertheless, though having such great faith, he still accounted
himself to be unworthy. Christ however, signifying that he was worthy to
have Him enter into his house, did much greater things, marvelling at him,
and proclaiming him, and giving more than he had asked. For he came indeed
seeking for his servant health of body, but went away, having received
a kingdom. Seest thou how the saying had been already fulfilled, "Seek
ye the kingdom of heaven, and all these things shall be added unto you."
For, because he evinced great faith, and lowliness of mind, He both gave
him heaven, and added unto him health.
And not by this alone did He honor him, but also by signifying upon
whose casting out he is brought in. For now from this time forth He proceeds
to make known to all, that salvation is by faith, not by works of the law.
And this is why not to Jews only, but to Gentiles also the gift so given
shall be proffered, and to the latter rather than to the former. For "think
not," saith He, "by any means, that so it hath come to pass in regard of
this man alone; nay, so it shall be in regard of the whole world. And this
He said, prophesying of the Gentiles, and suggesting to them good hopes.
For in fact there were some following Him from Galilee of the Gentiles.
And this He said, on the one hand, not letting the Gentiles despair, on
the other, putting down the proud spirits of the Jews.
But that His saying might not affront the hearers, nor afford them any
handle; He neither brings forward prominently what He hath to say of the
Gentiles, but upon occasion taken from the centurion; nor doth He use nakedly
the term, Gentiles: not saying, "many of the Gentiles," but, "many from
east and west:" which was the language of one pointing out the Gentiles,
but did not so much affront the hearers, because His meaning was under
Neither in this way only doth He soften the apparent novelty of His
doctrine, but also by speaking of "Abraham's bosom" instead of "the kingdom."
For neither was that term familiar to them: moreover, the introduction
of Abraham would be a sharper sting to them. Wherefore John also spake
nothing at first concerning hell, but, what was most apt to grieve them,
He saith, "Think not to say, we are children of Abraham."
He is providing for another point also; not to seem in any sense opposed
to the ancient polity. For he that admires the patriarchs, and speaks of
their bosom as an inheritance of blessings, doth much more than sufficiently
remove also this suspicion.
Let no man therefore suppose that the threat is one only, for both the
punishment of the one and the joy of the other is double: of the one, not
only that they fell away, but that they fell away from their own; of the
other, not only that they attained, but that they attained what they had
no expectation of: and there is a third together with these, that the one
received what pertained to the other. And he calls them "children of the
kingdom," for whom the kingdom had been prepared: which also more than
all was apt to gall them; in that having pointed to them as being in their
bosom by His offer and promise, after all He puts them out.
6. Then, because what He had said was mere affirmation, He confirms
it by the miracle; as indeed He shows the miracles in their turn, by the
subsequent accomplishment of the prediction. He accordingly, who disbelieves
the health which the servant then received, let him from the prophecy,
which hath this day come to pass, believe that other also. For so that
prophecy again, even before the event, was made manifest to all by the
sign which then took place. To this end, you see, having first uttered
that prediction, then and not before He raised up the sick of the palsy;
that He might make the future credible by the present, and the less by
the greater. Since for virtuous men to enjoy His good things, and for the
contrary sort to undergo His penalties, were nothing improbable, but a
reasonable event, and according to the tenor of laws: but to brace up the
feeble, and to raise the dead, was something beyond nature.
But nevertheless, unto this great and marvellous work the centurion
too contributed no little; which thing, we see, Christ also declared, saying,
"Go thy way, and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee." Seest
thou how the health of the servant proclaimed aloud both Christ's power,
and the faith of the centurion, and also became a pledge of the future?
Or rather it was all a proclamation of Christ's power. For not only did
He quite heal the servant's body, but the soul also of the centurion He
did Himself bring over unto the faith by His miracles.
And do thou look not to this only, that the one believed, and the other
was healed, but marvel how quickly also. For this too the evangelist declared,
saying, "And his servant was healed in the self-same hour:" even as of
the leper also he said, "he was straightway cleansed." For not by healing,
but by doing so both in a wonderful manner and in a moment of time, did
He display His power. Neither in this way only doth He profit us, but also
by his constant practice, in the manifestation of His miracles, of opening
incidentally His discourses about His kingdom, and of drawing all men towards
it. For, those even whom He was threatening to cast out, He threatened
not in order to cast them out, but in order that through such fear, He
might draw them into it by His words. And if not even hereby were they
profited, theirs is the whole blame, as also of all who are in the like
For not at all among Jews only may one see this taking place, but also
among them that have believed. For Judas too was a child of the kingdom,
and it was said to him with the disciples, "Ye shall sit on twelve thrones;"
yet he became a child of hell whereas the Ethiopian, barbarian as he was,
and of them "from the east and west," shall enjoy the crowns with Abraham,
and Isaac; and Jacob. This takes place among us also now. "For many,"
saith He, "that are first shall be last, and the last first."
And this He saith, that neither the one may grow languid, as unable to
return; nor the others be confident, as standing fast. This John also declared
before from the beginning, when he said, "God is able of these stones
to raise up children unto Abraham." Thus, since it was so to come to
pass, it is proclaimed long before; that no one may be confounded at the
strangeness of the event. But he indeed speaks of it as a possible thing
(for he was first); Christ on the other hand as what will surely be, affording
the proof of it from His works.
7. Let us not then be confident, who stand, but let us say to ourselves,
"Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall;" neither
let us who are fallen despair, but let us say to ourselves, "He that
falleth, doth he not arise?" For many even who have mounted to the
very summit of Heaven, and have shown forth all austerity, and had made
their abode in the deserts, nor saw any woman so much as in a dream; having
become a little remiss, have been tripped up, and have come unto the very
gulf of wickedness. While others again from thence have gone up to Heaven,
and from the stage and orchestra have passed over unto the discipline of
angels, and have displayed so great virtue, as to drive away devils, and
to work many other such miracles. And of these examples both the Scriptures
are full, and our life is also full. Even whoremongers and effeminate persons
stop the mouths of the Manichaeans, who say that wickedness is immoveable,
enrolling themselves on the devil's side, and weakening the hands of them
that would wish to be in earnest, and overturning all our life.
For they who inculcate these things, not only injure men as to the future,
but here also turn all things upside down, for their own part at least.
Because when will any regard virtue, from among those that are living in
wickedness, so long as he accounts his return that way, and His change
for the better, a thing impossible? For if now, when both laws exist, and
penalties are threatened, and there is common opinion to recall the ordinary
sort, and hell is looked for, and a kingdom promised, and wrong things
reproached, and the good praised; hardly do any choose the labors that
are to be undergone for virtue's sake: shouldest thou take away all these
things, what is there to hinder ruin and corruption universal ?
Knowing therefore the devil's craft, and that as well the lawgivers
of the Gentiles as the oracles of God, and the reasonings of nature, and
the common opinion of all men, yea barbarians, and Scythians, and Thracians,
and generally all, are directly opposed both to these, and to such as strive
to enact the doctrines of fate: let us be sober, beloved, and bidding farewell
to all those, let us travel along the narrow way, being both confident
and in fear: in fear because of the precipices on either side, confident
because of Jesus our guide. Let us travel on, sober and wakeful. For though
but for a little while one slumber, he is swept away quickly.
8. For we are not more perfect than David, who by a little carelessness
was hurled into the very gulf of sin. Yet he arose again quickly. Look
not then to his having sinned only, but also to his having washed away
his sin. For to this end He wrote that history, not that thou shouldest
behold him fallen, but admire him risen; to teach thee, when thou art fallen,
how thou shouldest arise. Thus, as physicians choose out the most grievous
diseases, and write them in their books, and teach their method of cure
in similar cases; if so be men having practised on the greater, may easily
master the less; even so God likewise hath brought forward the greatest
of sins, that they also who offend in small things may find the cure of
these easy, by means of the other: since if those admitted of healing,
much more the less.
Let us look then to the manner both of the sickness, and of the speedy
recovery of that blessed man. What then was the manner of his sickness?
He committed adultery and murder. For I shrink not from proclaiming these
things with a loud voice. Since if the Holy Ghost thought it no shame to
record all this history, much less ought we to draw any shade over it.
Wherefore I not only proclaim it, but I add another circumstance also.
For in fact, whosoever hide these things, they most of all men throw his
virtue into the shade. And as they that say nothing of the battle with
Goliath deprive him of no small crowns, so also they that hurry by this
history. Doth not my saying seem a paradox? Nay, wait a little, and then
ye shall know that with reason have we said this. For to this end do I
magnify the sin, and make my statement stranger, that I may the more abundantly
provide the medicines.
What is it then which I add? The man's virtue; which makes the fault
also greater. For all things are not judged alike in all men. "For mighty"
men (it is said) "shall be mightily tormented: " and "He that knew his
Lord's will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes." So that
more knowledge is a ground of more punishment. For this same reason the
priest, if he commit the same sin as those under government, shall not
have the same to endure, but things far more grievous.
Perhaps, seeing the charge against him amplified, ye tremble and fear,
and marvel at me, as though I were going down a precipice. But I am so
confident on that righteous man's behalf, that I will proceed even farther;
for the more I aggravate the charge, so much the more shall I be able to
show forth the praise of David.
"And what more than this," you will say, "can be uttered?" Abundantly
more. For as in the case of Cain, what was done was not a murder only,
but worse than even many murders; for it was not a stranger, but a brother,
whom he slew; and a brother who had not done but suffered wrong; not after
many murderers, but having first originated the horrid crime: so here too
that which was perpetrated was not murder only. For it was no ordinary
man that did it, but a prophet: and he slays not him that had done wrong,
but him that had suffered wrong; for indeed he had been mortally wronged,
by the forcing away his wife: nevertheless after that he added this also.
9. Perceive ye, how I have not spared that righteous one? how without
any the least reserve I have mentioned his offenses? But yet, so confident
am I concerning his defense, that after so great load as this of his sin,
I would there were present both the Manichaeans who most deride all this,
and they that are diseased in Marcion's way, that I might fully stop their
mouths. For they indeed say "he committed murder and adultery;" but I say
not this only, but have also proved the murder to be twofold, first from
him who suffered the wrong, then from the quality of the person who offended.
For it is not the same thing, for one to whom the Spirit was vouchsafed,
and on whom so great benefits had been conferred, and who had been admitted
to such freedom of speech, and at such a time of life, to venture on crimes
of that sort; as without all these, to commit this self-same thing. Nevertheless
even in this respect is that illustrious man most of all worthy of admiration,
that when he had fallen into the very pit of wickedness, he did not sink
nor despair, nor cast himself down in supineness, on receiving of the devil
so fatal a wound; but quickly, or rather straightway, and with great force,
he gave a more fatal blow than he had received.
And the same thing occurred, as if in war and in battle some barbarian
had struck his spear into the heart of a chieftain, or shot an arrow into
his liver, and had added to the former wound a second more fatal than it,
and he that had received these grievous blows, when fallen, and wallowing
in much blood all about him, were first to rise up quickly, then to hurl
a spear at him that wounded him, and exhibit him dead on the ground in
a moment. Even so in this case also, the greater thou declarest the wound,
so much the more admirable dost thou imply the soul of him that was wounded
to be, that he had power after this grievous wound both to rise up again,
and to stand in the very forefront of the battle array, and bear down him
that had wounded him.
And how great a thing this is, they best know, whosoever are fallen
into grievous sins. For it is not so much a proof of a generous and vigorous
soul to walk upright, and to run all the way (for such a soul hath the
good hope going along with it, to cheer and to rouse it, to nerve and render
it more zealous); as after those innumerable crowns, and so many trophies,
and victories, having undergone the utmost loss, to be able to resume the
same course. And that what I say may be made plain, I will endeavor to
bring before you another example, not at all inferior to the former.
For imagine, I pray thee, some pilot, when he had compassed seas without
number, and sailed over the whole ocean; after those many storms, and rocks
and waves, to sink, having with him a great freight, in the very mouth
of the harbor, and hardly with his naked body to escape this grievous shipwreck;
how would he naturally feel towards the sea, and navigation, and such labors?
Will such a one then ever choose, unless he be of a very noble soul, to
see a beach, or a vessel, or a harbor? I trow not; but he will lie hiding
his face, seeing night all through the day, and shrinking from all things;
and he will choose rather to live by begging, than to put his hand to the
But not such was this blessed man; but though he had undergone such
a shipwreck, after those innumerable troubles and toils, he stayed not
with his face covered, but launched his vessel, and having spread his sails,
and taken the rudder in hand, he applies himself to the same labors, and
hath made his wealth more abundant again. Now if to stand be so admirable,
and not to lie down for ever after one has fallen; to rise up again, and
to do such deeds, what crowns would not this deserve ?
And yet surely there were many things to drive him to despair; as first,
the greatness of his sins; secondly, that not at the beginning of life,
when our hopes also are more abundant, but near the end, these things befell
him. For neither doth the merchant, who hath just gone out of the harbor
and been wrecked, grieve equally with him, who after very many traffickings
strikes on a rock. Thirdly, that when he had already obtained great wealth,
he incurred this. Yea, for by that time he had stored up no small merchandise:
for instance, the deeds of his early youth, when he was a shepherd; those
about Goliath, when he set up the glorious trophy; those pertaining to
his self-command respecting Saul. Since he showed forth even the evangelical
long-suffering, in that he got his enemy ten thousand times into his hands,
and continually spared him; and chose rather to be an outcast from his
country and from liberty, and from life itself, than to slay him that was
unjustly plotting against him. Likewise after his coming to the kingdom,
there were noble deeds of his to no small amount.
And besides what I have said, his credit also among the many, and his
fall from glory so bright, would cause no ordinary perplexity. For the
purple did by no means so much adorn him, as the stain of his sin disgraced
him. And ye know of course what a great thing it is for evil deeds to be
exposed, and how great a soul is required in such an one, not to despond
after the censure of the multitude, and when he hath so many witnesses
of his own offenses.
Nevertheless all these darts that noble person drew out of his soul,
and so shone forth after this, so wiped out the stain, became so pure,
that his offspring even after his death had their sins mitigated by him:
and that which was said of Abraham, we find God saying the same of this
man also; or rather, much more of the latter. For with respect to the patriarch
it is said, "I remembered my covenant with Abraham;" but here He saith
not "the covenant," but how? "I will defend this city for my servant David's
sake." And besides, on account of His favor towards him, He suffered not
Solomon to fall from the kingdom. great as the sin was which he had committed.
And so great was the glory of the man, that Peter, so many years after,
in exhorting the Jews, spake on this wise: "Let me freely speak unto you
of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried." And Christ too,
discoursing with the Jews, signifies him after his sin to have had the
Spirit vouchsafed to such a degree, that he was counted worthy to prophesy
again even concerning His Godhead; and thereby stopping their mouths, He
said, "How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord, saying, The Lord said
unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand ?" And much as with Moses, so it
fell out also with David. For as Miriam, even against Moses' will, was
punished by God for insolence to her brother, because He greatly loved
the holy man; even so this man, injuriously treated by his son, God did
swiftly avenge, and that against his will.
These things then are sufficient, yea rather before all others these
are sufficient to indicate the man's excellency. For when God pronounces
His judgment, we ought to inquire no further. But if ye would become particularly
acquainted with His self command, ye may by perusing his history after
his sin, perceive his confidence towards God, his benevolence, his growth
in virtue, his strictness unto his last breath.
10. Having then these examples, let us be sober, and let us strive not
to despond, and if at any time we fall, not to lie prostrate. For not to
east you into slothfulness, did I speak of the sins of David, but to work
in you more fear. For if that righteous man through a little remissness
received such wounds, what shall we have to suffer, who are every day negligent?
Do not therefore look at his fall, and be remiss, but consider what great
things he did even after this, what great mournings, how much repentance
he showed forth, adding his nights to his days, pouring forth fountains
of tears, washing his couch with his tears, withal clothing himself in
Now if he needed so great a conversion, when will it be possible for
us to be saved, feeling insensible after so many sins? For he that hath
many good deeds, would easily even by this throw a shade over his sins;
but he that is unarmed, wherever he may receive a dart, receives a mortal
In order therefore that this may not be so, let us arm ourselves with
good works; and if any offense have befallen us, let us wash it away: that
we may be counted worthy, after having lived the present life to the glory
of God, to enjoy the life to come; unto which may we all attain, by the
grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to 'whom be glory
and might forever and ever. Amen.