Latter portion of Homily LIV
Ver. 46. "Which of you convinceth Me of sin?"
Then they said, "We be not born of fornication." Yet in fact many of
them were born of fornication, for they practiced unbefitting unions. Still
He doth not convict them of this, but setteth Himself to the other point.
For when He hath proved them to be, not of God, but of the devil, by all
these signs, (for to do murder is of the devil, and to lie is of the devil,
both which ye do,) then He showeth that to love is the sign of being of
God. "Why do ye not understand My speech?" Since they were always doubting,
saying, "What is it that he saith, `Whither I go ye cannot come'?" therefore
He telleth them, "Ye do not understand My speech," "because ye have not
the word of God. And this cometh to you, because that your understanding
is groveling, and because what is Mine is far too great for you." But what
if they could not understand? Not to be able here means not to be willing;
for "ye have trained yourselves to be mean, to imagine nothing great."
Because they said that they persecuted Him as being themselves zealous
for God on this account He everywhere striveth to show that to persecute
Him is the act of those who hate God, but that, on the contrary, to love
Him is the act of those who know God.
"We have one Father, even God." On this ground they pride themselves,
on their honor not their righteous deeds. "Therefore your not believing
is no proof that I am an enemy to God, but your unbelief is a sign that
you do not know God. And the reason is, from your being willing to lie
and to do the works of the devil. But this is the effect of meanness of
soul; (as the Apostle saith, `For whereas there is among you envying and
strife, are ye not carnal?') (1 Cor. iii. 3.) And why is it that ye cannot15
? Because ye will to do the lusts of your father, ye are eager, ye are
ambitious (to do them)." Seest thou that "ye cannot" express a want of
will? For "this did not Abraham." "What are his works? Gentleness, meekness,
obedience. But ye set yourselves on the contrary part, being hard and cruel."
But how came it into their thoughts to betake themselves to God? He
had shown them unworthy of Abraham; desiring therefore to escape this charge,
they mounted higher. For when He reproached them with murder, they said
this,16 making it, as it were, a kind of excuse for themselves that they
were avenging God. Therefore He showeth that this very thing is the act
of men opposing God. And the, "I came forth," showeth that He was from
thence.17 He saith, "I came forth," alluding to His arrival among us. But
since they would probably say to Him, "Thou speaketh certain things strange
and new,18 " He telleth them that He was come from God. "And therefore
with good reason ye hear them not, because ye are of the devil. For on
what account would ye kill Me? What charge have ye to bring against Me?
If there be none, why do ye not believe Me?" Thus then having proved them
to be of the devil by their lying and their murder, He showeth them also
to be alien from Abraham and from God, both because they hated One who
had done no wrong, and because they would not hear His word; and in every
way He proveth that He was not opposed to God, and that it was not on this
account that they refused to believe, but because they were aliens from
God. For when One who had done no sin, who said that He came from God and
was sent of God, who spake the truth, and so spake it as to challenge all
to the proof, after this was not believed, it is clear that He was not
believed because of their being carnal. Since sins do use, yea they do
use to debase a soul. Wherefore It saith, "Seeing ye are become dull of
hearing." (Heb. v. 11.) For when a man cannot despise earthly things, how
shall He ever be wise concerning heavenly things?
[4.] Wherefore, I exhort you, use we every means that our life may be
righteous, that our minds may be cleansed, so that no filthiness be a hindrance
to us; kindle for yourselves the light of knowledge, and sow not among
thorns. For how shall one who knows not that covetousness is an evil, ever
know the greater good? how shall one who refrains not from these earthly
things ever hold fast to those heavenly? It is good to take by violence,
not the things that perish, but the Kingdom of heaven. "The violent," it
saith, "take it by force." (Matt. xi. 12.) It is then not possible to attain
to it by sluggishness, but by zeal. But what meaneth "the violent"? There
is need of much violence, (for strait is the way,) there is need of a youthful
soul and a noble. Plunderers desire to outstrip all other, they look to
nothing, neither to conviction, nor accusation, nor punishment, but are
given up to one thing only, the getting hold of what they desire to seize,
and they run past all that are before them in the way. Seize we then the
Kingdom of heaven, for here to seize is no fault but rather praise, and
the fault is the not seizing. Here our wealth comes not from another's
loss. Haste we then to seize it. Should passion disquiet us, should lust
disquiet us, let us do violence to our nature, let us become more gentle,
let us labor a little, that we may rest forever. Seize not thou gold, but
seize that wealth which showeth gold to be but mud. For tell me, if lead
and gold were laid before thee, which wouldest thou take? Is it not clear
that thou wouldest take the gold? Dost thou then, where one who seizes
is punished, prefer that which is the more valuable, but where one who
seizes is honored, give up what is the more valuable? If there were punishment
in both cases, wouldest thou not rather aim at this latter19 ? But in this
case there is nothing like punishment, but even blessedness. And, "How,"
saith some one, "may one seize it?" Cast away the things which thou hast
already in thy hands; for so long as thou graspest them20 thou wilt not
be able to seize the other. For consider, I pray you, a man with his hands
full of silver, will he be able, as long as he retains it, to seize on
gold, unless he first cast away the silver, and be free? Because he that
seizes a thing must be well-girt so as not to be detained. And even now
there are adverse powers running down against us to rob us, but let us
fly them, let us fly them, trailing after us nothing that may give a hold,
let us cut asunder the cords, let us strip ourselves of the things of earth.
What need of silken garments? How long shall we be unrolling this mockery?
How long shall we be burying gold? I desired to cease from always saying
these things, but ye will not suffer me, continually supplying me with
occasions and arguments. But now at least let us desist, that having instructed
others by our lives, we may obtain the promised good things, through the
grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom
to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever and world without
15 i.e. cannot understand.
16 i.e. that God was their Father.
17 i.e. "from God."
18 al. "empty."
19 i.e. at the Kingdom.
20 al. "these present things."
John viii. 48, 49.-"Then answered the Jews, and said unto Him, Say
we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? Jesus answered,
I have not a devil; but I honor My Father."
[1.] A Shameless and a forward1 thing is wickedness, and when it ought
to hide itself, then is it the fiercer. As was the case with the Jews.
For when they ought to have been pricked by whatwas said, admiring the
boldness and conclusiveness2 of the words, they even insult Him, calling
Him a Samaritan, and saying that He had a devil, and they ask, "Said we
not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?" Because when He
uttereth anything sublime, this is thought among the very senseless to
be madness. Yet nowhere before did the Evangelist say that they called
Him "a Samaritan"; but from this expression it is probable that this had
been often asserted by them.
"Thou hast a devil," saith some one. Who is it that hath a devil? He
that honoreth God, or he that insulteth Him that honoreth Him? What then
saith Christ, who is very meekness and gentleness? "I have not a devil,
but I honor Him3 that sent me." Where there was need to instruct them,
to pull down their excessive insolence, to teach them not to be proud because
of Abraham, He was vehement; but when it was needful that He being insulted
should bear it, He used much gentleness. When they said, "We have God and
Abraham for our Father," He touched them sharply; but whenthey called Him
a demoniac, He spake submissively, thus teaching us to avenge insults offered
to God, but to overlook such as are offered to ourselves.
Ver. 50. "I seek not Mine own glory."
"These things," He saith, "I have spoken to show that it becometh not
you, being murderers, to call God your Father; so that I have spoken them
through honor for Him, and for His sake do I hear these reproaches, and
for His sake do ye dishonor Me. Yet I care not for this insolence4 ; to
Him, for whose sake I now hear these things, ye owe an account of your
words. For `I seek not Mine own glory.' Wherefore I omit to punish you,
and betake Myself to exhortation, and counsel you so to act, that ye shall
not only escape punishment, but also attain eternal life."
Ver. 51. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep My saying,
he shall never see death."
Here He speaketh not of faith only, but of a pure life. Above He said,
"shall have everlasting life," but here, "shall not see death." (c. vi.
40.) At the same time He hinteth to them that they could do nothing against
Him, for if the man that should keep His saying should not die, much less
should He Himself. At least they understood it so, and said to Him,
Ver. 52. "Now we know that thou hast a devil; Abraham is dead, and
the Prophets are dead."
That is, "they who heard the word of God are dead, and shall they who
have heard thine not die?"
Ver. 53. "Art thou greater than our father Abraham?"
Alas for their vainglory! Again do they betake themselves to his relationship.
Yet it would have been suitable to say, "Art thou greater than God? or
they who have heard thee than Abraham?" But they say not this, because
they thought that He was even less than Abraham. At first, therefore, He
showed that they were murderers, and so led them away from the relationship;
but when they persevered, He contrived this in another way, showing that
they labored uselessly. And concerning the "death," He said nothing to
them, neither did He reveal or tell them what kind of death He meant, but
in the meantime He would have them believe, that He is greater than Abraham,
that even by this He may put them to shame. "Certainly," He saith, "were
I a common man I ought not to die, having done no wrong; but when I speak
the truth, and have no sin, am sent from God, and am greater than Abraham,
are ye not mad, do ye not labor in vain when ye attempt to kill Me?" What
then is their reply? "Now we know that thou hast a devil." Not so spake
the woman of Samaria. She said not to Him, "Thou hast a devil"; but only,
"Art thou greater than our father Jacob?" (c. iv. 12.) For these men were
insolent and accursed, while she desired to learn; wherefore she doubted
and answered with proper moderation, and called Him, "Lord." For one who
promised far greater things, and who was worthy of credit, ought not to
have been insulted, but even admired; yet these men said that He had a
devil. Those expressions of the Samaritan woman were those of one in doubt;
these were the words of men unbelieving and perverse. "Art thou greater
than our father Abraham?" so that this (which He had said) maketh Him to
be greater than Abraham. "When therefore ye have seen Him lifted up,5 ye
shall confess that He is greater." On this account He said, "When ye have
lifted Me6 up, ye shall know that I Am." (Ver. 28.) And observe His wisdom.
Having first rent them away from Abraham's kindred, He showeth that He
is greater than Abraham, that so He may be seen to be very exceedingly
greater than the Prophets also. Indeed it was because they continually
called Him a prophet that He said, "My word hath no place in you." (Ver.
37.) In that other place7 He declared that He raiseth the dead, but here
He saith, "He that believeth shall never see death," which was a much greater
thing than not to allow believers to be holden, by death. Wherefore the
Jews were the more enraged. What then say they?
"Whom makest thou thyself?"
And this too in an insulting manner. "Thou art taking somewhat upon
thyself," saith one of them. To this then Christ replieth;
Ver. 54. "If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing."
[2.] What say the heretics here? That He heard the question, "Art thou
greater than our father Abraham?" and dared not to say to them, "Yea, I
am greater," but did so in a covert manner. What then? Is His honor "nothing"?
With respect to them8 it is nothing. And as He said, "My witness is not
true" (c. v. 31), with reference to the opinion they would form of it,
so also doth He speak here.
"There is One9 that honoreth Me."
And wherefore said He not, "The Father that sent Me," as He did before,
"Of whom ye say that He is your God."
Ver. 55. "Yet ye have not known Him." Because He desired to show
that they not only knew not His Father, but that they knew not God.
"But I know Him."
"So that to say, `I know Him,' is not a boast, while to say, `I know
Him not,' would be a falsehood; but ye when ye say that ye know Him, lie;
as then ye, when ye say that ye know Him, lie, so also should I, were I
to say that I know Him not."
"If I honor Myself." Since they said, "Whom makest thou thyself?" He
replieth, "If I make (Myself anything,) My honor is nothing. As then I
know Him exactly, so ye know Him not." And as in the case of Abraham, He
did not take away their whole assertion, but said, "I know that ye are
Abraham's seed," so as to make the charge against them heavier; thus here
He doth not remove the whole, but what? "Whom ye say."10 By granting to
them their boast of words, He increaseth the force of the accusation against
them. How then do ye "not know Him"? "Because ye insult One who saith and
doeth everything that He11 may be glorified, even when that One is sent
from Him." This assertion is unsupported by testimony, but what follows
serves to establish it.
"And I keep His saying."
Here they might, if at least they had anything to say, have refuted
Him, for it was the strongest proof of His having been sent by God.
Ver. 56. "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw
it, and was glad."
Again, He showeth that they were aliens from the race of Abraham, if
they grieved at what he rejoiced in. "My day," seems to me to mean the
day of the Crucifixion, which Abraham foreshowed typically by the offering
of the ram and of Isaac. What do they reply?
Ver. 57. "Thou art not yet forty12 years old, and hast Thou seen
So that we conclude13 that Christ was nearly forty.
Ver. 58, 59. "Jesus saith unto them, Before Abraham was, I Am. Then
took they up stones to cast at Him."
Seest thou how He proved Himself to be greater than Abraham? For the
man who rejoiced to see His day, and made this an object of earnest desire,
plainly did so because it was a day that should be for a benefit, and belonging
to one greater than himself. Because they had said, "The carpenter's son"
(Matt. xiii. 55), and imagined nothing more concerning Him, He leadeth
them by degrees to an exalted notion of Him. Therefore when they heard
the words, "Ye know not God," they were not grieved; but when they heard,
"before Abraham was, I Am," as though the nobility of their descent were
debased, they became furious, and would have stoned Him.
"He saw My day, and was glad." He showeth, that not unwillingly He came
to His Passion, since He praiseth him who was gladdened at the Cross. For
this was the salvation of the world. But they cast stones at Him; so ready
were they for murder, and they did this of their own accord, without enquiry.
But wherefore said He not, "Before Abraham was, I was," instead of "I
Am"? As the Father useth this expression, "I Am," so also doth Christ;
for it signifieth continuous Being, irrespective of all time. On which
account the expression seemed to them to be blasphemous. Now if they could
not bear the comparison with Abraham, although this was but a trifling
one, had He continually made Himself equal to the Father, would they ever
have ceased casting stones at Him?
After this, again He fleeth as a man, and concealeth Himself, having
laid before them sufficient instruction: and having accomplished His work,
He went forth from the Temple, and departed to heal the blind, proving
by His actions that He is before Abraham. But perhaps some one will say, "Why
did He not paralyze their strength?14 So they would have believed." He
healed the paralytic, yet they believed not; nay, He wrought ten thousand
wonders; at the very Passion He cast them to the ground, and darkened their
eyes, yet they believed not; and how would they have believed if He had
paralyzed their strength? There is nothing worse than a soul hardened in
desperation; though it see signs and wonders, it still perseveres in retaining
the same shamelessness. Thus Pharaoh, who received ten thousand strokes,
was sobered only while being punished, and continued of this character
until the last day of his life, pursuing those whom he had let go. Wherefore
Paul continually saith, "Lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness
of sin." (Heb. iii. 13.) For as the callosities15 of the body, when formed,
become dead, and possess no sensation; so the soul, when it is occupied
by many passions, becomes dead to virtue; and apply what you will to it,
it gets no perception of the matter, but whether you threaten punishment
or anything else, continues insensible.
[3.] Wherefore I beseech you, while we have hopes of salvation, while
we can turn, to use every means to do so. For men who have become past
feeling, are after that in the blind state16 of despairing pilots, who
give up their vessel to the wind, and themselves contribute no assistance.
Thus the envious man looks to one thing only, that is, to satisfy his lust,
and though he be like to be punished or even slain, still he is possessed
solely by that passion; and in like manner the intemperate and avaricious.
But if the sovereignty of the passions be so great, much greater is that
of virtue; if for them we despise death, much more for this; if they (sinners)
regard not their own lives, much less ought we to do so in the cause of
our salvation. For what shall we have to say, if when they who perish are
so active about their own perdition, we for our own salvation manifest
not even an equal activity, but ever continue wasting with envy? Nothing
is worse than envy; to destroy another it destroys itself also. The eye
of the envious wastes away in grief, he lives in a continual death, he
deems all men, even those who have never wronged him, his enemies. He grieves
that God is honored, he rejoices in what the devil rejoices in. Is any
honored among men? This is not honor, envy him not. But is he honored by
God? Strive and be thou like him. Thou wilt not? Why then dost thou destroy
thyself too? Why castest thou away what thou hast? Canst thou not be like
unto him, nor gain any good thing? Why then dost thou besides this take
for thyself evil, when thou oughtest to rejoice with him, that so even
if thou be not able to share his toils, thou mayest profit by rejoicing
with Him? For often even the will is able to effect great good. At least
Ezekiel saith, that the Moabites were punished because they rejoiced over
the Israelites, and that certain others were saved because they mourned
over the misfortunes of their neighbors. (Ezek. xxv. 8.) Now if there be
any comfort for those who mourn over the woes of others, much more for
those who rejoice at the honors of others. He charged the Moabites with
having exulted over the Israelites, yet it was God that punished them;
but not even when He punisheth will He have us rejoice over those that
are punished. For it is not His wish to punish them. Now if we must condole
with those who are punished, much more must we avoid envying. those who
are honored. Thus, for example, Corah and Dathan perished with their company,
making those whom they envied brighter, and giving themselves up to punishment.
For a venomous beast is envy, an unclean beast, a deliberate vice which
admits not of pardon, a wickedness stripped of excuse, the cause and mother
of all evils. Wherefore let us pluck it up by the roots, that we may be
freed from evil here, and may obtain blessings 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 now and ever and world without
3 "My Father that," Ben.
4 al. "insult."
5 al. "gone forth."
6 "The Son of Man," N. T.
7 c. vi. 39, 40.
8 i.e. the Jews.
9 "It is My Father," N. T.
10 "that He is your God," N. T.
11 i.e. the Father.
12 "fifty," N. T.
13 w9j loipo\n.
14 i.e. so that they could not stone Him.
15 oi9 tu/loi, a very happy emendation of Mr. Field's
for stu=loi, "pillars," of which former editors could make no sense. One
ms. gives oi9 tufloi\ tou\j o0fqalmou\j, "those blind in their eyes," but
the sense even so is not perfect.
16 phrou=ntai, a conjecture of Dr. Heyse, for peirw=ntai.