by St. John Chrysostom
Concerning drunkards and frequenters of taverns, and festal processions in the streets – a teacher ought not to despair of his disciples even ‘while they disregard his words – also concerning Lazarus and the Rich Man.
1. Yesterday, on the festival of Satan, ye celebrated a spiritual feast, receiving with all favour the word we addressed to you; spending a great portion of the day in thus drinking in that rapture which is full of sobriety, and rejoicing in company with St Paul. In this way ye gained a twofold benefit, since ye were both separate from the disorderly throng of feasters, and rejoiced in a spiritual and decorous manner.
Ye also partook of that cup, not overflowing with unmixed wine, but filled with spiritual instruction. While others were following the festive companies of the evil one, ye, by your presence in this place, prepared yourselves as instruments of spiritual music, and surrendered your souls to the Divine Spirit that He might influence them, and breathe His own grace into your hearts. Thus ye gave forth a melody of perfect harmony, pleasing not only to men but also to the heavenly powers.
Let us, therefore, to-day, take up arms against inebriety, and expose the folly of a drunken and dissolute life. Let us oppose those who live in intemperance; not that we may shame them, but that we may put them beyond the reach of shame; not that we may blame them, but reform them; not that we may hold them up to contempt, but that we may turn them from all dishonourable exposure, and snatch them from the grasp of the tempter.
For he who lives daily in excess of wine and luxury and. gluttony is under the very tyranny of the devil. And oh that something better may result from our words! Should they, however, continue in the same course after our warning, we shall not on that account cease from giving right counsel. For the springs, even if no one drink of them, continue to flow; and fountains, though no one should use their water, still burst forth; and rivers, though no man profit by them, still run on. So then, also, it is right that the preacher, even if no one attend to his voice, should fulfil all his duty.
For also in His love to man, a law is given by God to those who are entrusted with the ministry of the word, never to cease to discharge the duties of their office nor to be silent, whether the people have regard to their voice, or whether they neglect it.
Jeremiah, therefore, having declared many threatenings to the Jews and warnings of future evils, was mocked by those who heard his voice, and was ridiculed all the day long. From human infirmity, feeling unable to endure scoffs and reviling, he at one time endeavoured to escape from his ministry. Hear him speak concerning this when he says:
“I am in derision daily; then I said, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in the name of the Lord. But His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay,” (Jer. xx. 7, 9.)
This it is which he says;—-
“I was desirous to escape from prophesying, since the Jews did not listen to me; and all the while I was desiring this, the influence of the Holy Spirit penetrated like fire into my inmost soul, consuming all my inward parts and my bones, and devouring me, so that I could not endure the burning.”
If, therefore, he, when he was laughed at and derided each day; when he desired to be silent, underwent such punishment; of what forgiveness can we be worthy, who never at any time are treated thus, if we faint on account of the slowness of some, and cease from instructing them, and especially when there are so many who are attentive!
2. I do not say these things to console or to comfort myself, for I have made up my mind, as long as I breathe, and as long as it shall seem good to God that I remain in this present life, to fulfill this ministry, and, whether any one attends or not, to do the work allotted to me. But since there are some who weaken the hands of many, and who, besides that they bring forward nothing useful for our present life, and relax the zeal of others, by derision and ridicule, saying: “Cease counselling; leave off warning; they do not attend to you: you have no fellow-feeling with them;”—-since there are those who say such things,—-purposing to expel this wicked and morose idea, this satanic counsel, from the minds of many, I address you thus at length.
I know that such things were said even yesterday by many who, when they saw certain people spending time in taverns, said, laughing and deriding: “Are these fully persuaded? These are they who never enter a tavern! Have they all arrived at wisdom?” What dost thou say, O man? Is it this that we undertook to do, to enclose all in the net in one day? For if ten only were persuaded—-if only five,—-if even one,—-is not this sufficient to console us? For my part I can even go beyond this. Suppose that none were persuaded by our words, although it is impossible that the word spoken to so many hearers can be fruitless—-suppose, however, even this,—-still the word would not be without profit.
For, if they did enter a tavern, they did not enter it with such shamelessness as was their wont; but even at the festive table they often thought of our words—-of the rebuke,—-of the blame; which, when they remembered, they would be ashamed—-they would inwardly blush. Neither, though acting in their usual way, did they do so with their usual recklessness. And this is the beginning of salvation, and of the best kind of change—-namely, the being in any degree ashamed—-the disapproving in some measure of that which was being done. Besides this, another and not smaller gain accrues to us from this our work. What then is it? It is the making those who are already wise more careful. It is the persuading them by the word spoken that they are of all men the best advised, since they are not led away with the multitude. I did not restore the sick to health? But I strengthened those that were well. The word did not lead any away from their sin? But it made more steadfast those who were living virtuously.
To these reasons I will add a third. I have not persuaded to-day? But I shall persuade, perhaps, to-morrow. Or even if not to-morrow, I may after to-morrow, or even the day following. He who to-day heard and rejected the word, perhaps will hear and obey to-morrow; he who spurns the word to-day and to-morrow, perhaps in a few more days will attend to that which is spoken. For even the fisherman often casts his net the whole day in vain; and in the evening, when he is about to depart, captures and takes home the fish that had escaped him all the day long. And if, on account of frequent want of success, we were to live in idleness, and cease from all work, our whole life would be brought to nought, and not only spiritual affairs but also temporal would be ruined.
For also the husbandman, if on account of the once, or twice, or oft-repeated inclemency of the season, were to abandon his work, we all should perish by famine. Again, it the mariner, on account of the once, or twice, or oft-recurring storms, were to forsake the sea, the ocean would become impassable, and in that way also our life would be quite marred. Thus, going through all employments, if men should act as you urge and advise us to do, all would utterly fail, and the earth would become uninhabitable. All men, therefore, having this in view, if once, or twice, or if often they fail to gain the object of the labor in which they spend their time, still apply themselves to the work again with undiminished alacrity.
3. Knowing, then, all these things, beloved, let us not, I beseech you, speak in this way; let us not say, “What is the need of such discourses? No good results from them.” The husbandman once, or twice, or often sowing in the same field, and failing to profit by it, labors again in the same ground, and often recovers in one good year the loss of all his previous time. It often happens that the merchant, suffering from many shipwrecks, does not shun the sea; but prepares his vessel, and hires seamen, and spends money again in the same kind of undertaking, although the future is as uncertain as before.
And all who are accustomed to engage in any occupation whatever act in the same way as the husbandman and the merchant. If then they show such zeal in the affairs of this life, although the result is doubtful, shall we, because when we speak we are not listened to, immediately desist? What excuse shall we have? Besides, in their misfortunes, there is no one to console them for their loss, no one who, if the sea engulf the ship, will remove the poverty caused by the wreck. If the rain flood the field and cause the seed to perish, the husbandman must of necessity return home with empty hands. But with us, who preach and warn men, the case is not so. For when thou sowest the seed, and the hearer receives it not, and does not bring forth the fruit of obedience, thou hast the reward of thy intent, laid up with God; and thou wilt receive the same recompense whether the hearer obey or disobey; for thou hast performed all thy duty.
We are not responsible for not convincing those who hear, but only for giving them counsel. It is ours to warn; to give heed to the warning is theirs. And just as, if they do many good deeds without our giving any exhortation, all the gain would be theirs only, since we did not counsel them; so, if they give no heed when we warn, all the punishment falls on them; against us there is no accusation, but rather a great reward from God awaits us, since we have discharged our duty. We are commanded only to give the money to the exchangers,1 that is, to speak and to give counsel. Speak, therefore, and warn thy brother. He listens not?
Still thou hast thy reward prepared. Only always act thus, and never give up as long as life lasts, until you succeed in producing conversion. Let the termination of your giving counsel be the reception of your warning.
The Tempter continually goes to and fro to baffle our salvation, while he himself gains nothing, but rather is to the last degree a loser by his zeal; but still so maddened is he, that he often attempts impossible things, and attacks not only those whom he expects to cause utterly to stumble or fall, but also those who in all probability will escape his snares. Therefore, when he heard Job praised by that God who knows all secrets, he thought to be able to overcome, nor did he in his guile cease trying every method and every device in order to cause the man to fall.
The Spirit of all evil and wickedness did not shrink from the attempt, though God had ascribed such grace to that just man. Are not we then ashamed? Tell me, do we not blush if, while the Enemy never despairs of accomplishing our ruin, but always expects it, we despair of the salvation of our brethren? In fact, Satan ought, before the attempt, to have abstained from the contest, for it was God himself who testified to the virtue of the righteous man. Still he did not desist, but because of his mad hatred of us, he, even after the favorable testimony of God himself, hoped to deceive that just man.
In our case there is no such circumstance to cause us to despair, and still we desist! The devil, also, although forbidden by God, does not cease from fighting against us; but thou, whilst God enjoins and incites thee to the recovery of the fallen, dost fly from the work! The tempter heard God saying: A just man, true, God-fearing, and abstaining from every evil work, and that there was none like him on the earth; yet after such strong and high testimony in favor of Job, he persevered, and said:
“Shall I not at length, by the continuousness and greatness of the evils brought upon him, be able to circumvent him, and overthrow this great pillar?”
4. What forgiveness, therefore, will there be for us, if (while we undergo such fury of the wicked one against ourselves) we do not bring to bear even the smallest part of this zeal for the salvation of our brethren, even while in these matters we have God for our helper! For when thou seest thy brother wicked and morose and giving no heed to thee, say thus within thyself: “Shall I not some time or other bo able to persuade him.”
Thus also St Paul commanded us to do:
“The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God per-adventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth,” (2 Tim. ii. 24, 25.)
Dost thou not observe how often fathers, when in despair about their children, sit down weeping, bewailing, embracing them, trying everything in their power until the last breath? This do thou also for thy brother. Although parents by their lamentations and tears can neither remove sickness nor avert approaching death, yet thou, in the case of a soul even when given up, mayest through perseverance and assiduity, by lamentation and tears, bring about recovery and restoration. Hast thou given counsel and failed to convince? Then weep, and make frequent efforts; groan deeply, that, shamed by thy constancy, he may turn to seek salvation. What can I do alone? For I singly am not able to be present with you all every day, nor am I sufficient to convince such a multitude. But ye, if ye be minded to care for the salvation of each other, and every one to take in hand one of our neglected brethren—-ye would quickly further the edification of us all.
And what need is there to speak of those who, after repeated warnings, have come to their right mind? It behoves us not to abandon or neglect even those who are diseased incurably, even if we foresee clearly that, after having had the benefit of our zeal and good counsel, they will not at all profit by it. And if this that I say seem to you unreasonable, suffer me to confirm it by things which Christ himself said and did. For we men being ignorant of the future, cannot therefore be certain, as to the hearers, whether they will be persuaded or whether they will disbelieve that which we say; but Christ, knowing both one and the other perfectly, did not cease instructing the disobedient even to the end.
Thus, knowing that Judas would not be turned aside from his treachery, Christ did not desist from trying to turn him from his faithlessness, by counsel, by warnings, by kind treatment, by threatening, by every kind of instruction, and by continually checking him by His words as by a rein. This He did to teach us that, although we know beforehand that the brethren will not be persuaded, we must do all in our power, since the reward of our admonition is sure. Mark also how assiduously and wisely the Lord restrained Judas when He said,
“One of you shall betray me,” (Matt. xxvi. 21;)
“I speak not of you all. I know whom I have chosen,” (John xiii. 18;)
“One of you is a devil,” (John vi. 70.)
He preferred to put them all in an agony of doubt rather than reveal the traitor or make him the more shameless by open reproof. For that these sayings produced trouble and dread in the others, although conscious in themselves of no evil, hear them each with earnest striving say,
“Lord, is it I?” (Matt. xxvi. 22.)
Not only by words did He instruct him, but also by acts. For while Christ often and fully manifested., His love to man,—-cleansing the lepers, casting out devils, healing the sick, raising the dead, restoring the paralytic, and doing good to all; on the other hand, He punished no one, and constantly said,
“I came not to judge the world, but to save the world,” (John xii. 47.)
But that Judas should not think that Christ knew only how to bless and not to punish, Christ teaches him also this very thing, namely, that He was able to punish and inflict penalties on sinners.
5. Behold, then, how wisely and appropriately He teaches him this thing; and notice that He does not consent to punish or inflict a penalty on any human being. And why? In order that the disciple might learn His power to punish. For, had He punished any man, He would have seemed to have acted contrary to His own declaration when He said,
“I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.”
On the other hand, had He exhibited no power of chastisement, the disciple would have remained in error, not learning from His deeds His power of inflicting punishment. How then did it come to pass?
In order that the disciple should be made to fear, and not become worse for lack of reverence, nor himself undergo punishment and penalty, Christ displayed this His power on the fig-tree, saying,
“Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward,” (Matt. xxi. 3 9,)
and, by His mere word, caused it instantly to wither. In this way, without causing harm to any man, Pie himself showed His might, though it was only a tree that bore the infliction. And the disciple, if he had attended to this instance of punishment, would have reaped profit from it. Still, however, even thus he was not corrected. And Christ, foreseeing even this, not only did this thing, but afterwards wrought a much greater wonder. For when the Jews came against Him, armed with swords and staves, He caused them all to become blind; this being shown by His saying, “Whom seek ye?” Since Judas had said again and again,
“What will ye give me, and I will deliver Him unto you?” (Matt. xxvi. 15,)
the Lord, wishing to prove to the Jews, and to let Judas also know, that He went of His own accord to His sufferings, and that all these events were in His own power;—-that He was not overpowered by the wickedness of another, He said, when the traitor with all his companions stood still, “Whom seek ye?” Judas did not know Him whom he came to betray, for his eyes were blinded.
Nor was this all, but Christ by His word caused them all to fall backward to the ground. And since even this did not render them less cruel, nor cause the wretched man to desist from his treachery,—-for he was still incorrigible,—-Christ even now did not give up His kindness and regard; but mark how movingly He deals with this mind devoid of shame, and how He speaks words which ought to melt a heart of stone. For when Judas advances to kiss Him, what does Christ say?
“Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke xxii. 48.)
Art thou not ashamed of the manner in which thou betrayest Me? This Christ said to touch him, and bring his former intimacy to remembrance. But while the Lord acted and spoke thus, the betrayer did not change for the better—-not on account of the weakness of Him from whom the counsel came, but the worthlessness of him to whom it came. And Christ, although He foresaw all these things, did not cease, from the beginning to the close of the scene, to do all that was consistent with His own character.
Since we know all these things, we ought to teach and to love, constantly and fully, those of our brethren who are negligent, even though we do not gain the object of our counsel. For if, knowing such a result, the Lord exhibited such solicitude for him who would profit nothing by the warning, what allowance can be made for us, when, not knowing the result, we are thus careless about the salvation of our neighbour,—-when we desist after the second or third warning? Besides all these things that we have said, let us take into consideration our own case, since God addresses us day after day, by the prophets, by the apostles, and day after day we are disobedient; and still He does not cease to reason with and to call upon those who are always obstinate and inattentive. Paul also cries aloud, using these words:
“We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ’s stead be ye reconciled to God,” (2 Cor. v. 20.)
If one may say a strange thing, he who foresees that the recipient of his counsel will in some degree be persuaded by it, and thus gives his advice, is not worthy of such praise as he who, oftentimes speaking and counselling, fails, but notwithstanding does not cease. For, in the first case, the hope of convincing stimulates him to exertion, even though he should be of all men most slothful; but the other, who gives counsel and is neglected, and still does not desist, gives proof of the most ardent and purest love; he is stimulated by no such hope as in the former instance;—-only through love towards his brother does he persevere in his anxious care.
But that we ought never to desert the fallen, even when we foresee that they will not be persuaded by us, we have already sufficiently shown. In the rest of this discourse, we must proceed with a charge against those who live in luxury. For as long as this feast lasts, Satan inflicts the wounds of excess on the souls of those who indulge in revels, and it is our duty to apply the healing remedies.
6. Yesterday, we alleged against such feasters the testimony of St Paul, who says,
“Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God,” (1 Cor. x. 31.)
Today, we shall show them the Lord of Paul not only advising or counselling to abstain from luxury, but also punishing and inflicting penalties on one who lived in luxury; for the narrative of the rich man and Lazarus, and of the things which befell them, proves nothing less than this. And rather than that our consideration of this subject should be superficial, I will read to you the parable from the commencement.
“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores,” (Luke xvi. 19-21.)
Now for what reason did the Lord speak to them in parables? Why also did He explain some of these, and leave others unexplained? And what indeed is a parable? These, and other questions of this nature, we will reserve until another opportunity, so as not to digress from the argument now claiming our attention.
One thing, however, we will ask: Which of the evangelists has delivered to us this parable as spoken by Christ? Which then is it? It is St Luke only. For it is also necessary to know that, of the things which are related, some are related by all four; some, as by special information, by one only. And why? In order that the reading of the other Gospels might be necessary, and that their agreement with each other might be made manifest. For if they all delivered all the events, we should not examine them all with such care, since one only would be sufficient to inform us about everything. If, again, all spoke of different events, we should fail to discover their agreement. On this account they all wrote many things in common, while at the same time each received and delivered matters peculiar to himself.
To return, however, to Christ’s teaching in the parable. It is this: A certain man, it is said, living in great wickedness, was rich; and he experienced no ill fortune, but all good things flowed to him as from a perennial fountain. For that nothing undesirable happened to him—-no cause of trouble—-none of the ills of human life —-is implied when it is said, that “he fared sumptuously every day.” And that he lived wickedly is clear from the end allotted to him, and even before his end, from the neglect which he displayed in the case of the poor man; for that he felt pity neither for the poor man at his gate nor for any other, he himself showed.
For if he had no pity on the man continually laid at his gate, and placed before his eyes, whom every day, once or twice, or oftentimes, as he went in and out, he was obliged to see;—-for the man was not placed in a by-way, nor in a hidden and narrow place, but in a spot where the rich man, in his continual coming-in and going-out, was obliged, even if unwilling, to look upon him;—-if, therefore, the rich man did not pity him lying there in such suffering, and living in such distress,—-yea, rather, all his life long in misery because of sickness, and that of the most grievous kind,—-would he ever have been moved with compassion towards any of the afflicted whom he might casually meet?
For though on one occasion the rich man passed him by, it was likely that he would manifest some feeling the next day; and if even then he disregarded the poor man, still on the third day, or the fourth, or even after that, he might be expected in some way to be moved to compassion, even if he were more cruel than the wild beasts. But he had no feeling: he was more severe and harsh than that judge who neither feared God nor regarded man. For the judge, though so cruel and stern, was moved by the perseverance of the widow to be gracious and listen to her petition; but this man could not even thus be induced to give aid to the poor man, notwithstanding that his petition was not like that of the widow, but much easier and fairer. For she requested aid against her enemies, while this poor man was entreating that his hunger might be allayed, and that he should not be allowed to perish.
The widow also caused trouble by her entreaties; but this man, though often in the day seen by the rich man, only lay without speaking: and this circumstance was quite sufficient to soften a heart harder than stone. When we are urged, we frequently feel annoyed; but when we see those who need our help remaining in perfect silence and saying not a word, and though always failing to gain their object, not bearing it hardly, but. only appearing before us in silence, even though we are more unfeeling than the very stones, we are shamed and moved by such exceeding humility. There is also another circumstance of not less weight, namely, that the very appearance of the poor man was pitiable, since he was emaciated by hunger and long sickness. Yet none of these things influenced that cruel man.
First, then, there was this vice of cruelty and inhumanity in a degree that could not be exceeded. For it is not the same thing for one living in poverty not to assist those who are in need, as for one who enjoys such luxury to neglect others who are wasting away through hunger. Again, it is not the same thing for one to pass by a poor man when he sees him once or twice, as to see him every day without being moved by the oft-recurring sight to pity and benevolence. Again, it is not the same thing for one who is in difficulties and anxiety, and troubled in soul, not to help his neighbour, as for one enjoying such good fortune and unbroken prosperity, to neglect others who are perishing from hunger, and to shut up his bowels of compassion, and not rather, for the very sake of his own happiness, to become more benevolent.
For know this of a truth, that unless we are the most cruel of all men, we are, by our very nature, apt, by our own prosperity, to be rendered milder and more gentle. But this rich man did not grow better on account of his prosperity, but remained ill-natured; or rather had, deep in his disposition, cruelty and inhumanity greater than that of a beast of the field.
Still it came to pass that a man living in wickedness and inhumanity enjoyed every kind of good fortune, and a just and virtuous man lingered in the greatest ills. For that Lazarus was a just man is made plain, as in the other case, by his end, and even before his end, by his patience and poverty. Do you not, indeed, seem to see these things present before our eyes? The ship of the rich man was laden with merchandise, and sailed with a fair wind. But do not marvel; for it was borne on to shipwreck, since he was not willing to bestow its burden wisely. Would you that I should give another proof of his wickedness? It is his living in luxury every day without fear. For this in truth is the height of wickedness; and not only now, (in this dispensation,) when we are required to show such moderation, but even in the beginning, under the old covenant, when there was no revelation of the need of this self-control. For hear what the prophet says:
“Woe to them that come to an evil day, that come near, and that make a Sabbath of lies,” (Amos vi. 3, LXX.)
The Jews suppose that the Sabbath was given to them for the sake of ease. But this is not the object of it; but it was in order that, separating themselves from, worldly affairs, they might bestow all that leisure on spiritual things. For that the Sabbath was not for the sake of idleness, but for spiritual work, is clear from its very circumstances. The priest, on that day, does a double portion of work, a single sacrifice being offered each common day, while on that day he is commanded to offer a double sacrifice.
And if the Sabbath were for the sake of idleness, the priest before all others ought to be idle. Since therefore the Jews, separating themselves from worldly things, devoted not themselves to spiritual things, to temperance, and gentleness, and hearing the divine word, but did the very opposite, feasting, drinking, indulging in excess and luxury; on this account it is, that the prophet condemns them. For he says,
“Woe to them that come to an evil day,”
and, in continuation,
“that make a Sabbath of lies.”
He shows by that which follows how their Sabbath became unprofitable. How then did they make it unprofitable? By their working wickedness, living in luxury, drinking, and doing numberless other base and vile acts. And that this charge is true, hear what follows; for he intimates that which I am affirming, by that which he immediately adds, saying:
“That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall; that drink refined wine, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments,” (Amos vi. 4, 6.)
Thou didst receive the Sabbath that thou mightest purify thy soul from wickedness; but thou hast increased wickedness. For what can be worse than this effeminacy —-this “sleeping upon beds of ivory?” The other sins, as drinking, covetousness, or prodigality, may be accompanied with some small amount of pleasure; but the sleeping on beds of ivory, what pleasure is there in it? Is more refreshing or sweeter sleep brought to us by the beauty of the couch? Nay, rather this beauty is more burdensome and more troublesome to us, if we reflect upon the matter. For whenever thou dost consider that while thou art sleeping on an ivory couch, another fellow-creature is not even able to enjoy the certainty of having bread to eat, will not conscience condemn thee and rise up to accuse this wrong?
And if to sleep on an ivory couch be a reproach, what defence can we make when the bed is also decked with silver? Dost thou wish to know the true beauty of a couch? I will show thee the adornment, not of a couch belonging to one in private life, nor to a soldier, but to a king. Though thou shouldst be of all men the most desirous of honor, be assured that thou couldst not wish to have a couch more becoming than that of this king. It is also not that of an ordinary king, but of a very great king, a king of all kings most kingly, and even to this day magnified in the whole world. I show thee the couch of the blessed David. Of what kind then was it? It was not decked with silver and gold, but everywhere with tears and confessions. And this he himself says, speaking thus:
“All the night make I my bed to swim, and water my couch with my tears,” (Ps. vi. 6.)
Thus with tears was it in all parts adorned as if with pearls.
8. Mark then with me this godly soul. For although by day manifold cares—-about the rulers, about the governors, about the tribes, about the different races, about soldiers, about war, about peace, about affairs of state, about household affairs, about things far off, about things near home, distracted and disturbed him, nevertheless, the leisure time which we all give to sleep he spent in confessions and prayers and tears. And this he did not for one night to cease from it the next, not for two or three nights, after intervals of repose; but he was doing this every night; for
“every night,” said he, “wash I my bed, and water my couch with my tears,” (Ps. vi. 6, Prayer-book version,)
indicating the abundance of his tears and their continuance. For when all were quiet and at rest, he alone held converse with God; and the eye of Him who never sleepeth was turned towards the man who bewailed and lamented and confessed his indwelling sins. Such a couch as this do thou prepare. For silver ornaments both excite the envy of man and enkindle wrath from above. But such tears as those of David can even extinguish the fire of Gehenna.
Do you wish me to show thee another couch? I mean that of Jacob. He lay on the ground, and a stone was under his head. Therefore also, he saw the symbolical stone,2 and that ladder on which angels were ascending and descending. Couches of this kind let us also have, that we may see such visions. If we lie upon silver, we not only gain no pleasure, but also endure trouble. For whenever thou dost consider that in the severest cold in the middle of the night, while thou art sleeping on thy couch, the poor man lying on chaff in the porticoes of the baths, covered with straw, is trembling, numb with cold, and fainting with hunger, even if thou shouldst be most stony-hearted, be assured that thou wilt condemn thyself for being content that while thou art luxuriating in things superfluous, he is not able to enjoy even the necessaries of life.
“No man that warreth,” saith the apostle, “entangleth himself with the affairs of this life,” (2 Tim. ii. 4.)
Thou art a spiritual soldier; but such a soldier does not sleep on an ivory bed, but on the ground; he does not use scented unguents, for this is the habit of sensual and dissolute men—-of those who live on the stage, or in indolence; and it is not the odour of ointment that thou shouldst have, but that of virtue. The soul is none the more pure when the body is thus scented.
Yea, this fragrance of the body and of the dress may even be a sign of inward corruption and uncleanness. For when Satan makes his approaches to corrupt the soul and fill it with all indolence, then also by means of ointments he impresses upon the body the stains which mark its inner defilement. And just as those who suffer continually from flux and catarrh defile their garments and person, constantly discharging these humors; in the same way the soul denies the body with the evil of this corrupt discharge. What noble or useful deed can be expected from a man scented with myrrh and living effeminately, or rather keeping company with meretricious women, and giving himself up to the company of low actors? Rather let the soul exhale spiritual odors, in order that thou mayest in the greatest degree benefit both thyself and thy associates.
For nothing—-nothing is worse than luxury. Hear what Moses again says concerning it:
“He is waxen fat, he is grown thick, he is increased, he that is beloved kicked,” (Deut. xxxii. 15, LXX.)
And he does not say: “he rebelled,” but he “kicked,” indicating to us his wildness and intractableness. And again, in another place;
“When thou hast eaten and art full, beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God,” (Deut. viii. 10, 11.)
Thus does luxury lead to forgetfulness. Then do thou also, beloved, when thou sittest at table, remember that after the meal thou shouldst pray: and so moderately refresh thyself that thou mayest not through fullness be unable to bend the knee and call upon God. Do you not see beasts of burden, how after feeding, they recommence the journey, they bear loads, they fulfill all the service that falls to their lot? But thou when thou risest from table, art unfit for any work; thou art become useless. How wilt thou avoid being thought less worthy of honor than the very beasts? Wherefore? Because it is then the proper time to be sober and to watch. For the time after meals is the time for thanksgiving; and he who gives thanks should not indulge in excess, but be sober and vigilant. Let us not turn from the table to the couch, but to prayer, that we become not more irrational than the beasts.
9. I am aware that many will condemn that which is said, as leading to a new and strange manner of living. But I the more condemn the evil customs that are now prevalent amongst us. For that when we rise from food, and from the table, we ought to proceed, not to sleep and the couch, but to prayers and the reading of the Holy Scriptures; this is made most clear by Christ.
For when He had feasted the innumerable multitude in the wilderness, He did not dismiss them to lie down to sleep, but called them to hear the divine word.3 He did not fill them to repletion, nor allow them to fall into excess; but having satisfied their need, he led them to a spiritual feast. Thus let us also act, and let us accustom ourselves to eat so much only as will sustain our higher life, and not hinder and oppress it. For it was not for this that we were born, and exist—-namely, that we should eat and drink; but let us eat for this—-namely, that we may live. It was not given us at first to live for the sake of eating, but to eat for the sake of living. But we, as if we had come into the world merely to eat, upon this we spend everything.
In order that this charge against luxury may be corroborated, and come home to those who are living in it, let us return in our discourse to Lazarus. And thus the warning will become clearer, and the counsel more effectual, since you will see those who live in excess instructed and corrected, not by words only, but by acts. The rich man lived in this kind of wickedness, and luxuriated day by day, and was splendidly attired; but he was bringing on himself severer punishment, stirring up a fiercer flame, making his condemnation more complete, and the penalty more inexorable.
But the poor man who was cast at his gate grieved not, nor blasphemed, nor complained. He did not say within himself, as many do, “Why is this so? This man living in wickedness and cruelty and inhumanity enjoys all things even beyond his need, and endures no trouble nor any of the unlooked-for reverses that often happen in human affairs. He enjoys unmixed pleasure, while I have not the opportunity of partaking even of necessary food. To this man, who squanders all his substance on parasites and flatterers and wine—-to him all good things flow like a river; while I live as an object to be gazed at —-an object of shame and derision, and am wasting through hunger. Is this Providence? Can it be Justice that overrules human affairs?”
He did not say any of these things, nor had he them in his mind. How is this manifest? From the circumstance that guardian angels surrounded him at his death, and bore him away to Abraham’s bosom. Had he been a blasphemer, he would not have gained this glory. Thus also most people wonder at this man merely because of his poverty; but I proceed to show that he endured these ninefold 4 afflictions, not for punishment, but that he might become more glorious. This result accordingly happened.
A dreadful thing, in truth, is poverty, as all who have had experience of it know. For no words can express the trouble which they endure who live in poverty, without knowing the relief of true philosophy. And in the case of Lazarus, there was not only this evil, but bodily ‘weakness superadded, and that in the highest degree. Notice how it is shown that both these inflictions reached the highest pitch. That the poverty of Lazarus at that time surpassed all other poverty, is clear, when it is said that he did not obtain the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table.
And that his weakness had reached the same pitch as his poverty, beyond which it could not go, this also is shown when it is said that the dogs licked his sores.5 He was so feeble as not to be able to drive away the dogs; but he lay like a living corpse, seeing their approach, but powerless to keep them at a distance-To such an extent were his limbs emaciated; so much was he wasted by bodily sickness; so far was he worn down by trials. You see that poverty and weakness in the highest degree, as it were, besieged his body. And if each of these evils by itself is unbearable and dreadful, what adamantine strength must he have who must bear them both united! Many people are often in ill health, but they do not at the same time lack necessary food. Others may live in utter poverty, but they may enjoy health; and the blessing on the one hand may counterbalance the evil on the other; but in the case we are considering, both these evils came together.
Suppose, however, that there may be some alleviation even in weakness and in poverty. But this cannot be, when in such a state of desertion. For if there were no one connected with him or at his home, to pity him, yet he might have met with compassion from some of the beholders, when lying before the public; but in this case the utter lack of helpers increased the aforementioned evils. And the being laid at the gate of the rich man added to his distress. If he had been placed in a desert and uninhabited place when he suffered this neglect, he would not have felt such grief; for the fact of there being no one nigh would have led him, even though unwillingly, to submit to these unavoidable evils; but being placed in the midst of so many people carousing and rejoicing, and meeting with not the slightest attention from any of them, made the thought of his own woes more bitter, and the more inflamed his grief. For we are so constituted as not to be so much distressed by evils when all helpers are at a distance, as when helpers who are near are unwilling to stretch out a hand to aid us. This grief, then, this poor man felt. There was no one either to console him by a word, or to comfort him by a kind act; no friend, no neighbor, no relation, no one of those who saw him; not one of all the corrupt household of the rich man.
10. Besides, in addition to these things, it would cause another accession of woe to see another man in such prosperity. Not that he was envious and evil-minded, but because it is the nature of us all to feel our own private misfortunes more acutely when we see others in prosperity. And with respect to the rich man, there was another circumstance which would give Lazarus pain. For, in truth, not only by comparing his own ill-fortune with another’s prosperity did he feel the more deeply his own woes, but also by the consideration that another who acted with cruelty and inhumanity was in every respect fortunate; while he himself, with his virtue and meekness, suffered extreme misery; and thus, again, he would feel inconsolable grief.
For if the rich man had been just, if he had been gentle, if he had been worthy of admiration, full of all virtue, the thought would not thus have grieved Lazarus. But now, when the rich man was living in wickedness, proceeding to the extreme of evil, displaying such inhumanity, and acting as an enemy, passing him by as shamelessly and pitilessly as though he were a stone; and notwithstanding all this was enjoying such prosperity, consider how likely it would be that this state of things would plunge the soul of the poor man in continual waves of woe!
Consider how Lazarus would feel when he saw parasites, flatterers’ servants going up and down, coming in and out, as they hastened about, noisy, drinking, dancing, and displaying every form of wantonness. For, just as if he had come for the very purpose of being a witness of another’s prosperity, he was laid at his gate, having life only sufficient to make him sensible of his own ills. He suffered, as it were, shipwreck at the very harbour’s mouth, and was consumed with thirst at the very edge of the spring.
Shall I add to these yet another woe? It is this,—- that he could nowhere see another Lazarus. We ourselves even though we suffer ten thousand ills, still are able looking at him (Lazarus) to gain effectual comfort and feel great consolation. For to find fellowship in his private ills, whether they be physical or mental, brings great alleviation to the sufferer. Lazarus, however, could not look to any other man suffering the same things as himself; or rather he could not even hear of any one of those going before him, who had endured such things. This of itself was enough to becloud his mind. And, besides this, we have to mention another thing:—-that he was unable to console himself with any hope of the resurrection, 6 but thought that present things are bounded by the present existence, for he lived under the old dispensation.
And if even now, in these days, after such a revelation of God’s character, and the blessed hope of the resurrection, and the knowledge of the punishment laid up for sinners, and the good things prepared for the righteous, many men are so feeble-minded and weak as not even to be confirmed by such expectations as these, what would he, in all probability, endure who was without such an anchor of hope? This man could not at any time thus console himself, because the time had not yet arrived when such revelations were vouchsafed to man. And even in addition to this, there was yet another thing, namely, that his character was maligned by foolish men.
For the generality of men are accustomed, when they see any in hunger and thirst, or living in great trouble, not to entertain any charitable feeling respecting them, but rather to pass judgment on their life by their misfortunes, and to suppose that they are thus afflicted entirely on account of their wickedness; and they say to each other many things of this kind—-foolishly no doubt—-but still they say so:—-”This man, if he were favorably regarded by God, would not have been suffered to be afflicted with poverty and other woes.”
In this way it happened to Job and to Paul. To the former they said:—-
“Hath it not often been said to thee in trouble, The force of thy words who can bear? For if thou didst instruct many, and strengthen the weak hands, and raise up the feeble with thy words, and give power to the tottering knees; yet now trouble has come upon thee, and thou art over-anxious. Is not thy fear the offspring of folly?” (Job iv. 2-6, LXX.)
The meaning of these words is this —-”If,” they say, “thou hadst acted rightly thou wouldst not have suffered these present ills; but thou art paying the penalty of sins and transgressions.”
And this it was especially that wounded the blessed Job.
Again concerning Paul, the barbarians spoke in the same strain; when they saw the viper hanging from his hand, they had no favourable opinion of him, but supposed that he was one of those who dare to commit the greatest crimes. This is plain from that which they said:—-
“This man though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live,” (Acts xxviii. 4.)
This same thing frequently disturbs ourselves not a little. But notwithstanding that the waves of trouble, dashing against each other, were so great, the bark of this poor man was not overwhelmed; and though he was placed as it were in a furnace, he preserved his tranquility as if refreshed with perpetual dew.
11. Nor did he say within himself anything of this kind—-as it seems many do say, namely:—-”This rich man when he departs this life will undergo punishments and penalties, and then one will have become one again; but if he there be honored two will have come to nothing.” 6 Now, do not many among yourselves use such expressions in the market, or introduce into the church words which belong to the circus or the theater? I should be ashamed, and blush to utter such words aloud, were it not necessary to say such things in order that you may avoid the unlicensed mirth and shame and harm springing from the use of such expressions.
Many frequently laugh when they say these things; but this is the effect of satanical guile, in order to bring corrupt expressions into common use instead of sound words. Such things as these many constantly repeat in the workshop, in the market, in their houses,—-things full of utter unbelief and folly—-things that are in reality ridiculous and puerile. For to say, “if the wicked when they depart are punished,” and not to be fully persuaded in one’s own mind that they will in truth be punished, is a mark of unbelief and scepticism. If also it should result, even as it will result, even the very thought that the evil will enjoy the same rewards as the just, is utter folly.
What dost thou mean, tell me, when thou sayest, if the rich man when he departs should receive punishment, “one has become one?” (There is equality.) And how is the saying true? For how many years do you wish that we suppose that he has here enjoyed wealth? Do you wish to suppose a hundred? I, for my part, am willing rather to suppose two hundred, or three hundred, or twice as many; or even, if you wish, a thousand, however impossible it may be.
The days of our years, it is said, are eighty years, (alluding to Ps. xc. 10.)
Suppose, however, a thousand. But can you, I pray, show me in this world a life that has no end?—-one that knows no limit, such as is the life of the just in heaven? Tell me then, if some one in the course of a hundred years, seeing for a single night a dream of prosperity; and, after enjoying in his sleep great luxury, should be punished for a hundred years—-would you be able to say of him one has become one, (there is an equal balance,) and place the one night of dreams as a counterpoise to the hundred years? It is impossible to say so. Think, then, in the same way concerning the life to come. For the proportion that the dream of one night has to the hundred years, the same the present life has to the future life; or, rather, the latter proportion is much the less.
As a little drop to the fathomless ocean, so is a thousand years to that future glory and bliss. And what can one say more, except that that life has no limit, and knows no end; and that there is as much difference between dreams and realities as there is between our condition in this world and our condition in the next. Besides, even before the future punishment, those who live wickedly are punished now. For do not tell me only of enjoying a sumptuous table, and of being clothed in silken garments, and of being followed by troops of slaves, and of proceeding in state through the public places of resort; but lay open to me the conscience of such a man, and there you shall see within great trouble on account of sins, perpetual dread, tempest, and confusion, and the reason, as in a court of justice, ascending the royal throne of conscience, sitting there as a judge, bringing forward the thoughts as ministers of justice, racking the mind, torturing it on account of sin, and vehemently accusing it; and this state of things is known to no one else, save only God, who sees all that takes place.
Again, he who commits fornication, though he be rich in the highest degree, and though he have no accuser, never ceases inwardly to accuse himself. The pleasure is fleeting, while the pain is lasting; there is fear from all sides and trembling, suspicion, and agony; he fears the by-ways, he trembles at the very shadows, at his own domestics, at those who know his guilt, at those who know it not, at the injured one, at her wronged husband: he goes about bearing with him a keen accuser—-his own conscience—-being self-condemned, and unable to find the slightest relief. And even on his bed, or at his table, or in the market, or in his house, by day, by night, even in his very dreams he often sees the image of his sin; he lives the life of a Cain, groaning and trembling on the earth; and though no one knows it, he has within himself the unquenchable fire.
This also they who rob and who are covetous suffer; this also does the drunkard suffer, and, in short, every one living in sin.
It is impossible that that tribunal can in any way be influenced. And if we do not follow after virtue, yet we are pained for not following after it; and if we follow vice, as soon as we lose the pleasure that accompanies the sin, we feel the pain. Let us therefore not say concerning those who are prosperous here, and yet do ill, and concerning the just who enjoy felicity in the next world, that “one becomes one” (all is equally balanced,) but that “two come to nothing” (all the good is on one side.) For, to the just the life here and the life yonder both bring much pleasure; but they who live in wickedness and in luxury are punished both in the life here and the life yonder. For even here they are harassed by the expectation of the coming penalty, as well as by the bad opinion in which they are held by all, and by the fact that by the very sin itself their soul is corrupted; and after their departure thither they endure insupportable penalties.
Again, the just, even if they suffer a thousand ills here, are encouraged by pleasant hopes; they have unmixed, sure, and abiding pleasure; and after these things, innumerable blessings accrue to them, as also we see in the case of Lazarus.
Therefore do not say to me that he was full of sores; but mark this—-that he had within him a soul more precious than all gold; or rather, mark not only his soul, but also his body; for bodily perfection consists not in stoutness and vigour, but in being able to bear so many and so great afflictions. For, if one have in his body wounds of this kind, he is not therefore to be despised. But rather, if one have in his soul so many defects, for him we should have no regard;—-and such was that rich man, covered with wounds within. And as dogs licked the wounds of the one, so the evil spirits aggravated the sins of the other; as the one starved for lack of food, so the other for lack of virtue.
12. Knowing, therefore, these things, let us act wisely, and let us not say that if God loved such a one, He would not have allowed him to be in poverty. This very thing is the greatest token of love. For
“whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth,” (Heb. xii. 6.)
“My son, if thou dost purpose to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for trial, make ready thy heart, and be strong,” (Ecclesiasticus ii. 1.)
Let us then, beloved, cast these vain imaginations away from us, and these common sayings; for
“filthiness and foolish talking and jesting, let it not proceed out of your mouth,” (Eph. v. 4.)
Let us not say such things; and if we see others speaking thus, let us refute them, let us boldly arise and put a stop to such shameless speech. Tell me, if you should see any robber prowling about the road, lying in wait for those that pass by, and plundering the land, secreting gold and silver in caves and hiding-places, and shutting up in such places a great quantity of booty, gaining from this course of life rich garments and many captives; tell me, should you then think him happy on account of such wealth? Or should you think him miserable on account of the judgment about to overtake him? And even if he should escape this, if he should not be delivered into the hand of justice, nor fall into prison, nor have any accuser, nor come to trial, but eat and drink and enjoy great abundance, still we do not think him happy because of present and visible circumstances; but we think him miserable on account of the things which are to come, and to which we look forward.
In the same way reason with yourself concerning the rich and the avaricious. Robbers lie in wait in the way and plunder travellers, and hide the wealth of others in their own lurking-places—-in caves or dens. Do not, therefore, think them happy on account of the present, but miserable on account of the future—-on account of the fearful judgment, the inevitable account to be rendered—-the outer darkness which will envelop them. Even though robbers often escape the hand of men, yet, notwithstanding though we know this, we deprecate for ourselves such a life as theirs, or even for our enemies we should deprecate such an accursed prosperity. Yet with respect to God such a thing cannot be said. No one can escape His judgment, but all who in any way live in covetousness and rapine will undergo the punishment allotted by Him—-that deathless punishment which has no end,—-in the same way as also did this rich man.
Taking all this, therefore, into consideration, beloved, think those blessed, not who live in wealth, but in virtue; think those miserable, not those who live in poverty, but in wickedness: let us look not at the present, but at the future; let us examine, not the outward appearance, but the conscience of each man; and following after the virtue and the bliss of right actions, let us, whether we be wealthy or poor, emulate Lazarus. He endured not one, nor two, nor three, but many tests of his goodness. These tests were his poverty, his weakness, his lack of helpers, his suffering these evils in a place where there was at hand the means of complete relief, while no one vouchsafed a word of comfort, his seeing him who disregarded him possessing all that abundance, and not only possessing abundance, but living in wickedness, and suffering no ill; also, his being able to look to no other Lazarus, and his being unable to console himself by the thought of the resurrection.
And besides all the aforesaid ills, there was his having to bear an ill-character among many, for the very reason that he was a sufferer. There was, not only for two or three days, but for his whole life, the seeing himself in such circumstances, and the rich man in the very opposite.
What excuse, therefore, shall we have if, while this man bore all these excessive evils with such fortitude, we cannot bear even the half of them? for you are unable—-you are unable, I say, to show, or even to name, any man who has borne such numerous and heavy evils. For this cause, therefore, Christ brought them before our notice, in order that whensoever we fall into trouble, seeing in his case the exceeding greatness of his affliction, we may, from his wisdom and patience, gain effectual consolation and comfort; for he is set as a general instructor of the whole world, for all who are suffering any kind of distress; enabling all to look to one who surpassed them all in the exceeding greatness of his woes.
For all these things, therefore, let us give thanks unto God—-the merciful God; let us reap the benefit of this narrative, continually bearing it in mind, in the assembly, at home, in the market, yea everywhere; and let us diligently gain all the wealth of wisdom contained in this parable, in order that we may without grief pass through evils, and that we may attain the good things in store. Which benefits may we all be enabled to gain, by the grace and kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom, with the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be praise, honor, adoration, now and ever, to the ages of ages. Amen.
1. * Matt. xxv. 27.
2. * Alluding to the stone cut out without hands, (Dan. ii. 34;) or to the corner “stone,” (Ps. cxviii. 22.)
3. * Probably Chrysostom would understand the sending away (Mark vi. 45) to be after an address. Time seems to be left after the feeding, (compare Mark vi. 35 with John vi. 16.)
4. * The word ninefold is used generally, or indefinitely, as in English, tenfold.
5. * Chrysostom, indeed, as Trench observes (Notes on Parables, xxvi.), sees in this circumstance an evidence of the extreme weakness and helplessness to which disease and hunger had reduced him, (see also chap. xi. of this Discourse, and the Discourse, “Quod Nemo Laeditur nisi a Seipso,” Paris ed., tom. iii. par. 2, fol. 471.) But he also alludes, with acceptance, to the other notion, that “medicinal virtue was attributed to the tongue of the dog.” (See the sixth Discourse of this series in the Paris edition (of Migne), tom. i. par. 2,
6. * These are proverbs: the former means—- Things are fairly balanced; all is rightly adjusted: the latter means—-Things are unequally adjusted.