Latter part of Homily XXII.
Ver. 10. "Finally," saith he, "be strong in the Lord."
Whenever the discourse is about to conclude, he always employs this
turn. Said I not well from the first, that every man's house is a camp
in itself? For look, having disposed of the several offices, he proceeds
to arm them, and to lead them out to war. If no one usurps the other's
office, but every one remains at his post, all will be well ordered.
"Be strong," saith he, "in the Lord, and in the strength of
That is, in the hope which we have in Him, by means of His aid. For
as he had enjoined many duties, which were necessary to be done, fear not,
he seems to say, cast your hope upon the Lord, and He will make all easy.
Ver. 11. "Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand
against the wiles of the devil."
He saith not, against the fightings, nor against the hostilities, but
against the "wiles." For this enemy is at war with us, not simply, nor
openly, but by "wiles." What is meant by wiles? To use "wiles," is to deceive
and to take by artifice or contrivance; a thing which takes place both
in the case of the arts, and by words, and actions, and stratagems, in
the case of those who seduce us. I mean something like this. The Devil
never proposes to us sins in their proper colors; he does not speak of
idolatry, but he sets it off in another dress, using "wiles," that is,
making his discourse plausible, employing disguises. Now therefore the
Apostle is by this means both rousing the soldiers, and making them vigilant,
by persuading and instructing them, that our conflict is with one skilled
in the arts of war, and with one who wars not simply, nor directly, but
with much wiliness. And first then he arouses the disciples from the consideration
of the Devil's skill; but in the second place, from his nature, and the
number of his forces. It is not from any desire to dispirit the soldiers
that stand under him, but to arouse, and to awaken them, that he mentions
these stratagems, and prepares them to be vigilant; for had he merely detailed
their power, and there stopped his discourse, he must have dispirited them.
But now, whereas both before and after this, he shows that it is possible
to overcome such an enemy, he rather raises their courage; for the more
clearly the strength of our adversaries is stated on our part to our own
people, so much the more earnest will it render our soldiers.
Ver. 12. "For our wrestling is not," saith he, "against flesh
and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against
the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness,
in the heavenly places."
Having stimulated them by the character of the conflict, he next goes
on to arouse them also by the prizes set before them. For what is his argument?
Having said that the enemies are fierce, he adds further, that they despoil
us of vast blessings. What are these? The conflict lies "in the heavenlies";
the struggle is not about riches, not about glory, but about our being
enslaved. And thus is the enmity irreconcilable. The strife and the conflict
are fiercer when for vast interests at stake; for the expression "in the
heavenlies" is equivalent to, "for the heavenly things." It is not that
they may gain anything by the conquest, but that they may despoil us. As
if one were to say, "In what does the contract lie?" In gold. The word
"in," means, "in behalf of"; the word "in," also means, "on account of."
Observe how the power of the enemy startles us; how itmakes us all circumspection,
to know that the hazard is on behalfof vast interests, and the victory
for the sake of great rewards. For he is doing his best to cast us out
He speaks of certain "principalities, and powers, and world-rulers of
this darkness." What darkness? Is it that of night? No, but of wickedness.
"For ye were," saith he, "once darkness" (Eph. v. 8); so naming that wickedness
which is in this present life; for beyond it, it will have no place, not
in Heaven, nor in the world to come.
"World-rulers" he calls them, not as having the mastery over the world,
but the Scripture is wont to call wicked practices "the world," as, for
example, where Christ saith, "They are not of this world, even as I am
not of the world." (John xvii. 16) What then, were they not of the world?
Were they not clothed with flesh? Were they not of those who are in the
world? And again; "The world hateth Me, but you it cannot hate." (John
vii. 7) Where again He calls wicked practices by this name. Thus the Apostle
here by the world means wicked men, and the evil spirits have more especial
power over them. "Against the spiritual hosts of wickedness," saith he,
"in the heavenly places." "Principalities, and powers," he speaks of; just
as in the heavenly places there are "thrones and dominions, principalities
and powers." (Col. i. 16)
Ver. 13. "Wherefore," saith he, "take up the whole armor of
God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done
all, to stand."
By "evil day" he means the present life, and calls it too "this present
evil world" (Gal. i. 4), from the evils which are done in it. It is as
much as to say, Always be armed. And again, "having done all," saith he;
that is, both passions, and vile lusts, and all things else that trouble
us. He speaks not merely of doing the deed, but of completing it, so as
not only to slay, but to stand also after we have slain. For many who have
gained this victory, have fallen again. "Having done," saith he, "all";
not having done one, but not the other. For even after the victory, we
must stand. An enemy may be struck, but things that are struck revive again
if we do not stand. But if after having fallen they rise up again, so long
as we stand, they are fallen. So long as we waver not, the adversary rises
"Let us put on the whole armor of God." Seest thou how he banishes
all fear? For if it be possible "to do all, and to stand," his describing
in detail the power of the enemy does not create cowardice and fear, but
it shakes off indolence. "That ye may be able," he saith, "to withstand
in the evil day." And he further gives them encouragement too from the
time; the time, he seems to say, is short; so that ye must needs stand;
faint not when the slaughter is achieved.
Moral. If then it is a warfare, if such are the forces arrayed against
us, if "the principalities" are incorporeal, if they are "rulers of the
world," if they are "the spiritual hosts of wickedness," how, tell me,
canst thou live in self-indulgence? How canst thou be dissolute? How if
we are unarmed, shall we be able to overcome? These words let every one
repeat to himself every day, whenever he is under the influence of anger,
or of lust, whenever he is aiming, and all to no profit, after this languid
life. Let him hearken to the blessed Paul, saying to him, "Our wrestling
is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against
the powers." A harder warfare this than that which is matter of sense,
a fiercer conflict. Think how long time this enemy is wrestling, for what
it is that he is fighting, and be more guarded than ever. "Nay," a man
will say, "but as he is the devil, he ought to have been removed out of
the way, and then all had been saved." These are the pretenses to which
some of your indolent ones in self-defense give utterance. When thou oughtest
to be thankful, O man, that, if thou hast a mind, thou hast the victory
over such a foe, thou art on the contrary even discontented, and givest
utterance to the words of some sluggish and sleepy soldier. Thou knowest
the points of attack, if thou choosest. Reconnoiter on all sides, fortify
thyself. Not against the devil alone is the conflict, but also against
his powers. How then, you may say, are we to wrestle with the darkness?
By becoming light. How with the "spiritual hosts of wickedness"? By becoming
good. For wickedness is contrary to good, and light drives away darkness.
But if we ourselves too be darkness, we shall inevitably be taken captive.
How then shall we overcome them? If, what they are by nature, that we become
by choice, free from flesh and blood, thus shall we vanquish them. For
once it was probable that the disciples would have many persecutors, "imagine
not," he would say, "that it is they who war with you. They that really
war with you, are the spirits that work in them. Against them is our conflict."
Two things he provides for by these considerations; he renders them in
themselves more courageous and he lets loose their wrath against those
who war against them. And wherefore is our conflict against these? Since
we have also an invincible ally, the grace of the Spirit. We have been
taught an art, such as shall enable us to wrestle not against men, but
against spirits. Nay, if we have a mind, neither shall we wrestle at all;
for it is because we choose it, that there is a struggle, since so great
is the power of Him that dwelleth in us, as that He said, "Behold, I have
given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all
the power of the enemy." (Luke x. 19.) All power hath He given us, both
of wrestling and of not wrestling. It is because we are slothful, that
we have to wrestle with them; for that Paul wrestled not, hear what he
saith himself, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation,
or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?"
(Rom. viii. 35.) And again hear his words, "God shall bruise Satan under
your feet shortly." (Rom. xvi. 20.) For he had him under his subjection;
whence also he said, "I charge thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come
out of her." (Acts xvi. 18.) And this is not the language of one wrestling;
for he that wrestles has not yet conquered, and he that has conquered no
longer wrestles; he has subdued, has taken his captive. And so Peter again
wrestled not with the devil, but he did that which was better than wrestling.
In the case of the faithful, the obedient, the catechumens, they prevailed
over him to vast advantage and over his powers. Hence too was it that the
blessed Paul said, "For we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Cor. ii.
11), which was the way moreover in which he especially overcame him; and
again hear his words, "And no marvel-if his ministers also fashion themselves
as ministers of righteousness." (2 Cor. xi. 14, 15.) So well knew he every
part of the conflict, and nothing escaped him. Again, "For the mystery
of lawlessness," saith he, "doth already work." (2 Thess. ii. 7.)
But against us is the struggle; for hearken again to him, saying, "I
am persuaded, that neither angels, nor principalities, nor things present,
nor things to come, nor powers, nor any other creature, shall be able to
separate us from the love of Christ." (Rom. viii. 38.) He saith not simply,
"from Christ," but, "from the love of Christ." For many there are who are
united forsooth to Christ, and who yet love Him not. Not only, saith he,
shalt thou not persuade me to deny Him, but, not even to love Him less.
And if the powers above had not strength to do this, who else should move
him? Not, however, that he saith this, as though they were actually attempting
it, but upon the supposition; wherefore also he said, "I am persuaded."
So then he did not wrestle, yet nevertheless he fears his artifices; for
hear what he saith, "I fear lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled
Eve in his craftiness, your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity
that is toward Christ." (2 Cor. xi. 3.) True, you will say, but he uses
this word touching himself also, where he saith, "For I fear lest, by any
means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected."
How then art thou "persuaded that no one shall separate thee"? Perceivest
thou that the expression is that of lowliness and of humility? For he already
dwelt in Heaven. And hence also it was that he said, "For I know nothing
against myself" (1 Cor. iv. 4); and again, "I have finished the course."
(2 Tim. iv. 7.) So that it was not with regard to these matters that the
devil placed obstacles in his way, but with reference to the interests
of the disciples. And why forsooth? Because in these points he was not
himself sole master, but also their own will. There the devil prevailed
in some cases; nay, neither there was it over him that he prevailed, but
over the indolence of persons who took no heed. If indeed, whether from
slothfulness, or anything else of the sort, he had failed to fulfill his
own duty, then had the devil prevailed over him; but if he himself on his
part did all he could, and they obeyed not it was not over him he prevailed,
but over their disobedience; and the disease prevailed not over the physician,
but over the unruliness of the patient; for, when the physician takes every
precaution, and the patient undoes all, the patient is defeated, not the
physician. Thus then in no instance did he prevail over Paul. But in our
own case, it is matter for contentment that we should be so much as able
to wrestle. For the Romans indeed this is not what he asks, but what? "He
shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly." (Rom. xvi. 20.) And for these
Ephesians he invokes, "Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above
all that we ask or think." (Eph. iii. 20.) He that wrestles is still held
fast, but it is enough for him that he has not fallen. When we depart hence,
then, and not till then, will the glorious victory be achieved. For instance,
take the case of some evil lust. The extraordinary thing would be, not
even to entertain it, but to stifle it. If, however, this be not possible,
then though we may have to wrestle with it, and retain it to the last,
yet if we depart still wrestling, we are conquerors. For the case is not
the same here as it is with wrestlers; for there if thou throw not thy
antagonist, thou hast not conquered; but here if thou be not thrown, thou
hast conquered; if thou art not thrown, thou hast thrown him; and with
reason, because there both strive for the victory, and when the one is
thrown, the other is crowned; here, however, it is not thus, but the devil
is striving for our defeat; when then I strip him of that upon which he
is bent, I am conqueror. For it is not to overthrow us, but to make us
share his overthrow that he is eager. Already then am I conqueror, for
he is already cast down, and in a state of ruin; and his victory consists
not in being himself crowned, but in effecting my ruin; so that though
I overthrow him not, yet if I be not overthrown, I have conquered. What
then is a glorious victory? It is, over and above, to trample him underfoot,
as Paul did, by regarding the things of this present world as nothing.
Let us too imitate him, and strive to become above them, and nowhere to
give him a hold upon us. Wealth, possessions, vain-glory, give him a hold.
And oftentimes indeed this has roused him, and oftentimes exasperated him.
But what need is there of wrestling? What need of engaging with him? He
who is engaged in the act of wrestling has the issue in uncertainty, whether
he may not be himself defeated and captured. Whereas he that tramples him
under foot, has the victory certain.
Oh then, let us trample under foot the power of the devil; let us trample
under foot our sins, I mean everything that pertains to this life, wrath,
lust, vain-glory, every passion; that when we depart to that world, we
may not be convicted of betraying that power which God hath given us; for
thus shall we attain also the blessings that are to come. But if in this
we are unfaithful, who will entrust us with those things which are greater?
If we were not able to trample down one who had fallen, who had been disgraced,
who had been despised, who was lying beneath our feet, how shall the Father
give us a Father's rewards? If we subdue not one so placed in subjection
to us, what confidence shall we have to enter into our Father's house?
For, tell me, suppose thou hadst a son, and, that he, disregarding the
well-disposed part of thy household, should associate with them that have
distressed thee, with them that have been expelled his father's house,
with them that spend their time at the gaming table, and that he should
go on so doing to the very last; will he not be disinherited? It is plain
enough he will. And so too shall we; if, disregarding the Angels who have
well pleased our Father and whom He hath set over us, we have our conversation
with the devil, inevitably we shall be disinherited, which God forbid;
but let us engage in the war we have to wage with him.
If any one hath an enemy, if any one hath been wronged by him, if any
one is exasperated, let him collect together all that wrath, all that fierceness,
and pour it out upon the head of the devil. Here wrath is a good thing,
here anger is profitable, here revenge is praiseworthy, for just as amongst
the heathen, revenge is a vice, so truly here is revenge a virtue. So then
if thou hast any failings, rid thyself of them here. And if thou art not
able thyself to put them away, do it, though with thy members also. Hath
any one struck thee? Bear malice against the devil, and never relinquish
thy hatred towards him. Or again, hath no one struck thee? Yet bear him
malice still, because he insulted, because he offended thy Lord and Master,
because he injures and wars against thy brethren. With him be ever at enmity,
ever implacable, ever merciless. Thus shall he be humbled, thus despicable,
thus shall he be an easy prey. If we are fierce towards him, he shall never
be fierce towards us. If we are compliant, then he will be fierce; it is
not with him as it is with our brethren. He is the foe and enemy, both
of life and salvation, both ours and his own. If he loves not himself,
how shall he be able to love us? Let us then put ourselves in array and
wound him, having for our mighty confederate the Lord Jesus Christ, who
can both render us impregnable to his snares, and worthy of the good things
to come; which God grant that we may all attain, through the grace and
lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, together with the Holy
Ghost, be unto the Father, glory, might, and honor, now and ever, and throughout
all ages. Amen.
Ephesians vi. 14.-"Stand therefore, having girded your loins with
Having drawn up this army, and roused their zeal,-for both these things
were requisite, both that they should be drawn up in array and subject
to each other, and that their spirit should be aroused,-and having inspired
them with courage, for this was requisite also, he next proceeds also to
arm them. For arms had been of no use, had they not been first posted each
in his own place, and had not the spirit of the soldier's soul been roused;
for we must first arm him within, and then without.
Now if this is the case with soldiers, much more is it with spiritual
soldiers. Or rather in their case, there is no such thing as arming them
without, but everything is within. He hath roused their ardor, and set
it on fire, he hath added confidence. He hath set them in due array. Observe
how he also puts on the armor. "Stand therefore," saith he. The very first
feature in tactics is, to know how to stand well, and many things will
depend upon that. Hence he discourses much concerning standing, saying
also elsewhere, "Watch ye, stand fast." (1 Cor. xvi. 13.) And again, "So
stand fast in the Lord." (Phil. iv. 1.) And again, "Let him that thinketh
he standeth, take heed lest he fall." (1 Cor. x. 12.) And again, "That
ye may be able, having done all, to stand." (Eph. vi. 13.) Doubtless then
he does not mean merely any way of standing, but a correct way, and as
many as have had experience in wars know how great a point it is to know
how to stand. For if in the case of boxers and wrestlers, the trainer recommends
this before anything else, namely, to stand firm, much more will it be
the first thing in warfare, and military matters.
The man who, in a true sense, stands, is upright; he stands not in a
lazy attitude, not leaning upon anything. Exact uprightness discovers itself
by the way of standing, so that they who are perfectly upright, they stand.
But they who do not stand, cannot be upright, but are unstrung and disjointed.
The luxurious man does not stand upright, but is bent; so is the lewd man,
and the lover of money. He who knows how to stand will from his very standing,
as from a sort of foundation, find every part of the conflict easy to him.
"Stand therefore," saith he, "having girded your loins with
He is not speaking of a literal, physical girdle, for all the language
in this passage he employs in a spiritual sense. And observe how methodically
he proceeds. First he girds up his soldier. What then is the meaning of
this? The man that is loose in his life, and is dissolved in his lusts,
and that has his thoughts trailing on the ground, him he braces up by means
of this girdle, not suffering him to be impeded by the garments entangling
his legs, but leaving him to run with his feet well at liberty. "Stand
therefore, having girded your loins," saith he. By the "loins" here he
means this; just what the keel is in ships, the same are the loins with
us, the basis or groundwork of the whole body: for they are, as it were,
a foundation, and upon them as the schools of the physicians tell you,
the whole frame is built. So then in "girding up the loins" he compacts
the foundation of our soul; for he is not of course speaking of these loins
of our body, but is discoursing spiritually:and as the loins are the foundation
alike of the parts both above and below, so is it also in the case of these
spiritual loins. Oftentimes, we know, when persons are fatigued, they put
their hands there as if upon a sort of foundation, and in that manner support
themselves; and for this reason it is that the girdle is used in war, that
it may bind and hold together this foundation, as it were, in our frame;
for this reason too it is that when we run we gird ourselves. It is this
which guards our strength. Let this then, saith he, be done also with respect
to the soul, and then in doing anything whatsoever we shall be strong;
and it is a thing most especially becoming to soldiers.
True, you may say, but these our natural loins we gird with a leathern
band; but we, spiritual soldiers, with what? I answer, with that which
is the head and crown of all our thoughts, I mean, "with truth." "Having
girded your loins," saith he, "with truth." What then is the meaning of
"with truth"? Let us love nothing like falsehood, all our duties let us
pursue "with truth," let us not lie one to another. Whether it be an opinion,
let us seek the truth, or whether it be a line of life, let us seek the
true one. If we fortify ourselves with this, if we "gird ourselves with
truth," then shall no one overcome us. He who seeks the doctrine of truth,
shall never fall down to the earth; for that the things which are not true
are of the earth, is evident from this, that all they that are without
are enslaved to the passions, following their own reasonings; and therefore
if we are sober, we shall need no instruction in the tales of the Greeks.
Seest thou how weak and frivolous they are? incapable of entertaining about
God one severe thought or anything above human reasoning? Why? Because
they are not "girded about with truth"; because their loins, the receptacle
of the seed of life, and the main strength of their reasonings, are ungirt;
nothing then can be weaker than these. And the Municheans again, seest
thou, how all the things they have the boldness to utter, are from their
own reasonings? "It was impossible," say they, "for God to create the world
without matter." Whence is this so evident? These things they say, grovening,
and from the earth, and from what happens amongst ourselves; because man,
they say, cannot create otherwise. Marcion again, look what he says. "God,
if He took upon Him flesh, could not remain pure." Whence is this evident?
"Because," says he, "neither can men." But men are able to do this. Valentinus
again, with his reasonings all trailing along the ground, speaks the things
of the earth; and in like manner Paul of Samosata. And Arius, what does
he say? "It was impossible for God when He begat, to beget without passion."
Whence, Arius, hast thou the boldness to allege this; merely from the things
which take place amongst ourselves? Seest thou how the reasonings of all
these trail along on the ground? All are, as it were, let loose and unconfined,
and savoring of the earth? And so much then for doctrines. With regard
to life and conduct, again, whoremongers, lovers of money, and of glory,
and of everything else, trail on the ground. They have not their loins
themselves standing firm, so that when they are weary they may rest upon
them; but when they are weary, they do not put their hands upon them and
stand upright, but flag. He, however, who "is girt about with the truth,"
first, never is weary; and secondly, if he should be weary, he will rest
himself upon the truth itself. What? Will poverty, tell me, render him
weary? No, in nowise; for he will repose on the true riches, and by this
poverty will understand what is true poverty. Or again, will slavery make
him weary? No, in nowise, for he will know what is the true slavery. Or
shall disease? No, nor even that. "Let your loins," saith Christ, "be girded
about, and your lamps burning" (Luke xii. 35), with that light which shall
never be put out. This is what the Israelites also, when they were departing
out of Egypt (Ex. xii. 11), were charged to do. For why did they eat the
passover with their loins girded? Art thou desirous to hear the ground
of it? According to the historical fact, or according to its mystical sense,
shall I state it? But I will state them both, and do ye retain it in mind,
for I am not doing it without an object, merely that I may tell you the
solution, but also that my words may become in you reality. They had, we
read, their loins girded, and their staff in their hands, and their shoes
on their feet, and thus they ate the Passover. Awful and terrible mysteries,
and of vast depth; and if so terrible in the type, how much more in the
reality? They come forth out of Egypt, they eat the Passover. Attend. "Our
Passover hath been sacrificed, even Christ," it is said. Wherefore did
they have their loins girded? Their guise is that of wayfarers; for their
having shoes, and staves in their hands, and their eating standing, declares
nothing else than this. Will ye hear the history first, or the mystery?
Better the history first. What then is the design of the history? The Jews
were continually forgetting God's benefits to them. Accordingly then, God
tied the sense of these, His benefits, not only to the time, but also to
the very habit of them that were to eat. For this is why they were to eat
girded and sandalled, that when they were asked the reason, they might
say, "we were ready for our journey, we were just about to go forth out
of Egypt to the land of promise and we were ready for our exodus." This
then is the historical type. But the reality is this; we too eat a Passover,
even Christ; "for," saith he, "our Passover hath been sacrificed, even
Christ." (1 Cor. v. 7.) What then? We too ought to eat it, both sandalled
and girded. And why? That we too may be ready for our Exodus, for our departure
Moral. Let not any one of them that eat this Passover look towards Egypt,
but towards Heaven, towards "Jerusalem that is above." (Gal. iv. 26.) On
this account thou eatest with thy loins girded, on this account thou eatest
with shoes on thy feet, that thou mayest know, that from the moment thou
first beginnest to eat the Passover, thou oughtest to set out, and to be
upon thy journey. And this implies two things, both that we must depart
out of Egypt, and that, whilst we stay, we must stay henceforth as in a
strange country; "for our citizenship," saith he, "is in Heaven" (Phil.
iii. 20); and that all our life long we should ever be prepared, so that
when we are called we may not put it off, but say, "My heart is fixed."
(Ps. cviii. 1.) "Yes, but this Paul indeed could say, who knew nothing
against himself; but I, who require a long time for repentance, I cannot
say it." Yet that to be girded is the part of a waking soul, hearken to
what God says to that righteous man, "Gird up now thy loins like a man,
for I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto Me." (Job xxxviii. 3.)
This He says also to all the prophets, and this He says again to Moses,
to be girded. And He Himself also appears to Ezekiel (Ezek. ix. 11, Sept.)
girded. Nay more, and the Angels, too, appear to us girded (Rev. xv. 6),
as being soldiers. From our being girded about, it comes that we also stand
bravely as from our standing our being girded comes.
For we also are going to depart, and many are the difficulties that
intervene. When we have crossed this plain, straightway the devil is upon
us, doing everything, contriving every artifice, to the end that those
who have been saved out of Egypt, those who have passed the Red Sea, those
who are delivered at once from the evil demons, and from unnumbered plagues,
may be taken and destroyed by him. But, if we be vigilant, we too have
a pillar of fire, the grace of the Spirit. The same both enlightens and
overshadows us. We have manna; yea rather not manna, but far more than
manna. Spiritual drink we have, not water, that springs forth from the
Rock. So have we too our encampment (Rev. xx. 9), and we dwell in the desert
even now; for a desert indeed without virtue, is the earth even now, even
more desolate than that wilderness. Why was that desert so terrible? Was
it not because it had scorpions in it, and adders? (Deut. viii. 15.) "A
land," it is said, "which none passed through." (Jer. ii. 6.). Yet is not
that wilderness, no, it is not so barren of fruits, as is this human nature.
At this instant, how many scorpions, how many asps are in this wilderness,
how many serpents, how many "offsprings of vipers" (Matt. iii. 7) are these
through whom we at this instant pass! Yet let us not be afraid; for the
leader of this our Exodus is not Moses, but Jesus.
How then is it that we shall not suffer the same things? Let us not
commit the same acts, and then shall we not suffer the same punishment.
They murmured, they were ungrateful; let us therefore not cherish these
passions. How was it that they fell all of them? "They despised the pleasant
land." (Ps. cvi. 24.) "How `despised' it? Surely they prized it highly."
By becoming indolent and cowardly, and not choosing to undergo any labors
to obtain it. Let not us then "despise" Heaven! This is what is meant by
"despising." Again, among us also has fruit been brought, fruit from Heaven,
not the cluster of grapes borne upon the staff (Num. xiii. 23), but the
"earnest of the Spirit" (2 Cor. i. 22), "the citizenship which is in Heaven"
(Phil. iii. 20), which Paul and the whole company of the Apostles, those
marvelous husbandmen, have taught us. It is not Caleb the son of Jephunneh,
nor Jesus the son of Nun, that hath brought these fruits; but Jesus the
Son of "the Father of mercies" (2 Cor. i. 3), the Son of the Very God,
hath brought every virtue, hath brought down from Heaven all the fruits
that are from thence, the songs of heaven hath He brought. For the words
which the Cherubim above say, these hath He charged us to say also, "Holy,
Holy, Holy." He hath brought to us the virtue of the Angels. "The Angels
marry not, neither are given in marriage" (Matt. xxii. 30); this fair plant
hath He planted here also. They love not money, nor anything like it; and
this too hath He sown amongst us. They never die; and this hath He freely
given us also, for death is no longer death, but sleep. For hearken to
what He saith, "Our friend Lazarus is fallen asleep." (John xi. 11.)
Seest thou then the fruits of "Jerusalem that is above"? (Gal. iv. 26.)
And what is indeed more stupendous than all is this, that our warfare is
not decided, but all these things are given us before the attainment of
the promise! For they indeed toiled even after they had entered into the
land of promise;-rather, they toiled not, for had they chosen to obey God,
they might have taken all the cities, without either arms or array. Jericho,
we know, they overturned, more after the fashion of dancers than of warriors.
We however have no warfare after we have entered into the land of promise,
that is, into Heaven, but only so long as we are in the wilderness, that
is, in the present life. "For he that is entered into his rest hath himself
also rested from his works as God did from His." (Heb. iv. 10.) "Let us
not then be weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we
faint not." (Gal. vi. 9.) Seest thou how that just as He led them, so also
He leads us? In their case, touching the manna and the wilderness, it is
said, "He that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little
had no lack." (Ex. xvi. 18.) And we have this charge given us, "not to
lay up treasure upon the earth." (Matt. vi. 19.) But if we do lay up treasure,
it is no longer the earthly worm that corrupts it, as was the case with
the manna, but that which dwelleth eternally with fire. Let us then "subdue
all things," that we furnish not food to this worm. For "he," it is said,
"who gathered much had nothing over." For this too happens with ourselves
also every day. We all of us have but the same capacity of hunger to satisfy.
And that which is more than this, is but an addition of cares. For what
He intended in after-times to deliver, saying, "Sufficient unto the day
is the evil thereof" (Matt. vi. 34), this had He thus been teaching even
from the very beginning, and not even thus did they receive it. But as
to us, let us not be insatiable, let us not be discontented, let us not
be seeking out for splendid houses; for we are on our pilgrimage, not at
home; so that if there be any that knows that the present life is a sort
of journey, and expedition, and, as one might say, it is what they call
an entrenched camp, he will not be seeking for splendid buildings. For
who, tell me, be he ever so rich, would choose to build a splendid house
in an encampment? No one; he would be a laughing stock, he would be building
for his enemies, and would the more effectually invite them on; and so
then, if we be in our senses, neither shall we. The present life is nothing
else than a march and an encampment.
Wherefore, I beseech you, let us do all we can, so as to lay up no treasure
here; for if the thief should come, we must in a moment arise and depart.
"Watch," saith He, "for ye know not at what hour the thief cometh" (Matt.
xxiv. 42, 43), thus naming death. O then, before he cometh, let us send
away everything before us to our native country; but here let us be "well
girded," that we may be enabled to overcome our enemies, whom God grant
that we may overcome, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord
Jesus Christ, with Whom together with the Holy Ghost, be unto the Father
glory, strength, honor forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians vi. 14-17.-"Stand therefore, having girded your loins with
truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and having shod
your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; withal taking up
the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery
darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword
of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
"Having girded your loins," saith he, "with truth." What
can be the meaning of this? I have stated in the preceding discourse, that
he ought to be lightly accoutered, in order that there should be no impediment
whatever to his running.
"And having on," he continues, "the breastplate of righteousness."
As the breastplate is impenetrable, so also is righteousness, and by
righteousness here he means a life of universal virtue. Such a life no
one shall ever be able to overthrow; it is true, many wound him, but no
one cuts through him, no, not the devil himself. It is as though one were
to say, "having righteous deeds fixed in the breast"; of these it is that
Christ saith, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness;
for they shall be filled." (Matt. v. 6.) Thus is he firm and strong like
a breastplate. Such a man will never be put out of temper.
"And having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of
peace." It is more uncertain in what sense this was said. What then
is its meaning? They are noble greaves, doubtless, with which he invests
us. Either then he means this, that we should be prepared for the gospel,
and should make use of our feet for this, and should prepare and make ready
its way before it; or if not this, at least that we ourselves should be
prepared for our departure. "The preparation," then, "of the gospel of
peace," is nothing else than a most virtuous life; according to what the
Prophet saith. "Thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear
to hear." (Ps. x. 17.) "Of the gospel," he says, "of peace," and with reason;
for inasmuch as he had made mention of warfare and fighting, he shows us
that this conflict with the evil spirits we must needs have: for the gospel
is "the gospel of peace"; this war which we have against them, puts an
end to another war, that, namely, which is between us and God; if we are
at war with the devil, we are at peace with God. Fear not therefore, beloved;
it is a "gospel," that is, a word of good news; already is the victory
"Withal taking up the shield of faith."
By "faith" in this place, he means, not knowledge, (for that he never
would have ranged last,) but that gift by which miracles are wrought. And
with reason does he term this "`faith' a shield"; for as the shield is
put before the whole body, as if it were a sort of rampart, just so is
this faith; for all things yield to it.
"Wherewith ye shall be able," saith he, "to quench all the
fiery darts of the evil one."
For this shield nothing shall be able to resist; for hearken to what
Christ saith to His disciples, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard
seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and
it shall remove." (Matt. xvii. 20.) But how are we to have this faith?
When we have rightly performed all those duties.
"By the darts of the evil one," he means, both temptations, and
vile desires; and "fiery," he says, for such is the character of these
desires. Yet if faith can command the evil spirits, much more can it also
the passions of the soul.
"And take the helmet," he continues, "of salvation," that
is, of your salvation. For he is casing them in armor.
"And the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." He either
means the Spirit, or else, "the spiritual sword": for by this all things
are severed, by this all things are cleft asunder, by this we cut off even
the serpent's head.
Ver. 18, 19, 20. "With all prayer and supplication," saith he,
"praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance
and supplication for all the saints; and on my behalf that utterance may
be given unto me, in opening my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery
of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that in it I may
speak boldly, as I ought to speak."
As the word of God has power to do all things, so also has he who has
the spiritual gift. "For the word of God," saith he, "is living, and active
and sharper than any two-edged sword." (Heb. iv. 12.) Now mark the wisdom
of this blessed Apostle. He hath armed them with all security. What then
is necessary after that? To call upon the King, that He may stretch forth
His hand. "With all prayer, and supplication, praying at all seasons in
the Spirit"; for it is possible "to pray" not "in the Spirit," when one
"uses vain repetitions" (Matt. vi. 7); "and watching thereunto," he adds,
that is, keeping sober; for such ought the armed warrior, he that stands
at the King's side, to be; wakeful and temperate:-"in all perseverance
and supplication for all the saints; and on my behalf that utterance may
be given unto me in opening my mouth." What sayest thou, blessed Paul?
Hast thou, then, need of thy disciples? And well does he say, "in opening
my mouth." He did not then study what he used to say, but according to
what Christ said, "When they deliver you up, be not anxious how or what
ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that hour what ye shall speak"
(Matt. x. 19): so truly did he do everything by faith, everything by grace.
"With boldness," he proceeds, "to make known the mystery of the Gospel";
that is, that I may answer for myself in its defense, as I ought. And art
thou bound in thy chain, and still needest the aid of others? Yea, saith
he, for so was Peter also bound in his chain, and yet nevertheless "was
prayer made earnestly for him." (Acts xii. 5.) "For which I am an ambassador
in chains, that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak"; that is,
that I may answer with confidence, with courage, with great prudence.