Chapter IV. Verses 1-3.-"I therefore, the prisoner in the
Lord, beseech you, to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called,
with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another
in love; giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of
Great has the power of Paul's chain been shown to be, and more glorious
than miracles. It is not in vain then, as it should seem, nor without an
object, that he here holds it forward, but as the means of all others most
likely to touch them. And what saith he? "I therefore, the prisoner in
the Lord, beseech you, to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were
called." And how is that? "with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering,
forbearing one another in love."
It is not the being merely a prisoner that is honorable, but the being
so for Christ's sake. Hence he saith, "in the Lord," i.e., the prisoner
for Christ's sake. Nothing is equal to this. But now the chain is dragging
me away still more from my subject, and pulling me back again, and I cannot
bear to resist it, but am drawn along willingly,-yea, rather, with all
my heart; and would that it were always my lot to be descanting on Paul's
But now do not become drowsy: for I am yet desirous to solve that other
question, which many raise, when they say, Why, if tribulation be a glory,
how came Paul himself to say in his defence to Agrippa, "I would to God
that whether with little or with much not thou only, but also all that
hear me this day, might become such as I am, except these bonds?" (Acts
xxvi: 29.) He said not this, God forbid! as deeming the thing a matter
to be deprecated; no; for had it been such, he would not have gloried in
bonds, in imprisonments, in those other tribulations; and when writing
elsewhere he saith, "Most gladly will I rather glory in my weaknesses."
(2 Cor. xii: 9.) But what is the case? This was itself a proof how great
a thing he considered those bonds; for as in writing to the Corinthians
he said, "I fed you with milk, not with meat, for ye were not yet able
to bear it;" (1 Cor. iii: 2.) so also here. They before whom he spoke were
not able to hear of the beauty, nor the comeliness, nor the blessing of
those bonds. Hence it was he added, "except these bonds." To the Hebrews
however he spoke not thus, but exhorted them to "be bound with" (Heb. xiii:
3.) them that were in bonds. And hence too did he himself rejoice in his
bonds, and was bound, and was led with the prisoners into the inner prison.
Mighty is the power of Paul's chain! A spectacle this, which may suffice
for every other, to behold Paul bound, and led forth from his prison; to
behold him bound, and sitting within it, what pleasure can come up to this?
What would I not give for such a sight? Do ye see the emperors, the consuls,
borne along in their chariots and arrayed in gold, and their body-guard
with every thing about them of gold? Their halberds of gold, their shields
of gold, their raiment of gold, their horses with trappings of gold? How
much more delightful than such a spectacle is his! I would rather see Paul
once, going forth with the prisoners from his prison, than behold these
ten thousand times over, parading along with all that retinue. When he
was thus led forth, how many Angels, suppose ye, led the way before him?
And to show that I speak no fiction, I will make the fact manifest to you
from a certain ancient narrative.
Elisha the prophet, (perhaps ye know the man,) at the time (2 Kings
vi: 8-12.) when the king of Syria was at war with the king of Israel, sitting
at his own home, brought to light all the counsels which the king of Syria
was taking in his chamber with them that were privy to his designs, and
rendered the king's counsels of none effect, by telling beforehand his
secrets, and not suffering the king of Israel to fall into the snares which
he was laying. This sorely troubled the king; he was disheartened, and
was reduced to greater perplexity, not knowing how to discover him who
was disclosing all that passed, and plotting against him, and disappointing
his schemes. Whilst therefore he was in this perplexity, and enquiring
into the cause, one of his armor-bearers told him, that there was a certain
prophet, one Elisha, dwelling in Samaria, who suffered not the king's designs
to stand, but disclosed all that passed. The king imagined that he had
discovered the whole matter. Sure, never was any one more miserably misled
than he. When he ought to have honored the man, to have reverenced him,
to have been awed that he really possessed so great power, as that, seated,
as he was, so many furlongs off, he should know all that passed in the
king's chamber, without any one at all to tell him; this indeed he did
not, but being exasperated, and wholly carried away by his passion, he
equips horsemen, and soldiers, and dispatches them to bring the prophet
Now Elisha had a disciple as yet only on the threshold of prophecy,
(2 Kings vi: 13ff.) as yet far from being judged worthy of revelations
of this kind. The king's soldiers arrived at the spot, as intending to
bind the man, or rather the prophet.-Again I am falling upon bonds, so
entirely is this discourse interwoven with them.-And when the disciple
saw the host of soldiers, he was affrighted, and ran full of trembling
to his master, and told him the calamity, as he thought, and informed him
of the inevitable peril. The prophet smiled at him for fearing things not
worthy to be feared, and bade him be of good cheer. The disciple, however,
being as yet imperfect, did not listen to him, but being still amazed at
the sight, remained in fear. Upon this, what did the prophet do? "Lord,"
said he, "open the eyes of this young man, and let him see that they which
are with us, are more than they which are with them;" (2 Kings vi: 16,
2 Kings vi: 17.) and immediately he beheld the whole mountain, where the
prophet then dwelt, filled with so great a multitude of horses and chariots
of fire. Now these were nothing else than ranks of Angels. But if only
for an occasion like this so great a band of Angels attended Elisha what
must Paul have had? This is what the prophet David tells us. "The Angel
of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him." (Ps. xxxiv: 7.)
And again; "They shall bear thee up in their hands, test thou dash thy
foot against a stone." (Ps. xci: 2.) And why do I speak of Angels? The
Lord Himself was with him then as he went forth; for surely it cannot be
that He was seen by Abraham, and yet was not with Paul. No, it was His
own promise, "I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." (Matt.
xxviii: 20.) And again, when He appeared to him, He said, "Be not afraid,
but speak, for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to harm thee."
(Acts xviii: 9, Acts xviii: 10.) Again, He stood by him in a dream, and
said, "Be of good cheer, for as thou hast testified concerning me at Jerusalem,
so must thou bear witness also at Rome." (Acts xxiii: 11.)
The saints, though they are at all times a glorious sight, and are full
of abundant grace, yet are so, most of all, when they are in perils for
Christ's sake, when they are prisoners; for as a brave soldier is at all
times and of himself a pleasing spectacle to them that behold him, but
most of all when he is standing, and in ranks at the king's side; thus
also imagine to yourselves Paul, how great a thing it was to see him teaching
in his bonds.
Shall I mention, in passing, a thought, which just at this moment occurs
to me? The blessed martyr Babylas was bound, and he too for the very same
cause as John also was, because he reproved a king in his transgression.
This man when he was dying gave charge that his bonds should be laid with
his body, and that the body should be buried bound; and to this day the
fetters lie mingled with his ashes, so devoted was his affection for the
bonds he had worn for Christ's sake. "He was laid in chains of iron" as
the Prophet saith of Joseph. (Ps. cv: 18.) And even women have before now
had trial of these bonds.
We however are not in bonds, nor am I recommending this, since now is
not the time for them. But thou, bind not thine hands, but bind thy heart
and mind. There are yet other bonds, and they that wear not the one, shall
have to wear the other. Hear what Christ saith, "Bind him hand and foot."
(Matt. xxii: 13.) But God forbid we should have trial of those bonds! but
of these may He grant us even to take our fill!
On these accounts he saith, "I, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you
to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called." But what is
this calling? Ye were called as His body, it is said. Ye have Christ as
your head; and though you were "enemies," and had commit-the misdeeds out
of number, yet "hath He raised you up with Him and made you to sit with
Him." (Eph. ii: 6.) A high calling this, and to high privileges, not only
in that we have been called from that former state, but in that we are
called both to such privileges, and by such a method.
But how is it possible to "walk worthily" of it? "With all lowliness."
Such an one walks worthily. This is the basis of all virtue. If thou be
lowly, and bethink thee what thou art, and how thou wast saved, thou wilt
take this recollection as a motive to all virtue. Thou wilt neither be
elated with bonds, nor with those very privileges which I mentioned, but
as knowing that all is of grace, thou wilt humble thyself. The lowly-minded
man is able to be at once a generous and a grateful servant. "For what
hast thou," saith he that thou didst not receive?" (1 Cor. iv: 7.) And
again, hear his words, "I labored more abundantly than they all; yet not
I, but the grace of God which was with me." (1 Cor. xv: 10.)
"With all lowliness," saith he; not that which is in words, nor that
which is in actions only, but even in one's very bearing and tone of voice:
not lowly towards one, and rude towards another; be lowly towards all men,
be he friend or foe, be he great or small. This is lowliness. Even in thy
good deeds be lowly; for hear what Christ saith, "Blessed are the poor
in spirit;" (Matt. v: 3.) and He places this first in order. Wherefore
also the Apostle himself saith, "With all lowliness, and meekness, and
long-suffering." For it is possible for a man to be lowly, and yet quick
and irritable, and thus all is to no purpose; for oftentimes he will be
possessed by his anger, and ruin all.
"Forbearing," he proceeds, "one another in love."
How is it possible to forbear, if a man be passionate or censorious?
He hath told us therefore the manner: "in love," saith he. If thou, he
would say, art not forbearing to thy neighbor, how shall God be forbearing
to thee? If thou bearest not with thy fellow-servant, how shall the Master
bear with thee? Wherever there is love, all things are to be borne.
"Giving diligence ," saith he, "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the
bond of peace." Bind therefore thy hands with moderation. Again that goodly
name of "bond." We had dismissed it, and it has of itself come back on
us again. A goodly bond was that, and goodly is this one also, and that
other is the fruit of this. Bind thyself to thy brother. They bear all
things lightly who are bound together in love. Bind thyself to him and
him to thee; thou art lord of both, for whomsoever I may be desirous to
make my friend, I can by means of kindliness accomplish it.
"Giving diligence," he says; a thing not to be done easily, and not
in every one's power.
"Giving diligence," he proceeds, "to keep the unity of the Spirit."
What is this "unity of Spirit?" In the human body there is a spirit which
holds all together, though in different members. So is it also here; for
to this end was the Spirit given, that He might unite those who are separated
by race and by different manners; for old and young, rich and poor, child
and youth, woman and man, and every soul become in a manner one, and more
entirely so than if there were one body. For this spiritual relation is
far higher than the other natural one, and the perfectness of the union
more entire; because the conjunction of the soul is more perfect, inasmuch
as it is both simple and uniform. And how then is this unity preserved?
"In the bond of peace ." It is not possible for this to exist in enmity
and discord. "For whereas there is," saith he, "among you jealousy and
strife, are ye not carnal, and walk after the manner of men?" (1 Cor. iii:
3.) For as fire when it finds dry pieces of wood works up all together
into one blazing pile, but when wet does not act at all nor unite them;
so also it is here. Nothing that is of a cold nature can bring about this
union, whereas any warm one for the most part can. Hence at least it is
that the glow of charity is produced; by the "bond of peace," he is desirous
to bind us all together. For just in the same way, he would say, as if
thou wouldest attach thyself to another, thou canst do it in no other way
except by attaching him to thyself; and if thou shouldest wish to make
the tie double, he must needs in turn attach himself to thee; so also here
he would have us tied one to another; not simply that we be at peace, not
simply that we love one another, but that all should be only even one soul.
A glorious bond is this; with this bond let us bind ourselves together
with one another and unto God. This is a bond that bruises not, nor cramps
the hands it binds, but it leaves them free, and gives them ample play,
and greater courage than those which are at liberty. The strong if he be
bound to the weak, will support him, and not suffer him to perish: and
if again he be tied to the indolent, him he will rather rouse and animate.
"Brother helped by brother," it is said, "is as a strong city ." This chain
no distance of place can interrupt, neither heaven, nor earth, nor death,
nor any thing else, but it is more powerful and strong than all things.
This, though it issue from but one soul, is able to embrace numbers at
once; for hear what Paul saith, "Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are
straitened in your own affections; be ye also enlarged." (2 Cor. vi: 12.)
Now then, what impairs this bond? Love of money, passion for power,
for glory, and the like, loosens them, and severs them asunder. How then
are we to see that they be not cut asunder? If these tempers be got rid
of, and none of those things which destroy charity come in by the way to
trouble us. For hear what Christ saith, (Matt. xxiv: 12.) "Because iniquity
shall be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold." Nothing is so
opposed to love as sin, and I mean not love towards God, but that towards
our neighbor also. But how then, it may be said, are even robbers at peace?
When are they, tell me? Not when they are acting in a spirit which is that
of robbers; for if they fail to observe the rules of justice amongst those
with whom they divide the spoil, and to render to every one his right,
you will find them too in wars and broils. So that neither amongst the
wicked is it possible to find peace: but where men are living in righteousness
and virtue, you may find it every where. But again, are rivals ever at
peace? Never. And whom then would ye have me mention? The covetous man
can never possibly be at peace with the covetous. So that were there not
just and good persons, even though wronged by them, to stand between them,
the whole race of them would be torn to pieces. When two wild beasts are
famished, if there be not something put between them to consume, they will
devour one another. The same would be the case with the covetous and the
vicious. So that it is not possible there should be peace where virtue
is not already put in practice beforehand. Let us form, if you please,
a city entirely of covetous men, give them equal privileges, and let no
one bear to be wronged, but let all wrong one another. Can that city possibly
hold together? It is impossible. Again, is there peace amongst adulterers?
No, not any two will you find of the same mind.
So then, to return, there is no other reason for this, than that "love
hath waxed cold;" and the cause again why love hath waxed cold, is that
"iniquity abounds." For this leads to selfishness, and divides and severs
the body, and relaxes it and rends it to pieces. But where virtue is, it
does the reverse. Because the man that is virtuous is also above money;
so that were there ten thousand such in poverty they would still be peaceable;
whilst the covetous, where there are but two, can never be at peace. Thus
then if we are virtuous, love will not perish, for virtue springs from
love, and love from virtue. And how this is, I will tell you. The virtuous
man does not value money above friendship, nor does he remember injuries,
nor does wrong to his neighbor; he is not insolent, he endures all things
nobly. Of these things love consists. Again, he who loves submits to all
these things, and thus do they reciprocally produce one another. And this
indeed, that love springs from virtue, appears from hence, because our
Lord when He saith, "because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of
the many shall wax cold," plainly tells us this. And that virtue springs
from love, Paul tells us, saying, "He that loveth his neighbor hath fulfilled
the law." (Rom. xiii: 10.) So then a man must be one of the two, either
very affectionate and much beloved, or else very virtuous; for he who has
the one, of necessity possesses the other; and, on the contrary, he who
knows not how to love, will therefore commit many evil actions; and he
who commits evil actions, knows not what it is to love.
Moral. Let us therefore follow after charity; it is a safeguard which
will not allow us to suffer any evil. Let us bind ourselves together. Let
there be no deceit amongst us, no hollowness. For where friendship is,
there nothing of the sort is found. This too another certain wise man tells
us. "Though thou drewest a sword at thy friend, yet despair not: for there
may be a returning again to favor. If thou hast opened thy mouth against
thy friend, fear not; for there may be a reconciliation: except for upbraiding,
or disclosing of secrets, or a treacherous wound: for for these things
a friend will depart." (Ecclus. xxii: 21, Ecclus. xxii: 22.) For "disclosing,"
saith he, "of secrets." Now if we be all friends, there is no need of secrets;
for as no man has any secret with himself and cannot conceal anything from
himself, so neither will he from his friends. Where then no secrets exist,
separation arising from this is impossible. For no other reason have we
secrets, than because we have not confidence in all men. So then it is
the waxing cold of love, which has produced secrets. For what secret hast
thou? Dost thou desire to wrong thy neighbor? Or, art thou hindering him
from sharing some benefit, and on this account concealest it? But, no,
perhaps it is none of these things. What then, is it that thou art ashamed?
If so, then this is a token of want of confidence. Now then if there be
love, there will be no "revealing of secrets," neither any "upbraiding."
For who, tell me, would ever upbraid his own soul? And suppose even such
a thing were done, it would be for some good; for we upbraid children,
we know, when we desire to make them feel. And so Christ too on that occasion
began to upbraid the cities, saying, "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto
thee, Bethsaida!" (Luke x: 13.) in order that He might deliver them from
upbraidings. For nothing has such power to lay hold of the mind, or can
more strongly arouse it, or brace it up when relaxed. Let us then never
use upbraiding to one another merely for the sake of upbraiding. For what?
Wilt thou upbraid thy friend on the score of money? Surely not, if at least
thou possessest what thou hast in common. Wilt thou then for his faults?
No nor this, but thou wilt rather in that case correct him. Or, as it goes
on, "for a treacherous wound;" who in the world will kill himself, or who
wound himself? No one.
Let us then "follow after love;" he saith not simply let us love; but
let us "follow after love." (1 Cor. xiv: 1.) There is need of much eagerness:
she is soon out of sight, she is most rapid in her flight; so many things
are there in life which injure her. If we follow her, she will not outstrip
us and get away, but we shall speedily recover her. The love of God is
that which united earth to Heaven. It was the love of God that seated man
upon the kingly throne. It was the love of God that manifested God upon
earth. It was the love of God that made the Lord a servant. It was the
love of God that caused the Beloved to be delivered up for His enemies,
the Son for them that hated Him, the Lord for His servants, God for men,
the free for slaves. Nor did it stop here, but called us to yet greater
things. Yes, not only did it release us from our former evils, but promised,
moreover, to bestow upon us other much greater blessings. For these things
then let us give thanks to God, and follow after every virtue; and before
all things, let us with all strictness practice love, that we may be counted
worthy to attain the promised blessings; through the grace and loving-kindness
of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, to the Father together with the Holy
Ghost, be glory, might, and honor, now and for ever and ever. Amen.